Wednesday, August 30, 2017


 So I've been back from vacation for a couple days now. I've been doing this trip fifteen or more years and when I get home it kind of marks the end of summer for me. I'm not sure why, that's just the way I feel. This morning I rode the bike to work and temps were in the upper fifties with heavy fog. On the way home the sun was shining but temps were only in the seventies. Fall is on the way.
 Last week I reported about a saw I was fixing in a hurry and forgot to tighten the spark plug. That saw was sitting on my bench Monday when I arrived back at work. The owner complained it wasn't running right and he was correct. In my rush to get the saw completed before I left I forgot about a tank vent upgrade I had planned on doing. Sure enough this saw needed that upgrade and ran like crap without it. Sometimes these things only show up if you run the equipment long enough and that didn't happen on that Friday before vacation. It may not have happened on any other day either but being in a hurry didn't help. I took some time to go through the saw on Monday and am confident it is running as it should. I'll see about getting him some free crap for the bs I put him through.
 Before I went on vacation I added a bunch of music to the thumb drive on the Ultras radio. I must have a lot on there because this one never came up during last weeks trip. To be honest I don't even remember putting it on there.

 It's "Linus and Lucy" the Peanuts theme song. Ya I know I just lost any street cred I had but it reminds me of being a kid and makes this grumpy a-hole feel all warm and fuzzy inside.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Back Home

I just rolled in and my wife isn't here so I thought I'd make this post quick before she gets home. Actually there's not a lot to say. Illinois is like a rotten apple in a basket of peaches...or so I thought till I crossed the state line into Wisconsin.  Orange barrels and rough roads are the norm. I saw a backup in the opposite lane that was over ten miles long. That would piss me off if I was sitting in it. We used to have good roads around here and I suppose we will again whenever all this work is completed (never).
The bike ran good for the whole trip. I need to experiment with a seat cushion for these whole day rides but really if I would just stop more often I'd be fine.
Back to reality. I need to do a load of laundry.


Saturday, August 26, 2017


The bike is parked for the night and I find myself tipping back a few cool ones. I'm  just waiting for my stomach to growl and tell me it's time to walk over to the sports bar and find some grub.
I put over six hundred miles behind me and except for the heat and some closed rest stops I suppose today went fine. I kept up an Iron Butt pace and could have been home this evening but my ass would have been hurtin. I just didn't see the point in pushing it and now that the eclipse has passed,  motel rates are back to normal. I say that because on the way down I stopped in Paducah and paid double the normal rate. Bastards.
I have no words of wisdom or deeps thoughts to share. In fact I didn't think about much of anything today. I just rode, observed my surroundings and monitored the fuel gauge. No complaints.
There's the growl I've been waiting for.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Hot Springs

Today Ed and I decided to ride to Hot Springs for lunch. It seems all our rides are based on where we want to eat and then we plan a route. We got there a little early and had time to wander around town, do some window shopping and chill by the river. Lunch was at the Iron Horse Station and was good as usual.
I had pre-plotted the return trip in my official Harley GPS equipped radio but sadly it ate all but the first leg. I had looked at a map earlier and had a general idea of where I needed to go but it turns out I made a wrong turn anyway. This worked in our favor as we enjoyed fresh asphalt through a twisty mountain pass. The shoulder hadn't been edged yet so there was limited gravel spit up by reckless cages. I suspect word gets around fast about secret clean back roads as we saw a few knee draggers racing through there.
The weather has been great with temps more wisconsin like that usual. I haven't even unpacked the bike cover yet and may not have to this trip. Theres been talk about dining in Cherokee tonight. No route planning needed for that ride. Hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway till we get there.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Waterrock Knob

This morning Dan and Frank left Maggie Valley to continue their adventures elsewhere.  It was great seeing them again and I already look forward to our next visit. The remainder of us went to Waterrock Knob for a short hike up the mountain. The view was great and the climb was well worth the effort. Afterwards we had lunch at a small sandwich shop in Maggie Valley.  The food was good and priced right. Next stop was the Wheels Through Time museum. There are a few new pieces on display and some exhibits have been tweaked and I always manage to find something that captures my interest. Even after the walk through we just sat out in front and enjoyed talking about bikes. You can't go wrong visiting this museum.

 Once again it's time to find some evening grub.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Clingmans Dome

Today was forecast to be a craptacular day so after we walked out of the Harley boutique in Cherokee and discovered it was raining, we suited up. As it turns out that wasn't necessary.  The light rain quit almost as soon as our stands went up and we enjoyed some cool temps on our way through the Smoky mountain park. For me that ride was almost mystical. Everything was wet and kinda gloomy with a light fog hanging in the tree tops. As we neared Gatlinburg the damage from the recent forest fires was visible. Once in town we were caught up in tourist traffic, or I should say we contributed to it, and decided to eat lunch on the outer edge of town where it was quieter. That turned out to be a good plan and everyone seemed satisfied with our "breakfast for lunch" decision. In past years, today's ride may have been a loop that included Deals Gap. None of us were interested in those shenanigans so I led the group to clingmans dome for a short hike up the hill. Turns out the other guys have been up there before so we split up and everyone took care of their own personal desires. It was a nice chance for us to do our own thing. Dan checked out some old guitars at an antique shop. Frank went in search of some eyewear needs and Ed stopped at a mill and picked up some ground up somethin or other.
My hike was nice. I did notice I was the only person stupid enough to do it in motorcycle boots but I also noticed I wasn't hunched over suckin wind like so many. The view was just ok as there was some fog up there.
The ride back to Maggie Valley was beautiful.  Bright Sun and no traffic. I stopped and set up the GoPro and when I get home I'll investigate whether it turned out.
  We've got dinner reservations at a nice Italian joint so I need to wrap this up.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Blue Ridge Parkway

Today the plan was to sleep in, eat a light breakfast and after the fog burned off we would get on the parkway and ride to lunch at Mt Pisgah.  The plan went great. The weather was perfect and traffic was light. I don't remember cussing at all today. We stopped at the highest point on the parkway for a pic and we also stopped at Waterrock Knob for a map and a sticker. At the Inn I chose a roasted vegetable wrap which looked absolutely disgusting but tasted delicious.  Afterwards we decided to hike down to look at a waterfall. The quote of the day was "I don't have to run faster than a bear, I only have to outrun Dan".
Except for Dan catching a bee in his helmet, we had a smooth day of riding.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse 2017

No new news here. Today was the solar eclipse and by chance my vacation spot is in a 98% totality viewing area. Some of us gathered in the motel parking lot to witness the event and a good time was had by all. For those friends that are reading this and have stayed at the Laurel Park Inn, you know how noisey the traffic can be. During the eclipse the road was silent. We could have sat in the street for the viewing. Very strange.
Earlier today we made a visit to Crazy Bob. He managed to sell me a seat pad that so far seems to be working well. I've been sitting on it all afternoon and my back side feels ok. More testing is required. The rest of the day will involve dinner, a couple of beers and a lot of story telling. You know, important vacation stuff.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Arrived Maggie Valley

My driveway at home isn't very big but seems like a super hiway compared to some of the roads I was on today. I must have my GPS preferences set to "goat trail" because if a vehicle had been coming from the other direction we'd have had problems. The goat trail was to lead me to US129, home of the "Dragon", a road that boasts 318 turns in 11 miles. You don't know when your turning onto 129 because people have stolen all the signs for their man caves. I just followed all the bare sign posts.
  I've lost interest in this tourist trap. It used to be a relatively unknown stretch of sharp turns and has become a highly policed spectacle of accidents. Today I found out it takes six rescue workers to pull a gurney containing one squid up the mountain . Later I followed a car that couldn't seem to keep it on his side of the double yellow in the turns. The rest of my ride to Maggie Valley used to be relatively cop-free. Today I saw eight. Maybe the high volume of people in the area for eclipse viewing has something to do with it.
Tonight Dan, Frank and myself went to dinner across the street. Good thing it was within walking distance because they turned me in to some really tasty beer I'd never had before. I may have to go back tomorrow for more.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


I guess vacation means something different to everyone.  Most people think of it as a trip to some (semi)distant location where they can see natural wonders, be entertained or maybe just sit on a beach and relax. Today I'm on vacation and it consisted of nothing more than blasting down the interstate for almost 600 miles. For many that's just "traveling to the vacation spot". For me it was part of the fun. I like being on the road and I probably should be a truck driver. The way Friday was going at work I wished I were anywhere else. See I screwed up on a parts order and wouldn't be able to get a customer's saw going before this trip. That sucks because he's waited for it long enough. So Thursday we had the part shipped overnight for a Friday repair. This was a top end rebuild on an autotune chainsaw.  After putting it together and updating the firmware in the saw, it wouldn't hardly run. The clocks been ticking, I've got one foot out the door and my head is already on vacation. WTF? I tried a couple of quick ideas with no favorable results. The saw also got a new ignition module and this thing feels like it's got a spark issue. Could the new module be bad? Did I download the wrong firmware? Finally I just stood back, took a deep breath and thought about what i would look for if a customer just handed me this saw and described the problem. Sure as shit two minutes later I had it running. Early in the build when I was installing the cylinder I decided to thread the spark plug in to keep crap out. I never tightened it. I blame it on pre-vacation jitters.
I changed my plans and will arrive in Maggie Valley, NC tomorrow.  A little birdie told me motels were hiking their rates for the eclipse and I was originally thinking about stopping right about where it would have been the worst. Even the electronic message boards on the interstate in Illinois warned of possible delays due to eclipse viewing travelers. Illinois is not really a destination spot but rather a stepping stone. Today I took a couple of big steps with a pair of 150 mile legs and one almost oopsie when I looked down at the info screen and noticed it was asking me if it should search for a gas stop. Hell ya!
Pic was at a rest stop. There was a time when i would have been proud to drive this.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Workshop Wednesday-Fail, Fail, Fail...Nailed it!

 It's Wednesday. I leave for vacation on Saturday. That means I need to make it three more days without driving myself nuts or screwing up and getting hurt at work. Odds are I'll be fine but shit happens and the fact that I can't control it makes me uneasy.
 There are a bunch of repairs sitting on the incoming shelf and the in-progress shelf is full. I think I have enough time to get all these jobs done unless there are parts to be ordered. Then again, if things go like they did yesterday, I may not get them all looked at. Sometimes it seems it doesn't even pay to get out of bed in the morning...

 Replacing this muffler should have been as simple as turning out four bolts and making the swap. Not. One screw came out normally. The rest had to have a nut welded to the head and be turned out that way. One was kinda hidden and required "modifying" the old muffler. I hate working on concrete saws. There's never a simple fix on these machines that run in the worst possible conditions.
 Some repairs aren't repairs at all. Many times I find the problem and determine repairs would exceed replacement cost. In this case a new crankshaft assembly, gaskets and labor are needed. Plus, we still need to find the fuel problem that hydro locked the engine. By the time I'm done the cost is close to buying a new one with a warranty.  Dumpster filler.

  Other times you think the situation is under control only to find things are fouled up beyond your wildest imagination. I instructed one guy how I wanted some simple landscaping done. He was to grab a couple more guys to help. When I went out a little later to check on them, this is what I found...

One tractor stuck in the retention pond and eight guys scratching their heads trying to get it out. Of course moments after this pic was taken, the boss rolled up and saw the whole thing.

 The good news is that the day has to come to an end sometime. The best radio in the house is the one on the Ultra so sometimes I find myself winding down with a cool one while sitting on the bike...and no, I don't make vroom vroom noises.


Sunday, August 13, 2017


 I've been pretty good about remaining calm before leaving on vacation. I'm excited to go but trying to remain calm. In the past I would get all worked up and the time would pass quite slowly. There are still six days before I head out on my annual bike trip to the Smoky Mountains and I suppose a lot could go wrong. I have a heightened awareness of things that could screw up my voyage. I don't do any heavy lifting that could injure my back and I don't do any crazy shit on the bike that could put it in a state of disrepair. Ya, it's a little like superstition but I don't need any bad juju before leaving on a long awaited trip. I suppose it's because I get one week a year, so there's no second chance for a trip.  I'm not packed yet but I have a bunch of stuff "staged" and ready to pack. The bike needs a bath and an oil change. Otherwise I've made a list and just need to throw all that crap in the bike before leaving.
 The route isn't planned and probably won't be. I've been down this road quite a few years now and won't even need the gps unless I decide to look for something particular on the way down. In fact, I'm more concerned about what music I'll load on the thumb drive than where I'll spend the first night. I suspect the weather is the only thing that will change my route from last year.
 Today is supposed to be pretty nice and I'm not sure if that oil change is gonna happen. Maybe I'll see you on the road.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Test post

This time with pic.

Test post

Test post 3
This time no pic.

Workshop Wednesday-New Trailer

  For a while now we have known we were quickly outgrowing our pesticide applications trailer at work.  Our old trailer measured 26 feet and all our crap didn't fit in it. We also had a problem with the axles not being up to the task of hauling the weight of all that junk we were stuffing in it. So a few weeks back the boss ordered a new trailer. This would be 32 feet long and have a side door wide enough to allow for loading a pallet of fertilizer. I think the size will be ok for us from the point of view that we can get all our equipment in it. From a towing and parking standpoint, it's big. I know that scares a lot of contractors but we're in a pretty much rural setting and can get away with it. The other thing is we don't have to park in front of your house and drag a house hundreds of feet. I built our tractors with 300 feet of hose and a tank. I can park the tractor anywhere and drag hose from there if needed.
 The first step in making this trailer functional is to build a set of shelves so we can get our chemicals off the floor. Tripping over jugs and boxes has been a real pain in the ass.

 I came up with a rough plan for a shelf and gave the boss a material list. I don't know who our steel supplier is but the next day I had ten 20 foot lengths of angle iron.

 My plan was to build eight individual uprights with a shelf bracket and then screw those to the trailers steel wall studs. I would then weld a face, back and sides along with adding an expanded metal shelf bottom.

 So here is about an 18 foot shelf. Below the shelf will be fuel cans, spill kits, rakes/shovels, gas blower, chest spreader, etc. Except for personal protective equipment, first aid and eye wash kits, everything I hang on the trailer wall will be this wall. The other side will be left clear so we can walk front to rear unobstructed.

 All that was left was to make some sort of "retainer" to keep jugs and boxes from falling off the shelf. A big lip on the front of the shelf wouldn't do as I have no interest in tipping a jug of chemicals forward over my head.

 The answer was a simple U shaped loop that is hinged on each end. The loop only drops as low as seen in the pic and the hinges have enough drag to hold the loop in the raised position for loading the shelf.
 With the side wall shelf complete I was now ready to build a shelf in the front to store some grass seed, mulch and a few random bags of fert. I used the same basic design as the side walls only deeper and following the contour of the V shaped front.

 Yesterday we went out for the day to spray and fertilize lawns. We had a pallet of fert loaded in the front and were still able to get both tractors and the stand-on unit in the trailer.

 This setup worked out really nice. Each of those three units were used at the ten different stops we made. Loading and unloading was a breeze and nobody tripped over anything. It's nice having a home for everything. I'm sure this makes us more efficient and I think it made the day go faster.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Martini Blog

  "Whatcha gonna blog about"? says my wife. "Oh crap, that's tomorrow. I gots nothing."  That's the conversation we just had moments before I started writing this.

 The martini in the pic isn't the first drink of the evening so writing this now is a crap shoot. The martini is just washing down a few brandy old fashions. BTW, pineapple doesn't belong in an old fashioned. This is Wisconsin, not Kalifornia. After requesting an orange slice and a cherry rather than the pineapple the knucklehead bartender snuck in there,  the second one tasted much better. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I was on the second drink.

 Saturday started with a banana/strawberry smoothie and a cool ride to work. By lunch the day had warmed up nicely and I left work early to get a new tire mounted on the Ultra. It was a nice hour ride and the bike ran well. See, I've been experimenting with different fuel maps in my Fuelpak3 and have been experiencing minor running issues. I finally got fed up and called Vance and Hines to ask which base map to run with a gutted head pipe, street cannons and the extreme ventilator air filter.
*side note, wife just brought me another martini*
They suggested a base map and I loaded that map two nights ago. It's all done on a phone app with bluetooth and is pretty cool and easy to navigate. I had one short ride and thought it was much better. Todays ride has left me with the opinion that I may not mess with mapping for a while. I runs pretty sweet.
 I arrived at the Harley dealer to exchange blood and sweat for a rear tire. I explained the situation with my air ride suspension and my concerns about belt tension. The response I got from the tech left me confident he had been down this road before. He then asked if I wanted the bike washed. "How much is that gonna cost me"? I asked.  "Just time" he explained. "Your terms are acceptable" and I wandered off into the showroom. I immediately spotted a familiar face and we had a nice talk about bikes, vacations, first rides and ailments. (it seems the older you get, the more you talk about medical shit) As we spoke, a group of people were being escorted into the showroom and stopped in front of us. These were the students in the newbe riding class. Out of curiosity I followed  them for a while just to get a sense of what this was about. First they must get their temps by passing the DMV written test. Then for $320 they do a Friday night, Saturday and Sunday which includes classroom and riding training. At the end of it they are licensed and legal to operated any moo sucker they want. Of course this dealer hopes it will be one of their hogs. At their last stop of the showroom tour, the rep asked "That's all I've got, who's ready to ride?!" A bunch of hands went up, including mine. I couldn't help myself. Later as they started their riding course I watched them from the lounge window like a puppy crying to get outside.
 Somehow I got all crossed up on the ride home. I was trying to skirt around some rain clouds and may have done some unintended backtracking. Anyway, that free bike wash was a waste of time cuz I got hammered. It was a short rain but the bike got dirty just the same as if I were riding in crap all day. Rats. Some days ya just can't win. On that ride home I spotted three squids and one bike parked along a lonely back road. I gave them the thumbs up/thumbs down signal and they waved me on. They had the situation under control but I had to wonder about what I saw. Three guys wearing helmets and one bike. The nearest help of any kind was miles away. I saw no other bikes as I approached or for miles after I passed. I guess I just thought it was weird they all kept their helmets on while someone on another bike would be gone for so long. Maybe the other biker was wadded up in the ditch somewhere. It would have been easy to miss him in the tall swamp grass of the marsh. Whatever.
*she told me whats in these martinis but I forgot. Whatever it is it's kicking my ass. I spend more time hitting the backspace button than any other*
 Tomorrow (as I write this, today as I post this) will start with me editing this mess. Spell check underlines in red any questionable spelling. Right now the red lines look like the bunting on an Independence Day float. After that I plan to pack for vacation. I don't leave for two weeks but because we now have uniforms at work, I think I can get this out of the way. I only need casual wear for one weekend here and I have enough threads to cover that. I also want to mess with my GoPro mounts. Later on I may ride down to Madison to support my daughter with some kind of community art project reveal that she worked on. I'm sure a visit to the vegetarian restaurant is also in order.
 I'll leave you with this. From our ride to LaCrosse last weekend. I parked the bike and looked around to see a building across the street that made me laugh.

 A funky looking building from decades ago. The sign reads:

 The reader board above the door says:

 It doesn't seem like the two go together. I thought it was funny but what do I know.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ride To Eat

 By early Sunday morning we could see the day was gonna shape up nicely into a good riding day. Where to go, where to go? That's always the question. The answer usually involves eating. If you're gonna go for any kind of long ride a meal usually lands somewhere in the time frame of that ride. With that in mind we just set a lunch destination and headed out. This time we chose LaCrosse which is a two hour ride on the interstate. Of course we didn't take the hiway and our route through scenic backroads took three hours. We arrived, ate and got back on the bike without even thinking about doing anything else. Besides the walk from where we were parked to the restaurant, no talk was made about doing anything else. We just needed an excuse to go for a long ride and this was as good as any.

 Yesterday after work it was quite warm. When I rolled up the drive and saw my wife sitting in a lawn chair I knew we were gonna go for a dinner ride. I swapped out the sportster for the Ultra and we headed out to Berlin to visit Brooke and Mike. The first order of business was to swipe some peaches from a tree in their back yard. After that we rode into town and enjoyed each others company and had a nice meal.

 Our ride home was decent. The temp had dropped into the upper seventies which actually felt kinda cool after the eighty something temps of the day.

 Locals will recognize this house and its location. My wife says it got in the way of a sunset pic she was after. Except for the fuzziness I think it turned out just fine.