Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Break-In

Guess I'll put off the plans to make the front door open/close/lock smoother.  Old sticky door kept out an intruder this evening - WHILE I was home, awake, just up the stairs.  Not a pleasant experience.  I hate violence.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Two dots

Joined by a line. Funny the stuff I hear when I'm working in the garage.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bullet points

  • The big push continues at my job, working way too many hours for the third straight week.  Hope to wrap this weekend.  Resume house chores.  House chores which were left in a marked state of suspended progress weeks ago now... The neighbors must be so impressed.  (Job also requires a career decision here this week lest I forget...)
  • Hey.  HEY!  Did you see the Ferris Bueller boat??  They were awesome.  What effort!  Screw the lame Teen Wolfs.
  • Thanks to the pinup girls (and Matt, I guess) for coming out to my areas for the first annual Ypsi Ton-Up vintage motorcycle rally.  While despite not having a "vintage" bike I was able to mooch off the good name of Triumph and be a poser for a while.  A modestly good showing on a hot Saturday afternoon on the river, including this exotic 1950's Vincent speed demon - don't touch it!  And damn the mosquitos.

  • Checking out Junip lately - an unknown-to-me project of Jose Gonzalez releasing new stuff this Summer.  Really digging the mix of driving organs, downtempo drumming and Jose's how-is-that-guy-Swedish? voice.  It's all a winner.  And when you ace a cover of one of Springsteen's very best songs, I say a winner is you - Junip.
  • "Americans...are forever searching for love in places it can never be.  It must have something to do with the vanished frontier"  - my vacation book.  Name it!  Then invade a small country in the name of freedom.
  • So, how's the weather where you're at?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Ooo let's go for a car ride.  To love life this much, to relish every waking moment, every moment I'm around someone else, every moment I'm out in the open air, to go... to.... the dog park!  Oh boy! ...Uh, hey... we're not stopping, Andy.  Dog park.  On the right...  Meanie.  I shall roust you with slobber at 3AM for this.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Full moon fever

The last week or so I've worked more than I have in years.  The money's good.  The days fly by because it's that kind of work, like in grad school.  Setting up an engine lab.  Wiring, assembling, re-building, re-wiring, etc.  But it's June and it's nice out - just like June in grad school.  Now where's the lake and the terrace and the sailboats and the Leinie's?  Far away.  Tonight, however, I have me a moon in the sky like a big yellow-orange pizza pie. And tomorrow I have work.

Because I like her, Neko Case.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Porch begins

What begins as a fix-the-floor and restore-the-railing upkeep project has taken a bit of a turn.  The columns that hold my porch roof up are, in fact hollow - without the post inside I was expecting.  They are caving in on the rotting floor beneath them.

From the outside, after careful -surgical- stair removal:

And, after pulling out the cedar ceiling in the basement below, I have this view of the column support:

So... today, up goes the roof.  Up up in the air.  This should be fun.  The neighbors are certainly amused.

House for sale

The park next door (West Park) has been closed all summer for a huge drainage project - which is a bummer since it's my shortcut walking downtown.  So anyway, there's a couple of very interesting unique homes at the other end of the park that I haven't walked by in a while.  Walking home on Sunday morning I went down Chapin and saw this house for sale:

I really like the craftsman details on the porch of this house - a little jealous in fact.  It's a few years newer than mine and a good bit closer to downtown with less street traffic.  But.. no driveway and no garage.  Not that I ever use those luxury items at my house... heh

Anyway, it's a comparable home to mine, just as quirky in that it's only two bedrooms and lacking in some of the modern "must-haves" that realtors like.  So it's encouraging to see that it's gone fairly quickly at what I imagine is close to their asking price.  Encouraging for me.  Not that I'm going anywhere.

Well, if I can't buy the house I might as well steal some design themes for my next project...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Way out west

If you need something to get lost in for hours, follow this guy's ride report.  Montreal to Vancouver to Tucson to El Salvador.  Amazing photography.  Kind of the gold standard for bike photography, putting my pre-Spring ride to shame several times over.  Starts slow but builds quick after page four or so I'm hooked.

I'm not really drawn to "adventure" riding - always seems a bit cliche, with the BMW's, the knobby tires and expensive gear. But, man... to go there.

One of those things that makes you realize how amazing the internet can be.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Not building four mailboxes

The last couple of weeks free time was spent overhauling my front steps.  I had to pull, re-grade and re-lay all the brick pavers to deal with the erosion and settling on the hill.  That fix (so far) has proven a winner.  And then I needed to get a hand rail on my steps because of my many concerns regarding America's aging population.  (I've always been a bit of a demography buff)  Anyway, the stairs posed a challenge for my usual geometry because of their lack of straight-lines.  So I came up with this personalized "code-approved" design.

And I think it came out really good. My neighbor across the street, Jake, was watching the second post go in and wondered why the hell I was building two mailboxes.  Then I had to leave just the posts in for a while while it rained, I worked OT, etc. And it really looked like I put four wooden crosses on my front yard. Ehh... it's Ann Arbor.

Anyway, it's the front of the house and it's nice to show off in my own silly way. It's also nice working out there. The neighbors come by and chat and all give approval. I have really laid-back neighbors, which is good for a lazy irresponsible single-guy homeowner like me.

Yes, but the point of this post for an otherwise minor and uninteresting project is this:  I found I really like working on this exterior / landscape woodwork. The materials were a lot more forgiving than cabinetry and I like how my concept came to me and how it worked with the yard and the house.  Next step is the front porch, which will be more-or-less a basic re-finishing but I may still look to add some of my own touches.  From there, I've already got ideas for next year's side-yard garden-ararium.


About my job, cont'd

I usually leave for work around 6:30.  I get in just after 7, which is really too early.  But my intention is always to minimize the hours in the afternoon I'm in a cubicle.  I have to drink more coffee than I want to make it through this early start without becoming the amusing head-bobbing-as-he-nods-off-seven-times-a-minute guy.

I sit in a cube in the middle of a small-ish area (say 20 or so cubes) and I have no windows or natural light.  I sit directly below a paging intercom.  I do not enjoy this.  We have mobile phones, SMS and two flavors of voicemail.  The pager routine may make sense on the shop floor, but it's silly in an office.  Maybe it's a regional thing.  But I digress... I have a small cube with just my chair.  No visitors chair or B.S. table.  No one in my immediate vicinity works with me, but that's OK.  They're all nice.  As always, I keep a pretty sparse workplace.  Was a time I thought it'd be nice to surround myself with all sorts of personal effects to humanize the cubicle, but I've never gotten to that spot with a job.  Where I identified with that desk as my place.  Even when I've held a spot for three years, it never has that comfort.  And I think I'm OK with that.  Maybe if I had an office.  Ooo now I'm dreaming.

Until recently most of my work was at my desk, researching and documenting software to control this burner contraption I described last time.  Lately I've been returning to my old familiar role as lab-rat.  Around the corner from my cube is the lab, which consists of five engine test rooms (dynos) a couple of sophisticated gas-flow labs, and a bunch of "acoustic" rooms with the weird traingular sound-absorbing things surrounding you.  I just deal with the dynos.  And also the prototype vehicles we develop for the customers for this burner contraption.  Being a lab rat means getting computers to work properly, wiring and re-wiring, doing mechanic work (since we really don't have any) and a host of troubleshooting.  It's the sort of stuff that takes up all your time when it gets going, so all the brainy-yet-boring desk work I was into back in April is basically gone.

There's no place nearby for lunch.  We're surrounded by hayfields, two farms and a lake.  Two miles down at exit 150 on the interstate there's a Mobil Station with a Subway.  So... I bring my lunch every day.  I usually make peanut butter and honey on wheat bread.  Because I like it.  May not sound like much, but it's something I look forward to every day at 11:30.  And I think it's moderately nutritious.  When I'm cooking a lot I bring leftovers instead which is more exciting and showy.  (leftovers!)  Lately I'm not doing dinner at the house so much.  I eat lunch at my cube to minimize my lunch time to, again, get out of work as soon as possible when possible.  And there's the added incentive of less lunchtime = more $$, but we'll cover that another time.

Every day at 12:00 I go for a walk with Tom, usually Gary and most of the time Eric.  We walk on the 1.2-mile test track behind the building most of the time.  Or...when conditions are favorable we hike about the same distance on a two-track clearing through the woods and a corner of a hayfield to the lake.  Which is nice because the lake always smells like summer to me.  Tom and Gary and another guy in my group worked together previously at Visteon, a big bankrupt supplier towards Detroit, before taking the ever-so-common "package deal" to leave.  They're both a good bit older than me, but working together and b.s.'ing as we walk it's never really noticeable.  I consider myself well-versed at being middle-aged, at least between the hours of 7 and 3:30.  Tom's a pretty committed motorcycle commuter, which I have respect for.  He has an old Kawasaki sport-tourer with almost 100k on it - basically if it isn't icy or pouring when he leaves in the morning, he's on the bike.  Gary is an amateur beekeeper.  Turns out bees are pretty interesting.  Eric's the boss, about halfway between my age and the other guys.  He's pretty cool.  He took this job just days before interviewing me so he's the new guy also.  He had to leave a managing job near his home when the company relocated to Canada.  So now he drives 90+ minutes each way from Oxford to work here.  Tough stuff, but he's been a great boss for me so far.

Anyway, that's my work life post-GM in a nutshell.  A rather plain and unsalted nutshell.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cat Power

Old video and maybe a little bit odd.  But a pretty girl and a pretty voice...

On a rainy night. It's been raining a lot lately.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The garden liked May

And so did the visitor to my garden. 

Dum dee dum dee dum dum...I'm hungry.  First I'll try parsley.  OK just a few bites I gotta go update my blog.  OK, I'm back let's try some basil - eww, don't like that.  Ok, back to the parsley - oh no... look, the parsley's all gone.   Hm - this over here's new.  Up in a box, these must be tomahtoes [yes, my visitor pronounces it "tomahtoes"].  I'll try a bite of this and a leaf of that.  Ooo I think I like tomahtaillos the best.  I'll just eat every freakin' leaf but one...

Thus the unsightly chicken wire went up.  Why couldn't my visitor enjoy lavender?  Or mint?  Or bamboo??  Answer:  because then he'd be an English-by-way-of-Kentucky Panda bear.  Think about that.

To whom shall I give these roses?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bullet points

No point in organizing this:
  • The most ridiculous-yet-valuable website in the world has to be the "Geocities-izer".  Very intelligent people most likely of my generation have developed a tool to turn any modern web page into the formatting of our youth - Geocities.  
    Dizzying tiled background clip art.  Animated GIF files.  16-color pallette.  And, of course, the ubiquitous MIDI file playing in the background.  Just playing around with the site, I've already heard MIDI Sheryl Crow, MIDI Semisonic and MIDI Counting Crows.  The New York Times really should consider adding MIDI "Mr. Jones" to their homepage.  It's totally them.  "Make any site look like it was made by a 13-year old in 1996".  Fantastic site, like a time capsule to our children.  Next I want access to the random phrase/image generator that are used to make all those weird ads that show up on the weather sites.  The ones that say "Obama Tells Moms to Go Back to School" paired with a picture of a guy who looks like a wolfman.
    • Fact about robins:  Babies eat approximately 100 meals a day in the 14-16 days they nest.   Entirely worms and grubs during the developmental stages, unlike the mature adult's diet of mostly berries and greens.  The parents are quite busy during this time hopping around my conveniently grub-nurturing lawn.  I know all this because my robins are into round two for 2010.  Read on..
    • Some days my headphones are more important than others.  Lately, I've been looking for a new soundtrack.  Ted Leo and the Pharmacists always gets me motivated and he's got another good new album.  And also Broken Social Scene a few weeks ago.  They are usually the perfect stop-my-brain-from-pummeling-me-while-I'm-stuck-sitting-at-this-windowless-cubicle listen.  The first track on "Forgiveness Rock Record" doesn't disappoint.  To steal a YouTube commenter's opinion - "I'll take this song in pill form please."

    • Tornado sirens are going off right now.  What the hell do I do?  I live in a city.  Come on.
    • Fact about mourning doves, of which I have none, but I came across reading about robins..."The male looks for a good place to build the nest, once he finds a good place he calls the female and she either approves or disapproves. Once they choose a site the male finds small twigs and delivers them individually to her by standing on her back. She arranges them around her and uses her body to make a simple bowl."
    • I can't make a coherent thought out of my last bullet point. It's going nowhere. I'll just leave it as "peace on earth, peace to all the suffering and peace to all the people I care about".
    • May wasn't that good. Go June.

      Tuesday, June 1, 2010

      Furniture, Part 7a

      The is-it-a-bookshelf-or-is-it-a-dresser furniture creation boondoggle finally went together OK.  Making the drawers was a first of sorts.  I went for broke on the first try at "cabinetry" by using a flush fit, no overhangs on my two 29-inch wide drawers.  So I had to get the measurements just right ("dead nuts" to use the King's English) for no gaps with the frame boards and of course no interference either when closing.  Overhanging drawer faces allow a bit more slop in the fit.  I should have been aware of this as I was envisioning the thing.  Because I'm really not equipped for precision fixturing.  So I measured about 50 times all the hole positions, centerlines, etc.  Norm Abram shakes his head in dismay at all this lost time cutting into the bottom line... to think I want to be a cabinetmaker....tsk tsk.

      Drawer quasi-joinery meant I got to use my most showy German power tools.

      The neighbors must be so impressed.  I made the drawer faces out of MDF, with the intention all along that they'd be painted black.  Then I had the idea to make decorative inlays with a crafty thing the ladies call a "stencil".  Upstairs to the paint department and some "CFC-free" inhalant indulgences.  Brain cells aren't solving my problems these days, so why not mow through a few cans of Krylon?

      Anyway, a stencil job for the big finish.  Patience, yes.

      The neighbors must be so impressed.  I could complain at this point about how the S4S white pine I got at Fingerle did not take the 5:1 Minwax Red Oak/Jacobean stain blend NEARLY as well as the dripping-wet crap at Home Depot I used on the bed project.  I could point out how I was sloppy with the glue on my fancy biscuit joints and it shows now in a couple spots.  Or I could ramble on about why furniture lacquer spray is not the way to go on top of spray paint in high humidity.  But whatever.  The finished product is satisfactory.  Drawers fit and slide pretty damn good.  Small victories.  Whats' next?

      The neighbors must be so impressed.

      Whatever, a bird and a tree for my bedroom fort up in the trees.  Actually, a robin and a tree.

      Monday, May 31, 2010

      For the Gulf.

      There are probably few things I would come to Rand Paul's defense on.  He's the Tea-Party nominee for Senate in Kentucky this year and he's 100% teabag.  In the middle of stupid prattle about how unfair we are to big business and how anti-American criticizing "free enterprise" is, he really drew outrage by suggesting that in the scheme of things, accidents happen and that despite working to fix the well and promising to make good on damage payments, BP is just becoming the dumping ground in the blame game.

      While I can't say there is isn't blame to head BP's way on this...or Transocean's... or Halliburton's... or the Interior Department... or the state of LA....  the scale of this catastrophe is just too much.  Look at what is going on in the Gulf:

      It's amazing it's taken this long.  What good does blame do?  What good is to now suddenly act shocked that left to its own for year after year, one government to the next, enormous corporations accumulate and reward excessive risk.  It's oil.  It's on all of us.

      Please stop this well.  Hope and pray.   For my egrets.

      About my new job, part 1

      The blog began with me leaving a job, so it makes sense to relay a bit about the work I've ventured into.  My new employer is called Tenneco, and they are an auto parts supplier conglomerate of sorts.  They have two main businesses: exhausts (tailpipe to mufflers up to the engine) and suspension components (shocks and struts).  For each business they're the top American supplier and thus the bottom line is heavily tied to the Big 3.  I work with the exhaust side, which is all based in two buildings in Jackson County, MI.  My job is in Grass Lake, a tiny town right off of I-94 between Ann Arbor and Jackson.  25-minute door-to-door travel time for me, but a fair amount of miles every day.  Here's the as-the-car-drives-it commute for perspective:

      View Commute TO Grass Lake in a larger map

      So it's in the country.  Anyway, I still work on "diesel aftertreatment".  That's the specialized niche I've been in since I left locomotives and worked at International Truck.   The premise is that diesel engines are under a steady tightening of regulations that are bringing all of their emissions in-line with modern gasoline cars by 2013.  The first big new technology to enable this are "Diesel Particulate Filters" which are ceramic bricks that fit in the exhaust where the muffler would be and trap 100% of the black soot that diesel engines make.  For cars and trucks, these were mandated in 2007 and I've now worked on the first and second generations of this technology at my prior two employers.  The second new technology is called "NOx aftertreatment" which is a slightly-less-standardized technology to remove Nitrogen oxides from the engine exhaust.  Cars have had catalytic converters for decades to do this, but that technology will not work with diesels.  NOx causes smog in major cities and is poisonous in high-risk exposure.  So new systems were invented that use liquid urea sprayed into the exhaust to convert the NOx to harmless nitrogen.  These systems are just hitting the road now with cars and trucks and all engines must be all the way up to the regulations in the next couple of years.

      So what's different than at GM?  Well, Tenneco is entering the business of selling complete aftertreatment systems to diesel engine makers to handle compliance with regulations.  While a huge company like GM develops the controls of system on it's own in it's own trucks, a smaller company that makes, say diesel forklifts or construction equipment doesn't have those resources.  So what I work on is intended to be a "bolt-on" system.  Right now I'm just working with the soot filters, but I have a project lined up later in the year for a NOx customer.

      The technology is a little different at Tenneco.  With the soot filters the major challenge is how the soot is periodically cleaned out of the filter to prevent clogging.  This is called a "regen" and involves very high heat in the exhaust pipes, up to 1200 degrees.  Where GM uses extra fuel in the exhaust being oxidized in a ceramic catalyst to make the controlled heat while driving, Tenneco is offering a diesel fuel burner for the exhaust.  With an actual flame that I have to control - actually quite similar to that within a jet engine.  The advantage is that a burner can make heat without any changes to the operation of the engine.  So we keep our hands off of our customers engines and just work with the exhaust.

      Here's a picture of the system, without any particular labeling, on the back of my Japanese forklift (counterweight removed).  It has new challenges to me and I think it's interesting work.  The way we're implementing a burner, it is the first of it's kind in the industry.

      Work is boring, so enough for now... More to come

      Tuesday, May 18, 2010

      Furniture, part 7.

      Nice days bring a change in attitude. Funny how it just takes a little bit to get the ball rolling. Stop thinking so negatively about things overwhelming you, and just making the most of each day - lining up the little projects that make your home a nicer place. I've done some work on my deck. A bunch in my garden-like areas. And of course, there's the garage.

      I picked up a project I started back in December. It's like a bookcase merged into a dresser for upstairs. The design in my head was intended to complement the bed, which of course was a huge success a couple years back. Well, I have since added fancy tools and a much improved workshop. So I'm giving it a try as a earnest foray into what could be called cabinetry, as it will involve sliding drawers. A first try for me. Here's some pics in progress.

      Start with a sketch and a neighborhood lumberyard...

      Then dust things up with the miter saw...

      Fire up the biscuit joiner (hey that's new!) and of course the palm sander and it's glue-up time...

      Then it's a whole bunch of junk from the hardware store, some semi-careful measuring and it starts looking like furniture.

      Norm from This Old House he'd be...  well... he wouldn't exactly be proud.  But if I gave him a six-pack of micro brew to drink in the corner of the garage while I did this he'd probably have something positive to say about my handiwork.   Eventually...  In between drunken slurred rants about the SAWKS and how they're WICKED GOOD this year.  Then he'd fire up the table saw and cut a bunch of fingers off and say something about "how 'bout them apples".   Then Richard the plumber and Roger ("Rawjahh") the landscaper would have to drag him to the hospital again....  Oh dear, my This Old House delusions are back!  help.

      Music videos - they still exist...

      And I can't stop watching this new one.  

      A blog soldiers on

      I'm not sure how to pick up this blog again.  So I'll just be random until I can find a way to write naturally (and interestingly) about my life.  I mean if I were unemployed and taking motorcycle journeys all over the world I probably wouldn't need any help.  But lets face it...  I am what I am.

      There was food...

      ... right, and then there was the night I made the seafood gumbo and the cornbread.  With my notes from cooking school.  That came out real good.

      That's called making a roux.  Fortunately for me I had a sous-chef that evening.

      Et voila.

        That was a fun weekend.  One thing I remember was that meal.  Another was a guy who took my dopey enthusiasm for the BBC series "Top Gear" and one-upped it (times ten) with the story of how he and his brother went to Vietnam and rented Vespas and rode from Saigon to Ha Long, just like on the show's awesomest coolest (and least automotive) episode.  Yeah, that guy and the memory of how different and generally unpleasant my city is walking home across downtown at exactly 2AM Saturday in the middle of the semester.

      Thanks for the visit Sister-Molly.  Evidently my old house is a bit drafty...

      A Birds Nest

      At the bottom of my stairs in my living room there is a window. It faces south, with a view of a tree (more of a bush really) that scraggily grows in the planter bed between the house and the driveway. The tree isn't much special, but it is healthy and has grown together with the similarly-sized, prettier-leaved, but slightly disease-stricken tree/bush across the driveway. Together they form a very nice arch over my driveway. And that's about all I ever thought of it, until this Spring when out this window I notice a bird's nest. With a robin parked in it. Hm. It's a shame that my first thought when I see birds nests is "well, I'm going to have to get the ladder and a garbage bag..." Yeah, not sure where that comes from. Anyway - this nest is right outside the window - like a foot. And the lady robin, whose name is Rosie, really doesn't seem all that upset by me in the window. She kind of stares at me, not moving too much.


      Anyway, I'm distracted these days and to be honest, I very seldom think about birds. I sort of take them for granted - they're around. They don't get in my way, they don't jump in front of me on the road, they seem to come and go in the winters but not all of them. Some of them stay and are cold. I mean, really neat birds like the Sandhill cranes I see at my job - those I usually will admire and "appreciate". But I think its just because they have long legs. Why do they have long legs? I guess it's not just birds but nature around me in general - it's there but it's not part of my life. I don't bother it, it doesn't bother me. All this is my way of saying that while I noticed the robin and the nest so close outside my window it never occurred to me why the robin made a nest. It's not a place for her to sleep - or to have dinner worms with her husband (whose name is Jerry Seinfeld). No, its where they have baby robins. Ohhhh. Right. That's what those little puffing balls of tiny are under her in there. A-ha.

      Good thing I have a camera. For science.

      Sunday, March 21, 2010

      Introspective, in handy bullet-point form

      It's Sunday night and I start my new job tomorrow morning, so I'd better put whatever remaining punctuation down on the New Orleans "Spring Break" trip there is bouncing around my head.  Here goes, at random:
      • I didn't expect to make it all the way to Michigan on the bike.  I expected to stop somewhere in Tennessee and figure out a way to get it in the back of a u-haul.
      • Yes, I had been planning to go to New Orleans to buy the Triumph.  I had my heart set on this bike for a while and was scouting out places that had this model (1) in-stock to satisfy my silly need for instant gratification (2) on sale as leftover 2009 (3) in a climate where I could expect a March test-ride and (4) east of the rockies.  There were options in suburban Dallas, suburban Houston and suburban Tampa.  And down-freakin'-town New Orleans. Let's see... yep.  Easy choice.
      • Why a Triumph?  I don't know, maybe you can blame this guy.

      • I didn't buy this bike for long-distance touring.  It's pretty stupid for that.  The vast majority of my riding is within 1 hour of my home, and it should be just fine at that, thank you much.
      • That said, I really enjoy traveling on two wheels - you feel more like a traveler everywhere you go, even on the nights you're a shill using your fancy points at the corporate hotel chain.  I may even need to consider adding a more-fitting machine to pursue this beyond my weekend jaunts in the upper midwest on the Street Triple.  But that brings me to a key lesson-learned.  Things happen slower on a bike.  Back roads happen more than highways and anything but interstates.  Small towns and stretch-breaks happen more.  These are all good things.  But if I'm ever going to carve the canyons in California, I'm going to need six weeks off work.  At least.
      • I said this after my GM trip last summer across the western states ending in Seattle.  I need to get a better camera and learn how to use it.  The Canon Powershot is a fantastic tiny point-and-shoot.  It fits in my pocket and can power-on and take a decent blur-protected shot in 3 seconds.  But it just simply doesn't do the scenery justice.  A digital SLR and a good-enough lens kit are serious money, but I think it's gonna be worth it.
      • The next point, one any reader must be thinking, is that I'm going to have take someone along on my next trip so I have something else to take pictures of other than that stupid bike.  Sharp-looker though it may be... 
      • I still struggle with seizing the moment and forcing people into my pictures - even if I'm thinking it, I'm still usually too shy to impose.  Objects and scenery are easy to picture but sometimes a face or two makes a better memory.  Something to work on I guess, and as someone once reminded me, probably the reason there are professional photographers in the world.
      • After safely riding north out of all the "gunrack"-associated states and sitting home on my couch, I allowed myself to re-watch Easy Rider today.  Take it away, Jack...

      • I liked writing about traveling here.  I think I might even have a few followers, which is neat.  I'd probably have done this just for myself but all the better if I can communicate a bit more than I have in the past.  I'd like to continue the blog in some form.  But I'm not sure what it'll be like.  I might take some time to think about it.
      • The trip to New Orleans and the ride home had their minor breakthroughs, but I still struggle a bit with spontaneity and openness alone on the road.  I want to be a better traveler (not that I think I'm a *bad* traveler) but it's hard to do.  I think it has to start in the approach to day-to-day life, because at least on a two-week getaway, I can't just switch off my mood when I hit the road.  It stays with me for a while and maybe keeps me from being the adventurous-Andy or sociable-Andy that exists in my head.  And that's about all the introspective I care to be about that.
      • End on a happy note: Egrets! Gumbo! Schwinn! Croissants! Abita! Dogs! Motorcycle!

      View Spring Break 2010 - Ride Home in a larger map

      Saturday, March 20, 2010

      Catching up - to the end

      Friday was the last and warmest day in the midwest March warm-up week.  I did the ride home from Lake George in as straight a shot as I would do on a bike.  After 7+ days and 1850 miles in the saddle of a machine the manufacturer classifies as "urban sports", I'm ready for a break.  And, despite the warm sun, the west wind is really kicking today, steady over 25mph.  Also, as I roll US-12 through the Irish Hills, I'm watching a pile of sand roll by in the centerline of each lane.  I am in Michigan, after all, and it is still technically winter.  So it's an easy ride.  Tons of bikes were out on US-12.  Eventually the left-hand-salute that I always exchange with passing riders gets annoying , as just about every other bike out is a Harley and most (but definitely not all) of these guys see a non-Harley rider in proper protective gear and usually ignore them as if they were driving a Hyundai.  Anyway, home-again home-again, yippie.  Didn't honestly think I'd make it this far on the bike when I started out but it all worked out.  Lucky me because the weather Saturday turned to typical March gloom and chill.

      View Spring Break 2010 - Day 14 in a larger map

      Catching up - with family

      Crossing Indiana on Wednesday and Thursday meant I could spend a couple nights with my family.  First stop was Wednesday outside Spencer at the Owen-Putnam State Forest where my Uncle Bill is the property manager.   It's several years too many since I've visited Bill and I got to catch up with his garage project.  He's been completely restoring rebuilding a '58 Corvette to authentic standards and is getting closer to the end.  It's a beautiful car and the effort he's put into the details (those window crank mechanisms got me) shows how this a long-term labor of love.  Or something like that - I'm sure he'd have a few other adjectives to describe the relationship...  Anyway, it's patience and persistence I've never had for mechanical work and I admire it.  The dashboard and windshield are set to go on, and with the window crank project, the doors will be ready too.  That pretty much makes it a car, and it will turn heads.

      As a bonus, I also got to visit with my cousin Natalie there.  She's been staying at Bill's the last few months since moving jobs in December.  She left her communications position at Purdue's Engineering school to come over to IU into what is interesting new work for her in the newly-forming School of Public Health.  It's very exciting for her coming back to Bloomington and her alma mater, and, importantly, just as exciting for her husband Mike since they started out together there.  These days, however, are a bit tricky since she has to be away from Mike and the two boys back in Lafayette each week until they can make the move.  But if there's a better young family at dealing with this, I haven't met them.  Anyway, I got a chance to catch up on all the details of her move that I missed when I saw her back at Christmas.  Bill was a fantastic host, as always, grilling us some big pork chops and of course his signature roasted potato dish.

      I intend to get back Bill's way this year so I can ride those southern Indiana roads again, and hopefully bring him and his Harley along.  From there it was the longest ride of the trip up to Grandma's house at Lake George.  Well worth it for the always-good home-cookin, which on Thursday was a roast along with mashed potatoes, asparagus, baked apples, and **Irish Soda Bread** (for St Patty's).   She also invited my Uncle Bob over, and I got to show the bike off to him and Laurie and her granddaughter, Tenacity.  Bob and Laurie have worked in Angola, IN for my new employer Tenneco for many years.  Their plant is under a different division, but still it's pretty neat that we'll be "coworkers" now.  It was a kick to talk about that and I think the little Triumph might have even impressed the ol' Harley guy!

      Grandma and I went out for a nice breakfast on Friday morning before I hit the road.  She's eager for Spring, and we put out a few Easter decorations to help the season along.  She'll have some company from my Uncle Jim and Aunt Lorna to look forward to this weekend, and then I'll be back on Easter.  I probably won't be riding the bike that weekend, however.  I think Grandma liked it, even if it means one more boy to worry about!

      Catching up - "Back home agaaaaiiinnnn..."

      Wednesday AM is a bridge crossing at Owensboro into Indiana.  The Ohio is looking pretty angry right now.  Lots of logs and debris blasting by under the bridge, and some flooding on the uninhabited Indiana bank.  Also cool to ride over top of a tug pushing six barges of coal up-river against the muddy torrent.  Was very optimistic about the ride today, knowing that areas around the Ohio river provide superior road topography than most other locales in the Midwest.  Also, knowing that the ride would end with family and no hotel!  Set out for IN-66 east out of Tell City and into Hoosier National Forest.  This was the best road on the trip, as it had some serious combinations of elevation and directional change.  Pavement was in good enough shape and there didn't seem to be much sand.  Also, once in the forest the tree canopy was quite nice, and I can only imagine what it'd be like in the fall.  And there were no other vehicles!  Great!  What could be better?  Well, I soon found the reason I was the only one on IN-66 that morning when it returned to the bank of the river at Rome:

      I suppose I probably should have made a better interpretation of this sign fifteen miles back:

      Oh well, there were far worse things than running that stretch a second time in the opposite direction.  And it gave me a chance to experience IN-145 north from Tell City to Birdseye which was nearly as good a road.  It didn't quite have the dare-devil hills that the river road had but it did have fantastic pavement, no traffic and great 40-60mph twisties.  And no floods!  Followed that road north along to the resort town of French Lick.  I was hoping for some Larry Bird -commemorative stuff to photograph in French Lick, as that is what I always thought the appeal of this town was.  But it turns out it's a cute little resort town.  Whatever.  Sun is out beautifully now, so I can shed some layers and continue on toward Bloomington.  I try for some very minor roads out of French Lick which require me to slow way down in spots when gravel covers the road, and I did get a little lost, but the payoff is some nice southern Indiana scenery.

      Anyway, I find highway 37 near Orleans and make tracks on the slab north since I'm running late.  I do make a quick stop in Bloomington to see the IU campus again on this beautiful day.  Couldn't take enough time to find a good photo spot of all the great limestone in the sun, so I had to settle for the law school right off the main gate and Kirkwood Ave.  It was Spring Break, btw.

      Now just a quick ride to Bill's house in Spencer.  Thursday morning was another late start, as the clear night put a coat of frost on the bike in the morning!  But again the sun was out and things warmed up nice.  The ride on Thursday across Central and Northeast Indiana was not much to write about.  The whole way north on IN-13 was a battle with a steady 20mph crosswind.  I learned riding on the leeward side of the road that this is where semi-trucks have their most unsettling aerodynamic impact on the bike.  When they blast by the other way and cut the crosswind, it can be a little scary.  And if Indiana has a lot of something, it's wide-open corn fields and semi trucks.

      Ended up the day riding through Amish country and Shipshewana, where I caught peak rush hour for the buggies.  East finally with the wind at my back on good old IN-120 to Lake George.  Here's the only ride picture from Thursday, the ubiquitous Indiana county-seat courthouse.  This one is in Wabash.

      View Spring Break 2010 - Day 12 in a larger map

      View Spring Break 2010 - Day 13 in a larger map