Pimping the hubris: Take 2

The Technorati ‘bots hate me. But, because I secretly desire to have thousands of people read my drivel, I’m attempting to get this blog “verified”, again. I first attempted this a couple of weeks ago and, apparently, there was some issue. Ergo, here we are, trying again.

In case you were wondering, Technorati is a basically a blog search engine. You (the blogger) sign up for an account, enter your info, and then the magic of the interwoobies happens and you’re suddenly searchable via their database. Kind of cool, really. Somewhere out there, in the great over-populated expanses of the world at large, some bored, scooter-riding Luddite wanna-be could come across my blog by typing in a few keywords.

Hmm, I always wanted a following. Ahh, yes, an army of minions, hanging on my every word! It could be like, like, umm, Pinky and the Brain or something equally cute and fuzzy on the outside but with a lot of deeper issues addressed on the inside? We could try and take over the world! En masse, astride our Mad Max-styled scooters, we could spread permaculture techniques and firearm safety across the land! We could show the wisdom of using the right tool for the right job! We could re-create society in the Redneck Way!

Meh, mebbe not, but here’s the code, Technorati kids, just in case:

G8EVB6MBNYYW

Some thoughts about labels and things

I’m frustrated.

No, not with anything tangible, per say. It’s more about an abstract perception of other people’s views of things. Yes, things; things in general, attitudes, assumptions. I suppose you could say I’m flat out puzzled by some things.

For instance, the better half found an interesting networking group on Facebook called Transition. After clicking the link to the Transition US website and reading up on what they’re all about, I must say, I was rather intrigued. In a nutshell, they’re about communities and small groups working to transition our current views and modes of living and working in response to the challenges of peak oil, climate change, and the economic crisis.

I liked the whole community involvement angle; I liked the concept of networking various groups and individuals working towards similar goals. But the rhetoric of some of the information was a little, well, alarming on some level that I haven’t quite put my finger on yet. But I did find links to all sorts of interesting new articles and sites I’m not familiar with and so Transition US has gone into my bookmarks.

So, here’s the rub. Why is it that sustainability doesn’t make sense to more people? And why is it that there are almost requisite labels that are forced upon those of us for whom sustainability does make sense?

What I’m talking about is this: if you’re all about growing your own food and getting off the grid you’re automatically classified as a political liberal. Liberals, upon hearing you want to grow your own food and get off grid, make this same assumption. However, if you’re not so gung ho on their political agenda, suddenly you’re condemned and classified as a Tea Partyer nut job.

Wait a minute, WHUUUUT?

How do you jump from, “I don’t really agree with this approach to issues f, g, x, y, and z ” to “well then you’re in the GOP’s back pocket”?

Huh?

Human beings apparently have the overwhelming need to classify things, be they ideas, or plants, or people. However, I do tend to bristle at the way most people seem to classify others as an “individual” and then immediately jump to an “overarching generality” .

Sustainability and creating a more fulfilling life for yourself isn’t about political ideology. Do I buy into the Al Gore view of Global Warming? Nope. Do I buy into the idea that guns are bad? Nope. Do I buy into the idea that big business is all good? Nope, sure don’t. Do I think that science and technology are going save the world? Certainly not. Do I think everyone should live off grid and grow their own food? Not really.

What I do buy into, however, is that I can make my life better by living in greater harmony with the planet. I do think if more of us would adopt this view and make some pretty simple changes in our daily lives, and perhaps alter our world views just a little bit, we may end up leaving the world a better place for our descendants (I can’t say children, ’cause I don’t have any).

To be quite honest I really don’t have a very positive opinion of human nature, much less human beings. Maybe because it seems so many of us refuse to continue learning, refuse to hear someone else’s view, refuse to believe that life won’t just go on exactly as it is right now, ad infinitum. The fundamental constant in life and our Universe is change; everything is in flux at all times and seeking equilibrium. I take issue with humans assuming we have all the answers when the majority of us refuse to change ourselves.

My Dad used to always say, “Get your mind right.” Admittedly, when he was telling me this it was usually in a pretty negative context, but he had a point. Our ability to do begins with our understanding of the task at hand. Sometimes we have to stop, take a step back, and look, rather than rely on our assumptions and jump right in.

So think about your labels. Take a step back, look at people, listen to them and don’t assume they have to fit some rigid classification system you’ve created.

Get your mind right.

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Performance anxiety

Meet the big fear. That’s right, writer’s block. Don’t assume that it only afflicts writers (or those who pretend to be writers).

It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. You know, you have to write a thank you note, an email, a letter (yes, on actual paper), or any number of things and, suddenly, NOTHING. Your mind locks up. You forget the English language and, in a feeble attempt to kick start the ol’ frontal lobe, you begin scribbling mindless lines…

Fortunately, for most, this only lasts for a few seconds, or perhaps a few minutes. Usually something will lube up the gears and cogs of our minds and we’re off! Words flowing easily along the synapses from the brain all the way down to the hand that’s typing or grasping a pencil.

Well, right now I’m stuck with a version of writer’s block.

Huh? You may well ask, aren’t you writing a post to your blog right now? C’mon!

But I’m serious. The challenge of writing a blog is to create content that’s interesting and entertaining and appeals to a broad range of readers. It’s one thing to write about what happened yesterday, it’s another thing entirely to write about it well.

For example, last night the better half and I headed into town to meet some friends for dinner. Their realtor was singing with a live band in a local bar and she had invited the lot of us to come out and hear them play.

Just an FYI, there are only two bars in our little town. And they are pretty much exactly as you’d imagine small-town bars in the midwest to be: kinda old, kinda dark, and on a rainy Saturday night, kinda packed. Thankfully, the realtor gal had reserved a table for our crew next to the makeshift dance floor, which was really just a dance area. In order to even get a band in the place the pool tables are shoved against a far wall.

Surprisingly, the band was quite good. Good ol’ classic rock, of course, but they did mix it up a bit. The realtor gal has killer pipes and easily covered everything from KT Tunstall and Melissa Etheridge to uber-classics Never Been to Spain and I Love Rock and Roll.

Of course, I didn’t have my camera with me, so no exciting tiny-bar-in-the-middle-of-nowhere pics. Sorry, all. No, really, I’m sorry! The dancing of a herd of middle-aged Missourians is a sight to be shared! It was like a train wreck: horrific, yet you just couldn’t tear your eyes from the spectacle. Imagine being locked in your local state psychiatric facility. For some reason the staff has neglected to medicate the inmates for several days and then an overloud PA system blares the  announcement that there will be no Jell-o with dinner. EVER. Yup, exactly. Conniption fits everywhere.

But, if you’re ever in our neck of the woods, check out Badlands. They’re pretty good. But bring your camera.

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Pimping the hubris

Soooo…hmmm. There are all sorts of strange things you can do to entice people to a blog. And here I was thinking it was magic or something.

For the technorati ‘bots, here ya go:

E4RHAY6Q64CU

I can haz interwoobiez coolness, now?

The Redneck Way and some notes on our Hobbit hole

So far I’ve been inundating you all with scooter-ness. But today, since my brain is veritably afire with house-building thoughts, it’s time to introduce you all to alternative building. Yeah, hippie building as some of you might call it.

I read something a few years ago that pretty much explains our current life philosophy:

Why buy it if you can build it, why build it if you can find it?

Don’t hold me to the accuracy of that quote because my old brain can be a bit fuzzled at times. And don’t ask me who wrote it, either, because I couldn’t find it in a Google search. 😀

But it sums up exactly how I feel about things. I like to call it, “The Redneck Way”.

Look, most people, when something breaks down or stops working, think, “Oh crap, do I have enough money in the bank to pay someone to fix this?” and “Where’s the Yellow Pages? Lemme call so-and-so, they had this same problem and really liked who they used.” And off they go to call in a plumber or an electrician or a mechanic.

Rednecks, on the other hand, think, “Who do I know knows how to work on this? I better stock the fridge with beer and start thawing some beef.” and “Hang on a sec, what have I got laying around here that I can fix this with?”

A few years ago, when we were living in the ‘burbs of Houston, TX, and the better half and I were still in our getting to really know one another phase, the backyard privacy fence was in dire need of replacement. At the time, the better half’s reaction was the one I mentioned first, “Oh my God, this is going to be so expensive to get done!” My response was to laugh and reply, “What are you talking about? You can afford some beer and bbq, can’t you?”  Of course, in retrospect, laughing at the better half’s agitation probably wasn’t the best reaction, but I got my point across (and my insensitivity was forgiven, thankfully). The privacy fence was replaced, it didn’t cost $500, and life went on. And the better half learned, slowly but surely, the value of the Redneck Way.

Here we are, several years down the road, about to embark on probably the most redneck of redneck building projects. Everyone else, in this modern day and age, would call it an “alternative” or “green” building project. Ha! Rednecks have been perfecting the art of getting it done with what they’ve got for…well, I dunno, centuries? I like to think this country was built on the backs of rednecks. People who chose to do as opposed to people who chose to have it done.

All right, enough of my philosophical pontificating. On to the Hobbit hole notes.

This blog post began its life as a post to our House Project thread on Google Wave. If you need an efficient app for collaboration, I highly recommend it.

Anyhoo, I was writing up some information for an old architect friend of mine. He’s kindly offered up his time, knowledge, and advice to help keep us from killing ourselves. For grins, he will henceforth be referred to as Mr. Roark.

(Sort of ) the Wave to Mr. Roark:

Thus far I think that the better half’s new found love of cordwood walls may well be multipurpose. I’ll explain why in a moment.

First, I really think that rammed earth on three sides is going to be our best bet for a multitude of reasons.

cheap material (used tires)
exceptional insulation
waterproof
extremely strong (load bearing & hydrostatic)
long lasting
Some good data on rammed earth in downloadable .pdfs can be found here.

The one huge con with this idea is that rammed earth is extremely labor intensive. However, we have no deadline. If it takes 6 months, great. If it takes 2 years, no problem.

Ok, so rammed earth takes care of three sides. That leaves three more sides to think about.

The front wall, as mentioned above, will be cordwood. Now, the advantages of this are as follows:

The front wall is south facing. So, the wood is thermal mass (for winter heating) that will conduct warmth into the house.
There is, quite literally, tons of it available on our build site. Much of it is, in fact, cedar, which some Missourians consider a weed. Therefore we probably have all the wood we need; already felled and seasoned and close at hand.
It’s a relatively easy build method and extremely strong. We can configure the depth of our wall to whatever we wish. 6″? A foot?
It’ll be easy to add shelving, hooks, you name it, once the build is complete.
Which leaves the roof and the floor.

I’m not sold on a concrete slab. It’s expensive, for one thing. And for another our build site is, essentially, atop a hill with no road. Getting a concrete truck up there may be nigh on impossible.

It may be more feasible to do a strawbale floor sealed with cob or covered with wood flooring. A neighbor has a sawmill and there are hundreds of old barns around that folks will gladly allow you to tear down. Either way we have access to some pretty incredible wood flooring.

But back to the strawbale idea…

The strawbales are kept off the ground via wooden pallets. Under these pallets you place a waterproof layer, either plastic mil or Tyvek, to keep moisture away from the bales. If we decide to do wood flooring, I’d place another waterproof layer on top of the bales and then put down the flooring. What’s cool is this would result in a nice, springy floor. Of course it can rot, eventually, but I’m working on ideas to prevent that.

But don’t take the above flooring ideas as writ in stone, they’re not by any means.

Lastly, the roof.

There’s only one economical, efficient, and green way to do a roof, and that’s a living one. So, thanks to the load-bearing qualities of both the rammed earth and the cordwood, our walls can hold up several tons. I’m still doing research on the best method for our specific climate, so more on this later.

Right now I’m working on finalizing dimensions. Because cool temps predominate 6 months of the year here, I know that long and shallow is the way to go. We want the sun’s rays to be able to penetrate far into our home during the winter months. If it’s too deep the warming benefits of sunlight on thermal mass are lost. Too shallow and we’ll be living in an oven.

So it’s a balancing act. Too much vs. too little light. Cost-effective vs. efficient. Money vs. labor.

Well, lemme know your thoughts and if you need further links to the craziness. Have a good one!

The Flamin’ Texas Road Trip of 2008

This ride report covers June 18th through August 6th, 2008. It has been edited for this publication.

The Machine:  2005 Honda PS250 “Big Ruckus”
The Mileage:  2600 miles, roundtrip
The Point:  Meh, why the hell not?

So it’s been one helluva week getting ready for this trip…
With KC CoN [the Conference of Noise, an annual scooter rally for members of TR that occurs in various locations around the U.S.] looming I had invited all and sundry to the HiTech Ranch whilst they were en route.  BRed and his buddy, Van, had decided to take me up on the offer.  They would arrive at the HTRanch late Sunday night.

Ten minutes to midnight, BRed called.  He was broken down not five miles south of town.  I asked him to describe his location, I think I recognize it and told him I’d be there in 25 minutes. I moved around some vehicles, threw the trailer onto the Ranger, and headed out to get Ed.
I found Ed actually closer to town than I guesstimated. While we’re loading his BR onto the trailer, his traveling bud, Van, arrived.  Apparently Van had decided to race a car moments before Ed’s scooter’s drive face grenaded.

‘Cuz that’s what happened.  The drive face on Ed’s super-modded BR had stripped its splines.  I won’t go into details; if you’re not scooter savvy it’d probably just bore you.
So, Monday.  Every motorcycle place in the world is closed on Monday. We called up Chucktuna. Chuck’s a step ahead of us and tells us that Mungenast Honda is open on Monday. You have got to be kidding us.  We call Mungenast, Ed gets the drive face overnighted and we settled in for a fine day of goofing off. In the meantime, the parts for my BR’s clutch won’t be available until Tuesday (cuz my local dealer is in the boonies and, of course, they’re closed on Mondays, like most motorcycle places).
Tuesday dawned and we got the call, “Mr. Ed, your drive face has arrived”.  YES!

We loaded up in the HiTech POS Civic with ice cold AC and headed to StL to pick up Ed’s part at Mungenast. That done we cruised up to Dewey’s Pizza in Kirkwood for lunch…Ed created the most awesome pizza in the history of the world from their list of toppings!  Seriously, the waiter and his trainee were drooling!  We told ’em, “call it the TotalRuckus, if you put it on the menu!”

THANK YOU, ED, FOR LUNCH!  It was truly fantastic pizza!

A couple more stops and we pointed the POS Civic west to pick up my parts in the big town of Sullivan. An hour and some change later and it was back to the HTRanch.

All this fun cost a full day of bike prep time for attending CoN and heading out for Texas.  But it’s alllll good.  Ed slapped his new drive face on BioHazard and I tore into #5’s clutch assembly.  Ed and Van’s experience helped the rebuild go smoothly; and lickety-split, the clutch was rebuilt and reinstalled onto #5.

But Ed and Van had hotel reservations in KC and they had to go…and off into the sunset they rode. Dual puffs of dust kicked up behind their bikes as they traversed the treacherous gravel knob I call home.

With my guests gone, I buttoned up #5 and rolled him out for a test ride.

But #5 refused to start.

I was livid. I’ll be honest. Hours of greasy sweating and cursing , all for naught. “Frak it, “ I say, “gimme a beer, I’ll figure this out tomorrow!”

And now it’s Wednesday.  There’s laundry to do, 4 acres of grass to be mown, and packing!  But for now I hafta find out why on earth my BR won’t start. Being me, I called Ed.  He suggested a few things, I tried ‘em.  Nothing.  #5 turns over, but wont start.  DAMMIT!

So I started through the system. Step one: pull the plug.  NO FUEL ON PLUG.  None.  That is what you could call “not good”.

So I tore into the carb.  If you haven’t pulled a carbie on a BR, you have no idea how labor intensive it is.  Take off the seat, remove the battery/wiring box, remove the left side cover (and the floorboard too), and mark the 8 tubes that go into the carb before disconnecting them.

Hmmm…the jets looked good, no pinholes in the diaphragm.  WHAT THE FRAK!!!  Ok, but this is good…I can’t get carb parts in time to go to CoN…
Basically, after several phone calls to Ed and to Chris at Unique Powersports in Sullivan, MO (shameless plug? you bet! They ROCK!), I figured the only thing it could be is a valve problem.

So I tightened the valves.  Still wouldn’t start. I set the valves back to the original Honda settings (the very first time I did a valve adjustment on the BR I marked the factory setting with a red sharpie).  Tightened the adjusters back up and…

Wooo-hoooo!!! He fired up!!!  So I proceeded to tighten the valves, slightly,  by increments.  Tighten 1/2 graduation, start the scoot, listen.  Hmmm….not right.
About this time Raptor arrived amidst a cloud of Missouri dust in his pimp Mercury.  Wait. What? More company? Ooops, he confused the 16th of August (the Redneck bbq) with the aforementioned pre-CoN get together. Well, that’s ahhaight, it’s a TR peep.

I got Raptor settled into the spare bedroom and started back on my valve adjustments…and promptly forget to remove the breaker bar and socket from the drive face when I test fired the scoot.

The breaker bar whipped around as I hit the starter switch and left a lovely bruise on my thigh.  Now the scoot does NOTHING when I hit the starter switch.  After an hour of phone calls to Ed (yes, again) and endless wire tracing, guess what?  When the breaker bar spun around it hit the kickstand safety switch and unplugged it. I plugged the switch back in and the BR fired right up! YES! Back in bidness!

Test ride time.  #5 was cruising better than he had in more than two years!  YESSSSSSS!!!!!

Raptor helped me add my new trunk and change the oil…we drank some beer, cruised TR, then hit the hay. It had been a very long day.
Raptor was gone long before I rolled outta my rack the next morning.  But my BR was running!  I could make the trip!  I could go to CoN!!!
So I spent the day running around doing laundry, cutting the grass, goin’ to Walmart and finally, FINALLY, the BR was loaded and ready to go.

Laptop?  Check
DSLR?    Check
Clothes?  Check
Phone #’s? Check
Tools?    Check
Tent?    Check
Sleeping Bag?  Check
Snacks?  Check
Rain gear?  Check
Sleeping Pads?  Check
Ditty Bag?  Check
Spare Fuel?  Check
Camping Kitchen?  Check, check!

All loaded and ready to go!

Although I ended up looking like the Beverly Hillbillies on two wheels, I left out in the AM taking  nice, leisurely back roads en route to  KC.

Julian snapped this pic recently,  as I was buttoning #5 back up from a round of maintenance.  He calls it, “The Essence of HiTech”:

I rolled out Friday morning and headed to KC on the tiniest back roads I could find.  It was a beautiful day, beautiful scenery, and a smooth ridin’, loaded-down BR.  What could be better?

CoN was AWESOME.  Seriously….too freakin’ cool.  And none of you have ridden hardcore until you tag along with a herd o’ Rucki doing 35mph for 120 miles.  Mad, mad, mad props to Cole, Dean, Scott, Lindsay, Quinn, and all of the TR peeps who trekked up, down and over for CoN.  TR is full of great folks, and I am fortunate to have met so many in my years on the forum.

Sunday brunch was lovely and some MadToto folk rolled out to join in.  Mike Levitt,  the owner of Scooterworld in Overland Park, KS (yes, yet another plug!), Bob of the Lime Green Helix fame, Denise, scooter grand dame of awesome, and a new member to the MTSC (sorry man, I’m lousy with names).
I mentioned to Mike and Bob that I was about to need a new front tire, so we rolled from brunch over to Scooterworld (on a Sunday!??!) and Mike checked his stock to see if he had 12” tire that would fit.  No dice.  I had overloaded the rear box on #5, resulting in stretched travel of the front forks creating a really bad wear pattern on the front tire. It would need to be replaced before this journey ended.

But, Bob and I did manage to wrangle KS BR owner Joe’s cool shock preload system onto #5.  Thank you, Bob, for your help!

About the time Bob and I got the shock back on the bike, Mike walked out of the back room with a giant black box.
“Here, on your way back through, pick this u….I’ve had it for years and nobody wants it.”
“Back through?  Hell, I need it now!”
So Mr. Mike Levitt, super-guru to scooter trash, donated a giant black box to the Flamin’ Texas Road Trip and thusly became my first sponsor.
THANK YOU, MIKE!
Bob and I then headed over to Pomeruck’s Rucki Refugee camp…we all said our goodbyes with lotsa hugs all around, more pics snapped, and then I rolled out south towards Joplin.
I had to run the slab for about 70 miles before I picked up Kansas Hwy 7.  Finally,  off the slab and onto  good road.
Wow, beautiful ride!

[For the full write-up, pics, and vids of KC CoN, please visit the thread on TR here.]

Nancy and Jerry met up with me in Ft. Scott, KS. We cruised south, racing the sunset, and arrived in Joplin after dark. On Monday Nancy and I hit up Walmart (of course) and Academy where I picked up an inflatable kayak seat to slide under #5’s sheepskin….oooh nice!

(And Nancy, no I’m not posting any pics of you….I didn’t manage to take a flattering pic, so I’m not gonna post a poor one!  I’ll post a pic of Widget instead…LOL)

The giant box needed some decoration. Hmmmmmm…well, having people sign it sounded like a really good idea.  Thanks to Smoove of Iowa City for the silver paint pen!

Julian arrived in Joplin Monday evening from St. Louis on his pimp Scarabeo 500. I cooked up red beans and rice for Nancy and Jerry and we all stayed up way too late.  THANK YOU, Nancy, Jerry, and brother Roger for your hospitality! But Julian still isn’t so sure about heading through Arkansas:

Julian and I ended up sleeping in on Tuesday. We needed it!  It was a hot as hell ride for Julian’s 6 hour jaunt to Joplin and I was needed some recuperation from two days of no sleep, a lot of beer, and a constant contact high at CoN.

We loaded up the scoots Tuesday morning and rolled Mo 43 south; yet another fabulous road.  Hello open road and goodbye MO!

We stopped at a river crossing/canoe rental/rv park along the way.  I chatted with the guy running the place, a Mr. Bill Underwood, and he let us on in for free.  We checked out the river, got wet, and then I had him sign the road trip box as we left.

At the river bridge:

Baptising myself:

Scoots need shade!

Bill signs the HTRN road trip box:

I wanted to make it to Ashdown, AR the first day but that just didn’t happen.  It was getting on to 6pm when we finally managed to cross the Arkansas River.  Fortunately there was a state park right over the river bridge.  We whipped in and set up camp.  I ran into town and grabbed some groceries and beer (of course!).  The new box from Mike doubled as a cooler, btw:

We watched a guy fishing at he pond next to our campsite.  Julian walked over and introduced himself and the guy offered us the fish he’d caught. And so we met SSgt. Demetro Cobb.  He cleaned a couple of catfish for us and in return we gave him a beer.

Sgt Cobb’s words of wisdom, “Well, ya know, once ya get it, well, then you got it.”  That was in response to my telling him that Julian is a “Redneck-in-Training”…

SSgt Cobb:

SSgt Cobb signing my road trip box:

We’re camping, baby!  #5 is doing what he was built for!

Where was I?  Oh yeah, the end of the first day….

We didn’t do many miles on day 1.  I think we were more interested in scenery and getting our riding asses in order.  But the second day was looking to be some hard riding.  We needed to get on down the road and I was itchin’ to cross that Texas state line.

In the meantime, we were on some beautiful back roads.  I’m talking amazing riding.  We bopped along at 55 mph. Partly in an attempt to spare my front tire, partly due to the heat, and partly due to our enjoying the scenery.

Day 2 dawned clear and bright.  I’m slow to wake up, coffee is an absolute necessity and by the time we had fully awakened, broke camp, and got back on the road it was after 11am.

We stopped at Natural Dam, AR for lunch.  Holy crap, that was one of the best burgers I ever shoved in my face!  Mebbe half an hour after getting back on the road from our lunch stop, the bottom fell out of the bucket.

It POURED.

I’m talking within 30 seconds of riding into the rain I had 2 gallons of water in my boots.  We stopped on the side of the road, stripped off our wet gear and attempted to quickly pull on our rain gear.  We jumped back on our scoots and managed another 40 miles in a driving rainstorm.  It was a freakin’ tropical depression in Arkansas!  WTF?!  I was cold, I was hungry, we were poking along at 45mph, and we needed to get dry.

Mena, AR was just ahead so I started looking for a Laundromat. Seriously, all I wanted was a dryer!  On the far side of town I espied a strip mall coming up on our left. I threw on the turn signal, hoping Julian wasn’t too tired to see it, and shot across the parking lot and under the Laundromat’s awning.  I’m sure Julian was thinking, “Where in the hell is this crazy heifer taking us now?” Well, at least until he saw the sign:

Wow, dryers freakin’ ROCK!

And we grubbed down on some lunch.

This little stopover took almost 2 hours!  We left a trail of water from the front door to the restroom.  But I chatted with the gal who ran the place and mopped up our mess for her.  Her grandson signed the road trip box. He was enthralled with the BR.  Nice kiddo.

Once sun came out we rolled on down into TEXAS!!!

I wanted to hop off of #5 and kiss the ground when we hit the south bank of the Red River.

But we were tired, riding in all the rain had zapped us of strength. It was way on into the late afternoon and we needed to look for a place to camp.  We were going to have to take an extra day to make it down to Bryan.

We poured over our maps, settled on Daingerfield State Park and started racing daylight with only one more problem to overcome for the day. Daingerfield State Park is in a dry county.  We stopped to get gas and asked, “where do ya’ll hafta go to buy some beer around here?”  The gal at the gas station directed us a few miles down the road and over the hills and far away to Lone Star, TX.  We located the liquor store and were pleasantly surprised to discovered that Lake O’ the Pines was a scant 8 miles away.  Yes! Forget Daingerfield State Park.

So now we were racing rain clouds and daylight.  We pulled into the first camping area we saw.  No one was in the check in booth so we cruised to a tent site, grabbed our gear, set up camp in the half-light expecting a deluge at any moment.

Except nothing happened.  It just got dark.

We spent the evening chasing a persistent passel of coons away from our Ramen and drinking ice-cold beer.

The next morning was a repeat of the previous morning.  I fired up the Coleman Dual Fuel stove (hey, unleaded gas is cheaper than stove fuel and you always carry spare gas on long trips) and made coffee.  It took us a couple of hours to get rolling, but rolling we went.

Holy crapapotamos, I’m back in Texas.

Crazy random stuff is everywhere you look.

The above pic was taken at a Caddy dealership somewhere in NW TX.  One of the salesmen walked over asking, “Can I help ya’ll?”… ”Nah, we just needed to get a pic of yer bull!” …”Oh. Well, why?”  I gave him a look…”cuz it’s a giant red bull on the side of the highway.”  Duh.

We cruised on and a few miles down the road espied a couple of scoots ahead of us.  I’ll be damned!  It was two Vino 49cc’s!  And they, holy cow, they had GEAR on their scoots!

Meet Darlene and Sputz.  Last week they said, “The hell with it!” and left Bentonville, AR to cruise the U.S. Yes, on 49cc scooters. For those of you who aren’t scooter savvy, 49cc scoots top out around 40mph on a good day.  They were planning on seeing the sights for the next 2 years. Yes, you read that right, 2 YEARS.  They were HARDCORE!  They should have roll into Austin a couple of days after we arrived in Bryan.

Sputz and Dalena

Scootertrash!

Sharing the TR love!

And plugging where Sputz and Dalena bought their Vinos:

We all chatted for a while and then Julian and I chased sprinkles and sunshine the rest of the way across Texas.  10 miles from Bryan we hit some actual rain, but nothing like the day before.

We finally rolled up my buddy Deb’s place.  Cooled from the rain but tired and hungry.  Deb lives across the street from her friends Van and John who have the Milton Parker Home.  It’s the second oldest home in Bryan and they operate a bed & breakfast.  The house is AMAZING.

We were all outside, unpacking the scoots, and Deb looks skyward and says, “Well, damn, Misty rolls up and God gives us a rainbow!  Lookit that!”

But not just a rainbow, a DOUBLE rainbow:




Deb’s Casa:

Some random stuff from around the Milton Parker Home:



One of Van and John’s 4 mini-Dachsies

So we had arrived in Bryan and proceeded to hang out with my old buddy Deb.  Deb and I’ve known each other for nigh on a decade. We used to terrorize our favorite bar together back in the day.  Needless to say, we had quite a few stories to entertain Julian with….LOL

Sharing the TR love!

Amazingly, Julian and Debbie make quite the adorable couple!

HiTech playing with pics:

Deb and I go waaay back.  We used to take turns for who got drunk and who had to drive on bar weekends.  Damn, now we’re just old…

Tiny Dancer?  HUH?

Ohhhh!

To be honest, all we were doing in Texas was hanging out with some of my old buddies and eating chicken-fried everything and drinking gallons of tea and Shiner Bock.  Sounds like a lousy time, eh?

However, Julian continually surprised me by living up to his newly acquired Redneck-in-Training credo.  On our ride from Bryan down to Columbus we stopped off in Brenham at the greatest little Mexican food place in existence: Andrea’s Taco Shop.  Carne asada burritos like you have never blessed your taste buds with!  Awesome.  He was absolutely astounded by the food.  “How the hell do you get so much flavor out of something so simple?”

We arrived in Columbus on Saturday night and spent the evening outside, on the deck of Ronny’s “Sugar Cube” (a single car garage converted into a mini-bungalow off the main house). My old buddy Girndt and his wife and kids came by and we all proceeded to gleefully retell hair-raising stories on one another and imbibe copious amounts of “brewed with attitude” goodness.

Sunday we headed out to Girndt’s place down on the Colorado River where we fired off a few rounds, Julian went on his first ever ATV ride, we grilled some grub, and just had a damned fine, redneck time of it.  And, of course, drank more beer.

Thank you, Matt & Christine, for great hospitality and permission to post up pics of the kiddos!

At the Girndt Family Redneck Haven on the Prairie:

“Ball & Chain Girndt”

Ball & Chain & Links, aka “the family that shoots together, stays together”

HiTech’s turn!

Happy HiTech:

Julian’s second ride on an ATV..He and Matt were headed back down to the river to go through a few more rounds:
<img class=”aligncenter” src=”http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c290/protistdog/J1stATVride.jpg%5B/img%5D

Of course, Matt had to kick the dog off, first…

Scary lookin’, ain’t he?  😆  I’ve known Matt since he was 14.  He is one of the damned finest men I’ve ever known.

Roxie doesn’t like how loud the guns are, though:

Shadow kept trying to get Julian to make out with her:

So Julian ran away to play on the kids playhouse:

Those kids have it made!  Seriously, their very own see-saw, trampoline, and a zip line into their swimming pool…too cool.

AIRBORNE!!!!!

Julian, “awww, damn, beer and trampolines do NOT mix”….

Mean-assed kittehs….

Cool plants in the garden:

Down at the river:

Ahhhh, Texas Sunset!

My buddy Ronny loaned us a truck to use while we were down visiting.  Due to #5’s dire front tire situation we decided to cage our travels for a couple of days. We even made it down to Shiner to check out the Spoetzl Brewery where we picked up some stickers and t-shirts, but no photos.  Sorry all!  Without having #5 there, well, it just wasn’t the same and I was utterly uninspired to snap a single pic.

I want express my regrets to the H-town TR peeps.  My little voice kept telling me not to head into the big city on the BR…so I didn’t.  Not that I didn’t want to see Vic again and mebbe get to meet some new folks, I just…well, mebbe I just wanted to keep my memory of Houston intact. I suppose I didn’t want to see the new 10 lane I-10…hell, Columbus had changed enough in the past 4 years to blow my mind.

For grins, Matt’s seven toed kitteh named, of course, Seven:

Julian left out headed for Houston and didn’t even make it to Sealy in Friday traffic before he said, “screw this!” and detoured up to Bryan to hang with Deb some more.  I, on the other hand, just hung out with my redneck bud, Matt, and went out to the junkyard to see my old friend Ronny.

Junkman Extraordinaire, Ronny Daley.

So Daley Salvage is the junkyard where I used to work.  We had 75 acres of more than 5000 units from the 40’s up to the present.  Those of us who worked there when it was still parts salvage, well, we had the inventory and the locales of just about everything in our heads.

Ok, gearheads, imagine 75 acres of this:





But, when the price of metal started jumping up, Ronny saw an opportunity and CRUSHED EVERYTHING. Basically it’s now a scrap yard.   😥   There are a few remnants, but I think he was crushing his past life (he got divorced a couple of years ago) right along with all of those vehicles.

This is “the bottom”…it used to hold row after row of 70’s and 80’s Ford, Dodge, and Chevys.

Now it’s all empty, even in the upper area, where it was all 90’s stuff, looks like this now:

Irony, anyone?

Junk yard kitteh named, of course, Dog:

It was a crazy homecoming, of sorts. I ran into folks I used to know, even ran into an old friend of my baby sister’s when I was in the grocery store. I ate way to much fried food, literally drank beer and iced tea by the gallon, but a damned fine time was had by all.

We left Columbus on Monday morning and headed up through Bellville, to Hempstead, to Navasota, through Davey Crockett National Forest and into Nacogdoches.  We hit up Hwy 59 out of Nac where we saw the temp on a bank sign. Holy crap, it was around 110* on the 4 lane!

But we pushed on through the heat with our cheap hydration bladders from WalMart keeping us hydrated and hit the Louisiana state line looking for campgrounds. Now that was a mistake.

Lousyana ain’t got camping in the north of the state. There were no state parks all the way up to Shreveport. Once we crossed the river into Bossier City I noticed a BassPro Shop…I mean, really, if anyone is gonna know where there’s some camping around, you’d think it’d be folks at BassPro, right?

BTW, the old US highway through Shreveport?  AWESOME.

Amazingly, the little gal at the service desk was able to direct us to some camping about 15 miles away.  Thank God!

We got to the campground right at dark, put our tents up quickly, and Julian headed out for some beer.  Dinner was leftover lousy Chinese that we had picked up for lunch in Nac.  But the campground showers were nice and we met a crazy coonass who had a few beers with us, signed my trip box, and gave us a 12v cooler…that didn’t work  😆

Of course, being right next to a lake in Louisiana I HAD to give Julian grief about alligators…and the crazy coonass fed him a few good ‘gator tales, too.  Good thing Julian got such a buzz off the Keystone Ice we drank, otherwise I think he’d have been awake all night…LOL



We slept in the next day. The heat of the day before had pretty much done us in. By the time we stopped and ate (mostly to get the lingering taste of lousy Chinese food out of our mouths) it was going on 1 in the afternoon before we really got some miles behind us.

Crossing the Arkansas state line…hey, we didn’t get a pick of the Lousyana sign the day before!

In Arkansas:

It was an uneventful ride up to Little Rock, until we got to Little Rock.

A brief aside: Years ago, when I drove for Schneider, I was on the interstate in Little Rock when I heard a funny thunk-THNK noise as I was cruisin’ through in the wee hours of the morning.  Later that morning, when I stopped to get my 8 hours, I was laying in the bunk of my cab-over when I noticed light coming in from a hole in the rear, right side of the sleeper.  What the hell?  I sat up to check it out.  It was an almost perfectly round hole in the sleeper of my truck.  I remember thinking, “what the hell?” and I began examining the cab closely.

Turns out about 6″ behind where my head is when I’m driving, there’s an entry hole in the left side of the cab.  Apparently I’d unknowingly been under fire while I was coming through Little Rock…and the round had barely missed me.

So, later on, I figured I could convince myself that driving through Little Rock wasn’t a problem.  Only every time I came through in a big rig there my palms would start sweating and I’d get jumpy as hell until I was well down the highway.

When Julian suggested we stop by to see a friend of his I said OK. I mean, really, it had been years since I’d been through Little Rock. But the same old reaction hadn’t changed a bit. Julian was under the impression that I was having a problem with the neighborhood we were in.  I had to explain to him, later that evening when we stopped for dinner, that my behavior wasn’t related to the neighborhood and I explained the story to him.

Needless to say, we didn’t make many miles that day (Tuesday).  A really late start, a detour (but Julian’s friend was very nice!) and the heat…well, we were beat.  When we stopped in Rose Bud, AR for dinner we were accosted by a gal and her friends grilling me about the BR. Ironically, she worked for the AR Parks deparment and directed us to a nearby campground.

Once again we set up our tents in the dark (hiking headlamps are the shizznit, btw) but retired early.  We were, of course, in a dry county. But the stars were spectacular, it was cool down by the river, and we slept like rocks.

The next morning we hit the road early and made the Missouri line by 1 pm.  A quick stop off at Mammoth Springs, AR to check out the old dam and then a few miles down the road we picked up Hwy 19 N.  A nice, twisty ride up through Mark Twain National Forest and, before ya know it, it was 7 pm and we were rolling into the HiTech Ranch!

Damn, I was so glad to see Diane!  And my dogs!  And my kittehs!  And, hell, even the chickens!

Thanks to Van’s suggestion, I bought an inflatable kayak seat to put under my sheepskin seat cover.  Ahhhhh, comfy!

Last but not least, HiTech GPS:

All in all my Big Ruckus, #5, racked up 2600 miles. And it sometimes makes me wonder, do inanimate objects have memories? We hear terms like metal memory, memory foam, and I know it isn’t the same thing. But it would be nice if my reliable little machine dreams about flamin’ Texas road trips as he snoozes peacefully in my shop during the frigid Missouri winters.

Thanks for reading 😀

Super Tuesday ain’t so super, actually

***I originally posted this entry on a couple of the scooter boards I frequent. My intent all along has been to gather my various scooting stories and include them on a personal site. Well, I finally have my web site and so it’s time to share. And allow me jump on my soapbox: WEAR YOUR GEAR. Full-face helmet, armored riding jacket, good gloves and good riding boots. Yes, good gear is pricey. But what’s the dollar value you place on your life?

This is the post, in its entirety, although I’ve done some minor editing.

Originally published on Thursday, 6 November 2008



So, it’s a beautiful day in east central MO. 71*F, wind out of the S/SW, sun is shining, everything is autumnal gold.

It’s 60+ miles from Missouri S&T to my resident polling station. I evaluate my mental map and decide to take 63 N out of Rolla, 28 E to Belle, hang a left onto 89 N, then a right onto D hwy, run D over to A hwy, hang a left and pick up US 50 E to W hwy to the wide spot in the road known as Bay, MO where we vote.

D hwy is one of those roads that makes you realize why man invented motorcycles. It runs E/NE along an Ozark ridge for 15 miles, paralleling (somewhat) the Gasconade River. As far as the eye can see there are rolling hills, pastures, woods, cattle, and the occasional home. The road surface itself isn’t so hot but the sweepers and turns that are banked just right more than make up for the effort of dodging pot holes.

But today’s plan was not meant to work out.

About 4 miles along D hwy I enter a nice right hand sweeper…one of those that begs you to hit it as fast as you dare, but I’m enjoying the day so am doing maybe 60.

Halfway through the curve the BR’s ass end sucks left, “WHAT THE…?” I think and let go the throttle; it sucks left again. A quick, sickening sensation as I realize my rear tire has blown out and I’m in the middle of a curve. I can’t grab the brakes for fear of going ass over teakettle in the middle of the road.

Luckily, I’m going left. To the right is, of course, no shoulder (we are in rural MO, after all) then about 10′ of easement that drops off at about 30* and then barbed wire fence and trees. Lots of trees. Did I mention lots of trees?

To the left is an 8′ easement with about a 15* drop into the ditch, then a 4′ embankment rises up into a yard for a nice long stretch of about 50 yards.

So I’m headed left and I know I’m about to ride into the grass. But there’s a mailbox dead ahead…and it’s getting larger by the millisecond.

Now I’m in the grass, trying to hold the BR up, trying to keep control; and I realize, “Frak, if I keep it up I’m going dead on into that mailbox”.

So I exhaled and let go of the bars.

Handlebars whip left, front wheel digs in, I high side and fly through the air,  hit face, knees, and right arm first, BOUNCE, and flop over onto my back.

“Ooouuummpppffffffffff”.

I lay there for a minute. Frak my head hurts! I can see my glasses are in my helmet. Awesome, they aren’t broken! Wait, the scoot isn’t on my legs (that’s a first). It’s….where…..okay, I see lexan. In a pile. Not good. There’s my tail box, in two pieces, but my bag and my gear are mostly in it. Good.

The scoot is about 10′ behind me, upright and leaning against the embankment. Almost as if I leaned it there. And it’s still running.

I crawl/slide/drag myself up next to the BR, reach up and switch off the key. #5 shuts off as if nothing is wrong.

But, as my head clears of fog I realize that something is waaaay more than wrong. If my windshield pieces are here, and the tailbox is over there….

Holy CRAP. #5 had to have flipped, at least once, and the grace of God somehow managed to set it down in such a way that it didn’t continue to tumble. As in, tumble onto my head.

By this time a guy pulls up in his car and asks the always stupid, but very welcome, question, “Are you ok?”

“Well, so far, yeah, amazingly enough.”

“What happened?”

“I’m pretty sure my rear tire blew as I was coming through the curve….it was either ditch it or eat the mailbox.” Did I mention that the mailbox is one o’ those nice redneck metal boxes on a nice metal stand set in concrete?

The guy whistles, “Wow, how fast were ya goin’?”

I have to think for a minute, “Well, I went into the curve doin’ mebbe 60, but most likely 55…by the time the front wheel touched grass I’d guess I was doin’ 45, 50? By the time I flipped off I’d be willing to be I was doin’ at least 35.”

Now a guy from up the road shows up on a quad, tailed by his brother on another quad. They help me roll #5 the few yards to the driveway of the house I’d just crashed in front of.

The first thing I do after assessing #5’s damage is to open my backpack, check the high-dollar Thom Bien laptop bag, and drag out my Mac. Halleleujah! Not a scratch, ding, or dent on it! Flip it open and it powers right up. THANK YOU, GOD!

So, left mirror is shattered and the mirror arm is broken, left blinker assembly is snapped clean off, windshield is in 6 pieces, the handlebars look like a failed Mobius strip, my rear rack mounts are bent skyward at a crazy angle and the safety switch won’t engage (so the BR won’t start).

There’s one scrape on my helmet, but other than that it looks perfect. Grass stains on my jeans at both knees. Dirt and crud on the right shoulder and arm and side of my Fieldsheer jacket. And on my armored PowerTrip gloves? Nary a scuff.

I call Diane at work, “Hey. Um, is there any way you could leave work?”

“No…..why?”

“Well, I just crashed.”

“Crashed….what!? Are you ok? Where are you? I’ll call you right back!”

So Diane left work, drove the 26 miles home and grabbed my truck (fortuitously my trailer was already hooked to the truck) and drove the 28 miles to where I sat on the side of the road. I spent the hour and a half until she arrived examining my crash marks and looking over the scoot.

You know what’s really scary? Not being scared at all. No panic, no shakes after it was all over, no adrenaline rush or drop. Now that is weird.

Diane arrives and we load up a very sad looking #5. I crawl into the cab, fasten my seatbelt and Diane looks at me and says, “To the polling station?”

“You bet.”

So I voted.

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