Motorcycle Trip 2

We left off in Estes Park Colorado, wandering around in the Mountains.

The next phase of our trip was in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but Uncle wanted to make a side trip on the way. Between Colorado and South Dakota we took a side trip to Chimney Rock in Nebraska.

12 HPIM4893Chimney Rock was one of the navigation points along the Oregon trail during the expansion years of the 1800’s. As they were traveling across the plains, they could see Chimney rock for days, making it a good navigation point.

13 20140727_105744The visitor’s center is very interesting with a lot of information on the Oregon trail and the settlers that traveled it.

14 HPIM4926We then continued on to the black hills, ending up in Custer South Dakota, just a few miles from the Crazy Horse monument.

Brother was feeling froggy so after we checked in to the hotel, we took an evening ride of Custer State Park, including a run around the Wildlife Loop.

15 IMG_1241We saw a bit of wildlife including wild burros

16 IMG_1264Antelope

17 20140727_200637And Buffalo who actually got a little close for comfort, but we really didn’t have anywhere to go.

18 IMG_1346They were in a field next to the road, we stopped to take pictures, but they decided they wanted to cross the road and ended up on both sides of us, so we just stayed close to the bikes and watched.

Family Motorcycle Trip

OK…if you insist:

As always, click pix to make bigger

Last year we skipped the family motorcycle trip due to schedule conflicts, but this year we got it back on track again.

IMG_0889In the wee hours of Sunday, July 20, I departed Southeastern Virginia to head to Central Indiana to hook up with the Indiana Stones.

Starting Mileage

That’s about a 750 mile trip by itself and took me about 12 hours of driving time (14 hours total travel time with stops). I arrived on Sunday evening and spent the night with my best friend CB and his family.

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Monday morning, I headed to my uncle’s house and met up with them for the leg to Omaha, Nebraska.

Uncle and his wife and Cousin and his wife tend to stop a lot more often than I do on my own, so although the mileage on that day was only about 640 miles, it was another 12 hour day.

IMG_0114We did make one sightseeing stop. On a previous trip, Cousin had noticed this big tractor supply place with displays out front and wanted to check it out. It was pretty neat, and they had a showroom with some company history and displays of their big tractors and such. Very interesting.

2014-07-21 13.20.35We also stopped at the world’s biggest truck stop in Iowa. Yes, that’s a full sized tractor-trailer in the back of the store. They had another just tractor in there as well with their display of lighting and chrome accessories.

We spent the night at Brother’s house in Omaha and then the next day, took the leisurely 400 or so mile trip to Sidney Nebraska to visit the Cabella’s world headquarters and have dinner with Sister and her family. Brother, by the way, joined us for the remainder of the trip until the return to Omaha. Sister and family are not bikers, so…

Incidentally, if you ever happen to need to spend the night in Sidney, NE, be sure to make reservations in advance. There are only a couple of hotels and they can basically charge whatever they want since they’re always full. We paid $209 a night to stay at a run-down Comfort Inn. I usually pay way less than that to stay in very nice hotels when I’m traveling. About the only place I’ve ever paid that much was in swanky downtown hotels in Toronto or Seattle. Didn’t even pay that much in San Francisco. I saved the receipt…I may frame it.

5 DSC01264The next day, we headed for the mountains. Only a couple hundred miles so we took our time and saw the sights and ended up in Estes Park Colorado, next door to the Rocky Mountain National park.

6 HPIM4759One of the really cool things about the Rockies for me is how abruptly they begin. One minute you’re in the plains, the next you’re in the mountains. Like pulling a curtain.

That must have been a very daunting view for people who’ve been traveling on foot and wagon for weeks and weeks to see those forbidding peaks rising from the plains in front of them. Amazing.

We stayed in Estes Park for several days, each day driving to see different views, try different roads, etc. I’ve got probably a couple of hundred pictures of it all so I won’t bore you will all of them. Here are some highlights:

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Next, we headed Northeast to South Dakota, but I’ll pick up with another post later on. This one has gotten long enough.

Windmill Musings

Just got back from a family motorcycle trip. I may post more on it later if I get motivated. I’ve got lots of pictures, but I’m not sure I even have any readers left considering how little I post any more.

At any rate, as I was riding my motorcycle across the country, two observations struck me:

1. There are windmills everywhere. In every state, I saw them stretching across the land, sometimes in both directions as far as the eye could see. According to the Wind Energy Foundation, only about 4% of our power comes from wind energy. How many conventional or Nuclear power plants do you see when traveling across the country? I can recall seeing three Nuclear plants, one coal plant and two what I believe were gas fired plants, all of which took up very little landscape relatively speaking.

But I saw at least 10 wind farms and each of them covered vast areas. All for 4% of our power. I’m wondering: how much of our landscape is going to have to be covered with windmills before an appreciable amount of our energy comes from that source? All of it? I, for one, am not happy about it.

2. On my way back toward home, I was on my way through Iowa and Illinois. I passed two huge wind farms in Iowa and two in Illinois. The interesting thing is that it was dead calm that day and three of the four farms had their blades feathered and locked down except for a couple of turbines, which were turning very slowly, definitely not at their rated speeds.

I tried to take video of them, but the resolution was so crappy on my little digital camera that I use from the bike that you couldn’t really see whether the blades were turning or not.

This illustrated exactly why relying on wind for our energy needs is not a good idea. I’m sure that no wind in that area of the country is an uncommon thing, but even if uncommon, who, specifically, gets to play Soup Nazi on the rare days that the turbines aren’t providing any electricity? “No Power for You!!! Come back tomorrow!”

And calm winds aren’t the only thing that can shut them down, to much wind also can result in the turbines being shut down. Between the two, I’d guess that a not insignificant number of days are not suitable for the production of wind power. Then what? Declare a power holiday?

For those people living in areas that are becoming increasingly dependent on wind power, I’d highly recommend having a backup power generating system installed on your house or place of business.

Humanity is going insane.

Maybe more on the trip later.

Norfolk Virginia Mechanic

I don’t know if anyone still reads here considering how little I post any more, but I’m putting this info out there for informational purposes. I had a hard time finding a good mechanic shop so I’m hoping that this info will help someone else in the same boat out.

We used to use the Firestone Mastercare at Military Circle. They were OK. I was never hugely impressed by them, but they did competent work at a reasonable rate. They did have a habit of trying to “upsell” by trying to convince you to have them do work other than what you were there for, which was annoying, but I’m very well practiced at saying “no thank you”…however we started having issues with them a couple of years ago.

First, they failed my truck on an annual safety inspection because of a tiny tear in a wiper blade. The guy had a very hard time even showing me the tear that he was failing me for. They wanted to charge me $60 to replace the wiper blades before they’d pass the inspection. I changed them myself for $15.

Then my wife started having issues with them over her car. She took it in to get the oil changed before a drive to Indiana while I was on a business trip. They convinced her that the car wasn’t safe to drive unless she had the hoses and belts replaced…but after they realized they didn’t have one of the hoses in stock, they declared that it would probably be OK to drive to Indiana on that hose as long as she brought it back to get it replaced after the trip.

So it’s OK to drive when they don’t have the parts, but if they’d had the parts, the car was unsafe without them? Really?

A few other incidents followed, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was when they tried to tell my wife that her radiator was cracked and she needed a new one but, strangely, there had been no evidence that the radiator was leaking. I was, again on a business trip, so I had her take it to a mechanic friend of ours to check it out to be sure…he verified that the radiator was not cracked or leaking and that was the last time we darkened the door of Firestone mastercare.

We then went through a plethora of mechanics in this area and each and every one of them had issues. My friend the mechanic is a good mechanic, but is a very small operation and doesn’t have the diagnostic equipment or tools to work with modern cars, he’s more of a “classic cars and motorcycles” kind of guy. Some mechanic shops just didn’t strike me as particularly competent, some tried to rip us off in one way or another (trying to overcharge, or fix things that weren’t wrong), some the staff was rude or downright jerks. We just couldn’t seem to find a shop that did good work, charged reasonable rates and were honest.

That all changed on Friday. We’ve had an ongoing problem with The Wife’s car; a loud “roaring” road noise and slight vibration when steering, especially at highways speeds. I thought it was probably either a CV joint or wheel bearing, but didn’t have time to mess with it myself. The Wife found a mechanic shop with good reviews on Yelp so we gave them a try.

Accurate Tune on the corner of 14th and Monticello in Norfolk is now officially our “go-to” mechanic shop.

The Wife called them Friday morning and asked if they could get the car in. They assured us that they would be able to take a look on that day (almost never happened at Firestone).

When we dropped the car off, JT at the front desk was straightforward, friendly and professional. He outlined what they would do to troubleshoot and assured us that they would get to the bottom of the problem.

A couple of hours later, JT called and verified that the problem was the driver’s side wheel bearing. Since the bearing is integral to the wheel, they’d have to change the whole wheel. They quoted a price of $240 which I felt was very reasonable for such a repair and we authorized the work. BTW: I’d had a similar problem with my truck a few years before and replaced the wheel myself. The part was about $90 and it took me about 6 hours to do the work.

Anyway, they called back a few hours later and told us the work was done, we went and picked up the car. They did not try to “upsell” other service, they didn’t try to tell us anything else was wrong with the car, they just fixed the problem, the first time, perfectly.

The problem is resolved. JT even called The Wife the next day to make sure everything was OK with the car after the repair.

So, if you’re in the market for a good, reliable, honest mechanic in Norfolk, VA; my mechanic is Accurate Tune Plus on Monticello and, so far, I recommend them wholeheartedly.

Respecting the Constitution is “going off the rails”

At least according to “one senior member of congress”:

[There is] a growing certainty that President Obama is planning to enact amnesty by executive fiat, blowing up the chances of legislation for the rest of his presidency.

β€œIt’s going to happen. He’s getting a lot of pressure, and he’s already told some people he’s going to. He’s told a bunch of people. I think he will. I think he has to,” said one senior member of Congress who asked that his name not be used.

β€œI’m hearing that he will do it by August. When that happens, it’s poof! The right will go off the rails, just because it’s unconstitutional — and they’ll be right about that stuff. They’ll fly off the rails, which will then get the Democrats [to close ranks]. And then it’s a presidential election. That’s coming, and as soon as that happens, it’s over,” the lawmaker said. [Emphasis Added – ed]

Um…I’m sorry…I prefer to think that the President of the United States, in direct violation of his oath of office, legislating by fiat, is what should be called “off the rails”, not any potential reaction by Republicans.

If he actually does this and ISN’T impeached…that’s what I would say is the sign that “it’s over”.

Actually, it would only be another sign among many that it’s already over. Constitutional government in this country is over. Government “of the people, by the people and for the people” in this country is over. The rule of law in this country is over.

This is why I haven’t been blogging lately. I really don’t think anyone is very interested in the daily happenings of my life and everything else is too depressing to blog about.

The United States of America as created by our founders is dead. I am no longer flying a US flag in front of my house as I have done for most of my adult life. The flag is really just a piece of cloth. The meaning is in what it used to represent. What it used to represent is gone. Done. Dead.

So much for our little experiment in self-governance. I think the founders probably realized it was doomed to failure from the start, but had to at least give it a try.

There is a large minority of people who want nothing more than to be left alone to live their lives as they see fit. These people tend to stay out of other’s business and expect the same courtesy in return.

There is a very small minority of people who see themselves as the elite and believe that the rest of humanity is incapable of caring for themselves without being ruled over by that elite.

And there is the majority of people who are desirous of and suited only for slavery. They want nothing more than to be provided for by others, any important decisions made for them and held responsible for nothing. It is this majority that causes any society to revert to it’s natural state: despotism and serfdom. We had a pretty good run. It took roughly 100 years before the natural order of things really started to take hold and another 150 or so before it really became the prevalent state of being. But it’s here now.

This is pretty much as good as it gets for a human society in historical terms. The past 250 years has been nothing but a fluke, a mistake, an aberration. Without another revolution (the outcome of which is by no means certain…in fact historical precedent indicates that we’d be worse off after it than before) it can go nowhere but downhill from here.

I (literally) weep for our descendents. We had such a good thing going for a little while, and we just gave it up.

See?

Depressing.

I finally figured out what I did wrong

Yes, I know it’s been a loooong time, but reading an article this morning really rang my bells and I had to break the hiatus for this.

Here’s the backstory: I spent a year in The Naval Police while on board the USS Enterprise. I started out on patrol, was promoted to Patrol Supervisor, then went into investigations. I did well in all phases, but didn’t really enjoy the patrol part. I didn’t really enjoy the job until I got into investigations…and I was good at it. Good enough that the Security Officer was willing to send me to Navy Investigator School (very unusual for someone who’s actual job specialty was not Master At Arms (What Navy Cops are called)) if I’d volunteer to do another three years on board the Enterprise. I wasn’t willing to make that sacrifice (the Enterprise was, at the time, not a pleasant environment to work in).

At any rate, after I retired from the Navy, I considered becoming a cop. I figured I could endure patrol for a few years and work on being advanced to detective, where I could really thrive in the job.

So, I applied with the Virginia Beach Police Department. I did fine with the process up to a psychological test where you sit in front of a television monitor playing a video of actors portraying scenarios. The candidate is filmed reacting to the scenarios as if he were actually there as a Police Officer and the film of the candidate is evaluated by experienced officers to determine if the candidate has the right psychological makeup to become a cop.

I failed this test and was not advanced. I’ve since been told that it’s very common to fail this test because it’s so subjective and that many candidates have to try more than once before they pass it.

Anyway, after reading this story this morning, I think I finally know why I failed the test.

You see, one of the scenarios presented was of an obviously mentally ill guy armed with a knife in city hall trying to lay claim to the city for some alien civilization that was due to arrive in their spaceships at any time.

I’m pretty sure that this is the scenario that caused me to fail the test, because I didn’t follow standard Police protocol.

I tried to reason with the crazy guy, reassure him that we were there to help him and convince him to put down his weapon so we can work all this out and verify his possibly legitimate claims.

Apparently, I should have just shot him down where he stood. That seems to be the proper Police procedure when dealing with a crazy dude waving a knife around.

I’m often glad that I didn’t make the cut. Between the requirement to shoot crazy people, and the standard procedure of killing family pets while serving search warrants, I really don’t think I’m nearly authoritarian and heartless enough to be an effective cop these days.

The race trump card

It’s long been accepted that black people have a shorter life expectancy than whites.

It now appears that this is nothing more than another manifestation of the white man keepin’ him down:

Accelerated aging and a greater likelihood of suffering from an age-related illness at a younger age are two consequences being linked to African-American men who have experienced high-levels of racism throughout their lives.

We interrupt this blogging hiatus…

To bring breaking news:

For all of those living in the frozen tundra (yes, I’m talking to you Vanilla…and CB too), I just wanted to gloat a little.

todayHere’s what it’s like right now here in Southeastern Virginia:

Unfortunately, it’s going to be pretty short lived.

Here’s the forecast for tomorrow.

tomorrow

Welcome to Virginia. If you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes, it’ll change.

The Voice of the Rockets

My Son has been announcing football games for the Lafayette-Winona Rockets football team (the school he teaches at). I went to a game on Saturday. I think he does a great job. He’s got a good voice for it. This was the last game of the playoffs and the Rockets won 26 to 6. First kid’s game I’ve been too since he was playing in the City Leagues years ago. It was fun.

Next stop is the intercity championships on November 7th. I may have to hit that game too.

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