motorcycles


In just a few days Bill and I and his daughters are leaving for Newfoundland. Bill and I went there in July 2004, on our motorcycles. That was a fun little adventure. We loved being there, exploring the backroads and remote little communities on our bikes. After staying for a few days in St. John’s in a house owned by well-known (in Newfoundland) writer Des Walsh, we headed off with a vague plan to make our way toward Gros Morne National Park and eventually to the ferry at Port aux Basques. After our comfortable stay in town, we camped for most of the rest of the trip. In Newfoundland you are expected to practice “gravel-pit camping” which means camping wherever opportunity strikes.

Searching for a campsite

While we never camped in an actual gravel pit, we pitched our tent in several scenic locations that were not graced by the usual infrastructure of a campground.

 Very picturesque … until that foghorn starts blowing in the pre-dawn hours!

We loved every minute of our visit, but our favourite had to be Fogo Island. It is like a microcosm of everything that is beautiful, breathtaking and tragic about Newfoundland. We spent a few days there and it felt odd to think of Newfoundland as the “mainland” when we took the return ferry from Fogo.

Some of the most beautiful hiking trails I’ve ever seen were on Fogo Island. On this day, a family was out for a picnic on the beach, down where you can see the boats. They had a boombox that was blasting accordion music,and the sound was clearly audible up where we were. I loved it because I have a secret wish to be able to play the button accordion.

We mostly went where our fancy took us, but one place I had insisted we include on our itinerary was Glover’s Harbour, Home of the Giant Squid. This was definitely off the beaten tourist path, despite the attraction of the Giant Squid. Here we had a truly Newfoundland experience: after spending a night or two in the only campground we actually paid for (a lovely campground, with an iceberg in the background) we were looking for a breakfast spot before heading back toward the Trans-Canada highway. We made a second stop at the Giant Squid museum for a souvenir purchase, and I asked the nice ladies working there where they recommended we go for breakfast. They informed us that the one and only restaurant in the community did not serve breakfast. When they saw my dismay, they whipped out their own supplies and fed me Purity crackers and margarine. Yumm! Newfoundland Giant Squid ladies to the rescue! That was such a good snack, we later bought the same crackers and margarine for our ferry crossing when we returned to Nova Scotia.

We spent a few days in the Gros Morne area, camping for free near Cow Head. Free camping is great and adventurous but after a while I miss the finer things in life like furniture. Even just a simple picnic table seems like a luxury. So I have to admit that I was a little relieved when heavy rains were forecast and we decided to find a place with a roof and furniture. We were scrambling for a rare motel room when I bumped into a fellow motorcyclist. To be specific, I was riding along on my own, heading back to our campsite to start packing up while Bill completed a hike. A guy on a fully tricked-out Goldwing pulled alongside me and waved me over, so I pulled over. I didn’t know if he was trying to pick me up or what (so I made sure to mention that my boyfriend was on his way somewhere behind me). It turned out that he was just a friendly Newfoundlander (imagine that!) who noticed my Nova Scotia licence plate and wanted to say hi to a fellow biker. I explained that we were hurrying to try to find a room before the inclement weather struck. The only one available was in Woody Point, half an hour’s ride from where we were camping. Didn’t it happen that this guy had a house he rented out to tourists, that was available, and only two minutes drive from our campsite! So for a very reasonable rate we had a whole house with a kitchen and a laundry room, right in Cow Head for the next two nights.

This summer’s trip will be a different kind of adventure. Bill’s two daughters are going with us, for their first trip to Newfoundland, so we won’t be taking the bikes. All four of us, plus Molly the dog, will pile into Bill’s tiny little car. It will be a challenge for me to be confined in a small space with anyone for that amount of time (planned trip duration: 10 to 14 days). I’m trying to be optimistic about how I’ll manage my personality flaws during those long drives. But of course we will spend lots of time in the great outdoors too.

*Vehicle may not be exactly as pictured

Each of us has a personal MP3 player so I think that will help create the illusion of personal space when necessary. It will be fun to show the girls what The Rock is like, I think they will enjoy it. Also it’s the longest stretch of time I will spend with them, so it should be a bonding experience for all of us. I can’t wait to get there again!

Since I first learned to ride a motorcycle, I’ve noticed that many motorcyclists have a lot of nostalgia for the bikes of their youth. The first bike I owned was a 1983 Suzuki GS750E, which was a hot sportbike in its day.

At the time I bought it, I didn’t know enough to notice that this is not exactly a standard exhaust pipe … !

The thing is, I bought it in 1999. It was a 16-year-old bike but it was strong and sexy, and I took it on a few road trips. I enjoyed riding it but I didn’t always feel 100% comfortable on it.

Here I am on a road trip for work, visiting a massasauga rattlesnake research project.

It turns out it was a bit too much for me as a newbie rider, so I sold it after one year. I managed to find a used BMW F650 that I could afford. I continue to be uncomfortable with the fact that it’s a BMW because that fact leads most people to make all sorts of annoying assumptions. But the first time I rode it, the F650 felt like it was my bike, like it was designed for me physically. The seating position is such that I felt more like I was in the bike than on it, because of the seat design and handlebar position. Also it was newer and thus lighter to handle. I wanted a dual-sport style bike, and the options in Canada at that time were pretty limited.

Road trip!

Honda makes several dual-sport bikes, but not in North America. (Now, years later, Suzuki makes a great dual-sport bike in two displacements. It’s what I would have bought if it existed at the time.)

Now that I have more experience and have ridden a few more bikes, I would love to get back on the GS750E (the E is very important you know) and take it for a spin. So even though I started riding relatively late in life, I feel that nostalgia for my first bike, since in a way it was my first love. It’s not a very common bike so on the rare occasion that I see one, I just about get whiplash watching it go by.

Unlike me, Bill has ridden motorcycles since he was a teenager. (And very luckily for me, he is quite handy when it comes to taking them apart and fixing things and putting them back together.)

Bill fixing my carbs in his kitchen!

The photo above is from a couple of years ago – just a little maintenance work on the carbs.

Just like a computer, my bike is great when it works. When it doesn’t work, life is not as good. In the past couple of years I have had a lot of problems with my bike. Most recently, it stopped running at the end of the May 24 weekend… something to do with the engine. Bill removed the cylinder head so now the top half of the engine is in my bedroom. (It’s priceless having a boyfriend who can disassemble your engine when necessary!) We will be taking it to an engine place soon so they can check it out and possibly do some work on the valves.

Like many men of a certain age, Bill has a thing for the motorcycles of his youth. The temporary unavailability of my F650 was a bit of a trigger for Bill to act on something he had been thinking about for a while … so we bought a darling little Kawasaki a few weeks ago. It’s a 1978 KZ400. We looked at a few bikes but we were sold on this one because it was in such good shape, was in our price range and it came with almost enough spare parts to build a second bike. The spares include two wheels, another engine, two sets of carbs, another gas tank & body panels (in black), part of the exhaust system, front forks, and I think handlebars too. Pretty much everything but a frame. With a ‘vintage’ bike, there is something to be said for having spare parts handy, just in case they aren’t easy to track down at the local Kawasaki dealer!

So I still have wheels for getting around town, and I’m enjoying getting to know another bike. And this one gets a lot of comments – evidently this 29-year-old strikes a nostalgic chord in many hearts.

My package arrived! Back in March I signed up for the Knitters’ Treat Exchange. If you are reading this and aren’t a knitter, you may not know that one of the knitting trends spawned by the internet is the gift exchange / secret pal swap phenomenon. I don’t know exactly how to describe it because this was my first one. Two Irish knitters organized it. They matched up the dozens of people from around the globe who signed up, and sent each of us our assigned treatee. I think some of these swaps are just yarn; some of them seem to be finished object – e.g., knit a scarf and send it to a stranger, and another stranger sends you a scarf they made. I think in some cases, your pal remains secret, but in this case you would eventually find out who was sending you something. For the Knitters Treat Exchange, there was a list of suggested treats not just for knitting, but for pampering as well. Everyone who signed up filled out a questionnaire to guide their treater.

I sent a parcel very far away and it hasn’t arrived there yet, as far as I can tell from spying on my recipient’s blog. Mine didn’t make it there by the finishing date for the exchange because I didn’t want to spring for $44 airmail! The destination is surrounded by water, so it’s on a slow boat I guess … I hope she will get it soon.

Meanwhile, my KTE pal sent me a lovely package with nice treats for me and for my furry family. She also sent it from pretty far away … but between the Royal Mail and Canada Post, I had it in hand only six days after she mailed it from England. Specifically, my KTE Pal Emily sent my parcel from Wallsend which is just outside Newcastle. I thought that was cool because a musical hero of my youth is Eric Burdon and he is from Newcastle. (No I’m not that old … When I was in high school in the 80s, the 60s were what the 80’s are to the kids today. Except my friends and I were trendsetters I’m sure.)

But I digress. Look what I got:

Two skeins of exciting laceweight yarn. It’s handknit and hand-dyed wool that is not much thicker than thread. The two skeins total 1900 metres in length. And she also sent me a pattern for a beautiful stole to make with it. This is exactly the kind of project I want to work toward. Note that I say work toward … I think I’ll have to do a couple of intermediate lace patterns before I dare tackle this one. But I really like it!

And as a bonus there is a magazine for me to peruse (okay I already have done so), nice-smelling bath treats, a bookmark (I like bookmarks more than you probably realize) and even something for my kitties. Like most felines, my cats love catnip. These catnip drops are a convenient way to feed it to them, and they loved it. (I gave some to Molly the token dog, so she wouldn’t feel left out, but she seemed unaffected. I wonder why that is.) Clark is a belligerent drunk, he gets feisty on catnip, but Ruby is a happy stoner. She loved the drops so much that she tried to eat the wrapping paper that had been around the unopened package!

Back to the lace stole pattern. The pattern is a design by Eunny Jang, based on traditional Shetland lace patterns and elements. The motorcyclist in me can’t help but see something else …

It’s not just me – Bill saw it too when I quizzed him. Call me crazy but I like it all the more for this reason. This opens (to my mind) a whole fascinating possibility of lace patterns designs based on tire treads. I’m not the only knitting motorcyclist out there, but that is a challenge for a stronger mind than mine.

Thank you KTE pal, from all of us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One week ago, my neighbour’s motorcycle was stolen from the outdoor parking lot of our condo apartment building. Three of us who live here own bikes, the three bikes exemplifying the wide range of style and function among motorcycles. The bike that was stolen was just purchased by my neighbour a month or two ago, a lightly-used Kawasaki Z-1000. It was a very sharp-looking sportbike with sexy-sounding rumbly aftermarket exhaust pipes. The other one is a 40+ year-old Harley which, if you like that kind of thing, is pretty spiffy with its chrome bits and well-kept vintage look. Its owner is never seen without his full-on biker costume, living the life. He also happens to be the best-known and friendliest resident of the building. Good thing, because the sound of that bike with its blatting, blasting loud pipes sets my teeth on edge whenever he drives past. Then there’s my little putt-putt, a well-worn 9-year-old BMW F650 dual sport with a sound closer to a sewing machine than a Harley. To most people it’s an odd-looking bike. I happen to love it, and Bill’s little dog Molly always preferred it over his ugly KLR650. [He’s upgraded to a Suzuki DL1000 VStrom which I think Molly approves of.]

When the sportbike was stolen, it was the talk of the hallways & parking lot. Apparently it was a fairly brazen 2 a.m. job, with the thieves throwing the bike into the back of a pickup truck and pealing out of the lot. I cringed when I heard that the morons hadn’t secured the bike and it fell out. They tossed it back in and took off.

I was told that someone in the next building watched the thieves move around the parking lot and lift the covers of the three bikes. Unfortunately for my neighbour, her newish sportbike was the most likely candidate for theft. Still, the Harley neighbour and I are both pretty wary now. We’ve heard reports or rumours that the thieves have boldly returned, breaking into a vehicle parked here, and continuing to eye our bikes. The idea that someone would steal my bike feels absurd and abstract, on the one hand, and on the other hand makes me very angry. Any kind of theft feels like a violation, but I would venture to say that there is something intensely personal about a motorcycle, more so than other vehicles. Anyone who owns or has owned a motorcycle would agree with me, I think. I’m not the kind of person who names their bike – that’s embarassing – but there’s something about a bike that feels like a close personal relationship. Maybe it’s because you are both exposed to the same elements and risks. It’s a more equal partnership than being coddled in a car where you are always the right temperature and can even enjoy a coffee while you drive.

Yesterday evening, six days after the theft, I was told that the person whose apartment is directly in front of my parking space had seen a possibly suspicious vehicle driving back and forth. We know the description of the thieves’ truck, thanks to video surveillance cameras. So last night, I stayed up until nearly 3 a.m. carrying out a paranoid vigil. I felt compelled to return to the windows every time I heard a vehicle go by, especially after 1:30 or so. At one point I thought I saw a truck fitting the description lurking at the far end of the parking lot so I did the natural thing and … went out to check it out. I wondered what would happen if I did actually come across bad guys snooping around. I almost wished I would see them so I could get a plate number and call the police. Once I got out there, I realized the truck was a mini-pickup that lives here, so I went back in.

I spent a lot of time staring out at this scene in the middle of the night last night. That’s my baby under the cover. My biker neighbour is working on his bike near the top of he photo.

Trying to fall asleep sometime after 3:00 this morning, distracted by each vehicle sound, I remembered that my bike has an alarm built in. I only used it once before, years ago, when I was still living in Toronto. I forgot about it and nearly had a heart attack when I set it off by removing the bike’s cover, and never used it again. I’m not even sure I’ll remember how to set it, but I should try it again. If I can find the key for it. I have started using my disk lock again. This is a small Kryptonite U-lock that fastens onto the front brake disk. It won’t thwart a gang of thieving bastards who want to throw a bike into a truck, but it will make the whole process harder since the front wheel won’t turn. I had stopped using that lock because of an embarassing incident last summer where I forgot it was on … Geared up, bike warmed up, pop it into first and start rolling out of the parking space. A nanosecond of wondering why the bike feels wonky then WHAM suddenly the bike is on the ground. Yeah, that’s ‘what happens when something is clamped on the front brake disk! Doh!

So I let complacency creep in. Who would want my dinged up bike with the cracked seat, scratched left front tank cover, rusting and peeling bar ends, anyway? But the sickening feeling that some scuzzballs have been cruising around here, successfully stealing one bike, means I’m going to reinstate my little security measures, just in case. I’ll probably also end up peering out the window a lot late tonight, too.

Aside from stalking bike thieves, I spent some time this afternoon stalking my cat Clark trying to get a video of him snoring. You won’t believe how loud it is … I could hear it from the next room. Stay tuned for exciting footage.

I put my bike away for the winter on December 15th, and I got it out of storage yesterday. Now it is sitting idle for a couple more days as we endure another severe spring storm. This one is all about rain and wind, instead of the Easter snow. But the important thing is I have my wheels and my freedom back! Now it means when I go to do my volunteer work, I can get there in five minutes instead of planning an entire afternoon on two bus routes. It also means that I can head out of the city which will be great, after being stuck here pretty much all winter. I can be out of Halifax within minutes and cruising along somewhere by the ocean if I want. And most importantly, I can go visit Bill at his place (he lives in Annapolis Royal which is a couple of hours away). And maybe someday I’ll be able to go on a proper road trip again, if I can manage to get away from the store for long enough.

Here is an action photo of me on my bike … taken several years ago by Daniela. In Vermont, I believe. This is how life will be soon … yay!

Yesterday, with Bill’s help I replaced a gasket in the exhaust pipe before we headed back to the city with the bike. (Boyfriends are very helpful for such projects but I would like to point out that this very same repair was the first work I ever did on the bike, all by myself, back in about 2001, the first year I had it.) A nice sunny day had turned chilly by 5:30, the time we were out at Marty’s place to get the bike from his garage. It was a refreshing ride home and very enjoyable. The main thing about the first bike ride of the season is: Life is once again as it should be.

Alright, I’m going to join the masses and try this blogging thing. The impetus came from a friend who moved far far away and lost touch, then created his own blog to get back in touch with people. (Good idea Donald!) I, too have gotten worse and worse at communicating with family & friends, so I will try this. Hopefully it’s a little better than mass e-mails.

In the past year & a half, I gave up a secure job of ten years to start a new business (with two business partners). It’s been a real adventure. I’ve learned a lot about business and bookkeeping and people … things I never would have imagined just two years ago. The business is The Loop, a cool modern knitting shop in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia. We cater to everyone, but the majority of our customers seem to be young professionals and students who are enjoying being in touch with their creative sides. The store’s website is www.theloophalifax.ca

In the past couple of months, I’ve also started another business – I’m making fused glass jewelry and selling it. This started because we need hand-made glass buttons to sell at The Loop. I took a workshop and realized I really like the fused glass work, and now I’m selling stuff to The Loop along with a few other customers. Very fun! After everything it took to start a retail business, it was a piece of cake to get the glass business up & running. I’ve been told that being an entrepreneur is addictive … hah! I can see that in a way, but this one was easy. I have 4 retail customers established, one more ready to buy my stuff in the spring, and one wholesale customer. When I get the time (hah!) I might try to sell some online at www.etsy.com.

And even more recently, I’ve started to do some consulting work for DFO (the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans). This is a perfect addition … it will help pay the bills while providing a different kind of mental stimulation than running the store. And of course I’m really glad to get my fingers back into the world of conservation.

Oh and I’m volunteering on the board of my condo. Not very exciting but it’s yet another use of my time.

With this big life change, I have a lot less time (and money) to travel. This is one of the hardest adjustments for me. But I’m still happily riding my motorcycle (1998 BMW F650) around town as much as I can. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to go on a good road trip with my handsome and handy boyfriend Bill. Bill bought a used Suzuki DL1000, also known as a V-Strom, this past year. He loves it.

Well this was a night I was going to try to go to bed early. I seem to be allergic to going to bed early lately, with all the stuff going on in my life. But I miss being in more contact with all of my dear friends (in Canada, the U.S, Europe, Australia … ) So maybe by updating this once in a while I can be better at being in touch with you, and hear from you too!
Cathy