2 Wheels To Adventure

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A Few Personal Notes---Very Few
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Alaska/Canada Trip--2006
Two "Adventure" Bikes

Ride boldly, Lad,  fear not the spills! (From "The Man From Snowy River," by Banjo Paterson) 
I'm not the man I used to think I was. (RBW)
"Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!"
(William Butler Yeats)

For a looong discussion on motorcyling in general and Adventure riding in particular, see the archives (or scroll down) for the first post on September 28, 2006.
It gives some opinions and ideas, along with a bit of philosophy; one (old) man's view of the world of 2 wheels.

New Scooter---2014 R1200RT
Cap'n Ron in the Straits of Georgia
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Experience, the definitive instructor

I took her out for a sail on Saturday, a beautiful day, with sunshine and a bit of wind. Alas, I could not get the main sail unfurled. It is a system with in-mast furling, whereby the sail is rolled up on a spindle inside of the mast, as opposed to the classic sail that rests flaked (folded) on the boom when not in use. These roller furling systems have come into popular use in that last twenty or so years, and offer the advantage of being somewhat easier to handle, making single handed sailing less work, especially when "dousing" the sail.

The down side is that they can be somewhat quirky, and can jam if one is careless or inexperienced. The sail exits the aft side of the mast through a vertical slot that extends the entire length of the mast. Since the sail is rolled up on spindle, it is imperative that the sail be kept tightly wound on the spindle and unfurled gently, holding some back tension so that it does not spin loosely inside the mast. Lesson learned: keep back tension on while going in or out, and watch the sail while cranking on the winches.

I managed to allow the loosening, with the result that loose folds inside the mast were pulled into the slot as the sail was pulled out, jamming things nicely. I wrestled and struggled for the better part of two hours, and finally got it out to just past the first reef mark, then it jammed, and I could neither unfurl it all the way (which would have solved the problem: I could have carefully rolled it in with some back tension, getting it tightly rolled onto the spindle) nor, more seriously, could I get it completely retracted back into the mast. This could present a real problem bringing the boat into the dock, unless there was dead calm.

Another interval of struggling, cursing, pounding, screaming, and I got her furled up, albeit with lots of loose folds visible through the slot. 

Sailing day over. I had plans to take some old friends out on Sunday, so I called them and told them our "sailing" day would have to be without canvas and under power. So, Sunday, we went for a tour of Elliott Bay and Bainbridge Island, a nice two hour ride.

Monday was the day for the rigger to come out and go up the mast to unstick the sail. From a suggestion from my sailing Mentor, Rod J., he went back to his shop and fabricated a few tools out of plastic cutting boards. These fit nicely into the slot between the sail and the edge of the mast, pushing the folds back in while the man at the winches (me) wound in or out as dictated by the situation. It took about an hour, and it was over. I unfurled and furled the main a few times just to be sure it was OK, and now am confident I can get it in and out without further problems. I will get a boatswain's chair so I can do this exercise myself next time (with help from below, of course),

Another development was that one of the tempered glass side windows in the cockpit dodger mysteriously shattered during the night Saturday. Evidently, this happens from time to time. I have seen it in automobiles, and Dave M. the local HR broker told me he has seen it a few times on these boats. I am hoping the local boat service can get a new piece put in between now and my return, sometime in December.Oh yes, I put my hand through the crazed glass this afternoon, scattering those small non-sharp shards of glass everywhere...


Dave came over this afternoon and showed me how the awning fits over the boat. It covers the her from pulpit to pulpit, and makes a nice sun or rain shade. You cannot sail with it on (you may motor), but it is nice to have it up while in the slip or at anchor. She also came with a boat cover, that goes over the deck, and protects all the exposed wood when she is not going to be used for a time.

I will head for Boise tomorrow, and will leave the awning up while gone, giving her some measure of protection from Seattle's liquid sunshine.

Meanwhile, the new name and Port of Call are being fabricated by a local design company, and I hope will also be done and applied by my return.


9:29 pm mst          Comments

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On The Briny Blue

It dawned clear and cool, with that rare Seattle commodity; sunshine. After a morning cuppa, I ventured out onto the Elliott Bay waters for a few hours under sail. The wind was light, generally 10 to 12 knots, nearly perfect for a beginner's first solo with the canvas up.

I left Elliott Bay headed northwest, on a starboard tack, and got nearly to Port Madison, on Bainbridge Island before reversing and heading back to the marina. It was a nice day's outing, and I managed to git 'er done without damage, injury, or major embarrassment, although docking was not exactly a "ten." I called the marina for help, because I had a slight quartering wind from the port entering the slip, and I thought I needed extra hands to keep from being edged off the port dock before I could get the lines attached. The marina guy was helpful, but I directed him to take the bow line first, and that was a mistake, because the stern started to drift away from the dock before he could get the bow line cleated. I should have had him at the stern first, because with the bow thruster, I could have held the bow to the port, against the dock. A neighbor boater came along and helped make the bow line fast, and the whole operation ended without a scratch. Had I been alone, it would have been a different story. Another lesson learned...

All in all, in light winds, the boat was manageable single handed by this old man. Encouraging!

9:30 pm mst          Comments

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rainy Seattle

Sunny yesterday. Rain and overcast this morning.

I grew up in Seattle, so the rain is not a surprise, but I had forgotten a couple of things; one, how much I like Seattle as a city, and two, how generally dreary the weather can be. It is a welcome change from the constant sun of other climes---for awhile. But I now recall how it can become something of a drag.

I returned to SEA and the boat on Saturday, and the weather was charming; sunshine and balmy air---no wind, but balmy. I took Oh Miss out for a spin in the afternoon, but did not raise sails and just motored around, practicing a few maneuvers and then docking her by myself. It was almost dead calm, and I got her tied up without incident. I had to scramble about to get both bow and stern lines on before she swung, but with one bow line and a forward and aft spring line, she is berthed securely.

The Tech came Monday morning, and finished up a couple of little items, so she is "good to go." I spent Monday kvetching around getting a couple of items, and by the time I was done, it was three-thirty, and getting a bit late to go out. The sunset was stunning.

I had purchased a microwave oven, and put it into a cranny just aft of the companionway ladder. I have to bend and crane to see the touchpad, but the door opens enough to insert food, and I heated a frozen dinner and supped while watching Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. Cozy!

I still do not have internet access, and am forced to venture out to the nearest Tully's coffeehouse for a cuppa and some free Wifi. Will stop into a Verizon Store this AM and investigate their online capabilities.

I also will contact a graphics business to see about re-naming her. Maybe some sailing this afternoon. It looks like there is some wind.


10:24 am mst          Comments

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Times Are A-changin'

To digress from motorcycles and sailboats for a moment: It occurs to me that we are living in a moment of history that will long be remembered as a sea change in the progress of things.

We have elected a non-white man to the presidency, and it portends great hope for a nation and a world dreamed of by many, including Martin Luther King, who longed for the day when a man (and woman) would be judged not by the color of his (her) skin, but by the content of his/her character. We are not there yet, but we have passed the Rubicon on the matter. Many people, even of my advanced age have changed. Young people see race largely as a non-issue. We are moving well down the road to the day when we will not see race first when a non-caucasian face appears before us white folk. 

Racists are a dying class. A recent New York Times  article showed a demographic map illustrating the shifts in voting in a great part of the country from red to blue. Most of the traditional red states stayed that way, throughout the Intermountain West and the South, but their margins of victory for the Republican candidate and his running mate were vastly decreased from 2000 and 2004.

Even the deep south felt the wave. Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida (and, I think, Missouri) actually went over to the blue side, and the demographic map reflected a sharp shift in voting preferences. The rest of the South not only remained solidly Republican, but the demographics showed even stronger swing toward the red. Arkansas carried for McCain twice as strongly as it had for Bush in 2004, and Alabama and Georgia showed nearly as great a shift to the right.

Now it is certainly unfair to paint everyone who voted for McCain with a racist taint, but it is quite clear to this old man that racism was a very strong factor in those traditionally Southern states: Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina,Tennessee, and Louisiana hunkered down and went more solidly for McCain. It is very difficult not to read this as clearly racist. Not even these Southern voters, however, can be thrown wholly onto the racist heap. Of course many people in those areas voted red out of purely political motive. But it cannot be denied that the overwhelming shift to the right came largely out of a racist culture. It speaks volumes about the development of that culture, one hundred forty-three years after the end of our Civil War.

Racism lives, not just in the South, of course, but is thrives there. The rest of the country is awakening from a long nightmare. We have come to understand that all Americans deserve to live as we whites have enjoyed for the entire extent of our time on this continent. Yes, we had periods of serial prejudice regarding the Irish, the Italians, the Jews, the Chinese, Japanese, and others from the far East.   But those times were fleeting, and the objects of that rancor grew out of it and assimilated. The present hatred and ill-treatment of Muslims and Arabs will pass. As a nation, we are progressing. We hold fewer hatreds than when I was a child, and most of us were thrilled and somewhat teary on Tuesday, November 4, when our new president-elect took the stage. It must have been heavenly for non-whites, but for a good many of the rest of us, it was singular. I have never been prouder of my country. 

Paul Krugman, in a column shortly after the election said that if you did not feel a sense of pride and awe at the results there was something wrong with you, and I agree. How could one not feel the excitement of this momentous event? I know there were people who were not among us. 

Wednesday an old friend commented on the election. "Well, I guess you had better get used to fried chicken and watermelon," he huffed. To say that his remark was inappropriate understates my reaction greatly. I snapped back that his comment was "very unbecoming," and was ashamed of myself that I spoke so weakly. I should have said what I really thought, but it didn't come out, maybe for the better. Nevertheless, I under-reacted. It was indeed unbecoming of him, and then some.

These people had better wake up. They will soon be social pariahs if they are not already. I suppose that in Hattiesburg, Mississippi one could not only get away with this kind of sentiment, but be hailed for it, however,  not in large parts of the country outside of the South.

I frequent a motorcycle hang-out on Sundays for coffee and conversations. This not a group of  Hell's Angels, but a catholic crowd of middle class men and women who enjoy bikes, and have that interest in common, but there is a core of people there who espouse racism occasionally in general conversation, especially in the realm of current politics, so I am not about to claim that racism is only extant in the South. It is all around us, as I am sure any African American would attest. But, the risk a racist takes when he makes remarks aloud is much greater than it used to be. Back then, a white man felt pretty safe in using the "N" word in the hearing of other white men. Not so much any more. It is becoming socially unacceptable, and I have no compunction about letting these people know that it is not "OK" with me.

Racism is dying a long, slow death. It will still exist long after I am gone, but it is dying, and those who are too ignorant to see it and to alter their views are going to increasingly find themselves on the margins of society. Old emotions are difficult to overcome, but they can be surmounted. The day will come when we come to judge our fellows by the strength of their character and the way they interact with their world. 

I am hopeful. If you voted for McCain, good for you. If you voted for McCain because you could not stand the idea of a "black" man in the White House who was not a butler, shame on you. You are being left in the dust of historic change, and I find it hard to feel sorry for you.

Gays will be the next social and cultural tsunami. It is already gaining, despite the sad results in California, Arizona, Arkansas, and Florida this last election. Their time is coming.

Now as to us atheists, we ain't even begun to see the light. It is still fashionable to hate us, and I do not see that changing in my grandchildrens' lifetimes. Well, I guess some people just have to have someone to look down upon. Enjoy it while it lasts...

11:20 pm mst          Comments

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

And Waiting...

The Boat tech called this afternoon to tell me that things are about 85% completed. They still have to go up the mast to install the new radar scanner, and the interior is a bit torn up with wiring, so I won't plan to arrive until late Friday night or Saturday morning, by which time things should be pretty well finished.

They found the main bilge pump motor frozen when they put in the new three-way switch, so that had to be replaced. More $$ outgo, but at least things will be taken care of, and that should make the insurance people happy.

So, here is what is being done: Install new GPS and radar chart plotter, repair and replace forward deck freshwater wash down fitting and re-clamp several leaky connections. Install new head (upgrade from original), replace propane gas sniffer in galley, remove unnecessary propane fitting on galley stove, re-connect SSB antenna, install three-way main bilge switch (off, auto, on), repair and replace TV cable connection, inspect standing rigging aloft, install Emergency bilge pump test switch. I may have missed a couple.

What I have yet to do is to install new fire extinguisher (s), procure bedding for forward and aft bunks, remove carpeting for thorough cleaning, clean cabin sole and bilges, locate and tag all through-hull fittings (seacocks), take complete inventory and chart location of all items in boat, research microwave oven for location and size,  procure hand held vacuum, hand held (and waterproof)VHF, snap shackles for quick installation and removal of fenders, check for required placards (oil dump, garbage dump, MSD placard), procure personnel strobe and  flashlights for skipper and crew PFDs. I might also seek EPIRB, an abandon ship bag, and later a dinghy and OB motor.

As to the dinghy, I think I will opt for a RIB semi-inflatable with 10 HP engine. They have a hard V-shaped bottom, and are better handling for not only to and from the boat, but for longer excursions and general exploring. Of course, the dinghy will need emergency supplies. This boat has an emergency life raft suitable for offshore cruising, but a dinghy is a must. The life raft needs to be brought to current date, and I will do that before doing any offshore sailing---down the road a year or so.

When I get to the marina, I will meet with the techs to get some educating on the best method of acquiring computer hook-up and weather FAX info, as well, as perhaps an alternate navigation system, through the use of a lap-top and associated software. At this stage, I am in the dark about how to proceed on this front.

I also need to contact a graphic marine design firm to get the name and port of call changed. 

The galley needs, in addition to the microwave, some pots, a pressure cooker, and various galley tools and devices. Some netting for hanging veggies and fruits will add to the effects and utility.

Lots to do, and lots to learn. I am starting very late...


6:00 pm mst          Comments

Monday, November 10, 2008


I heard from one of the technicians this morning via e-mail from Emerald Bay Yachts who is working on the boat. He wanted to know about the placement of the GPS antenna for the new chart plotter, so I guess work is under way.

I answered him that I was eager to get back to the boat, but didn't want to be underfoot while they were working on her, and to let me know when things were winding down. I hope to get back by sometime this week, as I have a list of "To Dos," such as inventorying the equipment, locating and tagging all the seacocks, having the carpets cleaned, cleaning the sole and bilges (sole is nautical for floor). But most of all, I want to get up there and take her out for some sailing and practice, both under sail and with power.

I need to contact a graphic designer to get started on the name and port of call changes, and have a list of other things that stretches out for several months, if not years. At some point she needs a dinghy and outboard, and I will probably opt for a 9 or 10 foot hard-bottomed inflatable and a 10 horsepower motor. It also needs another outboard mount for the stern pulpit. The one on the starboard is for a very small O/B, and I will probably eventually use it for a barbecue mount.

Lots to do, and I am most anxious to  get 'er done, as David Bardsley, my Canadian motorcycle companion says.

Speaking of my Canadian riding friends, David called me back in May or June to inform me that Ian Bruce was killed on his bike while on a ride toward the Alaska Highway. He was just outside Grand Prairie, BC, and a guy pulled out in front of him. He was not killed instantly, but was on life support, and they had to let him go. David also had an accident that destroyed his bike on a different occasion. He was thrown clear and only broke a thumb. I am indeed sorry about Ian. He was a cordial man, and was very nice to me during the time we rode together.

 That's life, my friends, and we had better get 'er done while we can. It is a short run we have here, so time's  awasting!

11:21 pm mst          Comments

11:18 pm mst          Comments

Saturday, November 8, 2008

In With The New

I have wanted to sail for years. I almost bought a boat right after retirement, in 1994, but was diverted by the house project in Idaho. That was then, this is now. My GD Jewel of a wife has never thrown a damper over my whimsies and fancies. The motorcycle was accepted with good cheer, although I suspect there were serious misgivings, especially after the broken leg, the 4 (four) broken ribs, and finally, the broken wrist and subsequent surgeries. She has been a good sport through it all.

When I came back from the South America trip, I let it drop that the sailboat ride with Captain Mark from Porto Belo, Panama to Cartagena, Colombia re-kindled a fire in the belly to have a sailboat, she said, without the slightest hesitation, "Get the boat. You have always wanted one. Just get it." 

So, with that blessing, I have spent the last ten months or so preparing for just that: a nice comfortable boat that we could keep somewhere on the coast as a getaway from the brutal heat here in Phoenix. That is a (admittedly weak) rationale for a boat.

So, I signed up for a series of sailing courses out in Marina Del Rey. It included Basic Keelboat, Basic Coastal Cruising, Coastal Navigation, and Bareboat Charter. As related earlier, I got one BK class in, then crashed the bike, fracturing my left wrist. That set things back somewhat. But, fortune being what it is, it has worked out much to the better, slightly impaired wrist notwithstanding.

While recovering from the injury, I began frequenting a local coffee house where I struck up several interesting and gratifying friendships. One was with an MD, a urologist by coincidence, and a fellow who is interested in sailing. Several months into things, he invited me to go over to San Diego and rent a boat over a three or four day period. We went, and had a pleasant three days on a Catalina 30. Mike was the skipper, but, since he did not have an ASA Certification, he had to undergo a checkout before he was released with the boat. The instructor was excellent, and the checkout went well. During the course of the day, I mentioned my interest in sailing and in purchasing a boat, and Rod offered that he was licensed to sell as well as instruct, and that he would be more than happy to assist me in my quest.

What good luck! He has been extremely helpful, not only in finding the right boat, but in increasing my general knowledge on all aspects of the sport. I continued my sail classes as soon as I obtained a medical release (I had pre-paid for the courses), and in the meantime, Rod was a font of information.

We looked at many boats, mostly monohulls in the 37 to 42 foot range. I decided, with his invaluable help, that what I wanted was a boat I could learn to single hand, but one that had enough interior accomodation that my Sweetie would be comfortable staying aboard whether in the slip or under way.

We looked at Beneteaus, Island Packets, Valiants, a Pacific Crealock 37, Hallberg Rassys, Sabres, Jenneaus, a couple of catamarans, and several others. I made an offer on a Sabre 402 in San Francisco that was accepted, and we headed there for sea trial and survey. 

Things on the sea trial did not go swimmingly well, and the broker did not appear to be ready to negotiate needed repairs before the survey was completed, so I withdrew the offer, with Rod's urging. A survey, which includes haul-out, runs about a grand, and that gets to be a sort of a barbed hook. If things are clearly in need of repair before the survey, then what is to motivate the seller to negotiate on them after the buyer is a grand into the deal? It was a nice boat, but I decide there are lots of nice boats out there, and I make it a rule not to fall in love with the object until after the deal is done. We walked.

We made an offer on a HR39 located in Seattle, but there was a counter offer, and I decided to let the seller take that one. It turned out that the deal later fell through, and that boat is now sitting on the market again. In the meantime, we found another HR39 in the same area. This one was a little newer (2000), and had considerably more equipment. I made an offer, the seller countered, I made another, and he came back with the price I felt was well worth paying. The deal was made, and Rod and I journeyed to Lake Union for sea trial and survey. I had just finished the Basic Coastal Cruising course, and drove from Los Angeles to Seattle on the 28th and 29th of October. Rod flew up from San Diego, and we were on the way.

The sea trial and survey went well. I accepted the boat on October 31, and we moved her through the Ballard Locks and to the Elliott Bay Marina, located on the south side of Magnolia Bluff. It looks across the bay into downtown Seattle, with the Space Needle and the Seattle skyline on the distant horizon. Nice venue. We made a trip to Westmarine supplier, and I dumped a considerable sum in equipment such as PFDs, fire extinguishers, flares, foul weather gear, an upgraded head, a GPS/radar chart plotter and new radar scanner, and sundry.

She needs some work done to make her Coast Guard compliant, and that is being done (I hope) while I am back in Phoenix finishing up insurance and other paperwork.

She presently answers to the name "Beltane," but will undergo a change to "Oh Miss." For the uninformed, after 50 years as a flight attendant, my Dear Wife has learned to answer to that appelation as routine. We thought it appropriate; it is feminine, and it has a relevance. There are varied rituals involved in re-naming a boat, even though some consider it bad luck to rename at all. Not being superstitious, I will forgo the ritual, and engage a graphic designer to put the new label on her, along with her new Port of Call: Scottsdale, AZ

I have been "soloed" by Rod, and duly signed off, so I am eager to get the refit done, the insurance in place, and take her for a spin. I hope to make it back to Seattle by mid-week. 

Since I spent most of my growing up in Seattle, the rain and generally "Irish" weather is not bothersome (yet), and they tell me this is the best time of the year for sailing up there. I will probably keep her in this marina until late Spring, then move here closer to the San Juan Islands, where the sailing is beautiful, if not very windy in the Summer. 



9:26 pm mst          Comments

Friday, November 7, 2008

Back to Reality

So, returning to the present, now what? I am down to one (1) motorcycle, the trusty "old" R1150GSA. It now shows 100,200 miles on the clock, roundabout, and definitely looks it. The tank is pretty crusty, with the large dent on the left front from the spill on the dock in Manaus, while the right side has the remnants of the bash on the Haul Road on the way to Deadhorse the year before. The rest of the tank is pretty abraided from thousands of miles with a tank bag rubbing against the paint, while the Jesse cans are pretty scratched up from numerous spills along the way. In short, it looks like it was "rode hard and put away wet." It all speaks to character, and besides, repairing and painting the tank would run $500 or so. I will live with it this way.

I rode to LAX a few weeks ago for some more sailing classes, and had to have one of the fuel quick-releases replaced because it was leaking like mad, so badly in fact that I thought the bike might catch on fire. A helpful service manager at the Yamaha shop in Marina Del Rey/Venice did a fix for me. They  were very helpful, and made haste to get me on my way.

The scooter wasn't running very well, though. It was very hard to start (cold), and was backfiring badly when letting off on the throttle. But, it got me home, and I took it to the local Beemer shop to have new ignition coils put on. Now it is running like a champ.

So, what of another bike? I think not, at least not any time soon. I did like the K1200LT, but the GS is a good ride, and has served me faithfully these 4 years and many, many miles, so I will stick with it for the time being. We had been together too long to dump it.

Besides, the "new" dalliance beckons----a boat! Yes, one of those things you put into the water and throw money at. But, more of that later. The "2 Wheels to Adventure" continues, but not quite as singularly as previously. I have not yet mastered the art of MC riding, but I have always wanted to sail...

11:58 pm mst          Comments

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Brave New World

A "slight" diversion: It is now the 6th of November, 2008, and to my less-than-liberal friends, I offer this bit of solace to the sting of recent defeat:


I am greatly encouraged. I have seldom been so proud of my country and my countrymen. After 400 or so years of inequality and oppression, non-caucasian Americans now see a future where they can be full and complete citizens. The election of Mr. Obama signals a marked change in this nation, and it came about with the participation of all of America. Whites as well as Hispanics and blacks voted to put him in the White House by a very significant margin.

Of course, many voted Democrat for economic or other reasons; nevertheless, they had the strength, enlightenment, whatever one wishes to call it, to cast aside old hatreds and prejudices and vote for what could be major change in the direction this country takes. The very fact that a black man can and is now going to be the 44th President of the United States of America makes this a very, very big deal. Blacks finally can see equality and full citizenship as a reality. We are not there yet, but this country will never be the same, and for me and millions like me, that is huge.

I do not suggest that those who voted for McCain did so for racial reasons. These good Americans (the ones who made their choice based on politics and factors other than pure racial bias) participated in the process, and the result is a return to a democratic republic where the citizens decided, not the political machines, not the corporations, not the labor unions, not the oligarchy, and not the plutocracy. People went to the polls and made their wishes known through their votes, whatever those votes were. This was not an election decided by the SCOTUS, not by slim margins that could be questioned and that smacked of fraud and chicanery. This election was the voice of the people, and that is the way it should be.

What kind of president he will be remains a question, but his mere presence in the White House signals us as Americans and the rest of the world that America Is Back. The first democratic republic in history has returned to its principles, and is once again showing the planet that we are the standard. We are that beacon of which Ronald Reagan spoke so eloquently. The world cannot but recognize that we have returned to our roots, and that we have made a major repair to our sometimes tattered image.

I am greatly encouraged. Strike that. I am thrilled.


10:56 pm mst          Comments

Archive Newer | Older

For future use

Our New Best Friend, TRES

My Hero, Uncle Pete, two days short of his 90th birthday.

Meet Mort--- Mortem "mors me cum equitat"
The view from 50 feet up the mast
The Old Guy At The Helm Of "OH MISS"
Adventure Bound
The Old Guy, Back Home Unscathed
2005 BMW K1200LT, long gone to bike heaven
"Der Klunkenschiffter" at age 4, 102,000 miles