2 Wheels To Adventure

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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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Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Passing Parade

The weather altered somewhat overnight. It warmed significantly, and then apparently rained, because the day dawned, if not sunny, at least devoid of the majority of the previous day's snow. The roads were sloppy where not heavily traveled, but the slipping and sliding was greatly reduced. More rain forecast, followed by dropping temperatures.

The Canadian-bound segment launched fairly early, and when last contacted, late this afternoon, had made it almost to Bellingham. They  should catch an early ferry to Vancouver tomorrow, and be up in Campbell River by noon, I would estimate.

I have been reading Studs's last book: "P.S. Further Thoughts From A Lifetime Of Listening." Studs of course is Studs Terkel, and if you do not recognize the name, you have missed out on one of the monumental figures of American Progressivism and journalism. Studs, born in 1912, grew up in the Chicago environs, and spent a lifetime writing and conducting radio shows, along with a passel of books that chronicled such things as the Great Depression, World War II, the working man (and woman), and assorted tales from the mouths of the participants. He was perhaps the consummate listener, a great interviewer, one of the few who are not fascinated by the sound of their own voice, and who make an art of listening to and extracting from people their stories. 

He wrote, among others, "The Good War," "Working," "Will The Circle Be Unbroken," and "Hard Times." His forte was the oral history, wherein he recorded the words of people who were there, be it the Depression, the War, or demonstrations of faith and hope. He was not a religious man, and I strongly suspect, or perhaps recall that he was an unbeliever in miracles and the supernatural, but he had unbounded faith in the wisdom and depth of common folk. He came from working people, and although he held a law degree (he never practiced), he never seemed to forget where he came from.

Studs was one of the last of the Old Lefties. A Progressive to his very core, he understood what made this country what it is, the good and the bad, and he pulled no punches in putting it out there for anyone's interest.

This last book of  his was published shortly before his death, at the age of 96, on October 31st. It is well worth reading, because it is particularly applicable today, as we perch on the brink of what clearly may be another world-wide depression. The last eight years have been the culmination of conservative ideological principles started back before FDR. Roosevelt pulled us out of the depths, aided by the horror of World War II, and ever since, the forces of the Right have been working to reverse the government regulations and controls Franklin enacted to rein in the runaway tendencies of Big Business. 

They fairly well succeeded during the reign of George W. Bush, and we now are surrounded by the rubble of a system that has gone unrestrained, running us off the road and into a ditch. To further the metaphor, we are now precariously teetering on the brink of the cliff of complete economic collapse.

I will not soon forget Ronald Reagan's drive to de-regulate business. His focus was to let the forces of Capitalism take the bit and run with it. He told us that if we cut all of the allegedly onerus regulations that restricted business it would allow the economy to sweep troubles aside. He sent a powerful message to the movers and shakers in the business world when he crushed the air traffic controllers union, in effect telling them that this was the way to treat unions. The Republican stand was, and has always been that organized labor is a millstone around the neck of those who provide the jobs. Ronnie told us that if we let business have its head, it "would do the right thing."

So, administration after administration, abetted by congresses of both parties, struck down regulations and failed to enforce those left until we reached the promised land: huge profits, enormous CEO remuneration, and a stock market that exploded into highs scarcely dreamed of. Some economic pundits even predicted a Dow Jones Index of 30,000 by sometime early in this new century.

Whoops! It all blew up in their faces, and now we are in such unbelievable trouble that most of us cannot imagine where it will all end. The government presses are geared up for high speed money production, and our troubles are---are---just beginning? 

Back to Studs. Yes, he was a Lefty. He might have been one of those "Socialists." He clearly favored the worker, and as such, was an advocate of unions and organized labor. He realized that the common man (and again, woman) is lost if business keeps them separated, dealing individually. It is the principle of  "Divide and Conquer." It still works.

I do not know if Studs would have agreed, but I have long said that what the Plutocracy really wants in the nation is a work force that is easily trained, that is terrified of losing jobs, that is seduced into buying what it cannot afford and does not need, and will work for whatever "The Man" wants them to have. 

That is what they now have, except that the jobs that manufacture anything have gone away, and we are now a service economy, what the British once said of themselves, "a nation of shop-keepers" only in our case, a nation of waiters and servers. Once, eight long years ago, we were the largest exporter of finished goods in the world. We now are the greatest importer of finished goods, while we export raw materials---the largest exporter of them in the world. This is the definition of a third world country. We are in debt, as individuals and as a nation, and the spending continues apace. We spend more on military and defense than the rest of the world put together, or damn close to it, but our roads, bridges, railroads, buildings, and entire infrastructure is in a state of gradual collapse. We continue to kid ourselves that we are the best, the strongest, the richest, the smartest, and the most God-blessed nation in the world. We think we are the Chosen. We thump our collective chest because our military, the mightiest in the history of the world, is a symbol of all strength. We are living in a dream world, and it is rapidly turning into a nightmare, except that it is real. People are suffering. We have 48 million citizens who either cannot afford, or cannot, because of pre-existing condition, get medical coverage. The Right has convinced the average American that any plan to provide health care for all citizens is the equivalent of "Socialized Medicine," and that is just the same as communism, and we all know how bad that is.

A friend of mine recently told me of how "bad" health care is in Canada. People have to wait to have elective surgery.  They have to come to the U.S. to get the  care they want in many cases. Asked how they get the care here, he allowed that they have to pay for it. Asked what people in America do, he said that they just "go to the Emergency Room." I don't know if he thinks that alleged service applies to Canadians or not. He swears that elective surgery is done for the indigent at the emergency facility. End of problem. I guess the thousands of people in bankruptcy because of medical expenses were just too stupid or proud to go to the Emergency Room, poor saps! He is against "Socialized Medicine." Can't have that. It would be too costly. It would be government control. People would have the government dictating their care providers. Better we just go to the Emergency Room for our prostatectomy, or for the plate and screw put into a broken wrist.

The Republican mantra could be,"Screw you, its every man for himself." We now have, more than ever before, a class society, and one of the segments of Studs's latest book has a working class woman noting that the racial divide has worked very well in convincing whites that they are different from working blacks. More divide and conquer. It continues to work very, very well---for the rich and powerful.

Old Studs is gone, and I shall miss him, but his work lives on, and is well worth a read.

And, along with Studs, we lost many others this year: Paul Newman, George Carlin among those I shall miss the most


7:38 pm mst          Comments

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Holiday Season

So here we are in Greater Boise, enjoying the Holiday with family. Here in my son and daughter-in-law's house are: My daughter and son-in-law and their 20 year-old daughter, my son, of course, and his dear wife. Their 22 year-old daughter and her husband are here. In addition there are some canines: Sammus, a sort of pointer cum bird dog of about 80 pounds, a Shi Tzu of 12 years and cataracts, and two chihuahuas that together do not total 5 pounds. They are, respectively, Makan, Paisley, and Duke. The 20-year old grandson is at work, but his presence is ephemeral at best, even when not at his job. He comes, he goes, or rather, he comes, he eats, he goes, he returns, he eats, he sleeps, he goes. Repeat. Short conversations, or perhaps, oral exchanges, sometimes ensue. Total creature count: 13 to (briefly) 14.

It is snowing out, and has been for the greater part of the day. We are cozy and snug, and of course, the magic window on the wall is giving us another of the day's many athletic contests played on surfaces of turf and faux turf here and there around the country. Bowl games, and the action, if somewhat repetative, is constant. Constant, that is, between the erudite and expert analysis provided by sundry ex-athletes and suave broadcasters all of whom silkily appraise us of the nuance of modern college football. It is as if a lot of us really care...

It does give pause to occasionally and fleetingly wonder how those poor souls without roofs over their heads fare. But, it is rare. We hunker down, and all too often fail to appreciate our fortune, our lot, our lives of ease and comfort. Which is not to say we ought.

The daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter set out about 11:00 O'Clock for points northwest. They planned to go to Seattle and then Vancouver Island to visit the granddaughter's friend there, the one she met while on her exchange sabbatical to Chile last school year. But, alas, it was not to be, as the snow conditions on the interstate highway were bad enough that the way was closed between Baker City, Oregon and La Grande in a place called Ladd Canyon/Pass (can it  be both in one?). So, they wound their way back here, and arrived after a nice little excursion of about 5 hours. Maybe tomorrow.

My Dear Wife and I had considered going along, as we could have had a look at OH MISS, and shown them the new vessel, but we opted out, as the weather there in Seattle is not exactly conducive to sailing or staying aboard (5 people on a 40 footer? I think not, especially when the diesel fuel for the cabin heater is running low, and it means moving the boat to refuel). Besides, they were in the pickup, which, although it sports an extended cab, would have made 10 hours plus to Seattle a bit less than comfy. Cozy maybe, but not comfy.

One thanks one's situation, whatever the cause. Be it fortune, God, god, gods, circumstance, the bounce of the ball, or just the way things are, I appreciate and thank any and all of the above, should any of them really exist. Life just ain't fair, and happiness is a state of mind perhaps, but is is much easier to achieve when the belly is full and the warmth of the fire reassures. I would rather be lucky than smart or rich any day.

Happy New Year!

4:44 pm mst          Comments

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Different Strokes...

My Dear Wife and I drove to Idaho for the holiday, which we are spending with my daughter and her family, in  the southern part of the state. We are in the midst of winter here, with snow, cold, and lots of wind.

The drive up, over two days, was uneventful, save for a small good deed we did. About 140 miles north of Las Vegas, on Nevada 318, we came upon a southbound Ford Excursion, with the driver frantically waving a red flag as we approached. They had suffered a breakdown, and there were seven (7!) of them in the car, including two children and a 92 year-old grandmother. We offered to drive them back south to Alamo, some 30 miles distant. And, so we did, in two trips, as nine of us would not fit into our tiny Honda Civic. It was a shuttle of 120 miles before we were through, but it was a good deed, and we were happy to do it. They insisted we take money for our effort,  but we managed to put them off. As it turned out, on the second trip to pick up the remaining three people, the Excursion inexplicably decided to run, so I followed him back to the truck stop in Alamo, where I had left my Dear Wife with the four women in order to have room for the remaining three and their luggage.

The point of this is coming. On the second trip south, with the mother of the driver and her 12 year-old in the back seat, we engaged in an interesting conversation. Early in the drive, she turned to her granddaughter and said, "See, you believe in angels, and this man is an angel." A nice sentiment, but, outspoken slob that I am, I could not let it go. I turned to her in the rear view mirror, and said, "That's very nice of you, but if you only knew." She asked what ever I meant, and I could not stop myself telling her that I am a practising atheist. I just wanted her and her granddaughter to know that all people doing good deeds are not necessarily Christians, or even religious, for that matter. 

We atheists have a reputation, and it ain't good. The average believer is strongly against atheism, and anyone professing such apostasy is to be avoided. Witness George Bush Srs's comment some time back that atheists are not good Americans. We are among the last groups to be generally scorned by society. It is still acceptable to malign us, and I took the opportunity, since religious belief had been referred to  passingly, to make a case for unbelievers.

The conversation then took predictable course. She said that she could never approve atheism because without promise of an after life, there would be no need to be a good person. This never fails to amaze me, as au contraire, I think the main reason to try to be good is because it is the best way to live. We live better and more fulfilling lives by showing kindness and compassion to all living creatures. It is just easier that way. There may well be an after life, but none of us knows, and I am betting on the No-After-Life condition. 

She also made reference to criminals, and I allowed as since the majority of people in the country were Christian, the majority of the people in prison were also believers, and the vast minority of criminals are atheists. This goes to the proposition that morality comes from God. I, of course, demur. I believe that morality comes from the minds of men and women, developed as a practical matter over the ages. Society has come to understand that moral comportment makes for better lives all around. I submit that humankind had developed a passable morality well ahead of Moses making his alleged trek to the mountain to retrieve the stone tablets and their ten commandments. By the bye, several of those commandments do not contribute to a better society, in my opinion. And, as another matter of fact, the average professed Xian cannot even tell you what they are. They of course, vary depending upon whether you are Jewish, Protestant, or Catholic. And more matter of fact, nowhere in that definitive book of authority, The Bible, can one find those ten commandments listed, one through ten. They are there, but they are mixed in with a lot of other orders, and have to be selectively chosen to make the revered rules.

Well, it is Christmas, and enough of this heresy. Merry Christmas! (Yes, I believe in it. It exists, and to deny it is to deny a strong cultural event. It is great for small children, and it is a wonderful focal point for family and friends).


3:52 pm mst          Comments

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's Looking A Lot Like Christmas

Seattle, December 18, 2008. It has been cold, cold, cold, even for Seattle. A friend came out from Minneapolis last weekend, and as he arrived, the cold set in. It was below twenty degrees (F) for a day, and then we had a smattering of snow---a couple of inches. We did manage to get out on the water on Sunday, but what little wind there was died after about twenty minutes on Elliott Bay, and we motored around for an hour or two. He departed on Tuesday, with a promise to return, and I hope he does.

It snowed last night, after a fairly balmy day yesterday. We got about four inches, and it is forecast to be cold again tonight, probably in the twenties again. 

 I have been comfortable in the boat, with the use of either the little electric heater I got or the on board diesel heater.

 The previous sail furling and unfurling problem was solved by a sail rigger, who went up the mast, belayed from below by me, and hammered the loose folds back into the groove with the edge of a plastic cutting board, while I alternately exercised the outhaul and the furling winches, until we got it re-furled tightly on the spindle within the mast. I subsequently went out sailing with a long-time Seattle friend, and we had several hours of good sailing.

I also had a small problem with the galley stove, in that when the propane switch was turned on, the old original propane alarm sounded. So, I had Emerald Marine send over a technician, who re-wired things, cutting out the old alarm altogether, and putting the propane solenoid on one On-Off switch. I now have galley propane for cooking.

Tomorrow may be fair, if cold, and I might get out for a few hours on the water. I need to fuel up with diesel, as the lower tank is not quite full.


The NYT today has an editorial regarding the latest findings on the United States torture program, and how it became our national shame. A bipartisan committee of the Senate Armed Services Committee found that torture has been committed by and in the name of the United States of America. This is not news to many of us. We have long understood that our country has shamed itself and all citizens with this heinous action,  but now it is a matter of record.

To say this is an outrage against humanity and the honor of our nation is at best a gross understatement. I never would have dreamed that I would live to see my country so sullied by this despicable action. My dear old friend, Norlan Daughtrey, would surely be sickened by this. Before he died, I asked him what he thought of the Abu Ghraib situation, and whether he thought those actions and waterboarding were in fact torture. He did, but he attributed it to a few low ranking soldiers who lacke supervision. What would he say now that Vice President Dick Cheney has publicly acknowledged that he supported, and continues to support such "techniques" as waterboarding? Would Norlan recognize the culpablilty of our high government officials, who advocated these methods? Would he finally see that they exceeded the bounds of decency, morality, and legality? Would he cry out against these tactics? John McCain has acknowledged the torture, yet he signed off on the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which made waterboarding, among other methods options. He has been relatively quiet regarding torture, and for this I hold him responsible. Norlan might still hang on to his loyal Republican attitude. I can only hope that he would have come to understand what kind of people we have had for the past eight years running this once great nation.

We are at the approach of dawn. We have come through a long, dark night, and the new day promises to be clear and bright, but it will not be without clouds of darkness as long as those responsible for our shame are allowed to go without review and probable trial. There must be further investigation, to establish the fact that crimes have been committed, to seek out those responsible, and to bring them to justice.

We know, and have known for some time that crimes against the rule of law in America have been committed, as well as atrocities against humankind. Now it is coming out into the open, and if the Democratic leaders, including Mr. Obama, Ms Pelosi, Mr. Reid, and the rest of the Democratic leadership do not seek justice, we are going to live under this cloud of shame forevermore. It is one of the most redeeming virtues of this country that we ultimately acknowledge and atone for our mistakes. We have lived for eight long years with an administration and sadly, with a general public opinion that supports the very things that we have long decried as being against our principles as a nation and as a people. It is high time that we right these wrongs and openly admit the errors of this soon to be gone nightnmare called the Bush Administration. I hope it happens during my lifetime, and not fifty years in the future, when all the guilty are gone. They deserve trial, and if convicted, the punishment called for by law. To let them escape into comfortable retirement would only further shame us all.

To those who, like a few respondents to the NYT Editorial, cannot understand that waterboarding is torture, or who say this is what the enemy deserves, I say this: You must understand that torture is torture, no matter who does it to whom. We have prosecuted and convicted people for torture, including waterboarding. It is and always has been, torture. Ask Christopher Hitchens, a war hawk, what he thinks. He volunteered to undergo WB in controlled circumstances, where he knew that it would stop at his first request. He knew that these men were not going to kill him, yet he lasted just 17 seconds (let me repeat that SEVENTEEN SECONDS!). He said unequivocally that waterboarding is torture. He was clearly distraught by his brief experience. There is NO DOUBT. The claim that the recipients (victims in my terminology) "deserve" it is monstrous. Whether a human being "deserves" inhuman treatment or not, it is not acceptable in an "enlightened" society. We do not submit heinous criminals to cruel and inhuman punishment, no matter how horrible the crime. We continue to practice capital punishment (unfortunately, in my opinion), but we strive to do it in the least horrible manner known, not the most painful or prolonged.

We cannot say that a particular method of "interrogation" is torture when our enemies practice it, but it is something else (enhanced interrogation) when we do it. Torture is torture, no matter the motivation nor the recipient nor the practioner.d

Now my conservative friends may put this rant down to my political bias. They would say that I am a Bush hater, and that it colors my perspective. Yes. To quote my least favorite vice president, "So?" Does my bias against Bush and company alter the facts? Have I been unable to see that breaking the law of the land is necessary to "keep us safe?" Is not my prejudice against Mr. Bush and nearly all of his minions coloring my perception of what went on? Can I not see beyond my liberal, weak-kneed anti-Americanism to understand that "things are different since 9-11?" Do I not see that we have to meet the enemy with tactics as vicious and immoral as his? Do I not understand that this is a struggle for our very survival against "Evil?"

My answer to the above is an unqualified "NO!" I understand there are people who are fanatically bent upon our destruction. I know that we were attacked by thugs and murderers. I realize they are people who operate outside the law and basic human decency. That is why I am so adamantly against sinking to their level. We are better than that. We are a nation that espouses decency, honor, and justice. Those are the reasons that we cannot allow our fears and our emotions to lead us into immorality and the practice of disgusting and horrible acts in the name of defense. We have an obligation to ourselves and to our heirs to uphold the rule of law, and more than that, to maintain the morality and decency we so often pronounce. We cannot talk the talk without walking the walk. We are still capable of carrying the torch of democracy and justice for the world, as we have in the past. Our current state is one of a nation of hypocrites. We talk big about the virtues, and then turn around and practice evil. We have lost our moral authority, but it is not too late to reclaim it. We must return to the country we once were. We cannot wait in the hope that history will be re-written by apologists and revisionists, trying to cover up what we allowed to occur. The truth will out, and it we do not acknowledge our past, we will sink further into the morass of immorality and evil.

I voted for a new government, one that will not avoid the truths of the past, but that will address the past and come to terms with our actions. I want action, not excuses, and not forgetting. We are what we are, and we have to expose the bad with the good.


3:23 pm mst          Comments

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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