Monday, September 28, 2009

Chili Cook Off

My wife and I attended a competion Chili Cook Off this weekend. A couple of city blocks in the downtown area were closed off for the event. For $5 you get to sample chili from various groups and vote for a winner. Eating the chili is one thing, but people watching is another and it is a fun event held every year.
The Wichita Wagonmasters is a local group whose purpose in life is to help sponsor our annual River Festival which occurs in May. But they help sponsor this event as a fundraiser for the River Festival. Here is a picture of their land yacht which is used in the River Festival parade each year to transport that year's Admiral Windwagon Smith, who is the honorary dignatory for the Festival each year.
Each participant is given a little cup and spoon and then you go to each booth to get a sample of their chili. Sometimes you can tell which booth's chili is good by the length of their line. Sometimes not.
It always brings out some interesting folks for the event. No pictures of motorcycles or scooters taken today, but did see 3 guys, all on Honda Ruckus', milling about the area. Looked like they were having fun. (Just what is the plural of Ruckus?) A lot of the groups are there to promote a restaurant, a civic group, or other place such as a museum. People get dressed up a bit and you see some interesting sights. A band was performing on a little stage as well.
This group was from a museum and became my favorite of the day. They actually had 3 different kinds of chili to sample, all very good.
One of their chili's was made with chicken instead of beef and it was spectacular. They had one of the longest lines of the day that we saw. For good reason. They also had some assistance in passing out fliers as people stood in line waiting for chili. Jack "R" might have appreciated this person.
Then again, maybe his tastes cater more to a person like this. (Good witch or bad witch?)
The secret chili was on the back burner for this group. It was made with sirloin, rather than hamburger, and you had to ask for it. This guy was wondering what the heck I was doing behind their booth taking his picture.
We voted for this group, not because of the women, but because their chili was really good. All 3 kinds were good.
My wife also liked the chili that was presented by this group.
I didn't find it particularly ballistic, but it was a bit warmer than some of the others.
Some chili's were waterier than others, some chunkier, some with too much chili powder, some with ingredients that I am not sure I even want to know about. But mostly all were very good.
The weather was excellent and it was a good way to spend $5 and do some people watching.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Just a little riding event that happened to me recently. Scan As I crossed an intersection in relatively heavy traffic I observed that the traffic in the lane to my right was proceeding a little slower than my lane. I was on a one way street with 3 lanes of traffic. I was in the center lane with cars in front and behind me, but not as many cars in my lane as there were in the lane to my right. The left lane was clear in front and behind. Identify As I proceeded along I slowly passed a couple of cars in the lane to my right. As I would pass a car, I would be in a car's blind spot for a brief moment or two. I also kept an eye on how far away cars were in front of me and behind me. Predict As I entered the blind spot of a Pontiac sedan, I was very aware of the possibility of the car not seeing me and entering my lane to get into a faster lane of traffic. Sometimes people in rush hour traffic seem concerned about getting wherever they are going as fast as possible. Decide I considered a couple of options for safety If the Pontiac entered my lane. One was to swerve to the left into the left lane because I knew it was clear. The other was to just lightly touch my brakes to slow down enough so that the Pontiac could enter my lane and I would just end up behind it. The choice between those two options would depend on where I was relative to the Pontiac. If I was toward the back end of the Pontiac, the brake technique would probably be fine. If I was closer to the front of the Pontiac, then the swerve to the left might be necessary. Execute Sure as shit, the Pontiac started to enter my lane. I was close to the back end of the Pontiac, almost perfectly in the blind spot. But a little application of the brakes was sufficient to place me directly and safely behind the Pontiac. I let the distance between the two of us increase until the two second rule looked good before I started to speed up a bit and get back into matching the speed of other vehicles in my lane. SIPDE works!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Zen and the Scooter Club

I had missed last month's ride for our local scooter club and was looking forward to seeing my friends again this month. We didn't have a big ride planned. We had gained a couple of new members recently and some other people that had been having trouble making it to some past rides said they would be there for this ride. It was going to be nice to meet some new people and see some of the others again.
We met along the river near the Keeper of the Plains monument. Again we had a very interesting array of scooters from 49cc all the way up to a brand new 650cc Suzuki Burgman.
Our plan was to ride along the river a bit through Riverside Park, then head out east of town. Everybody seemed to want to ride through the tunnel under the runway at the Hawker Beechcraft airplane plant. That's the same tunnel I took a couple of pictures of on a recent post. The sound of 14 beeping scooters going through the tunnel was fun. Didn't get a picture this time because we kept riding. You will see further down in this post that it was not a good idea for me to stop and take a picture.
Our destination today was a little coffee and doughnut shop. The place is known as the "Donut Whole". It is not a fancy place. It is in an older building near the downtown area, but it has developed quite a following of customers. They have good coffee, free wifi, an interesting offering of unusual types of soft drinks and, of course, donuts. They have some unusual donuts also, such as the infamous maple bacon. I know it sounds wierd, but it's actually quite tasty. Ever had bacon bits on a donut?
As we were riding along near the tunnel, I noticed that my gas gauge had stopped working. Then I noticed my temperature gauge wasn't working either. Nor was the clock. I had noticed a while back when using the turn signals that the little clicking noise when the turn signals were on wasn't working either.
I became a little worried and wondered If any of my lights were working, but we were getting closer to our destination, the scooter was running fine and I thought it would be easy to check it out when we got to the donut place. I guessed that a fuse might have gone out.
As we stopped at the donut shop, I got off the scooter before I shut it off to see If the lights were working and, indeed, none of them were. I shut the scooter off and the realized that it may not start again, and sure enough, nothing happened when I engaged the starter.
Now you must realize that sometimes my patience with things mechanical isn't the best, but I had just finished reading "Zen and Now" by Mark Richardson which, as many of you know, is a follow up to Pirsig's famous book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance".
I did my best to remain calm. Tried to exhibit some patience, not one of my strong points. After all, there were many good friends along with me on the ride, some of them "Cracker Jack" mechanics and I knew that someone could help me out. I had my fingers crossed and was hoping it was just a fuse. Turned out, it was a fuse. We had a little trouble locating a 10mm device for some bolts, but we eventually got it repaired without a whole lot of effort even though I was sort of worried for a bit.
Many thanks to Lloyd, his wife and Gary.
Note to self: when we get back home, make sure you get a small package of assorted fuses and a 10mm wrench in the tool kit. Why is it that you are almost always missing one tool that you need. Is this a derivative of Murphy's Law?
Also need to track down the short that caused the fuse to blow in the first place. I am sure it has to be in the front left handlebar area. It got banged pretty hard in my recent accident. Probably just a loose wire, maybe a bad switch. I am confident that we can figure it out.
The point of all of this is partially about Pirsig and his famous book. I readily admit to not having it all figured out yet. I have read Pirsig, and now Richardson and plan now to go back and read Pirsig again. Maybe it will make a little better sense now. Maybe not, but reading Richardson can give the reader of Pirsig a little different perspective.
I have even thought about Pirsig as I have been doing tax returns at the office this past couple of weeks.
Yeah, right, Zen and the Art of Preparing Tax Returns?
But actually tax returns are a bit like a puzzle and you never quite know where you will end up or what the ending will be like. In a strange way, I see some similarities.
Taking on and overcoming the challenge of the puzzles of either doing a tax return or attempting to fix a motorcycle can be indicative of how a person approaches life.
Sometimes it can be quite frustrating to try and fix something mechanical If you are not sure of your abilities or If the answer doesn't present itself immediately. Sometimes a tax return can be frustrating because the end result may not be pleasant or some of the details are hard to determine.
It might be just the manner of how you approach the difficulties you encounter:
In life.
In tax returns.
In motorcycle maintenance.
In whatever.
To me, one of the things Pirsig is trying to say is that this process, and how you approach it, can be more important than the end result.
Hmmmm, and you thought this post was going to be about the scooter club.
Pirsig has become a work in process for me. I wasn't sure I was all that impressed with the book after reading for the first time. But after reading Richardson's book, and thinking about it some more, well ...... my opinion is maybe changing a bit.
The book has made me think a lot and at times I can be doing something, like working in the yard, working at the office, or while riding, and I will recall something from the book.
All this thinking is a part of a process too.
Thinking of writing a book. Maybe I'll call it "Zen and the Maple Bacon Doughnut".

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Foreign Car ?

We had been sort of half-heartedly looking for another car. We sold one of our cars about the same I bought the scooter last year. Having one car and one scooter has worked pretty well for us except in a few situations. Usually those situations occurred when the weather was bad, and my wife and I needed to be different places at the same time. Another problem happens when one or the other of us might need to be out of town. There were many times when we thought that it would be nice to have another 4 wheeled vehicle, but I steadfastly maintained my determination that I could prove to the world that I could exist and live by riding a scooter. Sometimes we would look at the newspaper in the morning to look at the advertisements for cars. Saturdays are a good day for this because most of the dealers in town take out good sized ads on the weekends. We did not need anything fancy as we didn't think the car would be used very heavily. Well, suffice it to say, there was a car advertised on Saturday that we became interested in. Yeah, it's another Subaru! Some people say we are in the minority because we like standard transmission cars, even though I drive a scooter with an automatic transmission. It is really hard for us to find standard transmission cars. Well we found one! The price was okay, maybe a little more than what we wanted to spend, but we got them to knock $500 off the price. The only problem? The car was originally sold in Canada! Bobskoot, Baron, other Canadian readers, please help us out here. The car speaks Centigradian and Kilometerian. Eh? We wondered If the GPS device we have could be adjusted to speak in Canadianese rather than the sexy female British voice we have been using up to now. How the heck are we to survive if all the mileage figures are grossly overinflated and the temperature readings are grossly understated (as long as the temp is above the freezing point of water) and overstated (If the temp is below freezing). The conspiracy theorist in me is suspicious that this is some sort of sinister government plot to make America conform to the rest of the world! I will only conform If I am allowed to kick and scream first! Thinking about sticking a conversion table to the front of the steering wheel or someplace noticeable. There is even an owner's manual in French. It seems that the car was traded in by someone that moved here from Montreal. He was employed by Bombardier, a company that owns a Learjet factory here in Wichita. We now are an Outback family with an '02 outback Sport (Impreza chassis) and an '01 Outback Wagon (Legacy chassis). If we ever get to Australia in our lifetime, we will be ready. But it will be a perfect second car for us. It has a lot of kilometers (miles?) on it but is in nice shape. We really anticipate that our cars in total may only get driven about 10,000 miles (? Kilometers) a year in total because I commute to work on the scooter. The scooter got about 4,200 miles in its first year and may get a little more than that in the second year. Unless of course I decide to make some extra longer distance trips. I have thought about many such trips. Maybe a Pirsig type pilgrimage from Minneapolis to San Francisco. I am thinking that Harv might want to join me on at least the initial portion of the trip. Better yet, maybe I can talk Jack Riepe into joining me on a ride from Dodge City (KS) to Deadwood (SD). I am hoping that Charlie6 and Torch might be able to ride along. A celebration of cowboys, feedlots and wide open spaces. What a pisser that ride could be. Or maybe a trip to Chicago to join Sharon and Baron on a drive along LSD and around Lake Michigan (can you do that?). Or meet up with Joe, Paul and Steve in Pennsylvania and ride through some sticks in the valleys of PA. We might allow Jack Riepe to come along, but only If he rides pillion with me and brings his laptop so he can chronicle the trip for us as we ride. Note to self: check the weight limit on the scooter first. Or join Lance, Dan, Bobskoot, Stacy and Orin in the great northwest for a ride along the Cascades or the Pacific coast. Maybe part of that Pirsig trek. Then another fun trip would be for everybody to make their way into Key West, with loud pipes rumbling, terrorize the city and make our favorite dispatcher call out the troops on us! We would all plead insanity (the Triumph defense) and plead for the leniency of the court. And wouldn't it be thrilling for all of us to ride through Turkey and parts of the Middle East and have our pictures taken in a sneaky manner by the famous Mad Dog himself. At any rate, now there is a 4 wheeled back up for my wife and I. It may sit a lot in the garage, because I still plan to ride the scooter year round as much as I can.
I just bought a license plate accessory from Aerostich for the scooter.
Maybe now there isn't actually one less car, but I guarantee you that the scooter will be on the road more than the car.
Two wheeled transportation is better, but a 4 wheeled backup can be important too.
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Friday, September 11, 2009

Dense Fog and Starbucks

I had seen such good pictures of sunsets on various blogs recently. I thought that sometime this Labor Day weekend I would get up a little earlier and try to get some pictures of a sunrise. I had even scoped out a place a few miles outside of town that I thought might lead to a good picture or two.
Saturday morning, I was lazy and slept in.
Sunday, I was ready to go, but awoke to find that a dense fog had set in overnight. Wasn't expecting that. But I decided that maybe some fog pictures could be interesting as well, so off I went into the early morning.
Early on a Sunday morning there is almost no traffic, but in certain places the visibility was less than 100 yards. Streets were dry, but it was obvious that it wasn't real safe to ride very fast or very far. I decided not to ride out to the location I had picked to take the proposed sunrise pictures. There was little chance for a sunrise picture.
I had not gone a mile when my visor got wet and fogged up. I tried various things with my new helmet to help with the fogging problem. First I just kept the visor up. Then my eyeglasses got wet. I had a handkerchief with me and used it to wipe off my eyeglasses and visor, stopping every mile or so to do a wipe. Eventually I kept the visor open on the helmet at the first stop so that it was only barely open in front. That helped greatly with the fogging issues but didn't, of course, keep the visor from getting wet.
I have just ordered a finger wiper from Aerostich, but as Murphy's Laws always work out, it hadn't arrived yet. Oh well, you just do the best you can with the equipment you have. Note to self; get some of that anti-fog spray as well.
I decided that a long ride wasn't in the future this morning and decided to loop around and eventually end up at Starbucks where I knew my daughter was working this morning.
On the way to Starbucks, I passed through a tunnel that actually goes under an airplane runway at the Hawker Beechcraft airplane plant. I always thought it would be fun to take a picture under here, so here it is.
As I left the tunnel I felt obligated to beep my horn a couple of times. Isn't that a requirement for going through a tunnel?
I also made a small detour through a nice sleepy neighborhood where I thought I could get a picture or two.
There were some joggers here and I was able to catch one of them for a picture.
It was at this point that the batteries in my Canon gave out. So many times have I been someplace, encountered what I thought would make a good picture, and not had my good camera with me. Note to self; make sure you have some spare batteries with you as well!
When I eventually arrived at Starbucks I noticed a number of motorcycles in the parking lot. Very nice machines, all of them. I entered the store at the same time as one of the other riders and we laughed at each other about trying to be out in this weather. Stopping for coffee seemed to be the only sensible thing to do while we all waited for the fog to burn off, which was predicted by mid morning.
There were seven of us riders in there that morning. Two couples, two guys on sport bikes and me with my Taiwanese scooter. There were 2 other customers and 4 employees, therefore the riders outnumbered everybody else in the store. I didn't realize that this Starbucks was such a biker (rider) haven. I was the only one in what I would call full gear, but all had helmets and at least some protection.
Two of the guys riding with their wives, girlfriends, or whatever, had on some leather vests with a lot of sewn in patches on the back.
One large patch indicated membership in the Wichita Firefighters Motorcycle Club.
I chuckled at another patch that caught my eye. It merely said:
F*#k Off Enough Said
My daughter told me that his name was Clyde and a 'regular' customer. He indeed was a firefighter and a really nice guy. Apparently a lot of bikers go to this Starbucks on Sunday mornings and she has gotten to know some of them a bit. Some of them know she has a Vespa and they have discussed riding on various occasions.
My daughter recently turned in her 2 week notice at Starbucks. It seems that student teaching 5 days a week and then working at Starbucks on the weekends is getting to be a bit much for her. I don't blame her a bit. Everybody needs a day off now and then and she hasn't had one in over a month.
My only regret is that my chances for free or discounted Starbucks coffee is dwindling. This turned out to be one of those rides where I left the house with a definate purpose in mind, only to end up going in a completely different direction, a different purpose, and still having a great time!
Total miles: 8? Enjoyment level: High Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Commute on 9/3/09

I was pleasantly surprised this morning on my way to work. Within a mile of home I saw two different scooterists apparently on their way to work also. Both were dressed in full armor and full face helmets. .
One was on a Honda and the other on a Vespa GTS. Got a nice wave from the guy on the Honda, the other guy probably didn't see me because of where he was in traffic. .
The reason for the surprise was how they were dressed. Around here there are a lot more motorcycles than scooters and I am always surprised at the number of riders that are not careful about what they wear, many not even using helmets. I fully admit that I haven't always been as careful as I am now about wearing gear. But I think I have learned. .
There is no scientific basis for my opinion, but it sure seems to me that scooterists around here are a maybe just a bit better about protecting themselves while riding than motorcyclists on a percentage basis. Not that I don't see some scooterists with shorts, t-shirts and flip flops, but I am constantly amazed at how many motorcyclists wear almost no protection at all. .
I sometimes feel that, because I try to wear ATGATT, that I am by far the exception rather than the rule. Maybe I should not be surprised. There is no helmet law here and If they ever bring it up at the state legislature, people scream bloody murder about infringement of our civil liberties. .
Last weekend I went to the bookstore to pick up a book that I had ordered. It is Mark Richardson's book "Zen and Now" that was recommended to me by Steve Williams at Scooter in the Sticks. I had recently made a comment on his blog that I had just finished reading Pirsig's book, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". Like a lot of people, I enjoyed Pirsig's book, but was a little confused by some of it. Steve, in a comment back to me, recommended the book as a good way to follow up on Pirsig. .
As I was walking into the store, I noticed a very nice BMW 1200 motorcycle in the parking lot. What a beautiful piece of machinery it was. Yellow in color, shiny and looked fast and ready to rock and roll! As I was looking at it, my wife picked my tongue up off the ground and convinced me to get my butt into the store.
As we approached the entrance to the store, there sitting on a bench near the entrance, were 2 men. One was decked out in Joe Rocket full gear with a helmet sitting beside him on the bench as he talked with the other man. I thought to myself that this guy had to belong to that BMW, or vice versa, and this guy has it figured out. .
I didn't want to interrupt the conversation he was having with the other man, but If I had the opportunity, I would have tried to engage him in conversation to tell him how much I admired his machine. And to tell him that I admired his decision to wear ATGATT. .
I am sure I would not be able to convince everybody that ATGATT is a good idea; But I do know that my little mishap, now a little over a month ago, would have been a lot worse than it was if I hadn't had my gear on. In my opinion it is likely that I would have broken my collar bone without that pad being there. I might have broken a hip also. There is no doubt that I would have had a severe head injury if I hadn't been wearing a helmet. As it was I was only severely bruised. I do not even want to imagine dealing with the road rash in addition to what else happened to me. .
I do not care how hot it is outside. I will put on the jacket and pants. Always! It just provides more motivation for me to keep riding because as long as I am on the scooter and moving through the air, the heat does not seem to be a big factor. .
I am very thankful that I spent the money to purchase the gear and I think my family is also. And that is maybe what part of it is all about. .
If you do not want to wear gear to protect yourself, that certainly is your prerogative. I would be the last person to tell you how to live your life, but you might just want to consider your loved ones when you make that decision. They might have a different thought in mind. .
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Friday, September 4, 2009

Beer Can Chicken

Lance over at The View From Over The Handlebars had asked for more Barbecue. So here you go Lance. I might email you some of the chicken for your culinary consideration. That new Triumph you have must make you hungry! I'll try and help you out. Today's delight: It had been over a month since the last time we had barbecued. Before my recent accident. Both my wife and I had decided on Saturday that some chicken sounded good. . We thought the kids would come over for lunch on Sunday, but my son had a get together with friends to select fantasy football teams. A real big event in his life. They really take it seriously. . My daughter and her friend had other plans as well. So that left just the 2 of us, but we didn't care a bit. All the more chicken for us!

Our garden has really started to produce and our tomatoes and peppers have turned out great. We have various herbs planted as well and really fresh herbs are amazing with food.

The pepper plants we have are not hot peppers, but sweet and very tasty. I used to crave hot foods, but my body does not like them as much as it used to. We decided to try and grill a few of them today as well just to see hoe they would turn out. I used a pan for that with holes to let heat through.
We bought two whole chickens at a local butcher shop on Saturday. .
Very little preparation is required. Just clean the chickens, coat them with a little EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), rub with some Emeril's chicken rub, and the chickens themselves are ready. .
Now there is some controversy to the concept of beer can chicken and the proper cooking technique to use.
To me it really makes very little difference but since I bought the stands, I use them. .
The original theory is that you place a beer can inside the stand and the beer infiltrates the inside of the chicken, providing flavor and moisture throughout the cooking process. Many people do not think this works all that well because there always seems to be a lot of beer left in the can after cooking. .
Not sure who is technically correct and after a few beers nobody really cares. .
Here's what I do. I go ahead and use the stands but don't put the can in the stand usually. I just place the stands on a pie sheet and pour some of the beer through the cavity of the chicken and then the remainder of the beer just sits in the pan.
Today we are using charcoal and a combination of mulberry and hickory woods. No particular reason. Fruitwoods generally go well with poultry and I like mixing the woods sometimes.
The temperature on the cooker got going pretty quickly.
I partially closed the baffle and got the cooker to cool down a bit. Since it is indirect heat, I wanted to cook them for awhile, but not blast furnace them to smithereens.
Now the international readers might appreciate that we have an outside thermometer that shows both Farenheit and Celsius. It can lead to a lot of discussion as to ther relative merits of each system, but for us it is kind of meaningless. Guess it is just what you are used to. . The problem with this thermometer is that it sometimes isn't very accurate, especially on a sunny day, which this day was.
August in Kansas is frequently almost unbearable with a lot of dry heat. But this year July was very hot and August has been a bit cooler than normal and rainy.
Sort of makes us wonder if it will be a cold winter.
Will I need to buy some better winter riding gloves? I ride year round. I always like to think about buying new riding "stuff". . The Weather Channel on the blackberry said it was only 71 degrees.
Who is right?
I don't care: It was a beautiful day.
Now sometimes I get a lot of assistance from various of our pets when I barbecue. The dogs seem always more interested if we are doing beef or ribs. Today it was the one of our cats that was hanging around a lot. He was busy chasing bugs and birds around the yard this day, but frequently came around to check on me and the progress of the birds in the cooker.
This is "Mo"
A little later I took this pic about halfway through the cooking process. It was looking pretty good!
My wife made some amazing potato salad and after it was done we chowed down.
. We didn't need to cook both chickens today, but the leftovers were good for the next few days. .
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New Employee

A CPA firm needed a new clerical employee to do some bookkeeping work for some of their clients. An extensive effort was made to find a good person for the job. Out of many applicants, the choices were finally narrowed down to 3 women who all appeared to be technically competent for the position. It was decided to have them all come back for a final interview and ask them all the same question, and make the final decision based upon their answer to that question. The question was this; What would you do, if after starting to work here, you discovered that we made an error on your first paycheck and overpaid you $300. 1st Applicant: "I'd cash it and spend it. After all this is a CPA firm and you ought to be able to do your own payroll accurately." Interviewer: We appreciate your frankness. And you are right, we should not make that kind of mistake. 2nd Applicant: "I am sure I woud notice it. But I would probably keep the money and not say anything about it and see If you caught the error later. I would put the extra money in my savings account and If you asked for the money back, then I would be happy to give it back to you. Interviewer: Well that is an honest answer and we appreciate it very much. 3rd Applicant: I am sure that I would notice the mistake right away and bring the check back to you immediately. After all, integrity is the cornerstone of this profession. Interviewer: Thank you very much for that answer. Interviewer: To all applicants: We thank you for your applications and answers to our final question. You all seem well qualified for the position and we will let you know as soon as possible as to our decision. The hiring commmittee for the firm met to discuss the applicants, their applications and their answers to the final question. Based upon the information contained herein, which applicant do you think was selected? . . . . . . . . . . Answer: The most attractive one! . . . . No animals were harmed in the creation of this blog entry No offense is intended to any female readers of this blog. Please know that this joke was modified from it's original version in order to reduce the offense that might be taken by female readers. Comments will be accepted from people that think they might know how the original joke was worded. Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed