Sunday, April 29, 2012


It is Spring, but a recent Sunday felt more like an early autumn day. It would be sunny one moment and spitting rain the next. There was a chill in the air. And, the sky was full of clouds.

This wasn't the weather I was expecting. I had to preach in the morning and so my play day couldn't begin until the afternoon. I hoped the weather would be much like the day before with it's sunshine and 60F/15C temperatures. I wasn't aware there was rain in the forecast, but I woke to wet streets.

My original plan had been to inline skate or ride or best, do both. The uncertainty of rain took inline skating off the menu, but I could ride.

I passed the Presbyterian Church on Delmar. It seemed they had something special going on. This is the same Church which not long ago invited folks to bring ladders on a given Saturday and a sculptor used these to make an art installation. These looked to be some sort of flags, but the sign wasn't helpful and my curiosity wasn't aroused enough to do anything other than take this photo.

During one of the bursts of rain I got the idea to head over to the Community College where the Motorcycle Safety Classes are held. We had beautiful weather the weekend I took my course. During lunch I mentioned to one of the instructors how lucky we were to have such great weather. He agreed, but told me in some ways he liked it when it rained during the course. Yes, it was uncomfortable for him and often miserable for the students, but students who took the course in the rain learned something my class couldn't. They learned that everything we were taught worked in the rain, too. I'd been concerned about riding in the rain, but that comment opened something up in me. Of course, there are some traction issues, but that means slowing down, not staying home.

I wondered how the class was doing on this on again, off again rainy day.

Of course, when I got there it wasn't raining and the sun was out. The course looked dry. When I took the course it was mostly DR's, Rebels, and 125cc Eliminators. It has been a while since I took the course and the fleet has changed. The majority of bikes were TU250X's. There was only one DR200. Who knows maybe it was the one I rode during class, but I doubt it.

I hung around for a while just watching. A Harley rode by and seemed to check me out. He turned around and headed back toward me. He asked me if I was part of the program. I told him I wasn't. It seems he has a daughter who wants to take a class but lives outside the Metro area. He'd taken his basic training at a Harley-Davidson dealer, but had done an advanced class at the Community College. We talked for awhile. When he mentioned he'd had his bike up to 110mph, and I countered with having gotten 115mpg out of mine it became obvious we were very different riders, but it was obvious we both took safety seriously and loved to ride. We had a nice chat.

It didn't occur to me to take a picture of John until he'd pulled away. I just barely caught him.
He and I have been riding for about the same amount of time. He's in his mid-fifties, a few years younger than I am. He has 21,000mi. on his Harley in three years. I have close to 16,000mi. on my Symba in two.

On my way home I passed this road side rest spot.

Since I've seen this sofa setting in this same spot for a couple of months, I couldn't recommend it for a nap.
Another great urban ride, no matter what season it seemed to be.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Billie's Den

Billie, my Symba, lives in the basement garage of our Condo building. Our building is a small building, only eleven units and even fewer parking spaces. Our space is the only one with a sort of alcove. It is a few feet longer than any of the other spaces. It is in this alcove that Billie lives.

You can see the chain lube in the window, a tire pump, oil, and other odds and ends on the floor behind Billie.

Also, there are a few feet next to our space. This means I can navigate Billie to her spot even when Heather's car is there.

There still needs to be room for people to walk between Billie and the car. It is tight, but no one has complained. I think another scooter would fit nicely in front of Billie, but Heather is not convinced. Oh well.

Seriously, I'm very grateful to have this wee space. If not for it, I couldn't have Billie.

Thanks to Flyboy over at A View from Above for issuing a challenge to publish a picture of our Man Cave.  Not so much a Man Cave as a cozy little den....or hovel.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Oh, He Is That Leo

This post is about the importance of having the correct gear.

And, it is about Leo, the cat I serve.

Leo at rest.

At the beginning of the year we received a notice from the Veterinarian informing us it was time for Leo to have his shots updated. Heather called to set up an appointment. Leo doesn't like to go to the Vet. He makes no effort to hide his displeasure. He has developed a reputation at the animal hospital we go to.

When reminded who Leo was, of his prior visits, and the previous discussions about even the possibility of the Doctor making a home visit the technician said, "Oh, he is that Leo." She added, "Let me talk with the Doctor and I'll call you back." She didn't call back

Leo, in one of his more regal moments.

Leo is a cat with a history. He was found next to road when he was a kitten. They estimate he was approximately seven months old. He had been hit by a car and had a broken pelvis. He was nursed back to health and put up for adoption. This is when Heather came into the picture. She adopted Leo. He still has some nerve damage which effects his gait. It was quite pronounced when Heather first got him. He came with the name Mr. Weebles. Heather thought that demeaning and changed his name to Leo. Because he has limitations with his rear legs and uses his front legs to pull himself up on things, declawing him has never been an option, which should classify him as a lethal weapon.

Leo is what one could call a cat with personality. To say Heather found herself with a spirited cat is like saying a hurricane is breezy. When I came onto the scene a few months after Leo things weren't going very well. Heather was afraid of Leo.

I grew up on a farm and was raised around barn cats; some tame, some nearly feral, and most somewhere in between. I've had cats most of my life, but I'd never met a cat like Leo. He'd hiss and swipe at me like those wilder cats I'd grew up with, but he wouldn't run. Maybe he didn't know he could. Anyway,  he would get this wild look in his eye and it was difficult to not feel like you were his prey. Looking back I suspect he too was afraid, but I must say at the time I thought Heather had a mentally ill kitty on her hands.

I don't know if it was the firm hand I brought into the household when I arrived or if it just took a long time for Leo to adjust to his new surroundings, but whatever the case he seems to have turned it around, at least with us. Heather has commented how she never expected him to be a lap cat, but  seldom is he not on one of ours.

But, going to the Vet is still a problem. I've never had an animal who liked going to the Vet, but Leo's aversion to it is epic. And, although we hadn't received a call back, we did continue to receive notices from the animal hospital in the mail. Heather has been ignoring them, but now with us moving into the "windows open" season it seemed a good idea to get Leo's shots taken care of.

In the past Heather has taken Leo to the Vet. This time I was brought into it.  And, I was ready.

Kevlar jacket? Check.

Insulated and reinforced FXR Racing gloves? Check.

When we got to the Vet Leo threw his normal hissy fit. He growled, hissed, bit, clawed and tore away at me, but no damage was done. As he was carrying on the Vet commented, "Those are some awesome gloves."

Those are teeth marks. That could have been my hand.

As is the case with these things, it was all over rather quickly. And, Leo was back home to continue his charmed life.

Leo, no worse for wear, having survived his visit to the Vet settled in on the bed to do some light reading.

It's all about having the right gear and wearing it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

90% Chance of Rain

One of Heather and my favorite activities together is day hiking. This weekend Saturday was our together day, but the forecast was for rain. And, I mean they weren't exactly guessing. They had hung a big old 90% chance on it.

What to do? We decided we would take a road trip and see if we could find the Audubon Trail. the Audubon Trail is located in the Mark Twain National Forest. The hiking guide we have suggested hiking this trail in the winter months, but since we were just trying to find it, it seemed a rainy day in April would do just fine.

On our way out of town I noticed this hydrant. With the cone on its top it looked rather gnome-ish to me. What do you think?

Did I mention they said it was going to rain?

 They were right.

The Trail is located near the St. Francois-Ste. Genevieve County line Sourtheast of Farmington, MO. By the time we got there the sun was shining.

Getting there involves about 4.5miles of gravel road.

The unofficial Trailhead is located near the ford over Bidwell Creek.

There was nowhere to park, but the road did widen out. I pulled the Yaris over on the graveled shoulder. There were some open areas that could work for parking if the ground hadn't been so wet.  

The reason to hike this trail in the winter months is for the views. As we got out of the car and the insects starting buzzing around my head I could think of another good reason to do this trail during the colder months.

But, it turned out that a certain insect made our day. On the other side of the creek we came across a recent campsite.

There were butterflies everywhere. They were so thick they were literately on top of one another.

Most of the butterflies looked like this. 

But, some looked like this.
And, some looked like this.
I think I liked the blue ones best.
We, also, saw a new wildflower.

These are called fire pinks.
We didn't spend a lot of time at the trail head, but we are looking forward to coming back. I'm not sure we can wait until winter, but then again, neither of us are very fond of the kind of bugs that bite and sting.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Don't Know, A Few Surprises, and A Blue Sky

Today I took Billie to see her favorite technician in hopes we could find what caused the loud screeching sound I experienced last weekend when I was riding. We changed the oil and found nothing suspicious there. When we checked the oil screen, it was clear. There were no metal flakes. Actually, everything checked out just fine. There were no surprises and no smoking gun. All we know is when me wee chariot gets very hot something is expanding and rubbing against something else which makes a horrible screeching sound. What is that something? We don't know. Not knowing is a bummer, but knowing it isn't the piston is a good thing. I guess the moral of the story is don't run Billie wide open throttle.

I did get a little surprise on the way over to see Mike. This was the first time I've been to his present location. To get to his shop I had to turn off Morganford onto a side street to get to the alley where his shop is actually located.
Hmmm, Alma Ave. When I think of Alma this is who comes to mind:
Yep, my not yet two year old granddaughter has joined the world of two wheel transport. I had nothing to do with it, but I definitely approve of the color.

Speaking of color, I love Spring in St. Louis. The flowering bushes are all blossoming right now. Color is everywhere.
There is yellow.

And, there is this color pink....

And, there is this color pink.

Of course, there is also basic white.
Today was supposed to be a rainy day. No surprise there since I took a vacation day. Lately, it seems the weather is nearly always rainy when I'm off work. But surprise, by afternoon the sky had cleared, the sun came out, the rain went away, and I was able to fit in a nice 15mi/24km inline skate. I like surprises like that.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Good News/Bad News

While I'm not ready to believe the salt trucks are parked for the year and give Billie the bath she deserves. Today I did pull off the fabric windbreak I'd fashioned last Fall.
It was not a thing of beauty.

But, it worked.

Here she is. With the mirror extensions she looks almost like a big bike.

Today I actually went for a longish ride. It was a good news/bad news sort of ride.

The good news was I found a way over the Meramec River with which I'm comfortable.

One of the problems of having a small cc bike where I live is the rivers. To the north is the Missouri.  To the east is the Mississippi. And, to both the West and the South is the Meramec. The Meramec isn't as famous as the other two rivers, but like the others the bridges are all either part of the Interstate System and unavailable to me, or on divided highways, which are not the safest environment for riding.

The major bad news was in the process of finding my new route I ended up on a divided highway with Billie running WOT for over five miles. Actually, at first I thought this was good news. Billie was running at 55mph and everything was going great, and then came the hill, and then came the noise. It was a screeching metal on metal type of sound. Ironically, this was sort of good news. How could this noise be good news? Only in that it has happened before. Before when it happened I pulled onto the shoulder of the highway and made my way to the next exit. When I shifted down to second gear the noise stopped. I ran Billie for months without it happening again. The circumstances that day and the circumstances today were nearly identical. More good news, Billie reacted just as she did when it happened before. As before, I made it to the next exit, found a parking lot, and shut her down for a while. When we started back up all was fine.

More good news, I was where I could get on a divided highway for only a mile or so, cross the Meramec and drop off onto a secondary road. I had noticed this secondary road before when I was in my car. I had no idea where it went, but I figured today was a good day to find out. Plus I'd be back east of the Meramec and off of the divided highway with the speed limit of 65mph. This sounded like good news and it was.

To my pleasant surprise the road I was on, in fairly short order, wound its way to a road I'm very familiar with. It was wonderful. I went in a very short time from not knowing how far I was from home to feeling I was almost home.  This was the best news of the day.

Here's a few photos from the day.

See the toad?