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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Foggy Hike, Soggy Hike

Okay, it wasn't so much a hike as it was a stroll through the woods.  The Friday before last I had the day off and Troubadour and I decided since the weather was so poor and the fog wasn't lifting enough for a ride, we'd go for a hike.

We decided on William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge south of town.  We've hiked there before. It is great if you want a walk in the woods without mountain bikes, joggers, or pets on the trail.

We decided on a trail we didn't walk the last time, the Woodpecker Trail.


(A look at the trail from the car)

(A look back at the car from the trail)
We slowed our pace when we started to see the birds flitting about.  We saw a few woodpeckers. The Black Capped Chickadees were chirping at us and we also saw a Steller's Jay or two.   Rare for us since we usually see the loud squawking Western Scrub Jays.  We walked a little slower looking and listening to the sounds of the forest, muted by the dense fog.

(A slug's eye view of the trail)

(Greenery growing on the trees)

(There was a bird hiding in there somewhere)


(Our view over the oak savannah - fog, the reason we weren't on two wheels)

(Large white oak with a lookout platform)

(The view from the lookout platform)

(I was mesmerized by the silhouettes of the trees in the fog)

(So many trees, so many different branch structures)

(A few wooden boardwalks to carry us over streams and marshy areas)

(Oak leaf on a bridge railing)

(So much green this time of year)

(Moss making everything brilliant)

(I wonder if a bird has made his home here)

(Older white oak trees have beautiful bark)

(It wouldn't be a walk in the woods without mushrooms)

(A rough skinned newt of the salamander family - toxic if licked or eaten)

(A hollowed branch - horizontal and  5 feet off the ground)

(The backside of this tree was quite burned)
We eventually looped back around and made it back to the car.  On the way out we thought we'd find another short trail, but it was getting later in the day.  We opted to take a few pictures of the Fiat in front of the old barn and homestead then go home.

(Fiat by the Fiechter barn)
(Fiechter House and Carriage House, building started in 1855)

As we were leaving we decided to take one side trip into a lookout area.  The gazebo was open but the Cabell March Trail was not due to wintering water fowl.  We attempted a few pictures, but had the wrong camera for the zoom we needed. I apologize these are a little fuzzy.

(A view from the lookout gazebo)

(Mallard ducks on the logs in the water, and white swans in the background on the shore)

(Full zoom makes for fuzzy pics on a point and shoot)
We went home and had a nice chai tea latte to warm up.  

Our weather lately has been alternating between pouring down rain and dense fog.  Neither one motivating for a ride on two wheels, whether pedal powered or fuel injected.  

We shouldn't really complain since our weather has been above freezing and last year we had snow at this time.  Our high today is forecast to be 47˚F (8.3˚C) and you guessed it - rain.  Oh well, all this rain makes for some pretty greenery, except now we need to mow the lawn if it ever stops raining long enough to dry a bit.

- Au Revoir

" Sometimes we need the fog to remind ourselves that all in life is not black and white." - Jonathan Lockwood Huie
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

If Two Wheels Move the Soul

If two wheels move the soul, then four wheels keep me off the bus.

Not that there is anything wrong with taking the bus or rapid transit if it is available in your area. Troubadour has been taking the Subaru to work rather than the Tiger for the last few months.  In the cold, dark, and rain it just isn't any fun to do 23 miles of straight, 5-lane highway.  Especially after surmounting the very large dead raccoon obstacle on his way to work in the summer.

While he's been commuting via Subaru I've been on the city bus.  We've been running with one car for about 7 years now.   For me, it is quite convenient to take the bus to work, it is getting home that is the issue.

We live on a commuter route which means that it comes by twice in the morning and I can get on to come home at the parking lot downtown transit station at 11 am, 3:00 pm, or 5:15 pm.  Most days I am at work at least half an hour early and work through lunch.  I can usually leave early if I have a means to get home. I've been known to walk the three miles weather permitting.  If I miss the bus and the weather is too poor to walk I wait until hubby can pick me up at 5.

Enter the second vehicle debate.  We weighed the pros and cons and finally decided two vehicles made sense at this point.  Not only could I leave work early so hubby could come home to a warm house and dinner ready, but on the days I could leave a little earlier I could stop and get groceries on the way home so we don't have to do it on Friday afternoon or the weekends when it is busier.

We looked, and looked and debated new versus used.  We have a habit of being able to talk ourselves into or out of anything, so it wasn't an easy decision.  We test drove a few things and on the Sunday before Thanksgiving finally decided......and we drove home our new 2015 Fiat 500 Sport we purchased from Lithia Fiat of Eugene.  

(2015 Fiat 500 Sport - color - Billet Argento)

(Silver wasn't our first choice, but it was preferable to the pale green they had in stock)
With a Fiat cash back bonus and a Lithia discount we paid well under MSRP and had no complaints. Hubby even managed to get them to throw in winter floor mats.  It was a long day but we were pleased.  We took turns when we drove it the 50 miles home, switching up with the Subaru.  

Some reviews peg the little Fiat as not having much power but we chose the 5-speed manual transmission and the Sport model.  Press the sport button on the dash and there is enough torque to set you back in your seat....or maybe that is the way we drive.


We've had the car for just over two weeks now and I don't think there is one thing we don't like about it.  It is small, nimble, easy to park, and has great fuel economy - 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. I think that might depend on who is driving too.


So far it has had no trouble keeping up with traffic.  We've taken it on our favorite twisty road to Salem and also for a run up Marys Peak on Sunday and it did just fine.  I am glad we chose the manual transmission though, as I don't think the automatic would have been quite as capable.

- Au Revoir

" I must scream it to the world, my excitement from the top of someplace very high. Do you know many Ferraris?" - Luigi in Cars
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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

So Nice He Rode It Twice

Last Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving here in the USA) Troubadour was off work at 11 am, while I had to work until 4 pm.

He was kind and came and took me out for lunch.  We went to Vietnamese Baguette, one of our favorite places in town for a quick, hearty, and inexpensive lunch.

While I went back to the office he went home to take both big bikes out for a rip. The tires needed rotating and the oil needed stirring.  They hadn't been out since our trip to the Tillamook Air Museum in October, sad I know.

Wednesday happened to be a dry day that wasn't too chilly. With rains on the way he took advantage of the break in the weather.  He decided on a run up Marys Peak, the tallest Peak in the coastal range in Oregon.  From the turnoff at highway 34, it is 13 miles of twisty fun on a paved forestry road that is just one and a half lanes wide.

First up was Max.  I'd asked him to get a few pictures for me as I don't have any fall ones with the checkers on the tank.

He took even more photos than I anticipated.  Here are some highlights.

(Max at the Mary's Peak Parking Lot)

(Notice the wind blowing the tree sideways)

(Max at Parker Creek Falls)

(More Parker Creek Falls)

(An overlook on Mary's Peak Road - notice the low valley clouds)



(Fall color lingering on)

(Max hanging out on the valley floor)
Then he went back to the house for Lucy and did the same route up Marys Peak.  A route so nice he rode it twice.  I've included just one of his Lucy pictures in case he finds time to blog about his rides.

(Lucy at Parker Creek Falls)
He was having fun, but reported the wind gusts at the top were strong enough he thought the bikes might tip off their stands.  Needless to say, I managed to beat him home by a few minutes. He had a smile on his face. I think both he and the bikes were happy.

Not much other riding going on. Most of our mountain bike trails are all closed except to hikers until late Spring due to rains.  Bikes and mud make for messy trails with deep ruts.  

Our weather has been alternating between pouring down rain to freezing cold and 23˚F (-5˚C). We've managed a few long walks around the neighborhood but no hikes.

We are trying to ward off hibernation, but the sofa and hot coffee are calling.

- Au Revoir

"Wherever you go, no matter the weather, always bring your own sunshine." - Anthony J. D'Angelo, The College Blue Book
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Monday, November 24, 2014

Can You See Me Now?

I know with a post title like that, most of you might be thinking this is about hi-vis gear or bike lighting.  Not so, but it is about assessing your risk and being seen.

Life itself is full of risk assessment.  Conscious or subconscious, we are continually assessing our risk and making decisions accordingly.  

Whether on a bike or walking across the street.  We assess the situation, determine the risks, and decide how much risk we are willing to take.

ON THE BIKE

I am just heading to the store should I wear ATGATT? Do I really need those riding pants? Should I wear the armored jacket or just a t-shirt?  Assess the risk.

It is raining and I need new tires, should I go on that 200 mile ride anyway?  Assess the risk.

There is a dog on the side of the road, should I slow down and prepare for evasive maneuvers or should I just assume he'll stay put?  Assess the risk.

IN LIFE

I need to cross the street - should I walk to the crosswalk or dart across?  Assess the risk.

I am in a hurry.  There is no traffic, but the speed limit is only 45 mph, should I speed to get there faster?  Assess the risk.

I want to go walking at night - should I wear my black jacket and pants and not take a flashlight?  Assess the risk.

*          *          *          *

We live in a college town and Oregon State University's colors are black and orange.  For some reason the students usually just wear the black..... especially at night..... when darting across the street in traffic.  For the most part they are very hard to see. Although it is a risk they obviously have chosen to take, it is dangerous.

While Troubadour has been commuting by Subaru these last few months I have been taking the city bus.  Before the one-hour time change, that meant standing at the bus stop in the dark at 7am.  I realized I was wearing my black jacket and when it was raining, my umbrella was also black.  I assessed my risk and determined I was not making any better choices than the college students.

Luckily Troubadour found a pretty cool umbrella online and ordered it for me.  He first saw the umbrella in a Gizmodo article.  LINK.  And is made by SUCK UK.  The perfect umbrella for a motorcyclist that wants to be seen off the bike - the canopy is completely retro-reflective.  He ordered it from Hammacher Schlemmer and it arrived within a few days.

(Hi Reflective Umbrella by SuckUK)

(Umbrella with no flash or bright light - looks grey)

(Umbrella with camera flash mimicking headlights)

I have used it twice now and have noticed the following:

1.  People will actually turn down their high-beams since light reflects so brightly back to them.
2.  The handle isn't nearly long enough for me. I have to hold my hand by my chin.
3.  The canopy does not feel quite wide enough, but it does pack small for travel.
4.  It is an awesome idea for anyone walking in the dark in the rain.

$28 including shipping is a small price to pay for added safety.

Our goal as motorcyclists is to reduce our risks while maintaining the fun factor of riding on two-wheels.

What else do you do in your everyday life to assess and reduce risk?

- Au Revoir

"Take calculated risks.  That is quite different from being rash." - George S. Patton
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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Wee MB Ride last Friday

I was fortunate to have last Friday off.  After getting some chores done we went for a short mountain bike ride.  It was a little later than we anticipated so it was quite short.

Some background for that ride.......

Just over two weeks ago Troubadour found a great deal on a dedicated mountain bike for me (so I don't have to use the hybrid on single track) and we ordered it from REI.  40% off a 2014 Novara Madrona, we figured we couldn't go wrong.  A week ago last Friday we drove to Eugene to pick it up. It was as nice as we'd hoped.  27 speeds, 29 inch wheels, hydraulic disk brakes, and it is backed by REI's one year 'love it or return it' guarantee.

I think hubby got it figured out I'd need something besides the hybrid to willingly follow him down the primrose path single track trails without maiming myself.

Last Friday happened to be our first chance to take it out for a shake down ride.  Raise the seat further, adjust the grips a bit, and off we go. 

We chose the Vineyard Mountain Loop at the Lewisburg Saddle north of town.  We've previously ridden out there so we knew what we were getting into.  Just a gravel road to start off.  Bluekat has been out there recently too.  

Because of our late start and encroaching darkness, we didn't have time for the full loop.  We figured to ride for an hour and turn around and head back to the car.  It was all uphill until the turn around point.

We did stop for a few pictures along the way.  The sun even came out for a short spell.

(A look behind us at what we climbed)

(A look forward at the climb ahead)
Further up the road we spotted a bit of sunshine coming through the trees and stopped for a bit.


The sun through the trees made the leaves look bright.



(Artsy pic by Troubadour)


A little further up the hill we stopped at a fork in the road.


And a little further up we climbed.


We rode almost to the end of a spur road.  There were buildings ahead and we decided not to get too close - not knowing if they were private or research related.

But.... we found more sunshine.

(Troubadour's Trek X-Caliber)

(Me laughing at something Troubadour said)

(Arsty photo by Troubadour)

(Me checking out the cool looking fungus)

(Close up of fungus)

(An even closer look at the fungus)

(Last quick photo of Troubadour's bike)
We used this as our turn around point and it was all downhill back to the car.  While pedaling uphill kept us warm, the downhill ride was a wee bit chilly.  Even with gloves on my hands were cold by the time we got to the car. The thermometer in the car indicated 47˚F (8.3˚C)

We arrived home about 4:30 pm with about 30 minutes to spare before dark.

The main difference between the new bike and my hybrid is that the seat on the new bike is a little smaller and not quite as soft.  The brakes however, are much better for a controlled descent.  I did find it odd that there are no gear indicators on the new bike, but it didn't seem to matter much.  Is it too hard to pedal - shift.  Are you pedaling too fast without getting anywhere - shift.

Did I mention that uphill seems to be easier too?  More riding and less walking, hooray!

Saturday we drove to coffee in the heavy fog, then went home to get ready for the Team Oregon annual banquet in Salem.  It was a late night for us.

Sunday, was at one time, forecast to be dry and sunny.  Somehow that changed (as it usually does in Oregon) and the day dawned grey and drizzly.  Instead of taking the bicycles or motorcycles out we stayed in and did some honey-do projects.  Troubadour finished the back gate and also made a bike rack for the spare room to house the bicycles. He's crafty that way.  I tidied the house and baked some yummy squares - it's what I do. (recipe on the food blog next Thursday)

- Au Revoir

" Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." - Albert Einstein
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