Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's been a while...

Here are some things that have happened recently:

  • The weather is getting cooler, and I LOVE IT.
  • I dove into The Blue Hole, on the Frio River, from a not-very-but-kind-of high cliff. 
  • My roommate's dogs have learned to anticipate pizza crusts from me whenever I eat in their presence.
  • I saw a live porcupine.
  • The motorcycle was driven to Colorado, and almost all the way back.
  • The motorcycle's camshaft-driven fan came apart at speed, puncturing the radiator.
  • My roommate drove 3 hours to rescue me.
  • I found some instructions, ordered some parts, and replaced it with an electric fan. Amazingly, everything works!
  • Curtis and I went to Game 6 of the ALCS and saw the Rangers win the title for the first time ever! We won't talk about the World Series.
  • At this baseball game, I mistakenly walked into the women's restroom. For reals.

I have decided to do No Shave November. I considered doing Movember instead, but decided it would just be too creepy. Ten days in, I'm looking pretty rough.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010

    After many fuel mileage computations in the high 40's, I was super excited to finally calculate the following mpg:

    Hooray for 50 mpg!!!

    Not bad for a 30 year old bike. During highway driving, the RPM is really high, which costs me about 5 mpg. Maybe my overall numbers will improve after a good carb rebuilding job (by someone other than me!).

    The other night we had a brand new fire truck come by our station (it's a demo unit). Just thought the pics were cool. The end.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    The Heart Stopping, Thrilling Tale of When Bret Runs Out of Gas.

    Sometimes it takes more than once for me to learn a lesson. Like running out of gas, for example.

    Most motorcycles don't have has gauges. You have a trip odometer, and you know that, in my case, you can go about 100 city or 125 highway miles on a tank. The seller mentioned this to me, and he also mentioned that he had just put about a gallon of gas in it, without resetting the trip odometer. I overlooked this detail and assumed that I could wait until the dial said 124 and then go find a gas station.

    Fast forward to my first "real" drive. I picked up 277 south, and headed into what promised to be a great day's ride on a twisty two lane road winding through rocky hills (they call them "mountains" here...but I know better). It was great! It's such a change from normal driving. You lean into the turns, you get buffeted and blasted by the wind, you see the ground zipping along beneath you. You haven't seen a gas station in quite a while, hopefully there's one in Bronte because you don't think you can make it back to Coronado's Camp before the trip odometer hits 125. You approach a deserted construction site, with a temporary stoplight which alternates the flow of traffic over the bridge where a single lane is open. As you roll to a stop, the engine dies. You restart it. It runs for a few seconds, then coughs, sputters, and dies. You switch the fuel petcock to reserve, which is what you were thinking you could rely on at a time like this. It starts, runs, coughs, sputters, and dies. Hmmm.

    I ended up hiding the bike between a couple of construction vehicles and heading back to the road. I thought I'd just start walking back the way I'd come. It took about 5 minutes to figure out that at this rate, I'd be walking a LONG time, so I did something I have never done before. I stuck my thumb out.

    I got picked up almost right away. Like, less than 5 cars passed. I was shocked at how easy hitching could be. I ran up to meet my rescuers, who were oilfield workers or something...I could barely understand a word they said. Total rednecks. I tried to contribute to their indecipherable conversations with lots of oh, YEAHs, Hmmms, and Uh-huhs. One of them asked me something about where my sunglasses were. I explained that I had brought a helmet, but had left it with the bike. He looked at me like I was from another planet. "You gotta have some sunglasses, here, take these, they're cheap," he said. And he insisted I take them. I said thanks, and they dropped me off at Coronado's Camp Store & Grill, which is a BBQ restaurant with two barely functioning gas pumps.

    After telling my story to the cashier, she let me borrow a 2 gallon gas can and I filled up and headed back to the road. Once again, I had to stick my thumb out for maybe 2 minutes before I had a ride back to my bike. This time, it was an old man going to visit his brother in San Angelo. We talked about his family and grandkids, his upcoming back surgery, and the wind turbines that have popped up all over these hills. And back at my bike, I filled the tank and was back on the road.

    So, this probably isn't the most exciting story you've ever heard, but it was really quite a pleasant day, that's all. I marvel a little at the fact that when I was in a jam, I experienced the kindness of strangers...back-to-back-to-back, just like it was nothing. I guess the world is full of good people. It's nice to know.

    And yes, I did run out of gas again, several days later. It's just hard to know how much gas you have when you're not starting with a full tank! After all, the odometer method only assumes you're at zero when the tank is full, but if it's not, the math doesn't work.

    This time it wasn't such a production. I was 200 feet from a gas station and got a few stares as I wheeled my bike along sidewalks and strained to push it along the crosswalk when I got the walk signal, but that was all. Hopefully there will not be a third time...

    Monday, March 29, 2010

    Donor Sled: Aquired.

    A disturbing fact about my life is that, lately, there hasn't been much to write about.

    My brothers, this should not be.

    Hopefully, that is over now. Because I bought a motorcycle.

    I've been thinking about one for a while now. Still not sure entirely why. Maybe a 1/3 life crisis. But here it sits, in my driveway...

    So, it's a 1981 Honda CX500. At almost 30 years, it's a little bit scary how old it is, but it was a bargain! (Maybe when I turn 30 in a couple years, someone will be saying the same about me...)

    One thing that really got me excited about this bike is the amount of enthusiasm still existing for it. It was a very unconventional design, with the V-twin engine mounted sideways and liquid-cooled. Also, this was Honda's first bike set up to use tubeless tires. So in many ways, it was a game-changer.

    It's still very popular, and has a bit of cult status appeal because it was used very extensively by London motor couriers in the 80's. It has a reputation for being very reliable, able to take abuse, and practical for city traffic. Unlike most small bikes, many people outfit it for cross-country touring, as well. One version of this motorcycle was called the Honda Silverwing, and was basically a little brother to the Goldwing.

    So I'm very excited about having one. I'm going to do my absolute best not to drop it, and I plan on maintaining it well so it will last me a long time.

    Anyway, true to form, I have already had my first MISADVENTURE aboard this beast.

    More on that next time.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Elevatorial Frustrations.

    You know when you're riding the elevator--riding it for 4 floors at minimum--because if it were less than that, you'd take the STAIRS, right? And it stops. And opens. And someone gets on, and rides it exactly one floor before it STOPS again, and they get off?

    I HATE that!!! 

    It's not so much that my 20-second elevator journey just quadrupled in duration, it's...

    Well, that's it, mostly.

    The end.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    This blog is about as exciting as an extinct volcano.


    I suppose I should post something.

    I could talk about my trip to...


    It was fun. It was real. It was...real fun. And it was, most importantly, super cheap! I will miss flying for free when I grow up.

    As you can see, I scored some great tickets to the Oregon Symphony, with special guest Angela Hewitt. Being, as I am, a wannabe former budding virtuoso (yes, you're reading the words of a one-time Broomfield Piano Festival finalist), I loved it. Incredible musicianship.

    And it was fun watching the kids at the zoo watch the sea lions...


    And I'll go ahead and let the record companies know that I have purchased a new, more fancified digital piano and I am still a force to be reckoned with.

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    Mostly, I just think about space.

    There's a Shuttle launch on Sunday! Unfortunately, it's at 3:39 AM in my time zone. Not sure if I'm going to be physically capable of waking up to watch it live. But it's the LAST night launch of the shuttle program, so it may be worth setting the alarm and at least PLANNING to watch it.

    By the way, I am a space nerd, and YES I'm disappointed in Obama's decision to axe the Constellation program. I had always hoped that in my lifetime I would see the first great discoveries in space exploration, and maybe even the beginnings of colonization. Instead, it's looking like U.S. manned spaceflight is all but going away; after the shuttle's last flight, our astronauts will have to hitch rides to the ISS on Russian rockets at $50 million a seat. Forty years ago, we sent people to the Moon. With today's technology, we could do so much more. Maybe private industry will step in and do it themselves...and do a better job than a government operation.

    Wow...this guy's a real space cadet. I had no idea.

    In other news, I did shave my legs, as promised, much to the amusement of the sales guys. I am a man of my word. It was easier than I thought, though. And the lady that I rear-ended....let's just say she took me to the cleaners. There is no way there was $773 worth of damage to her car. Well, yea for insurance.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    Learn from my Fail

    I hit an old lady today.

    I rear-ended her, to be exact. There was a yield sign, I was checking over my shoulder, I thought she went....and she didn't.

    Whose fault was it? I'm glad you asked. It was MY fault.

    Luckily my friend and esteemed colleague was there, camera rolling, to document the ensuing events for you all to see. Thanks, Bart! I owe you one.

     I fought the law, and won.

     Hope is a fading rose

     He hangs his head as his accusers dance upon the ruins of his life.

    In case you can't tell from the photos, I got completely owned by this lady and the backup she called. Her daughter came up to me, very suspicious, and demanded the reason that someone was taking pictures. Again, thanks Bart, for helping me win friends and influence people.

    If I were to play basketball with her, one-on-one, and I went up for a shot, there is no doubt in my mind that she would block my shot and give me a "rejection," a "stuff," or a "facial." That's why I won't be challenging her to a game.

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    "Not Me" Monday

    I did NOT just start driving away from the gas pump, with the nozzle
    still inserted into my vehicle. Not me!

    There was also NOT a man that used to work on gas pumps watching as
    this happened, who looked at the pump and let me know that it was OK,
    I did not break the hose.

    Also, I did NOT afterwards pump some gas directly onto the pavement to
    make sure that the nozzle was still operational. Not me!

    Go, Mordecai!

    This weekend I randomly went to a falconry convention. It was ultra-nerdy, in the best possible way. My vet is a falconer, and he told me about it.

    I had no idea how awesome it would be! Did anyone else know how wicked cool falconry is?

    Well, trust me, it is WICKED cool. Way cooler than R/C planes. Flying something that you have complete control over is easy--but these birds are completely free to do whatever they want. The combination of their instinct to hunt and their will to come back to their owner is absolutely amazing.

    Harris' Hawk, the only bird-of-prey that will hunt with another bird, working as a team.

    The coolest thing is, these birds are by no means tamed. A bird-of-prey used in falconry loses none of its wildness, or the ability to leave its owner and fend for itself. At any point during free flight, the bird is free to fly off and disappear (and sometimes they do)!

    But most of the time, it simply realizes that its owner is a sure source of constant food, which is the one and only reason that it chooses to keep coming back. They're very intelligent--I could see that much from the way they flew ahead of people, waiting for prey to be jumped up. Some can even learn to work with a hunting dog.

    Dave's Golden Eagle (rare in falconry)!, after hunting jackrabbits. Huge wingspan!

    I got to go out hunting with Chris, a guy from Lubbock and his red-tailed hawk. We didn't catch anything, but the hawk narrowly missed a shot at a jackrabbit (normally way too big for that type of bird). He said that what he's been able to do with his red-tail--sending it after prey twice its own weight--is pretty unusual in falconry.

    Cameron's Red-Tailed Hawk letting me pet her

    On the way back to the truck, Chris gave me his leather glove and some raw meat of questionable origin. He whistled to call it in. As the hawk glided silently towards me, flapped its wings to slow itself and flared out, I began to brace myself for its landing. But when it dropped onto my wrist and and began tearing at the meat, I was amazed at how light it was, and how lightly it had landed.

    What a great sport. I'm a fan. It's a tremendous time commitment, so I can't do it right now. Maybe when I retire. Hopefully falconry will still be legal by then.

    For now, I'll stick with R/C planes.

    Friday, January 15, 2010

    DIGRESSION: A Harrowing Tale of FAIL

    I suppose I should offer some explanation to the theme, nay, the SPIRIT of this blog.

    I'm kind of an awkward guy.

    However, I have learned to embrace it as a special ability given to me. It's a kind of spiritual gift, I think.

    No matter how distressing an awkward moment may be to the people involved, it can serve as a source of entertainment and joy to spectators everywhere. In my relatively short life, I have given many memorable performances of epic awkwardness that will live in infamy for all time.

    For example, see this awesome tall bike constructed by the legendary James Barcroft, my brother-in-arms (and in law)? Notice how EXPERTLY he rides it, causing random, adoring young children to jealously flock to his venerable shadow?

    Well, when James left Abilene, somehow I wound up in possession of this extraordinary piece of machinery. One Saturday, I went riding. I'll admit it--I was hoping to attract some attention. To make a few people think that I was pretty frickin' awesome and unique for riding around on such a contraption.

    All was going well, until I actually rolled into the presence of an actual audience. A wedding, dear readers, had just gotten out, and a large crowd was exiting a church and walking across the street. I thought I'd hit the big time. Yeah, that's right. Point and stare. I'm on a tall bike and I'm THE MAN.

    Well, unfortunately, there was an old man, probably the only person of about 100 whose attention I did not have. He shuffled towards his car, lurching into my path, completely oblivious to the fact that a towering mass of steel was bearing down on him.

    It's time to mention that this bike did not have brakes. And I was on a sidewalk, with cars parked in the street on one side, and a parking lot on the other. "'Scuze me...'Scuze me..."I lamely called out. All this served to do was to ensure that EVERYBODY ELSE was watching.

    Right at the moment of collision, I reflexively did the only thing I could. Which was to swerve off the sidewalk and crash into the front bumper of a large SUV. This catapulted me over the hood, onto which I crashed like a fallen tree.

    Well, needless to say, the old man didn't even know what nearly hit him (actually, I don't think I avoided him entirely). He looked at me in bewilderment as I blurted apologies, still tangled up in my bike. He was actually kinda pissed at me. Who knew?

    Somehow I avoided leaving a Bret-shaped dent in the hood of the truck. But since approximately half the population of Abilene had just witnessed my spectacular crash, I decided to stick around and wait for the owner. I sheepishly waited as the crowds dispersed, whispering among themselves and undoubtedly thinking that I was pretty frickin' awesome and unique. When the owner finally emerged from the building, I uncomfortably explained that I had used his truck as an emergency old-man-avoidance-barrier. He took it with style, which is to say that he was mainly too alarmed and surprised to really say much of anything. I gave him my business card, but he let me off the hook.

    The bike has brakes now. Sort of.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    Making a Big Splash on the Internets--Yes, it's Launch Day.

    So. I'm going to give this whole blogging thing another shot.

    When I was golfing (er...networking) with my esteemed colleagues Brian and Bart, we decided to set goals for what our score would be. And the person that was furthest from his goal would have to shave his legs for the next sales meeting. Well...

    A couple days ago when the three of us had to stop by Target before lunch, I found myself in the cosmetics, blankly contemplating an entire wall of razors to choose from. I have no experience with razors. I use an electric. I couldn't bring myself to purchase one that's actually designed for legs. Because, hello, I've got to draw the line somewhere.

    While I was there, I also bought a Nerf gun. I'm probably going to take it apart and make some modifications so it will shoot further.