Down time

Kind of. We decided to go down to Florida to change the temperature for a week.

St. Augustine, Florida
Windy yet placid

I didn’t take the week off from work. Instead I just worked in Florida. It’s one of the cool things about my job. Technically I can work anywhere as long as I have good Internet access.

On this day I sat in a vehicle near the ocean and watched the wildlife while I worked. I saw things I don’t normally see. For 15 minutes I watched a family of dolphins body surf the waves. I really wanted to take photos of them but I was presenting in a meeting which did not afford me that opportunity. It was so interesting and deliberate. One of them would go on its back while the others on their bellies. They were clearly playing with each other.

Then a few minutes after that I noticed a seagull testing his scooping skills. It would pick up a stick, glide up in the wind then drop the stick. As the stick fell it would swoop down and try to catch it before it hit the ground. I watch them try to get his seagull friends to join in but none did. For 20 minutes this game continued.

One of the days it was 85ºF and we were able to ride a motorcycle all around St. Augustine. The other days it was chilly and cloudy so we decided to stay “inside”. It was nice to slow down, eat seafood and camp in another State Park. Go here for a map of Matanzas State Forrest.

Well, hello there!

I would ask what you’ve been up to but I think I already know.

It’s been a while since I’ve published anything even though I’ve had plenty of time to do that. Things have been busy in the last couple of months in spite of the travel bans and lockdowns. I’ve spent most of my time around my farm doing all kinds of maintenance to vehicles, taking care of our bees, working from home, keeping up with the grounds, etc.

Lately the only thing different for me is I don’t travel for work. All our work is now restricted to online or over the phone. It might seem like a big change but really it’s not. I’m doing the same thing just doing it from home 100% of the time. It’s given me time to do extra stuff since I’m not spending any of my time on the road.

San Diego Coronado Beach at Sunset

Just prior to the lockdown I made many trips for work. One to the Denver area, one to San Francisco and another to San Diego. After return home from San Diego is when things got locked down. It was nice when I was there. The weather was perfect.

I shared dinner with a friend on the night the photo above was taken. People were out and about but in hushed tones. It was inevitable what was about to happen. Soon after I would be on a plane back home where I’ll remain for what looks like is going to be 4-5 months.

Ducati Multistrada 1200S

One of the machines I’ve been able to maintain is my Multistrada. It’s had a number of issues that I needed to repair which is now complete. But it’s fixed now and taking me to places that I like to go. Social distancing, of course. And just not this place:

Shenandoah National Park – Hogback Overlook

Because that place is CLOSED!

So many places around here are closed. All my favorite parks, some of the roads, all of the restaurants and the like. I’ve still managed to get some fun riding in even though I am not stopping anywhere along the way. That being said, I don’t have a ton of photos to share of my recent exploits into nature.

To keep people from gathering I’m also seeing various organizations blocking parking and otherwise making it very hard to really do anything including getting out for a walk or hike. This won’t last forever. One way or the other those barriers will be moved. There are simply not enough of “them” to keep “us” out. There are still other nice vistas around.

Kennedy Peak Trailhead – Luray, Virginia

Now that it’s warm I’ve been working more with the bees. I have 12 hives which have decided to split up on their own 5 times already this year. Of the 5 swarms I’ve managed to capture 4 of them. I’ve purchased two more hive boxes so if they swarm again I am hoping I can capture more of the bees. This should be a good year for honey production.

Of course, as much as I can I get out and fly my model aircraft of one type or another.

That’s always fun.

Then it’s spending time with the family I have close, eat, sleep and exercise beyond that.

The latest word on quarantine is that it’ll last through June. While other states (GA, TN) are opening up our states are much more conservative and likely will not. The virus is still taking its toll on people in the state so until that starts to go down I think this will continue.

Take care!

Oh, and wash your hands.

50 millimeter.

I first picked up a camera in 1978 when I was 15 years old. A friend of mine was working to be a professional photographer and let me hold his camera. I pulled the trigger of his camera a few times. From that moment I knew that I would eventually own my own camera with no means to make that kind of a purchase.

How it came about is unclear but eventually I did get a Pentax film camera with one lens. It didn’t seem like much at the time. It definitely was not fancy. A simple camera with basic lighting controls (F-stop, shutter speed). Back then the ISO was set with chemistry in the film being used. The camera came with a 50mm lens. It was enough to take a few college courses and become familiar with the photography process.

I had no idea what I was doing. It turns out, this is where everyone starts.

Since then the photography industry and methods have completely changed. My film cameras and lenses are all gone now. When I moved to digital I didn’t think I’d have a need for my film cameras and old lenses. So they were sold. Today I wish I had hung on to them. It’s one of my regrets.

After I sold my film cameras yet still years ago I bought an f1.4 50mm lens for my Nikon camera. It’s an amazing piece of glass. Lately I’ve used it exclusively. This is where I started with photography and a place I wanted to go back. So when I bolt out of the house lately with my camera that’s the lens being used.

The clarity of this lens is striking. With an aperture around f/9 and an ISO of 100 the photos look very natural.

Unfiltered with some light post processing to bring out the shadow areas. f9 / 100 ISO / 1/200

The photo above was done without filters. I do set my camera white balance to be in a warmer mode because the Nikon makes everything cold by default. Other than that, this shot was right out of the camera.

Every lens has a purpose. There are thousands of different types and brands. My focus on my own photography is to use what I own and become proficient with that. If you can frame it with a 50mm lens you can make any lens work for you.

This biggest lessons I’ve learned in my 40 years of photography is this: 1) always have your camera with you. It may not be the best camera but still bring a camera with you. And 2) stop and use the camera. If you see an image in your head don’t drive past it. Stop, turn around and go get the image. If you are with others that do not want to stop they are not on your path. Let them go.

That’s what I did here. And I had no idea a bike rider would drive right into my frame. Had I not turned around, got off my motorcycle and stood in the middle of the road I would not have captured any of this. I didn’t even see the rider coming.

Flashers on so no one would run over me. Turns out only a bike rider would ride by.

The more you pull the camera trigger the more you learn. It’s a common theme I hear from the pros: “I wish I had more images to compare”. Because you never get another chance to be in that same situation again. That opportunity has passed.

When I hold my camera in my hand today I know I’m hold a tool. I still don’t know why I take so many photos. So many of them only I have seen. I haven’t even printed many of them for myself. Still, I stand alone in these places and wonder where everyone else is?! I can’t tell you the number of times I look around and wonder why others are experiencing this same thing; this beautiful color on one of the first days of summer. But I was completely alone in a public park except for one bicyclist for almost 30 minutes.

Its because it’s my path. The place I’m supposed to be. My path has taught me to do the things I enjoy. If you can share the experience with others that’s great. If not, enjoy the walk alone.

Who knew my path would take me from a place of wonder with an old camera with a 50mm lens to where I was last night with my own camera and a 50mm lens. But I was ready.

I wonder, what’s around the corner?

Solstice 2019

Has it really been since Easter since I’ve posted?

Today is the summer solstice marking the first day of summer. Around here the air is more humid and warm. It’s not like this very long so the next few months are enjoyable compared to the very cold of winter. We soak up as much of the warmth as we can.

The last week was supposed to be stormy and wet. It turned out not to rain much at all. I worked to get all the grass cut so I didn’t have to worry about soggy ground. I have a lot of grass to cut each week so getting that done when I can is important. Turns out I had plenty of time and got to take the week off anyway.

It does get stormy around here. Although this was the week before it was supposed to get crazy. This storm brought crazy rain and wind. It was also the last time it really rained around here.

Since the weather is nice I hope to get out on my motorcycle some. It should be a good weekend to ride.

Normally this time of year, in particular today, I would be preparing for the Radio Field Day. This is the first year in, I think it’s been …, 10 years since I have not been involved in a very big way. It feels really weird that I would not be involved to the extent that I have been in the past.

Not only am I not involved but the club I belong to called the entire event off for 2019. It’s a weird time of inflection for our small club. Feels a little splintered. Probably a growth thing. It’s just weird to go from full throttle to a complete stop in the span of a year.

Back to the fun stuff.

My Ducati Multistrada 1200S at one of my favorite locations near home.
The riding around my home is some of the best in the USA.
Quiet time in the forrest.

My motorcycle takes me to cool places. Places I would never go in my car; down roads that are worth driving but much too far out of the way when I’m trying to get from point A to point B. It’s also a time I don’t have to think about anything else other than enjoying my environment and making observations.

Work has been busy which is most of the reason I have not been able to focus on my blog, photography, etc. Hopefully that changes soon.

The solstice is a time marker for me. A half way point in the year. A time to look forward and maximize the summer months to get things done in preparation for winter when things get cold again. Maybe go fishing, camping and otherwise chilling out. Its typically a quieter time around here.

I hope you have a good day!

We spent quality time together.

I’ve been getting ready for a long motorcycle ride for a few months now. On the last trip I took an electronic fuel sensing unit started to fail on my Ducati. It’s not a huge problem except that you don’t know how much fuel is in the tank and it constantly throws errors on the computer that are hard to ignore.

I took it to the local dealer over the winter in hopes they could repair it easily. There was a discussion that it was a defective part and that Ducati would make it good. The end result of that discussion was that for $700 they would change it for me.

Nope.

I purchased the part for $100 and started taking the skin off this bike. I was going to fix it myself.

It took 2 weeks to get the part. Apparently they put in on a boat from Italy after I bought it. Then by horse to Omaha Nebraska. It did get here.

By the time it arrived I had my bike apart, all the fuel out of the tank and ready to put the new part inside this tank. These gasoline tanks are not the ones you may remember. They are formed plastic built to wrap around the frame of he motorcycle. The tank alone is $1200.

Taking the skin off was not an easy process. Someone at Ducati decided it would never have to come off. Apparently they didn’t talk to the electricians who make shitty sensors. Long story short, I had to do some destruction to get the cleats out of the plastic and reconstruction to put them back in the plastic. That took a couple of days.

I got the part, cut the plastic connectors off both the part and wiring harness, soldered the new part directly to the wires, shrink-wrapped it all up and all was better with the computer.

In two more days I’d have it all back together. Well, except for two screws. Which, for the life of me, I could not figure out where they went. I’ll have to take a closer look the next time I take this apart. I predict this sending unit will last a few years if it was made by the same electricians that made the other shitty sensor.

Yesterday I took it out for a 200 mile ride. It ran perfectly. No errors from the computer. And nothing fell off the bike. That I could see, anyway. That’s a win!

2014 Ducati Multistrada 1200S – 150 horsepower, 417 pounds.

When I put it all back together I made sure the bolts would not seize up inside their fittings. And didn’t use the “Ty Stiller school of torque” technique for tightening them back. That technique is interesting. No bolt being too tight until it’s actually broken off and you have to drill it out. I use a gentler method. Nothing wrong with Ty’s methods if you don’t mind drilling things out all the time. Or just throwing it away.

So we got to spend quality time together before the big ride. I still have some work to do but should have it done in a couple of weeks. That’s a week or two before I have to launch. This is new to me. In recent times I’ve only had time to do things at the last minute. This is a nice change in my life.

All I had was my iPhone to take photos. This is the best I could get out of it.

Still decidedly winter looking in the mountains.

I drove my favorite 4 hour loop with an hour stop for lunch. The loop looks approximately like this on google maps:

No trip to Luray, Virginia is complete without a stop to Uncle Bucks for some southern style comfort food. I recommended it. Lots of people were out and about in this town.

It was a necessarily long day. I wanted to make sure everything is working properly. I’ve got to bleed my back brakes because they are pretty mushy. This is also a known problem with a Ducati design. My Honda has a physical linkage to the back break. The Ducati has hydraulics. The hydraulic lines sit right on top of the catalyst which essentially cooks the oil breaking it down over time. This week I’ll bleed them all out and make them new again.

The newer bikes take a lot more maintenance than the older ones. But they sure are fun to ride! And I was not alone. This weekend set up a perfect day of riding so everyone with a motorcycle, their friends and families were all all out riding today.

I rode alone. But wasn’t alone.

Jefferson, Texas

The route to East Texas

The route from home to Jefferson, Texas is not that exciting. I’ve driven the route many times before. This time I’m towing my motorcycle with me so we can do a “Shamrock Tour” once we are there.

I managed to take a little longer route to visit my friend John who lives in Brevard, NC. We both love to ride in North Carolina. He likes this area I like the area around Andrews. Back in 1996-1997 we were looking to move to Andrews because I could not stand the traffic in Atlanta when I worked there. I decided it would be better to fly to work every day than sit in my truck. Just before pulling that trigger I was transferred to Memphis but my search for a spot to land near Andrews has never subsided.

The trip through Brevard added another hour+ to the trip but it was nice to see John and have a place to lay my head for a day. I had meetings I needed to attend on Monday morning so it was also good to be stationary for those.

Back in time – Model A Ford – Model A father checking his phone messages. It’s nice to be stationary for a while.

The term Shamrock Tour was apparently created by RoadRunner magazine at some point in the recent past. The idea is that you go to one town and from there you will do 4 days of riding with each one of the legs the leaf of a Shamrock. I call it a clover leaf tour. They have the copyright on their term so I recognize that here.

We are, in fact, following one of their tours from the magazine. Sometimes at 80 miles an hour depending on who is leading. Today we did the shorter of all the days because we were fighting with the weather a bit. When we woke up the air is moist and cool but not raining. The weather is coming though.

Weather on day 1. Luckily we are on the leading edge of this so the rest of the trip will be clear.

It changed the way we rode. We didn’t go quite as far as we normally would but, looking back, we probably could have done the route as originally planned. The rain was predicted to start earlier than it did then rain more than it acutally has.

We can ride in all weather but it’s not that much fun in the rain. Sure, if you have to go to your next destination you’d go no matter what. But these kind of tours give you the flexibility to hang close to a hotel, go to a museum, read a book or take a nap.

The four clover leafs of this “Shamrock” tour.

We did the shorter ride towards Shreveport today. That was going to include a river boat ride but it appears that may have been a weekend only thing at this time of year. Everything is shut down on a Wednesday afternoon. We suspect that come the weekend that people will move into this place and the attractions will be available again. For example, there is a Museum Of Measurement And Time that doesn’t open until Thursday at 10am and only through Saturday. I definitely want to go into this cool place.

On Thursday (October 25, 2018) we are going the longer route down towards Nacogdoches made famous by Bonnie and Clyde. The route is approximately 250 miles. We’ll leave after breakfast, of course. One thing for sure is we have three squares a day. Not sure which way we’ll do the leaf but we’ll likely do it all just like it’s published. Paul has published the route on Google Maps so I’ll have that in my phone.

It’s October 25, 2018 and I’m up early. I find this mildly ironic because I am not a morning person and didn’t go to bed last night until about 2am. Interested in the state of the covered bike this morning I got outside to check out the elements. My bike is covered but wet, the air is moist and cool with no wind. It is going to take a while to burn off the moisture but that is exactly what will happen today.

It should remain clear the rest of the week now.

We made it to Nacogdoches without anyone being lost or injured which I found to be interesting since some of the group was doing over the limit and others well under. We have two types of riders on this trip; those that want to cover ground and those happy to stay above it. Riding happens at two very different speeds.

After lunch in Nacogdoches, Mexican of course, we split into three groups. One group headed back to the hotel, I needed to go to a local Wal-mart for sundries and the other making tracks for the next city on the route. Being the longer of the days we have to cover ground in all directions when we split up. Paul and Dad head to Gallatin, TX and I meet them there. Since I left first it was odd that they beat me there. But they did. Richard and Ed headed for the hotel.

Except for one evening we at at one single restaurant for dinner every evening. The name of the place was The KnightLight Theater with friendly wait staff and good food. We dined here 4 of the 5 nights we stayed in Jefferson. By the last night we were well known there. All of the food was good but my favorite was crawfish linguini.

By the way, we stayed at the Historic Kahn Hotel while we were here. We used this as a home base and start/stop for all of our rides. The hotel is sandwiched by cobblestone streets on two sides. From  the hotel everything we wanted to do was a short walk away. We walked to breakfast and dinner each evening. I never got in my car to do anything once I was here. Our stay here coincided with Halloween on a busy Saturday night. It was fun to see children dressed up going from business to business with their families. And some grown-ups doing the same. I swear I was with some witches at dinner. They sounded like it anyway.

On the 26th we got up, shared breakfast and headed to do a tour of Caddo Lake where we would learn about this natural lake and 500 year old Cyprus trees that live there. It afforded me an opportunity to sit in the front of a boat with my professional camera and take some photos against a high-contrast sky.

Caddo Lake, Texas

Looking back, any of the other skies we experienced this week would not have produced such pretty photography as you see here. The wind was cold and blowing the Spanish moss all around. I could spend some serious time just on the lake taking photographs. The trees are so majestic and old. There is a way of life here that is clearly different than any other part of the US.

Caddo Lake, Texas

Caddo Lake, Texas

Caddo Lake, Texas

We were lucky to meet Rich McFarland of Caddo Lake Bayou Tours for our guide. Rich is soft spoke and easy going. From the front of his boat I was able to snap the pictures above. Rich gave us a nice tour of the lake near his boat ram and history lesson of the area going back to it’s lawless years. It was one of the highlights of my trip this week.

Caddo Lake – Bayou Tour launch point

After the lake tour we headed back to the hotel to suit up for our ride for the day. We still had 200+ miles to ride and it was already the noon hour. Since it had only been an hour we last ate some of us were getting hungry and ate a hamburger while the rest of us took off on our bikes for tour #3. #3 was the northwest tour towards Sulphur Springs, Texas.

I like to call this particular tour the “Express Tour”. Not sure where we were headed but we were going there fast! And some of this trip was on “goat trails” including deep ruts of Texas red clay. I still have some of that on my bike to prove it.

We made it back to the hotel about the time the sun was going down. We gathered up the old folks and headed to dinner. You guessed it, back to the The KnightLight Theater! This night there was someone playing acoustic guitar and doing some singing. This was a hit for a couple of us who enjoy this kind of atmosphere and music.

It’s September 27. This day is just with the three of the Westerman clan. We shared breakfast at the Port Jefferson Outpost. I think we at here every morning before our riding. Like the other places, this little place is nice with good breakfast and helpful staff. 2 eggs, bacon, biscuit with gravy and some sweet tea. Good stuff. 5 stars from me.

We start the trip like every other on the assigned route given to us which included goat trails early and often. It wasn’t long before we were doing our own ride on the basic route outlined in the maps with copious “ad libbing” along the way.

I have trailer bearing issues and have to cut the trip short about 3/4ths the way around. Those issues behind me, the bike loaded on my trailer and my truck mostly loaded sets me up for an early morning departure. My trip home will be mostly interstate highway (30, 40 and 81). This is why I have the trailer. Slabbing 1,200 miles on a motorcycle on interstate highway doesn’t do anything but make your butt hurt and go through tires.

Me and my rig(s). New trailer bearings when I get home.

I am very glad to have access to my trailer on trips like this. You arrive in decent shape after several days of driving. I’ll be using this trailer a ton in the coming years.

Google – rubbing it in. Plane ride is < 5 hours.

So that’s it. Another successful motorcycle trip just about completed. In total, we drove about 850 motorcycle miles on this tour of the Jefferson area. By the time I got home I had driven 2,530 miles in my truck to get there and back. It took me 2 days to get back home (18 hours of driving).

A bonus was a stop in Memphis where I had lunch with both my sisters and brothers-in-law.. That was nice!

Work starts again on Tuesday so I have to B-line it home. I need to be rested and ready to go. Lots of new projects on the table at work.

Where to next?