Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rainy Anza Pictographs Run

I almost wimped out on this glorious ride, so hat's off to Mark for holding my feet to the fire on this ride. Errr... well, it felt more like "waterboarding" I suppose. When I woke up at 6am, the rain was pelting the house and with visions of last nights wind advisory in the mountains, I texted Mark to say I was gonna do the responsible thing and wuss out. His one-word response spoke volumes: "OK".

Crawling back into a warm bed, I was still thinking about the ride but only on a different day. Mark was having none of that - his next text: "For someone who wants to ride to Alaska someday you're letting a little rain stop ya? It's gonna be a great day! It's only an hour ride to the desert." *sigh* He was right!

We had a short call and I was to meet him at 9am instead. I set off in chilly but scattered cloudy weather here in the city, but dressed to the hilt for warmth. Highland Valley road had puddles and mud to dodge, but slow and steady was the name of the game today. The rain started as we entered Ramona and there were nothing but dark clouds ahead. The going was slow, but the bikes felt pretty sure-footed on the tarmac. I'll be replacing the F8's tires in another month or so though.

Passing through Santa Ysabel, Wynola and Julian, the rain was steady, the chill deep (about 40 degrees), and the fog deeper. Really brutal and as miserable riding conditions as I'd been in since the Seattle Sabbatical 17 years earlier - good training ride, I thought, as if trying to pump myself up. Did I mention is was cold, cold, cold?!!

We'd agreed to just blast through Julian and continue down to the desert as fast as possible. Banner Grade in the rain was interesting - they call it a grade because it's steep and curvy I suppose. Ha! Once we straightened out, the bikes got their legs stretched a bit as we headed out S2 and passed the sign demarcating the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Mark had been out this way a month ago and had been itchin' to take a dirt trail to the Indian Pictographs, but wanted an able-bodied sucka to go with him. Ummm... that would be me.

Turns out this was a GREAT destination, a really fun 8 mi ride on mostly hard-packed jeep road punctuated by puddles and some loose sand. Each of us nearly keeled over a couple of times on the big Adv bikes, but somehow kept them upright. The air was crisp and the rain had stopped. The heavy smell of wet creosote bush wafted into our nostrils; one of my favorite smells from the monsoon seasons spent in Tucson.

Probably the funniest, best story of the day trip had to be Mark turning his R1200GS into an "ark" of sorts. We'd been dipping the bikes into a few puddles as we made our way down the road and, feeling a little froggy, Mark steered the GSpot straight through the middle of one of dem dar puddles. The next thing I saw was his front wheel heading DOWN into the puddle instead of through it! The water was well over his cylinder heads and a huge wave of water splashed up from his "bow." He gunned the engine and plowed out of the puddle, but not before being drenched head to toe.

I laughed my ass off, neatly steering around the killer puddle, as he stopped his bike to assess the situation. Muddy water was dripping from all over, including from the top of his helmet. Crazy stuff; good stuff! Watch the "debrief" video here.

We made it to the Pictographs all right, and set about climbing off and stretching after nearly 2 cold hours on the iron steeds. Giddy happy, and proud of the way the bikes had performed for sure. As Mark wrung out his socks, I took some pics and surveyed the squall coming up the valley behind us. It was clearly going to be a rainy dirt ride back to S2. We decided to bring the kids back to this spot and actually hike to the Pictographs next time - neither of us were up for a mile hike in riding boots in the rain.

Heading back on the trail was just as much fun as heading in - picking your line, avoiding deep sand, only heading through water when absolutely necessary. Rain pelting, but that just added to the "aliveness" of the moment.

Ask me how I really felt about the cold rainy ride!

We decided to stop for coffee in Julian, but the weather was so lousy, we kept moving until Wynola when I pulled over to check out lunch at a bistro called Jeremy's. Much higher class than I expected, but food oh so good - highly recommended. Hey, any place that lets me hang the dirty Aerostich on their fancy coat rack goes to the front of the line in my book!

I should have stopped for gas in Ramona, but was late getting home as it was - pulled into the garage with an indicated 9 mi left on the tank. All I could see was the mud and grime of another excellent adventure.

H1N1 Done & Done

Even though what we now know H1N1 is pretty much a fake epidemic, Kim and I had the opportunity to get the kids vaccinated last month, to the tune of about 4 hours waiting in line to be one of the "lucky 1000."

Because Em is under 8 though, she gets 2 snifters up the nose. Last Saturday, dear 'ol Dad (that's me) got up about 5am and, with coffee in hand, headed down to one of the Poway elementary schools. I figured getting there at 5:45 would put me damned close to the front, if not #1. Boy, was I wrong! Rain or not, there were scores of people ahead of me, and by 7am - 2 hours before the first shot would be administered - there were hundreds in line.

The good news is that, as with last time, making small talk with your neighbors is kind of fun. In November I chatted with a General Contractor for a couple of hours; this time I met Robert, a Biomedical Robotics Field Engineer. Whoa! I thought of some kind of bio weapon arthropod, but, well... the reality is that he fixes the machines that administer thousands of precise doses in samples at drug company labs around the Western U.S. Still damned cool.

Kim dropped Emily off about 30 minutes before we got to go in, her hair all disheveled from just having been awakened. We got 'er done and were off to the rest of Saturday - building a "sleigh" for our Scout den and watching the Wildcats lose badly to the San Diego State Aztecs. Still, we bought some piece of mind for the ladies in the household.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Twilight Run

It started with a simple phone call last week from friend and fellow rider Mark. Asked whether he'd been riding lately, he remarked that he'd done a solo blast out to Ocotillo Wells recently, leaving S.D. at 3pm. Since Ocotillo is a helluva long ways out, and it's dark at 5pm these days, that was an interesting ride I thought and filed it away. Fast forward into our busy weekend lives and the only time either of us could break away was late afternoon. Thus, the "Twilight Run" was born!

Not to be outgunned by Ocotillo (although that sounds fun and we will do that!), the consensus was to head out to the foothills of the Laguna mountains, and trek along from Hwy 8 to Julian via Hwy 79. By the time we got to the Descanso turn-off to Hwy 79, it was 4:30 and the sun was fading quickly. We accelerated and took off, not wanting to waste even a precious glimmer of light. Fortunately, there was almost NO traffic and the 25 mi to Julian went by very quickly.

But oh so beautiful: The long shadows; deer in the meadows; crisp air; hum of the bikes and curves aplenty; headlights glancing off pavement, barely illuminating the curves ahead. While I wasn't worried about ice (yet), the bike thermo registered 40 degrees in some of the valleys. Yahoo - that's bracing!

By the time we hit Julian, it was dark with residents and visitors alike clutching their jackets about them and scurrying for the indoors. The town was adorned with white Christmas lights already, making a pretty sight. A line of people waiting for pies at the Julian Pie Company stared as we drove by, perhaps shuddering as they imagined the wind chill factor on the bikes. I was pretty committed to getting some soup and a cup of coffee, so we cruised through the 4-way stop in the center of town on to Bailey's BBQ.

Bailey's smelled great walking through the door, an concerto of spareribs, beans, coffee, and wonderful hot coffee. A few couples and families looked up as we walked inside with our riding suits, but turned back to their own meals quickly. Mark and I talked of light subjects and future travels on the bikes - Tombstone or Utah anyone?

Then it was time to jet. Bodies warmed nicely, we stepped out into the ever-chilling night air for the dark ride home. Heading down the hill, rounding corners, trees lining the road, stars and new moon blazing. Very little traffic, and though "inky black," our pace was brisk. By the time we scooted through Ramona leaning into the curves of the tarmac past Archie Moore road it was still getting colder, but home was close.

Mark gave a quick wave as we parted. I rolled in to Buckwheat Manor, immensely satisfied with my first Twilight Run. As I entered the house, the kids ran into my arms making the night rave even better!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oceanside Pier Fishing with the Scouts

Practically nothing stirs a boy or girls heart with excitement more than the promise dealt by fishing: luring a floppy sea or lake beast to snatch at a hook and dragging said fishie to the surface against her will. It's a thrashy frenetic time for the fish and kid alike when the scaly, googly-eyed creature finally breaks the surface. "What the hell?!" no doubt top of mind for the fish!

We took to famous Oceanside Pier last weekend to rent sea-faring poles and try our luck. Etho and sister Emily were looking forward to the challenge. It was a breezy afternoon,warm, and the Pier was crowded. We rented poles and bought the bait suggested by the shop proprietor - in this case Squid. Meanwhile the kids were scolded by a homeless dude for messing with the pigeons; I decided to let that be a life lesson...

As the only one who had a pocket knife on him, I was nominated to be the bait cutter. Soon all had poles in the water, some 40 feet below. While the grizzled vets were pulling Mackerel in around our merry band, we were drawing blanks. For awhile... Finally one of the boys landed one after about 30 minutes! Every other kid leaned the poles against the railing to go take a look, then went back to redouble their own efforts.

The girls were mostly prancing about and I wasn't paying too much attention until Em and Tina bounded up with Squid tails sleeved on to their thumbs - who woulda thunk it?! Giggling, bloodthirsty lasses. Good training I thought for later life- ha!

As the afternoon wore on, another couple of fishies were hauled to the surface by our crew, but a little fatigue set in as the shadows grew longer. The girls shifted their attention to a dead fish one of the many Filipino families had been using for bait ( hacking meat out of it as needed). Pretty soon they were waving it around like a trophy and poking at it's glassy eyeballs. Fun stuff, that stiff fish.

Everyone had worked up an appetite so we asked for a local recommendation and landed at Las Colimas, a fast sit-down Mexi place about 2 blocks from the Pier. Cheap and didn't seem to look askance at 8 or so loud kids.

It was a good day for me - relaxing with minimal "referee" work with the kids. But best of all was the note Ethan wrote me on my iPhone afterwards: "Hi dad thank you for helping me fish today i loved it besides the part when Emily put the bloody fish in my hair. I can't believe Emily keeps a pet squid in her pocket."

Warms my heart - whether we caught a fish or not.

(blogged from Sky Harbor airport via iPhone)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Late Night at the La Rue's

The Macs are humming, my eyes are bloodshot.  Definitely time to turn in after a Scout meeting and hours of work on Nik Software business.  Making my way slowly up the stairs, my first stop (as always) is to check on the kids.

They are peaceful; fast asleep.  Softly breathing.  Bella the Vizsla is curled up at Emily's feet. Ethan is lazily stretched out, on the verge of snoring.  Though beat down by life and work, I'm cognizant of how blessed my life is...  these living souls are connected with mine, never to be severed.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Football - A Photographer's Update

My son Ethan is enjoying his new-found football "career." The boys on the 2009 Rancho Penasquitos "Stampede" team are - as a whole - a good bunch of young men with a decent work ethic and desire to win. Their record stands at 1-2 after this weekend where they scored on a long pass/run-after-catch of 35 yards or more. The boys were ecstatic. Here's the video of that TD play shot by team videographer Harry Huang.

As team photographer (using borrowed gear from either Nik Software or Tony Corbell), I'm privileged to hang out on the sidelines happily snapping away and trying to get the best shots I can muster. A few sports photography tips from the trenches:
  1. Much as I hate to admit, there's no substitute for a big lens. For instance, Tony's 300mm Tamron will do quite nicely thank you.
  2. Snap a lot of shots, but pare down mercilessly back on the computer.
  3. Our games are usually in the broad daylight so far, and I've been shooting in Aperture mode at f-stop 2.8 - either the Tamron or the Nikkor 70-200mm 2.8 VR (a sweet lens).
  4. High-speed crop mode - if ya got it, flaunt it baby!
  5. Position, position, position. The first game, I was reluctant to swing over to the opponent's side of the field. But half the game the ball was positioned on the hash mark closest to the "bad guys." By the second game, I was roaming far and wide, including on field during the coin toss. That leetle "Photo Pass" the Team Mom gives me is pure gold, man!
  6. Behind the scenes and candids - I arrive 90 minutes early with Etho to get pics of the boys warming up and weighing in, shots of the coaches, and "scene-setting" images. I don't know all the boys, so I just shoot away hoping that by the end of the season I'll have a good mix of each boy (candids, game shots, etc.)
  7. I am pretty serious about getting a mix of offense, defense and special team shots the first half so I have those covered. At halftime, I'm shooting candid pics of the boys sucking down oranges and listening to adjustments by the coaches. The second half, I follow every play with the lens, and try to mix in some artsy shots too.
  8. Looking for "grit" - I love the shots of struggle, boy vs. boy locked in battle. You know, shots my homeys Alex and Jon will dig, taking them back to their H.S. days when powering over some puny lineman and questing for the QB ruled their days and earned bragging rights the following week.
  9. Coaches - I try not to miss the opportunity to get a good shot of the coaches doing their thing - talking to a Zebra, holding up a dry-erase board with the play, motivating the boys to play their best.
  10. Post-processing (you knew it was coming) - There are a lot of ways to skin a cat (I suppose); here is my take: I use Capture NX 2 from Nikon to review and rate the images as either a 4 or 5. The pics that are rated a 4 mean that later on I will just batch resize them and post to my favorite photo-sharing site, SmugMug. If they are a 5, that means I'm going to take a shot at enhancing them. NX 2 is smooth because it handles the native NEF files shot from the Nikon D2X or D3 (my faves) so well. The RAW conversion is quick, and then the program invites you to subtly enhance or get crazy-creative. In the latter mood, I often turn to the Color Efex Pro 3.0 for NX2 photographic filters to either draw attention to the action or create a completely artistic scene.
It's all a blast and I hope the team keeps "calling my number" for their photography! Now, enjoy a few pics - it's Game Time!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Great Sausage Caper

I knew for weeks before arriving in Ohio for the 2009 edition of the La Rue family reunion – a tradition dating back over 30 years – that there would be a considerable amount of work to go along with the reminiscing and merriment of the weekend. The “Left Coast” La Rue family had traveled in some 6 days before the Saturday, July 4 festivities, and it was a fine, trouble-free ride.

The “work” to which I’m referring is not so much labor, but a labor of love: the making of venison sausage or, to my eyes, “The Great Sausage Caper" (since I knew at the end of all this I was gonna steal some delicious meat!)

Dad (Carl) and I began early on Monday morning with a ritual my hunter-sister later called “processing.” Basically we were carving meat off the leg bones of a deer, making sure it was free of any freezer burn that might have crept into the meat or hair that might still be remaining to lodge in the unsuspecting teeth of an innocent eater. Afterwards, we cut it into grinder-sized chunks. It was a tedious process to yield the best meat, but easy conversation and a light mental energy task carried the next 3-4 hours well…

Before grinding could commence, Dad’s recipe called for mixing the venison with pork sausage, to give the whole concoction a little fat and lots more flavor. The commercial-quality grinder shone with power and purpose on the worktable. The threads were coarse, most likely for machine longevity and ease of cleaning. At the top of the grinder was a tray that allowed us to move venison, pork and curing agent into the round maw of the feeding hole. Emily delighted in pushing the meat-mixture into the hole with a plastic pole, and seeing the resulting stringy mixture of raw meat poke out from a screen in the machine’s side.

This mixture was pressed into rectangular baking pans and then compacted with as much force as possible and sealed by smooth butcher paper. Dad explained that he wanted the meat to properly cure and that the way to do that was to have it compacted to the point of molecularly bonding - I almost called “BS” at the term “molecular” until I realized that’s what it was probably doing. As it turns out, we ended up kneading the mixture by surgical-gloved hands 2 times a day for 3 straight days, so I had a lot of time to think about it.

Did I mention we kneaded this concoction 2 times a day? Egads that meat was cold, but our mission was clear – mix, mix and mix again to the point of molecular bonding (that’s just darned fun to say!).

After the kneading/curing process, it was time to stuff the meat into casings. Once again we turned to a machine. Dad would hold the casing bag – conveniently pre-labeled with the words “Venison Sausage” – tight against a tube, while I fed meat into a top-mounted cylinder and cranked a “piston” down to squeeze the highly compressed mixture into the sausage tube. Dad had poked a few holes in each bag to allow moisture to ooze out. Once a bag was full, we crimped the end with a u-shaped metal clip.

When we finished, 14 tubes of sausage lay on the table. I took pride in cleaning the equipment and washing down the table so that Dad didn’t have to bother himself with mundane “housekeeping” work.

The next day was “smoking day”, which I greatly looked forward to: basically 14 hours tending a fire to cook and smoke the meat.

Here’s how we did it: A dozen years ago or so, Dad rigged up an old Frigidaire refrigerator on top of a small hill behind the barn. He had dug a trench up the hill and laid a pipe up underneath the fridge. At the bottom of the hill was an enclosed fire-pit. The smoke from the fire-pit rises up the pipe and into the refrigerator, helped along by two draws cut into the top of the appliance (one of which was controllable by wire from the bottom of the hill).

Dad got up at dawn to start the fire and hang the meat from racks in the fridge. He woke me an hour later. The fuel was a mixture of sassafras, apple and maple wood, stored in a small woodshed next to the chicken coop. The smoke smelled great. Occasionally it rained slightly at times during the day, but that did not detract from the mission: 170 degrees steady!

As I said, I looked forward to the day because there would be no distractions from the job. I read Sherlock Holmes, wrote a bit on the Mac, watched the rain for awhile, and chatted with anyone who wandered by. Ethan busied himself tending a burn pile nearby, and driving around on the Kawasaki Mule (a four-wheeled vehicle with a tilting dump bed). Sister Dana, brother in law Bob and their family showed up. Dad supervised every once and awhile, and we all stayed well lubricated with rum & cokes.

Long about twilight, Dad and I opened up the fridge door for the first time and stuck a meat thermometer in some of the casings. The internal temperatures in the neighborhood of 152 degrees (give or take) seemed great and it was time to test the meaty fruits of our labors. Whoa… delicious. Not to say I was surprised, but I was…well, surprised. It was hot and flavorful.

We cooled the sausage by spraying it down and then moved it back into the barn to cut and wrap in butcher paper again, ready to dole out. So… the “Caper” comes to a close: I myself brought a few sticks home and am enjoying venison regularly, metering it out to stretch the goodness.

Thanks for the education, Dad!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fan Voyeurism of the Highest Order

I recently received an email from one of my all-time favorite bands, Marillion. They have been playing their own style of rock - some would say it ranges from progressive to pop - for over 30 years. While not an stadium-filling kind of ensemble, Marillion are undoubtedly popular and fill venues worldwide with music-hungry fans.

Fifteen million albums sold, sharing the stage with Queen, a catalog with literally scores of songs, and more world tours than you can shake a stick at is nothing to look down upon.

After being introduced to the band in Tucson in 1986 by Herman Brau, a guy Rob Schumacher and I met the previous year in London whilst back-packing through Europe after college, I quickly fell in love with the style, the lyrics and the cadence (if you will) of the band. They drew upon influences like Genesis, Camel, and the Beatles; later Radiohead and others. They are on their second singer, who joined the band in the late 1980's. Singer Steve Hogarth took some getting used to, but brought a more "poppy" influence and certainly a greater sense of social and environmental sensitivity that did their previous singer Fish.

Still, the standout for me has to be Steve Rothery, one of the most soulful rock guitarists of his own right I've ever heard. Read an interview from Classic Rock Blog here. Plus, he races Porsches in his spare time! Seriously though, his solos are to die for. Click here for a listen to a great song called "Neverland" that features the full measure of the band.

KLR and Pete Trewavas (bassist) & Steve Rothery (lead guitarist) at the LA "listening party"

I've seen Marillion a few times, interviewed their keyboardist Mark Kelly, attended a "listening party" in LA, joined their "Front Row Club", and even participated as an early contributor to the Internet fund-raising North American fans conducted in the late '90's to help fund the band's tour here in N.A. All of it - including the fan-funded tour - has stretched into a marvelous experience and I think perhaps the inspiration for their forward-thinking approach to using the Internet to connect directly with their fans. As such, over the years they've added some great staff like Lucy Jordache and Erik Neilson (to name but two) to handle the website, promotions, tour planning, ordering, etc. and well as linked up with video producers The Boom-Boom Boys to create some killer DVDs.

Which brings us back to the aforementioned email announcing Episode #1 of "Racket TV" (Play now on the Marillion YouTube channel) The bands' homespun practice place and recording studio is called the Racket Club. This first episode begins the chronicle of the making of their next album, which will be an acoustic "re-rendering" of many of their earlier songs (and maybe a few new ones) called "L=M" (or Less equals More).

I, for one, am hoping for a band rendition of "Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney). The interview with bass guitarist Pete Trewavas is cool as are the clips from the studio floor filled with all manner of interesting musical goodies.

L=M is promised this fall; you can bet this rabid fan will be checking out every Racket TV video and will be most assuredly pre-ordering!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"It's All Fer Me Grog..."

Anytime someone asks for a campfire song, I can't help but think back to one of the more formative times of my youth: Outward Bound Colorado.

The time was the summer I graduated from Sabino high school and to commemorate the achievement my mom and dad asked if I wanted anything special. In very short order, I'd replied that going to Outward Bound would be a terrific life experience. Plans were quickly set in motion to attend.

I hopped a flight to Denver the day after school ended and was off on a strenuous trek where we spent some 3-weeks above 14,000 feet in the Rockies. One of the trail songs that I recall we sang a lot went a like this:

Well it's all for me grog, me jolly jolly grog
It's all for me beer and tobacco
For I spent all me tin with the lassies drinking gin
Far across the western ocean I must wander

The trouble is, I'm sure there were more lyrics but can't for the life of me recall any. I mean, we sang that bloody song for days on end! Maybe it's time for a deep hypnotic trance, or... GOOGLE!

A ten-second search on the first line of the song and I'm listening to "It's all for me grog" on the site Well... blow me down! Unbelievable. Click here to listen to a lo-fi streaming version of the whole song below... Thanks Google (and Marc Gunn) - I'm complete now...

"It's All For Me Grog"
Background: Traditional sea shanty and a rousing drinking!
Chords: KEY D

Well it's all for me grog, me jolly jolly grog
It's all for me beer and tobacco
For I spent all me tin with the lassies drinking gin
Far across the western ocean I must wander

Where are me boots, me noggin', noggin' boots?
They're all gone for beer and tobacco
For the heels they are worn out and the toes are kicked about
And the soles are looking out for better weather

Where is me shirt, my noggin', noggin' shirt?
It's all gone for beer and tobacco
For the collar is all worn, and the sleeves they are all torn
And the tail is looking out for better weather

I'm sick in the head and I haven't been to bed
Since first I came ashore with me slumber
For I spent all me dough on the lassies movin' slow
Far across the Western Ocean I must wander

Where is me bed, me noggin' noggin bed
It's all gone for beer and tobacco
Well I lent it to a whore and now the sheets are all tore
And the springs are looking out for better weather.

Where is me wench, me noggin' noggin' wench
She's all gone for beer and tobacco
Well her (clap) is all worn out and her (clap) is knocked about
And her (clap) is looking out for better weather.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Red Barchetta

Those of you familiar with the Canadian powerhouse trio Rush will no doubt recall a sonic gem of theirs from 2 decades ago called “Red Barchetta.” The name refers to a famous classic sports car built by Ferrari, but later was also the name for a lame Fiat drive. The former car earned its stripes by being fast and sexy.

The lyrics of most all of Rush’ songs, penned by drummer god Neil Peart, have often strayed – strike that – plunged into glorious sci-fi epics, which endeared the band to many free-thinking youth over the last 30+ years. Red Barchetta was a song on their "Moving Pictures" album about one such young man living in a distant future age where socialism at least and fascism at most reigned. It was also, as an entry in Wikipedia described it, a “post-petroleum future in which the ‘primitive’ gasoline-burning sports cars are prohibited by ‘the Motor Law.’” A controlling society, the youth were compelled to rebel in ways that the State could only hope to contain by vigorous use of the police.

This particular boy would escape to his “Uncle’s country place that no one knew about” and drive a perfectly preserved Ferrari every few weeks. One such time took immense effort to realize a narrow escape from the robotic “alloy air car” minions of the totalitarian society in which he was irresistibly trapped.

While on vacation in Ohio last week, I was delighted to learn that my father had his own version of an older exotic foreign sports car – red, of course – for me to drive: a well-preserved, daily driver of a convertible 1991 Jaguar XJ-S, V-12. Huzzah! This baby purrs… but also roars when pressed.

The ’91 makes 318 horsepower under a longish hood, replete with muscular lines arcing down to a fine pair of headlights. The switchgear, I would say is customarily British…which is to say that a reasonably intelligent American driver can figure out about 95% of what is needed; the other 5% is anyone’s guess.

To fire up that glorious 12-cylinder engine, one turns the key and an array of lights glow up the walnut wood dash. After a few seconds electric fuel pump whine, the engine roars to life, then settles into a soft exhaust burble directed with authority out two gleaming tailpipes.

My wife Kim and I had the pleasure of taking the Jag to Amish country, where the car drew an unexpected amount of attention amongst mini-vans, Honda sedans and – dare I say? – buggies. The weather was not too cooperative, raining off and on during the day; just enough to force top-up driving. Still, even at speeds approaching 100mph (dancing with a Mini Cooper S), the cabin noise was minimal.

Handling was good for a heavy luxury-touring convertible, but compared to my Miata M of a few years ago – a veritable go-kart – it was heavy to steer and rolled over on bulbous tires.

We capped off a day of driving on twisty two-lane country roads and antiquing with a pretty good Italian meal at a restaurant in Zanesville, a town made famous as the birthplace of famed Western author Zane Gray. Now Zane would have appreciated the risks our futuristic youth took to escape the suburbs of his youth for the wide-open countryside in his Uncle’s Red Barchetta.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Camping & Football Father's Day

Father's Day 2009 will go down as an especially sweet one indeed; several things conspired to make it so:

iPhone 3GS - she'd ignored several of my not-so-subtle hints, so it was entirely unclear whether wife Kim would agree to me joining the "cult of the iPhone" when I called her last Friday. Two work colleagues had shiny new phones on their desks and reported the line was only 20 minutes at the Apple Store Fashion Valley!

I called Kim from my formerly state-of-the-art BlackBerry and pressed the point, asking "Can I go get one dear?" (and trying ever so hard to keep the desperation out of my voice). She drove a hard deal: Birthday gift and Christmas 2008 gift which I'd never cashed in on. Ouch! Still, the smart phone has got plenty of giddy up!
Hurkey Creek Motorcycle Camp - It's long been a goal of mine to test out the F800GS on a short "shake-down" camping trek. Well... this weekend I ticked that one of the 'ol checklist with an overnighter up at Hurkey Creek County Park near Lake Hemet with my good friend Mark "DL650" Myers. We left from Mark's place in Rancho Bernardo about 1pm on Saturday, taking almost exactly the same route I had back in Nov. 2008, heading towards Idyllwild, CA.

After jaunting through Ramona, Santa Ysabel, Warner Springs, Aguanga, and Anza we found ourselves at a park hopping with families and friends camping for the holiday weekend. Awesome riding too numerous to mention (OK, ya twisted my arm: the 6 miles on 371 from Anza to the Pines-to-Palms turn-off are spectacular in their twistyness, as is the Lake Hemet-to-Idyllwild blast). Plus all the riding to get there! ;-) Enjoy some pics.

What - No action shots??!!

Ethan Mows the Lawn - Perhaps it was sheer glee at seeing me home again safely, or a Father's Day gift from a cool young man, but the most amazing thing happened about an hour after getting home from the camp: Completely of his own volition, Etho came outside to help me with the yardwork! OMG - the boy is growing up.

Yahoo! Finally some help in the yard!

Dads vs. the Boys - In preparation for the upcoming Rancho Penasquitos "Stampede" Junior Pee Wee Pop Warner football season, the league is holding weekly 2-hour conditioning clinics in June and July. In August the pace cranks up to 5/week - whoa!

For Father's Day, the coaches decided that an hour of conditioning, followed by an hour of 2-hand touch ball with the Dad's would be a good idea. Right they were! On the field of glory that is the Westview Wolverines home stadium (artificial turf and proper running track and all); on this one Sunday afternoon, 2 sets of men came together in heated battle. The brash upstarts vs. the seeming giants of the field: the DADS. The boys played valiantly, but "age & guile baby!"

Fun playing on a "real" field!

The weekend ended with a dandy family dinner at Sammy's Woodfired Pizza, a last splurge for a weekend already engorged with good times.

PS: And last but certainly not least, Carl La Rue (my dad) is recovering nicely from having partial right knee replacement surgery - hope he'll be up and about when we get there for the 2009 Family Reunion in 6 short days! (Hi Pop!)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fail Blog

Hands down my favorite new irony-is-comedy site on the web is A community site that crowdsources idiocy from around the world, failblog is an unending ribbon of social inanity. You know, like this one:

See what I mean? This is quality. OK, how about another?

Ouch - and her parents will wonder about that pole-dancing hobby at age 14. ;-) Here's another goodie:

You get the idea... If you happen to have a few minutes to surf, paddle on over to and hang ten on some giggles.

Credit: Thanks MorneƩ Sherry for sharing this gem with me...

Saturday, May 09, 2009

MVRTV Takes on the F800GS

Over the past week or so I've been taking in an excellent video review of the F800GS on YouTube. It was shot by Bill Wolf of "Motorcycle Video Review" with a cool helmet cam. I love this angle because you experience exactly what he sees when he sees it.

Starting at the Fall North American BMW press intro of the bike, Bill goes a step further and continues the "real-world" review on his journey home. He takes in some amazing back-roads in Utah and Colorado, and narrates them with the ease of a seasoned rider.

What a great adventure and all done solo! In many of the comments, Bill said the whole task of editing was grueling but the comments he's received since posting in February makes it all worth the effort.

Did I mention this is an 8-parter?! All of the segments weigh in over 9 minutes meaning I will have basically been watching an entire MOVIE on the F800GS by the time I'm done - wahoo! ;-)

My favorite episodes thus far were number 6 & number 7 where Bill says, "I don't even know where I am; I don't care its awesome..." For the record, where he was is absolutely gorgeous riding for big and heavy dual-sport bikes: dirt roads through the forests, small water crossings, rocky patches where the torque of the F800GS shines. All the while, a near-constant well-considered narrative that illuminates both the ride and spirit of adventure touring.

How about the quote "when they find my body, please tell my wife it was a GREAT ride! And make sure you tell her I love her as well - ummm... you get in trouble if you don't do that!" ;-)

During episode 7, the temperature cruised past 42.8 degrees on it's way into the 30's - you can tell when he talks, he's got that cold speech slur. And... the GPS read 11, 385 feet elevation which is nothing to sneeze at (or maybe it is!).

Mr. Wolf is a master of the inspirational one-liner: "Nothing better than being nowhwere." Another gem of a quote. "Good steering when you're standing." Also seems like knobby tires are the way to go - he's really sure-footed off road. When Mark Myers and I went up Nate Harrison Grade (on Palomar Mtn), I was really nervous about traction on my "Conti Battlewings."

Another great quote: "It's time for a headlight test" (yes, he's riding at night late in episode 7) and "I could do without the rocks at night...just think - if I make a mistake you'll get to see it and...well, I'll get to feel it."

View Episode 7

As I write this, episode 8 isn't on YouTube yet (#7 was uploaded about 3 weeks ago). I can safely say however that many of us anxiously await a safe outcome and Bill's final thoughts on our favorite bike.