Pete's random thoughts

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Got a bike!

A few posts ago I talked about wanting to get another motorcycle. I looked at a few online: at dealer's websites, on ebay, on Craig's List etc. There was a 1979 Suzuki GS850 I was planning on checking out in Bellows Falls that I found on Craigslist, and a 1980-something GS1100 a little drive into Vermont that the seller was supposed to email pictures of to me. Then I picked up the local weekly want-ads newspaper called "The Weekly Flea".

There it was! A 1980 Suzuki GS850. Only 11k miles. Black, with a fairing and hard saddle bags. Located right here in town, just 10 minutes away. I went to check it out, and then came home to sleep on it for a couple of days.

My old bike was a black 1980 GS850. It was the GL model, which had buckhorn handlebars, a smaller tank and a king-and-queen seat. Kind of the "sport model" if you will. Here's a picture of it, all packed at an event at #4, with carbine and sword strapped to the handlebars and bedroll lashed down to the seat (neither of the people in the picture is me):

This one was sort of like it's older, more mature sister. It has a 5 gallon gas tank, and a 1970's style wide, straight seat. Here's a pic of it in the guy's garage:

It couldn't replace my old bike, but it is sort of thought provoking to me that it is basically the same model only a little more "mature", with it's windshield, hard bags, wide seat and AM/FM cassette player. Creature comforts and motorcycles are an odd mix. The fairing still makes me feel a little middle-aged, but it would be a good place to put smart-assed helmet-sized bumper stickers.

On Monday, it followed me home and I registered it within an hour. I worked a package deal for it, and along with the GS850 came a Suzuki LT185 Quadrunner. Yeah, it's 20 years old, but it doesn't have to win any races, it just has to haul stuff around the woods for me.

The next day, I took the GS to town to gas it up since it came to me on fumes. Of course it took me 5 minutes to get to town, but 45 to get home. On the way, I saw the Charlestown backroads from a different perspective. On East Street, I smelled someone cooking their dinner, a little while later heard some leaves rustling as they blew across the road, and as I turned onto the Ackworth Road, felt the change in wind direction blow against my neck. If felt good to be out in the real world again, not hermetically sealed in a car or truck.

It was the right thing to do. The difference between getting this GS850 and getting my old GS850 is that when I got the old one I was single, and now there are three of us. This afternoon, Jeff and I stood for a few minutes looking at the frame of the bike, pondering how to rig up a sidecar to it...

Father Goose?

Earlier today, Caleigh had complained to Wendy that her Mother Goose book was confusing and didn't make any sense. She thought that perhaps we should call the publishers and ask them to explain it. That's Caleigh, no messing around, she is quite proactive and always seems to have a plan to get where she wants to go.

Her first complaint about the book was that the title is "Mother Goose", but it shows "a boy on the cover". Wendy and I heard this, and assumed it would be a picture of Little Jack Horner, Little Boy Blue, etc.

She reported to us that not only wasn't there an email address in the book to contact the publisher, there wasn't even a phone number to call them at!

Later on tonight, she came out with the book in hand to show me the problem.

It was a Wonder Book, copyright 1946. Inside the front cover was a bookplate stating that it was my brother's property (circa 1960) and that it was a gift to him from my grandmother while she was in the hospital. As we unpack boxes of stuff, we come across a lot of old books that survived him, me, and years of my Mom's home day care business. When we read them, I always make a point to show Caleigh the title page with the date to try and help her understand that some of these stories took place in America, but when they were written, they didn't have cell phones, email, computers or even TV.

She pointed to the cover and said "See, it says Mother Goose, and the goose has a girl's hat, but it is a boy". Here is a scan of the book's cover:

We were a little baffled about what she was upset about. I asked "What do you mean that it's a boy?" She pointed to the little curled feather on Mother Goose's tail and said "See? It's a boy."

In ducks, the curled tail feather indicates a male. It isn't true, but it's not too far of a stretch for a 5 year old to assume that the same rule applies to geese as well.

We learned two things:

1. Caleigh is really sharp, and notices little details that escape others unnoticed.

2. Cross-dressing waterfowl are just not OK with her.

Sometimes she just amazes me.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Keene Swap Meet

We went to the Keene Swap Meet today. Held at the Cheshire Fairgrounds, it is a swap meet for motorcycles, parts, leathers and all of the other "stuff" that goes along with motorcycles. Something like 250 vendors. It is held twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. The event has been going on for 33 years, and is one of the big kickoffs for the motorcycling season here in the Northeast.

Yeah, I am looking for another bike. One that doesn't need any restoration, one I can just put the key in and start up. Maybe I'll even get an inspection sticker for it.

This business keeps us going for long days, nearly every day, and the time just isn't there to fix up a project bike. I've had to make my peace with that.

My first bike was a 1971 Honda 350. Red, faded to pink on top. Later came Sue Zuki, my black 1981 Suzuki GS850. It was a fast bike, but she was old and getting tired. There was also a 1979 Honda CB750 in the mix, and Wendy had a 1982 Honda Nitehawk 650.

Now I want a big bike, one that can handle two adults and our "stuff" without working too hard at it. At least a 1000. There are a couple on ebay that I've got my eye on.

Riding is like sailing. It's something you have to experience to understand why people do it. It's just your machine and you against the elements. Driving in a modern car is like being sealed in a container, you really have no contact with the world you are flying through at highway speeds. On a bike, there are sounds, vibrations, smells, and all sorts of other sensations you are out of touch with in your air-conditioned, stereo equipped car.

As we got closer to Keene in the Buick, we started to see bikes in small groups of three or four, then bigger groups of six or ten, then dozens at a time. Just hearing the engines and smelling the exhaust made me feel better and brought back memories.

Yeah, it's time to get another bike.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Dinner and a barn dance

So yesterday we spent the afternoon in Ascutney, VT at donated church space for the weekly homeschoolers co-op. It's a loosely organized thing where an assortment of homeschool families (some right wing, some left wing, some "damn hippies") go and take turns attending and teaching little classes in such topics as clog dancing, introduction to Spanish, African drumming (did I mention hippies?...don't get me started about African drums and hippies...), introduction to reading music, and New Hampshire history. Guess which one I got volunteered for? I'll give you a hint: it isn't "African drumming".

It's not exactly my idea of a good time, but Wendy and Caleigh enjoy it, so I behave myself when I am there. I don't even pick on the hippies. Actually, I think the whole premise is kind of dumb. Once you organize a group of children into classes and set them up in a building chosen just for that purpose, it isn't quite homeschooling any more. My feelings about it are kind of irrelevant, because there is a block of time on the schedule marked "History with Pete", so once a week, it's off to Ascutney I go with maps, artifacts, notes and whatever else I can use to try and quickly explain 10,000 years of human habitation.

After class this week, we were planning on going grocery shopping, but instead elected to go for a drive over to the Newport area to see if there was a decent looking restaurant over there. There didn't seem to be, so we kept driving to Sunapee. Sunapee has been a summer vacation destination for 100+ years, ever since the railroads first started to bring summer tourists to the wilds of NH. You can read about Lake Sunapee and Mount Sunapee here and here.

We had dinner at a cool "country dining" restaurant called the Appleseed Tavern. It was a refreshing change from the Chinese food/Pizza that are pretty much your only choices close to home. They actually had seafood! The dining room is in an old barn and is decorated with typically eclectic "country" stuff, and a cool feature was a big collection of old NH vanity license plates.

I got to teach Caleigh about vanity plates and how to decipher them. The Rosetta stone for her was the one that read L8R BUD. Once she figured that one out, she went on to 0U812 and suddenly she had a new car game to play.

Appleseeds has a website. From May to October, they also run dinner cruises on the lake on a replica Victorian era cruise boat.

After dinner we went to a "barn dance" in Bradford, NH. We had seen the sign at the side of the road and decided to check it out. It was being held not in a barn, but in the elementary school gym. The dance was a fundraiser for a local community center that was in financial trouble. Instead of doing the Massachusetts thing of just appropriating more public money (they are just tax dollars, we can print more...), they did the New Hampshire thing and started holding fundraisers. This month, they are having two barn dances.

The dancing was contra style, and there were all ages at it. There was live music (a keyboard, two fiddles and an accordion). Caleigh has done this before, so she jumped right in. She even won a door prize of four little toy farm animals. They were also having a bake sale and had some really funky looking desert treats, but I was stuffed from Appleseeds and didn't partake of any.

Dinner and dancing? Sounds almost like a date! Yeah, we live in the country, in a place where people go on vacation to, and yeah, we are self employed and theoretically have the flexibility of time that goes along with it, but on the flip side we work long days every day and don't get to play much. About the only "free time" I get is the 1/2 hour a day that it takes to take care of the critters. Going out to dinner and a barn dance may seem like a lame excuse for fun to many people, but to us it is like a four-day weekend!

The road is flat, it must really be spring this time

We are 1 1/2 miles away from a paved road. Here in NH, living on a dirt road means that springtime can be a challenge. As the frost in the road thaws, first it gets squishy in places, then big "mud bog" type stretches appear, then when the water generated by melting snow flows down from the surrounding hillside, washouts occur.

The town can only do so much, such as dumping more gravel on the gooey parts. Eventually, the road starts to firm up. As it firms up, however, the school bus that goes up the road a few times a day causes deep ruts and where water flows across the road, washboard surfaces form.

It's pretty rough on a vehicle. My old pickup respond to it by letting random parts fall off (not to worry, most of the parts that fall off are not important). Wendy's little Buick, however, we gotta be careful with. It might need an alignment, now, but I think it took the spring without too much pain and suffering.

Yesterday, as we were getting ready for the homeschooling co-op (I got "volunteered" to teach about NH history at it), we heard a rumbling sound coming up the road. To some folks, the sounds of spring are all about the tiny frogs not-too-creatively called "spring peepers" or the return of songbirds, but to us, the most glorious sound of spring is the rumble of a road grader!

The town's dump truck follows it, dumping fresh gravel behind the swath that the grader cuts in the packed dirt, then the grader makes a second pass to smooth it out. Today the road is flat, but covered in little sharp tire-piercing bits of gravel, but in a week's time it will all be packed down flat and smooth.

Happy spring!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

No longer a "strapping young man"

Last week we got a last-minute phone call from Sue A. down in Massachusetts asking us if we were going to the Lowell Sportsman's Club's "Spring Fling Field Day and Spaghetti Supper" as we always do. We got about 12 hours notice, so we set aobut scrambling to come up with a plan to make it happen. I checked around to find a last-minute dog sitter, but had no luck, so I chased the ducks out of the old duck pen and set up a couple of cattle panels to create a 20' x 20' dog pen, so Buster Dog would be safe for the day while we went to Lowell.

To keep a long story short, we made the two hour trip, had fun seeing old friends, won some door prizes (including a Big Mouth Billy Bass LOL), beat Doc Duggan in the .22 rifle shoot for the second year in a row, and ate my allotment of pasta. The traumatizing part of the event came when we were all done with dinner and it was time to put the folding chairs and tables away.

A guy whom I didn't know came up to me as I was flipping the table over to fold and said "Sir, you don't have to do that, we have a group of strapping young men to put things away".

I was shocked.

Not so much that the guy didn't know me. I hadn't been around the club all winter. It was the implication that I wasn't one of the "strapping young men" who tore down the tables and chairs.

I looked in the mirror and saw a grey haired guy. Sure, it was long grey hair that I heppened to think looks pretty cool, but I guess he is right, I am no longer one of the "strapping young men".

Maybe it's not as bad as it seems, but I felt pretty silly as a kid took the table out from in front of me to put it away.

We got home around 1AM. Buster met us in the driveway. Apparantly, a 4' cattle panel can keep a bull in, but not a pit bull. Back to the old drawing board... Maybe this old guy just needs some "strapping young men" to build a better fence.