Recently in Harley Category

Road trips

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Howdy folks.

Yep, it's been a while since I've provided any entertainment (?) or updates - sorry about that. I can only offer the usual excuses - busy with work, running around catching-up on things over the weekend, and so on.

I did spend the last five weeks or so eating totally bad, barely running, and barely riding... so, that means I've gained about 20-pounds... it's funny (not really) how I can go from 170-ish to a solid 190 in just over a month. Ugh. I guess it's time to get back into some sort of routine so that I can shed some of those awesome pounds. Or, maybe I should just throw-in the towel with this fitness crap and "enjoy" myself. Torment...

But enough about my woes. Aside from eating poorly and not exercising, I've actually been having a fun time. I was invited to hang out at a car show with my cousin a few weeks ago, and that was a blast, even if it was 100F outside. :-)

I snapped a bunch of pictures; I won't really take time to explain them here - most of the cars I photographed appealed to me because I had some sort of familiar relationship to them from my days while working at the Auto Museum or from my days as a technician at the Ford dealership.

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Apparently the show has become so popular that they had to limit the number of cars/entries for judging to 350. I guess when you see the trophies they award, it's not so difficult to figure out why so many people are eager to participate in the show:

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I also took a road trip on the motorcycle to visit a friend of mine from Arkansas. You may recall that my friend Nat came to Wisconsin to visit me a few years ago - there's a lengthy entry about it here.

Well, ever since the bank was closed in 2008, Nat and I have kept in touch. Nat launched his own marketing/brand partner business and did really well at it. With each visit to Arkansas, I'd make sure to spend time with Nat; I learned that he was considering a life change - getting away from the rat race and focusing on something that was important to him.

Imagine my surprise when I received a text from him a few weeks ago that showed a shopping cart full of New Glarus Brewing Company products. I immediately responded with, "you're either in WI, or you're a bootlegger." New Glarus doesn't sell their products to anyone outside of Wisconsin proper.

He responded that he was in Wisconsin; sort of. He had taken a short trip "over the border" from Iowa and was stocking-up on supplies. After some prodding and interrogating I learned that he had moved to Dubuque. Dubuque is only about 1.5 hours from Madison, so we made plans to hang out for a day.

I packed my saddle bags, suited-up, and hopped on the Harley for an enjoyable cruise down highway 18/151 to Dubuque. I let Nat know that I was in town and he swung by to pick me up so that we could head to Dyersville, IA - home of the "Field of Dreams" movie site.

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While I've only seen the movie once, it was cool to check out the field and the house. The house has an interesting story - it's been family owned for quite some time; when the movie producers were searching for a site for their film, they stumbled across this farm and decided to select it for "home base."

They modified the house by enlarging rooms, adding windows, and extending the white picket fence. They installed a special irrigation and fertilization system so the corn would be tall enough by early June (when filming was taking place).

Here's the house -

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It looks bigger than it is, and it also looks like it's farther from the baseball field than it is. It's interesting how the camera can distort depth of field/distance. I walked just a bit to the left of the house and snapped a picture of the baseball field and that infamous corn:

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There were people playing baseball on the field; I didn't think to bring a glove, although it was probably for the better - it was over 100F out there and I didn't feel like shagging any fly balls. We walked around the field, checked out the corn, and then decided to seek out some food.

We drove into Dyersville and stumbled across a little place called "The English Pub." Dyersville isn't too big of a place, so our options were limited, and to be honest, we were a little nervous about the place before we stepped in.

Once inside, we quickly discovered the pub was a gem. Great atmosphere, a few friendly locals, and a sign that immediately caught our attention. It read, "Pub Pizza: 126,357 sold"

Hmm. We were starving, so we ordered a 'za. We watched as the bartender flipped the dough, added fresh ingredients, and snuck the assembly into a pizza oven just behind the bar. The result was fantastic:

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We scarfed that pizza down in no time - it was truly delicious.

From Dyersville, we made our way back to Dubuque, where Nat gave me a tour of his new digs. These are pictures from the school he'll be attending for the next 3-4 years:

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After strolling around the campus grounds, we took a little tour of the downtown area. Dubuque is a pretty cool place - much better than I would've ever thought it was. There's a great little museum that had this larger than life statue - it'll probably look familiar to a painting you may have seen:

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From the downtown area, we meandered over to Nat's favorite watering hole - Paul's Sportsman's Club. This tiny little bar was straight out of the 1950s and even had this awesome antique hamburger cooker. I can't do justice trying to describe it, but we did learn that it was manufactured in 1932 and that Paul acquired it in 1949. It's been in use every day since. The burgers looked really good, but we didn't partake.

We did have a brew - I opted for an old classic, the PBR.

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After a beverage and some popcorn from Paul's, we made our way over to the banks of the Mississippi, where an old brewery (Dubuque Star Brewing Company) had been converted into a restaurant called "D-Star." Before we walked into the restaurant, I snapped a picture of this iconic landmark:

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That's the "shot tower," and it was used to form molten lead into perfectly round balls of lead that were used as bullets and cannon balls. They'd pour the hot lead from the top of the tower into tubes of various sizes. By the time the lead worked its way to the bottom of the tower, it formed into a perfectly round ball of shot.

We walked over to the D-Star, which was filled with memorabilia from the days when the building brewed, bottled, and produced Dubuque's finest beer.

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We scored some seats on the second level, enjoyed a Potosi beer (from just across the river), and a couple of burgers. The burgers weren't anything to write home about, but the atmosphere and conversation were definitely stellar.

After dinner, we took a quick stroll through the downtown area, where I snapped one final picture for the trip - this is the clock tower in Dubuque.

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Nat graciously dropped me off at my hotel where I was able to grab a solid evening's sleep before hitting the road the following morning. On the way back to Wisconsin, I decided to take some back roads and wound-up in Monroe. It was a nice diversion, and it reminded me that Cheese Days are coming up soon! :-)

I wound-up putting on 250-ish miles on my little road trip - the most miles I've ridden in a single trip since acquiring the Hog. It rode like a dream.

And finally - a few pet updates. I bought a cat tree for Mack and Shiloh. It's actually made from tree branches, and they seem to love it.

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And last but not least, my friend Chris from work went to the EAA show a few weeks ago and sent me a picture of this B-29 flying superfortress. It's ironically named, wouldn't you say?

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It's ironic when you consider the B-29 was capable of carrying 20,000 pounds worth of bombs in a single run. The B-29 also delivered the atomic bombs that landed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One wouldn't expect such a beast to share the same name as this creature...

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IT IS OFFICIALLY HOT.

Well, that's not exactly accurate... It's not only hot, it's obscenely hot and it has been for quite some time now. According to the weather report from this morning, we've had temperatures in excess of 90F for thirteen days in a row, and we've exceeded 100F four days in a row.

Combine that heat with a complete lack of rain (June saw just 0.33" compared to more than 4.25" during a normal summer), and it makes for a crunchy existence. Just take a peek at my backyard, along with a squinty and hot Flea...

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That yard is brown. And crispy. And I'm sitting here, sweating as I type this.

So... it's been a busy few weeks... there's been a lot going on at work, a few motorcycle rides, fewer bicycle rides, even fewer runs, a tour of American Packaging Company, fireworks, and a concert. Let's recap, shall we?

I'll skip the bits about work, running, and riding. Those are necessary evils. Let's just say that I've been working much harder and longer than I have been running and riding as of late. I truly am burned out. I need to find a new activity to help keep my girlish figure in check.

The motorcycle has been doing quite well. I promised some photos a while back, and I apologize for not getting them posted in a more timely manner. I snapped these while on a ride a few weekends ago. I won't bother to describe them, I'll just post them.

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Much to my surprise, the Flea has taken a bit of a liking to the motorcycle. She really enjoys riding in the car, but it was a bit shocking to discover that she was interested in the Hog... here she is investigating the ride, looking for a place to sit.

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I got to thinking, and after some searching online, I found several options for taking your dog along on a motorcycle ride. There were backpacks, chestpacks, tank bags, and trunks. Some cost as little as $20; others cost as much as $600. I hated to spend serious money to determine if the Flea actually liked riding on the cycle, but I didn't want to leave her vulnerable to danger in the event of a crash or incident.

I eventually decided to buy a small crate and secure it to the luggage rack with heavy duty zip ties. This would allow me to keep her safe without having to spend a ton of money up front. I went to the local pet store and bought the smallest crate I could find - it cost $21.

I disassembled the crate and lined-up the bottom half with the luggage rack so that it was centered on the bike. I marked locations on the front and back of the crate so that I could drill my first series of mounting holes. With those marked, I grabbed some Vaseline and applied it to the top surfaces of the luggage rack. I then set the crate on top of the rack, in exactly the centered location.

When I lifted the crate off the rack, I could see exactly where the luggage rack rested on the crate (the Vaseline left perfect luggage rack lines on the bottom of the crate). I then drilled additional holes for the zip ties, in a manner that would allow me to completely secure the crate to the rack.

I purchased several dozen 3/8" wide ziptie packs and went about securing the crate to the rack. When I was done, this is what the base looked like:

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The next order of business was to put the top back on, secure it, and zip-tie it for additional security.

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With the crate secured, I placed an old quilted pillowcase inside, and my work was complete.

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I put the Flea inside the crate, and she seemed to like it. She spun around and sat down.

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We've taken a few test rides - started with a short ride of about 5-8 minutes, followed by rides that have been progressively longer. Aside from the oven-like heat, Flea seems to enjoy the rides. When I check on her, she's looking out the front while lying down. She doesn't seem anxious or upset, so I'm guessing she doesn't mind it too much.

I may take her for a longish ride this weekend, just to see how she does. If she likes it, I may invest in a more expensive, more professional-looking solution. Or, I may keep this homemade system... it assembles/disassembles quite easily, and it only cost about $25 with the 10 zipties.

Fireworks

My friend Matt (aka "Potato Man") invited me to watch the infamous Rhythm And Booms event with him, his wife, some family, and friends. Since he lives near Werner Park (site of the event), and since I really enjoy spending time with him and his wife, this was a no-brainer.

I met at their house, where they had a wonderful cookout underway, complete with roasted organic free-range chicken and a ton of goodies. We ate, drank, and chatted until it was dark, at which point we ventured a few blocks down the road and scored some awesome seats just across from the park. With lawn chairs and coolers in place, we sat back and enjoyed the show.

Here are some photos of the fireworks:

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One of the great things about watching the event with Matt and Jen was that I got to catch-up with Andy (Matt's brother) - I hadn't seen him for nearly 10 years. When the fireworks ended, I bid everyone farewell, packed-up my folding chair and headed for home. It was a great fourth of July, for sure.

American Packaging Corporation Tour

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My cousin's husband Jeff works for American Packaging Corporation, which is located in Columbus, WI. They're celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, and as such held an open house to demonstrate how and what they do. It was extremely interesting - APC produces the packaging (labels, wrappers, etc) for the majority of the world's leading consumer products.

Each time you crack-open a mini Hershey bar, or open a can of Pringles, or unwrap a piece of gum, you're peeling away the packaging that Jeff and his fellow employees produce at APC.

APC has several large lines, known as Roto lines - "Roto" is short for Rotogravure, the method by which the packaging is produced. The Roto process uses an engraved cylinder to apply ink to the paper at a high rate of speed. Some of the lines can run at more than 1450 feet per second. That's insane!

The factory is huge - something like 400,000 square feet in size... those Roto machines are massive. Here are some photos from the factory tour.

Roto 2 - one of the original Roto lines. It runs at around 1000 feet per second.

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Roto 2 makes Krackel wrappers, along with other things. Here's a roll of finished Krackel packaging, before being scored and cut into a final product:

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Here's where they mix all of the ink for the various packaging. They start with bulk dyes and then custom mix them to the client's exact specifications. The amount of Quality Control effort that must go into this process is unreal. They use more than 360 tanker trucks' worth of ink per year.

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Here's the area where they store, retrieve, and refresh the cylinders. The cylinders are stored in a large "silo" and are inventoried and retrieved by a computerized, robotic system.

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While slightly blurry, you'll still get an idea of just how large some of these lines are - this is the newest Roto line, and it's an absolute monster. I didn't catch exactly how long it was, but I'd guess it was right around 75-85 yards.

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Here's one of the control panels for that monster. The operators are responsible for identifying misprints, misalignments, feed problems, and so on. Imagine trying to track all of that stuff while it flies by at more than 1,000 feet per second.

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One of the Roto lines was printing labels for Pringles. In Chinese.

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It was a great tour that lasted about an hour or so. At the end of the tour, we were invited into a large warehouse area where APC had free food - brats, burgers, chips, cakes, and the like. Bucky Badger even made an appearance. Here's to another 40 years of success, APC!

Summerfest 2012

I vowed to never attend another Summerfest event, but when I heard that one of the world's greatest heavy metal bands was going to be playing the event, I had to make an exception.

Iron Maiden announced that as part of their Maiden England 2012 tour they would be visiting little 'ole Milwaukee. I purchased tickets as soon as they were available, and a small group of us made the trek to the shores of Lake Michigan to take in the show.

When we arrived to the Summerfest grounds at approximately 5:30pm on the 4th of July, the air temperature was well over 100-degrees. Yikes.

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The blistering heat didn't seem to deter too many people from attending... there were throngs of folks everywhere. Upon our arrival, we took a stroll through the grounds, just to get an idea of what had changed, where the hot spots were, and to see the various stages. This was one of my favorite free stages:

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Alas, there weren't any decent bands playing on the free stages (Summerfest saves the good bands until the late night hours), so we decided to find a place that would be cool(er), and preferably served brews. Within no time we were sitting in the upstairs pavilion for the Water Street Brewery, enjoying a beverage or two.

Here's a shot of our crew; from lower left, working counter-clockwise, we have: Mark (brother of my friend and co-worker, Chris), Mike (friend of Chris'), Chris, and yours truly. If we appear hot, sweaty, and a bit cranky, we were. Even with a cold beverage in hand, it wasn't much fun sitting outside, wallowing in a pool of your own sweat.

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Iron Maiden wasn't playing on a free stage - no sirree - they were playing in the Marcus Amphitheater, which sits on the far south east side of the grounds and requires you to buy a special event ticket to attend. Our tickets were $72 each... and the show was scheduled to start at 7:30pm. If you look closely, you can see the Amphitheater in the background - this was taken from our perch at the brewery's pavilion.

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We sat at the pavilion for as long as we could, and then made our way to the Amphitheater. Our seats appeared to be in a decent location; left of the stage, about 40 rows back. Little did we know the seats wouldn't be that great once the show started.

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As soon as the show began, we instantly recoiled in horror. The sound was absolutely dreadful - nothing but shrill, harsh, shrieking sound. You see, the Marcus Amphitheater has several design factors working squarely against it... it's an Amphitheater, so the stage is set low into the ground, with a shell placed behind it. This works great for non-amplified performances, but acts as a reverb chamber for amplified sound.

The Amphitheater also has a large metal roof that is quite low in relation to the venue. The metal roof helps bounce/reverberate sound even more than the shell behind the stage.

And finally, the entire facility is constructed from concrete, which only makes the reverberation problem worse than it already is. So... as a result, the sound was absolutely atrocious. We know every single Iron Maiden song there is, yet we struggled to identify which songs were being played - that's how poor the sound was.

The showmanship was fine; lots of explosions, good lighting, and props. Here's the stage, almost completely consumed by a controlled fireball:

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I felt really bad for the band - they were playing their hearts out, and they are a super talented group of guys. To be 60-years old and hammering away like they did is truly impressive. They didn't miss a beat, and they played non-stop for nearly two hours in the blistering heat.

Unfortunately, the sound was so bad that I couldn't wait for the show to end. It was literally fatiguing to listen to - it was pure reverberated static, and it was disappointing to say the least.

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The band also mentioned that because the Summerfest stage was so small that they could only bring out about 1/3 of their normal stage set-up. Further proof that the Marcus Amphitheater and Summerfest suck, and that I should've maintained my self-imposed ban of attending any events there. Oh well... lesson learned - never again.

My ears rang for an additional two days because of that horrible venue. UGH.


Bonus content: Clips of Faith

In an attempt to create my longest blog entry to date, I'll pass along one more story.

The New Belgium Brewery (makers of Fat Tire) are big supporters of bicycling. As such, they set up a small national tour called "Clips of Faith" and selected twelve US cities as host destinations. The events raise money and awareness for local cycling efforts - the brewery donates its proceeds from the event to local cycling organizations. Madison was selected as one of the twelve stops.

It's called Clips of Faith because it's essentially an independent film festival that serves some exclusive New Belgium beers along with local cuisine. Entry is free, but you have to pay for your food and drinks.

Chris (from work) told me about the event, and we decided to attend.

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The event was hosted at Olbrich Park, near downtown Madison. While it was warm, it wasn't scorchingly hot, so the event was tolerable. Here's the list of brews offered by the brewery; some of these were really unique and not widely available:

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In addition to the movie screen and beer tents, New Belgium set-up a little "village" of sorts. There were various tents with information, events, and social gatherings. It was really well done:

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We grabbed a few brews (they were available in small, 3oz sample sizes), found a seat on the lawn, and set about preparing to watch some short films. Here's me and the Flea, with a little beverage (they allowed dogs, which was extra cool):

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As soon as dusk landed, they fired-up the projector and started showing films. The films were truly short - I don't think a single one lasted more than 3 minutes. Some were as short as 20 seconds. And, none were very interesting... It's really difficult to "follow" a short film, and the subjects were all over the place... the best part of the show as the intermission - they left the projector set to a white screen and encouraged people to make their own shadow puppet show. That was fun to watch.

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I left the event a little early and was home by 9:30pm. Chris and his girlfriend stuck it out for the entire event, and I'm told it didn't get much better - the films were all equally odd and unusual. At least it was (mostly) free.

FIN

...and with that, I think I'm done.

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I had such a busy weekend, that it's hard to recall the details of exactly what I did, but I'll give it a shot. After the work whistle blew on Friday, I snuck-in a quick run of around 4 miles before working on the Harley for a bit.

With the Hog all cleaned and ready to roll (complete with new tires!), I took it for a quick spin down to the Memorial Union, where I listened to a really terrible band play some "music." It was so bad that I left almost immediately; that and it was incredibly hot outside - high 80s, no breeze, and humid - all at around 8:00pm...

Saturday had me riding in a truck with my co-worker, Dan Christy. He purchased a 1971 VW Beetle from a VW-nut that lived somewhere in the middle-of-nowhere-Iowa. The VW didn't run, so he needed someone to ride along to help him load and unload it. I volunteered, and as such, spent many hours riding shotgun in his 1997 Dodge Ram truck.

The Beetle was in shockingly good condition; very little rust, and aside from needing some minor work, appeared to be nearly road ready. We pushed it onto the trailer, secured it, and hit the road for our 5+ hour return trip. I thought I took some pictures of the Beetle, but either my phone failed, or I accidentally deleted them...

One nice thing that came out of the trip: Dubuque, IA. What a cool looking town. I think I might sneak over there on the bike some weekend and hang out for a bit. I'm not sure what there is to do there other than gamble, but I liked the vibe of the place.

Because we left for Iowa at an ungodly-early hour, we returned with plenty of time to do things at night. So, I once again fired-up the cycle and went for a ride. I stopped in Mount Horeb and snapped several pictures - here's a teaser photo (there will be more to come; I have to edit/clean-up the photos a bit):

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After the ride, I went for a run (man, was it HOT - 90F+, humid, windy), and then met my friend Chris Shubak out for some beverages in downtown Madison. It was great to hang with him and his girlfriend - they're super nice and I enjoy chatting with them.

I woke-up early on Sunday morning so that I could go for a run before the weather got too unbearable. 4-ish miles at 6:00am were just what the doctor ordered. After a shower, I hopped in the car and made the drive out to Seven Hills Skydiving Center, where I would meet-up with a large group of friends from the MidTown Pub for a day of diving.

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You may recall that it was this very same group that inspired me to try skydiving last year. Well, they decided to return in 2012, only this time, they coordinated the jump with the Sevenhills Boogie.

A Boogie is a large gathering of skydivers from various clubs from around the United States. This Boogie had folks from Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, and other places. They brought up a special plane from Chicago so that they could accommodate larger numbers of divers, and so they could get up to altitude faster.

Every dive that I did last year (I did a total of 21 jumps) was from a tiny, rickety Cessna 182 that could hold a total of 4 people. To exit the Cessna, you had to climb through an opening about half the size of a normal car door, and stand on a super tiny platform while grabbing on to the wing strut.

Conversely, here's the plane the club rented for this year's Boogie:

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That thing could hold at least 16 divers and featured a large opening at the rear of the plane that you simply jumped out of. It was so much nicer. It also climbed to 13,000 feet in a matter of minutes; the Cessna took at least 30 minutes to reach 10,000 feet. Talk about an improvement!

So, the Boogie was breaking all sorts of skydiving records. From what we were told, they shattered the record for number of sorties flown by that type of plane - it made 37 flights on Friday; the world record was 34. They also set some skydiving records with respect to formations, but I didn't catch the specifics. To say they were in a good mood would be an understatement.

Now, I would normally have jumped solo - I'm close to earning my A-license, but with the nature of the weekend, the club wasn't offering any instructor assisted jumps. You either had to be fully licensed to jump solo, or you had to jump tandem.

Since I had never jumped tandem, nor had I jumped from 13,000 feet, I figured it was worth the price to try it. I paid my $179, put my name on the manifest, signed all of the waivers, and waited.

...and waited... and waited... The MidTown crew consisted of nearly 30 people, all of whom were jumping tandem. There were also nearly 100 other divers all waiting for opportunities to jump, so the queue was quite long.

We arrived to the school at 9:00am, and I didn't jump until around 3:30pm. That's a lot of waiting around, with absolutely nothing to do, other than watch people land.

But, at around 3:00pm, I received the call to "suit-up" - or, in this case, put on my tandem harness.

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The tandem harness allows you to be tethered to a jump master, so that the two of you fall as one. He has the parachute strapped to his body, and thanks to the special harnesses, the passenger is attached via four points to the master. The master rides on the back of the passenger.

In what can only be described as a bit of comedic irony, my jump master (Leon) was all of 5'6". Here he is behind me, cinching up my harness and making sure the attachment points are in-line.

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We boarded the plane and made the quick ascent to 13,000 feet. The door opened, and four solo divers lept from the plane, doing somersaults as they exited. I asked Leon if we could somersault and he said, "Absolutely!"

We made our way to the open door, knelt to one knee, and catapulted ourselves from the plane. I counted at least five somersaults; that's quite a rush when you're falling at 140mph. We stabilized ourselves and then free-fell at 140mph for over a minute.

I deployed our canopy (parachute) at 4,500 feet; it cleared, everything looked good, and we were enjoying the spectacular view and peaceful calm of the canopy fall. Leon mentioned that we could do some windmills - he pulled hard on one of the toggles and went into a high-G turn that would have us "windmilling" over the parachute.

Windmilling drops altitude quickly; the loft from the canopy is lost, so you fall at a much faster rate. We scrubbed 1500 feet in a matter of about 20 seconds, so we quickly found ourselves nearing final approach.

Leon was kind enough to let me guide us in, so I took the toggles and with his navigation, brought us in to our true final approach. When we hit about 100-feet, he took over for the final landing.

Here you can see how much bigger I am than Leon, as we're attached in the tandem rig. We're at about 60-feet at this point.

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Leon was an absolute master with the landing - he set us down just perfectly, although the wind caught the chute and we toppled over while trying to separate the tether. I felt bad for crushing the guy... Here we are, just prior to toppling over.

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Despite the awesome experience of jumping from 13,000 feet, somersaulting, windmilling, and all of that fun stuff, I think I'm done skydiving.

Why? The time commitment is simply too great. I lost the entire day to being at the jump site, and I got in one, single jump. That's about par for the course... there's just too many things to do rather than sit around a rural airfield for 8-10 hours. Not to mention the hour+ drive to and from the place.

It's also expensive. A solo jump runs about $60. And once you do get your license, the equipment is outrageously expensive. A used solo rig will run around $5k. A new one can eclipse $10k very easily. Granted, you're trusting your life to the stuff, but that's still a lot of cash.

And, while it's fun, it just doesn't excite me like it did last year. There are other things I'd rather do than climb into a rickety Cessna and sweat for 30-40 minutes before skydiving for 5-8 minutes.

Truth be told, I'll probably do the MidTown jumps if they continue to be an annual event, but aside from that, I don't foresee making any future trips to the drop zone. :-(

Oh well. At least I did it.

Some new wheels...

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Picked-up a new set of wheels today.

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That's a 2004 Harley Davidson Road King Classic. And it's mine.

1450cc's of good 'ole V-Twin American muscle, with a smooth-as-butter ride and a great, deep sound. Gloss black on gloss black with chrome, leather soft bags, and tons of accessories...

(For comparison, the Prius has a 1497cc motor - 47cc's more than the motorcycle - that's a Honda Spree moped's difference between the two vehicles)

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I've been itching to get another motorcycle for over a year - I started looking at Ducati touring bikes, then considered sport bikes, but something kept drawing me back to a V-Twin. They're torquey, smooth, and they just ooze cool. I wanted something really comfortable, yet not so "single-minded" that I couldn't cruise it down a boulevard every now and again...

I started to read the reports/reviews/magazines/web sites/message boards - you know how I am... I get into something and I go "binary" - from "off" to "on" - no real middle ground. I compiled "short lists" of bikes, complete with pros and cons.

And eventually I decided a Harley Davidson FLHRCI Road King was exactly what my OCD-driven research had prescribed.

I searched Craigslist, eBay, and the dealer websites from Minneapolis to Chicago. And, as fate would have it, I stumbled across this bike in Verona, WI. "Well, that's close enough," I thought. I sent off an e-mail, and within a day had began a dialogue with the owner.

Turns out he was trying to buy a dual-purpose on-road/off-road bike and had to sell the Harley to finance the new interest. We chatted for a week or so; and I eventually made my way over to look at the bike. It was immaculate, complete with service records, and more than $2k worth of extras (seats, backrests, windscreens, etc).

We haggled over the price for a few days, and struck a deal at around 2am. He offered me a test ride the following morning at 8am, and I arrived promptly at 8am, having only slept a total of about 23 minutes that night...

During the test drive, the bike felt great, until the shifter completely collapsed on my foot. I was stuck in 2nd gear, with no way to up- or down-shift... hmmm. Thanks to the Harley's massive torque curve, I was able to easily start-and-stop, even with only 2nd gear at my ready.

Once back at his house, we quickly discovered the issue - the shifter linkage rod that connects the shifter assembly to the transmission actuator had snapped at the heim joint. Of all the freaky things to have happen during a test ride...

A quick search of the internet revealed it was a common problem, and that it would cost around $20 to repair. The internet also suggested that a temporary fix could be applied through the use of zip-ties. Easy enough. We tied the linkage back-on; hit the bank to complete the sales transaction, and viola - I was officially a Harley Davidson owner.

Here's the broken linkage, as it sat on my garage floor (after I removed it from the bike):

broken_rod.jpg

I called the local Harley Dealer, and they had plenty of linkage rods in stock, so I loaded the Flea into the Prius and we hit the road for Sauk Prairie. Here's a contradictory photo of my garage:

g_prius1.jpg

The Flea and I hit the dealership, grabbed some parts (replacement linkage, a dress-up cover for the linkage, tune-up parts, fluids, a jacket, some gloves, a helmet, and a t-shirt), and then drove back to the house. 15 minutes later, the shift linkage was repaired, and looking better than ever, compliments of this chromed cover:

new_rod.jpg

I donned some riding gear and took the bike out for a jaunt to help warm the fluids prior to replacing them. It rode like a dream and I received more than my fair share of "thumbs-ups" and nods of approval from folks while out-and-about.

Back in the garage, I replaced the transmission fluid and did a light tune-up. I'll do an oil change and will drain-and-fill the primary gear drive fluid later in the week.

So... I now have some wheels that I'm not ashamed to drive nor am I worn-out after riding. I'm looking forward to some light day trips and the occasional ride to-and-from work. I'll have to find a side-car or something similar for the Flea to ride in. Can you see her with a leather motorcycle "helmet" complete with a traditional German spike on top?

Here are a few parting pictures, taken from the garage at around 9:30pm...

front_fender.jpg

intake_tank.jpg

exhaust.jpg

And here it is with one of the windshields in place - this makes for a super comfortable highway ride.

craigslist_bike.jpg

...and a final detail shot of the badging on the windscreen on the photo from above:

shield.jpg

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This page is a archive of recent entries in the Harley category.

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