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What a day… April 14, 2011

Posted by dakotabiker in MegaTweet, Rants.
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My first fully cell phone post. And the first with a work day emphasis for a change…

But I am a biker so…  the day started with the decision of whether or not to ride in this morning.  Was to be a beautiful day, but I was facing an all day meeting and dinner, both of which required a suit.  A good ride in is 55 minutes; by car and metro: an hour and a half.  But to take the Harley would have meant metroing from work to the dinner and back to change clothes, then a night time ride home through DC versus hopping right on the metro home from the dinner.  I opted for the latter…

So, after 20+ years of working in the world of robotic spaceflight, I am transitioning into the realm of human spaceflight.  With the retirement of the space shuttle, NASA is developing a new archtecture for sending humans into space… not just to low earth orbit (like the shuttle) but beyond.  The first steps are the development of a heavy lift launch capabilty, a crew vehicle, and the ground operations systems to get them launched.  Since it is critical that each of these parts combine to create the integrated exploration capability, we are developing the plans and processees to assure their smooth integration.

That is where I come in.  I am now on a headquarters team assigned to lead this technical integration effort.  Today we met with the folks with the technical responsibility for each of the parts.  Our objective was to discuss how we would work together to effectively integrate the capability.

The differences in culture were pretty amazing; doubly so for me: jumping from the robotic world to that of human space exploration, and bridging the differences between the headquarters point view and that of the programs at the various NASA centers.  The meeting was hugely educational for me, and we made great strides in understanding our respective approaches…

After 10 hours of drinking from the information firehose, fatigue was setting in and it was time to break for dinner.  As I packed up my laptop and briefcase, I plugged in my phone to top off the charge for the evening, thinking to myself “I bet I forget this…”

I helped clean up the meeting room grabbed my fully packed briefcase and joined my colleagues for the metro ride to dinner, where I realized the self fulfilling prophesy had in fact been fulfilled. 

The dinner conversation was really good. I spent most of my time talking with my new colleagues in the engineering effort for the launch vehicle,  one of which is also a luthier and bluegrass musician.  I ordered a ribeye, which was disappointingly mediocre given the expense of both cash and calories. 

Facing another 2 hours to get home I headed for the metro back to work annoyed that I gave up a wonderful ride opportunity to avoid exactly this situation, which was actually made worse by schlepping my briefcase. 

I got to work finding my fully charged phone and headed back out walking the streets of DC fully laden with tomorrow’s work. Electing to avoid the risk of a 20-minute transfer between trains I walked a mile to the redline and decided to try my first phone blog…

So what did I learn today? Beyond the myriad of human spaceflight culture nuances, if the weather good enough to ride… RIDE! 
Oh, and that typing a blog article on a cell phone is a pain in the….

At least it was a beautiful night for a walk.

When did you become a Biker? May 9, 2010

Posted by dakotabiker in Introductions, MegaTweet, Rides.
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I mean really a “Biker”, not just a guy or gal with a motorcycle. 

A tweet-friend and fellow biker-blogger recently made an unusual post: she is selling her car making her Harley Sportster her sole means of motorized conveyance.  Now, I do know people who have no car, but they mostly live in the city where public transportation abounds and a dearth of parking makes having a car more of a liability than an asset.  But she is out in the northern midwest, where things are far apart without a great deal of public transport, and occassionally some nasty weather…. and the winters… ah, forget it! 

She has been riding for only a year, and in my opinion is already a “real biker”.  She carries a sincere passion for the freedom of the ride, and shares her experience as a “newbie Harley rider” with a rigor and candor that makes it easy to see that she is a rider.  But, that is only my opinion.   Some may say “she has a nice little hobby there”.  But with this new total motorcycle reliance… there are few who would dispute that she is a Biker. 

There are many websites that explore what it is to be a biker.  Many cite philosophies about freedom, brotherhood, integrity – and while I agree that these qualities are very admirable and vitally important, they are not the exclusive province of bikers and they are seen in many non-riding communities.  I’ve shared the biker philosophy most of my life, but prior to owning a bike nor even knowing how to ride, I would have never assumed to call myself a Biker.  Riders ride.  But what distinguishes a Biker from a person on a motorcycle?  

There are plenty of RUBs out there with shiny new bikes putting on less than 1000  miles a year on sunny days only while wearing bug-free leathers from the dealership.  And I do NOT begrudge them one bit.  (As far as I am concerned, if they are not sponging off of me or my taxes, then people should be able to spend their money as they damn well please.) I just didn’t want to be a RUB.  

So what is it then that makes someone a Biker?  I started riding in June of 2006, so some may think that I am not a “real Biker”.  Even having 51,000 miles and 44 states behind me, some would still say that I am not.  I think I am, though I surely was not the day I bought the bike, nor really for a year after.  But as OCD as it may seem, it occupied my mind a lot.  Just what set of circumstances would have to come together for me to be a Biker?  For me, the transition occurred after 14 months… 

I remember being happy with myself doing 100 miles without a break, riding only to the metro station because I was too afraid to negotiate the traffic in Washington DC, and having that awkward uneasy feeling trying to duck-walk the bike into a narrow parking spot at a biker bar worrying that the “real Bikers” were looking at me like I was an idiot.   But as time went on the rides got longer though more weather conditions and into the streets of DC, and I still wondered if I was a biker, or a just a RUB. 

When my one year anniversary was still a few months away, I found a “You may not be a biker if…” weblist, and the one that stuck in my head was: “You may not be a biker if your 1 year anniversary comes before your 5,000 mile service”.  I was still shy of that mark and headed out on the road to “be” a Biker.  I got my 5,000 miles and passed my 1-year mark over 6,000.  

But was I a Biker? 

Two months later, I headed out to the Sturgis Rally from Maryland, riding solo.  I had no idea how to estimate time, miles, fatigue and weather.  I stayed on interstate the whole way out to “make time”.  I rode without a helmet for only the first time when I got to Wisconsin; it was pure exhilaration.  Doing 500 mile days, I made it to my folks’ place in eastern South Dakota in 3 days, camping one night and staying in a cheap motel the next.  I had no idea how to pack, and even remembering Stitzer’s Vacation Principle, I ended up packing way too much like a n00B and had to ship clothes home so I could afford the space to buy stuff.  

Was I a Biker yet? 

I then took several days zig-zagging the state meeting up with old friends and family, and finally arrived at the Buffalo Chip.  Riding cautiously along the gravel roads amidst hundreds of other bikes (having never before ridden in a close group), I arrived at the check-in area and nervously teetered my way to a spot in the uneven cow pasture in front of the Buffalo Chip registration sign.  I pulled out my Riders Edge sign (the one that says something like “My ride started at the Edge – Harley Davidson Baltimore ” – where I had taking my training course) and asked a biker to take my picture to send back to my Rider’s Edge alma mater.  I took a while to relish in the accomplishment of making it from Maryland to Sturgis.  I walked around looking at the bikes, buying (more than) a few T-shirts.  

First long ride - Sturgis 2007

 Was I a Biker yet? 

I rode into the campground, still a bit uneasy on the uneven dirt, until I found a spot to pitch my tent.  The camp ground was alive with activity.  It was midday.  Hotter than hell and dry.  I parked the bike, and walked around until I found a place to buy a beer.  Like a n00B, I didn’t have a cooler and settled for 2 cans, and walked back to my site.  I pitched my tent in the heat and the dust, drinking one cold one, and then a not so cold one.  I sat in the heat wondering well now what?  I’m really “at” the rally, “at” the Chip, in a tent. 

Was I a Biker yet? 

I walked around watching people partying with their riding buddies and setting up their rally home infrastructure of coolers, tables, grills, canopies, and signage.  Riding alone and walking alone, I felt a little out-of-place.  It didn’t take long for my two beers to sweat out of my system, so I hopped on the bike at headed to the main stage area where a “biker rodeo” was taking place.  I got a sandwich and beer and found a table from which to watch the events.  There were quite a few people, but it was still pretty low-key, and actually got a little boring.  I left the camp and rode into Sturgis.  Hitting the crowded streets, traffic was a standstill with the sounds of thousands of over-heated Harleys laboring in the heat.  I found a parking spot off the main drag and walked main street.  I had been to Sturgis several times in college, driving up (in cages) with buddies in hopes of seeing the fabled “wild times”.  But this time I had no compatriots.  I walked from one end of the street to the other buying souvenirs and stopping in the occasional bar for a beer.  I was a little bummed at the realization that the miles between town and the Buffalo Chip would preclude any serious revelry here in town.  Eventually, I got tired of walking in the heat, got back into the queue of over-heated bikes inching along the sizzling asphalt, and made it back to my tent to lie in the sweltering sun.  I started regretting having pre-purchased of several days of this.  

Main Street Sturgis 2007

Was I a Biker at all? 

Jimmy & Karin

Night came.  The temperatures cooled off.  And the concert was about to start.  I donned my jacket, bought a beer and walked up to the concert.  I think that night was Toby Keith.  Drinking my beer I walked around trying to find that rare combination of dry seating, people watching, a decent concert view, and the chance to actually talk with somebody.  (As you may have gathered by this point, despite my verbose blog existence, I can be a bit of a wall flower in large social situations.)  Failing all that, I switched from beer to Jack and Coke and resigned myself to just stand and watch the concert.  Then by chance, I met a couple from Washington state who actually initiated conversation with me, Jimmy and Karin.  We hit it off quite well and had a great time at the concert.  As the night drew to a close, they invited me to ride the Badlands with them the next morning. I had found the biker camaraderie for which I was looking (of course, once I stopped looking).  

So was I a Biker yet? 

The next morning came too early for the night before with a scorching sun raising the temperature inside the tent to just shy of 100 degrees.  I got up and staggered in search of coffee and a shower.  The shower facilities were… well… gross.  But clearly, this is rally life.  I showered and headed back toward the tent, watching last night’s revelers stirring with the same coffee seeking stagger I had experienced an hour before.  I dressed and stowed my gear, and, with a fresh cup o’ joe in my hand, headed out in search of Jimmy and Karin’s tent.  They were just getting up, so I waited drinking my coffee as they got ready for the ride. We headed out down the interstate back east to the Badlands.  We made the obligatory stop at Wall Drug to do the tourist thing, get minor supplies, and some lunch.  

In the SD Badlands -2007

A buffalo burger later, we then headed into the park.  The scenery was as I remembered in college, a stark alien landscape of colorfully layered peaks; a small desert in the middle of the Dakota prairie.  Only this time, being on a bike the feeling was so much more immersive.  The twisty roads had me back in my old habit of wearing a helmet… that is until our first stop.  Then we flew through the twists and turns taking in the ever-changing landscape.  In the west, a thunderstorm was rapidly approaching but we pressed on.  Moments later it was upon us and we were riding the curves, the rain both stinging and cooling, lightning striking the landscape around us.  The temperatures dropped precipitously freezing my bare arms and drenched jeans as we exited the south west end of the park toward Rapid City.  With teeth chattering in the now cold wind, I led Jimmy and Karin to what used to be an old college hangout.  At mid-day in the summer, it was pretty dead.  But we had coffee drinks (which were free because we had to wait for the coffee to be made) and free bar tacos, while we sat warming up and re-living the wild ride though the Badlands in a thunderstorm. 

After the Badland Storm Ride - 2007

Was I a Biker yet? 

That night we hung out again at the concert and had a great time.  (I think it was ZZ-Top)  We turned in a little earlier than the previous night from the exhaustion of the day.  The next morning came and I went to see them off for their ride home to Washington.  On our ride the day before, Jimmy had noticed that my brake light was stuck on.  I really wanted to avoid getting service anywhere near the rally, but that was the kind of problem that can get a guy killed.  I rode down into Rapid City early to find the dealership as crowded as I expected.  I got my bike checked in and while I was at it, ordered my 10k service and a new rear tire as well.  I settled in for the wait.  So, I rode half way across the country to go the rally and was going to spent a whole damn day on a bench at the dealership.  I bought an overpriced magnetic chess board, a deck of cards, and some over-priced food, and had the fortune of striking up a conversation with a biker, Virgil,  that also happened to play chess.  We spent the whole day in the dealership parking lot tents, trying to avoid the sun and playing several games of chess until my bike was finally ready 10 hours after pulling in.  

Virgil & I on about Game 3

Was I a Biker yet? 

The day was just draining, so I had a pretty early evening at the campground, which was restless for all the burn-outs echoing the campground all night.  I awoke the next morning  intending of riding to Devil’s Tower, WY (of Close Encounters of the Third Kind fame) and while there, I popped up north into Montana.  The open stretches of Wyoming were different that those of South Dakota, somehow more scenic and even more sparsely driven.  I decided to open up the throttle for the first time just to see how fast she’d go.  With that skinny front tire on my Dyna, I started feeling a little unstable crossing 100 mph and backed off at 110 mph.  It was exhilarating though, setting my personal landspeed record (on a bike anyway).   

Was I a Biker yet? 

I made it back to the campground in plenty of time for the concert (Buckcherry).  Walking around the camp, I overheard a small group of 20-somethings from my home town.  I stopped by to chat, or more listen, hearing about how the place had changed and how it stayed the same.  It was a different vibe hanging out with these “kids”, but the energy was there, and it was not like I had a posse of my own with which to hang, so we all walked over to the concert.  I had never seen, or even heard of, Buckcherry at the time.  (I was generally radiofree in avoiding the car for the bike, and otherwise listening to XM radio hearing the “songs of my youth”).  But they put on a hell of a show and my 20-something group was pretty adept at working our way right to the front.  The whole concert was alive with energy and when they played the song “Everything”, I was swept away in the experience, feeling for the first time in almost 20 years like I was in college, living in the moment, present and immersed in my surroundings, feeling the intensity and taking it all in.  There was no stress, no work, no angst — just RIGHT NOW.   “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…to put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” ~Henry David Thoreau.  (Yes, I would carry a copy of Walden when I would hike and camp.) 

Was I a Biker yet?  

In the months prior (in addition to worrying if I was a Biker or not), I had been contemplating the concept of Memento Mori – a latin expression loosely meaning “remember you will die”.  As I understand, it started as an artistic movement derived from the Epicurean ideology of “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”  The idea, of course, was to “suck the marrow” from life and enjoy the moment RIGHT NOW for this is all there is.  The art itself has kind of a goth feeling, interposing elements of life (flowers, fruits, etc.) with elements of death (predominantly skulls); the juxtaposition being a reminder of the impermanence of life and inevitability of death.  Religious sects (the Calvinists I think) got a hold of the notion and turned it into warning to clean up your act in life because you will not escape judgment in death.  The idea of memento mori appealed to me, as had its dual-dualities.  Not only is memento mori a thought-provoking interplay of life and death, but even the interpretation of the expression is both a call for vibrant living and of self-denial (or a least a degree of caution).   And in that moment of vibrant living, I decided to get a new tattoo… an ambigram of memento mori.  When Buckcherry finished, I made my way to the row of vendors to a tattoo artist.  Unfortunately, he was booked solid for the night, but I paid my down payment and made an appointment for the next morning, right before I was taking off back east.  I made my way back into the crowd.  I had lost my 20-something posse, but it was no matter.  Feeling the energy of the crowd I roamed around and watched the rally be a rally as Velvet Revolver played into the night.  The next morning after coffee, I packed up my bike and rode to the tattoo stand.  The sunny quiet morning didn’t have the energy of the night before, and my more-cautious self started with the mind chatter… “What if this guy sucks?” “What if he is unsteady and hung over?” “What kind of infection control can he possibly have in this dirt?” “Real smart… get a tattoo from some transient vendor…”  But, I held my resolve…  and walked in to have some of my fears realized.  I don’t know if he was hung over, but he looked it.  He was in a bike accident the day prior, so was clearly not at his “best”.  Needless to say the results were not “perfect”.  It is just a small fraction of an inch off (a point that no one notices, but I am painfully aware of it) and a miscommunication about “a little bit more serif” resulted in blobby thick lines (getting mad just writing about it).  It was a little tough to monitor progress from the excruciating pain across my sternum, but all in all I am proud of my rally tattoo.  

So am I a Biker yet? 

Leaving the Chip, I got on the highway in strong winds.  My shirt was flapping against my wounded chest as I fought the gales.  I made very little mileage that day.  I stopped in Mitchell to see the Corn Palace and noticed a problem with my rear brakes.  I had to almost stand on them to get any effect.  The front ones were still fine, and it was getting too late to do anything about it, so I pressed on stopping short of Sioux Falls for the night.  There was an Irish bar a short distance from my hotel where I enjoyed a burger with fried egg and chislic (which I hadn’t had in ages), and talked with bikers heading home from Sturgis.  The next morning I pulled into the dealership in Sioux Falls to find that the brakes were actually fine… and well lubricated from all the transmission fluid flying out of the side of the bike.  The Rapid City dealership had put the transmission oil plug on without a gasket.  I had the brakes cleaned and transmission oil topped off and headed out with the bike shifting a little hard.  Stopping at the Minnesota border for an ABC point, I found couldn’t get the bike into neutral, so rode back to Sioux Falls just as the dealership was closing.  I got the bike in to be worked on the next day, but was now stuck at the HD parking lot with all my gear as night approached….  

Am I getting closer to being a Biker? 

Fortunately my folks lived a short 120-ish miles away, so my Dad and uncle came to pick me up and I had one more evening with family.  The next morning the bike was fixed, and I was on my way again.  This time avoiding the interstate I took only back roads to see Americana.  It took a lot longer getting home, but it was a ride worth taking — the small towns, the biker bars, the random conversations and re-tellings of adventures, the scenery, the dive motels and camp grounds…  I finally arrived home with a few thousand more miles than I started, some new friends, a sunburn, my hair in wind-blown knots, a memento mori rally tattoo across my chest, a thrice-repaired bike, a bunch of T-shirts and pins, and a lot of experiences that are best discussed over a beer.  

Looking back on the trip, I decided I was finally a Biker. 

So, when did you become a Biker?

LD Ride Day 5: That’s a Wrap September 7, 2009

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The ride from Scranton was uneventful.  The morning was cold and a bit foggy which amounted to clammy, but I was fine in my leathers.  I headed down I-81 toward Harrisburg with a quick stop in Wilkes-Barre for coffee and gas.  From Harrisburg, it was I-83 to the Baltimore beltway and then home.  Completely nonextraordinary – except for the feeling.

I sensed that this 5-day trip would probably mark the ‘last decent ride for 2009.  With the upcoming LCROSS lunar impact abutting Columbus Day weekend I knew I would be in the mission operations center in California for the event and not be able to make a long weekend like I did riding the Dragon last year.  November weather would be a crap shoot.  I have no more unvisited states nor 2009 ABC points within practical reach. 

I managed to touch 44 states and a province this season, picking up the last 8 on this trip.  For those of us who “collect”, I immodestly have to say that I didn’t do too badly this year.  Maybe not the best, not nearly enough to finish in the top ten of the ABC09 rankings… but still, not bad.

But for those of us who ride for the peace, the adventure, and the connection to ourselves and our environs, Day 5 was a somewhat bittersweet….

On the bitter side:  My touring year was ending.  Granted, I will still ride most of the winter into and out of  DC for my commute and will have a reasonable shot at some weekend day trips, but the multi-day road trips will most likely have to wait until spring.  I have only been riding a short three and a third years.  But in those 48,500-odd miles, I have grown to rely upon those endless stretches of asphalt, landscape, the throaty V-twin song to re-balance my senses and sensibilities, and to find my place in the universe. It is saddening and a little distressing to not have those journeys available at a moments notice. 

But on the sweet side:  I realize just how fortunate I have been to have the opportunities to take my rides and experience my adventures.  Just since this summer I have seen more of America than many people do in a lifetime.  In riding the highways and byways of the nation, I have been able to weave those new experiences into who I am.  And, this New England loop was a fine finish

Did I experience any epiphanies?  The unpopular but truthful answer is “Not really.”  But I do feel that I end this season somehow “better” for the experience.  I know a little more about myself and the importance of striking a balance of life priorities.  I know that happiness really comes from within, and when it gets tough to tap that inner source, the Harley is a hell of a catalyst.  I know from its ubiquity across the land that there is potential for adventure in my own backyard, and I have done much better in finding it, yet I still seem to prefer the adventures that lie several hundreds of miles away.

NewEnglandRoute

Labor Day Weekend route through New England.

Car Envy July 31, 2009

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I think my other vehicles are envious of the Harley trip.  After being gone for a month and a half neither Jag nor the truck would run.  The ’95 XJS just had a dead battery (very very dead) as did the truck.  They don’t get a lot of driving anyway so I wasn’t too surprised.  The X-Type did finally turn over but had a check engine light and a complete inability to go more than 20 mph even at high rpm. 

So I had the X-type towed into the shop, put the charger on the pickup, and used the Harley to run a few errands.  Getting back home from getting my chaps fixed (they blew out at 90 mph on the trip and the snaps beat themselves into non-useability in the wind), I saw the truck battery was charged, so I started it up. 

I smelled gas, but thought it was just a rough start and went to move the charger over to the XJS… That is when I noticed the gasoline gushing out from a broken fuel line.  What are the odds???

I gotta TeePee!! July 20, 2009

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UPDATE:

I really really hate to admit this, but I have to stay true to the story…

The teepee has no wifi, no bathroom, no shower (which is kind of why it doesn’t rent well).  Pulling into Mexican Hat, I saw motels with AC, bathrooms, showers, wifi, and vacancy…  so I wimped out and cancelled the Teepee and checked into the San Juan Inn on the San Juan river for about the same price.  For the record, I did call the Mex Hat Lodge and asked if they would have any problem with my cancelling in the interest of bath and wifi – and they were cool with it. 

_______________________

This is too wild.  As some of you may know, the focus of my southern route home (besides collecting states) was to have a Swinging Ribeye at the Mexican Hat Lodge. Figuring hotel vacancy may be at a premium, I just called to book a room… and of course they were “booked solid”.  I told the guy about the trip and how I arranged my southern route for the express purpose of having a Swinging Ribeye — so he is renting me the TeePee!  Apparently even when full-up they don’t rent the TeePee as it is a little “uncomfortable”, but it has a bed and it is all mine. You have to see this…  I can’t wait.  The adventure continues.

Vegas Decision July 20, 2009

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All things considered – I think I am going to press on to Utah in the early morning targeting only 208 miles to Kanab.  Am too tired right now to enjoy Vegas, and the early start would obliterate tomorrow’s night life.   I don’t have proper “Vegas clothes” with me anyway. Besides, I am on a ride, not a junket.  And the early arrival into Kanab will give me opportunity to further catch up on the blog.

Have finished gambling $91 up, which is an awful lot of work for such a small net movement.  Was down as far as $850 and up as far as $200, so I suppose that is all good.  (Hoped to have blogged about winning thousands – but hey)

Good night all.

Coast to Coast Day 1: Oh Canada! July 2, 2009

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A pretty uneventful ride so far.  Made it from Maryland through the SW corner of Pennsylvania into Ohio following I-76 and I-80 west.   It kind of galled me to ride the exact same Interstate route that I took two years ago on my ride to Sturgis.  But my objective was to put a lot of miles under me quickly at the start of the trip, so I could be more leisurely out west.

I hit rain about 30 miles before Ohio and rode through about 40-45 miles of it.  It was much colder than I expected.  The chaps went on early (to think I almost didn’t bring them).  Fortunately I had the sense (for a change) to pull over after the first light rain to put on the rain gear over my leathers.  It was still chilly, and my hands and feet got a bit wet, but quite manageable.  Only about 5 miles of really hard driving rain with about 3-second visibility.  The rest was steady with a lot of road spray.  I was pretty much dried out as I approached Toledo. 

I was in a quandry about where to spend the night.  On my 2007 Sturgis ride, I had a really great time with a couple of other bikers I met in Toledo at a bar right across from the Mud Hens stadium on game day.  I then camped out west of town.  I debated whether to stop again in Toledo, try Detroit, or press on toward Indiana.  At the last rest stop before Toledo I pulled in to check my maps and happened upon a guy from the Gunfighters MC in New York who was through-riding from NY to Detroit to visit family.    By the time I was done talking with him, I was convinced not only to get into Michigan, but press on to Windsor, Ontario.  Fortunately, I brought my passport “just in case” knowing I could be close to Canada (and maybe Mexico – we’ll see). 

The rest stop had local weather displaying so I felt confident enough to ditch the rain gear, had a cup of coffee, and headed out.  I took I-280 to I-75 into Detroit getting off at Ambassador Bridge into Canada.  I was amused by the $4 ” fee of admission” (the bridge toll). 

After sitting in line for long enough turn off the bike a duck-walk it, I arrived at the boarder guard who didn’t seem too jazzed at letting this biker into his country.  I guess my saying “just to say I’ve been here” wasn’t on the approved list of reasons to come in.  After typing my plates into his computer and querying me about my heavily packed bike, he let me pass. 

I was hoping for a big “Welcome to Ontario, Canada” sign where I could get my ABCs picture, but there was nothing that I could safely pose the bike for.  I kept heading up the road and at least got an official Ontario sign at a visitor’s center.  You’d think that would be enough for both the Ontario point as well as the Canada point.  But since the sign didn’t say “Canada” I didn’t want to risk losing the point after coming so far, and I headed further up the road.

Fatigue was starting to set in, so I decided to just spend the night here in Canada.  I checked into a Comfort Inn (too tired to find a camp ground to sleep in the cold).

I suppose my next steps are to find a post office to get my ABC’s picture, get dinner and a beer and head to bed.  I will have an early morning tomorrow.  I intend to ride across Michigan to Muskegon to catch the 10:45 ferry to Milwaukee – so it will be early to bed tonight.

(Last night, while cutting maps onto SD cards I started a wrap-up blog for the LRO/LCROSS launch trip to Florida.  Maybe I could work on that tonight…  we’ll see.)

New Gloves!! April 30, 2009

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My new gloves are here! Am Seriously stoked.
I kind of abandoned the idea of confronting Warm Gear to honor the lifetime wiring guarantee that disappeared from their website within the year I bought the first pair. (The second pair was provided under the “1-year warranty”). Given that the heating elements of two pairs failed at an average of a year and a half — I really don’t see the point of trying again. I think I will disect the pair instead to learn more about the fatal flaw. 
I now have the Gerbing G3’s. They are so muck sleeker than the Warm Gear gloves and have a bona fide LIFETIME warranty on the heating elements. I will give a full product review after they have been road tested — but so far, they look great.

First MegaTweet April 1, 2009

Posted by dakotabiker in MegaTweet.
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As anyone who has ever blogged would say (and a lesson I learned years ago on another attempt at authoring an antiquated web page) — keeping fresh content takes work.  A lot of work.  Providing polished, fresh content even more so.

Four weeks after my “first nice weekend ride” to Harpers Ferry, and I still have but a draft, and a partial one at that.  Not good.  I’ve watched my numbers rise with the Dragons Tail, seriously spike with the Witicisms, and (justifiably) decline in the absence of an update. 

So — how to fill the gaps? 

When I started this blog I toyed with the idea of the occassional “MegaTweet” — for when 140 characters just ain’t enough.  Not just filler (which is worse than nothing) – but a more spontaneous, raw, realtime blog akin to Twitter, but unfettered by character restrictions.  And,  if I really plan to roadblog (which I do), I will not have eight hours of time to edit an 8 hour ride story.  But the MegaTweet would not be a replacement of ride stories, rather an addition, an augmentation.  Like the weekday comics between the big colorful Sunday Funny Papers…

But I certainly don’t want to lose theme either…  You are most likely reading this because you are interested in the an inside look at what a “typical” NASA person may do or you share the passion for riding, or… maybe… both!  So let’s give it a try…

Been an interesting day today.  LRO and LCROSS are both at the launch processing site getting ready for there joint launch to the moon.  I flew down this morning to attend a Launch Vehicle Ground Operations Readiness Review and Launch Vehicle Readiness Review tomorrow.   I completed a review of an LRO requirements assessment on the flight, and upon landing, I was pleased to be running ahead of schedule and managed to call into the weekly telecon for the Lunar Mapping & Modeling Project (LMMP).  The LMMP team is preparing for their Formulation Review next week which has had several of us putting in some extra time the last few days to get ready. 

After the telecon, I drove the rental east toward the coast.  Arriving at the facility where LRO and LCROSS are being prepped for launch.  It is the first time I had been there since LRO and LCROSS arrived.  Things are very busy in the launch manifest at the moment, so LCROSS had to set up their offices in a double-wide trailer for lack of more conventional office space.   Seeing the big “Got Water?” banner of the side of the trailer as I drove into the facility told me I found where I was headed. 

After getting badged for the facility, I headed over to the trailer, lucky enough to have just made it just in time for the LCROSS Plugs-Out test that demonstrates that LCROSS can operate all by itself  (like in its mission) without a bunch of test support equipment attached to it.

I met up with some of the lead engineers and they took me on a little tour of LCROSS in its new home.   Since LCROSS is being processed in a cleanroom, we had to gown up in “bunny suits” (clean jumpsuits)  to prevent from carrying particulate into the processing area. 
After a great walkthrough and test briefing, the team got to work with the test.  Having been a spacecraft power systems engineer earlier in my career, I knew the best place for a Headquarters observer during a critical test was “anywhere else” out of the way.  So for once I had the means of controlling at least one observer (me), and I left the team to conduct the test.  I headed back to the “doublewide” office only to realize I hadn’t been given the keycode to get back in.

I headed over to the LRO banner hung outside the “real” office facilities and met up with some of the LRO guys, and arranged to get a tour of their setup.  Back into a bunny suit…

I got to see LRO up-close.  The spacecraft was in the middle of a 5-day long mission simulation to prep the ops team for the journey from the earth to the moon.  I was also afforded the opportunity to see the Atlas fairing (the top of the rocket that encloses LRO and LCROSS during launch).  Very impressive.  The fairing has the mission graphic of LRO hand painted on the side, with smaller decals of the LCROSS graphic and the NASA emblem.   Being that close to the fairing halves really puts the enormity the launch into perspective.

After the LRO walkthrough, I managed to get the LCROSS office keycode and settled into catching up with the dozens (and dozens) of emails that had accumulated during the day…

About 5:00 a thunderstorm came rolling in — with tornado warnings, and here’s the LCROSS team, assigned to a doublewide (i.e. tornado magnet in midwestern parlance).  Figuring I’d hear an alarm if things got worse — I hunkered down and plowed through the emails — notices of meetings, out-briefs of meetings, reporting actions, strategic planning, review packages…

Finally the storm started to let up and I finally headed off the hotel.  After another dozen emails and five late telecons to coordinate launch planning, and I decided to go off the clock and blog a little….