Don’t you wish all motorcycle reviews were as funny, informative, and totally refreshing as this one?
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
With riding season now at an end for a few months I get to catch up on my reading, tackling some of the pile of books I have managed to amass which threatens to topple over causing grievous bodily harm to the unwary.
The Monuments Men is my current read. It contains nary a mention of two-wheeled motor vehicles so it is not a “motorcycle” book, but it is a great story nonetheless.
The “Monuments Men” were a little known group consisting of a small number of Allied soldiers tasked with the responsibility to protect, to the extent possible, all the cultural treasures of Central Europe during the latter months of the Second World War. I’d never heard of them before and, for that matter, had never really thought about it, but when you consider the destruction wrought on so many cities during the war the fact that any artworks remained at all is in itself amazing.
Although they had a mandate from President Roosevelt and the support of General Eisenhower the initial team of a dozen or so men had no specific orders or logistical support once in the field. They were on their own, scattered across Europe, competing with operational needs while trying to follow the advancing armies. Transportation was usually by hitching a ride with someone going, hopefully, in their general direction although abandoned cars and bicycles were also commandeered when possible. Once in theatre these men had to convince field commanders to protect priceless cultural artefacts from the ravages of battle, looting, or the wanton destruction caused by retreating armies. They were of low rank (Private through Major) so moral suasion was their only tool to accomplish this. Sometimes it didn’t work. Other times they were too late, able only to document the ruins. But often enough they managed to convince commanders to take a particular course of action that would preserve an historic building or work of art.
In the process they also uncovered vast treasure troves of stolen paintings, sculptures, gold and silver. These, and other artworks, had been systematically looted by the Germans from museums, private collections, and Jewish homes. Intended to become the greatest collection ever amassed, representing the magnificence of the Third Reich, these artefacts had been stored in basements, abandoned mines, and remote hideaways while Hitler awaited the construction of his Führermuseum in Linz.
It was an incredibly daunting task, and dangerous - some Monuments Men lost their lives in the process – but the very fact that we can, today, go into the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and see Rembrandt’s Night Watch, or view the Bayeux Tapestry at its home in Bayeux, or even experience the Louvre’s collection is a testament to how extraordinarily successful these few men were.
It’s well worth a read. Highly recommended.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
The sun is losing its edge, no longer sitting so high in the sky. Its weakening power is seen in shorter days and sharply slanted rays – even at midday. The dark comes at 4PM now, a full five hours sooner than just a few short months ago. And mornings arrive with ice on the pond, frost on the cars’ windshields, and perhaps a sprinkling of snow on the ground. The feel of winter is constantly in the air.
We live in hope of that occasional, spectacular autumn day when the inexorable movement of the seasons seems to reverse itself, even if only for a few hours so we can have one more ride. But the odds are increasingly stacked against that happening as we move into late November.
I managed to use the one nice day last week (nice being above zero, not raining, and not too windy) to give my bike its final bath of the season. But even that was just a lick and a promise (as me dear old mam used to say), enough to get the bugs and mud off, little more.
It’s now tucked away in the garage, battery charger connected and fuel stabilizer in place. There are a few maintenance tasks to be done but I think I’ll wait with those until the depths of January/February when my need for a motorcycle fix of any sort will be at its highest. Spring will, by then, at least be visible on the distant horizon.
Meanwhile we hunker down to wait, dreaming of warmer days and envying our friends in warmer climes. Try not to brag too much please.
Monday, November 4, 2013
Seems like a good idea, right? And, really, how can one argue with protecting babies and young children – it’s motherhood and apple pie. But think about this: in the event of an accident this car seat won’t be ensconced in a more or less crush-proof cabin but will be anchored to the outside of 800 or more pounds of sliding, bouncing, shredding metal, hot engine and spilled gasoline. And that’s not anything I’d care to contemplate.
Even if no disaster were to occur, proper riding gear is simply not available in those sizes. Eye protection would be compromised and any helmet would be too big and ill-fitting (to say nothing of the strain a heavy helmet puts on a still-developing neck and spine).
I know we all want to share our passion for riding with our kids but wait until they are old enough and mature enough to hold on properly, get them the best protective gear, and enjoy our great sport together, in safety. A car seat bolted to your luggage rack is not the way to go.
Friday, November 1, 2013
Yesterday I received a box of books previously owned by a WW II veteran who died earlier this year. An avid reader of military history he had accumulated quite a collection over the years, many of which meshed with my own interests, specifically the stories of the men and women of The Great War. Students of military history can argue over the tactics and strategies of war, but in the end the stories that resonate, that stay with us, are those of the people who lived, loved, fought, and died in the trenches.
The second decade of the 20th century was a different time, a time where 17 and 18-year-olds weren’t consumed with playing at war through increasingly violent video games but were actively embroiled in a deadly cauldron of brutality none of us can imagine. Those that survived didn’t come home to psychiatrists, psychologists, and trauma councillors, but to families decimated by the loss of loved ones and a war-weary country that had just lost the better part of a generation. Most held the horrors they experienced to themselves, burying them deep knowing, and rightly so, that we would never be able to understand. Still they went on and farmed, worked, married, and raised their families. They were our grandparents and great-grandparents and, compared to the stereotypical self-indulgent youth of today, made of sterner stuff.
Historians claim that Canada’s future was forged in the crucible called Vimy. That may be so but it was only part of it. With nearly 10% of the population in uniform, and nearly 3% of the total population of the country killed or wounded between 1914 and 1918, the impact on the psyche of the nation cannot be denied, even to this day nearly a century later.
And so it is with those thoughts in mind that I shall remember all veterans as we come up to another Remembrance Day - John as I read his books, my father and grandfather, aunts and uncles, and the hundreds of thousands of other men and women who have, over the years, fought for this country. Some made the ultimate sacrifice; others survived only to live with physical and psychological scars that affected their quality of life forever. All gave up more than we will ever know.
They all deserve our undying gratitude and respect, not only once a year but every day. Thank you.
Lest we forget.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Now I admit that’s a rhetorical question, but if you’re going to do something incredibly stupid and probably illegal should you really be recording it all on your GoPro? I know everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame, but really? Clearly not the brightest bulbs in the box.
OTTAWA — Two Ottawa bikers face more than 20 charges and more than $21,000 in fines after police say they committed several infractions that were caught on a video camera mounted on one of the motorcycles.
Police said the two motorcyclists were stopped Saturday around 3 p.m. after several drivers called 911 about their dangerous passing on Highway 105.
When police stopped the motorcyclists in Wakefield, one of the men tried to hide the video camera that taped his joyride.
Police seized the camera and confirmed the driver had committed several infractions on the same day.
A 29-year-old driver faces 21 charges under Quebec’s Highway Safety Code, a $10,968 fine and was given 113 demerit points.
A 26-year-old driver also faces 21 charges under Quebec’s Highway Safety Code, a fine of $11, 268 and was given 116 demerit points.
The two drivers could also face a Criminal Code of Canada charge for dangerous driving.
For those not familiar with this highway it’s one of those “killer” strips. Its high traffic volumes combined with few passing zones and low speed limit seems to cause a lot of drivers (and riders) to simply go nuts and take ridiculous chances, with the expected outcomes. I will avoid it like the plague unless absolutely necessary. As for the demerit points, I believe each 15 points results in a license suspension for a minimum of 30 days so if this holds our idiot bikers will be walking for quite a while, and maybe even longer once they see their insurance renewal premiums.
Saturday, October 5, 2013
What a difference a month makes.
Having just visited Grand Canyon I can imagine how disappointed visitors must be when they come across this sign and others like it at Bryce Canyon, or Zion, or any of the countless other national parks and monuments closed by the current nonsense happening in Washington. Like us they spent months planning their trips, possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, only to find all that time, effort and expense was for naught. And for no good reason.
Then, with nothing else to do, they turn on their TVs only to see certain Congressmen and -women gloating and bragging about what a great job they’ve done in shutting down the US government. It’s sad really.