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Dances with Elephants, Part IV - Riding solo. 7/31/2006

On Sunday, I decided to make a run to the elephant sanctuary. It was more or less a spur of the moment thing, so I didn’t have time to ask if anyone else wanted to come along. Riding solo is something I haven’t done in a long time. I had just about forgotten how much fun it is.

There was a time in my riding career when I only rode solo. I didn’t feel the need for company, or having a riding buddy, for backup, conversation, or otherwise. I loved the feeling of the open road, just me and the machine, with my thoughts bouncing around inside my head. The bikers version of meditation, or a close approximation thereof. And yesterday I revisited those old feelings. I fired up Bikebike II, and headed off down the road.

The thing about riding alone is that you have to be self sufficient. You have to have the ability to self diagnose problems with your bike, should they happen when you are on the road. The ability to carry out minor fixes depends on you having a reasonable number of tools and parts carried on board. Mobile phones, while ubiquitious these days, are not necessarily within coverage area, especially when you start taking the path less travelled. Hence, bike preparation before a ride is paramount.

Ensuring that your fluids are topped up, the chain, if you have one, is in adjustment and lubed. That the tyres are inflated, and not showing signs of abnormal wear. That the engine isn’t making worrisome sounds. Everything should be tight, and buttoned up. Small preventive measures, like taking a walk around your bike before starting off, lookign at everything with a critical eye, can save an immeasureable amount of grief later. The last thing you want is the bike failing you, especially in the middle of a speed run.

I got to the sanctuary, and met up with the head of the sanctuary, Mr. N. I have to preserve his anonymity, because Mr. N. is a government servant, and bound the the government’s Standing Orders with regards to making statements in the media. He is aware of this website, although he does not visit it. But I know that the Elephant Man does.

I dropped by to take a quick look at Mados, who was asleep in his pen. I didn’t want to disturb him, so I just watched him quietly for a minute, and walked off to get a drink. The circus was in full swing yesterday. The clerk at the counter told me that the sanctuary received well over 300 visitors yesterday afternoon. I walked around, and took some pics of the elephants in the enclosure.

Sunbathing elephant

I had a very long conversation with Mr. N., about his plans for the sanctuary, and the problems he is facing as head of the place. Politics, as always, rears it’s head whenever people sniff out an opportunity for themselves, as opposed to helping out because they can. As Elephant Man is fond of saying, “Give and forget”. Don’t give to seek some personal or professional gain.

I headed back out after a heavy rainshower. I decided to wait out the rain, because I had neglected to bring my rain suit with me. About 15 minutes after the rain started, Mr. N. was informed by his staff that a large rubber tree had fallen across the road leading into the sanctuary.

The sanctuary staff headed out with chainsaws and machetes to get the road cleared up. The one thing I have noticed in the elephant sanctuary is that the staff are ever ready to help out. Clearing that road wasn’t their job, but waiting for the relevant authorities to come in and do so would mean that the only road leading into and out of the sanctuary would be closed. Hence the sanctuary’s unspoken philosophy about “helping themselves, to help others.” And all this is done without expectation of recognition or recompense.

The run back to the city was done at very high speed, in the rain. I was late, because I had delayed my departure, and waiting for the tree to be cleared hadn’t helped matters any. I ducked behind Bikebike II’s tiny screen, and tried to make myself as comfortable as I could in the wet and cold. One of the little ZZR’s deficiencies became very apparent as I barrelled down the highway at about 160 km/h. The backwash from the buses and trucks was making the bike wobble and shift position, sometimes rather alarmingly, when overtaking. The lack of weight, and squidly tyres, along with a wet road, was playing havoc with Bikebike II’s roadholding.
I considered slowing down, which I had to do at certain sections where roadworks were carried out. But I pressed on, doing a non-stop run, door-to-door. The only time I stopped was at a toll plaza about halfway, when the horn went off. I guess the horn must have shorted out in the rain. I pulled over by the side, reached past the yokes, and yanked the horn wires out. I didn’t even bother getting off the bike, even though the tempation ot have stretch, and rest my aching arse, was great.

I got home safely, and as I emptied the panniers, and took my helmet off the seat, I gave the little bike a pat for a valiant effort on her first solo ride with me.

Never go shopping… 7/28/2006

…with an idiot like KY.

We were walking through the shopping mall after lunch. I needed to hit the hole in the wall for some money, so we went into the building where his office is. Since we both had time to kill, we went to the Canon shop to look at lenses, and were idly strolling along.  We hung out at the AV store awhile, watching 2001: A Space Odyssey, on a big, kick-ass 100+ inch projection TV.
We then walked into the toy shop on the 2nd floor, and KY pointed out this.

A Tamiya 1:12 scale model kit of the 2004 Ducati Desmosedici.  It was tagged at some heart stopping price.  I have been building model kits since I was running around in short pants, and the idea of paying a 3 figure sum for a small kit like this was something that went against the grain for me.  O.K. I admit to having lots of models in storage.  All of them unbuilt.  Some of them are limited editions, or rare.  Many of them are of large scale aircraft and ships.  I even have the Revell Limited Edition 1/350th scale model of the R.M.S. Titanic, complete with photo etched parts.  And those cost a lot.

But RM159.90 for a small scale motorcycle?  Ridiculous.

But somehow KY didn’t think so.  We walked around the shop some more, looking at various radio control toys, which I was contemplating buying.  And all the while, this erstwhile idiot friend of mine kept bugging me about the Desmosedici.  He pointed out that adding another $30 to the price of the radio control speed boat I was holding would get me the Desmosedici.

I told KY to shut his face, but was he dissuaded?  Was he, hell.  He kept on and on at it, until I finally gave up, and grabbed the one and only Desmosedici kit off the shelf, and practically threw it at the sales assistant, telling him to bag it.  And KY just stood there and grinned at me.

When I got home, I pulled the box open.  The finish and quality of the kit were high, typical of Tamiya products.

I took a close look at the parts.  RM159.90, less a 20% discount for this?  Inflation is really biting hard.  The plans were typical Tamiya, well laid out, lots of information and pointers.  The decal sheet was execllent, no runs or misprints.  Tamiya quality control, as has been my experience with their kits since the late 70s, is above average.  I have never been disappointed with a Tamiya kit, ever.

I admit to having an ulterior motive to getting this kit.  Since the introduction of the Desmosedici in 2003, I have been curious about its trellis frame.  The first pictures I saw of the Desmosedici showed this yawning space underneath the seat unit.  No frame, no trellis, no nothing.  Just a carbon fiber seat unit, almost like a monocouque.  I wondered where the famous Ducati trellis had gone.  I could see bits of it peeping through the front bodywork, but where was the rest of it?

Scrutinising the kit revealed everything.

The trellis frame was still there, but considerably shortened.  The engine, as has been Ducati practice since their SBK bikes, was a stressed member, and part of the frame.  But in the case of the Desmosedici, the frame was simply there to hang the engine, and provide a headstock for the forks.  And also the hang the bodywork from.

Everything else rearward of the headstock simply attached to the engine itself.  An elegant way of minimising metal, and saving weight.  And yet another reason why I happen to like Ducatis.  Not because they’re fashionable and in vogue at the moment, but because the company has a typical Italian flair to solutions for engineering problems.  Some of their ideas work well (mechanical valve lift and closing), others aren’t so nice (flip up side stands anyone?).
And so I’ve added yet another bit of knowledge about motorcycles into my head.  Thanks to my idiot friend who bugged me into buying this kit.

Thanks KY.

Girl Friday - A conversation.

theSnark says: i like the composition of the shot. says a lot…. <— What do you mean by that?

Oliviasy < says: I dunno…. but the photo was speaking to me

theSnark says: what was it saying to you?

Oliviasy < says: well… I dunno… I just feel it…. but can’t find the right words

Oliviasy < says: erm…

Oliviasy < says: it’s sexy

theSnark says: what emotion comes out when you look at the pic?

Oliviasy < says: but not the sex sexy type u know

theSnark says: erotic?

Oliviasy < says: not exactly there either… erotic on the surface mebbe

Oliviasy < says: and it is a nice shot

Oliviasy < says: still can’t find the word

theSnark says: try…

Oliviasy < says: she seems peaceful

Oliviasy < says: sexy and peaceful

Oliviasy < says: serious

Oliviasy < says: … I rather just let her lie there

Oliviasy < says: and just look at her

Oliviasy < says: and admire

theSnark says: you are more erotic inside than you care to show the world…

Girl Friday.

Mercedes is the new Volvo - an explanation. 7/26/2006

In response to Hming’s comment, which basically shows his age, and basically just about how old I am, the following is an explanation of what the title means.

In the age of the dinosaur biker, with air cooled engines, and 19 inch front wheels, Volvos were the bane of the motorcyclist. Volvo at the time, (as a matter of fact, they still do), produced cars built like tanks. They were well built machines, and the Volvo engineers did everything they could to ensure the safety of the occupants of the said vehicle.

Unfortunately, this had the effect of insulating the driver from the road, along with the whole “might is right” thing. 2 tonnes of Volvo, as you can well imagine, can do a lot of damage to a motorcycle. And Volvo drivers, especially in the UK and Australia, quickly picked up the catchet of being clueless drivers, oblivious to anything going on around them on the road.

All bikers will have stories about car drivers being idiots, pulling out without looking, lack of lane discipline and so on. And a common feature of the stories was a Volvo. Hence the reputation of Volvo drivers being clueless on the road. But this has changed somewhat lately. Mercedes drivers, especially here, seem to have taken over from Volvo drivers for absolute cluelessness.

Mercedes is the new Volvo.

I was riding home after work yesterday, cutting through the traffic.  The traffic conditions were fairly light, and I was making good time.  I was filtering through the traffic a couple of traffic lights away from home, when my run came to a sudden halt.

Right in front of me was a big black Mercedes, and he was right up against the white line marking the lane.  Right next to him was a Volvo, driven by a senior gentleman.  And I was stuck.  I couldn’t go past the cars.  I looked at the driver in the Mercedes, a paunch bellied businessman.  He ignored me.  I contemplated thumping on his window to get him to move.  And he had more than enough space in front of him to move over a little, and let me pass.

And he didn’t.  He just sat there, with his smug “I have money” look on his face.

The Volvo driver saw this, and he moved over for me.  Even though he wasn’t the one blocking the lane.  I dog paddled slowly past the cars, careful to avoid whacking the wing mirrors, and nodded a “thank you” to the Volvo driver.

And I gave the idiot in the Mercedes the bird, as I shot off.

Dances with Elephants, Part III - Still more elephants. 7/24/2006

I spent the weekend with the elephants. Looks like I’m getting to be a semi-regular there. 3 visits in a week. Little Mados is doing ok. I’ve worked on the design for the rig, and it looks like there’s going to be two rigs made up, if we can find the funds.

One will be a permanent rig, to be set up in the infirmary, which will be used for the elephants in the sanctuary. The other will be a portable lifting rig, for use in the jungle, in the rescue of wild elephants. The portable rig was an idea that came to me on Saturday night, playing around with some construction toys, and Legos. Telescoping legs, chain block, tackle, screw on pad feet. If anyone doesn’t know what I’m talking about, stay tuned. And who ever said being in touch with your inner child, or at least playing with toys, doesn’t pay off?

The day was hot and sunny, and the river certainly looked very inviting. Unfortunately, having neglected to bring a change of clothes with me, I refrained from jumping in. But I could just imagine how cold the water was.

I have just about finished the design for the lifting rig, and will be heading out tomorrow to see some suppliers about getting the materials priced up. Hopefully it won’t cost too much. The price of the rig is an issue, because it will entirely be a project funded by donations and contributions. The sanctuary doesn’t have the disposable funds for a project of this size, and approvals for a larger allocation of funds from the government will take too long. And little Mados is not going to wait for the wheels of government to start rolling.

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