Wednesday, August 29, 2018

It Comes And Goes

I have received reports from Up North that cold nights are closing in and the end of summer they say  is imminent. Sucks to be them, because down here summer is in full swing. Rusty checking the street before our afternoon walk:
Summer is a rather fluid season in the Keys, a place and time of Nature's choosing, usually between May and November generally consisting of high humidity, intermittent but heavy rain and lots of insect life. It doesn't sound too pleasant but believe me it is often dramatic and beautiful and the other issues you can handle with some help. Air conditioning and bug spray help as well as an umbrella and a cheerful disposition...
Rusty does not like thunder. He doesn't panic but he finds reassurance in being in the car or sleeping on my bed and with the recent approach of some spectacular thunder heads he is quick to retreat to the car for a dry ride home. His wish is my command.
He seems rather less heat resistant now that he lives in cool air, which as it does for humans it appears to reduce his desire or ability to live in the heat. He still likes to sunbathe and hang out outdoors but he has adapted to civilization...
Rain falls at random, some roads are dry and others, like Key Deer Boulevard, have obviously just been rained on. My most recent motorcycle trip pretty much finished off my rain gear so I got some new rubberized clothing and expect I will have to wear it all before too long. You just never know where or when it will start pouring.
It was windy and I stood on the end of Niles Channel Bridge enjoying the stiff breeze while Rusty rooted around.
A  close up through the telephoto showed the sailboat covered in birds, so one can only imagine the mess. It looked so much prettier as a white speck in the distance, anchored behind the hook of Cudjoe Key.
 There is again waiting for the photographer to get a move on.
How could not like summer views like this:
 And here comes the rain to wash off the bird shit:
I switched to black and white as I preferred the ominous look but its really no big deal to drive through as the highway is broad and well marked.
Yesterday was primary day so the wife and I went out and voted. Didn't do much good as most of the candidates we voted for missed the win but this is all they give us to influence things so you have to try. Watching Republicans smother the memory of Senator McCain, a man with lots of faults no doubt, rather makes the taste of politics rather sour. "Nobody's  safe whom we care for none" sang the mischievous little maids in The Mikado. Rendered with more malice these unhappy days.
And so home to my consolation. I have been batting back and forth with a friend the value of alcohol in our respective lives especially since the busybodies have been going to town telling us it is pure poison...and I find I don't miss it terribly now that I am home. I drink tea obsessively. That would be a loss were I to to be told I could no longer drink Yorkshire Tea. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Iron Butt Bun Burner Part 2

I had taken the time to memorize the route to Niagara, which isn't as hard as it sounds. To leave the Keys to go North you take the Florida Turnpike in Homestead and switch to I-95  at Vero Beach. The Turnpike turns northwest to Orlando and Ocala where it joins I-75 to Atlanta. I-95 notoriously goes up the East Coast to Maine. So for me I was on familiar ground all the way to I-26 at Charleston where you trun inland for Asheville where my sister in law lives. At Columbia you take I-77 to Charlotte, Fancy Gap and Wytheville Virgini. So I didn't really need the mapping on the Iron Butt. Home and fresh:
Vero Beach. The Iron Btt doesn't encourage good photography. You stop get gas zero out the A trip and get back on and keep going. They says the time spent stationary kills your average. With 200cc I couldn't afford dawdling.
 The scooter ran perfectly, and all speed will given as GPS, as the speedometer though quite accurate over reads by 5mph when indicating 80 mph. Along I-95 I was running between 65 and 70 mph  with the tachometer on 8500 rpm about a thousand below red line. Fuel consumption dropped from 180 miles from the 2.8 gallon tank on my commute to around 150 safe miles. The fuel gauge is accurate and helpful and when it gets down to the last bar you can still do thirty miles befroe the bar started flashing and then you start puckering if you dont know where the next gas station is...
 I thought I had done a brilliant job of avoiding rain by leaving mid morning. The afternoon storms were pounding Central Florida and though my freeway was wet I was going great. Then the rain started a few miles from Georgia. Stop. ON with Frogg Toggs over my mesh jacket. Thank God for waterproof boots and keep riding.
 At  the Georgia gas station at exit 6 the civilians made a few cheerful remarks about rain and riding  and I replied cheerfully something about being tough to be stupid. It was a nice little boost as was the orange monster and egg salad sandwich I ate at a table waiting for the rain to ease. 500 miles and not yet dark, in ten hours or so.
I had used up my freshness crossing Florida  and now our  60 year old hero is tsrating not only to lose his ears but to show signs of wear.
The idea was to cross the plains of Georgia and South Carolina and North Carolina in the dark and arrive at the top of Fancy Gap and Wytheville Virginia at dawn. It seemed ambitious, a thousand miles in 20 hours... and me getting tired.
This was where the ride turned to shit, not to put too fine a point on it. The heavens opened and I found myself riding through the woods of Georgia and  South Carolina in pitch darkness with what my fiend Eric describes as a toad strangler dumping quantities of rain. The surface was worn out, the striping also and I had droplets all over my visor. As I slowed down the Eco light shone a bright green on the dash to advise me of what a good job I was doing saving gas. Si I sped up a bit to restore minimal vision and every time I slowed down the water droplets in front of my face went a bright bilious green I nearly gave up and looked for a motel. I was genuinely scared but what kept me going was the respectful distance the cars kept from me and I never felt likely to get run over. I would be very grateful if South Carolina could see its way to spending more money on the roads.
I pressed on i the night, turning onto I-77 from I-26  and by passing Columbia the capital of South Carolina. I was stopping for gas about every two hours, about 130 miles and riding on one buttock and then the other other. At the Columbia gas station Trip B told me I had covered 767 miles from my home/ Iron Butt doesn't accept instrument mileages but it was comforting for me to know I had done it in about 14 hours. I pressed on in drying conditions.and started climbing. I like heat and as temperatures dropped to 65 I was not excited.I pressed on glad to see the mild hills didn't phase the Burgman. I was still doing 65 mph trying not to drift down or up as exhaustion overtook me.
 At the Virginia State line my eyelids opened and the crushing need to sleep left me, once and for all. Once again I had contemplated abandoning I-77 in all the miles of roadworks around Charlotte and I fought through my exhaustion. During the day Charlotte always looks like a parking lot on it's freeways and one reason I left when I did was to go through here at 3 am. Brilliant.
 The Virginia State Line is at the bottom on he escarpment that climbs to the plateau that leads to Fort Chiswell and the intersection of I-77 (north west bound more or less) and I -81 (north east bound through Virginia). Fancy Gap was a big test for the Burgman a series of long grades that test the brakes on 18 wheelers and kept my little scooter down around a full 60 mph. A couple of 18 wheelers passed me (!) but not one single car.I was astonished. There was a message at the top saying back ups could be expected in the tunnels to West Virginia for roadworks but I figured at 7 am on a Sunday it would be fine and so it was. When I stopped at Wytheville to call home and enjoy the dawn that banished my droopy eyelids I did some quick calculations. I had done 1,000 miles almost exactly from home in 20 hours. I had 500 left to do in 16 hours. Suddenly the Bun Burner looked doable. Color me astonished.
Everything was in perfect working order. All I had to do was keep on keeping on. Easier said than done through the wild roller coaster ride of West Virginia mountains ahead.

The sun never appeared at first, wisps of fog hung low and the road was wet though it only started raining later. I had to use a sling shot technique to get up the slopes as fast as possible, downhill at 75 mph and on the reverse slope watching the speedometer drop back to 60 mph, 55 on pretty steep hills and 50 on the really long ones.  I had to use the downhill to stay ahead of the trucks who seemed less than thrilled to be passed by a Hobbit on a moped but I was having fun in my own weird way.
 At Beckley I took US Highway 19 and per instructions from an ADVRider inmate I stayed close to the speed limit letting the locals go ahead and make way for me. MY wife hates tickets as she views them as a waste of money ad she likes my Burgman because she thinks its slower than the Triumph. Which it is but its a damned sight more comfortable which allows more consistent saddle time.
 I was clearly no longer in Florida. In 24 hours I had covered 1200 miles. Twelve more hours to go and only 300 miles to do. Piece of cake I thought and started to relax.
 Yeah then the rain started up again. so I put the Frogg Toggs back on and kept pressing on.
I hit a massive pot hole which managed to pop open a little cubby hole where I kept my EZ Pass which flew out and the baffles on my muffler shattered leaving me riding a scooter sounding like it was trying to be a Harley. Very annoying. The wheel rims and tires were fine luckily and I retrieved the EZ Pass intact dodging between cars and so all was well. I kept on keeping on. 
Eventually the sun came out and I stopped for a few minutes to enjoy the view. And the silence. The loud muffler really annoyed me as I hate noisy bikes. This was beautiful country and I got to see a lot of it at 55/60 mph. It occurred to me if I lived in Appalachia I'd probably need something larger to ride than a valiant Baby Burgman. A man likes  a little oomph from time to time. As a visitor I was having  a blast.
 I got tired I will confess dodging rain and sun. I forgot to get gas and thanks to Google maps found a gas station where I put 2.6 gallons of 89 grade in a 2.8 tank. I realized I was functioning but barely when a nice man came into the Subway with my helmet and gloves which I had absentmindedly left on the pump. The sooner this ride was over the better.
It devolved into an urban race with traffic along the shore of Lake Erie on the toll road. Pennsylvania and New York don't mark their state lines so at some point I crossed from one state to the other. I reached for my EZ Pass and it slipped through my gloved fingers to disappear forever in the road. I had failed to figure a way to secure it and my idea of holding it my hand, clearly a non starter failed. The Florida Sunpass comes with stickers so you can move it  easily from vehicle to vehicle. Oh well. I pressed on through some mysterious Google back road through Buffalo, passing heaps of rusting factories sitting incongruously next to lakeside parks packed with people on a Sunday evening.
I Just kept riding, no pictures ( I think this one below is from the last gas station in West Virginia) and took no pictures.
The clerk at the Motel 6 witnessed my arrival and gave me a receipt showing the ride took 32 hours. 
My emotions were a strange mixture of elation doing what I thought was impossible and at the same time I was alone with a box of Popeye's chicken my first hot food in two days, white walls and utter exhaustion for company.
I passed out.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Niagara Falls Or Bust

I have mentioned previously on this page the group that I belong to call the Iron Butt Association, a sort of club whose membership requirements are simple but tough: ride a long distance in a limited time and do it safely. I did my firs in 2009 and covered 1000 miles in 21 hours on my Triumph Bonneville then I got ambition in 2010 and I rode 1500 miles in 35 hours and 45 minutes in October freezing myself half to death trying to reach Binghamton New York.That was much harder, the first ride was a boring piece of cake...Bonneville in the Catskills touring after the Iron Butt:
After Hurricane Irma put paid to the Bonneville last summer, and after a doctor told me I was developing arthritis in my left wrist I sold my geared Vespa P200 and bought an automatic scooter I had long had my eye on. One that should be great for commuting 25 miles along Highway One to my job in Key West where I answer 911 at night for a living, and have for the past 15 years. The Burgman 200 was described in the literature as lightweight and peppy and some journalists wondered why you might need a bulky 400? I am always a sucker for trying to do more with less and I liked a lot of the features of the Baby Burgman. I found one in Tampa lightly used for three grand I rode it home the long way, 900 miles around the state of Florida on my weekend off.
Great commuter, holds its own against cars, gets 75-80 mpg, comfortable easy well protected in the rain and so much storage no need of a top box. Perfect. Naturally me being the one who likes to push boundaries I started wondering...what if...an Iron Butt? Nah. 200 cc? Hmm, I wonder how it will do going up hill..? On I-95? MY wife who knows me shrugged and said be careful and I started measuring 1500 miles from my home in Cudjoe Key.  Hey!I've never seen the Niagara Falls, I guess this is my chance! Spoiler alert: I got there but did I do it in 36 hours as mandated by the Iron Butt people?

I am a believer in preparation and  doing as little as possible to modify the ride before I leave. I like to test everything so I don't have to think while riding. The only thing I didn't figure out ahead of time lies in pieces on the New York Thruway...  I bought a tail bag to carry useful extra stuff, snacks,camera man purse sweater and odds and ends with a little room left over in case I bought a sandwich or a can along the way. The Chase Harper 4000 cost around $70 fit perfectly and simply on the pillion part of the seat. It never budged never leaked and though described as rain resistant it is, in my book waterproof. Fantastic and I don't have to ride around with it like a topbox when I'm not traveling.
 Four built in bungees and there you are.
 I used a carabiner to secure a 30 ounce MSR bottle under the elastic on top of the Chase Harper and though I never used it, it gave me peace of mind the two times I tried to stretch the gas too far, once in the mountains of West Virginia and once in the Everglades coming home.
 To secure my phone I used the Quad Lock, completely unobtrusive and brilliant and in the worst potholes the phone never budged in 3404 miles.
 Funnily enough I would start hallucinating as I got closer to Niagara that the phone was slipping on its mounting but that was never the case. Just me being tired.
I ran a cord as needed from the 12 volt plug in the glove box up to the phone, a new iPhone 8 which has massive battery capacity. An inmate on ADVRider recommended this stuff (below) so in additon to an electric pump and flat repair plug kit (never used) I filled the tires with goop. Got no flats...had a power pack under the seat along with the recently removed old drive belt. The scooter got a massive tune up at JR Motorsports on Stock Island and I was ready the Friday before departure, set  for 10am Saturday 18th of August 2018.  The condemned man walked his dog one lwast time and ate a hearty breakfast.

There was no help for it, I left and stopped three miles up the road at the Shell station and got my first receipt. I didn't notice but the clerk gave me a receipt timed 20 minutes earlier than mine should have been. Not only was I riding a mere 200 cc engine, the gods were against me too.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Wallace Stevens

She sang beyond the genius of the sea.   
The water never formed to mind or voice,   
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion   
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,   
That was not ours although we understood,   
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.
The sea was not a mask. No more was she.   
The song and water were not medleyed sound   
Even if what she sang was what she heard,   
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred   
The grinding water and the gasping wind;   
But it was she and not the sea we heard.
For she was the maker of the song she sang.   
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.   
Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew   
It was the spirit that we sought and knew   
That we should ask this often as she sang.
If it was only the dark voice of the sea   
That rose, or even colored by many waves;   
If it was only the outer voice of sky
And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,   
However clear, it would have been deep air,   
The heaving speech of air, a summer sound   
Repeated in a summer without end
And sound alone. But it was more than that,   
More even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,   
Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped   
On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres   
Of sky and sea.
                           It was her voice that made   
The sky acutest at its vanishing.   
She measured to the hour its solitude.   
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea,   
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we,   
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her   
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.
Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,   
Why, when the singing ended and we turned   
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,   
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,   
As the night descended, tilting in the air,   
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,   
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,   
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.
Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,   
The maker’s rage to order words of the sea,   
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,   
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

Wallace Stevens, “The Idea of Order at Key West” from Collected Poems. Copyright 1923, 1951, 1954 by Wallace Stevens. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
Source: The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (Alfred A. Knopf, 1990)

Gyorgyi Voros
Stevens's sense of the American experience of the Nature / culture relation was that modern awareness of Nature--whether Nature be manifest as wilderness, as the human body, or as the human unconscious--had diminished dangerously. Stevens complained, "The material world, for all the assurances of the eye, has become immaterial. It has become an image in the mind." Human preconception had so blunted the human experience of and relation to nonhuman Nature, upon which the human rested, that indeed nothing but empty anthropocentric image remained. Stevens knew that a cancerous humanism diminishes human experience. "The imagination loses vitality as it ceases to adhere to what is real," he asserted.
This interdependence of imagination and reality is, of course, the subject of "The Idea of Order at Key West." The poem's speaker, walking on the shore, listening to the singer, posing questions and propositions about the nature of art to his companion, posits a series of antinomies which can be reframed as usefully within the categories of Nature and culture and human and nonhuman as they can within reality and imagination. The speaker pits mind against Nature’s "body wholly body," singer's song against the "meaningless plungings of water and the wind," the glassy lights of the town against the darkness of the sea, and language against the "words of the sea." While he asserts the mutual influences between sea and song, he emphasizes an essential discontinuity between them and averts any suggestion of an easy synthesis: "The song and water were not medleyed sound / Even if what she sang was what she heard," he cautions and stresses that "it was she and not the sea we heard."
The poem's central question asks, "Whose spirit is this?" That is, what interface exists between human and Nature in song, the poem's metonym for art? The speaker has already shown that the singer's song fails as direct translation of the sea's "constant cry," nor can song effect a seamless identification between singer and natural elements. Is it then a production of individual vision against the spectacular stage set of Nature? After all, "she was the maker of the song she sang. /... [the] sea / Was merely a place by which she walked to sing."
The poem's final third is customarily read as an avowal of the romantic doctrine of the mind's ultimate superiority over Nature: after all, "It was her voice that made / The sky acutest at its vanishing" and the aftermath of her song that answers to the human "rage for order." In the resounding silence that follows the song, the lights of the fishing boats
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.
Indeed, Helen Vendler's reading of this poem places it within the Wordsworthian mind / Nature dichotomy and reads it as asserting the romantics' sense of "the power of poetry over nature." Similarly, Harold Bloom writes that the poem "remains equivocal and perhaps impossible to interpret" because it simultaneously "affirms a transcendental poetic spirit yet cannot locate it, and the poem also remains uneasily wary about the veritable ocean, which will rise up against Stevens yet again."
Placing this poem too squarely within the romantic framework of mind over Nature, however, discounts the poem's true dynamic, which does not rest solely on the dichotomy between singer and song. The two listeners themselves engage in creation (song making) by attending to sea and singer. The stimuli around the speaker--singer, song, companion, "bronze shadows heaped / On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres / Of sky and sea," night descending, lights emerging--engender in him a flow of propositions, questions, and highly charged perceptual experiences. Rather than depicting the power of poetry over Nature, the poem depicts the power of the sum of perceptual experiences created by human and nonhuman components in the speaker, whose main role in the poem may be summarized as that of creative listener. . . .The night deepens after the song has ended; the resounding silence, as it were, heightens the effects of song and what might be regarded as the visual analogues to song, the lights, boats, town, and other human productions that order and "portion out" the natural scene. This difference--the juxtaposition and interface between before and after--is more significant than any element of the experience. It is finally the speaker, not the singer or the song, who effects the enchantment of the night.
From Notations of the Wild: Ecology in the Poetry of Wallace Stevens. University of Iowa Press.