Archives for category: Uncategorized

DSC_2714There’s more to Guzzi than V-Twins…

DSC_2729And old, new, and lotsa in between V-Twins…

DSC_2732Tech session… A guru shares his knowledge ’bout airheads of a different angle.

DSC_2717Twin singles and a V65TT… happiness starts at under 750 ccs.?

DSC_2724Ready for takeoff…

DSC_2731More tech seminar… Don’t Guzzi’s ever break?

DSC_2728Neverending Guzzi Goodness…

Got rained out saturday evening, but plenty of space under cover to enjoy those legendary 25 mm. thick Iowa pork chops and all the trimmin’s. That was on top of delicious suppers thursday and friday night as well as scrambled eggs and ‘cakes saturday morn, even had pastries for us on sunday morn. As always, was hard to leave the Guzzi heaven that is the Iowa rally, even when the sun shines… But no matter the weather, the Iowa Guzzi Rally always shines!

Looking less likely that I’ll make the MOA rally next week, MOA has now totally priced themselves out of the market with an $80 admission fee, even if you’re just popping in for a few hours to look around. I’ve got business to attend to wensday so I can’t get there early and a parade saturday so I’d have to leave early, and to top off that curtailing of my rally experience, sounds like the sole airhead tech session has been cancelled. BMWMOA, I’m starting to get the hint… And no, I’m not about to buy a new BMW and renew my membership!

Time for a stoic Iowa small town and passionite Guzzista’s annual affair…

DSC_2697DSC_2700DSC_2691DSC_2694Campground’s filling up nicely but still plenty of room with friendly Guzzista everywhere, dead quiet at night, they filled us up with beef dinner last night and again for $5 donation to the local service club this morning, what’s not to like? MOA, eat your heart out…

Got US 14 closed for construction from my tiny town to the next one west, and the official detour sucks… 5 extra miles, on a narrow two lane. MN DOT didn’t have any better options, the only slightly shorter paved route turning to rubble despite a 5 ton limit, and shorter gravel and dirt road option becoming as slippery as ice when wet, and it’s been wet a lot. So naturally, we’ve seen more than a few motorists wander through our town looking for better routes. In the case of the 2 and 4 wheelers this has been a mere source of amusement as they wander our town, eventually happy just to find a way out and back to the marked detour. 

The big trucks are another matter, but fortunately most of the CDL holders know better than to try to beat the system. But a few are beyond hope… ‘Twas taking a look at the skies before headin’ to the showers and bed when I see some rear clearance and marker lights at an odd angle from the horizontal. Noted also the sound of an engine revving with no accompanying progress in any direction but some shaking of the lights. Hopped on the hack’d Guzzi to investigate, by which time the lost collection of tailights had freed itself from that too tight to attempt corner and moved up a couple blocks. I jump over to our lone parallel street, the one barely wide enough for two trucks to barely pass, and circle round him to get in position. Followed his path checking for damage, then inquired of his destination when he stopped.

Pointed out that he was off the marked detour, and pointed the direction he needed to take to get back on said detour. Asked where he was going, no answer. Asked what road he wanted to be on, and he nodded affirmatively when I said “US 14 west”. Reminded him again that he was off the marked detour, and he pointed to his small GPS. I informed him that was for cars, and then he points to his big GPS. Asked him if he had a map, and he points to the GPS. No, I meant a real paper map… He replied that he didn’t have a single one in the truck!

I repeated the directions back to the marked detour- left onto the highway, another left in about 5 miles where the sign says “US 14 West Detour”, and sent him on his way. I suggested he might want to get the reeking clutch that he just fragged dragging the trailer wheels out of the ditch looked at, and he had no comprehension. He made the first turn OK, then turned right not 500 feet later and headed down US 14… East!

 

Campaign Sign #1

Sorry ’bout the crooked county lines… I draw worse than a drunken 19th century surveyor!

Campaign Sign #1

My apologies for the crooked county lines, i draw like a drunken 19th century surveyor!

First off, a couple Costco unadvertised sale heads ups- The nice $150 floor jack that normally sells for $100 is marked down to $85, and the $100 Craftsman tool set is marked down to $70. Well, at least they were at the Sioux Falls Costco last week, YMMV.

That same $70 will get you into the BMWMOA national rally at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds next month, and it’ll be $10 more if you pay at the gate. For that you get to fight over too little grass to set 5000 or so tents on, try to sleep with a busy 4 lane street on one side and a busy railyard on the other, never mind the ever present glare of the streetlights. This is an urban fairground, surrounded by roads and industry and residential neighborhoods, and the nearest good riding is near an hours ride away. On the positive side, there’s regular bus service to the fairground should you wish to imbibe too much. I like hanging with the airheads but I’ll have to leave early on saturday morn, and for my $70 the Craftsman tool kit sounds like a better bet, even though I already have one and a bigger one… Gotta stock up on american made tools while I still can!

On the other hand, the Guzzi national rally in Iowa a couple weeks earlier is a no brainer. Plenty of quiet, shaded, and dark at night camping, good riding within a stones throw, and four meals and continuous coffee to boot… You’ll be lucky to get free coffee out of the BMWMOA. And all this Guzzi goodness for $15 less than the BMWMOA rally! How do they do it? While the BMWMOA has become a travel agency for two wheelers, the Moto Guzzi rallies are simply fun events put on by Guzzi riders for the enjoyment of their fellow riders.

Unless you’ve been hibernating these last few weeks, you no doubt repeatedly saw the image of a runaway Walmart truck and a minibus with extensive side impact damage. That would have been just local news for one cycle, were it not for the presence of a couple well known comedians in the minibus, one of whom lost his life and the other was quite badly injured. The State Troopers are on the case, and quickly determined that the driver hadn’t slept in at least 24 hours, and probably fell asleep at the wheel. Now conjure up again the image of that truck… Isn’t there about a four feet of cab behind the front seats, with no windows? Yup, that Walmart truck was equipped with a sleeper cab, and there’s a bed back there that the driver could have crashed out on and gotten some much needed sleep…

If Walmart would let him. Now if Walmart had their logistical act together, in a densely populated place like the northeast their delivery runs would be so short they wouldn’t even need sleeper cabs- Schedule the driver for a regular shift, said driver comes in and works a shift, goes home and gets some rest, and comes back wide awake to do another shift. Driver sleepy anyways? Pull over and take a nap, it does wonders. In my four decades in the trucking business, that’s pretty much the way it worked for me. ‘Cept for my first long haul trucking job back in the 70s, a 3000 mile round trip from Minneapolis to New Hampshire and back with two drivers in a very uncomfortable truck. The theory was that we two drivers would switch off between sleeping in the bunk and driving, but that International cabover rode so bad we often had to park for a couple hours so we could get decent sleep. After two months of that nonsense, I quit.

Because we had a healthy economy and strong unions then, I quickly found a union job at Hostess. And while most of the driving was at night, we didn’t have much problem with drivers falling asleep, because we had a union contract that meant you had a steady schedule so you  could sleep all day, knowing you would be working that night. Heck, even the “extra board” driver knew their next week’s schedule by thursday before. Still nodding of in the small hours in the morning? That same union contract gave you two 15 minute breaks in your 8 hour day, plus an unpaid half hour lunch that you could extend if you’re sleepy, and a third 15 minute break after 9 hours work, and you could take those breaks at any time and any combination you want. So on a night run starting at 9 pm you might save up your breaks until you’ve made your last deliveries at 2 am, then take an hour nap and use your last 15 minute break to grab breakfast on the run. Or if you’re wide awake, enjoy a leisurely hour long sit down breakfast. And some nights you needed those breaks… One night amidst the boredom of I-90 I pulled into the rest area for an hour’s nap. Got back on the road, still felt sleepy, so I pulled over at the next rest area and slept another hour.

UPS and the Postal Service pretty much followed the same safety system- regular scheduled runs, even for the temps, 8 to at most 12 hour shifts followed by time off at home, and an hour a shift of break time in case you’re still sleepy despite all of the above. And as a result, all of the above companies had enviable safety records and you didn’t see their trucks in the news much.

Unfortunately, trucking today seems to be following a different business model… They try to drive costs to the bone and profits up by minimizing labor costs. Instead of scheduling drivers and maybe having them waiting the odd few minutes for a load, they wait until a truck is loaded and ready and then call a driver. Said hapless driver may have been off for days and already awake all day when that call comes at midnight, just as they’re drowsy and heading for bed. Tell the dispatcher “no”, and he’ll likely get fired. So he drinks some strong coffee and comes to work, only to find that the he has to finish loading the trailer and fuel the tractor before hitting the road. And the dispatcher still expects him to drive 600 miles and make a dozen deliveries in 14 hours despite the delays,  so our hapless driver doesn’t even log himself “on duty” until 4 am. Finally hitting the open and empty road and beyond the din and activity of the loading dock, our driver pulls over for a quick nap before nodding off. And exactly 5 minutes after setting the parking brake, a loud buzzer goes of and his dispatcher’s voice screams from the satellite communications device- “Why are you stopped?”.

With that kind of jungle capitalism business model, it’s no wonder even my local small market TV stations have featured a “truck accident de jour” for the past week or so. Couple pig truck rollovers and a beer truck rollover, with no major injuries other than to the cargo, and there was probably no shortage of volunteers to clean up the beer truck carnage. Odds are, enough truck accidents and there’ll be significant human carnage, as happened last week with the Walmart truck and a few weeks back with a Fed Ex truck in California. And it’s no surprise that truck accident rates are rising, while car accident rates are dropping.

Meanwhile, Fed Ex has the nerve to ask Congress to legalize even bigger trucks… Memo to the trucking industry: Don’t even THINK of asking for permission to run even bigger and heavier trucks until you get your accident rate down!

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I should know better than to answer the phone on the last day of filing for office, especially when the call comes from the area code of the state capital or worse yet, DC. Thought I’d dodged the bullet when we found another fool for the political suicide mission of running as a democrat in my republican leaning state house district. But said fool wised up at the last minute and declined to run. Minnesota’s state house democratic majority leader then called me, at precisely an hour before filing closed at the courthouse 22 miles away. I tried to talk her out of it, but problem is, we owe her, being that’s she’s made the 150 mile plus trek from the state capital in St.Paul to our district for numerous events. And unlike our majority leader who despite living in big city Minneapolis is a closet farmer who’s decorated his capital office with model tractors he’s built, our majority leader isn’t a country mouse and probably considers her rural trips to be work. So after about 5 minutes of haggling I moved to end debate so I could make it to the courthouse and file before they closed.

So my mission (impossible) for this summer and fall is to keep the republican incumbent busy so he can’t help out other republican candidates in districts where a democrat actually has a chance of winning. Well, that’s the mission I was assigned… One of the pleasures of knowing that you’re going to lose anyway is that you can turn the campaign into an opportunity to test all kinds of campaign strategies. Like, which will get more votes… An old airhead with a classic Motorvation Spyder sidecar or a 2000 Guzzi Quota with a rainbow colored sidecar? Should I make a fluorescent Dakar jacket or a leather Army Air Corps replica leather jacket my campaign uniform? Are farm Auctions a good place to campaign, especially when there’s lots of old iron? Is it good campaign manners to shame a bunch of late model chromed out Harleys at a bike show by parking the “V-twin done right” Guzzi next to them, or would the old “survivor” airhead be in better taste?

So yes, I’ll be missing a few rallies this summer, but I’ve already worked up my excuses to sneak off the campaign trail to make the BMWMOA and Guzzi national rallies. Plus now I have an excuse to attend every car show, bike show, tractor pull, auction, and bike night in my 6 county district… Let the campaign begin!

And if elected, I’ll demand a recount!

 

If you’ve followed this attempt at a blog for awhile or know me in person, you’re probably aware that I am afflicted with a passion for politics of the democratic persuasion. Thus while the real motorcyclists hereabouts were enjoying the downpours at the Hiawatha Rally, I was driving to the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party convention in Duluth, 300 miles distant from my heavenly Buffalo Ridge cave. 

The downside of living out here is that there aren’t a whole lot of democrats around, heck, there just plain ain’t a whole lot of people around. So for the mere mistake of showing up at the biaanual february party caucus and ensuing party conventions of ascending geopolitical square mileage, you get appointed to a whole bunch of party positions. Thus I am a county, senate district, and state convention delegate as well as “Outreach and Inclusion Officer” for county, senate district, and congressional district party units. I’m also an alternate to the debating and partying society know as the State Central Committee, which given that the actual delegates have a poor attendence record, means I’m a delegate if I bother to show up. The upside is that back in the big cities people fight tooth and nail for these positions, because they do give one a little political power base… But sorry, I can’t “fix” speeding tickets!

Now in my should be more humble opinion, political parties spend all too long and waste all too many meetings and such getting ready for elections, only to half the time lose the actual election. Meanwhile, clever people like moderate republican Arne Carlson put together a winning campaign in just a couple weeks to defeat an incumbent democratic governer in 1990. And to prove that wasn’t a fluke, in 1998 Jesse Ventura won the governership on the new Independence Party ticket with a low budget campaign that didn’t really take off until the last couple weeks before the election. The other thing that ticks me off is that the Minnesota’s capital and 2 largest cities are on the other side of the state from me, and the party thinks that’s where the statewide meetings should be held. And just so the other eastern corners of the state don’t feel left out, once in awhile they rotate the meetings to Rochester and Duluth, even farther away.

This was Duluth’s year, and despite having an abundance of incumbent governer and such and thus not much business to actually transact, the party planned a three day long friday through sunday convention to benefit the local hospitality industry. Most of us delegates, especially the poorer ones, had other plans… We drove up saturday morning to be in attendance when the bulk of the convention’s business was to be transacted, then drove home saturday evening, eschewing the evening’s partying and sunday’s trivial transaction of party business. The only thing that interested me on sunday’s agenda was rebuffing the environmental extremist’s attempt to ban copper mining in Minnesota, but the hometown labor folks rebuffed that effort quite well without my help. I swear, these unsatisfiable environmental extremists are the democratic party’s equalivent to the Tea Party that haunts the republicans- unwilling to compromise and absolute hypocrites, trying to ban copper mining while entranced with electric cars!

So I loaded up the Golf TDI Wagen with a dining table and chairs and headed to Minneapolis friday morn, delivered that load, mowed the lawn at my worthless Minneapolis home, and headed over to an old friend and fellow convention goer’s apartment for the night. Up early saturday, and make it to Duluth just as the convention is gaveled to order and an hour or three of pomp, ceremony, and time killing begins to give everyine time to get there, get registered, and find their seats. Registration was quick, thanks to rather light attendance… We had 4 delegate seats for our county, and at peak had only 3 in attendance. Meanwhile, the deluge began… Some friends of mine rode (yup, democrats ride too!) to the convention, planning on staying over until the rains let up, then had to head home to visit a hospitalized accomplice in the middle of the deluge and were thoroughly drenched, despite having decent rainsuits.

Meanwhile, there was a backstory playing out… The party is looking for a candidate in my legislative district, nobody has volunteered to be the sacrificial lamb to take on this suicide mission in this republican leaning district, and for about the last week they’ve been strongly hinting that I should run. Clearly they were getting desperate, as filing for office closes at 5 p.m. tuesday. So as I’m wandering the convention aisles, fellow democrats are encouraging me to run. Now this is a bridge way too far… I enjoy campaigning for other people, especially when motorcycles are involved. But run for office? I’d have to behave myself, dress half decent, and worst of all, hit up all my friends for money! So without even thinking, I concocted a plan… For a start I used that term “environmental extremist” on facebook, which caught the notice of a democratic legislative caucus staffer who took offense. Thus when the democratic state house majority leader was looking about the floor to fill out his slate of candidates with one in our laggardly district, he completely ignored me and found a nice lady from my district with a husband and a couple kids too boot. ‘Twas a load off my shoulders, thought I might have to really get wacho so they’d pick the hermit who lives out in the middle of nowhere and spouts conspiracy theories at anyone that will listen, and he wants to run! Funny thing, the local Tea Party wachos would probably like his conspiracy theories and vote for him…

So much relieved, I headed home, dropping off my friend and retiring for the night at my most humble Minneapolis abode. Actually the garage, a pretty decent structure of barely a decade’s age compared to my late grandma’s 127 year old house with the hole in the roof next door. This being Minneapolis and in the ‘hood to make it worse, some wannabe burglar busted out a window last winter, letting in who knows what all wildlife, so I spent the night in Hotel VW in deferance to any bats and rats that may have wandered in before I was able to repair said window. After arranging the “dunnage” used to protect the table and chairs into a comfortable bed, I slept well, trucking “bedbugs” know what I’m talking about… Pension check hadn’t shown up in my bank balance yet, so I had to exercise some restraint at Costco, then drove through the deluges home, the Golf TDI Wagen most unfazed by it all.

Just got a call from the district party chair informing me that our willing candidate wants to run, but hasn’t committed yet. I’m layin’ low ’til filing closes!

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This story starts back in the Civil War… My great great grandpa William Slyter enlisted in the 28th Wisconsin Infantry Company F and after a few minor skirmishes died of tropical disease near Memphis in the summer of 1863. Before my father passed away in 2000, he gave me an oral family history that pointed me towards Whitehall, Wisconsin. So one summer day in the 90s I rode over on the lovely alphabet roads along the great river and made the first of many visits to Whitehall’s courthouse, library, and cemeteries.

In the town cemetery I was scoping out the substantial monument to an Isaac Fuller, who William’s widow married a few years after his passing, only to have Isaac struck dead by lightning a couple years later. The ground was soft underfoot with a century’s accumulation of topsoil and pine needles, but what’s this hard thing under my foot? Looking down, I note a flicker of white stone amid the green and brown, so I get down and investigate further. Hmmm, this flat rock seems to extend a bit, and are these characters chiseled in it? removing a few handfuls of dirt revealed a broken old military standard gravestone. I got some paper towels and water, and with the help of a few selections from the BMW’s complete tool kit, the words appeared… This was the gravestone of William Slyter, my g-g grandpa!

As always happens in genealogy, opening one door merely reveals a bunch more, each full of further intrigue. I wrote out a bio of William and the family history and left copies in a baggie sticking out from under the gravestone, which was noticed by the County Veterans Service Officer who provided a proper wrought iron identifier and they decorate the grave every memorial day. The bio and history was also noted by a fellow genealogist who contacted me with a few more bits of the story.

Turns out that William’s widow Saphronia was pretty resourceful, and with 4 children to feed she had to be. She found her way across Wisconsin to Whitehall and married the aforementioned Isaac Fuller, and before his untimely end they had a child, Wellington Grant Fuller. And undaunted by the loss of Isaac, a few years later Saphronia married another local farmer, West Daggett. Being up in years by then they moved off the land into a palatial for the times house in Whitehall where they both passed away as the 20th century dawned.

Now, I should note here that my father’s side of the family, the Slyters, are with occasional exception a bunch of drunks, never do wells, etc., and thusly not much of anyone has bothered to document their dysfunctional family history. My mom’s side, the Shobe’s, has regular reunions and has even published a history book, which is updated online. This makes the Slyters far more interesting to study, and as you can imagine, William and Saphronia and all her husbands were not going to go quietly into history. Heck, William was the sane one, a carpenter, and I’ve found monuments for him at the Memphis vet’s cemetery as well as in Whitehall. That may or may not be explained by the fact that the 1860 census showed a William T. Slyter and a William F. Slyter living next door to each other in Menominee Township, Wisconsin, both carpenters and one a generation younger than the other and married to Sophronia. The military is confused too, sometimes giving William the “T” middle name and sometimes “F” in their records. They generally list the birthdate for the younger William though, but the military standard gravestone in Whitehall gives a date of death of July 15, 1862, a couple months before William enlisted and a year exactly before the date of death listed on the gravestone in Memphis. Civil War history buffs tell me this is par for the course, the war being a tragic farce of disorganization that ended only when the Union got their stuff halfway together. If you wonder why the military is so obsessed with discipline and chain of command, the Civil War made them that way- they actually had neighboring militias fighting against each other!

Given the family history, it thus comes as no surprise that the inheritance of West and Sophronia’s small mansion in Whitehall would be disputed. The disputant was an R.O. Broadway of South Dakota, who alleged by handwritten agreement that he’d somehow acquired the property from Sophronia’s son Wellington Grant Fuller, by then living 300 odd miles west in Colton, South Dakota. And Wellington claims he bought the property fair and square by making regular payments to mom and dad, with the property to be delivered upon their deaths… Suppose they did deals like that before Social Security.

Now I was tempted to ride the 600 mile round trip to visit William’s memorial and the grave at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery of another William Slyter, my father who served in World War II. But I’d been there many a time, 600 miles of 2 lane is a long day in Minnesota, and the F800S’ front tire didn’t look to have 600 miles of tread left. But what the heck… I’m right next door to South Dakota, and didn’t dad say that some of our family moved there and even ran for governor?

Now the neat thing about the genealogy web is that it keeps getting bigger and better. I’d never researched the alleged buyer of the Whitehall home, R.O. Broadway… Doesn’t just the name sound like the invention of a classic old west flim-flam man? Turns out that R.O. Broadway also put a “Dr.” before that name, and he’s listed as such in a turn of the century directory of physicians in South Dakota. But unlike most of the doctors in that directory, there’s no listing of what medical school he graduated from… And he is listed as practicing in little Bryant, South Dakota, conveniently located 100 miles west on a 2 lane I haven’t explored before.

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‘Twas pretty quiet on Main Street, and the rest of Bryant too. No sign of “Doctor” Broadway’s office, ’tis a clinic there but it’s clearly been built in the past few years. So I retreat to the town’s Cenex Co-op C-Store and grab a coffee and some Wi-Fi. Looks like Mr. Broadway was also known as Robert Broadway, and after 1905 he had no recorded presence in Bryant. But he did buy some land between Pierre and Rapid City in 1920, just in time for the dust bowl. Time to google Wellington some more… Hmmm, here’s a picture of his grave site in Colton, guess that’s where I’m ridin’ next!

80 miles further the Zion Lutheran Cemetery was easy to find, but Wellington’s grave wasn’t! Found a Fuller gravestone, but ’twas the wrong Fuller. Though I’d have time to hit Costco in Sioux Falls before closing, but spent a half hour walking the good sized graveyard before finding my Fullers. Paid my respects, took a picture, and rode the 70 odd miles home… With a stop at Micky D’s supper club to search online some more!

Rainin’ today, so no ridin’. And here’s a pix of the Suzuki rotary bike I walked away from saturday: 

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