DSCF4282  Here’s a link to some better pix.

My old kayak is all of 10 feet long and has given way more fun than the $250 I gave Costco for it should allow. But at 50+ pounds it’s too heavy to portage so it gets trailered and dragged to and fro the lake a lot. And while it turns fast, being short it’s slow no matter how fast you paddle. Boarding, always important to a gimpy near 70 and overweight paddler, ranges from “ain’t easy” to “downright scary”!

The new boat, which cost $1950 even though it’s end of season and a blem, is about half the weight despite being over half again as long at 16 feet. I’ve wanted one of these lightweight high performance kevlar canoes for going on three decades, and with everything I’ll ever need already paid for and Social Security threatening to shower me with more money next year, I gave in to my dreams. Had it out on the lake, or at least the little bay round the boat launch, for a bit this morning but the 15 MPH winds gusting to 25 cut short my paddling. Getting in and out proved even easier than the same gymnastics in the kayak, affirming why I decided to go for a canoe rather than a kayak- canoes are much more versatile and useful for old folks and gimps like me! This long lightweight proved to be just as seaworthy as the short fat kayak, as the only water taken in despite the big waves was due to my splashy paddling. And efficient… About two paddle strokes and I was across that little 50 yard or so wide bay!

The downside to this relentless pursuit of efficiency, speed, and light weight is a boat that in or out of the water is a fragile boat that can’t just be run up on shore or literally dragged in and out of the water. That said, at 28 pounds weight, it’s not much of a challenge to carry and lift atop the car racks. In fact, the major challenge was fighting all the wind the boat caught to maneuver it on and off the car. This problem continued in the water, get broadside to the wind and it takes serious maneuvers to get this long boat headed in the intended direction- After a couple nearly out of control episodes I decided to head for shore while that was I still had a choice of where on shore.

Which neatly sag ways into this little editorial… Why must we choose between extreme designs instead of a versatile “all rounder”? I will confess to seriously considering pre-ordering one of the upcoming mid engine Corvettes, even though I still haven’t forgiven GM for killing the Corvair a half century ago. But while a brilliant car at a bargain price, the next ‘Vette would be even better with a turbo’d 4 or V6 instead of the fugitive from a truck pushrod V8 it’s going to get to satisfy GM’s perception of their customer’s need for big block V8 bragging rights. The Mustang at least provides the choice between a big V8 and turbo’d 4, although said brilliant EcoBeast 4 is held back by the Mustang’s girth needed to fit around the wide V8.

So it seems like the popular boats for paddlesports are the cheap and cheerful molded plastic kayaks and the much pricier competition oriented rapids running kayaks and long fast canoes whose natural habitant seems to be the placid waters of south Minneapolis’ chain of lakes. In researching boats prior to purchase after eliminating kayaks (can’t haul a folding bike and lotsa other useful stuff in one) I figured out that the “sweet spot” for my use was a canoe about 13 to 15 feet long. Speed potential of a boat being the square of length that should give me a considerable improvement in miles covered per hour, but beyond 15 feet I doubt this senior citizen can reliably produce the fraction of a horsepower to take advantage of a longer boat. Make a boat longer and it gets heavier, which means a shorter boat can be made with enough strength to tolerate the occasional “oops”. A 13-15 foot boat is also simply easier to live with, just throw it on the flatbed trailer and tie it down for travel and it might even fit into a place of honor in the living room for winter storage. So I went shopping for a 13 to 15 foot canoe…

Now Northstar does make this 14 and a half foot Trillium model and the other kevlar canoe maker of any size, Wenonah, makes this 13 foot Fusion that even offers a rudder which makes a lot of sense and riles up the purists to boot. But good luck finding one to buy- at probably the bigger dealer around here, the legendary Hoigaard’s, the shortest solo canoe was 15 foot and inches and $300 more than my new 16 footer. Another Wenonah dealer had a blem 16 and a half footer for $250 more and half again the weight, and the dealer I bought from had one a whole 6 inches shorter, but it had sold before I got there.

So it seems like the V8 ‘Vette, the makers are building a product targeted at the speedy twenty something guys who can’t afford it anyways. But the real customers are more like the lady next county over, at least a decade my senior, who has a whole collection of ‘Vettes and will probably be adding the latest, but hasn’t the slightest need of big block V8 power. Actually build and make the dealers stock that 14 foot or so “all rounder” canoe with a bit of kayak DNA that works on all kinds of water and is easy to live with off water  too and they’d satisfy their real customers desires and sell flotillas of them.

And while I’m not going to return my new “hot rod” canoe because I can’t get anything better, I’m not going to be a “social media persuader” for it either… Canoe makers, you can do better!


It’s father’s day, and my dad was a Ford man, born of bad experiences with a GM product and his respect for Ford’s sound and honest engineering. Being the usual disobedient teen Ford had to earn my loyalty, and they did that with a 60s filled with racing and revolutionary products.

Those were heady times, with Ford taking on not just it’s American competition but the world’s best on the racetracks and in the showrooms. When Ferrari refused to be bought, Ford built and perfected the Cobra and GT race cars and put a dream team of the best drivers behind the wheel. The Ford GT and it’s derivatives dominated LeMans and endurance racing for years, even in the hands of amateurs after the Ford factory team pulled out. It was Ford’s “moonshot”, and just as NASA developed technology that we still benefit from, Ford’s developments in materials and computer modeling for the GT program advanced the science of auto engineering.

So a few years back when the Ford family was probably more worried about the company’s history and future they decide to build a 21st century Ford GT, return to LeMans, and win. And they succeeded, for awhile… But the competition from Porsche, Ferrari, estranged subsidiary Aston Martin, and even lowly crosstown rival GM wasn’t sleeping and improved their car’s performance. So come LeMans 2019 Ferrari 488s, Porsche 911 RSRs, and even lower class ‘Vettes are matching and beating the Ford GT’s qualifying times.

Come race day and night the Ferraris, Porsches, and even Chevy Corvettes take the lead and hold it. The Fords were dead reliable like a fleet of F150s with all four finishing, but the highest was only in fourth place. But the Ford GT was “dead racecar running” as Ford had long ago pulled the plug on the GT and race program. There was talk of continued support for the amateurs one of whom won the GT amateur class in a Ford GT, but the smart money will be invested in race cars that aren’t going away like the “Vette and 911.

So what car won? First place went to that little company that Ford tried to buy and failing that defeat in the 60s, Ferrari. The lower two podium positions went to Porsche, whose parent VW Group is partnering with Ford on a bunch of future products. No wonder media.ford.com has been quiet today… VW Group, could you speed up that acquisition and put Ford out of it’s misery?

Long days bring long races and rallies, and the internet brings you damn near in person coverage.

First off there’s LeMans, and it’s the end of an era as Ford exits car making and thus car racing. The Ford GT is about to be eclipsed by the upcoming mid engined Corvette and the old “Vette is nipping at Fords heels as well as the usual 911s, Aston Martins, and Ferraris, but Ford Racing is going out in style with full 24 hour in car video feet starting at 8 am central saturday at this Utube channel.

Once you’ve had a long sleep and recovered from that ultimate binge watching the Iron Butt Rally heads outa Greenville, South Carolina for an 11 day long way round tour of at least this country. Daily updates are usually given here at the IBR’s web page and the best “play by play” coverage is at the FJR forum, registration may be required.

So binge watch to your little gearhead heart’s content… Nothin’ else really important is going on the next two weeks!

Every writer has a bunch of canned story lines in their head for likely future use, some even have them all composed and stored on their hard drives, ready to go in the race to beat the 24 hour news cycle. Heck, I suspect the PR flacks have them set aside too. Mack having been milked for all it’s worth by Volvo with sales sagging, no doubt the inevitable is coming, heralded by the usual press release blaming “market factors” for yet another plant closing and death of a once powerful brand.

Been a depressing rally season, though partly due to what is now being called the “climate crisis” instead of just plain “climate change”. The Dam site rally on the Missouri was windblown and cold, thanks to the sheltered campground being flooded out. GR3 was a washout, though last week’s Minnesota BMW Rally held it’s own, maintaining last years attendance. But there’s too little crowding here at the Iowa BMW Rally, despite perfect weather. Hopefully another hundred or so riders will roll in today and Saturday.

Gettin’ so lonely I may take in a political event on the way home Sunday…

DSCF2608And taters, brats, cornbread, salad, with apple pie for desert too!

DSCF2610such was the epicurean opus of the Big Sioux BMW Riders 17th or so Dam Rally on the Missouri River near the Nebraska-South Dakota border. We built up to that crescendo of taste with a friday night dinner that included brats AND three gallons of chili! Saturday breakfast featured scrambled eggs with Cherizo saugage, how we found room for lunch I’ll never know.

Did I mention the weather saturday was miserable with rain and high winds? Nobody complained, even after we waited out the rain before headin’ out for lunch only to get rained on all the way to lunch and back! I had a repeat battle with a too well ventilated REI tent channeling those high winds right at me in my sleeping bag, but with a belly full of great food, I couldn’t complain.

So motorcycle rallies aren’t dying if they offer all this one does- a weekend campout in the beauty of the Missouri River valley with great food and folks… No wonder this rally has recovered from 5 riders a few years back to 30 odd this year, bad weather be damned!



DSCF2530Old Airhead friends, settin’ up for another traditional tech daze.

DSCF2536Microsurgery on an ignition advance unit.

DSCF2541An ST (I think) about to get it’s heads back.

DSCF2546Many hands (and minds) make the work go quickly!

DSCF2548It’s alive!

DSCF2569Safety First?

DSCF2555Our host Kevin’s failed parts “Shelf of Shame”…

DSCF2567Another long forgotten Airhead brought back to life… Around 10 pm we heard a roar from the shop, our Airhead techs wouldn’t give up until they had it running! Kevin himself bought a DOA R65 and we had it running within a couple hours… Damn hard to keep a good airhead dead!

DSCF2560Headed home, and better than before… Decades after the last Airheads rolled off the assembly line they refuse to die or even be obsoleted. Pretty much the same with us Airhead riders, we’re gonna die someday, but ’til then we’re wrenchin’, ridin’, and remembering!

Back in the 1930s Henry Ford accepted an award from Adolph Hitler, and that event has haunted Ford Motor Company ever since. Today Nuss Trucks made the same mistake by hosting Donald Trump for a media event at their Burnsville, Minnesota dealership.

I (used to) like Nuss, always had good dealings with them and they keep a nice collection of classic Macks. Nuss has been an up and comer in the heavy truck and construction machinery business here in the midwest, expanding to eight locations in Minnesota and western Wisconsin and carrying the full line of Mack and Volvo trucks and construction equipment.

That means a lot of their customers are governments agencies run by women and sensitive men that can’t stomach Trump’s policies. And while I doubt Nuss will get banned from any bidding, when it’s time to order up parts Nuss may no longer be the go-to vendor. Couple decades back women managers in public fleets forced NAPA to kill off their exploitive “parts pups” girlie calendar, Nuss is about to see the same mysterious (to them) sales shortfall.

Nuss, you might want to take a hint from the real “big dog” in the midwest trucks and parts business, Boyer… Stay outa politics and concentrate on giving ALL your customers good service. And don’t let Trump anywhere near a truck!


Couple years back I took Florida and a few other southern states to task for shuttin’ down I-10 for days because it was below freezing, might rain, and they had no salt. To further shame them I used the example of my home state’s snowplows on steroids, installed by MNDOT themselves with the reinforced snowplows supplied by an outfit a snowball’s throw from the Mighty Mississippi and a rail siding who couldn’t build lightweight if they tried. Seriously, the massive reinforcing on the back side of a Falls plow suggests it was designed for ramming snowbanks at full speed.

That’s the legend, the reality is becoming something else… Minnesota’s strange bipartisan coalition on highway underfunding where the democrats think we have to many roads and the republicans don’t want to spend money on them seems to have infected plowing too, and the tandem drive dump truck that used to push those Falls plows and ballast the secret weapon of ice control, the underframe plow, have been replaced by “cheap and cheerful” underpowered single drives. Thus a foot of “snowcrete” means wait for the loaders and any aging Oshkosh snowblowers that can still sorta move under their own power.

So no wonder that 48 hours ago every east-west interstate from Kansas to Canada was closed and some of them just reopened in the last few hours. Same story a couple weeks ago when I-90 across southern Minnesota was snowed under for two days, although some of that can be blamed on the too confident engineers who routed I-90 across the ridges rather than the through the valleys route of US-14 which followed the route of the Chicago&Northwestern, who probably followed the native americans. Suffice to say, the old truck drivers are still shaking their heads over that one…

So if this country still wants to be an industrial powerhouse we’d best invest in truck mounted snowblowers instead of waiting decades for Air Force hand me downs, loaders, big trucks, and skilled people to operate all of the above. Or better yet, put our freight and passengers on the railroads… BNSF’s Transcontinental Routes remained open through this blizzard, though the schedule was probably better used as kindling or TP. Heck, South Dakota was so desperate for supplies that CP could have probably sold out an intermodal train outa Chicago even though they have no intermodal yard in South Dakota! Unfortunately, CP’s too buy chasing away customers they only make 30% profits on to be bothered. That infectious profit maximization disease seems to be infecting every major railroad in America except BNSF, whose CEO Matt Rose is bullishly leading the railroad in chasing any freight that turns a profit.

BTW, Matt seems about to retire from BNSF, and would make a great DOT Secretary for the upcoming democratic president in 2021…



db9328What with all the snow we’ve had lately, machines like this have been coming out of hiding. Hiding because a new one like this costs the better part of half a million $$$ and this 30+ year old one with only 4000 hours or miles on it sold for less than $20,000 on a hot august day. If you’re a Public Works, Highway Department, or DOT manager you know you’ll need this ultimate tool in the snow removal arsenal someday, but you hide it in the back of the back lot should some opportunistic politician spot it, declare it a waste of taxpayer dollars, and after it’s sold you know you’ll never have the budget to replace it.

I sense a business plan here, or at least an excuse to horde some neat old machinery. Multi-millionaire Irwin Jacobs got his start stockpiling sandbags, and during flood season he always had them in stock and sold them at profitable prices. Let’s see… A Mack dump truck, maybe a wheel loader, and a mighty Oshkosh…

DSCF2425That cut is even deeper since the last blizzard, and both the county and state DOT are hiring outside contractors to push the snow back. Heck, who’s speculating… We’d be performing a public service!

DSC_2210Then I look at my little low clearance garage and remember that I should be getting my tiny town and it’s seldom used tractor and snowblower signed up to offer mutual aid!