Monday, August 22, 2016

Walton Race Track

I mention in this video about one rider who was wearing number 8.  His last name was Keast.  Anyway, most of the riders looked like distance runners to be honest.  They were quite thin and lean.  Perhaps they carried a bit more muscle, but they certainly weren't built too big.  But the exception to the rule was this Keast rider.  I saw him in a few races and his size immediately jumped out at me.  He was huge.  He looked like he'd be better suited with football equipment on and positioned as a linebacker. 

Darrin and I also talked to a bike mechanic who works at a place just 20km away were we've had our bikes in and wrench on.  We were chit-chatting back and forth and joking about this and that and asking him how things are.  He was there with his two brothers and some nephews.  The boys were about 3.  Anyway he told the boy's parents, and them, that as fun as this sport is, it costs a tonne of $$$$, and you are going to get hurt.  He wasn't exaggerating.  

I couldn't help but think talent is one thing among the brother and sisterhood of this sport, but you first have to start with gear and travel and equipment that is priced above the means of most.  And I get it, you can have fun on a used dirt bike that isn't all tricked out and such, and you can get your feet wet into this sport with a good attitude and friendly people surrounding you, but then something happens.  It happens in track, and tennis, and hockey, figure skating, gymnastics and equestrian riding; there is this swing.  A swing that doesn't seem to go back to where it came from.  A swing that stays in a direction of higher costs, further travel, more expensive coaches and equipment.  It isn't unique to one sport.  It happens.

Then something else weird happens - and it is true in mostly all sports.  At this top level, everyone has the best motorbike, or golf clubs or hockey stick.  Everyone has mostly equal access to decent coaching, and is traveling to where they need to get or be.  However, there is this thing call talent again.  It seems like all the riders in the top 10 were basically going the same speed - just like all the top golfers probably drive just as far.  But the guy in first in the MX race is just that much more talented in the way they do the finer things that need to be done.  His bike is still 250cc like the others behind him.  His chain is equally greased and tires as equally good.  But talent separates these people.  How does talent come about?  Hard work for sure.

Walton Raceway

There are always a few go-to events in the area.  This week it was the MX races at Walton.  Walton is a small, and I mean small rural community.  It has a general store, an elevator for crops, and a sizeable tractor dealership, but that is about all.  I doubt 500 people live there.  There would be no way 500 people live there.  However there is a huge MX facility that plays host to quite the event every 3rd week of August.  For the first 3 days there is lots of 50cc and 85cc races - kids, elementary aged kids getting the feel.  Although as soon as the weekend comes, the big dogs are out and the speed really picks up.

On Sunday afternoon Darrin and I took it in.  The weather wasn't so great, but there were still thousands in attendance.  The action and talent of the riders exceeded our expectations.  Without fear, they had their machines nearly tire to tire, and on their sides, cornering and jumping.  It is hard to believe the pounding the bikes, and bodies take....  The bikes especially seem like they are beaten, and treated like a rented car.  And I suppose they are.  But each bike gets to the starting line clean; very clean.  The chains and sprockets look brand new, tires that shine, exhaust lacking mud and debris, and plastic that proudly displays plenty of advertisement.  After the race though - not so much.

So lots of noise and lots of smells at the races.  The schedule indicated there was a Master's Class.  I don't know the particulars, perhaps 40 and over.  It is sandwiched at the beginning of the week near the kid's races.  Who knows?  I have improved a bit on the MX bike this summer, but I don't think I have the nerve to blast into that Hole Shot with 20 others.  I will stick to running races for the time being.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sunflowers and Tomatos

We hit an abundance of tomatoes this year....

The sunflowers that did grow did well, but I planted 12 and only 3 or 4 made it....

Our basil, which generally does quite well, did not do well whatsoever this year.

Despite having a greenhouse and a lot of land for growing, we don't do well in this department.  Two thirds of what we start gets neglected and cast aside.  However this small plot of 2 feet by 4 feet was my tending, and it did okay I guess.  It has been a very dry summer and there has been little to no rain whatsoever. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Hatfield McCoy Trail System

Tucked away in the southwestern corner of West Virginia is an extensive motor cross, 4 wheel, and side x side, trail system of over 500 miles.  It is divided in 7 parts that are fully labelled and mapped.  Each section has varied terrain, but I will tell you that the easiest labelled trails are still quite challenging and not for the faint-of-heart.

6 adults, 1 infant, 2 pick up trucks, one 6x12 trailer, 4 dirt bikes, 1 four wheeler and a stroller were tightly packed to make the 950km, each way, commute.  We left on a Friday and returned the following Thursday.  We were routed down I-75 to Dayton, OH, then took #35, #119, and finally #10 into our destination of Man, WV.  Traveling there was half the fun, not the battle, as there was constant laughter, music, trivia, teasing and joking to fill the time along the road.

We stayed at a converted train station called The Depot.  It specifically caters to travelers such as ourselves.  It is located about 1 mile from the main trail head of The Rockhouse trail system - one of the 7.  Alone, it has well over 90 miles of trails that are not only quite rocky, as the name suggests, but hilly, twisty, and muddy. 

On a big ride we'd get 40km in 3 hours.  First there would be periodic stops every 8km or so just to make sure we hadn't lost anyone, and to rest, but secondly the trails don't allow for top speeds.  There are few, if any, "straight-away" sections.  Steep inclines of 50 degrees or so had to be climbed, the steep declines ascended, and all the while doing your best to avoid rocks as big as one's head, mud, holes, and loose gravel.  I wiped out significantly enough twice - over the handle bars and a few rolls, on descents and going very slowly.  Both times my front tire just slid out from me and before I new it I was on my back.  No injury, bruising, soreness, or the like though....  So maybe not significantly in one sense, but significantly in the sense that I was tossed from the bike good enough.  And there were a few times I just simply lost balance and dropped the bike.  Again, no injury or damage to me or the machine.  Even the most seasoned rider in our posse had an off or two.

Most days we'd ride 80km or a bit more - breaking it up with food and drink and rest and such.  We rode extensively through trails into a community called Gilbert, WV.  40 plus km by trail, yet only 15km by highway....  There we got gas, food, and just walked around the town.  It is not uncommon to see unplated vehicles driving through town and doing just as we did.  It is just the way it is down there.

It is a long way to go for such fun, and challenge.  I can rip around on a dirt bike up in Lucknow all day, or around the trails along the Bayfield river.   However the trail system is somewhat iconic, thus a belt buckle notch and something I can say, "I've done that...."  The trails are busy, and all the people were very friendly and nice.  I really thought it would be easier riding however.  I was not prepared for how difficult it actually was.  I expected the easiest of the easy stuff to be finely grated stone, flat, and similar to the ripped up rail road tracks around these parts.  But it wasn't.  I thought I did well, and of course my skill set and competence only increased as the week went on.  Trails were also labeled "blue" for more difficult, then black, and of course black diamond.....  We went on a number of blue trails as well. 

This adventure really felt like tree skiing.  It really felt like the ups and downs and the weaving of the skis through the glades.  So I thought of my brother quite a lot on the trip and how much he would enjoy this kind of activity.  He is quite capable on two wheels already, and of course skis, so what would a few extra hundred pounds and an engine add?  I thought he would have really enjoyed the trip and the experience as well. 

And of course the name is very important too - Hatfield and McCoy.  We immersed ourselves in the history and folklore of the feud between these two families.  Some of the bigger blows and events of the fight happened just about 20 miles away.  It wasn't the bloodiest or deadliest feud that gripped the United States, but it went down in history as being memorable in the way it was covered in newspapers and such.  It was memorable in some of the myths surrounding it in the way it started, and how a few killings took place....  So that was an especially neat part about the whole trip too.

Rain and Break-Downs

If there is one thing for certain, on most motorcycle trips that involve me you are going to find rain or repairs.  We found both.  It rained quite frequently in the southwest corner of West Virginia.  In fact, it rained pretty much every day like it would in the Caribbean.

As for the break-down.  Josh completely dumped his bike under water in a huge puddle.  He couldn't get to the kill switch on time, and alas, watered it down.  We first tipped it upside down and water just rushed out of the muffler.  Then we proceeded to take the spark plug out of it and get the water out of the top of the cylinder.  However we didn't have an extender long enough to reach the top of the plug.  We were at least 9 miles back to the hotel - dam.  So, we started towing it.  It was rough.  Just terribly rough on the terrain.  The towed it for about 4 miles until we came across some four-wheelers who were well equipped with tools, and importantly knowledge on the trick of the trade.  I guess one of them had the exact same bike a few years back and new exactly how to trouble-shoot out of our problem.

Sure enough, we got everything out, and then put back together.  The bike didn't want to start with the kicker, but on the first significant down hill we bum-started it and it took off back to life!  The last 4 miles home would be much easier.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Beckley, West Virginia Coal Mine Tour

We took a break in our motorcycle action for some repairs, rest, and some sight seeing of another kind.  It was 80 km east over to a bigger town/city called Beckley, WV.  It was a crazy drive with roads I could only compare to those on Tortola.  It was steep and hilly with tight turns in many spots.  Cresting into the city, we were greeted by a great deal of traffic and congestion.

So we put some new tires on one of the bikes, and changed oil and spark plugs in another....  We found this really comprehensive coal mine village that had been recreated to look like it was operational from the early 20th century.  They offered tours within the mine, and tours of houses and facilities that a mining community would have had.  They had an extensive collection of tools and equipment too.

Without saying, well, with, coal mining was a horrendous job.  The working conditions were terrible.  Pay was terrible.  Safety conditions were terrible.  Company owners used to pay the workers in credit to buy supplies at the stores, which they also owned....  The owners owned all the housing.  Workers had to supply all their own tools and whatnot.  It was just incredible that people would do that.  However, undoubtedly people did.  Little pay, lots of back breaking work.  Yikes.

The narrated tour was interesting and we got a good snap-shot at what it was like.  The museum was really neat with lots of archives and artifacts from the time period.  The region is still highly dependent on coal as evident as the numerous coal mines still in production. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Roger's Cup

Shelly and I just bounced back from a day's worth of excitement at York University.  We had 2nd round tickets to the men's draw, this year, and it was a hot and beautiful sunny day to see the pros have a big time hit back and forth.

We dropped the two kids off in Holyrood, and then bee-lined it to the facility.  It was an 11:00 am start for the fourth seeded Japanese Nishikori, against a less heralded American - can't remember his name unfortunately.  He was pretty much a whipping boy against his more seasoned opponent on this day.  That is the thing with tennis.  It seems often enough that some player trying to make a go-at-it on the real seen, they scratch together enough play to barely "make-it" into a big-show tournament, only to loose quite handily.  However - there are obviously lots of lesser matches and games out there that don't draw the big-guns out to them. 

After that game finished we scouted over to a 2nd tiered court to watch a wild card enter Canadian Polansky in his 2nd round game.  I can't say he is even ranked in the top 200 in the world, but he did beat his first round opponent from Australia who has held some lower ranked world positions (Kyrigios sp?), so there was a bit of a buzz with him.  He landed in the tournament on some sort of charity case I am guessing.  He probably won the Toronto Island "pro-club" championship a few days before against some other hack....  But he had no sponsorship logo on his shirt, hat, or wrist guards.  To be quite honest he didn't look like a proto-typical tennis pro; he wasn't over 6 feet tall, nor did he look to weigh 190lbs of serving muscle...  Arms didn't seem long....   He didn't have 4 extra strung rackets at his disposal....  No entourage..... Polansky was ousted.....

Acting, singing, sporting, writing, and the like; there are just tens of thousands and thousands of people who scratch by, like probably not exactly poverty line and below scratching by, but nothing too great, just because of the love of it....  Well, some of them probably are poverty line and below actually....  And watching this tennis and the lesser players just reinforced that for me.  The Taylor Swifts, Sydney Crosbys, Matt Damons, & Novak Djokoviches, are not the norms out there.  The people you see on t.v., are not the norms either - they are not the standard of the game, or the regular talent of the event = they exceed so incredibly much.   It is the Polansky's and the American whipping boy whom I love to root for though.  Those who really don't have much hope whatsoever.  And they don't quite frankly.  They have no $, no fancy cars, no fancy hotel.  They literally scrape by.  I am sure some of these tennis players raid the buffet table at these tournaments and save the food to eat during the next week.  And I am talking about the sub-ranked golfers, or hockey players, or actors or models or whatever as well.... 

They do their craft like the camel who wanted to be a dancer.  The camel who was teased and made fun of because it wasn't graceful, or even any good, at dancing.  But it danced on anyway because it made him happy to do it.  It was a way to pursue a dream, and not be dismayed by what others said - satisfaction comes to those who please themselves.

So I see these guys at this "professional" tournament.  And I think what a way to slog it out and make a living for now.

At any rate - we walked around the grounds quite a lot and there was all sorts of interactive things going on....  By mid afternoon the biggest gun out there, Djokovich, (no current slogging) was set up against a formidable challenger from Luxemberg - 6 foot four player, huge left handed server....  Gilles somebody or other.  He looked like he could be trouble....  He looked like he was a few grades higher then the typical tournament slogger.   Novak disposed him somewhat easily - 2 sets, but 2 full 7-5 and 7-6 sets.....  I was kind of glad it didn't go to a third as it was sooooooo hot.....  In the post match interview the giddy interviewee only talked about and asked questions about Milos Raonic, and what Novak thought of his game.  Talk about a homer..... 

Anyway it was a great day out and we stayed the night and hit up downtown a bit for some eats and drinks....