Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Birding Lake Champain

On Sunday, I took a birding trip on Lake Champlain that was offered by UVM teacher Allan Strong, on the UVM research boat Melosira.

The idea was that we might get some better looks at species that would be difficult to see from land. Some of the rarer pelagic migrants that come down the lake don't hang around long, and often don't come close to either shore, so it sounded like a promising trip.

We left Thompson's Point at 7:00 am and motored north up the center of the lake to the "four brothers" islands, which are just south of the Burlington Waterfront. From there we turned south and followed the NY coast back down and then crossed back to our departure point by noon.

Right off the bat we started counting impressive numbers of common loons, with over 40 spotted in the first hour, mostly flying, though some were in the water. The really rare birds eluded us, but it was still cool to be out on the lake on a beautiful day, and I was able to add several species to my year list, which is shamefully low.

Here is a small flock of brant geese heading south down the lake.

No birding trip on or near the lake is complete without a look at a bald eagle. This one was remarkably tolerant of us motoring up for a closer view.                                                                                                                     

This is a map of the route with pinpoints for time and location on route..

Photos courtesy of Allan Strong and the crew of Melosira

Thursday, July 18, 2013

OVRP July 14

First race of the season for me. I can't remember when it's been this late in the summer for my first race, but there it is. I did go down to the old WVRC track to test out the bike a few weeks ago, and I should've posted an entry about that, but I never got around to it.

It was a hot day...temps in the high 80's or higher in the sun.

The turnout for this race was kinda low, but fortunately the Vintage class was pretty well represented with 8 entries, and the 50+ class had 6 or 7 bikes. Bill and I entered those classes, Scott was in Vintage with us and he also entered the Sportsman class on my bike. He hadn't raced my bike in a while, and we were curious about which bike he'd be faster on.

The heat races went pretty well, I got paired up with Scott in the Vintage heat. I thought I had a decent start, but he had a better one and got the holeshot. I tried to stay on him but he didn't make any mistakes that I could capitalize on, so we finished in that order. The 50+ heat went about the same except the winner was some dude on a modern Kawasaki 450.

Scott went out for the Sportsman heat and slotted into 3rd place coming out of turn 2 behind Nick Wiemer on his Rotax, and a guy on a Honda CRF450. He was chased hard by a modern KTM 450 for the rest of the race, but he held on to take 3rd place.

They didn't post the lap times for the heat races, so it was hard to know whether Scott was faster on my bike than his. He felt (and I agreed) that mine has more power than his, but it's a much harsher delivery from closed throttle, so it takes some technique to get a smooth exit from the turns onto the straights, whereas his bike is smoother, but doesn't have the same punch. They're both geared the same, for what that's worth.

We got to the features pretty quickly. Vintage started out kind of fun with Jamison Minor taking the holeshot, but Scott right on him, and I was a few lengths back. We ran a couple laps before Scott and Jamison pulled a gap from me. I didn't look behind, 'cause I never do, but I had a pretty good gap behind me to Pete Wooten on his very nice Triumph 500, followed by Bill on the RD350 and the rest. Jamison and Scott were coming up on traffic as they had 2 laps to go, Scott was pretty sure he might've been able to set up a pass, when Jamison pulled off into the infield with a mechanical failure. That put Scott on the top of the box, with me on the second step of the podium, Pete with a well earned 3rd and Bill taking an also well earned 4th.

The 50+ feature was only a few races away, with the Sportsman race immediately after, so I stayed in the leathers despite the oppressive heat. The race was a repeat of the heat race, dude on the Kawi checked out on me, I checked out on Pete, and he maintained a gap on Bill. Two second places in a row for me.

Then I handed off the bike to Scott for the Sportsman feature, and stumbled up to the bleachers to watch his race. While the bike had been running ok for me, he had a misfire right off the start. It became clear that there was something wrong, he couldn't maintain the speed he'd had before, so it was just a matter of finishing the race without getting in anyone's way. Too bad, because I think he could've been in the mix if the bike had been running well.

We had the best spot in the pits by the shade trees.

Scott got to ride Bill's RD350 in practice.

Vintage feature race.

Bill leading a vintage HD panhead?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


THIS weekend there was a National Trials competition right here in Vermont, Highgate, to be specific. If you don't know what Trials is, you should look it up, 'cause it's over my head to explain the whole thing. Actually it's not. In fact it's pretty simple really, just people riding their motorcycles over/through a pre-determined route called a section, on natural (or sometimes not) terrain, in a timed and observed setting. (Back in the day it used to be called "Observed Trials)
Anyway, the time allowed through is always the same, apparently, 90 seconds. The observation is simply judges/clerks/observers/watchers keeping an eye on you and assessing penalties if you break the rules. There are lots of rules, including taking too much time, putting your foot on the ground or other thing touching the ground, knocking gates down, crashing, rolling backwards, going out of bounds. It's almost like golf, there's rules for just about anything you can dream up, 'cause just about anything can happen.
I've seen a few demonstrations before, including indoor trials, and I've seen tons of video including the very popular urban trials riding by some incredibly skilled French dude, but this was my first outdoor event. It was pretty much a mind blowing deal, and I hate to overuse that expression.

There are lots of classes of riders including Clubman, High School, Womens, a bunch of age groups, and then Expert and Pro. Riders have to complete each section, but where they actually ride in that section is determined by their skill level/class. There are "gates" that help determine the route, and the higher the skill rating, the tougher the gate/route through the section. Some of the stuff just looked improbable, if not impossible to actually ride a bike through.

This is a High School class rider getting ready to enter the #3 section. There were 12 sections over the whole course, and the riders do 3 complete loops through the course in the day's competition. In a two day event, they change the gates and sometimes use different sections on different days.

Fred and I watched this section from one of the high spots. The riders can walk the section to plan their lines. Lots of discussion and concentration going on here, as Fred leans on a tree and offers advice on the best way to get down from there.

The Pro line here. The rider gets to this ledge, stops the bike, hops it 90 degrees right and sets up another jump up to the top of the wall. Then they ride down the front, do a stoppie and rev the engine in gear to clear the tire of mud, then hop over to face the wall and "splash" up it. The technique to do this takes years to learn. In almost all cases, all of the drive happens before the bike hits the wall or other obstacle, so you hear the engine rev to the moon, the bike explodes into motion, then it's either at the top of the wall or not, with the rider on it or not...

This is a rider competing in the Twin Shock (Vintage) class, on a sweet looking Italian SWM.