Monthly Archives: August 2013

Au Revoir, Quebec

Six days of riding, the last one cut short by rain, but all the rest, just beautiful.  You’ll laugh at me, but even though it took a passport to go there, I was more than a little surprised at the foreignness of Quebec.  It’s not like Ontario, nor is it at all like Alberta.  Here’s how you can tell you’re in Quebec:
1.  You can’t understand a cotton picking thing anyone is saying, and they often don’t understand you…even if you talk louder.  That’s what probably led to my “A&W Experience.”  The sign said “Un famille burgers,” (1) and then a bunch of gibberish about “the Mama, the Papa and le Gran Papa.  Well, I didn’t want to be a sissy and order the Mama, so I thought I’ll order the Papa.  Unbelievable!  It was huge, with three patties of beef inside.  What the hell can the Gran Papa possibly be like?
2.  French, it’s not just a cutesy side deal; they actually speak it and write it.  English is the not-so-cutesy side deal.
3.  They have red signs that look just like stop signs, but say “ARRET.”  I must have ridden through a thousand of those things before figuring out what they were.  That’s because of number 4.
4.  Quebecers cut you a lot of slack.  No honking, no hand gestures, they just stop, smile, and in beautiful French say to one another, “There goes another stupid American.”  But really, they’re the nicest folks, as witness the following.  I had lured my fellow cyclists into an ice cream stand (big surprise), and after enjoying our treats we rode the remaining two miles to our hotel.  As we were unloading in front of the hotel, a car pulled up; it was the family that had been sitting at the table next to us.  The woman stuck her hand out the window and said “Special Delivery,” and handed me the water bottle I’d left back at the ice cream joint.
5.  Everything sounds better in French.  In the U.S. it would be a Mr. Muffler shop, but up there its “Monsieur Muffler.”  At the swimming pool it doesn’t say “showers mandatory,” the sign says “Douche Obligitoire.”
6.  It’s flat as a table.  It’s Indiana, but without Fort Wayne.  The only high spots are bridges and overpasses.  The distinguishing smell was of cow manure, my god, there were manure spreaders everywhere.  
7.  The Pony was made in Ontario, but hey, don’t quibble, it’s the same country, but without the French business.  Since the days of Massey-Harris, the brand has always been popular, so to this day, you see a lot more of the successor company Massey Ferguson tractors running around up there than down in the states.  I admit, it gave me a pretty warm feeling about the place…you know, “you love the Pony, you love me.”
8.  The St. Lawrence seaway is its crowning geographic distinction.  A thousand views, every one trying to outdo the last.  Which reminds me, on one stretch we were riding on a bike path that ran alongside some locks.  One of our guys fell off his bike onto the path, and out of nowhere two pretty young women appeared who it turns out ran the particular lock we were riding by.  He got so much first aid and attention from those gals that we all wished we’d fallen.
9.  And finally, this is not so much a characteristic of Quebec as an observation.  It’s easy to get into Quebec, but trying to get back out, with the U.S. “paranoia patrol” at the border, that’s excruciating.

For each of these summer adventures the number of fearless, old men can vary anywhere from 5 to 15.  This year there were seven.  Here’s a photo.

Quebec trip.a
As different as Quebec is from the U.S., somethings are the same.  For example, the adage “no good deed goes unpunished” applies there too.  We ran into a really nice guy named Giles when we were in the Montreal area.  He said he’d lead us over to the Montreal Gran Prix track, so that we could see what it’s like to do a few laps.  As he led us back out of Montreal he fell, and got all scraped up.  He took it in good stride though, as if to say, C’est la vie.

Then too, some things are the same the world over.  On our last big day of riding, we rode into a stiff wind, the temperature crept up into the upper 80’s, but I still chose to do the optional, extra 15 miles.  All the while I imagined lolling in the motel pool afterwards, cooling off and soaking my aching muscles.  Turns out that our motel was essentially a truck stop, with 18 wheelers in the lot, slot machines in the breakfast room and no swimming pool.  I should have known we were in trouble when we pulled into the lot, and the sign said “OTEL,” with the light burned out behind the “M.”  The tour company owner probably could have said to me, the same thing I heard a mother telling her little girl on Saturday as they exited the bagel shop here, “Sometimes in life, sweetie, things don’t turn out exactly as you imagined them.”  Believe me, I didn’t take it any better than that little girl did, but had someone prepared me for such occurrences starting at the age of four…well, no, I’m glad no one did.

By the way, you know you’re back in Carrboro, when you walk to the edge of the woods (as I did this Sunday) to clean out the bird house and later in the day you start itching the area up near… well…your underpants, because you picked up a half-dozen CHIGGER BITES!  Argh.
(1) All spellings of French words are approximations.  I’m way too old to actually start learning the language.

Don’t fret Pony lovers.  I’ll get back to work on that Canadian clunker next week.
And to my fellow bikers, it was fun as usual, always good to get together, and thanks.
And to my readers, well you know, thanks for reading.

Alert Regarding the Last Post

So sorry, but it seems that from some devices the slideshows and videos contained in yesterday’s post were not viewable.  If that was the case for you simply click on this link to the homepage and you’ll be able to view everything there.  Home Page Link

I’ll be looking into this issue.  Thanks.
Your Idiotic Author

When You Ain’t Got Much…Give ’em Lots of Pictures

Apologies.  It seems the slideshows and movies are not viewable in the email version of this post.  If this is the case for you, please go to the last paragraph, and click on the link to the home page.  When that comes up, you’ll be able to see everything just fine.

We’ll start right out with Pony stuff.  Here’s a little slide show of how the rehabilitation of the right rear wheel went.

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I stopped putting coats of paint on after 3 coats, because son, Andrew, came to visit for a week, and number one on his list of things to do while in NC was to drive the tractor.  I’ve since applied a fourth coat.  That’s Andrew helping mount the wheel in the slide show above.  Action photos courtesy of Lynne.

Now here come the movies.  The first is of Andrew taking the Pony for a spin.

And here’s a video taken by Andrew of me, and I’ll admit right off that he took a better video than I did.

After viewing these, I gotta say that I look like a scarecrow riding a tractor, but Andrew, well he looks like he belongs up there, a real farm hand!  By the way, when Andrew got to the end of his second drive, I grabbed the throttle and brought the engine down to idle…well actually I killed the engine, and we couldn’t get the dang thing running again.  Last weekend Gene and I did some diagnostics and found that a part inside the distributor had fallen apart.  As a result, the points won’t open and close and no spark is getting to the engine.  Maggie Simpson, Parts Detective, is sending me a complimentary replacement along with a FREE t-shirt from Kuhn’s Equipment.  Photo of me in the t-shirt is promised for the next blog post.

I just got the refurbished fenders back from Jim.  He was all over those things with sandblasting, welding, bondo and primer/filler.  Those fenders are now smooth as glass; great work, Jim.  He threw himself into that job like a tornado, but now I’ll probably take the next month to put the paint on them.  If Jim and I were buttons on a DVR, he’d be “FAST FORWARD” and I’d be “PAUSE.”  I’ll wait with a slide show of the fenders until I’ve finished them, but in the meantime, here’s a Cost-O-Meter question for you.  Jim had about $80 worth of expenses including the $35 shipping cost.  Rather than sending him cash we agreed to a barter deal.  I sent him 3 cactus plants of equal value in return for his services.  The Princess and I grew the cactus from pieces that broke off another cactus, so we have no money in them.  Do I need to add something to the C-O-M, and if so, how much?  All comments appreciated.  If I get a consensus, I’ll go with that.

Speaking of the “O-Meters,” the Guinea Pig-O-Meter got a nice $50 bump last week.  I stopped by to visit my friends in the lab over at UNC and coughed up some more sputum for them.  This time they’re going to try to see what happens to my donated lung cells when they infect them with MRSA bacteria.  Just another step forward for medical science.  They’ve always said I was a good donor, so I got to thinking that I was pretty hot stuff when it comes to hawking-up loogies.  This time though, when I went in, Martha was bragging on some woman who hawked up 12 million cells.  Having a bit of a competitive spirit, I asked Martha to let me know how many I donated this time.  Hate to admit it, but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t beat that mystery woman.  My score:  4 million.  You can make anything sound good though.  I’ve started calling myself the 4 million man!  By the way, Heather down in the lab, who does all the fun stuff with cells and bacteria noticed the very appropriate shirt I wore for my donation; it was from “Hawk” Mountain up in Pennsylvania.  Post script to the above.  We were shopping the afternoon of my lab visit, and as The Princess and I were walking the isles of the store she casually slipped a box of cologne into the basket.  I picked it up and looked at the price, what a coincidence, $50!  Ah well, easy come, easy go.

When the Pony was sitting down at the end of Gene’s drive, I took a photo of it sitting there, so you’d have an up-to-date “before and after” of the Pony.  Here you go.

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Finally, I don’t know why, but sometimes a minor event, no, not even that…just something that happens one second and is gone the next, sticks with you.  We’d had a nice rain overnight.  The roads were still damp in spots when I left on the morning 40.  About a mile from my usual mid-ride break spot I rode under some trees.  The wind freshened just enough to send a single rain drop off a leaf.  I was riding fast while gravity pulled hard on the rain drop.  The timing was perfect…I never saw it coming.  It landed wet on my lower lip, and involuntarily I sucked it in.  Does everything happen like that?  Maybe there’s just a bunch of random crap flying around…and every now and then the pieces bump into each other, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in ways with awful consequences, and in still others, like mine this morning, they just make you think.

With that bit of cyclist’s philosophy, I’ll wrap-up this post.  Your Idiotic Author heads off on his annual, week-long bike ride this Friday, so while I’m gone why not amuse yourselves by viewing old posts.  Just go to the home page at and scroll back as far as you want by using the calendar in the right column.  Click on any highlighted day.  Unbelievable, but there are now three year’s worth of posts.
Thanks for reading.