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Drone presentation at TCF-NJ

Last weekend I presented this deck at TCF-NJ, the oldest computer hobbyists group in NJ (maybe in the US?):

Introduction to Drones

I Can’t Drive 55 – an opinion from 1984

New Maggot S# takes the MSF course

Preparing for the (hopfully) upcoming ride to the Grand Re-opening of BOTA’s Crossroads Tavern, S# takes the MSF course. With any luck both he and SurrealChemist will be riding with the Maggots in a few weeks.

Very nice bike that the MSF foundation so graciously provides, complete with real word dents and the finest in 1960’s brake technology (drums on both ends!)

The dewey-eyed riders get their instructions from seasoned professionals (note dopey grin on S#’s face! This must be fun!):

Staging for one of the MSF’s complicated drills:

And away we go!

One full lap:

Looking very good! Clearly he has not forgotten the motorcycle skills from his yoof.



Ride report – Samosir Island, Indonesia




In March of 2013, Stevadoo (who was living in Jakarta, Indonesia at the time) took a trip to Lake Toba.  Moto content:  He rented a scooter there so here is the trip report.

Lake Toba is in Sumatra, it’s the donut-shaped lake just above the words “North Sumatra” in this map.  It’s known for beautiful clear water and great scenery.

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Here’s a close-up of the lake.  We stayed on Samosir Island in the middle of the lake at the area called Ambarita.  The ride took us to the south and then up the mountain in the middle of Samosir.

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Here is an aerial view.  The ride started at the central top of this map and continued south while climbing the ridge.

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Mrs. Stevadoo came and seemed to like the trip.



A ferry dock.


The village market.



In the foreground is our trusty steed, a 125 cc something-or-other.  It was adequate.  But the picture shows a warung or combination market / cafe sitting on the top of the mountain.  Great views!





The roads were ok but at times you had to watch out for the rutted edges.




The further up you went, the more the roads were washed out.


By the way, this was our hotel.


Here are some traditional houses we saw.


And the mountain we climbed.




It was beautiful.  You should go.

Ride Report: Stevadoo’s Saddle Sore 1,000

Here is the story of my Saddle Sore 1,000 ride on September 25/26, 2015.
I wanted to do the ride 100% inside Texas because I live in Texas, Texas is huge, and there is a lot of the state that I haven’t seen.
But first, here’s my bike.  It’s a 2005 Yamaha FZ6 that I bought second-hand from someone I work with.  When I purchased it, it was 9 years old and it only had 3,996 miles on it, an average of 444 miles per year.  That’s not nearly enough miles per year!
It’s not the most exciting bike out there, but I didn’t want to drop a lot of money – I paid $3,200 for it.  And I wanted to try a smaller, nimbler lighter bike vs. the larger, heavier BMW I had before.  For day trips around Houston, it’s just about exactly what I wanted.  A Saddle Sore 1,000 is not what it’s designed for, but it’s what I had so it’s what I rode.
I learned a lot from my previous Saddle Sore attempt in 2009 when I was living in California.  My plan was to leave the East Bay (Dublin, CA) and take I-5 north to the southern suburbs of Seattle (technically Olympia, WA then turn around and come back about 250 miles to get the 1,000 miles.  One reason I chose this route (vs. a 500 mile out-and-back) was so that I could cross both Oregon and Washington off the list of states that I’ve ridden in.  But I hit massive traffic in Portland, OR and lost probably 2 hours and a ton of energy.  By the time I got to the turnaround point, it was 8 PM, pitch black, and raining hard.  I was tired and worried about dumping the bike, so I got a hotel room and gave up after completing about 800 miles.  The next day I limped home. 
Had I thought about it, if I had gotten on the road early after my Saddle Sore 1,000 disappointment, I could have salvaged the ride by turning it into a Bun Burner 1,500 (1,500 miles in 36 hours.) But I didn’t think of that at the time so I slept late and got home more than 36 hours after the ride first started.
So for this SS1,000 attempt, I vowed to stay away from metropolitan areas, especially around rush hour.  I didn’t think this was a big problem because the secondary roads (they are called “FM” and “RM” in Texas which means “farm to market” and “ranch to market”) in Texas are uncrowded and very fast.  Most of them have posted limits of 75 MPH and in reality you can go as fast as you want.  They connect the smaller municipalities which seem to be spaced every 30 to 50 miles, so slowing down to 35 MPH when you pass through the towns is not a big deal.
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The route I chose was US 59 / 77 south past Corpus Christi to Riviera, then west to Laredo.  From there it would be 300+ miles on US 83 north to Ballinger then on some smaller roads in the Hill Country back to Houston.  The distance calculated by Google Maps was 1,028 miles which seemed like an adequate margin to make sure I got 1,000 miles in.  The bike gets 51+ MPG and has a useable tank volume of just over 4 gallons so the range is just over 200 miles but I planned no more than 140 to give me some margin.  When planning the route I scoped out all the gas stations to make sure there was actually a gas station in the town that I needed to get fuel in.  Plus I checked them out on Google StreetView to make sure that they were modern stations that would have self service card access, be open 24/7, and print nice receipts.  Believe it or not there are still plenty of podunk mechanical gas stations in rural Texas.
The week before the ride I did all the maintenance I thought I’d need:
     -Clean and lube the chain
     -Replace the headlights
     -Buy spare bulbs for the marker and brake lights
     -Check the tires with extreme prejudice
     -Verify all the fluid levels.
I figured that losing a headlight is one of the things that could immediately kill the ride, so I bought new PIAA bright white bulbs for the low and high beam (H4 and H7) to carry as spares.  And then I thought ‘why should I carry the new, brighter bulbs when I can just install them?’  So I did, which is a good thing because the PIAA’s were a lot brighter than the 10 year old original bulbs.
I don’t have any luggage for my bike except for an Ogio tail bag. I know that tank bags are preferred by many (and very practical because they often have a map pocket on top), but quite frankly I don’t like to look at it when I’m riding.  I like to see a nice, clean gas tank in front of me.  So I give up utility to suit my personal aesthetics.
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Here’s a list of everything I carried / wore:
  • The standard Yamaha tool kit, supplemented by a bunch of cable ties, a Leatherman multi-tool, an adjustable wrench, rags, and an LED headlamp with fresh batteries.
  • A spare headlight bulb, spare brake bulb and spare marker / turn signal bulb.
  • A clean shirt, socks, and u-trou in case I needed to spend the night somewhere.
  • A bandana.
  • My iPhone, iPhone cord, and a Battery Tender USB power supply that hooked into the bike’s SAE charging port.
  • Paper copies of my directions, a list of gas stations, Iron Butt Association witness forms, insurance card, registration, pens and note paper (sealed in plastic bags)
  • Four half-liter bottles of water, four bags of trail mix, and a bag of Jolly Ranchers.
  • A spare key for the motorcycle.
  • A 1.5 liter hydration backpack which I wore the whole time.
  • Advil and Tylenol.
  • Two throttle control devices (an Omni-Cruise and a Throttle Rocker)
  • Ear plugs.
  • My trusty BMW Gore-Tex motorcycling boots (11 years old now but still going strong)
  • My Joe Rocket Phoenix mesh jacket and rain liner.
  • First Gear leather gloves.
  • Shoei GT Air helmet.
I set out everything I was going to wear (helmet, jacket, etc.) in the spare bedroom the day before.  The night before I took an Ambien to make sure I would sleep.  I tend toward anxiety so without it I probably would have been tossing and turning and not getting a good rest.  The Wednesday before the ride, I started getting up earlier so that it would not be as much of a shock to my system to get up at 4:55 the day of the ride.  I set two alarms and entered a chemically-assisted blissful sleep.
I got up on time, made my grumbling wife sign the witness form, and hit the road at 5:15 which was 15 minutes before the planned time.  First stop was 2.3 miles away to top off the gas tank and get a dated starting receipt.  Then I jumped on I-610 which took me to US 59 heading southwest.  Getting out of Houston was no problem at this hour and the roads were very familiar.  The weather was perfect, about 72 degrees and dry.  Of course it was pitch black but that wasn’t a problem since the roads for the first 90 minutes were Interstate or Interstate quality.  Not much to see in the dark, though.  But there were a hell of a lot of bugs out.  At one point, just south of Ganado, US 59 crosses Lake Texana on a 1- or 2-mile long causeway.  I must have picked up 10,000 mosquitos on my face shield on that bridge.
The first gas stop was 112 miles later in Inez, which was chosen because it was the halfway point between Houston and my first turn at Riviera.  The bike might have been able to make it that full distance but a Saddle Sore is about reducing risks, right?  No problems there and I cleaned off the bugs which made a mighty bad smell.  The planned time for this stop was 7:13 but I got there 12 minutes early.  The rest of the way to Riviera via US 59 and 77 was uneventful, and I’ve made that drive several times before.  That leg was 139 miles.
One of the things I’ve started doing when I ride is take pictures of water towers in small Texas towns.  It’s interesting to me because much of Texas is so flat you can see the water tower from miles away and it’s by far the largest structure in town, except for maybe a grain elevator.  So when I see a good water tower, I stop and snap.  Here is Refugio and Driscoll.
At Riviera (8 minutes early now) I gassed up and turned west for points unknown, at least to me.  But immediately there was a problem – Texas 285 had construction and the road was down to a total of 1 lane for both directions.  So I had to wait 10 minutes for the incoming traffic to stop and the pilot car to guide us past the paving zone.  After that it was smooth sailing, it’s very flat in coastal Texas so the roads are straight and you can go pretty much as fast as you want.  Since the traffic was light, it was very easy to pass any slower-moving traffic.  I went the speed limit because it was 75 and any faster than that wears me out quickly on this bike.  It was only 109 miles from Riviera to the next turn point in Laredo so I didn’t need to gas up on the way.


The Fightin’ Jerseys!  These apparently are my people since I am from New Jersey.  They would definitely not be referring to Jersey cows because fighting cows would be very strange.
Ah, Laredo.  Laredo is a bit of a shit hole.  Starting about 10 miles out of town, there are dozens, maybe hundreds of junk yards lined up one after the other.  I can’t fathom why one city of only 250,000 should have so many junk yards.
I planned to ride into the center of Laredo so that I could see it – after all it’s not likely I will go to Laredo again.  But this was the first planning mistake I made.  Even though it was only maybe 3 miles where the speed limit was less than 50, it was stoplight after stoplight.  My guess is that I lost 20 minutes by doing this vs. taking the bypass.  Also, Laredo is sketchy as hell.  It seems to embody all the negative connotations of being a border down.  I got my fill up and got out of there.  I was now 20 minutes behind schedule.  It was warming up but not so bad, maybe 85.  I was drinking water from my hydration pack all the time, especially about half an hour before the gas stops, so that I would stay hydrated but not have to stop and piss all the time.
I left Laredo on I-35 for about 10 miles, then split off onto US 83.  I considered this to be the “meat” of the ride because I was going to be on 83 for 324 miles (nearly a third of the trip) and I had never been in this part of Texas.  As soon as I got on 83 I could see the signs of the Customs and Border Patrol everywhere.  There were hundreds of pickup trucks and SUV’s patrolling the side of the road.  On the left (Messican) side they had cut a dirt road parallel to 83 and you could see that they were occasionally dragging what looked like a section of chain link fence along the ground.  I think this is so that they can tell when and where someone has crossed the dirt road on foot.  I knew that there was going to be a border checkpoint on 83 and was a little worried because the Yelp review of it said that there were often delays.  But there wasn’t much traffic yesterday.  I rolled in, got sniffed by a German Shepherd, and a CBP agent asked me if I was a US citizen so I was on my way.  As my wife said “well, you look like Whitey McWhiterson so they’re not going to hassle you, are they?”  True, I guess.
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The first part of 83 was a combination of ranches and oil.  I had thought that it would be more desert-y here but it was fairly green, even given the recent droughts.  So there were lots of ranch entrances although I hardly saw any cows.  It was noon by now, so maybe they were taking shelter from the sun.  There was also a lot of oil and gas activity, this is the heart of the Eagle Ford shale play, which is partly responsible for your lower gas prices now.  So from the oil industry: you’re welcome.  All that drilling and fracing took a ton of labor and machinery and it was all over the place on 83 – oil service company warehouses, machine shops, etc.  Interestingly they must have had big trouble finding housing for all these people because there were new trailer parks all over the place  However since the price of oil collapsed a year ago most all of this activity has stopped and the people are SOL.
I stopped for lunch, a 6″ Subway sub, in Asherton. It was full-on hot as fuck now.  The weather forecast said it wasn’t going to hit 90 today but my bike said it was 96.  So I drank and drank and when I stopped I poured water all over myself.  I felt I was keeping up with it, but just barely.  The first gas stop after Laredo was in Uvalde, 136 miles away.
By this point I was getting tired of seeing flat countryside, ranches and oil.  A few minutes outside Uvalde (now 58 minutes behind schedule) I got briefly drenched by rain.  It was a short storm and I was initially annoyed by this but I realized that the temperature had dropped to the 60’s so it was actually exactly what I needed.  But it was very intense; I was wearing a Joe Rocket mesh jacket and the raindrops hitting me at 60 MPH stung pretty hard.  Also, north of Uvalde the scenery changes.  Instead of being flat as a pancake it gets hilly.  This was the best part of the ride so far.  Sunny, cool (I think that the road climbed up 1,000 feet or so) and no traffic.  US 83 from Uvalde to Junction would make anyone’s list of great motorcycle roads.  That leg was 101 miles between fill-ups.
It’s the Leakey water tower.  Maybe they should fix it, ha!
Just before Junction, TX US 83 joins Interstate 10 for about 10 miles, and while the twisties are nice you realize how easy and fast it is to be on an Interstate highway.  In this neck of the woods the speed limit is 80!  I gassed up again in Junction, where I was now 1:03 behind schedule.  This didn’t worry me too much because the schedule was just a guideline and I knew I didn’t put much time in it for stops.  But this was the heat of the day, so I figured it was ok to stop for 15 minutes instead of 5.  I still felt good.
Water tower in Menard, TX.
The next 90 miles to Ballinger were nice but not as nice as the previous section.  Ballinger was one of the ‘corners’ of my ride so I made sure to get a good gas receipt there.  Now it was 5:45 PM and I was 1:12 behind schedule.  I was starting to get tired (muscularly, not sleepily) so I started the Advil / Tylenol regimen prescribed by Dr. Science.  It immediately helped and I probably should have done it earlier and not waited until mile 686.  But hey, I was at mile 686!  That’s 2/3 of the way done!
From here onwards it was just a trip home.  That positive news was tempered by the realization that 314 miles is still a pretty respectable day of motorcycling, and hmmm 314 divided by 60 MPH is…nearly 6 hours.  Shit that’s a lot of riding left.  Also the ease of navigating the previous section (just stay on 83) would give way to lots of turns, maybe one every 50 miles.  Also since I would be getting closer to San Antonio, Austin, and Houston the towns would be getting bigger and instead of 5 minutes at 45 MPH it would be 15 minutes of stop and go traffic.  This was my second planning error.
The next leg (from Ballinger) was 145 miles to Gatesville (the longest leg between fill-ups on the whole trip), and now things started sucking.  I was getting dark and I was in the Texas Hill Country, known to support a very prolific deer population.  That was my only real worry on the whole trip, and I was starting to play out the scenario in my head – if I see a deer that I can’t avoid, should I duck and cover, try to swerve, plow into him and hope that the snout of my Yamaha will bifurcate him?  This is not a good mental state to be in.  That leg was 134 miles and it took me almost 3 hours.  I missed a turn in Brownwood / Early and had to backtrack.  This was probably also a sign that I was losing my focus.  I hadn’t had dinner yet under the assumption that all that digestin’ would steal blood from my brain.  But I had some trail mix and I think that’s exactly what I needed.  It sharpened me up almost immediately.
It got pitch black at about 8 PM, but there was a good moon that provided some ambient lighting.  Now the speed limit out there was typically 75 but the road was one lane each way without much of a shoulder so I was afraid for the deer.  Looking back I can say that I never saw any dead deer on the side of the road, so that means that the deer are too smart, too sparse, too well hunted – all good things.  Or they get picked up as roadkill before they get cold…
From this point on, riding became a chore.  I got gas in Gateville at 8:41 PM, now just under 2 hours behind schedule.  I got seriously lost in Temple, TX and got stuck behind a freight train for 10 minutes.  This was the emotional low point for me and I was seriously thinking of getting a hotel room and calling it a day.  That was tempting in Temple because it’s a big city which actually HAS hotel rooms.  Many of the places out there don’t!  But I snacked some more and pushed on.  I mentally chopped the ride into 25 mile segments – “all I need to do is get to Cameron.  Once I’m in Cameron I’ll decide if I want to go further.”  That kind of reasoning helped me overcome the sisyphean task of riding for 4-5 hours in the pitch dark.  Finding US 190 outside Temple was a big mental boost, because I knew 190 would take me to 290 and that was terrain that I knew.  I can’t say anything about the countryside because it was dark.  Gatesville to Brenham was 129 miles.
I finally arrived at my last gas stop (other than the finish) in Brenham at 11:34 PM, 3 hours behind schedule.  But I knew it was only 80 miles to home, on an Interstate-quality road.  My mental state was improving with every mile.  By now there was nobody on the road which was really nice.  The last segment was on US 290 which is being rebuilt in Houston, and I hoped that the road wasn’t going to be closed, because it occasionally has been on nights and weekends.  Well the road was open but the ramp I wanted to take (for I-610 north) was closed so they dumped everyone on I-610 south.  Not a big deal now, but at the time I considered it a tremendous insult by TXDOT.  So I went to the next exit, banged a u-turn, and made for the Texaco station near my house for my final gas receipt.  But that Texaco was closed.  DAMN YOU TEXACO!!!!  I violated protocol and got gas at a Valero because it was the only station directly between where I was and my house.  The final leg was 69 miles.
After gassing up at the Valero at I-10 and Shepherd, I arrived home at 12:57 AM.  I had been on the road for almost 20 hours.  I made my grumbling wife sign the witness form and I was done.  The trip odometer said 1,058.1 miles.
I should mention that the bike was completely flawless.  It never gave a hint of trouble.  The Yamaha engineers should be proud.
I’m writing this on Saturday morning and I feel pretty good but certain bits are sore (hands, ass, back).  I should have taken three Advils just before I went to sleep because I was so achey that I didn’t get a decent sleep even though I was exhausted.
A big shout-out to MJ for telling me to get a throttle lock.  I never had one before and if I didn’t have it on this trip I would have been completely miserable.  I’ll submit the paperwork to the IBA this week.
Appendix 1:  Directions
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Appendix 2:  Gas stations (I did get gas in the cities listed although not necessarily the actual station shown here)

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Appendix 3:  Totals

  • Total mileage per odometer:  1,059.1
  • Total mileage per Google Maps:  1,033.4
  • Average speed:  52.3 MPH
  • Gasoline used:  22.510 gallons
  • Average mileage:  45.9 MPG




Chatterbox Thursday Night Bike Nights

FYI for any locals or those just interested in a destination to validate a reason for a ride, Thurs night bike nights at the Chatterbox are officially starting up this coming Thurs May 2nd and run to Sept. I usually get there most weeks if I can as it’s only a few miles from my house. Let me know if you ever plan on coming up. I’ll meet you there or on the road somewhere and we can ride a bit and check out the bikes.

Come To The Maggot Website…..Or Else!

New baby Maggot

In case you all haven’t seen it, here is the latest Spawn of Furious:

Mr. Furious' brand-new daughter born 12/3/2012

Paige Furious, born 12/3/2012


Yes, she was born with a SERIOUS case of Adorable, but the doctors say that will fade by the time she’s our age.



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