Remix Machines

Remix Machines

The year was 1997, and I was a kid trying to play Quake online for the very first time. My multiplayer gaming experiences prior to that meant that I was sitting next to my friend while we button mashed Street Fighter 2, so the idea of playing globally was… well, totally over my head. But it was too interesting not to look into it. I wanted to feel like a trailblazer among my friends. I could be on the cutting edge of not doing my homework.

East Coast Day 3: Sticking with it

No cars

Yesterday was really rough on me physically and mentally. Today I started the day by calling 3 different Enterprise rentals in Fredericton.

Not a single one had any available cars for another few days.

I was surprised that was the case, but I also wasn't that dissapointed. Something about having no choice but to go forward on the bike was calming. My clothes were mostly dry, so I got ready and headed out around 10pm.

The ride

The day started with some drizzling rain, but just a little less than the day before. Rain, but just a bit less. Cold, but not quite as cold. Not as windy either. All of that was way easier on me. Sure, I was getting rained on, but I wasn't shivering, and that made a huge difference.

About 1 or 2 hours in it cleared up and I was able to cruise on dry roads for the rest of the way. Once you have to go through large stretches in bad conditions on a bike, the good conditions seem that much better. I absolutely ripped through New Brunswick and half of Nova Scotia to get to Cape Breton.

The skies stayed gray until the last 10% or so, when I caught a small shred of blue sky through the clouds. It only lasted about 10 minutes, but it put a big grin on my face.

Eventually I crossed onto Cape Breton and everything became scenic.

Also, most of Cape Breton doesn't have Rogers service at all, but fortunately the GPS had my destination cached so I managed to find it.

The B&B

The B&B was in a small coastal town, almost at the edge of a cliff, marked by a bright yellow motorcycle with sidecar (which I learned is actually their garbage can). I pulled up and met the owners, Roger and Brenda, for the first time. Wow, great people.

I walked in and met 2 girls who were staying there before heading out the following day. We all chatted about the area, what to see (from what they've already explored), and I got my plans in order for the next day. Then I had to head out to a restaurant they recommended about 15 minutes away.

Problem for me was that this town has practically no street lights, and is full of great curvy roads and hills. I didn't want to ride it at night. So I wanted to eat quick. Directions were also a problem since my GPS wouldn't work.

The system they used was speed signs combined with another factor. "Once you see the speed limit change to 50 at the bottom of a hill, the restaurant is at the top". Worked like a charm. You're always paying attention to the speed signs.

Something else I discovered about the area is that a lot of parking lots are just rocks. Pavement seems hard to come by. Rocks suck for riding a motorcycle on (well, for someone as inexperienced as me at least). The area also has some driveways at really steep angles both up and down. Combined with the surface, there were places I just wouldn't pull into.

When I got to the restaurant there weren't many cars, so I just parked in an open patch and pointed my bike towards the exit so I could get out easier.

Turns out it was a huge asshole parking move, as the locals clearly had a system and I basically parked right in the middle of it. Oh well!

When I sat down I chatted with a retired couple beside me from Maine (I think). They had just pulled an entire cross country road trip from Vancouver to Cape Breton. They told me about going through Northern Ontario, and have probably seen more of it than I have. Lovely people, and some of the first random conversation I'd had on the trip since I'd just been bombing my way through provinces until then.

As they left, a younger couple sat down on my other side. But I saw the sun setting so I was busy devouring my food. I ordered the slowest meal like an idiot, the crab legs, but probably broke those bastards down faster than I ever have in my life. I was sort of proud. I grabbed the check so quick it probably seemed rude, and headed out.

It was already dark despite my best efforts, but I had no choice there. I flicked my highbeams on and off when I needed to see a bit further, it was a bit harrowing for me in such unfamiliar territory. But in the end it was fine.

About 20 minutes after returning to the B&B, the door opened up again at that same young couple from the restaurant came through the doors. Turns out they were the 3rd guests that night! Small town I suppose.

We sat around in the livingroom going through photos and videos that Roger and Brenda had collected of the area. From their porch they see the lobster and crab fisherman come and go each year, cruise ships heading for PEI, whales up to 40 feet in length, and birds that shape themselves into arrowheads to slam through the surface of the water.

It's all pretty amazing.

They also showed videos of 170km/h winds they get in the winter. We learned that they get 2 types of winds: incredibly strong winds from the mountains, and salty winds from the sea. The mountain winds have been strong enough to rip their entire deck out and throw it across the road, and it was built pretty well. Sometimes their windows bulge inwards from the force, and the vibration actually moves their beds as they sleep.

The sea breeze isn't as strong, but the salt in the wind and mist turned most of their plants completely black in the first week they moved here. It also rusts things really quickly. The salt is a big maintenance issue it seems.

Roger told us of a building under construction that had left a steel girder embedded in the ground overnight. The next morning they found it had been ripped out by the wind and thrown. To a nearby island. Incredible stuff.

I also learned that the yellow sidecar wasn't just a passing interest. Roger is 71 years old and he's been riding motorcycles since he was 17. Brenda rides as well. Roger got a sidecar when he lived in Montreal and needed something to ride in the winter, but couldn't afford a car yet. The sidecar gave him the stability to do that, and it just stuck.

It was great talking to them about all that too, they were excited when they saw me pull up in a bike. As I walked through their home I saw photos of them riding through the decades, including a New York Times article featuring them talking about high performance sidecars. So cool.

Learned so much about the area from them, really great people.

Tomorrow I ride a loop of the Cabot Trail. I'm excited and nervous about how I'll handle all the elevation changes and twisty roads, but the weather looks like it's easing up. Should be good!

East Coast Day 2: Everything bad

The first day of my trip was just from Toronto to Montreal, and I couldn't have asked for better conditions. 25ºC, no wind, sunny. Got to the hotel as the sun was setting, wasn't too tired. It was everything awesome about riding a motorcycle.

The next day was the opposite. It was brutal.

First of all, apparently I suck at planning trips because I carved out way too ambitious of a schedule. Over 800km to cover, going from Montreal to Fredericton. A bit over 8 hours Google Maps said. Ok.

I left at 8am sharp, assuming that stops should add up to about one hour extra. 9 hours then. Leave at 8am, arrive around 5pm.

First, I forgot that Fredericton is in another time zone. 5pm is actually 6pm.

But worse, the conditions were absolutely terrible.

Here are 3 bad things for motorcycling: 1. Rain 2. Heavy wind 3. Cold temperatures

Day one had none. Day 2 had all 3 in spades. I think I could take 2 of those 3 and manage. But all 3 is absolutely draining.

After I got out of the morning rush hour traffic of Montreal, temperatures dropped from the mid-teens to about 9ºC (well below the forecast) and within half an hour it started to rain. It didn't stop for the next 6 hours.

I layered up as it got colder, going from just my normal jacket (which on more than one occasion almost boiled me alive in Toronto) to adding a base layer jacket, and then an inner liner that came with my jacket.

The jacket (and everything else I have) is water resisitant, but definitely not water proof. I've ridden through rain before and been just fine, but that was 30-60 minutes. Over 6 hours it was inevitable that areas around my collar or cuffs eventually let water in, and that eventually soaked me to about 50%. Below the waist, totally soaked. About 1/3rd of my upper body.

In dry cold I would have been alright, but soaked like this, I was shivering.

Then there was the wind. Never ridden in anything close to that. It was powerful. A crosswind on a motorcycle can push you out of your lane if you don't react in time. If it's a sustained gust of wind, you end up leaning into it to compensate so you can ride straight. On a few occasions I was at a 20º angle just to keep moving forward.

When the road curved to head into the wind a bit more, the wind alternated hitting from the left and the right, keeping things erratic. It felt like the wind was running boxing practice with me, jabbing me here and there with an occasional heavy hit that put me to the edge of my lane before recovering.

I was focusing so hard that my entire body was tense, and I was gripping the handlebars far more than I usually would. I had to stop more frequently to recover, once every hour or two. That ate into my time. Also it didn't dry me out, just made me aware of how wet I was.

Around just after lunch I saw that Edmunston was on my route before Fredericton, and they had an Enterprise rental. I couldn't take it. I decided to throw in the towel.

Edmunston - Canada's Silent Hill

Ok I don't have a great reason for that name, but in my delirious suffering it made me laugh. But I do have a good reason to hate the place. First, no damned cell service (on Rogers anyways). Just "Edge", and that went nowhere. Stopped into a Tim Hortons to warm up and get the phone number for the Enterprise. Their Wifi didn't work. Asked some locals, they pointed me to a McDonalds near by.

Went there, Wifi didn't work again. No damned data anywhere.

If your town doesn't have cell coverage or wifi where it's supposed to, I pretty much equate you with a murderous nightmare town where staying is a death sentence. I mean I can't even tweet about it. Place must be full of monsters.

Anyways the kindly McDonald's girl pointed me in the direction of the Enterprise office just around 5 minutes deeper into town. I saddled up again and went wandering.

I found the tiny Enterprise office, but I could tell there wasn't any activity when I pulled up. Then I walked up to the door.

"Closes at 5:30pm".

Current time? 5:35pm.

Fuck.

So I said screw it. I had a "universe, are you telling me something?" moment and snapped from being disheartened to determined, jumped back on my bike, still soaking wet, and got back on course for Fredericton. 3 hours away according to my GPS.

That was putting me well past sunset in terms of timing, which I had told myself I wouldn't be doing. I didn't want to break schedule on reservations, and I sure as hell didn't want to stay in Edmunston. So I went for it.

About 30 minutes after I was back on the road I realized ther rain had stopped. It was unreal. I didn't think it was possible that day. Fifteen minutes after that the ground was actually dry! It totally changed my perspective. I cruised happily until daylight was gone and as visibility improved I saw some fantastic landscapes. I thought about stopping to get a photo, but the thought of losing daylight was looming so I just kept moving.

Eventually the sun set (I still never actually saw the sun that day, it was totally overcast) and it got dark. Really dark. Pitch black in the middle of New Brunswick.

For safety I got behind a big truck going a decent speed, both for light and just to know that at least someone was around. Also there were a lot of "SLOW DOWN FOR MOOSE AT NIGHT" signs, and I figured it could mostly shield me from potential animal encounters and it'd take a lot less damage that I would.

It was a scary last 1.5 hours, but I got there.

Revised plan

But I'm sore all over from tensing up and compensating for the wind. My hamstring is lightly pulled and I don't even know how.

It's a tough call. It feels like failure (who even fails at vacationing?), but I'm going to rent a car here in Fredericton and continue on with that. I'm also cutting Newfoundland and Gros Morne, because knowing travel time and how things just come up, it would have been a frenzied race and not enjoyable. Gros Morne deserves more time than I was going to put to it. I'll have to come back for it.

I'm going to head to Cape Breton as planned, spend my 2 days at the Cabot Trail, and drive it. Then I'll head to Charlottetown and still cross the Confederation Bridge on the way back to Fredericton where I'll pick up my bike.

None of it's ideal, but the forecast has too much rain potential and temperatures are too low. I can't do another day like today. Not that fast. I'm beat.

Long range forecast says that by the time I get back to Fredericton it's supposed to be 18ºC and sunny. If that maintains, maybe I can have a great ride back to Toronto from here.

But from this point and Eastwards, I'll be driving.

Moto Diary #9: Video and night rides

First Run

My GoPro mount arrived last week and so a few days ago I got around to placing it on my helmet (with a 24 hour wait after for the adhesive to set). I wanted to take some test footage, and I thought I'd try doing a mini-project by doing a few night clips.

I was a lot more ambitious when planning, and predictably the scope was shrunken down to fit my schedule (meaning just an existing commute and not a special filming trip).

Things I had to find out

  • Is it difficult to press play on the go? (easy at a stop)
  • How would the low-light performance be? (not so great)
  • What kind of view does it get on top of my helmet? (too high, will expand on that below)
  • What's the battery life like? (Recorded for about an hour and it was almost up by then)
  • How's the added wind resistance up there? (significant)

Things I discovered and didn't consider before

  • Editing 1080p video even on a modern machine can be pretty slow, especially if I'm trying to stabilize the whole thing in software.
  • When the camera has no point of reference to the vehicle and is set fairly high, the sense of speed is greatly reduced. Looking at the video it looks like I'm going about half the speed that I actually traveled at.
  • I thought my head would act as a decent stabilizer, as one naturally tries to keep their head stable, but in addition to being a windy night, and the camera acting as a mini-sail, the recording was pushed around quite a bit.
  • Everytime I check my mirrors or my blind spots it is super disorienting in the video. I tried to limit it with editing, but it's such a fast movement and with no stable point of reference it's even worse.

Take aways

First I'm going to buy a heat gun and remove the mount from the top of my helmet (this is annoyingly necessary as the adhesive is crazy strong). Then I'm going to try and remount it on my helmet's chin area for a lower viewing position – more natural viewing angle and away from the wind.

Second I'm going to look into stabilizing tricks. I've read some people wedging bits of tissue into the mounting bracket to reduce micro-vibrations. Worth a shot.

Third I'll do a daytime ride and see how much better it is with proper light when the GoPro isn't struggling to produce a decent image in the first place. I was way too optimistic with the darkness, I thought Toronto's significant light pollution would solve this for me, but it didn't.

So lots of things to learn!

If you have some video experience and have any tips, I'd love to hear from you. It's a lot of stuff to think about!