The Rough Draft

If you can't go through it. Go around it.

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I take a fair amount of stick about my choice of vehicle, mostly because of my height, I’m 6’2″ and have a 34″ inseam. I’ve also got pretty wide shoulders. So when people hear I drive a Mini Cooper S, they tend to focus on the Mini aspect of the name. Which I guess is kudos to BMW’s marketing, because the reality is, my car is a compact. I doubt I’d get the same amount of grief if I drove a Honda Fit or a Hyundai Accent (I had one of those for ten years and you guessed it… no stick). It’s not like I’m driving an original Mini Cooper S (Though I’d fit in one of those just fine too).

The simple fact of the matter is my car is a ton of fun to drive. It’s small, low to the ground, wide and light (even with me in it). And as much as I like an American built Muscle Car, I doubt I’d want to throw them down a seriously curvy road at high velocity. In a straight line? Sure, let that motor roar but for twisty road action I lean more towards the European mindset in regards to sports car design.

Then again, I’ve always leant towards the smaller over the larger. I could have a 1000cc motorcycle or even go whole hog and bump up into the 1200cc range but I prefer my 650cc V-Strom and if I had the budget I’d go for a 450cc machine. The trade off being going from a V-Twin to a parallel twin but that’s a pretty niggling thing about trading off some low end torque for top end power. I’d love the weight and agility of a 450cc machine. The beauty of a more off road geared motorcycle is that due to the geometry of a more dirt oriented frame, I don’t look like a bear on a tricycle.

But I’ll admit, the size thing has always puzzled me. You can get into trouble in any size of vehicle, big or small. Though on a bike the smaller ones are easier to pick up.

I did my last day at Qualtech today. I start at my new job next week. It’ll be more focused on design than installations, though I’ll still be going out on the odd call here and there. It’s a whole new area of the food industry I’ll be learning about and that’s got me pretty excited to get started. The systems we’re going to be designing will be modular, made to plug into existing processes. I’ve always been a fan of skid based systems, so in some ways, it feels like I’m going back to my comfort zone.

And in other more crazy news, I’m going back into film. I’m in the process of optioning a property that is a true story from WWII that is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. So unique, I had to try to bring it to the screen. So never say never I guess. The paperwork will be signed next week.

The last few weeks have been hard on my writing time but I’m still chugging along on getting the rough draft of Devil’s Ante done. I’ve got a few days off before the new gig starts so I’m going to try and make a big dent in getting it finished.

 

Devils Gambit and Reliance, my two thrillers are available on Amazon in print and for the Kindle.

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I finally installed the raising links I ordered six months ago on the bike. These new dog bones raise my back end an inch. The install took all of 15 minutes and as these things go was fairly easy. Of course I was worried that by changing the geometry of the bike by raising the back end I would increase the risk of nasty things happening at the front-end.

Right now I’m running a set of Shinko 705s front and rear. I’m running them at about 25 psi which yes, seems a little low but I find at higher pressures I get a little oscillation on the front end. Plus the slightly lower pressure allows me to go off-road when the feeling strikes me and not have to fiddle with my tires too much.

After the install yesterday afternoon, I really didn’t get a chance to test ride the bike other than a quick job on the streets around my townhouse. Things seemed okay there but of course where it all really comes alive is on the highway. So this morning I gassed up the bike and took her out onto the QEW. 120 km an hour and everything seemed rock solid. In fact if there was any change in handling, it so subtle I can’t tell. Of course it’s not as easy to slide the bike into his parking position in my garage as it was because the rear tire does have some contact with the ground now when it’s up on the centre stand. For that small price to play for that tiny bit of extra ground clearance.

I also received my new AFX dual sport helmet this week in the mail from Revzilla. It is of course in Hi-Viz yellow as have my last three helmets been.

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It’s an FX-41 DS helmet. They do come in a variety of colours and surface design. It was a pleasant surprise to discover it has an internal drop-down shade shield. The fit and function is really good on my head and it’s probably one of the best vented helmets I’ve ever owned. It’s also light which is a definite plus. I can’t really speak to how noisy or quiet the helmet is as I always ride with plugs.

I’ve also been trying out my new Fieldshear all weather pants and so far the been very warm and comfortable to wear. And they fit me at my waist far better than any of my Joe Rocket Gear ever has.

Were almost at May, June is not far away, see what I mean about time? The Colorado trip is coming up fast and I still have nailed down some my tracks.

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Putting the finishing touches on a 6″ Sched 10 Stainless Steel Spent Grain Line. I built the run in 3D CAD and then we built the sucker!

It’s been a crazy few weeks but in a good way, no matter how tired I am. I’ve got one more week to go in my current day job and then I’ll be transitioning into my new position with a new company. It looks like I might take a week prior to starting just to take care of all those little things that have slid by the way like; getting my eyes checked, fixing my car, and renovating my basement. Oh, and finishing two books for release at the end of summer and just before Christmas.

And remember how I said I’d never go back to film? Well apparently I was full of shit. But before you judge me too harshly let me give you some context. The first chink in my Armour was the film the big short. I wasn’t able to get out to see it its first week of release, so I settled for reading the screenplay. That was a mistake. It’s probably one of the best scripts I’ve ever read. And there was a definite tug at my soul to write another script. Like any writer worth their salt, I do have a drawer full of ideas. Of course the hard part is building the inertia into yourself to launch those ideas onto the page. I’ve never been somebody who just writes for the fun of it. I always write with an end result in mind. Unfortunately for the most part in film is your soul gets tortured for a paltry sum of money. It would be a lot easier to take if the torture came with a bigger cheque.

So yeah, I was out, I was done.

And then at last week’s writers group one of our members shared a story from her father’s work about an encounter he had just after the end of the second world War on his way to the Nuremberg trials. The four most magic words in the screen writing sphere are, “Based on true events.” There is also a point when if you’ve been doing this long enough and by this I mean working in film, where you know what IT is when you hear it. Hell you know what IT is when you see it. The first time I saw Heath Ledger in the flesh at Sundance in an obscure Australian film called, “Two Hands,” I knew he was going to be a huge star, even though he was standing behind the entire cast. So when I heard the story of what one man was told on a train bound for what was essentially the trials of the century. I knew in the root of my soul that this was an IT moment. I was bouncing the idea off of some of my contacts and getting their feedback before our group meeting was done. It would seem they too see something here.

And just like that, I was back.

Am I scared? You bet. Fear keeps you honest. It’s early days yet, I’ve just started working on the outline for the project. We’ll be signing an option and sale agreement next week. I’ve got meetings lined up already, it’s pure madness but it’s like they say, “Go big or go home.”

I’ll keep you guys updated as we go deeper into this thing.

 

As always, you can find my thrillers, Devil’s Gambit and Reliance on Amazon in both print and Kindle formats. It’d be great if you could give them a look if you haven’t so already.

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As you know, I have a day job in addition to the writing. I don’t often write or talk about it there’s no need to give any employer stuff that can be misconstrued or misunderstood, no matter how much you strive for accuracy and clarity in your writing at least as far as your blog goes.

But the simple fact of the matter is that for the last couple of years I have been far from happy in my current job. This on top of having to take several months off to deal with stuff in regards to my autistic son and his needs as an adult. But that’s a story for another day.

The thing is, I actually really enjoy my job. I get to build things and in the building these things I get to figure stuff out and I get to work with other people that are also really good at what they do. Where things have always fallen down for me is in the internal politics that every company big or small suffers from. Smaller companies, you can sort of deal with that kind of thing face-to-face. Which while uncomfortable at least allows for quick resolution of problems. My current employer at least for the next 13 days or so is not a small company. In fact the administration and the owners are in another province and like any long-distance relationship it makes things a bit more difficult.

Of course it doesn’t help the customers in the fields I service want a lot more for a lot less than they’re prepared to pay. But then that’s any company anywhere in the world. It used to be that you could come to an agreement or an understanding at least with any client as to how far you were willing to go in regards the ridiculous demands.

Things have changed now, and to be honest my last three projects just about broke me.

So I had decided, come hell or high water that this last project really was going to be my last with my current employer. It didn’t help that on a particularly low day I was contacted by one of our competitive companies, who has been after me for a few years now. And yeah, I agreed to meet with them and see what they had to say.

Little did I know that other events within my current employer were also at play. There were a series of terminations and reshuffling in upper management in my division. These events when they occurred, directly effected my current project and not in a positive way. I was literally left swaying in the wind with no support, and yes, there was fallout.

After a week of really not knowing what the hell was going on, the Senior VP flew out to fill us in on our new reality and to promise us that things were about to get so much better. All this was reinforced by the surviving members of upper management that had been reshuffled into new positions. After this general meeting, I was called into a private meeting with the visiting VP and offered a promotion. It should be important to note that when you offer somebody a promotion you should probably mention an increase in pay (not that money would have changed things for me at this point) after all a promotion meets more responsibility at least that’s how I usually see it. Instead I was offered a trip out of province to see how things were done at head office.

I like Kool-Aid is much as the next guy but this offered cup wasn’t for me. So I basically said that more than likely at the end of my current project I would be leaving and seeing how I had effectively quit at least in my mind, I as is usually the way I deal with things decided, “Fuck it,” and proceeded to weigh out what I saw was a few key failings of upper management in regards to how our division functioned. I got the feeling when the VPs right eye started to twitch that perhaps most people he dealt with weren’t quite so honest and forthright in their dealing with him. I guess he also forgot about every other meeting we ever had where I was almost always a voice of discontent with some policy or whatever they were trying to ram through regardless of its impact or contravention of current labour laws in our province.

Personally, I figure he’s more than glad that I’ll be leaving. I’m sure I was impinging on his happiness with his job.

I obviously can’t say yet what I’ll be moving on to but I will say that it is exciting and it will use a lot more of my skill set than I’m currently using and that’s always a good thing.

 

As always you can find my thrillers, Devil’s Gambit, and Reliance on Amazon in both print and kindle formats.

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I got both days this weekend off. It’s been about eight weeks since this has happened, with me either working a Saturday, a Sunday or both. Needless to say I was getting a bit shaggy. So yesterday was taken up with getting caught up on all the things I’ve been having a hard time getting to. Even then there are not enough hours in the day to take care of the things you’ve put off for weeks. It’s all a bit frustrating.

Still the weather has turned for the better and the warmer and while I wasn’t able to get out on the road yesterday on my motorcycle, today was a different story. I kept it light, just a couple of hours of decent backroads and I kept off of gravel and dirt mostly because the non-winter roads are a bit crap right now and my skill set is rusty from months of disuse and is usually on that first ride of the season that you discover just how to shape you are for riding. All I know it’s not a sport compared to things you play with a puck or a ball and I’m not running any marathons here. Still, it’s physical in its own way and when you haven’t done it for a while, you do feel it. For me, my right shoulder definitely gives me grief, and right hip and if I ride long enough, both knees. Of this morning there I was just really a shakedown.

I installed the cradle for my new sumo 590LM GPS yesterday. It took a couple of hours, not because it’s difficult but because of the size of the dispersal plug located in the middle of the power and sound cable, you need to run it under the fuel tank of the DL 650. Which of course means a certain amount of disassembly of the Tupperware on the front end. Of course seeing as I was in there anyway, I took some time to clean up all the electrical connections coming off of my battery. Though to be honest it still looks like a dog’s breakfast. I’ll be ordering a distribution buss I can place under my seat. I’ve never been a fan of a messy wiring job. So today was also a test of setting a track in my brand-new GPS. Lesson learned? I’ll need to put a lot more waypoints into my tracks. To be honest, I’m still finding Basecamp a horrendous program to use to plan any sort of trip. So right now I’m using Tyre to generate my tracks and then I drop the.GPX files directly into the GPS unit. From there you have to import them internally into your create trip app. It’s a bit of a pain but not too bad once you get used to it.

I was also wearing my new Fieldsheer pants today. They’re replacing my old and very worn Joe Rocket, meteor five pants that I’ve had for 12 years at least. They were really only good for cool and cold weather riding and offered absolutely no sort of protection against wet weather. The new pants have two zip in liners, one for water and one for warmth. I can’t speak to their effectiveness against a downpour yet but today coupled with my Olympia jacket, my Klim, “Expedition,” gloves and a decent neck sock. I was very comfortable. I didn’t even have to turn on my heated grips. Which reminds me, I need to put the new set of them on as well.

I’m still deep in the guts of planning the actual tracks I’ll be taking in Colorado around Moab. Right now I’m figuring my days to transit out to hook up with Kelly and of course meet my friend David out there. It’s all very back-and-forth as far as the riding goes. Like I said, you think yourself hey that’s months away but those days, the ones in front of your departure date slip away like water.

I am really looking forward to this trip.

As always, you find my thrillers, Devil’s Gambit and Reliance on Amazon in both trade paperback and for Kindle.

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I don’t tend to talk about the day job because I figure it would be boring to most people. Then again I guess most people say that about their day jobs. That is of course usually not the case when it is their, “Job.” By that I mean, it is what they do for a career and their evenings are left to things like catching up with the family, watching TV or engaging in a hobby. Not, and I repeat not, trying to create something out of thin air and then capture that thing on paper (eventually).

I’ve been building food, dairy and beverage plants for the better part of twenty-five years with a couple of breaks here and there to pursue other interests be they creative, mechanical or electrical. I like building things, I always have. My job is extremely project-based, as in I go from project to project and these can last anywhere from a day to months. Projects depending on their execution can go easy or hard. This last one was hard. Not so much because of what we were doing, though I’ll admit brewing is not a process I’m entirely familiar with (but I am a fast learner) but more because of just the level of work that had to be accomplished in a very set period of time. So stress levels are very high and work days were long. This of course really cuts into your writing time. My output which prior to this project was a thousand words a day, give or take. Has fallen at this stage to about two thousand words a week. This is unacceptable to me. Add to this that my current company is going through a restructuring. This restructuring amongst management directly affected my project, which was extremely frustrating to say the least considering my deadline issues (every project’s got a deadline). Which of course led to longer days and six and seven day weeks, which caused more stress and yes, directly affected my writing.

It is a vicious circle.

And because turmoil loves company, I decided to add a little bit more my life and change the circumstances of my day job. It’s frustrating that it had to come to this. Of course ultimately as any writer does, I hope to make a living from my books. Trouble is you need content to sell and you have to generate that content yourself, while still keeping a roof over your head and food on the table. I’ve never been one to be a starving artist.

And that would be the other side of the coin, my day job pays really well and it’s very interesting. At least it is when you’re not dealing with personnel or internal politics. No matter what, no matter where, people can be difficult. Myself included.

So what my new circumstances will hold for me I do not know. Anything you do in life is a 50-50 shot for success or failure. My only saving grace is that I hold a fairly unique skill set which other companies desire to utilize towards their bottom line. I also have a decent reputation within the industry which is a good thing. Though I’m certain I’m absolutely not everybody’s cup of tea, especially some of the mechanical and process engineers I work with.

I’m still trying to stay on deadline for Devil’s Ante but now I have the Colorado trip looming, sixty-eight days out and counting and I haven’t even got my tracks logged out for it. I also still need to pull the trigger on a brand-new GPS system, which is proving even harder than I thought. For once the Internet is not cutting it and I’m going to have to go into a store talk to somebody who knows about these things. More time lost. Though that’s probably the wrong way to look at. I’ll be riding somewhat remote tracks, GPS will be part of my safety system. I always do tend to bitch about the cost initially of something, the sting fades with years of use. I got five years out of my last GPS and it was put to hard use in some pretty extreme conditions.

So, the way I see it, I’ve got two months to finish the rough draft of my new novel and plan the Colorado trip which will be the basis for another motorcycle book. Which hopefully won’t be as contentious as my last one and then get everything released for the fall. I’m so outside the write a novel a month for Amazon model, it’s not even funny. But as they say life is what happens when you’re making other plans.

I’m sure the day job stuff will settle down in the next month or so and we’ll see how that new chapter goes. I guess if it all gets too hairy, I can just go solo as a gun for hire but that would probably even take away more time from writing…. Sigh.

As always my thrillers Devil’s Gambit and Reliance are available on Amazon in print and for Kindle.

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Writing groups are about critique. Good writing groups keep it about the work, bad writing groups make it personal or at the very least about ego. That can be hard to take. Sometimes even in good writing groups it can be hard to tell where the person who is giving the critique’s ego stands in relation to the work. I’ve been very lucky in my writing life to be part of one excellent amateur writing group and a couple of outstanding professional ones. And the new group I’m currently part of is also very good but recently I seem to have run into a bit of a problem with how some of my critique is received.

Now it could be that at some level I’m misconstruing what certain members want to get out of the process. By that I mean there’s a difference between writing for fun and writing to be published. A number of our current members, myself included are published. A few others are well on their way to their first published book and I guess there are also a few who strictly write for fun.

My focus is almost always geared towards a final work made for consumption by readers. I’ve been in this game long enough to know that not everything I write will please everybody and in some cases it will make them angry. Though that tends to be more a factor in my nonfiction works than it does in my thrillers. But that’s not the point here. My point is I try to gauge the level of my critique relative to what the writer is trying to achieve. So I may couch my critique a little more in softer language for somebody who is writing for fun than somebody who is writing for publication. If you’re writing for publication I will be direct in my language because I do you no good if I’m not concise with my argument for why something is not working (at least in my opinion).

This is not to say I am always right. My rules for critique are simple.

  1. Start with something positive.
  2. Focus only on the work in front of you, do not make a personal.
  3. If one person says something, consider it. If two people offer the same point consider changing it. If three or more people raise issue, you must address the problem.

And of course it is number three that has gotten me into trouble with a couple of members in the group. Though more specifically with one of the members deciding to, “Take a break for a while.” Which makes me sad because my focus is always on the work, not on crushing somebody else’s creativity. Make no mistake I am passionate about writing and I will call you on your bullshit with the same fervour that I call out myself on my own.

I think the issue is that I had some very pointed remarks about the main character in a piece this member had read a week previously to the last bit of work he shared with the group prior to his hiatus. In my opinion in relation to the previous week’s work he’d created a character with so few redeeming qualities any reader would be hard-pressed to root for this individual. I had suggested a couple of small fixes with the character’s interaction with the other members of the story to help make him more likable. It was minor stuff and to be honest I didn’t think much of it. The following week the member brought in what he termed was the prologue to his book. I won’t go into the details of the story as they are not really relevant to have this all fleshed out. My feeling upon his completion of reading was two things. One, it didn’t possess the proper components to make it a prologue and two, I was missing valuable context. Both points of which I raised. All of that would have been fine I guess, except the rest of the group sort of piled on in regards to my context comment.

And it was at this point that I realized from the look on this member’s face that for him publishing was the dream but the reality was he was writing for fun and as such wasn’t mentally prepared to receive the hard critique. I literally watched him shut down. I did try at the time to lighten things up but of course the damage was done. I sometimes forget, not everyone has had the opportunity to develop the thick skin you need to be a professional writer.

So I haven’t seen this member in three weeks and as previously stated, he’s taking a break from the group. I do hope he comes back and I’ll be sure to reformat my critique to be more in line with what he can handle. Which may sound like I’m pandering a little but the reality of life is there’s no joy in beating on somebody who doesn’t realize they’re in a fight for survival. At this point I would urge this individual to not seek publication. The review process would more than likely crush their soul and that would be the exact opposite of writing for fun.

As always my thrillers Devil’s Gambit and Reliance are available on in both Kindle and paperback formats.

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Volunteers of the Canadian War Plane Heritage Museum work on the restoration of their Grumman Avenger airframe.

One of the hardest things when you are writer, no matter if you are an amateur or a professional is staying positive. Writing is not for the faint of heart. It has a tendency to lay all of your faults bare, be they internal or external. The entire experience of creating something from nothing that until the act of your fingers hitting the keyboard was just thoughts banging around between your ears can leave you somewhat emotionally raw. Which is one of the reasons criticism of any stripe can be a bit hard to take.
Add to that the struggle which is daily life and what you have to go through to eke out the time you need to write each day to get that first or next book out and it can be hard to not feel the fingers of failure grasping at your back. Not to mention when you do put everything you have into something and nobody shows up to the final party. Those are the moments we feel like a madman or madwoman howling in the wilderness.
And yeah, keeping a smile on your face can be hard in those instances.

The thing is though for those of us that have embraced self-publishing revolution, you’re not under some of the more onerous restrictions that you are subjected to when you’re working with a publishing house. For one, your print run is unlimited. Your book is and will be as long as Amazon continues to exist available to anybody he wants to look for it and pay for it. Which means a pretty permanent back catalogue. I’d say permanent but let’s be honest, nothing is forever.

I received an email on Friday regarding the Ontario writers conference in Ajax. According to them this will be the last year the conference will be held. For reasons unknown to me it’s shutting down. Now conferences come and go, that is the nature of the world but I couldn’t help but notice when I looked into this conference last year that none of their offered talks or classes dealt in any way with the world of E publishing or self-publishing through Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, etc. All of their focus was on trad pub, getting an agent and all the other standard stuff that goes with that sort of thing. And as much as I know the traditionally modelled publishing houses would like to have their hands on the throat of self-publishing through electronic means. The simple fact is no matter how much they hate it, the model is here to stay and it’s pretty obvious that people are moving more towards reading books on their phones or tablets and yes, their e-readers. All of this of course can be handled completely by the individual author. This reduces greatly the need for such institutions, which of course puts them all on the endangered species list. Personally, I’m not going to miss them much.

But getting back to staying positive. Outlining it’s a very important step, it provides you with the roadmap to get you to the end of the story. You don’t have to stick to it ruthlessly, you can always take side trips to look at this or that, just make sure you steer yourself back to the main track. Having steps to achieve along the way keeps you focused and keeps the story paramount in your mind. Writing is hard enough why make it harder?

All the pressure that you feel is self-induced, you can take as long as you want to put your best work out there. You just have to get past that little voice in your head that tells you that you can’t do this, that you suck and that nobody’s ever going to read this. Yes, it’s a lot easier to just write for yourself and never show anybody but half the fun and the terror of this whole experience is putting yourself out there. Not everyone is going to be a fan, some people will be quite harsh in their criticism but others will be quite rich in their praise and I’ve always been one to lean more towards the positive than the negative. Because it’s easy to be negative and the cut down the efforts of others but the learning was in the effort more than it was in the execution you can always change how you execute something. After all at the end of it, you have a book, while the critic has at best a few paragraphs.
Other things that can help? A good cup of tea, a comfy chair to write in, and some decent music in the background and if you get stuck? Take a shower or a walk, ride your motorcycle (if you have one) and clear your head. You’re the captain of your own ship, you know where to go.

 

My thrillers Devil’s Gambit and Reliance are available on Amazon in print and for Kindle.

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One of our members Doug Armstrong giving a presentation on his Alaska trip. Doug also rides a DL-650 V-Strom.

Planning is always an interesting topic when it comes to trips. It really does come down to comfort level. Some people like to just grab their stuff and go, see where the road takes them. Others have to plan every detail, every step of the journey. I’m sort of a hybrid. I like to plan my journeys but I also like to leave some leeway in there to explore certain locations in greater depth. The other side of this coin is of course, I have a limited amount of time to get done what I want to do. This means you need to figure out what your days are going to be. So while I think you can over plan, there’s no such thing as too much information because at any point you can deviate from whatever you have set out for yourself if you have the knowledge that allows you to make that call.

So right now my plan is to leave on June 12, heading west toward Salt Lake City. I will be meeting up with my buddy Kelly in SLC either late that Sunday or the following Monday morning. Which effectively gives me seven days to cross from Mississauga to SLC. The plan after that is to head to Moab and spend three days tooling around there, before heading to Pike’s Peak for the Thursday and Friday practice sessions and then spending another two days around Colorado Springs exploring the terrain there as well. After that Kelly will head home and I’ll have a few more days to myself to visit some national parks I want to get to before I also had for home.

Time as you can see, is going to be at a premium and seeing as I’m trying to also create a short if not informative book on the dirt roads of Colorado around the areas I’ll be visiting, I need to be very precise with my time. So as you can guess, most of my planning is focused on when and where. This of course involves a lot of time working with my mapping software and my Garmin GPS unit.

My current unit which has served me faithfully if not sometimes sporadically over the last six years is on its way out. This of course means I have been looking at either the Garmin 600 or 650 as a replacement. The issue there of course is these are not cheap units and I’m having to overcome a certain amount of sticker shock. I am after all Scottish. Though to be fair, I always look at these sort of investments especially if they’re expensive as something to be looked at over time. So even though a new GPS may push into the $700 range, it’s not so bad when you consider that it’s going to be part of your main equipment for the next several years. And with price does come better flexibility in what you can do with your technology. If there’s one thing I have found over the years, it’s that standard Garmin units will rearrange your track even if you have programed waypoints. Not such a big deal when it’s your typical Sunday ride but when you’re actually exploring a new part of the country you’ve never been to, it’s can cause you to miss stuff you were looking forward to seeing.

Now of course a certain amount of your planning will revolve around what you’re going to bring with you on a trip. I’ve pretty much got my gear down to a science. My panniers carry my spare gloves, extra footwear, rain gear and tire repair. I do tend to keep my tools to a minimum and so far with a couple of minor exceptions, that’s worked out for me. My top box is for my camera and some of my smaller electronic gear. I keep my clothing in two 10L dry bags which I strap to the top of my panniers. I also have a 40L dry bag which I strap across my passenger seat with a cargo net. It holds my tent, my sleeping bag and my camera tripod. There are also two 2 Gal. ROTOPAX gas cans on the outside of my panniers. These give me a total range of around 700 km, not to mention peace of mind when I’m rolling.

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It’s taken me a while to refine this set up but I find it compact and not too heavy, which is a pretty critical consideration if you’re going to be doing any amount of off-road as well as your riding on the slab. The dry bag on the passenger seat also functions as a pretty effective and comfortable backrest. My last piece of equipment is of course my SPOT Gen 3 satellite tracker. It allows my wife and friends to see where I’m at and it gives me the ability to call for help if needed. So as far as how my bike is appointed, I feel I have that covered.

But here I sit roughly three months and six days from departure and much like my Translab trip I know the time is going to go fast. So I’m going to be spending a lot of time refining my routes. I guess I also need to spend a lot of time learning how to properly use the Adobe program that I’m going to use to create the book. Because this time I really do want to get a lot of what I have to show across in pictures.

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The Badlands of South Dakota, Sept 2006

My two thrillers Devil’s Gambit and Reliance are available in print and for Kindle on Amazon.

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I almost missed the Toronto motorcycle show this year. It wasn’t till the show details popped up on Facebook for me that I realized it was on. And seeing as they were going to be showing the new Africa Twin from Honda I was going to go. Of course Collin went with me. It’s a very small venue at the Enercare centre on the grounds of the Ex, so even if he wanders off I can usually find him within about 15 minutes, usually by the Food service area.

Now this particular blog is going to have opinions. People may agree with me, some people may not, I don’t really care.

You see when I heard about the resurrection of the famed Africa Twin, I was hoping that Honda would look to its Dakar past and align it with Dakar’s present. Namely providing a lighter class moto rather than following current trend in the North American market keep making bigger and bigger displacement bikes for supposed off-road use. And believe me, I know I’m kidding myself.

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It is a sharp looking machine and that 429 pounds indicated dry weight that’s pretty good. But if they’d gone with say 750cc motor, they could have shaved even more weight, still had decent power available on tap and increased the distance the bike would be able to travel. They would also be honouring the most famous iteration of the original Africa Twin.

The thing about riding off-road, is it’s all fun and games until you have to pick the bitch up. By the second time, you wish you had a lighter bike.

But that’s enough of that.

Overall, the offerings from the various manufacturers this year seem slim. Nothing really stood out as being the next great thing and try as I might (and I’m not sure why) the Ducati Scrambler does nothing for me. I don’t know why, I’m sure it’s a fun bike to ride but for me it’s just meh.

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Though I will admit 1200 Multistrada is pretty sexy looking even if it does full into that larger bore displacement trap. I know the Multistrada is designed to be Ducati’s version of an adventure bike but it really does so to suggest how a supermodel would approach, “off-road adventure.” I’m not saying I wouldn’t love to take one for a spin but let’s be honest, I’d never leave the pavement. Function inside, everybody’s copying Ducati’s beak.

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Honda’s NM4-02 Vultus (no I don’t know what that means either) has an automatic transmission and unlike past systems this one seems to work. It is a distinctly unique looking bike, though I felt distinctly cramped sitting on it. It’s an almost but not quite foot forward seating style. Almost as if somebody turned a scooter into a Lazy-boy with wheels. I think any taller riders interested in this motorcycle would require some pretty major modifications to be made to the steering geometry of the handlebars. Of course you have to provide the Batman costume yourself. Which begs the question how does he stop his cape from getting sucked into the rear wheel on the bat pod?

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I’d love to use the phrase, “A few hardy souls,” but it was really mild. If I hadn’t been bringing Collin, I’d have ridden in too. BMW was well represented, including this old R90.

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As always you can purchase either of my two thrillers, Devil’s Gambit and Reliance on Amazon in Trade paperback and for Kindle.

Adam Dreece's Blog

Author of The Yellow Hoods, an Emergent Steampunk series for ages 9-99

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