Monday, February 13, 2017

Gimbal Test

I recently bought an EVO SS Gimbal to try producing more stabilized videos. I had my doubts after pulling the rather heavy contraption from its box. That suspicion persisted when I mounted it to the GoPro Chesty and felt its mass shifting as I moved around on the bike. Surprisingly, though, the footage came out smooth and stable. There were a couple of instances with some shake, but that was only during the quick spurts out of the saddle to jump or pump transitions. I may try to alter my chest mount in order to keep it from bouncing around, but for now I'm pleased with the outcome.

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Snowshoe (West Virginia)

My buddies Tony and Tobje joined me for a day trip to Snowshoe on Saturday. We shoved off from Richmond around 6am, made great time on the drive and were in the parking lot by 10am. We were met with blue bird conditions and decent snow. Making our way across the basin side, we eventually hopped aboard the shuttle bus to Silver Creek, where we grabbed lunch and continued riding. Two of the three terrain parks were open at Silver Creek, so we explored the features for a moment before settling in on a series of slopes with excellent snow near the border of trees. We could hear the other riders scraping their way down the bare slopes, all the while hooting and hollering as we carved through the snow they'd pushed to the edges.

Silver Creek offers night skiing, so we were already in the perfect spot when the sun went down. Our riding wrapped up around 7pm and we were on the road home about an hour after that. I needed two energy drinks to make the haul home after such an eventful day of riding and the next morning I was absolutely drained, staying in bed as long as I could before groggily emerging.

Tobje and I bought the 3-For-All passes, so we'll most likely try to get back on the snow ASAP. Next time perhaps I'll bother bringing along the goPro to capture some shots.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Transmission Time

After my transmission failed last weekend, I was left with the task of swapping it. I, of course, headed to my local junkyard to find a donor. Although I couldn't determine the vehicle's mileage, I did choose to remove the transmission from a 2004 (mine's a 2002) WJ - one that had been wrecked instead of showing up in the yard due to some mechanical failure. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll be a reliable replacement.

The Fiesta did rather well lugging around the transmission, floor jack, jack stands, and tools!

The extended control arms of the Rough Country kit made dropping the crossmember a bit more involved, but eventually I had it, the transfer case & driveshafts, and transmission sitting on the floor. Installing the replacement went rather well, especially after I discovered the alignment dowel which had stayed in the donor transmission - interfering with the existing dowel still inserted in my engine bellhousing ;-)

This weekend I'll be snowboarding at Snowshoe, so the rest of the install will have to wait until next week. Once the transmission is installed, I'll also be touching up the bondo and applying paint to a couple areas, as well as pressing a new bushing into the upper control arm above the rear axle. Once those are complete, I'll test the Jeep and list it for sale.

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Quick Fire

I filmed my fire from Lumber River State Park on the way to the Keys. It's sped up 8X, which makes for a brief break from reality and a reminder to get back into the woods. Enjoy!

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Conley Cabin (Stanardsville, VA)

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Despite staying a stone's throw away last weekend at Johnson Cabin, I just couldn't turn down an invite from my friend Elmer to stay at Conley Cabin during the inauguration weekend. In fact, the trip would only be an overnight stay during Friday night since the cabin was rented for the weekend. For Elmer and his friends which live in DC, though, they'd be staying at the cabin during a critical time to GTFO of town ;-)

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My friend Dan and I left Richmond Friday afternoon and made it to the cabin just before dark. I'd never been to Conley Cabin before, but was pleased to find it included two wood stoves and ample room for a large group of people. We only had six, but I believe the cabin would be suitable to hold up to ten.

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Elmer and his friends were prepared with plenty of food for the group as we feasted on stew, cheese, and prosciutto!

The next morning we searched the woods to restock the cabin's firewood supply, tidied up, and hauled our gear to the parking area before saying goodbye to friends old and new.

On our way home, Dan and I had planned on eating at Hamilton's in Charlottesville before meeting our friend Joey for an XC ride at Walnut Creek Park. Unfortunately, my Jeep's transmission decided to implode just as we reached Charlottesville and we were forced to limp it into a parking spot within a nearby neighborhood. Instead of our original rendezvous at the park, Joey rescued us from Charlottesville and I returned on Sunday to retrieve the Jeep. Hopefully it'll need no more than a new torque converter to be back on the road.

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Johnson Cabin (Stanardsville, VA)

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The last time Rebecca and I visited Johnson Cabin, it was an unseasonably warm weekend just before the start of 2015.

As fate would have it, my Jeep was stolen from outside our house about a year following that trip. For nearly a year it remained a mystery until eventually the police came across its expired tags and discovered it parked roughly four miles from our home. When I recovered the Jeep from the tow yard, amazingly, it was untouched. In fact, the tools and gear I'd left in it the day of its disappearance were all there! I still can't believe my luck.

In my mind, one of the reasons for its lack of molestation is the fact that it had developed death wobble after I'd installed a 4" lift and front axle. I suppose in some way I'm very fortunate for not having solved the issue at that point.

In any case, I have just about solved the wobble. I won't get into the specifics, but it's reasonably fine on the highway now, requiring only minor care over potholes and bumps at highway speeds. With that said, I was itching to get back into the woods with a vehicle I so dearly enjoy and one that was assumed vanished for nearly a year.

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We loaded up the dogs, chainsaw, and a cooler full of groceries for the weekend in the woods - heading west on Friday afternoon. Once we arrived, I started a fire in the wood stove before we unpacked and kicked up our feet inside the tiny, cozy cottage.

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After following several YouTube channels for awhile now, I've decided to try my hand at a first-person, narrated channel to share these adventures through a new medium. With that in mind, I woke Saturday morning to rekindle the fire, gather more wood for the duration of the weekend, and film the entire journey.

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Since I had the Jeep, armed with straps and a come-along hoist, I chose to drag entire [fallen] trees from the woods rather than carrying individual limbs over my shoulder. The dogs and I backed to the edge of the woods and selected a tree nearest the trail. Once back at the cabin, I spent the next couple of hours chopping, splitting, and stacking firewood while Rebecca sliced vegetables to combine with chicken in a pot above the stove, simmering for hours before dinner.

That night we chowed down on her stew and the next morning she was cracking eggs over the stove for our breakfast.

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On Saturday we were within a thick fog for the duration, but Sunday morning we woke to clear skies. In minutes, however, a cloud would roll in to provide the same atmosphere - then it would quickly disappear. Once I spotted the low clouds in the valley I decided an aerial view might reveal an interesting sight - what I found was beyond my best hope...a sea of clouds with small islands of mountaintops peeking through the thick, white waves.

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After two great days in the woods we packed the Jeep and headed to Gordonsville for a bite to eat on our way home. It was a great test of the newly repaired Jeep and such a great way to commemorate its return.

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Florida Keys

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Originally, Rebecca and I had hoped to visit the Dry Tortugas National Park, but were surprised to find that reservations for camping onsite must be made approximately 11 months in advance.

We decided to change the scope of our trip instead of scrapping it altogether and quickly booked some hotel rooms in The Keys.

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For this trip, I would be riding my motorcycle south while Rebecca flew to Orlando. After three days of riding, I would meet her at the airport and we would continue on our trip together.

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On the way down I camped at Lumber River State Park in North Carolina. I had the park to myself, so I chose from all available sites to set my hammock and start a fire. Although the temperature was unseasonably high when I left Richmond, the overnight temperatures dropped and I was woken on day two by the cold. I emerged from my hammock to find my bike had toppled onto its side overnight when the kickstand sunk a bit further in the soft ground. Once I'd righted it, I quickly struck camp and headed on my way down 95 South.

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The next day I was planning on improvising a campsite in the Ocala National Forest, but after several hours on the bike I opted for a roadside motel with the promise of a hot shower and electrical outlets to charge all of my waining electronics. I was especially grateful for that decision the next morning when I woke fully rested and prepared to finish the drive.

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Since I had some time to waste before Rebecca's flight arrived, I detoured through the sandy trails of Ocala National Forest around Blue Sink. It was quite the challenge, as my fully loaded V-Strom (with 80/20 tires) struggled to stay in the ruts left by larger, 4WD vehicles.

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Later that night I checked into the hotel, unloaded some gear, then drove to the Orlando Airport to pickup Rebecca. The next morning we loaded the bike to full capacity, with bags strapped onto the exterior of the fully loaded boxes. Since Rebecca's sister lives in Vero Beach, we arranged a rendezvous with her to unload my camping and riding gear. After that, we continued our drive south along the A1A to our final destination of Hotel Biba in West Palm Beach.

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The following day we continued along the A1A on our way to Hollywood Beach. Our friend Mambo was visiting family in/near Miami, so we met him there for lunch, before continuing to our hotel in Sunny Isles.

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At this point in our trip, it was time to leave the "mainland" and begin our journey along The Keys! As we approached Key Largo, traffic began to slow. By the time we reached Islamorada it was time for a break, so we pulled into the The Island Grill for lunch. The remainder of the drive was relatively smooth and eventually we pulled into our accommodations for the night in Marathon, where we kicked up our feet on the balcony, sipping black strap rum cocktails while we watched the sun set.

In the morning, I headed towards the uninhabited Boot Key to get some shots of the harbor and the lush, green key. The bridge leading to the key was disabled, allowing it to return to nature.

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While I was flying over the harbor, Rebecca ran to Sombrero Beach. Once I'd packed up the Phantom, I met her there and we sat by the beach for awhile before packing up and continuing on our drive south.

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Our destination that day was Key West. Along the way we stopped at Cuba Coffee in Big Pine Key, followed by a walk along the bay in Summerland Key.

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All during our trip, we'd pull over at a whim. Nearly every bridge had something to explore at either end. Usually, we tried keeping the cameras/phones off. Every so often, you'd be accompanied by others at these "attractions" - instantly reminded of the benefits of simply taking it in :-)

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That afternoon we reached Key West. Just before sunset, we headed to Fort Zachary Taylor to attempt, unsuccessfully, to snorkel from the beach. Luckily, Rebecca did capture a great photo before we left the park to watch the WV/Miami game at Charlie Mac's.

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On the ride North, Rebecca and I tried to hit all of the stops we'd missed on our way towards Key West. We pulled over to enjoy a roadside beach on Missouri Key, then explored Blue Hole within the Key Deer Refuge.

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A cold front moved in on the final day, which was relatively convenient since we decided to visit the Everglades National Park on our way out. We chose the less traveled route along Card Sound Road, pulling over at Alabama Jack's for breakfast.

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The next morning I took Rebecca to the Ft. Lauderdale airport before making my way north, riding nearly 1,000 miles over the next two days.

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