Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pennsylvania Wilds and why I love going there

Pennsylvania Wilds (map) is a two million acre area in the northern part of the state. Here are the main reasons I like going there so much: - Distance. It's closer to Toronto than Algonquin Park, by a good 100Km. - Getting there is easy and fast. You can reach the fun zone in less than three hours of riding/driving from Toronto and you can pretty much forget any traffic congestion as soon as you cross the border. - Traffic. There's very little of it on any day and in any season. You'll see more vehicles on the roads in Muskoka on a Wednesday morning in November than on a summer long weekend in Spoul State Forest. Crawling behind a truck towing a 20m boat is for those that go to Ontario cottage country every weekend. - Roads. It's practically impossible to find a boring piece of asphalt or gravel anywhere in this area, and believe me - I have tried. You can't make a wrong turn if you enjoy a good road for the roads' sake. - Nature and scenery. Lush forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, farmland, small towns, national forests, game lands, recreational areas, state parks (dozens of them: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/where/index.htm). Ever changing and ever pleasant vistas with magnificent overlooks. Hundreds of places to stop and smell the proverbial roses without having to share them with flocks of minivan tourists. - People. Friendly and easy to communicate with. I can't say I made friends for life, but all my interactions with the locals were quite pleasant and unpretentious. - Food. It's pretty easy to find decent to very good food and servings are generous to huge. It's quite hard to find a meal that will set you back more than $15, beer included. - Accommodations. You won't find any big hotel/motel chains in the area and quality varies greatly, from $30/night dusty and claustrophobic old hotels (bring your own sleeping bag just in case) to $75/night in a refurbished old mansion B&B. There are hundreds of camps around, from KOA to completely amenity-free camping spots in the forest. - Laws and law enforcement. Pennsylvania is a helmet optional state. Speed limits in populated areas are reasonable (35 or 40mph) and traffic enforcement outside of the few small towns and more frequently traveled roads is practically nonexistent. I guess local and state cops have better things to do than set up speed traps on roads that see a few vehicles an hour on a busy day. If, by chance, one gets a speeding ticket, at least that ticket won't show up on his Ontario driving record (I don't mind paying that form of random taxation as much as I detest being raped by Ontario insurance companies because of it). What don't I like about Pennsylvania Wilds? Not a lot, really. I could do without sniffing gas every few kilometers (oil and gas wells are all over the place although not often visible from the road). There are a few oil refineries that are an eyesore, but I guess people there have to live from something other than hunting and fishing. I would also like to see a more diverse population - I don't think I ever saw any person of color there. Also, God and American flags are everywhere, just spoiling the scenery IMO.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science

From the "critical and rational thinking " department:

Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science

The most important discovery of modern medicine is not vaccines or antibiotics, it is the randomized double-blind test, by means of which we know what works and what doesn't.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

My first tool.

This teddy bear is almost as old as I am. He was one of my first toys and my very first tool. Long before I learnt how to walk, I used him as a makeshift ladder to climb out of the baby cage in the back yard. My mother found me happily crawling around and exploring (something I enjoy doing to this day - exploring, I mean :) ). It took her a while to figure how on earth I got out of the cage :).

Thank you mom for providing me my first tool, keeping it safe all these years and sending me this picture to remind me of it. I love you.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Pecentage points?

From the linguistic pet peeve department: "percentage points". WTF happened to poor old percents?! They just slap ten extra characters that don't change a damn thing. Why? To sound more important? BTW, the word "percent" and the corresponding sign "%", like many English words, have a root in Latin. The original "per centum" (by the hundred) was written down as 1/100 then abbreviated "p/c" which over time became "%". While we are at it, check out promille (1/1000 - p/m - ‰). Ancient Romans were apparently much better at word economy than we are. Edit: I learned the true meaning of "percentage point" since I wrote the above post and I have to admit that I was wrong. Strictly speaking, if something grew from 50% to 60% it grew by 10 percentage points. If it grew by ten percent, it would grow only to 55%. I still think that this one of the rare cases where language purity should be set aside. Average person neither knows nor cares about the difference (it took me long enough to know, even though I cared :) ).

Monday, September 05, 2016

What a scare!

Here's a photo from my return from Pennsylvania yesterday, taken on Buffalo-Pitsburgh Highway (PA219). Imagine seeing this as you accelerate out of a long and fast sweeping turn:

That scene gave me a pretty good scare for a moment until I realized the truck is moving in the same direction as me. It was just towed by another truck as they often do in US and Canada, sometimes towing two or even three trucks in a row. Thankfully I've seen it before so the scare didn't last long enough to require a change of underwear :).

If that truck was really coming my way there would be no chance to avoid becoming its hood ornament, even if I had both hands on the handlebar (which I didn't, left was holding the camera that took the picture :) ). Very scary and sobering thought.

Fuel and other statistics from Trans Labrador trip

Total distance ridden: 5,200Km
Total fuel consumed: 225L
Average fuel consumption: 4.33L/100Km (54.3MPG)
Average distance per day: ~700Km
Longest day: ~1150Km
Shortest day: ~330Km

9.509 172
12.711 238
11.057 234
12.404 240.5
12.004 246.3
Day 2
6.976 123
12 226
4.5 105
15.16 276
Day 3
11.934 252.3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6+7
12.269 - 12

Total: 225.361

New leaf: share with full control and to the larger audience

I've written thousands of pages over the years on various Internet forums, blogs, web sites etc. Although most of it is of little long term value, I wish some of many ride reports, rants, impressions, experiences, peeves and even heated Internet discussions on religion, weapons, politics, science, etc. were saved in one place, or at least somewhere I have control over what happens to them. Unfortunately, most or even all of those writings and pictures are gone the way of the Dodo due to many events out of my control and against my will.

Ergo, boosted by valuable input and encouragement from a dear friend, I'll make an effort to do the harder thing - keep it all in one place and share it with the world at large from here. Since blogging by nature does not encourage dialogue (I welcome and cherish all feedback, but it's not like any of it can turn into a ten page forum type discussion) and I don't want to become an Internet hermit I'll post mostly my own experiences and impressions. I'll be happy if folks like it, but even if no one even visits the blog I'll still be happy to create it - if for no other reason than to relive my experiences as I write about them.

So, from now on this blog will replace any and all Internet forums when it comes to ride/trip reports, sharing my direct experiences and similar musings. I will link to blog posts from various forums as I see fit.