~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Kitt Peak National Observatory

It was just a Sunday putt to get me out of the house, not a grand ride or adventure.  I rode down to Kitt Peak National Observatory to pick up a new souvenir t-shirt, my old one from 2005 finally gave out.   The ride there is a typical ride for where I live, 180 miles of straight roads through the desert, 22 miles of curves going up and down the mountain to the observatories. It was 70-80 degrees in the desert, 57 degrees at 6500 feet at the top of the mountain. The cool air at the top of the mountain felt GREAT after a long hot summer.

The road up the mountain from the desert floor is 11 miles of twisties and good fun although the tar snakes are multiplying.  Back in 2004 a younger, more enthusiastic me on an Aprilia Caponord was hitting 110 mph on the short straights on the otherwise twisting road as I play raced with another rider on a BMW R1200GS.  Sunday a mature me settled for 55 mph or so, still fast enough to pass a Harley and a Can Am Spyder but I never did see a straight stretch where I'd want to do 110  mph. 

The 4.x meter Mather Telescope (L) is one of more than 2 dozen actual observatories on the mountain top.

The McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope in the background is impressive and even a little Sci-Fi looking.

Lots of interesting angles and views on the solar telescope.  I'm thinking a 90° framing square wasn't much use in building the thing.  My level of math skills would have been of even less use.

Someone left a door ajar inside the solar telescope's visitor room so I took the opportunity to get an unusual photo. The wind started to blow the door shut so I jumped back inside real quick.   I could see them sparking up that big fella with me trapped in there and me getting blinded or French fried or something.  I'm told the angular highlights on the wall are cooling tubes, the interior temp of the thing has to be controlled somewhat so the heat from the walls doesn't distort the incoming light of images to be captured. 

The 25 meter span, 245 ton radio telescope is part of a ten telescope "Very Long Baseline Aray" that stretches from Hawaii to the Virgin Islands. Using fancy math the data represents the equivalent of a 5000' wide radio telescope. That kind of magnification, so the info placard said, would be enough to let you see from earth a football sitting on the surface of the moon.

A panorama shot of the valley below and south of Kitt Peak.  Click to see the whole image, it's about 5000 pixels across. Stitched together and cropped from 6 seperate images.

Sadly, the observatory gift shop had only garish, glow in the dark t-shirts for sale this time so I came away with naught but photos and a pleasant 225 miles of riding.

Friday, November 08, 2013

The New Harley 500 and 750

Image courtesy Harley-Davidson
Well, everyone else is writing about them so I might as well also.   I'm usually out of touch with whatever the buying public likes, the sole exception to that was the Triumph Scrambler where I was dead on and all the naysayers were dead wrong.

Most of the comments I've read elsewhere indicate lots of people believe that Harley is on the right path with these two new machines.

The problem I see is not the bikes at all but that  I can't imagine these bikes finding a warm fuzzy spot in a Harley shop.  Harley dealership culture is only slightly less rigid than an old hard tail chopper

The Harley faithful take their brand seriously to the extent that the German engineered motor of the V-Rod has never gotten much love from the True Believers and some Harley people still consider the 883 Sportster to be a chick bike. Mind you, I love the look of the Sportster "48" so I'm not just picking on Sportsters.

the 30 year old Honda VT500 Ascot
When the skinny hipsters, neck tattoos or not (stop and look at the lead photo for the bikes on the H-D website),  proudly park their new 500cc Harley copy of the old Honda VT500 Ascot between the Big Twins in the Harley dealer parking lot they are not going to find much love from their Hawg riding brothers.  I suggest they'll  just find a lot of guff in the form of scowling pirates saying "When you gonna buy a REAL Harley?"   Heck, my old 1%er buddy Crash didn't even like my '86 Softail Custom, told me there hadn't been a real Harley built since '48.

...and the new Harley copy of the copy of a Honda / Yamaha copy of a Harley.
Image courtesy Harley-Davidson
Of course that is probably part of Harley's game plan.  They want these people to start with a Harley and move up to a Harley, not start with a Honda and then maybe move up to a Harley.  Hard core Harley folks may not agree with the corporate decision behind these new bikes but Harley's first job is to grow the company and make profits for the stockholders, not to always please a dwindling number of die-hards.  Expanding the product line to appeal to real entry level riders seems essential.  

I'm sure these new bikes will be a hit overseas where big prices and often big import tariffs put big Harleys out of reach, but I predict in the US the bikes will be relegated to dust collectors in the darkest corner of the Harley showroom just like Buell was.  They may be rescued by those interested in buying a low buck bit of the authentic Harley "lifestyle" rather than the Yamaha Bolt copy of it.

Again, let me say that I think H-D are on the right track with these bikes, they've milked the past for 30 years now and the future has to come sometime.  These new bikes do look nice even if the marketing is in the style of cheesy faux street hipster bad boy.   I'll cruise on down to the H-D shop when the opportunity comes to take the 750 for a ride.  Maybe I'll even dig out my one Harley t-shirt just for the occasion. 

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