Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tropical Morning...

Before we retired, we would treat ourselves to a week or two or three in Hawaii, as a celebration of completing another busy season.  When we discovered the Tropical Tip of Texas, our perspective changed somewhat: more like Mexico than Hawaii, but (depending on the season) tropical breezes, swaying palm trees, an island attitude, and the best part for us: you could get to it by RV.

It may sound simple, but one of the things I really appreciate here is being able to step out the door in the morning, and having the weather be a delight.  Granted, it isn't always that way.  But today was glorious.

I started the morning with some time on the paddleboard.  The tide was lower (getting away from the spring tides around the full moon), making it easy to just step onto the board in a standing position and paddle away...

Part of the reason for an early start: the weather weasels were calling for wind "10 to 35 mph"... you have to laugh at that range - it offers NO usable information, but it does cover their butts.  Our temperatures generally don't vary more than 10 to 12 degrees from day to night this time of year, and it was a beautiful 70ยบ not long after the sun came up.

The wind was light, but blowing right down the canal; it was a good workout paddling against the wind... and delightfully easy paddling back... good when your muscles are tired from the upwind work.

The tide was just right to be able to come up to the dock and just... sit down on it.  I like it when a plan comes together.  I like it when it looks like you have a plan.

While I was hosing off the board and putting stuff away, Joan asked if I wanted my fruit plate outside on the deck... "Well, sure."  We eat fruit almost every morning, but it tastes better when you eat it outside.  ;-)  Then, breakfast out on the deck, too.

Little Izzy likes to be out on the deck, as well...

Working on this post...

Aloha!  Buenos dias!  Goodmorning!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I'd like to be... under the sea...

In an Octopus's garden in the shade.

If you said, "The Beatles," you get 50 bonus points.  If you said, "Ringo is singing on this one," give yourself another 50 bonus points.

We hauled the cargo trailer into Harlingen to get new tires for it.  The tires on it have plenty of tread left, but they are about 4 1/2 years old... time to change 'em out.  Our neighbor asked where we were going so early; when I told him about the tires, he suggested we "run 'em 'till they run out of tread."

He has obviously never had a trailer tire blow out in the middle of nowhere.

We are "regulars" at Discount Tire.  Easy to deal with - you can check on-line to see that any particular shop has what you need and the price.  We rolled in shortly after they opened this morning, and my new best friend, Daniel, told us the job would be done in a half hour.  Before we were done with breakfast at the Denny's next door, they called - "It's done."


We had some other running to do, including a stop at one of my favorite shopping places: Bass Pro Shop.  They have an overhead display that looks like you are viewing the surface of the water from below...

We got what we needed, and as we were walking back to the truck...

Field trip!  Three buses full of elementary school kids were unloading.  Good timing on our part.  Good marketing for Bass Pro - start 'em young!  ;-)

We drove to our storage unit to check on the 5th wheel and put a few things away.  Then, heading back to the house.

We re-parked the trailer and brought in the stuff we bought.  Little Izzy was particularly interested in this...

"Is that for me?  You probably want me to eat that right now, huh?"

Another beautiful day in the Tropical Tip... would have been a great day to play with a paddleboard, a kayak, or the dinghy.  Alas (and how often do you get to say, "Alas"??), stuff to get done... the clock is ticking on our departure.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Scenic cruise...

Well, sorta.  I was looking to exercise the motor, so while Joan went to the store, I took the dinghy out for a scenic cruise... and the opportunity to put a GPS on it to get an idea of how fast it actually goes.

Turns out, the speed would best be considered: leisurely.  ;-)  About 2 knots at just above idle, all the way up to 4 1/2 knots as you twist the throttle.  Beyond that, it makes more noise and squats a bit, but the speed doesn't change much... maybe I had the current against me?

Heading out the canal...

A bit breezy again - the dinghy handles MUCH better with two of us onboard... balancing the weight from side to side.  By myself, the term that best describes it: snake wake.

I came out of our canal and into the ICW.  Just in time to come face to face with a Coast Guard boat.  I looked at the faces onboard as they looked back at me... apparently looking for registration numbers.  I had a life jacket, a throwable, a sound device, and the proper paperwork onboard.  Oh, and the dinghy handles wake just fine.  They were on their way to the fuel dock, and apparently decided I wasn't worth the time delay.

I turned towards the old shrimp basin - so named because it is where the shrimp boats used to tie off when that industry was in its prime.  Not many boats there anymore.  This one looks like it could use some attention...

Some other boats that seem to be perpetually being worked on...

The marina on the other side of the channel...

And some shrimpers that are in better condition...

It was just nice to be out and about on the water.  Since we knew we wouldn't be here much this season, we left Wild Blue in the Pacific Northwest.  I thought I wouldn't miss having her here... I was wrong.

I made my way down the ICW aways, then turned back into our canals.  You can tell from the photos, it was a beautiful day.  Shorts and a t-shirt kinda day.  Back at our dock, this beats bottom paint...


For inquiring minds: the motor started on the second pull and ran smooth... well, as smooth as you'd expect from a small, single cylinder motor.  ;-)

I stopped a couple times along the way - it started on the first pull.  Makes my heart soar like an eagle... not to be confused with my shoulder, which is so sore it should be illegal.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

It's OK to play with your dinghy...

After the last few days of paddling, I was ready for something different today.  Since the new dinghy motor hadn't been run in 3 months, we figured today would be a good day to take that out.

Of course, to use an inflatable dinghy, you have to... yep, inflate it.  This is a much lower psi than the paddleboard, and it uses a foot pump... kinda like marching in place for 15 minutes.  Nowhere near the workout of inflating the paddleboard.

Joan helped me ease the boat into the water.  I tied it off, then brought the motor out to mount it.  At the edge of the dock, Joan took over the motor, I got into the dinghy, then she lowered the motor down to me.  I snugged it onto the transom.  Checked oil.  Opened the fuel valve.  Opened the fuel vent.  Double checked that the runaway key is in place.  Pulled out the choke, and pulled the starting cable.

I would like to announce that it fired on the first pull.

Yep, I would really like to announce that.  But... it didn't.  Not on the second.  Or the fifteenth.  Or the hundred and forty-seventh.  Holy crap, this was WAY more of a workout than messing with a paddleboard!  My shoulders were screaming, my arms were like wet noodles.

You are probably thinking I was inventing new swear words.  Surprisingly - no.  I asked Joan to get us a fresh gallon of gas, while I continued to pull.  And pull.

When I put the motor away in January, I drained the carb after running Sta-bil through it.  I knew it would going to take a few pulls to get the fuel to the carb, but this was ridiculous.

Shortly after Joan left, the engine sputtered... threatened to run for a few seconds... then died.  I had been trying it with the choke in, the choke out, the throttle barely cracked, the throttle half open... but now I knew this thing would fire.  Two more pulls, and it popped off with a steady beat.


Of course, now I was too tired to take the dinghy out.  Yeah, I'm kidding.  When Joan got back, we put the life-jackets, a throwable cushion, the dinghy bag (waterproof bag with registration, camera, phones, etc), and some water onboard... and shoved off.

I'd like to announce the motor ran like a champ.  Really - it did.  Joan had dinner in the oven, and this process took longer than planned, so we took a short trip through a few of our canals...

Check out the palm trees behind the Blonde - while I was wrestling with the motor, the wind had kicked up from less than 10 to between 15 and 20 mph.  The water is pretty protected in our canals...

We poked out into the ICW, turned west, and went to the last canal, then back south to get to our canal...

Not a long excursion, but it was fun to be out on the water.


Before going out to play with the dinghy, Izzy let us know she was ready for a "concert"...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

And that's Uncle Joe, he's a movin' kinda slow...

At the junction.  Uncle Jim is moving even slower today.

Still, I thought I should get back on that board this morning.  A beautiful day, sunny, almost no wind... yeah, I should get back out there.

I put on some swim trunks and started gathering everything up.  The board still feels solid, but I thought it would be a good idea to check the air pressure - just to be sure.  I put the line with the gauge on the pump and carefully inserted into the valve on the board...


Well, I'm sure the air pressure is a bit low, now.  I was very careful putting the line into the valve... apparently the other end of the line wasn't snug.  The pressure was down to 9 psi; 10 to 11 is where they recommend.  It's the last couple pounds per square inch that take the most pressure when pumping... so, I got in another good workout before putting the board in the water.

Standing up on the board, I could feel a teensy ache in my feet, legs, shoulders, and stomach... and by teensy, I mean: damn, I should get off this board and go take a nap.

I paddled on.

Up the canal a bit, a young woman was on a balcony overlooking the canal.  I heard her say, "Look at this!"  When I slowly turned (pretty much everything I do on that board is slowly  Wink), she was shooting a video with her phone of me paddling.

I haven't seen anyone else stand up paddling around in the canals, but you see it in the bay frequently.  I guess I'm not the only one who doesn't get out much? 

I didn't cover as much ground (water?) today as yesterday.  It's important to pace yourself.

Roll Eyes

Friday, April 18, 2014

Honda PCX questions...

This post is another "archive" from my response to many questions about the PCX.  Seems that people get on the scooter forums, hoping to find out that the scooter they are looking at will do everything a bike that is bigger, heavier, and more powerful will do.

Most often they want to know about "real world top speed."

I'm saving this here for easy reference.


We have two PCX 150s, his and hers. They seem to pull the same, but I do outweigh my wife (by a pound or 20 or 50) - she gets better MPG than I do, but they seem to have the same top speed: 65 to 67 mph.

We get a lot of questions about the bikes when we're out and about... the most frequent: how fast and how much? This is my take on the top speed question...

I would not run ANY vehicle at its max top speed for a lengthy time. If you need to do 65 to 70 mph regularly (like in a highway commute), you should be looking at a scooter that can top out at 85 to 90 (even though you won't likely run at that speed) so you have some reserve. It is my opinion that you will shorten the life of any engine by running it at max speed all the time, AND you have no reserve. There are times that you need a short burst of speed to make a maneuver... if you are running at max speed, you have lost that safety advantage. Think: car switching lanes or a dog running at you from the side of the road.

The PCX is in its element as an urban bike or having fun in the twisties (to a point). Hills will slow it down. Extra passenger weight will slow it down.

We have owned a lot of bikes over the years (Harleys, Goldwings, BMWs and more); most were very capable road bikes. We ate up a lot of miles on long trips. Some of those are a beast in a short run to the store, and especially in the parking lot. The key is finding the right "tool for the job."

The PCX does a LOT of things exceptionally well. High speed highway running... while loaded up with rider/passenger weight... up steep hills - those would NOT be what this bike is all about.

It would be great if a bike this size, this weight, at this price point, and that gets 100 mpg, could go 70 mph all day and haul a load... but, the laws of physics and mechanics still apply.

For us, the best thing about these scoots is the ease - they are light enough to easily move around in the driveway or a parking lot. They are peppy enough to stay up with (or even ahead of) city traffic. Great fuel mileage. Stylish looking (perspective). Quiet. Reasonably comfortable.

That light weight that is so great at slow speeds becomes a liability at higher speeds. The PCX is comfortable up to about 55 mph, then starts showing its light weight after that. Yes, the bike can do 65 (with my weight on the seat), but it isn't comfortable nor solid-feeling. That engine that is engineered to get such great gas mileage around town is working its heart out at 65 mph.

You can't have it all.

We analyzed the type of riding we were doing, and decided that the PCX hits about 95% of what we like to do these days. We really enjoy these little bikes. If we were looking to do long distance riding at highway speeds, I'd be trading these off for something made for that.

In the US, we have big spaces, big cars, big trucks, and plenty of big bikes. 80 mph speed limits in some states. A small bike like the PCX won't keep up with that speed... and will get blown around by passing trucks and crosswinds. Give me a Harley Ultra dresser for that kind of travel. 45 mph on secondary roads, occasionally stop and go traffic, stops for errands - the PCX is ideal! The right tool for the job.

That is my "real world" evaluation/review... based on 46 years of riding, 25 motorcycles, and a couple hundred thousand miles on two wheels.

We should be more like this kid...

Perspective, once again.

I got out earlier on my paddleboard today - overcast, but no thunderstorms.  Izzy wasn't concerned because it was 2 hours from her next feeding time.  Joan didn't come out of the house with a camera.  I guess it's old hat now.

I launched the board and shoved away from the dock.  The wind was light, maybe 2 or 3 mph.  I felt more confident upright.  The end of our canal didn't look as far away.  I wound up covering about 4 times the distance of my previous outings.  I'm sure I'll feel it in my shoulders and stomach later, but the only thing that felt overworked: my toes... from trying to grip right through my water shoes to hold on tight to the board!  I kept telling myself: "Self, relax your stance... bend your knees... keep your eyes up and ahead... quit gripping with your toes... no, seriously, self, knock it off with the toes thing!"

The past outings, a neighbor or two has said something.  Today, you would think it was a parade: "Hey - you're getting better on that thing!" (Never saw that lady looking before)... "Look at you go!" (I was traveling at the speed of a land-based leisurely stroll)... "That looks like a good workout - what does one of those things cost?" (That was from a guy who I've never seen out of his chair on his deck)... "Didja get wet, yet?" (I smiled and said, "Not yet" - no sense poking at karma).

I decided to push it and take a third "lap"

I wound up paddling between two guys who were having a conversation across the canal...
"Did you hear about Don?" (Not the real name)

"No, what about him?"

"He had a heart attack yesterday - he's dead."

"That's too bad.  How old was he?"


"75?  I'll be 75 in two months!"

"Yeah.  Maybe we need to get more exercise - like this kid here."

I looked around to see who they were talking about... he was pointing at me.  Kid? 

The wind was starting to build... from 2 or 3, up to about 8 to 10.  8 to 10 here is pretty much considered "calm."  Nevertheless, I decided to head for home.

I paddled by a guy getting his boat ready to take his two grandsons out fishing... "Hey, mister, that sure looks like fun!"

"It is!"  I didn't tell him that I was running out of steam.

As I got close to our place, Joan came to the edge of the deck.  She asked how it was going, we were visiting, I stopped paddling... I didn't fall in, but I went quickly to my knees as I lost my balance and braced myself with my hands towards the front of the board.  The nose dipped in, and I was suddenly up to my elbows in water.  Felt like I was going to go over the front of the board... but, it paused for a moment, then settled back to reasonably level.  Joan said, "Did I distract you?"

"No.  Well, maybe.  I was going to get on my knees to come up to the dock - it just happened a bit soon than I planned."

I took a few moments at the dock before cleaning up the equipment... time spent trying to uncurl my toes.  ;-)