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Motorcycle Enthusiasts Only

by on Jun.23, 2009, under Motorcycles

0073-fj_to-calgary_smThis page is devoted to my complete enjoyment of my beautiful 1990 Yamaha FJ 1200 during my trip, so those who are not devotees of two wheel travel need read no farther.

This photo was taken as soon as the rain stopped on my way to Calgary. The sun is in the east and the plains stretch before me bathed in sunshine.

Despite the rain,  I completely enjoyed the ride. The sun was, of course, more fun and scenic; but the joy of riding soared over the discomfort.  I have mapped out all of my major stops so far as I am still in Summerland on my return trip to Vancouver. On the highway, I can get about 175 miles to a tank of gas without going on reserve. The usual fill was 10 litres, just to be on the safe side, but I was really empty for my first stop in Abbotsford and the tank took over 16 litres. I don’t worry so much in urban areas, because I know that the FJ has a large reserve, but on those mountain roads, I like to keep the tank topped up when I can, so frequent 10l fills were routine.

Center map

0058-fj_to-calgary_smThis photo, from the same set, shows the weather clearing behind me and the mountains in the distance.  One of the reasons I love riding this bike is because the gusts of wind don’t blow me around the way they do on a smaller machine. I am so light that I remember several terrifying incidents where the wind has picked me up off the ground and dropped me in the wrong lane.

Motorcyclists who weigh more than me have never experienced this, but the combined weight of my slight frame and a Yamaha DT enduro was less than 500lbs. The FJ, without me and my luggage, weighs more than that.  A small corrective lean and the heavy motorcycle holds the road against all of the strong weather and semi-truck wind streams that try to push me around.

This is the last of the air-cooled giants and the lack of water  cooling plumbing and radiator makes it much more narrow, nimble and easy for me to straddle than most four cylinder bikes. This cooler, wet weather has actually been perfect for the bike as overheating has only been an issue while stuck in traffic in Kelowna on the way up to Banff.  It has also been comfortable to wear my full protective layers of Technics waterproof armoured pants and two jackets, a leather under an armoured net jacket. Layers of protective gear can make a rider overheated very quickly in traffic and waterproof clothing can feel like being sealed in with plastic cling wrap, but this cooler weather encouraged me to keep my sweater on underneath.

The Yamaha is as light as any small street bike I have ever ridden, as long as that powerful engine is pulling the weight. It is perfectly balanced and straightens out the curves, tracking along any line I choose without a deviation. The Trans-Canada Highway has changed considerably since the last time I drove through in 1986. Most of the really twisty curves have been straightened and most of the long climbs are two lanes. There was a considerable amount of construction still going on, so I don’t know how recent these developments are; but the Yamaha was not challenged at all by any of the tightest curves.

The road-racing heritage of the big bike shines through as it will take a more daring (and less loaded down) sports rider to push this bike to its limits. I was content to make it though the rain shed sides of the mountains and enjoy the scenery on the rain shadow sides.  I am starting to feel really comfortable on the FJ, although I do need to be very careful when I am parking, turning around or any other time that I can’t use the engine to pull the weight.

These are photos I took with my phone because I didn’t want to stop too long in the rain to get my camera out. I have become a great devotee of earplugs on the highway, but sometimes I forget to put them in. These photos are the result of juggling my helmet while sitting on the bike to insert the plugs.

I had taken the southern route a couple of times since the 1980’s, but had not retraced my wandering pathways through Roger’s Pass in a while.  I have never driven through the Rockies on a motorcycle before, only in a van or dual rear wheels, one and a half ton van loaded with musical gear and a touring ensemble. Well, things haven’t changed that much .  .  .


I am using my motorcycle as a small truck carrying an array of luggage that includes my tripod (still on the bike above), two cameras, notebook computer, three external hard drives, a remote battery powered recorder, tools, flashlights and a few clothes (duffle not pictured at left – used as backrest top photo). I can achieve a complete audio/video/photo documentary project just with the equipment on my bike.  No guitar though . . . I could not figure out how to fit it on with everything else I had to carry.


A major problem on this trip is the lack of hard luggage and I have been thinking about this for a while. The old Skookum soft bags that came with the bike are starting to rip at the seams from age and overloading and they offer very little protection from impact. My solution is underway as I visited Optimal Cases and Lights, the Pelican Case distributor located in Calgary. Pelican cases are legendary in the video world and the music department at the Banff Centre had their Sony camcorder snugly housed in a Pelican box.  I had been thinking and measuring all winter, but there is nothing like a live demo to seal the deal.

Lucy, the customer service representative, had been giving me information for months and assuring me that a lifetime warrantee meant they would replace the cases if they broke. Period. Drop an FJ on them — no problem. Here she models the chosen case as I took the photo of the case, held next to my bike. She was so helpful, she even stayed after work on Friday to allow me to make my purchase. Note the wheels and pull out handle, so even if I load them up, I will still be able to move them around. I’m getting the lid organizers for the small stuff and I can use the cases even if I fly or travel in my van. A full face helmet does not fit, but I can get a cable lock and secure it to the bike rack or get a top box. I really don’t want to get a top box as I need to keep the weight low as much as possible. If the signal lights are moved back a bit, there will even be room to have the boxes in place and take a passenger and still sling my duffle across the top.  Maybe even take a guitar .  .  .

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Banff Percussion Concert

by on Jun.22, 2009, under Concerts, Motorcycles

Yesterday was the solstice, the longest day of the year and I woke up in overcast Calgary and prepared to go to Gavin and Rikki’s wedding. My daughter, Jhayne and her boyfriend, Tony, and I all got ready and piled into a cab. We arrived at the Strathcona Community Centre and my daughter began her task as the official wedding photographer. I brought my video camera and let Jhayne take the pictures.

The ceremony was a Wiccan hand-fasting and the group formed a procession to the standing stones in the park. It was a beautiful, sacred ceremony that was deeply meaningful. I was happy to take part in such a symbolic and emotionally moving event. As we were involved in the ceremony, the skies cleared and I decided to ride off into the sunset. The forecast had predicted rain until Tues and clearing Wed and I really had to get back to Vancouver. The ceremony was complete and Tony returned with me in a cab and helped me pack my motorcycle.

The ride from Calgary to Banff is not very long and the green fields glowed in the westerly light.  The Alberta landscape has an intense green from the recent rain that is bursting with growth and life. I could see the rain ahead of me and stopped to put on my sweater and fasten the rain flaps on my Technic rain pants. There was a light rain before I entered the Rockies, clearing for a while, then it really started to pour around Canmore.

Center map

I rode carefully, but quickly because there was a concert in Banff that I did not want to miss. The rain lightened once I was in Banff and, as I am now familiar with the territory, I was able to proceed quickly to the Banff Centre. I arrived just in time to greet a few of my friends and find a chair before the “Roots and Rhizomes Outdoor Concert” began.

The first part of the concert was inside and the audience was treated to superb performances of the percussion classics “Ionisation” by Edgard Varese and “Persephassa” by Iannis Xenakis. The audience was appreciative and the weather continued to clear. The Program Director, Steven Schick, decided to hold the rest of the concert outside in the ampitheatre as the composer had written the piece to be played outdoors.

As the percussionists and techs moved the instruments and recording equipment outside, I raced to get my camera. I arrived back just in time to hear the start of “Inuksuit” by John Luther Adams. The program notes translate the title as “to act in the capacity of a human” and the atmosphere of a tribal gathering in a clearing on a mountaintop was reinforced by the lingering Solstice twilight.

The piece was far more intense than I expected. The sacred space that was created at the beginning was maintained throughout and the beauty of the instruments, as an addition to the natural setting, placed us as part of the ecosystem of the mountain.  I moved from one side into the centre and then to a different side, moving in a clockwise direction as the Wiccan priestess had directed at the ceremony.  The section with the drums and conch shells reminded me of early Hawaiian music reconstructions I had heard on recordings, but the sound of the conches echoing through the mountain air as they started with call and response across the large circle and moved into harmonic tones, could never be duplicated in a recording. The environment, the mountain air and the energy of the audience all contributed to the impact.

When I first read the notes about the percussion program at Banff, I was concerned that it would be another program that continued in the classical mold (sic) — I did not recognize the new compositions as there are several world premieres on the list. Steven Schick assured me that it was in fact, an innovative and exciting program and I have found the two concerts I was able to attend deeply moving and precisely played. The work by Mark Applebaum during Friday’s concert was also a world premiere and the different movements were full of charm and wit.

0023stephen-shick-sm1 Steven Schick is a charming, warm individual who has brought a wealth of innovative percussion education to Banff and I feel privileged to have met him.  I will write more about the Thursday concert that displayed, not only his skills as a percussionist and educator, but his formidable conducting. He has a superb ictus and a style that is clear and welcomes parts to enter, rather than commanding them. It made for a wonderful performance of Bela Bartok’s masterpiece of Music for Strings and Percussion.

The Mark Applebaum piece deserves its own paragraph, but for now, I must ride.

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