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Look in the Blog Archive in the box to the right for past ride reports going back to 2006. New material posted as rides or other motorcycle news occurs. Thanks for reading. Comments always welcome, be sure to log in below. Comments will be reviewed. Please note the disclaimer below.

About Me

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Motorcycling has been a life changing experience. I hope sharing the info and pictures on the Blog gives you some idea how impressed I am with the experience, travel and the people I have met. Made new friends especially among Riders here in Orange County. Special recognition to Johney (Wrench)-helps with all the maintenance stuff+rides, plus other great riding friends: Ken Y., Luis V. & Minita, Chuck & Patty, John R., Joe, Carolyn, Gregg, Charlie & Carol, Rick, Stan P., Ed & Susan P., Barry, plus Terry, Bob B., Brian H., Glenn, William & Daveta Jo, Bob (Concho) and others. ************* DISCLAIMER: This is my personal write-up (Blog) of motorcycling news, rides and events that I am involved with in some way and not affiliated with any group, organization or club that might be mentioned herein. There should be no confusion regarding the fact these are my personal comments and not those of any other entity.

Amazing scenery, great ride, wonderful time.

Amazing scenery, great ride, wonderful time.
Monument Valley, Utah-9/2011 photo by Johney Harper!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Skills, and the ability to learn


Where do these topics and write-ups come from, I have been asked.  The answer is that it often happens while walking the dog, our West Highland Terrier named Misty.  She loves the walks as it gives her a real opportunity to work her nose and smelling techniques but I doubt there is any room for improvement as she pretty much comes equipped with a genetic ability already built in.  This is totally different from our learning the skills to ride a motorcycle however and it involves one of the foundations of the human brain, the ability to learn and adapt to new conditions and events 

Most of the riders in various groups range from very competent to around average in their motorcycle handling skills, but there may be certain techniques or conditions that need work.  If you are comfortable in handling curves and traffic on the streets and roads, moving around in parking lots at slow speed or dealing with spacing between riders in front and to the side to mention a few situations, then you may not need to think about honing your skills, but often there is room for improvement in everyone.  It helps to be critical of your rides and think about places where you could have done better.  Did you drop way back for no good reason or wander over the whole lane, miss an encroaching vehicle until the very last second or almost drop the motorcycle in a slow speed moment, the list can be endless, still it is helpful to review every ride and find the situations that you can watch for next time, it really does help, as I have found out for myself.  The accident that didn’t happen but could have is definitely a learning opportunity and offers the most benefit all things considered.  It’s the situation that you were prepared for or knew how to deal with as it happened with no negative results, the close call.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Banjo Tour and Ride-Deering factory in Spring Valley

This is the first ever Banjo Touring and Ride to an actual banjo factory.  As a new owner of a Deering Banjo I thought it would be interesting to take the factory tour and was able to convince several true friends that it would make for a nice ride and destination. The Deering Banjo Co. has their one and only plant in Spring Valley just east of San Diego and four great friends and I are heading there for a free tour.  It’s Wednesday April 17 and the scheduled ride starts off at about 8:50 AM from a meeting place on Chapman Ave. at the Starbuck’s parking lot on a cool and slightly breezy but clear day.  There’s Johney, Rac-all the way from Pasadena on his gadget laden V-Star 1300, and Wayne riding the swoopy Victory Vision already in the parking lot as I roll in and wait for Chuck -also known to add a gadget or two to his Gold Wing- to arrive, making a total of 5 for our trip today. 
 
 
 
The itinerary is pretty basic for this occasion, down I-5 to the Ortega Hwy (Hwy. 74), over to the I-15 and stop at the Rainbow Oaks CafĂ© near Fallbrook for a tasty breakfast.  
It’s been a while since my last blog entry and I totally forgot to take any photos of the food. The tour starts at 1:00 PM so we are right on schedule as we finish off all the food and make our way down the 15 to the I-8 and arrive at Spring Valley and the Deering Factory about 12:40 PM taking a few minutes to gas up then park as we head for the entrance and the tour.  It turns out we are the only members of today’s tour making it simple and easier as well.
 
 We learn that Deering now makes approximately 10,000 banjos every year with prices ranging from $500 to around $1,000 for the Goodtime Banjo line, while their Deering line of premium banjos start about $2,000 on up to as high as $63,000 for a one of a kind Banjosaurus, but most are priced from $3,000 to around $7,000.  My banjo is a Goodtime Classic II resonator model that lists for $929. 
                                                       This is NOT our tour guide. 
 
 Our tour guide Carolina explains the major parts of a banjo so that when we see the work in progress it makes better sense to figure out what is being produced and where it goes.  The parts are the neck and head, the maple wood pot which is sort of like a tambourine with a drum head on it made of Kevlar, a back resonator that helps focus the sound and send it out making for better volume as we pluck the strings plus the various metal rings that hold the head on and also a tone ring.

 A walk down memory lane of Deering and Company
 
 
 As you look at the photos it might give you some idea of what goes on to make a banjo, but even after being there, we saw just the basics, interesting though it was. 
                                                                       Fret installation
 
 
                             Fret installation and our first view of the factory floor.
 
 It was evident that making these musical instruments are a very labor intensive and hands on type of production and that is probably why most of the other banjos on the market are almost all made in China or assembled here from parts made in China and elsewhere. 
 
          Gluing 5 pieces of wood to form the neck and head for a Goodtime Banjo
 FORMED AND DRILLED READY FOR THE NEXT STEP
 
                      This computer controlled cutting machine is forming the neck and
 head from the glued blanks 
Maple “Pots” made from 3 layers of violin grade maple
 
 
This lathe was old in 1978- used to trim and form the pots from the blanks


ALL THIS EQUIPMENT MUST BE CUSTOM MADE 

 
 THE STEAM AND HEAT CABINET IS IN BACK ON THE RIGHT, BELOW-THE WOOD IS MADE PLIABLE IN HERE
HEATED MAPLE STRIPS ARE INSERTED IN THE FORMING MACHINE WHERE THEY COME OUT AS A CIRCLE, OCCASIONALLY THEY BREAK
 
THE THREE LAYERS ARE CURED IN HERE-ABOVE 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SHIPPING DEPARTMENT BELOW, EVEN THE BOXES ARE HAND MADE FROM THE FLAT PREPRINTED  CUTOUTS
 

Mention was made that the banjo is enjoying a real jump in popularity over the last 4 years or so and I mention that if it got me sucked in there must be some kind of banjo frenzy going on out there.  Right now some of the higher end Deering custom instruments are back ordered until 2014 while the Goodtime line is in full production.
 
 MORE OF THE TUNING AND INSPECTION STATION-LOOKS LIKE A GOOD NUMBER ARE READY TO SHIP
 A GROOVE IS CUT IN THE NECK AND A METAL ROD INSERTED FOR STRENGTH
 THESE ARE HIGH END NECKS INCLUDING A COUPLE 6 STRING BANJOS.  NOTICE THE INLAYS-PRICEY MODELS FOR SURE
 THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE THEIR WOOD SUPPLY BUT IT LOOKS RATHER SKIMPY TO ME.  SOME OF THIS WOOD IS RATHER EXPENSIVE.  THEY CAN  NO LONGER USE BRAZILIAN ROSEWOOD AT ALL

Watch this video-Made in America-explains a lot of what we saw.
As far as actually learning how to play a banjo, all I can relate is that I should have started when I was about 9 or 10 years old, at this stage it seems to be a slow process.  It also is important to remind myself that learning any musical instrument can be frustrating, slow and difficult no matter what your age, it really is a matter of practice and more practice along with the motivation to continue.  So far I am still committed to learn how to play it at some level. When it comes to starting at an early age there is a group called the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys consisting of 3 brothers playing Bluegrass music with the youngest member starting at age 8 playing the banjo professionally; he even won a contest against about 15 adult banjo players and came in first at age 8.  He is now 11 along with his 14 year old brother violin player and the oldest brother at 15 on guitar and they are YouTube sensations having signed with Deering Banjo and Martin Guitars as feature artists.
ARE WE READY FOR THE CONCERT CIRCUIT?
When the tour ended we all were given a banjo to hold and then our guide showed everyone how to strum the strings and sing a tune, naturally I had to buy a couple items including a hat, banjo strings, a Deering sticker and some picks. 


 I really enjoyed the opportunity to visit here today and it seems everyone had a unique time even if there is little hope any of them will start playing a banjo soon…or ever.  The question came up asking why or how did I start playing the banjo and one good answer, it was a matter of too much time on my hands.
Our return ride home is uneventful except for some traffic on I-15 but otherwise there are no issues, arriving home around 5:00 PM.  (FOR SOME REASON THE TEXT INSERTS ON SOME OF THE PICTURES WAS LOST DURING INSERTING INTO THE BLOG, NO IDEA WHAT HAPPENED)