MAKING ROOM FOR THE WIFE

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When my wife committed to joining me on our riding groups’ annual adventure to Baker City Oregon, I realized that our bike was not set up or rated to carry us and all the personal items that would be required to keep us in clean clothes and beautified for a week.

Our Suzuki Volusia 800cc has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, GVWR, of about 950 lbs. The bike alone weights 590lbs. This means that my wife and our luggage, tools and miscellaneous items would have to weight 90 lbs. My wife alone weighs close to 90lbs. (You’re welcome babe). I weigh…do the math. Well you get the idea, we would be way over the GVWR. We got out our “Motorcycle Trip Packing List” (see my blog, “Motorcycle Packing List”) and started crossing things off the list that we could live without. When all was said and done we got our stack of essentials to fit into two small pieces of luggage, airplane carry-on style, and our biggest motorcycle trunk. In the past, when I used the Volusia for a trip I would just strap a bag on the passenger seat, cram a bunch of stuff in the hard shell saddlebags and be off. The problem now was that our Volusia was not set up to carry two pieces of luggage, my wife, and I. My V-strom is setup for exactly that scenario, (see my blog, “Panniers Made From Scratch”) but the V-strom isn’t nearly as comfortable as the Volusia to ride, it has Corbin seats.

For the next couple of days I scratched my head and tried to figure out how I was going remove the hard shell saddlebags and replace them with two pieces of carry-on luggage. I finally concluded that I would have to make another set of plastic panniers for the Volusia, exactly like those I made for my V-strom. That’s right, I said “exactly” like those for the V-strom. The panniers for the V-strom attach to the bike using a metal frame work that I designed and made. The Volusia didn’t have that same frame work, but it did have the saddlebag supports and the mounting studs that attach the saddlebags to the bike. Retro-fitting the panniers to the Volusia was as easy as drilling two holes in the back of the plastic panniers so they would slip onto the studs and clip in place just like the saddlebags. To make them extra secure and for added support I added a couple of straps. Now granted, it didn’t look “Harley Cool,” but it worked great.

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Showing plastic panniers on Volusia with studs showing and extra straps for support.

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Showing luggage in place in plastic panniers and covered with bright rain proof bags.

I knew that once we got to Baker City we would be removing the plastic panniers and luggage, which presented two more issues. First, with them removed, the bike is left with two large and ugly, metal ell brackets sticking out on both sides of the bike where the bags mount.

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Showing ugly metal support brackets for saddlebags

And second, the trunk wouldn’t be large enough to pack all the stuff we would need for the long day trips we would be taking from Baker City. My first thought was to pack the saddlebags full of clothes and pack the packed saddlebags in the luggage, but they were too big and too heavy.

When I first started riding dual sport I wanted some small saddle bags I could attach to my Honda XR650L to carry essentials, like tools, rain gear, water and power bars. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on brand named soft saddlebags, so I would stop by Goodwill every now and then to see if I could find pairs of backpacks, duffel bags or small soft sided luggage bags that were identical or very similar in size and appearance. Lucky enough, I was able to collect a few pairs of bags that looked alike or were exactly alike. I found two identical Goodwill bags in our motorcycle stall storage cabinet that would be a good size for day ride purposes. I could have just strapped them on the bike like saddlebags, but after modifying my plastic panniers the idea of making simple plastic supports that would attach just like the saddlebags and panniers seemed like the best plan.

I took one of the plastic barrels that I had and cut off two rectangles that were the same width as the small bags, 11.5”, and that were the same length in height + depth as the bags, 17”. Using a propane torch I heated and bent the plastic rectangles into two large ell shaped brackets. I drilled holes in the brackets to match the mounting studs on the bike so they too would slip onto the studs and clip in place.

Both bags had large open pockets on the back of them. I cut the pockets open along the bottom and reinforced the cut material with Gorilla Duct Tape, love the stuff. Next I slipped the bracket up through the open bottom of the pocket. The modified pocket held the bag to the bracket, the bag was supported by the bottom of the plastic ell and the bracket clipped easily to the motorcycle saddlebag studs.

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Showing plastic ell bracket and small bag.

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Showing ell bracket inserted through cut open back pocket.

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showing small bag mounted on the bike

The small bags were lightweight, could easily be packed with clothes and packed nicely into our luggage. They were large enough to carry what we needed for day trips and were even rain resistant. They did look a little redneck and defiantly not “Harley Cool”, but I’m not what you would call “cool.”

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

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Getting All Decked Out

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About seven or eight years ago I bought a Big Tex utility trailer. We needed something to haul motorcycles, livestock, hay, firewood, lumber, well to haul stuff. After looking around for a month for a used trailer that I thought would be the right size and have a loading ramp/tailgate I decided, after asking my wife, to buy a new Big Tex trailer. I remember the salesperson telling me that wood deck was white pine and stated the fact as if it were a selling point. I didn’t want to burst his bubble, so I let the comment slide, but knew that I would have to replace the wood deck in a few years because in this area pine would decay quickly. Over the years and to try and extend the life of the wood deck, I cleaned it and sealed it with deck stain. I’m confident that my efforts helped extend the life of the wood, but ultimately the wood decayed. The first failure was when I was loading a Suzuki GS 850 onto the trailer, my second winter motorcycle project this year. (See my blog The Transformer). As we pushed it onto the trailer the back tire broke through one of the planks. And so it began. I patched the broken board with a piece of plywood and over the next four months of use the trailer deck became a patch work of pieces of plywood. The last straw was last weekend when my son-in-law, Dustin, was moving the trailer, by hand, out of the way so he could get to his camp trailer. At the time my Tex didn’t have the four foot metal tailgate/loading ramp on it and I knew the tongue would be heavy so I thought I’d help Dustin by stepping up on the back of the trailer to counterbalance the weight off the tongue. As I stepped up onto the trailer the wood deck broke through and I was standing on the ground.

Thursday evening he called me and asked if he could borrow my trailer to haul my mower up to my mountain property to mow so my daughter, his wife, will have a nicely cut meadow for her and her friends to camp on. Of course I said yes, knowing that I would have to replace the deck on the trailer before it would be safe to use again. Last night, Friday, after work I removed the most rotted boards so they wouldn’t fall out on the road and drove to Home Depot, trailer in tow, to buy some pressure treated lumber to replace the rotted deck. I could have replaced the deck with untreated Doug Fir and it would have lasted several years if I kept it clean and stained, but even if it lasted ten years I’d have to replace it again and I’d be…well old and I knew I wouldn’t want to mess with replacing the deck again. When you get to be my age you start to considering things like that. If I was thirty I would have used Doug Fir and saved $60.00, but at my age you do the math and knowing you won’t live forever and your health may not always be excellent, you make different decisions.

What is left of the original trailer decking.

What is left of the original trailer decking.

After I got the lumber home, unloaded and the old rotting deck completely removed I could see that the metal frame was suffering from metal oxidation, rust, where the wood had been sitting on the metal and holding moisture. There was also the matter of the very rusted self-tapping lag screws that had held the deck in place and were now were sticking up out of the metal frames cross members. I thought the lag screws were going to be bolts with nuts and washers and I’d be able to remove them, but no, they were not removable. Using a three pound sledge hammer, I broke the lag screws off at the metal cross member and using my angle grinder I ground the little broken nubs of the lags off smooth. For the next hour, using the grinder and my drill with a wire brush wheel, I remove as much rust as I could. After I felt like I had most or all of the loose rust removed I washed the trailer with soap and water and rinsed it with the hose garden hose. Using my leaf blower, I blew most of the water off the trailer and let it sit in the sun to dry, while I went in the house to put on my painting clothes and drink a bunch of water. Did I mention that it was ninety degrees outside?

Lately I have been using Rustoleum 2X paint on my motorcycle projects and so far I have been impressed. 2X is a paint and primer all in one and of course it also fights rust. I had picked up a quart of black 2X and a cheap paint bush when I bought the lumber. When I opened the can I thought, “great, they put dark blue paint in the can and put gloss black on the label”. But, I thought, “what the heck, I’ll have a dark blue trailer instead of a black trailer” and started painting. Well as it turns out the paint is magical. It went on blue, but turned black as it dried. I applied the paint liberally onto the areas that the wood deck would sit on and in and when I was done painting, I pushed the trailer into my shop to let it dry overnight.

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This morning I got early, while it was still cool, to put the wood deck on. In case you didn’t know this, on most trailers, both ends of the wood decking are held in place by metal channels. It’s a good design, but makes replacing the wood deck challenging. To replace the decking you have to place one end of the plank into one of the channels, angle the plank across the trailer, slip the other end of the plank into the channel at the other end and using a hammer and block of wood, drive it in place, parallel to the side of the trailer. It sound easy, but the channels were rough from years of rust and that corrosion made the diving the planks difficult. To add difficulty to the situation, there is a 2”wide metal plate that runs along both sides of the trailer, front to back. Instead of welding the plate flush to the bottom of the channels at the front and back of the trailer, they laid the plate in the channels and welded it in place. This makes the joint stronger but it also creates a lip in the channel that makes it difficult to slide the two side planks in place because the edge of the plank and the edge of the welded plate conflict.

Showing where the side plate is welded inside the channel

Showing the side plate welded inside the back channel.

To combat the roughness of the inside of the channel and the lip the plate and weld created I used axle grease to coat the inside of the channel. The grease not only allowed the planks to slide in the channel easily, it will also acts as an additional preservative to the inside of the metal channel and the ends of the planks where they sit in the channel and where moisture is most likely to be held.

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Showing me greasing the inside of the back channel.

In addition, to make it easier for the edge of the plank to slide over the edge of the plate and weld, I rounded the edge of the plank by tapping on the square edge of the plank with my hammer. With the grease in place in the channels and the edge of the plank slightly rounded, the plank drove easily into place.

 

 

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Showing how to round the edge of the board so it will easily slip over the weld and side plate.

Lying the planks at an angle, slipping both ends into the channels and driving them into place only works with the first six planks. After the first six are angle into place there isn’t enough space to angle any more planks and get both ends started. That is when it starts to get fun.

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Showing how planks can be laid at an angle to get them started into the channels.

To get the rest of the planks to insert into the channels at the front and back of the trailer you now have to bend or bow the middle of the planks up. This shortens the length of the plank and allows you to insert both ends of the plank into the channels. There are probably several methods of doing this and you can probably do this with one person, but two people make it so much easier. This how my wife and I accomplished this next step; First you insert one end of the plank into the back channel, then using a floor jack and a 12” piece of scrap 2X4 or 4X4, one person jacks the center of the plank up while the other person pushes the front end of the plank down. When the center of the plank bows high enough the plank will become short enough that the front will be lined up with the opening of the channel. While the end of the plank is held lined up to the channel the other person lowers the jack and the end of the plank will slip into the channel. The last plank fit so tightly that I had to grease the side of the plank so it would slip down into place. The whole process of decking the trailer when fairly quickly, even with my wife helping, I meant, with wife helping. Thanks Honey!

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Showing the jack in place and ready to bow the center of the plank up in the middle.

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Some other things to consider:

  1. When choosing the boards for the deck makes sure they are straight and without big knots. You don’t want to have to fight warped boards into place and when bowing the boards, large knots can cause a weak point in a board and the board may break or crack.
  2. Buy boards without cracks. Pressure treated wood is only treated into the board .44 of an inch. Cracks that go deeper will allow water into the board and the board will rot from the center out.
  3. Buy boards that are still high in moisture content. Moist boards will be easier to bend and there will be less chance that they will break.
  4. If and/or when you drill holes through the boards and frame for bolts to hold the boards in place, treat the holes with a good dose of oil or wood preservative. This will help keep the wood from rotting around the bolts.
  5. Consider not drilling bolt holes through the boards. The boards fit tightly and will not fall out of the channels even if they shrink slightly. I am going to wait and see how loose the boards get when they dry. If I need to add bolts to hold the deck boards in place I will first explore the possibility of placing the bolts between the deck boards. If a lag bolt that will slip between each the boards, a large washer at the head should hold the deck boards secure to the frame and you can avoid drilling holes in the board.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Keeping Your Sheet Tight

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I love clean new sheets on my bed. Not so much that they are clean, but because they are so smooth and tight with no wrinkles. I hate to admit this, but I’m like the Princess and the Pea. I can feel and hate every wrinkle under me. The problem is that the smooth, wrinkle free bottom sheet usually only lasts until you fall asleep or until you participate in some other physical activity that people do in bed, like … tossing and turning. I wanted that smooth sheet feel all the time, so I put my pea brain to work. (Wait, that didn’t sound right.)

Anyway, as two of my grandsons were bouncing up and down on our bed I thought, “if I added springs all around the bottom of the fitted sheet they would probably bounce all the way up and smash their heads on the ceiling. Their heads would then end up the shape of Stewie’s on the Family Guy. “That would teach them to wrinkle my bottom sheet.” Just FYI, that is why Stewie’s head is that shape. He was bouncing on his parent’s bed and bounced too high, smashing his head into the ceiling.

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Then I thought, “Hey! That’s a good idea!” (Not the part about my grandsons smashing their heads, but the part about spring loading the bottom sheet.) That way my bottom sheet would always be tight and I do love tight sheets. So that’s what I did and here’s how I did it.

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A few years ago I purchased some tarp clips to use on my equipment cover. (See my blog, “Trampoline Equipment Shelter.”) Tarp clips are designed to clamp tight to a tarp so you can grab the tarp in any location, attach a cord or bungee and pull the tarp tight. They worked great and kept my equipment cover tarp tight and in place. I had a few left over from the equipment cover project, so I rounded them up, along with some small bungee and applied them to our bottom sheet.  You can use as many as you want around the bed to keep your sheet tight. It works great and keeps our bottom sheet tight, “tight like a tiger.” There are many types of tarp clips and they can be found at most hardware stores or on line.

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The small clips you use in your shop would work or even alligator clips, if you put tape on the jaws, would also work.

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If you have some of those metal clamps used for clipping papers together, they would work too. You may want to put some tape on the jaws so they wont snag your sheets or scratch your bed or legs. I would recommend using bungee with plastic end hooks for the same reason. images10088811 640328208483lg

Anyway…for what it’s worth … and … sleep tight.

Indestructable Tomato Cages

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So anyway, I think my wife might be insane. Here’s why; every year she plants tomatoes and every year she buys the cheap flimsy tomato cages for the plants to grow on and every year the plants grow up on the cages and tip them over, bending them to the ground. I believe the definition of insanity is -“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I still love her.

Last year as the tomato plants and tomatoes lay on the ground I told her I would make her tomato cages next year. Hey, I had to do something to stop the insanity. So next year is here and I made her tomato cages.

My youngest daughter and son-in-law have three sons. Myles is the middle son. My mom had three sons. I was the middle child. It’s interesting to watch Myles struggle to find his place in the family. I can relate to the struggle because I also struggled to find my place in my family. As a middle child you really do get ignored, especially if your older brother is cool and your baby brother is cute. His are. Mine were. His mom tries very hard to make Myles feel special, but when his friends come over to play they are drawn to the coolness of his older brother, the cuteness of his baby brother and Myles is mostly left out. Myles is good at passing time playing alone with his toys and is best friend, “imagination.” My mother claims that I did the same.

Myles just had a birthday and for his birthday he wanted tomato plants so he could grow his own tomatoes. He loves tomatoes. When my wife, his Nana, heard this, she decided “we” should make a raised garden and surprise him with the garden and tomato plants. He’s four.

I know it is a little odd a four year old wanting tomato plants for his birthday, but again, I can relate to that oddness. Ask anyone to describe me and they will use many different adjectives and “odd” will always be one of those adjectives. Most people will use restraint and not say it out loud, but the adjective “odd” will be top of mind and on the tip of their tongues. (“Odd”-Deviating from what is ordinary, usual, or expected; strange or peculiar.)

So I built Myles a raised garden out of 1″X6″ cedar. The garden is 2’X6’ and 11” tall or deep. 2″X6″ cedar would last a lot longer, but 1″X6″ will probably out last his interest in growing tomatoes.

I also routered out a sign that says “Myles’ Garden – Love Nana and Grandpa.” I didn’t have room to say, “Love Nana and Mr. Grandpa Larson,” which is what I insist that all my grand kids call me, so the sign just says Grandpa.

Long story short, I also made Myles tomato cages.

I made the cages out of 3/8” rebar. I figured that 3/8” would be strong , last a long time and the lumber yard was all out of ¼”. Our local lumber yard, Stayton Builders Mart, stock not only rebar, but they also have a rebar cutter. I figured that out of a 20’ piece of rebar I could cut five, 4’ piece out of the bar. Tough math. My plan was to make the cages 4’ tall, with four sides and each side would be 1’ wide, 4’X1’=4′. I bought enough rebar to make six tomato cages. Myles only needed two and my wife needs three, but she told me to make her four because someday she would retire and grow four tomato plants. Clearly she has her retirement activity all planned out, pushing her limit to four plants.

So the Builder’s Mart sold me the rebar, pointed to the cutter and said, “knock yourself out.” The chore of cutting went pretty quickly after I set up a cutting guide. I positioned the cutter 4′ from the base of the lumber rack, slide the rebar end against the rack and cut. Once I had all 45 of the 4′ pieces cut, I took them home, laid them all out in a nice flat row and using water and a wire brush I tried to remove as much rust and crud as I could

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I let the bars dry and then painted them red. My wife wanted them painted red so that it would look like we had tomatoes before the tomatoes actually tuned red. What can I say, she is, after all, insane.

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After the paint dried I marked twenty four of the bright red 4′ bars into 12″ increments. Then I clamped each bar in my bench vice and bent them into 1′ squares using a piece of pipe that I slipped over the bars for leverage. It wasn’t as much fun as it sounds and welding the squares onto the 4′ legs was even less fun. After several frustrating hours trying to hold the legs and squares together while welding them I got all six cages welded together. After I finished welding each cage, I tested my welds by tossing the completed cage out my shop door onto the gravel driveway. It wasn’t much of a test, but it made me feel better. Of course, after bending and welding the cages I had to touch up the paint.

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In the end, the cages turned out pretty well. Am I glad I spent all that time making indestructible tomato cages? Yes. Would I do It again? Probably, but I am a glutton for punishment. If you take on this project, get a friend to help you hold the parts together while you weld.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

 

A Better Motorcycle Windshield

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I Love to Ride IN Comfort

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 I love to ride motorcycles. Every time I go for a ride it lifts my spirits and makes me whole. Those of us who ride, ride for our own reasons. I ride for the feeling of freedom and for the thrill. I love corners. There is nothing like the feeling of taking a corner too fast and thinking that you’re about to die and then you don’t. I don’t actually take corners too fast on purpose, but if you ride you know what I mean.

As I get older, I like to be as comfortable as possible when I’m riding. For my V-strom, I made a custom seat that fits me better and gives me better support. When I bought my Volusia with an $800 Corbin seat and I can ride it all day in comfort. My dual sport, Honda XR650L came with a $600 custom heated seat. My hind-end has got the comfortable seat issued covered, so to speak.

Another area that I like more comfort as I have aged is protection from the wind. It puzzles me to see guys running down the highway at 75 mph with ape hangers and no windshield or windscreen. They may look cool, but I know that they are not comfortable. It takes a serious grip to hold on to your handle bars with wind hitting you at 75 mph, not to mention bugs in your teeth and the road debris that gets flipped up and hits you in the face. That kind of riding is not for me.

My stock V-strom windshield is known for not offering good protection and for those of us who are a bit taller, head buffing and wind noise can be a problem. When I bought my Vee I knew that I would be using it for long trips, so I needed to solve the wind issue. After much research I found that I had two choices, buy a bigger windshield or add to the windshield I had. I didn’t want to buy a larger windshield because I use my Vee for dual sport riding and I was afraid that a larger windshield might get in the way in tight trails and would be difficult to see the rough road directly in front of me when the shield got dusty. I decided to add on to my stock shield.

In my research I found an add-on shield that would probably work, but it’s not ideal. The one add-on that I liked was designed to attach to the top section of a stock shield, extending up over the top a few inches. The thing that caught my attention was that it was engineered to catch the wind that was flowing up the stock shield, compressing it, accelerating the wind and shooting up and over your head. I like the concept and the physics of it told me that it would work, so I decided that was the one for me. The problem was that, like I said, it wasn’t ideal. I wanted to add some width to my stock shield too. I’m two foot across the shoulders, so being a homegrown engineer, I went to work designing and making what I thought would be ideal for me.

The first thing I did was cut a pattern out of cardboard. I wasn’t sure what shape would work best, so I cut and trimmed the cardboard until I felt good about the shape. Next I searched my shop and found a piece of plexi-glass that would be the right thickness and size. Using a scroll saw with a fine blade, I carefully cut the plexi to the pattern.

Once I had the plexi shaped and the edges sanded round I heated the plexi with a heat gun and formed it in the curve of my stock shield. I also wanted any wind hitting the new section to be diverted up and over my head as much a possible. To accomplish that, I heated the upper five inches and when it got pliable, I used gloves and a tightly rolled towel to curve the top of the new section forward slightly.

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Showing plexi-glass cut to pattern heated and formed to shape

When I considered how I was going to mount the new section to the original windshield I felt it would be important not to drill holes in the original windshield and to mount it with plastic bolts. I didn’t want to compromise the original shield and I used plastic wing nuts and bolts so if I crashed, the bolts would break and in theory, not the windshield. I figured out how to use two of the screws that held the original windshield for the two top brackets and two screws in the fairing on each side of the windshield for the lower brackets. I made the four plastic brackets out of, say it with me, plastic barrels and bought two plastic bolts with wing-nuts. I carefully marked the new shield so I knew where to drill holes for the bolts in the lower brackets, the four small screws in the upper bracket and carefully drilled through the plexi-glass.

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Showing plastic brackets mounted to bike with factory screws

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Showing new shield mounted to brackets with four small screws and two plastic bolts with wing nuts

After I got the new addition installed and gave it a run down the road, I notice that at 60 mph, or faster, that the plexi-glass compress too much, leaving only a small gap between the two shields. To solve the compression problem I added two medium size suction cups under the upper brackets. With the suction cups in place, the wind could only compress the new shield so far before the suction cup stem stopped the plexi-glass from compressing too much. The nice thing about the plexi compressing some was that the faster I went the smaller the gap between the two shields got and the faster the air flowing between them moved directing it up and over my head.

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The new addition to my windshield worked great. Riding down the road at any speed the new shield completely eliminated the wind hitting my head. No more sore neck from head buffing and the wind noise was cut by at least 60%. The new windshield combination looks unusual or even funky, but I gave up cool for functional a long time ago.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Lose weight by being taller

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Fun With Film, Digitally Speaking.

They say that the camera can add ten pounds. The thing is, I don’t need any help looking larger. I’m sure that an additional ten pounds on some people would be flattering. I know a couple of people that need to gain ten pounds, but they are few and far between and no,… it’s not you. If they can make a camera that will add ten pounds, I have to ask, why can’t they make a camera that can subtract ten, twenty, thirty or even forty pounds?

As I thought about it, I realized that even though a camera can’t make me look thinner, I knew how  to edit any photo to make me look thinner.

I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say, or have said it about ourselves, “I’m not over weight, I’m just too short,” or “according to my weight I’m really six inches taller” or “I don’t need to lose weight, I just need to be taller.” Well, that’s probably true, if we could stretch ourselves taller we wouldn’t be over weight, so why not just make ourselves taller in our pictures. It’s pretty easy to do using basic programs like Microsoft Paint.

Here is a picture of me on a trip to Glacier two years ago. I look kind of wide at 240 lbs and 6′-1″

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Here is the same picture. I’m the same weight, but in this picture I am 9′ tall. Thinner, right?

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And finally, here I am in the same picture, only now I’m 240 lbs and I’m 12′ tall. Looking good, right?

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By now you are probably wondering how you can do this. It’s simple.

1. Find the picture you want to “Improve” copy it and post it someplace easy to find, like your desk top.

2. Right click on it and click on edit.

3. Your computer will probably open your selected photo in paint. If your photo is too big to fit on the page, click on the view tab and reduce the size by clicking on the magnifying glass with the negative sign until the photo fits on the screen. If it fits on the screen, skip to #4.

4. Click on resize and when that opens be sure to make you un-check the “Maintain aspect ratio” box.

5. The “Horizontal” box should say 100 and the “Vertical” box should say 100. Now we are going to change the 100 in the “Vertical” box to 150, or 200. Be sure that you only change the “Vertical” number because if you change the “Horizontal” to 200, well here I am twice as wide. Not flattering.

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You can use the “Horizontal” setting and not use the “Vertical”, but make it a smaller number than 100, like change it to 50.

6. Now all that is left to do is to close the screen, save your changes, post your new picture on Facebook and wait for the compliments to roll in.

Anyway…for what it’s worth and for the fun of it.