Sunday, May 9, 2021

Sidecars in the Smokies, North Carolina

The month of April found us going in circles on the backroads of North Carolina trying to find the Iron Horse Motorcycle Campgrounds. Today was the first day of the 10thannual Sidecars in the Smokies Rally and we did not want to be late.  


Arriving late Thursday, the weather was nippy, even frosty. 

But Friday morning we awoke to warmer temperatures and a promise of sunny riding weather. A group ride was organized for a lunch run to the The Bistro at the Everett Hotel in Bryson City.

Bryson City is a small town in North Carolina, also known as the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with its wildflowers, streams and winding roads.

Jean Flagler from western New York state is scooting along on her Harley hardtail rig 

Leading the charge through the Smokey backroads  is a Harley with a Sweet sidecar

Dan Ingle on his BMW/Freedom sidecar rig. Dan also has a MiniMate camper like what is mounted on my Rocket/Sidecamper, but he pulls his as a trailer. 

An HP rig (High Performance) with center hub steering
 and exotic European sidecar

After lunch there was a lot of tire kicking in the hotel parking lot, as we admired the customized rigs and made new friends. With a bright sky and dry pavement waiting, everyone soon scattered to ride their own special winding road.

Sadly I could not go with them. My BMW/EZS rig had picked up a self-taping screw in the rear tire that morning, darn those Dragon Tail screws. With the help of fellow sidecarists, Friday afternoon was spent attempting a plug and seal on an stubborn steel belted car tire. Unfortunately neither the pig-tail plug nor the fix-a-flat could convince the tire to hold air.

Check out the sky in this photo...  
you know what's coming.

Not all rides go perfectly as planned, but then that is part of our adventure. Glancing at the sky then the weather forecast, I decided to load the rig back on the trailer for a planned trip further north to Cleveland, Ohio Sunday morning before returning to Texas mid-week. There is a new rear tire waiting on the shelf back home in Texas for our return.

Grabbed some snapshots of the rigs parked 
under cover for the night.

The Iron Horse campgrounds is very motorcycle oriented, dedicated to serving the motorcycling community with a campground layout that caters to two and three wheel riders, offering fuel, air, lodging, camping, RV hook ups, ice, restaurant services and rider merchandise. Their location near the infamous Tail of the Dragon and many lesser known but equally great motorcycling roads makes this a perfect relaxing hideaway and base camp for motorcyclists.

Early Saturday morning, the rains arrived in the form of a cold slow drizzle with low clouds lingering over the campgrounds for the next twelve hours. If not already under a carport, rigs were covered with tarps, tents were checked for leaks or flooding. The cold steady rain hung around until late afternoon. Making for a lazy kick back time for socializing and getting to better know our fellow sidecar pilots. Though it was sad to see all those beautiful sidecar rigs not being ridden, the roads were too wet and too slippery to ride at any speed.

A homemade custom rat rig under tarp, not staying much drier than the contents of his tent.

Even the high dollar factory Hannigan rigs sat idle due to the steady rain. While the passenger would stay dry in that car, the rider would be soaked.

With a break in the rain, asked a couple of the riders to pose with their rigs for shots I needed for the Sidecar magazine. Rain or no rain, they needed clean sharp photos from the rally.

Bob Thibodeau on his 1999 Kawasaki Nomad 
and Motovation sidecar.

Todd Trueblood rides a 1985 BMW K100RS 
with a Dutch EML Tour sidecar.

Relaxing with a cigar, Todd reflects on riding 
the Carolina winding back country.

That's all from the road. 

We're looking forward to the USCA National Sidecar Rally coming up the first weekend in June in Mena, Arkansas. Over 250 sidecar rigs are expected at that event.

See you in Mena, 
ride safe y'all.


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Texas Sidecar Open House

There are two winter photos I could no longer ignore...

In Rancho de Taos, a snow covered Holy family...

...and,  aspen shadows falling across waves of snow...   caught my attention.

Okay, no more snow photos until next winter.


In March the Texas Sidecar Company held an Open House at their new facility in Donie, Texas. Mid part of the State.
Rode the Warthog up, spent the night and rode back home the next day, 250 miles round trip.
 March is nice weather for riding in Texas even if a few showers find you.

Near Donie is the Limestone Power Plant, built across the road from a large open pit coal mine.  Unfortunately the lignite coal in Texas is the high sulfur type so they have to bring low sulfur coal in from a northern state on railroad cars.  

Once someone figures out how to transport coal in pipelines, the railroads will suffer financially.

Arriving at the rally site, set up the sidecamper then walked around, admiring the various rigs there.

Met Rex Cummingham who has been on the road pulling a small camping trailer with a motorcycle for three years now. Rex explained he is raising funds for the Diabetes Association. Rex's son was killed in a solo car accident after blacking out from a diabetic episode. Rex offered to drive his son to work that day but his son claimed he felt fine. nContact for more details.

Inside the new and larger TSC shop, there are sidecar rigs in various stages of completion. And more motorcycles waiting to fitted with a sidecar. Business is very good for sidecar builders this year. 

Out in the yard, various sidecar rigs rode in for the open house. Harleys...


a modern Wing and an older Sportster. 
Sidecarists don't care what brand you ride, as long as you ride three wheels. 
But don't mention trikes.

Though not a sidecar rig, a local gentleman RODE his 1926 British Royal Enfield motorcycle to the gathering. Today the Royal Enfield motorcycles are all produced in India. 

Was very cool listening to him explain the procedure he has to go through to start the bike. I could not remember all the steps so will not try to relate them...
 there were some words to the effect of tickling the fuel...

And what is a sidecar rally without someone having to wrench on their bike. A flat tire was the reason Eric had to break out his tool kit to attend to his Ural rig.

Come night fall, the ole sidecamper looked awfully inviting. Warm sleeping bag and soft pillow. 

Sleeping outside in the cool night air, Texas stars, coyotes singing in the distance, 
what more could a man ask for...

Ride safe y'all


Thursday, February 18, 2021

Cold Snow, Cold Photos

Wednesday morning temperatures were in the single digits... like 5 degrees when I went out. It had snowed all night so I knew everything would look different. 
Drove up to 9400 ft elevation to see the vistas

Rather than more details, the snow covered most everything. Places I had driven to a day earlier were now beyond the reach of my all-wheel drive truck. Being alone, and no other vehicles up here, decided not to risk getting stuck in this remote back country with freezing temperatures. So I stuck to roads that were...  semi-plowed. 

Had to make my own details in the snow.  By trudging across an open field...
(Was wearing my thirty-five year old Alaska insulated snow boots. Hope the seams hold).

 ... to capture the back side image 
of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Chapel.

Drove down to Rancho de Taos to the San Francisco de Asis Church, 
but the snow was falling harder there.

Was careful to protect the camera lens from wet flakes.

And for the color shot of the day, 
mule deer were out foraging for grass under the snow.  You can see the snow on their muzzles where they had rooted deep for food.

That wraps up another day in Angel Fire, New Mexico. Have not decided exactly when we'll return to Texas. So much depends on how fast everything returns to normal there after the infamous power outages and now limited water supplies.

Stay awake and healthy my friends,


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Fresh New Mexico Snow Brings Fresh Images

During a fresh blowing snow front, captured a few more photos in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico. Practicing and learning how to control the exposure and focus when it's single digit temperatures with a hard blowing wind. Blowing so hard my tripod toppled over several times. In order to work the camera dials glove free, kept a pocket warmer in the jacket so I could jam my bare right hand in to thaw the fingers between shots. 

Wind whipped dry snow created a mystical effect,
at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Chapel in Angel Fire.

By wandering across the snow covered fields,
 discovered a new view of the chapel.
Am liking this angle.

Below looks like dust on the lens, but 
its the camera capturing the swirling snow as the wind whipped it around the buildings.

Off to a different location, 
have taken dozens and dozens photos of this old cowboy line cabin. Some close up, 
others from a distance trying to capture its abandoned character. 

A line cabin was where the cowboys could take refuge from a storm or nightfall when working the remote sections of a cattle ranch. Back before the valley was developed with a ski resort. 

As the sun was setting, experimented with several different techniques with snow and shadows.
Am not yet satisfied with the results. More work to be done, settings to try.
Since there is no one perfect way of doing anything, its the journey of discovery that satisfies and entices.

Revisited the rusty barbed wire gate. Blowing snow was accumulating 
along the fence that stretches across Moreno Valley. 

Finally for a color shot, 
seeing the white snow on this ristra of chili peppers inspired me to capture this image... 

Fire and Ice

That wraps up another day of photography. The forecast is for more snow tonight, so hopefully I can still get out in the morning and see what we can find interesting to shoot.

Stay safe and healthy my friends, 
hot cocoa by a roaring fire sounds perfect right now.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Waiting for Snow

Been sitting here in Northern New Mexico waiting for a good deep snowfall so I can take some photos. The locals tell me, "Oh, you should have been here a couple of weeks ago". 

It is cold with snow patches on the ground, but none of that soft drifting sea of white I was hoping to see. Here is what I have captured so far...

First up, a plowed country lane, deep shadows, edited for that 1950's era look of a Kodak Brownie camera.

Then tried a complex yet simple composition of a leafless aspen grove. All trees vertical save one. Would not want to attempt a crossword puzzle of this image.  

Driving higher, found a quiet meadow of unbroken snow field with long afternoon shadows. Tried for that frozen, frigid yet pristine look. 

Yes, am experimenting more with black & white photography.  But this image needed that late afternoon color to make it pop.

The next morning, waiting for the coffee to brew, looked out and saw the sun peeking thru a hole in the clouds, highlighting a distant mountain ridge.

Going for a minimalist look, edited out the surrounding dirt and weeds, keeping the soft shadow and the golden grass against the white grainy snow. 

That's what I have been up to these last few weeks in the mountains while we build up our COVID resistance with the help of two vaccine shots. 

See you on down the road. Stay safe, healthy, mask up.


Friday, January 1, 2021

2020 Photo Wrap Up

2020 has been a year of strange, challenging and most unusual events. Here to wrap up the year in pictures are several photos taken, diverse, unrelated yet... there we were.

Like the doorways in an abandoned Texas ranch house,  
we entered 2020 not knowing what lie in wait.

Fayetteville Ranch House, Texas 2020

Innocently we proceeded into the year...

Jefferson Boardwalk, Texas 2020

The Houston Marathon kicked off the spring season of camera clicking.

Under the Bridge, Houston 2020

Then came the Houston Rodeo in March, which was suddenly cancelled mid-show. No one knew quite what to make of the Wuhan Flu, as was then called. Now why some protested saying that word was racist to the Chinese yet had no problem referring to the Spanish Flu go 1918... ?
 are some cultures protected, privileged or is it all BS PC Word Policing? 

Braids - Rodeo Cowgirl, Houston, 2020

Curtis's Last Rodeo, Houston 2020

Next up took a photography safari to Iceland to capture the sights... 
Can one say safari though not going to Africa?

iPhone photo from inside the bus of distant mountains, Iceland  2020

Inside the ice cave looking out,  wondering how our guide got up there...

Climbing the Ice, Iceland 2020

The summer found us spending more time in New Mexico, trying different photo techniques, hiding from the virus and healing from dental surgery. 

Brilliant New Mexican Clouds with Rainbow, New Mexico 2020

Experimented and learned a lot with night sky photography. 
In this shot captured two planets, the milky way and Taos lights. 

Celestial Events,  New Mexico 2020

During the day, was spent looking for scenic spots with streams and rivers 
to practice slow shutter speed shots of running water.

Red River, New Mexico 2020

Fall made itself known by the changing aspen colors and falling leaves. 

High Meadow, New Mexico 2020

Back in Texas, several Fall visits were made to Caddo Lake in northeast Texas. 

Boathouse, Caddo Lake 2020

The bald cypress tree leaves turn red before dropping. 
These red colors only last for about a week, maybe ten days. 

Fall Bayou Colors, Caddo Lake 2020

The Snowy Great Egret at home in the bayou. 

Spanish Moss, Caddo Lake 2020

Finally winter came and we retired to staying indoors more, avoiding large groups, parties and family. Everyone says at our age and with our ailments we are more susceptible to catching the virus. 
Which could be serious. so we avoided... whatever.

First Snow, New Mexico 2020

Truth be told, actually this photo was taken in August, but when converted to black & white, 
it changed to a snow scene. The camera eye sees all and easily deceives. 

Hope your year 2020 was interesting and a learning experience, in spite of the virus scare.  We'll keep learning new techniques, seeking new sights, improve our skills and hopefully venture out more in 2021. 

More sidecar riding is being planned. 

Happy New Years to you and yours