Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Just wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Here's to many great riding adventures in the New Year.

For all those who live in warmer climates, I hope you have a chance to get out and ride today to celebrate the holiday!

Till next year!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tis the Season to Dream of Riding

Well with 12 inches of snow last night and more on the way tomorrow it looks like our riding days are over for awhile. We held out as long as we could though, we didn't winterize the bike until a week ago! It could also be that we were so busy we just didn't have time.

Already getting ready for some great rides for next year. I just picked up an early Christmas present to make documenting our rides much easier next year. It's a new video camera. It was hard to decide which model to get as there are so many choicesto consider. I wanted one that was under $200 but took decent video, had removable memory, plenty of battery life, useful zoom and was compact. That's no too much to ask right.

I first considered the Flip cameras. While nice and compact, affordable and very popular I didn't like 2 things, it has a built in batter that can only be charged via USB port and it had a fixed amount of memory. If you're shooting more than 6o minutes you need to go to a computer and download the videos and recharge the battery. Normally our rides last much more than 60 min. and I don't want to have to lug the laptop along. That kind of defeats the purpose of small and compact.

I next considered the Kodak version of the Flip the Zi6. I really like this camera and really wanted to buy it since Kodak is a local company and I like to support them, but it just didn't have all the features I wanted. It does have some advantages over the Flip in that it used rechargable AA batteries and in a pinch you can substitute standard AA's, it used standard SD cards for memory so you are not limited as to how much video you can shoot. It offers HD video, although not true HD it higher quality that standard video. What I didn't like is that most of the reviewers commented on the fact that it has no image stabilization (neither does the Flip) and the videos tend to come out a little shakey. Alot of the video we are going to shoot is on the bike and image stabilization will be important.

So as much as I liked the KodaK Zi6, I finally decided to go with the Samsung Mx20. It offered all of the features I was looking for and although not quite as small as the Flip or Zi6 it does fit in the palm of your hand and it has a rotating LED screen to allow shooting videos from any angle.
This camera has alot of other nice features as well.
  • Used Standard and HC SD cards for memory
  • Has a rechargable 4 hour battery which is replaceable so you can have a spare
  • Incredible 32X Optical zoom that really works well
  • Macro mode for closeups
  • Rotating LED screen
  • Sliding lense cover
This only thing I don't like about the camera is the software that comes with it. It's called Cyberlink Media Show and it simply doesn't work. I installed the software, shot some test video and uploaded it into the software and when I hit play all I got was sound, no video. I went to their website and found a couple of updates and a patch so I downloaded them and now the software won't even load on my computer!

I've pretty much given up on the software it really only did simple editing and allowed you to easily upload to YouTube. I'll probably get something like Adobe Premiere Elements so I can do alittle more with the video. It was disappointing though that Samsung would include such inferior software to an otherwise excellent product.

I took some video of the snowstorm yesterday just to play around with it. This is on the lowest quality, what they call the "YouTube" setting. There are 3 higher quality settings above this one.

As you can see the video is pretty good at this setting. Oh, sorry about the "chilling" images but it's all I had to work with!

I think this will make a great addition to our riding season next year I can't wait to get out and give it a try. I'll comback and give it a more thorough review after we've taken it on a couple of rides and give it a real world test.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A fall ride in the Finger Lakes

You don't get many sunny, warm weekends in Upstate, New York, in mid October, at least not high 70's warm. So we just couldn't let the awesome weather pass but without doing some riding. The big question was where to go.

We always try to pick a new destination that we haven't been to yet and I must say they are getting harder and harder to find within a few hours drive.

We finally settled on Filmore Glen State Park. Filmore Glen is located south of Auburn off of Rt 38 South. It features a hiking trail along a narrow glen lined with high shale walls carved for century's by the steady flow of water over the five waterfalls along the trail.

It looked like as good a place as any so we headed out. It was a beautiful fall day the temperature when we left was in the mid 60's so we donned our leather jackets for the 2 hour ride out.

We headed out of the city and on to the back roads heading south east. We could have taken the Thruway and cut the trip in half, but that would just take all the fun out of it.

As we got closer to Auburn the colors on the trees became more brilliant and the ride down Rt 38 was absolutely gorgeous with spectacular shades of red, orange, yellow and gold painting the hillsides along the east side of Owasco Lake. Owasco Lake is the 6th largest of the Finger Lakes of New York State and is 11 miles long and 177ft deep at it's deepest. The lake sinks into the surrounding hills vibrant with the fall colors making it a perfectly gorgeous view from the back of our Goldwing.

We finally entered the park about 2 hours after we left the house. Not a bad ride. The weather had warmed considerably now so we ditched the leather jackets, grabbed some water and headed out for the gorge.

As you head to the trail head you pass the natural stone swimming pool which I imagine is very refreshing in the summer since it's fed by the mountain stream but it was closed for the season and pretty much empty this time of year, although Jeff just had to check out the view from the lifegard chair, I just know he was dying to dive in from their, luckily there was no water!

We made our way the the beginning of the gorge trail and right at the start is large set of very uneven steps leading nearly straight up! I don't know how many steps there are but there are more than it looks! We started up the steps and about 1/2 way we had to take a break, now I'm not in the best of shape (living a sedentary lifestyle will do that to you!) but gimme a break! As we sat there gasping for air, these 2 really annoying teenage girls in their cute little shorts came JOGGING up the steps past us, snickering as they ran by. "Yea, laugh now," I thought to myself, "come back in 20 years and lets see you run up these stairs...darn kids!"

More and more people wandered past us so we decided we better get moving before they called an ambulance for us. After catching our breath, we continued to the top and stopped to gasp for air again, I began to rethink this whole "hey let's go hiking in the gorge plan" I mean really it was Sunday afternoon in October, and even if the Bills weren't playing there had to be a football game on somewhere right? The couch and remote were looking pretty good right about now!

Ok, enough lolly gagging time to hit the trail. From here on out the walk wasn't bad at all some up some down but nothing too drastic, at least until the end, but we'll get to that later.

Once in the gorge the scenery is really awesome. The shaded path is cool and damp with sunlight filtering through the trees in spots along the way. The path is narrow in spots and there 8 bridged that criss cross their way along the gorge. There is a steady flow of water meandering lazily over the rocks and leaves at times falling several feet to create waterfalls of various heights.

In all the walk along the gorge is a fairly easy one with plenty to take in along the way. At the end of the path you have a couple of options, you can head back the way you came or head out the South Rim Trail. We opted to head out the South Rim Trail because it was a little shorter and besides we'd already seen where we've just been.

Once again, we choose poorly because the south trail heads UPHILL, way up hill, no steps this time just the side of a mountain. I haven't had this much exercise in 20 years and I gotta say I wasn't missing it! After stopping several times on the way up we finally made it. I took a look around and breathed a sign of relief that we appeared to be at the highest point so there was no where to go but down, thankfully, anymore steps or uphill climbs and I was gonna scream.

We made our way down the path and to the parking lot where the bike was. There was one more thing to see and that was the dam, but we decided we'd had enough walking for one day so we jumped on the bike for the ride up. The road to the water fall is paved, well was at one time, apparently they aren't big on upkeep because most of the ride up we zig zagged from one side of the road to the other avoiding crater sized potholes, the occasional on coming car and pedestrians. There was a couple on a Harley headed towards us performing the same "pothole dance" as we were, we exchanged knowing smiles, and continued on our way. It was quite the ride but we made it to the top. We parked the bike and headed down the short trail to a beautiful scene.

On one side of the dam was a pristine, crystal clear lake reflecting the brilliant fall colors with mirror like clarity. You can walk out onto the dam and get a great view of the waterfall. Be careful walking on the dam as there are railings only on one side so falling in the lake is definitely an option if you are not careful.

Ok, we'd had enough nature for one day so we headed back to the bike and, well yea you guessed it...the path was uphill all the way!

On the way out of the park we decided to head up the east side of Owasco Lake to get the view from the other side so we headed up 38 North to Rockefeller Road a nice route that gently winds it's way through the are farmland and provides some great views of Owasco Lake. It was a fun little road with very little traffic and make for a fun ride back to Auburn.

Once in Auburn we headed west on Rt 5&20 and wandered home. In all it was a perfect fall day, great scenery, comfortable temperatures and some nice roads. You can't ask for much more than that.

Until next time, ride save and more importantly have fun!