Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

KTM

Honda Rolls Out New Africa Twin “Adventure Sports” Concept Bike

 

In a group of new introductions, Honda rolled out yet another adventure machine at the Osaka Motorcycle Show.  Called the Africa Twin Adventure Sports Concept, this Africa Twin proposes to be a more adventure oriented and ready bike with a higher level of off road capability.  The bike is still a concept at this time, but if the current Africa Twin and prototype CRF250 Rally are any indication, this up-rated Africa Twin just might make it to production.

Sporting a larger looking fuel tank, wide rear body panels that hint of perhaps more under seat fuel storage, a flat single piece seat,  large, wide aluminum bashplate, bar risers, grippy billet platform footpegs, small frame, engine and rear brake protection bits, tubular luggage rack and upswept Termignoni exhaust,this version of the CRF1000L Africa Twin certainly looks the role of a much more sporty rally bike.

Missing in action are the bike’s turn signals, rear fender and mirrors, so it’s apparent that this bike is still a concept at this time.  However, if a similarly equipped machine makes it into production, we are predicting that this bike will become more of an enduro model and a significant competitor to more off road worthy machines like the big KTM 1190.  Time will tell.

Here are a few pictures to get your mouth-watering and your wallet burning.

 

 


Rumors of KTM 390 Adventure Production Gaining Momentum

Multiple websites are reporting that the long-awaited KTM 390 Adventure lightweight adventure bike is making steps towards production.  It is being reported that according to import documents, KTM has imported two test mules into India for “R&D purposes” under the code name KT22.  The 390 Adventure is purported to be based on the KTM Duke 390 and RC390.  As such, the sites are saying that the 390 Adventure will be the recipient of some of the components from the street siblings above.

Some of the sites are quite detailed about the components and details of the 390 Adventure which potentially makes these reports subject to increased scrutiny.  If they “know” these things, why don’t they affirmatively say that the bike has received the production nod from KTM?  Nonetheless, they are reporting that the 390 Adventure will likely share the Duke/RC390 engine.  If this is the case, we can expect a 373 cc single cylinder, fuel injected engine that makes 43 horsepower and approximately 26 ft/lbs of torque.  This will not put the bike on similar power footing with the KTM 690 Enduro, but hopefully could add to the range capability of the machine.  It will reportedly have a six speed gearbox with the engine tweeked for application to a light adventure bike.

ktm-390-adventure-mockup-450x279

KTM 390 Adventure Mock Up

It is also reported that the 390 Adventure will get heavier suspension with longer travel, higher ground clearance, disk brakes on both ends and more off road oriented tires.  This definitely makes sense and would likely be necessary for the bike to be a success.  It it is being reported that the 390 Adventure will come with luggage mounts, a larger windshield and bark busters.  Lastly, there will be some styling changes (obviously) with redesigned lights, a more comfortable seat and a side mounted exhaust.

Given that the test mule “R&D” bikes have been imported to India, it makes sense that the bike may be produced in the Bajaj plant in Chakan.  Time will tell…

Click herehere, and here for three of the sites providing the info for this article.


ZipTy Racing Adventure Enduro Footpeg Extension Kit for KTM

As you already know, Kim and I do quite a bit of dual sport riding.  When you get off the pavement, it’s nice to have a platform that permits you to move your weight around on the bike to assist your balance.  It was with this thought in mind that I decided to try out ZipTy Racing’s KTM footpeg extension kit.  Having ridden with them for a full season, I can say that these pegs have been an excellent addition.

Providing a wide and stable platform, it is now definitely easier to move around on the bike.  In addition, the pegs are now so wide that weight transfers are a piece of cake.  Not that weight transfer is that difficult, but having the extra length and width gives you the leverage to move the bike under your feet much more easily.  I have found that I feel more planted on the bike and I am never struggling for good foot placement.  Just about wherever I would want my feet to be, I can easily put them in the location I desire.

Although the platform is very wide, foot grip on the pegs has not been an issue.  The pegs have deep cutouts between the base and teeth around the perimeter of the pegs allow dirt and mud to easily fall out.  The inserts install very easily and securely and are available in four different colors: red, orange, black and silver.

All is not perfect however.  The platform is very large so that when stopped, your foot placement on the ground is changed.  You’ll notice that your feet are a little farther forward or back as you stand.  If you place your feet in front of the pegs, care must be used when starting up again as the pegs have a tendency to contact your legs at the Achilles tendon.  It’s not a huge issue provided you are careful.  In addition, the pegs are so large that you definitely don’t want to use them in a competitive environment.  Because of their size, dragging them at extreme lean is possible and you don’t want them hooking up with the ground when racing.

So overall, we really like these peg extenders.  They provide a wide stable platform that makes riding more comfortable and easy.  They are also at about $85, less expensive than other peg extensions or replacement pegs.  If we had a rating system, we’d give these pegs a 4 stars out of five.


Traversing The TAT (Trans-America Trail) Chapter 10

Riding the TAT we’d been in rural areas for quite some time.  But the deeper we ventured into Mississippi, we began to notice that we’d entered another level of rural and got the feeling that we had really passed into an era where time may have stopped for a while.

On the gravel, we found remnants of old farms and homesteads.  It was a little mesmerizing riding through this part of the country.  You could really get the feeling of old-time farming and people scratching a living from farmland carved from the thickly wooded earth.  Each farmer cutting down trees by hand and pulling the stumps with horses or oxen.

By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.

Then suddenly, the farms disappeared.  Fields gave way to forests once again.  Forests partially relented and gave way to water.  We were in the true wetlands of Mississippi.  When I was a kid, we called these places swamps.  We weren’t in a swamp, we were in the true definitions of wetlands.  The swamps of my childhood were a smelly, litter infested, mud and still water mess.  These were different.

Green and brown never mixed in such symmetry.   The brown water was tinged with green and rolled lazily past the shores.  Trees sprouted from the depths of the water on roots that gave the trees a “standing on tip-toes” look.  The roots arched from the water forming a triangular base from which the tree trunk sprouted.  Although they provided a platform out of the water for the tree trunk, the moss-covered roots reached away from the base and dove into the water.  A clear sign that the tree needed water to survive.  These rounded tubular roots were a natural straw, feeding the ever-growing trees life-giving nutrients and fluids.    It was a great example of the circle that is life, be it human or otherwise.

We stopped to take a few pictures of this natural wonder and in the 30 minutes that we were taking pictures, not a single soul passed by.  We were enjoying our frozen moments, but we had to get moving in order to make it to the Arkansas border for the day.

Before we knew it, we had transitioned into back onto hard surfaced roads and farms once again began made began dotting the landscape.  Most were fairly large and crossing from one to the next took some time.  We had passed several and as we rounded a corner and headed down a straight stretch of road, we came across a somewhat immovable object.  There was a very large animal standing in the middle of the road.

Tracy had already ridden by the large animal but the rest of us were stuck behind.  Kim saw it before I did and said into her communicator, “Oh look, there’s a cow in the road.”   I paid more attention than I had been and sure enough, there was a very large animal standing in the middle of the road.  I muttered into my comm back to Kim, “Um Kim, that’s not a cow, it’s a bull.”  “Oh” was the somewhat unimpressed response.  But the bull wasn’t going anywhere fast and he was in a somewhat testy mood.  He stood his ground and stared directly at us.

Somewhat surreal, in a fenced field beside the road, a group of cows and calves stood at rapt attention watching and waiting to see what might happen.  While the cows watched from the side of the road, the bull watched us and we watched the bull.  We yelled at him and revved our engines, but still he remained unmoved.  Now we were stuck.  What could we do to get this bull’s attention and make him move?  After a lot of shouting and revving of engines, I decided that we had to do something different.  What could we do?  There was only one thing left to do.  I reached over to my handlebar and gave my NH approved street legal horn a blast.  Said horn was of the rubber bulb type normally associated with little children’s bicycles.

After about the 6th “honk”, the bull slowly walked to the side of the road and stared into the brush.  MaryLee took off in a flash and was past.  Kim and I revved our engines, I engaged the clutch and…  stalled my bike.  Great!  I immediately pushed the starter button and… silence.  My battery was now dead, it had given up but we hadn’t.  I kick started the bike furiously and it caught on the fifth or sixth kick and we were off.

With the bull facing to the right we rushed to the left side of the road and we were quickly past.  Not happy with trespass, the bull immediately turned left and started chasing us!  He followed for about 50 yards and then stopped.  But in the end, I guess he felt had to show his bull chivalry and put on a show for the cows who had been watching.

With the bull dispatched, the next item on the agenda was to try to find a replacement battery for my KTM.  I thought to myself, “Oh great, we’re out in the wilds of Mississippi.  Where are we going to find a motorcycle shop and better still, one that is familiar with KTMs.   As we trundled on, I resigned myself to kick starting my little KTM each time we stopped.

We hadn’t been back on the road for more than an hour when Kim called through the communicator, “Look on your left!”  I didn’t see anything and motored on.  She said “Turn around, there’s a KTM shop on the left!”  Amazed, I said, “What?  Did you say that there was a KTM shop?”  “Yes!” somewhat loudly she responded, “turn around we’re going to pull in.”

I made a very rapid U-turn and sure enough, it was a combination farm store and motorcycle shop, complete with KTMs!  I couldn’t believe our luck.  I walked to the back of the store to the parts counter and asked them if they had a battery for a KTM 250XCF-w.  Sure as heck, they did.  They also had oil, filters and other miscellaneous parts that would come in handy.  While I waited for the other parts I wanted, little did I know that Tracy had taken the battery, had it installed and I was ready to go.  Wow, he had done that in the stifling heat and had never said a word about it.  I was so grateful, I didn’t know what to say other than thank you.  True friends are amazing.  With a new battery in place, the bike fired right up and we were back on the road and hightailing it to our rest stop for the evening, a moored riverboat that was also a casino.  The best part, only about $40 a night.

As we motored on towards the casino, we decided that the heat was too much and we needed to stop get into some air conditioning and quench our thirsts.  We found a small roadside market and went inside.  There we met some of the nicest people.  One gentleman came over and sat down at our table and asked us where we were from.  We told him a little about our trip and he told us about himself, his family and his farm.  I was a great little chat, and I think he wanted to invite us over to his house for dinner, but just couldn’t get that part out.

It was just as well, as we’d walked into the market, there on the counter were two large gallon jars filled with picked pigs lips and pickled pigs feet.  Help yourself.  We just couldn’t bring ourselves to try that delicacy.  But others had enjoyed it because both jars were only partially filled.

Having had a nice chat and cooled of in the air conditioning, we walked outside once again into the thick and muggy air.  Kim was just finishing off her Coke when she decided that her “cool vest” had dried out.  These vests are made to cool by being immersed in water and then as you move through the air, the water evaporates and cools you.  “No worries”, I said, and quickly readied my hydration system to cool Kim off.  One of the nice things about my hydration system is that it keeps the water fairly cold, especially when it had been filled to the brim with ice cubes that morning.

Before she could say anything, I had the hydration system going and ice cold water was shooting out at her.  At first I don’t think she knew what to do.  Be angry or be happy that she was being sprayed with ice cold water.  Luckily for me, she liked it more than the initial shock and ultimately asked me to spray her all over.  But I must tell you, when the water first hit her, her expression was priceless.  Surprise, dread and relief all at the same. I was a wonderful sight and one that Tracy caught on film.  It is one of my keepsakes from the trip that she and I now both enjoy.

A couple of hours later, we were pulling into the parking lot with our dusty and dirty little machines.  We parked in front and went inside to the front desk outside of the casino.  After about 15 minutes, we had our rooms and headed to the bikes to get our gear.  We asked the doorman where we should put our bikes and he said, “Leave them right there, We’ll keep an eye on them for you.”  Wow, we’d never been treated like that and after gathering our gear to go to our rooms, we left the filthy bikes next to the sparkling clean limousines.    What a great scene!

Even better was our walk to our rooms.  To get there, we had to walk through the casino.  With people sitting at tables and at slots, we “moseyed” our way though.  Some people were dressed to the nines and we had our own attire.  Dusty riding pants and pressure suits were our wardrobe and they created a bit of a surreal picture.  I just had to stop to take a picture of Kim.  It came out wonderfully with Kim’s bright smile and dusty gear providing an amazing contrast to the well dressed people, flashing lights and ringing bells.

We’d had a long day, and it was time to turn in for a good nights rest.  For tomorrow, we would make our way into Arkansas and start another hot humid day on the TAT.


Traversing The TAT (Trans-America Trail) Chapter 9

With Tracy’s pannier repaired we were once again underway on the TAT.  The day had been filled with enchantment and excitement and we wondered what other treats the TAT could drum up on this day.  It wasn’t long before we would get a taste of some of the twists and turns of the TAT.  Literally.

We found ourselves on a gravel road somewhere in Tennessee.   The joy of travel sort of overwhelmed us and we just decided to go the way we thought we should be going instead of taking the time to properly assess where we were.  What else could happen on this day’s journey?  As the TAT wandered and snaked its way westward, we found that it still had a few tricks.

As we made our way, I guess we zigged when we should have zagged.  Suddenly we seemed to be making a lot of turns when the route sheet said we should have been going straight.  We had become wanderers instead of travelers and that was ok with us.  Winding roads changed from gravel to asphalt and back to gravel.  Soon we were pretty much lost but we were having fun.

We guessed where we were and turned left onto a gravel road.  Shortly thereafter, we came upon a wooden bridge without guardrails of any kind and we decided it was worth a try.  Boards laterally placed on beams comprised the base with with three rows of boards running along its length for each tire track.  It was an easy crossing of a lazy stream and it sort of represented the kind of day we were now having.  Easy going.  We thought, what the heck let’s go and see where it led.

The road snaked through a short section of forest and then into an open field.  Soon we found ourselves at a farm house with a gate at the end of the road.  Wow, we had not been on a road, but we had been riding someone’s long driveway!  A woman came out of the house and made it clear that we were on her property and she’d like us to leave.

By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.

We said we were sorry for trespassing on her property and soon she calmed down.  We told her we were riding the TAT and told her a little about it.  She said that we weren’t the only ones to ride down her driveway without permission and asked us to tell all those TAT riders that they should keep off her property.  Well I guess we weren’t that far off course then.  All those TAT riders on her property?   We must not be that far off course then.  We finalized our apologies and rode back the way from which we had come.

Soon we were back on the trail and going in the right direction.  The roads were good to excellent and we were once again having a lot of fun, wicking it up a bit through some pretty rural areas.  Tracy and Mary Lee had the need for speed more than Kim and I did and soon we had nothing but their dimming dust trail to follow.

But Kim and I were not worried, we knew they would stop and wait for us at some intersection ahead.  We were enjoying ourselves and took our time dawdling along.  The road was covered with a thin layer of pea gravel on top of some very hard dirt.  Not super challenging, but enough to make the bike move around underneath you a bit.  Kim was doing great and she was merrily chugging her way along and I was just as happy to follow in her wake and take in the sights.

About ten minutes after we lost sight of them, we once again found Tracy and Mary Lee.  Tracy’s bike was facing the wrong way, parked in a shallow ditch at the side of the road.  Mary Lee’s bike was on the correct side of the road but sat in the middle of her travel lane.  The two of them stood standing at the side of the road and they looked like they were in conference.  They stood shoulder to shoulder, looking across the road hands gesturing as if explaining some exciting event.

Kim pulled over and stopped beside them both.  I on the other hand went past them and pulled off to the side of the road and walked back towards them.  Now I could see that Kim was in discussion with Tracy and MaryLee.  All were animatedly chatting at a level that did not allow me to hear what was being said.  When I arrived at the group, they told me that MaryLee had just crashed but was OK.  That’s strange, I thought to myself.  Mary Lee’s bike is parked on the road and Tracy’s bike is in the ditch, but MaryLee crashed?  Hmm….

They proceeded to tell us the whole story.  It was a minor crash and Mary Lee’s bike had escaped mostly unscathed.  The bike and MaryLee had only picked up a few scratches in the incident.  The only remnants of her fall were some shallow gouges in the pea gravel.

I was amazed at Mary Lee’s enthusiasm.  She had just crashed and was relating the incident more like a war story than something that had just happened.  One thing we learned about MaryLee, she did not do anything half way.  She either went for it all out, or didn’t do it.

It turned out that she too had her own little secret (to me anyway).  MaryLee is the first Woman’s Downhill Bicycle World Champion and she knows how to ride bikes (obviously)!  She was also an Olympic Nordic skier and has retained her competitive spirit and drive throughout her life.  Every time Tracy wicked it up a bit, MaryLee was right on his tail, on all sorts of terrain.  Her spirit is indeed impressive, but she was fairly new to motorcycling and at the speeds she sometimes traveled at, I feared for her safety during parts of the ride.

But Mary Lee was unfazed from her little get off and she was raring to go. All that was left of her crash was a small spattering of pea gravel and some marks in the road.  She was ready to go and so were we.  So once again, we hopped aboard our little machines and headed toward new trails.

The TAT was once again going to deliver special sights, sounds and smells.  The trail squirmed and twisted its way southward leading us towards Mississippi.  With the southerly turn, the temperature started to soar even higher.  It was well over 100 degrees F, and the humidity was unbearable.  It became apparent that we would soon need to stop to hydrate and rest.

Passing through a small town, we arrived at the Olive Hill Store.  Inside it was cool so we purchased some drinks and decided to stay a while.  The proprietors for the day were a pair of 16-17 year olds talking about things that kids their age discuss, while apparently running the store.  Soon a friend of theirs came in and the two girls talked about their friends while their male acquaintance passed judgment on the girls friends.  It seems that small towns are the same the world over, people just being people.

After our brief respite, we returned to the bikes for some more heat, humidity and amazing sights.  Riding along, it soon became apparent we were getting to places where not many people go and time slows down.  It seemed we were going back in time and we were willing time travelers to this very special part of the TAT.


Traversing The TAT (Trans-America Trail) Chapter 8

A narrow gravel road greeted us shortly after we got back on the TAT.  Sunlight beamed through the trees and lit a sparkling path before us.  It was like nature was putting on a little light show for us, egging us on to go further and faster along the TAT.  The beauty and the excitement got the best of all of us but Tracy and I were the first to succumb to the enticing TAT.  It sparkled our eyes and whispered to us sweetly. Enjoy this as much as you can for it may not be here forever.

For a short while, Tracy and I apparently lost our minds and we raced along, dust rising in our trail with the sun flashing through the green canopy like a golden strobe light.  It was a mesmerizing environment and somehow time stopped.  We had become as one with our surroundings.  I knew we were moving at a rapid pace but the sense of speed was gone.  The feel from my fishtailing bike in the soft gravel only made me feel more part of the environment.  As the bike slowly swayed back and forth beneath me, I imagined being part of a school of fish.  I followed the swaying tail of the bike in front of me, and sped forward trying to keep up with my fellow school member on a stream of gravel,  not water.    I knew something was propelling me.  It was not fins, but the fire from within the bike as well as the fire inside me.  Ultimately we came to a “T” in the road where we were forced to stop and the magic moments were no more.  But we both exchanged knowing smiles, we both knew that we had been enchanted by this particular section of the TAT.  The ladies of our group, apparently much smarter than us, caught up to us at the T junction.  Tracy and I just smiled but I know the ladies knew we had been enchanted and our little escapade was a joyous event for Tracy and I.  We sat at the junction for a brief time and told MaryLee and Kim how much fun we had just had.

By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.

Our little jaunt over, it was time to get going.  As we rode the narrow gravel, we started seeing the first signs of water crossings.  Small slabs of concrete had been poured over narrow creek beds.  Most were less than 100 feet wide with a one inch deep flow of water lazily crossing half the width of the concrete.  We straight lined most of them and before long, we got cocky.  Once again, we started enjoying ourselves and Tracy and MaryLee quickly vanished into the distance while Kim and I dawdled along enjoying the green canopy that surrounded us.

I had almost forgotten about the our travelling companions when we rounded a corner and started down an incline.  There in front of us lay Tracy’s bike on its side.  A downtrodden looking couple stood and gazed down at the machine which seemed to be taking a nap in the very shallow water.  It was a sorry sight.  They both stood there for a while, a bit dazed about the whole event.

Tracy, a veteran rider of more than 30 years fell off his bike in less than an inch of water?  How could that happen?  I quickly got my answer as I stopped and dismounted my bike to assist.  As I hurried over to them, I stepped into the tiny stream and almost ended on my backside.  This was no ordinary water crossing.  This water crossing was over a layer of stone, not concrete.  An on that stone was an almost invisible very slippery and slimy algae.  No wonder Tracy fell off!  I have walked on skating rinks in my shoes before and I can honestly say that this rock was far more slippery.

Now the three of us stared at Tracy’s stricken machine while Kim stood at the side of the crossing taking pictures.  For posterity!  Surely three of us could easily pick up a 650cc motorcycle!  But it was not to be.  Each time we reached down to pick it up, we started scrambling for footing.  This algae was slimy!  So in a concerted and coordinated manner we proceeded to pick the bike up.  After a couple of tries, we were able to get it back on two wheels.  Now all we had to do was push it across the water crossing.

Very carefully, the three of us slowly pushed the bike to the opposite side of the water crossing.  We decided that we had better get the other three bikes across as well.  So Tracy and I agreed that we would take the ladies’ bikes across the water crossing ourselves.  It wasn’t that the ladies were not good riders, it was the thought of either of them going down on this slippery rock would not be pleasant.  But how to do it?

Riding with legs outstretched like outriggers, Tracy slowly rode MaryLee’s bike across.  Then it was my turn, first Kim’s machine and then mine.  But it must have been a real sight watching two middle aged men taking the bikes across the crossing.  With only an inch of water, we must have looked like we were 4 year old beginners.  It was not a difficult task, but it sure was a slow one.

When we had all four bikes across, it was time to inspect Tracy’s bike for damage.  His right pannier was damaged significantly.  It was bent backwards and downwards and its perfect rectangular shape was now a very interesting trapezoid.  The lid lay hanging at the side of the pannier but it had retained its shape.  Once we flipped the lid over the top of the pannier, two separate gaping isosceles triangles appeared under the lid leaving the contents of the pannier in the elements.

We would have to make a field fix if Tracy was to be able to use his pannier for the remainder of the trip.  I got out my toolkit, but there wasn’t really anything that would help this mangled pannier.  So we’d have to improvise and improvise we did.  We roamed the area and found a fist size rock.  That ought to do the trick I thought as Tracy prepared to do his best McGyver impersonation.

With a little pounding and tugging, we were able to get the pannier to be rectangular enough to be able to close the lid with the assistance of some good old duct tape.  That stuff is great for everything!

After about an hour at and on the side of the trail, Tracy’s pannier was sealed and we were once again on the TAT motoring towards the evenings destination.  Little did we know it but we were to have another challenge that day and let me say that this challenge was no bull!


Traversing The TAT (Trans-America Trail) Chapter 7

The following morning, the sun rose quickly and immediately heated the muggy air to a grey haze.  We finished a quick breakfast and headed out to the TAT once again.  We were quickly back on the TAT and were greeted by narrow twisting roads under a lush green canopy from the surrounding trees.  The traffic was non-existent leaving us to enjoy the swoopy corners and somewhat cooler air.

Again I was riding at the tail of the group, and clouds of dust rose from the gravel track.  But it didn’t diminish the pleasure that the TAT was gifting to us.  I watched from the back of the pack as Tracy faded into the distance and MaryLee and Kim played a kind of moto tag with each other.  MaryLee would lead the way and Kim would sprint up to her until the dust began to get too heavy and faded back.  I was enjoying the playful component of the ride immensely.

By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.

But after about an hour, the verdant canopies began to part and we found ourselves in farm country.  Green fields contrasted with golden fields of grain.  As we rode along, we saw evidence that the locals were working the fields to get the crops of grain in.    We were used to seeing the huge plastic rolls of hay that are widely seen in New England.  But the stacks we were seeing were vastly different.

Small piles were neatly stacked along side each other.  The stacks consisted of what appeared to be individually bound bundles tossed in opposing directions making for a tightly bundled and geometrically shaped pile.  We had never seen stacking like this and to us, it didn’t seem to be prepared by the large farm equipment that roams some of the fields back home.  But something was stacking these small works of art dotting the fields.  Who or what could be doing it?

It wasn’t long before we got our answer.  As we turned from one small road onto another, there in a field directly in front of us was a pair of beautiful harnessed draft horses.  As draft animals, they were huge and they dwarfed their owner who stood close by.  Clad in jeans and a shirt topped off by a large brimmed black hat, a young Amish man watched as we approached and ducked down seemingly trying to hide.  So it was him who had been making these beautiful stacks of grain.

Tracy  stopped to take a picture and the farmer insisted that he not to take one, so as requested, Tracy put away his camera, said hello and rode off.  As we continued our way through the county, it became clear that we were in fact in an Amish enclave.  Good sized farms were all about but suddenly I noticed something a bit odd.  At the roadside, there were no telephone poles and no wires running into the farms.  They had no electricity!

Kim’s uncle is a farmer and we know how hard and thankless a job farming can be.  Many, many hours are spent in the fields trying to bring a crop in and/or taking care of the animals.  It has to be one of the most difficult and exhausting jobs in the world.  And then it dawned on me.  As difficult as it was to be a farmer, they often use electricity and power tools to accomplish the day’s tasks.  Now take away the electricity and all the power tools and you have the life of an Amish farmer.  It makes you think about how committed those people are to their beliefs.  Forsaking even the most rudimentary of power equipment, they still carry on the difficult day’s work without complaint.  It truly is an amazing act of faith to maintain such a life.

It also made me think about the little works of art that were the grain piles.  No farm equipment making 10 foot rolls of hay were being used.  The Amish used their own two hands and made each bundle individually.  When you looked at the size of some of the fields, I felt a deep admiration for those people who toil so hard, while the tools to make their lives easier went unused.  Their faith was their tool and they used it well to maintain a hard but appreciated life.   Witnessing this, I thought to myself that to be Amish, you have to be a very stout person.  Very stout indeed.

The enclave was fairly large and it took us about 10 minutes to pass through it.  Along the way, we passed one of their well known plain black buggies.  Pulled by a single horse, the buggy made its way along the road, with its lantern headlights and tail lights.  Two women sat in the buggy, one middle aged and another old.  I could just make out their black clothes and bonnets as I rode by.

It made quite a contrasting scene.  Immediately in front of me were two women in a single horse drawn wooden carriage.  While just ahead, I could see two women riding on small horses of steel and aluminum that far eclipsed the power of the larger single horse buggy.  Riding through this little enclave, really helped me put things into perspective and open my eyes to a different way of life.  A way of life that could be more physically demanding, but for them, more meaningful.

Soon after passing the buggy, once again the fields started to fade and we found ourselves traveling through very sparsely populated land.  The road narrowed and the trees closed in.  The road was now barely large enough to fit a single car, but it was nice to be in the shade at times.  What structures there were on this road were very old and most abandoned.  Wooden planks of siding sagged from the buildings, age having long since taken the remnants of colorful paint away.  But in their grey hued glory, they told a story of remote living and of farms that had long since come and gone.

We lazily dawdled along in the oppressive heat under the canopy of green leaves and grey branches.  At times, the gravel road gave way small concrete water crossings an inch or two deep.  At first they were no more than 50 feet across, but they soon got wider and more treacherous.  You might ask how a couple of inches of water might constitute a treacherous hazard.  How could water on a hard surface only one or two inches deep cause any problems?  We’ll talk about that in the next chapter.