Product Review – Gaerne Goretex Boots

GaerneBoots (1)There is no point in my making a serious attempt at identifying these boots. Gaerne doesn’t make anything like them anymore. I bought them sometime around 1995 from Ryan Young’s booth at one of the US Observed Trials meets in Colorado. Mostly, Young’s gear was all about Observed Trials, but he had a fair line of Gaerne boots and a little street gear and these boots were in that lot.

GaerneBoots (3)To say the least, they have seen a lot of use. For starters, I liked them because of their extreme riding and walking comfort, replaceable soles, good (if not great) protection, and the look. I wore these boots under suit pants during my medical device career and never heard a word about their appearance. Of course, I did clean, wax, and polish them a lot more often back then. Since 2001, their only maintenance has been irrecular cleaning and an occasional dose of Nikwax leather treatment.

GaerneBoots (2)They weren’t cheap, around $200. I’ve worn out and replaced 3 1/2 sets of Vibram soles and the zippers were replaced about 15 years ago. You can see by the picture (above) that the Velcro alignment isn’t great since the zipper repair. No problem, they still don’t leak. I wore out the original insoles pretty quickly, hiking and riding off-pavement in Colorado. I can’t guess how many replacements I’ve burned up in that category.

There is really no good reason for this review, other than me wanting to recognize a great product that I have owned and used for almost a generation. I have two other pairs of motorcycle boots, but I don’t often wear them. In fact, the Gaernes are the only boots waiting downstair by the rest of my gear. I might was well admit I wasted money with the other boots and get rid of them. I’ve worn these boots back and forth from Colorado and Minnesota to California a half-dozen times, to Alaska in 24 days of almost constant rain, to Nova Scotia and the heaviest rain storm I’ve ever experienced under any conditions, all over North Dakota and most of the Midwest, and in wind, rain, and even snow around my homes in the Cities and Red Wing. I don’t think it is possible to wear them out. I won’t live that long.

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A Recycling Suggestion

maxresdefaultA totally worthwhile side effect of my attending the Davenport, Iowa Motorcycle Swap Meet was a killer idea on how to get rid of a house full of crap. Look at this picture. This was one of the more organized piles of crap from the show. I’m not kidding. There were “displays” that contained car parts, household appliances, television sets (CRTs even), and every kind of junk pile you’ve ever seen in a garage sale.

Walking around the fairgrounds with my friends gave me a killer idea. There was no real “registration” at the swap meet. You just show up with your truck full of crap, pay some cash for a display site, drive to the site, unload your crap, set up a table and some chairs to hang out while you wait for suckers. People were going in and out of the show all weekend long without squat for security other than goofballs looking at the parking permits on windshields.

Say you have a house full of old junk that your local recycling center wants a few bucks to turn into compacted refuse or to burn up in the city incinerator: $35 for a CRT television, $20 each for old furniture, a pickup full of toys and gadgets might cost $100 or more. Instead, you pay $25 for a display booth location at one of these swap meets. You neatly unload all of your crap into rows, just like the crap pile in the picture above. You drive back home and never speak of that trip again.

Eventually, someone will wonder why no one was minding the crap pile. By then, you’re long gone and the problem belongs to someone else.

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Wandering Down to Davenport

Back in early August, a friend wrote me, “Hey are you going to be back from Canada Labor Day weekend? I’m looking for a buddy to ride to Davenport Vintage Meet. Ride down Friday in time for the races, hang out Sat/swap meet, ride back Sunday with a ferry ride & a crazy Catholic church chicken dinner on the way.” Do not ask me why, but I said “Assuming no catastrophes or old age shit, I should be good for that.” And I put the ride on my calendar for the first weekend in September. I didn’t even look up the details about the “event” until a few days before we were set to go. I had delusions of seeing something like the old Steamboat Springs Vintage Motorcycle Week. Not a chance in hell.

IMG_8749After an auspicious beginning, “The Easy Way or My Way,” prep session, the actual trip was anticlimactic. The ride between Red Wing and Davenport was way cooler than I’d expected. I haven’t really explored much of southeast Minnesota, other than the ride back from Cincinnati when I bought my V-Strom in 2007. Cal did a masterful job as tour director. There were fewer than 75 boring miles (one-way) in the whole trip, most of which came at the end near Davenport. Davenport, on the other hand, is a typical Midwestern town with typically boring fairgrounds: home of the Mississippi Valley Fairgound also home of the Davenport Vintage thing. This would also be our “campground.” Over the years, I have camped in some really stupid places: ditches, corn and wheat fields, hanging from trees, shouldering my way on to rocks, on picnic tables and park benches, beside highways and freeways, and in KOAs and worse. This place was close to the worst. We ended up setting up camp in two places: 1) Cal and Tim in the middle of a parking lot where they both had sworn they would never camp again and 2) me next to a gazebo and some metal park benches where I could hang my hammock. Later, I discovered two things about my far more prime site than Cal and Tim’s, 1) I was surrounded by the loudest, scariest snoring sounds emitted by biological beings (assuming old men are biological beings) and 2) everywhere but where I entered the area my campsite was labeled “no campers here.” I decided, screw ‘em if they can’t take a joke and opted to pretend ignorance: forgiveness being easier to come by than permission. Besides, there were no other places in the damn fairgounds where my hammock could hang.

Mostly, I managed to sleep about as well as usual, for a 70-year-old geezer in a hammock, after I plugged my ears to soften the snarl of snoring and choking and farting and old white man nightmares. Holy crap! I don’t think there was a guy near my part of the park who didn’t need a sleep apnea machine and an oxygen tank and a soundproof/vibration-proof booth to sleep in to prevent avalanches or earthquakes. A large pack of pissed-off lions would have been quieter. To top it all off, one end of my Lawson Hammock broke loose about 5AM and I gave up, packed up, and went looking for a place to eat breakfast in peace. For a farm town, Davenport is awfully urban. I couldn’t find a damn place for breakfast in the whole freakin’ town until 7AM. I didn’t come away with a positive impression of Davenport from that search.

However, breakfast was good if late and I wandered back to the fairgrounds to see what the guys had been up to. Mostly, it turned out, half of that group had an ok night and the other half was at least as miserable as me. They were walking the “display” booths, piles of junk with hilarious price tags, mostly. I walked with them, being an asshole and amazed at the same time. “Really? You guys have come back here for this for 20 years?” Stuff like that. I’d decided over breakfast that I wasn’t going to suffer another night among the shambling old guys and their giant kazoo noses and noises and I started bugging Cal about a half-way spot to meet on the way back home. I figured I could easily find a better campsite than the fairgrounds, a better breakfast place, and get some writing and reading time while Cal and Tim spent a day looking at piles of junk.

Turned out, Cal had a sudden personal reason to head for home on Saturday and Tim was more than ready to cut it short. My only requirement was that we get the hell out of Dodge quick enough to avoid much night riding. So, we made a quick loop of the junk piles, walked the restored vintage competition room, and headed out mid-morning Saturday.

The ride back wasn’t as scenic as the right down, because Cal was trying to cut off a few miles and minutes for the trip. I broke away just out of Rochester and took a deviated GPS-mapped route home up MN 42 through Millville to MN 11 to MN 60 to US61 and home. Sort of the scenic route and much of it was an incredibly fun road for the V-Strom. Would have been even more fun on the WR.

As you might know, I’m not much for group rides. This was about as good as they get for me, though. It probably would have been more fun to drive down and bullshit all the way, but it wasn’t bad. I’m NEVER “camping” in a fairground again, though.

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Why I Don’t Do Reviews

You might have noticed, both in the blog and in MMM, I don’t do many reviews these days. When it comes to bike reviews, MMM got tired of defending my “right” not to be impressed with everything I swung a leg over. So did I. I don’t get the opportunity, on my own, to ride many motorcycles long enough to form an opinion. Mostly, the bikes I get offered are not interesting enough for me to write about and I’m pretty satisfied with the equipment I own. So, my motivation to risk life and limb to experience something different is vanishingly small. There are, in fact, about a half-dozen new motorcycles that I’m interested in riding and the rest just don’t hold much attraction.

For example, at the last (for 2017) MN MSF instructor bike night our host brought four bikes: a KTM, the Kawasaki 300 Ninja, the Honda CB300f, and a CB500f. I sorta wanted to test ride the CB500f, but couldn’t generate enough motivation to gear up and take it out. The other three are cool bikes, but not something I’m fired up about anymore. Ten years ago, absolutely. Today, not so much. I’m old, remember? The Versys 300? Now that’s a whole different ball of string. I’d love to test that bike. I might even trade in my WR250X on the right day.

As for gear, I’ll probably still find a thing or two to try out in the next couple of years, but I have a garage full of stuff I don’t use at all or rarely use. I don’t need anything more and I’m in the process of getting rid of a lot of unused gear. Interestingly, I get a lot more inquiries about doing product reviews with sales incentives. I’m really glad I don’t need the money (I can use it, I just done need it.), because some of these characters don’t even care if I’ve ever seen their products. They just want sales links and will pay for hits and sales.

So, bike and product reviews are mostly (or entirely) in my rearview mirror. I had fun with some of those motorcycle experiences and was flatout miserable on a couple. (Remember the Hyosung GV650 or the Honda VT1300CT?) I’m glad I had the experiences and I’m satisfied with having done as much of it as I wanted to do.

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Revolting, Revolving Roundabouts?

Roundabout ProposalBecause I’m an idiot, I tossed my name into the hat last summer as a Red Wing City Council candidate. One of the things I learned about my fellow Red Wingnuts during the election cycle was that lots of them are terrified of roundabouts. Many more are terrified in general. However, we now have two roundabouts in town and while they seem to be doing the job of reducing traffic hangups and routing vehicles through intersections without much trouble, they are still unpopular with a fair number of drivers and bikers (Motorcyclists are fine with them.). The myths around the hazards of roundabouts are incredible: truck drivers hate ‘em, bus drivers hate ‘em, motorcyclists hate ‘em, they kill birds . . . wait that  last one is windmills, sorry.

Having taught MSF classes for the last 16 years, it’s not hard for me to imagine why roundabouts are scary: merging is not a Minnesota driving skill. In fact, Minnesotans are practically incapable of competently merging under any circumstances and roundabouts require . . . [gasp] merging compence.

There are several incredibly simple merging opportunities in the the MSF’s Basic Rider Course (BRC) and the Intermediate Rider Course (IRC). Watching students fumble their way through those merging moments is always painful and I almost kill my voice yelling, “don’t stop, keep moving” a few hundred times every class. Nothing I do will prevent Minnesota drivers from becoming overwhelmed by the idea of a moving merge, though. Every class provides me with a frustrating moment of watching one after another of my students come to a staggering stop, jamming up the exercise, and wreaking another teaching moment.

Likewise, watching Minnesota drivers try to merge on a freeway onramp is flat-out painful. For a goup of mediocre drivers who are totally confident in their ability to tailgate any sort of vehicle at any speed for any number of miles under all situations, figuring out a zipper merge appears to be impossible.


I like to tell my BRC students, “If you merge like that in Southern California, they will run over you, back up and empty their weapons into your body, and run over you again as they abandon your lifeless body. Honestly, I don’t know if that is true any more. It’s possible that the whole country has abandoned competency. Regardless, I’m here to say I love roundabouts because I despise stop signs and hate stop lights. The Mythbusters did a pretty cool test on the efficiency of roundabouts vs. our clown car 4-way stops. You guessed it, Europe wins again.

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Riding (and falling through) the Rails

Funny, in a politically incorrect way. When I was a much younger man, 40+ years ago, “riding the rails” was a pretty popular way to get from one end of town to the off-road sections where we used to spend most of a weekend. When I lived in central Nebraska, back in the 70’s, getting across the Platte River via railroad bridges was an every weekend thing.

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The Easy Way or My Way

IMG_8723The day started simple. I just need to replace the V-Strom’s front tire. Nothing to it, should be no more than 10 minutes of really hard work and 30 minutes of easy stuff, put the tools away and to back to screwing around for another day of simple retirement. Of course, I had to reorganize the back of the garage to make it so it would be easy to put everything back when the tire job was done. That took about 45 minutes, but now the back of the garage is organized.

IMG_8725As expected, pulling the old tire off was the hard part and it took about 10 minutes to break the beads and pop the tire free from the wheel. The new tire went on easily and quickly. The wheel balanced right up, with 4 weights (28grams) which is about twice what I’m used to needing. The tools went back hassle-free. I got the garage cleaned up and rode the bike back to the lower level garage.

That is when everything went to hell.

Trying to horse the bike into the garage, over the loose gravel driveway, I lost control of the bike and it dropped into the retaining wall. Total damage: one brake lever, one hand guard, and one turn signal. After wrestling the V-Strom back up, I started stripping off the body parts to get to the portion of the fairing where the turn signal piece lives. That didn’t go too well, so I disassembled the hand guard to evaluate that broken section.

I decided it was time for me to learn how to use my Harbor Freight plastic welding rig. I’d played with it before, but only with throw-away plastic bits. The hand guard break was clean and clamp-able, so I gave it a shot. It welded up pretty well. I wouldn’t call my weld “beautiful,” but it is strong and could be repainted to look fairly decent. The ABS weld material is white and the V-Strom parts are all black, so the weld will definately show unless I decide to paint it. Next is the fairing bit that holds the turn signal. This is a piece that I broke when I crashed in the Yukon in 2007 and cobbled back together with Gorilla Glue. Nothing on that fairing piece is cosemetic, so a big strong weld could be better than the original design. I also cracked the front fender in Alaska and have been ignoring that for a decade. That repair was next and it went badly. The fairing isn’t ABS, but some cheaper, crappier sort of plastic that refused to accept any of the plastic material that came with my rig. Just like 2007 in Alaska, I ended up gluing that piece back together. After that failure, most of the rest of the repairs were taken care of in a similar half-hearted manner.

However, the rest of the repairs went about as well as you could expect, knowing that my mood was dark and my patience expired. I’d turned a couple hours work into two days of fumbling around and my V-Strom looks a little more beat-up for the experience. The good news is that it all hung together for the 800 mile trip and so did I.

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