Tuesday, October 17, 2017

1K klicks in the Sticks

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Yes it actually is the long-awaited little Vespa tour way down south to State College Pennsylvania where I get to enjoy a guided tour of the mountains and valleys made famous by Steve Williams on his blog Scooter in the Sticks.

I got to spend a couple of nights at Paul Ruby's home which was a privilege all of its own. Paul is an electrical engineer who traded his job at a Fortune 500 company to become an intrepid re-seller of scientific equipment on e-Bay. It's a big deal! I fully intend to respect Paul's privacy, so no lurid details of deal-making, wheeling and dealing will be told here, suffice to say, that Paul is social media royalty. It is an honour to count Paul among my friends.

It's impossible to create a video that comes even close to conveying in any accurate way the world that Steve portrays on Scooter in the Sticks. In an upcoming interview with Steve, you'll hear in his own words the sources of his motivation and his art. In this video I offer a glimpse of that world, the mountains and valleys that surround State College and provide Steve with his inspiration.

Scooter in the Sticks was a key source of information and inspiration for me when I was thirsty for information on Vespa ownership and riding in the many months that preceded my plunge into that world. My decision led to everything I had hoped for and it slowly unfolded into a life-changing and life-affirming pursuit that far exceeded even my fondest hopes and daydreams. Steve's blog made a big contribution to that transformation, and I am deeply indebted to him.

In those early days, I never dared to imagine that I would meet Steve, much less enjoy Steve and Paul's hospitality, and have the good fortune to call them friends.

The music selections for this episode of Life on two wheels are One more chance and Livin' up by Otis McDonald, I wear headphones and Yard Sale by Silent Partner, and Walk the dog by Coyote Hearing, made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library, as well as Think Tank by Audionautix which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license and also available in the YouTube Audio Library.

Episodes 24 and 25 of the vlog are ready to be posted so you'll be spared the long wait you had to put up with anticipating the release of episode 23.

See you soon, on Life on two wheels!


SonjaM said...

Steve's showing off his talent. The portrait of you (and the Vespa) is perfect indeed. And who came up with the roadkill idea? I find this hilarious but I won't try copy it on German roads because t might get way too real. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of your Pennsylvania ride through the sticks (and the music fits so well).

David Masse said...

Thanks Sonja!

It turns out that the most difficult part of creating these videos is managing the audio. The musical soundtrack is not an issue. I can find plenty of music that is freely usable thanks to YouTube's library. The issue is dialogue.

Even when I have separate microphones for myself and the other person I'm interacting with, it's a major challenge adjusting audio levels, minimizing unwanted sounds like passing trucks or planes, boosting soft spoken persons in a conversation without blasting out the person who projects their voice, and so on.

As you saw in that video, I have a lot to learn on that score.

Finally, my acting skills are too often pathetic and there is no consistency.

I am beginning to think that the answer is a) practice, and b) a different recording set up.

Many video bloggers use a digital SLR camera and a directional camera-mounted microphone.

I need to invest some money to get there. In the meantime I am constantly thinking and re-thinking the equipment issue. I hate wasting money and I want to avoid as much trial and error as I can.

In the meantime, the most valuable riding video lesson I learned, I learned from you in Vancouver: wearing a camera on a lanyard around your neck. Most of the usable riding video was the result of that trick. It requires riding with one hand though, which, with a Vespa that has a nasty wobble, is quite a trick.

That long four minute riding segment along that twisty road was recorded with the camera on a RAM mount with a monopod head. That set up introduces way too much vibration, and the trick that improved the video was to have my right hand on the throttle, and my left hand on the RAM mount which minized the wobble and damped the camera vibration. Still far from ideal.

I think that the better solution is a digital SLR with 4 axis image stabilization plus a motorized gimbal mount. Now assuming all that can fit on a RAM mount and be operable when riding, the results would be really sweet.

Sorry for dumping so much into what should have been a quick and shorter response to your very kind and thoughtful comment.

Trobairitz said...

I am glad you were able to go down and meet with Steve. And such beautiful roads too.

I am usually reading blogs at work (like I am now) and don't get to watch the videos, but I still enjoy checking in.

Canajun said...

Curious minds wish to know - could you have climbed that fire tower if so inclined? I imagine the views from up top would be pretty spectacular.

David Masse said...

Thanks for dropping by Brandy. Riding those roads and experiencing the vastness of the wilderness is a pure joy that my video only very partially conveys.

David Masse said...

David Steve mentioned in the video, but it’s all but inaudible, that he used to climb that tower in his college days. I think that it is definitely accessible but none of us had the appetite to try it. I think I would have done it if I had time and some good safety rope.

Steve Williams said...

David, you produced a wonderful recollection of the time we spent together on the roads of central Pennsylvania. If I have any criticism, it's that you should have requested your subject shave and get a haircut. I suspect he's still in full work rejection mode after retirement.

I didn't realize you shot so much footage. Always interesting to see how others see the places I see. And you've captured the essence of Paul Ruby. His marching band bit with camera and tripod is 100 percent Paul. he's moved on from his "hero in the nudist colony" joke.

Regarding the fire tower -- you can certainly climb the stairs to the top. It was obviously kept in good condition and no signs warning visitors away. The observation room would almost certainly be locked so you couldn't get inside. Vandals and would be party makers have long ago locked up these places. Especially there were it's so remote.

Sonja -- I think the picture of David on the road was my idea. I think but I'm not certain. Either way, Paul saw what was going on and took it upon himself to lie across the road as he did. The red by his head is his Thermos cup. Looks like blood.

It was a great time that I won't soon forget. It was an honor to ride with you David!

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

David Masse said...

David, looking at the video, I see that the stairs go right to the ground, so climing the tower is just a case of all those flights of stairs.

As far as the risk of doing that goes, there might be some chancy treads, and the staircase is very open. If for some reason you tripped, faltered, or fainted, the resulting fall could easily be your last.

I don’t do well with heights, but my boy scout training taught me improvise a rescue harness, and with some climbing rope and a few good carabiners, you could clip yourself to the hand rails on the way up and mitigate most of the risk, I expect.

David Masse said...

Thanks for those very kind words Steve.

Some day you MUST share Paul’s “hero in the nudist colony” bit.

As for the footage, the raw footage was about 36 minutes worth. Quite a bit was unusable because of vibrations when the camera was on my RAM munt. As I mentioned in my long response to Sonja, that long segment which is pretty good, resulted from damping the vibration with my left hand.

By now I’ve watched that footage way too many times as a result of the editing process, and I think that Sonja’s right: there is a good matchup of the footage and the soundtrack that makes it reasonably enjoyable.

Thanks again for a very memorable day that was more than worth two solid days’ riding there and back, and yes, even the likely blown head gasket in Niagara Falls.

David Masse said...

Oh, and Steve, that whole being recently retired thing, with the stubble and free-flowing hair, that privilege comes from a long dedicated career and is earned and well-deserved. Welcome to the clan!

Kitty said...

Mr. Masse, if you're looking for recommendations and solutions for equipment and techniques for shooting your action video, you might want to check out CycleCruza's website. He's a motorcycle video blogger who just posted his 1,000th video. You can see his videos on YouTube, and the details of all of the equipment he uses on his website.

David Masse said...

Thanks for the tip Kitty, I'll head right over and check it out.

redlegsrides said...

Just watched this David, well done!

David Masse said...

Thanks Dom, I really appreciate the compliment.

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