Thursday, August 27, 2009

Caging is Dull?

Since getting my motorcycle license and starting to ride, driving my truck has been a secondary choice in my transportation needs. The only time I drive is when I need to transport people or things; Athena is not feeling well; or I am not feeling well. For the last two years I have not traveled out of the Las Vegas Valley on four wheels for recreation.

As circumstances would have it last Monday, I drove my pickup to work. The plans were for a buddy and myself to drive to St. George. We would have ridden but we both decided that caging it would be better.

About 3:30 in the afternoon he calls. Something important came up and he can't make it. No problem at all. I thought, 'It will be an enjoyable, peaceful, thoughtful drive. This is going to be fun.'

Apparently, motorcycle riding has spoiled me. Driving the 130 some odd miles to St. George was more mechanics than anything. For one reason or another my brain would simply not enter into a shallow, let alone anything that could be considered a deep philosophical mode. Retrospection and introspection were not operable either.

I drove. Changed radio stations. Changed lanes. Drank water and a Red Bull. It was not calm, the drive was actually somewhat unsettling.

The gorge from Mesquite to St. George was honestly boring and dull. Riding through there has always been an experience. Driving? Simply motion.

Interesting change of perspective from not even two years ago. Caging is dull? For some, yes.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Don't Wait

First of all, many thanks go out to my friends Deb and Rick for sending this. It is very much appreciated.

Secondly, instead of e-mailing it to my friends, here it is. I wouldn't want it to get caught in a spam filter somewhere.
A friend of mine opened his wife's underwear drawer and picked up a silk paper wrapped package: "This, - he said - isn't any ordinary package."

He unwrapped the box and stared at both the silk paper and the box.

"She got this the first time we went to New York , 8 or 9 years ago. She has never put it on , was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is it."

He got near the bed and placed the gift box next to the other clothing he was taking to the funeral home, his wife had just died.

He turned to me and said: "Never save something for a special occasion. Every day in your life is a special occasion."

I still think those words changed my life. Now I read more and clean less.

I sit on the porch without worrying about anything.

I spend more time with my family, and less at work.

I understood that life should be a source of experience to be lived up to, not survived through.

I no longer keep anything.

I use crystal glasses every day...

I'll wear new clothes to go to the supermarket, if I feel like it.

I don't save my special perfume for special occasions, I use it whenever I want to.

The words 'Someday and One Day' are fading away from my vocabulary.

If it's worth seeing, listening or doing, I want to see, listen or do it now...

I don't know what my friend's wife would have done if she knew she wouldn't be there the next morning, this nobody can tell.

I think she might have called her relatives and closest friends. She might call old friends to make peace over past quarrels. I'd like to think she would go out for Chinese, her favorite food.

It's these small things that I would regret not doing, if I knew my time had come. Each day, each hour, each minute, is special.

Live for today, for tomorrow is promised to no-one.
Ride it like you stole it.
I added that last one. ;-)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Looking for a Little 'Dirty Time'?

There are times in everyone's life when it is appropriate to get a little dirty. Idle moments in the mind turn to dirty thoughts. Sights, sounds, scents and tactile sensations that under normal circumstances would be banal become the sparks of obsession.

An empty garage. The scent of leather and diesel fuel. The slipperiness of fresh oil. The sounds of a thunderstorm. Those dirty magazines and websites and advertisements conspire against my last twenty-some years of cleanliness.

Yes. I used to be a dirty boy. Memories like echos from a previous life are becoming clearer. In the garage or shed. Maybe the barn on a sweltering Saturday afternoon and out by the pond on Sunday. After school under the oak tree was a favorite.

Alright. Before I run into any trouble, I want to get dirty. I mean really dirty.

Like grease and oil and skinned knuckles and sweaty type of dirty.

Had you going???

Growing up on a farm I learned to love getting dirty repairing things. Big things, not like toasters and coffee pots and door bells. I mean big pickups and Caterpillar dozers and cranes and tractors and all means of mechanical items.

Replacing that fuel injector in my little Chevy pickup really caused a spark. Struggling through a few repairs on my Rebel fanned the flames. Repairing the clutch on my Sporty was honestly joyful.

And my poor little VX800 project bike; all 500 pieces of her. In garage where I will be moving is a place all ready for her. She will come back to life... I will get dirty again... And enjoy the hell out of it!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Message From the Past

It started as a slow trickle about two years ago. There in a box, unopened in years and many moves, was a letter. Not just any letter, but one from a dying man to his eldest son. The paper somewhat crisp after nearly thirty years but well preserved.

It was not long or deep with philosophy or emotion; that wasn't the type of man he was. It was a simple letter wishing his son well and telling of the man's recent difficulties. He was failing in many ways. Even through his honest attempt to hide this fact, it was obvious to his son.

Through moist eyes, I read the letter a few more times, smoked a few more cigarettes and swore. It was a one way letter. That man is buried in a grave to the right of this photo in the Eliza Creek Cemetery.

You see, the man sent this letter the day before he died. The son received it a few days after he passed. I was starting my senior year of high school in 1983.

The trickle slowly increased. While packing for my upcoming move, I found a shot glass. Not just any shot glass, but one my dad used to drink the occasional Canadian Club from. I packed it carefully.

Then, slowly, old friends from school would find my profile on FaceBook and add me. People I hadn't conversed with in over twenty years were contacting me as if we had only just parted.

The pace increased. A fellow I went with to my first concert contacted me. To my utter surprise, not only is he doing well, but is in a real band making money! AND, he rides a StreetGlide!

Then a few days ago, who sends me a message about a certain 25 year high school class reunion? My girlfriend from high school... AND she made me laugh by asking if I were with the Hell's Angels. (No, I am not).

Last night I was messaged by a lady from grade school!

Here is the crux of this post... I understand that there is something going on that I don't understand. Does history have a message for me? Why should these people and things start becoming part of my life again? Not that it isn't welcome, quite the contrary, but why?

And here is one of the reasons that make me wonder. A few weekends ago, while packing, I discovered a small cache of photos from when I was a kid. I was smiling and laughing and playing.

'Look at what I had, who I was and now... who I am. Where did that guy go? Will he awake? Will he rest forever? Will he till the ground again? Will he kiss the hand of a beautiful woman again?'

And words failed. For more than a week the words would simply not come out, whether it be computer or voice or pen and paper. Sentences and paragraphs held hostage in a cranial traffic jam. Off in the distance is the cause; my history and my reality. I let the words go and the traffic jam disintegrated.

What does it want to tell me, and further, do I really want to know?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Shift Of the Gears - Best Buy Selling Motorcycles?

What do you all think? In thirty years will we be heading to Best Buy or Fry's or Circuit City to buy a motorcycle? Will fake leather and armor clad riders sporting eco-friendly tattoos gather behind the local strip malls to eat artery friendly BBQ while telling stories of how loud and noisy and smelly old motorcycles used to be.

Will talk change from Synthetic versus Dino to Fuel Cell versus Nickel Cadmium?

Will us 'old timers' lament the passing of adventure riding? Cruising? Chrome? Loud Pipes? Poker Runs? Long Distance Touring? The tactile sensation of the opposite sex in real leather?

Luckily, most of us will likely have ridden into the sunset before this happens. Thoughts?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Target Fixation

One thing every motorcycle rider must learn to avoid is target fixation. Target fixation is a process or situation when the mind focuses on one thing to the exclusion of most everything else.

Beginning riders have a propensity to look down at the road in front of the wheel. They also have tendencies to focus on what their brains think are hazards. Things like light poles and caution signs and even median dividers can be deadly.

Riders fight target fixation their entire lives. Maybe drivers' education and training should focus more on this topic.

You see, I was nearly the victim of target fixation today. Not MY fixation, but the fixation of a car driver.

While riding in a little group today, a car driver seemed to become fixated on the front of our group and changed lanes... right where I was. Thank goodness for good brakes!

And thanks to the other folks in my group who watched out for me.

Ride and drive safely all!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Holding the Reins Tight

So, what to do this weekend... Saturday is to be cooler than normal, likely no warmer than 95. There are a few dollars roaming in my pocket, so where to?

There are things to do Saturday morning and a friend is coming over Sunday to help pack, so only about twelve hours. What cool place can I go within 12 hours? Someplace secluded; someplace quiet; someplace uncommon...

The first place that came to mind was Rachel, Nevada and the Little A'Le'Inn. But, why make that my point of turn around?

After poking around Google Earth, I found a little ghost town site between Rachel and Tonopah called Warm Springs. Any guess why?

If you answered, 'Because of the warm springs, duh!!!' You would be correct! Apparently this little place was home to a stage coach station back in the mid-to-late 1800's. While very few remains of the station and other buildings of that era still remain, supposedly a previous owner in the 40's or 50's tried to make the area into a nice, relaxing rest stop for people traveling between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles.

Later in the 20th century, someone attempted to operate a little bar and grill. While it is now abandoned, the building is still there.

At any rate, it seemed like a perfect little day trip for Saturday. A cool morning ride up to dip my toes in a real, natural warm spring. Then, a ride over to the Little A'Le'Inn for lunch. Finish it off with a relaxing ride back to Vegas.

So, yesterday the plan is set and I start my pre-trip bike check-out.

Oil? Check
Lights? Check
Controls? All solid. Check.

Ah... Tires???

Hello??? Are the tires OK???

Crap. Reality hits me. I need a new front tire. Not only is the wear below the wear bars, but the tread is nearly gone. I have no problem commuting back and forth to work, but to ride 300 miles into the desert where there is no cell coverage? Maybe not right now.

So I check. $130 for a new tire and mounting from a local independent. Only $130. Nope. The cash I have is needed for the move. Next month.

So, this morning I am poking around Craigs List while waiting for some reports to run and what do I find? As some of you may know, I have a 1991 Suzuki VX800 project bike. Well, I really need a donor bike to make mine complete. I found one. Only $200 and a five hour drive away.

BUT. Cash is short. Maybe next month.

Perhaps this is a little learning experience. Right now I hold the reins tight, but definitely not forever.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

OT: RIP John Hughes

John Hughes, director of movies like "The Breakfast Club," "Sixteen Candles," "National Lampoon's Vacation" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" died today, August 6, 2009 of a heart attack. He was only 59 years old.

I was 22 years old in 1988 when I first saw "The Breakfast Club." Being a 'brain' and 'rebel' there was immediate recognition with Bender and Johnston. There is nothing but honesty in stating that is movie made me laugh and cry.

May you rest in peace, Mr. John Hughes. Whether you knew it or not, you made an impact on many lives.

Chicago Tribune Obituary

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Some Braking News!!!

Does anyone recognize that silver-looking thing in the middle of the picture? If you ride a motorcycle, you should. It is the second most important part on a motorcycle. More important than the engine, clutch, tires, turning signals, you-name-it...

The only thing more important is the front brake. Ladies and gentleman, this is the rear brake of a 2004 Harley Sportster 1200 Custom.

Why post a picture of Athena's rear brake? Because we almost had an issue.

Sunday morning I awoke early, made coffee and decided to tidy up Athena. One thing that was demanding attention, was the drooping leather saddlebags. So, first things first. I remove the seat and adjust the saddle bags so that they no longer droop.

After securing the seat, I grab my cleaner and a rag and start cleaning the swing arm. Then there came a "What The..." moment. With moist cloth in hand I grabbed the brake mechanism to clean it and the darned thing was loose! Not loose, as in a 'little wiggle.' I mean loose as in 'I am jumping off this motorcycle pretty darned soon!'

A quick check of the service manual, few twists of the wrench and all was good.

Normally I do prescribe to the concept that a dirty bike is a happy bike. BUT, sometimes going over your ride as you clean it can potentially save your butt.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Transience and Permanence...

transience: The philisophic concept of embracing impermanence.
permanence: A construct that exists externally and superiorly to all things that does not change through time.

After four days or so of pondering on the philosophical constructs of transience and permanence I discovered a wall. Not one one that separates but a porous one that binds. On one side is permanence, given all its assumptions and subjective bindings. On the other is transience, flowing and ebbing without course or definition or assumptions or restrictions.

Then I threw it away.

That is the Zen thing to do. Throw away the constructs and bindings and walls.

From the Tao Te Ching:
There is nothing in the world more soft and weak than water,
and yet for attacking things that are firm and strong there is nothing
that can take precedence of it;--for there is nothing (so effectual)
for which it can be changed.

What is more transient that water? What is more powerful than water?

Rising down I95 on my daily commute, cagers and wind and varying road conditions attempt to assail my senses. They fail. Why? I embrace transience. Why are most riders avid about their riding? Perhaps they all embrace transience yet cannot make sense of it in today's world. The motorcycle gives context to that embrace.

There is the paradox. On my bucket list are entries that include things like "own my own land," and "build a house of stone." How can one embrace transience yet desire to build something as permanent as a stone house? It seems a dicotomy.

Transience; something a short term as a turning signal blinker or unexpected gust of wind is judged by human standards. What of the transience of the bearings in a motorcycle engine? Every revolutiuon changes them. A bike may travel hundreds of thousands of miles before a bearing wears out, but that is no permanence. Even the most permanent stone home over time gives way to the primal elements.

To embrace transience is to understand permanence; what it is and what it isn't.

Ride safe on those roads of transient existance, all.