Big “Kahunas”

It’s just about a month now since my season started. The weather has been unbelievably warm. I think we’ve even hit 70-degrees+. But not yesterday. Yesterday it was 20-degrees when I headed off to work. That’s a new record low temperature for riding for me.

And there’s a good reason I was the only idiot on a bike. It was COLD! But since the weather turned nice, the construction season started early and my bus route has been detoured. It no longer stops at my workplace. It gets close, I could walk. But if I’m going to be cold, I’d rather be on my Harley than on my feet.

It’s a little over six miles between home and work. And about a third of the way in I knew I would have to stop and warm up along the way. At 30-degrees I’m nearly frozen when I get to work. At 20-degrees I reached that state in half the time.

So I was thinking about where I could pull over for a few minutes and warm up. Coffee shops came to mind. Except I always feel obligated to buy something, and that wasn’t going to work for me. But it dawned on me that the hospital is about halfway. It’s got a nice area where people hang out. So that was the plan. And it’s a good thing it isn’t any farther than it is, because my left hand was almost non-functional when I pulled in and shut the bike off. That’s not a good thing. In fact, that’s a dangerous thing.

So I walked into the lobby, full leathers on mind you, and peeled my gloves off. Wincing. You know what it’s like to thaw out frozen fingers. It HURTS! The greeter at the door wanted to know if she could help. I told her “I hope not” as a joke. No amputations please. :-) But there was a great bench near the door, with heating vents no less, which was the perfect place to spend a few minutes until the feeling came back.

After that, the rest of the ride into work seemed short and I arrived warmer than I thought I would.

On the way home it was only 40-degrees out. Many would call that cold. But compared to 20-degrees it seemed balmy. But I decided to stop halfway home anyway – at my new favorite home-away-from-home bar downtown. :-) Grabbed a burger to thaw my hands out and was heading out when a gentleman made a comment that made me stop and chat for a bit. We got to talking about bikes and rides and the usual stuff. But he made the comment about my having “big kahunas” for riding in the cold that morning. Funny transliteration. But I couldn’t disagree. I didn’t see anyone else out.

But I have to pause here because I deal with this all the time. I don’t have a car. I essentially had no choice but to ride to work. Big kahunas or not, you do what you have to do. And a cold ride to work is better than a cold walk to work. It’s just so out of the ordinary for an adult to not have a car around here it never enters people’s minds. I often choose to not set them straight. I could easily argue that the “big kahunas” moment was not riding to work in 20-degree weather but in watching my car pull away when I sold it nearly two years ago.

Odometer: 10,379 miles

Parked motorcycle seen through window blinds

It’s back. I’m back.

It was gorgeous out today. Again. And the best part was, I brought the Harley home.

We have had an absolutely unbelievably mild winter this year. Never seen anything like it. Had snow for about 3 weeks. And it never really did get cold; just hung around freezing most of the winter. I saw other motorcycles out on the road every month. And not daredevils, just folks just out enjoying the nice days.

Screenshot of weekly weather forecastThe weather this past week has been record-setting. Last week the forecast looked good enough, so I called the dealership and asked how soon they could bring the bike back into town. As always, they were pleasant enough and said they’d get it going and give me a call. That was last Monday.

I spent the weekend chipping ice out of the driveway so I could pull the bike into the garage if necessary and got sunburned just a bit in the process. Yeah, you heard right. Me. In short sleeves. Outside. In March. Long enough to get sunburned. The apocalypse is imminent.

Today is Tuesday and I still hadn’t heard from the service folks. I had to come home early for some appointments, so I was riding the bus home at midday. And watching bikes left and right on the road. As much as that makes me happy, it also frustrated me that I wasn’t out there with them. (And I’ve had just about enough of bus riding for now.) So I actually called the shop from the bus. “Rick, when are you going to release me from house arrest?” “Dropped it off in town last night. Is that what you wanted to hear?” FRAKKIN’ YES!!!!

So after the errand and appointments were taken care of, my youngest son and I drove to the pick-up point. Almost forgot where it was. Certainly forgot which door and the code to get in. Luckily it was still during business hours and a nice guy, who didn’t have to, helped me figure it out. And of course it was parked way in the back. The gentleman had to move one other bike so I could get mine out. And there were a couple of boxes of old parts that I needed to get out of there too.

I have to admit, it felt weird. Unfamiliar. I’d forgotten the routine. And I was looking at a muddy gravel lot. And the engine wanted to cut out on me. All the gas had drained out when it was on its side, and they hadn’t added any over the winter. Luckily there was a gas station just a couple of blocks away.

Driving through the lot and pulling on to the road did not feel smooth. Not subconscious. Not natural. But it really is like riding a bike, it didn’t take long for it to come back. By the time I’d gotten to the gas station, fighting to keep it running the whole way, it was all coming back again. Still not subconscious, but increasingly familiar. I managed the gas-up routine with no flubs and remembered to reset the trip odometers – both of them. I use the A trip odometer for each tank of gas. But I use the B trip odometer to track the mileage of a season. And a new season had begun.

All this was taking place right at the start of rush hour and in one of the busier parts of town. For a first ride, this is not where I wanted to be. So I headed about a mile east and stopped at Starbucks to sit the traffic out. God it felt good to be at Starbucks. I waited about 45 minutes for the traffic to clear and then headed out. It was rather windy (gusts about 35 mph), so I opted to go through town instead of taking the Interstate. Gave me a chance to check out the roads along the way. I knew one (Main Avenue) would be horrible, so I was prepared for that. Had an uneventful trip home, other than seeing a bunch of folks on their bikes too.

Parked motorcycle seen through window blindsI debated on where to park the bike when I got home. I somewhat planned on putting it in the driveway, but changed my mind. The streets are still a little messy with grass and grit from the winter, but I chose that instead to make it easier to get out again in the morning.

I can’t wait to ride to work tomorrow. Sounds stupid unless your life’s been dictated by a bus schedule for months. No room for error there. Being able to leave 3 minutes later, or 10 minutes earlier, is just huge. And my 6:30 p.m. curfew is no more. It really has felt like house arrest for the past six months. Get out for a work release and then head right back where you came from.

I can already feel my spirits lift. They have been black lately. Dark and ugly. The freedom of having wheels — well just ask any teenager. And when those wheels are a Harley? Enough said.

Let’s get this season rolling.

Odometer: 10, 130 miles

And Now We Wait…

Just a quick update on the progress of the bike. I called the shop this Monday (Nov 21st) to see what stage the repairs were at. Was actually thinking about having them give an opinion on the handlebars. Turns out they finished the work the previous Friday so she was all set to go into storage. Sigh. Missed the window of opportunity to not have to pay labor twice.

So now it’s just send out the cover and have her sit until Spring. It’s been an absolutely gorgeous fall and I wonder how long I would have ridden her had she been available. It’s Thanksgiving today, and usually that means a snowstorm. Instead it hit 57 degrees. There are still bikes making the daily commute to campus. Sigh.

I have no idea what next summer will bring. I’m in the middle of making a decision regarding a new job. Perhaps that will allow me to get a few more miles on, as there is some business travel required. But for now, I have to be content knowing that she’s all fixed up and just waiting for me.

And you know, at this point, I think those handlebars aren’t going to be a problem. I think I’ll just grab life by them and ride.

Odometer: 10,121 miles (still)

*Sigh*

Well, it’s been two months since my bike got pushed over. I haven’t ridden it, and I’ve barely seen it, since.

I did call the dealer and had them come pick it up before I left town. They showed up Monday evening (Sept 12) and Brad loaded her into the trailer. He took a quick look at her and found things I hadn’t. As he rode it down the driveway and into the trailer, he too wasn’t real happy with it and confirmed that it was a good thing I had it picked up.

Ok, I’m out of town one direction one week, back for a day, then off in another direction the following week. But that one day in between, I drove out to the shop to talk/look it over with the guys. What I had first thought might only be $200-300 in damage turned out to be more than $1,300. Brake lever, grips, pegs, turning lights, windshield, mufflers, and broken bolts were the bulk of it. Yeesh. Okay, time to call the insurance company.

I had to wait until I got back to town the second time to get the ball rolling on the insurance claim. Found dealing with them to be really pleasant actually. My deductible was less than I expected and the adjuster actually found some additional damage that the others had missed. They pretty much cut a check to the shop that day.

I was wavering a bit on whether to get some of it fixed up or not. For instance, I still want to get saddlebags which means I need to replace (and move) the rear turn signals anyway. But after a quick inquiry, I figured out that was going to be too much trouble, so I just gave them the green light to put it back the way it was.

It’s been probably a month since I gave the go-ahead, but I was really in no hurry. I knew my riding season was over. They’ve got until spring to get her fixed up for all I care. They did call and say some of the parts were backordered, but again, we’ve got months to get it done, so its not a bother at this point.

Today is usually what I consider the end of the riding season. On top of it being pretty cold to ride, especially in the mornings, the days are getting short. Even if it’s nice for a week or two more, that’s all you can hope for this time of year. I have seen a few bikes still out on the streets. Good for them. I wish I was too. But I feel a bit like a poser, since I haven’t been riding lately. Even put away the leather jacket for the first time in two years.

I’ve missed some nice weather this fall for riding. My confinement has started two months early, so I expect by March I’m going to be pretty stir-crazy to get out and ride. I wish I could do some more work on the bike this winter, but I’m guessing that won’t happen. (Although, I still have a yearning to call them up and have them swap out the handlebars.) So at this point, the best I can do is make plans for next year.

Sigh.

Harley lying on its side

F*&#ers

Well, it’s not been a good day. I woke up to find my bike lying on it’s side.

Harley lying on its side

I don’t know how it happened, but all signs point to it being pushed over. It was standing upright at 9:30 p.m. last night, but by 9:30 a.m. this morning it was lying on it’s right side. There was no wind to speak of overnight, so it didn’t blow over. There was a car parked directly behind it so it’s difficult to imagine that it was bumped. It fell to the right, not the left, so it wasn’t an issue with the jiffy stand. It had to have been pushed.

I’ve picked up a Sportster before by myself, but it wasn’t mine. The way this one fell near the curb, made it really difficult to get leverage to lift it. After a few attempts and a bit of puzzling, a stranger was driving by and asked if I needed help. Not too proud to say yes. We got it righted and took a quick look. He wished me luck and I thanked him and that was that.

Now to assess the damage. Their was a piece from the end of the brake lever that broke off and was lying on the ground. That brake lever was bent from the last time she tipped over. And the lens cap from the left rear turn signal was also lying on the ground. The housing for the turn signal was slightly dented and scratched, but the lens cap popped back in fairly easily. A few scuffs on the throttle grip and the fringe, and maybe on the tailpipe (I need to wash it to be certain) and that seems to be about it. Except for the gas. I had just filled it up on Friday before I parked it and it seems that all of the gas leaked out. And when I unscrewed the filler cap to check the level, the cap seemed looser than I would have left it. I wonder if they didn’t loosen it just to have the gas run out. At least the oil is in good shape.

I decided to start her up to see how she’d react and noticed a couple of more things. First, when I climbed on, the handlebars had moved. Now I’ve been bitching about the handlebars all summer. It seems that maybe they finally got moved where I wanted them. Seems odd though. Like crawling into a different car. They did seem tight though. I couldn’t get them to move anymore, so I’ll go with that. Mirrors will have to be adjusted though.

And secondly, as soon as I pulled the clutch in, she started to roll back. Before I had put her in neutral. Odd, and possibly not good. Put her in neutral and fired her up. Started right away with no troubles. Put her in first gear, also with no troubles. Let out the clutch a bit, still no troubles. OK. Maybe she’s good. Shut her down to ponder her fate.

I’ve got two working days before I leave for a couple of weeks. They’re forecast to be beautiful, just like today is. Lovely days to ride. I have errands I need to run too. But I need to get the bike into the garage before I leave anyway, and I’m not sure I trust it at the moment and I don’t have time to deal with it before I go. Screw it. Park it in the garage.

OK, back out to start it up again and put it away. Fired up again with no problems. The handlebars still feel different, but I just have to get it around the corner. Pull out and go to put my foot on the peg and – no peg. Duh! It got folded up when it fell. Kicked it down and didn’t like what I felt. Felt Loose. Wobbly. Not solid.

Bother. This I do not like. Whatever, just get it in the garage.

Got it parked, which is always a fun exercise as it gets parked crosswise in a single stall garage. Took a closer look at that footpeg, and while there doesn’t seem to be much for damage, it is a lot looser than the left side. Need to have someone look at that. Really don’t want to ride it until they do.

I did call the police to file a report. Not enough damage for an insurance claim (I don’t think at least), but there’s enough goings on in the neighborhood that I wanted it logged. Maybe if they catch the mischief-makers they can hold it against them.

While I won’t have to deal with it until I return in a couple of weeks, I am wondering if my riding season is over. Since my favorite mechanics are over 100 miles away I can’t just pop over and talk to them. One thought was to call them and have them pick it up and look at it while I’m gone. If it needs fixing, well that would settle it. I’d be done for the winter. If she’s good to go, I could have them bring it back and hope to get another couple of months worth out of her before the snow flies. Need to get that brake lever and probably grips dealt with either way.

Maybe I’ll give them a call in the morning.

Odometer: 10,121 miles

Odometer reading 10,002 miles

Well There’s That

Odometer reading 10,002 milesYesterday I finally tripped over the 10,000 mile mark on the odometer. Proud of that. Not happy that it took so long this year. I had expected that to happen in May, actually. But between the handlebars and cash issues, so be it. At least I can get the pin now. Wondering if I should just have them do the 10,000 mile service again this winter. Can’t say I trust the job that was done last year.

Speaking of which, there have been two things of note recently. In the last few weeks, I’ve finally gotten around to pulling the windshield off and giving it a go without one. First thing I noticed was how much louder it was, mostly because of wind noise. The next thing that struck me, literally and usually in the face, was all the stuff that gets kicked up from the road that I hadn’t really noticed. There’s a lot of construction in town and it seems I’m always behind a truck. After a couple of days of that I said “well this has been fun and I’ve proven I can do it, now put it back on.” That was a couple of weeks ago and I still haven’t gotten around to it. Since I’ve only been riding around town I guess I decided it wasn’t that big of a deal and I’ve gotten used to it. If I ever get out on the road again, I’m sure it will be the first thing I do to get ready for the trip.

The other thing that has happened is that I’ve gotten a bit used to the handlebars. I still don’t like them and will probably swap them out the first chance I get, but I don’t mind them so much any more. Maybe my arms have gotten stronger. Maybe I’ve learned to steer with my butt. Maybe I think the badass look is worth it. But I no longer hate them. However, I still can’t see taking them on a long trip.

Speaking of long trips. I missed Sturgis this year, mostly because of a bigger trip I’ve got coming up in a few weeks – to England. Probably worth it in the long run, but I feel bad that I’ve broken my streak. I heard attendance was down anyway. And no one I know went. I will have to correct that next year.

And I’ve got people on both coasts and down the middle of the country that I’d like to visit on an epic road trip. I need to start making plans to see if and when such an escapade would be possible. I sure would love to put a few thousand miles on the bike in one epic adventure.

Odometer: 10,008 miles