Saturday, December 31, 2011
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, Jac and I worked together at VW. He moved on to other adventures while I continued to toil for das Vaterland. We've kept in touch, more or less, over the years, especially since he started his own blog, Lehman Hill.
Jac's work for Chrysler Corporation had him traveling through Phoenix so he called me last week and suggested we grab a burger together as he passed through. Cool. We'd not actually seen each other in person in about fifteen years so this would be a great chance to catch up on motorcycle stories that don't fit into e-mails or blog entries. We met up at an Irish pub/restaurant in Tempe that was the favorite hang out of our late colleague and friend, Bob Wilson. Bob lost his life early this year while riding his Moto Guzzi. I think Bob would be pleased at our small remembrance.
Jac rides a pair of Kawasakis, a ZRX and a KLR650 but his work with Chrysler brings him into contact with the Harley-Davidson factory test guys just as my work did long ago. Being a great guy Jac acquired a Harley Proving Grounds t-shirt for me. He knew I need to re-fill my wardrobe and a hard to find H-D shirt would be just the ticket to start.
When we met up Jac presented me with this fine specimen of t-shirt-dom:
Fairly tasteful and subdued for an H-D shirt. Jac knows my flair for style or lack thereof. To a conservative rider like me, a '40s style pin up with most of her clothes on is preferrable to the usual flaming skeleton riding a chopper through the Gates of Hell. I like to think that fellow riders could imagine me with a pretty girl, it's less likely that they could imagine me on a chopper.
On the back of the shirt is the nice artwork that makes the shirt more special than most H-D shirts:
When I got home I walked through the garage and casually hung the shirt by my Suzuki V-Strom. The next morning I found what one might have expected from an H-D product:
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
|Y2K Jet Turbine bike. Sounds like a jet, smells like a jet, will empty your piggy bank like a jet.|
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Sunday I hopped on the V-Strom and went for my usual ride. It was the first time since probably March that it was cool enough to wear my leather jacket. I made my usual stop at Coolidge Airport, a former WWII military transit field. The airport was nearly abandoned, but is now coming back to life as a haven for interesting antique, vintage, and old military planes. Photos from the field have turned up here a number of times in the past and probably will again. I love the place.
I almost always find something interesting to photograph out there, whether it's an airplane or some rustic feature of the old place. This time, out in the desert a bit and just off my usual path, I found the old base swimming pool or "plunge" as they used to be called in the old days. I'd never found it before because it required a bit of dirt road work to spot it amongst the tall desert brush. From a distance the raised earthwork of the pool just looks like another desert "stock tank" for cattle, stock tanks are common around here.
Long abandoned now and behind it a rough stone building that I presume was the changing rooms for the swimmers, it was a bit of surprise to find. It's fun to stumble upon something like that and imagine how it might have been in the 1940s during the war, people splashing about and laughing, B17 bombers or P51 Mustangs flying overhead while someone plays Benny Goodman records by the pool. Noise, fun, laughter, and the cloud of war hanging over it all.
The "castle" changing rooms aren't quite as impressive when you get some scale to them. Anyway, so begins my winter riding season. For the other photo geeks, the camera was my Oly E-PL1 with a Panasonic 20mm F1.7 lens. The hanger shot was done with my Nikon D90.
Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Yes, I decided on the 2006 Suzuki V-Strom DL1000 "adventure bike" despite the 30k miles on the odo. The bike has been wonderfully cared for by it's previous owner since new and it showed when I looked at the bike. It looked good in the ad photos and better in person.
Better yet, the owner had added all the best farkles during his 5 years with the bike. He had already added Givi hard bags, a Sargent custom seat, adjustable windshield, center stand, bar backs, fork brace, crash bars, the works or close to it. Everyone loves to lavish a bit of money on a "new" bike but this one came with it all. I've been hard pressed to find anything more to do than toss a sheepskin on the seat and call it good.
But for some small scratches on the right saddle bag and the usual boot wear on the black frame, the bike is spotless and needed nothing. I did tell the seller, a very nice guy, all I could see to do was give the bike a good detailing -- the wheels were dirty -- and I usually keep my bikes squeaky clean. He looked a bit startled, as if I was nutz. Keep quiet out there.
Hepco & Becker crash bars are an especially nice touch should I tip over on the road to Timbuktu or in the Dairy Queen parking lot. The previous owner toured the western states with the bike and definitely used it properly.
The Givi detachable hard bags have plenty of room and are about the easiest I've seen for removing and replacing.
If the V-Strom has a negative, it's that I've found it difficult to photograph. It's silver and black and the lines of the bike don't flow; it looks like it was styled by a committee. BMW went for the full on military-industrial look with their adventure bike, the R1200GS, but the Suzuki seems trapped in the fractured landscape between style and function.
Never the less, the disjointed styling is redeemed by the 996cc 90° v-twin that makes near 100 horsepower, and while the the handling doesn't seem quite as trustworthy as my old Aprilia Caponord, the power makes up for it after riding the torquey but slow Nomad 1600. The V-Strom easily stormed to and indicated 120 mph with nary a bobble and there was still power left. Naturally, that run was done on a closed course with a professional rider... Side note: plastic water bottles in RAM cup holders will bail out somewhere around 115 mph.
I feel good about this bike, it runs very well, turns a very respectable 48 - 52 mpg, and has more than enough dirt capability for occasional dirt road excursions. Judging from the videos and pictures I've seen of people off-roading their VStroms, I'd say it's more off road capable than I'd care to be on a 500lb motorcycle. I have added my Garmin GPS to the bike which will make finding each city's Dairy Queen much easier.
So will this bike stay around a while? Who knows? I like it a lot so far, I've put about 600 miles on it now and can't find much to not like except the seat height and I can live with that. I just wish the V-Strom had come with an extra pair of jugs like that Harley.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
While I was waiting a few days for the deal to go through on the Kaw I scanned Craig's List with a hurried but eagle eye for just the right bike to snap up at just the right price on the day after I had cash in hand for the Nomad. Normally I might spend a week or three browsing, e-mailing sellers, and looking at bikes in person, but plans had been made and I didn't want to disappoint my old friend by delaying the long planned trip. Browsing bikes for sale on Craig's List is great fun, I even do it when I'm not shopping for another bike. It's like looking at pretty girls except that you know you stand some chance with the bikes. Here's some of the bikes that came into serious consideration:
I had a Kawasaki 1500 Drifter back in 1999 when they came out and it's on my list of all time favorite bikes. This one looked promising but memories of lousy storage possibilities and worrying about patching tubed tires on the highway steered me away from my old favorite.
A Kawasaki ZRX1200 seemed like it would be fun and my old VW colleague Jac would like me even more. But I suspected that while ZRX might prove plenty fast, the bike might otherwise not offer the panache that I was also seeking.
A Suzuki VStrom 1000 appealed because my brother had one and loved it, both sizes of the VStrom enjoy a great reputation for performance and longevity, but the 30k on the odometer still concerned me a little. I'd rather have had it's classmate, the Aprilia Caponord, but I couldn't find one at a price I could afford or within a reasonable distance.
The object of my perennial moto-lust, the 2006 Triumph Scrambler, was located over in California. Clean, unmolested Scramblers are not that easy to find unless you're willing to travel. The miles were low, the pictures the owner sent showed the bike to be in great shape, the color was red and I like red bikes, and best of all, Keith could stop on the way over to AZ, put the bike on the trailer with his VFR, and bring it with him.
Sadly, as the deal heated up, the owner finally told me he didn't have the title in hand, it was with a credit union. Ack! No, I wasn't going to give him cash, take the bike, and then wait for some credit union to mail me the title after the seller paid off his loan. I did a deal that way once with a friend and the bike sat in my garage, un-titleable for two months because of a credit union screw up.
|yes, those are the real pictures from the ad|
One ad for a Harley caught my eye again and again, apparently it came with options I'd not thought of looking for. Who wouldn't like an extra set of jugs for their bike?
I bought a new Harley back in '86 and enjoyed the bike a lot and I've never discounted the possibility of getting another one. I could be part of the gang again and dig out all my old black t-shirts, maybe become a 60 year old prospect for a club.
The Ducati Multistrada, another cousin to the VStrom and the Caponord, had the exotic appeal of all Italian bikes. I pondered it long and hard and worried that I wasn't up to the exotic shop prices for Ducati service and repair work.
And so it went, bike after bike looked at and the the possibilities discarded based on a clue in the pictures or an e-mail from the seller. But the batch above made the final consideration for one reason or another, none of which were necessarily logical.
Oh, there was a 2001 Kawasaki Concours that I liked and it had lots of farkles but the pictures in the ad were all upside down and it seemed like too much of an omen or at least and indication that seller might not be into paying attention to his bike.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Dumb luck meets a little knowledge. My buddy Keith arrived last Wednesday and we've been wandering about a bit on our bikes. We stopped at Coolidge Airport at sunset on the off chance there might be an interesting vintage plane or two still sitting out. Keith parked his '95 Honda VFR 750 and walked over to look at the old wooden hanger, one of the last of it's kind in the US, a relic now of WWII airfields. Coolidge Airport was a transit field during the war and old photos show B17 bombers, P51 Mustangs, and other great planes of that era filling the field as they made their way east and on to the European theater of war.
I happened to "see the shot" of the VFR when Keith parked his bike, red bikes and sunset are always a winning combo, the light was just right, I had a 20mm f1.7 prime lens on the Olympus E-PL1, and managed to not to shake too much for the 1/10th of a second shutter speed. The shot is actually a little soft from a bit of shake but I think the softness works with the light.
The light changes very quickly once the sun is on the horizon, a minute or two later it was effectively dark so my photo of the old hanger has quite a different look to it as the camera struggled with the white balance from the fading sunlight mixed with the artificial lighting on the hanger.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
|Why do people put OBO? Why not just say|
how much you really want for it?
I'd thought to refill my threadbare wardrobe of motorcycle t-shirts but couldn't even find a proper Bultaco t-shirt worth buying. The event is predominately a Harley thing and but in the past there's been a smattering of Brit bikes to add some interest. Even a Norton t-shirt would have been welcome. There was a booth this year for BMW adventure rentals and it seemed a little out of place.
I didn't even take that many pictures but here's some shots of the high points.
|One man's treasure|
Monday, October 10, 2011
"Now you're talking" I replied. So I secured my two cameras a little better, crawled up into the bed of the pick up truck and prepared to head skyward on the ladder of death. "It's gonna sway a little" he said. He wasn't kidding but what the heck, the worst that could happen was that I'd plunge to my death at a motorcycle event and there are worse ways to die. Besides, the roll away tool chest in the back of his truck would probably break my fall. So I grabbed onto the ladder and started up, careful to place hands and feet firmly and not look about too much.
I suspect the sales guy thought I might give up part way when he said "If you get to the top, ring the bell." No problem, the swaying ladder rang the bell all the way up. He probably didn't suspect that the dumpy old guy with the cameras was also a former hang glider pilot who's flown places like Glacier Point in Yosemite. I'm not especially afraid of heights as long as I've got decent equipment. I thought the ladder thing looked decent, it was painted red and hooked to a truck, that seemed like a good sign. Firemen do this stuff all the time, right?
Half way up I stopped to adjust my Nikon so it didn't clunk the ladder. I heard someone below me say "More balls than brains." He might be right, I have a crazy streak and it's not as wide as it once was but it's still there.
So I got to the top, got an arm securely around the ladder and shot a few pictures of the event. 20ft down below the swaying ladder I could see a few people looking up, no doubt hoping the guy on the ladder would plunge to his death and they could tell their friends about the cool thing they saw at the swap meet.
|I half expected a crowd to gather and begin yelling "Jump! Jump! Jump!"|
|The blue tent is the Hells Angels booth. You'd think it would be red and white.|
Saturday, October 08, 2011
Naturally the ad got an immediate reply from a scam artist which was duly deleted. A couple of weeks went by and I'd practically forgotten about the ad. Then I got an e-mail from someone who seemed pretty interested. Wanted to come look at it at 9:30 the next morning. Drat, that means getting up early. Blah. Okay, fine. I promised myself I wouldn't negotiate on the price, if the bike was going to go it would go for the asking price or stay in my garage; I sorta kinda decided that I didn't really want to sell it anyway. So the buyer came out, loved the bike, didn't test ride it, never even made me a lower price offer. After the usual paperwork mumbo jumbo the bike rolled off with it's new owner and left me feeling somewhat regretful for a change. Hmm... Not sure that was the thing to do. I'd just painted myself into a corner motorcyclely speaking (I made up that word).
My old friend Keith, over in California, and I have talked about taking a ride together for over thirty years now but have never done it, mostly because Keith didn't have a bike. In a fit of familial responsibility he'd sold his last bike, a 750 Norton, back in the '70s.
Then all these years later Keith went mad (with some prompting from me) and bought himself a '95 Honda VFR 750, not exactly the typical re-entry bike for a rider returning to the sport at the age of 65, but buy it he did and ride he is and having a grand time. He says it's quite a bit faster, more comfortable, and with better brakes than his 1970 Norton. Uh, yeah. He's a bit like a Rip Van Winkle awaking to find that the world has changed in forty years. Fortunately he's a cautious, methodical guy and has done well easing back into riding.
After endless phone calls and discussions of bikes Keith and I made plans to actually go for a ride together after all these years, we'll ride some local stuff here in Arizona and maybe up north to visit my friend Dean at his bunkhouse. So Keith will be here from California this coming Wednesday with his VFR and I don't seem to have a bike at the moment. I gotta move fast. Stay tuned.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
|The veranda on the main house that was a cabin|
A few years ago, semi-retired (Pam still works) and with more time and energy than money, Dean and Pam decided to expand the one bedroom cabin on the property they bought at the end of three miles of dirt road. First the cabin was expanded a little, ok, a lot, to make room for them. Then large verandas and decks were added so they and their and friends could enjoy the views. A workshop was needed, and finally they decided to add a garage where their motorcycle friends could park their bikes, and oh yeah, a little bunkhouse style set up so guests could sack out after a long ride. But being work-alcoholics, or at least highly-motivated, they sort of got carried away. No fat checks were written to contractors, either, they did the work themselves.
|Just a little spot for their motorcycle friends|
|Rob rides in from SoCal|
|Dean rides in on his new BMW K1600|
|Pam's exercise room.|
An exercise casita was added because building and landscaping the place themselves apparently wasn't enough exercise.
Yes, they really built it all themselves, two people in their 60s did it because no one told them they couldn't and because life and friendship is about doing, not just talking or watching.
Only rarely was a contractor brought in, mostly it was just the occasional friend or friends to help with painting or tasks like setting huge beams that were not safe to do alone.
|Community kitchen and living room in the bunkhouse.|
|Couples get first dibs on the private rooms. |
Gromit and I arrived late and shared a hide-a-bed
in the workshop.
|The 3 miles of dirt road to get there is easy in a car, |
a little more challenging on a bike.
|Gromit fit right in.|
|Sun tracking solar panels power the place|
|View from the bunkhouse deck at sunset|
|Friendship matters more than brands.|
You can read Dean's six year long "build thread" about the place here. I'm hoping to head back up there next month, this time on my motorcycle. Dean promised to let me ride his new BMW K1600 and how can I pass up an opportunity like that?
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"When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour." - T.E. Lawrence
An Important reminder from the past:
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison