~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Another Brush With Fame

The last time my presence was felt in Cycle World Magazine was 1970. I'd gotten just a tad out of shape on my Bultaco Sherpa during a motocross, a photographer captured the moment for posterity or infamy, and the photo turned up in CW's last page "Slipstream" humor page. Not the sort of recognition a rider necessarily is after but given that most of us are doomed to obscurity I was glad for my 15 seconds (not minutes) of fame.

So 34 years on once again I've appeared in the pages of Cycle World, this time in the December 2004 issue, and this time not a photo, just an e-mail in the letters to the editor column. Hey, I'm no more famous now than I was in 1970 so I'll take whatever fame and adulation having my name in the magazine brings me. You may kiss my ring next time you see me.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Know Thyself

Aprilia Falco is gone. Hot, Italian, and fast. What was I thinking? Oh yeah, I was thinking I wanted something hot, Italian and fast.

Lordy, lordy but fast is fun. Last week I gave in to temptation and whacked the throttle full open through all but 6th gear. The pavement was mostly smooth and fairly straight and runs through nothing but cotton country and pecan orchards so I just decided to go for it. It felt like the right moment and sometimes you just gotta do it.

I figured that I'd let her rip to about 120 mph and back off. Heck, what's the harm in that? I'd done it plenty of times in days of yore. The gathering speed was like some drug I'd been hooked on once and kicked...but not quite. Once I had the taste of speed in my brain again I wanted more. The bike pulled so strong that as 120 went past I had to have more, had to have more of that acceleration feel, make the 990cc v-twin thunder last a little longer. More... More... The approaching bend in the road and a peek at the digital speedo coolly blinking past 148 mph convinced me to back off the throttle and settle down to something closer to 70. Lucky I my backpack didn't blow off, my lunch was in there.

I know, 150 mph is nothing these days for sport bikes but it's the fastest I've gone on a bike and I want to go faster. Soon. And often. No, not on the track either, the track is too limiting and Bonneville is too expensive and only once a year. I want to see the trees go by in a blur and the road turn into a tunnel while I wonder if some errant coyote will end his life and mine abruptly. I want pure, unadulterated, unregulated, no rules speed. I want to go scary fast. There, I said it. At the age of nearly 54 years the wild eyed kid that ran loose on the roads of Southern California in the early 70s still lurks inside just like I thought. Nice to see you again, lunatic.

I walked into work and plopped down at my desk to answer e-mail and ponder my moment of mild insanity. Assorted thoughts chased around. How fast will the Falco go? Most say about 155 mph. That's only 5 mph faster than I just went. Maybe a Hayabusa would be the ticket. Ticket... ticket... Red lights... Hand cuffs. Shame. Debt. Jail. New jail friends named "Big Mike" or "Ramrod" who want to know me in ways I don't wish to be known. No one I know has enough money or loves me enough to bail me out. This could get ugly. Ah, congratulations my friend, you're back to being 50-something again.

Beyond not wishing to give into speed lust more than I have, there were more practical issues with the Falco. Sadly, and as might be expected of some exotic woman, Aprilia Falco required things of me I was not able to provide and amongst them was self-restraint. That, and my poor old body, wracked by years of assorted sporting crashes, misadventures, and general abuse, was not able to sustain the required position for more than about 15 minutes without critical parts like my throttle hand going to sleep. Motorcycles are like women in some respects one of which is that they get difficult when you fall asleep too soon.

I'd added a set of Helibars to get a more sustainable riding position and they helped a little but not enough. Doing a hundred miles, even with a break, was a real chore and the constant fiddling to keep my throttle hand from going numb spoiled a lot of the fun. I should mention here that some three decades back I seriously wadded up a hang glider and injured my back. Since then the strength in my hands has been a little suspect. Remember kids, a misspent youth can haunt you for years.

From a practical stand point I was never going to be able to ride the Falco the way I wanted to, as far as I wanted to, as fast as I wanted to, plus I didn't want to wind up in jail. I came to the conclusion that the biblical remonstration to "flee temptation" had some merit here. After returning from a 100 mile Saturday ride during which I only broke the speed limits a little I sat down at the computer and placed an ad for the Aprilia in Cycle Trader On-line.

My brother was surprised that the Aprilia was leaving so soon and I told him no one would buy the bike, Aprilias are enough out of the mainstream that it could take months for it to sell. Apparently not that far out of the mainstream though.

Mark called about the bike on Monday and came to see it on Tuesday. He wanted the Falco. It was exactly, specifically, down to the color, what he wanted. Darn. He'd ridden a friend's Falco a couple of years ago and couldn't get it out of his head. I think can relate. Mark said on the phone that he was certain he wanted my Falco but needed to sell his 2002 Aprilia Caponord first. Hmm... Aprilia Falco's sister, Aprilia Caponord. Interesting. Falco is the hot model, Caponord is the gourmet cook. Interesting but dumb idea, Doug. I wanted an Aprilia Futura, the Falco's more fully dressed and more sophisticated sister. Something or someone more suited to a slightly dumpy, 50ish engineer.

So Mark and his Caponord came to visit Tuesday night and confirm what he already knew. After swapping bike stories for a couple of hours we got around to really looking over the bikes. Mark was sold on the Falco but there was the issue of the Caponord. We'd mumbled on the phone about maybe just swapping bikes as they were the same approximate value and then I would not have to spend time looking for a Futura. So howz about you hop on the Falco and I'll hop on your Capo while you make sure you really like the Falco? If one of us crashes, the other guy gets to keep the bike he's on.

I have to say the Caponord, for a fairly big bike, felt at home to me immediately. Even at 500 lbs it's a ballerina compared to the 1600 Kawasaki that occupies the biggest chunk of the garage. While Mark grappled for a minute in the driveway with the Falco's clip-on bars and clunky-when-cold gear shift, I did lazy circles in the street with the Capo. Sweet. Out on the deserted city street I whacked open the throttle on the big Caponord and it's healthy 98 horses let me know that they were all there but not with the fieriness of the 118 horses of the much lighter Falco. Fast, but not too fast, tempting but not too tempting. And the handlebars were such that I knew I could live with them.

OK, you already know where this is going. Mark loved the Falco, I loved the Caponord, so we shook hands and called it a match. Mark came by today, we handled the paperwork details, and Aprilia Falco went home with her new suitor. Mark is in his late forties and in better shape than I am. Perhaps more sensible or better disciplined too. Good luck, my new friend!

The weather is supposed to be excellent this weekend. I'm going to grab the Nikon, my comfy new friend, Caponord, and go exploring.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

That's Gotta Hurt!

A few years ago I was riding my 1999 Kawasaki Drifter to work for the first time and some bird tired of living did a half roll right into my path and clobbered me right between the eyes. Since I was wearing an open face helmet it was especially painful for me. Thank goodness for safety glasses. Still, it could be worse. Take a peek at this racer's encounter at the races at Firebird Raceway this past Sunday:

"After about 10 laps, I was going down the straight at 150+ mph (toward the end) when I felt what I thought had to be a huge nut or bolt from a bike in front of me hit me HARD in the right shoulder. " Click here for the whole story and pictures of what it really means to get nailed in a motorcycle race.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Motorcycle Art

Art by Jason Watt

While wiling away too much time reading messages over at Sport-Touring.Net I ran across some pictures and a link posted by artist Jason Watt. A lot of motorcycle art out there is fairly mundane so his carefully detailed and nicely balanced drawings really caught my eye. It's also great to see someone doing sport bikes rather than the usual Harley stuff.

Working in charcoal or colored pencil Jason captures the essence of speed on a racing bike without resorting to overly dramatic flourishes as some artists do. I find his work clean and classic. Jason is also doing Native American art that is very moving and will do portraits by commission. Clearly he's one very talented motorcycle guy who deserves to have his art purchased by enthusiasts. Click on over and take a look.

Monday, October 04, 2004

How To Get Your Butt Kicked, Part 2

I see that the links in my earlier entry about the Hells Angels patch/logo rip off no longer connect to anything but some cheesy anti-Kerry merchandise. Someone must have gotten a letter from an attorney or maybe a personal visit and consultation by their local chapter of the Red and White.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Outlet Store

In my usual weekend ramble I took the Kawasaki 1600 today; I've put about 300 miles on the Aprilia to the neglect of the big Kaw. No surprise that the bikes are a huge contrast to one another, almost as opposite as two motorcycles could be. The Kaw is comfy, torquey, easy to ride, a relaxing way to motor on down the road. The Aprilia is fast, fairly uncomfortable, and demands attention. There's not much that you could call relaxing about riding the Aprilia but I didn't buy it to relax so I'm happy and satisfied to enjoy the bike for what it is.

After putting some miles on the 110+ HP, 430 lb Falco, the Kawasaki's performance is not as entertaining as it was a couple of weeks ago. Given that I could relax more on the Kaw and have a better understanding of the Aprilia now, I did scout some country roads for a good place to make a top speed run on the Falco one of these days.

So I rambled over to Florence again without really meaning to. It's gotten to be a habit of sorts. I've taken some of my best photographs over that way so it's easy to drift back and look for more. The main feature of Florence, AZ, besides it's hand full of rustic buildings and history, is the big prison there. It's a real prison, not a country club prison, you won't find Martha Stewart there although the experience might be good for her.

Down the street from the prison gate is their own little outlet store, a place where you can buy goods or arts & crafts made by the prison inmates. I love handcrafted stuff and folk art so I finally got around to stopping in there to see what they had to offer. Handmade things usually require a little extra of a person so the object winds up with more personality, and to me, more intrinsic value than factory made goods.

Usually by the time I ride by the prison store it's late in the day and they are closed but with the Arizona weather moderating I was out early today and finally had a chance to stop in and look around the place. It's nothing like the outlet stores found along the freeways these days with the fake discount prices and sterile environments.

The store is Arizona rustic on the outside and isn't fancy but it's clean and tidy. Chalk that up to available cheap labor I suppose. The goods offered are unique and most are obviously hand made. A good selection of basic and some fancy leatherwork, woodcraft, decorative license plates (big surprise there) are offered. Assorted work jeans and somewhat darkly humored t-shirts are available too. Apparently the prison has a screen printing operation run by someone with a sense of humor. My favorite item was a bumper sticker that said "My son was honor prisoner of the week in cellblock C7." I suppose that keeping a sense of humor is essential to surviving in prison and not coming out even more dysfunctional than when you went in.

I have to say it's a bit sobering looking at the merchandise knowing that some soul confined for a good portion or all of his life made the item. People are in prison for specific reasons and I doubt that very many innocent folks are behind the barbed wire but if you have any sense of humanity at all you can't help but feel a little bit of sadness when holding a leather belt or wooden model, for a life gone so very wrong that freedom to move about, freedom live pretty much as you wish, freedom ride a motorcycle, are taken away. We humans have an amazing ability to squander our enormous individual potential.

Still, it was interesting all in all to finally visit the prison store. I should have taken more pictures at the store and I didn't buy anything but Christmas is coming and there's nothing like prison made goods to bring a little flavor to an otherwise ordinary Christmas morning so I'll be stopping in there again.

Friday, October 01, 2004

How To Get Your Butt Kicked

I'm sitting here laughing at the sheer stupidity of some people.

I ran across this little item on line: A political t-shirt and some other crap for Democrats in favor of George Bush for President. Apparently someone thought that trading on the fiery position of Democrat Senator Zell Miller of Georgia and ripping off the Hells Angels logo was humorous.

Click here to see how to get your butt kicked without even trying.

The Hells Angels have been around a long time and have all sorts of traditions not the least of which is their internationally copyrighted "winged deaths head" logo. Agree or disagree with the life and ways of "the Red and White," you'd still best not be giving them a hard time or be disrespectful of their club colors. They take their club and their patch VERY seriously.

In my much younger years I used to come into contact with some of the Hells Angels from the San Diego area and was always treated decently because I treated them with respect. Respecting them is an action that is not easy to define but they can tell when you don't. How do I know they had a degree of respect for me, a skinny little 19 year old, Yamaha-riding kid working in a gas station? I'd loan them tools and always got them back. In the years that I worked in the station, I never once was given a hard time except about the "%^#$ Jap bike" I rode. Mind you, these days when the annual Hells Angels Florence Prison Run happens about 30 miles from where I live, I wouldn't show up on my Kawasaki. No point in pushing my luck after all these years.

I can only conjecture what would happen if the Hells Angels saw a person on the street wearing one of these cheesy t-shirt knock-offs of their colors: There would be no discussion of copyright law, the right to parody or free speech. If you only wound up stripped naked in public you could count yourself lucky.

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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