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

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Fork In The Road

Today is the fourth anniversary of "Forty Years on Two Wheels" and I have found myself pondering what to do next with the blog, if anything.

For me work presses in during the summer months, it's the nature of my line work, and most other things take a back seat to the demands of the 40 hour week. No matter, during the summer it's too hot to ride much and really enjoy it much (11:00 PM and 90°F right now). Too, health issues make long rides problematic these days and I have assorted other distractions rolling around inside my head.

I am slated to retire from my job in February 2009 and that brings a whole host of issues to be dealt with not the least of which is "Can I actually retire or do I just leave one place and go find a job but doing something I actually enjoy doing? Should I keep the Aprilia and the Gold Wing or is it wiser to sell one and go back to being a one bike guy? Should I sell both bikes and spend the money on a custom made shuffle board stick, cardigan sweater, and a bulk buy of Viagra? Can I really do anything terribly interesting with the blog at this point? When I started Forty Years On Two Wheels there were about six or eight motorcycle blogs total. Now there are hundreds. Do I have anything meaningful to contribute to the motorcycle blog scene or are other people doing it much better? "Yes" to that latter part at least.

For now I believe I shall take my own advice, frequently given to others, and go for a ride (heat or not) to think about stuff and see what comes of it.

Super Hunky

Back in 2005 I reminisced about my encounters with Rick "Super Hunky" Sieman, the near legendary 1970's editor of Dirt Bike Magazine and to my thinking, one of the two best motorcycle magazine editors ever. The original piece I wrote is here.

I was perusing the Adventure Rider forums last night and ran across this message thread about Rick and where he's at right now. Seems as if he's hit some seriously deep sand. If you read Dirt Bike in the early '70s and remember it fondly pay visit to his website, maybe pick up a copy of Rick's very funny and absolutely 100% historically (or hysterically) accurate book "Monkey Butt." If you want to know what racing was like when men were men and the desert was still wide open read "Monkey Butt." If you want to read what motorcycle magazine writing should be like and usually isn't these days buy his collection of articles on CD.

To my fellow bloggers, forum denizens, and assorted old fahrt friends, I'd appreciate it if maybe you'd pass along the link to the Adv. Rider message thread and the link to Rick's web page. I think he has way more fans even at this late date than he might realize.



Tuesday, June 24, 2008

News Film Courier

Although I've been with my present employer twenty-seven years now I had quite a variety of jobs prior to arriving on the doorstep of das auto company. Some of the jobs involved working in motorcycle shops, rep'ing for motorcycle accessory companies, and generally doing things that involved motorcycles.

In one of my more interesting employment adventures I worked briefly as a news film courier on a motorcycle (BMW R90/6) for NBC News in Burbank, CA back in 1974-75. Not much video tape on the street then, pretty much everything outside the studio was still shot with 16mm film so NBC had motorcycle couriers like me running hither and yon on company owned motorcycles and we would meet the news crews at a location and run the film back to the studio for processing while the news crew went to the next news scene. A good chunk of what was on the local news I'd already seen in person by the time I got home from work.

Being "inside" the news scene took me past police lines, to assorted phony anti-whatever demonstrations, and even up to the Watergate rascal John Dean's house. I said hi to John. He said Hi back. It wasn't an impressive moment. I did once meet Ronald Reagan who was yet to become President of the United States. That was an impressive moment and I don't believe I've ever met anyone with the sheer force of personality of Reagan . I also wandered into the L.A. office of Gov. "Moonbeam" Gerry Brown one afternoon while looking for someone else. I shook the gov's hand which was a lot like grabbing a fist full of warm linguine.

My particular assigned NBC bike was a nicely outfitted BMW R90/6 with a Vetter fairing, Bates saddle bags, Ez Berg custom seat, and a few other niceties. Always nice when your employer is willing to provide you with a free motorcycle and all the trimmings and then pay you good money to ride it.

I learned a lot about riding in that job and a little bit about the news business. I'll give you a hint about the news business: It's about selling advertising. News is merely the bait used to lure you into watching. If you've fished much you know that bait is often stuff that would otherwise be stinky garbage. You might want to keep that in mind as this election season progresses.

Shagging film, as we called it (no relation to the British concept of shagging), could be dull work except when someone was trying to turn you into the meat in a automobile sandwich. Most of us shagging film were riding about 4,000 miles a month in and around Los Angeles. You learned quickly to ride well and professionally in traffic. At the time I left NBC they'd never had a serious bike courier accident of any kind. The closest was when one of the guys hooked a foot on a curb and broke his ankle. NBC never did figure out that old Bill was blind in one eye. Imagine riding L.A. traffic every day and splitting lanes when you're blind in one eye.

You can ride safely in traffic if you're deadly serious about it and there is a right way and a wrong way to split lanes assuming it's legal where you live. When I moved to Arizona and had to give up lane splitting it was like being sentenced to traffic jail every day on the way to work.

I never crashed or even had a tip-over running film all over Los Angeles but there were plenty of close calls. On the way to the Los Angeles airport (LAX) to pick up a film package I got squeezed splitting lanes on the 405 Freeway (legal in CA) and I got away but felt the chrome saddlebag guards rub on the two cars. Doesn't get much closer than that. In the 33 years since then of doing other stuff for a living I've often wished I'd been able to stay at NBC and just ride bikes. In some ways it was the best job I've ever had and it might have been saner than other things I've found myself doing since then to earn a living.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

I Can't Help But Look

"Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?"
Wm. Shakespeare, As You Like It

A couple of years back I discovered the free on-line advertising page, Craig's List. I know, CL has been around for years but I'm a little slow to catch on sometimes. A good portion of CL is akin to what someone once called television: "A vast wasteland" and if you want your faith in human beings renewed don't spend any time reading CL. On the other hand, if you enjoy finding the odd and the unusual, the inexpensive or sometimes free, CL is your place.

Being free to non-commercial advertisers everyone and his uncle is tossing stuff on Craig's List to see what they can get for it. Reminds me a bit of eBay when it was still fairly new although eBay in the early days didn't even come close to approaching the weirdness of Craig's List in either variety or oddity.

Happily, on CL there between the couches for sale, some seriously twisted personal ads, rants about ex-wives, politics, and a zillion other things that people have (or should keep hidden) in the garage or basement are motorcycle ads. More and more motorcycle people are turning first to CL to post ads or shop for a bike simply because of the incredible variety of bikes being sold and the chance to maybe, just maybe, snag the deal of a lifetime.

I used to love to read CycleTrader.com but it was slow to load, had limited search capability, and the pictures were too small. Craig's List at least loads fast. Best of all, since CL is free and CycleTrader.com is now expensive, plenty of people list that old or unused bike or gear on CL, sometimes having no idea what their original condition Ducati 350 scrambler is or what it's worth.

Of course some folks have a seriously distorted idea of what their used bike is worth and some just don't have a clue. Mostly it's just fun to browse through and see what interesting or unique bikes might be found even if I'm not in the market to buy anything.

Here's a couple of examples of how good and how odd CL motorcycle ads can be all in one day:

A Moto Guzzi Quota. The "goose" Quota is a seldom seen adventure bike version just right for the rider who wants to be different and doesn't care if he can ever get parts or not. I almost traded a bunch of guns for a Quota once. Sort of sorry I didn't but I'd probably still be waiting for the new brake caliper it needed. Still, the Quota is cool.

Now, my favorite today: One of the oddest motorcycle ads I've seen yet. Anyone care to lease their sport bike to a newbie rider?

In case you can't make out the text in the picture, here it is:

"I want to lease your Sports Bike* - $1000 (Scottsdale)

Reply to:
Date: 2008-06-07, 5:06PM MST

I am in Scottsdale until Aug 26th and I want to pay you $1000 cash upfront to rent your motorcycle for the summer. I will also pay you an extra $300 if you teach me how to ride. I will only be driving it back n forth to work - 2.5 miles.

NO scooters please. I'm interested in a Honda GSXR/CBR, Yamaha R6 or bikes of that sort.

Please respond with options/deals/info and pics ASAP. "

Yup, if you need a fast $1000 you might want to jump on that one right after you answer that e-mail from the former prince in Nigeria.

Looking is fun, buying and selling on Craig's List (I've done both) is like anything on-line these days: Caveat emptor.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

NY State Police Harass Americade Attendees

Looks like the NY State Police have taken some cues from their brethren in down in Tennessee regarding heavy handed enforcement directed against motorcyclists:

Take a look at this posting on TheNewspaper.com (a road users news blog I check every day and you should too): Roadblock Targets Motorcycle Gathering

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the Lake George businesses are not going to be real happy about the effect on tourism this year and next. I'm thinking they would rather have people show up at the rally happy and ready to spend money rather than ticked off and their wallet pre-lightened by an harassment fine courtesy of the State of NY.

In the original source article at timesunion.com they mention "At the Lake George event that starts Monday, troopers will set up a motorcycle education and awareness station."
How would you like to be working that booth when a whole bunch of ticketed and ticked off rally attendees finally show up? A bit late for a PR effort, Sheriff. Americade isn't Sturgis and the NY State Police may have just stepped on their own baton.

It seems these days more and more "safety" and "enforcement" are merely code words for raising revenue for various government needs. The other problem, dear reader, is that NY State Police targeted riders in groups and without specific cause for inspections and searches, not merely pulled over people who were obviously committing a violation. Brings to mind the old line from the WWII era films where the border guard announces with a strong accent "Your paperz are not in order!"

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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