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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Cool Factor

Everyone, whether they admit it or not, wants to look at least a little cool on their bike. We all know deep down in our little gasoline powered hearts that we do not look like Steve McQueen on his Triumph 650 or "Chino" from the movie "The Wild One" but we do hope we don't look like a complete noob paddling away from stop lights or dropping the bike in our own driveway.

About four weeks ago now the Mrs. took our one and only car and headed off to points East and South to visit with relatives living and dead (she's into genealogy). That left me with the Kawasaki 900 as my main transport and the wife's all white Honda Helix "chick scooter" for grocery runs. With the Helix's rear storage compartment and the big top box I can get a lot of ice cream, Hostess Twinkies, and TV dinners home from the grocery store while the official cook is gone, way more than the Kaw will haul.

Being astride the all white Honda scooter makes me feel a bit old...and well, dorky. I gave up trying to be cool long ago but no one wants to look or feel dorky. I suppose it goes back to my formative years as a motorcycle rider when only the school nerds and dorks rode "step through" scooters while we "real motorcycle guys" rode 80cc Yamahas.

In the here and now there are several other 250cc Honda Helixes (Helices?) around our little town, all ridden by gray haired old men. At this point in my life "old" is anyone more than a day older than I am. I admit that riding around town on the Helix does not fit my self-image as a "motorcycle guy" nor boost my testosterone level.

photo by whisperwolf
I was heading through town on the all white girlie scooter when some bad hombre on a chopped down, matte black with pinstripes, ape hanger'd Harley complete with dual fishtail pipes, an old style foot clutch and jockey shift, blew past me. He was decked out in his best ratty black jeans, wife beater t-shirt, no helmet, and packing a sidearm in the open.

I rolled up behind Mr. Bad Hombre in the turn lane to wait for an opening in the traffic and as I putt-putted to a stop he messed up with the foot clutch of his mean machine, stalled the engine, and almost dropped the bike.  >wobble, tip<  foot shoots out to catch it before he tumbles over like a total noob. 

After he regained his balance and started to move out I saw him take a quick look back right at me. I tried not to smirk. Yeah Mr. Bad Dude, I saw you, you messed up your cool right in front of the bespectacled old guy on a chick scooter, one of the "citizens" your whole bad boy bike and outfit was supposed to impress.

I'd have thought nothing of the incident if it was a guy on a Gold Wing or an Electra-Glide or most any bike because everyone messes up once in a while, but when riders, be they faux bikers or sport bike squids, try so hard to put on their "look" and "attitude" then any slip up just comes off as funny.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Heavy Metal

I've rolled up 700 or 800 miles on the Kawasaki 900 now, about half that just noodling around the local area and about 300 miles on a ride with friends up to Roosevelt Lake a week or so ago. The 900 Kaw does a nice job of getting me around and is generally a solid ride which is what I expected. If it had another 10 hp, a slightly softer ride, and less wind buffeting from the bottom of the windscreen it would be a fine bike for a long trip.

On a jaunt south down Interstate 10 a week or two back I spied off to the west what I took to be an old steam powered tractor. Since I was moving about 75 mph on the Interstate and in traffic I only got a quick look. I'd been down that way countless times but had never noticed the old tractor before. I made a mental note to take my camera and go back soon for another look. Like most guys that love motorcycles I find all sorts of other noisy mechanical stuff of interest too and the old machinery from yesteryear, especially the steam powered heavy equipment, is always an attention getter.

Today after lunch I grabbed my camera and headed off back down I-10, jogged off to the side road about where I thought I'd seen the tractor, and motored along with the freeway on my left and an older, more run down or run out area of roadside businesses on the right. I finally came to the tractor not far from Picacho Peak and pulled up by the wobbly chain link fence and gate separating me from my goal. The area is a bit rough looking and there was an emphatic "No Trespassing" sign on the fence so I didn't try to get closer than the zoom lens would let me.

The tractor turned out to be a steamroller of some vintage which I'd take to be maybe the 1920s. The steam part seemed to not be steam though, there was an in-line internal combustion engine where I'd expect to have seen the firebox for a boiler but the rest of the tractor fit the lines of a steam engine.

A close look at the gingerbread trim around the top of the "smoke stack" and elaborate but badly faded painted and heavy painted trim indicated that this tractor was clearly a stylish and impressive machine at one time. In our utilitarian society there is no budget or inclination to make heavy equipment also a thing of beauty. Even sitting and fading away in the desert in Arizona the old steamroller still had a strong presence the way only eight or nine tons of vintage cast iron and steel can.

I'm not sure about the maker of the tractor, I didn't get close enough to see a data plate or be able to get zoomed in on one with the camera. Since I'm not real knowledgeable about antique heavy equipment I thought maybe one of you Harley guys out there would know who made the great yellow beast by the roadside. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

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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

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