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

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Tweak Or Two

The above photo is of a Dellorto carburetor on a single cylinder Ducati.  You younger readers will put the carb in the same category as vinyl records and kickstarters and you'd be correct.  It's what real men tuned and fettled (fettled is a technical term, not a dirty one) before some idiot with a computer invented digital fuel injection and made bikes easy to start.  No, there's no air filter on the carb and it came that way from the factory.  There was only a screen sufficient to keep out birds and squirrels.

None of that has anything to do with the subject of this post though, I just felt like putting up that picture and this one, the opposite end of the spectrum, a supercharged Yamaha Vmax:

Now down to the important stuff.  I noticed today that in porting over the blog to the new Blogger software somehow the blog roll down right got messed up.  I'd just updated it not long ago, pruning off the dead blogs and adding a couple new ones.  Today I re-did it and tried to include the blogs of the regular readers here, as best as I know them.   If you were on there and got deleted and would like to be back on, let me know.   Reciprocal links are appreciated.  No porn sites though.  Don't want the Mrs. to think I'm hanging out on-line with hoodlums, sickos, and engineers, even if it's partly true.  Yeah you, you know who you are.

Something else worth mentioning here is font size on the blog and on other web sites, for that matter.  If you're seeing itty bitty font sizes and you can't make them out, that's not intentional on my part although it would help obscure the typos.  40on2 posts are formatted for a nice, easy to read 12pt font.  If you need to make the words larger try this:  Hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard and use the scroll wheel on your mouse or +- keys on the keypad of your keyboard to shrink or enlarge fonts as needed.  Don't know how that works on a Mac though.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Upgrade Complete

Well, that wasn't as bad as I thought.  Since I last tried to upgrade 40on2 to the new version of Blogger, the Blogger people have further improved the new interface so elements from the old page ported into the new one without much fiddling around.  I think I spent more time trying to decide what to use for a header photo than anything else.  Still not entirely happy with the header pic but it's easy to change now so maybe I'll change it regularly just for fun.

For what it's worth, the pictures in the header are from: 1974 touring the Sierra Nevada Mountains on my BMW R90S -- sitting on the porch at the Camp Verge Historical Monument in 1999 (photo taken by my son, then 12 years old - we were on my Kaw 1500 Drifter) -- and last year with the current resident of my garage, a 2007 Kaw 900.  I was going to include a photo of every bike I've owned but then the header would look more like bad acid trip than a photographic record.

To answer the question Jac asked me in a previous comment, the "Why?" of the change has to do with being able to move things around or change things on the page if I wish and not have to dig into the HTML behind the scenes so much, something I always find to be a painful trial and error experience, much like buying a new crash helmet or changing brands of underwear. Having an able assistant like my pal Gromit helps with the computer work but not so much with the underwear.

A "thank you" goes out to Matt at Footshifted site for offering to help me with a conversion to WordPress software but the Blogger conversion was easy enough for now but I do appreciate the offer of help.  One day I would like to escape the clutches of Blogger entirely but not yet.

If you happen to find something on the page that doesn't seem to work, let me know and I'll see if I can fix it or just delete it.  Suggestions for blog post topics are always appreciated, too.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Upgrading My House of Cards

40on2 is still running on the old version of Blogger and it seems like it's time to upgrade to the new, modular version of Blogger that supposedly makes it easier to customize the blog.  If I was smart I'd buy my own domain and switch to WordPress but I tried that once and it didn't go well. WordPress blogging software is very powerful, assuming you can figure out the code which is explained to non-geek users even more poorly than Blogger code. The only language I know is English, not HTML or CSS or whatever cryptic nonsense creates the pages you see so if 40on2 looks a bit more odd than usual it's just me trying to make the new version look like the old version using the new software. No doubt I'll end up pulling out what's left of my hair.  If it wasn't 900° outside I'd just go for a ride.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tough Guy

My Internet friend Dean L., an avid BMW enthusiast to the point of possibly needing an intervention, was on his way from Arizona to the BMW Motorcycle Riders of America national rally up in Washington State.  Rolling along on his new BMW R1200GS Dean spotted an old BMW parked at a small town cafe.

Ever curious and always ready to make a new friend, Dean stopped to see who was traveling on the old Beemer. The bike was a 1955 R26. The R26 has a 250cc single cylinder four stroke engine that produces about 15 horsepower.   The Beemer was heavily loaded, and as it happened, on it's way from New York to the same rally to which Dean was headed in Washington.   How tough do you have to be to ride a loaded down 250cc BMW across the USA?

From Dean: "Went inside the cafe and found the neatest guy. He is 75 year old Ray Terwilliger riding cross country to the rally from Eden, New York just under Buffalo. A super guy that rides all over the country... ...He looked and acted in great shape... ...especially since he had 15 inches of his lower colon removed 3 weeks ago to remove a small cancer, they got it all and he says that he feels great."

Anyone here think they are as tough a rider as Ray Terwilliger?  Not me.  Helmets off to Ray T. You sir, are a rider of the first order!

More here where Ray found a bit of TV fame after he arrived at the rally: KOHD TV

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Norton Project

I don't usually post just a video unless it's germane to whatever I'm rambling on about, but this one is too good not to pass along. If you love motorcycles and this doesn't choke you up a little bit you need a new heart.

The Norton Project from Jamtron on Vimeo.

Via The Motorcyclist Cafe

Monday, July 05, 2010

Ghost Of Races Past

If you stood in the middle of the the very large meadow outside of Laurel, Maryland, you would only think that it had perhaps been a farm field or cow pasture.  Or maybe the large earthen berm around parts of it's perimeter indicates there had been a large pond there at sometime in the past.

The meadow, flat and green with spiderwebs across the grass reflecting the morning light, gives no indication that the rural site was once home to tens of thousands of cheering people, racing engines wrung out to their limit, and men risking their lives for fame and money.  This was the site of Maryland's old board track, Laurel Speedway.

 Laurel Speedway, 1925. National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress
I don't believe there has been any area of motorcycling more crazy, more at-the-limit and beyond, than board track racing.  Here's a short clip on YouTube, it's a trailer for the hopes-to-be-made movie "Splinter Road":

You can see in the old black and white photo above, that Laurel Speedway (more correctly known as Baltimore - Washington Speedway) was a massive, 48° banked  track, just over a mile in length, and constructed by bolting and nailing together 2x4 lumber and placing it on edge until they'd created the 1920's equivalent of a NASCAR speedway, but from wood.  By modern measures, it's mind boggling to create such an edifice out of lumber.  And then go race cars and motorcycles on it at speeds over 100 mph? That's nuts.

The men who raced on such tracks were young, brave and maybe a little crazy.  The machinery, especially the motorcycles, were rudimentary but absurdly fast for machines fitted with bias ply tires made of weak rubber and cotton cord, powered by finicky, temperamental engines, and with no brakes.  Speeds would average easily over 100 mph. It all makes our modern mile dirt track races look slightly sane.   

Here's a quick clip of what one of the bikes sounds like. Not the pop-pop-pop antique engine you might imagine:

So, what of of Laurel Speedway today?  Like the racers who risked everything for fame and money nearly 85 years ago now, it's gone back to the land.  In it's place a business park is to go up.   But a look at older images in Google Earth shows that even long after the mighty speedway was demolished, it's giant foot print lingered on the topography of Maryland.  
Laurel Speedway, 2007
Late in 2009, Dale Neiburg, after reading about Laurel Speedway on the Shorpy.com photo site and realizing the old race track site was not far away from him, slipped through the fence of the old speedway property to see what might be left of the track.  Dale was kind enough to send me a CD of the photos he made that day.  Those opening photos of the green meadows are his, here are a couple of more.
 Laurel Speedway, 2009. 
Sadly, not much to be seen there, some large earthen banks hint at the base of the  board track grandstands and maybe some of the track, but not much else. 
 Laurel Speedway location, 2009.  I wonder what a metal detector would find?

I find it fascinating that there is anything at all left, but the spectacular and dangerous place still marks the modern landscape long after it was dismantled after barely two years of racing.  Motorcycles and racers are like that too.  Long after they are gone, a great bike or a great racer can leave and imprint on a the landscape of the imagination.  That is why so many custom bike builders today are taking styling cues from the old old board track race bikes.  The bravery and the insanity on public display at places like Laurel Speedway have left permanent imprint on the history of motorcycling and are still in the minds of modern riders 100 years later.

For a good overview and photos of what board track racing was wall about, the always excellent Vintagent blog has a nice summary here.

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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