Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Memorable Ride

I’m in the planning stage for my Spring Break ride toward Seattle. More and more I don’t feel that I will make it that far. In my research for a route I find the average temperature over the Loneliest Road, US 50, through Nevada is 28 for the low and 58 for the high. It appears to be in the 7,000+ foot elevation and the high point is over 13,000 feet. Snow is a real possibility. I’m determined to start on that route, but not married to it. Riding in the cold isn’t too bad, but freezing wind takes a lot out of me.

Thinking of this trip harkens me back about 26 years to when my daughter, Jeane, was six years old. I rode a 1982 Goldwing Aspencade. I decided I wanted to add a sidecar, also known as a hack, and purchased a two passenger model from California Sidecar in LA. I ordered it, waited for almost a month, and scheduled to pick it up on a Friday. The time finally arrived and as I was preparing to leave my daughter asked if she could go. After some discussion with her mother it was determined that she was old enough for a road trip. We mounted up and were off on our adventure on a Thursday afternoon.

An adventure it was. Jeane being six was susceptible to falling asleep in, or on, a moving vehicle. Even if that vehicle is a motorcycle. Seventy miles an hour and a six year old falling asleep isn’t a good match even on a Goldwing. She was just small enough to be able to slip around the arm rests and dangle over the side of the bike, precariously close to falling off. Because I just couldn’t keep her awake I had to stop and make her safe. The only thing I could come up with was to use my belt to tie her upright to the trunk of the bike. That worked well and she safely slept almost the entire way there.

Then there was a little thing called the Santa Anna Winds that made an appearance around Indio. Riding at almost a forty-five degree angle to vertical to be able to go straight was work. I think I even questioned my sanity a time or two during this trip. Passing or being passed by a semi was an adventure as the bike would straighten up until it was past and then jerk back to the lean angle required to go straight down the road.

We showed up at the sidecar shop on Friday and they went to work installing our new car. They gave me a loaner bike with a hack and we were off for a ride. This was my first time ever driving a hack and it was an adventure all its own. This time would be invaluable when faced with the ride back to Phoenix. Stopping required much more thought than riding just the bike. All the normal motorcycle steering I had ever known was now useless. It was learning to ride all over again.

After the new Friendship car was installed we were on our way back home. At Ontario the bike just quit. Right on the freeway, but close enough to hit an exit. As luck would have it that exit had a motel and a Checker Auto. The motel was open, the Checker wasn’t. We had to spend the night and wait for Checker to open the next day to replace the battery. We finally got rolling with Jeane enjoying all the room in the two passenger sidecar to herself. She would sit for a while, lay down for a while, and crawl into the nose of the car for awhile. It had to be great fun for a six year old to experience that first ride all alone in a sidecar. I know it was great fun watching her and driving it down the road and learning to ride all over again.

This is the only picture of the sidecar I can find. That was a really great rig when the trailer was added. There was also a convertible top and windows that could be installed when the weather or sun required. There was a gas tank in the sidecar, behind the seat, that used an electric fuel pump to supply the bike. I think it held ten gallons and the range was more than a person wanted to ride without stopping. That is unless you were a six year old little girl going on your very first road trip on a motorcycle with your dad. I'll bet Jeane doesn't remember a lot of the other trips taken in this rig, but I know she remembers this one.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Piggy Is Completed and Towable

This is the first picture of Piggy attached to Petunia. This is just after a quick trip around the neighborhood to check her out. There are only a couple of finishing details to have her totally done and ready for the open road. The biggest one being putting weather seals around the lid. I'm really surprised it didn't come with any.

Completing the assembly of Piggy was mostly uneventful until the wiring. It seems that when I first finished turning on the left blinker would activate the emergency flashers. Triple checking all of the connections didn't solve my problem and I tugged her anyway, but riding and not using turn signals just didn't work for me. So, Sunday I talked to Doug, Nancy’s dad, and he suggested disconnecting the LEDs to see if that was the problem and it wasn’t. But because of him telling me to do that I disconnected every wire one at a time until I had gone through each one. Because none of that worked I turned the hazard flashers on and just sat and watched them. Watching them made me see that the turn signals, on Petunia, are also brake lights. That is accomplished with a plug and play adapter that was down stream of the Hoppy Converter. I moved it up stream and the lights now work perfect. All of that because I didn’t think about the auxillary turn, tail, brake lite adapter.

This is my trailer connection prior to making the final repairs to the turn signals. I have since zip tied the flexible conduit to the wires and added a Master lock to the hitch to prevent accidental unlatching. Yea, you can also read theft into that last sentence, but I was trying to be PC. I don't think I'm happy with the safety chains and think I will shorten them and use a different method to connect them to the bike.

I added these really cool decals that I got from E Bay to dress Piggy up just a touch. The Eagle is a left and right pair that cost $9.96 and the Support Our Troops ribbon was $3.96. These items both came with free shipping. They came from Weston Signs and Decals an E Bay store. The eagle picture isn't very clear, but the decals are a great quality and a nice way to display the Patriotic mood I feel. I am a very strong supporter of our brave young men and women that are willing to fight and sacrifice for the freedom I enjoy.

Piggy went on her maiden voyage Sunday morning even though her turn signals didn’t work properly. But, I wasn’t letting a little thing like turn signals stop me from tugging her around and finding out how she felt behind Petunia. I took off and after about a quarter of a mile I thought Piggy was going to bounce me right off of Petunia. It sounded like she was jumping off of the road and when I slowed down it seemed worse. It was then that I realized that Piggy wasn’t bouncing, but rather the plastic saw horses I put in her were rattling as she rolled down the pavement. So, I sped up and got to smoother asphalt and Piggy settled right down. Following, nearly empty, she was right at home behind Petunia and I only heard her when we hit a bump and those saw horses rattled.

That brings me to the claim of others that they can pull a trailer and forget it is even there. It took about three blocks for me to remember what it felt like to pull a trailer. It all flashed back to me, riding almost in the center of a lane to keep the trailer in my lane. It is on a rare occasion that I would ever consider riding in the center oil pattern of a lane. But, when pulling a trailer it becomes a necessity to avoid becoming a casualty. Drift too far to the left and you are in the next lane rubbing up against a cage. Too far too the right and you risk dropping a tire off the pavement. If you can tug a tail and forget it is back there you might print a sign that says….HEY, WAKE UP! THERE IS A TRAILER FOLLOWING YOU….and tape it to your windshield. Yep, it was there and following like it knew where it was going.

After the initial bouncing scare I am quite pleased how Piggy tracked and responded. I also took her out to Gilbert, the long way and with a bigger, quiter load, and had her cruising at 75 mph. Again the occasional bump would make her rattle, but bounce and sway were not a problem at all. My next test will be to take her out the back roads to Wickenburg and over the twisties to Bagdad. I'm not afraid to just hit the road with her, but working out the kinks and retightening all the nuts and bolts is better done at home than the open road.

So, now I need to get down to the planning of the first adventure with Piggy. It is only six and a half weeks to departure. Many things to plan and check out before hitting the road. I did start checking the March average monthly weather reports on the route I wanted to start on, but a lot of those temperatures are in the low 30's. More checking is in order because traveling up to the 14,000 foot elevations in March might be a bit much. Time will tell how willing I am.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Why is it that humans only seem to reflect in times of stress? My brother is in Intensive Care and thankfully expected to pull through, again, even though it seemed to be touch and go during the weekend. So, during an illness, so close to home, I find myself reflecting.

Just what the hell is important in life? Money, job, stuff, or impressing the neighbors? What would it take to make me happy? I teach, partly because of my brother. About twenty years ago he was in the hospital and had brain surgery. We were told on at least three occasions that he wouldn’t survive the night. I was able and stayed at the hospital for many long hours. During that time I reflected. I wondered why I was working so hard to make my plumbing company grow. Why I worked for so many hours when life was so fragile. I realized that I wasn’t truly happy doing that, so I shut the company down. After a short period I qualified for a commercial plumbing license for a friend and went to work for him. It didn't take long to find our ideals weren’t compatible and I quit. That is when I made the decision to become a teacher.

How does this relate to motorcycles you might ask. Because of the question of why a person rides. I was thinking about my brother and realize that he, above anyone else I have ever known, lives life by his rules and on his terms. World be damned if anyone doesn’t like it. He is an individual that doesn’t conform to the expectations of others. He is who he is and if anyone doesn’t like it they can just build a bridge and get over it.

Riding is like that for me. I’m not looking to impress folks. I’m not a brand snob and I don’t care what you ride or even if you ride. I ride for me and only for me. There is a freedom on Petunia that doesn’t come from anywhere else in life. I think I am a tad of a loner and traveling solo on Petunia feeds that part of me. Sure, I enjoy the company of people. We all need people in our life, but we also need something that allows us to be what we are.

Riding allows me to be free. Riding makes me happy and when I come to a fork in the road I can choose to go left or right. The very best part of riding is leaving with an idea of a destination, but without it set in stone. In seven weeks I will set out headed to Seattle. I may or may not make it there. Whatever, I’ll have a good time and stories about the fork I took that didn’t allow me to reach my planned destination. Sort of like my brother, my rules, my terms.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Piggy Comes Home

This is Piggy coming home last Friday. She was well boxed and all the parts were with her. That is the axle up on top. Picking her up at FedEx saved $60 and a day of not missing school. Seemed a waste to take a day off to sit and wait for a five minute off load. So, I saved my day for something more important like registration. But, I might be able to register her at a third party DMV station and miss all the waiting that happens at the DMV main offices. As I recall it is an extra twenty bucks or so, in and out, no fuss. Just if they can inspect a new trailer.

This is Piggy out of the box waiting to be put together

This is Piggy, starting her life, Saturday morning at 4:45. I wanted to be able to get the car in the garage and with her spread out it wasn't possible.

These are the first pictures of Piggy taken Saturday. She really isn't together, the box is just sitting because it needs to come off for wiring. Notice how plain the tail view looks. I'm waiting for Harley turn singnals and a LED third brake light to make her more visible.

Here is Piggy Monday afternoon with her new, updated, visible rear end. I'm guessing there won't be a problem seeing her when those eleven LEDs light up. All she needs now is to be wired up and connected to Petunia. That won't be until the Hoppy Electrical Converter comes. This was an Amazon dot com special that saved me $25 over picking it up here in town. Because I'm not in a big hurry saving a bit of money is a good thing. So far the only things I've bought locally have been nuts, bolts, washers, and flexible conduit.

Now it is wait until the three day weekend to finish up. I will wire her for sure, but if the Hoppy doesn't come I won't connect her to Petunia. Because I've pulled a trailer before I think I know what to expect when I tug her for the first time. It will still be fun and I'm sure a run out the freeway to Gilbert will be in order. Then I'll need to dream up an excuse to take her out somewhere and really try her out.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tortilla Flats

Saturday was a perfect riding day. The weather was a bit cool, but the sun was shining and there must have been several hundred bikes out during the day. The destination was Tortill Flats out on the Superstition Highway. You go out US 60 to Idaho Road, turn left for about six miles, turn right and enjoy the curves of the road for the next sixteen miles. At Tortilla Flats you will find a Saloon and Restaurant that has great food. Of course there is adult beverage of your choice if you choose. You may or may not want to sit at the bar. At the bar you will be required to Cowboy Up and sling a leg over the horn of a saddle and enjoy a cool one while pretending you are on a cattle drive.

One of the riders, Kristen, showed up on this bike. It is a Ridley. A 700cc sweet looking ride. Nice looking paint and of course I love the spoke wheels and wide white walls, but the reason for mentioning the Ridle is because it is an automatic. No clutch, no shift, no selector lever, just start and accelerate. Kristen said she never feels it shift that it just goes. In the group it just went 80 mph just like all the other motorcycles. So, if you or your lady friend wants to ride, but all the shifting is a problem you might look Ridley up and go look at them. By the way, it is an American made scooter made in Oklahoma.

Kristen, did I mention the girl could sing? The Tortilla Flats band was playing on the patio and announced they had a guest that wanted to sing a song with them and invited her up to the stage. It was a surprise when Kristen walked up. Not only could she sing, but she was great! They even had her do a second song and it was better than the first. Kinda like a bike on a cold morning........gotta get those pipes warmed up.

This is what Canyon Lake looks like today. It is just about dried up and isn't accessible to boats. It has been drained to allow for maintenance on the dam. With any luck Arizona will get some more snow this year and it will be back to full in a couple of months. Even with the lake this low the restaurant at the marina is open and serving. The scenery and ride alone make this a worth while trip. There are other options for your dining pleasure out in this area as well. A ride almost always makes a guy hungry and there are plenty of places to make you feel like you are out in the old west.

Saturday morning, glorious weather, Petunia in the garage..........on the other hand laundry, cleaning, yard work. Just what the hell is a guy supposed to do? Does anyone know a good cleaning lady?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

To Trailer or Not

Trailers. Should a guy pull one or not? What’s wrong with just stacking stuff on your bike and strapping it down like in the old days? That was the dilemma I was having as I was debating the trailer issue.

First off, I was a trailer guy back in 1983. Yep, back when there were very few trailer guys and people made fun of us. But, with that sidecar and taking four people on a motorcycle trip I had to have the extra room. That and it was way cool to be on the cutting edge of innovation.

But, now with me riding Petunia solo is there a need to add a tail to my ride? I have debated that question for the last six months and my answer is YES, I need a trailer behind Petunia. Whew!!! I’m glad to be past that part of the problem, but now a bigger issue. What trailer do I get? The price range of trailers is staggering. From around $350, for a home made job, to $5,000 for a fancy color matched sleek looking rig, the selection is overwhelming. So, even though I made the decision to get a trailer now I have to go back and decide if I am getting it for function or to impress the cages I pass on the highway.

The decision, for me, is strictly to impress. Nay, just kidding. Function wins out for me. If I can accomplish my goals for $1,000 I’m not going to add $4,000 more because someone might say, “Wow Martha, would look at that thing.” Nope, I’ll use that $4,000 to buy gas and tires to roll down a back road highway somewhere.

So, I ordered a Piggy Backer trailer,, and it should be here in three or four days. This trailer appears to be able to do all I want a trailer to do and it is affordable and has chrome wheels. Remember Petunia loves chrome. I know I am going to make a couple of modifications to it. First is for safety and I will add LED tail lights and a LED third brake light. A bike can never be too bright in the rear. Also, I ordered a pair of Harley turn signals to add because I wanted to continue with the five wire system the Harley currently uses in the electrical system.

I’ll keep updating the progress of the trailer put together and modifications. Most importantly, I’ll report from the road as I tug my tail down the highway.