Friday, January 30, 2009

Get Me A Map Please

I don't like to involve politics in my blog. No particular reason other than this is a place for my motorcycle adventures, but I will make an exception in this case.

This is our new President returning to the Oval Office. Look closely and you can see the door hinges to the right of where President Obama is trying to enter the room. Did someone forget to give him a tour and explain that he was elected and didn't have to sneak in through the window?

I haven't seen this on the news. That is only important because when Bush was in China and tried to make an exit through a locked door the media ran it for months. Now we have a dude trying to climb in through a window, in the daylight, and not a peep.

Double standard? Me thinks so, how about you?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Learning To Ride

My friend Louise bought a Honda Ace 750 and I took her to a parking lot yesterday to learn to start, stop, and turn. This is all in the name of not having her flunk out of the MSF riding course she will be taking. Of course I wanted to tell her all of the things she needed to know at one time. WRONG!

She needed it broken down into smaller, manageable bits. So, we started only with letting out the clutch, getting the bike to roll, and walking it to a stop. Next came applying the front brake to stop. In about 15 minutes she was circling the parking lot without stopping. Round and round making left hand turns. Time to turn her around because a motorcycle needs to turn right. Not as easy as turning left, but quickly everything was good. Until the police showed up. This was a school parking lot after all. Well, after they asked if this was a riding lesson they were good with it and the riding continued.

A successful, non bumpy start to the life of a new motorcyclist. But, a safe start doesn't always happen for a new rider. Or an old rider getting back into riding.

This is one of those stories.

Jim was pushing 60 when youthful memories of Easy Rider brought him to the local Harley-Davidson dealership. "It was a mid-age crisis," he told a reporter. "I'd see dudes with women and thought a motorcycle would put me in like Flynn."

When the dealer delivered the gleaming new hog to Jim's front door, his eyes lit up like a boy receiving a Red Ryder 200-shot carbine air rifle with a compass in the stock, and no grownups around to warn him that his new toy could put an eye out!

Jim started the engine and felt its pulsing, guttural power. It had been 30 years since he had been in the saddle of a babe-magnet like this. He revved the engine and listened to it purr. He kicked it into gear and roared off down the road. Born to be wild.

Ten seconds and a tenth of a mile later, Jim slammed into a neighbor's utility trailer at 40 mph as he tried to remember how the throttle worked. The cops who investigated told him it was a miracle he was alive. He survived with just a few broken ribs. "Oh my God," he said, "I hurt in places I didn't know could hurt."

Insurance covered repairs to the bike and the trailer. Jim sold the restored dream machine for $800 less than he paid, but every few weeks, he continued to receive mailings from his complimentary membership in the Harley Owners Group. Some dreams die hard.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Aligning a Sidecar

The fine tuning adjustment on Petunia and the sidecar was started on Thursday afternoon at about 4:00 PM after a quick stop at Home Depot to get some supplies. I had read everything I could find on the process and felt comfortable in getting started.

My first step was assembling the necessary tools and modern technology necessary to do a proper alignment. I will point out the use of 2x4s and bricks came from the California Sidecar web site. Who am I to argue with the professionals?

I loosened all of the bolts that were holding the rig to Petunia and used the floor jack to begin to level her out. It occurred to me that I didn't have a zero point on the T.I.L.T. and inspection of the unit didn't help any. I made the executive decision to lower the unit to its bottom position and time how long it took to reach its upper most setting. I timed it up and then back down and back up again to find I got the same 17 seconds each time. Because that was an odd number of seconds, I just lowered it for 8 seconds and called that the zero point. I leveled the frame of the car from that point and snugging the pinch bolts caused it to move a bit. So, I would snug, check, move, check, snug until I was tight and level.

Next I measured the distance between the outside edge of Petunia's tires and the sidecar tire at the rear. Checking the measurement at the front showed it towed out 2 1/4 inches. That is at least 2 3/4 inches the wrong direction and explains why it didn't want to turn. Moving it to achieve the correct 3/4 inch tow in measurement was easy and the snug, check, snug process started over. I double, tripled, and checked twice more for level and correct toe in.

It was now time to set Petunia with 2 - 4 degree of lean out. I found this to be a guessing game because I couldn't find a good solid measuring point. So I gave it my best shot and called it good. I went back over all the things I had been checking again, tightened up every bolt again, and it was time for the maiden voyage. It went straight with no effort on the bars, it turned left easily, it went right with the sidecar wheel wanting to come over the top. All in all it felt pretty good. So, at 5:50 it was time to gear up and go get my daughter, so she could have the first ride. This is a family tradition that she is first.

All was well until I left her house. A half a mile away Petunia died and wouldn't start. I called and they brought me a flashlight, but it was no use as there was a fuel problem. I had a full tank of gas, but the gauge registered empty and it just wasn't getting it in the cylinders. Jim and I pushed the rig the half mile to put it in their garage until I could get a tow truck to take it to the mechanic. Long story short an electrical junction had pulled apart and two minutes after unloading from the tow truck she was running again. Total charge....$0. Embarrassed feeling...very high.

To remove/install the car is pretty simple. A quick disconnect for the brake line, an eight prong electrical connection, and the four mounting bolts to the frame.

Because of the fuel problem I didn't make the Yuma ride, but there is a ride tomorrow I think I will go on. I readjusted the lean angle of Petunia this morning and taking a ride showed a lot of improvement in the handling. I am going to ride her around town a bit this afternoon and if all goes well I think some distance tomorrow is in order.

This whole process of installing and alligning the sidecar wasn't as daunting as I had first thought. The driveability was something I really worried about, but it appears I got really lucky and while I might find the need for a few more adjustments, I feel it it is really close.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Here She Is

Well, here the little beast is sitting in front of my house. She is a beast and was a handful to ride home. Patrick really wasn't willing to get involved with fine tuning her to Petunia. So, now I need to go to Home Depot to get a couple of eight foot 2x4s to set the tow in. Everything I have read says it will be trial and error and change after riding until I find the sweet spot. I'll be ready for tomorrow afternoon to get started and hope to have it freeway ready by Saturday morning. There is a trip to Yuma, Arizona to look at the lettuce or something like that.

This unit is the Tracking Increment Leanout Technology. Fancy title for electric lean adjustment. A button on the bars adjusts on the fly to help the unit go down the highway straight.

Becoming Part of the Solution Part 3

Since Ebay didn't seem like a viable option I began to look closer at the Liberty (left car) at $5495 base, the Motorvation Spider(right car) at $4599 base, and the Champion Legend(last car) at $4495 base. The Liberty is the only one with brakes as standard equipment on the base model. Adding color match, installation or freight, and other necessary bling items gets them all into the mentioned eight grand price range. Add to that having to travel to have it installed, additional installation fee not included, and the price continues to grow.

Riding somewhere to pick a hack up isn't a big deal because I love to ride. Something kept telling me there was a less expensive way to do this. But, whatever it was just wouldn't come to me. Then Louise started talking about getting a bike and learning to ride. I told her to buy a bike off of Craigs List. That was it! I went to Craigs List, typed in sidecar, pressed enter, and wala...... one entry. That entry was from December 12 from a guy looking for a sidecar for a BMW. Struck out, nobody selling sidecars in the Phoenix area. Then a thought crossed my mind and I posted for anyone looking to unclutter their garage of an unwanted sidecar that would fit Petunia.

After posting I left for a ride and didn't think about it again. Then at 8:45 Saturday evening I got home and checked my e-mail and had a message from Patrick. He had an '05 Legend with 16" wire wheels, Brembo brakes, electric lean, air vent, tonneau cover, seat belt, and axillary electrical outlet that he was taking off of an '04 Electra Glide for a price of $3500. I called right then and scheduled a time Sunday to go have a look.

This car was in nearly perfect condition. Perfect would have been already color matched to Petunia, but she is red and black. A couple of scuffs on the frame, a few chip marks from flying rocks, and Patrick was willing to help me install and set it up. I'll be looking for a painter because this was to good of a deal to pass up.

When to pick it up was the issue. Monday is out because the banks are closed, Tuesday is out because of bowling, Wednesday I tutor after school and don't finish until 5:30, Thursday Patrick is leaving town. Wednesday it will be after 6:00. Then I got an idea. How about I take all the sub-frame and attachment parts with me and install them before I come on Wednesday? Patrick didn't hesitate and said sure because that is where all the time is eaten up. So strapping the sub-frame to Petunia I was off to learn to install a hack on a Harley.

Removing and installing everything wasn't really hard, but it did take about four hours. When you're not sure of what you're doing it tends to slow you down. That and I don't want to take any chances when safety is concerned. I also needed to bleed the brakes and even after I was finished they felt soft and that made me uncomfortable. I had new pads for Petunia, so I went to Craigs List to see if I could find a Harley tech to install them. I started to do it myself, but it looked like the rear axle needed to be removed and I wasn't going to do that. I found Andre, a tech that was laid off three weeks ago by a local dealer, who lives about four miles from me. He installed the pads, without removing the calipers, bled the brakes, found that a rubber spacer on the rear caliper wasn't installed right, pulled the axle, and installed it correctly. All for the low price of $70. I was happy and will go to him again next time I need work done.

So, today is the day. I pick up the hack and bring her home. I'll post some pictures soon in her mismatched color. As I am typing this it just flashed in my mind, maybe some color match for Piggy is in the cards since I'll me at the painter anyway.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Becoming Part of the Solution Part 2

My search into sidecars took me in many directions. There are a lot of choices out there and with a base price range of between $4,000 and $12,000 I questioned my desire to join the Happy Express of saving the world. What would Barack think of my waffling?

I pressed on in my search for enlightenment. I discovered Harley Davidson makes a sidecar. It is available only through Dealers and I only found one web page on it, but didn't bookmark it and can't find it again. When I picked Petunia up, after her service, I asked a salesman about them. He said, "I don't really know anything about them, but I would guess they are about $10,000. I've been here three years and we have never sold one."

When pressed he went to find someone who knew something. After a few minutes he came back with the information of the $10,000 being correct. Then he continued to say there was twenty hours labor, at $85.95 per, to connect it and maybe other parts needed. When I asked if it didn't come with all the parts for $10,000 what was the use, he just shrugged. I guess there won't be a Harley sidecar in my future.

The following shows some of what I found.

These two little darlings fall into the not on your life class. Take a close look at the Enduro on the left. Nothing says comfort quite like that seat, but at least there is a grab bar.

These cars just don't fit the style that I feel goes with Petunia.

I believe that the car on the right, a Liberator, runs $12,000 base price.

These were getting closer to what I had in mind, but I couldn't do the Frindship II because I didn't want the kids. Plus they still didn't feel right.

Now I was getting somewhere. This group of cars fit into what I was thinking would really dress up Petunia. Spoke wheels, wide white walls, classic old school looks, and maybe some fish tail mufflers and Petunia would be a show stopper for sure.

Looking into what a sidecar really needs to have adds up quick. All three of these cars list out with options to around $8,000. A curious thing I find is a top is an option. On my last hack I had a top because I thought it was better for the girls, but thinking now I find that being under a top takes away from the whole motorcycle experience. If someone where riding with me they wouldn't be under a damn top, so I just saved $175. The one option I wouldn't do without is a brake on the sidecar. Brakes weren't available last time and now that they are I feel it is a must have.

Spending upward of $8,000 to change my footprint was getting me down. Barack says I should sacrifice, but I need to ask myself to what extent I am willing to go. Then I got an idea!! Ebay, why not check out ebay. I found two possibilities that I thought might work out. One was in Maryland and had a shipping price listed of $300. Reading the listing further the guy said he just put that number there, but didn't know what it really would be. I wrote him and asked to find out exactly what it would cost. Not wanting to wait for him, because the end of the auction was near, I called FedEx and found the real cost was $900. Shipping a used car wasn't going to work for me. Plus it didn't have brakes. Oh, and the guy never responded to my e-mail. Surprise.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Becoming Part of the Solution Part 1

The economy is in disarray, the people of this great land have elected Barack to lead us to the promised land, the price of a barrel of oil is at a ten year low, gas prices are rising every day again (can't figure that one out), global warming is melting the glaciers of the world (while the eastern US and Alaska are enjoying it's effects), and I can't ride Petunia for everything I do. Usually I'm not a PC kind of guy, but Barack says we all must sacrifice. That together, we as a nation, we can make the world a brighter, safer, cleaner, friendlier place. I guess listening to all of this promised happiness has given me the warm fuzzies and makes me want to sacrifice. To do what little part I can to show that I'm buying into the hoopla. But, how is that possible at my advanced age to make those kinds of change? Do I even want to?

This isn't a new awaking for me. Dan over at The Intrepid Commuter has been a proponent of riding to work for a long time. Dan lives in Oregon and rides nearly every single day. He believes in riding so deeply that he has convinced his boss to let him ride his bike to business meetings and sales calls as a part of his employment. But, I bowl and can't, or won't, strap two bowling balls on Petunia. Grocery shopping is another problem that I feel the need to do in a cage. Because of my neanderthal way of thinking I own a car, a truck, and a bike. My footprint on the world must look the skid marks on a 7 year old's Jockeys. Since November 4th I have assumed an attitude that I must get on board and change my way of thinking, to make sacrifices, to try to alter my footprint on the world, to become a team player in change.

Wait a minute, the answer to that must lie somewhere in the past. Sit, think, ponder, and begin to research. First off does any one, single, individual really need three vehicles? Something has to go. Petunia isn't going anywhere, so the car or the truck has to go. Stupid thought; what if both the car and truck went? Son-in-law mentioned a locker at the bowling alley would eliminate the excuse about carrying the bowling balls every week. But, there isn't any way to get around grocery shopping. Wait just a damn minute here. Like a jolt from the past it hit me. There is a possible answer to my new found Global Awareness. As Barack, preached, "Yes we can!"

A sidecar might be the answer for the prayers to save the world. I went to work researching hacks or chairs or those funny things. I had one back in 1984 or so and it was great fun to drive.

Sidecars, what are the possibilities? To quote a fifth grader, "Mr. Malone are you always nuts?"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Just an Arizona Winter Day

Saturday morning arrived and the call of the road was to strong to ignore. Fresh tune up on Petunia, laundry and vacuuming all done and no football until the BIG GAME Sunday. I was out the door headed to one of my favorite destinations Tortilla Flats. These are some of the views that keep me coming back.

This is a full Canyon Lake. Some might remember a picture from last year when the lake had been drained to repair the dam, but now it is full and as beautiful as ever. One of the disadvantages in Arizona is man made lakes as opposed to natural lakes in some areas. But, they did a nice job didn't they?

Besides the scenery the road into Tortilla Flats is a great motorcycle road. Twists and turns with a suggested 15-20 MPH speed limit. Louise rode with me and had never been there. She committed on how great the ride was a half mile before the twists and I had just told her it was going to get better and then I dumped Petunia into a corner at 30. Louise's reaction was to shout,"Holy F%$#!!!" She quickly recovered and decided it really was a great road.

Traveling through Apache Junction to get to Arizona 88 there were two guys on Harleys stirring up the locals. One on a Road Glide with what sounded like straight pipes would race from a stop at full throttle while going straight, pull in the clutch and make it scream for no apparent reason at all. His buddy and passenger riding a Heritage were laughing and turning around looking to see who was watching all of this. That's why people don't like bikers. During the game playing they didn't pay attention to traffic and we got around them. They rode nearly up my pipes until that first quick corner then disappeared. I began to worry if maybe they had missed a corner. At the view point we stopped and after a few minutes here they came with a line of cars in tow. Mr. Road Warrior could really ride in a straight line, but seemed to have trouble if the road bent left and right.

Tortilla Flats was packed, as I should have known for this time of year. There was a long wait in the restaurant. There was huge wait out at the grill on the patio and very limited seating because of all the folks there, so we went the two miles back up the road to the marina restaurant. These pictures were taken from our seats on the patio overlooking the lake. The only problem we encountered eating outside was the breeze kept blowing napkins away.

The paper this morning says the official high yesterday was 77 in Phoenix. It felt a bit warmer than that out in the sun, but that was just perfect. If you watch the Cardinals beat the Eagles today I'll bet they show some shots of our winter. When you start thinking you should move here just remember the 100 or so days when it is above 110 degrees. Yep, it's a trade off, but we don't shovel.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I Have Been Riding

I have been riding, but haven't found time to write about it. Wait, I haven't made time to write, so at 3:40 on a Saturday morning when I should be fast asleep I make some time. Petunia was in the shop this week getting her 40,000 mile service. Back in March of 07 I purchased a prepaid service agreement and when I picked her up I was really glad I did as the bill for this service was $750.58. That is 1/3 of what I paid for 12 services or three years whichever come first. This was the seventh service on the contract and I plan on riding enough to get the next five in the fourteen months left before it expires. Then I will be searching for an independent Harley garage.

Last Sunday in 48 degree, clear, sunshine I met up with Ms Hog and five others for a ride down to the 23rd Annual Fiddler & Bluegrass Jamboree Arts & Crafts Bazaar & Car Show at the Pinal County Fairgrounds where we met up with the group from Tuscon.

This is what was promised: Foot Stompin Fun at the Fairgrounds! For only four dollars you can hear the Famous Fiddler & Bluegrass Musicians, browse through a hundred or more commercial and arts & crafts vendors, eat a delicious variety of foods, and experience the nostalgic pleasures of our car show. A wide variety of live acts are also scheduled which includes an Old Time Tractor Pull.

This is what was delivered:

The Famous Fiddler & Bluegrass Musicians

The Car Show

The live acts. This was a lady from California with a variety of parrots, a toucan, and some other strange bird that was about five feet tall making funny noises. It really was impressive for the first ten minutes. The only food I took part in was the homemade fudge from a woman who had twenty some different kinds. After six different samples I felt obligated to buy some.

After about an hour of festivities at the Jamboree it was time to ride. We stopped at Tags in Coolidge, Arizona for lunch. Or actually breakfast. It was the best omelet I have ever eaten and I was told I really missed out not having the chorizo. I will make that another ride in the near future.

Then it was a pleasant, uneventful ride back into Phoenix in perfect January weather. Some of you that are suffering from all this Global Warming might think of coming out to see why we love it here so much. Arizona Bike Week is coming and it would be an opportune time to visit this great state.