Not a lot of posts here lately you may have noticed. Well, this is primarily a tech blog and, well, we’ve been doing more riding than wrenching. We haven’t forgotten about you, just gone riding.
Happy Dan, Young Dan, VSL and I set off for a weekend trip down to western MD and WV on Saturday morning to meet with with Mitch (Kik) and head to his friend PeeWee’s for a party.
Despite it having rained all night and morning before, it cleared up beautifully for our 8a departure.
We were riding along through farm roads of southern PA smiling our asses off, feeling lucky to have gotten these two days together when suddenly we note the absence of Vinny. He’s prone to daydreaming, wandering or just plain doing his own thing so we figured it the usual and he’d be along shortly. He wasn’t. After rebuilding his ignition timer (’49 pan) and checking valves and compression, we got it started but something sounded a little off. Then his oil light came on. Uh oh.
Wrecked timing case gears. A big old mess. He had just paid someone a pile of $$$ to build his lower end.
We sat around for five hours waiting for a fetch from Philly. Vinny took it as well as could be expected but we could tell he was pretty sad. Young Dan and I set off to pickup some hoagies and beer for lunch while we were waiting. Twenty miles later we had the sandwiches strapped onto Dan’s bike and a half-case of beer in my saddlebags. Little consolation for Vinny, but at least we didn’t have to sit around hungry in the middle of nowhere while we waited. Oh, did I mention it was a stunningly beautiful day? It was. We were itching to get going, but not willing to leave one of our own behind.
After Vinny and his bike were safely in a truck with his friends, we got back on our way and made it to PeeWee’s just as the party was wrapping up (ring a bell?). Nothing left but drunks, crazies and a bunch of people who, to our best estimation, were under the influence of LSD or similar. It seemed that way, at least. We had fun fucking with them (good naturedly) and making new friends.
There were SICK old bikes all over that place. Pics below.
Mitch and Timmy, our hosts, made sure we had all the cold beer we could stomach and all the food we cared to eat. We even had a late night Waffle House stop for good measure before checking into the Day’s Inn. We’re out of practice with this stuff and are not much for sleeping on the ground lately.
Plus, we wanted to get up at 6am and head to WV and catch up on some lost riding time. Mitch and Timmy looked upon us with suspicion when we told them we were getting up at 6 to go riding. They were even more surprised when we woke them up the next morning ready to go, and good for our word.
I think they had some business to attend to that day and saw us off.
We spent the morning rolling through the Catoctin mountains just west of Frederick and even hit some goat paths with stone washes and spring water running across the road and even a few critters. Hit a small town for breakfast and then decided to head over to West Virgia for lunch and to dip our feet in the hot spring there.
Then we hot-rodded it home on the highway for four solid hours.
It was a nice weekend, if too short. We rode somewhere around 550 miles.
‘Til next time.
Thanks Mitch and Timmy and PeeWee.
Sorry, VSL. We’ll have you back up in no time.
Spring time and the smell of gasoline and old grease really stirs up the memories for me. Was thinking yesterday about past bikes and the excitement of spring coming. Living up in Rochester, NY for years where’s there only six warm days a year really makes you appreciate the coming warmth. What better way to celebrate than to go for a ride?
These are randoms from the pile/mess that exit on my computer.
With all this machining and making parts as of late, got to me thinking about the places that used to do these things on the regular and how there disappearing. Soon we will only have ourselves and the cottage industry to rely on to keep the machines we love on the road. I ride by this now abandoned building every time I go down to the shop. Reminds me of a time about 12 years ago I had needed a carb serviced apon moving to the city. I asked around south philly where I was living at the time and the general consensus was North Philly’s Palacio Carburetor. This was an old clapped out 2 bbl on a 74 Plymouth Valiant. After riding about 60 blocks on my bicycle I was there. Despite all the windows on the side of the building when you entered it was like a cave in there. There were boxes of carb cores and ac compressors piled to the ceiling blocking off all light. I was told by the old guy behind the counter that it would be ready in a week or so. Week goes by and I get a call from them to pick it up. A half a day bicycle ride later I was there again. The old guy and I talked shop a while and I asked him a about the 100% engine tested on his sign. He gave me the old “come here kid” and we meandered through hallways with walls of parts and carbs to a back room with an old flathead 4 on a test stand. He asked me for my carb out of the box that he had just given back to me.
This intake manifold on the flatie had a big square sheet metal box on it where the carb would go. Looked to have been gas welded 100 years ago. He reached up to a wall of adapter plates made of mahogany and put the 2bbl one on and set my carb on top. There was some kind of quick action ratcheting lever arm to press down on the carb body to make a seal. He pushed on a fuel line and fires that old flathead 4 right up. Cool.
After that I brought it home and put it on the Valiant, It ran great after that, I can’t remember so well now but I think they re-bushed the shafts and changed out the jets and powervalve. It makes me wonder where all the industry has gone. Please feel free to share your stories in the comments below.
I thought it would be easy to describe. And I guess if we were to be perfectly literal, it would be. But there’s something more. An underlying ethos so inseparable from identity as to be defining in itself. So pervasive as to be woven into the fabric of every fold of existence. The red thread in the dark wool suit only evident under close examination. Look closely and it’s everywhere. Pay no attention and it doesn’t exist.
Ever gone to dinner with your wife or girlfriend whilst your mind was a million miles away analyzing and solving a mechanical issue you’ve been working on?
Lain awake nights making step-by-step plans for what you’ll do next time you’re at the workshop until the alarm goes off?
Learned to participate in casual conversation while simultaneously working on something else in your mind, giving not a clue?
Attended a business meeting in a suit and tie with grease in your fingerprints that could not be scrubbed out?
Made detailed sketches of parts and specialty tools that you’d like to make in notebooks, napkins and scrap paper. Saved them in your wallet interminably until you improve the idea and eventually create them?
Taken calls from friends Saturday nights asking you to come out and you’re in the shop and tell them you can’t make it?
Stopped to help a broke down motorist on your way to an important event and taken the time to explain troubleshooting methodology to the barely interested as you fixed their car intuitively? While the rest of the people in your car roll their eyes, not understanding the sickness?
You get the idea.
This is no flash in the pan.
I’ve been suffering or benefiting, depending on one’s perspective, from this mindset since I was six years old and disassembled completely the first bicycle I’d ever gotten by 2pm on Christmas day. My parents, not being able to find me, finally made their way out to the garage to discover me elbow deep in parts and my dad’s tools. They threatened “You’d best have that back together by bedtime or you’ll never get another bike from us again”. I was dismissive, and confident that I’d have it done in time, even then. Of course a few unnecessary parts remained when I was done. That’s no cutesy cover-up. They added nothing to the function of the machine. A few years later I figured out that a hacksaw could cut metal and whole new world opened up to me. I cut some sections out of a couple aluminum lawn chairs we had and made two foot long fork extensions to that same bike. I jammed them on the forks of the bright yellow Huffy and used existing holes in the tubes to bolt on the wheel. Sketchy as hell. And fun! The first couple ramp jumps (if you could see the dodgy crap we assembled as ramps in the neighborhood) proved that modification to be, let’s say, temporary at best. But it didn’t stop me.
Obsession. Useful if you can harness it. At the same time a detriment that can haunt you. Its kissing cousin, perfectionism, amplifies the effects. Perfection paralysis. I also call it Magnum Opus Syndrome. Know what it is? Ever have it? Only perfect is good enough. You can guess where that one might lead. Mostly towards more thinking than doing. But these same traits can also bring meaningful innovation and gainful employment. Everyone’s got something reckon with. I consider myself lucky to have been saddled with these.
. . . about appearances. Too busy.