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Road Church: Freedom and Envy

Freedom is a wonderful concept. The Idea that we are free to choose. To do as we want given that we are not hurting others. The quote, erroneously attributed to John Locke “Your rights end where my nose begins.” I’ve always thought that as long as I wasn’t damaging anything or doing harm to another then what I did was fine, even if it is illegal.  These days I question the law and I question authority. I see days ahead where laws will be made that we ought not abide. I consider speeding to be practice for that day. It’s also fun. That’s why I do it.  I don’t speed all the time, but when the mood strikes and I’m feeling good I let loose with the throttle and fly.  Generally I pick times and places where I’m not putting others at risk, ultimately I’m going to pay the price for my behavior. Fines and high insurance premiums are deterrents.  I’m always on the look out for police. As time has gone on they have gone to greater lengths to disguise themselves. Unmarked cars, marked but barely visible. low profile lights or lights mounted in the vehicle. The goal of the modern American police force is revenue. They don’t even use that thin veil of public safety anymore. They want my money and they want to show me that they are in control. So I avoid the police as much as I can. It’s probably easier for be because I’m white. People that think that police treat everyone the same are very shortsighted. The law is not evenly applied. I’ve had very few negative encounters with the police. One where the officer tried to bait me into loosing my temper, by handing me a clip board then ripping it away from me. Another where an officer gave me erroneous information regarding a ticket, I knew he was wrong, and the look on his face told me he did too. He just wanted me to react so he could hit me with more fines or take me in. I just agreed with him and got out of there.

Saturday I felt like riding out in the country, I’ve just got the EBR sorted, for now, it’s running strong and it’s a fun bike. Friday night a storm rolled through and there are remnants of it  in the sky.

I head out from home after doing some chores, taking food to my shut in father, and getting my animals all taken care of. I haven’t been on a solo cruise in the Kansas country in some time. I generally go with others. I head out Thunder Road from Wichita. There is a long straight as you head east from Santa Fe Lake Road. I’m behind two trucks, one turns left and the other one goes straight. A red faded Ford Ranger. I stop at the sign, check that the cross traffic is clear, and launch, the front wheel drifts up over the road crown, I top out first, shift, 2nd WOT, Third, 130 MPH signal, lane change, pass, shift for 4th, let the engine brake for me, first corner, in at 70 roll through exit at 120, second corner, in at 80, theres on coming traffic, I let off to insure I stay in my lane, because they have their wheels over the line in my lane. I cross the bridge, wringing the throttle, third corner where I can see traffic for a half mile even though the road is winding,  I’m steady on at about 110 to 120, past the grave yard, in to a long straight to the tracks, then a right hander by a house that switches back and runs parallel to the tracks, then turns north through a small town. I slow to 45 here. On the other side of if I’m back to 80 and out of the corner at 100, across the bridge, and a lovely s-curve that feels so good at about 90 or 100 tires gripping, the feel of gravity helping you out. This is my roller coaster.

I slow to the speed limit, take a right on US 77 where I encounter a train. I don’t feel like waiting.. so after a few minutes of thinking about an alternate route, I turn around, take a right on US 54 and stop for gas. As I’m pumping gas. I see a red faded Ford Ranger. They stop right in front of me, Two men in their 20s or 30s. Their eyes are cold and dead. Faces screwed up with anger. They flip me the bird. I just look at them and keep looking at them. Are they armed? are they gonna shoot me? Are they gonna try to kick my ass? It sure seemed like it. The guy on the cruiser at the pump across from me though they were flipping him off.

“Pretty sure that was me.” I said

“Why?” he asked.

“I passed them…” I started.

“Oh well that’s just redic…”

“At 130…”

“Oh…well… Have fun!”

The truck rolls off and takes a right. I’m not giving them a chance to circle back. This is one of the few times I’d feel better if I had a gun. I hate that I feel that way. I’ve traveled all over, but here in my home state, 20 miles from my house I feel like I gotta pack heat because I live next to a bunch of hateful ass bitter broke white folk. Speeding on a motorcycle yields mixed reactions from others. Some people are thrilled to see you fly down the road. Some people think “Who the fuck do they think they are?” followed by “They shouldn’t do that, it’s illegal.” which is sometimes followed by “I’m going to show that asshole a thing or two.” I’m most concerned with the last one. I am doing something illegal, something where bad things could happen, mostly to me and maybe someone else but it’s more likely that I’d be in worse shape. Now if someone takes it upon themselves to dole out some justice on me that is on them. That is also illegal. It’s called assault at the least, and at the worst homicide.

The question I have is why? Why does passing some one garner so much anger? I think it has very little to do with my speeding. I think it has more to do with their lives. My speeding is the “cap off the toothpaste” it represents everything they can’t do in life. They are stuck in Augusta Kansas in a faded Red Ford Ranger, and their lives feel like prisons. So fuck that asshole that’s burning down the road at 130 doing illegal shit. Let’s kick his ass because our lives suck. Or at least flip him the bird and look at him mean. There, that will make everything better.

I catch a lot of flack for riding the way I do, and I’ll catch shit for this post. Including a post from my 70 year old mother “Please be careful.”  Y’all can think what you want. I enjoy riding the way I do. I’m not hurting you, if it makes you angry you may want to check why it makes you angry. Is it because I’m doing something you can’t or won’t? I can understand my family being angry at me. They love me and don’t want to see me die. How ever you oh angry one, you want to do me harm because I speed. Why is that? The answer lies with you and your life choices.

Once I was in Missouri riding with a friend. We pasted a truck hauling a pontoon boat. then stopped at a gas station. As the pontoon boat hauler pulled by us, he screamed obscenities at us.. and I just yelled back “You chose a pontoon boat. you should have chose a bike.”

I was riding hard in Wichita one night, I got off on a surface street and stopped at a light after blasting through an off ramp curve, which gave a pickup truck a chance to catch up to me. They followed me to our meet up spot where there were 10 other sport bike guys. And they proceeded to read me the riot act. I told them to “have a good night, I was just having some fun.” They asked me “what if you get hurt, what if I hit you?” I said “If you hit me intentionally, that’s on you. If I fuck up and run into you, that’s on me.”  I don’t think that situation would have ended as well for me if there had not been ten people there who knew me.

What I find interesting is how willing people are to enforce the law, even when it’s something as innocuous as speeding. Again this is something I apply to a dystopian future situation. People will turn other people in, they will actually help their oppressors. No I don’t feel oppressed, It’s like the parable of the crabs in a barrel. That one crab almost makes it out of the barrel to freedom, and another crab yanks him back in. Humans are the same way.

I’m headed through roads I’ve been down dozens of times. Clouds forming, a storm wants to gather, I feel rain on my arms and smell it in the air, I’m taking the corners with some caution, they roads are dirty out here, and I’m running them in a direction I’m not as used to. Today feels good. I turn off my music and listen to the wind and the double thump of the 1190 VTwin beast I’m on top of while pondering why people are assholes who can’t leave other people be.

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Temple of the Wrench: Electrical Ghosts

Riding the EBR is a gas. I like the way it handles, I like the torque, the acceleration, the sound the way it handles, the way it looks. I have some concerns about reliability given my engine experiences that I had a few months back.  I took it to Missouri and I’d been commuting on it nearly daily. The zx10r sat in the garage gathering dust as I went out and “killed dem streets” on a nightly. She’s sitting at about 5000 miles total and about 4000 on the motor. All is well, except for the fuel light that stays on. I figured that was no big deal. More on that later.

Electrical problems make no sense until you find the problem and then everything makes sense. I’m going to tell you what the problem was and then I’m going to give you the story about how I got there. The Answer was (shakes magic eightball) The fuel pump was dying.

One of the super cool things about the EBR is the live data display. You can navigate to a screen in the dash that gives you a huge amount of useful data. One of the items is the Battery Voltage. I noticed the reading was 15.3 VDC that seems a bit high to me, I’m used to 14.4 VDC and anything above 14.7 VDC is indicative of a regulator rectifier failure. The EBR uses a lithium ion battery made by Shorai the documentation says that it is not to be charged above 15.2 VDC. Okay. I think I have a r/r going south. I purchase a used one off ebay. I receive it and plug it in, same readings. No change. I send the R/R back. and install the one that came with the bike.

I did let the battery discharge in the parking lights position while I was at work perhaps something is up with the battery. I call shorai and they suggest that I get a new battery. There is a deal on waranty so its fairly inexpensive, I also get the special charger that balances the cells. Lithium Ion batteries are a different animal. Apparently there is some circuitry in there that checks things out and charges the battery properly.

I trade out the battery and ride the bike for a week or two. I was supposed to take it on a camping trip but I don’t really trust it. I don’t know what the problem is. So I don’t take the EBR. When I return, the battery is flat. 3 VDC.  Parasitic draw some where. Time to break out the multimeter. I find nothing. The draw is about .7 A  nothing to worry about.

My new battery shows up and I install it. The VDC reading at the battery is 14.7 VDC and on the dash it is 15.2.  the throttle position percent is unstable it should be at 2% its about 3 or 4% I reset the TPS and it will stay at 2% for a ride. And then it goes wonky…

The radiator fans will not shut off after 15 minutes of running with the bike off after a ride.

The purge valve runs every 30 seconds with  the bike off all night long, this is what killed my battery.

I’m getting o2 heater error codes and battery warning/ battery errors in the message center on the dash.

And when I start the bike it idles at 4000 RPM for two minutes.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot  Echo Bravo Romeo?

I start checking ground wires. A loose ground is reputed to cause bizarre problems like these. No luck everything looks good

I check the stator, everything looks good there too.

Okay. It’s time to fix things that I know are a problem. The fuel light. The sensor is jacked some how, I need to pull the pump and see whats up.

I pull the pump and the float is totally missing from the pump assembly. I replace the sensor with an float sensor from ebay. I solder the connections and put everything back together and think that that is it.

The fuel light does not go away.

The readings are still jacked. I road the bike to work for a few days. Where I park there is no shade so for 8 hours my bike is in direct sun, beating down on the frame/tank ( I call it the “Frank”) One day was very hot (104F).  The EBR started seriously fucking up. It died 8 times in slow and go traffic, I worked to get it off the highway to find sandy construction on a lurching super powerful bike. Not scary at all. I felt like I was riding a retarded bull. God damn get me the fuck off this thing.

I got it home, parked it, lifted the seat, checked the battery, 13.2 v and on the dash 14.3… The next morning I fire it up to see what it does… 4000 RPM idle and dies. It did this 4 times. I the battery on a charger God damn. Okay EBR. lets try some shit. I unplug the fuel pump. boom all readings go to normal 13.2 at the battery and 13.2 on the dash. I still don’t KNOW if the pump is the issue or not. but I think it’s a safe bet. I purchase a used pump from ebay. I swap pumps, I notice that my elcheapo sensor’s wires are bloated, like the kind of bloat that comes from plastic that isn’t designed to be in gas. Noted.

I checked the new pump by plugging it in to the harness and turning the key to on, the pump primed, something I’ve never hear the ebr do. Also the voltage on the dash remained in line with the voltage at the battery actual. I tested the sensor with a continuity test and also noted the status in the live data screen. All seems well.

I install it. The bike runs properly and the fuel light goes away. So now I’m still in the test ride phase. Today is gonna be hot, it should be a good test of the behavior of the EBR. I’m 99% certain the pump was dying.

The Myth of the Lone Motorcycle Rider

Pre Dawn light and a gentle breeze. The smell of rain from a desert storm just over the mountain. The glint of chrome in the dark. He pulls himself from the earth, rising slowly yet faster than dawn’s first light. Black coffee. Two lane blacktop 50 feet from his camp.  Life folded and packed into two well worn saddlebags. He has no attachments. No history. Just this bike and what he carries. Stoic Solitary Brave Romantic Rugged and most of all Free.

He also is a myth. Buried deep in the American Psyche. An Archetype that we have known all our lives, in one form or another. He is used to sell us products. Products that are supposed to make us feel like the concepts the Archetype embodies. In movies he is “The Man With No Name” He is Han Solo. He is Huckleberry Finn. He is Jesus Christ in the midsts of his trials. He is Moses wondering. He is Bhudda, a prince on a journey for enlightenment. A pilgrim in the Church of the Road where silence is the daily hymn. His solitude is a destination for those of us that feel crowded by the noise of the world. It is the goal, we will return from that place, but it is a myth that we are totally alone.

In my experience riding long distance alone, I’ve never really felt alone. There are other travelers on the road, people at the gas stations, people at the the campsites we form short lived bonds and share experiences, and move on with our journey. There is also another way we are not alone when we ride. Let’s take a look at our motorcycles.

The internal combustion engine has been around for 150 years now. All of the science has been compounded over time, all of the successes and mistakes in design, metallurgy, chemistry,  engineering, fabrication, physics, mechanics, computer science,  have been funneled into your bike. It is a monument to the year it was created. A testament to the ingenuity of a team of humans who’s goal was to create this thing who’s main purpose is to make money, and secondarily to give you the pleasure of transportation.

Am I ever alone? I look at my bike and I see teams of people designing the forks, the brakes, the engine, the frame, the tires, the chain.. using designs from the past and improving them. I see a century of road racers testing the limits of the day to give us the machines we have today through the revision of engineers, scientists and mechanics. I see the wars we’ve fought on earth and how these have informed my machine. I look at my travel bags and I see chemists creating the polymer and fabric that comprises my dry bags. Dry bags that were developed for military use. Velcro that was developed by NASA for spaceflights. When I look at the road I am on I see the teams of people that keep them in good condition. I rely heavily on consistent smooth roads to travel as I do.

We are never alone. Solitude and quiet are necessary for me to be healthy. I live in a noisy world. A city. Music plays non-stop everywhere. Screens are everywhere I go. All of it wants my attention.  The presence of all this media is akin to mind control. Someone is singing to you, you are following their thoughts and not your own. I’ve come to enjoy music with out words more, it leaves room for me to interpret. I’m constantly told of the world, with very little chance to think about it, unless I shut off the noise.

This noise has been in cars for years, and it’s gotten worse with smart phones and bluetooth. Constantly connected. Plugged in 24X7. Smart phones brought about a change in motorcycles. it became possible to give the rider options ad infinitum. Traction control, wheelie control, launch control, The screen looks more like a smart phone. So much information at a glance. So much I don’t need. I need tach, speed, trip odometer and odometer. The rest is nice, but unnecessary. It goes against my motorcycle ethos, which is rooted in the myth of the lone motorcycle rider. Do as much as possible with as little as needed. Leave time for your own thoughts. Leave the stereo at home. Listen to the engine or the wind. Get far enough out there to hear nothing. Trust me total natural silence is a rare and wondrous thing. Those times I’ve heard it are the only time I’ve ever felt the presence of what some would call “God” and what I call the Universe. The noise of man, the reality we have created is a small bubble on a small planet that a few of us have subscribed to. The Silence found outside of this noise bubble is truth, when I experience it, it grounds me and gives me perspective on my everyday life in the bubble.

The myth of the lone motorcycle rider may be used to sell some men “freedom” for me He is a annual pilgrimage. The anthromophication of ideals, ethos and philosophy I hold dear. He is a guide to the Universe.

Meditations: Mistakes We Make

Last week a motorcycle police officer was hurt in an accident where traffic was slowing down rapidly, she moved to avoid hitting the car in front of her and clipped the rear of a truck. She was pretty badly hurt. I hope she recovers and is back in action as soon as possible.

Motorcycle police in Wichita Kansas have not been in service for very long. They were done away with in the 90s because it was believed they were not worth the risk. Last December the WPD brought the Motorcycle Unit back. Those of us that ride have been waiting to see what happens. The PD bought Harley Road Kings (or some kind of Harley) personally I think a Concourse, ZX14, or a BMW would have been a better choice.

When I was sixteen I rear ended another driver. It was my fault, the context didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that the school bus near me was weaving in the lane, with the driver turned half way around yelling at kids. That’s where my focus was. Then I looked directly in front of me. Shit. BAM! My fault.

Years later I had a motorcycle accident where I clipped the front end of another bike. Totaled my bike, totaled the other riders bike. I got the ticket. It was my fault.

Context doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that the other rider had her feet down and bars cranked hard right in the middle of the intersection. What matters is I didn’t avoid that accident. I had years and miles of experience on that rider, and it does not matter what they were doing, I could have avoided it had I not been looking for cross traffic. I saw the rider and froze. I fell victim to my own survival responses (see Chapter One) I rolled off the gas, I didn’t brake enough, I went tight on the bars, and I froze.

The language that it being used in the article linked above is being used to soften the fact that the officer is at fault. The PD sounds like I did at the time of my unfortunate motorcycle accident. “but traffic… but unexpected…” But nothing. own it. Insurance is pretty clear on rear end accidents. there is no clipped and if that officer were off duty or just another citizen she’d get an inattentive driving ticket. Ask me how I know.

If Wichita is going to have a motorcycle police unit they had better commit to it. Riding is a skill that is cultivated over years. The rest of us will need to be forgiving as these riders learn.  It’s gonna be awkward for the next year or so. Hopefully no one gets hurt terribly.

Zen Upside Your Head, Monday

Monday gets a bad rap amongst those of us tied to the five day work week. The faux dread and blaming of life’s little problems gets stacked on this particular day in a arbitrarily named day. Forgetting ones coffee thermal, a broken clip on a back pack, one favored coffee shop is closed today, as a star rises from the horizon on the third planet in a solar system some where in a galaxy amidst other billions of galaxies. The thermal, the back pack, the bad drivers, the closed coffee shop are so minute, that when I look up at the veil of blue I shrug, let out the clutch and roll on. I caught myself thinking small was large. Perspective.

Erik Buell Racing 1190sx the Hipster of Modern Motorcycles

I wrote the following bit a week or so before the epic rod failure. I was reading through it, to see if it was worthy of public consumption.  I laughed out loud when I started talking about “level of engagement” because, once you have to tear a bike completely apart and put it back together again, you are completely engaged with it. 

Ahhh hipsters. The purveyors of craft beer, gluten free diets, metrosexual beard products and skinny jeans. At least thats what the memes would have you believe. Personally I enjoy being hip. I like knowing things. I like a more bohemian existence. I have never gone totally with the masses on most things. Politics, religion, music, motorcycles. I have a love of the odd-ball stuff. One thing I do not like is pretense. So when I see a perfectly restored 1972 SOHC Honda 750, my heart warms, then when I see the perfect beard, black rimed glasses, and skinny jeans clad in aged leather, scarf and 3/4 hemet I kinda cringe, but hey… Hipsters are usually the first to gentrify a market. Those old UJMs (Ubiquitous Japanese Motorcycle) were dirt cheap back in 2000 and round about 2013 they soared in price, because in 2009 there was intelligent bohemian crafty people latched on to them and got them running again. Cafe Racers made a come back. I was a part of this movement. Albeit late, 2011.  I got my cb750 in January of 2011. I sold it for more than I paid for it, granted I did a ton of work to it.  The same is also true of Vintage (anything really) but stereo equipment and vinyl records, which I LOVE. My old 1974 Sansui Quad with Klipsch speakers makes me very happy. There again, hipsters entered that market and the value of records and old stereos soared.

Hipsters hate being called hipsters. Anyone who is a hipster will not admit it. Only poser hipsters call themselves hipsters. GOD THIS IS SO STUPID. Ahem… sorry for the outburst.

So where am I going with this? Well. I was getting my EBR set up with insurance. My insurance company told me that the VIN was invalid. I had to take a picture of the VIN on the frame to send to them. At the DMV I had to wait 20 minutes while the frustrated clerk searched and searched for my bike. Two phone calls later she found information and could register it.

I’m really tempted to ride it to the every coffee shop in town and say things like “Yeah, the bike I ride, you probably haven’t heard of… it’s pretty obscure.”

Truth be told, I wouldn’t have ever known enough about them to consider one, if it wasn’t for my good friend, Justin. Justin loves to rib me about being a hipster. I take it as a mark of distinction. Hipsters have a level of engagement that goes beyond normal, whatever their passion is, they immerse themselves in it. Music. Art. Motorcycles. Beer. Food. Whatever. I have musician friends that are encyclopedic when it comes to bands and we can talk for hours about them. Justin is the same way about bikes. Encyclopedic. His level of engagement with modern motorcycles is far above anyone else I have ever met, certainly more than my own.

I feel like with the acquisition of this bike I’m getting into deeper waters. It’s like nothing I’ve ridden before. It’s like listening to a band I’ve been told is good.  Now I need to make up my mind. I’ll be getting used to this bike for some time to come. It’s gonna be hard to come close to my love of the zx10r.

Addendum:

And then again, there is something about the EBR that harkens back to that old cb750 There is something about this bike that makes me eager to ride it, I look forward to cranking it over in the morning and hearing that V-Twin rumble. Perhaps it’s the novelty of the bike. Perhaps it’s the ethos of its creation and engineering, that is not unlike the cb750 in it’s maverick design.

 

Dark Morning Final Break In Ride

Key on switch on. Press start. Fire. The door raises spreading light into the dark early morning. 540 miles on this engine. At 620 I’ll change the oil and consider her properly broken in. On the reassembly, I miss aligned a band clamp that restricted throttle movement to no more than 60%. Probably for the best.

The sliver of a moon hangs in a veil of grey as pretty dawn peaks from the horizon. I’m headed east towards Augusta Kansas. Thunder Road in the black of morning. The EBR has the best headlight of any bike I have ever owned. Projector LED focused high beam and a nice spread on the low beam. Out of the black, red flashing crossing lights. Three white lights and a tritone howl. The clang and squeal of steel on steel, two high containers rumble out of the dark and back into it. Fiery pink sun rises in my rearview.

I pull onto the runway with the private jets and small planes. All bikers are frustrated pilots. Breakfast, fuel, and onward.