Thursday, June 04, 2009

A tan left forearm.

Greetings from the never ending road trip! I believe when we last left off I was headed to Detroit via the High school parking lot. Unfortunately the hood broke off the Fiat so I had to skip the High School. (Some combination of metal fatigue and rust… Just another opportunity to upgrade as far as I can tell.)

Anyways… so I rolled into Detroit on a Friday. Amateur-Sophist was surprisingly still at work. If you are also a reader of his writings, you will see that he solved that problem almost immediately. With the work problem solved so begins the week of over powered, underweight vehicles. I was in the market for a motorcycle… and as it turned out, they didn’t have any in Montana. Not the case there in the motorcity USA! A-S and I went and looked at some bikes.

The Sophist and I have been known to make a few analogies about women and vehicles… For the purposes of clarity here, if I am talking about a vehicle, it is just a vehicle, and of course visa versa.

VOICE FROM THE PEANUT GALLERY: “There is a difference between women and vehicles?”

NOTORIOUS: “Yes, but it is mostly academic…”

Anyways, I had plenty of time in my shipping container in Afghanistan to contemplate the merits of almost every bike on the market… thoughtfully comparing various thrust to weight ratios, reading reviews of riding characteristics, and visually studying every picture of all the interesting bikes I could find. I came to the conclusion that the best bike for my purposes was going to be the BMW R1200R. It will cruse anywhere in relative comfort, it has the power to do awesome things, it will last for ever, and despite A-S’s discountable opinion, it looks pretty good. We went to the dealership… and I rode one. It was exactly what I expected in every respect. It road perfectly, it behaved in all riding regimes that I could test, and the salesman was giving me a very good deal. I was pretty sure I had found my bike… but decided to wait until Monday to pull the trigger. On the way back to the Sophist’s apartment, we stop at the Ducati dealership. Mostly it was just to look at the eye candy and kill time. I mean, my decision is pretty much already made… the BMW is perfect. This is sort of like stopping at a strip club on your way home from getting engaged.

We look around the Ducati dealership for a while. The bikes are crazy hot… but lots of cheepish plastic parts. After looking around a bit… we are about to head out the door. Just as we turn to leave, the sales man says to me, “Hey, I have one warmed up out in back… you want to go for a ride?”

So I went for a ride.

Oh shit! I got on it and Holy FUCK! Inside my chest was the competing sound of the silent scream of terror only felt by the immediately doomed to violent death and the “WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” of Curious George the monkey when he accidentally flew a NASA rocket into space! Plus it had started raining!

Believe it or not… for several hours after riding both those bikes I still thought I had a decision ahead of me to make. I probably could have stayed mentally debating the pros and cons of the perfect bike vs the mechanical insanity for days. Finally, the Sophist pointed out that I already knew the answer to my question. He was right… I did.

And like so many important decisions, once contemplated in the right light, there really is no decision to be made… only action to enact.

So, when given a choice between a bike that is absolutely perfect and satisfying in everyway vs a maintenances intensive beast that is impractical in almost every measurable way and pretty much scares the shit out of me… I went with the latter.

(Now insert all your comparisons to women if you like… they are undoubtedly applicable.)

Stage two: Detroit arrival +9 hours.

We are in a bar in Hamtramck called “Whiskey in the Jar.” Despite what you would expect, it is neither an Irish nor a Polish bar. It is in fact a Drinker bar. They seemed to specialize in super cheep beer and cherry flavored hydraulic fluid. I do have to say, after a few sips of cherry hydraulic fluid, the mind becomes very clear. A zen way of thought takes over and you have ideas like… We are one hour closer to Ohio from here than we would be if we were an hour farther from there.” Obviously we should go to Ohio from here!

By an odd play of transportation… Jonny Motto, who had had no intention of going to Ohio at all that day, found himself on his way to Ohio with the Sophist and me. His resistance was minimal given the previous mentioned logic. We were in the Buick… So, being out of drinking practice for the last year, I handed the keys to the Sophist and retired to captain’s cabin (back seat) and left the crew to take us into port. It was dark and rainy. My only significant impression of that ride was the insane numbers of cars crashed in the ditch with their headlights pointing the wrong way. Being able to see the silver lining… at least the cops were to busy to mess with us… as long as we were able to keep the car on the road! From now on, if I have some reason to need to roll with no interference from the fuzz… I will be doing it during really crappy weather and natural disasters.

Ohio… it is right on the way anyways.

Kentucky… even more right on the way!

What the heck was I doing in Kentucky right? As a birthday trip for AG, we went to the Creation Museum. This place is unbelievable… literally! The unfortunate part was that it was full of “real” visitors and obviously well funded. I don’t consider myself to have been a real visitor… though they do have documentation of my attendance. I am not sure I would say it is worth the trip, but if you are in Kentucky anyways, stop by! The dioramas are the best I have ever seen. They also had a petting zoo…sans dinosaurs. Outside in the petting zoo there were two ponies… and they were being quite amorous regardless of the young Christian minds they were performing for. So, to the sound of grunting animal sex I realized, “Shit, I guess this is a Creation Museum!”

Next tactical problem to solve how do I get both a gigantic Buick and a Ducati to Montana… After attempting to solve this for about a day and a half, I realized that I didn’t want to solve it at all. Detroit is much closer to where I am going to need this thing than Montana is anyways. So I developed a new plan. I will leave the bike in Stos the Greek’s garage… and come back in a month or so and take ride it to North Carolina!

(Didn’t I tell you I am on a never ending road trip!)

From experience, I have learned that I shouldn’t leave anything I care about in Detroit for to long unattended. The entropy of that place is to much to high! I will be back for the bike ASAP!

Speaking of entropy… I visited my grandmother as well. Alztimers is hitting pretty hard, but she couldn’t have a better attitude about it! I have always said “you only have to lie in your own mind.” She is taking full advantage of the fact that she can make pretty much everything about her life up and no one is going to call her on it. According to her, she is 35, has several boyfriends, and her main dilemma is who to flirt with at dinner. Actually, it seems that she is sliding around in her memory “Slaughter House V” style. By her account she will out live us all. She might.


Next stop for this boat show is what was described as, “Just outside Chicago.” Now, technically it is… just a little more than an hour Northwest of Chicago. In my mind I had assumed this meant something along the line of just beyond decent public transportation. In fact this meant directions include “so you turn off the paved road.” Just outside Chicago… like Jupitor is just outside the inner solar system.

Either way, with a progressive taxi on cell phone I found his house. Years can change people… Not having seen him in a while I was quite surprised to find that the years have turned him into a combination of Jesus Christ and Arnold Schwarzenegger… looks wise anyways. We talked for quite a while. Then after what turned into a 4 hour conversation with his new female associate about the public education system… it seems we are fucked! On a side note, I have heard lots of adults talk about how the “kids are different now, not like we used to be, etc.” I had always blown this off as the thing every generation says about the next one. After listening to some very well thought out examples and arguments… it may actually be the case. This seems to indicate more need for my genes to be preserved into the future of humanity. One can always hope that in Nature vs Nurture… Nature is the Dom!

Also, as I think about it… if this current generation really is mentally, educationally, and socially fucked up, it is probably their fault! These kids are different! They can’t read, and can’t speak proper English! They can’t communicate without electronic media as an interface! Who else could have brought this about? I am sure it is the 12 year old kid that decided to cancel art and music from the curriculum to focus on standardized tests and it is also them that volunteered to be a market for all sorts of mind numbing mass produced electronic gizmos… Oh well, fuck them! At least I am not in their generation! These kids are different from us anyways! …not like we were!

Onward again…

Pretty smooth drive across the rest of the great plains… then about 200 miles out side of Great Falls the Buick started to tap out. She started some wicked vibrations. It wasn’t through the steering… but it was enough to make the mirrors useless. Luckily if I stayed over 75 mph, the vibrations seemed to smooth out. Below that though… shit, I am glad I don’t have dentures! In addition to the vibes I was loosing power under load. It almost seemed like a few of the cylinders were cutting out. I nursed her to Louistown. Unfortunately all the auto parts stores are closed on Sunday… (Auto parts store parking lots are my preferred location to breakdown in cars) Next best place is gas stations across the street from airports where I know people. I figure worst case I can go over to the FBO and borrow some tools or assistance. Turns out part of the vibe was from the alternator bracket having lost one of it’s retaining bolts. I borrowed a crescent wrench from one of the other cars parked at the gas station. (all my tools are unusefully sitting in the trunk of the fiat… or one could just assume that I have made the fiat so fast and light by now that if hadn’t left them there it might float away all by itself) So I looked around for a bolt to secure the alternator. I found one! It was conveniently in the hood mounting hinge! I pulled it out of the hood mounting hinge and resecured the alternator. Now with the alternator bolted back into place, I attempted to restart the car. No dice. When the bracket was loose, the belt on the alternator had been slipping on each bounce so I didn’t have enough charge to turn over the tiny 7.5L engine. Jump start! No problem… back on the road… unfortunately with still about 2/3s of the vibrations still shaking the car. (Maybe the alternator bearings are all reamed out from the bouncing! Maybe!)

Either way, made it back to Great Falls… though the Buick was not happy about the rest of that trip… making it’s displeasure known by shaking enough between the speeds of 35 – 65 that the radio stations would change themselves. No time for that shit! With a quick change of horses R^2 and I continued on to Seattle! This time in a Mazda 3.

My aunt lives in Seattle… so in addition to exchange of philosophy she also restarted my tradition of pasta for breakfast! This was subtly encouraged by providing a real kitchen and putting bags of pasta next to the stove early in the morning. It is a lot like encouraging ants to eat potato salad on the forth of July by putting a few pieces next to their house when your mother isn’t looking. A little weird but so natural.

Seattle: Best place to drink beer with a view.

As long as we are this close… might as well take a quick day and a half trip out to the pacific coast. I thought I had never been there before, but once we got there… like some sort of weird deja vu I felt that I had been there before. (OK… enter a SMALL amount of nerdyness on my part…) As it turns out I had been there on a field trip with Science Camp about 17 years ago. I know… I know… Science Camp was way cool back then though. Even more absurdly I realized I had been there before by recognizing a tree, actually I recognized one particular tree. Then, like being splashed in the face with a bucket of ice cold water I realized that I recognized everything! I will caveat this with the fact that it is a really impressive tree that I had actually thought about several times in the last two decades.

Now, on this trip because of the near perfect weather, we stumbled what may be the most ideally romantic situation possible. Granted you have to be willing to break a few laws… maybe only regulations… well, just have a good explanation ready if you get caught by authority figures. (Should be no problem for anyone who would read this blog.) I will only go into describing the ingredients of this situation. It combined every standard ideal romantic situation possible… completely secluded beach, sunset over the pacific, campfires, wine-cheese-salami-cracker combo dinner, moonlit waves crashing on the shore, sleeping under the stars, and even a little adventure from rising tide in the middle of the night. Thank god for the sand flees or my teeth might have rotted right in my head! The only thing missing was a serenading gondola ride. Actually it was very nice. And to think, the beaches in my childhood were mostly about digging holes and poking dead carp that had washed up on the sand. Either way, if anyone needs a situation like this… keep the Pacific Northwest shore in mind. Be aware though, normally it would require rain gear. (As for breaking regulations… technically you are not allowed to “Camp” on the beach. As far as I see it, we had no tent… thus we weren’t camping! We were just sleeping on the beach near a campfire. Believe it or not, fires are allowed!)

A side note: I will admit that my fire craft is not quite what it used to be. It probably took me about 4 matches to get that thing lit. That was using wetish all natural found tinder and kindling… but I will have to practice more. I am a long way from the no match fires of my early teen years. I guess have just gotten used to the idea of having to start fires near crashed aircraft that I haven’t been practicing the no resources fire starting techniques.

Alright… enough for now. And just incase anyone is curious, it wasn’t the bearings in my alternator. Now I am hoping for impending U joint failure! If I can get the Buick fixed in the next few days, I will be off to New Mexico next week.