It’s been a tough month, riding the 90-mile round trip to work, on Big Red, my 2004 Harley Road King Classic. The bike wasn’t the problem though, it was me. If you’ve read some of my stories from the last few years you’ll know that I’m one biker who makes a lot of mistakes. It’s not unique to my motorcycling either because I make a lot of mistakes in pretty much every area of my life. At least I’m consistent. So, it came as no real surprise to me when I left my lights on and had to get a couple of guys to push me, which didn’t work and then I had to get a car to jump me off. I ran out of gas two times, and yes, Big Red does have a warning light, and I was watching it, but she died on me. Each time though I managed to shake the bike left and right enough to get some gas flowing so I could ride and then coast into the gas stations. Running out of gas on the Trans-Canada Highway last summer should have taught me a lesson, but I’m a slow learner. I also forgot to bring my rain trousers and so I got soaked a few times. I’ve decided to just call it all” “Practicing for my Trip”. The only thing I haven’t practiced is getting lost, but then I don’t really need any practice with that. I’m an expert. This year I’m heading to California for my daughter’s graduation from university. When I leave California, I’m going to leave my next destinations up to Divine Providence, which has at least one thing going for it: you can’t get lost if you don’t know where you’re heading. I’ve gotten the bike all spruced up in preparation. She’s just shy of having 92,000 miles on her so she needs tender loving care. I got all the oils in the bike changed, two brand spanking new whitewalls and I replaced my windscreen, so she’s ready to go.
And hula girl is properly installed. Doesn’t she look good for a 13 year old bike!
I’ve been practicing too. I’ve been eating granola bars and beef sticks and dining at some sketchy restaurants. I also bought a new Saddlemen S3500 Deluxe sissy bar bag to hold all my belongings and a Nikon Coolpix P900 camera so I can get good photos of the graduation and the trip. To top it off I bought 10 nice Acid Kuba Kuba cigars to put in my travel humidor for the trip. I like to smoke a good cigar when I’ve achieved something or when Big Red’s broken down and I need to Zen out and think.
We head out on May 12th. Last year we rode from Georgia to Alaska and then down the west coast along the Pacific Coast Highway to Los Angeles. After that we headed home. You can read my previous blog entries if you want to see how that trip shaped up. As Hazel the maid from TV used to say: “It was a real doozy.”
This year, after California, I don’t know where I’ll end up. When you abandon yourself to Divine Providence and Fate you can’t pick and choose your destinations. So, stay tuned.
Hula Girl with baby Jesus behind her.
In my last blog I wrote about one of the staff at the Harley dealership accidentally breaking my hula girl which I keep on the fork cover in front of me as I ride. Two days ago I secured a replacement hula girl and attached her to the same spot. I think this is the sixth one I’ve owned. Today, on one of those rare winter days when the weather was good enough to ride, I headed the bike in the direction of Dalton, Georgia where I work. Roughly 50 miles. A short distance down the road I noticed hula girl was missing! I hadn’t remembered seeing her when I left. I imagined she’d fallen off somewhere. After work I headed home. The roads were slippery because it had rained and because there was a lot of gravel on the roads, I guess because of the recent snow. We southerners are a mess when it snows. Since were not used to it we get all flustered and throw anything on the ground for traction. I think I saw some fruitcakes on the road the other day. Anyway, taking the exit into Calhoun I hit a big bump and then heard the sound of something falling from the bike. I looked behind me and saw a figure in the road and realized that it was probably my hula girl. She must have fallen into some spot on the bike where I couldn’t see her and had now become dislodged. By the time I realized this I was too far up the exit to stop and walk back so I decided I would go back on the interstate to the previous exit, do a U turn and come back to the exit where she’d fallen off. At this point you might be thinking: He’s going to a lot of trouble just to pick up a $4 hula girl? But I want to assure you that I would act the same regardless of what kind of girl had fallen off my bike. I don’t discriminate and besides, there’s such a thing as loyalty. Alas, when I returned I scoured the road and couldn’t find hula girl anywhere. I like to think that some kind driver saw her stranded there and picked her up. That they will tend to her wounds and provide her with a good home. I believe there are still good people like that in this world.
As for me, fortunately, I have another hula girl at home. I try to stay prepared for such emergencies. Hula girls always remind me to not take things too seriously, especially myself.
In my last blog I was down at Tybee Island for Thanksgiving. I had a great time there but a rough ride home. The traffic was “stop and go” south of Atlanta, it was colder than I expected and the bike started making a bad noise. It was a grinding sound that seemed to come from the engine. I pulled over and checked the bike to see if anything was loose – heat shields, engine mount, exhaust, brackets – they were fine. So I continued on and the sound continued too. As I listened the sound became more familiar to me and I finally figured out that it was a loose compensator nut. The only reason I guessed this was I had had the misfortune of having the nut come loose twice in the past. What is the compensator nut? It keeps the compensator on tight. And the compensator absorbs the shock of the chain going tight and slack.
Personally, I think I have problems with my own internal compensator nut. I struggle when life is accelerating too fast and then suddenly, when it moves into the slack times. My compensator nut comes loose and I need some psychic tools to tighten her up.
Anyway, I managed to get the bike home on that trip and then tucked her in the garage until I could find time to get her down to the Harley shop. That time was today. As I rode her up to the service door two of the mechanics were outside and staring at me because of the grinding, crunching sound the bike was making.
“You guessed right.” The mechanic said twenty minutes later. “It’s the compensator nut. Want a job?”
“I’m an idiot.” I told him. “I’m the last person you would want repairing a motorcycle.”
Within an hour the bike was fixed and washed, the only casualty being a broken hula girl. In the four years since I’ve owned Big Red I’ve had a hula girl, on the steering stem cover, to remind me to enjoy the ride and not take things, including myself, too seriously.
Now that the Harley’s fixed I need to find a new hula girl. And as for my internal compensator nut? I think I need to let go of some expectations, take a few more walks, enjoy the present moment, recognize that what I do have in my life more than compensates for what I don’t have, what I’ve lost. If I can just torque that thought tighter into my head and my heart I’ll get a few more miles out of me.
How’s your compensator nut?
I finally have my latest book, Hope Bats Last, published on Amazon, available as an eBook. You don’t need a Kindle to read it! On the website you can download a Kindle app for free, enabling you to read it on a variety of devices from PCs to phones to tablets. It is a stand-alone book, meaning that you haven’t had to read the previous novels to know what’s going on in this one! Please support struggling independent artists! Hope you enjoy. Here’s the blurb.
Twice widowed, recently retired, and now an official senior citizen after turning 65, Rory Conner wants to take one last motorcycle journey across the USA. The former detective and child protection social worker wants to ride Big Red – his old Harley Davidson Road King – from Georgia to California. His plan is to take only the blue highways, the back roads, and leave all of the other decisions to chance, fate, and Divine Providence.
His son and daughter aren’t happy about his trip. He’s been forgetting things lately, won’t use a GPS system, nor will he plan his route. His son worries about his dad getting lost. Rory replies. “It’s California son, a big state. Even I can’t miss it.” What could possibly go wrong?
Rory’s sojourn takes him across the Mississippi River a few more times than necessary and he encounters murder, mayhem, mechanical problems, and romance along the way. He finds himself calling on his detective and child protection skills one last time to try and save a child’s life.
Will he make it to California? Is this his last ride? And what does it mean that “Hope Bats last”?
I’ll get the worst news out of the way first. It’s kind of embarrassing but the hula girl that I have on my bike has lost her skirt. I’d show you a picture but I’m sure she wouldn’t want her nether regions to be shown to others. Probably against the new rules of internet neutrality too. I need to get her covered up. Maybe a bit of Styrofoam would do the job.
Big Red is another matter though. I was happy with how quickly the Harley dealer helped me out yesterday but I didn’t like seeing the drops of oil on the ground underneath the bike this morning. I rode the bike down to the beach so I could have a little walk before heading back to the Harley dealer. That’s when I first saw the dolphins playing near the shore. Beautiful.
Then back to the Harley dealer. Turns out that the primary inspection plate is warped. That’s why the bike is leaking. They’d have to order the part. I had them check around and they found a replacement one in Dothan, Alabama. So I made an appointment for tomorrow morning. I’ll get up early try and nurse the bike up there. It’s about a 2 and ½ hour ride. That’s the perilous part. Getting there without burning out the clutch or some other mishap. Has to be some element of peril involved in a true adventure, don’t you think? I welcome any prayers and good wishes for Big Red and Hula Girl that you can send my way. No internet neutrality rules against that.
My buddy Jeff “El Jefe” picked me up yesterday and we drove to the Harley dealer to pick up Big Red. As we rode down the highway in his police interceptor we had one of our usual manly conversations. This time it was about pure consciousness,the “luminous” quality of the mind, how it’s like a mirror that merely reflects thoughts but is not those thoughts, about how attitudes of gratitude and lovingkindness can crowd out negative emotions. The usual Harley talk.
When we got to the dealer the bike was ready and it had been awarded the prize of an astoundingly high repair bill. Even though the mechanic explained everything he had done to that bike I still didn’t understand. If he had explained it in terms of pure consciousness I might have had a chance. Instead he talked about the cams, the cam chain and a whole lot about the shifter. I recall a bit of the conversation.
“So,” I said, “Let me get this straight: You had to replace the shifter shaft seal, fix the stripped shifter shaft lever and the stripped shifter shaft?”
“You got it.”
I laughed. “I don’t even know what in the hell I’m talking about!”
Essentially, in terms that even I could understand, Jeff explained that everything below the engine had been repaired or upgraded. The bill easily reflected that. But Big Red does have 56,000 miles on her. She has safely ferried me across the country twice. She deserves a bit of pampering. And it made a difference. On the 30 minute ride back to Rome I noticed she had more torque, idled lower, gears shifted with less clunking, she rode more smoothly and there weren’t any rattles. Certainly ran more smoothly then I walk!
So I took her out again today. The temperature has soared and right now is knocking on 65 degrees. I had fun on the back roads, a few twisties, slaloming in the curves. I stopped at K Mart to buy a new hula girl to put on my bike. (I’ve written in a previous blog about how a Harley mechanic broke her off at the legs. The poor thing.) I rode out to the Oostanaula river and parked the bike and attached the new hula girl. That completed my trinity of tokens. I have a Yin Yang medal on the bike to remind me to stay balanced and in the here and now. I have a St Columbanus medal, the patron saint of motorcyclists, to remind me to be reverent and I’ve got hula girl to remind me to be silly and not take myself too seriously. I’m ready for anything now!
I found a spot by the river to sit and think about things like shifter shafts and pure consciousness. (Realizing ironically of course that if I’m thinking about pure consciousness then I’m not dwelling in it. But that’s okay.)
I mainly felt gratitude. Thankfulness for this moment. I dwelled in that zone for a spell.
I hopped on the bike again and went for another ride and stopped at a spot near the river. There I ran into a friend that for some reason I keep running into. A few minutes ago she took off for a walk and we’re going for coffee when she gets back. So right now I’m sitting by the river, writing, listening to the geese honking, watching the river flow.
Day 1: Hula girl, Yin Yang, St Columbanus and Motel 6
Just got in to Memphis and I’m hunkered down at an old Motel 6. And yes, they kept the light on for me. Stopped at a Comfort Inn but they wanted over $120 for a room. Found this place just two miles away for just $53. And it even comes with a bottle opener attached to the wall. I’m trying my best to keep expenses down to $100 a day. Today I had the Over 55 breakfast at Krystal for $3.25. Gas/petrol was $36 and with the room that made $92.25. Other expenses put me up to around $104. Not bad.
Crazy ride today. Left Rome when it was about 75 degrees and now it’s 55. Went through sunny weather, rain and a thunderstorm. Still it was fun. So good to clear my mind and let go of things.
325 miles today without any real difficulties. Not surprising because I had good mojo working. I have hula girl on the bike again, in good shape. She had lost her grass skirt and I had to take one from a spare broken hula girl (I know, I know) and tidy her up. I also have a medal to protect me. St Columbanus, the patron saint of motorcyclists. Finally, I have a Yin Yang medal hooked on my right handlebar. So what could go wrong?
What I remember of today was the beautiful azure, cloudy sky when I left Rome. The magnolia trees and their white blossoms. Purple wildflowers, daisies, Mexican primroses by the road side as I flew past. Regal Live oaks. Then a violent thunderstorm, the sky gunmetal grey and thumping. I hightail it through the rain to the cover of a gas station.
Good trip so far. Grateful, thankful, prayerful.