Dec 27, 2008

Cheap Bike and Me Part IV

4:30AM came no more than an hour after I actually experienced sleep. I think I was shutting off the alarm before I realized I was standing. All my gear was prepared and I suited up before eating breakfast. My wife was coming along to hang with Tammy and Victor, at least for the morning, so she was up and a lot more perky than me. Parts of my brain were just getting used to living beside the dead cells I'd destroyed in the previous two days. Maybe the live cells were digesting the chemically destroyed dead ones and later events would be explained by that poorly considered biological activity. I got the GPS installed in my wife's car, gave her a short demo on how to follow it, and headed for the garage.

With the car battery still hooked to the charger and jumpered to the bike battery, I gave the CB a kick and got . . . nothing. Not a burp. I tried my kick-lever-starter-button routine and the starter motor spun freely without making the slightest effort to turn the motor. I went back to futilely kicking the bike's lever for a few moments until the bike began to slip off of the centerstand. I moved it off of the centerstand to the sidestand and remembered that this bike had something that I haven't had to mess with on my own bikes for 15 years; an OFF position to the fuel petcock. I turned on the fuel, pumped the throttle, full-choked the carbs, and gave it a kick. The bike roared to life, then began to stall. I turned the choke off and the bike went back to a 4,000 rpm blast. I'd set the idle to about 2k out of concern for the rough sound of the lower idle action, but 4k was a lot more than I wanted to wrestle with on the road. Thinking about getting into my tool box and resetting the idle, I started to get off of the bike.

While this crap was going on, my wife was waiting in the car, watching her husband fool with a 37-year-old pile of junk, wondering why she had drug herself out of bed at 4:30 for this "experience." I couldn't have explained it to her, if I had tried. Mostly, I'd promised Vic and Sev that I'd have a bike for this damned event and I was going to have one if it killed me or made me more stupid. Later, 290 miles later, I'd learn why the morning started off the way it did. At 5AM, in the headlight lit garage, I was only confused.

When I put my weight on my left foot, it slid out from under me and the whole mess -- bike, battery cables, and all -- came down on me. Mad as hell, I picked up the bike, rewired the battery connections, kicked it back to life, knocked off the jumper cables, slammed the seat down, and roared out into my neighborhood on my pre-EPA, pre-DOT noise-regulated little red Honda, fumbling with the light switch in the morning dark.

I'd told my wife that I wanted to start out heading east on County Road C, avoiding the freeway until I had the feel of the bike. So she took that route, ignoring the British-accented GPS voice chanting "off route, recalculating" every block or two.

The CB's headlight was pathetic. At best, it lit about 30' of road, dimly, in a pattern about as wide as the back of my wife's Taurus. If this event involved night riding, I'd be leaving the bike on the side of the road and hitchhiking back home. I avoid riding at night, with real headlights. With 1971 bike lights, there would be no question of my giving up the competition in exchange for another day of life.

After a few miles of slow speed travel, I had the feel of the CB450: slightly heavy steering with a constant right pull, a vicious headshake with any deceleration or steady throttle which slackened a bit with acceleration, reasonably predictable brakes, a motor that felt deceptively strong but ran out of steam long before redline and at about 62mph, a clunky transmission, and a seriously uncomfortable seat. While riding the CB, I was constantly reminded of the Hyosung cruiser I'd test-ridden a few months back. The same unfinished, in-the-vicinity-of-right feel of the Korean bike was there in that old Honda. I almost felt some sympathy for Hyosung engineers, knowing that in 2008 they were starting at the same point where Honda was 37 years ago.

When I thought I knew the CB's handling problems, I told my wife "follow the GPS" to MMM's office. Following driving instructions has never been one of my wife's skills. We have 41 years of her being completely unable to follow simple driving direction, no matter how they are delivered, so I immediately recognized the flaw in my plan. I hadn't been to the MMM office often or recently and it was too dark for me to be able to read the map on my tankbag. I was stuck following her, but she was making random turns, constantly looping back on herself, and turning the opposite from the direction that I knew the GPS was directing her. As I helplessly rode behind this random motion vehicle, all those years of "turn right in two blocks" followed by an instant lane-change to the left and the associated immediate left turn, began to deteriorate my sleep-deprived, chemically-damaged patience.

After an hour of thermal-noise motion, we were close to our destination but my wife kept hopping over the freeway and diving into deadend frontage roads. Finally, freaked-out, late, and driven almost nuts in frustration, I pulled in front of her and asked what the hell she was doing. "You said you didn't want to be on the freeway" was the response.

"I said, 'Follow the GPS,' didn't I?"

"Oh, yeah."

We, finally, hit the freeway for a few miles, turned off one exit past the one where I knew we should have exited, and turned . . . the wrong way. More random motion and wrong direction turns followed. I could imagine the GPS constantly repeating "off route, recalculating" and, before the recalculation was done, more random motion would set the routine off again. I managed to direct her into a mall parking lot, got into the car, pointed out the pink line telling her where the GPS wanted her to go, reminded her that she has to listen to the whole instruction before turning randomly, etc. I was still wearing my earplugs. I was frustrated and worn out. And pretty loud. My wife just blows me off,. Somebody didn't and called the police. We didn't get out of the parking lot before getting pulled over. After explaining our situation, separately, the cops gave us really bad directions to our destination. After we escaped from their interrogation, I called Victor and got more directions, which I forgot almost instantly.

And we took off, sort of following the GPS again. After correcting her from several false turns, we ended up on the right road going in the right direction. I chose that moment to give up on following her and, in the dawning light, I attempted to sort out where we were. She chose that moment to absolutely obey the GPS instructions and was on a mission to find our destination. We'd been going in circles for so long that I was lost, even when I sort of knew where we were. In the meantime, she'd found the house, spotted the other bikers, and come back for me while I was still wrestling with the map. Clearly, I wasn't operating at full capacity. I might have been there for another hour, staring at the meaningless squiggly lines on the map.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is realism's reverse side of the coin that Peter Egan spends so freely. In his stories the nostalgia comes delightfully true - those old clunkers really are as good as the memories ("He's out there, somewhere - on a Triumph"). That is, the ugly toad morphs into a beautiful princess whose earnest kisses contain no hint of clammy amphibian origin. The road trips execute tidily (except for the Vincent, which the Vincent nut-cases have special explanations for) and a good time is had by all (except for Peter's back seizing solid, the one time at Daytona).