Feb 27, 2019

What We Don't Get

This winter, my wife and I took a cruise to Central America. While we were exploring Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, I found this flyer on a park bench. Practically every place we went I saw motorcycles that I've never seen before. All of those cool sub-500cc bikes that I've lusted after when I read British or Euro motorcycle magazines and stuff I didn't know existed. My wife got more than a little tired waiting for me to take pictures, ask questions, and ogle motorcycles.

I guess Katana is a ROW Suzuki label? There are so many models on this sheet that I'd like to test ride that I'm thinking a winter in Costa Rica writing about local motorcycles might be next year's plan.

For me, the CR-1, CRM, SMX-200, SM-200, CR5 250, SX2-250, CR6 300, and EN-125 all look aimed right at my target zone.

Costa Rica has great roads, paved and unpaved, amazing destinations, wonderful food, and incredibly friendly people and NO WINTER. I might have played out my interest in living through winters that get colder than 30-40F. I could see taking a couple of winters to explore the places we visited on our cruise.

We've never done anything like the cruise before. Hell, other than Mexico and Canada we've never traveled together outside of the US; most west of the Mississippi. The upside is that all forms of travel could be experienced on a cruise: from ocean liners to mini-taxis to trains and ziplines. The downside is the ship never stops at a port for more than a day, usually 8 hours of less. You don't get to know a place much in that little time, but we did learn that we love those islands, Aruba and Carsou, and the highlands of Panama and Costa Rica.

Feb 25, 2019

Old Ireland

On the Geezer Links at the right side of the blog page, there is a new link: Old Ireland. Here's what our friend, Ian Caswell, has to say about his site: "My initial idea for this site was to cover only classic vehicles, but since classicireland.ie was already taken and the best alternative I could find was this one, my thoughts for the site began to broaden. A lot of the inspiration for this comes from the few magazines for which I have written articles. Let’s get these mentioned early, because you should not be surprised to see a little of their influence here." Back in the days when Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly was a thing, Ian and I both wrote for the magazine. If for no other reason than to read the horror story of his life with a BMW Funduro, give Ian a read and say "hi."

A Fat Man in A Scuba Suit

All rights Reserved © 2015 Thomas W. Day

Way back when I was about half as old as I am now, I used to hang out at a great scuba diving location in Baja called La Bufadora ("the blowhole") about forty miles south of Ensenada. When I got a weekend off or a three or four day "weekend," I'd often load up our VW Westfalia van or my 1973 Toyota Hilux pickup or even a motorcycle with scuba and snorkeling gear and head for the boarder. Sometimes with family in tow, often on my own. On one of those trips, I found myself with a neighbor on the cliffs of La Bufadora. He was a sixty-something year-old guy from San Francisco who was trying to rekindle something he'd lost in the last thirty years. His story was that he'd been a skinny college kid attending the University of California at San Diego when he first took up scuba diving. Now, he was a 300+ pound old man with a variety of physical ailments, the usual old fat guy's lack of flexibility and strength, and he'd recently become divorced, retired, and had lost a carload of money in the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash. So, he bought some scuba gear (including the largest chunk of neoprene I've ever seen fashioned into something like a wetsuit ), rented a car, drove to Mexico, and planned to recover some of his mojo in the chilly waters of Baja. 
I may never lose the mental image he created when he struggled into that giant wetsuit, put on fins and a mask and strapped on a dive tank, and waddled and stumbled down the rocks toward the ocean. About half-way to the water, his tank and weights overwhelmed him, so abandoned about 80 pounds of his load on the hillside. His diving trip turned into a snorkeling swim. Without the bandana of weights on his belt, that huge wetsuit was like trying to swim with a Zodiac strapped to his back. He didn't have nearly enough weight to sink his flotilla of a wetsuit. So, he splashed around in a circle for a while, trying to get submerged enough to pretend he was still a diver, wearing himself out and completely frustrating any hopes of mojo salvaging. After an hour of disappointment, he gave it up, struggled back up the hill to the campground, kicked off his gear, put on a parrothead shirt and some baggy shorts, and headed for Tijuana where he hoped to find some indiscriminate Mexican hookers or a strip club to help him forget his troubles. He abandoned his dive gear in my campground while I was out spear fishing and since most of it was useless to me I left it for someone else to claim when I headed back home. 
fat_man_scubaLike most of my generation, I'm struggling with my own weight and have been for at least twenty years. Desk jobs, too much Minnesota food seasoned with a total lack of interest in winter sports, a lot of fat genes, and the usual sluggish metabolism that comes with being almost seventy-years-old has made me a bigger man than I'd like to be. 

When I'm riding my WR250X, I get way too many "man, that's a small bike" comments. Geared up and ready to ride, I feel a lot like that San Francisco guy in his neoprene tent. The WR250 is not a small bike. Lots of people consider it to be too tall to ride. Its 56 inch wheelbase is far from strung-out, but it's not short. In fact, it's about the same wheelbase as the Kawasaki Ninja 500R, Buell's 1125R, Suzuki's SV 650, KTM's RC8R, and a collection of "not small" motorcycles. The problem is one of perspective. The bike looks small compared to the fat guy riding it. 
Back in their glory days, Jethro Tull recorded a song that has stuck with me for forty years, "Don't want to be a fat man, people would say that I was just good fun. I don't want to be a fat man. I have not the patience to ignore all that." It turns out that I have way too much patience for all that, but like Tull's "Fat Man" I am a little worried that people might say I'm "just good fun." I would kinda like to do something about putting my 250 back into proper perspective, too. 
2015 was the summer of my current discontent with the status of my waistline and, more specifically, the girth of my belly. One complication that came with moving to Red Wing is that we have a viciously excellent bakery downtown. Sugar is the enemy of all of us. A fair number of scientists have concluded that sugar ought to be relabeled as a poison and regulated accordingly. Most of the major health problems Americans face--"cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease"--are linked to sugar intake. The one I'm concerned with, at the moment, is obesity. In particular, my own oversized belly. So, I'm reading the labels of everything I buy and trying to buy as much stuff without labels (raw materials) as I can convince myself to mess with. My wife and I are trying to up our protein, fiber, green leafy vegetables,

All of this because I don't want to be Little Feat's "Fat Man in the Bathtub." In fact, I don't want any songs written about me although I'd accept one line from Little Feat, "All I want in this life of mine is some good clean fun." I can get that from more places than being the fat man stuck in the bathtub moaning about his girlfriend and what she's up to. I wouldn't mind looking proportionally correct relative to my all time favorite motorcycle, my Yamaha WR250X, too.

Feb 22, 2019

My Weird Audience

It has become discouragingly obvious that my life goal of having 1,000,000 views on this blog is going to take longer than I'm likely to live. A friend recently asked me, "How do you attract readers to a blog?"

My answer was obviously, "How the hell would I know? I've been writing three blogs since the beginning of this century. Cat videos on YouTube get more hits in a day or two than I've managed in almost two decades." Whine, whine, wimper, wimper, and so on.

Looking at the stats here, there are some surprises. I am amazed that my most visited review was the one of the Yamaha XT350 and #2 was the TU250X review. The XT350 hasn't been in production for years and Suzuki's TU250X was pretty much a bust, sales-wise. I'm really happy to have drawn almost 20,000 people to the Aerostich Darien review, because that is a product that I will always be glad I've owned and recommend the suit and the company to anyone who asks. The friendships that developed from my MMM and Aerostich experience are some of the best things that has come from living in Minnesota and 20 years of writing about motorcycles and the people involved in motorcycling.

61,402 Russian pageviews is either confusing or disturbing; mostly the 2nd. Am I getting hacked? Are there secret messages slipped into my blog convincing you to vote for Trump/Putin and buy a Harley? Everyone else, I'm glad you're here and thanks for reading my words. I am really grateful for the half-million views from my US friends.

About three years ago, I could see the handwriting on Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly's diminishing page count and wrote a piece that I thought sounded the end for the Geezer with A Grudge. Looking back at what I've written between then and now, I'm sort of amazed that I've kept on keeping on. The feedback I've had from you, the fearless readers and riders, keeps me in subject matter and I really appreciate that. I have essays scheduled out to, at least, early 2020 without me having to write another word. Three years ago, I figured that would be enough. "Surprise, surprise," as a goofy American TV character used to say (you're old if you know who).

Feb 18, 2019

Lots of Laughter from Me

A friend sent me a link to this article, “Why is Harley-Davidson not popular with Millennials?” The article, itself, is just ok. Mostly a lot of twenty-something whining and pontificating about stuff that has been said and written zillions of times before. The cool part of the link I almost missed (Because I am vacationing in the Caribbean and the cruise boat’s wifi is terrible and expensive, so fuck you very much record-cold-setting Minnesota winter.) For a change, the comments section is where the gold is. From Hardly defenders to realists and rational people, the comments are often funny, fun, occasionally enlightening, mind-bogglingly stupid, and entertaining as hell. Occasionally, they are even well-written. Here is a sample, but I recommend you read a few and entertain yourself:

Harleys rarely are disposable, you’ll find old Harleys still being ridden that are over a half century old. Now that longevity.” My all-time favorite bullshit Harley argument. Put 3,000 miles on a bike in 20 years and act amazed that it still gets ridden 5 miles to the local bar twice a year. Or actually ride it and put a half-dozen engines and a zillion dollars in factory-authorized-repairs into the hulk and pretend that is in some way similar to how real motorcycles work and real motorcyclists live.

I customize bikes on a part time basis, and while I do not focus on repairs, a lot of my calls ARE repairs, and most of those repairs ARE Harleys. And the things that go wrong just plain don't go wrong on other bikes; throttle cables snapping in random places, ignition switches burning out while driving, kickstands getting stuck or falling off, a myriad of electrical issues…

Harley owners HATE blacks, hispanics, and middle-eastern ragheads. Harley owners HATE fags, queers, homos, bisexuals, and transgendered. Harley owners HATE Muslims. Want to see a Harley owner completely lose his shit? Just put on your innocent face and ask: ‘No, really, why can’t somebody use the restroom they want to use?’ Then stand back.

Harley-Davidson’s brand is defined by racism, xenophobia and sexism and its riders are older, white and male. Not doing that well so far.”

I keep seeing posts on this question that say Harley is ‘Toxic’ to millenials, or that the brand represents ‘Misogyny.’ those are total bullshit arguments. We all see tons of diversity on the road. We see Black men on tricked out Harley’s as often as we see white men. We have several female riding groups that predominantly ride Harleys. We even have mixed race black/white and White/Hispanic 1% MC’s here. So no, we don’t think the brand itself is ‘Hostile’. Sure, a few old white pricks ride them around, but we don’t associate the bikes with the people who ride them.” Look in the mirror much, kiddo? All you have proven with your micro-analysis of the rare non-white, non-male Harley rarity is that you can always fool some of the people all of the time; no matter what you are selling, regardless of race, sex, creed, or even amount of education.

“. . . the bikes themselves. They are terrible in every way, and I mean that in an objective way. Power, speed, handling, comfort, reliability, price… it is really hard to come up with any category in which Harleys excel. The only thing they excel at is ‘Being American’ which really doesn’t mean anything at all. If the best thing you can say about a brand is where it is based, you are grasping at straws.

If the commenters would pull themselves away from Sons of Anarchy reruns long enough to view reality they would see that very few who ride motorcycles belong to a gang, want to look like they belong to a gang, or have any interest whatsoever in that group. Instead, they would likely see the numerous toy runs and other charity and community betterment events that motorcycle riders participate in - and the fact that the vast majority of the participants are riding Harleys. Yes, there are 3–4% riding Japanese and European bikes, but the motorcycles with the most or biggest toys strapped to them are usually Harleys.” Yep, that’s all it takes to tell yourself that you aren’t an asshole; big toys strapped to a motorcycle while you terrorize and disturb the peace of every town your pack of gangbangers “visit.”

You should read ‘em all. It’s pretty funny stuff and I didn’t even have to think about writing any of it.

Feb 11, 2019

Delayed Starts and Non-Starters

All Rights Reserved © 2017 Thomas W. Day

At 69, I’m at the point where lots of the things I’ve done all of my life are at the end of their track. My plan for a ride I took early last summer was that the day I left I’d be up at 5AM and out the door by 6AM on my way to Colorado. I’ve been “planning” that trip for about a month and, apparently, I’d put off anything resembling real planning for exactly that long.

One of the unintended side-effects of taking on a very light motorcycle safety class load has been that I’m barely riding at all summer. The less I ride, the less I think about my motorcycles. The less I think about my motorcycles, the less certain I am about their maintenance. The less certain I am of my motorcycles’ state-of-repair, the less I ride. And so it goes, sayeth Vonnegut.

2016_delayed_starts_1So, a couple of days ago I went over the V-Strom with about as much enthusiasm as I might apply to prepping the lawnmower for winter storage. I have the routine down, after all these years, but I didn’t put a lot of thought or heart into it. I’m just going through the numbers by rote, which probably means I forgot a number or two.

If you’ve read much of my stuff, you know I don’t “love” my motorcycles. I really like my Yamaha WR250X and I’ve taken more adventures on the 650 V-Strom than any other motorcycle I’ve owned since my Honda CX500, but affection is probably the strongest feeling might be able to aim toward either bike. I don’t name my motorcycles and I think people who do such things are demented. I don’t have a huge investment, financially or emotionally, in my motorcycles; having bought both of them cheap, used, and out-of-season eight and eleven years ago. I don’t see myself replacing them when they or I are worn out, either.

At this point, several years post-hip replacement and post-first-heart attack, my best days on two wheels are behind me. I’m through racing, “Adventure touring” from here out probably means trips like the one I took to Colorado and New Mexico. The “adventure” will be hanging out with an old friend while we wallow in hot springs to see if I can regain some of the use of my arthritic hands. Gone are the “safe and reasonable” days of blasting across Wyoming, Montana, and assorted back roads with the throttle pinned and a short schedule to keep before I have to be back home and at work. I have a pickup and a small RV trailer and my wife wants to travel with me at least half of the places I go from here out. At best, 60mph will be our top speed while cruising in that rig. I didn't plan on doing big off-pavement miles on that trip. It was likely that US Route 20 across the top of Nebraska would be as rough as that trip would get. If I needed a tire along the way (and I did), I'd be going through at least a dozen decent sized towns and I would find a shop to replace it for me (and I did). I have a pump and a repair kit in my rig, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ll be willing to give a pickup owner $100 to ferry me to a motel and bike shop where I’ll drink a beer and eat a steak while someone else wrestles the tire off of the bike. Worst case, I rent a U-Haul van and drive the bike and me back home, where I’ll put the V-Strom on Craig’s List for parts and be down to the one bike I ride most of the time anyway.

The WR250 fits nicely in the back of the pickup and it makes a terrific errand-running backup vehicle, so I don’t see a near end in sight for me and that bike, but the V-Strom only racked up about 700 miles in the summer of 2015 and I had to make a special effort to do that. The WR250, on the other hand, had about 10,000 more miles on its odometer from all of the Red Wing area explorations I took in our first year in our retirement home and trips to the Cities for last season’s fairly heavy MSF course load. At this point, it’s pretty obvious where my short-term motorcycle ownership and involvement is going. In fact, since I’m now living so close Theilman and the Upper Midwest Trials Association’s home ground, I’ve been looking for a cheap, used trials bike. So far, nothing even close to my budget has appeared, but with a pickup and a camper in our personal inventory that is likely going to be my next and, possibly, last motorcycle purchase. Since trials was my last gasp at off-road motorcycle racing more than 30 years ago, I’m sort of looking forward to closing some of my personal riding loop.

2016_delayed_starts_2Last summer, I ended up putting off the road trip for an extra day. I didn’t have a schedule to keep, so it’s not like I’d be keeping someone waiting or missing an important date. Scott wasn't going to be on the road for another 5-6 days, because he had family and work stuff delaying his start. I took a few moments to wrap up this essay and cram my side cases full of stuff I probably didn’t need. Somewhere in the house I’d find my sleeping bag. The tent and hammock were packed. The V-Strom is always stocked with tools and emergency stuff. In a couple of hours, the bike would be ready to go. That's about it for "planning" for my motorcycle travel from here out.