Twenty One Days

Twenty one days.

Its been rainin.

I’ve been waiting for the sun to come around.

The sound of the words wash over me, and I’m lost in memories of music, and of similar poetry.

Of an old band I was in with my buddy Crawford, singing Dylan’s ‘Seven Days’. Of Ronny Wood’s version of it. Of Dylan’s himself.

All ringing guitars and reedy yelp.

“Seven daaaaaays!

seven more days and she’ll be comin’

I’ll be waitin’ at the station….”

It took more than a little while for the Fenders to recede, to snap out of it.

When it rains like this, it just messes with the human mind.

Everyone around me has been short — angry — in a funk. I’m by no means the only one to have noticed this.

The mind is apt to wander when reality feels mostly dark, moldy and damp.

Still, if its impossible to write something utterly new, falling into one of Minnesota Zimmie’s grooves isn’t a bad place to be.

***

I got a bike with a good fairing, and an Aerostich suit.

And I rode in that rain.

The Washington Post had descended to publishing a collaboration piece with its readers where the readers had been writing a long, long collection of spontaneous rain Haikus.

Alcohol sales appeared to be dramatically up.

After the flood, though, only one thing can happen.

And about 2 weeks longer than everybody’s collective patience, that thing finally happened.

The sun came out.

***

I’m supposed to go to an all day Blues Festival Saturday.

It is, perhaps unsurprisingly, supposed to rain for at least 5 of the 7 hours I expect to be there.

So the sun might be out today, but I would be needing some rain gear.

I proposed to just wear my ‘Stich to the Festival.

Which thoughtful proposal was emphatically declined by Sweet Doris From Baltimore.

So I needed to run to the store, to get a rainsuit.

You know how I love errands.

***

We were definitly in the sweet spot.

Temperature was in the high sixties, the sun was strong in a cloudless sky.

After gearing up, I rolled the R90S out of the garage, threw a leg over, opened the petcocks, set the enrichener, and buttoned it to booming life.

For a day this cool, the bike seemed more willing than usual to take throttle without cold leaning out.

I kept the revs up above idle, dialed the choke lever back, and coasted the bike down the driveway. Rolling at the bottom of the driveway, I feathered the clutch, toed the bike down into first, and then gently rolled on some wrist and moved smartly up the street.

***

Staying on The Jefferson Pike through the light at the other end of town, I found myself on open highway on a warm sunny evening.

With a little heat into the engine after a mile and half, I wound third gear out through about 6700 rpm, listening to the flat twin music, and then gently toed up with a solid and determanistic thwack into an easy cruise in the bottom of fourth gear.

I have to hand it to Mark Delaney. If you ever owned a classic airhead, yours never shifted this nicely. To take a salvage gearbox, my case and a mystery performance shift cam of unknown provenance and produce this requires a true artist.

Coming up to Elmer Derr Road, I downshifted and engine braked through two gears, and headed for the hole.

‘The Hole’ is a 1930s vintage corregated steel culvert tunnel that runs under US 340. Folks who live in the country are accustomed to these things, but this one is the most spectacular example I’ve ever seen.

US 340 is a full blown four lane divided highway with full shoulders and a wide center median, so the tunnel has to be nearly 200 feet long. My kids have always loved this thing, insisting on gratuitous horn honks, yelling out open windows and full throttle whenever we’re inside it.

‘The Hole’ is also one one lane wide, so slowing down enough to make sure you’re the only current occupant before entering is a best practice.

Running the S up through second gear inside ‘The Hole’ and then rolling off to engine brake to the stop sign at the other end is nothing short of an internal combustion symphony.

I’m kind of surprised that there isn’t a full time resident Harley Davidson club that just hangs out there to run back and forth and bathe themselves in the sound.

***

Elmer Derr road parallels 340 for about 2 miles, and then cuts off across the southern end of Frederick County, allowing one to opt out of using any of our now oversubscribed and hoplessly congested highways. Coming out of ‘The Hole’ Elmer Derr Road is one long straight stretch with perfect visibility and no cross roads.

If Burt Munroe were here I know just what he’d do.

So, unsurprisinging, I usually do that, too.

The S really doesn’t like to take top gear until its well over 75. Executing a model shift into top gear and rolling back into the throttle economically illustrates what was good about tthe R90S when it was built, and what is just as good about it now.

***

After crossing Mount Zion road, Elmer Derr turns charmingly technical — with a series of chicanes and some 90/90 left rights that are among my favorites — some of them having full banking on the corner entries. Fun!

The S just eats these up. I have a fresh Michelin Pilot Active front that I recently mounted, and the bike is solid, planted and responsive at as much lean as is ever recommended on the street. The transition between corners are the same — pick up on throttle, swap from one side of the tire to the other, roll off and set an entry.

Hitting a long straight after the tight stuff, I can scarely contain my smile or beleive this is now a 41 year old motorcycle. Since mounting the new Flat Racer saddle, the rider’s position on the bike is much more solid than that of any of my other BMWs. Their solid seat pan and heavied up mounting hardware makes the entire pilot’s position feel as solid as if it was carved from alloy.

All of the trouble reworking the bike — the transmission rebuild, new tech clutch, even the amazing recreation of a WWII combat dogfight and the resulting electrical overhaul now seem totally worth it. The cockpit is quiet and free from vibration, and the response to control inputs — both on the gas and on the brakes — is strong, provides analog feedback, and is nuanced.

Fourty one years of progress has no doubt produced faster motorcycles, but not more balanced, ridable ones.

***

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After hitting my local big box and snagging a backpackers FroggToggs setup for tomorrow’s show, I was just as ready to run a different set of delighfully curvy and inefficient roads to get back to the house.

It will be raining again tomorrow, but the sun is out today.

 

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