The Greatest Show On Earth

its probably
good for you
to have a brush with death
every once in a while
these white hot flashes
of mortality
serve to clarify the mind

its not
why i ride motorcycles
but riders
accept
that these things happen
sliding tires
you gather up
no one the wiser
how near a thing that was

after surviving
your vision sharpened
everything shining
a new focus
on what counts
learning to ignore
anything that doesn’t propel one forward

the thing about death
is that it just doesn’t manage very well
showing up from random places
at random times
and usually not
while doing the things
conventional thinking
would accept should kill you

so you can ride the wall of death
everynight my friend
you can smoke camels
drink jack
wrangle the big cats like Gunter
or be shot out of a cannon
like The Human Cannonball

none of the things
that should kill you will kill you
there’s way more than a million ways
to be struck or missed by the lightning

i know that you want
gunpowder
explosions
lurid twisting orange fireballs
of exploding hightest gasoline
what you get though
is blue light
a dark spot on your arm
and a silent doctor
with a concerned look
on his face

 

***

 

I’ve got to tell you, I get the worst PMS.

I can tell from that look on your face that you have no freaking idea what I mean.

PMS, or Parked Motorcycle Syndrome, is a debilitating condition. PMS leaves sufferers irritable, depressed, and prone to seemingly impossible extremes of emotional volatility.

And so it is with me, too.

After two days or so, I’m nervous. Jumpy.

I make these inexplicable spasmodic rolling motions with my right hand and wrist.

After about five days, I can be observed sitting rocking in the center of the rug in my den, quietly making little motor noises with my lips and tongue.

After about 7 days, I am reduced to staring out the window, insterspersed with brief spasmodic weeping.

After about ten days, I’m queing up to be fitted for that nicely tailored snug natural canvas sportsjacket with the arms that tie together in the back.

It had been thirteen days since I had ridden a motorcycle.

 

***

 

The fact that my lay up was a result of Doctor’s orders wasn’t making it any easier.

In fact, it was making it particularly harder.

A trip to my Dermatologist to have a bad looking spot on the back of my upper right arm examined had resulted in a nearly immediate return for some outpatient surgery.

As a full-blooded American — which is to say a 50% Irish Catholic, 25% Christian Arab and 25% Polish Jew (although there could be more stuff in there for all I know) — my fair skin is prone to hocking up all sorts of bumps and oddballs. Squamous cells, Basal Cells — a Carcinoma or two.

Considering none of my outside has ever seen the sun-containing world outside an Aerostich suit, this is puzzling, but nonetheless true.

I ought to qualify for some sort of high volume scrape ’em and 4 suture club discount.

All of these things are a tad annoying, but 98.8% harmless.

This wasn’t one of those.

This was why we needed some fast lab work, and a post haste return visit.

After spending 90 minutes making surgery can-we-please-talk-about-something-else-smalltalk with my Doctor which was supposed to be 30, a much bandaged and still more sutured me was toweled off, propped up, and sent home with the instructions “not to lift anything heavy for 4 or 5 days”.

In my slightly stress-goofy state, I remember thinking “Well, I guess that rules my K1200LT right out.”

 

***

 

My first notion that something was amiss came after the local anethetic had worn mostly off, and a nice beer seemed like something that might have therapeutic uses.

I decanted a Nanticoke Nectar, leaned down to enjoy the fresh hop bouquet, and then took the glass into my right hand. Everything was preceeding swimmingly until the glass — moving delightfully in widescreen slow motion — got about 6 inches from my achingly thirsty lips. As the glass got closer and closer, it moved with increasing resistance, running into the new limits of my arm’s flexibility, which apparently contained a great deal less arm than it had this morning.

Friends I’d spoken with about the the diagnosis and precedure had warned me about this. The protocol involves being very conservative, and that translates to removing a fair amount of additional tissue.

I muttered a favorite oath — one I suspected would get a good throttle stretching run over the next three weeks or so — set the glass back on the counter, and resolved to learn to drink left handed.

 

***

 

So there I was, stuck on the couch, comtemplating my own mortality while snared in immobility.

It was pretty dark.

And I was going absolutely nuts.

For the first week or so I was too beat up to even consider escape. If we went out Sweet Doris from Baltimore was behind the wheel.

On or around day 5, I regained enough flexibility that I could split time between drinking left handed and drinking right handed.

Having discovered this, I immediately walked out to the garage, swung a leg over the Slash 5, and assumed the position.

Given that motorcycle’s almost custom fit to my body, it was heartening that I could sit astride the bike comfortably — there was no pain to rest a portion of my weight on my arms.

Then I tried the throttle.

This was going to take a while.

 

***

It wasn’t the last such trip I made to the the garage and to my Toaster Tank.

Progress was slow, but it was progress.

Day 13 after the surgery dawned sunny, cold and windy.

My arm, though, seemed like it could stand to be wound WFO without too much discomfort.

At lunchtime, I went back to the garage, and sat back on the Slash 5. I took a few tentative rolls of the throttle. No klaxons.

I walked over to the garage door, and gently raised it.

I rolled the bike forward off the stand, and then rolled it backwards into the open door, and gingerly placed it back onto the Reynolds Ride-Off stand.

It was go time.

I wandered back inside and gathered up a set of boots, my Duluth Trading Blacktop jacket — notable because of its built in fleece lining and lack of any armor — and a fresh surgical adhesive dressing and some of the prescription antibiotic ointment my doctor had provided.

I went into the studio where Sweet Doris from Baltimore was working a new painting.

“I’m going for a ride, Baby. Could you please put a dressing back on my arm?”

“I don’t think that’s….”

Folks that know me well know that I never get like that.

This one time, I got like that. Sue me.

 

***

 

Out in the driveway, I snapped the collar of my jacket shut and pulled on my gloves. I swung a leg over, opened the left fuel petcock, and pushed in the ignition pin. Having sat for a while, the boxer swung through two or three more compression strokes than was customary before the engine fired. I swing the choke off before it was smart to do so, and had to repeat the drill. Afer 15 seconds or so, the engine was taking throttle, and assumed its steady near-human heartbeat of an idle.

I pushed off down the driveway, toed the gearbox down into first, and banked left up the street.

Motion!

I took the long way around the neighborhood — gently rolling the bike left and right — a baby-step version of the racer’s tire warming manouvre — checking to make sure I could position the bike without running into the lowered limits of my flexibility and strength. Thanks to boxer balance, what little I had was enough.

At The Jefferson Pike, I made the right down towards The Brookside Inn, and deliberately thockked the old girl up through the gears until I shifted into fourth.

With temperature in the low 40s, the sun was shining bright in a clear sky, the wind blowing hard, this old school ride — no windshield, no heated grips, and just a set of elkskin gloves — was letting me experience the day with an unparalleled vividness.

It was bright. It was cold. It was great.

Never has such an old slow motorcycle made me feel so alive.

 

***

 

As much as I didn’t want to overdo it, I didn’t want to stop, either.

After a brief run up The Pike, I made the right up St. Marks Road. St. Marks leads down into The Bottoms — I just wanted to just be alone next to the creek, feeling the wheels working underneath me and being kissed by the broken sunlight coming through the trees. Where the road comes down to Catoctin Creek, it follows the streambed closely, making a series of gentle lefts and rights, with the ancient road surface providing endless contours for the suspension to follow.

After a long time as a wallflower, it felt oh so good to be dancing again.

St. Marks has a medium long straight, and feeling good, I gassed it.

I wasn’t the only one that was feeling good, apparently.

Old boxers love cold dense air, and 50 horsepower never felt so powerful. The Toaster’s sleeper motor — with its big bore kit and small valves — was right in the sweet spot, and it hit with everything it had.

I didn’t need an action cam to know about the smile in my helmet.

At the creek sits an old iron framed one lane bridge. I got up on the pegs and gassed it again — getting just a little air as I left the bridge deck.

Away from the creek St. Marks climbs steeply. The sightlines are restrictive and the road twists, snakelike, as it rises up the hill. I gassed it again and was pleasantly surprised as the front wheel lightened up and lightly skimmed the pavement over 60 or 70 feet.

Slash 5 power wheelies don’t happen very often, but today was clearly a special day.

I might hurt later, but right now that front wheel wasn’t the only thing that got lifted.

 

***

 

Back in the driveway, I remarked that my gear removal speeds had recorded better split times.

Then again, today wasn’t about speed, it was more about simple existance.

My Toaster is clearly a motorcycle that gets used. Its got dirt. And gear oil. And mud. It hasn’t got any ‘pretty’.

Today, though, it was a thing of beauty.

I grabbed my phone out of the phone holster that is built in to my favorite brand of cargo pants to check for messages. I had a voice mail.

“Hmmmmnnnnnnnnnn.”

“Mr. Shamieh? This is Jennie down at Dr. Han’s office. Just wanted you to know that the biopsies and labs came back, and they’re all clean. You have nothing to worry about. Call if you have any questions. ”

Seemed like a pretty good time to reacquaint myself with drinking beer right handed.

Release

It had been way too long since my last good ride.

Life, as you’ve probably noticed, has a way of interfering in the things that most give us pleasure.

Heading up Maryland Route 67, which is a mostly unremarkable road, except that it is uncharacteristically straight for hereabouts, I found myself bottled up behind some nondescript sedan, who for no discernable reason, thought that a 54 mile per hour cruising speed made perfect sense on a road where the custom is likely closer to 80 than 50.

I was not pressing — 67 has lots of opportunities to pass, and one would no doubt present itself shortly.

When it did, I was methodical.

Turn signal on — Two flashes of the passing beam — and then, with no downshift in top gear, smoothly and gently roll the thottle open.

Downshifts are for the weak.

My thinking was that in these kinds of open spaces, that any lack of brutal acceleration would not be material, that there was plenty of space to complete a leasurely overtake.

Sometimes I think too much.

Starting from 55 miles an hour and perhaps two car lengths back, my R90S went quantum — first at one location, then displaced in time and space with no apparent time in between. By the time I had fully ‘assumed the position’ — right arm fully extended, leading with the heel of my hand — the bike was instantly beside the left front fender of the car, with the mechanical speedometer needle swinging briskly through 85 and still heading north.

What had supposed to be a ‘leasurely overtake’ had turned out to be a brutal dispatch.

After allowing for plenty of room to clear the passed auto, I gently rolled back out of the throttle to a more rational setting and countersteered the bike to bank back into my lane. At about 6000 rpm in top gear the R90 motor was in its happy place — glass smooth and willing to take throttle to spring towards racetrack speeds effortlessly.

41 year old motorcycles shoudn’t be able to do this.

All of my life and workplace stresses had been effectively dispatched along with said nondescript sedan.

Over the sound of the wind in my helmet could be heard a distinctly audible sigh.

Had this been a bad 1970s movie, I would have next been seen sitting smiling smoking a Camel.

 

***

 

I’d spent part of the morning in my office, turning a set of new NGK spark plugs over and over in my hands like talismans. I’d pulled the plugs the night before to take a reading, and it was clear that they could use to be replaced.

I’d pulled my old Chilton’s manual out to check my memory of airhead spark plug gaps — a memory that checked out at .6 to .7 mm. With my Dyna ignition amp and Bosch Blue coils, I’m able to push a slighly bigger gap that the airhead motor can definitely use. Maybe I’m supersticious, but when the plugs came out of the box at a perfect .715 mm it felt like a good omen.

When finally clear of work, I’d spun the new ones in, torqued ’em down, and then pulled the electrode caps I didn’t need and snapped the plug wires back on.

With my gear on, I’d fired the motor and headed for the curves.

Horine Road, which leads away from my house, has a series of connected corners that set up a rhythm. Maybe I was a 100 miles an hour short of Valentino’s speed, but I was instantly at ease, the R90S just strightening it all out — using the road from stripe to stripe with no efffort or thought on my part.

These curves were like the first few tentative kisses — gentle but hinting at heat to come.

I headed down Lander Road — my favorite one lane cowpath — jumping off bumps, taking occasional smacks to the shins, elbows or helmet from the overgrown brush springing from our plentiful early summer rains.

I dropped down to the River at Point of Rocks, and headed west up Lovettsville Road.

Despite being the tail end of rush hour, I found myself and my motorcycle strangely alone.

Lovettsville Road is a true rider’s road — with hills and a mix of technical corners — some that turn in in ways that challenge one’s cool — bursting over hilltops with the turn in point unseen.

The pace of the ride slowly increased — the intensity picking up.

I drove at corners harder. My breath started coming in shorter gulps. I was starting to work up a sweat.

For no reason I could discern at the time, I found myself imagining the sounds of ‘Beck’s Bolero’ in my helmet.

Down the Berlin Pike back to the river we went, the S and I, rocking from one tire edge to the other, accelerating and slowing, slowing and accelerating, just living in the tilting horizon and the rhythm of the road.

Across the Potomac we picked up MD 17 and picked up the pace again. With good heat in the motor I wound out my gears, and trusted my tires carrying more speed in. Through the loose stone walls of Coatesville, and back into Burkettsville.

Up Gapland Road we climbed, higher and higher. I made the blind right into another of my favorite secrets, Townsend Road. Townsend rides the edge of the ridge through Gathland State Park, looking across more loose stone walls towards the battlefield and Antietam. When it gets back to the valley floor Townsend rides between hedgerows, the banks obscuring the view around corners, raising the stakes of vehicles you cannot see, while a bumpy surface keeps one’s wheels and suspension working at maximum intensity.

Between surface, and corners, and the need to focus on being well positioned on the road and ready to instantly respond, the S and I were as busy as busy could be — stimulated to our limits.

Townsend Road drops one out on Maryland 67, where I turned onto a straight empty highway, and ran the bike up through the gears, revving high and shifting hard, and settling in to an extended smooth rpm cruise, until I came upon that nondescript sedan, and that climactic, accelerative moment where we first began.

 

***

 

Back at home, I found myself in a chair, boots off, feeling euphorically drained, and doing my best to drain a bottle of Lagunitas Equinox Oat Pale Ale.

This ride, for some reason, had taken on a quality that I’m not sure is entirely good for the rider’s overall focus. My manifold accumulated stresses, though, had been thoroughly dispatched, and the beer had nothing to do with it.

The Love of My Life, Sweet Doris From Baltimore, has often teased me about my alloy girlfriends that live in the garage. Its not a conception to which I’ve given much credence.

Damn her and her infallible man-simplifying instincts, though.

She might be righter than she knows.

First Blast of Spring

It snowed another 5 inches yesterday here in Central Maryland.

I have long ago exhausted my copious supply of strong language and colorful oaths of all of the world’s ancient peoples, so the best I could manage when I raised the bedroom shade to another version of snow-globe world was a tired sigh.

At the risk of another round of excessive confidence, I’m fairly sure that this really is winter’s last gasp, this time.

Onlookers are encouraged to surround me, point and laugh should I turn out to be wrong. Again.

This has been the single worst winter that I can recall, at least from the perspective of a Motorcyclist.

So it was nothing but good that my employer decreed that I should spend a single day down in Raleigh, North Carolina this week, and at a time when the seemingly perenially pissed Mother Nature was in her hot tub with a glass of Cabernet.

I looked at the long term weather forecasts, and both Monday, for the trip down, and Wednesay, for the trip back, were both showing sunny with 0% chance of precip.

Raleigh had been averaging a full and consistant 15 degrees warmer than Jefferson, and Monday’s Jefferson forecast showed an almost shocking high temperature of just under 70.

All righty, then.

We were gonna be ridin’.

The front tire on the bike was a bit unevenly worn — a replacement Avon was already stored in my garage. A quick phone call to Fredericktown Yamaha, eight bolts, and one lunchtime trip to mount and balance and we were ready for the road.

Kinda filthy — as the bike was wearing its full compliment of wintertime road muck and salt — but ready.

Filthy, but ready?

I’m betting I could sell T-shirts.

***

Monday came, and the weather forecasts were holding.

Wednesday’s ride home would be colder, but tolerable.

I did my full complement of Meetings Monday morning, and after lunch we loaded gear and went stands up. My seat bag had my business attire and a warmer fleece and insulated gloves for the run home.

5 days ago we had 10 straight days of single digit temperatures — today I was in elkskin gloves and a light jersey as insulation under my ‘Stich.

It would turn out I was over dressed.

***

Northern Virginia is no longer fit for man nor beast.

Motorcyclists may classify as both so consider it an not fit twofer.

There is just no good way to get from here to there if it goes anywhere through Northern Virginia.

Even leaving at 2 in the afternoon, which ought to be a congestion dead zone, it was bumper to bumper and moving at 35-40 miles an hour through what are all supposed to be open rural highways.

Making Fredericksburg, Virginia — a run of just under a hundred miles — 2 and a half hours of slow going.

The temperature had contined to rise from 58 at departure to 77. I probably sweated two pounds of water weight. I figured as the sun went down it would quickly cool off so it was best to stay layered.

I was once again wrong.

Picking up the interstate towards Richmond picked up speed, but the road was in full urban combat mode. There wasn’t enough room in the traffic stream to flow through traffic — one just had to manage your buffers and try not to succumb to the stupid brought on by impatience.

***

Interstate 85 leads away from Peterburg and the coast, inland towards Durham and Atlanta, and quickly leaves industrial sprawl in favor of hills with dense pine forest — the concrete road turns into a sandy floored tunnel in a field of green.

With about 200 miles of the trip gone the K12 was finally running on song — everything warmed fully through and the deposits of a winter spent mostly sitting vaporized.

The new Avon tires — a set of Storm 3 XMs — were riding perfectly. The new tire was somewhat slower steering, more stable and compliant than the previous Storm 2s. They were more confidence inspiring and comfortable at speed than their predecessors.

All the pieces came together — sweet new tires, the green tunnel, 77 degrees, 3900 rpm and the sound of the motor reverberating back from the surrounding forest. It was a mesmerizing groove.

I arrived in front of my hotel in Raliegh as if my magic — one second I was a hundred miles up the road, and the next second I was there.

***

Death by Powerpoint is like Northern Virginia. It is not good. It just is.

One of the reasons we do these conferences is to allow a team of people that span 24 time zones to see each other face to face, tell a few bad jokes, and drink a few beers together. This being St. Patrick’s Day, to not drink a few beers seemed completely unacceptable.

So I told some bad jokes, listened to a few more, and drank a few beers.

And in another one of those temporal discontinuities that seem to be this story’s narrative device of choice, I found myself, a tad hung over, pulling tight the packing straps on my seat bag, on a bright sunny 45 degree morning, and throwing a leg over and heading first west to Durham, and then north up the Blue Ridge towards home.

***

Once past the ouskirts of Durham on NC501, the countryside rapidly goes deep country — there are hayfields, there are logging operations, and there are gravel pits and mines.

One shares these two lane highways with a lot of heavily laden tractor-trailers, but there are lots of passing zones with good visibility, so they just turn into good justifications for lusty twists of the throttle and the intake shriek of the Flying Brick motor.

Just shy of Lynchburg, Viginia, a spur road — Virginia 24 — connects 501 to US29 — that road provides 4 miles of over hill-and-dale twisties that prove the worth of my new radials and that fact that I am now fully revived.

US29 is a proper 4 lane divided highway, whose character changes markedly depending on the surrounding landscape. Much of it — when the road hits towns — is extended rural sprawl, with too many big box stores and way too many traffic lights. Other sections are wide open — like a new parkway section south of Charlottesville, with minimal traffic, month old pavement, and 100 mph sightlines. In the 20 mile per hour quartering wind that was blowing today, those wide open stretches were like work — my trip computer was showing my fuel economy plummeting working against that wind.

29

Just south of Charlottesville though, 29 drops into the Hollows and foothills of the Blue Ridge, and into tangled country when the topography is too rough tor the northbound and southbound lanes to run together. For a brief time, the road is biker paradise, hills and descents, short chutes leading into tight corners — lots of opportunities for thottle play and to set the bike on the edges of its tires, and to blast out and do it all over again.

Ever been on a ride of a thousand miles, to find 990 bad miles and 10 good ones?

This sunny, crisp March day, that stretch of US 29 were the 10 good ones.

And like all things of crisp distilled living, a seeming blink, and it was over.

***

And after a single day back home, its Ice Station Zebra time again.

The 10 good ones will have to hold me, after that appalling, fridgid winter, until the bright spirit of US 29 decides to come back and stay for a while, this time.

 

Paul Gets Oiled

gregda

Everybody has got to start somewhere.

And usually, if you’re living in America, and you are getting your start as a motorcyclist, odds are that start involves some form of slightly beat, slightly old Japanese motorcycle that nobody else wanted.

If your experience was somehow less humble than that, well good on ya, mate — kiss your keys and thank the fates but that’s how mine was.

That’s how my buddy Paul’s was, too.

Of course it bears mention that when I came to my CB750 I was 22.

When Paul came to his I’m thinking it was about 30 years or so later than that.

But no matter.

I’d been riding for close to those 30 years when Paul asked me for a favor.

“Maaan. Dave has been overseas for close to 2 years. He stored this old Honda in my garage.”

“I’ve been riding it.”

“I’ve been riding motorcycles off and on since I was in High School, but I never got a motorcycle license.”

“I figure its time to get legal.”

“There’s a special ‘amnesty’ accelerated Rider Course and Road Test program up at the DMV Saturday — could you ride Dave’s Honda up there and sign me in to certify I didn’t drive the bike to the test?”

I told Paul I’d be happy to.

****

The appointed Saturday arrived — a perfect clear and cool early summer morning — and Paul showed up in my driveway with The CB.

My old CB had been one of the early 70s Single Cam models — you know, one of the ones that only an idiot would have sold?

Let’s not talk about what happened to mine.

Dave’s machine looked to be about a 79 — a twin cam, but still recognizable in every way, from the slab sided tank, to the saddle with a grab strap, to the twin instrument pod, to the four into four exhaust.

I tossed Paul the keys to my pickup.

I fastened my helmet and gloves on, swung a leg over, and then callendar pages flew around my head in an invisible wind, and it was somehow 1982 again. It was magically as if I had never gotten off of my old CB.

I swear my hair felt longer.

On the 10 miles of highway headed up to the DMV everything was instantly familiar.

Kinda floaty and indistinct suspension. Really small, low effort control inputs including clutch and gearshift activation Smooth, revvy engine with just a hint of chainsaw buzz in the bars and exhaust note.

The DMV came up faster than usual, and the minute I hit the killswitch and the sidestand time telescoped forward back to 2012.

Paul and I fived and then swapped keys.

I gave a look back over my shoulder at the CB as Paul went inside to do the paperwork and classroom work, then I walked back to my truck and drove slowly home.

***

At about 4:30 that afternoon, I heard the sound of the CB’s 4 shutting off in the end of my driveway.

I walked outside to see Paul removing his helmet and pulling a six back out of the carrier fitted to the bike’s luggage rack.

“Did you get the paper?”

“Yeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaahhhhhh….”

In fact of 22 guys in the class, Paul was the only one who had gotten the paper.

He was more than a little pleased with himself.

Hence the enjoyment of the beers that followed.

***

During said enjoyment we spent some time wandering through my garage.

We came up to my old /5, which was dusty, and dirty, and punctuated by oil.

WP_20140406_20_37_42_Pro

“Damn, these things are so cool.”

It might have been that beer talking, but it seems Paul had seen the light.

“Look, man. Put some miles on, now that you’re legal, and when you feel comfortable, come take it for a ride.”

That motorcycle had changed my way of thinking once. Least I could do was pass it on.

***
Paul didn’t need me to tell him to put some miles on. Everywhere I went in the county over the next month I saw Paul twisting throttle and leading with his chin obliquely into the wind.

He looked like he was having fun.

A coupla Satudays later, I heard that sound of a Honda 4 shutting off, and headed outside again.

“Wanna ride your bike, Maaaan.”

“Cool. I’ll grab the key.”

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Now a /5 ignition key is a bit of a visual shock if you’ve never seen one before.

I got Paul in the saddle, inserted said key and and talked him through the controls.

Lights, indicators, horn.

I told him about the dry clutch, and that was it.

“Take a real ride, man. Don’t feel you have to come back till you want to. Enjoy!”

And with that lovely little boxer twin blaat, Paul was off.

***

I’ve had the /5 since I was 22.

I’d be lying if I stated I was not concerned in any way.

You know what I’m talking about.

But I got myself preoccupied with something else, and some time went by.

***

I was sitting out on the front porch when Paul pulled the /5 back into the driveway.

Something about him looked…

Wrong.

It took a few minutes for my brain to slowly model the truth out of large random group of possibilities.

Pauls left leg, and Paul’s left sneaker looked, well, dark. Very dark.

Kind of an oily black.

The dry clutch of my brain finally bit as I saw the left exhaust pipe visibly smoking and the darkening of a fair amount of oil down the whole left side of the bike.

“Whooooooooah!” came out of Paul and soon as Paul came out of the helmet.

“I’m smokin! What happened?”

You can’t tell people everything, cause one has to edit for length.

When one bolts a high compression 900 cc top end on to a crankcase whose breathing system couldn’t really keep up with anything over 650, you’re going to notice some things over time. One of those things that will happen is that the dipstick handle on the left side of the motor will be vibrated loose.

You’ll be riding along, and you’ll hear something that sounds like a tiny little bell.

The ringing sound translates directly to the dipstick vibrating in the case as it begins the process of backing out.

If you look down behind your left knee to see this, one just reaches down, tightens it back up and then it doesn’t do it again for weeks, or months, or whatever.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination of course, to figure out how I came by this valuable piece of knowledge.

Problem was, I hadn’t told Paul.

We got him kinda hosed off, provided some loaner pants, and determined that there was enough oil left in the /5’s crankcase that the total downside consisted of the need to move up the /5’s one a decade wash time.

I apologised profusely, Paul Hondaed off, and I’ll admit I didn’t think very much more about it.

***

One could be forgiven for thinking that this narrative consists of some boring bits connecting these peak experience moments of truth and clarity that always take place in the presence of beer.

It is not your imagination.

Anyway, flash cut more than 2 years later to the grounds of Frederick’s Flying Dog brewery. They’re having a party with J. Roddy Walston and the Business, a band that bused two buses worth of fans out from Baltimore. There’s about 18 different draft beers, 7 food trucks and me and Doris, and Paul and his lady Beth.

We are having a good time.

In fact, never have a seen so many people in the presense of so much beer have such an unfailingly positive vibe kinda experience.

Everybody was on their best behavior.

At one point the talk turned to bikes, and Paul waved his beer at me.

“That time I took your bike….That was frickin’ awesome. After coming off that Honda it just felt so small, and simple, and like it was just made outta one piece of metal. It just tracked.”

“I connected immediately.”

“At a certain point, it started getting a little loose on the gas, but it was soooooo controllable. I just thought it was just part of the experience.”

“Until I didn’t”.

“Cost me a nice pair of jeans and a pair of sneakers, too. Had to throw em out.”

“After I took that ride, I had to get off that Honda.”

“I went right out afterward and bought my Bonneville.”

“I had to. You Bastard.”

***

I’m really sorry about that, Paul. It did it to me, too

Guess I didn’t tell you about that, either.