Sunday, July 20, 2014

Wrenching...or you can teach an old dog new tricks after all.

There comes a time in every man's life when they have to admit that they don't know something.  That they are weak, that they may not be capable of something.  Or perhaps they are capable of something...but need to prove it to no one other than themselves.

What we decide to do about that determines what type of man we are.  Do we ask for help, swallowing our pride in the process?  Learning something in the process?  Do we ignore the problem?  Do we let the women in our lives silently make the phone calls needed to get the problem resolved?  Do we curse and swear till blood oozes from the cuts on our hands and we cry out in victory as the goal is accomplished?

When it comes to anything mechanical or requires the use of my hands I'll be the first to admit that I'm the proverbial monkey with a gun.  Which really is odd, I've worked in technical fields most of my adult life...but having "book knowledge" and "field knowledge" really are two different things.  So there comes a time in a man's life...when he needs to get his hands dirty and work up a good sweat.

With that..I decided to do some maintenance on Kimmy.  She has sat barely ridden for the last two weeks or so, a combination of me being out of town, some other projects that needed done, rain and it just being to freaking hot to ride.  I noticed she seemed to be riding a little rough last time out however, so I thought I check every thing that I could, change out the air cleaner and determine if she required a little more care.  In other words, was a tune-up in order?

I knew there were some issues right off the bat, the tires were showing signs of cracking and "heat checking" which I understand is one of the issues of living in Florida.   In Florida we have near constant sunshine which, combined with heat and humidity, will break down rubber quicker than usual.  I'm a little concerned and frankly hate the idea of replacing both tires, but that is the safer move.  The treads are generally good on front and back but I'll be needing to replace them soon enough.  Based on what I learned from sites like the Kymco forum, Michelin City Grip tires looked like the best choice for me.  Two tires will be on order by the start of August.

My brakes seem to be in order but since I don't have the training or tools to replace those that's something the mechanic going have to fix.  Although at only 18850 (30,336 KM) miles I'm not to concerned...yet.

I also decided to replace the air cleaner, after all to the best of my knowledge it was the original filter and probably about due for a change.  A quick ride up to my local mechanic and the the filter was ordered for $45 - certainly I could do better than that!  TO THE INTERNET!

Seems easy enough!  Thanks Kymco!
One of the things that I love about Kymco is the ease to get to things.  A pop-out plastic panel and the removal of five screws and the new air filter was in.  For the cost of $45 dollars US.  It seems that one of the things I don't like about Kymco is the lack of after market parts.  Honestly it was a pain in the butt to get the filter out but she did come out after much cursing and the liberal application of lubricants.  It was so dirty that I actually think it was the original filter.  I should have taken a picture of it but honestly forgot to do so.

Coolant check!  Done!  I had the oil changed before I went to Jacksonville, so I was good on that.

Bingo, bang-o, bong-o done!

It sounds silly - even to me - that a 48 year old man should be happy about doing basic maintenance on his bike.  Truthfully though, I was never really taught how to do any of this as a kid, so when the dreaded zombie upbringing happens I'll be served up on toast.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Jax again...cold beer, bad food and a surprise in the middle of nowhere

The problem with business travel is that, for someone like me that likes to explore and eat and drink from the local establishments, your not always able to do that.

When I was in Jax, as the locals call it, last time I was working from 4 PM to midnight or so.  I was able to get out to the beaches, the museums, listen to live jazz music while sipping wine because I didn't have to show up to work till later.  This time I was mostly working days with small groups of two or three people teaching them the in's and out's of our difficult but important job.  This shift was really not conducive to getting out and exploring the city.  Which was a shame because I like what I've seen of Jacksonville.  I like the ocean and the history in nearby St Augustine.  I like that Jacksonville seems to be a city just on the edge of defining itself.

I like that I found a pretty cool place called King street that had some funky little restaurants and shops on it.  One place, called the Silver Cow, impressed me so much that I know I would be mentioning it to all my beer loving friends.  Beer and wine tasting has always been a passion of mine.

What is it about small hole in the wall places that attract me so? The Silver Cow had nice semi-modern art on the wall, tin type on the ceilings and an old wood bar and about 25 to 30 craft beers on tap.  Including such oddities as Barleywine.  Sadly their menu selection left a lot to be desired and by the time I reached them the kitchen appeared to have been closed.  I missed the live jam session they had the previous night with local musicians that apparently spilled into the street causing an impromptu dance party on the sidewalks.  Yea, my kind of dive.

The next night it was recommended that I try a place nearby called Kickbacks Gastropub.  I'm always up for an adventure and was told that they had a very good beer selection and  a nice menu.  I should have guessed by the hipsters hanging outside this wasn't the place for me.  I've been friends with musicians and artists for most of my life.  You develop an eye for "posers", they are generally the ones that develop a certain look but either don't have the talent or the desire to put in the hard work needed to actually develop a talent.  This place seemed to attract them like a moth to a flame.

I ordered the french dip you know how hard it is to screw up a french dip?  Somehow this place did that.  At least the beer, in this case a nice 22 oz (65 cl German Hefeweizen) beer was cold.  Yet the beer list left a lot to be desired.  I was expecting some unusual brews, not the same stuff I find in any restaurant anywhere.

At least the night was warm and I managed to find a nice little tree filled park with a bird island in the center of it.  I meandered past some good street art and gardens, past old southern homes built in the 1950's that the locals still took pride in and some interesting people.

A long time ago on  Back Road Motorcycling Riding, I read about the Yearling Restaurant located in Cross Keys, Florida.  It seems that this odd little place was influenced by Pulitzer Prize winning writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who made her fortune from the novel; The Yearling, and whose home was nearby.  The menu features local game such as venison, quail, gator, turtle and duck.  I've had all these dishes before and have been wanting to stop every since reading the original blog post.  Sadly the lunch menu only offered venison so I simply had to settle for the best blackened shrimp that I've ever had.  

Although I have to admit that the outside is a bit....daunting.  Getting there can be an adventure because frankly it's in the middle of nowhere and just to the left of bumf*ck.  However it was on my way home so stopping was never in question.
When I walked in I heard the rich baritone of an elderly blues singer that reminded me that art and a woman's love are worth selling your soul to the devil for.

Old books and antiques covered the walls and created a warm welcoming atmosphere.  Pencil art and aged yellowing photographs covered the wall.  I considered ordering a glass of wine from across the way and spending some time there and at the nearby homestead of Ms Rawlings, but time was fleeting as I had to return the company's rental car.

So I add another spot to the list, another place that I have to return to some day.  That list keeps getting longer and longer but the days keep dwindling down.  It's all part of growing up I suppose.

Book Store or Library?  No, the Yearling

Inside the Yearling
I can't help but wonder who plays here normally.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Honda gets silly

...and creates a great new ad campaign (maybe?).  These were done in conjunction with the Onion, America's leading snarky news source.

So far there are only two in the series, but hopefully more to follow.


Honda undoubtedly gave its blessing, and even though it's done tongue in cheek, the "everyday guy" vibe hasn't been seen since Honda`s "You meet the nicest people on a Honda" campaign of 30 or so ago.  

Now I am left to wonder, is this the snarky beginning of a new ad campaign...or just a stupid comedy bit?  Personally I am hoping it's an ad campaign.  Not all motorcycle adverts have to be barely dressed girls and tight corners.  

I personally applaud something new now and again.  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Darkness at the edge of town

The last few nights have been cool.  Kimmie and I take the long way home each time, letting the darkness envelops us.  I like to ride at night, even though my visibility is reduced and  I can see the small white tail deer grazing silently on the side of the road at times.  What should be familiar takes on odd and threatening shapes.  I think of our ancestors of million years ago, knowing that dangers stalked the night; a fear of the dark is not a bad thing.  It's a survival instinct...we really don't know what is out there.

It's late, later than I normally ride home but I've been feeling good.  Kimmie purrs like days of old and I lean easily into the turns, the only light from her and a storm gathering far off.  Heat lighting has filled the sky the last few nights.  At a stoplight I hear the noise of the night birds, soft and lilting.

Off in the distance on another night, clear of clouds, I see the red flame of a meteor as it makes it way to the glows like a cigarette tip in the sky before breaking up.  I sit and watch it in the middle of the street, partially amazed and partially quietly engaging my scientific mind.   I think about angles, about velocity and about how far and long that piece of rock must of traveled to find itself here.  Burning up so a lone biker in the middle of Florida could look up in wonder.

It's later now.  I still have some way to go. I curse myself for not pulling out my phone, so I could have caught the last moments of this glorious rock to share.  There are no other cars out, I pull out and head through town.  Past the shuttered buildings of downtown Zephyrhills.  I take a turn and the light from a building bleeds out into the street.  It's not a comforting light and somehow seems out of place here.

For several nights in a row I consider riding on.  The days have been hot and muggy but the nights are anything but, and as I flip up my visor I can sense a change in the air.  The endless possibility of summer and the open road.

This is what I love about biking.  I don't have a radio to distract me.  I don't have a phone ringing or the endless whistle of a text message.  I just have the sky to distract me.

I have to remind myself that watching the heat lightening while traveling on an empty road in the middle of the night is not a good thing.  Still though, that storm could be 100 miles away and it's power and beauty attract me like a flame attracts a moth.

I wake up early in the morning with only one desire.  To ride in the cool morning air and I try to dress without waking Susan.  Then I'm off, riding the roads that surround my house, riding with no destination or purpose.  A few hours later the heat of day grows, the thunderstorms move in again...and I wonder if I'm back to my old ways.  I hope I am.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

It's not hell, it's just Jacksonville, Florida

Sometimes it's nice to get away.  To do something different and unique and break out of your comfort zone a bit.  I found myself in Jacksonville, Florida to help train some others and take a little mini-vacation from the other job that I do.  I have to admit that I've also been playing around with the idea of applying for an open management position here in Jacksonville and wanted to look about some.

In the end I decided not to apply for it.  Yea, I want to move up in the company (and frankly feel that I've been passed over one to many times), but Jacksonville isn't for me.  I've got to much going on right now to consider moving.  Still's a nice idea and the Jacksonville/St Augustine area offers a lot for a guy like me.  The lovely Sue ended up visiting me over the weekend and we visited the beaches, looked about and had two days of relaxation.

A monster hunts on the beaches
Unlike my last trip to Jacksonville, I was actually able to get away and do some exploring.  I even considered renting a scooter for a few hours as I meandered the back streets of St Augustine.  I opted out of that option, but did consider it.  Despite the title of this blog, it was a good trip and if travel has taught me anything - personal, pleasure or business - it's to be open to the possibilities.

Their might be a proverbial diamond in the rough, a three star restaurant in what you think might be a hick back-ass town in the middle of nowhere Florida.  Or how the guy that used to sell you pot in college and haven't seen in years just might own a farm now just about an hour north of Jacksonville, and have the (2nd) coolest woman ever as his wife. So I got to spend about two hours with them and, at the end, he offered to sell me some pot (which I did turn down).

A little winery in St Augustine which offered some very sweet (almost to sweet) wines but also offered jazz on the roof top over looking the St Johns River.  Watching the World Cup in a bar full of strangers and the joy and disappointment that the beautiful game grants us.   Strangers enter and friends emerge, united by the colors of their chosen side.

A visit to one of the local museums lead to an odd moment.  I walked into one of the old clapboard homes that were on display, only dating only back 100 years, and realizing that I was alone.  Realizing that I could slip behind the velvet ropes and actually touch some I dare to do so?

Another room contained an old train.  An iron and steel ghost of the influence of Henry Flagler.  Who for all practical purposes built up the east coast of Florida and developed the Keys.  Florida owes a lot to the rails and the state was not really developed until the 1920's and Flagler's various hotels and rail efforts.  Disney of course was another developing force in the state but that is another topic for another blog.

One of the trains that built modern Florida

An old church in Jacksonville beach

Behind the ropes.
An old clapboard style Florida home

Old School Kitchen

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Just riding in the rain

Something odd happened this past Friday, the 13 of June 2014.  I didn't have anything to do.  No emails to read, no proposals to make.  There was no pressing business that demanded my attention.  No urgent phone calls or errands or "things that must be done right now because the fate of the free world hangs in the balance!!!"

Sue, my long suffering and Raison d'ĂȘtre, was out running around with her girlfriends doing what ever a group of middle aged women do (probably bitching about their middle aged men).  So I was alone...I wanted to go for a ride.  Actually let me rephrase that..."I WANTED TO GO FOR A RIDE!".  

I've been banged up over the last few months and was actually under strict orders from the powers that be not to ride for several of those months.  When I was released recently I was happy about it...but I really didn't feel the "want" to go for a ride.

Since then I've ridden to work.  I've run to the movies or out to the store.  I've slowly gotten used to riding again.  I've felt a spark of the joy I used to have to on the bike at times, leaning into a corner or just being out on the road somewhere where the view was worth remarking on.  I've not really felt the need to go riding just to ride.

There was only one problem.  It was raining.


I did consider putting on my rain gear.  Heading out into the wilds of West Central Florida "just for an hour or so."  In the end the rational side of my brain won the argument.  It's dangerous in the rain to begin with, even more so when there are lighting storms in the area.  I'm ugly but I'm not stupid.

So no riding on a Friday for me.  Saturday was another story.

Saturday started out beautifully, not a cloud in the sky and I was scheduled to work a 12 hour day.  I decided to ride in, and although there was a chance of rain on the way home it was only in the 30% range and I would most likely miss it.   The parking lot was wet at 10:30 PM when I left work and I was warned that the roads were slick in spots but it was not raining.

I took it easy on the way home, riding a little slower than I would normally and keeping an extra second or two between me and the cars surrounding me.  I slipped on my rain gear early just in case I needed it...I didn't till about 10 miles from my home when I entered a rain curtain.  It caught me off guard as it literally came of of no where and without soaked me quickly and thoroughly...but the rain gear did it's job.  I was dry.

I may have not had the chance to go out for a ride...and I think that I needed to prove something to myself.  That I could handle the bike in less than ideal conditions, which I was able to do a bit of on Saturday.  Even though I was home about 15 minutes after I got caught out in it.  Not much of a test, but another little confidence builder.

Finally starting today I will be in Jacksonville, FL for an entire week, including the weekend (I will be back next Thursday), which means no riding at all for me while I'm gone.  The company pays for me to take a rental car to keep liability down.  I hope to get out some more than I did last time and am actually taking a camera with me this time.

Hopefully it will be a little mini-vacation for me.  God knows I need one.  I may however, rent a scooter while I'm up there because I have to share the company vehicle with someone else.   We will just have to wait and see.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Just a quick update - a famed Lambretta lives.

Our good friends over at Scooter Diaries gave us some good news recently.  The famed Lambretta is restored and purring like a kitten.

I have been wanting to read this book but somehow my subtle hint to the girlfriend and my parents of "Hey, I would really like this book for Christmas...for my birthday....because I want to read it"  seemed to fall on deaf ears; it appears I will have to buy myself a copy.   Truth be told, with everything that has been going on these last few months it was forgotten about.

For those of us that like good stories and adventure, I thought I would share this video with you.

Speaking of Epic Adventures.  This is the last day of the 2014 Scooter Cannonball.  Congrats to all that made that journey.  Have a beer, you deserve it.