Saturday, May 23, 2015

Yxporing Ybor City

Ybor (pronounced EE-bor) City is one of the more historic neighborhoods in the city of Tampa and at one time was more unusual neighborhoods in the United States because it was truly integrated and mulit-ethnic at a time when that sort of thing simply did not happen.

The business heart of Ybor is a converted old factory
Today it's more known for being the center of Tampa's nightlife and gay culture.  Still though you can find old Cuban men rolling cigars, Italian being spoken on street corners and some of the best food in the city.  I enjoy Ybor because of its history, it's vibrant nature and historic buildings.  It's an area where young and old mix, chickens run about wild and free and tourists roam the streets with the natives.

If I was a much younger man I've no doubt that I would have spent many a night wandering about looking for excitement.

Ybor however is best explored by foot and not by bike.  Traffic can be a little insane and parking is at a premium.  Tampa is one of the few cities in the United States to still have a working street car line, which serves downtown and Ybor city almost exclusively, as well as the original 100 year old cobblestone streets.

With that in mind I left early in the morning because I wanted to beat the heat and the traffic.  I still ended up getting off of Kimmie and walking about for a bit.  My first stop was the Columbia Restaurant.  Operated continuously by the same family since 1905 the Columbia has expanded to fill an entire city block.  It's menu and wine list have won major awards and it's often humorous to see someone in formal wear sitting next to people in shorts.  It's not uncommon to be seated next to a politician or a celebrity.  That's the Columbia.  That's Ybor city.

Local legend has it that during Prohibition, Ybor city was involved in rum running from Cuba and one night gunfire erupted.  The bullets are still logged in the walls of the Columbia to this day.

Detail of the tiles on the building

Wandering about Ybor you can not help be be impressed by the history and the tradition.  I've been to places like New York and Chicago and you just don't see streetlights like the one in the photo below.  Often the historic buildings are only one to three stories tall, this is due to the nature of of geography here in Florida, but that also means you have a feeling of community.  

A feral family of chickens being fed by the locals
How historic is Ybor City?  Honestly I can't say.  One thing I did see over and over again however is historical markers, some literally within ten feet of each other simply recording events that happened anywhere from five to a hundred years apart from each other.  It's something that we can not forget.  Ybor is being reinvented now, as historic buildings are slowly being converted into overpriced condo's that are forcing many of the long term residents out and the outskirts of the community fall into disrepair.  The price of progress I suppose.

Some additional photo's can be found here.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

And it continues....maybe?

At long last Kimmie is back up and running properly. The head gasket was replaced, the oil pressure switch is repaired and a new rectifier has been installed. I pick her up on Friday but due to a full weekend of requirements, commitments and duties was not able to ride her till Monday.

Weekends are normally busy for me, so I made a promise to myself that I would get out more, go to the places that interest me. I have been wanting to travel up to Brookstown for over a month, Ybor (ee-bor) City for about the same amount of time. Weeki Wachee - the city of mermaids is also on that list. Before I did all that though, I needed to go to work. So we fire up Kimmie.

It's a lovely day and I'm riding 301 into Tampa, it's more or less a straightaway through some scrub and swampland.  Nothing really to look at or do other than pay attention to the traffic and be careful when passing or being passed.   I'm about halfway though this route, the one place in all of Florida where I know for sure I don't have cell phone coverage.  I look at the instrument panel.

Yep, that happened.  

Now I have a choice...that could be 1001 things and the light was not on when I started Kimmie.  I know they replaced the rectifier and I thought to myself that the mechanics would have double checked everything before releasing the bike to me right?  RIGHT?

So do we trust Kimmie to get me to work?  Do we turn around and go home?  Do we pull off and call the tow company to take me back?  Do I tap the idiot light and hope it goes off?

I head into work, knowing I can't do anything on the side of the road.  Sure I have a small tool kit in the bike but other than some very basic fixes I've no idea what I can do other than ignore the angry red light for now.  

Kimmie runs fine and takes me to work with no issues.  Somewhere between point A and B the red light goes off.  It does not come on at all on the way home and I take the highway home...thinking that if there is an issue I would rather be somewhere I can get help quickly rather than a empty country road in the middle of the night.  

My mechanic is not open on Monday's.  I leave a message and await a call back.  "It's probably nothing." I tell myself.  

Still though it's a nagging issue in the back of my head, I start Kimmie up in the morning and have no issues.  No lights turn on...I ride to work on Tuesday.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

You can't go home again.

“Perhaps this is our strange and haunting paradox here in America -- that we are fixed and certain only when we are in movement. At any rate, that is how it seemed to young George Webber, who was never so assured of his purpose as when he was going somewhere on a train. And he never had the sense of home so much as when he felt that he was going there. It was only when he got there that his homelessness began.” 
― Thomas WolfeYou Can't Go Home Again

We were driving the back roads of Pennsylvania, I have a silly smile on my face as I push the rental car into the tight corners...Susan is beside, relaxed and at ease, she causally says "Your enjoying this."

"I love to drive." I tell her.

That's true.  I do love to drive and often when the world got to much for a much younger man it was not uncommon for me to jump in the car and take off down the back roads and end up 50, 75, 100 miles away...feeling refreshed and happy.

I always felt that the world began 50 miles from where ever I was at.  You get used to being in one place and the excitement, the bright lights are always elsewhere.  The city calls out to visit.  There is always one more dance hall, one more bar, one more pretty girl with dark seductive eyes.  In college I started to explore the world, and not always in the best ways.

When I lived in Charlotte, NC that experimentation continued by "touring with the Dead" for a bit.  Going here and there and spending wild nights listening to bands, meeting artists and comics and spending late nights with a bottle of wine discussing the world.

In the unusual heat of May (it was about 10 to 15 degrees warmer than it normally is in PA for this time of year), which seemed like a normal Florida spring day to us, I realized that this was no longer my home.  I also realized that I was no longer the young idiot I once was.   Not that I had spent my "adult" life wasting away in Margaritaville.  I managed to make a good living, got married twice and owned two homes.

Somehow in between all the adventures I had built myself a life.  Adulthood happened when I was not expecting it.  Not that all the experiments and experiences were successful, I still have nothing nice to say about Anna; my first wife, for example.  Still though, they made me who and what I am.  A good man.

So what brought on all this reminiscing?  My parent's 50th anniversary for one thing.  Seeing old friends that have lived some dreams.  I could not help but wonder what happened to the young man that tried to live his life to a Rush song.

I'm not giving in to security under pressure
I'm not missing out on the promise of adventure
I'm not giving up on implausible dreams
Experience to extremes...
Experience to extremes...

I grew up.

So I wait on my Kimmie to be fixed.  It could be finally repaired today, maybe tomorrow.  Just in time for me to ride during the heat of the day and be caught out in thunderstorms at night.  Just in time for me to consider finally giving up on my self employment, which is starting to lose money for me.

I know that Kimmie and I are going to have some further adventures.  There is much to explore in my backyard.  Places to see, to go, people to meet.

Maybe that will help get me out of this funk.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Learning Patience

It's been a long time since I posted anything to this blog.  I've been away, it's been a busy week as I went home to Pittsburgh to be with my loving parents - who recently celebrated their fiftieth (50) wedding anniversary.   It's hard to believe I've known these people all my life.

This trip allowed me to do some other things as well.  My lovely Susan has a daughter named Stephanie who just celebrated her twenty fifth birthday.  My brother adopted a lovely little girl two years ago and she had a birthday on April 15th.  So I got the chance to celebrate that with them as well.
Sue and Steph

And of course, it was Mother's day...least we forgot that.

If there was a theme to all this celebration over the last week it was "Patience."  I was not dealing with the plans for my parent's party directly, that was my brother's job, Knowing my mother, he had his hands full.  I got a little bit of that the week before as she called several times wanting us to bring photo albums or other small knick-knack's home.  As frustrated as I was with her at times, I knew it was worse for my brother.  Patience.

If I have learned anything from my's that patience is the key.  That and communication, as Susan and I discuss nearly everything that affects us.

So these past weeks it's been patience.  My bike is fixed, the electrical gremlin was a rectifier.  The gasket is repaired, the part finally arriving from the Mesolithic era.  Then I got a call from Mike, super mechanic.

"Hey Rob, it's Mike."

Yea Dude, what's up?

"Well we found another issue with your bike.  It's the oil pressure gauge."


Luckily this all happened before my trip home, so there was little I could do about it. What I wanted to do was spend time with friends and family.  Visit something called Randyland - which I learned about via the Atlas Obscura website, and generally relax.  Sadly I just run out of time, I was unable to spend some time with some friends but I was able to spend time with others.  Over all a good relaxing weekend.

Some highlights are below, you can see photo's of my parent's 50th here (I'm still trying to get everyone named LOL) and additional photo's of my visit to Randyland here.

My Brother Gary and myself

Sue, Me, Mom, Dad, Avery (little one), Amy, Gary
Some Photo's of Randyland

Building one of two

Taken from within the courtyard

The courtyard itself

I just thought they were cute

Yea, I left my worries there.
A special thanks goes out to the work that Randy Gilson does, he's helping to bring back an old and once blighted neighborhood back with vibrant colors, hope and love...and it's an ongoing work in progress.  I understand he wants to add a little cafe and coffee shop soon.  As well as expand into the nearby neighborhoods.   Support the man and what he does by visitinghis website. Or his facebook page here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

the damage done

10:38 AM Wednesday -

So on Friday, April 24 my mechanic Mike calls with good news.  "Rob, the part arrived by air balloon from Patagonia today."


"I'm not going to be able to get to your bike till Tuesday afternoon." Mike says.

"Dude, I've waited this long a few days more won't kill me." I simply state.

And it won't.  Although that Tuesday morning a serious storm moved into the area which promised to last a day or two, so it was doubtful I would have ridden much anyway.  Kimmie did eventually start up on Monday night however when I turned the key to drop her off at the shop.  Although it did mean I had to move her around a bit, which just confirms my loose connection/short hypothesis.  Since she'll be sitting out in the rain overnight (I didn't bring the cover) I'm wondering if that will only aggravate the issue.  

The gasket alone, including the part and labor, is only going to cost me about $500.  Not exactly a minor repair but considering the horror I felt when Mike first said "Gasket" I'm relatively happy.  It could have been worse.

The part that scares me the electrical gremlin.  I've dealt with those little buggers before and unless your willing to rip out and replace all the wiring (I'm not) they can be a bitch to pin down.  At least it was in an old car I owned.  I ended up selling that car.

Hopefully today I'll have the final tally.  I considered getting a new front tire put on as well, but with a few days out of state coming up, I decided to put that off.  I just owe a little to much on the credit card right now.

Still though, it occurs to me again that my time with Kimmie is limited.  Another year?  Two?  Not really a long term relationship is it?  It did last longer than my first marriage although I'm sort of joking there.

Our relationship changed after my accident back in January, 2014.  I was off the bike for most of 2014, and since that fateful day; we have had issues with Susan's health, my father's health and other things.  I just don't feel like I've done a lot of riding.  Now it's a parts issue that's kept me off of Kimmie for nearly a month.

I've no desire to give up riding or blogging.  However it does change your point of view.

10:38 PM Wednesday -

So it's a a cool night in late April, I'm searching for the solution to my electrical problem...a rectifier.  I'll be honest I had to look up exactly what this little thing did.  In layman's terms the rectifier converts AC current - which flows two ways - into direct current, which only flows one way.  How this occurs is through what engineers call "magic."

Since I had a bad unit it was undercharging my bike and would have lead to my battery dying prematurely.  While it's a common part, Mike the mechanical wonder boy, did say it be about 3 or 4 more days.  So even if he could get the part for me in, I would be without the bike till Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

Guess who will be out of town?

The total damage done however is only about $660 US including labor, parts and shipping.  I can live with that.  It's part of owning a bike.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

And now we wait....and wait.....and wait

I woke up this morning with a thought..."Wouldn't be great to ride into work today?"  The chance for rain was low and it looked like it was not going to be as humid as it had been.  A wonderful day to get out some.

Oh yea.

Burial shroud

My mechanic is still waiting on a gasket that apparently is being delivered by row boat from somewhere in the deepest depths of North Korea.  From a port in Austria it will then be shipped America by oxen and then to me via camel driven UPS truck.
Meanwhile Kimmie sits and waits.  Even when this part gets here there is still a electrical gremlin that needs to be found and squashed under a boot.  Yes, I've asked why they can't use a regular gasket or a part from a similar bike.

I decided that I wanted to put off getting a new bike.  I like the idea, I love the idea but frankly I just don't feel comfortable taking on another debt at this time.  Even though the math tells me I can.  I've been in dire straights in my life, and I've no desire to allow that to happen again.  Plus a lifetime of working in insurance, banking and taxes has taught me a few things - although how a guy with a Education degree and a background in Engineering ended up in the financial field is a long story.  I suppose I'm just good at math.  Funny thing is that I did not really do well at math until college.

I did go over to my local Honda dealer.  I sat on the CTX and it did impress me, but after being on scooters so long I could not help but wonder about how I would adjust to it.  I'm sure it would not take long.  I looked for a salesperson to ask some one was about.  In fact, I seemed to be alone in the store.

Probably for the best, I may have rode a bike home and would have had to go back for the car later.

So I wait.  I'm not done with Kimmie, despite her problems this is the first bike that I truly felt comfortable on.  My old Zuma was always just a starter bike.  My Burgman, while comfortable and wonderful, just did not seem to have a personality or "soul.".  Kimmie...while she's Kimmie.  A long time ago I said if I could personify her she look like this:

Sure she's got her dents, her scratches and scars.  But she's mine.  She's sexy to me, and I'll be completely honest, there are times I've patted her on the top box just in passing.

Or thanked her for getting me home on a really bad traffic day, or in the rain, or when I know she needs fuel and I just want to push her that extra mile.  I know she has taken better care of me than I have at her at times.

I'm in love.

You don't give up on that.

So I wait.

It sounds silly, it makes no sense.  After all she is just a machine, a collection of parts and pieces that somehow manage to get me from point A to B consistently with a lot of C, D and E between.  It's those in between points where I fell in love.

I'm not sure I would have that feeling with a new bike.  Of course, Kimmie was not my first choice either but that was another time, another place and I was coming out of some darkness.  In the following two years we invested a lot of money into her, it's been worth it.  Changing bikes now just doesn't seem right.

So I wait.

Friday, April 17, 2015