Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More fun with Joe13

Joe13 has an impressive collection of motorcycles. A couple of the more late model Harleys he rides regularly. His '46 Flathead has been registered continually for a few decades, but it hasn't been on the road for about a year. As with anything, especially a 64 year old motorcycle, it needed a little coaxing.

When Joe13 rolled the bike out of its resting place, it needed a little work. Since he can do anything in his shop, this wasn't a problem and didn't take long. However, the kicker gears are just about shot, and because it had been sitting for so long, Joe13 pulled out his homemade... I don't even know what to call it. I would not have believed this "tool" existed nor safely worked had I not seen it in action. And in reality, I didn't see it work, because using the tool was a two-man process, and I was the second man (person). That probably makes even less sense. Let me explain.

While expecting Joe13 to be rolling out the bike, he took off to the back yard and pulled a small pickup truck around to the front of the shop. Thinking he was suffering from a severe case of shiny object syndrome, I kept my mouth shut and waited to find out what project we were working on now. It was then that he pointed out this strange steel contraption on the floor of the garage. It was about six feet long and two feet wide. Mounted on it were two large rollers running the length of the... thing. I'm still at a loss for what to call this.

Joe13 had me back the truck up so that the right rear wheel was positioned between the two rollers. He chalked the front wheel of the truck. Then he pulled the Flathead out and placed the rear wheel of the Flathead between the two rollers. He told me to drive. I was sure he was going to die. But he didn't. The truck tire got the rollers moving, which then got the Flathead's rear wheel moving. Within a few seconds, the Flathead roared to life, having been push started without any crazy running around of human beings.

Maybe you've seen something like this before. I never have. Joe13 made it himself many years ago. While it does require two people and a truck, if you live in the country on dirt roads without any downhill slopes from the shop, or if you and your friends are just plain old, it's a valuable tool.

Having started the motorcycle, Joe13 took it for a quick spin to clear out the cobwebs. It ran amazingly well. When he got back, I asked if he'd take me for a ride. It had been twenty years since I'd ridden on the back of a rigid frame with such sparse accommodations, and I wanted to reminisce. With the rear footpegs being only about six inches below and six inches in front of my seat, it required a bit of effort to get situated. I reached between my legs to wrap my arms tightly around Joe13 while he took off. It was awesome!

We rode into town, Joe13 using the suicide clutch and tank shifter as though he'd done it all his life. He's ridden that bike on the street since he was 15, so he has done it most of his life. It was dark at this point, with the moon poking out of some stray clouds, and as we passed the old drive-in, I felt like I was living a David Mann poster. Riding like that came back to me quickly. Wanting to shift my weight without throwing off Joe13's balance, I waited until he pushed down on the clutch and the bike slowed slightly to move my butt forward a little on the p-pad. I loved it when he leaned back and threw his left arm over my knee. I smiled when I considered that if I'd seen another woman riding on the back of a bike like that, I'd have been extremely jealous.

We got gas. Joe13 went in to pay and told me to pump. I took the cap off the right side of the tank but noticed the word "oil" stamped in the tank under that cap. There was oil in there. I replaced that cap and filled the left side with fuel. We took off back for the shop, losing power along the way. The spark plug wires had seen better days, and it was time for a replacement. Despite that small maintenance requirement, the bike ran great. The 99 degree August day had cooled to a pleasant 75 degrees and was finished off with an unexpected ride on a true antique motorcycle. Life doesn't get much better than that.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A quick Sturgis trip with Joe13

Last year I wrote about a trip to the Black Hills during the last week of August. it was a beautiful time to be there. Not only were the motorcycle crowds gone, but almost all the tourists had left, leaving some great riding in perfect weather. This year I decided I'd give the rally a try. Having never been to Sturgis during rally week, I figured I'd go for a day to see what I was missing. I'm glad I went.

I'm glad I went early. Sturgis officially started today, August 9th. I rode up with a friend on the 7th and back on the 8th. It was a last minute decision to go, so no plans were made. We left Loveland before noon, and with a detour to my favorite quilt shop in Hill City, we got to Sturgis just before sunset. We hit Main Street, parked, and walked around for a bit, stopping to visit Webb from Joker's Wild in Fort Collins tattooing at the Tattoo Cellar. Cell service in Sturgis is terrible, but I was able to text a friend who told us to meet him at Full Throttle Saloon.

We figured out how to find Full Throttle and headed out. When we got there, we parked next to Geico's Dyna Drags trailer. My friend loves motorcycle racing, so we hung out and watched. They wanted people to race, which was $30 for three runs, plus you got a t-shirt and print-out of your racing statistics. I'm not sure what made me think it was a good idea, but I thought it looked like fun, and I wanted to see what my bike would do. I paid my $30 and went for it. I was the first woman of Sturgis 2010 to race on the dyno. Nobody went while I was there, so I did it alone. I say alone, but the crowd got pretty big. The guys running it were hyping it up, and someone was filming the whole thing. I was nervous, never having done this before, but I had a blast. My last run was 13.25 seconds for the quarter mile, with a speed of 107 MPH and 71 horsepower. Wow! I was so excited all night that I couldn't sleep.

Oh yeah, sleep. We had made zero plans for a place to stay. Someone told us about a campground a little way out of town where we could get a spot for one night at a time. This was different from a lot of the really big places that only sold week-long spots for big bucks. We had no idea where we were going, and it was getting really dark and desolate, but after a while I saw some lights and a lot of vehicles turning down a side road. Sure enough, I'd found the Shade Valley Campground. The rate there is $20 per person, per night. They have a pretty impressive shower house way in the back for the tenters, but beware of cow patties everywhere.

The next day we went back into town for breakfast, where I was promptly recognized from my run on the dyno the night before. Very cool! We paid $7 for an all-you-can-eat pancake and biscuits and gravy breakfast at a school. Then we went into town, parked on Main Street again, and checked out the vendors. My friend owns Two Guys Motorcycle Shop in Loveland, so it was a trade show for us. It was a lot of fun meeting the vendors and learning about their new products.

By noon on Sunday, between the lack of sleep, heat, and crowds, I was on overload and was ready to head home. I'm not a big fan of crowds, and I'd reached my limit. It's easy to see why there are so many wrecks during bike week. It's hard to focus on everything you need to in order to ride safely. Riders are of all different experience levels, and you never know what the person next to you is going to do. I'm glad I went, and I'm glad I went early. I'm not sure I'd be able to tolerate much more traffic and noise, and the official week hadn't even begun! I'll probably go back, but not for much longer than I did this year.