Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Greetings from The RatRodRiders Bicycle club

RatRod Riders B/C So Cal.
So who are we? What is this club we are creating? What’s a RatRod, anyway, and what does the RatRod Riders club do?
And how do you join the RatRod Riders? Does it cost money? What are we asking from you, and, most important of all: what's in it for you?
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Chopadero Doo Dah

So What owns your brain time? What fills your head in that rare hour alone with your thoughts? Like when you're driving, for example. Long list of movies? Long list of books? The TV networks? The newspapers? The internet? The War? The End of the World as We Know It? Lots of foolishness masquerades as serious stuff out there, and if you pay too much attention it can just make you sick. What is important? What are you going to- well, do?
Sometimes the best choice is to allow yourself to relinquish your hold on the events of the world. If the Apocalypse comes on our watch, we won't be able to postpone it. We may as well enjoy the last days of the finest thing that ever happened on Planet Earth-

The miracle of Western Civilization.
Which is- slack.

That is- time on your hands, and the means to enjoy it.

Slack well done is a power plant that generates joy. It charges up the spirit, lightens the soul, and fills you with enough silly to laugh for days afterward. It heals you up from the abrasions caused by the media's daily assault on your sanity. Having fun makes you a happier person, and I believe that God wants us to be happy. But we still have to choose.

Small gestures are the seeds of great trends in our lives. The most casual decision spins out events in a vast web of coincidence that catches us up and connects us with others in ways we never dreamed possible.
But, once again-you have to choose. You have to make that casual decision, and extend the small gesture. Waiting for life to find you means sitting around and waiting forever. Television is dying to devour your slack.

In the meantime- what kind of stuff are you going to fold into your resume? When you see your life flash before your eyes in that last few seconds before The End- what kind of stuff will be on the screen? Your choice.
There is always the choice of either doing some thing, or doing no thing: Always choose Life, right? Even when it means asking yourself- just how much fun do I want to have here? It's like surfing- sometimes you don't realize how big the waves are until you paddle out to sea. And once you're out there, "I don't want to deal with this" is not an option. But I'm past the rash behaviors of my youth. Mostly. I mean, risking life and limb is out, but that still leaves a lot of cool stuff to do.

I'm on the Freeway heading for Pasadena.
And I can't shake the odd feeling that I'm paddling out into some big swell.
It's just a parade.
Yeah, but...

I've been hearing about the Doo-Dah Parade for years. It was originally a send up of the Rose Parade, but now any connection between the two events is a total accident. Still, it's a chance to put on a yearly freak show, and who in California can resist the opportunity? It's one of those events that gives Southern California its well-deserved reputation for kookiness. It's also one of those things like the Renaissance Faire- You say to yourself, "Yeah- some day I'll have to go see it," and then you never really go. But, as I noted earlier-Small gestures are often the seeds...

Browse around on the computer. Hit the 'gotta' have it' button.
And I'm getting off the 210 Freeway on Sierra Madre Boulevard heading south- hooking a left on Colorado Boulevard, East Pasadena. I pull off Colorado on Altadena, and there's a free parking place less than a block down. I pull the truck over, and I've got that deep water feeling again. I start unloading the Spoiler. I'm not just going to the Doo-Dah Parade. I'm gonna' ride in it with The Chopaderos.
And as always, I'm early.
The first truck of bikes pulls into the parking lot of the Comfort Inn right around when they said they would. Chuck, from Cyclone Coasters pulls around the corner. Here we go. The morning comes alive as bikes are unloaded, wrenches twisted, tires checked, greetings exchanged. Tada and his film crew are back. They rode along on the Cyclavia trip, and will be filming us again today. I got acquainted with a few of the Chopaderos from the Cyclavia ride, and a few other 'Deros come out for the monthly Cyclone Coasters ride in Long Beach. So I'm feeling less like a total stranger, which helps ease this recurring case of the willies- Just how much fun do you want to have? I've already paddled out.

Below- Bikes in the truck. All pictures click to enlarge

Below-Make unloading a brand new chrome plated cruiser

Just like Christmas

Everyone is saddled up. We get the signal, and a moment later the bikes in front of me are rolling. The Chopaderos get ready to make the plunge into the Do Dah. My feet are on the pedals, and there are no second thoughts. Just pay attention, and go. The pack rolls out of the parking lot, down Colorado, left at a side street, right at another, and we're there. Sort of. That is, we're in the staging area- the alleys, and small parking lots behind the storefronts on Colorado Boulevard. We jostle the dozens of choppers into our spot in line.

Southern California earns it's reputation for craziness. And I'm here with the Chopaderos getting ready to add to that reputation. We're right behind the Whistling Diva in her unrestored convertible 1970-something Volkswagen Thing, and right in front of a rock band dressed as Mormon missionaries- white shirts, ties, blacks slacks, bicycle helmets, and electric guitars. A spot or two behind them the Hare Krishnas are drumming, and chanting (with loudspeakers) while pulling along their circus colored juggernaut. There are women floating around in all manner of curious costume. There are folks in dog suits, stilt walkers, mask wearers, clowns, and queens of all genre and gender. And the Chopaderos outlaw bicycle club. Everyone waiting in the warm April sun.
Below- Welcome to RidiculousBelow- Mask wearers

Below- Women floating around in all sorts of curious costume

Below-And the Chopaderos Outlaw Bicycle Club

Below- Smog beast of the Whistling Diva

Below- Tada (plaid shirt) and crew never stop

Below-Queens of all genres

Compare and Contrast

Below- And Queens of all genders

Below- Last minute adjustment
And soon enough we hear air horns. The show is starting; the entries roll slowly forward. Remember the Whistling Diva, and her 1970-something Volkswagen? The last tune-up on that car called for new breaker points, spark plugs, and condenser. My guess is that the car was still under warranty when they did it. We inch forward engulfed in the cloud of toxic yellow exhaust belching out of those ancient pipes. This ain't good. The shirt and tie and helmet kids are rocking out behind us. We're getting close to Colorado. T hands out tortillas, and announces a quick change of plan. We're going to ride circles around the rock and roll helmet kids. Genius. This will extend our street time, and get us out from behind the smoggy Diva. Suddenly we're rolling, hooking a right on Colorado Boulevard, springing forward so we can heel a hard tight U-turn and loop back behind the rock band. I've done parade riding. It's a little tricky to ride a circle that progresses along a straight line, even with a regular bike, and the full width of a four lane street. Here all we get are the right two lanes. Some of these bikes (like mine) have a turning radius larger than a car's. Easy Rider this is not. This route is half a block down the right side of the street, a U-turn, a straight ride for a block before U-turning again, half a block more, then turn right to exit by the same street we enter from. The crowd spots the chopper gang on their bad ass bicycles. At this point everything sort of compresses into a blur. Tortillas and marshmallows are flying everywhere. We're crankin' on it, then going slow, coming to a full stop frequently, reach down and gather a couple stray tortillas, a marshmallow beans me back of the head, I'm riding again trying to get the Spoiler heeled around, zinging the tortillas Frisbee style, taking hits from marshmallows, getting all the way back to where the Hare Krishnas are pulling their float, and there's T off his bike leading the crowd in shouts to the laborers HEAVE HO, HEAVE, HO...,

Below- In the middle of the Madness
Below- Cutting back in front of the Hare Krishnas

Below- T off his bike directing the crowd. "HEAVE HO"

... and we're around the last U turn, stop to toss marshmallows at some kid, sling another tortilla, and the next thing, we're going right off of Colorado, back up the side street, around to the parking lot, and it's over.
Holy cow, what was that?

I have absolutely no sense of time right now- How long were we out there? What the hell just happened? Everyone's tires are full of marshmallows; how did we end up here? There is still a long line of parade entries inching toward the starting point. One by one they dive into the mosh pit. So when you see your life flash before your eyes in that last few seconds before The End- what kind of stuff will be on the screen?

The bike gang regroups. We pause for some picture taking, and then hit the street for a cruise down to a local watering hole. All the way down Colorado, people drive by honking their horns, shouting, giving the Chopaderos a thumb's up. We decompress for about an hour, and then head to the Dog Haus gourmet hot dog place for lunch.

Slack well done. It was all very good.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Bikin' with the Chopaderos

Click to enlargenate

Eight thirty AM Sunday finds me alone in Mariachi Plaza, East Los Angeles.

Waiting. This is typical. I have a mania about being on time. Waiting, boredom, anticipation, I can handle, but I have an absolute horror of being late. The Chopaderos are supposed to be here at ten; I'm almost two hours early. I'm glad to be here at all. The weekend started badly, with toothache pain Friday morning. By Friday night it reached vicodin level. Saturday morning found me in the dentist's chair, fortunately with vicodin as a reward. No serious pain this morning, but I'm wrung out from pills and little sleep. That's OK. I'm here
From time to time bicyclists emerge from the underground Gold Line rail station, and head toward the Cyclavia starting point several blocks down Boyle Street. Today the city belongs to bicycles. Seven and a half miles of downtown are blocked off for bikes, skates, scooters- anything without a motor. Today I'll be riding with the outlaws. I've been looking forward to this the way an eight year old anticipates Christmas. Soon enough we'll roll, but for now, there is nothing to do but wait.

So, how did I get here? What are the links in the chain of events that finds me alone in Mariachi Plaza, waiting for an outlaw bicycle club called the Chopaderos early on a cool Sunday morning in April? It's always an interesting mind game to trace back the ties in the web of coincidence that connects all things in life, especially when you've got vacant brain time, like when you're driving. Or sitting and waiting. How do I find myself here?
I could go back to sometime in the early 70's, when I ran into a guy with a beautifully restored Schwinn Autocycle at Huntington Beach pier. That got me hooked on classic bikes, and got me started building my fleet. But I wrote about that in an earlier series of posts entitled The Jaguar Project. The first link in this particular chain came about a year and a half ago when I was filling in for the custodian at one of the local elementary schools. I was daydreaming about motorcycles- revisiting the cross country trips I made on the Harley back in the early 90's. Thinking about those long solitary summers on the road, the runs to Sturgis, the parties out in the backwoods of Tennessee, and West Virginia. And thinking how far behind me that stuff is, now. I took to searching out pictures of choppers on the web. How cool it would be to have the means to build one... Then I stumbled on to the picture of the Spoiler- a chopper with pedals.

I had to have that damn bicycle. I found one, bought it, and that got me going on bicycles, again. Soon I had it tricked out with a three speed, a suicide shift, a new saddle, and sissy bar.
But just having a chopper bike would have gotten me nothing except a reputation for being eccentric around my home town. The crucial link came when Mary and I were riding our (boring) comfort bikes around Huntington Beach. We ran into a guy that had an incredible old Shelby Airflow. He told us about Cyclone Coasters, a group that meets each month for an antique/classic bike cruise. I got the chopper bike up and running, and then set out to bring the classics out of the crates they'd sat in since the nineties. We got to the first Coasters ride last June. It was there that I heard about the Chopaderos.
A chopper bike club? You gotta' be kidding me. Really?
I had to look into this. And now I'm here in Mariachi Plaza, waiting. And soon enough I catch a glimpse of a truck loaded with long bikes pulling up around the corner. I wheel the chopper over to the far side of the plaza. This is it. They're here.

Click makes pic all big.
One by one, by two's and threes they arrive. I have met a couple of the guys a few times, but that's it. It's always a little awkward the first time you meet with a group, and unlike Cyclone Coasters, this group is an organized club. Nonetheless, I'm not stressing out over it. Getting older has its advantages- you learn to take things in stride, bide your time, and allow, rather than force things to happen.
These guys have some incredible bikes. Some are customized Basman cruisers, others are one off hand built choppers. A couple of young guys with video cameras are working their way through the growing crowd. They're shooting some footage for a possible cable TV project- maybe a viral web cast. They go about this like professionals, handing out releases, and video recording everyone's permission to appear on screen. Who knows? This may be the fifteen minutes of fame I've been told I have coming. I'll take it.

Pics grow huge with a click.

But now I'm hearing bells. The ride is about to begin. The group moves out by twos and fours and, Here we go! This is what I've been waiting for. I'm ridin' with the Chopaderos. The first leg of the run is down hill; we gain some fairly serious speed, and the fat rear tire on the Spoiler sings on the pavement. We approach the iconic bridge across the LA river filmed in countless television shows and heaven only knows how many movies. A stop on the bridge for a group shot...

Click me and I grow.
And then we're rolling again- through Little Tokyo, around through the artist district, and then we make the right onto 7th Street. This. Is. It.
The city in all its glory.

Here's where the strangeness of what we are doing hits home. These streets are never quiet. Cars, buses, truck, sirens.- gone. There are bicycles, pedestrians skateboards, and the soft hum of the crowd. Our pack moves slowly through the traffic, and everyone on either side does a double take, and points, as we pass. Guys on road bikes slow down and ask questions. Others just stare, incredulous. We pass a cop trying out some kid's three wheel scooter. Other cops are cruising along, or watching the few intersections where the ride is halted for cross traffic. They seem to be diggin' it. They're friendly, courteous, in synch with the vibe of the day. We pull off to the side near Hope Street. One of Chopaderos, Fez, has bike trouble.
The delay gives everyone a chance to take in the scene, and watch the parade of bikes pass by. You see a little of everything- road bikes, mountain bikes, cruisers, but we seem to be the only bunch on choppers. I'm a little surprised- I expected to see more stretch bikes, or some classics. I haven't seen anyone from the Cyclone Coaster group either, but this crowd is huge- easily in the tens of thousands. After about twenty minutes, or so the word comes down- Fez's bike is out of commission for now. So we we roll again.

Click to embiggen

Next pause is for a pit stop at McArthur Park. The sun is out, the sky has cleared up, there's a band playing, and the park is full of partiers. And the Real Rydas show up. This is an all black bike club on the most outrageous looking machines on the street. Bling is the theme: mirrors, chrome, multiple spare tires, zillion spoke wheels, and springers unbolted from the fork head, so the whole front end flips under the bike. I clicked a bunch of pictures, but only a couple came out.
Here's Fonda, meeting with the Rydas . (second pic)

These too shall grow-click

At this point the traffic is getting pretty heavy- just like LA on any normal day, only without cars. The cops are pushing us off to the side of the street, so we cruise on. Now we have to climb some hills into East Hollywood. That's the only drawback with a chopper- you can't stand up on the pedals, and grind; you gotta' just grit your teeth, and tough it out. But everyone makes it up the hill, past the pretty girl handing out grapefruit wedges, past the rock n' roll string quartet, around a few more turns, and then there it is- Melrose Avenue- end of the line.

Click to increase your size.

We hang out here for about an hour, and I'm glad for the break. I've been up since early, breakfast is a long ways down, and I don't want to eat on the still tender tooth. Here, there seems to be the mix of bikes that I did not notice on the pass through downtown- more cruisers, a few classics, a bunch of folks with quickly scribbled hand made signs protesting coal. Coal? Welcome to LA.

The ride back is mostly down hill. The day is getting late, and soon the streets will be opened for cars again. The group gets spread out very thin, and it's hard to keep track of the patches. As we return to the downtown area, I see the Chopaderos gathering at a corner bar. Bikes are thick as spaghetti around the place, and it's standing room only inside. I pull over, but by now I'm just beat. I want to hang out some more- want to keep this day going for just a little while longer, but my tanks are drained, my needle is on "E", and I have to just call it in.
So it's back through little Tokyo, back over the bridge, and then back up the steep incline to Hollenbeck Park that started this long strange trip. Beat as I am, I suddenly get determined to make this final hill without getting off to push. Crank by crank, yard by yard, it's like climbing out of the inferno, until I see the baricades. I stop at the corner of Boyle, and then coast back down the hill to the park. I come around the bend in the road. There's my truck. Waiting to take me home.
It's been a good one.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cold Spring Afternoon

Sunday I just needed to get out for awhile. It was drizzly, too cold for the bike, so I walked. These have been tense, and busy days and each one of them seems to call out almost all the juice that I have leaving nothing in reserve. Working early. Putting in a full hard eight, and maybe a bike ride to the corner. Up at midnight. Too much computer. Too many clicks, e-mails paypals and fedexes. Try to get back to sleep. Up at four for work. It won't last forever.

I got in a good ride and a good walk on Saturday, so I wasn't up for putting out some great athletic feat on Sunday. Nonetheless, I needed to just get out, and move. So I went down to the tracks. This year we've been lucky. Despite some pretty heavy rainfall (for So. Cal.) the trail along the easement has been spared attack from the Goofballs of four wheel drive. The dirt road heading east is mostly healed of the tire track scars from last year. The foot flattened path is easy to walk on again. The mowers haven't torn through here yet, and the wild grass enclosing the path is a good three and a half, or four feet high. It smells sweet in the cold gray wind.

There is a bunch of wheat that grows in the tall grass there along the railroad easement. I have, on occasion, taken the ripe kernels home, and planted them in pots in the yard. They grow; they produce kernels which ripen in turn. They taste OK too, but I've never had the impulse to gather a bunch of it, and then cook it, or make some sort of bread. Nonetheless, watching it grow interspersed with the weeds along the tracks, you feel like you can witness the first impulse to agriculture. Eh- maybe I will try gathering a bunch of it later on. It isn't nearly ready yet.

An old creekbed turned storm channel crosses the path along the easement, and there is a low trestle where, twice a day, the freight train crosses the dirty stream. A depression in the creekbed just before the trestle has created a small, dark pond. Enough water remains there year round to support a thick stand of false bamboo and a small forest of cattails where the black, murky water spills over into the stream under the bridge. You can't tell how deep the pond is, but you can tell it's deep enough to drown in. Kids have been sitting under that trestle, sneaking cigarettes, beer, weed, and sex since long before I discovered the place in 1966. Then the trestle was bolted together from heavy, black, creosote saturated timbers, and pilings. You couldn't stand up straight underneath it. It was hairball as all hell to sit under the trestle, feeling the ground shake, and watching tanker cars lumbering over the ties barely twelve inches above your head.

You gotta' go under there stoned on acid, man. It is sooo heavy...
I went there with that chick, and we...

Thanks 1968. Glad you reminded me.
The railroad rebuilt the thing some years back. They raised it up, a good eight or ten feet above the creekbed, and, of course the trestle is no longer made of wood, but concrete, and paved all the way across. It's no big deal to be there when the train goes by now. Kids still taste their first forbidden fruits under the trestle, but rather than pad discretely behind the houses at night to meet there, they advertise their presence with spray cans and paint sticks. The city hires a full time graffiti abatement worker to paint over the tagging on that bridge, and elsewhere along the easement.

When I got to the Beach Boulevard crossing I looked up the street the half mile or so to the corner. Go get a cup? No. So I just turned around, and headed back. I just didn't feel like walking up to the corner for coffee- head's too full of stuff, and while there are people I talk to up there, there is no one I really share anything important with. You know how that is. You want to talk to someone, but there just isn't anyone to talk to. Except for old John, that is. And I don't say anything to John that I don't want well mixed, and repeated. So I re-traced my steps, but when I reached First Avenue I still didn't want to go back home. So I walked back down to Beach again. Now what? Take the sidewalk through the neighborhoods? Go up Beach? Down? Feeling like the distilled essence of indecision, I just turned around and started scuffing back along the tracks again. What is this? What's wrong? What is it that I want?

When I got back, my mother let me know that opossums had come to visit. My mother likes possums. There were two of them snuffling around in the geraniums by the block wall. The one old guy had lost a tooth, and it looked like some cat had given him a bad scratch down the snout. One lip was kind of hanging open in a sad imitation of a tough-guy sneer, but like all opossums he just couldn't even do a bad imitation of tough. They're harmless, not very bright, and so pathetically ugly that they're endearing rather than scary. An opossum usually doesn't even have the good sense to run away. The big guy with the missing tooth looked up at me like he expected me to give him a snack. I didn't have anything to give him. The smaller one hung back a little, and peered at me from under the geraniums. They decided I wasn't much of a threat, waddled back to the corner of the yard, and climbed up the shefflera trunk to the block wall. They were good enough to pose for a couple of pictures before leaving.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Parting Company

The den is a mess. It's usually disordered, and mostly messy, but now it is in total chaos. The place is a jumble of boxes, paper, tape, and bubble wrap. You have to climb in to get to the computer. This will last throughout the month of April. By the end of the first week in May, it will all be over, and my collection of Japanese die-cast robot toys will be scattered to the far corners of the globe. The old toys will have new owners. I'll have enough money to replace our crummy old cars with newer, somewhat less crummy used cars. Maybe have a few bucks in the savings account. We'll see.

I made the decision some months back. It was time to let the collection go.

It's kind of odd. I have all sorts of reasons to get nostalgic about this. I gathered the robot toys in the old collection during a wild, and eventful season of my life- first true love and serious relationship, friendships broken, trusts betrayed, fights, broken windows, lots and lots of booze, and dope.
And then the restless years- over a decade of not staying in one place for more than a few months. Apartment after apartment- the shelf going up in the living room, the collection taken out piece by piece, dusted off, and put on display.
This is it. I'm settled here. I'm done with moving...
And a few months later the room would again be full of boxes. The same boxes that held the collection after the first move. The same boxes from the Jr. High school where I worked back in the seventies. The box that held the Sony amplifier that I bought in seventy six. Those same boxes are empty now for the last time- piled on the back porch to go out with Wednesdays trash. The thirty year old robots are, one by one, being nested in crumpled newspaper, and secured in new Fed-Ex cartons, waiting to be shipped, same day delivery, to who knows where.

Like I said it's kind of odd that I don't have any sense of nostalgia over doing this. It occurred to me last night as I packed up the large, gift-box sets that will be the first to go up for sale- this is the last time I'm going to look at these things. I'll never see them again except in the pictures that are on my hard drive, or posted here on the wfb. Just like I'll never see Diane again. Diane was my first real girlfriend, the first true love in my life, and the one who gave me the silly talking Robocon that started my whole fascination with Japanese toys. Diane went on to marry well, and raise a family. She died this last year from cancer leaving behind a husband and two kids. The guy who was my closest friend back then called to let me know. I doubt I'll see, or hear from him again, and I do not care if I don't.
I packed up box after box last night, and it was a chore that needed to be done and nothing more. Wednesday I'll have to get out of bed at midnight to open bidding on the first, and most sought after item. That's going to be a pain. The auction will have bidders from all over the world. The best way I could come up with to ensure that people in Europe, Asia, and the Philippines all have a clear idea of when bidding opens and closes is to start the sales at midnight, and keep bidding open for a twenty four hour window. I'll survive.

Again though, what strikes me here is that I don't seem to have any palpable connection to the toys any longer. When I first bought them, each one was just a delight. For years I took great pleasure in setting up the shelves, working the transformations on the various robots, then periodically re-arranging the shelves. And when I brought the collection out of mothballs almost ten years ago that sense of delight was reawakened in me. I found Robot-Japan, the collectors' forum, on the internet, and learned for the first time, that there were thousands of people all over the world who, like myself, were just crazy over these things. I made friends on line, traded notes with people from all over the planet. It was a lot of fun.
And now it's just over- closing the door on one of the last tangible artifacts from a life I once lived, and a person I once was. It is a disturbingly easy thing to do. I'll be glad when it's all done.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Project Failure

From jwm's world famous blog
'56 Starlet with three-speed

I finished up the work on the '56 Starlet last weekend, and put the old girl on the street for the first time in almost thirty years. Of course there were some bugs to work out. Even as simple a job as putting a three-speed on an old bike can give you a world of grief. But I got lucky. The little bugs were just that- small matters of adjustment that I got worked out with a little fiddling. The shifter works fine, and the heavy old machine is just a little easier on the legs than it was before.

And completing that project bolstered my confidence, and opened the door on the big project I've been anticipating for a couple of months now- putting the big three speed hub on the chopper bike. In fact, I used the picture of the stick shift mount to head up the last post here on the wfb. I was going to wait for the weekend, but I'm working the 6:00 AM to 2:30 shift, and daylight savings gives me a long afternoon. I couldn't wait for Saturday, so I ripped into it on Tuesday after work.

Taking the bike apart is easy. Machines always come apart easily. It's getting them back together where you encounter the problems. Before having the new hub laced into the rim I figured it would be a good idea to bolt it into the frame, hook up the chain, brake and shifter, and make sure everything fit, and worked the way it was supposed to. Once I had that assurance I could get it all spoked up and then just re-mount the wheel on the bike, and go cruisin'.

And here's where everything just went horribly wrong. I'll spare you all the tedious details, and sum it up: I couldn't get anything to fit right. Within the span of an hour I made a precipitous plunge from reasonably competent backyard mechanic to being a left thumbed geek who couldn't tell a crescent wrench from a claw hammer.

This was gut drop, red lights in the rear view, weak in the knees, full body sweat, Oh my God, what have I got myself into here? An hour became two, and then three, and then Mary came home, and I hadn't eaten, and she said, "OK I'll cook dinner tonight." Sit at the table with black fingertips, I haven't had a shower, what the hell it's after eight...
And I got into bed with my self esteem in free fall, and realized I hadn't done one single thing right since 1974. I couldn't sleep. I had to get up early. What the hell am I gonna' do here? I know! Put a post on the Schwinn forum. One of those guys will know what to do. So I did. The answer came before I'd finished typing. The moment of genius came on like a soft warm light in a cold dark cave. I figured out the problem. Easy. Drill some holes; cut some metal. Go down and get a couple nuts and bolts. Sleep followed.

I woke up Wednesday morning with my self worth restored. I could do this thing. Sure it'll take some work but I can do it. At lunch I checked the Schwinn forum, and Wayne, one of the more competent guys who posts there, had given me a list of steps to resolve all the issues, and finish the project. His solutions were better than the ones I had come up with. I got home Wednesday afternoon in good spirits, and went straight into the garage. I did all the stuff that Wayne recommended. The hub went into the dropouts just fine. Then I looped the chain over the sprockets. It almost fit. And the rotor was jammed into the brake pad. And there wasn't enough axle protruding on the shifter side... OK, I could see what I needed to do. See if I can find some ultra thin washers to space out the left side. Get out the die grinder, cut into the frame right there...

No. No fucking way. The lights came on again, only it wasn't the magical soft glow of Wile E Coyote Super Genius. It was the bright epiphany of realization. I was in over my head. This seemingly simple task was, in reality, an engineering project that was just beyond my skill set. I could push forward, but I stood a much better chance of ruining the bike than improving it. The best thing to do was to leave it alone. I felt like I'd been released from jail.

I unhooked the chain, pulled the hub out of the frame, took off the rotor, and bolted it back onto the wheel. I noticed that the wheel bearings were too tight, so I re-set them a little. I put the bike back together, gathered all the parts for the three-speed hub, and put it all back in the box. Then I wheeled the chopper bike out of the garage, dusted it off a little, and took it for a cruise around the block. It worked just fine, and it felt as cool as ever. Mary drove up beside me when I was halfway down the street. I told her I'd meet her back at the house in a minute, and then we'd go get some dinner. Job finished.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

A little change in the wind

Shifter mount ready for installation on the chopper

February just about set a record for being the most difficult month in memory.My mother's illness, my own bout with some hideous bug or other, my wife's bout with the same illness, no work, and suddenly finding my life on a very short leash has taken its toll on my otherwise less than sunny disposition.
But February is over, the first week of March has passed, and things are beginning to look hopeful once again. For this I am grateful.
I had a couple of days of work last week. That was a good start. But Thursday I had a call from the boss waiting for me when I got in. Something about a long term assignment.
Of course I'm going to take it.
And bit by bit, my mother is regaining her strength. She still needs the walker, but she's fixing her own food again, and the demands on my time are slowly easing. More to be grateful for.

I've been working on restoring the '56 Starlet for Mary. I'm installing a three-speed on the old machine, and soon enough we can get a truck, and join the Cyclone Coasters Vintage Bike Club, and go on their monthly group rides along the beach paths here in the Southland. And the three-speed conversion is coming along nicely on the chopper bike, too. I got the shift mount built, and next I'll start lacing that monster three-speed hub into the big fat rear wheel, and I'll be styling uphill, and down. There is something immensely satisfying about taking on a fabrication project yourself, and pulling it off without taking it to a shop, and paying to have it done. Fun stuff. So for this one day, things are going OK.
God willing they will continue to do so.