Sunday, March 19, 2023

 Notes From The Hood (ornament)

Buick hood ornament
It has been another week of cold, crappy weather here in So Cal. The stone is  not far from completion.  It's a simple form. I need to do some more shaping on the inside of the cone, but for the most part, this is shape of the finished product. Here's where we left off some days ago. 

I have to wait until Spring gets here before I can get back to work. That should happen later this week. More rain is forecast for the next few days.
But, I found out some other interesting stuff, this week. 
Check this out:

I know. We've already seen this. I finished it back in November. But I learned some new stuff this last weekend, that I did not know before. If you'll recall, I based the carving on this photo that I  got from a bicycle forum:

The picture originally came from an ebay auction. The piece was identified as a "Schwinn Whizzer Fender Bomb."
Schwinn Whizzer
 Cushman Motor Scooter
(Couldn't find Whizzer, or Cushman pictures with a fender bomb)

Now, some of these pieces certainly found their way onto the front fenders of  Schwinn Whizzers, or Cushmans. But, it turns out that the Dart Torpedo Ornament was a popular after-market automotive accessory.
 (From the ebay auction)
NOS 1946 1947 Ford Torpedo Hood Ornament Acc, Cushman Fender Torpedo Rat Rod  Made in the 1950's in Jacksonville, Fl. by the Dart Engineering Company. 
1946 Ford Tudor Banner

Buick used this design on their late 1940's Roadmasters.

1949 Buick Roadmaster conv.


1949 Buick. Roadmaster

 So it turns out that I was missing some relevant information on the origins of this piece. I always figured that it was a Jet-Age symbol. The torpedo passing through the ring looks very much like this:
Jet plane breaking the sound barrier.
 But the sound barrier was broken in 1947 when Chuck Yeager flew the XS-1 over 700 miles per hour over Edwards Air Force Base in California. The torpedo was flying on Buicks like this one in 1946. So I was wrong about that as well.
1946 Buick Roadmaster
Ya' learn sumthin' new ev'ry day!

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Long Strange Trip 

Eleven years of cruisin', and ten years as club

l to r: Penny, Dave, me, Jim, Russ, Troy

Just when we thought that this cold, wet winter was about over, another storm came in just in time to mess up the weekend, and make a miserable day out of our ten/eleven year anniversary ride. We had a break, yesterday, but it's Tuesday morning and we're sitting here waiting for another storm. Enough!

I got one day of work on the stone. As soon as there is some progress to show, I'll show it.

As I wrote last week, eleven years ago Mary and I set out to see if we could establish a monthly bike ride along the lines of the Cyclone Coaster group in Long Beach. A year later we founded RatRod Riders Bicycle Club of Southern California. Here's where I get all clever and say, "What a long strange trip it's been."

We started our first ride with a handful of people, most of whom we'd never see again.
Attendance at the cruises grew, and our ride became a part of the "Outlaw Bicycle" scene. We founded the club just before the first Gathering of Outlaw Bicycle Clubs in Las Vegas in 2013, and returned to the event for the next six years.. The Gathering became the O.B.C., or One Big Club blanket organization. Over the last decade, the bike club scene has grown, and, of course,  changed.

 The clubs, and the group rides are still going strong, but the focus has shifted heavily into the one-off custom bike crowd. The builders come up with some incredible machines. 

photo, Renata Engles

The bicycle shows are getting as elaborate as the custom car or motorcycle exhibits. But the gatherings themselves are focused more and more on the showing, and gathering, and less and less on the actual riding. Too, most of the rides are short, a lot of people run "sound bikes" with loud music, and the cruises often feature long bar stops. 

Now, every one in the club does have a custom, a classic, or a stretch cruiser, but no one in the group likes bar drinking. As far as "sound bikes" go,  Look. it's not as though they're always awful, all the time. I'll admit to enjoying the heck out of hearing just the right tune at just the right time on a ride. But that doesn't happen very often. 

Our focus is riding, and truth to tell, the stretch bikes get old in fewer miles than the standard cruisers. We bring them out for the big rides every now and again, but mostly we've fallen back on doin' our own thing, as the hippies used to say. Our gig is pretty simple. Meet up, maybe catch a  buzz, or a beer, and put fifteen to twenty five on the fat tires, with a stop for lunch. 

We don't do bars, or sound bikes. We ride.  

Compared to the bike party scene we don't have much to offer other than some good bud, and long slow miles on the cruisers. As a consequence, attendance has fallen off. And we're fine with that. 

  What started as as a bike club has become something more akin to family. The Spanish word "Compadres" comes pretty darn close.

The Feral remnant. LtoR: Jim, Troy, (?), Dave, Russ Me, and Penny.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Bikes and The Whale

 Bikes and The Whale 

 So here's a dilemma. A while back I was joking a little with Will and Julie about reading Moby Dick. Coincidences have a way of coinciding, and just after goofing around about reading The Whale I looked over at my bookshelf, and there the damn thing was: the same volume I slogged through fifty years ago, the book that taught me more about whaling than I ever wanted to know. 

Now it would have been all kinds of easy just to let the topic drift away. No one would have bothered me about it. No one would have posted a post on facebarf asking if I'd started or finished Moby Dick. Nobody would chide me for being a lightweight if I started it and gave up. The kids would not point and laugh.

And you know what's worse: Suppose I jumped in, read the whole thing, and actually, really for realz got into the book. Suppose I enjoyed the heck out of it. Who the hell are you gonna' tell? 

Try this: go up to your buddies, and say "Hey gang, guess what. I just read Moby Dick." 

One: Nobody is going to ask, "How was it?" or "What was your favorite part?" They won't care. 

Two: they're going to think you're bragging like you're trying to look all smart cuz' you read hard books.

So. I'll keep it brief. I just finished the book, and it was very good. It was not all that hard, and very well worth the effort. But I can see why I didn't get much out of it at twenty years of age. Moby Dick isn't Jaws. It's 19th century literature. Like the whale itself it is ponderous, dense, and slow. Compared to contemporary fiction, it's the difference between tasting a spoonful of soup, and putting a bouillon cube on your tongue.

Notes on The Red Bike

One of the joys of post-middle age is the perspective one gets on time. I found this old Starlet back in 1980, after searching for several years for a classic tanker Schwinn. That was forty three years ago.

The Starlet was made in 1956. It was twenty four years old when I bought it, and it had been brush painted bright red, right down to the chain and tires. I had to fix it up, some.

Twenty four years ago, in August of 1999, I bought my daily rider, the machine that I now call The Red Bike.  I had won a long battle with the school system that resulted in my being put out to pasture with an early retirement. My teaching career, and two years of legal bullshit was over. I was free, and I had a little money from the settlement. I had been talking pretty regularly with the gal who worked at Clayton's Framing, and Janet's Art School.  I was thinking about maybe asking her out, but I still needed some pretext, some excuse. My birthday was coming up. How about a new bicycle?
I bought this:
Dyno Moto 7
The Moto 7 was not a department store beach cruiser; Dyno built a high quality machine. It was an odd sort of hybrid, and they didn't make many of them. The Moto frame is a re-vamped version of a 1950's vintage Monark Super Cruiser, set up like a Klunker  for off-road riding. The Dyno was set up with sturdy mountain bike forks, low, tight handlebars, and off-road tires.
 Klunker style Monark
  Monark Super Cruiser 
But the Moto also came with an internal gear hub, and a roller brake, definitely an urban set up. I took the bike out for a ride, and just happened to ride by the frame shop, and Mary just happened to be working that day, and she just happened to want to go for a bike ride sometime soon... I rode the Moto 7 on my first date with Mary. We were married a few months later. 

The Dyno turned out to be a great ride, but I soon tired of the low, narrow handlebars, and tiny saddle. A trip to the local bike shop was in order. This was much more my style:

Our cycling got interrupted in the fall of '06 when I had an adventure in the cardiac ward. I escaped without injury to  the heart, but the bank account was a different matter. It took a while, but I got a job, went back to work, and we got back on our feet. During that time I had given the Moto 7 to my niece, but she never rode it, and my brother used it but rarely. I was considering a new bike, something light, and easy to ride. Lots of gears. Suspension. I bought the most god-awful ugly bicycle I ever owned.  (don't tell anyone:)


In one of those life changing coincidences, Mary and I were out riding at the beach when we ran into a fellow riding a beautifully restored 1930's Shelby. He told us about the Cyclone Coaster antique and classic ride ride in Long Beach. My old Schwinns had been crated up for years. It was time to break them out. Mary and I began riding with the Cyclone Coaster group. We made some friends. I even got a chopper bike, and  started going on some bike club rides.
Mary and I were having a lot of fun. But as much as I loved the Cyclone Coaster rides, I enjoyed the "Outlaw Bike Club" rides more.  
  The chopper bike was too slow and heavy for a daily rider, and the comfort bike was like totally uncool.   I traded the ugly comfort bike to my brother and got the Moto 7 back. The ol' Moto was in need of some work. A face lift wouldn't hurt either.
I did a re-build. I wanted to get the Dyno back to its Monark cruiser roots, so I took it all apart.
 I had the black and white frame powder coated red.
  The Felt bicycle company had just come out with a Monark style spring front fork. It was the perfect match for the Moto frame. Add some wider rims, and balloon tires.
I swapped out the seven speed roller brake hub for an eight speed with a coaster brake.

 The Brooks saddle is a lovely piece of 19th century technology:
It's also very comfortable, once the saddle leather is properly broken in.


Mary and I decided to try starting our own ride, a monthly gathering like Cyclone Coaster, only with a Customs, Cruisers, and Classics theme. Here we were, eleven years ago at the very first So Cal RatRod Ride. Oh wait. That's just the bikes.
 We didn't get pictures of ourselves. More on this next week.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Another Post in the Rain



We had a one day break from the rain, Sunday, so I put a new set of tires on the cruiser.  I've been riding on  a set of cheapies  that I bought just when the lockdowns and mask nazi's took over the world. Even bicycle tires were in short supply. The La Habra shop had no ballooners, so I went to another shop close by. All the customers, and employees wore the face diaper. I refused. I walked in there bare faced, and got the stink-eye from a few customers. This shop had some Brand X tires in the right size. I bought the tires and paid cash. I've put three hard years on those crappy tires, and they were close to worn out.  I popped for a new set of Schwalbe Fat Franks, and a new pair of thorn-proof tubes. The Fat Franks are, no surprise, fatter than the tires I replaced. Standard balloon is 26 x 2.125", the Franks are 26 x 1.35", and they hold 50 psi. 
Sunday morning it was cold, but dry so I got to work on the bike.  Once I had the bike flipped over, and the rear wheel off, I pulled the chain, and flushed the sand and grit out of the links.  I gave the old cruiser a good cleaning. It's amazing how much difference a good tire makes. The Fat Franks ride smooth as oil, and they roll like soft skateboard wheels. I took it out for fifteen miles in the cold afternoon. Bike rides sweet, and life is good.
I try to get a post up every Monday morning, but it's like having a job without a boss.  No one there to tell you you can't take a day off. Mostly I rely on updates on the stone projects, but it's been rainy, and cold, and I've made no progress on the stone. But more than that, the post I was working on was starting to sound like a whole lot of stuff I read on line these days: a long list of things that are going wrong, bad trends, and ever diminishing hope. The daily  tour through the bookmarks yields plenty of stuff to make me angry, scared, or depressed;  little, or nothing enlightening, or edifying.
The World.> Hell.> Handbasket.
I get it. The free floating sense of dismay is pretty hard to avoid. I'm sick of it. So I nuked the post, and now I'm starting over.
  I've tuned out the signal when it comes to news and current events.  More and more, I realize that much of my reason for going on line at all was to see what what was new at VanderLeun's site. Like most of the gang, I keep clicking over there. I want see what's up with everyone.  But it's over. Gerard is gone. No one else could do what he did, and do it so well. We who found our way into the community of commenters there at American Digest experienced something new in the world. We've been a part of something wonderful. But that something depended on the extraordinary effort, and breath taking talent of one gifted man. His time here has passed.

I'd love to come up with some incisive simile.
 It's like going to[....] but [....] is gone.
 But it's hard to make a comparison. The internet is, as I just mentioned, something (relatively) new in the world. There has never before been anything quite like a blog, or a blogger. What can compare to an internet host and his following of readers?
For right now I want to put my focus on the Good.
Life has been extraordinarily good to me; I have a lot to be grateful for. 
It's Wednesday, the first of March. I came awake about quarter to four this morning. The house was cold. We got wind and rain again. As I got out of bed, Buddy the Cat, and The Most Mysterious Skinamalink charged down the hall, and waited all howling, and meowling in the kitchen. The cats get their fish before I get to make coffee. Shows you who's boss around here. Buddy sits at my feet  while I wait in the living room for the coffee. I have to bend over to scratch his old head.
 The machine slurps and gurgles in the kitchen. Coffee is ready. Step out on the porch for a w&b in the cold wind, and rain. Back in to the smell of coffee in the warming kitchen. Stop on the way back to the den; give Mary's foot a squeeze. She stirs.
Settle into the futon. Snug with a comforter, and sixteen ounces of hot black coffee. Rain, and the wind chimes singing in the dark wet yard. Furnace whooshing warmth into the room. Skinnies hops up, and curls up purring in my lap. Consciousness floats on the hot  coffee, while the sativa opens up like a lotus flower blooming in my head. Halfway between worlds, freefalling into that cascade of thoughtdreaming... drifting into prayers for the morning.
 Making some plans on the day.
And the day begins with a sense of gratitude. I'm warm in my home. The cat is snug in my lap. After twenty three years of marriage I'm still in love with my wife. Our needs are well met, and we have a simple, sweet life together. The creative fire is still burning, and I'm eager to get back to work. I have the bike gang. We have good friends. Happiness is not measured by the number of zeros in the bank account. When it comes to the things that really matter we are wealthy.  So that's about it, for now. 
Next post I'm going to talk a little bit about the Red Bike. It's been with me for a while, now, and it has a story of its own.