Archive for October, 2006

Spooky Scootin’

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Weather: Cold, dark, and scary.

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Emily-Witch abandons her broom for Scarlet’s comfy saddle.

The night-vision feature on my camera really comes in handy on a night like this…

Tonight is the coldest Halloween we’ve had since Emily started Trick-or-Treating. It’s 34°F outside, which translates to 1° Celsius, and my daughter gamely insisted on wearing her witch costume with only long-johns underneath. We posed the photo above, and then went off with all the other neighborhood goblins in search of candy and mischief.

We made it a whole block before she asked me to hold her pointed hat. It kept fouling her earmuffs. A block later, she finally agreed to put on the fluffy pink winter jacket I was carrying for her, abandoning any pretense of scariness. After three blocks, she asked me to carry her goody bag, as it had become heavy with loot. We stopped off at the house and emptied her take into a large bowl, the better to go out and get some more.

Greedy little ghoul…

Here’s a shot taken with the flash, so you can see how scary she looked to the local villagers. Of course, they emptied their pantries at the mere sight of her, so terrifying was her countenance.

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“I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little scoot too!”

Scarlet O’Baron is wired for heat, wearing her snow-tires, and ready for Winter. On our way home from work tonight, we slashed through traffic like Freddy Krueger taking a stroll down Elm Street. The poor old SUVs didn’t stand a chance, they were lambs to the slaughter.

Here’s something strange, however… I haven’t seen the Mysterious Red KLR Guy in a long, long time. But there’s this fellow on a modern black scooter, dressed in black Aerostich gear just like the M.R.K.G., and he rides the same route at the same time every day. We wave at each other, just like I did with the M.R.K.G., and I can only come to the conclusion that these are one-and-the-same rider.

Unfortunately, whenever I encounter him, I’ve always got someplace to get to, and a timetable to keep. But one of these days, I’m going to turn around and chase him down, to establish his identity once and for all. He rides a KLR, and now, maybe he commutes by scooter too. We have way too much in common for us not to be friends.

Unless he is my doppelgänger, of course.

From Merriam Webster Online:

doppelganger

Main Entry: dop·pel·gäng·er
Function: noun
Etymology: German Doppelgänger, from doppel- double + -gänger goer

1 : a ghostly counterpart of a living person

Imagine if I did catch up to him, and he removed his helmet, and he looked just like me!

Now, wouldn’t that be spooky?

Caged…

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

Weather: Too nice to be driving a stupid rental car.

There will be no photos in this post. Though I brought the camera along on my audit trip, I saw nothing that inspired me to disengage the cruise control and pull the stupid cage over to the side of the road. Driving is something I would just rather get over-with.

But it wasn’t always this way…

In my youth, I loved hotrods and sports cars. The only caveat being that they had to be either roadsters or convertibles. It is an absolute shame to drive around under a roof on a sunny day.

These cars also had to have a manual transmission. If I am going to sit in a plush seat, on four wheels, not able to experience the visceral rush of leaning into the corners, then I had damned well better have a direct mechanical connection from the engine, through my hand, to the gears that drive those wheels on the road. That was the only thing that ever made driving any fun for me.

But true automotive connoisseurs feel the same way, apparently. That is why every example of the vehicle I have described above is priced way over my budget.

The best I could ever afford was a 1974 Fiat 124 Spyder. Top-down, tires shrieking through a sweeper on Ortega Highway, it could never be called a “cage”. That car, though a bit underpowered, was absolutely brilliant on the sunny streets of Southern California. When it was running right, that is. Unfortunately, they are notoriously unreliable. Especially the electrics. That Fiat, which I named “Sophia”, spent more time in the Auto Hobby Shop on base at El Toro than it did on the roads.

By contrast, the Hyundai Sonata sedan that I rented with my company credit card, whilst a perfectly competent automobile, was totally numbed by so-called luxury features and convenience accessories. Cruise control, climate control, electronic stability control… Controls for the stereo were located on the big, fat, airbag-stuffed steering wheel!

It was all I could do, in some seven hundred miles of “driving”, to keep from being lulled to sleep by all this “convenience”. While the world outside spooled past on 360° television screens, I was sitting in the plush velour seat, feeling my circulation grow sluggish, and my attention wane.

This was not Travelling, but merely transporting my organism from one point to the next with the least amount of tactile input possible.

I missed my motorbike terribly. This trip was made in record time, if only because I set the cruise above the speed limit and stopped for nothing but gas and food. What a waste. The Job got done, but there was no fun involved.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that’s the way They like it…

Kenda Rocks!

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Weather: 38°F (3°C) Rain mixed with snow.

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Scarlet O’Baron waits patiently in the rain, carrying her new snow shoes.

Busy, busy, busy.

Between overtime at work, and preparations for the Winter season that seems determined to start early, I haven’t had time to keep up the blog. For that, I apologize.

One of the preparations I made was to contact my sponsors at Kenda USA and ask them for another set of their wonderful K761 tires. They worked so well on The Baron in Winter project, I wanted to use them again this year on Scarlet O’Baron.

In the message, I admitted that I wasn’t sure what value Kenda were seeing from our sponsorship arrangement, but that I was willing to continue “testing” their tires as long as they would have me. They did use Tracy Mayer’s photo of us, sliding around on Medicine Lake, in one of their ads. That should be worth something.

Failing that, I said, please tell me where I can order and purchase a set.

The reply that came back from Kenda’s North American Sales Manager was classic:

“Not sure what we are getting either, but it can’t be bad.”

A week later, the package arrived at my front door. These folks are so cool… (Thanks, John and Laura!)

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Is that a sexy tread pattern, or what?

So last night, we rode down to Baron HQ, and I installed the new tires with a little help from my crew chief, Loren.

It was a good bit more difficult on Scarlet than it had been on The Red Baron, because of the large subframe assembly that had to be removed, along with the exhaust and shock absorber, before the rear wheel could be taken off. The subframe supports the caliper for the rear disc brake, and also mounts the heavy stock muffler.

Note to self: If Scarlet survives the winter in salvageable condition, you MUST replace that huge, heavy muffler with an aftermarket performance exhaust. That thing must weigh ten pounds! Of course, a new exhaust will mean a mandatory carburetor change, and while we’re at it, what about a cam? (…and so we start down the slippery slope to a money-pit, hotrod scooter.)

How `bout we concentrate on getting through the winter first?

We had both tires mounted before closing time, and we rode home in the deep blue twilight of late Autumn. The rain had stopped, but the roads were still wet enough to test traction.

Scarlet is considerably more powerful than her predecessor. She can spin the stock rear tire in a corner on wet pavement. But on the Kendas, we simply surged ahead, keeping a stable line, with none of that squirmy, uncertain feeling we had with the stock Cheng Shins.

Up to speed, I heard that old familiar “singing” of the Kenda’s aggressive tread. For some strange reason, I have always loved that sound. Maybe because it makes me think of the old jeeps we used to have in the Marine Corps, before the advent of the Hum-Vee.

Riding to work this morning, we went through a couple of construction zones, with mud everywhere. On the Cheng Shins, we would have had to tippy-toe through there. But once again, the Kendas inspired confidence, and we rode through at a relatively normal pace, with no drama at all. I really like these tires.

Miscellaneous Stuff…

The truck is going to have to get fixed this year. I’m not going to ride in really dangerous conditions like I did last Winter. It seemed to me that I pushed my luck to the limit, and it wouldn’t make sense to tempt fate a second time. The parameters I am considering are; no lower than 10°F (-12°C) and no more than 4″ of snow forecasted for the day.

Going back over last year’s blog, I realize that this will still allow me to ride almost 90% of the time, and to avoid the worst of the conditions The Red Baron and I faced last Winter. It will still make for an interesting blog, and I’ll have a much better chance to remain alive and healthy.

Next week is going to be more of the same: overtime and busy-ness. I’ll be going on another audit trip for work, but this time I will be renting a cage. Frogwing is going into Winter hibernation this weekend, so he won’t be able to make the trip. The weather out there on the prairie is too unpredictable this time of year, and there’s really no good reason to risk it.

So, when will Rush Hour Rambling return to normal? Look for some interesting posts that I have been researching to appear around the first of November. I will have some more restaurant reviews, a New Rider Profile, and the usual mix of commuting adventures on my newly-shod Scarlet.

Bear with me until then, and…

Ride well.