Philosophy and Motorcycles

Philosophy and motorcycles are two of my favorite things in life. This blog will be bits of wisdom gleaned from a misspent youth and an adventurous dotage. People who like/love wisdom or motorcycles, classic or modern versions of either, are welcome to visit and comment.

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Location: Wisconsin, United States

I have been married to the same lovely woman for decades. We have one son, two cats, and live in rural Wisconsin, USA. I ride and rebuild motorcycles, and I am semi-retired. Favorite bikes are Yamaha XS650, FJ1200 and Ducati 900SS. My wife is a home care nurse. I am a Myers-Briggs INTP. She is ESFJ. Our son works at the Apple store in downtown SF and is teaching English as a second language in San Francisco, no grandchildren.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Seca comes home.

I sold my 1973 TX650 to an old friend who lives out on the Minnesota prairie. Since I had to deliver the motorcycle to him I planned to spend an extra day riding the area with him and catching up on news, telling a few lies and visiting friends. Fate intervened and the trip was shortened. It was still a good experience, just not what I had imagined. I loaded the TX and my XV920R on my trailer and headed out Friday morning. It's about 250 miles from my place in Wisconsin to his house in South Western Minnesota. To help pass the time I took along a book on tape of Steinbeck's Travels With Charley. He wrote of an incident where a lady had come from a bar. It was winter in New York and the walks were quite slippery. She fell and, trying to get up, fell again. She lay on the sidewalk yelling loudly. A black man who was employed by the author was walking on that same street. Upon seeing her he went to the other side of the street and avoided so much as looking her way. When he arrived at the author's dwelling he was asked about the incident. "Didn't you see her?" "Yes sir, I saw her" "Why didn't you try to help her." "Well sir if I touch her and she screams rape it could draw a crowd and then things happen and who's going to believe a Negro." "That was quick thinking" said the author. "No sir it wasn't. I been practicing being a Negro for a long time now." The story makes a good point. We practice being ourselves and if, by the seventh decade, one has not developed a satisfactory way of dealing with his own reality he never will. While few of us have challenges so socially severe as the Negro in the story we each have our own history and experience that shapes our reactions and actions. My life is perhaps less freely of my own choosing as I would like to believe. Thoreau wrote that age was not so good a teacher as youth as in the process men have lost more than they gained. I don't know that but it has the smack of truth. I am certainly more cautious than I was and in the process have become more safe but less joyful. Is the loss of the exuberance a fair price for a small level of safety? My young mind says I paid too much but my aging body claims it a bargain. Such are the musings in my rolling museum. There was a hard wind all the way south and west. It came from my flank, sometimes helping me along and sometimes trying to drive me off the road. Rain the morning after my arrival. The temperature was in the low 40s. I decided to shorten my trip. I delivered the TX and made my excuses. I had also an appointment at home that provided a convenient excuse for not staying longer. It's true you cannot go home again. There is no past to go to. The talk of time travel amazes me. It seems to me, with admittedly scant real scientific education, that in order for there to be a past it would require the rearrangement of all the particles of the universe into their former pattern. This, of course, is an absurd idea. The moving finger writes and having writ moves on. I am now a citizen of this area and that area exists only in my mind. What exists there is not what I remember and not what I know as I do not know its current configurations. It is nearly as unknown as if I had not lived there for some 10 years and had only arrived there new two days ago. My friend had traces of his former self but has changed in ways I could not have predicted. Still I am glad I was able to get a classic motorcycle to him and I hope it brings him the same slow lane and back road enjoyment it brought me. On my return trip my truck, pulling the trailer with two motorcycles, averaged 12 mpg. I had two rather than one since I had been given the motorcycle I sold Terry a score of years ago. He remarked that he had not ridden it for some years but was surprised that it was last registered in 1999. Our tempus fugits. The Yamaha Seca 550 is a wonderful little bike. This one is sadly neglected now but basically intact except for missing side covers. It will be a long time before I have an opportunity to work on it but it has potential and only 15k miles. I know Terry did not abuse it but neglect can cause as much damage as abuse if continued long enough. The 550 Seca is another machine with which I am fairly familiar. I have had three of them and they are surprisingly agile and quick for a machine more than three decades old. The rare original fairing is intact and all the bones of it are whole. On my return I put things away, moved my car, parked the trailer and then took the car, my 1971 Chrysler New Yorker, for a ride. Driving it I remembered that it too gets about 12 mpg average and as much as 17 - 18 on the road. I probably could have taken the Chrysler on the trip and got the same mileage in much better comfort an style. So ends my most recent trip to the prairie. I have mixed memories of the area. I prefer it here and now. I've had a lot of practice being Walter and being here. Unlike stories of childhood walks to school it cannot be uphill both directions but it can be up wind both directions. It was a very windy time in my life when I lived on the prairie and most
of it was in my face. It's good to be home. Walter

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Gold Wing I was repairing is finally out of my life. What a beastly project. Everything needing repair starts with a line something like this: before beginning this phase of the repair complete steps 1 through 17 and 21 and 23 in section four of this manual. It's a lot like mining. You may want to get to the gold or coal but first you have to remove the mountain covering what you want. Then tunnel in and hope the whole thing doesn't collapse. They are nice when they work although I've never wanted a radio, heater, CB radio, or a machine that weighs as much as a freezer full of buffalo meat. Even my beloved FJ1200 is getting to be a bit much. It's one of the last of the big airheads so it is less complicated but it is quite heavy. Over time my needs and wants have changed. I took my old 1982 Yamaha XV920R out for a ride yesterday and although it doesn't have near the power of the FJ it is lighter, has adequate power, and more character. The seat is a bit narrow so it puts pressure on the spine and my bony old butt gets stiff after an hour but seats are easy to modify. The suspension is dated but the FJ is too soft and has limited cornering clearance. I have a real soft spot for the old 920. A 56 cubic inch engine is enough to go as fast as I'll go and the Yamaha V-twin is a bulletproof engine that has adjustable valves. That alone is a huge point in favor of the Virago style engines. They and the Suzuki airhead fours have adjustable valves that don't involve any of the difficulty of removing the cam or holding down the cam bucket to remove the spacer/shim that needs to be replaced at the dealership that has every stinking spacer known to man except the ones you need but they can be here by next month, maybe, if the phases of the moon cooperate. For local use I still ride an XS650. I have three of them for sale and hope to get back down to five motorcycles by the end of summer. I looked at a Honda 250cc road bike. Nice, light, fast enough to keep up with traffic on two lane roads. As I approach my dotage I am inclined more toward simple and light machines. Be well, LN

Friday, April 06, 2012

Gremlins have been attacking in force lately. I have a Gold Wing apart in the shop and have gotten either wrong or damaged parts for it three times. Still waiting for correct parts to arrive. I sold a Yamaha XS650 to a young man. It had always been a reliable motorcycle. Right after he got it the thing developed a major oil leak. I don't have time to overhaul an engine right now so I replaced the engine with a much better engine. Hence I didn't make anything on that transaction. Then I put my '72 Yamaha XS2 up for sale and the same day it started to drool out of the head gasket. I took it back off the market and will pull the engine on that, replace the head gasket, touch up the valves while I'm in there, and probably do some cosmetics on the engine. Why is it that I think if I put my anvil up for sale it would develop a rattle? I haven't decided what to do with the Honda 500T. I'd sorta like to cafe it but I have no Honda parts and I'm not that familiar with Honda 450/500 twins. To the back of the line with it. I've other projects. I am having fun riding around on the '73 TX650. That one is a marvelous motorcycle for legal speeds. The roads around here still have a lot of winter sand so I am very careful on the back roads. Days are chilly but not cold. We have had some wonderful weather for March and April. The political scene concerns me but I don't let it interfere with my happiness. The level of BS from the right is so deep I'd need seven league boots just to walk through the crap. I wish the country would wake up to the fact that those who manipulate money don't actually produce anything. One spud farmer produces more wealth than all the bankers in Boston. Time to get to work. LN

Sunday, April 01, 2012

April at last. Cooler than predicted but tolerable. It was a strange week in the shop. First I have a Gold Wing that needs a final drive. It started with not having the male spline section that attaches to the cush drive on the wheel. By the time the guy got one of those and I picked it up I realized that I also had the wrong final drive. The one I had has bigger bolts than the original. If it was the last one in the world I would have drilled out the holes in the swing arm but it isn't. Called owner. He went online and found a correct final drive. All this time I have a Gold Wing spread over a good portion of the shop. New final drive arrived. I went and picked it up. It fit and I thought I would be done but the right shock bolt would not go in. Removed the final drive to find that whoever took it off broke off the shock bolt in the casting. Steel bolt in aluminum casting. Bolt stub was broken at an angle so I couldn't get a drill to start even if an easy-out would have done the job. My experience with such problems mostly involves having a broken easy-out stuck in the hole. I took it back to the owner. He will search for another final drive. At least I'm not burning my own money for parts that are wrong or damaged. Meanwhile I sold a Yamaha XS650 to a young man. Nice old bike. Runs like a top. I drove it and it was fine. He drove it and it was fine. Next day he drove it on a longer trip and it leaked oil badly. I trailered it to my shop and checked it. Then I took it to the car wash and cleaned the bottom of the engine so I could hopefully see where the oil was leaking. It didn't leak. I drove it another 10 miles, still no leak. I loaded it and took it back. The next day he called and said that when he went for a short trip it didn't leak. When he went for a longer trip it leaked a lot again. Rather than fiddle with it when I know he wants the bike back to use for the upcoming weekend I just changed engines. He drove it and it was fine. The next day he called to report that the right muffler had fallen off. I have no idea how a muffler can just fall off. It had aftermarket mufflers on the original headers. I went to his place and sure enough the right muffler was missing. I don't know how he lost a muffler but since he has only had the bike a few days I felt obligated to do something. I replaced the exhaust with a much better system. Now I've got a leaking engine, an empty chassis and a pair of headers with one muffler. At least the customer is happy now. It was a strange week. Although it was chilly today I went for a 114 mile ride on the FJ1200 down river. It's the first time I've been down river this season. A lot of sand remains on the back roads. I took it easy. It was a pleasant ride. I made supper and watched Salt, the movie. Fairly well done. It always bothers me when a well trained slender woman is able to defeat a dozen well trained large men but that's Hollyweird. Until the parts for the wing arrive I will work on the chopper I'm building. I'm not a chopper fan but a lot of people still like them and I hope it will sell. I have more time than money in it so I can't lose a lot. And that is the story of my week. I continue to educate and entertain myself listening to books on CD in the shop. It is amazing what a man can learn just listening. There are a lot of educational materials in public domain. I have the entire National Geographic magazine from issue one through 2004 on CD. If I use my Mac to run the discs I don't need to read the text. I don't get to look at the pictures unless I step out of the inner sanctum. I keep the Mac where there is no dust or chance of it getting hit by a flying wrench. It has taken practice to get used to the computer voice but I'm now familiar enough with it that I understand almost everything.