Monday, June 17, 2013

Everything is on hold...

Why abandon a seat in your own home to wander in vain through dusty regions of another land?  If you make one false step, you miss what is right before your eyes.

So getting a divorce is not nearly as simple as it would be if California was governed by Sharia law and I could walk up to my wife and say "I divorce you.  I divorce you.  I divorce you."

Divorce in America is, basically, legal extortion, and I am about to have happen to me what Congress is doing to the American people, that is, (symbolically) getting fucked in the asshole until my rectum ruptures and squirts hot blood all over the place.  My financial outlook is uncertain, to say the least, and until I know just how much this is going to cost me, I am no longer leaving anytime soon.

Kinky, my daily rider, a gal I can ride all day with no complaints, and someone who is not trying to ass rape me has been holding up great.  I still need to replace that damned light bulb, but I did change the oil and lube the chain recently in the parking garage at work over the weekend leaving a snail trail of lube across the garage floor.  For those of you who live in dense, urban environments and do not have access to a spacious garage, I highly recommend finding a secure location to work on your motorcycle that is not your home.  A place where you can, say, dump your oil in the dumpster of a government office.

I am also in the process of opening up a martial arts & fitness academy with a few friends.  It will be difficult to get away from this new business until it is on a solid foundation and I can hire someone to replace me. 

I still ride every day.  I still am mechanically uninclined.  I still dream of getting away.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Interlude: A Comprehensive Guide to Replacing the Headlight Bulb of a 2008+ KLR 650

"When working on a motorcycle, you will invariably get stuck.  When this happens, take a break and remove yourself from the situation.  Drink approximately 6-12 beers.  The problem will remain, but you will no longer care."  - MM:  Zen and the Art of Drunken Motorcycle Maintenance

If, due to Google's organic search results, you arrived here with the intent of replacing the head light bulbs of your KLR650, I implore you to reconsider.  It is simply not worth it.  Take my advice and just sell the thing.  It will save you a really big headache.

Accessing the headlight of a KLR 650 is more difficult than teasing an orgasm out of a eunuch.  The Clymer manual reads like the blueprint of a Rube Goldberg machine.  Direct quote from the manual:
1)  Headlight Inspection/Replacement:  To access the headlight, remove the front fairing.
2)  Front Fairing:  To access the front fairing, remove the rear fairing.
3)  Rear Fairing:  Unscrew anything you can see, put the screws in a little pile, unscrew anything exposed by the first round of unscrewing, and repeat a few times until the motorcycle is sitting in a pile on the ground.
4)  Root around the pile and find the light bulbs, throw the old light bulbs away, reassemble by reversing steps 3 to 1.
It took my hours to replace the headlight bulb, WITH help and WITHOUT beer.  I considered duct taping a flashlight to the windshield or just, like, wearing a miner's helmet at night.  I considered becoming a mechanical engineer and revisiting the headlight problem after getting my degree.  

I did my best to follow the Clymer instructions.  I removed the fairings, which included hex bolts.  I do not understand the logic of randomly intermixing regular bolts with hex bolts.  (Is "hex bolt" even a word?)  Once the fairings were off, the lights are inconveniently housed in some sort of device that required more unscrewing.  As I was, at long last, removing the actual headlights, it dawned on me that I shouldn't be mashing them into the cement floor, but only after scratching the hell out of them.  

By the time I replaced the light bulbs, there was something like 500 screws scattered throughout my designated parking space.  I had my doubts I would ever get it back together again, and even if I did, I just sort of expected the whole bike to fall apart the next time I rode it.

Once I reattached everything, I turned the key and smiled when I saw the headlights shine against the wall of the garage.  I walked to the front of the motorcycle to inspect my handiwork.  Only one of the two headlights I replaced was working.

I sat down and cried.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Interlude: Adjusting the Rear Suspension of a KLR 650 (and a Brush with Death)

I have been way too preoccupied this past week to get Kingy lubed and adjusted as I have been spending the lion's share of my mental energy contemplating a future in which our robot companions will be better and more fulfilling friends than actual people.  They will have all of the best qualities of human-friends with none of the negatives, and you'll be able to kick them around like puppy dogs.

However, today I adjusted the suspension because I was going to teach someone how to ride on the top floor of my office's parking garage, but even with the suspension set on 1, both of La Enana's feet could not touch the ground at the same time (even on tip toes), so we scrapped the idea.

Adjusting the Suspension of  a KLR 650
To adjust the suspension of a KLR 650, open your preferred web browser and click here.  This is all you need.  Well, a little charisma would have been nice, but let's just say this is all the factual information you need.

Close Call
Last week, I very nearly came to my tragic end.  I was cruising down Santa Monica Blvd, (sober, most likely moderately breaking the speed limit) when I noted that traffic was backed up on the other side of the road.  Out of nowhere, a big-ass utility van pulled right in front of me making a ridiculous left hand turn with zero visibility due to the blocked traffic.  Or perhaps he was an assassin hired by my estranged wife.

I attempted the emergency stop that I learned from the god of the machine, Jimmy Lewis.  Actually, this is not true.  I panicked like a pre-adolescent upon seeing Justin Bieber, and must have stomped on the rear break because my rear end fish tailed badly.  I let off the rear break, tugged on the front break, but by that time, I was already on top of the son of a bitch, who decided that, upon seeing a motorcyclist hurtling towards him at a high rate of speed, the best course of action was inaction.  I was still going too fast to stop when I was just a few feet away, so I let off the break and leaned as far over as I could to the left.  I was not swerving as much as I was trying to get my body out of the way of the van when I made impact.  By some miracle, I did not hit him, but the image that is still burned into my brain is while I was leaning as far over as I could, and while the world was traveling in slow motion, a woman in stopped traffic on the other side of the street opened and covered her mouth in sheer terror as she watched my brush with death.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Caring for a KLR650 Chain - Part 1: Lubing Kinky

“The real cycle you're working on is a cycle called yourself.”  Robert Pirsig

Caveats and Self Loathing
I have limited innate "mechanical" ability.  When I take something apart, put it back together, or generally manipulate my physical environment, I tend to struggle, particularly compared to others.  A lot of people develop an interest in motorcycles because they love playing Hardware Hank in their garages.  I have a friend that completely rebuilt/restored an old 70's cafe racer, and has also put a lot of work into his R6, but he never rides either.  In fact, I don't think he really likes riding motorcycles at all.  He just likes working on them.

For me, it is just the opposite.  I would be happy to pay outrageous amounts of money for mechanics to do simple procedures on my motorcycle, however, if I am going to cross borders, it is probably in my best interest to learn the basics.  So to  anyone that knows anything about motorcycle maintenance, these posts are going to seem incredibly lame, but as it is part of my journey from mechanical ineptitude to less mechanical ineptitude, whatever, fuck you.

I do not know anything about chains.  I've only owned shift driven motorcycles in the past, and only now am beginning to appreciate the pain in the ass that is chain maintenance.  So what follows is, as far as I can tell from scouring the internet, best practices for chain maintenance for a KLR650.

Step 1:  Jacking
The KLR 650 does not come with a center stand, and after reading this thread on Adventure Rider, I would prefer not to install one as they appear to add weight, reduce ground clearance, and can damage the pegs.  That being said, I would like to have some option of jacking the motorcycle on the road in the event that I am riding two up with a beautiful Colombian girl riding bitch, and I get a flat on the way to her palatial mansion in the mountains.

Or a more likely scenario, I would like to be able to get the rear wheel off the floor to make chain lubing easier.

So my first step was purchasing the FS Moto Jack from  FDKLR, who manufactures them, one at a time "to try and help people out with a problem that [he] experienced [himself]".  FDKLR, you are a debit to capitalism!      

Note:  I did attempt to lube the chain without jacking the motorcycle (at 7,859 miles) by rolling it forward leaving a snail-trail of lube and degreaser across my car port that I imagine will be coming out of my deposit.  PRO TIP!  If you have to lube your chain without a jack, do it on a city street, or the parking lot of your local police station.

Step 2:  Cleaning
After spending a full day of work researching KLR 650 chain management, I have concluded that I would have rather pissed away an eight-hour day looking at gay porn.  As best as I can determine (and anybody reading this for advice should ignore what I am about to say because I am completely unqualified to offer an informed opinion, and, in fact, you should probably consider doing the complete opposite) nobody really knows.  Seriously.  There are a huge variety of opinions out there from seemingly credible sources.

However!  I am a huge sucker for empirical data, particularly when supported by charts and graphs.  And empirical data suggests that, to quote "Wheatwhacker" from forums:

...a clean chain is more important than a lubed one.  The internals of your chain are lubed and sealed with a rubber seal.  The object is to protect these seals by keeping the chain as clean as possible.  Oil will fine on a slow moving chain in a clean environment but, on a motorcycle tends to get flung off.  The remainder acts as a magnet for dirt particles so small you cannot see them but small enough to penetrate your oil seals...Keep your chain clean, protect the seals and your chain will serve you well.  Replace it when you need to start adjusting it often and start over again.  Simple.

And "keeping your chain clean" can be accomplished with WD40.  (Kerosene also works).  Just spray the shit out of your chain on all four sides.  Learn to say "Donde esta el W.D. Cuarenta?" or "Limpair mi cadena que poco cono" if you are feeling saucy.

Step 3:  Lubing
No need!  Or, if you are really meticulous you can follow these instructions and your chain will probably last a little bit longer.

So, the bottom line is that I plan on spraying the chain with WD 40 every thousand miles and traveling with a spare can of the stuff when I hit the road.  I will report back on my chain's longevity.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Caring for a KLR650 Chain - Part 2: Adjusting and Replacement Chains.

FS Moto Jack: $30 | Total Cost: $6593

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Jimmy Lewis, God of the Machine: Day 2 - Sand, Trails, Cathedral Canyon

We all met up at Jimmy's place at 8:00am.  Heather, bless her heart, remembered my cramping from the day before, and handed me a couple of bananas to eat while everyone was getting their bikes ready.  Then, a few minutes later, she found a back pack for my camel bladder which she lent to me for the day.  These little things made the weekend feel so personal, and so much different than being on one of those annoying prepackaged tour groups that cheapen the human experience, and make you want to strangle the tour guides and tourists.

(There's nothing wrong with being a tourist.  That being said, tourism tends to take wonderful places and completely fuck them up until half of the tourist experience is shaking your head in bewilderment that a place, or something so beautiful could be so perfectly ruined.  Yosemite, Niagara Falls, Key West, etc. etc. etc. etc.)

Gassed up, saddled up, excess gas washed off our bodies, and ready to go!
We began the day learning about about riding in sand.  The key lesson I took away is that riding in sand is really, really difficult.  In a weekend full of techniques, sand was probably the most complex.  There are techniques for picking up a fallen motorcycle, a multitude of techniques for getting unstuck, going downhill, uphill, etc.  It was exhausting, particularly in the heat.  I was gasping for air, and am ashamed to admit, at one point, Jimmy picked up my motorcycle for me because I was too exhausted to do it myself.  I definitely need to find a place to practice somewhere in the Los Angeles area because I absolutely do not want to avoid certain trails because of sand.

Jimmy Lewis, god of the machine, as photogenic as he is awesome
After we (the students) embarrassed ourselves to exhaustion, we ventured out to some really cool places in the Pahrump area, including a fascinating place called Cathedral Canyon.

Ronald Wiley (1904 - 1994) took a lovely but undistinguished desert box canyon and used it as an artist would use canvas or a playwright the stage to present his extraordinary view of life and humanity.  He called it Cathedral Canyon, and it was the true passion of his life.

Roland began thinking about something on the order of Cathedral Canyon around 1955.  A visit to Guatemala after an earthquake and the sight of many churches with broken walls and corners still standing with religious figurines sometimes remaining intact provided the inspiration for the canyon.

By the mid-1970's, Cathedral Canyon was fully functional, although Roland continually added to and modified the landmark.

The cathedral contained a suspension bridge, Jesus statue, fountain, lights, music, and from all accounts, was a contemplative, spiritual retreat.  People came from all over the world.  Incredibly, there are very few pictures online of the place when it was fully functioning.

Cathedral Canyon (circa 1995), view from above

Statue appears inspired by Christ the Redeemer of the Andes (Photo taken at Cathedral Canyon, 1975)
Then Ronald, its creator, died and vandals destroyed it.  We rested in the ruins and then rolled on.

Around noon, we stopped for pizza (Heather and Jimmy picked up the tab again), and then headed up to a Wheeler mountain pass at 7,700 feet elevation.  Things got a little more technical on the trail up to the pass.  There were moderate drop offs, and the closer we got to the top, the more I had to concentrate.  Heather was right behind me, and later encouraged me by telling me that I was making good decisions deciding my line.  Wheeler Pass was cool because it overlooked Area 51, and people riding dune buggies, dirt bikes, and jeeps congregated there and chatted about the off roading. 

Approaching Wheeler Pass

Overlooking Area 51
Wheeler Pass
From there, we headed back to Jimmy and Heather's place, and took our time collecting our things and reattaching our panniers.  Beer and snacks appeared out of nowhere.  We relaxed, told stories, and planned our routes.

While we lounged, Jimmy said to me, "I was watching you a little bit today, and you looked so much more confident than yesterday.  You were taking some of those turns really fast...Probably even faster than I would have been taking them with those tires of yours."  He went on to explain that it would be a good idea to slow down for the time being, not because a crash could hurt me or my motorcycle, but because it would be so damaging to my confidence that it would set me back a lot further than if I gradually ramped up speed and aggressiveness.

I thanked Jimmy and Heather profusely, and headed back to the whorehouse.  I had a few hours to kill before going to bed, so I plopped myself down at the bar.  I was worried, at first, that it would be like a strip club with women aggressively selling lap dances, but as I was in the "sports bar" and not in the "brothel" (which was ten feet away), solicitation was illegal.  I ordered a beer and within thirty seconds, a woman of ill repute sat next to me and chatted me up.  I explained to her that the only reason I was staying at the whorehouse was because of the off road motorcycle class, and that I was not interested in "having [that kind of] fun".  We chatted, and then ten minutes later, the bar tender gave her a look, and she left.  Two minutes later, another whore sat down next to me, and I had virtually the same conversation.  She was an American history phd student, and I commented on all the Ron Paul for president signs all over Nevada.  "I know!"  She said, "It drives me crazy.  I HATE that guy!"  Then she paused, and said, "You don't like him, do you?"  I said, "Well actually, I'm a Libertarian."

I was nearly finished with my beer by the time the third young lady sat down next to me.  After a few minutes, she offered to take me on a tour of the brothel, and I agreed.  I was shown the "fantasy rooms" with baths and pools, the "date room" for a romantic dinner atmosphere, and then we walked into the S&M room.

"Wow!  This is all real!" I said.  There were chains on the wall, a chair, various devices, a stereo system.

"Oh...I don't do this, but I can get you a girl that does."

"No no.  I'm not interested in a session, I just, wow, I didn't know this stuff actually existed."

"It's mostly very powerful and wealthy men who get off on not being in control.  From what I hear, usually no sex takes place in here."

Next to the fantasy rooms, the whores have their own  rooms where they live while they are in town.  They stay anywhere from a week to a month, work when they want, hang out, and give a cut of their proceeds to the brothel owners.  She showed me her room and after a cursory attempt at soliciting, I thanked her for the tour and went back to the bar, paid my tab, grabbed a six pack of beer, and downed it prior to falling asleep.

A big thanks to this guy for the great photos of the weekend.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Jimmy Lewis, God of the Machine: Day 1 - Skills Class in the Dry Lake

I woke up, and while I had gotten everything organized the night before, I was completely unprepared for the heat.  It was twenty degrees hotter than normal, and afternoon temperatures were forecasted to get into the high 90s.  (Upon returning home, I looked online, and Saturday, Sunday, and Monday all broke records).  It was way too hot to use my First Gear riding pants, and I felt silly, but wore jeans, jiu jitsu knee pads, and a street bike jacket.  I could have only been more unprepared if I had showed up with a BMX.

Jimmy and Heather live a few miles from the whore house, and when I pulled into the driveway, there were three big-ass duel sport motorcycles parked in a line, and three students milling about in the garage.  One dude was 60, just retired, and riding a BMW 1200GS. Another dude was in his 50’s riding a KTM 990.  The last guy named David was in his early 40’s, a violist in the Philadelphia Orchestra, riding a BMW 1100GS that he had personally put more than 100,000 miles on.  Also, this was the second time he was attending the Jimmy Lewis off-road riding school, and any pictures in this post that do not suck are courtesy of him.

KTM, BMW, KLR:  Side by side in perfect harmony
Everyone checked out each other's motorcycles, discussed upgrades, and used mechanical terms I was unfamiliar with.  I must have said “I don’t know.  It was like that when I bought it.” a half-dozen times over the course of the weekend.  I looked a little bit out of place, particularly with my jeans, and I think it became immediately clear that I didn’t know what I was doing.  I explained that the closest thing I'd ever been to off-road riding was taking my Jeep Cherokee on a gravel road a couple of times.

Jimmy quickly covered the basics, beginning with an explanation of why off-road riders stand on their foot pegs (this was the first time I was introduced to this concept, and finally understood that people standing up while off-roading were not merely posing for pictures) and gave a city-mandated lecture about an endangered desert tortoise, and what to do if we encountered one.
Endangered tortoises doing their part to carry on the species
He explained how to cover the clutch and break with two fingers, and to get out of the street-bike habit of placing both feet on the ground at the same time (aka the Harley Waddle).  It was really interesting, particularly because I had taken the motorcycle safety course ten-years ago, and had developed some really bad habits, in part, because of the instruction I had received.

Before I knew it, we were all riding down the road, and then suddenly, off road.  I stood up on my pegs and felt my motorcycle respond to an uneven and constantly changing surface.  There were rocks big enough to have a gravitational pull on my front tire.  I instinctively chose lines based on the path of least resistance, and often did not come anywhere close to my intended path.  When I felt a little bit out of control, I instinctively sat back down.  My feet cramped and my body was completely stiff by the time we arrived at the dry lake 15 minutes later.  It was also the most fun I had ever had on a motorcycle.

Satellite view of the road to dry lake (upper right)
On the way to the dry lake
We went through a ton of drills that morning.  Jimmy and/or Heather demonstrated a technique, and then the students practiced the technique while Jimmy and Heather rode around watching us and giving us pointers.  I absolutely loved the way they did not hesitate to point out our mistakes, and even when we ignored their advice repeatedly, they would still correct us.  The drills had multiple levels of difficulty enabling more experienced riders to develop advanced skills.

Together, Jimmy and Heather made a great team.  Jimmy communicated very directly, which I thought came across as a little blunt, but I appreciated that he was less concerned about sparing people's feelings than making us better riders.

Heather is very cerebral, technically focused, and more soft spoken.  At one point, when I repeatedly botched a drill on proper enduro turning, she took a video of me doing it wrong on her iphone, then took a video of Jimmy doing it right so I could watch, and correct my mistakes.  Both took their time working one-on-one with us.  The drills enabled me to appreciate and understand my motorcycle, its capabilities and limitations, and made me feel, for the first time in ten years of riding, that I was only now beginning to learn how to ride.  It was  fun, after so many years riding cruisers and getting used to babying them on the road, to really push a motorcycle in every way possible.

The beauty of the dry lake captured by a disposable camera.  (It's not the camera, it's the photog)
Just before lunch, we drove across the dry lake one by one, open throttle, in first gear, until the “revlometer” (I have no idea how to spell this) kicked in.  When I arrived at the other side of the lake, Jimmy pointed out that my muffler had blew out on the way over.

When we arrived back at Jimmy and Heather's place, Jimmy took off my can (from what I can gather, this is what the kids call "mufflers"), laughed out loud, and showed it to me.  I had no idea what I was looking at, so I laughed out loud along with him.  He told me it was missing the packing (I had no idea mufflers had packing), and that Big Gun exhaust systems sucked (confirmed), and I should have it replaced when I returned home.    He had me call the local Kawasaki dealer and ask for four-stroke packing, which they luckily carried.  So while everyone else dug into lunch, I went on a drive to Pahrump, bought the packing, drove to Home Depot to buy screws, and then rode back.

Heather had prepared a truly tasty lunch.  There was plenty left for me when I returned, and I ate with gusto as Jimmy fixed my muffler.  I imagine this would have cost me at least an hour of a labor, or $90, if I had to have the repairs done by my mechanic.  One of the guys looked on in awe at the effectiveness of Jimmy's packing skills, and commented that Jimmy was really good at stuffing holes.

After lunch, we returned to the dry lake for more drilling.  I have to point that Jimmy would sometimes demonstrate advanced techniques to make a point, and his control of all of our motorcycles was truly awesome.  He is god of the machine.

Motorcycle on the dry lake
I made it a point to stay as hydrated as possible throughout the day, but it was extremely hot, even under the pop up shade they brought to the dry lake.  Between 4pm and 5pm, my body started cramping pretty much everywhere, and I while I was still having fun, was ready to call it a day.  Jimmy on the other hand, appeared willing to stay until the sun went down.

Afterwords, we met up at a Pahrump BBQ joint and ate ribs, drank $2.50 micro brews, and traded stories, my favorite of which was when Jimmy ran into the back end of a cow in the dark.  Heather and Jimmy picked up the tab, which was a surprise to everyone.  Upon arriving back at the whorehouse, I once again  avoided eye contact, went straight to my room, and immediately fell asleep.

Jimmy Lewis Riding School:  $600 |  Total Cost:  $6563

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Jimmy Lewis, God of the Machine: Day 0 - Los Angeles to Pahrump

I slept in on Friday, attached the panniers to Kinky, packed my bags and headed east on the 10.  Of course, even at 1pm, Highway 10 was a mess, and then Highway 15 heading north was even worse.  I rode in between lanes of traffic and passed, literally, thousands of cars stopped at near stand stills.  Everyone and their minority-beating co-workers were on their way to the "Baker to Vegas" rally (aka The Running of the Pigs), which, while not quite as challenging as a 10k race (for each individual), the CBS Los Angeles News refers to as "one of the world's toughest races."  I suppose if you take into account that cops are, by and large, morbidly obese diabetics who only get exercise when they are clubbing innocent civilians, and tend to lack will power and judgement, then yes, it is challenging in a special Olympics kind of way.

A brief aside:

In case I seem hostile to law enforcement, it is only because I really hate cops.  About a month ago, in a case of mistaken identity, the Culver City police department performed a felony stop on me, with guns drawn, and showed a startling lack of professionalism.  I know that it was at night, and probably difficult to see with my gloves and helmet on, but I am white!  Not "white" like that Zimmerman guy who couldn't get a sunburn in a toaster oven, I am an Anglo-American with a shit load of German and Polish blood, and I deserve better!  I'm not asking for much, just preferential treatment every once in a while, particularly when legal matters are involved.  And the right to own slaves.

I digress.  I stopped at the Mad Greek for lunch, and is it just me, or has the Baker thermometer not worked for at least ten years which is a sad commentary on America's crumpling infrastructure.

The Baker to Pahrump run along 127 and 176 is a fantastic ride, or at least, as fantastic as a ride can be on asphalt.  I love hurtling through the dry desert heat on top of an engine and two wheels.  It makes me smile and sing classic rock music.

Upon arriving in Pahrump, I headed directly to "Sheri's Ranch" whorehouse.  I booked the Jimmy Lewis Off Road class last minute, and all of the 315 (literally) rooms in Pahrump were already claimed by members of law enforcement.  Knowing the city would be full, Jimmy made a few reservations at the whorehouse ahead of time, and per his instructions, I walked into the "Sports Bar" entrance, and tried not to make eye contact with any of the whores milling about.  I checked in, and was escorted by security to my room, which was a short walk through the brothels's expansive, beautifully landscaped, and completely empty grounds.  The security guard asked me about my stay, and I quickly explained to him that my purpose was to learn to ride a motorcycle off road, and not for whoring.  I'm not sure if he believed me.

"You should at least get a tour of the place while you're here.  It's really interesting.  Also, there are two channels on TV, one with a camera on the sports bar, and the other with this weekend's lineup.  Enjoy your stay!"

It was peaceful and quiet.  I don't even think anyone else was in the motel.  (Whores aren't allowed there).  The quality was on par with Motel 6.  I organized my things for the next day, scheduled a 7am wake up call, and fell asleep in the warm embrace of a Xanax hug.