Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring Break.

I knew the trip would start with question marks when I woke up sweating. One day 'til my exit and I was in my second day of being all fevery. In my sleep I dreamt uncomfortably vivid dreams about potty mouthed women in diners. In my waking life I was hazy and my head hurt. By the evening, I was feeling better. Enough to go get my rear tire changed out at the shop. 

I had to remove the tires from the bike in order to get them changed, and I didn't have the tools to take off the front tire. This was one more question mark on top of my general wellness, because the current front tire was all wear bars. 

One dingy diner dream later I was on the bike, facing a cool, damp morning. The bike was loaded down with the tank and tail bag. And a spare front tire, which I wore around my waist. 

The plan was to ride 30 or so miles south to a dealership that could change the tires out. I got there to learn that I was late to the line and they couldn't get to the bike for many hours. So I rode further south, to the next dealership and then the next. After a hundred or so miles I found a dealership with a shop that could get the bike in and change the tire quickly. While I waited, I inspected a Triumph Thruxton. I'd have to change my whole style to ride this, I thought. But I bet I'd look fresh. Then I was on the exit.

Sometimes when I am putting in miles, I get a voice in my helmet that won't shut up as it does its level best to destroy my well being with its evil truth. Other times, I get 90s R&B songs. This ride, though, just static. Like tuning an AM dial in an area that no station serves. Not entirely unpleasant.

It was the beginning of bike week, so there were a lot of bikes on the road. Well, there were a lot of bikes out. Very few of them were on the road. I came across a Super Teneré and some Victories, but every single Harley I saw was on the back of a trailer. Even the touring models, with the saddle bags. I'd stop making jokes about these riders if they didn't give me so much to work with.

Despite my southern heading, the weather never got warmer. After nearly 8 hours of slight chill, I rolled up at the Garage. I got off the bike exhausted, already descending back into the fever of night. 

By the morning, the other homies had arrived with their bikes. Two ninjas in various states of need. Alright. It was time to start the party.

I had been thinking about this week for months. My bike needed a lot of work, the kind of work that needed a garage. My other homies fell in as well, though they couldn't hang around. The plan was that some combination of me and local homies would work on all the bikes and have them ready to ride by the time I had to go back for class. History will remember this plan as the Spring Break Delusion. 

The two Ninjas my men brought down needed a lot of work. Much of it could have been done, but parts that we should have already had were revealed to be out of stock around town. The Green Ninja was immediately put out of the repair runnings. This left the Black Ninja, a bike that needed nothing short of an overhaul. It needed new plugs, coolant, oil, possibly coils, stock links, a new kick stand, replacement plastics, there was something going on with the front master cylinder, the injectors were dirty, the rear pads had ground through the backing into the rear rotor, and the fairing stay was … missing? It wasn't so much a repair job as it was a Talisman of Rebirth. 

We had resolved to make as many of these repairs as we could, but the world was bent on stopping us. The allan wrench wasn't long enough to reach into the frame to loosen a bolt. Had to go get a new one. The lowering link bolts were blocked by the exhaust system, meaning that a simple procedure couldn't happen unless the entire exhaust system was removed, which in turn couldn't happen unless the radiator was removed from its mounting. My men were long gone before I could make any headway. Other homies came over to lend a hand, but no one could help with the next problem we found--a leaky valve cover gasket. Fuck a duck. 

I re-evaluated the scene with my man over the phone and set the bike aside. It seemed that the for reals wrenching was yet to happen. When that day came, there would be compression tests and torque wrenches. For now, I just had to rock the maintenance on my own machine.

The week moved by much faster than I would have liked. One of the house's lovely residents kept me and visitors fed with pies. Lots of pies. My other homie sold her own bike, getting one step closer to the green team. Friends stopped by, I graded papers. All of this took place out in the garage, probably the greatest physical space that modernity has to offer. 

It had been living life in the Atlanta cold and was the worse for wear. I bled fluid, lubricated bearings, replaced pads and removed and polished the exhaust. As night fell, I closed the doors and worked under artificial light. Perhaps this is what it means to know peace. 

Cats talk a lot about vacations. Time off. How necessary it all is. It is kind of a dire pronouncement, though. One has to get days off from regular life in order to gather the strength to live it. More and more, I spend my days thinking about the next time I wrench, or the next time I get to ride, or the next anything other than the life I am currently living. This is the discontent that many just take to be life itself. 

I rocked an early exit on the last possible day back to the city. Spring break was done. Bike week was over. Life was calling. Everything was horrible again. 

At a stop I meet an old motorcyclist who had once lived in Daytona. He didn't go to bike week anymore, though, because it was on the decline. He said that he had long ago had enough of what he called "Harley Halloween." Too many people gathered in one place can make even a motorcycle event a lame experience. 

Out on the road, as I left the city exits and passed the farm lands at the edge of the highway, I hit a dust storm of some sort. Visibility went low, the dust gathered on my jacket and wafted into my helmet. Several cars around me hit their hazard lights. Well, I thought. So much for that crazy wash and polish I did back at the garage. 

The dust, and the general state of clean, didn't stay with my bike for much longer. Further north I hit the chill, and then the clouds turned the sky dark. I pulled off an exit to find a grip of riders putting on rain gear, laughing about the fate we were all about to share. We tried to find shelter at first. But then we checked the forecast. This was to be our fate for a hundred miles; there was no use delaying.

The rain made a joke out of my gear. It fell from every direction. Down. Sideways. Up from the road. It found every open nook in my so-called waterproof gear and leaked water right in. This was the full wackness. 

After the rain, I hit traffic that I didn't even understand. Accidents all over the place and something approaching gridlock thirty miles from Atlanta. Garbage. All garbage. I did not wait in that line. 

I rolled up shivering and wet to a snack spot. By sheer chance, my bestest home girl was in there. We embraced. We got loud. I felt better. We ate okra.

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