28 December 2011

Signs of The Times-

When I read something in a blog that strikes a chord, my initial reaction is to hit the "like" button. It's irritating to remember there isn't one.

You all know my hearing is less than satisfactory these days. Listening to the radio
I frequently miss important parts and think, "I'll just back that up so I can hear it again."
Everything that is broadcast should have TIVO's capabilities.

And it's my bet one day they will.

26 December 2011

The Douglas Dragonfly

Vincent. Brough. Henderson. Excelsior. Ariel.
Those brands are familiar.
A new marque to me. (And doesn't that engine look like an old boxer BMW?)

It's British. Owned by the brothers Douglas, the company was the first to experiment with disc brakes on their racing bikes (in the 1920's!)

If you'd like to learn more about the Douglas "Dragonfly", go HERE.

24 December 2011

"The Christmas We Get We Deserve"-

It is my hope that what you deserve is an adequately filled tummy, warmth in your surroundings, freedom from fear, contact with friends and loved ones, (and a lack of friction there), and just enough stress in your life to make it interesting.
Those of you who come here often to comment have become family in an odd way.

I appreciate your thoughts.

"Odd Family"... thank you.

22 December 2011

Ya Can't Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd

And I won't ride a motorcycle when it's raining and the thermometer says 45 degrees.
I'm pretty tough, but I'm not interested in seeing how miserable I can make myself.
All four of the bikes have electrical systems that drain the battery even with the ignition off...
Clocks, radio memory, etc.. I like to start them all and ride them half an hour or so every two weeks. But it has rained a lot lately, and my time off hasn't coincided with dry days.
Monday morning the rain stopped. By afternoon the temp was still about 45 but the streets were dry. I disconnected the trickle charger, pushed the old BMW out of the garage, and rode into town to pick up a few needed items.
Later, Sara Jean came home and said, "I have a craving for a 'Subway' sandwich... let's go get one."
To which I replied, "Bundle up. Let's ride."
And so we did... top speed of 30 mph in third gear. Still, it felt great, good for bike, and us.

Big Bubba flew in from Arizona last night. I drove into BigTown to pick him up and arrived early so I could do a little last minute shopping before going to the train station to pick him up. I arrived at the Mall about 9 P.M... they were staying open until midnight. I was surprised at the number of folks there shopping, and most of them were actually carrying bags of items they had purchased. Almost everything was on SALE, so it will be interesting to see how retailers have done this year. I suspect the fact that sales started early and stores have kept their doors open longer will mean profits will be slim. Let's see if my feeling of the pulse is correct.

So the Greybeards are ready for Christmas. It's been a year since BB has been home and it is a comfort just knowing we can reach out an touch him. I'm starting my week of nights tonight so our celebrations will be scheduled around my hours at home. That's fine. It may limit chances for disagreement.

All of us in EMS hope to be sitting on our hands the next few days. All too often we are called to cases we know will taint memories of the holidays for years to come. All we can do is try to mitigate the damage and hope to make those memories brighter.
Hold your loved ones close, everyone.
And behave yourself... please.

14 December 2011

The Final Frontier

Our steps toward space haven't been halted...
detoured, to a more efficient path.
Lead on, Mr. Rutan!

12 December 2011

On Two Wheels Part 4- The Japanese Two-Strokes

"Combat Pay".
It IS just as it sounds... pay for being in an area where your body might get perforated by some fast-moving projectile.

I was in Viet Nam, a single guy making a decent wage. And on top of that decent wage my Uncle Sam was adding "Combat Pay" and something called "Hazardous Duty Pay", because someone in the Federal Government actually thought flying low-level in a fairly large, slow-moving target over folks wanting to perforate me was hazardous!

For a year my food, clothing, and lodging were paid for.
Even my "wants" were cheap...
A Scotch and water at the "O Club" was 35 cents. If I tried hard enough I could drink six of 'em in an evening and stagger back to my hooch having spent all of $3.00, including the tip for the beautiful, almond-eyed cynic that delivered the libations.

I paid little attention to my checking account as the year slowly passed. But I subconsciously knew my funds would be accruing and I knew I wanted two things when I got "Back to the world"...
I wanted to get back to Savannah, Georgia and teach others to fly "Hueys".
I wanted to buy a new motorcycle and, on warm evenings, with an attractive member of the opposite sex, take regular rides to Savannah Beach.

To that end, about halfway through my year-long tour I started educating myself by reading motorcycle magazines. As a teen I had mostly ridden Harley-Davidsons. Back then, anything other than a Harley was something less.
But in 1968-'69 there was big change going on in the biking industry...
Triumph and BSA had just come out with a new 750cc triple.
Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki all had new offerings. And there were rumors Honda was about to release a radical new machine.
But all the magazines were RAVING about the performance of the new Kawasaki two stroke triple:

Zero-to-sixty time of 3.2 seconds!
Top speed around 120 m.p.h.!
I decided to kill two birds with one stone-
Buy my first Japanese motorcycle. Buy the first bike I ever owned with a two-cycle engine.
At the end of my Viet Nam tour I got my wish to return to Savannah. I quickly found the local Kaw dealer and bought a machine exactly like the one pictured above.
It was evil.
Extraordinarily fast in a straight line, in turns the frame couldn't stand up to stresses involved and it flexed and wobbled terribly. It made a noise like a hive of hornets. Two-stroke engines produce more horsepower for a given displacement and engine weight, but the penalty you pay is in fuel efficiency... they are gas hogs.
Vibrations made the handgrips buzz and would put your hands to sleep on long trips.
From dead-stop, the initial acceleration of these machines was less than mediocre. Then, as the tachometer ticked past 4000 rpm... WHOA NELLIE!! It was as if someone flicked a light switch...
All the torque the engine could produce came on, trying to wrench your hands from the bars. It was difficult to keep the front wheel on the ground in first and second gear.

I loved the power of the thing. After riding it just over 10,000 miles I bought another one almost exactly like it (with upgraded electronic ignition) the following model year.

A year after that the rumors started...
Kawasaki was coming out with an even faster bike.
They were increasing the displacement of their two-stroke triple to 750cc's.
I went to my Kawasaki dealer, (who was now a close friend) and threatened him with noogies and wedgies if he sold the first 750 he received to anyone other than me. He called me when they had the first bike out of the crate and assembled. I rode home on it that night. This is what it looked like:

That disc brake up front eliminated any chance at brake fade, so it stopped better. But the rest of the evils remained:
Noise. Vibration. Terrible handling in anything other than a straight line.

All in all, I rode over 30,000 miles on Kaw triples in five years.
In spite of their terrible faults, I still have fond memories of all of 'em.
Others obviously do too...
Prices for examples in good shape on eBay bring more than I'd consider spending for one.
(But I'm still lookin'. And if I can find one in decent shape at a reasonable price, I might just own one again!)

10 December 2011

Too Good...

You may have had a similar experience...
It happened to me shortly after I got my driver's license, setting the date sometime in 1963 or '64, so the subject car would have been about five years old.

One of my closest friends says, "My Uncle knows a guy who is trying to sell a '59 Cadillac for $100.00. But there is a problem...
The owner died in it and wasn't found for several days, and the car reeks of the smell of his decaying corpse."

Wow. $100 for a car that was the "Cadillac" of automobiles when it was new?
For a new driver it was tempting. If necessary, I could drive that sucker around for a year or so with the windows rolled down, even when it was -4 degrees F. outside!
I talked with my old man...
"Well, if necessary we can take it apart and sell it as a parts car. The engine alone would be worth more than the asking price."

So I called my buddy-
"Tell your Uncle the car is sold. Where should I take the check?"

And you probably know "The rest of the story" already, don't you?
The rest of the story is that my good friend didn't return my call.

Oh well.
The car probably had a prosthetic hook hanging from the passenger door too.

08 December 2011

Fine For Me, But For You? Not So Much!

How do you know you've been a successful parent?
I won't even attempt to answer that. Jerry Sandusky's parents probably thought they had done a decent job raising their son. If they're still alive, they must now be reconsidering.

But our son has been on his own for almost five years now. He supports himself, and we're often made proud by remarks we hear from those associated with him at work and play. Thanks to Verizon, the 2000 miles that separate us are almost eliminated by several cell-phone calls daily.
He talks with his Mother often...
He calls me (not so often), when he wants advice or reassurance.

He has watched with interest how his old man has gotten back into motorcycling now that he's moved to Arizona. Last Fall he even rode behind me on the GoldWing about a half hour to see what that experience would be like. It was chilly and he wasn't dressed properly, but still he seemed to enjoy the ride.

I think he's been talking motorcycles with his friends in Arizona, because one of those friends just GAVE him the Yamaha 400 "Special" that has been sitting idle in his garage for a couple years.

His drive from his Casa Grande, AZ home to his workplace in Chandler, AZ takes about 40 minutes and is spent mostly on Interstate 10. His Ford Explorer "Sport Trac" gets a little over 20 m.p.g. on the highway, so he's burnin' about 4 gallons of fuel each round-trip.
Driven sanely, the Yamaha should get around 50 m.p.g. and will cut his fuel costs in half. Great Arizona weather should allow him to ride the bike to work much of the year.

When his friend gave him the bike our son called and was excited.
We are excited, AND concerned.
In my head I'm thinkin', "It's okay for me to something slightly dangerous and fun, but I'm not so sure I want you doing the same thing, my son!"

So we have to do what we have done in the past...
Try to educate and instill the proper amount of respect he needs to have for the bike-riding experience.
He has always listened well and put our advice to good use. I see no reason he won't do that again.
And now I'm lookin' forward to our next trip to Arizona...
I hear there are some wonderful roads to ride East of "Apache Junction"!

06 December 2011

Easy To Assemble. No Tools Required!

We've been sleeping on a Queen-size, soft-side, fully baffled waterbed for 22 years. With one exception we love the thing-
My wife sleeps as a "runner". At 5'10" she's mostly legs, and she lays claim to about 80% of the bed when she's sleeping. Put both of us in a Queen-size space, add two dogs (that want to lay right on top of me), and you've got a cramped situation.
I don't complain...
I only need about a foot WAY OVER HERE on my side of the bed. But if she happens to touch me or the dogs when she is "sprinting" , she's not a happy snoozer.

For several years now she's been begging for a King-size bed. A couple months ago QVC had a special on "Select Comfort" air beds. We chatted, then agreed a new bed would be a nice Christmas gift we could give one another. So we pulled the trigger.
And that meant doing a "musical chairs" routine with our bedrooms. The bed in our guest room was a full-size... much too small for our 6'3" offspring to sleep on, requiring us to inflate a portable air mattress for him during his visits. So the plan unfolded:
Sell the antique bed in the guest room.
Drain and move the waterbed to that bedroom.
Build the new "Sleep Number" bed in the Master BR.

Our UPS driver Tim delivered seven big boxes about a month ago.
Three weeks ago we finally sold the bed in the guest room.
Draining, disassembling, the re-assembling that bed downstairs took the better part of two days.
Then my work-shift week started. We inflated the portable air mattress normally used by our son and slept on the floor of our bedroom for a week.

Two days ago I started unpacking (BIG!) boxes. (And what a shame there isn't an easy, good use for all that wonderful cardboard.)
No tools required... EASY to assemble!
Yeah... right.

There was an assembly manual, AND an "easy to follow" DVD. Problem was, they didn't agree on how to build the bed. Tired and frustrated the first night, I finally quit when I couldn't make the foundation pieces fit the way the DVD said they should, figuring I might better understand with a rested mind.
Sure enough, the next day I did a little experimenting and sorted that problem out, only to be once again stymied by missing pieces to the puzzle. The DVD indicated four plastic "corner pieces" should be installed to hold foam inserts in place at the side, head, and foot of the bed.
Go outside and search through all the discarded cardboard...
Those pieces were nowhere to be found.
Find the "800" number for help...
Dial it...
"We're sorry, but there is no one here to answer your call. Please call back during normal business hours. Your call is important to us!"


RTDM... read the damn manual...
There I find, those pieces ARE NOT necessary with our particular bed.

The rest of the assembly goes without a hitch.
We slept off the floor last night on a bed that looks the size of a tennis court.
My "runner" would have to sprint the 100-yard dash to touch me.
The dogs and I slept undisturbed on my 1 foot piece of territory at the edge.

It's a great bed.
I'm calling "Select Comfort" today with suggestions on how to improve the instructions so that when you buy yours you won't consider committing suicide as I did.

03 December 2011

That Unlocked Door

Now more than fifty years later I cannot tell you how old she was, but she was old and infirm. A walker parked next to her chair, she was able to get up and slowly make her way to the bathroom if necessary.

The house was tiny...
Two bedrooms, barely big enough for full-size beds. A bathroom, living room, and kitchen.
The interior was austere...
Nothing on the walls. Two old rocker/recliners in the living room with a floor lamp between them. The chairs faced a small television, (black and white of course), and "The Secret Storm" was always on when I entered. No knock at the door was necessary... she expected me.
I was her newsboy, and I'm sure that on many days I was her only contact with a real human being.
She wanted to talk. I knew she needed to talk.
Her daughter paid me to deliver "The Indianapolis News" to the old woman. I'm sure she paid me not for the newspaper, but to walk through that unlocked door and insure her Mother was still alive, then spend a few moments in conversation with her.
She didn't have much, but when she had something to share she wanted me to partake-
"There are fresh radishes in the refrigerator. Do you like radishes?"
Not really.
But I ate a couple and acted as if they were delicious, then thanked her for her generosity.

She was still alive when I handed the paper route over to my replacement.
I made sure he knew to walk through that door, put the newspaper on her lap, and brighten her day for a few minutes with chat about what was happening outside her unlocked door.

Looking back, I now realize I learned most of what I needed to know about life from being a newsboy.
I've even learned to tolerate radishes.