May 27

The complex molecules that power my motorcycle may have once powered,
or been part of, these flying creatures.

I’m on vacation next week. One thing about having grandkids is, it resolves any question of where we’re going for vacation. We’re going to see the grandkids. Both of my children live in Fort Worth, so a visit to one is a visit to both. A few years ago, we decided to haul the travel trailer to a park in the area and “camp out” there. (If you can call living in a tiny little mobile home complete with AC, water, sewer, and cable camping.) But hauling the camper and boat, meant the bike had to stay behind. We’re going to try something a little different this year.
We’re headed for Dinosaur Valley State park down in Glen Rose. We’re taking a tent and I’m loading Maggie in the back of the pickup. I’m hoping to get in some good riding while we’re there. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the roads south and west of Fort Worth. It’s just an hour south of Fort Worth, so we can see the grandkids. They might even come out and spend a night with us.
Researching the park, I see they’ve got some of those big dinosaur models. I don’t know what they’re made of, but I’d think that plastic or some other petroleum product is likely to be a large component. So if petroleum is a product of some jurassic swamp, that presumably had at least a few dinosaur carcasses in it, then possibly there is some actual dino in those dinos.
Right now Maggie is using a petroleum based oil. I’m planning to change her over to fully synthetic before the end of the summer. But for now, there’s possibly some dino atoms in her oil pan. So while I’m visiting my relatives, the dino atoms in Maggie’s oil pan can visit their relatives in the dinosaur models. See how well that works out.
We’ll be back for an appointment in Shreveport on Friday, but will probably spend the rest of the weekend camping at Queen Wilhelmina State park and run the Talimena scenic road a few times. And it’s possible that a complex hydrocarbon molecule that once soared in a petranodon wing will again soar over mountain passes in a howling flat-6 rice burner.

- Guy Wheatley

May 23
A small road

Small roads with trees almost touching overhead can make for pleasant riding.

We took another short ride this weekend. The original plan was to go to the Magnolia Festival in Magnolia, Ark. We’ve never stayed for the steak cookoff, and had decided to do so this year. The steaks are reputed to be world class and, in years past, the price was more than reasonable.
But Friday night BikeNight at Dougaloos made us reconsider. We got caught in a nasty downpour. I wanted to go on the bike, but Mrs. Sharon talked me into taking the truck. I’m glad she did because the sky opened up while we were there. There were a couple of BikeNighters there on their motorcycles, and they got pretty well soaked going home.
So when we got up Saturday morning and the sky looked threatening, we decided to pass on the trip to Magnolia. Staying late enough for steaks would mean coming back after dark. That’s bad enough by itself. I’m sure not trying it on a motorcycle, after dark, in a storm.
The sun occasionally peeks through the clouds all day Saturday, though, daring us to come out and play. We want to take at least a short ride. I decide it’s time for another of those exploration of small roads on the outskirts of town. This time we pick the southwest corner.
I don’t check these areas out on a map first, and I don’t have a gps with me. I can’t get lost because I’m bounded on all sides by known roads. But within this area I’m exploring, randomly picking a direction at each intersection or fork. And somehow the weather adds to the expeditionary feel, threatening but never actually raining.
Selecting a direction, I have no expectation for what lay ahead. I am amazed again some of these areas feel so alien. Dipping through a hardwood bottom on a narrow road with branches touching overhead, it’s hard to believe that I’m fewer than 7 miles from my front door. I’ve usually got only a general idea of where I am. It surprises me then, when I occasionally cross a road that I do know. It’s an odd feeling to suddenly be transported from an unknown, mysterious backroad to a place I know and have been before.
We ride for a couple of hours. We backtrack from dead ends, and occasionally circled back to take a different direction at an intersection from the one we’d taken before. Our wanderings cover about 25 miles of road before dumping us onto the familiar FM2148 from Gun Club Road.
Taking a left, I head south down to Clear Springs road and follow it to County Road 1217. By the time we reach Highway 67, the sky looks as though it’s through playing games and is serious about another deluge. Heeding the warning, we turn east onto Highway 67 and head for home.
The epic journeys that cross state lines are wonderful and adventurous. But this ride reminds me that on any given day, there is fun and adventure just a few miles down the road.

- Guy Wheatley

May 18
Brandon on his VLX 600

My son Brandon sitting on his Honda Shadow at his home in Fort Worth.

You know something is not a good idea when everyone stops what they’re doing and gathers around to watch. Suddenly being the center of that much attention rarely leads to something good.
We were taking my son’s bike to the shop, and needed to get it in the back of the pickup. I was visiting him in Fort Worth at the time and didn’t have the ramps I’d normally have used if we’d been at my house. The bike in question is a Honda Shadow, VLX 600. This little bike weighs about 425 pounds.
“We’ll get this done pretty quickly,” I remember thinking. “We can just lift it one end at a time into the bed.”
My son’s drive way has an extensive slope. It seemed that if the bike was uphill, we wouldn’t have to lift it very far. I pulled the truck into the driveway and he pulled that bike up behind it. My son and I stepped around and grabbed the front of the bike with the intention of setting the front wheel up on the tailgate. But with the bike in such a severe nose down position, almost the full 425lbs was on the front wheel.
We grunted and strained for a while, almost throwing the bike over on it’s side a couple of times, and even got the wheel tantalizingly close to the tailgate. But eventually our strength gave out and the bike remained on the ground. Time for Plan B.
With the bike and pickup both on level ground, we had no trouble setting the front wheel up on the tailgate. Now, however, we had 425 pounds of motorcycle sitting on the back wheel. Now you would think that two grown men could lift 425 pounds to a height of just under 3 feet. And in truth, we could. But as we got the back tire close to the tailgate, the bike now towering over our heads would start to fall over. We couldn’t balance it from the ground. If one of us got in the truck to hold the bike up, that left the other trying to lift the bike from the ground by himself. Trembling with fatigue and anger, we finally realized that this wasn’t going to work either. Time for Plan C.
“There’s a church just up the road that has a loading dock.” my son tells me.
I take the truck and he rides the bike. Now in addition to lifting a heavy motorcycle we have to be careful of hot pipes.
I back the pickup up to the loading dock, and Brandon takes the bike to the top. I join him and we both glare at the two foot drop from the loading dock, designed for tractor trailers, to the bed of the truck. We both stand there a while, neither willing to make the first move.
“Do you think you can …” I start to ask.
“Nope!” he says before I finish. Time for Plan D.
The loading dock is built on a steep hill. I see one place beside the dock where the tailgate of my truck might actually dig into the ground as I back up to it. I get in the truck and drive off of the parking lot, between two trees, and onto the grass at the back of the church. Brandon follows me on the road at the top of the hill. I find a likely looking spot and back up to the hill. As my tailgate comes within a foot and a-half of the hill, My back tires begin to climb and the gap increases.
By now, locals are starting to watch. One supposes a pickup and motorcycle driving over the lawn of the local church is not something they see every day.
I find the optimal spot with a gap of roughly 1-1/2 feet and we try to load the bike. Our old nemesis gravity foils us again. Nose down once again, the front tire is wedged into the gap between the tailgate and the hill with 425 pounds of force. It’s so close, but grunt and strain as we may, we just can’t lift it onto the tailgate. Plan E
I survey the hill looking for a spot with more slope, hoping to find a place where I can get the tailgate close enough to the hill to just roll the bike in. There is one spot, but unfortunately there is a tree right in front of it. I’m not sure there’s enough room for my truck between the hill and the tree, but I’m going to find out.
Forward, reverse, forward, reverse, I eventually crab the truck into position with its front bumper touching the tree, and a 10-inch gap between the hill and tailgate. Fortunately, the hill wasn’t as tall here, and the bike won’t be approaching the truck at such a severe nose down attitude. But it is still going downhill. We’ll never be able to roll the bike backwards if this doesn’t work, so this is a one-shot proposition. I look at the 24-inch diameter of the front tire and try to imagine how much of it will drop into the 10-inch gap between us and success. I decide to use the engine to help us power the front tire through the gap. I debate the virtue of standing to one side, but eventually come to the conclusion I’ll have more control straddling the the machine. In other words, I decided to ride it in.
There are now cars stopped along the street with people watching. I’m sure somebody is catching cell phone video. I may well soon be the next youtube viral sensation. I ease down the slope, approaching the truck. As the front wheel nears what now appears to be a cavernous gulf between the land and the bed of my truck, I gun the engine hoping to lift the front wheel. All I do is hit the hole harder. But I manage to keep the bars straight so that the wheel doesn’t slip sideways down under the truck. It’s a hard jolt, but as the front forks recoil, I again gun the engine and the little bike pushes it’s front tire up into the bed.
I’m saved from slamming into the cab as the back tire falls into the gap bringing me to an abrupt halt. Brandon is standing on the tailgate to help me stay balanced. He steadies me, and once I’ve got the bike under control, I ease onto the throttle. The back tire climbs out of the gap and suddenly we’ve done it.
We start tying the bike down and the crowd, deprived of the anticipated entertainment, drifts away. Now we just need to haul it across town to the dealer and unload it.
“We’ll get this done pretty quickly,” I think. “We can just lift it one end at a time out of the bed.”

- Guy Wheatley

May 17

Meet at Little River Nursing & Rehab Parking Lot, 162 Hwy 32-2A, Across from Wal-Mart Saturday, May 21, 2011 for the 4th Annual “Ride For Health.” It is sponsored by Little River Health System
Registration begins at 8:00am, 1st Bike out at 9:00 am, Last Bike out at 10:00 am, $20 per bike
Prizes will be drawn for, you have to be registered but not present to win.
Beautiful, Scenic route will end in Hot Springs, Arkansas. You may decide to stay afterward.
Map of route will be given to you when you register.

May 11

Having only one hand doesn’t slow down Jimmy Brown. Here he is on his
1978 Yamaha XS-650 which he rode into Texarkana from Hope.

I was looking out my second-story office window a few days ago and noticed a motorcycle parked in front of the building. I was trying to identify the make when the rider comes back and starts loading up. I immediately ran for the stairs hoping to get to the front door before he left. I just had to talk to this guy.
I exited the front door and got a better look at the prosthetic hook protruding from the rider’s right sleeve. It was this that had sparked my curiosity. I identified myself as a blog writer and asked if he minded if I asked a few questions and blogged about him.
Mr. Brown has owned five motorcycles over the years, ranging from those with 50cc motors to 750. His current ride is a 1978 Yamaha XS-650. He showed me how he’s moved the throttle to the left side and demonstrated using it in conjunction with the clutch. He primarily brakes with the foot- actuated rear brake, but showed me the little screw he’s added to the end of the front brake lever on the right handle bar. It stops the hook from sliding off so that he can use the front brake as well if he chooses to do so.
I ask if he has a motorcycle endorsement, and he pulls his license out to show me that he does.
“Were there any problems getting your license?” I ask.
“I got my license in 1973,” he explains. “I lost my hand in 1976.”
He told me he started riding again in 1978, and that he never had any problems or fear about getting back on his bikes.
“I just got on and started riding,” he said. “I never was afraid I couldn’t do it.”
Currently Mr. Brown doesn’t have a car, so the 650 Yamaha is his primary means of transportation. He doesn’t belong to a motorcycle club, or routinely ride with a large group of people. He is not, then, your typical baby boom biker. He’s just a man who has always liked and ridden motorcycles. An original free spirit, seemingly unaware that he has a “disability.”
Mr Brown had no intention of impressing me when he hopped his bike and rode to town. But he did.

- Guy Wheatley

May 11
Talimena Run
icon1 Guy | icon2 Events, News, Rides | icon4 05 11th, 2011| icon3No Comments »

Title: Talimena Run
Location: Meet at Whisky River Harley Davidson
Description: Sunday May 15 is the last day of standard registration.
The Talimena Run is 3 days of motorcycles, msic, food nad fellowship May 26 through 28 to benifit the Hooks Children’s Ministry of Hooks Texas.
The run begins Thursday May 26 with a meet and greet ar Whisky River Harley Davidson with a group ride to Fisherman’s Wharf in Hot Springs, Ark., to follow Friday. The Talimena Run Mountain Ride is Saturday, May 28 to Queen Wilhelmina State Park in Mena, Ark. Lunch and dinner will be provided both Friday and Saturday. Points Run tickets will be available for chances to win prizes both days as well.
Standard registration for the run is $40 per person. Cost for registration after Sunday is $50.
For information or to register, call Neil Jones at (903) 547-6720
Start Date: 2011-05-26
End Date: 2011-05-28

May 6
The Man Cave
icon1 Guy | icon2 Wrenching | icon4 05 6th, 2011| icon3No Comments »

Wrenching, resting, and shooting the breeze. Here’s a place to do it all.

As the days get longer and warmer, summer projects near completion. Proud owners post photos and video of bikes being reassembled with various modifications. As impressive as many of the projects are, I’m often more impressed by the shops in which many of them are done. When I first began looking at some of these photos, I thought the bike owners were taking photos from a commercial shop where they were having the work done. As I’ve spent more time reading about the work done by various owners on some of the boards I belong to, I came to realize that these are private shops owned by hobbyists. I call them hobbyists to distinguish them from retired shop owners, using professional facilities for private projects.
Serious wrenchers will have a lift table. That piece of equipment alone runs from $200 for a very basic model to more than $1,000. You don’t stick a tool like that under an open carport. Usually the shop in which you find a lift table will be enclosed and probably has heat and air. It’s not unusual to see expensive welders, plasma cutters, air compressors and other expensive equipment in the background of these photos. Those items aren’t really unexpected in the shop of a serious wrencher. But often you also see refrigerators, televisions and computers in these work spaces. You are also likely to see a sink dedicated to refreshments, and comfortable chairs. Many of these places also have an enclosed bathroom.
I don’t believe any of the owners of these garages are extremely wealthy. These are not railroad barons, or oil tycoons. These are average folks with mostly middle- to upper-middle class incomes. So these work, or play, areas represent a substantial financial investment. That, in turn, says something about how the owners view these spaces. These are not areas where dad will spend a few hours per month during the summer to fix the lawn mower. These structures are both status symbols and social centers. Wrenching sessions become an opportunity to display not only technical prowess, but to show off a well-appointed and comfortable garage.
So far, these environs are inhabited mostly by men, and are referred to as “man caves” by many on the boards. But as I pointed out in a recent blog, women are not unknown here. In some circles, these areas are replacing living rooms as the primary location to entertain guests.
Just imagine Rob and Laura Petrie from the 1960s Dick Van Dyke show having neighbors Jerry and Millie Helper over. But instead of handing their guests a martini and cigarette in the living room, it’s a beer and a wrench in the garage.

- Guy Wheatley