Mar 12
Winter Bikes” width=

Bikes under the carport weathering a short snow..

Here in Texas, we have a relatively short off season. The weather here just doesn’t go into months of deep frost. Even in what passes as the dead of winter in Texarkana, I can find a couple of riding days in any two week period. I never store my bikes for the winter. They just aren’t going to be there long enough for that to be a necessity.
I find it interesting to listen to the guys from more northern climates on the various motorcycle boards I belong to. I think the off season can be harder on the riders than on the bikes. They’ve had to winterize their rides with additives to the gas and oil. Some believe in draining the fluids, while other insist that keeping seals moist is important. The motorcycles have to be protected from the elements. Some find winter homes in garages or storage buildings while others are wrapped warmly under bike covers.
As the machines peacefully slumber the winter away, their owners grow increasingly frustrated. A few, possessing large enough working areas, ease their pains with winter projects and maintenance. Many others turn to forums and biker boards trying to stay connected in some way with motorcycling. But often the good-natured and friendly posts about summer rides and adventures are replaced with laments about being stuck inside. Tempers are shorter and the topic list is broader than in the summer months. The result is often a general decline in civility and tolerance manifested online. Several members have commented on the cyclic nature of online temperament. During the winter months there is more arguing and name-calling than when people are out burning energy and frustrations as well as gasoline on the road. I also see more people coming and going on the boards during the winter. As one person gets feelings hurt and leaves, another will join. And often, the newbie will have just left, or been kicked off, another board.
But eventually the days get longer, the weather warmer, and the flowers start to bloom. And guys who sounded as though they might have done violence had they been in the same room will clap each other on the back as they leave a favored greasy spoon to put some miles under their wheels.
So to all of you out there sick of the trolls, hang on. Summer’s coming.

- Guy Wheatley

Mar 2
A real dog
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Binky in the bag.” width=

Our Yorkie puppy, Binky, in his riding bag.

We got a Yorkie puppy in September, a few days before the doctor’s appointment that would cause such a disruption in my life. Mrs Sharon made it clear from the start that he would accompany us on the motorcycle. We found a bag that was just the right size for both him and Sharon to be comfortable. She can hold him in front of her in the bag secured by a strap to her shoulder. The last ride we took in September was up to Dekalb, Texas, for the annual chili cookoff. That was Binky’s first trip on the bike, and he did rather well. Sharon zipped the top shut, but left it open enough for him to stick his head out. He spent the first half hour of the trip, watching the world go by and enjoying the wind in his furry little face. But after that, he pulled his head in, lay down in the bottom of the bag and slept the trip away. He arrived at the chili contest well rested and ready for samples. We didn’t let him have anything spicy, but there were some stews and roasts, so he got a few treats. Just a few days after that, we had to leave him with friends for a week. There hasn’t been much bike riding after that.
But last Saturday, I had new brakes on the Valkyrie and the weather was inviting. Sharon snagged Binky, but soon discovered that he had outgrown the bag from last September. Fortunately, she has a good supply from which to select a suitable replacement.
We waited until after noon to give the day a chance to warm up a little. We loaded up and headed out about 1 with no real destination in mind. I took the Genoa road exit from Loop 245, only to find it blocked by a passing train. Then I noticed a small road ruining parallel to the tracks and took it. This small road eventually ran into 237. I headed south for about 25 miles, then cut back west through Bloomburg to Queen City. At Queen City we hit 59 north back to Texarkana. We ran about 50 miles. This was my first ride of any distance since September and I was surprised at how ready I was to get home after such a short hop. I guess I’ve got to regain a little stamina.
Binky did pretty well. He got a little wiggly a few times, but always settled down. He’ll do just about anything as long as he’s with us. I couldn’t ask for a better little dog, and I’m looking forward to me, him, and Mrs. Sharon putting a lot of miles on the bike. It gives a whole new meaning to “the dog days of summer.”

- Guy Wheatley

Oct 5
Home at last
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Skinny Minnie napping.” width=

The ill-named Skinny Minnie cat naps on the back of the couch.

I got home yesterday (Tuesday) about 4:30 pm. I can’t lift anything. I’m still so sore it was all I could do to drag my cut up carcass into the house, which left it to Mrs. Sharon to do EVERY thing else. So, as I basically sat on the couch watching TV, still using my hands to delicately hold in my innards at every deep breath or cough, Sharon spent the rest of the evening hauling in stuff from the car getting supper and cleaning up what messes the cats had left.
We’d left them with sufficient litter pans, food and water to hold out for the 7 to 10 days we’d expected to be gone. We closed the door to our bedroom, to keep it off limits. But one of the cats managed to dart unseen through the door as we closed it the last time. This rotund ball of gray stripped fur goes by the ridiculous nom de plume Skinny Minnie. While the name fit when she first came to us, it has been many years since she could fit in her prom dress. I’d taken to calling her Fatty Patty, however Mrs Sharon nixed that name. So even as we watch her waddle down the hall, as wide or tall as she is long, we still call her Skinny Minnie.
It’s amazing how she can get that much fat moving so fast so quickly, but she can. And of course she picked the worst possible time to do it, darting unseen through a door that would remain closed for the next seven days.
As we opened the bedroom door, headed for blessed slumber, a much more svelte Skinny Minnie shot between our legs in a mad dash to the feeder and water dish. It became quickly obvious that we would not be sleeping in our bed this night.
Settling down in the guest bedroom, I lay in bed with the Yorkie friends who’d been keeping had returned a few hours earlier. We have a rug topped with towels on the bed, that are his bed. Sharon finished her chores and came to bed. Leaving her and the Yorkie, I went to the bathroom to start swapping and cleaning the various bags and tubes that will be my constant companions for the next 4 weeks. Just as I was finishing up, I heard a distressed, ‘Oh no! BINKY!” I guess there was just too much change and too much excitement for that little bladder. Sharon had stepped out of bed for just a second to grab another blanket. Binky stepped off his bed for some other business. On to the second guest bedroom, and our third bed for the night. Thus passed our first evening home.

- Guy Wheatley

Sep 22
Good for what ails you” width=

Take two rides and call me in the morning. Sometimes
a good ride is just what the doctor ordered.

Riding the bike has always been soothing for me, and now the drone of the engine and the wind in my face helps calm the fear waiting in the wings for an unguarded moment to pounce. The roughly four hours I spend in transit on each trip gives me time to come to grips with what is happening. It’s an opportunity to build some perspective and start coming to grips with it emotionally.
Back on the Valkyrie headed for Texarkana, I have an almost two-hour ride to digest what I’ve just learned. I may have fudged the speed limit a time or two hitting 80 mph or better as I circled around Shreveport on I-220. The furnace hot blast from this 105 degree day washing over me somehow feels good. For the next two hours I am a biker again. The frailty I’d felt drops away with a twist of the wrist. The 1500cc flat 6 howls my defiance through the 6 into 6 cobra pipes, and it seems that surely not even the big C can catch me while mounted on my powerful phat lady. I know it’s only an illusion, but it is one I will come to cherish more with each subsequent trip.
I just found out I have bladder cancer. Bummer.
The news is not all bad. The type I have is very aggressive, but it is confined to the bladder. With the removal of my bladder, the cancer will be gone. But so will my bladder. I suspect that may be a bit of an inconvenience.
Reviewing my options with my surgeon I decided to go for a more complicated procedure where he will make a new bladder for me from part of my intestine. Things will never be exactly the same, but within a year, I should be able to ride again. My surgery is scheduled for Sept. 27.
It may be several weeks before I’m able to blog again, but I do plan to be back pontificating my fingers off as soon as possible. I want to thank you folks who routinely submit yourselves to my mental ramblings. Your thoughts and prayers are welcome. In the meantime, take a ride and enjoy the wind in your faces for me until I can be back and do it for myself.
Until I see you on the road again, keep the rubber side down.

- Guy Wheatley

Sep 1
Gremlin Bell” width=

The Gremlin bell on my Valkyrie has so far kept the dreaded hydro-lock
demon at bay.

I’ve owned five different motorcycles. Several of them seemed plagued by a model-specific gremlin. The two bikes I presently have are good examples of this. I would guess that 80 percent or more of the technical talk on the Magna boards revolve around the carburetors. There is a well-documented “flat” spot in the Magna power curve commonly remedied by shimming the main jets with a couple of washers. But the real problem with the Magna carbs seems to be a tendency for the slow jets to clog up if the bike sits for even a short period of time with gas in it. Most folks on the Magna board are big proponents of a specific gas additive that is supposed to help keep the carburetors clean. I’ve experienced problems with mine after having it sit up for a couple of weeks. So far, I’ve been able to rectify the issue with gas additives.
The Valkyrie is also a Honda product with carburetors. It doesn’t seem to be as bad about clogging up as the Magna, but the model does have its own gremlin. The dreaded hydro-lock. It hasn’t happened to me, but I’ve seen it twice in the last three years on other bikes in the small groups of local dragon riders. The reason this issue gets so much attention is because of the potential it holds for expensive damage. I’ve seen several reports on the national Valkyrie board of a hydro-locked bike having teeth knocked off the fly-wheel or starter gear. Something that can do that much expensive damage is bound to get a lot of attention.
But as one poster pointed out, we get a false idea of the danger. Because it is such a scary problem, there is a lot of talk about it. But in actuality, the percentage of Valkyries with this problem is less than 1 percent. But it takes up a much larger percentage of the posts on the board, causing members to get the impression it’s much more prevalent.
But if you find a bike, or bikes, that holds a special place in your heart, then you find yourself loving them in spite of their flaws. Those peculiarities become part of the bikes’ “character.” A friend of mine, when comparing products or services, frequently says, “all dogs have fleas.” Paraphrasing, “all bikes have gremlins.”

- Guy Wheatley

Aug 3
Hot Riding
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Fire_Bike” width=

Photo illustration by Guy Wheatley
Trying to ride through July and August of 2011, it felt the bike was on fire.

I watched the meteorologists on TV predict a high of 105 degrees. I’m happy to say she was off by 3 degrees. Unfortunately she was on the low side. It hit 108 degrees. And I felt every degree of it riding to work. I usually ride to work, except in cases of extreme weather. Extreme weather usually means excessive precipitation or cold weather. Now I’m starting to consider adding heat to the list.
When the weather people tell you it was 108 degrees, they take the temperature from an official weather station. It’s gauges will be in a vented box, out of the sun, and away from large masses of concrete. So when the official temperature is 108 degrees, you can bet the air hovering over the strip of black asphalt in the middle of the concrete jungle we call a city will be at least 4 degrees higher. The air I’m riding through will be at least 112.
The human body tries to keep it’s core temperature at about 98.6. You can imagine the difficulty being engulfed in a constant stream of 112 air presents. Additionally, if the sun is shining on you, you are picking up additional radiant heat as well as the convective, atmospheric heat.
Somebody asked me if I had sweat pouring off of me while riding. The answer is no. While on the move, my clothes are usually dry and very little sweat drips into my eyes. But in the few minutes it takes to turn off the bike, grab my brief case and get to the door once I reach work, my shirt will be soaked. This tells me that I’ve been sweating during the ride, but that the hot air blowing over my body is evaporating it. That is a lot of water being sucked out of my body. And while I drink a plenty of water to stay hydrated, I’m losing salt and other electrolytes that water won’t replace.
The most direct evidence I have of the heat while riding is that my finger nails sting from the heat. It’s the same sensation I got when I ran a hair dryer over them, back in the days when I had enough hair to need a hair dryer. I may actually start wearing gloves to protect my hands. Maybe some welders gloves.
I’ll continue to ride the bike to and from work, and for short hops around town. But I won’t be making any long motorcycle rides until it cools down.

- Guy Wheatley

Jul 19
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Motorcycle Officers do thing with their bikes that seem to defy physics.

I’ve done quite a bit of PLP, or Parking Lot Practice, in my time. I did more as a new rider than I do now. It’s not that routine PLP wouldn’t continue to improve my skills. But as with most endeavors, it’s the recent convert who has the most zeal. I dropped my bikes several times in the first year. fewer in the second year, and no drops in the last several years. While I still realize in my head that I need practice, the lack of drops makes me less aware of that necessity in my gut.
I can handle my bike fairly well and have little trouble getting into or out of tight places. But lest I get too proud of myself, somebody posted a video online of a Police Motorcycle Rodeo held in Grand Prairie, Texas. The video identifies the contestant as Donnie Williams. Officer Williams takes his big Police Harley Davidson motorcycle around a course I’m not sure I could walk through with out knocking over cones. And he does it with rapid assurance. There are no timid starts, no uncertain wobbles. Just complete control of a large, powerful machine.
It would be tempting to think I’m watching a video special effect. But checking into it, I find these contests between police motorcycle officers is common, and while Officer Williams is at the top of his game, there are many other skilled police riders nipping at his heals. And to me, that is amazing. Apparently this level of almost superhuman skill is simply required of motor officers. I’ll tip my hat or helmet to any rider with those skills, police or civilian.
The skills demonstrated in these contests are far more impressive to me than the wheelies, stoppies and drifting I see from some in the sport bike crowd. They require far finer control of a larger machine, performing in the worst end of its operating envelope. These skills also come from real-world maneuvering conditions, and have practical application to safe riding.
Yep. It’s time for me to get in a little PLP.

- Guy Wheatley

Jul 11
Parking wars
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Mini-van in a striped zone.” width=

The driver of this mini-van used his handicap sticker as justification
for parking in the striped area.

I’ve noticed a lot of motorcyclists parking in the striped area at the end of a parking line or next to a handicap parking spot. In Texarkana this is a common practice, and I have yet to see or hear about anybody being ticketed for it. I’ve indulged in this myself several times, always being sure that I wasn’t blocking somebody. I was especially careful if it was next to a handicap space, being sure that any vehicle in that spot had ample room to load or disembark wheelchairs.
But even with everybody else doing it, and despite my efforts to be considerate, it still didn’t feel right. For one thing, I’m sure it’s against the law. For another, I may have trouble with my insurance company if I’m ever hit by another vehicle while parked, illegally, in a stripped spot.
The point was really brought home to me about a month ago when I headed to a local big-box store. As I parked in a stripped area at the end of a line and headed for the store, I noticed a vehicle parked in the stripped area next to a handicap spot. But this wasn’t a motorcycle. It was a minivan. It looked so funny sitting there, I grabbed my cell phone and took a photo. That’s when I heard an angry, “Hey!” I hadn’t noticed the driver still sitting in the van.
“I am handicapped,” I heard him assert. I just waved and went on into the store. My purchases complete I left by the same door headed for my bike, only to discover the driver now standing outside the van waiting for me to emerge. As he pointed an accusing finger in my direction, I heard him tell a passerby, “That (expletive deleted) took my picture!”
Very little of what followed is printable in this, or any family oriented, publication. The gist of it was he believed, by taking the photo, I was accusing him of wrongdoing, and that his disability justified his actions.
Without stopping, I assured him that I was not with law enforcement and had only taken the photo because it was an amusing sight. Unfortunately this didn’t satisfy him and as I loaded up and put on my helmet, he grabbed a shopping cart with one hand and his cane with the other and headed my way. His slow and unsteady progress gave both tribute to the severity of his disability, and hope to me of making an escape before his arrival. Alas, recalcitrant buckles on my saddlebags and helmet delayed my departure just long enough for the aggrieved party to arrive.
Through a blizzard of profanity, it was explained to me I was a narrow minded bigot, and he was actually doing me a favor. It was also suggested I do things with parts of my anatomy that I don’t believe were actually physically possible.
Keeping an eye on the cane to be sure it continued to be used as a tool of locomotion, and not a weapon, I tried to again explain that I had no legal authority, and had only snapped the photo because it was an unusual and amusing sight. As before, this did nothing to assuage his anger.
To avoid the necessity of explaining to friends how I’d been beaten up by a crippled guy, I decided to practice the better part of valor. I cranked up the bike and hauled my narrow-minded, bigoted tuckus out of there. I watched my mirrors to see if he’d try to get back to his van and give chase. He didn’t. The last time I saw him, he was still standing where I left him, making gestures in my direction that I would not describe as conciliatory.
I park in the regular spaces now. It’s less dangerous.

- Guy Wheatley

Jul 7
Cushman days
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Sixties era Chushmans” width=

Two Cushman vehicles, similar to ones I remember from my youth.

A friend recently attended a rally that featured vintage Cushman scooters. It’s hard to imagine the reaction the first buyers of those old machines would have had to the idea that he took pictures of them with his telephone. My first experience with a Cushman Vehicle was the ’60s era Truckster owned by a friend.
We lived in a small town in rural southeast Arkansas. I was 13 years old, and felt like the only kid in the county who didn’t own some sort of motorized transportation. This area was too spread out to realistically walk every where. At least half of the population of our town lived miles out in the country. The bayous, fishing holes, and hunting spots were also too far away to reach by foot. So most teens and preteens had use of a small motorcycle or scooter. But my pal Ricky had the absolute cadillac of Arkansas County adolescent transportation. A Cushman Truckster.
This thing had a cab with a bench seat. We could get three of our skinny little bodies in there without sitting on each other. And several more could pile into the back. Actually onto the back. All of the Trucksters I’ve seen at vintage shows had an actual truck bed behind the cab. Ricky’s had a hard top on it that we couldn’t remove. I’m not sure why. I never questioned it back in the day, having never seen anything different. So the less fortunate passengers selected to ride on the bed would cling to the rounded beast for dear life while Ricky showed us what that little 12-horse engine could do.
It had plastic doors that looked like shower curtains. Most of the time, these were rolled back and snapped in place. But if the weather threatened, Ricky could roll those things shut with snaps around the door frame to get away from the cold or rain. We’ve actually had four in the cab, and maybe could have gotten five if we’d been a little closer friends.
While my buds and I were roaming the county with Ricky, my future wife was hitching rides with one of her friends who had a Cushman scooter. This model had the long seat that ran all the way to the back. She says they could easily get three girls on it and thinks they may have had four on a couple of occasions. They lived in the little town of Tichnor, Ark., about nine miles to the east. I wasn’t around her enough in those days to witness any of her escapades, but I can just see three or four girls loading up on that thing and headed for the post office or restaurant for some ice cream.
We had fun with these things, but they weren’t really toys. They were serious transportation. If you played football or had any other extracurricular activity, you were going to need some way to get there and back home. The school bus didn’t run for those events. So parents either had to take you themselves, let you ride with somebody else or get you a way to get there on your own. I do remember a few crashes, but nothing serious. Nothing that didn’t heal. It would be years later, after we had our driver’s licenses and had passed the little scooters down to younger siblings, that I’d lose my first friends to vehicle accidents.
Those cell phone photos sure brought back memories. Those rugged little machines served my generation well.

- Guy Wheatley

Jun 10

Photo illustration by Brandon Wheatley
The view of me from the perspective of the male passenger in the car I
almost T boned.

I had to run to Kmart right after work. I was on the Magna that has only soft leather saddlebags and no trunk. This meant a trip home to drop off my laptop and briefcase as I had no way to lock them up while I was in the store.
Leaving my house, I turned off Wood Street onto West Eighth Street. The speed limit here is 45 mph. It was between 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. so the traffic was building to rush-hour volume. I was pacing traffic as we slowed approaching a mass of cars pulling through a traffic signal that had just turned green. I was in the far right hand lane on this three-lane street. We were less than halfway down the block approaching midway. The vehicle in the middle lane was just ahead of me. I was in his blind spot and decided to drop back a little. This proved difficult because we were both already slowing down due of the traffic ahead of us. I did manage to let the car get far enough ahead of me that he wouldn’t hit me with an unexpected lane change.
I noticed a car in the alley on the far side of the road with its bumper sticking out past the curb. I was sure it would cross the road using the alleys as soon as the pack of vehicles cleared that spot. As I was hugging the back of the pack, I wasn’t concerned with it. Even if the driver stomped the gas after the car ahead of me passed, it couldn’t be in my lane before I got past. But that’s not what the driver did.
The far left lane was empty, the last vehicle in it having passed the spot several seconds ago. Just as the front of the car in the middle lane came even with the spot, the driver in the alley accelerated across Eighth street. She had obviously, and correctly, calculated that the vehicle in the center lane would get clear before she reached the middle lane. Apparently she hadn’t seen, or allowed for, me on my bike trailing behind in the far lane.
Fortunately I had been watching her. I wouldn’t be here writing this blog if I hadn’t. But even so, I suddenly found myself in a bad spot. I’ve been in tough spots a few times in my life, and I’m always amazed at the way perception changes. I heard some describe it as, “time slowing down.” I understand why some might describe it that way, but don’t fully agree. It’s more like my brain begins to process thoughts differently. In normal times, I seem to go through a sequential process to reach an inevitable conclusion. In the stress times, I do away with a mental speech process and work with completed concepts. As the car pulled out, I was instantly aware that it would intersect my path resulting in my T-boning it. I didn’t bother forming the words in my mind, but moved immediately to the next impression. I was aware of how inadequate my situational awareness was. I wasn’t sure the lane to my left was clear from behind. Trying to go there to pass behind the car, even if I could make it, might put me in the path of another vehicle.
My body had reacted instinctively hitting both brakes. I became aware of a screeching noise and realized my back tire had locked up. Even as I accepted this information, my foot eased pressure and the squealing stopped. I remember being satisfied that there was no sudden jolt as the tire again found grip, meaning that my back end had not been fishtailing.
Another piece of data my brain found cause to store away was the fact the windows were open on the car. Temperatures were in the upper 90s and most drivers had the air condition running with windows up. It just struck me as odd that this car had both front windows down. I was also surprised that I could hear the occupants of the car. A young woman who appeared to be in her early 20s was driving. Her head was turned in my direction and she seemed to have been talking a male passenger about the same age. I didn’t make out her words, but watched in fascination as her mouth formed a perfect little O as her eyes widened when she saw me bearing down on them.
I had absolutely no chance to stop the bike before reaching the spot presently occupied by the car. But I did have hopes of slowing down enough to let her get out of the way. I remember mentally pleading with her to not hit her brakes. I also found her expression interesting. Her eyes seemed to be pleading with me to do something to somehow prevent the impending collision. Otherwise, she seemed frozen. That may have been fortunate, because she didn’t hit the brakes.
The male passenger had been looking at something in his lap. My screeching tires must have gotten his attention and caused him to look up. He would have seen me closing fast, aimed directly at his door. I heard the “Aaawwwwwww,” very clearly, but only caught the lingual consonant at the beginning of the next word before momentum carried him out of my path. It sounded like air escaping from a punctured tire.
I had been drifting left even as I continued to press the brakes. I was making eye contact with the driver and remember trying to give her a disgusted look that would convey the thought, “Lady, why did you do that?”
Then it was over. The road ahead of me was clear. I’d missed her car by little more than the thickness of a coat of paint. But that was enough to give me the chance to learn a lesson.
“Ride like they’re all trying to kill you,” a friend previously admonished me.
And on this day, it looked like she was.

- Guy Wheatley

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