30 June 2011

Coming And Going At June's End-

So, let's see...
What's happened that I haven't shared with you?

UPS Tim passed his Private Pilot Helo check ride!
And just in the nick of time too, thanks to Clarke. Tim had scheduled himself in the Robinson Factory Safety Course, which he needed to complete in order to be insured while carrying a passenger in the R22. We finished his training and started looking for a DPE, (Designated Pilot Examiner) to give him the check ride. One DPE I knew had just resigned from the position. Another (Clarke) was off chasing MidWest floodwaters with his company helicopter, and recommended we call the FAA and tell them of our predicament. One of my old friends at the FAA couldn't do it because he had no time in the R22. Another called and left me a message to call him back, and when I did it he didn't return my call. (Four un-returned calls!)

So we were in a fix. Tim had already paid the non-refundable fee and needed the license in hand to attend the course. But Clarke passed through the area and, realizing our problem, worked Tim into his schedule. Tim passed with little difficulty, then immediately DROVE to L.A. to attend the course! He's back home now, wearing brown and a smile.
Of course I'm proud of him!

The annual goose roundup went with little in the way of a hitch. Thunderstorms in the area worried us and actually delayed our flying for half a day, but otherwise it was a fun, safe, efficient operation this year. (The geese don't think it's much fun).

I've been riding one bike or another to work so long as the weather allows. The routine is to check out the forecast before I leave home at 6 P.M., and if I can make it to work without getting wet I have been riding in, knowing that the likelihood of rain will be slim in the cool of the morning but increase when the sun comes up. I try to ride each of the bikes at least once a week to keep batteries charged and engines exercised. I've only driven four wheels to work six or so times in June and I've been lucky so far...
I've had to wait out morning showers twice, then drove home on damp roads with spray being kicked up to soil the bikes, but I haven't had to ride home in the rain... yet.
Oh well. When it happens, I have rain gear and I know how to use mild, soapy water, then wax on a motorcycle.
Sara Jean has been along on the six cylinder 'Wing on several rides of around 200 miles through the countryside.
Beautiful. We both LOVE it.

So here we are. Tomorrow is July.
Time has flies.
How's by you?

26 June 2011

The World Is Going Crazy

This city desert makes you feel so cold...
It's got SO many people but it's got no soul and it's taken you so long to find out you were wrong when you thought it held everything.

How I love that song!
I often listen to it as I ride "In the wind" to work, meeting another car or bike on the road every five minutes or so.

So many people.
No soul.

25 June 2011

Keith! Keith! Keith!

Our long nightmare is over.
He'll be on the "Current TV" Network.
(I think that's channel 124,007 on your TV dial.)
He's gonna set the world on fire.

19 June 2011

Which Came First- The Train Whistle, Or Insomnia?

Dan asked if I could work a couple days for him so he could go to the Viet Nam Helicopter Crewmember's Association meeting and dinner.

I hate working days.
But I want Dan to go enjoy his meeting. Dan is ALWAYS there for me when I need time off, so I've gotta be there for him too.

So Friday night I set my alarm for 5 A.M..
I'm normally beginning to think about hitting the sack then.
No real person is just getting out of bed at 5 A.M..
I hit the hay at 9 P.M., grabbed my copy of "Proficient Motorcycling", read a chapter, then rolled over. Sleep came quickly.

My eyes are wide open. I squint them to clear my vision and look at the face of the clock/radio...
2:20, and I'm wide awake.
I turn to lay on my back and take a deep breath. A storm is supposed to arrive just about the time I leave for work. I listen for the sounds of thunder.

We've talked about how bad my job has been for my hearing. Flying helos over 43 years has destroyed my high-frequency reception. I can no longer hear the dog whine.
Or certain sounds my cell phone makes.
Or Sara Jean talking, sometimes. (Often.)

But I CAN hear the drumbeat of an approaching helicopter.
Or the sound of distant thunder.
Or the sound of a big radial engine.
Or the similar sound of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Or... the sound of a diesel locomotive on the tracks half a mile from our house.

I can hear the low, quiet hum of Sara Jean almost snoring as she peacefully sleeps. But over that comforting sound I hear, almost feel, the sound of huge pistons compressing and igniting diesel fuel.
How far away is it?
How long before I hear the train whistle blow as the train approaches the intersection where our road crosses the tracks?

Before 5 A.M. the engineers cheat when they blow their horns, God bless 'em.
As they approach an intersection they are supposed to blow LOOONNNNG, LOOONNNNG, SHORT, and then as they enter and go through the intersection, another LOOOOOOONNNNGGGG blast.
(It's the letter "Q" in Morse Code, but I don't think that has anything to do with anything.)
Maybe BZ or some other railroad fan can give us a clue?

I listen for what seems like ten minutes before I hear the whistle, and this engineer is a good neighbor...
There is a long row of houses right next to the tracks at this intersection, so his signal is about 1/3 the volume it will be in mid-day. It makes ya smile to think these guys are thinking of folks in bed in those homes.
What an odd feeling...
I really should be sleeping, but I'm not discontent... comfortably lying in my bed listening to someone at work, being considerate of his neighbors.

I hear two more trains pass. They too cheat on the volume of their horns as they go through the intersection.
Of course I don't remember going back to sleep.
What I DO remember is the alarm going off at 5 A.M..
I HATE working days!
(I hope you had a great time at the VHCMA dinner, Dan! )

18 June 2011

"Re" Words

I wondered out loud-
"What are we 're-creating' when we participate in recreation?"
My wise Auntie responded, "Well, you're certainly recreating muscle tissue. You may also be de-stressing and recreating mental sanity and calm."
Made sense.

So now Anthony Weiner has resigned.
"Re-signed" what?
How does quitting equate with signing for another hitch at something?

I think I "re-sent" that use of the word.

13 June 2011

Let's Play "Political Aspirations".

Official unemployment is just under 10%.
I've seen studies that place REAL unemployment at somewhere between 18 and 25%.
Groceries, gasoline, and other sources of energy are taking off, and Dems are now chatting-up a possible $1.00 per-gallon tax on gasoline to see how we all react.
Housing is in the toilet and it looks like that toilet is about to be flushed.
We've been through "the recovery summer" last year with no relief, and it looks like there is little or no chance of another "Quantitive Easing" to pump more fiat currency into the economy in order to get its heartbeat back into a normal rhythm.
Frankly, the outlook is grim. I've been laughing at the Lame-stream media's attempts to belittle the Republican presidential candidates with their "Who can beat Obama?" mantra...
If the economy doesn't get turned around, and SOON, Gilbert Gottfried could beat him.

So let's play a little game, shall we?
Let's say my fears come true and the economy continues to tank. At some point Obama's numbers, (already below 50% approval), will be so bad even his most devout supporters will realize he is unelectable.
What then?
Who will step forward to run against him in the primary?

Perennial kook Dennis Kucinich will surely throw his hat in the ring.
Hillary? She hasn't hurt herself too badly in her job as Sec. of State, so she could certainly stick her toe in the water.
Another possible candidate I was thinking might try for another run at it is Jerry Brown...
I think he's now fully realized the HORRIBLE shape California's economy is in...
He's even begun to say things that anger Union workers there, for heaven's sake!
How could he get out from under the yoke of the California economy and the coming disaster there?
By being a hero and stepping forward to clean up the mess Obama has made!

And let's see...
There's a congresscritter in New York that will soon be out of a job that could also run as "Bill Clinton II", isn't there?

I think it's a distinct possibility that BOzo could have a primary challenger.
Can you think of anyone else that might step forward?

11 June 2011

24 Hours In France.

It's now about half over.
If, like me, you enjoy endurance racing, or if you're just a Corvette nut, you might enjoy going here for a quick look, or a long stay.
(200 miles per hour at night! EGADS.)

Details, Details.

It's a strange feeling...
It does what it was designed to do VERY well.
The engine is smooth as silk, quiet, and powerful enough to propel that huge lump of metal, rubber, and plastic at a rate that can scare ya real good. I had Don put a new set of speakers in the armrests you see back there where Queen Sara Jean resides, and the system reproduces music so crisp and wonderfully I'm hearing sounds I've never before heard in some of my favorite "Classic Rock" tunes.
I've been driving it on the 64 mile round-trip journey to/from work. I've been disciplined and have kept my speed at or below the 55 m.p.h. speed limit, and I've checked two full tanks of gas...
Forty-one miles-per-gallon, which ain't bad for a machine with an engine powerful enough to motivate any small car.

I've started calling it "Galactica", named after the Battlestar in the series of the same name that my son and I religiously watched together while he was still living at home. It's an appropriate name for something so big and ponderous, I think. But it's odd...
I have no real affection for this "bike" yet, and wonder if I'll ever develop a personal connection with it as I have with other machinery that has served me well.
Maybe fondness will come after we've been out on the road comfortably eating up the miles. We'll see, and I'll let ya know.

I'm at work tonight and there are Thunderstorms lurking out there, so we pulled the BK117 into the hangar to protect it from the wind that was already whistling around, and the hail that MAY come when the Thunderstorms are overhead. Now when the phone rings and my Communications Specialist asks, "Can you go to....?", I laugh before she even has the name of the destination out of her mouth.
"WHAT?! Do you want to kill us?!"
And she laughs and says what I already know... they have no choice. They have to call even when they know I'm 99% likely gonna turn them down. And that's what'll happen for the rest of this night/morning, probably.

Anyway, with the aircraft in the hangar and the likelihood we'll go out tonight and "kick death in the ass" bein' pretty slim, I set about doing something I've dreaded since I bought the thing...
Detailing the six-cylinder GoldWing.
There are little places on this bike that have their own little places. Everything is covered in little plastic panels, and it's one of the things I hate about this machine...
Ya can't see what makes it work. You can see the camshaft covers on the engine, but you can't see the carburetors. You can't see the transmission. You have to strain to look behind the hard bags to see where the driveshaft meets the rear wheel.
The motorcycles I have owned up to this point had all their workings exposed, and you could go to a spray car wash and hose 'em all down to get the dust/road mist off 'em.
Not this thing. Plastic covers hermetically seal everything.
Who knows what's behind those covers?!

So I got a pail of water and put a little "Dawn" dishwashing liquid in it, and started washing one little piece of plastic at a time, then rinsing it, and then using this product to lay a coat of wax on.
(I can recommend it, particularly when you're able to do one little part at a time.)
You just spritz it on while the finish is still wet, then use a towel to wipe the wax/water mix off. It leaves a coat of carnauba wax behind and shines just fine.
It took me about an hour to finish the job and I have to say, I'm quite pleased with the finished product.

Clean and shiny, "Galactica" is an impressive machine sitting there, waiting and hoping along with me that the rain is long-gone before we head for home in the morning.
Now, I like lookin' at it.
Who knows...
I may learn to care about the darn thing after a while!

09 June 2011

Intelligent Life?

This is what passes for intelligent discourse in some places.
Challenge someone to "put their money where their mouth is", and they insult you.

Updated, 11 June:
The thing that scares the puddin' out of MSM regurgitaters like Paul is discussed in this post and the comments following.
They're scared of her because she has "flyover country" common sense and makes fools of them at nearly every turn.
That's why Paul and his ilk, when asked why they don't like Palin, can only respond, "She's an airhead".
Except if Paul got into a discussion with her, she'd separate him from his stones, (providing he has a pair!)

06 June 2011

Indescribable Courage

I'm posting this at 1 A.M. local time. I'll be quite interested to see how much attention is paid to the anniversary of the D-Day invasion by our major media sources today.
Two things can quickly bring me nearly to tears when I dwell on them-
Thoughts of the guys in the landing craft approaching Omaha beach, looking at the high ground they'd be facing when they started their beach crossing...
And the Eighth Air Force guys that knew they had something like a 25% chance of being shot down each time they departed on a mission, and therefore had very little likelihood of succeeding in completing the 25 flights they needed to log in order to muster home, yet they nevertheless climbed into those lumbering bombers and went out to try to preserve the freedoms their loved ones back home enjoyed.

If we are not regularly reminded, we'll soon forget.
And we ARE NOT being regularly reminded.

BZ's Dad, my Dad, my Uncle Garlin, and all that generation of men who knew first-hand what evil there is in this world-
Thank you. God Bless you.

05 June 2011

Feeding Our Addiction

It was a wonderful find, and came about simply because I am "frugal".
I LOVE Arabica coffee. We had almost always before had good luck with WalMart's "Great Value" branded goods. Here was an Arabica coffee carrying that label, and it was THE CHEAPEST COFFEE IN THE STORE.
I bought a can.
We loved it. Recommended it and served it to our friends who also loved it.
So now comes the next chapter and I know you've probably experienced it too...
They don't carry it anymore.
And the stuff they've replaced it with sucks.

"New and improved!"
That phrase almost always means, "More profit for us!"
Give me back "Old and unchanged", please.

04 June 2011

eBay. Again.

"Honey, would you kill me?"
"Are you looking at motorcycles again?"

I was.
And there I found an absolutely perfect 650cc BMW going for WAY less than I thought it was worth. I put it in my "watch list", then realized it was listed "no reserve", and it was gonna find a new home within the hour.

It would be an eight hour drive to pick it up.
"Well, if you REALLY want it, bid on it!"
(God Bless my wonderful wife.)
I decided to watch and see how the bidding went.

With two minutes left the bid jumped $65.00.
With 90 seconds left it went up another $100.
With a minute left the number changed by another $100.
Two guys were now showing they were REALLY interested in this bike.
Thirty seconds before bidding closed one of 'em rounded the bid up to the next even thousand dollars.
And the clock ticked down to zero. The bike sold for $465 more than the asking price just two minutes before bidding ended, an increase of about 25% in that short time.

My wife sighed in relief.
And actually, I did too.

03 June 2011

A Day On Pizza Bike

Is there a Swiss Army Knife of motorcycles? If so, I want one.

The forecast for yesterday was spot on-
Mostly sunny, 92 degrees, relatively low humidity, chance of rain... almost non-existent.

I was looking at a day of driving here and there to cover necessary errands, culminating in attendance at a going-away party for a couple fellow workers. Sara Jean couldn't come along, so it was a good day to roll out the Italian Stallion and let its 90-degree V-Twin bark. At the end of the day I had spent over five hours in the saddle, covering a total of 210 miles.

Two days ago Sara Jean and I spent the afternoon touring the scenic countryside on the six-cylinder GoldWing. It was impossible to not compare the two machines.

The GoldWing is a two-wheeled automobile. Heavy and a handful at a walking pace, the heavy feeling disappears as soon as you can put your feet on the pegs. The full fairing protects you from the wind. The engine is butter-smooth and the exhaust note is nearly non-existent. The stereo has no noise to compete with, and AC/DC never sounded better on the newly installed rear speakers. The electronic cruise control works the same as it does in your car.
And there's the true comparison...
It's a wonderful ride. But is it motorcycling?

On the Guzzi my head is slightly above the windscreen and my face shield is exposed to the passing air. The wind doesn't batter my body, but I need to clean bug entrails from my face shield when I stop to refuel.
At idle the mirrors are useless...
Engine vibration makes them dance so badly you can't use 'em. That vibration mostly goes away above 2500 rpm...
There is always a slight buzz in the handgrips and footpegs. On Pizza Bike you can never forget there is a MOTOR on this motorcycle. It has a muted exhaust note... a pleasant staccato sound. Couple that with the fact that half my head is up in the breeze and you can see a stereo system would be useless on this bike.

At the end of the day when I finally swung my leg off the Guzzi I was a little sore and stiff in my saddle, but I had a smile on my face. And I can see why folks like Jay Leno and Billy Joel have a collection of motorcycles...
And the answer to my question at the start of this post is obvious.
No, there is no Swiss Army Knife of motorcycles. They are all compromises with different goals. GoldWings are called "slab burners" for a reason...
Heavy, comfortable, stable and quiet, the "two-wheeled car" description is exactly what they strive for. You're still "in the wind", but the rest of the experience is as car-like as Honda can make it.

The Guzzi is a motorcycle. It's crude in many ways, but the experience is much like riding a horse...
It snorts. It demands your constant attention. At the end of a ride you are saddle-sore. And if you're a true motorcyclist, like me, you'll have a smile on your face.

So how many motorcycles are needed to cover all the uses of that Swiss Army Knife?
For me, adding a couple more to the stable would do it.
I'd like a small, (250cc?) naked bike to use for zipping around town. (Maybe even one of these new scooters?) I'd like an enduro style motorcycle of 350cc's or so to use for off-roading. I think my bases could all be covered by those four bikes.
But I know that once I had those four I'd start thinking about refining each of the categories and there'd be a real temptation to add to the inventory. Licensing and insurance would be a problem for anyone without Jay Leno's income stream.

To my fellow cycle-crazo's out there...
What bikes would be in your perfect corral?