Saturday, September 9, 2017

It's Been A Long Time Since I Rock and Rolled

It's been a long time since I rock and rolled...So said Robert Plant. It's been a long time since I've written here too. Life goes on, a lot the same, some changes, some changes coming. I haven't been riding much this year at all. Since the breakdown in the previous article, I've ridden very little. I guess I got used to AC in a car. In the interim, I've taken on some beasts where the outcome hasn't been finalized yet, but we'll see. More to come, so stay tuned, at least occasionally.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Unstoppable. Not

This happened back in January. Sorry for the late response. 

Unstoppable? Unstoppable. Unstoppable is the the marketing phrase or word used by BMW Motorrad to promote their motorcycles. Obviously, judging from the picture, such is not the case. Riding to work this past Wednesday I pulled away from a light and after shifting to second gear, the engine went to idle. Ok. Now what. No turn of the wrist would make the engine rev. Figuring that something in the throttle mechanism broke, I called roadside service and 4 hours later I was home. That's right. 4 hours. Luckily it was January and not July.

I disassembled the bike to get at the junction box for the throttle cables. Nothing broken there. I then got under the bike to look at the throttle pulleys and lo and behold, both were snapped off.

The offending part:

The best part was contacting BMW. The bike is out of warranty, but it's a weird problem to have, so I figured what the heck. They basically told me to have it repaired at a BMW dealer, send the receipt and they would let me know what they could do. Right. Over $1100 for the parts alone. That's right. The pulleys aren't sold separately, so the complete throttle body has to be replaced and that's X2, so at over $550 each, that's over $1100, plus labor, figure a couple hours billable. I found a pair of throttle bodies on eBay from a salvage with 20,000 miles on it for $250 plus shipping and included all the throttle linkage and fuel injection setup. The only other expense was the tool to remove the clamps on the throttle bodies and that was $35 shipped. So it was $300 total versus about $1400 at the dealer.

I was real sore at BMW for awhile and right about then gas prices tumbled so I've been driving my car to work. I just did a major service on the bike, so it's pretty much ready to go, although I have to bring it in for a recall on the rear wheel flange and it'll need a new tire in 1000 miles or so.

Life is good.

Thank you for reading this blog.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sometimes A Great Notion

It seems that good byes are getting more common and more difficult as time goes by. Today I learned that the younger of my older sisters passed away...Two months ago. Even with a recent estrangement, I have to say I feel very sad about this. My sister Paddy as she liked to be called was 19 years older than me. By the time I had any memories, she was already married and had two kids of her own. Still, having two sisters that are 19 and 20 years older than you is a lot like having three moms, especially if you are the youngest. I have a lot of fond memories of my sister, but there's one that sticks out in relation to this column. When I was about 5, I remember Paddy had a Yamaha 125. She used to come over and visit my parents house riding it, much to the chagrin of my mom. Paddy always had cool vehicles, like a 1965 442, a Jeep CJ-5 and the Yamaha.  I had always wanted a real motorcycle and when I was 18 I decided to buy one, without anyone's knowledge or consent. Well, I should say I attempted to. There was this blue 1980 Honda CB400T at Freeport Honda that I thought was just the thing. I put a deposit on it and for some reason I told my parents. What ensued can only be described as emasculating and went and got my deposit back. My sister Pat was upset and I remember her telling me that parents have their children's best interests at heart, but it's not always what's best for the child in the long run as how will we learn? She felt bad about what had happened and vowed that if she came into to money, she would buy me a motorcycle. That was never necessary as I bought my first bike some 7 years later anyway. My sister had a lot of spunk and spirit and she will be sorely missed. See you down the road sis.

Thank you for reading this blog. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

End of Day

Outside of my family I can count on one hand the people that have had a great impact or influence on me. In terms of motorcycling, one comes to mind and that is Stan Botway. You can read a little bit about Stan here as I have mentioned him before and I've also mentioned him in an article for the BMWMOA for their My First Bike column of June 2013. I had been thinking of Stan lately as I usually hear from him through email once a month and hadn't heard from him in a few months and decided to email him to see what's up. My heart sank a little when I received a rejection notice that his email address was unknown. I decided to send an email to the plethora of people that he would include on some of his emails, hoping for a quick response. In the meantime, I decided to do a simple Google search and found this. With my fears confirmed, I had wished I hadn't sent an email out asking if his other friends had heard from him. Then the onslaught began. Many of his friends knew he had passed away, but a surprising amount did not. What was more intriguing is the information passed along to me about their friendship with Stan. Some of which paralleled mine and some I had no idea existed. As Paul Harvey would say, "now you know the rest of the story." And I do now.  Stan was a colorful person that's for sure and to a person, no matter their point of view, all agreed he will be missed and he is. He did sort of have one last suggestion if not wish for me. Last year he advised me I should compile this blog into a book. May be I will take him up on it. In the meantime, here's to Stanley Leon Botway, friend. If there is an afterlife, I will see you down the road, if not, it was time well spent. Thank you.

A couple pictures of Stan in his prime:

Looks like the sidecar rig he tried to do a CC run

Classic Stan with BMW suspenders and cigarette in hand

Thank you for reading this blog

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Life Is Good

Life is Good is the sign off of one Greg Kinman, AKA, Hickok45 a shootist of the highest order that has a Youtube channel where he posts videos on his latest firearms test or just ramblings on a subject to do with firearms or gun rights. I like Greg or may be the perception I have of him. I think we would get along okey dokey and what impresses me most is a certain humbleness/ordinariness that comes across as genuine and I really believe he is grateful and expresses it at the end of his videos with "Life is good". Anyway, I digress greatly here.

For the last month I have been on assignment doing contract IT work in central Phoenix and not long after starting the job, I was told I couldn't use my motorcycle to come to work as I would have to go onsite to other locations of this particular business and may have to carry equipment. One, I wasn't told this before I started the job and two, it's rubbish for the most part, but I don't want to get too much into it as it would make me seem a complainer.  It is what it is and at least it's contract and I'll just find a gig where I can ride to work. That said, I'd never take a job where I couldn't ride. Anyway, the BMW has been sitting for over 3 weeks on the float charger, all alone in the garage. I've almost forgotten I had it and I went down to take a look see. I decided to wash it, which is a four times a year ritual and afterwards I sat on a 5 gallon bucket in front of the bike staring at it like a dog stares out a window focused intently on god knows what. In my case I actually thought, that really is a cool fucking bike. As much as I have bitched and moaned about the vagaries of how BMW deals with customers and common issues, BMW makes a very good and unique machine. Anyone that ventures into the Teutonic world of vehicular mechanization soon finds out there's a totally different mindset at work. One part anal, one part eccentric, one part genius and one part pazzo as we say in Italian. No motorcycle manufacturer gets the right combination of characteristics and attributes like BMW. The only other company that I think gets it is Apple Inc®.

So, I was sitting there admiring my motorbike and thinking that in spite of being underemployed, fat, middle-aged and bored out of my mind, life is indeed good. It could be a lot worse, has been and I am still here. There's a lot to be thankful for in this holiday season and there' was only one way I could make it better: Go for a ride. So I took the back way to Rio Verde and back, then rode the back side of the town in the hills and back home. I feel better already.

Thank you for reading this blog.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Get New Rubber, Lose The Juice

Well, I finally broke down and replaced my rear tire. Usually I replace in sets, but the front has a couple thousand left, back didn't as it was down to the wear bars and I am unemployed. Part of the impetus was that putting gas in the Suburban is killing me and I miss riding. So, I went to Mototire in Phoenix to have the rear replaced. The owner Danny was so fast that he had done before I paid for it. I've never seen someone change a bike tire that fast. Anyway, I thought I was home free. Fast forward to this morning. I had an appointment so I thought I would ride to it. The bike cranked a little slow, but I was off. I got about a mile and I stalled the bike. I thought, no problem, I'll just start it back up. Click. Oops...Seems I haven't ridden much in the last couple months and the battery must be weak. The first sign was the slow cranking. At this point I was frustrated, but happy I wasn't far from home. I decided to walk when someone pulled over and asked if I needed a ride. I happily said yes as it's uphill both ways going home and this would be faster too. I got the Burb and returned to the bike, jump starting it and riding it home. Once home, I rode a bicycle back to get the Suburban. Once back home, I hooked up the battery tender and hopefully I won't have to get a new battery, but it might be a good idea at some point in the near future. Now that this job is done, on to the next job, which is finding a job. All in a day's work I say...

Thank you for reading this blog.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Nothing to Report

Nothing new to report as I lost my job a month ago and needed new tires for the bike to boot. I thought I'd be re-employed by now, but as they say, hope springs eternal, but reality is a bitch. Hopefully I will have something more interesting to write about soon...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Space(d), the Final Frontier

Well, not the final frontier, but it could be, but may be I should back up a bit. The other day, I was riding to work and at one point I had no idea how I got from one point in my commute to another. It was like someone else was riding the bike. I experience this from time to time in a car, but I never have experienced this on a bike. It's not like I blacked out, but that my riding must have been autonomic. In martial arts, this is known as Mushin or "no mind".  What bothers me is that while nothing bad happened, would my "no mindedness" react properly to negative circumstances, or not because I was actually spacing out. It would be nice to believe the former, which is a state attained by a highly trained body, mind and soul. Not given to fits of egotism, my first suspicion is the latter, which is I was spacing because I was tired...or may be something else? May be my commute has become so mundane and I have done it so many times or enough times that on some level the ride has become autonomic. In a car this isn't quite as critical being surround by metal and safety glass. On a bike, exposed to everything around a rider, which can be everything from concrete, steel, asphalt, cars and barrel cactus, the results of a close encounter of the sixth kind could be out of this world. Due to my size and the effects gravity has on my body, I thoroughly eschew cycle-astronautical training.

So, that leaves me with one question: What the hell happened?

Thank you for reading this blog.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Final Drive: A Dream Deferred

Have you ever had a dream deferred?

This was a question that came into my head as I was commuting down the Beeline one morning when the air was still cool enough and traffic was light enough that I could not only think such thoughts, but get into a nice rhythm at speed that wouldn't be possible on the return commute home. Humans may not be the only animals to dream, but we are probably the only ones to make them come true or not. Some dreams are simple, like a cross country trip on our motorcycles feeling the freedom of the road and living in both the moment and the naked environment, curve after curve with soaring vistas of amber waves of grain, purple mountains majesty and waves crashing on beaches that never end. Some of our dreams are more mundane, like having an empty and quiet house, getting the parking spot closest to the building at work or getting the last peanut M&M in the bowl. Others may have more serious pursuits, like finding a soul mate, the perfect job, career or to be happy. Some dreams come true, many do not. Failure becomes the sadness that nourishes regret and yet we still have dreams in our hearts that fester to the point that they can rot like stinking meat in our souls that prevent us from moving on to greater dreams and possibilities. May be the idea of taking that cross country trip doesn't mean what it did when we were 30 years younger, doesn't fit reality anymore and yet we still hang on to the notion of being a Charlie Boorman or Ewan MacGregor. Or may be we think that a S1000RR is all we need to have to feel young again. May be it will. Who am I to say and it's a small dream really.

Have you ever had a dream deferred?

Besides wanting a real motorcycle, one of my early dreams was to become a Chiropractor. My Chiropractor was also one of the major influences in getting me into motorcycling and he impressed me enough that I thought that I might like being a Chiropractor too. Stan lived a good life and he would take off 4-8 weeks a year and go hither and yonder all over North America on a motorcycle with his lovely wife Missy. Stan was a top notch Chiro I trusted and a friend.  Unfortunately the weight of the dream came sagged under the load of 5 hours of organic chemistry labs and exploded after meeting the very lovely and intelligent Miss Jean Ribarich and after which I was side tracked enough that my grades suffered and precluded me from pursuing that dream further. All of it was my fault and that dream died rather quickly on the vine.

Have you ever had a dream deferred?

My next dream was to become a journalist. I got into New York University's Arthur L Carter Graduate School of Journalism. A really top notch school for that field and just as expensive as it sounds too. Halfway through my studies my mom became terminally ill and money became tight as well. I never completed my studies there. I had dreams of becoming a moto-journalist, something that festered for a long time after leaving the school. A year later I met my future wife and a year and half after that we were married and the rest as they say is history. Festering is a good word as I always felt like I had unfinished business. The years passed and I had been working in IT for a long time when I felt I should give it a second look as what I was doing wasn't it. The digital age was upon us and blogging was and is a way to at least feel like I am writing in a public way.  The thing is, so is everyone else and realistically, what makes my voice in this crowded wilderness any better than someone else? It's a sobering thought and an honest one too. To that end I am still here, but no Pulitzer or paychecks have been forthcoming. I guess consistency has its own reward. This dream seems to drying up like a raisin in the sun.

Have you ever had a dream deferred?

 I've had other dreams too. Some die very hard under the weight of reality. A few years back I had the wonderful idea I could compete in the Iowa Games in the Strongman competition. I had seen it the year before and I thought that I could do that if I worked out hard. I am a big guy and had experience with weights (may be I should have been a trainer) and I thought it was possible. I wanted to be the next George Foreman, defying society's conventions of age and I wanted to be a champion at 48. After doing what was a combination of bodybuilding and power-lifting routines for 8  months, I hit a wall. Actually, I didn't hit a wall, but I found my limitations the hard way. After doing farmer's walks with 150lb dumbbells, I found I couldn't do incline dumbell presses with my left arm. When I say I couldn't do it, it was because it didn't work. My mind told my arm to press, but nothing happened. Long story short, it didn't get better by itself and I would have to get a 3 level cervical fusion and my strongman days were over at 48. I hit the trifecta with stenosis, bone spurs and bad disks. The doc basically said, don't do that anymore and I haven't. At 51, that dream is dead and buried.

Have you ever had a dream deferred?

So now I am looking for the next dream, hopefully unencumbered by past ones. Sometimes old dreams hold us back and we need to let go of the past to create a possible future. May be it will be simple and sweet, like the small joys we experience every day which can be as simple as getting one's face in the wind or may be it will be as grand and daring as anything I have tried before. At the very least I will be writing here. Stay tuned. Independence Day is upon us.

Thank you for reading this blog.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Final Drive: Believe

Believe. Do you believe? What do you believe? The sound of Josh Groban singing the hit single from the movie, Polar Express, comes to mind as I write this. I do not mean think or know or hope, which are different concepts in my mind. Somewhere in the bible it says "as a man believes in his heart, so he is" (For those that need to know, it's Proverbs chapter 23, verse 7). There are many contexts to this. When you are entering a right hand decreasing radius downhill turn too hot, do you believe you will make it through? Have you had moments when you are in over your head on a bike, does belief pull you through or is just luck, skill or a combination or all three? Imagine jumping out of a plane with a parachute. Do you know it will open, believe it will or just hope? Personally, I skip the skydiving altogether. Jumping out of a perfectly good plane is totally beyond belief to me.

Beliefs can be built upon knowledge and with the above examples, practice can give the foundation of believing as it were. But there are situations in our lives where believing doesn't have a foundation in knowledge and praxis per se, but the other way around. We use facts and limited experiences to justify what we believe. This is a much more common occurrence than one would believe and sometimes with dire consequences, most times just expressions of our ignorance. What's even more unbelievable to some is that marketing and sales people use this this knowledge,  some would say against us, or just to their advantage. Whatever the case, it can be amusing to watch and sometimes deflating to experience cognitive dissonance with regard to our beliefs. No, George Washington didn't chop down a cherry tree as related in Parson Weems' fable, there is no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny either. Our society seems bent on creating narratives that at best are untrue and at worst foment a hypocrisy that makes one wonder if anything we are told is true. At this point you are probably wondering where I am going with this. Believe me, you'll have to wait.

Speaking of marketing, sales and beliefs, an important part of all this is something called Top Of Mind Awareness or TOMA. When you think of mobile phones, what comes to mind? May be iPhone or Verizon? When someone says soft drink, what comes to mind? Coca Cola? Pepsi? When someone says motorcycle, what do you thing of first? Harley Davidson? This is TOMA. Along with these brand icons comes along a narrative that companies create, develop and promote in order to elicit emotions, usually and hopefully positive ones that either encourage you to purchase their product and if not, have it in the top of your mind when such a product class is mentioned. Sometimes groups of people that believe the narrative promoted by the manufacturer get together and form clubs. Sometimes they are called fans, true believers, Kool-Aid® drinkers, etc. Whole industries have grown around this, particularly journalism, which purports to report objectively about things, whether politics, homes or gardening and motorcycles too. In turn, advertising money is spent in these publications by said brands and the merry-go-round spins happily around. Like in the Wizard of Oz, what happens if we look behind the curtain or in Matrix talk, take the Red Pill?

I usually do not subscribe to being a fan of anything, at least not in the last 10 years or so. The closest that I came was with Apple computers. I worked with them every day and not only did I believe they were the best, but somehow they had powers beyond what the facts supported. I still like them a lot and think (or believe) that the Mac operating system is the best that is out there right now. Magical? No. I've also looked at BMW motorcycles the same way in that the brand represents quality and quality that is above what other motorcycles not only represent, but are in reality. Sometimes reality challenges that narrative and cognitive dissonance ensues. BMW's narrative is "Unstoppable". Really. I haven't had any day ending problems on mine, but since owning one, it's become apparent that BMW's are less than "Unstoppable". I would read about the common problems: Failed final drives, fuel pump controllers and fuel strips on boxer based bikes (newer machines have leaky water pumps and switchgear that breaks eventually unless it is caressed with the lightest of touches). Even I had fuel strip failure and even felt like I was part of an inner circle of those with failed fuel strips, some of whom have had as many as 7 failures. Then a series of events in the last few weeks hit home. An owner of a 8 month old K1600GT had a fuel pump failure. OK. BMWs come with a 3 year/36K mile warranty, so it should be fixed. Well, BMWNA refused to replace the fuel pump under warranty because he didn't have enough mileage on it. You read that right. Since he only had 2000 miles in 8 months, BMW deemed he didn't ride it enough and it was his fault, due to his neglect that the fuel pump failed. Around the same time, a fellow BMWMOA member was having leaking seals problems with his R1200GS, I believe it is a 2005 model. It's been repaired under warranty and on his dime several times. BMWNA said that the problem was a defective engine block and it wasn't worth fixing because an engine costs $9000 and the bike is worth may be $8-9000. OK. So they offered him $2500 off a new one. The owner felt it was low and decided to go on a email campaign with the help of friends from the BMWMOA to persuade them to chip in a little more because the cost to him in dollars and inconvenience. They came back with a offer of $1200+ to buy it back and stern warning to those that participated in the email campaign:

BMW Motorrad: Hi Rxxxx, thanks for your opinion on the situation. We have provided what we feel is a reasonable solution and you have declined to accept it. We ask you to refrain from encouraging other fans to email members of the BMW staff because it may limit the response time for your fellow Motorrad community members who may have a problem or concern that needs solving. You are free to post on the main BMW Motorrad page however in future, if you continue to promote your situation on other BMW Motorrad users posts, we will have to delete them.

The arrogance of the BMW staff. What was more surprising is that a lot of beemer riders sided with BMWNA. Some called my acquaintance names because they believed he was looking for a freebee. Understand that BMW admitted the engine was defective and the owner had a lot of documentation of dealer repairs. Normally I thought most beemer riders were more logical than other motorcycle riders and didn't fall prey to narratives, Kool-Aid® drinking or other fanatical behavior. I was wrong. In fact they will put up with poor customer service and problems with their bikes that I don't even see with Harley Davidson riders or Harley Davidson bikes,  but in Harley Davidson's defense, I've heard from owners that say they get treated very well by dealers and the MoCo. My Kawasaki's and friends that own them (I am a member of the Vulcan Bagger Association) have had much fewer problems while outlaying much less cash.

So, the bloom is off the rose, there is no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny and BMW Motorcycles aren't Unstoppable. Rather than wallow in cognitive dissonance, I would rather face reality for what it is: BMWNA is a faceless corporation that cares more about it's pennies than doing what is right. Got it. Check that one off. So, at this point, what I believe is based on experience as opposed to believing a narrative that isn't based on experience or any other facts. I guess they could say that their narrative isn't that they give the best customer service in the world. Fair enough, but I've never seen a company dig in its heels like this one. It's like doubling down on wrong.

So, what do you believe?

Thank you for reading this blog.