July 2008


I hate to say it for fear that I might jinx it – but I think the pendulum has swung. Things are going the way they said they would. The detectives have leads and bolts are backing out.

fingerprints

I got a call from the police department this afternoon. It seems they pulled some kids over in Canton, about 20 minutes west of here. In the car they had the license plate from a bike that had been stolen on the same night and in the same area as mine. For some reason they didn’t hold the kids – one of them even had warrants out for his arrest. (nice police work there, Lou) But the police think they may have been the people that took my bike as well. We got some good finger prints and these kids will show up again, so we’ll just have to be patient.

The thieves broke the bikes’ ignition and I have to replace it. My repair manual was in one of the cases that wasn’t returned, so I was bit lost trying to remove the switch. I was able to get everything (fairing, instrument cluster and head light assembly) removed and get to the bolts that hold ignition in place. Then I hit a snag – there was no head on the bolts to grab. It turns out that as a safety feature, when the bolts are set to the proper torque the heads shear off so they can’t be removed. I read some about how to get them out and they needed to be drilled. This sounded like too much for me and I seriously considered taking it into the shop at this point. I went down to the machine shop at work and talked to the crew to get some advice. They said it would be easy and hooked me up with a punch and a set of left handed drill bits. I had my doubts, but I also had time before the part arrived, so I figured I’d give it a try.

I used the punch to make a little divot for the drill to bite into and I started drilling. To my total amazement the bolts backed right out. That NEVER happens.

Today was supposed to be the day
Molecules decide to change their form
Laws of physics lose their sway
Youthful indiscretion now is suddenly the norm
With the good kids sprouting horns, yeah yeah
And today was supposed to be

Not just another day
Today was supposed to be

Opposite Day

~ Andrew Bird ~

Here’s a picture of what the bike looks like right now. I have the fairing and instrument cluster taken off in order to get to the ignition. It scary to have it apart like this -and for so long. The parts I ordered should be in by Friday.

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I found this on the inetrnet today in an article titled “15 reasons Why Mr Rogers was Best Neighbor ever. Please, don’t ask why I was reading it. 

He (Mr Rogers) made thieves think twice. According to a TV Guide piece on him, Fred Rogers drove a plain old Impala for years. One day, however, the car was stolen from the street near the TV station. When Rogers filed a police report, the story was picked up by every newspaper, radio and media outlet around town.

Amazingly, within 48 hours the car was left in the exact spot where it was taken from, with an apology on the dashboard. It read, “If we’d known it was yours, we never would have taken it.”

Sound Familiar?

Getting the bike back

Unbelievable. My motorcycle is back under the house. There’s some damage, but it could have been a lot worse.

Ultimately, I have Shannon and Michelle to thank for it. It was Michelle who contacted the TV and news papers. She got me on the 6, 11 and morning news and in two different papers. Then there was all the folks and KLRWorld.com, ADVRider.com and KLR650.net that not only vowed to keep an eye out for it and dole out a little vigilante justice, but I got offers to use peoples garages and body shops. The way the community pulled together behind this was overwhelming to say the least. I owe everyone a huge thank you. Heres a link to story in the Citizen-Times

One my favorite responses came from Po-Sloke:
“Ever heard the one about the guy who they found at the lake bottom with 600 lbs of chains around his neck ? Well , the Coroners cause of death report says ” The fool stole more chains than he could tote or swim with ” . I think this guys needs some swimmin’ lesson too huh ? “

It went down like this: On Friday night I couldn’t sleep and was up looking for another used KLR on the internet when the phone rang. It was the police. They had found my bike! My head about exploded. I’m a bit of an optimist so I grabbed my helmet, keys and jacket and we rushed down to the stock yard about 1/4 mile from the house. The bike had been pushed into a stall – and all things considered, it wasn’t in bad shape. The ignition had been smashed, the bags were gone and the kick stand spring was gone so the stand flopped around.

I was able to get the key down into the debris in the ignition and turn it. The lights came on! I pushed the starter button and it turned over but wouldn’t start. I was so worked up I had forgotten to choke it! Once I choked it it started right up. I rode it about 10 feet and it started to die, then it quit all together. My heart sank. I looked down and realized that the kick stand had fallen down – and if the bikes in gear with the stand down the engine automatically cuts off. I took off my belt and strapped the stand up and was able to ride it home. Thats just amazing to me.

fingerprinting

Saturday morning Officer Mark from CSI Asheville came by to get prints off the bike. He got a clean set so we’re optimistic.

Because of the condition of the bike and where it was left, it looks to me like some kid that lives around here stole it. When I parked it, I had 127 miles on the tank. When I got it back it 134 – They rode it 7 miles. I think they were scared to ride it around. Because of all the coverage in the news he got scared and dumped it where we’d find it.

This isn’t a story about me and my motorcycle, it’s really is a story about the community. They supported me and thats why I have my bike back. I’m a regular guy, a nondescript citizen, and to have this happen for me is more than I know how to process.

Thank you all very much.

Stay tuned and watch me put the bike back together -

or One Monkey Don’t Stop the Show

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- but dammit, they’ve constructed one hell of a roadblock. Thursday I was feeling like I finally had things under control. I had gotten an email about the Charleston house saying lets set a closing date, the bike was very close to being ready and I had renters who will sign a lease for the Asheville place on Monday.

Then, Friday morning I went out to go to work and my bike had been stolen. Sometime between 11p.m. and 7:30 a.m. someone had put it in the back of a truck and driven off with it. Half of me just says shake it off and soldier on – and half of me wants to curl up into a ball and just give up. I posted pictures and info on the motorcycle websites and even on my kayaking message board and the outpouring of support has been amazing. Michelle has mobilized into a machine, getting me on the news and sending out emails to tons of people. The network of eyes on the look-out is amazing. But I don’t really hold out much hope for its return.

I talked with Shannon and we agreed that the next thing to is to look for another bike, Then find a garage that we can strip it down in, and start again. My manageable to-do list just went over the top. I think that this is possible – only adding about $6000 to the trip and an ever-tensing ball of angst to the prep – but I’ll be selling the house, so its possible, and besides, I’d hate to pass up another opportunity to make a bad financial decision.

Then I talked with Carmen about the house. She said that by all her calculations there were only 2 acres – not 2.7 – on the property, and she would like me to adjust the price accordingly. Somewhere I have the original survey. Tomorrow I dig through all my boxes to find it. If she’s right, the value of the house is considerably less than I had thought – AND, I’ve been paying taxes on property I don’t own for 15 years.

So in a day, I’ve lost a half acre, a motorcycle and 8 months.

I’ve always said my luck runs big – ‘cmon pendulum, SA-wing!

I shoulda known it would turn out like this. I’m no wrench head, but its important for me to really get to know the bike, so I’m doing most of the mods and repairs myself. The suspension on her is not really up to the task of carrying me down to the bottom of the world and back, so I decided to upgrade. This weekend I “installed” the system from Cogent Dynamics. The guy who builds these shocks lives here in Asheville and he said I should have the install done in about 3 hours. Its Monday morning and the bikes under a tarp.

Without getting too technical, I was thwarted by a lack of tools, not having a third arm and not having a clue of what I was doing. The weekend went like this: The rear shock went in no problem. Took less than an hour. The front forks? I’ve been working on them since lunch on Saturday. I was able to easily get the forks out of the tubes, open ‘em up and get half of the guts out. Then the problems started. To get the other half out (dampener rod) I needed a special tool – I saw that I could make one from a nut and long bolt. Cool. Except NO ONE had a 15/16th nut. Not Lowes, Home Depot, Ace, O’Reiles, Advance Auto Parts, Reds transmission or the crazy artist welder that lives on the corner. I posted the problem on KLR650.net and got an immediate response telling me that the nut on my rear axel was the right size and that I could insert it halfway in the socket of my breaker bar and that would work. GENIUS! Except that my stuff was so tight that I needed something with more torque. I brought the nut from the rear axel to Lowes where I figured out that the guy telling me to use a 15/16th nut was talking about the outer dimensions – who refers to the outside dimensions when naming nuts? Well, I measured and figured that a 5/8ths would work. GREAT! Back home and I’m cooking with grease. Fork tube #1 – done. Now to fork tube #2. Off and 1/2 apart in 10 minutes. The other half… well once I stripped the socket that is the head of the nut that holds it all in, I called Shannon for help. I drove a half hour to his place and we got it out together. Now I need a new bolt to replace the one I stripped – and its back to Lowes, Home Depot, Ace, O’Reiles, Advance Auto Parts, Reds transmission and the crazy artist welder that lives on the corner to see if they had the right bolt. Nuttin – and its getting dark and looking like rain. Did I mention I was working outside? Be cool, don’t start yelling in an empty car. Get a beer and something to eat and sit quietly. Breath deep. It’ll just have to wait.

So here I sit after a full weekend spent working on a three hour project, wiser, but taking the truck into work.

On the bright side, I did get a new clutch cable installed, changed out the tube fuses for more durable blade fuses and adjusted the shifter arm so that I can get my storm-topper boot under it. I also ran a 12v socket into the peli case that is my top box so that I can charge my camera, cell phone, and computer while riding.

Yesterdays anxiety helped me accomplish a ton of stuff!

I was so out of it when I left for work I forgot my computer by the front door. Going home the second time to get it allowed me time to call and get mom set up with a DSL account. Then, at the end of the work-day I found a company that offers Medevac and health insurance at a reasonable rate. Really, it seems too cheap so I’m going to have to read the brochure closely. I also got in touch with Max, who took a pass on the house, talked to Henry, who’s interested in it and Agent Billy, who will help with HouseVending Plan C. I spoke with someone interested in renting the house in Asheville and changed the oil on the bike.

Coffee be damned – there’s nothing like stress-fueled adrenaline to give you the strength to do what needs to be done.

It’s scary. I had this crazy idea about riding a motorcycle to the bottom of our continent. I thought about how I might be able to make it work and I put together a plan. Now it looks like the plan is coming together and I’m scared shitless. I have NEVER felt like this before.

I had to travel for work last week and so not much planning got done, but here’s where I am right now:

  • I have the appraisal for the Charleston house. I sent it to Max and if I can’t contact him and get an update on what he will do by the end of today I’m going to have to contact Carmen and Henry and see what they can offer. I think I’ll also let Billy know in order to have the back-up plan of listing it on the open market. He’s a real estate agent and a friend that lives in Charleston and may be able to help. 7 weeks – not much time…
  • Susan and Willie have decided to accept a job in Gatlinburg so they’ll be moving out. I’m happy for them, but that means a lot more work than I was planning on to get everything ready. Last night I listed the Asheville house on Craigs List for $1100 and in just a few hours I’ve had two inquiries. But – to rent it out I will need to decide if I want to get a storage shed on the side of the house (best idea) or rent space up the street. I think if I just get a shed, I’ll keep some stuff under the house in the back corner of the basement, just put it on pallets and wrap it in tarps. Then there will be additional landscaping, cementing the front walkway, enameling the bath tub and all the fun of moving out completely. Its all things I think I need to do in order to have it in top shape for renters willing to pay $1100. I’m not even considering what I’ll do when I get back after 8 months, jobless and homeless and they still have 4 months on their lease.
  • I have the absolute final documentation for the accountant and will give Cesar his due when the house sells.
  • I need to find $700 quickly for the suspension I ordered, and the time to install it, change the dohickey, bleed the breaks and grease the steering head and swing arm on the bike, plus add a few minor mods and buy a little more gear.
  • I need to decide on and purchase medivac insurance.
  • Update vaccinations and get a years worth of gout meds (I have an appointment on July 24th)
  • Michelle has said she’ll take Earl while I’m gone, but they live on such a busy street and use an invisible fence. A very kind offer, but I’m a little reluctant.
  • I need to set Mom up with DSL. She has dial-up and can’t really see photos or follow me on the blog. The internet will be the main way we’ll stays in touch so I need to have her set up right.
  • Buy some electronics stuff like a new battery for the laptop, car chargers for the phone, computer and camera as well as an extra battery for the camera. I’ve made a charging station in the top pelli case on the motorcycle, so I can charge things as I ride.
  • Get a new phone and an international calling and texting plan.
  • Let the bank know that I’ll be using my card out of the country

The upside of all this is that with the stress, I really can’t sleep, so I have a lot more time to plan. Hooray!

Today I’ll take a play from Jenns book and make a detailed list of everything that needs to happen. Hopefully, when its all laid out and organized the beast will appear a bit more tame. I might also get a better picture of when I’ll need to quit work in order to get everything done.

I can’t wait to hit the road and have all this behind me-

The Majestic

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For almost a year now I’ve been collecting bits and pieces to build a patio in the back yard. Most all of them from Craigs List. I’d gotten a how-to book from Lowes and planed, built, redesigned and moved the patio about a hundred times in my head. Now, bearing down fast on Leaving Time, I really wanted to have this loose end sown up, so I sent an email out to some friends asking for help and offering beer and Gabes ribs in thanks.

At first I was disappointed in the response – which was nothing. No one said no, no one said yes, no one said anything. I was feeling a little abandoned, but it was what it was and I’d just have to deal. I guess it just took a while to sink into everyone, because on Saturday Janet, Hillsy, Phil, Geoff, Shannon, Susan, Michelle and Maria all showed up to help.

Smart man that I am, I had done a lot of prep work so that when they arrived I could get the most out of them. A few days before I had hired Mark and his bobcat to break up the soil. Then Willie and Susan helped me to level it. We dug trenches and put rail road ties in, then back filled and raked. Next I needed sand for drainage and I called Brad. He let me borrow his truck to pick it up -and not only did he help me unload – he brought PBRs to fuel the shoveling. On Saturday morning Lee lent me his whacker packer. No, its not a gay sex toy, it’s a heavy vibrating machine about the size of a push mower that’s used to pack dirt. Whacker Packer quickly became the word of the day though. Any time you could work it into conversations -there it was. “Yeah, the shovels over there against the fence behind the whacker packer. You know, the yellow whacker packer. Whacker packer. ” I had to meet Tallyman on Heywood at 9:30 to get it and when I got home folks started arriving.

Shannon, Janet, Hillsy and Geoff were the first to pull in – 3 bikes and a mini van. I split them into two teams – Janet and Hillsy were given the project of making a step into the raised patio, and Geoff and Shannon were asked to make the walkway out of the back gate. Maria was put to work shucking corn and making potato salad. Everyone threw them selfs into the work and did an amazing job!

With almost no direction Shannon and Geoff, with the help of late arrival Phil, made a path that has absolutely no discernible pattern. They made circles, half circles, a Maltese cross and the prettiest sewer clean out you’ve ever seen. Its random and more beautiful than anything I could have ever imagined or done. Hillsy and Janet made a semi-circular step hemmed in with rail road ties that has an Asian look to it. Susan and Amanda dropped in about lunch time and started the big circle on the raised area but had to go before they could finish. Maria and I took over when the ladies had to leave and Michelle, after cleaning up from lunch, supplied everyone with bricks while musing on the finer points of how to groom your mound of Venus and singing German songs about buttons.

On Sunday I sat and chipped odd shaped pieces of brick to complete the project, and I spent a lot of time looking. I looked at all the effort my friends put in. I looked and I saw their signature in the step, in the walkway, in the circles of brick. More than 10 people contributed to making the patio and I will forever see their hands, hearts and creativity embedded in my back yard. Its things like this that make a house a home and a man immeasurably wealthy.

Thank you all so much.

Whacker Packer