Monday, December 22, 2008

Don't Look Down

Okay, stay focused on the long-term. Don't think about the short-term. Plan for the summer not the winter. Ignore the snow and frozen pipes. Don't look down.

Most of the track day groups have published their 2009 schedules. Here's a possible schedule for next year:
That's an aggressive schedule for me. 13 track days is more than I've ever done in a year (I attended 11 in 2008). And 5 out-of-state trips is 4 more than I've taken since 2002. But ORP and Portland are only a few hours away so it's doable.

Unless, of course, I'm snowed in, or have water problems, or lose power, or become a victim of any of the other weather-related fiascoes Seattle seems to enjoy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Trip the Light Craptastic

I'm at home today. Not entirely by choice.

This does not suit the motorcycle/convertible lifestyle that I aspire to.

As a PSA: if you have a track bike (or any liquid-cooled engine that doesn't contain glycol) you might want to drain it. Cracked cylinder heads are a pain. My guys now have a small space heater keeping them company in the garage.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dear Santa...

It happens from time to time. I get bored then I get distracted. I start to think about the possibilities. The numbers. I'm a geek, that's what I do. And it's the holidays so it's somewhat fitting to put together a little wishlist.

What do I mean? The $207M lottery jackpot of course.

I'm a practical guy. Well, except for the British roadsters and the Ducati, and the belief that no one ever build *exactly* what I want so I have to buy it then modify it. Or wait 4 years for someone to make just what I need. I mean, really! What's the problem? Am I asking too much? ... Wait, where was I? Oh right, practical. But $207M is plenty to be practical and have a little fun. Right?

A few new toys in the garage would be okay. (Heck, probably a whole new garage!)

I'd need the basics:

Plus something a little unusual:

And maybe something very unusual:

(The doors slide forward into the fenders?!)

The Ferrari and the Ariel would clearly need to spend time on the track. So I need a way to get *to* the track. I hate flying. So maybe a nice motorcoach? This one should do:

It's only $2.1M.

It's a simple list, I'm a simple guy. Now, all I need are 6 good numbers and $1.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Dark at 4:30pm?!

As much as the long summer days are great, the short winter ones stink. Sometimes a week will go buy when I don't see my house in the daylight.

Some of the 2009 track day schedules have been posted. I'm still waiting for a schedule from STAR and NESBA. But 2-Fast and Keigwins have posted schedules, as well as a few others.

The most intriguing date thus far? Keigwins has the full track at Miller on June 13th + 14th. I'm a little intimidated by some of the long straights of that track but the surface and facilities are first-rate. With some luck one of the other motorcycle groups will get the Friday before or the Monday after and make the drive worth it.

Still hoping for an early date to start the season. STAR at Spring Mountain in February sure would be nice.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Does It Come With A "Mr Fusion"?

The wife and I were on the way to dinner last night when we came upon on oddity for Seattle: an interesting car, over 10 years old, outside of its garage between October and June. ... Rust is a bitch.

In this case it was a DeLorean DMC-12.

I'm not a huge fan of DeLorean. But, the combination of the gull-wings, stainless steel body, and Back To The Future makes it somewhat interesting.

Much to my surprise Anandi expressed some interest in one. I doubt we'd ever actually shell out $20k for one but owning a novelty car is fun to think about.

As a side note: on the way back from the game today I saw another classic car (Okay, okay. Relax. Maybe the DeLorean isn't a classic but this one really is). A Morgan Plus 4. It looked well loved and well worn. New top and skirts and tires, but well worn paint, some rust and some scars. All-in-all a nice honest car. Kudos to whoever owns it and actually uses it.

New Sandbox To Play In

Woot! Oregon Raceway Park is opening for business in 2009. At least one local track group is already on their schedule.

Personally I wish the track were more "technical" and less "horse-power" but it's still good to have another pseudo-local track option.

ORP isn't far from the Columbia River Gorge where the SBNW event was held a few months ago. It could make for an interesting motorcycle trip where a day or two on the track is combined with a day or two riding around The Gorge. ... Maybe I can talk Joe into making the trip.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Just Some Random Notes

Despite my better judgement I've been wandering around Facebook for a few weeks. (I'm testing a theory: I think I'm just as anti-social online as I am in person.) Despite not being in Facebooks target demographic since I don't have an iPhone covered in pink glitter and a Hello Kitty backpack I do occasionally run into a nugget of good stuff.

Like World Class Driving. I don't know much about them but they'll be in town twice in 2009. Might be worth a look.

I'm still stalking the motorcycle track day websites. The schedule for 2-Fast is up. All mid-week dates as usual. Their performance last year impressed me so I'll make an effort to ride with them again in 2009. Unfortunately they only run at Pacific Raceways and the weather there is hit-or-miss until June. So I'm still looking for good early season dates.

I did run across this and this. I guess I'll scratch Fast Freddy off the list for the time being.

Also from Facebook I learned that there might be a 20-year reunion for my high school in the Spring. I'm trying to figure out
1) is it worth going?
b) what else I might combine in the trip?
iii) should I drive The Triumph down?

3500 miles in a TR6 is rough. On the driver, on the car, on the passenger, on the guy behind you inhaling burnt oil. But PCH in May in a convertible is achingly appealing.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Economic Downturn

I have no money. Alot of my no money is invested in stocks. And that no money is really turning into no money lately.

How do I respond? I go virtual window shopping. Perhaps someone else took a financial hit recently as well. Because they gave up a very nice toy.

$875,000? That's not completely crazy for todays values. But with a little foresight you could have had Clint Eastwoods for about 1/2 the price.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I'm Not Going to Make It

It's only been a week and I'm already stalking all of the motorcycle track day websites hoping they've published their 2009 schedules. STAR? Nope. APEX? Nope. NESBA? Nope. 2-Fast? Nope.



Gotta go, maybe one's been published while I was writing this.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I Give Up

Today was the day.

All hope is gone.

There's really no point in prolonging the inevitable.

I need to face the facts and get on with my life.

That's right, today I gave up on the riding/convertible season.

It's been raining since we got back from Canada. It'll be raining until two teaser days in March (which will, of course, be mid-week or on a weekend when I'm out of town) then won't really stop until mid-June. ... I know what you're thinking and I totally agree: no sane person would put up with this.

What does giving up on the season look like? It looks like cleaning up the garage. Actually putting things where they belong (instead of putting things somewhere convenient). All of the trackday stuff went into boxes. The tools came out of the portable boxes and go back to their permanent spots. Bikes get stuffed into corners and covered with sheets.

It's a sad day.

But nature abhors a vacuum. As riding/convertible season leaves it makes room for ... ... WRENCHING SEASON!!!

The wrenching list includes paint, electrical, gadgetry, cars, bikes, even some work on the garage itself. ... That's alot. I'm tired just thinking about it. Maybe I should start with a nap instead.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Canadian Lessons

Things I learned in or about Canada in roughly chronological order:
  1. 1km = .624 miles. When the sign says "80" it means "50".

  2. 1 liter = .2642 gallons. "$1.39" = $5/gallon.

  3. Sometimes the valet admits it.

  4. You can tour Canadian construction zones (at least in Whistler).

  5. The Olympics will be much bigger in 2010 than they were in 1988.

  6. There's alot of untouched wilderness in Canada.

  7. Canadians are serious about hockey.

  8. The CFL is not the NFL minor-leagues.

  9. Peanut doesn't care. It's his house now and you better let him sleep.

  10. Canadian political ads suck too.

  11. Goats are not afraid of traffic.

  12. The Nitro has passing power.

  13. It's easier to enter Canada than the U.S.

  14. Canadians understand "Keep right except to pass". Seattlites do not.

  15. I think "Seattle" is Chinook-Indian for "The rain starts at the city limits."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Great White North - Done

Just returned from a driving trip through Canada. I'll post some pictures as soon as I get up the energy to get them off the camera. But here are the highlights:
  • 2220 miles (20.7 mpg)

  • 5 days driving up to Bonnyville Alberta

  • 1.5 days driving back

Here's roughly the route we took.

The roads between Vancouver and Whistler were awful. (Construction in preparation for the 2010 Olympics.) And from Whistler to Lillooet was even worse but without the hope for improvement. Other than that the driving was great.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fade to Black

Another track weekend (Friday and Saturday anyway). This is the last one for me this season, I promise.

Odd day.

Unloaded the Daytona and found it had a completely flat rear tire. Couldn't find out where it was punctured. Inflated it. It was fine. Thought about using it but it gave me the heebie-jeebies so I replaced both tires. ("New tires: $220. Replacing motorcycle plastics: $2000. Avoiding a blow-out at 130mph: priceless.")

Rode the Daytona all day. (Why not? It has new tires.) Felt good. Felt fast. I was looking forward to figuring out my laptimes. (I use the video recording for that.) Unfortunately my camera batteries were fading and I recorded about an hour of black and silence. ... Or maybe I was faster than light and sound! Yeah! That must be it!

Guess I need to add that to the list of off-season motorcycle tasks:
- Wire the camera into the motorcycle power.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

TJ Regresses

Track weekend.

Saturday started well on the Daytona. Saturday ended poorly on the Ducati.

It was sort of like a baby eating ice cream: messy, loud, all-over-the-place. In some places I was too fast, in others too slow. In an attempt to get more free track I dropped down to the Beginner session where there were fewer bikes. ... At least if I ride like crap I won't stand out as much...

I decided the bike-switch was part of the problem so Sunday I stuck with the Ducati. I'm very proud of my Ducati. It's a nice toy. I like to show it off. It's usually good for some attention and compliments.

Unfortunately on Sunday the guy in the next pit over brought a Desmosedici. (For those not up on your Ducati models, imagine going to a horse race where someone brought a unicorn. A very fast unicorn.) Oh well. At least he's in the Beginner group so I'm not on the absolute top of the $-per-mph curve.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Fantasy Football Anonymous

TJ: "Hi, my name is TJ and I'm addicted to fantasy football."
Group: "Hi TJ"

Statistics + football + Sundays. How can that not be a perfect combination for a numbers geek? Last night was our draft. 12 football fans in a room with pizza and beer all trying to decide whether to draft some unknown 3rd-string rookie running-back or a kicker in the 13th round. Good fun.

My post-draft analysis says I have the strongest team. ... My post-draft analysis *always* says I have the strongest team. Yet I always end up 7-7 and get booted in the first round of the playoffs.

My current starting line-up:
  • QB - Drew Brees
  • RB - Ladainan Tomlinson
  • RB - Earnest Graham
  • WR - Andre Johnson
  • WR - Chad Johnson
  • PK - Mason Crosby
  • DEF/ST - Chicago Bears

Remember, there are a whopping 4 prime-time games this week:
  • Thursday - Redskins v Giants
  • Sunday night - Bears v Colts
  • Monday night - Vikings v Packers
  • Monday night - Broncos v Raiders

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Some Pics from SBNW

I met this fellow at the Mt St Helens overlook. He was coming from Vancover. Before that Nova Scotia. His next stops: California, Pennsylvania and Texas (in that order). Then where? Argentina followed by a cargo ship to Cape Town then North back home to Ireland! Seriously. He's expecting to take 2 years to do it.

I was tired having just ridden a few hours through Washington.

The bike garage was a nice little show on it's own. This is only about 1/3 of it:

If I were to get into the motorcycle touring life I think my weapon of choice would be a Victory Vision. At first I thought it was hideous. The it started growing on me. Now that I've seen one in person it looks pretty slick.

Northern Oregon is pretty empty, but I can see why people like it anyway.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Gorgeous Gorge

Got a bike? Sportbike, tourer, cruiser, Schwinn, it doesn't matter. If you have a bike you should take it to the Columbia River Gorge. If you live in Seattle I suggest heading down the East side of Mt Rainer. Make a side trip up Route 99 to the Mt St Helens viewpoint.

There are many great rides around the Gorge. Joe and I chose Mosier Loop Saturday morning. Beautiful rolling hills, clean asphalt, no traffic. But be prepared for bicyclists. Pay special attention around Rowena Crest:

Saturday night we went up to Goldendale Observatory. We took the SBNW-suggested route on the way up. The route was great, unfortunately we left late and some of the roads lacked reflective striping, shoulders, or edge markers. ... I think the headlights on the Daytona are just for show. We took a less interesting but quicker route on the way back.

I'll add more about the trip later. (Still recovering from the saddle fatigue.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Useless, Overpriced, Crap that I Must Have

My wife and I have different views on money. ... Well, I guess it's the same view: money is for spending. But the difference is what to spend it on and when.

I'm a planner. I like to stalk the things I want, make sure they're the right. "Is this the best price? Will it do what I want? Where will I put it? If I lose my sense of smell because of a freak mold attack is this still the one I'd choose?" You know, the vital questions.

My wife? Not so much. "Hey look, that's nice." Two days later UPS is delivering 4 of them and we still don't really know what they do.

I'm sure the best process is somewhere in between.

Here's some stuff I might buy if I were more impulsive.

I need a place to prop my feet up and relax:

It's nice to stretch out and watch TV:

I'll need a clock so I don't miss "Top Gear":

If the guys come over they'll need chairs and a table for their drinks:

(BTW, total cost would be about $6400.)

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Car Is A Star

I was watching Law & Order today. (It's what I do, come home, sit on the floor with the dogs, eat my lunch and watch TV. Everyday. I call it my comfort zone, others call it a rut.) Today's episode was "Amends" from 2000. I've seen it about 83 times and the only thing I remember is... the bad guy drove a TR6.

The villains getaway car in "Three Men and a Baby" was a TR6.
An episode of Columbo includes a TR6 as the murder weapon.

Are all TR6s on TV and in the movies driven by villains? Hmmm. Sounds like a question for the modern Oracle at Delphi. The keeper of all of mans knowledge. The most magnificent: INTERNET!

A quick search found:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

One Big Circle and Lots of Little Circles

Big Circle:

I signed up for SBNW 2008. A friend, who has a bike much more appropriate to covering distance, suggested it. I'll give it a try. I've done 500 mile days before but this is my first foray into motorcycle camping. I bought a tent and a sleeping bag. For storage I just have a makeshift tail pack. Hopefully it's enough. (Hopefully I'll remember to bring the camera.)

Because of the "edits" to fit luggage I've decided to take the Daytona. It now has a passenger seat and pegs for the first time in 8 years. ... I was surprised I could find them.

Little Circles:

I signed up for track days Sept 6, 7, and 13. Might add the 14th but right now I'm planning to go to the Seahawks / 49ers game.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Modern Garagthon

I enjoy the Olympics. Here's the Life In The Garage pentathlon

1) Oil change. Contestants judged by how clean their hands are at the end.
2) Tool find. Where's that tool? You had it 15 seconds ago now it's nowhere to be found.
3) Trailer power lift. You loaded the bikes before hooking the trailer to the truck. Now what?
4) Musical vehicles. The bike you want to work on is stuffed in a corner, it's raining outside. Move the cars and bikes around without getting them wet.
5) Couch avoidance. You have $73. You just bought a motorized toy that costs... much more. Explain it to your spouse.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Random Notes

Just a few things from today:

- Brett Favre was traded by the Packers. Bummer, I thought I might get some crazy Cheesehead to overpay for my tickets when the Packers are in town.

- I paid off the Ducati. I borrowed the money from our joint account so I'm not really out of debt. I just have a much nicer loan officer.

- Brett Favre was picked up by the Jets. Cool, maybe some crazy New York fan will overpay for my tickets when the Jets are in town.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Truck Meets Trailer


I dented the trailer this week.
I dented the Nitro this week.
I did it in one shot.
I did it in my own driveway.


Step right up! Step right up! Don't be shy! Be the first person on your block to see The Amazing Trailer Idiot in person!

Watch him open the tailgate!
Watch him unhook the trailer!
You'll be amazed as he pulls the trailer by hand unwittingly running it into the corner of the tailgate!
All without a clue!
But wait! Any Trailer Idiot could do that. But The Amazing Trailer Idiot can also ... please ma'am maybe the children shouldn't hear this...
That's right! He'll lower the tongue jack while they're still in contact! It's shocking! Horrendous! The most gruesome of shows! But you won't be able to look away as he puts a 6" dent in the trailer and a 6" curl in the tailgate!


I'm not going to bother fixing the trailer.

The tailgate was functional. It was just cosmetic. I used a couple of boards and some clamps to bend it back closer to it's original shape. It's not perfect but it's acceptable. ... At least to a trailer idiot.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Football, Favre, Funds

So what's the deal with this Favre guy? I mean really, is he playing, is he retiring, is he playing for someone else? These are serious questions with serious implications.

Green Bay is coming to Seattle this year.

I have Seahawks season tickets.

How will I know how much I can sell them for if I don't know if Favre is playing?

I know, I know. If I were a "real football fan" I wouldn't sell the tickets I'd go to every game, paint my face blue and green, and sleep at the stadium. Right, I totally agree. But season tickets aren't cheap. Sure, there are only 10 games (8 regular season and 2 preseason games that the NFL money machine forces every season ticket holder to buy. ... C'mon! Can't you stick it to Fox or ESPN for the extra money?!) but it's still pricey. And this year the cost crossed a psychological boundary that forces some reassessment.

In addition to the usual NFC West suspects this season we host
- Chicago Bears (pre-season)
- Oakland Raiders (pre-season)
- Green Bay Packers
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Washington Redskins
- New England Patriots
- New York Jets

What does this have to do with the garage? ... It's FOOTBALL!!! (If you have to ask, nevermind.)

No Sessions? No Problem!

A big thumbs up for the NESBA "Skills Enhancement Day" Monday. (Instead of Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced groups each using the track for 20-minute sessions, an SED is made up of a single group and an open track. You enter and exit the track whenever you want.) I was nervous about this approach. I wasn't sure riders would recognize their own fatigue. I don't want to ride with someone trying to squeeze out one continuous 4-hour session.

I was wrong. Riders were more courteous than usual and I believe there were fewer incidents.

Despite a late start, and one long disruption for an oil spill, I was able to find more time than usual. And, more importantly, it was higher quality track time.

I'd ride for 15 minutes, then rest for 20. ... That sounds more structured than it was. My system was more like "Rest when I'm tired. Ride when I'm not tired." Sort of the strategy Peanut takes. "Where and when does Peanut sleep? Wherever and whenever he's tired." ... Dogs are smarter than they look.

Did I get any faster Monday? Eh, who knows. I had a good time so I don't really care. I'd pay extra for a track day like that again.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Big doings in Garagetown this weekend.

The day started with a trip to Lynnwood to pick up my 955i. I decided that the hiccups and the preceding 3 years were sufficient reason to take it to a dealer to have it checked out.

Then I went to the All British Field Meet. (Since I'm not too bright I forgot to bring a camera.) I noticed a few things:
a) "Free event" does not mean "free parking"
2) Old British cars are mostly owned by middle-aged men. The most common phrase heard all day: "I wanted one when I was in high school. When I saw this one for sale I couldn't resist."
iii) The size of the crowd was inversely proportional to the cost of the car. This wasn't universal but new expensive cars (like an Aston Martin DB9) were definitely less popular than the old cheap ones (like a road weary MGB).
4) Swap meet sellers either expect alot of haggling or don't understand the difference between "I'd like to have this part" and "my car is a giant useless planter box without this part and you have the only one in the free world".

ABFM was much bigger than I expected. Probably 150-200 show cars from just about every British make you can think of. (At least 50 Triumphs.) And most were not from Washington. Alot of Oregonians and Canadians. It was a casual comfortable event. 20% of the owners were sitting with their cars and were more than happy to chat about them. [Insert reference to middle-aged men and their toys here.]

The number of cars for sale was smaller. Maybe 50 total. Five TR6s. From a complete but trailered project car ($5200) to a restored but not perfect drivers car ($18200). Comparing them makes me think the money to fix the cosmetics of my green one would pay off. ... Assuming anyone actually sells the cars near the asking price.

On the way out of the show I found my next car. Well, maybe not, but I'd certainly like to find a way to get one in my garage. A Bentley Speed 6. Cars from that era are just ginormous in every sense. But this one somehow incorporated "elegant" and "sporty" with "massive". The owner claimed it drove well and covers 2400 miles/year. He also said it isn't difficult to maintain. Good to hear since the buy-in to the Speed 6 club is probably deep into the 6-figures.

So that was Saturday.

Sunday will also be filled with garage-centric activities because I have a track day on Monday.
- Take the 955i out for a little test ride. Why? Because I just don't trust dealers and I'd rather find a problem at 15mph than at 115mph.
- Pack up the trailer.
- Get the Ducati ready. (Where did I leave that data collection widget? Oh yes, it's behind the couch where I threw it after it called me a chicken last time.)
- Get all the supporting stuff together. Like gas, food, shade, tools, etc.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Great White North

We're headed to Canada. Why? Dunno. Maybe Anandi thinks the weather is too nice here so we're going to find snow. After some negotiation we've picked a week in September that doesn't interfere with anything important ("important" = "Seahawks home games" + "track days"). We'll load the dogs into the Nitro and head to Cold Lake Alberta.

I'm looking forward to it. We used to go on road trips pretty regularly. (Because Vegas was only 6 hours from Tucson.) Adding the dogs we'll change things a bit but it should be good. We'll spend 4-5 days driving out, 2-3 days in Cold Lake, then 2 days driving back. That will give us plenty of time to stop and smell the ... well ... Canadians I guess.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Vroom Vroom Oops

I meant to post this earlier but forgot. It's from my last track day at Pacific Raceways. It's not all that different from previous videos but I like to bring down the SNR of the internet just like everyone else so I figured 32MB of useless drivel was a good idea. (Later I'll post 700MB of our dogs wandering around the living room.)

Near the end some one passes me then low-sides. The accident wasn't that bad, the rider was fine and the bike was repairable, but it shows how quickly things can get out of hand. As a point of reference, his speed was probably 50-60mph when he went down.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

This Looks Like a Job For Trailer Man!

Two days, two bike retrievals.

Tuesday someone at work had his scooter crap out during his lunch hour. He found a spot to leave it and caught the bus back to work. I volunteered to go pick it up for him in the evening.

Wednesday I helped another guy pick up a bike he'd just bought. (A 1973 Honda 350/4 that has been converted to a cafe-style.) It can be a pain in the butt to squeeze that trailer through the streets of Capitol Hill.

Hopefully soon I can add a third retrieval: my Daytona from the dealership.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Go forth and tell all that you see...

Summer is here, summer is here!

The 15-day forecast (what a laugh, as if the 2-day forecast was more than 50% correct) calls for sunny days with highs between 71 and 76. Add nearly 16 hours of daylight and it's hard to beat.

(Yes, yes. I know I complain about the weather here all the time. and 9 months out of the year it really and truly is depressing. But I don't think there's a place in the country that has better weather than Seattle in the Summer. ... Now if I can just figure out how to be in Seattle in the summer and Tucson the rest of the year...)

Beautiful sunny Saturday and what's my plan? ... Motorcycles you say? Of course! ... But maybe not riding them. The Daytona is in for service (to cure the hiccups). The Ducati is dressed for the track. That leaves the Suzuki which won't start. So my plan for the day is chasing down electrical gremlins. [sarcasm] My favorite! [/sarcasm]

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Pig in a Poke?

I may have bought a pig in a poke. The green TR6 has revealed a few more ... indiscretions.

The "broken antenna mount" wasn't really broken. It wasn't really a mount. It was someones home-brew modification. Someone just drilled a hole in the body and stuck the antenna through it.

A slightly asymmetric bumper turned out to be a crushed mount. No damage to the bumper but now I'm curious what other stuff is warped behind it.

The All British Field Meet is coming July 26th. Maybe I'll find some help for some of this.

Or better yet, an indiscriminate buyer looking for a small pig.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Bawk! Bawk, Bawk, Bawk!

I'm a chicken. A six-foot-one, two-hundred-mumble-mumble pound, chicken. Really and truly a chicken. Trust me, I have the data, I can prove it.

This weekend I was at the track. I brought both bikes. The Daytona has a camera system so I have some decent pictures of me pretending not to be a chicken. Unfortunately the Daytona had some troubles and I switched to the Ducati. The Ducati has a data collection system. And, apparently, one of the data points it captures is "Is Rider a Chicken? (Yes/No)". And it came back a definite yes.

Here's about 2 1/2 minutes of data:

The top graph is speed. The middle graph is RPM. The bottom graph is the chicken-o-meter. It shows throttle position. See that pink-highlighted sliver? That shows how long I had the throttle at 100%. It's 1.3 seconds long.

1.3 seconds.

I figured pink was the right color for highlighting.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Forward Thinking

I get it, I really do. I'm an engineer and sometimes I'm guilty of it myself. You're in a rush, you just want it to work, maybe it's a prototype and you'll fix it in the final version. But it never happens. The final version is just the prototype with a liberal coating of Spackle.

Life would be so much easier if people planned their products to be maintainable. That's all I want. Nothing dramatic. Just spend a little time up front so when things don't go quite right your customers have a chance to figure it out.

For instance, don't follow the lead of the 2000 Monte Carlo SS. Lifting the engine to change a spark plug? Did Chevy not think a spark plug would need to be replaced? Odd, it's listed in the manual as regular maintenance.

I'll admit that my current context isn't nearly as egregious as that. I am dealing with a car that's 35 years old. And it's British. And it was built in a factory made famous for labor strife. But things shouldn't be this hard. I shouldn't have to spend an hour (plus a trip to Sears for tools) to remount one interior door handle.

On the plus side, I did take it out for a very short spin and it's quite nice.

(A little online research shows that the MC SS isn't alone in requiring major work to get at all the plugs. What is this world coming to?)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fathers Day 2008

It's possible that my dad is a superhero. I know that's not an unusual thing to hear from a son, but bear in mind I'm 37 years old, not 7. (... ohhhh, how I wish I was 7 ... [insert daydream about climbing trees, playing in dirt, and trying to decide how to spend the princely sum of $1/week here] ...)

My dad is a fix-it guy. You don't need to buy a new one, just fix the old one. I like to think I have the same philosophy. The big difference: dad can actually fix the item in question. It didn't seem to matter what it was. The car, the TV, the porch swing, the inflamed appendix, he could fix them all. (Okay, maybe not the appendix, but good for you for paying attention.) Me? I take the widget apart, lose 4 pieces, break another 2, spend 4 hours cursing myself and end up buying a new widget anyway.

I don't know how he did it. We hire people to do much of our house and yard projects and I still can't keep up with the stuff I need to do in the garage. Clearly a superhero.

Happy Fathers Day.

BTW: Anyone want a semi-functional bread maker? Couldn't fix it, got a new one. At least I didn't lose any pieces.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More Track Days

I signed up for more local track days. June 28th, June 29th, and July 28th. All are with NESBA. The July date should be interesting. It's marketed as "Skills Enhancement I" which means all the riders will be from the I or "intermediate" group and the track will be open to come and go as you choose. (Instead of scheduled 20-minute sessions.) Some classroom sessions will also be available to teach body position, etc.

I'm still considering another out-of-state trip this year but I haven't signed up yet. Right now the leading option is a trip to Thunderhill October 11-14. The first two days with Keigwins, the last two days with STAR. It would be another week-long trip like the one to Miller.

It's been in the low 50s and raining the last few days. I turned the furnace back on last weekend. Not what I had in mind for June. (I guess it's been the coldest start of June on record.) I'm trying to keep my spirits up by at least *thinking* about riding.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

More Pictures From Miller

The pictures from Munch Photos arrived in the mail today. Thought I'd share a few. (Particularly since some people had challenged my knee-dragger credentials.)

This one is from Tuesday afternoon. (One of the last sessions of the trip.) The wind was start to gust on the track so I decided I'd take the Daytona out instead of the Duc.

I like this pic a lot. I haven't seen many other head-on shots. (Although it does make me look like a giant riding a little mini-bike.)

Friday, May 30, 2008

If You Have the Means, I Highly Recommend Picking One Up

Did you see this? Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of market-forces, and people spending their money how they choose. A 1961 Ferrari California is certainly a remarkable car. But $10.9million?!

Let's hope Cameron's dad now keeps the garage door locked.

Speaking of which, does anyone else have to look away during the "Ferrari killer" scene? I know it's not a real one, but it still gives me the willies. It's just wrong.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Back From Vegas

We just got back from a short trip to Las Vegas.

I'm not a big fan of Las Vegas shows. Nor theme hotels. I don't like to walk 20 minutes to get to the casino next door. So when we go to Vegas we generally stay downtown instead of on the strip. Our usual destination is The Golden Nugget.

The pretense for the trip was a chance for Anandi to see Nightwish in concert. And since I'm not into Scandinavian metal bands I decided it would be a good opportunity to play a little poker and maybe see a little sunshine for a change. (And have some time in Vegas without adult supervision. ... But, shhhh!, don't tell Anandi that.)

While she was at her concert I played a No-Limit Texas Hold'em tournament at Binions. I didn't expect to do well since I don't play much live poker. The game started at 8pm and I went bust just after midnight, finishing 6th in a field of 25. Not good enough to get paid but I was happy with my performance anyway.

I usually start my gambling at 3am when the casinos are the emptiest. At that hour the only people to talk to are
a) The college kid who wants to "Spend a weekend in Vegas without a hotel room! Hell yeah!" He's been up 2 days and is too drunk to remember where he was supposed to meet his buddies who have given up the dream and rented a room.
2) The guy in his late 50's who used to be the first guy or, more likely, one of his room-renting buddies. He's wearing a black shirt with flames and motorcycles or martini glasses on it. His attempt at an all-nighter (for old-times sake) has hit the wall.
iii) The degenerate gambler who was the first guy and got hooked on the rush. The people at the check-cashing place know him on sight. So do all the casino workers and the beat cops.

So I talk to the dealers. (If they're good dealers.) It's interesting to hear an insiders view of the casino. I found out that downtown hotel properties are relatively cheap. Binions was just bought for $32 million. ... Six or eight lucky spins on the Roulette table and maybe I could really break-the-bank. ... Do you think anyone would want to come to TJs-House-of-Gambling-Fun? :)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

So Much for Peanut and the Thunderdome

We're having yard work done. We're not yard work people so we've pretty much just ignored the backyard for 4 years. In Seattle, that's not a good idea. (Note to self: weeds in Seattle grow faster than rocks in Tucson.) We have dogs so we make sure the dogs are inside when the people are working outside. It's mostly a dog-safety thing, not a people-safety thing. Our beagle, Spike, has a tendency to bolt if the gate is open. Plus power-tools and curious dogs don't mix.

Our other dog, Peanut, is a Rottweiler-mix. He's well socialized and friendly. He's also 115lbs with an opinion about how things are supposed to be and the confidence to stand behind that opinion. We've never asked him to be a guard-dog. We've never allowed people in the house without first introducing them to Peanut. So we honestly didn't know how he might respond to an intruder.

Until yesterday.

The landscapers came over without telling us. We were at work. The dogs had the run of the yard. And the guys decided to climb over the locked gate.

Peanuts response: none.

I'm happy that he isn't likely to hurt someone even when left unattended but a small part of me wishes he would have convinced the "intruders" to stay out of the yard.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Why the Empire Fell

It's Sunday and like alot of Sundays I wanted bagels. And this Sunday I had an excuse to get them: I needed to move the car out of the garage. So if the car is moving 20' out of the garage it might as well go 4 miles to get bagels, right? Perfectly reasonable.

But, fear not, this story isn't about bagels. (And, you'll be happy to know, it's also mercifully short.)

On the way to get bagels an odd car turned left across traffic in front of me. It was big and green and vaguely 70's-ish. At first I thought it was an old Volvo station wagon. ... No, Volvo did boxy but not that kind of boxy. Plus the green was all wrong. ... It makes its turn and I get a good look head on. ... Holy crap! It's a Rolls Royce Station wagon!

Rolls Royce
Right-hand drive
British Racing Green
Station wagon

Never knew such a thing existed. (And I kind of wish I still didn't.) It looked something like this:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Track Trip: Pictures

From Saturday. Taken by FotoMotion.

Here's the bike that caught fire. It doesn't really capture how complete the destruction was. ... But it's a good image to keep in mind if I ever get the urge to crash. I wouldn't want the Daytona to end up like this.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Track Trip: Chapter7 - Post Mortem

I'm going to try to take a little more scientific approach to my track riding. Not that I have any aspirations of being a professional (or even club) racer but I'm a little tired of feeling like I'm going slower and slower all the time. So, in that vein, here's what I'm taking away from my trip to Miller last week:

Goals going in:
1. Increase lean angles, particularly to the right. I did well with this goal. On Tuesday I was comfortably dragging a knee in almost every corner of the track. (Turn8 was only possible with the Daytona and only because it's suspension is pretty poor.) In many cases I was more comfortable going right than left.
2. Relax and trust the bike. I need a little more work on this. I entered one corner too hot (the corner that ended my Monday) and I didn't have the confidence to lean the bike over, keep my eyes focused on my intended goal, and just ride it out. I stood the bike up a little and got on the brakes hard.
3. Don't sit down. (This might seem odd to a non-track rider but keeping your weight out of the seat can be a big benefit on the track. It makes your weight transfer more fluid and you can control the bike easier if your weight isn't all on the seat.) I was happy with how well I did towards this goal. I wasn't perfect and I need to get in better shape but I was pleased with my ability to support myself with my feet instead of my hands and butt. ... After trying to muscle the Daytona around the track all day Saturday, I was completely beat on Sunday. But, if I had been sitting in the seat I wouldn't have been able to finish Saturday.

Things to work on:
1. Lean angles. Getting a knee down is great. It's a lot of fun too. But it's possible to lean much further. I shouldn't consider touching a knee as the limit.
2. Look further ahead. Target fixation can ruin your day or save it. I need to look where I want to go. It will help me be more consistent with my lines, and help me get out of bad situations. I'd be happy to consistently look 2 seconds ahead of my bike.

As a side note (and please don't tell my wife or my mother about this): I considered crashing on purpose. ... Go ahead, read that again. ... In case you think there was a typo:

I (a seemingly rational person) considered crashing (a seemingly irrational act).

My thought process was "Wouldn't it be better to see what crashing is like when it's my choice? I'm already leaned way over. I'm in the slowest corner. No one is behind me. It's the last session of the last day. I'm on my cheap motorcycle. ... I could force a painless low-side crash just to see what it's like." ... Then I remembered the charcoal bike from Saturday and decided that as old as the Daytona is, I didn't want to light it on fire. ... Was I completely crazy to think about it?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Track Trip: Chapter6 - Getting Home

1:10am - Awake and not very happy about it.

1:20am - Might as well get some miles done.

3:10am to 5:10am - Napping at a rest stop.

6:00am - Windy doesn't just suck for motorcycles. I'm not making very good time and my gas mileage really stinks.

9:30am - Breakfast. Mmmmm..... Egg McMuffin.

9:45am - 11:15am - At a Dodge dealer in Boise. The Nitro feels sluggish but I don't know if that's because of the wind or something more significant. It's due for it's 3000 mile service anyway so I might as well get someone to look at it.

11:15am - Chuckle to myself about my Larry-Miller-centric week. He owns Miller Motorsports Park where I was riding. He owns the Utah Jazz who I spent most of the my time at the hotel watching. And he owns Sundance Dodge which is where I stopped for the check-up. (A thumbs-up to Sundance. They were accommodating, quick, and friendly.)

12:30pm to 1:45pm - Napping at a rest stop.

5:40pm - Last tank of gas. I think I have enough daylight to get over Snoqualmie pass.

7:15pm - Pulling a trailer down a snowy mountain road can be sketchy. The Nitro lost it's footing and started to slide. My attempts to slow down make the slide worse since the trailer is pushing from behind and trying to spin the Nitro. Once I get it into 4WD everything returns to normal, but I'm glad the lane next to me was empty.

8:05pm - Home sweet home. Almost 19 hours beginning to end. 14.5 hours of driving. 850 miles. 11.6 mpg.

Track Trip: Chapter5 - Tuesday with STAR

Another good day at the track. (Is there such a thing as a bad day at the track?) The forecast was for temps in the 80s with wind from 10-20 and gusts over 30. I don’t enjoy riding in gusty wind. It’s particularly unfestive when you’re fully leaned and a gust tries to push you into the pavement. So I considered riding the Daytona. (Not that it’s any better in the wind but I’d be less likely to cry like a little girl if I wrecked it.) Luckily the weather forecasters were wrong. (Surprise! Who would have guessed?!) The wind didn’t pick up until late afternoon.

A moment of silence for the Bimota. … … … … … It low-slided in Turn14. It’s scratched up but it will be back. The rider was absolutely fine. And surprisingly zen bout the whole experience. I suspect his chi will be rattled when he gets the repair bill.

Munch Photos was at the track. I ordered a CD of all of the images. I also ordered a CD from Fotomotion who was at the APEX day on Saturday. At this point I’m probably not getting my moneys worth by buying track pictures. I just can’t resist. I have this delusion that I’ll look at the pictures, have an epiphany about my riding, and suddenly be a world class rider. In reality they’ll show exactly what they always show: I’m slow but I lean a lot. … I’ll post images when I get the CDs.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Track Trip: Chapter4 - Monday with STAR

Small group with STAR Monday. So small in fact, we ran only one group instead of splitting into two.

I decided to rent a garage at the track with 5 other riders. The garages are only $75/day. That includes power, shade, access to the restroom, and about 400sqft of space to setup. $25 for a garage for 2 days? And the ability to leave the bikes there overnight? (They lock the door and there's overnight security.) No brainer. The bikes are probably safer there than in my trailer in the hotel parking lot.

There are usually a few oddities sprinkled in among the Suzukis and Hondas. Usually it's a Triumph, or a 2-stroke of some sort, or maybe a Hypermotard. Today the exotica was supplied by a Bimota Tesi 3D. Pretty wild stuff.

Saturday I stuck the Daytona in 3rd and forgot about shifting. Monday I stuck the Ducati in 2nd and forgot about shifting. (Trust me, the Ducati can get around the track faster in 2nd than the Daytona can in 3rd.) In some of the later sessions I added a shift into 3rd on the two longer straights, but essentially I left it in 2nd. It's amazing how much easier it is to focus on what you want to do (in my case relaxing on the bike and lean-angle) when you eliminate a variable like lots of shifting. ... I suspect many people think I'm cheating. But those are the same people who I'm passing as they struggle to keep their bike under control as they shift 15 times / lap. ... In other words: the jealous people. :)

My day ended one session early. I was on the track at about 3:45 and I was chasing another rider around the track. In the first few morning sessions she (yes, SHE) had passed me and was able to pull away from me slowly. In this session I was gaining on her pretty quick and I really wanted to pass her. We got into some slower traffic, she passed a rider and if I didn't pass the same rider I'd be held up on the next couple of corners. So I added some speed and went around him too... and was in the corner too hot, stood the bike up, and probably pissed off the guy I just passed quite a bit. About two turns later it dawned on me "Why am I worried about her? I should be focused on my own riding. This is stupid." I pulled off at the next opportunity and then noticed how tired I was. Physical fatigue had led to a mental breakdown.

I decided to end my day. I have all day Tuesday.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Track Trip: Chapter3 - Saturday with APEX

I’ve never ridden at Miller. So I’m a little nervous. I’m not one of those riders that can just head out onto the track for the first time and start railing. I like to do recon. Lots and lots of recon.

I’ve also never ridden with APEX. Generally track groups are the same. But each seems to attract a slightly different type of rider. This event is a shared one between APEX and the local Ducati dealership. I’m hoping the Ducati guys (who are probably older and a little more conservative) will keep things civilized.

I arrive at Miller at about 7am, go through registration, and find a spot to pit. The place is amazing. Huge grandstands, covered garage space, clean and professional.

They announce that the first session out will have two “sighting laps” so new people can get used to the layout. (Whew) The track is as nice as the rest of the facility. Wide open sight lines, good pavement, well marked.

The third session is going pretty well. I was getting the feel of the track. I come out of the chicane and see the next corner worker waving the red flag. Red? That’s odd, but okay. While in the back straight I see a huge smoke column and a fireball off to my left! 20-30 feet of black smoke on top of 5-6 feet of flames!

Turns out someone low-sided in Turn 2, they separated from the bike and thought everything was fine. The bike slid across the infield then back onto the track in Turn 3 where it caught fire. The frame was snapped, all the plastic and fiberglass was melted, the rims were bent. I’ll see if I can dig up a picture of the bike after they brought it back to the pits. The rider was fine. Surprised but fine.

I was on the Daytona in the morning and thought I might switch to the Ducati after lunch. But, after a bike on fire? Uh, no.

In the interest of keeping things simple for myself I decided to ride the whole track in 3rd gear. The Daytona has enough torque at 4000rpm to deal with the slow corners, and can easily run to 100+mph on the front straight. Was I being passed? Yes. But it made it a lot easier to focus on body position and lean angle. And I wasn’t the slowest bike out there.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. The APEX guys run a pretty good event. And the Miller track is awesome. A day off, then back to the track Mon and Tues with STAR.

Track Trip: Chapter2 - Getting There

Here’s my Friday

2:08am – Wake up. Why 2:08am? No idea. I wanted to get up at 3:30 and be out by 4:00 but I guess my internal chronometer is a little off.

2:10am – Convince Spike that it’s not really time to get up and eat breakfast. He reluctantly goes back to his bed.

2:30am – Leave the house. If I’m up I might as well cover some miles.

2:50am – Leave work. Work? Why am I at work? Dunno. For some reason I stopped by the office. I think my plan was to get my iPod but that didn’t actually happen.

3:00am – Gassed up and ready to go.

4:00 – Nasty weather on I-90. Nearly blinding snow. Luckily at this hour there’s almost no one else on the road so I drive in the middle of the two lanes.

4:05am – 18-wheelers have some sort of magical vision. Or instruments like planes flying in bad weather. Maybe I’ll just tuck in line behind one.

4:10am – Or maybe they just don’t care if they live or die. Sorry but when your trailer goes sideways on the downhills and you don't change your driving you’re going to have to get along without me as an escort.

4:40am – The weather is a lot clearer on the backside of the mountains.

7:00am – Stop for a nap, some gas, and some breakfast. Mmmm…. Egg McMuffins.

9:00am – The satellite radio is pretty cool. But after awhile I’m a little tired of it. Pop in a few CDs I brought with me. … Shirley Manson sure is angry.

11:00am – Stop for a nap, some gas, and some lunch. What's with Oregon and not being able to pump your own gas?

1:00pm – Discover that the Nitro gets about the same mileage at 82mph as it does at 67mph.

3:00pm – My blood pressure rises over some bozo on the freeway. Left lane hog. He accelerates from 70 to 95 whenever I try to go around him. Bad Karma will soon be upon him.

5:30pm – Check into the hotel.

14.5 hours from beginning to end. Just under 13 hours of diving. 851 miles. 14mpg. All in all not a bad trip. Here's the route.

Track Trip: Chapter1 - Getting Ready

What I take to a track day:

Motorcycle related:
• The bike
• Two keys. One I keep on me, one I keep with my clothes in case I lose the first one.
• 5 gallons of extra gas.
• Front and rear wheel stands
• Shop manual

Track gear:
• Helmet
• Gloves
• Boots
• Leathers

For comfort:
I spend a reasonable amount of time not on the track between sessions. I like to sit and relax so I’m ready for the next session.

• A couple of folding chairs
• One of those collapsible shade things
• A cooler with ice

Things to ward off Mr. Murphy:
Everything I can think to make minor repairs at the track. The track is a pretty stressful environment for the bike. Things vibrate loose. They get hot. They pick up dirt and grime.

• Hand tools
--- Two ratchets
--- Socket set
--- Box-end wrenches
--- Allen wrenches
--- Two crescent wrenches
--- Hammer
--- Several pliers
--- Torque wrench
--- Rear-wheel sockets
--- An awl
--- Set of screw drivers
• Cleaners
--- Rags
--- Chain wax
--- WD-40
--- Windex
--- Brake cleaner
• Electrical wire
• Wire ties
• Collection of nuts, bolts, washers and quick-release fasteners.
• Fuses
• Extra tie-downs for the bike
• Electrical tape
• Duct tape

Because I have space in the trailer and I’m a little anal retentive:
• Portable electrical power. I’m not a fan of gas-powered generators at the track. (Too loud, too much of a hassle for my needs.) But some electrical power is handy. I just bought something similar to this. It’s essentially just a rechargeable battery with AC outlets and an air compressor.
• Extra tires. They’re spares, and they can act as ballast for the shade thing if the wind starts to pick up.
• An extra bike. I admit this is a bit excessive. But for multi-day trips it’s nice insurance. I don’t ever want to crash. But it would be worse if I crashed on day 1 and then couldn’t ride on days 2 through N.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Track Day Pics

There was a photographer at the track last weekend. He caught a handful of shots of me.

Here are some from the morning.

And here are a few from the afternoon.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Always Have a Spare Handy

I went to the NESBA track day last Saturday. It turned out to be a gorgeous day. According to the gauge in my car on the way back it was 81 degrees. (So the 7-day forecast was only off by 35 degrees. Thanks guys.)

I had a few goals for the day. (I find it's helpful to have goals for the day so I don't just get caught up in "Hey, that guy just passed me! I better speed up!". When I do that I usually just end up scaring myself and not making any real progress.)

1. Figure out if the trailer works. Do the bikes fit? Do they stay put? Is the weight distributed correctly? How much other crap can I stuff in there? How kind of gas mileage does the Nitro get pulling it? I needed to sort these things out before the trip to Miller in a couple weeks.
2. Lean angles. Ignore lap times, braking points, and especially other riders. Focus on getting the bike leaned further. Especially to the right.
3. Relax. Trust the bike. It knows how to get around the track. The more I relax the more the bike takes over and the more likely things will go well.

The trailer worked 98% perfect. The bikes stayed put for the 40-minute drive. Everything except my safety gear fit in the trailer (bikes, gas, shade, chairs, tools, spare tires) without a problem. The Nitro did well pulling it. It didn't have a problem getting to 70mph and it got about 14.5 mpg on the trip. I should get a spare tire for the trailer but other than that everything is all set.

Because it was the first track day of the season I decided to ride the 955i instead of the Ducati. Too many people (including me) that might be rusty after the winter. I also figured riding the cheaper bike would help me with goal #3. Things were going pretty well in the morning. I was feeling comfortable and I'd managed to drag a knee in turn 3 (one of the few right hand turns at Pacific Raceways.) But in the 3rd session the check engine light came on so I cut the session short.

I wasn't able to figure out what the problem was, I didn't want to risk major damage to the motor, but I didn't want to pack up and call it a day. So I decided I'd ride the Ducati in the afternoon. (It was mighty convenient having a second bike handy.)

Riding the two bikes back to back was surprising:
1. The Ducati can really fly. It was much easier to tip into the corners and would pull out of them in a huge rush.
2. The 955i is considerably louder. I shift by ear and a few times on the 1098 I had the red "Hey bozo, your shift point was 1000rpm ago." light come on because I just wasn't used to the Ducati sound.

By the second session on the Ducati I was dragging a knee in turns 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 9. (3 and 6 are rights.) It's just so much easier to toss around.

I still intend to start on the 955i when I get to Miller. If for no other reason than it's a good bike for recon at a track I've never ridden. But I suspect the 1098 is going to get the lions share of my 3 days in Tooele.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I had a big April planned. I signed up for the local NESBA track days for April 12+13. Then I have a trip to Tooele Utah (outside of Salt Lake City) for 3 track days over four days with APEX and STAR. So I'll test out my trailer with the trip to Kent, then be ready for the longer trip.

Unfortunately the weather has decided to taunt me.

NESBA allows you to cancel your registration up to 7 days in advance and get full credit towards another NESBA day. So Saturday the 5th (12 - 7 = 5) I checked the forecast for the 12th: 46/37 70% chance of rain. I don't like to ride in the rain, I don't want to go to the track in the rain. So I cancelled my registration. There are plenty of other NESBA days this year I can apply the credit to.

I checked the forecast for the 12th today: 63/42 20% chance of rain. Great. Now it's going to be good track day weather and I'm not registered. ... Oh well, if the weather is good I can just drive down there and sign up at the last minute. It will cost me an extra $20 but I guess that's a cheap hedge against bad weather in Seattle in April.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Continued Failure to Like This

This is unacceptable. It's March 30th. Spring has been here over a week.

At 7pm (when we left for dinner) it was cold and raining. By 9:30 there was 2-3 inches of snow in the yards and it was sticking to the roads. This morning there are at least four trees that snapped under the weight of the slushy snow. I had to clear my own driveway with a chainsaw. I couldn't let the dogs out this morning because I wasn't sure if the fence was intact after the neighbors tree fell on it.

This is stupid.

This is not conducive to the convertible and motorcycle lifestyle I aspire to.

It's just stupid.

It's bad enough to be cloudy and wet in late March. But snow? And downed trees? Really? That's what this is about?

Excuse me, I have to go to Lowe's to find a generator. The forecast includes more snow today and tomorrow and I suspect I'll be losing power.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What's That Wagon You're Draggin'?

I bought a trailer yesterday. After looking around for the better part of 6 months I finally ended up settling on a 6x12 box trailer from Home Depot.

In the end it came down to a few options:
- a used box trailer (~$2200)
- a new box trailer (~$3000)
- a used aerodynamic trailer (~$4500 if you can find one)
- a new aerodynamic trailer (~$6000 + shipping from Tennessee)

I figured I probably won't use it enough for the aerodynamic one to pay itself off. (It might save me $0.10/mile.) Then I figured the peace of mind of a new trailer was worth the difference in price. So I ended up with a cheapest new one I could find.

I have some tie-down anchor points and a second motorcycle chock on order. Hopefully they'll arrive sometime this week. I'm hoping to have it setup so I can test it out at a local track day on April 12th.

Why don't trailer manufacturers make trailers short enough to fit under a typical garage door? Why is that such an unusual thing? Not only does it mean you can get your trailer out of the elements, but it also means it's a foot taller than the typical tow vehicle and acting like a parachute brake. I'm not saying *all* trailers should be short, I'm just saying it shouldn't be a special order for 50% extra just to have 8 inches lopped off the top of a box.


Why is that *nobody* seems to make exactly what I want? Seems like I have to settle or modify everything. ... You probably think I'm too picky. I prefer to think I'm right and everyone else is slipping into mediocrity.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lois Is On Her Own For Awhile

We've had decent weather lately. I usually wait until we've had two days in a row without rain before I take the bikes out. (That way there's no water falling from the sky and no water flying up from the road.) Surprisingly we've had a few days recently that fit the bill.

Unfortunately the Ducati was still dressed up for the track and not the street. It's kind of a daunting task to swap out all of the bodywork and the lights and brackets and .... So I just didn't. It was sunny last week and I wanted to ride the bike not futz with it. So I took out the Daytona instead.

Saturday afternoon I broke down and did the conversion. It took about 4 hours to get it converted. Not exactly a Clark-Kent-Into-The-Phone-Booth quick change operation but it wasn't as time consuming as I feared. A little more practice and a few changes and I might cut that time in half.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mondays Aren't Too Bad

I did get the Daytona out on Monday. It was a little chilly but overall not too bad. Here's the route I took. It's kind of a typical eastside motorcycle tour. The surface was good, the only downside is the area is mostly residential so there's always a chance that the unseen car will pop up. Unfortunately there aren't any really empty roads around here. Too many people.

I need to get more seat time in. After about 150 miles between Sunday and Monday I'm pretty sore.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunny Days, Sweeping the Clouds Away

Forecast for Monday in Seattle:

- 54 degrees
- Sunny
- Chance of precipitation: 0%
- Chance of TJ going to work: low

I spent part of the weekend checking on the bikes. (Three days of nice weather in the forecast.)

The Suzuki was stubborn. It wouldn't start Saturday at all. The decompression solenoid might not be operating correctly. I was able to get it started this morning but only by manually holding open the decomp valve. Once it warmed up it did okay, I'll take another look tomorrow and see how grumpy it is.

Other than adding a quick connect for a Battery Tender I didn't mess with the Ducati at all. It would take too much vehicle juggling to get it out of the garage.

The Daytona fired right up after its time on the Battery Tender. I was surprised since it hasn't moved since July. I took it out for about 60 miles today and it's doing pretty well. It definitely feels different. It has less power than the Ducati but at street speeds that's hardly an issue. The extra 100lbs however, is pretty noticeable.

Speaking of the Daytona I'm having trouble deciding what to do with it:

1. Sell it. This seems reasonable considering I have another sportbike in the Ducati. The Daytona would probably only sell for $3500-$4500. It costs me less than $200/year to hold onto (insurance ~$120, registration ~$50). The money would be handy considering the Ducati loan but it wouldn't be life-changing.

2. Keep it. When I go to a new track (or if I get to a track and it's wet or the people look particularly foolish) it would be nice to have a bike I'm less concerned about. Plus, if I go on a long trip (for instance April 26, 28, 29 at Miller) having a spare bike might keep my trip from ending early. Plus, a spare bike might come in handy when trying to lure someone to a track day for the first time. (Dave? Joe? Are you paying attention?)

Opinions? Suggestions?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Mmmmmm.... meat

The big game is almost here. You're excited aren't you? But are you ready? Do you have what it takes? Do you have a big TV? Have you stocked the beer fridge?

Do you have meat?

Meat. You need meat. Why? Because it's football, dumb-dumb. Manly. Violence on national TV for your entertainment. Strategy, preparation, scouting. Millions of dollars will be spent by beer marketers and idiots at just to keep you out of the bathroom during the timeouts. The least you can do is come prepared.

Everyone accepts that meat is awesome. (Well, the *real* men do.) But we're not complete savages so we should cook it. Right, cooked meat. That's what we need. It adds a thin veneer of civility while also requiring fire.

Cooked meat. ... The problem with cooked meat is, well, it's messy. And while a real man couldn't care less if his hands were covered in meat juice it does turn out to be bad for the TV remote. And since the violence extravaganza might have a play we want to rewind and replay on our Tivo it's imperative that the remote work. (Don't anyone get the crazy notion that we'd actually get up and walk over to the TV instead of using the remote. If you're thinking that, get out. ... Seriously. Out. ... But leave the meat.)

So we need bread. We'll put the cooked meat on the bread. Why bread instead of a plate? Because we're men dammit! Men! Do men like to do dishes? No! Think of bread as a plate you can eat and never have to wash. So bread is in, plates are out.

We need cheese. Professional football was perfected in the Midwest. The Bears, Lions and of course the Packers. Have you seen packers fans? 78 below zero, their fingers are frozen to black and what are they wearing? A t-shirt and a cheese head. Now that's manly. In honor of our hearty comrades we will eat cheese.

So far we have meat, cheese, bread, and fire to go with our football. ... Sounds pretty good doesn't it? But sometimes just meat, cheese and bread is bland. And bland is not for manly men like us! We need spice! Something hot and tangy that will go well with our cheese and meat and fire and bread and football.

BBQ. BBQ is the answer. (To oh so many questions like "Why did God rest of the 7th day?" - BBQ.) Hot spicy BBQ sauce on the bread with the meat and cheese. That will work. The problem with BBQ sauce is it is slippery. You're thinking "Slippery? Why is this idiot talking about 'slippery' when describing his food?" Because I've done this before and I know what I'm talking about. So sit down and pay attention. Maybe you'll learn something.

I'm sure you've figured out by now that we're making a sandwich. A tasty sandwich. But our needs are greater than just taste. The sandwich has to function in the real world. We have to gain sustenance from it but not allow it to distract us from our football. We can't bite into the sandwich only to have the meat slide out the back and onto the floor. That would mean getting out of the chair and eating off the floor. And the TV is not setup to be watched from the floor.

Let's avoid that scenario by using skewers. Not toothpicks. Skewers. This is a meal, not a snack. Which brings me to quantities.

Bread: a half a loaf of French bread.
Meat: there should be at least as much meat as there is bread so an 8-12 oz package of lunch meat should do it. The whole package.
Cheese: Velveeta. Why? Dunno, it just seems to work best.
BBQ: Bullseye. It's tasty and it's called Bullseye which sounds sufficiently manly for the task at hand.

Put your sandwich together, put it on a paper towel, and wrap it up in some tin foil. Stick the whole thing in the oven at 375-degrees for about 30 minutes. Don't worry if it's 25 or 35 or even 45 minutes, it'll be fine. ... Hell, just take it out during the first commercial break after you're hungry.

Put it on a cutting board, unwrap it, and run it through with a couple bamboo skewers. Take the whole thing over to the TV and dig in. When you're done brush the crumbs off your shirt, wad up the tin foil and throw it away. Then put the cutting board back where you found it (it's still clean).

Meat, cheese, bread, and BBQ. No muss, no fuss, no dishes. Doesn't get better than that.

Some assembly required. I'm out of bamboo skewers. Metal will have to do.

Be sure to properly slather the BBQ on the bread.

Mmmmm.... meat.

Tick ... tock ... tick. Waiting sucks. I'm hungry.

Life is good.


Doing the dishes.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Got a long way to go and a short time to get there.

You can't go wrong when you mix a Trans-Am, a semi truck, and a Basset Hound. Toss in Jerry Reed and it's instant cinematic history. (We all know Burt Reynolds and Sally Field were really just fillers.)

We decided to take our new car on a weekend trip out to the Manitou Lodge on the Olympic Peninsula. It's a nice little secluded spot about 4 hours drive from here. I was looking at it as sort of a test drive of our new car. We were bringing both of the dogs (so we'd see how much space they really had), the road there is mostly 2-lane blacktop (so we'd find out if the Nitro had the power to pass), and it was in the mountains (so we'd see if it could handle the sloppy stuff).

I'm sure my wife thought of it as some sort of weekend getaway or romantic trip or some other foolishness.

Here's what we found out:
1. It gets better mileage than expected. We averaged 21.4 mpg on the trip. That's higher than the 15/20 rating the EPA gives the 2008 model.
2. It's not a smooth ride but it's acceptable on a long trip.
3. The 4WD system is screwy. It doesn't engage automatically. You have to manually shift from "2WD" to "4WD Lock" with a switch on the dash. In 4WD the transfer case is locked so it shouldn't be used on dry pavement. In the muck it's pretty sure-footed.
4. Satellite radio is cool (you're never out of range) but the reception stinks (even trees will block the signal).
5. The dogs have plenty of space in the back to lay down. But Peanut prefers to sit up and look around. Spike prefers to snore.
6. It needs mud-flaps. It kicks up a huge amount of spray and muck and a lot of it ends up on the rear window. The cars behind us probably hate it. ... But it's hard to be sure since I can't see them.
7. It has plenty of passing power. Just ask the Washington State Patrol.

We both want to change a few things about the Nitro. She wants new door handles and she thinks it needs some running boards (it's a bit tall for her to get in and out of). Of course we'll need the mud-flaps. And, since we're already shopping, we might as well get some spiffy valve caps, a nice new grille, and of course some bling.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I Need More Money (and Less Brains)

The Barrett-Jackson classic car auction finished yesterday. I didn't watch as much of it as I would have liked, and I haven't heard of any industry-altering sales this year. But I did find a few lots that looked interesting on their website.

I used to like the Barrett-Jackson auction for the exotics. The Ferraris, the Duesenbergs, the Tuckers. You know, the cars you never saw out in "the real world." Lately they've been focusing on classic American muscle cars. (I have nothing against that. As an American I like to celebrate my heritage by driving by myself in a 6-passenger, 6500lb car at 80 mph, getting 4mpg, while eating a Big Mac from a non-bio-degradable Styrofoam container.) But it seems like the big money excitement cars are very rare versions of somewhat common cars.

Maybe I haven't seen a 1970 Chevelle LS-6. But does it look different than the Chevelle on blocks in my neighbors yard? Probably not. But when is the last time you saw anything like a Mercedes 540K? Or a Duesenberg? Or even a Ferrari Dino?

I still have to work for a living. For me Barrett-Jackson is a car show not an auction. I want to see unicorns, not buy horses.

1974 Triumph TR-6. Sold for $14,500. Mallard Green with 42000 original miles. It looks really nice in the pictures but, as my wife likes to point out I'm a little anal about these things. So there are a few things that look out of place to me. I'm no expert (and if you are an expert please correct me) but here's my list:
1. Tires. On a car being sold as an original they should be Redlines.
2. Exhaust. Looks like a Monza.
3. Badging. What is that in front of the British-Leyland badge on the left front fender?
4. Bumpers. There are black rubber bumper riders in the back but not in the front. I've never seen that before.
5. Under the hood. What's with the red hoses? What's the box on the drivers side inner fender behind the brake reservoir?

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

1966 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III. $105,000!

1967 Cobra 427. Okay, this looks like about 1000 cars you've already seen. Hell, there's a Superformance dealer down the street with 40 in his lot that you couldn't tell from an original at a stop light. (And it's one of the American Muscle cars I was whining about 4 paragraphs ago. Cobras are given a pass.) It's a 427 side-oiler? 11,000 original miles? If I had the resources I'd have gone toe-to-toe with Ron Pratte for this one.

I guess it's good to have something to strive for.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Duc in a Track Suit

I spent a few nights this week redoing the paint on the fiberglass tail of the Ducati. I broke down and bought a cheap power sander to help strip off the old paint. It worked out pretty well but there was still a lot of hand work to do towards the end.

After finishing the tail I thought about stripping and repainting the nose again. But I've decided to put that off for another day because
a) I'm tired of paint fumes
2) My wife wants her parking space in the garage back
iii) I don't have any good paint left

So, for now, here's what a Duc in a track suit looks like:

I just put the clear coat on Friday night so I still haven't waxed or buffed it. But you can see that it's a much better looking piece than the nose.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Big Pimpin, Spendin Cheese

It happened just the way I thought it was going to (only 23 times faster).

Yep, that's right, I'm not above saying "I told you so".

We went for test drives today:

Dodge Nitro R/T
Toyota Highlander
Toyota RAV4 V6

The Highlander is huge. It's like driving a truck full of your grandmothers couch. It has 100hp more than the Subaru but with 1000 extra pounds to haul around it didn't feel very peppy. It drives a lot like the Camry it's based on, but just much much bigger.

Next up was the RAV4. They didn't have a new V6 AWD so we drove a used 07. (They're close enough to the same car for what I wanted to find out.) It's a nice car. I was alot more comfortable driving it from square 1. It has the same powertrain as the Highlander and is 500 lbs lighter. It was also a Sport model so it felt pretty quick.

So after 90 minutes we'd crossed off one from our list and confirmed another. Not bad in my book.

The Nitro feels very substantial. Big, tall, solid. It's the same weight and power as the Highlander but much more responsive. When you put your foot down it goes. And it makes some beautiful music in the process. The more my wife drove the Nitro the more she seemed to like it. (Secretly, she wants to be a truck driver. Or at least a road-bully.)

We expected the price would be about the same. The RAV4 is cheaper but demand is higher so dealers aren't cutting as much off MSRP. The RAV4 was a Sport model without many widgets, the Nitro was the R/T which gives it a lot of interior amenities.

So there it was: on one side the RAV4 with it's better mileage and greater reliability; on the other side the Nitro with it's additional options and in-your-face style. Substance vs style.

The RAV4 was the 'right' choice.

We bought the Nitro.

Now, move that sedan out of the way before I change lanes over you!