Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Latest Tabletop Guitar Build

A couple of Saturdays ago, I spent the afternoon cutting out three guitar bodies with my band saw. I figured I might as well cut out a few, so that I could easily work on them as time permitted. The body on the left, in the picture above, was cut from the same school desk top from which I built Ted Intorcio's "School's Out" guitar. I used the lighter colored top of the desk as the front of his guitar, but I liked the look of the bottom of the piece for this one.

Ted's guitar...

The other two bodies in that same picture were cut from a vintage piece of milled lumber (probably 1950s) which my buddy Eric Chavez gave to me, quite a while ago. I think it is pine, though it is so aged and so welled dried that it has no scent when you cut it.

I mocked the guitar up on the floor of the shop building, just to get a feel for what it would look like, once done.I decided that a bar-type tailpiece would suit better than a trapeze, just due to the thinness of the wood. How to mount the controls remained to be seen.

The pickup is a Gretsch lap-steel unit which I bought off of eBay.I've read numerous accounts of people using lap-steel pickups to build guitars, especially in the old days, so I thought I would give it a shot. I figured that, if I didn't like it, I could always swap it for something else and use this pickup to build an actual lap-steel.

The two rails on which the pickup sits are liner strips from a cigar box guitar. They not only got the pickup height to where I needed it, but they also provided an easier mounting than screwing into the rock-hard work of the desk top.

I scavenged a neck from an Epiphany Les Paul Special which I had bought for parts. I will sand the face of the headstock to remove the logo, once I get some better tuners to install on it. The stock Epi tuners leave a bit to be desired. I'll probably throw a bone nut on it at that time, as well.

The volume pot and the output jack are both taller than the body is thick, so I elevated them above the  face of the guitar, much as I did on the very first Tabletop Guitar.

TTG #1

On that first guitar, I used pick guard material to elevate them. But, on this guitar, I wanted to stick to an all-wood face.

The same cigar box which supplied the pickup mounting rails also supplied a piece of its bottom to act as a mounting plate. The plate is screwed to the body through two Monkey Shoulder Scotch corks and one from a bottle of whiskey whose name I forgot.

I left the pickup wire exposed for a couple of reasons: It not only suits the "made in a barn" aesthetic of the guitar but, also, I may want to reposition the pickup, at some point. Having the wire easily accessible would make that a bit simpler.

The Thursday after I finished the guitar, I took it to the Englewood tavern and played slide on it during the open mic which I host. It has a sound which is distinct from the first of these I built, which was made out of Maple, with a P-90 pickup. I wanted a different sound, from the same configuration. No sense in havingtwo guitars which are exactly the same!

I may actually find myself playing this one in Standard Tuning, and using the other for slide.

Anyway, I was well-pleased with how it came out. I really like parlor guitar-sized body with the full-scale neck. I might actually build another, and set the neck with a 16th-fret junction of the neck and body so that I have more usable frets. With the 14-fret junction, you are a bit limited in the upper octaves.


Sunday, July 08, 2018

They Say That You Can Never Go Home. But, Here I Am...

After our trip to Vermont, we did a lot of hanging about. Joy took Momma to the doctor to check out the hairline fracture she had gotten on her little finger, the first day I was there. Afterwards, Momma came by and spent some time at the house.

Momma and I, sitting on Joy's patio...

The following pictures are random shots from the next few days:

A baby bluejay which had fallen out of the nest. Momma Bluejay followed him around for a couple of days until we lost track of him.

My favorite breakfast-time activity...

The baby bluejay is on the stick behind sSteve's chair.

Proof that at least one person is paler than I am. Sean and I comparing "tans"...

I ordered this repeating rubber band gun for Sean, while we were in Vermont. It arrived in Monday's mail, and we had a good time shooting it.

My mileage at the start of the trip home...

Eventually, all good things come to an end, and I needed to head back to Denver. So, I left Mercer at about 7:30 on the morning of July 4th, and headed west on I-80. I wanted to take a different route back, in order to avoid the I-70 madness between Columbus and Indianapolis.

First gas stop, outside of Mansfield, OH

I got off of the Interstate at Mansfield, Ohio, and got on US-30. It was a good road, and the scenery was relatively pleasant, for Ohio. I made pretty good time, but the heat was building. All along the way, the bank thermometers were showing 97 to 99 degrees, and the sun was beating down.

By my third gas stop, in Monticello, Indiana, I was pretty dehydrated, and getting a bit goofy. I didn't realize it until I had to go inside to prepay, because the pump wouldn't take my card. I sort of got into it with the clerk, and suddenly realized what was going on. I apologized, profusely, got my gas and something to drink, and took off, again.

At that stop, I texted Joy that I had made it 300 miles, so far. About 20 minutes later, after my drink had gotten into my system and my brain started working right, again, I realized that I had actually gone 400 miles, I just couldn't do the math in my addled state.

I made sure to stay better hydrated, after that!

I had to get off of the US highways, in Illinois, and take I-57 south to Champagne/Urbana in order to pick up I-72 (which becomes US-36 at Hannibal, MO.) At Decatur, Illinois, I stopped for gas and had the most aggravating experience in a convenience store.

I went inside, after gassing up, to get a drink and a snack. I got a Diet Mtn Dew and some peanut butter crackers, and went to the front to pay. There, a gentleman had three 18-packs of Keystone light, and was asking if there was any more in the back. (It was on special.)

The second clerk walked up, and the gal checking out Mr. Keystone Light told her to go get him three more packs. Meanwhile, an older guy got behind me in line.

Clerk #2 comes back with the beer, sets it on the counter, then walks to her register. As she does, I start to move that way and the old guy behind me sprints over to the counter to pay. Clerk #2 just looked at me, and started ringing him up.

Meanwhile, the Keystone Kowboy has paid. I start to move forward, and then he says, "I need some help getting this out to my car."

So, Clerk #1 just grabs some of his beer and carries it out. Meanwhile, I'm still standing there, waiting to pay, and the old guy is chatting up Clerk #2.

So, I just put my stuff back and left. No-one seemed to mind...

Anyway, that got my adrenaline up to the point that I decided to just go ahead and ride to Hannibal, another 140 miles away. I really wanted to get Illinois behind me.

My reward to myself for making it to Hannibal in a day...

The next morning, I checked out of the motel, and talked to a Harley rider from Canada. He had been planning to rider to Decatur, get on old 36, and take that to Indy. I told him about my experience with that route, on the way east, and he decided to plot another route.

Fueling up in Hannibal. Notice that I took my jacket off to get gas. I was already pretty damn humid, at 8:00 AM.

Once I was moving, the riding was pleasant. The sun was out, but the temperature was much lower than it had been the day before. Missouri flew by in about 4-1/2 hours. I drank water at every stop, and took it easy. I knew that there was no way to make it home, that day, as tired as I was. But, once I passed Cameron, MO, I knew that I was under an easy day's ride from Denver.

I ended up stopping in Oberlin, KS, for the night. I had planned on staying in a new, "nice" hotel, but I saw the Oberlin Inn and RV Park, and checked it out online. The reviews were good, so I got a room there.

My bike in front of my room. The other rooms in the little building were storage, so I had no wall mates. It was nice and quiet!

I was somewhat charmed by getting an actual room key.

Downtown Oberlin

One of the things I really like about the small towns in Kansas, other than how friendly everyone is, is that most of them have retained their historic look. Brick streets and old storefronts greet you in almost all of those towns, if you leave the highway corridor and go to the Business District. 

Just past that red truck, in the second picture above, is The Reload, where I ate dinner. Pizza and sandwiches ... I had a cheeseburger and fried dill pickle chips. The condiments were in squeeze bottles, and the Coors Beer was ice cold, and both of those facts pleased me.

After dinner, I went back to my room and decided to make myself a cocktail. 

When I'm on the road, I usually drink my whiskey in some Diet Coke. It allows me to have as much drinking time as usual, without drinking as much whiskey. I didn't have any ice in my room, so I walked across the street to the gas station convenience store to get a large fountain drink, with a ton of ice in it. Once I had it, I walked up to the counter and ... realized I had left my wallet in my jacket pocket.

In a moment which was the polar opposite of my experience in the convenience store in Decatur, one of the clerks told me to not worry about it, and she paid the $2.58 for my drink out of her pocket. (Good ol' Kansas!) So, I walked back to the room, got my wallet, and rode the bike back over to the store. (I was tired of walking.) I gave her $5.00, and told her to keep the change.

Later, as I was sitting outside, drinking and swatting skeeters, a truck drove by on 36, and I watched the front driver's side wheel fall off of it, and it continued a few yards in a shower of sparks. The driver pulled off to the road between the gas station and the motel, and made a rather loud phone call describing his predicament to someone I think may have just sold him the truck.

The wheelless truck. You can see that the wheel didn't come off of the hub, but the steering assembly has partially detached.

By the time I finished my second drink, a tow truck had arrived and loaded the truck up and hauled it off.

After a great night's sleep and a refreshing shower, I walked over to the office for the Continental Breakfast. The eating area had a dining table, rather than small individual tables, like a boarding house. I had a bagel with cream cheese and a cup of coffee, then grabbed another cup of coffee and some peanut butter crackers (finally got some!), and went outside to sit and have my "second breakfast". 

After that, I went back inside for a third cup of coffee, since I was in no hurry to get on the road, being only about 250 miles from home. I met the owner, sitting at the table with one of his cronies, and talked for a while. Definitely a colorful character!

A couple of hours later, and I crossed into Colorado (which isn't really very colorful, there). A little over two more hours saw me back in my driveway.

I forgot to get a picture of my odometer at the house, so I took this shot at Fermaentra, which is two miles past my house. If you go back and look at the mileage when I left Denver, and do the math, it comes out to almost exactly 3,000 back to try driveway. And, by almost exactly 3000, I mean 2999.8!

Safe and sound, happy as a clam

Despite my concerns, the pin striping on the gas tank came out undamaged, even though I stopped putting the cloth under the tank bag after the first day.


Monday, July 02, 2018

Why You Never See Me With a Tan

 By the time I got to Mercer, last week, I had a bit of a sunburn on my throttle-hand wrist. My jacket sleeve rides up a bit, and the gloves I was wearing have a short wrist-piece, so a gap would appear between them as I rode.

 For many people, this would result in an amusing, abbreviated "farmer's tan". For me, however, this is the result:

Radiation burns!

So, while we were all up in Vermont, I went to an outdoor supply store and bought some deerskin work gloves, with a longer wrist area.

The old glove, with the short wrist...

The new glove...

Notice that, with the new glove, you can no longer see the burned area. (My bracelet is in the same position, in both pictures.) Hopefully this will prevent a repeat of the problem.

The old gloves would sorta bind my fingers, as I rode, too. This made my hands pretty sore, after a few hours on the motorbike. I think the new gloves will prevent that problem, as well.

Sometimes, problems arise on the road which have never occurred on shorter, local rides. Nothing to do but find a fix for them.

That, my friends, is my entire attitude toward touring on a motorbike.


Sunday, July 01, 2018

Side Trip To Vermont

My older nephew, Kyle, is working Event Support at the Marlboro Music Festival, a few miles from Brattleboro, Vermont. Joy, Steve, Sean and I loaded up the car and drove there so that I could have a short visit in with him, since he could not come home while I am here. (It's an eight to twelve-hour trip, depending on how much of a hurry you are in.)

We rented a cabin on Gate's Pond, twenty minutes from the campus of Marlboro College. The cabin was a lot nicer than we anticipated, and the general consensus was that none of wanted to leave, once we were there!

These sunny pictures are actually from the day we left. It rained, almost constantly, from the time we got there until the morning we were to leave. To tell you the truth, I enjoyed the rainy time as much as anything I've experienced in a while. We don't get a lot of rainy days in Denver, like that; it's usually sunny or stormy. So, rain and 70 degrees for a high was a nice change for me. (Also, it was over 100 degrees, both days, back in Denver. So, I felt almost like I was getting away something!)

We called Kyle on the landline (no cell service at the cabin), and he arrived soon after. During a brief lull in the rain, he and Sean walked down to the shore of the pond to check things out. That was the last time any of us left the porch, except to get into the car, for the rest of the trip.

The pond looked, at first glance, to be rather scummy. But, when we looked closer, we realized that the green on the surface was actually lily pads. There were plenty of bullfrogs croaking, and we saw a couple of beavers swimming about, and we watched a hawk through the binoculars for a bit, as well.

This is where I spent the majority of our time at the cabin.

On Thursday, Kyle came by and we piled into the car for a tour of the area. We drove though the Marlboro campus, visited Hogback Mountain (Famous 100-Mile View!) and spent some time rattling around in Brattleboro before heading back to cook dinner at the cabin.

Brattleboro is a very quaint town with a lot of historic buildings in the downtown area. I quite enjoyed walking the shops and looking around. On the way out of town, we stopped at Disco Bev (Discount Beverages) to replenish our whiskey supply. Our only bottle had mysteriously drained, the night before...

Sunset, of our second night in the cabin, was quite pretty. Venus peeked through the a gap in the clouds, during a brief break in the rain. The mosquitoes were a bit of a handful, but nothing that a good swing with a baseball bat wouldn't take care of.

As I mentioned, the second morning we were there dawned dry and bright. The pond looked a bit different in the sunny conditions.

But, I still say that we lucked out having the rain. It lent an atmospheric aspect to the place that I really enjoyed.

On the way home, we stopped in Oneonta, New York, at Brook's, a regionally famous BBQ joint. On the premises, there was a picnic area/playground, where Sean and I goofed around a bit.
Me, in the "Ragin' Rooster".

You can't see it in the photo, but there was a slide which went from the tailgate of the Rooster to a sand pit, behind it. Pretty cool for little kids (and not too bad for us big kids, either).

We got home kinda late, on Friday night, unloaded the car and went to bed. All in all, a pretty good 72-hour trip!


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Eight Great States

 The starting mileage on the bike, in my driveway, as I prepared to pull out. (If you are familiar with my bike, you might recall that I broke the glass out of the original speedometer when the bike had 2461 miles on it, I replaced the original speedo with this unit. So, my mileage shows low.)

On Saturday, I got started a little later than I had planned. I set an alarm on my phone, in order to get up at 4:30, but I neglected to specify that it ring on Saturday morning. So, I ended up waking up with the sun at 5:30. Not a big deal, being vacation and all...

I took off from the house right at 6:30, took I-225 around to I-70 and headed east to Byers, about 45 miles from my house. There, I picked up US-36, which is my favorite route across Kansas and Missouri.

Oddly, the wind was pretty calm, not even noticeable, as I rode across the eastern half of Colorado. I figured it would pick up, as usual, when I crossed into the Central Time Zone, at the Kansas border. Fortunately, I was wrong. This trip is the first time I have ridden across both Kansas and Missouri without encountering a noticeable cross-wind on the highway.

The temperature was hovering around 63 degrees in Denver, when I left, so I had on a fleece vest over a base layer, t-shirt and arm warmers. Pretty normal, for early mornings in June, at the mile-high elevation of Denver. I rode until about 10:30 CST before it got warm enough for me to remove the vest.

I couldn't manage to get it in my overstuffed tank bag without rearranging things, so I just wadded it in between the headlamp shell and the flyscreen, where it rode all day with no problem.

Gas stops in Kansas, particularly, and also in Missouri are entertaining. I'll repeat my assertion that if you are lonely, all you have to do is buy a retro-style motorcycle of some kind (Harley, Triumph, Moto Guzzi, whatever), and ride 36 across Kansas. At every stop, someone will approach you to talk about the bike, and end up talking to you for 10 minutes or more. At the stop in the picture above, I talked to a gal from Ridgway, Colorado, for about 15 minutes (she was visiting her niece in a town about 20 miles away, in Nebraska, and came down to Norton, Ks, to visit her elderly aunt with whom she would spend a few weeks in the summer as a girl ... her dad picked her up on his motorbike and rode her back to Ridgway when she was 9 or 10, and scandalized the 4 aunts who lived there at the time, but she enjoyed the ride and remembered napping on the back of the bike as they rode...)

I also talked to an elderly gent from the area who was heading home from his sons house in the Denver area for about 10 minutes. Eventually, I just had to excuse myself so I could get back on the road.

This was the pattern at every gas stop west of the Mississippi, on the trip east.

As the day went by, and my normal 600 mile destination came and went, I started thinking hard about how far I was going to try to ride on that day. I wanted to get to Columbus, Ohio, and spend the evening with my old friends there, and I wanted to get as close to Columbus as possible.

So, I ended up rolling into Hannibal, Mo, at about 9:00 pm, just as the last daylight was fading. I had covered half of Colorado, all of Kansas and all of Missouri except for the last half-mile to the river, all in one day. My previous longest day on the Scram was 702 miles. On Saturday, I ended up with 776.

 End mileage on Saturday

I checked into an EconoLodge, just off of the highway, dropped my bag in the room and then went in search of dinner. I brought a KFC sandwich and potato wedges back, and grabbed a Diet Pepsi from the machine in the motel lobby. Just as I was opening the door of my second-floor room, a group of four riders pulled in on big Harleys. There were two guys and two gals, and they were having some trouble figuring where to park, as I had gotten the last open parking space in the lot.

I called down to them and told them to feel free to park one of their bikes in the space with mine. It was the last in the row, and they could then pull the other three bikes in close to the spot, on the edge of the drive, and everything would be cool. They thanked me, and I went into my room, ate, and fell into bed.

The next morning, after a very enjoyable shower (lots of water pressure, and plenty of hot water), I started over to the lobby area for the free breakfast. As I came down the stairs, the four Harley riders were packing up. We started talking and they told me they had been to the motorcycle museum in Animosa, Iowa, which I visited last summer. They were members of the Christian Motorcycle Club (not sure if that's the exact name), and asked if they could pray for me and bless my bike.

Now, I will tell you, that my beliefs probably don't line up exactly with theirs, but I cheerfully accepted their offer and received a prayer for my safekeeping, my mom's health and the blessing of my bike. I don't want to be a hypocrite and try to seem that I am a good church-going man, but I feel that any positive vibes you can send out are beneficial. So, I was happy to receive theirs.

On the road, every little bit helps!

The day had dawned sunny and bright. My luck was holding with the weather, as the forecast along my route showed little to no chance of precipitation along the way. So, I had my free breakfast (home-made biscuits and country sausage!), packed up and was on my way. 

After gassing up, I pulled back onto 36 and headed toward the bridge over the Mississippi River, thence onto Interstate 72, which overlays old US-36 at that point. As I accelerated onto 36, it quickly became foggy ... foggy London-town foggy ... foggy like you can see 40 or 50 feet in front of you foggy... It was a bit disconcerting.

Having grown up around rivers in the South, I knew what was going on. The Big Muddy was creating this fog bank in the cool morning air, and I knew that I would ride out of it pretty soon after I cleared the bridge. But, the 3 or 4 miles I rode in that blind fog lasted a seeming eternity, and I was just waiting for a stopped or nearly-stopped car to materialize out of the fog in my lane.

Luckily, I was the only one on the road, at that point, and I broke free of the fog about a mile east of the river, to once again enjoy a beautiful, strangely cool, midwestern summer morning.

I rode I-72 for about 145 miles to Decatur, Illinois, where I picked up old US-36, again. While I prefer to ride the older US highways, west of the Mississippi, I am beginning to think it is not such a great idea in the more densely populated states on the east side of the river. I saw some cool local stuff, as I rode, but the towns I went through were all pretty good sized, and really slowed me down. The holiday traffic around the reservoir along the way was atrocious, and the last 50 miles to Indianapolis took me and hour and a half.

I definitely have to find another route for the trip home.

A "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" moment in Indiana, as I lubed and adjusted my chain at a gas/snack stop...

At Indy, I jumped on the Interstate and hauled ass toward Columbus. I will tell you that I was appalled at how bad the road conditions are on I-70 from Indy to Columbus. The respective DOTs of Indiana and Ohio should be ashamed to have let the pavement deteriorate to the point that I-70 has deteriorated. It is awful, dangerous to everyone but, particularly motorcyclists, and I will definitely avoid it in the future.

I got to Columbus in the early evening and spent a really enjoyable night with old friends. Chicken was grilled, beers were consumed, and the talk never slowed down. I often think that the only thing I will ever regret about moving to Denver is leaving the Robertsons (and the Muraths, now, since Hadley married Jim) behind.

On Monday morning, I met Petey and Jennifer for a quick coffee and sandwich at Starbucks, then headed east, again on I-70 (which is a whole different road east of Columbus). I went through Wheeling, West Virginia, turned north and picked up I-79 past Pittsburgh to I-80 and then to Joy's house in Mercer.

No long conversations at the gas pumps, on this leg. At one point, I walked up to the cashier at the gas station/convenience store I stopped at in W-Va.

"Hey! How ya doing?" I asked, smile on my face, purchase in hand.

"All right." muttered as she looked at something very interesting on the floor. "Two nineteen."

Entire conversation.

Back on the road, I actually enjoyed the Interstate riding. The road was smooth, there are some nice curves, here and there, and the terrain is interesting.

I arrived in Mercer at about 1:30 in the afternoon. My brother in law, Steve, was outside puttering about. I got off the bike, Steve brought me a beer, and the visit began...

Joy and Steve's garage. Front row, from left to right, Kyle's Triumph Adventure, my Scrambler 900. In the background, the GS 500 Suzuki I brought to Kyle when he was 16, and Joy's Kawasaki Eliminator 600 ... plus, a few bicycles

My copy editor, Rosen, in my lap being a big help as I type...