Two Wheels - Six Strings

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On The (Dirt) Road

Memorial Day weekend had arrived, the unofficial opening of summer pools sunburn and barbecues hit the road in the family sedan load up the supplies roughing it in the woods show the kids how it used to be when men were men and women knew their place in this world (just kidding honey) and let's hit the road and go somewhere sleep under the stars burn meat over an open fire. Hordes of middle-aged drivers kids in back seat converging on parks and forests to love the good life under the trees for three days with no thought of boss or job except I sure dread going back why is there so much traffic and we'll get there when we get there stop asking me.  Don't make me turn this car around! 

There amidst the waves of sedans and pickup trucks and Winnebagos there appear the Others, zooming by on two wheels on the same quest but feeling somehow above it all. No camper trailers and Coleman coolers for them just a bedroll and a tent and a hip flask full of liquid gold. Nowhere to go and all the time in the world to get there, the trip is the thing the reason for being on the road who cares where we end up we just need to go and we'll know where we're heading when we get there.

The unwashed, unshaven riding along on their motorbikes burning up unsustainable gasoline for no good reason other than the thrill of skimming along inches above the road at certain death speed four inch patch of rubber leading another six inch patch separating exhilaration from catastrophe.  Such were the heroes of our story.

Tom and I left my house a little before 2:00 PM on Friday, heading for no place in particular.  We had been planning this trip for a couple of months, and the more we planned the less we planned.  We had started out with the idea of heading to the Four Corners area, then decided to shoot for somewhere a little closer, since we wanted to ride as much dirt road as possible, and that slows you down, considerably.

Eventually, we decided to just head over the Continental Divide, and ride until we needed to head back.  Most people were confused when they would ask us where we were going, and we would just say, "West."

One thing that we did have to plan was where to cross the Continental Divide.  We really wanted to go across on an unpaved pass, but we were unsure if the jeep roads would be clear of snow, yet.  Late May and early June are the just the beginning of Spring, at that altitude.  The final plan was to head for Jefferson, and cross the divide on Georgia Pass and head into Breckinridge.  Since we were leaving later than we wanted to (Tom had to work a partial day), we knew that we would end up camping, the first night, on the east side of the divide.

From the house, we headed out of town to Deckers, then turned west.  Not long after we had passed Deckers, we swung off onto a dirt road which led through the Hayman Burn area.

The road surface consisted of decayed granite, and the effect was that of riding on marbles.  I had often wondered why the Scrambler riders on the net, who actually ride off-road, refer to the stock Bridgestone Trailwing tires as "Deathwings".  I think I understand, now...

Burn areas are an odd thing.  While it seems like terrible devastation, I know that periodic fires are the secret to the forest renewing itself.  The only tragedy is how it affects us, and our desire to control our environment.

But, lack of tall trees does make for some impressive scenery:

Tom was my guide and my "rabbit" on the trip.  He has ridden this area for years, and he is quite comfortable blasting down the dirt road on his XR-650 at speeds way beyond what I would consider if I wasn't following him.  (This is not to say that I rode his speed and kept up with him, only that I forced myself to improve my skills in an effort to keep him in sight!)

 Tom's XR is definitely a much more dirt-oriented bike than the Scrambler.  At one point, we were talking about the modifications I have made to improve the off-road capabilities, and the mods I will be making in the future, and talk turned to suspension.

"I don't know if I should put another $1500 into this bike, to make it more of a dirt bike, or if I should just spend $1500 on a damn dirt bike..."  I said.

In reality, if I had a dirt bike, I would probably never ride it.  My fascination with riding off-road has less to do with the ride than it does with making the Scrambler live up to it's styling.  I think that the shortcomings of the bike are what makes it so much fun.

Jefferson is only about 65 miles from my house, if you head straight up 285, over Kenosha Pass.  The route we took ended up being 119 miles from my house to the gas station in Jefferson.  Despite the fact that I was steering around the turns by spinning the rear tire, and rarely got out of 4th gear on the gravel, the Scrambler returned 62.5 mpg!

Along the way, we stopped at a back country saloon for dinner.  Any place with two dogs wandering around the bar, an old cowboy telling stories of the 650 Bonnie he had in the 1960s, and guys playing really bad 8-ball on the coin-op pool table is all right by me.

After we filled up with gas, Tom led the way up Michigan Creek Road.  Fifty miles per hour on an actual dirt (not gravel) road was fun, except for when the setting sun periodically got in my eyes and completely blinded me.  We headed up the hill on a road which got rougher as we climbed, then turned off to the right into a camping area.  After a bit of pretty exciting trail riding, including going down and then back up a short steep climb which made my heart race, in both directions, we found a nice camp spot just up the hill from the creek.

A previous camper apparently had a gun battle going with someone:

45 ACP

We spent a bit of time setting up camp, and exploring the creek, then the sun began to set...

By the time it was dark, the clock was showing 9:00 PM, and we both decided it was time to hit the rack.  So, Tom jumped into his hammock, and I crawled into the tent.  Day One of the trip was over.

NEXTWhy Did We Camp So Damn High Up?


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mr. T!

Sixty years old, today. I pity the fool who calls him an old man!


Monday, May 21, 2012

Rainy Forecast

Well, the forecast for Thursday and Friday calls for cool, rainy weather. I may have to rethink my shelter situation for the trip. It is one thing to set up camp and get a shower, overnight. It is quite a different thing to set up camp in the rain, with no tent, two nights in a row.

I have a small tent that Dave Webb gave me, years ago. I will repackage the bike, tonight, with the tent included. I rode the Scrambler to work with the original load on the bike, and everything rode well with no shifting around. Adding the tent shouldn't be a big deal.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Open Mic at Kaos Pizza

The open mic night at Kaos went well.  I was the fifth performer on the stage, and I played 3 songs:   Novocaine Blues, Martini, and Whiskey Is My Friend.  People tapped their feet and tapped their hands on tables along with the beat, so I felt like the songs went over well.

This was my first open mic night in over 10 years.  The last time I played in public was when Siddra had the pre-opening reception at her Starbucks, 6 or 7 years ago.  Oddly, I wasn't really even nervous before going on.  I had really missed playing for an audience.

I think I will be doing this, some more.


Sunday, Oily Sunday

Triumph recommends oil changes for the Scrambler every 6000 miles, or every year, whichever comes first.  I have just under 5000 miles on the Scram, but a lot of my riding has been in dusty conditions, and I am going to be riding a lot over the Memorial Day weekend, so I went ahead and changed the oil, today.

I went down to the auto parts store and got a container to drain the old oil into.  It should hold the next change, as well, before I have to take it to the recycler.

I also bought a long-necked funnel, crucial to avoid making a mess, with the high pipes in the way of the filler hole.

Speaking of the filler hole, I suppose there is probably a special factory tool for removing the plug.  I have always used a Park cone wrench.  It fits perfectly into the slot on the plug.

New oil and filter installed, it was then time to get the camping gear out and test-load the bike.  My buddy Tom, at work, invited me along to ride and camp in the mountains over the long holiday weekend.  We hope to ride dirt roads and secondary paved roads, mostly, and avoid the crowded highways.

Camping may be a challenge, so I changed up my approach, for this trip.  I am leaving the hammock behind, and taking my tarp/bedroll and a self-inflating air mattress.  I also have a small rain cloth to use over the top of the bedroll if it rains, effectively turning it into a bivy-shelter. I hope that I don't need it...

I attached one of the bags I usually use when I ride to Tennessee on the Trident, so that I can carry some clothes, eating supplies, etc, down low.  I am going to commute with the load on the bike, and see how it behaves.  By Thursday, I should have a handle on how it will work out.

Since the bike is all loaded up, I will be driving the truck this evening!  In about 45 minutes, I will load up the guitar and drive over to Kaos Pizza, on South Pearl Street, and sign up for the open mic night.  A few of my coffee shop buddies are supposed to show up, so I hope I don't forget the words to my songs, right in the middle of it.

Wish me luck.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Thank You! (Also, Happy Mother's Day!)

Plan B, on my Kickstarter project, has proven successful..  Thanks to some generous pledges, I have exceeded my $750.00 goal by $250.00, so far.  I am hoping that a few more of you may still want to pre-purchase a cd. 

A $10.00  pledge is all it takes.

What kind of music?  I made  rough demo of the songs and distributed a few copies among some friends and acquaintances (and drummers, etc, whom I was trying to get interested in participating).  Dave, down at Kaladi, described it as "sort of a modern take on Delta Blues...but different."

I will play slide on 10 of the tracks, and not on 3 of them.  At least one each of the slide/not-slide songs will be acoustic.  One of them is a bit over the top with distortion and crazy vocals.

The song list is as follows:

Novocaine Blues

Born Loser


Grave Digger

Hard Rockin'

Martini For You

The Tear Standing in My Eye

Nowhere To Go

Whiskey Is My Friend

Blue Skies, Two Wheels


Bootlegger's Son

Your Daddy

All of these songs are originals, for the most part autobiographical, and kinda chart the progression of my life as my marriage broke up, and I learned to live on my own and as myself.  Plus, you can do the Twist or the Frug to most of them.  And, there are a couple of slow-dance tunes in there, as well.

Brad is going to be the Art Director for the packaging, and Adam from Kaladi has signed on as drummer.  Who knows...maybe I can hook up with a bass player, as well.

And for all of the moms out there, particularly my own, Happy Mother's Day!

I hope all of your children make you proud.


Monday, May 07, 2012

Relaunch of My Kickstarter Project: Plan B From Outer Space

As many of you know, I failed to make my funding goal on the CD project.  So, I have scaled back the scope of the project:  I have reduced my goal to an amount I hope will pay for most of the recording and mastering cost, but I will duplicate the CDs and produce the packaging, myself.

If those of you who were kind enough to pledge on the first go-round will do so, again, we will soon be rocking and rolling.  And, if this is the first you have seen of this, please check it out and consider pledging.  A ten dollar pledge gets you a copy of the CD.

Go here to check out the new video, and please feel free to pledge.  This fund drive will end in 7 days (next Monday), so please don't put it off.

Thank you for your support!


Sunday, May 06, 2012

It Sucks to Get Old

I went to the doctor, Wednesday afternoon, to talk to her about my Achilles Tendinitis.  Previously, I had talked to the physician's assistant, and after following her advice for a year, I was still suffering pain in the tendon.  I was hoping that the doctor would have a definitive fix in mind, after 14 months of trouble with the tendon...acupuncture, or something.   I don't know...

Anyway, she pretty much just told me to not expect to do a lot of big rides, this year.  And, she has me off of the bicycle for another two weeks (on top of the two weeks previous during which the tendon was bothering me so much that it hurt while I was riding, not just afterwards), taking huge doses of ibuprofen in order to try to get the inflammation to go away.

After that, home PT (stretching exercises).  If that fails to take care of the problem, then I have to go to a professional physical therapist, and maybe to an orthopedist to get a cast on the ankle to completely prevent movement of the tendon, so that it will heal from whatever is wrong.

I am unclear as to whether or not I am supposed to ride the bike during the home PT stage.  I will have to check in with the Doc and see, when the time comes.  I hope I can, because not riding is making me a bit grumpy (and a bit fatter, every day, too, I might add).

I have pretty much always been able to ride through whatever was wrong with me, until it either went away or was fixed by medical intervention.  I tried with this, but it just got to be too much...which makes me feel like I am getting old and weak.

One of the things that really sucks is that I will end up driving the truck to work, if it rains.  I can't ride the bicycle, and commuting by motorbike in the rain is just too dangerous.

I guess that just means that I will have more time to work on the music project and ride the motorcycle.  That's the upside.

But, I miss riding my bike, dammit!


Thursday, May 03, 2012


I took today off, and decided to mow the yard while I was home. I mowed the front yard, then trimmed with my line-trimmer.

I started on the back yard, and trimmed first. Not long after I started cleaning up the fence line, I broke the string in the trimmer. It broke right where it exits the reel. So, I opened the reel and unwound a bit of line.

As I started trimming again, the excess line was trimmed off by the cutter on the string guard. When that happened, I felt the broken piece hit my calf.  I didn't think much of it...that happens fairly often ,

But, as I worked, I continued to feel the spot where the broken mono-filament had hit my calf. After a couple of minutes, I stopped trimming and took a look at my leg.

This is what I saw:

 Well, I was not too shocked to see a small bit of line stuck in my skin.  Stranger things happen, all the time.

But, I was a bit shocked when I went to brush it off, and it didn't budge. At that point, I figured out that the piece of line was stuck a little deeper into my leg than I had initially thought.  So, i grabbed the string and, much like when you remove a Band-Aid, I pulled hard and fast.

This is what I pulled out of my leg:

Yes, there was a bit over two inches of mono-filament line embedded in my calf.  Ouch!

I went inside and washed my leg, and squeezed as much blood out of the wound as I could, in an effort to clean it out.  Then, I went back to the yard and finished up with the trimming and mowing.

Not long after, the UPS guy showed up with some D&D cans for my Scrambler:

 They are a bit loud, but I will re-pack them, later, and try to tone them down a little.  On my first test ride, every time I rolled off of the throttle, the pipes popped and banged as if I was in a young war.  So, I disabled the air-injection by plugging the line which attaches to the air box.  After popping on roll-off.

The best part is that they weigh about 10 pounds less than the stock mufflers, and they should actually add a bit of power.

Plus, I like the looks of them...

I have to admit that I am shallow enough that that the looks of the pipes mean something to me.