Part 3: Trip ’12 (May)

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1 May

Well, it’s 2 in the morning on the 2nd of May. I don’t quite remember what my original plan was but I’m pretty sure I expected to be on my way home around now. Hahaha ohhh plans… what’s the point? That said it’s coming time to wrap this thing up. My cat has been spending an ungodly amount of time by herself, my mother is shopping for houses, and I have almost reached my goal, that being Savannah.

No internet here at the Fairview Inn in Santee South Carolina. They told me there was free wifi, but it seems that is actually only free because its the wifi of the hotel next door, and their’s isn’t working right now. Kind of hilarious, reminds me of Phoenix, especially since this room is furnished with the exact same furniture that my apartment was (I lived in a former motel).

Yesterday’s ride (Tuesday) was glorious. Truly. Route 15 from Bennettsville to here is almost a straight line, and it is a lot as I imagine the old 66 is. Two lanes, and passing by a lot of motels that probably shut down around the time 95 was finished. Its not like anyplace else I have ever been (except maybe Youngstown) in the sense that there are houses, shops, gas stations, and motels that are just abandoned. Grass coming up through the concrete, trees growing inside of buildings, carcasses of houses that burned down but no one bothered to clean up after – like there was one that still had pictures hanging on the remaining wall, and a half burned dining room table with three intact chairs around it. I mean wow.

Not all like that, but there was just that one stretch that went on for maybe twenty miles that’s just dead. Then there was a lot of seeing how the other side lives, I passed dozens of neighborhoods, and even a couple towns where pretty much every house I saw could fit in my living room back in Worcester. Granted our house isn’t quite the average house, so let me rephrase that for anyone reading this who’s been over to the new house, these houses would fit in the first floor of Morningside Road with room to spare – that house was 1100 sqft.

There has been a lot of that on this trip, the couple who ran the motel I spent a week in back in Myerstown, they still use dialup internet. I didn’t know that still existed. It sort of makes a lot of things I couldn’t understand before come into focus, concerning politics. These are people who live in areas where they get everything they need from the farms around them. They aren’t as dug into the internet as just about everyone else I have ever met. They have no comprehension of how we live in the cities, just as we can’t really comprehend how they live. So in that light, when someone out here says something that makes my brain implode I can now kind of wrap my head around how it is they came to think that way. Its wild, so very different.

I have also been seeing a LOT of very cool houses, working shutters, styles of architecture that went out with slavery. Mindblowingly awesome. I kind of wish I could buy one. I imagine living here would get old pretty quick, I could never adjust to this, I need to be able to walk down and get a pint of ice cream during a commercial break, I’m a city boy.

Got what I like to call an “Oh my god sunburn” while riding. It was in the 80s by 10am, and I forgot I had the Belstaff jacket, and it’s obviously way past the Vanson leather jacket, so I rode in a t-shirt. I mean it was Hot, like riding at 45mph in a t-shirt and still sweating hot. Should also be noted that I have no gloves at this point. So my arms from just below the shoulder (where the sleeves on a t-shirt end) to my knuckles are fire engine red. They don’t hurt, 3600mg a day of nerve pain killers proves to be the perfect cure for painful sunburns. I’ll wear the Belstaff tomorrow. I’m glad I got the one that is 6oz cotton instead of the 10oz that I’d had before. Less of a chance of dying from heat stroke I think.

These sunburns remind me of when Stevie and I drove cross country back in… oh my god that was 8 years ago >.< But we had a deal, the driver was in charge of everything on the dashboard, which includes AC. I HATE AC. Loathe it. So driving through the desert I had the windows down and my left arm out the window for something like 8 hours a day, and just Cooked it. At one point Stevie said "Do you smell stuffing?" and his reaction to my reply "Thats my arm" - Priceless. My left arm was tan till Feb. I won't do that this time, I thought about doing the t-shirt again tomorrow, but 3 syndromes, 1 disorder, and the way I smoke pipe tobacco… Lets not up the chances of skin cancer anymore than necessary. Sunburns are my patented method of the "Instant tan", sure it hurts like a motherfucker for a week or so, but once all your skin peels off you have a great tan. Brent's usually twitching by this point in this conversation. I know you're reading this Brent - remember the air show? When I got a sunburn so bad the skin on my right shoulder began to boil? Will never forget what dad said when I got home my entire torso the color of a fire truck. "That wasn't very smart… I've had worse" Haha good memories. Been having a lot of those these past few weeks. Thinking about dad, his motorcycling stories mostly. But also just the sheer joy he got out of road trips. Compliments of a year plus on oxycotten (still can't spell that) my memory of our trip to Mexico when I was 17 is pretty hazy, but he and I were on the road together for over three weeks. Just him and I. We had such fun. How many 17 year olds would spend that much time with their father by choice? God damn, that was such a wicked trip. Fog coming out of the vents in the Volvo when we basically drove through a cloud. Making peanut & jelly sandwiches on the dashboard while dad drove. The First time either of us ever set foot in a Walmart - something he and I had both sworn we'd never do. But this one town - the grocery store, bank, hardware store, etc were all just in the Walmart. We had no choice. Hahaha we promised never to tell anyone, but of course we both did. Driving home from Texas in three days when we both realized we were ready to go home. God I loved him, I miss him so much sometimes, the hardest thing about loosing someone who means that much to you is knowing that you can still talk to them, but they'll never answer. I remember talking to him about Urals, god probably hundreds of times, and he was sure that I'd not be able to handle the thing, that it'd be too much for me. HA! Proved you wrong pop! When I rode that horrible KZ1000 across country I liked to imagine that he was riding along with me on the '77 Ducati 900GTS. On this trip I've been picturing him on a 1952 Vincent. On another note I managed to scare the shit out of myself, and came sort of close to probably killing myself - not my finest moment. As I've said, the Ural gets a little skiddish as you get up to 50mph. Welp… I was on that long straight away (long as in it went dead straight for an hour) and wasn't paying much attention to my speed because well in 3rd gear and with the rev limiter in the new ignition… I honestly don't really have to pay much attention as she kinda tops out at 50ish. Well somehow I ended up going about 55, and I thought I heard one of the tiedowns come loose so I turned around to look over my shoulder to make sure I didn't loose the Vanson - which had my pipe, tobacco, cell phone, wallet, and swiss army knife in it. When I turned to look I inadvertently pulled the bars slightly to the right and recovering from that brought me to both sides of the highway - which thankfully was basically abandoned - about three times going back and forth before I got her under control again. That was also the act of slowing down, she gets really skittish braking if I'm going over 45mph. Also the steering is much more twitchy than you'd suspect for a sidecar rig - its the GS500 sitting up there. Quite looking forward to getting it off my bike. I have to ride about 100 miles today, in about 6 hours. But I can't sleep, being this close to Savannah, it feels like Christmas Eve. Ironic way of looking at it since the friend I'm visiting is Jewish =P Hahhaa What a RIDE! So. The Plan - there I go again… you'd think I'd learn from this. My inspection sticker expires the end of May. It took me over a month to get down here, granted there was a week long breakdown, and the bike tops out at 45 right now, and it took a while to get my stamina back up - and its still not where it was, but it's getting better. Mom wants me to come home. There is stuff to do, and my cat, I feel silly as I never thought I'd be That guy, that cat guy. But Mabel keeps me company when I'm bedridden, and I need to get back to her. She's named after the steam locomotive Pop was going to build. Haha you see? Everything goes back to either Pop, or the Norton Atlas - which was pop's. Thats just where my mind has been lately. So I have to visit my Uncle Rob & Mary-Anne. I WANT to, its not a "have to" kind of thing, but I won't be able to spend as much time with them as I'd wanted. I am going to see if my Uncle John and Aunt Alice will make the trip from Columbus/Athens depending on the day of the week to come have dinner with me in Savannah - or something like that, or meet them half way. They live in the wrong direction when it comes to I have to go home. Going to have to skip Youngstown too, I'll get out to see George at some point, but it won't be this trip, which is sad, he's one of my favorite people, but I have to go home. So (I've been starting a lot of sentences this way) I am thinking I'll stay in Savannah until Monday morning. That'll give me a decent amount of time to hang out with Will, to explore the city a bit, to change ALL the fluids in the Ural, and maybe replace the wheel bearings (I have the new ones in my tool box) and the remaining three beat to death original shocks, as well as to get used to the Ural with an empty platform, and maybe remake my PVC airbox to have two inlets so I can make a filter system work. But mostly that will give my body some down time, several days of not having to get up and go beat myself up on the motorcycle. On a final note, I am listening to a playlist on Itunes titled "Fuckyea". It is the most random set of 300 songs, It just went from The Offspring to Harry Belefonte, to Mama Cass to Nine Inch Nails . The title came from the first thing to go through my mind when I discovered a new feature that allows you to re-download anything you've bought in the past, which means the 300 songs stuck in my dead laptop, most of which I bought in Phoenix - I have them back, and my music selection has literally doubled, and I now have 300 songs that I haven't been playing on loop for a month. For anyone reading this, I gather people are actually reading this, when it reads like I am talking to someone, thats just how I write, I have journals from 10 years ago written this way - even with little captions saying exactly what I am saying now, but in general I'm writing to myself ten or fifteen years from now, when I am really bored and want to look back on what was. Right right, I'm going to have a smoke and take another shot at sleep, if I can catch four hours that would be a good thing! PS: Wish I had the internet so I could check the weather and know if tomorrow it's going to be Hot, Holy Shit Hot, or Oh my fucking god kill me now Hot. 2-4 May

I added a write up from May 1 down below in an entry before this one. I made it to Savannah! I am still marveling about that, haha, every so often I remember how long I was in bed for and then take a deep breath and look around at the palm trees and old brick buildings and at everyone wearing clothes fit for July back home.

SCAD reminds me a lot of MMI in both where the students are living, Will’s in a former motel that has a striking resemblance to the one that I lived in with a bunch of other guys who ended up good long term friends. Also just the people.. their attitudes are very close, its something I didn’t feel at any of the other colleges I went to. Its cool, its a really good feeling.

I ended up making the trip in on Wed, but had a bit of a woops when I was about 70 miles from Savannah. Ok, so it was more than just a bit of a woops, it was a pretty big deal, but I came out of it unharmed, and at the end of the day my bike was doing just fine. I was coming down Rt 15 at 50mph and there was nothing really around me, and all of a sudden the bike began to swerve, bounce, and kinda want to go all over the place which was THRILLING but I managed to keep it from flipping or going into the trees and got it off the road into the grass.

This is the road I broke down on. First we look to the left

Then we look to the right

hahahaha good times. It was also in the 90s and humid, and I couldn’t take off the Belstaff because I had an Oh My God sunburn on both arms from almost the shoulder down to my knuckles.

I thought a shock had failed in a really drastic way, or maybe I’d some how blown a tire silently. It was like hitting oil or wet leaves. If I hadn’t had the sidecar it would have realllly sucked, but thats kinda why I have the sidecar these days, I literally can’t afford to fall down.

So I was looking around the motorcycle trying in vain to figure out what had happened. Tires were fine, spokes were fine, shocks were fine, bars holding the sidecar on were fine… Then I glanced down thinking maybe the driveshaft had eaten itself in a more aggressive way than last time, or maybe my gearbox… and I see this:

And I realize how lucky I was that I didn’t crash, because that was a really bad thing to have happen. I sat down for a bit and thought about it and then figured ok, I can fix this, I can use the eye bolts to replace what I lost and limp her in, all I got to do is somehow get the swingarm back to the frame, so I got out my 3 bags of tools – the Oops bag, Woops bag, and Oh Shit bag:

Then I went over to figure out a way to suck the swingarm back, and saw this

It took a LOT of effort to push that coupler on when I had the wheel and everything else out. There was no way I was getting it back together without a carjack. So I called Will and conned him into heading out to help me. Except his car’s radiator committed suicide on the way to me, so he had to get his car towed and was trying to figure out another way of getting to me when a dude on a motorcycle showed up wearing the clothes of a mechanic with a patch on his shirt that read “Mike’s Motorcycle Shop” or something like that. Seems I broke down 4 miles from one.

He came back 15 minutes later with a carjack and a truck and we wrestled the swingarm back together and the coupler each using large screw drivers as prybars. Fastened the arm with the eyebolts which were too this which made for a thrilling ride back to his shop were he and his father legitimately fixed my bike with better bolts than those that failed, and did it all for free! NICE people! I have their card somewhere, I’ll link their webpage or something.

I’d been up for a long time by then and was starting to get punchy but I was assured I was only 2 hours away tops and there were about 2 hours of daylight left, so I made a break for it. Made it within 15 miles of Savannah before I had to pull into a bank parking lot, it was now 9:30 at night and I’d been on the road since 11am, and I was just beat and it’d been dark for a while and I couldn’t read the directions taped to my tank. So Will drove out to lead me back, but not before the first cop of the entire trip came over to see how I was doing. This wasn’t unexpected, I was sitting on the ground leaning up against 2 bikes (one on the other) smoking a pipe at night in a bank parking lot. Nice cop though our only debate was his “That doesn’t look safe” and my reply “But it is” then he’d repeat his and I’d repeat mine. Wasn’t lying, its perfectly safe, long as I go under 50mph =P

Long story short (because I’m tired and will write more later) I MADE IT!

7 May – On the Road Again

In about 6-7 hours I’ll be back on the road again. That of course means I should be asleep right now, but I’ve got that pre-trip excitement again. This will be a different variation of my adventure, as I no longer have the Suzuki on my bike, handling/speed/mpg should all improve, that is to say I feel the change already the bike feels light and nimbal (spelled that wrong) by comparison to before. Its an honest pleasure again.

So bad news first, as it turns out at some point between when I last rode it and when I got it to Savannah the right side piston has seized. Took a couple days to figure out because dead batter, then why is she not starting? to bump start to no start and dead stop when dropped into 1st – and that lead to my having a theory that a piston or both must be stuck probably sludge from when the gas drained into the engine when a carb had a woops. So Saturday was spent from evening until the sun came up Sunday basically pulling the GS engine out of the bike, then pulling the top end off, and then trying half a dozen ideas to break the barrel free. All failed – including ratcheting the bottom end to a part of the dorm, then ratcheting the barrel to my sidecar and trying to use the ratchet straps to pull the barrel off.

So the GS engine is going to sit for a week with liquid wrench, wd-40, mystery oil, or penetrating oil in the cylinder thats got the stuck piston. In this time period Will will order new rings and such. This leads to a slight variation in my plan to return home.

The plan before I realized we wouldn’t have the bike running Sunday afternoon (which I promised was possible >.<) was to leave Savannah and go to Columbus to visit my Uncle John & Aunt Alice for a few days, then to go from Columbus to basically the Charlston SC area to visit my Uncle Rob & Aunt Mary-Anne for a few days, and then following that to head home. The change in the plan is pretty simple. Rob lives about 2 hours north of Savannah. So I will head out today for Uncle John's, then I will go visit Rob, and at the end of that instead of heading north I will head back to Savannah for 1-2 days where we will get that barrel loose, replace the rings, do what ever needs to be done in that regard, and then put the motorcycle back together. Then I shall head home. I rode 1200 miles averaging 35-45mph starting out in weather that was 40 degrees and raining - on a motorcycle that handled like a car with a bent frame, to bring my best friend a running motorcycle. I will hear that motorcycle run before I head north. I know how to fix it, I have the tools, I have the skill, Will has the brain that isn't over medicated which will come in handy for re-installing the cam chain without fucking up the timing. Only tacks a couple days on to all of this. Besides this is going to be my last trip out of New England for a few years I think, so adding a couple more days to it doesn't exactly go against any part of me. That said I do have to go home, I miss my diner and my family. I think I technically left in March, so.. hahaha right right, well I am going to catch a few hours sleep before I grab breakfast and hit the road. hahaha this really is pure joy. May 8 2012 – Off the Road Again
So today presented two challenges, although I just discovered the second one.

We can blame the first one on sheer stupidity. It hasn’t rained since the airbox fell apart a few states back, so I had more or less forgotten that I don’t have an air filter. This presented a bit of a problem on my way to Columbus today when I sucked enough water into the engine to put the bike out of commission for several hours. Gave up and got her to a hotel and then the rain stopped.

Took a bit of work to get the water out of the engine, see with a bike that has electric start you just pull the plugs and push the button and the bike will pump the water out for you. But with my kick only I couldn’t get her spinning fast enough to throw all the water out, so next came off the carbs, and then finally I removed the valve covers and loosened the head nuts and pulled the head away from the barrel and cranked again until all the water came out.

I knew that I could not add an air filter, already went down that road, and nothing I could make would be water resistant anyways. So as I was sitting under the awning of a little diner I broke down near listening to Lou Reed while smoking my pipe staring at my motorcycle while people were staring at me, and I realized the work around.

The original air filter is this round box, like an old hat box, and the cover is slightly larger than the box and the vents are under the overhang. That is how THEY beat the rain. I needed to make a hood.

So then it was me sitting on the ground with a thousand tiny ants who were also taking shelter from the rain listening to Joe Strummer, smoking, and playing with Gorilla tape which seemed to confuse the locals even further. The problem was even after I made it I could not install it until the rain stopped, which it was NOT doing. After a couple hours of this I called my Uncle John and told him there was going to be a slight hold up for my visit, and that I’d be there around 8pm. He told me not to push my body that hard and to think about finding a place to sleep tonight and to start again in the morning. Solid advice, I’m glad I took it.

After another hour or two of waiting for the rain to stop it hit me that I was stupid again. I didn’t need to tape on my hood, I have zip ties! So I walked back out to the rain and found my zip ties in one of dad’s old army bags that I’ve kept my electrical tools and such in and got the zip ties. Then with the hood in hand I went back out to the bike and as I was kneeling down to fit it the clouds did one of those things where its like God dumping a bucket of water on you and I was instantly soaked to the bone despite the Belstaff jacket. It also turned out I needed to do more work on the hood so I went back to the awning and finished that.

Later at the motel when the rain had stopped and I’d finished pumping the water out of my cylinders, I set about fixing the hood so that it would be waterproof where it needed to be.

It looks awkward as all hell, but on the other hand it now sucks air from straight down and there is a good distance between where the bottom edges of the hood are and where the intake pipe is, so I can’t see water being sucked in even when running full out.

So tonight as the sun was going down, round 8pm I decided to go out for a test ride and the bike pulls great again despite the weather, and then all of a sudden she started to choke and while I was going 35mph she just cut out and died. I coasted as long as I could before jumping off to run her into a parking lot with a street light. Still had some sun, but not much, that point at dusk when the sky is almost a dark purple.

Checked the fuel flow, that was fine.
Checked the new air box, that was fine.
Checked the fuses, they were fine.

So I kicked her over and she came back to life with a roar. At this point it should be noted (spoiler or not) that when ever I shut my bike off I shut the lights off, which makes kicking it over easier compliments of an underpowered relic of an alternator. So I was thinking “huh” literally, and thought ok, maybe that was a fluke – so I climbed back on the bike revved it a few times just to make sure and then flipped on the lights… and the bike shut off. Mind you I am at this point 5 miles from the motel and its basically dark out.

So I shut the switch off, kick it over and she roars to life again. Flip the light switch again and she begins to die so I quickly shut off the switch and she comes back to life. Ok. Left turn signal – bike shudders until I cancel the switch and then she’s alive again. Horn – same result. Rear brake light – same effect (which is bad because I can’t stop with just a front brake without the bike wanting to dive to the left).

So I rode back to the motel with no lights what so ever. I’ve done this before when loosing a fuse. I remember dad’s dinner stories about riding the Norton home many times with no lights, you just find a car with bright headlights and stay with it. I have usually found that stuff that happens to me that happened to dad – the fact that he’s told stories about what ever is happening to me happening to him when he was my age – it just takes nerves out of the situation. There is no “Oh shit I’m fucked” because dad did it, and if dad did it that means I can do it too, so there is no problem, nothing to worry about. Just deal with what ever is wrong well enough to get “home” and then fix it in the morning.

That said electrics have never been my friend. I have a very general understanding but my friends tend to shudder at the thought of me working on a motorcycle’s electric system. When this comes up I usually rely on Brent or Will to help me fix it. Brent is in New York, but Will is in Savannah. This is one of those examples of luck – or when I think maybe pop’s along for the ride and just saving me every so often. Its like breaking down next to a Lowes – twice. Ok so my electrical system is freaking out, but there is a dude who can help me fix it relatively near by, and I can ride the bike in the daylight with no lights.

I’ve got to call Uncle John in the morning, I don’t think I’m going to make it to Columbus. It sucks, I was really looking forward to seeing him and aunt Alice. I don’t think I’ve seen either of them since my brother’s wedding.

I can’t see a work around here. I can’t pay someone to fix this, I don’t want anyone who hasn’t worked on a Ural near my electrical system (who isn’t a trusted friend), and the only Ural shop in Georgia is two hours south of Savannah. The chances of me figuring it out myself are slim to none. I can’t ride for several hours without lights, especially if that puts me in a situation where its just me and the electrical system.

What is it about my motorcycles that they always seem to embarrass me around the Greenman family? I ride a KZ1000 from Worcester to Boulder Colorado. It gets me there without anything more than a slight oil leak and a broken clutch cable. Once in Boulder for a Greenman family reunion the bike kills itself and gives them all the impression that either my bike is unreliable or I am incompetent.

Now I ride a 650 Ural 1200 miles with a second bike strapped to it, she only fails me a couple of times, but has not stranded me since Pennsylvania. I get to Savannah, spend a few days there, take off the Suzuki and now that I want to go visit one of my Greenman uncles – the Ural decides to act like the stereotype of a 90’s Russian motorcycle. It’s embarrassing.

That said I would not trade this bike for any motorcycle in the world. I’m serious too, right now I would take this 1997 Ural 650 over a 1952 Vincent Black Lightening.
– I can afford to work on the Ural.
– I don’t worry about damaging the Ural.
– I can do crazy things like strap another bike to the Ural.
– No one will ever steal it.
– I can take the chassis & engine apart with 9 wrenches and 1 screwdriver.
– Breaking down in rural Pennsylvania became one of the highlights of the trip, and I think one of the things I will most remember about this adventure, and getting temporarily stranded in Georgia may turn out to be just as much a highlight.
– THIS is why I own a 650 Ural from the ’90s.

But most important, the Ural is never done, I can always think about some new way to improve her a little, owning a Ural has kept my mind active the last couple years, if I am bedridden then I am thinking about the Ural – how to improve the engine, or what vintage car tires would work better than motorcycle tires (more square), or drawing up ideas for high pipes, figuring out new ways to work fuel lines, how to improve the airbox.

Not particularly looking forward to having to call Uncle John and cancel. I hate telephones, they make me nervous. I like email, I like being able to write things out. But there are rules, and you can’t bail on family via email, its just not done. That HAS to be a phone call. Still just the thought of it makes me anxious, jaw tightens slightly, so does the chest and my shoulders. This tends to happen even if I have to call to make a dentist appointment, though not quite as much. Logically I should be on anxiety meds, but the only ones that don’t fuck with my heart don’t mix well with the nerve painkillers I need to take to function. So I could be a very calm guy curled up in a ball in bed from pain, or I could be a very anxious semi-functional person. So anxiety is is *raises mug* Cheers.

Right right, now I’m going to get some sleep, then in the morning I’ll call John, then start reading the Ural workshop manual’s chapter on the electrical system, just so I remember what goes where – as in I want to know what wires that go from the switches end up where because those are the wires & connections I have to check.

Feeling slightly bummed out, my buddy Paul’s girlfriend Ali posted this on FB a bit ago, if you ignore the technicality that I don’t have a wife, its.. well it’s perfect.

May 10 2012 – Still in Savannah
Figured it was time for a quick update even though nothing has happened since the last one. The lights are still out, but its been raining on and off since I ended up back here. Today it’s supposed to be sunny and in the 80s, and today is Will’s last day of school for the week, so I figure today will be the day that we sort out the electricals. Thats the royal we – as dad would say, meaning mostly him. I don’t usually fiddle with electrics, not unless I have to, as I have a habit of messing it up horrifically.

This hotel is bizarre. They say at the front desk it was built to be a motel but I simply can not figure out why my room on the first floor has at least a 15 foot ceiling. There is no logical explanation for this.

Once the electric issue is sorted out I’m going to do a couple of light weight excursions to make sure she really is sorted out before I ride away from the one guy I know who can fix this sort of thing. I also need a few more days of light duty before I hit the road again.

My head is in the right place to go home but I’m still feeling just a little tired and want to rest up a bit more before I shove off, because where it took me a month to get down here, I want to make it home quicker than that, quite a bit quicker than that. I think its smarter to hold off a few more days and then set off and be able to make miles, than to shove off sooner and risk spending a week in rural Virginia or some such crap.

This really has been every bit of the adventure I’d hoped it to be, and its not over yet. But I know that this is the last one for a few years, and while I’m ready to go home, I’m not quite ready for it to be over.

That said I really do want to see my mother, brother, and cat again. Same goes for Deedy, Duca, and Stevie. Then again Will is here, and once I leave here I’m going to be by myself pretty much until I get home, which is fine, but well, yeah. So I figure another week in the south and then a 7-10 days to get home.

After that, this summer is going to be spent getting myself back into shape, helping mom out, staying on my feet as much as I can, and just… just not being in bed anymore.

Maybe I’ll finally finish the book. There have been a few bits I’ve just not been able to write because its still too painful, 12 years later and its still too painful. But I think it’d be good for me to finally finish it.

I also want to go visit Steve Wellcome this summer. He would quite like to see the Ural, and I don’t think I’ve seen him since my brother’s wedding. He remains one of my favorite people, so I’d really like that. I’ll have to finish the banjo ukelele first, he’s I believe the one person I know who can actually play the banjo.

I also want to finish the KZ1000 if I can, I’ve offered to trade it back to Balducci (who gave it to me ages ago) in exchange for my father’s Logan lathe. The KZ has been in his family since 1976, and well dad’s lathe is dad’s lathe and a machine I can do just about anything I am interested in doing with. That goes from model steam engines, “The Project” which is a gauge 1 locomotive, model gas engines, and Ural parts! Dad’s lathe would be large enough to machine alloy barrels for the Ural. That would be so EXCELLENT!

Anyways, the continental breakfast is in 10 minutes, and then I think I am going to watch Das Boot.

I shall leave you with one of my favorite performances of one of my favorite songs:

May 11 2012 – Total Loss Electrical
So what we’ve decided is that my alternator has finally committed suicide. This is not quite the disaster that it would seem, and actually is a pretty easy thing to fix.

From about 1998 until I want to say 2005 Urals came with a 35amp alternator which quickly got nicknamed “the hand grenade”. It got such a lovely nickname because of its tendency to seize without warning and in doing so eat all the timing gears which pretty much killed the engine. So during that time what a lot of owners did was simply go to a Total Loss Electrical System. So there are a lot of write ups from very reliable people on exactly how to go about doing this.

Now I have a 1997 Ural so my alternator has performed admirably for 15 years, but this trip kind of killed it multiple times, and I’ve just been kind of fixing it with spit and glue solutions. Would seem that I’ve passed those times by at last.

So the general method of a TLES on a Ural is pretty simple. You buy the biggest deep cycle battery you can find, which gives about 8 hours use, more so if you can replace as many lights as possible with LED bulbs (which I can), not use the electric start (don’t have one), and not run the headlight during the day (sorta illegal but I can get away with it).

What you do is remove the 3 wires that plug into the alternator, you take the two “hot” wires and tie them together and tape them up. Remove the alternator completely and plug the hole with whatever you desire – I’m thinking cardboard coated in gorilla tape. Then you run 12 or 14 gauge wires from the deep cycle battery through a switch on the hot wire into a 30amp fuse/breaker, and then you tie that wire into the positive wire for the original battery, and you ground the ground – and you’re set.

Should be able to do this for about $120 depending on how much the battery charger costs.

Depending on the battery, starting method, and how many small bulbs I can swap out for LED’s the range will be 300-800 miles.

Now originally the plan when I got home from this trip was going to be to buy the 50amp alternator, but we’ll see how I like this method, because frankly I don’t ever really go far enough in a day where this method would pose any kind of issues, and it is a hell of a lot cheaper than the 50amp alternator and the new timing gears I’d have to buy when I installed it.

I don’t HAVE to remove the alternator to make this work, but the death fan gets rather close to parts of the wiring harness as well as the gas lines, so plan to remove it anyways.

In other news I have replaced the Ural’s fuel tap with the method I have wanted to do since I got the bike. The original tap is still in place as I don’t currently know what the threads are to cap it off, but once I do it will vanish. Now removing the tank will be a hell of a lot easier!

May 12 2012 – Too Tired, Bike’s fixed though

I will eventually add a battery box, a switch for the battery positive, a fuse, and a real plate over the old alternator hole, but right now I have hand tools, so this is as good as it gets.

I decided to take a few days to ride up to visit my uncle Rob and aunt Mary Anne. Or rather to take a day to ride up and visit my aunt & uncle for a few days. The trip was 122 miles and took about 7 hours including a few stops to eat, smoke, fix the massive oil leak – you know, just the usual…

See what happened was I made an assumption and it was wrong. You may remember this picture from the previous post:

What it shows is a piece of cardboard wrapped in gorilla tape bolted over the hole where the alternator used to be. My assumption was that the oil in the engine was pumped out around the gears in the timing case, but that gravity for the most part would keep said oil away from the hole and that this would work as a temporary way to cover said hole which is roughly the size of a roll of electric tape, until I had access to power tools so that I could make something nice.

So on my ride north the bike pumped most of its oil out of the engine onto the top of the crankcase – it also shot a fair amount up onto the bottom of the gas tank. Luckily I had a spare quart.

My first attempt to fix this was to simply remove the cardboard and put on some formagasket and then remount it. That failed horrifically and now there is formagasket all over the bottom of my tank and the top of the crankcase.

I knew I needed oil, and I knew I needed a new solution so I started looking for an auto parts store. I found one in a small town, decently well stocked. Got some new Castrol 20W50 (which is the Ural specified oil) and then began to roam the shelves looking for something round, flattish, and hard. I ended up settling on a 3″ red reflector that you’d put on the back of a tractor trailer. They were so very nice and loaned me a drill. So I drilled 2 holes in it and coated some of the inner circle with more formagasket and bolted it in place. The convex side went into the hole, and this works pretty well, though not perfectly.

Staying at their house.

The Total Loss Electrical System is working very well. Have to charge the battery tomorrow. I am shattered, and going to bed. But wanted to update this for now. Wish I’d seen John & Alice, but the timing was killed when the alternator committed suicide. Next time. Right right, bedtime.

May 14 2012
Been a good couple of days, packing up and heading out again tomorrow. Just checking in to say the ride from Savannah to here only drained 25% of the power on the deep cycle, so I think I have about a 500 mile range with the headlight off, tomorrow I’ll test it with the headlight on.

Didn’t get a chance to replace the reflector today, but I know what I’m going to use when I do do it, and that is a blanking plate for one of the square utility boxes, should fit over the hole perfectly, I can trim it when I get back to Worcester.

But for now, here is the reflector covering the hole:

May 16 2012
I owe a real update, and I’ll make one later today I think. Not going to lie, not exactly where I’m going today. Have to hit up a Ural dealer to snag an oil filter, but there are several of them floating about, so I am slightly unsure where I’m headed today, I suspect I’ll just follow 17 South for a while as that leads to most of them eventually, or at least is a step in the right direction.

I am rather in debt as far as posting goes, and I shall attempt to rectify that now, although getting the last few days straight might take more effort than I currently have available.

I was with my Uncle Rob & Aunt Mary Ann from Saturday until Tuesday afternoon. Was a wonderful relaxing stretch. Got to see a lot of Charleston, my god the architecture… Also spent a day just Rob and I, which was pretty awesome. Keeping this bit short though because

Today was a GOOD day, I rode from Walterboro SC to Hardeeville SC running my headlight the whole way to see how the battery will hold. Met a real cool fellow near the intersection of 17 & 95 a ways back – Leroy – talked to him for over an hour.

I took Rt 63W to Rt21S which fed into Rt17S, which pretty much goes straight to Savannah. Now I’m actually heading past Savannah, to where I have not yet decided, but there are a couple awesome Ural dealers in Florida – then again there is apparently two right in Georgia, so we’ll see where I end up!

People at Ural seem to want to avoid mentioning my motorcycle at all. This isn’t vanity so much as just odd. On the Ural Facebook page there are regular pictures posted of the new 750 Urals off on these adventures and such, and I think comparatively speaking my adventure is worthy of a picture, cause really I hauled another bike 1200 miles on my 650 Ural. That HAS to be worth a picture when they are posting pictures of Urals at random convenience stores and such… I don’t know, it just feels weird, like I am being shunned. But I digress on that one.

Just spent a solid amount of time mopping close to a quart of oil off the crankcase, gearbox, frame, rear fender, under the gas tank, and everywhere else it blew out during my first two versions of an Alternator hole cover.

Today as I was winding down the day I managed to get the hole fixed for $20 and I think that it’s really fixed, thats why I mopped up all the oil, now I’ll be able to see if anymore comes out. Also the bike just deserves a bit of tender love & care at the moment, she has done SO well!

I am of slightly mixed opinions of the $20 fix, because I supplied the sheet metal, all they did was drill two holes, I even mounted it. But on the other hand I didn’t need to buy a drill, so I can’t complain. But right now it looks like this:

I shall clean up the corners to follow the timing chest when I get home. Been thinking more about that as well. She doesn’t need a rebuild, not yet. She needs a new gearbox, and she needs new shocks. Mechanically thats it.

One thing that is a 100% certainty is that when I get home I am going to go look up my friend Jake at his motorcycle shop ( and get the 3 things done that I have wanted done since before I even owned the thing.
1. High pipes
2. Bash plate for sump
3. Solo seat

Pictures to follow, I’ll just put them into this post once I got away.

May 19 2012 – Story Time: Wrath of God, Red’s Inn, and Third Gear
So Wed morning I left Hardeeville Georgia on route to Brunswick, except I never made it that far. Around 2pm I hit rain, and when I say rain I mean wrath of god type rain. I rode through that for close to two hours, winding down country roads with swamps forming on either side off the breakdown lanes. Frogs in the streets. Might have even seen an alligator although I can’t be sure and didn’t stop to check. I somehow got turned around, I’m still not sure what I did, but I went 70 miles southwestish. I was on the right road but not on the right road. I was on US-25 when I should have been on GA-25. So after passing through Jesup and turning around and passing through it again, and then one more time back to the first it began to hail. I am not kidding. 84 degrees + hail. So fucking… I just… What do you say to that? But I thought to myself I’ve been on the road too long, Brunswick HAS to be close, then as I was pulling over to tie a shirt around my mouth & nose to stop the hail from hurting quite so much at 35mph I saw a sign that said “Brunswick 47 miles” and was very confused. Thats when I passed a “Red’s Inn” and kept going, then said “fuckit” out loud – I do that now – and hung a U-turn and went back.

Getting off the bike I damn near fell over from the damp stiffness that had settled in. As I was stretching myself back out the clouds parted, the sun came out, the rain stopped and it was suddenly 84 and humid again. If this is common down here I understand the bible thumpers now, weather like that in large doses’ll do funny things to your brain. As I was now staring stupidly up into the sun a kid came over talking with a hellova drawl asking questions about my bike. So as I told him about the history of the machines and what not I pulled off my right boot and proceeded to dump around three inches of water out of it which stopped the kid mid sentence. I then repeated the process with the left boot and began the process of seeing what bits of electronics in my jacket pockets had made it through. The kid’s next question was the year the bike was made. I replied “1997” and my reward for that piece of information was his telling me he was born in 1998. FUCK – I was a freshman at Saint John’s in 1998. Way to make me feel old kid. Haha just reminded myself that my brother was a senior in 1998 hahahaha score, makes me feel better *grins*

So the room with tax was $27. Throughout the night I caught 3 cockroaches and a 1 spider – all in the same ice cube bin that you find in every motel in America. No bedbugs though! The bin was not transparent but I imagine it was quite the cage match. I hate spiders, and hate cockroaches more – the only thing I fear about the atomic war that’ll make us go Mad Max is that their will a surge in the cockroach population.

Spiders scare me, cockroaches do not – its more I can’t kill them because of the crunch noise, and actually can’t kill spiders down here either because they tend to be big enough where you can feel yourself crushing them and for some reason that changes it for me, its too much like killing an animal, which is something I can’t stomach doing unless its absolutely necessary:
acceptable – starving to death and need food.
unacceptable – for fun.
acceptable – its a fucking wolf and its going to kill me.
unacceptable – this thing kinda freaks me out.
The loophole in that of course is if I can’t feel myself kill it then I don’t care – insects up to the size of a quarter.

But to continue, the room was just incredible by all counts – the whole place was. I paid by credit card and the receipt title stated the place as Sutherland Inn in Kentucky. The air conditioner set the fire alarm off in the room – but thats ok because it was on the headboard with instructions written on it in sharpy on how to remove the battery drawn in pictures to help those who cannot read the word BATTERY stamped into the hatch on the side of the case. People lived there. There was a pool, no water, and a dude in the pool on a lawn chair under an umbrella duct taped to a broom stick wedged between two cinderblocks on a table made of a tv – sipping on a bottle of Wild Turkey Whiskey and smoking a cigarette on one of those little stems like Hunter’s in Fear and Loathing. I am not making this shit up. It was staggering, was all I had not to just stop and stare. I think my jaw literally dropped.

Attached to the motel office was a bar, a bar with no name, with no apparent windows, with a no smoking sing hanging just below a cloud of cigarette smoke. The same people I saw in the bar at around 4pm when I checked in were still around the bar at 10am when I left this morning. A place where big tough guys who look like the Marlboro Man with thick thick southern accents say things like “Jesus Loves You” and “I love you brother” to strangers injecting these phrases into conversations about anything and everything.

The whole experience was just staggering. Awesome, but staggering.

So this morning I rode from where ever that place was actually located, because I didn’t feel like asking someone “hey, um… where are we?” The whole scene was hovering between the start of a one star horror movie and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

So it took about two hours to get to Brunswick. I was dying of heat, because it was supposed to rain again, so I had on the Vanson leather jacket, waterproof socks, and the flannel lined jeans. It didn’t rain. It decided to be 80 degrees and sunny. I was also having a weee bit of an issue with the gearbox, as in every so often 3rd gear would dump me into a false neutral and I’d have to grab the clutch and dive back to first gear then back up into 3rd passing it into 4th and open the throttle as I let the clutch out in staggers to not eat everything behind the crank.

Brunswick had one very specific purpose. An oil filter. The Ural oil should be changed every 1000 miles, and I left my bag of filters at home. There is a Ural dealer in Brunswick. In the parking lot is a decaying brick smokestack from the days before the global economy with a doorway in the front that looked like it was built for a leprechaun. Inside was pure awesomeness, finally got to explore the new Enfields, they also had two Ural 750s, a racing Benelli, and a couple Triumph’s from the 30s and 40s. But it was also very apparent that they were… leaving? They also didn’t have any Ural oil filters.

As I went back out to my bike there was a rather obese man who looked like one of the twins from “Nothing But Trouble”

sitting on an antique Trek bicycle with rusty wheels, a gold painted Mac Truck Bulldog on the front fender, and beads like the ones idiot college girls get for being idiots in New Orleans during spring break get. He also had a rather large transistor radio on a leather strap around his shoulder. We talked for over an hour. Can’t really explain the conversations, but there was a solid amount about roaming the country on freight trains, camping in abandoned civil war forts, and deadly spiders that you have to watch out for in the woods near these structures – I am quite certain that some of them didn’t exist, like the one with a body the size of a basketball. If shit like that is out in the woods here I am never sleeping again. I did find out where several sets of ruins are of old civil war barracks and such are – as well as which ones have people living in them. I was all set to go see some and take pictures before the spider conversation. Might anyways, we’ll see. Between the boots, jeans, ll bean shirt and panama hat I should be fine. We shook hands, three times because I think he kept forgetting we’d done so a minute ago, and he wobbled off somehow reminding me of Pee Wee Herman, it was the bicycle I think… maybe…

Then I kicked the bike over and decided to go find a motel. RIGHT next door was a Motel 6, but after Red’s I was thinking something more along the lines of a Quality Inn like one I’d passed two blocks up the road. As I shifted past 2nd gear there was a new kind of crunching in the gearbox and nothing I did could get her into 3rd. I am fairly sure there are no teeth left on those gears. So I did another U-turn and went back to Motel 6.

Its actually REALLY nice, worn, but nice. Cheap too, $41 a night with tax. I called Jim at Raceway and ordered an oil filter, and then I worked around to how much would be a new Gearbox and if he had any on hand. He told me I didn’t want to do that, and explained why – a new Ural gearbox is $1500. Better off to buy one of his refurbished gearboxes. Raceway does GREAT work, they have a real shop, they are one of the best names in Ural circles. The refurbed gearboxes are all off the 750s, which means better gearing for highway travel, it also means they have the German gears. Also promises that the couple minor difficulties with the “new” gearboxes have been fixed already. Best part? $800.

Won’t need special tools (besides a jack) but I will need to basically take the back of the bike apart. Fender, wheel, driveshaft, shocks – all have to come off. But can pull the gearbox with the engine in the frame. Saving grace right there. So that will be here on Tuesday, and I should be back on the road by Thursday morning *knocks on wood*.

So thats the story of the last two days. Before I depart, there will be a lot of pictures come Tuesday/Wed – but until then I doubt there will be much posting here. But I did take a profile shot of the bike:

OH! I almost forgot (because they finally left), outside my motel room most of tonight there has been… well let me go find the bit I wrote on Chris’s FB, that will sum it up nicely… Was in relation to his saying Avengers is worth the $10:

Sweet deal, because I’m trapped in rural fucking Georgia till at least Wed and I could do with something awesome right now – help take the suck out of the mass of drunken rednecks slur-drawling and staggering drunkenly outside my motel room like a mass of Dawn of the Dead rejects.

May 20 2012

So I bought a rather deluxe battery box, and I did so for a few reasons. The primary reason is I dislike the battery just sitting out in the open for when it rains, and more so in the future when it snows. Also a 50 pound battery with just the strap it came with is massively annoying to drag to a motel room. The box has a handle that is quite a bit more, well, handle like.

The main thing though is the fact that it is pretty much a self contained unit with almost everything I need when it comes to taking care of the battery.
– Water tight
– correct size
– mounting brackets
– little electric gauge to tell me what the charge is on the battery
– 2 cigarette lighter adapters for whatever
– 2 breakers – one for the ^ and then a 60amp for the main feed, which isn’t actually useful for me, but if I could get Brent or Will to swap it out for a 30amp breaker then it’d be what people say to get.
– and the terminals are on the outside of the box, which are connected via proper gauge wires inside the box – so no need to ever remove the battery from the box.

I will almost always admit when one of my ideas is slightly crazy, or a bit out there, or more usually only makes sense in “Greenman logic”. This idea is actual insanity, and I think can only make sense to a very very select few people outside of myself, especially considering its for a 650cc Ural engine.

I’ve been exploring the possibility of mounting a magneto to the Ural on and off since the day I bought her. Logic leads me to believe it can be done. The Ural engine is based on a BMW engine, an old BMW engine, back when they had Magdyno ignition/power systems. This is basically what I’m talking about right here:

That is a Bosch MagDyno D1. It’s basically an ignition & alternator wrapped together but all it needs to create power is to spin, so there is no need for a battery because the act of kick starting the bike creates enough power to get her running and then this keeps her alive AND powers the lights – something the old Lucas mags, and the Joe Hunt mags don’t do, they can’t do it, with them if you still want lights you’ll need an alternator or a pretty big battery.

This is the modern replacement for that same unit:

and here it is again installed in one of the many many flat twins it can work with, the BMW R12:

It has a solid range of adjustment to work with many flat twins (or twin spark singles) as well as the sheer beauty that it doesn’t care if its spinning to the right or the left. Also has a digital ignition system.

Cost wise it’d be more expensive than the 50amp alternator. But it’d not be more expensive than the 50amp alternator + the gear puller + two new timing gears. At that point its a wash, and with the mag I could just put in another russian gear and keep the original timing gears.

This unit, it would plug in exactly where the alternator sat. The bike would make all the power it needed simply by spinning the engine. No battery. That is the insanity I was talking about. For some reason the idea of a bike that doesn’t need a battery is just pure magic, and is one of those things that I love to do when ever possible. I have a bit more figuring to work out, some measurements to take off the engine itself, as well as the other 14amp alternator when I get home.

I’ve been moving now long enough to where I am back to hating downtime. I want to go to Jacksonville or to Savannah or home, it doesn’t matter where, I just want to GO!

But I can’t because my bike tops out at 25mph right now and I can’t do a damned thing about it until the gearbox arrives. Drives me a little crazy. This morning I stopped by the front desk and booked my room for 4 more days.

So the idea is the gearbox shows up on Tuesday, and I strip the bike down, starting in the morning, and I work on getting her completely prepped for installing the new box – as in I want to have the old one off before the new one gets here.

I have to talk to the manager before I do this, make sure it’s ok. Should be, I mean I’ve got the room paid for, I have a tarp so no oil or grease will come in contact with the ground, and I’ll only be working in my parking space. Still, I have to check. Plan B is to do it in the parking lot of the Ural dealer right next door.

Before I get into it I have to go to the Home Depot (again) which is fun at 20mph and buy a strip of 1×3 as well as some nails. The 2×12 that the spare gas tank sits on has broken free and is now only supported in the front by a U bolt around the sidecar frame, and on the back a tie-down strap holds it up against the other planks. But I won’t put fuel in that tank until I know she ain’t going to come loose. So the 1×3 with nails and I am going to add a bit of frame to the rear end of the boards. Nails because I don’t want to buy a drill, and because I have a hammer in my toolbox, a hammer I borrowed from Saint John’s 10 years ago with the permission of Brother Plunket who simply told me to bring it back when I’m done with it, and when I’m done with it I shall return it.

I’ve been thinking about Brother quite a bit lately. I miss him, he is the only other man on this planet who I respected and admired as much as my father. They shared a work ethic, an attention to detail, and a humility that was staggering. They also both had the ability to all but stop your heart with a single look if they were upset with you – Brent know’s the look I’m talking about.

They have something else in common, their funerals. Both were low key, its hard to explain it to someone who didn’t attend both or really either. But the services were perfectly suited to the men. No flash. The people were there because they loved and respected them. Stories were told that you could not help but smile, even laugh.

In regards to Brother, I found out he was on his deathbed before Saint John’s, and I found out he’d passed before them as well. This was because of Brother’s Facebook page:

Which I set up at least two years before he passed. I didn’t do it as a joke, it was sort of like an honorary page. I have always kept it clean and respectful.

It was a coincidence that I checked his page that day, I don’t log in all that often. That is how I got word from Brother George. One of the best moments in my life was after the funeral when Brother George told me that he had shown Brother Plunket the facebook page, and that Brother had loved it!

Anyways, for anyone who wouldn’t know, this is Brother:

He had a stunning resemblance to Leonard Nimoy who played Spock in Star Trek,

That is another little thing the two had in common, Pop also had a stunning resemblance to one of my favorite actors. This is my favorite picture of dad:

who looked just like Peter Fonda:

Anyways, I’m bored, I want my bike to be fixed, I want to hit the road again, or at least to be able to go outside and work on it! Something other than just sitting here. I hate just sitting.

May 22 2012

May 25 2012
Well what is there to say? Not much, haha, not much at all. I am back in Savannah, again. Kind of looking forward to spending as much time back in Worcester as I’ve spent here in the last few weeks.

The gearbox is installed, and is absolutely glorious. I need to do some clean up work when I get back home. It did not want to go on, a difference between the 650 and 750 crankcase castings I suspect. I have to do some things I’m not proud of to make it go on, but they’ll clean up very easily once I get home and have access to a file. As of now, and you’ll see what I mean when I get the motivation to go take a picture, the cases don’t meet up flush, so there is a mass of gorilla tape sealing the gap between them. The clutch is between them and it’s a dry clutch, so the tape is to keep oil leaks, dust, and water from getting into the clutch housing. There is also an ear where the electric start would mount if I had one, and so thats got a solid amount of tape covering it too.

No more grinding while shifting gears – well some, but almost none – HUGE improvement. Neutral is damn near impossible to find, but I suspect that as the gearbox breaks in that will improve drastically. Kickstarts are easier as well, as in I can now do so without having to jump on the lever, though I suspect this is more the muscles in my right leg making a comeback than the gearbox being any different.

Wheel bearings in the sidecar wheel are shot. Its the last of the 3 wheels that still has the bearings I left MA with. I have new bearings in the toolbox, just need to go by Will’s tomorrow and borrow the jack.

Going to kick around Savannah until Monday morning, and then I’m heading home. I need some recoup time from the gearbox install. There are no pictures of that event, but what I can say is I had to undo it 7 times to get the cases to line up with adjustments in between each. Absolute motherfucker. Easy, stone simple, but I didn’t pack any shorts on this trip, just pants, 3 pairs, and it is HOT outside lol.

More later, and a picture for sure.

You can see the gorilla tape solution I was talking about as well as the ear that the starter would plug into. When I get home besides some filing, I’ll also have to make a metal plate for each side of the ear to keep dust out. You can also see how much lower the new gearbox is as it doesn’t have the built in airbox mount.

In this one you can see a rounded out section where the starter would sit up against the gearbox, another reason I am glad I don’t have one – its ugly as hell. Kills the lines of the bike in my opinion. Also frankly you can crank the bike over with your hand, I’m pretty sure some of my stronger friends could probably start it with their hand. Does Not need an electric start, not unless you were missing a leg. I mean for the love of god, I can start it and I just spent several years in bed!

That’s the new battery box. Very VERY nifty. For one the battery never has to come out of the box, you just unhook it from the outer connectors. But the part I really love is that you can push a little button and see where exactly the charge is on the battery, so now I know 70 miles doesn’t even effect the charge. It’ll make knowing when I have to lug the bloody thing into my motel a hell of a lot easier.

Notice the bungee from the gastank to the bike. This is because there is no longer anything holding the board it’s mounted to down. Lost the U-bolt on the highway, and at the back the only thing holding it on is a ratchet strap. Really do need to fix that soon…

God I love this motorcycle!

May 26 2012
I was having those thoughts again tonight. It always starts out the same way, innocent, simple, I need a spare motorcycle. Then it evolves, shockingly quickly from something simple and cheap to well if I pay a little more then in the end it will cost me a little less. Its a disease, like alcoholism, but my drug is motorcycles.

So it started out with a 1943 BSA M20 War Department 500cc single, because it would be a great spare and I have wanted one since I was like 7.

Then I thought “That’s Insane” and downgraded greatly in cost to a non running but “easy to fix” 1977 Ducati 500 GTL which I have wanted since I was 10.

But Brent reeled me back in to the fact that all I really wanted was a parallel twin from before 1980, and it was realized that a 1970s Triumph 750 would be the best solution, a little more than the Ducati, but a ready parts supply, and as I’ve had two I know them cold.

After Brent went to bed I got to thinking about it for a bit and had yet another epiphany, my spare bike could be a BMW R75 or R80, something where I could eventually use it as a donor bike and put it’s engine into the Ural.

And then I realized I had done it again. This is what happens. This is how I went through close to 40 motorcycles in about 7 years. This is my sickness. THIS is why I bought the Ural with the statement that no one believed “This will be my last bike”. They had good reason to disbelieve as 2 motorcycles have passed through my hands since I made that statement – both are gone to friends by the way.

I was being stupid, a moment of sickness, of weakness. I don’t Need a spare bike, I just want another bike, but I don’t need one, I love the Ural, and if I buy a second bike I will end up dumping money into it. Money I can’t afford to be dumping into a second bike that I can’t even legally register. And so I pulled myself back in again, and I am simply going to stick with the Ural.

But I had to pull myself back in again even further. Do I Want a Magdyno? Hell yes. Do I Need a magdyno? Not at all. The Deep Cycle batter has at Least a 300 mile range. The Power-Arc ignition as Brent pointed out as we were violently arguing with eachother – common practice when it comes to his trying to combat what we have nicknamed “greenman logic” – works absolutely flawlessly, and there is no reason whatsoever to change it.

Earlier in the week, I cannot remember if I wrote about it or not I came to the decision that I don’t need to buy Ural special tools, I don’t need to buy that upgraded crank, I don’t need to do ANY of that. That is just needless excuses to play with an engine that at this moment works fine.

I still will get the high pipes and bash plate with Jake’s help from Barnstorm Cycles. I will still do the solo seat because I have it and it will be MUCH more comfy than the bench. There will still be upgrades to the suspension and to the electrical system. Perhaps even alloy fenders at some point, but I do not Need to tear apart an engine that works great any more than I need a “spare” motorcycle.

The Ural has been so kind to me as a machine, and I have promised to treat her right when we get home. That includes love and care to patching the various bits that have been bullshitted together during this trip – the airbox, the gearbox, and the alternator plate.

Brent and I shall upgrade the wiring harness, and the tub will go back on the sidecar, and things will be as they should be.

The Way home
There are places I’d like to visit on the way home, but I felt a need to layout a decent route that will take me through roads I know, and just get me home. So this is it, subject to change without warning, but without the breakdowns its pretty much how I got down here and the roads are for the most part staggeringly beautiful.

Home Depot Bike Work
Right so today has had two primary targets to get done.

The first was to ride out to Home Depot and buy some 2″ PVC pipe with an electrical box plate and a dead blow hammer – this is my plan for knocking loose the stuck piston on the GS500 motor. The PVC will allow me to smack the piston at its strongest points straight down while the hole in the middle of the tube will keep me from collapsing the piston’s crown. The metal plate is what will be gorilla taped to the end of the pipe for the purpose of smacking it with a hammer.

However on the way to the depot I had a slight problem occur with the platform, the board that the jerry can is bolted to finally came loose completely, which was a fun fix by the side of the road, with my last remaining ratchet strap which is pretty much shot. When I got to the depot I bought a piece of pine, some 2.5″ nails, and a decent hand saw (plus the stuff for the Suzuki).

The following pictures account for the repair job, its not the nicest nor are the boards perfectly straight or lined up, but its solid as a rock again!

My working in the parking lot attracted a decent amount of attention and I had some great conversations, one with a fellow who rides a Honda something or other – Valkory I think, and the other was with 2 guys and a woman in this old beat up truck. That was the most fun because we just hung out talking for an hour sitting on the platform – me smoking my pipe and drinking coke, the older fellow smoking a cig and drinking a beer.

I really could live down here I think, I rather like the people here. Its not New England though, and I do so love New England.

I have never loved a motorcycle as much as I love the Ural. It is like a jeep, an old jeep a simple jeep. It is absolutely a dead perfect fit for my sense of style and my personality.

Going to relax for a bit before Will calls, then I’ll go to SCAD and sort out the GS, as well as change the engine oil on the Ural and replace the sidecar wheel bearing which is now beyond shot. Final drive fluid as well.

God damn I love this bike. I love this trip. I feel ALIVE again. I feel human. My chest Did lock up this morning which was uncomfortable, but that’s the first time in a couple weeks, so I actually don’t mind, did at the time though.

The thing about me is when my body is doing good I forget what its like when its bad. I forget that it is bad. I forget that I am technically disabled. So I was actually momentarily surprised when suddenly it felt like someone was trying to pull my rib cage apart with a crowbar. Moments like those I really miss my vicodin. Lasted about an hour and then I passed out for a few hours. The trick is to get back up again when its over and pretend it never happened. If I ever begin to let it get to my head then its all over.

Anyways I am going to go out and sit on my bike and have a smoke!


May 27 2012
Well I should start with the latter, tonight the Ural got a bit of love and care that has been somewhat overdue.

The first thing I did was to change out the last of the old wheel bearings, which was on the sidecar wheel. Its a quick job, and a good thing I did, as the bearings were beyond shot. From there I went and changed the gear oil in the final drive, and then I changed the engine oil and the filter. Also re-organised my tools and cleaned out the toolbox. The Ural is now ready to make it’s return trip to MA.

After that I made the special tool I’d come up with for Will’s Suzuki engine with it’s stuck piston. It worked! This is the tool:

I recognize that I look like hell, but it was the flash that got me haha, but yeah so the GS engine is now unstuck, and the barrels are soaking in a combination of half a dozen different oils in Will’s dorm room to clean up the grit. But what a lovely sight to have the pistons free at last!

Saying goodbye to Will wasn’t all that hard considering by the time I get back to MA he’ll already be there haha. Its been an excellent trip, it really has. Even tonight when my body really began to hurt – I’m out of the nerve pain killers, I called in the script 2 days ago and ran out this morning, still waiting, better be done Sunday! But yeah so my body was at a solid 7 by the end of tonight, but all I had to do was remind myself that I was in Savannah and that made it OK. I mean it didn’t make the pain go away, but it sure as hell has made me remember how amazing it is that I actually pulled this off. Its been so good! I’ve met so many new people, explored so much, and just.. I don’t have the words to describe how comforting this has been. Its just good for the soul.

As to the Ural’s future, it’s not terribly complicated, some more things will be upgraded – the rest of the shocks, the steering bearings, that sort of thing. Then there are little things that are as much for my sense of style, but also to an extent functional.

The high pipes for sure, which will probably look something like this:

But not so much that it’ll be a copy of the Nazi war BMW. I for obvious reasons wish to avoid making my bike look much like that bike, but on the other hand that’s a very rugged and solid way to keep the pipe high enough to avoid drowning the engine in water and whatnot. So thats going to be the base for the design and then from there it’ll be a lot to do with what Jake thinks would be the best way to do that.

Then on the chassis the main change will be alloy fenders. This is an upgrade I have wanted to do since I got the bike. You can buy aluminum fenders undrilled designed for Royal Enfields, I mounted a pair of them on my ’73 Triumph out in Phoenix. For the Ural I will get three of their “rear” fenders, as these are 5″ wide and designed to fit 18-19″ wheels. I will replace all 3 of mine with these. I will not paint them.

For one thing it will strip a hell of a lot of weight off the bike. They also won’t rust when I run her in the winter time. They will be eye catching which will be especially good for night riding. Since they are undrilled, mounting the tail light and such will leave just one set of holes in the fenders. As far as running the wiring goes, I will get small cable straps and mount them inside the fenders, all that will be visible from the outside will be a neat line of round head screws down one side of the fender.

The other change is purely for my own style, and that is to replace the two CB turn signals on the bike with Lucas signals, and to properly mount the Lucas tail light on there now on yet another numberplate (yes Brent I know) which was designed for a BSA and for that specific light, and I will be able to mount it up nice and in the right spot because I will be able to position the fender as I see fit.

An added bonus is that I am going to the solo seat (already have one sitting at home) and so the rear fender will be exposed, and should look quite stunning. I have always loved the look of alloy fenders on a bike, and they have such benefits, especially for a machine that gets around a lot of different road conditions (and no roads haha).

So today/sunday is to be a day of rest, hopefully pick up my meds, and then Monday morning I start my journey north!

The trip is going to end more or less where it began in the sense that the day I left I stopped by Barnstorm Cycles to show Jake the bike and just to go – I quite love that shop – and so on my last day on the road I’m going to swing into Barnstorm to say hello again, as well as to get my bike inspection done so that even though I will most likely fail, I won’t be getting a ticket hahaha

May 30 2012
The lack of updates is directly related to the fact that there seems to be some hold up at home on the refill of my primary medication, the 3600mg a day of nerve pain meds which keep me more or less functioning. I have been without them since Friday, called the first refill in last Thursday and still, still no refill.

What the fuck.

So I have to call my doctor’s again tomorrow. I suspect the lack of refills is because they want to see me, which isn’t possible as I can’t get home without my meds. I was supposed to be home the start of May so this wasn’t supposed to be an issue. Go figure.

So I’m in Columbia SC, have been since Monday, might be till Friday. I’d kick something really hard right now except for the fact that I am back to feeling 80. That’ll stop once I have my meds again, but its massively annoying.

So to end this quick ranting update, I am not exactly in the finest mood at the moment, and I’m not traveling, so thus is why I haven’t been talking.

May 31 2012
Right so the medication thing is sorted out. The script was filled on Tuesday, but it was filled in Worcester, which is why they could not fill it here. I called the Worcester Walgreens and had them cancel that script and now the one here will be able to fill it today – so that kicks ass.

Something that makes me even happier is the fact that there is apparently a smoke shop one town over, so I can go down there later today and pick up some more pipe tobacco. This is excellent because I am running rather low, and because what I have now is not my preferred blend, which granted I can’t get here either – as it’s an Owl Shop special, but this shop here in SC has a bunch of their own special blends, so I’ll be able to go and sample some of their jars and should be able to come up with something close enough that is more my style. The other thing that is better about this is the fact that the stuff I am smoking now has some of the same chemicals put into mainline tobacco products, most special blends of individual shops are just straight up tobacco. Still runs the risk of cancer, but its kind of the old fashioned risk, its not helped along by rat poisons and whatnot.

I’m also going to hunt down an auto parts shop today and buy some gasket material – not formagasket, but actual gasket material so I can sort my oil leak once and for all. Thats the oil that still escapes between where the metal lid I made meets up with where the alternator used to be mounted.

Now to get to the tobacco store the quickest route involves an actual interstate, so I’m going to see how the Ural handles on the interstate with its new gearbox. Depending on that I might be able to get back to Worcester quicker than I can if I have to remain on state highways. The trip won’t be as lovely by any means, but on the other hand it could cut the trip length in half. Straight lines.

So thats the update, I’m going to take a nap.

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