Why I Do Not Race or Do Track Days

Why I Do Not Race or Do Track Days

OK; this may sound like a petulant rant. So be it.  I saw something on Facebook this morning that got my leathers in a knot – a post that pretty much said that motorcyclists who do not do track days are less than others.

Piffle.  I have never raced cars or motorcycles or cars or done track days, and there are good reasons for that. (For this discussion we will ignore my drag racing experiences in a Corvette, a Mercury Comet with a 429 cubic inch V8, drags slicks, and a roll cage (!), a Mazda pickup and a Miata – guess which one earned me a trophy?…).

They may or may not be good reasons for you.

COST:       Obviously, cost is a consideration, especially with racing.  For many years I was so sure I would do well, if only… These days I could probably afford to race – something, with a little creative thought, but when I was younger, oh the longing.

Eventually I realized that cost was not the real issue.  There were others.

TIME:        In every form of racing I’ve ever explored, getting serious requires enormous quantities of money, but an even larger bill that can be measured in time.  Most of the racers I met were having a great experience, at the cost of virtually every other leisure time activity, and sometimes their marriage.  No longer married, that does not apply, but I do like to read, spectate at hot rod shows, outdoor concerts, and other events, hike, date, ride my motorcycle, and so on.   I have far too many passions to flush them all away to focus on any single one.

PACE:        Although I was competitive in many things, including street sport car rallies, over time on a motorcycle or in a car, I realized that I just did not care who was faster!  This came in very handy when I was working in the motorcycle business and being paid to lead customer riders.  I had no problem at all telling customers that if they wanted to ride faster than I was going, they were most welcome to simply pass me and forge on ahead. On the left, please. Fun fact:  in 14 years of leading customer rides, the only crashes I ever had to deal with involved people who had chosen to pass me and race on ahead.

For a small topic side road, consider the opposite.  There are groups, mostly on Gold Wings or Harleys, that enjoy roaming mostly freeways in large clumps at legal speeds.  I did this many times, and always had an interesting day.  However, I far preferred riding at a more rapid pace on a winding back road.  Doing this on a Harley-Davidson Road King, for example, is one of the most enjoyable almost-legal experiences you can have.  Does this mean I am a better person or more “real” a motorcycle rider?  In a word – no.

I now know that if I were racing and there was an on-track battle with another competitor and a corner was looming, I would simply back off and let them get on with it.  I am focused on the pace I want to maintain, and if someone else has a faster vision, better equipment, more experience or (let us be honest), more talent – more power to them.

Simply stated, I enjoy the sensations of speed, braking, cornering, and the coordination of the controls on a motorcycle or in a car, and the pace of someone else does not matter to me.  You?

OTHER IDIOTS:  This comes from an old family joke. When I was a lad, we were on a family car trip and the traffic was a bit dicey.  My mother turned to my father at the wheel and said, “Watch out for the other idiots on the road.”

He turned to her and replied, “What do you mean ‘other’?”  One of the greatest comebacks ever.

Having already eliminated actual racing from my list of planned activities, “other idiots” is my largest concern with both car and motorcycle track days.  I was pretty sure I would not wad the Porsche 911 I used to own into a ball at a track day, but that did seem to occur with depressing frequency,  and often the incident involved two cars – one of them driven by a hapless innocent collected by someone with more testosterone than talent.  I don’t mind a dent to my ego, but a dent or usually much more to my car is something my wallet and mind and body do not want to experience.

Most motorcycle track days require the removal of the rear-view mirrors, and the sound and logical reasons for this are clearly explained.  I understand the reasoning, but I am loath to sacrifice the visual input from behind me.

Having said that, I know people who put on track days for cars and motorcycles, and they are fine people who do an excellent job, often offering additional instruction and coaching where needed.  Track days are a wonderful thing, for many people. I am not one of them.

One motorcycle event I really enjoyed several times was an “advanced cornering clinic” held at a racetrack. The morning sessions offered various drills to impart knowledge of the correct racing line, where and when and how to brake, trail braking, and much more.  Eventually you were turned loose to practice, with multiple instructors roaming the track to wave you over if they saw the need for a review or a tip.  I loved these, and I hope they are still offered.

You may choose to go racing in your car or motorcycle, and you may choose to attend track days in your car or on your motorcycle.  Some people do both, or all four.  Good for you.

You are, in all likelihood, are faster than I am.   I hope that matters to you. Does not matter a whit to me.

Ride fast, ride safe, and ride often.

Copyright 2019              David Preston

Posted in Cars, Equipment, Motorcycles, Rants and Raves | 1 Comment

The Death of the American Motorcycle Magazine

The Death of the American Motorcycle Magazine

What happened?  The motorcycle mags I’ve read for years are being erased like bugs wiped off your visor with a squeegee of questionable soapiness in a gas station.  At least the main ones – “Cycle World,” “Motorcyclist,” etc.

What happened?  I have some thoughts, devoid of any actual insider info, which is why this worth exactly what you’re paying for it.

For motorcyclists of a certain age, the magazine has been an important part of our relaxation time for decades – in my case over half a century.

In high school I had a class called “Study Hall” one year – and in those golden oldie days you are actually expected to study.  Stuff like textbooks.  Which I did some of the time, but if someone had a copy of Cycle World magazine and had already read it three times, it was surreptitiously passed around like illegal contraband, which in a sense it was.

I was soon devouring every motorcycle magazine I could get my hands on, and did so for decades.  I even had articles published in a couple of them, notably “American Motorcyclist” (AMA) and “Road Rider,” which later became “Motorcycle Consumer News.”  MCN still exists, as do some of the specialist mags, but the heavy hitters are now reduced to daily social media posts.

Why?  I think there are several factors:

READING: Reading is less popular.  People today process almost everything through their phones.  The technology allows a lot of graphics and videos to be screened along with the content, and people go for the video as it gives more color and motion and sound, and takes less time.

Which is where I disagree.  When it comes to motorcycles or high- performance cars, the more time I spend enjoying it, the better.  I have some slight hopes for the future, using the metaphor of – automatic transmissions in cars.  About two decades ago, design boffins began creating automatic transmissions that were faster and easier to use than manuals. First, they invaded race cars, and then, inevitably, the street.  The stated benefits were that the car was faster.  It was also a lot cheaper for the manufacturer to offer only one transmission.  This never made sense to me, as any high-performance car at a track day is capable of a lap time, in the hands of a pro driver, that is ten seconds a lap faster than I will ever be. Or you.

Now we see some manufacturers (thank you Porsche) beginning to offer manuals again, although in Porsche fashion they will charge you for it.

Perhaps in time people will return to the joys of spending a long time actually reading a packed magazine with articles about their hobby, whether it be motorcycles, cars, knitting, or cribbage.  (Confession – I know nothing about the state of the knitting and cribbage magazine industries).

TIME:  It is hard to justify a magazine with articles about race results when the race was held more than a month ago and has been covered to death already on TV, YouTube, social media, and on and on.  It is difficult to promote a first road test of a new model when again, it was done last month in video form.

MARKET: The economic collapse of the 2nd mortgage market in 2008 hit motorcycle dealerships and manufacturers harder than most other retail indusctries.  Many dealerships died as a result.  Cycle Barn went from 284 employees to about 48 in two years, and was eventually broken into smaller pieces – some of the business arms disappeared, and some were sold off to become smaller outlets.  Fewer motorcyclists meant fewer readers, and the OEMs were a little slow to respond with smaller and less expensive motorcycles meant for younger riders.   Younger riders tend to have phones embedded in their skulls, and view reading as a medieval form of torture done only by old men mowing their lawn in flip flops, shorts, and black socks.

GREED:   The big one, to me.  Putting out a magazine is a lot of work, takes a lot of time, and eats a lot of money.  When magazine people began putting out blurbs on social media, I think they quickly discovered that the ads they could splice in delivered significant income, without the hassle and labor of paying those pesky writers, hiring copy editors, and on and on.  I would not be surprised if the major magazines are now more profitable as social media “content providers” than they were as magazine publishers.

All in all, a sad state of affairs, much like our country at the moment. I have hopes for the future of both.

P.S.  If you are reading this on your phone there is some chance that your screen does not show my full web page – a tragedy that would prevent you from seeing the links so you can purchase my books!  And other stuff as well.  Go to www.davidpreston.biz on a full screen computer to correct this travesty.

Copyright 2019              David Preston

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles, Rants and Raves | 2 Comments

Rough draft of a motorcycle trip in September

2019 BC                                                    Rough Draft

Friday, September 6th

7am Brekkie and then leave at 8:15am

I-405 to I-5 to Smokey Point Rest stop            30 miles

I-5 to 530 to Arlington to Rockport                   60 miles

SR 20 to Marblemount (fuel)                               15 miles

SR 20 to Winthrop, Twisp, (fuel, lunch)          90 miles

SR 20 to Okanagon                                               30 miles                                

97 to Oroville                                                           40 miles                     265 miles

Camaray Motel  1320 9th St, Oroville (509) 476-3684

Saturday, September 7th

Brekkie in town?  Leave at 9am?

97 north to US Border                                          15 miles

97 North to Osoyoos                                             9 miles

East on 3 to 33                                                        30 miles

North on 33 to Kelowna   (fuel)                           75 miles

North on 97 to 6                                                      30 miles

East on 6 to Naksup          (fuel)                           111 miles                  265 miles

            Canyon Court Motel

            937 Highway 23 North, Nakusp,BC

            VOG 1RO

            1 888 509 4499

Sunday,  September 8th

North on 23 to Ferry                                              32 miles

North on 23 to Revelstoke                                   30 miles

West on Canada 1 to Scamous (fuel)               41 miles

South on 97A to Vernon                                      45 miles

South on 97 to Osoyoos                                      69 miles                    

South on 97 to US Border                                   15 miles

South on 97 to Oroville                 (fuel)               5 miles                       239 miles

            Camaray Motel  1320 9th St, Oroville (509) 476-3684

Top of Form

Monday, September 9th

Brekkie in town – fuel – leave at 9am?

South on 97 to Okanagon                                               40 miles

West on 20 to Twisp                     (fuel)                           30 miles        

West on 20 to Marblemount (fuel)                                 90 miles                                            

West on 20, South on 530 to Darrington                     26 miles

West on 530 to Arlington and then home                   79 miles         265 miles

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Trains, planes, and automobiles – and motorcycles!

Trains, planes, and automobiles – and motorcycles

No trains, actually, but I could not resist the title.

There’s an annual “fly-in” of mostly vintage planes at a small airport behind Concrete Highschool on Highway 20.  I am not all that fascinated by planes, but some of my friends are, and it is a great ride there and back.

Six of us met up at the usual I-5 rest area just north of Smokey Point, and we would join Bellingham resident Rick at the event.  We featured three BMWs, one Honda, one Kawasaki, and my faithful Triumph Bonneville.

The day started well at the rest area, as an Austin Healey club had also paused. One of their members strolled over and handed out small candies in wrappers to each of us, for a reason I did not catch. All the better for me, as three of my friends did not want theirs and later gave them to me.  Great!

In addition, friend Marv had recently scored some leather gloves on a local no buy, no sell social media group.  None of them fit him and he was looking to give them away. One or two pair for Donna, and two pair for me!

Then it was up Highway 9, and then east on Day Creek Road to the old Skagit highway and a lovely romp of 25 miles or so.  North at the T to Concrete and we were there.  A bigger event than previous editions I have attended, so my plane enthusiast friends were very happy. Rick even brought a folding chair on his Ducati Multi-Strada so he could sit by the runway and watch various iterations trundle by, land, an/or take off.  Lots of food vendors on hand, so I supported the local Lions club with a burger, fries, and a can of pop.

There was also a small car show, but the coolest vehicle there was a recumbent bicycle. We had passed the rider/driver on the old highway and had a chance to talk to him. It had two wheels about a third of the way back and a third at the rear, enclosed in an extremely sleek body.  What I thought were “aero humps” at the front to cover the wheels were actually there to provide room for his knees when pedaling.  It had three different gear changes and some unimaginable number of speeds.  The owner had great tales of catching groups of riders on “normal” bicycles and passing them with ease and pedaling ahead, no matter how hard they tried to keep up.  It was spectacular.

Now for the unexplored part.  There was a bigger car show in Lyman (maybe), a small town I had never heard of.  Turns out there are several towns between 20 and the Skagit River, most of them obviously much smaller than in times past.

I found Hamilton-Lyman road, which none of us had ever ridden. To find a road that neither Marv or I have ridden in three quarters of a century of combined local riding is rare!  After getting just a tad lost in what turned out to be Hamilton, we came to an intersection where a left turn would lead us to Lyman. True, my cell phone in the tank bag could have made things more direct, but what fun would that be?

Across the street was an amazing building. A solid three-story block of concrete with no windows, now obviously no longer in use.  At the top, large concrete letters proclaimed it to be the Hamilton Gymnasium.  I imagine it would have been the pride of the community when it first opened.  The high school basketball games, theater productions, dances, concerts – it must have realty been something.  Turns out it was built in 1930.

A few miles west we came to Lyman, and it was easy to find the car show.  Fellow car nut Bob and I toured the three blocks with astonishingly cool stuff parked on both sides of the street, while our friends relaxed on a bench and waited patiently for us.  When we returned, I had a nice chat with a fellow who had purchased a brand-new Bonneville in 1969 – the very model the Triumph boffins tried so hard to replicate, with all the modern stuff hidden, on my 2016.  He paid $1,300 for his in 1969.  Mine cost about ten times more.

Eventually we rode away and returned to Hiway 20 and then south from Sedro-Wooley on 9 and a pleasant ride home.

Lovely day!

Copyright 2019              David Preston

Posted in Cars, Motorcycles, Travel | 2 Comments

First Motorcycle Trip of 2019

Canada Tour 2019  July 5-8                                      2018 reversed! 

Weather looks superb. Good roads, fun places to stay, and 5 good friends. Awesome

David Preston,  Brian Hardy, Rick Pannemann, Robert Okrie, Wil Wen, Pat Cordell

Friday, July 5th

7am Brekkie and then leave at 8:15am

I-405 to I-5 to Smokey Point Rest stop            30 miles

I-5 to 530 to Arlington to Rockport                   70 miles

SR 20 to Marblemount (fuel)                               15 miles

SR 20 to Winthrop, Twisp, (fuel, lunch)          100 miles

SR 20 to 153 to 97 to US 2                                   73 miles                    288 miles

Waterville Hotel  102 E Park St   (509) 745 – 8695

One single (Okrie) $69,  5 beds to be arranged later at $55 each (roughly)

Saturday, July 6th

Brekkie in town?  Leave at 9am?

East on 2 to Coulee City                                      55 miles

East on 2 to Creston                     (fuel)               30 miles        

Left on  Miles-Creston road to 25                      35 miles        

25 to Kettle Falls                                                    63 miles                    

East on 20 to Colville                    (fuel)               12 miles                     195 miles

Selkirk motel in Colville, WA  369 Main St.     (509) 684-2565

1 single (Okrie)  $70  2nd single (?)   two bed  ($75) two bed ($100)

Sunday,  July 7th

East on 20  to Tiger                                                           33 miles

North on 31 to Canadian Border                                   25 miles

North to 3 to Salmo                                                           10 miles

West on 3 to Castlegar                 (fuel)                           40 miles

West on 3 to Osoyoos                  (fuel)                           126 miles

South on 97 to US Border                                               15 miles

South on 97 to Oroville                                                     5 miles           254 miles

            Camaray Motel  1320 9th St, Oroville (509) 476-3684

One single (Okrie) $67 

One three bed ($83) One two bed ($78)          

Monday, July 8th

Brekkie in town – fuel – leave at 9am?

South on 97 to Okanagon                                               55 miles

West on 20 to Twisp                     (fuel)                           30 miles        

West on 20 to Marblemount (fuel)                                 130 miles                                         

West on 20, South on 530 to Darrington                     26 miles

West on 530 to Arlington and then home                   100 miles                  341 miles

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Selling Motorcycles With Sex

Selling Motorcycles with Sex – the Saga of MV Agusta

In case you missed it, because you have a real life or something, motorcycle company MV Agusta created a sensation recently by creating a video ad showing a naked female on a new MV Agusta.  The video was shot in near darkness, with strategically placed spotlights and dry ice smoke to make it sort of a tease.

In the resulting furor over the horror of such a thing, the ad was pulled from the company web site.  Cynics will opine that this was the plan all along. But this is 2019, so the ad is already on YouTube, where it can be seen by millions, and probably will be. This may also have been planned.

First take: For me the ad is a failure because I can no longer remember the model of motorcycle being promoted.  Or – for the cynical, the ad is a success because MV Agusta sells so few motorcycles that getting the brand discussed in the twitterverse and other social media is a huge win – even if the discussions are negative.  When was the last time you saw an MV Agusta being ridden?

But seriously – really?  People are shocked and horrified that a company is using a scantily clad (or in this case non-clad) woman to sell a product?  Hello?  I know the world has changed, but this is not new.  Compared to a few decades ago it is even sort of tame. The woman is never shown in the light from the front, and most of what you see is her rear end (and a lovely rear end it is), and some dark shadowy shots of breasts and hair and face. Back in the 1960s it was common for manufacturers to use female models at shows who were wearing almost, and sometimes literally, nothing. 

Harley for several years produced promo posters with the same woman, always dressed in alluring outfits on a new Harley model. They were extremely popular.  Motorcycle ads have featured attractive men and women since the machine was invented, in various stages of dress. For decades, Pirelli car tires produced calendars that featured naked women (and tires) that were so popular they became a significant profit aspect for the business, and instantly collectible. And on and on.

But what of men?  Well, there is a thriving industry that uses attractive men and women to sell all sorts of products. Shall we put all of them out of work?  Are we just upset about the nudity?  OK, I can sort of see that, but the most powerful man in the world brags about sexually assaulting women and getting away with it, and we are appalled by some naked flesh?

What about the woman in the ad?  I assume she was paid.  It is likely her face and figure will be desired for future campaigns, at an increased fee, so is she a victim?

Are the men who work for Chippendale’s being exploited?  Are male actors who seem to be cast in pictures where they will be shirtless most of the time being taken advantage of?

Here’s an example.  Almost 50 years ago I worked as an Underground Tour guide in Pioneer Square.  One of my colleagues was a nice guy who was very good looking.  His wife was also gorgeous, and they were both sweet and kind to each other and to everyone else.  He could also sit down at the grand piano in their living room and entertain you by playing the score of several musicals and singing along, while his wife made the coffee and served dessert.  It was like being in a movie.

Anyway, one day we were chatting in the sun outside the Yesler building, waiting for the next tour.  A guy came up to my friend and asked him if he had ever done any modeling.   My friend had not, so the guy gave him a card and told my friend to contact him.  As he walked away my friend asked “What would I be modeling?”   The answer was…. “Penis jewelry.”

Neither of us knew such jewelry existed, and he decided not to pursue that sort of modeling.  A few minutes later it hit me. We were both fully clothed.  How did the guy know which of us had a better-looking penis?  Totally unfair.

Men and women have been interested in the appearance of other men and women, in various combinations, since fig leaves were the apparel of choice.  Marketing mavens have been using this basic law of nature to market products for centuries and more.  Do we now ban all attractive people from using their gifts to make money?  Will we ban people born with math skills from becoming CPAs or CFOs?

It gets silly pretty quickly.

Another example. Years ago, I was returning to Cycle Barn from an event aboard a gorgeous metallic green Triumph Sprint ST, which I owned.  I was clad in my custom made black and blue Vanson leather pants and jacket adorned with Cycle Barn logos. I had on new boots and snazzy gloves, topped off with a yellow Arai helmet with a dark tinted shield. Probably the most attractive I’ve ever been, but of course that is a low bar.

At a stoplight there was a car next to me with several attractive young women. I could see by their faces and gestures that they were discussing the “stud” on the motorcycle next to them. As the light changed, I thought about flipping up the visor so they could see that I was 58 years old, but I demurred, fearing that the driver might scream in horror and careen into a telephone pole. Or me.

If I were a “brand manager” or “media consultant” for MV Agusta, (frightening thought), I would have bade two versions be prepared.  The second would have been the same ad with a naked male model, focusing, as with the first one, on his butt, his chest (in shadow), and his face and hair. I would have placed that one on the web site a day after the first one, and watched the media hit score climb.

To be really adventurous, it would have been interesting to lead with the male version.

Off to ride my Triumph to an event today.  To the relief of all, I will be fully clothed.

Copyright 2019                      David Preston

Note: if you are reading this on your phone, you may not be seeing my full website. For several years-worth of articles on all sorts of things  (plus links to my 8 books available from Amazon), please go to www.davidpreston.biz

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | 1 Comment

The Strange Journey to my new used car

First of all, I did not really need to trade in my Fiat 500 Sport. It’s a fine example of a 2012 model with 43,000 miles and no issues at all. It has been reliable, and always fun to drive.

But… now divorced and in a rented duplex, I only have one car, and the Fiat is a tad small once in a while, like when I need to take the power mower in for repair. Secondly, I have a significant chunk of cash that resulted from the divorce, the upside of…not owning a house any more. The ex kept the almost new VW Tiguan in the divorce, while I retained the Fiat and the Triumph Bonneville.  True, these two do not come close to the value of the Tiguan, but there were a lot of items to divide, and it worked out pretty equally.

I am a car and motorcycle enthusiast, so with the (rare for me) ability to write a check for anything within reason, I was able to dive into one of my favorite parts of the car and motorcycle nut experience- shopping!

What was unusual this time was that I really did not need to purchase anything, and the sensible thing to do was… nothing.  Who wants to be sensible all the time?

My options were wide, constrained only by shreds of practicality fighting a war with wants.  I wanted something a tad larger than the Fiat, equipped with a sun roof, and a manual shift, and something that would make me smile every time I looked at it.  I also wanted to purchase from a dealer using the Fiat as a trade-in.  You can get more by selling on your own, but when you trade in you pay sales tax on the difference, and that brings the cost comparison close enough to be able to ignore the (many) perils and hassles of selling on your own.

I have found over the decades that I do not really need a test drive until almost the end of the purchase experience. Often, merely sitting in a vehicle will remove it from the list.

A 2013-16 or so Mustang appeals for low cost and sporty driving, and I prefer the looks to the new model. So…

First up – Harris Ford had a used Mustang that would do. A 6 speed manual, reasonable miles, sunroof, and puke green – I love lurid colors.  I was thinking that perhaps this was fated, as I bought a new screaming yellow Ford Focus there in 2000, a wonderful car that served me well for over a decade.  Actually, I agreed to purchase a black one, but when I came to pick it up, three of the just released yellow models had just arrived, and one of them was optioned exactly like what I was to purchase. A swap of VIN #s on the title and the deed and deal was done.

This time was different.  I parked and wandered around the used car section.  Eventually, a salesman appeared.  I asked if the green Mustang had sold, and indeed it had.  No worries. I explained that I merely wanted to sit in a Mustang of that vintage, and he said they were all unlocked. As I had already tried that, I disagreed. He then tried to open the same doors I had and inexplicably, they were still locked.  Instead of summoning the massive energy required to locate a key, he merely directed me to go across the street to the showroom.

As I suspected, the showroom held only new models, most of them $70-90k Shelby examples.  Oh well. I found one with open doors and got in – and fell into a deep well.  Egad!  The seat was really low, and the interior a black cave you could not see out of.  I am sure the seat could be raised, but no sales person was around.  So, I used their men’s room (take that!) and left.

I had a brief dalliance with a brand-new Ford Fiesta ST at Bickford, and a very nice chat with a salesman whose first name was David with a middle name of Preston!  Alas, the car in question was not there yet, and was the (far) lesser of two Fiesta ST models. Later I decided it was too small anyway – why trade a too small car for another too small car?

I’ve always lusted after the 2003-2006 Chevy SSR pickup truck.  This was a concept vehicle that got everyone so excited it made it to production.  The “retro” styling appealed, as did the full hard cover over the bed, and the Corvette engine, but the icing on this tasty cake was a metal hard top that folds and disappears behind the seats. Most of them were yellow (terrific!) or red (ok). A manual was only offered in 2006, the last year, along with 50 more horsepower, but I could manage without both. This would not be a performance car.  But cool!

Alas, turns out most of them were sold in less rainy climates – there are few available around here.  True, I could fly somewhere and drive it back, but that would remove the option of a trade-in. I did find one in Auburn, but with a lot of miles and in silver with black stripes.  However, it did have a zippy custom red and grey interior, and it was a 2006 with the manual and the extra power, so I put that aside for now. Then I found one in Everett, and decided to look at it. Also silver, but I just wanted to sit in it and check it out.  Salesman Russell at Bayside Auto Sales was happy to accommodate, and the SSR passed the seating test. This could work! Alas, this particular one had been used hard and then ignored. The paint looked as if it had been parked outside in Arizona sun for about ten years. The paint was virtually burned off the horizontal surfaces, and the stripes were peeling away. Foggy and scratched headlights, bumps and bruises all over – this one would need about 15k put into it to be nice.  But Bayside also had a 2015 Mustang for sale. An automatic, but again Russell was kind enough to fetch the key and let me sit in it.  Much better than the new ones.  Point to ponder.

Then I motored north to Chevrolet of Everett to check out a 2016 Ford Focus ST.  The ST is the pick of the litter, with upscale bucket seats, a 6 speed manual shift, sunroof, lots of bells and whistles, and a turbo 4 engine belting out 252 horsepower, which is a lot in a front wheel drive car, necessitating some fancy front end engineering in a (mostly successful) attempt to keep it from torque-steering off the road.  It would have been quite pricey in 2016, and was probably mostly used by dealers as a “halo” model to entice buyers into a more reasonable Focus.

My hopes were not too high, as it had 52,000 miles. And then I got there. 

Holy tire smoke, Batman!  The deep dark blue metallic paint appeared to be perfect.  The interior looked fine.  New tires.  Hmmmmm…

Salesman Noah introduced himself and we started the dance.  A month ago, they put it on the lot at $19,000.  Now they offered it as an “easy purchase – no negotiating needed” price of $17,500.  Noah explained that they liked to set the price at a fair amount and skip the usual negotiations drama.

OK.

As we chatted, he asked me what I thought. I explained that a well-optioned Fiat 500 Sport like mine would retail for $6 to $8,000, maybe $9,000 if you tried hard. Dealers would offer $3,000 to $5000 for a trade-in, so if I was interested he would offer me $3,000 as a trade-in, and I would counter with $5,000, and he would come back with $4,000 and then I would say that if he wanted a quick sale I would write a check for a $3,500 trade-in. This would amount to $14,300 or so.

At this point he stared at me and said “I think you are the most knowledgeable customer I have ever dealt with.”  Of course, a good salesperson will always find some way to compliment the customer, but I enjoyed it all the same.  I explained some of my background in the business, and off we went to begin the negotiations he had stressed they do not do.

His first offer was, as expected, a trade-in of $3,000, plus all sorts of other fees, all of which had explanations and most of which I ignored.

I pointed out to him the $150 “documentation fee,” which dealers are allowed by law to charge, is voluntary on the customer’s part!  Most people do not know this.  I would not be willing to pay that, and also, I did not need to pay $550 in RTA tax because in my new location it is not collected.

We went back and forth a few times, with Noah returning to his hidden sales manager to get approval.  At the end, I was at $13,000 plus tax and license – about $14,300 – which is exactly where I began.  He got all the way down to $13,800, which was a fair offer.

I explained that I was happy he had not taken my offer, as I wanted some time to think about it rather than rushing in to a mistake.  I pointed out that of course, he could sell it to someone else that day or the next, or I could find something else, so my leaving was a bit of a gamble for both of us.

What I did not explain was that I was pretty sure this would be a tough car for them to sell.  Most people do not know what an ST is in the first place, and most people shopping for a used Ford Focus would not want to pay anywhere near that price, and last, most people these days do not want to and perhaps cannot drive a manual transmission.

And so we parted. I went off to tour the hot rod show in Everett and eat unhealthy food in large quantities, and then went home.

I sort of expected that he would call and offer to split the $500 difference, and I would have agreed to that.  As the afternoon wore on I began to think I’d negotiated my way out of a deal, and after doing some research on my computer on reliability records and owner reviews and such, I wanted the car more than at first!

Finally, at 5:15pm, Noah called. The deal had been approved at my price, but only for today.  They closed at 6pm, but he would wait for me.  OK!

I got there at 5:50 and it took awhile to do the paperwork.  I think the finance guy was exhausted from a long weekend, as there was no sales pitch for an extended warranty or underseal or magic fairy dust or anything else.  I wrote a check for $14,298.00 and was driving home.

Initial impressions?  I will stop here, lest I gush!  Really a hoot and a half to drive, and the shift is about the best I’ve ever experienced, including a Porsche 911 and several dozen Mazda Miatas, usually considered the best out there.  If you see me sometime you probably do not want to ask me about the car, unless you have an hour to spare.

Let’s see how long the honeymoon lasts!

Cheers!

Copyright 2019                      David Preston

Posted in Cars, Equipment, Marketing | 1 Comment

Enjoying a Double Automotive Fantasy

Enjoying a Double Automotive Fantasy

‘Tis a pity that the word “fantasy” has such a negative connotation for so many. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a fantasy, as long as you recognize it for what it is – something unlikely to ever happen.

In my case, my fantasies often revolve around motorcycles and vehicles I would like to own and operate. A deep-seated ineptitude with tools means I need to rely on a lottery ticket to fund my dreams.

I don’t expect to win the lottery, and spend my shekels for the simple enjoyment of playing “what if” in my head.  This leads me to real estate listings as well.  The current realty fave is a house near me for a paltry 2.2 million that features, among other delights, a 7-car garage. One slot would be taken up by two or three motorcycles, and another by a Jaguar XJS that belongs to a woman I think I can connive into living with me. That leaves 5 slots for cars and trucks.  I can cope.

Today I indulged the fantasy side further by attending an open house at “Top Secret” customs in Arlington.  This featured a live band, an astonishing show of customs and hot rods, fine food, and the opportunity to wander through a huge facility that houses separate areas for frame construction, metal work and fabrication, machining operations, and a modern paint booth and prep area – all of this with a few dozen vehicles in various stages of completion spread throughout. It was stunning.

Strictly for fantasy, I was also shopping for a shop to build a car for me.  These folks could do it. Not just any car, – one I designed.  For my novel “Triathlon Ride” I created a resto-mod International Harvester pick-up, created by a fictional Bartholomew Chance III in a fictional business in Cofus, a fictional small town in Kansas.  How cool would it be to have created for me that vehicle, replete with the logo of the fictional shop on the doors?  What a fun conversation piece that would be, as well as being an utterly usable machine.

“Daphne” also appears with Bartholomew in “Farrier Ride,” the 4th of my “Harrison Thomas” novels, all of which are available as e-readers or in paperback from Amazon.  Cheap commercial plug, I know.

Anyway, here is the section of the novel that describes my truck.

“He gazed right, and the penny dropped. “Daphne” was a pick-up truck. An International Harvester long bed pick-up truck of early 1960’s vintage, if my store house of mental trivia could be relied upon. 

Dark metallic green, with an oblate spherical cream area on the door with the company logo and Bartholomew’s name.  On the hood, a reverse hood scoop from a Camaro drag racer from years back, and on each side of that the word “Daphne” in small but elegant pin-striped cream italics. 

“Has to be a story with this one,” I offered.

“Well, I’d been thinking of doing a truck for some time. The ride to and from Oakland is getting a bit old for one thing.  For another, been planning on expanding the business into customs of the four-wheel variety. They’re actually easier to create because you have more places to hide equipment you don’t want on view. They sell for more, too, which is nice.”

“So far I follow,” I interjected.

“Along the way I met a neighbor lady at church.”

At this I raised an eyebrow.

“Everybody goes to church in Kansas, Harrison. If you don’t, you’re suspected of all sorts of things, and with my great tan and artificial leg I’m already out of the ordinary. Doesn’t hurt me to talk to folks once in a while, either.  Anyway, one day I was getting back on my bike – that burgundy bagger I had – and this elderly woman came up to me.  She was about 85 years old, and all dressed up in her Sunday best, complete with hat.  She walked up to me with pursed lips, staring at the bike, and I figured I was about to get some sort of lecture.

Instead she looked e me straight in the eye and said “My, what a lovely motorcycle.”

(This part, like many of the events in my novels, comes from real life. I met a lovely woman like this outside a diner one morning in Montana, 40 years ago on a motorcycle trip)

“Once I recovered from that we began to talk, and soon became good friends. Daphne was one of the purest souls I’ve ever met. She was still living on the wheat ranch she and her husband had built, although he’d passed away years ago.  Kansas is not an easy place to live by yourself, especially in the winter, and especially if you’re over 80. I did some favors for her from time to time – putting up the screens when I arrived in the spring, prepping her house for the winter before I left, fixing this and that. I liked doing things for her, and we enjoyed each other’s company.  She was a one hell of a cook as well.”

His voice slowed and his ebony face grew darker. “She passed away last year, and willed her truck to me. Been in the family for 40 years, after its first career with the Kansas State Agricultural Bureau. It’s a 1961 and it’s been around the block a time or two. Seemed like it was meant to be my first custom, and naming it for her was only right. I got it done just in time for the 4th of July parade.”

“Cofus has a parade?”

“Yeah. Goes back 50 years to when it was a real town. There’s no organization other than what a few volunteers from the church provide. It just sort of starts at the old school at about 11am and it’s all over by 1pm. Then most people go into Langford for the afternoon and then the evening fireworks, for those that enjoy that. I don’t. Anyone can enter anything in the parade, from a rusted 1965 Pontiac to dance groups, a combine or two for reasons I don’t understand, that sort of thing. We put some kids from the church youth program in the back of Daphne and used her in the parade, with kids tossing candy to the sides. You can still do that in parades in Kansas.”

(This is also real, based on a parade south of Pullman on July 4th at a grange in the middle of the wheat fields)


“That must have been fun.”

“Turned out to be more than that, Harrison. Daphne was very well known in the area, and when folks saw what I’d done to her truck, and how I’d named it for her – it was amazing.  When a grizzled 70-year-old white Kansas wheat farmer comes up and puts his arms around an ugly big black man and then bursts into tears as he remembers Daphne… makes me think progress is possible.”

“That’s amazing.”

“Less so every day.  I’ll tell you Harrison, I wasn’t too sure of the wisdom of spending 5 or 6 months a year here. Didn’t think I’d fit in very well, although Marilyn and her friends made every effort to blow me up as some sort of hero.”

“Ironic use of phrase, considering.”

“Oh yeah, that.  In any case, Kansas votes in some of the most idiotic conservative politicians you can imagine, and proudly too. The current governor has pretty much bankrupted the state by slashing taxes to where even minimal services create massive deficits.  People here also turn to froth if any mention is made of gun control. You know I’m familiar with guns, and never travel without one, but even the concept that a person who has been declared mentally disturbed and violent might be denied access to machines guns sends people off the deep end. And of course, almost all of them are white. 

Against that, my experience has been that if you just don’t talk all that much, do what you say you’ll do when you say you’ll do it and stick to the truth, people treat you like you’re the finest person they’ve ever met. In fact, I think I’ve run into less racism here than I deal with in California.  It’s kind of confusing.”

For Bartholomew this pretty much amounted to a speech.

“What conclusions have you drawn?”

“You don’t really know people until you really know people.”

“That sounds like something I should write down.”

“Didn’t patent it. Be my guest.”

“Back to Daphne. Knowing you, I’m sure there’s more to this truck than meets the eye.”

“I’ll give you the tour. The paint I did myself, now that I have my own spray booth. See that dark finish on the bumpers and headlight surrounds and body trim?”

I nodded.

“That’s a technique known as “Parkerizing,” named after a guy whose name you can guess. It’s sort of like black chrome, and you take care of the finish by oiling it once in a while.  Used on a lot of antique guns and weapons, but I’d never seen it applied to a vehicle.  It makes for a good starting point when talking to customers.”

(Parkerizing is also real)

“Starting point?”

“Oh yeah, the Parkerizing is just the beginning.”  Bartholomew was not one to brag, but I could feel his enthusiasm for what he had created.  It oozed out of him like fresh sweat. He pulled something that looked like a TV remote control from a front pocket of his coveralls.  “We shall commence the tour.”

He pushed a button and Daphne’s engine rumbled to life, murmuring peacefully through big exhaust pipes.

“Chevy small block?”

“Excellent guess, Harrison.” He punched another button on the remote and the hood rose silently, revealing a modern fuel-injected engine with “Camaro” announced on the valve covers in red.  A 3rd button push popped open the driver’s door to reveal the leather interior.  Although the dash appeared stock, I could see that a lot of the more modern controls, such as cruise control and the stereo, were close to hand on the leather steering wheel. Daphne also sported power windows and door locks.

But wait, as they say, there’s more. Now we get to Daphne’s real party trick.”

We’d strolled to the back, where the extra length eight-foot bed glistened with varnished wood pieces separated by aluminum slats. The center slat was wider, with a slot running down the middle. It seemed to sit several inches higher than normal, so I asked about it.   Bartholomew produced a wry smile and punched yet another button on the remote. The bed split in half and rose up vertically on each side, jutting above the original body sides. As this was going on, a second layer was exposed under the wood, this one all aluminum, but with rubber traction surface areas up and down both sides. A shallow notch ran down the middle, and as the sides raised a chock for the front wheel of a motorcycle popped up in place. The tailgate began to move to the rear an inch or so and then slid down until it was vertical behind the Parkerized rear bumper. The entire aluminum bed panel then began to slide backward. As it cleared the back of the truck it gradually leaned down until it rested on the cement floor. The last bit of it was beveled.  When all was said and done Bartholomew hit the kill switch on the remote, and now he had a pickup ready to be loaded with his bike. He could easily ride the bike up and into the wheel chock, and then get off and walk back down to level ground.  Then the remote would reverse the process.  A couple of tie downs could be added for security, although they were probably not needed.

There was a soft click as the hood, released by the kill button, settled back into position.

Slick.

I said as much, and Bartholomew responded “Getting a bike into a truck can be a bit dicey for a man with an artificial leg. For most of the people who want something like this, it’s just being able to show off. Whatever.”

I just stared at Daphne in silence.  What a stunning vehicle, starting from an old farm truck.”

So, there you have it.  I have the truck in my head, and I have found the shop to build it.  Just need the correct lottery ticket!

Copyright 2019                     David Preston

(for more, feel free to go to my web site at www.davidpreston.biz to peruse several years of my stuff – some of which you might like!

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The Statistical Anomaly That Is The Seattle Mariners

The Statistical Anomaly that is the Seattle Mariners

I’m not much of a baseball fan.  Despite my starring role as a pitcher on a Little League farm team in my youth…  Nor a Mariners fan.  But…

With the Mariners recent success, I thought I’d give them a try, in the most casual way possible. Record the games and then watch them mostly on fast forward, pausing when something of interest occurs. Lately, that has meant watching most of the game.

Baseball on TV is different now.  It is still too slow, but fast forward helps with that.   The big difference is the amount and depth of the statistics displayed on the screen.  It is captivating, especially for anyone (like me, for example) with math nerd tendencies.

When a pitcher enters the game, the screen will tell you what pitches he throws (fastball, curve, slide, change-up) what percentage of the time, depending on the balls and strikes count.  This info is available to the teams as well, I’m sure, and what an advantage! If the numbers tell you the pitcher throws a fastball 93% of the time when behind in the count, and the count is 3 balls and 1 strike, guess what pitch the batter will be looking for?

The screen is filled with sidebars of all sorts of arcane statistics that only the obsessed would collect, but I am happy to see the results without doing any of the work.  For one thing, this allows baseball to bring to the viewer the history and tradition they want to market in an open and interesting way.  As an example, there is one statistic displayed that shows that in one area the Mariner’s offensive success was last equaled by a team with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig playing!

For the casual fan, nothing creates more interest than offense and home runs, and here the Mariners are rollicking along at a pace that cannot possibly be sustained. They have hit at least one home run in every one of the first 15 games, an all-time record, and are averaging over two home runs a game and over 7 runs a game.

Frequent statistical records show you how they are comparing (favorably) with teams from the past 100 years, in a cornucopia of other categories I did not know existed, but are fascinating.

They do not show, at least so far, negative numbers, such as the number of errors committed, which is not a Mariner bragging point.

Their success is even more fun because the team is comprised of a bunch of guys you’ve never heard of most likely.  One (Edwin Encarcion) is probably ending a long and successful career with the Mariners, and unlike most of his end of career predecessors he is eating the opponents alive.  The rest of them, for a fan of my low standing, are literally “who are these guys?”  You have to like the underdog.

The Mariners currently lead all of major league baseball in a slew of statistical categories, and it is not just one or two players doing all of the heavy lifting, but more like a dozen of them and all are having career years.  On a long road trip, the manager has been blending in different players each game.  This provides a day of rest for a player who does not want it because he is doing so well, but also allows another slavering beast to get a turn or four at bat and join in on the feast. It’s interesting to observe.

Today’s game added a new wrinkle. The Mariners were behind by several runs for most of the game, finally tying the score in the 9th inning and then scoring the winning run in the 10th – on another home run.

They are now 13 – 2.  Can this continue?  No. Certainly not at an average of almost 8 runs a game, nor almost two home runs a game.  The Mariners bandwagon has emptied so often before it does not bother with seatbelts, but still they are great fun to watch.

I have a suspicion they are not going to dry up and blow away.

Copyright 2019                                       David Preston

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The Modern Triumph Bonneville Experience

The Modern Triumph Bonneville Experience

I purchased a 2016 Triumph Bonneville T120 in April of that year.  The following situation has occurred so often that I almost laugh when it starts…again.

Someone, usually a man, notices the bike, whether at a stop light or when I am parking it at the store or getting ready to leave from some place.  A long stare commences.

Then comes the first comment, and it is almost always one of the following,

“Wow.  When was that restored?” or

“I did not know Triumph still made motorcycles.  What year is it?”

I respond with a smile; “It’s a 2016.”

The person usually looks a little astonished, and then goes on to relate their personal connection to the Triumph Bonneville.  They had one, or Dad did, or Grandfather, or a relative.  The stories are always slanted a bit with the golden rays of reverie.  Evidently none of the originals ever broke down, crashed, or leaked oil!

Then there will be a remark or two about how beautiful it is, and then my favorite part – the questions!

“650cc?”

“1200.”

“Really?  I think the originals had 48 or 55 horsepower, something like that?”

“This has 84.”

“Really!  4 speeds?”

“Six.”

Then I start reeling off the improvements.  “It also has ABS brakes, triple discs at that, fuel injection, ride modes, heated grips, several instrument displays, an easy clutch pull, and 10,000-mile oil change intervals.” And sometimes I gush more.

“Must be great for around town.”

“Oh, it’s wonderful, but I’ve also taken it on several rides of one to two thousand miles.”

By now the person is back to staring.  They usually wish me a good day, and then wander off, turning back a few times to gape at the bike some more.

Sometimes they’ll add, “I’d love to get one, but I’m too old to ride motorcycles.”  Every person who has said this is younger than I am, often by a lot.  (I am 72)

Why do people react this way?  For one thing, the Bonneville is a beautiful bike in the mode of classic bike looks.  Jay Leno is reputed to have said “A real bike you can see through.”  But there are lots of beautiful bikes.

I think Triumphs have a look that communicates fun and adventure and friendly.  People assume the rider is friendly.  Lot of Harleys are beautiful, but they can also look intimidating or unfriendly depending on the example. I used to ride a lot of Harleys as part of my job at a dealership, usually showing off a new model at an event, and while people did talk to me (which was why I was there), it was much different and more restrained.

I owned a scorched yellow Speed Triple for eleven years, and it was a fantastic bike that hardly anyone ever commented on.

I go on lots of rides with small groups of friends.  They all have nice motorcycles, but none get the reaction mine does, except for the friend with multiple old – Triumph Bonnevilles.  My friends often make amused comments about the delays in our ride when we stop or go to leave, because of these conversations.

Certainly not the reason to purchase one, as there are many better ones, but a pleasant little sidebar.

Ride fast, ride safe, and ride often!

Copyright 2019                              David Preston

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | Leave a comment