Motorcycle Windshields and Screens

On Motorcycle Windshields

Ah, the wind in your face. Perhaps bugs in your teeth if you are wearing an open face helmet. Or none.  And dust, and sand, and mud. And rain?  Hail?

I was once following a friend on our motorcycles. He was wearing a full face helmet and glasses, but had left the visor at home. All of a trice I saw twin streams of yellow goo streaming around the sides of his helmet. He slowed and stopped at the edge of the road. When I pulled up next to him he was laughing so hard he was crying.  He had hit some sort of very juicy bug right on the bridge of his nose. The resulting bug death had left his entire face and glasses covered in glorious yellow slime. Oh, I wish I’d taken a picture.

A number of years ago I was bombing along at an illegal rate of speed when suddenly a rock appeared in the air, right in front of me. It bounced off the Lexan face shield on my Arai helmet.  I never figured out where it could have come from, and I reflected on what would have happened decades ago with my first full face helmet. That was an early Bell Star model, and the visor was some sort of thin and clear plastic. Such a rock would have gone right through it.

Then there was the bee that hit me in the throat at a good speed, and stung me in his death throes. That hurt, although he more than me.

So yes, there are arguments to be made in favor of having some sort of windshield on your motorcycle.  But what kind?  Your selection will be based on your perceived needs combined with your model and style of bike, and probably your sense of what looks “right.”    You have several types to choose from, and we will go from small to large in order.

None at all.   To me, a lot of bikes look best when they are simplest.  Think of classic designs such as the Harley Sportster, any of the British bikes, most Ducatis, and early BMWs, at least as delivered.  They are cooler on hot days, and cooler looking on any day.

Flyscreen.  This is the smallest, and is almost entirely non-functional. It came to fame, I think, back in the late 1950s and early 1960’s, as they were attached to many British sporting models, particularly the “café racers” of the day. This is simply a clear or painted small shield of two to six inches high that sticks up from the upper edge of the windshield.  Some are merely a three or four inch “lip” added to the top of the headlight. Having said they are useless, they do make a noticeable difference in wind blast, much more than you would expect.  If you also have a tank bag on your bag, the combo provides some protection.

But not much.

Of course, this is my favorite.  I had one on my Speed Triple, that was sort of a cross between a fly screen and a bikini fairing (next section) and I felt that with the bug eye headlights of the Speed Triple it was an absolute necessity.  I just ordered a fly screen for my new Bonneville, in the same killer cranberry metallic color that is on the fuel tank.

At times a manufacturer will put a fly screen on to give the bike a racier appearance. One example is the Harley-Davidson XLCR of 1977.

Every once in a while Harley produces a “sports bike” and they usually miss the mark. 

By a lot. 

It seems that the finer minds in Milwaukee just cannot wrap their minds around the concept of cornering and a forward lean position.  They made a sporting version of the V-Rod a few years ago and it was a very nice bike, but too heavy and much too expensive compared to the competition.  We had one at Cycle Barn that had been crashed very early on, and the custom shop recreated it with some Aprilia and other parts, and it was what Harley should have been aiming for. Still too expensive, although I was tempted. In any case, Harley customers never buy these forays in large numbers anyway.

Harley even went so far as to produce a drag racing bike that came from the factory with wheelie bars and a drag slick. It was not street legal, and the intent was that thousands of loyal customers would purchase them as a way to get into drag racing at a reasonable cost. Can you imagine that customers did not define $42,000 as a “reasonable” cost?  I recall that the sales manager at the time ordered one and nearly had his head removed. It was there for a long time before disappearing without a murmur.

Back to the XLCR. It looked the business, with a very small screen, blacked out mufflers, and other accoutrements. To my surprise, a customer at the aftermarket shop where I was working in 1978 offered it to me for a ride.  I was on the bike in a flash before he could change his mind. First thing I noticed was that Harley had reached into the Honda parts bin for the instruments, which was disappointing.   I got to the first corner and leaned in, and nothing happened.  As the pavement began to run out I eventually wrestled the bike around the corner. I had not been going all that fast, but I rode the bike back to the shop at a sedate rate.  I gave the key back to the owner and told him I was surprised that it did not want to turn – at all.  His laconic comment:  “Yeah. I should have mentioned that.”

Bikini fairing. Next up in order is the bikini, which is about half of a race fairing. It wraps around the headlight and usually but not always has sides that extend back toward the tank.   These will usually require clip-on handlebars, or at least lower ones. You can find them on several Ducatis of the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Best known is probably the BMW fairing used on the R90S. A masterpiece of minimalist design, and sold as aftermarket copies even today. 

I purchased one from a fellow who had installed it on his Ducati Darmah for a mad dash to New York and back for his sister’s wedding.  He installed the fairing and an air bladder seat pad, rode almost non-stop to New York, put on a tux for the wedding, and rode back.  Then he sold it to me for $100, with 6,000 miles of bugs added for free.  With small brackets made by a handy friend, it served my Yamaha 750 triple very well for over 20 years, and was still in place the last time I saw it.

Full race fairing.  This stretches the concept of “fairing” a bit, as these are used on road racers where aerodynamics is a key factor.  They do provide a little bit of protection if the rider is in a full racing crouch. Of course, when so positioned, the racer has little forward vision at all, but hey, it’s all about the speed. Far more often, it’s all about the look of speed. Certainly for me when I owned a very rare Muzzy 750 Raptor. To see at all I had to change from a Shoei helmet to an Arai, because the viewing port is higher in an Arai.  I also had to avoid a lot of clothing at the back of my neck, to allow me to bend my head back far enough to see where I was going. Not practical at all, but wow – did I LOOK fast!

Anorak note: Craig Vetter is usually credited with creating the touring market with his “Windjammer” large fairing, back in the 1970’s. What few recall was that this was not his first product.  The initial batch was essentially full race fairings with an extended windscreen that rose up several inches higher. I thought it was terrific, and as an impecunious college student I spent $140 of my meager funds on, if I recall, Vetter fairing #43.  I mounted it on my Yamaha 250 YD-S 3. 

I also purchased a small diamond engagement ring at the same time for almost the same cost. The engagement lasted two weeks, which in retrospect turned out to be a very good thing.

The fairing contacted the brace on the back of the front fender, so I simply took off the fender. Even racier!   In white, it matched the white on the fuel tank. To pick up on the blue on the tank, I mounted two large blue decals, one to each side, which displayed the Yamaha crossed tuning forks logo – the original company logo. Gorgeous! 

A proud moment in my life came when I was outside of the house where I rented a room, waxing the bike for the 43rd time. A fellow on a BSA roared up and stopped. He asked me if I was entering the road race that weekend and I think my ego swelled my head to twice its size.  

After two years and several thousand miles, including a memorable ride from Minneapolis to Seattle and back in 1968, I moved all of my meager possessions, and the Yamaha, to Seattle, using a two axle Hertz enclosed trailer.

Once in Seattle, I removed the fairing for (another) thorough cleaning.

Then I took my pristine machine out for a test ride and promptly threw it into a ditch at about 60 mph, my only serious crash in 50 years. 

So far.

I sold the remains of the bike and the still pristine fairing to a guy who lived next door and promptly lost track of the guy, the bike, and the fairing. A pity, as that fairing is now probably worth some serious bucks to a collector of the odd and unusual.

Bar mounted fairings.  By far the most well-known is the Harley-Davidson “bat wing” fairing, in use for far more than a half a century. I’ve always thought them ugly, but what do I know? People keep buying them, and you can tell what kind of bike it is immediately.

Twenty or so years ago I was romping up Lolo Pass in Idaho, riding behind my friend on his Norton. In the bar end mirror of my Yamaha triple I could see a bat wing fairing far behind us. Knowing how fast we were going (Lolo Pass was less patrolled by the Idaho State Patrol than it is today) I was shocked to see that the bat wing was gaining on us. I had never seen a Harley ridden at speed before – ever.   Eventually the bike caught us, and then swept around both of us on the outside of a sweeping curve. No helmet, no shirt, and sparks coming off the floorboards. At the top of the pass there was a long wait for a construction project.  We pulled up next to the shirtless speedster and nodded hello. He reached down, flipped up a saddlebag lid, and said “Want a beer?”

“Er, no thank you.” 

I have no idea how many beers he had consumed, but that dude could ride!

Windshields.  Here is a conundrum.  Many of my friends swear by these, but more often I swear at them. In my experience, almost all of them trade protection from wind and rain and cold for snapping and turbulence and a lot of noise.  This is an improvement?

Really notable exceptions are the windshields on Harleys.  A Road King offers all the benefits of the windshield with no downsides. I do not know why Harley seemingly alone can figure out the ergonomic requirements for a screen that offers protection with no drawbacks, but they obviously know something others don’t.

I’m always amused by people who dump all over Harleys as slow bikes with antiquated technology.  Most of them have never ridden a Harley, and my guess is that many have never ridden a motorcycle. A Road King on a winding back road is a sublime experience. Harleys also had smooth and simple cruise controls long before others offered them, as well as other little techno goodies.

Touring fairings.  Sport touring bikes such as the Yamaha FJR and Kawasaki Concours now offer a windscreen that is adjustable, either manually or electrically.  The BMW version is pretty trick in that when the ignition is turned off the windscreen comes down and provides protection and security for the navigation system.   Others, such as the Honda Goldwing, offer a windshield that is adjustable only by hand, which seems odd until you see how simple it is.

In today’s market there are a myriad of variants on all of these themes.  Odd ball takes, variants, outliers, taller, shorter, and that is before you check the aftermarket suppliers.

So there you have it.  How much coverage do you need? Or, how much do you want?   Me personally, the visor of my Arai is about it. I always know where the wind is coming from.

Forward!

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

 

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | 3 Comments

A Relaxing Break from Bad News and Stress

A Relaxing Break from Bad News and Stress

In these troubled times for our country it is all too easy to get stressed/upset/depressed by the constant onslaught of news that varies from bad to bizarre to you’ve got to be kidding me.  I have a solution:  the small town paper.

When I was a lad living just outside Minneapolis, my parents had a subscription to a small town paper. The town of Preston was located in southern Minnesota (and I presume still is) and my parents subscribed to the local newspaper on a whim because of our shared name.  There is no connection between my family and the town that I know of.

I delighted myself each week with a scan of what was happening in Preston.   If you had company for dinner, it would be in the paper, including the first and last names of all present. The same for people who had guests for cribbage, welcomed relatives from other states,  and other issues of local import.

I have a similar treat today, over a half a century later. My brother in law is the prosecuting attorney for Whitman County in southeast Washington.  He provided a subscription to the Whitman County Gazette for his mother, who lived a mile away from us.  It was always fun to look through it, particularly when Denis was featured in the reportage of a felony trial.  When Dorine passed away the subscription came to us, and now every Friday I have a break from the dreary news of the week, whether it be the latest atrocity committed by Trump or one of his minions, the receipt of the bill for a license plate tab for my motorcycle reflecting the astonishing increase in cost, and other financial and political detritus of our lives. 

Pause with me now for a review of the news from Whitman County this week.  Just the headlines make me smile.

“Endicott Residents Petition to Allow Chickens.”  Now that gets my attention!  It seems that it is illegal in the small town of Endicott to keep chickens, and that demands change, and 115 good souls signed a petition as such.  To allay concerns over noise, no roosters would be allowed.   Left untouched were the bans on geese and turkeys. The matter is under consideration.

“St. Ignatius Hospital Building Officially Deemed Unsafe.”  This seems alarming, but it turns out that this Colfax building has not been used as a hospital for years.  The issue is that the building has been used for the past two years for Haunted Halloween tours and has generated “substantial income” for the Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Association.  What piques my interest is that the town of Colfax, know to me previously primarily as a speed trap, has both a Chamber of Commerce and a Downtown Association.  For the record, I have never received a speeding ticket in Colfax.

“Garfield Town Council Surpluses Three Vehicles.”   Your chance for a deal, after the town determines a fair minimum bid. If no bids are received the town council can negotiate with any interested buyer. So what is on offer?  A police car that has not been used on patrol for 13 years, being parked as a decoy at the entrance to the town instead. They did not give little details such as the make and model and year of the car, but I would bet it is a Ford Crown Victoria from about 1990 or so.  Or, a John Deere “Gator” which “has problems running.”  Last, a 1970’s International diesel truck (size not given) originally purchased as surplus from the state.   The mayor is quoted as saying “Our current guys can’t seem to get it to run.”

“Dusty Reunion Produces 400 Pounds of Sausage.”  If you are not from the area, it is helpful to know that Dusty is the name of a town. The Riedner family hosts a family reunion each year where all who attend take part in sausage making.  What a fun idea! This year the group, all of whom are listed in the paper with their home town of origin, created 400 pounds of sausage in a family and comradely atmosphere. I’m impressed. …and hungry.

I’ve also been following the trend of the editorial pages in the Gazette since last summer. Eastern Washington is a very conservative area. If you’re running for elected office you can choose to run as a Republican, or you can lose.  Last fall the editorials were hammering away at the real or imagined faults of Hillary Clinton, and hailing the potential of Trump as President.  Things began to change a bit after the election, and now the reversal is complete. This issue featured three scathing editorials regarding the infinite number of fallacies, bungles, broken promises, and other horrors of the new administration.  

Feel better?

I do.

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

 

Posted in Rants and Raves | 1 Comment

The First Motorcycle Ride of the Year

That First Ride of the Year

Let us pause for a moment to consider those who ride motorcycles all twelve months of the year. I think they can be grouped into four classes.  

The largest group consists of those who live in warm climates, such as California, Hawaii, etc. Even there it is not as glorious as you might think. Years ago I was cruising up Highway 1 in California just north of Santa Cruz, with family members in a car.  About 60 degrees on a beautiful weekend sunny day. I’ve ridden this road many times and was enjoying a reverie of past delights in my head.  Suddenly we were passed by a fellow on a Yamaha R1, and it dawned on me that I’d not seen any other motorcyclists. I asked my sister in law, a local resident, where they all were on such a beautiful day and she replied “It’s too cold.”  Amazing. Sixty degrees and sunny? Here in Seattle there would be motorcycles all over the place.

The second largest group is made up of those who simply enjoy riding motorcycles – a lot.  These fine folks subscribe to the mantra of “there is no bad weather, only bad gear.  There’s a fellow who works out at the local YMCA at 7am, as we do, and last week his bike was there again, awaiting him in the snow in the parking lot. Bonus point to you for guessing the make and model.

A much smaller group, at least in this country, are the brave souls who have little choice. Some can only afford a small and usually high mileage used bike that get used every day – weather be damned.

The smallest number of all-weather motorcyclists are those who actually get paid to ride every day. Factory test riders, magazine staffers, gear developers, etc.  I used to be one of them, in fact.  For the 14 years I toiled in the motorsports trenches I was usually riding a used bike, breaking in a new Harley for a rental fleet or a new BMW to be used as a demo.  For three of those years the dealership purchased a new BMW each year for my use.  This was not part of the demo fleet, but if I was at work it was available for that purpose. This allowed the dealer to have an “extra” demo, but if I left it at home it could not be ridden by a customer that day. I wasn’t actually paid to ride the bike to work, per se, but it was definitely part of the job, and I enjoyed it for that reason.

All of this may all be changing. Ironically the engine for change is…congestion. As more and more urban areas institute multiple vehicle lanes (which include motorcycles) and/or instigate toll lanes, motorcycles begin to make economic sense no matter the weather. If I were still working, I could sit in my car for over an hour to get to work, or I could pay $10 to drive – each way – in a toll lane, or I could ride my motorcycle for free.   At $20 a day and a saving of almost two hours in time, I would surely choose to put on my gear. With the rise of electric motorcycles, you could purchase such a device and add excellent rain gear and ride back and forth saving $20 a day toward the purchases you made, and several hours of time a week.

But for now, for the vast majority, the motorcycle is put away for the winter; however that term is defined in your area.  It will be brought out for a first ride when the itch to ride overcomes the inertia of the motorcycle sitting in the garage. For many people, this is the most dangerous ride of the year.  Here is why and how to do it, at least in my not very humble opinion.

Athletes are familiar with the term “muscle memory.” If you shoot 150 jump shots a day, with some coaching as to form, your body will lock in on how to do it. If you quit playing for 6 months it will take time to get your “touch” back. The same is true for the athleticism required to ride a motorcycle with competence.

In other words, the first ride of the year is not the time to return to your favorite winding back road and attempt to ride it at the same pace you did toward the end of last summer, when you’d been riding several days a week for a few months.

Instead;

Clean the bike. Maybe you put the bike away clean, and all it needs is a light dusting.  The intent here has little to do with the bike, which probably does not care if it is clean or dirty. You need to spend time with your hands on the bike, checking over all the parts and reminding yourself of the details.

Case in point. I went out to the garage last week to hook up the trickle charger, as I’d not ridden the bike for three months. In my case, this was due to a two month unintended break due to an infection in my spine (!), cause unknown. Restored to rude health, I removed the seat to put on the charger, forgetting that the good folks at Triumph of Seattle had installed a pig tail before purchase, deleting the need to remove the seat for charging. In my defense, they did such a subtle job of installation that the location is not obvious. I’d owned the bike for two months before I noticed it was there.

Fuel.  A bit of a conundrum for me here. I’ve read dire articles in magazines for three decades about the horrid state of “modern” gasoline, and how a stabilizer is needed, or draining of the tank, etc. I’ve never done this, and never had a problem.  Years ago I had a Yamaha 750 which often sat for three months in the garage and always started right up.   My Bonneville now has fuel with ethanol added, and it has not caused a problem at all.  I did not even bother to make sure it was full up when parked; as I did not know at that time I was not going to ride it for two months.   Your experience may differ.

Gear.  Might be a good time to put your jacket and such through the wash. Again, the intent is to spend some time going over what you have and how it works, weird as that may sound.  In my case, I have the luxury of owning several riding jackets, which I select depending on weather, etc.  There are various liners for them, and I need to remember which liner goes with which jacket.

Weather.  Not really a factor, but when reintroducing your mind and body to riding, a dry day might make it a little easier.

The ride.  Finally!  I like to start the bike and let it idle a little bit. A modern bike with fuel injection does not need to be warmed up, but it has been some time since last aroused, and letting the oil get warm and circulating is not a bad idea.  You can use the time to walk around and check for leaks and anything that does not look right.

Select a short ride route on easy roads you know well.  You are not out for a grand adventure; you’re in training for grand adventures. For my first ride since last December I rode a few miles on the freeway to get used to things, and then cruised through a small town and back home.  Took about an hour.

The next day I rode to a breakfast meeting at 7am in the dark.  Everything felt much more familiar. On the way home I peeled off the freeway for my exit, rifled off a few snappy downshifts, and arced through the turn on a green light to the street that leads to my home.

It was wonderful to feel again that I was riding the motorcycle, as opposed to merely sitting on it while in motion.

I’m now ready, and so is the bike. Let the adventures begin!

 

 

Copyright 2017            David Preston

Posted in Equipment, Motorcycles | Leave a comment

Things to Do in Your Crash Helmet

Things to Do In Your Crash Helmet

This is written for motorcyclists who wear a full face helmet. If you choose to wear an open-face helmet, you would not like the rest of this anyway. If you choose to not wear a helmet, even more so.

“When the helmet drops the bullshit stops.”  This little mantra I began to use decades ago.  I am not all that sure I invented it, although Wikipedia gives me credit for it. The underlying tenet is that riding a motorcycle trumps everything else you may have going on in your life at that time. Riding a motorcycle does not require all of your mental and physical abilities… until the moment it does.

When the helmet drops you stop thinking about the myriad problems you are working on right now. You stop fretting about bills, work, a problem with a child, that upcoming performance review, a spat with a loved one, concerns for the future.  If you stop thinking about all of that while riding you will be a safer rider.  An added benefit is that sometimes the solution to a nettlesome problem will magically appear, after you have spent some time away from it.

For me, this means that there is nothing going on in my helmet other than what my brain can provide.  No music from an ear bud or two, for instance.  No GPS voice prompts.  No phone calls.  The last has always amazed me. One of the joys of riding for me is the absence of outside voices.  Anyone who needs to talk to me can wait for the next time I pull over for a break.  I am not sure about having your helmet connected to another rider. I can see the advantages, but I have no experience.

And ear buds for music? For one detail, minor do some, the use of two ear buds is illegal in most places.  More importantly, music from an outside source can have unintended negative consequences.

When you are rocketing along, bopping along to a favorite song, it is possible for the song to become sort of a movie soundtrack for your adventure. I have known several people who suffered crashes because the engineers who designed the highway were not listening to that song!  Sad, but true. 

Same thing with GPS, even without the voice prompts. I have chatted with at least two people who crashed because they were studying the GPS on the handlebars for a second too long before a corner.

Look at it this way.   Riding a motorcycle is not dangerous, but it does entail risk. The difference, to my mind, is that danger is danger, whereas risk can be reduced by the application of training, equipment, experience, and mental focus.  There are some areas of the world where if you are strolling around at night, by yourself, you are in danger, period, no matter how much experience and preparation and gear you have with you.

Most of us know that riding a motorcycle may require your instant response to a threat, either natural (deer!), or human (see that car that is about to turn left?), or weather.  I know what my physical and mental abilities are, and I do not feel I can “give away” any of them on a motorcycle.  That means no drugs or alcohol, enough food and hydration, a brain focused on what I am doing, and fairly frequent breaks to rest and recharge.

I once had a conversation with a motorcycle salesman I worked with who liked to listen to music piped into his ears while riding. In his former life he’d been an up and coming professional baseball player, before a catastrophic knee injury ended his career.  I asked him if he ever listened to ear buds when he was at bat.  Of course not, he replied. Hitting a major league fast ball or curve ball required his complete attention. I argued that riding a motorcycle required the same attention to the task at hand, and actually more. Why would you concede any degree of attention? 

A second example.  I have a friend who is an excellent rider and a motorcycle safety instructor of many years’ experience. He mentioned on one occasion that he listened to music while riding. I immediately clambered atop my soap box and gave him chapter and verse.

I saw him again about six months later when I was invited to be the guest speaker at an instructors’ meeting.  When he saw me walk in he said “Daaaavvve Presstton!  Boy am I mad at you!”

I was taken aback, because I think quite highly of him and wondered what I had done to offend.  (this time)

He referred back to my lecture. He had thought about it and decided I might have a point.  (Might? Harrumph!)  He decided to go a week without the ear bud.  During that week he noticed that he was paying more attention and was more aware.  So now, thanks to me (he said with an ironic grin), he could no longer listen to music!

One for my side.

So if you’re not going to listen to music or take calls or watch the GPS, what are you to do?  If you’re on a long ride on challenging and winding roads, especially if you are riding at “efficient” speeds, this may not be a problem.  One of my favorite times is to be in a motel in the evening totally spent from the effort of maintaining focus for 8 to 10 hours of exhilarating riding.

But there are times when you are simply cruising for a long time on roads that are mostly straight, with little traffic and no obvious risks at hand for minutes at a time.  The mind is a restless critter, and it will wander given half a chance.  Here are some techniques I have used over the years.

Pre-loading music. Before a long trip, I may spend time at home listening to some of my favorite songs over and over and over again. The album “Alive” by Kenny Loggins was a favorite for many years. I would essentially “load” the entire album into my brain before the ride. (Your taste in music will undoubtedly be different) While riding I could “listen” to the songs in a way that does not intrude on your thought process to any discernible degree compared to an ear bud, and unlike an external source, the music will instantly “mute” when your eyes or ears or nose detect something of interest.

Helmet trombone.  This one is more recent, and is now my favorite.  I discovered that I could hum in such a way that, inside my helmet, it sounds exactly like a trombone or French horn solo!  For some reason, I can hum the music to “Back Home In Indiana” and enjoy a spectacularly musical sound.  More recently I discovered a four trombone group called the “Maniacal Four.”  They have two pieces on You Tube, and their rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is in some ways better than the Queen classic.  I cannot wait to try “my” version on my next long ride in the comfort of my Arai.

Play By Play.  If I sense that my attention is wandering, I call on many years of announcing high school football and basketball games and start talking out loud. Everything I am seeing, where I am, what lies ahead, all the potential risks I can spot ahead, what speed, what gear, and so on. A couple minutes of this and I am back to full function.  If this does not work, it’s time to find a rest area and pull off and get off the bike for a bit.

Deer!  In high risk deer areas, of which there are many these days, I occasionally belt out “deer!” in a loud voice, which causes me to scan the road verge ahead for as far as I can see. It used to be that if you avoided riding at dawn or dusk or at night the deer were seldom seen, but the deer seem to have ignored that concept of late.

You may have your own little tricks. Care to share?

 

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

 

 

Posted in Education, Motorcycles | 2 Comments

The Murder of My Friend Arpana

The  Murder of My Friend Arpana 

The murder trial of the monster who murdered my friend Arpana begins today.

Arpana was one of the most fascinating people it was my good fortune to get to know. She grew up in India, received her college degree in computer engineering there, and then a Masters from a prestigious east coast university. I don’t recall which one.  By the time she graduated she was of the top people in the field of security for large company data base systems, and landed a job here to pursue that.  If I recall correctly, one of her clients was Toyota. There were few people in the world who could carry on a conversation with her about her work with any degree of comprehension.  Certainly not me.

First thing she did was purchase a motorcycle, her sole mode of transportation.  She rode it everywhere, rain or shine or snow notwithstanding.

In addition to her work, she threw herself into a dizzying array of adventures and charity work.  She rode on many of the group rides I led at Cycle Barn, including three day jaunts, and also rode with other groups.  She lacked experience and advanced training, and learned rapidly by crashing her motorcycle several times. Many of my friends and those in other riding groups tried to help with riding tips, which did some good over time, but each time she had an incident she leapt to her feet unhurt and carried on with enthusiasm.

On the rides I led she endeared herself to everyone she met, and she never really cared what the intent of the ride was. We spent a day at the drag races in Bremerton, and a weekend in Bend, Oregon. It was such fun to listen to her many intelligent questions and also discuss her childhood in a vastly different culture.

She was incredibly active in charity work, volunteering at all sorts of events. She agreed to help out at a Seattle 100 charity track day. There she met pro racers Josh and Melissa Herrin, and got a ride around the track on the back of Josh’s AMA Pro Superbike Yamaha. She became good friends with them, as she did with everyone she met.

I can recall many conversations with male and female rider friends about her. We were worried that her entirely open and trusting nature would cause her to be taken advantage of by someone. 

On one occasion she rode with me in my car to a weekend kart race in Centralia. I was the announcer, and Arpana went along just to help out wherever needed.  That bothered me a bit. Here she was climbing into a car with a much older man she hardly knew, and by the end of the weekend I knew where she worked and where she lived.  She had no pretense about her at all, just a warm smile and obvious incredible intelligence.

 

I have never met anyone with such a zest for life and adventure.

She was murdered at a Halloween party at her apartment complex, where revelers evidently roamed from unit to unit as the party continued. The man who brutally murdered her (allegedly) was a convicted sex criminal staying with a friend.

Her funeral was sad, but also remarkable. The turnout of mourners was enormous. She had moved to this area knowing absolutely nobody, less than one year earlier, and had attracted a wide array of friends from all sorts of contacts.

And so the trial begins, years later.  It is easy to have a personal philosophy opposed to capital punishment.   But not so easy today.

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

 

 

Posted in Motorcycles | 1 Comment

What Happens to the Motorcycles You Sell?

What Happens to Your Used Motorcycles?

Had a nice visit yesterday from the fine fellow who purchased my beloved Triumph Speed Triple. He enjoys astonishing people who cannot believe it has covered 50,000 miles.  Triumph of Seattle was wise to hang onto the thick folder with every receipt over the 11 years I owned it. Said receipts showed all the maintenance that was done on time (most of it by the same person, one of the finest Triumph techs in the country), all of the options and tire changes, and all sorts of other details.

That got me to thinking about what happened to all the other bikes I’ve owned.  Although I’ve had the rare good fortune to cover hundreds of thousands of miles while riding over 500 different motorcycles, I’ve actually owned a paltry percentage of that total. I found that riding motorcycles owned by the dealership where the fuel was paid for and I was getting paid to ride them was a pretty good deal!  But! What happened to the bikes I had purchased with my own money and then sold? What has happened to the motorcycles you have owned?  It’s a mental ride that makes an interesting muse down memory lane.

1965 Yamaha YDS-3. My first bike, and one I cherished. I rode it for two years in Minnesota, every chance I got. It was one of the reasons I chose to move to Seattle, as storing a motorcycle for 5 or 6 months of serious winter weather was just not going to work for me. For the Yamaha I purchased a semi-road race fairing from Craig Vetter, the 43rd fairing he sold, if I recall, in 1968.  I think it cost $143.  Later that summer I rode my little two stroke demon from Minneapolis to Seattle and back on a camping trip.

Sadly, I did not cherish it enough. With youth and testosterone in full bloom, I thought I was a riding god. Alas, physics did not agree, and two days after arriving here I threw it into a ditch at 60 mph. Once home from the surgery for my separated shoulder, the bike somehow ended up with a young man who lived next door to my Dad’s house in Bellevue, where I was recuperating. Said fellow was also recovering from a motorcycle crash, in his case resulting in a ruined knee. The crash was not his fault, and he spent some of the settlement on a new Pontiac Trans Am convertible.  If he held on to it (which I doubt), that car is now worth a ton of money.  He was kind enough to take me on many outings to Alki Beach that summer, where we trolled in vain for hot babes.  Of course, my arm in a sling and his limp did not work wonders with the women. Actually, I would have not done well sans sling, either.

He also purchased the remains of my bike. The fairing was mounted when I crashed, and how I wish I knew where it was – it would also be worth real money today. My new friend purchased a set of front forks from a motorcycle wrecking yard, and for some reason mounted a solo seat.  The bike looked ugly and sad, and when I moved to my own place in September I lost touch with my friend and the bike.

Of course I went out and purchased another bike – a 1969 Honda 450 Street Scrambler with about 850 miles. The owner had been smitten with the new Yamaha 650 twin, and as I recall he sold me his Honda for $850.  He had removed the center and side stands, smoothed all the rough edges with a grinder, and then had them chromed.  It was magnificent. I rode my Honda all over for three years, including trips to San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Minneapolis again on the way to St. Petersburg Florida.  Alas, I did not know that the central timing chain on a Honda 450 engine stretches as it wears.  Two miles into my planned return from Florida the chain snapped, and I heard the innards of the engine self-destructing as I slowed to the side of the road.   A local dealer purchased it for precisely the same sum as the air fare back to Seattle, and I arrived back home with no bike.   I remember leaving the dealership and seeing my bike sitting behind a chain link fence. It was raining, and I was crying.

With the kind indulgence of the teacher’s credit union, I purchased a new for 1972 Honda 500 4 – the 3rd one sold in this state.  Such technical innovation!  Disc brakes! So smooth! Perfect performance.  And, to me – dull as the thud of a spoon on a rubber pail full of water.  It was actually boring.  To me.  Fortunately, my freshly minted wife loved old Corvettes, so we purchased a rolling wreck of a 1958 Corvette, with the Honda sold to pay for it.   I don’t remember who bought it, but he got a fine bike.  Just not for me.

Then came the “dark time.” I did not own a bike for three years. In 1976, as the freshly elected president of the teacher’s union, I decided I needed a motorcycle to commute to the office on nice days. I purchased another 450, but this one was nowhere near as nice as my Street Scrambler. I told myself I would get used to the badly sun-faded paint on the fuel tank and the incredibly ugly welded exhaust pipes. I never did.  It went away in 1977, and I don’t remember that sale either.   So far the trend is that I do not remember who purchased the bikes I was not all that in love with.

In 1977 we sold our first home and purchased the one we live in to this day. I peeled off $2,000 of the profits we made on the sale of that first home and purchased a brand new 1977 Yamaha XS 750 D.  First time I ever paid cash for a new bike.  I spent 6 months before the purchase researching every print road test I could find, because I knew I could not afford to make a mistake. I’d promised Susan that my new bike would last me at least ten years.

In fact I rode it for 22 years and almost 50,000 miles. Along the way it gained a copy of a BMW R90S fairing, narrower handle bars from a Norton,  S&W shocks,  K&N filters, and a replacement three into one exhaust when the first one rusted out.  Eventually the engine cried enough, and was replaced with an 850cc unit from Bent Bike, installed with the help of a friend.  That friend eventually purchased the bike from the guy who bought it from me. My friend knew the bike well, as he had done all the mechanical maintenance on it for 22 years.  Last I knew, and this was in about 2003, it was still going strong.

I sold the Yamaha along with a very sad Porsche 911S Targa I had purchased in a fit of enthusiasm/madness. Doing a rolling restoration on a 911 that was tired when we purchased it was folly.  After 8 years of pouring money down its six throats I gave up.  Susan was eager for my new plan: sell both the bike and the Porsche and replace them with a small elderly pick-up truck I would not mind parking at the curb and a new motorcycle that would luxuriate in one half of our two car garage.

I really wanted the new Kawasaki ZRX1100, but I feared Susan would rebel at the rather lurid green, white, and purple paint scheme. I took her to Cycle Barn and first showed several alternative bikes I was considering, such as a Honda VFR or an early Triumph triple. She turned and saw the new ZRX and said “Wow – what’s that?”  She loved it!

That buying experience also gave me my first insight into how dealerships are rated.  I had worked for Cycle Barn almost twenty years earlier for a couple of summers behind the parts counter, the sort of part time job I had almost every year of my teaching career. During that time I got to know owner Jim Boltz well, so when I wanted to purchase a new motorcycle he passed me on to Sales Manager Scott McMillan – allowing me to bypass the sales staff. While we were negotiating with Scott he left the room for a bit, and I mentioned to Susan that if we did not like the price we could go to another Kawasaki dealer.

“Oh no,” she said, “We have to buy it here.”  She had two reasons for this statement. The first was that I had worked there 18 years earlier, so it was “my” dealership.  The second, and this really stuck with me, was that the bathrooms were clean.   Seemingly minor details are crucial!

That was an awesome bike. As fate would have it, a year later I was hired for a position with Cycle Barn that I had invented and proposed to the owner, and the fact that I had been less than a jerk when we had purchased the ZRX helped me in gaining the trust of the Sales Manager.  I rode the ZRX 18,000 miles in two years, many of them work-related, as I was now leading customers on rides.

Here is how awesome a ZRX is. I was leading a group up Highway 9 in November, and it was bitter cold. I noticed that they were all dropping back and eventually far behind me. I pulled over in Acme and waited for the group to join me.  Riders came up and asked if I had lost my mind.  It seems they had been following my tire tracks through the frost that covered the road!

Making a joke, I said “Aw heck – you should not be impressed unless there were two tire tracks.”  They all responded “There were!”

A ZRX is such a stable and lardy bus that you can ride in on frozen roads and it will move around a bit, but never alarm you.

In 2001 came the oddest purchase ever. In 1997 Muzzy performance, building on their national and international road racing success, built a run of Muzzy Raptors. These were ZX7Rs taken to the edge of legality. Flat slide carbs, Marchesini mag wheels, full titanium exhaust, and much more.  The Raptor was the only street legal bike to ever podium at an AMA Superbike race.  It came in two flavors. The “mild” street version for 14k and the comp edition at 18k. That was a lot of money for 1997.  Originally the plan was to make 30 of them, and Cycle Barn agreed to purchase all of them. Then Muzzy got greedy and decided to build more, and Cycle Barn trimmed its order back to ten of them.  In the end, 53 of them were built.  When I went to work for Cycle Barn in 2000 they had two left – basically showroom jewelry.  I came up with a whacky plan where Cycle Barn would see me one of them at a killer price. I would then use it to lead sport bike rides until someone just had to have it, and then I would sell it and split the profits with Cycle Barn.  Incredibly, this went through.

The bike was sold to me for $6000 on in-house financing.  At the same time my salary was raised $200 a month, so all I was paying was the insurance.  What a deal!

While I was purchasing, a guy called from Salt Lake City. He and his wife were flying in the next day to look at the other one. I asked the finance person to finish the paperwork before the Sales Department squashed my good idea.

That evening a salesperson called to ask me to make sure I rode it to work the next day, as the other one had not been prepped and the customer would want to hear it run. I explained that the bike now had four coats of wax on it, and that it was raining. Instead, I would drive my car to work the next day and then ferry the couple to my house to hear it run.  (There were no test rides for a Raptor, for me or anyone else)  In my garage the three of us watched in fascination as the bike warmed up, the titanium pipes flitting through a kaleidoscope of colors. Once it was warmed up, blipping the throttle sent a two foot long sheaf of blue and yellow flame out the exhaust. I drove them back to Cycle Barn and they purchased the bike and had it shipped to Salt Lake City.  When I returned home that night, Susan asked me to never do that again, as I had managed to fill the entire house with the strong smell of unburned fuel.

Problems arose immediately. Riding it was such an intense experience that I did not want to have anyone near me. In addition, the mirrors were useless, so it was less than ideal for leading rides. The suspension was hard as a rock unless you were traveling at over 80 mph, where it smoothed out quite a bit.  If you gave it too much fuel at a “normal” rpm the flat slide carbs would drown themselves, and you had to wait for the plugs to clean themselves.  In addition, the riding position was so radical that I could not see out of my Shoei helmet, so I switched to an Arai, which had a higher viewing port. After a ride I would be so adrenalin jacked that I had to walk around my garage for a while to calm down before coming in to the house

By 2002 the Muzzy Raptor had only 11000 miles on it, and by this time was one of the only Raptors that had not been raced.  I sold it to a guy in the Midwest, and I made a serious mistake.  When you do this you should make sure the new buyer accepts delivery at the point of origin. In this case I got a few wonderful e-mails from the guy about what a wonderful bike it was. Then the tone changed, and he began to complain about “shipping damage.”  The shipper paid him the maximum amount available under the standard coverage, and then the guy began hounding me for more. He eventually sued me (and Cycle Barn) for $5000 in small claims court – in Illinois. I had to fly back for the trial, which took a few hours.  Cycle Barn and I were exonerated, and the guy never showed me any evidence of shipping damage. At the end of the day I split about $6,000 of profit with Cycle Barn. 

In 2002 I decided I should have a new bike.  I don’t recall why.  My ZRX was traded in for a Triumph Sprint ST.   The guy who purchased the ZRX dropped by to say hello and reported that he was ecstatic with the bike. He commuted from Marysville to Redmond every day and reported that even when he rode only on nice days the fuel savings over his 4X4 truck were more than the monthly payment. A free motorcycle!

Alas, a month or so later he came over a hill to find a dog right in front of the bike, and the resulting carnage destroyed both the dog and the bike. I was so upset, as I really liked that bike.

The Sprint ST was sold to a fellow who was 78 years old. A very nice man, he came in a couple of weeks later to tell me that I had never told him how smooth the bike was cruising at 120mph!  I had never told him that because, while I did ride fast, I never cruised at such a speed!

I also purchased a 2000 Kawasaki ZX12R in red. It was traded in with only 538 miles on the odometer in two years. The first owner had done everything you would to such a bike – a Power Commander, Akropovich exhaust, tinted screen, tail tidy, et al. It almost sold the first day on the floor, but the deal fell through. I walked by it each day several times going two and from my desk, which at that time was in the used bikes building.  Finally I went to see the Sales Manager and asked how much he would charge me for it. He surprised me by asking me how much I thought it was worth.  “$8,000.”  

“OK.”

Really?

I soon discovered by close inspection that it had never been ridden in the rain and never had the chain lubed. It had a faulty switch that never turned on the radiator fan, and the first owner had never ridden it far enough to be noticed!  With that fixed I rode it in earnest for two years, and it was the fastest accelerating motorcycle I had ever ridden. In 2nd and 3rd gear when urged, the data coming in through my face port was faster than I could process. It was like the Millennium Falcon – stuff was streaming at me like bullets.  I actually slowed down long before a corner several times because by the time I got to it I would be going so fast any attempt to turn would be a disaster.  I entered it in the Cycle Barn dyno tests, and it usually turned in 164hp or so at the rear wheel. Amazing.

Eventually I had the scariest event of my riding career. Accelerating in 2nd gear through a mild corner on a cold and damp evening, I hit a manhole cover and a bump. The rear wheel spun up and the bike turned sideways. I was launched off the seat and had enough time to think “Susan is going to kill me.”  By luck, I fell back onto the seat, and the bike straightened out. I continued down the road trying to catch my breath. At the next stop sign my friend Sid rode up next to me, put his arm around me, and said “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“I don’t think I’ll do that again.”

I never trusted the bike after that, even though it had done nothing wrong.  I eventually put it up for sale on the floor at $8200.  One guy talked to the sales person for quite some time and then came to me and said “You know you’re asking too much for that bike.”

“Yeah, I know, but try to find another one that is in that condition.”

He bought it a month later, and then rode the wheels off it.  He drag raced it, did a bunch of dyno shootouts, and then mounted a nitrous oxide bottle on it.  He ran nitrous through it until he burned through the down pipes on the exhaust. Akropovich was so impressed that they gave him a new system for free.

He dropped by to chat once in a while over the years.  By 2012 the bike had been repainted twice. It had over 96,000 miles and the engine had never been apart. Full marks to Kawasaki.

The last bike I purchased for myself at Cycle Barn was a 2006 Triumph Speed Triple.  I rode it almost 50,000 miles in eleven years, and had so many adventures and great times.   When I went to work for Ride West BMW in 2010, part of the deal was that I got to order a new BMW of my choice each year.  The Speed Triple sat in my garage for the next three years, and was ridden only a couple of times a year.

I thought about selling it a few times, especially when someone would offer to purchase it. Susan refused to consider such a move, reasoning that I loved the bike, it was paid for, and that I would not be working for Ride West forever. Wise woman.  When I retired for good at the end of 2013 I took it back to Cycle Barn and spent about $1,000 on new tires, a tune-up, and the resolution of some minor glitches that had cropped up, such as the failure of the Oxford heated grips. Then it was back to full enjoyment for the next two years and a bit.

Last spring I traded it in for the 2016 Triumph Bonneville that sits in my garage on this rainy and cold day.  How long will I own it, and will the 2nd owner adore it as much as I do.

All motorcycles have stories. What of yours?

 

Copyright 2017                                David Preston

 

 

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | 1 Comment

So Off We Went to the Hospital

A Year of Living Medically – the Saga Continues

First of all, it needs to be mentioned that I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate with my health for several decades.  I rarely took a sick day in my 44 years in the labor force.  I had a physical every few years, aced it, and went on with my life.  At times I wondered when my luck would run out.

About now, it would seem.

No feeling sorry for me here.  I am merely dealing with the statistically likely consequences of living well for almost 70 years.

When last we left my drama, I’d been set up to see a cardiologist over concerns with possible hardening of the arteries. I would also be seeing a spine specialist on the 19th to determine what had caused the severe pain that had brought about the “event” that sent me to the emergency room on the 10th

The cardiologist did some tests, and then fitted me with this cool little heart monitor taped to my chest. The plan was that I would wear it for seven days and then the info would be downloaded. 

So much for plans.

The next day I checked in with my usual doctor to see how I was doing.  He opined that the incident on the 10th made it obvious that something had happened with my lower back, and that another MRI was needed – now.  He wanted me to get an MRI done the next day, so the info would be available on the 19th.  Fat chance, methought.

 Incredibly, the MRI folks had a cancellation, and at 6pm on Wednesday I went in for another MRI. Had to remove the heart monitor for an hour.

Thursday morning I showed up before 8am for the spine doc appointment. After we chatted a bit, he booted up the MRI.  There was this look that flashed across his face, the look doctors are trained to try not to ever reveal.  A look that said to me, as clearly as if he’d spoken aloud: “Holy shit!”  I thought this was amusing, even though it did not bode well.  He excused himself to call in a neurosurgeon.  Hmmm.

With the neurosurgeon present we looked at the MRI. It showed a white band running down the spine and then around one of the lower discs.  Two possibilities were mentioned. It was either an infection, or possibly what is called an insufficiency fracture, where the disc partially collapses.  The first could be treated with antibiotics, and the second would self-heal with 6 weeks of wearing sort of a girdle around my lower back. Surgery would not be necessary for either.

Terrific!  

IF that is what it was. 

…oh.

In either case, I needed to be admitted to the hospital – right now. Next problem – the hospital was full!  So I was admitted to the Emergency ward, again.

Next problem.  The Emergency doc had never heard of EITHER the neurosurgeon or the infectious diseases doc who had been added to the growing roster of highly skilled people interested in my case.  Turns out that both of them are not new to doctoring in their specialist areas, but both had been added to Evergreen so recently they were not in the computer system. 

Once that was straightened out I was eventually moved to a room in the “Silver” section on the 7th floor.  One thing I was glad to hear was that I would stop taking the pain meds immediately, which meant I would be able to drive again.

If and when I got out.

Another MRI, which meant the heart monitor had to be removed and was essentially useless for the purpose of the test. Priorities. That can be saved for a later trial, but many other indicators showed that I am probably fine anyway.

I spent the next 5 days in the hospital. Every 12 hours I would be hooked up to a bag of antibiotics that would take about two hours to drain into the doodad sticking out of my arm.  The pain had subsided to a dull ache, and seemed to be mostly from sitting on my butt or lying on bed all day.  I also had a heart beat monitor thingie on my finger, which I had to remove each time I wanted to go to the bathroom, which was yet another minor bother.

A major bother for everyone else except me was that the exact nature of the suspected infection was not known. This meant that anyone entering my room for any reason had to “gown up.”  Any nurse coming in to check my blood pressure or draw blood or hook up the IV, Susan, any technician doing whatever, the nice fellow who brought the food, and so on – all of them needed to pause and put on a gown, which was then discarded into a large hamper when they left.

I noticed that some of the doctors dodged this by saying “I am not going to gown up because I am not going to touch you.” Seems to me that would apply to most of the visitors, but rank does have its privileges.

I discovered over the course of a few days that when your blood pressure is taken several times a day you can learn to predict what the numbers are going to be.  I got to be pretty good at it.

After the first day I was allowed to get out of bed and do hot laps of the section I was in, which helped my mood a lot.  I was visited by an amazing array of doctors, specialists, technicians, nurses, and so on, and ALL of them were caring and kind and extremely interested in my situation.  I was just blown away by the level of care provided.

One of the treatments ordered was a needle biopsy of my spine, which terrified me. It sounds horrendous!   Again, it proved to be no big deal.  I also had blood drawn twice a day, and either the technology of needles has improved greatly over the years, or the training of the nurses who do it.  It was ridiculous.  The standard got to be that if I can feel it you did not do well.  I was not on any pain meds now except for Tylenol twice late at night that helped me get to sleep.

I had great fun finding things that were curious and asking the nurses questions.  They seemed to enjoy this, as I was not in pain, nor was I being a pain.  The most fun one was when I noticed the seat in my bathroom placed there in case the patient needed to sit down while taking a shower.   Lots of equipment had a stenciled code for where it belonged.   Most said “ 7 Silver OSN.”  The seat in my bathroom said “7 Siver OSN.”  Evidently nobody had ever noticed the missing letter.

So now the questions were  1.) Was there a reason for this?  2.) Was this the only one with the spelling error?   3.)  What about other floors?  Eventually we decided that mine was the only one.

I also noticed signs on some rooms that read “NPO.”  I knew that meant that nothing was to be administered to the patient orally, but what did the letters actually mean?  Most of the nurses had known this at one time, and knew it was Latin. One had sufficient time to look it up, as there is often not much going on at 2am.   It is Latin and stands for “nil per os.”  You may need to know that some day.

About hospital food.  It is excellent, at least at Evergreen.  Unfortunately one of the side effects of the antibiotics is a loss of appetite, so I was not able to take full advantage. I did lose about 4 pounds, and I am still losing weight, so every cloud does have a silver lining.  Maybe that is why I was in the “silver” section…

I was visited by three doctors, and they were all wonderful.  Dr. Lopez bears an incredible likeness to Antonio Banderas!  In appearance and accent, but younger and with an incredible aura of kindness.

Saturday was the Women’s March we had intended to go to.  Susan and I did our own version, walking around the unit wearing our matching pink hats.  That went over very well.

I told people I was protesting Trump’s election in the most creative way possible – by spending about $100,000 of Medicare funds while they still exist.

One of the things that interested the staff was that I was unusual.  Almost all of the procedures used can have side effects, some of them quite serious.  I did not develop any of them.  It seemed that I was also reporting remarkably little pain, a circumstance I was quite happy about.  I do not have a high pain threshold, I don’t believe, and I am certainly not stoic or likely to hide any pain to look more brave.

Essentially I was now for the most part relaxing in a high end resort. Little pain, good food, and people to wait on me hand and foot. I spent four hours a day with antibiotics draining into my body, and twenty hours doing whatever I wanted.

Of course it was boring at times.  I was appalled to see how awful TV really is.  All night long there are movies with the same plot, involving the male hero who kills dozens of people to get to the happy ending.  Blah. 

I did a lot of crossword puzzles, and went for frequent walks around “my” block.  Occasionally a nurse or doctor would have time for some conversation, which was so comforting.  Almost a normal circumstance for a while, at least. One of the nurses used to ride motorcycles years ago, and I really enjoyed swapping tales with her, and of course urging her to get back into it. A divorce and then the death of a second husband had taken her away from two wheels.

And what a United Nations you will find in a hospital. I learned a great deal from people from all over the world, and each had a great story, when there was time to tell it, about how their life’s journey had ended up in Kirkland.  My experiences hosting a call-in radio show for three years helped here.  You just ask a polite question and sit back and enjoy the ride to places and experiences that are new.

Time to go home, but the adventure is nowhere near conclusion. At home I would need to continue the “infusion” treatments, every 12 hours – for 6 weeks.   Not fun, but better than so many alternatives.  If I were still working this would be a real drag.  To make this easier, a PICC was installed in my arm – a line extending into my arm and directly into a vein.  Having that installed was not fun, but hardly something to whine about.

Again, more amazing technology. At home we have a display of devices on the dining room table.  Twice a day I sit down and lay out the materials on a mat with a template of what is needed and in what order.   First you wash your hands with fancy hand soap, and then apply a dab of further goo that smells quite “medical.” Then you open an alcohol swab and clean the fitting for 15 seconds. Then you screw in a syringe and flush the tube, and then install the infusion device, which looks like a softball and contains the antibiotics in a pressurized form.  Then you open that valve in the line and do whatever you want. Two hours later it is empty, and you take it off, clean some more, and then flush the system with two different syringes, in the correct order.

This was really intimidating when the home nurse explained it, and we lived in fear that first night. We needed to get up a midnight to do this. Actually, it is one of those things that’s pretty easy after the first or second time.   You do need to follow the instructions  and do everything in the correct order, because screwing it up could lead to an infection, other dire circumstances or, in rare cases,  death. Gulp.

One nice thing about the PICC port in my arm is that when the visiting nurse comes once a week for a blood draw, it can be taken from there – no more needles.

Supplies are delivered by FedEx as needed

So there we are.  Today we will tweak the timing so the infusions can be done at 10am and 10pm rather than midnight and noon. I am getting better each day, and it is possible the infusions will be reduced to once a day in time.  In addition, if the cultures taken at the hospital show specifics, the antibiotics mixture can be modified into a more specific cocktail.

Again, without Susan by my side I would now be reduced to a psychological and emotional mess, a quivering blob of a person with all optimism squashed.  It would not be a pretty sight.

All in all, I am one fortunate dude.

 

 

Copyright 2017                                David Preston

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Cyborg Junkie and the Greatest Husband Excuse Ever

The Cyborg Junkie and the Greatest Husband Excuse Ever

More adventures in medical land this week.  First up was a visit to a cardiologist, after the Emergency Room doc thought there might be some evidence of hardening of the arteries.  All of the initial tests the cardio doc did looked good, so just for fun I was given a tracker device that is glued to the chest. You leave it on for a week, taking care to not get it too wet, and then seal it into a box and return it. A week or two later they get some results.   It reminds me of “Robo Cop” or other cyborg movies, although in a pretty minor way.  It does not make any noise, but I am supposed to press down on the button in the middle if something happens.

Then off to see Dr. Marinkovich to check in and get my Oxycotone prescription renewed.  He wanted to have a 2nd MRI done on my lower back, and the spine specialist we are seeing tomorrow would want one too. I was very lucky to get in for one 24 hours later, at 6pm this evening.

I HATE having an MRI done!  OK, that is too strong, but if you are even mildly claustrophobic it is not a fun experience. Fortunately, I was able to have it with a “semi open” machine, so you are not totally encased in the tube. However, the roof is about an inch from your nose, so you close your eyes and think about other things.

Any other things.  

They offer you a choice of music to listen to, which is pretty silly. The machine makes so much noise you can’t hear the music.  Every few minutes it stops for 30 seconds and you can hear a song, but the interludes are spaced out far enough that it is a different song each time.

For the MRI I needed to remove the Cyborg device from my chest, and then replace it later.   Hope the glue holds. I may have screwed up this test, but the MRI had far higher priority.

Also at the Doc’s office he advised an “ANSAR” test, which I had never heard of.  You get wired up with various electrodes and then sit for ten minutes and stand for a final five.  This test has three parts.   The first thing is does is measure how hard your heart has to work at a minimum.  How much energy does it take just to pump the blood if you are sitting still?  In my case, very little, which is very good. The second test is when you stand up.  How quickly does the heart respond to a demand for more service?  In my case, very quickly, which is also very good. The final test is to see how the heart reacts and gets back to normal, and I aced that as well.  It’s a small test, but any good news is very welcome.

I had a question. I know that Oxycotone is an addictive opiate. The explanation for its use is that first we will find what is causing the back pain, and fix it, and then later I will go through detox from the Oxycotone.

Thus my question. The Oxcy causes no discernible reaction in me that I can tell. The pain is reduced to a mild ache, but there is no euphoria or giddiness or supreme confidence or anything else that would be “fun.”  I have never smoked marijuana (which my students would never believe back in the day), so I have no “getting high” experiences to relate to, but I have experienced drunkenness to various degrees.  Oxycotone to me is nothing like even two glasses of Scotch, which would put me on the floor. It is – nothing.

In addition, I have no cravings for it. Only a close watch on the clock to make sure I take it every 6 hours keeps me on schedule. I am tempted to skip one here or there, but I have been given expert advice that you want to stay on top of the pain by staying ahead of it, so there you have it.  Experimenting is certainly not worth the risk of the pain I experienced last week!

Worst of all, you are not to drive while taking it, which means Susan is getting a lot of experience driving our new VW Tiguan, and I am getting more and more impatient with not driving, not to mention motorcycle riding.   Plus being the most significant time suck in Susan’s life. Where do we need to go now?  She does not complain about this, but I complain about being the cause.

So I asked. Why can’t I drive?  Answer – it slows down your reaction time and mental capacity. In fact, if you get in an accident and have Oxy in your blood stream, you are considered to be at fault. Period.

Oh.

I replied that I had not noticed any diminution in reflexes or mental acuity, and Susan piped up to say she had. She felt I was not as mentally sharp while on the Oxy.

So as we prepare for an 8am visit to the spine specialist, I have the best husband excuse ever.  When I forget to do something or say something irrevocably stupid, I can say “I’m on Oxy.  Give me a break.”

How long after I’m weaned from it can I continue to use this wonderful excuse?  We’ll see.

 

Cheers!

 

 

Copyright 2017     David Preston

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Adventures in Pain and Suffering

Adventures in Pain and Suffering

Well, THIS has been interesting.  I have been dealing for a few months with issues with my right leg, knee, and lower back. Various MRI and other procedures revealed significant arthritis in the knee as well as two damaged discs in my lower back.  Two months of one or two a week therapy sessions at MTI in Totem Lake revealed that these problems have been there for years, and I had been compensating for them in various subconscious ways, resulting in poor posture and overall exacerbation of the issues.

As an aside, I’ve been incredibly lucky for over half a century with my health.  I went in for a physical every two or three years for decades, and passed all of them with flying colors. I rarely took a sick day.  At least I knew I was fortunate, and wondered when my luck would run out.  Turns out that would be right about… now.

The therapists at MTI did wonders for both my knee and back. In two months I went from being able to bend my right knee to 105 degrees, while prone on a table, to 135 degrees. Anything over 125 is very good.  Various exercises strengthened my back and especially my knee to where I could walk up the stairs normally, most of the time. Things were looking good.

Then we went to Tahoe for a few days before Christmas for a family and friends gathering of 12 people.  Since I do not ski or “board,” and walking any distance is still a challenge, my activities were limited.  I could have joined the others for ice skating, since I am skilled at that, but I did not want to risk further damage to the knee. As a result, I spent a lot of time either watching football games on TV or joining the clan for hilarious good times around the fire, etc., at all times sitting in a puffy couch or chair.

Bad move.

That plus two plane rides meant that by the time we got home my lower back was in a bad state.   One of the treatments for that had been icing my lower back for 20-25 minutes at a time, and on the 10th I tried that. With disastrous results.

When I tried to get up I was in agony. There was no posture than did not bring with it incredible pain.  I knew I was going to pass out or throw up, or both. With Susan’s help, we got me into a recliner chair, and she gave me an Oxycontin pill left over from when this all started back in September. Then things got worse.

I evidently passed out from the pain.  Never done that before. Susan reports that my eyes rolled back in my head, my breathing was raspy, I was pale as a white turnip, and there was some foaming at the mouth while I emitted unintelligible sounds.  I am so sorry Susan had to witness this, as it must have been horrifying.

When I came to Susan was in my face and words were coming through, but what she was saying made no sense for quite some time. She was on the phone to 911, trying to describe my condition. Eventually she apologized to the operator because she felt she was yelling.  She left me to go open the front door for the EMTs who were en route.

This is one of those times when you have to be grateful for the medical assistance that is so close at hand in our area. Next thing I knew I was surrounded by about 5 people. A couple of EMTs began running a battery of tests while quizzing me as to my condition.

They wanted to see if I had suffered a heart attack or a stroke or some other horror. Susan gave them better information than I did.  There were also two techs from the ambulance service, as well as a high school student on a ride-along.

I was now fully awake again, and sweating like I’ve never experienced.  Perspiration was shooting out of all the pores on my head, and in a minute or so my tee-shirt was literally wringing wet.

It’s a stereotype, but even in dire straits I was struck by the good looking EMT working on me.  Dark hair, a muscular build, and bright blue eyes, he looked like a central casting call for the role of the EMT in the movie.  In a way it did not seem real.

One of the positive things that happened here was that I relaxed. I was obviously surrounded by highly competent pros that did not seem to think there was anything serious going on. Or at least they were able to convey that impression, whether true or not. My job was to sit back and relax and let them do their job.  Which I did, with gratitude.

I needed to be transported to Evergreen Hospital, and the next thing we discovered was that I could not stand up.  If I tried, the pain was excruciating. I was asked for the pain level on a scale of 1 -10, and I replied “8.”   Susan gaped at me, but I was recalling the time I tore my knee up in a basketball game.  That was worse, but only lasted a minute or two, so I probably should have upped my answer.  But the Oxy had begun to take effect, and the mind tries to forget extreme pain as soon as possible.

If I could not walk, they would carry me.  First they had to lift my 225 pounds of dead weight (almost literally dead weight) from the recliner into a chair.  I was strapped in and wheeled backwards down the hall, and then carried down our stairs, out the front door, more stairs, and to the driveway.

That was when I noticed they had arrived in a full on big ass firetruck, the kind that has a rear steer cab.   Turns out it was a busy night, and they were out of more usual vehicles. Also, it was the Woodinville fire department, as Bothell was busy with other emergencies.

As we wheeled down the sidewalk past the fire truck to the waiting ambulance, I said “Darn. I wanted to ride in the big one.”

“Me too,” answered one of the ambulance crew.

I had now accepted my condition, and relaxing was probably a good thing. On the way to Evergreen I attempted to keep track of the route being used, for no other reason than idle curiosity.

Into Evergreen’s Emergency Center, and here again the breadth and depth or modern medical care is astonishing. I think I was seen by about 10 different doctors and nurses in less than 10 minutes. Susan and I repeated what we thought had happened to several people, over and over again, while various tests were being run.   Eventually I was trundled off for a chest scan, looking for blood clots.

Then back to the room to wait for results.  Eventually the doctor came in and said “You’re normal.”  

I replied “Nobody has ever said that to me.”

He continued with “I can’t find anything seriously wrong with you, and believe me I tried.”   Of course he had to go on from there and state that obviously I had trauma in my lower back, and I might also have some hardening of the arteries in my chest, but nothing likely to be fatal.  At least not yet.

And so we were sent home, with a referral for a spine specialist, another for a cardiac specialist, and a prescription for Oxycodone.  We stopped on the way home at a Burger King, as it was now 11pm and I had not eaten for many hours. Worst burgers ever.

Alas, the appointment for the spine doc could not be made until Thursday the 19th, so I was now to take a Percocet every 6 hours 24 hours a day – and wait.  For nine days.

This was not all bad, as it would give my back a rest, and over the next few days I learned just how much of my energy reserves I used during this small medical crisis. I emulated our two cats – sleeping an amazing number of hours a day.  The pain would vary from a dull ache to quite acute, and it was difficult to predict what would lead to trauma. At times it seemed I I’d forgotten to take an Oxycodone, but we were very careful to stick to the every 6 hours. When it was bad it felt like my lower back was in spasms, although I know that is not accurate, and I could not find any posture that was not painful.  Last night I hit on the idea of using a heating pad when things were bad, and that has made a world of difference.

One of the minor difficulties in all of this is that I hate to accept the need for help from anyone. Now I was totally dependent on Susan, and she got tired of my continual apologies for all of the chores that are “mine” in normal life.  Imagine how many things you can do around the house if you are to avoid “exposing” your lower back – which means don’t bend over.  Another is the need to accept the need for forced sloth.  Fortunately, I love car auctions on TV, and this window of time happens to coincide with first a Mecum auction and then Barrett-Jackson.

And where would I be if I were alone in life?  When I pondered this I easily drifted into a state of near panic. Susan has essentially stopped her entire life to attend to all of my needs.  She is supportive, positive, and encouraging at all times.  At times I get tears in my eyes just looking at her. By myself I don’t know what I would do, and imagining outcomes was not comfortable. At all.

We did get out of the house on Friday to go to breakfast with a few of our friends, and that was extremely helpful. Their good natured joshing just barely slid over their evident concern, and really gave me a boost.

Now we head into a new week, with a couple of appointments I need to get to. It might be painful, and I will walk slowly, but the need to get out of the house and do something will offset this.

Then there is the constipation brought on by the pain killers. I’m going to guess you would rather not hear the details.

Like I said, it’s been interesting.  And really, I would rather go through this at this time of the year. I would be in dire psychological stress if the sun was out and the temperatures inviting!

Another thought – you will never appreciate the heated seats in your new car as much as when you have a sore lower back.

More when I hear from the spine doc.  And the cardiologist. And…

Cheers!

 

Copyright 2017                                David Preston

 

 

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Purchasing a new 2017 SUV – Part Two

Purchasing  a New 2017 SUV – Part Two

Moving on from Part One (see earlier post), at the end of the day it came down to two candidates – the Kia Sportage and the VW Tiguan.

We’d been considering the vast array of offerings in the mid-size SUV market for a few months.  For sure I was spending most of the research time, but Susan went with me to the Seattle Auto Show and listened patiently while I discussed my constantly shifting opinions. She also has keen insights about cars and about what she wants.

We had a few absolutes, which would probably not apply to most people.  From Susan, the color had to be black. I could envision other colors, but it would be churlish to insist on any of them, as she has been so accommodating and even eager to embrace my wilder automotive and motorcycle plans for the past 44 years.  We both prefer a windshield that is fairly close to the driver, which does not seem to be a concern for many of my friends. We both insist on a sunroof, and it needs to be placed as close to the windshield as possible.  Susan wanted the car to be as small as possible, for her ease of mind in wheeling it around, and of course price was a consideration.

Those four requirements eliminated almost all of the worthy candidates, and subjective opinions about appearance eliminated the rest.  I love the Audi Q3 – too expensive. The Mazda model wins almost all of the road tests, but I was not enamored of the styling, and the sun roof started too far back. The Ford Escape, the early favorite, was a skoche too big, and the instrument panel looked like a prop from a Star Wars movie. The Toyota Rav4 is undoubtedly a fine vehicle, but it just did not move me at all.  Nor did the Hyundai. All the Subarus and the Honda CR-V were eliminated because they have CVT transmissions, which I hate!

The VW Tiguan was one we did not look at when attending the show, because the appearance seemed a bit boring. Later I realized that I was thinking of the previous model. The 2017 looks much different, and it was added back into the mix.  We did look at the Kia Sportage at the show, and it was mightily impressive.

We visited Totem Lake VW and looked at a 2017 Tiguan loaded to the gills.  The top spec model, and in lustrous black. Salesman Bob Hansen impressed us with his calm demeanor, and was not put off when I told him we would not be purchasing for another two weeks, as I was aiming for the week after Christmas.  I really liked the car, although it was causing our financial window to bulge just a bit.

Of course, buying any VW today has to include consideration of the elephant in the room, that being the recent worldwide scandal over VW cheating emissions regs by having their diesel engine cars only meet the standards while in the test mode.  There are two ways to look at this.

My oldest brother has a PhD in chemical engineering. He spent a long and successful career working on energy production and conservation for a think tank in California. As an engineer and someone passionate about the environment, the VW hit him right at the core of his existence. As such, he has sworn never to have anything to do with VW products for as long as he lives.

I certainly respect his position, but I choose a different course. First of all, there are rumors that VW was not the only manufacturer who cheated.  They may occupy the lonely position of being merely the first to be caught. This story has not ended. Secondly, we are not purchasing a diesel engine car.  Third, the crimes against nature were committed by a small fraction of the employees, and especially by members of the high command. Have you ever worked in a situation where members of the upper echelons of the organization took actions that caused you to determine that they were corrupt? I have. It gave me a profound disrespect for them as people, but it did not alter the way I chose to do my job, and their various acts of misfeasance and malfeasance did not intrude on my job performance or expectations. Surely that is true for 99% of VW employees across the world.

Last, it seems to me that VW dealers are currently REALLY eager to sell their cars, and will work very hard to make and retain loyal customers.  Advantage me.

When we got home from a short family adventure to Tahoe just before Christmas it was time to put boots on the showroom floor and try a test drive or two.  By now I had done more research on these two cars, both in print and on various web sites.  I had also checked a used car site to get an idea of what our 2005 Honda CR-V would be worth.  There is a big difference between the trade-in value of a used car and the retail price, of course. Dealers refer to this as “profit.” On the other hand, we would be paying sales tax on the new car minus the amount of the trade-in, which is not an amount to be sniffed at. Selling our Honda on my own was a potential headache, or much worse, that I did not want to deal with.

We also paid a visit to the teachers’ credit union I have done business with for 47 years (!), and were quickly approved for pretty much anything we wanted.

My “plan” was to try the Kia first, thinking that Susan might not like it, increasing the odds of purchasing the VW Tiguan, which I preferred. Of course that did not work out very well.

I also strove mightily to bear in mind that we did not have to purchase a car that week, or at all for that matter.  Our Honda CR-V was still a fine vehicle.  We wanted a new car and could afford it, but there was no sensible argument to be made that a purchase of a new car was mandatory.  Buyer’s lust get thee hence!

We went to Lee Johnson to check out the Kia Sportage, and they had just what we wanted. The top of the line loaded model, and in black. Black cherry metallic, to be precise, although you would only notice the cherry metallic in strong sunlight at the right angle.

Susan really liked the car, although I was a bit put off by the seats. The center sections were black, but the side bolsters were a gray. Attractive now, but in a few years there would be dust and dirt outlining stress creases.

It’s always interesting to see what “angle” a sales person will use.  In rare cases, there is no angle, of course, and those people are always more successful, at least with me. 

Susan’s technique is to smile and agree with everything the sales person recommends. I keep my mouth shut and frown a lot. Besides, Susan is a beautiful woman that men love to talk to. She chatted years ago with an eager young man who talked a Nissan Pathfinder from 18k up to 28k before he was done, even suggesting we replace the stock leather interior with a much better one from his friend down the street. Susan nodded and smiled at him as it got more and more ridiculous. We did not purchase a car from him.

At Lee Johnson the fellow trotted out his favorite angles. When he first came to work there he was allowed to drive all of the products from Chevrolet and Mazda and Kia before picking the one he wanted to sell, and according to him Kia was “no-brainer.”  In addition, the SX model we wanted was the top-shelf SX model, and they were rare, according to him. The one we test drove was the only one on the lot in black, and he had one more on the way but it was already spoken for.  Of course, if we wanted to purchase that car before the person who had requested it…  I did mention under my breath to Susan that there are other Kia dealers, but other than that I managed to keep my mouth shut.

So I was not all that impressed.  We asked him to write up his best offer, that we were off to look at the Tiguan, and that we would purchase one or the other.  After the sales manager drove our Honda, they made a very reasonable offer.  They offered $500 more for the Honda than I had guessed, pointing out that it was in excellent condition. 

Susan loved the car and was ready to buy it on the spot, but this is not her first rodeo and she knew a visit to the VW dealer would not hurt.

We developed a system of sorts for this sort of thing years ago when I explained that the salesman would say some things that were mostly but not entirely true, and that I would respond in the same fashion.  She is very good at smiling at the salesman and not saying anything if what I say sounds a bit bent.

And so, off to Totem Lake VW. On the way there I told Susan that I would opt for the VW if they could get to within about a $1000 of the Kia price, as I felt the VW was a much more substantial and refined vehicle. As we walked in we were greeted by Bob, and he welcomed us by name and asked how our trip had gone. Ten points and a gold star to Bob!   I could not have done that.

The more we looked at the VW the better it got, and the test drive impressed.  The panoramic sunroof extended for most of the length of the roof.  The leather seats were all black.  The 2 liter turbo engine has sufficient power for our needs, and a sport setting for the shift pepped things up a bit. It did not have the paddle shifters of the Kia, but I think those are kind of silly in an SUV.

It had more gizmos and techie do dads by far than any car we have ever owned, and probably more than all the cars we have owned added together.  Which is fine if they do not break… All in all it just seemed more complete than the Kia, and of a much higher quality of fit and finish. 

We got down to numbers in a timely fashion.  Although they offered about $900 less for the trade, Bob also decided to not charge us for some of the little add-ons dealers install so they have more haggling room.  We did not really need the tinted windows, but they would be nice. The 3M paint protection on forward facing surfaces would be nice as well.  There was also a pulse gizmo that flashes the 3rd brake light when you first step on the brake. 

The end result was just a hair over $1000 more than the Kia, and we opted to purchase.

The after-sale paperwork was pleasantly devoid of the usual boiler room pressure to add on this and that, possibly because this model is so loaded there is little to add.  While this was done a lot assistant took the car away to fill the fuel tank to the brim and make sure everything on this clean car was spotless. The General Manager spent some time thanking us for our business, which was nice.  Bob gave us a tour of the dealership, which is supposed to happen in every dealership and often does not take place, and threw in a VW hat for good measure.

I am sure we could have saved some money if I wanted to play the “bad cop” game and spend a lot more time, but he had done his job and reached the price I was willing to pay. I would much rather be a nice guy if I can afford it, as that can pay dividends further down the road if something goes awry.

In this case, that happened right away. As Bob was synching Susan’s phone to the car (we chose to skip my flip phone for this!) he also showed us how some of the dash controls worked. Oops. Something was wrong with the sun roof.  Rather than asking us to bring the car back, which would have been OK (how often will we use the sunroof this month?), he insisted that we wait in the comfy showroom while he took the car back and had a technician figure out the glitch and fix it.

Since then I have been happily returning time and again to the 372 page (!) owner’s manual.  Bob also sent us an e-mail with a link to a Tiguan web page, where entering the VIN will get you to a menu of videos to show you pretty much everything that is in the owner’s manual. A nice touch, as some are more visual learners than readers. He also responded by e-mail to a couple of minor questions I had.

All in all, we’re ecstatic with our new car, and if you want to purchase a new Tiguan or other VW I can recommend Bob Hansen and Totem Lake VW to you.

 

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

 

Posted in Cars, Equipment, Marketing, Rants and Raves | 4 Comments