Finding your footing…

“i am defeated.  Utterly defeated.”

Words that have rarely left my body…

Completely infatuated with the idea of resurrecting the old motorcycle, i ignored the reality of it.  Blow the rust off, rebuild the power train, and ride that nasty looking beast for a few seasons.  Why buy a shiny new bike, when i’m just going to drop it?  Learn to ride on a clunker!

Ah, there’s such a glorious metaphor!  “That old thing still has a few miles left in it!”

Fuck the metaphor.  Next time, the metaphor can push the stalled piece of shit uphill through an intersection teeming with rush hour traffic. 

It ran last season, and i put some miles on it.  Rode it a bit into the spring and summer.  Sluggish, though, and bogging down.  Dropping it back at the shop before the 4th of July, i said “i’m pretty sure one of the carbs is gummed up”.  Two weeks later, my mechanic informed me “It’s the points and the air cleaners”. 

Two weeks after that, he took it for a test ride and said “Running better, but still sluggish.  We think it’s the carburetor” to which i replied “no shit? i’m stunned, shocked and amazed…”

Two more weeks?  “Running great, but there’s a problem with the charging system.  Stator is bad.  Good news is that it’s still under warranty, so we’ll send it back to the dealer for a replacement…”  Two more weeks of me nagging intensely by phone?  “It’s ready.”

Driving it from the shop last night, with Studley in the chase vehicle, we made it two blocks before it stalled the first time.  Pushing it from the intersection, i got it restarted.  Another half mile to a gas station. 

Definitely had more zip, as i had to be careful to avoid popping wheelies from a dead stop.  Full tank of gas, and another two miles before it took the final mechanical dump in heavy traffic.  i managed to push it into the parking lot of a gas station and avoid getting splattered on asphalt.

Called the shop, and handed the phone to Studley as i yanked off my helmet.  The stream of angry obscenities began to flow.  “Come and get this deadfuckingbike, you incompetent motherfuckingbastards!”   Studley’s translation: “The bike’s broken down, about 2 miles from the shop.  You’ve got to come pick it up. She’s pretty upset…”

Waiting for the parts manager from the shop to stop to pick up the keys, i realized that it was going to be damn tough to make our planned backpacking venture.  Sent a text to our hiking guru, BG, to let her know there’d been trouble, and we wouldn’t make it to the trail head as planned.

Defeated.  Tears.  What’s the definition of “trailer park mentality”?  “One bad damn decision after another.”  Guilty.  i did this.  No one else responsible for this stupid mess.  i can afford a reliable motorcycle.  i was stupid.  Fuck the dream.  This was a bad idea.

After handing off the keys to the guy from the shop, the angry tears drying on my face, we started the drive homeward.  Looking at the clock, i wondered if we could still possibly make the hike.  Maybe with a late start, but we could still get in the weekly conditioning hike… and it would be a far better use of my evening than moping.  In the absence of anything else, moping was going to be my default condition.

After some pretty serious scurrying, made it to our respective homes, packed up, and arrived at the trail head at the appointed hour.  Meeting BG in the parking lot, we explained the disappointments of the afternoon, and started up the trail.

Some quiet time as we hiked let me crawl even further in my head.  Tuesday?  It would have been Dad’s 88th birthday.  i kept hearing his words “The measure of a man isn’t how he deals with success, but rather, how he deals with failure.  Anyone can handle success!”

“God damn it, Dad!  Let me wallow! Stop crashing my pity party!”

It was hot and sweaty.  There were hills to climb.  Hills to descend.  i had to focus on my feet.  BG was right behind me as i started down a steep grade and felt myself slipping. 

“Small, mindful steps” said BG in a calm, steady voice.  The words that had gotten her through some treacherous rookie hiking adventures.  Paying it forward to a novice.

Good advice for hiking. 

Good advice for sorting the shit in your head, too.

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58 thoughts on “Finding your footing…

  1. Grr. Sometimes the mind is toooo busy making angry leaps (or self pitying mud wallows) to take those small mindful steps. Excellent advice, just not always a happening thing. And I am a firm believer in ‘Give us this day our daily whinge’. So it doesn’t fester inside.

    And, yet again, you showed us why Studley is a keeper. A person who can interpret inarticulate (of far too effing articulate) rage and put it into an acceptable form for others has a real skill. Can you clone him? Please. Pretty please.

    • i suppose getting out the whinge is not a bad plan… otherwise i might explode! but there is really no one else to smack for this, except the goober in my mirror. Studley is a good friend. He’s been patient, as his riding buddy hasn’t had wheels this summer…. he rides solo, for sure, but it really was fun to go out on the backroads together and just see where we’d end up. by next summer, i will have a solution…

  2. Well, I have to admit this post made me laugh out loud. You know, my Mom’s Harley never breaks down on her. Mind you, she never rides it so it’s no wonder. She’s hauling that thing with her when she moves from Penticton down to Arizona. In order to export it to the US there has to be no outstanding recalls. So we hauled it up to the Harley dealer in Kelowna last week – an hour and a half drive each way – so that the tech could change out a mounting bolt on the front caliper. Took all of two minutes. Last registration on that bike expired in 2006. Her old neighbour used to ride it some. But Mom? Hardly ever. She’s owned it now for about a decade or so.

    Something isn’t right here. Seems like she could keep your old junker under the bike cover and you could ride her Sportster around in a carefree manner. Seems like everyone would win.

    Generally speaking for myself, I’d take the quiet hike through the woods and hills over a noisy motorcycle any day.

    • your mom is more typical. i’ve seen so many folks (a lot of women) buy shiny harleys and then keep them as garage queens. in fact, i could buy one of a dozen harley sportsters that are 10 years old, with about 300 miles on ’em. but i don’t plan to buy a harley…

      i’ve almost reached the point where i can see some humour in this. almost. i’m still picking plaster out of my hair…

  3. I’m so glad you made your hike. There is nothing like walking to assist your mind in cogitation. Sorry your bike died. I had a Dodge Colt that did a similar thing to me, and when the people at the repair place told me that it was going to cost over a grand to fix her, I asked them if they could arrange to have her delivered to the junk dealer. They said, “Sure thing.” Oh, six months later I got a message from the City of San Francisco that I had a way overdue parking fine for that car. The asshole at the repair place had fixed the car and given it to his daughter to drive, and never bothered to change the registration. When I showed up with the parking fine notice and a rather large rage on, things got rectified PDQ. I think I may have mentioned legal sanctions in addition to referring to his parentage in disparaging terms. Maybe. I can’t remember now. That was 25 years ago.

    • i think it’s usuallly a good idea to try to salvage the day when you run into something like this. don’t let one disappointment ruin everything else… the colt sounds a bit like the camry i just gave away! i made it a point to take the plates home with me that day… didn’t want the plates to be used a few years later in a drive-by shooting or some such thing!

  4. I sincerely hope the grease-monkeys weren’t breaking something different every two weeks. Or riding it around like those naughty valet parking guys in Ferris Bueller. It’s very easy to get angry at yourself, and takes about 6 hours and a neat vodka or two to forgive yourself. Ride on, Daisyfae. Your dream wheels will show up some day.

    • oh, i’m certain they weren’t playing on my bike. there are FAR more entertaining vehicles in their garage for that sort of thing. they just took in more bikes than they could get to during this time frame. and clearly under-estimated the repair effort required. if i could do my own work? i could keep a bike like this running – they are large lawn mower engines. but i’m only a 1.5 banana mechanic… can do basic stuff, like clean/replace a fuel filter (which, in fact, may be what’s going on here with the stalling), but can’t do my own repair work. so i am at the mercy of the mechanics with a crap bike like this…

      i will ride again. probably not this season, however. live and learn…

      • Ah, gunked up fuel filters…. We had that problem with our truck a few years ago and what was happening was the inside of the gas tank was corroding. As you traveled down the road the gunk in the tank would be agitated and then sucked up by the pump and then clog the filters. We replaced the fuel filters several times before we realized that what we REALLY needed was a new gas tank… That completely solved the problem.

  5. I hate when my stator is bad.

    What the hell does that mean? I know nothing about engines. You might as well be speaking Korean to me. I’m such a poor excuse for a guy’s guy.

    Here’s my fav from Chekhov:

    “Any idiot can face a crisis. It’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.”

    • Chekov is right, by the way. Hence my frequent attempts to ignore the day-to-day.

      Stator is the non-moving magnetic part of the charging system. C’mon. This gear-head stuff can be assimilated! Should i start teaching “Guy Stuff for Poets” at the local community college?

  6. I’m sorry to hear that She’s been in the shop most of the summer. I was wondering what happened to her.
    On the bright side…you should feel awesome for making me laugh out loud at 5:30 am. It is always nice to have a great friend like Studly to translate for you. I frequently use my husband as a translator when I’m on the verge of blowing my top.
    Both sayings are very inspirational. I’m taking small mindful steps as I proceed back to school after having failed to finish 7 yrs ago like I was supposed to. Small and mindful now while preparing for the big crunch in another semester. Going to crack through 3 yrs in 2 instead.

    • delighted that i made you laugh! Studley is, indeed, a stalwart and steady companion! Would be lost without him…

      Congrats on taking on the ‘back-to-school’ challenge! Small, mindful essays and tests… it’s going to feel pretty good when you’re achieved this!

  7. I have a client who gave me a new phrase that sums up pity partyism nicely: “Do I hear splashing in the pity pool?” (Which I didn’t really get until I said it out loud and noticed how much that sounds like kiddy pool)

  8. I love this! I don’t think you were stupid at all to get that bike– just hopeful, which is pretty fucking admirable. And sexy, as all women on bikes are. I have one too! (yes, I’m damn sexy on it). And I’ve had to push it to shops as well. Fucking pain but so worth it when it gets going and the wind beats up your face next to the beach!

    • Baby, i’ve seen your pics from Utila, and you’re smokin’ hot with or without the motorbike! “Hopeful”. Yeah. i like that, too… i wanted it to work out, and who knows… depending on what the new shop has to say about the repair estimate, it might yet be rolling again by autumn…

    • i don’t ride after sundown because you have to go REALLY slow not to over drive your headlight! bugs are the least of the problems at night… around here? it’s gravel, pot holes and possums!

  9. Listen to the wise words of Dad. I didn’t even know him and I miss him too. I’ll bet the trek did you good. Ditch that crappy old bike pronto, bite the bullet and buy a new one. It’s just not worth the stress cutie!

    • that particular bit of advice has gotten me through many stumbles… not quite ready to toss the crunch-ster just yet. awaiting data on repair costs. but i have had several folks offer to sell me bikes…. thinking on it….

  10. It always seems fixer upper/ restoration vehicles are always more romantic when dreaming of riding them instead of when they invariably break down. Doesn’t help to have some chuckleheads working on it either! I came within a phone call of buying a fixer upper bike this summer, and while I’m glad I didn’t (just yet anyway) I do miss the fun and sometimes torment. Good Luck! Daisy – if you get a chance, check out my ride over at my blog…

    • didn’t know you were back! welcome! and when ISN’T the romance of such a venture a pure delusion? the first couple years i had the jeep on the road, i went through this, but we stuck it out. despite the fact that most tow truck drivers in the area know me by name/vehicle, it’s been a grand ride. will stop by your blog when i get a chance! good to hear from you again!

      • Yup I am back…and I know what you mean about tow truck drivers – my just recently failed 90 toyota 4runner became a rolling dollar sign before it died last june…

  11. That book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? I’m not sure what it is about, but it’s clear that the two things are totally mutually exclusive

    • as my blogmate, Chris, said… “It’s not a great book on either, but worth a read”. i read it back in ghe 70’s (at the suggestion of my father), and my son happens to be reading it now. might be worth another look…

  12. More power to you sister!
    I can’t ride anymore. (for personal reasons)
    But …… I still get a wistful feeling when I hear the RAWR of an engine.

    “Small, mindful steps”
    Excellent advice.

    • my sister and her husband had a serious scare with a dump truck going left of center last week, and are debating whether they’ll continue to ride…. at least along the curvy stretch of road by the quarry!

    • you’re very sweet! and thanks for the reminder about the bathtub reliability curve! one of many reasons i wouldn’t buy a brand new bike that hasn’t been ‘broken in’. looking at some 2000-2003 vintage critters…

  13. Poor Baby! You had every right to cry and feel sorry for yourself. I’m so proud of you for even going on that hike, and not crawling into bed and pulling the covers over your head. You rock!

    I just found a cool running route by my house that is about 2 miles on graveled wood paths that go up and down hills. I have to work so hard on the hills that it clears my mind and zens me out a bit. I’ll try to take your example and run that trail next time I come upon my equivalent of “motorcycle madness”.

    • we ran into some ‘trail runners’ while on the last hike, and i was very impressed with how they were taking the slippery slopes! definitely requires more concentration than running on a treadmill and watching TV, or hitting the bike path, or even running around the neighborhood…

      when i was running, i’d hit a zen-space somewhere around 5 miles. after that? it almost didn’t suck…

  14. Bummer. The funny thing (to me anyway) is that I had the exact same bike in the electric blue color. I really miss her. Must be great minds or something.

    • when i cruised on this, or stopped in a gas station, or parked it at work, there was always a guy who would come over and say “I had one JUST like this!” There was a Kawasaki and this Honda back in the 70’s. Not many other options back then…. i remember when Harley was a synonomyous with “shit”… a little “total quality management” and a LOT of marketing fixed that…

  15. The hole keeps getting deeper and deeper because you only dig a little at a time. What’s a couple more weeks? What’s a few more repairs? Once you add them all up, that’s when you realize it’s time to tear the place apart.

    • i’ve set the limit on the old beater… if i can get it up for $300 (and yes, i said that…), then i’ll keep it going. If not? Sell it to a colleague who wants to convert it to a cafe racer, cut my losses, and buy a newer used bike. i’ll ride again…

  16. I find that most metaphors are fair-weather friends. They’re not the type who will help you move or push your broken-down motorcycle through traffic as it were.

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