Empowered…

Last week I posted a story about rage, conflict, and fear.

This one is about empowerment.

***

Banging north on US 75, downtown behind me, as fast as the traffic would allow, I came upon a disabled car.

Newer mid-sized car stranded on the left shoulder, just at the end of the canyons. This is never a good place…especially at this time of day. The heat and the noise make it extremely hostile…lethal if given sufficient time…and the traffic and speeds ensure your annihilation should you try to cross out of the center median on foot. As a character in a favorite childhood animated film stated, “Sudden, instant, and even immediate…death.”

The heat? Many “not from these parts” may not view that as a threat…but it is. A surprisingly fast one too, if you are not prepared or accustomed to it. Once I carried a meat thermometer on this route during this part of the year just as an experiment. The wife saw me pulling it from her kitchen and raised an eyebrow as she started to ask a question…then shook her head and said (as she does for many of my endeavors), “I really don’t want to know, do I?”

The result? Air temps of 134 degrees.

A later trip with a laser thermometer measured the pavement at 150 degrees.

Oh, yeah, back to the car. Rear trunk open, spare tire leaning against the bumper. Tall, thin, olive-skinned young lady leaning against the concrete freeway divider. This setup (the tire/etc) is almost a universal sign of “I could use a hand.”

I took in the scene in an instant. A flash decision. You get good at those if you’re a motorcycle rider…at least…if you’re a motorcycle rider for very long.

I found some holes, hit the binders hard, a quick cut, and chirped the big machine to a stop just a car-length or two in front of hers. There’s a reason I keep the maneuvering skills honed and these brakes in tune.

I dismounted and walked back toward her, stopping a car-length away, just at her front bumper. Distance seemed appropriate. She was watching me warily. A front flat. The tire was partially off the rim and tangled. I doubted the (front wheel drive) car was capable of moving.

“You need some help with the tire?”

“No. I could change it, but the spare’s flat too.” She held up her phone. “Road service is on the way.”

“Cool. Would you like me to wait with you?”

This city, like any this size, is a predator of the highest order. She…if she’s unwary or unprepared, is it’s ideal prey, and here…with literally, 300+ cars per minute passing her by…some of the worst inhabitants are bound to notice her. Most of the rest are actively striving not to…

“I’d rather you didn’t. I’m okay, and they’re on the way.”

I get it. The motorcycle thing…and the “male” thing…and the “stranger” thing. It is the way of the world now…at least in the cities…and sadly, there is some reason for it. It doesn’t offend me or bother me in the least to be dismissed in this way by her…but neither does it moderate my concern…or relieve me of the obligation.

“Are you sure? I just want to make sure you’ll be okay. I can stay right here.” I patted the hot concrete divider I was now leaning on.

Not much reassurance I know…if I was up to no good the 20 feet separating us would be no hindrance at all, and comparing her build verses mine doesn’t take much pondering to know I could break her in half in an instant. With the concrete and traffic, there’s simply no where to go without a vehicle.

At this she turns a little hip towards me and momentarily pulls her shirt down tighter against her jeans, and chuckles. “No, I’ll be fine.”

I immediately felt better and returned her smile. “Okay, excellent! Good girl. You take care then!”

“Thank you!”

And I was off…mounting the big cruiser and hitting 70 within a few car-lengths so I could safely enter the traffic.

She stood as good a chance against any evil that may see her as an opportunity as could be reasonably prepared for. What she had revealed in that moment she tugged her shirt down, was the silhouette of a holstered, semi-auto handgun. Yep. Good girl. Empowered. The great equalizer.

Empowered. Yep. She would be fine.

That didn’t stop me, however, from hitting the next exit and a couple bat-turn-lanes, and hanging out on the service road right near a freeway entrance and a mile or so behind her where I could keep her (barely) in sight until the wrecker showed up.

And yep, some will say I’m a sexist douchebag I suppose. Would I have done this for a guy? Not really, I would have stopped, but once dismissed I’d have been on my way without a second thought.

Deal with it.

I am what I am…and I know the things I know. The world cares not a wit for what folks wish were true.

Y’all be safe out there.

CUAgain,
Daniel Meyer

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Keeping it sane…

Interesting morning…in the “people are complicated” kind of way. Caution…profanity…

Had an hour or so of daylight before I had to leave for work this morning, so I tossed on a dirty, white work-shirt and scruffy, oil-stained jeans and headed out to the driveway to finish up some work on Big Iron, the big Dodge beastie.

Seems its transmission has been a bit flugy (that’s a technical term) and before I take it to the transmission shop (where they will scream joyously, “REPLACE ALL THE THINGS!”), it was worth a shot to change the pressure control solenoid, which (says the internet), is usually the problem with fluginess.

But that’s another story…one about complex problems with machines. THIS story is about complex problems that make my mechanical woes look trivial. THIS story is about things I can’t fix.

This story is about people.

Lying under the truck in the driveway, finishing up bolting the transmission pan back on, dirty, greasy, wet (yes, it was RAINING…in Texas…in August!), I hear yelling from down the street. Screaming really.

After a few moments it resolves itself into a heated argument…man and woman…mostly the man yelling/screaming. Obscenities flowed.

Never a good thing. Conflict between couples is inevitable…and even desired on occasion…but this intensity of behavior is a sign that nothing constructive will follow…at least in the short term.

I sighed, kicked my tools out from under the truck, crawled out myself, and dirt and all, walked around the house and down the street.

Four houses down…a rent house I think…we don’t know the couple. An attractive, 30-ish pair.

I walked to within a few feet of the man and stopped, facing him and crossing my arms. It had the desired effect…some of his rage transferred to me.

“…and WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT!!?”

It was at this moment I realized I wasn’t carrying my cell phone…or my Colt. Ah well. All in.

I took a step closer and said in a normal tone, “Just keeping it sane.”

“GET LOST DIPSHIT! WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT EVEN MEAN??”

I kept my voice even, glanced at the woman, “Just making sure nobody gets hurt.”

More of his attention shifted to me. Wasn’t really sure if that was a good thing or not. There was a lot of rage in those eyes. “YOU THINK I’D HURT HER? YOU THINK THAT’S WHAT THIS LOOKS LIKE?”

I locked eyes with him and my voice changed, no longer neutral and the challenge clear, “That’s EXACTLY what this looks like.”

His face registered confusion for a moment, and with effort, he tore his gaze from mine and looked at the situation…and this time, I think he actually saw it the way I did.

He was fully dressed, primed/tensed for a fight…ready, whether he knew it or not, for physical combat. The woman had fled the house in a hurry and was nude except for one sock. She was carrying the other one. She was in the street, sobbing, but keeping her eyes on him and keeping one of the cars in front of the house between them. Fear was plainly evident on her face.

He tried to say something…stopped…looked back at me. I SAW the fight drain away.

He gasps, “Jesus Christ!” looks back at her, then back to me. “Holy shit…” then looks at her again, “Oh gawd no…”

His emotions changed again. Fear I think. Maybe loss. Intense, but there was no fight. Wherever that had come from…it had fled back to its lair, leaving a gaping hole behind.

He fishes his keys out of his pocket, brushes past me and gets in the other car and drives away. He was sobbing.

The woman stepped around onto the sidewalk and starts toward the house. She’s still crying.

I ask, “Do you want the police?”
“No,” she manages, “he’s never hurt me.” as she reaches her front door.
“Do you have somebody you can call, that can keep you company for a bit?”
“Yes.” she steps inside. “Thank you.” and she starts closing the door.
“…and you’ll call them?”
She pauses. “Yes.” and then she’s gone.

Emotions reeling, I wander back to the house, put up my tools, kiss my sleeping wife on the ear, and then shower…the water as hot as I could stand it. I stood there…pondering…until the hot water ran out…

Lives come together, burn bright, and fly apart. When, how, and why I’m not sure I’ll ever understand.

Maybe they’ll be all right…maybe they’ll work it out…but I doubt it. There are a lot of things that are helpful in a relationship…a lot of things that make it work…but there are TWO things that are absolutely REQUIRED.

Love and respect.

…and there’s no room for either if there’s fear.

I’ll see you on road.

CUAgain,
Daniel Meyer

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Shooting hoops?

70 mph in freeway traffic on the Valk…and I hit, of all things, a basketball.

Surprisingly problematic…of the “very near thing” variety. Valks are not really intended to be airborne…especially with a “not clean/straight” launch.

Shouldn’t shake me…Death rides with me…always…but put me down…for today anyway…as shaken, not stirred. (said in my best Sean Connery accent).

Great ride though.
(good ride=nobody died)
(great ride=AND I can use the bike again)
(at least…pretty sure I can use the bike again)

And if you for some reason left your basketball alone to play in traffic on this high-speed death race we call US75…I’d have a word with you…

8lifesleftUNotRidofMeYet

CUAgain,
Daniel Meyer

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Extremes…

This is a land of extremes…a 40-mile stretch I’ve been riding or driving through on my way from here to there…somewhere between this and that…for years now.

When it’s hot elsewhere, it’s at least 10 degrees hotter here. When it’s cold, at least 10 degrees colder. It snows more, rains harder, lightning is more prevalent and so on. You get the idea.

Extremes. Some trick of the topography or, easily as likely, some wrath of the gods.

And on my multi-hour ride in the blazing Texas heat and relentless sun, of all the possibilities open to me I chose here to stop…a dusty, lonely fuel station with inflated gas prices but intensely cold drinks.

The thermometer under the fuel canopy (in the shade) says 114. The one on the building (in the sun) is pegged at something over 125.

As I lean against my hot machine, in the sweltering heat, sweating profusely and breathing shallowly, the very air I inhale burning my lungs, I hold my drink bottle to my forehead and wonder why I am here.

I’ll spend nearly as much time at this stop as I would have to simply blast through the area on my way to “milder” climes. Fuel was not critical and I could have waited a bit longer for a drink…but I stopped.

Again.

Suddenly I realize it has become habit, to stop here…and in the same realization discover it’s for the very basest of reasons. Here I challenge the elements and show my scorn to the gods. I am saying, “Yes, I feel you, but that changes nothing. I am here, because I wish it, and your power over me is limited.”

I find no other compelling reason or explanation, and wonder why I feel the need for that challenge. I also wonder what others would make of my compulsion to do so.

Shortly I decide it doesn’t matter. Whatever the reason, whatever folks think, I’m completely okay with that.

Done with my drink and fueled for another round I mount the big cruiser and pull to the end of the drive. As I look for traffic, I see movement in the wavering heat, and shortly it comes into focus.

Yep, a dude on a bicycle, in full spandex riding attire. Riding hard, he bypasses the station and continues on…only to fade away in the wavering view. One. Hundred. Fourteen. Degrees.

I jump on the highway and as I work the big machine through her gears, rapidly hitting highway speeds and blast-furnace winds, I allow my self a short bark of laughter…derision at my own previous reflections and perspective. See, unfair as it was, the unbidden thought had leapt to my mind:

I may be challenging the gods…but that dude is just plain crazy.

I wonder exactly what he’s challenging…and ultimately…how he will fare.

I’ll see you on the road.

CUAgain,
Daniel Meyer

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Three Initial Corporation

“Time Warner Cable, how can I help you?”

I was just hoping it was an actual person…it had taken me 35 minutes to get to this point.

“My cable isn’t working right. Stations blank out or go all pixely, especially the low ones.”

*insert TEN MINUTES of random bullshit here, super secret passwords, account verification, sales pitches, at least THREE up-sell attempts, etc*

Finally…

“Okay, let’s do some troubleshooting. You’ll need some pliers or a wrench to remove the cable from the box.”

Yeah, SO not happening. These people are so hard to reach I do all the troubleshooting before I even bother to call. They won’t believe that though. You have to go through their script.

But I can be cantankerous.

“You want ME to work on your broken shit?”

“We’re just going to do some troubleshooting. Can you get some pliers?”

“You know I herd nerfs for a living, right?”

“Sir, it’s not complicated. You’ll just need some pliers.”

“Yeah, give me a minute.”

*sets the phone down and goes and takes a shower*

“Okay, I’m back!” (to my surprise, the tech is till there. I’m fairly sure they’re not allowed to hang up on a customer)

“Did you get the pliers?”

“Oh damn. I KNEW I was forgetting something.”

*sets the phone down and goes and gets dressed*

“Okay, I’m back again!”

“Did you get the pliers?”

“No, all I have is a hammer. Hang on…”

*sets the phone down and yells*

“Woman! Get your ass back in that closet! I’m not done with you yet! And dammit! Take the goat with you!”

The wife is sitting on the couch trying not to laugh out loud at my antics.

*picks the phone back up*

“Anyway, the hammer’s a pretty big one so I’m sure that will have the desired result if you’ll just tell me the best place to smack it. Uh…hang on…”

*sets the phone back down and yells*

“The GOAT dammit! Take the GOAT! Leave the stupid raccoon where he’s at! I don’t think he can move anyway…”

*picks the phone back up*

“I’m back! Let’s get to the smacking. I need to watch my soaps!”

“Sir, the desired result is that we remove and replace the cables while resetting the box.”

“Uh, no it’s not. Whatever gave you that idea? The desired result is that you send somebody out to fix your broken shit.”

The appointment is for tomorrow.

Can’t wait to see how many trucks they send.

comcast-time-warner-cable-company-south-park-meme

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More on my cleaning method…

That Honda Spray cleaner is good stuff. Great on pancakes too!

More about my cleaning methods:

Give part a generous spray of stuff:

Douse it in pancake spray...

Douse it in pancake spray…

Rub hard:

Rub hard. It helps if you ponder life, the universe, and everything (women) during this process.

Rub hard. It helps if you ponder life, the universe, and everything (women) during this process.

Install new part!

...annnd....Presto!

…annnd….Presto!

And thus…you get a close up look at how my bike gets cleaned.

(wanders off singing an old Johnny Cash tune)

CUAgain,
Daniel Meyer

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Clean…

Some of y’all (a technical Texas term) give me a hard time because you don’t think I spend enough time cleaning my machine.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I clean it…just one piece at a time.

I mean just LOOK at that tire? Even the tread is clean. Are any of yours that clean?

The TIRE is clean!

The TIRE is clean!

I’ll see you on the road.

CUAgain,
Daniel Meyer

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Age and experience…

Age and experience…indelibly intertwined…and inevitable…and with dubious result.

Age and experience.

It says something when it takes me longer to get out of bed and get going in the morning than it does to dissect the entire rear of my motorcycle for a new tire install.

Blarg.

Number 16?

Number 16?

This is…if I haven’t lost count somewhere…number 16 on the rear of this machine.

204,000ish miles and still going strong…

I’ll see you on the road.
CUAgain,
Daniel Meyer

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Another one?

Mmmm…may just be time for a new skin back there…

time_for_new_skin

I’ve lost count of how many rear tires I’ve put on this machine. It’s over 20 for the front…

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She cried more, more more!

Now that I had a windshield in Little Rivet that I could actually see through…Next on the maintenance front was some repairs to address some drivability issues…

Little Rivet had low fuel pressure and was running rough…since it’s the fuel injected 6-banger it needs adequate fuel pressure…and though it can legitimately be described as “grumbly”, it shouldn’t run rough.

These sorts of things are the sorts I like to give some attention to BEFORE they leave me standing beside the road.

So…fuel pump replacement. Step the first: Remove the bed…or at least tilt it…
fuel_pump_change
There are eight easy-to-get-to bolts holding it on from underneath. I pulled the front three on each side, loosened the back one on each side, and jacked the bed up to get access to the fuel tank. Much easier than pulling the tank.

This gives very easy access to the fuel pump hatch and lines/etc (under the wooden block in this pic):
fuel_pump_change2

Swapped the fuel pump (and fuel sock, boy was it time for that!) and put her back together.
sock

One more chore underneath…replace the (rather massive) fuel filter on the frame rail.

Next, time to go under the hood. Since the maintenance history of many of these items is unknown, and the truck has a quarter-million miles on it…it was time to “just do it”.

New spark plugs, wires, distributor cap, rotor, and fuel regulator…and of course…the fuel pump and filter.
parts

Unknown miles on these plugs (but more than a few), but the burn/tone/color on them is pretty good for an engine with a quarter-million miles!
partrs

The distributor cap was quite loose, the rotor was shot, the plugs were aged, and the wires were “okay”. Changed ’em all!

Running smooth again! Should be good for another quarter-million!

I’ll see you on the road!

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