Friday, December 30, 2011

City of Industrial Arts

After 5 minutes on a local train and 2.5 hours on a fast train I came to this city for the first time.  I knew Nagoya was known for the kind of sheer production that allows Japan to out export former competitors, like the U.S.  I have read that in Japan a company would sooner fire a CEO than ten thousand employees.  Societal profit is considered more important than the profit of an individual.  Imagine that.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Haze of Memory

My brain in the midday post lunch haze fills with the mind imagery of two lanes.  I review pictures that have collected from trips of which I have lost count.  Road signs, mountains, desert rocks and pictures of Nebraska attempted while riding.  Somehow those plains didn’t translate in two dimensions the way they spread out in my brain.  
Lately I see that there is a growing body of media about this seemingly new discovery of the American blacktop.  Not the crumbled freeway concrete which is sometimes necessary when you have to put a great deal of miles under you in a short time,  but the American backroad.  The new rider wants to go down the old roads not at all unlike the  young brave wanting to return to the holy grounds of his forefathers.  There is something out there that none of us can give voice too, but we are constantly in search of it.  We are not the first generation to wonder, but each generation sees something different when they go down the same roads .  What did this country road look like in 1985, 1975, 65, 15?  What did this valley look like to Desoto or Butch Cassidy, depending on what side of the country you are on.  What did this cliff face look like before the Utah highway department blew a hole in it so I can ride straight through it with very little altitude or grade change (I wonder what the cliff was before E. Abbey wrote about running bulldozer over it in an attempt to save it from being ripped in half).   My mind has somehow assembled a framework built to hold this imagery in order to help find its place in the vast landscape of the American soul.  My place, like a grain of sand on a dune being blown constantly but aways towards something larger, a formation, a mountain disappearing (hopefully not before me).  Everything dies.  Decomposition is inevitable.
This imagery is disappearing, or at least changing, and I have become surrounded by people who are trying to prevent its disappearance.  Muir and Abbey didn’t want the landscape to disappear.  I don’t want old engines to stop running.  I don’t want old roads to lose their landmarks.  I run frantically out of the America-eating outer atmosphere of the cities.  Two years ago it took thirty minutes.  This year it takes and hour as identical roofs line the highways dispersed with strip malls that play leapfrog as people move outward, leaving their old box frames empty or occupied by thrift stores.  Money buys you escape from the problems of your trash dump city.  They leave another trash dump (the last suburb) for the less privileged to move into and pretend they have reached some level of privilege, using the throw aways of the outward drifting class.  The running rich and the chasing middle class, following them like obedient dogs.  This imagery is tiring.  Boring.  
Eventually you make it out though, and the desert or the forest will be your new temporary home.  The mountain looks down on you and you thank it for making its stand.  You eat eggs and red eye gravy prepared by somebodies grandmother, with love.    You pass onto ever narrowing roads until pavement disappears with the sunlight.  Your machine has carried you to the extended finger, or toe, of the map’s nervous system.  Now only your feet can carry you, and that is exactly where you want to be, at least for the night, at the end of the road.   

Monday, November 28, 2011


In Nagoya, Japan, there is a cafe not far from the Museums.  It is also close to the VISE clothing shop. This is where VISE owner, Yoshiki, friend Terry, my wife and I went to discuss the logistics of cross country travel in the states through botched translation.  Everything that I communicated in Japan was with the barest Japanese, taking the only words I knew and attempting to make them convey the most meaning.  Likewise, the returned English was sparse, and often without articles.  Somehow, messages where shared. 
 Translating miles to kilometers in my head was not as difficult for the purpose of the discussion and paper and pencil was also employed, as I had not yet learned how to say three and four digit numbers in Japanese.  At the time I was kidding myself that I might convince Yoshiki to come make a cross country run with us in the upcoming summer.  Information about what I considered to be normal cross country accommodations, or lack there of, seemed to strike Yoshiki with both wonderment and shock.  I wonder if he envisioned himself alongside movie desperado outlaw and loner, “Angel” from in the film “Angel Unchained.” He might have pictured his outrageous hotrod ShovelHead, “Hellcat”, thumping in tune with the top end highway revs of Don Stroud’s long Triumph chopper as they create the music the comprises the search for inner peace.  Just like the desert horizon they race towards, the song has no beginning and no end. Deep right?
“Borrow a bike in Birmingham and come on.  I will pick you up at the airport.  You will need two weeks off. Pack light. Ride to California with us (whoever us happens to be in the summer of 2012).”  This train of thought may have contradicted everything normal for him, as it is virtually crazy to let someone borrow your motorcycle in Japan.  Perhaps it has something to do with the expense of motorcycle ownership and repair in Japan. Speed limits and miles traveled on a cross country tour are a bit higher than that of your average jaunt in Japan. I also asked how often they wrecked motorcycles in Japan and they looked at me like I had lost my mind.  Never, was the answer.  Quite a contradiction to our, “If you ride ‘em you wreck ‘em,” modo in the states.  
 The Cafe was called SMASH HEAD and the front of the shop looked like the picture above. While I drank a beer on a couch, the proprietor was working on a Vespa only 10 feet from me.  I wondered if American health code would allow this.  I didn't think he would poison me.  Through the translation barrier I understood that he collects records too.  Good ones.  He travels to American cities to buy old music in old formats when he is not keeping old scooters on the road via his restaurant.  He had not traveled extensively in the deep south though and this made me think that he has yet to discover some of the best record shops.
But back to the subject of garage kitchens.  Which would you rather have, a little motor oil in your restaurant fare, or genetically modified, processed food with poisonous chemicals added for flavor and coloring?  I’ll take the former thank you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Absolutely pitiful.  I haven’t been able to keep a bike road worthy from the time I set foot back on American soil until now.  Two months ago, after a few months of tireless effort to get the chassis on road, the Yamaha let go a loud “PINK!” and every ounce of oil in the sump spewed from the top end breathers all over the rear section of my just completed exhaust.  I am saving  that problem for winter.  
On to the retired racer.  The T120 that tickles (no carburetor pun intended) the imagination.  From track back to tarmac just in time for the leaves to change and a swap meet to occur.   The front end is bent, most likely from continuous wrecking on a dirt track. It also needs real lights, but the life within is glaring and most vivid at 5000 plus RPMs.  It came to me tuned to race with only the carbs in real need of attention.  Now it loves the pavement and I enjoy the company.  
This picture was taken after I woke up with frost on my sleeping bag. The shine is condensation melting as the valley of Bucks pocket creeps upwards in temperature.  My camping mate, JT is trying to pay the local authorities for the campsite but they avoid taking our money for some unknown reason.  It wasn't much.  Maybe he has to do paperwork work for every registered vehicle.  Maybe he would rather us remain invisible. Fine by us, but we also didn't want him to chase us out of the gate waving his arms, us having misinterpreted his message.  Also, we didn’t want the next riders to get hassled as a result of our actions.  The county rag headlines would read, “enraged motorcycle vagrants defy justice, breaking down the barriers of beautiful Buck’s Pocket, the state treasure.” 
The ranger: “Oh, you’re the one on the Triumph!  I used to ride a Norton in 1976.  Got pulled over going 140.  Took a turn at the same speed and was afaid the damn thing wouldn’t  stop.  Did I used to drink?  Ha.  Tom, did I used to drink?!   Thats no good anymore.  Can’t do that anymore.”

Monday, November 14, 2011

A North Country Swap and Drag

This is a good time for a swap meet and northern Alabama is a good place to ride to.  It is currently on fire with color.  We watched old cars go fast and Harley's go... well not as fast. Rick and his son Michael put on a great event which brought together old timers and young hopefuls.  Parts where swapped along with lies and perhaps a few non-fiction stories.  Campfire rants, Waylon covers and Justin Moon can dance!  This experience must be repeated.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011

October 29

Avondale car show, oil leaks, S.K.A.T.E off.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Buckshot  Pettman and Nick Resty July 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Barber's Vintage Races: The Pit

Being around old racers in a museum is inspirational.  Being around old racers still warm from a track is mind blowing.  I think I have been bit.