Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Battle is Won

Instead of the usual end-of-summer timing we're used to, our week on the road will be much, much earlier this year. For reasons you'll see in the next post, we're packing up the bikes and getting out of Dodge very soon. As in, "next weekend."

Those who see us on other social sites know I finished "winterizing" my bike sometime in March. That's routine maintenance, lubrication, etc., but now I had to move directly into preparing both bikes for an early-season trip. For Donna, the pre-trip inspection called for two tires, installed at the dealership. For me, it meant putting on a rear tire purchased months ago, and hanging an exhaust system recently scored from eBay. During last year's trip to Canada, I blew out a muffler that I never did get around to replacing. A methodical online search netted me a whole Vance and Hines setup for about what a set of replacement mufflers would have cost. In the meantime, the stock system developed a large crack at a weld, turning the job from "I really should do this before we leave" to "I have to do this now."

Donna has seen nothing but the lucky mechanic in the time she's known me. Even good mechanics have simple jobs turn into major projects every now and then. For me, it's a little more frequently. But to Donna, I've looked like a hero with everything I've touched so far; my diagnoses spot-on, and my repairs quick and efficient. Her Mr. Goodwrench in shining armor, I am. I have warned her that is not how it will always be.

With that in mind, I set out to do those two simple jobs early enough so that if something went wrong I wouldn't be scrambling at the last minute, taking off for parts unknown with duct tape and baling wire flapping in the breeze, grease still on my hands. I've already starred in that video. Too many times.

And so, it happened. The rear tire project was uneventful - even got the old muffler off and on to clear the rear axle. Exhaust work is always precarious, with the water vapor and constant extreme heat cycling often leading to seized nuts and bolts.

Which is exactly what happened next, when I went to replace the exhaust. A 3-hour job, according to the tech article in the magazine.

Three hours into that one, I was still carefully chiseling away at a rusted nut that had by now been rounded beyond recognition by futile attempts at removal with every type of tool imaginable. As always, it was the hardest of the bunch to get at, and when hopes were highest after all the others were successfully apart.

All the do-it-yourselfers reading this right now are wearing that knowing grin and nodding their heads in understanding.

To summarize, I successfully removed the nut without destroying the threaded stud, and got the old pipes off. But after all that, the stud was bent badly enough to warrant replacement. Well, that sonofabitch broke off in the cylinder head, as did the tap that followed, and next thing you know, two days into a 3-hour project, the whole top end of the motor was scattered across the garage floor. Two pistons sticking up out of the crankcase. The only upside was that in the process, I was (hopefully) going to also fix a deferred oil seepage problem that would have required much of the same disassembly work anyway.

A LV HOG brother bailed me out on the machine work, and a week later, I was back to where I was when things went haywire - motor back together and trying to fit a new set of pipes. That didn't go as smoothly as it should have, either, but victory is at hand. Annie is back together and road-tested, dry and tight and ready to hit the road with a sweet new set of V&H pipes to match Lucy's (Donna's bike.)

Lucy herself is now wearing two new tires, and all I have to do to that one yet is lube and adjust cables, and everybody should be "go" for launch. Check back soon for the cool (seriously) itinerary.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Easter Chicks

Spring has finally sprung, or so it seems. Two weekends ago, we thought we got real lucky with a couple sunny, 70-degree days. We took advantage of that and got in some riding, ending up in Maryland on Sunday. The intervening time has been generally warmer than anything in recent history, but not really riding weather. Until this weekend.
As luck would have it, our calendar was open for today. Reprising a role that Donna played regularly before we met, we put on our Social Director hats Thursday night and sent out some invitations for a spur-of-the-Saturday ride with friends. These end up being ragtag groups of all kinds of freaks and weirdos rolling down the road and are usually a fun adventure.
I laid out a nice 250-mile scenic route with some roads I knew, some that Donna knew, and some nobody had ever seen before. Which is a tough thing to do with Dad along. There isn't much ground within a day's ride that he hasn't covered.
We got probably the average response rate or a little less, which was cool. What made it really neat was that everybody who responded was female! Mom signed up Dad, and we heard from Jane and Lisa, (who, along with Donna, now need a catchy nickname like Triple Trouble or something). We picked up a dude along the way, but for the most part Kev was the pied piper with a school of Easter Chicks following his ass around all day. And folks, it doesn't get much better than that.
Happy Easter!