To Paradise

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A few days ago I had a day off by myself. I had planned on catching up on chores and obligations, but on a trip to the garage I saw my KLR sitting there, and it was too much to resist. So I got on, figuring maybe a quick ride around the Tahuya loop, then back to chores. I ended up riding to Mt. Rainier. I wrote this when I got home.

It’s that moment. When you’re riding along, and the air smells like pine and cedar and fresh rain and crisp mountain air. And it’s all spiced with a hint of leather, because you throw your gloves in your helmet at every stop.

You’ve avoided the freeways, and if you have to explain why then it’s not someone you want to talk to. Come to think of it, you don’t really want to talk to anyone at all. That’s why the day wasn’t planned. No plans, no announcements, and no invitations. No cell phone, no email or facebook. Just wheels and wind and a wandering mind. The whole point is escape. The further away you get, the lighter the load. You can even ponder, what would happen if I didn’t go back? Not an option, but it all seems possible in the sunshine. On two wheels. Life will pull you back eventually. You can already feel it pulling.

You feel the pull of the universe around every corner, but the wheels are great big beautiful gyroscopes, and they pull you back up every time. Away from gravity, and away from worry and responsibility and bullshit. And for long, comfortable, indulgent but oh so necessary stretches of asphalt there’s just the wind. No stoplights. No traffic. And you’ve never been so sure about anything as you are of this: this is your road. It was designed and built and paved and has been maintained all these years because someone somewhere knew that one day, you would need to escape. You need to run away before you become one of them. You need that stretch of blacktop along the river, and up the mountain and through the sweeping curves amongst the trees. Your soul needs it. Feeds on it. You’re reborn on two wheels. And in the back of your mind you know that it’ll all be there when you get back. The laundry, the dishes, the bills, the empty bank account and the voice mail and text messages and everything else. In the back of your mind, you know. That’s when you downshift, and lean real deep in the next curve. And before you have time to remember that other bill that’s due, that other task that’s late, or that other person that wants that little piece of you, the bike stands back up and you’ve got to throw it into the next corner. You push the handlebars, twist the throttle, and for just a little while… It all clicks. It seems right. Seems worth it.

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Vehicular Weekend

Sunday was spent working on the KLR. I really wanted to go for a ride a couple weeks ago, but even though I’ve had it on a battery tender, it wouldn’t start. The stock battery put up with my abuse for two years, and finally figured out it wasn’t going to change me and moved on (is there a specific ribbon color for abused & neglected motorcycle batteries?).  After looking around at some replacement options, I settled on a kit from Happy Trail.

It took two weeks (with no communication from them) before they shipped, which sucked. It’s tough to be driving around in a truck on a nice sunny day and see a bunch of bikes on the road.  Other than that I was pretty happy with the kit. I got it installed in just a few hours (I should note that this isn’t just a battery replacement. This is a kit, altering how the battery mounts on the bike, and replacing the factory battery cables). The Odyssey battery actually sits on its side in he bike, and there’s a bit of re-wiring involved in making that happen.  The whole process is pretty involved.  If anyone is interested, you can see videos & pictures here.

During the process, you have to unbolt the exhaust header so you can swivel the pipe out of the way, and get to the negative battery cable’s frame mount.  Imagine my surprise finding the exhaust header bolts not even finger tight, but barely hanging on the threads.  This sort of thing really shouldn’t surprise me anymore.  What else do you expect from a thumper, though, right?

The culmination of all this work was a nice relaxing bike ride. We haven’t had the bikes out since we moved up here in October, and that’s way too long.  Unfortunately, Joe didn’t feel like working on his bike, so it was a solo ride.  His loss!  I didn’t stop anywhere exciting (Starbucks & Walmart), and I didn’t take any pictures. But damn if it didn’t make my whole week to be back on two wheels.  I don’t know if it was having a solid new battery in there, or tightening up the exhaust system, but it seemed to run a little better than I remember, too.

Depending on the volunteer duties, I might even be able to ride it for the Spring Fever Poker Run!