Just like riding a bike

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 24, 2016 9:31 PM

Kevin took the motorcycle out today. First time since July 4. That’s an unusually long time between rides for him. He loves his motorcycle, this one more than any of the others. Ever since that fateful Sunday I came home from dropping movies at Blockbuster and sat next to a couple on a bike at a stoplight on Agoura Road, he’s been back into motorcycles. I say “back into” because he evidently had a bike when he got out of college. I think he got rid of it when he got married the first time; I know he hadn’t had one for a long time. I think we went to look at motorcycles that day. We had our first bike by the following Friday. A Suzuki Intruder 800. 

Within six months, we’d upgraded to a 1500. It was a beautiful bike but not very comfortable for the passenger also known as me. Within about a year and a half, we sold that and bought our big Kaw (pronounced “cow”). A Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500 chipped. So it was fast. It was also built for two. Whereas the big Suzook had a seat on the back, it always seemed like an afterthought. This new bike had floor boards from the driver and the passenger. Big saddlebags, a backrest for the passenger also known as me. We put white wall tires on it and it was gorgeous. Black metallic paint, lots of chrome. How we loved that bike. 

But once we moved, we knew we’d have to sell it. The roads here are atrocious and the ride was just too rough. It took all the fun out of cruising.

Enter the car on two-wheels. The love of Kevin’s motorcycle life. His favorite bike ever. The beloved Honda Goldwing 1800. This thing is amazing. It’s a touring bike versus a cruiser so it’s cushy, built for long rides. It has six cylinders, a tremendous amount of power. A six-CD changer, an AM/FM radio, an AUX hookup for an iPod. There are four speakers. It has a trunk to go with the two side pods. If we wanted, there is space for a trailer hitch and we could pull a small trailer. It has cruise control. The only thing it doesn’t have is air conditioning. 

We used to go out fairly regularly but since we moved, we don’t. Whereas our weekends used to consist of hopping on the bike to go to Ojai, usually for gas, our new weekend adventures consisted of driving to tile stores and hardware stores and paint stores. We needed a bigger trunk. Plus the no AC thing in the summer made it less enjoyable. 

Since we moved into our house, the weekends often consist of weekend things. Working outside, working inside. Socializing. And the bike sits in the garage, getting dusty, looking sad. I was looking at it the other day and I mentioned to Kevin that it had been a long time. I was feeling nostalgic. I was wanting a ride. 

We decided that over Labor Day weekend, we’d take a day, drive up to Apache Junction, have lunch, then wind our way back. 

Today, Kevin had to run some errands. 

“Which car are you taking?” I asked since we currently have three. 

“Not,” he said. “Taking the bike.” Then he grinned. “I just hope I can remember how to drive it.”

Whenever he goes out on the motorcycle without me, I’m adamant that he call or text me when he arrives at his destination, and again when he’s leaving to head home. Then I have an idea when to expect him. That way, if the time goes too long, I know to worry. 

He got to his destination. I got my text: “I remembered.”

“Just like riding a bike.” I texted back.

Meanwhile in the garage

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 6, 2014 10:33 PM

Last Saturday we made the journey to Catalina, up 77, through the desert where I bought a pumpkin spice latte and my husband bought a new used table saw. I think he said it’s a cabinet saw and that he used to have one; that he has been wanting to get another one ever since. We have not yet taken possession of the new old saw for two reasons: 1) we need to rent a truck with a lift-gate because it’s so big and heavy; and 2) we don’t really have room in our current garage. While the garage is an oversized two-car, and for normal people would offer plenty of space, my husband is not normal people. We have a ton of tools, most of which I am not on a first name basis with, that coexist with the still ailing Porsche, the new motorcycle – the monster 1800 Honda Goldwing – and the big SUV Range Rover. Plus boxes, a wine “vault” that Kevin built to house our good wine and keep it cool while we’re between houses, two bicycles and a bunch of odds and ends. The kinds of things that are in every garage. A bucket filled with car washing stuff; brooms; a trash can.

Kevin manages to get all of this into our oversized two-car garage, with a bit of room to spare, and with the garage door able to close. No small feat. He’s a master organizer. You should see him pack a car. Interestingly, when we travel, I am the one who packs the suitcases. That’s fodder for another post.

When we decided to finally take the plunge and build our own home, there were several must-haves. We both wanted offices inside the house, on opposite sides so as not to bother one another when one or the other or both are on the phone. I wouldn’t even entertain a place that did not offer natural gas since I do a lot of cooking. We wanted a wine room that was full size, easy to get in and out of. Our last wine room was more of a closet that we had to stoop to get into. Once inside, we couldn’t stand up. It was well insulated and kept the wine chilled to a constant balmy 58º. Kevin built it. Like all things that Kevin builds, it was impeccable and functional.

In our new house, he wanted a three-car garage. And a workshop for all of his tools. So that he could build whatever it is that he is building at any given time without completely rearranging the garage in order to do so. In the past, and even currently while we’re renting, when he was working in the garage, all of the vehicles had to exit stage front. All of the tools had to be pulled out from wherever they were hiding. When he was finished for the day, all of those same tools had to be cleaned and put away. The garage floor had to be swept and vacuumed. Then the cars and bike could return. It was – is – not the most efficient way to wood-work.

He is nearly giddy with the prospect of having his own space. Space that is completely devoted to housing all of his tools in whatever configuration he decides is appropriate. I have a feeling that he’ll spend a lot of his weekend time out there. I can foresee move-in day, when he’ll be in the garage, arranging his workshop which is off the back of the middle stall. We talked last night about where he was going to put his TV so he can watch football while he’s working. Meanwhile, I will be in the entirety of the house, unpacking room by room; hanging pictures, arranging furniture.

Today, Kevin put an ad on Craig’s List to sell his current table saw. Last night he cleaned it up. Because he takes such good care of his tools, the thing looks practically brand new. Because we are both a little anal, he still has the owner’s manual. We even knew where it was – right were we keep all of the other owner’s manuals for all of the other tools, and appliances, and electronic equipment. We even have the owner’s manual for our bicycle helmets. He wrote his ad. This morning he got up and posted it. I slept in a bit. When I got up just before nine, he had already had three guys contact him about the saw, and one guy coming at 10 am.

I laughed as I poured myself a cup of coffee. You mean it’s not sold yet?

Once it does, which I suspect will be today, we can arrange for the lift-gate truck and drive back to Catalina to get the new old saw, the bigger saw. I have no idea how it’s going to fit in the current garage. But I’m not worried. Kevin will figure it out. He always does, and it’s what I’m celebrating today. Happy weekend all.

White wall tyres

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 15, 2014 9:45 PM

I have always had a fascination with white wall tires. It might have something to do with the big fat tires on the big fat cars of the 1940s. The luxe Cadillacs and Packards and Lincolns come to mind. Several years ago we put white wall tires on the motorcycle and they look incredible.

Our bike is a 2004 Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500 with a charged chip for more power and fancy Cobra pipes for a better sound. It’s not as raucous as a Harley but it definitely sounds like a beast. It was my idea to get this style of bike. It’s built for two people, comes out of the factory with sideboards for the passenger as well as a padded backrest. It also comes standard with hard, rounded saddlebags that match the metallic black of the bike itself. We bought it used. We found it at the Harley Davidson dealer in Simi Valley and they wanted to get rid of it. It only had about 3000 miles on it. We bought it for around $9000 and we love it.

It came with black tires, also standard equipment. Because the paint is black, even though it’s metallic, it cut quite a lethal silhouette. We dressed it up a bit with more chrome, bites on the ends of the fenders, but the black tires were still black tires. When we had to replace both tires a few years ago, I suggested we look at white walls. I knew it would change the look entirely. Kevin was skeptical. The white walls were more expensive. Plus he was unconvinced that the bike would look good with white walls. His reasoning was sound: if it was supposed to have white walls, it would have come with white walls.

My reasoning was equally sound: if it wasn’t supposed to have white walls, they wouldn’t make white walls that fit it. A nice pair of pants looks even nicer with a great belt. A great hair cut looks even better with a blast of equally fabulous color.

Fine, he said. We ordered white walls.

White wall tires were first made in 1914 by a small company in Chicago for horse and chauffer-drawn carriages. The natural rubber of these early car tires was mixed with several chemicals to make them wear better. One of those chemicals was zinc oxide, just like the white stuff lifeguards used to wear on their noses to block the sun. It’s still used in many natural-based sunscreens. In a tire, the zinc increased traction. It also made the entire rubber compound, and thus the tire, white. But white rubber didn’t last as long so carbon black was added to the rubber to increase tread life. The carbon black was originally only on the tread, leaving the rest of the tire white.

By the 1930s, black tires were all the rage and symbolized great status. The luxury cars of the time all sported completely black tires. On April 6, 1934, Ford reintroduced white walls as an option on all of its cars. The extra cost? $11.25 They quickly became popular again and by the 1950s, most cars sported white walls. The Corvette and the Thunderbird. All wore white walls proudly.

Modern cars don’t have white walls and would probably look kind of stupid. They’re just not designed for them. But motorcycles are, especially the big cruisers like ours.

Today, Kevin is scrubbing the white walls on our bike. They haven’t been done in a while and they’ve turned a rather dingy shade of dove gray. He has his bleach mixture and soap. He’s lying on the driveway with a scrub brush. It’s 88º; he’s hot. And he’s probably cursing me. She needed to have white walls. I don’t see her out here with the bleach and the brush. Black tires would have been just fine. I would have been done by now if we had black tires. But oh, no. We had to have white walls. Had. To. Have.

And I’m thinking: Oh, but they look so good.

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live out loud

I hear the sound of my husband’s motorcycle approaching

by Lorin Michel Friday, October 11, 2013 10:53 PM

Kevin and I are motorcycle people. We love them. He had bikes in the past, before I came into the picture. I always wanted one. I had friends in college who had bikes, sport bikes – or crotch rockets as they’re affectionately known – and street bikes. Cruisers weren’t really all that popular until the last 15 years or so. Two of my guy friends in college, Kevin (no relation) and Mac, had the same street bike. It was a Kawasaki 450, if memory serves. One of them was black, the other blue.

I tried to have a motorcycle when I was married the first time, but husband number one was more interested in fast cars and particularly in Porsches. I was OK with that as I’m also a car person. I love old cars, new cars, sports cars and classic cars. I love our current 1987 Porsche turbo. It’s my second Porsche. My first was during HNO (husband number one) and I had to sell it when we got divorced because I couldn’t afford the maintenance. I wish that I had the foresight to keep it. I babied that car; it would still be a great car. The turbo was not babied until we got it. We think of it like a rescue.

A number of years ago, when Maguire was still young and Blockbuster Video was still in business, he and I went for a Sunday morning Rover ride to return whatever we had rented. On the way home, stopped at a light on Agoura Road, two cruisers pulled up alongside of us, each being driven by a guy; each with a chick on the back. They looked comfortable and cool. They looked relaxed. They looked like they were having fun. When I got home I told Kevin that I thought we should get a motorcycle. We had one the following weekend, a beautiful silver Suzuki 850 Intruder. But it was too small, so within the year we upgraded to a Suzuki 1500 Intruder, but we never really fell in love with it. It was awkward, oafish. One summer, in 2007, while Kevin and Justin were in Illinois visiting Kevin’s family, I was standing in the kitchen perusing Motorcyclist magazine and there was an ad for a Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500. A gorgeous bike with sleek lines, and built for two. It came with foot panels for the passenger and hard saddlebags, and a backrest. When Kevin got home, I broached the subject of maybe looking at one. We found a used one shortly thereafter and bought it. Metallic black, with lots of chrome and white-wall tires.  We’ve had it ever since.

Today, he had to run some errands and as he often does when it’s a beautiful day, he took the bike, roaring out of the driveway and down the street, the powerful growl of the engine disappearing into the desert as he rounded the corner and headed east.

I worry when he’s out by himself. He’s a great driver and beyond careful, but people don’t always see motorcycles and that leads to stupid accidents. When he goes off without me, he promises to text me whenever he arrives at his destination. I usually get nothing more than a simple “here.” He texts me again as he moves from place to place, keeping me updated so I know he didn’t go splat.


Kevin, returning home this afternoon

Sitting in my office this afternoon, the windows once again open, the cool of the day once again drifting in and around the room, I listened for the sound. Low and powerful, a lion’s purr, it’s very distinct. Whenever I hear it, I can’t help but smile. He has returned safely on this fine piece of machinery, one of the finest we’ve owned. Sleek as a cat and ready to cruise, it’s joy on two white-walled wheels.

I hear it now. I hear him approaching. I smile. Soon, I’ll be smiling broadly, enjoying the view as he pulls into the driveway, safe at home. Definitely worth celebrating. 

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