Motorcycle riding blues downside

Harley dealerships are starting to drop like flies. Santa Cruz. Wilwert in Debuque. And in Cranbrook, the authorized dealer there refused to finance a multi-million dollar hole-in-the-ground boutique to sell dog leashes, suspenders, doo-rags and t-shirts, thus the mother company declined to renew their franchise. That was a smart move on the part of the now-former franchise owners, given present economic times.

I’d say the more pressing problem is a lack of short term funding available for these dealerships to maintain access to cash flow. With sales down 60 to 70 per cent, cash flow is a dominating factor in a dealer’s viability. No cash flow, no business. Oh, and did you finance one of those fancy new boutiques to sell trinkets? You know, the ones the mother company forced you to build beside a major access point on a freeway or lose your franchise? Kiss that idea good-bye.

Second, I suspect that over the past ten to twelve years Harley’s aging market share took a lot of cash out of their homes to purchase those expensive toys and branded clothes because they wanted to look like a bunch of bad-ass boys. Well, it’s crunch time, folks, and with the housing market in the dumpster courtesy of the BushCo fools and their deregulation, you can kiss your motorcycle on the fender and wave goodbye when it’s repo’d.

I’m hoping the management at H-D still has a faint memory of their takeover of the troubled AMF brand in the early ’80s and has some idea of how to survive the current economic downturn. I’m not holding my breath, given that a new authorized dealership in Cranbrook has appeared in an appropriately shiny and new edifice, and is fully stocked with suspenders, doo-rags and dog leashes.

Good luck with that.

Motorcycle boutiques

I almost forgot about this.

In an earlier post I proclaimed how great it was that H-D dealerships would take a long-distance rider in and do things like oil and tire changes without appointments. And yes, it still is a great accomplishment for most dealerships.

Well, subsequent to the oil change that I received at that dealership in Winchester, Virginia, I happened to have run another 5,000 miles, thus a requirement to change the oil and filter back in August. Lo and behold, the dumbass responsible for doing that oil and filter swap in Winchester managed to completely screw it up.

No, there was plenty of oil in the bag. I checked that out in their parking lot before I pulled out.

Lets make a list.

  • After removing the magnetic plug on the oil pan to drain the engine oil, the maintenance tech proceeds to wrap Teflon tape around the threads and re-insert.

The stupidity in this is that there’s an o-ring on the plug to prevent leaks, thus negating the need for any kind of sealant on the threads. Additionally, Teflon tape isn’t a friend of oil, and it will dissolve due to the heat and composition, thereby causing possible blockage of an oil passage. There are proper compounds available to seal such plugs, but obviously the individual wasn’t aware of them, and whether they were needed or not.

  • When installing the new oil filter, the filter was torqued on so tight that on removal, the filter was attached to the adapter plug and it came off with the filter. Red Loctite is used from the factory to hold the filter adapter in place, so you can imagine the torque that the tech used to hold the oil filter in place.

I had to use a power bar to remove the oil filter, and as noted, the adapter nut came off with the oil filter. Now, attaching an oil filter is not rocket science. Whether it be car or motorcycle, you screw the new filter on hand tight, then apply a quarter-turn past that. Can someone show me where it says to torque down an oil filter so hard that you need two men and a boy to get it off?

Nope, didn’t think so.

So, while happy with the Winchester dealership’s ability to get me in and out quickly for a basic oil and filter change, I must take exception to the competence – or lack thereof – of their service department’s capabilities. Obviously, competent professional motorcycle technicians aren’t something Winchester H-D is capable of employing.

I thought of sending an email or making a phone call, but do I really care if they screw up their local customers’ motorcycles in their shop? They’re a boutique, after all, and what should one expect from a boutique other than doo-rags, dog leashes, suspenders and fingerless gloves?

D.B. Cooper is good for tourism

Renewed speculation in the D.B. Cooper case has been encouraged by the discovery of a deployed parachute near Amboy, Washington.

A tattered, half-buried parachute unearthed by kids had D.B. Cooper country chattering yesterday over the fate of the skyjacker, who leapt from a plane 36 years ago… from AP

I’m left wondering if the latest publicity stunt storm is just that, dreamed up by an imaginative individual who would like to increase tourist travel to the region. What better way than to deploy an old parachute and have someone eventually stumble on it in the woods? Of course, I, along with many others, hope it’s all true. Old D.B. — and yes, he is getting old by now if he’s still alive — lives on.

Link to latest speculation here.

My previous speculation here.

D.B. Cooper, where are you now?

Updated August 1, 2011: It sounds like there could be a new lead on old D.B. Check the U.K.’s Daily Mail online for the story.

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On a cold November night 36 years ago [in 1971], in the driving wind and rain, somewhere between southern Washington state and just north of Portland, Oregon, a man calling himself Dan Cooper parachuted out of a plane he’d just hijacked clutching a bag filled with $200,000 in stolen cash. — from the FBI file on the case

I remember the disappointment I felt in 1980 (was it 1980? I don’t remember the exact year) when I read the story of how some of the money from the ransom – identified by the serial numbers – was discovered. Given the penchant for law enforcement to exaggerate somewhat, I remember wondering if they were trying to excite new interest in the case. I mean, really – and I’m pretty ignorant about available technology back then – how could so many serial numbers be recorded in such a short time?

…his clothing and footwear were unsuitable for a rough landing…

As well – although my memory may be faulty – didn’t witnesses on the flight describe a man who was dressed in an overcoat and bulky clothing? I’m not certain, but I seem to recall this mentioned by the press at some point in time. That led me to believe that old D.B. quite possibly was well prepared for a cold night jump.

Whatever the case, alive or dead, D.B.’s exploit lives on in the imagination of many, including my own. I like to picture him sitting on an isolated beach down Mexico way, living free, cheap, easy and content in some small, isolated place with a tiny cantina nearby, protected by the amigos he has made since his arrival. He has learned enough Spanish to get by. He knows everyone. His suspected shady past is ignored by the locals because he has become accepted among them. As for all that money, well, not a lot is needed in many places down there, and I don’t think he cares about it any more.

Long live D.B. Cooper, wherever he is.

Link to FBI story here. There’s a link to more case details from November, 2006 at the bottom of that page.


Update #2: Look for Under Armour skull caps and pick a silk cap. You might end up with an elastic ring around your head, so I can’t vouch for the look.

Update #1: I searched around and found some welding caps that I wear under my helmet. They’re made of cotton, cost about the same, and you can buy them anywhere. I turn the peak around and it shades the back of my neck. Added bonus: the welding cap seams are sewn flat, and thus don’t feel like they’re cutting into my head after a couple of hours of wearing one under the helmet.

If you do much long distance riding, the thick seams on the front of the silk or cotton helmet liner will dig into your bald head like a knife after a couple of hundred miles. Unlike welding caps, the silk or cotton liners sold by online motorcycle stores  aren’t stitched with flat seams, thus making such seams too thick to be comfortable over the long haul riding, which is what I do a lot of. On the other hand, if you’re doing short rides around town, you won’t notice a thing.

A baseball stitch would be a great addition to any silk helmet liner. Unfortunately, probably because of cost, you’re not going to see any flat stitching in a helmet liner.

* * *

Helmets are a great invention. The keep your head warm when it’s cold, dry when it’s raining, and sweaty when it’s hot. Thus was invented the silk helmet liner, an accoutrement that makes a rider look like a dork when he puts it on, but quickly turns from a fashion nightmare into an item that makes for a more comfortable helmet. Added bonus: the helmet doesn’t stink up as fast.

If you’re going to get a helmet liner, buy two. That way, you can switch them out on a ride and one dries in the wind while you wear the other. I prefer welding caps, since the seams are sewn flat and won’t cut into your head after a couple of hours.

Helmet sanitation tip

Now that I’m finished with my rant, here’s a tip on helmet sanitation for those of you that don’t have a removable liner: When the old brain-bucket does begin to get ripe–and it will–put it in the dishwasher, without soap, and run it through a wash cycle. Just remember to take the helmet out before the heat cycle comes on. Let it air dry, and voila! Good as new.

Boxing George Foreman

I’ve got a south-facing balcony with a nice view, so I thought I might like to do some cooking out there too. You know how it goes: sit out, enjoy the view, might as well cook something, damn but I don’t want to go inside to cook…

George Foreman electric grillErgo, a George Foreman electric grill!

So, off I go in search of something that should be as common as a nail in a tire. Not so, apparently. After driving around aimlessly, I finally discover one at a linen store. A linen store? Well, all right, I do need some sheets.

Out with the credit card, home with the ‘q (and the sheets), and lo and behold, if I’m a midget, I could use the thing. One section of the stand is missing.

There’s no way I’m gonna hit the barbie on my hands and knees, so back to the store it goes — but first I have to get it all back in the box.