10 June 2007


Before you can go, you must be able to stop.

The left front brake caliper is long gone. It was removed when it detached itself from it's mount one day and threatened to catch in the front wheel. The through-bolt from the removed brake hose was retained and the hole sealed with a combination of RTV and rubber tape. The brake reservoir is cracked and the reservoir itself is full of water. The front brakes are, in simple terms, shot.

Ebay is your friend when you are dealing with older motorcycles. A complete front brake system is purchased and installed. I carefully apply LocTite to the bolts to prevent a future repeat of the event that caused the removal of the original left caliper.

The rear brake has the opposite problem, where the front brakes would not engage the rear brakes will not release. The pins that retain the brake pads are badly rusted, the pads are not able to slide away from the disk. I clean the pins thoroughly and the problem is resolved. I notice however that the brake pistons do not retract very far. They do retract far enough for the pads to go back in, however, so this is a problem for another day.

The tank is sealed with a polymer sealant kit obtained from JC Whitney. A coat of blue paint goes on the tank, more to combat further decay than anything else, but gold pinstriping is added for effect. A new seat cover is installed to replace the old, torn one.

A new set of handlebars are installed; her old ones were bent during her long decline when somehow she was knocked off her side stand into the Harley that she shared a space with. They have not been likewise abused since I brought them home to the shelter they now share.

She has had charging problems in the past; I remove the extra switches and wiring that were installed when I change the handlebars. The charging problems have been fixed and the extras are no longer needed.

The carberators are likewise trashed from all the water. They are also replaced with a set from Ebay.

I look down into the intakes when I remove the old carberators and I don't like what I see. Corrosion has had it's way with her intake runners, but it seems to buff out with Scotch Brite and WD-40. Fortunately the valves were closed on the corroded runners, so it doesn't appear that any water got into the cylinders. I shoot some WD into the spark plug holes just in case.

A new battery goes in and the moment of truth has arrived. A punch of the starter button gets the motor going, but badly. She will not idle, nor will she rev past halfway to the redline marked on her tachometer. A feel of her exhaust pipes shows that there are only three of the four cylinders firing, at best. The new carberators may be in better shape, but only marginally.

Both sets of carberators are pulled apart and I keep the best looking parts from the two sets. I need gaskets and a pilot jet; I find them online.

A fresh oil filter and oil are put in, both gas and oil are treated with SeaFoam. The freshly rebuilt carbs are ready for action. New spark plugs are gapped and installed. This time the starter button produces a roar that brings back echoes of times past.

We slowly leave the driveway and make our way out to the main road. As I pull the throttle farther open she begins to sing. She sings to me of pain and loss, of loneliness and despair.

This is not the happy song she once sang, but it is a song and I can hear it. The song hesitates as the tachometer climbs, but smooths out as the engine warms. As she sings, her soul frees itself; the longer she sings the sweeter the song becomes. Soon the song is of redemption and renewal; the pain remains in the background but becomes more muted as she feels her way back to the roads she once loved so well.

She has now sung her song for three weeks. As her rings unstick and reseat and the deposits are removed from her pistons and valves, her song becomes pain-free. A bit of exhaust work is needed to refine her tone, but she once more sings sweetly. Still, there is something missing; an echo of loneliness and loss still rings in her voice.

Next week we will journey to see the man. I have kept him informed of her progress and he is eager to see her again. I think she is eager to see him as well.

I think she is ready.

06 June 2007


She has been silent now for over five years.

She lost her voice when her constant companion contracted multiple sclerosis and was no longer able to ride. He was afraid that if he tried he would end up killing himself, or worse, someone else.

She sat silent, bereft of shelter or companionship, for over three years. Silent tears of fuel wept from the holes that ate through her gas tank, her throats clogged with water.

One day he asked me to take her away. I loaded her up in the back of the truck and took her home. Finally she had shelter, but still she sat silently.

She has been silent since I last touched her start button for a short trip, a chance to stretch her wheels and feel the asphalt beneath her tires. That was a little over five years ago.

She and I have both wept silent tears for the man, her constant companion and a man that I have grown to love as a second father. We have watched, and wept silent tears of rage as his disease has run it's course, transforming him from an active soul to a helpless invalid, tied now to a wheelchair and hospital bed.

I do not know what she has thought; she sits silently, and if she has a voice to speak I cannot hear it. I myself have suffered in disbelief, but the truth is clear. This terrible disease will not relent; remorsefully it has robbed the man of his motion, of his dignity, and it will finally claim his life one day.

This disease has robbed her of her constant companion, it will rob me of a man who has been as close as family to me.

I wheel her out of the shed where she has lain for a little more than two years. She once spoke for me, perhaps she will speak again.

I pick up my tools.