Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Big Bird

Last Saturday I went for a ride, as is my usual habit.  It was predicted by the weather guessers that it would be in the seventy degree ballpark in the afternoon.  Can't miss a day like that! 

I ended up going just a little over 130 miles, and I'll write about the details of the ride later, but I had one encounter early in the day that was striking.

When there is an animal that has met its demise along our roadways, there are some times when the cleanup crew doesn't get there to scoop it up right away.  In fact, if there is a deer strike for example, and the carcass is still warm, there may be bunches of people who stop to pick it up for processing into tasty venison -- providing a service without taxpayer cost -- and providing some family with a feast.  . 

When the deceased is smaller, nature takes over nicely.

And that is where big bird comes in.

You see, there were several of them feeding on some carrion in a wooded area by the road on the early part of my route.  As usual, they had one eye on the prey, and one on the road scanning for approaching traffic.  These three fellows had the timing just right as I approached.  They took flight at about the same time and flew off to some safe and convenient nearby perch.

Common Raven -- photo by David Hofmann, Santa Rosa, CA

Except for one of them.  He took his flight, but right at me.  The next thing I knew, there was a disheveled mess of black feathers heading right for my face.  I ducked as best I could.  A split second after that black feather boa spread over my face shield, came a thump of significant magnitude, despite my attempt to duck down to avoid it.


I heard my neck bones crackling as the back of my helmet hit the collar of my suit.  I estimate that the weight of this bird was somewhere between that of a flatiron and a locomotive.

Fortunately, I recovered quickly from the impact, and my state of amazement at what he did.  When I again opened my eyes, I found that I was still upright, and mostly in my own lane.  I motored on a little further, when it dawned on me that maybe I ought to go back and snap a picture of evidence for you, kind readers.  I turned around at the next intersection, and went back, scouting carefully for the unfortunate feathered creature with underdeveloped navigational skills.

Alas, he must have survived to feed on the road kill another day.  Either that or he fluttered off into the forest to die in peace.  Either way, I couldn't find him.

A little while later, after my heart rate had slowed down a bit more, I stopped to take a look at my trusty protective helmet.  There was a greasy streak on the shield, but no forfeited feathers, and no gooey excreta. Surprising, that.  I think my errant feathered friend(?) might have been no worse for wear than before our little encounter. 

So, I don't have the evidence, but it was sure a real encounter for me.  My neck doesn't hurt, and the crackling I heard was probably just some breaking loose of a few calcium deposits that accumulate with old age. Saves me a trip to the quack chiropractor. Great, huh? 

No harm, no foul.

Or is that no fowl

Good lesson here.  No matter what type of close encounter with a road hazard you have, ATGATT is an important watchword.  It was for me that day. 

How about you?  What close encounters have you had?  


Monday, March 4, 2013

Clean as a Whistle, Inside and Out!

I's time to change the oil and filter again, so I gather my tools and supplies to get it done. You can't neglect this on any engine, and even though I am no speed demon, sending the RPMs to the redline; this little engine still takes a beating, especially in extremes of weather. 

A few oil changes back, I switched to synthetic oil, for no particular reason, except that it is said to be better.  I use Mobil 1, but I find that I don't have any in my hoard.  A quick on-line search yields the local Advance Auto Parts -- nearby, and the stuff is on sale for $8.99 a quart.  That's a good deal.  I ride over there to pick up a couple of quarts.  After all, I have to get the engine warm to do a proper oil change.  Right? 

I already have a Kawasaki OEM filter I got with some other parts from Ron Ayers when I did the valve clearance adjustment, so I am good to go.

I remove the lower cowling to get to the drain plug, and see that the cowling is pretty crudded up with road soil.  I decide to pull off both lower cowlings to clean them up.  Then, I see that the coolant could use a little topping, so I pull off the frame slider and the right center cowling, too.  Can't get to the filler cap any other way

I get busy draining the oil, and spinning off the filter.  I let it all drain for a few minutes, then put on the new filter, put in the plug with a new sealing washer, and refill the crankcase.  That is pretty easy.  I top off the coolant, too, and look for any leaks.  None obvious.  That's good. 

The bike hasn't had a bath in a while, so I get out the hose, a bucket of mild detergent, and some brushes and sponges. 
(Not me.)
It is tough to get into all the nooks and crannies to get them clean, but I keep at it.  I haul out the leaf blower to dry everything off, and put the bike on the rear stand to clean and lube the chain. I ask my bride to help, as I don't want to dump the bike right here in the driveway while balancing it and lifting it with the stand. 

This chain cleaning is one of the things I really don't like to do.  It is messy, and you can never get it really clean, then it is easy to squirt the lube on the muffler and elsewhere.  I use the Kawasaki-recommended kerosene to clean the chain and sprockets, and I use a piece of corrugated to keep it off the rear tire.  That solvent does not attack the O-rings in the chain like a more aggressive solvent might.  Maybe a shaft-drive bike would be better, but I am not going to trade any time soon, so, I am slave to the chain gang. 

Now, to clean up the lower bodywork.  I again set to work with some more detergent and a sponge.  It takes some elbow grease to get them back to looking good.

Hmm.  Those center cowlings on both sides have a few scratches on them.  I have another set.  Why not?  I pull off the other frame slider, and the left cowling, then dig out the spare parts and put them on.  You have to take off the windscreen and the instrument surround, and find all the fasteners they so carefully hide, so it takes an hour or so to get them all positioned and properly screwed into place. 

Well, while I am at it, that seat cover is smudged up.  I have another seat, too, so I get it out and pop it on. 

Now we're cooking.  The bike looks almost new!  I break out the auto body polish and set to work putting the final sheen on the plastic.

Clean as a whistle, I'd say.  Inside and out, as a matter of fact. Take a look:

A little vinyl conditioner on the Hippo Hands

All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-ups.

A thing of mechanical beauty, yes?

That was three weeks ago,
and I have not ridden it since.  It is not that I have not wanted to.  It has been the weather.  Rain, rain, rain.  And time.  None, none, none. 

Now, all I need is for the rain to stop and an afternoon off so I can ride this purdy machine! 

Correction: I got out to ride for a couple of hours yesterday!  I usually don't go riding on Sunday, but I asked my loving wife if I could since I was having withdrawal symptoms for all the rain and lack of time.  The bike seemed to run better now that it is clean, and I had a nice run up US-178 to Table Rock Road, up into the park, then back down SC-135 to home. 

[Bucky, that "running better" stuff is all in your head.]  

I know. But it was nice getting back to it on an almost new looking, clean bike.