Monday, December 10, 2007

Oh the grief I'll catch for this one

Hi Kids,

So I woke up on Saturday thinking "I really need to get these Holiday Love Christmas cards written for @dayngr and in to the mail ASAP." Trouble is, I hadn't started, never really got things going in the office, and I was seeing on Twitter where @MailOurMilitary was seeming to be needing cards, and badly.

Surely, my kids and I would be able to do a few cards and those are special in their own way, but c'mon, Mike, we're talking about red-blooded American Boys driving Humvees through neighborhoods where snipers and IMDs are lurking. Guys stuck in barracks working guard duty, ships at sea and planes flying high above. They would surely enjoy a nice wholesome pic of some girls next door enjoying a fine Austin afternoon!

They needed some Hooter girls love. What finer stocking stuffer than a Christmas card for their barracks or wherever they call home while serving our country.

A huge thanks to Jessica, Tatyana, Hannah, Sarah D., Bobbie, Annette, and the rest of the girls of Hooters Lakeline in Austin, TX. (And oh yeah, the manager, Danny. :) )

Although the "Holiday Love" campaign has closed for this year, you can still lend an Utter to the troops thanks to eMailOurMilitary and Utterz collaboration.

All for now. And yes, I seriously did this for The Troops. I know it's a nice bike and all, but sheesh I would never have the cajones to just walk in to Hooters and ask for these pics for my own nefarious purposes.

Hope you're enjoying this Holiday Season and have the opportunity to share time with your loved ones, near or far.

-- Mike

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"You got lucky"

You know how you get a new toy, and you have all the best intentions in the world, and enough of the basic training that you really shouldn't screw things up, and you're deathly afraid of screwing something up, and well, experience has shown you that it's only a matter of time... Well, I did get lucky this morning. An I wasn't even on the bike.

I went in to the dealership this morning to get the Texas state motor vehicles inspection for the bike. The dealership has a new special parking area dedicated to motorcycles. I'm sure this isn't novel, but this is the first I've seen anywhere. Fresh paint; we'll get back to that in a minute. So I navigate my beast (beauty, too) of a bike between the concrete parking bumpers in to the bike zone, and pull in to one of the spaces. The space was on a _slight_ downhill.

Engine switch off, key off, stand down, wheel cranked to the left. Walking in to the dealership. All good, right? So walk in, taking gear off, set backpack down, girl comes out of back office, "Oh great, you're back! Here for the inspection? (* looks out window, puts hand over mouth. *) That bike just fell over!" "Surely not mine," I thought, but there was the sick sinking feeling of, "just might be your bike, Mike."

Sure enough, there she was, lying on her left side. The salesman and inventory manager were out front and were already together lifting her up.

Now when nearly 1,000 lbs of bicycle falls on itself, _somethings_ gotta give, right? I got lucky. No tank damage, just some grind on the clutch handle and the left foot peg. I noticed later that the handlebars were a bit askew, but fortunately, the risers are on rubber gaskets and they just needed a firm twist in the other direction.

Some lessons you just have to learn first-hand. Always leave her parked in gear, and be aware of the grade. Believe me, everywhere I parked the rest of the day (and hopefully the rest of my life), I'll remember this morning.

And it was a grand ride in to work. Thrilling. Looked down and oops, I was doing 70. Well so was everyone else, too. Duh, that's Hwy 183 at 9:00am (not at 8am, but that's another story).

It was a great day on the roads. And I think I have most of the fresh yellow parking lot paint picked out of the scuffs on the pegs.

Have a great one. :)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Not your average day

I did it today

I truly had no intention of buying a bike today, but I've been thinking about "The Bike" ever since I first saw her on Saturday morning, 27-October. With this bike, it was most certainly love at first sight. Every bike I saw since 27-October was run in comparison in my mind to that bike.

I awoke at 7:00am to rain falling steadily, and heavily. The wind was flipping the leaves and branches to and fro. That's about all the analysis I could muster as I lay in bed. Today was supposed to be cold, yes, and chance of rain, but wasn't expecting 100% chance of deluge. That's what we got; Deluge. "What to do today…" and "What can I possibly get done by 10:30am…" were running through my mind. Shower, Twitter, FB poking, and a little "What's up?" IM-ing, and I was out the door. Rudy's breakfast tacos, check. Pick up dry cleaning, no check (still closed at 8:45am on Sat.). Hmm… Helmet shop or overdue oil change on the Camry. Ok, oil change, in Round Rock, then fly back downtown to get to game…

The major agenda item for today was to join up with a few dozen other Hokies at "Third Base" in downtown Austin to watch the annual grudge match for the "Commonwealth Cup" between Virginia Tech (Hokies) and Virginia (Hoos). Kickoff was at 11am CST. This year, the game was for more than just bragging rights in the Old Dominion, it was for a spot in the ACC Championship next Saturday against Boston College in Jacksonville, FL. Met some new Hokies. One couple had just moved down from Dallas yesterday. Hokies find Hokies. It just happens. The game? Tech hung on for the victory, and I really did intend to check out flights to JAX to go to next week's championship game, but I decided to buy some essential bike gear first. Gotta have gear to test drive, after all.

So I hopped back on Mopac and headed on up to Woods Fun Center. I wanted to get a plain black helmet (full coverage, SNELL-approved) and a pair of warm gloves for winter riding. I also decided to look at a rain suit to pull over everything in a pinch. I bought all three then decided to walk next door to Central Texas Harley-Davidson (CTHD) to see what was on the floor. Met a really cool low-pressure salesman, and had a great chat with the Senior Instructor for the Introductory riding class I took three weeks ago at CTHD. "I'm in no rush to buy a bike", I said. I wasn't, really.

So it's about 4:00pm and I guess I ought to be heading home. The Victory dealership is right on the way home. I had already stopped by the dealership twice this Thanksgiving week, after hours, to peek in the window to see if "she" was still there. She was. Waiting. So this afternoon, I decided to drop by once more, in the rain, to see if I could sit on her before they closed at 5pm.

Pulling in to the parking lot, I saw her sitting in the middle under the overhang. Because of the rain, they didn't roll the bikes out near the road, but only in a single line under the front overhang of the store. Not a great display, but practical given the weather. Some dude and his friend were eyeballing my girl a little too seriously. I hung back to be certain, and sure enough, they were pointing and lusting after my lady. After they headed on to their car, I walked over to the bike. Crap! There were yellow tags on the handlebars. At first, I thought they said "SOLD", but they said "HOLD", instead. I still stared. Well, it had been a little over five weeks that the bike had been at the store and four weeks since I first laid eyes on her. And she IS gorgeous. Frankly, I was amazed that she hadn't been sold yet. But there it was, "HOLD". Nuts.

I still hung around, and decided to walk inside to look at what was on the floor anyway. I was indeed a bit crestfallen. A truly friendly, and not in the "used car salesman" way, salesman came up and asked me what I might be interested in. I told him something like, "There is one bike on this lot that has been calling my name for weeks." He said, "I saw you looking over the white custom out there." I said, "Yeah, but it looks like I was a few hours too late." He said, "Not really. That guy wanted to think about it until Monday, but hasn't put anything down or signed anything yet. Have you heard it run yet?" "Nope," I said. I kinda knew how this was going to end.

He grabbed the keys and I started her up. Wow. WOW. Those short pipes (custom) just sang. She sat just like I recalled. Low and easy. Handles in the perfect position. Seat holding me in good posture. Pedals and controls 'just fit'. I was sold. Heck I started, stopped, and re-started her three times. Test drive? No need. This was on faith, and yeah, a little bit of lust.

I got her for $1,000 less than "Blue Book" (for bikes, it's not Blue, it's something else), and that's not including the nearly $3,000 in customizations added by the previous owner. I was looking through the 2008 accessories catalog for rear seat and saddlebag options, probably for springtime, and happened to mentally add up some of the customizations I knew of already on the bike.

While the paperwork was finishing and they were replacing plugs, etc. for the checkover, it dawned on me that I was going to be riding this baby home. Fortunately, home is less than 2 miles away. Oddly enough, I had all the right gear to get me home in the heavy drizzle and very wet 40F weather that was hanging over things at that time. Oh, and at 5:20pm, it was truly dark.

So my first ride on my new bike was not only going to be driving her home, but driving her home in the rain, and in the dark. That's about three steps up the risk ladder, but I was confident enough to pucker up and ride her home. "Just don't stall out in front of the guys pulling away," is what really stuck in my head.

The road was indeed slick, and I was more concerned about spinning out, and being unfamiliar with the clutch, I stalled her at the first light. Then she wouldn't start. "Ok, don't panic," I muttered to myself as I duck-walked the big bike just off into the side road. She caught on the third try, and I idled a bit, before pulling back on to the main side-road. The good news in all of this is that I didn't have ANY main roads to deal with to get home.

The next scariest thing was that yes, Mike, you do have to LEAN into the turns. That feels really good on dry pavement, but not tonight. So I leaned anyway and steered as I'd been taught. All good. So much so that I decided to take a lap of the neighborhood before pulling in to my driveway.

I pretty much idled her up the short driveway, but let's just say there is no mistaking when this Lady cruises by. Those pipes sing. My daughter looked down from her room and let out a little smile. I managed to find the garage door opener in my rain suit that I had pulled out of my car, and got the door up. I pulled the bike straight in, and shut her down. No sooner had the last rumble left the pipes than my son popped out of the door with a, "Cool!!! Can I try on your helmet, Daddy?" I love my boy. hehehe

If it weren't for the dark and the rain, I would have kept on riding. I can't wait to practice some more. I have a lot of clutch practice to go before I take this beauty too far down the road, but I'm prepared to ride in the cold. I will be ready for Spring. Period.

More to follow, for sure.

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