Narratives about motorcycling on Northern California's back roads; Reflections on the history and geography of the North State; Memoirs and early recollections of youthful visits to towns and forests and mountaintops.
Also middle-of-the-road takes on current issues in politics and education. Middle of the road? Isn't that dangerous?
Friday, March 15, 2013
“THE BEST PIECE OF TRANSPORTATION EVER”
The gentleman in the red ball cap
was 81.He told me so in the
course of conversation.“Served
five years in the military between World War II and Korea.”
was in the waiting room at a Les Schwab cooling my heels while new brakes were
installed on my wife’s Civic.I’d
completed a 90-minute circumnavigation of a lovely city park in an effort to
stop gnashing my teeth over the fact that I should have cared for this
component – a stuck caliper – better.
take about an hour and a half,” said the cheerful service writer.
figured my walk would allow me to avoid what was now happening.
an engineer,” the gentleman said.“Learned to ask questions.Look for ifs and thens, causes and effects.”He went on to suggest that most people these days don’t do
that.I thought about the itchy
whine that had been coming from the rear portion of my wife’s Honda for the
past three weeks or so and felt my nose being rubbed in it.
“Nope.That’s why we’re in the state we’re
state is that?” I asked.
you know.Politics.Pollution.The Middle East.”
served in the Middle East, you know.”
“Lebanon.Folks were real friendly back
then.”He shook his head.“I got out of the service, completed my
degree in engineering down in San Diego and found myself hired by Lockheed to
design a plant out ta Riverside and then design the rocket that carried the
first shuttle into space.”
Photo Credit: NASA
pricked my curiosity.
got me cheap and let me hire whoever I want.So I got…” and he mentioned a name as if I knew of the guy.He went on to explain how they fueled
the prototype of the big rocket a bucket at a time.
took off the BMW motorcycle cap I was wearing and scratched my head.I considered asking something about
Morton Thiokol O-rings, but didn’t.
paused and looked at the hat.
that there?” he asked, pointing.“You got a BMW?”
I shrugged and wondered if I should have put on the Guzzi cap this morning.“Yeah.”
we got a lot in common.”
“Yeah.I bought me an R-50 back in ’61.Brand new.Cost me $1295.00.”
Photo Credit: Jeff Dean Collection
He stopped just long enough to grin.
“Only thing I did was take it home and cut the tips off the
exhaust at an angle.”He gestured
with his hands.“The thing was
just too damned quiet.”
wanted to tell him a bit about my GS, and talk about places he may have been
that we might have in common but wasn’t afforded the opportunity.
rode that thing for ten years.Went coast to coast twice and up into Canada.Rode the thing to work most days.Even parked it inside my office when it was raining
out.What could they say?I was the boss.Then I got married.”
keep wantin’ to get back on one, but the wife says I’m too old.”
know,” he continued. “I’m an engineer, so I know stuff.”
Photo Credit: BMW PressClub
that R-50 is the best piece of transportation ever to see the sunny side of a
sheet of paper.Car, truck or
anything else.Pretty good
looking.Comfortable.You could ride the thing all day.Driveshaft?Durable!Man!You couldn’t bust one
if you tried.Easy to work on…”
piece of transportation ever?” I asked.“Even better than a space shuttle?”
“Yep.Far better’n a space shuttle.”
He was reminding me that he’d
designed rocket engines when a chipper voice on the loudspeaker announced that
my Civic was done.The old
engineer’s face fell just a bit as I got up to leave.
patted him on his shoulder as I passed by thanking him for the chat.
ride careful,” he said.
I regretted that my car’s brake job was finished up quite so soon.