Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

Hercules Down
Sept 15, 1988

Capt Byron Tinsell, USAF (Pilot)
1LT Rich (Smarty) Pantz, USAF (Co-Pilot)
TSgt Stacey Thomsson, USAF (Loadmaster)
SSgt Doug Markham, US Army (Operator)
Cpl Cecil Washington, US Army (Operator) Jan, 1990

Someday I'll write this story.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Healing Hester Update Part 3

There are few words to describe the level of frustration I’ve felt throughout this ordeal.  I suppose I should just be happy that I have a fixable option and that I’m physically able to exercise it.  I’ve stated repeatedly that I know how fortunate I am, but despite rumors to the contrary, I’m human and at my age, easily frustrated.

Despite dealing with delays and finding parts, the old girl is coming along.  I had new tires mounted and actually cleaned the front wheel.  I have to confess that the rear wheel is as dirty as it was the day of the accident.  Nobody can see it and the bearings are in great shape.  I would love to do a chrome exchange, and brighten up the front end a bit, but I’ve decided to stick to the approach I took when I first bought Hester and focus on comfort over cool.  Just having a Harley is cool enough and I have two, one of which is the coolest Harley made; the Road Glide.

The chrome front fork sliders are back on with Progressive Monotubes inside and topped off with edge cut cowbells just under the fairing.  I mounted the rear wheel and with little else to do until a reassemble, started cleaning those hard to reach spots along the frame and engine.  Despite getting dirty and losing and finding tools, nuts, and bolts, I kinda like doing this stuff.  I enjoy the sense of accomplishment I get from doing it myself.  I’ve always done my own oil and standard preventive maintenance, but there’s something about stripping a bike down to the frame, reassembling, and then successfully firing up the motor and riding her again that I find especially satisfying.  Granted, I’m a long way from that level of satisfaction, but I can see a light at the end of the tunnel and I’m pretty sure it’s not an approaching train.

I dropped off all of Hester’s body parts except one at a painter last week.  I’m sticking to the same Scarlett Red paint scheme, but am adding a pearlescent cover coat to give her a special glow in the sunlight.  She’ll be one of a kind when I’m done.  The painter was referred by a Road Glide Forum friend who works at a local independent shop.  I didn’t know this painter from Adam, but when I saw his work at the paint facility in his home, I was impressed.  He’s a real artist.  Hester must be a boring job for him.

The one part I didn’t drop off is the one I need painted first; yet another degree of frustration.  I’ve been seeking an inner fairing for weeks now.  The inner fairing is where the gauges are mounted, it’s the dash, if you will.  I stated above that where Hester is concerned, I’ve focused on comfort (gel padded seat, plush suspension, easy reach handlebars) over cool (chrome, custom airbrushed paint, spikes).  Another element that falls under the auspices of comfort is sound.  I suppose that could fall under the cool category for some, but since it can't be seen and essentially no one else reaps the benefit of it, sound and entertainment is comfort to me.  On the Harley Road Glide, the stereo speakers are mounted under the inner fairing in a small space that leads me to believe that sound was an afterthought to the Harley-Davidson designers.  I decided that since I had to replace the cracked up inner fairing, I might as well look for one that could accommodate more or better speakers.  I had no idea what a pain in the ass that would be.  Harley changed the Road Glide in 2015 and in doing so, created a totally new front end.  This would be of little consequence to me except for the fact that aftermarket manufacturers pretty much quit making cool parts for the "old" Road Glide, choosing to focus on the newer models.  I actually found exactly what I wanted at a terrific price and ordered it, only to be disappointed with the absolute lack of quality.  This thing was crap with surface blemishes, cracks, and misshaped holes for the speakers.  The seller made good on the deal and I wasn't charged for the part. It's boxed and sitting in my garage and I'm still waiting on a prepaid return label.  I'm not paying to ship a three cubic foot box to California.

I found another fairing with different speaker arrangement and ordered it.  After a week, I still had not received any shipping/tracking data from the seller, which was uncommon with all the recent parts I've purchased.  I pestered the seller and learned that they didn't have the part to ship because they didn't stock the part.  Like most custom shops, they just have parts drop shipped from the manufacturer.  I made a few calls and learned that the manufacturer had discontinued this part a year ago and had none in stock.  This was the last piece I needed to get parts out to paint and then reassemble afterward, and yet I was once again at a dead end.  The shop worked with me and scoured the builder world to help me find what I needed.  As of this writing, the fairing is supposed to be on its way directly to my painter.  What sucks is this is the key part to Hester's recovery and with the inner fairing installed, I can reconnect the gauges, the stereo, and the ganglia of wires and then start the bike to reassure myself that I got it all right.  The idea was to accomplish this step and let the painter finish the other body parts while I'm on my Outback trip.  There is a LOT that can go wrong and getting past this key step would go a long way to giving me peace of mind while I'm gone.

I leave two weeks from today.  It's not looking good.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Healing Hester Part 2 - Stripped to the Bone

Hawthorne's literary character reputation aside, Hester is my kinda woman.  She's a little heavy with curves and plenty of sass.  So when I look at her now, propped up in my garage on two separate hydraulic lifts with all body parts, the front end, and both wheels removed, she looks pitiful and quite frankly, completely unappealing.  I sometimes refer to skinny women as emaciated sacks of antlers and right now, Hester falls into that category.  She will be better when I'm finished and just like Colonel Steve Austin, she will be stronger, faster, and more beautiful than ever.  Actually, she won't be faster than she was, but she'll be fast enough for me. 

Since I need new tires, I went ahead and removed the wheels.  Actually, I had already dropped the front wheel to get the mangled fender off and that wasn't too complex.  The rear wheel is a different story.  What a pain in the ass!  I've dropped front and rear wheels and changed inner tubes on dirt bikes in the middle of races and still contended.  It's a whole different story on a touring Harley rear wheel.  Patience and the service manual were my friends and lets just say I had no trouble locating my service manual.  With the wheels off, I decided to clean them up.  The rear wheel on a touring Harley is completely covered by the fender and saddle bags.  One has to make a real effort to see them by crouching down and purposefully looking under the saddle bag.  I mention this a part of me would love to upgrade my wheels and I considered doing a chrome exchange for the front wheel.  A chrome exchange is essentially sending in your stock wheel to one of many vendors and in return, receiving a chromed version of the same model.  Your stock wheel eventually becomes somebody else's chrome wheel and so on.  The rear wheel is essentially invisible except when viewed from directly behind the bike and all you see from that angle is rubber.  Given that fact, I can't fathom why people spend money on the rear wheel.  It's not just the wheel.  The drive pulley and disk brake rotor have to match.  One can easily spend $2,000 on a fancy rear wheel that no one will ever see.  Still, I have riding friends who I respect and admire who wouldn't dream of having unmatched wheels.  But I digress.  I'm on a financial budget, so I just cleaned and polished the front wheel.  I'm on a time budget too, so I didn't even bother to clean the rear wheel. 

Lots of parts arrived during the week and I spent time inventorying, inspecting, marking outstanding items off my to-be-received list, and in many cases, leaving favorable feedback on eBay.  Everything I’ve received thus far has met or exceeded my expectations.  Everything except for one part.  Hester’s fairing is a two-piece assembly. The outer shell houses the headlights and provides the mounting surface for the windscreen.  The inner fairing (think of it as a dashboard that faces the rider) houses all the gauges, the radio, and speakers bolts to the frame and is hell together with the outer fairing by six screws.  It’s somewhat of a delicate balance that when properly achieved, provides a solid and stable platform as well as a modern looking streamlined sharknose.  As previously mentioned, the outer fairing was donated by my fellow sharknose rider and friend, Dave from Florida.  I wanted something a little different for the inner fairing and canvased the Internet looking for sources.  I found several, but can afford few.  The model I decided on met my budget and offered the speaker options wanted and I was stoked when it arrived.  Then I got a close look at it.  Sparring the details, it was crap with numerous blemishes, cracks, and basic molding flaws that I don’t have the bodyworking skills to mitigate.  The seller and I reached an agreement and I’m getting a PayPal refund.  So now I’m on the hunt for another one that won’t break the bank.  I’m choosing between two, both of which cost more than I want to spend, but at least when I’m done, Hester will be unique.  Once that part arrives, I’ll have everything I need to take to paint.

After painting, reassembly commences.  Assuming I can focus on the tasks at hand and am fortunate to not run into any surprises, I could reassemble the entire bike in a weekend.  Those who know me well know that I am rarely that fortunate and that my focus is typically a bit fuzzy.  There will undoubtedly be surprises; I just hope they’re not costly.  Truth be told, I’m in no hurry.  I have the month of May to reassemble and I’ll be down in Oz through most of the month of June.  This leaves July for me to ensure Hester is not only ridable, but reliable and long trip road worthy…before the first weekend in August.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Healing Hester Part 1 - A Piece of My Heart & a Big Pile of Parts

Battered & Bruised, But Not Beat!

Last weekend, I started the Healing Hester process by disassembling the bike.  I needed not just to remove the smashed parts for replacement, but to get a deeper look inside to ascertain the extent of the damage.  It was truly depressing.  As a boy, I was notorious for my ability to reduce anything to a pile of its smallest of components in no time and while I'm still into the geek aspect of tearing things apart, metaphorically speaking, this was like a coroner performing an autopsy on a family member. 

Radio Ouch!
I started at the front and worked my way backward.  I've disassembled Hester's front end body parts before when I had my inner fairing/console painted, but I've never gone in this deep.  The fairing removal was easier than before, probably because so much of it was cracked and pretty much fell off when I tugged on it; much like how perfectly cooked rib meat falls off the bone.  Of course, reinstalling will require considerably more effort.  The entire inner and outer fairing assembly is shot and the MadStad windscreen that was attached to the top of it, was never found at the accident site.  Once the outer fairing was off, I focused on disconnecting and removing the ganglia of connectors and cables that comprised the core of Hester's nervous system.  The outer fairing protects the gauges, radio, lights, and all the interconnections between them.  One thing I remember from the first time I removed it was that space is very tight in there and that everything has to go back exactly where it was before.  I took lots of pictures to serve as reminders when reassembly commences.

Removable Frame Extension
I must have hit the ground pretty hard because the metal frame that houses the stereo, the stereo itself, and a piece of the frame were all severely bent.  Fortunately, all are removable and plenty of each are available on line.  The Road Glide is a favorite of exotic builders and as such, is one of the most customized and tricked out bikes on the road.  Those builders often sell the take-offs - the parts removed to make room for their creations - on eBay and Amazon.  Needless to say, my list was growing and big brown trucks would be cruising my street regularly very soon.

Fenders New & Old
I removed the front wheel to make room to get the front fender off.  The fender was so mangled, it would have slid right out without dropping the wheel, but the replacement would not have gone back in so easily, so off with the wheel.  This would give me an opportunity to clean it and replace the well worn tire.  With the front suspension so exposed, I figured this was a good time to exchange the mangled lower fork sliders with a chrome pair and since that required the forks to be disassembled, I might as well replace the stock open bath damping suspension with a set of gas charged Monotube dampers.  Harley stock suspension sucks and given the amount of time I spend in the saddle on my long trips, it only makes sense to perform this upgrade now while the parts are disassembled.  I replaced the rear shocks with Ohlins a few years ago.  Those, combined with the upgraded front end and the memory foam/gel pad seat modification I installed years ago ought to make Hester as comfy as she will be cool.

Moving to the rear of the bike, I started removing the lower wind guards from the crash bar.  Props to Harley designers because the crash bar took a hard hit and literally saved my ass from being squashed under the 800-pound motorcycle upon impact.  The crash bar also saved the lower wind guards from being crushed.  The left side was scratched, but is salvageable and can be painted.

Hester - Naked, But Not Afraid
Next, I removed the gas tank and rear fender assembly, leaving Hester looking like an emaciated and naked German concentration camp prisoner.  All that's left of her right now is a black and dirt colored frame, rear wheel and chrome handlebars.  At least now I can get in and clean/polish those hard to reach spots before I reassemble my girl.

The right saddle bag and gas tank console are serviceable but will require paint, so I disassembled them as well as the replacement tour pack I had bought online and placed them in the "to paint" pile along with the body parts that were not damaged.  My Shark Week friend Tom graciously gave me a front fender that had taking up space, removed from a touring Harley he previously owned.  Another Shark riding friend David gave me a left saddle bag and an outer fairing.  Those parts will be in the pile with the other pieces to be painted soon.  Their generosity is another example of the camaraderie and caliber of people I've had the honor to meet and ride with.  I am fortunate and super grateful for friends like these.
New Parts
As usual, I traveled this week for work and since I performed the above-described work last week and as such, I came home to a pile of boxes full of parts I had ordered.  I would be a liar if I said I wasn't a bit excited to see all the goodies.  That excitement is tempered by the fact that all these boxes were paid for out of my own pocket and I'm convinced there will be more to come as I begin the reassembly process.  Throughout this ordeal, I've been as frugal as possible without compromising safety, but I am taking advantage of the opportunity to replace and upgrade some other parts that weren't damaged in the accident, but that I know will need attention soon.  Both of my tires are worn bigtime.  I got over 18,000 miles on the rear tire, which is remarkable on a Harley.  While the wheels are off, I'll install new bearings as the ones in the wheels now are the originals and have been through the worst imaginable terrain and weather in the six years I've had the bike.

Bound For the Island of Misfit Parts
So now I have three piles of parts; pieces to be painted, pieces to be installed, and pieces to be trashed.  As I stare at the piles, I'm torn between a sense of accomplishment over my progress thus far and sense of sadness over the fact that this is all happening in the first place.  I know Hester will look and ride great when I'm finished, but I've yet to shake the constant replaying of the crash in my mind and wondering what more I could have done to prevent it.  I'm not one to dwell on the past.  It's time to look forward and make Hester 2.0 better than ever.  I have a private goal in mind that I'll disclose later, whether or not I achieve it.