Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
Pure Triumph is an enthusiast's store, a place staffed by grizzled men with funny accents, tattoos and an obvious history for the past glories of the Triumph marque. I feel a bit of a fraud because I have no history with the past glories of Triumph, and I want nothing to do with opening up the exhaust or squeezing a few more horsepower out of my 865cc parallel twin. I rejoice in the relaxed state of tune that gets me to 90mph before I know it.
I have come to the store for the "first service" an oil and spark plug change and a general check of my machine. I've also ordered the Triumph fabric saddlebags ($250), to give me somewhere to carry my crap while I'm out and about. Over time I've found a lockable top case and fabric panniers give me a good combination of storage without overwhelming my motorcycle with bulk. Large hard panniers are wonderful things but they tend to make the motorcycle cumbersome. I need storage for my waterproofs, my tire pressure gauge, my sunscreen, a couple of extra bungees and a rag or two. I'm going to work, not Patagonia. The other bag gives me room to add stuff along the way, like groceries, and while I'm at the movies i can lock my helmet in the top case.
While the Trumpet is in the lift in the well appointed service area, I sprawl on a leather couch, turn off the TV and peruse the motorcycle magazines piled by the coffee machine. Michael, the parts guy is chatty, and we talk about motorcycles- he actually owns and rides a Triumph Daytona, a whizz-bang crotch rocket with a smaller engine than my "classic" but with almost twice the horsepower (and its a few pounds lighter to boot). On the subject of boots I decide to buy a pair of reinforced motorcycle boots with ankle protection. That's another $145 on my bill, but I know my wife, who doesn't nag, likes me to be responsible, and take care of myself. if she's got peace of mind while I'm riding I'm happy.The motorcycles on display are always worth checking out too. A used T100 ( a heavily chromed edition of my Bonneville), lovely in red and black is still on the floor, on consignment from an owner who is asking $6500- not worth it to me when I got my own for $1200 more. Apparently not worth it to someone else either who bought a new T100 and added slim leather saddlebags and a Triumph windshield as extras. There are several cruisers on the floor too, Rocket Threes, 2300cc's of conspicuous excess, as well as the feet forward Bonneville Americas and Speedmasters, clever variants on the Bonneville twin cylinder engines. The Scrambler is gone, sold presumably despite it's gruesome pea green paint job.
Then its time to go, almost before I'm ready, full of water and motorcycle articles, an imprint of my bottom firmly planted on the leather couch. My Bonneville is becoming my own vision of this classic thoroughbred- bags in place, exhausts firmly muffled and a can of weatherproofing spray in the newly attached saddlebag.They come with a plastic "water resistant" cover in its own pouch, but I'd rather make the fabric as weatherproof as I can because I'm reluctant to add to my woes when it starts raining, by fumbling around with a motorcycle pannier condom. The weather looks threatening as I pull out of the Pure Triumph lot and faced with a 170 mile trip home I'm determined to make the most of it, come what may. I'm on the mainland and I want to ride.
The freeway out of of Fort Lauderdale is a long sweeper of a modern highway, rolling artificial hills surrounded by the developer's dream of endless tract homes, large malls (mauls) inadequate water supplies and the sole attraction of "convenience." It takes twenty miles of 6 lane highway to break free of the mess, and by that time the waterlogged Everglades are lining the roadway. Naples ahead, Miami to the south and Highway 27 crossing the freeway shambles, marked on the horizon only by a long line of power poles. The junction off Interstate 75 shows South Bay to the North and Homestead to the south, a minor paradox explained by the location of South Bay, which is a depressed farming community is on the south shore of Lake Okeechobee.
Highway 27 lives in my memory as a wide sweeping highway with more vertical dips than horizontal curves passing cane fields, orange orchards and small towns loosing their economies but gaining snowbirds all the time. Coastal Florida has priced itself out of many people's range but inland Florida has acres available for development, and affordable too. Highway 27 offers a four lane drive-by for all of it. This far south its path clips the Everglades and I find myself far from the crowded downtown streets of coastal Florida. The clouds are clearing and the sun shines down on grasslands, miles and miles of watery grass.
Krome Avenue breaks off to the right in a sweeping curve and takes off in two lanes towards Homestead. This is farm country, lots of actual Mexican field workers, nurseries, trucks, tractors, pick ups, mud and vegetables. Long straightaways interrupted by traffic lights and cross streets, but the Bonneville is a point and shoot kind of motorcycle, almost all in fifth gear, picking off bored motorists one at a time, sneaking past 18-wheelers at the front of long lines of 30mph traffic. Krome is deadly in a car, its a challenge and very rewarding on a motorcycle.
And then Homestead, tidy, quiet and agricultural, it reminds of nowhere so much as Mexican California, perhaps Watsonville in rural Santa Cruz County. And then there's lunch, a late lunch but worth the wait, the best Mexican in south Florida. And so home, tired, to bed.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Speeding is tricky when its dark because a set of headlights catching up with you from behind can either indicate someone in a hurry or a deputy anxiously closing the distance to initiate a traffic stop. My tactic when i see a pair of headlights fast approaching in my mirrors is to slow down to the speed limit plus 5 (5mph over the limit garners you only a written warning, the maximum penalty by State Law) and wait and see. Often its just another speeder who flashes by as I dawdle along, but not always. Its the same when I spot a pair of side lights glowing on the Highway's shoulder. Sometimes its just a bridge fisherman organizing his pre-dawn hobby in the trunk of his car. Other times its a Highway Patrol officer operating a laser radar gun. One zap and you're fined.
As the dawn comes up its a reminder of why living in the Keys is so special. Dawn anywhere is a wondrous thing, especially as one grows older with the increased awareness of the finite number of dawns left to to enjoy, but this year's heavy rainy season has produced spectacular light displays at dawn and dusk. The view from the top of the 70-foot Long Key Bridge, called for some reason Channel Five, opens up the full array of pinks and purples and grays hidden in the shifting cloud layers, spreads them across the gunmetal ocean surface and reflects streaks of orange between the cloud layers, like a portraits of the second coming in Renaissance art. The Bonneville, a triumph of modern craftsmanship, purrs along steadily, sweeping through the curves, wide open to 70 mph in the 55mph constriction of the two lane highway. Checking for cream and black FHP cars is prosaic but so necessary, even while god's handiwork is on show, the rising sun an irresistible distraction from the necessary preservation of one's driving privilege.
The drive to Pure Triumph of Fort Lauderdale for the motorcycle's first service is a 165 mile mixture of all the types of roads one can take in the flat lands of South Florida. After the waterborne curves of the Overseas Highway we slip off to the right (keep going straight, really) at Mile Marker 106 and take Card Sound Road, a wooded series of humps, dips and sweeping curves that has a nominal 55mph speed limit. 80 mph is entirely feasible on the smooth (no trucks!) surface of this back road alternative to the construction zone that is the 18 mile stretch of Highway One, the more familiar entrance to the Keys. There's a one dollar toll at the card Sound Bridge where Monroe County meets Dade County, and the toll booth is an excellent deterrent to the mass of tourists who take their lives into their own hands on The Stretch, source of many bad accidents owing to its lack of passing spaces.
After card Sound Road rejoins Highway One at Florida City the Bonneville needs gas, I'm 105 miles from home with 60 to go and I'd rather stop and get gas here than find a pump in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Florida city is a strip mall of junk food and gas stations, a Holiday Inn and some no name brand flea pits and a "Last Chance Saloon"- the last cold beer for 18 miles! Whoo, who can ride the Stretch without one last mainland beer for dutch courage?
From Florida City its the terminus of the Turnpike with four one dollar tolls to exit 55, Downtown Fort Lauderdale. I pause to suit up when I see a thick black rain cloud dumping on the roadway up ahead. By the time I get there swathed in nylon the raincloud has moved off to the Everglades to the west, and only a thick sheen of water lies on the road to assure me the rain wasn't in my imagination. The turnpike is a mass of cars jockeying for position through western Miami, and the Bonneville is starting to loosen up so I'm running 70 to 80mph and I'm starting to feel the need for a windshield. I hope my Parabellum gets here soon, this is tiring. I arrive at the shop at 9:45am, giving me 15 minutes to read the latest edition of Vanity Fair, sitting on the sidewalk, like my youthful alter ego of years ago, traveling by motorbike, scruffy and dusty.
This motorcycle makes me feel young again in so many unexpected ways!
Friday, October 19, 2007
Now the city faces a tight budgetary future and we seem likely to find ourselves being led by a man who couldn't govern the city successfully when the coffers were full. Oh dear.
Bye bye my Vespa?
What you see here is a barge waiting to offload its cargo on the ritzy development of Sunset Key. In a few weeks snowbirds will be returning to their multi-million dollar homes on the exclusive island just offshore of the city, and they will want to see nice clean sand all around. After all thats what one expects in the tropics, coconuts and sand... so the tug in the photo is hauling sand to Key West from the Bahamas where the resource is abundant. God alone knows how much they spend on this pointless operation, but in the rocky keys where sand doesn't come naturally,its worth remembering we are still part of the USA. And in the USA if there's something you want but don't have, just throw enough money at the "problem" and it will go away, as if by magic.
A fool and his money are soon parted.
Legal Rider.I have been nagging Diggy for some time to get himself organized and finally he did it. It was a sneaky trick on my part, but I lured him out of Key West on a pretext (lunch) and he bit, so to speak. In addition to an al fresco fish sandwich Diggy got dragged by me to the DMV office where, before he knew it he was sitting down to take the motorcycle endorsement test. Not a minute too soon because in 2008 the State of Florida is finally implementing a 4 hour classroom requirement for new motorcyclists. It'll cost $200 but its worthwhile if it helps educate juvenile delinquents to stay intact on a motorcycle. "I was kind of worried about taking it," he confessed later to me. That was all part of my dastardly plan. Being a Conch, Diggy would rather lose a leg than lose face, and his biggest fear about taking the test was being seen to fail.
"Watch," he said, "I'm gonna go in, fail and there'll be someone I know watching me." As a prognosticator Diggy sucks, because he passed and there was no one there to see him do it. Except me, and I think I was only forgiven for ambushing him thanks to the excellent lunch that preceded the testing ambush. His biggest problem was hiding how pleased he was that he passed. He rode home like a man with nothing to hide.