Here’s Kate knitting in the sidecar this weekend. Holy cow, did I feel like a god-damned hipster.
My good friend and ex-colleague Kieran Downes drove all the way down from Boston to visit us last weekend, which delighted all members of the family. Kieran had just completed motorcycle safety school, and so we got a chance to go for a couple of motorcycle rides [save file and open in GEarth]. Kieran rode Kate’s Honda CB360T, which is a great bike but kind of cantankerous. Like a skittish pony, it has to be driven firmly and at high RPMs, which is not the “ol’ paint” experience a beginner wants. But Kieran did great, and (despite the lessons taught to us by years of television) did not go zooming off on his very first ride, up off a tilted flatbed ramp and into a truck full of chickens. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Kieran also distinguished himself by bringing homemade chocolate chip cookie dough, which he baked during the Guerilla Drive-In showing of “The Great Escape” on Saturday night, and passed out precisely at the time when Steve McQueen, James Garner, and the other guy give out the moonshine on the fourth of July. Which was pretty damn awesome, with no risk of gin blindness.
The AM Transmitter worked better than I had hoped: we managed to broadcast reasonably clear — and loud — audio through seven or eight radios scattered around the yard, and the surround sound really upped the ante. All we need now is some kind of gas-powered popcorn machine and a way to mount the whole shebang in the sidecar, and we’ll be 100% in business.
Kate has been enjoying the sidecar, and this weekend we’re gonna go buy a new helmet for her. Motorcycle helmets sitting in the garage either develop a kind of pervasive mustiness, or (as is the case with my old Shoei), a sort of Pungent Fratboy Baseball Hat, about which the less said the better. So: new stylish helmets all around!
I’m in the (happy) predicament of having waaay too much going on to be able to come up with anything but a train-wreck of a blog post. Also, I’m going to brag a lot, I should warn you in advance. Okay, here goes:
SIDECAR FINALLY MOUNTED BY COMBAT-BOOT STEALTH-BIKE ELVES
My brother Sam and his friend Luke arrived at my dad’s house across the street last week. They drove a white Ford F350 diesel truck with a black “RIP Democracy” ribbon on the back, and unloaded a couple of sport bikes with all the engine badging masked (this kind of “stealth bike” treatment is a dangerous sign that the rider does not ride to be seen, but Means Business. If the monks of the Shaolin temple rode motorcycles, they would likely ride stealthed Ducatis, or Yamahas with panniers made from ammo cans.)
I mentioned that I was having some trouble mounting my sidecar, and how I was contemplating the construction of a rig to align the toe-in, lean-out, and axle lead. I said this as bait, I admit it. Sam works as a fabricator and a welder; Luke operates a CNC plasma cutter operator, which basically means he uses computers to cut metal with lasers. For fun, they fabricate mountain bikes from scratch. They got in my garage, and my sidecar raised the white flag immediately. Faced with this intimidating array of expertise, recalcitrant clevis bolts meekly submitted to their fate, and castle nuts that I’d forced on in a failed first attempt with blood-slicked fingers and copious profanity spun on as if they’d been freshly cast in a clean room. I wish they’d made it look a little harder, but I’m not going to complain, as I’m suddenly the proud owner of a 1977 BMW R100/7 with a 2000 Velorex 562E sidecar outfit.
MY WIFE: KICKS ASS, TAKES NAMES, LOOKS ELEGANT
There’s plenty to say about driving a sidecar, which turns out to be a deeply… different experience, but I will skip to the important thing: I am married to a woman who can — gracefully — enter and exit a sidecar while wearing a dress and high heels. I have total confidence that if I were ever fighting with some kind of mustachioed barbarian warlord, and the warlord started to get the better of me, Kate would pop up behind him and bong him on his fur-trimmed cap with a heavy Ming vase. So all in all, I’m continually amazed at how lucky I am(!)
We drove the outfit to a high-school friend’s wedding, which was beautiful — solemn and joyful in all the right proportions. The bride arrived sitting side-saddle on a chestnut horse with roses braided into its mane, and you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that she totally got away with it. And the finger-food was really good, and we met local friends at the reception, and then we got back to pick up our girly, who had been having a great time at her grandparents’ playing in the sprinkler — Kate beat me to posting the best pictures, so here they are.
LIKE DRIVING A JUNGLE GYM
On Sunday, Bob rode his Triumph and I drove my sidecar outfit to the Father’s Day Fest at the American Helicopter Museum just a few miles away from us. The father fest is a ridiculously awesome conglomeration of all kinds of macho hardware: check out, for instance this 1927 Bugatti (driven daily!) parked next to a Boeing Bell Osprey. The last time I went in 2003, I was surprised to be waved onto the runway past the big Navy workhorse helicopters to exhibit my bike, but this time I felt like I belonged in the exhibitor line: I crossed out the “don’t” in the “don’t touch” sign they gave me, and a stream of kids climbed in and out of the hack all afternoon. “Look, a sidecar! (Climb.)” Kate and Lydia met us there, and we had a great time wandering around looking at all the helicopters. (“Look, a helicopter! Climb.)
Lydia took to the sidecar like a fish to water, though it’ll be years before I feel ready to actually drive safely with her in it (and before there’s a helmet made to fit her,) so for right now it’s just an interestingly-shaped playpen.
Whoo, damn! Blog backlog pressure back down below 100psi again, now.
Update: I did not brag about the cat, who pooped on the carpet this morning. The cat does not get filed under “seriously awesome” this week. I suspect that this is because my litter-cleaning skills are not “seriously awesome” either, so I am on my way home right now to get some fresh litter and awesome up the cat.
Update 2: Also, the compost workshop we went to on Saturday morning was not “seriously awesome” either. Though we do have a black compost container out back, now, subsidized by the State of Pennsylvania, and I’m looking forward to going out there and putting the first bucket of Seriously Awesome lettuce or whatever in it.
At long, long last, my Velorex 562 sidecar arrived on the curb, in a Volpe Express truck driven by a kindly fellow named Bob. The box was intriguingly mysterious: seven feet long, six feet wide, brown cardboard covered in shrink wrap and weighing three hundred pounds. It sat on the curb in a maddeningly intriguing way: “TO: John Young. Hold at Philadelphia docks.” Kate suggested that we put a “DANGER: BENGAL TIGER” sign on it, which is the best idea I’d heard all year, but then Bob was able to give me a hand dragging it around to the garage pretty much right away, so the lives of the neighborhood kids will just have to wait to be enriched in that particular way.
Lydia is cutting four teeth simultaneously, and she’s got a rash from her MMR shot last week, poor girl, and is much crankier than usual. “Do you want to go up?” “No, no no!” “Do you want to get down?” “No, no, no!” In conjunction with her new Multi-Purpose Preemptive Attention-Getting Shriek (a technique developed recently, and undergoing extensive market testing), Kate’s job is… difficult, right now. I swear to god, Gloria Steinem was right — if it was considered a traditional men’s job to raise kids, it’d be a two hundred thousand dollar a year job, and would require fifteen years of specialized training. And there would be three shifts, plus dental, and awards would be given out, and there would be carbon-fiber strollers and golf trips to the Bahamas for top performers: “Yeah, I totally potty-trained that sucker. Boo-yah! The red jacket is for closers! …Juice box?”
…A couple more things to keep in mind. If you are going get the car out of
> the crate before taking it home, take a sharp utility knife for the pallet
> wrap and cardboard. You’ll also need a pair of dykes to cut the cable ties
>on the tie downs.
My fellow BMW Airhead rider Larry in Bend, Oregon, has made final plans for shipping the Velorex sidecar. It’ll be arriving via USF Holland to an intriguingly blank area of Google Maps down by the docks in Philadelphia. If this were Grand Theft Auto 3, you would know to bring a bazooka when traveling down there. As it is, I’ll just wear a knee brace and an Australian scowl. Assuming I can learn an Australian scowl by next Monday.
This AWESOME-looking Velorex 562 sidecar soon will be mine (assuming all goes as well as it has so far.) I’m buying it from an incredibly nice, extraordinarily careful fellow named Larry in Bend, Oregon.
Oh, man, I’m excited.