Friday, September 3, 2004

Bad Mo'sickle, part two: Tweakin' On Liberty

Joe watched the limo until it was out of sight. He went inside the shop and poured himself another cup of coffee. It had boiled down a little and was thick as gravy. Good, he thought, I'm gonna need it strong. He drained the cup in two big gulps and went to work.

He rolled the ratty-looking machine onto the wash rack, and noticed his hands were already greasy just from touching the grips. He stuffed a shop rag into the now open exhaust port. Knowing what soon might be likely, he slid a baker's sheet pan under the bike. He set his Gunk can near the bike. He used the old style Gunk, mixed with kerosene, and had a jet permanently attached. He hooked up the air hose and adjusted it to a gentle spray, knowing the bike wouldn't take a full-pressure blast. He sprayed Gunk onto the bike, being sure to get it into every nook and crannie, some he couldn't even see for all the grease and dirt build-up. He took a stiff brush and brushed as much of the motorcycle as the brush would reach. He uncoiled a hose from a wall rack. "Showtime," he thought and began to wash off the Gunk and, hopefully some of the grime. As the grunge began to slough off, he could hear the faint 'tink' of metal bits hitting the baking sheet. "Glad I put that there," he thought, "wouldn't do to have to fish all those pieces out of the drain. Might need some of 'em."

The bike looked a lot better, but not shiny new. Pretty beat up, in fact. Joe took the boxes out of the saddlebags and took them inside. While the bike dried in the sunlight, he began laying out the parts to see what he had to do.

There were exhaust pipes. There was a primary cover, a timing cover, transmission, oil tank and battery covers, rocker covers, mostly the kind that slipped over the actual parts instead of replacing them, the kind used to cover up dents and dings. "Cheap shit," Joe thought. "For a guy with so much moolah, he's sure a tightwad." There was a new front brake lever with leather rawhide streamers and many pieces of trim, all brand new and gleaming. And cheap. They were the cheapest kind of chrome plating, nickel-strike. They would look fine for a little while, then tarnish and finally rust. Joe looked at the boxes. Just as he had suspected, every last piece was from places on the other side of the Pacific rim.

With one exception. In a small box, with a Made in America label, was a new camshaft set. Joe held the cams in his hand and looked at them. "Wow! Way radical. I ain't puttin' these things in. Probably wouldn't even fit. That'd be the end of whatever's left of the mill, that's fer sure." He put the cams back in their box and put it back in the saddlebag.

Joe rolled the bike in and up on the lift. It was very wobbly. "Damn, the mung and drool were holding this thing together," he thought. He gathered all the bits from the baking sheet, with a magnet because the grunge was two inches deep. He sifted the rest for aluminum and found some. There were also some beer bottle caps and two empty condom wrappers. There was a small, empty vial. These, Joe set aside.

Planning ahead, Joe dumped a large coffee can full of used hardware onto a shop rag and got after the job. He
replaced the pipes. They were a copy of the famous "Chattanooga Rattlers", straight-through and guaranteed you couldn't sneak up on anything from five miles away on a clear night. He put on all the chromed tin. He replaced the hand levers , and put a used brake cable to replace the badly frayed one. "Whew!" Joe thought, "about one more pull on that, it'd be Katy-bar-the-door!" Every last piece required something besides remove and replace to get it to stay on. He used many, many used nuts, bolts, clamps, and other fasteners. The old motorcycle fairly gleamed when he was through. There were a lot less bungee cords.

"Not bad," he thought, "not bad at all." He pondered the old sled, and the work he had done, and let out an audible sigh. "Man, all that work, and it's still just puttin' lipstick on a pig. I gotta do some more for it. Li'l ol' Georgie don't deserve it, but this poor ol' scooter sure does. I guess I just volunteered myself. Thought I got over that in the Navy. Oh, well, maybe I can pad his bill a little. Better get goin'. I'm burnin' daylight."

Once more into the fray. He concentrated on areas that would improve performance and safety. He adjusted the valves, points, and timing. He put in spark plugs that still had some electrode. He fixed the manifold air leak and adjusted the carburetor. He charged the battery cleaned the terminals, and replaced some connectors. He replaced the tires with some less worn out ones, and the rusty old rubber band of a chain with a better used one, knowing the hooked sprocket teeth would grind it to dust in a few hundred miles. He aligned the wheels . He adjusted the clutch and brakes. He drained the oatmeal-weight motor oil and replaced it with good 50 weight oil. He checked fluid levels. He lubed every pivot on the bike. He tightened up the loose stuff and loosened up the tight stuff. He checked the lights. "Well, he don't have a brake light, and the taillight's dim. No high beam, but I don't guess Georgie looks very far ahead anyway." He replaced the bulbs. He tested everything he could, and at last he was done. He rolled it off the lift and out the door. It didn't wobble now, as he had used many, many more fasteners, and there were no bungee cords left.

"Well, I had the wheels off, so I gotta ride the damn thing." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Here goes nothin'," he thought. He put on his helmet and gloves and threw his right leg over the saddle. He wondered if he should call 911 just so they'd be ready. He went through the starting procedure , turned on the key, made sure the spark was retarded, found compression with the kickstarter and wondered how many kicks it would take to start it. He gave it a measured kick, lest it slip through and hurt his knee, or kick back and hurt the other side of his knee, and it started. First kick. Just like that. Joe was dazzled. He shut it off and tried it again. Again, it fired right up and sat there idling roughly. When the cylinders felt just barely warm to his hand, he adjusted the mixture and the idle smoothed out.

The bike had a foot clutch and hand shift. He disengaged the clutch , heard the plates rattle happily, and put the transmission in gear with the tank-mounted shift lever. He fed in the gas and clutch and the bike moved off, just like it should. "Well, she seems OK. Let's see what happens."

He rode around for a half an hour. The shop was on the edge of town so he took it on some back roads. It worked fine, but it wasn't fast, and he wasn't sure of the brakes, so he took it real easy. The engine ran well, but there were some clatters and clanks and whirs, but Joe figured it to be just showing its age and lack of care. "Boy, they made 'em to last in the old days. Never figured on cold-hearted guys like Georgie, I bet." He rode it around for a while to test roadholding and steering until he was satisfied that it would go where it was pointed. He enjoyed the ride a lot more than he had thought he would. He rode back to the shop and shut it down. "Didn't figure that old ride would be that much fun," he thought and dismounted. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he something on the bike, a smile maybe, but when he turned to see, it was gone. As an afterthought, he gave the gas tank a pat. In the center of his brain, he heard a faint, grateful, "thanks, buddy."

"Well, it's up to Georgie now. Tomorrow's soon enough."

Joe locked up his shop and went home.

End of Part Two


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