Monday, September 21, 2009


Yesterday a year ago Silver slid into and I under the guard rail on the road to Bernau from Präg after a blue Peugeot or Golf or whatever it was came at us in our lane.
Reason enough to quit procrastinating and start work on getting the old machine in working condition again.
It's been sitting in the basement looking like this for far too long, gathering dust and spider webs as the Hyosung, the Rieju 50 and various bits of Husky took turns on the table beside it.

Löchen and I started by cleaning up, and then got to work, draining the oil and lube, detaching the oil cooler (filled with mud and probably no longer leakproof) removing the inspection covers, the whole crank case cover and all three gaskets. It looks like a tractor inside.
We refinished the clutch inspection cover and cleaned everything. We had to cut a new screw thread, M8 instead of 5/16. Florian found the appropriate screw but had to shorten it.
Now the shifter will hold. For a while. And if it doesn't anymore we'll stick it a bit farther forward.
Next to be done is putting in new gaskets and remounting all the covers, assembling the shifter, refilling the lube and oil and reattaching the oil cooler.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

New route

If the weather forced us to cancel our long-anticipated Dolomite tour, I was at least going to make use of the bit of sunshine that showed itself this week. At midday I said goodbye to office and annoying telephone and met Susanne at the Motoria at 1300 hours. She'd just had her rear tire changed; she programmed her GPS and off we went.
We'd vaguely planned to reach the usual passes over the Brünig, but after spontaneously deciding to drive over the Steihuserberg by Wolhusen we ended up on the Glaubenberg and the tour from there led me on roads I'd never before driven.

Cow and Beastie on the Glaubenberg.

Speedy and Beast on the gravel parking lot of the little eatery on top of the Glaubenberg. Nothing but sunshine.

A pretty little forest road on the way to the Sörenberg.

On the Sörenberg panorama road...

...with the panorama.

We stopped by the motorcycle meeting spot on the Schallenberg, where a BMW dealer had a couple of his two-wheeled butlers available for test drives. From there we bypassed Thun, drove along Lake Brienz, over the Brünig and reached the autobahn after dark. It took us home.
We parted ways in Cham, and to finish the day I drove the familiar Albis.
Switzerland has plenty of pretty little corners that I've no knowledge of. I'll definitely drive yesterday's route again, though maybe this time crossing the Glaubenberg from the other side.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Over 10 mountains

I've had this bike for exactly one month, as of today. (Has it already been a month? Only a month? How time does fly.) And together we've covered 6000 kilometers. Six thou-sand. In four weeks. I didn't do that much in the four weeks around our Sardinia trip.
On Saturday morning I got home from a babysitting job around 0130 hours; it was 8 a.m. before I finally woke up and rolled out of bed. That gave me half an hour to wash up, make up, don jewelry and leathers and hit the road for Basel.
At the Café Sommer I met Roger and Octi; Hampi showed up soon after. Fabian was nowhere in sight, claiming he couldn't borrow his friend's Kawasaki that day. We all kinda figured that was an excuse to spend the time with his beloved instead of driving with us. It's always the same - find a woman, forget the bike and your biker buddies.
Oh well. Four is a good-sized group. We headed off, Roger in the lead, me second.
Roger had planned a day trip over ten mountains, from Frick to Grenchen. It was a comfortable tour, with dry roads, somewhat overcast but warm enough considering we were all wearing multipple layers and winter gloves. Toward the end it got a little chilly.
We drove nothing but curves and backroads. We couldn't drive very fast but it did keep one lucid and alert; I had fun. Post busses were a bit of a plague, and Roger had a very close call with a red Toyota, but we arrived at the restaurant in Grenchen hale, healthy and good and hungry, over an hour earlier than expected.
Afterwards I took the backroads home, a trip that lasted two hours.
Sunday was sunny and warm, and I made use of it with a short tour after church. I had a couple options in mind, but ended up taking the forest paths Dad had shown me te weekend I borrowed the Ulysses, driving partway up the Iberg before turning off to head down to the Muotathal. I had a little blue Citroën in front of me the whole way down, but I wasn't in an aggressive mood and didn't try to pass him anywhere. (There aren't many options anyway on that stretch.) As I viewed the scenery on the way I down I decided that as soon as I got my camera back (it's lent out to a guest at the moment) I'd make it a point to take it with me when I go driving. More pictures, fewer words. I missed a lot of good shots yesterday.
Since the Pragel is closed on the weekend I turned toward Schwyz and then Weggis. I drove along the Vierwaldstättersee, a winding road I'd never traversed before. From Küssnacht I took our usual Rigi-route back home.
There's a building site on the road between Buonas and Cham. The traffic light was red when I drove up, and standing before it were a cross machine and an orange kilo-Ninja. I noticed the tires on the cross bike; big ol' Stollenpneu with a deep profile meant for offroad; the driver was decked out in full gear. The Ninja driver was wearing flimsy jeans and tennis shoes.
My good initial impression of the crosser diminished when the light turned orange and he hit an electrostarter; the bike gave off a watered-down burbling, and I noticed the blue and white emblem on the side. For crying out loud.
I admittedly don't know much about the BMW F650 Xchallenge- can't find much on it online either - and I've never driven one, but a real crosser is going to drive Husaberg, Husky or a Jap - not, for goodness' sake, a Bimmer full of sissy help programs.
Anyway, he popped a very short power wheelie and was off. The Ninja took forever to get going, tempting me to pass him. I knew that if I did he'd just rip by my again afterwards like an idiot, so I stayed right next to his rear wheel, refusing to be provoked, until his ripped it up to the red zone and screamed away - for two hundred meters, until he had to hit the brakes because of traffic.
I followed them for a kilometer or two, hoping fervently they were heading toward the Albis too. I was gonna burn them so bad they wouldn't know what season it was.
But no go. The wusses pulled a U-ey in the road and headed back the way we'd come, away from the curves. Rats.
So I made it home with no challengers, having passed the 6000 km mark on the Beastie's odometer on our way over the Albis.
This afternoon is work-free because of Knabenschiessen in the City. I'm going to visit Polo to pick up a relais for the XR2, and then take a drive out to Appenzell. 'Bout time I visited the Schwägalp again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pipe dream

September 7, 2009 - Monday
I spent a good chunk of the weekend driving, and the Beast passed the 5000 km mark yesterday. (In three weeks! Dad gum, I don't know how we did it.) Roger organized a brunch in Auhafen at 10 a.m. yesterday, so after a church service where Florian led, I cruised on over to Basel.
With the drone of the V2, country music in one ear and a never-changing scenery on both sides of a long, straight, boring road, my mind tends to wander all over the place. Yesterday morning was no different. However, due to the fact that the antemeridian temperatures are very fresh and I was wearing a couple layers more than I'm used to, my mind was probably more active than usual, which caused it to meander around various subjects related to motorized vehicles, trip over a notion a couple times, and then poof up like a Pomeranian when the notion solidified into an actual idea.
Backtrack: Florian came home from Oregon to tell me about a gutted blue El Camino sitting near the garage where he'd worked. And suddenly my daydream of a Dodge Ram Hemi as Beastie Hauler was replaced with a vision of a classic Camino with a Buell in the back.
I asked Ted Regentin to look into it, which he very kindly did. He judged it a basket case, saying I could "spend $20,000 to have a decent $10,000 car."
I'm still interested despite that, as I told him. He's a very busy guy, though, so there's been no progress on finding a suitable Camino, let alone restoring it.
I figure on a buy price of $5000, restoration $5000 to $9000, shipping back to Switzerland $6000. Meaning maximum expenditure on this project would be twenty grand.
Except, as I considered during the hour's drive to Basel yesterday, why just have it shipped? I should make something of it.
I've been thinking about extensive motorcycle tours for quite a while now, and the easiest place to do it would be the States, since I speak the language and there'd be plenty of Harley dealers around just in case something needed fixing... Anyway, so as not to turn this into a stream of consciousness, the Pomeranian poof idea was to ship the Beastie to the East Coast, make our leisurely way across the U.S., tending to stay north, pick up the Camino in Oregon, load up the Beastie and drive back east, stopping now and again to exercise the bike, loading Beast and Beastie Hauler into a ship at a southern port and going home.
(Florian pointed out what I'd already considered; namely that buying a bike in the States would come cheaper than shipping mine over. But I don't want to do it on just any bike. I want to do it with my bike.)
I got some handy informations from this site. I'd calculate ten to twelve thousand kilometers on the Beast, since I wouldn't be taking the fastest route cross country and on the way back I'd use it on occasion too. The author had 13 days to cross from coast to coast; I'll give myself a month for each direction. As usual, I won't plan anything ahead of time, because my plans never turn out anyway. I would, however, like the use the opportunity to visit Centralia and the Blue Ridge Mountains, and on the way back in the Camino drive famous Route 66. I'd avoid the cities; I can't stand urban anything and I don't have NY or Vegas on my must-have-seen list. Not to mention I'd probably put the Beast at risk if I left it anywhere in a city. I can't stand cities. I'll stick to the dusty byroads and little towns.
It wouldn't be a tour in the sense of loaded saddlebags and weighted shocks; I'm driving neither GS nor Ténéré. I'd do it sissy style, staying in hotels and motels along the way and buying whatever I needed. That way I believe I could cram everything I need into a trekking rucksack, like I did for Corsica. I'd rather not deck the Beast out in travel bags if I can help it.
Admittedly, the rucksack was stuffed with gear for just ten days. But with some wastefulness - sending things home when I don't need them anymore, and if I do need them, buying them again - I think I could survive on one backpack.
On bike tours I usually calculate €100 per day for gas, food and lodgings; it's never that much, and it'd be even less in the States, but in order to have enough on the side for emergancies or special expenditures, let's go with that. For two months' travel I'd bring $6000.
Hokay. $12,000 or so for the Camino, $6000 to ship it and the Beastie back home, $6000 for the whole trip, no clue what getting the beast over there will cost. I basically need to calculate $25,000 to $30,000. For two months. Dang.
Hm. It's obviously not going to happen that soon. I'm still waiting to see if I can't move out to the boondocks by the end of the year; if I get to furnish three rooms in my usual extravagent style it'll cost a pretty penny too. Also, even if I can settle on a Camino with Ted Regentin, he'll have quite a while before it's ready for pickup.
That means I have plenty of time to save up for this trip.
For a while I thought I'd never go back to States; I hate bothering with the arrogance of border officials. But for a bike tour, and to pick up a nicely restore classic car the likes of which in Switzerland I believe you could number on one hand... Yeah, I'd do that.
I've been listening to too much country music. Now I'm going to go browse Craiglist for Caminos in the Portland area.

Friday, September 4, 2009

By a leg's breadth

August 31, 2009 - Monday

Thursday evening didn't quite go according to plan. I met Roger at the border in Kaiseraugst, on time, and we did a small 80 kilometer run through the Black Forest. Octavian, Susanne and Hampi had been on tour in the Vosges mountains for most of the day and we were going to meet them at 1745 hours in Todtmoos. Well, Roger and I got there early, and waited and waited and waited until the others finally showed up. This didn't surprise either of us; Octavian is a terrible tour guide. He relies far too much on his TomTom GPS which he doesn't know how to program properly and gets lost at least once per tour.
Finally, with our group assembled, Roger took over the lead so we'd get to the Bingo Bongo restaurant without further delays.
It happened on the Uriella stretch, one of my favorite sections of the Black Forest with broad roads in good condition. Roger was leading; I was second. I kept a suitable distance from him; a couple of times on the straights I moved aside in case Hampi, following me on his Ducati 1198, wanted to pass, but he didn't so I kept my spot. We were moving between 80 and 100 km/h.
Then Roger passed an old tan Mercedes just before a curve. Another car rounded the bend and he swung back into his lane, startling the Mercedes driver who hit the brakes hard.
I saw it, squeezed on the brakes and saw that car's back looming. There was no way I was going to stop on time.
The approaching car passed, I swerved the Beast the left. In my mind's eye I could already see my poor bike skittering across the pavement. Then my shin hit the Mercedes' bumper; the Beast skidded, I caught it and geared down. We were still upright, and my first sensation was immense relief.
My leg was numb with shock; that afternoon I'd read a story about a Japanese fellow who'd run into pylon, experienced excrutiating pain but didn't stop and only noticed a couple kilometers later that his leg was gone below the knee. Automatically I looked down and saw that all appendages were still attached.
It hurt pretty darn badly, make no mistake. For a couple curves I let the Beast roll out as I held the clutch. The foot peg was gone on the right side, but otherwise everything seemed to be fine. The gears adjusted; the bike drove straight. I knew that farther up there was a parking space on the right side, and when I reached it I rolled in and turned the bike off. Hampi was right behind me.
I was shaking and breathing hard; he helped me off the bike and told me to sit down; I was only half aware of what was going around me.
Octi and Susanne rolled in too, as did the Mercedes. It was driven by an elderly lady who rushed up to me half-hysterical, apologizing up and down, nearly tearful, asking if I was badly hurt.
Between gasps I assured her I'd be okay, that it wasn't her fault, she couldn't help it... And then just to make sure there'd be no involvement of insurance, I asked her whether I'd damaged her car.
She flung up her hands and cried, "Forget the car! It's got so many scrapes and bumps on it another one doesn't matter! Are you sure you're all right?" Which was just the reaction I wanted.
Just then Roger returned and parked his Rocket alongside the rest.
Hampi helped me remove my boot and sock. I had a light scrape on my shin and we saw where the foot would turn blue soon. I kneaded it gently and convinced myself nothing was broken; it loked like I got away with bruising.
Roger told me to put the footwear back on; if I left it off the foot would swell and I wouldn't be able to wear them later.
The elderly lady advised me to soak the foot in schnapps that night as it would help the swelling. I thanked her and apologized again and she left.
Now the question was what to do. Roger said I should probably get home as fast as possible. I said I wasn't doing anything of the sort. I needed a chair and something cold to drink.
Octi had a bottle of water under his seat and gave me a couple swallows from that; then we decided we'd find the next eatery and turn in there.
It didn't take long; Roger led us to a Chinese restaurant in Bad Säckingen.
Only after I'd downed a half-liter of ice tea did I regain full use of my senses. Susanne said I was deathly pale; I replied that I'd had visions of me picking up a further edition of the Beast. Susanne shook her head; Roger said he quite understood me. It still took me about half an hour to stop shaking. Two days later I realized that would have been a situation where a big ol' bear-hug could have cured a lot...
I called home to ask Löchen not to go to bed before I turn up so he could help me mount a sozius footpeg on the Beast.
We ate well there at the Chinese place, and when we left, I was feeling quite a bit better. Susanne insisted on driving almost all the way home with me to make sure I made it all right, which was very kind of her.
I came home to find Aleks and Löchen working on Aleks' Old Unreliable by the light of a worklamp. Florian put in the footpeg for me while I informed him what happened. He pointed out to me that the heel protector was slightly bent; that would explain the soreness of the back of my foot.
In the house, I tried to hide my limp but Mom noticed, of course. I was rather impressed she didn'tget more upset about the matter.
I cleaned up the kitchen and went to bed. The next day was Friday; a regular work day. When I got up I couldn't put any weight whatsoever on my leg and I wondered how on earth I was going to get to the office. Dad would have conniptions if I had to take another day of sick leave; I couldn't drive the Bonnie because I couldn't put weight on my heel and it was the gas foot that was injured; the only thing left was the Beast. My foot was too swollen to fit into my motorcycle boot but I was able to ease it into the wide tire-soled tennis shoes I'd once gotten as a gift from Cinzia. So despite all my good intentions, I ended up driving my bike in tennis shoes again after all.
Driving itself wasn't a problem. My foot rests comfortably on the footpeg; I just can't use the back brake which is a bit abnormal.
At the office, I refused to tell my coworkers what the cause was for my limp. At midday, I left for Opa's.
I went to bed at a decent hour on Friday in order to give me foot as much rest as possible, because on Saturday I intended to join a tour of Vosges mountains.
That worked out; with a vinegar wrap - Dad wisely advised me against using schnapps in case we got checked by police and they smelled alcohol on me - the swelling had gone down enough for me to, with patience and five minutes' time, ease my foot into the motorcycle boot and zip the boot closed.
To make a long and somewhat irritating story short, Octi led this tour too and finally convinced me to avoid any drive that he leads. Half of it was autobahn; straight, curveless, extremely boring. Sure, I wasn't driving 100% that day; after lunch my leg quickly showed signs of fatigue and would shake on and off, making me take many curves, especially right hairpins, like a bloody beginner. That doesn't mean I find flatland cruising any more appealing. When at the end Octi led us on a meandering tour of Freiburg, I'd had it. I'm not following his lead any more.
When we stopped for a last drink in Todtmoos, Roger alleviated my frustration by saying I'd driven well that day, considering what I'd gone through on Thursday evening. And he doesn't like driving city streets any more than I do. We understand each other.
Two BMWs had accompanied the tour; a 1200GS and a limited F650GS. The latter left us before Freiburg; the former was driven by a young fellow - I discovered this morning he's 21 - who, with all due respect, did know how to haul on the gas. But that doesn't change the fact that he drives a BMW.
I learned then over the Todtmoos drinks to differentiate between GS drivers. Guys like Walti have driven all sorts of machines and after decades of driving just want a motorcycle that works unconditionally. BMW's overdose of electronics let people who know how to drive tickle the last possibilities out of a bike. But somebody who starts out on one of those butler-bikes is never going to drive well. They won't learn how to brake properly; the ABS takes care of that. They won't know anything about shock adjustment; the GS suspension carries you like a couch. Something's busted? Take the bike straight to the nearest mechanic; there's nothing you can touch that doesn't have a electronics connection.
I don't know the guy's name, but he was bragging about scraping his footpegs and chasing supersport bikes through the Albthal and rather discredited himself with such talk. I was so tempted to call him out, but for one, I don't like dissing people I barely know and for another, I'd driven the 650GS but not the 1200er and like to back my criticism up with evidence.
Point being, the GS may be tall and heavy, but it's a doggone enduro, and enduros are just plain easy to ride. I rarely ever scrape the footpegs on the Beast; on the Ulysses, despite being taller and heavier, it was no problem. I may not be a fan anymore of fully-cowled bikes, but they are much harder to drive well than a GS and keeping up with - notabene, not passing - one on a tight-curve stretch like the Albthal speaks more for the racer's skill than the endurist's.
Now I kinda wish I'd said something to the guy... Ah well. I'd rather regret keeping silent than saying something unfit that I can't take back.
That was Saturday.
Sunday morning we had church, then Mom, Dad and the kid drove off to Scotland. They'll be gone until next Tuesday. I briefly considered taking unpaid vacation to accompany them on the Beastie. I've always wanted to go to Scotland. But day-long autobahn driving isn't in the least appealing, and if I take the bike somewhere I want to be with another biker. So I'm still here to take care of things.
In order to cover some kilometers that day I'd agreed to go driving with Steve. Kevin spontaneously joined us. I'd thought about doing a lengthy tour over the Ibergeregg, Sattelegg, Schwägalp and Hemberg, but in the end we just did a short round of the first pass and the Etzel and called it good. For one thing there was way too much traffic out; for another, they weren't really much fun to drive with. I led the way and took it easy (foot is still swollen); Kevin kept up more or less but we kept having to wait for Steve. He's a typical Sunday driver. His Buell XB12Ss was customized by his mechanic; he bought it for way too much; he wears camo and a black visor and sits on it like he's a super streetfighter and yet he doesn't have a clue about leaning into curves or giving gas. No wonder I didn't drive with him for months and months, and I'm in no hurry to do it again.
Kevin hasn't gotten any wiser either; his comments over our drink stop smacked of naïvité and I got so irritated with his entitlemend mentality that I was glad to hit the road again.
Granted, I don't spend much time with my peers anymore and don't have a broad base to choose from, but whether it's old colleagues or new acquaintances like that BMW driver, something about them always irks me and usually it's lack of tact and experience. It's going to have to be a very special young man to get me interested in my age group again.

Photos from the breaking-in tour

August 20, 2009 - Thursday

I took 22 photos - or had them taken. I only uploaded 6.
Here, at the top of the San Marco pass, goats got the right-of-way.

And one of the nannies wanted my lemon soda.

This here is a famous little chapel in Hafling, birthplace of the sturdy, passive, perpetually starved - or maybe that's just Arthos - Haflinger breed of horse.

Bummer that I wasn't able to get any in-drive action shots this time. But we're hitting the Dolomites in less than a month, so there'll be more pictures then.

1900 km later

August 19, 2009 - Wednesday

Here's another calculated effort to get back into my writing habits. I've already grown lax on my novel-writing; if I quit my blog I'll really be throwing away the only talent I've got plenty of.
Of which I have plenty. Hm.
Anyway. Rewind the clock to last Thursday. I worked at Opa's in the afternoon as I was expecting to be gone on Friday. Around 4 p.m. Michi called from my mechanic's. He said that just thinking of my bike made him nervous and asked for my insurance's number again. I gave it to him and soon after he called me back.
"You be sure you bring a cake along tomorrow," he told me. "I went down on my knees at the DOT to get an appointment, and tomorrow morning at 0815 I can bring in your bike, get it registered as reduced and have them record the streetbar and Pazzo levers." (All bureacratic procedures required by Swiss law when registering a new vehicle.)
I only halfway avoided squealing with delight, told him he was an absolute darling - to which he replied "I won't say I know" - and promised I'd definitely have something for them. He then told me he'd be taking my bike home with him that evening to make sure the limiter kit worked properly and I shouldn't be surprised if it had 120 km on it when I came to pick it up. I said that was fine; those were 120 km fewer that I couldn't haul on the gas and I quite trusted him with it.
Friday. I was as antsy as an Arabian stallion and somehow kept myself occupied until 0800 hours, when I walked down to the train station with my helmet and backpack containing something to read. I figured that if Michi was showing the bike at 0815 and it took 45 minutes I could go to a bakery, get him and his crew some sweet rewards, and by that time we was sure to have called me to say I could pick the machine up.
In the back of my mind, of course, I knew nothing ever goes according to schedule, but that's why I brought something to read.
I went to the Honold bakery on the Rennweg, according to Oma one of the best - and accordingly most expensive - delicacy bakeries in the city. I bought a large chocolate cake, a Linzer Torte, half a kilo of assorted cookies and a couple specialty chocolates for myself, leaving the cost of half a front tire there. But the mechanics so earned it.
By now it was after 0900 hours, and no call from Michi, so I sat myself down on a bench, watched the city wake up and read through the latest issue of the DMZ.
Around quarter to 10, then, with no news, I decided to meander down to the mechanic's; even if something had gone wrong and there'd be no Beastie pick-up that day, the guys had earned the stuff I'd gotten them.
Well, I walked in shortly before 10, saw my Beastiekins sitting in the lot and promptly met Michi at the door.
"Your silence is worrying..." I greeted him, and he said, "Hey, I hadn't called yet. I only just got back. But here you go." And he handed my the green registration paper of the motorcycle.
"Look, your name, the prescribed power limitation, and the additional components."
I gave him my prettiest smile and said, "I didn't think you'd manage it."
"To be honest, neither did I."
I then handed him the sizable bakery bag and said, "You ordered a cake yesterday, so here you go."
I'd stuck my helmet on top in the bag, so he look confused for a moment.
"Yeah, you have to leave me the helmet," I added, and then he saw the boxes and grinned. "Hey, thanks!"
I remembered then that 10 o'clock was their usual break time, but Michi said we'd get the paperwork out of the way and then I should drink a coffee with them. He deposited the edibles in the workshop and we headed upstairs.
As he prepared a couple documents I looked out the window at my bike and noticed they hadn't done quite everything I listed. The grips and mirrors were still original and the elephantine handguards were still mounted. I pointed that out to Michi and asked that the original parts be replaced with Rizomas next week when I brought it in for the first small service.
I paid for the bike in cash and then joined the whole crew outside for a coffee. Michi shooed the mechanics away from the cake long enough to tell them where it came from, so I got the opportunity to thank them too for getting the bike ready for me on time. Then Beni, the mechanic who'd actually done the work on, went out with me and pointed out various little things he'd adjusted to make the airbrush or the streetbar fit. He then added that with the steeper seat struts he couldn't get the seat to click in, and I told him about the washers we'd inserted...
I said that after lunch I'd bring the bike back in for an ECM reset after Florian got the stupid limiter kit out, and Beni offered to add the washers so the seat would fasten then.
I drove home over the Buchenegg, elated to be back on a grumbling, shaking V2. As soon as I got home I said hi to Mom, who'd come back from Amsterdam late the night before. I then showed them the new Beastie and found they couldn't see much a difference to the "old" one (Number Two) so I had to point out that this one has black wheels instead of blue.
I'm not sure I'm satisfied with the black wheels, or if I want to spice them up somehow. Walti's said they look good, though, better than the blue, because the blue didn't match my airbrush. That's good. The concept of "Beast" improves with every new machine...
At home I quickly removed the sozius footpegs and a couple warning stickers, packed my tools into the backpack and headed back into the city.
Florian works right across the river from my mechanic - thank goodness, because no sooner had I parked the bike at our meeting place than I remembered that I'd forgotten to bring the original parts. So I hopped back to the mechanic's, caught Beni just before he left for lunch, grabbed the bag and returned to Florian.
While he got to work I went to the Subway around the corner and got him a 12"-sandwich as ordered. Together (that means he did the work and I kept the required tools on hand) we replaced the limiter kit and put the bike back together in less than 90 minutes. I then, for the third time, returned to the mechanic's.
Beni got to work on the seat and adding the newest updates to the ECM and I went upstairs to fetch the second key and finish the paperwork with Michi.
I reached home about three, threw my things into my backpack, donned my leathers, and was off.
I didn't take many pictures during the 1700+ km we did in Italy; I'll post up some of the few as soon as I've gotten them up the camera. But suffice to say, it was great fun. The new Beast is broken in and now has over 1900 km on it, I'm fully back up to my old level of skill and was able to miss another Monday at work.
Now the mail just came in so I have to get back to work. Thank goodness I can get out of here at midday.


August 7, 2009 - Friday

Or something.
Two weeks ago, I braked too hard on the Beastie and sent us both to the asphalt. It was on the way to work on a lovely summer morning, and I was, as usual, wearing capris. I'd said since the beginning I'd drive in shorts until something happened, so consider that the wakeup call. Also the excuse to get the aforementioned levers and handlebar and a new engine lighting system installed on my Precious.
The damage done to my was a series of scrapes from the knee of my left leg down. My knee and the calf have healed up wonderfully and all that's left are patches of new pink skin.
But whatever happened to my ankle, it doesn't want to fix itself. I was wearing tennis shoes and short socks, and the ankle seems to have taken the brunt of my fall. I've been keeping honey on it and changing the bandage almost every day, and for a while I thought it was getting better. It's still open, but at least the pus recedes and I could walk around without the supporting bandage for a while.
And then on Wednesday evening I did a routine bandage change and it wouldn't quit hurting. Usually after a new dose of honey goes on it would throb and protest for a couple hours and then die down, but on Wednesday it wouldn't go away. I tried to go to sleep and couldn't. No matter how I lay it hurt; moving didn't help any. For Pete's sake, this is a quarter-sized raw spot, but it felt like hot needles in my foot and a sledgehammer inside my leg. I'd actually been able to walk normally on it the past two days and had removed the support bandage completely, and now it felt like every move I'd put the ankle through was coming back with a vengeance.
I can't remember the last time I bawled on account of an injury, but when I finally gave in after 10 p.m. and limped downstairs in search of remedy, I was crying like a baby and shaking like a leaf.
Mom was still up and decided to put some frankincence around the injured area. Then she found some salve for open wounds, put that on the bandage, and wrapped it up good and tight again. That finally helped and the pain subsided. And hour later, I finally fell asleep.
The next morning I felt sick in my stomach and as soon as I used a muscle in my left foot it hollered. I wrote an e-mail to the office saying I was in no condition to drive to work that morning but I'd try to show up in the afternoon. And then I basically slept and dozed away the hours, listening to several radio plays.
When I left my room after 1000 hours the foot felt somewhat better. I took Retta on a lengthwise short but timewise long walk up the road, and then crashed on the daybed again while Mom prepared lunch. Nothing heals like sleep.
I went to the office in the afternoon, and then went to bed early, at 2000 hours.
Today I'm feeling somewhat better. I still have a knot in my stomach, but I think that partially because I'm hungry and I know I'm going to Oma's delicious cooking at midday. My ankle is feeling a bit dried out, and it's bandaged so thickly it barely fits in my motorcycle boot.
Tomorrow morning, though, I'm going - for the first time in my life that I can remember - to a doctor. I'm beginning to wonder if I didn't actually scrape it down to the bone.


August 3, 2009 - Monday

Over the past weekend I got to abuse an XB12XT Ulysses from my mechanic. (The Beastie's getting new handlebars and new levers in a new edition and is relieved from my bad weather biking for a couple weeks.)
Anyhow, I got to use the Ulysses. Michi, the handsome young fellow in charge of sales and rental at my mechanic's, turned two blind eyes in order to let me have the Uly for three days. Seen as how I'm still supposed to drive 25 kW, it was awfully decent of him to hand me the keys. He joked that if I crashed it he'd say thanks for letting them sell another machine.
I assured him I'd bring it back quite undamaged. Which, grudgingly, I did. (Undamaged, but not unscathed. The foot pegs got somewhat scratched in the curves. I can actually get them on the ground with the Ulysses! I rarely manage it on my little Beastie.)
That Ulysses is one fun bike. With its longer wheelbase, broad seat, higher gravity center and longer spring deflection (compared to my XB9), it's easier and more comfortable to drive. The 15 extra horsepower are nice too. And the cases are quite practical. If I were any sort of practical-minded in all things motorcycle, I'd ditch the CityX and buy me a Uly.
It'd be much better suited to the trials and tribulations I put my bike through. It's a breeze to ride on mud, dirt, compost and gravel; the belt is better protected. It's also more comfortable to drive on long, boring stretches like autobahn because the wind protection is better and I sit somewhat straighter.
I'm seriously considering buying one as a second bike, and for tours. But only after Silver is road-worthy again. I don't have 15'000.- on the side for a third motorcycle before then.
If the Beast isn't ready to hit the road next weekend I can have the Ulysses again then. But I hope it is. Despite the comfort and ease of driving Buell's tourer, I definitely miss my feisty, nervous, 85-horse streetfighter. I can't wait to see what sort of difference the streetbar and adjustable levers make.


July 17, 2009 - Friday

It means wild boar sausage and an excuse to add 100 klicks to the Beastie's tacho, make use of the last warm, dry evening until next week, and go see people.
The SwissBikers forum, which I joined about two years ago to ask for help in deciding between a Ninja, the little Buell or something else as my first bike, was having a meet at PSM Parts, a motorcycle outfitter located a good hour's drive away from Zürich. The proprietor who's also an SBler occasionally holds a grill and SwissBikers get together to chat and look at each other's bikes and such.
The SwissBikers forum took on a new format this year and people had to reregister themselves to be a part of it. I didn't do so. There are too many Germans, too many BMWs, too much drama on that site, and since becoming a member of United I've found where I fit in best. Still, most of the other United members are also part of the SB forum, and the funniest and juiciest episodes seep through to me too, as I can read along o nthe SB forum without being tempted to occasionally give them a piece of my mind.
Anyway, that's the introduction to the people behind the wild boar sausage grill. Susanne suggested I come along too because it wasn't a closed SB event, and I figured it was a good way to make use of the warm weather before the storm broke today (which it has).
So off I went. There were about forty people there, including Remo, Octi, Roger and Susanne. Susanne had reserved a spot for me by laying her still-healing leg in its cast out on the bench. I hadn't intended to stay long but two hours were gone before Roger said he was going and I figured it was a good time to get loose too.
I took the side roads home and got back around 2130 hours.
Dad was still up when I got back, and he showed me a picture in the paper from Tuesday. Here's the story to that:
Tuesday evening was lovely and warm, so I donned my Beastie Driver jacket for the first drive and headed off to Schwyz - my regular lone drive hunting grounds - to break it in. Well, around 2030 hours, just as I was about to head home, I got a call from Florian.
"Hey, are you okay? Where are you?"
"Schwyz. Heading home right now."
"Not on the Buchenegg?"
"No, but I will be in twenty minutes."
"Somebody wiped out pretty bad up there."
"Okay, I'll go see."
I saw nothing, except that the the Buchenegg was blocked by police and the fire department from both sides.
The next morning some details came through. A 37-year-old Speed Triple driver lost control in right curve. From the way the article described it, I guessed he'd crashed in the curve combo above the animal shelter. That's the best stretch on the whole Buchenegg, but if you don't know it or are going to fast, it's easy to mess up.
I was right. When I drove Florian to the airport that morning, we saw the broken reflector post and a smear on the pavement.
Then yesterday, Thursday, when I went to work in the morning, I took a better look at that splotch on the ground. Oil, gas and blood. Lots of blood.
The internet and newspaper articles reported the Speedy driver had "serious leg injuries." What they meant is that he lost both legs.
Dad told me Opa's physiotherapist had been driving ahead of the biker, who then passed him on the short straight stretch that immediately precedes that curve combination. And after the first right curve he came upon this:

He had to administer first aid; a tourniquet on each leg.

I consider myself, and have heard others say, that despite being speedy I'm a pretty safe driver. I will not, after the loss of Silver, drive faster than what I'm comfortable with and know I can handle. I don't want to push my luck again. As a biker, whether you're the slowest brake-before-through-and-around-every-curve driver on a Kilo-Gixxer or the fastest devil-may-care Endurist on a beatup old XT, getting through a drive involves a certain amount of luck. You can do everything right and still get shot down.
I don't know why the Speed Triple driver lost control of his 135-PS bike and smashed into that wall. There's bitumen on the road, but if you take that curve with the proper driveline is doesn't get in your way. Most likely he was going to fast, didn't know the stretch, saw the wall and looked at it - and where you look is where you drive. I can't imagine how he could have crashed to lose both legs.
Of course the pictures made me think, and driving through that spot yesterday afternoon on the way home from work I was a bit slower. But I was back to my usual speed of... 80 or 100, I think, when I headed to the grill half an hour later. I don't know how fast I take those curves; I don't usually watch the speedometer when I'm driving.
Point being, if I were afraid of potential harm to my person, I wouldn't drive at all. If I'm ever the victim of accident like that, there'll be nothing I can do about it anyway. There's no foreboding or fear of harm to myself after hearing the details of the Speed Triple driver's crash.
What bothers me now, after hearing Dad tell about Opa's physiotherapist, is wondering whether I'd have the presence of mind, fortitude and material to help in a situation like that. I've done a course in first aid; in theory I know what to do; I can mount a tourniquet.
I hope to God I never have to, but if I drive into a scene like that, I pray I can.

Missing Monday

July 15, 2009 - Wednesday

The best way to do so is to be in another country when it happens. And this week, I was.
Walti spontaneously suggested an extended weekend bike tour down in northern Italy. I was able to take Monday off, probably to the chagrin of my coworkers, but no matter.
On Saturday morning I fetched my nice new Beastie Driver jacket - gotta share a picture of that as soon as I get a moment - and around midday I left for the 1,000-kilometer tour.
On the first day we did about 300 klicks, all curves after we got off the autobahn in Chur. It was great. At the top of an Italian pass, then - I really wish I had a head for geographical names - Walti pointed out an unpaved gravel road that wound away from the roadstop. He said we could take the paved road down or that; which would I prefer?
I eyed the gravel. The Beast isn't an MX bike or an enduro. As much as I put it through, I maybe should have bought the Ulysses. But the XB9 fits me perfectly, and it's a tough little bugger.
Off we went on the gravel, all 10 km of it.

The view from that road over the Trentino mountains was beautiful, though rather foggy.

As the afternoon turned to evening, my clutch hand started to act up. The muscles were cramped or overused - I don't know which as I'd never had it before - and by time we found a hotel it hurt so bad I could barely change gears. We called it a day just in time.

The next morning my hand wasn't doing much better, so after a really awesome curvy stretch to Lake Garda, we parked the bikes and stopped by an apothacary to get some cooling salve and stabilizing bandages. That helped, and I kept the wrist smeared with the stuff all day.

We overnighted in popular bikers' hotel in the Dolomites that night, met some other Swiss and watched motorcycle after motorcycle drive in or drive by. I went to bed early; those 300 km and the ornery hand had gotten to me.
Monday, the last day of the lovely tour, we drove through South Tirol. It was my first time in the country that Dad's enthused about so often. And he has every reason to. It's gorgeous. I couldn't take any pictures as we cruised through there between 80 and 120 km/h, but I very much enjoyed looking at the scenery.
On the Gavia Pass, approaching the Swiss border, we stopped for a break - it's pretty important to keep hydrated on warm days like we're finally having - and ran into a guy who was waiting for two buddies - who were both at the base of the pass where one had bumped into the guard rail after a failed braking maneuver. (They were all okay; we just drove by carefully as they warned us of some oil and gas on the road.)
So he returned down to his buddies and we headed on toward Switzerland.

It was around 1900 hours when we got home. Walti came with me to deliver my backpack which he'd kindly tied down on his BMW GS1200 for the tour so I could drive without the weight on my back.
I don't think much of BMWs but they sure are good for carrying things.
My next tour is planned for the French Alps. Not sure when; probably next month. I gotta get back out into the Black Forest in the mean time.


July 1, 2009 - Wednesday

Summer's back like it should be. Temperatures in the high 20s, sun, blue sky and dry roads. I dragged myself through work until 4 p.m., when I turned off the computer, donned my gear and headed home.
Walti was waiting for me up on the Buchenegg parking lot. We stopped y Vögeli really quick so I could change from capris into my leathers, and then he led the way, following his nose, as he said. It ended up being a six-hour tour - dang! - including a one-hour stop for supper around 9 p.m. And it was great fun.
For one thing, I'm a huge fan of the Conti Road Attack tires the Beastie's wearing at the moment. Their curve quality is my favorite so far. I'm still not sure about them on wet roads. Even though the critiques said they had a dubious character in rain, I think they'd hold just fine if I had more confidence.
And for another thing, Walti knows just about every backroad from here to Appenzell, and we drove a whole bunch of them. Aside from the Hirzel, the Sattelegg, and the Schwägalp in the end, I'd never driven any of the roads he led us through. And there were some really great curves along the way.
Walti drives at a comfortable pace for me, and I could concentrate on emulating his smooth line of sight. It's a good balance to United, where I'm have to be fully focussed on just keeping up.
(I hope Roger and Fabian have some sort of Black Forest outing planned this weekend. Haven't been on those curves in too many weeks.)
Conversation over dinner was quite enjoyable. We exchanged stories of driving various machines dry, tire critique, and other shop talk. Somewhere in there we got on the subect of work and I mentioned how I'd rather not sit in an office all day and answer phones, if I had any specific idea of what I would rather do.
Walti promptly offered a suggestion I'm surprised never crossed my mind. And since he's said it, I keep considering it. I could write articles for motorcycle magazines.
Fairly obvious, no? The suggestion isn't even new - years ago Grandma already suggested I submit travel articles or fictional stories to magazines. Stef is writing for online magazines.
So I looked up the magazines Walti mentioned. There are plenty of articles about daring tours. But most are done by men and practically all are done on BMWs.
How fun would that be - paid to drive all day and write about it in the evening. For a round-the-world tour I'd probably be better off buying a XB12X Ulysses than putting my little Beastie through that sort of school of hard knocks, but for shorter expeditions, it'd definitely different fare for readers. A girl on a customized streetfighter instead of a middle-aged man on a regular production BMW...
Here's what I'm going to do. On the next multiple-day tour, I'll make a point to take more pictures and write a report of it in German and submit it to these magazines. The tour down to Varano would have been perfect for that... Oh well. And then we'll see what happens.
My efforts to find a job I love keep going in circles and coming back to writing. Maybe this time I'll have enough gumption - and the proper style - to make a bit of a break.

Training session

June 29, 2009 - Monday

18° Celsius at five in the morning, blue sky and sunshine... Ah, how I've missed these real summer days. I just hope they hold for a month or two now, and don't give way again to the rain we've been dealing with since May.
Saturday was taken straight out of November. It rained all day, was gray all day and chilly enough for jeans. In the afternoon for about half an hour the precipitation let up and I, who's been reading all sorts of Appenzeller wit and wisdom since I got my latest book order, had a craving to drive out to Schwägalp.
No sooner had I donned my leathers that the rain spitefully broke again. There was nothing to do but get back into normal clothes and settle back in my reading chair with a book. I also worked some more on my Feathers papercut, but all in all, Saturday was a waste of a summer's day. I didn't take Retta out on a nice long walk like I'd been planning to either, because of the nasty weather.
Sunday, on the other hand, was hot and dry. We'd had church Saturday afternoon because on Sunday Florian and I were attending a motorcycle safety course and Stef had a concert session in Zürich.
Attending the safety course had been a spontaneous decision. Florian got a call from a Polo employee who said a group had cancelled their applications for the course, and did Florian know anybody who'd like to come instead? Well, Selim busted his foot last week playing soccer and André was on standby for the fire department, but at 7 a.m. Sunday morning Löchen, Aleks and I headed out to HInwil.
There were 17 participants in all, and one of the two TCS instructors there was Rainer Knoblauch (which translated can mean "pure garlic"), an instructor who'd also been at the Buell Day 2007 in Lignières and had run a bike out of a curve into gravel, causing quite a bit of damage to it. He recognized me again too.
First everybody went through a bike and gear check. The Beast had no problems, of course, being fresh out of service, and when they commented that my gear fit well, Florian said, "I should hope so. You [from Polo] advised her on it." Which took care of that, though they advised me to add a kidney protector to my gear. (I've got one integrated with my back protector, which I don't wear under my leathers.)
Aleks was quite worried his Unreliable wouldn't make it through the bike check. The brake light doesn't work, the front fork is defective, the cowling is full of tears and the frame full of loose screws, it leaks oil and is too loud. Well, he got around most of the problems by saying he'd have to kick-start it to turn the lights on, and the inspector waved him on through, fearing a fifteen-minute stint of fruitless kicking und cussing.
For starters, everybody got a rundown of the day, and we introduced ourselves and our riding styles.
Florian: "KLR 650, all-weather biker, 22,000 km a year."
Me: "Buell, all-weather biker, 32,000 km per year."
Aleks "Husaberg, all-weather biker, 15,000 km per year."
The km numbers plummeted from there., and we three did end up being the speediest drivers present.
We three, two Bandit drivers and a former motocross pro who now rides a Harley ended up being Knoblauch's group. Our first exercise consisted of riding trial bikes, and I discovered that I rather prefer the road, or at least a semblence of it, to climbing straight up or down rocks, grass and gravel. The power of those little bikes was very impressive, though. Florian had a blast and now wants to get a trial bike for himself. He could put it to good use on the Albis.
There followed exercises in braking - which I mostly used for stoppie practice - cornering, circle and slow maneuver driving.
Five o'clock was past before the group broke up and headed home. We'd had a good time, practice is always a good thing even though I couldn't put my finger on anything specific that I newly learned from the day.
I'd been hoping to spend a bit of time with poor neglected Retta after we got home, but Dad had decided to take the family out to dinner so we sped back to Baar after finding out where they were.


June 25, 2009 - Thursday

"Feierabendrunde" is one of those great German words that doesn't have a fitting English translation. It's what I do many evenings a week during the summer, the after-work drive. Last year I'd go into Aargau a lot; this year I'm sticking to the Mythen mountains in central Switzerland.
Yesterday afternoon as Opa's I got a text message from Walti, a 40-something-year-old BMW driver who's a friend of Susanne's. We invited him over for dinner on the Saturday evening of our girls' weekend two weeks back. Susanne praised him as being a very smooth driver with a clean line of sight and said he knew all sorts of backroads in the Ybrig area. So, naturally, it was only a question of time until I went driving with him.
We agreed to meet on the Buchenegg parking lot at 1900 hours. My poor neglected Beastie is still covered in the mud and dust of Italy; his 1200er GS has been washed two weeks ago and was a sight cleaner.
He promptly noticed my profile-less front tire and remarked that we might just avoid the gravel roads this time around.
We did a comfortable Ibergeregg round and he showed me two curvy stretches I hadn't known about. Susanne's evaluation of his driving skills was spot on; driving behind him was excellent practice for me in driving cleaner lines. (Though having a slippery front tire did impede the fun of the tour just a bit.)
Around 8 o'clock Walti asked if I'd eaten and invited me to dinner at an Italian restaurant in Einsiedeln, which was very generous of him. The conversation was as good as the food and revolved 90% around motorcycles and 10% around work. Afterwards he escorted me to Biberbrugg, and I arrived home before 2300 hours.
Mom will be home late tomorrow night, and I have babysitting at the same time. Saturday is predicted to be rainy and gray with the sun and warmth returning on Sunday. On Sunday Florian and I will be attending a four-point motorcycle safety course, so I arranged a tire change with my mechanic for tomorrow morning, instead of on Tuesday with the service.
I'm gonna work through next week as fast as possible; on Friday is the United dinner; the following weekend might bring the trip to South Tirol. Next week I gotta remember to ask about the jacket stitchery and the Blaster-V, if those two companies haven't gotten in touch with me by then.

XR Trophy

June 23, 2009 - Tuesday

I have about fifty e-mails to go through, half a dozen people to call and contract to write up, but I'm gonna see if I can't cram the record of Florian's and my trip into the remaining few hours of this afternoon.
Friday started out mild, sunny and mostly dry, and Florian and I left the house loaded with our backpacks around eight a.m.
The good weather lasted until Lucerne, and then we had rain until Italy. It didn't help that we took a couple wrong turns and dead ends in our effort to avoid the autobahn, but we finally found the Simplon and followed its wide, winding curves across the border and into Bella Italia. The border agent nodded us through without checking our IDs or tires, for which I was grateful as digging out the ID would have been a nuiscance and the profile on my tires was already scratching the limit of legal then.
As soon as we crossed the border the air became noticably warmer, and the Italian end of the Simplon was curvier and funner to drive. Still, it rained off and on, we were pretty much soaked, and after following small town roads and a main thoroughfare in the direction of Milan for about an hour, I turned off into the mountains. Forty-five minutes of riding that mountain road which in some places was no road at all, just gravel and building sites, brought us high into the Piemont. In Bannio Anzino we booked a room for the night, changed into dry clothes, and called it a day around four p.m.
Bannio is a lovely little town nestled in the mountains. I had my camera along and should have taken many more pictures than I did, but most of the photos I shot were taken in Bannio.
Wild blue hydrangeas - we saw lots of them in Italy:

The town square, with one of five churches (in a town that didn't house more than 200 souls!):

This cannon stood rusting away on rock-hard tires outside one of the churches:

We discovered this Stations of the Cross pathway outside the village. There were many shrines like these scattered all over the mountains. Most paintings weren't of much artistic value, but it was warming to see how much effort had gone into these symbols of religious sentiment.

And finally, our bikes after the first day, splattered with mud and gravel and rain. No wonder my mechanic throws a fit every time I bring the Beastie in for another service.

We skipped supper, being quite tuckered, and breakfast the following morning. We left the hotel shortly after 7 a.m. the next morning, having many kilometers left the travel until we reached Varano de Melegari near Parma.
In Novara we visited a super market where we bought breakfast and lunch in one and treated man and machine to a break.
That day we covered 500 kilometers, driving smaller and smaller roads the nearer we got to Varano. On the fourth to the last segment, I, who led the way for the whole trip, was scouting along the mountain road, watching for the gravel and grit that lay in every corner. There was no driving faster than 30 km/h. The Beastie and I rounded a right curve - and suddenly we were both on the ground. I lay there a moment, horrible images of broken footpegs, smashed GFK parts and thousands of franks worth of damage flashing through my head.
Florian parked the Tweety Bird and rushed over to me - we'd seen no traffic on these roads, which was good, because now that I think about it we would have been in a very sorry state if a driver had come upon us behind that curve just then. When Florian left the Beast, the first thing I saw was that the footpegs was still intact.
It turns out we'd landed on some black sand lying in the shadow of the tree over the curve, so fine and smooth that I could barely even stand on it. The Beast came away with a broken handlebar end, a few scratches on the back fork and seat strut and a nasty bruise on the manifold, which doesn't matter at all since I'm getting a new one with the Blaster in a few weeks anyway.
Thank you, guardian angel.
So I got over my shock, sent a prayer up to heaven and we were on our way, with me driving even more carefully than before.
Those winding roads were trying, but we reached Varano around 4 p.m. The track was easy to find, and we arrived to find dozens of Harleys and many other bikes brands parked outside the show grounds, with Harley and Buell displays, test drive opportunities, stands with food and Parmesan specialties, and of course the various XR 1200 drivers doing their warmup rounds on the track for the race the next day.
Craig Jones' truck was there too, but he was out on the track. Wing was around, though, so we said hi to him and then watched some racing.
It was very impressive to see just how low and fast one can lay into a curve with an XR 1200, though we were both a bit disappointed they weren't actually drift-racing on a muddy horserace track like in the olden days.
With evening coming on, we left the track to go find a hotel. The one hotel in Varano was fully booked for that night, so we followed our noses until we found a nice little complex about 30 km away in Collecchio. We checked in there, freshened up, and returned to the track for something to eat.
Craig was around this time and found us. It was good to see him again. For the night stunt show at 2100 hours, he and Wing gave us their shirts and caps and loaded us with the helmets and firecrackers to make us look like we belonged with the team. We then got special spots on the restricted side of the barrier when Craig did his show, instead of in the grandstand with everybody else.
It was really cool to watch the show against a dark background. The XR 1200 stunts were strained; Craig told us afterwards that a few days before he'd broken the back wheel doing a stoppie. But the rest were movie material. The CR's front brake disc glowed, and Florian noticed that the "check engine" lights glowed on both the XB and 1125 throughout the show. It was great to watch.
Afterwards we helped pack up the equipment, and then spent the rest of the evening with Craig and Wing. It was over much too quickly.
The next morning we checked out of the hotel in Collecchio and spent the morning back at the track, watching the races and various women get their first taste of motorcycle driving in a closed parcours on a Harley chopper, taught by two good-looking instructors.
Since we didn't want to take any toll-cumbered Italian freeways home, we decided it was time to start heading north again around midday. Florian tightened the Tweety Bird's chain before we left, and then we said goodbye to the stunt riders.
We kept to the bigger roads on the way back. Florian considered driving through and getting home that night, but when we stopped in Vicosoprano, just inside the Swiss border, at 7 p.m. for supper, we decided that another three hours of driving was really not appealing, especially since it was drizzling and after 350 klicks we were both tired. Not to mention that Florian had caught himself a cold and sore throat in Bannio and would be better off with a good night's sleep before we traveled the remaining 200 kilometers back to Zürich.
And in retrospect, it was quite wise to overnight in that lovely little hotel. Because when we drove the Julierpass the next day, it was slippery and snowy and freezing cold. It would have been downright dangerous in the dark.
We reached home at midday on Monday. I caught up on the laundry that had piled up in my absence, worked through e-mails, new DA submissions and Failblog entries and took the dog out a couple times, book in hand. It was gray and rainy and chilly - it still is - and I closed off the day with a nice warm cinnamon- and rose-scented bath. (It smells fine. Lush has knack for nice scents.)
I was super lucky to not to get checked at the border when we reentered Switzerland on Sunday; my front tire has absolutely no profile left to it. Because of that, I drove the Bonnie to work this morning. On the Malojapass, that tire was going every way it wanted; I don't need to push my luck on the wet roads of the Buchenegg or Schlierener Forest.
Tomorrow's supposed to be pretty dry and a bit warmer, though, so the Beastie comes out again then. The service is scheduled for next week, Tuesday; I hope we survive that long.

Seeing progress

June 15, 2009 - Monday

On Saturday morning Mom left for a two-week tour of Romania and Bulgaria with Dr. Bruggink. At 0915 hours I was to meet Ken, a Fireblade driver I knew from the SwissBikers forum, at the Tierpark parking lot.
I drove up to find three Fireblades waiting for me; two red ones and a sparkling new white model with a six-digit license plate number. (Here, on a motorcycle, six-digit number automatically classifies the driver as a n00b, because they've only recently been put into circulation by the DOT.)
Well, the guys were all in their 30s, I'd say; the driver of the white Fireblade was a family man. They decided we'd head south and drive the Grimsel; I took the second slot and waited to see what would happen.
To make a long story short, the day was an awful waste of tire but it did help me see just how much progress I'd made in my own driving since joining United. Last year, I judged Ken, the Fireblade pilot who invited me along, a good driver.
All three guys regularly visit the racetrack, and they drive fairly good, clean lines. But I guess all their energy goes into the circuit driving, because our tour nearly put me to sleep.
We drove the Susten, Grimsel, Furka - I hate that pass - Surselva, Lukmanier, Oberalp and Gotthard, and I was reminded why I drive in the Black Forest now instead of wasting rubber on the hour-long autobahn tour to the southern Alps. There was more traffic on the Grimsel than I'd ever seen before. Furka's hairpin turns are not conductive to smooth driving, and the Gotthard is just a big ol' Autobahn. The Susten was nice; the Lukmanier was so comfortable and warm I had to fight to stay awake as the Beastie purred along at 80 km/h.
For real. These guys never went over 100 km/h. "They do speed checks, here you know." Oh for Pete's sake. It's okay to fly down the Autobahn around Schwyz (a bad canton for flashboxes) at 160 km/h, but put a little adrenaline into the pass tour? Nah. Pass a car? Oh no, why bother. Bitumen? Oi, slippery. Watch a couple German racing bikes holler by at 120 km/h? "Look, those are the Rasers (speeders)."
The comment that really made my day was given by the driver of the white Fireblade. "There's so much traffic out today. Unbelievable. It's really nicest to go out when it's a bit cloudy and not so warm. Then nobody's out, because most drivers really are fair-weather bikers."
I had to bite my lip to keep from bursting out with a laugh. This comes from a guy whose spotless white Honda looks like it could come straight from dealer's garage, and whose matching white and black Dainese leathers have probably never seen a drop of rain. Don't we know all about fair-weather bikers, eh, my mud- and dust-bespattered Beast?
The tour took all day; I left them on the Autobahn and reached home in time to get to my babysitting job for the Littles, giving me a nice, quiet end to a somewhat disappointing day.
What irked me most about the long, slow tour was the waste of rubber. My back tire's got maybe 1000 km left to it; this weekend's tour down to Parma and back will require rather more than that. And at the moment, I have neither the time nor money to get the thing changed. I was going to do all that at the end of the month, when we've passed the 16'000-km mark, the Blaster is here and mounted and I need to bring the Beastie in for a system reset and service anyway.
The Firebladers didn't drive badly. I'm sure they all cut a great figure on the racetrack. But their bikes for them are just a hobby, something they pull out on a pretty day. There was no ambition, no passion in their driving. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that, though I could never imagine investing less into my bike. The Firebladers were just average motorcyclists, the "grown-up" sort that fear the law too much to develop real-road skills. And considering that, I'll thank Roger for inviting me to United and stick with the 40- and 50-year-old experienced bikers who are old enough to know better and still too young to care.

Girls' weekend

June 8, 2009 - Monday

Our plans with south Tirol didn't pan out, but I spent the weekend away from home anyway, enjoying my first "girls' weekend," finally watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and narrowly escaping being swept off the road by a VW Golf. It happened like this:
I took Friday afternoon off from work as planned, even though I didn't need to meet anybody or go anywhere. I had a headache from sitting inside while the sun was shining to cheerily outside, work was slow and I had more than enough overtime to compensate. I went home for lunch and then drove into the City to pick up my reading chair. (It's cool to walk into my room and see it sitting there so elegantly in front of the window. I'm quite proud of it. Now I just need to make us of it for a couple hours. Maybe tonight.)
After that I had a couple hours before heading down to Basel for the monthly United dinner. It was supposed to rain that evening, so I'd be taking the car, and Susanne had invited me to sleep over at her place, an invitation I was quite happy to accept. Dinners with the guys rarely end before 2300 hours, and it's an hour's drive from Basel to Zürich.
I packed a couple essentials, got sidetracked on the internet with a bit of research on maritime zoology, took Retta out a couple times and with such puttering around passed the two hours.
The dinner took place in a smaller circle that usual, with Roger, Fabian, Susanne, Remo and Octavian attending. The latter two left somewhat earlier, intending to hit the night life, and Roger, who'd been rather taciturn until then, returned to normal and conversation became lively.
When we left the restaurant after 11 p.m., it was raining lightly. Susanne spontaneously decided we'd be more comfortable going back to her apartment in Cham, since it was supposed to rain all weekend. I didn't mind, and after she picked up some necessaries from her Basel lodgings, we hit the highway for central Switzerland, window wipers keeping a full speed rythm with the country music on my MP3 player.
We reached her place around one in the morning, changed into nightgowns, settled back on her huge cream-colored couch with water and red wine and chatted about everything and nothing until three o'clock. No matter that Susanne's over twice my age; I thoroughly enjoyed it and so did she.
I slept on the couch, and when I finally woke up the next morning around nine, it was pouring cats and dogs outside. I got dressed and settled back with my book on Japanese culture, and when Susanne woke up we prepared to make a comfortable girls' day of it.
We started off with the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which I'd never seen before but knew some of the music to, and then procured breakfast at the gas station across the street. Following that, we planned what we wanted to cook for dinner and decided on a gratin with bacon-wrappen chicken breasts and a fresh vegetable, and trotted out to purchase those items from a nearby farm, the same farm where Susanne keeps Sammy, her beautiful 13-year-old bay Arabian gelding. Of course, we visited him and his stablemates as well, and then returned to the apartment where I peeled the green asparagus while she sliced the potatoes, and then kicked back on the couch with a bowl of chips for a second movie, Harold and Maude.
Discussion of that section of film history afterwards breached topics I'd never had reason to discuss before, topics I wouldn't discuss much anyway even if I did have reason because they're only usable amongst females. Who needs peers for that sort of chatter? I found it much more edifying talking with someone of Susanne's savoir.
Seeing that we'd made rather more than we could eat ourselves, Susanne suggested we invite one of her friends over. I consented, and Walty brought two bottles of red wine and several conversation topics with him when he arrived.
He's a BMW GS driver, but Susanne says he drives a very clean line. We agreed to go driving together some evening, since his house stretch is the Sattelegg and he knows a lot of byways in those mountains that I don't.
Susanne can keep a conversation going interminately, so it was 11 p.m. again before I felt so sleepy I just had to suggest bed. Walty decided to drive home after all, so I got the couch again.
We expected Sunday to be as gray and rainy as Saturday had been, but it dawned with brilliant sunshine. Roger posted up a suggestion in the United forum for a drive; Susanne and I packed up and drove to my house where I slipped into my leathers and traded the Bonnie for the Beastie. Then we took off, driving backroads to get down to Basel and meet Roger and Fabian at the Rheinfelden customs.
When we got there, it was raining. Roger decided we should try the Black Forest anyway and maybe reach an area that wasn't wet, but that didn't work out so we recrossed into sunny Switzerland and took to the Jura mountains, where Roger led the way.
The Jura isn't like the Black Forest; you can't take curves with 140 km/h. Several times we ended up on gravel; you constantly had to watch for rocks in the road and you get shaken through quite well on the rough pavement. When we stopped on the Passwang for our second drink break, it almost sounded like Roger was coming to the end of his tour. Then he mentioned the Balmbarg, a pass that's supposedly a real nuisance to drive, and I mentioned it was only three o'clock, so couldn't we do that one too?
It didn't take much convincing.
When we left the restaurant, Fabian and I traded bikes. His Speed Triple took some getting used to. It's not a long bike either, but there's 13 cm difference between his wheel base and the Beastie's, and I noticed it. My sitting position on the Speedy is stretched; after riding the Triumph I realized that I sit on the Beastie almost as if it's an enduro; move the foot pegs forward five inches and I'd be sitting as straight as in a church pew. The Triumph's also got a veritable gantry up front - compared to the Buell, where you see nothing but the tip of the flyscreen in front of you - which took some getting used to. The 47 extra horses are noticeable, though with a power ratio of 1:0.8 instead of 1:1 the difference doesn't make for much more aggressive driving. A Speedy can be driven with very lax gearchanging, and if there's one thing I'd like to transfer to the Buell it would be the strong engine brake. Still, after driving up and down the Balmberg and the Weissenstein pass, I gave the Speedy back to Fabian with compliments and returned to my good little Beastie, where I could once again lay into the curves, knew just where to change gears for maximum strength, and sat upright (which makes for confidence. It's much easier to drive sitting up; the closer your face is to the ground, the scarier curves are. Which explains why most racing bikes are the slowest machines on the road).
Fabian enjoyed the Buell though, too. It was funny to watch him dance all over the road with it, testing its short wheelbase. He said the seat was just a bit to short for him; without the raised streetfighter back or the seat cover it probably would have fit him better.
Well, after Weissenstein, Roger decided to go even deeper into the Jura and take us over the Grenchnerberg. Since switching bikes Fabian and I had been the last two and Susanne took my usual position in the second slot.
We were heading up the Grenchnerberg at a comfortable pace since it contained multiple hairpin turns. I was third, and rounded a sharp right-hand curve. I heard a crash and saw a black Golf 2 spin around, squeal and slide to a stop across the road, its back less than two meters from my and the Beastie.
I'd automatically let go of the gas when I saw the careening car; when it stopped I killed the engine. Fabian behind me did the same and hopped off his bike. Susanne and her Monster were lying in the undergrowth on the right side of the road.
She was moving, so I drove the Beastie around the Golf and parked it higher up on the side of the road. Fabian followed suit.
The Golf had been driven by two young men. Roger said they'd already been in a drift around curve. He'd taken his Rocket all the way off the pavement to avoid them; Susanne had been quite fast enough and they caught her in the leg, knocking her and her bike into the weeds.
The Monster was a total wreck. The gear adjuster, sozius foot peg assembly and left exchaust were ripped off; the flyscreen twisted, compost caked along the right side and a dent in the tank. It was leaking gas, and the back of the frame was pressed in.
Susanne came away with an injured leg. We found out afterward that her fibula was broken, but she doesn't need an operation and will recover without complications.
The Golf lost its radiator grill.
The two young men drove Susanne down to the hospital in Moutiers, and Fabian called the TCS on my cell phone and worked his way through their various stations, explaining our position mutliple times until he finally got a garagist on the line who said he'd come pick us up.
All three of us stayed there, waiting nearly two hours until six p.m. before the recovery truck finally rolled down the road.
It was Stef's 16th birthday, and I'd thought I'd make it home in time for the party at the Chinese restaurant. We were all three of us hungry, having eaten barely anything all day. Fabian was right when he pointed out that the Germans were much more efficient in situations like this.
Once Susanne's Monster was on its way to a garage, we continued on our route. I stayed with Roger and Fabian until Solothurn, when they headed off toward Basel and I took to the overland roads back home.
I got to talk with Susanne this morning and she's doing all right. It'll take a while to heal up, but she's an optimist and looks forward to getting back on a motorcycle. Since Fabian let her drive his Speedy she said that might be her next bike...
All I can say is, my guardian angel has it pretty rough sometimes.

Pentecost 2009

June 2, 2009 - Tuesday

I'm very distractable today. The phone is comparatively quiet but still manages to go off just as I've finally wrangled my attention onto another piece of work. It's June and contract cancellations are piling up, including a one-week notice from another of those damned Indians in CeCe.
But I won't be rattled. Pentecost weekend was fun, including two runs in the Black Forest, good weather, and the end of my rear tire.
On Saturday nine members of United headed out to the Schwarzwald. Fabian led the way and I got the third slot behind Angelo, who drove a 30-year-old Ducati racing replica with a back tire thinner than my front one. But he sure knew how to drive and kept up with Fabian.
Angelo's a Baschtler, a DIY guy who turned an 80-year-old house into a 2.5-room apartment with a small, orderly workshop area and plenty of space for amchines and tools. In the workshop he has two Gixxers up on lifts and four bikes under sheets, and he spends his time carefully customizing and improving motorcycles. He's told me about his setup several times at United dinners, and on Saturday he took me to see it for a couple minutes.
I envy his setup. One of these evenings - Florian suggested the 18th - I'm going to take Florian to see it and talk with Angelo; I think it'd be fun for him to talk with someone else who thinks along the same lines of motorcycle handiwork as he does.
After seeing what sorts of thing Angelo gets to spend his time on, we returned to the others, who were waiting at a village festival/bike meet in Schüpfart. There I saw the visually most customized Buell yet. It belongs to a friend of Angelo's who's an airbrusher and painter. The bike is an XB12S, outfitted with a streetfighter mask and front mudflap. All the plastic parts, the wheels and the frame were painted in an appealing deep lava red pattern, and the gearbox was lacquered with a crackle effect. It was very nicely done. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera along so I couldn't photograph it.
Angelo considered it well-worked but overdone; I admired it immensely but even if it's way more done up than by Beastie, it's nothing you could run through snow, mud and gravel without ending up with damages much more obvious than what the Beastie carries. Yeah, my bike is still the best...
We didn't do near enough kilometers that day; I'd have been happy to spend another couple hours on the road.
Sunday was sunny but chilly, and after Mom and I took the horses for a ride on listing saddles, Selim and I drove an easy-paced 100 kilometers over the Ibergeregg and Etzel. There was a lot of traffic, and on the way home we noted a civilian policecar to add to our database of vehicles to watch out for.
Monday was warmer, and I was pleased to see that Roger and Fabian were planning another Black Forest drive. My back tire was flatter than the legal limit - too much Autobahn driving - but I went anyway. Susanne, a new member of United, and Hans, a friend of Fabian's came along too.
We stopped at a gas station to let Hans refuel, and Fabian inspected Susanne's Ducati Monster. He noted the scardey-cat stripes on the edges of her tires and said that he'd been able to get all the way to the edge on his front Z6 by having a sozia on the back seat. (You can head into curves faster and lower if you've got weight on the back.)
The evening before the thought had crossed my mind that it would be informative - and probably rather scary - to take a ride sitting on the back of Fabian's Speedy. Fabian is just about the best real-road driver I know, taking cruves as if his Speedy were running on rails.
Well, Fabian's comment gave me just the right opening. Fabian grinned and dusted off the sozia seat. Obviously there was no doing it then and there since I had my Beastie, but Fabian said we'd make a point to take such a drive if I really wanted to.
Fabian intended to give Susanne an easy tour with emphasis on taking curves properly, so Roger said he'd drive ahead with me. On Saturday he'd been on a lengthy and somewhat strenuous tour in the Jura and was thus not disposed to rip-snort through the curves at his usual speed, so the tour, too short though it was, was good practice for me as well and not bad for my ego, as generally I lose sight of Roger and Fabian after the first couple curves.
It was fun, and I drove pretty well since we did the same stretches we'd done on Saturday and I remember the lay of the road. We had to keep stopping to wait for Hans. Susanne kept up well, but Hans... My goodness, why people like that even drive a motorcycle I don't know. He's got a Kawasaki Z750 and I doubt he's ever put it past 60 km/h.
We stopped in Todtmoos for a drink which Susanne paid for - nice of her - and Fabian ran off with her Monster for a quick circle to file the scardey-cat stripes off. He came back shaking his head and insisted that she right away get the suspension hardened, saying that the bike moved around like butter in the curves and it was no wonder she couldn't pull out of them with the bike going every which way.
Having determined that, we drove the Albthal and recrossed the border, stopping once more for a drink and chat before bidding our farewells. Susanne drove back with me, since she lives in Zug.
Now it looks like we won't be driving to South Tirol on Friday because both Roger and Fabian have to work. I suggested we swtich that tour to July and have July's planned dinner in June instead. I'm still going to take Friday afternoon off since I've already reserved the time. Roger said the meeting that's keeping him from the planned tour will probably take until 1500 hours, so maybe, if the weather holds, we can go for a drive before dinner. And if not, I'll do my own tour and make use of the Pirellis that'll be mounted on Thursday. They're the original tires and they've got 3000 km left to them; once they're run down it'll be time for the Beastie's second 8000-km service.

Black Forest Run

May 22, 2009 - Friday

Ascension Thursday is a holiday throughout Switzerland. This particular Ascension Thursday was bright and warm, so some United members spent the day in the Black Forest and I went with them, after having private devotions in the morning.
Roger, Fabian, Bruno, Octavian and Florian came along, and Fabian led the way. I got the second slot.
In the morning the roads were still wet, which shouldn't make to much of a difference in one's driving style. (It still does in mine though, I hate to admit.) The problem was that with the wet, there was an overlay of pollen and flowers on the road which was super slippery and tended to amass itself preferably in the curves. So in the morning we drove somewhat carefully.
I was perfectly comfortable with the speed, but I thought that if I had the level of skill and experience that the older guys had that I'd be driving 10 or 20 km/h faster, even on those roads. During the coffee break at 1100 hours, though, Roger said we'd been driving a high standard, and Octavian concurred.
I dunno. It was probably at the limit for Roger; I have no idea how he keeps his 350 kilo Rocket III glued to the ground at the those speeds and that kind of road, but he does. I think that had Fabian been on his own, he'd have been driving faster. I got a lot to work up to.
We had lunch in Todtmoos after driving "my" stretch where the accident happened last September. The spot is called the "Maria Curve" now within United (it's a great stretch and gets driven a lot) and the guard rail has been reinstalled and it double-barred. I'm not sure if that's a good idea. I'd have been much worse off if I'd hit the rail, rather than sliding under it like I did. But I guess most drivers are bigger than me and get stuck, which is even more dangerous... That stretch claims a victim every week, the police told us.
Anyhow, We left the restaurant around 1300 hours, by which time the breeze and sunshine had dried the roads nicely and we able to haul on the gas more. The problem now was the bitumen; Roger says the Metzeler Z6 holds on it but there were a few times where a tire ran over it and slid aside. So I drove to avoid the stuff, meaning slower than if the roads hadn't been streaked in black.
Octavian was behind me; he's one of those imperturbable been-driving-for-decades motorcyclists with a smooth flow that comes with time and a hundred thousand kilometers. (Or immediately available with the BMW GS series, though in return you must give up 90% of your braking skills, any potential can-fix-it-myself attitude and any respect you might otherwise have had in the bikers' community. But that's a different topic.)
Octavian didn't push me or anything, but the thought kept nagging me to not hold up the show and go faster... (My average was 90 km/h; Roger and Fabian know those roads by heart and can run them 100 kilometers faster which to me is mind-boggling.) But I kept to my speed and didn't trust too much to luck because I have neither the patience nor the money right now to deal with another accident. I was heartbroken when I wrecked Silver, after all the work I put into it. I won't have the same thing happen to the Beast, and I don't care if that means it takes me an extra year or two to reach a skill level that with gumption and luck I might have learned to handle earlier.
Florian once - once - told me that I'm not a bad driver; I just always drive with people who are better than me so I start to think that. I try to keep that in mind so I don't press my limits. And I know you only learn the limits once you overstep them, but that's what Silver will be for. On the Beastie, I'm just going to be careful.
So, like all drives with United, I can say I got in good practice and learned some more. And of course, I had fun. The Beastie only lost one screw; I hadn't tightened it properly when I remounted the motor spoiler, I guess. But that's replaced, and the Beastie got a scrub and wax yesterday so it looks fine.
Exactly two weeks until we head to Southern Tirol for the weekend. Summer is a wonderful thing.