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Valentine One Radar Detector

Eric
08-18-2006, 07:40 PM
Within pushing range....
By Eric Peters
for immediate release

If you're the type of person who likes to fiddle with machinery -- cars, trucks or bikes -- you probably understand what this article's all about just by reading the headline.

Because in all likelihood, you've lived it.

The moment of truth comes just after that last bolt's been torqued down and the thing -- whatever it is -- is actually running again. A miracle. Though there may still be some loose parts laying around, you've managed to put it all back together -- or at least , enough of it to get it to work. Now comes that first nervous Test Drive. Gently, now -- and not too far from home and help. You know, within Pushing Range.

It's important not to push the envelope -- and avoid the trap of getting just far enough away from home that if something you forgot to do (or didn't do right) decides to remind you of your negligence, you'll be up the river without the proverbial paddle. If you do that -- and something does let go -- you've compounded your problems. Now you've got a crippled machine that's out in the wilderness. If it happens to be an antique vehicle, you face the anxious choice of leaving a fragile and vulnerable friend alone by the side of some unfriendly road -- or (cell phone permitting) calling an understanding amigo for succor. Hopefully, this friend will have a trailer.

Neither option is appealing, but what can you do? You decided to venture just a bit farther than that smarter-than-you voice admonished. And so you reap the whirlwind.

I got to thinking about this just the the other day as I took my recently rebuilt '76 Kawasaki Kz900 out for its first significant leg stretch. With about 30 oh-so-cautious brake-in miles on the trip meter (all of it under 4,000 RPM), the bike seemed ready for its sea trails. And I needed to go to the bank -- so why not? It was a beautiful late autumn day; maybe 75 degrees up in the mountains where we live. The bank is in town, at the bottom of the mountain -- with the kind of snaky S-turn road from Here to There that makes any trip, on two wheels or four, an occasion for epiphany.

Halfway down the mountain I remembered about the traffic in town; we don't have any up in the sticks (there's just one traffic light in the entire county) but there is plenty of it (and traffic lights) in the "big city." Air-cooled large displacement motorcycle engines with high-compression pistons do not like prolonged idling, especially when they have less than 50 miles on the clock. And then I remembered that it's typically 8-10 degrees warmer down in the valley, too.

And I was already well beyond pushing range. Fate -- and my own lack of forethought -- had made the decision for me. I must soldier on. Hopefully, the bike would, too.

And it did. Mostly.

There was just one incident -- a minor scare that let me know I was on thin ice and served as the much-needed reminder I allowed my enthusiasm to temporarily stomp into the dark corners of my eager-to-ride subconscious.

Big bottleneck at a four-way intersection. I just missed the green and find myself idling sweatily (me and the bike) in 85 degree humidity, with zero airflow to take the edge off. I don't have a temp gauge on the old Kaw, but I could feel its unhappiness -- and got to thinking about oil breaking down in searing combustion chambers, not-yet-seated rings crying out in mechanical agony. The Horror. And so I decided to cut the engine while waiting out the light. Theoretically, a reasonably bright thing to do -- as it gave the engine a chance to cool down a little. Or at least, not build up any more heat.

I watched the opposing traffic's light go yellow and in anticipation of my soon-to-arrive green, turned the fuel tap back to "on" and pushed the starter button. Needless to say, it didn't. The not-yet-fully recharged battery didn't quite have the beans to turn the starter for more than a few palsied groans -- none sufficient to kick the motor to life. The line of cars behind me was not amused. But by the grace of Elvis, there was a downhill stretch -- a side road off to the right -- if I could just clear the intersection. Here is where it comes in handy to be a runner. Because you never know when you might have to push 500 pounds of deadweight 20-40 yards.

Well, I managed to get through the intersection without too much incident (though there was plenty of embarrassment) and lept back on board as the bike crested the rise that marked the beginning of the downhill stretch of that blessed side road. In gear, let out the clutch -- and back in bidness. The just-weaned engine barked to life through the miracle of inertia.

I vowed not to stop again until I was safely back within Pushing Range.

END