Wednesday, March 14, 2012
The Project Bike
Paul and I left for Bellefonte and a late breakfast on one of the balmy days last week. No better way to burn a half day's vacation time from work. A BMW K1200 GT is an unlikely pairing with a Vespa -- I've witnessed demonstrations of the power advantage of the BMW as it fled from the scooter at a pace I could never hope to match.
During breakfast I was reminded of project bikes when an old neighbor and her daughter stopped by our table. Her son, Cooper, has a project going in their basement with his Honda motorcycle completely dismantled and awaiting reassembly. Cooper, if you read this, pay no attention to your sister's predictions that it will never run again. She just doesn't understand the spiritual power of the mechanical journey you've undertaken.
That brings me to my own thoughts of a project bike. A couple weeks ago I received an email from Paul instructing me to clear out the garage and gather some cash -- he found the perfect project bike for us -- a 1989 URAL.
After breakfast we paid a visit to the the machine in question. As I neared I could feel my wallet try to leap from my pocket. The smell of sulfur floated in the air as a cloud passed over the sun. There, under a roof next to a garage sat the URAL. Sat might be too strong. There it existed might be better.
The registration tag on the license plate indicated 2005 as the last legal time it was on the road. The earth was slowly absorbing the URAL and a sense of sadness permeated the air. The odometer showed less than 2000 miles and was explained by the owner as resulting from problems with the bike when it was new and the dealer setting it up improperly. Those actions led to the repeated fouling of sparkplugs at the 60 mile mark and he eventually grew tired of replacing them and of the URAL in general that he parked it and walked away. That's 2000 miles in 16 years. Sweet.
Mechanical projects called to me despite the general hatred I have for machines. The puzzle, the challenge, some hard to describe experience sings out and I feel vulnerable to bad decision making. Experience has proved over and over that they are black holes for cash, money, and spirit. And they likely will never be completed. In my head plays a film of my construction of a dune buggy on a custom chassis utilizing an engine from a 1963 Corvair Spyder. With thousands of dollars invested when I left for college by mother sold it to someone for $300 while I was away -- less than the price of the headers I put on the engine.
And there's the 1949 Willys Jeep pickup truck that my father and I completely dismantled and sandblasted with loving care. The engine to a speed shop to be rebuilt, time and sweat and cash invested only to turn it over, unfinished, to the buyer when he sold his farm.
Staring at the black URAL I could see myself cleaning out the garage, organizing my tools for an assault, preparing for a mechanical siege worthy of at least two write-ups at GarageJournal.com. I could feel my head being pulled closer and closer to the engine by URAL forces, vision dimming, reason evaporating, Paul dancing a jig, the seller dangling the $1200 price tag in my face...
And then a flame flickered inside me, a soft voice slowly rose in my mind speaking clearly, "Ride, son, ride. Don't clean, don't dismantle, fix or modify. Abandon the search for parts, the need to weld or paint or modify. Ride, and ride again. Waste not a minute of your life on such a project..."
And so it has passed. The URAL awaits another rider.