Friday, November 27, 2009

winter project

Thanksgiving day before the feast of fried turkey, ham and all the fixings I was able to get the motor out of my 1955 Triumph Thunderbird. It runs really good, but leaks like a diseased skank. The plan is to tear it down do all new gaskets and replace anything else in there that needs it. We'll see how it goes...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I'm not the only one...

So, I found this while searching for pics of old Triumphs. So it came off the Cycle World Staff Blog from 2007 and I read and thought it was the coolest thing I've read in quite a while. This article totally sums up how the racing and my old ass 69 Chevy van make me feel. It's exactly what I'm after every time I load it up and drive out to the track and live in it for the weekend. I hope no one gets pissed that I posted it here, but then again, no ones probably reading this anyway...



Horse owners spend more time feeding, leading, currying and blanketing their animals than they do riding them. Motorcycle racers spend more time traveling to and from the races than they ever do on the bike with the engine running. In living this life in the 1970s, I often found myself in a van, on the road, unable to sleep while another person drove, but knowing that my next five-hour trick at the wheel was coming up fast. Sixty hours of this, coast-to-coast, seemed a fair trade for racing's moments of intensity.

For some, the track is a short drive—maybe 100 miles or less. Hardly worth thinking about. For others, it's a long grind and there is plenty to consider.

The three-dollar styrofoam cooler looked like a steal in the supermarket—stuff it with cold drinks and sandwiches, then dine like kings all the way to Mosport or VIR or Indianapolis Raceway Park. Plans fail. Styrofoam squeaks unstoppably. And someone will see it as a handy footrest, or even a place to sit. The steady vibration of travel causes rearrangements. That is, the sandwiches are rearranged downward, into the water melting from the ice so providently bought and packed. This is the true meaning of “submarine sandwich.” This is why I preferred to trot into the restaurant while the van was being tanked up, to see what's on offer. No earnestly homemade but soggy sandwiches.

The first van I endured was an English Thames Freighter with 50-hp engine. Its front wheels wobbled at 40 mph like a major-brand luxo-tourer ridden hands-off at the same speed, and for the same reason—that's the classic wheel-rotation speed for wobble. Because as in the motorcycle case, wobble damping increases with speed, we could bust through the wobble by “accelerating” (the quotes are because 50 hp provides only the most gradual acceleration). The strain finally caused the Thames to spin a rod bearing somewhere in Connecticut and it was replaced by a new car with a trailer. This would be travel in style—seats for all, no more roasting/freezing on a pressed-steel engine cover, and no sleeping under bikes in the back. Civilization triumphant.

But there are reasons so few trailer their racebikes. Trailer wheel bearings have secrets. They know when it is least convenient for them to melt out their grease, overheat and then seize dark blue so that no known force available at roadside can pull the inner race from the axle. Trailer lighting technology economically routes plastic-insulated wires through hastily drilled holes in the metal structure, shrewdly saving the nickel cost of a rubber grommet at each point. Rough edges saw through the insulation, causing the lights to wink at patrolling policemen.

Why do trailer tie-downs loosen mainly in tunnels? This allows one or more bikes to slump over against a trailer tire, which then friction-saws a crescent-shaped hole in your fairing or tank.

The outcome of the car experiment was that we all bought vans and shunned styrofoam coolers.

At its best, the van becomes a machine of social transition between your “cosmetic life” of job, home and responsible adulthood, and your real life. As the song says, “I'm not the man they think I am back home.” Somehow, falling endlessly into the blackness beyond the headlight cones, or wrestling on the bunk with a flood of edgy, coffee-derived ideas that prohibit sleep, one being is transformed into the other. In the early morning, shaving in a rearview mirror or eating bad things from the concession, you have become a RACER. Now stand in line, pay $156, pour fuel, air up tires, start and warm up. This is it.

Going the other way, you greet the dawn and home with the edge of a sore throat, find coffee, shower and struggle off to work, hoping your exhaustion won't morph into unemployment. Soon you're fine, doing whatever it is you're paid to do, a working stiff once more. You can do it. It's easy, because it's not real.

One friend of mine kept his life together this way, using the all-night solo driving time to sort and order his chaotic thoughts. The restoring realities of racing became an essential buffer against the strains of his high-technology job, a blond wife with associated mortgage and mysterious child, and the awful lightness of being.

Non-solo van travel requires trust. What if your partner falls asleep at the wheel? On one trip, he did. I awakened on the bunk, feeling vibration. Grass out the left window, grass out the right. Quicker than I thought I could move, I had the wheel. This was the classic prelude to eternity—crossing the median on a long diagonal at 70 mph. I did all the rest of the driving on that trip, and I was never the least bit sleepy.

—Kevin Cameron



Privateer days, 1966: An early reality, with the van serving as fairing holder and the corner of a tent just showing. KC's friend Beecher Wooding did not waste money on undue replacement of T-shirts.


Bending to the task: A man, a van and a Kawasaki H2-R at Laguna Seca, 1973.

Pics and everything came from Cycle World Staff Blog, 2007.