Harley Survives. Will the Honda Lawnmower?

When we last saw the Harley Davidson in August 2012, it was being loaded onto the back of a truck. Bent and broken like it’s owner, the bike was no longer The Car Guy’s concern. The Harley’s destiny was in the hands of the insurance company.

Then – we got a phone call from our Son-in-law a few months ago. “I’ve found your Harley,” he said. “Not only that, it is repaired, and is being sold by the same guy here in Alberta that I bought my Harley from. If that isn’t coincidence enough, the guy who is selling the bike is the guy who repaired the bike, and he did the work this past winter in Phoenix Arizona!”

Phoenix – that meant the Harley had spent the winter in the same general area where The Car Guy had spent the winter recovering from his damages. But there is even more to the story. The guy who repaired the bike has a son who lives right next door to The Car Guy’s dad. It really is a small, small world!

The Harley survived, but will our Honda? This Honda lawn mower is 30 years old. It spent the last 3 years out at the cabin, and was one of the items The Car Guy salvaged from our flooded cabin last weekend. So far all he has done is pressure washed it, but starting this week, he and his Dad will start to dismantle it and see if they can bring it back to life.

“Why bother?” you might ask. Indeed, why.

Maybe it is because it has faithfully mowed our lawns for 30 years, and it deserves another chance.

Maybe it is because we were raised to reuse, recycle, fix and make do – long before it was the popular thing to do.

Or maybe it is because there was so little we could salvage from the flood, that anything is better than nothing, and something is a nice reminder of all the happy days we spent there. Mowing the lawn. We didn’t have much, so it wasn’t really a big job. But it smelled so nice when it was being done, and it looked so nice when it was finished. And every time we fire up this mower again, we will be reminded of all our neighbours, and the sounds of their mowers on those happy sunny days when all the mowers on the street came out for a quick run around the yard.

Consider the many special delights a lawn affords: soft mattress for a creeping baby; worm hatchery for a robin; croquet or badminton court; baseball diamond; restful green perspectives leading the eye to a background of flower beds, shrubs, or hedge; green shadows – “This lawn, a carpet all alive/With shadows flung from leaves’ – as changing and as spellbinding as the waves of the sea, whether flecked with sunlight under trees of light foliage, like elm and locust, or deep, dark, solid shade, moving slowly as the tide, under maple and oak.  This carpet!
–   Katharine S. White, Onward and Upward in the Garden, 1979

Remembering the Harley Motorcycle

Never trade the thrills of living for the security of existence.
– Unknown-

It is with great sadness that we announce the demise of an inhabitant of The Car Guys garage, Harley Davidson.

2011 Harley Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic CVO – October 21, 2010  to October 19, 2012

Harley went for a short ride on the morning of Friday, July 13, 2012. Apparently neither the rider nor bike thought about the consequences of venturing out on such an unlucky day. A Perfect Storm of events resulted in both of them being in the ditch.

Harley had many broken and bent bits and it was eventually decided by the Insurance Doctor that Harley was not a candidate for restorative surgery. This was because the cost to repair Harley was likely going to be more than it was worth on the resale market.  Harley will, however, probably become an ‘organ’ donor, and it is our hope that many of Harley’s parts will breath new life into bikes that are in need of a transplant.

The Car Guy was more fortunate. He had many broken and bent bits too, but the People Doctors don’t consult a resale blue book before they decide if a patient is worth saving. The Car Guy has passed his 3 month post accident check-ups with flying colours, and he is well on the way to being just like before. Well, not exactly like before because the brain injury has altered his personality a bit, but in a good way.

Comforts Zones and Risk Tolerance

The length of this document defends it well against the risk of its being read.
– Winston Churchill –

I’ll keep this story short, then, with a few photos -not risqué, just risky.

Risk Tolerance and Comfort Zone – two concepts to think about now and then. At our house, The Car Guy is working hard to get back into his Comfort Zone, which for him is freedom from pain, and getting his neck brace off. (See A Perfect Storm.) Once that is achieved, he can start to think again about what his Risk Tolerance will be when the motorcycle is repaired!

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
– Anais Nin –

We live in an area of the country called Hail Alley.  These white lilies have been in my garden for ten years or more, and without fail they get hit by hail either just before they bloom, or just after.  That doesn’t stop them from blooming as best they can, though. Plucky little flowers.

lawn chairs

The concept of reducing risk is not new. People have been managing risks in some form since human beings first decided to keep their hands out of the cookfire.
– Risk Management – BC Fire Academy –

Summer bonfires (with marshmallows) at the cabin.  The grandchildren are old enough now to whittle sticks with sharp knives and use said weapons for tasks that bother timid adults. (This is the best I can do for a bonfire photo – I was never at the cabin on the evenings the extended family had a bonfire. It was just that kind of a summer.)

Adventure without risk is Disneyland.
– Doug Coupland –

My nephews little boy has a bike now and while he can’t keep up with the big kids on their bikes, he can sure park it where they do. He wears a helmet, of course, but the pot holes in the roads at the cabin have unseated him on more than one occasion, and he can show you the bruises to prove it.

I’m stepping out of my Comfort Zone today – I’m going to the dentist. Yes, I am a risk taker! How about you?

LEGO Surgeon Says, This is What is Wrong!


The Car Guy was still in the hospital after his Motorcycle Accident when our daughter, The Nurse, gave her dad this Lego Surgeon. If you look very carefully at the x-ray in the Surgeon’s hand, you might see what is wrong with the patient.

We decided the x-ray showed a rib fracture, though if you turn the x-ray upside down, it might be a break in the clavicle. Since The Car Guy had both – rib fractures and a broken clavicle – the x-ray was fairly accurate!

Perfect Storm – The Motorcycle Accident

A “perfect storm” is an expression that describes an event where a rare combination of circumstances will aggravate a situation drastically.
– Wikipedia –

damaged bike HarleyThe Car Guy remembers getting on his motorcycle on a Friday morning and heading east for a short ride on a quiet country highway. He doesn’t remember the ambulance trip, nor much about the day he spent in Emergency. His next 4 days in Trauma were also a bit of a blur, but that was to be expected with a brain injury. There were lots of other injuries too – the  human body isn’t designed for unexpected flight off a motorcycle.

It was the Perfect Storm. In a split second, everything that could go wrong  that morning – did. And, after that, everything that could go right – did too.

Someday, our family will say, “We wish this had never happened. We hope it never happens again. But – we are a stronger family for it.”  Each member of the family will take a different lesson away from the experience. It has been that life altering.

It has been three weeks since the accident. The stitches are out, the wounds are healing, the bones are knitting.  The brain is probably working the hardest, though. It has no problem retrieving the memories of everything that happened before it got bumped, but holding onto everything that has happened since the accident is like trying to capture a stream of water in your hands.

The Harley Davidson motorcycle waits patiently in the garage. Like the owner, it is scratched and dented, but with the touch of the key it still roars to life. With time, and patience, both will be well again some day.

Getting Ready for a Motorcycle Ride

The best alarm clock is sunshine on chrome.
– Author Unknown –

Rough and ready motorcycle riders get up at the crack of dawn to make sure everything is ready to roll.

The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.
– Henry David Thoreau –

And that is the challenge. When a group rides together, no one goes anywhere until the last person is ready! That means every boot is done up, every chap is buckled, every jacket is zipped, every helmet is cinched and every glove is slipped on. If the weather is cold, it takes extra time to add another layer or two. If the weather is hot, it means no one wants to be ready first because they don’t want to overheat while they wait.

Multiply this by the number of stops per day, which can sometimes be five or six, and it is actually quite amazing how far we get in a day!

Our Harley Motorcycle’s First Adventure

A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.
– William Shedd –

There came a day when The Car Guy asked me to be his Biker Chick (perhaps as a way to justify the handsome touring bike he coveted), and I just couldn’t turn down a chance to ride behind this dashing man dressed in black leather… It was time for me to leave my safe harbor.

Two Up Riding – I sit on the back of a two wheel machine that can accelerate to infinity and beyond before I’ve even noticed the light turned green. I trust The Car Guy and his knowledge of this machine to keep me safe… well, as safe as one can be on the back of a motorcycle, which isn’t the same thing as the safety of my recliner in the living room, or even the seat of my PT Cruiser, for that matter.

This past week-end we pointed the Harley west. After climbing through the Rogers Pass, we descended into Revelstoke BC where we stayed in a hotel that gave us a glimpse of this mountain in the distance.

As mountains in the Rockies go, this one is actually not very dramatic when seen in the light of morning. But the night before, we watched a thunderstorm sweep through the valley. Forks of lightning raked the sides of the mountain, and on two occasions we saw flames, then wisps of smoke where trees had been ignited. We watched the making of a forest fire, and it was both fascinating and horrifying. Fortunately the rain put these baby fires out before they could really get going!

From Revelstoke we travelled south to Nelson. At one of our rest stops, I found a gardener who clearly likes sunflowers as much as I do. One entire side of their house had a deep flower bed just filled with these happy faces!

Boswell British ColumbiaFrom Nelson we headed back east to Fernie. Near the BC community of Boswell is an impressive little home called The Glass House. It is the ultimate example of recycling, having been constructed from over half a million empty embalming fluid bottles!

Nearing the end of our trip, we dropped back into the foothills of Alberta. A threatening bank of clouds rolled into the valley. As the miles clicked by, we came upon a cattle drive. Knowing the Harley was not going to be stopped so I could take another photo, I pointed my camera in the general direction of the cows and clicked the shutter.  It is very hard to take photos when the wind threatens to rip the camera right out of your hand…

A ride on a motorcycle is not just trip, it is an adventure. Each time we take the Harley out of the garage, I think of Marlin the clownfish from Finding Nemo (Walt Disney Studios). After finally finding his lost son, Marlin is not inclined to let Nemo leave his side again. But, Marlin recognizes that he has to let his son grow up and explore the world on his own terms. He says to his son,  “Now go have an adventure!”

This and That – Authors

Stuart McLean
I just finished reading “Extreme Vinyl Cafe” by Stuart McLean. I love these stories about Dave and Morley – you’ll want to read the one about how Dave got to know the inside of the trunk of his car while looking for an escaped pet rat…

Robert Fulghum
Robert Fulghum is one of my very favourite authors. (Not a Canadian, unfortunately, but no one is perfect…) One of his essays last  month discusses Fulghum’s Tool Rule:  “Unpredictable complexity that replaces reliable simplicity is not progress.” He gives the following examples of simplicity that would be hard to improve on:
A Wheelbarrow
A pencil made of wood and graphite, with an eraser on the end.
A paper clip.
A clothes pin.
A claw hammer.
A pocket knife with two blades.
A classic mouse trap.
A shovel.
An axe.
A broom.
Can you think of other examples?

Rare Birds
Last night we watched a Movie called Rare Birds. Filmed in Newfoundland and Labrador, it stars William Hurt, Molly Parker, and Andy Jones. Mary Walsh has a cameo appearance. If, after watching the movie, you want to see this part of the world  for yourself, head over to the Newfoundland and Labrador website (which tells you what kind of Rare Birds you might actually see!) to plan your trip. Don’t forget that Icebergs and Whales can sometimes be seen off the coast of this dramatic land.

TED Talks
TED is a  nonprofit program dedicated to spreading Ideas. Themes include Technology, Entertainment, Design, Business, Science, Culture, Arts and Global Issues. To date, almost 900 talks have been filmed, and are available for viewing at the TED website. Try Sir Ken Robinson speaking on how Schools Kill Creativity then move onto his Bring on the Learning Revolution.

My just about favourite TV show was Top Gear. We got it here on BBC Canada. Yes, it was about cars, but it is a British Show, so it was nothing like anything made in the USA. We used to watch it when we lived in the UK, and were happy to find that we get it here in Canada too. One of the three presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, apparently lives in the Cotswolds, in or near Chipping Norton. We have toured through that area on several occasions and it remains right near the top of  my list of best places in the world to visit. I love all the old place names – Chipping Norton, Chipping Campden, Morton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on-the-Water.

Top Gear Guest
Last night it was a Comedian by the name of Michael McIntyre. He did a short monologue about overtaking a Porsche on the motorway while driving his old British Leyland Princess. Of course, it might not seem quite so funny  if your ear isn’t tuned to the British accent, and you don’t know what the Loser Lane is…

Harley Owners Group
With the addition of a Harley to the Car Guys fleet, came the absolute need to join the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.). The HOG Magazine arrived in the mail a few weeks ago, and one article was of particular interest – Sky to Sea. It tells the story of a couple, Bob and Candace, who had planned to ride across Canada. These plans ended when Candace died from cancer. Bob eventually decided to undertake the journey alone, and his blog, Sky to Sea, chronicles the trip. Very interesting blog, even if you don’t ride a motorcycle.

Harley Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic CVO – 2011

1984 Honda V65 Magna

My Spousal Unit, The Car Guy, has ridden motorcycles for many years. He started with a Honda 50 Cub in about 1963. When he outgrew that, he graduated to cars, owning a string of them through the early years of our marriage. In about 1982 he decided to ride again, and purchased a 1979 Yamaha 750 Triple. This was sold, and then replaced with a new 1984 Honda V65 Magna.

Road trips with his buddies were replaced with road trips with his wife, when in 2005 he purchased his first touring bike – a BMW K1200 LT. The BMW, still in pristine condition, was put up for sale in order to make room in the garage for the new bike, a 2011 Harley Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic CVO. As the kids say, we are spending their inheritance…

BMW K1200 LT

The BMW and the Harley are both, of course, top of the line touring bikes. And though the Harley is brand new, the BMW is technologically as modern.

2011 Harley Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic CVO

So why replace the BMW with a Harley? A number of things, really. One is the sound. The Harley sounds like a motorcycle, the BMW doesn’t. As the author Ted Bishop points out about his BMW in his interesting book, Riding with Rilke “…at idle mine sounded like a Water Pik, at full throttle it sounded like an angry blender.”

Another consideration is the distance from the top of the seat to the ground. My husband is a generous 6 foot 2 inches in height, while I am a full foot shorter than that. The BMW really is designed to be ridden safely and comfortably by taller people, while the Harley can accommodate somewhat shorter riders. The lower seat height, and subsequent slightly lower center of gravity of the Harley make it easier to handle in city traffic. And the Harley is certainly easier to get on and off for both of us.

The Harley has more luggage space. The back trunk is more convenient because it flips open sideways, while the BMW’s flips open onto the passenger seat, meaning you can’t leave your helmet and jacket there while you rummage in the trunk for stuff. We live in a country where we can start riding in the morning in temperatures  just above freezing, and end the day with bathing suit temperatures. Storage space for the appropriate clothing is a must.

The Harley offers more variety for driver foot position, and has an anti-vibration foot pad. The BMW only has a single placement foot peg. The Harley has a heel-toe shifter which can be used as a toe shifter only, while the BMW is just a toe shifter.

The Harley and the BMW have heated seats. The location of the toggle is more convenient to reach on the Harley than the BMW, and more clearly labeled. The Harley also has more ground clearance, which will be nice when going over speed bumps or other unavoidable obstacles like that.

The BMW does have a few features that we’ll miss. The BMW has a reverse gear, an adjustable windscreen, and an electric center stand. It has a larger gas tank, and gets better gas mileage. The BMW paint type and color doesn’t show dust and dirt the way that the shiny Harley paint does. The BMW luggage trunks feel stronger and more durable, though time will tell… The BMW has larger rearview mirrors.

Update: 2017 – The Honda is still in the garage, the BMW was sold, the Harley was written off in an accident that ended The Car Guy’s motorcycle riding days. The Harley was rebuilt and went through two owners before it was purchased by our son-in-law.

Montana – A Highway Motorcycle Ride

“I’m so far behind I think I’m first.”

My spousal unit used to say this when he got home from work,  in response to my query, “How did your day go?”

On our group motorcycle trips, my husband usually is the drag bike. On long stretches of  open highway, he sets his speed control and eventually ends up well back of the pack. He’s okay with that – he’s far enough behind to feel like he’s first… but still close enough to keep watch over the family.