Friday, May 2, 2008

Road Trip From Hell, Part Deux......

Prologue -

Ever since my (de)formative years in the Amherst Central School District, nothing but failure was expected from me. By members of my own family, school district administrators, people who have claimed to be friends of mine, etc. Judging from reactions from various individuals, failure has been expected from my skooter, a Honda Helix CN250. Called "a dweeb machine" by one friend of mine, referred to as a "moped" by a former co-worker, and, as stated by one drunk guy outside a Cedar Mill bar - "nice ride, until you get caught on it" (which almost had gotten him an ass-kicking had his girlfriend not hauled him away) ……the CN250 was expected to fail…..and thus, it was deserving of ridicule, thought many……

Isn't it funny, though.....when you look back at the first things that you buy? Your very first car that you bought? Your very first motorcycle that you bought?? Your very first girlfriend or boyfriend that you bought.......never mind.....

Well...they all sucked big time, right?? Unless you were born wiff a sliver spoon, you likely couldn't afford a new Lexus SUV for yourself as your first car!!

Well, I had already went through my debacle with my first motorcycle (an ex-girlfriend, who knew shitloads more than I did about motorcycles at the time, refused to fly up to Portlandia on my dime to go look at used bikes wiff me) so I walked into the world of motorcycles buying QUITE blindly. Ended up getting a 1979 Honda CB650 for $500 that was beefy as all fuck (seemed a lot faster than said Ex's 2003 Harley Sportster 883), but possessed some rather irritating mechanical issues. Oooooh, things like the fact that upper, middle and bottom gaskets throughout the engine block hadta be replaced (causing the thing to smoke like a muvvafukka when sitting at a red light), and that the entire front end of the bike (fork, wheel, et. al.), I would later be told, was ripped straight offa some sort of Kawasaki!!! Grrrreeeaaaat.....

.....I mean, if you've ever read Jim Anchower's column in The Onion......that CB650 was the kinda bike Jim would ride.

Rode it around forra while, but didn't really feel like dropping major repair buxx into it (like, $600 + for engine gasket overhaul, new rear tyre, speedo and brakes)........and too lazy to deal with it myself (plus, again....a car?? COOL....LEMME AT IT!! But I know dead-zero about motorcycles), soooo.....

......dumped it off on eBay for three bills. But I was dead honest: I told 'em each and every issue with that bike that I knew about. So, I could look at myself in the mirror in the morning.

Well, I really liked I needed something!! Hell.....I'd never even wanted a skooter. I wanted a motorcycle.....just one that was in far better condition than the first one that I bought, and I was ready to drop more than $500 for the thing this time.

Was sitting around my friend Gord's apartment drinking pints (back when he lived in Portlandia) one day in September 2006 when, whilst surfing the Internet, Gord said "E!! Found your ride, dude......"


"Found you your ride. It's a skooter....really neat...."

" Dude, thass sweet of ya, but I AIN'T putting around town on some girlie-ass skooter. NO!"

"No, it's neat.....come on. We gotta go look at it"

"Oh, for fuck sakes......just to shut you up.....FINE!!!!!! Waste my fuggin' time.....*bitch* *moan* *grumble*....."

We git there to look at this skooter. Christ, I COULD NOT believe, just to shut Gord up, that I was wasting my time to go out and look at some Goddamm SKOOTER!!!!!!!!!

So we git there and I see it......


"Told ya. Wankshaft!!"

"Errmmm.....dude? This is not a skooter, it's a Goddamm LAND SLED"

Reached a deal with the guy three days later, and away I rode on my 1986 Honda Helix

I have gauges for everything. When to give shit up….how well things SHOULD work vs. what you put into them, when to determine the law of diminishing return at my job, etc. etc.

Many, many moons ago, when I was a piss poor young Gen X'er in the Post-Industrial wasteland of Buffalo (now, I've advanced to a regular poor Government worker in the Pacific NorthWest), I had a gauge just how long a car should last.

You see, in Western New York in the late 1980's and early 1990's (and STILL true even today), if you were NOT politically connected (for a public-sector job) or socially connected with a friend who wielded actual hiring power (for a private-sector job) you either A) – were on the dole or B) – were making $3.25 cents an hour! Basically, best case scenario: You were "employed" and you were making that three-twenty-five an hour. Thus, you had a vehicle budget of, roughly, $500.

Now, after finding your ideal chariot, you gauged your purchase on a scale. The scale being that, for five-hundred bucks, after a full-fledged tune-up and oil change, this vehicle SHOULD last you ("last you" meaning, like, not totally dying outright [e.g. – tranny drop, thrown rod, block seize, jock itch, etc.] but something where if it breaks down, it STILL is realistically repairable) roughly five thousand miles. Dropped a grand on it??? Then, you SHOULD be looking at 10,000 miles and/or at least a full year before your vehicle gives up the ghost.

And anything beyond that was gravy!

Some vehicles I purchased in Buffalo between 1986 and 2004 made it well beyond the 5,000 miles/six months PER $500 cost of purchase (like my 1980 Ford Fiesta – STILL have $300+ in unpaid parking tickets from the City of Montreal from SEVERAL Buffalo-Montreal road trips [850 miles round-trip] taken in the Fiesta)…..and other cars I've purchased? Weeellll…….let’s leave those lapses of judgment unspoken (like my 1982 Plymouth Champ, which I literally don’t think made it one hundred miles).

Hell….in 2005, on one of my recent cross-country trips, I drove a 1983 Caprice Classic with an under-powered V-6 in it that I bought in Vancouver, Washington for $450…..and maybe dropped a grand total of $200 into it (in terms of tune-up parts, oil changes and four new tyres) and, knowing that it had either a cracked cylinder head or a blown head gasket, drove it around Oregon, Washington State, Nevada and British Columbia for two years and THEN, AFTER THAT, drove it from Portlandia to Buffalo…..and STILL sold the fucker at the end of the trip in Buffalo for $250 (fully explaining to the purchaser the cylinder head/head gasket situation)!!!

And, a year later, whilst driving around Western New York, I SAW that very same Caprice driving fine (couldn’t miss it: Two-tone brown and copper)! And they STILL had the “I bet you’d drive better with that cell phone stuck up your ass!” sticker on the rear window that I stuck on there!

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I don’t have a lot of heroes in my life. There are some people I really admire, and a couple of them are the basis for this folly. One is Bill Lee, former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, whose sheer ability to tell a story based on his own personal observations is amazing, as can be found in two of his tomes “The Wrong Stuff” and “Have Glove, Will Travel”. If I find myself within, say, 200 miles of his pad in Craftsbury, Vermont.......maybe I'll knock on the door and ask if he wants to share a blunt......

Another person I admire is Ed Otto….a guy who, in 1995, actually rode a Honda CN250 (much like mine…only at the time, his was brand new and in much better shape than mine is in) in something called “The Iron-Butt Rally”

No, I’m not doing anything THAT insane, but still…’ve got to read this. Seriously. It might explain the confidence I have in my steed:

From my residence in The Hills of Cedar, having done two 400 mile trips (200 miles each way) to Seattle on I-5 with the CN250 (whoops! Promised my father that I’d not take the Helix on any Interstates!) in four-and-a-half hours each way (that includes a long-ass lunch at Dairy Queen) and one 380 mile trip (190 miles each way) straight through to Florence, Oregon for a job interview which never quite panned out - good thing, too, 'cause it paid rubbish…….and having the folks at Action Motor Sports in Gresham, OR see the CN250 off properly fit for this adventure (I CANNOT sing enough praise about these people at Action Motor Sports – lookie):

……I have no worries!

Soooo....factoring with the above gauging standards for whether you got your money's worth on a car purchase, and that I have not put a huge amount of repair buxx into the Helix......just on those three trips alone (NOT counting NUMEROUS 160-mile round-trip runs to The Oregon Coast, nor counting all the time I spend riding it around Portlandia [and I DO ride it A LOT.....12 months out of the year]) made the Helix easily pass the bang-for-the-buck test.

And NOW??

I'm gonna ask it to do something that really NO skooter should EVER be put's gonna hafta carry me and minimal gear around the circumference of the United States (and a little bit of Canada).....anywhere from a grand total of 8500 miles to 12,000 miles.....depending.....

But still, I’m not gonna do the Ed Otto/Iron-Butt psycho ride……Naw, this is gonna be done over a three-month period. I'll be doing more like a mellow average of 200 or so miles per day. Sometimes 100….125…150 miles……sometimes 250….300…350 miles…..depends on what I see, and what the weather puts in front of me that day in whatever particular place I find myself in…..

Welcome to Road Trip From Hell......Part Deux!!! Thought you had problems communicating with the Cantonese?? Jes' fucking wait 'till you meet The Texans!!

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So how'd I come up with this brilliant idea?

Well, it came up when I had two friends that really wanted to see me and they lived in different cities. Well, I only had three total days of vacation and only one plane ticket in my hand.

Thought about how beautifully my job had been progressing (especially in comparison to how it had been progressing for my co-workers), and I had just figured: "Well....the spring will be as good time as any!!"

"OK....OK.....job sucked and you weren't going anywhere in it.....and the weather's getting warmer. OK....OK...makes sense., HOW did you do the route?"

That was easy. I sent a mass E-Mail to about 30 friends who lived in places OTHER than Buffalo, New York and Portland, Oregon. The E-Mail said: " is riding my skooter around the country. Got any floor space I can crash on forra night? Love, -E-"

Got about 16 people who responded "Yes, E, I'd/we'd love for you to come see me/us/etc."

So I simply put push-pins into a map of the USA representing where friends of mine have invited me to stay wiff them and I ran a string of yarn between all 16 of said pushpins and VOILA!!! There's my route!!

Plus.....another thing I'm kinda interested in: I need to do some sort of research in the heartland. I want to find out WHY the lower-income levels in the middle of this nation, berift of any help economically from the Executive branch and the Federal legislature, keeps voting Republican....ESPECIALLY since it is truly to their own detriment economically!

Did Barack Obama actually have a factual point that less-educated lower-income people in certain parts of the nation are being scared into "God and Guns" by the Right-Wingers rhetoric?

Or is it just all one BIG-ASS stereotype about certain socio-economic groups of people in the U.S.A.?

How?? Why??

I mean, DOES the much-rumoured anti-intellectual void between Pennsylvania and Nevada actually EXIST, as speculated by numerous social scientists (OK, NO Sociologist or Economist "speculated" that.......I made that shit up about the Geographic Intellectual wasteland between Pennsylvania and Nevada all by myself!)??

But seriously, IS the sociological and political science theory correct that in order to maintain power in any sort of authoritarian government, that you MUST keep the masses uneducated (LOOK at the cost of kollege today - you think reductions in Federal higher education aid and spending are by ACCIDENT during the last eight years)??

I mean, it is literally just like this Onion article.......'cept that it's really happening!!

Soooo.......whilst I'm talkin' with these folks at bars over beers and at diners over breakfast, I wanna hear what they have to say about the state of our country and compare it with this book that I bought to read on this ride called What's the matter with Kansas?

I really gotta go die now and hit the road fairly early after brekker tomorrow.


Pray for me....I is gonna need it......



Anonymous said...

If you are only going to go around the circumference of the USA, as stated in this post and in your more recent schedule, how are you going to hit the "heartland" to ask your insane/arrogant/pretentious questions, as stated in this post?

CN250 said...

Good question!

First off, the Heartland portion is going to be on the return, from Buffalo to Portland.

I think that Indiana, North and South Dakota and Wyoming geographically and demographically are considered part of "The Heartland"

Plus, I am going to spend time in Eastern Colorado as well as crossing the entire length of Texas...

Secondly, I am going to LISTEN....and learn! At no point did I state that I was going to ASK "insane/arrogant/pretentious" questions?

I am very curious.....what I am seeking to learn is about how (what believe is) a flawed economic agenda (AgraCorporations, "free trade" and such) is being subversively masked behind a conservative moral package and is being sold to and eaten up by folks in certain parts of the United States.

Define how that is asking "pretentious questions", please.....