Thursday, June 30, 2011

Don't Judge My Book By Its Cover

Don't Judge My Book By Its Cover

by Worth Cadenhead on Monday, December 20, 2010 at 9:20am
I saw the way you looked over at me, you snug in your minivan with your wife and kids, me on my motorcycle, face exposed to the elements. You had that look that mixes fear with revulsion. I'm sure you've seen too many movies and bad TV shows and you have no idea who I am or what I do. You probably think of me as somebody who travels through life unencumbered with the trappings of "normal" life: steady job, family, children, and morals - somebody who doesn't bother with the concerns of others.You may see me as some drifter, wandering place to place, leaving wanton destruction in my wake. Again: Hollywood.
You don't know me, and all you see is what you consider a reckless and incomprehensible vehicle to be using in December.What you DON'T know is everything. See, all those entrapments of "normal life"? I have them, too. I've worked at the same job for thirteen years, and yes, I've been married twice, but it doesn't mean I love my son any less, or the daughter who's on her way to this world. You also don't know that my girlfriend and my son were in the car behind me.
Some assumptions you probably made are true. It's winter, so you couldn't know for sure because of my jacket, but yes, my arms are covered in tattoos. And yes, to be honest, there was a pistol in my pocket.
There was a specific reason I was exercising my Second Amendment right that day, and a specific reason my other half and my son were in the car behind me. Even a very specific reason I was riding, and not in a car with the heater on. See, we, along with my motorcycle club, delivered toys and food and a gift certificate for a grocery store to a family who otherwise would've spent Christmas with nothing to distinguish it from any other day, and maybe even not knowing if they'd have enough to eat the rest of the week. All the motorcycle clubs in Austin did the same thing for at least one family that day. I carried a weapon because the neighborhood wasn't exactly the safest and I wanted to make sure the gifts made it to those they were intended for. We rode, because the kids get excited when they hear the bikes from blocks away, then see us park in front of their house or apartment. My girlfriend and son were in the car partly because she's pregnant, but mainly because we needed the car to act as a stand-in for Santa's sleigh.
I helped share the true holiday spirit with complete strangers in true need this year. Like every year. What did you do? Buy your kid a new expensive updated version of the electronic toy you gave him last year?
Don't judge the book of my life by your opinion of its cover.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Product Review: Palm Pixi

I'll be writing product reviews periodically. They'll primarily be about motorcycle or bike related products. I'm going to start with something different, though. I'm going to warn you away from buying a Palm Pixi.


  Last year (2010) I became eligible for a phone upgrade, and I'd finally decided to move to the current decade and get a smart phone. I'd always made fun of them because I figured if I wanted to go online, I'd do so at home, sitting in front of my computer, as God intended. But I'd recently seen just how useful they could be. My facebook addiction had also soared to new heights, to be honest.

I looked around. The iPhone was out, because it was only available to AT&T users, and I'm perfectly happy with my Sprint service and plan. The HTC was the new hot item, but that also meant it was the current high dollar item, and I'm generally a low buck kinda guy. Okay, I'm a cheap bastard. Except for coffee. Life's way too short to drink cheap coffee, but that's a topic for another day. 

Back on topic. A coworker let me play around with her Blackberry. It seemed okay, but not great. I always hated those mice that are actually little buttons in the middle of the keyboard on laptops, and that's what the Blackberry uses. Also, the screen is limited in size compared to other phones. I'd heard good things about the Palm Pre. How it could run multiple applications at once, i.e. you could surf the Web, check your email and text all at once, like having a bunch of windows open on your computer browser. Apparently, this was unusual for smart phones (at the time, anyway).

I checked the Palms out at a Sprint store. There was the Pre, and also the new Pixi. I had seen slide out phones get worn out where they wouldn't stay in position, so that kind of made me leery of the Pre. Ah, but here was the Pixi. It had the same OS, same functionality, but no moving parts. And, to set it apart from the iPhone and the Droids, it had an actual physical keyboard. I'd had less than satisfactory experience with touch screen keyboards before, so this was a selling point. It also had touchscreen navigation as opposed to the silly little nub of a mouse on the Blackberry. The best of both worlds.

So I thought.

Now, to be honest, due to the job I did in the Navy, combined with being a metal fan most of my life, plus my love of loud motorcycles, I really don't have the best hearing. However, with the other five cell phones I've had, I've been able to max the volume on the ringer and was able to hear the damn thing. Not so with the stupid Pixi. I could barely hear it. IF I wasn't talking. Or listening to music. Or the TV. Or you know, breathing. Okay, the last one was an exaggeration. Sue me. Not the worst thing, I guess. I just set it for max volume plus vibration. If I didn't hear it, at least I could feel my pocket buzzing. No comments from the peanut gallery, please. This helped with phone calls, but it sucked for texts. My last phone was a Sanyo Katana. With that thing, I had many, many options for type of vibration, how long it lasted, etc. I had so many different options for ring tones and ring styles and volume, etc. I really liked that phone; if they come out with a Katana smart phone, I'll probably get it. Anyway, my absolute best option for notification of a text with the Pixi is a single chime accompanied by a half second vibration. That's it. I can't make the vibration last any longer, and we've already established that I can't hear the fucker ring. Annoying.

I'm too stubborn to read the manual, partially because it's somewhere in the digital archives of the Help menu of the phone. So, of course, by the time I discover these shortcomings, I've already sent in for my rebate. It's a little late to return it. I probably could have anyway, but it would have been a huge hassle, and I figured I could learn to adjust. After all, I could now carry the internet in my pocket. Just like living in the freakin' future.

Well, just about the time the warranty expires (and I never buy extended warranties except on motorcycles), I drop the damn thing. At work. On a cement floor. Shit. But, minimal damage ensued. One of the really neat features of this phone was a switch to turn off the ringer and put it on vibrate. This switch broke off, but there was no other damage.

Fast forward. As time wears on, other things happen. The backplate is a rigid plastic piece ensconced in soft rubber to provide good grip. I need to take it off periodically to dust the innards and because occasionally if I put the phone down too roughly, the aforementioned switch moves and I have to get to it to turn the ringer back on. Well, the edge of the rigid back breaks along one of the thin pieces where it's open for button access.

Then, the soft rubber casement decides to expand. It's slowly growing and sagging around the edges, looking like one of those bizarre Chinese dogs that has twice as much skin as necessary.

I can live with these minor things. But for the last month, the damn thing keeps muting itself for no damn reason. Today alone, I moved the switch at least three times, finally taping it in place. Sure enough, the little fucker silenced itself again, without the switch moving.

Also, for the last couple of weeks, the browser has really slowed down and also become unreliable. I can click on a link and it will wait and wait and wait and never load the page. Then I click on  another link and it loads right away. I'm not talking about broken web links. I'm talking about facebook notifications. It'll take me to Billy Joe Jim Bob's status that another person commented on after me, but not to John Doe's status. Arggh.

The bookmarks periodically won't load the page they're linked to, either. Yet, if I type in the URL, it goes right there. Irritating when you're using a phone. If you're accessing the internet via cell phone, you usually don't have time on your side, or you'd be using a computer. So, the slowness and refusal to follow links is irritating as all hell.

So, there's my first product review. If you're looking for a new smart phone, and you're considering a Palm, do yourself a favor. Like NancyReagan told us in the 80s, "Just Say No".

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Like Bikes Like I Like Women

 I like bikes like I like women:

Naked, fast, no baggage, and low maintenance.

Seriously, though. Bikes, in my opinion, should be about simplicity. I don’t mind complexity if it’s something that makes the ownership more simple; fuel injection instead of carburetor, for example. As long as it works and doesn’t leave me stranded on the side of the highway at night holding a pair of vise grips in one hand, a poorly adjusted crescent wrench in the other and a flashlight in my teeth, cussing loud enough to hear myself over the not-stopping-to-help-me traffic.

I admire the guys who can build choppers. Cutting and welding the frame, building an engine from swap meet treasure hunts. Laying on custom paint. Making the bike that exists in their own mind.

I respect the guys keeping the cafe racer thing going. Taking an old bike and tearing off anything that’s not needed to make it go (fast), stop (hopefully), or be legal (ish). Tearing down the motor and rebuilding it to make it faster.
I have to give a nod to the restoration guys, too. It takes a lot of dedication, time and work to track down period correct pieces and parts to make those antiques look, sound and run like they did when they came off the showroom floor.

I’m talking mainly about the guys who pull this off in the garage or shed or backyard picnic table at home. I admire the skills of the pros, but they have big budgets, all the equipment, and space. Plus, it’s their job. The real respect goes to the guy who builds his dream after working all day, and does it with whatever tools he has at hand.

But I digress. Back to the topic. Choppers are cool, but usually high maintenance and they don’t handle well in corners; cafe racers handle corners just fine, but again – the high maintenance issue. Plus the point of the cafe, “doing the ton”, or hitting 100 mph, is easily achieved by almost any stock bike now, so it’s mainly a matter of style. Don’t misunderstand me – nothing wrong there, and choppers and cafes are both really cool styles in my opinion. If I could have multiple bikes, I’d take one of each. Full restos really aren’t my thing, honestly. I truly don’t care if the seat bolts I use were made in 1952 or 2011. Plus, most of the totally “correct” restorations are trailer queens. I just want to ride.

Which returns me to simplicity.

The right bike for me is naked – no windshield, no luggage, no fairing. I could see making allowance for a small flyscreen, but definitely no fairing. Also, it needs to be strong; powerful. I don’t necessarily mean racetrack fast. Just enough to show off a little when my inner hooligan wants to take the throttle. Again, simple: got to be low maintenance. I hate having a bike that breaks down all the time. I don’t mind routine maintenance, and even the occasional repair, but dammit, let me spend more time turning the throttle than a wrench!

I’ve looked at some of the baggers and dressers being manufactured and sold under the guise of “motorcycle” in the last few years. Jeeeeesus! You damn near need a pilot’s license to make sense of all the switches, buttons, and knobs on these things. Not to mention the monitors…. Not simple. If I wanted to be in a bubble where no wind hit me, and have controls to adjust everything from the suspension to the windshield height to the radio to mission control in Houston, I’d drive a car.

I’m not knocking any kind of bike. You ride whatever you like. My opinion doesn’t count when it comes to your bike. But then again, this is my blog and this entry is about what I like.

I’ll take a bike with no baggage, no “wind protection” (defeats the purpose, eh?), and no frills. Make it simple. Make it go fast, turn fast, eat up miles and not break down. It could be a standard, or a naked sport bike, or a stripped down cruiser. It’s most likely made in Japan. Bonus points in my opinion if the Yuppie “bikers” turn their noses up at it.

Naked, fast, no baggage, and low maintenance. The way the motorcycle gods intended bikes to be.

Of course, at 42, with a second, brand new baby here, a Kawasaki Vaquero or a Yamaha Star Stratoliner Deluxe with a sidecar containing a baby car seat attached is starting to look acceptable…..
Well, maybe as a fourth bike.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Speed Limits: Highway Robbery by the Government?

I've had way too many conversations with Austin PD lately. Yeah, yeah, I know – the speed limits are posted; it's my fault, there are speed limits for a reason, blah, blah, blah.

You know what? In some places, actually most places, I agree with the idea of a speed limit. I don't speed in residential areas. Even as a teenager, I wouldn't do 26 mph in a 25 zone. Because I knew the potential for the presence of children. Commercial areas, areas with a lot of traffic, definitely need speed limits or it would be impossible to turn into or pull out of businesses.

Even highways need a speed limit where there are intersections, and people pulling out of driveways, side roads, etc.

Freeways? No intersections, no lights, limited access and egress. All the traffic going in one direction. I believe the far left lane should be a no speed limit zone, like parts of the autobahn. I'll acknowledge the need for speed limits on freeways in town. But does it need to be so arbitrary? I think not. Okay, maybe unlimited speed in town, even in the “fast lane” might be asking for problems. However, why the hell does the speed limit need to drop from 70 mph to 65 mph just because you got into town? How much difference does 5 mph really make in your ability to stop? Okay, so you're in town. There are still no lights, no stop signs, no intersections or driveways. You still have limited access and egress. True, there may be more traffic, but the traffic itself will enforce speed naturally. Ever tried to haul ass during rush hour? Not possible, unless you want to drive on the shoulder, which is illegal anyway. Thus, natural enforcement of speed.

Which begs the question: What really is the “reason” for most speed limits? I'll tell you: Revenue. Pure and simple. Sure, in residential and commercial areas, it may be about safety, but not out on the highway. If speed limits were really about safety, if the all-knowing and all-caring government were that concerned for our safety and truly believed driving slower would keep us safer, don't you think they'd require a governor on all vehicles? Our cars, trucks and motorcycles wouldn't be able to go faster than 70 mph or whatever arbitrarily decided-upon speed was deemed the fastest safe speed. It's possible. It would even be easy. A lot of commercial trucks have them already, as required by the transportation companies. Most states require vehicle inspections to make sure we don't become dangerous to other drivers. We maintain our brakes, brake lights, head lights, turn signals and other safety features, and submit to an annual inspection at a state authorized facility. If speed limits were about keeping us safe, they could add a speed governor to that list of mandated safety features. But then they'd lose out on all that income from speeding tickets, wouldn't they?

Which is why it's so easy to believe it truly is about making money. Otherwise, why would there be that drop from 70 mph to 65 mph? It's so that you can obey the state law, or maybe violate within a certain tolerance (most jurisdictions give an allowance of 5 to 10 mph), but then suddenly, if you're not paying attention, or if you just assume that since you're on a freeway it's 70 mph, you're getting pulled over by the city cop and get slapped with a not-insubstantial fine.

Bastards. Time for Ticket Dismissal classes now.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mid-day Stress Relief April 15, 2010

Mid-day Stress Relief

If you ride, you'll understand this. If you don't, chances are you're just not going to get it.

So, anyway, I was all stressed, frustrated and frazzled at work today. I didn't even bother with my break, because I couldn't relax. Then, I got to where I couldn't focus on my work, either. So I went outside to walk around for a 15 minute break. As I was walking through the parking lot, there was my "other woman" - my bike. Out of instinct, out came the key, and I got on and fired 'er up. No helmet, no gear, nothing - just impulse. Just took off. Went around the parking lot of the shopping center for a minute or two, then said "Fuck it" and rode off into the street.

As I was thinking about turning around, on a sudden impulse I took a turn onto an almost invisible residential street. Within fifty yards, the busy street was out of sight and out of earshot. This was a residential street, but the houses were set way back from the road, with lots of trees and shrubs in the yards, so it was almost like a deserted country road right in town. It's been rainy recently, and there was this neat "swishy" sound coming from the wet road surface under my tires. I just rode this windy, tree lined, wet, peaceful street till it hit another busy street a couple miles away, then made a U turn and re-rode it.

Funny thing is, by the time I got back to work, all the stress was gone, and I was relaxed. I don't know why I've never done this before, but I can tell you I'll definitely be doing it again.

Why Bikers Do What We Do

I've been asked "Why do y'all do that? What fun could it be to ride your motorcycle a couple hundred miles in the cold and rain, set up a tent and camp and ride in cold, rainy, winter weather?" "How can that be fun?"

I truly couldn't answer at the time, other than using the T shirt slogan "If I have to explain, you wouldn't understand". But that's too easy, and too cheesy. I tried to put it into words, saying things like "It's just what we do" or "Anybody can ride when the weather's nice - this separates the men from the boys".

I don't know why, but it occurred to me the other night. As you probably know, I read a lot, and watch a lot of movies. There's a character type that is common to most genres. The guy who finds himself in all kinds of dangerous, dirty, uncomfortable, and sometimes downright stupid situations. He's often a guy who could avoid such situations, but doesn't. Sometimes, it's his profession that puts him in the situations. He just can't seem to stay home and be warm, dry, comfy and safe. He's the grownup version of the kid who didn't have enough sense to come in out of the rain. He's the hero of the story. He's Indiana Jones looking for treasures of lost civilizations. He's Sir Galahad on a quest for the Holy Grail. He's Aragorn, journeying to Mordor to help fight off ultimate evil. Dr Livingstone, traipsing around the darkest jungles of Africa.

Well, there aren't really any frontiers left anymore. Sure, there are wars, and most bikers have served (some serve still) in the military, but it's just not the same kind of adventure. And THAT, my friends, is why we do what we do. Usually it's fun, but sometimes it gets uncomfortable, wet, messy, even stupidly dangerous. And you know what? At that point, when the outcome of the next hour, or even the next bend in the road becomes uncertain? Yeah, that's when  it's REALLY fun.

So, it boils down to this: We are Indiana Jones, Sir Galahad, Aragorn, Huck Finn, Lewis & Clark. We are Adventurers.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Sometimes we all need to step back and check the alignment on our minds. Adjust attitudes, check preconceptions to see if they've expired, and make sure the thinking hasn't worn a rut in the brain casing.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


So, I'm learning things. We really shouldn't ever stop that. When we stop learning, the mind starts to stagnate and begins its long, slow death that we refer to as “old age”. My father has always said that his age isn't how old he is – it's just how long he's been here. The man turned 78 last November and sometimes he acts younger than me. It's Attitude.

Anyway, back to learning. I'm learning about myself; I don't know – maybe it's a function of middle age setting in, but I seem to be getting more introspective in the last year or two. Sometimes, I think my attitudes and thoughts and priorities are those of a twenty five year old. Other times, I feel like I'm too settled down. Maybe that's the same thing. Maybe I'm crazy; who knows? I'm working on trying to reconcile the guy who wants to ride, party and have fun all the time with the family man who has responsibilities he wants to live up to.

Here's part of that reconciliation.

I don't get to ride as much as I'd like. Matter of fact, with a new baby, almost all my riding for a while is going to be commuting. I used to worry that riding to work too often would make me take riding for granted and then I wouldn't enjoy it on my time off. For a while, sadly, that was true. Then, I put some thought into it. Attitude. I started turning my commute into a capital “R” Ride. Instead of just numbly commuting along in a brain-dead state like most cagers, I started really paying attention to my ride to work. Sometimes, that means being a little aggressive cutting through traffic, to make up for not being able to go hit the twisties on Saturday. Sometimes, it means slowing down, and looking around, not just staring at the road and the traffic ahead. I recently discovered that I have a pretty damn scenic route to work. I love Austin for that – on my way to work, I can look to my left at the edge of the Hill Country, or in the other direction, the skyline of the city with a lot of trees and greenbelt in the foreground. And everything's so green. No, I don't mean PC, eco-friendly green. I mean the color. I lived in San Antonio for thirteen years, and don't get me wrong – I liked SA a lot. I had a lot of fun living there. But it's a very brown, industrial looking city. Austin just has a more vibrant feel.

Then in the evenings, since I have more time after work than before, sometimes I take the long way home. It's twice as many miles, but after the first mile or two, it's a lot less traffic, and ten times more scenic. This route takes me into the hills west of Austin. There are a lot of really nice looking houses with what I guess is called Mediterranean architecture. I don't know, but they're pretty houses and buildings, whatever they're called. Someday soon, I'm gonna make a big circuit of my “to work” and “to home” routes on a day off when I have time to stop and take photos. The framing effect of the photo will probably prevent the view from translating into a picture, but I want to try.

Another thing is that I've always been the type to keep wishing for the weekend to get here. Or wanting the vacation to hurry up and get here. I used to just sort of race through the week in a mental haze – kind of like that commuter fog I mentioned earlier. An ex girlfriend once referred to that as “wishing your life away”. I thought I understood her then, but now I'm really starting to Get It. I'm feeling it, and applying it. Attitude again. I no longer mentally urge the weekend to arrive. I just try to experience and really live every day. I've even been surprised by Saturday's arrival a couple of times recently. I'm more relaxed this way, and by just focusing on the current experience, I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything just because I can't make it to a club event or ride. Because when it comes down to it, those are basically just experiences, too. It's not that I'm missing something. I'm choosing something else.

I'm also learning that I don't have to go out to bars to have fun with friends. We bought a grill and I'm learning how to not burn meat on it. Eventually “not burning” will evolve into “cooking”. We've had a cookout, and have more planned. With the little one who recently arrived into our world, I'm not going out to bars or bike events as much. That's okay. My brothers and sisters can come here. Brats and beer at home can be even better than beer and stale pretzels at some smoky bar. See? Attitude. I'm not giving up anything. I cherish the memories of the lifestyle I lived for so long. I'll probably even return to it some day. I'm just moving on to the next thing. My son seems to have suddenly become nearly grown. They really do grow fast, especially when they don't live with you. So, before I lose the chance, I'm having fun with my boy as he approaches his teen years. And I'm going to relish watching my little girl grow up, too.