Sunday, November 29, 2015

Giving Thanks

 As you know, Thursday was Thanksgiving Day. Traditionally our family and friends would gather at our house to enjoy each others company and a feast. This would be my first Thanksgiving without my mother and it just didn't feel right to celebrate the holiday the same way we had in the past.
 We received an offer to gather up the family and celebrate the day with friends Denny and Deena. D and D are owners of a local restaurant and we had the whole place to ourselves.

 Denny has never cooked anything I didn't like so I knew the food would be delicious. Even foods with fancy names and ingredients I don't recognize always satisfy.

  Now you may look at this pic with canned cranberries in it and wonder about how much fine dining went on here. What you're actually looking at is a gesture on their part to make a few of us feel comfortable with something we have traditionally enjoyed. Thank you.

 We didn't just show up and chow down. My daughter Mackenzie has her Grandmothers secret recipe for mashed potatoes and prepared thirty pounds of them. Thanks Kenzo and my wife who helped peel them.
 I was blown away by the attention to detail. Deena really went out of her way on this one. She painted all those leaves and pumpkins in this pic and the entire presentation was fabulous. That girl really knows how to plan a party. Thanks Deena.

  The day felt a bit empty without mom there but family and great friends helped ease that pain. I'm thankful for those people in my life and I hope everyone reading this is as fortunate as I felt that day.

 On a lighter note, it turns out parking the Rat Turd in the living room is more than just a practical storage solution. After a great meal we returned to the house where this young man had some fun with a photo shoot. Maybe next year I'll roll a few more bikes into the house.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Workshop Wednesday-John Deere 5100 part 2

 Last week I showed you a mount I made for a John Deere tractor. This week I'll show you the plow controller.
 A lot of the controllers you see lately are handheld units. The operator is expected to run the vehicle with one hand and run the plow with the other. To me this is just ridiculous. If you set the controller down then you have to hunt for it when you need it. To me a controller should always be in the same spot every time you reach for it. The problem with that logic is you need that "spot" to be ergonomically correct if you want to be comfortable for an 8+ hour shift.
 The controller that came with this plow is a big one. It's designed to strap to the front edge of a center seat in a pickup truck. Our tractor has no such mounting spot and all the good spots are already taken up by shift levers, pto controls and a bucket joystick. I spent a lot of time trying to decide on a location and got a lot of feedback from the other guys in the shop. All the ideas I got were a compromise. Put it here but it blocks the shifter. Put it there but it will make getting in the tractor difficult. How about that spot? Nope, blocks operator visibility. What I needed was a lucky leprechaun to crawl out of someones ass and show me the way.
 Then I noticed two tapped holes in the front window pillar. I could make some kind of bracket that would locate the controller right over the bucket control lever. The problem was we might want to drop the snowplow and mount the bucket for snow stacking operations. The plow controller would be in the way unless I could make it movable.
 There's probably a dozen different ways I could have done this. I thought about what I wanted then wandered around the shop for a few minutes. Hanging above my toolbox was a lever from a snowblower that I was saving. What was I saving it for? I dunno, seemed too good to toss in the scarp dumpster. This lever has detents on it and I figured I could use those to adjust the locating height of my plow controller.
 This is the adjustable lever assembly welded to a plate of steel. The plate will bolt to the window pillar and two bolts will remove the entire assembly from the cab for the summer months.
 And here is that same lever with an extension welded to it and a bracket to hold the actual plow controller.
 This is what it looks like from the drivers seat. The controller is resting right on top of and in front of the bucket lever. I feel this is the most natural reach for this joystick. I've told the other guys in the shop they are welcome to change it if they like. Last time I looked it was still the same.
 In this position the controller is locked up out of the way to allow access to operate the bucket control. The wires have since been tied up and properly routed. I don't see us running this way a lot but at least we have the option of using the bucket without messing around relocating the plow controller.
 Overall I'm happy with the way it turned out. Sure there is one blind spot where the controller kinda blocks your view when it's up, but I haven't seen any leprechauns crawling out of hiding and snapping their fingers to change it.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Night Ride

 The weather was great again last weekend. I'll take whatever decent temps mother nature is willing to offer.

 I had a short ride on the Sportster then spent the rest of the day on the Ultra. An hour of that ride was in the dark. Sure the big HD has some decent lighting, but there were a lot of deer on the move that night. Did I have any close calls? I don't know, what do you consider close? I did have to get on the brakes once for a big buck. They don't get that big by being stupid, so when he saw me he turned and ran the other way. It's the inexperienced little ones that cause problems.
 The hard part of deer avoidance isn't the act of swerving or braking. For me the hard part is the constant scanning of the road, ditches and fields. I can't scan in a continuous pattern or my eyes get goofy and I get dizzy. The reflective range of the LED headlights is pretty decent, so when I spot a sparkle that could be venison eyeball I immediately check the other side of the road for a matching sparkle. If I see one then I assume it's just a marker for a culvert. There are a lot of those around these parts. Now that I've seen the marker down range, I feel I've wasted a lot of time looking there and want to take a quick glance closer to the bike, then back down range. Left side, right side. It's tiring. What I really want to do is enjoy the night sky and search for UFOs but I don't dare release my eyes from their mission of deer patrol. Maybe it's because I hit a deer once and earned a week in the hospital that I'm so intently scanning for these forest rats.
 And what about the other vermin like racoon, turkey, skunk and possum? Ya they can cause some damage but for the most part I consider them less of a threat and squishable. I don't even flinch for a rabbit or squirrel. I'd aim for crows if it weren't for the fact that they are knawing on a bony carcass that may puncture one of my officially branded Harley Davidson tires.
 This may have been my last ride of any length for this season. Wet, near freezing temps and the possibility of snow and salt will keep me off the roads.
 The threat of snow makes me consider trading my sportster for a snowmobile. Whatcha got?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Workshop Wednesday-John Deere 5100 part 1

 The boss picked up a new tractor that we'll use this winter for snow plowing. The machine will get a seven foot snowblower hanging off the back of it. For the front we could have added a pusher to the loader bucket but we have found that these tractors are much more maneuverable without the loader bucket. The trick is to find a blade sized right for the machine. We had a few new Blizzard 8611 blades left over and decided to tool this tractor up with one. 8611 means the blade is eight foot six wide and extends to eleven feet. If you continue to extend the wings they will fold forward into a scoop plow. Long time followers will remember when we tooled up a Kubota tractor with similar but smaller plow and another Deere with a Blizzard Speedwing
 I like these kind of projects and this mount will be similar to the Kubota. Usually the type of materials used is determined by what is available in the shop at the time. We had some one inch steel plate looking for a home so the first step was to make a template.

 It's easy to modify a piece of cardboard till it looks like you want. Then it's just a matter of tracing the outline onto the steel plate and attacking it with a torch.

 Not everything gets cut with a torch. I drilled the holes for the mounting bolts with this magnetic drill press. The one inch broach used here bored through the inch thick plate in less than a minute. Nice.

 There was a lot of cutting and welding involved between the last two pics. The main drop plate has a Blizzard mount welded to the bottom and gussets welded to the back.

 There is also a mount on the back for a kicker arm that runs all the way to the rear drawbar mount of the tractor. That black wire loom is the power harness to the plow.

 Here is the completed project. The blade is seen in the eleven foot width and I can't wait to see how productive this machine will be. Compared to a pickup truck these tractors really shine. The operator sits up higher and has great 360 degree visibility. The stock lighting makes it easy to see and be seen. They are a smaller package yet weigh more and have great traction. Overall operating costs are less than a truck too. The only drawback is a truck has the ability to travel down the road much better.
 This may be my blog but I can't take all the credit for this project. The boss supplied his wisdom and vision for what he wanted and also did the paint work. Al did the electrical and helped with the head scratching when we were coming up with a plan for the mount. Troy helped me do the actual building of the mount and Greg installed some tunes in the cab while the tractor was laid up here in the shop. Others involved were Dan who assembled the new blade and Steve, our in house snowplow guru.
 Sorry James, I think your involvement in this project may have been limited to keeping us hydrated when you lost the flip and by letting us use your big impact.
 Next week I'll talk about the plow controller mount in the cab.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Artsy Fartsy Stuff

  The riding season is winding down and I haven't done anything new with the bikes in a while so you will start seeing a few posts that don't contain anything motorcycle related. I'm not gonna apologize for that because it won't kill you to expose yourself to something less "gear head". Actually that last statement was aimed more at myself than anyone else so when I saw a post on facebook that my buddy Dan and his friend Aelwyn were having an opening reception for some art they created, I decided to attend.

 There were some pieces that caught my attention and it amazes me how much time and detail a person will commit to "art". I admit that I don't know when a piece is making a statement or if it needs interpretation to be understood. I just know what I like.

 Ya I've spent a lot of time on artsy fartsy crap in detailing the Rat Turd. You can find that on the pages of this blog. The difference is that my efforts don't come off as art. They're more of an expression of a cheesehead with extra time on his hands. Hey, when the snow flies and I can't ride but still want to do something bike related, I end up with something like the Rat.
 Dan and I talked about bikes and art and he revealed he had considered parking his Triumph in the front window of this downtown business. I would have approved...not sure about the rest of the visitors. I'm pretty sure that I was the one person there that could have been caught mistakenly admiring a piece of furniture thinking it was part of the art collection.
  Aelwyn had on display a collection of drawings she had recently scribbled out.

  Of course I kid when I say scribbled. The truth is she has talent and I'm jealous. I can't draw a picture of the human face to save my ass. My efforts look like a stickman with a bad hair day and I applaud anyone that can pull it off.

  I overheard an art professor from the local college critiquing one of the drawings and realized there is so much in this world I don't have a clue about. After a conversation with him about what I do for a living I wondered if he was thinking the same thing. We all have different interests and I guess that's what makes the world go 'round.
 If you want to check it out, their work will be on display for the next few weeks at Mugs Coffeehouse in Ripon.
 Oh, and to my daughter that teaches art at UW Madison, Ya I said artsy fartsy. It's all good.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cleaning Party-BYOB

 Bring Your Own Broom is how the invites would have read if I would have been smart enough to put up some beer in exchange for help cleaning my shop.

 With winters bitter grasp just weeks away I figured it was time to get things organized in the disaster area I call my garage. I made space for my wifes chariot but the other side that should be open for my truck is still littered with motorcycles and related parts. Every time I'd buy a new "something shiny" for the Ultra Limited I would put the stock piece in the box and toss it to the side. Now it's time to gather that stuff up and find a home for it. The Ultra needs a home too and the way I see it there are three choices...
  1. Pay for storage at the Harley dealer. If I were the kind of guy that was gonna have a shop do some work on it over the winter then that would be a good option. I'm not that kind of guy so nix that idea.
  2. Find a different home for some wood working tools in the garage. A big old table saw my grandpa used when he built his house is taking up valuable real estate and doesn't get used much. Relocating that and a few other pieces would make enough room for the bike.
  3. Store it in the enclosed trailer. Only downside to this is if I want to use the trailer then I have to unload a heavy bike in potentially slippery conditions. I smell mini disaster.

 I'm leaning toward option 2 because we still haven't talked about the Sportster. That needs a home and would be a lot easier to roll in and out of the trailer plus I want to work on it this winter. There's plenty of room in the trailer to work around the bike and pull pieces off as needed for repair.
 Then there is the BSA. I painted the frame and that was taking up space on the garage floor. Of course a bare frame means a hundred other pieces that were once bolted to that frame also need a home. I couldn't move it into the heated shop yet because that still looks like a bomb went off after completing the Rat Turd fuel tank project. At least the rat has a warm home for the winter in our living room.

 Scrub, scrub. I'll scrub this shop floor once a year whether it needs it or not. No it isn't sparkly clean but it does smell a lot better in here.
 The other day my wife walked through here, looked at my desk, then looked at me and said "You and I really are two different people when it comes to cleaning." How can I argue with that statement when a stack of paperwork is winning the battle for space on the desk and pushing my laptop, well...almost into my lap. Imagine that. I removed a garbage can full of junk off this desk. In that heap I found a gift card for $75(turns out it was used up), two laptops(plus this one I'm typing on), some old unchecked lottery tickets(I won a buck!), the remote for my shop stereo, a pair of socks(possibly part of the reason for the bad smell in here), and a lot of paperwork that needed filing(mostly file 13). I found some other trinkets that I'd never miss if thrown out but seem too good to do so. If they are still here next fall then I will execute the "not used for one year" rule and they will go in the trash.

 Now the cleaning is mostly done. The BSA made it into the shop rather than the sportster. I guess seeing it there every day might inspire me to come up with a plan for how it will look when it's finished. Besides, the temps are still above freezing and more importantly, they haven't had to use any salt on the roads yet. That salt will mark the end of my riding season.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Last Ride of the Year?

 As I sat in my workshop yesterday I couldn't help but notice the sun piercing through the window. A quick glance at the thermometer told me it was only 40 degrees out. Cool weather has never stopped me from riding, but the Ultra was in need of an oil change. Maybe after that task was complete it would be a bit warmer and I could eat up some miles.
 Well despite the suns best efforts, it never really warmed up much. I got the gear on anyway and hit the road.

 I like riding when it's cooler outside. Who am I kidding? I like riding in any weather but when it's cool it makes wearing all that gear more comfortable. Lately I've been dressing for the weather rather than for a crash so when it's cold I'm dressed like a safety nazi. I don't know if I push it any harder in the turns but I know I'm more comfortable, so ya, maybe a little.

 It's a bit cold for an action shot while riding plus setting the cruise and squeezing off a pic before the next turn can be difficult. So you get these random shots. The trees are bare, the fall color is gone and the leaves have blown clear from the road. I did a little over 200 miles on a nice combination of deep back roads, county roads and even a high speed dash down the interstate. I saw one other bike and it was sitting in front of a tavern. I don't make any judgments about a shiny HD in front of a bar. Mine was. On the return side of the loop I stopped at my favorite mexican bar to pick up some food and haul it home. An easy chore on the big rig. I had an "encounter" with a deer on that last leg of the trip. It wasn't close or anything like that but I was pleased to notice that my panic reaction on the brakes was to use both the front and rear. That's not something I always do on this bike with its floorboards.
 So was this the last ride of the year? I hope not. As long as the temps are above freezing and they haven't used any salt on the roads yet you'll see me out there. It's supposed to be even warmer today. The wife and I are gonna ride to breakfast, so maybe I'll see you out on your scoot.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Workshop Wednesday-Shop Stuff

 What am I gonna write about next? That question is asked of me all the time at the shop. Whenever something odd happens, "Hey you should put that in the blog". If I followed that advice I'd be talking about things like setting the clocks back. Everyone keeps looking at the clock and asking if it was turned back yet? At 4 pm it should be quitting time (5pm) but the clocks are turned back. One more hour of work. One more hour for the sun to go down and a dark ride home.

 Maybe I could tell you about the guy that came into the shop whining about his chainsaw that wouldn't stay running. "I just had you fix it in June". Yes our records show we replaced a fuel hose. We're pretty busy but I'll look into it right away. Turns out he had a whole lot of water in his fuel tank. You can't pin that one on me and you'll be getting a bill.
 I guess I could make a whole blog post about the torsion bars that wouldn't come off a chevy truck despite the efforts of four shop techs and a bunch of hammers ranging from small sledges to a large electric jack hammer. In the end the answer was to use a torch and replace a few parts.
 A story I like but am not gonna talk about is the one where Al screams like a little school girl. OK you twisted my arm, I'll give you the short version. Al and I were in a storage building looking for a radiator that might fit into a forklift repair. While balancing on a couple wobbling barrels, Al lifted the tarp off a wooden box to see what might be in there. To his surprise he was now face to face with a raccoon! (insert scream!) I laughed but kept my distance. The story quickly spread through the shop and it didn't take long before the young bucks went out there and (ahem) diffused the situation. (In Als defense, anyone not looking for a critter would have been just as startled.)
 What I thought I was gonna write about is my riding jacket. It's over ten years old and has tens of thousands of miles on it. I've had it for five different bikes and it has been to a few cool places and been through some really crappy weather. A lot of good memories were made wearing this jacket. Well just the other day the zipper broke.

  The zipper works but the pull tab broke off. It makes it hard to open and close and impossible to operate with gloves on. The rest of the jacket has a lot of life left in it so I looked at ways to fix the zipper.

 A little piece of wire and a key ring should get me by for now. I think it may be repairable. I'll have to look into that.
 What I really want to say is I'll be riding the bike to work again this morning and enjoying the above normal november temps. The forecast looks favorable for riding yet next week. Woohoo!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Proper Bike Storage

 I talked about storing the Rat Turd in the living room of our house and now the deed is done. Getting it in there was a bit more of a chore than just rolling it in place because the bike is kinda fat with the storage rack on the back and large saddlebags. The upright muffler is actually angled away from vertical and that along with my drink holder on the other side make the bike a bit too big to fit through three of the four doorways it would have to pass.

  I had to remove the saddlebags, drink holder and muffler. The muffler may have been ok on there but I was worried about the barbed wire scratching a kitchen cabinet. So, from the garage I passed into my workshop then down a step into the laundry room. I then needed to go up a step, through a glass door and into the kitchen. It was at this point I discussed with my wife how much easier it would be to just fire up the bike and ride it into place. Lets just say it was decided she would just help push the bike up the step. Thanks Honey.
 After navigating between the kitchen counters and taking a left hand sweeper around the dining room table it was time to enter the living room and push the rat up onto an elevated section that just happens to be the right size for displaying a bike.

 This will be the home for the Rat Turd this winter. It's not an ideal situation because I would like to periodically work on the bike and I won't do that in the living room. What I can do is spin my recliner around, tip back a few brewskies and think about what changes I can make for next year. I've mentioned in the past I want to change the front end but I'm not sure how. Hopefully those brewskies will help me come up with something funky.