Thursday, September 16, 2010

Big Sur

Amazing. No other words can describe it.

(Click the picture for more)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Santa Cruzing

A short update before bed.. well, more like a history lesson, as I'm weeks behind on updating this blog.

The drive down Route 9 was just like any other hilly, windy road.. except you overlooked San Jose. It was pretty at night (when I left). Next stop: Santa Cruz.

The beaches were kinda boring (i.e. no crazy cliffs/rocks) near downtown SC, but it was still a beautiful day to be out. I met up with the seemingly lone moped rider in the area by the name of Kyle. Kyle was riding a blue stock Motobecane Mobylette 50v (I think it was a 50), which later contributed to my growing love for Mobys. We talked about some random things, then decided on a little ride around the area before he had to head off. I rolled my bike up, and he was pretty shocked when he realized I wasn't lying about "Hauling all my shit everywhere I go". Little did he know, Ogre had just been brought back to life and was faster than ever!

Our ride took us through some coastal roads, spanning Twin Lakes, Opal Cliffs, Capitola and I think a bit of Rio Del Mar. It was sunny, blasty at times and basically a rad way to spend the day. We parted ways afterwards, and I headed south towards the Monterey Peninsula.

I'll cliffnote the next part (except the first rant), since I'm lazy and tired.

CSU:MB/Marina/Fort Ord: What. The. Fuck? I have been in some pretty shady areas of cities, with run down buildings galore, but I've never really felt like I was in a post-apocalyptic situation until I entered this area. Marina didn't set a good tone, with the craptastic housing and shitty roads. Ford Ord (well, where it WAS) and the University though? Total devistation. The roads were falling apart. There were no street signs. The grass was either burned out or completely dead. Trash was EVERYWHERE. There were countless buildings with dilapidated walls/ceilings and broken windows. It seriously looked like a bomb went off and killed every human in the area, then sat for 50 years. I really thought I was in the Twilight Zone... until I saw the University. The grass was back, the buildings weren't falling down or missing windows and the roads were solid. Talk about out of place! It's as if the campus had been air-dropped into the middle of a war zone. Fucked up. Anyway..

Monterey downtown: The Wharf had too many people, but zipping through the tunnel was awesome

Lover's Point Park: SQUIRREL

Ashley: So adventurous and brave, yet stuck in school. Quite the combo. You're young, you'll find your way

Pebble Beach/17mi Drive: $10 to get in, and no motorcycles? Pretentious fucks.

Carmel-by-the-Sea: Beautiful. Amazing little houses, surprisingly non-pretentious people, despite working in the movie industry and having a TON more money than I will ever have.

I'd like to say thank you to the landscapers that were in charge of the foliage on the hill side, just south of Carmel. The way you positioned the trees at both the top of the hill, along the roadside, and at the bottom, provided me a perfect sleeping area. The trees had protected me from view of both the residents on the street, and those passing by on Highway 1. The straw also provided a fantastic mattress. Thanks again!

Friday, September 10, 2010

I < 3 Bullies

Here's a shameless image-robbery, but also a preview at upcoming adventures. Stay tuned for details.

Pretentious Cats and Kamikazes Galore

Food was had, then I grabbed my stuff and zipped down towards Los Gatos. It was a straight shot of 35mph roads, and the sun was shining. Hooray! After about 10 minutes, I run into the first traffic light, and it was red...I was sad.

*Clunk* *whirrrr*

What the fuck? Ogre just shut off. No big deal, probably out of gas. Nope, gas is nearly full. Did the plug get knocked loose? Nope. Ignition switch get bumped? Nope. Piston seized? Nope. Fouled plug? (I did kinda eye-ball my premix earlier the previous day.. oops) Time to investigate!

I pull off into the parking lot right next to me and start tearing at parts. The plug looked fine, and I figured I'd give it a test to see if it was getting spark. Nope! There's the problem. I roll the hog over to the mechanic shop that was conveniently across the street, and the little Asian man whipped out a fancy tool and jammed it in Ogre's electrical system.

"Okay go. No spark. Here. No spark. Go. No spark. Something in here *taps crankcase and walks away*"

Well fuck-a-duck. I'm dumb when it comes to electrical stuff, and now it was something more deep rooted than just reconnecting some wires or grounds. I just finished fixing the bike not 2 hours ago, and it's dead again. The Tomos gods were angry at me.

To sum everything up, I was in Los Gatos with a moped that had blown up 2 times in a day with nothing to do but make a post on the forums seeking help, and walking around a pretentious, expensive town. No bueno.

I had to find somewhere to sleep that night within walking distance. The search was a total bust. Nowhere in the area was there a plot of land that was a bit hidden, and within walking distance.. a hotel was the only (legal) choice. Remember how I said the town was pretentious? So were the hotel prices. I make a few calls to the local places, inquiring about prices.. $150, $175, $250...for 1 night, 1 bed. Seriously? Fuck off, your town isn't that hoppin'. Google saved me though, via a mobile coupon for a room in the Los Gatos Lodge for $59. I was all about that (except for actually having to pay $60..ugh). I walked the 'ped over at around 10:30pm and booked my room...then hopped in the heated pool. Oh it was nice.

The next morning, I ravage the free breakfast and coffee, then go to check out. While I'm checking out, the girl at the front desk asks me about my bag/helmet, and I give her a clifnotes version of what was going on. She replies, "Oh! I know a bunch of people in San Jose that ride those things! Here, let me get you their phone number!". Well, that was random. Next thing I know, I have a few phone numbers to the Mopedheads in San Jose! I make a few calls, leave some messages, then await a reply. Robbie calls me back, and informs me that his pick-up is being loaned to a friend, or else he'd have come save me from Los Gatos.

In short, nothing came out of the contacts that night, so I had to stay another night in Los Gatos. I had plenty of time to write up a plea for help on the moped forums, which will later turn out to be more advantageous than I thought.

The next morning I did my normal routine of waking up slowly, finding coffee and charging my phone. A little later in the day, I notice a reply to my thread with a phone number and request to call. I quickly dial the number, and it's answered by someone a bit confused about the whole situation. I explain the post, the number, and the forum member's name (Droidy) who posted it, and all the details came together. Before long, two of the Mopedheads, Andrew and Andy, were headed down to Los Gatos with a bag full of tools and the determination to get me back on the road.

I patiently waited for them in the sports bar, hoping to catch some of the Raven's game, but they weren't showing it. Boo. Oh well, the beer and burger were excellent. I head back out and sit down near my bike when I hear the distinct sound of two highly tuned mopeds ripping by. I run out to the street and flag them down, where we introduce ourselves then start tearing apart Ogre.

A few whacks of the hammer, and the kickstart/crank case come off...and vomit pieces of plastic and magnets. Crap. Once again, no bueno. Andy and Andrew both figured the flywheel needed to come off to see where all this junk had come from, but didn't have the adequate tools. They headed back up to San Jose to aquire Swarth, their hand-made moped trailer.. it's wicked cool. Once again, I patiently waited for their return, when I get a phone call from Andrew saying they found a truck, and would be there in 10 minutes.

Ogre was loaded up, and taken to their workshop, where they found the tools to pry off the flywheel. This is what we saw.

That is supposed to be completely smooth...not missing massive chunks of the magnet.

That bottom coil isn't supposed to be shredded open.

I was looking at an entirely new ignition system. Ugh. treats only had a pricey performance CDI ignition, which was out of stock, or a totally different ignition system for a za50 that could have been retrofitted. Curses. A few phone calls went out, and some searching done for parts, with little to no replies.

The rest of the night entailed beer and good conversations. All good, except for the wrecked moped that taunted me.

The next day, the search continued for the parts I needed to get back on the road. We just hung out at the shop, having beer, eating amazing Vietnamese food, and talking about random things. It was pretty cool actually... until Eric arrived and revealed a bigger problem with my moped. (It wasn't bad that Eric showed up. He's a cool dude.)

Eric was checking out the half-torn apart motor, and grabbed the crank shaft... it wiggled, maybe a few millimeters. It shouldn't. That warranted a total engine deconstruction. It was a good lesson in how an a35 is set up, but it just sounded like more money as we took a look at the damage.

The crank bearings had spun and were thus loose. New crank bearings/seals added to the shopping list.

The crank shaft itself was showing heavy signs of heat damage. New crank shaft added to the shopping list.

The sprag spring had snapped. New Sprag spring added to the list.

My piston looked like the grand canyon. New piston + rings added to the list

The combination of the shot bearings + heat damage could have easily lead to a crankshaft exploding on me sometime between San Jose and Mexico...and that would have been a complete disaster. The combined price of new gaskets/seals/bearings/crank shaft/spring/CDI/Piston was somewhere in the ball park of $250-$300 and a few hours of work. Ouch. Things were looking gloomy.. 'til Zack called.

Zack is a friend of Andrew and Andy, and lived a few miles west in Cupertino. He just so happened to have a nearly new a35 bottom end that only needed a CDI box to run. Holy crap. I was figuring, a $200 price tag for the motor wasn't that bad, considering the total for the separate parts. Andy gets off the phone with Zack and says "Can you do $75?". I was shocked, and very happy. Right after lunch, I hopped on Xerxes (a rad tomos) and blasted over to Cupertino with $80 in hand and an empty backpack. Before long, I had a new motor in my bag, and was headed back to install Ogre's new organs.

Fast forward through some basic cleaning and inspection, bolting on some parts, wiring up all the lights and refilling the transmission fluid, I was ready to start it up.

I pause, nervously resting my foot in the kickstart..

"Kick it!"

*kick it, doesn't start*


3 kicks later, nothing.. at this point, I'm starting to get concerned... until I look down and notice the boot isn't attached to the spark plug. DOH!

I reattach the wiring, pull the plug out and ground it to see if it's getting spark and confirm that it is due to the nice jolt I got down my arm. I slap the plug back in, flick the switch and kick it again...

I nearly cried when I heard it start right up, and roar like the little Ogre it is. A beautiful sound to end a few agonizing days of knowing my moped was just a hunk of motionless steel.

We hauled it downstairs, and took turns ripping down the street, trying not to disturb the photoshoot that was taking place on the opposite corner. (I'm not really sure why, but some kids were taking group shots of eachother with some fancy camera equipment up along a wall.) Let's just say I slept well that night.

I'm tired of typing right now, so the rest of the story will have to wait.

In the mean time, I have to say thank you to Andrew and Andy from the Mopedheads in San Jose, and Zack from the Cuperteens for saving my trip and moped. I owe you guys big time.

"Om nom" said the engine

Hooray! Updates!

After a drunken night in San Jose ($1 pints/well drinks.. oh yea) I headed south towards route 9 in hopes of making it to Santa Cruz that evening. The hangover decided that I should instead sleep in the park for a few hours, and I happily obliged. I sought out the nearest coffee shop after I was well enough to get up, and attempted to muster any energy that I could. Philz "Greater Alarm" saved my day, and I was off... not before I noticed a weird gritty sound in my engine. I didn't think much of it, and zipped down through San Jose. Mistake #1

Cruising through Saratoga was pleasant, as it's just a small town turned restaurant clusterfuck. The next bit of road really taxed Ogre (my moped!). It was basically straight up into the hills, which I really didn't know were there. How it's possible to not notice massive hills surrounding a city? I don't know. The slow climb wore me out, as well as the moped, so I turned off on the first road which just so happened to lead to Sanborn State Park. Camping! Finally! ...if I could make it up the hills. I had to hop off and push Ogre up the hills for about a mile. It was craptastic. The thought of a hard, flat piece of ground under some trees sounded very appealing at that point.

Eventually, I rolled the beast up into the park, locked it to a tree, and headed into the walk-in campsite. There were a few spots open, but I chose a nice clearing near some rocks, and drifted off to sleep while the mosquitoes pondered a method to penetrate my bug net. Sucks for them.

The next morning I slowly awake, pack my gear and head back out to the parking lot before the rangers can swoop by and ask me for the parking/camping fee. I almost made it..

Unlock Ogre, hop on, turn on the gas, go to kick start it..



One more try, and the kickstart won't budge. The whole drive train wouldn't turn over. I check everything that I can, just to realize I've lost my adapter to my ratchet set. No head is coming off with what I have. I'm fucked, or so I thought.

A frantic lap around the entire park, and the first person I run into is the park mechanic, hooray! Well, not so much.. he doesn't have the right tool. Strike 1. About 100 yards away, there was one other man in the park. He was sitting on the bench, shirtless, watching his dog run around in circles...oi

"I hate to bother you, but do you happen to have a metric wrench set, or...well, any tools with you?"

", nope"

Strike 2.

I meander my way back to the parking lot, when the last person I want to see shows up. The park ranger! She asks me if I'm doing any sort of oil work then immediately questions where I stayed last night... then said she's here to collect. Ugh. I tell her I attempted to pay last night, but no one was there. She asked if I had cash, and luckily I was out. "That's okay, it's our fault for not fixing the machine. Maybe next time! Bye!" Another unintentional slick move on my part by not having cash.

So, I'm sitting there, in the San Jose heat, pondering what the hell I'm going to do, (Note: No cellphone reception for 3 miles in any direction) when Mr. Shirtless comes rolling up in his pick-up. Turns out he found a set of tools! ...but they weren't right.

"Well... I live about 3 miles from here, and have about every tool under the sun in my shed. I've never worked on a moped, but I've worked on every other kind of motorcycle there is"


Five minutes later, I'm heading up the hills, riding shotgun while my moped is strapped down in the back of this guy's truck. When I mean up the hills, I mean UP. His 4wd truck had a bit of trouble getting up his own driveway... it was steep. He then tells me he lives in an old Caboose on the hillside. A caboose? Yes, a caboose. My hand hovered closer to my knife as the ride continued.. but sure enough, we end up overlooking the whole valley, right next to a caboose-turned-house. Pretty epic.

I pull the moped down off the truck, ask for a few tools then start ripping apart my engine. Head comes off, piston gets a gentle tap, and it's turning over again. I wrench everything back together, kick it and voila, it runs! ...but that gritty noise is still there. At this point, I was just looking to get back to somewhere with cellphone reception and somewhere with food, as I hadn't eaten in about 36hrs at this point. He drove me back down to Saratoga, said good luck and was on his way.

I was happy that everything was running, and I wasn't tied up to a caboose in the hills... so I left towards Los Gatos, with the aspirations of Santa Cruz the next day. Life was good! ..for now.