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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Best laid plans meet Gremlin.

**EDIT**  I played with it somewhat this afternoon thinking it's the fuses.  In playing around with it I noticed one of the battery cables was rubbing against the plastic case the battery sits in.  It started right up with full power when that plastic piece was off....put it on, nothing.  So, I think I just may need a new battery cable...or a better way to hold the battery in place.

I had plans this weekend.

Kimmie was running fine all this week, and we zipped back and forth on my daily commute without issue, she never gave me an indication of what was to come.  Well, that is not true.  Friday night on the way home I could of swore I heard a "popping" noise but with the traffic and speed I could not be 100% sure if it was my bike.

Technically I had to work my second job this weekend, delivering papers to various stores in and around the Plant City area, however I was able to work it out where the lovely Susan would do that for me.  She knows I enjoy riding and I don't get the chance to do a group ride often.

Photo by the Tampa Tribune
Off I would go to explore the work of Frank Lloyd Wright at Florida Southern College.  After that, perhaps I would follow the route originally suggested by Go for a Ride magazine.  After checking out the walking tour at the college, it was on to the futuristic Florida Polytechnic University building.  Which raises like a metallic Portuguese Man o' War out of the flatland's

Next stop Legoland!  While not really geared towards the rough, tough scooterist it's still part of tour.  How many of us remember playing with Lego's and building fanatic things with them.  I've often wanted to go just to see some of the things that are possible with Lego's.  I would not be stopping at the park, but riding past it.

Finally Bok Towers.  I've been here before but never by bike.

Generally speaking this was all within 150 miles of me and could be done in a day.  I would be riding with a group of people I rode with before and although nothing was confirmed, I had a good feeling.

Then the rain chance built...and built....and built.  It got as high as 70%, and the ride was cancelled.  I worked the route that I normally work....dry.  The 70% chance of rain never did amount to much, more like 7%.

So my plans are put off....I can still ride, except.......

Kimmie won't turn over.  No power, nothing.   The battery is new, the rectifier was replaced.  Short?  Loose wire?  Alternator?  Spark plug?  Starter (although I should be getting at least a "clicking" noise if it was the starter)?

My mechanic would not be in till Tuesday.   I was not in a good mood.  Not in a good mood at all.  I'm hoping it's a simple fix.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Yxporing Ybor City

Ybor (pronounced EE-bor) City is one of the more historic neighborhoods in the city of Tampa and at one time was more unusual neighborhoods in the United States because it was truly integrated and mulit-ethnic at a time when that sort of thing simply did not happen.

The business heart of Ybor is a converted old factory
Today it's more known for being the center of Tampa's nightlife and gay culture.  Still though you can find old Cuban men rolling cigars, Italian being spoken on street corners and some of the best food in the city.  I enjoy Ybor because of its history, it's vibrant nature and historic buildings.  It's an area where young and old mix, chickens run about wild and free and tourists roam the streets with the natives.

If I was a much younger man I've no doubt that I would have spent many a night wandering about looking for excitement.

Ybor however is best explored by foot and not by bike.  Traffic can be a little insane and parking is at a premium.  Tampa is one of the few cities in the United States to still have a working street car line, which serves downtown and Ybor city almost exclusively, as well as the original 100 year old cobblestone streets.

With that in mind I left early in the morning because I wanted to beat the heat and the traffic.  I still ended up getting off of Kimmie and walking about for a bit.  My first stop was the Columbia Restaurant.  Operated continuously by the same family since 1905 the Columbia has expanded to fill an entire city block.  It's menu and wine list have won major awards and it's often humorous to see someone in formal wear sitting next to people in shorts.  It's not uncommon to be seated next to a politician or a celebrity.  That's the Columbia.  That's Ybor city.

Local legend has it that during Prohibition, Ybor city was involved in rum running from Cuba and one night gunfire erupted.  The bullets are still logged in the walls of the Columbia to this day.  There are also secret passages and hidden rooms from the old rum runner days which management will be glad to show you one day out of the week, I think it's on Mondays.

Detail of the tiles on the building

Wandering about Ybor you can not help be be impressed by the history and the tradition.  I've been to places like New York and Chicago and you just don't see streetlights like the one in the photo below.  Often the historic buildings are only one to three stories tall, this is due to the nature of of geography here in Florida, but that also means you have a feeling of community.  

A feral family of chickens being fed by the locals
How historic is Ybor City?  Honestly I can't say.  One thing I did see over and over again however is historical markers, some literally within ten feet of each other simply recording events that happened anywhere from five to a hundred years apart from each other.  It's something that we can not forget.  Ybor is being reinvented now, as historic buildings are slowly being converted into overpriced condo's that are forcing many of the long term residents out and the outskirts of the community fall into disrepair.  The price of progress I suppose.

Some additional photo's can be found here.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

And it continues....maybe?

At long last Kimmie is back up and running properly. The head gasket was replaced, the oil pressure switch is repaired and a new rectifier has been installed. I pick her up on Friday but due to a full weekend of requirements, commitments and duties was not able to ride her till Monday.

Weekends are normally busy for me, so I made a promise to myself that I would get out more, go to the places that interest me. I have been wanting to travel up to Brookstown for over a month, Ybor (ee-bor) City for about the same amount of time. Weeki Wachee - the city of mermaids is also on that list. Before I did all that though, I needed to go to work. So we fire up Kimmie.

It's a lovely day and I'm riding 301 into Tampa, it's more or less a straightaway through some scrub and swampland.  Nothing really to look at or do other than pay attention to the traffic and be careful when passing or being passed.   I'm about halfway though this route, the one place in all of Florida where I know for sure I don't have cell phone coverage.  I look at the instrument panel.

Yep, that happened.  

Now I have a choice...that could be 1001 things and the light was not on when I started Kimmie.  I know they replaced the rectifier and I thought to myself that the mechanics would have double checked everything before releasing the bike to me right?  RIGHT?

So do we trust Kimmie to get me to work?  Do we turn around and go home?  Do we pull off and call the tow company to take me back?  Do I tap the idiot light and hope it goes off?

I head into work, knowing I can't do anything on the side of the road.  Sure I have a small tool kit in the bike but other than some very basic fixes I've no idea what I can do other than ignore the angry red light for now.  

Kimmie runs fine and takes me to work with no issues.  Somewhere between point A and B the red light goes off.  It does not come on at all on the way home and I take the highway home...thinking that if there is an issue I would rather be somewhere I can get help quickly rather than a empty country road in the middle of the night.  

My mechanic is not open on Monday's.  I leave a message and await a call back.  "It's probably nothing." I tell myself.  

Still though it's a nagging issue in the back of my head, I start Kimmie up in the morning and have no issues.  No lights turn on...I ride to work on Tuesday.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

You can't go home again.

“Perhaps this is our strange and haunting paradox here in America -- that we are fixed and certain only when we are in movement. At any rate, that is how it seemed to young George Webber, who was never so assured of his purpose as when he was going somewhere on a train. And he never had the sense of home so much as when he felt that he was going there. It was only when he got there that his homelessness began.” 
― Thomas WolfeYou Can't Go Home Again

We were driving the back roads of Pennsylvania, I have a silly smile on my face as I push the rental car into the tight corners...Susan is beside, relaxed and at ease, she causally says "Your enjoying this."

"I love to drive." I tell her.

That's true.  I do love to drive and often when the world got to much for a much younger man it was not uncommon for me to jump in the car and take off down the back roads and end up 50, 75, 100 miles away...feeling refreshed and happy.

I always felt that the world began 50 miles from where ever I was at.  You get used to being in one place and the excitement, the bright lights are always elsewhere.  The city calls out to visit.  There is always one more dance hall, one more bar, one more pretty girl with dark seductive eyes.  In college I started to explore the world, and not always in the best ways.

When I lived in Charlotte, NC that experimentation continued by "touring with the Dead" for a bit.  Going here and there and spending wild nights listening to bands, meeting artists and comics and spending late nights with a bottle of wine discussing the world.

In the unusual heat of May (it was about 10 to 15 degrees warmer than it normally is in PA for this time of year), which seemed like a normal Florida spring day to us, I realized that this was no longer my home.  I also realized that I was no longer the young idiot I once was.   Not that I had spent my "adult" life wasting away in Margaritaville.  I managed to make a good living, got married twice and owned two homes.

Somehow in between all the adventures I had built myself a life.  Adulthood happened when I was not expecting it.  Not that all the experiments and experiences were successful, I still have nothing nice to say about Anna; my first wife, for example.  Still though, they made me who and what I am.  A good man.

So what brought on all this reminiscing?  My parent's 50th anniversary for one thing.  Seeing old friends that have lived some dreams.  I could not help but wonder what happened to the young man that tried to live his life to a Rush song.

I'm not giving in to security under pressure
I'm not missing out on the promise of adventure
I'm not giving up on implausible dreams
Experience to extremes...
Experience to extremes...

I grew up.

So I wait on my Kimmie to be fixed.  It could be finally repaired today, maybe tomorrow.  Just in time for me to ride during the heat of the day and be caught out in thunderstorms at night.  Just in time for me to consider finally giving up on my self employment, which is starting to lose money for me.

I know that Kimmie and I are going to have some further adventures.  There is much to explore in my backyard.  Places to see, to go, people to meet.

Maybe that will help get me out of this funk.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Learning Patience

It's been a long time since I posted anything to this blog.  I've been away, it's been a busy week as I went home to Pittsburgh to be with my loving parents - who recently celebrated their fiftieth (50) wedding anniversary.   It's hard to believe I've known these people all my life.

This trip allowed me to do some other things as well.  My lovely Susan has a daughter named Stephanie who just celebrated her twenty fifth birthday.  My brother adopted a lovely little girl two years ago and she had a birthday on April 15th.  So I got the chance to celebrate that with them as well.
Sue and Steph

And of course, it was Mother's day...least we forgot that.

If there was a theme to all this celebration over the last week it was "Patience."  I was not dealing with the plans for my parent's party directly, that was my brother's job, Knowing my mother, he had his hands full.  I got a little bit of that the week before as she called several times wanting us to bring photo albums or other small knick-knack's home.  As frustrated as I was with her at times, I knew it was worse for my brother.  Patience.

If I have learned anything from my's that patience is the key.  That and communication, as Susan and I discuss nearly everything that affects us.

So these past weeks it's been patience.  My bike is fixed, the electrical gremlin was a rectifier.  The gasket is repaired, the part finally arriving from the Mesolithic era.  Then I got a call from Mike, super mechanic.

"Hey Rob, it's Mike."

Yea Dude, what's up?

"Well we found another issue with your bike.  It's the oil pressure gauge."


Luckily this all happened before my trip home, so there was little I could do about it. What I wanted to do was spend time with friends and family.  Visit something called Randyland - which I learned about via the Atlas Obscura website, and generally relax.  Sadly I just run out of time, I was unable to spend some time with some friends but I was able to spend time with others.  Over all a good relaxing weekend.

Some highlights are below, you can see photo's of my parent's 50th here (I'm still trying to get everyone named LOL) and additional photo's of my visit to Randyland here.

My Brother Gary and myself

Sue, Me, Mom, Dad, Avery (little one), Amy, Gary
Some Photo's of Randyland

Building one of two

Taken from within the courtyard

The courtyard itself

I just thought they were cute

Yea, I left my worries there.
A special thanks goes out to the work that Randy Gilson does, he's helping to bring back an old and once blighted neighborhood back with vibrant colors, hope and love...and it's an ongoing work in progress.  I understand he wants to add a little cafe and coffee shop soon.  As well as expand into the nearby neighborhoods.   Support the man and what he does by visitinghis website. Or his facebook page here.