It’s been a rough year – not that there’s been any issues at work or home. No deaths in the family. Hell, even the cat is hail and healthy, though she does talk too much, and I think she is a bit insane (read: a cat). Resultantly, according to her, nail trimming is verboten. And, since all of those claws are regularly sharpened on the scratching post, I don’t press the issue. Anyway, she doesn’t really do anything with them. The only problem is that our carpet is the “loop” variety, which means that whenever Twinkle Toes (not her real name) walks around, it sounds like living Velcro. At 4 a.m. this is a problem.
I’m getting to a point. Overall, life is pretty good, my only gripe, after all, is my cat. This means, of course, that when I say I've had a rough year... well, it’s related to motorcycles. Two major issues have arisen on the that front, and both can be traced back to climatological phenomena. The first I would like to discuss is the ice age. It's been a hell of a kick in the motivation.
Random? Not really. Please know that I live in Kansas (Flatistan). About 400 billion years ago (according to my understanding of time) a big block of frozen detritus worked its way through the area. This frozen hulk worked as a monstrous planer, and ground down all traces of terrain. This left the area with endless horizons, beautiful swaths expansive sky, and four-hour sunsets with colors richer than a hippy-painted microbus. The subsequent year-after-year lifecycle of prairie grasses which lived and died in each other's humus for thousands of years produced fertile topsoil so we could plant our high-fructose syrup, animal feed, and sweet corn. It also produced the popular consensus shown in figure 1. I don’t have any idea what kind of scaling they use here, but I’d like you to note that Kansas hands-down clobbers both Nebraska and Iowa in terms of negative aesthetics. If you want to place a persona to these states, Nebraska might be the barrel-chested combover that lives down the block, where Kansas is, apparently, the toothless 60-year-old woman you saw at Wal*Mart that one time (even after you pledged never to return), she of the pink tube top and cigarette-and-sunburn creases. Additionally, Kansas is just as flat.
This brings us to the problem – after living in Virginia, Germany, and even Minnesota, the idea of chucking a leg over the saddle and riding off into the right-angle world of Kansas b-roads for a look at sorghum and high-fructose corn syrup is... less than compelling.
Figure 1 – completely accurate and unbiased information. Obviously.
Maybe you think my review of Kansas’s scenery is a bit brutal. After all, different strokes for different folks and all that. Some people love the scenery around here, I’m sure of that, and I concede that this is personal preference. Remember, this isn’t my poll, and for disclosure, I grew up on the plains. I like big skies and long sunsets, but in terms of motorcycling, it’s uninspired. It’s no Mecca. Nobody plans their big, yearly trip with the words, "I want to drive all day and see some corn!" The impression one generally gets when driving through Kansas is that the Grand Landscaper who drafted this state “phoned it in...” maybe before a long weekend. It feels like someone grabbed a topographical map from some uninspired county (this could be from any of the plains states) then proceeded to stick that county into a photocopier and went for a long lunch. After laying the pages end to end, it was dubbed a state. So yeah, the first half of this last year, rough from a motorcycling perspective, comes down to the ice age and how it kicks motivation square in the balls.
The other half of this, part 2, is probably pretty obvious… climate change – which is, as a topic, a real “slippery fish.” Roughly one year ago (when I became too busy with my job to devote any time to this site) I wrote about my beliefs and convictions apologetically, taking inoffensive stances. However, in this case – or maybe from here on out – that’s not the plan, because in the humble words of my father, “Piss on it.” I believe climate change is “the real deal.” If you don’t agree with the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community, take it to a message board somewhere and leave it out of the comments. I don’t have time for it. It's summed quite well in the words of Neil deGrasse Tyson, "The great thing about science is that it's true whether you believe it or not."
OK, I'm done. I think I just crushed my soapbox under the weight of my own ego anyway.
I get part of it, though, the argument, because for any single phenomenon, say a heat wave, is open to debate. Is this climate change? Honestly, who the hell knows. What I do know is that when we arrived in Kansas last year we slogged through a solid month of days in excess of 98 degrees, with the bulk of those days reaching beyond 100. Here I was, fresh back from Deutschland, ready and eager to get on the road and chew up miles like I had done back in Virginia – at least 15,000.
So, in spite of everything, the scenery, the heat, and with absolutely nowhere to go, I fired that red bastard up and headed to the grocery store. Now, the ’09 Kawasaki Concours is not known for its heat dissipation. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. The Connie does a great job of getting the heat away from the motor, the problem is where it puts it. I’ve mentioned this before, but the airflow on this thing is straight-up, infomercial. You know – iron your pants while you’re still wearing them. The sun felt like spiders of blisters crawling up my hands and arms. It was an open convection oven.
I know, bitch bitch bitch – right? Tell me again, ye poor Kansan… how bad is it? Oh, thou, with thine pitiful lamentations... ye of the 104 degrees, please speak directly into mine arse, for we have it much worse here in Pheonix… here in Houston it’s… here in (name your location). Fine. I get it. But after dealing with that shit for a month. With the flat and the heat, the wind... and the drought which left nothing but husks of brown, well, it was rough. Some of you crazies out there, I don't know how you do it. How do you stay so excited? Tell me, cause I'm not lying, around here it’s been rough, and here’s what’s on tap for the next few days.
Figure 2 – completely correlative and controvertible proof of climate change.
Last year did some longstanding damage, too. When spring showed up, I was left gun shy and busy (well, busy-ish). So, I rode a handful of times and neglected to do spring maintenance. This, in turn, kept me from riding even on the nice days Jeez, I really shouldn’t ride this thing without changing the oil… To top it all off, I got fat. Well, fat-ish. I hadn’t gained appreciable weight since my first semester of college, at which point I broke 140 on the scale for the first time in my life. Then I turned 30, and parts began to look more like wet laundry than washboard. So, any motorcycle time was suddenly devoted to bicycle time… and still, the maintenance needed to be done.
Well, I finally got to it – the maintenance, and finally got some riding in. And I remembered why I enjoyed riding so much. But that forecast. Seriously. How do you keep your motivation up?