With the Hammer loaded up and a car full of pasta, cans of beans, and a box of beer, I was ready for a week at the "Rusty Can" with some friends. A desert escape from electricity, cell phone service, and the city. My imagination was taking me down dirt roads to hidden hot springs, spending days working in a ghost town coffee shop, and bonding with The Hammer in Big Bend National Park.
As I was on my way to "The Can," waiting for a hail storm to pass in Ozona (about 6-hours outside of Austin), Scott was busy crashing his motorcycle in an unfortunate accident, breaking his collarbone, crushing his foot, and doing some minor damage to his bike. (read about it)
Our weeks of desert bliss and adventure were turned to bags of ice, heat packs, one-armed motorcycle repairs, and sketchy two-up rides with me driving, no brake lever to speak of, and crooked handle bars. Thanks to some amazing friends, Scott's work engagements were covered and we had a lovely "Hovel" to stay in while Scott recovered for a few days.
In the course of the crash, Whiskers bent it's frame near the passenger foot peg, causing it to rip a hole into the aluminum swing arm. Additional damage was a broken weld on the foot peg, twisted handle bars, the brake lever busted about an inch from the master cylinder, and a nice gouge in the crank case. Relatively minor injuries to human and machine. A sling, a weld or two, new levers, and some ace bandages.
We were able to get the swing arm and foot peg tabs welded at a shop in Austin. We bent back the frame ourselves by ratchet strapping the motorcycle to a tree, and attaching ratchet straps to the bent portion of the frame and likewise to the truck. I used the bike and tree as leverage to pull the frame as Scott tightened the straps. It worked quite well, and took us about a half an hour to re-bend both sides of the frame.
Somehow Whiskers passed inspection with exposed wires to serve as a "functioning horn," along with broken brake and clutch levers. Gotta love Texas.
Safely back in Utah after visiting amazing friends and a short trip to Mexico, our next project involved a 1970's sewing machine - first fixing it up and then using it to make a new seat cover for Scott's motorcycle which had started splitting after years of hard use. Crocodile-skin printed vinyl. We took off the original seat cover and made a pattern (which didn't work), got frustrated, and I hastily eyeballed and cut out a new set of vinyl pieces. We sweated out some bullets and stressed about the difficulty of cutting the last of the fabric. Sewing that shit was not exactly straight seams - it was tricky - but all said and done our fears were put to rest and the seat looks and functions well.
A new aftermarket seat cover costs around $45 if you order it online. You still have to stretch and staple it. This alternative cost us $11 in vinyl and a couple of hours. An additional "advantage?" is that it's totally custom. Very one of a kind. Now that I know how to do it, I kind of want zebra print vinyl for The Hammer... But I will heed the wisdom of my grandfather and stay with the original red: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Next up on the agenda: Re-build the hammer (we took apart the engine and as we suspected, it was running on a performance high-compression piston which accounts for the need for 93 octane fuel and the frequent detonation). The cylinder has been honed by a local Harley shop in exchange for some beer, and we are waiting for new gaskets and rings in the mail. I still need to clean and put new seals in the valves, put in a new copper gasket (long-lasting and reducing the compression just a bit more), clean everything up, and break it in. I'm missing having a motorcycle to ride in the meantime.
In addition to the mechanics, I am making roll-top panniers out of Carhart factory seconds which will be waxed and painted for water resistance. More inexpensive, labor intensive, custom work.
Finally, the reality of picking up and committing to the road has hit me. The existential cliff has been jumped. The sacrifices have been weighed. We are all in and August will be here in the blink of an eye.