STP, Boiled Okra and Arkansas Politicians
by bj max
What do new motorcycle tires have in common with STP, boiled Okra and Arkansas Politicians? Well, they’re all slicker than a greased pig that’s what. Now I’ll admit that may not be the most sophisticated analysis but nevertheless, it is a true one, as this story will soon reveal.
A few weeks ago, Catfish Floyd, Stan the Man and yours truly lucked out and found ourselves coheirs to three premium tickets to the Talledega 500 at the World’s Center of Speed in Talledega, Alabama. We, of course, decided to ride
The plan was to leave around four AM on race day, do the three hundred miles to the speedway, enjoy the race, then, in a mad, deer dodging night run, return home to Memphis. That was the plan. But sometimes, as all of you good people can attest, the best-laid plans just aren’t meant to be.
Complications began immediately. On Saturday, the day before we were scheduled to leave, Floyd came down with the boogie-woogie flu or something and the weather, that had been very promising earlier in the week, began going down hill fast. Then, my number three son, scheduled to come home on leave from the Coast Guard, called and said he would be arriving a day early. Well, hang it all. I agonized over whether or not to cancel but in the end I chose to go. I just couldn’t bear the thought of eating an eighty-dollar NASCAR ticket.
So, seeing as how this was the first trip of consequence since winter, I spent the better part of Saturday pre-flighting the Wing. I checked the battery, the oil, the coolant, drained the crankcase breather hose, installed a new fuel filter, checked the rear gear lube and in general gave the bike a thorough going over.
Then last, but certainly not least, I broke out my trusty digital air pressure gauge and checked the tires. The front was a cupla’ pounds low and while my air compressor built pressure I crawled on the creeper, gave a gentle shove and coasted to the rear of the bike and checked the rear tire pressure. Twenty-eight pounds. That’s odd. My wife was along on the last trip and I always run forty one pounds in the rear tire when riding two up so that’s what? Umm. A thirteen pound loss within the last two weeks. You might expect to lose a pound or two within that time frame but not thirteen.
I aired the tire to spec then spun the wheel to check for wobble, cuts and anything else that had the potential to put my precious butt in a sling. Everything looked good and despite having racked up fourteen thousand miles, this baby still had a few grand left in her. I smiled and rolled around to the left side and spun the wheel. What’s this? Did my tire just wink at me or am I seeing things? Yes, there it goes again. Either my tire is attempting a more intimate relationship or something bright and shiny has attached itself to the tread. I stopped the wheel, slowly rotated it backward and crossed my fingers. But this age-old good luck ritual was in vain for there, buried to the hilt in all that expensive Dunlop rubber, was the bent and battered head of a six-penny finishing nail.
“Sacawajea!” I shouted. I located something solid with my foot and kicked, propelling myself into the middle of the shop floor. I lay there a few minutes staring at the ceiling then wondered out loud, “Why me? Whhhhy me? I’m not a bad guy. I pay my taxes. I’m good to my dogs. I never beat my wife and I ain’t never held public office so why me?”
There are few absolutes in life but there is one that can’t be denied. In Memphis Tennessee on a Saturday afternoon, you ain’t gonna’ find no motorcycle tires. So I called Stan and gave him the bad news. He suggested that we drive but it just didn’t work for me. As much as I love NASCAR racing, I’m a motorcyclist first and when the bikes were taken out of the loop I lost interest. Besides, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything anyway until the bike was ready to roll again so I bowed out.
The following Tuesday found me prowling the waiting room, that doubles as a NASCAR shrine, of Creasy’s Honda in Lexington, Tennessee, sipping a fresh cup and admiring all the Dale Earnhardt memorabilia. The mechanics have my bike out back mounting a new rear tire. Now I don’t mind forking over money for a new tire if the old one died a timely and honorable death but mine didn’t. No, mine took the coward’s way out and committed hara-kiri with a finishing nail. It just breaks my heart, not to mention my pocketbook, to cough up hard earned cash to replace such an undeserving and cowardly lump of rubber.
A half-hour and a hundred and sixty dollars later my bike is rolled to the front and parked near the big glass double doors. After settling up I tip my hat to the ladies, bid Bobby Blue and Jimmy Creasy adieu and head for the door.
After going through the ritual of saddling up I hit the starter and fire the engine. My mind wanders as the pungent aroma of slow cooking pork over an open pit wafts in on the southern breeze. Scott’s pit, that sits near the edge of town, has taken Bar-B-Q to new heights and serves some of the best. Distracted from the business at hand by thoughts of a jumbo chopped, dripping with hot sauce and cole slaw, I snick into low, switch off my brain, bank hard outta’ the parking lot and throttle up. And that, good people, is when the guano hit the fan. In an eye-blink and a lot faster than I can type this sentence, the rear of the bike whips around in a sickening, heart stopping spin and I go down like cheap bourbon at a frat party. Shimatta!
A commotion across the street gets my attention and I look up just in time to see Jimmy and Papa Jack (Yes. The Papa Jack) running to my rescue. While Jimmy righted my bike, Papa Jack directed traffic around the scene and in this fashion they managed to get the Wing back to the spot where it had lifted off just a few seconds before. Safely out of harms way, I look the bike over for damage and amazingly, other than a minor scrape on the bottom of the crash bar, it was no worse for the wear.
After limping around and satisfying myself that I had no broken bones, which would later prove what a miserable excuse for an orthopedist I am, I saddled up and managed to exit the parking lot safely this time albeit with a little less pomp than before. On the way out of town I stopped for that Bar-B-Q and while munching my sandwich I used the quiet time to ponder my stupidity. By banking out of the parking lot in such a spirited manner, I had pulled the dumbest of all rookie stunts. I was well aware that new tires need a break in period of at least a hundred miles but with my mind on a hot Bar-B-Q sandwich, I let my stomach do the thinking and it almost got me killed.
I finished my sandwich, walked outside, sat down on the curb and pulled off my boot. My ankle was already the color of turning bananas and beginning to swell. I grabbed a tube of sports cream from the saddlebag, slathered some on and, with a hundred mile ride in front of me, hurriedly pulled my boot back on while it would still fit.
Five days later I would learn that not only was my ankle fractured but one of my leg bone’s, the fibula, had been snapped in two like a dried twig. Fortunately no surgery was necessary and I was subsequently fitted with an orthopedic boot with explicit instructions to wear it religiously, even while sleeping. The “Boot” is a rather neat affair and not at all unattractive, especially if you’re a motorcyclist. Sort of a badge of courage…or stupidity. Depends on your perspective. And, as you might imagine, it has several advantages over a cast. Number one being the ability to scratch whenever the need arises. Just unstrap and have at it. It’s a luxury fit for kings…and of course, hygienically speaking, it’s a far superior appliance than a cast.
For years I’ve heard rumor’s of a slick residue or film that clings to new tires, left there during the manufacturing process. My wife’s theory is that tire molds are probably coated with some kind of chemical so the tire will pop free after cooking, much like oiling a cornbread muffin pan before baking to keep the cornbread from sticking. Tire manufacturers claim that it ain’t so. Well, if it ain’t so then why do they recommend a one to two hundred mile break in period? Huh? So take it from me good people, the moron with the newly acquired experience. Easy does it on those new tires cause’ despite what the manufactures claim, they are definitely coated with something and that something is slicker than boiled okra. You know, this boot is really cool.