Too Much Tinkering

by bj max

I come from a family of engineers. Two of my brothers have degrees in engineering and it’s been their life’s work. One of those brothers built a working model of the Mississippi River and with the help of computers, determines when and where dikes and riff-raff are needed for flood control and to keep the channel open for tow boats. And even as I type this, my younger brother is down on the Gulf Coast dealing with the aftermath of Katrina. Both of these guys lived on pennies; worked by day and went to school at night to learn their trade and I’m proud of them.

In contrast, my Daddy only had a sixth grade education, but education does not determine one’s ingenuity. You could throw my Daddy in a junkyard with a box of tools and he would fly a 747 out of it. Mark Twain once said that he never let his schooling get in the way of his education. Neither did my Dad. As my sister in law likes to say, “Your brothers have all the degrees, but your Daddy is the engineer in this family.” I wouldn’t argue with that and I don’t think my brothers would either. He was a master tinkerer.

I love to tinker and piddle myself and I’m sure it’s a trait passed on to me through the genealogical code. The big difference in my Dad and I, though, is that he could take a piece of junk and make something useful out of it. Where I, as you will see, take something useful and make a piece of junk out of it.

The Happy Bottom Ridin’, Yachting’ and Snipe Huntin’ club had been planning an extended vacation to Niagara Falls and on into the wilds of the Adirondacks for over a year. Then, from outta’ the blue, one of my wife’s key employees turned in her two week notice. Well, I’ll be dipped. After booking motel rooms, planning routes and departure times, getting the bike ready; including two new tires even though the old ones still had a couple thousand miles left in ‘em, we had to cancel our long awaited and much anticipated vacation. I almost cried.

But, to show our support, we crawled out of bed before daylight on the morning of departure, pulled ourselves together and joined the crew on the first leg of their journey. We had breakfast around eight, then kissed them off and sadly waved goodbye as they headed up the road towards Kentucky. Dejected and sorrowful, we returned home in silence. On a perfectly good motorcycle, I might add. Let me repeat that. On a perfectly good motorcycle.

My wife begged me to go to Niagara Falls with the crew and enjoy myself, but I just couldn’t do it. She and I are a team and I just wouldn’t feel right about leaving her behind. Besides, she makes more money than I do and if her generous contributions to my motorcycling habits were to dry up…Well, we don’t want to talk about that. So I stayed home, stuck with two weeks of vacation and nothing to do. And guys, even old guys, with two weeks on their hands and nothing to do, are bound to get into trouble. And you know what they say. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.

Last year, when I bought my third Gold Wing, I hard wired an XM satellite radio to the new machine. At the time, I didn’t have the proper female plug to connect to the bike’s factory installed accessory wiring. There was a three pin plug under the left fairing pocket just for such things as the XM, but there was no male plug on the converter. So, as a temporary fix, I just stuck the naked wires into the OEM plug, taped them up and waited till I could get my hands on the proper connector. My jury rigging worked fine and there was really no reason to fix it. So why didn’t I just leave well enough alone? I don’t know. I guess because I’m a guy and guys don’t really have to have a reason to do stupid things.

After locating a couple of connectors, I went to work. For some reason, it never occurred to me to establish which side of the factory plug was positive and which side was negative. I just crimped the wires to the new plug and stuck it in. But when I tried the radio, it didn’t work. No power. Turned out I had reversed the polarity and blew a transistor, or whatever those little square things are in the converter box. So, I buttoned everything up and ordered a new converter. While I waited, I looked around to see what else I could “fix”….

There’s a little brass nut on the reverse gear sensor that screws into the side of the crankcase on the GL1800 so I decided to tighten it. Why? Well, why not? Actually, I had been reading some of the Gold Wing tech pages on the Internet and somebody had posted an urgent message stating that if that little nut loosens it will shut the bike down. These tech pages are a gathering place for all kinds of amateur mechanics, witch doctors, nuts, and know it alls and they share information and tell each other how to do everything. I guarantee that if you submit a question asking what the procedure is to adjust the rock and tilt of the gimbal servo actuators on the space shuttle, somebody will step up to the plate. Doesn’t matter if they know what they’re talking about or not. It’s amazing.

What’s even more amazing is that I was stupid enough to take the advice of a total stranger. The guy cudda’ benna’ ten year old yak herder in a tent on the Tibetan Plateau for all I knew, but I listened to him like he was Soichiro Honda himself. I almost ran to the motorcycle to tighten that stupid little nut and guess what? That’s right. I broke it off. Godfrey Daniels!

Naturally, my local Honda Dealer didn’t have a sensor in stock. And why should he? These things never break. They’ll last a thousand years if you leave ‘em alone. Anyway, I had to order one and it would be a week or more before it arrived. Meantime, the motorcycle would not start because it was electronically locked in reverse. Now, I not only had two weeks vacation ahead of me, but I also had a motorcycle that I couldn’t ride. So to relieve my frustration, I bought a bucket of paint and painted everything in sight. That old saying, ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ has never been more defined.

Ya’ll think about it

M.M.M.

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