A Beautiful Thing

by bj max

As I braked for the stoplight, I glanced in the mirror and admired my new toy resting comfortably in the back of my old pickup and smiled. I’ve wanted one ever since I first laid eyes on it but I never really thought it could ever be mine. Space in my garage, what with one motorcycle, a riding mower and Sugar Booger’s car, was already at a premium. I owned a similar one once before but it didn’t handle very well and it had a tendency to tip over if you weren’t careful. But this one; well, this one was the latest version and it was more stable and easier to handle. I could hardly wait to get it home and uncrated so I could try it out.

The stoplight turned green. I stepped on the gas and immediately, from the rear of my truck, a thunderous crash. I glanced in the rearview mirror and was sickened to see that the bed of my pickup was now as empty as my wallet. I looked back towards the intersection and there, laying smack dab in the middle of the intersection with cars stopped at all four points of the compass, was my new toy. I couldn’t believe it. Even under modest acceleration, the heavy crate had snapped the quarter inch nylon ski rope securing it, slid out of my pickup and crashed into the street.

I threw the truck into reverse, hit my flashers and tromped on the gas. Smoke roiled off the tires as I roared back up under the stoplight wondering how on earth I would ever get that heavy crate back in the truck. I set the brake, hopped out and before I reached the scene two, Good Samaritans in the form of Hispanic workmen appeared from out of nowhere and helped me lift the crate onto the edge of the bed, and together we shoved it in. I brushed my hands together and turned to thank them but they were already gone; vanished into the morning without gratitude or celebration, the mark of genuine Good Samaritans. Gracias Amigos, wherever you are.

I tippy-toed the rest of the way home wondering if my carelessness might have fatally injured my new toy. But after unloading the thing and giving it a quick once over, I was pleased to discover that my new machine, a twelve hundred pound capacity Central Hydraulics Motorcycle Lift, was no worse for the wear. Don’t know why I was so concerned. After all, it was made of solid steel.

Assembly was pretty straightforward. A few bolts here and there, a little oil in the control pedal, hook up the compressor and fire it up. After raising and lowering the lift a few times and checking the locking mechanism, it was time to try it out and see how it performed with a load. I mounted the motorcycle, centered it with the lift and started up the ramp. But about halfway, I stopped. Call me a wimp if you will, but the steep grade, the closeness of the ceiling, the slow speed and the fact that the lift was only twenty four inches wide made me nervous. There was nowhere to put my feet or the kick stand, making it impossible for me to get off the bike after I came to a stop. And there was no way I could pull the bike onto its center stand with such a narrow platform. And to further complicate matters, the lift seemed to be a tic short, as well.

I backed the bike back down the ramp, dismounted and broke out the tape measure. The Wing would fit, but with only an inch to spare. When pulled onto its center stand, a GL1800 moves a full ten inches to the rear so this just wouldn’t do. Somehow I had to lengthen the lift if I ever hoped to use it to change a rear tire. All of this was very disappointing. I thought I was buying a plug and play piece of equipment, but far from it. Major improvements would be necessary before I could ever hope to use it.

After prowling the Internet, I finally located and bought a twenty-four inch extension from another company and other than drilling a few extra holes, it fit perfectly and solved the overall length question. But there was still the problem with the platform width to be dealt with. As it turned out, Central Hydraulics offered optional twelve inch wide side extension wings that ran the length of the lift. This would double the overall width so I ordered them thinking that not only would they solve my side stand and foot placement issues, but I would also be able to store and perform routine maintenance on my riding lawn mower as well. I whipped out my credit card and placed the order.

The extensions were promised in eight working days, but two weeks later they still hadn’t arrived. After tracking them online, I learned that they had been scanned into the FedEx distribution center in Olive Branch, Mississippi, just a few miles south of my home, but had never been scanned out. Several phone calls and several thousand phone menus later, I learned that my shipment had been lost in transit. Harbor Freight, where I bought all this stuff, was very nice and apologetic and shipped another set immediately. A week later I learned that my order, part # 94830-5VGA, was now on backorder and would be for at least thirty days.

So I waited patiently for a solid month at which time I was notified that my order had finally been shipped. However, and this is really too much to ask you to believe but it is true, this shipment only managed to log a couple hundred miles before it, too, was lost in transit. Scanned into the FedEx complex in Ventura, CA but never scanned out. Incredible!

Now I’m a patient man but this, well, this was just too much. I threw my cell phone across the room, cussed out the whole FedEx fleet and kicked the cat out the window. And I don’t even have a cat. That’s how mad I was. Then, in this fit of rage I called Harbor Freight and cancelled my order. Exactly two nano seconds after slamming the phone down I asked myself, why did you do that? I need those dang extension wings and now I’ve possibly alienated Harbor Freight forever and they may never speak to me again.

At this point, I ate a little humble pie, gave myself and everyone else involved a thirty day cooling off period then sneaked the order in once again. But this time, in case this thing had truly become as personal to them as it had to me, I placed the order in Sugar Booger’s name and on her credit card as well and Bingo, my extension wings arrived three days later. Amazing what a simple change in tactics can do.

I quickly bolted the extension wings on the lift. Now, the big test. I mounted the motorcycle and lined it up with the lift which was now a full forty eight inches wide and not intimidating at all. I rolled right up on the thing and slipped the front tire into the wheel vise as if I had done it a hundred times. I dismounted, pulled the bike back onto its center stand, then slowly walked around the lift admiring the whole package. Sounds silly I guess, but for some of us gearheads that have a bit of the poet in them, mechanical beauty can occasionally carry us to the very extreme of enthusiasm and wonder. I brushed a bit of trash off the lift and marveled at its simplistic utility. It was a beautiful thing.

Wonder whose cat that was?

M.M.M.

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