Friday, March 5, 2010

Lowside; getting in and under it.

Six months or more ago now I was wandering through the annals of Twitter to find motorbike fiends like myself. I found a handful a plenty from all across the nation, neigh the world. One, a group rather, is making a place for themselves and has caught my attention.

Lowside Syndicate first popped up on my radar as a lone tweet among a search for #motorcycle that was simply asking if anyone would be interested in a publication about garage built motorcycles. As a fledgling mechanic, a sucker for visual art, and a motorcycle enthusiast my heart jumped. Could there really be someone out there with the same passion as I?

Two replies, one to give me the name, the second to fill me in on their progress and expected publication date: Sept. 2009. Well, I didn't hear from Eric or Lowsidesyn for a few months after that initial connect. Not a murmur out there anywhere I could find it. Sept. came and went and I had all but forgot my initial excitement.

Then out of the great tweeting abyss a reply comes:

February 5th 12:15pm

edoubledub: @Rodneylucas it's been a while Rodney, but the magazine is finally in publication @lowsidesyn

Immediately I'm following @lowsidesyn on Twitter and scouring the profile info for a website. It is a nice website, small, simple, great picture ushering the way into the content. At that point the Store portion either wasn't up or the link was broken so I couldn't purchase the magazine.

The next day I send a reply to @edoubledub: Where can I pick one up?

He's in Baltimore, Maryland. I'm in Portland, Oregon. Four more days and he says he's sending one to me complimentary, as I was apparently the first to respond to the interest in this publication. Pretty cool, but is it at all good?

At this point I don't know what to expect. My emotions have run the gamete. Excited, thrilled, cautious of a poser, doubtful of the quality, suspicious of the cost, back to thrilled, excited. It's now been almost two weeks since I received my copy and I feel now I've had time to really analyze what it is I'm looking at, and call it for what it's worth.

Here are the facts:

It's six" wide x nine" tall
Sixty eight pages if you include the cover.
Two staples are the binding.

The publication sits heavy in my hand. A good and thick paper was used. A low gloss on every page. The cover is simple. Not like most magazines with spoilers on the outside telling you what page to turn to. No, just simple: Lowside: garage built suicide machines. Winter 2010 * Issue 1 * $6.

The price seems fair initially. Smaller publications are generally more, and I've paid upwards of $12-$15 for some really obscure stuff. There is an image of a bike on the cover. Some hard tale with a side mounted license plate from Maryland. I open the pub and it sits even better in my hand. Small enough that I can hold it in one hand without the pages flopping down to the side like Dumbo's ears.

A couple ads, a note from the editor and now I'm to the good stuff. A shadowy side profile of a guy that must be in his 60's, bearded; long and white. There is a story to go with it. You can tell the author likes this guy and isn't afraid to show it. White-beard is a good soul, you can feel it in the pages, hear it in the writing, and see it on the photos. This is a good start. I was afraid I was going to find pretentiousness. None so far. But it's only page 10.

An ad, a profile of a bike shop, another story. Whoa, there are cars in this one. I wasn't ready for that one. I thought this was all about bikes. My bad really, a suicide machine can be either/or I simply don't have one in my garage. That's what I get for making assumptions right? On to another good story, another good soul.

As I'm sitting here writing about it with the publication on the couch next to me and I simply want to quit reviewing and start reading again. I'm to the section that talks about the bike they used on the cover. Some good shit right in here that starts making me feel like I'm out there in my garage. I'll be right back, I'm going to get a Pabst.

Aah..much better. I keep going and I get to some fun parts. A ride that looks like more trouble than it's worth (and secretly planning a trip out there to attend next year). A review of a product with a picture of a guy that my wife says I'm going to look like in 40 years. He could be Santa Clause with the large white beard and twinkle in the corner of his eye. But standing next to his hog with his leathers he may also be the ruin of your Friday night.

The remaining pages follow through to profile rides, bikes, cars, small shops, and men with busted knuckles. You've got grease balls, knuckledraggers, a few almost cafes, and the list goes on. The one thing that I see in common in all of this is a do it yourself mentality. I don't see stories of some guy rolling into a shop with a checkbook in his hand wanting some more bling for his suburban garage. These guys are dirty, the gals are pretty, clean, and spunky. They do what they like and fuck anyone who doesn't. But I don't imagine they'd ever tell you to go shove it. No, they'd probably just smile and walk away enjoying a cold brew with some friends and on you go.

The quality of the print and images really is top notch. The thicker paper ads to that I think. It's artistically designed, simple, yet unique. The writing is good. The whole publication tells a story, and doesn't read like a Cycle World BMW advertisement. No offense to BMW, I personally love you guys, but you know what I mean. The writing isn't flawless. There are a few errors that a simple spell check could have caught, but the writing flows. And that I respect. Perhaps that has more to do with me dropping out as a Journalism Major in college when my Professor told me no one would employee me because they'd have to hire a copy editor just to correct my grammar.

All in all it's a great read, stimulating images, and good fun protrudes from it. At the price, being a quarterly publication currently, I'd say you get more than you paid for. This isn't a fan boy publication by any stretch, it reflects a choice of life, and as biased as I am it's a good one. You'd do well to pick a up a copy yourself from their website. Or check your local shop. Who knows, you might find one sitting silently in a magazine rack soon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Respice Finem

I've been reading much more lately than I typically do. A few blogs of note and many books. This signifies a massive shift in the symmetry of my life. I believe there are forces in which their gravitational pull are re-centering my life.

This pull began to shift at the end of October when my hours at work started to increase out of necessity. Without details this continued straight through to the end of the year at which point I forced myself to start finding intellectually stimulating sources outside of warehousing and logistics, my trade, as a simple means of escape without thought to its end.

This is where two blogs of note and a very peculiar book came into play. The first blog is The Brain Bucket, a blog on business acumen from the unique perspective of a biker. His thoughts, stated clearly as his opinion, are provoking enough to not only beckon the question "Am I doing business the best way possible?" but also, "Am I living life the best way possible?"

Read his recent post about Vendor vs. Partner and attribute the same thoughts to friendships and the quality of the relationship and see if it provokes an understanding "hmm..." from you. I can't imagine Dwain had that in the back of his mind as he was formulating his words, but nonetheless it's what was evoked.

The second blog is Motorcycle Everything, another Oregon blog whose post earlier tonight regarding thawing from winter triggered my 1,001 reasons to explain why my winter projects are not yet completed. Again, probably written from the perspective that its already February and here in Oregon many bikers just missed 5 of the clearest days of riding we'll see before the end of July. A gentle reminder that some of us still have much work to do through the spring. Now, I am a soul whom is comfortable in small progress consistently, and find it easier to attain and more rewarding on a regular basis than much progress seldom. And I'm also of the opinion that much progress consistently can not sustain a quality life.

Those the two blogs of note, and this the book: Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values has presented itself as just that; an inquiry.

If you take these three literary units and put them together, a pattern develops before me. Or questions rather.

Am I doing life the best way?
Am I accomplishing what I set out to do?
Do these align with my values?

The inquiry Pirsig's book so ravenously explores within my mind is that before I can answer: Am I doing life the best way? and am I accomplishing what I set out to do? Or even if answered before I can start aligning them with anything I must first answer: what do I value?

If what do I value? is answered with money, wealth, status, and pride as opposed to joy, hard work, friendship, and community it will significantly impact the answers to the first two questions. Now, I must be clear in stating that no where in this thought pattern has a judgement been called as to witch values are of higher quality or more worthy of living for. I know great men and women whom value vastly varying things whom make positive impacts in their families and communities. This is simply the question that must be answered first to start this mechanism in motion.

For me the answers are beginning to form. It's unclear yet how they will settle in finality, and perhaps it's incorrect to assume that they ever will settle or finalize.

What is clear though is that each one is evoking change in my thought and life. Some how the forces enacted by asking these questions are causing a realignment, a shift, a re-centering and symmetry of such a calming and secure nature I didn't know existed.

It's subtly changing the way I walk through this world and is starting to get my mind wondering how each of you, my friends, are walking through this world and what such a vast array it must be.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Beginning: Part Deux

The Beginning: Part One briefly mentioned my great friend E. R. Sprague and a little shout out to him. I quickly switched to a back story and never came back around. By then it was 2 a.m. on Friday morning and decided to instead of fix it, I would call it part one and follow it up with a part deux tying it all together.

This is part deux.

Five years after that accident and I hadn't touched a motorcycle since that day. Partly due to my friends feigning for my safety and not letting me touch their bikes, but I think they were truly more worried about their bikes. My fascination with motorbikes didn't change at all. I can't say that I was passionate about them yet, but they certainly hadn't left my mind. For my senior project, which everyone had to do to graduate high school, I made an extreme sports video. Truth be told, I video taped a lot of extreme sports that year but never learned how to put it all together.

At this point, five years later, is when I ran into Eliot. R. Sprague at my new job. I knew several people at this place before I started, and one of my good friends James told me, "You'll get along great with the guy that sits here. He hunts, and rides motorcycles." Truth be told when he got back from vacation and I did meet him I was very intimidated.

Some how over that next year we became friends. He bought me a cordless drill and shop light set for my birthday and started to ensure I had all the things I needed to be a man out on his own. One day while at his house for lunch I noticed he had a big dirt-bike in his garage. I didn't ask about it. Simply took note and muddled along. I believe he told me it had a broken frame, and consequently he had also broken his foot at the same time. I think.

Throughout that year, James, whom had introduced me to Eliot, and I started looking at buying motorbikes. I was mostly just dreaming, although if I had had any money I probably would have bought new, and I think James was just dreaming to. At least he was after his girlfriend found out about it. She wanted none of that! Too bad really, I think he would have been a lot of fun to ride with.

I think one of the things that solidified it for Jen, James' girlfriend at the time and now wife, was when James, his friend, and I went down to the local Honda shop because his friend wanted to test drive the new 600F4I. Twenty minutes later, after wondering where he went for a joy ride at, he rolls up missing 1/2 the fenders, a bloody arm and a bent steer bar. He rode home that night with the same bike. Not sure if it was due to feeling bad that he had wrecked it, or if he just loved it that much regardless of the fact that he just wrecked it. Either way, Jen was fanatically against bikes at that time. Exit James, enter Eliot full throttle.

It wasn't a few months later that I started looking at craigslist and simultaneously noticed that Eliot was riding a motorcycle into work. It wasn't the dirt bike I once saw in his garage, this was different. This was a 1982 Honda CB650. It looked old, and tired, and not at all like the bike I envisioned myself on (at the time a 97' Honda Magna 750).

It wasn't but a short time later after seeing Eliot do some performance upgrades to it that I started to fall in love. A few more craigslist ads and a two hour lunch later and we rolled back to work with my own 1982 CB650. What I was thinking I have no idea. I had just received a large birthday gift from a relative after a family deal had gone through. I had no endorsement, had never ridden a street legal bike before, wasn't even sure where I was going to park it.

The bike was as old as I was. It was not at all what I had envisioned starting out on. But immediately I knew it was my long lost brother. My twin. Separated at birth. But that was just the beginning.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Beginning: Part 1

Earlier tonight I gave a shout out to my good friend, and sometimes confidant E. R. Sprague. If you haven't yet seen it, check out my Facebook page. (yes, this is a shameless display of self promotion)

I'll see how quickly I can get through this back story. I don't want to leave out details, yet I'll refrain from boring either. It was my jr. year of high school. Many friends and I had been planning to go camping up the Kilchis River for quite some time. We arrived at Aaron Wiricks house. Aaron lived at the foothills of the Kilchis basin. Several miles still from the pain, where the river wove through the open valley before mixing it's freshness with the saltiness of the ocean and bay. The foothills. That's all they were really. You could drive for miles. 70 miles approximately is all it would take to reach the great Willamette Valley. Aaron lived right at the foot of them. Close enough to the ocean to smell the salt air and feel it's mist, but far enough away you didn't smell the seaweed.

We all arrived at his house as a last place to park our cars and carpool up the river about 5 miles. As a junior in high school 5 miles was an eternity away from home. Now, as an adult, it doesn't come close to breaking into the wild.
I can't remember who all was to go up there that weekend. The departure day is a bit of a fog. I remember Aaron. Amy Schild, whom later (or before) I had a huge crush on. I even remember her kissing me once, briefly, but she'll never admit it. Jacob Hoyt I believe. Perhaps Sonya. Jacob Day. Ezra? No, I don't think he was there. And Daniel. Daniel Lusby.

I remember showing up early. Those later years of high school I recall much more time at his home than my own. Although now that history has past my mind vaguely remembers that and responds fondly to my own house hold. But that is another story. I always showed up early to the Wirick house hold. In 6 years I can only remember not feeling welcome 2 times. Shortly after I showed, Jacob Hoyt, then Amy, then Daniel arrived.

Daniel showed up in a pick up. In the back he had a motorbike. I don't remember what year. But if I had to guess I think it was a 1974 Yamaha 550. It was a street bike, but had big knobby tires. It was Daniels fathers. His baby. and it hadn't been ridden in years. I was enamored by the bike, as I had never ridden one.

Jacob started it up for Daniel and shortly Jacob was riding around the field. I presumed he knew what he was doing. To this day I don't know for sure, but I think he was fairly mechanical. Those Hoyt boys. I think Daniel rode it around the field a time or two and the more and more I saw these two riding the more excited and anxious I became.

At one point I think I was jumping up and down, hardly able to contain my excitement not only for the camping trip, but also for a chance to ride the bike. They continued to ask me if I had ridden before, and I had not. But that did not come close (or even cross my mind that it should) to deterring me from getting on that bike. I quickly asked Jacob what controlled what and was on my way. I rode around the field. At no greater than 30 miles an hour. Tall grass laying everywhere from the heavy wind and rain. I could feel my back tire slipping among the slick grass. I was shifting. I was accelerating, it was excellent!

I rounded about and came back toward my friend. As I approached I laid off the throttle and put my foot on what I now know to be the rear break. Nothing happened. I don't know if I wasn't pushing hard enough or if it wasn't connected. All I know is I didn't stop. Fortunately I was going slow enough that a great rhododendron bush in the front yard stopped me completely. We quickly had the bike out of the bush and back up on the gravel drive. I was so full of adrenaline and excitement. I was acting more like a 3rd grader in a comic store than a jr. in high school. I grabbed the bike from Jacob again, hopped on, and hit the throttle.

I'm certain that between that moment, and what I remember next, time froze. Somewhere, between turning that throttle and waking up I had a) spun gravel a mile behind me b) blazed narrowly past 2 friend c) T-boned a fence post d) lately realized it was a barbed wire fence post e) took a foot peg to the ankle and finally f) missed the entire camping trip for a trip to the hospital and 13 weeks in a cast.

I didn't ride again for 5 years. But that, is another story.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Rare Opportunity

Well, a unique opportunity has presented itself to me. Something I have always wanted to do. I have a chance to ride a motorbike across the country, from east coast to west coast. But before I get into that, let me give you a little history.

I have four brothers. Zach, Chad, Josh, Cole aged oldest to youngest. We may not say it much, but after my lady they are my four closest friends. Call it a brothers bond or whatever you will, but I'd lay down my life for these four.

Cole and Josh are years younger than Chad, Zach, and I due to the fact that we have different fathers. Cole and Josh are still in high school and progressing through with much more success than I. Cole is a ladies man, kind hearted, meek, loving, always thinking of other people. Josh, well, I think he's a mix between myself and my great friend Aaron. Josh takes after me in looks. Not to say we look alike. We don't. I look like my father, he looks like his. But, I'm dashing and so is he. Yes, this is said with a bit of arrogance. But, this is my story so I'll elaborate where I want to. Josh is a jock, playing baseball religiously; a choir boy, singing in the vocal ensemble; an avid music lover, recently picked up an electric keyboard and taught himself how to play; a book worm, he gets good grades with a relative amount of ease. Neither one know how to clean their rooms.

Chad is a year younger than I. For this, we fought a lot. I remember throwing him across the room when I was in 6th grade and he in 5th. Not sure why. I also remember him pulling a knife on me and threatening to stab me. So...I did the only rational thing at the time and pulled a bigger one and did try to stab him. I should be careful here not to elaborate too much for fear that I'll paint our childhood a violent one. It was not. But to also show love for my brother, it was that same year during a bus ride home that a neighbor, and I say that loosely as we lived in the country, was picking on Chad. I was tired of it so on the way off the bus I punched him in the face as hard as I could. His head hit the window, it broke, although I'm not sure if the cracking sound was his head or the window. Chad is now grown. As successful, if not more, than I am in business. He's much better looking and could grow a beard to rival mine if he ever got up enough courage.

This leads me to Zach. Gregory Zachary Scott Lucas to be exact. It's hard to tell where to start with Zach. He's the oldest child. Always looked after us, but never carried us, always made us walk through life. He was smarter than I growing up, as far as books were concerned. I remember him wearing Jesus sandals and rainbow belts and shoelaces, etc in high school. I thought he was trying to be a hippy most of the time, but also heard that he might have been trying to take the rainbow back from the gays. Apparently he didn't think it was fair that only gays could wear those colors. A bit of a rebel that one.

He went off to college. Randomly drove across the country to visit a girl. Dropped out of college. Moved in with our father. Worked construction. Joined the Marine Corps and that is where he is at today. 6 or so years after joining and he is now an officer, married, two beautiful kids, strict, passionate about numbers, business, motorcycles, the Marine Corps, and his family, in no particular order.

My older brother, who I never fully understood, and still don't is the same today that he was 15 years ago. He always stood, protecting us as best he could, watching, keeping the worst at bay. He is still doing that. Today, though he keeps us all safe, guarded. He's the shadow on top of that wall, with the big ass gun pointed at any outsider who wanders too close. I don't care your politics, what side of the isle you are on, or if you are standing in the middle. That is the life of a marine. The life of an older brother.

For this reason I am honored to have been asked to guard something that led to this great opportunity I mentioned earlier. He's asked me to watch over his motorcycle. His only motorcycle. His brand new Harley Davidson. To be exact it's a 2009 Harley Davidson Sportster Iron 883.

To give you an idea of what this means to me. I was into bikes long before he. I own two Honda CB650's. One sleeper, the other is slowly on it's way to being a street tracker. The monetary value of both combined, after all the work, is still less than half the value of my brothers Iron. Last year I started this blog to document my longer rides. Not my daily commute, or even Saturday runs around town, but really getting out and hitting roads I've never seen. I live in Portland, Oregon. The Iron is in Stafford, Virginia.

I knew one day in the next few years I wanted to take some time and ride around the United States. I didn't think that the opportunity would present itself so soon after, and on a bike I have to worry much less about breaking down along some back county road in Alabama.

This is an opportunity I plan to never forget.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

False Insecurities

I have so much to learn. She's afraid, my wife, of the risks of trying. Not the money, well that too, but what it will do to me if for all my trying I just can't win.

I say bullocks! Don't you win just for trying? Maybe not the prize you initially envisioned, but certainly something just as valuable.

Just like riding a motorcycle, the same thing could be said about horses, and probably was, you always get back on. What I think I never told her was that my first time on a bike I crashed. Right into a post of barbed wire fence. We were supposed to go camping that day. Instead I rode a motorcycle and landed in the hospital with a broken ankle.

I remember sitting at home the next day, foot in cast for 6 weeks, and thinking about all the things my friends were saying as they still went camping. What jokes were they making? What fool did they think me to be?

I grinned and didn't care...I rode that steel horse and I was going to get on it again. It didn't matter the destination or how I stopped, simply that I took it for a ride.

The risk is there everyday. A fool be the man that stands on false securities. Me...I'll stand on those foot pegs, 8 inches off the Tarmac at 65 M.P.H. headin straight into the sun.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ain't Nothing Like a Little Recognition

I think, I'm not sure, but I think, that today was the first day anyone on the World Wide Web has linked to this specific blog. It is an honor, and a wake up call. It's been months, but I've found myself recently back to the place where this was all derived, and now...
I find myself looking forward, to the future. I had a great lunch with a friend of mine, E.R. Sprague, on Monday. We're both trying to get set a snowball in motion of our dreams, our passions. We're both trying to get the damn things out of our heads, and either onto paper, or built and into useful hands. We find it very difficult, very frustrating, and very un-motivating. But every once in a while...things just seem to come together.
To me, building this dream was very much like rebuilding the top end for my 1982 CB650. It was scary, simply because I'd never done it before. I knew there was a lot of pieces, and I could spend hours, days even, taking them apart, cleaning them, analyzing them never to put them back together again. And that was my fear! That I would never put it back together. 21 hrs straight of dismantling my first top end last year. I bagged and tagged every washer, nut, bolt, and even a piece of old crusty chain grease that had solidified so much I thought it was part of the starter assembly. I wasn't quite as scared when I finished the tear down that night. Knowing I could come back tomorrow, open up the container I had organized and either associate a part number, a serial number, or a made up number I had come up with, with a picture or section in the manual somewhere.
You see, through the whole process I really had no idea how I was going to get to where I knew I needed to be. I didn't know what all was going to be entailed in taking that top end off. But I knew that if I "tagged and bagged" everything along the way, if I ever messed up, it would be like leaving a bread crumb trail back to home.
So as I sit here knowing the point at which I want to be some day soon, I still have a very unclear picture of the path it's going to take to get there. But I'm tagging and bagging all the nuts and bolts along the way. Oh, and that CB...she made it back together. A couple of bad timing jobs and broken bolts, she's fast enough to startle me when I twist the throttle fully.