Tag Archives: fix

An American Wereboy in Sudamerica: Year end recap.

One year on the road. Un ano. An excellent adventure and bogus journey. The throttle was turned and old New York was spied in the mirror in June of 2011. Since then we’ve spent most of our time in Latin America, through Mexico, down Central America way, over the Darien and into Colombia, then Ecuador, and now Peru. Patagonia was always the goal, and it still is, but I never really actually thought I would make it this far en serio. And indeed it is far and a long way to come on an old moto and in stinky boots.

Sure, few great truths are revealing themselves, few insights.

But look, it was never that kind of trip.

A great DJ once asked me, “Subcommandante, after all this is over, how will you adjust back to civilian life?”

The truth is that I never really adjusted to it anyway. So it’ll be more or less the same.

I’m just living my life, one peso at a time.

…but never mind that.

We’re in Peru now where the death roads bring new life when you’re staring into the eyes of the beast and crazy, muddy, rocky dirt roads with vertiginous drops blow us away like we’re listening to an old-school Maxwell tape.


On speaking Spanish:
After 8 months in Latin America I can faithfully say that I am a beginner level Spanish speaker. You hear a lot of people throw out the platitude that they can speak Spanish well enough to order food. The truth is that ordering food is one of the harder things to do while speaking Spanish in Latin America. It’s a process that is entirely different than ordering up a cheeseburger in the states. Every country and every different region of each country has different names for everything and, like an imaginary linguistic wall is set up between them, no one knows the words that other places use for different foodstuffs. Menus only exist in upscale joints and sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to get. It’s cool though and I don’t mind. The set lunch is a common thing down here and it’s something that I think we used to have in the states but disappeared a long time ago. It’s like the menu of the day but it’s super cheap, between $1.50 and $4 for the most part wherever you go and it comes with a soup, main dish with meat, starch and vegetable, a glass of juice, and sometimes a little something for desert. It’s really a great deal and it’s enough food for two people. En serio, my spanish is not that bad. It should be better, but I’m lazy. I never study my notes from Xela and I’m a loner man, a rebel, and care little for small talk anyways. And yet, I get by. Here I am.

But hey c’mon man, you got your whole life riding around in that rubbermaid top-box. What if somebody looks in there!?

Relax Billy, they won’t even know what it is man, they won’t even know what it is.

Che Guevara. Who was Che Guevara?

I dunno, some dude I guess. Latins and hipsters and gente the world over love their romantic losers, killed on mountaintops and emblazoned on t-shirts the world over. Best to die, but better to die for a cause.

I’m not going to tell you to go out and buy Che Guevara’s biography. I didn’t. I was going to, in a bookstore in Phoenix, but it was like 900 pages and weighed a metric ton. Couldn’t they have condensed it into a 200 page paperback? Louis L’Amour could’ve done it. I just wanted to know why those dreamy eyes are staring at me from a million t-shirts and car bumpers.

I read the wikipedia article and washed my hands of the whole thing. Fidel won his revolution, but there are no Fidel t-shirts and the reason is obvious. What if Guevara had won?

Che Guevara’s first name is Ernesto, but everyone called him Che because he used the word Che a lot. Che is like saying dude, or man, in American English. If Che Guevara grew up in Mexico instead of Argentina, everyone would have called him Guey Guevara. Because that’s what they say a lot in old Mexico.

I don’t care about dead revolutionaries and It’s not my fight anyway and so the mind drifts to other, more important things.


To go on forever, would be ideal.

The Salton and Camp Zero. One of the last great American wastelands which can never be forgotten.

Lusting for the sun on top of old Tajumulco down old Guatemala way, guey.

I was in Xela, Guatemala for nearly two months and everything revolved around the Miguel de Cervantes School of Spanish. They surprisingly had these neatly constructed ramps to get motorcycles up the two feet of steps and into the narrow hallway. I never fell but the thought of being pinned in the doorway with a hot exhaust pipe burning my leg to the bone was always there.

The Mexican experience summed up in this neat little sign, spied in San Cristobal.

Temascal, or Native American sweat lodge, had down in old Mazunte town.

Brain food baby. I miss Mexico…so long ago.

Free waffle breakfasts at the Roadrunner Hostel in Tucson taste alright to the desert drifter. Plans to dip south of the border materialized here. Who opens a hostel in Tucson?

Worlds tallest flag pole (it isn’t) in Calipatria, California. It was well over a hundred degrees that day and I was alright with that.

Saguaro cactus at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Just south of Why, Arizona and bordering old Mexico, thousands of Saguaro reach and twist towards the sky in all sorts anthropomorphic shapes. I was camped out here, under a million stars, awakened by a Black Hawk border patrol helicopter hovering over my tent.

The Cabazon dinos and the end of the road for the great American adventure.

The Alvord desert. We had finally done it, reached the true West after the Alaskan adventure. A memory never fleeting, the Alvord will always reign supreme.

Dude, the Arctic Circle. Way up North. An incredible day really. I would do the Dempster in the rain and in the mud all the way up to Circle and back without pause. Over 500 miles and skies that stretch forever.

Hyder, Alaska. No small feat indeed. Hyder is this little thumb of America reachable by road that juts into British Colombia off the Cassiar Highway on the way to real Alaska. It felt good to be back on American soil, if only for an hour or so, and out of stinky ol’ Canada.

Ah, the melodious mambo beats of Captain Louis Prima. Who can forget lil’ Kevin and his homestead up in Northern Maine? I can’t, what with all his pianos and what not. This guy was a real surprise. An original.

It’s hard to beat Abi’s Adirondack cabin for a first night’s lodging’s. First day out was cold and wet and awful and my rain pants ripped to shreds, a harbinger of things to come.

This weird tomato from Morelia still makes me giggle and the memory of seeing a little girl that looked like French actor Jean Reno just minutes after purchase will forever be intertwined.

Ceiling of the LA Metro. Thousands of real reels line the ceiling for as far as the eye can see. I thought this was a nice touch. Each station has something different adorning the ceilings or walls.

Canyon of the Gods. No great American road trip can ever be complete without visiting the Grand Canyon. Check it off the list dog.

Teacup terrier shots are the thing to do on one’s 29th birthday in Los Angeles.

Why, Arizona. A great campsite under a great tree. The CB looks so cleeeeeean, a handsome ride.

Where’s the beef? The food in Mexico was amazing, inspirational even, the best in Latin America and the best I’ve seen yet in the world. I haven’t seen anything like it since, not even in Ecuador where they gobble down guinea pigs for breakfast. Sure, that’s different, but I don’t really want to eat guinea pigs. I just ate one because it’s the thing to do. But I could eat head tacos everyday. American food is boring, bland even, but the things we do we do well. New York pretzels and pizzas, a cheeseburger at any diner in America, a cheap fat steak, and a good beer are the things I miss most here in Latin America. They sell pizza in Latin America, but it’s universally terrible, and usually expensive because of the price of cheese. Most of it is sort of like Elios type stuff. The pizza place I used to work at on Long Island would cut the good cheese with the cheap to save money, the good sauce with the bad. I don’t want to know what they do here. Beef is expensive here too, and the hamburgers and cheeseburgers are always thin joints, all slathered in sauces and messy, salty, and disappointingly small. They use “super” a lot to describe the ones that come with cheese but they’re never super, and I always feel just a little bit sorry for my latino brethren because their super cheeseburgers aren’t super at all, but sad. Pitiful even. Maybe  as we inch closer to the pampas the beef situation will get better. No se che, vamos a ver.

But yea, I just miss the regular stuff about being an American in America. Bacon and eggs for breakfast, taking a shit in a clean bathroom, being comfortable and warm and snug, and even the law and order of it all I miss at times. Les extrano mis amigos and amigettes.

But I wouldn’t be here in Latin America if I didn’t want to be.

I’m going to miss Latin America wherever I go next. A lot. The people here might be xenophobic dicks sometimes(who isn’t?) but they are unpretentious and you can ride a motorcycle nearly anywhere. On the sidewalk, through buildings, or down one-way streets and no one cares. Motos are looked at here kind of like the way bicycles are in the states. And go ahead and climb a live volcano if you want to because no one will turn you away.

And when all this is said and done, I don’t know where I’ll end up. Probably America. There are no jobs down here in Latin America anyway. You can teach English and make $5 an hour and scrape by, or rent out your abs to washerwomen for less, but neither is a real option; maybe for a little while.

Just remember that wherever you go, people are going to be the same, no matter the tongue.

Predictable.

There are scant originals out there, though it’s been told that but a few hooligans still roam the roads, searching for something that they will never find.

strangers in a strange land

…with thoughts of the West continuously swirling inside their heads.

That’s it yo.

No regrets…well, maybe a few, but the trip isn’t over yet and they will be made up for.

The heat is on and it’s never been hotter.

See you in Patagonia putas.

Meet me across the sky.

DIY: The Lost Art of Gasket Making

Join legendary Honda twin mechanic Pipe Adams as he demonstrates how to construct a crankcase side cover gasket through ordinary means.

While you can see that in the video I am using store bought gasket paper, any similar type of paper will do the trick. A commonly available and excellent source of gasket material is the common cereal or tissue box. Scavenge it at will in a pinch to suit your needs.

CB500T Metal-bit Reconnaissance Mission Vol. 2

As noted in my previous post, if the CB500T is EVER to be considered as a viable candidate for pre and/or post apocalyptic transport, its original design flaws must be fixed and its appetite for self-destruction quashed!
As such, as any responsible hooligan manboy hybrid would do, I am taking the steps to rectify the aforementioned maladies; and restore the CB to its former glory!

To do this, the first step that one must do is remove the left-side crankcase cover. This will reveal the alternator rotor. It is big and round and magnetic and looks you in the eye. You will need to remove this to get to the starter clutch. To remove the alternator rotor you must first loosen and remove it’s bolt, which holds it fast to the crankshaft. Note that this is a normally threaded bolt and follows the age old paradigm of righty tighty lefty loosey. We must apply counterclockwise pressure here, mind you. To get this bolt out you must either put the bike in gear and stand on the brake so that the engine does not turn…or if this doesn’t work, as it did not for me, apply the two penny trick! Of course, this is a pain in the ass and requires the removal of the right side crankcase cover but thoughtful hooligans truly don’t mind because this entails the double benefit of exposing the oil screen which you may now clean.

Fair enough. Get that right side crankcase cover off and place two stacked pennies between the crank pinion and clutch hub gears to arrest the engine.

The rotor bolt will now be able to loosen without the engine turning.

There is one more step now to remove the rotor.
The alternator rotor must be popped off of the crankshaft. You will either need a special “tool” for this step or a 16mm x 1.5 pitch bolt. Of course, this bolt is unobtanium at most any hardware store on earth.
Fortunately, for owners of 1975 Honda CB200T’s, the CB200T axle will fit into that rotor perfectly.
But, not the CB500T’s axle. It is too big.
Sochiro Honda is an asshole at times, but, we forgive him for making otherwise beautiful and reliable motorbikes.

Now, screw the CB200T axle/special tool into the alternator rotor and turn, clockwise. Keep turning, add some pressure, and the rotor will pop off.
Heed this warning: Go slow.

CB200T axle mmmm

If you are elderly or infirm and desire to keep your electric starter mechanism, you must be careful when removing the alternator rotor, for behind it is the starter clutch with all its various bits and pieces. These will fall and scatter and bounce all over your garage floor should you not take care.

Note: Hooligans and boy adventurers care not for electric started mechanisms and prefer to kick start all machines. As such, the electric starter clutch of the CB500T will be relegated to the dustbin of history.

sheared bolts, ovaled holes: no better than scrap!

As it now stands anyway, it is worth less than scrap.

70’s tech

In this week’s installment, we continue to follow the progress of the CB500t’s refurbishment from sitting in the corner of my parent’s garage into a road ready cross-country tourer.

The CB500T represents the evolution of Honda’s famed CB450 “black-bomber” motorcycle and, as such, is the largest displacement Honda twin of its era. Many motorcycling aficionados affectionately lay waste to the CB500T and consider the CB450 to be the true darling of the lot. If we’re talking evolution and looking at it from this standpoint, then the CB450 can be considered the Homo sapiens of Honda twin primates and the CB500T the Neanderthalensis.  Like Neanderthal man, the CB500T flickered briefly and died out, having a production run of only two years. It’s younger, fitter counterpart, the CB450, was sold from 1965 to 1974.

However, we all know that the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And, as such, there is no shame to be seen riding a CB500T. Plus, Neanderthals had bigger brains and were stronger than CB450’s.

At any rate, I would like to examine the vestigial appendages of Honda’s legendary primate.

Firstly, know that the CB500T’s exhaust crossover box is a terrible thing. From a design standpoint, it is clearly an afterthought. It is garish and ugly and I hate it. I don’t know what it does. Balance the exhaust gasses? Maybe.

Fine, whatever, but the box makes it extremely difficult to put the exhaust back together after taking it apart. Sometimes, you just need to take the pipes off to access things, such as engine side covers. It shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes to put them back on. Neither should this involve lots of cursing and anger. Soichiro, you are smarter than this, man! To the rubbish bin of history with your exhaust crossover box!

Stress-cracked muffler flange. Likely due to constant muscling of the exhaust header as a result of cumbersome crossover box. F*&^ you crossover box!

In addition, know that the CB500T has no oil filter. It has a sludge trap, which collects sludgy oil. This is easily accessed via the right side engine case cover. Basically, this thing spins around, trapping all the sludge via centrifugal force. You take off the cover, pull it out, and clean it. That is all. Of course, in terms of practicality, this is great because it takes 2 minutes to do and you don’t have to buy anything other than oil when you do an oil change. However, oil filters are really nice because they extend the life of your engine by filtering out all the bad parts, such as metal shavings. We all know that pieces of metal floating around in your engine are bad and I will say no more. The CB500t also has an oil screen. This is located inside of the crankcase and is placed horribly for routine maintenance. An oil screen is just that, a metal screen that filters the oil for nasty bits. To get to it you have to remove the right side engine cover and, usually, make a new gasket by hand when you put it back on. This is awful. My 71 VW beetle engine had an oil screen also, but this was placed in an easily accessible spot. Why not just place the oil screen in a more accessible spot? Why, Soichiro, why? It should be noted that my old 1975 Goldwing had the oil screen in an even more horrible spot, which required bending the frame back with a crowbar so that you would then have to wedge in a screwdriver to take off the cover.

A two-man job.

Oil-screen inside!

Remove circlip

Sludgemaster?

CB500T Metal-bit Reconnaissance Mission

When I got back from James Bay in 2008, the trusty venerable steed known as the CB500T (the bike with no name) was somewhat whipped. You know that a flat tire on the Trans-Taiga led to an impromptu brake fix on the side of the road, which was fixed and chronicled here. Add to this a snapped tachometer cable, a sheared fender support bolt, a wobbly rear wheel, stretched chain, and metal bits in the oil. Of these aforementioned maladies, none was more troubling to me than the metal bits. Metal bits in the oil are bad. They can lead to instant death in any machine, especially a treasured motorbike. With the death of the Ninja (which we mourn for not) attention is now focused on the two seventies twins in my stable which, in addition to the CB500T, includes the equally sacharin 1975 CB200T.

I neglected to change the oil in the 500 during the run to Quebec’s northern lands.

I changed it immediately before I left and wound up doing about 3200 miles round trip before I was able to change it again. I felt tremendously guilty about those extra 200 miles, psychologically flagellating myself the whole time from the moment the tripmeter ticked over 3000 miles and truth be told, I have been doing so in the back of my mind ever since. Such is my relationship to my machines. I care for them as children.

So, naturally, I was crestfallen at discovering a little piece of metal in the catch in the oil drain plug. I put the CB500T off to the side for a while, knowing that this problem would have to be addressed at some point in the future. The future is now and while that original metal piece is long gone, it has been twirling around in my mind’s eye ever since, rotating like a 3-D model so I can see every angle of it. I figured out what it was from long ago, but it still rotates.

Dangerous metal-bits. Beware!

 

The CB500T, for all its faults, is a beautiful machine. Know that seventies Hondas are the essence of quality. Their build quality is remarkable, replete with thick chrome and chunky metal parts that bespeak to a certain something that has long since expired in any mass production machines, be they cars, motorbikes, or toasters. As a caveat, know that there are a couple things that one might take exception with. Anyone who has owned a seventies Honda knows that the worst design component that is inherent to nearly ALL Honda bikes made from that era is the pathetic weakness of the starter button. It’s internals are made of brittle plastic and will always fail at some point. Of course, this is a minor complaint and because it is such a minor complain when compared to the rest of the bike, this issue becomes more of an affectionate quirk than some serious flaw. While this adorable flaw cuts across all models, know that each individual model will have some other quirk that makes it even more adorable. In the case of the CB500T, there is a design flaw within the electric starter system that casuses the internals to work themselves loose, due to the vibration of the engine, and rattle around in the crankcase. If you don’t know about this, and fix it before it self-destructs, it has the potential to wreak havoc with your bike.

I didn’t know about this quirk. My bike stopped starting on the first day of my trip, when I was in the Adirondacks. After stopping to get gas, I thumbed the starter button and was treated to a delightful crunching noise followed by a whirring of the starter itself without it actually spinning the engine. Minus the crunch, this had happened before and I thought nothing of it. The CB500T comes with a kickstarter and I’ve just been kicking it over ever since. The crunch I heard was a piece of the alternator rotor being sheared off. A couple more attempts to start it with the button led to a couple more crunches and couple more teeth being shorn off along with a piece of a stop plate designed to prevent the starter clutch from moving out too far out(see pics).

That’s a lot of shit to be floating around in your engine.

However, such is the thoughtfulness of Sochiro Honda’s design that these bits did not destroy the CB, nor leave us stranded on one of the most isolated stretches or road in the world. Of course, I will need to improve on Mr. Honda’s original design and send in the fix if the CB500T is ever to be considered an appropriate means of pre-apocalyptic transport.

Resurrection of the CB500T

Remember the zip ties?

They in fact did read well on camera.

Well, they are gone, replaced with a home built fix.

A work of quality.

Phaedrus would be proud.