Email to Tom:
It’s great to hear from you. I really miss our conversations.
Sorry it’s been so long since I sent you an update. Your email served to get me over that hump and get moving on an update.
One of the things I wanted to update you about when I got around to it was my chopper project.
Oh, yeah... I guess I should start there: I now have a chopper project.
It just kinda happened... one day I was talking to Jerry the genius and he was saying he was going to throw this rigid frame away that he had made for something because it was all not up to his standards and I started to fight with him about not throwing it away, and he was saying it was all wrong, blah, blah, blah... and somewhere in the fight I said:
"If you are just going to throw it away, I WILL TAKE IT!"
And then he was all:
"What? You ready for another chopper project?"
And me, not realizing I was playing right into his trap, was all:
"Well, maybe I am!"
And then he was all:
"Good! Find a motor... any motor... and I will make it fit."
And then I was all:
"Maybe I will!! And then I will.... wait.... what just happened?"
So.... he tricked me.
But he was serious... and he said ANY motor... well... I looked around a realized I didn't want to start with something without a kicker... or one that I would have to PUT a kicker on.... or one that would take me years of saving and parts buying to get on the road... so it was jap bike city again for me.
First choice was an SR500, but with no SR motors in sight.... so I fell back on what I knew: XS650 motors.
Especially since there was now an aftermarket option for a NO BATTERY- KICK ONLY SETUP that wasn't outrageously expensive and was reliable.
So, I looked at my finances... and discovered I had like... 200$ if I didn't look closely at all the bills I had coming up... I called in all my favors; let all the friends now I was in the market and to make it count.
All my friends put out the feelers and within about 6 hours they had found a running XS650 without a title... I did some creative bookkeeping, and made it work.
The next day I had it at Jerry’s place.
That was when Jerry insisted that he build a NEW frame just how I wanted because that other one we were arguing about was STILL “all wrong”
“..Oh yeah, I cut it up already. “
So... I let him talk me into it.
BUT...somewhere along the lines I got my math wrong.
I insisted on the frame being a straightleg... it turned out LONGER than I thought and with more clearance that I think was necessary... but Jerry lives a ways away, and once we got all the plans in place, and he started working on it, and I got BACK to see the work… he had had to slide a few numbers around to make it work and …I didn't have the heart to tell him.... he was so excited and he hammered it out so fast and it was such a nice job, and I WAS actually really curious to see how the roomy frame would fit me....well... I just went with it.
In the end, I discovered that the longer wheelbase and all of his dimensions actually fit me SO WELL... It was probably the most comfy layout of any chopper I have messed with.
It’s really surprising how nice it fits me.
I warmed up to it a lot.... the angle of the kick up to the rear axle still bugs me a little aesthetically... it's too "flat" for a “standard” looking rigid frame... it’s more like a VL frame... and It really bugged me for a bit.
But one day while agonizing over that... I realized I didn't care when people thought ... I wasn't building this chopper for anyone else.... and if it functioned the way I wanted it to.... then mission accomplished.
So I let it go, and that was the last time I was bothered by it.
(That’s one thing that has happened in my life a lot lately since we last talked... I've been giving the world the finger a lot more. Perhaps not on any grand scale, but in a myriad of small/medium ways.
I have had a lot of stress and crap in my life and I quit caring what a lot people thought. As you know it’s kind of the best thing ever....I'm not telling you anything you haven't preached for decades to anyone who would listen... but as you know, you can't be told the way... you have to LEARN the way.)
Jerry got the bike 90% of the way done and I just needed to buy a permanent alternator conversion, ignition system, grips, tires, chain, sproket, etc, etc... All the usual suspects.
Right now… I have to buy the Permanent magnet alternator conversion, Ignition, a taillight, and then the pipes need to be Jet hot coated and it needs to be wired, and lots of tiny stuff sorted... (sissy bar needs to be modified for a new fender, I need to put a little bit of foam on the tailbone cushion ) but then it should be ready for some shaking down.
The 16 and 19" mags where on the donor bike to begin with and I had always planned to get some light spoked wheels wired up with two 18's or two 16's or whatever.... I never committed, I just wanted to use the mags to shake it down until I was sure the geometry was what I wanted and all my numbers were ok.
The rear wheel/axle/brake/tire weighs 39lbs and I will have to look into other options once it is rolling…
So that is for another time..... I will be tracking down some lightweight moto cross disc brakes when that happens. (front and rear)
Right now this is how I am sitting:
7" ground clearance
Calculated weight will be 331 lbs dry.
Frame weighs 39 lbs.
I don't have a tank picked out... so I am running my old stickered up coffin tank for now.
The broomstick drags are just an experiment for the moment... it’s so light and skinny I thought I would see if I can ride it ok with super narrow bars.... 17" end to end now... that’s the widest part of the bike.
Pegs are 16” wide.
I can tuck in my knees and elbows skinnier than that.
I have so much ground clearance I don't think I will ever scrape.
I made a compromise early on... Jerry hated how the XS650 motors sat high above the bottom frame rail because Yamaha ran the exhaust pipes under the side cases, and above the frame rails... so he came up with this plan where he mounted the bottom motor mounts UNDER the bottom frame rails instead of on top of them… that sunk the motor down about three inches or so the cases are right on the frame rails to help get a better angle for the top tube back to the seat post so I could have a straightleg .
And hey: who doesn’t like lowering your center of gravity?
But it would stick the motor down between the frame rails a little bit.... I was planning on running a bellypan/skidplate for a totally smooth belly.... but... I no longer could do that if I allowed him to drop it through the rails... so I said he could do that... but he knew I was worried about ground clearance... so he added a few inches of clearance for me, and then that moved all the numbers around so that’s when things got a little off script.
So the bike may not handle like a shorter bike and maybe it’s a little taller under the frame that I would have liked... but... I think it’s going to be JUST FINE for riding fast in Nebraska.... oh who am I kidding? You can ride a 16" over swingarmed Hyabusa fast here....
The weight and the width and the fact that it has no battery is all just like I wanted. I'm just going to ride it and see how it works. Jerry can help me out if I want to change anything.
Anyway... the bike is home and on the table... but it has stalled for the last handful of months.
Partially because I am looking at about 500$ or so to get it going, and partially because I just had a really rough year... went to the doctor finally... found out that some of the problems I have been having, have been depression... I was exhausted ALL the time, horrible time getting anything done at all... I didn't seem to care about anything.
I just thought Apathy suited me.... but the doc is a guy I trust... we talked; he put me on some meds.... that was weird..... Put me on some other meds... that made things worse.... so after about 14 months of trying stuff... I decided to just iron man it... I stopped taking them, and have been working hard to deal with it without meds.
I have had some success... but I still have bad days and bad weeks.... I think this is just going to be my new reality from now on.
As part of my new mode of dealing with it I have been trying to make sure I don't overwork jobs or projects that I really don't care about in the first place... I quit working at Autozone part time so I get more time with my family and stop standing on my feet AFTER working outside in the heat all day... (That helped)... and then I have been working on my projects at a sane pace instead of cramming.
The biggest surprise of all this was that I found art therapy. Yep. I know. Weird.
I discovered that if I worked at creating art that I liked I felt better. I was more motivated.
So that has been a big re calibration in my life. I now value art, art time and project time more than I did before... because it helps keep me sane and out of the wallowing exhaustion and depression.
The Jeep... the Jeep project keeps evolving. Its taken on a life of its own now... I just go with the flow....
So you might remember I took a 1993 2 door, 2 wheel Drive Jeep Cherokee with the High Output 4.0 straight six (my favorite I-6 in the world) and the AW-4 auto tranny (Asin Warner 4- which is the tranny that Toyota bolted behind the Supra motors) and cut the top off behind the doors.
As I think I told you it weighed 2600 lbs and absolutely SCREAMED. It was stupid fast and handled WAY to good for a solid rear axle and front dummy axle truck had a right too.
(I had my suspicions confirmed when I learned that some guys took my exact Jeep, tossed a junkyard Turbo on it, slammed it, added good tires and won the Grassroots Motorsports challenge one year... it did amazing in the Autocross with that AW-4 in it!)
I guess they are still campaigning it and its really capable.
So the more I drove this thing.... I realized what a great truck it was.... REALLY good usable lightweight truck.... so sometime along the way... I decided to make it Into a proper truck.
Soooo.... I put the doors back on it, and started the huge process of enclosing the back and making a bed.
I will send some pics... bottom line.... long job, lots of work... turns out it was an FANTASTIC conversion.
It is a tight, super comfy, roomy cab, great sized small bed, 1/4 ton truck that still rips if I want it too... but rides great on the highway with about 100 lbs in the back.
I shook it down all summer and it was great.
But, my window design was poorly thought out and doomed from the beginning based on bad advice (someone SWORE that acrylic was the way to go... not lexan.)
I mounted it WAY to tight, and the Acrylic expanded A LOT and cracked. BAD.
So right now I am in the process of rebuilding the rear window THE RIGHT WAY, with a proper seal system and lexan or tempered glass.
While it is torn down for the window I have been changing out a bad door I swiped from the local yard, adding wing vents to both doors, changing out door cards, that my buddy pulled from another rig before he sold it for scrap.
(My network of old grease monkeys scavenge jeep parts for me whenever they can)
I just finished going all through the suspension including added front lower control arms from a 2001 Grand Cherokee (big upgrade... nicely boxed, and extra beefy bushings)
All the brakes needed massive work, and added some air shocks for extra load capacity and eventually building a custom wood center console to my preferences.
I hope to mount up a nice skinny spare on the hood LR style and then have Jerry the Genius help me build a full length, bumper to bumper ladder rack so I can haul my Kayak on it and get full sheets of plywood and drywall around on it.
I am building a rail extension for my bed that mounts in my receiver hitch so I can load bikes into it no problem.
Every time I think I am wasting my time and I should just BUY a truck... i remember I am about 1000$ into this thing now ( that I spent about 20-40$ at a time) It does EVERYTHING i need it to do so far.... (oh, yeah...well except for the aforementioned kayak, bike, wood and drywall hauling) and I am still the undefeated burnout king of the Autozone parking lot competitions..... that and I am broke enough that I can't buy 500$ worth of parts for my chopper.
So the Jeep has taken what little of my "project energy" there was most of this year.
But... I think the bike will get some love soon.
My wife and son are doing ok.
I think I might have told you that my wife can no longer work because the doctors cannot figure out why she is:
3- having massive headaches
4- having major joint pain
5- having major insomnia
Every day you can basically take any 3 of those symptoms and combine them... and that is her life. Every day.
The closest the doctors ever came to a cause was that they discovered she was already in menopause at 38 years old.
So that can account for some of this.... bummer.
But, they can offer no real solutions.
But boy-howdy.... they sure made us pay like they were offering us some real solutions.
I hate medical bills.
So we decided that she just needed to stay home and concentrate on feeling as well as she could manage.
So while that has removed a lot of STRESS from her/our life.... it has put a decidedly large financial strain on us.
But, we are managing and for the most part spirits are high.
The son graduated high school no thanks to the help of the idiots at the school who I fought with tooth and nail to try to get him help with his Aspergers syndrome related struggles... but he finally got out.
He got two scores of 34 on his two ACT tests without studying or preparing for them at all.
However.... he couldn't write an essay to SAVE HIS LIFE.
We decided to take it slow and he went to try some gen-eds at our local community college part time.... and Tom.... it nearly killed us all.
The poor guy worked SO hard on these classes.... it was murder.
English, public speaking, and the like... we would be up every night till 1 trying to help him with his work...
He got great grades... but he paid for it dearly.
So once we were done with that.... we decided we would take it slow... right now... there is no jobs in our area... and certainly no jobs that you would want to get a degree for.
These last two years have been real eye opening. Our whole worldview has shifted dramatically.
We have realized that all we really want in life is to put in our hours at work, and then be left alone to go home to our family, pets, and projects.
And you don't need a degree for that.
That’s my new American dream… keep my head above water, make some art, ride some bike.
So at the moment... my son is working at the animal shelter with cats and chilling with his parents at night.
Not a bad gig.
So that’s life at the moment.
Oh yeah….Jerry the genius says his next project is that he wants to build a boardtrack style bike.... all from scratch.
All he needs is two wheels, and a crank and piston from a Briggs and Stratton.... and he wants to build IT ALL HIMSELF.
Sand cast cases, cylinder, head.... rod, external pushrod and rockers, total loss oiling system, he wants something crazy and all Jerry.
He LOVED....my/your copy of motorcycle engineering.... between that and the WW1 plane books I took him he was happy as a clam.