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Tuesday night there was more than thunder rumbling through my adopted city of Houston, Texas. Michigan buddies rode their motorcycles into town for a visit. That is over 1,000 miles of road warrior travel just for the sake of the ride and good memories.
These residents of the Motor City were introduced to a metroplex with a penchant for individual vehicle transportation. Everyone drives in Houston. You cannot live here very easily without a vehicle, preferably a pickup truck.
Some have even assessed our city culture and suggest that a vehicle equals or in many cases surpasses the choice of a place to live. Is that extreme? Most of us who live here would at least suggest that there is some merit to that assumption.
My motorcycle buddies at least have that thought planted in their minds. They were introduced to Houston traffic after a long day of riding. Add to the stop and go traffic of I-610 a major thunder-storm and it really gets dodgy.
Not only was the rush hour traffic horrendous and the thunderstorm unpleasant but construction with narrow lanes and debris added to the tricky negotiations of motorcycle riding. Of course those occasional out-of-state transplants who speed and cut annoy everyone. Too many in traffic jams are on their phones texting and drift over their lane lines and squeeze a motorcyclist.
Aside from the hazards of riding our fellowship was amazingly fun! The rain kept pouring down so we parked the bikes under the hotel eave and piled into my pickup truck for a tour of the NASA Johnson Space Center. It was a perfect day to visit.
Schools were not bringing in bus loads of children and the tourist season had already ended. Without the crowds we could see everything and did not wait in lines. The displays and historic moments were easy to enjoy and take in for our easy riders.
Standing next to the massive 747 and Shuttle we felt our diminutive size but also sensed our enormous pride in what our nation has able to do. Our smart phones have capacities that old computers in the past could not do. Yet, our nation launched men into space, landed them on the moon and brought them safely home.
Our little band of bikers took in the size and sights of NASA’s greatest accomplishments. Mostly, our time was about our journey through life, friendship, past rides and fun adventures. Ron, Richard and Scott are great friends and even greater buddies with shared memories.
photo credit: brucefong photography
My motorcycle is now 7 years old. It still looks great and gleams brightly when I polish to a brilliant luster. Detailing the paint and finish until all grime, dust, bugs and dirt are gone takes a long day if not more than one.
Over time there are a few dings and chips in the paint. It is part of the character of many miles on the open road. Showroom glitter does not have much compatibility when the miles roll under the tires of a thunder machine like my Silver Dragon.
One of the critical parts of my steed that wore out was my battery. It is vital for holding a charge that can faithful be ready when it is time to crank up the motor. Last week the get up and go got up and went.
This would be my first battery replacement for this motorcycle. It was time to consult my MOM, Motorcycle Owners Manuel. Then, I checked out the internet for videos on the procedures.
I laid out my tools on a work table. Both seats had to be removed. That was simple enough; one bolt for each seat and the cushions slipped out with a simple pull.
Now, came the difficult piece. Wires and connectors were all over the battery bay. I had to identify each one of the harnesses and disconnect them in order.
The challenge would be to remember the order so that I could repeat the connections in reverse order once I installed a new battery. Neither the MOM nor the internet gave details on disconnecting the harnesses. That was a task that I had to figure our on my own without breaking any of the brackets, connectors or wires.
Experienced good mechanics snooze through this kind of task. I am inexperienced and just a do-what-is-necessary kind of mechanic. It was time to do what was necessary and whisper a prayer in the process.
Thankfully, the Kawasaki engineers designed a very good system. Even after years of silence, the connectors separated, bolts came apart, screws unfastened easily and every diagram in the MOM matched what was on my bike.
The service attendant at our local Motorcycle dealer was very helpful. He sold me a new battery, showed me how to set it up, charge it up and gave me just a few necessary precautions. After several hours of priming and charging the battery I installed the new juice source, said another prayer and fired up my machine. It roared to life and I smiled at the Lord as he enjoyed the sound of power under throttle.
photo credit: brucefong photography
There are different juices that flow in the veins of different people. Some have more than simply blood that pours through their bodies and energizes the soul that their body houses. Others have an additive in their blood vessels.
I join the many who feel the thrill of thunder. No, it is not the kind that follows lightning and rumbles through the skies. Rather, it is the roar that travels through the ground, caused by the horsepower of two-wheel machines known as motorcycles. I feed on the spirit captured on the open road.
When I don my gear, then climb aboard my ride and turn on my ignition, the thrill never leaves. It is always there. Something in the heart and soul of a rider is ignited with the firing of plugs in the internal combustion engine of my V-twin.
The joy of a ride is magnified when fellow bikers enjoy their freedom together. We are brothers from different mothers. There is a connection that can be seen when total strangers on bikes pass each other on the road. They wave at each other in acknowledgement of what we share in common.
On this vacation trip we headed to experience the city of Austin together. Little did we know that our path would cross the path with thousands of others whose blood flows with the same spirit of motorcycling. We were met with the vision of a hotel lot filled with sparkling, customized and roaring motorcycles. Instantaneously, it was exuberating.
Something special was happening in Austin that we did not know about in advance. I did recall a number of biker groups and solo riders on our journey to our state’s capital. The enjoyable journey was filled with many other sights, so I was not suspicious . Now, it all made sense: Republic of Texas Rally, ROT13.
Like the tradition is, has been and always will be, I paid out a lot of compliments on custom rides. Pride broke out on a number faces when they realized that someone was speaking with admiration of their personalized machine. It is a way of life.
In town the famed Sixth St. was lined with motor magnificence. No two bikes were alike. Each one was like the people who ride them: unique, filled with pride and sharing in common the thunder of the open road.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography