Pee Wee Herman's Bike was red too! Panniers have a definite BMW-type flair!
(Photo courtesy of the internet -- Click to enlarge)
Those of you who know me will be somewhat puzzled, as it is common knowledge that I would have to ride a week to get far enough to get really lost, and that I stop often enough to bullshit with waitresses and barmaids to guarantee a steady access to local data. Yet Clyde Jacobs and Matt Piechotta had no difficulty getting me turned around and totally lost in Bird-Up-Ass, Pennsylvania -- before abandoning me -- and that’s only 9 miles from the house. Totally lost is a bit of exaggeration. I knew where I was in regard to four north/south and east/west main routes and riding long enough in any direction would certainly bring me to one of these, but my knees were killing me and I was trapped in a Chinese noodle-swamp of unmarked roads. It took me 45 minutes to find a route I was familiar with (without getting off the bike to ask for directions).
The truth is that while a confluence of circumstances made the installation of a GPS possible, the real reason for me getting one is that that my riding buddies Jim Robinson, Gerry Cavanaugh, Dick Bregstein and Pete Buchheit have these on their handlebars. I have grown tired of the superior way they work the GPS subject into the simplest of issues. For example, on the discussion of the nation’s waterways, Jim Robinson will say, “My GPS was instrumental in helping me find the Missouri River.” He occasionally neglects to say there was supposed to be a bridge there, and not a barrier which he hit at 40 mph. Dick will say, “Shall we look for an alternate route? Allow me to consult my GPS.” Or Pete will say, “I wonder if there’s a more scenic route? I’ll just check my GPS.” And then Dick might add, “I have to take my first dump in three days. I’ll check my GPS for a good place.” These statements burn my ass after I’ve heard them a few thousand times. So now on the next run, I’ll be able to say, “I want to take a scenic dump on the alternate route. Let’s see what the GPS says.”
Pete seems to use his GPS with some effect. Dick has the same unit that Amelia Earhart used, and almost came to the same end adjusting it (pure speculation, but as valid as any other explanation for his famous high impact boulder stop).
My recent fascination with these electronic navigational devices was piqued when the love of my life dejour, Leslie (Stiffie) decided that she prefers the GPS that came with her new Subaru to the Garmin Nuvi 660 I bought her two Christmases ago. Therefore, I was welcome to the Garmin unit if I liked. I said “I liked” very much and accepted it as a Valentine’s Day gift. So technically, the Garmin was free. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Three components I am trying to bring together: a Nolan helmet, a Garmin Nuvi 660, and a Scala Q2.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)
All I needed to get was the mounting bracket from Ram Mounts, sold through Whitehorse Gear. This was a whopping $31, plus $11 bucks for the GPS cradle. I love getting stuff from Whitehorse Gear. Those folks bend over backwards to guarantee the customer is happy. They have a great return policy and customer service that other places -- like LL Bean -- should emulate. They sent me three separate emails confirming my order before actually shipping it. I signed off on each like a blind Senator confronted with a stimulus package.
It was Christmas in February when the box arrived from Whitehorse Gear. I stopped whatever I was doing to explore the mounting bracket and to place the GPS in the cradle. Ten minutes into the project, I uttered the sentence beginning with my signature three-word phrase:
“How the fuck is this GPS supposed to fit into this cradle,” I asked rhetorically. “I think some asshole wrote these directions.”
“Let me see it,” said Stiffie (Leslie), correctly interpreting my rhetorical remark as a plea for help. “And don’t use that language in front of your infant grandson.”
“He’s a year old,” I said. “He barely understands Ma-Ma.”
“Asshole,” said my infant grandson like a parrot, pointing at me with his sippy cup.
“Well he understood that much,” said Leslie. Two seconds later, she deduced it was the wrong cradle for the GPS. “Let me look at shipping statement.”
Apparently, I had ordered the wrong part and okayed it three separate times. “Hmmmmmmm,” said Leslie. “An asshole may have been involved after all.”
I called the folks at Whitehorse gear, and they switched out the proper cradle in no time at all. The new part arrived three days later and my excitement reached fever pitch as I attempted to mount the unit on the handlebars.
The handlebars of the 1995 BMW K75 are literally wrapped with control cables that will alter the bike’s performance if shifted one millionth of an inch. More so on the left side than on the right. Even more challenging was the fact that the 3-inch mounting post that I had purchased (at discount as part of the overall mounting kit) was a bit too tall for where the GPS would have to fit in the Parabellum Scout fairing. This led to another call to Whitehorse Gear to order the 1.5 inch mounting post. That one arrive in another three days for a mere $11 plus shipping.
The Garmin Nuvi 660 (the thing with the screen) finds the Scala Q2 unit, but identifies it as a cell phone.
Screwed again, Bullwinkle.
The Garmin 660 (now discontinued) had a larger screen than most other brands when it came out, so I figured I could get the gist of the directions with a fast glance -- without having to wear my reading glasses. Yet the unit’s real value is in having a loud female sex-mistress voice call out the turns at the appropriate time. “This thing has Bluetooth,” I reasoned. “There must be a way to project that voice into my helmet.”
Since I have a Nolan helmet which I love, my search first led me to the Nolan communications package. On sale, this was a mere $280 at Hermy’s, my local BMW dealer. I can’t tell you how excited I was to get the get the kit installed in my helmet. Yet going through the directions line by line, it became apparent that I would need an external cable to make the appropriate hook-up. A cable! A fucking cable from my head to the handlebars! Hermy’s traded me a nice Givi topcase in exchange for the Nolan communications package.
Yet my desire to make this GPS talk to me through my helmet burned in my soul. Two members of the Mac-Pac (the notorious BMW riding club in southeastern Pennsylvania), Gerry Cavanaugh and Horst Oberst, presented themselves at my door to demonstrate the capabilities of the Scala Q2 communications system. Simplicity in itself, the Scala Q2 system offered a Bluetooth connection to the GPS, bike to bike communications, an integral FM radio, and an intercom I would never use. It even promised a 5-minute installation time. With shipping, this was a mere $240!
I ordered it online and had in my hands two days later.
It really did attach to the helmet, including speaker installation, in less than 5 minutes, with the little allen wrench provided. And nothing gave me greater satisfaction than to put the Scala unit into “find me” mode at the same time I triggered the Garmin 660. In just about a second, the Garmin recognized the Scala and logged it in. It was just a simple matter of hitting “Okay” with my fingertip on the Garmin screen.
The Cardo Scala Q2 unit. I liked this so much I decided to hang onto it.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)
I hit “Okay,” and the Garmin asked me to dial in the passcode of “1234” from the cell phone’s keypad. Except the Scala unit does not have a key pad and it is not a cell phone. No keypad is offered in this mode on the Garmin 660. I repeated the process to make sure I got everything right. Getting the same frustrating result, I called Garmin.
After being on hold for 15 minutes, I got a young woman with the sweetest voice. This is one of the wisest marketing strategies and defense mechanisms Garmin could have used. I was instantly disarmed. She sounded like 30-years-old, brown eyes, brunette, and intensely pretty. I decided not to say “fuck” unless she whispered it first. She listened to my tale of woe, put me on hold for another few minutes, claiming she wanted to confirm the bad news with a colleague before passing it on to me. The Garmin Nuvi 660, a legendary landmark in GPS innovation when it was first introduced, only two fucking years ago, was now discontinued and would not recognize anything via Bluetooth that was not a cellphone. She then politely asked if there was anything else she could do for me.
A vision of handcuffs, a can of starting ether, and a house on the beach in Baja passed through my mind, but I couldn’t see how I could work it into the conversation.
So it appears that my dream of having a fully functional GPS, capable of speaking to me through my helmet, at minimal cost, is shot to hell. The Garmin 660 is not ideally suited for a motorcycle anyway. It isn’t waterproof, has several unprotected openings (for a jack and a disk), and isn’t designed for use with gloved hands. (I will put a strip of clear tape over the openings.) I decided to keep the Scala unit anyway. I like a lot of things about it and it will eventually come in handy. For the exception of the woman who answered the phone, I am disappointed with Garmin. I expected a two-year-old electronic unit that sold for $880 to be programmable for future Bluetooth changes. I am going to write them a letter telling them so, though I expect their response will be to shove both the letter and the GPS unit up my ass.
This is the Pee Wee Herman Dashboard on my bike. For now, the GPS will be speechless.
This GPS cannot be adjusted as I ride, as it is on the right. That's fine with me.
At least two friends of mine adjusted themselves into a ditch playing with these damn things.
(Photo by the author -- Click to Enlarge)
This is what I get for attempting to be cool. Dick, Clyde, Pete and I are planning a ride to West Virginia this May. We will be taking a lot of little back roads and no one can say what my arthritis will be like. I’m hoping it will be better. But I am anxious not to hold any of the members in my group back. These guys are all red-hot riders who like to scrub the bugs off their mirrors by going low in the twisties. If we get separated, this GPS unit will be worth its weight in gold.
Members of the Mac-Pac (the densest concentration of engineers on two wheels) are holding a special seminar on GPS devices and I have signed up for it. This session is guaranteed to help riders like myself get the most out of these devices.
Regarding Nose Bag Business
Last Friday, I called an emergency session of the Mac-Pac Nose Bag Dining and Etiquette committee at the Himalayan Exotic Indian Restaurant, in the sad little strip mall in Frazer, Pa, “Big Jim” Ellenberg and “Bermuda Triangle” Bregstein were the first responders. We barely had our nosebags of fragrant Hindi cuisine strapped on, when we were joined by Jim Fox, one of the Mac-Pac’s invisible men. Jim is an undercover custom cabinet-maker, who has apparently been investigating an international plywood counterfeiting scheme. The extent of his undercover work has kept him chained to a lathe in his Phoenixville shop, which is why he has been unable to attend any of the club’s rides, dinners, breakfasts, and lunches for the past two years. Such are his recuperative powers that he didn’t even look fatigued from an extended two-year effort when he walked into lunch. We were relieved to learn that the total collapse of the world economy allowed him to get away for lunch.
The nose bag facilitates dining for Mac-Mac members when time is of the essence and utensiles are just too slow.
(Illustration courtesy of the internet -- Click to enlarge)
Regarding Twisted Roads Prizes
The flashlights have been mailed to those winners of the “Worst Obstruction in the Road Contest.” The winners of the Twisted Roads Tee Shirts will have to wait a little longer (two weeks). All prizes from the “Meals” contest were awarded and presumably received.
Regarding Twisted Roads Tee Shirts and Patches
The first ever “Twisted Roads” tee shirts are selling like thong peelers at a pole dancer’s convention. Production is limited... So if you have been hesitating about sending in your order, you will find yourself screwed if you wait much longer. Pay nothing until your shirt arrives. These are the first of a series of unique “Twisted Road” products, custom-designed for our readers. Twisted Roads jacket patches -- “the ultimate colors of sarcasm” -- are on order with a highly disreputable supplier, who drinks throughout the entire day. I would urge patience on your part, except this like urging sexual abstinence to a cage full of mink. So yell all you want, they’re coming.
Regarding My Custom Seat From Russell Cycle Products
I got a call yesterday from the folks at Russell Cycle Products... They just wanted to let me know that the world’s largest continuous sheet of vinyl was being wrapped around the world’s largest pile of compression seat foam, and that my saddle (roughly the size of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City) would be lashed to a barge and shipped via the Panama Canal on Friday. In the meantime, it was being supported by four massive bridge jacks and being used as a shelter by 400 wild horses.
I have heard nothing but great things about Russell-Day-Long seats and can hardly wait to see and sit on mine.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)