It’s Been a While… Part 2

Hello again.

Long time no see.

The bike is sort of in a holding pattern, waiting on the last few things to finish up. Pretty much all of the new parts are in the spare room of Autumn’s and my house. The frame, handlebars, luggage rack, headlight bucket and a few other miscellaneous brackets have all been beautifully powder coated. Some of it has come together, but not much.

The gas tank, fenders and side pieces are in the trunk of my car, waiting for the painter to pick them up from me while I’m at work. I tracked down the Glasurit paint (green) that I wanted and Alan gave me the number of a local guy who will prep and spray it for me. That’s going to be around $800 when it’s done.

Alan still has the motor and is waiting on one more order I have placed for the last few bolts needed to tie everything together there. It looks like I’ll owe Alan about $500 when everything comes together.

Yesterday I dropped the wheels off at Orion’s to get trued and have the tube and tyres put on. The rims I had powder coated black, and bought new stainless steel spokes to replace the crusty, once-chrome spokes that were on the bike. Another $500 on the process of getting the wheels ready to ride.

I don’t have the time at this moment to run through and tally up all of my orders and figure out what I’ve spent so far, but that’s coming soon. I’m really close to the end, here. Just a few more parts to come in from Max BMW, another order from Huckly’s, and then everything can get bolted in place. Last touches will be dropping the painted parts on top and making sure everything works.

There’s a lot of stuff that I decided while I was on hiatus from this blog, and I need to get everything here caught up. For now I want to go over what needs to happen as of right now:

  • Order bits from Huckly’s
  • Get parts to Alan when they arrive
  • Get parts to painter once he’s available
  • Pick up wheels from Orion’s when they’re done
  • Complete parts inventory
  • Cure heat-resistant paint on non-exhaust parts
  • Clean and maybe repaint plastic pieces
  • Create shopping list of peripheries (bar-end mirrors, supplemental tail light, etc.)
  • Tally up order totals and work on my next post
  • Test starter solenoid

Assuming my order from Max BMW ships today or tomorrow and gets here by Saturday, Joel and maybe Nick are going to help me rebuild the front suspension on Sunday.

I keep going back and forth about the rebuilding here, though. The front suspension is really the only thing I can rebuild prior to getting the engine inside the frame, but building that makes it too large to fit into the car to bring to Alan’s. Alan has been open to the idea of the assembly happening at his shop, though I’m feeling like it really is something I’m capable of taking on myself. I just need to stop being afraid of fucking it up and focus on it.

So if the front suspension gets built here at my house, that means the entire thing comes together here. There are benefits to doing it both places and, as far as I know, Alan would be fine with coming here and helping me out if I needed it. The principle benefit to Alan’s shop is that he already has all the tools needed to put it together. I do not. I could buy tools, such, and there are several that I’ll need before any long road trips, but that just means spending even more money before I can ride it.

At any rate, I keep arriving at points where I think all I have to do is wait, and then I find more work that needs to be done. I suppose that’s just how these sorts of things work.

It’s Been A While

It’s been a while since I started this blog.

It’s been a while since I went dark on this blog.

It’s been a while since I started tearing that damn 1976 BMW apart.

It’s been a while since I felt this good about the whole rebuild.

I’m not quite there yet. But the final vision is becoming clearer. Parts are coming in left and right. The last chunk of stuff is at the powder coaters and will be back in my hands next week. I’m a couple weeks away from the body paint being done. I have one last order to place with MAX BMW (the dealership I’ve been ordering all my new parts through).

Autumn and I have moved into a great new house and, like I feared so many months ago, I had to move the motorcycle in pieces. There’s a little corner of the dining room where my new parts boxes are collecting; an ever growing pile of white USPS shipping boxes.

The engine is still with Alan, where it will wait for the rest of the electrics to come in and the body pieces to be painted. I’ll be bringing the entire thing to him, where all of the separate bits will come together to form a whole, [hopefully] working motorcycle.

Today’s is just a short post. Just a little blip on the radar saying, “I’m still here, still working!”

I’ll fill in all the details later. For now it’s just nice to be back on WordPress. I have lots of reading to catch up on.

Time Spent Doing…

Pretty much nothing related to the bike.

I’ve been waiting for my tax return to come in, so I’ve left the BMW bits just sitting around my house collecting dust (and dog hair) since my last post. My return still has not arrived, but I’ve decided to stop waiting and start being proactive about things instead.

Over this past weekend I gathered up all of the bit going to get powder coated and cleaned and loaded them all into the back of my car. This morning I drove everything down to the coater’s to get an estimate.

Continue reading

Long Overdue

[I began this post some time ago, and lost focus on the original intent. Since I hate seeing Draft sitting in my posts list, as well as my email inbox, I decided to pick this back up, edit it and write it for something I’m more focused on now.]


There’s this feeling I have almost every Monday as I get ready for work. This feeling that I’m leaving some sort of alternative life behind. Like the person I am, the things I do, the things I’m capable of doing are different from Saturday to Sunday.

I think this may be somewhat true.

If I’m good, I’ll wake up around 9am during the week. I have to leave for work around 2:30pm, so that gives me until 1pm before I have to pack dinner, shower, get dressed, etc. That makes for a good four hours to do whatever I see fit. Lately I’ve been having trouble motivating myself to get out of bed before 11. Two hours is hard to get things done in. I have to get up, get dressed, take the dog out, feed myself, start something, make progress on it, then wrap it up before 1.

Welcome to life, I know.

On the weekends I’ll sleep in an extra hour or so, because I know I have all day to do what I want. In fact, I can take on multiple projects in a day. This was my original plan in tackling repairs on the motorcycle. Take it on one weekend at a time. Pick a part, spend as much of the weekend as was needed on it and don’t start another repair in the same weekend (a great plan of action when the idea is to have the bike available for riding during the week. Now that it’s inside the game has changed). I can spend the rest of my time cleaning, playing video games, watching Netflix, or doing whatever I feel like.

During the week I have to be more careful with my time. If I want to accomplish something, it pretty much has to occupy all of my time before work.

This makes complete sense, of course.

Time management is something I need to get better at, in general, but if I’m going to get this bike rebuilt, not suck at work and do well in school I need to have no mercy for myself when it comes to meeting my own deadlines and focusing on the task at hand. Part of this task is getting better at writing and reading on a consistent basis. As my readers [Joel & Autumn] have reminded me repeatedly the past couple of weeks, I’ve let my hugely vast network of readers down by not posting my regular and reliable Friday updates on time for the past two weeks.

In order to keep myself honest, and to grant permission to the two people I spend the most time with, I’m crafting a schedule I’d like to keep—consistently—which I’ll post immediately after this post.

Important in this schedule will be the gaps. The time I allow myself to relax and to do things just for fun. Yes, there will be relaxation or fun things built into the schedule, but I will also give myself gaps between tasks. These gaps are built-in flexibility. The ability to to say, “I’m at a stopping point 10 minutes early, I think I’ll go ahead and shower so I can just lounge for a little bit before work.”

They’ll also give me time to work in thing which inevitably come up unexpectedly. An email I feel compelled to respond to, a phone call, an impromptu trip to get lunch.

Just organizing all of the moving parts of the motorcycle rebuild will be an exercise in time management, as well. More on that below.


As I said just above, the original plan was to pick a repair each weekend and fix this or that, but only work on one thing in a weekend and, essentially, make sure it was something I could actually complete in a single weekend. That’s quite out the window, at this point.

Today (Sunday) Autumn and I broke down the wiring inside the headlamp bucket, meaning there’s no turning back from this point in terms of replacing the electrical system. There are still questions which I haven’t fully answered, like whether or not I want to replace every electrical item on the bike (relays, switches, lamps, et al) or just the wires and then call the rest on a case-by-case basis.

There’s another question, of how I want to replace the wiring itself. I have, essentially, two options. The first option is to buy the wiring harness kits—three, in total (four, if I replace the relay, etc. right out)—from an authorized BMW re-manufacturer. The second option is to replace the wires piecemeal, buying spools of wires and doing the entire thing pretty much from scratch.

Manufactured Harnesses

If you’re not Joel, or Autumn, you’ve probably just read the previous paragraph and thought to yourself, why the fuck would not just buy the harnesses, save yourself time and hassle?!

First, let me say thanks for reading!

Second, let me explain this thinking:

I’m sort of a glutton for doing things the most complex, hassled, from-scratch way possible. Usually. I built a computer, rather than buying a higher-performance machine. I took my bicycle apart, cleaned it and rebuilt it, rather than taking it to a shop for a tune-up and re-gearing. This has little to do with money. In some cases, such as building the computer, I wound up saving money. In others, such as the bicycle, it cost me money in having to replace parts I broke in my ignorant attempts to fix them. It’s also a huge time sink. Doing things from scratch (or close to it) costs a lot of time, both in learning the ins and outs of what I’m trying to do and in my poor time management and the extended times it takes me to complete projects.

Why am I like this? Hell if I know.

That’s part of the reason I looked into other options than just buying the pre-made harnesses. Another part is money. The main chassis electrical harness is something like $550. If I want to buy each handlebar cluster they’re going to be about $170 a piece. There’s the engine electrical components, ranging from the various relays ($20-$60) to the starter motors ($130 per—two per bike). The alternator could go, though may not need to. The electric start system needs to be replaced by a less taxing piece of hardware, that’s going to be about $200. A new battery will be the final piece, probably close to $120. Not everything in that list is exclusive to the manufactured harness and, to be fair, I could source wiring from scratch and still replace all of the relays, hardware pieces, etc. $550 is a steep place to start, though.

There are benefits, of course. Like not having to worry about sourcing matching colors or converting metric (German DIN standard) wire gauges to imperial. Or not accidentally buying 20ft more wire than I needed in a particular color. Or not worrying about the weather resistant capabilities of either the wiring itself or my methods of sealing connections. Or not having to purchase and affix all of the properly sized connectors and crimps. Or not stabbing myself repeatedly in the fingertips with freshly stripped wiring. The ease of installation, because it’s essentially just color-by-numbers, thanks to wiring charts I found (here [this one is coming soon] and here) and Autumn’s diligent record keeping.

Sourcing Wires from Scratch

You’d think that I would have investigated where I could get motorcycle wires in 10-25ft spools by now. I still don’t know if my best bet is to go to Lowe’s and buy spools there or if I should look into wires made specifically for motorcycles. Now that all the wires on the lighting system and inside the headlamp bucket have been snipped and yanked from their homes it seems like a bit late to still be asking such basic questions.

The downside to doing things this way is, in large part, the amount of time it will take me to investigate, order, receive, prepare and install every single wire segment. I’ll have to strip each end, fasten the clip or crimp and them install it to the bike. There are several areas where the wiring travels through rubber sleeves, weather and general wear protection, I’m sure. Where do I source those sleeves, I don’t even know!

In the original wiring (maintained by the manufactured harness), the color coding of the wires maintains a certain logic. Red wires always carry power directly from the positive terminal of the battery regardless of ignition switch status. Brown wires are always grounds. Wires with blue coloring are running to and from turn signals. Green wiring is general lighting systems. Makes some sense. Maintaining a color coding system which makes sense and fits all of the varied applications (having a series of Green/x wires, all of which connect to various points on the lighting system, et al) will be intensely important if I source my own wires and select my own color codes.

Then there’s the process of converting the metric gauges of the German DIN standards to the imperial gauges available in stores like Lowe’s and CarQuest. There are, if memory serves me well, three different gauges in the BMW, and gauge is pretty damn important. Matching them isn’t just a matter of finding one that’s pretty close. I have to find exact matches.

The Engine

The engine and transmission are still sitting comfortably inside the bike’s frame, waiting on me to call Alan with two questions. I’ve been saying to Joel for maybe three weeks now that I was going to call Alan “today.” I never do.

Part of it is that I’m fairly intimidated by him. He’s the guru and I’m the small village boy trying to scale the mountain. I don’t want to be laughed at, shot down, told I’m taking on too much, or, worse, told the project is going to be more expensive than I’m willing to spend.

The Fin-nut Wrench

The nuts which hold the exhaust pipes to the engine are finned, to disperse heat, and require a special tool to remove. I could buy this tool, of course, for $70. Or I could call around to Alan or other BMW enthusiasts I know and see if anyone has one I could borrow. I’m fairly sure Alan would have one, since he’s done a few rebuilds himself.

Engine Inspection

My original plan called for me to disassemble, inspect, polish and replace any worn engine parts. From the onset I was going to hand the transmission over to someone else to do that whole process. The transmission is much more precise in it’s allowances than the engine. I don’t have the confidence in my abilities or patience to maintain that precision. I’ve decided in the past couple weeks that I should pass the engine tune-up on to someone else, as well.

Hopefully Alan will be willing to take on this project, and willing to take it on with me watching over his shoulder, learning so in the future I can crack it open and make any repairs to the inner workings that I need to. He’s expessed a willingness to be a mentor in this way before, I don’t know why he would be opposed–especially if he’s getting paid.

Which brings up another issue. Does he want to get paid? How do I approach that? Sure, I could just ask him–or offer to pay him and ask how much he’d like–but I always feel weird about it.


I bought a bunch of different scrub pads (steel wool, scour pads, etc.) and will be borrowing my dad’s dremel. I’ve got Bon-Ami, CLR, Grease Lightning and some other terribly toxic chemicals I can’t remember.

At this point, with everything except the engine and transmission out or off of the frame, I think the most time-consuming and physically laborious aspect of the rebuild will be the entire process of cleaning, stripping off paint and polishing. Repainting the frame, fork arms, luggage racks, fenders and tank will be a chore, but I’m a ways away from that. I still need to research the best paint to use for the frame. It needs to be significantly heat resistant, able to withstand hours of exposure to and engine running at a few hundred degrees. It needs to keep from scratching off while being blasted by dust and dirt at 80 or 90 mph.

There are lots of automotive paints available, and I’m positive there are some geared to motorcycle frames and body parts, it’s just a matter or tracking them down.

The fenders and tank are getting repainted, too, despite the fact that the current paint is in really, really good shape. I don’t mind the color, which was added at some later point by a previous owner, except that one of my coworkers pointed out that the brown paint with the gold striping makes it look like it’s FSU-themed. I happen to hate Florida State University’s main athletic programs–namely the football program–so that has soured the color in my mind.

I’ve picked a color I think will be good, though I want to give it some time to roll around in my head before I commit to it here or on the bike.


As promised earlier, I need to talk about the task of organizing all of the moving parts of the rebuild project. I’ve been looking at task management visualization software and have come up with only a few promising programs. I may just have to resort to mind mapping software.

The goal here is to break down the things which need to get done to each part into a short list of generic tasks:

  • Remove
  • Clean
  • Order
  • Install

Then to assign each part to a position relative to those tasks, ie.:

  • Engine  – Needs to remove
  • Wiring Harness – Waiting to order
  • Frame – Waiting to clean
  • Speedometer Cable – Needs to order
  • Rear Wheel – Waiting to remove

The parts list can (and should) be incredibly detailed. Ideally each nut and washer would be on it. Connecting it to a microfiche of the bike’s sections wouldn’t be a bad idea. This way as I’m preparing for installation of parts, I can check ahead of time that I have the right bits. Any bits I haven’t confirmed I have can be moved into the “Order” sections of the task chart, this would mean that anything that’s otherwise ready to install wouldn’t move into the “Install” section of the chart until I moved the required bits from “Order” to “Install”.

So really, if we imagine the task chart as a circular graph, divided into 4 sections, the dividing lines would continue out of the circle, into the white space beyond. These white spaces would be the tasks’ queues, so to speak. For example, the rear wheel is counterbalancing the frame of the bike while the engine is still inside it. The rear wheel needs to be removed, but it’s removal is contingent upon the removal of the engine. It’s therefore waiting to be removed, not because it isn’t a priority or because I’ve been too lazy to do it thus far, but because it can’t move until something else does.

What would be great is a program which would allow me to draw these relationships as I add the parts to the master list. The difficulty comes in that some parts have one relationship in one task, but no relationship or the converse relationship in another task. To use the engine and the rear wheel again, once both are removed and cleaned, the wheel must be installed before the engine, again for counterbalancing purposes.

So it looks like I’ll play around with the programs I found, but will likely be resulting to FreeMind, Vue or a similar mind mapping software.


I feel like I should be completely honest, right from the start, so we’ll begin this with a confession: I’m terrified, deep down inside, that this whole thing is going to fall apart somewhere in the middle through no fault but my own.


I know I’m in no way the first to do anything like this. Hell, George Wyman crossed the country on a motorcycle in 1903. It’s even been done alongside blogs, video and audio diaries. I was partially inspired by Ben Lee’s (discovered through Petros Jordan’s wonderful blog). There is a plethora of information online about making a journey such as the one I have envisioned. Any number of motorcycle–oriented websites and forums can give lists of tips, advice from people who have succeeded in cross–country trips and warnings from those who failed.

Even within my social circle there are people with experience being on the road for extended periods of time. Just because the experience didn’t come straddling a motorcycle doesn’t mean it can’t apply to my plans. There are friends of friends who have hiked large portions of the Appalachian Trail, arguably the backpacker’s parallel to what I want to do. Their advice is invaluable even though their journey didn’t involve a motor. [Edit: I discovered, the day after writing this, that one of my childhood friends has a bicycle travel blog, which you can visit here.]


The question of why naturally arises. Why travel across the country—crisscross, really—on a 40 year old motorcycle? Oddly enough I have trouble answering the question in complete sentences (the phrase, “because…duh,” comes to mind). Even now, asking myself “why” in my own head I’m finding half answers. Highway 1 in California…Death Valley…Blue Star Memorial Highway…Small farming towns in the Midwest…The bike I’ve always wanted…

            But what kid hasn’t imagined the day when they can hop behind the wheel of a car and peel off into the sunset, into the unknown world beyond the horizon of their hometown? It’s almost a sub-genre of the American dream. The Teenaged Dream.

It’s an opportunity not nearly enough people are able to experience. My parents, my friends, my coworkers, they all agree the trip would be incredible and would love to embark on a similar one of their own. Maybe some would take a car. Maybe they’d fly. Maybe they’d pick a different country or stay in hotels rather than camping. But the concept of exploratory travel is there, in their minds, waiting to be sated.


So there’s this romance to it. A vision of a life on the road, on my ideal motorcycle, that it will be an immensely rewarding and pleasurable experience. That the problems and hardships I face (and, of course, overcome) will leave me with a level of self–satisfaction and esteem I can’t get from any amount of working for money, education or any of the opportunities presented to me at home. The romance is what inspires the trip.

But there’s science to it, as well. A necessary science I’m trying to attune myself to more and more each day. When I travel and what the weather will be. How reliable my motorcycle is. How much food do I carry with me? How much money will I need for gas, for lodging? The science is what drives the trip, what prepares me for it.


I’m trying to keep my head level, while still allowing myself to dream. I want to overload my expectations now. Add as many sights and stops and days and months to the trip as I can, racking up the expected expenses as high as possible and then, knowing it would come to this, whittle them down to a manageable itinerary. Perhaps this is a bad process, but at this point, this very infantile stage, I can’t keep myself from imagining up ways to make the trip more incredible.

And I know there are formidable issues before me: not the least of which are my lack of financial discipline (just earlier this week I returned from a trip to California which drained both my checking and savings accounts to less than ten dollars each), a habitual refusal to stick it out when the going gets particularly unpleasant (too cold or too wet), and a stubborn streak which keeps me from admitting my own lack of knowledge in fixing mechanical problems (resulting in half–fixed problems).


This blog, this little space on the internet with an odd name, is my attempt to prepare myself for this trip and with any luck to help inspire others to make a similar journey of their own. Maybe I’ll add something to the collection of stories, advice and encouragement already present online. Maybe not. Maybe the only person who will benefit from this blog will be the author and I’m okay with that.

A bit selfish, maybe?

I’m hoping I can get anyone who may wander in swept up in the romanticism of my trip while encouraging them to take the time and effort needed to execute the science of it. That someone will stumble upon this blog and see that all it really took was a plan. And they’ll open a notebook and write a list of places they want to see, find them on a map and start their own planning process. I hope they will see, as I will surely learn, that there will be days, weeks, maybe even months when the goal seems almost impossible, but that with time and planning any obstacle can be surmounted.

This is not a journey I want to make alone. I have friends who want to ride legs of the trip with me. I hope to make new friends along the way. I’ll join motorcycle forums to connect with riders in my area first, and later with riders across the country. I want to hear from readers interested in sharing a ride down their favorite roads, willing to show me what they love about their spot in the country.

The trip and what it means to pursue a dream such as this does not stand as a lone pillar in my mind. It is connected to my other aspirations. To my goals, both short and long term. To my political and social identities. To my ideas about work and play and life.

This trip, and the preparation for it, is as much an exploration of my beliefs and who I want to be as it is of the world around me. It’s important to test one’s beliefs against the harshest realities of the world and I hope to do just that. I will be sharing those beliefs with my potential readers at a later point, but to be honest about what I see and what I feel is my highest goal.


Soon, and later—but hopefully mostly sooner—this blog will grow. I’ll have pictures of my motorcycle, a separate page dedicated to the progress of restoring and upgrading it. A page dedicated to my physical and mental progress in preparing myself for the journey. A page dedicated to finding and testing the best equipment. A page dedicated to organizing a route through this massive country I want to explore.

These pieces will come in time, each at a different pace than the others, both on this blog and in the planning process. The route will come close to the end, but could impact some of the equipment choices. The motorcycle will take the most time and the most money to prepare, but my mind has to be focused to ensure the time and money needed is always available. My body will need to adapt, and so conditioning is a must.

Practice trips will be invaluable and I’ll chronicle them in detail as they excite me to new possibilities and expose flaws in my thinking. They will break my spirits and possibly my motorcycle. They’ll test my ability to think straight in rotten conditions. I’ll come back from weekend trips wishing I could have stayed a week. I’ll return home knowing everything has been worth it.

Some posts, such as this one, will seem disjointed. Scattered. A hodgepodge of ideas and hopes and setbacks and accomplishments. Some will be short. Some long. Some will focus entirely on one aspect of the trip which is occupying the lion’s share of my mental capacities.

I’m not weaving an eloquently conceived story of a man destined to achieve his goals; rather I am grasping to keep myself organized and focused in the years ahead.


Lists will appear. And they’ll be updated—often slowly. Ideas will be floated one day and then wither in obscurity for months and months. Some may never be refreshed. But visualizing goals helps me. Talking about concepts allows me to reflect on their failings. I will be providing an inside view to the lists, flow charts, and sketches on scrap paper I use in my attempts to organize my thoughts.

In that spirit, I will round out this inaugural entry with two lists. The first is a list of everything that came with the motorcycle. The second a list of big goals: the things I know I need to accomplish before I can begin my trip.


For about $3800, I sold my soul to a bank for:

  1. The bike: a beautiful 1976 BMW R75/6 (brown, in case you were wondering).
  2. A helmet, which was too big for me.
  3. Clymer repair manual.
  4. A large stack of Airheads Club monthly magazines.
  5. An Airheads Club member directory from 2010.
  6. A 6v/12v motorcycle battery charger. Very handy.
  7. Two white Krauser® hard saddlebags. A bit dirty but in great shape otherwise.
  8. A folder with the past several years’ worth of maintenance receipts and email exchanges with Airheads Club members regarding do–it–yourself repairs.



Things required to make this trip happen:

  • Tune the motorcycle up
  • Learn the ins and outs of the bike
  • Acquire tools which will comprise a set that can be carried with me on the trip—this set should be able to repair anything wrong with the bike
  • Triage on the bike; engine, body, peripherals
  • Fix any problems discovered during triage
  • Get peripherals: bags, cover, fairings, etc
  • Condition myself physically for the strains of the journey: diet, strength, fatigue, etc
  • Condition myself mentally for the challenges of the trip (still not entirely sure how I’ll do this)
  • Decide what to do with many of my possessions (keep them, sell them, or donate them)
  • Figure out what equipment I’ll need and how to get it, then get it