I’ve hit bedrock

IMG_0113Another name for this post is: I’ve finally gotten to my garage!

In the never-ending workload of the house, my garage has never been too far from my mind.

Really, I feel exceptionally blessed to even have a dedicated space that is mine. It’s large enough to hold me, the motorcycles (for now anyway), tools, a lathe, other “stuff” that has my name on it with enough room left over for some of M’s and Our’s boxes that don’t need to be heated or otherwise protected. Christmas decorations for instance.  IMG_0115

In planning the space, storage is always at the front. When i work on a bike, it gets torn down to the last nut, bolt, screw, bearing…well, you get the point. All that disassembly separated from a motorcycle fills three huge tubs fully with the petrol tank, mufflers (the larger bits) needing their own real estate for storage. My dilemma is storage also takes up floor space needed for completed motorcycles!             IMG_0117

My solution was to design an overhead shelf system that starts at 6’ from the floor and extends out 2’ from the wall, thus keeping that 2’ free for motorcycles. Big grin here for a lot of storage and no loss of floor space!

IMG_0108        IMG_0107

The pictures show bikes backed up to the wall, the overhead shelf system not yet built or installed.

Another issue: the floor is bare concrete. If you’ve worked with concrete, you can sweep and sweep and sweep and always have a pile of dust. And, dust is not a recommended lubricant and must therefore be controlled. Concrete on its surface is soft and easily erodes into dust. Walking, sweeping, looking at it (just kidding) will loosen that surface, and it is of exceptionally fine consistency, getting into everything.

I’ve painted the walls, sealing the cinder blocks but the floor got a layer of tile, isolating the porous concrete top surface and actually adding a layer of insulation for heat (non-existent at this time).   IMG_0116

More importantly, engines and other clean-room required-for-assembly mechanisms (such as suspension work too) can now be arguably achieved. I like it.

For you green folks, I’m using all reclaimed material: shelf and flooring materials coming from other parts of the house previously demolished, but saved. I boast I’m green, but one can argue I’m too cheap to buy new. Either way, works for me.

Stay tuned as my man cave, garage, safe haven–whatever you want to call it evolves into a useable, productive space.

Oh, and it’s painted white (not green) to keep alllllll the light in I can, deep inside the cave.

Further, harnessing wonderful electrons culminating into wall electric sockets will be added all around, even where I don’t foresee a need today.

Until next time, may your work space inspire you to be the inventor of great and marvelous things. I know mine is turning into a Miles Beyond Ordinary garage.


There once was a popular television show set in a bar, in Boston, The theme song was something like… “you want to go where everybody knows your name…”  Unknown
Vacationing in Las Vegas is a unique experience; outside of the casinos is a real world . Yes, there are bunches of stuff to do.

Vegas is in the middle of the desert so the off-road motorsports outlets abound.  Unknown-4

But, what if you crave the macadam madness? What if your taste is to the exotic? To the road less travelled? Rarified air? That fits the Miles Beyond Ordinary theme.

Driving (thanks, Uber!) to the hotel from the airport, we passed a number of retail outlets and several motorcycle shops. Me being a moto-geek, I say to myself, “self” “you must visit these shops to further moto-geekdom everywhere. To spread the good and benzene perfumed world good tidings of moto camaraderie.” And so (having no rental, and Uber-less time), I walked the mile or so to the shops, walking to the farthest one first – Freedom Cycle, Las Vegas – www.freedomcyclelasvegas.com
They are a dealer for Vespa (yawn) Triumph (do tell?) and MV Agusta (oh me, oh my!).

f42    12362796_762678330503230_1737292715866075200_o

Entering, I felt right at home, just like the show’s theme song says. These were my people. Their salesman, Craig Knapp, was personable, about my age and had been in motorcycles all his life. It turns out we had been in similar places, knew the same people, and more importantly, spoke the same language. It was truly fun reminiscing about the big names like Don Vesco, Rob North, Gary Nixon, Russ Collins. This list was long with people I had forgotten, and many of whom, sadly, are gone. But, it was truly fun to reminisce!

IMG_20140929_104551708   The décor was a mix of old and new–Triumphs and even a homulgation MV Agusta (a mere $40K) that was cooler than cool. Or how about a Buell (post Harley Davidson)? Exotic is common there.

In our motorcycling careers, his is ongoing, mine quit long, long ago (but the passion remains – just say’n). I pursued a technical/engineering career in aerospace; he stayed in the industry.

With rueful charm, he mentioned wives (past and present) injuries, broken bones, broken bikes, and the like. We laughed a lot and I think I gained a friend in our hours-long discussion.

No, he didn’t make a sale, though I was drooling over pretty much everything in the shop, and there weren’t any other customers, so I felt kind of bad about taking so much of his time – to which he laughed (out loud–mind you), and said he enjoyed himself too.

Rarely did he get to talk tech, tell the real story that would sound like braggadocio to lesser mortals and savor a life chosen with someone who understands.

My grin only faded when I visited the other motorcycle dealer on my way. It was much, much slicker, more motorcycles, more of everything in fact. So much more that it lost its personality and I spent about 10 minutes there, compared to the 2 hours at Freedom.

So if you’re ever in Las Vegas, please stop into Freedom Cycle and find my (new/old) friend Craig Knapp. Tell him I sent you – I’m that crazy engineer guy from CT.


Only, you should buy something.


imagesAs in all things, balance is needed. You can insert your own “for…” here. I’m attempting a work-life balance that mostly works, too often not.

One of my struggles is life is organic, constantly changing, so keeping up is the challenge.

Another area for balance is in my engine–not so organic, but heavy metal. Once it’s in balance, it tends to stay that way. Kind of like Newton’s law of motion.

There is a rule of thumb, since pistons reciprocate, crankshafts rotate, and connecting rods connet the two (hence the name connecting rods).

The pistons/pins/rings are weighed and added to half of the connecting rods, multiplied by 75%, and that’s the weight added to each crankshaft journal (where the rod rotates on the crankshaft).

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images-1  The weighted crank is then spun to a closely held speed and sensitive load cells measure the imbalance. Holes are drilled to remove material or plugs are added and the process is repeated until balance is achieved.

All I can say is that a balanced engine is a happy engine.

Me too.

Still the projects wait…

Unknown     It’s December–the warmest on record for UnknownConnecticut. So what are we doing? Well, we are avoiding winter by going to places like Spain, California, and soon maybe an island. Of course, if this were last winter, that would have been a real respite.   DSCN2013

But, it’s this winter. Did I mention this is the warmest winter on record in Connecticut?Isn’t it just like those “best laid plans” gone awry.

DSCN1968 (1)   Well, we are determined to enjoy them anyway, even though the temps are similar to what we would have had    staying at home.

That brings me to the next subject, of staying at home, where projects in the garage are still,  pretty much, on hold until we finish the first floor reno on our river house.

It is progressing, I am happy to report.   IMG_2775 (1)

The bedroom walls are up, mudded, painted, the walk-in closet ready for flooring, and the bathroom plumbing is almost ready for tile in the shower and flooring.  Lighting is installed and mostly finished, and the bedroom flooring and molding will be finished, we hope, by February.

So by March, we may be able to move downstairs, where we imagine our 200 boxes getting unpacked and their contents finding a place to reside, so that there is room in the garage for…wait for it…projects!!  IMG_2134

Thanks for your patience. We will be sharing very soon.

(submitted by scribe Marjorie for Jay–who is still doing the electric and plumbing)

Men are waffles, women are spaghetti

As my friend, Gail, a marriage-family therapist, says: Men are waffles; women are spaghetti.   Unknown        Unknown-1

What that means is, most men are wired to focus on one activity at a time.

I believe this is especially true of engineer-types. Women tend to interweave many strands of thought, projects and conversation together. These traits are part of why men and women have a lot of trouble communicating.

images    If you’ve ever been in a room with chattering women in one corner, and chattering men in another corner, you know that women carry on several conversations at once and seem able to know which strand they are on, even as they switch it up.

Men, on the other hand, are moving one square at a time, one subject at a time.

So what does this have to do with motorcycles?

IMG_1223     You read about Jay’s many projects. You read about his renovation of our River House. You noticed he has a blog, missing many months of updating. Well, there you have it.

Wifey cowed him into beginning the blog back before the River House was ours. Now, the poor guy is tabling his first love–bikes, to keep the renovation going so we end up with a beautiful home on the Connecticut River.   IMG_1240

It’s bad enough he has to patiently wait to really roll up his sleeves and get those hands in motor oil and parts. But, putting aside his first love AND our house finish to WRITE A BLOG! Well, that just seems impossible to a waffle.

So, though, spaghetti brain (me) knows that in the long run, he will be glad you are there when he is ready, waffle brain has a little trouble seeing the logic.

Unknown-1    This is all to say, Jay will be posting from time to time. But, it may be ME for a short while, filling you in, as he gets our master bedroom, master bath, walk-in closet to the place where we can move to the first floor and actually receive our CO (Certificate of Occupancy) for the downstairs.

Until then, we are living upstairs, Jay is working full time, doing house stuff evenings and weekends, trying to fit in a few tweaks on a bike, now and then, to keep himself sane, and thinking, when there is a waffle square available, about what he wants to share with y’all here.

“Stay tuned,” as he would say.

The Joys of Too Many Projects for Random Abstract Brain

Of course there is an element of sarcasm in my post titles. Today it’s more like the “pains” of too many projects.

What I mean is, if you study how my brain works, you’ll find I can’t seem to stay with any one project at a time, because I need a multitude of projects, the more complex the better, to keep my life interesting.

IMG_1250   Take for instance our house remodel. Never mind that it’s a full time job for four people, and, no we don’t have them, it’s just Marjorie and me. But add to that, the aforementioned random abstract quirk, and you have me forever disappearing into the garage to get a tool, during which time I see a task needing done on my motorcycle.

Yes, there are several motorcycles, all in various stages of completion, so my brain is intensely, you might even say laser-focused on whatever task is at hand for that ten minutes.

And, when hands have gotten their various instructions and are working smoothly, brain, without supervision, wanders to some other task. Undisciplined brain! My wife says no–just the nature of this beast’s brain style.

Given that the hands have talent, and the brain wanders, one might imagine a lack of organizational structure. Yet, the work marches on and eventually, always, finishes…just not on any set schedule for the sequential-types.

The house is nearing completion in very large part due to Marjorie’s loving encouragement of next steps. No, literally–she wants steps by the new side door to the mud-laundry room. Something about giving me access to a room with a sink, that is not the kitchen, in my egress from my motorcycle work in the garage.   IMG_1915

I will finish the first floor work–weekend projects to finish bedroom, master bath, and walk-in closet.The tools and materials I need are close so there’s no reason, no excuse, no escape. Not to worry. I like to work on the house, and it does get done. Further, I love seeing the progress of where we’ll live, how we’ll live.

Alas, motorcycles are a different story. I’m pushing small tasks that can be accomplished in 30 minutes or less, while knowing that the garage is unfinished, and is on the remodel list as well. Motorcycles will have to wait their turn. Even blogging about their progress, varied as they are, suffers the same fate.

IMG_0360   Interesting motorcycle projects at hand in the queue: a ‘68 Honda CL450, this one just needs a seat; my daily rider, an XS650 Yamaha is heavily-modified (and will appear in a future post); Suzuki Marauder needs fuel injection and turbo charger; lastly, a basket Triumph Bonneville, of which the bits are all there, but which elicit me shaking my head, sighing, and feeling a little overwhelmed, even for random brain–there is so much to do.

The benefits of this brain are that creativity hasn’t found limits even in my advancing years. As problems arise, they’re solved, which in their turn, trigger new ideas of innovation, form, color, function, and in this advancing state of my particular art, new techniques are developed in an odd combination of concepts that somehow work well together. Just as I’ve never been accused of being normal, my motorcycles are definitely, Miles Beyond Ordinary.

I hope your project pains are as interesting as mine! Please leave me a note to let me know about what you’re doing.

Bernoulli is alive and well and living in Patagonia or Switzerland or maybe just Enfield

The automotive industry has taken B’s theorem of hydrodynamics such that for an inviscid flow of a nonconducting fluid (in our case, air), an increase in the speed (velocity) of the fluid occurs simultaneously with a decrease in pressure.    th-4bernoulli

Extrapolated, for a given flow area and corresponding air flow velocity, if the flow area is reduced, the air velocity increases.  If there were a liquid chamber connected both up and downstream of the change in area, conceivably said fluid could be drawn up into the flowing air and form a mixture differential pressure across a newly invented throttle plate.

th  With that simple definition, the earliest carburetors came into being. Very crude devices but they were adequate for the also very crude engines.  They didn’t rev very high, didn’t make much power, and leaded fuel was very forgiving to tuning, runability and the like.

With today’s highly refined, highly tuned, high revving engines and pollution requirements, as they are, a sophisticated carburetor is needed.  They have many metering circuits, accelerator pumps, air cutoff valves, idle air mixture screws, low-mid-high adjustability, and they still are only adequate…all to meet pollution requirements.

Over a lifetime of working with carburetors, I have figured out how to make them perform well; I’m good at it.

Lately, I’ve become weary of their quirks and am seriously looking at a lower cost alternative. Enter electronic fuel injection (EFI).    th-1

EFI is not new, the car people have been using and refining their mass- produced systems since the late 1970’s.  Hilborn and Kinsler made mechanical fuel injection in the late 1950’s for their race cars. Those systems still work …with some limits…but the idea is sound.  Add some critical electrical electronic sensors (such as an Oxygen or “lambda” sensor) and a direct measurement of the burned fuel quality feeds directly into a box that adjusts the length of time a fuel valve, or injector (under constant pressure), and is open or closed to allow or stop fuel flow into the engine. The electronics control via PWM or Pulse Width Modulation is from a lookup table based on sensor input to maintain an ideal stoichiometric mixture. Your car has this same lookup table. Your motorcycle too. And stioch mixture is related to gasoline and its optimal air/fuel, excuse me, stoichiometric, mixture to properly ignite and burn inside the engine.  th-2

It’s very precise control.

My goal is to have a completely new EFI system for the cost of a carburetor rebuild.

th-3   Stay tuned (all puns intended) to see if I can make this work!

An extraordinary guy

In the early 1980’s, we lived in Irvine, CA, halfway between the Tustin helicopter base and the Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro. I did some work out of our garage on motorcycles, cars – you name it, all to make ends meet.

One of my acquaintances at the time had an old Honda 750 of 1970’s vintage, with a Vetter fairing. That was the best setup then for touring. But this guy had an electrical problem that was chronic, but exceptionally elusive  I put in several hours troubleshooting with no success. He laughingly suggested that his crew chief once had the same problem with one of his airplanes.

“Oh? Do tell!. said I.

Thus began a poignantly short and quite unlikely friendship with Lt. Col Alexander (A.J.) Gillis, fighter pilot and air ace, having flown in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

He had several airplanes shot out from under him in active combat and lived to tell the tale. As an editorial, he said the water in the South China Sea was warm and it took some 5 hours to pick him up. He was flying again shortly after.

What he didn’t say then, which came out later, was he downed two enemy aircraft before he was shot down!

He willingly talked while I worked, and he wove tails of jet fuel, hydraulic oil, Corsairs, Panthers, and Skyhawks, and of transitioning from propellers to jets. He was wing commander of VMA225 in 1963-64; he was quite proud!

One day the story was of a reunion at the base, and he checked out in a F18 Hornet and was allowed a “fast taxi.” He was smilingly mad that there were wing locks and a crew chief standing on the wing. “If they weren’t there, I’d have had a very nice flight!” he said, with soft chuckles, remembering his time in this advanced aircraft.  

By the way, the Hornet is still a front-line fighter for US Marine Corps aviation.

He told stories of early WWII in China and the Flying Tigers, Greg Boyington (of Black Sheep squadron fame) and walking on the Great Wall. I don’t think he was included in the Tigers but was in China flying the F4U Corsair later.  Anyway, I’m not sure about all the military connections, but I think he was temporarily attached there early on.

I knew A.J. for only a year or so. Maybe I couldn’t find that electrical short on purpose. I wanted to know him better–and I don’t remember charging for something I couldn’t fix. I think he appreciated that.

We laughed often. He was a retired old warrior, a more soft spoken man I never met, and he exuded inner strength.

He would occasionally just drop by on a Saturday just to hang out, talk troubleshooting, cantankerous bikes, and his flying adventures.  

Then the bike was fixed and we both moved on.

I learned later that he was in the ER for a slight chest pain checkup, and had a massive coronary. He died in the hospital, all within minutes, sad to say, in 1987, at age 65, just past his 65th birthday

Sometimes we don’t know who we meet who will have a profound effect on our lives. The strength he so casually wore, helped me to mature and accept that kind of masculinity. I wanted to be that kind of man. His soft spoken-ness and quiet courage are traits to be admired and emulated.  

Good stuff!

Hello! Is anybody home?

Winter on the CT River

You may have wondered if I am still here. The fact of the matter is, we’ve been getting our life in order, consolidating things, and we bought a house on the Connecticut River, and are more than knee deep in a major renovation.

It has been consuming thoughts, emotions, finances, and most of all, time. Still it is a very good thing.

My garage space is packed with boxes, and more boxes–filled to the gills. My toolbox is heaped to the place of immobility; however, and unbeknownst to my wife, I sneak in the quick turn of the wrench, a quick peek at an engine part, and my brainy wheels keep turning and stay in mesh.   IMG_1240

Of course, my problem is that the bike projects that I started, have now skewed into a different direction. Time will tell if it’s better.

IMG_1225IMG_1223 As the house is finished, more   importantly, for the projects, as the garage is finished (and I haven’t even gone there yet), learning how to say “wicked cool” with all the Mass folks, will have to stay on hold for just a little while more.

Meanwhile, I will start to update more frequently with stories about some interesting folks I’ve met over the years, along with some tech stuff and other “wicked cool”minutiae.

Stay tuned. And, thanks for your patience.


Rich’s ride report

It’s January 13th, 2014. I’m visiting my father in Central Florida. Accompanying me, are my wife, my two daughters, and their two daughters so we get a chance to see Grandpa / Great Grandpa.

While there I spy a machine, a two-wheeled machine with a motor. It’s my nephew’s 2013 Honda Ruckus (1310 miles). Immediately I decide I need to ride it. And then the mission comes to me with great clarity! I am “Miles Beyond The Ordinary” test rider, Rich Lantz.  unnamed-1

I approached the machine a little wary…hadn’t been on a scooter in many years. I rolled it out into the Florida sun. I looked the bike /scooter over. Tires felt reasonably inflated. I looked for a fuel shut off but couldn’t find one.There is a low fuel light but no fuel gauge , so I looked for a tank which is under the floor “board.” Opened the locked cap to see some fuel.

He told me it got one hundred miles per gallon so I figured I would be fine. I found the ignition, inserted the key and saw a start button. Pushed it …..but nothing. So I looked for a kick start lever which was on the rear end and down low. Two weak mini kicks and the 49cc motor fires right up and purrs like a little Honda should. Helmet on and off I go.

I think to myself, “probably should figure these brakes out before I get out of the driveway.” No pegs or pedals just floor board. So there are two levers on the non- adjustable handlebar, front and back brakes just like my old Stingray. Acceleration was pretty weak. Don’t know what I was expecting, but I got used to it after a little while.

unnamed-2    At this point I should note my personal specs… 52 years old , 6 feet tall, and 194 lbs. My nephew,by the way, is 5′ 9″ tall and tips the scales at 160 lbs. Anyway, compared to my current bike (1990 Yamaha XT600) it seemed a little under powered. Ironically, this scoot weighs 194 lbs., same as me. Seat is comfortable and I feel relatively “un-cramped” on the machine. Mirrors provide excellent coverage. Horn, headlights (2), and turn signals were also excellent. I’m rolling now, down Croom Road in Brooksville, Florida. How fast will this thing go? Top speed in aerodynamic tuck on downhill slope with slight tailwind took me up to a Bert Munroe-inspired 43.5 miles per hour. On the flats I could manage 40 mph one direction and 35 mph coming back. Uphill slopes brought me down to 33 mph and at one point 28 mph. Suspension is quite limited and especially with my “mass” on the machine. Definitely not an off road setup! Bumps, small potholes, and the like were “jarring.”

Keep this Ruckus on the smooth surfaces and you will be very happy. Curves were a blast as you pretty much keep the throttle “pinned” and lean in! One surprise was the brakes. They were very effective. In the state of Florida this scooter requires no license, no insurance, and no helmet. The only thing the law requires is eye protection.

Overall , my impressions were very favorable. This is a fine machine with Honda engineering. I wouldn’t mind owning one but I would be visiting the forums to see what upgrades and mods were available. Can we ever just leave a motorcycle / scooter alone ???

I think we all know the answer to that question.