If you’ve known me for more than six months then you probably know I always like to have something to do. What this doesn’t mean is that I like assignments given to me by others. So stop right there if you’re tempted to offer suggestions. Rather, I’m talking about something to do without any obligation to anyone, something to get lost in, where I lose all track of time and even some sense of space.
So television’s out. Not that I refuse it altogether. I’ve been known in fact even to get into the occasional show, like a certain singing competition where the judges are as entertaining if not more so than the contestants. But if I succumb to the swirling vortex of amusement known as the boob tube, well, that’s really someone else determining what I do with my precious and tenaciously guarded free time. So it doesn’t count.
For similar reasons, following sports doesn’t count either. Again, I’ve been known to follow a certain California baseball team all the way through the World Series. But behind it all someone out there in Major League Baseball is telling me how to spend my three or four or five hours of my summer (and spring and fall) evenings, when, frankly, I’d much rather be outside playing a sport than inside watching one.
No, for me, something to do in my free time looks like learning the carillon, as I did in Sewanee; or writing a book, as I did when I spent my daytime hours teaching Latin once upon a time; or composing a piece of music for piano or carillon or voice, as I have done many times; or writing a blog post, as I am doing right now.
So now, enter my newest something-to-do: Project BMW, from the frame up.
Actually, as you can probably tell from the photo, it’s more than just a frame. It’s a frame, rear end, and front end of a 1977(?) BMW r100/7. And it happened like this.
Since moving from Sewanee to San Antonio and starting my curacy, I’ve been spending my precious few hours of free time a week not engaged in any of the above activities, but rather thinking about what kind of time-and-space transcending activity I should take on, now that I no longer had access to a carillon. I’m a planner by nature after all. So time to think things through is always a good thing–to some extent anyway, until I start to over-analyze, like I’m doing right now in this sentence. So . . . I’ve thought a lot about starting another book. The idea is in my mind–a modern-day ghost story involving a priest and medieval European monasteries. But I need to have a great big block of time to jumpstart this one into action, like a week off from work, alone with my computer. And this just ain’t happening in my curacy.
I could compose, I suppose. But for whatever reason I’m finding myself unmotivated to do anything like this at the end of each day, something like writer’s block for a composer.
Instead I’ve been frequenting eBay.
At first it was little more than something to do. I’ve always liked to peruse classified ads. Weird, I know! But they somehow get my creative wheels spinning. Then the idea became to find an old motorcycle for cheap in need of repair. So I’d bid, I told myself. And if I were to win, not only would I repair the thing, I’d modify it to be cooler than it already is. I might upgrade the suspension, overhaul the motor, improve the breathing with velocity stacks, whatever. But first, before I could even plan modifications, I needed to find something to work with; I needed to find a cheap old bike.
But what kind?
This idea, incidentally, is not original to me. It’s being acted upon by several customizers across the globe in fact. And I hope you’re not thinking Orange County Choppers when you hear “customizer.” I’m not really into those. Rather, it’s more like this, well worth a look-see if you’ve got five minutes: http://www.bikeexif.com/surfboard-motorcycle. Now that I like! And that I could do–with a little elbow grease and, of course, free time–if the bike’s not too complicated.
So the concept of restoring/modifying a ’70s-’80s era BMW has come in for a landing and taken up residency. The bikes are air-cooled and carbureted, meaning a certain simplicity; and they’re shaft-driven, meaning virtually no maintenance once it’s up and running.
But these machines retain their value, a fact I soon learned from my numerous eBay searches! Over the past several months I’ve found many ’70s-’80s era BMW r-series bikes. But very few for under $3000! And that’s just the starting point. Once purchased I’d want to tear it town completely and restore/modify it from the frame up.
So why not start with only a frame and go from there, I thought? There’s that whole section on eBay motors called “parts and accessories.” Why not check that out?
So I did.
And ten days ago I ended up placing a bid on an r100/7 frame for $199. (It helped me make the decision when I saw that the owner lived right here in San Antonio, meaning if on the off-chance I happened to win it, shipping would be free.)
It wasn’t the first bid I’d ever placed on eBay. In fact I’d placed several. But before making any bid I always establish a limit and stick to it. That way I don’t get too carried away. I suppose I’d do the same if I were ever to gamble. But my point is that up till yesterday I’d always been outbid.
So my bid was $199, the lowest opening bid I could offer. That was ten days ago, meaning nine days then remained until the bid would close. My predetermined limit on the frame was $200. This meant that if anyone else bid over my $199 opening bid, then I’d be outbid.
But no one did: no one else bid.
I’d pretty much forgotten about it. But then eBay helpfully alerted me that my winning bid would soon close. So I signed in and recalled what I’d done more than a week before. And as I watched the clock run out and realized that I’d actually purchased an old, beat-up, greasy, dirty, used motorcycle frame, two things crossed my mind. First, I’d have some explaining to do to my wife when she’d come home from work that afternoon to find an old motorcycle frame in the utility room (we have no garage). But second, now I’d have something to do in the evenings, on the weekends, whenever no other obligations were otherwise demanding my attention. Starting tonight, by the way.
So now I write with dirty fingernails and metal flakes on my pants. I’ve got the frame nearly stripped of everything–except for the upper and lower races (in the “gooseneck”)–ready to be sandblasted and powdercoated. The front end and rear end, both unanticipated bonuses, will be set upon tomorrow–or the next day, or the next; it doesn’t really matter–to be dismantled and similarly stripped, the swing arm and the fork sliders to join the frame in its powdercoating ritual.
It’ll take a while to complete this project, no doubt. But I don’t really care.