August 6th – Motorcycle Maintenance

Today was going to be a little weird. I had made plans to go out to Ojai to meet Mark, and install the new shock on the bike. Since we had already spent way more time in LA than we meant to, we planned to leave the day after for San Francisco. Gianna’s aunt Amy had offered to let us stay at their place for the night, since it was up the coast a bit, and would be closer to Ojai where I was fixing the bike. Because the shock was still broken, however, we would need a car to carry all of our luggage to Amy’s place.

Gianna’s cousin showed up at the apartment pretty early to pick up Gianna, and all of our stuff. The plan was for Gianna to accompany her on some errands before heading to aunt Amy’s, while I went up to Mark’s to fix the bike, meeting them at Amy’s house around dinner time. Once we had gotten the suburban packed with the gear, it was time for us to head our separate ways. We said goodbye and thank you to Betty, who had so graciously hosted two strangers in her home for several days.

It had been about 3000 miles, so I figured I would do an oil change while I was working on the bike. This meant I would need to stop in Ventura to pick up an oil filter. I set out on the highway, though not very quickly as traffic was horrible as always. Eventually after 30 minutes of stop and go down the 101 to Ventura, I got sick of it and hopped on the shoulder, making much faster progress that way. It’s interesting how much heat the city generates. It was noticeably cooler in Ventura as I exited the freeway to go find the bike shop.

It’s always kind of an interesting experience going into the BMW shops. I am definitely not the primary demographic for beemer owners. It’s pretty much exclusively older well-to-do types with professional careers and such, a far cry from my dready nomadic ways. Though I got the usual “This guy owners a beemer?” look as I walked in, the older man behind the counter was friendly and professional. I picked up my fuel filter, and as I turned to leave, a younger woman came out of the stock room to shake my hand. I got the usual “Where are you from? Where are you going?” routine, and then she started gushing about how great it was to see a young person out having an adventure, and how you see a surprising number of surprising people on beemers these days. I called Mark to let him know I was leaving Ventura, and headed north up into the mountains to Ojai.

It was early afternoon when I arrived, and it was much warmer in Ojai than in Ventura. Mark had Ducati’s sport touring offering, and it was clear that while BMW had focused more on the “touring”, Ducati focused almost exclusively on the sport. Sure, it had some smallish hard saddle bags, but it was clear by the size of the bike that it was not meant for the 8-11 hour riding days we had been taking. Now, Mark is my girlfriend’s step-father’s sister’s husband’s late sister’s widower. You know, next of kin. And he welcomed me to his home as if I was actually next of kin. We shook hands, and set about getting the bike onto the lift, which required maneuvering it carefully up a narrow ramp. The bike is very heavy, and requires quite a bit of strength to manipulate it at low speeds, such as the slow, purposeful push up the ramp. It took both of us to keep it’s weight balanced, but with quite a bit of finagling we got it into position.

Neither of us had ever done this particular operation before, so we started by finding the appropriate section in the Haynes(or Clymer, I can’t remember) manual I had, and just generally examining the section of the bike we needed to operate on. Though the manual was somewhat confusing with it’s grainy low-contrast monochrome images, and convoluted explanations, simply looking at the bike proved a very easy way to figure it out. We would need to remove the rear wheel to gain access, but after that it was only a matter of removing the 2 sturdy bolts holding the old shock in place. Thankfully, this bike has a shaft drive, and there is no chain-fiddling involved in the removal of the rear wheel. We went ahead and started the oil draining while we took care of the shock.

While we sat around unscrewing things, I learned that Mark sells fertilizer for the very large “Jamaican Tomato” industry in California. Even though ganja is decriminalized, and legal for medical use in his state, it is still federally illegal, and so all the hydroponic conventions rely on euphemisms such as Jamaican Tomato. Like many who ride, Mark prefers to slice a tomato before a ride than to consume alcohol. Riding high feels like flying, and it’s incomparably less dangerous than riding drunk. Finally, it was time to put on the shiny new Ohlins shock. The manual did actually come in handy here, as it specified how tight the bolts needed to be. It was very easy. Reassuringly easy. Maybe I could work on this thing myself after all.

With the shock bolted in, all that remained was to remove the very recessed oil filter, replace it, and refill the oil. It took us about 10 minutes to get the oil filter off, just due it’s extremely recessed position, but after that it was all smooth sailing. I think it was around 4:30 by the time we had everything bolted back together. It had been several hours since we’d left each other, so I figured Gianna would have made it to Amy’s by now, and I set off back to Ventura to meet up with her.

When I arrived, only Amy was home. The girls had not made it back yet. I texted Gianna, and it seems they were still at a high school water polo tournament, and had been for 2-3 hours now. Gianna seemed very bored, but hopeful that it would be over soon, and they’d be heading home. I thought it might have been a little awkward to hang out with Gianna’s family without her, but spending the afternoon with Mark had been pretty enjoyable, and at least I had already met Amy. She offered me a beer and some snacks, and asked me more questions about our adventure. They have a very nice house, and a lovely garden. Though Amy lives in California, she was raised in Texas, and we bonded over that. It’s easy to see why a Texan would move to Ventura. It’s about 70 degrees all the time here, and there are no mosquitoes. Plus, it’s not a huge city, so you can still have a house with a yard.

Before too long it was time to go pick up Mark, her husband. Yep, two Amys, two Marks. Don’t get confused, now. Mark had been out sailing for a few days, and needed to be collected from the marina. It turns out he is a member of boat co-op, where a pretty good selection of boats are collectively owned by the members. This allows members to just check out whichever boat they feel like using at any time. Pretty cool. Seems like a much better way to do boating than to actually personally own and maintain your boat. We stopped by a Trader Joe’s to pick up ingredients for dinner, and a couple bottles of wine. It was going to be pork chops, and Amy was going to try to copy the salad we’d had at Forage.

By the time we arrived back at the house it was dark, but we had still had not heard from Gianna or her cousin. No worries, conversation was going pretty smoothly with her Aunt and Uncle, especially by the end of that second glass of wine. They were not very surprised to learn that I had not yet met Gianna’s father, or his apparently quite large gun collection. The pork was delicious, as was the salad. As always, conversation turned to traveling. They had almost gotten to take an around the world sailing adventure, but ended up taking on the adventure of parenting instead. I’m sure it was worth it. We finished dinner, and sat around talking for another hour or two before Gianna finally arrived back at the house. She had been forced to sit through some 7 hours of high school water polo, and looked pretty grumpy, not to mention starving. We snuck out back for a quick bowl to wet her appetite, and then it was back inside to feast.

The rest of the household went to bed, but we were out of granola, so we stayed up another couple hours making some fresh for us to continue eating on our journey. Soon enough it was done, and we could finally go to sleep after a very long day. We had to share a bunk bed, and didn’t get to sleep next to each other for the first time in quite a long while. Russell was in San Francisco right now, and the goal was to make it there to meet up with him before his plane left in a couple days.


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