Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hitting The Road

I'm attending a wedding in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday (and the rehearsal dinner on Friday), so I decided to make a vacation out of it and ride the motorcycle there.

Last week, I  installed a new chain and sprockets, changed the oil and spark plugs, and just generally went over the bike to make sure it was ready to go. I also swapped from the stock seat to the Corbin, with my home-built whaletail rack on it.

My new suit is rolled up and sealed into a plastic storage box. Everything else is bagged in ZipLoc bags to keep it dry during the inevitable rain storms I'm sure to ride through.

The little bag on top has my latest cigar box guitar in it. I wanted a travel guitar to take with me, but I didn't want to spend $250, or more, to buy one. So an old Memphis with a plywood body donated the neck (and a sliver of the body, inside the box). New tuners, and a cheap P-90 copy came out of the parts box, and I made a bridge from a piece of an old cheapo, plus some aluminum angle stock. The tailpiece is made from the same aluminum as the bridge.

It actually sounds pretty good. And, if it gets destroyed by riding on the bike, I am out very little money.

I'll leave early tomorrow morning, and head for St. Joseph, Mo. I am avoiding I-70 due to the fact that I have made that trip too many times, in the past few years, and also because there is a plethora of road construction projects going on just outside of Kansas City. I don't want to get caught up in that!

From St. Joe, I plan to go to Hannibal, then south to U.S. 50. I'll take 50 across Illinois, and into Indiana. Eventually, I'll turn north and end up in Bloomington, to spend the night with my buddy Michael. Then, on Friday morning, it will be a relatively short easy ride through Indianapolis and eastward on I-70 to Columbus.

Sunday, I will head down to West Tennessee and meet my sister at my mom's place. We will be there until Wednesday morning, when I will head back to Denver. If all goes well, I will roll into my driveway late in the day on July 30, after 3500 miles (plus or minus) of motorbiking.

Steve is taking care of the house for me, and Carol is taking the dogs, so all of those bases are covered. I will try to post from the road, if possible.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

I'm Big on Bigsby

Last weekend, I finally got all of the parts I needed to convert my Les Paul Special (Cooper) to P-94 pickups, and add a Bigsby B5 vibrato. As I did on my Flying V, I used the Vibramate adapter, so that I didn't have to drill any holes in the guitar. The Vibramate has the added advantage of giving you perfect alignment of the vibrato.

 The P-94 is a P-90 style pickup which fits the routing for the humbucking pickups which came stock, in this guitar. Gordie Johnson, one of my favorite guitar players, uses them, and that prompted me to install one on my 2005 Flying V. I liked it so much, I decided to install them on Cooper. I found this pair, used, on eBay, at about half of the list price, so I snapped them up.

The Bigsby (and the Vibramate adapter) bolted right on, with no problem. I was a bit afraid that I might have to reposition the Cooper nameplate, but everything fit together perfectly.

This weekend, I decided to pull out the 1960s-vintage Japanese hollowbody that I used when we first formed Skull Full Of Blues, and build a rockabilly-style guitar. I had scored a 1960s Bigsby B6 for cheap, and I had a set of aftermarket P-90 pickups. So, I went to work on it and ended up with this:

It was a bit of a challenge to get the Bigsby set up, since it doesn't have the tension bar that the B5 has. This means that the strings break over the bridge at a really shallow angle. I had to file the string slots a bit deeper, in order to retain the string position under hard strumming. It plays nice, and sounds amazing, now. I'll definitely be gigging with this one, again.

Now, I now have three Bigsby-equipped guitars in my quiver. Triple whammy!


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Getting Back On The Bike / Working On Bikes

I haven't been riding the bikes a lot, lately. When I have, I have mostly ridden the 1985 Bridgestone MB-1 (above). It requires wearing a backpack, on the commute or errands, but the rear brake on the Funk was giving me problems, and I just hadn't felt like dealing with it.

Today, though, I figured it was time to get the Funk back into good repair. I need to get back on the bike, more, anyway, but Bike To Work Day is this Wednesday (for Colorado). I figure that's a good excuse to get back into the bicycle commute. Plus, the band doesn't have a show coming up, for awhile, so I don't need to hurry home for practice.

The rear disc brake on the Funk had become largely useless, and I figured that the pads were worn down. But, when I pulled them out to look at them, they were fine. I tried adjusting the caliper, but the adjusting nut was frozen, and it was inpossible to get the pads in the right position.

Luckily, I had another matching caliper in my brakes parts box, so I just replaced the whole thing. Once I got it and the front brake adjusted, everything was good. (This is the problem with me and commuter bikes; I tend to do maintenance by replacement, only servicing the bike when something breaks....)

Once the Funk was good to go, I turned to a bike that I was working on for someone else. This old red Peugeot was originally sold in a bike shop in the Alsace region of France, according to the bike shop sticker on the seat tube. How it ended up in Denver is anybody's guess.

The rear wheel was pretty toasty, and I had to work on it for a good solid 45 minutes in order to render it useable, again. It is a replacement alloy wheel, from the mid-1990s. If it had been the original steel wheel, I wouldn't have bothered.  The front wheel was missing a spoke, so I replaced it, and trued that wheel, as well.

The brake levers needed a spacer between them and the add-on adjusters someone had installed in the past, to avoid the lever bottoming on the bar just as the pads hit the rim, no matter how I adjusted the brake. Once I added the spacers, the brakes worked great.

Then, it was on to the modifications that the new owner wanted: cruiser bars and a big cruiser seat. Once I got all of that done, the old road bike had a new persona as a pub-crawler.

  Corey, at Kaladi Bos. Coffee, bought this Miyata road bike from me, a while back. I fixed a flat on it, and gave it a quick tune-up, today. Such a nice bike...

 I bought these Wilderness Trail Bikes Trailblazer tires for the old 29er bike, a while back. I had installed 26" wheels, with 3-inch cross section tires on it, as an experiment, and I didn't like how they fit in the frame. Since I had some 27.5" (650b) disc wheels lying about, I sourced these tires in order to see how they would fit.
The WTB tires fit a lot better, both in the suspension fork and between the chainstays. So, I figure I will leave them on this bike.

Here, you can see that the WTB Trailblazer is taller, and slightly less fat than the 26x3 tire. It's still fat enough to provide good float in sandy stuff, and grip in the loose gravel we have on so many of our trails.

Frame clearance with the 26x3 was minimal, on the rear. Just a little knock out of true would result in frame rub. And, forget about riding in mud!

 As you can see, the WTB tire fits in the frame a lot better, both because of the slightly smaller cross-section, and also because the increase in diameter pushes the tire past the inward bend of the chainstays.

It makes a nice-looking bike, with the big meats on it. The suspension fork may have to go, though. The damping cartridge seems to be largely ineffective, so I might just put my VooDoo cromo fork on it and roll rigid.

My next big bike-work weekend will probably involve the motorbike. I have a long trip coming up, and I need to get it prepared. As for today, I am done working. Time for a shower and a cold beer!


Friday, June 05, 2015

Rain, Rain, Such a Pain

I moved to Colorado primarily for the weather. After growing up in the South, then living in the Midwest for 4 years, I was thoroughly sick of rainy Springtime weather and summer humidity. Three hundred days of sunshine a year! is a mantra for Denverites.

Well, it ain't happening this year! I honestly don't know if we have had a day of full sunshine, much less without rain, since April, and I am sick of the weather!

 My front yard, this morning, after I rode the bicycle back from the coffee shop, in the rain...

Everything is plenty green around here, but it's also soggy and out of control. I haven't been able to mow the back yard in a month, and the grass is taller than my dogs! It's going to be an unpleasant chore, once I can finally mow.

I did, at least, ride the bike to work a couple of times, this week. I have really not felt much like pedaling, lately, so it was nice to actually get on the bike for a bit.

 The wall above the work surface in my lab, at work, with all of our posters...

We have a couple of shows coming up, this month; one at 10:00 PM, this Saturday, and one at 6:30 PM, on the 19th.  I'm looking forward to taking the stage. I have a couple of new songs I am anxious to try out in front of an audience.

Outside of our building, adjacent to the outside eating area, is a railroad siding where tanker cars often sit for a few days (or weeks, on occasion). There was some interesting graffitti  on one of the cars, this week.

I was particularly amused by this one.

I have an Alternate Holiday I have to take before the end of our fiscal year (June 30), and I think I am going to take it on a Monday, so that I have a 4 day weekend. Then, I might just load up and go to Moab, for a long weekend. I haven't been in so long that I can't really even believe it. It would be nice to hit the desert (even if it rains).

Or, maybe, I'll just sit around and eat everything in the house, like I've been doing for the past 6 weeks...

Sorry about the rambling post.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Bike Build From This Weekend

 Tony G asked me to build a city bike for Leanne, recently, and I suggested that we base it on Brad's old MB-5 frameset. I traded another Bridgestone frame for it, last year, so that Brad could build up his vintage mtb. He wanted to strip the frame, and clear coat it (and it came out really awesome, btw), but the paint on this frame was just too good to strip off.

So, I had this frame hanging in the shop building when Tony made his request.

It built up nicely, with commuter tires, and old LX rear derailleur, V-brakes, Noah's Arc bars and various other parts from the archives.

I love building bikes like this, bringing old frames back to life with a minimum of new parts. All I had to purchase for the build were tires, tubes, rim strips, grips and a used stem. Now, a 20+ year old bike is back on the road, and Leanne has a nice little curb-jumper to ride around on.

I have another girlfriend bike to build, now. I just have to gather up the parts...


Thursday, May 14, 2015

What's That Lassie? Timmy Fell In The What?

I went out into the back yard, today, for the first time this week, and got a little surprise...

There was a bit of a hole in the yard...

A nice, big, round brick-lined hole. I can't imagine it being a manhole, so I am assuming it is an abandoned well or cistern.

How big is it?

This big.

It's about 4 feet deep, 3 feet to the top of the bricks. My guess is that it was capped, years ago, and covered over. Our recent rains saturated the soil to the point that the weight caused it to collapse.

Now, I have to come up with about 2 cubic yards of material to fill the void. 

What next?


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Been A While

It's been a busy month, around here. Steve and I played two shows, on back to back weekends, last month at Bushwacker's and The Pit Stop. Then, I went to the western slope, for business, and was gone for 5 days. I got back in time for my birthday weekend (a Water Tower show at Herman's on Friday, and dinner out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, along with plenty of adult beverages). And, I will hit 40 hours, at work, just after lunch, tomorrow ... but I am in the middle of something which will take the rest of the day, plus Friday, to finish.

I am a bit worn out.

While I was in Grand Junction, I picked up this 1959 Gibson ES-125 TC. I had seen it, back on our lab inspection tour, the first week of April. It took me two weeks to decided to go for it (and figure out the financing - I am selling my ti fat bike), and then I had to wait another week and a half to get there and pick it up. But, it was worth it. I'll be playing slide on it, at Lost Lake, this Saturday (8:30 PM).

We stayed at the Doubletree, in Durango, right on the riverside. This was the view from the lounge balcony, as we ate dinner on Wednesday.

 Later, after the sun was down, the lava-rock in the fire pit, along with the bits of blue glass, led us to play a little "Fire Jenga". Piling up the rock seemed to concentrate the flame, too.

Two amps ... both newly acquired. The little wooden amp in the background came with the ES-125, and was built circa 1947. It is purported to be a Kay.

The Vox is a replacement for my Roland, which died an inglorious death as I played the 125 through it, after I got home on Friday. I went to GC, Saturday morning, and test drove about 10 amps, at performance volume, in one of their lesson rooms. I loved the tone of this little 15 watt combo, so it is now part of my stage rig.

Saturday evening, Danny Mc came by and we went out to dinner. It was magically delicious!