Zen: The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Long Since Lost

Spring arrived late. Much later than usual. It was already mid May.

However, the numerous narrow streams of clean cool mountain water atop the blacktop, confirmed the season’s arrival. Those rivers of water were everywhere. This was normal.

It was time. Lift the aluminum garage door. First, strip the tarp. Then roll the British Twin from its hibernation. This was its first season under covers, tucked away from the Old Man Winter. Kind of like a debutante’s arrival.

A good sign

Tires were not flat. That is always a good sign; even though I tested the Dunlop rubber by feel. Pulled back, and the A65 rested on the center stand. Pop the seat to inspect the battery. Both terminals were free of oxidation. Cables tugged tight. The Lucas Electrics wires showed no signs of fraying. Not a single crack.

Good thing I dropped oil down each cylinder head last autumn. Both plugs pulled easily. On closer inspection, neither one’s center or side electrode revealed any fouling, or dark soot. They were both brown; which is acceptable.

Made a quick trip to the right side. Two screws held the points cover. Once pried off, I tightened all the setscrews inside. The gap was accurate; that is, after I could only slip a paper match cover between the contacts. No condensation either. One more task: oil check. Lifted the seat. Dipstick was mid-point. Good.

Litmus test

It was time for the litmus test. Now I needed to tickle the single 30 MM Amal carburetor. Then, pull the choke cable. One kick… A second kick quickly followed. All that was needed. The 1971 BSA 650 Thunderbolt – renowned for oil in its white painted frame – roared to life. There was no mistaking the throaty thrust. Those two megaphone mufflers amplified the deep baritones each time I twisted the throttle. It was purely British. All brute torque. Sweet music to my ears.

Final check on both tires with my tire gauge. 32 PSI on each was about right.

Clutch lever was smooth. Kick it down in 1st gear. Here we go…

The screen door slammed. Gran, made her presence felt. She had something to convey.

“Vin… Stop doting over that toy. Your uncle needs help. He is alone at the garage. You can pump fuel.”

How was I to argue with that compelling familial case? Which of course, I did not. My acquiescence conveyed my respect. “Already on it. Let him know… Not to worry.”

This spring’s maiden ride would be pushed back; maybe a couple of days. That is okay.

As to Zen… It needed my attention. Lots of it.

My last experience happened many moons ago. Mechanics were also involved. Though that time, it was with four wheels; the Ford Fairlane’s fuel gauge was not the most reliable. What I thought revealed an eighth of tank remaining, was not even close. On gas fumes, the Fairlane barely made it to the Landmark Motel. There was even enough left, to trundle to the back of the parking lot. It stopped just short of a tree.

Perfect. Well, not quite that good. However, it was an acceptable fate and starting point.

By my estimation, home was 14 miles away. Straight west. The sun revealed its position; it was nearing noon. That left about 8 hours daylight to journey. No problem. Said to my feet: Start walking!

Had company along the way. Redwing Blackbirds were ubiquitous. Those that were not perched in shady tree boughs, posted up along either roadside fence. Their shiny coats and redwing patches added a royal presence to my journey. About a mile farther, a cattle herd – dairy variety – also took notice. One cow turned to stare. Nevertheless, it quickly returned to chewing on the grass. Incidentally, I too worked a blade of grass in my jaw.

Another three miles along, a young mare stood at attention. It was a working horse. Around these parts, one will not find quarter horses. This is Big Farm country! Shame I had nothing to offer. Not a thing.

At 5 miles, the road turned. My path veered sharply to the right. That is when I felt the John Deere tractor’s presence. No mistaking the white smoke plumes. A man, sporting a straw hat, pulled alongside the Southside fence. He asked in earnest. “Need a ride. Climb aboard the wagon. Farmhouse is a stone’s throw over yonder. Wife has lunch ready. Care to join us?’

Thought about that for a minute. My answer, though not pre-rehearsed, was with candor. It was also respectful.

“Yours is a kind offer. Although it is tempting, my home beckons me. Thanks… Just the same.”

He doffed his hat. Soon the green and yellow machine meandered inland. It was now a vanishing speck.

The hill on the horizon marked one winning post. Once at the crest, it was downhill the rest of the way. Ahead, a black bear rumbled across the road. Now in the ditch, the juvenile turned its head to face me. No time for either of us to react. A split second later, it scampered through the heather on the glen.

What has all that to do with Zen? Buddhist friends define Zen as an experience: Be in the zone; stay in the moment. Cannot say that I disagree with their assertions. Zen to me though is synonymous with another three-letter word, or deity: God.

Given my Christian upbringing – a Methodist – I was aware that the Creator Almighty God often communicated to mankind through the natural world. This was one such an occasion. Moreover, it was pure bliss to me.

The Holy Scriptures even highlight this truthful tenet. From KJV Psalm 46:10.

“Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen. I will be exalted in the earth.”

By my reckoning, my last Zen experience contained, some, maybe not all of those elements; even while in motion.

Buddha might agree. Then again, Zen is always a personal experience; with or without the chubby fellow.


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Author`s name Montresor Montresor