Friday, October 23, 2015

Compromises, Pt. 1

When preparing for a trip like this, or taking a trip like this, there's a lot of decisions to be made. How much should I bring, what things, should I buy good stuff so it'll last or cheap stuff I can replace, etc. On some occasions, I've made compromises - instead of buying the best, or exactly what I wanted, I kept an old one I already had, or tried something new, or tried for a "best of both worlds" sort of situation.

And it seems like every single compromise I made has come back to haunt me.
Unrelated pic from Guadalajara.


I woke up in Guadalajara my last morning there, and prepared to take off. Well, started to. And then just sat for a while. Turns out mezcal hits me a little harder than I expected (I shivered just typing that word). But little by little, I got things packed up with sips of water in between. By the time I had everything packed, I was feeling pretty good. I pulled the bike out of the hostel hallway and into the street, and popped it up on the center stand to do a few quick maintenance things. Oiled the chain, checked the oil level (really low, actually) and topped it off, etc. And then I decided to check the pre-load on the rear shock.

I'd never actually messed with it before - it looked like it was at the highest setting based on what I'd seen in the manual, but I hadn't actually cranked the bolt and tested it. So I got my wrenches out, got the separator out of the way, and started cranking on the bolt. Sure enough, I was able to notch it down to 4, the next setting down. I swapped the socket wrench to the other setting, and went to crank it back up, and the socket slipped off. So I went to put it back on...

...and I realized the socket hadn't slipped off, the socket wrench had actually broken. The tip of the adapter (the piece that allows me to use the smaller sockets with the wrench, a.k.a. the ones I use most often) had actually snapped off completely.
Artist's rendition of what happened.

A few months earlier

I went to take the side panel off the used Kawasaki I'd just picked up from a guy so I could put on the new seat I'd ordered, and I discovered that the socket wrench set I had didn't have an extender to reach into the deep-set socket. It was kind of a hodgepodge set that I'd accumulated over time, not that great of quality, and I'd lost a few of them over the past 8 years or so anyway.

I needed a few other things anyway, so I made a shopping trip to Target. Target is not the best place to buy tools, in case you were wondering... I couldn't find an extension piece by itself. I did, however, find an entire toolkit with socket wrenches, open and closed end wrenches, adjustible wrench, battery tester, wire brush, electrical tape, socketed screwdriver with a big selection of bits, hex wrenches... basically most of what I'd need on the trip, and in a compact little package with a carrying case and everything. It wasn't even all that expensive...

Back to present

I should have known something like this would happen... I'd already broken one of the screwdriver bits a few months back on a screw that was really stuck - like, the bit itself (the metal) just sheared off. That should have been the signal that these tools weren't sufficient for the trip. But I kept them anyway - it was cheap, but it will be good enough, right?

No adapter left me with a mostly useless socket set, however, at least until I replaced that piece. I thought it over and decided it wasn't worth it to replace just the one, I might as well just get a new socket set. I salvaged quite a few of the things in the toolkit, and left the socket wrenches behind completely. Hopefully someone at the hostel can get some use out of it.

One trip to Sears and a bit more money than I'd originally spent later, and I had a decent set of Craftsman socket wrenches with all the sizes I needed, an adapter that hopefully won't shear off when I'm tightening a bolt, and an extender too. Lesson learned: buy good tools.


You already know how the beginning of this story goes. I tipped the bike over on some bad roads, caught my foot between a rock and the bike, and found out how close my toes can actually get to my shin-bone without breaking any bones. I then spent 4 days in a cast hobbling around a tiny little town in Baja California.

A few weeks earlier

I'd known I didn't really want to go with just the old steel-toed work boots I'd been riding in for 3 years. I picked them up not long after moving to California, and they'd been my daily commute/wear to work boots for the entire time. (I was even once told that they were my "signature" by someone at the weekly Tuesday meetup I went to, because I usually came straight from work.) They were getting worn, and while they provided decent protection in some areas, they just weren't designed for a motorcycle. Plus, if they were going to be my only pair of shoes other than my sandals, the brown boots wouldn't go too well with my dark gray pants.

So I headed to the motorcycle store a mere days before heading out on the trip. I honestly don't know why I'd procrastinated so long - I'd been checking boots out every time I was in the store, but just never got around to buying any. Part of it was that I hadn't actually enumerated the things I wanted out of the boots - for 6 years I'd been wearing the same kind of boots, and hadn't really thought about it much.

You know how you get comfortable with something and just stick it in the back of your mind and not worry about it? I was hesitant to pull it back out and have to make a decision I hadn't made since before I actually owned a motorcyle. And to be honest I hardly even made the decision then - I just used the work boots that I'd gotten for free when I started at Caterpillar, and stuck with them. When they got worn out, I picked out a similar pair from a Redwing's store.

To be fair, they'd served me well - even on the 48 states trip, I had only sandals and a pair of work boots, and the boots were for the motorcycle, for hiking, for wearing around and walking - they did everything and did it pretty well. When I had my motorcycle accident in 2009 and hit a deer going 60 mph, the boots were pretty much undamaged - I continued wearing them to my desk job.

But there I was, finally looking at motorcycle boots for real, for the first time in 6 years. I wanted something that I could wear on the motorcycle, but that would look okay for walking around too, and would be comfortable enough to wear around.

I found a few sneaker-style ones that seemed to be okay, but one ended up being a bad fit even in my size, and the other they didn't have anything close to my size. And then I found these Dainese shoes. They don't look much different than Chucks, but had reinforcements on the side of the ankle and the toe, and the fit was pretty good. I really liked the way they looked just as shoes, and they could probably swing as hiking shoes too.

So after looking at a few more options and not seeing much else, I bought them. And for the first week of the trip, they were amazing - they were slightly hard to get on my feet, but when I was on the bike I might as well only be wearing socks for how comfortable they were.

Back to present

After shearing off a tool and picking up some new ones from Sears, I made my way to Rogmar, a place I'd seen recommended on the internet for motorcycle gear. Sure enough, they had a pretty nice selection of jackets, boots, and other gear, mostly for off-road type stuff. I wanted some nice calf-high boots for the ankle stability, and something that was a little easier on-off than the lace-ups I had before was an added benefit.

I tried out a couple, but just wasn't finding what I wanted. The ones that were closest to the style I wanted, the closest size they had was 3 sizes to big for me. One of the ones I liked, but with the boots on, my motorcycle pants wouldn't go down over them.

Then finally they came out of the back with another boot I hadn't seen on display, and in my size too. I slotted it on my foot and zipped it up... and knew immediately those were the ones. Even with the sprained ankle I had no trouble slipping my foot into them, and they fit snug but not tight. I could walk around in them without feeling like I was wearing ski boots (though I'm not about to do any hikes in them), and when I sat on the motorcycle and shifted gears a bit, the toe felt great.

I did discover that, as the prices are likely set by dealers, there's not much of a "Mexico discount" like there is on other things, so I paid pretty much what I would have for boots back in the States.

But I feel a lot more secure with the boots now, and I've noticed the difference even just navigating parking lots and things - the extra support for the ankle makes it a lot easier for me to use my right foot to support the bike and balance. Lesson learned: don't skimp on protective gear.

One more compromise and its bad consequences coming soon...

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