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Whatever: Stop Doing Stupid Things

My latest stupid thing is rinsing the engine of my new used car with the hose. Not a pressure wash or even a full blast, I swear! Just a light drizzle to rinse off some degreaser in a couple nooks and crannies the morning after I brought the thing home. Before I did that, my new-to-me 2000 Jaguar XJR had been running like a 4-liter V-eight Jaguar with an Eaton supercharger on top of it. After it, the RESTRICTED PERFORMANCE lamp was lit and it would barely run. Dang. (I hope we can talk about cars here, too, can’t we? I was a car guy before I was a motorcycle guy, and the same concepts apply.)

Naturally, I fled in horror straight to the Facebook Jaguar XJR Lovers page and spilled my guts. The crowd pounced instantly. Never wash a Jaguar engine! The “you idiot” was at least left unsaid but strongly implied. The internet’s a nicer place now than it used to be, or maybe that’s just among people with a common love object. Come to think of it, nobody ever talks politics on my vehicle sites. They’re the only place you can escape.

It was Louis who talked me down: “It’s probably your knock sensors, located under the blower,” he wrote. “They may dry out in a few days and be fine. They also may be shorted out, which means removing the blower to get to them, kind of a big job, and installing expensive new ones.”

I plugged in the code reader.

Say, this person Louis knows his stuff. There’s one in every crowd if you’re lucky. Three mornings I reset the code, only to see it reappear when I turned on the ignition. Three nights I laid awake wondering if I could be trusted to not drop the blower on the fender, if I managed to remove it without badly injuring myself? (I can’t remember what I dropped on the fender of my first Jagrolet, but it left a nice dent.) Or if I should pay a professional? I felt like I got a really good deal on the car, so what’s another few bucks to have a pro fix it and look things over?

Miraculously, on morning four, I reset the code, turned the key and the RESTRICTED PERFORMANCE light was no more. Yes, Louis! I drove, slowly at first, then faster, then boostily (riding Kawasaki H2s was what made me decide I must have a supercharger on my automobile)… and she’s still okay a month later. Thank you, baby Jesus.

Time to contemplate

During those three long days and nights, though, you can’t help but think about the other Stupid Things you’ve done. It’s why we send little kids for time out. It’s why we send people to prison. Take a little time to think about what you’ve done, Billy…

But, but, but this time I don’t really feel guilty. Aren’t these cars designed in England, where it rains all the time? If you’re bombing along at 100 on the motorway in heavy rain all day, are you telling me everything up in there isn’t gonna get wet? Shouldn’t everything be sealed up? These were my thoughts… This is another bum rap!

Shut up. The prisons are full of innocent people. There you sit in your cell, contemplating. Soon I was reflecting back upon my short-lived roadracing career, carefully preparing my old Yamaha SRX-6 for the track, routing the ignition wire safely out of harm’s way atop the left frame rail. What I failed to take into account was how my custom semi-rubber cushioned gas tank mount, which gave clearance for the two big flatslide carburetors underneath, was just flexible enough to allow the tank to move down enough to contact said ignition wire and short it out when I laid on top of the tank. Causing an embarrassing lack-of-spark situation in turn two at Willow Springs and a halt to the Open Singles race. I may have done that two times in fact, since the thing ran fine until I weighted the tank. (I also don’t know how that works on an insulated wire, but it does.)

It took me a month to figure that problem out, and the next time I returned to the track the bike was running great (once you were worn thoroughly out from kickstarting it). There I was, running merrily along in a podium position(!) on the first lap when some guy on a crazy line came flying across my bow, took out my front wheel, and put me on the couch for a couple of months with lots of soft tissue damage.

But I was young and undeterred, and did not know yet from bent fork tubes and twisted triple clamps. As an actual moto magazine journalist, there was a Rolodex (a round file of business cards with peoples’ phone numbers and addresses) of people I could’ve called and said, Hey! Give my bike a once-over, make sure everything’s good before I risk my life on it again! Heck, I was in an office building full of people who knew more than I did about motorcycles, in a region of the country with about 90% of its entire motorcycle knowledge.

I did not do that any more than I asked if it’s okay to hose down an XJR engine. The upshot was a massive tankslapper off the outside of turn 8 at whatever speed a hopped-up SRX-6 can achieve (which is quite a bit more than it does in practice).

A little more of this kind of close examination before Willow Springs 2 might’ve spared me a shred of dignity.

At least the sandy desert floor was forgiving compared to the turn 2 pavement. And I got some good stories for the magazine out of it. But they were like, you know, self-deprecating ones instead of the lone wolfpup emerges victorious articles I’d had in mind, that would’ve inspired pride and envy and probably a very lucrative professional racing career and changed the course of my life. All for want of a properly routed ignition wire.

I’ve got another few hundred of these stories stretching back to the ’70s, but hey it’s getting late and we’re out of room.

Here’s my point:

Try not to be a dumbass. For most of my life, I (we) did dumb things, but our excuse was that since the www didn’t yet exist, getting expert opinions and Youtube videos wasn’t an instantly available option. You had to seek out the wise men, and that took time and effort. Now, things are so much easier. But neither the internet nor the expert will do you any good if you already know everything (like me), and none of it does you any good at all if you can’t tell the wise man from the bloviator. The charlatan. The conman.

The wise person has lots of good references and a solid history of good work and satisfied customers. The bloviator, ah, bloviates a good game but can’t really point to any documented successes, and people aren’t willing to discuss him since they were all forced to sign NDAs. How many Orange County Choppers are still on the road? How many 25-mpg “custom-tuned” GSX-R1000s are running along the turnpike, like Nunyu Bizness from our MT-10 Review Comments section earlier this week?

Fixing things, including cars and motorcycles, is as good a metaphor for life as anything. Making thousands of parts and billions of electrons work together harmoniously, keeping the greatest number of people as happy and safe as possible via the genius of modern science, is what life’s all about, sort of. Even though you’re always going to have cranks trying to sow discontent by insisting nefarious forces are still hiding the 200-mpg fuel injector nozzle. Wait, maybe I believe that one?

Please, people, get to know your s**t from your…

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