Yamaha: 5 – Miss Busa: 0

This is not fun anymore. In retrospect this hasn’t been fun in quite a while.

I want to ride these things as fast as I dare, not try and put them together and figure out what the previous owner(s) had done (or fucked up) so I can get an engineering degree online and learn to fix it. In the process I found out the following: I can teach myself mechanics if I can start from a baseline. I put a crashed S1000RR back together without this much fuss. Given, it took me 13 weeks and approximately $1300 in parts and tools, but it was a journey that was much more gratifying and taught me a lot about how motorcycles actually work. A road well traveled and worth it.

However, wrenching on the R1 feels like putting together a puzzle. I hate puzzles! You would have to put me on some serious medication for me to enjoy putting together some crappy picture printed on cardboard pieces.

Who in the world could enjoy sitting down to a 5000-piece puzzle and put it together when you a.) don’t have the box anymore with the picture on it, but you vaguely remember what it looked like; and b.) there are some puzzle pieces, from another 5000-piece puzzle, that don’t belong, but got mixed into the pile, but you don’t know that (yet).

I’m selling the R1.

I HAVE HAD IT!

That is all.

I have reached the point where the benefit does not outweigh the work put in and the frustrations encountered along the way.

I admit defeat. Shamefully, I throw in the towel, pack it up, and go home. I want to go back to paying somebody to do this shit for me, and I can only do that by returning to my roots: being a high-mileage street rider and combat commuter, who (maybe) goes to the occasional track day to keep most of the shenanigans off the street in an attempt to avoid going to jail for free body-cavity searches and crappy food.

This is the first time I have ever let an inanimate object (or a massive collection of them) beat me. My IQ will recover… eventually. Time heals most wounds. In the meantime I just allow myself to feel stupid as hell.

I apologize to Mr. Slow who has leaped tall buildings in a single bound to make it possible for me to own a dedicated race bike and has been nothing but supportive along the way. He has given up so much to enable me to chase some arbitrary dream I started having for reasons I still don’t quite comprehend.

It’s time for me to wake up and rejoin reality. I really should steal his license plate, move the electrical tape dot over one character and slap it on my bike. Although, my man would look pretty silly cruising down the road with “Rocket Girl” hanging off his tail.

Today, I am the MRS.LOW to his MR.SLOW because I feel painfully ungrateful by giving up.

Mr. Slow is actually faster than me, or could be, if he ever decided to trade his hard bags for knee pucks. But he is Mr. Slow because that’s his riding philosophy rather than a reflection upon his skill set. And that is my confession.

~*~

There is freedom within, there is freedom without
Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
There’s a battle ahead, many battles are lost
But you’ll never see the end of the road
While you’re traveling with me

Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House

Going The Distance

Race Report (Part 1 of 3)

Miss Busa’s Inaugural WERA Race:
The Day Before

The Garage At The Nashville Superspeedway

The Nashville Superspeedway has an excellent pit area. Nice clean floors and power outlets. No genny needed. If only they'd installed some garage doors. The thing is like a wind tunnel when the wind is blowing outside. No showers, but large enough restrooms if you want to change or take a cat bath, just have a friend stand guard at the door.

I was running terribly late as usual. There are two factors that I always seem to forget about when “planning” these sort of time-sensitive undertakings:

1. I am a Master Procrastinator, and
2. Everything always takes me way longer than I think.

Correction. Make that three factors:

3. Murphy is my co-pilot. He rides pillion wherever I go, and he backseat drives, too. That bum!

As luck… Murphy would have it, my husband finally gets the OK from his boss to take the weekend off to come with me to Nashville, it seems that some managers do not believe that us mere mortals have a life outside of slaving for the Man, hence ample notice seems of no import to them. But who cares, Mr. Slow is coming along, although I would not have been going alone anyway.

Margie, whom I met at the Ed Bargy Racing School in February, read on my blog that I was planning on going to my first race alone and she wouldn’t have it. She emailed me with the offer to pit for me. Of course, I was elated. Hell yeah, woman! I’ll take you up on that. We hit it off at JenningsGP, the fastest (pun entirely intended) friend I’ve ever made outside of the military, and this would be an awesome opportunity to get to know her better and I knew we would have a blast hanging out together between races.

Hubby has to take a power nap since he’s been up all night, so I busy myself with packing and loading the truck. The Pirate is pretty much race prepped and ready to go. Since I was running behind schedule (nothing new there), I decided that slapping the sponsor stickers and my competition numbers on her newly painted (and hopefully sufficiently cured) race bodywork could wait until we were at the track; ditto for the safety wiring.

What happens next I duly blame on the eight or so hours of sleep I had in the past three days. I ride the bike from her “pit” in my backyard through the gate in our privacy fence into the driveway. I’m getting pretty good at this, since I have to open and close the gate while I’m on the bike or holding onto it, or else I risk the cats making their well-timed fatty-catty escape. They are getting used to the sound of the Beemer and this strategy may not work for very much longer.

I slowly ease the Pirate over the curb and ride into the street, fully intent on making a u-turn to park her behind the Sponsor’s truck on our side of the street. Suddenly, I feel myself going left. What the f…? I try to correct, but quickly find that I can’t. The handlebars are not moving, stuck in place; as if the steering lock has engaged. A hundred errant thoughts run through my mind, not comprehending why this is happening. I know what is happening, it just doesn’t make any sense. While I am preoccupied with the “why”, I completely forget about the “what”. Stuck in a terminal left turn, I bounce over the far-side curb, onto the neighbor’s front lawn and notice that I am on an intercept course with one of the (as of yet) skinny trees they’ve planted in all of our yards. “Shit!” Still not comprehending what is happening, I throw the bike down and execute an awesome-feeling backwards tuck ‘n roll over my left shoulder. I land on my feet and find myself half-crouched in a classic defensive stance with my hands up at the ready. And whose ass am I going to kick?!? Good to know that some things still come naturally, even though I haven’t been to Karate class in over six years. Feeling like a total douche, I right myself, then slap the engine switch to the OFF position and turn the ignition off.

[And why in the hell didn’t I just drag rear brake and come to a nicely executed, ladylike stop???]

This is great! Just great! I guess I’m not going to Nashville after all. What in the hell?!? I’m trying to figure out what in the world I screwed up now. But I didn’t do any front end work. I didn’t touch the triple tree or the fork legs. I just throw my hands up in dismay. Murphy, you fucking bastard! You ever-loving asshole. I hate you!

I squat down to pick up the bike; I see Water Wetter enhanced distilled water trickling out from somewhere. Never mind that now. I’m still in a daze and I need to know what in the devil’s name happened here. I crawl all over the bike, checking it out. I can see absolutely nothing wrong. Am I embarrassed? No. I realize that I don’t even give a crap anymore what people think. So what? My race bike has buried itself up to its frame sliders in the neighbor’s yard. Yup, you got it. Looks like girl can’t ride… whatever. Don’t care. For some odd reason that thought is quite refreshing; It seems that I am starting to lose that annoying fear of public embarrassment one little mishap at a time. Good.

I decide to try the technique I’ve learned from the Ride Like A Pro V DVD. It doesn’t work for me. I cannot budge the thing. I toss my arms up in the air in defeat one last time, then calmly saunter off to get hubby out of bed to come help me get my crotch rocket off the neighbor’s lawn before anybody is the wiser or the Harley dudes look out their windows (whichever comes first).

Instead of finding him asleep, he’s on the phone with his boss. He seems agitated. More confusion. As I walk back out the door, I hear him say something along the lines of “I haven’t left yet, I can come in if you need me to.” Great, looks like it’s back to just Margie and I. I shake my head. I give up. I walk across the street and pick the bike up in my usual fashion. One hand on the clip-on, one hand on the subframe, squat and pull. I have massive thighs, might as well use them. I right the Pirate and walk her back to my side of the street and park her behind the truck ready for loading. As I check her over once more, Mr. Slow is coming outside carrying two parts of the ramp. I tell him what had happened to me, he tells me that he might not have a job come Monday;  apparently his weekend vacation was not approved after all. I ask him if he needs to go to work, but his response is negative. I am baffled.  My only response to his obvious distress is: “Fuck that asshole, you did nothing wrong. Let’s go to Nashville and have some fun, you’re raining on my parade, dude.” We load up the bike and while we’re tossing all the various other junk into the truck, I notice that he’s distracted; if you can call it that. I’ve never seen him this way. The man never gets down or runs out of options. He takes life as it comes at him. He’s always knows a way out. At least that’s how he’s always handled himself. He is the strong one in this relationship. This is unusual.

We talk. Well, he does. I do the listening. Then he says: “Tell me that I haven’t done anything wrong.” I tell him as much. Several times.

Then I add, “Besides, if you do get canned, you have officially run out of excuses not to take your photography to any serious level. You finally have the time to do what you’ve always wanted to do and even make some money at it.”

He’s not convinced. “What about your racing?”

“What about it?”

“It will seriously change our life style.”

“Will it? Really? It’s just stuff, besides you have always found a job. We have never had to go without. So what if we lose the house… I wanted one with a garage for a long time anyway. We’ll recover, we always have. So what if I have to quit for a while. We’ve been through worse.”

Still not convinced, and not wanting to “regress the Status Quo” he asks me one more time: “Tell me that I’ve done nothing wrong.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong! Now shut your trap, we have a great weekend ahead of us! We deal with whatever may come on Monday; but right now Team PLD has some racing to do.”

We finish packing and loading the truck and head east. It takes him a few miles on the Interstate, but before too long he is back to his usual silly, annoying self. Good. We pick up Margie at her exit and have a road-trippin’ good time all the way to Nashville. I get a nasty leg cramp on the way, and she takes care of me, makes me eat bananas and we consume our fair share of “various other electrolytes” commonly found in junk food. Life is good!

We are an awesome team

Margie is doing great at her first opportunity to wire up a race bike. Don (#69) gave her a quick "crash course" and with a few tips from the 'Wild Woman', she's got the stuff done in a hurry. Our work even passed Tech the first time around. =D

When we get to Nashville, it is cold, dark, rainy, and the wind is blowing at gusty speeds. I’m miserable when I’m cold. Add “wet” to that equation and I just want to crawl under a warm blanket and forget the world around me. Of course, against my better judgment and in the name of “packing light THIS time”, I didn’t bring any warm clothes nor a windbreaker. Margie and I start safety wiring the bike. I only have the thick 0.041″ wire, which is hard to work with but twists up nice and evenly. Fortunately Don, who is pitted next to us, tosses his spool at Margie and makes her use his, while he explains to her how to do it. Don’s wire is thinner and therefore is much more pliable then the stuff Margie was trying to wrangle. Margie pretty much did most of the wiring herself. She had never done it, so she was happy to learn something new. Meanwhile, I amuse myself by taking the kickstand off, checking the tightening torque on various nuts and bolts and tying up some other “loose ends.”

Miss Busa does her best work on her back ;)

I think I may have fallen asleep under there for a few minutes while I was trying to get the safety wire threaded through the hole in the oil drain plug...

Speaking of loose ends, I eventually figured out why I had the “unfortunate incident” earlier that day; and figuring out is what the situation called for, since I was not going to trust my bike until I did. How was I supposed to race on hardware I didn’t trust? I wasn’t going to do it… well, I probably would have done it, I am a stubborn German, after all; but it would have been a stupid thing to do. With that said, the cause for the Pirate’s dirt nap on the neighbor’s lawn was quite silly, really. When I took the OEM bodywork off, I had to unplug the headlamp connectors. I crossed the cables over each other and placed them on top of the steering head, on the little section of frame between the dash and the triple tree assembly, with the intent to secure them later with zip ties. This was overlooked. When I rode the bike down the curb, the bump must have knocked one of the cables off its perch and it dangled there until it got stuck between the lower triple clamp and the steering damper, causing the front end to lock in position. Later, I found my assumption to be true by seeing the slightly mangled connector on the end of the right-side cable when I zip-tied the cables to the fairing stay.

Margie is getting down with the safety wire

Margie was invaluable during the whole weekend, she helped me with my bike, took care of me physically and gave my brain what it needed to push on. Even if I was a little bit whiney on Saturday, she kept at me. Damn those professors, they got your number and won't let you slide. 😉

Tired, cold, and slightly damp we finally checked into our hotel at around midnight, after getting provisions at a nearby grocery store.  It took my brain a while to wind down, but I still didn’t get any restful sleep. I kept waking up freezing. The alarm crashed my PJ party way too soon. It was looking to be a caffeine fueled day. Caffeine fueled with a few shots of adrenaline thrown in. I hope the four energy drinks and the coffee we bought would get us through.

It seems I never get much sleep before track weekends. This must be the norm, why else would Red Bull and Monster sponsor our crazy asses?

Lesson learned: Do it as you go, and if you don’t, you better write down all the stuff you’ve skipped for one reason or another. Don’t expect to remember it all, even if you think you will. Better yet, take a page out of a pilot’s book. Make a pre-race checklist. Check all necessary items off after you complete them. Only then, do you know for certain you did not forget anything.

Another lesson learned: Be meticulously organized. If you spend any time hunting for tools and parts, you’ll take twice as long (if not longer) to complete your work. With that said, setting up your pit completely before you start wrenching on the bike helps a lot, too. Not that it matters at my level, but this is a habit which will be indispensable when you have to change the setup of your bike between races to stay competitive, like making gearing changes, tweaking your suspension, or changing your rubber. If you can’t find your shit, you’re gonna be late.

Track QuickStats:

Nashville Superspeedway (NSS)

4847-F McCrary Rd
Lebanon, TN 37090

(615) 547-7500

NSS Facility Map
Nashville Superspeedway Facility Map
  • Gate closes at 10:oo PM Eastern Time
  • Gate entry is $20 per person for the weekend
  • From the gate, follow the road around the grand stands to the left. Turn right, go through the tunnel (sing the Navy song, honk your horn), the garages will be a little ways down on your right. Drive all the way around the fence and turn right by the Press/Media Building and slip in through the side gate… or you might end up doing the “rat in a maze” thing. 😉
  • Covered pit area (the garages)
  • Power outlets are available in the garages, come Friday night to get a spot
  • WERA sets up Tech at the south end of the garages (signage outside reads “Inspection Station” if I remember correctly.
  • Restrooms are also at the south end of the garages, but you’ll have to walk around the outside of the building to access them.
  • WERA sets up Registration in the Press Building, which is the building next door, also to the south.
  • Pit Road (entry/exit to the track) is also to the south of the garages, between the Press/Media Building and the restrooms.
  • Vending machines are available in the Press/Media Building, but selection seems to be iffy
  • They have a “roach coach” set up during lunch hours (late morning to early afternoon), but the food is grossly overpriced and what I had sucked. If you are a vegetarian you’re out of luck save for the Nachos, but I wouldn’t recommend them: the chips were barely warm, the cheese looked and tasted like imitation cheese, however, the salsa was pretty decent. I can’t speak for their coffee (we brought our own, nor their hot dogs and burgers, none of us tried those)
  • Motorized pit bikes/ATVs and bicycles are allowed
  • Pets are allowed

Plenty of hotels/motels are also close by. We stayed at the Comfort Inn Southeast for $69.99/night and they had what we were after: Clean rooms, clean showers, and decent mattresses. It ain’t no Ritz, but it is affordable and clean. 🙂 They also have wireless Internet access and LAN cables in their rooms; a TV, microwave, fridge and coffee pot, hair dryer and ironing board are also provided. They serve a continental breakfast in the mornings and the staff is helpful and friendly. Don’t forget to get your login information at the front desk when you get your key card, so you can use their Internet. I think their password changes monthly. We booked them through hotels dot com on the way on an iPad and had no issues whatsoever.

  • Oh, I almost forgot: The infield road course sucks. Watch out for potholes and loose gravel in some of the corners. The seams are slippery when wet and they have better roads in Glascock County. But you’ll get used to it.
  • Make sure you shift your weight to the rear and let the front end float over the transition at the end of the front straight, coming down from the banked NASCAR track onto the paved infield portion of the track, it will jolt you, but you’ll be fine.
  • Turn 1 is a peach when you come in hauling Mach 3 from the front straight and are  looking at making a u-turn.
  • Don’t fight your bike (this mother is one rough riding track in places) and stay off the damn wall. =D
This information is provided as is and was accurate at the time of this posting. I have provided it here to summarize the answers to the most commonly asked questions of people who are going to this particular track for the first time. Obviously, I cannot guarantee that this applies to other race organizations or track day clubs, stuff may change. You should call the facility and/or your racing/track day organization in advance if you have any questions.

Sick & Tired… really TIRED.

I don’t think I’m going to make it. I feel unsure on my feet and generally unwell. My head hurts, I have sleep-deprivation induced nausea and I have to go to the doctor to score some medicine if it is indeed an ear infection. I have worked on prepping my bike all night. It was slow going since I kept having to take breaks to rest my body. The bike is not even ready yet. I still need to change the oil and flush the radiator to replace the antifreeze with distilled water with a properly measured shot of Water Wetter mixed in.

But first off to the see my doc. I almost fall asleep in the waiting room. Must. Stay. Awake. I feel shaky inside. My name is finally called and after enduring the nurse and her insistent need for vital signs I am sent to my room. I almost doze off waiting for Doc to put in his appearance. He finally does and as I straighten up to greet him a wave of dizziness hits me. I hate that. It throws me off balance and makes me feel icky. I call it “vertigo” but that’s not the right term. I explain myself to the man, he gives me a diagnostic rundown then tells me it’s my allergies that have caused fluid to buildup “in there” and that’s where my dizziness and momentary loss of sense of balance come from. He prescribes me antibiotics, don’t forget your doctor’s note, and be on your way.

Mr. Slow is trying to help me get the bike ready, but I’m too addled in the brain to form a complete sentence or make sense enough so he could follow what I’m trying to tell him. I have’t the energy. We end up yelling at each other and I’m so angrily exhausted now that I tell him where he can go and that it isn’t JenningsGP with me. I don’t need this shit, I’m flying solo. He disappears into the bedroom to get some sleep, since he, too, has been up all night at his job. Somebody has gotta drive. But he can’t sleep since we’re mad at each other.

Kiss and make up like a couple of zombies and back to work. I can’t get the damned oil filter off the bike, it takes two frustrating trips to the auto parts store to get a tool that actually works. My sleepy anger finally gets the thing off so the rest of the oil can drain out. I clean the cavity that accepts the screw-in filter, replace the oil drain plug gasket, screw the drain plug back in after cleaning it, torque it down and resecure it with safety wire. I screw in the new wrench-off K&N filter, hand tighten it as instructed, safety wire it using the hole provided and dump in four quarts of Motul synthetic race oil. When I get to the last quart I find I’m too tired to check the level half-way through the bottle. I crank up the bike, let the engine circulate the oil, shut it off and put in the rest. Four quarts out, four quarts in. Logical. I don’t exactly know if four quarts came out, since I spilled a bunch of it because my catch pan wasn’t big enough to cover the area between the drain bolt and the filter. Arrgh! Now I have to clean this mess up. I don’t have the oil spill stuff they have at work. It looks like kitty litter and is absorbent as hell… kitty litter… hmmm… I have some of that. I go inside and get a few scoops of Tidy Cats and it does the trick quite nicely.

On to the radiator flush. I can’t get the damned clamp off the hose coming out of the water pump. Lowest point on bike, only place I’m reasonably sure of that it’s a radiator line and not an oil line. I’m shooting from the hip here. Yikes…

I hate being so weak. And I hate hose-freaking-clamps! I am getting frustrated again. It’s going on two o’clock and I have yet to pack! I am saved by Joe who apparently got a power nap in. He gets the hose off and runs to the auto parts store again for some anti-seize. We get the radiator flushed and replace the antifreeze with Water Wetter mix.

Note to self: Sweep up kitty litter before you flush the radiator. The stuff turns to muck the color and consistency of wet concrete; and the whole point was not to have it end up in the sewer system. At least it wasn’t but a small amount. Crap! happens when you’re in Zombieland.

It’s almost four o’clock. I’m now feeling like death warmed over. I think I might be seeing things… I am starving, I hadn’t eaten since the evening before. I am dehydrated. The dizziness is getting worse.

Joe sets up the ramps and once they are properly secured I ride my bike up into the truck. Yes, I know. No riding bikes up ramps unless you are a professional on a closed course. I’m too short, my feet don’t touch the ground once the front wheel is a little ways up on the ramp. I do not trust myself to be able to hold the bike on the incline, so I just ride it up and get on the brakes right before I engage the wheel chock to make sure I’m properly aligned.

Now you know why I can’t get the blasted thing down on my own. I can’t walk it down, I would have to shove off and roll backwards across the angle where my feet cannot reach. That freaks me out. And I’m neither strong nor coordinated enough to walk my bike down, while standing to the right of it, trying to hold it upright and manipulating the front brake lever.

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a race trailer? All my friends have toy haulers, I must make amends.

After securing the bike, I take a shower, pack my clothes and personal stuff and we’re off to the races. Which race, you ask? The race against the time the gate closes. If we don’t make it there before then, we’re sleeping outside on the side of the road. We still have to stop at “Little China” to pick up extra tie downs and a few other essentials, including the medicine my doctor had called in. After inhaling a veggie burger meal from Burger King and downing a bottle of water and my Diet Coke, I curl up in the passenger seat and try to sleep.

Sick and tired and I’m going to go do what? Yes, I seem to have the Darwinian gene: “Hey y’all come watch this!”