Musing: The Luxury and The Misery of Time

Shortly after I started riding motorcycles, my bike became my only motorized transportation. Consequently, if I had to work on the bike, I had to finish the work or I got to walk. For awhile that work was done on the street by the curb in front of my apartment. It was never much fun, particularly when it was cold and windy.

Any work I did had to be completed “sooner rather than later”. If I hadn’t gotten all the parts I needed to do the work, because something unexpected was really the problem, or I broke something, I had to find a way to get to the dealer. More than once, I put the bike back together, rode to get the part I needed, then rode home, took it apart again and installed the part. The misery of time is nurtured by the need to “be done” and invigorated by having to work in the cold.

Another way to experience the misery of time is when the bike dies in the middle of nowhere. It was a cold Sunday morning on I-10 just past Wilcox, Arizona when the center cylinder of my Kawasaki S2 350 triple seized as I drafted beside a tractor trailer as I tried to get warm. The dead air cut the wind chill by 20 degrees so I could start to feel my fingers again.

A 1972 Kawasaki S2 350 Triple Just Like Mine

I avoided hitting the back of the trailer or going under it when the rear wheel locked up, so that was good. But as the truck receded into the distance, I was on the side of the road with no idea how I was going to get to work 200 miles away in Las Cruces, NM, by noon.

No cell phones in the 1970’s so I had no way to call the manager at Denny’s to alert him of my problem or to call anyone to come trailer the bike. Fortunately, after the engine cooled, the center piston ring broke free when I kick started the bike. I rode on the shoulder of I-10 for a never ending 200 miles to get home. All the while, I listened to every noise the engine made for signs of another impending seizure. This form of time misery is akin to slow, never ending Chinese water torture. Every second seems like a minute.

It took a week for the dealer to get the bike running again, so I walked the 1.5 miles to work and back. Being a starving student, I didn’t know if I could pay the bill, but I got lucky as it only cost $25.00 for a hone and new rings on the center cylinder.

Moving forward about 45 years, I’ve completed three airhead rebuilds so far. The first two took as long as they took with no pressing need to be done. I greatly enjoyed the experience and indulged my curiosity so I could learn what I didn’t know. I could take things apart and reassemble them a second time, if need be, in order to get it right.

I have a heated shop so cold and wind aren’t a factor. When I need parts, I can wait for them to arrive. And I don’t have to walk everywhere until the work is done 🙂  These rebuilds had the luxury of time so they were invigorating and joyful experiences.

But, the last build, a 1977 R100RS, had a deadline. I had no more than one year from the date I started until I had to be done so I could ride the bike to the 40th RS anniversary in Pennsylvania. When I found problems I hadn’t anticipated, which is par for the course, they added to the anxiety as several of them required outside services I didn’t control to do the work for me. Their schedule was not my schedule.

My Last Build, 1977 R100RS, on a Shake Down Ride to the Coffee Shop

A Shake Down Ride to the Coffee Shop on My Last Build, 1977 R100RS

I made the deadline, but in all honesty, for much of that build, the work was not very joyful. Many times that year, I had an old, uncomfortable feeling I couldn’t put my finger on. Then it dawned on me. I inadvertently invited the misery of time to come join me in the shop as soon as I set the deadline.

This is a good reminder to me to let the work proceed at it’s own pace and not worry about hitting a deadline. This is how you train time to become a joyful luxury instead of a misery.


10 thoughts on “Musing: The Luxury and The Misery of Time

  1. Brook,
    This is an amazing read. The misery of time is likely something nearly all of us on this site can relate to. I have never quite strung a series of words like this together but I know for a fact the joy of taking my miata apart 7 times to properly install the timing belt over the course of two separate weekends and “allowing the work to proceed at it’s own pace” was akin to joy (I had a fine running 2nd miata. Always a good idea to have 2 of a reference document.).
    I do enjoy my r90 in the same way and have many smaller projects for the /6 that tickle the soul and allow me to share in a similar relate with others in this group. It’s that rarely spoken “oh. I’ve seen that.” or “oh, I know what that is” that makes this group amazing and tech days and meet ups become like a calling from a Siren’s song.

    • Chris,
      I can “get behind where you’re at” as the trendy non-sequitur goes. As you know, I have “a few” reference model airheads on hand.


  2. You did a beautiful job on that 77 RS, I have one also that is pretty much original except the heads were dual plugged. Great bikes, my close friend from N.H. has a 78 Motorsport edition. Thanks for sharing all you do.

  3. Good post!

    As I’m sure you’ve heard before elsewhere: There’s Fast, Good, and Cheap….you can have two of the three, but never all three. It’s a life lesson that’s been “reinforced” to me in my repairs and projects.

  4. Hi Brook!
    Yes, time is a funny thing. I really enjoyed your article and it reminded me that the most important aspect of time is the only time we have. The present moment!
    Thank you!

    • Hi Mike,

      Yes, so the wisdom of “being in the present” is sound advice since that’s where the action is. 🙂


  5. Brook,
    I know of what you speak. In the mid 1960’s in Denver Colorado my sole means of transportation was a 1957 Vespa. I ran that scooter back and forth to school and a part time job, summer, or winter. I don’t remember how many miles were on that old scooter, but there were plenty. I had almost no mechanical ability at that time, but I did have te luxury of my Dad’s unheated garage when he was not home and his car was not parked inside. I learned through the “School of Hard Knocks” how to keep that beast running. Now that I look back, I’m glad I was forced into a situation that has provided hundreds of hours of enjoyment later in my life. Today I have a shop and enjoy every minute of a hobby I was forced into many years ago by necessity.

    • Funny you should mention a Vespa. My first ride as a kid was on my Dad’s 1957 Sears Allstate scooter with sidecar, which was a Vespa. I too started my wrenching and riding journey on that machine. I had/have much to learn.


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