Wastelands of Suburbia

A place where the cast-off ephemera of the last four generations comes to rest, and is discussed fondly....Like junk, or the injection-molded minutiae of history? Welcome home...Junkyards, yard sales, roadside oddities, thrift stores and more-your memories are deep inside the box, so keep shaking.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Ultimate in Luxury, To Be Sure?

Perhaps circa 1969...Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Tenny Town Motel, Route 11, outside Bloomsburg, PA. This sign has surely remained unchanged as long as I have been alive, save for maybe a few repairs over the decades. The candle is no doubt part of a trend I have noticed in marketing of motels of this era-the notion of being available even late-the defunct Lamplighter chain of hotels with their name also hint at this trend, and of course most recently the Motel 6 slogan of "we'll leave the light on for ya" hearkens back to this folksy trend from a time when the guy behind the desk was probably on the deed as well. My apologies for shooting in the sun-Dr. Girlfriend and I were stopped momentarily, and since by sheer sake of taking pictures Homeland Security now labels you a terrorist, I had to work quick. I did get this nice closeup however, in better light:

(COLOR TV! By RCA no less! I want that little piece of vacu-formed goodness so bad it hurts-if this place ever closes down, I am sooo watching the roll-off for that thing.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Sad Passage of Time, and Hope for One Possible Future.

(Beauty and Sadness....all at once-a slice of life, a look at a simpler time.)

Take a look at the above picture. Look at the twinkling chrome of a new motorcycle on a glorious late spring day. Look at a bike that has yet to see Reagan getting shot, Yuppies, or the fall of the Berlin Wall. Breathe deep and note the mind goes to fresh cut grass, the faint whiff of gasoline, the unmistakably fresh smell of May. Smile at styling trends like sissy bars and aftermarket fairings, that have yet to become passe' or ridiculous with the rolling of the years and fleeting and fickle tastes of the Human Race. Revel in the nostalgia of this literal snapshot of time each and every time you see an old Honda CB750. Like this one:

(Reality-always more ugly, more painful to look at-the realization of One's Own Mortality in the form of a rusted hunk of metal and rubber and fiberglass.)

The same bike-the VERY same bike-just this month. The owner was nice enough to provide 'before' and 'after' pics to potential Craigslist buyers, and Jon was nice enough to provide them to me, for my endless contemplation and full range of emotions.

What stories could it now tell? How many miles? How many riders, how many passengers on how many of those countless spring and summer days? How many tires, fill ups, rest stops, toll booths, roadside hot dogs, wrong turns, speeding tickets, smiles? How many regretted and missed rides due to inclement weather, prior commitments, kids, soccer games, communions, graduations? How many times hearing oneself utter the phrase "I gotta get that thing running again"? How many things placed on the seat for storage, with the knowledge that the bike was not going anywhere any time soon? How many tears shed at the sight of this forgotten piece of Japanese, American and personal history? How many regrets?

I implore any and all with the notion, tools and means to restore an old bike. Resurrect it. Like Lazarus, make it live-Rise and Ride. Scrape knuckles. Make dirty Levi's. Stain driveways and garage floors. Connect or reconnect with your kids by working on it together-Leave it for a new generation, with new stories to tell. Relive your OWN childhood, or start a new one-screw the notion of Midlife Crisis. LIVE. RIDE.

These bikes are still plentiful, cheap and available, as are parts and advice. Restoration can be as cheap or expensive as you choose, with credit going to the riders, the Road Dogs, the Rats, the ones that are out there on Saturdays or getting you to work on time no matter how they look-the frowns go to the primadonnas who park them in concours condition on engineered wood living room floors, or suspended from ceilings, sneering to themselves and all who will listen for the sake of "The Cycle as Art".

The nods of approval from those in Mini vans and SUVs with LCD screens for the kids, and from those who have gone, singly tracking, down this road before you, are free. The knowledge gained from the guy who Had One of Those Way Back When, that you meet at the auto parts store or gas station cannot be put in terms of dollars and cents.

The Internet Age leaves us with myriad resources and scores of others who have gone before us. It was not until I realized I had legions of enthusiasts with the patience of saints behind me, incapable and above flaming me as a 'noob', that I would come to the conclusion that I too could restore a vintage bike. It was not until I would meet a guy two hours away with nothing else in common with me but a free Saturday afternoon and a similarly-equipped, thirty year-old hunk of steel (in better shape than mine), that I would know that Brotherhood could exist outside ones family. It was not until that guy would be willing to ride that same two hours to help me rebuild carbs for the first time, that my faith in humanity would be restored. Life has begun again, and hope springs as eternal as a singular May day that seems like a million years ago.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Finally. And still NOT FOR SALE!

(Yep, still NOT FOR SALE (sign sits on dash, can't you read?) is this crumbling '57 Chevy BelAir 2-door Hartop. Makes you wonder what the dude is clinging to. I didn't ask.)

After much blogging about it in the past, I finally had the chance, WITH the camera in the car, to snap a pic of the Famed '57 before the ogre came out to get me. This car has sat here for no less than THIRTY YEARS that I know of for sure, and shows no signs of moving any time soon. Sad.

Bus of The Living Dead.

(From the right angle with some careful cropping, this chopped-up bus appears to be rising from the grave. Rte. 611 South, North of Martins Creek, PA.)

Moon and Space Culture.

(Spotted on the roof of a small recycling center in Wilkes-Barre, PA, this "capsule", most likely cobbled together from recycled junk, looks to be spaceworthy and ready for flight.)

This little unit reminds me of the Andy Griffith TV Show Salvage from 1979:

(Check out the pre "Silver Spoons" Joel Higgins as the washed-up astronaut!)

(This home-built capsule has sat behind a gas station outside Martins Creek, PA for as long as I can remember. It has been slid back a bit, but at one time I think it was there to attract business-I also think at one time a space-suited, helmeted mannequin sat inside. Someone spent some time on this. Check out what appeared to be an authentic Strategic Air Command decal on the side.)

John F. Kennedy's promise to put the US on the moon was a watershed event for the nation, still in the midst of the Cold War. While the true motive remains a matter of conjecture, in the 1960s, America fell in love with Space Culture. The idea of the office of the future being in outer space appealed to more than one youngster, and more than one NASA astronaut or specialist of today can trace his decision to head for the stars back to those original Gemini and Apollo missions. As the idea of space travel began to settle in the nation's psyche, it appeared in art, architecture, advertising and the like.

(Why build a rocket when you can just buy one from US Surplus? This Titan rocket is near Cordell, GA)

(What better place to have a Rocket Lounge, than outside Alamogordo, New Mexico? Sadly, the idea only WAS a good one-the Rocket Lounge is now closed.)

(Space Culture is not exclusive to the US-here, an abandoned gas station in France sports a fancy rocket with steel contrail-talk about things I love! Abandoned places, gas stations....still, I ain't goin' to France)

(Williamcreek, Australia. What makes me grin at this is the notion that this stuff probably actually fell from space and landed here.)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the camera.....

We had a few other pics on the camera from our trip-there was probably more we should have shot-Berwick and the surrounding area are what The Wastelands used to be, only 30 years ago:

(I'm a sucker for a nice airbrushed vintage van. This one sat languishing in the lot of a Sunoco station in Berwick, on the way to pick up the new/old Zook. Much of my generation's beginnings are found in the once sweaty, foggy interiors of vans like this. How could you look at this and not think of the beach?)

(Since 1979 and Three Mile Island, there is nothing more ominous to a Pennsylvanian than nuclear plants and their cooling towers. The Berwick Nuclear Power Plant, owned by PPL Utilities, looms in the distance. Photo by Jon.)

(Of course, Jon is no slouch when it comes to bike customization. A resurrected Speed Triple, given the Hooligan treatment by Jon, with big thanks going to our friend Wee Paul for his paint work. Photo Jon.)

Friday, April 03, 2009

Another Acquisition.

(Like any good vintage bike, my new Zook has already marked it's territory, as witnessed by a small puddle of gas due to a leaky and incongruent fuel filter. Seen at about 5pm off the front wheel is another drip-this time of fork oil-apparently, like the recently arrested on "Cops", the bike took umbrage at being bound so tightly on the ride home. Swept back handlebars were to no doubt accomodate the vintage fairing, and have to go as first order of business.)

Folks, feast your eyes-the latest in my long and storied history of low-cost motorcycle acquisitions. For a mere $395, I picked up this lovely 1979 Suzuki GS850G about an hour away in Berwick, PA. Of course, one must factor in the gasoline and time spent (I also enlisted the help of my good friend Jon to make the move, utilizing his van and tie downs-which will fairly and no doubt illicit a return favor), plus the cost of title transfer, etc. But it was a fun day, and surprises abound.

For example, we really weren't expecting the thing to start, but the previous owner (who had an impressive shop, boasting no less than five vintage Harleys in various stages of restoration and/or customization) was able to get it to fire with a bit of starting fluid. The bike had been posted on Craigslist, and the relatively small pic betrayed the garage-kept condition she was in. Mild oxidation on both the steel and aluminum was typical of a bike that had sat inside, but nothing compared to the outright rot I have seen on some of my finds in the past. With right around 9500 miles that were obviously well maintained ones, this baby was an outright steal IMHO. Also, the Zook came with a vintage 70's-style touring fairing. While laughable to some (myself included, if only on the surface), these are still highly desired by some riders (as they ain't makin' any more), and nice examples are often sufficient to fund the cost of a low-buck restoration-such as this one. I was going to completely 'rat' this bike out-that is, a complete treatment of flat hi-temp stove black from pretty much stem to stern, as well as chopping off all the unnecessary bits:

("Looks uncomfortable" Jon said, as I suggested this treatment prior to us actually seeing how nice the Zook was. From a few years back at a show, this one looks like it would be at home in the upcoming film Terminator: Salvation-actually being ridden by a Terminator, who, once the flesh is burned off, has no real ass to speak of nor get bruised anyway.)

However, the condition being better than expected, I think I am going to do a serious cleaning, wrap and paint the exhaust, remove the rust from the shocks, etc, and keep it as a mild resto-mod type deal. As usual stay tuned-there will most likely be a few projects needing finishing first, but the bike doesn't need too much, so I'll get it running and then the full resto will no doubt take place in the off-season.