Monday, April 28, 2008

Back on the bike

Since I've been doing pretty well with the cast, I thought it was time I tried to get back on my motorcycle. Since Saturday was a beautiful day, it was the perfect time. The first challenge was just getting my leg over the bike and standing it up, which wasn't really easy since I parked it really close to the wall after the last time I rode. I managed to walk her out onto the driveway and fired her up, but I had to put up the kickstand with my hand since I couldn't get it with my boot. After sitting for more than seven weeks, the bike started on a fast idle on the second try. After letting it warm up for a couple minutes, I gritted my teeth, pulled the clutch and hit the gear shift with my cast. Starting down the street was awkward, but riding was coming back to me and I managed to shift into second gear. I'm sure it wouldn't have worked on my Night Train, having to lift up the gear shift, but the Fat Boy has the rear heel shift knob for up shifting. I figured since that went well enough I would go all the way to get lunch. I didn't go far, of course, just to the new shopping center at the interstate. The riding didn't prove problematic, but pretty awkward shifting, at least at first. I was kind of dreading stopping and having to put my feet down, but any discomfort was on par with walking.
I enjoyed the nice day sitting outside at a wing place and reading the paper. There was a pretty good sized playground adjacent, but the kids playing didn't really bother me. I rode to the Harley shop to say hi to some people. I saw a couple things I wanted, but remembered a gift card sitting at home I should use, so didn't buy anything then. I rode back home and then came the next challenge- getting the bike turned around and backing back into the garage. Getting turned around wasn't easy, having to push the bike backwards, but I managed. I had to abort my first attempt at backing into the garage after running out of momentum. I almost didn't make it the second time, but had just enough momentum and just enough leg power to get over the lip of the garage and back her into place.
I grabbed the gift card and the newspaper and went to get two new rear tires on my car- the belts were showing through on the driver's side. The place was backed up and it took an hour and a half before they even got my car into the service bay. I went back to the Harley shop once they finally finished and bought a new shift linkage for the Night Train and a new pair of gloves like the ones I've worn out two pairs of. I didn't have it as strong this past summer, but previously these gloves have given me a suntan tattoo of Harley's bar and shield. I'd had one old pair patched, but even that didn't last and they had been discontinued. I was very glad to see them back again, I was expecting to have to switch to some other style this year.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spring Carnival

After getting together with some CMU alumni in Austin last year to celebrate Carnival, I really felt like I missed it and had to go back this year. I booked a flight, but hadn't booked a hotel because it was really expensive. And then I broke my ankle. I looked into canceling, but it was a non-refundable ticket. I could have changed it, but I don't have any immediate plans to fly anywhere and Travelocity couldn't tell me what I might be able to recoup of the change fee due to my injury. So after talking with my parents and my fraternity big brother Mike, I decided I would go anyway, rent a car and spend the first two nights with Mike and Doug in their house about half an hour from campus. Saturday they had plans to go to Doug's alma mater in Ohio, so I booked a room for that one night not too far from campus. I also rented a car for the first time ever so that I could get around without having to walk so much.
I woke up at 4:30 Thursday morning for my 7am flight. Of course there was no traffic, so it was easy to get there, and no problems checking in. As expected I went through extra screening since of course the crutches and cast set off the metal detector. Once I was able to sit down in the screening area they sent my crutches through the xray machine and tested my cast for explosives residue, then a thorough pat down. I bought breakfast from one of the only places that was open and went to my gate and read my book until boarding. The plane stopped in Atlanta, then continuing on to Pittsburgh. I would have just sat in my seat reading, but there was a crew change and they couldn't let me stay. They got me a wheelchair to go up the jetbridge, but once we got to the terminal I walked to the bathroom. Unfortunately there was another flight to Pittsburgh that was majorly delayed due to an equipment problem and since our flight wasn't full, they let the other passengers onto our plane. So instead of having an empty seat next to me for my foot like the first leg, there was an overweight woman. Getting these other people on delayed us out of the gate, first just getting them on, then getting the correct paper work. It was after 1 by the time I got my bag and rental car. For some reason my GPS didn't power up, I never did figure out if it was the power cord or the car's outlets. Fortunately it was pretty easy to get to Mike's with some directions over the phone.
We drove to campus and went to the fraternity house, which was mostly dead other than Ned, who was an alumnus when I was an undergrad and always comes back for Carnival and is drunk the entire weekend. After chatting a bit, we checked out the booths on the midway and then went with some other alums to PHI, the nearest bar to campus. We hung out there for a while, catching up with other alums and a couple of older undergrads. The place was packed with CMU alumni from various years. Afterwards we went back to the house to hang out with alumni and the active brothers before heading back to Mike's house.
Friday morning we got a later start than I would have hoped driving back to campus for the buggy races, and to add to it the college radio station was having massive technical problems so we barely got any information. We arrived just before the end of women's races and sat down in the chute. Between the heats I chatted with a few former sweepstakes chairs I knew from my years. There was some good action- SigNu and PiKA were neck and neck until PiKA spun into the hay bales, but kept going; KDR lost their windscreen and kept going. I cringed as a former safety chairman, but as a spectator it was good in the same way as NASCAR crashes. The top teams rolled awesomely as expected but some teams had terrible rollouts, one barely made it into the chute. Amazingly the 20-year old course record was broken by two organizations. After the race I hobbled to the top of the hill hoping to catch up with other buggy alumni, but the place was pretty well cleared out by that time. I walked back to the house for some lunch and to hang out for a bit, then drove back across campus to watch a presentation on the history of buggy, and say hi to some other buggy alumni. After a while Doug made it to the house and we drank from their private beer stash before getting dinner at a nearby restaurant with a good beer selection. I was exhausted and ready to leave by 11, but it took a while to get Mike out of the house. I left my rental car on campus and Doug drove us all back to their house.
We managed to get going a little earlier on Saturday, but they started the races earlier and Doug and Mike dropped me off at the starting line just after the second women's race started. I sat on the wall in front of GSIA and got up to see the finish, but couldn't see much. I did get a pretty good look at some of the buggies as they went by to go to the brake test. It was a much better look than seeing them whiz by in the chute, but no crashes. The results were pretty amazing, with PiKA bettering SDC's Friday record and edging them out of the top spot by 0.15 seconds, giving them a record seventh straight win. After lunch Mike and Doug left for Ohio and I checked into my hotel and took a half hour nap. I went back for the awards ceremony- the house won second place in the booth competition and felt like they were robbed. I went out for a rowdy dinner in a little Chinese restaurant near campus with my "family." Fortunately we were way in the back so we weren't bothering other patrons, and the staff was very patient and didn't mind the drunks throwing ice and whatnot too much. The undergrads I sat with were pretty amazed that I graduated eight years ago, and I got a few comments like "I was in middle school when that happened" to my anecdotes. I said a couple words as the oldest one there. The alumni at the table split the check, which worked out to be less than 30 dollars including a hefty tip. On the way back to campus I stopped in at PHI again, hung out with some alums from my era, then with a PiKA alum I knew from buggy for a little while before sitting down at a table with one of the undergrads I'd met at dinner. There was a party going on at the house when I got back. I was down near the dance floor for a little while, but once it started filling up I went and sat down upstairs since I couldn't dance and was worried about being stepped on. I was really tired and fell asleep before I managed to drag myself back to the hotel.
Sunday I putzed around my hotel room, reading my book, surfing the internet. I checked out, swung by the house but it was empty, and then got some lunch on campus. I went for a wander across campus to check out the start of the new Gates center and an addition to an adjacent building. I headed back to Mike and Doug's house but beat them back and read my book some more. After catching up on what had been going on, we pretty much sat around and vegetated before I left for the airport. No problems returning the car, there was no line to check in for the flight. Security had a big line but it was moving. After picking up some dinner I got to the gate and found out that it had been switched to the gate next door. The flight was actually on Delta Connection, so it was a smaller Canadair jet. It wasn't bad, I had enough room for my legs since it was a bulkhead row. In Cincinnati they had a wheelchair ready for me because I was worried about making my connection, but we had managed to get in a little early so it wouldn't have been a problem. The terminal my connection departed out of was very strange to me- there was a whole wall of doors that had two gate numbers and little desks between them. Once through the gate it was still a ways down a hallway to get to the appropriate exit to the tarmac. The aircraft was even smaller than the first. At first, before we got to cruising altitude I had my cast leg out in the aisle, but eventually I managed to get comfortable enough with it out of the aisle that I slept until the flight attendant woke me up to put up my tray table. The first parking shuttle filled up before I could get on, but the second one that came stopped right where I was standing so I was the first one on.