Backroad Ramblings December 2009

December 29, 2009
Jason Giacchino
Jason Giacchino
Contributing Editor| Articles|RSS

A freelancer and published novelist Jason is currently the editor in chief of Mountain Bike Tales digital magazine and holds a State University of New York degree in applied science with a minor in journalism. When not hunched over a computer monitor, he can be found playing outside in the suburbs of Buffalo, New York.

Those Dark Moments Between the Holidays

Well, just last column I rambled on about the late fall bonus riding weather that had been bestowed upon the area but my how the times change in a few short weeks. I suppose it would be quite a bit more dramatic a change (and hence better journalism) if I came on and reported that we had gone from 50 degrees to minus four with three feet of snow on the ground. But, alas, I try my hardest to keep the exaggerations to a minimum. We’re still looking at green grass and black pavement for the most part around here, but a dip in the temperature to a more “seasonally appropriate” low 30’s has pretty much sent the motorcyclists into rapid hibernation mode.

To restore order to the Giacchino household during P.M.S. (Parked Motorcycle Season), Jason settles for watching back episodes of motorcycle racing on his new LCD HDTV.

The tough thing about this time of year is that riders find themselves in a bizarre transitional period. It’s far too dreary and the skies too threatening to chance even a short commute on bike (getting caught in a freezing rain storm on two wheels makes for some interesting stories around the dinner table) but there isn’t yet enough snow accumulation for the bi-disciplined to crack out their snowmobiles. A few of my all-terrain riding buddies have continued to put in trail rides on their big bore 4 x 4s on the weekends only to come back coated in a heavy layer of partially-frozen black ooze. No to suggest that I’m a fair weather rider or anything, but I typically try to avoid rides in which the process of getting undressed takes longer than the ride itself.

So what’s that leave for entertainment on these ever-shortening days smack dab in the middle of the gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Well, shopping for one thing. Economists have been reporting that retail sales are pretty darn brisk this year despite economic uncertainty. Hopefully this plays out as a sign of things to come for the upcoming year. I know that I, in a fit of non-riding induced insanity, encouraged my fiancé to allocate the necessary funds to purchase an LCD HDTV as a gift to each other under the guise of shopping for others.

Now before you go off thinking that I must have received some kind of year-end bonus that made living the selfish yet lavish dream of buying a new television in the season of giving possible, consider the following: While my friends and neighborhood hooligans have been busy changing the oil in their sleds and scraping mud/slush from the underside of their ATV fenders, I’ve been outside with a work light and some greasy wrenches, a hammer, and a large tube of Quicksteel, working feverishly on repairs to my latest project: One 1992 Ford Festiva which intends to become my daily driver/salt car.

Faithful readers may recall a bizarre string of occurrences that began late last winter that have pretty much rendered my ability to drive around town moot. Beginning with a patch of black ice that began on the highway and literally concluded in my parents own paved driveway, I managed to slide my faithful Chevy Trailblazer directly into the back of my dad’s

Jason’s previous vehicle lost the war against the neighboring tree when it dropped a limb on the rooftop.

parked Honda CR-V. Not to discount American engineering or anything, but the ensuing damage to my SUV’s front end was quite a bit more substantial than that of the rear end of the Honda: Smashed grille, crumpled bumper, leaking radiator, bent fan, cracked antifreeze overflow container versus a slight rip in the CR-V’s leather spare tire cover. The timing of this incident coincided perfectly with my having paid off the vehicle and dropped the collision portion of my insurance to save a few bucks a month.

Determined not to let the matter slow me down, I traded the damaged Chevy in for a small foreign SUV of my own, a four-year-old Kia Sportage with 94,000 on the clock, four-wheel drive, the works. Things were progressing just fine for the first two months of our partnership until early one Sunday morning when there arose such a clatter that I had no choice but to spring from the bed to see what was the matter.

It turned out a 500-pound tree limb had decided to read up on Newton’s laws sometime during the night and hence tested the tensile strength of my Kia’s roof pillars by bulls-eying the poor vehicle resting below. Long story short- one SUV, pancaked as it were.

This time the incident qualified under homeowner’s insurance. The catch? That good rate I’ve been getting all these years was apparently the result of a very high deductible in the event of say, a tree limb crushing a parked car. When all was said and done, I came out about $500 to the good.

In an incredibly rare stroke of fate, I located a 1992 Ford Festiva for sale a few houses down from my own (a plus considering my shopping options were pretty much limited to within walking distance) with only 84,000 original miles, an averaged observed fuel economy of 35 miles per gallon, and an asking price of $600/best offer. The only catch? The car had a mysterious electrical anomaly whereby it blew a main fuse each and every time the car was started. It would however continue to run so long as you didn’t try to shut it off then turn it back on again. Bingo, done deal.

Ford Festiva
Jason was recently coerced by Mother Nature to change his means of transportation. Enter the Ford Festiva with 63 hp and weighing in at approximately 1800 lbs. The same claimed horsepower as the 2007 Ducati Monster 695, but minus the coolness factor.

The next few weeks were spent attempting to solve the electrical issue. Lo and behold, it was merely a poorly connected harness on the clutch’s safety mechanism that was just loose enough to short out. In a state of elation on the cheap repair, I cheerfully drove the car down to the local shop for a shiny new NY State Inspection sticker. New ball joints were in order for the cost of $250 but still, a good running vehicle for under $800 was nothing to complain about. Went down on a Tuesday evening to pick it up from the shop and enjoyed the car in its reconstructed perfection for roughly one quarter of a mile of the return trip before hitting a deer! A large buck at that, apparently on the run either due to pursuing hunters or in attempt to locate a mate. Either way, I was left standing dumbfounded in the road with a crushed bumper, crinkled hood, leaking radiator, smashed headlights, and so on. I began to wonder if I hadn’t inadvertently been cast to star in some National Lampoon comedic tragedy and searched out the surrounding foliage for hidden cameras. When none turned up I limped the wounded Ford home (I was less than a mile from my destination when a deer decided to play chicken with my ABS-less car) and sulked for a few hours.

Off to junkyards I went in the following weeks to collect headlight assemblies, radiator hoses and hood-pins. It certainly isn’t pretty, but my cousin Scott and I were able to hammer, kick, pull, twist, and pry the car back into operational condition.

So in case you’re wondering, no, the television wasn’t so much a frivolous impulse buy as it was a celebratory gesture to a long string of unfortunate events. Granted I haven’t had a moment to enjoy it what with the backyard collision work taking place in my driveway of late. The good news is the Supercross season will be upon us soon and there’s no better a way to enjoy the action than on a nice high definition flat screen, which now I think about it, cost about the same as the car that got it home. Maybe it’s for the best that I never got into snowmobiles.