Thursday, June 14, 2007

CB mania. Breaker 4. Over.

I have been riding my motorcycle for almost a year now. In celebration, and because I'm stupid, I'm riding it out to San Francisco next week. Why does that make me stupid, you might ask? San Francisco is a perfectly lovely place to go and ride motorcycles. The answer is because I'm starting in Dallas. And if you recall your American Geography lessons from elementary school, everything east of the Sierra Nevada range in California until you get to ... well ... Dallas is part of the Great American Desert. So, yeah, what that means is that I'm going on a very long ride through deserts and mountains to end up in San Francisco. Mark Twain never said that "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco," but he could have. In fact, he implied the same thing about Paris, France in an exchange once and the famous quote morphed from there. Still, the fact remains that San Francisco has cold weather, and lots of it, and often even in the summertime it is a chilly place to be. Blame it on all the leftover seawater they get from "The Deadliest Catch", I guess.

In preparation for the ride, and by way of spending the cash-ola that I got for Christmas, I decided to get a comms system for my bike. This means that when my girlfriend and I are riding together, we can actually exchange phrases like "I'm out of gas." or "Did you see the hair growing out that guy's ears?!?!" Usually, we have to wait until we get to the next gas stop to swap such observations. Further, we've been on a long and mostly unsuccessful hunt for a way to play our iPods that doesn't interfere with our ability to communicate important facts and get each other's attention. The solution, it turns out, is a J&M CB system. This lets us talk to each other and many of the other vehicles on the road, which is useful if you ever get tired of your entire 60 GB music library and need other forms of entertainment. It's also very, very helpful if you're trying to figure out what the weather and traffic are like a few miles up the road and whether you should pull over or try to make the next town. So we bought the system for me (Rose already had one for her bike) and let it sit on our kitchen table for about a month while we mulled over the options for installing it.

We ended up doing the installation ourselves, and it turned out better than I expected. Rose had to re-install hers because she'd had a malfunction in her driver/passenger intercom system and had sent it in for service. Hers had been sitting on our dining room table for three or four months while we mulled the installation options. There's nothing like "the last minute" to get you motivated to tackle these sorts of projects, eh? I was having a particularly difficult week with asthma and allergies and a navel-gazing moody spell, so I let Rose handle most of the installation work herself. I did put the antenna mount on my bike (which involved the use of power tools and was thus quite good for my moody psyche) but after that, I pretty much stayed out of Harm's Way - aka: The Garage. I have to say that she did one helluva job, and that is unalloyed praise.

But... (sorry, honey, i have to post this part. it's too funny.)

When she called me to come out for the first test broadcast of my new system, I came out to the garage and held the microphone and mashed the button and transmitted. Yea! It worked! And then I noted that the bike wasn't "on". None of the lights were on, none of the instrument panels were glowing. She didn't even have the keys in the bike! Problem: if the accessory will run without the key in the bike, it can drain your battery while you are sleeping with the keys on your nightstand. This problem is easily surmounted if you're methodical and ALWAYS turn everything off, but it's a Disaster Waiting To Happen when you're easily distracted (oooh! shiny thing!) and forget to turn off the accessories sometimes. You can guess which of the aforementioned cases applies to me.

The logical thing to do at this point was to pick up the manual and see what it said about installation. And I know my girlfriend NEVER reads the manual. It's a part of her life philosophy that she developed while working hel(l)pdesks. So, on page 3, in fine print, in the third item of a numbered list, was the instruction that you should power the thing from a switched circuit on the bike, or better yet from a fuse-enabled accessory terminal. Well, I just happen to have one of those! I installed it so that the Mobile Dog Unit could have taillights. Some day, I swear I'll write about that. Anyway, I took the covers off and moved the power wire from the positive battery terminal (where she had connected it) to the accessory terminal so that it would only allow the CB to power on when the bike was on. Yea! And lest I make myself sound all fancy and knowledgeable about this stuff while bagging on my girlfriend, let me admit here and now that it took a bit of trial and error to find the right port on the accessory terminal. I didn't get it right the first time, and I had to cut off all the wire ties I'd used in my first run at it and re-route everything. You can bet I tested the wiring setup before applying any wire ties in the second run. Anyway, with the wiring fault corrected, I was happy with the installation and I was forgiving of my girlfriend because (after all) the important instruction was pretty well buried.

Then, I happened to be tidying up after the installation, and when I got to the little nest-like pile of tools, spare bits, empty water bottles, and dirty spoons that seems to accumulate wherever my girlfriend works for more than 2 hours, I discovered that there was a Quick Start Guide to the installation. And then the forgiveness EVAPORATED INSTANTLY. It might have even FLASH BOILED, it went so fast. In LARGE BOLD TEXT on the quick start guide, was the instruction "Do not EVER connect this accessory DIRECTLY to the BATTERY!" Yeah. So it's a good thing I read the manual, eh? My mom figured that out about 25 years and two Barbie Dream Houses ago, of course. I've been the Designated Instruction Reader in my household for as long as I can remember.

1 comment:

sony said...

Well somebody has to understand the destructions :)