Thursday, December 28

Airplanes, Steve McQueen's stuff and the Zumo...

Lately, my thoughts have turned to flying. Not taking the gal-pal out and riding fast as lightening, but to thoughts of learning to fly an airplane. Not sure where this desire originates. I don’t buy the midlife crisis junk because most of the stuff I want to do now, I’ve wanted to do way before midlife. The difference is now I have the freedom to do the things I once could only think about. I’ve felt a natural association between flying and motorcycling but remain inarticulate about this. Then I received my February 2007 Cycle World magazine, which, by the way, always arrives with the cover hanging on by one staple. In it, moto-journalist Peter Egan’s “Leaning” column talks about how he’s been filling up his winter days by reclaiming his dormant flying skills. He’s become a "re-entry" flyer, so to speak. It’s an interesting piece that makes convincing parallels between riding and flying. Egan states, “You tilt the horizon and forces act through your own personal vertical axis. Bank, accelerate, zoom. Grin. Your inner ear is hard at work, as it is nowhere else. In full flight, with either bike or planes, all your senses are engaged and you become hyper-alert. Maybe that’s the link: The thing flying and motorcycling have most in common is that you simply must pay attention. Your life depends on it. Both sports, you might say, are naturally riveting.” Egan closes his article with, “I’m never really comfortable or completely awake—around people who are unacquainted with the invigorating joys of mild panic.” Yes, Peter I hear you!
The lore and lure of Steve McQueen has not abated on iota! His third wife has recently auctioned off items from his vast collection that once included 130 motorcycles and 35 cars. Here are some of the items and the extraordinary amount of money people are willing to shell out for a piece of the legend. In every case, the auctioned items far exceeded estimations.

1 sweaty tee-shirt with holes and rips, $3,250
1 baseball cap w/ sweat, $2,500
1 personalized license plate w/ McQueen Reform School ID number, estimated
to go for $100. Sold for a whopping, unbelievable $4,500!
1 waxed cotton Belstaff motorcycle jacket, $28,000.
1 folding pocket knife given to McQueen by his friend Von Dutch (famous in his own right) sold for $32,500.
1934 Indian Sport Scout went for $155,000, which one magazine said made
it more than $135,000 more than its market value.
1 pair Persol sunglasses, worn in the movie, The Thomas Crown Affair.
Estimated to bring in $2000-3000; instead, sold for $60,000.

It’s hard to believe that McQueen has been dead for more than 2 decades. No doubt about it, the man loved motorcycles.
Sunday while strolling along the Mag Mile, my head snapped at the sight of a brand new black Kawasaki sportbike, the Ninja ZX-14, sitting in a store window. The bike is considered the "fastest (zero to 60 in 2.5 seconds fast) bike ever grace the planet." As I backed up and looked up to see if a new motorcycle store had opened on Michigan Avenue, I saw the sign for Garmin, makers of what some believe are the best GPS devices around. I felt reeled in and that’s how they get you. The bike, by the way, belongs to Jay Leno, a 2007 Kaw that he supposedly has yet to ride. It’s on loan to the store as they promote their new digs. I asked to see the new Zumo, the $1000 GPS designed "by motorcyclists" with motorcyclists in mind. That’s a hefty price tag but it includes all the mounting brackets for a motorcycle and a car. It includes the North America maps and miscellaneous software.

What makes the Zumo different from, say, the Quest, the Quest II and Garmin’s other motorcycle oriented gps systems? One is design. The screen is larger for one thing. It is a touch screen and sensitive to a touch from a gloved finger (some screens are not touch sensitive and some are cumbersome to touch accurately with a gloved finger). It is also waterproof, whereas some are only water resistant. Did I say, design? It’s a sharp looking device. Not too big, not too small. It fits nicely in my hands, which are small and the controls are on the left side. Amazingly, the controls on many GPS devices are on the right side of the device. It is a better ergonomic design to have the controls on the left side. You don’t really think about this until you play around with one and experience how much better this set up is for reaching the controls.

Ok, I have a GPS. The Magellan eXplorist XL. I’m okay with it. Not thrilled about it by any stretch. I’m good with technology but it took far too long to learn how to use it. It is not intuitive at all. Even if I spend only $400 on a GPS, I expect it to work well and easily. Such has not been the case with my Magellan. I even had to buy additional software for another $125 bucks to get the map I wanted! Perhaps, I’m not being fair to it, as I never mounted it and pretty much used it as an expensive compass and supplement to the maps. But were it user-friendly, I know I would have used it more. They even made the downloads unnecessarily cumbersome. The Zumo took 2 minutes to understand and begin to use. If I purchased it, I’d get my money’s worth out of it. I want it. But do I need it? I’m so tempted, really tempted. Since I’m planning to get into distance riding, I deserve a reliable gps that I will use! I had secretly hoped Santa would bring that Zumo, but, you know, all my life I never believed that some chubby white guy would come to my neighborhood, shimmy down the chimney (did we even have one?) and leave me gifts. If nothing else, Santa has been consistent. Stay tuned for more Zumo news…