I call it the Goose is loose. After four or five weeks of deliberation and a test ride, I went in Friday, May 18th, and made a deal for the black stone, at Moto International. However all the sheet metal was off of it for painting, so I got Dave to delay the paint job till next winter because I wanted to ride it the next day. At noon on Saturday, I arrived at the shop, the bike was back together and Rye was finishing it up, while I did the paperwork. I rode to Ballard and back, had them adjust the handlebars and I was all set on my second new bike. The first was a '71 Triumph Bonneville, I bought in Germany, but that's a story in itself.
I headed off south down Highway 99 on my new Guzzi, with the shifter on the left and an electric starter. (All my other bikes shift on the right and kick start). I'm cruising about 50 mph on the Aurora bridge, when the little chrome eagle on the handle bar clamp started flapping his wings. Woa, I did a double take, it was fluttering in the wind and just as I was about to reach for it, it flew over my shoulder. Now there must be a message there, the eagle is free or the goose is loose, it'll come to me some day.
Anyway - I did my break in miles on trips to Mount Rainier and Chuckanut Drive, and some weekend trips up and down Highway 9. The bike is great on the freeway, and enough ground clearance for the twisty stuff. But YOU all know that. What I didn't know was how fast is this bike? In stock condition, save some exhaust modifications, the place for that is the drag strip. I had to wait for the next test and tune at the strip. That was August 2nd, which finally came around.
I told the track workers ("Green Shirts" they're called), I was new and didn't have a clue what was going on or what this bike would do. That became evident with my first pass. I wound it up to the rpm range, and dumped the clutch when I saw green. Yes I left late ( if you see the green light it's too late to cut a good light), but it was dramatic. The front end shot straight up, I must have carried the front wheel four feet off the ground, and lurched left-right at the Christmas tree lights! I got it under control and finished the run at 15.83 and 93 mph. Now I was wide awake! The next launch was only about two feet off the ground but straight. The third was good, I spun the tire about three times and took off, that run was 13.78 at 97.7 mph. The fourth time was a thrill. This time I smoked the tire about 20 feet or so and headed for the right side wall. That time the "Goose really was Loose" and I was thinking to myself, "Self, you might want to try another approach to the starting line."
When I got back to pre-stage, the Green Shirt told me to try slipping the clutch and then hit the gas. Sounded good to me, attacking the line with violence really hadn't worked as planned. You see the launch pad has a thick coat of burnt rubber from previous racers, and they spray some chemical to make it really sticky, sticky enough that your boots feel "tacky" on it. That's what was sending the Guzzi into lift off like the space shuttle, or if the tire spins it gets real greasy.
I made 11 runs on Friday night, the best E.T. was 13.68 and the fastest was 97.7 mph.
Saturday night was a points meet, which I entered inadvertently. I was just going to make test runs until they started racing, but they told me to get dialed in. The majority of my runs that night and the night before were in the 13.8's, so that's what I dialed. Believe it or don't, I won my fast drag race! I lined up against a Harley with a 103 inch stroker motor, who had been kicking my behind that night and the night before. He dialed in at 12.05 seconds, so I had a 1.75 second head start. I knew that would work to my advantage. I'd be almost 60 feet out before he could leave and then he'd have to catch me. I hit all my shifts and was flying - but also waiting to see him come blasting past me - as before. But he didn't and I got the win light - then he came roaring pass. Back in the staging lanes he said he missed a shift. There ya go, anything can happen in drag racing.
Now I'm lined up against the track points leader. He's got a Harley drag bike built to the hilt, but he's a good guy, so I chat it up a bit. With the spiel of my first race and a new bike, hoping to get him to loosen up a bit. He was dialed in at 11.60, which I didn't know about, but I did know I'd get a head start with my slower bike. Now if I could only cut a good light and get some more luck! But he got me by .09 of a second on the light. I ran a 13.842 to his 11.465, he was surprised that I ran so close to my dial in. (Just luck, but I didn't tell him!)
I made eleven runs on Friday night and nine runs on Saturday. Of those twenty runs, eight were what I'd call acceptable, for me a first time racer. I never got faster than that 97.70 mph, but did run a 13.68 E.T. at 96.80 mph.
The sad part of this story is I'm hooked on drag racing. I went back the next Friday night on the 9th, but it was very hot and I was tired. Couldn't match the week before. One bright spot though, the week before I cut a .504 light on a timing run. That gave me a "bye" on the second round, and the round I lost was the simi-finals. That got my name in the National Dragster, but they've got me on the wrong bike.
Now I've installed a Power Commander, hopefully my E.T.'s will drop, and the weather will be cooler this weekend. I'm entertaining thoughts of a few performance parts, but that's for this winter as there are only five more race dates for the drag strip this season.
Part II. The Final FLIGHT
I call it the final flight, because I want to retire the Guzzi from racing. You see, it's supposed to be my retirement bike.
I'll start with Tuesday, August 20th, at the shop and tune the Power Commander to some straight through mufflers, I've had hanging in the garage.
Wednesday I rode the Stone to the track for a test and tune session. The air was real heavy, although the computer will compensate for engine temperature and air temp. Humidity robs power from everyone. But I think I picked up two tenths of a second from stock.
On the ride back from the track I started thinking. Those two tenths cost me $500, and I'm along way from the low thirteens/high twelves, that I had envisioned. It looked like I needed high compression pistons, a lumpy cam, dual plug heads and shed some weight, a lot of weight. And on top of that I'm still tied to a computer and a two-gas analyzers to tune it. And I'm not willing to open a motor which has only 3800 miles on it. So I decided I'll race a Triumph next year and let the Guzzi Stone rest, she did fine.
Racing was effectively over for me, so I took a Triumph to a test and tune. What a joke. It was going to be a long winter to get that bike to run.
However, I got an invite to the King Of The Track race on Sunday September, 1st. First I had hoped to run the Triumph, but no way. Saturday night I pulled the mirrors off the "Loose Goose" and loaded it in the truck. Sunday morning I was at the track by 8:45 A.M. Time trials start at 9:00 A.M.
There were seven of the usual characters on their thundering Harleys and screaming "rice grinders". But there was one new face, with a skull and bones on his jacket. They called him "Mad Max". I figured if I ran against him, I'm dead meat. Wait, what am I thinking, I can't beat any of these guys, unless they red light or blow up at the line.
During time trials I'm paired off with the old guy (older than me at least) who always tries to play head games. On our first run I red light. No consequence, because you're just trying to get a feel of where the bike will run on that given day. I ran my usual 13.80. Good! I'm where I want to be. I pulled the bike over to the truck and checked the plugs. And then on to the staging lanes. Old grandma was there before I could get off the bike.
"Your reaction time was a disaster." he said.
"No, it was great." I said.
"No - No," he says, "You red lighted."
I said, "A .496 is excellent!"
He went into a frenzy, "You red lighted - it was a red light!
"So what", I said, "I was less than a blink of an eye off a perfect .500 light! Boy, his eyes got big as saucers and his jaw dropped. He spun on his heel, and left me alone the rest of the day. Sort of.
The next two runs, I had two great launches and hit the best 60 foot times ever. A 1.970 and a 1.954 which led to my best E.T.'s ever: 13.508 and a 13.504. That left me in a dilemma, what to dial in at? If you run faster than your dial (the time you guess you'll run), you break out and loose even if you beat your opponent.
I paced back and forth a bit and decided I'd dial a 13.50 and leave it at that. I went up to the tower and a couple of guys were there. The fuss budget was there and made it a point to introduce me to Mad Max. I shook his hand and made nice and they left. I got dialed in and went back to the staging lanes and found out what that was all about.
My first race was against Mad Max and they knew it when we were up in the tower - OH GREAT !! I'm here to race, I'll hit the best light I can, watch the tachometer, make all my shifts, and let the Guzzi fly! Boy did I ever! I launched like never before and as I passed the Christmas tree, I glimpsed the green light. The Stone was pulling like a freight train and I focused in on the tachometer. Hit second about 7500 rpm and third gear about 6500 or so, we hit fourth and still haul'n the mail. I decided to run out in fourth, (because some times fifth doesn't pull like it should) and ducked down out of the wind. I see the finish line coming up and hear the buzz bomb near, I look out of the corner of my eye and see his front wheel well back, and as I cross the line, see the win lights! I hold the throttle wide open and run all the way out to the end of the track, where the dragsters go. I'd never been down there - thought I'd soak in some scenery! Boy - was I pumped when I got my time slip! I rolled the throttle up and popped a wheelie, which was stupid. I got back to check my plugs and my hands were shaking. (Man, I've got to calm down before I get back to the staging lanes.) I checked my time slip - 13.504 and I matched my best time. I'd better change my dial in!
On the way to the tower one of the riders said something that didn't make sense, "You got a do over."
Up in the tower they explained I'd have to run again because the computer had "Mad Max" on a full tree instead of a pro tree, which is why he red lighted, and they decided it wasn't fair to him. They stole my win from me! That felt like a punch in the gut!
On the way out, one of the Green Shirts told me to get ready, that they would run us after the pro stocks who were lining up now. On the way over to the truck, the three Suzuki riders, one at a time, took it upon themselves to make sure I knew I had to run again - against MAD MAX! Under my breath, I told them what I thought of their family trees.
Alright, fine! I'll have to try another tact. I'd noticed old Max liked to wind that little blender up real tight, so every one would notice it sizzled. When I pulled up next to him in staging, I got off the Guzzi Stone and rolled the throttle up to 5000 rpm (right about there those straight through mufflers just roar and they resonate. Then, when you back it off, it'll make your ribs rattle! J Kinda like I was just checking the tune up.
I pulled in real close to him, so when I pulled my helmet off we were face to face. Hello no-neck Mad Max (with the skull and bones on his back and lightning bolts painted on his sleeves)! He started right in-whining about how "they'd done him wrong".
I said, "Yup-yup, I wondered what happened to ya-ya, should'a kicked my behind with that fine piece of machinery yer a sitt'n on!"
I'm sure the crew standing behind us were all nodding their heads in agreement. Then he starts off on how he got that bike, a year old, no miles and didn't have to pay any taxes at all. While he was explaining that one to me, it dawned on me. Here was old Mad Max, with his head stuck on his shoulders, stuttering and stammering. Now I know Mel Tillis can snap out of it when ever he wants and starts singing. But I'm staring old Mad Max right in the eye, like a poker player down to his last dollar, and he's either real nervous or he's living next door to Alzheimer's. Here I sit handling my last two or three good brain cells with kid gloves and running a full tree and Mud Max over there is running a pro tree (four tenths of a second is perfect) just because he sits on the fastest disposable bike made.
Right then Mr. Busy Body comes up and starts in, I turn away, but he's after Mad Max. Explaining how it's the riders responsibility, when he stages, to make sure the information posted is correct and to stop the staging if not. It's the N.H.R.A. rules! He lost the race on a red light! I pull away to stage, I see some light at the end of the tunnel and remind myself to thank mother hen later, guess he's a straight shooter after all.
When Lumpy starts winding up his wing-ding, I let the crowd here the roar of the wild Goose - even if they're not in my corner. Once again, she jerks me off the line, like a Clydesdale - I glimpse the green ,and almost forget to zoom in on the tachometer. Shift at 7800 rpm, almost too late, but hit the rest of them perfect. At the line I here the buzz bomb but don't see him. I did happen a casual glance at my win light. I didn't let up till the speedo topped 120 mph! I took the scenic tour again.
We lost the next round on a red light - I left a day early at the tree cause I was so pumped up. She did everything asked of her and more - now she'll live the good life. Get her stock pipes back on, those comfortable "old" square leather bags and her shiny new mirrors (like a couple of ear rings) and have Mesha de-tune the computer some what.
I'll bet if I sneak out by the garage late at night, I'll hear her telling those old oil drippers out there, how she stomped the snot out of a rice grinder twice, when she was invited to the KING OF THE TRACK!
I may take a Limey to the track, but I'll always wear my Guzzi cap.
It's now March, the Guzzi Stone has a helmet trunk and a new windshield and just turned over 5400 miles.