Reading Texas Tea Leaves…

Metal and grit in the old oil made for interesting fortune-telling.

I am marking exams, correcting tests, and reading writing this week, and it is the type of work that requires regular diversions to ensure that one does not become overwhelmed by the sheer volumes of work. So I did the obvious: I changed the oil in my Ducati Monster 696 for the first time.

Oil is dirty. The bits of metal and grit were barely visible through the black sludge that poured from the drain plug. I will admit that I am not a grease monkey insofar as I prefer to have my hands clean at all times. However, the most basic form of motorcycle maintenance is an oil change, and after three years of owning the bike I had to learn how to do it sometime. I turned to the internet, which is always a good starting place to figure out how to do mechanical tasks, and I found a video that clearly showed the process. Over the years I have become better and better at the assembly tasks of machinery, so as long as I remain calm and slow things always work out. Oh, and I need to buy the right tools; not that wrench that sort of fits, but rather the exact wrench that a professional would choose. Buying proper tools becomes expensive, but I do believe that you can tell a lot about a man’s work from the tools he chooses to own.

Speaking of expensive…I went to a performance dealership that sold lots of weird car accessories to find the Royal Purple oil shown above. It ended up costing around $15 a quart, and I decided to keep it for my next oil change. What? Yup, I decided to store it for the next oil change because this particular oil change was really only to get the bike through until the dealer can do the 12,000 km maintenance at the end of the month. Spending $60 is fine if the oil is going to stay in the bike; spending $60 for oil that will be inevitably be tossed for the sake of warranty is not cool. Given how hot the bike was on the weekend, cheaper oil to get me through until the 24th was far better than either leaving it to kill the engine or spilling expensive oil for 3 weeks riding.

In the end, I decided to use the Castrol GTX 10w40 I bought at Canadian Tire yesterday before I even knew what engine oil was. Who knew that synthetic was better and standard? Who knew that those numbers reflect temperatures? Who knew that the Shell Advance Ultra 4 oil that Ducati demands for the bikes is not really even available in North America? I just bought what looked like the best standard oil, and it was even on sale for $18 for 5 litres. Bike aficionado will cringe, but given the tar-like quality of what came out of the crankcase any clean oil and a new filter would work until the dealer does this maintenance session.

I did have to fork over $89 for a decent torque wrench, $20 for a Ducati filter removal cup, $20 for a new OEM filter with crush ring, and $20 for a set of hex sockets, but that is par for the course when doing repairs. I will have the tools for the next time, and there will be a next time.

When I went to ask the concierge about assisting me with a UPS delivery, he told me a funny story about a workman who came into my studio yesterday to inspect the air system. The dialogue went something like this:

So what does this guy do?

I don’t know, man. He got a guitar and music stuff, so he must be a musician. Nahh, by the looks of those cameras he must be a photographer. But then he’s got all of these books, which means he reads and is educated or something. Hmmm, but then he rides a motorcycle and what kind of smart guy does that? I don’t know man…he must be a school principal? I don”t know man…what I do know is the bastard must be awful busy.

In the end, I had a great laugh over this, if only because it tells me a few things about how a complete stranger might see my life from a distance. It tells me that I am fun to figure out based on my belongings, that I must be busy compared to an average person, that I sound kind of cool, but that in the end the only way I could be all of that and live where I do is to work at boring job in a school. It also tells me that my life must at least seem interesting enough for two total strangers to discuss while working on their jobs. Either way, I smiled as I rode to work this morning.

 

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