Saturday, April 25, 2009


I had forgotten how much fun you can have with a wrench.

My father is a practical gift giver. As a kid I had received countless pocketknives for Christmases and birthdays. Fishing rods, sleeping bags, and all things outdoors would appear wrapped in the Sunday comics. At 13 I became the proud owner of a Ruger 10/22, skipping the BB gun and proceeding directly to rapid-fire plinking.

But the best present, the one that has traveled with me to every dorm room, attic apartment, and summer rental, was the Craftsman 250 piece mechanics tool set dad gave to me for my high school graduation.

As a kid, the mysteries of the internal combustion engine escaped me—as did my father's sense of irony.

During the years of working for my dad’s tree service, I had managed to avoid the wrench. When pressed I could change the plugs and distributor cap in the old Ford, or swap out a starter or the occasional water pump. On rainy days I learned how to tune chain saws and change the blades on the M&M. But generally, I avoided vehicle maintenance—too many parts, not enough patience. For most of their life, the tools had gotten away with the assembling of flat-pack furniture and light bicycle maintenance.

But people change. Our lives get busier, and we look for things that force us to slow down.

I bought an old bike because I wanted to do my own maintenance—to get dirty, to tinker. The airhead, with its heads and carburetors exposed, seems to be the perfect match.


Sojourner rides said...

I wish I knew how to "wrench" my bike. But I think my bike is designed to appear confusing enough to discourage anyone outside of a specialist from working on it--IMHO. But I do tinker with the innards of computers, which is fun and fixes often turns out successfully.

If you read and appreciated_Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance_, you might also like what some have called the Zen of the 21 century on motorcycling and wrenching and philosophy, _Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work_, by Matthew B. Crawford.

Jonathan said...


I picked up Shop Class the other month. A nice reflection on what it means to work.

Thanks for dropping by.