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by Genghis

Photo by Genghis

On Easter morning I took my 1971 Harley-Davidson motorcycle "Mabel" out for a ride in the brisk 30-ish degree air, with the intention of taking photographs of her. It's been a while since I've photographed my beloved Shovelhead Stroker. I normally don't blend the two passions of my life, riding the bike and photography---I usually partake of these activites separately so as to reap the maximum enjoyment of each. This day though, I would combine them like a ham and egg conglomerate sandwich. I love the ham, and I love the egg---today, they would be together.

I got to her outdoor parking lot in the Lower Beast Side of New York City, unlocked her locks and uncovered her beauteous self. On my last ride, I found the idle slightly too low for my taste. I raised it a touch. I'll say this about her idle, though: it is so much smoother and more stable, now that Andrew Rosa switched her points ignition to the Nempco (Vulcan Engineering Company) electronic ignition. There used to be some fluctuation in idle speeds with the points. No more, baby! The spark seems hotter at all speeds. Andrew swears by this particular unit, and says that it's far superior to other brands. This is the only electronic ignition that Rosa recommends, and his citations of the numerous on-road failures of other brands are quite a convincing endorsement of the Nempco. As you know from my previous writing, Andrew has been at me for years to switch to this ignition. I'm so glad that he convinced me.

I turned on Mabel's gas and ignition, activate the enrichener on her S & S Super B carb and hit her electric start toggle switch.... "Rar...rar...rar....Vroooooommmm.....rumpa...rumpa..rumpa..." You might remember that Andrew Rosa installed the electric starter on Mabel in the late 1980s when he was the head wrench at New York Harley in Queens. Mabel was a kick-start only bike when she was hatched by The Firm. This was one of the best improvements that Mabel has had over the years, no question about it. It was also at New York Harley where Andrew installed Mabel's Softail glide front end from parts I acculmulated over a two year period (I was bascially broke back then), but with four inch under tubes from Forking By Frank. This fork has served me well over the years. I love it. The short length gives me incredible handling, just like God and The Firm intended, when 1960s era Big Twin forks were this length. I warmed up her 86 inch stroker motor with a fast idle, as I'm accustomed to doing....."RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrroooooooooooaarrrrr....." Click into first gear. Clutch out with the left hand, turn her throttle with the right.....head out into the cold spring morning. Rode 'er up the FDR Drive (used to be known as the East Side Drive)... my hands getting cold, even through my thick gloves. The FDR Drive splits off at one point, going to the Triboro Bridge on the left, and continuing as it become the Harlem River Drive on the right. In the light morning traffic, Mabel and I are reaching speeds of 70 where the highway is straight and unkinked. I get to 125th Street in Harlem where the highway divides.

I reach the end of the highway and turn around, heading downtown again. I get off in Washington Heights to ride by the hospital that I used to work at, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center on 165th Street Fort Washington Avenue. The place looks the same. I worked there for 18 years, and left there 18 years ago. I head to the West Side Highway and loop down to around the downtown tip of Manhattan again, heading for the docks where I thought I might find a suitable site to photograph Mabel. I scoped put the riverside areas near the Wall Street area, and near the South Street Seaport---but the lighting was poor there. I rode up South Street, and curiously---found the best lit site for photographing Mabel just three blocks from my apartment. This is an open area where South Street has an entrance to the aforementioned FDR Drive highway.

At the site, it's still relavtively early at 9:30 AM, and the light is good but directional from one side, so I have to maneuver Mabel into various positions as I shoot different angles, to avoid glare from the shiny parts and a shadow from me. I was using a 20mm lens, which dictated that I would be fairly close to Mabel--close enough at five to eleven feet, to cause a photographer shadow. This photo is one of eleven that I took, and I enititle it "Dock Fight." The whole feel of the site reminded me of the 1954 flick, "On The Waterfront" witrh Marlon Brando, Karl Malden and Lee J. Cobb. The fact that this photo is in black and white doesn't hurt the association. Man, wotta classic that movie is, and wotta righteous classic Mabel is! Later.