Monthly Archives: June 2016

Motobecane 7 Reinforces Life Lessons

No pension or benefit talk this edition, just a lesson or maxim that benefit professionals and their bosses might take to heart!

About 30 years ago, T. J. LeBlanc Jr, DDS (second of his name) gave me a 1978 Motobecane 7.  One internet commentator Motobecane 7describes this moped as a Cadillac to sit on but Citroen to work on.

Of french extraction, no one has more respect for french engineering and design than I. Further, the Motobecane 7 is also a tribute to France’s policies to  engineer full employment.  Example, cleaning a carburetor can take several hours.

Gurnter Carb, USA model 1977-1978

What does it matter that mounting and adjustment hardware are almost always behind something that has to be removed first. And just one example: the brake light is run by a rube goldbergesque button held in by a plate on the brake handle and when the handle moves the button pops out into a rubber bulb in which three electrodes hopefully connect with a copper tube found on the lower end of the button..

The day my Dad (Lord rest his soul) gave me this bike, he started it, seemed to run fine. Okay Dad, I’ll load it up.   But wait, he must tune it up better. Still okay.  Thanks Dad, I’ll be off.  Then he said, let me give you fresh tank of fuel. This is a two-cycle bad air day moped, you mix oil and gas.  Woe to him who does not follow the correct ratio.  The bike specs are 32:1 gas to oil.  My Dad, made it 12:1.  Thus started twice a year trips to a now defunct but eccentric repair shop in a Fairfax, VA  industrial park.

And so for years, I’d pay $250, the bike would run for 6 months, then die.  For the past 6 years or so, the mighty Moto 7 has sat in my garage with a carburetor problem.  No service shop will touch it –  “parts too old” – (what a thing to say to an aging boomer).

Last August, ERISANation retired from the day-to-day strain of saving the multiemployer benefits system.  After an inspiring talk from my daughter-in-law’s Dad (he fixes everything), I decided to fix the bike.

In several days of internet trolling, I discovered an entire subculture of vintage moped enthusiasts who freely share time and knowledge.   I engaged in extensive correspondence with two or three folks, bought some parts, which it turns out I did not need.  Finally, with trepidation, I removed the carburetor, cleaned it thoroughly, ground the float valve seat with metal polish and a q-tip in a drill (YouTube video).  I put everything back together, and called it a night.

The next morning I put in fresh, correctly-ratioed fuel and tried to start it.  Gas gushed from a small hole in the carb housing.  Having no other idea, I spray air into this leaking/weep hole.  Gas and air spray from another hole which had been obscured by gasket sealant (why use a little, when a lot is stuck to your hands) and was very small.  Cleared that hole.  Bike runs and no gas leak!.  I tighten the front fork. Try and fail to fix the headlight.

HERE I SHOULD HAVE QUIT, but like my Dad just running for the first time in 6 years wasn’t good enough.  The idle speed needed adjusting, BUT, I hadn’t studied up on how to do it.  Ended up disconnecting the throttle  cable, and could not reconnect it. So, again it is not running.   I now have conferred with the moped intelligentsia and will get to it, probably 30 days from now ( and maybe fix the brake light switch too).

What compels us(me anyway) to ignore hallowed maxims and stoke frustrations.  “Perfect is the enemy of  good.”  And to me “better is the enemy of good.”  There’s a balance here, capsulized in “quit while you’re ahead.”

Note that for many years, the Moto 7 gathered dust because of my ignorance and fear of failure.  In most endeavors, failure or disappointing results are inevitable.   I observe plans that stick with the status quo because no solution will be perfect ( or please the whole board).  But try something .  It might be a start, or good enough for a start, something which we can make better.


So Little Help for Families Who Care, at least a little

Lately, I have been asked to assist an elderly relative and another disabled relative to address issues of assets levels and Medical Assistance, aka, Medicaid.  I am told read this state’s regulations, they are “the rules of the game.”  If only the game analogy provided a referee who could make a definitive call or a replay booth.  It would be nice if a recipient could get a do-over, like in football – replay first down.

The choices these weakest members of society face are tantamount to life and death, or at least life, and crappier life.  Make a mistake on the resource test – out the door of the  long term care facility you go, or you have no medical care, you’re done, cause you got a few grand in a windfall.

Oh sure, there are “strategies” but so few styled as safe harbors.  When the stakes are so, these folks are often paralyzed, justifiably afraid of a misstep…