Monday, August 27, 2007

You know, I have not once written about last year's birthday present, even though it's kind of a big deal.

I learned to ride and subsequently bought a motorcycle. If you can get in on the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Basic Rider Course in your area, I highly recommend it. I believe it was $25 here (partially state subsidized), and consisted of two (or three?) evenings of classroom instruction, followed by a weekend of riding on motorcycles they provide. As fuel prices continue to increase, it's worth looking into, and it's just plain fun. Plus, assuming you pass, you get a certificate and just go in and pick up your motorcycle endorsement; no state riding test required. And, some insurance companies will reduce your rate for having taken it.

I'm not much built for the sport bike, so I got a baby cruiser, a Kawasaki Vulcan 900. It was pretty much the sweet spot for my first bike, in my estimation. Enough power that it'd be fun to ride even after I gained confidence, but not so much that it would be hard to handle while learning. I've put 4500 miles on it in my first year, and it's a lot of fun and economical; 50 MPG (unless I'm riding with my speed demon brother).

So, for my impending 0x24th birthday, how could I possibly top that, you might ask?

Well, I couldn't really; not while avoiding bankruptcy. But, my fascination with guitars, always present, has been growing exponentially with the release of the Guitar Hero games. I'm pretty darned good at it. I'm not quite up to the level of those guys on YouTube who can five-star Bark at the Moon on expert with their backs to the screen, but I can pass it pretty routinely; the same with Free Bird.

I've had access to an acoustic for a while, and I piddle around with it occasionally, but what I want is to rock \m/. And for that, you need a solid-body electric. Yes, yes, blah, blah, "you should learn on an acoustic first, it will reinforce good habits that will serve you well in the future." Whatever. I've had trouble finding people to play my drums with, so I figure I'll just record my own damn drum tracks and lay guitar licks over the top. So myeh. Of course, I have to learn to play said licks first.

In pursuit of that dream, I decided I wanted an electric for my birthday. Since I'm just learning, and there's a chance that I may lose interest, or whatever, I didn't want to drop a truckload of money on a guitar/amp, so I was looking at the budget models. The two biggest names in guitars, Fender and Gibson have their budget brands, Squier and Epiphone, respectively. So, I was looking at the Squier Stratocasters and the Epiphone SGs and Les Pauls. I had, without touching any of them, pretty well decided I was going to get a Squier Strat in the $200-250 range. They had decent reviews on the Guitar Center site, so I felt I'd probably be happy, at least while I was learning.

Well, this weekend, finding ourselves with a Sunday afternoon free, we decided to head up to our local Guitar Center to check 'em out. Not planning to buy yet, just trying to nail down the budget. I was dismayed to see that they didn't have many of the Squier Strats out and available to sample. I played a couple of the bottom-of-the range examples, the "Affinity" series, and even without much in the way of experience, I didn't really like the feel of them. I can't say why, but I just wasn't impressed. The Epiphone Les Paul was better, but not really my style. I did manage to play What Can I Get Ya: The Stargate Cafe Theme Song in the store several times, though, which is fun. Particularly while other people are busting out thick blues riffs and metal numbers.

So we left and went to Sam Ash, which was nearby. They had a beautiful blue Fender Strat, used, with a custom bottom pickup, for $299. I played it for a few minutes and fell in love. It sounds great (to me, at least), it felt good, it was close to what I was planning to spend on a lesser guitar, so I was pretty much sold. Since it was used, and it might not be there in two weeks for my actual birthday, we decided to snatch it right then and there. Also picked up a used cheapo amp with some built in effects (which is the one I tried out the guitar with), cable, and stand. I took it home and played for a couple of hours until it was time to go record the Volcanicast.

I can't wait to get home and play it some more. Hopefully I'll pick it up near the same rate I did with the drums, in which case I'll be almost useful in a few months.

Comment by KJToo
I find it terribly convenient that the photo you posted of your motorized bicycle is just small enough that the Vespa label is illegible. Of course, that could be the jealousy talking.
Comment by blob
That's odd. The embiggened image should have been much more embiggened. I have fixed it, and you can now make out the Vulcanespa moniker.
Comment by vibeguy


I didn't know u wuz a fellow biker-scum! U just rocketed to super-ultra cool in my book. Not that my book is worth anything.

Nice bike, btw!

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