Happy Father’s Day

If it wasn’t for my awesome dad I probably wouldn’t have found motorcycles so early in my life.  He taught me all the knowledge he had about motorcycles when I was younger and got me started on this crazy addiction.  As previous readers have seen he even rides a sport bike now!!  My dad is awesome in every way and has always been supportive of me and pulled me out of every breakdown and mistake I have made on my motorcycles and cars.  If it wasn’t for him I might have ended up giving up on a lot of my crazier motorcycle schemes.  To celebrate here is a pic of my dad, my brother and I out for a weekend ride some years ago.  That is his Honda Valkyrie that he sometimes rides, he likes the sport bike (Ninja) better now.

Happy Fathers Day Dad! Has your dad influenced your riding life?  If not who has?

California to Montana: Day 5 – Riding the slop

I awoke the following morning at my standard time of 6AM, and was getting pretty good at leaving myself completely packed before I went to sleep, save for the phone and ipod chargers, one for my alarm, the other to keep the tunes going for the minimum requisite of 12 hours a day in the saddle.

It had been raining all night, and the air had quite a chill to it, so I made sure to dress warm, loaded up the bike, filled the tank and slowly headed out of town.

The air was in the low 30′s range, my chin already quite cold as I headed up US 287 towards Yosemite. I checked the elevation, it was over 9,000 feet, and the road kept climbing uphill.

My surroundings began to have a white dusting to them, which got thicker as I went.

Now, this wasn’t by any means a heavy winter snowing, and I was glad at least the road was clear.

I began to see the signs warning of the road construction I’d heard about, and sure enough, the pavement soon ended, with a sign informing the next 10 miles had road work on them.

The tarmac became a glistening layer of wet mud, and I was none too happy. I had been following a Forrester in front of me, keeping my wheels in its tracks, but the car soon pulled away, as I kept my speed between 20 and 25, feeling the front wheel wobble around.

Feeling even more wobble out of the front wheel, I very gently eased the throttle back to about 15mph in second gear to keep the RPM’s down to lessen any chance of wheelspin.

Though I tried to be careful, even fully upright, as I drifted my line a bit to avoid a huge mound of mud, my bars went full lock in one direction, then the other, and I was already aware of what was in store for me.
The bike slid sideways for about 5 feet before fully washing out under me, and I cursed myself for letting the bike get away from me, as I slid for 10 feet in the mud, hoping the slide wouldn’t eat away at the mesh jacket.

The bike, having far more weight and momentum, continued sliding for another 30 feet, doing a full 360 spin on its side, before coming to a stop, rear wheel still spinning.

Fucking fuck. FUCK!!!  Of all places to dump the bike, 1000 miles from home. Perfect. I got up and felt no rash on the side of my jacket, and went over to turn the bike off. I looked down, hoping the clipon had held, but unfortunately, no luck.
I saw the bar dangling from the cable attached to the hand controls. Goddamn brittle aluminum. What the fuck was I going to do now? I tried to pick up the bike but my hands were just slipping off of everything since it was completely caked in mud, and I wasn’t about to go for the stock exhausts since those things hold tons of heat for hours. Luckily, an older gentleman came along in a sedan coming the opposite way, as well as part of the road construction crew in his 4WD duelly, who helped me get the bike up.
I thanked them both and I asked the road crew guy if there was someone in Dubois who could possibly Tig weld, since the bar and clutch lever were busted off, the peg off my rearsets had come off, and the exhaust bracket was bent. He told me my lack of options, saying no one in Jackson that he knew of, MAYBE back in Dubois, and he knew for sure there was a tow truck back in Dubois that could come and get me. He offered to give me a lift to a stop up ahead where there was somewhere I could call for the tow. I unloaded the bike, put my bags, still caked in mud in the bed of his truck, and took off my rain coat to lay over his seat so I wouldn’t ruin it since I was also covered in mud.

“Man, we weren’t expecting this weather, we didn’t have time to lay down anything on the road, and we’re not running a pilot car today.” he told me, as he drove ahead, his truck sporadically losing traction on the road.

He dropped me off at a lodge that wasn’t a MILE ahead, where the asphalt had begun. I was even MORE pissed off that I’d just about made it back to tarmac before dumping the bike. What shit. What an idiot. Goddamn luck.

He dropped me off, and I called a tow, waited 45 minutes for him to arrive, already loaded with an Explorer in the flatbed. He told me he was heading to Jackson, and he recommended a guy in Dubois who did custom cycles and had a trailer. He called him up, gave him my whereabouts, mentioned the road was “a fucking disaster,” and headed off.

Waiting outside, a guy came out to load his Goldwing, noticed I was in leathers and caked in mud, and asked me if I’d gone down. I said yes, and he informed me he’d gone down the night before in the same stuff, and had to stop at the lodge for the night. His ‘wing had crash bars and all, so he’d only broken off his brake lever, and was using his linked ABS with the rear pedal to stop himself. His wife came out, obviously sore from the crash, and we both helped her up into the passenger seat of the ‘wing. I let him know I had zip ties and electrical tape if he wanted to see if we could fix his lever, and in about 10 minutes he had a huge bukly bundle of zip ties and tape holding his lever back on. He was grateful, and said this would surely get him to Jackson, or somewhere he could get the lever replaced properly. I wished them well and they motored on.

An hour and a half later, the guy with the trailer showed up. Tall, medium build, bushy mustache, and a dog in his truck. Said his name was Don, but everyone called him Ding. I thought he must have just come off the set of No Country for Old Men.

He drove me back to the bike, where we loaded it into his trailer, and headed back to Dubois. As we trundled back towards town, I couldn’t help but notice that the road was pretty much dry, with some damp spots. Ding said “yea, if you’d gone maybe an hour later, the road wouldn’t have been as bad as before.” Fuck me.

Turns out he’s also local EMT/SAR for the town, and there was a call about a woman rider with a possible broken ankle at the next gas station about 5 miles up the road over his CB radio. He heard first responder was there already, and he mentioned that was his uncle. We got to the station, where the woman was lying on a picnic bench with lots of people around her, sounding in good spirits, joking about the whole situation. I noticed three people caked in the same mud I was covered in, and 2 bikes also covered in mud.
Turns out they’d gone down too in the same shit road, only their cruisers had front and rear crash bars, so they were only sporting broken turn signals. At least misfortune had company.

The woman was treated, and got on the tricycle one of her friends had, and headed off towards the nearest hospital – 70 miles away, to get her ankle looked at.

While waiting for the girl to be treated, I’d been talking to Crud and Fuzz on the phone, who were already trying to figure out how to get me mobile again. Crud was looking up aprilia dealers “nearby” for me, and they both let me know they’d do whatever it took to get me moving again. Awesome pair, those two. :)   Fuzz commented that I was in awfully good spirits for someone who just dumped their bike, but the truth was I’d already dumped it HOURS ago and had time to be pissed off and frustrated, and really had nothing else to do but suck it up and deal with it.

We eventually got back to Ding’s shop, where “we” (I say we because really I did like 80 percent of the work taking my bike apart since I was much more familiar on how to do so) took the upper triple off, got the bar off, and I took to getting my rearset peg back on, which had just been popped off and not broken, but the aluminum was stressed a little bit.

Ding admittedly told me he wasn’t very skilled with Tig welding, and I told him as long as it all holds, that’s the important part. He took a few tries, and finally managed to get the bar to hold together, and that was put on, along with the upper triple. He then took a spare clutch lever off a harley, and using a band saw, drill press, and a dremel, tried to work it out to the same cuts and dimensions as what was left of my brembo lever. It must have taken him a good 45 minutes to an hour to work it basically into the same shape, as best he could.

He fit the worked lever onto my master, said it looked pretty good, and with the first pull, snapped the whole thing in half. He looked as let down as I was.

Ding got out a sportbike catalog to see if he could find a suitable lever, but I knew those Parts Unlimited catalogues wouldn’t have anything to fit the billet radial master I had on my bar. Fed up with the whole ordeal, I told Ding we’d deal with it Monday, and I’d call Yoyodyne to see how quick they could get a lever out, and went back to the same motel I’d just checked out of that morning.

After getting back into a room, I took my cloth that I’d been using to clean my faceshield and cleaned the mud off my riding pants as best I could, as well as my boots. I’d deal with the jackets and bags which were still covered in dry mud tomorrow.

I finally decided to call home, as I knew my mom would probably overreact, even though the first thing I said was I wasn’t hurt, she asked if I was hurt. Moms. :)

I gave her some info as to where, if maybe I hadn’t sold it, she might be able to find my OEM clutch master and lever. She called back an hour later saying she’d found it. Bingo. I asked her to please overnight it so I could get the hell out of dodge.

California to Montana Day 4: Heading Further North

I awoke the next morning, having already heard the spatter of rain on the motel roof, and on the asphalt outside, glad my bike was parked directly outside my door under the eaves, since I’d run the battery tender cable out through a window to recharge the battery just in case. I got dressed, prepared for rain, went outside to pack the bike, and noticed the 2 harleys had been put away in their precious little trailer. What wankers.
Left the motel, went to get gas at the corner, and headed north along US-34 towards Rocky Mountain National Park, under a light rain. Rode along the edge of a lake, until I reached the park entrance, where I was waved through, and noticed multiple speed limit warnings in a row, followed by one telling you speeding kills wildlife. I figured I’d comply since the ground looked like this, and I’d just cruise at the mellow 45mph limit to take in the sights.

At first, I didn’t really fathom what the big deal was about this National Park, as the woods were scenic enough, and the granite mountains off in the distance were nice, but didn’t have that “zing” to it that makes you stop and be in awe. Wonderful scenery to be sure, but not “wow”

I motored through the park, climbing back up to 10,000 feet, realizing my rain gloves, though waterproof, didn’t insulate at ALL, and I was getting sick of having my fingertips be numb from the cold temperatures.

The road slowly began to wind a bit more, and finally came around a hill where I could see a valley, with a small river flowing through it. The wow factor was finally presenting itself. I stopped to take a picture, thinking it all looked so “Sound of Music” below.

I continued to climb further up, until I came to a bend in the road that presented a huge ridge of mountains in the park. Yeah, that was the wow factor I was looking for. It was pretty cool :)

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The road began it’s tighter, curvier descent down the mountain, and the sun had already broken through the sky, presenting dry asphalt on the northeast side of the mountain, showing the valley below. You could already see the little town of Estes Park below.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

I rode down the rest of the way, and stopped at a sporting goods store to see if they had any insulating gloves that were water “resistant” at least, or some thermasilk liners. They only had basic winter gloves, the kind you only wear in the snow for 10 minutes before your hands are soaked, but like I said, I was tired of my fingers being cold.

I went across the street to have a quick breakfast, where this uptight old hag just stared me down from the table next to me while I sat quietly eating my food and punching in a new route into the Zumo. I had originally planned to make a complete loop around Rocky Mountain NP, but realizing I’d have to do the traffic filled switchbacks just off I-70, and go through a bunch of areas I didn’t want to go through again, I decided on a route heading out towards I-25 and the doubling back west to go into Wyoming. I finished my breakfast, and gave the woman at the other table a “WTF you lookin’ at” gesture, and she hid her face in her bowl of oatmeal.

I finally decided on heading out towards Fort Collins, and then doubling back across CO SR-14 (which was AWESOME – 90 miles of 2 lane road following a river) to Walden, which was my portal out of Colorado and up into Wyoming.

The section between Estes Park and Fort Collins was your typical suburbian commute, dull and boring, sadly with almost nothing to photograph. I crossed back West over SR-14, which follows a river for about 80 miles,although it had a good number of cars to get around, before you climb up to 9,000 feet, and then drop into a valley that leads into Walden.

As I dropped out of the mountain pass, the landscape began to flatten out, opening up into wide plains, which only meant one thing; pesky wind that began buffeting me lightly around in my lane.

At least the winds weren’t TOO strong and I was only being made to wander around in my half of the lane.

As I reached Walden, I wondered where Thoreau was, and if he could tell me what the big deal was about his pond.

I stopped for gas, checking the Zumo, and I could hear the tuba going “WAH WAH” as I was informed I had 304 miles to go, and it all looked like wide open, straight roads of Wyoming’s plains.

I looked up, and saw a pair of sportbikes across the street with saddlebags, and idled over to them, and said how nice it was to see something other than a Harley that was actually getting used for touring.

“Actually, we’re from Chicago… we trailered in, we’re about 50 miles down the road.” one guy told me. I had to shake my head. Chicago is far and all, but jeez. Doesn’t anyone ride their damn bike anywhere?

I wished them a good ride, recommended SR-14 to them, and told them there were spots where it was raining on the road, and to be careful.

I motored out of town heading north, and I wasn’t even 1/4 mile out of town when it began to rain. I pulled over to don my rain suit, and headed up towards Wyoming.
No sooner did I crest a hill about 2 miles later, when I was literally hit with a wall of wind. The clouds in front were thick and heavy, and the rain had been picking up, but that ridge must have been holding back all the wind from the clouds because it just slammed right into me. 70 felt like 120 with my helmet being pushed back, and I just stayed in a tuck as best I could, and dealt with the buffeting.
Of course the road would turn, and it would go from a headwind to a crosswind, and I’d be riding sideways just to track straight in the road. Priceless. I checked the Zumo, and it merrily gave me the finger, as it informed me there were 270 miles to go.

I finally reached the Wyoming border, cold, wet and shivering,  and pulled over for a picture so the wind was blowing AT my bike, so it would at least dig the stand into the ground, and not blow it over instead.

I motored on, heading up to Rawlings, and from there, Muddy Gap, Wyoming. By now I was about 100 miles into Wyoming, and I’d only gotten welcome with wind and rain. The section between Rawlings and Muddy Gap just cranked it up a notch, heavier winds, more rain, and I was crouched in a tuck trying to hide behind my windscreen, wearing 5 layers, with my Gerbings ON, and still shivering. I remembered Kenny saying there’s no such thing as waterproof, as I moved my arms and upper body around a little bit trying to feel for any water that had soaked through, though I seemed to be dry. I was reaching a low point, cold, shivering, neck sore from the wind, and trying to ride in a full tuck to get SOME cover from my windscreen. And nothing but straight roads, to boot.

Stopped for gas in Muddy Gap, where 2 riders, one on a GS, the other on a Harley informed me it was only raining a little bit on the way to Yellowstone, and I told them about the conditions to expect heading down to Rawlings.

Thankfully they were right, and the skies began to open up, and the wind subsided by about 80% giving me a welcome respite from being knocked around. I looked to my left and saw the system I had just ridden through, and was glad to be out of it. In front of me, the sun illuminated clouds ahead, but at least there WAS some sun, and I was heading towards it.

I love how you can see the speedo readout on the Zumo in this picture :)

I love how you can see the speedo readout on the Zumo in this picture :)

Seemingly hours later (maybe just 100 miles) I began to see the finish line, as the trip meter counted under 200 miles to go, and I was riding through patches of sunshine.

No sooner did I stop for gas, and headed on my way again, when the road slowly curved north, and I blinked a couple of times, thinking the road couldn’t be taking me where it looked like it was headed.

I groaned as I checked the Zumo and saw it was indeed taking me right to that system in front of me. I gritted my teeth and decided there was no other way through.

At the very least, I took time to be amazed at how quick, and how dark the clouds blanketed the land in front of me. Those clouds couldn’t be more than 5-600 feet above my head. I was amazed, there’s no weather like this in CA.

As I began to ride under the clouds, rain started to spatter on my helmet again, faster and faster, until I was getting a strong, heavy rain on me again. I began to see lightning off to my right, where the clouds were the thickest, and the frequency of the lightning increased until I was able to see the bolts of lightning themselves hitting the ground, first on one side, then on the other. I actually laughed at the stupidity of the situation.

Thankfully, the road and weather took pity on me, curving to the West, away from the storm. The lightning quickly subsided first, then the rain, until finally I was out from under the dark clouds, and even saw a faint rainbow trying to show itself from under the storm I had gotten out of.

The rest of the road continued along for the last 100 miles, with a rabbit presenting itself in the form of a big Mercury sedan going 90, allowing me to chase it at 85, and cover those last miles quicker, without the fear of a trooper lighting me up.

As I finally rolled the last 15 miles into Dubois, Wyoming (I’d been wondering how the F you pronounced it, was it Doo-Bwah, like in French? Dew-boys? Who settled this place that gave the town its name?)
I began to follow the Great Wind River, which had cut away some familiar formations, reminiscent of Utah.

Finally got into town, checked into a motel, had dinner, and ran across some Goldwing riders that told me it had been snowing further up the road to Yellowstone, and the road construction ahead had made the trip quite sketchy.

I took heed, went back to my motel, finally warmed up with a hot shower, and went to bed.