Monday, June 4, 2007

Bringing home the new bike

The "short" ride home, an iron butt tale

As my motorcycling trips have evolved into longer and longer adventures so have my tastes in motorcycles. Several months ago I started getting the bug for another bike. Something that didn't have such a hunched over riding position and something that could go more that 160 miles before running out of gas.

The cure for this bug was a used 2005 BMW R1200GS that I found on e-bay. The price was right, the accessories were right and Tampa, FL seemed like a reason place to go get the bike. This is a tale of that adventure.

Thursday - 5/31
I got the email saying the seller had the title. Now the scuttle started. I had to find a Southwest Airlines flight into Tampa asap. Booking an early flight wasn´t an option so I had the choice of getting in late on Friday and getting a hotel or flying out early Saturday. I decided to go with the Friday evening option.

Friday - 6/1

The day was spent trying to pack everything I'd need for the ride back. WOW I sure carry a lot when I travel. I had pretty much everything you could imagine. Tools to do just about anything. Air compressor, tire repair kit, a new tank bag, my Zumo GPS. And of course I had to pack all of my riding gear.

OK, so I'm about to leave for the airport and I'm checking flight status and the weather. It seems that some time between Thursday and Friday a little tropical storm popped up named Barry. There was concern in the house as to the intelligence of going to Tampa at the very time that a tropical storm was heading straight towards Tampa. Of course after a little pondering, my enthusiasm for getting the new bike over rode any actual logic and I took off for the airport.

Despite the fact the web site had told me the flight was delayed by an hour we were boarded up and ready to go only 5 minutes after the scheduled departure time of 7:55pm.


We touched down 30 minutes ago but it seems our luggage didn't feel like getting off the plane. It finally comes out on the conveyor belt and I'm out the door hoping that I haven't missed the shuttle that I slyly called the moment we got off the plane since their response time was supposed to be 30 minutes.


Checked into the hotel room and getting to sleep, 6am will come too soon!

Saturday - 6/2
My internal alarm got me up a few minutes before my 6AM alarm which I had set. Unfortunately when I turned on the weather things weren't looking good. Tropical storm Barry had slowed down a little and was expected to make land fall just north of Tampa around 11AM. They were talking about 55mph winds inland from the storm. I was a little worried.

Met Kevin out front and went to breakfast. When I discovered he was in the Telecom business we had all sorts of things to talk about besides just motorcycles. After a tasty breakfast at IHOP we travelled to his house and he showed me the bike. It looked every bit as good as the pictures on ebay had shown. It was perfect! He gave me an incredible tour of everything he had added, along with the BMW personality features of the GS. Like the servo assisted brakes. It's a little unnerving the first time you hear a little pump motor kick in when you squeeze the brakes.

While Kevin fills out his end of the paperwork I go ahead and start outfitting the bike with my important traveling things like the Tank Bag and GPS. I asked about the extra accessory outlet which he had shown me connected to the battery. I asked if it turned off with the key which he said it did so I didn't worry much when my Garmin didn't register power initially. Tank bag mounted without a hitch. Tucking the wires behind the windscreen for the GPS and XM radio wasn't a problem either. With the sale of the bike compete I asked him to be my start witness for the ride and then I backed the bike out of the drive way and took off.

I'm stopping for my official start receipt for the Bun Burner 1500 (1500 miles in 36 hours) just a few miles down the street from Kevin's house. I figure this is a great way to get to know the bike and bag a long distance riding goal. It's raining a little but nothing terrible. When I took off I noticed I didn't have audio in my ear plugs which told me I didn't have a good power connection. So before filling up and starting the clock I messed with the power so I'd have tunes. I assumed something was wrong with the front accessory plug so I just moved my cable to the rear outlet underneath the seat.

Oh crap!!!! Smoke is coming up from behind the GPS. Aaagggggh! What do I do. Instead of pulling out the plug I reach for the Zumo to pull it from the cradle. The only problem was that I had the security screw locked down so I couldn't get it out. Finally I thought to pull the plug but it was too late. I get out my meter and start measuring things, wondering if these darn Germans haven't wired the electrical system backwards or something. Nope the outlet beneath the seat reads 12 volts with the proper polarity. However the outlet in front reads -12 volts which means the outlet was wired backwards. Hmmm that sucks. I figured I have to talk to Kevin about that later but I wanted to get on the road as the clouds looked to be moving in. Besides the actual GPS was working and I could listen to the 300+ mp3s I had on the SD Card. I just wouldn't have XM Radio or XM Traffic/Weather.

I take off and I'm headed north on I-75. No problems other than the rain. I knew my hands would get wet as I was riding in summer gloves but I thought my water proof shoes would keep my feet dry. They had on the GSX-R. Well I don't know if it's the upright seating position or the front fender (mostly lack there of) or what. But within 30 minutes of the trip I had water standing in my boots. I thought as soon as I get out of the rain (in an hour or two) I'd change into some dry socks at least.

I'm within a few miles of the Georgia state line in Jennings, Florida but I'm wet, I'm cold and I'm hungry. It's still raining so I drain my shoes, squeeze out my socks and dry my hands. One problem I had not planned on was my shirt getting wet underneath my Olympia all season jacket. Turns out you need gauntlet style gloves to keep the rain from coming in through your sleeves at the wrists. Sure wish I'd realized that before now!

Hmmm, traffic seems to coming to a dead stop. Oh boy it's looking bad as I can't see the problem up ahead. It's so much of a stop that I turn off the engine and put the side stand down. Nothing like sitting in the rain on a motorcycle and not going any where. At least I got a few complements about the bike so that made me feel good.

OK for the past hour it's been raining and I've continued to sit there waiting for traffic to move. Occasionally we'd move up a little but most of the time I just turned the bike off. Now we get up to the scene of the wreck and they've open the shoulder to let traffic by. At last, I'm going again!


The rain is still falling and I've only gone 88 miles since my last fill up. Thanks to the heated grips I'm not as cold as I was but I'm still wet. And the power connector was acting up on my GPS so my tunes kept turning on and off. I decided it was a good time to pull over and take a look so I stopped in Sycamore, Georgia where there was a Shell station with a big covered area. I reverse the leads going to the front accessory outlet, check it's polarity, take my plug a part and dry it out and then put everything together. That fixed the power issues for the rest of the trip. Now I just had to make it to Atlanta to get out of the rain. At least that's what a trucker had told me while we were stuck on I75 for an hour.


I rode out of the rain an hour ago and rode through Atlanta without much incident. I really used those heated grips to keep me warm while in the rain. I stop in Cartersville, Georgia to get some gas. After filling up I move the bike to a near by parking spot so I can change clothes, eat a power bar and fuel up on Monster. A lady pulls up in an old "beater" pickup truck which seems to keep running for a little while after she gets out of it. She apologizes to me for her truck and then goes inside.

Dry socks, not so dry shoes, dry shirt and my gloves are dried out. I'm ready to go. At this point I've traveled 513 miles so I'm not even 1/3 of the way through the trip yet and I'm getting tired as I've been on the road for 9.5 hours. I'm behind schedule no doubt but it's not like I won't make it.

I had a wonderful ride going up through Chattanooga and into Nashville. It was really beautiful around sun set. I'm now on the west side of Nashville and refueling. The bike is doing fine, the GPS is doing fine but I'm ready for a little sleep. Problem is I'm only 724 miles into the ride. I'd really like to get past 800 before calling it quits so tomorrow isn't so bad.

That's it. I'm cruising down I-40 and I'm tired. I don't have extra driving lights on the bike yet and I hate blinding people with my high beams so I stop in Hurricane Mills, TN at a Days Inn. I figure the name is sort of appropriate as this being the second day of hurricane season and tropical storm Barry getting me thoroughly soaked. I set the alarm for 6am, knowing full well that I will probably be up before then and on the road.


Sure enough my internal alarm clock woke me up just a little after 4AM so I got up, got a shower, dried out my clothes with a hair dryer and gassed up. At the point I had stopped the night before I had ridden 779 miles. According to the GPS that left 854 miles to go and I had basically 16 hours to get there. No problem except for the mental hurdle of knowing I wasn't even half way done. On the brighter side weather radar showed clear riding all the way to Memphis.

As I leaned into the turn of the on ramp and rolled on the throttle the sun was starting to lighten things up and there was a lite fog in the air. This was a great morning to be on a motorcycle.


The great thing about this bike is that I can basically go 200 miles on a tank before needing to fuel up. That translates into about 3 hours of saddle time between stops. This time I stopped in Forrest City, Arkansas to fill up at an Exxon. Next door was a nice little country diner but I knew I shouldn't stop to eat such a big meal so I treated myself to a chocolate milk instead. Then it was back out on the road while the temps were cool and the sky was clear.

Hope, Arkansas, the birthplace of Bill Clinton. And a nice little Exxon station not too far from the highway. I was just 20 miles from the Texas border but I decided to stop because I was already into the reserve of my tank and didn't want to find out if I really had 39 miles left like the bike's computer said. The air is getting warmer but it's dry.

I'm in Texas. And I found rain along I-30. It was a short little shower to cool things off but then it seemed like it was even hotter than before. I'm about 10 miles east of I-635 around Dallas so I decide to get gas while it's easier to get off and on again. I end up stopping at an old run down Exxon where I have to go in to pay since their card reader didn't like my card. I get my gas, get another Monster and visit the restroom. I'm back on the road in 10 minutes, this was a quick stop. I know the next stop will be Woody's Smoke House in Centerville where I'm hoping to get some good Bar-B-Q since I didn't get any in Tennessee.


Hooray! I've made it to Woody's. The GPS tells me I've done 1497 which means I'm less than 3 hours from the house. I fill up and learn a quick lesson. When you park this big bike do so in a spot that you won't drop it getting on or off of it. I didn't drop it but I did a little dance. The lines were too long inside to get any bar-b-q so it'll have to wait until next time. In the restroom I meet someone who was following me on the road and asked me how many miles was on the bike. I didn't understand the question at first and said I had put 1500 miles on it and had another 130 to go to get home. He looked at me a little perplexed and then said he had 4000 on his HD that he'd had for 2 years. I said that cool and mentioned how great my bike had been these 1500 miles from Tampa, Florida. Then he realized that I was riding those 1500 miles as we spoke. After that conversation I ran into a mom and her child. They too had been following me and said they were worried I was going to crash when I had my legs stretched out so close to the ground. I assured her it was OK and that I just wore out my shoes a little quicker.

There's a nasty looking storm cell to the south and I've got to ride through it. Better get going. That is if I can get my bike off it's side stand. Turns out it's on an incline. A little tugging and I get it. Also learned the bike will roll forward on the side stand if it's in neutral which is a problem since the silly Germans decided you can't start the bike at all unless it's in neutral. Regardless of the clutch. Which also means if I stall in traffic I'd better find neutral in a hurry to start it back up.

Oh glory days! I pull into the Shell station 2 miles from the house and get my ending receipt. 1633 miles on the trip meter and time to spare. I fill up and ride home.

I pull in the drive way and honk the horn. The automated garage door opener, a.k.a. Reagan, opens the door and cheers. Then promptly tells me the bike sounds funny and I look funny riding it. That's a confidence booster, LOL! I did a quick tour of the bike for her and tried to put it up on it's center stand but that was going to happen at another time because I'm too short to do it while on the bike and I hadn't figured out where to grab the bike for the most effective leverage.

Post ride thoughts:

The Gear
The gear I used was pretty much the same as for the SS1000 on Monday. I definitely need to get some gauntlet water proof gloves for summer rain riding. I also need to do something about my boots. Either new boots are needed or something cool like gators. One thing I did try out was the longer style of Under Armor underwear. A plus! These will now be standard gear on anything longer than a commute. No dreaded "monkey butt" or anything. The firmness in them also seemed help circulation and temperature too. Think biker shorts made of Under Armor material.

The Garmin
Garmin surprised the heck out of me. I called them on Monday to see what I needed to do since the cradle and XM receiver had both fried thanks to the reversed polarity issue. They told me it was not my fault that the unit got damaged and offered to replace everything free of charge. They told me I shouldn't suffer for this failure and that I should be able to enjoy my unit. Garmin has a customer for life as long as they keep that attitude. Don't even talk to me about another manufacturer.

Texas Inspection and Registration
The plan was to take the bike to my favorite Harley shop to get an inspection and then go to the tax office to get the registration and title stuff done. One snafu, the bike failed inspection for lack of sufficient tread on the rear tire. The inspector also pointed out that the rear tire was on backwards. Nice..... So I ordered 2 new tires which will hopefully be in by Wednesday. I found out that mounting and balancing the new tires would cost $42.... EACH! OK the other place I got tires for my GSX-R charged $20 if you bought the tires from them and $30 if you got the tires else where. Problem is they are farther from the house but $84 to mount and balance tires? I don't think so.

Time for action. I get on-line and order Marc Parnes wheel balancer. Since I only have 14 days to get it reinspected without paying another $14.50 I call him to verify he has the tool in stock. He sure does and he's even a GS owner himself. I ask him a few more questions about tires and the GS and then let him go. He tells me the balancer should be here by Wednesday, the same day the tires will be here hopefully. Next I look up to find where Harbor Freight Tool is. Lucky for me there's one up off of 290 not too far from where I'd be for Reagan's eye exam. So while she's getting her eyes checked out I dash up there and pick up a tire changer rig with motorcycle adapter. Both pieces were on sale for $39.99 each.

So now I've got the tools to mount and balance all future sets of tires for motorcycles and it only cost me $220. WOW!!! I sure saved a bunch of money compared to paying $82 at the dealership. OK, ok, after I mount 2 more sets of tires I'll be ahead.

My New Bike
Last but not least, how do I feel about the new bike? Well it's going to suck having to ride the GSX-R for a day or 2 while I wait on the tires for it. I'm definitely pleased with the transaction. Some people are scared of ebay but I found an honest seller in Kevin and the bike is in great shape (despite the tire issue). I probably need to do something about the seat as it's a little wide in the front which takes away from me flat footing both feet simultaneously. I also need to figure out what to do about ventilation. With the Givi windshield and the little winglets there is virtually no air to cause buffeting or cool you off.

I can't wait for the next big ride. Todd and I are starting to talk about big adventure rides like going to the Grand Canyon or to Alaska. That would be a great time to bag the SS2000 (2000 miles in 48hrs). This is going to be a fun bike to own.

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