Sunday, October 19, 2008

Day 14 - Coming Home

Friday morning we awoke early and  were on the bikes by 5:45. A quick stop at the Loves truck stop for gas and then it was east on I-10 toward home. The GPS showed 594 to the house and said I'd be home by 2:30. Of course figuring in stops for breakfast and fuel it would probably be closer to 4. The temperature was above freezing but it still felt good to have the electric jacket liner on along with the heated grips.

We stopped in Fort Stockton for breakfast. Since the sheriff was eating there we figured it was a good place to stop for a decent breakfast. I stopped to get a photo of the town's road runner which was freshly repainted and then it was back on the road. Traffic was moving along nicely until we got to San Antonio and all my peace and tranquillity from the trip quickly began disappearing. We were back in traffic with stupid people. We stopped for fuel on the east side of San Antonio along 1604. Doug and I talked about the trip and wrapped things up. Then we got back on the road headed for home. Doug pulled off on 36 and I took 99. Just before 4pm I pulled into the driveway and Reagan was there to meet me, I was home.


In 14 days, my bike and I travelled 5,172 miles excluding the truck ride to Fresno for the Final Drive repair. Fuel cost was $464 with an cost of $3.571 per gallon, consuming 129.95 gallons for an average of 39.41 miles per gallon.

Obviously the final drive failed, which happened at 45,000 miles.

A few days into the trip the Zumo started acting up, and the touch screen  began to malfunction. The problem was more pronounced when temperatures fell below 50 degrees. I'll call Garmin tomorrow to see if they can help. The slow map drawing after boot up was resolved by deleting the mp3s from the SD Card.

My right electric sock didn't work which turned out to be a problem with the wire down the right leg. I'll have to call Gerbing to check into warranty procedures.

In all this was a great trip with lots of great places to see. Oil prices are going down and hopefully fuel costs will remain low for next summer's trip to Alaska.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Day 13 - Bitter Sweet

Today has been bitter sweet because we have pointed our route toward home and there's a clear end tothe  trip. It'll be nice to get home, see Reagan and sleep in my own bed again. But this also means the peace and tranquillity of riding in new places every day and encountering new people along the way is coming to an end. Of course, there's always the next trip to plan for.

This morning we wanted to get an early start to ensure that we could make it to Van Horn, Tx before dark. So we got up and loaded the bikes by 6am. When we pulled up to the local cafe (same as last night) the lights were on and people were already inside. This looked a lot better than yesterday's breakfast. We ordered the special (1 biscuit w/ gravy, hash browns and 1 egg). Coffee was servered quickly as was breakfast. The waitress was friendly and good at her job. We finished breakfast and were on the bikes by 6:45.

Heading east on 180 meant we were riding right into the sun. At the early hour of the day it meant the sun was low and would pop out around corners at the very worst times like in the middle of a corner. The first section of 180 was the best, it was twisty and mostly down hill. Temperature this morning was warmer than previous mornings but there was still a heavy frost on the bike as we started but at least Doug's thermometer didn't bottom out.

180 continued, meeting up with 12 and heading south all the way to Silver City, NM. The farther south we got the warmer it got and the straighter the road became. But the speed limit was generous and law enforcement was scarce so it was a good ride down.

We stopped in Silver City in search of a fat quarter of clothe for Laurie, Doug's wife. She plans to make a quilt out of his findings. It should be interesting. The quilt store was a nice old fashioned store from the past. They sold fabric, greeting cards and office supplies. It was a classic small town type store that you just don't find any more. With fabric acquired, we resumed our travels south on 180.

From Silver City we headed down to Deming where 180 ran into NM 11. We followed 11 down to Columbus, NM. It was neat to see all the crops being grown like Maze, Peppers and more. Then just a few miles down the road it was high desert. When we reached Columbus we turned East onto NM 9 to follow the US/Mexico border. We expected this to be a very lonely and peaceful stretch of road. It turned out to be quite busy. At one point a very large oversize 18 wheeler loaded with one of those mega sized dump truck buckets, was heading west on our quiet road. It was so large I had to pull over to the very edge of the road to let him pass.

The road eventually led us into El Paso where we took the 375 loop north of town. There seems to be a lot of construction going on at Fort Bliss right now. Finally 375 met up with 180 and we continued east to the Guadalupe Mountain National Park. A quick stop at the visitor center and then we turned around and caught 54 south to Van Horn. This stretch of the road was riduculously mis-marked speed limit wise. It was marked as 55mph but there wasn't any legit reason why it shouldn't have been marked as 65 or 75 like 180 was. But of course there were plenty of DPS cars along the way to make sure drivers obeyed the speed limit.

About 5:15 we rolled into town and after looking at various motels, we decided to stay at the Motel 6 and eat dinner across the street at the Pizza Hut. Well if you ever stay in Van Horn, skip the Pizza Hut. They don't have a salad bar, can't serve beer and have pitiful service. With dinner complete, it was time to write this blog.

Today's ride went well, we covered 462 miles, my odometer rolled over 47,000 miles and we got back to Texas. Tomorrow night I'll be home, the bike will be back in the garage and the trip will be over. I don't expect tomorrow's ride across I-10 to be very special so unless something exciting happens, the next blog post will be a recap in a few days. There's several things that I need to fix or include before the next trip.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Day 12 - Get out of the road!

More about the title later, first I have to start with breakfast.

We walked across the street just after 7am to the Red Rock Restaurant. This was the same place we ate last night. Well I should have known something was up when the owner asked what we were doing up so early. Well their waitress hadn't come in yet and the owner's wife claimed not to be a waitress. That was a pretty good claim, but she did manage to bang her way through and got out everyone's order. This was the first breakfast where they flat out messed up my eggs. I asked for over-hard. They came out over-medium. I sent them back and they still weren't right when they came back.

With breakfast done we hit the road around 8am local time. We headed south on 95 down to 191. This part of the ride was beautiful and had some wonderful curves. Along this stretch of road I came up with the title for today. Doug was in the lead and I was following when a deer decided to run across the road between us. That doe seemed larger than life as she ran across the road in front of me. I had just enough time to reach for the front brake lever and start to squeeze. Luckily she kept running and cleared my path before I reached her. So get out of the road deer!

When we got to 191 we continued south looking for 262 east. After a fuel stop to check the map we headed down 191 and found 262. This was a reservation road and believe me, speeding wasn't a problem as the road is in poor shape. We rolled into Montezuma Creek and promptly lost 262 as the sign said it ended. We continued forward on the road until it turned to gravel, then turned around to go back into the little time. We decided to take 162 east which my map shows as 262.  This continued over to Colorado where the road became Colorado 41. Co-41 took us to 160 where we turned right and headed west to get over to Four Corners. Luckily Doug saw Four Corners before I did or we might have just ridden by it completely.

We stopped at Four Corners and Doug snapped a photo of me in all 4 states. We saw a sign for Fried Bread so we thought we might have found scones again. Close but not quite, it was more like funnel cake with honey on it. With the snack complete we geared up and headed out.

We resumed our trip west on 160 over to Mexican Water. We turned south onto 191. When 191 met up with 264 we headed east for a short distance and then continued south on 191. 191 met up with I-40 and we headed east for a few miles until 191 branched off and continued south. All of this was on reservation land until we got south of I-40. Once we got to Springerville we stopped for gas. There was even a quilt shop across the street but they were closed already so we couldn't get Laurie's fat-quarter that Doug has been looking for.

With full tanks, we continued the last 26 miles down to Alpine. When we'd go into a shady stretch you could feel the drop in temperature, when we'd reach a section with sunshine the temperature would rise again. We rolled into Alpine just before 4pm local time. We were greeted by a friendly innkeeper at the Sportman's Lodge. Turns out he's a BMW rider himself with an R1100RT and K75S. He gave us room 1 as it was on pavement and made parking easy.

Dinner was great at the Bear Wallow Cafe. It was just a short walk down the block and around the corner. It'll definitely be my choice for a meal when I stay here again. Breakfast in the morning will be there as well.

Today we travelled 481 miles. Travel time was just under 10 hours in total. We got to see varied landscapes from flat desert plains to small valleys. It was another great day, even with that pesky doe running across the road and the various farm animals the seemed to be on the roads as we road into little towns on the reservations. Tomorrow we should reach Van Horn, which will make getting home on Friday a reality.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Day 11 - Another chilli morning

This morning we got up by 6am so we'd be packed up and ready to go after the restaurant opened at 7. It was 31 degrees when I checked We packed the bikes and searched for my keys, which turned up inside my pants thanks to a hole in the pocket. We got over to breakfast by 7:15 and got some coffee. Both our orders came with scones, yum!!

With breakfast complete we headed north on US 89. Within in a few minutes it was clear the temperature was dropping. Doug reported again that his temp gauge dropped  below 14 degrees and went blank. Brrrr cold! There was snow on the ground but the roads were dry. So we pressed on. At one point while Doug was leading we passed a large mule deer buck that what just standing next to the road until Doug passed, then it jumped back into the field. He had a beautiful rack but that was a little too close for comfort.

At Hillsdale, we turned right onto UT-12 and headed toward Bryce Canyon. Once through the entrance gate we decided to stop by the visitor center to warm and pick out some things to take home. They were showing a movie about the park so we watched that and looked through the museum before heading out to the park. I managed to shoot lots of photos as we rode through the park and stopped at the various view points. This is a park where you need to actually get off the bike and walk up to some views. It's worth while.

After finishing the park we continued on UT-12 east up to Torrey. The views along the way was just amazing. At one point we were riding along a ridge with just the width of the road and no barriers. This is a great road to see and ride. Once we reached Torrey we turned right onto UT-24.

We rode through Capital Reef National Park and I decided to stop by the visitor center to get a stamp in my passport. It turns out the park is rather large and deserves a visit for itself. That will have to wait for another time though. After leaving the visitor center we continued west on UT-24. Just a few miles down the road the scenery began to change drastically. Where we were previously seeing red cliffs now we began to see less red and more greys. It was becoming more and more like a desert. It just seemed dirty.

Finally we rode into Hanksville. I noticed the communications tower on a bluff near town and as expected we both had cell service. We checked in at the Hanksville motel and I started working to get my laptop connected to the internet. After a few attempts it finally worked so I was able to enter my blog this evening.

Today's ride covered 262 miles. Doug rolled over 75,000 miles on his odometer today. And my odometer passed 46,000 miles as well. It was another great day. Tomorrow we are heading to Alpine, Az via four corners. There's a BBQ place to check out along the way.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Day 10 - Oil change in the parking lot

This morning the temperature was 45 degrees as we started our day. First we had breakfast at the hotel's restaurant since it was included with the room rate. Then I took care of the Final Drive service in the parking lot with supplies that I had bought last night from the AutoZone next door. I also learned AutoZone carries Mobil 1 20W-50 for motorcycles, and it's cheaper than Cycle Gear with my instructor discount, and I get Autozone points to boot. Doug headed off to Wal-Mart for something while I was changing the oil.

After the work was done we packed up and left town heading Las Vegas, all of this by 8:15am. Not too bad considering AutoZone didn't open until 8am for me to drop off my used oil. So we headed east on 160. As we got closer to Vegas we started running into more and more traffic, traffic lights and construction. Las Vegas is just exploding with new home construction, if there's a credit crunch it's hard to see around Vegas right now. Then we picked up I-15 heading up to Utah. The cross wind was a real bear as we headed north. With a short 30 mile ride across Arizona we were into Utah. We stopped for gas at a Flying J that felt 2 sizes too small for the number of people and cars trying to get gas. Once fueled up we continued up I-15 to Washington, UT where we took UT-9 toward the Zion National Park.

When we got to Springdale we saw several signs telling us that parking in the park was full and to park in Springdale. Not clear on what was going on we continued on into the park and went to the visitor center. There we cruised the parking lot for nearly 10 minutes until we found a spot. Then it was time to secure our stuff and head over to the park shuttle bus to check things out. The bus is the only way to see the park now since they had such a horrible traffic problem in the 1990's.

The bus is great. It takes you through the park with a little mini guided tour and lets you off at several points along the way. There's a bus coming along every 7 or 8 minutes so it's easy to get off, check out a stop, and catch the next bus to continue along the way. We rode up to the mouth of the canyon to see where it all starts. The last mile you have to walk along a concreate and stone path. At the mouth you see where the river enters  and everything north of that is just a little river from side to side of the canyon. Afterwards we caught the shuttle back to the visitor center for a little shopping and then got back on the bikes. There was still the eastern side of the park to drive through and then find a place to stay for the night.

So we headed out UT-9 east. At Mt. Carmel Junction we saw a "Fred Motel" which had a restaurant next door and another across the street. Since it had a sign for Internet we pulled in. The inn keeper was a little testy, and the signs around the office seemed to indicate less than friendly management. But the rate was fair and the room looked alright. Oh, and they had washer and dryers to do laundry. We headed next door to check out the restaurant which the inn keeper claimed to have a 100 item salad bar. The food was incredible and the scones... well you just to try them and be sure to use plenty of the honey butter that's served along with them. Think native american fried bread.

Today was a light riding day, we only covered 249 miles but it was through some beautiful parts of the US. Tomorrow we are heading through Bryce Canyon to stay in Hanksville. Then Wednesday should take us down to Alpine so I can hopefully hear the Elks buggling in the morning before we leave. From there we'll head south and I want to check out a little road in New Mexico that runs along the US border over to El Paso. We may be on the return leg of our trip but there's still some adventure to be had.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Day 9 - Too dam cold to ride

Last night was spent in Walker, California at a wonderful old fashioned roadside inn. This morning when we awoke it was 22 degrees on Doug's bike. A few last minute photos and we were ready to leave.

The plan was to get gas down the road, unfortunately when I checked the Garmin it said gas was 86 miles down the way in Bishop, Ca. So just 16 miles south of Walker we turned around and headed back hoping to find gas in Walker. We did at $4.50 per gallon. With full tanks of gas we started again. Oh, the first time through the mountain pass south of Walker Doug reported that his ambient temperature gauge quit reading below 14 degrees, so apparently mother Honda doesn't think motorcycles should be ridden below 14 degrees. It was cold! Thank goodness for electric gear and heated grips.

We stopped in Bridgeport, Ca for breakfast. There's a great little cafe in town that serves a fantastic breakfast. All their orders came with biscuits and gravy as a side instead of toast. Yum! The waitress was great and kept our coffee cups full. Considering how cold it was outside we downed a good bit of coffee while we were there.

It was 10am when we finished breakfast and got back on the road. Our destination was Death Valley so we continued down 395 toward, Lone Pine. For much of the way down we had snow on the ground all around us but the roads were clear and mostly dry. Once past Mono Lake, the snow was a distant memory.

In Lone Pine we stopped for fuel before heading toward Death Valley. Just a few miles before the stop I noticed a head light error and took time to diagnose the problem. I suspected the ballast for my low beam HID bulb had failed so I switched the low and high beam ballasts. in the process I pulled the connectors off the ballasts and had to recrimp them. With wiring swapped we headed out 190 into Death Valley. Switching the ballasts helped me to determine that it was actually the low beam bulb that had failed.

Once in Death Valley we stopped at the ranger station to get our permit with our annual pass. Then continured on to the museum to learn about the park. I did not know that there had been minimg for Borax in the past. After visiting the meusem we headed over to the gift shop and checked out the mining museum. Doug started looking at the map to figure out where we'd stay for the night while I worked on straightening out my headlight situation. I needed to put the good bulb in the low beam side and move the bad buld into the high beam reflector. With that done, we headed down to Bad Water to see the lowest point in the western hemisphere. It's very salty around there.

We decided to head back up to 190 and head east over to Pahrump, NV. As we were leaving Death Valley the sun was setting and the temperature was falling. We had about 40 miles to go in the dark to get to a hotel. Luckily the light fixes I made worked and I even had the high beam occasionally. With the addition of my driving lights I had plenty of light to look out for criters.

Just after 7pm local time we rolled into Pahrump, and filled up the tanks. Then found the Best Western and checked in. The rate here is pretty reasonable, especially a hot breakfast buffet is included with our stay.

Today we covered 400 miles, dealt with a head light problem, and got to see Death Valley. It was great day and maybe the last time I'll be riding in temps below 20 degrees on this trip. Of course we are talking about going up into Utah on the way back so chilli temps are still possible.

Tomorrow before we head out I'm going to perform my 600 mile service on the final drive. Lucky for me there was an Autozone next door to the motel. I couldn't have planned that better. Hopefully this will be the last bike maintenance thing I have to worry about for the remainder of the trip.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Day 8 - Yosemite and crossing the mountains

This morning we wanted to get an early start so the alarm was set to 5am. The plan was to get into the park before all the tourists got there. So by 6am we were outside starting our bikes. We topped off the gas tanks and started looking for a place to eat. The problem in Oakhurst is that they don't open for breakfast early. We found one cafe that was willing to let us in out of the cold and serve us coffee until they opened at 6:30. This sort of slowed us down but there weren't any other choices to meet our schedule.

It was 39 degrees when breakfast was over and we had at least an hour of riding to get down to the valley floor of the Yosemite National Park. When we reached the entrance gate there was a sign that said to pay on the way out. Since we had annual passes we weren't worried. While winding our way down to the valley floor, Doug came on the radio and informed me it was a chilli 21 degrees. Brrrr... Of course there was snow on the side of the road so I new it was cold. Thank goodness for my electric jacket and liner.

Once we got to the visitor center we started looking for the 2 hour shuttle tour so we could learn the most about the park in the limited amount of time we had. It was well worth the $25 each. Because the temperature was so low they brought out a large bus complete with heater and bathroom. Once everyone was onboard, our guide/driver introduced herself as Karen. She had been doing guided tours in the park for 17 years. She really knew her stuff. After showing us a lot about the park she got us back to the starting point right on time. We grabbed some food from the Village store and then prepared to leave.

Our first plan was to go over the Tioga pass, but it had been closed for a few days. So we took 120 out of the park and headed up to Sonora. But when we got up that way we discovered the Sonora pass was also closed. So we back tracked and took 49 north up to 88. Things got interresting when we got up to Mokelumne Hill. It had started snowing on us. Luckily the road wasn't yet covered in snow, it was just on the sides of the road and in the fields. But it was snowing pretty good and I didn't want to stay there too long in case Cal-Tran decided to close the road behind us.

Finally we made it to CA-89 and crossed over Monitor Pass. The snow had passed and the road was in good shape since it had been open since earlier in the day. After passing through the snow earlier it almost seemed anti-climatic making it over the pass. But we were still happy to see 395 and point the bikes south. Then it was time to find a place to sleep for the night.  When we got into Walker we found a nice old style roadside inn and a bbq joint across the street. We pulled in and got a room, then hurried across the road to eat dinner.  The inn keeper was from Dallas and the bbq joint owners were from the Humble area. It was a little Texas reunion.

After dinner we returned to our room and planned for tomorrow. Since we have to go by Mammoth Lake which is at 8,000 feet we are going to start a little later to make sure we don't get hung up with any road closures on the way to Death Valley. Today we managed 297 miles plus we spent the morning at the park. It was a great day.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Day 7 - Seeing the giant and getting on the road

We stayed in the Three Rivers area last night not far from the south entrance of the park. We figured we'd enjoy the free continental breakfast and then head into the park to finish seeing the things we wanted to see. Well, the milk was sour, the OJ tasted funny and my boiled egg wasn't completely boiled. So things were getting off to a rocky start.

After checking out of the room we headed into the park and started taking pictures and seeing sites. We saw a big 8 point buck while telling stories of our own past hunts. The timing couldn't have been better. We stopped by the museum and learned a lot about the forest. Then we headed up to Moro Rock. The climb up to the top was tough but worth while. As I went up the steps I kept taking pictures. The views were getting better and and better. When I finally reached the summit it was incredible. I could see much of the Generals Highway, it looked so small. The pollution made it difficult to see in the distance, but you could still see a lot. I highly recommend visiting the rock, the view is great!

After this we had seen everything we wanted to see and began heading out of the park via the north entrance. It took another hour to actually get out of the park due to the speeds and the curves. Then it was only 49 miles to Fresno.

We got to BMW of Fresno by 2pm, settled up with Steve and got the bikes out and loaded things from the car. Then we took the car back to Hertz. With the car dropped off, Doug gave me a ride back to the shop to pick up my bike. We pulled out the map and figured out how we were going to leave the area and get up to Yosemite Park. The route was pretty simple, we'd head back over to 41 and go north.

By 3pm we were on 41 heading north and there was already traffic. It seems the rubbernecking was due in part to a CHP officer giving a ticket to 2 cars. I guess that's something for the locals to look at. Once we passed it though traffic started flowing better and the farther we got from Fresno the better the traffic got. We were heading to Oakhurst for the evening because it looked like the town had a number of motel choices.

Upon arrival to Oakhurst, Ca. we found the Oakhurst Lodge and got a room. After talking to the people running it, Doug discovered it had just changed ownership 5 months ago and was now being run by a family. The daughter had checked us in and the son was resolving an internet connectivity issue. While Doug was learning about the motel's operations I headed up to the park to get a map so we could more efficiently plan tomorrow's trip since we weren't staying in the area tomorrow night. It was 16 miles each way from Oakhurst. Going up was fun as traffic was light and curteous and moved out of the way if they were going slow. On the way back however, no one wanted to pull over and it was very congested. Nothing like the smell of over heating brake pads.

Today we only traveled about 60 miles on the bikes. But the important thing is that we are back on the bikes. Steve and his staff did a great job of getting me back on the road quickly. BMW of Fresno is definitely on my recommended dealer list for people needing help. No one there offered to chaufer me anywhere, give me a loaner bike or even feed me. But they did focus on doing everything they could to get me on the road quickly and that's greatly appreciated. Besides, I was travelling with Doug so they probably figured we had a way of getting around and we did. 2up riding sure beats walking any day! If I had been alone they might have helped get me around a little more.

The bike now has a newer version of the Final Drive with a drain plug which does require me to drop the FD to drain. This will be helpful when I have to change the FD oil on the way home. Steve also found 2 other issues that needed attention. First there was the brake rotor. It's worn below the minimum 4.5mm thickness by 0.1mm. He suggested the problem may be due to using the wrong kind of brake pads with the stock rotor. I'll have to check out which pads I ordered when I replaced them last. If I ordered semi-metallic pad then I was the idiot who screwed up the rear rotor. The other thing the tech found was that in my attempt to perform a canestorectomy I had left the left throttle body vacuum unplugged so there was a vacuum leak. They just capped the vacuum line. I must say the bike idles much better now. I'll be interested to see if it improves gas mileage on the way home.

Tomorrow we are heading up into Yosemite Park and then over to Long Pine for the evening. Then we should be able to ride through Death Valley on Sunday and see Zion Park on Monday. That's the current plan anyway.

Day 6 - Pt 2, Seeing the Sequoia Park

So with the rental car loaded and things squared away with the bike we headed over to the park via 180. This would bring us in on the north side of the park. Entry was not a problem since we had year long passes. We decided we'd start at one end of the neighbouring Kings Canyon Park and work our way across through the Sequoia Park. You need to look on a map to understand this but basically you have 2 national parks plus a national monument all linked to each other and surrounded by the Sequoia National Forest to boot.

The first stop was the General Grant Grove to see some big Sequoias. Those trees are so large. The grove has many large trees named after states. Some of the names have been lost over time due to poor record keeping in the 1800's. The General Grant was the largest tree in the grove and it was amazing to see some of the limbs. If one of them were to fall on you well.... they'd eventually dig your body out.

Next stop was the Panoramic Point. This site requires a 300 yard uphill walk to reach the look out point. It was well worth the hike up. I was able to see well across the Sierra Nevadas. It was so beautiful and peaceful up there. There was a fire lookout tower just 2.5 miles up the way but I didn't feel like hiking all the way there since we had so much more to see.

Once back down the hill it was time for the next 2 sites, Redwood Mountain Outlook and Kings Canyon Overlook. Both of these were merely pull outs along the road. At the Kings Canyon Overlook it occured to both of us, if they would just trim some trees we could see things better. Just think about that for a second, it's really funny.

We continued on to see the General Sherman, this is the biggest Sequoia tree bar none. To see the tree you have to hike downhill about 1/2 a mile. And then hike back uphill when done. We got down about 3/4 of the way where we felt like we had a great view, snapped some photos and then started the walk back up. By now the sun was starting to set and we were running out of day light.

Our travels continued south on the General Highway through the Giant Forrest and we found a great look out for a sunset photo. I'm hoping it looks as good on the computer as it did in my camera's view finder. As we continued down we got into the super twisty section where vehicles over 22 feet long were recommended to avoid. And for good reason. The sun sat and we were still on the mountain pass. I took it slow and steady and we finally reached the bottom of the park on the south side. Along the way we noted several places we want to check out tomorrow.

I have a new appreciation for seeing these parks in a car versus the bike. It may seem like heresy but it really makes sense, you don't have to worry about taking your gear on and off and there's the extra protection of cage against wild animals and crazy tourists. It definitely helped today as we traveled the last 10 miles of the mountain pass in the dark. Just try it some time, just make sure you get a good deal on the rental car.

Tomorrow we've got a few more parts of the park to see and then it's back to the BMW shop for the bike. We will probably go see part of the Yosemite park on our way  out of California. Then it's on to Zion and Bryce parks. Hopefully the second half of the trip will be as fun without the BMW shop excitement.

Day 6 - Pt 1, Trip to the BMW shop

This morning Doug and I were up bright and early getting ready for Mike's arrival. The plan was to load the bike and head over to Fresno to be there by 9am when they opened. We got the bike loaded by going over to a nearby truck loading dock and it barely fit in the back of his Honda Ridgeline but it fit. Then we were on our way. Mike knew a great local place for breakfast called the Boss Hog, appropriately themed with Dukes of Hazzard stuff. The food was good.

After breakfast we headed over to Fresno and arrived at 9am. Getting there just as the place opened up it was kind of slow to get the bike unloaded. Upon inspection of the rear end it was clear to everyone that indeed the final drive had failed. So the next question was where Steve, the service manager, could source a final drive and what my warranty company would cover. He thought he had a unit coming in already for another customer and believed the customer would be OK with giving up his unit in order to get me on the road. That was mighty nice of him, one day I hope to return the favor. So then it was just a matter of contacting Pinnacle for the warranty coverage.

Meanwhile, I was in the front of the dealership trying to figure out what to do for the weekend. As it was unclear when the final drive he had on order would arrive we figured it would be best to try to enjoy the time anyway. So Doug and I were searching the Internet for rental car rates and looking at numbers of $120/day. Ouch! Then we found rates in the $50 - $60/day rate. Considering at the time that I could possibly be stuck in a car through Tuesday I wasn't looking forward to the bill. Since there was a question about possibly returning the car early if Steve was able to get the bike fixed by Saturday, Doug suggested I give Hertz a call and see what they could do. Well the lady was great when I told her my situation. She did a little price shopping for me and with Doug's AAA card, we got a full size car for 5 days for $114 out the door. Yep, for the entire weekend we'd have the car and it had unlimited mileage. Not bad. Then a quick check with Steve and he said we could leave Doug's bike locked up at the shop while my bike was being worked on. So we rode over to the Hertz place and picked up the car. Then went back to the shop to pickup our bags and drop off Doug's bike.

Upon returning I got some great news. The bike would be ready by late afternoon or middle of tomorrow because the final drive had arrived and the folks at Pinnacle had approved the repair. OK, so a little bit about the Pinnacle folks. Steve tells me they gave him all sorts of grief trying to get the repair approved. First they wanted to say I failed to do proper maintenance on the part. That was b.s. since the final drive is listed as a non-maintenance item. Then they wanted to know if I had added anything to the bike that would have caused the failure such as adding a radio. "What? Adding a radio?" he asked. "Yes", they said, "has he added a radio that could cause the failure?". Steve informed them that there was no such radio that could cause the failure so they reluctantly agreed to pay the claim. With this repair I'm breaking even with what I paid for the warranty but these folks don't seem to be worth a crap and obviously don't know what they are doing. When I get home I'm going to have a long talk with the service manager who vouched for these idiots.

Back to the repair. So I told Steve we had the car for at least one day so if he could complete the work and have the bike ready by tomorrow we'd go see the Sequoia park this afternoon and return tomorrow. Things were looking up. So we headed out to the park, but had to turn around just a few miles from the dealership because I forgot my camera. Doh!

This evening when I got to the room and was able to check my voice mail I had a message from Steve saying they were replacing the drive and that the rear pads had worn by about 65% and that my rear rotor was barely within the thickness spec but that both would likely do fine for the trip home. However I'd better plan to replace the rotor with the next set of pads. I plan to talk to him about that tomorrow since I just replaced that rotor 2 sets of pads ago and I don't have any grooves in there so where's all this wear coming from? It may be time to look for an aftermarket rotor if it is indeed wearing out so soon.

Read on to part 2 for the rest of the day and our site seeing.  By the way, I'm not responsible if  your reading of my blog voids your Pinnacle warranty on your flux capacitor for your bike. Really they thought a radio could cause the FD failure.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Day 5 - Catostrophic failure

Well statistically it wasn't likely to happen to me but it did. It appears my final drive has failed, at least the oil and grease slung all over the rear end would indicate that. I'll know more tomorrow when the folks at BMW of Fresno take a look at it. More on this later, I need to talk about the great day we had today.

This morning things worked like a charm. I was up early and we were at breakfast early. Then Doug and I walked back to the motel and loaded the bikes. By 7:30 we were starting the bikes and pulling out of the parking lot heading across the street for gas.

With tanks and stomachs full, it was time to head the road. We headed west on I-40 until we reached Barstow. Then it was west on CA-58 to 395. This part of the ride was neat because we passed a solar generation plant just past 58 and 395. Then we were really in the desert. When we reach Inyokern, we took a quick jog onto 178, then 14 and then back onto 178. The cacti seemed to grow abundantly until we reached 4,000 feet then they disappeared as quickly as they appeared. The further we travelled on 178 the more fun the road got. When we arrived in Onyx we were treated to a beautiful green valley surrounded by desert on the mountains.

We stopped in Mountain Mesa for a break and fuel. From the Shell station we had a great view of Lake Isabella and commented on how low it appeared. Unlike lakes in Texas, the shore seemed sandy and allowed people to drive right up to the waters edge. With the break over, we resumed our route on 178 around the lake onto 155. In Wofford Heights 155 made a sharp turn to the left and signs warmed of mountainous steep grades and curves. This section of road was a very pleasant surprise. It had twisties that rivalled the Devils Highway. And I have to say I was getting tired with so many curves. Oh, and I answered the question about what touches down after the foot peg. The Micatech cases touch pretty quickly after the foot pegs so when I start feeling the pegs drag that's now my clue to slooooow down or at least reduce the lean.

Doug and I decided to take a break along the side of the road about 25 miles east of CA-65. Unknown to me, this break point ended up being a transitional point between super tight twisties and more gentle sweepers. We also began descending onto rolling plains and started seeing more and more cattle. We even saw a herd of Longhorn cattles. After this break I began to notice the thumping feeling like when you are driving on a road with rough seams. Thump, thump, thump. I thought it was just in my head.

We finally make it to 65 and head north. Don't expect anything but a very straight road with lots of fruit trees. The speed limit ranges from 55 to 65mph so we made the stretch in good time. When we got into Exeter I decided that my problem wasn't just in my head and pulled over to take a look. Expecting to find something in my rear tire I put the bike on the center stand and inspected the tires. Everything looked fine. I even wiggled the rear tire checking for play. Nothing seemed abnormal, I decided it had to be in my head. So we resumed our travels, continuing up 65 to CA-198.

Getting onto CA-198 we headed toward the park. The closer we got to the park, the twistier the road got. When we got to park entrance we met the cutest park rangers I think I've ever seen. They happily took our money and gave us year long park passes for all the federal parks and also gave us maps of the park. Then we turned around and headed back to Exeter to stay at a nice looking family owned motel we passed. Back down 198 and the 2 miles on 65 back to Exeter. On the way back I was pretty sure something was wrong with the bike because I could squeeze in the clutch and coast and the thumping sensation didn't go away. And it seemed to be related to the rate of rotation of the wheels. I figured I'd look at it more once we got into the motel.

We pulled into the Kaweah Motel and got a room. When I walked back out to move the bike, I noticed oil on the rear wheel. Oh oh, I knew what this was. I moved the bike over to the parking spot and unloaded for the evening. Then it was time to call the nearest shop which appeared to be BMW of Fresno according to my Garmin and the custom POIs I had previously loaded. I told the service manager, Steve, what seemed to be the problem and he told me to get it in to him and if it was already leaking oil to avoid riding it as it could possibly lock up the rear wheel. Then he went on to say that if it was a final drive failure I'd be looking at the first part of next week before I'd be back on the road. Yikes! Hopefully tomorrow will yield something positive to do while waiting for the bike to be repaired.

So the next thing to do was to figure out how to get the bike to Fresno. I did the logical thing and looked in the BMW MOA Anonymous book. There was 1 number for Exeter and it listed truck/trailer and chatting as offerings. So I dialed the number and hoped for an answer. There was an answer and I identified myself and how I got the number and what my problem was. Mike didn't skip a beat, he said he'd stop by on his way home from work to see what he could do. By the time he got there, he had formualted a plan, he'd come by in the morning before 7am and take me and the bike to Fresno. Tow problem solved.

So looking at the final drive closer. It's clear that oil and grease has come out of the seal around the hub. It's slung all over the place including all over my rear brake calipers. These will have to be replaced along with the other stuff. I guess I'm lucky. This could have severly failed at the Sequoia park or maybe on 155 where I had no cell service. Instead this failure manifested itself in the parking lot of a motel just 50 miles away from a dealership. It could have happened next year on my trip to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska a long way away from a dealership. The next few days should be interesting. So the only destination we have for tomorrow is Fresno.

Some stats for today, we travelled 488 miles in 9.5 hours with an average speed of 51mph. This was the 2nd highest average of the trip, which was fairly easy since nearly half the miles were traveled on interstate.

BTW: The folks at the motel must have been expecting 3 of us to show up even though we didn't even know about the motel before today. There was a roll away bed waiting in the closest. Fred they were expecting you.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Day 4 - Looking for Wylie Coyote and Road Runner

Today was the first time it felt like we were really in the desert, there were the classic cacti as portrayed in the the Road Runner cartoon. Several times I'd come around a corner expecting to see Wylie Coyote with one of his Acme contraptions ready to catch the Road Runner. Beep-beep!

I think we are starting to get into a rhythm with our morning departures. The alarm went off at 5:30am local time, we were on the bikes and at a local cafe by 6:30. The only difficulty with breakfast was when Doug tried to pay for his. There was a misunderstanding about how much to charge the credit card. Last night the cashier at the Italian restaurant under charged him by $10 and this morning the cashier over charged him by $10. Globe, Az. needs some help with cashiers I think.

With breakfast completed we were on the road by 7:57am heading north on 188. The air was brisk and the sky clear. It was a great time to be on a bike. Even though it didn't feel like we were in a desert just yet, there was a huge abundance of those large cacti everywhere, up and down the mountain sides.

When we got up to Theodore Roosevelt Lake the road began to snake along the western side of the lake hugging the mountain. This was a very fun road. Definitely a must ride road if you are in the area.

Eventually 188 met up with 87 and we continued north through Payson, Pine and Strawberry. Around Pine we started getting into those wonderful mountainous curves again. How can there be so many fun roads in one state? Traffic seemed to be a little heavier today so we pulled over at a look out to let some congestion move through ahead of us. Then it was back on 87 until we found 260.

260 took us through Camp Verde and on to Cottonwood. Note to self, when riding this route with a Goldwing, STOP in Cottonwood for gas just to be on the safe side (No one ran out of gas). Once in Cottonwood we found a lot of construction going on. It seemed like they were redoing all of the streets we wanted to drive on. And of course, as with any ride I seem to be leading we ended up driving on gravel for short stretches. It's gotta be the GS.

I wanted to take 89-Alt out of Cottonwood heading toward Jerome because it looked really good on the map and we had received a recommendation yesterday for the road while we were on the Devil's HIghway. The climb up 89A into Jerome is neat. You are quickly gaining elevation with a very steep road. When we got to Jerome they had the road closed downed to 1 lane. Taking off from a dead stop on such a steep grade can be a real challenge. Believe it or not I managed to get us turned around in Jerome thanks to the Zumo but we finally got through there. Then it was on up the road and UP is the key word.

89A is a must ride road for the area. Unfortunately the local claim to fame is that the pass is open 365 days a year. That of course means the road was very rough, but the curves made things exciting. This road is just another excuse on why I need new shocks. About half the pass I was able to ride without much traffic in front of me, but eventually I got behind a 90's era Mustang and that guy wasn't moving out of the way. Instead he had that car really running through the corners. It was fun to watch and he kept the pace fast enough to be enjoyable.

We road 89a into Prescot and found gas. Then it was back on 89 south. This was a pleasant road with plenty of twisties.

In the middle of no where we found 96 and turned on to it. Now we were in a real desert type area. The mountains were in the distance and the roads were straigher and flatter. But there were suprises.

Around one corner we found a sheriff who had just cited a driver, most likely for speeding. The speed limit dropped from 50 to 35. Yes 50mph out in the desert and then 35mph. What were they afraid of, someone hitting a cactus? Sure, it probably had to  do with some of the curves. But having the ever presence of that sheriff made things a little discouraging. 96 led to 97 which led to 93. Most of 93 was 4 lanes and 65+ mph.

We decided to stop in Wikieup for a break. While at the Shell station we met an elderly couple who wanted to talk about the bikes and their friend who was killed in a motorcycle accident. It's funny some of the people you meet when on the bike.

With the break completed, we continued on 93 into Kingman. We arrived at the Motel 6 at 3:16pm and checked in. The route today covered 352 miles. Tomorrow we are heading over to the Sequoia National Forrest and check out those big trees.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Day 3 - Top of the World

So today we road to the Top of the World. No I did not take a wrong turn or mess up navigating with the Zumo and direct us to the Arctic circle. We went to Top of the World, Arizona. A little community just outside of Globe, Arizona where the day ended.

This morning started earlier than expected thanks to a mix up in time zones. But as day light was breaking we headed into down town Silver City to find breakfast. The intended cafe was no where to be found and a near by cafe was closed so we headed back to a cafe Doug saw on the way called Grandma's Cafe. Breakfast was good and service was pleasant. Just before 8am local time we're leaving the cafe and heading out on the road toward the Devil's Highway.

We head out of town on 180 toward Buckhorn. Then we hang a left on to 78 over to Three Way. A right turn onto 191 leads us over to Clifton. We filled up in Clifton and headed out of town. We stopped at a scenic overlook to check out the copper mine in Clifton. It's HUGE!!! There were monstrous dump trucks going everywhere picking up and dumping massive amounts of earth.

After taking in the scene of the mine, it was time to get back on 191 and head north into twisties. And boy were there some twisties to be enjoyed. I did get to find out how the Micatech cases would perform. I'm happy to say the foot pegs are still the first thing to drag. I didn't find out of the cases or the engine guards will be the next thing to drag. I was having plenty of fun just dragging the foot pegs from time to time. This road makes yesterday's 152 seem mild. 191 from Clifton to Strayhorse is jam packed with tight technical corners. After the Blue Vista however the road opens up into kinder, gentler sweepers but it's still fun all the way into Alpine.

Once into Eager we picked up 260 west toward ShowLow. The scenery was nice and the pace was gentle through the reservation thanks to a 55mph speed limit.

Taking 60 south out of Showlow took us into the next set of twisties for the day. Things started getting interest until we caught up with the lane striping paint convoy. When we finally got around them we were stopped due to a lane closure while they were grinding the center stripe. Once past that we pulled off to snap some pictures of the Salt River canyon. Thanks to this lane closure stuff traffic was a real bear for the next 40 miles into Globe. There are some really great curves along the way but finding the road wide open and clear might be a real challenge.

When we got to Globe, it wasn't quite 5pm so we decided to roll through town and head up to Top Of the World to check it out before calling it quits for the day. Well Top of the World sits at 4,600 feet which is higher than Globe but the local copper mine has managed to make mountains taller.

The mileage for the day was 384 miles and took about 11 hours. Tomorrow the plan is to head over to Kingman, Az. And eventually  we'll end up in Paniment Springs on Friday night. And in between Kingman and Paniment Springs we're going to jump over into California to check out those big Sequoia trees. Keep reading!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Day 2 - Silver City, NM

This morning started early, we were on the bikes by 6:30. The only problem was that it was pitch black outside and we were in deer  country. So we decided to head over to the Sands restaurant for breakfast and wait for the sun to rise. It might have helped if we had looked at the sun rise time which Weather Underground reported as 7:55.

With breakfast complete and day light starting to break we filled up the tanks across the street at the Loves truck stop. Then we headed north on 54 toward the Guadalupe Mountains park. In the distance we could see the rain coming. It was only a matter of time before we'd finally meet up with it. As we entered into the mountain pass we get a little sprinkle but manage to get to the other side of the park before the rain starts. We continue on to Artesia where we turn west onto 82 toward Cloudcroft.

So far the rain is staying away as we climb higher and higher. As the elevation rises the temperature is dropping. Just as we are about to pull into Cloudcroft we have clouds rolling across the road. Then 100 feet later the novelty of riding through the clouds disappears and the rain starts. Big, huge drops start hitting us and hitting hard. We find a covered area in front of a motel so we pull over and put on rain gear. I decided to go ahead and plug in my electrics controller since I already had the Gerbing jacket liner on. That turned out to be a good choice. Between the elevation and the rain, temps were down right chilly. It rained all the way down past Almogordo.

Once west of Almogorda we had a chance to dry out as we rode past the White Sands missle range on 70. Then as we got to Las Cruces the rain returned for for a short while. By the time we stopped for fuel just north on I-25 though it had stopped. So we took a few minutes to adjust riding gear and look at the radar. We had sun shine to the north but there was also dark clouds far in the distance where we were headed. I decided to check the Micatech cases to make sure they were staying dry in the rain since I had drilled holes in them. Everything seemed to be staying dry.

Sure enough just after we turned off I-25 onto 152 toward Silver City, we met up with the rain again. The first part was frustrating because the rain was coming down, the wind was blowing, and the road was getting twisty. By the time we reached Kingston I had passed Doug and was waiting for him to catch up. After a slight suspension adjustment to his wing and we were ready to go on.

The rain was starting to subside and the road was getting even more twisty. The drier it got the more I cranked up the pace. It was getting fun. Uphill, down hill, left turns, right turns, fast sweepers and tight u-turns. This road had it all. The Dragon in Tennesse has nothing on this road. The speed limit on much of the road was 30mph and the corner signs ranged from 10 to 20mph recommended speeds. Let's just say it was real easy to do 2x + the recommended corner speeds. I was smiling ear to ear the whole time. The GS was just pulling non-stop the whole time and didn't skip a beat. I still had ground clearance left with the exception of one tight right hander that was heading up hill. A quick touch down of the right foot peg reminded me that I was using most of the bike in these corners. Time to hang off the bike a little more! This is a fun road and will be one of my favorites anytime I'm coming out this way.

Once through the twisties I regrouped with Doug and we rolled into Silver City and found the Motel 6. By 4pm local time, we were checked in, had the bikes parked and covered and started on our evening drinks. Total mileage for the day was 460 miles with an ample amount of rain tossed in. The next 2 days should get us to Hope, Az and then onto Kingman, Az. The daily mileage numbers should get lower but we are looking for more and more twisty back roads.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Out West Trip 2008

"Go west, young man", those famous words originally written by John B. L. Soule, kept passing through my mind as we rolled west on I-10 across Texas. But I'm getting ahead of myself, first I need to set the stage for this trip.

This trip seems to be an annual trip taken by one of my riding buddies, Fred, but unfortunately due to a demanding work schedule following hurricane Ike he's not with us. The trip has no real destination, it's just 2 glorious weeks of riding and seeing the western US. Since there are only two of us this year and it's my first time out here, the decision making process is pretty easy. Doug suggests places he's been or wanted to go in the past and I'm eager to see them.  Decision made.

The past week has been spent prep'ing the bike. First I decided to install a new rear tire since it was questionable that the rear from this summer's Wyoming trip would last. Then since I had the rear off I figured I'd install the SmartTire pressure monitor system I snagged from a fellow in-mate at Well that meant unmounting and remounting the front tire as well. Let's just say to really get a good balanced wheel and tire combination you need to first balance the wheel alone with the sensor to get the optimum placement for the sensor. It took me a Saturday and Sunday afternoon to finish that. Then yesterday I spent much of the day wiring up brake/turn/tail LED lights on my new Micatech cases. It was a little distrubing to take a drill to my new cases but there's no doubt cagers behind me will know when I'm stopping or turning. Then last night was spent packing for this trip, with so much room in all these cases it was tempting tp pack more than I needed. But I resisted. Honestly.

So this morning started at 5am. At least that was the time my alarm clock was set for. I was actually awake long before then with pre-trip excitement. By 5:45 I was on the bike, waiving good bye to Reagan and rolling down the street. I met Doug down in Rosenberg at the Shell and we were going. 6:01 by my watch when the wheels started turning. Nice!

The plan was simple, run up hwy 36 from Rosenburg until we got to I-10, then "Go West". Not a really exciting route but we wanted to get across Texas so we can enjoy the more westerly states sooner.  Around 7:10 we pulled into Schulenburg for breakfast. I figured we'd stop at the Oak Ridge Smoke House but instead Doug crossed under I-10 and we pulled into Frank's. This is a classic style trucker cafe. The menu is simple and everything seems to be homemade. Doug liked his biscuits but I was happy with my homemade bread served as toast. Yum!

With our stomachs full it was time to get back on the road. The next stop was about 100 miles later on the north side of San Antonio where we filled up the gas tanks and I added a little air to the front tire. Remember that spiffy tire pressure monitor I installed? Well it told me the front tire was 6 pounds lower than it should be for the Temperature Compensated Pressure. Hmmm, after a few pounds the alert went away and everything was fine. Back on the road.

Lunch was in Ozona at Sonic that was previously a Mc Donalds. The only downside was that I got tricked into the large drink and tots but it was a tasty lunch none the less. While eating we noticed a volvo driver outside trying fix his car. Since he had two other volvo drivers helping we figured they either had it under control or could call a tow truck. So back on the road.

Doug wanted to stop in Fort Stockton for gas since he wouldn't make it all the way to Van Horn. If I had been thinking we could have stopped by and checked out the large road runner statue that had been recently redone. Hmmm, sounds like something to do when I come back out this way for the '09 Big Bend Freeze Out in January.

We didn't get very far down the way when I-10 turned into a parking lot. Around mile marker 176 traffic just stopped. Apparently TxDOT is doing construction along that stretch of I-10 and to make matters worse, a car hauler had caught fire blocking the one open lane. After 30 or 40 minutes of stopping and going we finally got past the mess and resumed our travel. No, I did not remember to get my camera out for the Car-B-Q. I'll have to remember that for the rest of the trip.

By 5pm we rolled into Van Horn and road down I-10 business. There has to be a motel every block in the town. Advertised rates start at $29.95 for some nice looking local inns. Doug had booked us into a Motel 6 on the quieter side of the street, away from the train track. This should make it easy to sleep tonight.

Today we travelled 622 miles in just 11 hours. It was a great day to be out riding and a great sign of days to come.