Saturday, January 31, 2009

BBFO '09 Day 2 - The River Road

Last night Fred announced that we'd be getting a late start this morning and breakfast would be at 8am. This morning Fred knocked on the door just after 7 to tell us he just woke up and still needed to get a shower. He didn't think he'd be ready by 8. "Retirement Fred" seems to be a different fella.

At 7:45 we were all standing around ready to go so we rolled out of the parking lot and stopped at the drug store cafe downtown. We pretty much had the place to ourselves at first. Three different ladies took our drink orders but we finally got our drinks and then our orders were placed. By 9:30 we were done with breakfast and heading out of town.

The plan was to go down 118 through Alpine to Terlingua and then ride the River Road (FM170) over to Presidio. When we got down to Terlingua we gased up the bikes and waited for Fred. Along the way he had decided to pull off and just take a break. He rolled into town and after a litte discussion, we geared up to go see the Terlingua ghost town. It turned out to be nothing more than a convenience store that catered to tourists. So we decided to head over and see the mayor of Lajitas. When we got there it looked like there hadn't been a goat in the area for quite some time and with no goat there was no reason to stop. We continued on up the road to the look out point for another stop.

After another little break, we resumed the ride. The weather was good, the road was good, and traffic was minimal. Geesh the day sucked! Just a few miles before we rolled into Presidio, we took a detour down a gravel road to avoid the missing part of the road that had been washed out from the flood last year.

ring ring... ring ring... while writing this blog tonight I got my first Skype call. How cool, I get to see my sweetie pie. That will be great when I'm on the Alaska trip. I wasn't sure how I was going to go for 4 weeks without seeing her. Isn't technology grand?

So back to today's ride. After the dirt road we rode into Presidio and stopped at El Patio for lunch. The place was moderately busy with locals and the food was decent for the price. After lunch it was decided that Fred, Dick and Doug would head on back to the motel, and Bill, Randy and myself would take the Ft. Davis loop before calling it quits for the day. In Marfa, Randy and Bill pulled off to get gas while I kept going with the group. When I reached 166 and 17, I turned west onto 166 and stopped at the little rest area a few miles down the way. I waited about 10 minutes before Bill and Randy rolled up. We visited for a while before deciding to get going before it got too late.

Since it was 4:15 as we pulled out on the road I decided we'd take it easy to watch for deer. Just a few miles down the road we saw our first deer in a field with some cattle. And then we saw a doe and her fawn a little way down the road. I decided the speed limit or just a little over would be more than sufficient for this little 50 mile loop. On one stretch of road we found several deer along the side of the road next to a row of cedars. These snuck up on me and I didn't see them until I was along side of them. Fortunately they stayed next to the cedars and I kept on going. Although just a little slower.

The pace remainded mild until after we passed the 166 and 118 junction. That's when the road got twisty and tight. I dropped it to 4th and carved the corners. When I got to a straight away I'd ease up and wait for everyone to catch up. Then when the next set of corners came I'd crank it up again. We didn't see any deer until we came to a water crossing where a confused doe was getting out of the way and then reversed her direction and ran back across the road. There were a few more twisties to straighten before rolling into Ft. Davis. What a great end to a great, I mean shitty, day. When I have a choice, I will definitely chose to ride into Ft. Davis via the loop. It's just great.

I went on into town to gas up, and get a lottery ticket. Who knows, maybe tonight I'll have the right numbers and can try to wear out the GS on the roads around here.

Today's mileage was just over 300 miles. Temps started at 20 degrees and climbed into the 60's. The sky is clear and the temperature is already falling so I expect we'll reach the low 20's or even the teens in the morning. Hopefully we won't go to breakfast before 8. We are planning to go into the park tomorrow to explore the east side and while I'm there I'll get my park passport stamped.

And NO, the GS did not take any naps today. But it did get a work out with the new shocks.

Friday, January 30, 2009

BBFO '09 Day 1 - The ride out

Today's ride was horrible. I mean who could possibly enjoy a ride when there's no rain, lots of sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. Even the temperature was bearable, starting around 30 degrees when we pulled out of Brookshire and climbing into the high 50's by mid-day.

I left the house at 4:40am so I'd have time to gas up and visit before we rolled out. When I got to Brookshire I stopped at the Exxon on the opposite side of the freeway. While their pumps may have been 24 hour service, they certainly weren't running very fast. It took over 10 minutes to fill 7.5 gallons of fuel. The pressure was so low at the pump that it didn't even click off when the tank was full. Thus I spilled about 1/3 of gallon all over the bike and ground. I decided this wasn't going to ruin my day so I carefully pulled away from the station and went to the Flyin' J to meet the guys. Shortly after pulling up, we all mounted up and headed west.

The plan was to stop in Seguin for breakfast at the Kettle. We arrived around 7:15 and fueled up before sitting down to eat. The waitress was good and took care of everyone. After a casual meal and a little visiting we suited up and headed back out on to I-10 west.

The next stop was west of Hondo at a rest area. We seemed to be making good time so it was decided that we would grab some snacks in Bracketville while fueling up and then eat at the Pecos River lookout. Lunch was great, good temps, good scenery, and good people... it was such a horrible ride....

With lunch done we continued on to Sanderson where we stopped for fuel one more time. Upon leaving the station, Fred had a little problem with his wallet falling off the bike, so he had to make a quick u-turn to pick it up. But once that was taken care off we continued on toward Alpine and then headed north on 118 into Ft. Davis. We arrived at the motel around 4:30 and checked in without any problems.

About 6:30 Dick pulls in, he had gotten a late start from New Waverly and he made good time. After a little visiting we get on the bikes to go down the road for dinner. As I'm pulling away and trying to turn the bike in the gravel parking lot.... you guessed it, I fell down. No damage to the bike or me. Fortunately Randy and Bill were still there so they come over to help me lift the bike and make sure I'm OK. I thumb the starter and try to go straight out of the parking lot without further incident.

We have dinner at a new BBQ/Grill which turned out to be pretty good. Looking at the menu it's more of a grill than a BBQ joint. Since I'm on my diet this weekend I opted for the Crispy Chicken salad. No one ordered the BBQ but beans and coleslaw were ordered and the general consenses was that the slaw was good and the beans were too sweet.

So besides the gas spill and the gravel nap, the trip is really going well. Considering the time of the year, the weather is outstanding and looks like it will be staying this way for the duration of the trip. Tomorrow we are heading down to the river road. There's talk about a few miles being gravel. I just have to remember to keep the bike up-right if I have to make any curves. I know that.

Total miles traveled today was a little over 550.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Getting ready for the BBFO '09

Tomorrow I'm heading west with my normal riding buddies for the annual Big Bend Freeze Out. This year the weather looks very comfortable with highs in the low 60's and lows around freezing. That's just perfect, I have the electrics to handle the frosty mornings.

Yesterday my Hyperpro shocks came in. Talk about timing. The folks at EPM really stepped up when I told them I was leaving for a trip tomorrow and they turned them around in their shop in just 1 day from when they received them from the manufacturer. They did a bang up job on the initial set up too. I still plan to tinker with the clickers and I want to double check the rider sag but out of the box they are many times better than my worn out stock shocks with 50K miles on them.

I decided to skip the pictorial of the shock install because a quick google search shows several others and they did a fine job. The others showed installing Ohlins but the install is the same with the Hyperpros. The total installation took me about 5 hours but at least 3 hours of that was consumed with fabricating a new horn bracket for my air horn. If I had cheaped out and went with the less expensive model 360 front shock there wouldn't have been an issue. But I went with the top of the line model 367 which has an external reservoir. I found out, reservoir is code for "Pain in the butt" because that's what it was to get it to fit along side my air horn.

When all was said and done I pushed the bike off the center stand and immediately noticed the difference. The bike didn't bounce so much when it came off the stand. It didn't bounce at all really. It still compressed quite a bit from resting on the side stand to me touching the ground. But even with the 1/2" shorter shocks I still wasn't any closer to touching the ground. In fact I may be a little farther away from the ground but not much. So after running inside to put on my gear it was time for the test ride.

I pulled out of the driveway and headed down the street. I did a quickstop and I'm fairly certain I managed a small stoppee. The GS isn't supposed to do stoppees. There's a definite change in the front spring rate and compression. The next thing I noticed was how much stiffer the ride was. I mean it felt like my old GSX-R.

As I worked my way along my route I found corners to be better with plenty of feedback that wasn't there before. The longer I rode the more I noticed my speeds increasing through corners. I was actually able to enter corners at higher speeds because the bike simple felt like it was on rails going through the corner. Accelerating now actually seems to raise the bike instead of the sqauting sensation with the old shocks.

The test ride had the bike completely stripped of any cases and I had zero preload dialed in. Tomorrow I'll have all the cases on it with a light load so I'll see how it does with a little more weight. I suspect the rear spring may be a little too stiff without the cases on. It's my fault though, when I ordered the shocks I probably spec'd my weight a good ten pounds heavier than I am right now. And I'm on a diet with another 10 pounds to go. I may talk to EPM about changing out the rear spring but first I want to see how it does with a load, and with my passenger. Since I usually don't ride without the Micatech cases anymore, I'm not too worried about the setup without the cases. If I ever do take it to the track I'll just have to deal with it.

Yesterday while I had the seat off, I plugged in the GS-911 to read the computer codes. It told me there was a fault in the heated grips. Duh! I knew that since my right hand gets cold. When I get back from the trip, I'll take the bike over to Wild West and see if they can fix it under warranty. Otherwise I'll have to splurge for a new right grip which is about $100, I can get both sides for $180 though. I may just do that so I know I have 2 good working grips going to Alaska this summer. But let's hope I can get it fixed under warranty.

Well, I guess I'd better go pack. And I'm going to put my wallet in my jacket pocket, NOW, so I don't have a repeat of last year when I had to turn around a go back home to get it. 5:30am is the call for side stands up, and I plan to work out before I leave so the alarm will be ringing early.