Friday, July 23, 2010

BMW Rally 2010 - Day 15

This was our last day, by the end of the day we'd be home. It was sort of a sad time when you realize the end of an odyssey is quickly approaching. But none the less, we had some fun places to go so I got out of bed and got ready to go. The breakfast at Best Western is a little higher class than the offerings in Tucumcari so I opted to eat breakfast before we left. Reagan wasn't as impressed with the fare but she knew apple pie was on the horizon.

We left the hotel just after 8:15, gassed up and headed north out of town on Hwy 16 toward the Willow City loop. Once on the loop, I let Reagan lead so she'd get to see more wildlife. Being in the second position I still saw a lot of wildlife and one large 8 point buck still in velvet. He was really amazing to look at, I even stopped briefly to get a better look but didn't have my camera to take a picture.

We continued around the loop at a very leisurely pace, enjoying the scenery and wildlife. It was fun to imagine living in such a place. And I noticed they seem to have power, phones and cable TV so it wouldn't be too rough to live out there. Finally the loop the ended and we were back at Hwy 16 so we headed to our next stop, Luckenbach.

When we arrived in Luckenbach it was still early and the motorcycle parking area was empty. So we parked the bikes, acquired a patch for Reagan and enjoyed some water and coffee while sitting under the trees. Since we had arrived so early there weren't any local musicians playing yet. But we did have fun checking out some of the great license plates posted around the stage.

After leaving Luckenbach, we headed back into Fredericksburg to pick up Hwy 16 south toward Kerrville. We were heading down to Medina for some Apple pie before leaving the area. About 20 miles north of Kerrville it started raining on us and I really considered re-routing us toward home since Hwy 16 just isn't as fun in the rain. But it seemed like it was going to pass so we rode on through Kerrville. The rain did pass, until we got south of town. It's probably the slowest I've ever ridden that stretch of road between Kerrville and Medina but I still managed to have fun. And we even found some property for sale along the way. I don't know anything about it, other than there was a for sale sign on the gate.

As we rolled into Medina the rain was done (figures) and parking at the Apple store was easy to find. We had apple pie and apple ice cream. Reagan bought some apple strudel coffee and then we left. We now had to get home.

The plan was to take Hwy 16 over to 1604 around San Antonio. We stopped for gas in Helotes and I briefly considered just dropping down to Hwy 90 and going through town. But the GPS was adamant about going around San Antonio to the north. Next time I'm going through town. The mess on 1604 at the I-35 interchange was ridiculous. But after we made it to I-10 things seemed to settle down.

We took the Kingsbury exit and jumped down to Hwy 90A and took that home. The final gas stop of the day was in Eagle Lake at the Buc-ees. As always, people wanted to talk to Reagan about her bike. Meanwhile I was left to my own devices. It's probably for the best, since my mic had broken I probably would have talked a poor fella's ear off if he had asked me about my bike. Reagan had a little problem with the gas valve on her pump so she got to wear cologne d'gasoline for the rest of the trip home.

We arrived home at 5:30pm. We had travelled 5,400 miles over the course of 15 days. It was a great trip. The fact that Reagan wasn't ready to come home made it an especially good trip. Hopefully next summer we can stay out longer, there are definitely many other rallies we could attend along the way.

Technical challenges on this trip included:
- J&M wiring on my bike on the first morning, just used the co-rider cable instead. Need to pin it out and find out where the short/break is.
- Reagan's GPS lost itself a few days into the trip. I suspect the antenna wires are broken inside. Unfortunately the extended warranty expired on June 5th. So a new GPS is on her wish list, I don't she'll be happy with my Zumo 550 hand-me-down.
- My JRC gloves turned out to be too small. They are great gloves, but I realized after about 2000 miles that the thumb was just a little too short and started causing pain.
- My J&M 8pin helmet connector assembly failed. This problem had been randomly present on prior trips but it finally exacerbated it to the point that I ended up also breaking the microphone wire. I have to either fix the solder connections or purchase a replacement for $35.
- Reagan's lost rear reflector. Even after getting new hardware in Vernal, UT she lost the assembly the next day. So we're going to fabricate something to replace it.
- Reagan's antenna mount. Besides loosing an antenna on the way up, the weight of the antenna assembly seems to have cracked her rear fender struts so I'm going to have to relocate the antenna assembly to another location and repair the struts. Most likely I'll attached the antenna to the top case mount like I've done with mine. Repairing the struts will just take a little TIG welding and paint.
- And of course, my transmission seal leak. That was more of a needless stress factor than anything. After a few days of worrying, I realized the leak wasn't severe and enjoyed the rest of the trip. But it's going to the dealership immediately.

More trips to come!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

BMW Rally 2010 - Day 14

Greetings from Fredericksburg, TX.  Ooops, I'm supposed to start the blog in chronological order and end it with where we are. OK, let's see if I can try this again....

Last night I didn't get a very good night's sleep. I went to bed too early and then woke up around 11pm due to pesky text alerts from one of my clients. Trying to get back to sleep was a hopeless battle and I couldn't get the smell of curry out of my head since our pillows must have been filled with the stuff.

Finally the alarm went off, just as I had actually gotten to sleep. After a slight struggle I got out bed and began the morning routine. While getting everything ready I went over to the breakfast room to get some hot tea. Nope, nothing. My choices were coffee, sweet rolls and cereal. But what do you expect for a $37 room (with tax).  So we rode over to Kix on 66 and had a good breakfast.

By 7:10 we were on the bikes and heading for the gas station. Then it was east on I-40 for a few miles before taking Hwy 469 south out of San Jon. As we turned south we had a strong head wind so I knew we'd probably be stopping sooner than later for gas. But what the hey, we were only going to Abilene and our ETA was almost 2 hours before check-in.

In Grady, NM. we headed east on a 209 which then turned south. We were running parallel to the state line. In Clovis we finally picked up Hwy 60E toward Texas. As we crossed the state line we took our usual state welcome sign photo (which is actually just east of the city Parmer, Tx). Then we continued on our way, happy in the fact that we had returned to our normal timezone and our home state. Once in Texas we were heading southeast on US 70.

We stopped in Shallowater for gas. I had a slight problem with the automatic shutoff valve on the pump, so it's hard to say how much went in the tank versus what went all of the ground. Let's just say there was enough gas spilled all over the bike that I decided to push it away from the pump and let it set for 10 minutes before starting it up. I could just see the bike going up in flames, sure it's covered under insurance and of course then I wouldn't have to worry about the leaking transmission seal. But dang, I'd have to start over on my farkles and I might have been injured. I don't look good with singed eye brows.

During this stop Reagan asked me what there was to do in Abilene. Nothing I suppose. Then she sprung the idea of riding on to Fredericksburg instead. It was just an extra 200 miles. I think I've created a monster while helping her with her Iron Butt ride. So I checked the reservation in Abilene, checked availability in Fredericksburg. Then suggested we see how things were going when we got closer to Abilene since it was on the way. So we continued on Hwy 70, taking the 289 loop around Lubbock to Hwy 84 south.

When we got to I-20, we headed east for a short distance before stopping at a truck stop to fuel up. Reagan was feeling good as was I, so she cancelled the Abilene reservation and set up the Fredericksburg room. Meanwhile I was fiddling with my helmet audio as I had developed a short in the right speaker path. I thought I had the problem fixed so we headed back out onto I-40E. A few miles later we were heading south on Hwy 70 in order to cut over to Hwy 83 south of Abilene. This was going to save us about 15 minutes as apposed to going over to Abilene and then turning south.

In Eden we stopped for gas and to give me another chance to fiddle with my audio problem. By now it had progressed to the point that my microphone also failed to work. I realized this was something I wasn't going to fix while on the road. At least not since my soldering iron got broken last summer when it was shipped home from Alaska. So with full tanks of gas and only 100 miles to go, we headed east on Hwy 87 toward Fredericksburg,  Traffic seemed to be slowing us some but we were still running at least a few miles per hour above the posted speed limit most of the time.

We rolled into the Best Western in Fredericksburg at 5:30, just like we'd planned earlier in the day. It was a good ride and we both felt good although a litthe warm. We'd managed to enjoy temps in the 70s until Texas, and we even stayed in the 80's until we got south of I-20. Then temps creaped up in to the 90's.

All in all we travelled 511 miles in 9.5 hours. It was a great day's ride and we ended in a fun town with a great dinner at Auslander's. Tomorrow we are heading home but I plan to ride out to the Willow City Loop, then swing by Lukenback before taking Reagan south through Kerrville over to Medina for Apple pie. Then it's a straight ride home and a great wrap up to a fantastic vacation.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

BMW Rally 2010 - Day 13

I woke up before the alarm clock this morning but waited for the alarm to sound before getting out of bed. It was a routine morning, until I tried to get some hot tea. They had the breakfast area locked up, no access at all. And there wasn't even a coffee maker in the room to heat up water. But we persevered and packed the bikes, then got our tea and a light snack to get us down the road.

We pulled out of the parking lot by 6:45 and headed east on 160 into town. We didn't get far before I saw a Subway that was just opening, so we stopped in to try their breakfast menu. The chain is still getting their act together regarding breakfast, such as they aren't open early on the weekends. But the breakfast sandwiches are very good. By 7:30 we had finished our breakfast and back on the bikes.

We rode another mile or so into town and then turned south on Hwy 84. We crossed the state line and took the obligatory state welcome sign photo. So long Colorado, Hello New Mexico. 84 turned into 64 and we continued through Chama. In Tierra Amirilla, where we stayed on Hwy 84.

In Hernandez, we took a short little detour to get over to Hwy 68 and headed north for a short ways. Then we turned off onto 75. This turned out to be a fantastic find. It was a rural curvy road following through a quaint valley. The temperature was in the low eighties and the curves seemed unending yet calm. We passed through a few small villages and had to skip a road the GPS wanted to take us on as it was closed.

We picked up Hwy 518 south and continued our travels along a great countryside. The curves seemed to be getting better. As we rode into Mora, we stopped for gas as we had traveled almost 200 miles since filling up the tanks. I managed to get 50mpg on the BMW and Reagan got 40mpg on the Spyder. It always seems that when I get up into the mountains, my mileage increases.

After the gas stop, I wasn't expecting anything special along the route. But we found some more curves. When we got to Las Vegas (New Mexico) we had to get through town and around some construction and then picked up Hwy 104 toward Tucumcari. We'd been on this road 2 years ago, and I knew it was just going to be hot, long and straight. Well, it was hot and you could see the road for miles ahead. But along the way there were stretches of little curves to keep you awake. It was nicer than I remembered.

We rolled into Tucumcari around 1:30 local time. Then a turn down the historic route 66 where we found our hotel. It was an older Travel Lodge, but the room was clean and food was within walking distance. We'd arrived eary enough to get in a nap before dinner. After our nap, we took a walk down the road to a trinket shop, it seems Tucumcari is really struggling. Several of the mom & pop motels were closed. It's clear the town needs to do something to pull travelers off of I-40 if they want to keep this old historic section of town alive.

We travelled 333 miles in 6.75 hours today. The pace was easy but spirited in the twisties. Tomorrow we're heading to Abilene, and then home on Friday.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

BMW Rally 2010 - Day 12

This morning, we were awoken by the sounds of the alarm clock again. We loaded the bikes and rode down to the 7-11 Ranch Restaurant for breakfast. It was 6:15 when we walked inside. Breakfast was good and by 7am we were walking out to the bikes.

Son of a Biscuit!!! Just as I was about to get on the bike I noticed some oil on the ground. Upon further investigation I found my transmission was low on oil and that was the source of the oil leak. It was too early to call any dealerships and the closest one was in Grand Junction so we found a Napa, purchased some 75W-140 synthetic and topped off the transmission. I figured I'd just ride the bike to Grand Junction and have the BMW shop look at the problem.

With a full transmission and a quick gas up, we headed out of town on US 40 to Dinosaur, Wyoming. Then south on Hwy 64. Once in Rangely, we turned south onto Hwy 139. It got hot quick but as we got up into the mountains it cooled off again. After getting through the pass though, the temperature rose again. We headed east on I-70 into Grand Junction.

We followed the GPS to the Honda/BMW dealership only to find they had sold the BMW dealership 2 years ago. With the new dealership info, we headed across town to Grand Junction Harley Davidson/bmw. I talked to the service writer, and then the BMW mechanic and it was determined that if I kept an eye on the oil level I could probably get it home without too many problems. Other wise it was going to be a few days for them to get the seal and do the work. So we bought a shirt and visited with the BMW guys, who were tucked away in a little cubby hole at the opposite end of the dealership. If you are in Grand Junction and want a BMW you have to work to get to the sales floor and to see the bikes.

With the help of the GPS, I got around town and started heading south on Hwy 50 as the route originally planned. By now the temperature was approaching 100 degrees again. And we had a long ways to go. We stopped for gas but the place was a dive so we kept going until we found a nicer place to stop for a break. After drinking some viatamin water I went out and checked the transmission, it was full and the leak had stopped. So it might be a venting issue, since the Grand Junction mechanic told me that if the transmission vent was improperly installed it would cause this sort of leak.

We continued down Hwy 50 to Delta, where the road turned into 550. As we got to Ridgeway, it was clear we were heading into a mountain pass and that it was going to be very wet up ahead. So we stopped to let Reagan put on some rain gear while I covered up my tank bag. Then we continued into the pass and watched the thermometer drop and the rain came down. The pace was slow because of traffic and the rain, but we managed to get through the pass without incident and ride into Durango.

We picked up 162 east toward Pagosa Springs. Along the way, we passed up a Spyder gang. There were 3 of them and they all had silver Spyders like Reagan. I considered just following behind them for a while, but as we approached them coming down a hill, I didn't feel like rolling off the throttle lock so we blew by them as if they was parked on the side of the road.

We arrived 10.5 hours after leaving the hotel this morning.  Total mileage for the day, 375 miles.  The transmission issue cost us time, and it looks like the whole problem may be related to a mistake made at the factory or by my dealership last fall. When I get it home, I'll figure out where the mistake occurred. Eitherway this is a BMW warranty issue. Tomorrow we are heading to Tucumcari, NM. We are exhausted, and sleep should come early tonight.

Monday, July 19, 2010

BMW Rally 2010 - Day 11

This morning we awoke to the sound of an alarm clock. While it's not my preferred method of waking up we wanted to get an early start so we could minimize the time spent in the heat. We packed up the bikes, ate a quick breakfast downstairs and left the parking lot by 6:30 am. A quick stop by the nearby Chevron for gas and then we were heading out of town.

The first part of the route was on I-80 east toward Pocatello, then we headed south on I-15. When we turned east on US 30 we stopped at the Flyin' J in McCammon, Idaho for gas and a break. Then it was back on the road. We followed US 30 east and south to I-80 and stopped at Little America, Wyoming for gas and a break. We'd gone 184 miles since the Flyin' J and Reagan still had 1.5 gallons left in her tank. It was nice to see such great mileage out of both bikes. After sitting in the shade on a patch of cool, green grass we mounted the bikes and headed east on I-80 to Grand River.

At Grand River we headed south on 530 toward the Flaming Gorge. We'd ridden this road last year but it was such a great route into Vernal that we decided to do it again. As we headed south I could see dark rain clouds over the pass that I knew we were going to go over. The only question was how wet we'd get.

When we reached the Utah state line, the road changed to Hwy 43 into Manilla. We then headed south on Hwy 44 and started climbing into the mountains. This was the part of the route that I was looking forward to. There were plenty of twisties with ascending and descending corners. I was very happy. Along the way the clouds started to spit on us but nothing worth putting on rain gear or even zipping up. By the time we got to the south side of the pass where there are 10 great switchbacks we were getting into traffic. I did manage to get around some traffic and enjoy 2 or 3 tight switchbacks before getting behind a long 10 or 12 vehicle traffic jam going down the road.

Once we got back down to the flat land, the semis picked up their speed and we all got into town without much excitement. Reagan and I detoured by the True Value hardware store to get some parts for her tail light and then headed over to the Econolodge. Check in was a snap, we had parking right outside our door and the room was nice. Oh and it was $45 less than the Best Western next door. Econolodge is becoming my new favorite inexpensive hotel.

Since we got to the hotel just after 3, I was able to get a nap in this afternoon. Then we watched a little TV before walking down to the 7-11 Ranch Restaurant just down the street. Dinner was great and service was good.

Today we travelled 459 miles in 8.5 hours, enjoyed a nice break under the shade of a tree and found some fun twisties. Tomorrow we are heading down through Durango to stay in Pagosa Springs, only a few miles of the route are on interstate the rest is backroads. Tomorrow the plan is the same, up early, leave early, beat the heat.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

BMW Rally 2010 - Day 10

On the road again....

The Rally ended last night and this year we did not win any door prizes or grand prizes. But I did find a few more farkles for the GS. Both were in the lighting department and both utilize LEDs so I can reduce my alternator load while hopefully increasing my conspicuity and night time visibility.

We got up this morning, packed up the bikes, visited with some folks and left the Best Western by 7:30am local time. The plan was simple, follow hwy 26 east to I-84 and then follow it to Twin Falls, Idaho. And the plan worked fine, mostly.

Riding along Hwy 26 was great as there were several sections of twisties along the way. As we passed through one "town" we saw several BMWs parked outside a little cafe so we decided to turn around and eat breakfast there. What a great choice, they served Peanut Butter French Toast. Just think a peanut butter sandwich made with hot slices of french toast. It was delicious.

We continued our route along Hwy 26 stopping for gas 2x while still in Oregon. At one stop out in the country, they didn't really care about the Oregon law regarding gas pump attendants so we had to opperate the pumps ourselves. I was worried that I wasn't up to the task but managed to fill up both bikes without injury to myself, the gas station or anything else near by.

Along the way, we stopped at a gas station for some water and a break to get out of the sun. While there we talked with a fella from Florida who has been riding for  a long time. He was telling us a story about an old run down hotel across from a gas station out by Big Bend National Park and I asked, are you talking about Sanderson? And indeed he was. It was quite fun to sit around and trade stories for a while.

When we started our ride, temps were down in the 60's and fell to 55 through some of the twisties. But by the time we reached I-84 it was pushing 100 degrees. So once on I-84 we just toughed it out until we were about 80 miles west of Twin Falls. There we stopped for gas and some fluids. While at the stop we talked with a few other riders. One rider had gotten a $500 speeding ticket in Oregon, I believe his speed was 87 in a 65. Ouch! He had a co-rider from Paris, France. She we nice and it was neat to get a foreigner's perspective of touring the US. But since the temps weren't falling and we still had 80 miles to go it was time to get a move on.

Slowly but surely the mile markers increased as we were patiently waiting for exit 173. That meant we had reached Twin Falls and only had a few miles of riding left to get into town and check in at the Super 8. Just after 6, we made it there and got checked in.

Total mileage today was 429 miles over 9.5 hours. Plus we lost an hour as we passed into the Mountain time zone.  The heat was our biggest problem today, at one point my ambient temp guage read 109. That's pretty darn hot, even if it is a "dry" heat.  Tomorrow we are supposed to go to Vernal, Utah where we have reservations. The plan is to get up earlier and get on the road quicker. Doing so, should help to get us off the road earlier and thus out of the heat sooner. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

BMW Rally 2010 - Day 7

Today was our first actual rally day. I didn't feel well this morning so it was difficult to get going. But I got my work done and finally got out of the room around 9:30. It turns out our motel was just a few blocks from the rally site. No wonder there weren't any rooms available for this weekend.

So we rode over to Rally, completed registration, dropped off all our raffle tickets and turned in our IBA paperwork. Reagan is now an official IBA member and has the license plate plaque to prove it. Then it was time to figure out what all we wanted to see. As there weren't any seminars I wanted to see I headed over to the BMW demo ride tent to sign up for a F800ST demo ride at 1 and then went over to the ERC range to help out since one of the instructors had been teaching the class 2x a day for 3 days. I figured I could help him out for an hour or 2 and get familiar with the range for my class tomorrow.

The class was great but it ran long and I missed my 1pm demo ride. Luckily I was able to get the same bike for the 3pm slot so I had some time to kill. I met up with Reagan and she showed me all the vendors she found and things of interest. We met a great lady from Denver who carries all the Olympia gear so we may be riding through Denver on the way home to get Reagan an AST jacket. I got a chance to meet the owners of Micatech cases and we discussed my taillight addition. Then met the folks at Roadgear and talked about my Coconut socks. And finally purchased a set of matching locks for our Givi cases. So now Reagan and I will have the same key for our cases.

It was time for the demo ride so I went over and waited for the rider orientation. Then it was time to meet the ride leader, go over a few more basics and off we went. In our group there were 5 S1000RR bikes, a K1300S, the F800ST that I was riding and a R1200GS in the rear. Obviously they positioned the bikes fastest to slowest. What they couldn't really do ahead of time is position the riders fastest to slowest. As luck would have it, the guy in front of me wasn't as comfortable with the brisk pace so I found myself really holding back in corners. The pace was brisk enough that I was able to see the 800 reach the ton mark easily. It was odd to be on a high revving bike after being on the GS for 3 years. I think the 800ST would meet my desires for a second bike that has track capabilities while still being something I could ride to the Hill Country for a weekend trip. After seeing the S1000RR in action and learning more about it, I want to take it for a test ride to see the amazing sport bike for myself. It might be great for the track but I wonder if it's too much for the ride out to the Hill Country.

After the demo ride we caught a seminar on the design of the S1000RR and then another seminar on a Japanese tour. I think Reagan was into the Japan tour until it became obvious this touring company didn't really have their stuff together. Since Japan is a country that really isn't into tourism, it appears they still need to iron out some kinks in their tour service. It seems a little too much "do-it-yourself" for a 12 day tour that's going to cost around $6K or $7K per person.

Once the tour seminar was over we walked back to the bikes, geared up and rode the 20 miles to Prineville where we are staying for the weekend. The ride was short and scenic, the Best Western turned out to be a real treasure find, and we met a nice guy who really was interested in Reagan's bike as he did electrical customization work for those who aren't handy with wiring. Upon his recommendation we walked down to a nice little steak house and had a fantastic dinner. Tomorrow I'm going to roast on the range in the afternoon, and I hope to get a demo ride on the 1000RR in the morning. Other than that I don't know what tomorrow holds.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

BMW Rally 2010 - Day 6

We made it to Redmond, Oregon. It only took 17 hours and 1061 miles but we arrived before the sunset. More info after some food.........

Ok, so this morning we woke up at 4am MDT and started getting ready. The plan was to be across the street by 5am, get our receipts and go. And that's exactly what we did and then we were on the road heading west. We were going to be on I-94/I-90 for over 700 miles.

Our first stop was 141 miles later in Billings. Who the heck turned on the freezer! When the ride started I thought I was a little cold but by the time we stopped I was genuinely uncomfortable and Reagan was far worse. So we gassed up and made some wardrobe changes. Reagan needed some time to warm up so I took the opportunity to get a sausage, egg and cheese bagel. Yum!!! Once Reagan got warmed up and layered up she was ready to go so I led us out and back onto the interstate. Total stop time was 28 minutes.

OMG!!! Who turned on the wind machine? When we got on the other side of Billings the wind started blowing like a hurricane or something. The good (and bad) part was that it was pretty much a head wind so it didn't blow us around too much. But it killed gas mileage for that leg so we made the second stop 20 miles sooner than planned and the only gas station was in town and not directly on the Interstate. While trying to drive into town we got caught in construction where they had the street down to one lane. Grrrr.... I'm sitting there watching the clock tick away while we aren't moving. When we do finally get to the gas station, there's a problem at the pumps so we have to go into pay. Finally we get back on the road, in just 22 minutes. Oh, the unplanned town? Livingston, Montanna. Apparently cities named Livingston just aren't my favorite as they usually give me problems.

So we are back on the road, and the wind seems to have died down. Temps are still cool but manageable. During the 3rd stretch things just seemed to work well. We didn't have mother nature fighting us, we didn't have bad construction delays and traffic wasn't even an issue. We were getting really good mileage so we decided to press on to Deer Lodge which was our original planned stop. We went 149 miles on this stretch and Reagan still had a little gas to spare. The stop was quick as I helped with the bikes while she ran in for a bio break. The pumps worked, the receipts printed, everything was great. We were out of there in 10 minutes. Woooohoooo! That is until my receipt book flew out of my tank bag and went flying across the highway. I immediately knew what happened and quickly stopped the bike on the side of the road and turned around. While Reagan was a little farther back, she too went to retrieve the notepad. Luckily I always clip my receipts to a page and then click all of the pages to the front cover so all the receipts were still there and I only lost some blank pages and spare paper clips. This little mistake turned our 10 minute stop into a 16 minute one.

The next stop was 137 miles later in Superior. Not much to this stop, it was a quick in and out without any incident. It was however the last stop in Montana. Our next stop wouldn't be until Washington. Stop time was less than 15 minutes with both of us getting a bio break.

Riding through western Montana and northern Idaho was a blast. We had lots of wide sweepers going uphill and down. And the best part was the speed limit remained 75 with just yellow caution signs recommending slower speeds. Bah!!! We don't need any caution signs. It's probably the most fun I've had on an interstate anywhere to date.

When we got into Washington things changed. The speed limit dropped to 55 and we had to ride through Spokane. I don't care for that town. People like to sit on the left lane and poke along. We did stop for gas on the west side of town without incident. I ended up getting a vitamin water while I was there and we visited with a local who really wanted to sell us his mom's old BMW. Total stop time was less than 15 minutes, we had this stop thing down to a science.

Riding along I-90 in Washington was a real bore compared to the mountainous area of Idaho. But we trudged along as the temperatures started to rise. Previously in Montana and Idaho we had enjoyed 70's and lower. But now temps were climbing into the 80s. It was getting hot and dry. In Ritzville we finally left I-90 and headed south on 395. This was a real booster in moral because we knew we were done with the biggest stretch of the ride. Of course that meant we had the lesser roads to contend with as well.

The next gas stop was in Pasco, Washington after 126 miles. The stop was normal and really not memorable. We stopped, gassed, hit the bathrooms and went. It was a typical sub 15 minute stop.

After the stop was interestig though, as we had to go through the middle of Pasco. Stop light after stop light. The Zumo failed in the "Fastest Time" department because we could have taken a loop around if I had caught this routing blunder. Time wise it didn't impact us too much but it was tiring. We headed out of town on I-84 south to the state line.

At the state line I looped around and took a picture of the Washington state sign since we weren't able to get it on the way in. Then I snapped the boring green welcome to Oregon sign. This little dance around the bridges cost me a few minutes but then I caught back up with Reagan who was waiting up ahead for me.

I-84 ran into I-82 which we took west, straight into the sun in the afternoon. Oh joy! The ride on 84 was nice while it was along the river but it was still hot as temps near 90 degrees. And the speed, 65 miles per hour. Boring.....

Finally we reached Biggs Junction and our turn onto 97 which would take us into Redmond. Since we were passing a gas station we stopped a few miles earlier than Wasco, Or. Good thing to as Wasco wasn't completely on Hwy 97. The stop was easy and we both took a bio break. We had 122 miles left to go and it was all going to be on a two lane road through the country side.

I led us out then Reagan took the lead. The speed limit was 55 but that was really more of a suggestion than anything. We zipped along passing vehicles when the road permitted. There are lots of semis on that road and it wouldn't have been my preferred route to finish such a ride but it worked out OK.

We rolled into Redmond, stopped at the Chevron to get our final receipt and get off the clock. Reagan had ridden her first SS1000 in fine form. We then went to the hotel and checked in, unloaded the bikes and went next door for a late dinner.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

BMW Rally 2010 - Day 5

This morning we got a late start because we didn't have so far to go. So we slept late, ate breakfast at Peggy's Place and then shipped some things from the Keystone Post Office. While at the post office we met a gentleman from Canada who works at the Can Am Spyder factory and he pointed out the part that he's responsible for building. That was sort of a cool way to start the morning. Reagan found out, there's a 50 percent chance that he actually worked on her bike. Cool.

We left Keystone on US 16 toward Deadwood. Then picked up 385 north toward Deadwood. The scenery was great, temperatures were cool and traffic was minimal most of the time. When we arrived in Deadwood we parked in the city parking garage and walked around the tourist section of town. Reagan wanted to show me where Wild Bill Hikcok was shot. Unfortunately the bar was closed for renovations so we couldn't go in. Although the sign said closed for renovations, it looked more like they had just closed and never reopened. But time will tell.

I was sort of turned off with Deadwood as it seemed all there were along the street were places selling bad motorcycle leather and junky western paraphernalia. And lots of casinos. We went inside a museum/casino to get some iced tea and see what was in the museum. There were lots of old cars and bikes from movies, plus various props, costumes and guitars signed by various artists. After a while, I decided to play a slot machine and stuck a dollar bill in and pressed the button to bet 3 credits.  I didn't win but this strange button in the middle kept lighting up. I was unable to get my last credit to play or to get it back. So I just gave up and played another machine while Reagan was playing the slot machine ajacent to it.

Well a little old lady came walking by and asked if anyone was playing the slot machine I had just vacated. I told her I had been and that it was messed up because I couldn't get my last credit out. She told me it wasn't messed up and that she'd split the winnings with me 50/50. It turned out I had won a video bonus round at the top and was supposed to shoot some bottles with that button that kept lighting up. Thank goodness she knew what she was doing because she won 110 coins with that bonus round and then promptly cashed out the machine, handing me 55 quarters. 

I played a few more rounds on other machines but then decided to cash in my luck. The cashier gave me $20 but before we could get out of there Reagan and I spent a few more dollars on the penny slots. Even so we walked out of there ahead. Even after the $8 it cost to park the 2 bikes we still had a few dollars left after the visit to Deadwood.

We left town via US 85 north and followed that all the way to Bowman, North Dakota.  About 40 miles north of Belle Fourche, SD we stopped to gas up and get a bite to eat for lunch.  This store was actually a small 6.5 acres town known as Crows Butte, SD.  It's for sale if you are interested, I think the asking price was $248,000. You get a gas station with 1 pump (diesel and unleaded), 6.5 acres, some RV camping area, and the store has a little kitchen on the back. You'd truly be out in the boonies.

After lunch we continued on toward Bowman. We encountered some construction and had to wait on the pilot truck. Then we resumed our ride into North Dakota. We stopped in Bowman for a bio break and some more fuel. From here it was only 120 miles or so into Miles City so I knew we'd be ok even if we didn't see anymore gas stops. Which we didn't.

We headed west on US 12 from Bowman to Miles City. There was road construction along the way and again we got stopped due to a Pilot Truck but the line started moving just as we arrived so we didn't really have to wait on the Pilot truck. After the construction we had to pass some vehicles and then it was clear sailing into Miles City.

Thanks to the GPS, finding the hotel was a snap. We're staying at the Econolodge tonight just off of I-94. There's a 24 hours Exxon across the street and a family restaurant in the parking lot. There's even free guest laundry machines so we are taking care of laundry as I type. One other thing that makes this place a great stop is the friendly service. The young girl is friendly and helpful.

Today we travelled 316 miles with an elapsed time of 7 hours 48 minutes. We didn't even get on the road until 8:45 this morning but the temperature never seemed to get above 85. The only time I found it uncomfortable was when we were riding along in the second construction zone. At speeds of 10mph, with the bright sun blasting down on my black boots, I thought it was going to roast my left foot. But once we got back to regular cruising speeds it was nice and cool.

Tomorrow night we'll be in Redmond, Oregon. Reagan's plan is to leave the gas station by 5am. If all goes according to Reagan's plan, we'll be at the Super 8 by 8pm (10pm CDT). We are gaining an hour of day light thanks to the time shift, so the whole ride should happen in daylight with the exception of a few minutes in the morning.  We will see.

Monday, July 12, 2010

BMW Rally 2010 - Day 4

Today we weren't traveling anywhere, it was a rest day and a chance to explore the area around Mt. Rushmore. We didn't get out of the parking lot until after 8:30 and then it was just a short ride up to Mt. Rushmore to explore the monument.

This was my second visit to the monument and I wanted to see all of the things I didn't see before. We walked the trail, visited the museum and the sculptors studio. The only difficulty we had was with the crowds. They just got in the way.

Next Reagan led me down to Wind Cave National Park with a slight detour to the town of Custer when she made a wrong turn. So we missed the Needles Highway. But we made it to Wind Cave and took the Fairground Tour. I was totally impressed with the cave.

After the cave tour, we realized we didn't have time to make the train tour back in Keystone so we took a leisurely ride back up to 16A and rode Iron Mountain road to get back to Keystone. Again, crowds of cars got in my way.  Reagan and I have come to the conclusion that June through August are months in which you should stay away from National Park areas.

Today we only traveled 97 miles over an 8 hour period. I found some fun curves on 16A and a lot of people all over the roads. Hopefully Reagan and I will be able to enjoy National Parks in the off-season more often.

Tomorrow was are heading up to Miles City, MT. According to Garmin it's only going to be 312 miles so we're going to get a later start and we're stopping in Deadwood to see where Wild Bill (Or some Old west celebrity) was killed.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

BMW Rally 2010 - Day 3

Greetings from Keystone, South Dakota just a few miles from Mt. Rushmore. We'll be staying here for a day to see the sights around the area and then continue on to Miles City Tuesday morning. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This morning I was awake before 5 so I got up and got ready. The plan was to take advantage of the free breakfast since they were supposed to have biscuits and gravy at 6am, then hit the road because I was worried about the distance versus time since we wouldn't be on interstate and I didn't realize we'd gain an hour crossing time zones. We were leaving town by 6:30 with a beautiful sunrise to the east. The sun was hidden behind a patch of clouds but the rest of the sky was clear so you could see a great startburst like pattern. We headed north on US 183.

When we got to I-80 we stopped at the truck stop to get Reagan a new antenna. This time I picked up a 3' fiberglass unit that was lighter than the 2' or 4' firesticks. While I installed the antenna Reagan was visiting with a local who found the Spyder to be interesting. Shocker! With the new antenna installed it was time to resume our travels up 183.

In Ansley we picked up Hwy 2 north, we stopped in Dunning for fuel at the local Sinclair. It definitely wasn't a state of the art gas station. It had the old analog dials on the pump and strangely Super Premium was cheaper than plain unleaded. I opted for the plain unleaded though thinking it was probably newer than the Super. After Reagan completed a riding gear correction, we resumed our travels. The temperature to this point was in the lower 70's and the sky was clear blue.

In Thedford we turned north onto US 83. When we reached Hwy 20 we turned left and continued north into Valentine where we stopped for a bio break. I picked the Shell/McDonalds figuring they'd have clean restrooms. What I hadn't planned on was the crazy number of people all over the place. As normal, somebody was interested in Reagan's Spyder. This time it was a lady from Beaumont, TX. My this is a small world.

After the break we took Hwy 83 north out of town heading for the South Dakota border. We stopped at the border for a state sign photo and then we were on indian reservation land. Oh how I hate reservation land. Speed limits usually suck, gas stations are spotty and service at them is usually slow. Well, a few miles onto the reservation we passed a gas station and I decided to stop since I wasn't sure when and where we'd find the next station while riding through reservation land. That was a good thing too, as we didn't find another station within 60 miles which would have really pushed the Spyder's range. Of course the station didn't have pay at the pump and the attendant was too stupid to turn on 2 pumps for 1 person. So much for a quick gas-n-go.

With full tanks we resumed our travels up 83 to White River where we headed west on 44 and then back into more reservation land. At least there weren't any reservation law enforcement present so we made decent time.

Finally off reservation lands we reached Hwy 377 and turned left into the very small town of Interior which apparently only comes alive for the Sturgis rally. There were several bars/grills and none of them looked like they had been open since last year's rally. It was after 12:00 and we were sort of hungry so we pressed on looking for a place to eat or a scenic overlook to stop at and share some snacks that we had on the bikes.

Although we had turned left onto 377 we were still on Hwy 44 and it took us through a small part of the Bad Lands National Park. I actually found a few curves, wow! At this point we knew were close to Rapid City and there was also a pretty nasty weather system up ahead. It wasn't a matter of if it was going to rain but rather when it was going to rain. Just as we rolled into Rapid City it started to spit on us. Reagan stopped for gas while I scouted for a place to eat and get out of the impending rain. We found a pub/grill next door to the gas station where we stayed for the next 2 hours waiting for 3pm so we could check into our hotel in Keystone.

As 3pm neared and it was obvious that the rain wasn't leaving, we geared up in our rain gear and headed over to Keystone. Traffic was moderate for a touristy place and we found our hotel without incident. Check in was easy and we even managed a parking place right outside our front door.

After getting everything inside, we opted to walk down to the Borglum Museum to learn a little bit more about Mt. Rushmore. By the time we were done I realized I really needed a nap so we walked back over to the hotel for a short nap. And after a decent nap, Reagan suggested we go over to Peggy's Place for some pie since neither of us were really hungry for a full dinner. Our waitress was from Texas and said she spent winters down in Victoria because it was too cold to stay up here.

After a nap and pie, I was ready to go see the metropolis of Keystone so we walked on into town. Lock up your wallets folks, for a town of only 311 they work really hard to separate you from your money with all sorts of touristy junk. But the walk was free and good for us. BTW: I'm wearing my new Tour Master Solutions boots and they are great for walking around as well as riding.

Like any good day, this day is ending with a cold beer while sitting outside with beautiful scenery. WiFi sucks at the Travel Lodge, but my Sprint Overdrive hotspot is here to save the day.  Today we road  430 miles over 9 hours and 48 minutes. Considering the 2 hour stop in Rapid City, we made incredible time through reservation land.

Tomorrow Reagan is the tour guide for the area and she's asking me for my input. So I'd better wrap up this blog post.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

BMW Rally 2010 - Day 2

Neither of us had a good night's sleep so we were up early this morning and pulling out of the hotel parking lot by 6. There was a Waffle House across the street and since there was a dense fog advisory in effect we decided to grab some breakfast before getting on the road. Breakfast was entertaining thanks to the cook behind the counter.

After breakfast we stopped by the Wal-Mart to get some WD-40 and waterproofing spray. It seems with all the rain yesterday one of my side case locks wouldn't accept the key completely. After a quick spray though, everything was good. So we pulled out of the parking lot and headed north and I-35 through Oklahoma City on up to Wichita, Kansas. Then we picked up I-135 to Salina. Along the way we stopped for fuel and Reagan realized the screw to her backrest had come out and fallen off. So we stopped in Salina to pickup a screw and get something to drink. Upon leaving the parking lot, Reagan hit a pot hole and her $50 rear reflector/license plate light cover broke off again. If I hadn't seen it myself I would never have believed it. I picked up the cover and tossed it in the top case and then left town. It looks like I can save the reflector with a little creativity.

After Salina, we took US-81 north. About 25 miles later I started checking for gas up ahead and didn't see anything coming up along the route. But a few miles off the route was Minneapolis and a quaint little gas station. So quaint in fact that it didn't even have pay at the pump but they did turn on the pumps without requiring us to go inside first. With full tanks it was time to get back on route.

We turned left onto US 24 west and stopped in Beloitt for a bio break and then decided to detour through town to find something to eat. We found a local hamburger joint where I had a Taco Tater and Reagan had a quarter pounder with cheese.

Then we resumed our route west to US 281 N then on up to US 36 W. Everything was going as planned until I saw the construction sign saying that US-183 was closed at the Nebraska border. It seems it wouldn't be a trip this year if we didn't get sent down some construction detour. At least this one didn't get up lost. So we went up Hwy 8 to Franklin, NE and then west on US 136.

When we rolled into Alma, NE we decided to stop for gas and a quick break. While stopped we visited with some other motorcyclists headed up to the Mt. Rushmore area. Then we all got on our motorcycles and got underway. The ride up 183 was a short one and it was easy to find the Super 8 as we rode into town.

In total we rode 463 miles today. Total time from start to finish was 9 hours. It was nice to get away from the interstate finally. Tomorrow we are heading to Keystone, SD and none of it is interstate.

Oh, two things I left out.  We went through Cawker City, supposedly the home of the largest ball of twine. Well either a monster cat unraveled the ball or they need to get some better signs as we never found the ball of twine. Second, when we stopped in Alma for gas we discovered Reagan's antenna had broken off. Ooops!  Apparently the rear of Reagan's bike is a dangerous area.

Friday, July 9, 2010

BMW Rally 2010 - Day 1

It's finally time for this year's big summer trip. This year I won't be on the road for 35 days straight  but I will be riding for 2 weeks with my sweetie pie and her Spyder. Last weekend I managed to work on the bikes and get everything ready to go. Yesterday evening I finally started packing.

This morning the plan was to leave at 7am. I personally had my doubts as we never seem to leave on time. But this morning we were ready to leave at 6:45. Just before we pulled out of the driveway, we checked the radios and found that my mic wasn't working. After some frustration and testing I figured out that my cable was messed up but that my co-rider cable was still in good shape. So the challenge was to quickly reroute the working cable to the rider position. This sort of a situation is a great example of why I don't mind spending the extra $30 for the J&M CB with the 2up option instead of the cheaper solo option.

As I began removing the side cases to disassemble the rear of the bike, I discovered that I had left my clothes in the house so this problem turned out to be a blessing for me as I would have gotten into Oklahoma before realizing I had left my clothes behind. After about 45 minutes I was buttoning up the rear of the bike and quickly eating a sausage McMuffin that Reagan had bought for me while I was working. We were finally ready to go, it was 7:45 as we left the house. This time with all of my luggage. A quick stop by the Exxon to fuel up and then we headed toward Houston on 59N.

The sky looked good and traffic was mild for 8am, so we took the beltway around town to I-45N. Then it was north to Dallas. Our first stop for gas was Woody's Smokehouse in Centerville. Exit 164 for anyone who doesn't know. As usual, Reagan became the Spyder ambassador as people wanted to ask her about her bike. A quick bio break, a phone call and we were ready to go again.

The weather continued to look good all the way through Dallas. For anyone who thinks traffic in Houston is horrible, they have never driven on I35 in Dallas. And if they have and still think Houston is worse, they are just delutional. I had several drivers just come over into my lane without any concern for me. In one case I was stuck splitting lanes as I had a large truck to my left. I'm starting to think a shotgun mount might be a good idea, kind of a Mad Max sort of thing.

We stopped north of Denton for gas and planned to eat at the Cracker Barrel, yet there was a long wait so we made some adjustments for the rain that was starting to fall and then continued north. The rain wasn't bad, merely enough to make the roads wet. We stopped in Ganesville at the Cracker Barrel (note: Take exit 501 not exit 500 as the billboards claim). By the time we were finished with lunch the rain was just a sprinkle.

As we crossed into Oklahoma the rain really started to come down so we pulled into the rest stop to allow Reagan the chance to put on her Frog Togg top. We opted not to put on the pants as we figured we'd just drive through it. Note to self, if you are going to put on the top, put on the pants. I also discovered that my waterproofing has worn off of my Olympia jacket since last winter, so I'm going to look for an Academy tomorrow and spray it down tomorrow night if I don't run into any rain late in the day tomorrow.

Just south of Ardmore, OK. we came upon some road construction that pushed us down to 1 lane. Then to make matters worse there was a wreck at the other end of the zone. Apparently Oklahoma doesn't have a steer-it, clear-it concept. There was a dually pickup truck that looked like it rear ended another truck and the dually was just left there in the roadway. With a Fire truck, State trooper and multiple construction trucks all standing around staring at the truck. OMG, push the dang thing out of the way and get traffic moving. Instead they had traffic backed up in both directions for miles. There must be some sort of cosmic karma thing about me getting stuck in the rain on an interstate in a construction zone because of a wreck. This sort of thing happened to me a few years ago in Georgia while I was trying to out run a tropical storm from Florida.

Just after 4pm we arrived in Norman, OK. at the Super 8. Fortunately I had made a reservation earlier in the week, apparently there's a tour bus or something that has taken up all the other rooms. We parked the bikes and unloaded. Then kicked back and relaxed for a little bit before going across the street to the Golden Corral for dinner.

Getting from Sugar Land to Norman, OK wasn't a difficult task. We took the interstate the whole way becase we want to get as far north as quickly as we can. This will give us 2 days to play around in South Dakota in the Mount Rushmore area. Today we covered 450 miles in 8 hours and 12 minutes.  Gas stops were quick, only the lunch stop hurt our time. When Reagan does her SS1000 on Wednesday the plan is to not stop for lunch but just take a short break for an energy bar instead.

This is day 1 of 16. So far we are off to a pretty good start. Tomorrow night is Holdrege, NE.