Saturday, September 29, 2012

Let the farkling begin!

Today, I wanted to install a few things on the new bike so it could move from sitting in the corner of my garage to being my daily driver as I start to dismantle the old rally bike.

The first thing to install was the new Hepco-Becker engine and tank guards. I had these same bars on the old bike so the installation went pretty smoothly. The instructions were in German so it took me a little bit to remember which bolts went where but once I got everything oriented the installation went pretty quickly.

While I was working on the tank guard, I decided to pull off panels and look into the plumbing situation for my auxiliary fuel tank. Hmmm… the first thing I discovered is that I can’t remove the side panels with the tank guard installed. Well that was a problem. Not yet, but it will be when I start wiring up lights anyway. I’ll have to remember to install a plug near the top so the wiring can be easily disconnected when I need to move the tank guard out of the way.

Next thing I discovered is that the new tank only has one access plate and real estate on that plate is pretty scarce. It does look like I might be able to splice into the return line though. Due to height issues though, I think I’ll be using a transfer pump again on this fuel setup. More research and planning will be needed before I get to the actual plumbing stage of a new fuel cell.

After I put everything back together I turned my attention to the rear of the bike. I moved my Givi topcase over from the old bike. This will give me enough waterproof cargo space to carry my laptop to jobsites. If I can find the old parts I took off the old bike I’ll put them back on the tail section, otherwise I’ll move the now useless tail parts from the new bike.

Next I removed the BMW side bag mounts as they won’t be needed for the Micatech cases. I think I’ll install the BMW mounts on the old bike to add an extra bonus when I sell it.

I wanted to install the new HID bulbs I had purchased but time was running out for the day. So I turned my attention to the Fastway pegs. At first I thought it was going to be as easy as popping off the releases and moving things from bike to bike. Well it turned out the spacer situation between 2005 and 2012 changed. In 2005 they tack welded the spacer to the mount on the frame. In 2012 they tack welded the spacer to the foot peg. Hmmmm, that meant I couldn’t use the 2012 stock pegs on the 2005 bike and it also meant I needed to figure out something for a spacer to use the Fastway pegs on the 2012 GS. Washers to the rescue! I had a bag of washers that were just the right size when I stacked two together. So I cleaned up the old Fastway pegs as they still had crud on them from the Haul Road in Alaska. A little dab of grease and they mounted up just fine. I was able to find the stock pegs for the 2005 GS so it has pegs again.

So that’s it for the day. I installed new crash guards, foot pegs and a rear top case. That’s enough to move the bike into my daily driver. Now I can start disassembling the  2005 Rally bike to harvest things like the cruise control, riser bars, GPSes and J&M CB. I’m starting to have second thoughts about the J&M equipment though. Currently I use my phone connected via bluetooth to the Garmin GPS and then it’s hardwired into the J&M. I’ve finally determined the bluetooth stack in the Garmin devices is the problem so a bluetooth helmet solution may be in the works next. Sena is getting great reviews and I can get a set up that will work with earbuds. More research is needed.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Autumnal Equinox 2012: The Rally

The rally started at 10am, with a riders meeting at 9:30. Needless to say I wasn’t rushed to get out of the hotel room. I checked out my bike, headed over to Wal-Mart for a few extra things and then went to the rally master’s house for the meeting and the start.

NOTE: This was a quadrant rally, Oklahoma and surrounding states were divided by the I-35 and I-40 highways. No 2 bonuses could be collected consecutively inside the same quadrant.

There were a few new faces, since not everyone had shown up the night before. We had the riders meeting and then waited around for 10am to arrive. At 5 minutes until the start, a warning was given and everyone started toward their bikes and began donning their gear.

At 10am, we were sent out 1 at a time just like they do at the Iron Butt Rallies. I knew several of us were headed to the same bonus but with traffic and such within a few miles of leaving the start I was riding alone. I started to wonder if I had taken the long way or what?

By 10:56 I reached the first bonus, Clear Creek Monastery. Two of the other riders that I knew were going there had already arrived. I quickly figured out how easy the balloon flag was and grabbed my picture. I then left the area ahead of everyone thanks to the gravel road. I was 20 minutes ahead of schedule already.


The next bonus was in the south eastern quadrant 174 miles away. So I settled into a pace that would keep me from dealing with any more patrol officers. I arrived in Hugo, OK a little after 1:30pm, rode into the Mount Olivet Cemetery and found the Circus City bonus. When I left this bonus I was 43 minutes ahead of schedule after only 2 bonuses. I was trying to find a water tower for the IB Tag bonus but before I did the tag got changed to a park bench.


The next bonus took me back over to I-35 so I could get something in the southwest quadrant. The Fort Arbuckle Monument was just a few miles off of I-35 so it was a quick and easy bonus to grab. I reached the bonus at 4:17pm, I was now only 41 minutes ahead of schedule.


On my way to the FAM bonus I managed to capture an IB tag bonus by finding a picnic table (aka Iron Butt Motel) and followed that up with a big rig getting fuel.

ibptag-captured  ibptag-new

Dealing with those photo tags is why my time ahead of schedule dropped getting to the FAM bonus, but I had managed to add 1,000 points to my score sheet so it was worth it.

The next bonus was at the Sacred Heart Mission near Konawa, OK. It was only worth 132 points but it was part of the MONK combo bonus which gave me an extra 593 points. Plus it was on the way to a big bonus up in the northeast quadrant. I logged this bonus at 5:21pm, 41 minutes ahead of schedule.


The POPS bonus was a timed bonus that didn’t open until 7pm, at my current pace I was due to be there earlier than the open. So even though I was running back roads where it’s easy to gain time I settled into an easy pace and moved along the back roads enjoying the scenery. I reached Pops 66 Soda Ranch at 6:43pm, so I fueled the bike, took a bio break and got some ice to go in my drink cup. Steve Bracken was already there when I arrived.

We both waited patiently for 7pm to arrive and when our cameras confirmed it we snapped our pictures. Steve was heading south and I was heading west, we wouldn’t see each other again until the finish.


My schedule only had one more bonus before I was to jump into a hotel room for the mandatory SLEEP bonus of at least 4 hours with additional points for up to 6 hours of rest. The Comecos Cemetery in Granite, OK was a fun bonus to visit and easy to get up to on the bike. The photo had to include the cemetery PLUS the Will Rogers mural to the northwest. Thank goodness for all of my auxiliary lights. I collected this bonus at 9:30pm which meant I was still 43 minutes ahead of schedule.


I was pretty far west in the quadrant, and my next bonus was on the other side of I-35 in Gene Autry, OK. I had planned to stay in Lawton, OK on the way over there. But since I was feeling good and I knew I would be back tracking through Lawton again to get another bonus in the southwest quadrant I opted to pass through town, being sure to scope out places to get stop and start receipts for the SLEEP bonus.

I arrived in Gene Autry, OK and got a picture of the museum sign as listed. This bonus was used in the April Fools rally earlier this year. I took a couple of extra minutes here to stretch my legs and handle a biological need. I was over an hour ahead of schedule by this point.


On my way back to Lawton, I stopped for gas at an Exxon station just west of I-35 in Springer, OK. Their receipt printer didn’t work so I snapped a photo of the pump. Hmm, I’m supposed to be able to carry 11 gallons of fuel. I had a little over a gallon to spare but after midnight in this part of Oklahoma I didn’t want to chance it.


I got into Lawton a little after 2am with my start receipt showing 2:10am. I checked into the Quality Inn where they were waiting for me. And I got a few hours of sleep. I ended the rest bonus at 7am just down the street at an ATM machine. I opted to turn as much of that “ahead of schedule” time into extra points.

I headed west to Frederick Cemetery in Frederick, OK. Being as it was Sunday morning traffic was non-existent. And I was heading west as the sun rose behind me. I collected the bonus at 7:48am and boogied back toward Lawton.


I wasn’t really working off my my schedule any more. Instead, I had maximized my points for the SLEEP bonus and gave myself only an extra 20 minutes to collect all of the remaining bonuses.  As long as my Zumo 550 said I would reach the end point before 2:00 pm I was happy.

On my way up to Oklahoma City I passed the 1,000 mile mark so I stopped at the Phillips 66 in Chicasaw, OK to get an ending gas receipt to document my Oklahoma SaddleSore 1000. I pulled into the station at 9:20:30am and by 9:23:38am I was moving again. A 3 minute gas stop is all business!

The Zumo was telling me I had 10 minutes to spare after the fuel stop. I still had 4 bonuses to collect. I expected things would be tight. As I headed toward OKC I thought about possibly dropping some stops but decided not to.

I collected the 45th Infantry Museum bonus at 10:00am. That means I had ridden 1,120 miles in just 24 hours AND gotten almost 5 hours of rest to boot. That’s a solid OKSS1000. According to my notes I still had 4 hours and 37 minutes of riding to do. I snapped the picture as well as ones of my GPS odometer and the bike’s odometer. I didn’t take the time to log anything by hand. When I got back to I-35 heading north the GPS said I hadn’t delayed my arrival time by even 1 minute.


Now I needed to collect a bonus in the northeast quadrant and as I had planned I went right by Pops 66 again to bag the Red Barn bonus. This too was in the April Fools rally but this time the requirement was to take a picture of the big red barn. I snagged the photo at 10:18 and then snapped the GPS and bike odo. Another sub-one minute stop.


I hopped back on I-35 north bound and started checking my GPSes to see if they were in agreement to the next stop. They weren’t. The Zumo 665 wanted to take me up to the north, the 550 wanted to bring me in from the south. So I opted for the one with the shortest time. That was the 665. That’s because the 665 had the gravel roads option checked. When I got to the exit and crossed over the over pass, my eyes lit up as I saw the hard packed gravel. I knew I could make some time and I did. I collected the Riverview Cemetery bonus in Three Sands, OK at 11:33.


I turned around and headed back to I-35 the same way I came in. When I reached the interstate my Zumo 550 now told me I would arrive at the end with 20 minutes to spare. Yeeehaw!!! I had picked up some big time and I only had 1 bonus left to collect. That was the Corporal Jared Shoemaker grave site bonus. Again, one that I had visited in April so I knew exactly where it was. I rode into the cemetery at a very slow and respectable speed. I walked to the grave site and collected my final bonus of the rally. It was  1:29pm and I was only 10 minutes from the end.

IMG_3618  IMG_3620

On the way to the end, I decided to stop at a gas station and fuel up so I’d be ready when it was time to head home later in the evening. I topped off the tank, checked over my rally paperwork, basically I was just letting the clock run down.

I arrived with 5 minutes to spare and was the last one in. I had ridden 1,350 miles according the bike’s odometer and 1,362.5 miles according to the Zumo 665. Either way I had time and miles to spare since 1,400 miles was the mileage cap.

After a little visiting, I went inside to compile my score sheet and make sure I recorded things correctly. I then added up my score sheet and discovered I had a total of 10,491 points. Great. Then I heard the rally master tell another rider that his score was 11,000 and something. Hmmm, maybe not great. I sure hoped not too many others had that high of a score.

When it was my turn to get scored I sat with the rally master, we reviewed my score sheet, verified the pictures, confirmed the combo bonuses and then totaled the numbers. After a data entry error on his part we agreed that I had indeed scored 10,491 points and lost NOTHING at the scoring table. This was a monumental accomplishment for me. Now I didn’t care if everyone else got 11,000 and something. I planned my ride, rode my plan, and kept every point I went after. I had won my own personal challenge.

We enjoyed a great dinner of BBQ and talked a lot about how we planned our routes. It was interesting to hear how some others went about digesting the rally pack. I shared what I had done as well.

Finally Michael came out with the scores and announced how Pandora’s Box affected each of the riders. What’s Pandora’s Box you ask? Simple, there were a select group of bonuses where you could collect the points and in doing so the other riders lost the same amount of points. I collected 2 such bonuses so those 500 points meant that other riders lost 500 points. Some riders collected several of the Pandora’s bonuses and we each lost over 1,200 points per rider as a result.

Michael announced our ranking before Pandora where I came in 4th out of 8 riders. He then announced the rankings and scores post Pandora and I moved up to 3rd place. I was happy with that because I had already won my own challenge in my mind when I walked away from the scoring table keeping all of my points.

In hind sight, I had the extra miles to go after some bigger Pandora’s box bonuses, plus on that final run up I-35 I could have picked up 2 additional bonuses that I didn’t even consider when planning. That mistake in my route planning cost me 742 points, 474 of which were Pandora points. Was it enough to put me into 1st or 2nd place. Not by itself it wasn’t. But it certainly would have given me an 11,000 something score at the scoring table.

This rally was the best rally I’ve ridden all year. I can see a definite improvement in my time management and my route planning now. I still have lots of room for improvement but I’m certainly pleased with my progress. I learned that I need to adjust a few things on my bike such as cell phone placement and water jug. I also want to work on my cell phone calls while on the bike, the person at the other end tends to have lots of problems hearing me, even if I’m stopped so I think it’s more of a Bluetooth issue rather than a noise issue.

I certainly ended my 2012 rally season on a high note. I get to prep a new bike this winter but I can’t wait to start the rallies next spring!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Autumnal Equinox 2012:–1 Day

This rally has seen less planning than previous rallies on my part. I believe that’s partly due to the fact that I’m having to figure out less and more stuff is just ready to go. Plus this week was filled with the bike retrieval from Boston. NO, the new bike isn’t going on this rally.

I left the house a little after 9am and headed north through Houston. The plan was simple, take 59 up to Nacogdoches, then follow 259 up into Oklahoma so I could go ride the twisties above Broken Bow, OK. The ride was great. One thing I noticed however, was the abundance of LEOs patrolling the roadways. Before I reached Nacogdoches I think I saw more patrol cars than I saw on the entire Butt Lite 6IX in August.

When I got up into Oklahoma and my favorite twisties I detoured onto the Talimena Byway to double check the GPS coordinates of a bonus submission I had sent in. They were good but I collected a closer set of coordinates just in case.

I was trying to make it to the rally master’s house by 6pm because that’s when dinner was supposed to be served. With all the traffic enforcement I had seen I really wasn’t pushing it hard at all. I was just following the prompts of my GPS and watching the road.

Just after 5pm I was cruising along the Muskogee Turn Pike going a few miles over the post speed limit of 75mph. I saw an Oklahoma State Trooper on the shoulder so I moved to the other lane and kept going. I had my cruise set and I didn’t think much about him. Within a mile of so I come to an Oklahoma toll booth. To say the signage is busy at their toll booths would be an understatement. I see a speed limit decrease warning sign, then 200 feet later it’s 65mph, 200 feet later it’s 55mph, 200 feet later it’s 45mph, 200 feet later it’s 35 mph and then 100 feet later it’s 30 mph. Plus in between the 35 and 30 mph signs there’s a radar sign telling you to slow down if you are going to fast. It was telling me to slow down which I was doing.

As I go through the actual toll booth proper, I look in my rear view mirrors to see a police cruiser about to run me over with his lights flashing. Unsure exactly if he’s going somewhere or if he’s after me I quickly cut across the lanes of traffic past the booths and pull over. He followed so I decided he was interested me. I turned off the bike, put my side stand down, raised the front of my helmet so I could clearly be seen and waited.




[insert photo of Oklahoma State Trooper Jacob Smith Badge # 299 Troop XB ]

I’ll just say it didn’t go so well. I was happy not to have been shot or thrown into the back of the patrol car. Bottom line, I felt like Officer Smith was disrespectful toward me and treated me as one of America's most wanted criminals when all I had done was exceed the speed limit by 5mph, a margin that most officers in most states wouldn’t even talk to you about. Maybe he just had a thing against motorcycle riders who wore all the gear because it seems almost no one in OK wears anything more than a t-shirt. Or maybe there was some other outside factor affecting his day. But the interaction with him did not seem consistent with my infraction.

With the citation fiasco completed I resumed my travels heading to Broken Arrow, OK. The rest of the trip was uneventful and I arrived just after 6pm. Several other riders were there so we visited for a while. There were some new faces as well as those I already knew.

I think dinner finally came off the grill a little after 7pm and then we received our rally flags, I mean rally balloons. At first I was sort of disappointed, after all part of riding the rally is so that you’ll have a cool flag to hang up to remember it by. Well not this time. We had balloons, which I would later come to appreciate for the ease of use during the rally.

We were also told about the game changer bonus in this rally, as if Pandora’s box wasn’t enough already. We had the chance to gain 1,000 points for each Iron Butt Photo Tag post we successfully made. Photo tag what???? The premise was simple, join in on the pre-existing Iron Butt Photo Tag Facebook site and collect photos of things while you were on the rally. You had to get a picture of the current tag, and then you could post a picture of a new item to be the tag. I initially blew it off because it seemed like it was going to be too distracting during the rally. Plus the current tag was a National Park. The rally master said he would accept the National Cemetery just 45 minutes up the road. My route was tight enough that I wasn’t going out of my way to play the game.

With no more new information dropped on us, it was decided that we should probably get to our hotel rooms for a good night’s sleep. I stayed at the Quality Inn a few miles away and was very pleased with the establishment and staff. It’s definitely where I’ll stay for future rallies. Plenty of food in walking distance, plus a gas station, and the Wal-Mart is just down the road.

Tomorrow the fun begins.

UPDATE 9/28/2012: After a few days and several calls to both the state of Texas and the court in Oklahoma the matter of the ticket has been resolved. I feel I’ve learned a valuable lesson when riding in other states. As a Texas resident I have the privilege to take a defensive driving course (a.k.a. traffic school) if I get a speeding ticket that’s under 10% and if I haven’t taken the class in the last 12 months. However, other states may not extend such privileges to out of state drivers. In that case, I would have a ticket on my record that can count against me in the Texas Drivers License points system. Not to mention the potential impact to my insurance. The bottom line is to pay closer attention to those speed limit signs in other states because out of state tickets won’t always afford the same level of forgiveness.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bringing the new bike home

On Labor day weekend I managed to get the winning bid on a barely used 2012 BMW R1200GS. When I say barely used I mean, 122 miles of use with 4 miles of that being the dealership itself. The amazing thing was that I was the only bidder on the auction. That was fortunate for me but not so for the seller as I was able to win the auction for the minimum bid which was about $4,000 below cost if I went to a local dealership and bought one with only 2 or 3 miles on it.

There was a delay in going to pickup the bike because the seller had to payoff the bike and get the title from BMW. During the whole time Phil, the seller, did a phenomenal job of keeping me updated. When it finally looked like the title was on it’s way I booked a 1 way flight to Boston and he agreed to pick me up at the airport as it was close to his office.

The day came and I was up at 2am. Reagan took me to the airport at 3am and I got on my plane just before 5am. It was a very early morning indeed. The flight went well, the connecting flight went well also and when I got to Boston so did my 1 piece of checked luggage which had all my riding gear, tools and a dry bag to ride home.

Phil picked me up outside baggage claim and we headed toward his place. Along the way we stopped for lunch at a local eatery. Conversation was good as Phil was a fellow Texan. It seems no matter where you go, when you meet another Texan you can find something in common pretty quickly.

When we got to his house the bike was just as described. I looked it over and then proceeded to mount my GPS and battery connection to charge my phone. Then I installed a Bead Rider seat cover and the bike was ready to make it’s 1,800+ mile journey back to Texas. Phil and I completed the transaction and made copies of things. And by 2:30pm EDT I was pulling out of his driveway on my spiffy new blue GS.  Oh, I forgot to mention, this was a factory lowered version which meant it didn’t come with the fancy, and expensive, ESA shock system. To me that was a plus because it meant I could use my HyperPro shocks from my current GS. But that also meant it came with the special BMW extra low seat. Ouch!!!

About 10 miles down the road I decide to pull into a gas station to add a little air to the front tire as the onboard Tire Pressure Monitoring system told me the front was about 8 lbs low. While I was stopped I also filled up the tank so I wouldn’t have to worry about the gas possibly being stale.

With a full tank of gas I headed out onto I-495 heading north up to I-90 where I then headed west. The GPS prompted me to head south on I-84. I just followed the GPS while I enjoyed the music I had loaded onto my cell phone for the trip.

In Hartford, I picked up I-91 south until I got down to Hwy 15. For some reason the GPS wanted to route me onto a non-commercial vehicle roadway and I was fine with it since it seemed like a tollway without tolls. This road essentially parallels I-95 but with less traffic. As I approached New York City I picked I-87W and went across the Tapanzee bridge. It was rush hour but traffic seemed to be moving pretty good considering.

Eventually the GPS took me to I-287  down to I-78. I had completely bypassed the heart of NYC again. Eventually I-78 ran into I-81 and I knew I was on the final stretch of road down to Virginia where I’d get the bike serviced in the morning.

I stopped for gas a few times along the way. At one station, in Connecticut I believe, Abdul wanted to pump my gas because that’s the law there or something. I wasn’t going to have anything to do with that crap. I told him he wasn’t touching my new bike unless he wanted to write me a check. He could stand there and supervise me if he liked or he could go take a break. He stood there like I was a child, but after a few minutes he did seem to want to help and asked if he could wipe my windshield while I finished filling up.

As I crossed into Pennsylvania I pulled into a rest stop to investigate a burning oil smell I had noticed intermittently through out the ride. It turned out the left valve cover was leaking oil VERY slowly. Really just enough to make a mess but not enough to cause a problem. This I suspected was a result of when the seller had dropped the bike in his driveway. The drop wasn’t a surprise as it had been disclosed in the ebay listing and the photos didn’t indicate anything serious, Phil had even ordered a replacement valve cover but the dealership sent the wrong color so I didn’t get to install it before the trip home.

The final hundred miles or so in Virginia I was met with rain. Not just a light sprinkle, no this was a full on down pour. I was keeping my eyes open for Noah’s Ark. My Klim gear was working great. My Held gloves were doing great. My right boot was fine. My left boot, not so much. I could feel the water seeping in from the sole. I made it to the hotel in Roanoke, Virginia just after 2am. I had travelled 600+ miles and was ready for some rest as I have been going for 23 hours at this point.

Tuesday – more rain, lots more.

I had made an appointment with the BMW dealership in town to get the 1st service done to the bike and that’s where I went a few minutes after 9am. On the ride over there I didn’t wear my ear plugs and the first thing I noticed was the volume of the exhaust compared to my old GS. It was a little bit louder at idle and had a throatier sound to it.

The dealership got me in and out pretty quick. They looked at the valve cover and determined it was likely just a mis-alignment issue and remounted the cover. Later in the afternoon I discovered they were wrong as the oil continued to leak. There was a tiny crack in the underside of the cover and it only opened enough to leak when the engine was up to temperature.

With the service done I hit the road just before 11:30AM EDT. Of course, as I was getting my gear on the sky opened up again and I left under much the same conditions as I had arrived the night before, a torrential down pour. I worked my way out of town and headed south on I-81 again.

In Knoxville, I picked up I-75 south for a while and then in Chattanooga I got onto I-59. It was a little disconcerting on I-75 to see signs for Atlanta. I kept thinking, “No I don’t want to go to Atlanta.” But when I got onto I-59 I knew I was headed in the right direction. Of course I had to ride through Alabama and Mississippi which seemed to take forever as I was cutting across the states diagonally.

When I finally made it down to I-10 at Slidell, I pulled over to book a room at the Motel 6 in Baton Rouge which was about an hour away. The ride today had been a little more difficult on me, especially my posterior. Oh how I missed my Russel Day Long seat. I was only good for about 100 miles and then I really needed to stretch.

When I got to the motel I was happy to get off the bike. BMW seats aren’t known for their comfort but the extra low seat also caused cramps in my hips as my legs were bunched up tighter than normal.

Wednesday – the sky clears!

I didn’t bother to set my alarm clock, I figured I’d be up early enough with out. I was almost wrong. I packed, emailed my dealership in town that I’d be stopping by for a state inspection and headed west on I-10. It just so happened Baton Rouge has rush hour traffic at 8am. Imagine that.

I made one gas stop along the way and made it to Wild West BMW just a few minutes after noon. They got me in quickly and inspected the bike. By 12:45 I was heading for home.

I stopped by the house to unload some stuff and grab the checkbook, then it was down to the tax office to pay for the vehicle registration. Unlike the last out of state bike we purchased, I didn’t want to pay a late penalty on this one. It was just after 1:30 when I walked out of the tax office with registration paperwork and a Texas license plate.

It took about 48 hours, 1,800+ miles and 1 oil change to bring the new bike home. But even with the 2 nights in a hotel and gas, I figure I still saved more than $3,000 on this purchase. Especially when I discovered it has the option to disable ABS and ASC on the fly. That was a pretty pricey option by itself.

Since I have a rally to get ready for this weekend, I snapped a picture of the bike as it was when it came home. Then put it in the garage, where it will pretty much stay until I begin the build up process in the coming weeks.