Saturday, September 3, 2011

Final Thoughts

Okay, this is the final post for this blog.  I want to capture my thoughts and impressions of the trip with this last post.

First off, it was a good trip.  We rode through SC, GA, AL, MS, LA, TX, NM, AZ, CA, NV, UT, CO, KS, MO, IL, IN, KY, WV, VA, and of course, NC.  Quite a swath of states in 21 days!

We made it to all of the places we specifically wanted to visit--Texas hill country, Carlsbad Caverns, Roswell, San Diego, San Francisco, some Colorado fun roads, and the Moto GP race at Indy.  And we visited a few places that were done on-the spot, such as Big Bend and Segauro NPs.

We visited with Whip and Ms. Whip in Texas and had a great visit with them.  They are fine people to put us up for two nights and to feed us as well as they did.  And the guided tour of the hill country was great--one of the highlights of the trip.  And, we visited with a friend in Colorado and spent the night with him.  He fed us as well, and we had a great time visiting and talking with him.  Another highlight!

HEAT; whew did we have heat!  Before going, we knew it would be hot.  I was dreading the heat, and my dread was certainly realized.  From 113 degrees in TX to 5-6 hours of riding in temperatures of 108-111 one day, it was HOT!  We will not do that again; these old bodies just won't take that kind of abuse again.  I had some issues with water retention in my legs and ankles during the hot times that had me fairly worried about my health.  I tend to retain water when it's hot, so this was more pronounced due to the extreme heat.  But I'm fine now.  I drank more water than I ever thought possible, and it still wasn't enough, it seemed.  But, I will not go riding out there again in the hot summer.

Technical/bike problems.  Where do I start?  My bike first, I guess.  My first issue was a headlight bulb burning out very early on the trip.  Unfortunately, it was the one that is a bear to replace.  So, I didn't replace it; I had two other headlights that worked plus my Motolights.  My new highway foot pegs (where I rest my legs on long rides messed up.  On one side, it was very hard to fold it away when not needed.  On  the other side, it started just flopping out and in; a piece broke and the detents stopped working.  The brake rotors on the front warped, making the brakes pulsate when braking.  On curves, this was a bit unnerving because the front tire is not big, and when I'm braking and curving, that's a lot of stress on the tire and could cause it to slip.  It didn't, but if there had been any moisture or oil or sand on the road, who knows what might have happened?  On two mornings, the bike would not idle.  It would run just fine when I gave it some throttle, but would not idle by itself.  The motor used about 1/2 quart of oil on the ride; not bad...  It will go back to the dealer next week to check the brake rotors and to see what was causing the bike to not idle.

Gary's bike had some issues.  His headlights stopped working.  So, he bought bulbs and started to install one bulb, when a retaining spring came free and could not be put back in place.  He wiggled the wires some, and the high beam started working.  So, he finished the ride with only a high beam (plus some auxiliary lights and his Motolights).  We finally diagnosed that the bulbs were fine, but the wiring harness was not making good connections, causing the problem.  We wedged a piece of road debris into the harness to help it keep contact so the bulb would burn.  His GPS quit.  Well, not completely quit, but the touch screen stopped recognizing touches.  So, while he could see the maps, he could not navigate or do anything requiring input from the screen.

Bike to bike communication was hit or miss.  Most of the time, I could hear him and he could hear me just fine.  But sometimes, my system seemed to have a bad connection with some of the contacts in the system, making bike to bike communication impossible.  There's some glitch in the wiring that I need to find and fix.

I covered 8,200 miles over the 22 days I was on the road.  Overall, my gas mileage was good, averaging close to 50mpg.  Some tankfulls were as low as 42mpg, and one was as high as 67mpg.  But the majority were in the 48-51mpg range.  Fuel prices ranged from $3.58 to $4.39 per gallon, with most in the $3.75 range (the bike uses premium).

I think my favorite roads were in the Texas hill country and Hwy 141 in Colorado.  Those roads were just as good as, if not better than the good roads in NC.  I was very impressed with the cleanliness of the road surfaces.  In NC, especially in the curvy areas, there is often gravel or sand in the curves, making them tricky to ride fast.  On the vast majority of the roads that were fun, there was nothing on the road; no sand or gravel at all.  Road surfaces were also very good, from a smoothness viewpoint.  Riding was a pleasure.

We covered a lot of miles on the Interstates.  I-85, 20, 70, and 77 were used for long distances.  We had to cover a lot of miles to get to the interesting places, so it was a necessary evil.  When we found an alternate route to escape the Interstates, we did it.  But that did not happen often.

We had no close calls.  On many trips, something happens that is dangerous or life-threatening.  On this ride, it was very non-eventful, thankfully.  As far as I could tell, we were never in any danger.  God looked after us!

So, I guess this is it for this blog.  Another good trip finished successfully!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Days 21 and 22

8/29-30/11  My last twofer post!

There's not much to report except the races were held at Indy on Sunday.  We got up, packed our mess, and rode to the track.  We learned the hard way that if you are on a bike, parking in the infield is free.  We had paid (and wasted) $10 for parking on Saturday, not knowing about the freebie.   Oh well, what's ten bucks anyway??

The races were an overall disappointment because none of the fast races were close.  In each race, the leader took off and had huge leads.  So, there was no suspense in the outcome.  Some of the races for second or third place were fairly close, but the winner was no contest.  The Harley races were pretty good, although the bikes were much slower than the other bikes.

We left the track and had an easy time getting away and onto the Interstate, where we rode 200 miles before calling it a day.

On Monday, we got up and rode home.  Temperatures were very comfortable, in the 70s much of the way.  I had 502 miles to cover from our overnight stay to Clayton.  Nothing to report on the ride.

So, this concludes the posts following being on the road.  I will write one final post to give highlights and impressions from an overall perspective.  Hope to get it posted before the weekend.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Days 19 and 20

8/26-27/11  Another twofer day.

On Friday we got up and slowly, carefully rode to the BMW dealership in Kansas City.  It was only 8 miles away; we were extremely lucky that the tire did no blow out and that the BMW shop was close by.  The service department obviously has a orientation to customer service because they took Gary's wheel first.  They had a tire, and had it ready to go in about 30 minutes or so.  By 9:30, we were on the road, Gary with a new shoe on his rear wheel.

The remainder of the ride to Indianapolis was unremarkable, except for traffic delays on I-70.  They were pretty frustrating, especially happening at almost the end of the day's ride, when you're tired and ready to stop for the night.  But on the positive side, it was not hot.

We arrived at the hotel at about 7pm (lost an hour due to time zone change), had dinner, and rested for the night.  The day's ride was 485 miles

Today we slept in a bit.  The activities at the track were qualifying for the 3 races being held on Sunday.  So we left the hotel and rode to the track.  The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is an awesome place.  So much history.  Huge.  Gary and I attended the races last year and liked them, so coming a second time was great.

Found parking for the bikes and walked into the track after buying tickets.  Then walked around the track, looking at bikes qualifying and stopping in at the vendors to see what they were peddling.  I found nothing that I had to have.  Ate a bratworst for lunch; and it was pretty good.

When qualifying was over, we walked around a bit, left the track, ate at Steak and Shake, and went back to the hotel.  It was a good day.

Tomorrow--the races and starting home.  We plan to watch the races and then hit the road as far southeast as we can safely go.  Then on Monday, HOME!  I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 18

8/25/11  Today's post will be short; there's very little to report.

We got up at 6am and were on the road at 7am, the earliest we've hit the road on the trip.  It was a very nice start; cool and moderate traffic getting out of Denver.  No real problems at all.

Once on I-70, the winds picked up, coming out of the southeast and sometimes out of the east.  Winds like that make riding difficult because they push the bike all over the road.  So, constant steering corrections are needed to stay in control.  The winds were about 35mph, and we were riding at an angle in order to stay straight.  When passing a truck, as the truck blocked the wind, the bike would become straight up, but when the truck is actually passed, the bike is pushed again.  Hard riding.

We rode through Kansas with the wind like that.  420 miles of corn, wheat, and cows.  Not much else; it's an extremely boring ride.  I guess the winds made it more interesting than it would have been without them.

It never got really hot; the highest temperature for the day was 95.  And it stayed cool until about noon.  So, riding conditions were good (except for winds).

We rode 632 miles, from Denver to Independence MO.

After checking into the hotel and having dinner, Gary decided to check his rear tire to see if it was wearing okay.  It had several thousand miles on it before leaving town, and he knows how many miles he usually gets on a rear tire, so he was expecting it to be okay.  However, when he looked closely, he saw the steel cords shining through!  The tire is shot.  So, tomorrow starts with a visit to the BMW dealer in Kansas City.  Hopefully they will have a tire that can be installed quickly and we can resume the trip.

Always an adventure...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 17

8/24/11  A day of riding mountain roads in Colorado.  We got up, packed our mess, and jumped on the bikes.  The weather was nice and cool when we took off, and it never got hot all day!  I think it was our first all-comfortable day of the trip.  In the afternoon, thunderstorms popped up, and we actually had some pretty cool temperatures.  At one pass, it was 52 degrees!

Basically, the day was spent riding various roads to cross the mountains in high places.  I believe we did 4 passes; none as spectacular as yesterday's.  I was a bit disappointed that the others did not match up with the first one.

Professional bicycle races were being held in the area, so we had to be sure to not be where one of the races was taking place.  We got lucky to arrive in one town just minutes before the bicycles arrived.  If we had been later, there would have been a 3 hour delay since they close the roads when the bikes are in the area.

The highlight of the day was riding to a friend's home south of Denver.  He and I did a ride together a couple of years ago on the coast of North Carolina.  I've kept up with him with emails and phone calls, so when he knew we may be in the area, he invited us to come and stay with him.  So, we did!  He's coming back to North Carolina in September for a ride on Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway in late September with some other people.  I'm joining him and his friends on that ride.

We talked bikes and rides, and I really enjoyed the evening.  He invited a couple of friends who will be coming to NC over, and we talked about the ride over steaks and beer.  It was a good night.

Tomorrow, we leave Denver and head east on I-70 for about 500 miles or so.  It will be boring, but we'll make some distance.

No pictures tonight again; it's getting late.  I'll try to do some tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 16

8/23/11  A fun day today.  We left the motel after a good breakfast of eggs, bacon, and hash browns.  And some fruit.

Part of the day was to make some miles east; Indianapolis is about 1,500 miles from where we're staying, and we'll be in Indianapolis Friday night.  So, we hopped on I-70 and rode east to Grand Junction, CO.  There, we had lunch and jumped on US 50 South to ride some roads that are known to be scenic and interesting.

Several miles south of Grand Junction, we got on Colorado 141 and went south.  WOW what a road!  I've ridden now over 150,000 miles on a motorcycle, and this is the prettiest road I've been on.  It didn't start out so pretty; they were paving the road; it was 102 degrees, and we were sitting still on the  bikes in the sun waiting for traffic to move.  About 15 minute delay, and the scenery started.  The road went down a canyon, with green mountains on one side of the road and rocky mountains on the other side.  It reminded me of the Icefields Parkway near Banff, Canada, which was one of my prettiest roads.  Note the "was"; this road is better.  After some miles, we were riding along with red cliffs going up about 1,000 feet high on both sides of the road.  Beautiful.  Then it changed to mountains on both sides again.

The road itself was in good condition, and it winded along with enough curves to be interesting and fun.  We did witness one thing that could have been a problem, but wasn't.  We were following a truck pulling an air compressor behind it.  I noticed the trailer swaying back and forth, with each oscillation more pronounced, when suddenly it was no longer attached to the truck.  The trailer started sliding on it's tongue, throwing up sparks and dust.  It stopped on the side of the road and didn't turn over!  The weird thing was that the truck never realized it no longer had the trailer.  It kept going!

We speeded up to catch the truck and caught it about 5 miles down the road.  As we passed the truck, we motioned that the trailer was not behind the truck.  It slowed down and stopped.  It was a DOT truck!

At a scenic point, we stopped to see the suspended plumes.  When the area was being mined for gold, they needed lots of water to produce the gold.  So, they built a wooden sluice or plume on the side of cliffs for 13 miles!  The plume carried 23 millions of water a day!!  Amazing to see and to think about how difficult a feat it had to be.

A while later, we veered off this road to ride a high mountain pass.  The road went through Ouray, a quaint town at the bottom of Big Red mountain.  We rode to the top of the pass (altitude 11,110 feet).  It was fun and exhilarating to ride.  Then we backtracked down the pass and rode the 50 or so miles to the hotel in Montrose.

That was it for the day; 450 or so miles, including about 250 miles of smiles.

Tomorrow--more high passes and then visit a friend.

No pics tonight; it's getting late.  But come back later and I'll have some posted.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Days 14 and 15

8/21-22/11  Another twofer post.  Last night we got to the hotel late and there just wasn't time or energy to write a blog.  So, I'll cover two days in this post.

We got up and took our time in getting ready to leave the hotel.  When we left, we rode over to our lunch place, the Mona Lisa restaurant, near Chinatown. Since we had some time on our hands before the restaurant opened, we walked into Chinatown to see the sights.  I had never been there, so it was a real eye-opener.

There was a mass of people in the area--mostly Oriental, but a mix of all of humanity was present.  The sidewalks were filled with people. 

Foods for sale ranged from fresh fruit to live fish to dried shrimp.  And everything else you can imagine, and some that you would not begin to think about, like cow stomachs.  Ugh!  I got nauseous just looking at some of the things.  Peking duck, raw and cooked chickens, whole and in pieces.  Some kind of small bird, whole and feathers plucked.  We saw live fish being taken from fish tanks on a truck  being sold to a fish market.  Talk about fresh; it doesn't get any fresher than those fish!

And the aromas on the street.  Some were somewhat pleasant, but many were awful.  Think fish market combined with cow paddiy--and worse.  It was a real treat to see all of what was going on.  Gary and I were in agreement that the health department cannot have been present to inspect the places; they were very rough.

At 11 we walked back to the Mona Lisa, an old and famous Italian restaurant.  I ordered lasagna, and was served one of the top 3 lasagna dishes I've ever had.  It was traditional, red sauce with beef and cheeses.  What made this one delightfully different is that the meat sauce included chunks of beef, cooked to a great taste.  It also had ground beef, but the chunks really made it different and delicious.  I ate all of it!  If in San Francisco again, I'm going back!

After lunch, we got on the bikes and headed homeward.  We wanted to see Yosemite National Park, so we headed to it.  About 4 hours later we were there.

Time was getting short, so we had time only to ride through the park.  We didn't even get off the bikes.  But we saw a lot.  The most striking feature, to me, was the huge rock faces.  Whole mountains of solid rock.  I've not seen a place like this, where a mountain is clearly one huge boulder.  And waterfalls; very beautiful.  And big trees.  It is beautiful, and next trip to California will allow some time to see things in Yosemite.

It was getting late, and we needed to be moving on, so we got on Hwy 120 that runs some 65 miles through the park.  Just as we got moving, traffic stopped.  For about an hour!  Seems that there was some kind of auto accident that had the only road through the park blocked.  So we waited it out.  Once rolling again, we had many miles to go, and darkness was occurring.  By the time we got out of the park, it was black night, a time that we try hard not to ride in.  But we had no option.

Once out of the park, we rode to the town of Lee Vinnies to find a hotel.  Unfortunately, all were full.  So, we made some calls and secured a motel some 30 miles away.  The ride to the motel was tense; pitch black and unfamiliar roads.  But we got in safely.  Checked in the hotel, had a quick dinner, and called it a night.

Today, we left Mammoth Lakes and headed east.  We found some smaller roads and rode for hours along miles and miles of nothing but sagebrush and small undergrowth.  One road we were on went for 76 miles, and in those 76 miles, there was one abandoned house.  Nothing else.  No buildings.  No businesses.  Nothing but sagebrush!  I'd guess that of the 536 miles covered today, 450 of them were in the middle of nowhere.  No traffic (maybe a car every half hour or so), nothing but sagebrush.

We are staying in Richfield, UT tonight.  It's a little town along I-70 where I had some bike repairs made on our first trip out west in 2007.  Actually had dinner at the same place we ate at on that trip.  It was good both times.

Tonight we're washing clothes--probably the last time we'll have to do that on this trip.  A necessary evil.  But it will be good to have clean clothes again.

Tomorrow, head east towards Denver.  We plan to ride some roads southwest of Denver where there are a number of high mountain passes.  Should be fun...