Archive for April, 2011

Celebrating an Anniversary and Growing Presence

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

The Passes and Canyons BlogIt almost slipped by me that this blog just reached its fifth anniversary. It was April 8, 2006 when I first posted Passes and Canyons Enters the Blogosphere. That’s pretty amazing, at least it is to me.

I’ll come back to that in a moment but I also want to pass this bit of news along. I was contacted recently by Lenore Bates of the Colorado Dept. of Transportation asking if I would include a link from my Great Roads page to their site where they have some good information on Colorado’s scenic and historic byways. I said sure, you bet, and gosh, it would sure be nice if you could link to my site from yours as well.

Well, sure enough, she did and now the CDOT website is directing people to Passes and Canyons as a resource for people looking for information on scenic roads in the state. That’s pretty much guaranteed to boost traffic on the site a bit. Thank you CDOT.

So back to the blog. It’s not like I started out with a lot of energy. I was still building the Passes and Canyons website and figured I ought to include a blog but I really didn’t feel I had much to say. In fact, for the rest of 2006 I only managed to post to the blog once, twice, or three times a month, and didn’t post anything at all in November. I had had the same experience as a newspaper editor. I occasionally ran personal columns but only when I was really driven to say something, which wasn’t often.

Finally I got serious about it and told myself I had to post three times a week. I had to! And an amazing thing happened. I opened my eyes and looked at everything from the perspective of whether it could be a blog post and suddenly I was flooded with ideas. Then I started writing for other publications as well, until I concluded I had to cut back on the blog to twice a week because I was just too busy elsewhere. That’s where we stand today and I have no intention of cutting back any further, no matter how busy I get doing other things.

So thanks for helping make this website and blog the successes that they are. I look forward to continuing with them for many years to come.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Polaris making bold statements with motorcycle, EV purchases

Biker Quote for Today

The older I get–the bigger my rear sprocket gets

Back to the Weird Stuff in the Road

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Burro and motorcycle on road

It’s been awhile since I passed along some of these weird, crazy, scary things people have hit or nearly hit on their bikes. These posts come from the Adventure Riders site. Be careful out there.
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IT425G, I hit a mountain lion on an old RR bed running wide ass open in Colorado, front end was in the air and hit the rock pan. Scared the hell out of me but the old suspension carried me thru. Never saw it coming.
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An ultralight,,,, landed on my head, got a concussion so don’t remember what happened. The guy landed on the road and I hit his tail as he swung into his yard.
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I slid on a big pile of water buffalo shit in a turn, got completely sideways and came within inches of hitting a monk in Thailand on Christmas day about ten years ago. It was the fast reaction of the monk that prevented a really ugly crash.
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I got rearended by a goldwing, at 60 mph, does that count?
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I hit an automobile hood that blew out the back of a pick-up truck at highway speeds 130 km hr. Nowhere to go but over it. Busy 4 lane with cars in every direction. Thought for sure I was dead. Rode it out, wasnt my turn to die I guess…
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I’m glad I was young when I T-boned an LTD and ran into the rear of a dumptruck.
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A cat with its head stuck in a can crossing the road.
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Almost ran over a roadkill porcupine coming out of a dusty corner, that would’ve stung.
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A huge owl when I was a teenager. It swooped down in front of me. My little bro was on back. I ducked and it hit him right in the head, busted his faceshield and gave him two black eyes.
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I was in a pack of traffic when there was a sudden huge cloud of dust ahead. Cars started swerving – out of my lane – yep, I was headed right for it! No room to swerve to another lane – hit the brakes as much as I could before I got to the dust cloud. Blew through it, and saw the remains of… a SHOP VACUUM, rolling along on its wheels next to me at 40 mph like R2-friggin-D2 joined the Hell’s Angels.
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Ran into a kid on a bicycle many years ago. I was putting pretty slow because 2 little kids were all over the place on their bikes. I’m just starting to pass one of them on his left when he suddenly jerks the bike to the left- right in front of me. So- I hit him. He was OK, but I was PO’d.

OK. Till next time . . . ride aware. And keep your fingers crossed.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Demo riding the Can-Am Spyder RT roadster

Biker Quote for Today

Honk if you’ve never seen a gun fired from a motorcycle.

My Ticket to Ride with the Vulcan Nation

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Kawasakis waiting for demo rides

I mentioned last week in a post entitled “Prying New Doors Open” that I had made a connection with the editor of Kawasaki’s Accelerate magazine, and that I had sent her one story on spec and a proposal for another. Well, I got a reply a few minutes ago and she declined the story I sent her but did say, “I hope you will stay in contact and feel free to run additional story ideas by me. I’m sure we can come up with something for you to work on in the future.”

That sounds pretty darn good to me. You can bet I’ll be sending story ideas.

So anyway, I did this piece that she wasn’t interested in and rather than let it go to waste, I’m going to run it here. Here you go.

My Ticket to Ride with the Vulcan Nation

Kawasaki rolled into Scottsdale, as did I, and we both had the same destination in mind: Arizona Bike Week. Team Green had the jump on me, so when I rolled up the tents were in place and all those shiny new motorcycles were parked haphazardly, awaiting set-up completion. I especially took note of three Concours 14s and promised myself to get better acquainted with at least one of them.

My ’99 Concours and I came down from Denver in two days of fairly hard riding. We were ready for some R&R. Connie was headed over to GOAZ’s Kawasaki dealership for new tires. I was happy to find one tent site remaining in the shade of the one big tree in the camping area at WestWorld, the huge Scottsdale events complex where Bike Week is held. Nothing much to do but relax for a couple days until the rally opened.

Camping just down the hill from the demo area, I was first in line when registration for demo rides opened, and for my first ride I selected the C-14. I inquired about the differences between the Ninja 1000 and the Ninja ZX-10R. “Night and day,” I was told. “What kind of riding do you do?” I’m primarily a touring rider. “Then you really ought to try the Ninja 1000.” OK, sign me up. That will be my second ride.

“Have you ridden the new Vaquero 1700? We’ve got almost a dozen of those and it’s our top-of-the-line cruiser.” No, I haven’t. Let’s make that number three.

With my ride tickets in my pocket and a stamp on my hand I had a little time. Nice of these Kawasaki folks to provide coffee, cold beverages, fruit, and munchies for us. I partook.

Soon the call was given to assemble for the pre-ride briefing. It was the usual spiel, don’t pass, no sling-shotting, etc., but also a heads-up about filling out a form to get $250 back on any Kawasaki purchased in the next month. And be sure to get a ticket from your ride leader for a free T-shirt, please do the survey, and afterward, go get your picture taken on that Vaquero back by the blue screen.

Throwing my leg over the Concours 14 I was struck, as I had been other times I had looked at them, by the seemingly massive size of the machine. With its 7.5-gallon gas tank way up high, my own Concours is pretty top heavy, but it handles well at speed. How was this one going to handle?

We took off and my answer came right away: Like a dream. We got out on the road and I was right behind the ride leader. He would take off like a rocket and so would I. He’d go swooping around curves and I was right there with him. We wrung those machines out and I got an excellent taste of the C-14’s abilities. Upon our return, as I dismounted, the only thing I could say was, “I love this bike!”

I rode the other two and over the next few days I rode several more bikes but my fascination was with the Concours 14. I did like the upright riding position of the Ninja 1000 far more than I’ve liked other sportbikes, plus, the power was awesome. And the Vaquero is a terrific “we’ve got it all” cruiser, but I’m just not a cruiser kind of guy. (Although that Vaquero T-shirt I got is very cool–one I will actually wear.)

What I especially appreciated was the opportunity I had in one place to try so many different Kawis. I have a second bike, a 30-year-old standard, and for years I told myself that whenever it retired I would replace it with a ZRX1200R. But Kawasaki stopped producing that bike awhile ago and I haven’t settled on anything else. I’ve started doing some dual-sporting so the KLR650 and the Versys are both of interest to me, and now I’ll add the Ninja 1000 to the list of possibilities. I got to ride them all at Arizona Bike Week.

It was my good fortune that both the Ticket to Ride tour and the Vulcan Nation tour were together there in Scottsdale, because they would be going their separate ways when they left. Sue Slate, one of the ride leaders, told me they had the complete Kawasaki line-up on hand and they loved to give rides. In the Kawasaki tent it was the practice, if a ride was preparing to leave and there were bikes unclaimed, to announce that “If you’ve got a helmet and a stamp on your hand, climb on any available bike and go.” That’s a marked contrast to other brands offering demo rides in that one of them limited each rider to no more than two rides a day, while another wanted $50 to let you demo their bikes.

So the rally ended and, with good new rubber on my ’99 Connie, we headed home. She’s still got a lot of miles in her so I won’t be doing any trading any time soon, but this trip settled one question for certain. I know now what my next touring motorcycle will be.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Digging deeper: The whys of declining motorcyclist fatalities

Biker Quote for Today

I can tell better stories when I ride alone, but I have better time when I ride with friends.

I’d Rather Be Riding

Monday, April 18th, 2011

I was just looking at my 1999 Kawasaki Concours a few minutes ago and it’s amazing. It’s so clean and shiny! So totally unusual.

I’ll admit it: I am not fanatical about keeping my bikes clean. A lot of guys keep theirs spotless but I’m pretty nearly at the other end of the scale. The way I see it, I’d rather be out riding my motorcycles than cleaning them. Especially when, after you spend all that time cleaning, the next time you take it out for a ride it just gets dirty again.

I broke down on Saturday and spent about an hour and a half thoroughly cleaning the Kawi because after this last trip to Arizona it was just too filthy even for me. And even now it is not as clean as a lot of guys insist on getting their bikes. Despite serious efforts, there are still bugs firmly bonded in places and I just gave up on them. My wheels were just caked with dirt and I got rid of most of it but not all.

The bottom line is, it’s not spotless but it’s a heck of a lot cleaner than it was. Call me lazy if you like, but I figure that’s good enough. And even now, with my less than perfect cleaning job, I look at the sky and see possible rain and am reluctant to take the bike out for fear of getting it all dirty again. That’s just wrong.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner

The non-cruiser guy’s cruiser: Vulcan 900 Classic LT demo ride

Biker Quote for Today

If you don’t get wet once in a while you are not riding enough!

Prying New Doors Open

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Bikes entering the motorcycle corral at the Overland Expo

Making a living as a freelancer can be tough. Making a living as a motorcycle freelancer can be very tough. But I keep pushing ahead and there always seems to be some bright spot on the horizon.

Regular readers know that I write about motorcycling for Examiner.com, RumBum.com, CycleConnections.com, as well as this blog. Recently I had a photo published in Rider magazine and Rider has also accepted an article for publication that will see print sooner or later.

Well, maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, but that’s not enough so I’ve been trying to develop several new contacts recently. I learned that Throttler magazine was looking for some more writers so I contacted the editor there and pitched him some stories. He liked my ideas and said he’ll let me know the calendar of when he’d like them from me. So far so good, but I’m still waiting for the calendar. In other words, I’m still keeping my fingers crossed on this one.

Then while I was at Arizona Bike Week my friend Sue Slate, who runs the Women’s Motorcyclist Foundation with her partner Gin Shear, had the idea to connect me to the editor of Kawasaki’s magazine, Accelerate. I’ve been in touch with her and sent her one story and a proposal for another. Again, keeping my fingers crossed.

Another opportunity came my way a few days ago to get some photos published in Cycle Source magazine. I don’t see this as having any likelihood for being more than a one-shot affair, but it helps build my credits.

Lastly, I may have a good shot at doing some work for U.S. Rider News. It wouldn’t pay very much but they all add up.

It’s a darn good thing I enjoy writing and I enjoy motorcycles. I used to write about software applications and it’s a whole lot easier–and more fun–to write about something you have a passion for.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Rider Alert program debuts in Virginia

Biker Quote for Today

You like motorcycles, beer, and ladies. I’m afraid I have the same illness. — Thierry

An Alaskan KLR Pipe Dream?

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

KLR650

It’s too early to know if this is actually going to happen, but if it does it will be fabulous. I may be riding a Kawasaki KLR 650 (like the one above) from Seattle to Anchorage, AK, in late June, early July. Wow! How cool is that?

It’s all still very iffy. It will depend to a very great extent on money.

The whole business comes out of my familiarity with Sue Slate and Gin Shear, who run the Women’s Motorcyclist Foundation. They are organizing a breast-cancer research fund-raising ride in Alaska in August, and they have a need to get their own KLRs to Anchorage. That’s where I come in.

Dan Patino, who runs Go 2 Motorcycle Tours here in Colorado, would be riding the other one and we’re both eager to go. The problem is, by Dan’s estimate, it could cost us each as much as $2,000 for gas, food, lodging, and airfare to Seattle and then home from Anchorage. Yikes! I don’t have that kind of money to do anyone a favor, even if I get a great trip out of the deal.

Neither does Dan but Dan has ideas. First off, he’s hoping to make this ride an extension of the Adventures for the Cures ride up in Alaska and do some fundraising. And as a fundraiser, he has hopes that we can get some sponsorship. Specifically, he hopes he may be able to persuade an airline to pick up our airfare expenses and perhaps a hotel chain to take care of our accommodations. Meanwhile, I have already queried Rum Bum, who I write for regularly, about sponsoring us in some way, too. Maybe they could pay for some or all of our gas.

So I have no idea whether any of this will come about. We just got started talking about this two days ago. And without sponsors there is no way I can manage it. But oh man, if Dan can pull it off and line up sponsors to defray at least a major portion of our expenses . . .

Alaska. I have never been to Alaska, and it’s the only state I haven’t been to. I really, really want to go. And the opportunity to ride a motorcycle up there. Wow, have I died and gone to heaven? But I’ll try not to get my hopes up too high just yet. One thing for sure: You’ll be hearing about it here if this things comes off. I’m crossing my fingers.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
April 16 set for public opening of Motorcyclepedia Museum

Biker Quote for Today

Dual sport & adventure riding is cheaper than therapy

Trip to Arizona Bike Week Was Mixed

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Me on a Kawasaki Vaquero, with computer-generated background

I put 2,143 miles on my Concours in 10 days going down to Arizona Bike Week, in Scottsdale, and the Overland Expo, in Amado, and there were parts that exceeded my expectations and others that fell short. It’s always that way, isn’t it?

It was some hard riding. Three of those days were in excess of 400 miles, with one of those being more than 500 miles. The weather in Arizona was blazing hot, hitting 100 some days. Nights were just as balmy as could be. If I lived in Arizona I think I’d sleep all day and be up and about all night. (That photo above is of me in the Kawasaki tent in Scottsdale, courtesy of computer simulation.)

While a large part of my riding was interstate, there were a couple stretches on the two-lane that were really good. Those would be the run from Holbrook, AZ, down to Scottsdale, which went through some forested mountains, and the route from Lordsburg, NM, over to I-25 a little south of Truth or Consequences. That last road seems to me to compete with the Tail of the Dragon for curves. I definitely recommend it.

Arizona Bike Week itself was a bit of a disappointment. There was little going on during the day, when it was blazing hot, and at night it depended on what group was playing in the party tent. The nights that Skid Row and Heart played there were a lot of people. The other nights were pretty slim. My conclusion is that this rally is primarily a local event that is primarily of interest to folks nearby who drop in for an evening.

Of considerably more interest was the Overland Expo down in Amado. This expo is for people who want to go adventure touring, whether on two wheels or four, and there were some amazing people in attendance. Ted Simon, who wrote Jupiter’s Travels, was there, as was Lois Pryce, who is well known for her travels as reported in Lois on the Loose and Red Tape and White Knuckles.

It was fascinating to see all the specialized gear–not to mention the incredible vehicles–that the vendors brought to show. It was also very interesting to speak with the organizers, Roseann and Jonathan Hanson, about their vision for the expo. I’ll have more on them and the expo later.

In truth, I had never seen all that much of Arizona before, so it was great to see so much of it now. Arizona has its own sort of very real beauty, but I have to say, I was glad to get into New Mexico where the beauty is less harsh. I could live in New Mexico but I don’t think I’d ever want to live in Arizona.

Most of all, though, the trip was a chance to escape the winter doldrums. It was, after all, the first bike trip of the year. It got me out of my day to day routine and away from this computer. The writing I do for a living is mostly about my motorcycling experiences in one way or another, and now I have a lot of new experiences to write about. I’d say that counts as a successful trip.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Arizona Bike Week builds up slowly (with photos)

Biker Quote for Today

Ahhh…the sound of a bike far off in the distance, late on a clear evening, calls to me, saying rise up and catch the wind under the moonlight’s embrace.

I Just Don’t Want to Do That

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Overland Expo 2011

Some people do amazing things on motorcycles. You know, like go around the world, or ride from Alaska to the tip of South America. Serious adventure riding. To them I say, more power to you! Go for it! Just don’t ask me to come along.

I’ve been down in Amado, AZ, at the third annual Overland Expo, which is for folks who do like to do those sorts of things. (That picture above is in the motorcycle “corral” at the expo.) Some of the people there are those folks who we’ve all heard of for their renowned exploits. There was Ted Simon, who wrote the book Jupiter’s Travels about his four-year ride around the world in the 1970s, back before this kind of thing got popular. Lois Pryce was there, the author of Lois on the Loose, about her ride from Alaska to Argentina. And others.

I sat in on Ted’s and Lois’s presentations and what they did is truly amazing. Awe-inspiring. Incredible. They showed pictures and talked about the extreme troubles they overcame, as well as the extreme joys they experienced, and I came away from it all with the very definite thought in my mind that I just don’t want to do that. I don’t want to subject myself to the incredible hardships they faced. I don’t want to spend hours and days wrestling overloaded motorcycles through mud up to the seat. I don’t want to end up in jail in some foreign country. I’m sorry, you’re just going to have to count me out.

The whole basis of the Overland Expo is to bring people together, people who have done these things and people who would like to do these things. To inspire people to just make up their mind and do it. And it’s not just this kind of extreme adventuring. Maybe you just want to ride through Mexico but don’t know how to go about planning and preparing. That’s the kind of thing you’ll get out of Overland Expo. And that’s the sort of thing I could get into. Just because Ben Slavins quit his job to take six months and ride from New Hampshire to Ushuaia, Argentina, doesn’t mean you have to quit your job to go adventuring, or overlanding as the activity is called.

Actually, the way I see it, I was out overlanding myself this last 10 days. I packed up the bike and took off for places I’d never been before, met new people, saw new sights, learned a whole bunch, and had a great time. It’s not Ted Simon extreme, but it’s really just the level of the adventure. I’m not at his level and I don’t want to be. But it was still an adventure. And I’ll do it again. You should, too. You know, quit dreaming and just do it.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Arizona Bike Week comes to life, with photos

Biker Quote for Today

If you can’t pick it up by yourself, it is not an adventure bike.

Getting a Feel for the Rhythm of Rallies

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Sunset at Arizona Bike Week

I’ve been to enough motorcycle rallies now that I’m getting to have a feel for their ebb and flow. They’ll say they start on one date but there’s a whole lot of activity in the days leading up to the first day, and then on the first day there’s kind of a let-down. You look for the crowds to come flocking in but they don’t. Basically they start with a rumble, not a roar, and then that rumble builds and gets louder. Literally.

So I got down here to Scottsdale for Arizona Bike Week on Monday, while the actual rally started yesterday, Wednesday. (This photo is sunset over West World, where the rally is held.) That was a good plan because I’m camping and I figured if there were any choice spots with shade that those spots would be taken first. I wanted to be one of the takers. Turned out there is one big tree in the middle of this detention pond area and I was the fourth tent, taking the last prime spot.

It is a detention pond, by the way. It’s green and grassy, but if we had a heavy rainfall we could all drown.

So Bike Week opened yesterday but it was still pretty quiet around here until about 6 p.m. That’s when the bikes started pouring in the gate. That probably had partly to do with the fact that the Miss Arizona Bike Week Pageant began at 6 and partly because it was locals who had gotten off work and had now ridden over to check out the rally and catch the performance by Skid Row. Not a lot of people with gear packed on their bikes.

That’s the other thing I’m coming to see. Rallies seem to divide into two classes. You have the big ones that take over a town, like Sturgis or Daytona, where there’s no fee or anything, you just show up. Then there are the ones like Arizona Bike Week where all the action is within an enclosed space and you have to pay to get it. The Sturgises and Daytonas are definitely the most interesting.

Doesn’t matter. I’m here, I’m actually able to relax a lot more than I normally do at these things, and it’s a hugely welcome relief from the day to day routine imposed by winter. Plus, it’s great riding weather.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Arizona Bike Week begins with a rumble, with photos

Biker Quote for Today

“The idea of putting a jet engine on a motorcycle is so stupid it appeals to me.” – Jay Leno