Archive for June, 2015

A Motorcycle Trip Like The Old Times

Monday, June 29th, 2015
motorcycle at Flaming Gorge

Kevin coming down into the Flaming Gorge area.

I left to go on a motorcycle trip with Kevin very suddenly. Kevin has a way of calling and making me offers I can’t refuse. One time he called out of the blue and asked, “Do you want to buy a V-Strom?” So I did.

Last week Kevin called and told me he was meeting a friend from Boise at the Flaming Gorge and they were just going somewhere north. Would I like to join them? Well here I am in Cooke City, Montana, so you guess what my answer was.

The whole idea just thrilled me. It would be just like the early days of the OFMC: three guys, no plans, frequent camping. I have missed those trips for as long as it has been that we’ve had way too many guys on the OFMC trip to be able to just roll into some small town and expect to find enough motel rooms.

I rode to Grand Junction on Friday to spend the night at my brother’s, and then Kevin and I met up at the City Market in Fruita on Saturday morning. We rode on up over Douglas Pass, caught US 40 west at Dinosaur, turned north at Vernal, Utah, and cruised to the Flaming Gorge.

Kevin and I are both on our 650 V-Stroms and Jeff showed up later on his Moto Guzzi Le Mans. It was old home week for those guys, having known each other for 40 years, and I soon found myself looking closely for opportunities to get a word in myself.

Up the next morning and we came up with a general idea of heading to the Beartooth Pass. Planning beyond today was forbidden but as a general goal that’s a starting point. We’ll head in that direction. We cruised north into Wyoming, crossed over into Idaho, and ran up some roads none of us had ever been on. Heading back into Wyoming, to the Star Valley, there was the sweetest campground on this pass and we were all tempted. But we didn’t have any food so we needed to press on, even if we came back.

We reached a store and got food and beverages but decided to push on past Alpine Junction to some campgrounds the map showed along the Snake River. We ended up high up the canyon wall on a road of loose gravel that our V-Stroms are made for. As for Jeff’s Guzzi, as Kevin told me early on, “he’s not allergic to gravel.” He’s actually a heck of a lot better on gravel than I am.

So that made it Monday. We cruised on up to Estes Park, passed through Grand Teton and on into Yellowstone. We weren’t really there to see the park but both of those guys had to pay $25 to get in so we might as well do some touristing. (Of course, my senior pass got me in free. Jeff now has something to look forward to when he turns 62 next year.)

We exited the northeast entrance to the to Silver Gate and Cooke City and found a sign telling us that none of the campgrounds in the area allowed tent camping. The girl at the store in Cooke City told us someone got messed up by a bear several years ago and they still haven’t gotten past that. So it was time for a motel. Which is why I now have wi-fi.

Tomorrow we ride the Beartooth. From there the plan is to go north heading toward Missoula and Lolo Pass. We don’t know how long it will take us to get there or where we’ll be staying, but it’s a direction. The OFMC used to be like this. Now I get to be here and in another three weeks after I get home I’ll go out with the OFMC boys on that trip. The summer is shaping up very nicely.

Biker Quote for Today

Adventure is what happens when you thought you were going to have a good time.

Some Terrific National Parks To Ride In

Thursday, June 25th, 2015
Motorcycle At Crater Lake

Riding the rim road at Crater Lake at sunset.

Judy and I recently took a road trip that carried us to 10 national park system units, as they’re called. That is, these were national parks, national monuments, and a few others that go by “national historic site” and such. Growing up, my family would load up the car each year and take trips to national parks all over the country. On top of that, I just ended two and one-half years working at the National Park Service. They’re really in my blood, and Judy loves them, too.

There’s a saying that makes total sense here: They don’t put national parks in ugly places. So it’s no surprise that there are a lot of parks that are terrific for motorcycling. Here are some we visited on this trip.

We started out at Dinosaur National Monument, which we had also been to last year. Last year we did the middle section of the park and that was good for dual-sport bikes. This year we went to the west end. Not too much riding over there. Just some dinosaur bones to look at mainly.

Our next stop was Golden Spike National Historic Site. This is where they put in the golden spike connecting the transcontinental railroad. Very cool trains there but no riding.

On to City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho, which is a very cool place. If you are on a dirt bike or dual-sport this would be a good place to go; the roads are not paved. We did see a couple people on dirt bikes.

Next was Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. Unfortunately there was little to see or do here because the research center/visitor center called for in the establishing legislation has never been funded.

And by the way, as an aside: if you have ever wondered why some places are national parks and some are national monuments, and some change from one to the other (Black Canyon of the Gunnison), here’s the very simple explanation. National parks are created by congressional legislation. National monuments are created by the president under the authority given under the Antiquities Act of 1906. In the case of the Black Canyon, some president declared it a monument and later Congress decided to make it a park. Now you know.

After Hagerman our next park was John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. As with several of these parks, the only reason I even knew they existed was because I edited their planning documents, primarily their foundation documents. In the JODA foundation (I’ll explain in a moment) there was discussion about the issue of the unwelcome noise created by lots of motorcycles. I took the liberty of rewording that text to make it clear that the issue was loud motorcycles as well as loud trucks or any other loud vehicles.

Anyway, that discussion in the foundation should be the tip-off: there are some terrific roads in John Day. A good bit of the park is centered on a couple steep canyons and we all know that steep canyons mean beautiful, twisty roads. And the bikers in Oregon know it. There were plenty of them. You owe it to yourself to check it out sometime if you’re up there.

And JODA? Another bit of inside information. National Park Service short-hand for the various park units is to take the first two letters of the first two words of the name. Thus, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is JODA. Dinosaur National Monument is DINO, because they do not include the “national whatever” portion.

Then came Crater Lake. (That’s CRLA, you know.) However, long before we got to Crater Lake we were in the mountains of Oregon and there was nothing but great motorcycle roads. Western Oregon is just pretty dang beautiful.

As for Crater Lake, we actually came into the park on the longest, straightest road I’ve ever seen outside of crossing the Bonneville Salt Flats. But when you get up to the rim there is a road encircling the lake that is in the caldera of this volcano that blew its top long ago. This road is so twisty and narrow, with no shoulder and in most instances a pretty serious drop-off, such that we who are accustomed to mountain driving still found it a bit intimidating. Of course on a motorcycle it would we wonderful, as long as you look out for the terrified flatlanders hugging the center of the road and don’t try to look at the lake while you’re moving.

Going down from the rim and out the other side the roads are more interesting and twisty, the way you would expect coming off a mountain.

Not too far from Crater Lake is Oregon Caves National Monument and the only way to get there is to get off the main highway at Cave Junction and take a narrow, winding 19-mile road up the hill. Need I say more?

Heading south in to California we came to Lassen Volcano National Park. This place was a treat. There is a road that goes through the park and it takes you to most of the best places in the park. Climbing to great views, interesting stops. I definitely recommend Lassen (LAVO).

We blasted across Nevada and spent a night in Ely–you can’t beat the Hotel Nevada. Next morning it was on just a short distance to Great Basin National Park. They are two draws to Great Basin. The first is Lehman Caves, which is what initial land was set aside for and the name it used for many years. Then they expanded it to become what it is today. The second is the drive up 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak. Yeah, you guessed it, you’re going up a mountain. It’s a twisty narrow road with great views.

Our 10th and last park was Arches National Park. This is another of those that used to be a monument but was made into a park. I don’t know that there’s much advantage to seeing Arches on a bike versus a car, it’s the arches that are of interest and in almost every case you have to get out of the car or off the bike to go see them.

Then we headed home. So to sum it up, there are great motorcycle roads in six of these parks: DINO, JODA, CRLA, ORCA, LAVO, and GRBA. Get out there and do some riding!

Biker Quote for Today

I enjoy going on motorcycle trips and stopping in small towns and enjoying drinks with the locals. — George Clooney

You Meet The Nicest People On A Motorcycle

Monday, June 22nd, 2015
A Harley covered in pennies and nickels

We met the fellow on this penny and nickel Harley in Oregon.

Everyone who travels on their motorcycle knows you inevitably end up striking up conversations with other bikers along the way, and people not on bikes also talk to you. It works the other way as well. When you ride, but you’re not on your bike just now, you still end up speaking with other riders. At least I do.

This was demonstrated time and again on this recent car trip to Oregon that Judy and I just did.

I’ve already mentioned Sharon, who we met at Crater Lake in Oregon. And we saw her again in Loveland at the Steel Horse Sisterhood event. I have also already mentioned the three young guys who were riding Sportsters from Green Bay out on old Route 66, to San Francisco, to Las Vegas, and were headed home.

There were others.

For instance, we were stopped at the visitor center for John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and there was a singular Harley parked there. That’s it in the photo above. This guy has done up the entire bike in pennies and nickels.

I spoke with him about the bike and he said he wanted something unique. He wanted something no one else had ever done. So he repainted the entire body portions of the bike either a silver or copper color and then coated them with epoxy. Next he epoxyed the coin and stuck them onto the body parts. Then he put a couple more coats of epoxy over it all for good measure.

This is definitely a unique bike. He also made note that every time he rides it at least a few of the coins fall off so he is constantly putting more on to fill the gaps. Anyone ever seen something like that before?

Then there was Bruno from Belgium.

We were heading east out of Nevada and stopped for the night at a motel in Salina, Utah. The motel offered a light breakfast in the morning so we were hanging out around the office eating fruit, yogurt, rolls and coffee. I very thin young guy came walking up barefoot and while I was refilling my coffee he struck up a conversation with Judy. I came back and joined the conversation and it turned out he had ridden in on a BMW. He was from Belgium and was seeing the western U.S.

We talked about where he had been and where he intended to go, we gave him some suggestions from our own experience, and I pointed him to this website because he was heading to Colorado soon. We also told him if he needed a place to stay when he got to Denver we’d be happy to have him.

What was especially interesting about what he was doing was how he came to be on this BMW. Bruno is living at this time in Hong Kong. He has a friend who was riding his BMW all over the U.S. and had left the bike in Austin, Texas, to come to Hong Kong–not sure why. Anyway, Bruno has a little 250cc bike he rides around Hong Kong. He told his friend he could use the 250 around Hong Kong and in exchange he would fly into Austin and pick up the BMW and ride around the U.S. Then he’ll just leave the beemer wherever he ends up when he needs to go back to Hong Kong and the friend can fly back to that spot and resume his own travels.

We met others on bikes but these four were the most interesting encounters. You do meet the nicest people on motorcycles.

Biker Quote for Today

Why are motorcycle dealers closed on Sunday? Because Sunday is for worship . . . Catholics go to church, motorcyclists go ride.

Riding On (Unwarranted?) Faith

Thursday, June 18th, 2015
Bad Valve Stem

Not good.

I wanted to ride my Honda CB750 Custom to Loveland last week for the Steel Horse Sisterhood Summit but before I took off I figured I ought to check the air pressure in my tires. Turned out they needed a little air but what really disturbed me was when I saw how badly rotted out the valve stem is on the front tire. Holy crap, is this going to die on me today, and if it does, how dangerous will that be?

Now I would guess the more safety fanatic among us would have told me I was an idiot to even consider riding on it like that. My thought process went like this:
1. It has obviously been like this for a long time and so far nothing has happened.
2. The chances that it will go out on me today of all days is probably quite slim.
3. If I take it slow and easy then if it goes there will be less danger.
4. If it does go it will probably be a gradual deflating, so I can pull over the instant I detect something wrong.
5. And I really do want to ride the Honda today.

So off I went.

I preferred to stay off the highway as much as possible so starting off I went through town. As I was riding along it occurred to me that if I passed a bike shop I might be able to stop and get it fixed on the spot. And then I had an even more brilliant idea (Ha!), when I inevitably passed a car tire shop maybe they could do it for me. It’s just a valve stem after all, surely they’re all the same.

So I did stop at a tire shop but that guy just looked at me and shook his head. No, we don’t work on motorcycles. But it’s just the valve stem, I said, can’t you do that? And he explained that it would be necessary to lift the bike (we don’t have the right kind of lift for a motorcycle) and to break the bead (we don’t have that equipment).

You mean you can’t just yank the old valve stem out and insert a new one? (Can you tell I’m not much of a mechanic?)

On I went to Loveland. Taking it slow.

In Loveland I found that there was almost no sign of the Steel Horse Sisterhood so I figured I might as well head to the local Honda shop. There the guy told me yes they could replace the valve stem but it would involve removing the tire and they would not be able to get to it for at least an hour and a half. It would cost about $45. Or for about $200 I could get a whole new front tire.

This was tempting because this is the whole issue. Because I have two other bikes I don’t put that many miles on the Honda. The tires both have a good bit of tread left but they have been on the bike for 10 years. The rubber is starting to rot. They need to be replaced. Doing both would have been about $450, including new valve stems on both. Why the heck not do it right now?

Because sometimes I’m impatient. And in an hour and a half I could be home. And get the job done some other time.

So I rode home and the valve stem held out and all was well. Now I really do need to do something about these tires.

Biker Quote for Today

Keep calm and ride on.

Steel Horse Sisterhood Still In Building Phase

Monday, June 15th, 2015

I’ll make it clear right up front that I was only there briefly, so what came later is an unknown to me. That said, my impression of the Steel Horse Sisterhood Summit that took place in Loveland the last few days is that this is an organization that is still very much in the building phase. I expected to see a parking lot filled with motorcycles and that was not the case. I expected to see crowds of women riders and that was not the case.

Alisa Clickenger presents

Alisa Clickenger (aka MotoAdventureGal) gave a top notch presentation despite a very small audience.

There were motorcycles and there were women riders, and those who were there seemed to be enjoying the camaraderie, and the presentations were good. I’m not knocking the event at all; it just seemed to be planned for a whole lot more people than showed up.

There were challenges that factored into the attendance. This screwy, stormy weather we’ve been having delayed flights and those who rode in faced challenging weather conditions. The event started on Thursday and as Judy and I were leaving on Friday in the afternoon there were more women riders even then just arriving.

The program was good. We enjoyed meeting people such as Karen Fritz, whose book The Art of Adventure I bought and will be doing a review of, and Pat Jacques, who does off-road riding training for women. It was also good to see long-time friends again, such as Alisa Clickenger and Jacque and Ron of Western Dual Sport Motorcycle Adventures.

Due to the wetness and the disruption it caused, the schedule had to be rejuggled on the fly, the dual-sport riding clinic had to be postponed, and I’m sure it must have been a major headache for the organizer, Joan Krenning. But she did the best she could with what the weather gods handed her.

If Joan remains game to keep doing this, despite the headaches and hassles, I’m guessing the Steel Horse Sisterhood Summit can grow into a substantial event each year. My only suggestion for Joan would be to temper her ambition and vision and next year engage a smaller venue where a smaller crowd than she really wants–but which may be all she gets–will not feel so lost in cavernous space. And let it keep growing every year.

Biker Quote for Today

Motorcycles are better than men because your motorcycle never wants a night out alone with the other motorcycles.

Taking Advantage Of Poor Planning

Thursday, June 11th, 2015
rainy day for a motorcycle ride

Waiting out the worst of the storm at a gas station.

I rode the Honda up to Loveland today to check in with the Steel Horse Sisterhood Summit that is now in progress but as of yet there really wasn’t anything going on. I knew there was not much on the agenda but figured there would be lots of bikes and plenty of people. Wrong. I guess the first real main event is tonight’s welcome reception.

You might think this was a wasted ride. After all, what I came for wasn’t happening. I don’t think that at all. The fact is, I had a really good day out on the bike. Not just a bit of a ride as I so often do, but the better part of a day just on the bike doing what I felt like.

I left home in the morning and worked my way through town rather than blasting around on the interstate. That got me through some areas I haven’t seen in a long time and man, do things keep changing!

Then I got on I-25 and cruised to Loveland. Went by the hotel first but very few bikes there so I headed over to Thunder Mountain Harley-Davidson, which is a major sponsor of the event and where a lot of the activity will take place. Just a few people there at a registration desk and that was it. So I decided to pay a visit to the local Honda shop, Interstate Honda, since I was on my Honda, but it was a good thing I asked because they weren’t where I thought they were. Neither was Northern Colorado Euro Motorcycles, which has moved since I was there last. Both are further north along the highway. Obviously I needed to do some updating of my Dealer and Repair Shops page.

I left the Honda shop then and wanted to go back to the Sisterhood location because I still hoped to speak with Joan, the honcho. Not being inclined to jump back on the interstate I took the frontage road. Guess what? The frontage road does not stick to the interstate. I found my self veering pretty far from I-25 and even on some gravel for a ways. I hadn’t had the Honda on gravel for a long time but was pleased to find it really does do as nicely as I remembered on that stuff. Not like my Kawi, which hates gravel.

When I finally did get back to the highway I was still an exit away so I got on I-25. Do you know what rush hour traffic on I-25 is like in Denver? It seems I-25 traffic in the Loveland-Fort Collins area is like that all the time. It sure was today. I went down the ramp and as I was forced to come to a complete stop I saw one of those Colorado phenomena: a line of demarcation between wet and dry. And as is often the case, the line was moving my way.

I jumped off the bike and threw on my rain gear as raindrops started pelting me. The skies opened up, I rode to the next exit, and by then the rain had stopped. By the time I got back to the Harley shop my rain gear was almost dry.

I don’t mind riding in the rain; in fact, I kind of enjoy it, although not necessarily on an interstate highway in heavy traffic.

So I checked for Joan again; no dice. Went back to the hotel hoping to find her there but again, no dice. So I figured I’d just head on home. The sky didn’t look too bad that direction.

Ha! I got on I-25 and again it was a parking lot. And by the time I was approaching the very next exit I once again saw that line of demarcation between wet and dry. Only this time, it wasn’t coming my way. It was going perpendicular to my route. This time I took my time putting on my rain gear and even put on my rubber mittens, which I had not the last time. I also figured I didn’t want to be on this interstate in this rain so I would get off and head west to pick up US 287 south.

By the time I got halfway up the exit ramp it was coming down in buckets. There was a Conoco station right there so I pulled in under their awning and waited out the rain. That’s the photo above. I was there for 15 minutes and it was an absolute gulley-washer of a storm. I was glad not to be riding anywhere. But it was kind of enjoyable nevertheless to just be out here on this day on my bike, just doing whatever. I wasn’t impatient and I sure wasn’t bored with this huge storm going on around me.

While I was stopped there I figured I might as well go ahead and put on my last bit of rain gear, my rubber booties. Darn! I only had one. What happened to the other? I’m going to have to look for that.

The rain didn’t stop but it slacked off and I headed out again. The interstate didn’t look as crowded so I took it and had an uneventful ride back to Denver. Stopped halfway and stripped off the rain gear because it was once again a beautiful day. Not too long, though, and the sky ahead was again threatening. I only got a few raindrops though before I got home.

So yeah, I totally failed to accomplish what I set out to do. But what an enjoyable day! A motorcycle can do that for you. I intend to let mine do it for me a whole lot more times.

Biker Quote for Today

“Anybody can jump a motorcycle. The trouble begins when you try to land it.” — Evel Knievel

At The Vintage Motorcycle Show At Heritage Square

Monday, June 8th, 2015
Vintage Bike Show at Heritage Square

Looking over some old iron at Sunday's vintage bike show at Heritage Square

Bob Kelly hosted his annual Vintage Motorcycle Show at Heritage Square on Sunday, the last to be held in that venue. (Heritage Square will be torn down soon.) Never fear; a new venue is in the works for next year.

On hand, as anyone close to the scene would have expected, were a lot of old British bikes (via members of the British Motorcycle Association of Colorado), old Japanese bikes (via members of the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club), and others.

Not a lot of words needed here; I’ll just give you some photos.

Old Honda CB750s

Some earlier versions of my own 1980 CB750.

Indian motorcycle

One really nice Indian.

A Sears "Allstate" motorcycle

Do you suppose Sears intended this "Allstate" motorcycle to look like that Indian above?

Triumph motorcycle

Cameras were even more common than motorcycles. Each of these bikes had its image saved many times.

Biker Quote for Today

The only thing better than a motorcycle is two motorcycles.

A Long, Hard Sportster Ride

Thursday, June 4th, 2015
Three Sportsters

These guys are some hard riders.

We were headed east on I-70 from Salina, Utah, and pulled off onto a scenic viewpoint. It actually was very scenic but what caught my eye at the same time were three motorcycles parked in a group. Of course I struck up a conversation with the riders.

Turns out these guys were from Green Bay. They had left Green Bay for Chicago where they picked up old US Route 66, which they took all the way to Santa Monica. They then turned north and rode up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco, then turned east for Las Vegas. Now they were on their way back to Green Bay.

And what were they on?

“Let’s see, you’ve got two Sportsters and the other . . .”

“It’s a Sportster, too. They’re all Sportsters.”

“Wow, that a lot of miles on a Sportster.”

“Yeah, we get that a lot.”

“So when did you guys leave Green Bay?”

“A week ago.”

Holy crap! A week? Microsoft Streets & Trips tells me that’s about 4,000 miles. That’s about 570 miles per day. On Sportsters!

“Oh, we’ve got the peanut tanks so we have to stop for gas and stretch our legs every hundred miles or so.”

They said their longest day was about 600 miles, from San Francisco to Las Vegas. And they did skip some portions of Route 66 because it was taking a lot more time than they expected. But they said they were only doing 300 to 400 miles per day most days. Yeah, somebody’s math is a bit unclear. Maybe they started eight or nine days ago, not seven.

Nevertheless, that’s one heck of a ride, just burning up the miles day after day. And for pete’s sake, on Sportsters?!

Well, if that’s your thing, go for it, guys. I know three guys who will be talking about a certain bike trip for a long, long, long time.

Biker Quote for Today

The trick is not minding it hurts.

A Long Ride Alone

Monday, June 1st, 2015
Motorcyclist riding alone

Some people just like riding alone.

We met Sharon in Crater Lake National Park last week, sharing a four-plex cabin. Of course I took note instantly that one of our neighbors was on a Harley, and the fact that it had a Maryland plate make it that much more interesting. First I saw this middle-aged woman fiddling with the bags and assumed she was riding behind someone else. Then it became clear she was by herself. You bet I had to talk to her.

Sharon took early retirement and bought a motorcycle. Then she decided to take a long trip. “When will you be home?” her family asked. “When I get tired of riding,” she replied. She agreed with me that that might be never.

Yes, she had come from Maryland, the long way around. It was not her intent setting out but she was essentially doing a four-corners ride, having started by coming down the East Coast, then across the southern U.S., and was now going up the West Coast. After all this time alone she was going to meet up with a friend in Portland and another soon after that. Then she would be heading to Colorado.

“Are you going to the Steel Horse Sisterhood conference?” I asked.

Her jaw dropped. Up to this point I had not mentioned anything about the fact that I also ride a motorcycle.

“How do you know about that?” she asked. And yes, she is going to the event.

So I filled her in. Told her I’d be seeing her again in a few weeks.

Then we talked motorcycles. Of course. She asked if Judy rides and I told her only behind me–she’s afraid she’d crash and kill herself if she was operating the bike.

“Fear stops so many,” Sharon acknowledged.

But obviously it doesn’t stop Sharon. She was 5,000 miles and counting and wasn’t even thinking about heading home yet. I had to ask her if she knows Alisa Clickenger, one of the most gutsy women riders I know, and she said not in person but by email. She’s looking forward to meeting Alisa in person at the conference. I think they’ll have a lot to talk about.

As we pulled out Sharon was walking by and I called out to her, “See you in Loveland!”

“See you in Loveland!” she replied. And we will, very soon.

Biker Quote for Today

That road is fabulous, I wish to test it.