Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 Summer Trip Planning

My annual solo trip is starting to take shape. There have been a couple of decisions that I have been reticent to make; mainly, whether to go North or South from Brooklyn.

I finally decided to go south. I always wanted to see and ride the bridges to Key West, plus, I will be leaving at the beginning of June and, although it will be hot, it shouldn't be the same sweltering hot as...say in August. Florida in August may be a bit much for this mid-west boy. So....Key West it is.

So, from the home-base of Chgo, I will head straight along I-80 all the way to Brooklyn, NY to see my daughter. After a visit, the adventure begins as I make my way south along the coast and inland a bit.

I hope to see some extended family in and around Orlando, and an old friend North of there. Different from last years trip, I plan to really explore some areas instead of just making time. I want to experience new things, meet new people and write about them here on the blog.

The major waypoints are Brooklyn, Orlando, Miami/Southbeach, Key West, Tampa and Panama City. From there, I will probably head North, through Alabama and see a friend for lunch in Marietta, GA on my way to Deals Gap to ride the Tail of the Dragon. From there I will try to find an interesting way to find my way home.

So there it is. That's the plan.

My Winter plan now is finishing my PC800 project (you can see this by clicking the 'page' tab on the right side of the home page) and planning for the trip. The GW is mechanically ready but I need to figure our some packing and GPS set-up stuff.

Come on Spring.....

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Latest Acquisition - Goldwing

So, I got back from my trip around Lake Michigan, and was telling my wife how lovely it was; the small, quaint lakeside towns and winding roads, and she told me how she wants to go on 'those trips.'

I was equal parts thrilled and furious. She specifically told me her long-ride days were over - which is why I got my Honda ST1300. Although capable of two-up touring, that bike was for me and for solo riding. But I was excited to have my favorite riding partner back. The happiest time in my married life - aside from kid stuff - was when we use to take long trips on the 97 Goldwing. It was us against the elements and world and life was good.

Well, with that dynamic now here again, I wasted no time and found a 2005 GL1800 Goldwing. As usual it seems, I save a couple of grand if I buy used and from Tenessee or just South of Illinois for some reason. Sure enough, on, I found the requisite GW outside of Little Rock, Arkansas and made the deal. Oh, and I sold my ST1300 in one day on Craigslist - for what I paid for it.

The bike: 2005 GL1800, 12k miles, dark charcoal, runs perfect and no cosmetic issues. In addition, it has some feature and farkles I would have wanted to add anyhow: hwy pegs, lower chrome accents, vented windscreen, luggage rack, CB, center stand assist, drink holders, beefed up horn and trailer hitch.
The only things I want to add was a Utopia backrest (done) and get a comm system for driver-to-passenger and bike-to-bike talking. Other than that, I am set. I paid $13k even....which I think is a not a steal, but a good deal, and certainly worth $300 to go and get it.

I recently hooked up with a groups of riders who go out every Sunday morning for rides. Many GW's and they seem like a great bunch of people who enjoy safe riding.

As far as touring goes, here's the dealio: My wife still doesn't want to do week long trips, but 3 or 4 days trips are good. So, perhaps one weekend jaunt in the Spring, one in the Fall to see the trees change in Michigan or Wisconsin, and we both are happy.
I still will do my Summer, solo long trip. So now, I have the best of both worlds - and imho, the best touring bike imaginable to ride.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Going Around Lake MIchigan

I had to squeeze in a trip during the Summer before I started work. My buddy suggested going to Traverse City, MI, and I convinced him to just continue and go around the big Lake.

From the burbs of Chicago, we got onto I-80 just to get past Gary, IN where we didn't really have the urge to get into a gunfight, but before Michigan City, darted onto Red Arrow Hwy and hugged the coast as much as possible.

The West coast of Michigan is just beautiful. We made it to Traverse City on the first day - which was a lot of riding. Harbor Springs - just north of TC - is a very nice, quaint resort town.

*be sure to ask around and go through the Tunnel of Trees.

We crossed the Mackinac Bridge - which I always wanted to do on a bike - and it was nice and uneventful. Hwy 2 on the North end of the lake was nice as the road is right next to the beach much of the way.

I wasn't as impressed with the Wisconsin side of the lakes although there were some nice roads. We stayed outside of Oconto, WI with a layover in Lake Geneva for lunch, and made it home that day.

So, 3 days to get around Lake Michigan.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mods & Farkles

So, I have had the ST1300 for a month now and put about 500 miles on it....more or less. I just did an 8 hours day ride 2 days ago, which confirmed for me two immediate things: I miss a wider windscreen, and extended riding without a backrest makes my bdoy tire out faster than having a supported lumbar region.

So, I ordered a backrest from Utopia - which I had on my old Goldwing and had no complaints. I also did some research and ordered a wider, higher WS. Many choices out there, and I do have a good history with Cee Bailey products, but this time, I went with Cal Sci for my WS. Their website is just so thorough and I have read some good reviews from ST forums and other touring forums/blogs.

This riding season I pretty much dedicated to outfitting the new tourer to suit my riding and long distance needs. I still need to find a system to rig up my GPS and I need to find a trailer, top box or cargo shelf for my gear when touring.

Right now, I am leaning towards a cargo trailer - but cost will rule the day.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The New Acquisition

I have been searching for a ST1300 for 3 months now. For some reason, I can find a 2006 with low miles, almost 2k cheaper down around Tennessee or so. Trust me, I have negotiated with private sellers up around Chgo - and there are a few - but they just won't come down in price.

I used to search Craigslist nationwide and finally settled on one outside of Nashville, TN. A 2006 Honda ST1300, 9900 miles, new tires, new battery, 1 inch risers, saddle-bag liner bags and clean title. Asking $8000. We settled on $7000 and I calculated about $350 in costs to hook up my trailer and go get it. My wife and I made a weekend of it.

It was better than I expected. The bike was exceptional in appearance. Not a single scratch or ding. Immaculate. It even smelled new. It also had a throttle rocker and a grip-lock type cruise control - two items I would have gotten anyhow.

Trailered it up and got home fine. I will post pics as soon as I can find my computer cord for my camera....geeze.

My first impressions of the bike is that it has a bias for speed. At 65 mph, it barely reaches 3000 rpm. It just wants to go fast. I am continuing to make minor adjustments, but it seems more than suitable for my long distance needs.

I do have some concerns though. I guess I am used to a more wider windscreen. This one - adjustable as it is - is not wide enough to cover my hands. Not a concern in moderate temps, but at 12k feet, winding through a mountain pass with 20 foot snowdrifts on either side, and my hands would get cold!

Also, I do dislike clamshell saddle bags - but there is no getting around that. Most ST models have them. I just hate how everything falls out of them when opened, or how hesitant you are to stuff them to max because it is hard to then close them. I would prefer a saddle bag that opens from the top.

I am now trying to think of a configuration to accommodate long trips i.e. where am I going to pack all my gear. I have narrowed it down to two choices: Get a larger rack in the back (I don't like top cases) where I can strap things down to, or get a trailer to tow behind the bike. Like a Bushtech or Unigo trailer.

Being the frugal traveler, I am drifting towards just getting a passenger backrest with an attached cargo rack to the rear of it. My thoughts are I could tie my big bag to the rear seat, and lash the tent to the cargo rack - which could also hold my big touring jacket when it gets to hot to wear. That really should be enough.

But oh the trailer. It would be so nice to not have to worry about rigid packing. Just throw it all in the trailer and hit the road. Not to have to decide whether to take extra pairs of socks instead of my travel pillow. Plenty of room in the center of gravity would be lower and it would make getting on and off the bike much easier. But the cost.....!!!

As I take my laptop with me on trips and do daily posts here, I am jonsing for a IPAD2 which would be ideal for that purpose. So light, slim and unobtrusive. Hmmmm....choices, choices.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

So Close I can Taste It.

The proximity of riding season and open road touring draws closer. I am inspired further by blogs I have read which expouse the wanderlust of fellow riders. One of which is Bama Rider:

My good friend Ken has started riding and his interest seems to be escalating of late in long distance riding. Like me, he is preparing to get a bigger bike and I hope I can convince him that touring is a great, unique way of seeing this great country. I very much like solo touring, but if could choose a riding buddy to go off on expeditions with, I couldn't think of a better friend.

My last day at work is June 9th for this school season, so I am making plans already. I could head North again, and this time do a Lake Michigan loop, coming down the western edge of Michigan. That would be a cooler tempature ride in June - which is fine. I would very much like to go South though: perhaps through the Tail of the Dragon, Natchez Trail...and end up at Key West. What a ride that would be!

It also wouldn't be so bad temp wise in early June. But my plans are open at this point - and I am waiting to see if my buddy Ken has the same interst of 'the long ride.'

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A New Tourer?

I am in the market for a long-distance tourer. Although I think Goldwings are the king of touring, I just can't justify the expense - especially since the wife has all but abandoned long distance touring.

Being a Honda enthusiast, I have settled on a Honda ST1300 - and have been actively shopping for a couple of months. I have sat on a used one at our local MC store and it seems to fit me well; my knees fit without bumping the faring, and with the WS extended, it more than covers my grape.

My only conceptual issue with that bike is that the faring or mirrors don't block the wind from the riders hands - a feature I am keen of. But no matter.

I have made a tentative deal with a gentlemen from Tenn. based on his Craigslist ad. *Tip - I enjoy buying from CL and avoid dealerships all together. To shop nationally on CL, go to - which show all the ads across the country at once. Much easier.

If all goes well, in two weeks, I shall bring the trailer down Nashville way and complete the deal.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Weather Breaks; The Road Beckons

April 2nd, 2011 and I got up around 0630 hrs to walk the dog down the block. Winter seems to have faded. I love these kinds of morning. It's about 43 degrees, the sun just peaked over the horizon and I can see my breath, but I here the birds - still in the bushes and trees - chirping away.

Right away it takes me back to touring. It's the same feeling of getting out of my warm sleeping bag, feeling the first rays of the sun, and start to coordinate the breaking down of camp.

That feeling of seeing the bike warm up, the exhaust coming out; lashing down the last of the gear and dressing in the warming layers getting ready to hit the road for another days adventure. There is no equal to that feeling and it is not dependent on any certain location.

Slipping on my helmet and entering the solo and secret world of my own self. Merging onto the highway, getting up to speed, usually one of only a few on the road, I collect my thoughts and do some of my best thinking about life right then.

It is this time of the year....right now, when riding seems to be possible, that wanderlust sets in and the road beckons once more.

This is what sailors must feel being landlocked off-season. Like the sea, it's hard to explain the call of the open road.

I just need to be there.......

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Beggining and the Why

I am a retired police officer and former Marine, I have had motorcycles ever since my first dirt bike at 15. My biggest regret is that I have very little evidence of any of that. No pictures, souvenirs or anything.

The one constant string that ran through my life, from 14 to present, was my ardent fascination with motorcycles. At the earliest age - and before I had a drivers license - I could put on my helmet and be transported to another world; full of risk and reward, eacapism, thrills and the feeling of reckless control and freedom.

It's the same feeling today as it was way back then. Whether it's giving the kick starter a hard thrust downwards, or merely pressing the starter button with my right thumb, those sequences always announced to me that time had stopped from that point on and a journey was about to commence. Hang on.

From my dirt bike days on, I have had a plethora of Japanese motorcycles. Not being a gifted wrench, I needed their reliability and they were always more affordable. My first real street bike was a Kawasaki 650 I bought from this cool black guy I worked with at an auto-parts store. It has a custom seat and loud pipes and, at 16, it was a blast!

Much fun later, I broke my hip when a guy coming in the opposite direction suddenly turned left in front of me and I dumped it prior impact. I remember skidding for a while on the wet pavement and seeing the undersides of cars passing by while I skid, tucked into the smallest ball I could make, waiting for the inevitable impact.

I must of passed out briefly because I awoke seeing blood on the inside of my full face helmet visor, and scrambled to removed the helmet. The next sight I saw when the helmet was removed was the downward fist of the at-fault driver who was pissed that I caved-in the passenger door of his piece-of-shit car. Several blows to my head later, I saw him being laid out by the first cop at the scene.

I knew that cop had pity on me because nothing was said by him when he found out I didn't have a motorcycle endorsement on my drivers license. I always meant to get that...

I stuck to dirt bikes until I joined the Marine Corps in 1980. My next purchase was this beater Yamaha 650 Enduro - a huge dirt bike 'thumper' with a headlight and turn signals. I was stationed out in the high dessert of southern California; Twenty-Nine Palms, a.k.a. "The Stumps"
I road that bike to death in the open dessert and through the San Bernadino Mountains and had the time of my life.

The next purchase was a new bike; A Honda CB750. My buddy and I bought identical bikes - except for the color - and this was the start of my touring experience.

We entered the California 500 - which was a rally bike trip where you went from check-point to check-point to learn the next leg of the journey. We had a blast and it was then that I learned that touring is not a vacation. It is an expedition. It is rewarding work. We helped downed bikers, camped out on library lawns, ate at greasy spoons and roadside cafes, met interesting and wonderful people, shared stories, saw wonderful views, experienced fascinating places and had good - but sometimes tough experiences. Like Marines, we adapted and overcame.

I was hooked.

Still in the Marines, I eventuall traded that bike for a 1984 Honda V45 Saber - with the optional fairing. This was a fast bike and my first bike with a fairing. I never owned a bike after that point that didn't include a fairing. What a God-send for long distance touring.

Stationed now in Texas, I would drive down to the Gulf Coast town of Corpus Christi and back home to the south burbs of Chicago - both of which came to be my first solo touring experiences.

The sale of that bike paid for our honeymoon in 1985...but I knew I would once again ride. As we worked and raised our family, I felt that longing every Spring when I heard the first sounds of motorcycles on the road. It called me and felt that pang in my soul.

It wouldn't be until 1998 when I could afford a proper touring motorcycle. Actually - 'afford' is a mis-nomer, but I reached for - and with the green-light from my better half - grabbed the brass ring of the ultimate touring bike imho: A Honda Goldwing.

Specifically, a deep green 1997 GW bought new in 1998. We got matching Arai helmets with the boom mics so we can listen to the radio and talk to each without shouting across my shoulder. This was what heaven must be like, I thought at the time. I wished digital pictures were around then as I am sure we would have recorded our adventures.

We took annual trips: Asheville, NC to the Honda Hoot, Americade at Lake George, NY, Door County, WI, along the Michigan coast to Lake Michigan and took the coal ferry across the lake. Just had blast, riding, staying at B&B's, seeing sights and meeting people.

The sale of the GW broke my heart, but we had bills to pay and that was just a luxury I couldn't see keeping. Even then, I knew I would never leave motorcycle touring.

Through the proceeding years, in order to scratch that itch, I had a few scooters to buzz around town. It wasn't much, but it seemed to be enough to quell that feeling every motorcyclist gets when the weather starts to turn warmer in Spring. It may have not been ideal, but it was two-wheels, I could afford it, and it was good enough.

So, I went from a yellow Honda Reflex 250cc, to a blue Yamaha Majesty 500cc, which led me to the largest scooter made, a silver Suzuki Burgman 650cc touring scooter. All these were bought used, with low miles, and I technically still have the Burgman - although I have a deposit on it and the sale of it should occur next week if everything goes right.

The Burgman 650 was a great machine for me: It is good around town, has a boat load of storage, weather protection, can comfortably ride two-up, is reasonably priced (used ones that is) and really is the poor mans GW. This was my daily commuter to work in good weather and what I took on my longest tour to date this last Summer when I went to a scooter rally in upper Minnesota, then headed West to Yellowstone Natl. Forest, to the Oregon Coast, down HWY 1 on the Cali Coast, then through the Rocky Mountains on the way home.

This was a glorious solo trip. Truth be told, I created a blog specifically for that trip, but will transfer all those posts over to here. That blog was 'scooter specific' and I realized my touring life can't be confined - nor defined - by a particular make or model of machine.

Motorcycles/scooters are all a blast. I am loyal to my future experiences and these machines are the tools I use to have them. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less.

So, where am I at now?

In my garage is the Burgman - which should be sold next week if everything goes right. Next to it is a 1997 Honda Pacific Coast, with 26k miles, which I acquired off of Craigslist last month, from a guy in Tennessee for $2500. I have liked these out-of-production bikes since I became aware of them. This PC800 is in really good shape, paint wise, and all I had to do was replace the broken tail light, and that wass really it. It seems to run fine and may take some tweaking. It is a bright red with a dark grey bottom and this will be my new daily commuter to work.

As much as I love GW's - and I do think they still are the ultimate touring motorcycle - I do not think I want another one at this time. My wife gave me notice that her long distance riding days are over, so I can't see spending that kind of money for solo riding.

Which brings me to my bike philosophy: There is no one perfect motorcycle for both daily and long distant touring. Many can come close, don't get me wrong. But that behemoth for distance riding lacks the nimbleness for urban lane splitting, and the quick and light bikes get blown all over the place on windy, lonely highways or mountain twisties.

That is why I now have a two-bike rule: One bike for daily commuting that can haul myself and my stuff, is dependable, cheap to own and run. That is what the PC800 is for. I do plan on acquiring a Honda ST1300 for my LD tourer. Not as big as a GW, but hefty enough to pass a semi and not get blown over a lane by the side gust, and plenty of CC's to handle anything. This will also be my weekend runabout for my wife and I as it is perfectly capable of two-up riding and has integral storage.

Plus, I also want to ride with some friends who all have Harleys, and although very much different that an HD, it is a good deal more presentable for that riding crew than a scooter or lipstick-red PC800.