The intention of this section of my touring blog is to plan, execute and describe my upcoming 2010 expedition. With my trusty steed - a 2006 Suzuki Burgman 650 - I am planning a trip at the end of June that shall be the my longest touring trip to date.
Yes, there is much time before push off, but I want to take this time and do some planning of routes, destinations and purchase and organize some gear. At this stage, I will post my thoughts of this trip.
On the expedition, I plan to take a laptop and post pics throughout.
My rough itinerary is as follows: From my home in Shorewood, Illinois (SW burb of Chicago):
-Head north to the IRSSR Scooter Rally in Iron Mountain Minnesota. Good times and good friends.
-From there, go west to Yellowstone National Park. People say its beautiful and I want to spend some quality time there.
-Head west to Portland Oregon and visit with my sister Linda and her tribe for a couple of days.
-Go south, enter California, see my old friend Frank in Chico, California, then stay south along the coast - Highway 1, Pacific Coast Highway.....and bask in the beauty.
-Go all the way to Carmel, California and visit my aunt for a day or two.
-At that point, I want to think about heading east towards home. Possibly via the Grand Canyon, but who knows.
I plan on camping as much as I could to reduce costs.
So, from now until push-off, I hope to include you, fellow wanderlust devotee, on preparations. More than just the trip itself, this will be a time for self-reflection, self-discovery, and some serious soul searching about what's important in life.
Right now, I feel blessed and fortunate to even entertain this venture. Thanks for visiting and I hope you not only enjoy my journey, but resolve then to take your own sojourn.
Here we go.......
I think any solo expedition is important in many ways....and mine is no different. I have a scootering friend -let's call her "J" - who stated that being a busy mom and wife, working tirelessly, she just wanted an escape hatch - especially when her whole family and extended family was telling her she was crazy for going off alone on a long trip. Gender issues aside, I know how she feels.
Not that my life is so hectic, but come Spring, my heart jumps with the sound of the first motorcycles I hear cruising by. Cooped up all winter, one just wants to fly!
For me, it has much more romantic roots.
To be honest, some of it has roots in my marriage, when we had a Goldwing and traveled the eastern U.S. Those were magic times and I am nostalgic for those open road memories and the feelings they conjure up. Simple memories; from tying up the motorcycle onto the coal ferry to cross Lake Michigan, to taking a picture of Ro brushing her teeth with bottled water behind the Piggly-Wiggly in southern Wisconsin. From cruising along a lonely highway and seeing our shadows being cast on the pavement - and waving to it and having her shadow wave back to me. I imagined her shadow smiling at me....
One of those memories made me give up motorcycles for 15 years. Riding through the awesome beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina - zipping through the twisting turns, I thought, "...one wrong turn or slip and we are over the side of this mountain and our small kids are parentless." When we got home, it was the main reason why I sold the beloved Goldwing.
I'll be honest, I had a tear in my eye seeing the Goldwing ride off without me when I sold it. Not so much for the machine, but for all the times we had on it and the times that will be lost without it. There is nothing like riding therapy for a marriage. Not only were we bound and close quartered, but we had those mics attached to our helmets and we could chat while riding without screaming to be heard. We once raced ahead of a nasty thunderstorm while in Kentucky and found a bed and breakfast that had a huge hot tub on the back porch. We sat in the hot tub by ourselves while that storm burned through and it was awesome. We beat the odds and Mother Nature....together.
Every Spring since, I would white-knuckle my way through hearing the cycles as much as the baby birds welcoming the warmer weather. Just a few years ago, I thought I could assuage that feeling by getting a little 250cc scooter....and it worked. I zipped around town and doing errands, and that was enough of IV drip of motorcycling to make that part of my life bearable.
Then I progressed to a Yamaha Majesty, which is a 400cc scooter. Now, I have a Suzuki Burgman 650 scooter and it is the largest scooter made. It really seems to be the best of both worlds; I can hop on and zip to the store, or pack it up and head off to the hills.
So, the question then is, "will my wife come with me?" While we do go on short rides to farmer markets and such, she does not want to do the long distance stuff anymore. I never really thought she liked long distance touring in the first place - but she tolerated it because she knew I did. That's the kind of wife you keep....
I did have this thought that she could fly to Portland, Oregon, meet me and we could cruise down the California coast. I think that would be terribly romantic and I want to show her San Diego - which is my favorite city, and then she could fly home. But, Summer is her busy time at work and I just don't think she wants to anymore. I respect that- even though it makes me sad a bit. Life goes on......
So, to make a short story long, that is why the whole trip has some nostalgic and romantic roots.
The other reason is more me-centered.....like most things male. As Wilfred Peterson said, “A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints” Indeed.
Routine is an indignity suffered by men not bold enough to go around the next corner or forge ahead often against the will of others. He blazes his own trail because that is where adventure lies. Work and family life are noble and rewarding, but there has to be something more. The brass ring lies out there somewhere, and though I shall never find it, there is adventure in the hunt for it. It's force is as strong as the constant pull of gravity.
Aside from California, everything West of where I live has been fly over country. I want to experience all the things I have read about. I want to see those tall Redwoods, the geysers of Yellowstone, and all the point in between.
I most certainly do......
Yes, my scooter has a big ass, alright? Or, as a school bus driver, my high schoolers would say, "That girl got a lot of Crisco." AKA: Fat in the can. Boys....what are you going to do?
Anyway, with my Givi hardcases attached, it measures 48 inches across at the rear!! Holy cow! I never did much lane splitting, but with these storage unit attached, I wouldn't even think of doing it. The most I do is scoot along the curb side to make a right turn while during rush hour and when it is severely backed up.
But with these bags on, I won't do much of that either.
Day One: 109 miles
If I had any more crap stacked on the scoot, I think granny would appear in a rocking chair atop the stack.
I will consider unloading the sleeping bag once I am done camping in higher climes. I have a fleece bag liner, sheets and thermals that should suffice. I would then just box the sleeping bag, the small red bag and mail them home. All my clothes in the small red bag would then fit in the larger red bag. Voila.
My other concern is the weight in the side hard bags. My left side hard bag houses the backpack with my computer and books and it is heavier than I would like. My rear plastic bumper became un-attached at the same point where I replaced that rivet, and I think the culprit is the hard bag - which can shake that plastic loose. I may switch the sleeping bag with the backpack in order to transfer the weight. But I do like just pulling into Macs, grabbing my backpack, and updating this blog. Hmmm...will have to think about this.
On the plus side, that tall stack-o-bag provides a nice extended back rest for me - which will give me some support.
I stayed at my brothers house in Rockford, which was my 'shake-down' cruise. I reconfigured the red bags a bit and shifted the tripod and tent. Nothing fell off - so that's good.
It is muggy and cloudy now, but when I meet my riding partners for the Rally leg of this tour, Bob and Bill, at noon, it is supposed to storm. A quick radar check revealed a line of storms coming our way, some of them severe. Rain gear standing by and accessible.
Okay, off to meet the guys, then onward beyond the Cheddar Curtain (Wisconsin).
Cleared Illinois and made it to mid-Wisconsin. We missed all the predicted rain - which was fortunate. It reached 100 degrees though, and the super-slab made it feel like 110 degrees. Lower, and even mid-Wisconsin, IMHO, is nothing more to me than a far north suburb of Chicago - especially riding an interstate highway. There are some splendid back roads, but we are trying to make some time at this point.
Bob is good riding company and Bill had mechanical issues with his scooter, so he is riding his car up to the rally. On the plus side, because he is riding in the car, he brought his wife up with him - and those two are good,fun people.
Tomorrow's forecast is dismal with isolated storms through out the intended leg of this trip. Some severe. Well, all one can do is press on.
My scooter has issues: That rear fender is hanging again, so I duct taped it together (lucky the silver tape matches my scoot!), and my right side hard bag bracket came loose from one of it's points of attachment. Actually, because of the weight of the bag and the jostling forces, the pressed-fit screw hole underneath the handrail separated from its mooring - so it's not like I can just screw it back in place. Have duct tape, will travel.
In Virginia, Minnesota - at the rally - I plan to modify my gear substantially. I plan to remove the hard bags, box them and send them home along with the sleeping bag and some smaller items I could do without. I will end up leaner with just the large and small red bag - and even try to eliminate the small red bag. We will see how the re-distribution of gear goes. Not happy about this lack of planning, but will adapt and overcome (thank you USMC).
My ass hurts; my neck hurts and my back hurts. For me, it will take me a few days to get my 'road legs.' It's like the road gods take two, big asphalt hammers and pound the crap out of you until you resemble something worthy to tackle the open road. It leaves you two choices: Go home/shorten the trip or toughen up.
Since I still plan on going out West, it better be the latter choice.
Made it to Virginia, Mn. with no issues - but the rain has been relentless since Eau Claire.
I will post again post-rally when I am on the road....which will be tomorrow (Saturday). I am leaving the rally early because there appears to be a weather window opening for tomorrow. My intention is to make it to Fargo, ND.
I decided that I needed to lighten my load considerably due to weight and scooter capacity.
Lesson Learned: Go with semi-minimal gear; you can always add gear as you go if needed. It is cheaper to add to gear on the road than to mail home extra gear. I am not hiking the Tetons; there's Wal-Mart's in just about every town.
Speaking of laudable joints, I am indeed thankful for McDonald's every few miles. Dollar coffee, clean restrooms and free wi-fi. Just what I needed.
On one rally side-trip to Grand Rapids, MN, the gentle rain took a bad turn. There was funnels clouds 3 miles north of us - and just where we needed to go. There was two storms cells and a small window of space between which we shot for. We caught the tail end of the first cell which produced marble-sized hail. Many of us ducked under the cover of a gas station canopy. I thought it was cool.
Camping in the rain. The rain did not let up until about 3 am. Getting into the tent was good and I only allowed a bit of moisture in and no skeeters. Oh, yeah, Minnesota - land of 10,000 Lakes. What they don't tell you is that the natural sequitor in that name is "Land of 10,000 lakes - which produced 10 billions mosquitoes."
These things were huge! I learned quickly that I was not going out of the tent for a night time bathroom call. Even if I didn't run the gauntlet to the bathrooms and just choose a tree, I believe there were squadrons of mosquitoes on 'pecker patrol' just waiting for the sound of a zipper unzipping. No siree.
Actually, I slept more net hours in the tent than in the rooms two nights prior. It got cold and I realized that the sleeping bag was needed - with the under-armor thermals. That was the hot ticket and I was cozy.
I did laundry today and am set for an early departure. A guy and gal at the rally told me about Beartooth Pass, coming from Red Lodge Montana into Yellowstone Natl Park, which is supposed to have breathtaking roads and views with some high elevations.
I am going to try and ride that - weather permitting. It can very cold up there and there has been snow in July I am told. We will see.
Okay friends, a lighter, leaner me is getting ready to head out after dinner tonight with the Rally folks. More later...and a few pics.
Day 5: 252 miles
Sorry for the pic order; I found a few more rally pics and just inserted them. I am currently at the KOA in Moorland/Fargo, North Dakota using their wi-fi, and trying to write, next to a 9 year old who is beating a video arcade game to death. Easy lad....then again, screw it, go for it.
I left Virginia at 0815 hrs and arrived here at 1430 hrs. I am glad I ended the day early - I am exhausted, and pulled over twice for coffee to stay awake. Not enough sleep these last few days but I was sawing logs until I had to wake up at 0500 hrs to break camp. I hope to catch up tonight.
I left West on 169 through Hibbing, MN (where Bob Dylan was born - and yes, they all mumble there), through Nashwauk, Taconite, Bovey, Grand Rapids, Cohas-s-e-t...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....yeah, it was that boring. I am falling asleep just typing the names. Things didn't pick up until I turned onto Rte 2 which led through Chippewa National Forest. An okay drive if you like water and trees...and I do, so there you go. Rte 6, then 34 led me by Leech Lake - which was huge and scenic.
I ended up on 10 to 94 which led me to the campground. Weather was overcast and cool. Some drizzle but not bad.
I set up camp and will go for dinner soon. The tv here just flashed some storm warning but I don't know if it is for here. They said something, but the blonde haired video-game destroyer here is two bucks in quarters away from annihilating the video world.
Give em hell kid........
This is Linda - wife of Kevin, the rally coordinator, who rides a Burgman 400 and has a cool 2-way radio set up.
This is a statue dedicated to miners in Chisholm, MN. The area of the Iron Range is home to the country's largest supply of iron ore/tacomite. Mining is serious business here.
We took a break from an organized ride, and was waiting for this storm cell to pass to our North. It produced hail and funnel clouds - but was cool to look at.
My last night at a brat cookout at a local park.
That's Lou on the left - who gets and makes the best brats - and Marty peeking out from behind his Burgman 400. Both these guys know scooters inside and out.
This is my new improved set-up: The hard bags were replaced with soft bags my wife mailed overnight to me...and they are located hanging between the front and rear saddle - which is a bit forward than their usual location, but it is working out well as I do not have to move the bag to fuel and can still open the seat to get into the trunk.
The GPS is becoming indispensable. Not for long runs from point A to B, but for getting anywhere in a town, say, dinner...or finding the nearest anything, like Wal-Mat, gas station or McDonalds. I'm loving it....the GPS that is.
Many scooter riders have a fanny pack strung between their handlebars - which I thought would be very convenient. I picked-up a runners hip pack - which also solves my 'where can I put my drink?' question. I have to adjust it more, but I am liking how much it holds.
I broke camp at 0500 hrs and timed myself doing so....just to see. It would have took me 35 minutes to wheels rolling, but a guy was up walking his dog and stopped to chat. I promised myself that if it came down to the mechanics of the trip or talking to people....I was going to talk to people. Mike, the early morning dog-walker, was a pretty interesting guy. He is on his way to Virginia for a Boy Scouts convention - and he has been involved with them for over 50 years. He and his wife both are HAM operators and went on about that which I found interesting. He has taught over 500 scouts how to use the Ham radio network.
That organization has been so maligned recently. I am glad to see men of Mike's caliber involved in the scouts.
I thought I had exited Minnesota without a bug bite, but it seems a spider got me, as my left hand is swollen. Not bad and it doesn't seem to be getting worse.
You know, I have never stayed at a KOA campground before, but I was not impressed...and got into it with the nice lady running the office. The site was fine, but the shower facilities.....I mean, I expect backwoods conditions at State run facilities, but private campgrounds?
Our conversation went something like this:
"Hi you doing! Enjoying your stay?"
"Ummmm...yes, the site is fine, but what's with the men's showers?"
"What's wrong with them?" (smiling)
"Well, no toilet paper in stall number 3; I go to hang up my pants on the shower hook, and took them off with a big glob of chewing gum that was unseen and attached to the hook...now attached to my pants; then the shower drain doesn't drain quickly so I am standing ankle deep in shower muck..."
"We have some of the best facilities around (smiling)"
"Really? Do those other facilities leave the restroom door propped open so the mosquitoes can hold their evening convention in there?"
(lolol)"Now, mosquitoes are part of camping. It's like outdoor ambiance" (smiling)
"Oh, so these are special mosquitoes......ordered on-line from letsmakecampingmiserable.com.?" (not smiling)
(peanuts shells on the floor of the Ground Round is ambiance; this is a nuisance...is what I wanted to say)
.............no reply.....just smiling at me.
"Ever hear of West Nile virus? Never mind...."
I should say that I was very tired and crabby and thought I held my tongue well considering.
It did rain and thunder starting at 2200 hrs....but by then I just rolled over and sleep like a log until 0500 hrs. Dry and toasty.
North Dakota is pretty unremarkable, scenery wise, until you get past Bismark. The crosswinds were fierce. A couple of HD guys I met at a rest stop also were complaining of the winds. Speed limit is 75 mph, but there was no way I could maintain that speed with those winds. I stayed at 60 to 65 most of the way.
Here is how windy it was: I rode at a continuous 15 to 18 degree angle to the right. The wind was pressing so hard against my helmet, it was pressing into the right side of my face so much, it created some space on the opposite side between my head and the helmet - so much so that my IPod earplug popped out from having no contact with the helmet liner and my ear. That has never happened to me before. That one is for the books.
I wanted to clear ND and make it to the border of Montana, but fighting the wind wore me out. Also, I found a church and went to mass at 0830. St. Joachim & Ann is a beautiful church in Fargo but that made me get on the road late.
So I made it to Dickinson, ND - which is a pleasant town off I-94. This must be serious cowboy country. Most of the guys here have the requisite cowboy hats and cock-roach killer boots, crew cuts and look they could hog tie you in about 10 seconds and put in some fresh chew under their lower lip to boot. I am tired, but I think I will keep my smart ass comments to myself tonight.
I am staying at the Northside campground in Dickinson, ND. Now, KOA should take lessons on how to run a campground! Nice bathrooms and shower; shower massage heads and even those red, french-fry warming lights in the ceiling. Fancy.
After mass, I got to thinking about the trip so far - especially about bringing so much gear with me. Isn't that analogous to life in general? So worried about not having enough that we become overburdened; we become over-satiated and no longer thirst for things outside our comfort zone, even if it means a simpler life. The fear of not having our 'stuff' makes us slaves to it - whatever that turns out to be.
Getting rid of all that gear made me feel like chains were lifted from me somehow. I didn't need layers of safety nets. All the important things in life I had - and have in my life.
No need to fear.
I am sitting here at Mac's, eating my daily breakfast burrito and coffee....$2.15 for breakfast, thank you....and will do some catching up.
I stopped at a laundromat in a small town because my carryall bag was starting to smell like a goat. I pulled up and saw three grey-hairs looking out the window at me as I disembarked from my steed.
That's right ladies.....lock up your daughters. Here comes the polite, bald, wire-rimmed glasses wearing scooter man, sporting their trade mark Columbia cargo khaki cargo pants!
Nothing. They just stood there between this two-wheeled miscreant and their freshly laundered beige-colored unmentionables.
That turned out to be fortuitous as I had to wash the pants I was wearing....and there was no restroom to change into my camp shorts. Since the grey-hairs were always the greatest distance from me even as I moved, I just did a quick change right there, hidden by the large commercial washers.
So, waiting for the wash to do its thing, I browsed the magazines. At least 20 Cosmos and 2 Ladies Home Journals. Really? Listen, I wasn't expecting Sports & Fishing, but perhaps a Motor Trend or Family Handyman...hell, I would have took a Popular Mechanics!
That's okay, Cosmo it is. "65 New Ways to Please Him", "The 10 minute Orgasm - Guaranteed!". Who reads this stuff? I look at the titles...and then back up to the grey-hairs, and wonder how these periodicals arrived here. Either I missed the 24 year old women doing laundry here, or the husbands of these grey-hairs were a pretty peppy bunch.
Handy tip: Remove your glasses from the hanging loopy thing inside your tent, before you roll it up, put it into its travel bag, secure to your scooter, start it up, put your helmet on, kickstand up, and then say, "Why is the road so blurry?"
Day 8: 325 miles, Billings, Montana
Figures, as soon as I was going to write off ND as a big snooze, it picked up right after Dickinson on I-94. North Dakota's Badlands are pretty awesome to look at. It was the perfect morning also: cool temps, no wind - and doing 75 mph all the way. Sweet.
It got to 92 by noon, but it wasn't too bad on the scoot.
I have been having tent woes. It works fine and all, but it is just too small. There is literally no room for anything else than my air mattress - so my travel bag and sleeping bag all share space on that raft with me. Changing clothes is an exercise in frustration - and I had a quad cramp two nights in a row from contortions while changing. Marty at the rally convinced me that a scamper can haul a bigger tent. That settles it. Larger tent time.
Six Wal-Marts through three states were out of their four man tents. When I got to Billings, I stopped at Cabelas and, although out of 4 man tents, I got a 6 man Eureka that fits nicely on the scoot. Goodbye leg cramps. I can actually stand up in it to change. I will sleep like a rock tonight.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
This was at a rest stop in Montana. There goes my planned midday nap. Crap.
No offense to the Rally, but I now have been to a smattering of campgrounds, and West Two Rivers is a hole. So is the KOA at Fargo/Moorehead.
I didn't make reservations, but being a Monday and needing only a tent site, I figured I had a pretty good shot of finding some room. The Yellowstone River Campground in Billings is the best campground I have found to date.
It is pricey for tenting, $37.00, but I had my USMC hat on, and the gal behind the counter had a thing for Marines, so I got the military 10% discount. But the old gal had a twinkle in her eye, and if that price including her taking out her teeth and visiting me in my new roomier tent, I am very willing to pay full price...and then some.
Anyway, the ground is situated next to the river and has high buttes/cliffs in the background. Just beautiful. Lots of trees and high-line motor homes so I figured this place rates amongst the hoi-polloi. In fact, I met two wealthy couples at the very clean and shaded pool from New Jersey who gave me the low down on Yellowstone.
They mentioned that they were in Yellowstone, when about 200 bison decided to cross the road in front and behind them. They were stuck. They said they couldn't imagine a motorcycle doing that! I can!
Anyway, it is so nice here, I think I am going to stay tomorrow also. Relax, do some laundry, lounge by the pool, catch up on napping and clean gear and the scoot a bit.
Man, did I sleep good...and boy, did I need it. I slept 12 hours; 2030 hrs to 0830 hrs. There was no moisture on the tent or scoot cover - does that mean there was zero humidity last night?
There is a different clerk at the office (thank goodness) and I asked her about breakfast. She said there was a diner down the road that served great steak and eggs. Well, I'm doing laundry now anyway, so its going to be Snapple and trail mix for b'fast....which is fine by me.
They're not kidding about steak around here. This is cattle country, and coming in West on I-90, I saw cattle processing stations. It was at about that point that I started to salivate.
I want cow, and I want it now!
So, after I set up camp last night, went for a swim and relaxed a bit, I hopped on the scoot and headed for Montana's Rib & Chop House. One 22 oz bone-in ribeye later, the beast in me was satiated.
My plan today is to get a map and figure my next leg to Red Lodge - which is the start of the Beartooth Pass into Yellowstone Natl Park. I will organize the gear a bit, already doing laundry, walk to the river and take some pics, wash the scoot, swim some, nap some, stretch some and read.
Also, I need to eat some fruit. I can't remember the last time I had some. I feel like a pirate who has scurvy ....just, you know, replace fish with loads of beef.
View from camp site
Okay, so my souvenir of my stay in Minnesota was that spider bite. It has been 48 hours now and the darn thing is not better. In fact, it seems to be getting puffier, redder and a bit more tender.
So - at the firm insistence of my better half over the phone - I went to get it checked out. Some antibiotics and creme later, we are good to go.
It is blazing hot here. One temperature-reading sign said 111 degrees. My scoot said 117 degrees - but came down to 112. Still, way too hot.
So, trail mix for b'fast, a Fiber One bar for lunch and I just had a hamburger at the Lucky Cuss Saloon & Casino. Yeehaw!
A good, but quick, thunder storm came racing through last night. Good noise and lightning show and a moderate amount of rain. Tent performed well - but I would like to see a good wind storm come through to put it through its paces. I am not sending my old tent home until I see that.
I can't figure out how to work my timer on my Panasonic camera. I used that feature last year, but for some reason, it won't work for me. I press the 'timer' function, and I see the timer clock on the display, but nothing else happens. I think I recall that you then click the camera to start and timer. Oh well, that is a little annoyance.
I can see the silhouette of the mountains in the distance and can't wait until tomorrow. Believe it or not, this mid-Western boy has never really seen mountains up close and personal.
I am now waiting for the 'all clear' of the passing storms before they open the pool again. Tough life....I know.
Okay, so the forecast looks like more rain for the next three days. I'd rather have that than this heatwave.
Oh geeze, I read that the nighttime temps at Yellowstone are 39 degrees! Holy crap! My sleeping bag is rated for 40 degrees, but I don't know. I do have a ski mask hat just in case - but it may be a night in the hotel. But i do want to try it and see first. I have thermals, a fleece pull-over and my hat...and the bag. What more could it take?
High temps are in the 70's so that's great with me. Hmmm...but what does that say for Beartooth Pass? Me thinks I am gonna freeze my ass off.
We shall see.....
Starting at Red Lodge, Montana, and ending at the NE entrance into Yellowstone Park National Park.
On the advice of someone at the rally, I drove the Beartooth Pass and was absolutely stunned by the views. Every turn - and there is constantly a turn - opened up to new, majestic scenes of astounding beauty. I am indebted to him for his advice.
I really have never experienced so many awe inspiring, gorgeous and expansive views in my life. This pass moves to my number one position on the 'most beautiful sights
' in the continental USA. I highly recommend making the trip, on bike or car.
While putting on rain gear at the base, I met this Goldwing rider, "Gary", a USAF retired guy who now works for the Sacramento PD, driving his white 1997 Goldwing with trailer. We met several times along the pass because we each pulled over every other turn to snap a pic.
On the descent, we had a bunch of time to trade ride and cop stories as we had to wait for the 'pilot car' to come and escort us down a portion of the descent due to some construction.
The BT Pass is continuous twisties and switchbacks.
I was at a rest stop on the Beartooth Pass when this group of Goldwings came in. 2002 to 2005 wings and they all looked like new. I talked with this group, and they lived in Ohio, work for Honda and built Goldwings! This is the last year though, as GW's will now be built in Japan.
After I pulled out of there I got the GW fever again and started to talk myself into getting another one. IMHO, it is a behemoth, but there is no better 2 -up touring machine made. But that's the rub for me: I have so many fond memories of my wife and I touring around on our old Wing, that to have one and her not in that seat on my trips would only remind me of those days and - I just know - it would bum me out.
The Beartooth Cafe where I had the daily special in honor of my wife: Bacon Patty-melt with grilled onions.
Coming off BT Pass and entering Yellowstone
That bottom shot is from a bridge that goes into my campsite. How cool is that?
Make reservations. Just because you have a tent, doesn't mean they will have space for you. If you don't have reservations, the minute you get into the park, go to the first lodge (if not camping) or camp site (if camping) EVEN IF THEY SAY THERE ARE FULL and ask them to check the other sites/lodges for you...and then make that reservation.
Okay, here's another friendly tip - especially useful for 2 wheel travelers. Anytime you see cars stopped as if in the middle of nowhere, and a subsequent and unexplained traffic jam, you can be assured that there is an animal sighting.
I once sat in traffic 10 minutes while we crawled up to the 'sighting' and it was a deer and her fawn. Are you frikking kidding me?!
Bison, okay. Elk, caribou, fine. Bears, of course. But deer? I'm looking at the jagweed's plate in front of me and he is from North Carolina. North Carolina! I know for a fact that NC has a crap-load of deer there! This is not a special deer, 'Yellowstone edition.' Move the line assholes.......
Anyway, bison are different. They're huge and cool. They don't move for anyone or anything. They should be wearing sunglasses.., they're that cool. But that doesn't mean I want to be so close as to feel their breath. People just stop their cars....and in most places, there is no shoulder to pull over onto...roll down their windows and start clicking away.
Which is fine, but they're protected....I'm not! So as this wooly bad-ass comes closer to me, I am in E&E mode (Escape & Evasion), and start looking and planning for quick escape routes. My only choice in this case things sour is to go off the soft shoulder, down into a ditch and into the prairie. I figure I got a 30% chance of pulling off that maneuver, but screw it, I got a plan and any plan is better than getting gored because you just froze and did nothing. I would rather go down trying.
I want to beep my horn at the cowlick in front of me to move, but I am not sure what the horn would do to my big, furry friend...who I can hear snort now. Just then, the roadjam starts to move and I make haste to exit the potential kill zone.
It may be hard to see, but in the pic there is a fisherman. Or as I refer to them, 'Bear Food.' Fly-fishing is big in the park and there are a zillion streams to do this in.
I can't reconcile this activity with the 'bear talk' Ranger Rick gave us the previous day. I want to try fly-fishing as well - but not in the Serengeti. Bears eat fish; you are trying to catch what bears eat. If I was a bear, I would hang loose and wait for one of these intrepid fisherman to hook one, then race down and steal their catch. Oh yeah, then disembowel the fisherman for making me wait too long.
The only way I would fish here, is to have two armed lookouts: one with a scoped 30-06 for long range, and another with a 12 gauge with alternating deer slug and OO buck for close-in work.
Take no chances in the wild......be armed to the teeth I say.
On the lower half of the figure eight that is Yellowstone, lies Old Faithful Geyser....along with a bunch of other geysers and steaming fonts of gas that make the area look like a WW1 battlefield. So, pretty cool in my book..
Old Faithful is the premiere geyser; they have a special highway leading into it, there's the OF Lodge, OF Store and Gift Shop, etc. But it is not tacky....like condos and such. The park does it right.
Around the geyser specific, there are rows of benches that I am guessing seat around 400+. I got a good seat with 30 minutes to go. Next to me was this retired Navy guy and his wife. He was a good guy and we swapped war stories and extolled the virtues of service.
Then she came......
No, not the geyser. Elizabeth. A precocious 11 or 12 year old, wearing a green fleece jacket festooned with merit badges, patches, bars, etc. Front and back.
We had a conversation:
"So how long have you been in the Girl Scouts?"
"Actually, I am not a Girl Scout. I am a Junior Ranger," she tersely corrected me.
"Oh, that's nice." Where are your parents?
"Do you know what a geyser is?"
Sure.....in exactly 16 minutes I will point it out to you missy.
"Oh, please tell me." Let's indulge the little darling...and not look stupid in the process, shall we?.
"A geyser is a reaction to water collected......."
I am looking at her patches and such, and this kid has been all over the country. She is holding a "Passport" book, which I learned was a guide to all the national parks which can be signed by the park ranger in each park. Hers is almost filled with the required signatures which will complete this arduous task.
"....which settles above active magna layers, heating the collected water....."
Seriously, where is this kids parents? Ah, she is part of a kids tour group and there was no more room on the back bench, so she sat next to me. Great.
".....until the heated water vapor has no more room to collect, which forces it out."
I turn around and eye the group leader, a young man who smiled at me knowing the pickle I am in, and probably somewhat relieved that he could take leave of Little Ms. National Parks for a few minutes. He owes me.
"Do you know the difference between a geyser and a hot spring?" Oh WTF!; is this kid just being a kid or is she trying to make me look like an idiot? There is no way I can match this kid's encyclopedic knowledge of natural phenomenon. I'm screwed. Quick, how can I not look stupid, and not look like an ass if I say the wrong thing to this kid?
"Well, I'm not sure. Can you tell me?" Said with a wisp of a smile indicating to any adult that may be listening, that I probably know the answer- which I do not -but was indulging Lizzy like a patient adult should do...I guess.
"They're actually the same thing, except a hot spring has no constriction."
I nod and smile...and am glad I didn't try to answer that and confirm what I am sure she suspected. I didn't know any of that stuff. Wait....was that a trick question? Was that a set-up? The Navy guy next to me and his wife are stifling their collective laughter and snickering at my dilemma. Fucking Navy.
"Wait...it's starting to erupt!"
"No. That's not it. There's two or three minor eruptions before the actual main eruption."
Well, let's just sit here quietly and see.
Actually, I am poking fun at little Elizabeth, but she is a sharp kid. Her grandparents took her all over the country during Summers. I hope my kids get their future children involved in programs such at these. Elizabeth is going to be a fine adult, knowledgeable American and good citizen. Good for her and God bless her....
As far as the geyser goes, I'm sorry, I know I should be more reverent about it, but I just wasn't that inspired by the spectacle. I feel bad for even saying that, but, I don't know, maybe because it was over-billed to me all these years or something.
Maybe if you didn't see a dozen other smoldering geysers in the background, or perhaps if the ground shook a little when it gushed. I don't know. All these people standing around watching the Earth pass gas. I just don't get it. If the masses think that's great, they should come by my tent at about 10:30, and I'll put on a show for them that will make their eyes water.
Speaking of which, there is another, more funnier geyser. Called the 'Sulfer Geyser' it reeks of rotten eggs, and I laughed as I drove by that people actually held their noses and walked towards it to read the placard. Amazing. I drove by it doing 40 mph and held my breath and it still stung my nostrils.
Uh oh....cars stopped ahead. Another animal sighting. This time...it was a Grizzly bear and her two cubs. In the pic, you can just see the little head of one the cubs running behind the mom.
Again, there is no where to go. There is no right shoulder at all and I got cars in front of me, stopped. All the while, Yogi is meandering closer and closer. The bear is now about 30 feet from me and still coming directly at my scooter. I am equal parts getting concerned and pissed at the car in front of me.
Again, I want to beep my horn, but, I can just see the headlines in the Yellowstone Gazette: MOTORCYCLIST ANTAGONIZED GRIZZLY WITH HORN; GETS MAULED.
Unlike the Bison, Grizzlies like meat. These geniuses in their cars are safe. Me? I'm carnival food. Jeff the Human Corn Dog. I kept thinking, "You don't want me. I'm skinny and pasty. Go for the Harley guy behind me. He is twice my girth, tanned (pre-cooked) and, chances are, he is still marinated in beer from the night prior! Consider the biker chick 'dessert served in leather chaps.' "
Anyway, my only escape route was too go around the stopped vehicle - which meant actually closing the distance between me and Yogi. Luckily, the two cubs were running and caught mom's attention, and that was the break I was looking for. I gunned it, swerved around the stopped car, called him a 'jag off', and drove on counting my blessings.
*In a related news story: MAULED MOTORCYCLIST SAVED BY JUNIOR RANGER. The 11 year old Junior Ranger' sprayed bear repellent to scare away the bear, then applied a tourniquet to the mauled leg of the rider...and saved his life.
I am a lover of storms - as is my daughter. As long as no one is hurt and property isn't damaged, bring them on. The worse, the better.
But storms take on a whole different definition in the mountains. First, in my tent, I can hear the approaching wind gusts rustle through the tops of the 80 foot pines before it balloons my tent as the wind blows through its upper vents.
The lightning is also intense. My tent acts like a lamp diffuser, and the whole tent is illuminated like a switch was thrown.
But its the thunder....
It rolls in, ricochets around the mountain rims, and gets it deep bass sound from going through crevasses and canyons. It adds a whole new dimension to the sound of thunder I have never experienced before. That gentle storm the other night in Yellowstone produced light rain, but great breezes, lightning and the thunder was a show stopper.
I wish my daughter was there to experience it.........
When Ranger Rick gave the 'bear talk' to our group of campers, he had my rapt attention. I have a healthy respect (read: fear) of wild animals. Billy Joe Bob next to me was three fingers into a bag a Doritos; I was taking notes. I hoped Billy Joe Bob was in my section of tent campers. When Ranger Rick said not to have any food or even bottled water in your tents, the look on Billy Joe Bob's face indicated that he was not interested in following the rules on this matter.
Fine by me. This is how nature thins the idiot herd.
Which is why I don't understand why people are walking off the road, down trails and such. I guess is it allowed, by I stay on the main and secondary roads and don't leave my scoot unless we are in a crowded place. This is the Serengeti as far as I am concerned. Keep scrolling and you will see wildlife walking up and on the road. Things that will eat you.
Just last week, some bearologist got his faced ripped off when, apparently, his interview with the bear went south. Well, no shit Sherlock.
I saw this grandparent taking a picture of his grandchildren who walked out into a field near a tree line about 100 feet from the road. I shook my head in disbelief. Apparently, this grandparent must have had many grandkids and could spare losing these two precious ones. It was like a scene in a movie where you just know something bad was about to happen.
Perhaps I should not over react and just enjoy the wild - but I honor and listen to my survival instinct when it alerts me.
I'm the guy on safari who never leaves the Land Rover.
I left Yellowstone National Park at about 0700 hrs after breakfast at the lodge. It was colder last night - about 37 degrees. I was snug in the sleeping bag, but my grape was getting cold. So I donned my handy ski mask I brought for cold rides. I love a good multi-tasking component. That did the trick.
I left through the West entrance which put me on Hwy 20 - which I shared with a plethora of bicyclists working their way to Ashton, Idaho. I stayed on 20 until 26, which led into I-86/84 West. It was a pretty uneventful ride, but the weather was nice and I landed in Twin Falls, Idaho - in the heart of potato country.
I checked into a Days Inn for a good nights rest before pushing forth the next day. My destination of Lake Oswego, Oregon was about 590 miles and I couldn't reconcile stopping short of that. I thought I could make it - weather dependent.
Leaving Idaho going into Oregon on I-84 turned out to be a great ride. It was cold making the climb into the Blue Mountains - elevation only 5k+ - which took about 5 hrs to progress through. But a pretty good ride. I could pass the semi's lumbering up the steep hills and on the descent, I was flying. The scoot just wanted to go 75 mph. Honest officer! Long sweepers on the downhill which led into a great ride: The Columbia River Gorge.
This was going to be a long day in saddle, so I put my own Ironbutt rules into effect: 50 minutes of riding, 10 minute break - no matter what. Because gas stations were scattered, I used my 10 minute break to top off. Which was kind of funny; I pulled into my first gas station in Oregon, and this sprite young thing came out to pump my gas. I thought I pulled into the 'full-service lane' but learned that Oregonians are not allowed to pump their own gas for some odd reason.
Wow! The ultimate nanny-state.
The Eastern edge of Oregon is beautiful. No doubt about it. At a rest stop on I-84, I ran into the Marine Corps League giving out free coffee from their red trailer. I put on my USMC hat and chatted for a bit with two old-timer Leathernecks before heading out.
I-84 runs along the Columbia River in this, well, gorge. The river is wide with cliffs on either side. On the map, I was ready to be disappointed because of being a primary highway...but this was not the case. It was a fantastic ride! I was doing 70 mph all the way and traffic was moderate. You go past two river hydro-dams and campsites along the river.
In one pic above you'll notice what I thought was several dozen kites. It turned out to be para-surfers...and those guys fly on the water! Pretty cool. This run goes on for some time, so I really enjoyed it. It then turns into dense Pines on the bluff to my left that go high up.
(I'm in Lake Oswego now at a McDonalds - and two F-18's just screamed overhead!!)
Angry looking Mt. Hood
I needed gas and there are no stations directly off the gorge - due to the cliff on the left and the river on your right. I finally saw a sign for 'Corbett' at exit 22 - so I took it.
I immediately began climbing up steep twisties and was having a blast! The 'gas' station was run and owned by Susan, and there was a pie eating contest about to start there in this cute little town. I was in line for gas in the one pump station/country store behind two John Deer riding lawn mowers - and was just chatting with those gents. Susan has to pump all the gas there remember...thats' the rules.
I am spending the majority of my time relaxing and letting my knots turn to mush in my sisters 8 person hot tub.
Yup, the scootering life is not bad......not bad at all.
In fact, blogging is taking up valuable spa time. Later all......
Day 12: 655 miles (ug) Portland, Or. to Chico, Ca.
I left my sisters home in Lake Oswego, Or, jumped on 99W - but it was a bit rough and laden with local law enforcement. So I got onto Rte. 18 to go West to reach the coast. It is also referred to as the Salmon River Highway and has nice rolling hills passing hordes of vineyards and, for some reason, reams of 'expresso' stands.
On 18, I came upon the Evergreen Air & Space Museum and they had displayed military aircraft out front. I was hooked! The drive going into the huge place was fashioned like a runway. From the camera view - with a piece of my windshield in the pic - it looks like I am getting ready for take-off! How cool is that!!
USMC Cobra Gun Ship. Deliver of Death - and salvation to ground pounders. Get em boys!
This is turning out to be a great riding road. Rolling past vineyards and long twisties. Up ahead, I have to cross Spirit Mountain to get to the coast. I need to coffee up...
Made it....the Oregon Coast!!
Well, I finally made it! At the intersection of Rte. 18 and Rte 101 lies a little beach-side town of Otis. Nice people there; a bit older than whence I came. Official garb: fleece pull-overs, shorts and sandals. Perfect.
I was still cold though from Spirit Mountain; my finger tips were numb and I wore my snow-blowing mittens. The weather was perfect as rain is the norm there so I hear. Temps hovered around 62-69 degree depending on what elevation you happened to be at. My fingers are cashed: I have had severe frost-bite on them (and feet) in the past and several fingers have been severed and re-attached. Unless it is over 70 degrees, they are always cold. Just the way it is....
I am loving this drive! The Oregon coast is beautiful! I rank this up there as drives not to miss...and I have been blessed with good weather.
The votes are in: This is a beautiful state. I have been from East to West, and if there is a bad road in between, I haven't found it. Just a great, bountiful and majestic state.
Motorcycling wise, the roads are great and generally, well maintained. Cops are all over (and the cycle cops drive ST1300's!) so watch your speed. They do have those annoying - and dangerous - round reflectors all over the place. When they are not there, they put them below the surface in a 'half-moon' cut out. Any of which - wet or dry - interrupts the traction of motorcycle tires and can cause serious handling issues, including loss of control and an accident. That is not a motorcycle-friendly aspect.
The 'not pumping your own gas ' thing was cute as first. Then it became a pain. If the station was busy, you waited...and waited.
Are Oregonians proud of this practice? I would be embarrassed if I were them. I would love to know the logic behind this practice. It seems condescending; like they view the good folks as to stupid to operate the pump themselves.
But here's my biggest gripe: "Safety Corridor: Fines Doubled." What the hell does that mean? Besides the fact that there is nothing there; no kids, schools, residences, animal crossing, etc., what are they implying?
"Here - in this stretch of the road - we really care about safety." As opposed to rest of the area - where safety is minimally appreciated or observed?
Vent On: To me, this is a great example of political leftist thinking: not what works, but what they think feels good. So, now you have 'safety corridors,' 'construction zones' and 'school zones'....all push fines higher in correlation to their feelings about safety. Isn't it just inevitable, "...we're just going to double the fines all over the state because we're serious about safety everywhere....that's how much we care." Vent: off
Now, that said, I found the people in Oregon to be lovely, well-mannered and cheerful. It's kind of like living inside a Trader Joes organic grocery store. A majority of the men are skinny and wear pony-tails. The women wear baggy shirts and cargo pants. They appear to the best part of the Grateful Dead crowd; the respectful lot who wear the stuff, but then go home and shower.
The Oregon coast is, imho, better than the Cali coast. It is more natural; a more manly, rugged kind of coast. I will comment of Cali later.....
There is just no better road I have ridden on....bar none than PCH, Hwy 101. Plenty of scenic overviews to stop and take breaks, then get back on and enjoy those long sweepers. Temps can range from 59 to 79...an often do in a short mile span.
If there is any way you can arrange to drive this part, I would put it on your list. Rolling into California was surprising. A big manned, permanent checkpoint. WTF is that!
Why is it, I wonder, can I cross through every state border but get stopped here entering in Cali from Oregon?
Back in the 80's when I came into Cali, they stopped you and looked for fruit and such that can negatively impact their agriculture life. How on Earth can that work?
Now, they just greeted me and waved me through...so I don't know that the purpose was. I wished I had gotten stopped to find out. Really, I do.
When I was camping in Yellowstone, I met Derrick, who was camping also. He was riding a BMW R1100, so I was pumping him about his bike.......which was helpful because I was considering a BMW because they sit tall in the saddle and would accommodate a taller drink of water such as myself. Our talked cured me of that idea. Great bikes that last forever, he said. But they are finicky maintenance wise...and everything about them is crazy-ass expensive. He then went through and explained how he changed this, tweaked that and how he has to periodically do this or that.
This is why I prefer Jap bikes. Bullet proof for the most part.
Anyhow, Derrick was from Eureka, Cali and told me where to go while going through Northern California.
On the list was Redwood National Forest.....
101 goes right through the Redwood Natl Forest...and boy, are they a sight to see. Just humongous, behemoth trees.
A good tip; right after you cross the Klamath River, look for an exit called "Kelly B (something). I can't find it on Google Maps, but its there...and I got the tip from an information office. It's only about 15 miles long and feeds you back onto 101, but boy, what a road. The big trees are right next to you and it is nothing but twists. Very fun.
I planned on making it to Chico, but my detour onto 101 set me back quite a bit. But I was to meet Frank at his local bar, so I had to push a bit or I would forfeit my chance at seeing him - and giving him the Blackhawks shirt I carried all this way.
So, I had to cut East from 101 to get to Chico. According to my GPS, that meant going through the Shasta-Trinity Natl. Forest on Rte 299. I have made poor judgements before - and this was one of them. Keep in mind, 299 essentially goes through the mountains and I had already been riding for 12 hours. I was tired and saddle soar, but I didn't know what type of road this was; I just knew I was losing daylight and didn't want to do this in the dark. I should have stopped for the night.
299 was one of the most exciting and scariest roads I had ever driven. I have my own Pucker Factor Rating System (PF 1 is everyday riding; you're aware and cognizant of the road. PF 10 is you getting off your bike/scoot, shaking, saying you're lucky to be alive and you are never doing that again)
299 was a PF 8.
It was two hours of constant twisties. Nothing but. Sounds fun - and I like twisties. But these weren't normal twists and turns. Beartooth Pass, you're doing 15 to 35 mph and can see the road in front of you. On 299, the speed limit is 50-55 and you are never vertical in your saddle for more than 10 seconds. You are constantly leaning over far left or right, or preparing to do so. I kept my little finger on the rear brake as I like to drag my rear brake around curves as an added bonus. You know, in a fast sweeper, when you mentally figured out that your trajectory is going to put you over the yellow line; I just every so lightly apply the rear brake to change that trajectory. My CVT trans was working liking a dog and I was heavy on the brakes.
I honestly cannot tell you what the scenery looked like - I knew there a river along side me and cliffs to my left - but my focus was 200 feet in front of me and of signs. Oh yeah, Calif signs: In Illinois, orange/yellow speed signs like "Curve ahead, 35 mph" I know I can safely add 10 mph to that without worrying about getting into trouble. It is empirical for me; never had an exception to that. Up here, I learned quick not to do that. If it says '35 mph' you better be at the speed or you're in trouble. At most, I could do 5 over that occasionally.
The turns - and again, it was nothing but turns - were 90% blind turns. Because of the cliffs, you could see no more than 4 car lengths ahead of you. Find at 25 mph. At 50, a patch of loose gravel, a stalled car, a bicycle.....and you're screwed.
Now, I know - as do you most of you - that most problems you get into on a scooter/MC can be solved by slowing down. That's an axiom I have always lived by. On steep upgrades, I moved over into a passing lane for traffic to get by me, but when that was over, it was game on - and Cali has a bias for speed...everywhere.
Honestly, I would not drive this road in a car at that speed. I don't know where they get that mph reference. Aside from those passing lanes, there is no pulling over....there is no over, except over the edge.
Plus, I wasn't in my A game....my fault, I know. I was tired. I was foggy and wasn't thinking clearly. I just had tunnel vision and was getting through each turn at speed or close to it. Man, was that stupid.
I realized my condition and was getting worried...but there really is no place to stop and I was fearing the darkness coming. My best idea was to shadow a slow moving trailer or another biker. Maybe it was my mind playing tricks, but everybody seemed to be going to dam fast!
I have never prayed for straight roads harder.....but there was just no relief. I am still freaking out when I think of it. Oh, and you know how Illinois has 'bump' signs? Where TF are they in Cali? I am doing these twisties...and its like the locks in a river....the grade just goes lower suddenly! My ass and feet are not connected to the scoot - just my hands are on for a split second!
I was scared out of my flipping mind....but I just couldn't stop. I will never, never, never do that again. So help me.....
This is Frank from Chico, Ca. I met him at 2130 hrs - after 18 hours in the saddle - at his local bar, and karaoke night. I haven't seen him for 32 years - since high school, re-connected with him on Facebook.
He is cranking out Rocket Man......
I put on way more miles than I had planned, so I needed to find a shop to have the oil changed.
I called my wife who searched for some places on the internet, and located Chico Motorworks. Hope they have what I need......
Confession: I am hard on dealerships. I have a 1 to 10 rating system for them as well....and most of them can barely reach 6. Chico MS got to 7.5....and here's why.
First, the good points: Once they brought the scoot in, it took 45 minutes and cost me a grand total of $76.80 for synthetic oil and filter...and they gave me the excess motor oil for the road just in case. Nice touch.
The service mgr. was polite and accommodating. I mentioned I was concerned about my front tire as I noticed a small chip of rubber missing from the tread and it was starting to cup a bit. He didn't have a tire in stock. Fine.
Bad points: When I got there, they just opened and were rolling out there stock for display and dragging all the service bikes out of the shop bays. I had to wait 20 minutes for this exercise. That's bologna.
Kick-Ass Customer Service demands you take care of the customer first. The SM should have let the other 9 guys wheel bikes out; there is a paying customer needing attention. Get on it.
Plus, he should have been on the horn finding another tire pronto. To his credit he later asked me if he wanted him to check around for the tire...I said yes, but no luck. He shouldn't have to ask; just start looking. But he gets high marks else-wise.
During the service I went into the showroom. I found a bike that I have had interest in - a Kaw Concours 14 - and spent some time ogling it, sitting on it, fiddling with it. The young sales guy just sat at his desk playing on the computer.
I did this for 30 minutes. Nothing. There was no one else in the place. Just me and him. I asked him how much it was and he kindly gave me the retail and invoice numbers. That's it.
Man, what a horseshit salesman. He is either related to the owner, or is a whiz at putting bikes on Craigslist and Ebay. If I was the owner, we would have a seriously discussion about his future with the company. He could be replaced with a kiosk if that is all he was going to do.
I have been in sales and taught sales courses. You don't have to be "Sam, the used car guy" push, push, push. But hanging a sign on something is not selling either. There is some art and nuance to it. Engage the customer and see if there is a deal to be had. Geeze, this kid had no clue.
Unfortunately, that is my experience at most bike dealers. At least this place has a good service manager.
Meet Lilly. Lilly is a hooker.
How do I know? Well, I was sitting in the shade on the side of a Shell gas station in Sacramento, Ca. Not the crap section of town - if there is one. There was some swanky shops right across the street. Well, I was sitting there, drinking my Arizona Ice Tea (with Ginseng) I just purchased, a left-over banana from Portland and a couple of handfuls of Wal-Mart GORP. Mmmmmmm. Good lunch.
In pulls a black VW bug and out steps this huge floppy hat with a person attached to it. What gave her away was the white shorts, high heels and the cat-walk strut like she was in a show. Now, I am a big fan of white shorts on gals - have been since HS. Also, high-heels in anything is generally okay by me. But I have seen enough episodes of "What Not to Wear" with my wife to know that high heels and white shorts together, are worn by either the fashion illiterate or 'sex workers.' Lilly was of the latter category.
She approached after a while and ..... we had a conversation:
Lunch and a floor show. The day is improving.
"Is this your motorcycle?"
"Actually, it's a....yes it is." Why bother with distinctions......
"Would you like a date?"
I am not one of those guys who can think of snappy things to say right away. Five minutes from then, I had six different great come-back lines for her, but now, I got nothing but silliness.
"Well, I think my wife would object. What's your name?" Let's draw this out....I'm bored anyhow.
"For $200 it can be whatever you want it to be."
Wow. That's kind of exorbitant, but I do get naming rights. As an aside - and I thought of this much later on scootering over the Donner Pass - I wondered what I paid for my first date with my wife (not that I am comparing the two - please understand that). The date with my to-be wife costs me about 4 large: Dinner of course, but all the prep stuff. The new jacket with elbow patches, sweater, trousers, the new Alpine car stereo so she wouldn't see that big hole in the dashboard.
On a point-by-point, per date basis, cost analysis.......I'm just saying.....
But I digress....
"Lilly Von Schtoop"
"Lilly Von Schtoop.... that's what I'll call you. Didn't you ever see Blazing Saddles?" I'm so tired......tired of playing the game....aint it a crying shame....I'm ....so....tired!
"No, I don't think so..."
"Well, she was this German lounge singer who...."
"So do you want a date?" she said, confused and losing her patience.
"Lilly, I am happily married.....and quite fond of my penis ...and I don't want to lose either."
'Shiiiiiiiit," and she turns and cat-walks away. It was amazing how quickly she went from trashy-sophisticate to ghetto. It took about a nano-second.
She just flipped me off without turning around. Classy.
What ever happened to the art of conversation? I ask you?
I was...confused. After seeing Frank in Chico, Ca., I ran out of destinations. I gave up on going to see an aunt down in Carmel, Ca. She is a bit quirky, and if things went south, I would have been pissed I went that far for that. Plus, cutting East from that point south would lead into Death Valley - and I have done that on a bike in my 20's. Not again.
So, I could cut back to the coast, but I would have to cut across that frikking mountain pass again - like 299 - and I am still shaken from that run. I feel like a Roomba; there is no more dirt, so I just go back to my charging port. I need way points or I feel like a gypsy. I am just not built for the nomadic life. I just spin in circles wondering what the point is.
Okay, I am heading East - on the way home. I am now on the outskirts of Reno, Nevada. I am looking forward to Colorado and I will choose some POI's in that state.
Who cannot like 2-wheeling it through Cali? It is picturesque in spades. Gas is expensive though, at an average of $3.14 per gallon. The price one pays for beauty I guess.
If Oregon constituted the better half of a Grateful Dead concert, northern Cali represents the lesser half. Aside from the quaint and isolated beach towns, there were a plethora of homeless and nare-do-wells walking around, pulling their shopping carts. You just get a sense of why the state is in the financial shitter.
Example: Rick, 28 yrs old.
I met Rick at, where else, a McDonalds on my way out of the state. As usual, the conversation starter was my scooter. Inside, he sat across from me......and we had a conversation:
"So, what do you do?"
'Oh, I don't work," smiling at me.
'Really? Independently wealthy?" I joked.
"Naw, I was diagnosed at clinically depressed, so now the state takes care of me?"
"How is that working out for you?"
"Pretty good. They took over payments on my condo, I get food stamps (Cali's version of it), monthly allowance and free health care. What's not to like?"
"Don't you have family nearby?"
"My parents live in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They want me to come back, but I like the weather here and it costs me nothing." Sure...living off the sweat of others. Congrats douche-bag.
I don't think Rick is an isolated case. I think he represents a systemic problem for this gorgeous state.
Entering Nevada reminds of riding through the deserts of southern California in my 20's. It is flat, but there is vegetation and you are surrounded by mountains. All in all, not a bad ride.
My intention is to stick to I-80 through the more barren states. I dare not take a secondary road; they are few and gas stations are fewer. I imagine skeletons with motorcycle helmets out there somewhere and I do want not want to add to their numbers.
You either go around the mountains, or through them. Mostly, weave around them.
One doesn't have a choice at times about where to stop for gas. Some of these out of the way stations are nothing short in equivalency to a Bates Hotel.
Take this one. I wanted to go into the little convenience store to get some water, but there was this scary-ass dude staring at me out front, and then I saw this: A expended shotgun shell next to the pump. WTF was that about!
Thanks for the gas....bye!
Day 15: 426 miles
I cannot find any camping places...for tents that is. There are a bunch for drive-through RV's...usually attached to small casinos.
So I stayed at a Days Inn. I got a good reference for eats from the guy at the desk, and shot over for Thai at Bangkok something or other....and had the best Pad-Thai. Go figure.
Day 16: 456 Miles
Same story with tent camping. Apparently, it just is not happening out here in the desert. So, I need to find a place....
I ended up in West Wendover, Nevada. A small casino town in the armpit of the state. I wound up at the "Red Garter Inn" - which I thought was America's Best Inn because that sign was in front of it. I didn't realize the error in lodging until I tried to log onto their wi-fi, couldn't, called the front desk to inquire, and the clerk informed me that they didn't have wi-fi....America's Best Inn next door had it. Oops....man, was I that tired?
Well the Red Garter Casino & Hotel ...and the story goes....was created by this brothel owner in the old west who married a judge. She promised to give up her ways, and gave the judge a box containing her derringer pistol...and her red garter.
The good news is that this shitty little casino/hotel had $22.00 rooms - with the obvious hope that one will do some gambling. I also had a half-rack of ribs and sides for $7.00. Thank you very much! This place was going to lose money on me.
I usually don't like to gamble. Not that I have a moral position on it. I think moral folks can gamble; just like they can consume alcohol. On the highway, I saw billboard ads for the casinos and they show a middle age couple rolling dice...or a grey hair at the slots.
I saw little of evidence of that scenario. Inside, I saw sad scenes of middle-age women plugged into slot machines, on their 5th beer.....and its 1400 hrs. Or, a long-hair guy with baseball cap, flannel shirt with the sleeves cut off, glued to a video poker game pissing away half of his paycheck. When I looked around, it was definitely more of the latter than the former. I just find that sad.
I don't care how shiny you make these places, they all seem dirty to me....on a foundational level. Something is just not quite right.
Case in point: This shithole of a town is 98.5% Hispanic. A handful of Caucasians are in managerial positions. But then there were a handful of young, pretty and leggy ladies - about 21 or 22 yoa - who barely spoke English. They were from Lithuania.
HTF do pretty young girls come to this country and end up in this dung-heap of a town in the middle of nowhere?
Organized crime. My cop alarm was ringing off the hook.
As a cop, I did work with an organized crime task-force - focusing on outlaw bikers. Yes, they are considered organized crime. Just replace snaggle-tooth gold chains with leathers - and they are the same.
They both run women. They call it 'white slavery' and I used to see this type of conviction on their criminal histories. Basically, all the white strippers, waitresses, hookers, escorts and cocktail queens one sees who can barely speak English, are imported from eastern block Europe - from mob sources there (Russian mostly) to mob sources here. I don't know how these girls end up - but it can't be pretty.
Makes me miss cop work.
Anyway, in the micro, I am sure there are lovely and nice people in Nevada, but, at the risk of being cynical, in the macro, Nevada is a degenerate state imho and if it became a big sinkhole, I think, aside from the flag companies having to make new 49star flags, I don't think the country would be worse off.
Check that. Make Puerto Rico the 50th state...and call it a day.
Utah is not bad, especially past Salt Lake City when you get to the mountains. While in SLC, at a McDonalds, I was leaving when this guy - Kevin - came up to me and asked for some change.
I have a rule about this: I ignore panhandlers you see downtown and at train stations. They are scammers mostly. You can tell true homeless folks...who are either addicts or mentally ill....and often both.
Kevin here did not have shoes. He was filthy. I never give money. Ever. I knew many addicts and it all goes towards scoring a fix. Always. So, what I do is offer to buy them a meal. When I ask Kevin if he was hungry, he said he was starving.
Matt 25:45 "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
So, I got Kevin a meal, said a prayer for him and wished him well. It may not be much, but I fed him.
I like Wyoming. People here - even right off the highway - are nice, wholesome.
I am racing a storm and want to find a place for the night before I get hit with it. I found a KOA, got raped at 33.00 for the night, but I am tenting again, which I miss. I just sleep a little better in the tent.
I will make the 130 cutoff into Colorado tomorrow and into Rocky Mtn. Natl Park.
I stayed at the KOA I mentioned in the last post. Okay place, but run by very nice people and their showers were nice and clean - a hallmark by which I judge campgrounds now.
I did a load of laundry and met the nicest couple. I don't even know their names, but there were waiting for their laundry as well, both 63 yoa, from Marshall Texas - formally from Louisiana - and had a twang and a drawl to their speech.
We talked about RV's their kids and grand kids. They were just so pleasant and I like meeting folks like that.
I got up around 0430 and started to break down camp. It got to about 39 degrees last night but I was pretty snug. Last nite at Mac's, some local wise-ass stole one of my driving gloves for kicks. When I stop, I put them on the dash under the windshield and they don't move or get wet there if it rains.
As least steal both so someone could use them!
So, this morning, I used my snow mittens - which I would have anyhow as it was 48 degrees when I left camp. I punched in "Walmart" into my GPS and - as luck would have it - there was one in the neighboring town 1.5 miles away.
I use Wal-Mart's mechanics gloves found in the auto section for driving gloves. They are palm padded, vented and have some rubber armor elements so they suit me fine.
I stayed on I-80 East, but turned south on 230, which will lead me - hopefully - to the Rocky Mountains Natl Park and Estes Park.
That road led to through Medicine Bow National Forest in Colorado.
This place turned out to be a great find. Not bad for throwing darts at a map. I was talking with a HD biker who had the same opinion that I did: This place is a miniature Yellowstone without the crowds.
This national forest is a nice drive and has great sights. I watched the elevation feature of my GPS reach 10,895 before it leveled out. It was about 54 degrees. Another local name for this area is Snowy Mountains as there is snow here even in Summer.
Finally, I get to see a moose! Actually, there were three of them - and they are huge animals - strolling some 200 feet of the road. I managed to get this weak shot when it walked from out of the trees. Impressive creatures!
Ft. Collins is my rest spot for the evening. Rollin in here on 287 - the main drag - I checked out the row of motels and they all look like variations on a Bates theme. I had no idea this was a college town, and if I persevered a bit more, I would have found a national chain hotel somewhere I am sure.
Alas, I finally chose one that looked the less scary...hey, it had flower boxes. Ax murderers don't do flowers.
I got my room and, well, let's just say that after finding the wet, soiled washcloth on the shower head, I wore my camp flip-flops in the shower....and the rest of the room. I whine a lot here, but really, I find the good in most things...and laugh at the things many would bitch out loud about.
Like the 'kitchy' 1972 avocado green Tappan 4 burner stove in my room and the dresser whose drawers I cannot manage to open. If my wife was with me......trust me, this place wouldn't even make the list. I don't blame her.
Moi? I slept in worse.
So, I showered (great shower btw) and a bit later, saw Connies Hair Salon, which had a sign that read. "We service men too!" Well, how can that go wrong?
Connie, and exuberant large Hispanic woman was putting the finishing touches on some ladies coif, so I just sat, listened to them speak Spanish, and read "In Touch" magazines. I did overhear them mention Lindsey Lohan....so I got the drift of their conversation. $8 bucks later, my new hairdo and I whizzed about town looking for trouble...I mean adventure.
Lo and behold, just a mile further is Old Town Square - which is the 'hip' place in this neck of the woods. Parked the scoot and commenced to wondering. It actually is very cool down here. It has an older, smaller Naperville, IL feel, with a slight Telluride vibe going on. Being close to Colorado State Univ, there are a good mix of town kids, college kids but mostly my age folks.
Sitting at a bistro, I had a nice beer-battered shrimp over fennel salad with a decent Reisling, and that's when the square starting jumping. It got packed quickly - and I found out this was a jazz fest type of weekend. But something is always cooking in the square I am told.
I sauntered over to Ben & Jerry's for a 'triple caramel chunk' concoction just in time to here the US Air Force Academy Band start cranking out some great tunes (sorry Mark). I listened to that until the sun starting fading.
I get back to my room - and I still can't find the free HBO promised on the sign. Thank goodness for wi-fi, although the clerk did warn me that I needed my own computer - they don't furnish those. Gotcha.
I did spot a hot-tub that was mentioned on the sign out front, and dared to inquire. A new Asian lady clerk met me and was very accommodating. I helped her unlock the gate, remove the cover and she even got me a clean beach towel.
Mamasan then put her fingers to her lips and asked, "You smoke?
"No, I do not"
"Why you in smoking room?"
"You want I should get you no smoking room?"
"No thank you" The hassle factor is not worth it. Again, I can tolerate a lot of crap.
I soaked a bit, cover the hot tub back up, told her good nite, debugged the scoot and planned tomorrows ride.
I learned, and made a reservation in Steamboat Springs, CO. Lucky I did....but I will get to that.
My intention was to enter the Estes Natl. Park and the Rocky Mtn. Natl Park and hit the Trail Ridge Pass which many bikers have spoken about.
So, let's go.....
I started at 0815 hrs and the temp was 64 degrees. I knew I should have put on my cold weather gear, but it was so nice out. In less than 15 minutes though, I was pulling over and adding layers. 56 degrees
Elevation here started off at about 9200 feet...but quickly increased, and I think topped off at 12,200 ft. That's pretty high.
This was different than Beartooth Pass. It was a good run, but it had it's challenges. At about the 11,500 elevation point, the road conditions started to get precipitously worse
It started with asphalt; then that became heavily grooved; then loose gravel was added; then tennis ball size rocks were thrown around - but easily navigated around; then it turned into hard-packed dirt w/ loose gravel; then water was added to all of that at the peak.
Mind you, all this was at steep inclines and declines and hairpin turns. I was at PF 7 the entire ride; pelvis tucked in, feet and legs under me as much as I could, arms relaxed (wiggle the elbows) and back straight. During that hazard,, you cannot go more than 20 mph.
Then the wind started. My outside temp gauge said 53; but my nose was dripping, some of it landing on the inside of my visor and freezing into snot-sicles. So the wind chill was a factor.
I thought of turning around twice, but as long as the road was not soft (that's when it starts to wobble) I was pushing forth. I am glad I did. The descent was fun which led into Grand Lake, CO.
More Trail Ridge Pass
Steamboat Springs! What a town! I can see all the mountain trails skiers use in Winter. I am glad I made reservations the day prior. This weekend is their busiest of the Summer; Art in the Park (which is great) and a Hot Air Balloon Rodeo tomorrow morning. Can't wait.
This town is cool. I realize there is money here, but it is truly Colorado. The women here dress...I call it 'hippie chic.' The full length, tie-dyed dress/halter or strapless thingy....but it is done well, fitted and they got nice jewelry on, hip sunglasses, etc.....oh, and don't smell like pituli oil.
I bought my wife a cool bracelet here from a local jeweler.
Rain, rain, rain...
I made it home at around noon. A pleasant day of riding from Des Moines. As an aside, Illinois had the crappiest road conditions and the most construction.
Thanks Land of Lincoln!
Post Trip Thoughts: People
First, I enjoyed the long solo trip. I do some of my best thinking driving and this was no exception. This is not to say that doing a trip like this solo is anti-social by any means. In fact, some of my fondest memories of the trip were the people I met....even briefly.
Aside from the rally folks - whose friendship and camaraderie are unequalled - there were many people during the solo portion of the trip that are worthy of remark.
Gary - The Goldwing and trailer solo rider from Sacramento, CA who shared my ride on the Beartooth Pass.
Derrick - The BMW rider who camped near me at Yellowstone - and convinced me that owning a BMW was probably not a good option for me.
Jack & Susan - A nice couple camping at Yellowstone in a re-furbished 1958 Airstream 18 foot Pacer camper. They are collectors of old Airstreams, showed me theirs and they were very hospitable.
Glenn & Pat, Bruce & Gwen, Rich & Melanie - Goldwing riders who I spoke to at a scenic overlook in Yellowstone. We talked all things GW! That was great!
Ethan - Solo rider on his older Kawasaki crotch-rocket who was camping minimalist style (I will comment on this in the camping portion).
Jan - A petite solo mid-30's woman who rode a huge HD and was headed towards the Beartooth Pass Rally. I was amazed how she wielded that big machine.
Barb & Denise - A couple of ladies I chatted with at the balloon rodeo in Steamboat Springs, CO., while we froze our toes off.
Samantha & Diedra - KOA at Adon, Iowa, whose hospitality was evident and gave me the 'tired motorcyclist' discount.
Herb - We shared a parking spot at the Red Garter Casino & Hotel. Herb was a 55 year old guy riding the biggest KTM enduro M/C I had ever seen. 950 cc's and the seat was taller than my inseam. Interesting guy who owns 16 m/c's plus 2 Vespa scooters - and a racing Triumph M/C he uses to race Pikes Peak in Colorado.
Sam & Edna - Met at a gas station outside Steamboat Springs. He was riding a 98 GW and she was riding a big Vulcan. They used to live in Elgin, IL, now live in Florida and have a 'toy' trailer/RV they use to RV and ride around the country. He is 76 yoa btw!
Laundromat Couple: I can't believe I forgot to get their names, but a Texan couple I met while doing laundry at a KOA campground who were just so nice and pleasant to chat with.
Georgia - That's not her name, but she had a Georgia license plate on her BMW and when I walked into the McDonalds in Nebraska, I saw her helmet on the table and just walked up and said, "Hey Georgia!" She immediately smiled and offered me a seat. That's just how it is with riders....especially solo riders.
Brent - The last guy I met, riding a BMW, from Harlem, NY and was just cruising towards the Dakotas with no special place in mind.
There are so many more I am sure I am forgetting. This fraternity of riders is a social class that makes one not feeling lonely on the road. When I approached a rider who was on the side of the road, he would give me a 'thumbs up' indicating that it wasn't necessary for me to pull over and assist. It was an understanding.
Post Trip Thoughts: Camping
The biggest point here is that you don't need a ton of stuff to go scamping. Meaning, you don't....but I do apparently. I started off with too much stuff and my mailing costs for sending stuff home, and my wife sending me my soft-bags, totaled about $200. What a waste of money if I had just planned a bit better.
So, here's some tips:
The old adage that says, "Lay out all your stuff and your money. Get rid of half your stuff, and double up on the money," is pretty accurate. It's an adage for a reason.
Tents - Mine was too small for me in the beginning. I thought I barely fit into mine until I saw a solo rider at a campground who had a single bivvy - essentially a nylon coffin that rolled up and you can almost stuff the whole thing in your pocket. He told me it protected from the elements, but lying on his back, his face was about 6 inches from the fabric.
Both of which are fine if you crawl into the tent at 2100 hrs, get up at 0500 and press on. But if you're stuck in your tent because of weather, or you need to sort gear, change clothes, etc. those small tents are impossible.
When the manufacturer states a tent is a "4 person tent," what they mean is that they can squeeze four normal size persons in there, sans gear, and they will be asses to elbows all night.
Try to find a tent in the western states at Wal-mart or a sporting store. It is impossible! Back here in the Chicago area, there's a thin layer of dust covering the tents on the shelves. Out West, they can't stock them fast enough. Go figure.
I ended up with a 6 person Eureka tent from Cabela's. Bigger than what was needed.....but now I got room! Actually, this would the perfect size for two campers and their gear. I can also stand in the center - which is a plus for me. Okay, maybe I'm not Johnny-Northwoods, but as the sun settles, I am not outside on the picnic bench at a campsite swatting mosquitoes. Neither do I want to spray a half a can of repellent on me, then end up going to bed a chemical-smelling, sticky mess. I will stay in my bug-free tent and read or whatever.
Air Mattress - I refuse to go camping without one now. I am not in the USMC anymore; I desire and demand a certain level of comfort. That made all the difference between a comfortable night and a miserable might of sleeping for me. On the last night, as I prepared to fill the mattress, my battery-operated pump quit - which sent me into a panic until I remembered I had some spare batteries in the trunk of the scoot. Thank goodness! Also, one time in Minnesota when my first tent succumbed to the rain and the floor of the tent had standing water in it, I was on my air-mattress/raft and was bone dry.
Oh, and another thing. I like having sheets on my air mattress. On very warm nights, that was enough and the sleeping bag would have been overkill. I am sure camping enthusiasts will snicker about my sheet set, but screw them. It's not like I have 600count Egyptian cotton sheets (geeze, I feel gay for even knowing that).
Micro-Fiber Towel - Whoever invented this should get a humanitarian award. I can't imagine camping with cotton or terry-cloth towels; always being a bit damp or wet and taking forever to dry. I have one MF towel for me, and 2 very small ones for bike cleaning. They absorb like crazy, wring out and then dry in 5 minutes and pack anywhere. When you buy them, just soak them a couple of times to soften them up. No, they are not as soft as cotton, but its not like you're sleeping on Egyptian cotton sheets. Cowboy up.
The venerable bungee cord - I am convinced I can strap anything down on the scooter with these things. Not the thick, black rubber ones; the multi-colored round ones. I had a bunch of them and strapped the crap out of my stuff and it never moved. I even gave one to some slack-jawed kid outside a Wal-Mart in Wyoming, who was prepared to ride off on his Yamaha 250, carrying a 3x3 box, one end in his lap, and the other tucked under his chin. I shit you not! I gave Cletus a bungee cord and showed him how to use it. My good deed for the day.
Cordage - You never know when you'll need some cord. I brought two 50 ft. lengths of 550 para-cord.....and its a good thing I did. I used one whole length, cut it up, and used it to tie down my new tent which did not come with tie down straps for the rain fly.
Duct Tape - How the world survived without this stuff? I used it to temporarily hold a plastic panel on the scoot and devise a safety hold on for my GPS. Don't travel without it.
Post Trip Thoughts: Scooters
I have had a myriad of motorcycles and scooters throughout my riding years and I think I bring a certain amount of credibility to reviewing them because I am not an ideologue. They are tools; fun, wonderful tools, but tools never-the-less. Fit the right tool to the right job, and it is bliss.
My Burgman 650 held up well. It exceeded my expectations in some regards and fell short in others. Others may disagree with the following assessment, and that's fine. This was my experience.
My least favorable feature of the scooter is, ironically, the feature that makes it so attractive as a scooter. It's weight. Going through towns or going up and down mountain s-curves, it was sublime. Nimble, quick response, well-mannered and predictable. I felt very confident I could out-maneuver any full size tourer out there...and especially at slow speed going around hairpin turns that make up a majority of the mountain passes.
But on the highway plains or in mountain passes where there is no wind breaks, I got blown around considerably. Or even going around semi's, when you pass the front end of that cab, you know you're going to get nailed by a cross wind - and even build that into your riding line.
I can't tell you how many times I got blown over half a lane or more - sometimes onto the shoulder by a strong cross wind. It kept you on your toes and made for less than ideal touring riding.
Punching a hole through frontal winds or still air is a breeze. The fairing on the Burgman is second only to the GW imho. Even in the rain, my extended windshield put me into a protected bubble at speed.
But those cross winds were killer. Unfortunately, there is a correlation between weight and CC's. Meaning, I wish the Burgman had more weight but then the CC rate would have to climb to get the same performance. They go hand in hand.
Speaking of CC's, I found the B650 to have enough power to handle my gear and myself. Only twice did I wish I had more juice and that was while merging onto highways. My top speed was 85.5 mph and I averaged 54.6 mph. I normally cruised through the Western states at 75-80 mph with no problem what so ever.
I have extolled the virtues of the CVT tranny before, so I won't belabor the point. Suffice to say that on steep ascents and descents in the mountains, it really shined.
I do have an issue with braking and suspension. Even unloaded, I feel the brakes are under-powered as it were. It's like Suzuki factored in the de-accelerating aspect of the B650's CVT and then made smaller brakes. I would like to see larger disks with larger pads.
For a touring scooter, the suspension is on the more sporty end of the spectrum. Meaning, you feel the road a lot more. Great for sport riding where you want all that information when negotiating turns; not so great for touring comfort. I felt every bump and paid for it. On tour, all those bumps work in the aggregate to wear you down. Although the suspension is adjustable to a degree, I have not found the working combo to reduce the sporty feel and give a more touring, dampened feel.
The smaller gas tank on the B650 made it less than ideal as it could be. Many times, I strolled into available gas stations on fumes because stations were few and far between.
One other issue I had was the uniqueness of a scooter. My front tire was getting a little cupped and I thought about replacing it. There was not one dealer or independent bike shop in 4 western states that carried a 15 inch front tire for a Burgman. They could all get one in a day or two, but none in stock. I would go on the computer at b'fast at McDonalds, look at my route, and looked up all the dealerships on or near my route. Same answer. Nothing. It would be the same, I guess, doing this trip on a Moto-Guzzi. The more non-traditional bike you have - even among Jap bikes - the more you risk not having available parts while on the road. Something to think about.
Is a B650 the ultimate touring machine? No, it is not. Get a Gold Wing for that. Would I do another extended trip on a B650? Sure...if that was the bike I had. There are guys who crossed the country on Vino and Ruckus 50 cc's! I read their blogs and it is interesting. The question then becomes: How much do you want to endure?
But under the 'right tool for the right job' umbrella, I think the B650 is best suited for weekend trips. Shoot down the coast with the wife for a weekend get-away....perfect.
One more thing. GPS. Man, did that pay for itself in spades. Not for main highways and such, but for finding addresses, the next gas station, food stops, for seeing the elevations on the mountains. Also, I don't think I ever looked at the actually speedo. It is off by 10% so I just looked at the GPS speedo for accuracy the entire trip. BTW, I never got pulled over.......although it was close at times.
There were times when I knew I needed to get back to were I was, so I just pressed into the screen of my GPS a waypoint. Like the last night of camping, I went into a town 8 miles away and got confused -as it was now night -on the way back. Luckily, right before I left my campsite, I plugged in a waypoint, so I just recalled that waypoint and got back to camp without a problem.
They really are amazing devices.
I would like to thank everyone who read - or will read - this blog. I hope you realize that this was more than an introspective on touring. It involved my experiences and thoughts on this journey as well, of which I commented on.
My coming home marks the end of this trip of course. But I realized how much I enjoy long distance touring and can't wait to plan and execute my next adventure. who knows what lies around the next bend. If anyone wants to comment directly to me via email, this is it: firstname.lastname@example.org
I thank God for the blessings in life that allowed me the time and finances to do this trip....and for the patience of an understanding and committed wife of 25 years.
Some stats of interest:
Total costs of trip: $2429.43
The trip was 22 days, so that works out to be: $110.42 per day.
Total miles: 7276 Average miles per day: 330.72
States visited: 12 (not counting home state of Illinois)
Average miles per gallon: 43 Best mileage: 49 Worst mileage: 38
Thank you to my wife Rosanne. Not only did she give me the a-okay and support to do this trip, but she was my biggest reason to want to return home the moment I pulled out of the driveway. I missed her dearly every day.
God bless all you travelers, motorcyclists and scooter enthusiasts on your journey. May it be a safe one and fill you with a sense of awe, inspiration and a love for a country that has given you - and me - so much...and so much to be thankful and proud of. God bless you...and GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!