Back Home again.

July 5th, 2010

I got in from Amarillo about 7:00 last night. Family was already here from the Valley, so I drank a 5-hour energy drink and joined in the festivities. Went to bed about 4AM and was back up at 8:30. But, I did take a nap later on in the day. Total miles logged for the trip was 6,964.2 miles. I stayed two days in Olympia, WA but on the first day we did about a 345 mile loop around the peninsula and the next day I went to see my brothers which was about a 150 mile round trip. Daily average then cames out to 435.3 miles, if you count those two days as well. If you subtract out those two days and the estimated mileage for them, the average goes up to 462 miles. Either way, lotsa miles. I will slowly be editing previous entries and adding new ones, so check back from time to time for new stuff.

Homeward leg — 4 days left

July 1st, 2010

I’m in Green River, WY today. No pictures to post tonight — I have literally hundreds of pictures to sort through, edit and resize before I can do that.

The weather gods were with me again today. I was surrounded by storms in Wyoming but barely got wet at all. Mostly just ran over wet roads. Man, I finally stopped and geared up about 20 miles north of Rock Springs. It was unreal and indescribable. It was like I was participating in some special effects for a movie. I was riding south on 191 for Rock Springs. I had dawdled so long in the parks, (as usual,) and decided that instead of the more scenic route I had laid out, I would run WOT down 191 to Rock Springs, jump on the interstate west for 12 miles and be in Green River by 6:30. I was about 20 miles out from the interstate and I had been watching this one massive cloud with about three or four separate areas of heavy activity. Now these clouds are all a dark purple-black color with black fogs under them in the spots where it was raining. To my right, had been mostly sunshine all afternoon, with this bank of clouds to the south/southeast. The road would curve more to the west and I would say, “Ahhhhh,” then it would curve back more to the south and I would say, “Ohhhhh.” All the time I had been watching this I had seen like a white cloud or mist at the western-most edge. As I meandered more and more south and west I found myself approaching this western edge and I began to notice spectacular cloud-to-ground lightning in the dark clouds behind the white mist. As I got closer I began having a hard time understanding what I was seeing. There was obviously a serious thunderstorm raging behind that white wall, but it was the white wall that had my attention now. It was not a mist, or a cloud. It looked more like the curl of a killer wave on the beaches of Hawaii, though I’m sure much, much higher. It looked like a wall of heavy rain, (but it was white, not like everything else I was seeing,) and it looked like it was being blown hard by a wind coming from the west, causing it to bow back int the middle so that the whole “storm” or whatever was in the shape of a letter “C”. Water seemed to be sliding down the inside of the C shape and there even looked to be some turbulence at the bottom. I kept watching this and watching this, thinking that I may get far enough south before it hit 191 from the east that I would be past it. As topped a hill I saw that it wasn’t to be, as the road was curving back to the left again. I found a place to pull over and geared up, sure that the storm would be on me just any second now, it was so close. When I got everything buttoned up and got on my bike to go again, I couldn’t see the white wall anymore. There were still plenty of rain showers around, but no white wall of water and no lightning. I didn’t question my good fortune, I just jumped back on and hammered it some more. Got to Green River at 7:10 local time, dirty and tired, and only a little wet.

PNW 2010, The Road – What day is this again?

June 27th, 2010

I had a great visit with Chris and Cory and Laura and Alex and Evan. I cheated and took the I5 up past Tacoma and got off on 18 up through Auburn and took the Issaquah-Hobart Road in. Nice ride up Hwy 18. Then me and Cory and Chris went up to Snoqualmie Falls. Cory knows a trail that comes out at the base of the falls where he goes fishing, but you have to access it by going down my the power plant and they are doing maintenance so we couldn’t get down that way. So instead we went where all the tourist are, which Cory wasn’t happy about. It was crowded, but I did get some pretty nice pictures.

They are doing some maintenance to the power plant, so half of the upstream side of the falls was cut off.

It’s still a lot of water though.

It looks like one guy did manage to get to the fishin’ hole though.

Here’s Chris sucking in his gut for the camera and Cory making hamburgers.

Chris

Cory

Another shot of the Fabulous Baker Brothers.

Here’s Cory, Laura, Alex and Evan just before I left.

All in all a great day that was way too short. I made the 74 mile trip back to Tom’s house in 53 minutes. Tom had some dental work done while I was gone. I’ll have to admit, it certainly made a big difference.

PNW 2010, The Road – Day 3 & 4

June 23rd, 2010

Day 3 – I’m afraid I’m having a hard time keeping up with the blog. I have to manually resize each picture, that is, after I’ve sorted through them all and chosen which pictures to post. Then they have to be uploaded, then I have to do the text. I got in at 9:30 local time and now it’s 11:30 and I have 10 hours to ride tomorrow to get to my destination. I’ll be going through Yosemite, so you know I’m going to stop along the way.

Today I spent six hours in the Grand Canyon park, way more time than I could afford, but not nearly enough.I thought I would have enough of it pretty quickly, but each view was like seeing something brand new. I think I could easily spend two weeks in there. So, I didn’t leave the park until 3PM, and it took 6-1/2 hours of hammering my bike hard through the desert to get here when I did. That’s not good for the bike. I took well over 100 pictures today, and I will get some up, but it looks like a lot of this may have to wait until I get home.  I will continue to update every day that I am able to get online, and when I am in Washington I’m sure I’ll have some extra time to get caught up, as I will be ther for a couple of days.

Today’s mileage was 515.8 — Looks like for the trip so far, I am staying well under budget, but traveling a lot more miles than planned.

PNW 2010, The Road – Day 1 & 2

June 19th, 2010

Day 1 – Jude cannot get an Internet connection at his hotel in Brownfield tonight. He will catch up tomorrow.

Day 1– I learned a couple of things today, maybe more. The summary of today’s lessons is that if you’re going to go through all the trouble to make detailed travel plans (and not everyone does,) you probably should stick with them because you probably needed them in the first place. I’ll get to the lessons themselves shortly.

Packed to leave

At the last minute before I left yesterday morning, I decided I didn’t want to go through Austin so I plotted another course that would take me on a more northerly course at first, and away from the big city of Austin. I didn’t plan this, but it just so happened that this route would put me in Lexington about the time that Snow’s BBQ (voted #1 in Texas by several magazines,) opened up at 8AM. So guess what was for breakfast?

Snow'sn

Breakfast

Smoked brisket, coleslaw, potato salad, charro beans, pickles, onion and bread. And a big ol’ glass of sweet tea. I didn’t need to eat again until night time.

So, breakfast being done, I was off again. Not a lot of eye candy in this part of the country, other than some nice architecture in Georgetown, but I didn’t take any pictures here. However, the day was not without its own thrills, of a sort. Now on to the day’s lessons.

Lesson number one: There’s always time to stop and look at The Map. See, I’ve always been of a mind that, time sitting still is time wasted. I’ve always been a gas ‘n go kind of guy. I don’t smoke, so I don’t need smoke breaks. I can fill up and be gone in under five minutes. If I need something from inside the store, it’s fifteen minutes tops. I make my cheat sheet every morning so I don’t have to pull over and look at The Map. Sometimes I do, just to get oriented and to look at distances, but most of the time, not. So according to my cheat sheet, I was to take 183 out of Georgetown all the way to Early, TX where I was to take 67 to Coleman. So, I got to Early, fueled up and hopped on 67. Now, I’m going to the Pacific Northwest, right. So it’s generally safe to assume that I’m either gonna be going North, or I’m gonna be going West, right? Lesson number two: North is not always north. I hopped on 67 North and after about 30 miles I thought, “Hmmm, something doesn’t seem right. Where are the towns I’m supposed to be seeing? Where’s Brownwood? Where’s Santa Anna? But I was on by-God 67 N and that’s what my cheat sheet said. PNW, right? North and West, right? Finally, after about 105-110 miles, I was seeing TCU flags flying all over the place. I thought maybe it was high time to consult The Map. It wouldn’t take long, I could put my mind at ease with the knowledge that I was indeed on the right course, (North and West, right?) and I just happened to be in an area with a disproportionate number of TCU fans. I saw a picnic area with a nice big shade tree and pulled over. I opened up my new 2010 Rand McNalley Atlas and started tracing the towns I had passed through… Comanche, Dublin, Stephenville, which I had just passed about 40 miles back. Wait a minute! I was going north alright… NORTHEAST!!!! I was about forty miles short of Ft. Worth. Maybe farther, but a helluva lot closer than I had ever planned to be on this trip. I was actually supposed to leave out of Early on 67 SOUTH! Soooo…. I said to hell with the scenic route and caught the Interstate. I lost about 3-1/2 hours and burned an extra tank of fuel. I left the house with 80,074.0 on the clock and ended the day at my planned destination of Brownview, TX with 80,766.9 for a total of 692.9 miles on the day.

I’ve always wanted to see the Llano Estacado — maybe not as dramatic or interesting as the mountains in the west, but I’ve always been interested to see the escarpments where the depths of the earth have thrust their way to the surface. I began to see the escarpments in the distance, getting closer little be little as is the case in flat country where you can see for miles and miles. As I got closer I started seeing features at the upper edge of the escarpments that did not belong there. You can’t really see it in this picture, but I could see it from this distance.

What’s this? Hundreds and hundreds of cell phone towers? I was outraged. How could anyone allow the stark beauty of this natural wonder be ruined in such a fashion? Where were the treehuggers when you really needed them? But as I got closer I became even more outraged. They weren’t cell phone towers, they were freaking windmills!!!! The treehuggers that had ruined the Llano Estacado!

The Llano Estacado before the treehuggers:

The Llano Estacado after the the treehuggers:

They are kind of graceful in their slow turnings, though. Kind of like… synchronized swimmers. Yeah, that’s it, synchronized swimmers. That sounds like it would be right up a treehugger’s alley.

Day 2 –Today was a good day, though not without its lessons. I slept a little late, 7:00, packed up and headed out of Brownview. Here’s a shot of downtown heading out:

More of the Llano Estacado today. I’ll post some pictures, but I know there’s only so much flat land you can stand to look at.

Behind the bike here you can see pretty much what I looked at for most of the day.

I made a rare Rest Area stop to put on some more sunscreen and make a couple of load adjustments… and I stepped carefully while there.

Now, on to today’s lesson. Having never been out west, I’ve kept in mind the numerous warnings I’ve heard and read to take every opportunity to fill your tank when in the desert areas such as AZ, NV, CA… The Llano Estacado is no desert, but is apparently no less desolate. Not much out there but cactus, windmills and oil pumps… oh, and I guess rattlesnakes, but I didn’t meet any of them. I was not expecting to go for stretches of over 100 miles and see absolutely no store or gas station of any kind. I left out of Brownfield and rolled into Roswell with a little less than half a tank of gas. I think it’s something like 95 miles from Roswell to Vaughn, but I never dreamed that there would be absolutely nothing in between. I hit reserve at 201 miles on the trip meter, just before I passed a sign that said, “Vaughn-40”. I knew my reserve was good for about 20 miles, maybe more if I rode easy, and I knew there was no way I was making it to Vaughn on this gas. I pulled over and fired up the VZ Navigator on my phone to see if there might be a gas station a few miles down one of the crossroads I’d been seeing, but there was no service in the area. So I rode at about 60 and finally ran out of gas 12 miles south of Vaughn. I didn’t bother trying to wring every foot I could out of it — when it started sputtering I just pulled it over and shut it down. I had purposely stayed well ahead of a big RV that I’d played leap frog with for a while, thinking they must have a generator on board and therefore a gas can with gas. I got off the bike and took out my notebook and made a sign:

Disregard the smaller writing, that came later and you’ll understand by the end of the story. So I stood on the side of the road like an idiot, waving my sign at passersby and gesturing to my gas tank. Almost immediately a truck turned around (no small feat considering the turnarounds are about 1/4 mile apart,) but alas, he had no gas or gas can, and he went on his way. But this encouraged me and caused me to think that maybe the locals were concerned about motorists being stranded in the desert and would be quick to lend assistance. And hark! Here cometh yon RV, like a knight on a white horse. And behold! The RV moveth not into the left hand lane as some other cowardly knaves have done. Nay, he moveth boldly forward in the right hand lane, because he means to pull over and lend a poor soul assistance. Naaaaah, he blew past me like I was some homeless guy on a street corner in LA. After about 15 minutes of watching cars go by someone else stopped. This fella didn’t have a gas can either, but he said he would go into Vaughn and get one. He said it with the air of resignation of someone who really has no choice but to perform the task, and I knew he was just the kind of guy that didn’t have a choice. It was in his power to resolve the problem, and he had to do it whether he wanted to or not. He wasn’t about to just drive on by like it wasn’t his problem. He was a man from another time, when people felt responsibility just a bit sharper than most do now. I introduced myself before he drove off and he told me his name was Bob Bogan and he was traveling with his daughter Stacy. He asked me if I had a cell phone number and I told him I could give it to him, but there was no service in this area which I knew because I was trying to call AAA when he drove up. Stacy said she didn’t have service either, so off they went. I told Mr. Bogan that I would be right here when he got back. He kind of laughed and I told that what I meant was that I would not try to flag anyone else down. There was no way I was going to let him go through all of that and then not be there when he got back. So they drove off, and I waited. It was hot, but I guess it was what they call “dry heat,” because there was a stiff breeze, and it was a hot breeze, and the sun was beating down, but it was not uncomfortable. In fact I stood on the side of that road for a total of about one hour, but I don’t think I ever broke a sweat. Here was my view for that hour:

North:

East:

South:

and West:

Not much happenin’ on the Llano Estacado. I did check out the local fauna:

Could this be the legendary prickly pear of  western novel fame? A quick Google search proves that it’s not, but I thought at the time that it might be, and I fought an urge to try eating one of the red bulbs. No need though, I had plenty of water on the bike. At least I got that part of desert survival right. Actually, it’s possible that this could be a type of prickly pear cactus called Cholla, but I’m not sure.

After being gone about 40 minutes, I saw Mr Bogan and Stacy coming back. I gotta tell you, I choked up just little when I saw them, because he was driving with his flashers on. This led me to think that he must have been driving fast in order to get back quickly. Was it because he was concerned about me standing in the heat? I have to think so. I told him that I knew that he had to buy that gas can and that I wanted to pay for it, the gas, his gas and his time. We put the gas in the tank and I said “that gas can is going to stink up your truck,” (it was an SUV,) and he told me that I was now the proud owner of a new gas can. Do you know that man wouldn’t even let me pay for the gas for the bike? He wouldn’t take a dime from me. Not that I’m surprised. Like I said before, I had already sized Mr. Bogan up as the kind of man that does these things out of a sense of duty, not because it makes them feel good to do it or because it makes them happy. I once got my truck stuck in the sand, and I walked across the street to house to ask for help. The guy was happy to pull my truck out with his tractor, and he was also happy to take the $20 dollars that I offered him. I once ran out of gas on my bike in front of another guy’s house and he was happy to let me buy a quart of gas off of him with my last two dollars cash so I could get home. Mr. Bogan didn’t seem like was happy to do all that, it was just something he had to do, and he wouldn’t dream of taking a dime for helping a stranger, no matter how much it put him out or how much it cost him. His is a dying breed. While he was gone I wrote down my name and contact information, and the address to this blog. I knew that he wouldn’t take my money. When I offered it he put up his hand, turned his back and walked back to his truck. I followed him back and gave him the piece of paper and explained about the travel journal I was keeping online. I asked him if I could take his picture and told him that I would post it, which he said was fine. Here is Mr. Bob Bogan and his daughter Stacy, and I hope I’m spelling his name right.

I hope you had a great Father’s Day with your daughter. Oh, and by the way. I don’t really have any use for a gas can, and I really don’t want to ride around with it strapped to my bike. But it is, and I will, to remind me and in appreciation of your kindness.

I’ve got more pictures from today, but since I had to do two days’ posting, it’s well after midnight and I’m going to bed. I’ll catch it all up tomorrow.

Day 3 – Today went well and I took way too many pictures. Too many to upload, edit and post tonight. Sorry but I have to take break and rest tonight. I’m at Marble Canyon and I want to get up real early and spend a bit of time checking out the Grand Canyon before I zoom over to Death Valley Junction.

Final Countdown

June 14th, 2010

I’ve edited my itinerary for the last time. All preparations are finished, even down to a detailed list of what items are to be packed where. I made a last minute decision to take our faithful duffel bag instead of the nifty-neato HD T-bag that I have used previously. The T-bag is roomy and well organized, but it just makes the bike too top-heavy. I’ve never liked it for this reason. That may be excusable when just beaming down the interstate, but for twisty turny mountain roads, where you’ll never know what is around the next curve or over the next hill, it’s just not safe. It’s enough just compensating for the difference in handling under normal conditions. If I had to make a sudden avoidance maneuver it could mean the difference between just stains in my shorts or stains on the road.

I’ve just got this work week to go, and then it’s on the road! Man, I’m excited.

High performance – done

May 24th, 2010

Heads and cam are in. All I can say is, WHAT A DIFFERENCE!!!

One more step before the leap…

May 22nd, 2010

The last big job I have before I head out is to install the SE heads and the Andrews cam. I was sort of dreading the job because that would mean I have to dish out the money for gaskets. I had a complete set of top end gaskets from the HD shop for about two years but I gave them to a friend, thinking I would never need them.

I have been going to the HD shop in College Station because it is the closest. There is an indy shop there that I have used, but he doesn’t stock much stuff. So, last night I Googled “harley parts Austin” and found a few places. (College Station is 50 miles away, Austin is about 65.) One that I found was Bud’s Motorcycles that seemed to be strictly Harley’s, no sport bikes. When I pulled up I saw what I considered to be a good omen, huge piles of used and scrapped parts out back. A virtual Harley salvage yard. When I walked in I knew I had come to the right place — Display cases packed with stuff that had been there for years, pegboards full of everything, bins and drawers of parts, boxes on the floor full of swap meet material — pretty much just junked up with decades worth of treasures.

I had read reviews of the place — well, there were only four — and the only one that had anything bad to say was that it took a long time to get waited on and that if you didn’t ride a Harley or buy one (they have a few in-house built bikes) it was hard to get service. So uhhhh, what was the problem? Yeah, it took a while before anyone came to the counter, but who cares? There was a ton of stuff to look at and go through. I could have stayed there all day.

When the guy came to the counter all I told him was that I was swapping out heads and cam and needed all the gaskets, seals and o-rings. I said it was a ’98 Softail. He looked at me sideways for a second and then I said, “It’s an Evo.” His face unclouded and he said, “An Evo.” Apparently I had not conveyed sufficient information at first. He said, “I’m not going to have any gasket sets…” and I told him, “I don’t want any sets, just what I need to do the job,” and that seemed to put him at ease. Then he went straight to work. He didn’t look in a book, he didn’t search for part numbers, and he didn’t call for Bud. He started scurrying around to various bins and drawers locating the items I needed. Cometic head gaskets, Genuine James gaskets for most of the others, with some HD o-rings thrown in here and there. I also got fork seals, (also for the top of the forks,) two pints of fork oil, and an oil filter. They had a bunch of 50W oil, some 25W60 (or maybe it was 65) which I have never seen nor heard of, and one quart of 20W50. I asked him if he had any more of the 20W50 ($6.95/qt) and he said no, all they had was gallons of Castrol 20W50. I said, “Well, that’s what I normally use anyway,” and he said that was what he would recommend. Now I really like this guy. So I figured I’ll just pick my oil up at the auto parts place at home.

I looked around for a while after, but didn’t see anything I couldn’t live without. I know that the top end gasket set alone costs around $100 at the HD shop, so I was prepared for something in the neighborhood of $200. The total bill? $96.34 — I’ll be going back to Bud’s from now on. Hell, that indy shop in College Station isn’t even open on Saturday. Besides, I don’t mind the longer trip, as long as I’m on my bike.

Today’s Booty

More steps…

May 19th, 2010

I made all my hotel reservations tonight… came out to a lot less than I had expected. New tires are on the bike, I’ll have new sealed bearing on the front and freshly packed bearing on the rear wheel. I’ll install new brake pads and put the wheels back on tomorrow. Saturday morning I’ll get up early and head to my buddy’s house to install an Andrews EV27 cam and Screamin’ Eagle heads.

I’ve made all my pre-trip purchases except for one. I’m waiting for the upholstery shop to finish repairing my damaged saddle bag. I bought a Sanyo S120 camera for the trip. 12 megapixels and quite small. It has photo stabilization and “smile detection,” what ever that is. I put a 4GB SD card in it. That ought to be enough, I’m not really much of a picture taker, but I really ought to since I’m going to be seeing some awesome stuff.

31 more days, then I hit the road!

Baby Steps…

May 15th, 2010

I’m slowly getting my pre-trip checklist done. My new tires arrived via UPS Thursday. Pretty amazing considering I ordered them out of CA Wednesday morning. I received an email Thursday morning informing me that my order had been sent to a “fulfillment center,” obviously some local distribution point — probably in Houston. So this morning I’ll be pulling off my wheels and taking them to have the new tires mounted and balanced. (No, I don’t mount my own tires anymore, especially since the rear one is tubeless and I don’t know anything about properly breaking the old bead or setting the new one.) I’ll pack the bearings an install new brake pads prior to putting the wheels back on.

I got the bike inspected yesterday, so now I’m legal. (Yay!) I only have about 15 miles left on break-in, so when my buddy Blair is available — probably next weekend — we’ll install my new Andrews EV27 cam, my new Timken cam bearing and my Screamin’ Eagle Heads. I got a sweet deal on the heads. They normally retail  for nearly $1000 — I bought mine from Blair with just about 1000 miles on them for $200, plus he gets my stock heads when we pull them off. (He’s going to use them to experiment with porting and flowing on.) I still have my Mikuni HSR 42 carb and my SE Stage 1 breather, so these additions will complete the package. Well, except for exhaust. In that instance I opt for form over function. The most efficient exhaust system for my bike would be a 2 into 1 system, but I just don’t think it looks right on a Harley. I’m not trying to win any races here and I’m not willing to sacrifice aesthetics for maybe a 2HP gain. Nope, called me old-fashioned on that count. But, I had this same setup with my old motor — minus the SE heads — and I was very satisfied. I’m anxious to see how much better it will be with the performance heads