Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lessons Learned

This was a very insightful trip for me as I really hadn't done any real multi-day rides in many years, and back then I was much younger and a bit more adventurous.  Not being on a real schedule allowed me the flexibility to take the maintenance induced layover in stride and not stress about it.  So, in no particular order, here are some of my observations:

  • I pack too much stuff™.  There were several items I never got around to using and should never have packed in the first place.  I sent home one box from San Antonio but should sent back more stuff.  The bike is not a car, I really have to pack less.
  • Rain gear is nice to have, but if you don't plan on really riding in the rain (as in pulling over and waiting for the downpour to pass) don't bother carrying extra rain specific gear, other than boots (maybe).
  • I really like my Motoport stretch Kevlar pants.  They worked well in the rain and the desert.  Really easy to get in and out of and the armor is great.
  • I'm still very happy with my Tourmaster Snonora 3/4 Air Jacket.  Having two liners gave me all the options I needed for this trip.
  • The Sena SMH10 bluetooth head set continues to work just as advertised.  Really, what more can you ask of a product?
  • Exoficio underwear from REI are great.  Lightweight, wash and dry overnight, and comfortable.  I probably could have done the trip with only one pair, but two made it easy.
  • I really enjoy getting out on a nice long multi-day journey.

  • This bike was more comfortable than I expected.  300 mile days were pretty easy on the stock seat once I got to use the whole seat (see above), and when I added the AirHawk, the one 600 mile day wasn’t bad at all.

  • Know what the instruments are telling you and use the GPS as a backup to physical map (or Google Map) planning.  Running out of gas at night in the middle of nowhere without cell reception could really suck.

  • I hate Vance and Hines pipes.  These suckers are loud and annoying on a long trip.  Around town they are not nearly as annoying as I’m not on the bike that long, but hour after hour of that racket was not to my liking.  YMMV.  Fortunately I’ve found someone with stock pipes that would like the Vance and Hines, so we’re going to swap pipes in the near future – win/win.

  • I really like the Garmin Zumo 660.  It beats the heck out of the TomTom Rider 2 I had been using.  The ability to build a custom route and import it is a wonderful feature.  The ability to listen to pre-recorded music was nice on the long Interstate stretches.  The unit is not without faults, however, as about one out of three times, it would not recognize the micro SD card that contained my music.  I don’t know what the issue is, but I’ll be checking with Garmin and the various support boards.

  • The portable XM radio I purchased specifically to use on the bike (XMp3i) will not work the way I need it to work.  First, and this is not explained in the manuals (I did read these) or anywhere on the website, you cannot use the mp3 function unless you activate the radio; adding it to you existing subscription or starting a subscription of you don’t already have one.

    I wanted to mount the radio using a RAM style mount and plug it into some sort of 12-volt power outlet so as not to have to rely on the internal battery (they claim 4 hours XM Live or 16.5 for playback from the micro SD card - YMMV).  The only way to accomplish that is to use the Power Connect Vehicle Kit as it contains a mount that is powered off a standard 12-v outlet.  The problem is that as soon as you insert the portable radio it demands you have the external antenna attached even though the radio has a built in antenna.  While this might work on the Shadow or my C-10 Kawasaki Concours both of which have metal gas tanks, it will not work on my Norge or any bike that has a plastic tank or tank covering as the external antenna is magnetic mounting. Trying the USB connector doesn't work either.  It assumes you have it connected to a computer and wish to transfer files.  It will charge, but will not play while hooked to the USB cable. Sirius/XM does not make a power adapter that you can plug directly into the radio from a 12-volt power supply.  If you want to carry along the home charging unit, you can recharge the radio every evening when it can be plugged into the wall or you can use the USB method mentioned previously.
All in all, it was a wonderful trip and I'm just about ready to do some more exploring, but first a bit of work around the house, some bike cleaning and maintenance, and then maybe another few days out exploring and having fun.  Who know, maybe my wife will join me next time.


Day 10 – April 28th – Home finally

After a quiet night at the local Days Inn and a very good omelet at a 1950s style diner I headed to another memorial for veterans of the Armed Forces.  This one is in Yuma.

Then there was this nice hotel…

Ah, the stories these places could tell.  I’d love to be able to explore the interior of some of these places with a camera and record perhaps the final chapter in their existence.

Just on the California side of the California/Arizona border is the town of Felicity, California.
Driving along I-8 you might see this sight on the north side of the highway.  It’s well worth your time to stop in and see this.

This happens to be section 12 of 25 sections of the original stairs from the Eiffel Tower.  Not only that, but Felicity is the official Center of the World.  Honest, check it out here  or here.
And here I am, standing at the Center of the World.

The rest of the construction around Felicity is nothing short of amazing and fascinating.
These 100’ long sections of granite are inscribed with the history of man.

It really is something you should see if you’re anywhere near the area.

Leaving Felicity and heading toward Ocotillo and Jacumba the landscape lets you know you are in a desert.

Ocotillo holds a special place in the hearts of off-road motorcyclists.  It is the home of the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreational Area – 85,000 acres of sand dunes and other areas to play on.  Very cool place.

Leaving Ocotillo I found some really big rocks on the way to Jacumba.

This was a nice curvy section of I-8 that rose from less than 500’ elevation to over 3500’ before dropping into town.

Jacumba is right along the Mexican/American border and is the home to another roadside attraction, the Desert View Tower.  Since it was not right along the road, I passed on making the climb and continued along old US-80.

Along the way you get another good look at the border fence and get to see a lot of Border Patrol folks out trying to do their job.

Highway 80 takes you to CA-94 – one seriously cool road.

I need to get back to this one on the Norge as the Shadow did not do this road justice.  I saw a bunch of H-D riders who were also enjoying the ride, also at a very sedate speed.  This road will seriously smite you if you are not careful.

There are bunches of interesting looking side roads in the Potrero/Barrett Junction/Otay Lakes area that also deserve exploration
I hung a left on Otay Lakes road as I was headed for San Ysidro – the Southwest Corner of the US and a well-known location for those long distance riders who have done the Four Corners Tour.  From there it was the quickest way possible to home.

Totals for this trip –

 That was done in 47 hours and 57 minutes in the saddle with an additional 18 hours and 47 minutes stopped for things like lunches, breaks, gas stops, etc., where I didn’t turn off the GPS.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Day 9 - April 27th

Ah, Douglas, Arizona.   What can I say?  There was a Big Money Rally bonus site here, so off to find it and one for the Tour of Honor.  A twofor. 

Oh yes, and Pritleville – sort of a suburb of Douglas

I usually find some reason for the selection of a particular location – interesting architecture, fun location, great roads, etc. – but I haven’t a clue why this one was chosen.

Before leaving this thriving metropolis, I came across a cool Homeland Security officer and one very cool machine.  It runs a mile a minute flat out and does not have to stop for much other than diesel.

Off to more interesting and scenic places.  First on the list is Bisbee, Arizona.
On the way in to town, it is apparent that this is a mining community.

Bisbee is home to the famous Lavender open pit mine.

Right next to the plaque, was this memorial to WWII fallen heroes from the area.

This museum looked fascinating, but I was a bit low on time to explore it or take the mine tour.  Those will have to wait for another day.

Back to Highway 80 and on toward Tombstone.

Tombstone, Arizona is a tourist trap.  A nice tourist trap, but a tourist trap none the less.

I spent some time talking to a couple of the local wranglers (as opposed to cowboys, ranchers, farmers, or other town folk) to get some history of the town rather than more of the hype.  Quite interesting.  I knew Wyatt Earp was not the nice guy as shown in almost every movie or TV series (although Hugh O’Brian personally is a very nice Marine) but had no idea just what a rotten bunch the whole Earp clan was.  The famous gunfight at the OK corral should have more properly been called the bushwhacking on Frontier Street, but somehow that doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Anyhow, it was a fun visit to a revised frontier town.  I’ll probably stop back next time I’m in the area as the food was good and I enjoyed visiting with people whose families had been there for generations.

Next stop, Tucson, Arizona and Davis Monthan Air Force Base and some nice inexpensive gas (no sales tax on base and I think there was also no Federal tax, but I’m not sure on that one, but it was easily 30¢ cheaper per gallon than off base).  Of course the primary reason I stopped there was to go take a look at the storage and dis-assembly facility.  I was offered a tour, but again, time precluded me playing, but I will be back to walk through the facility.

If you look carefully on the enlarged version of this photo, you might find the remnants of a A/B-26

Off to Yuma for the night…

I sort of wish I had had the big Canon along with me for this ride as once the sun went down the sky was filled with stars and the little guy I was carrying could not capture the night sky.  I could easily have pulled over, lain on the ground and just enjoyed the night sky.  I’m sure Arizona has stars we don’t have in LA.

Day 8 - April 26th

Ft. Stockton is soon a memory in the rear view mirror as I head to El Paso and beyond.  I’m starting to get a case of Gethomeitis, especially as I know this particular stretch of roadway is long, straight, and boring.  Add to that some pretty hefty winds (probably 30-40MPH from the left/South) and blowing dust and it’s just a fun day!

I was too busy staying on the road to take too many photos of the dust, but those clouds you see here is actually dust.  These are pretty much all I saw until getting relatively close to El Paso.

OK, one interesting bit of art on an overpass outside of Ft. Davis, Texas

One other thing we don’t see much of in California

Entering El Paso, one can get a good look at the fence that separates the USA from Mexico

This sight is one that has always meant El Paso to me even though it is really a landmark on the Mexico side of the border.

For some reason those smoke stacks have always stuck in my mind and seem to make some statement to me about our relationship with the border towns in Mexico.

So much for Texas (man, that’s a big state!).  People who have never driven across Texas have difficulty realizing just how big a state it is.  Here’s one comparison – it is approximately 830 miles from El Paso to my home in the Los Angeles area following I-10.  I-10 is roughly 850 miles across Texas.  Yep, it takes longer to cross Texas than it does to drive from the Texas border to Los Angeles.

New Mexico required a stop in Mesilla – home to the court house where Billy the Kid was tried, convicted and sentenced to be hung.

 On the way to Arizona, I spotted this –

Guns, gas, and fireworks – does it really get much better than that?

Just in case Mother Nature thought I hadn’t had enough wind and dust, she gave me a bit more

I left I-10 around Steins, New Mexico and headed south on US-80 headed to Douglas, Arizona.

I thought this formation was interesting

About the time I crossed the border into Arizona, I learned something about the Garmin GPS that I didn’t know (although it may be in the instruction book which I’ve yet to read).  Garmin reports the estimated arrival time in the destination time zone, not the one you happen to be in currently.  So, I’ve been looking at the arrival time for Douglas, Arizona and translating that to riding time and fuel supply.  Yeah, yeah, I know, if I had looked at the trip statistics screen it would have given me the distance to destination and time to destination but that would have required two button pushes.

At this point I’m committed to Douglas as my destination and the next available fuel – this is going to be close.  I figure I’ve got around 60 miles of fuel and 62 miles to Douglas.  My speed goes down to milk a bit more mileage out of the bike as the sun also sets.

US-80 is not what one would call well-traveled.  In fact, it was down-right lonely out there.  I only saw a couple of border patrol vehicles headed the opposite direction between the border and Douglas.

Yep, I made it.  I put 3.9 gallons of gas in what is supposed to be a 3.5 gallon tank.  You know what they say about fools and drunks, right?

I found a great little restaurant in Douglas – the New Grand CafĂ© on North Avenue G – recommended.  This place would be right at home in Hollywood from an ambiance perspective, or maybe someplace like Santa Monica.  Very enjoyable.  Good food, lots of Marilyn Monroe photos, and an excellent wait staff.

Spent the night at a Motel 6 that was recommended as being inexpensive (not compared to what I had been paying) and providing what I needed in a motel, i.e., a clean bed and Internet access.  Not recommended.  Yeah, it had WiFi for an extra $2.50, but no in room refrigerator, and was pretty basic.  I didn’t remember Motel 6s being that basic.  Oh well.