Category Archives: Touring

Preventive Maintenance – Fail

For road trips, my planning is generally vague: while keeping to a general plan, I still get the joy of deciding each morning where to head next.  My preparations tend to be equally minimal – almost agile.  Usually this works out well – with minimal constraints, schedules can be adjusted and plans adapted – but occasionally it bites me in the ass.  This is one of those times.

The Original Plan – Option 3

I scheduled time off from work, starting on Thursday, August 14th and returning Tuesday, September 2nd. Thursday would be dedicated to preparation, so I could leave bright & early Friday morning.  The first destination would be Boston, where I would be visiting friends; rather than taking I-95, I was planning a more scenic route, north out of Pennsylvania and thru New York state.

After spending the weekend with friends, I expected to take a scenic ride thru Maine, New Brunswick and ending up in Nova Scotia by the following weekend.  Something like this.  The second weekend, I’d take the Oak Island tour, then head back home via the fastest route.

After a day or so at home, I expected to spend the rest of the second week on a slow tour of Maryland and Virginia, visiting friends; this slow tour would end up back at home some time Labor Day weekend.  Overall the distance covered would much less than my previous trips, with the focus on visiting new places and old friends.

What Could Possible Go Wrong?

I had arranged all the necessary items – pet care, stopping mail, etc. – but one item remained outstanding: the state inspection for the Kingpin and it was overdue.  I stopped up at Trumbauer’s the weekend before the trip to see if they could squeeze me in on short notice – I have a bad habit asking for service at the last-minute, right before a trip, but they always manage to make time for me and this time was no different. (Thanks Lisa!)

Problem #1

On Thursday morning (prep day), I arrived a little late, but was feeling confident that all the pieces were falling into place.  I was reading the news while waiting for the inspection & oil change, when the first hiccup occurred: the Kingpin needed front brakes.  Not a big deal: it’s relatively quick job, and just one of those regular things.

Problem #2

A few minutes later, Lisa came over to tell me the throttle cable was sticking when fully open.  I rarely open the throttle all the way (that sounded sincere, right?), but the sticking might be an indication it was ready to fail.  Technical detail: the throttle cable, and most of the other cables, runs under the tank; in order to investigate, the tank would have to come off – this job just became much bigger.  I was beginning to feel a bit guilty as they were squeezing me into their schedule, but the work continued.

Problem #3, Uh oh

Front ForksAfter a few more minutes, I was invited over for a discussion with the tech / mechanic.  It started with the handlebars, which had a bit of play in them.  This, I knew about: on a trip to Sturgis a few years earlier, I had put the tie downs on the handlebars (they should have been on the triple clamps) which had stretched out the bushings that hold the handlebars.  The bushings are difficult to replace and the problem would not get any worse over time, so I had decided to let it go.

The next topic was much more serious: one side of the front forks was leaking.  I had not noticed the leak, but, apparently, they were overdue for regular maintenance.

In order to replace / repair the forks, the triple clamps would have to come off, which amounts to disassembling the front end of the bike.  To further complicate the repair, the Kingpin has inverted forks that use cartridges (to hold the fluid, I assume) and these are a bit unusual.

To summarize: the tank & triple clamps needed to come off and front forks needed to be disassembled.  Since the triple clamps where coming off anyway, it made sense to replace the handlebar bushings.  This was no longer in the squeeze it in category.  Even if the service department was willing to disrupt their entire schedule, parts needed to be ordered.

What Now?

Although it would not be ready for the trip, I rode the Kingpin home [carefully] on Thursday as I didn’t have any other option.  I dropped it back off Saturday morning (thanks to Bryan for the ride), so it would be available as soon as the parts arrived.  I don’t have a specific E.T.A., but my impression is that the work will take most of a day and won’t start until everything has arrived.  I was promised it would be ready by Friday at the latest, but possibly sooner.

The folks at Trumbauer’s were quite apologetic about all the problems, but, of course, they are not at fault for my last-minute scheduling or failure to keep up on maintenance.  Truthfully, I’m grateful to them for finding the problems now, and saving me from a break down in the middle of nowhere.

The original plan will no longer work as I’ll be starting out a week later than expected (but I am getting some home projects done).  The trip was originally broken into two parts, so now one of them will have to be skipped.  I just have to decide which one.

1 Comment

Posted by on August 20, 2014 in Motorcycle, Touring


Long Ride 2012 Wrap Up



19 days
15 states, visiting 2 for the first time (Arkansas & Kentucky)
Starting Odometer: 16,413
Ending Odometer: 22,491
Rain Storms: too many to count
Friends & Good Times: also too many to count

Special Thanks

  • Jane for a great weekend in Albuquerque (and introducing me to my future home town)
  • Trumbauer’s for getting the Kingpin ready for the trip at the last minute, as always.  It ran like a dream.
  • Kristen for good times in Houston
  • Dan & Sam for rides to / from Trumbauer’s.
  • Everyone who sent encouragement & travel tips, so I never feel like I’m riding alone.

Most Memorable Moments

Moving Map Slideshow

Music by Boogaboo.  See the video here.  Buy it here.

Nice Day to RideIowaIowaStorms near Hays, KSRaccoon TanKansasOpen RoadOpen RoadSugar CitySugar CityRookies in SightWolf PassThru the RookiesRoad to Wolf PassWolf PassWolf PassWolf PassWolf PassWolf PassOne of these things is not like the othersRoad to PageRoad to PageRoad to PageRoad to Page

Long Ride 2012, a set on Flickr.
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Motorcycle, Slideshow, Touring


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Last Leg

I’ve ridden between Columbus and home many times, but there were two important differences on my previous rides: it was summer and the ride started before noon.

When I’m on vacation, I almost never set an alarm, but generally wake up at a reasonable time.  This Wednesday, for some unknown reason, I didn’t wake up until after 11 AM and didn’t get on the road until almost noon.

I reached the PA turnpike very late in the afternoon and the temperature was dropping rapidly.  The line of storms, which I had spent so much time avoiding, was the leading edge of a cold front, so I had dressed for chilly riding: Grand Canyon sweatshirt, riding jacket & gloves.

As night fell, I was still in central PA, almost 3 hours from home.  The problem with riding in the cold is that it is can be quite draining and I could feel myself getting drowsy.  I could have ridden for another hour or so, but it was clear I wasn’t going to make it home that night, so it didn’t make sense to continue riding.  Central PA is a rural area, but I was able to find a room in Chambersburg.

The extra stop created a real problem as I had used up all my extra time for this trip and was supposed to be back at work Thursday morning.  As soon as I got to my room, I emailed the office to let them know I would be a day late.

My company, MEI, is generally understanding about my road trips and allows me flexibility on the schedule.  They are so amazing that in 2008, they let me ride cross country as part of a business trip.   On this occasion, however, arriving late was a problem as my boss would be on vacation the following week; I needed to meet with him on Thursday to get updates and prepare to act as his backup.

It was critical that I get to the office as early as possible so I set the alarm, got on the road at a reasonable time, kept my stops to a bare minimum and went directly to the office, rather than going home.  I arrived a little after 1 PM which allowed me enough time to take care of business.

Even though this has been a great trip, I have never been this far off schedule.  My plan contained 3 slack days (including the decompression day) and, at the half way point, I was expecting to be home Monday evening and back at work on Wednesday (a day early).  Avoiding the weather, cost me about 1.5 days, but the rest of the time was spent at various locations and with friends.  The plan for my road trips tends to be vague so I can make changes on the fly, but in the future, I’ll have to keep closer track of the time remaining and how far I am from home.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 20, 2012 in Motorcycle, Touring


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Road Home

I arrived in Nashville late Sunday afternoon, checked into the hotel, then drove around town a bit.  I think I need to come back to Nashville with friends and more time to go out & about.  Ultimately it ended up being just a stop along the road to Geoff’s place in Morrisville, NC.

Watching the weather last night and again this morning, it was clear there was some nasty weather in the area.  My trip to Geoff’s house would take me close to coast, then I would travel home via I-95 on Tuesday.  The problem with this plan was the line of thunderstorms between me and Geoff; this was further aggravated by the forecast for Tuesday: thunderstorms, heavy rain, high winds & damaging hail, along the I-95 corridor.

Though it was disappointing, I decided it didn’t make sense to continue to Geoff’s place in Morrisville.  To make matters worse, this is the second year in a row I’ve planned to visit my brother and had to abort.

Choosing a new path, I momentarily considered heading back to Albuquerque, but that was just wishful thinking: I’m planning to move to Albuquerque in the near future, but need to make many arrangements before that can happen.  I decided the best path was to head north, and a little bit west, to break thru the storm front and find some dryer weather.  It was a soggy ride with steady light rain, interrupted by some heavy downpours.  By the time I reached Illinois, I had cleared most of the weather.

Riding in the rain isn’t too bad if you are prepared, but there are a couple of annoying points: bathroom breaks take a while as you have to remove most of the gear; all the plastic gear gets that sticky damp feeling.  Even though my gear worked, I’m still going to look around and see if I can find something better for future road trips.

Tomorrow, while the east coast is getting the heavy weather, I’ll be riding I-70 into Ohio.  It may be a bit chilly and I’ll have to be careful not to drive back into the storms which are moving east ahead of me.

Today’s detour will cost me my decompression day: at the end of a long trip, I like to have a day at home to get back into the swing of things before going back to work.  I had planned to get home on Tuesday night, but my arrival has been postponed until Wednesday afternoon.  Even though I will need to be at work the next morning, it’s still better than riding thru a massive storm.

1 Comment

Posted by on September 18, 2012 in Motorcycle, Touring


Tags: , , , , , ,

Leaving Houston

I had great time in Houston, visiting with Kristen and family, highlighted by taking Grayson & Caroline for rides around the block.

Everyone else in the house had to get up early on Friday for school or work, but they let me sleep in.  When I got downstairs, my things all packed up and ready to go, I found this touching farewell.

My next destination was Nashville, which would be a 2 day ride.  I’ve never ridden thru this part of the country and this would be my first visit to Arkansas.

Approaching Arkansas, weather radar showed scattered showers, but they looked small, and rain gear seemed unnecessary.  It turned out the storms were small, each one taking only a few minutes to ride thru.  What I didn’t account for was the amount of water coming down: in just a couple minutes of rain, I was soaked clear thru.

When I stopped to dry out, I discovered serious thunderstorms over Little Rock.  After misjudging the previous storms, I decided to stop a little early and stayed that night in Hope, AR.

I woke the next morning to scattered showers across Arkansas, a head full of congestion and a bit of headache.  I took some cold med’s, donned my rain gear and headed out.

The rain wasn’t bad, drizzle to light rain, which never lasted long.  The fog in my head was much worse.  Most cold medications effect me strongly, so the one I had taken was quite mild; as a result, it didn’t really help.

As I approached Tennessee, I realized I needed to stop and decided to stay the night in West Memphis.

When I was planning this trip, I chose to visit Nashville based on recommendation of my friend Michelle.  Since I stopped so early today, it will be a short ride tomorrow which should leave me the afternoon to walk around and check out the town.  The only potential problem is, once again, the weather.  The forecast for tomorrow is scattered showers in the afternoon.  If it’s really nasty, I may just ride thru, but hopefully I’ll get a break.

One final note: the fog in my head not only prevents riding, it also makes blogging difficult; this entry required more edits than I can count.

1 Comment

Posted by on September 16, 2012 in Motorcycle, Touring


Tags: , , , , ,

Next Stop: Houston

The ride from Albuquerque to Houston took 2 days.  During last year’s ride, I took a slightly longer, southern route so I could stop at Carlsbad and Roswell, but this time I made a straight shot across Texas.

The scenery was less interesting (there are only a couple pictures in the photostream), but the northern route was a quicker ride.  For the most part the ride was uneventful, although I did get pulled over by the highway patrol.  The speed limit was 70 MPH, which is what I though I was doing, but the police officer said I was a bit over.  The officer was polite & friendly, with many questions about the Kingpin – apparently Victory Motorcycles are not in the Texas Highway Patrol’s computer system.  It was a quick stop and, thankfully, I received only a [written] warning.

In Houston, I’m visiting with my friend Kristen and family.  The next destination will be Nashville and should take about 2 days.  It looks like it may be a rainy ride, but schedule dictates that I get back on the road.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Motorcycle, Touring


Tags: , , , , , ,

Madrid & the Devil’s Throne

Jane had asked her friend Jonathan for a good riding route to Madrid and this is what he recommended:

Unfortunately, we made one wrong turn getting off I-25 and ended up on Waldo Canyon Road.  This is close to the route we took:

Unlike the recommended route, which is paved, this road is washboarded gravel.  The road is clearly for the ranchers driving all wheel drive trunks – not for a street bike.  There were ups & downs with some tight turns, but just before reaching Cerrillos, there is switchback which is slopped downward at a serious angle.  The decline is so steep, I would guess that some 4 wheel drive vehicle have trouble traversing this section of road.

We made it safely to Madrid and once there, one of the gallery owners advised us on our route.  He helped us figure out where we went wrong, what road we were actually on and the name of the steep switchback: the locals call it The Devil’s Throne.  Wrong turns and exploring new areas are all part of the adventure!

Slightly different from the portrayal in Wild Hogs, the town of Madrid is a mixture of artists, hippies & bikers.  The main drag is populated with galleries, which contain some amazing works, a few eateries and the Mine Shaft Tavern.  If you are in Albuquerque, even if you aren’t riding, Madrid is definitely worth visiting.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 9, 2012 in Motorcycle, Touring


Tags: , , , ,

Destination: Albuquerque

The ride to Albuquerque took most of the day and passed thru Hopi & Navajo reservations.  There were many scenic views along the way, but the most interesting part of the ride was the people I met along the way.

Normally, I make a fuel stop when the trip odometer is between 120 & 150 miles, but in the wide open spaces, when you are not riding the interstates, you have to be careful as it can be some distance between gas stations.

Around midday, with odometer closing in on 150 miles, I stopped into a small Hopi town for gas; this was not a normal traveler stop where the station is on the main road, but instead, I had to drive into town.  The town was like any rural community with a main store that is gas station, market and deli.  All in all, nothing unusual, except I was very definitely the outsider.

Usually in rural towns, I get noticed because I have a Pennsylvania license plate and, in these small towns, everyone knows everyone.  In this particular case there was a more obvious reason why I was an outsider: I’m the only non-Hopi.  Even with the obvious difference, this was like any other rural stop: the people were friendly and kind, asking about my ride, where I had been and where I was going.

About an hour later, I stopped at a tourist attraction which had a small exhibit detailing the history of the Hopi.  While I was interested in the exhibit, I really stopped because I wanted a break and there was a small group of riders in the parking lot.

I did stop into the exhibit, but spent more time talking to my fellow travelers.  These Hopi riders where headed to a Navajo event in Window Rock.  From the exhibit, I had learned that there have been long standing tensions between the Navajo & Hopi over land rights, but these bikers showed now ill feelings toward the Navajo.

Since it was on my way, I rode with the Hopi all the way to the event.  As we approached main drag, one of the Hopi let me know how I could skip around the event to avoid the traffic, but I wasn’t too bad so I rode thru.

The event was a huge fair, occupying the entire town, with amusement rides, some special Navajo displays and other attractions.  Had I had known about this event, I would have planned to arrive early and spend some time in town, but, with evening plans in Albuquerque, I said goodbye to my new friends and headed on down the road.

That night in Albuquerque, Jane introduced me to some of her friends at a special Harry Potter trivia event.  The questions covered obscure details from the movies, books and even related websites; our answers were very original, but not so correct.  At one point, we received sympathy candy from the hosts because we were in last place, having answer absolutely none of the questions correctly.  Despite our ability to come with the prescribed answers, a great time was had by all.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Motorcycle, Touring


Tags: , , , ,

Grand Canyon North Rim

Today I reached the most westerly point in this trip: the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The ride from Page to the North Rim takes about 3 hours with some amazing scenic points along the way; the photo above was taken from the Navajo Bridge which spans the Colorado River.

Unusually for my road trips, I’m spending 2 nights in the same place.  The side effect was that I could leave my big travel bag at the hotel.  While it’s nice to travel a little lighter, what I didn’t think about, until I got into park, was that my rain and cold weather gear was in the big bag!

I had been warned that the North Rim tended to be chilly and it was.  When I stopped at Jacob’s Lake to gas up, the temperature had dropped a bit, but I thought I would be ok.  As I continued to ascend, I realized I was wrong.  There’s a few little shops along the way so I stopped and purchased a sweatshirt – temperature problem solved, or so I thought.

Continuing towards the North Rim, the next thing I encountered was rain – just a little at first, then much heavier.  My new sweatshirt was turning into a sponge.  When I reached the gate for the park, the rain was pouring down; I seriously considered turning around, but with only 12 miles to the rim, I decided to push on.

When I reached the rim, I was pretty much soaked, at least on the front side.  At the gift shop I picked up a parka.  Fortunately I had a t-shirt in one of the saddle bags – that t-shirt, combined with my new parka, meant that at least my top half was dry.

Unfortunately, the rain clouded most of the views and I wasn’t up for much of a hike, even with my new attire.  I did take a few pictures, but with the limited view, it wasn’t long before I headed out of the park.  Going back thru the rain storms wasn’t too bad – the new parka was quite nice – and by the time reached the hotel, I was mostly dry.

Even with the rain, it was great day of riding; the North Rim was my destination, but the highlight was the ride to and from the park.  Today’s pictures start in the photo stream here.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Motorcycle, Touring


Tags: , , ,

Destination: Page, AZ

Today started off on a high note with a ride thru the Rookie Mountains. The view from US-160 is amazing, but a friend recommended a particular sop: the area is known as Wolf Creek Pass, but there is a scenic view called simply Wolf Pass. When you pull off at the scenic view sign, the first bit of road is paved, but it quickly turns to gravel.

The gravel is severely washboarded, but steep climb and hairpin turns are the most harrowing.  Even though the road is only 3 miles long, it took me quite a while to get to the top.  The ride up was a little rough, but the view made it all worthwhile.

The next destination was quite a ways down the road: the Four Corners Monument.  I had always heard that the monument was misplaced by a short distance, but according to GPS, it’s right on.  I don’t begrudge the Navajo the measly $3 entry fee, but the monument is really just a novelty.  If I had gone far out of my way, I would have been disappointed, but it’s right on US-160 and I only stayed for a few minutes.

I had planned to stop at Monument Valley on the way to page, but when I reached the turn, it was already 5:30 PM and I just wanted to the hotel.  Even though I passed it by today, I may stop later in the trip, if possible.

The photo at the top of this page is not from Monument Valley or any other park.  It is not even a scenic view, it’s just on the road to Page (AZ-98).  Stunning as it is, this kind of natural beauty is normal here.

Today’s photos start here in the stream.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Motorcycle, Touring


Tags: , , , , , ,