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Yellowstone Wrap-up 2016

Time: 10 days

Distance: 4922 miles

So much amazing riding, but missed opportunities to visit friends.  Normally my road trips are a mix of scenic riding and visiting folks that I do not see any other time; on this trip I was focused on the riding and missed some opportunities to visit people.

The Vision

On my first long road trip, I was worried about everything from where I would stay to running out of gas.  At the time, I had plenty of riding on the Kingpin, so that was one aspect that was not a concern.

Since the Vision is new and focused on touring, a big focus was how it would perform: it was amazing.  I’m really happy with the tweaks I have done and the one thing remaining is to do something about the grips: the Kingpin had comfort grips, but changing the Vision grips would mean losing the heating elements.  Still trying to find the right solution.

Destinations

Yellowstone was amazing, but my favorite part was riding US-14 thru Bighorn National Forest.

I originally planed to turn south leaving Yellowstone, but because I started late and took longer to cover the distance, I had to drop that part of the trip.  Even though I returned home a day early, that extra day would not be enough to include a southwest loop.

Looking back on the trip, there are several things I could have done differently, particularly visiting friends, but was just not where my head was at during the ride.  Even with the missed opportunities, this was an amazing trip.  I’ve been home for three days and would be ready to start another trip tomorrow, but have to go back normal life, at least for a little while.

Visuals

 

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2016 in Slideshow, Touring, Vacation

 

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Road to Home

Day 7: 447 miles (to Rapid City, SD)

Even though it was all interstate riding, this was still an enjoyable day.  I met a number of other bikers at rest stops and realized I am on the younger side of the motorcycle touring demographic.

Day 8: 518 miles (to Albert Lea, MN)

I’ve become somewhat frustrated with online hotel reservations (I’ve been using Priceline).  It seems that about 1 in 5 nights, there’s a problem: no room available or wrong type of room (smoking vs non-smoking).  I’ve heard similar stories from other people, especially people on road trips.

I’m not sure where the fault lies – with the hotels or the online service, probably some of both – but the uncertainty causes stress I do not need when I’m on vacation.  I suspect the services are better for traditional vacations, scheduled well in advanced and with fixed destination.

For the end of this trip, I used the Motel 6 app, which worked well.  In the future, I’ll probably continue to use that app or locate hotels with Google and call the front desk to schedule a room.

Day 9: 528 miles (to South Bend IN)

One unexpected bonus on my ride home was the Enterprise Rest Area.  I pulled over for a quick stop, expecting basic, hopefully clean, facilities, but what I found as basically a small and beautiful park.

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Day 10: 677 miles (to Abington, PA)

This was the longest ride of the entire trip – I normally try to keep riding days in the 400 to 600 mile range, but stopping 77 miles from home just didn’t make much sense.  At least the second half was all PA Turnpike; I driven this road so many times, it feels like home the first time I pull into a service plaza.

It was almost midnight when I arrived home.  I was exhausted it, but it was a great trip.

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Posted by on July 2, 2016 in Motorcycle, Touring, Vacation

 

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Yellowstone

Day 6: 442 miles

Rode to Yellowstone via US-14, thru Bighorn National Forest.  I picked the route because I had enjoyed riding thru the forest the day before.

Back thru Bighorn

All the highway signs recommend US-16, but I preferred US-14.  As I closed in on the western side of the forest, I mounted the GoPro Session on the outside of the Vision’s fairing:

Yellowstone

The road to Yellowstone is quite scenic including the area around Buffalo Bill Reservoir.

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I arrived at Yellowstone’s eastern entrance early in the afternoon.  My route thru the park would travel around to Old Faithful, then turn north, exiting to the north, into Montana.

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With stunning views around ever corner, it took a couple of hours for me to arrive at Old Faithful.  The site is a large complex with a lodge, general store and a huge parking lot.  Old Faithful was just erupting as I walked up – sorry no pictures, but here’s video (not mine):

After walked the path around the geysers, I continued on my ride thru the park.  The park speed limit is 45 MPH as the roads are generally small and winding, with many blind turns – you never know what will be around the next bend: bears, buffalo or an RV blocking the road.

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I recorded more video with the Session, but haven’t edited it yet – coming soon!

Rest

The park is huge so it was just getting dark as I reached the Montana exit.  For anyone planning a visit, I would recommend staying in (or very close) to the park so you can start your journey early in the day.

It was almost 11 PM when I arrived at my hotel and I was exhausted, but it was worth it.  This was most westerly point in this trip and I would be starting to head home in the morning.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2016 in Motorcycle, Touring, Vacation

 

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Bighorn National Forest

Day 5: 257 miles

Originally I had planned Buffalo, WY to be the jumping off point for my visit to Yellowstone, but when I discovered that would not work, I decided to explore Bighorn National Forest.  There are a number of signs along the highway (I-90) recommending US Route 16, so that where I started.

US Route 16

The spine of Bighorn is a mountain range running north & south.  In the southern region, Route 16 runs up and down the peaks with lots of twisty road and switchbacks with rock cliffs on one side and a drop off on the other side.

The views were spectacular, but the road also has some very scary parts.  I normally don’t pay that much attention to the yellow (recommended) speed limits signs, but in this area, they are to be taken very seriously.

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US Route 14

After surviving the US-16, and lunch in Worland, I decided to check out the unadvertised northern route, US-14 (I had to get back to Buffalo somehow).  As you head into Bighorn, from the west, the road winds along the bottom of a rocky canyon (this was my favorite part of the ride), then quickly rises up the mountains.  Unlike US-16, once you reach altitude, the road run thru the plateau for many miles.

The descent on the eastern side rivaled my morning ride for challenging switchbacks (and fear factor).  This routes seemed to be more popular with locals, which adds to the fear factor: since they drive these roads regularly (I assume), they run up & down the mountain at speed, leaving the rest of us nervous drivers to use pull outs to clear a path.  Don’t take this to mean the drivers are rude or obnoxious – people tend to be very polite –  there’s just 2 very distinct types of drivers on these roads.

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Next

Yellowstone! (finally)

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2016 in Motorcycle, Touring, Vacation

 

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Into Each Road Trip, Some Rain Must Fall

Day 2: 583 miles

Today was a good day of riding despite some heavy rain and stopping short of my original goal.

The Rain

I ran into the main storm as I passed Chicago; because of the size of the storm, I chose to ride thru rather than wait it out.  I had encountered some light rain near home and raising the windshield kept me dry, but this was a downpour.

At first, the windshield and fairing kept me mostly dry, although some rain did hit my forehead.  I suspect the lowering kit changed the bike’s geometry enough that rain deflected over the top was not going quite as high.  As the storm intensified, rain also crept around the edges of the fairing; ultimately, I ended up with wet knees, face & elbows.

The Vision did not live up to the “completely dry” claim some riders have made, but I was mostly dry.  At a rest stop, a few hours after clearing the storm, I met another rider who had come thru the same storm on a small sport / touring bike (with a headlight cowling); he was soaked to the bone (his words); if I head been on the Kingpin, I expect that I would have been in a similar state.

Conclusion: big win for the Vision.  It had no handling issue with the heavy rain & wet roads, while in heavy traffic.  Although I did get a little wet, by mid afternoon I was dry and comfortable; anyone who has been soaked while riding, knows that once the water gets thru all the layers, the only way to get comfortable is to change your clothes.

Spirit Lake

Tomorrow I’m heading to the Victory (and Indian) factory in Spirit Lake, IA.  It will be a 2-3 hour ride, so my original plan to sneak in with the employees will probably not work.  I suppose I’ll have to be up front and admit that I’m a Victory fanboy who must be given a factory tour.  We’ll see how it goes.

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Posted by on June 23, 2016 in Motorcycle, Touring, Vacation

 

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Vision: First Long Ride

Day 1: 527 miles

The trip began with a late start –  Tuesday instead of Monday and late morning instead of before rush hour – but it was a great day of riding regardless.

I covered about 520 miles in a little under 10 hours.  This matches previous road trips: my [effective] average speed tends to be around 50 – 55 MPH.  As the trip goes on, I’m hoping to improve by reducing the frequency of stops (now that I have the big fuel tank).

Vision Touring

In the weeks since I bought it, I’ve slowly been getting to know the Vision during my daily commute and riding around town, but today we bonded.  Power gushes from the incredible engine.  Rolling away the miles at 70-80 MPH it is even and civilized, but anytime you twist the throttle, it takes off with such ease, you have to check the speedometer to know how fast you are going (best to check the mirrors too).

The seat & set up is amazingly comfortable; you can adjust position to avoid wearing out and there are plenty of amenities.  This is the first time I’ve had a bike with a sound system (I made special playlist just for the trip) and didn’t realize it was connected to the throttle.  At least that is what I plan to tell the police if I get stopped: Radar Love” was on the radio.  What would you do?!?

Side Note

The Vision has been given couple nicknames (which seem even more appropriate after my first long ride): The Cadillac, from a number of different people, and My Precious, from my gaming group.

Suggestion for Victory

As much as I am loving the new bike, I do have a few suggestions for Victory:

  • The bubble mirrors are really help; the stock mirrors should be shaped with a bubble on the outer edge.  This is not a huge deal (and adding them is cheap), but it is one of those fine details I’ve come to expect on a Victory bike.
  • Improve the gas filling: the Vision has 2 saddle bag gas tanks – they sit low, on either side of the frame – which is great for the ride.  The engine feeds from both tanks with no issues; the gas gauge and fuel warning also across the tanks.  The tanks fill from a single spout, but as the gas goes in, it can take a bit to balance between the tanks.  The result is that you need to fill it slowly and occasionally stop for a second to allow fuel to move between the tanks.  This is not a huge problem – you get used to it quickly – but it still something that could be improved.

Tomorrow

My plan is to ride to Victory Spirit Lake factory (they also make the new Indian Motorcycles).  I’ve heard various stories about people showing up at the factory and getting tours or getting turned away (especially when the new models are coming out).  Not sure what will happen when I drop by, but there’s no way I could just drive by my baby’s birthplace without stopping.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2016 in Motorcycle, Touring, Vacation

 

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Upgrades & Trip Preparation

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Trumbauer’s

Before any long trip, my bike goes into Trumbauer’s for a check up but this time it got some upgrades too: iPod connector, lowering kit (down 2″), and HID driving beam.

The iPod connector, along with Lightning to 30-pin Adapter, allowed my old iPhone 5, and its replacement (iPhone 6s), to play thru the speakers and work with the controls.  The iPhone 5 fit easily in the compartment but the 6s, with the adapter, is a bit tight.  Hopefully an iPhone specific cable will be available in the future.

The lower kit made a big difference and not just because my legs are so short.  The bike is lowered by changing out a bracket (dog bone) which changes the angle of the bike.  The lower angle feels more controllable and less susceptible to cross winds; John, from Trumbauer’s told me this might be the case and he was right.  It’s also nice to be able to put both feet down flat.

I haven’t done any night riding with the HID driving light, but even it the daylight it looks like a small sun coming at you.  I’ll try to capture a good video on my trip.

Dressing Up the Bars

I’ve added a number of polish pieces on and around the handlebars: reservoir covers, control accents, and bar ends.  I also added round mirrors for added visibility.  This is one area where the Vision could be improved: even though the stock mirrors are large, I haven’t found a position they give all around visibility.  Even though they are cheap, stick-on type, the round work well and look good.

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Many of the parts came from VictoryOnly, which I’ve ordered from before; they have a great selection and I’ve never had any problems.

I also ordered parts from WitchDoctors (for the first time).  They have a smaller parts list, but everything I ordered was high quality and the web site is great.  I especially appreciated the details about what was in-stock: one of the parts was backordered,which showed on the order page, along with an estimate of availability; I also received 2 updates on availability after I placed the order.  Their customer service is also excellent: the reservoir covers are not symmetric so I needed one of each, but ended up with 2 identical covers – packaging was mislabeled, it happens.  When I contacted them, they very helpful and the matter was quickly resolved.

In addition to the store, they have a number of helpful videos on their YouTube channel.  If you are looking for Victory accessories you should definitely check them out.

KewlMetal & the Heal Shifter Fiasco

After so many years with the heel shifter on Kingpin, I wanted something similar for the Vision.  I did a bit of research and found a number of people who felt the KewlMetal heel shifter was much better than the Victory / Arlen Ness version, so I ordered it.  The next [business] day, my order status changed to Processing and I figured it would ship soon after.

Ten days later, it was still at the same status so I emailed them and got no reply – a bad sign.  I gave it a few more days, regularly checking the order, then emailed again – still nothing.  Now I was concerned & frustrated, so I called the shop; their voicemail message said they were in the process of moving their shop and orders would be delayed.

It would have been nice if they had let me know, but I sent a third email saying I understood they were moving and asking for a general idea of when the order would ship.  This time I got an apologetic reply indicating they expected to start shipping out orders the following Monday – I was (foolishly) relieved.

Monday came & passed, with no shipping information.  A few days later, I checked the site again – no changes, other than a warning that their site certificate (used for secure communications) had expired.  A few days later the site disappeared completely and all subsequent emails have bounced.

After a little searching, I found that ordering problems are not new, but was not able to determine the status of the business.  The common wisdom seems to be that their parts are high quality, but customer services is poor.

IMG_0009I ordered the Victory heel shifter and it arrived a 2 days later.  I understand the concerns some people expressed about finding the narrow leveler with their boot, but it only took a weekend for me to get used to it.

I still have to figure out how to get my money back from KewlMetal.  Maybe I should stop by their shop on my next road trip, which should be starting in the next day or two.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2016 in Motorcycle, Touring, Vacation

 

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