Saturday, December 3, 2016

20161203 - Mexico - FINALLY!!!

Mexico has been a location I wanted to ride in for a long time.  More than one trip has been planned and failed, mostly due to personal circumstances.

Crossing the border into Mexico is simple.  It is not like crossing into Canada.  When you cross into Canada, you are greeted by a Canadian customs agent who checks your passport before welcoming you into their country.  In Mexico, you drive over the border and don't say a word to anyone.  No one checks your ID.  You do have to stop your motorcycle briefly.  I believe they have some sort of technology that is able to 'scan' it for contraband.  You are then waived through and bam, you're in a whole new world.  We crossed in Tecate, a sparsely populated area.  On the other side, it is a bustling town.  Almost instantly, we smelled wonderful foods being prepared.  I debated saying we should stop right there to have lunch; but, I was a bit nervous stopping and getting off the bikes.  From what I've heard, all bad things in Mexico happen in the border towns.

There was a considerable amount of research that got us here.  First, Paul and I listened to all the media bullshit that has consumed the media and whatnot for years.  Not believing it and wanting to go, we attended a seminar given by a guy that is an American, owns houses in both Mexico and the United States and has been going back and forth for over 50 years.  His view is that there is a ton of wonderful riding on the other side of the border and the border is only 4 hours away.  He said there is entirely too much bad press about Mexico.  He also said that the people in Mexico have been nothing but nice and helpful.  He did recommend staying on the toll roads and getting gas when it is available because it can easily be 80 miles between gas stops.  He also said that you need Mexican insurance.

Mexican insurance is as easy as going to AAA.  $6 for the policy, $15 for handling.  That covered us for the weekend.  Weekly and Monthly policies are available.  The unsubstantiated rumor is that if you're staying for more than a few weeks, or are traveling off the Baja peninsula, you need a visa.  I understand that you can buy that on the spot.

Here's the entire, uneventful, border crossing.  It took 4 minutes and included me having to pull out of line to turn off my cell phone.



It is striking that one side of the border is absent of any activity and the other side of the border is a bustling city.

The first thing to get used to is road signs.  Stop is Alto and is the same American red and white octagon.  Speed limits are in Km/h and are black numbers with a red circle around them.  If you've been speaking a latin based language your whole life, you'll figure out some of the rest.  They want you to "guard" your following distance and don't want you to speed.


The road quality is generally pretty good.  They wouldn't pass American standards; but, American standards are very high.  In 250 miles of riding, we may have encountered 10 pot holes and a couple hundred patched pot holes.  The shoulders are meant for traveling on.  In fact, in some areas, there is a dashed white line marking the shoulder.  You are expected to pull onto the shoulder so you can be passed.  They also signal right and pull left to let you know they are expecting you to pass.  You are also expected to use the shoulder if your lane is being used up ahead for someone passing in the oncoming lane.  I suppose you only screw this part up once.

Once you get through these slow speed twisties, it is nothing but straight road all the way to San Felipe.

We happened to pick a weekend when it was very windy.  Riding through some of the straights, we were holding about 10 degrees of lean or so just to stay straight on the road.

The road quality in San Felipe is not the best.  There are pot holes everywhere and the pavement is not smooth.  It's somewhat like dual sporting.  The other issue is that you can count on sand being in the corners and blowing across the roads. 

Dinner was definitely very good.  The salsa was really good.  It was as smooth as ketchup.  Their burrito was kind of like the flautas we get in America.  While we were there, Alfredo, the guy responsible for waiving patrons into the restaurant talked to us for a little bit.  I asked him if the stories we hear about corrupt police are true.  He said he certainly wishes so.  He got pinched for having cerveza in the car.  The federali took him to the jail, locked him up and took away his license.  He said that had he caught a break and gotten a corrupt one, he would have paid 800 pesos and they would have let him go.  This just goes to show that there are two ways of looking at everything.

So, while we're eating dinner, a Mexican man walks up to me with a machine that has what looks like two jump rope handles made of metal and a box with a dial that goes from 0 to 12.  Clearly, this is some sort of shock device.  He asks me and Paul if we want to try.  Paul is smarter than I am and he said no.  I thought about it for a second and thought this guy wouldn't hurt me, so I took the paddles and he slowly started to turn up the juice.  Some interesting things happened in the next minute or so.  The first was that I felt a vibration start.  The second was that the feeling started traveling up to my elbow.  It was about that time that I noticed that my hands were unconsciously gripping the handles tighter and tighter, as if I were holding on to AC current.  The device wasn't plugged into anything, so I'm thinking that DC current should be pushing me away.  So, I tried to open up my hands and I was able to force them open.  The experiment lasted about a minute or minute and a half.  $3.

So, our hotel room is a cavernous suite.  It has two queen size beds, a sitting room, two walk in closets and a huge bathroom with a shower the size of a walk in closet.  Sorry, no pictures - When we got there, we were hungry, dropped our stuff off and took off for food.  We also were trying to get back before sundown since the roads aren't good and riding after dark isn't a good idea.

The next day, I was up at 6 something, as usual.  I got up and grabbed a shower.  The earlier we got on the road, the earlier I got home.  I had laundry waiting for me.  We were on the road before 8am.

Gassing up was a different experience.  Paul bought a couple gas filters that will pull out particulate matter and water.  The problem with mine was that the way the gas filler lid is on my bike, it's not possible to insert the funnel deeply into the tank.  I have to hold it on the rim, and control the flow of gas through the pump.  I spilled more gas in one filling than in the whole time I've owned the bike; but, I was assured of not putting contaminated fuel in my tank.  Thank you Paul!

One has to understand that you're not in the US when you're in Mexico.  Being searched is the norm.  You'll be tooling along on the road and wham - military check point.  I suppose you could turn around; but, they are on every major highway.  I think we went through 4 of these.  We were stopped and searched in 2.  It's a simple and quick process.  You pull to the side of your lane, get off your bike, one of the soldiers points to what he wants opened, you open it, he looks, nods and you shut it.  They don't ask many questions; but, if they do, it's were are you going or where have you been.   The calculus of military checkpoints is very simple.  Be nice, be polite and go on your way.  Be an asshole and you could get shot. They are looking for the normal things:  weapons, drugs and lots of cash.

So, we took off before 8 and never did get breakfast, so by the time we pulled into Ensenada we were both hungry.  Now, I might have mentioned that we were in Mexico and they speak fluent Spansh in Mexico.  I had two semesters of Spanish in high school and the same two semesters in college.  If I took those semesters for a third time, it would all seem mostly new to me.  Use it or lose it.  So, there we are, going through the streets of Ensenada, a bustling city with a stop sign on every single corner.  Mostly, people obey the stop signs; but, occasionally, someone comes darting across the intersection.  You have to pay strict attention to the stop signs.  There is also this other little problem of stops signs potentially being completely obscured by trees or big trucks.  While trying to navigate all this, you're looking for a good place to eat.  Good is defined by highly popular.  Highly popular means safe food.  Trying to find a popular food place with parking (even for a motorcycle) in Ensenada is hard.  There are signs everywhere.  Mexicans also like color.  The US is black and white by comparison. Trying to spot "the restaurant" amidst all this distraction is impossible.  A turn here, a turn there and we still hadn't found a restaurant.  This goes on for 15 minutes or so.  It was getting frustrating.  At some point, we find a strip mall and decide to take a look in there.  On the one side, we see "Zapatoria Italia," obviously an Italian restaurant.  Surveying the rest of the mall, we see no other eateries and decide we're tired, hungry and frustrated, so we're going to eat at the Italian place.  We pull in, park the bikes and walk up to the door.  It was only then that I connected with my high school spanish.  Zapatos are shoes.  A zapatoria is a shoe store and zapatoria italia is an Italian shoe store.  Crap.  Back on the bikes.  This was good because I really wanted Mexican food.  It so happens that coming out of this strip mall, we ran into a Mexican restaurant with off street parking.  When we came in, nearly every table was filled.  This met all the criteria.  Restaurante de Holendesa is the name of the restaurant.

Coming home, we had a little bit of navigation to do to get out of town; but, once we were back on the road, it was smooth sailing.  We pulled into Tecate and were confronted with a line of traffic, double wide, at least 2 miles long.  Not wanting to make anyone upset, we went all the way to the end.  While we sat there, soaking up the afternoon sun on the bikes, some guy gets out of his truck and tells us that we can go right to the front.  He said someone will let us in at the front.  Admittedly, this made us both feel like we were cheating.  We got over that in a fraction of a second and started splitting traffic until we could get to the outside, where it was safer.  We crossed the double yellow and went to the front, where someone at the very front, let us in.  No sooner did we pull back into the main traffic flow, the Federal Polica on a motorcycle going against the flow of traffic passed us.  From there, we split lanes again to the single lane merge.  Entrepreneurial Mexicans lined the space between lanes of traffic, selling their wares, including drinks, pretzels, etc.  Once we got to the front, gate in sight, we pulled in front of the first cars in line and went up to the gate, one at a time.  We passed through in very short order, after our passports were checked and we were asked some questions about our purpose for visiting Mexico.  There's no doubt in my mind that all those people were pissed off.  Californians are probably more used to it than anyone else, given that splitting lanes and filtering down is common place; but, for the rest...I'm sure they didn't like it.  Fortunately, I'm getting older and forgot all about that seconds after getting back to the main road.  If only that were the end.

The United States conducts 'check points' well inside the border.  I've always gotten through these check points without stopping at all; but, cars get stopped; probably so the Border Patrol can look inside their vehicles.  Traffic for this stop was probably 2 miles of single lane traffic; but, we made it through in about 20 minutes.  After that, it was smooth sailing all the way home.

Here are the pics:

The trip through Mexico...

All trips I've done on this contract in California...


All trips on the K1600 to date...






Friday, November 25, 2016

20161125 - Mullholland Highway

I did not like Mullholland Highway, or, "The snake."  "The snake is a 21 mile stretch just before getting to Malibu, while the whole highway goes about 50 miles or so and starts in Calabasas.

Getting there is quick.  Calabasas is only 90 minutes away from my apartment.  Traffic today was light; but, coming up on 101, I needed to do a bit of lane splitting as things got slow for several miles.  While splitting lanes, a CHP motor officer came up behind me.  His lights weren't on and there were another 4 CHP motor officers behind him, all of us were splitting the lane, with me leading the pack.  It didn't take long before I didn't like that idea and pulled in so they could all go by.  Every single one of them gave me a courtesy wave as they went by.  Who knows where 5 CHP motor officers are going at the same time; but, they were splitting the lane about 5 mph faster than I really wanted to and definitely more than 10mph over existing traffic.  That said, I was only too happy to get out behind them, let them open up traffic for me and sail through.

Back to Mullholland.  Right at the start in Calabasas, I noted that this was a highly used road.  To start with, there are cars parked on both sides.  I have no idea what those folks were doing; but, there were a lot of cars and not too far into the ride, I noted lots of bicycles...really, lots of them.  They were going in both directions - coming up the mountain, and going down it.  Some of them weren't exactly staying to the inside of the travel lane either.  More than once, I came around a corner only to find a bicyclist in the middle of the road.  This is not a place where motorcyclists, car enthusiasts and bicyclists can co-exist.  It's flat out dangerous.

I have to say that between the bicyclists, the cars coming at me in the opposite direction and the massive amounts of debris that was all over the road from the cliffs above, it was not the most enjoyable ride I've been on.  In fact, I think it officially rates dead last.  There is no doubt that if you want to ride canyons on a motorcycle, you can be much safer doing it far from Los Angeles.  I suspect that our crotch rocket wielding friends have no desire to drive that far out of town to enjoy those treasures, and, for that matter, neither do the bicyclists.  There were only a couple stretches where I pushed it, even a little.  It just wasn't worth, well, this for  example:




One could say that they have better skills than this guy, who was surprised to find bicyclists there, fixated on them and for lack of focusing on making the turn, hit them.  I have better skills than this; but, I also know that in a situation just like this one, with a car coming in the opposite direction, there is precious little room for error...like, maybe 6 feet of the lane.   Take away some of that so your head can fit snuggly on the correct side of the double yellow, imagining that the car on the other side isn't "cheating the line" or, over it altogether, and that 6 feet narrows quickly.  If you don't have the skills for the speed you're riding, accident potential is high on this road.  Did I mention the debris in the road.  It's everywhere.  The cliffs are constantly in some state of erosion and small rocks and sand are on the roadway.  You may never even see it until you're in the turn since many turns are blind.

My advice on this one is that if you're going to do it, just to say you've done Mullholland Highway, do it.  Enjoy the scenery, ride the speed limit heed the curve speed warnings and be vigilant looking for all the nasty things that can upset your ride!
Here's a video of the last part of Mullholland Drive at 90 mph.




Here are the maps:






Wednesday, November 23, 2016

20161120 - 60,000 mile maintenance and compression test

Cost of ownership (below) is going down, although, if I were letting the dealer do my maintenance, I'm pretty sure my cost of ownership wouldn't be going down.    This cycle, I decided to let BMW of Riverside change out my tires and do my rear brakes.  I think it's important to let the dealership do some work, sometimes.  It keeps a relationship open that may help down the road...like if I need to replace my whole engine.  That said, I also needed to replace the rear tire pressure sensor that broke off the stud a couple hundred miles before my last service.  I couldn't get the stud when I was having the new tire mounted, so I had to do without.  That sensor cost me $165 and they charged me $80 to install it because they found that the old one didn't work, after they had the tire mounted, so they had to break the bead, install it, re-install the tire and program it.  I could have done the rear brakes myself; but, again, I think it's important to open a relationship with the dealership.  More likely than not, I'll replace them next time.

I believe in owning up to my actions.  There were curves, many of them.  I was riding with someone who rides faster and smoother (read much more experienced than I am).  That causes me push myself and, my bike.  I've been harder on my tires and brakes in the last 4,000ish miles than the previous 4,000ish.  When I say hard, what I'm talking about is screaming into one turn after another, braking hard, nearly to or right up to the apex and then smoothly, consistently and continuously applying throttle until the next turn, when it's time to get on the brakes again.   I have been riding the canyons of southern California and Arizona and have had more opportunity to destroy tires and brakes than in Florida, where things are straight and flat.  Adding to the injustice my bike has experienced, at my hand, is the fact that I also like the slow ride.  Every traffic light is an opportunity to do the slow ride.  I trail brake.  At this service, two tires and my rear brake pads died a premature and grizzly death.  In fact, my rear tire had evidence of having been ridden on the sidewall.  That happened when I was entering an on ramp and the rear end tucked under after sliding on the paint.  I recovered that one; but, not before putting some wear on the right sidewall.

Particularly interesting about this maintenance was that I planned to boroscope and compression test the engine.  This was necessary to instill confidence in the engine that was lost when I started consuming oil.  There are other posts on this; but, in short, after my 36,000 mile service (read warranty expired), I got a warning light before the next due service and I've had consumption issues amounting to about 300CCs/6000 miles since.  Every dealer I've asked...and it's been many, all indicate that this is normal.  I have a really hard time believing that BMW would see that as normal on an engine that should have a whole lot more life in it.

An added surprise was that my friend Paul made me a tool to make it nearly impossible to strip out the 5mm allen bolt for the sump.  The issue there is that if you don't put the 5mm allen key in there perfectly straight, you can round out the inside and that, my friends, is an expensive problem to fix, as it requires a new oil pan.  I know from experience.

So, this service:

Air Filter change
Oil Change + Filter
Rear drive oil change
Spark plug change
Coolant change
2 Michelin Road Pilot 4 GT tires
Rear brakes

The compression test results for this 3 y/o, 60,000 mile K1600GT:
Cylinder 1:  15 bar, 216 ftlbs
Cylinder 2:  15 bar, 216 ftlbs
Cylinder 3:  15 bar, 216 ftlbs
Cylinder 4:  15 bar, 220 ftlbs (just a little over 15 bar)
Cylinder 5:  15 bar, 216 ftlbs
Cylinder 6:  15 bar, 216 ftlbs

My borescope, made by Milwaukee, was unable to produce a view that allowed me to see anything other than the piston head.  There was a little carbon on the piston heads; but, I was unable to see anything else.  To even get that, we sanded down the tip of the borescope so it would pass through the tiny spark plug gap.

So, do I have more confidence in my bike now that I've compression tested it and borescoped it as best I could?  Yes, a little.  I did see a bit of a mess on top of my valve cover.  It's possible that some oil is leaking from there, and it's possible that it's in the right quantity.  I made sure to clean up the valve cover really good this time.  When I get in there for the 72,000 mile service, I will pop the valve cover off and reseal it.

Disturbing to me was that I only drained about 50cc out of my rear end.  I didn't measure it; but, it couldn't have been more.  I filled it with 180cc's.  Harry, the mechanic that did my tires and brakes found the fluid all over everything.  I think that's because I'm a messy Marvin.  I will have to keep an eye on this.

I have to say that this service went a little smoother than the 48,000-mile service because I was able to apply lessons learned.  I did not disassemble the radiator this time, and I'm getting faster putting the Tupperware back on.  It still takes about half an hour to disassemble and an hour to reassemble.

I also learned that it is much easier to use vacuum to pull cooling fluid through the radiator than to try to do it manually.  I didn't know it for this service and ended up shaking the shit out of my motorcycle to get the air bubbles out of the radiator.  Next time, I'll pull some vacuum from the water pump and make things easier.   It's interesting that the service manual doesn't call for this; but, when I asked at the dealership, they said it's the only way.  Chances are, this will save me an hour or so next time.

In all, this service took 12 hours as opposed to 1 week, completely due to parts that were needed to replace parts that were found to be damaged through prior maintenance.  That being said,  I was definitely not upset about getting to spend a week with my friend Scot and his family in Ohio for that service.








Saturday, November 19, 2016

20161119 - California Group Ride to Long Beach Motorcycle Show

I have to get this out.  There is a huge difference in group riding in California vs. say Pennsylvania... or anywhere else.  Group riding is typically done in a staggered formation, as below.  Motorcycles can safely operate with 2 bikes in the same lane.  Commonly, the law requires that you leave half the following distance that you would if you were following a car.  Right now, we'll leave aside the problems with riders that can't or don't hold their lane.  In the video below, these riders are staggered and this is how it's done everywhere on the planet.




Then, there's California.  In California, on a beautiful Saturday morning, traffic can be a nightmare. and it becomes nearly impossible to keep a group together.  If the group is to actually make the destination, this is what happens...


It's noteworthy that there are 6 or so bikes in front of Paul, who's Go Pro is recording this adventure. I'm behind him and there are about 6 bikes behind me. So, there are more than a dozen bikes (in a group) splitting lanes with traffic to get to our destination. The staggered formation has gone the way of the Dodo in California. What would happen after about 10 minutes of this is that we would need to cross over 3 lanes of traffic to hit our exit. When the lead bike finds an opening, he goes. Others follow as best the can and try to keep up. Cars don't play nice. They are pissed off that they are stuck in this mess. They will shut down any gap that a motorcycle can fit into in a heart beat. This makes for a bit of chaos as there are now bikes splitting every lane on the highway until they all make their way off to the exit. In a group with sport bikes, adventure bikes and touring bikes, some will be able to split traffic faster and the group will fracture. The odds are very low that the group will get to its destination together. Everyone must know the route and everyone must be prepared to go it alone and meet up at the destination. Making this a little better is the Bluetooth headset. At least with that, some of the group can stay together. Plan better you say? The hell I say. We looked at several routes. All of the routes into Long Beach were jammed. Every route would produce the same result. If you want to do group riding in California, stay away from any populated area, you just don't stand a chance of staying together, or if you do, it will take a very very long time to get where you're going. Today's route:




All California to date.  Whoops I didn't turn off the point connector.

All K1600GT Trips to date:

Sunday, November 13, 2016

20161112 - Mexican border, Yuma

There comes a time in a motorcycle riders life that he, or she, stops commanding and starts listening to what the bike wants.  The motorcyclist learns that if the inputs are given just right, thoughtfully, gently and with expert timing, what happens between the legs will be simply earth shattering.  I am proud to say that I have graduated to this level and practice regularly.  I am not an expert and, we still 'fight' on occasion, mostly about the right way to get through a corner, but, I learn from her each time and I continue to get better.

It's early afternoon and I'm in the California Desert.  The temperature is a beautiful 70 something and, as usual, it's a beautiful clear day.  I spent the morning playing in the twisties and my rhythm was impressive.  I surprised myself with how well I was riding today.  Up ahead, there was a 35 mph turn to the left.  Once the turn breaks, I can't see the road anymore.  The previous turns on this road were all posted well short of a reasonable speed and I felt that dropping one gear would scrub off enough speed to make the entry.  I had been working on three things all day long - nailing my entry point, body position and most specifically letting my upper body take control, instead of my heavy hand.   I was doing 70 mph when I started to set up for this particular turn.  Right side of the lane, check; limp elbows, check; light pressure on the bars, check.  I was being remarkably patient with the entry.  Sometimes I rush it and that will cause me to crowd the double yellow line.  I was patient, even though I was a bit hot coming in, perhaps a bit too hot.  Nonetheless, I waited, and the second I needed to to hit my entry mark, I did.  I still hadn't picked up the exit point; but, as usual, I dropped in aggressively.  At this point, I was clearly committed.  With my face into the turn, I discovered that my aggressive lean angle simply wouldn't do.  I was in a decreasing radius turn, and my exit point was going to require one of 2 things - more lean, or less throttle.  With only a fraction of a second to make my decision, I decided that more lean was what we both wanted.  We had a beautiful rhythm going and there was no way reducing RPM would assure the most awesome outcome.  In fact, more throttle was in the plans.  Ordinarily, I would exit by slowly, consistently and deliberately rolling on more throttle, and with every drop of fluid hitting the cylinders, my smile would get bigger and bigger.  There are two possible finishes, and it just depends on what my mood is.  One possible finish is to roll that throttle to the limit and wait for the rev limiter.  Another possible ending is to grab a gear and keep things going a little longer.  That wasn't what happened this time around.

Rewind for a moment to that part where I'm at the apex, leaned in hard and looking for my exit.  Right there, I have to say, my body mechanics were perfect.  The ball of my right foot was on the peg, my right knee was on the tank adding a little pressure.  My left foot was slightly ahead of the peg with my heel against the bike and turned into the turn.  My knee was leading me into the turn, as it is supposed to.  The knee is a hinge joint and in order for that to happen, the foot must rotate.  My foot had rotated.  This is important because something very interesting happened when I needed to lean more - the front part of the sole on my left boot (more than half of it) came in contact with the pavement.  Now, on a Harley, this is not exciting.  It's a usual occurrence.  On a K1600GT, this is a big deal.  The bike stands tall and to do this, you're nearly at the absolute maximum lean angle of the bike.  This is what happens when the rider is truly in touch with the machine.  It is a beautiful thing that requires a gentle touch, expert timing and the correct inputs.

While I'll look forward to this experience again, I don't expect it to.  Should it happen again, I'll be just as ecstatic as I am now!


I didn't plan until this morning.  I knew I wanted to put some miles on my bike to get more out of my consumables before I replace them in my next service.  I had 845 miles before that was to happen, so I wasn't going to get too far.  I would have to do a smaller, local type trip.  I decided to take a trip down to Tacate, where I plan to cross the boarder into Mexico in the near future.  From there, I really had no plan and made it up as I left.

The ride down was nearly the same as my last trip down to Jullian.  In fact, I made the trip from Redlands to Julian in two hours flat.  Continuing south, I made Tacate before noon - about 3.5 hours.

At the border, I learned from our Border control folks that you do not need anything to cross the border.  If they want you to buy a visa, they will ask you to do so.  There is no need for a visit to the consulate or anywhere else beforehand.  There is also no tax for the vehicle you drive over.  That happens when you're trailering a vehicle.  The one you're on/in is not taxed.  That said, you are expected to either stay on the Baja peninsula, or within 200 miles of the border.  You may have problems crossing Mexican state lines if you don't pick up a visa.  I nearly started over the border today until I realized I didn't have Mexican insurance.  I really think a trip anywhere on the Baja peninsula is going to be a non-event and I can't wait to go.

There are some interesting things about our southern border.  The first is that the circle to the left has two primary crops...hay (and a whole lot of irrigation to accomplish this) and solar power.  I have never seen solar farms this big.  I checked my odometer when I saw it coming and started to pass it.  2 miles had elapsed of rows and rows of solar panels on both sides of the highway for about 200 yards in both directions.  That is a massive amount of solar power being generated.   The circle to the right is all sand dunes.  These are awesome with lots of people spending the day or more (plenty of RVs) riding dune buggies, quads and motorcycles on the sand dunes.



I saw this blimp flying over the Yuma Proving grounds.  This blimp is so big, I saw it for at least 20 miles away.  I was reminded of the same model blimp that came down in Pennsylvania and took out power to multiple counties as it dragged those mooring lines across power lines.

No video today.  This was a local trip to recon the boarder.  Mission complete!

California trips taken this contract.


All trips on the K1600 to date.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

20161105 - Death Valley, Hoover Dam (876 miles)

Let's start with a discussion on desert weather, shall we?  Having grown up in the northeast, I really only have a cursory understanding of high desert weather.  In a word, it's fickle.

I left my house around 6:15 in the morning and had a nice ride up to Hisperia, which could be considered the beginning of the high desert.  The temperature was a very nice 58 degrees.  I was very warm in my banana suit riding gear.  As is typical for SoCal, the skies were clear.  That isn't always a good thing because there are no clouds to blanket the atmosphere and trap some of the earths heat.  Shortly after Hisperia I noted that the temperature was now 47 and my hands were getting cold.  An hour later, as I went up and down 'hills,' I realized that I was in a temperature inversion, where it gets warmer as you ascend, so there there was this constant rolling temperature between the low 50's and the low 70's.  By then, the sun was starting to come up; but, it wasn't going to change this picture until after 11am.  I can only imagine some of the "extremes" that go on up there.

My first "look see" was was the Southern California Logistics Airport.  I've noted this several times going up and down 395.  It is a large expanse of land that is set back from the road over a mile.  "The boneyard" as it is referred to has over a hundred retired jet liners parked there.  The airport has a distinctive military feel to it though.  Maybe it's just me; but, I do have a knack for picking up on military installations that are hidden in plain site.  I decided to take a ride in to see what's what.  It turns out that it is in fact a retired military base and probably still does some of that activity.  It also serves as "The boneyard" and commercial freight.  It has a 15,000' runway and a shorter, intersecting runway.  To give you an idea how long that runway is, Denver International sports a 16,000' runway for commercial jets at an elevation over 5,000'.  This airport is at half that elevation and is nearly as long.  They could bring some monstrous airplanes into this airport!

Back on the road, it was getting to be about time for some breakfast and I ended up stopping at a Burger King.  What kind of breakfast serving restaurant does not have tea...or hot chocolate?  That was at Kramer Junction.  Never again will I go in there.  They're heathens.

Getting on the bike, warmed up and with heavy gloves on, I continued on to Death Valley.  The desert is gorgeous; but, the star of the show really was the wild fluctuations in temperature.

I'd been to Death Valley before.  In fact, I took a look at my blog to see where I'd been and where I hadn't been.  I came to find that I was in Death Valley the same week 3 years ago.  I had no idea.  I camped at Stovepipe Wells the last time and it works out that I had ridden a large part of the southern end of the park, so this time, I wanted to explore the northern part.  Scotty's Castle Road goes up into the Northern part of the park.  As circumstance would have it, it was closed above Mesquite Spring Campground, so I got that far and had to turn around.  There are plenty of gates on this road, so I imagine that as snow consumes the road, they just cut off access until spring.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<Death Valley Video goes here>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I made a decision coming back that would lengthen this trip from the planned 742 miles to it's final distance of 876 miles - I decided to exit the park to the east, into Nevada and ride US95 all the way to I-10 before turning west and heading home.

Lunch was at KC's Outpost Saloon in Beaty Nevada.  I had a roast beast sandwich au jois.  It is a decent stop if you're riding through; but, not a destination stop by any means.

Just outside Las Vegas, I started seeing signs for Hoover Dam.  I had never been to Hoover Dam, so I thought I'd stop in.  I knew I was several hundred miles from home and it was right around 3pm, so I thought I'd make it a quick little ride through and get back on the road.  By this point, my Go Pro card was full, so I don't have video and damn, I'll have to go back.  I did get some pictures though and it just so happens that some monster trucks were coming through, so I got some of those pictures as well.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<Hoover Dam Pics go here>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

After leaving the dam, I came across the Eldorado Dry Lake.  This is like a recreational meccaa with people operating drones, hang gliders, quads and whatever else.  It's pretty long and at first, I thought it was a salt flat.  I had this tempting thought of taking my bike on it to see how fast I could get it going before hitting the rev limiter in 6th gear.  I'm glad I didn't.  Apparently, it isn't in good shape for that sort of thing maintenance wise.

The rest of this ride was fairly boring, except for the stretch between Parker Junction and Blythe.  Right after the agricultural check point, I got passed by a black pickup truck.   I wasn't traveling slow, by any means; but, it was now dark and there isn't any lighting on this stretch of road.  It's also in the desert with turns mostly labeled at 55mph, with an occasional 35 mph turn thrown in for good measure.  This black truck provided most excellent lighting and a very nice 'pace' for this stretch of road.  Of course, we got behind the occasional donkey that wouldn't pull to the right; but, other than that, we made Blythe in excellent time.  This was good because I had another 2:30 minutes of riding from Blythe home.

Dinner was at the Chiraco Summit Coffee Shop in Chiraco Summit (where else?).  I asked for a meatloaf sandwich and got a meatloaf sandwich without  much meatloaf, a whole lot of instant potatoes and a quart of gravy.  There is no need to stop there again, unless necessity dictates.

Home:  10:15pm.

The map of the route - sort of resembles a pig.  Orient using the tail.


Southern California Trips during this contract.


All trips to date.  This picture is really starting to fill in.  How do I make my next contract up in Idaho or maybe Oklahoma/Texas?




Saturday, October 29, 2016

20161029 - Southern California Desert

Let's just start with the map this time around.  This unique motorcycle art is a team effort.  I can't really take any of the credit, except that it was my GPS that recorded this one of a kind motorcycle art.  I have named it "The Failla #2 - Angry kid peeing on floor."  The sunglasses part was us looking for the nose part.  We were clearly off by a bit; but, we rejoined the route and had an excellent ride.

There are plenty of twisties on this route.  We found ourselves pretty far south.  I kept telling Paul that we should just go to Mexico while we were this far south.  Paul needed to get home to take the wife to dinner and a movie, so we took the super slab back home.  This little trip was over 400 miles and it took us about 10 hours.




This is what the southern California desert looks like at an average speed of 400 miles per hour.


Below is the map of the trips I've done since coming back to California for this contract.