Saturday, May 6, 2017

20150506 - Compression and Leak down test results (65,500 miles)

My K1600GT is burning oil at the rate of 400CC/1000 miles.  That doesn't sound like a lot, but that means 2.4L of oil between oil changes.

Part of the reason this concerns me so much is that I was initially a bad BMW owner and until I had my first oil episode, I never checked my oil.  The bike was under warranty, so I always just threw a leg over and rode.  Very soon after the bike hit 36,000 miles and was out of warranty, I got an oil indicator and found that I was low on oil.  I have been chasing this problem since.  The bike now has 65,500 miles on it.  The whole history of this is documented on this blog under the maintenance section.  Initially, I thought maybe the dealership didn't fill the oil all the way, but the problem was and still is recurring.  Of course, now I pay much closer attention to my oil levels, particularly on long trips.  I always have an extra quart in my side case.

After my last iron butt ride, I calculated the above oil loss rate and decided that the next best step forward is a leak down test.  I need to have confidence in my bike as I tend to ride it long distances and really want to push into areas further and further off the grid.  Since I'm doing my own maintenance now, I plan to add the leak down test to every 12,000-mile service.  As long as I have to get all the way down to the spark plugs anyway, I might as well do it.  For the initial test, I wanted the dealership to perform the test, particularly since I don't have the time right now to do an engine rebuild or even a valve replacement, should that have been the problem.

Without further delay, here are the results of the 65,500-mile leak down test on a 2013 K1600GT...


#1 - 16.8 bar
#2 - 16.0 bar
#3 - 17.1 bar
#4 - 17.7 bar
#5 - 17.4 bar
#6 - 17.3 bar

Leak Down:

#1 - 10%
#2 - 10%
#3 - 10%
#4 - 10%
#5 - 10%
#6 - 10%
Good > 14 bar, Normal 12-14 bar, poor < 12 bar.

The dealer says all things are OK, but the 10% leak down seems borderline to me.  They buttoned up my bike before looking into this any further.  The next service I will be doing is at 72k.  When I repeat the test myself, I will be looking for any change and be listening to the exhaust, air intake, and crankcase for an indication of where the oil loss is.

Stay tuned.  More to come on this.

20170430 - Morro Bay California and back - Visit with Jeff

Depending on how you look at things, I just finished my weekend ride to visit my good friend Jeff, who happens to be visiting Morro Bay California.  Initially, I thought this was a quick 2 hours out and 2 hours back.  I was wrong.  It seems that I see things on the map as being much closer than they are.  I think that is a product of having traveled through so much of this country.  What is an inch or two on the map is right around the corner to me.  In reality, it's 500 miles.  So, a 500 mile trip for dinner with friends is not at all out of the question.  Jeff was in Morro Bay with his girlfriend Donna, so the stage was set.  Yes, I'm just off a 2,000-mile Saddle Sore, but so what.  I had plenty of miles before my next oil change.  I made a quick run to the trailer for an extra quart of oil to take with me and boom, I was off.

Morro Bay is halfway between where I'm working my contract and San Francisco, on the Pacific.  There are a couple choices for getting there, and none of them are direct.  One route, a personal favorite, would take me about 8 hours to get there.  I ruled that out because I need to work on Monday.  The rest were variations of I-5 and some trekking across the California Valley.  Since I had motorcycle on the brain, I decided to leave my work behind and get on the road.  The plan was to take 210 West to 5 North to 166 West to 101 and then consult Jeff to figure out exactly where I needed.  Why have an address before leaving?  That would be boring.  I don't seem to program the GPS much anymore and with the sun behind me for the first half of the trip, the GPS was washed out anyway.  Back in the days when there were roll charts and maps in plastic sleeves, displays did not wash out.

210 is a busy little Interstate that connects I-10 on the east with 5 on the west.  It may be busier than I-10, but that is good as a motorcycle can easily dispense with the traffic and the volume generally hides the bike from any stray radar beam that may lock on and cause a roadside speed calibration certificate to be issued by one of California's Highway Patrol officers.  So, off I went.

I imagine that most people consider a 500 mile run a far distance and would probably prepare for it by taking all kinds of stuff with them.  I don't do that.  I have a couple bucks on the bike for contingencies, a credit card in my wallet, rain gear and the appropriate riding gear.  My bike always has a tire kit on it and for the past several months, it's been equipped with the Microstart XP-3.  It can jumpstart a dump truck, should the need arise, or charge my iPhone and other electronic devices.  After that, I like to have a quart of oil with me and a paper map, just in case the GPS decides it's time to die.

The super-slab is the super slab - wide, low turn angles and boring, except in California, where the traffic is moving at 80-90 most of the time.  One must be on their game at all times, constantly look for the safety zone and escape to a new one as the need arises.  Sometimes, that means being a little over the speed limit in order to avoid getting boxed in.  So be it.  The other feature of the super slab is that it's boring and several hours of it gives a person an opportunity to think.

My thoughts on this particular day were about this video of a motorcycle rider that, while riding entirely too fast, fails to negotiate a corner, straightens himself out, narrowly missing a car, strikes a guardrail and does a spectacular somersault off the bike.  A rude tree gets in the way before he has any opportunity to show us all how he could have stuck the landing.  That being said, the nearest ground to stick said landing on was probably 40 or more feet down.  This rider owes his life to that tree.  What grabbed my attention was some armchair quarterback's evaluation of the event.  He proclaims that riders before him and after him made the same corner and even if he went into it too hot, all he had to do was lean more and count on the fact that the bike is nowhere near its riding envelope.  That, in my humble opinion, is crap.

Leaning a motorcycle is a learned skill, and every half degree more lean means more learning.  When we were children and got our first bicycle, we spent a lot of time learning that upright is good.  We white knuckled the handlebar and fought to stay upright.  Eventually, we got it, and we even learned to lean when riding fast around corners.  Successfully leaning a motorcycle, to any degree, means overcoming the bodies natural desire to be upright.  We trained ourselves from a very young age that upright is good.  What makes anyone think that because you can lean a bike 10 degrees that leaning the bike 20 degrees isn't terrifying?  How about 30, 45 or more degrees?  If the rider has never been that far over, what is to say that he or she knows what to do to keep control during this completely new experience.  Yes, leaning over further is what will save the day and get the rider around the corner, but those skills should have been acquired and well rehearsed long before the event.

We cannot assume anything about the rider doing the header off the cliff.  What we know is that he was riding fast, was stable, didn't negotiate the turn, stood the bike up, and crashed into the guard rail.  We know that he felt he couldn't negotiate the turn and didn't try.  I don't buy his tire wiggling excuse or whatever he said.  Plain and simple, his speed and the blind curve ahead were more than he could handle.  He was exceeding his personal limitations.  The advice should have been ride within your limitations, seek training beforehand, and ride with people that have the same skill set as you do.  Lean the bike over is dangerous advice.  It makes people think they can push their personal envelope and in that crisis moment, just remember to lean more.  Everything will be OK, just like pushing the hyperspace button or clicking your heels three times.  Riding smart, riding safe and having one hell of a time are not mutually exclusive events.  Push your personal envelope very gently.  Eventually, you will have the skills to lean it a little more.  Eventually, you will exceed the bike's capabilities also. Every once in a while, my boot touches down.  I know that the maximum lean angle is afoot.  In this case, lean it more isn't going to help. because you simply can't lean the bike anymore.  What then?  The only reasonable advice is to ride smart and safely.  Unceremoniously, I dismount my soap box and get back to my riding adventure.

So, after getting off the super slab, I found myself in the "California Valley," where it seemed I was in a miles-long farmers field.  I don't know the crop.  I think it may have been oranges and avocados.  This is Rt. 166 and it is straight, 55 mph, picturesque and somewhat boring after awhile.

Arriving near Morro Bay, I decided to get a bite for lunch.  Just then Jeff called and advised that the wedding party wasn't going all that well and he'd see me in town at 3:30.  I was way early, so I took his recommendation and rode up to Rt. 229.  229 is a nice road.  It is not cambered; it is not wide.  It is curvy with many transitions though.  Nice road, highly recommended if you're in the area.  It doesn't take more than 10 minutes or so to ride it from end to end.

Back in town, I met Jeff and Donna at Hoffbrau on the deck.  We watched a sea otter show off his backstroke and diving skills as we talked and shared stories.  My loyal group of 2 dedicated readers will remember that Jeff is the guy I met early on in my BMW K1600GT days.  Donna is his girlfriend of a couple years now.  They are incredibly different people and enjoy each other's company.

Jeff and Donna are retired and on a multi-week trip out to California, having been lured there by a wedding.  My heart goes out to Jeff.  The poor guy is in a place where there is a ton of riding to be done and he is in a cage.

I was enjoying the good company and would have loved to spend several more hours with Jeff and Donna, but work was in my future for Monday morning and I had a planned 4.5-hour ride home ahead of me.  After saying our goodbyes, I departed.  The plan was to take another county highway out to I-5, however, when I got there I saw the sign that read 82 miles until next service.  I had 60 miles left in the tank.  Being exceptionally good at addition and subtraction, I quickly calculated that I wouldn't make it and did a u-turn.  By the time I arrived at the nearest gas station, 7.5 miles away, the sun was starting to fall rapidly over the horizon.  I consulted my GPS and it said my fastest route was to backtrack a heck of a long way, grab Rt. 41 to Rt. 46 and on to I-5.  This wasn't all bad as Rt. 41 is a blast to ride in sections.  It is a fast road and the corners are just blind enough to keep a rider on their toes.  The problem came at the junction of Rt. 46.  The road was closed due to a wreck and the detour was well over 20 miles.  I estimate that I lost an hour in that detour given the extra miles and double traffic.  The good news was that I-5 was moving very fast and I was able to make up some of that.  Somehow, the ride home seemed much longer than the ride out, but I was in bed and asleep by 11:30 having had another excellent motorcycle ride and having had the opportunity to visit very good friends.

Monday, April 24, 2017

20170421-20170423: Sadlesore 2000 Redlands California to Odessa Texas and back

It would seem that my mileage per month is at a historic low.  School keeps me busy most of the time and make long distance riding impractical.  So, with Spring Break right around the corner, I put the word on the streets that I was ready for a ride, and a long ride at that.  For no other reason than because, I set my sights on a Saddle Sore 2000, or SS2000 for short.  It is the next ride in the Iron Butt Associations long list of certified rides.  My two regular readers will realize that I've done the SS1000 and the Bun Burner 1500, or BB1500.  My hail for accompaniment did not go unheeded for long, Paul and John stepped right up.

The SS2000 is a 2,000 mile ride that must be completed in 48 hours.  Standard rules apply, get witness forms signed on the front and back ends and receipts for all stops in the middle.

Let's put things in perspective.  2,000 miles in 48 hours means you need to average 41.66 MPH if you use all 48 hours.  Being human, I elected for some sleep.  If we take an 8 hour nap, we need to average 50 MPH, using all but 8 hours for riding.  I like to eat and my bike likes a full tank of gas every 250 miles, so, allowing 4 hours for all that, we need an average of 55.55 MPH.  Then, there's Monkey Butt to contend with.  This is the Saddle Sore / Bun Burner aspect of riding a motorcycle.  It is not the miles that causes Monkey Butt, it's time in the saddle, so getting out of the saddle helps a lot.  I thought the best plan to accomplish this involved us leaving at 3pm on a Friday, riding 500 miles, sleeping, riding 1,000 miles, sleeping and finishing the last 500 miles with a photo finish at 48 hours.  This schedule works out to 500 miles every 8 hours and a need to average 62.5 MPH for each riding hour.  This is perfectly doable.  Paul and John agreed with the plan.

There was a little wrinkle in this whole thing:  weather.  Initially, we considered doing a triangle with Denver Colorado and Phoneix Arizona being our two far corners, but heavy snow covered the Rockies potentially making the route hazardous.  We opted for a straight shot out I-10.  The super-slab provides higher speeds and better chances to bank time for unfortunate occurrences.  I also wanted to go this past weekend vs. next weekend because the weather was going to be good and what would happen next weekend was anyone's guess.  If I didn't get this ride in, I would have to wait until Fall.  That put John in a bind.  His wife bought tickets to a show on Saturday evening.  He still planned to go with us on Friday and ride with us until he had to leave to get back for the concert.  Fantastic dedication!

We weren't quite ready to leave yet.  Paul had one bike with a tire that wouldn't make the ride and the other that was in need of 12,000 mile service.  He's also a highly dedicated rider, went into beast mode, and knocked out his service during the evenings.  Carolyn probably hates the fact that I took her husband away from her for a few evenings leading up to an event that would take him away from her for a weekend.  This is unfortunate and I'll have to make amends somehow, Paul and I are looking forward to a trip from Prudhoe Bay Alaska to the tip of South America soon.  Carolyn will need some convincing and I don't think I have much currency with her right now.  Any recommendations from my loyal readership of 2 people would be most welcome.

This all gets us to game day.  As planned, we got our witness forms signed and exited the parking lot at 3pm.  We went straight to the Shell station, got gas, checked the time on our receipts, 3:11 pm, and hit the Interstate.  Traffic was a little messy.  Fortunately, we were in California and could split lanes.  We must have been doing that for about 30 miles before we were in the clear and up to the speed limit, or thereabouts.  Temps were in the high 90's in the desert and falling with the afternoon sun, which, for our viewing pleasure, was positioned perfectly in front of us.  Cars became shadows, but when the sun was low in the sky, the traffic was sparse.

There would be no dinner for us.  We had 500 miles to make and as it was, our arrival time was looking like 11pm.  The time lost splitting lanes does not get made up the speed limit is exceeded by a substantial margin for a long period.  We weren't willing to do that.  John was in the middle, with Paul up front.  John could not pair his Bluetooth headset with ours, so we couldn't talk with him.  When we were ready for fuel, I rode up alongside John and gave him the standard signals that we were going to take an exit 10 miles away for gas.  Interestingly enough, John was not getting gas mileage like we were and went into his secondary tank (mounted on his back seat and plumbed into the main tank).  Maybe this is because he was loaded down with gear like we were, and carrying an extra 5 gallons of fuel (40 pounds).  Our fuel turnaround was a perfect 10 minutes and we made it to Wilcox Arizona at about 22:20.

James was the desk clerk at the Holiday Inn Express and he had rooms.  I asked for 3 rooms and was going to pay for them all to move things along so we could sleep, but hotel policy said he had to do it all manually.  He gave us $20/room off the regular rate.  The room was nice enough and no electrical outlet sins were committed; the outlets weren't hidden behind furniture. I plugged in everything, stripped, brushed my teeth, set the alarm and air conditioner and crashed.  I don't remember anything until my alarm went off at 6.  At 6, I grabbed a quick shower, dressed, packed and was walking to the door when Paul knocked.  He and John had been up since 4:30 am.  Now, Paul I can understand.  This was his first Iron Butt run and could easily not understand that the sleep cycles are just as important as the ride cycles.  John on the other hand, has no excuse.  He's done more IBA runs than I have and knows the value of sleep.  Paul would not hear the end of this for many miles of our morning ride.  Breakfast was at the hotel.  Like all hotels, they had a really crappy continental breakfast.  The difference for this hotel was they had these little "omelettes."  I do mean little.  They were pre-made and who knows what was in them, but sandwiched between 2 bagel halves, I had a bagel sandwich going for me.  The plan from here was that John was going to ride with us for an hour and turn around.  Paul and I would continue on to Odessa.

First stop out of the hotel was gas.  We were low.  There is a ton of value in separating gas stops from hotel and meal stops, but it didn't work out that way for this stop.  With gas in the tank, water and granola bars in the back seat bag, we were off.   John made his turn around in Lordsburg NM.  Paul and I continued on and had no plans to stop until we needed gas, which we calculated to be in El Paso Texas.  Paul and I were always calculating.  IBA runs are all about the clock, the odometer and building time by staying above the average 62.5 MPH needed.  Unnecessary fuel stops equate to time wasted.  That said, fuel management is something of science and art.  Sometimes it's necessary to stop before leaving a major city, particularly in western Texas.  In western Texas, fuel stops can be 50 miles or more apart.  Fueling at El Paso virtually guaranteed that we would make Odessa Texas on the next tank.  That didn't happen in actuality.  We decided to stop at the junction of I-10 and I-20.  The 80 MPH speed limit in that section of Texas was causing us to burn fuel faster.  So, we made a quick stop for fuel and got back on the bikes, headed for Odessa.  Our plan was to travel about 25-30 miles more than we had to in order to make sure we had the required mileage for the ride, regardless of whether they used a mapping tool or our odometers for verification.  Odessa wasn't exactly like I thought it would be.  There were no easy on / easy off restaurants around, so I selected one on my GPS that was close by.  It ended up being an authentic Mexican restaurant with outside seating.

The outside seating part was a little unfortunate.  Being up on the mountain was a little chilly.  The highest altitude we hit was about 4500', but the temps dropped down into the 60's and there was a stiff gusting wind hitting us from the left.  It's great to have a big fairing, but it doesn't help much when the wind is coming in from the side.  The food was good.  I had some soft-shelled tacos and Paul at a chimichanga.  It wasn't intended, but, in less than 30 minutes, we were back on the bikes.  It seemed to take much longer to get out of Texas than it took to get in.  Maybe this was the first sign of fatigue.  We were 500+ miles into a 1000 mile day.  We decided to stop just past the split again for fuel to make sure we'd get to El Paso.  When we got into the city of El Paso, my headset died.  Paul and I were just discussing dinner plans.  I happened to see a Cracker Barrel sign that said exit 11, 19 miles away.  I know Paul likes Cracker Barrel and noting the full parking lots at the restaurants around us, I realized that something on the outskirts of town would be better.  I led us there and before you know it, we were eating dinner.  Dinner was well timed because  the sun was right in our eyes and traffic was fairly heavy.  Getting off the road was a good thing.

I put my headset and phone on charge with my XP-3.  This is a fantastic battery that will charge my gadgets and jump start a dump truck if necessary.  It's a fantastic little device.  Dinner was a chicken salad.  I only ate about half.  Eat too much and your pancreas goes into overdrive making insulin and you feel tired.  We had 300 miles ahead of us and it was night.  Feeling tired wouldn't have been good.  We probably kept this stop down to a half hour or so, but it didn't matter.  We knew we were going to get the 300 miles in and have plenty of rest before we had to get up for the next day's finish.  I called the same hotel to book a room.  James answered and remembered me.  He had me squared away in no time.

We needed one gas stop to get us there and we decided to make that halfway or more away from where we were.  Right after our fuel stop, I got a check oil light.  I thought it might have been because I took off so fast from the gas station and turned my bike off, paused a moment, and turned it back on.  The light dissappeared and I was comfortable riding the next couple hours without pulling the dip stick.  On the way, I took the opportunity to remind Paul about the importance of sleep.  Paul assured me that he would sleep until my alarm went off and I assured him that if he got out of bed beforehand, I'd knock him out.

We arrived and quickly got our stuff off the bikes.  Our room was ready and they checked us in very quickly.  I plugged everything in, brushed my teeth, set the alarm and went to bed.  Half an hour before the alarm went off, Paul got up to do his morning routine, proving that I would not actually knock him out.  I'm sure he knew he was never in any danger.  I'm sure he was just as excited as I was to finish this ride up.  I wanted to check the oil, but the bike has to be warm to the point that the fan comes on, and that wasn't going to happen.  It was only 60 some degrees.  I checked the dipstick and it was reading low, so I added oil, being careful not to add too much and overfill the tank.

At our next fuel stop, I let the bike idle on the center stand until the fan came on, turned it off, waited the obligatory 1 minute and checked the oil.  It was bone dry.  I put in about half a quart to get the oil level between the min and max lines and saved the rest.  The pump wouldn't let me get past the loyalty card prompt, so I had to go in.  Fortunately we were at a stop that had a Denny's.  I asked Paul to get us a table while I got fuel.  This stop wasn't supposed to be our food stop, but the delay was too much and I thought it best to consolidate stops.  We got some breakfast and headed out.  The next half hour or so was spent talking about all the potential issues that could be causing my bike to consume oil.  All 2 of my loyal readers will recall the posts about my oil issues.

After passing Phoenix AZ, it was getting hot.  I needed to reduce layers and asked Paul to stop at the next rest stop 6 miles away.  Then I thought better of it and asked him what he thought about me stopping and finding him on the Interstate when I was finished.  Paul also thought that was an interesting idea.  I ran into the rest area, shed my jacket, stowed it, reloaded some water and took off to rejoin Paul.  It wasn't but 12 minutes later that I ran up to him.

From there, we would need another fuel stop and wanted it to be in Arizona.  We did that, crossed the border and went through the agricultural check point.  We always get waived through these things, even the customs check points.  In Mexico, we got stopped and searched at all of them, but not here.

The California desert was 98 degrees or more the whole way.  It seemed like every breath of hot dry air sucked the life right out of my body.  Water?  I was drinking like a fish, but there was no keeping up.  It was just hot.  The pavement was probably something like 120 degrees.  Did I mention how hot it was?  It was hot.

We pulled into Redlands with over an hour left on the clock.  I convinced the two young ladies at the gas station to sign our witness forms and with that, we were done with that trip.  Paul had more riding to do to get to Riverside, but I was only about half a mile from my apartment.

Now, I'm off to get the paperwork together!  Here are the maps.

20170305 - Salton Sea, Slab City, Salvation Mountain

I have to apologize to both of my loyal readers.  I haven't blogged in a long time.  My riding has suffered because I've gone back to school.  Yes.  I am pursuing my DSc. at Capitol Technology University.  It is taking up all of my time.  I barely have time to ride at all.  I need to plan for time to ride and the only opportunity is if I get a break in assignments.

So, it just so happened that Paul pinged me and wanted to know when I could do a ride.  It worked out that I could afford to take a day off from my school work, so we planned for Sunday.  Paul invited John and he was able to join us.  John asked if we wanted to go out to the Salton Sea, Slab City and Salvation Mountain.  Paul and I hadn't been there, so the venue wasn't set.  We decided on an early start - 6am at Denny's in Beaumont.

I'm up at 4am every morning to study, so meeting at 6 was particularly easy for me.  We had breakfast and off we went.  We were at Salton Sea after a short ride on the big slab.  The Salton Sea is a man made lake.  It happened after a dam on the Colorado river broke and flooded the area.  At this point, there's all kinds of fertilizer and whatnot in there.  It stinks and I understand you could float an egg on the water.  There was nobody on the lake.  It was very windy.  We were holding about 3-5 degrees of lean to stay straight on the road.  We pulled over at Salton City (,_California), population 3700,  to walk down to see the lake.  Did I mention that it was windy?  The water looked like we were looking at the ocean with white capped waves.  I was amazed that the population was that high.  I think there is one street that is a loop and I didn't see another soul.

After Salton City, we went to Slab City (,_California).  This is a camp ground more than a city.  If you're interested in living off the grid, this is the place!  You're only 4 miles from civilization, but there is no running water or amenities of any kind.

Salvation mountain( was the next stop.  I'll let some pictures speak for themselves.

We finished the day off with lunch and the ride home.  I even managed to get back in time to do some school work!

This Trip

All California Trips

All Trips to Date

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, 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 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.