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Recent events

So, here's some semi-random things that I've done with/to my FJR since the last post:

  • While riding about two weeks ago, the right V-strom hand-guard fell off on the freeway, so I removed the left side one. The box that holds the switch for my aux lights was mounted to the left-side hand-guard, so I had to rig up a new mounting using cable ties to the wire harness that comes off the left bar.
  • I bought a Bagster tank cover and tank bag from a guy on the Forum.
  • Last weekend I gave the bike a good cleaning, which requires removal of the tank bra. I'm running the tank naked right now (although it always has the protector film on the lower surfaces) while I decide when/if to put on the Bagster.
  • My Zumo 550 died, and I sent it to Garmin in exchange for a $150 refurb unit, which has worked well so far, with one exception: the battery on my old unit used to last 90 minutes or more with no problems, but the refurb only goes 15-20 minutes before it starts complaining about a low battery. (I also replaced the bike mount about 3 months ago -- the old one had become too temperamental.)
  • Justin ordered one of those big, 6" locking carbiners to use as a helmet lock, and he really likes his. I got one myself, which mounts nicely on the Pelican case handle, and keeps my helmet away from the exhaust pipes.
  • After ordering, receiving, and returning three separate shipments of motorcycle boots from NewEnough, each of which was way too narrow for comfort, I bought a pair of Red Wing 971 motorcycle boots. I really prefer non-laced riding boots, but there just doesn't seem to currently be any wide boots available, and the 971's have worked great. After some professional fitting work by the store manager, I wound up with 11½ EE's, and have been very happy with them so far.
  • I've been riding to work off-an-on for a few weeks, but am now planning on riding four days a week through the summer and into the fall. Wednesday's are big meeting day at work, so I'll drive that day, and do errands on the way home.
Posted 4 Jul 2012 @ 8.25 PM in Odds and ends

Big Money Rally - The Final Push

I've been having a blast with the Big Money Rally - a four-month event where you collect points for various bonuses. To reach "finisher" status, you need to collect 121 points for various bonus types - 2 each for select Post Office locations, 3 for "summit" signs, 3 for National Parks, 3 for selected museums for the oil industry, 5 for various memorials, etc. The rally ends next week, so I need to make hay while the sun shined.

I started the day with 87 points, so I needed 34 to reach the "finisher" level. I had an ambitious day planned, but didn't get started until just after 9:00am. (Motorcycle rides are like fishing -- the earlier you start, the better.) First up was the Pearblossom, CA Post Office, about five miles east of CA-14. The GPS said to take I-210 to I-5 and then CA-14, but I debated taking the twisty short-cut up Angeles Crest and Angeles Forest Highways. When I got up to La Canada, I decided that with the cloudy weather it made better sense to stay on the freeways.

The wind was up all day, so I had a few struggles keeping the rally placard in place at the Littlerock P.O. Next up was Pearblossom, a few miles east on Pearblossom Hwy, followed by a tank of gas and then on to Randsburg. This required some jogs to get to US-395 at Adelanto, and a "spirited" run up to Randsburg.

The GPS told me to turn off the 395 at Osdick Road, which I did, and then head west on a dirt road -- which I did. When the voice told me I'd arrived, there wasn't anything anywhere close, so I backtracked and rode north on 395 to the Trona cuttoff, hoping to use my phone to find out where the Randsburg P.O. actually sat. There was no data coverage out there, so I wound up calling my son Justin to tell me where to go. He said to head north another couple of miles, then west on Red Box Randsburg Road. Once I got to the scenic and rustic town, I had to drive the length of the main drag and back before I found the P.O.

Next was a long stint up US-395 and over CA-178 to the Lake Isabella area. The wind was still running high, and there was a lot of sand and gravel in the corners -- also normal for this time of year -- so I dialed back a little.

The Weldon PO was quick, followed by Lake Isabella. I stopped for a sandwich at a little place on the north side of the road, which was quite good. I hit Bodfish, then filled up again on the way to Wofford Heights and Kernville.

As I climbed into the hills of the southern Sierra, the temps dropped a bunch, but not enough for me to stop and put on my jacket liner. As I crested a rise and started down the far side, I happened to glance in my rearview and noticed a sign layout that looked like it could include a summit sign. I made a U-turn and head back up, and sure enough there was a sign for the Greenhorn Summit. In the BMR, there's nothing better than stumbling on points you didn't expect to find! (I rode east a little to see if I had missed a sign going westbound, but there wasn't one -- only the one sign on the eastbound side.)

The ride from there to Glennville and Posey was a great example of what makes the BMR a fantastic rally. I might have missed the opportunity to ride these great motorcycling roads if I hadn't needed to use them to get BMR bonuses.

After Posey I headed back down to Woody, and ran into a couple of different groups of free-range cattle sitting on the roadway on CA-155. They looked at me, I looked at them, and after a couple of minutes they wandered off.

From Woody, I headed down to the Central Valley and on to the Oil Museum in Taft. From there, I took CA-33 towards the two bonuses in Santa Paula. It's possible I exceeded the posted speed limit on the straight section of CA-33...

I was enjoying the twisties as I climbed up the mountain until I found -- another surprise summit sign! Pine Mountain Summit has no shoulder to speak of, so I got over to the side of the road as much as possible, and did a quick shot of the sign -- but I waited to actually send the photo until I found a better parking spot.

The rest of the ride down CA-33 was a blast -- I was felling good, the bike was handling great, and the weather was just about perfect. I stopped for more gas in Ojai, then headed west to Thomas Aquinas College outside Santa Paula. A few more miles got me to downtown Santa Paula and the California Oil Museum, which I would have enjoyed visiting if I'd been here earlier. The had Main St. closed off west of 10th for a classic car night, which looked like a lot of fun.

So, I found myself with no more bonuses to hunt, sitting in downtown Santa Paula at 7:30pm, after a staggeringly fun day of riding. I called home to check in, put the liner back in my jacket, and had a nice chat with a guy in a Prius who asked about all my gizmos, and finally headed home, where I pulled into the driveway at 9:45pm.

550 miles -- a great day, and a great rally!

Posted 4 May 2012 @ 11.10 PM in Rides

Updates

  1. On Saturday, October 22, I rode in the Discover Kern County rally, but had to drop out after a battery failure early on.
  2. On Sunday, October 23, I put in a new battery... Mileage was 71300.
  3. On Friday, October 28th, I removed my old, non-working throttle lock, put on new Grip Puppies, and put on a new Bead Rider seat cover.
  4. On Saturday, October 29, I rode in the Park 'N Ride Rally, finishing 6th.
  5. On Thursday, October 27th, I ordered a wind shield from Cee Baily - 19", +2, reverse countour. They'll call me when it's ready for pick-up.
Posted 30 Oct 2011 @ 9.00 AM in Farkles/Accessories

New tires, front and rear

My PR2's were getting a little long in the tooth, but I thought they had another 700-1000 miles left in them. When I got back from Kauai, the rubber valve stem on the rear had failed, so it was time for a new pair.

I found a great deal on a matching set from an online retailer - no sales tax, free shipping - and it took a week for them to come in. While I was at it, I ordered a pair of 90 degree aluminum valve stems from Bike Effects - it's really a pain to get the air hose onto a standard front stem. They came in on Thursday morning while I was working on some repairs for our asphalt driveway.

Later that afternoon, I pulled the wheels off the bike, and took everything up to Pasadena Yamaha. Kel gives me a great deal - $20 per wheel to mount and balance a tire. I could have waited for them, but told Kel to take his time and I'd pick them up the next afternoon.

Friday after work, I stopped by and they had everything ready. The rear had a couple of balancing weights taped on, but the front was completely untaped. I talked to the head technician, and he said he was able to balance it perfectly by finding the right orientation. Very cool.

With the rear wheel off, I found a lot of gunk on the inside of the pumpkin. I sent photos to my buddy Hal for advice - Hal knows (almost?) everything about DIY bike repair and maintenance. He hadn't seen anything like my gunk before, and suggested I use carb cleaner to clean up the whole mess. It worked like a charm. I regreased the geared area, and mounted everything up - front and rear - late this morning.

Thanks, Hal!

The mileage at the tire change is 70,272.

Posted 17 Jul 2011 @ 5.40 PM in Maintenance

Throttle body sync

I did a throttle body sync and gave the pig a long overdue wash today, at 69886 miles.

Posted 7 May 2011 @ 2.08 PM in Maintenance

LC-11 Rally

I rode down to Yuma on Friday for the LC-11 Rally. Bonus hunting rallies are like scavenger hunts - the rally master comes up with a bunch of bonus locations, and assigns a point value to each bonus. To claim the bonus (and earn the points), you have to ride to the location, and do something to prove you were there - take a photo, write down some info you could only know by being there, get a receipt, etc. There's either a fixed ending time, or a time limit based on your individual start time, with penalties for finishing late. The goal is to collect the most points.

Here's a link to a Google Maps page showing the bonus locations. You can click on the push-pin at each location to get complete details on that bonus. Off-road/dirt bonuses are red, and on-road bonuses (including ones just off a paved road on a dirt or gravel parking area) are in blue :

LowCal 250/LC-11 Bonus Locations Map

On Friday night we had a nice pre-rally dinner at Penny's Diner in Yuma. Afterward I rode back to my motel.

Start time on Saturday morning was 5:30am, so I set my phone for 4:40am, and also asked for a backup wake-up call at 4:45am in case the phone didn't work. I woke up on my own at 4:15am, so it was all good. I geared up, packed up the bike, grabbed a McMuffin next door, and headed to the starting spot at the Chevron across the street. I bought a gallon jug of water (only 10 cents more than a 1 liter bottle), and filled up my tank-bag hydration sack and my external water jug. I also got a couple of Nature Valley granola bars, which wound up being my lunch for the day.

You had to start between 5:30am and 6:00am, with an 11-hour limit based on your start time. Point values for each bonus ranged from 79 to 4000, and there was a 100-point per minute penalty for exceeding the time limit, so it was critical to make it to the finish in time. At 5:37am, I was the first to gas up and get my receipt; the time stamp was my "official" start time.

Part of the fun of a rally like this is analyzing the bonus locations and developing a route that: a) gets you lots of points (obviously); and b) lets you finish on time. I had come up with a route that I felt good about. It was a little aggressive, but I had planned for alternate cut-outs at various points throughout the day. At last year's LowCal 250, my initial route was too weak, and I had problems finding the best way to add more bonuses when I found I had more time/mileage to use, so this year I decided to be more aggressive and then skip bonuses as needed to make it to the finish within the time limit.

A lot of the riders came up with close to the same opening set of bonuses that I had planned. My first stop was a bridge near Laguna Dam, northeast of Yuma. Back in the 1900's, long before it became a symbol of Nazism, this bridge had been built with swastikas as a design feature.

From here, the next logical stop was Yuma Duster, a collection of tanks and field artillery associated with the nearby Yuma Proving Grounds Army Base. There's two ways to get from the bridge to the tanks: continue up the dirt/gravel road for 6 miles or so, or backtrack to real roads and ride around to the other side. I chose the gravel roads, and must say I chose poorly. It would have been faster, and much less stressful on the rider and the equipment, to have avoided the unimproved road. But, hey - life's an adventure, right?

After Yuma Duster, I headed up to Blythe on US-95. (A couple of times I saw the big '95' on the signs and wished it was the speed limit and not the highway number...) At Quartzsite, I headed west on I-10 into Blythe, then up US-95 again to the Blythe Intaglios, a group of gigantic pictographs scraped into the ground by ancient Indians. The largest figure is over 170 feet long. This required more dirt and gravel riding, with an off-trail hike to get the picture of the sign needed for the bonus.

From there, I went down US-95 almost back to Blythe, then cut over for the Torque Trestle railroad bridge bonus. This trestle bridge was featured in some of the motorcycle action scenes in the bad movie Torque from 1994. This bonus had two choices: a) park on the road and hike 250-300 yards to the bridge, or b) ride off-road to within 10 yards of the bridge. I chose option (b), but when I met up with other riders I told them to consider parking and hiking instead. The deep sand was not great on my heavier bike.

Next was the Inca Ore Silo, just a mile or so down the road from the trestle. More dirt riding, and a cool looking silo. Then back into Blythe for Gateway Park, which has a monument to all the various branches in the U.S. armed forces. The bonus required a photo of the entire monument with your helmet resting on one of the pillars, and I chose the Merchant Marines for no apparent reason.

The headwinds and the "headwinds" were doing a number of my gas mileage, so I stopped to refuel before heading down to the Cibola sign-post. The bridge over the Colorado River was sketchy, but safe. I met up with my buddy Peter Perrin at this bonus. I headed back of out of town the same way I came in, but it turns out there's an undocumented bridge on the other side of town that would have saved me 10-15 minutes. It doesn't appear on any electronic maps, and you can only see it on satellite view, and I missed it in my pre-ride research. In the end I could have really used those 15 minutes.

The road to Brawley was buffeted by high winds that really tired me out physically. I got sand blasted going through the dunes at Glamis, but made it to the Whistler Mud Pots without a problem. The Mud Pots were cool - geothermal activity pushes up mud into 8-12 foot high "pots". On the way in from SR-111 I took Schrempf, a dirt/mud/gravel road that isn't in the best condition. On the way out, I took MacDonald just to the north, and it was in far better shape.

It was only a few miles north and east to Salvation Mountain, and a couple of rally riders were leaving just as I was pulling in. It's a cool old folk-art display built into a hillside.

Salvation Mountain was worth 4000 points, so anyone wanting to do well in the rally had to visit this location. This was where I had to decide on the route for the rest of the day.

In my pre-ride planning, I had come up with three alternatives from this point, depending on the time I had left. Option 1, in case I was already short of time, was to head south to the Pacific Crest Trailhead south of Campo, then back into the San Diego area for whatever smaller bonuses I could find there. Option 2 was to go up to Mecca, then over for the group of bonuses around Julian. Option 3 was to go up to Mecca, then over to Pine View, Santa Rosa and Scenic Road. If I had enough time, option 3 was the best route, but if I was a little short option 2 was a good alternative.

Based on the time, I decided to go all-in for option 3. If all went well, it was the best option, but everything depended on making a fairly quick up-and-back on the Santa Rosa truck trail. I knew it was in so-so condition, but still thought I could average 20mph.

I made a quick run to the Gracie Salazar bonus in Mecca, got more gas, and headed through Palm Springs to SR-74. My route had me going to Santa Rosa first, and then Pine View, but I saw the Pine View turn-off a mile or so before Santa Rosa, so I turned in to grab it first.

The first section of the Santa Rosa truck trail wasn't too bad, and I was feeling okay about my time, but the road got progressively worse, and it was slow going. I grabbed my photos at the spring, and headed back down. I made better time on the way back, but it still took too much time, and I knew I couldn't even consider getting the Scenic Road bonus. I decided to try to make up some time on the way back to San Diego: if I could save enough I could go to the Aztec Cafe for a combination bonus, and otherwise I'd go straight to the finish at San Diego BMW Motorcycles.

When I made it back to SR-74, I was about 94 miles from the dealer. Traffic in the mountains on the way to I-15 was too heavy to let me make up a lot of time, but it wasn't until I had done 5 miles or so on I-15 that I gave up on grabbing any more bonuses. The GPS said a side-trip to Aztec Cafe would get me back to the dealer at 4:40pm, and I didn't have enough miles to be able to make up the necessary time, no matter how fast I rode. I briefly considered visiting the Liberty Tobacco bonus location, which didn't come with points but instead added 15 minutes to your time limit, but I didn't think it would work, and the penalty for being over time was too harsh.

I got back at 4:20pm, with 17 minutes to spare. My odometer showed 510 miles for the day, and my GPS showed 501. It was a good, long day of riding, and except for the wind I had a fantastic time.

Back at the dealer, I chatted briefly with some of the other riders, and then started in on my final scoresheet. I initially forgot to put down the Cibola bonus, but caught it just in time, with the help of a kind soul who pointed out my omission.

Rallymaster Craig and his great wife Lisa had the scoring process down to a science, and his method of verifying the bonuses that required photos was very efficient. Afterwards, I grabbed some chips and salsa -- graciously provided by the dealership -- and chatted with some of the other riders.

Before the standings were announced, we were all treated to a steak and hamburger dinner, again courtesy of the dealer. They really know how to make everyone feel like family.

While we ate our ice cream for dessert, Craig announced the standings, and I was happily surprised to come in second place. (Or, as Gary, the owner of the dealership jokingly said, "first loser".) My buddy Peter Perrin came in first on his BMW RT, and Chad Smith came in third on his ST1300. The podium finishers got great wooden boxes with an inlay of the LowCal gasket in the image of San Diego County, along with very generous gift cards from the BMW dealer.

It turns out Peter had chosen something very close to my option #2: from Mecca, he headed inland to the bonuses near Julian, which wound up being the best choice. My route to the north might have prevailed, but only if I could have navigated Santa Rosa fast enough to still have time for Scenic Road and the Aztec Cafe, but the roadway did not allow it. A beginner's mistake, but a valuable learning experience.

In the end, everyone had a great time - again, except for the wind, which affected everyone.

Craig will likely go back to the single, 8-hour LowCal 250 rally next year, and I'll certainly be there. He goes to a lot of effort to come up with interesting, challenging, and fun bonuses each year, and the riding in and around San Diego County is first rate. I had a lot of fun helping out with the LowCal, and even more fun riding the LC-11. Thanks, Craig!

LowCal 250/LC-11 Standings

My LC-11 Photos

I had a SPOT Personal Tracker mounted on my bike for the ride. In tracking mode, this device relays my GPS coordinates to a satellite every ten minutes (or so), and let's my family and friends keep track of my progress on long rides. There's two ways to view the map:

Posted 1 May 2011 @ 12.05 PM in Rides

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