Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Harley Sucks People

Harley-Davidson Beef JerkyYou've all seen Harley-Davidson Beef Jerky.

Has anyone out there introduced this material into their blood streams?

I did a review of this product a couple of years ago on Biker News Online...
http://www.bikernewsonline.com/ 2007/03/harley-beef-jerky-reviewed.htm

It sucks, in case you don't care to read about it.

H-D continues to extend itself into every nook & cranny of our society, which is a good thing for "brand marketing", but I think it's part of what alienates them from many people.

People get annoyed at seeing some company's logo everywhere they turn their eyes. It used to be that computer geeks loved Google, but now that Google has gotten their greedy little hands on every aspect of the Internet world, they're now the gorilla that everyone likes to hate.

The same is true with Microsoft. It so successfully dominated the computer and software business, that Apple loyalists, and Linux loyalists hated anything associated with it.

As motorcyclists, we know about a similar hatred. If Harley-Davidson was just a small company, producing about as many motorcycles as Big Dog, there wouldn't be any disdain for the company, the motorcycle, and the people who ride them. It's not that people hate the Motor Company for its motorcycles, it's that they hate them for their marketing success. They hate them for all the RUBs and posers they drew into the motorcycle society.

So when these Honda riders, BMW riders, and sport bike riders, start seeing "Harley-Davidson Beef Jerky" in grocery stores, it reinforces this negativity. And that negativity is further reinforced by the Harley-Davidson shower curtains, and the Harley-Davidson Lip Balm.

The same can be said of Orange County Choppers.

Americans love a success story, but they hate it when that story creeps into every aspect of their lives.

The negativity goes both ways too. There are Harley loyalists who bash metric bikes both verbally and physically. Have you ever been to a Honda bash? I know some Harley loyalists who like to poke fun at metric riders, even though they themselves started out on a metric bike.

As for the quality of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, the database of recall notices seems to suggest that Honda and Yamaha are of equal quality. I continue to read blogs about Ducatis and BMWs having problems. Motorcycle manufacturers these days can't afford to build a bike that doesn't require repair work.

So what's the strangest H-D logoed product you've seen?

I guess I'm still surprised that they haven't come out with Harley-Davidson personal lubricant. Seems like it goes right along with the whole "Glide" thing.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Rim of the World Scenic Byway

Motorcycle ridersI've long believed that Southern California is the mecca for motorcycle riding, and I affirmed that belief yesterday with a ride to Big Bear and back, along the famed "Rim of the World Scenic Byway".

The byway is nearly 100 miles of some of the best riding in SoCal, taking you to about 9,000ft in some places, with a full plate of switchbacks and sweepers to sharpen your skills. Much of the road runs along steep mountain sides that provide breathtaking views of the entire Southland.

It actually runs along three different highways, starting out as highway 138 at Cajon Junction, and I-15. Then it switches on to highway 18 until you get out of Big Bear City, where it switches to highway 38.

To end the ride on a high note, take the time to go to Oak Glen, and have yourself some apple pie a la mode. Oak Glen is known for its apple orchards, and provides some really nice twisties along Oak Glen Road.

View Larger Map

I remember when I first rode my Yamaha Road Star along the Rim of the World Scenic Byway, I was quite humbled by the tight twisties and found myself nervously slowing down at each curve, hoping not to lose control. I remember that time coming up to an accident scene with several bikers huddled around another biker who had lost control of their motorcycle and slammed into a boulder. That scene always comes back to me when I ride the Byway.

But yesterday, I took the Road Star again, but this time found myself anxiously wanting every curve that it could throw at me. Feeling the pull of the centrifugal forces had become a high that I longed for. Riding a cruiser, you sit "in" the motorcycle, rather than perched atop, and this connection to the bike makes me feel like the motorcycle itself.

The motorcycle gods must have been smiling on us that day, because we encountered some of lightest traffic we ever saw along the Byway. Riding up Highway 138, which offers the tighest switchbacks of them all, we encountered only a few cars in front of us, and they all pulled over to let us by. Cool!

When we got past Crestline, the traffic picked up as we merged onto Highway 18, and found ourselves behind many slower moving vehicles. But much to our amazement, they all either turned on to other roads, or moved over to let us by. Damn!

After lunch in Big Bear Lake, we continued on Highway 38 to make the descent down from the mountains, and encountered only one car along the entire distance, about 45 miles, and blew past him easily. Fuck!

Never before have I ever been able to enjoy this stretch of road and being able to ride at whatever speed I wanted to go. Better yet, I found no sand or debris on the road, which you'll often find along the 38.

We started the ride with six of us, there was myself, Tom, and Mike, from our riding club, and three others joining us from the Meetup group that I run. We hadn't ridden with those three before, and leading the group I kept grappling over the question of maintaining a slow enough pace to keep the group together, or if I should open it up and capitalize on this unique riding opportunity. I decided to capitalize.

Rim of the World Scenic Byway
That's my Roadie in the front

Big Bear Mountain

Tom was riding behind me, followed the by the three others, and then Mike in the back. Heading up Highway 138, into the tighest part of the twisties, I accelerated as fast I as I could take the Road Star and Tom was right there behind all the way. Meanwhile, we lost sight of the others. When we reached Crestline, we pulled over and waited for them.

I kinda felt guilty about leaving them behind, and so from Crestline all the way to Big Bear Lake, I maintained a more moderate pace, accelerating into some of the curves, and then slowing down a bit to let the rest catch up. I could sense Tom's anxiousness to ride faster, but I held steady with the pace.

Where else did we have lunch in Big Bear Lake but at B's Backyard BBQ? It's gotta be one of the top BBQ joints in all of SoCal. The pulled pork sandwich and the beef brisket sandwich are mouth watering.

The three from the Meetup group decided to not to continue on with the ride, electing to stay in Big Bear, because one of them had a cabin there and wanted to get some work done on it.

So myself, Tom and Mike continued on highway 38. This time I opened the throttle back up. About the first 20 miles of this part consists of easy riding, mostly straight road and wide sweepers. It's not until you get to Jenks Lake that highway 38 tightens up and the real fun begins.

Tom and Mike were keeping pace with me, and the three of us were grinding a few more millimeters of steel off our bikes as we made skrishhhhhhhhhh sounds around the radius of nearly every curve, leaning our bikes as far as we could lean 'em, and riding them as fast as we could ride 'em. Today was our day. The motorcycle gods opened up this road just for us, and we took advantage of it. It was giving me the sense that the three of us had jelled as part of our "riding club", a club that exists for none other than the thrill of riding motorcycles, sharing the same riding philosophy, and sharing a certain understanding.

For a moment I imagined myself standing on the side of the road, watching these three riders ride by, except in slow motion, and without any sound. I could see the look of concentration on their faces, their bodies leaning over with the bikes, the wheels spinning in slow motion, and the sparks flying from the floorboards.

Then the sounds comes back, the motion speeds back up, and the entire scene whizzes by in a blur.

We ended the day at the Ponderosa Bar in Sun City, and over some beers we relished the ride we just enjoyed together, and talked about how perfect it was.

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Broken Harley Shift Linkage

Yesterday, the shift linkage on my Electra Glide broke. I was lucky to have discovered this in my garage.

The best I could figure is that it actually failed somewhere on a ride last Thursday, but managed to stay on until I got home.

The linkage itself didn't break, it was the piece that connects the linkage to the front shift lever. This piece uses a "ball and cuff" joint, allowing the linkage to move forward and backward as you operate the heel-toe shifter. After so much usage, the ball wears down, and eventually slips out of the cuff.

Shift Linkage Harley Davidson Broken

Harley Shift Linkage

I've read from others on various Harley-Davidson forums that this happens all the time. My shift linkage was the original linkage on the bike, and lasted for 47,000 miles. That's pretty good actually. Many others have reported a broken shift linkage in the 15K to 20K mile range.

So I went to Quaid Harley-Davidson in Temecula to see what I could do to repair it. I thought all I needed is a new "ball" to replace the old one. Turns out they don't sell that. They can only sell you a whole new shift linkage, with all new hardware.

It wasn't too bad, it only cost me $20.00.

Harley custom shift linkageI also looked at the "custom" shift linkages they sell. These attach to the shift-levers using a "heim joint", which appears to me as being more reliable and less likely to fail. Except the basic model was priced at $87.00. Screw that.

I figure I'll try to get myself another 47,000 miles on this stock replacement.

So I took it home, and put it on.

As I looked at the old broken linkage in my hands, all I could think about was how Harley designed this linkage to fail. In their parts department, the custom shift linkages are highly visible to any customer walking in. If you didn't know better, you'd think that those were the stock pieces. They were hoping suckers Harley owners would see those instead and pay more than four-times higher than what they needed to pay.

As far as the Motor Company is concerned, each motorcycle they sell is a piggy bank, their piggy bank that is. That motorcycle is designed to collect money for them. It might make only a few hundred dollars a year, or it might make tens of thousands. But it will make money guaranteed.

It's like how they say about video game consoles. The companies that make them lose money on the consoles themselves, but earn all the profits on game cartridges, and accessories.

But perhaps maybe I screwed myself over for having bought another stock shift linkage that will eventually fail. If this new shift linkage fails on me in only 20K miles or less, I'll figure out a way jury-rig the thing to stay on.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Motorcycle Meetup Groups

Motorcycle Meetup GroupsIn addition to being in a riding club, I also coordinate a riding group called, "Temecula Motorcycle Riders Meetup Group". It's hosted on a website called, "Meetup.com". It gives me a way to reach out to the public, and meet new riders, and hopefully make some friends.

If you don't already know about Meetup.com, go there. Type in your zip-code, and then run a search for "motorcycle". I'm sure you'll find some local groups.

In Meetup.com you'll find thousands of groups in all niches, from parenting, to sci-fi, to poodles, and of course motorcycling.

So, all I did was set up a group for people who live in my area who like to ride cruiser and touring style motorcycles. Then I'll post a ride or get-together on there, and see who wants to show up. Right now, I have 111 people in my group.

On average, I get about 2-10 riders showing up. That's perfect for me. All I want from the Meetup group is to find some fresh faces, and hopefully make a good friend out of one of them.

There are other motorcycle-based Meetup groups in my area that seem to get larger turn outs. I imagine the reasons for this could be many. Some are open to all motorcycles, including sportbikes and dualsports. Some tend to take on a more structured style of group riding, which perhaps favors the newbie riders. Others yet take more of a leadership role in providing the fun and activities.

I tend to take less of a leadership role, and leave it up to everyone on the ride to make it a fun outing, instead of me being responsible for the fun.

I also noticed some motorcycle Meetup groups are actually fundraising groups. They'll post a poker run, or bike night, as a way to raise funds for a charity. Some are even business-oriented, organizing an event at their place of business, to help boost sales or their own exposure.

The Meetup group is also a great way to find people for the riding club. I can evaluate people's riding skills and their attitudes, and decide if they're a good fit for the club, and if so, invite them over to our club's web forum.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Helmet Laws and Mary Peters

Helmet Laws and Mary PetersI wonder where the helmet laws, and the lack of, will be heading in the next few years.

Mary Peters, the secretary of the federal Department of Transportation, has made it publicly known that she's out to get every state to adopt a mandatory helmet law.

Peters claims to be a Harley rider herself, and cites a motorcycle accident she suffered as the inspiration for this crusade. She's actually visiting every state legislature, meeting with lawmakers, and urging them to adopt laws making helmet use a requirement. Wouldn't it be nice if Joe Schmucks like the rest of us could get such attention?

If my State of California rescinded its helmet laws, I'd still be wearing a helmet. Considering my accident history, it's a smart idea. But that's just my choice.

Making things worse is that newspaper editors around the country are picking up on this. I scan through all these newspapers everyday through my newsfeed reader, looking for material to blog about on Biker News Online. The past month they've been crammed with articles and editorials about the "skyrocketing rate" of motorcycle deaths.

And it all coincides with Mary Peters crusade.

Mandatory helmet use is just one in a long line of "big brother knows what's best for us" laws. There are also eyewear laws. And we have seatbelt laws. Child safety seat laws. Cell phone laws.

And if they can't take away our right to do something, they tax it so hard that we can't afford to do it anymore. Like smoke a cigarette.

They cite the need for these laws because such careless injuries and illnesses are a burden on the public healthcare system.

Well, if they didn't have a public healthcare system, then we wouldn't need it. But that's another argument for another day.

Any decrease in fatalities from nationwide helmet laws will be overcome by the quickly increasing rate of motorcycle and scooter owners. Even with mandatory helmet use in all 50 states, Mary Peters is not going to get the numbers she wants, because the sheer volume of riders will have increased, ensuring that fatalities will keep rising.

With gas prices closing in on $4.00 a gallon, we may be close to reaching a critical mass where legislators will take notice. If motorcycle rights organizations like ABATE, MRF, and BOLT can draw these riders into their court, and get them to vote, we may be electing lawmakers that believe in the freedom of choice.

In the meantime, Mary Peters is working quickly to get every state to adopt a mandatory helmet law, before the conditions fall away from her favor.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Earth Day Motorcycle Ride

Earth Day Motorcycle RideBeing that tommorrow is Earth Day (Apr 22), I guess we're supposed to observe the natural wonders of our planet, and recognize that we're slowly killing it.

"Phooey!" to that I say.

I was wanting to get some folks together for an "Earth Day Motorcycle Ride", where we celebrate by filling up our tanks with gas, and burning it all up with a 200 mile ride. But being that it falls on a Tuesday, I can't get anyone together.

For the record, I work from home, blogging all day long. Yeah, that's how I earn my living. I've got a bunch of websites, not necessarily motorcycle related. I don't commute to work, unless you consider walking from my bedroom to my home office, a commute. I can actually get a lot of work done at night, and spend time riding during the day. I'm kinda lucky that way.

But I believe this planet is far too complex and far too large for us to effect to any greater extent. The Earth has been through worse times before Man was ever around, and recovered quite well. Even if we engage in a full-blown nuclear World War, the Earth will still be here, and will still recover.

There's no way for us to destroy the planet.

If anything, what we're talking about is the destruction of human civilization as we know it. And by reading much of what environmentalists write about, I guess the destruction of civilization is what they'd prefer to have happen. So if the Earth will still be here, and will still recover, why are environmentalists complaining anyways?

Also, I don't subscribe to the theory that oil companies are purposely raising gasoline prices just to get rich, at least not in the sinister sense that many people seem to express.

Look, even though everyone is upset at the high gas prices, the fact of the matter is people still buy it up. You can go to any gas station, and still get all the gas you want. And that's what people are doing.

Obviously, gas prices are not "too high" if people are still buying it.

It's only when people buy less gasoline that we'll finally reach the point at which the market will no longer bear. That's when we can rightfully say that gasoline is too expensive.

There's also the argument that if oil companies built more refineries it would increase supplies and bring the prices down. That's true. But if people continue to buy gasoline despite the higher price, then why should oil companies fix what ain't broke? As long as people can afford the gasoline, technically there's no reason to build more refineries.

So while oil companies are indeed making record profits, it's only because we willfully give them the money.

You might say that we have no choice but to buy gasoline. That's not true. There are obviously other ways to transport ourselves, and cheaper ways to do it. But the problem is that no one wants these other ways. I mean who wants to walk, ride a bicycle, or God forbid, carpool? The fact is that gasoline is still cheap enough that driving solo in our cars remains affordable.

So how can we rightfully complain that oil companies are getting rich at our expense, when we're too lazy to utilize cheaper methods of transporation?

The complaining is stupid.

Gas prices are not too high. Most folks who complain about those prices are just too lazy to make the necessary lifestyle changes.

And since I still enjoy burning fossil fuels in my motorcycle, for nothing more than mere joy riding, I can't rightfully complain about oil companies either. If anything, all I can do is celebrate the fact that I can still buy gasoline, and still enjoy my motorcycle.

Maybe for a rider like myself, that's what Earth Day means.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Reuniting with Old Riding Friends

If this week had any kind of theme to it, it's that I was able to reunite with some old riding friends that I hadn't ridden with in a long time.

Thursday, my friend Mel showed up for a ride to Carlsbad, to get some lunch at the Harbor Fish Cafe. I hadn't seen him in about 5 months. He's been going through a lot of life changes recently.

Friday afternoon, I hooked up with Kathy, who had been a member of the last riding club I was in. We rode down to Fallbrook to grab some burgers at downtown pub. For her, it's been work that's been keeping her away from the rest of the riding crowd. The other thing is that her new boyfriend is still learning how to ride, and he doesn't want to ride in a group yet.

Friday evening, I got together with Lori, and we rode out to Skip Fordyce Harley-Davidson to partake in their bike night. I hadn't seen her in a few months. She and her boyfriend have been riding south to San Diego to hang out with the HOG chapter there.

In fact at the bike night, I ran into Byron, a guy I've ridden with a few times, but hadn't seen since last Fall. So we talked about what's been going on. He's just been doing his own thing.

Saturday afternoon (earlier today), my friend Tom and I ran into Chris, a guy we rode with a few months ago. We found him chowing down on a burger at Killarney's Irish Pub in Temecula. Chris is a newcomer to the Riverside County area. He's been busy working on his new house.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Will Bikers Ever Influence Politics?

About two years ago, me and several members of my old riding club attended an ABATE meeting in Riverside, CA.

That night Kevin Jeffries was there to speak. He was a Republican running for the 66th State Assembly District. He said that Dennis Hollingsworth, a man who previously held the seat he was running for, told him not to underestimate the power of the motorcycling community.

So Jeffries was here to win the support of the local ABATE chapter. He talked about his support of bikers' rights, repealing the helmet law, going after crazy drivers, and putting the focus on bigger issues rather than nailing people for ticky-tacky stuff.

In the end, Jeffries won the 66th seat.

We'll never know how much the biker community helped him. The Inland Empire of Southern California is a red community, and have always supported the Republican Party.

Over the years, as I've blogged for Biker News Online, I've come across other news pieces that describe the biker community as a powerful lobby. I've heard of accusations that ABATE reaches pretty deeply inside state politics, for the fact that many legislators are motorcycle riders themselves. I don't really know if these far-reaching tentacles are in fact the case.

I tend to think not.

If every motorcycle rider was a registered voter, and actually voted every time there was an election, then certainly an organization like ABATE would become a very powerful lobby. ABATE would be able to pick the legislators in California, and perhaps across the country.

But most riders I know don't vote.

Most riders I know don't even understand the ballot initiatives.

I think ABATE is a great organization, but being a member of ABATE isn't enough. There needs to be another organization that makes it mission to get bikers registered to vote, and to remind them to vote.

Once bikers establish a reputation for being consistent voters, legislators will listen. Only then, will we be heard.

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Motorcycle Accidents Will Happen to Everyone

Motorcycle AccidentsLast summer, my friend Mel and I took a ride with some other folks up to Idyllwild, CA. We headed up Highway 243. There's a place on this direction of the 243 that has you coming downhill and approaching a very tight curve. It's caused many accidents.

A couple riding an Electra Glide, behind Mel and I, wiped out on this curve. Mel and I didn't know it at the time, and kept going. Finally, we turned around when we realized that they were too far back.

I'm still not sure why they went down. I'm told these were veteran riders. Mel and I went through that curve without a hitch, and they were riding no faster than we.

Ultimately, that couple opted to stop riding.

The old saying from the die-hard riding establishment is...
"There are two kinds of riders, those who have crashed, and those who will crash."
Statistically, it's inevitable. Fate eventually catches up to you if you give it enough chances. There's no way around it.

I spend my time on "newbie rider forums". There are some out there on the Internet, places where beginners can go online and talk solely on the topic of getting started. I like to do my part in answering questions and helping them understand what they're getting into.

Everyone should take safety seriously. But there's a community of riders that seem to take an anal approach to it. They're concern is that you can never be safe enough, and can never get enough training. And when a crash happens, these people evaluate what the rider could have done to prevent it. "He should not have stayed that long in the cager's blind spot". Or, "When he approached the intersection, he should have anticipated a crash and slowed down a little".

I respond back to these people and say, "look, you can always point your finger at something, and find blame in the rider. But there's always 20/20 vision in hindsight. Even the most skilled and experienced riders get into accidents".

The response I get back is that, "yes but, wearing full protective gear, and constantly practicing will reduce the chances of serious injury and mistakes".

And to that I reply, "If you're that concerned about staying safe, then why are you riding a motorcycle?"

So what I tell the newbies is that motorcycling is inherently dangerous, and that YOU WILL crash, and it will hurt. Whether it's your fault, or a cager's fault, you must prepare yourself with this fact. You're going to suffer some broken bones. It will happen, I promise. And if you can live with that, then you're ready to ride.

Some of these riders who I'm always at odds with try to write me off as some kind of outlier, someone who doesn't represent the established opinion. Perhaps that's true. But I can't be written off. They create this sense of insecurity that you're never doing enough to protect yourself, and if you happen to crash, they'll find some reason why you failed.

This causes newbies to fear themselves.

You can never enjoy motorcycling if you keep this cloud hovering over your conscience. Instead, accept the fact that you will crash, it won't necessarily be your fault, and then you can truly enjoy the thrill of riding. Those who feel that being safe is more important than anything else, has no business being on a motorcycle.

So back to that couple that decided to give up on motorcycling. I think they did what many other people have done. They evaluated the risks inherent to motorcycling, and realized that there is no way to be totally safe. To them, motorcycling is not so important. They have many more ways to spend time together.

I tell people that I'm on my fourth life. I've had three injurious motorcycle accidents going back to my college days, and up to about a couple of years ago. One of them put me in the hospital for eight days. I still can't stay away from my motorcycle. I suppose I've cheated the Devil thus far.

I know I'll be crashing again however, and the next time he might get me.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Road Trip Photos Posted

Coronado Trail Road TripI've posted photos of my recent road trip on my Flickr page...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ 18776683@N00/sets/72157604491245647/

Am still waiting for Brian to upload his photos.

Here's an description of our trip...

Day 1 (Sun Apr 6): Left Temecula, heading south on Hwy 79. Went east on Hwy S2, through Anza Borrego Desert State Park, and took a break at the Vallecito Stage Station. Continued down the S2, and took the I-8 east. Stopped in Yuma to visit Trevor, a guy in our riding club, who's there doing some training in the Marines. Had lunch with him at a Buffalo Wild Wings. Then continued east on the I-8 until we got to Benson. Then headed south on Hwy 90 to the Kartchner Caverns. We were supposed to camp there, but we got there too late, and the place was gated up. We headed back to Benson and got a room at a Motel 6.

Day 2 (Mon Apr 7): Left Benson heading east on the I-8. We then headed north on US 191, and took that up to Morenci, AZ. Had lunch at the Morenci Motel, which was recommended to us as the best eats in Morenci. Then we gassed up, and continued up US 191. At this point, we were on the Coronado Trail (read more about this here), which continued for about 123 miles to the town of Alpine, AZ. We got to Alpine, and continued north to Lyman Lake, where we stopped to camp overnight.

Day 3 (Tue Apr 8): Left Lyman Lake heading north to St. Johns, AZ, where we had breakfast at Speedy B's, and what appeared to be the popular eatery in the town. We then veered west on Hwy 61, and soon after, north on US 180. We took that up to the Petrified Forest National Park. We rode into the park, and did some walking around and photographing. At the north end of the park, we jumped on to I-40 heading west into the town of Sun Valley. There we gassed up, and went north on Hwy 77 into the Navajo Indian Reservation. Then we hooked up with Hwy 264, and took that all the way to Tuba City, where we stopped for gas and rested at a Sonic Drive In. The entire Navajo Indian Reservation is probably the most boring place to ride in all of Arizona. From Tuba City, we hooked up with US 89, and went south to Hwy 64, and then went west into the Grand Canyon National Park. There we set up camp, and had dinner at the Maswik Lodge cafeteria.

Day 4 (Wed Apr 9): We actually headed south on US 180 out of the Grand Canyon Park, so that we could get gas at Moqui. Then went back into the park, and headed east High 64. We connected with US 89, and took that north to Marble Canyon, where we stopped to check out the Navajo Bridges and take a butt break. We also donned our rain gear because the clouds looked very threatening. We continued west on US 89 and entered into the Kaibab National Forest where the road gets a lot more exciting. Eventually, it took us across the Utah border and into the town of Kanab. We had dinner there at a place called, "KC's BBQ and Grill". We also stocked up on beverages at the local state liquor outlet. We continued up US 89, and then jumped on Hwy 9 into Zion National Park. There we set up camp, and hunkered down for the night.

Day 5 (Thu Apr 10): We left Zion National Park heading west on Hwy 9, and eventually connecting to I-15. There we headed south and got into the city of Mesquite, NV, and stopped to have breakfast at the Eureka Casino, which was recommended to us by a friend of Brian's. We had originally talked about taking the ride through Valley of Fire and Lake Mead, but decided to opt for the Mt. Charleston loop instead. So leaving Mesquite, we continued down I-15 to the 215 in Las Vegas. We took the 215 over to the US 95, and headed north to Hwy 156. There we headed up towards Mt. Charleston and completed the loop back to US 95. Then we headed south, connected with I-15 again, and went home to Southern California. We actually stopped in Baker so that I could stock up on some "Alien Fresh Jerky", before making it home.

I still have figured the total mileage, but I'm guessing it's somewhere between 1,800 and 2,000 miles.

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Motorcycle Camping - How To

motorcycle campingPitching a tent has never been something I looked forward to. I guess in all of my cityboyishness, I saw camping as a curiosity; I never saw the virtues of trying to adapt to nature the way wild animals do.

But then again, the reason why many of us ride motorcycles is to experience the freedom of the open road, to get just a little bit closer to nature than we could in a car, and to shed ourselves from much of the technology that protects us and makes our lives more comfortable.

So it stands to reason that if you take a road trip on your two-wheeled contraption, you'd sleep under the stars, and experience the ultimate of freedom. Besides, if you want to become a "tough as nails" biker, then what better way is there than to rough it?

Such as what I did on my last road trip with Brian. Brian is big on camping; it's practically a requirement for him. I don't mind camping, but given a choice, I'd take the motel. But because money has been tight for me lately, camping provides an economic advantage.

Two of the places we planned to camp at, the Grand Canyon, and Zion National Park, were forecast to get really cold at night. I'm talking below freezing, like in the 20s. I knew that my cheap $20 flannel sleeping bag wasn't going to cut it. So I went to several sporting good stores to find something warmer, but all the sleeping bags rated for 20 or 30 degrees were too bulky. I didn't want to pack something that big on my Electra Glide.

So I ended up buying a second $20 flannel sleeping bag with the idea of bringing both, and doubling them up. Each one squeezes down to a really small size. My wife convinced me to at least take a blanket with me as well.

I also packed up my tent, air mattress, and two fold-up chairs. In addition, I had my T-Bag filled with a few days of clothing and toiletries. I also brought my rain pants because the weather forecast called for rain on one of the days. Then there were the little things, like a flashlight, matches, and extra batteries.

So when we finally got to the Grand Canyon, it was already really cold, probably in the 40s, and still not quite dark yet. When I crawled into the tent to go to sleep, I was wearing my t-shirt with a sweatshirt over that. I was in one of the sleeping bags, with the second sleeping bag over that. Then I had my blanket over that, and my leather jacket over my feet.

And I was still cold.

Part of the problem was the damn air mattress. It seems the air inside the mattress was the same temperature as the outdoors. It was like sleeping on an ice cube, and trying to pile on as many covers to keep myself warm. Pretty much a lost cause.

There were times, however, that I was able to drift off to sleep. But it wouldn't be for long. I was probably awake more often than asleep.

I think it would have better to get a foam-style pad that you can fold or roll up. It's also better to just get a thermal sleeping bag, one rated for 20 degrees, and that rolls up as small as you can get it.

The other problem is that I don't have a rack on the TourPak of my Electra Glide. That's really a big must for road trips. I kinda like the look of the TourPak without the rack. But then again, the Glide is a bike made for travelling. I wonder why Harley just didn't make it standard.

You'll also want to get a large piece of plastic sheeting, about 8 feet by 8 feet. Lay that down on the ground first, before laying your tent. It'll make the tent a lot less dirty when folding the tent back up.

If you buy a cord of firewood at a nearby store, buy about three cords. These days, the wood they use for firewood burns really fast, and lasts only for about 45 minutes.

My buddy Brian brought all his food with him. I didn't. I like to sample the local fare. I went to some cool places, like Speedy B's in St. John's, AZ; get their Spanish Omelette. Or also try KC's BBQ and Grill, in Kanab, UT for their seafood sampler. I guess can't understand a road trip where you don't get to discover what the locals eat.

As far as campgrounds go, we stayed at various State and National Parks. State Parks usually don't have an entrance fee, just a camping fee. National Parks, however, charge you to enter, and to camp. In that case, get yourself a National Park Pass. They cost $80.00 per year, compared to paying $25.00 each time you enter a park, and they'll get into any National Park.

The cool thing about a National Park Pass is they can extend to a second motorcycle. The Feds consider a second motorcycle to be the equivalent of a second person inside of a car. However, in order to make this work, the person riding the second motorcycle must also sign their name on the back of the Park Pass. In that case, the Park Pass will only apply to the persons who've signed it.

Most campgrounds have showers. State Parks tend to offer free showers, while the National Parks will ream you. At the Grand Canyon, the shower facilities are rigged up to coin-op machines. For eight quarters, you get eight minutes. Make sure to bring lots of quarters, or find yourself a change machine before you get naked. At the Grand Canyon, they had separate men's and women's shower rooms. While at Lyman Lake, a State Park, they had just one co-ed shower room.

In all the places we camped, people kept complimenting us for our guts to travel on a motorcycle, and camp outdoors. Some of them said that just camping alone was trying enough, and that they would never risk riding a motorcycle. And thus to combine both was really inspiring. I wasn't sure how to respond. Motorcycle camping really isn't that tough.

This wasn't my first time camping on a motorcycle, I've done it on other road trips. And it's been "ok". But this last time did shake some of the "cityboyishness" from my mind. It actually does feel good to sleep outdoors.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Coronado Trail (US 191) - Ride Report

The Coronado Trail, US 191, ArizonaJust got back home last night from a five-day road trip through Arizona, Utah, and Nevada.

I'm still kinda tired from the whole thing.

The point of the ride was two-fold, one to do a long ride out of California and see lots of the countryside, and two to ride the Coronado Trail.

The Coronado Trail, US 191, which I described in an earlier post (link), has been described by many as being the most twistiest highway in the entire USA. It runs for 123 miles between the towns of Clifton and Springerville, AZ, and features about 500 switchbacks and sweepers, with a 3,500 ft elevation gain to about as high as 8,500 feet.

View Larger Map

A lot has been said of the "Tail of the Dragon", US 129, in North Carolina, as being the most challenging road to ride, with 318 curves in only 11 miles. While the Coronado Trail runs 123 miles, it's technically less twisty. But if you ask me, I'd rather ride 123 miles of twisties, than just 11.

I've read some forum posts from people who have ridden the Coronado Trail and said that it was so twisty, that by half-way through they wished it for it end soon. I kept this thought in the back of my mind as I rode along the highway. Yet, no where did I ever feel like wanting it to end. Quite the opposite, I wanted it to keep on going.

What also makes the Coronado Trail so fun to ride, is that it has very little traffic. Albeit, we rode this on a Monday afternoon. We encountered only one car in front of us, and we blew past him easily. Otherwise, for the 123 mile stretch, no other road blocks. How often can you ride such a great road for that long without any obstructions?

We started the ride at the southern end, by approaching US 191 from Interstate 8, east of Willcox, AZ. Much of US 191 at this point is easy to ride, with great views of grassy hills. Once you get into Clifton, the scene switches to steep canyon walls and mining operations. Once you get past the town of Morenci, the fun begins.

The first 10 miles of the Coronado Trail are probably the most tightest of twisties. Nearly every curve is a 10-15mph switchback. And you're quickly gaining in elevation too. The road actually runs through the Morenci Mine, the largest copper mine in the USA. The road here is red with the dust from the mine.

There was quite a bit of dirt and sand on the road in this first section, requiring us to ride it more carefully. Too bad. This was probably the most challenging part of the road. I suppose the dirt and sand makes it a challenge. My buddy Brian, who tends to ride it a lot harder than I, mentioned his rear tire slipping on many occasions.

Somewhere, about halfway through the ride, we hit upon a series of sweepers, about 15-20 in all, each of which was seemingly the same length and radius. I could get the bike going about 55mph through each one, and was leaning all the way to the right, and then switch quickly all the way to the left. I kept doing this 15-20 times in rhythm, as the road demanded, and felt the G forces pulling me down into my seat.

The Coronado Trail, US 191

There are also some really great viewpoints along the Coronado Trail. Since the road takes you up to as high as 8,500 feet, you can see a lot of countrside. Some of this is just breathtaking.

Once you get to Hannagan Meadow, the road becomes less twisty, and is very easy to ride, but is no less scenic.

Perhaps what struck me the most about the Coronado Trail is that the road is so lonely. We saw very few cars, even in going the opposite direction. Considering what an enjoyable road it is, it would be absolute gem if I could only ride it more often.

After the ride, Brian asked me if this road was everything I thought it would be. I said "yes" only because I had a lot of fun riding it. In the back of mind, however, I was kinda disappointed. That is, I kept thinking about what some other people said, that it was SO twisty, that they couldn't wait for it to be over. In that sense, I expected something excrutiatingly twisty. But it wasn't like that at all.

So now, I want to ride The Tail of the Dragon, just to see how twisty it is, and how it compares to the Coronado Trail. Either way, I'm sure it won't compare. How can 11 miles of twisties be any better than 123 miles of twisties?

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Riding Clubs That Push Boundaries

bad ass bikersA year and a half ago, I published an article entitled, "Got My Ass Kicked Out of Star", which described a web forum of folks who used to be members of Yamaha's sanctioned riding club, "Star Touring and Riding". For one reason or another, these folks left Star Touring, or got kicked out, and now congregate on GMAKOOS to compare their thoughts.

Just today, that article received a comment from someone who said they've seen some active Star Touring members pushing the limits of their riding club...
Recently have seen on more than one occaision Star folks wearing their bottom rocker well off their logo patch, making it almost looks like a hmmmm, territory claim. I guess the days of Riding Clubs flying under the real deal are over. The new, "I'll wear what I want when I want" mentality seems to be rapant.

Someone suggested bringing differences to the CoC. LAMO, well, I imagine we get to many groups of Riding Club folks wearing territory rockers thats exactly where their officers will end up. Explaining to the CoC why the little fish decided to come swim in the big fish pond.
I can't vouch for this, since I don't really ride with Star Touring, and while I do see them riding around from time to time, I don't pay much attention. However, I can agree that riding clubs today continue to evolve, and in some cases, blur the lines between what separates them from motorcycle clubs. I can also say that some motorcycle clubs are perhaps better defined as riding clubs. So, it's mutual.

In some states, the COC include riding clubs into their membership. Here in Southern California, the local COC doesn't (at least as far as I am aware).

But as long as some riding clubs continue to take this "It's a free country, I can do whatever I want attitude", I fear that the COC will eventually take action, and force riding clubs to rethink their memberships and organizational structures.

Riding clubs here in Southern California can pretty much exist without any concern for the COC. It would be prudent however, to partake in COC sanctioned runs and events, be active in ABATE, support charitable causes, and generally do what you can to give bikers from all walks of life a good image.

Creating this "good image" is largely what riding clubs give back to the motorcycle world. The general public doesn't really know the difference between riding clubs and motorcycle clubs. So when they see riding clubs as normal people, enjoying comraderie, being considerate of others, and supporting charitable causes, it gives motorcycle clubs a better image.

But those members of riding clubs who don't understand this, end up pushing the boundaries. And as long as it goes unchecked, it gets worse and worse. They simply don't understand the decades of bikers who paid the price with their own life and blood to create the stereotype that these RUBs and posers now delight in as role play.

If they continue to show disrespect to motorcycle clubs, or continue to cross the line, someone, somewhere, is going to have enough, and will take it upon themselves to educate in a rather uncomfortable way.

The leaders of riding clubs generally do understand these dynamics, the problem is that some of these clubs have "open memberships", where anyone can join without qualification. All they have to do is fill out a form, or pay a membership fee. Within seconds they become full-fledged, patchholding members, representing their club and fellow members.

A riding club like that, with tens of thousands of members, simply CANNOT control their members. They don't have the discipline. That's where the problem starts. You get some idiots wearing the patch of their riding club, acting foolish and disrespectful of motorcycle clubs. Or in the case of the above commenter, altered their patch to make it look like a territorial rocker, and infringed on the territory of another MC. That's why I left the large riding clubs and stuck with the small ones; I don't want to share a patch with someone I don't know.

My senses tell me that this is going to get worse before it gets any better.

In America, you certainly do have the right to do whatever you want. However, the motorcycle community is not like the square-dance community, or the scrapbooking community, or even the model airplane community. There's a method to the madness, and you have to pay your dues if you want to play.

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Learning a New Motorcycle

Yamaha V-Star 1300My friend Tom just bought a new motorcycle a couple of weeks ago. He got himself a 2007 Yamaha V-Star 1300.

He says he got it for free. But in reality, he traded in two of his motorcycles, a 2002 Honda Shadow Sabre 1100, and a 2003 Honda VTX1800, which apparently the dealer accepted for a straight up swap.

So today, when he showed up on this new 1300, I said "Where'd you get that piece of shit bike"?

He said, "Hell yeah it's a piece of shit! I'm thinking of taking this shitty mother fucker back!"

I said, "You mean you really think it's a piece of shit?"

He said, "Yeah, I don't like it at all."

He went on to explain that he loved the performance of the motorcycle, but he hated the ergonomics. He didn't like the foot placement, he didn't like the body placement, he didn't like the handlebars. The handlebars were the biggest problem. He said many other V-Star 1300 owners change out the bars, according to posts he read on various forums.

He also said the way the bars are designed, combined with the seating position and food placement, is making his back hurt.

I have to admit, as we rode off to get some lunch, I pulled up next to him and looked at his body, leg, and arm positions. He looked like someone holding open a newspaper, sitting on the toilet, with a case of burning diarrhea.

I remember when I first got my Electra Glide, I had some problems getting used to the ergonomics after having ridden a Yamaha Road Star for a couple of years. My left arm and shoulder would get sore. But since then, I've gotten used to it, and don't feel any soreness.

I figure that's largely what it is.

I did sit on his bike and tried to get a feel for the handlebar placement. I agree with him, it's a little awkward. But I imagine it's something my body could acclimate to.

On the other hand, Tom had back surgery just a little over a year ago. He's not as flexible as I am.

His other problem is that he couldn't manuever this bike as well as his old VTX. He used to take that VTX hard into the twisties, and just burn the crap out of the roads. It had been as if that bike was designed for his body, and he could crank the throttle and hang on for a good ride.

But he looked lost on this V-Star 1300. He didn't know how to lean. He didn't know how far he could lean. The bike wasn't reacting the way he was expecting it to. He was learning a whole new bike.

After having lunch in Idyllwild, CA, we headed north along Highway 243, towards Beaumont. I watched his brake lights come on in places where I wasn't used to seeing his brake lights come on. I watched him misjudge the curves and stray across the double yellow. 20 miles later, we began our descent into Beaumont, hitting the tightest part of the twisties. I was now watching him manuever like he did on the VTX.

I saw him approach the curves with precision, cutting into the inside on a hard lean, and accelerating out like a sling shot. It was as if he stopped fighting the bike, and heard the voice Obi Wan Kanobi, "Trust your feelings Thomas!"

At the bottom of the mountain, he pulled over to the side and stopped the bike. He said to me how much he loved riding the 243. He recounted some great memories of riding it before, and that it was one of the best roads in SoCal. He didn't say anything about his new bike, but it was clear he was having fun riding it.

I think the V-Star 1300 is a fine motorcycle, and I think he's going to love it a lot. He still says he's going to change out the bars.

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Paying Dues to the Wives

lonely roadI'm writing this blog entry from a hotel in Las Vegas. Since I'm heading out next Sunday on a 5-day road trip with my buddy Brian, I decided to make it up to my wife by taking her out to Las Vegas for a night.

She was actually pretty cool about me leaving her behind for 5 days. She knows how much I love to ride and do these road trips. And because she was cool about it, it just made me want to make it up to her. (roll your eyes here).

Meanwhile, Brian gave me a call yesterday to say that he's taking his wife to dinner on Friday night, and then spending the whole day with her Saturday, as a way to appease the woman. So it looks like paying your dues to the wife is a common occurrence.

Actually, a while back I said to several of us in our club, that the reason why we're able to ride so often together, is because we all have wives that understand our riding habits, and support us 100%. I suppose if my wife always gave me crap about riding, I'd still go riding anyways, but we'd have a pretty sorry marriage. So knowing that she's making a sacrifice in this regards, I try to make a sacrifice too.

I know some wives would want to ride along, but my wife doesn't like riding for the enjoyment of riding. She likes the social aspects of hanging out with others. Anytime we do more than 300 miles a day, she just doesn't want to go.

On the other hand, taking an overnighter to Las Vegas is not exactly a sacrifice for me. While I'm not much of a gambler, I do like the buffets, and I do like to slip a $20 into a video poker machine, and try to make it last for a couple of hours. I have fun in Vegas too.

I guess if I truly had to make a sacrifice, I'd take her to a Barry Manilow concert (which I have had to do before), or a Faith Hill concert. I'm planning to do a 14-day ride this coming August, and I imagine I'll have to look into that.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Planning A 5-Day Road Trip

Next Sunday, my buddy Brian and I will be heading out on a 5-day road trip through Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. If you include California, it makes four states.

The goal of the trip is to ride the famed, "Coronado Trail", officially known as US Highway 191.

In the early days, it was US Highway 666, and earned the moniker, "The Devil's Highway", which some people still refer to it as.

I've seen references to this highway as being the most twistiest highway in the entire United States, with over 500 curves, much of which are 10-15mph switchbacks, along a 123 mile stretch between the towns of Morenci and Springerville. The road also includes a 5,000ft elevation gain, with the road reaching the 9,000ft level in some places. I've read reports from other riders who said they were eager to ride this road, only to find themselves exhausted from working the clutch lever.

Coronado Trail US Highway 191

It's also one of the most desolate roads, considering it's sparsely populated, and no services for about 100 miles. Sounds like my kind of road!

Well anyways, the plan is for us to ride out to Kartchner Caverns, just south of Benson, AZ, and camp overnight.

Then we'll head north and take the ride up Coronado Trail, and go all the way to Lyman Lake for another overnight camp.

Next, bear northwest, and I think maybe taking a ride through the Petrified National Forest. Then jumping on the I-40 west to the Grand Canyon, for our third night of camping.

We'll then head north bright and early and take the bridge over the Colorado River up by Page, AZ. Then we'll make our way into Utah, and camp once again somewhere in Zion National Park.

For the last day, we'll head home down the I-15, through Nevada, and into Southern California.

I don't know if I'll be taking my laptop with me. I don't think I'll find much in terms of Wi-Fi access, particularly when we'll be pitching tents, and I'll be spending most of time riding or exploring by foot.

Well, I'm so glad that warmer weather is here. I've been thinking about doing road-trips all winter long.

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About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)