From Sea, to Sea, to Shining Sea : July-October 2013
I love America. I have been fortunate enough to visit that great country on five occasions, covering several thousands of miles around the East Coast (in a car) and seeing some beautiful sights and meeting wonderful people.
It has been my ambition for some years to travel across the continent on a motorbike and now I am fairly advanced in the planning of that adventure. The air tickets for my wife and I to Los Angeles are booked and paid for and the deposit for shipping the bike (2012 BMW R1200GS Adventure) has also been paid. The salient date, DV, is Friday 26 July, 2013.
The ride report is, at this point, a prologue. It sketches out the intended route around America and when that is done, will relate how the bike is being set up (I have learned that there is such a thing as a cigarette lighter powered hairdryer) and other observations from our preparations.
The bike is being shipped to Portland Oregon and we will make our way to Cannon Beach in order to validate the name of our trip :-) Perhaps there will be a photo of us with our feet in the Pacific Ocean.
We will head inland along the Columbia River Gorge, up into Washington, across Montana into Wyoming where we start heading south. Yellowstone and Grand Teton are on the list as we head towards Utah and Arizona. We will try and include all the obvious sights, but as we progress we hope folk will volunteer destinations from their own experience which we can consider.
Up again through Utah (Arches) and then into Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park) where we will observe how well a fully loaded bike performs at 12,000'! Quickly across Nebraska to something that I have wanted to see all my sapient life: Mt Rushmore. That is one of the world's truly great monuments to Democracy. We will have a look at the South Dakota Badlands and then head due East with Poynette Wisconsin on our radar, where Liz has family.
From there we will hit Milwaukee to catch the ferry across Lake Michigan. We have been encouraged to visit Frankenmuth, because one of Liz's great-something-grandfathers pastored a church there in the 1850's. Liz's Lutheran missionary pedigree runs very deep! There is also a very large Christmas store there (the Germans know how to celebrate Christmas!) which worries me a little as Liz, being of German parents, loves Christmas shops! We might have to find a post office.
We are then heading into Ontario, where we will visit one of my oldest friends just outside Toronto; and also another distant relative of Liz's (thanks, Facebook).
The route from Toronto has not yet been finalised. Depending on how we are for time, it may be through Ottawa and Montreal and then into New Hampshire to make the coast at say, Cape Cod; or down through Niagara Falls, Finger Lakes and some place in New York or New Jersey. Liz will fly from New York in late August to spend a week in South Africa visiting her family before returning to Melbourne. That is what one does when vacation time is limited.
But someone has to take the bike back to Portland; and that would be me :clap
I have a number of friends to visit in Pennsylvania, Northern and Southern Virginia and North Carolina. That will allow me to visit a number of battlefields from the War Between the States and also once again the Outer Banks of NC. I hope Ocracoke is as I remember it.
Heading across NC is the time the bike will be serviced, and perhaps a new tyre. That would be in Charlotte. After that, the Blue Ridge/Smokies is the aiming point. I look forward to their great natural beauty. I stop by in Northern Georgia to say hello to friends and then it is Alabama, Louisiana (perhaps another visit) Mississippi (I had to retype that several times) Arkansas, Oklahoma (another couple whom I haven't seen for thirty years), Texas, New Mexico, Colorado (properly), Wyoming, Idaho and finally Oregon, concluding the ride 'officially' at Florence for the obligatory photo.
That will take me in very late September or early October. I have to be back at work October 14th.
So, if you have lasted this long, thank you for reading and I congratulate you on your endurance!
My next post will be about choosing a bike for the trip; and then on how it is being set up.
Coast to coast
Congrats on getting the first steps of your trip out of the way! Sounds like a wonderful adventure with your significant other. Having grown up in the Columbia River Gorge (White Salmon) I would encourage you to make a short detour before getting to the Gorge to see Mt. St. Helens. Also, take Hwy 14 up the Washington side of the Gorge as it is much more scenic and more fun than the freeway on the Oregon side. One more stop you should make is at Bonneville Dam and take the tour. If you need a place to do maintenance or take a breather you are welcome to whatever space you can find at our place in Idaho Falls (near Yellowstone).
Coast to Coast
Thanks very much for your route suggestions - which will be followed at least in part - and indeed, your offer of space in Idaho Falls. If we are at all within striking distance, we will pass by and make your acquaintance. Your interest is greatly appreciated!
Selecting the Bike
I have a few days off work while I recuperate from a double hernia repair, so this, for a while, takes my mind off the discomfort in my belly.
For fifteen years I owned a BMW K100LT. I was very happy with it. In March 2011, when parked in a parking bay outside the doctor, a woman reversed her X5 into it. ("I didn't see it." The important word missing from that statement is 'sorry'). The cost of repair was greater than the market value and so her insurance company wrote me a cheque.
After a detailed search of the second hand market I found a 2005 BMW R1200RT. It was bright red; and when my wife saw it across the showroom floor and said 'that's a nice bike', I didn't hesitate and pulled out my wallet. Well, what a dream it was! Superb, absolutely superb handling even at illegal speeds (we have some fine country roads here) and I thought that would be the bike to see me out.
This bike once again fired my imagination and enthusiasm for the Ride Across America and my dream started morphing into planning. In early 2012 I thought I should do the wise thing and ask my wife if she wanted to come with me (as pillion). She thought about it for about five seconds and, somewhat to my surprise, said she would! Two conditions: a hot shower and a hair dryer every morning! Done!! :clap
With that settled I had a long, careful look at options. First idea was to buy a bike (BMW K1600GT) in the US, to the ride and then ship it home. Nope, the Australian government made that impossible. A pity, as bikes cost much less over there. Renting for more than four weeks was prohibitively expensive, so I was looking at buying, riding and then selling. That was the - rather high risk - plan until I found a crowd www.getrouted.com.au whose price for return shipping and back was acceptable AND who delivered to our preferred departure point: Portland Oregon.
That being so, the RT was going on the ride of its life - not. I soon realised that to accommodate my wife and I for that period of time luggage space was needed, and then some. Research (been doing a lot of that) led me to conclude that the bike for the trip was to be a BMW R1200 GS Adventure.
Apart from the ability to carry a load of stuff, the 33 litre fuel tank (8.7 gallons), electronic suspension adjustment, ABS and highway/off-road capability were highly desirable attributes. The decision was made to trade my beloved RT on a new R1200GSA which happened in September. It took the dealership only three days to on-sell. I still miss it.
Next instalment will be how the bike is being set up.
After getting the aluminium boxes, took the bike for a spin. This is near Mt Baw Baw, about and hour and a half east of Melbourne.
Setting Up the Bike - Luggage
From here I will walk through the add-ons I have acquired/am acquiring. Readers are welcome to critique what I am doing and constructive comments will be most welcome. I will certainly be posing questions about some of the things I am looking at and haven't yet decided on the best way to proceed. Hopefully I can benefit from the experience of those who have done this sort of thing before.
So here we are, not exactly a blank canvas, perhaps better described as raw material!
As I bought the bike principally for its luggage carrying capacity, the first thing on my mind was boxes. I researched Touratech, Jesse, MTD, Hepco and Becker and others besides. I also looked at Givi/Shad top boxes due to their extra capacity. However, within days of getting the bike, I bumped into a chap on Elizabeth Street who with his wife was on his way around the world. As we discussed his set-up, he sang the praises and convenience of the standard BMW aluminium adventure boxes. That was good enough for me and BMW Motorcycles Southbank did a reasonable price. The locks are all keyed alike, which is a sine qua non.
Liz was impressed but needed more space. A BMW tank bag was ordered from www.motorworks.co.uk at a very competitive price AND they know what customer service is. Tez and John, thank you! Still not enough, so two Universal pannier top bags were acquired from Hornig, Germany. Wunderlich make something very similar. And to round it all out, I acquired liner bags for the side panniers from Kathy's Journey Designs. (I think get to use the tank bag :eek1)
The next instalment will be about guards and other enhancements.
After Market Guards/Protection/Miscellaneous
Given the cost of a GSA and its intended purpose (some rough riding), it is disappointing that BMW sell it with so many items 'missing'. With any popular bike an after-market soon develops, but its thrust is more about customising appearances or improving performance. Fair enough for those who like to pimp their rides.
But Touratech, Wunderlich and others probably can't believe their luck that BMW has left so many openings for them to sell things that verge on the necessary. A bit of research reveals lists of 'must have' guards, even videos on YouTube which are sponsored by some of the aforementioned. So here is where I am at:
Two of the most popular guards are for the headlights and the oil cooler. Makes sense to me, although some of the club members (www.bmwmccvic.org.au) have been to all kinds of places covering great distances without them, sans mishap. Wunderlich got the nod for the oil cooler and I selected the BMW headlight cover and it was supplied by Motorworks UK. Fitting was straightforward and it looks good, too.
The Throttle Potentiometer Sensor on the left hand side inlet system looks exposed to me and so I ordered the Touratech cover in black. I ordered it from the Australian supplier and it took forever and cost the earth.
In October we received a few rain showers and having observed the amount of spray from the wheels, I quickly ordered a front mudguard extender/fender and inner rear mudguard/fender. Mudsling is popular but along with other offerings is twice the price of my eventual choice from Maier Plastics. I bought it from Iliumworks.com because their postage charge was better than Maier! I would suggest to readers that these additions (extremely easy to fit) be considered early, as it considerably reduces spray under and around the bike and perhaps most importantly, it saves the legs of the pillion from becoming soaked and dirty.
On order are the following:
Clutch, front and rear brake reservoir guards and anti-tamper oil filler cap (Rugged Roads UK via Motorworks)
Exhaust Flap Guard (Wunderlich) (This seems a necessity to me, as it really looks vulnerable)
I am still considering the Fuel Line protectors from Touratech. No question they look neat and cool, but $113 for two bits of aluminium wire! However, I am leaning towards them...
In the miscellaneous category I have bought a Touratech Cockpit 2, which, apart from neatening up the instrument surround, has two auxiliary powerpoints (one cigarette lighter and one Powerlet) which bypass the CANBUS system. I bought this from Hornig, and it was cheaper than direct from Touratech.
Because I am 6'4" / 193cms, I considered it necessary to raise the handlebars. From the plethora of options, I selected a rather utilitarian option from Hornig and up they went 40mms. It was very cost competitive, easy to fit (the cables are a little tight but are ok) and what a difference it makes!
One thing that has worried me about the GSA (and the RT before it) is that the mirrors have really significant blind spots. The Germans call it 'Toten Winkel'. Last year I bought some mirrors for the RT from Multivex Mirror Company in the USA. Their first delivery was incorrect - they sent me round mirrors, which they said I could keep. Guess what? They fit the GSA and the blind spots are virtually gone. I can see vehicles in my peripheral vison as they move out of the mirrors. Sadly, it seems as if Multivex are closing, but MV Verholen and Wunderlich also make mirrors that also purport to reduce the blind spots.
I will post a few photos over the weekend.
Next instalment will be about electronics, specifically a GPS and satellite tracker. I have an iPhone and Cardo Scala Q2 headsets which will play a part in determining the solutions. Hopefully some readers will weigh in with their experiences and recommendations!
Some of the After-market Guards I have fitted
Some photos of the stuff I have already put on the bike.
The next post will be some 'before and after' pics of other guards. Still waiting for the throttle flap (slow mail) and clutch reservoir guard (out of stock).
I did a trip to the USA in 2010. I purchased a bike there, sight unseen and toured for 2 1/2 months.
Mt Rushmore? It was one of my least favourite places.
Here is a blog of my trip:
Have a read if you wish as there may be some things in there that may help your planning. Its been 2 years since I wrote it so my memory of all the detail has faded.
12,000'! :eek1 That is really nothing. Your modern EFI machine shouldn't even flinch. I was up to 14,000 on a 31 year old carby Guzzi. :rofl It was down just a bit on power and idle was low but I was too lazy to adjust the idle mixture screws. You get used to being at altitudes that are unheard of in Oz. Anything under 10,000 and you didn't notice much difference unless you really tried to push.
Stay off the interstates if you can through the day (boring) but they are good places to find fuel and accomodation. Each exit has signs that indicate what is available.
Good luck with it.
Thanks very much for your advice; and for the link to your ride report. Your interest is much appreciated. I have bookmarked the ride report and will start reading when I get home from work this evening. I have no doubt I will learn much.
My younger brother in Sydney is also a Guzzi fan and bought himself a California a few months ago. I will share your ride report with him.
Where are you located these days?
happy to help. I stayed out of the cities as much as I could and checked out the country.
Utah is sensational but the beer is weak! That is why there is a grog shop on the border on nearly every major crossing.
I sort of made it up as I went along with specific destinations pinning an outline. If you are visiting or camping in National Parks they have an annual pass. Well worth it if you are going to a few. It was 90 something for the pass or about $25 for each individual pass. The rangers actually wear the uniform that Ranger Smith wore in Yogi Bear! :lol3
I'm on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, just south of Mooloolaba. I used to live in Melbourne at Watsonia, near the barracks.
If your brother likes Guzzi stories then here's another:
Fantastic ride report, thanks for sharing it. The photos are often inspiring and some of your turns of phrase catch the imagination. I will check the other link as well; and share both with my Guzzi-owning brother.
Given your photos of UT95 and comments about Monument Valley not being as good, you might have saved me a couple of days, which I can well use. Your photo of Mount Rushmore makes me understand your comment. I will think about whether to go there, or otherwise do some other things perhaps around Custer.
In due course I will be posting my proposed route and you will be welcome to comment!
Time to buy the GPS - Which one?
A colleague of mine is travelling home to North Carolina for Christmas and has very kindly offered to bring something back for me. Excellent! Relative to Australia the price will be good and I will save on shipping.
So, the offering for motorcycle GPS' is not enormous but is still sufficiently broad to cause one to do some research and perhaps get some opinions from those who have already made the leap. It seems to me that there is Garmin and there is Tomtom. I have a Tomtom for the car and I am quite happy with it, but the USA is another geography, another market. Is there another seriously competitive GPS out there for some one like me who wants turn by turn navigation?
But, basics first. Maps, good maps, are the first prerequisite. Who wins here, and why? Bluetooth to my Cardo Scala Q2 headset is high on the list. I hear that some machines, notably the Zumo 665 has access to satellite radio, traffic and weather - with a subscription of course.
Intuitive interface is nice, but one eventually gets used to things, not so? Operable with gloves on is essential, and so on and so forth.
It is, as I have seen on the web, all too technical and complex, so perhaps some readers would be kind enough to say in a paragraph or two what they think is best and give no more than three reasons why; AND the best bracket to use to attach to the GSA. It would be much appreciated.
Just by the bye, I suspect that Tomtom may have effectively abandoned the motorcycle market, if not altogether, at least in the USA.....?
Its a big place out there
It is a big country, with lots to see. You need to decide if you have a focus, for instance: motorcycle roads, scenic places, cultural places, historic places, certain cities, people you know, etc. Or do you plan out a general route and hit any or all of the types of places above that are along your route.
On my 4+ crisscrossings of the country over the years, I drove through towns, cities and their suburbs to get an (albeit fleeting) idea of what was there and what life might be like there. I also went into every National Park that was remotely close to my route. But that is me. Others pick scenic/motorcycle roads first, then add to their route. And all of us are usually limited in some way by time (which is why you never get to see it all). I loved Monument Valley, but I am a geology buff and there *is* a lot of empty space there, too. My wife and daughter visited Mt. Rushmore and were prepared to be unimpressed, but for them, at the time they were there, it was quite the opposite (as my daughter said, "This so does not suck!"). This is not a plug for you to visit either of those places. Only to say that your impressions and feelings will be made on the trip as you go. Great Sand Dunes is out of the way, but when I spent an afternoon, evening, and morning there, it was a magical place that has stayed with me for decades. Boulder Dam and the Chesapeake Bridge Tunnel are engineering marvels. Carlsbad Caverns and the flight of a million bats are nature's wonders. Even the endless hours of wheat and corn fields of the Great Plains can have a beauty and majesty.
So, wherever you go, ride with open eyes and an open heart.
Have a wonderful time. I'll ride with you in spirit.
I have visited only a small part of your country; I hope to return and ride there as well some day.
I only ever buy cheap GPS units. I stick them on the inside of the fairing or in a tank bag map section and away I go. I turn the volume up as high as it can go with a female voice and it is loud enough for me to know something is about to happen. The screen with the big arrows does the rest.
I used a cheap Garmin I purchased from Wally World on my trip around the USA and I purchased a cheap Tom Tom in the UK as it had the best coverage of countries in the East that the local store had. I really don't think the maps will be much different between the 2 for somewhere like the USA that has loads of digital information. A bit different in places like Romania.
I preferred the Garmin. Features and software change so new models may be different and I had a chat with Tom Tom so it may be different now as the service guy told me things change all the time depending on feedback. The feature I liked on the Garmin was when you were after something like fuel or accommodation the Garmin would list them out in order of distance but would also give you a rough direction. It would read something like: 3km SW. The Tom Tom would only tell you the distance so 3 km.
It was just a pain. You had to select each of the listings in turn then let it calculate a route to see where it was. If I was heading west I would prefer to keep going that way instead of back tracking. At least with the Garmin you had an idea which of the listings were on route or close to it.
Just my experience with them.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful post. I do have a couple of themes in mind and hope that some others develop so I can exercise choice - although that may on occasion prove agonisingly difficult! Your comment on the Great Sand Dunes is timely as I am adjusting my return route somewhat. A friend of mine has elected to join me for two weeks and I will need to drop him off in Denver and GSD had caught my eye.
If you ever pass through Melbourne, please make contact. The local BMW Club would love to make your acquaintance.
Thanks for your comments. I have considered going down what night be termed the 'disposable' path but as I need to provide maximum reassurance to SWMBO, the (outlandishly priced) 665 still seems to be the GPS of choice; particularly for the satellite weather and traffic. There are no others that I can see. I will wait until after Christmas to see if prices come down a bit.
Otherwise my next post will be about removing the top-box backrest and replacing it with something custom made to provide more comfort and support, both of which the standard BMW offering is devoid.
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