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livetosail 12-25-2012 07:56 PM

There's gotta be a ride report in here somewhere...
Seems like only yesterday I was first introduced to the concept of Dual Sport / Adventure riding. I was driving out of Zion National Park on my way to Arches when I came across a couple of R1150GS' parked in the welcome center parking lot. I remember the scene well: Aluminum Panniers covered in stickers and dust; gear strewn about on the ground; one of riders fast asleep under a tree while the other was removing his rear wheel. The image was instantly appealing, and I have probably reflected on it every tax refund season since...

Fast forward almost five years and I am sitting on a hotel bed anxiously awaiting tomorrow morning's flight and trying to figure out how to write a trip report that A. won't immediately reveal me as a complete n00b and B. has at least some relevance to Adventure Riding (other than the license plate of my new bike).

The premise is pretty thin: I'm doing a fly-n-drive from Virginia to my home in Florida to pick up a new (to me) R12GS. A fellow inmate (goes by the name Gastone, and all around good guy) agreed to let me stay at his place for a day while we get the 6k service done. The storyline gets a bit more interesting when the weather man wants to talk about Tornados and Blizzards in the same sentence on Christmas Day... I begin to wonder what I have gotten myself into. A heated vest is one thing, but I definitely didn't bring my snow chains for this trip.

First step: figure out how to fly with all of my riding gear without paying a fortune in baggage fees. I used to exploit my active duty military status that would get them to waive the fees, but in the past few years they have gotten wise to that and now only waive the fees if on official orders. The last time I flew and they asked if I was on orders I slowly responded, "yyeeeeessss?" I guess I wasn't very convincing cause I ended up paying almost $300! OUCH.

The answer was to use the tank bag off my 92' K75 as a carry-on. My helmet inside its bag fits a decent amount of odds and ends as well, and hopefully prevents me from looking like a complete douche rocket in the airport. You know the type I mean: Red and black Icon jacket, gelled up hair, helmet with No Fear stickers prominently displayed. That's an image I'd like to avoid.

I managed somehow to fit five days of clothes, two cameras, rain gear, bike cover, two pair of gloves, neck gator, insulated vest and pant liners, and misc. electronic pieces all into these two bags. Oh, and a toothbrush as well. (Don't want to offend my new host upon arrival with a bad case of dragon breath.)

With that accomplished I sought about enjoying the Christmas holiday with my family as we visited in Orlando, then parted ways as they headed for home, and I got down to some well-deserved preparations.

Okay so I got upgraded to the honeymoon suite for free and it came with a huge hot tub full of fancy oils and soaps. You woulda too!

Tomorrow I fly into what looks like nasty rain to meet my new bike and its current (but soon to be former) owner. From there we will wrench on the bike and load the gear. Then the planned route is south (duh) through whatever part of North Carolina isn't covered completely in snow and ice. I'm planning on stopping in Charlotte for a night, then over towards Atlanta, and finally to my home in Sunny Pensacola.

At another time of year I'd rocket through the BRP and camp the whole way, but circumstances are dictating a tad more than usual on this trip.

Still, its an adventure to me, and so I figured there has to be a ride report in there somewhere. You guys like pictures of straight and level highways, right?

Stay tuned!

Rutabaga 12-26-2012 04:22 AM

Sounds like you have all the ingredients for a great holiday ride. A vague plan. A bike. Desire.

livetosail 12-26-2012 05:31 PM


I grew up in the New England area so flying was always a drag. As such I have adopted the policy that early is good, earlier is better, and ridiculously early is best. So, a 3:45am wake up and I was out the door and on the way to the airport by 4:30am for a 7am flight.

It seems the tiny airport of Melbourne Florida does not subscribe to my excessive approach to flying. When I arrived at five till 5am the place was dead empty.

I felt like the only person in the building for 45 minutes. They didn't even have the self-serve kiosks turned on until 6am. Guess I could have saved myself an extra hour of lost sleep had I realized that... lesson learned.

Not all was lost, however. I had this baby to keep me company.

Travel was threatening to be tricky today as there was crazy weather all across the country. I was none too happy about the prospect of flying into this:

Thankfully the flight was only 30 minutes late, which is nothing by my standards. Hell I've slept in the airport more times than I can remember during holiday travel.

I was greeted to the beautiful state of Virginia with this. Temperature read 33 degrees. I was beginning to doubt I'd be able to test ride the bike today.

I met my host, Gastone, and we set off for his place to get about the business of servicing and inspecting the bike.

Rain turned to sleet/snow by the time we made it home. Thankfully he had thought ahead and turned on a space heater in the garage. We didn't waste any time and got right to wrenching on the bike, all while swapping stories and enjoying the unique satisfaction of servicing a well-built machine.

First impressions: holy crap, this bike is huge. Okay, I know, everyone says that and its not that bad once you get used to it. Strangely enough it is lighter than my current bike, but much more imposing. My 28in inseam cannot cope, even with the Sergeant seat in the lowest position. I can only get the balls of my feet down on my K75 so I am used to one-footing it already. This will definitely take some getting used to.

Aside from the height the bike looks amazing, sounds amazing, and is very appealing overall. The owner did a great job describing the bike in his post, and I wasn't surprised by a thing.

We adjusted the valves, changed the oil, transmission fluid and final drive fluid; changed the air filter, and lubed the splines all within the span of about two hours (minus a break for dinner. Mmmm, yummy lasagna.)

Everything looked good, and there we had a great time getting to know each other in the process. I reflected on how quickly two strangers can seem like great friends when working together on a bike.

It felt great to get my hands dirty and get familiar with the bike. I feel much more confident owning a bike that I have some familiarity with already, and having someone to show me the ropes of basic service is a huge plus for me.

Above all the hospitality has been the most impressive. I have read dozens of examples of inmates helping each other out, even total strangers, but have never had the pleasure of experiencing that first hand. To be able to fly to a stranger's house, use his tools, sleep in his house and eat his food is an amazing thing to me. I would have never imagined doing something like this if I had not grown to appreciate the community that is ADV. I look forward to the opportunity to pay it forward sometime soon.

Tomorrow looks like clear (and cold) weather. We're planning on heading out for a test ride to get comfortable with the new bike. Lets hope tomorrow's post doesn't include a picture of me in an emergency room...


kyjenkin 12-26-2012 07:20 PM

I hope you have a safe journey friend! As long as you keep a cool head and never push or get pushed past your comfort zone, you'll hopefully have an uneventful ride back home! There's too much snow here in Indiana for me to seriously ride, so I hope all goes well with your journey!

livetosail 12-27-2012 04:20 PM

Through the Shenandoah mountains

Got up early this morning and did a nice test ride with Gastone on his new XChallenge.

Everything was going great till we stopped for a break and couldn't get his bike started again... ended up trailering it back home to do some diagnostics.

In the meantime I took to the beautiful Virginia backroads and got more familiar with my new bike.

With a little trail riding just for fun.

With the service complete and my test ride satisfied (more than 60 miles), I decided to complete my business and take to the road.

I heard traffic was snarled in post-Christmas mayhem on I-95, so I decided instead to head west in search of some higher elevation.

Look, ma. I found mountains!

The weather was cold in Fredericksburg, and downright frigid going through Shenandoah.

Thankfully the snow was only on the sides of the road.

I made it to Harrisonburg just after sunset and decided to call it quits for the night. I was beginning to shiver and didn't want to bother keeping an eye out for black ice.

The lady at the front desk gave me the weirdest look. I guess I looked a bit ragged after riding a few hours in 35 degree weather.

What a poser

All in all the day was great. A lot of good riding, lots of sun, and the beginning of a trip I have been anticipating for a long time.

Let's hope it doesn't snow tonight...

exile730 12-28-2012 03:42 PM

great tale - really enjoyed it.

I cannot comprehend riding in that cold weather. I would not dream of heading off if there is even a remote chance of rain let alone snow, ice etc.

Good on ya!

Enjoy that bike over there.:rofl

livetosail 12-28-2012 03:45 PM

Had a nice long rest last night, but had a rude awakening when I set out for today's ride.

The parking lot was COVERED in snow and ice when I first stepped out around 6am. I decided to delay my departure for a few hours in hopes that the sun and salt would improve things a bit.

The sun did not want to shine, however, and so after a few annoying pesters by Ester the cleaning lady, I decided to clear out and make a go of it.

I got all geared up and ready to go. The bike started beautifully. I began to pull through the parking lot when I realized I was missing something... my sunglasses! I had taken them off and placed them on the pillion seat when I put the helmet on (second time I have done this since I began riding). I craned my neck and saw them lying on the ground. I was quickly running out of real estate to maneuver around, and most of it was still solid or melting ice. I made a decision to try and pull a slow-speed u-turn in what I hoped would be a dry spot... and well you can guess the rest of this story.

The beautiful thing about the GS is that between the Jesse bags and Hepco & Becker crash bars this bike comes to rest on its side quite gracefully. The problem was not the 600lb bike on its side, the problem was the immense sheet of ice the entire parking lot proved to be. Every time I tried to raise the bike it would either slide away from me, or I would slide into it. After a minute or two a thought occurred to me: this bike ain't going no where, but my $150 Oakley's are still sitting on the parking lot.

About the time a small Honda hatchback pulled into the parking lot. It pulled around me and sped off without even slowing down, and I swear I saw the driver mouth the words "sucks to be you" as he and his buddy passed by. A few moments later I decided to leave the bike and go pick up my glasses. I ran around the corner of the hotel...

and they were gone.

I walked around my former parking spot and the surrounding areas several times. I can only imagine those guys spotted the glasses on the ground, thought about me and the bike around the corner, and put two and two together.

I returned to the bike and proceeded to drag it approximately 10 feet until it was in a spot with enough melted ice that both the tires and my feet could get a good grip. Magically it came up in no time, and I was off again.

Two things happened as a result of this mishap: 1) I realized too late that I left without taking any pictures of this otherwise comical early morning exercise, 2) I decided to change my route from the twisties to the slab. Between the miserable cold, ice and snow EVERYWHERE, and completely grey cloudy conditions, I decided Adventure would have to be spelled I-81, at least for today.

So, for the next five hours I did not get off the bike once (I tend to fill up on the bike, and get right back on the road). My layers and heated grips did their job well, and thankfully the traffic on the highway was decent. 80mph in 35 degree weather for five hours does take its toll though, so I decided to stop in for a break before getting to my hotel in Charlotte. Funny thing, the bike just sort of navigated itself to this location...

Am I a real GS owner yet?

I didn't start shivering until I got inside. I think the sudden change in ambient temperature shocked my body and reminded it that I had actually been freezing for most of the day. I promptly made for the men's restroom and made good use of their free body heater.

AKA a hand dryer.

Five minutes of this blowing down my shirt and I was starting to thaw out nicely.

After a decent break I headed back to the slab and drove the remaining hour until I reached Charlotte.

Obligatory self-portrait in front of the bike.

As soon as I walked into the hotel I was reminded of what I had learned in flight school, that the most difficult periods of flight are take offs and landings. So it was today. The trip itself was completely uneventful. But when I arrived at my hotel I was greeted by two grown women standing at the front desk in full-body pink polka dot footie pajamas, going on and on about how they couldn't get their cell phones to connect to the wireless internet. The receptionist was doing her best to explain that they needed to enter a password, but didn't know exactly how to do it on their model of phones. Meanwhile these two women (GROWN middle aged women, mind you) went on and on about cell phone companies and the government and this and that... all while I stood there, gear laden, frozen red cheeks, waiting to simply receive my room key so I could collapse in peace. I would have taken their picture to include here, but they seemed very unstable (hello, footie PJ's at 2:30pm on grownups???) so I chose to remain in silent protest.

20 minutes later (not kidding) I made my way to the elevator, only to be joined by a man who's sweat pants hung so loose on his hips you could almost see his knees. He promptly started a conversation with me about how "sloppy-Z is gonna play tonight; its gonna be dope, yo!". I remained silent and prayed for the elevators doors to open. When they did, I was greeted by this:

What in the world is that on the wall!?!

Thankfully the room was a bright spot in the otherwise black hole of weirdness I had apparently descended into.

Ironically the sun, which had hidden behind nasty grey skies all day long began to peek through just when I arrived in the room.

It was a long ride in tough conditions today, so I was content to just sit here in silence for almost an hour.

Tomorrow threatens 30-40 degrees and rain all the way to Atlanta...

No one said adventure is always pleasant, right?

gastone 12-29-2012 03:41 AM


glad to see you are making headway. Any regrets on not taking the heated vest or are you making out okay?

The family is all sick as dogs. My wife and I have been in bed since you left. Grandma had to come take the baby yesterday as we're afraid she'll catch whatever we've got.

Safe riding!


livetosail 12-29-2012 02:04 PM

@Dave, so you were the one I passed?

@G, I'm so sorry to hear your family is under the weather. You were a great host and I had a great time. Yes, a heated vest would have been nice, but I've survived so far. Thanks again for a great bike.

livetosail 12-29-2012 03:03 PM

Rain, rain, and more rain...

Well, it seems I left the snow and ice behind since coming down the mountains, but they were replaced with a cold and steady drizzle.

I grabbed a quick bite of healthy breakfast...

And made my way to the parking lot. I was sorely disappointed to find that my bike cover does absolutely nothing to prevent the bike from getting wet.

Guess that's what I get for a $15 cover.

The temperature was 33 degrees, and the rain was steady, but I wasn't about to hang around this crazy nut house one minute longer. Sloppy-Z and his crazy pajama-laden fans can have it all to themselves.

The traffic was heavy and snarled all throughout North Carolina. I took some alternative routes but the roads had been rained on all night long and travel was getting too dangerous to mess around. I decided to keep to the highway instead.

Somewhere into South Carolina things started to calm down a bit. I think there was a time, somewhere between 10:17 and 10:21 that the rain stopped... it might have been less than that, come to think of it.

I did manage to find a few interesting things along the way, like this!

I'm not even in Georgia yet and I'm already finding peaches!

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to drive up to the US BMW headquarters in Spartanburg. It sure looked pretty. Wish I could have stopped and taken a tour, but I was miserable and cold and just wanted to make it to my stop for the day and get out of the rain.

I stopped for a break midday and checked the weather for Atlanta again, hoping for a nice surprise.

Guess again.

40 degrees with 15mph winds and light rain, feels like 26 degrees... and that's standing still.

I made it to the hotel without incident, just as my toes started to lose feeling.

This is what I saw all day long: a wet windscreen. Its a shame too because days like this make riding more of a chore than an enjoyable adventure.

So I made my dinner an adventure with some Spicy Octopus! Mmmm. I scored big time with this all-seafood buffet.

I didn't even notice their huge assortment of sushi until my second trip!. My favorite!

After several days on the road in fairly miserable conditions I am ready to be home again with my family. The bike has been excellent. I look forward to a time when I can ride it with a little more enjoyment and a little less aspercream.

Tomorrow is my last travel day. I am deciding between heading over to Stockton, AL for the Last Ride of the Year (, or just heading straight for Pensacola. Weather looks dry, but cold.

Here's to another day of riding in long underwear!

livetosail 12-30-2012 01:46 PM

As predicted, today was cold, but clear. Given the first three days of my trip were plagued with precipitation, I was thankful for a day of almost cloudless skies.

Even if the temperature was frigid.

I had the most beautiful drive through downtown Atlanta early this morning. There were few other vehicles on the road, the sun was just coming up, the highways wind in and out of downtown in long smooth curves. It was excellent. I really need to come up with a better way of taking pictures whilst riding because that was a scene I would have liked to remember.

The travel today was about as pedestrian as it gets. I debated making it to the end of the year ride, which would have taken me a few hours out of my way. But given yesterday's test of will I was more interested in getting home to my warm home and welcoming family than I was in socializing... even though I know I missed out on some awesome southern cooking.

Things really seemed to speed up once I hit Alabama.

The roads were clear, the sun was shining, the temperature was slowly but steadily climbing. It was the kind of travels that allow my mind to wander. Very relaxing day trip. I would like to have more pictures to show of this portion of the trip, but to be honest, it was just highway and truck stops.

I hadn't brought my computer on this trip, electing instead to travel light and simply bring an Apple Wireless Keyboard to allow me to write on my iPhone. The downside to this was that I couldn't get pictures or video off of my GoPro camera, which I had mounted on my helmet for most of the trip. So, I pulled off a few interesting shots through Shenandoah that I will post here in retrospect:
Going into the park
Some nice twisties on SR33

I charted the entire trip in order to see just how many miles I traveled over the past four days. Nothing too impressive, but I was happy with the pace.
A link to a map of the trip.

I can't really say much about the last two hours of my travels. Like so many have said before me sometimes the end of the trip is the dullest. For me I was just enjoying the sunshine and looking forward to giving my family a hug, and doing what I am doing right now: sitting in my recliner in a nice warm house, watching some Sunday afternoon football and wrapping up this trip report.

Thanks to some GPS wizardry my family was able to track my every move, so this is what was waiting to welcome me into the driveway when I arrived:

So, my garage now has two BMW motorcycles, one of which is significantly bigger than the other. I am still amazed that I was able to contact an individual, send him money as a deposit, fly to his home and stay the night, work on the bike in his garage in preparation for a trip, and then drive almost 1,000 miles home through frozen temperatures. I never would have imagined such a thing, but thanks to the wonderful community that is ADV, it has become a reality for me.

Thanks to those who followed my trip. Here's hoping for many more to come in the future.


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