Another Rookie Went to Alaska

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by 72 Yamaha RD350, Jan 3, 2020.

  1. Dave7

    Dave7 Adventurer

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    Fantastic adventure and read. I very much enjoyed it. I've only done on longer trip and rain was my nemesis as well. Next time I need that actually has some even hint of waterproofing.

    Well done both on the ride and write up.
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  2. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    I watch a lot of YouTube videos of people who have all kinds of adventures. I have already mentioned that I have watched Tewster and 1956Ted over and over again. One that I haven't mentioned is this one. The video is beautiful and contains portions of the text shown below from Alan Watts', The Dream of Life, of which I was previously unaware.



    “If you awaken from this illusion and you understand that black implies white, self implies other, life implies death, (or shall I say death implies life?), you can feel yourself – not as a stranger in the world, not as something here on probation, not as something that has arrived here by fluke - but you can begin to feel your own existence as absolutely fundamental.

    I am not trying to sell you on this idea in the sense of converting you to it, I want you to play with it. I want you to think of its possibilities, I am not trying to prove it. I am just putting it forward as a possibility of life to think about. So then, let’s suppose that you were able every night to dream any dream you wanted to dream, and that you could, for example, have the power within one night to dream 75 years of time, or any length of time you wanted to have.

    And you would, naturally, as you began on this adventure of dreams, you would fulfill all your wishes. You would have every kind of pleasure you could conceive. And after several nights of 75 years of total pleasure each you would say “Well that was pretty great. But now let's have a surprise, let's have dream which isn't under control, where something is gonna happen to me that I don't know what it's gonna be.

    And you would dig that and would come out of that and you would say “Wow that was a close shave, wasn’t it?”. Then you would get more and more adventurous and you would make further- and further-out gambles what you would dream. And finally, you would dream where you are now. You would dream the dream of living the life that you are actually living today.

    That would be within the infinite multiplicity of choices you would have. Of playing that you weren't God, because the whole nature of the godhead, according to this idea, is to play that he is not. So in this idea then, everybody is fundamentally the ultimate reality, not God in a politically kingly sense, but god in the sense of being the self, the deep-down basic whatever there is. And you are all that, only you are pretending that you are not."
  3. AHRMA17L

    AHRMA17L Been here awhile Supporter

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    Like you, in hindsight, I should have ridden all over the place as I fell in love with the southwest while down there, but I never ventured farther than Tempe to watch a mudbog race in the ASU stadium and Goodyear for the Super Chevy car show. I had tagged along with three other people with whom I had just graduated high school in the summer of 1984, they going to Universal Technical Institute for diesel mechanic school, while I just worked at the Edison Park Fast downtown across from the Valley National Bank building--32 hours a week at $3.35/hour. I think net, I was making about $2.80/hour, so needless to say I was broke all the time. Looking back, I had all the free time in the world and while I had pretty much no money, gas was cheap--riding out of town would have been cheap entertainment.

    Anyway, back to the RD. I have two stories...

    While I really hadn't ridden on the street much (I got the RD in August 1984 and we were in Phoenix in January 1985), I had ridden and raced dirt bikes since I was 9 or 10. The RD seemed awfully tall geared, so we (one of my friends who didn't bring his car down from Oregon) only used it in town so we dropped something like three teeth on the countershaft, which turned it into a wheelie machine, and we rode that thing like a 125 MX bike.

    While the bike was licensed, I at that point had still not gotten my endorsement. One day, for some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to blast across an intersection in about third gear, wide open, with the front wheel in the air. Of course there was a policeman siting at the intersection to the right. Sure enough he pulled me over and to this day I do not know how I got out of that with no ticket--no endorsement, speeding, exhibition of acceleration, reckless driving (riding?). I should have gone to jail.

    The second one is a little crazier and one I used up a life on. As mentioned, I lived on Camelback and I wanted to go to Golf and Stuff at Metro Center. I took the RD and got on the Black Canyon Freeway headed north. I was in the right lane and ahead of me was contractor's pickup towing one of those portable cement mixers. At one of the big intersections either Bethany Home or Glendale Avenue (?), the contractor's pickup swerved to take the off ramp. That made the cement mixer start to hop left and right, and it came off the pickup. This is happening maybe 100 feet in front and to the right of me since he took the off ramp and I was still in the right lane the freeway. The cement mixer hit the concrete jersey barrier and vaulted over it right in front of me, but luckily kept going and ended up a lane or two over. If I would have been a split second earlier, that thing would have hit me.

    The funny thing about it was that being 18 and full of hubris, it didn't scare me that much at the time; I was more fascinated by how it wobbled in the air like a poorly thrown frisbee after hitting the barrier. I get more scared now, just thinking about it.
  4. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    Cool stories!!!

    I never saw an RD400 other than in a magazine. It would have been cool as hell to ride one.

    Back in those days Phoenix had only I-10, I-17, and I-60 to get around. Otherwise it was a stoplight every mile or less to get anywhere - and not a curve to be found anywhere. I lived about seven miles from I-10 and I-60 so getting out of Chandler was a hassle. I might have ridden it once to South Mountain Park - but I had gotten out of the mindset of riding after I purchased the '88 Blazer. What I should have done was gone to a Honda dealer and purchased a brand new Transalp to ride all over the state. A tent, a sleeping bag, and a Transalp would have been The Ticket.
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  5. Otroo

    Otroo Adventurer

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    Love the ride report
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  6. longslowdistance

    longslowdistance Long timer Supporter

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    It’s just a road but the AlCan has the ability to humble you… to have you doing the motorcycle equivalent of climbing a ladder stacked upon chairs, themselves resting on a table in the back of a pickup truck.[/QUOTE]

    Another Alcan smack you story: I was there last May. Huge frost heaves, trivial on an adv moto but taxing for a pickup towing a caravan. So Me on the adv bike is passing geezer towing his caravan who does not know I'm about to pass. Caravan tower decides to navigate upcoming mega frost heaves by moving to the left lane. While I am passing. Pucker time!
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  7. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    @longslowdistance:

    Whoa!!! Yea, that would have been a brown pants moment.

    I don't believe "Loud Pipes Save Lives" but I do believe the lower exhaust tone of a big V-twin engine tends to capture people's attention a bit better than the higher exhaust pitch of inline engines. My RK is completely stock but when I roll back the throttle to pass it makes an unmistakable noise.

    One of the lasting impressions I have of the AlCan is that, while I loved riding it, I wouldn't want to drive it in a car, truck, or RV. The road is simply too rough over hundreds of miles. An RV with a poor suspension would be the worst - it would beat you up pretty bad. A car or truck with a good suspension might be bearable, but it's still going to be a rocking and rolling ride. No thanks.
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  8. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    As miserable as it was, Canada Day 2019 was not the coldest motorcycle ride I have ever endured. The coldest was on the RD and it’s a story worth telling here even though the RD is not the main character. The starring role belongs to a 1974 Pontiac Grand Prix and adolescent stupidity.

    I hung out with good guys in high school - fellow students who attended a church seven miles from my house. We went to school events, movies (The Princess Bride far surpassed our meager expectations), played mini-golf, spent a lot of time in restaurants, and even more time driving around looking for something to do. Obviously, this was the period before girls became an ever present part of our lives. Two of the guys were out of high school and in between significant relationships. Rick owned a Ford Pinto and Jerry owned the Gran Prix.

    On this particular Friday or Saturday night the plan was to rendezvous at Charlie’s house and take it from there. I remember it as mid-November but I didn’t need to ride all the way to his house - I could park the RD at Rick’s place two miles away where we could take his Pinto the five miles to Charlie’s. The temperature was close to 40F but my raingear kept the cold out and winter gloves were sufficient for the short hop on the RD. Everything went to plan and we met up around 7pm.

    Fast forward past meaningless activities to 12:30 am. We were out in the Gran Prix and driving through our high school parking lot when someone had the bright idea to take a lap on the quarter mile cinder running track.. the one in the upper right of this picture… with the V8 powered Gran Prix.

    avon.jpg

    Not wanting to attract any attention, Jerry shut off the headlights before turning onto the straightaway. He then rev’d the big V8, and stomped the Go pedal.

    Note, I said I remember it as mid-November… maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe we would have drifted sideways through turns one and two spraying a shower of cinders with excessive horsepower. Maybe we would have repeated the same in turns three and four before having the good sense to get off while the getting was good. But that’s not what happened at all.

    The Grand Prix accelerated quickly - we were probably doing 40 mph when the Pontiac came to an immediate stop with a resounding crashing sound. We got out and, to our surprise, found the GP lodged into the side of portable bleachers the marching band used during practices on the football field (inside the boundaries of the running track). By luck, both headlights were knocked out.

    Moments before we hadn’t the slightest concern about where the county deputy was… but now his location was of immense interest to us. We were on school property well past midnight in a car with no headlights. The immediate need was to get out of Dodge and we chanced a half-mile escape to a nearby church. Having seen “Smokey & the Bandit” fifteen times we knew what we needed was a “blocker” - a car with headlights to escort the Gran Prix - but the nearest car was five miles away at Charlie’s house… only the RD was less than a mile away. Nevermind that it was now 1am and the temperature was near freezing.

    Charlie and I walked across a field of tall grass to a road where we could walk to Rick’s house to retrieve the RD. I distinctly remember my shoes and pants getting wet from the dew. Having arrived, I suited up in the gear I had left on the bike but Charlie was going to ride pillion with no helmet nor gear to protect him from the cold. Unfortunately, US36 to Charlie’s house had a 55 mph speed limit so going overly slow to minimize the cold wasn’t an option. I don’t recall anything Charlie said when we got to his house because I was frozen to the bone. He got into Rick’s car to play his role of Snowman while I rode seven miles home. Once there I peeled myself off the RD with no feeling in my hands or feet. I had never been so cold before and I’ve never been so cold since - not even on Canada Day 2019.

    [I contacted Charlie to get his recollections of that night. Unbeknownst to me, Charlie had never ridden a motorcycle prior and he’s never ridden one since. He was scared to death, so scared he has no recollection of the cold, only of having no control and being at a total loss as to where to put his hands. (Thanks, Bro.)]

    [Jerry got his car fixed. There was damage to the hood and grille, in addition to the headlights. IIRC, it cost him $800 in 1981 dollars.]
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  9. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    Six weeks after getting home from the Alaska trip, I received a text from an unidentified number. The new owner of the VStrom wanted to tell me that he had taken it on his own adventure.

    The Strom needed new tires when I sold it with almost 13,000 miles on the odometer. Here he is riding off with it on April 25th.


    AFFF51DC-BA06-4324-868C-649B4292D7E5.jpeg

    He shod the Strom with Anakee III’s and headed west - where Jedi5150 reminded us in his RR what Robert Penn Warren said in “All The King’s Men”:

    “For West is where we all plan to go someday. It is where you want to go when the land gives out and the old field pines encroach. It is where you go when you get the letter saying: Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go when you look at the blade in your hand and the blood on it. It is where you go when you are told you are a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear that thar's gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go to grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is just where you go.”

    [I had been assigned to read “All The King’s Men” in college. For whatever reason, I didn’t invest myself in it and missed its perfect prose. Fortunately I still have the book and am committed to another reading.]

    Here is the picture he sent - taken at the top of Wolf Creek Pass.

    DE6944AE-D576-416E-BA86-07F1D73E6883.jpeg

    The new owner had taken the VStrom on an eleven day 4,500 mile trip to Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado to enjoy the Rocky Mountains. He put 10,000 miles on the bike this season in typical VStrom fashion - trouble free.
  10. NitroRoo

    NitroRoo Been here awhile

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    Picked this thread at random for some before bed reading, and it sure didn’t disappoint! Loved the backstory and the characters you described so well from your life.

    I also ended up on a Harley despite the stigma, and it has been a wonderful motorcycle to own and ride. I have had a few other bikes come and go, but the Harley has stayed in the stable. I do hope to make the Alaska ride happen someday - would be a great adventure.
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  11. thadf

    thadf Adventurer

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    Wonderful writing sir. I hope it doesn’t end here!
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  12. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    If you have the time (or can get the time off work) and about $1,500 in cash, I encourage you to make it happen sooner rather than later. If you have to fly into Anchorage and rent a bike to save time - don't hesitate to do that because it really doesn't change the total cost. There's a lot of open space between NC and Alaska that will just eat up time and money. If your significant other is interested - take her along and you'll have memories to share for life.

    If you can't fit a trip to Alaska into your life - that's ok. We all leave things on the table. For me it became a somewhat irrational obsession and I really didn't understand it at the time. It was only at 6am one morning last week that it occurred to me it was more pilgrimage than motorcycle trip. That may be obvious to readers who have made it this far into the RR - but I didn't see it that way.

    Maybe that's the greater message: Figure out your own pilgrimage and take it, by whatever means fulfills the purpose. I was fortunate in that mine involved a motorcycle. Yours may not. Doesn't matter. It may turn out to be the most fulfilling trip of your life. And if you don't have something deep inside you calling you on a pilgrimage - maybe count yourself lucky. One of my dearest friends reminds me that things rarely turn out well for those who hear the voice of God.
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  13. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    Thanks for the compliment.

    I have a few more posts to make but they will be slow in coming. I'm spending a couple days this week skiing in Colorado with my oldest son. That takes a lot of physical and mental energy - or at least it does for me. Assuming everything goes well I'll be back to the keyboard next weekend. (Regardless, the next post may be about injuries because I have something to post from Mel on this subject.)
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  14. taylor

    taylor Adventurer Supporter

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    What's the story with the bent rim?
  15. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    This isn’t a chapter I anticipated writing but circumstances dictate I should. Early on page three you will recall this entry:

    “I turned to God through two United Methodist churches (UMC) in my community and they provided great experiences until I sensed dissonance there. I was too young to appreciate that dissonance and dissent can be virtues. An attractive brunette with more authoritative beliefs came to work at the strawberry farm. Whether I was drawn to her beauty or her church of Donny & Marie Osmond is up for debate but we became a couple and that’s how she ended up riding on the back of my RD350 and how I married Mormon and lived Mormon for twenty years until one day I didn’t.”

    The RD connected me to school (3 miles), my job (2.5 miles), and the youth groups in those UMC churches (3.5 miles and 7 miles). Both youth groups contained friends from school. Besides the hobby farm, I also worked at a drug store stocking shelves during the week, mopping floors in winter, and running the cash register on weekends. [No teenager should have to ring up condoms for the parents of his friends.] One wall of the storeroom was the backside of perforated shelving holding diapers and feminine hygiene products for customers. Back in the storeroom one day I heard a low, eerie voice calling my name. As best I could determine it was coming from boxes of tampons, but it was only Charlie playing a practical joke. That was typical - no drugs, no alcohol, just good clean fun.

    For all the years I owned the RD, nobody ever messed with it in the high school parking lot, the drugstore parking lot, nor later when I left it in the distant university lot in Evansville for weeks on end, in the Purdue University lot on 38th Street in Indianapolis (definitely a sketchy neighborhood at the time), the Indiana University lot on Michigan Street, or at my apartment complex in Chandler. I vaguely remember Charlie moving the RD over one parking space in the drugstore lot just to see if I’d notice (I didn’t).

    At the macro level there were a lot of things wrong with our country back then, but on a micro level I was living in a 1980 version of Mayberry. Adults raised an eyebrow when the county sheriff resigned after beating up a handcuffed inmate for saying crude things about the sheriff’s wife, but the truth is he would have been re-elected if he hadn’t chosen to put it all behind him by moving elsewhere. Scandal aside, it was a place and time of peace and innocence.

    One doesn’t typically abandon his faith community and jump into another in such a setting, but religious belief and faith are complicated - even more so for a teenager dealing with the death of a friend. Faith communities are groups of (mostly) good people who typically share similar political & moral views in addition to their sectarian beliefs. The tribes create cohesiveness by excluding others and this is partly accomplished through distance: People tend not to attend a church very far from their home. But distance wasn’t a barrier to me because I had the RD.

    The Church of Donny & Marie was seven miles in the opposite direction from school, work, and the UMC churches I had been attending. The RD gave me the means to explore what a noted professor & author proclaimed as “... a new, uniquely American, religious tradition”. [Jan Shipps, “A New Religious Tradition”, Illinois University Press] (Ironically, one of this professor’s credentials was that she was a Methodist.) Additionally, under Mormon cultural rules, the brunette wasn’t allowed to date until sixteen which meant any relationship had to blossom with utmost discretion.

    For a time the RD allowed me to participate in both faith communities by easily bridging the distance. I could observe the more conservative LDS (Mormon) belief system and contrast it against the liberalness of mainstream Protestant Methodism. The former offers a prescriptive solution to life while the latter, like a good teacher, leaves the problem for the student to solve.

    It was during this time when I was traversing two sectarian worlds that I rode the RD to Cindy’s house. Cindy was a girl my age in one of the UMC youth groups. Her and her twin sister were more inseparable than any two people I’ve ever known. Their adoptive parents were overly-protective so I had asked Cindy’s permission to stop by some time. She was an intelligent girl, editor of her school’s newspaper and yearbook. I was nervous as we sat on a swing in her yard and talked about the things seventeen year olds talk about. We both grew more relaxed with each other in that hour.

    A few weeks later I was invited to a party by our mutual friend. I rode the RD down the hills and curves of Cartersburg Road to Casey’s house where I joined Cindy & others in the pool playing volleyball. After everyone tired and exited the pool, Cindy and I did so too, but after changing into clothes we found each other in the small crowd and began to walk together, alone, away from the house. She put her arm around my waist, I did the same in return, and we walked down the country road a quarter mile or so to an old concrete bridge over a creek where we watched the sun go down together.

    That was the last time I saw Cindy. As easily as the RD took me there, it took me away, and, for reasons I can only partly explain*, we never saw each other again.

    [Author’s note: Cindy is/was her real name. She died in a car wreck the afternoon of New Year’s Day, 2020, leaving behind all to mourn her untimely and tragic passing. I’m confident she lived her life a perfect Christian woman. Among other things, her obituary mentioned that she liked riding motorcycles.]

    * - As it turns out... I was a poor student.
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  16. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    The short answer: Unmarked frost heave.

    From page 4: "The pavement quality degrades significantly the last few hundred miles from the border. The frost heaves are frequent and varied in severity. It is prudent to ride no faster than the speed limit or perhaps even 5 mph below the speed limit as some are unmarked. This is not a place you want to break a bead or bend a rim beyond repair.

    On more than one occasion I was thrown from my seat by the sharpness of an unmarked frost heave. Rick frequently rode standing and said that he was hit in the ass several times by his seat on the worst of them."

    We were rolling 65 mph northbound west of Haines Junction on a clear sunny day when we hit unmarked frost heaves. They are impossible to see and at 65 mph you don't have the reflexes to slow down quickly enough if you do see them. I suspect the rim was bent on one of these but I didn't find it until I got home and removed the passenger side saddle bag. I did increase the pre-load at the first opportunity and that may have prevented another occurrence southbound.

    The prudent thing to do is to run 5 mph below the speed limit west of Fort Nelson all the way to the US border. This will give you a safety margin for pavement issues, allow you to spot animals more easily, and enjoy the scenery. If you can't be bothered and prefer to ride the AlCan like it is the Dakar Rally - so be it. Ride your own ride.
  17. scout68

    scout68 Been here awhile

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    Finished this RR over the last three mornings with early am coffee...I wanted to thank you RD350 for the considerable time and thought you obviously put into this RR, it stands among a very short list that I have read over the last 3-4 years that have made me stop and reflect and reread, and reflect some more. Well done sir.

    I still have need to give some time to processing the last 2 pages of posts...
    but, this RR was a great gift to find.....

    ...the juxtaposition of riding section names: "Misery," and "Epic Riding." ...that rings so true to so many other areas of life....
    ...Mel Brooks references.... we need more of this...
    ...and "riding a GS or an RT is the only time I hear angels sing. (I hear Elvis when I ride the Harley.) "...I ride a GSA now, and I grew up less than a mile from Elvis' home in Memphis, my mom had every album the man ever produced...

    This is the usual point in a comment where I would bitch and moan about why I'm not out doing something like this, but I won't. God has given me a beautiful and large family to raise right now, and I will stand that post until mission accomplished...

    What a rich read this was.
  18. Hogges

    Hogges Been here awhile

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    I am curious about this as well. I have driven many times into Canada, mostly by car but also motorcycle, and I have never heard of a special insurance card. Is this for a certain province only? I have been to Ontario and Quebec on many occasions, with never any questions about registration or insurance.

    Edit: I just finished reading the report and watching all of the pictures. Should have started out by saying thanks for this awesome report, very enjoyable honest, humble writing and awesome pictures.
  19. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    @scout68: Thanks for the compliment.

    I just watched Brooks’ “The Producers” (1967) for the first time last weekend. Brooks is a comedic genius. Sadly, society does not allow his genre of movies to be made anymore. I don’t know how we went from “Blazing Saddles” to where we are today.

    I’ve never been to Memphis, although I did get to Opryland when I was a kid. [Don't ask me why, of all things, I saved a book of matches.]

    OP1.jpg

    OP2.jpg

    There's no reason to bitch & moan. Like I said, everyone leaves something on the table.
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  20. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    I’ve heard angels sing twice in my life: The first was at a funeral for the wife of one of my first corporate managers back in the early 90’s. She went in for routine surgery and inexplicably passed away during post-op recovery. Even the doctors couldn’t explain it. She was 45. A mixed choir was formed to sing at her traditional LDS funeral and, I swear, they opened with the sound of angels. I look back on it as God admitting he made a mistake.

    The second was in the Spring of 2018 when I attended a BMW Motorrad demo event at my nearby dealer. After nearly binning an R1200R on my first ride, I took out this standard GS.

    GS.jpg

    I immediately felt comfortable on the GS - like the rider triangle had been custom made for me. The ride leader was a professional woman rider. This was her everyday gig and she had us doing 80 mph in no time flat on a windy road. I heard the angels sing when I rolled on the throttle to keep up - a heavenly choir louder than the gentle rhythm of the boxer twin. It was perfection. The RT I rode after the GS was almost perfection - my knees not quite liking the bend so much, but that electrically adjustable windscreen was heavenly in its own right.

    RT.jpg

    A week before the Motorrad demo ride, I stopped by my nearest HD dealer. The Street 500 on the BRC was the only Harley I had ever ridden but I convinced myself to give it a shot since Mrs. RD350 was falling in love with Indians.

    SF1.jpg

    RM1.jpg

    The HD dealer brought out a brand new 2018 Road King for me. My rear end had never felt such a comfortable motorcycle seat. My ass was in love like never before - and that was a good start - but out on the road I got buffeting on the top of my helmet the same as when I'd taken a Springfield on a test ride.

    They rolled out a 2018 Heritage Classic for me to try and, while the buffeting was gone, my derriere was not happy with its stock seat. Vlogger Georgia Ramblin' Man asserts the new HC is the perfect light touring cruiser and he has a valid point. But I was shopping for a bike that would make Mrs. RD350 comfortable and felt the RK & SF were better suited than the smaller Softail HC.

    I got back on the RK but had them take off the windshield to kill the buffeting so I could concentrate on other aspects of the bike. I stopped to take this picture on the second test ride. It was the 400 mile day on a rental RK in Phoenix mentioned earlier in the RR that convinced me to buy one.

    RK2.jpg

    Elvis was mostly before my time. As a kid I saw an overweight middle-aged drug addict perform on television “Live from Hawaii” but he didn’t strike me as Elvis. Jailhouse Rock, Return to Sender, Love Me Tender, Kentucky Rain, Hound Dog - that was Elvis.

    I confess that Elvis songs didn't begin playing in my head until a couple weeks after I bought my RK. It just feels so 1950's, and while I had never had an attraction to the fifties, there was an endearing character to it. On rainy days when I didn't ride I would tune the satellite radio in the car to the Elvis channel. The RK isn't as perfect as the GS, but it is perfect enough for me.
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