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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by jdrocks, Oct 13, 2009.
Report coming soon. 13,500 miles. This is the bike and it was one heck of a ride.
here we go...
I spent exactly 4 hours packing for this 30 day trip. I originally left a week in my schedule to pack, prep the bike, and planned to leave rested and fresh. No luck there as a contract job I was working ended up way behind schedule and I was left with just a few hours instead of days. If I had an anger management problem, I could have taken a ball bat to the people responsible for the delays. I was very tired and very pissed. I departed at 5PM on Monday, May 18, and rode 200 miles to my daughters house in NW Virginia. In route, I thought I heard an intermittent grinding noise, but when I stopped to look, I could not pinpoint the source. I figured I would look the bike over in the morning, had a good meal, a shot of bourbon, and went to bed.
(Because of the hectic nature of the start of this trip, I have no photos from the first couple days. Sure, I had a camera. Went to shoot, dead battery. Ah, spare battery! Went to shoot, dead spare battery. Ah, backup camera! Went to shoot, dead battery. Now Im thinking the hell with it
lets get on down the road. Eventually, there are photos, I promise.)
Tuesday, May 19
I planned an early start and was up, packed, and ready, but first I had to find the source of the noise. I finally found that the oversize foot I had welded on the sidestand would sometimes contact the side of the chain. I rummaged around in my son in laws tools and found a Dremel tool. Not ideal, but thats what I had to clearance the pad. I used up a bunch of bits and hoped I had taken enough off. If not, I was stopping at a friends house in Wisconsin and he has at least two of every tool ever made. I was on the road at 10AM and super slabbed through the rest of Virginia, Maryland, and into Pennsylvania and the famed Turnpike to points west. Man, I hate that road. I've traveled that miserable toll road for decades. They collect plenty of toll money, but whatever they spend it on can't be the road.
Today presents a new twist in my turnpike tales. When I roll up to get my toll ticket, I see a guy leaning against the toll booth. My ticket pops out, but before I could get it the guy knocks my hand away, grabs my ticket and runs off. WTF! I'm yelling into the semi-functional intercom trying to get a new ticket while a bunch of road rage afflicted drivers are piling up in my lane. The guy behind me is blipping the gas on some POS multicolor primered ricer with a busted ground effects kit. The doper guy behind the wheel is way up the pharmacological hierarchy and obviously had missed his breakfast drugs. Damn, where's my Glock? Now don't be getting the wrong idea, not everyone carries in my neighborhood, but I forget her name. I was so pissed I'm about ready to put a round between the headlights of that ragged ass ricer when out pops my new ticket. Ok, now lets get the heck out of Pennsylvania.
Riding that road is no simple thing. Besides the berserk truck traffic, youre constantly dodging potholes, tire casings, and broken off vehicle parts. Ride your bike into one of those Turnpike potholes and you would need a spelunker guy to hook a line on it and a crane to hoist it back out. Stop for fuel and find that I'm getting a whopping 35mpg at 80mph. Lets see, 4 gallon main tank, I better watch that. Hah, you know what's coming.
On into Ohio, I'm maintaining a good roll until I ride past one too many exits. I had my GPS indexed at the last fuel stop and when I do the math, I might be as much as 10 miles short. Did I happen to mention that I have twin 1.4 gallon saddle tanks? Did I happen to mention that I hadn't bothered to put a drop of fuel in either? Travel light, right? This could be really embarrassing. First, I need to get off the gas. At 55mph, I know I can get over 50mpg. Now the math is looking like one of those 8th grade test questions and I'm getting a headache. I'm going slow, slow, slow. I feel a big thump-I think a bird flew up and hit me in the BACK of the helmet. I take the next exit and now I'm pulling in the clutch and coasting where I can. When I stop at the toll booth, I get directions to fuel and unfortunately its not one of those that's right at the exit. I do make it to the pump and the bike is still running somehow-the fuel light had been on for a long time. The fuel tank on the 650R is listed as 4.2 gallons. The pump read 4.202. Maybe I should add some fuel to the saddle tanks. Nope, just stop more often. End of problem. Well, not exactly.
I thought I would pick a location about halfway to Madison and stop. Im feeling good, the bike is running good, just dodged the fuel bullet, got the cop motor, got the cop tires, Blues Brothers, Chicago. Lets go to Chicago, and now that's where Im headed. I stop at Southbend for fuel and call home. The first thing I hear is "Are you still in Southbend?" I had one of those SPOT transmitters strapped to the bars and set in tracking mode. I guess it works. I had come through Southbend last fall on a Notre Dame football weekend on my way down from Canada. It seems all the hotels are booked for 75 miles in every direction. I was able to talk a very very nice young lady into giving me the penthouse suite at her hotel at a regular room corp rate because the people who reserved it just cancelled. Riding up the elevator, I asked a Notre Dame fan who they played and the score. The game had been over for all of six hours and the guy thought long and hard, but couldn't remember either answer. How smart do you have to be to get in that school anyway?
I crossed into Illinois and had to slow down. Everyone had radar detectors that must have been chirping away and they would tap the brakes at every chirp. It really keeps you on your toes. I decided that I wasn't going to ride through Chicago, and thought I would go around to the west and up I39. When I got to the I90/94 exit there was almost no traffic, so I changed my mind and shot over to the I90/94 lane. I hadn't much luck on this route previously, but what the heck, let's try it in the dark on a bike. Now that its dark, there's road construction, lane changes, jersey barriers, double fines, and jail time, the Chicago driver interprets this as a signal to mash the gas. Either that or it was just Nascar practice for a night race, ya know, 4 wide through the corners at 100mph. Its cold, starting to mist, charging 85mph so I don't get run over, and I'm starting to sweat. I'd been breathing Chicago air for an hour and my lungs felt like they had been filled with concrete.
One more thing, the fuel situation was
ok, so I hadn't stopped for fuel. I had been thinking about it for the last hour, but if you've been on the south side of Chicago at night lately, you would understand. I get through the worst of what the night time Windy City has to offer and I'm kind of in suburbia but very low on fuel. At least it looks safe to stop and after a few more miles I exit at Barrington Road. Bad choice, but I didn't know it. Rode a mile and found an open station-only put in 3.973 gallons this time-hardly rates as a close call.
Hopped back on and rode back the way I came, looking for the I90/94 ramp. No signs, must have missed it. Rode back, no signs. WTF?, aren't these supposed to be easy off, easy on. Nope, not this one. I rode back to the station where I got gas and asked the cashier for directions. He could understand me, but he didn't speak a language that was anything close to English. After the 5th try, he got so frustrated that he grabbed the notepad and pen out of my hand and drew a map with a big ink scribble that represents where we were standing, pointed the starting direction, and walked away. I can never seem to get a read on those people. When I look in those black eyes, I can't tell whether Im seeing hope or desperation.
Now I'm pissed. It's midnight, I don't like the Chicago area much, and am not real big on Illinois either. I've got my little map, so
let's get the hell out of here and go to Wisconsin. After miles and miles of road construction in rain and darkness, I arrived in Beloit, Wisconsin, at 1AM. 775 miles. I was in adventure mode for sure.
The adventure begins when things stop going as planned
adventure found me on this ride.
I am at the office and I know I should not be reading but I cant help it....
I am hooked and ready to be fed some adventure.
Wednesday, May 20
I wasnt expected in Madison until the afternoon, so I didnt make the point of a sunrise start. I made a phone call and said I would be there mid morning. No problem. I had the hotel breakfast and walked out to check the bike. A friendly couple stopped to talk about the bike, where I was going, and so on. This was a conversation that would be repeated time and again on this trip. When I went back in, the little girl at the desk asked why I had my bike parked directly over the No Parking sign on the pavement. I told her I got in late, it was dark, and I hadn't noticed. She said "But its not dark under the canopy lights and"
...I gave her a little wink and a smile before she could say any more and she started to laugh.
Packed up and on my way to Madison, a short ride. I have some history in that town, but havent lived there for a very long time. When I got there to go to school at the University, the Beat Generation was winding down and the counterculture at UW switched seamlessly from Beatniks to Hippies. I saw my first of many violent demonstrations up on Bascom Hill, and hung around long enough to see the results of the Armstrongs truck bomb when they blew up the Physics building. In between, I learned quite a bit, drank the bars dry, rode and crashed a bunch of bikes, romanced the UW coeds, and survived many a brush with death. I've slowed down since, but my wife doesn't think I've slowed down quite enough.
The guy Im stopping to see in Madison is a friend of over 40 years, but not a classmate. He and his wife happened to live across the street from a house I rented while in school. Married at age 16, 10th grade education, and one of the smartest business people I've run across in my professional career. Some people have a Midas touch, and hes one. You would never know it to meet him, but his net is pretty damn impressive. He's one of those only in the USA type stories. Old friends are the best kind.
After catching up on lifes events, we get to work on the bike. He has an angle grinder and I use it to grind more off the side stand pad. I change the oil and filter, pull the tank and put in a new set of plugs. The old plugs were good. The air filter was good also. I lubed the chain, repacked the panniers, and now I feel better about the bike even though it had run flawlessly the first 1000 miles. Early to bed. I've got places to go tomorrow.
Day 1 (The Official Start of the Trip): Thursday, May 21, 2009 Madison, Wisconsin to Badlands, South Dakota
My friend and I are both early risers so we had time for a good breakfast and a chat about the old days. The years have sped by and we have both weathered some big storms. I had to meet Beemer (my riding buddy on this trip) on the other side of Madison, so we said our farewells. Until the next time, my friend.
I rode out to the Gander Mountain store just off the interstate outside the Madison limits. The store moved there because of the onerous Madison gun sale regulations. We had arranged to meet there because it was convenient and Beemer already knew where it was. Beemer was riding up from the Chicago area and wasn't there when I arrived in the parking lot, but I circled around for a look to make sure there wasn't another entrance where he could be waiting. Beemer wasn't late, I was a just a few minutes early. Thankfully, Beemer doesn't have the late gene, which is good because I don't like late. Beemer rolled up and we looked over each others rides. I knew he had purchased a yellow 1150GS for the trip. It had 25,000 miles and looked showroom new. Beemer looked over what he described as my pipsqueak bike-I didn't take offense because I already knew thats what the BMW guys call any bike that doesn't have the badge.
We talked for a minute to review the plan, gassed up across the road, and then west bound on I90. Wisconsin troopers were out and we were only moderately exceeding the limit. Our first gas stop up the interstate brought over some riders to look the bikes over and talk about the trip. Beemer heads out and I'm about to follow when a guy runs over from the pumps and flags me down. Just wanted to let you know that the gas you put in your bike is just pure crap. Gee thanks, now that it's in there.
West again and I know this road well. Back in the day, I would drive up to LaCrosse and hunt ducks on the Mississippi River. I hunted out of there for years before finally hunting out of a camp farther south. I almost died on that river more than once. Across the river and now in Minnesota, with low cloud cover and falling temps. I found the snorty little 650 could run just fine with the 1150-no strain at all.
We were running along with traffic at 80-85mph with the occasional sprint higher than that and eating up some miles. I had around 715 on my sheet to our Badlands objective so we needed to make some time. I had probably passed 100 troopers on my way up from Virginia and not one even gave me a look. I finally met one in Minnesota that gave me a look, almost more than a look.
I did see the car on the east bound side, but he didn't move when I went by. He did move when Beemer went by-maybe he thought that yellow color was fast. The trooper came up to me with his lights on and I pulled over. He jumped out of his car, ran out into the travel lane and waved Beemer over. There were two troopers and I was talking with them about all kinds of stuff as they went through the standard menu of questions. They didn't seem interested in talking with Beemer, i guess they thought i was on the fast bike after all. The senior guy asked me to take off my helmet and when I did, I saw out of the corner of my eye that he had given the other trooper an almost imperceptible shake of the head. I took that as a good sign and it was.
I always start an expedition with a boot camp haircut and I think it has been a factor in helping me out of many and varied situations. People are almost sure about what I am, but theres a 5% doubt factor and I have ridden that vibe to a favorable outcome many times. I was told that we were only going to get a warning, so while that was being written up, I talked with the senior trooper about bikes, our trip, his job, pepper spray, and the drug trade. He stuck a finger in my face as he left and said Slow Down, but he was smiling when he did it. Yes, Sir! I would meet another trooper under much different circumstances later in the trip, but who knew then.
Badlands, ho. Finished with Minnesota, into South Dakota and pushed on to the Missouri River. This was an alternate stop if it didn't look like we could get all the way to the Badlands. Stopped for fuel and continued west. I was watching my fuel even more now as the stations got farther apart. I even filled one saddle tank. Had a truck stop lunch with the locals and I chatted with the deli girl as she was making up my sandwich. The place would go broke if everyone stopped to talk with her-my sandwich ended up twice as big as it was supposed to be.
We took the Kadoka exit. It was just a name on the itinerary sheet that would give us an objective. I knew when we turned on the access road that we wouldn't stay there. It was a town whose fate was sealed when the interstate was finished. The old post war motels were there, and everything in a state of disrepair. We spoke briefly with a motel proprietor and I swear he looked like he had just stepped over from the dark side. Not to be critical, but he resembled a buzzard carcass and smelled like sulphur burning. I could hardly focus on him, he was movin' around like smoke. Holy bejesus! If that wasn't bad enough, the whole place looked like meth cooker country to me and I had left my bear gun back in Virginia. Time to go, and I hit the redline poundin' through the gears.
Badlands Park was just up the road and we went in and paid our camping fee. The restaurant near the entrance was open when we rode by, but closed when we came back for dinner. That was a lesson, because we rode 80 miles round trip at night for the privilege of eating a hamburger. I had every light reaching out the front of the bike and saw many pairs of eyes glowing in the beams. We got back and turned in. I was over 800 miles on the day, and Beemer was over 900. Close to an iron butt.
I had been out through some of the same country at about the same time in 2007. It was obvious to me that there was just a small percentage of the traffic this year as I had seen two years earlier.
fantastic. sounds like fun
keep reading. the blood starts flowing a few more days down the road.
they call it adventure riding right?
jd: likin' this RR alot. Keep it up.
Very enjoyable so far. I think you and I'd like each other alot. State troopers tend to end up shaking my hand by the time our encounter is over and the ticket pad usually hits their dash board about the time they realize I'm alot like them. Last one I met asked me as I pulled the helmet off "Are you CHP or Marines?"
Too bad I wasn't along to help you with the ricer. Before you had the new ticket in hand I could have beaten him senseless with his coffee-can muffler...
Keep it comin' man!
I know this is going to be good....what is the bike a ninja 650 with the fairing off it and some buell stuff....whatever it is, this kawi fan LOVES it!
please give me somre information on the bike! and keep up the good work on the ride!
yeah, the kid was right up to the back of the bike. i'm yelling into that broken down intercom over the noise of his whiny 4cyl POS engine. poster child of the burned out meth head-seriously wild eyes, terrible acne skin, the works. he looked to be in a heck of a hurry to track down those breakfast drugs. man, i just wasn't in the mood for that BS. if i had jumped off my bike he would have had a heart attack. i look about 400# in my armored jacket and about as wide as a sheet of plywood.
you should have seen the guy that ran off with the ticket. he was about 10 years older and looked even worse.
he said "i need this." as was off like a shot. maybe he was gonna' roll something up in it and smoke it. some desperate looking people up around that country.
keep reading, i get my cop vibe going later on in the report.
kojack-yeah, that's what it is. 650R with versys forks, a little buell stuff, and some home brewed fabrication work.
it is one runnin' machine. reliable, durable, and fast...even on gravel. this bike ran over 3000 miles of gravel on just this one trip. need i say fun.
had many guys come over to look at the bike when i stopped, especially when i had the TKC80s mounted. it looks real wild with the TKCs.
this bike is gone and i'm building a new one over here
your red bike has inspired me to build a 650 r streetfighter sytle.
great complement to my klr. I was looking at getting a versys, but the 650r built for street only would be a better choice at this time....
props on the work man....
here's the new project bike with a versys tank. i might use this tank because it has an extra gallon of fuel over the 650R tank. for my purposes i'll trade out the stock conventional forks for the bigger versys usd set.
anyway, you can get an idea of how it looks naked with the stock forks. if done right, it makes a damn cool ride for the street. fast and fun.
the thing about these bikes is that they can be found really cheap. you need to be patient and be ready to go with the cash, but eventually you'll find a great deal. for example, my out the door ready to ride total budget for this build is only $2500 and i'll be real close. that bike has only 500 miles on it and has a clear title. took 3 months to find it.
good luck on the build.
stay tuned and you'll see how it does with TKC80s.
Day 2: Friday, May 22, 2009 Badlands, South Dakota to Red Lodge, Montana
We were the only ones at the campground moving when we got up and left. I always keep my watch set to my home time zone when I travel domestically. I learned this from years of business travel and it works for me. We planned to take the back way over to Wall and we did just that. A dandy ride to start the day, sunny skies and crisp. This road is an example of why I like to go early or late in the season. Despite the scenery, it would not have been enjoyable if clogged with RVs, but this day we had the road to ourselves. We didn't need the meat, but Beemer tried to kill a deer anyway. You can't ride past Wall in the morning without stopping for the breakfast buffet at Wall Drug. People on the street are looking the bikes over again and we talk to them about the ride. Gas and go. We're bound for Wyoming.
I90 to Gillette and then the back way over to Sheridan on 14/16. For some reason I don't get fuel in Gillette, so halfway across I'm low on fuel. Those dots on the map that represent little towns dont mean fuel. We pass two places that once had pumps, but not anymore.
My fuel light was on, so I stop and dump in one can of fuel. I might have made it to Clearmont where there was supposed to be fuel, but I didn't feel like running out. There were antelope and deer all over including a good number that had been hit on the road. Got to Clearmont and pull up to the one pump, drop the sidestand, and go to get off
except the stand wasn't all the way down and the bike falls to the left, pinning me up against the pump. This caused some excitement in town and I would have gotten the bike off me sooner if all the bystanders weren't laughing so hard. At least I got fuel and there was no damage to the left side of the bike. Eventually, my left side luck would run out.
We continued through Sheridan, got back on I90 for a short stretch, and then west on 14/14A. 14A takes us over the first significant pass at just over 10,000 feet. As we start the climb, two bikes are coming down-the riders looked frozen. It's raining now, and we're climbing into low clouds. Scattered road construction but they were off because of the rain and no lanes were closed. No long views today, but I was still enjoying the ride. Big bull moose standing in a field watching as I pass by. Near the top of the pass I finally had to stop. My visor was fogged and I needed to trade my mesh gloves for something with some insulation. I get set, start out, and find Beemer parked on the side only 100 yards ahead. The sleet, snow, and fog were so thick I hadn't seen him.
Start out again and ride only ¼ mile before I'm in sunshine and the temp goes up 40 degrees. If I had held on another few minutes, I wouldn't have needed to stop at all. Another ¼ mile and I chase a cow moose and her calf off the road. They were photo shy. We cruise down to Lovell and now its hot-what a switch. Surprise, we stop for fuel again. I'm getting a fuel light phobia. While at the pumps, a local guy rushes up and wants to check out the bikes and talk about the trip. He follows the trip reports on ADV and wants to go on his own dream trip. Go for it!
Lovell is in the mirrors and we take 310 up into Montana. We wanted to cross Beartooth, but it was not open yet. We hit 72 and backtrack to the 308 turnoff. 308 is a nice little road that takes us west into Red Lodge. The town has a prosperous look to it and we check in at the KOA just outside of town. There may have been something else there, but we didn't feel like riding around. There was a Dakar parked near the office wall and I never did locate the owner.
Back into town for pizza at the bar and I find that I've been spoiled by No Smoking establishments. That was one smoky place. Add kitchen grease, spilled beer, and a whiff of weed from somewhere back in the corner, and you have a rock and roll Montana bar. Many of the patrons were in the bag already, so we best be back before they're turned loose on the road. We stayed and had a couple pizzas and beers, rolled the dice for the big prize-not even close. Beemer found out that if youre going to share pizza with me, never ever mention that you're not that hungry. Called the day and when I zipped up my sleeping bag I kind of got the first sensation that I was really on the road. I was already over 2000 miles west and the trip had barely started.
i will definatnly get the USD setup...but im def using the lights and faring you had on your old one! that is sweet. im a kawi nut, so thats right up my ally for a street ride.