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Fly 'n Ride: SLC, UT to Cincinnati, OH & return - KLR purchased from Inmate

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by mpgmr, Jul 31, 2010.

  1. mpgmr

    mpgmr Utard

    Feb 27, 2008
    Kamas, UT
    I am busier than a cross-eyed, one-armed juggler giving his first performance. Adding to the stress is that my performance involves trying to remain in one piece. The juggling includes riding a motorcycle I just purchased, thus which I am unfamiliar, with trying to follow the tracks on my GPS, which I can barely read due to the sun in my eyes and dark glasses, the traffic and being totally unfamiliar with the Cincinnati suburb, while being followed by one of Milford’s Finest in the heat and humidity has me maxed out as to the tasks I can safely and adequately perform. Eventually Milford’s Finest turns off, the road leads to more rural settings, and the bike remains well mannered. I relax a little, then I miss a turn. It was only the first of the turns I would miss during my 1,624 mile fly and ride from the Salt Lake City area to Cincinnati, OH and return.

    Back in June I spotted Earl’s bike for sale on the Adventure Rider’s forum. Link to the ad and pics of the bike can be found at http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=593678. Earl had completed a lot of work on the bike, including many of the desired KLR after-market and off-road farkles (additions). It was a blue (the fastest color), 2009 Kawaski KLR with only 4,065 miles on it. The bike had the vaunted 685 kit, an aftermarket seat (Sargent), and luggage (hard side and top bags)! Shoot the bike is only 1,602 miles away, how bad can that be to ride it here? So I contact Earl and we agree on particulars for my flying out on July 16th.

    Preparing for the trip was half the fun but the day eventually arrived and I flew out of Salt Lake City and arrived in Cincinnati just after 6 PM. Earl’s son, Earl, picked me up at the airport and we chatted as he drove me to Milford. Earl helped me get the bike ready and clear of the garage. He suggested I put ice cubes in my Camelback back pack. A very good idea. Thank you, Earl, for your help and forbearance while I was getting ready for my jaunt. I could see my his dancing around that he had other plans for a Friday night, so I tried to get going as soon as I could. Then I hit the streets of Milford and environs as described above.

    When I first mapped out the ride I asked Google Maps to route me from Milford, OH to Kamas, UT. Google did a pretty good job but I wanted a little more rural riding before I hit I-80 for the long slog home. I opted to route the ride through Cincinnati suburbs until I hit the I-74 which I rode to Shelbyville, IN. The traffic wasn’t bad on the freeway for a Friday evening and I arrived at the Hampton Inn just at dusk. I load up with petro and get checked in at the hotel. I got a double sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit (and coronary) at the next door Waffle House, which was my first real meal, if you can call it that, of the day. It has been my experience that sometimes you ride to eat, Goldwing club rides, and sometimes you forget about eating and just ride like hell, like today.

    I ate a decent breakfast at the hotel and got on the road by 7:00. My morning ride was via the 74 around the southern portion of Indianapolis and then getting on highway 36 or Rockville Road in the Township of Wayne, IN. I was to ride highway 36 for the next 464 miles. It is not exactly route 66 but it was a nice ride, viewing the country side and small towns of Indiana. Green and cool.

    Well it was green and cool until the morning progressed and then I noticed a change. It was getting warm, and humid. I stop in Decatur, IL to get a few tools (I did not bring any due to TSA regulations and I did not want to check luggage). I asked the guy behind the counter if he had this or that including flat fix goop. Each time all I got was ‘No’ or the price was outrageous. So I finally settled on a tire air pressure gauge (I know, big spender). I say to him, “At least I will know how much air I don’t have”. Not even a crack of a smile. I don’t think he was a Saturday morning person nor did I see a coffee cup on the counter.

    As an aside, something I thought about while on the ride, was that I could have shipped my tools and other essentials to Earl before the ride. They would then be waiting there for me and that would even save carrying so much on the plane. If I ever fly and ride again, I think that’s the ticket.

    Anyway, I finally did pick up some tools and flat fix stuff when I rode into Springfield, IL. The guys at the well stocked auto parts store seemed incredulous that I would be buying the stuff if I didn’t already have a problem. Go figure. A young boy in a car parked next to the KLR intently eyes my storing the items I just purchased. I get on the bike and give him a salute as I ride away. He turns and excitedly talks to his sisters. Another biker in the making.

    By now it is getting down right hot and humid and I am drinking out of my Camelback as I ride. With a six gallon gas tank, I have been going about 150 miles between fill ups. I really do not know my range but I did calculate that the bike is getting some 38 mpg. Thus 38 times 6 is a range of some 228 miles. Not too shabby!

    My route back home included my traversing Missouri. I do not know for sure what it is but it seems every time I ride through Missouri I get the feeling that I am just glad to get the heck out of the state. When I rode through the 48 states in 1990 (see ‘Winging Through America’), Missouri is the only state in which I had a run in with the law. So even though things are progressing along nicely, other than the heat and humidity, I was approaching Hannibal, MO with some misgivings. Then all of a sudden the KLR starts missing and stuttering.

    Since I was at 175 miles since the last fill-up, I figured right away it was probably a gas starvation issue, but which way do I turn the petcock? Now I had asked myself this question previously but was too hurried to stop and look to see. So with a 50/50 chance for a correct decision, I turn the petcock lever forward, and almost immediately the bike is it’s old self again. So there is my Missouri experience, running out of gas, well, OK, having to put it on reserve just about at the state line. Figures.

    So I stop in Hannibal and get refueled and buy two slices of pizza. It is too hot and humid to eat both so I put the other in my luggage. Yes, it is in a box. I fill up my Camelback with ice from my fountain drink and I am on my way again.

    Indiana and particularly Illinois seemed to be growing a lot of corn and a low growing crop I could not identify from the road. When I get into Missouri the state is indeed green but there seems to be much less agriculture. Missouri seems to be a bit more rugged in places, which would make it difficult to farm. Much of Missouri seems a blur, and it was getting hotter and more humid. The ride from St. Joseph on Missouri’s Western border up I-29 to Nebraska City, NE was pretty but miserable.

    Of course I missed the highway 2 turn off of I-29 and had to ride up I-29 an extra 8 or so miles before an off/on ramp availed itself for my use (yes, I thought about cutting across the freeway but figured Missouri LEOs would love to see that.) Riding back down I-29 was not only miserable but I had to dodge large cracks in the highway. Some of them were wide and deep enough to swallow, at least momentarily, a bikes front tire to the rim. Not a good area to ride this area at night! I thankfully got off I-29 at highway 2 and stopped at the nearest gas station.

    Even after going inside for a little bit and getting a cold drink, I was not feeling that good. Way too hot. So I did the only thing I could think of at time. I got on the bike and started riding again. Least it seemed cooler. The ride on highway 2 through Lincoln was the most miserable part of the trip. The sun was setting thus shinning directly on my sun burned face (even with 30 SPF protection) and the hot stop and go traffic in the Lincoln suburbs tested my determination.

    Why is it that some people rush up to the next stop light, just to be stopped again? Why is it some bozo in front of me always puts his car into neutral when stopped at a light and takes the extra 4 seconds to shift into first after the light changes? Why is it that some moron wants to share his music with everyone in traffic, boom-boom-boom? Why are stop lights always the longest in duration in the direction one is heading? These and numerous other timely questions raced through my mind, just to keep me from losing my mind in the heat and humidity. Yeah, I was not in a good mood.

    I finally merged onto I-80 just West of Lincoln. The need for speed! I keep the bike right at 70 mph to get some air flowing through my helmet. I found with the 16 tooth sprocket the KLR will do an indicated 70 mph at 4700 rpm (actually 68.5 mph according to my gps) and the bike seems happy at that rpm and the vibrations are minimal, except through the foot pegs. Earl had installed crash bars on the bike in case of a tip over and though they do protect bike vitals they also add weight and increase the vibrations in the foot pegs.

    Speaking of foot pegs, I found the passenger foot pegs an ideal place to place my feet if I wanted to hunker down in crotch rocket mode. Placing my legs on top of the crash bars gave me a relaxed, feet almost level with the seat, or chopper feel. I am going to install some pegs on the crash bars to get yet another position for cramped legs. Letting your feet dangle just off the pavement also gives me another position to try and relieve my cramped legs and rear.

    Speaking of seats. The Sargent after-market seat worked well, particularly moving all the way to the rear. Very wide and padded. Except for my old Goldwing, I do not think I have sat on a more comfortable cycle seat. But the miles were long, hot, and humid and trying to get comfortable was a constant chore.

    I am riding along I-80 in Nebraska and something tells me to stop at York. I notice a nice Hampton Inn there and the temptation was great but I had another half-hour or so of good riding light, so on I ride to Grand Island. I was tempted to continue on into the evening as the weather was cooling but I was a bit more than half-way, the weather didn’t look the best, and I had been riding for about 14 hours. I stopped at the Day’s Inn in Grand Island. I filled up with gas and rode to the motel and got a room. I covered the KLR and went inside to a 67 degree room. Even for me that was too much as I was sweating from every pore. I upped the temp to 70 and turned to the weather channel on TV. After checking in with my better-half and getting ready for bed, a weather news bulletin comes blaring over the TV. Golf ball sized hail, torrential rains, flooding, and sixty mph winds heading Southeast. Phew, it will just miss Grand Island. Half hour later it hits Grand Island. Fortunately the bike is parked between two cars between two buildings but the cover is flapping crazily and the rain is coming down in buckets. Question? Who collects the buckets when that happens? Anyway, I was not about to go out in the lightening, rain, and wind (from what I could tell we never got the hail) so I let the cover flap and I flopped on the bed and went to sleep.

    I wanted to get an early start again so the alarm went off at 5:30. The plan was to ride Friday night for 100 miles, do a couple of 600 mile days and finish Monday morning sometime, thus making the 1,602 miles Google predicted. Well, so far I had traveled 853 miles with 750 of that Saturday. I am starting to think I can do this in basically two days and get home Sunday night. Thus the early reveille (actually a piano riff) on my iPhone.

    I get ready and get the KLR loaded up. I am chagrined that I do not have to bungee anything onto the bike. I am well known for being a true Farkle. I once drove my Toyota Supra from Pittsburgh, PA to S. CA loaded to the gills with an office chair strapped to the top. I mean I seem to be some compulsion to strap something on my vehicles. Even on the Goldwing I had stuff strapped to it on trips. A couple of years ago I did a fly and ride to pick up a Harley Superglide from Tempe, Arizona and rode it back to SLC. You better believe I had stuff strapped to it. So here I am in the middle of the U.S. with NOTHING strapped to the bike. It is all contained in the luggage Earl had installed on the bike. It was a sight to see. OK, you had to be there.

    So I go and have a plate of biscuit and gravy and a bowl of Frosted Flakes offered by the hotel. Not much, but it will work. The tables were few so I shared one with a guy about my age. We started talking and he was bringing his friend back from Vegas to MN to detox. Apparently he had flown to Vegas, paid his friend’s hotel bill, and was now driving with him to MN. My new friend had a heart of gold, that’s for sure. He said his friend had an abusive wife and just liked to drink. I did not have the heart to tell him to look a little deeper at who was abusing what. His friend had to drink during the day in order to not get the shakes. Anyway, the guy had some interesting motorcycle and diving stories, both of which I am involved in. A good guy.

    After jawboning for too long, I go out and a guy says that the KLR looked like it was going to blow over last night (I think he was actually just seeing the cover flap around). He had come in after I had and was from a baseball tournament being held in the Grand Islands area. He said the wind got so bad that a table was blown over the second story balcony at the ball park and hit a guy. Everyone cleared out and sought shelter for the night. Good thing I had not gone on, I would have run straight into it. Too bad I didn’t stop earlier, I would have missed it all. Such is life.

    Back on the road I found the weather to be much nicer than yesterday afternoon. My hope was to get the hell out of Nebraska before the heat and humidity started making life miserable again. I made good time on the Interstate. Seems quite a few riders were going Eastbound while I only passed a few riders and got passed by one group going Westbound. I had not passed nor was passed at all on Saturday. I tried to wave to all my fellow bikers that I could.

    At my first Sunday morning stop in NE I met up with the group that had passed me. It turns out one of the guys has an ’04 KLR he uses around the farm. Says he loves it but would like to get a new one. I think he was riding a Harley with the others in his group. I told him I was very happy with my KLR so far!

    Getting back on the road it was uneventful ride to Sidney, NE. The weather was cool enough and I was heading into Wyoming and the mountains. Now that gas was more at a premium, fewer stations, I was filling up every 110-130 miles vs. trying for 150 or so. I was riding up out of Cheyenne when it occurred to me that the bike just did not have the power it had in the flats. It turns out that while in the mountains of Wyoming, I frequently had trouble getting the bike up much above 60 going uphill in fifth gear, particularly if there was a headwind. Shifting down got the engine buzzing again but I do not like to push it over 5,500 rpm for a sustained period. I have read that an engine should be able to take a sustained 80% of redline and not be damaged. At a red line of 7,500 the engine ran fine at 6,000 rpms but it just seemed too ‘buzzy’ for me, particularly in the middle of Wyoming. I like my sedate 4,700 rpms better.

    So between downshifting and down hills we are able to make it to Green River slower but successfully. I fill up in Green River and can vouch for the green of their river. Being it was afternoon in the mountains I noticed the clouds and rain to the North and South. About a mile out of town we got hit with a ferocious gusting side wind blowing from the South. It kept blowing that way for about 15 miles. I slowed down to 60 mph and the KLR responded relatively well to the wind. I figured that the good part was that I was wearing the sides of the tires more than the bottom, thus extending their tread life a little. Down the road further on we run into a gusting wind blowing from the North. It was not as bad as the earlier wind, but still a concern.

    Nursing the bike behind and passing semi’s and fighting wind and the lack of power consumed my attention until Evanston. I figure I will have to re-jet the bike from the sea level jetting Earl likely used to my some 6,000 feet elevation. I filled up with gas one last time in Evanston and the rest of the ride was mostly downhill from there to Wanship and home. I made it home about a half-hour before dark and after riding for approximately 14 hours and 671 miles.

    To recap. The trip took about 31 riding hours (including stops) and could likely be done in two days of hard dawn to night summer riding but I was glad I did those 100 miles on Friday evening. If you could cruse at 75 mph, rather than my more leisurely 70 mph, then making good time (except in MO, IL, and IN) is possible. Many of the speed limits in those three states, on the roads I traveled, were 55 or 65 mph. Overall, I stopped about every 140 miles for about a half-hour during each stop to stretch and refresh. Even though traveling highway 36 may have not been the fastest way, it was the straightest and did enable me to mix up Interstate with more local flavor.

    Traveling across the U.S. in late June, July, and August? If you can, find a better time. Otherwise, start early. I certainly have gained respect for the KLR and now know why owners rave about their mount. With a choice of 14, 15 and 16 tooth counter shaft sprockets you have a bike which can do about all you would want to. It is not a single purpose bike and it would be challenged with rough single track trails, a crotch rocket’s go fast agenda, or a long legged bagger, but a KLR will do all those things and most importantly, get you back home.
  2. Liberia

    Liberia Fortunate

    Mar 22, 2010
    Murfreesboro, TN

    Wow, 1,600+ miles in 2+ days. You are a tough guy.

    I just bought a KLR 650 in the Boston area and rode it back to Tennessee with my wife. We did 1,200 miles in 4 days and it was hard enough.

    Comparing notes with you I'm surprised at your mileage. We averaged 54mpg across the entire trip with the lowested being 49 when I was running 70 on the interstate at 4,500 rpm. I found that 63 is the sweet spot (4,000 rpms) which is where we got 57mpg. This is with 2 people and loaded down with Happy Trails panniers, a Pelican top case and another bag strapped on top of that. Of course this bike is geared really high for long distance commuting use.

    Like you, the speedometer registers about 3mph above the gps at 60mph. I know some people get the speedo healer but it just doesn't seem worth it to me.

    I know it's a pain to take pictures when you're by yourself and moving fast but I would love to see how your bike is set up and also some of the places you passed through.

    Thanks for posting the report, I really enjoyed it.
  3. mpgmr

    mpgmr Utard

    Feb 27, 2008
    Kamas, UT
    Thank you for your comments re: my post.

    Frankly I was surprised at how easy the KLR is to ride. With the Sargent seat I was pretty comfortable except for needing to stretch my legs and butt. The seat is wide toward the back and supports too wide tushes like mine. I didn't get the tingling numbness with my right hand from the handlebars as I do on my other bikes. Probably combination of grip and possibly the 685 kit. That kit makes the bike's engine QUIET! My DRZ440 makes lots of engine noise but with the 685 kit you can only hear the exhaust. Highly recommended.

    The heat and humidity on Saturday afternoon made that portion of the trip miserable. I am sure if I had a passenger along they would be miserable as well, compounding the problem. When you're alone you can just grit it out and do the miles - one reason that MO was a mental blur.

    Yeah, I was surprised I was only getting 38 mpg but I checked it at least twice and it was pretty consistent. Earl did a stage carb upgrade and maybe it's running too rich? I haven't pulled the plug to look. The only problem I had with power was in the mountains of Wyoming and even there the bike wasn't really missing...just seemed to be lugging in fifth going uphill with a headwind. With gear and myself we were probably 370 wet (full tank) + whatever the bike weighs. I will do the second stage carb upgrade and see if the mileage changes. I wouldn't think that some 35 additional cc's would make that much difference.

    I do have a pic of the bike at the Hampton Inn on Saturday morning. There are pics that Earl posted when he was trying to sell the bike on advrider.
    The link for Earl's pics is: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=593678
    I will have to find the one I took in IL and post it later.
    Stay tuned.