January 12, 2009

Arai XD3 Review

Arai XD3I've been riding with my new Arai XD 3 crossover helmet for over a month now and it's become my preferred brain bucket over my Schuberth C2. There are a couple of features on this helmet that make it a new favorite. The sun shade peak blocks the sun's blinding rays late in the day. The fit is great, especially snug around the cheeks, sadly preventing me from chewing gum. The cheek pads are removable too for emergency helmet removal for paramedics in case of an accident. Ventilation is very good and the interior padding has channels for air flow. From what I've heard the previous version, the XD had fog up issues in cold weather, but I haven't had any problems with the XD3. I love that I can ratchet open the shield to allow different amounts of air flow through the front. The XD3 in size XL weighs in at 1740 grams, a big difference from my 1900 gram Schuberth flip up. The helmet also allows greater peripheral vision with it's wider and taller front opening. Finally, the helmet is amazingly quiet while riding at high speeds. Cross winds can catch the sun shade and push your head around a little, but that's it. Overall, I'm impressed with the Arai XD 3 and it's quality.

Available online at Riders Discount in sizes XS-XXL for $489.56 with Free Shipping! or toll free 1-866-931-6644.

Posted by stephen at 5:11 PM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2008

Two Up to the Taj Mahal

This past June on our trip to India my wife and I rode a Royal Enfield Bullet from New Delhi to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. We were going to ride to Jaipur to complete the golden triangle but I got sick from the food and we just rode back to Delhi with a fever in monsoon rains. Quite an adventure.

Photos from the India trip can be found here: India Top 75 Photos
And Nepal afterwards here: Nepal Top 75 Photos

Posted by stephen at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2008

Surf City Tech Day

Slightly groggy from the cognac the night before I woke up this morning and velcroed my boots over the stitches on my shin and gritted my teeth. I mounted the GS and rode through the Santa Cruz mountains over to Darryl Richman's house where he was holding the 8th annual Surf City Tech Day. It was the first hottest day of spring and the sun was shining. As I rode up his steep winding driveway I looked to the right and saw the southern end Monterrey Bay in the distance and on the left a bunch of old guys standing around talking and looking at old motorcycles. Some were even taking them apart and fixing them. I saw some old friends and and I made some new ones and have never seen so many valve adjustments in a row in my life.

Dude, there's an old bike. Dude, it's Darryl's R52!

I walked into the garage and there was Greg Hutchinson rebuilding the front calipers on his GS. Who do these people think they are working on there own bikes? It's crazy! Crazy I tell ya!!

No, this man is not in the middle of a severe hernia. He's syncing the carbs on this Airhead by ear. With his own ears! I'm starting to get frightened. Very frightened.

Inside my head, I asked this man, "Are you doing a valve adjustment all by yourself?" He replied, inside my head, "No, not really there will be a handful of guys that will stand behind me and tell me how to do it correctly and give me secret tips." I hope he just doesn't void his warranty!

And then an odd looking bike showed up with a large tank and a small seat.

There were toaster tanks with no toast in them.

His name is Joachim Groeger. He's 86 years old and still rides. He owns a machine shop in Redwood City and works on vintage BMWs. 'Nuff said.

David Brick smiles as Sophie waits in the background for Greg to show her how to adjust her valves.

MOA Ambassador, Darryl Richman is the Cliff Claven of vintage BMWs and that's a good thing. He is a repository of information regarding the restoration and history of these old machines. The best thing he does with all that information he acquires is that he shares it.

Then I met this guy from France named Jean. He's been hiding out in Napa Valley for ten years making wine at Opus One. At $183 a bottle I'm going to make friends with this guy and see what he brings to the next party I invite him to.

The king of Castle Drive perches on one of his non-porcelain thrones enjoying a day well done. Thank you Darryl.

After a few hours of absorbing the testosterone from the motorcyles and tools in the little paradise above the clouds I invited my two new friends from France to join me in a quest to the Corralitos Market for apple wood smoked honey glazed bacon! Yes, a Bacon Run! En francais, Course de Lard! Could the day end any better?

If you want to see the rest of the photos you will have to click on the link below.
All the photos here.

Posted by stephen at 12:06 AM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2008

Santa Cruz to San Luis Obispo Ride

Here's the video for the previous blog post.

Posted by stephen at 7:02 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2008

SLO Ride

On Sunday, my friend Peter and I departed Santa Cruz on our way to San Luis Obispo, CA. The plan: ride roads we have not ridden, ride some dirt, eat well and have fun.

Old Hernandez Road off of Hwy 25. The goat path turns to dirt with so rocks the size of your fist scattered in soft dirt.

Riding the San Andreas Fault we take Parkfield Grade into the tiny town of Parkfield.

After a BBQ tri-tip sandwich and ortega burger we took some photos...

It's a great time to ride in California. After the rains the hills turn vibrant green, rather than the yellow straw we see in the summer. I imagine I'm riding in Ireland. Bitterwater Road is quite sweet.

Peter was falling asleep when we were riding on hwy 58 about 22 miles out of SLO. He stopped to rest for a few minutes and I went into town to gas up, get beer and check in to the motel. As I was stuffing my duffel bag with beer, my cell phone rang at the Chevron and Peter was on the stuck side of Hwy 101, 4 miles north, with and empty tank of gas. My MSR fule bottle with a liter of gas came to the rescue. My R1200 made it 220 miles on a tank (fuel spout drilled) and I put in 5.7 gallons of gas there. The 1150's range was a bit shorter.

After we checked in we polished of a 12 pack of Pacifico and walked over to our favorite Italian restaurant, Buono Travola. Carpacchio, penne ariabiata and veal along with two bottles of the Central Coast's finest red wine.

This Sangiovese was so complex I had to think about it.

After dinner we stumbled over to Mother's bar and made some friends..

It was karaoke night and I'm not shy. I convinced our new friend April to join me on stage but she got stage fright and would not sing into the mic.
Sweet Child O' Mine!

The crowd can't contain themselves. It was as if the spirit of Axl Rose had taken over my body. I wish his voice was included.

The best place in the area to have breakfast is in Santa Margarita. No relation to the other Tina's Place in McKittrick, CA.

The central coast of California is the birthplace of tri-tip. That tender triangular tip of the sirloin. It's not just for dinner around here.

Hangover cures: Vitamins, Advil and Grease...

After breakfast we headed over to one of our favorite roads in the area: Hwy 229, Creston Road. I have never taken any photos of this rollercoaster because there's no where to stop and you don't want to stop because it's so fun.

We pop out behind Paso Robles and take Estrella Road for the first time up to San Miguel. A nice find on the GPS...

After gasing up in San Miguel we rode Indian Valley Rd to Peach Tree Road. I think we saw two motorcycles and one car on the entire 38 mile stretch.

From here we flew up the the Airline hwy toward Hollister where we split up to go home.
A great Presidents Day Ride.

The Full Monty

Posted by stephen at 9:13 PM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2008

Big Sur Ride and Camp

Sharon and I rode down south of Big Sur to Kirk Creek campground. This was Sharon's first long ride on her Buell Blast. She now wants a bigger bike.

Posted by stephen at 4:34 PM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2007

The Death of a Motorcycle

Montana, Big Sky Country

Back in the summer of 2003 Peter, my friend, and I went on a motorcycle journey of a lifetime. At the time, I was riding a 1980 Kawasaki KZ750 with bicycle panniers strapped to the back and Peter was on a 1988 BMW K75S. We rode through the Pacific northwest up to Vancouver Island and across British Columbia to Calgary to visit his brother Dave. We then traveled south through Montana, Yellowstone Park, Wyoming and Idaho. We slept under the stars, ate the finest grease at diners and met interesting people along the way. Even though Peter and I returned home safely, I can't say my KZ750 did.

As we rode westward across Idaho in the darkness, around 10 o'clock, my guardian angel watched overhead. I was in the lead flying down a two lane rural highway at 80 miles per hour as Peter followed. Suddenly, out in front of me jumped a huge elk and a smaller one following. I instantly hit the brakes and most likely hit more rear than front. Miraculously, I missed the elk and kept the bike up. All Peter saw was me, the elk, and a 50 foot patch of rubber on the road. This was our introduction into riding at night so we immediately checked into the next motel down the road. I was new to riding and now I wished I had known better. The leading cause of motorcycle deaths in the US is from collisions with deer.

The next day my engine seized in the desert, twenty-five miles north of Winnemucca, Nevada. About a month before the trip I had installed an Dyna electronic ignition on the bike. The problem was I had melted a wire that ended up grounding out on the frame so the bike kept blowing a fuse and stalling. Stupidly, I ended up bypassing the fuse by wrapping the glass tube fuse with tinfoil. The ignition eventually failed and I was only running on two of the four cylinders by the time we got to the Idaho-Nevada border. Within thirty miles, the engine was spewing oil and smoking. A while later we pulled into a Chevron gas station to assess the situation only to discover the bike was cooked. My second guardian angel came in the form of an ex-convict on parole. He and his crystal methed-out girlfriend gave me and the KZ a ride into Winnemucca in their 1976 Ford F250 as Peter followed. In the cabin of the truck I calculated that I had more teeth than the two of them put together. Good times indeed. I could not have planned the timing of the breakdown any better. We ended up throwing the bikes in a Uhaul cube van and drove home to the Bay Area the next day. A few weeks later I purchased a 1987 BMW K75S with the money from the parted-out KZ750. My addiction to BMWs began.

Posted by stephen at 9:46 AM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2007

Morro Bay, California Ride, Eat & Camp

Posted by stephen at 4:54 PM | Comments (0)

Riding the San Jose Half Marathon

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February 20, 2007

A Ride for Basque Food

Central Ave, originally uploaded by Burnszilla.

Sunday morning my friend Darryl and I embarked on a 336 mile journey to eat. When it comes to motorcycle dining, Darryl ranks up there with the best of them. The motto on his coat of arms reads, "Ride to eat and eat to ride." We rode south on highway 1 towards Laureles Grade which threw us over onto Carmel Valley Road. Carmel Valley Road corkscrews southeastward to King City. We crossed highway 101onto Bitterwater Road which connects to highway 25, otherwise known as the Airline Highway. Northward we turned right on Panoche Road and took it past Mercey Hot Springs along Little Panoche Road. We slabbed it on I-5 northwards and exited towards our destination. Just after two o'clock we arrived at the Wool Growers French Basque Restaurant in Los Banos, California.

Our stomachs were empty since we only had a small breakfast prior to 8 am. Adorned in protective motorcycle gear we walked into the one hundred year old building, past a bar room on the right and into the back dining hall. Two tall attractive brunettes ran the show. Long communal tables ran the length of the room and rancheros were scattered about. We were seated off to the side at our own table. "What would you like? Tri-tip, chicken or lamp chops?"
I wasn't prepared to make such a quick decision. Darryl chose the lamp chops and I followed suit. You must ask yourself: how often do I eat lamb chops and what's the name of the restaurant? When in Basque. Within moments our table started to fill up with food. Food I didn't even know was ordered. A fresh loaf of bread along with single-serving butter squares sandwiched between wax paper. Just like other restaurants the butter was cold and hard. A half liter of table wine appeared. A large serving bowl of vegetable soup and a large side of brown beans showed up. Darryl mentioned that the last time he was there he had seen regulars put their beans in the soup. We adopted the tradition. A crispy iceberg lettuce salad with a mayonaisse based dressing appeared and then a large plate of rice with pulled chicken a few diced sundried tomatoes. I've never tasted rice this good before. There were really good french fries too, but I resisted, watching my figure. Ya, right! I was starting to worry about how we were to make it back home with a food coma. The our waitress brought us two large lamp chops, each. They were spiced to perfection. I couldn't believe all the food they brought us. Desert was a plastic cup of vanilla ice cream with the peel off paper top. The only thing missing was the disposable flat wooden spoon. Ironically, the ice cream was softer than the butter. I'm not complaining at all here. I love ice cream. The bill showed up and I was even more amazed. Fifteen dollars each, plus tip. That was one of the best meals I've had in a long time. I will be stopping their next time we come back from Yosemite on a weekend.

We hopped on our BMWs and raced the Pacheco Pass home into San Jaun Bautista and on every back road north of Watsonville in the Santa Cruz Mountains. A successful ride and a full stomach make for a great day. Click here to see all the photos.

Posted by stephen at 10:24 PM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2007

Micatech Motorcycle Luggage

GS in the Shed, originally uploaded by Burnszilla.

This morning I dropped Sharon off at the airport. She's gone to Atlanta for ten days to visit her friends. When the cat's away the mice will play. What's a man to do? Coincidentally my Micatech motorcycle luggage arrived via FedEx at work today. It took about four weeks including shipping time to get them. I believe the demand is increasing for these cases and the company is busy with orders. When I arrived home I eagerly installed the mounting system and cases. You could tell right away that they run a tight ship at Micatech by the way all of the parts inside the two boxes were meticulously packaged, accounted for and fastened down. Taking my time, it took about three hours to get the install done. Every threaded bolt had to have a drop of Loctite Threadlocker Blue on it to ensure that they wouldn't vibrate off.

After spending a few late evenings researching what aftermarket cases to get for the GS, I decided on the Micatechs. The side loading BMW Vario cases are known to fall off the bike while riding on bumpy roads. The Jesse Odyssey bags are top loading and you would have to remove your luggage or roll bag off of the rack to access the contents. Others were known for dragging on the road if you leaned too much in corners. Leaning is fun and scratching up your new luggage would suck. The side loading Micatechs with mounting system that blends in with the style of the GS were the obvious choice. All your stuff is safe as the doors are secured by latch and key. At a capacity of 102 liters total and a weight of less than 15 pounds each, I'll be able to bring the kitchen sink along on trips. These cases will hold about double of what my old K75S Integral cases would. That makes for a happy wife on your two-up ride to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving.

I'm very happy with the cases and I can't wait to get a look at the new topcase Micatech plans to release in the summer. Rumor has it, the owner of the company is here in California on his GS riding treacherous dirt roads, putting his topcase to the test.

Posted by stephen at 12:24 AM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2007

'Stich Crotch

Got Crotch?
Originally uploaded by Burnszilla.
Sharon and I went for a very wet ride today to meet some ADVrider friends for lunch at Alice's Restaurant in Woodside. Along the coast there wasn't much rain but we got soaked on the ride back along Skyline. One of the weak points of the Aerostich Roadcrafter one piece suit is the zippered crotch. It leaks. It gets cold down there and shrinkage occurs. I should take the time to apply some SeamGrip or bees wax to the the zipper to keep the water out. Then it won't look like I had an accident.

Posted by stephen at 11:47 PM | Comments (1)

February 9, 2007

Great Motorcycle Quotes and Wisdom

On the Road, originally uploaded by Burnszilla.

Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.
Most motorcycle problems are caused by the nut that connects the handlebars to the saddle.
Life may begin at 30, but it doesn't get real interesting until about 110 mph!
You start the game of life with a full pot o' luck and an empty pot o' experience... The object is to fill the pot of experience before you empty the pot of luck.
If you wait, all that happens is that you get older.
Midnight bugs taste best.
Saddlebags can never hold everything you want, but they CAN hold everything you need.
Never try to race an old geezer, he may have one more gear than you.
It takes more love to share the saddle than it does to share the bed.
The only good view of a thunderstorm is in your rearview mirror.
Never be afraid to slow down.
Don't ride so late into the night that you sleep through the sunrise.
Sometimes it takes a whole tankful of fuel before you can think straight.
Riding faster than everyone else only guarantees you'll ride alone.
Never hesitate to ride past the last street light at the edge of town.
Never do less than fifty miles before breakfast.
If you don't ride in the rain, you don't ride.
A bike on the road is worth two in the shed.
Respect the person who has seen the dark side of motorcycling and lived.
Young riders pick a destination and go... Old riders pick a direction and go.
A good mechanic will let you watch without charging you for it.
Sometimes the fastest way to get there is to stop for the night.
Always back your bike into the curb, and sit where you can see it.
Work to ride & ride to work.
Whatever it is, it's better in the wind.
Two-lane blacktop isn't a highway - it's an attitude.
When you look down the road, it seems to never end - but you better believe it does.
Winter is Nature's way of telling you to polish. (unless you live in Southern California)
Keep your bike in good repair: Motorcycle boots are NOT comfortable for walking. ( For Harley Riders)
People are like Motorcycles: each is customized a bit differently.
Sometimes, the best communication happens when you're on separate bikes.
Good coffee should be indistinguishable from 50 weight motor oil.
The best alarm clock is sunshine on chrome.
The twisties - not the superslabs -separate the riders from the squids.
When you're riding lead, don't spit.
A friend is someone who'll get out of bed at 2 am to drive his pickup to the middle of nowhere to get you when you're broken down.
Catching a yellow jacket in your shirt at 70 mph can double your vocabulary.
If you want to get somewhere before sundown, you can't stop at every tavern.
There's something ugly about a NEW bike on a trailer. ( Amen)
Don't lead the pack if you don't know where you're going.
Practice wrenching on your own bike.
Everyone crashes. Some get back on. Some don't. Some can't.
Don't argue with an 18-wheeler.
Never be ashamed to unlearn an old habit.
A good long ride can clear your mind, restore your faith, and use up a lot of fuel.
If you can't get it going with bungee cords and electrician's tape, it's serious. ( Mr Bungee lives in Ohio)
If you ride like there's no tomorrow, there won't be.
Bikes parked out front mean good chicken-fried steak inside.
Gray-haired riders don't get that way from pure luck.
There are drunk riders. There are old riders. There are NO old, drunk riders.
Thin leather looks good in the bar, but it won't save your butt from "road rash" if you go down.
The best modifications cannot be seen from the outside.
Always replace the cheapest parts first.
You can forget what you do for a living when your knees are in the breeze.
Patience is the ability to keep your motor idling.
Only a Biker knows why a dog sticks his head out of a car window.
Keep the paint up, and the rubber down!
There are two types of people in this world, people who ride motorcycles and people who wish they could ride motorcycles.
Never ride faster than your guardian angel can fly.
"It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end."
Ride as if your life depended on it !!

Posted by stephen at 1:42 PM | Comments (0)

February 8, 2007

Riding in the Rain

Riding in the Rain, originally uploaded by Burnszilla.

Three years ago when I walked into the office with my wet gear on co-workers would say, "Did you ride in today?"
"No, I walked here in my motorcycle gear." Now they don't say anything. They just think I'm crazy. Riding in the rain is not crazy if done correctly. Actually I find it quite relaxing, because you have to ride as smooth as possible.

I learned the hard way a few years ago as I approached a down hill traffic light in Seattle in the rain with a fully loaded K75S. I forgot to stay out of the center of the lane where an oil patch accumulates from cars leaking. I slid down the hill and used all of my skill to try and keep the bike up, but gravity won. At a low speed I dropped the bike on the right side. Two guys on the corner came over to help me lift it back up. The fairing and signal light were smashed. The most painful part of that trip was riding home and looking down at my damaged bike. I now stay in the right or left tire tracks part of the lane and watch out for slicker than snot oil patches, road paint and manhole covers.

I believe that all motorcyclists should ride in the rain to practice the skill and become confident at it. If you are on a long motorcycle trip, you have no control over the weather. Are you going to stay in your motel in Willits for the rest of the vacation and wait for the rain to pass? I sure wouldn't. Some people don't want to ride in the rain because it dirties the bike. On the other hand, I think it's a great way to wash your bike.
Get out there, ride in the rain.

When you're driving in your car or truck, you're protected from the rain. When you're riding a motorcycle, you're exposed to the elements. However, motorcycles do offer some advantages in wet weather. They provide a superior view of the road, easy maneuverability, and more escape routes from any potentially dangerous situations.

If you're riding in the rain, remember the following tips from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation:

* Aim for smooth control. Be gentle with your brakes and throttle, but balance your grip. When you're riding in the rain, aim to complete your turns before you accelerate.

* Avoid last-minute reactions whenever possible. In wet weather, you must plan ahead to determine when you will need to accelerate or brake. Using engine braking for corners and junctions will reduce the risk of skidding.

Avoiding hazards is extremely important in the rain. Watch out for the following obstacles when you're riding your motorcycle in wet weather:

* Slick concrete surfaces
* Manhole covers
* Railroad tracks
* Puddles
* Potholes
* Oil spills

When you're purchasing tires for your motorcycle, avoid tires that are labeled as "long-lasting" if you plan to do a lot of riding in wet weather. Many motorcycle owners think this purchase is a good way to save money. However, these tires are typically less tacky and can't provide enough traction to keep you safe in wet weather.

Posted by stephen at 4:01 PM | Comments (1)

February 7, 2007

Bring My Wallet

There is an old saying that BMW stands for 'Bring My Wallet' and I experienced it in a different way. The electronic gas gauge on the new BMW R1200GS is know to be a little be wacky to say the least. I had my original gas sensor strip replaced under warranty a few weeks ago. I have not fully tested out the full range of the bike by riding until I run out of gas. On my way home after work, at the 50 miles until empty mark the orange warning triangle lit up and the the word FUEL! flashed on the screen. My range was decreasing quickly and I decided to pull into the Chevron in Los Gatos to fill up. As I pulled into the gas station my range was six miles and I had forgotten my wallet on my desk at work. I called Sharon to see if she could drop by the gas station on her way home and buy me some gas. She was twenty minutes away and I couldn't wait that long because there was a Big Redwood Park board meeting I had to attend. I asked a couple walking their dog if I could borrow five bucks and I would return it to them later, but they had no cash on them. I looked in the pockets of my Aerostich suit and found $1.52 in coins allowing me to buy .53 gallons of 89 octane. I get about 40 miles per gallon so that should get me home which is twelve miles. I turned the key and my range jumped up to 38 miles. I made it home safely.

In the morning Sharon left me her credit card so I could fill up on the way to work. I rode twelve miles back to the same gas station and filled up the tank to the brim with 4.3 gallons. The tank holds 5.3 gallons total. So, I figured that the range actually counts down to the one gallon reserve level. When it hits zero I have one gallon of gas and about 40 miles to find some more. Most GS riders ignore the gas gauge and use the old school method, using the tripmeter to count the miles they have gone. You would think on a bike this expensive that BMW would have tested the gas gauge before slapping it on the GS and putting it out to market. It has been said before that BMW lets their customers test their bikes for them. I'll continue to test out the GS for them but meanwhile, I've decided to store an emergency ten dollar bill under the seat for gas when I forget my wallet.

Posted by stephen at 1:05 PM | Comments (0)

February 6, 2007


About a month ago I purchased a new 2007 BMW R1200GS. I've been drooling over this bike since it came out in 2004. I would dream at night of riding this machine on log adventures. It's amazing how much motorcycle technology has advanced in 20 years. My trusty 1987 K75S took me many places since 2003 and I managed to travel 58,000 miles on it. Selling it was like giving a dog that you owned for four years away. The new dog has made me forget the old dog quickly: the suspension is superior, the boxer engine has a few more horses in it and it's a dual-sport. The list of improvements over my old bike go on. Instantly the GS offers the opportunity to wander onto a road you've never been without worrying about it turning to gravel. It has put a huge grin on my face during my daily commute to work. More adventure stories are sure to follow.

BMW marketing jargon...

Where you're going, there are no zip codes.
The R 1200 GS answers the call of the wild with a 100 blazing horses. The Boxer engine also produces 85 lb/ft of torque, giving it serious grunt as well. The Telelever front suspension keeps road rides smooth and a reliable shaft drive means your odometer will spin around like a slot machine. Whether it's bombing down fire roads or ripping around the twisties and snacking on unsuspecting sport bikes, one thing's for sure: the R 1200 GS devours any road you throw at it.

Posted by stephen at 12:35 PM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2006

<> Motorcycles OK

PropagandaI commute to work five days a week, 30 miles each way on my motorcycle. Today on highway 85 south, heading home I roughly counted all of the slow moving cars I passed while I was in the commuter lane. I figured I passed about 3000 cars just on the 12 miles of highway 85. As I wizzed by all those practically parked cars I wondered if any light bulbs had gone off in their heads. "Hey, If I commuted on a motorcycle I wouldn't be stuck in this traffic!"
I find it funny that people will go out of their way to learn how to scuba dive, and then only take part in that sport maybe twice a year if they are lucky. In about the same time it takes to get SCUBA certified, one can take a MSF course instead and partake in motorcycling almost every day.

I'm becoming an advocate of riding to work. I just love the www.ridetowork.org propaganda cards you can download and print.

Ride to Work - Transportation Facts

Posted by stephen at 7:14 PM | Comments (1)

January 20, 2006

BMW Euro-switch Upgrade

I thought I would share this with my fellow K-bikers. I guess some older R bikes can do this too. If you are looking for a stock switch for extra lights or accessories on your bike, this is the way to go.

Last week the little green vinyl starter switch on my 87 K75s wore out, fell off and its spring popped out. The bike still started with the little piece left. You can't just replace the starter switch alone, a whole new right side switch assembly has to be ordered.

I thought this would be a great time to get the European right side switch that has the driving lights and headlight yellow switch on it. It can be ordered thru any dealer in the US and the part number is: 61 31 1 459 462. You'll notice on the US model there is a black filler piece where this swich goes. It also looks like they changed the green starter button to a harder type of plastic.

I removed the tank and took out the old switch and harness. The American switch has three prongs in the connector that are all connected together with a gray wire that hardwires the headlights to ON all the time. I carefully pried out the three prongs in both units and moved the bypass wires to the new Euro switch connector. That freed up the 3 wires that were controled by the two headlight switch positions. One wire (blue & gray) is shared by both switch positions. I soldered on some wire to the 3 wires and ran it to the electrics box and used the first position (driving lights) on the switch to turn my Autocom on and off. The second position will be used for something in the future.

Posted by stephen at 3:07 PM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2006

TiVo Motorcycles

Last night I looked on my TiVo for some new shows to watch.
I looked under: 'Interests'-->'Motorcycles'.

The Results:
American Chopper, V-Twin Motorcycle TV, American Thunder, Steel Dreams, The Great American Motorcycle, Biker Build-Off, 2 Wheel Tuesday, The Motocross Files.

You will get almost the same results if you search under: 'Interests'-->'Posing'.

I am sick of all these 'roid raged chopper shows. They need to come up with some new motorcyclist-sport-touring-rally type show that does a ride report, a gear report and some maintenance tips. Is there a market for this type of audience??

"Life in the Fast Lane with Steve Natt" on the Fine Living channel covers a little bit of BMW motorcycling but I need more than a 10 minute segment every other show.

Find me the money and a producer and I'll make you a great motorcycling show!

Posted by stephen at 3:20 PM | Comments (0)

December 2, 2005

Thanksgiving Roadtrip to Los Angeles

IMG_1893.JPG, originally uploaded by Burnszilla.

Sharon and I left Wednesday morning for Santa Barbara on the motorcycle. Our goal was to take California roads that we've never been on before. Sharon was sporting her new First Gear Kilimanjaro riding outfit. This was our first trip using the Autocom communication system I installed under the seat and in our helmets. It's a voice activated radio with inputs for the iPod, cell phone, FRS radio, or radar detector. It worked great as we rode we talked about things and I even gave motorcycle lessons by explaining everything I was doing with the bike. On the way back we used the FRS radio to talk to Murray on the way home. Peter has the same unit too, but he of course forgot to buy the Motorola FRS radio adapter. We took all the back roads that run along the sides of the 101 south. We saw a rode on the map that cut across to Morro Bay so we took it. Santa Rita Road turned out to be a dirt road for 15 miles. We took our time and popped out in Morro Bay and then made our way to the Far Western Tavern in Guadalupe. A friend of mine recommended it. When we arrived just before 3pm the waiter said if you just wait fifteen more minutes you can have your steak cooked on the barbeque rather than the grill. We waited and were rewarded with the best steak of my life. This area in California is notorious for its traditional barbeque using red oak flames. Unbelieveable taste! We jumped back on the bike and headed down Foxen Valley Road to the San Marcos Pass which shot us right into Santa Barbara where we stayed for the night. This was our first time spending time downtown Santa Barbara. It was like downtown Palo Alto on steriods. Store, restaurant, store, restaurant. We had a few margaritas and hit the hay at 11pm.

In the morning we rode out towards Ojai passing Lake Casitas and then taking highway 23 into Los Angeles. We rode the traffic-jammed 405 to Redondo Beach where we had Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin's home. After dinner at 9pm we rode to the mountain tops of Malibu to stay at our friends' Christina and Dean.

In the morning Christina took us shopping and to lunch at Tony Taverna's in Malibu. Friday evening we hooked up with Davidson, Drew, Jackie, Robert, Suzanne and our friends from the Bay Area who rode down the day after us, Peter, Anne and Murray. A light dinner at Urth Cafe and drinks afterwards at the popular Modrian Hotel's Skybar. Beds were scattered around the outdoor pool area as we lounged talking to cute strangers.

Saturday morning Sharon and I took Mulholland Drive to the famous Rock Store motorcycle restaurant/pitstop. Jay Leno and Arnold supposedly drop by all the time with their toys. Peter, Anne and Murray showed up later. They were late because they where helping a woman Hardley-Ableson rider pick up her bike after she layed it down. We had lunch and headed to San Luis Obispo. We travelled along highway 23 again, then up the 33 to the 166. We stopped prior to the 5100 foot summit to put on another layer of clothing as the temperature had dropped to about 40 degrees. In cold weather Sharon and I always wear electrically heated clothing to keep us warm. With electrics you only have to wear one or two layers underneath it to keep warm. This way you don't look like the Michelin man. I have a Gerbing's jacket that plugs into a power socket that has a temperature controller that is permanently mounted in the faring of my K75S. Sharon's Widder vest plugs into another power socket that is always on. She has and on/off switch on the power cable that she can control as we ride. It was windy and there was a tree down on the road. We arrived in SLO at 6pm and checked into our motel. Showered up, we downed two bottle of wine in the hotel room and walked a few blocks downtown for dinner. We had a spectacular Italian dinner in the back courtyard of this restaurant that I can't remember the name of. Afterwards we attended the local pub for drinks. I had bourbon and made quick friends with the solo musician, Louie Ortega, playing that evening.

In the morning we got a slow start, had breakfast and ended up at Justin Vineyards in the Edna Valley just east of Paso Robles. We also stopped for an olive oil tasting too. The olive oil you buy at the grocery store does not compare to the flavorful stuff that this place made. After moaping around Justin for a while we got back on the bikes and heading up the G14 to G17 on the west side of the 101 and headed home. We got home around 7pm. All in all it was a great, safe and successful ride.

Trip photos here.

Posted by stephen at 6:27 PM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2005

People Who Don't Signal are Idiots

IMG_1835.JPG, originally uploaded by Burnszilla.

This morning on the ride to work up the 85 a blue Ford Explorer cut me off as he merged into the left lane. He didn't signal and obviously he didn't even look. I had to slam on my brakes and move to the left to avoid him hitting me while moving 70 miles per hour. I was really pissed off so I decided to follow him to his workplace and give him a piece of my mind. He pulled off to go into Mountian View and I followed him closely. I wanted to make him nervous. At the first stoplight we came to I was on his right and I honked to get his attention. He looked like a dot com sales guy or project manager. He rolled down the passenger window, fully aware of what I was honking about. I yelled at him, "You almost killed me back there! Don't you look before you change lanes?" He said he saw me but I was going fast. Although in the middle of forcing me off of the road he didn't even correct himself and move out of the way. He kept on coming at me. Luckily, I drive with the "They're out to getcha" mentality. I would have enjoyed punching the guy in the face or kicking the side of his door in, but I can't do stuff like that because my new license plate is not as inconspicuious as it used to be.

Many drivers don't know what that long piece of plastic is sticking out of the steering column on the left. It's a signal light! Learn how to use it! Also, look before you change lanes; including your blind spots.

Posted by stephen at 5:01 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2005

MotoGP at Laguna Seca

MotoGPOn Sunday, Sharon and I rode down to Salinas to see the MotoGP race at Laguna Seca. Paul at California BMW gave me a free ticket worth $75 to the race. We bought a second ticket off of a scalper for $50 on the side of the road entering the raceway. The traffic was backed up for about 5 miles with cars. We followed the hundreds of other motorcyclists on the right side of the road and sometimes passed over the double line too. Until, Sherrifs starting pulling bikes over. I got yelled at by one to stay on the right side of the line. Perhaps I looked respectable on my BMW with the wife on the back. We parked the bike and put my Aerostich into one of the side cases and my riding boots into the other. We locked Sharon's jacket to the bike with a cable. Slipped on my flip flops and we walked down to the track. Along the sides of the road hundreds of motorcycles were parked. Most of them were of the sport variety. When we got in I asked a guy where they were taking tickets and he said way back at the entrance. I said nobody was asking for tickets. We concluded that the traffic was so backed up that they just let everyone in to speed things up. We walked around and visited some vendors and then sat down on a hill overlooking turn four, right after the Andretti hairpin turn. The race was 32 laps and it only took about 45 minutes to complete. The American in the pole position, Nicky Hayden of the Honda Repsol team won with Scott Edwards taking second and the world champion Valentino Rossi taking third. These riders average about 1 minute 24 seconds to do one lap. I remember two years ago when I attended the California Superbike School at Laguna and it took me about 3 minutes to do a lap on my K75S. I've got some practising to do.
Full Photo Album here.

Posted by stephen at 12:05 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2005


Esalen MoonLast Thursday I called the Esalen Institute to book a late night hot bath atop the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur. Sharon's friend, Joanne was visiting from Toronto and we've been meaning to go there for a long time. I also booked us a room at the Fernwood Resort, twenty-five minutes north of Esalen on highway 1. The girls drove down to Big Sur in the afternoon on Monday and I rode down on my motorcycle after work. It's about a 125 mile drive from Palo Alto. In Seaside, just north of Monterey, I pulled off of the highway into the parking lot of an Econo Lodge to put on a sweater under my riding suit as it was getting cold along the coast. As I was getting ready to leave I noticed that when I squeeze my clutch that my kickstand did not retract automatically as it was supposed to. So, I pumped the clutch three times and the cable snapped. Profanity ensued. On long trips I usually carry a spare clutch cable. I could visualize the cable back home, sitting inside the side pocket of my BMW travel bag. At the same time Suzanne called because she was feeding and walking the dog. I asked her to look for my BMW bag and she found it and the clutch cable inside. She kindly offered to deliver the cable to me, 50 miles away in Seaside where I was stranded. What a great neighbor and friend! The taco stand across the street filled me up with chicken quesadillas as I waited for Suzanne. She arrived at 8pm with the cable and I installed it in about 15 minutes. I've heard that some BMWers pre-install spare throttle and clutch cables along side the existing ones so that when they break you just have to attach the ends to the components and you're done. Mental note: order spare throttle and choke cables tomorrow. I slipped Suzanne some money for gas and I was on my way south to Big Sur. The sky was bright orange-red along Pacific's horizon as I had just missed the sun going down. At the motel the girls and I played a game of Crazy Eights and then slept from 10pm till 12am. We then drove down the highway to Esalen and arrived at 12:45am. At 1:00am we walked down the steep entrance road in the dark with other late night bathers and arrived at the kiosk where we signed in. Cost was $20 per person for 2 hours. We walked over to the poured concrete bath house which was pretty new as the old one fell into the ocean after the big earthquake. Not a bad commuteThe change room and showers were co-ed and the theme was clothing optional. The lighting was subtle and relaxing. We acquired our own square tub that could hold about 8 people. The spring water had a slight sulfur smell and it was heated by elements in a retainer basin just behind the tubs. You just had to pull a plug to let more hot water in. It was a beautiful moonlit night and the view was spectacular. The sound of the ocean lapping up on the rocks as the oil like water reflected the moonlight. Massage table were scattered throughout the room and Sharon and I took advantage of them and gave each other massages. At 2:30am we headed back to the motel as we were all tired. I was looking forward to the morning commute to work up Highway 1 along the coast.

Posted by stephen at 9:49 AM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2005

Back in the Saddle Again

Parking LotAs you may recall from my long motorcycle trip last month I was blowing headlight bulbs every week. When I changed the bulb in Burney, CA on my way back home I broke the clip that holds the bulb in the housing. To fix the clip I had to purchase the entire headlight housing, meaning the lense which costs $132. That part took 10 business days to arrive. When I went to install it I broke a piece of the frame that holds it to the bike. So I had to order a new $11 frame. Of course the part had to come all the way from Germany. Another 10 business days. So, there I was at 6:00pm sitting in my gas-guzzling 1967 Chevy C-10 on highway 85 in slow moving traffic watching the motorcycles whiz by in the carpool lane. Oh how I was yearning to ride again. Taking the truck to work added 30 minutes to my commute on the way home. I was getting cranky. Finally the headlight frame arrived and I got the bike all back together. I figured out that the bulbs were blowing because I had the adjuster screws too tight and the lense was hitting the frame when I went over bumps on the road. This shock to the hot filament caused them to break. It was a costly mistake because the PIAA H4 anti-vibration bulbs cost $45 a pop. My commute is much more enjoyable now and I feel alive again. Last week as I sat in my truck on the slow moving 85 I wondered why more people don't ride motorcycles to work. It just seems so stupid to drive a car when you can get there quicker, save on gas and have so much fun.

Posted by stephen at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)

May 3, 2005

Northwest Motorcycle Trip

Day 1: Wednesday morning I left at 7am and headed up to Portland. Instead of taking the 101 up the coast I decided to take the 5 to the 97 in Oregon. I heard that the 101 up the Oregon coast is congested with traffic in the towns along it. I was cautious not to speed up the 5 because the last time I was up there I was caught by a Highway Patrolman but was let off with only a warning. I've never been on the 97 north of Klamath Falls before. It rained on and off throughout the day and I arrived in Portland around 8pm. I was about half a mile from J. Laramie's place where I was staying that night and it started to downpour. I have never seen it rain that hard in my life. I could not see ten feet in front of me and the rain turned the streets into 4 inch deep rivers. Murphy's Law prevailed. All day throughout the showers I wore my Aerostich Gore-tex rain gloves but just prior to arriving at J's I took them off. After getting settled in, J. and I headed down the street to McMinamin's Pub for dinner and a drink. We then stopped by the Green Room for a drink and caught Stephen Ashbrook preforming.

Day 2: Thursday morning I put my Helimot Buffalo 365's in the dryer for two cycles which got them about 70% dry. I had the choice of taking a ferry north of Seattle or stopping in Renton, WA at Greenwood cemetary to visit the grave of Jimi Hendrix. Coincidentally, the first song on my iPod that morning was "Red House" so Jimi was calling. When I long distance motorcycle ride, I always eat light during the day. I got that tip from the Ironbutt Association's Archive of Wisdom. I did not have directions to the grave but I had looked it up on Streets & Trips on Tuesday night. I took the main exit into Renton and stopped at a restaurant and had a chicken salad. I asked the waitress with a thick Russian accent if she knew how to get to Jimi's grave. She had no clue who Jimi Hendrix was. I'm sure if I asked her were Lenin's tomb was, she would have given me excellent directions. I ended up using the web browser on my Treo 650 and googled "jimi hendrix grave" and got directions from some fan's site. When travelling alone I also like sitting at the counter. You get to socialize a bit more with others and the service is quicker since the waitress is right in front of you. Next to me a guy started talking about himself. Jimi and I He breeds german shorthaired pointers. He talked for about 15 minutes about these dogs and how he was trying to find studs and other breeders and the color mixes and oh my! I got the check and I was in a hurry to get out of there, but he wouldn't stop talking about the dogs. I didn't want to be rude but I had to leave. As he was talking to me I just stood up and started walking to the cash register to pay my bill. He kept on talking. He finally caught on and said, "Nice talking to ya. Have a good trip." The cemetery was only about 2 miles away from the restaurant. I rode in and looked for the biggest memorial and there it was. I parked in front of it, took some pictures said hi to Jimi and left. I headed north to the border to settle my work visa business. I arrived at the US customs building at the border and instead of crossing into Canada, I did a U-turn into the the customs check in. I parked the bike and went in to do the paperwork. They say it's hit and miss when it comes to applying for a visa at the border. Last year was a hit and today was a miss. They said I needed letters from my previous employer to proved that I was doing the work I said I was. I was so pissed off. Last year they granted it to me and this year they change their mind. He said he couldn't kick me out of the country because I didn't leave it and I had a five days left on my current visa. My back up plan was to mail in the application to the Service Center. I was so frustrated and angry. I phoned my attorney from the parking lot of a Shell gas station and he said they don't know what they're talking about. So, I jumped on my bike and made my way to Winthrop, WA through the North Cascades National Park. As I rode my mind kept replaying the border scene as I disected all of their comments. There was nothing I could do, but make the best out of the rest of the trip. It was about 7:30pm by the time I made it to the highway that goes through the park. It rained and for the last 2 hours I was riding in the dark throught the Cascades keeping a lookout for deer on the road. I arrived in Winthrop at 10pm and got a room at the River Run Inn. I told the girl checking me in about my bad day and she gave me $10 off the room. She also hooked up a DVD player in my room so I could watch a movie. All the restaurants in the one horse town were closed. I told her I was hungry and she went home and brought me back a bag of microwave popcorn. Now that's service! I watched a few episodes of the British comedy "Coupling" while sipping vodka coolers and eating popcorn. Great show, I highly recommend it!

Day 3: Friday morning I hit the road on a diagonal south east direction towards Lewiston, ID. I rode through the fields where Washington apples are grown. Karaoke Night! Lewiston is along the Snake River. When you approach it from the north you drop down at least 3000 feet to the city. It is quite a sight. I stopped in Clarkson to purchase the bare essentials: Jim Beam, Chunky and Pringles. I headed south through the spectacular Rattlesnake Pass - a motorcyclist's nocturnal emission! I arrived in Enterprise, OR at 5pm and called it a day. I got a room at the Ponderosa Motel and had a few drinks and a nap. Woke up at 8:30pm and went on on the town. I stopped off at a bar/restaurant and I was the only one in it except for the bartender. I had the prime rib. After talking with Brent over dinner at the bar I went around the corner to Range Rider Bar to enjoy Karaoke Night! A few drinks for courage and I got up and sang a soulful rendition of Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart." I always sing that or "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" with a southern twang in my voice. Locals got up and two stepped while I sang and entertained the bar full of about 20 people. The night was done and so was I.

Day 4: Saturday morning I woke and packed the bike up. My plan was to head south through Hell's Canyon. As I travelled down Wallowa Mountain Road I came to some very large patches of snow on the road. I thought it was just on the eastern side of this pass so I drove over it, parked the bike on dry pavement and walked down the road to see if there was any clear road. I ended up driving over about five 50 yard patches of snow and ice. I almost dropped the bike a few times and I was getting stuck. I had to rock it back and forth to get it out of ruts. All I could see was more snow. I pulled out my Motorola FRS radio that has an altimeter in it and it said 5440 feet. My triple-A map said the next pass is at 6000 feet! If there's snow at 5440 feet there will be more snow at 6000. Hell froze over! I was alone on a unmaintained road in the middle of no where. I decided to turn around because I didn't want to die. As I was making my way back, a Jeep Cherokee pulled up. I stopped and talked to the driver. He and his buddy where out exploring the pass. He said he thought it would be ploughed, but it wasn't. I started the bike back k up and started across the snow back to the pavement. I was out of breath, all wet and sweaty. I unzipped my suit and rode back to Enterprise. I stopped at the Shell station and asked the old guy there about the road. He said they don't plough it until Memorial Day weekend. He said I could drive up to Inmaha and take a dirt road down to the river and that would spit me out where I wanted to go. The road he recommended was gravel and bumpy though. Flat tire risk. I decided to take the north west highway out of town and cut my losses. I was hell bent on making it home in one day. In Burney, CA around 8pm my bike's odometer turned 100,000 miles. My headlight also burnt out and I pulled over into the bay of a Chevron station to change it. I've been through 4 bulbs in the past 3 months. Something is wrong. I thought it was electrical, but I figured it was the headlight lens vibrating and hitting the faring. As I pulled out the old bulb I broke the retaining clip that holds it in. Damn! Luckily the rubber boot that covers the bulb would hold it in by itself. During the end of my trip I was starting to halucenate so I followed a car in front of me to focus. This was the longest riding day of my life. I rode from 8am to 2am and covered 920 miles. The whole trip was 2543 miles. It was good to be home.
Trip Photo Album Here.

Posted by stephen at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2005

Border Run

I'm travelling north to the Canada-US border tomorrow on my motorcycle to renew my work visa. This time I'm staying off of the interstates and taking the scenic route. I will be travelling up the coast of Oregon to Portland where I'm staying at a friend's place. On Day two I will go up the east side of the Olympic peninsula and take the Port Townsend-Keystone ferry. I should hit US customs by 3pm. After that I'm going to head east through North Cascades National Park heading towards Pullman, WA. Day three I will ride through Hells Canyon along the Oregon and Idaho border. There are supposed to be some spectacular twisties along this route. I should make it home by day four or five depending on my pace and how I feel. It looks like I'll be putting over 2600 miles on the bike with this trip. On the way back in northern California the odometer on the BMW K75S will hit 100,000 miles! I'll take lots of photos. Until then. Stephen. Trip Outline

Posted by stephen at 2:56 PM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2005

GSing on a K75S

My friend Peter and I went on a day long ride through the Santa Cruz Mountains to explore some areas we've never been. We went down Wright's Station Road to Lake Elsman and came to the gate that blocks off the road around the lake. The property is owned by the San Jose Water Company and it is supposedly policed. Later I learned that you can ride up to the Wright's Station Train Tunnel opening not far from the bridge that crosses the creek.

We turned around and headed west on Summit Road to Mt. Bache Road to climb our way up to Loma Prieta Ave. I have never such beautiful vistas from the ridges near Mt. Loma Prieta. We could see the clouds covering the Ocean for miles. At the end of the road pot holes and gravel roads appeared. Peter was anxious to tackle the roads with his V-Strom DL1000 and my K75S was not afraid so we went for it.

We rode past some beautiful homes that were quite aways from civilization. The maps I printed from Microsoft S&T were not that detailed and it didn't tell us that the roads were paved or not. We continued onto Uvas Canyon Road which looked more like a road suited for 4x4ing. We hung a left onto Casa Loma Road and GSed our way down that until we popped out at a clearing with two pickup trucks waiting behind a locked gate.

Damn! We were stuck. One of the guys waiting was a chiminey sweep and he had just finished some work in the area. We all looked around the gate for the key in some 'secret spot.' I asked him who he did work for and why doesn't he call them to find out where the key is. He couldn't call them because his cell phone was out of range. I pulled out my Treo and I had 4 bars. I lent it to him and he called and found out the key was on the back of the mail box just around the corner. Peter as usual was not prepared and was low on gas so we headed into San Martin via Glen Oak Ave along the Chesbro Reservoir Park. It was cool and foggy and quite beautiful along that road. People were fishing and the water was like glass. It was like a scene from On Golden Pond.

After filling up we drove through the city of Morgan Hill for my first time. The downtown area is very poshe. On the way back home we drove though New Almaden and headed up Hicks Road. Curious, we drove up Mount Umunhum Road to see how far it went, since we were on the other side of it this morning near Wright's Station. We knew of all the gates and the old contaminated Air Force Spy Station at the top of the mountain but there was no way past these gates even with motorcycles.

It was time to eat so we stopped off (for my first time) at the Los Gatos Brewing Company in downtown Los Gatos. Not only was the food amazing but so was the beer. On the way back home we took a ride around the Lexington Resevoir and traveled down the Old Santa Cruz Highway which is always a nice alternative to Highway 17.

When I got home I checked out my California Topo Map Software and found lots more GSable roads in the area. There's a lot more exploring to do in my area and a new R1200GS would come in handy. ;)

[I forgot my camera so I took the photos with my Treo 650.]

Posted by stephen at 10:04 PM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2005

Working in the Shed like Ted

Theodore Kaczynski that is. Although I was not making explosives.
Friday night I drove the K75S up the ramp I built into the shed. It was going to rain all weekend and Sharon was going to Tahoe for a bachelorette ski trip, so I thought it would be a good time to do some work on the motorcycle. Friday night I installed a Fuel Plus Trip Computer. They no longer make this product for my bike, but last summer I found one on ebay and sniped it like Vassily Zaitsev. The Fuel Plus replaces the clock in the speedometer case and keeps a constant record of your fuel, distance, and time. Essentials for the serious motorcycle touring monster like me. We're talkin' some serious open-bike surgery here. After installing the LCD unit into the gauges case I had to run a wire from the fuel system computer on the mid section of the bike. To insure strong wiring, I soldered all my connections and use heat shrink insulators. After it was installed I hooked the battery back up and the LCD lit up with the correct information on the display! I scrolled through all the functions and will have to wait until I fill the tank back up to reset it. I got to bed around 2:30am.
The Nervous System
On Saturday I woke up at the crack of noon and went back in the shed to install an auxilliary four slot fuse box along with headlight relays I purchased from a Canadian living in Japan. His motorcycle headlight relay business is called Eastern Beaver. By the time the electricity gets you your headlights on a BMW, the voltage drops up to 20%. With the full power relays and a connection straight to the battery with heavy gauge wire you are going to get more voltage. This means a brighter headlight which helps illuminate the pupils of deer's eyes or it can help you be seen by those driving the cages. With my entire front fairing off from the Fuel Plus installation it was quite easy to install. With all the extra electrical accessories on my bike like the radar detector, powerlet port to my tank bag (which powers my camera, cell phone and mp3 player) and now the headlight relay it was time to install a four port fuse block, rather than having four in-line fuses dangling all over the place. I ran from the electrical box four wires and soldered a connector on the end and heat-shrunk-wrapped them. I had one extra fuse port so I pre-ran a wire for it too. So, when I have a future accessory to add, like perhaps a GPS, it would be wired and ready to go. Around dinner time I needed to get out so I called Harry and he and I went for a little road trip into Scotts Valley. I went to Radio Shack and Kragen to get some fuses and he went to Safeway. Afterwards, I treated him to some Starbuck's coffee. I'm terrible at these fancy coffee places. I have no idea what to order. When Sharon requests a coffee, I make her write it down on paper. "Venti-non-fat-de-caf-latte!" Oh my. So, Harry and I get the counter and the girl is in a pissy mood because there's only two of them working and the barrista chick is quite slow. Perhaps a rookie. At the counter I give my "Hmmmm what will I have?" Harry notices a lady behind us and allows her to pass in front. The cashier is gettin' fired up. We get our coffee and soon behind us grows a line of ten people. They are in the weeds and you can see the tension on her face. Usually they are so cheerful at "Five-bucks" calling out your name and making you feel like you're at home, but not tonight. Back to the shed after watching American Psycho, I finish the job and get to bed at 4:00am.

Sunday I woke up after noon and wandered back into the shed to start putting the fairing back together. I've had this bike apart so many times now, I can do this blindfolded. After a wonderful peanut butter and banana sandwich dinner, I plopped myself on the couch and watched the movie "Kinsey" (not out on DVD yet) provided by my connection to someone who is a member of the Academy of Performing Arts. Great film. At 9:00pm Sharon arrives back from her trip and it's nighty night.

Posted by stephen at 10:50 PM | Comments (0)

February 7, 2005

One Way to Decapitation

Today, I contacted CalTrans, California's Deptartment of Transportation to complain about the One Way signs that sit on top of the concrete median strip on highway 17. I phoned and emailed the Santa Clara County division and I spoke to the Santa Cruz County division. I have to deal with two different offices, since the highway is in two CalTrans divisions.
Ouch! That's gonna leave a mark!
I've noticed that if a motorcyclist was to be knocked into the median strip in front of one of these metal, blade-like signs, they would be decapitated or sliced in half. There has to be about 30 of these signs along the highway. The gentleman in charge of traffic signs from the Santa Cruz CalTrans office was aware of the safety issue as it was brought up before and said he would get back to me why they didn't do anything about it. In some spots the One Way signs are safely mounted flush to the face of the concrete. He also mentioned that other large posted signs have break-away points. That does not include the 4x4 posts in the middle of the highway. I asked him if he would like to hit the 4x4 post while on a motorcycle. He agreed with me and said for some reason they don't put break-away cuts or drill holes in those smaller sign posts (small to cars, large to motorcycles).

I'm going to keep bothering them until they come up with a safe solution. I'll keep you posted on the outcome.

Posted by stephen at 10:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 31, 2005

Death Valley Daze X

Over the past weekend my neighbor Jim and I travelled to Death Valley on our motorcycles. The occassion was Death Valley Daze, a Rally organized by BMW riders and some Adventure riders. We departed Thursday night at 5pm and took highway 152 east to the 99 south and ended up in Bakersfield. We stopped off at a bar called Fishlips for a drink. It was open mic night and some young guys were jamming on stage. I asked the host if I could perform and he said go for it. I preformed the old "Dirty Song - A night at the Deli." While playing I noticed a few people paying attention to my illicit/descriptive lyrics and that was good. The last time I played this tune was last June, so this time I dissapointedly missed the punch line of the song -- "How could I replied. It looks like a taco cut up with a cleaver." When I was done I got off the stage and wanted to get the hell out of there. Jim was laughing. A couple of people complimented me. We rode over to the EZ-8 Motel and got a room for $46 and grabbed a quick meal at Denny's. It was raining in the morning and we had to depart for Death Valley. We took the Tehachapi pass east throught the rain and as we got into the Death Valley area the rain stopped. I managed to stay dry by putting on my rain suit over my Aerostich. Although the 'Stich is considered waterproof, now was not the time to test it. We stopped in Ridgecrest to stock up on vodka, Chunky, Gatorade, warm gloves, tarps and a colapsable camping chair. In the parking lot of the Big K we met Joe Denton another BMW rider, who knew Jim. He too was heading to the rally. We arrived at the Furnace Creek campground around 5:30pm and set up camp. We just drove up to a site that was occupied and we were invited to camp there. An older gentleman, Mike from Burbank on a Suzuki DR-650 was our host. I learned the proper meaning of "pillion" from him. We also met Vance a GS rider who is taking a year off to travel around the US and Baja. Last October Sharon and I had a German couple, Henno and Alex stay at our house as they were riding around the world. Coincidentally, Vance hung out with them in Baja, Mexico in November. Small world. After our Chunky dinner and the beginnings of our vodka consumption we headed over to Gerg's campsite to enjoy comraderie and a warm fire. I met many interesting characters that evening and we all had at least one thing in common; the love of motorcycles. Saturday was not a good day for Jim as he drank too much vodka, which he rarely drinks. He slept all morning and moped around the visitor center trying to recover. I dried out my sleeping bag and some other items at the laudromat. Camping tip: never put a tarp under your tent that is considerably larger than your tent. The excess tarp collects water and then puddles it under your tent if you are unlucky. Although a little damp around my feet the inaugural launch of my Marmot down sleeping bag was successful. I treated myself to a buffalo burger at the 49er Cafe and had a $3 shower at the Furnace Creek Ranch. That evening at the campground was a bit more tame as everyone had a long ride home the next day. We sat around the fire at the site next to us with about ten guys and exchanged stories until I hit the sack at 11pm. It was a real treat to get offered some Korean barbequed steak on a tortilla. There was and interesting crowd there; an attorney, a young guy just out of the Marine Corps, a retired under-Sheriff who was interviewed on 60 minutes by Morley Safer (learned that Morley is only about 5 feet tall) and a geeky PERL coder with a sprained wrist from a wipe-out that day. I was known as "The Canadian." We woke up at 6am, packed up our bikes and rode out of Death Valley on the 190 east. We got up to an elevation of 4956 feet at the Towne Pass and it was quite cold. The cold wind was blowing hard on the long stretch into Olancha. My fingers were frozen and it was a good thing we stopped for gas to warm up and put on another layer to prepare to cross the Sierras. The 178 east led us through the Walker Pass, past Lake Isabella. We stopped in Wofford Heights for lunch at Gary's Diner and to get some gas. We turned off onto the 155 which goes up to 8000 feet elevation. This means snow. The roads were lightly covered with snow, slush and ice patches. We crawled down the steep grade in first gear taking our time. Soon we where out of the snow and blazing down the road through lush green rolling hills with cattle grazing on them. We bolted up the 99 to the 152 at mach speed and arrived home at around 7pm.
Death Valley Route Getting home with bike and I in one piece and going places I've never been = a successful trip. Click here for photos.

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January 13, 2005

My Hands Smell Like Gas

Drew and JackieWednesday:
After 3 weeks the rain stopped today, so, I was excited to finally ride to work. Uncovered the bike. I had my waterproof bike cover plus a blue tarp over that with bricks all around it. The K75S was still wet all over. I had the Battery Tender plugged in all this time. She wouldn't start. I had very little gas in the tank and realized that through condensation, water had gotten in there. After an hour it started and I barely made it to the Shell station at the bottom of Glenwood Drive in Scotts Valley. The exhaust smelled like a snowmobile. It surged the whole way there and I found shaking back and forth made it work better. In hindsight, most likely moving the water from settling on the bottom of the tank. I filled up the tank and it started. Got onto Hwy 17 northbound and it stalled. Got it going again and just barely made it to someone's driveway pull in and gave up. I was really frustrated at this point. I called BMWMOA's roadside assistance to pick me up. It took over an hour for them to get me because the tow truck driver had to go out and purchase tie down straps. He said they don't usually pick up motorcycles. He dropped me off at home after 2pm. I worked from home for the rest of the day. After dinner, I siphoned all the gas out of the tank. I replaced the fuel filter and strainer (I had this on hand because I was going to do this maintence soon). I blew the fuel/water mix out of the fuel pump with compressed air. I got her all back together and put 1/2 gallon of new gas in with some gas line antifreeze treatment and started her up. After a few cranks and some popping noise she started purring again like new.

Lessons learned:
1. Don't store your bike with a bit of gas in the tank.
2. Don't jump on a one way freeway with no shoulders unless you are 100% sure your bike is going to run okay.

And I won't be coming in today either. I got it to idle last night. This morning it wouldn't start! After cranking-recharging-cranking-recharging it finally started to idle. Put on all my gear sat on it gave it gas and it died! I was so frustrated and pissed off. Was there water in my gas can too?! Luckily Bob gave me a good project that was easy to work on at home. After work, I removed the spark plug wires and the contacts were very rusty. I sprayed some naval jelly on them, sanded them down with a dremel attachment, WD-40ed them and blew some compressed air in them. They're like new now. Bike turns over but it sounds like it's not even getting gas. I can hear the fuel pump engaging. Plugs have only 7,000 miles on them. Pulled the plugs. The were wet and covered in black soot. Cleaned them well and dried them. I let the cylinders dry out too. Took the gas tank off again, drained it, cleared the filter and the pump. I used Sharon's hair dryer to dry out the open cylinders. I screwed the three spark plugs back in, put gas in the tank and started her up! Running really well. I think the problem was the damn vent hose getting crimped under the tank. I've had that problem before. There is also a noticeable difference on how the engine runs. Prior to the cleaning of the contacts, it felt like it was running on only two cylinders.
I feel much better. I'm riding into work tomorrow.

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December 4, 2004


Here is something I didn't know... I learned last evening that one of my neighbors is a member of "E Clampus Vitus". They call them "Clampers". It's a men's fraternity that dates back to miners in the 1800's. Mark Twain, Ulysses S. Grant, and Mountain Charlie McKiernan (my neighbor from years ago) were members. In modern day California they research and build historical markers. Philanthropically, they support widowed women and their children. Rumor has it they like to drink and carry on. I noticed that on the ECV Mountain Charlie 1850 Chapter's website, they are missing photos of some markers. Since the Mountain Charlie Big Tree is about 500 yards away from our house, I happen to have a good photo of the marker. So, I emailed it to them tonite. I told the webmaster I will make the effort to obtain the photos of the other 22 markers without photos on their site via my motorcycle. This is called... Snarfing (verb): To roam around towns and countryside, looking for a historical landmark or historical marker. I've done some snarfing in the past but I was not aware that I was snarfing.

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December 2, 2004

What's That Smell?

I'll have another rye and water!While riding a motorcycle you smell much more things compared to riding in a car. On Glenwood Drive I smell burning wood from fireplaces and the odd deer fart. While transversing highway 17 I mainly smell trees and brake pad dust. Over the past few months, I have encountered some smells that I thought were psycological flashbacks from my college days. [Oh, the good old college days.] This morning as I hopped onto highway 85 north I could smell the sweet smell of pipe tobacco. Memories of my grandfather Cecil came about. A prime sample of the ol' Olfaction and Memory study. He didn't smoke a pipe, but he sure did smoke the odd carton of DuMaurier cigarettes. Why am I smelling this smell? I cruise over to the left lane and look into a Chrysler LeBaron on my right and the gentleman driving is smoking a pipe. And having a dandy of a time at it! I was amazed that I picked up that odor at 64.8 miles per hour! Now this answers my question about the other flashback smells. Driving home on 85 and 17 a couple of times a week I pick up the odor of marijuana. Many people on this commute are on their way home to the hippy liberal city of Santa Cruz. (I'm not saying that everyone in Santa Cruz smokes weed nor am I against its medicinal powers.)
Conclusion: There must be a lot of people with AIDS, Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy, Chronic Pain, and god forbid Glaucoma! driving home lightin' up a jay or diggin' into their dugout and enjoying the dried leaves and flowering tops of the pistillate hemp plant that yield THC and are sometimes smoked in cigarettes for their intoxicating effect.

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December 1, 2004

Motorcycle Love

Let's just get all the motorcycle talk out of the way... I commute 60 miles to and from work each day on my 1987 BMW K75S. That motorcycle is my number one passion, besides my wife Sharon. You're going to hear many stories about it in the future, so you should know about its history. This is my third motorcycle in 3 years. My first two bikes were a 1977 Kawasaki KZ400 and a 1980 KZ750. I bought the BMW for $2100 in August 2003 off of a guy in San Francisco. It had 72,000 miles on it. That's quite a bit for a motorcycle, but not for a BMW motorcycle. These 3 cylinder "Flying Brick" engines are know to go for over 300,000 miles without a rebuild. In the past year and 3 months I have put 20,000 miles on the bike. I've given it a major rehaul since I've had it. I installed heated grips right away. I've replaced the front fork springs with Progressive springs to give it a more sportier ride. I had Cal BMW replace the steering head bearings. It was painted metallic blue, was banged up a bit so I had it painted Classic Metallic Black by my new friend Jeff at Mountain View Cycle Paint. I chose this color from BMW's official paint colors for that bike. The splines on the rear drive shaft and final or bevel drive were worn so I brought the final drive and drive shaft to Kitchener, Ontario this past July to be rebuilt by Bruno's Machine & Repair. He rebuilt the parts to better than new BMW parts for less then half the price; $400 Canadian. It was interesting going through customs with a 25 pound chunk of metal in my suitcase. While I had the rear end off of the bike, I replaced the swing arm bearings. The old stock shock was not working that great anymore so I replaced it with a fully adjustable Wilbers Shock. When I ordered it they asked my weight, my wife's weight and my luggage weight. They tuned the shock to my riding style. This shock totally changed the ride of the bike. It now handles like a brand new machine. The bike is quite easy to work on and I do most of my wrenching myself, except for the big time consuming jobs. I had San Jose BMW replace the clutch and the rear main seals in September. This bike has a dry clutch. Through craigslist, ebay and Peter, I've obtained all the BMW luggage for the bike including full size integral cases, slim city cases and a 22 liter top case that attaches to the rear tail rack. I recently upgraded the the alternator from a 32 amp to a 50 amp one I bought on ebay. I bought Sharon an heated electric vest for those cool rides and the extra power was needed. I also installed a switch for the high altitude loop and and extra power socket for Sharon's vest. On Thanksgiving weekend Sharon rode down with me to Los Angeles and the front brake master cylinder started to leak. I ordered a new one and it will be installed this Saturday along with three new air intake hoses. The previous owners obviously were'nt as loving a I am. If you don't change your brake fluid yearly, water gets into it and starts rusting away at the master cylinder, which causes pitting. I've put so much time and money into this bike that I've decided I will never sell it. It's just not worth it. In the future I would like to purchase my dream bike, a new BMW R1200 GS. On that note, sweet dreams.

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