Saturday, August 31, 2013

Just a Man, On a Fine Motorcycle, Free on the Earth

From Seeley Lake, for a guy that rides a road bike there are but two directions. You can go Hwy 83 North, or you can go Hwy 83 South.

With fall coming on we're moving up to Glacier for a couple weeks before we roll on over to our month of Labor in North Dakota doing the beet harvest.

Yup... that's me, Gypsy Cowboy Biker Beet Picker. ;)

Before we can head across Montana bound for Sydney though... we've got a meetup with some folks up there by Glacier. With Labor Day coming on Monday we've got an issue though.

The Forest Service in its infinite wisdom, locks the gates on the majority of the campgrounds the day after labor day!

September and October, probably the Two Best months of the year... and they lock up the camps... then in the spring, come May... when it's still raining, and snowing and nasty much of the time... They open 'em up! Typical Federal wisdom...

So... anyhoo... I need to ride on up there and scout for a campsite that's NOT going to be locked up while we need it. Where I cut west at Big Fork the other day bound for Kalispell, this time I'll stay north for a bit and then cut east to Hungry Horse Reservoir...

The Sun is Shining in Montana. Gonna be a warm day... So... I'm putting it in the wind under the Wide Montana Sky... rolling up 83 under the Chinese Wall bound for Hungry Horse.

Just a man, on a fine motorcycle, in Far country, free on the earth.

Grab Your Handles and Ride

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Tire Made it to Kalispell... I Made It Two hours later...

And just as promised... the deal got done.

I'd taken off just after lunch time and headed up route 83 from our camp ten miles north of Seeley lake. I'd not gone too awful far when I rolled up on an opportunity I couldn't pass up...

Horsepower in the Flesh
*My Favorite Forms of Horsepower*

A small band of horses was pastured along the highway, so I swung around and caught a photo of the two modes of transportation that have had the biggest impact on this old busters life. Most of 'em had run off down to a river bottom below... these few hung around for a portrait.

From four feet to two wheels... A motorcycle always struck me as the right sort of vehicle for a horseman.

I kinda like the picture, even if the front wheel IS on backwards! :)

Then it was spin 'er around again and twist the throttle for Kalispell. I'd been advised that since I had a near to gone tire anyway (at least half way through the wear bars) I should keep it under a hundred. I obliged and rarely broke 80. :)

I wonder why they do call 'em wear bars? They sure don't slow down the wear rate any when you get to 'em!

Well... I got to Penco Motorsports in Kalispell about an hour before the appointed time, and reported in. I was surprised when they went right to work on it and had the new tire on before I was even supposed to be there!

How often do you get THAT sort of service?

Before you ask... yes, THIS time I checked to make sure the tire was turning the right direction before I climbed back on...

 I got a lil' closer and checked some more...

I even got down on my knees and checked it for sure and for certain...

Yep... everything is just like it's supposed to be... well... except for all the road gouges I've picked up on that one time polished aluminum wheel... Damned Ol' thing is starting to get as many dings as I carry around...

Now... just to say it... Apache Yamaha down on Camelback in Phoenix... has declined to even respond to my attempts to contact them over the past week about their Installing the wheel backwards when their shop mounted the tires for me.

So considering their lack of care for their reputation... I'd take your tires to Ridenow... or some other shop, since Apache doesn't seem to be too awful concerned about the safety of their customers... At least not enough to even open a conversation once the customers card has been debited. :)

That's ok... I got better things to do with my time than worry about the faults of another company that'll one day seal its own fate.

I needed to make a "quick" run across Kalispell to run some errands...and guess what? As small as Kalispell might be... it's still not a town your gonna do a "quick" run in at rush hour. ;) But I finally made the run both directions... got out of town and headed south...

... right into another rush hour... this one of the wildlife variety. The service manager at Penco had warned me to be watchful running that road at sunset... the deer on it he claimed were BAD.

and I gotta agree with him... rolling along at 80 or so...there were quite a few! Along with three turkeys. :) But I have a technique... if you go fast enough... you're past 'em before they even have the time to get out on the pavement! :)

*Hwy 83 between Seeley Lake and Kalispell Montana*

That's a nice road... not so many straight runs, and lots of nice sweeping bends under a Wide Montana Sky... with the Mountains, lakes, horses and meadows all along the ride.

Well, I was curious how the thing would handle with the tire on there right. It had been an improvement over the Metzler when it was new... but as the tread got thinner... it started really losing its grip... 

It's a lot nicer running home... with a tire that isn't handling "funny"... As my confidence grew, and the manufacturing scum got scrubbed off... my momentum picked up... and life was good again. :)

The new tire with the tread running the right direction :)
Here's the old tire with the tread going the wrong direction...

I failed to find the angle to catch a good picture and this one really doesn't show it well... but the tread over the center is mostly gone.

Only there enough to be visible. Not especially a shiny condition for guys that tend to ride ( in spite of wild claims of quiet and sensible cruising) at rates of locomotion that can capture the attention of certain motorized members of soh-sigh-uh-tees rule enforcement division...

You can see in a spot or two the shadow on the tire where it was badly cupping on that left side... and just flat wearing "odd"...

Oh well... lesson learned... Check all work... no matter how Pro you think the guy who did the work might be.

Now... I'll be curious to see if the mileage on this tire changes with it spinning correctly...

In the meantime... I'm hoping to get back to racking up more miles in the next year than what I spun off in the last... I kinda let life get in the way of LIVING... and that's not a real tolerable sitchy-ashun...

Grab Your Handles and Ride

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Keeping Scooters Shod in the Sticks

They promised it only takes 4 days to order a tire in. It was ordered last Tuesday... Today is Next Tuesday. hmmm... lets see... tues, wed, thurs, fri, sat, sun, mon, tues...that's four days right? ;)

It's only taken a full week and a day for a fresh front tire to get to the motorcycle shop in Kalispell. Of course, when I talked to the shop yesterday afternoon, it wasn't actually there yet. It was sitting on a truck in Missoula... So I'm hoping the tire beats me to Kalispell. 'cause if I ride up there and it ain't there... I'm going to be looking at the air in this old tire on the ride home without it!

But... where's the adventure in waiting until you KNOW things are juuuuust right... Right? :)

It's easy to forget that though I might ride a Yamaha, there still aren't a whole lot of Roadstar Raiders around. My Raider may be an awesome machine, but they haven't yet flooded the market. 'bout all you ever see is one or two sitting in a showroom.

The tire sizes it's shod with keep 'em from being carried in stock with a lot of options... if at all. So ordering in when your scooter needs retiring is the name of the game. NOT a good thing when you're a dyed in the wool procrastinator...

That's why, when I rode to Alaska, knowing I was going to need fresh rubber mid ride, I had 'em pre-ordered and waiting when I got to Anchorage. (one of the few times I've actually defeated my procrastination faults.)

I made some half hearted attempts the past bit of this circle across eastern Washington... but since I wasn't in the mood to lay up there it didn't happen. North Idaho had lakes and woods and huckleberries ... but was devoid of Yamaha Raider Tires...

By the time I got to western Montana... the ugliness of that Avon up front was not to be denied any longer... I found the place to order and sat down to wait...

If the freight outfit does its job as promised I'll be rolling into the scooter shop in Kalispell at four this afternoon to get fresh rubber mounted on the front end... if Not... I'll be rolling in to find out I get to test the endurance of a dying Avon tire... on the 90 mile ride home. :)

I'm curious to see how a new tire performs... turning the right direction this time. Maybe I'll even make more sustainable progress... if my tire ain't going in reverse! :)

Grab Your Handles and Ride

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Don't CARE if They ARE Pro-Feshunals... CHECK Their Work!

That, combined with a baaaaaad case of rapidly advancing Old Timers Syndrome contributed to a story that's... there's no other way to say it... The fable of the Invincibility of Experience.

Been there, done that, have the T-shirt so... I know what I'm talkin' 'Bout! .... Right?

Ha ha! Not so fast Grasshopper!

Some time ago, while still wintering in Arizona... nearly 9000 miles by Motorcycle Tire time, I had a pair of Fine Avon Cobra Tires installed. I thought; Take it to a pro shop and save myself the hassle of swapping the tires on my beast.

Well, I did that and... WhooooooWHeeee! They performed SO much better than the Metzler tires I'd been running.

But... as time wore on... an unusual thing was noticed... the front tire was wearing unusually fast. A Raider with its 113 cubic inches of Bad Attitude has a reputation for stripping the rubber off a BACK tire.

I've routinely gone through ONE back tire for every TWO up front.

On this pair that routine is being reversed... Weird. At right on 9000 miles on the tires, the back has several thousand more miles easily left in her... the front is already down into the Wear Bars. Crap.

So... I'm out looking at the wheel to make sure I have the tire size and model number wrote down right...

Looks pretty normal... don't it?

Yeah? Well... Look again... Here's a pic of a Factory Raider to compare it to...

Do you see anything "ODD" ??? ... keep looking... I'll Wait....

Don't see it? Look again... Look for DETAIL...

Can't find it?

Give up?

Look at the SPOKES on the front wheels... Of MY bike... and then the Factory Raider pic...

Uh HUH! 9000 miles or so ago I had those tires mounted at a YAMAHA Dealer... and they mounted the TIRE exactly right... and then... and THEN... and THEN!!! put the WHEEL on BASS AKWARDS!!!

The things that come into play there are these;

1. The Tires Tread is designed by the engineers who do such things to shed water optimally. If you run the thing backwards... OPTIMAL performance is unlikely...

2. When they build tires... the TREAD, is initially in a long flat strip, which as I understand it is then applied to the carcass of the tire. Where the two ends are joined they cut those ends at an angle, rather than just a straight cut, to increase the bonding area of the splice. Now... they point that splice in a specific direction related to rotation so that on the back tire, the force of acceleration pushes the splice together rather than pulling it apart.

On the FRONT tire, they reverse that, so that under heavy braking (the front tire does as much as 85% of braking) the same thing happens. The splice is compressed together not pulled apart...

SO... the Rotational direction of a tire installation is a lil bit important...

I'm still uninformed of what affect it can have on tread wear itself. It seems reasonable to expect a rather increased rate of rubber going on vacation when it's running opposite to the design rotation.

So.. if you have a lil' bit of an inclination toward Old Timers Induced Observational Retardation of Important details... commonly referred to as being a DUMB ASS... Like a certain fella I have intimate knowledge of... I'd suggest taking a few extra minutes when you pick up your machine when somebody has worked on it... and double check that things are right and correct.

... or... when YOU have worked on it... and make for certain sure that the worker bee wasn't laboring under the burden of severe Cranial Inversion... otherwise known as suffering from the odoriferous affliction of placing ones Head in Rectal Defilade...

Now... I have some emails to write to Motorcycle Dealerships and Tire manufacturers to get myself educated a mite more...

Grab Your Handles and Ride

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Competing Needs of a Cowboy Biker

Balancing the wanderlust of a gypsy Cowboy Biker with the work of living... and the many great and treasured chunks of life is a formidable task for someone as lazy as I am.

Precious Friends whose absence leaves an aching hole in me, my writing and publishing, my Grandkids, my leather craft and even Horses! ... All are personal Treasures competing for a place. Some surely fit together and overlap, some stand alone... but the permanent and total loss of any is unthinkable...

I even tormented over the order they should be placed in the sentence!

... but, stretching out in front of me, remains that road that has no mercy... its whispers are relentless... its call I cannot leave unanswered...

Yet, to remain on the road, to preserve this life that I've come to Love, I increasingly see a burdensome reality. To sustain my gypsy life, I may have to choose to have less of it. It is in my mind analogous, somewhat pompously considering the contexts, to a line from the movie Gettysburg;

General Lee was speaking to General Longstreet before the worst of the battle;
"Soldiering has one great trap; To be a good soldier you must love the army. But to be a good officer you must be willing to order the death of the thing you love.

To wander... you must love the road. To sustain your wandering life, you must often push away from and leave behind the thing you love.

Few can produce a living, from the simple act of BEING a wanderer... They find they have to leave the road for periods of indentured servitude, contracting either their bodies or their intellect, or both,  to produce the dinero required to finance their rambling.

It's akin to owning a horse. If you're going to live with the spiritual fulfillment the animal gives, you must accept that you'll regularly have to shovel some shit.

The trick is to manage your life so the things you love... don't get buried under the horse shit.

Grab Your Handles and Ride

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Keeping My Balance When I'm Not ON the Bike.

I'm always better as soon as the clamoring towns fall away behind me and the road stretches out to the horizon. It's not something I forget, but it is something a guy loses sight of in the struggle to just live.

The endless drone of the system to produce is a hard thing to resist. You're bombarded nearly every waking moment from every possible angle with jabs to; Make more, sell more, buy more. Yet the majority of that demanded productive citizenship serves only the system.

The reality is, the individual has small and very few true needs. Shelter, food, water, clothing... and a motorcycle! :)

The Primary goal should be; Live More. Producing should only be for the purpose of filling the fuel tank or the food box.

If you put pencil to paper supported by a lil' bit of cipherin' on a cheap calculator, seasoned with a lil' bit of pragmatic reality... you'll come up with a number I'm fairly confident will be a lot smaller than the one you've been 'existing' on.

I find in my own situation I have to consciously, constantly, "defend against the machine". I must deliberately shove all the pressures to "make a living" aside and set about actually... actually LIVING for a while.

The 'machine' is a devious and insidious thing. I often find myself sitting between two worlds. On the one hand I want and need little. On the other, I have to 'Sell' to feed myself, keep the roof patched and tires on the scooter.

It's finding that balance point between the two worlds that sometimes gets lost in the dust and commotion of living.

The best tool I know of to maintain the balance is to simply...

Grab Your Handles and Ride

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Blooms, Beers and Joyous Ribbons of Ashpalt

I'm camped along the Wenatchee River, nigh on to twenty miles west of Leavenworth Washington, only three miles above a place called Coles Corner.

That town of Leavenworth is a place that seems like it was built for tourism. The whole town, even McDonalds! has been built to echo a Swiss Alps town. You'll likely need to keep your sunglasses on for all the flowers.

Even on a cloudy day the colors just pop.. everywhere you look. Flowers everywhere. Hanging baskets, window boxes, beds of 'em, great pots of 'em... If you like color and flowers... You'll like this lil' burg.

When you get hungry or thirsty and go looking for a place to eat or sip a brew, you've picked out a job for yourself. You might could go bankrupt trying to sample every eatery or beer in this place...If you lived here a month and ate each meal in a new place, I'm not sure you could cover 'em all.

We were walking around... and found a lil' shop, down a set of steps into the basement of the building. They boasted 80 sorts of cheese and 150 beers... Now... I don't much care 'bout the cheese? but the Beer boast kinda fascinated me...

Since we stepped off some three years ago, I've been mostly buying my brew made by local breweries, and I can't say I've been disappointed in any of 'em. truth is? The big boys have lost me. ;)

Anyhoo... This basement place does it mostly a lil' different... Rather than a whole sixpack... you can buy just one of a brand to try it...

So how's a guy to choose? Well... the name of this'un caught my imagination... and the name of the brewery didn't hurt either...

Quilters Irish Death Ale brewed up by the Iron Horse Brewery in Ellensburg, Washington. Aw, it just has a ring to it... don't it?

WHooooooeee! Now that might LOOK like a reg'lar bottle of brew but that big baby's a pint and a bit of Suh-Wheet smooth Ale! That record of no disappointments held true with this lil' beauty too! and I gotta tell ya... that 7.8% kinda caught me off guard at the end of a warm day! :) caught me off guard and caught up with me! I may just be getting to be a lightweight in my "golden" years.

My ONLY regret is gonna be trying to find some of that sweet Craft Beer elixir down the road a thousand miles or so! :(

The other local brew I've been sippin' that hasn't hurt my feelings any is the Whistling Pig Hefeweizen that's bottled up by Fish Brewing Co. out of Olympia. I started drinking the Hefeweizen style beers down in Mammoth lakes... and I gotta say, I like it!

With the temps bangin' on and into the 90's round here, an old guy has to take good care to stay hydrated and cooled down sufficient from the riding!

I'm not any sort of a Beer Conna-sewer... I don't know about hoppy, or smooth or any of the lingo of any of that stuff... other than that IPA makes me gag!

What I can say is I like what I like and these two brews have been keeping me rolling, cooled out and nicely mellowed, for sure and for certain! ;)

Yes sir, medicinal alcohol judged to be Cowboy Biker Excellency'!

But... the real deal here, for me is the roads that take me from here to there and back again. There's two of 'em and two lanes both. The first is the western segment of U.S. Hwy 2, the main route, that runs from St. Ignace Michigan to Everett Washington... and winds right through the river valley that holds Leavenworth.

If you turn off onto Washington 207 at Coles Corner you'll find our forest service camp just a couple of miles up... Leaving that camp and turning away from Hwy 2, just a few hundred feet is the "back" road that will take you to Leavenworth, 18 or twenty miles distant, by way of Plain, Washington.

Now, I'm here to tell you that on a mid morning ride on a sunny Tuesday morning... It was one of those rides that I can only describe as Suh-Wheet. Traffic was light. I got stopped for about two minutes at a repaving project but other than that it was one of those perfect, little traffic, no brakes, just wind it up tight and let the motor pull her down into the mostly fast sweeping bends.

A tighter twist here and there tickles your attention, but mostly it's that sweet dance where my rumbling machine can just roll from leaning over left, stand up quick, roll right through straight up and dance right back into a right hander.

Back and forth, one sweeping turn after the other. The tighter ones coming in here and there to keep you honest.

Its a road with that rhythm I love. No brakes. You just find that fast point where the throttle and compression let the bike swing through the twisties like a dance. Sweeping along through the trees and past farms and cabins. Every once in a while a longer straight that lets you open her up a little more and then drop a gear and rumble down into a tight right hand...

Faster than legal for sure. ;) but still not that crazy, spine tingling scream when you hear a crotch rocket wound up tight. This road lets me make that smooth, choreographed dance where everything fits into place and it's like a piece of music you can't get out of your head... You just sweep along and hope you never get there.

I don't push cagers when I come up on 'em... no profit in it... I just hang back and wait for an opportunity to roll by safe and easy... this day, two of 'em just pulled over in a wide spot to let me roll on... even though I was back there a decent space and riding easy... I coulda kissed 'em. suh-wheet! 

I picked up our mail at the post office, fueled the scooter, and then made the return ride west up Hwy 2 back to Coles corner.

Much of that you run along the river with views of it and the surrounding hills as you split the wind in a gorgeous valley. Be lucky like me and you find yourself in a big hole between the traffic that was light anyway... and the main road return is nearly as sweet as that joyous back road. 

Yeah... stay in Leavenworth for a night or two. Taste the brews and the food. Ogle the purty gurls (California has NOTHING on Washington!!!) and make the loop out through Plain and back.

Grab Your Handles and Ride

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Crossing Washington in The Smoke...

Freedom of the road... is not always Free and Easy.

Though I live on the road, I don't "Live" on the Bike. My house has four wheels and a hitch, and is drug by a truck... which in its senility, requires ever more attention, a couple grand and more in the last 60 days...

There is hardly a day that passes where I don't wish for an even simpler life. The happiest I've been, in the past ten years, was sleeping in the rain, under the thin skin of my HooDoo tent in Alaska. Just me and a bike. Nothing else to worry about or contend with.

Just me, a man, free on the earth... in rhythm with the land.

Now, my bike, my ONLY truly precious and necessary possession has her own need for attention.

The seals in her forks started leaking some time ago. First one, and then the other. Repair is simple. It only costs money. But that money, as soon as it gets close to being sufficient to pay the mechanic... is consumed by the life around me... and the rig. boo hoo. poor me.

Riding her I have to hold back. The unequal conditions in her front legs produces an unsettling wobble over uneven pavement if I push her out a bit leaning through the bends... and there are other maintenance needs that are stacking up for attention.

Now, knocked into low spirits by the trivial realities of life... I head for Idaho and Montana... only to be confronted by smoke and fires, straddling all the routes I was hoping to travel.

My wheels turn back farther north, Hoping that I can find clear air to travel through, and enough miles without need for repairs... that the repair money can go to Sonja. Sitting patient. Waiting for the attention she deserves. Waiting for the attention she requires. Waiting for the attention she has earned.

A simple life? ahhhh... such a sweet fantasy. It's all just life. Savor each of the small and good bits along the way.

Grab Your Handles and Ride