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Exile in Atlanta Archive: August 2001

Saturday, August 25, 2001

Ride West--Table of Contents
Now that all of the entries in the account are finished, I thought it probably would be useful to organize them a little bit. Please feel free to make comments to this or any other entry if you would like. This is a simple table of contents for the entries:

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Posted by therman @ 11:38 AM EDT

Ride West--Concluding Thoughts
So, I guess the question remains, was the trip worth it? I think the answer overall is yes. I don't think, however, that I would do this ride again, certainly not this way. Powering across from Memphis to Eastern New Mexico on th interstate was basically just covering ground, the same goes for the ride down 101 from Oakland to Corona del Mar. That's not a very exciting thing to do on a bike.

Even doing those parts of the ride, however, there was something worthwhile to be gained. You have all of the time in the world to think about things in your life--or not to think at all. Riding like that is a form of meditation. Of course, I've also found the same thing to be true when driving long distances.

What really made the trip worthwhile for me was the riding on the secondary roads in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and California (Nevada I could do without). I shot four rolls of film while I was riding and 90% of the shots were from the riding in those four states. I would do that part of the trip again in a second. Next time I do a ride of this distance, however, I'll structure it a lot differently. I'll travel less than 400 miles a day and spend much more time in places along the way. That wasn't practical this time, but I won't do this kind of trip again without sufficient time to stop and wander.

I've also decided that I'm going to sell my K1200RS. I think I finally understand what "sport touring" is about. The bike was wonderful on the two lane curvy roads and amazingly smooth and fast on the interstates. Aside from the slight vibration in sixth gear at 85 mph, there is virtually no difference on the straightaway between riding an indicated 80 mph and 120 mph (which I hit when crossing Nevada). The overall position, however, is too cramped for someone of my size and physical condition. Over time, my upper arms became exhausted from leaning forward onto the bars and my knees and hips were ill-equipped to handle long periods in the saddle with such an aggessive posture. One solution would be to alter my position by adding bar backs and lowering the pegs, but that would require other modifications, such as getting a larger windscreen that I don't think are worth the effort and expense for me. The ride also made me realize that the K12 is too much bike to use for daily commute riding. I have a lot of fun riding around the city, but I didn't realize until I was out on the open road for a while how little of the bike I was really using. If I could afford to have more than one motorcycle, I might hold on to the K12 for special occasions and buy something else for daily use, but I can't so the K12 must go.

I'm thinking at this point that I might move back to the GS style and get an R1150GS, but I'm also thinking maybe something a little smaller, like the F650. I don't know but I'm definitely going to be riding something different in the near future.

2001-09-20 Note: I've been back for about a month now and I'm not so sure about selling the bike anymore, at least not right away. It took over two weeks for Two Jokers to ship the bike back from So. California (but at $250, you really can't complain). I just got the 24k service and had new tires put on. The bike rides much better but needs a new rear shock. It's hard to sell a bike when it needs a $500-1000 part. I may put an Ohlin on and then evaluate what to do with the bike again after that.

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Posted by therman @ 11:17 AM EDT

Ride West--Day Twelve (Aug. 17)
Begin: Oakland, CA
End: Corona del Mar, CA
Distance: 549 miles (22534-23083)

Rather than take the boring and extremely hot ride down I5 through California's Central Valley, I decided to take the longer but much cooler in temperature ride down 101 south. Neither route provides much in the way of outstanding scenery, although 101 has the advantage of running along the California coast for several significant stretches, something I always enjoy. I had originally planned on taking Route 1 down the coast over the course of two days, but ultimately decided that I wanted to spend the extra day with friends in the Bay Area instead.

Over the past 20 years or so, I've probably done the drive from Northern to Southern California on 101 in a car 20 times and on a bike at least twice. This ride wasn't really any different from any of the others (although I didn't get a ticket like I did the last time I rode a bike on this route). My own inability to get out of the house early caused me to reach the San Fernando Valley on 101 at 4:30pm on this Friday afternoon. The next 50 miles were spent lane splitting in heavy traffic as I made the transition from the 101 to the 405 south. Along this last part of the ride, I saw the aftermath of a motorcycle accident off to the left shoulder of the highway. It looked like a Suzuki Katana (the old style) had gotten sandwiched between two cars and the guy on the bike had dumped it. He was sitting up and looked aware and I could see the ambulance coming up the highway so I didn't stop. Both drivers of the involved cars were also stopped and waiting with the biker.

By the time I reached my parents' house in Corona del Mar, I was mentally and physically exhausted from the concentration necessary to lane split for that long. I got off of the bike, parked it, unloaded it, and didn't get back on until I rode down to Oceanside on August 21 to drop the bike off for the shippers to bring back to Atlanta.

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Posted by therman @ 11:03 AM EDT

Ride West--Days Eight through Eleven (Aug. 13-16)
Begin: Oakland, CA
End: Oakland, CA
Distance: 158 miles (22376-22534)

I spent Monday through Thursday hanging out with old friends, meeting some of their new babies, and generally relaxing. On Monday morning, I washed several thousand miles of bugs and road grime off of the bike and cleaned out my saddlebags. On Monday evening, I had a fabulous massage, which reduced the fatigue I had been feeling in my upper arms from leaning on the handlebars and reduced the pain in my hips and knees from the my riding position.

I didn't really do much riding around town except to get to places I wanted to go, which included several jaunts into the City, a trip to Marin and a trip down to XeroxPARC on the Peninsula. All in all, it was a very relaxing interlude.

The only downer was when I opened my saddlebags on Sunday night after I arrived in Oakland and found that the heat in the left-side bag had been so intense that it melted the plastic container of oil I was carrying and ruined everything in the saddlebag. Fortunately, I wasn't carrying anything crucial in there, but I did have to throw away my cargo net, a strap for one of my bags, and all of my AAA tryptichs and books.

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Posted by therman @ 10:44 AM EDT

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Ride West--Day Seven (Sunday, Aug. 12)
Begin: West of Cedar City, UT
End: Oakland, CA
Distance: 677 miles (21699-22376)

I left Jim's house at around 9:30 am on Sunday, thinking that if the day went well, I might push and go all the way to Ann's house in Oakland, but not committed to the idea. By the time I got to the California border, I was so sick of being on the bike that I was determined to make it to Oakland. My plan was to take Hwy. 56 west to Panaca, then take Highway 93 south and west to the junction with Highway 375, which I would take north and west to Tonopah.

The Utah-Nevada border is about 70 miles west of Cedar City on Hwy. 56. At the border, Hwy. 56 turns into Nevada Highway 319. Another 30 miles takes you to Panaca. About 14 miles past that is Caliente. If you intend to drive across Nevada this way on a motorcycle, you must buy gas in one of these towns. Both Panaca and Caliente have a single gas station each. I filled up in Panaca. There was a sign in the gas station that listed the distance to Tonopah as 203 miles. This is the outside limit of my travel range. My tank holds 5.5 gallons. In the absence of a jerry can of gas--which I don't carry--if I get 40 miles to the gallon, I make it to Tonopah, if I get 35 miles to the gallon, I don't. Given the intense winds and the possibilities for high-speed travel on these roads, counting on getting 40 mpg is not wise. Fortunately, you can get gas by going about 10 miles out of the way at the junction of Hwy. 93 and Hwy. 375. Stay on Hwy. 93 south about 10 miles past the junction and you can get gas in Ash Springs, or at least you can most of the time.

When I got to Ash Springs, it turned out that the power was out for the entire county. No power, no pumps. No pumps, no gas. I sat around and chatted with the other people at the gas station for a while waiting for the power to come back up. I had enough gas to make it to Las Vegas if I wanted to go that route, but that would put me way out of my way and probably add another day to my travel time. I waited around for several hours until the power finally came back on and I could top off the tank and head back up Hwy. 93 north to the junction with Hwy. 375 where I turned west towards Tonopah. Hwy. 375 is called The Extraterrestrial Highway, primarily because it passes just east and north of a large number of "secret" military testing facilities, including Groom Lake and Nellis, and people occasionally see very strange things flying around out there. I would probably give it another name, more ACDC than UFO. As far as I'm concerned, this stretch of road, from the junction with Hwy. 93 all the way past Tonopah to the California border, should be called the Highway to Hell.

There is absolutely nothing out there but high desert flats broken by occasional mountain passes. You top a pass and spread out in front of you is a anywhere from a 10 to 30 mile stretch of absolutely straight two-lane paved road. Sounds good if you like speed, but the cross-winds from the south and west were so intense that I found myself leaning over at a steep angle just to keep going on a straight line. Occasionally, trucks come from the other direction and break the wind for less than a second, which meant that I had to straighten the bike out to avoid turning into the truck. The vacuum of air created by the truck behind it causes the wind to rush in from the right side, requiring a lean to the right to keep on track; but this lasts for only a second until the wind from the left side would resume and I'd have to swing the bike over onto the other side of the wheel to hold a straight line. Several hundred miles of nearly complete isolation combined with fighting intense winds in a monotonous landscape completely cured me of any desire to cross central Nevada on a motorcycle again. I've driven Nevada's Highway 50, the so-called loneliest highway in America, probably two dozen times in a car, but it couldn't hold a candle to this road.

Hwy. 375 ends at the junction with Hwy 6 in Warm Springs, which is little more than a few abandoned shacks at a junction. I headed west to Tonopah on Hwy. 6, gassed up and continued on across the California border to Benton, which is where the state agriculture inspection station is. There I learned from the inspector that Highway 120 over the Tioga Pass into Yosemite was closed due to rockslides, so I would have to take a different route down the Bay Area. Highway 120 was open, however, to Lee Vining, so I headed east on 120 at the junction in Benton. About two miles up the road, there was a road crew blocking off the highway because a wildfire had closed the road. They sent me down a road that wasn't on my map called Benton Crossing. This was actually a pleasant series of twists and turns over a small summit and down to Highway 365. I jumped on Hwy. 365 north to Lee Vining.

I refilled the tank in Lee Vining and continued on up 365 past Mono Lake and over the Conway Summit at 8,000 or so feet. Down the other side, I rode through Bridgeport and on to the intersection with Highway 108, which heads west over the Sonora Pass.

This was a great alternative to Yosemite. It's a beautiful drive up twisting switchbacks to the 9,600 foot Sonora Pass. Then the road drops down the other side into a series of small towns and joins at the town of Sonora with Hwy. 120. From there, it's only about 140 miles on into Oakland. I just followed the signs to San Francisco. 120 hits I5 in Manteca. You take I5 south for about a mile or so and then head west again on 120, which then turns into I205 in Tracy and a little while later turns into I580 at the Altamont Pass. There is really nothing remarkable about this part of the ride except to note that the Altamont Pass is very windy and cold, even on otherwise warm nights. I arrived in Oakland at around 10pm California time, some 11 hours after leaving that morning.

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Posted by therman @ 04:11 PM EDT

Ride West--Day Six (Saturday, Aug. 11)
Begin: Bluff, UT
End: West of Cedar City, UT
Distance: 463 miles (21236-21699)

I started the day by backtracking about 20 miles down Hwy. 163 east towards Mexican Hat to the junction with Hwy. 261, which I took north to the Valley of the Gods. This was the first but not the last time in Utah that I wished I still had my R100GS. There is another route into the Valley of the Gods that is a dirt and gravel road just made for dualsports. Maybe another time. What I didn't realize when I headed up Hwy. 316 was that it turned to dirt and gravel for about 3 miles of the ride. I would have known this if I had read the map carefully, but then again I'm glad I didn't because I might not have taken the road otherwise. 261 takes you down to the base of a cliff. At this point, the road turns into gravel and continues several thousand feet up the cliff in a series of switchbacks, at the top of which there is a simply unbelievable view of the Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley. Even with the squirrelly handling of the K12 in the gravel, this is a route not to be missed.

Once at the top, Hwy. 261 turns back into a paved road and heads north in a series of rolling and sweeping turns to it's end at the junction with Highway 95. I turned west on Hwy. 95 and headed towards Lake Powell and the bridge crossing at Hite Marina. Hite isn't worth a stop unless you need gas, and you can't always be sure that they will have the grade you need there. I was fortunate in that they had only premium when I was there. Past Hite, the road continues up to Hanksville, swooping in and out of those red sandstone canyons of the type I've only seen in Utah and some spots in Arizona. At Hanksville, Hwy. 95 ends at the junction with Highway 24. I turned west onto Hwy. 24 and headed through the northern part of Capitol Reef National Park to the junction with Highway 12 at Torrey. Hwy. 12 is another of those not-to-be-missed routes. I headed south on Hwy. 12 through the Dixie National Forest, where I rode through one of those desert thunderstorms for a few miles. Given the heat of the day, I was happy to be a little chilly and wet for the 10 minutes it took to dry off.

After the Dixie National Forest and just past Boulder, Hwy. 12 enters Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in a most spectacular fashion. The road straddles a ridge just the width of the two lanes themselves with incredible views of the canyons on either side of the road. Then the road descends into various canyons and ascends to the ridge several more times before you reach the town of Tropic outside of Bryce Canyon National Park. I chose not to ride into Bryce as it's a dead end and I wouldn't be able to make it through Zion if I rode in and then out again. After the entrance to Bryce, Hwy. 12 climbs up to approximately 7600 feet before descending into Red Canyon, another one of those spectacular Utah sandstone canyons. Just outside of Red Canyon, Hwy. 12 ends at the junction with Highway 89.

I headed south on Hwy. 89 towards Kanab. At Mt. Carmel Junction, I turned west on Highway 9 towards Zion National Park. Zion was as overwhelming as I remembered from the last time I was there in the early 1980s, although I discovered that I had mixed up some of my memories of Mesa Verde with those of Zion and it was only after I was in Zion that I realized where the other memories came from. It's funny how things like that happen. Anyway, the only drawback to the drive through the park was how crowded the roads were. There was actual traffic on the roads and I even became concerned that the engine might overheat at one point. There is a very long and interesting tunnel on the road through the park that connects the higher east side of the park with the lower west side. Unlike the last time I came through, transit through the tunnel is now regulated and cars can only travel in one direction at a time. I wonder if I just don't remember this being the case last time or if this is really different? Anyway, the tunnel is quite long, over a mile it seems, and runs along the inside of a cliff. It is broken at irregular intervals by archways cut through the tunnel walls to allow the air to vent to the outside. From the outside on the west, you can see the archways cut into the side of the cliff.

Heading out of Zion, I continued on Hwy. 9 to La Verkin, where I hopped onto Highway 17 north through Toquerville and then got on I15 North for about 30 miles to the Highway 56 exit at Cedar City. I headed west on Hwy. 56 about 17 miles to Lou's uncle's house in the countryside, where I met up with my in-laws and Lou's uncle and his family to spend the night.

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Posted by therman @ 04:10 PM EDT

Ride West--Day Five (Friday, Aug. 10)
Begin: Taos, NM
End: Bluff, UT
Distance: 413 miles (20823-21236)

I left Taos via Highway 68 north. Just past the town of El Prado, I turned off onto Highway 64 west towards Chama. The stretch of Hwy. 64 between El Prado and Tiera Amarilla was one of the most scenic and most fun stretches of highway on my whole trip westward. Less than ten miles into the drive, I crossed the bridge over the Rio Grande River Gorge, where I stopped to take pictures of the impressive gorge the bridge spans. Shortly after Tres Piedras, the roadway ascends in a series of fun twists and turns into the Carson National Forest. I'm not quite sure what the summit elevation was, but it was almost certainly around 10,000 feet. The descent down the other side was just as beautiful and fun, despite being stuck behind a park service garbage truck for part of the ride. On the eastern side of the forest, the vistas are of Western pine forests and granite mountains and promontories, on the western side of the summit, the views also include some dramatic buttes and mesas.

At Tierra Amarilla, Hwy. 64 west joins with Hwy. 84 north until just about 12 miles outside of Chama, where Hwy. 84 heads north. I stayed on Hwy. 64 through Farmington and on into Shiprock. Outside of Shiprock, I saw one of those sites that is definitive of the West to me. Beyond the Shiprock itself--which is to your left as you exit town heading west on Hwy. 64--there was a massive thunderstorm in progress. I could see the entire storm isolated in the sky, dark rain pouring out of the clouds at the bottom, occasional flashes of lightning reaching the ground, while the storm clouds stretched thousands of feet up into the sky. For the rest of the ride, I saw a series of these storms taking place, all fortunately to the west of where I was riding. They made a dramatic backdrop to the buttes and mesas of the parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah that I traveled during the course of the day.

Hwy. 64 crosses the Arizona border just a little shy of Teec Nos Pos, where it ends at the junction with Highway 160. I took Hwy. 160 west through Mexican Water and Dinnehotso towards Kayenta. About 25 miles past Dinnehotso, Hwy. 160 intersects with Hwy. 163. Kayenta is about two miles north on Hwy. 163 and is the southern gateway to Monument Valley. I made the turnoff onto Hwy. 163 north towards Kayenta, where I stopped for gas. Then I headed into Monument Valley. I stopped over and over again to take pictures while crossing Monument Valley. This was my first trip here in my adult life and it was as impressive as my childhood memories of it.

During the drive through Monument Valley, I crossed over into Utah. On the northern end of the Valley, you come out at Mexican Hat, a small town with several hotels and a few restaurants that is situated under dramatic cliffs above the San Juan River. My immediate thougt was that it would be a bad place to be in a heavy downpour, but that is probably not true as the town didn't appear to have suffered from any flooding damage. I dontinued north and east on Hwy. 163 to the town of Bluff, where I stopped for the day at a very pleasant hotel, The Desert Rose Inn, and had an excellent barbequed chicken at the Cottonwood Steak House.

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Posted by therman @ 04:09 PM EDT

Ride West--Day Four (Thursday, Aug. 9)
Begin: Vega, TX
End: Taos, NM
Distance: 333 miles (20496-20823)

Although I had already covered almost 1500 miles by this time, this is the day I consider the real beginning of my trip. In the morning, I hopped back on I40 west and rode all the way to Clines Corners, where I said goodbye to the Interstate system for the next several days. At Clines Corners, I headed north on Highway 285. By this time, I was well and truly into the Western US as I define it. To someone like me from the West, there is a smell to the air--a mixture of dry pine, dry air and dust--that is unmistakable and unique to this part of the country; in some places, like the California coast, it's mixed with other smells like the ocean, but that underlying dry pine odor is always there. That combined with the mountain vistas and the wide open sky are what define the West to me. The smells of western Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle were almost right, but those featureless plains just didn't look right. Once into New Mexico, the picture is complete as far as I'm concerned. Highway 285 was smooth, relatively empty and the views were a wonderful change from the plains of Texas and Oklahoma.

Riding towards Santa Fe, I had thought about trying to find a local BMW mechanic to take another look at the clutch problem, especially since the next three days of travel would have me going through some pretty remote areas. On the outskirts of the city, I spotted a person riding a KK1200LT. I pulled off the freeway and asked him if he knew of a BMW mechanic in town. He had me follow him to a safe spot, where he introduced himself as Dave Beck. Dave is a tall, thin man with a weathered look to go with the Iron Butt pin he was wearing in his Kilimanjaro jacket. We had a nice chat and he gave me the name of a local dealer and told me how to get there. At Dave's suggestion, I called ahead to the dealer to let them know that I was coming and confirm the directions. We parted ways and I headed down to the dealership.

BMW of Santa Fe is apparently a new dealership and is associated with a BMW car franchise. The folks there were very nice and the mechanic, Doug Suggs (I hope I remembered his name), diagnosed the problem in a few minutes. He immediately dismissed my gasket theory and told me that the problem was almost certainly a dead or dying slave cylinder. According to Doug, on older K12RS's, the slave cylinders have a tendency to go bad, and when they do the symptom is a lack of pressure in the clutch line as the pressure leaks out from the cylinder. Sometimes the cylinder also leaks significant hydraulic fluid, although that didn't seem to be the case with mine as my fluid levels seemed quite normal. Doug told me that the cylinders rarely suffer catastrophic failure and that as long as I was willing to pump the handle to build pressure, then it was unlikely that the problem would be a trip stopper. I decided not to go ahead with a repair as it would be around $300 to do so and the fix would add another day or two of delay to the trip since the part would need to be air-freighted in.

Relieved but a little frustrated at the mechanical problem, I rode into downtown Santa Fe to have some lunch and pick up a gift for Lou's Uncle Jim with whom I would be staying just outside Cedar City, UT, a few days hence. I had a pleasant meal and bought a tile trivet with a Navajo blanket design on it for Jim. By this time it was around 2pm and pouring rain so I had to get out of town if I wanted to make it much further that day. I headed out of town via 285 north to Highway 84 north and then took Highway 68 north and east all the way to Taos. The rain diminished after about 20 miles and then turned into scattered showers for the rest of the ride into Taos. Highway 68 is a beautiful drive, even in the rain, but is a crowded route as it is the main road from Santa Fe to Taos. I got into Taos around 4pm local time and decided to stop for the day. Hotels were a little pricey, as you might expect in a resort town, but I was able to find a nice place for $80 plus tax for the night.

I got out of my gear, showered and wandered around town looking at the galleries and shops for an hour before having dinner at a restaurant called The Alley Cantina. The Alley is an odd place with a weird vibe. The patrons seemed to be composed primarily of serious drinkers with a left-over hippie vibe and who were still covered in the dirt of their daytime jobs as laborers of various types. It made for pretty good people watching, if not a great meal.

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Posted by therman @ 04:07 PM EDT

Ride West--Day Three (Wednesday, Aug. 8)
Begin: Tulsa, OK
End: Vega, TX
Distance: 410 miles (20086-20496)

After waiting around anxiously all morning and calling the dealership several times, my bike was finally ready at 12:30pm. I caught a cab up to the dealership to pick it up. According to the mechanic, there was an air bubble in the line and they had simply bled the line, put in new fluid and everything was the way it should be. Relieved that my worst fears had not materialized, I paid the $57 bill and took off at about 1:30 in the afternoon. The clutch released reassuringly high in the pull of the handle.

I hopped back on I44, this time heading west to OK City. Within 100 miles, before even reaching OK City, the clutch release had again moved to the bottom of the pull. Remembering what the guy at the dealership had said, I pumped the clutch handle vigorously several times to see if the pressure would build back up. It did and remained usable for a little while. At this point, I could see a little hydraulic fluid leaking out from the master cylinder at the clutch handle. I theorized, incorrectly it turned out, that there was possibly a pinhole in the gasket on the master cylinder and that over time the pressure in the line leaked out. I decided to keep on going, on the assumption that turning back wouldn't do me any good and with the hope that I would be able to pump up the pressure in the line when necessary.

Other than worrying about the clutch, the drive was completely uneventful. In OK City, I transferred from I44 west to I40 west and continued out across Oklahoma and into the Texas panhandle. My little adventure in Tulsa had put me 120 miles and many hours behind schedule. I had planned to make this one of my longest days, going all the way from OK City to Santa Fe. Instead, I stopped in a very small town off of the I40 called Vega, about midway between Amarillo and the New Mexico border. There is absolutely nothing to recommend about Vega other than the fact that it has a gas station and an overpriced hotel.

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Posted by therman @ 04:06 PM EDT

Ride West--Day Two (Tuesday, Aug. 7)
Begin: West Memphis, AR
End: Tulsa, OK
Distance: 549 miles (19537-20086)

It was drizzling in the morning when I packed up the bike. I got everything settled and began the day's riding. I planned to ride I40 out out of Memphis all the way to New Mexico, stopping in Oklahoma City for the night. For the first 150 or so miles, the ride was pretty uneventful and the scenery nothing to write home about. I40 in both Arkansas and Oklahoma is undergoing significant stretches of construction and the interstate was several times reduced to a single lane in the westbound direction with 40 mph speed limits.

Riding through Little Rock, I came up on a motorcycle cop from behind just as he was taking the offramp to I430 south. He gave a friendly wave, which I returned, and on I went. About 20 miles outside of Little Rock, it started to pour, buckets of rain just dumping out of the sky. A few minutes later, I passed a big pickup truck that had apparently spun out in the rain and came to rest against the outside guardrail facing the wrong direction.

I had reason to be very thankful for my Aerostich suit and Alpinestar boots, which kept my body and feet dry and comfortable. The Olympia leather gloves got wet, but not uncomfortable. I discovered at the my next gas stop, however, that the dye from the gloves had stained my hands black. After about 40 miles, I road out of the rainstorm into the heat of the day. My gloves were dry within about 10 minutes of being out of the storm.

Coming into Eastern Oklahoma, I noticed that the release on my clutch lever was starting to move lower down in the pull of the handle. This problem worsened as the day wore on and I began to become concerned. I figured that there must be a BMW dealer in Oklahoma City, which I planned to reach before 5pm, and I would have it checked out there. I stopped for gas in at around 4pm in Shawnee, about 30 miles outside of Oklahoma City. While at the station, I asked to borrow their Yellow Pages so I could see if there was a dealer in OK City. According to the phone book, there was, but when I called the number there was a message saying that the dealership would be open in September 2001. This was a little frustrating, to say the least. Next, I called a Triumph dealer in the phonebook and they told me there were no BMW mechanics in OK City, but that there was one in Tulsa. They didn't have a number, but they gave me the name--Atlas Motorcycles. I tracked them down through information and found out they were open until 6pm.

At this point, it was nearly 4:30 so I really had to haul to make it the 100 miles to Tulsa before they closed. I took State Route 18 from Shawnee up to I44 east, which is a toll road in OK. I made it into Tulsa and to the dealership about 15 minutes before they closed, despite 10 miles of traffic when the I44 was reduced to a single lane with a posted 40mph speed limit for about 10 miles. The folks at the dealership were nice and promised to get to the bike first thing in the morning, which would be at 9am when they opened. They theorized that there could be a bubble in the hydraulic line and this could cause the problem. One of the guys behind the counter said as a throw-away comment that you could build the pressure back up in the clutch by pumping it if this was the case. This offhand remark turned out, for reasons that will soon become apparent, to be crucially important to me finishing the trip.

I left the bike at the shop and got a ride from Clay at the dealership to a local La Quinta. Later I caught a cab to the city's Cherry Street neighborhood, which is nice little area with shops and restaurants, had dinner, then went back to the hotel and hoped that the problem would be simple and the fix would be fast, inexpensive and effective.

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Posted by therman @ 04:05 PM EDT

Ride West--Day One (Monday, Aug. 6)
Begin: Atlanta, GA
End: West Memphis, AR
Distance: 411 miles (19126-19537)

Left Atlanta under cloudy skies at around 8:30 am this morning, just a little later than I had intended. I took 75/85 south to I20 west all the way to Birmingham, then 78 West all the way to Memphis. The news about the likely arrival and projected path of hurricane Barry had me cranking out the miles to stay ahead of the storm. I beat the weather to Memphis, but it looks like Memphis won't be beyond Barry's reach. Unfortunately, it seems that tomorrow is going to be a very wet day in Memphis and on into Arkansas. I hope that the weather report turns out to be wrong. But, rain or shine, I'll be on the road tomorrow.

When I came up this way before at Christmas 1999, it was with Lou, my folks, and our dog Jack in a rented minivan. Just over the border into Mississipi, we ran into a cold front and the temperature dropped over 40 degrees in less than five minutes. From that point on, we were driving in an ice storm. That storm continued all during our trip to and from Memphis, so I never really got to enjoy the drive. Highway 78 is a pleasant and pretty ride, surpisingly so given how little there is to see along the way; just some glimpses of granite hills and elevated rail lines over watery fields. I stopped in Tupelo at the Elvis Presley Birthplace Museum. About what you'd expect, only fewer disciples. I picked up some Elvis stickers for my helmet and a Birthplace of Elvis refrigerator notepad for my friend Ann, but there was a surprising dearth of really good schlock. I couldn't bring myself to pay the entrance fee to see the museum, however. Back on the bike, I continued up Highway 78 and took it all the way into and through central Memphis, where it becomes a surface street crossing through some pretty gritty industrial areas. After checking out the hotel prices in downtown Memphis, I decided to cross the bridge into Arkansas and get a room at the Comfort Inn. Later, I headed back into Memphis and had an excellent dinner at Automatic Slims--just across the street from The Peabody Hotel--bowtie pasta with mussels and shrimp in a tomato and fennel sauce.

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Posted by therman @ 04:04 PM EDT

Ride West--Equipment
I would do the ride on the motorcycle that I ride everyday as my sole means of transportation around Atlanta (except on weekends when Lou is home and I can drive her car), a 1998 BMW K1200RS purchased used in 1999. To the stock K12, I added a set of Motolights and an Autocomm Pro M1 intercom/music system. I got a Creative Nomad Jukebox MP3 player, on which I loaded somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 CDs. For riding gear, I purchased some lightweight bicycling shirts and a pair of quickdry lightweight pants. I also got some of those tight exercise shorts to wear in place of regular underwear as I find cotton briefs or boxers to be extremely uncomfortable to wear when riding any significant distances during hot weather. Over this, I would wear my two-piece Aerostich Roadcrafter suit. For my feet, I had some athletic socks made of Coolmax fabric and Goretex Alpinestar riding boots. My helmet is a full-face Arai Quantum/e. The bike was loaded with BMW hardbags into which I put a minimum of items, including my laptop, and a mid-size waterproof duffel made by Helen Two-Wheels.

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Posted by therman @ 04:00 PM EDT

Ride West--Introduction
My twentieth high school reunion is August 18, 2001, in Los Angeles. I decided that the perfect way to get there would be to ride my motorcycle from my current city of residence, Atlanta, to the reunion, with a stop in the Bay Area on the way. I'll let the reader draw his or her own conclusions about why since I haven't really bothered to put them into words. This was to be my first extended vacation in several years, so I planned to take 16 days away from work. In order to do this, I had to arrange to have the motorcycle shipped back from Los Angeles because there wasn't time for me to ride it back. I'm no Iron Butt rider and multiple thousand mile days just don't appeal to me. Some of you might be interested in the gear I put together for the ride, so that's the first part of my little narrative. The next parts are day-by-day accounts of the ride itself.

Only the first day's account was actually written on the day in question, the accounts for day's two through seven were all written on the day after my arrival in Oakland. I call most of the non-Interstate roads that I travelled "Highways," although I'm sure many of them are actually "State Routes." I didn't take notes as to which was which, so I choose to call them all "Highways." If you look at a map, you'll be able to tell what I'm talking about.

A note about my travelling speeds: Most of my riding, on both the interstates and the smaller roads, was at indicated speeds in excess of the posted limits, often 20 or more miles per hour over. On the interstates, I tended to ride at indicated speeds of between 80 and 90 mph. On the two-lane highways, I generally travelled at indicated speeds ranging from 60-80 mph, except where that would be too dangerous either for conditions or for my riding capabilities and except for the central Nevada two-lanes where I travelled at indicated speeds between 80 and 110 mph, depending upon terrain. I did not have a radar detector with me and I saw very few law enforcement officers except at state lines on the Interstate and at the Nevada-California border. Why do I say "indicated" speeds? Because very few speedometers are accurate and it is apparently common knowledge that BMW speedos tend to be fast by around 8% of the indicated speed. Thus, indicated 100mph might actually be 92mph or even less. I don't have a GPS to test my actual versus indicated speeds against.

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Posted by therman @ 03:58 PM EDT

Sunday, August 5, 2001

The Night Before
Tomorrow, I leave early in the morning to begin my motorcycle trip across the country. I have to admit to a certain amount of nervousness. It seems silly given that I ride my motorcycle year-round and have done so as my primary, and sometimes sole means of motorized transportation for the past decade. I'll try to make updates from the road, but no guarantees as to regularity. Right now, it's time to shut the computer down and take care of the few things I have left to do.

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Posted by therman @ 06:01 PM EDT

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