Monday, May 27, 2013

Fuel consumption

Since I was keeping record of all fuel purchases I did the math today:

Trip length: 12,987Km
Total fuel consumed: 774.752L
Average fuel economy 5.966L/100Km

I have to say I'm quite impressed. Wouldn't be disappointed if it was 7L/100km...

Another little math i was doing to kill time on the I90: Bandit's engine turns 5,000rpm at 126Km/h, so it takes 2,500 revolutions to travel one kilometer. That means than my bike's crankshaft rotated at least FOUR HUNDRED MILLION TIMES so far. That's 400,000,000 miniature but powerful explosions, jerks, pulls, twists, stresses, pulses, slams, stretches, heating/cooling cycles, sucks, blows... All of that without a single failure (my Bandit's engine was never opened further than to adjust the valve clearance). Impressive indeed. The calculation takes into account riding only in top gear and without any idling, so the real figure is considerably higher but impossible to calculate accurately. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Day 20

After dodging another speeding ticket (someone else was a much bigger target) I'm home safe and sound. Stopped only three times in 750km :).

Well, if you haven't followed this blog so far, don't start now. There is a bigger and more detailed ride report in the works, stay tuned.

Day 19b

1350km (to be confirmed with GPS log).

That was long even by my standards. My longest day ever.

Day 19b

This was the day of fighting with the wind and trying to avoid getting a speeding ticket. But...

It started as a standard "follow the Interstate to see where it ends" ride, except for one strange phenomenon. My fuel gauge (five bars on an LC display) was going down much faster than usual. Only when I pulled in to gas up after just 170km I realized that I've been fighting a pretty strong direct wind. Well, I'm not going to slow down for the damn wind, so it'll be gassing up every hour and a half instead of three.

As soon as I entered Minnesota the dark, blanket looking cloud covered the entire sky and the temperature abruptly fell to 14. Since I was sure that I was going to get wet at some point and I was quite cold, I put on the heated vest and rain suit. That kept me cozy and warm. What it couldn't help me with was the wind that grew stronger and turned sideways (blowing from approximately 2 o'clock).

It wasn't as bad as Wyoming, but still quite gusting and very tiring. You know it's bad when you feel the bike will just be swiped from under you. You also don't realize how bad it is until you get into the rare quiet zone, like in a dip or behind a truck. Passing tractor-trailers with the wind blowing from the right can be a very scary maneuver, but I figured it out in July 2011. The trick is to pass the truck like you are aiming to cut him off. In other words, right before you pas the front of the truck you swerve pretty hard towards it. That counteracts the wind blow that would otherwise easily get you to the rumble strip on the other side of the road, or worse.

Bridges and overpasses are another challenge. One would think that the wind will blow harder on the bridge, but it's actually the opposite. The bridge is calm because the air can flow both over and under it, but the ramps give you a beating because they ramp up the wind as well. No trick there, except to brace yourself.

The only non-Interstate part today was 16 from Dexter to La Crosse, MI. I took it more to take a break from fighting the wind than anything else, but it was a pleasant surptise. A ridge like mini Niagara Escarpment frames a picturesque valley through which a winding and waving road goes. The most pleasant surprise was the little town of Lanesboro. Very pretty from what I can see without stopping. This is Amish country and it appears to offer both activities and amenities not easily found elsewhere. Definitely a place to spend some time in when in the vicinity.

Entering Wisconsin, the speed limit on I90 went down to 65. Thinking nothing of it, I adjusted my speed a little, but generally kept plowing at my usual pace. Soon I passed a police cruiser sitting at the median at about 85. No cherries, nothing. Well, he did come after me and pulled me over a little later on. 85 in 65, that's a $275 fine, officer says. I offer no explanation for speeding when he asks, more-less resigned to my faith. The officer was polite and friendly, commented on my bike leaking oil (nothing worrisome) and eventually le me off with a warning. Needless to say, I adjusted my speed as promised a nd saw two other cruisers on stakeout later on. As I was riding I thought that 32km/h over the speed limit on the highway wouldn't be likely to get me pulled over even in Ontario. Time to adjust the riding habits to the Eastern customs and revenue streams.

The ride through Chicago at night was an interesting experience. Full moon peeking through the clouds, plenty of traffic but all flowing smoothly at about 100km/h. That did wonders for my fuel economy and I easily managed over 300km on a tank.

The GPS got me riding through some pretty shady and deserted areas of Gary (or they seemed like that to me at night) to the hotel in Portage, Indiana. It was five states in one day. If I went a few miles further I'd be in seventh, Michigan.

Sleeping in my own bed tomorrow, can't wait.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Day 19a

It was a full moon over Murdo, SD last night, I was sorry I couldn't ride any more. It's a gorgeous morning today and it looks clear all the way to Chicago where I hope to be tonight. Let's ride!

Day 18

This Super8 in Deadwood has a pool, a jacuzzi, a casino and a deck by the river to have breakfast on. I wish I could stay longer to enjoy it all, but it's worth noting for the next time. Also, a river was running right under my window, too bad I realized too late that I can open it (windows that open are a rare commodity in places I usually stay at).

As this will likely be the last day of interesting riding on this tour I'm going to stretch it as much as I can, exploring the Black Hills area, Mount Rushmore and Badlands NP.

Apart from the crime of (de)facing a perfectly good mountain to boost their national ego and naming a beautiful area after a common butcher (Custer State Park), south Dacotans have nothing to be ashamed of. This whole area is beautiful on so many levels and they seem to take good care of it.

The ride started hot, temperature climbing over 30 very soon, so I took off the helmet and heated vest and rode like a boss all day. The pace was as tame as it gets. I just soaked up the scenery listening to the gentle, deep buzz of the engine (the exhaust sound is practically inaudible to the rider at these speeds, even without the helmet and earplugs) and smelled the intoxicating aroma of Ponderosa pines Black Hills are covered with. I could have cruised like that all day, occasionally stopping to let the bus go through a tunnel a hair bigger than it is or look at amazement at those wooden bridges made on a road so curvy that it resembles a corkscrew. However, it's time to point the wheel East.

Having had my fill and encountering another big-ass Bison in the middle of the road, I moved on towards Badlands NP. Riding through the prairie as fast as I was comfortable without a helmet (i.e. way above the speed limit) I saw a police cruiser coming my way, to late to slow down as usual. He didn't even blink, even though I was going at least 40km/h over the limit. South Dakota rules again :).

I visited the local store in Caputa that Jessie run out of gas at in 2011. Ricky has moved on to another job but the store is alive, well and expanding. I told them I want a motel next time I come by.

A ride through Badlands was a hoot as I remember it. No park rangers there and little traffic to interfere with my antics. It's fascinating how the green and apparently fertile prairie coincides with a totally barren landscape here. It's like having a mini Death Valley in the middle of Saskatchewan. Road variably twisty and straight, going up, down and level, very well paved and maintained. A joy to ride and look at.

A short and fast highway ride and I'm Sleeping in Murdo, SD after skipping dinner and opting for vodka-juice instead.

Well, that' pretty much it. I've been living a most wonderful dream for the past 18 days. It's now time to wake up, but slowly and gently so most of the dream is retained in memory. I have the next 2,000km to think about it while eating up the highway to home.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Day 17

The rain went away last night and the day started clear. Nothing to clear out my head in the morning like a fast ride through the prairie. Nothing challenging, just a 160km/h cruise through the gently rolling green hills of Wyoming.

Once I hit the Bighorn Scenic Highway it all changed for the better - much better. First, a climb from 1,100m to 2,700m through a short but very beautiful canyon of a fast flowing river. Than a long-ish 2,500m plateau with long sveepers with road visibility far ahead. No need to tell you how fast I was going there, I wasn't looking at the speedometer much. The descent was as adrenaline inducing as the climb, with the added benefit of very grippy pavement resurfaced with some sharp brown coating that sticks to the tires like glue.

After that ball ended I hopped on I90 to shorten the ride to the Devil's Tower, my next stop. I was immediately greeted with the worst cross winds I ever experienced. It started as a very strong headwind, so strong that I couldn't get any faster than 130km/h. Then it started to pummel me with gusts from the South. Imagine a bike riding on a straight highway, leaned at 20-30 degrees and sliding from one lane to the other. I swear to you, I was close to pulling over, parking head into the wind and waiting for wind to subside or AAA to come with a flatbed. I've been battling some bad wind before, but never to the extent that my neck hurt from trying to keep my head upright and not twisted around :(. I'm only grateful that the day was sunny - an addition of rain would just kill me. All that fighting with the wind made me almost forget about gas. I passed the sign "No service next 66 miles" thinking that I'll make it, even taking into account the increased fuel consumption due to the wind and speed. Well, by the time I reached Gillette I was not only physically exhausted but also running on fumes. The wind was still so strong that it took all my remaining strength not to drop the bike at the intersection :(. The bike took 19L of gas, which is officially the most I ever poured in it. That means there was less than 1L left in the tank. In those 200+Km of windy nightmare it's average fuel consumption was 7.94L/100Km which is also the worst I ever recorded.

After hat experience I decided to run for the hills and stay off the highway as much as possible. That mostly worked, and the run to Devil's Tower was manageable, although not wind free. A 2km walk around this remarkable geological formation helped me loosen up a bit and break in the new boots in the process :(.

South then on 585. Still very windy because it's open country, but survivable. It finally stopped after I turned Norrth on 85, towards the famous Black Hills of South Dakota. I got into a very decent rhythm there, shielded from the wind by steep hills and high pines. Very nice.

Just about 10km South of Lead, a car coming towards me flashes his light frantically. I nod and think it's close to sunset - must be deer or some other wildlife. This is a twisty road with a lot of blind curves, so I slow down and cover the brake lever. Just a few turns after, there was a rock about 1.5m in diameter right in the middle of my lane. I thought this can't be left like that, it will soon be dark and someone is very likely to hit it. So I pulled over, left the lights on and went to see if I can move it. No way. Just as I was trying to figure out how to mark it a guy in a pickup truck canme along. I asked him to help me and together we managed to roll the boulder off the road. Case closed.

Arrived to Deadwood for the night, the place Wild Bill Hickok met his demise. Had a great Beef Stroganoff for dinner, a tasty end of a great day.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Day 16

I started by going back to Yellowstone to complete a good loop around and check out some sights I just passed last night because it was dark and I was cold.

Weather served me well 2/3 of the day, mostly sunny and hovering around 20. Keep in mind that these are pretty high altitudes - I haven't seen a point below 2,300m.

Pace was kept serene and just above the speed limit - 80-90km/h. There's just too much traffic and wildlife for anything faster, besides it let's me easily ride with right hand while holding the camera in the left (mostly clutchless shifting).

Speaking of traffic, my worst enemy are RVs. They are wide, slow and ugly. I've seen full size busses towing a Jeep Grand Cherokee with bicycles on it's tail. I would ban those montrociries from driving during daytime. Fortunately the only time they really bothered me on this trip was in Yellowstone. Everywhere else I just blew by them as fast as I could to show them what they are missing.

Speaking of wildlife, the oversized wild cows on steroids they like to erroneously call "buffalo" are everywhere in Yellowstone. The darn animals have no respect for vehicular traffic and rules of the road - they just stroll around willy-nilly. I was following a herd down the road for more than half an hour, along with a dozen cars and two park rangers. They ar huge and look really imposing with their big heads and wide shoulders, but appear to be just like our domestic cows in character - quite tame. They always moved out of my way and after seeing the first 50 I was in no mood to wait for them or follow them slowly.

The highlight of the day has nothing to do with roads, scenery, sights or riding. I park at one of the more popular geyser areas to go for a walk. As usual, left almost everything on the bike except my wallet, phone and camera. I activeted the alarm as always (just as a deterrent). As I was completing about 20 minute loop a couple approaches me and the lady asks if that's my blue Suzuki in the parking lot. Damn, someone must have nocked it down, I thought. Nothing bad happened, lady said, nothing to worry about. It's just that a crow landed on my seat, unzipped all three zippers on my tank bag and did a thorough inventory of the contents. It took everything out except the 2L hydration pack that was too heavy! Then the husband showed me the picture of a bigg-ass crow standing on my tank bag. I begged them to send me the picture and I hope they will. If I was there I'd let it do whatever it wants and take pictures. It beats watching geysers hands down in my book.

After getting out of the park (a lot of interesting places skipped for the sake of time) I planned to go over the Beartooth Highway to Red Lodge Montana and then back to Cody Wyoming. Well, it wasn't meant to be - Beartooth is still being cleaned of snow and is closed for traffic and the weather looked quite threatening too. I had to satisfy my lust with Chief Joseph scenic highway and its Dead Indian Pass which is almost as good.

Came to Cody (of Buffalo Bill fame) early, checked in, washed two days worth of sweat and road grime and went to Alma Hotel for a nice Bufallo Burger and Moose Drool beer. A fitting end to the day.

It's raining now, I hope it stops by the morning. I hate to start the day in a rain suit. Speaking of rain suit, I've reluctantly put it on today because it was starting to rain and it looked like I'm definitely headed towards a heavy shower. Well, I got rained on more while I was putting the suit on than thew whole 100km after :).

Day 15b

I missed one of the most powerful tornadoes in US history that hit Oklahoma City last night. More than 20 dead :(. I was there less than a week ago. My bike can't outrun a 200mph tornado...

I wasn't in a mood for high speed canyon carving today. Fortunately the nature provided the perfect setting for a relaxed ride. As I left the densely populated area by the Salt Lake and headed on towards the mountains the scenery changed into serene gently flowing hills covered in green grass and no trees worth mentioning. The road was to match - posed no challenges but provided enough entertainment. As gentle as the scenery looked the road was climbing higher and higher. Before I knew it, I was at 2000 meters. It held like that well into the Grand Teton NP.

Grand Teton is just that - grand. The road was entertaining too, but too much traffic and too many park rangers to enjoy it at speed. It's good I didn't go to fast because I got pulled ober for 60+ in 45. The ranger lady looked angry at first but mellowed down when I put on my best honest face (easy to do, because I am honest and didn't really mean to speed this time) and let me go after checking my documents. I crawled at just above the speed limit for the rest of he day (~80km/h) but I haven't seen another park ranger vehicle.

Yellowstone.

The highest elevation I reached today was just below 2,500m. Considering the altitude and all the snow still around the road the temperatures were relatively mild, but still chilling - down to 10.

I've seen Old Faithful geyser. Not impressed. Other vistas in Yellowstone are much more interesting, from rivers to canyons, to waterfalls to steaming ponds.

Books are written about yellowstone so I won't ellaborate much here. It would take me at least a week to properly size it up, let alone experience it fully.

The hotel in West Yellowstone I stayed in had no hot water and the Interweb wasn't working for me either. Bummer. At least they gave me 1/2 off. Not their fault and they were doing their best to fix it.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Day 15a

A tidbit from yesterday: The Utah/Nevada border passes through the middle of Wendover, the place closest to the Bonneville race track. As soon as you cross the state line into Nevada there are two big casinos :). One side of town is Mormon-moral the other sin-city :).

Leaving the beehive state / morMonstan towards Yellowstone soon.

Day 14

Wrights Motorcycle, just a few blocks from the motel, is a one stop shop for me. Suzi will be treated with top of the line chain, sprockets and two Michelin Pilot Road III tires. I'm getting a pair of Alpinestars touring boots. We both earned it, big time.

It's crappy out there today, so I'll have better time hanging around in the shop. Guys here tell me that the Bonneville race track is no good for riding because of all the rain it had recently. The salt is too soft they say, the bike would sink in it. Whatever, I'll be going there. If nothing else than to stand at the rim and bow to the gods of speed.

Once the sprocket cover was off, we found the counter shaft nut totally stripped of thread. They didn't have that part in store so Kenny went scouting for it over lunch. The washer was totally busted too. Fortunately the safety plate and bolt kept everything from falling apart and messing up my day. Oh yes, the chain had four broken links, not just one. DID will be hearing from me.

Got everything done in one place with friendly staff that let me hang around and give a hand with wrenching. The parts prices are on par with Toronto and total labor was $85. I got a pretty decent deal on Alpinestars boots and was out by 3PM. The final bill was quite high, but that's because of all the stuff I bought. So be it.

A big giros plate in the nearby Greek place. The weather is clearing to the West and I'm thinking of regrouping and going for a ride to Bonneville to break in the new boots, tires and chain.

It's 120 miles each way and I did it in record time (I80 in this section having only about three turns) holding a steady 90-100 touring speed with several dashes to 130. Bike feels more planted and stable at speed, but that may be just the placebo effect.

Like they said, Bonnie was wet so her and Suzi couldn't tussle. Next time Bonneville, next time. The pictures should be good though, the salt flats are impressive. Those mountains look so close but they are tens of kilometers away - the "lack of reference" effect. This is the holy land of speed where records are set and broken. If you haven't yet watched "The worlds fastest Indian" with Anthony Hopkins go and do it. Now. Remember that it's a true story.

Tomorrow? North, but haven't decided where yet. Idaho, Wyoming or both?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Day 13

Well, day 13 is a write-off as far as riding is concerned. But...

I woke up to find out it was raining all night. Suzi is all wet (you dirty...) but it's not raining now. A cursory examination of the bike revealed a startling and disturbing anomaly - a broken chain link (pictures will be in the album later). I've seen a lot of busted, worn, rusted and abused chains but never anything like this. On top of it all it's the best and most expensive chain in the DID lineup - the $200+ ZVM2. Well, they'll hear from me for sure because this is bloody dangerous.

So, my plan to go to Bonneville, open her up on the salt flats and spend the night in Salt Lake city is out. The question is what to do? After some deliberation and risk weighing decided to go straight to Salt Lake City in the fastest possible route (150mi). Why fastest? Because it will allow me to keep the chain at the more-less constant and moderate tension and not subject it to frequent acceleration.

So, up on the highway I go, keeping her at around 80mph, just so I don't get passed by every redneck in a pickup truck.

Just so you know, there are roughly three possible scenarios with catastrophic drive chain failure:

1. The chain just flies off the bike, usually catapulted high in the air and possibly hitting a fef parts at the rear of the bike along the way. The engine suddenly revs to the stratosphere, which won't generally damage it if you roll off the throttle fast enough. Then you just coast to a stop with a bike that does everything OK except propelling itself :).

2. The broken chain gets wrapped around the front sprocket like a boa constrictor, abruptly and quickly stopping the engine. The damage to the engine, especially sprocket cover, can be from relatively mild to quite severe. Again, you just coast to a stop.

3. The chain wraps around the rear sprocket, blocking the rear wqheel in the process and sending the bike in a mostly uncontrollable rear wheel slide. Depending on the speed, lean angle and rider's skill this can end up in various ways - from just a lot of tire smoke and a well executed stop to a slide down a canyon cliff. Damage to the bike? Who gives a rat's ass?!

The first two I can deal with (#1 happened to me before), but I was hoping the third scenario won't happen. That's why I kept it on the straight highway and at moderate speed.

I'm sorry to disappoint anyone, but nothing at all happened. It was a very gentle ride that ended without incidents, apart from a rain scare from a couple of thunderstorms that I narrowly missed.

Booked a motel close to a bike shop I'm hoping will be able to sort things out for me tomorrow. The rear tire needs changing too, so I'll hopefully kill two birds. The thread is almost gone and there's a plug in the middle of it.

Went for a ride to the Temple Square but didn't hang around because another rain front came in. Looks impressive, maybe tomorrow. As far as I could see everything out of downtown is unimpressive, to say the least. Typical American everywhere/nowhere town with strip malls, car dealerships, etc.

This Days Inn has a laundry, time to wash/dry. Eaier said then done becaus I don't have enough quarters and the front desk doesn't offer change (very unprofessional). Managed to beg my way into some change from the reception lady that just pretends to understand English and off to washing I go, happy that I have a place to sit and surf on the tablet while I'm waiting.

Half into the wash cycle I check the dryers. Both coin drawers are stuck. Get a hold of the maintenance guy, he tries to un-jam it and then calls the manager. They tell him that dryers have been out of order for a while, but someone took off the notice they left. What a bunch of bozos!

Stuff the wet clothes into a dry bag that I thankfully have, hop on the bike to the closest laundromat (about a mile away) and do some thumb-typing for the blog while I wait. That restaurant across the street looks mighty alluring right now.

New Ho Ho Gourmet, Hong Kong steak with a side of flied noodles :).
A side note from yesterday: Somewhere North of Zion NP on a gentle winding road I was passing a red Mustang in the usual manner, which means with plenty of room for error, both his and mine. We were both going pretty fast, his pace faster than most cars I encounter. The pass was quite routine until when I was about half the bike ahead of him when he started to accelerate practically initiating a "flying start" drag race and blocking my return to the right lane. There was plenty of straifgr and emty road in front so I decided to take the challenge. What he didn't know is that I have an ace up my sleeve - the famous "Bandit downshift" :). See, Bandit 1200 can never achieve it's top speed in the top gear. Consequently, no matter how fast I go in fifth I can always get an extra boost (like a kick in the butt at most speeds) by shifting down to fourth and wringing her neck. When are those guys with small penises going to learn that racing a motorcycle is a loosing game 90% of the time (those 10% for motorcyclists not being in the mood to race and/or having nothing to prove)? It is fun showing them that theirs is smaller every once in a while though :).

Day 12

That was by far the worst dump I ever slept in. All that was missing were the cockroaches, but I guess they had less smelly places to be at. I slept well though - I wouldn't let a bad night spoil the next day. Had to shower in the morning again though, being very carefull where to step and wqhat to touch afterwards.

Looks like the bad weather front is East from where I'm headed (northbounds toward Salt Lake) and moving East. Hope it stays that way.

I got under a single rain cloud right after I left, but I just twisted the throttle until I was out of it.

Decided to go South-West to Zion NP and then beeline up to Salt Lake City if I have time. First leg led me through San Rafael desert. Mostly flat desert but with enough change of scenery to make the ride interesting and cruising at 100-110mph possible.

Since I ate a gel for dinner and didn't have any breakfast I stopped in a nice stake house in Hanksville for a hearty brunch.

The really fun roads started right after and continued for the rest of the day. First was the Capitol Reef NP, impressive area with equally entertaining road. Then on through Dixie national forest and higher elevation (~10,000ft) where temperature dipped to 14. Following several desert canyons and river valleys to Bryce Canyon NP. The road there is as impressive as the scenery. It runs like a mad serpent on the edge of the deep and colorful canyon. I finally got rid of the last remnants of my "chicken strips" and rear tire finally looks like a true sport-touring one :). I wasn't pushing it, this road just led me naturally to higher leaning angles.

Faced with the fact that there is no way I would reach Salt Lake for the night I decided to go all the way to Zion and then turn North as far as I can get. Good decision. Both Zion NP and the roads to and through it are one stream of endless beauty. If it wasn't Saturday and the place packed with week enders the road through Zion would be a perfect rival to the Dragon. By far the steepest and most curvey road on this trip. One would have to ride it several times before he could start doing it in a sportier manner. Scenery is just too distractingly stunning. I went through both ways and still couldn't help but stop every 100m to soak up the scenery.

So three national parks and a national forest later I'm enjoying a relaxing evening in Richfield. Planning to take it easy tomorrow - just side roads towards the holy land of speed - Bonneville salt lake.
Check the pictures later. One day I'll use them to do a "scenery change per hour" statistic :)

Day 12

That was by far the worst dump I ever slept in. All that was missing were the cockroaches, but I guess they had less smelly places to be at. I slept well though - I wouldn't let a bad night spoil the next day. Had to shower in the morning again though, being very carefull where to step and wqhat to touch afterwards.

Looks like the bad weather front is East from where I'm headed (northbounds toward Salt Lake) and moving East. Hope it stays that way.

I got under a single rain cloud right after I left, but I just twisted the throttle until I was out of it.

Decided to go South-West to Zion NP and then beeline up to Salt Lake City if I have time. First leg led me through San Rafael desert. Mostly flat desert but with enough change of scenery to make the ride interesting and cruising at 100-110mph possible.

Since I ate a gel for dinner and didn't have any breakfast I stopped in a nice stake house in Hanksville for a hearty brunch.

The really fun roads started right after and continued for the rest of the day. First was the Capitol Reef NP, impressive area with equally entertaining road. Then on through Dixie national forest and higher elevation (~10,000ft) where temperature dipped to 14. Following several desert canyons and river valleys to Bryce Canyon NP. The road there is as impressive as the scenery. It runs like a mad serpent on the edge of the deep and colorful canyon. I finally got rid of the last remnants of my "chicken strips" and rear tire finally looks like a true sport-touring one :). I wasn't pushing it, this road just led me naturally to higher leaning angles.

Faced with the fact that there is no way I would reach Salt Lake for the night I decided to go all the way to Zion and then turn North as far as I can get. Good decision. Both Zion NP and the roads to and through it are one stream of endless beauty. If it wasn't Saturday and the place packed with week enders the road through Zion would be a perfect rival to the Dragon. By far the steepest and most curvey road on this trip. One would have to ride it several times before he could start doing it in a sportier manner. Scenery is just too distractingly stunning. I went through both ways and still couldn't help but stop every 100m to soak up the scenery.

So three national parks and a national forest later I'm enjoying a relaxing evening in Richfield. Planning to take it easy tomorrow - just side roads towards the holy land of speed - Bonneville salt lake.
Check the pictures later. One day I'll use them to do a "scenery change per hour" statistic :)

Day 12

That was by far the worst dump I ever slept in. All that was missing were the cockroaches, but I guess they had less smelly places to be at. I slept well though - I wouldn't let a bad night spoil the next day. Had to shower in the morning again though, being very carefull where to step and wqhat to touch afterwards.

Looks like the bad weather front is East from where I'm headed (northbounds toward Salt Lake) and moving East. Hope it stays that way.

I got under a single rain cloud right after I left, but I just twisted the throttle until I was out of it.

Decided to go South-West to Zion NP and then beeline up to Salt Lake City if I have time. First leg led me through San Rafael desert. Mostly flat desert but with enough change of scenery to make the ride interesting and cruising at 100-110mph possible.

Since I ate a gel for dinner and didn't have any breakfast I stopped in a nice stake house in Hanksville for a hearty brunch.

The really fun roads started right after and continued for the rest of the day. First was the Capitol Reef NP, impressive area with equally entertaining road. Then on through Dixie national forest and higher elevation (~10,000ft) where temperature dipped to 14. Following several desert canyons and river valleys to Bryce Canyon NP. The road there is as impressive as the scenery. It runs like a mad serpent on the edge of the deep and colorful canyon. I finally got rid of the last remnants of my "chicken strips" and rear tire finally looks like a true sport-touring one :). I wasn't pushing it, this road just led me naturally to higher leaning angles.

Faced with the fact that there is no way I would reach Salt Lake for the night I decided to go all the way to Zion and then turn North as far as I can get. Good decision. Both Zion NP and the roads to and through it are one stream of endless beauty. If it wasn't Saturday and the place packed with week enders the road through Zion would be a perfect rival to the Dragon. By far the steepest and most curvey road on this trip. One would have to ride it several times before he could start doing it in a sportier manner. Scenery is just too distractingly stunning. I went through both ways and still couldn't help but stop every 100m to soak up the scenery.

So three national parks and a national forest later I'm enjoying a relaxing evening in Richfield. Planning to take it easy tomorrow - just side roads towards the holy land of speed - Bonneville salt lake.
Check the pictures later. One day I'll use them to do a "scenery change per hour" statistic :)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Day 11

This is going to be brief and late because the dump I'm typing it in has no Internet (the least of my complaints).

Just a short run out of Monticello there is the southern entrance to the Canyonlands NP. As I was riding towards the park the Indian Creek recreation area gave me an unexpected treat - a tight little desert canyon adorned with high walls and thick green vegetation, not to mention the road to match. Canyonlands is a mecca for off-roaders - it has quite a few 4x4 only roads. I consulted with a park ranger first and then picked two less challenging gravel roads to go to. The first one was short and well graded/packed and it led me to a very interesting hike around some cave dwellings and a spring.

Next there was a longer and more challenging, narrow, bumpy and curvy one. Both ridden without incidents. All the while the scenery kept changing from solid rock to washes to more rock, just different every time.

Next leg took me through Moab (it looks like all they drive here are high clearance vehicles :) ) to Arches NP. That was a special kind of scenery overload. The road is great but there was too much traffic for real carving so I took my time stopping at every corner for pictures and went for a hike to the Windows arches.

All that stopping and hiking took a toll on me so at around 6 I was ready to punch out for the day. However, that would mean to skip the northern part of Canyonlands - something I wasn't willing to do. So on I went and was in for a extremely entertaining ride on the canyon rim. Series of fast sweepers first, followed by tight sets of level twisties. Some engineer really did a number on this one :). At the end I was greeted with one of the most magnificent views of the canyons so far. Met some fine people too, a young couple by the names of Kim and Pablo. After a brief and very friendly chat it was time to ride into the sunset. The joy of that road was only somewhat reduced by the fact that it was dusk and I was tired.

Start looking for a place to crash.
The GPS said Super 8 in Green River. About 40 miles on I70 later (I haven't been on the Interstate for days now) and I was there, only to find out they are booked solid. So were 3-4 other places I checked. Getting pretty desperate, hungry and very tired I finally found a vacancy in a place that looked like something from the (bad) movies. I don't want to spoil your next meal by describing it any further. I had Power Gel for dinner. I'll try to get some sleep and get he hell out of here ASAP. If anything, this will teach me to appreciate Duda's help with booking even more.

All in all, Canyonlands and Arches more than compensated for the disappointment that was Monument Valley. I know no one will skip it because of me, but at least get in from the North. It's shorter.

Temperatures were in the mid thirties all day. I drank a lot of water and Gatorade to keep hydrated. A guy told me they are forecasting some pretty hasty thunder-showers for Northern Utah. Be as it may, I know I won't be sleeping here another night.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Day 10

I was in four states today(Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico), all at the same time. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

I'm headed to Utah, but not before I do a little loop in Colorado. The guy that's mowing the motel lawn is raving about 550, so it has to be good. It's not - it's freakin' phenomenal! I won't do it injustice by describing it, but I'll just say that it stands on a pedestal right next to the Beartooth Highway. This is most fun yoy can have with your clothes on, period. Up and down and up and down the Rockies, one vista more beautiful than the other, each corner more alluring. To top it all off, the weather is perfect - low to mid twenties (even at several passes over 10,000ft)with just enough clouds to make the scenery even more beautiful. This is what touring on a bike is all about. A Porshe in front carries a good clip but doesn't stay in front for long. Very little other traffic to ruin the rhythm.

On the returning leg (145S) the scenery was not as good (although very pretty by any standard), so I concentrated on the perfectly engineered road that was closely following the river. I was really in the zone.

On a gas stop (very friendly staff offered good food advice) a guy about my age who's obviously been around the block a few times suggests I visit some hot springs that are on my way. Then I remembered some hot springs in Colorado that a guy in Death Valley told me about in 2011 and realized those are one and the same. Clothing optional, he says. Talk about fun with your clothes on, and off!

I found the spring as per instructions - I wouldn't otherwise stumble upon it even by chance. It's right by the Dolores river and it's not a commercial place. Locals just captured a natural hot spring and turned it into a mini jacuzzi oasis. Right by the river and mere 100m from the road, yet secluded. No one was there, so I opted out of my clothes and dove right in. What a feeling that was after several hours of hard riding! I stayed there and relaxed like a sultan for a while. As I was leaving, a local came buy and told me there's another spring across the river, even hotter and in a more natural setting with water streaming in little geysers right next to you. Next time, road beckons. If this place was near a big city I would never tell anyone where it is, but
Since it's more than far enough - Rico, Colorado :).

Coming out of the mountains on a straight stretch between Dolores and Cortez I pass 4 cars at about 30mph over the limit only to look straight at a police car coming towards me. On come the cherries and the siren, so I prepare to pull over and look in the mirror. Nada! In my defence, it was a very safe and legal pass, apart from the speed.

Speaking of speeding (again) I obey all limits under 45 in populated areas. Once in the open desert or remote mountains though...

Because of the hot spring break (worth every minute and then some) I decided to skip the original plan of going to Mesa Verde and head straight for Four Points and Monument Valley. That took me through mostly flat desert with temperatures hovering around 35 and dry heat. Off comes the helmet. It's too hot and I need to relax my neck, I'm rationalizing. Well, nothing to it - I've done it before. What was different this time is that I had plenty of time (100 miles or so) to do whatever I want as far as speed is concerned. So I stopped checking the speed and just went as fast as I felt comfortable. Since in the desert there is no reference to gauge your speed you just go by your natural feeling. It turned out that in these conditions (straight and well maintained road, no strong side wind, fully loaded bike, no helmet, little traffic or distractions...) my comfortable cruising speed is between 85 and 100mph. However, better hearing protection than just earplugs is necessary - my ears are still ringing. Facial masage was good though :).

Monument Valley was a bit of a disappointment. Magnificent, but not really for this kind of tour. I'd like to get up close and personal and it can't be done on a bike or in one day.

Dropped the bike as I was pulling over next to a (man made) monument. Into unexpected deep sand and on the side she goes. Turned the engine off and took the camera out. Bike isn't going to get any worse and this needs to be recorded :). I was pretty sure I won't be able to pick it up by myself but since no one was pulling over to help I tried anyway. And succeeded, with the first try. Got the bike to a stable surface and inspected the damage. None, not even the turn signal. She fell on the right, so no sand got on the chain either. Lucky break.

I tried to go down the unpaved Valley Road but after a white-knuckle ride over the rock covered with sand to the first overlook and almost dropping the bike again I stopped pushing my luck. Packed dirt, gravel and rock I can deal with but neither the bike nor myself are suited for loose sand.

Today I also had my closest ever encounter with Bambi. As I was approaching Monticello coon after sundown I came into a marked elk crossing zone. Allright, just focus on the side of the road and anything that moves. Easier said then done, especially with my vision impaired by the increasingly bug-splattered visor. So, she was standing in the middle of the opposite lane with her side towards me facing my lane. I didn't see her at all until I was about 50m away and would have no way to avoid hitting her if she just took a few steps forward. Fortunately she got spooked by the bike, turned around and ran.

What a day! No idea yet where I'll go tomorrow.

It looks like I didn't record yesterday's track :(. I'll do it by memory later.

P.S. Don't forget to check the pictures at http://album.xxc.cc. I'm uploading as much as I can and they speak a thousand words

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Day 9

Well, I've put some adventure in my sport-touring adventure today. But, let me start from the beginning.

All my clothes washed late last night, I'm reluctantly leaving the magnificent land of Kit Carson and Billy the Kid. Not before I say a proper goodbye though.

So, I went on the 150km loop around Taos mountains. Taos Canyon was taken at a very brisk pace because it's scenery wasn't distracting enough but the road well made and twisty. I took the advice from the ski resort billboards: Carve it, shred it!

Passed by Eagle Lake and back up the mountain through the forest again. Over the 9000+ft Bobcat pass and back down to Taos. There I passed the sheriff while I was going 80 in the 50 zone. He didn't even turn on the cherries. As I said before, cops in US have generally much better things to do than to chase speeders.

A mountaing is being strip-mined in the middle of the National Forest. A terrible sight, I don't know who and how let them do that.

Rio Grande Gorge State Park was quite a treat. A narrow curvy road without guardrails hugging a winding river in a deep canyon. So it went until I hit the bridge after which the road became a narrow, twisty and steep gravel one. I was a bit reluctant because I had no idea what the road looks like but the beginning didn't look good. If I drop he bike here I won't be able to pick it up by myself and the area looked pretty deserted. Faced with the prospect of having to go around quite a bit, I said to myself "I've been through worse" and started up the steep cliff side. It turned out quite manageable and offered some impressive scenery.

Once out of the canyon it was flat desert and straight road again. Very good pavement, no other traffic, so I opted to let Suzi stretch her valves. Moved as far forward in the seat to give her good traction in the front, tucked down a bit and opened her up. Rock solid all the way up to 200km/h where she started her usual gentle wobble. We know each other well, this bike and I, so I didn't push her over her limit (or mine). Just when the long straight was coming to an end, the "normal" front end "floating" turned into the whole bike wobble, front and end. Still not alarmingly erratic or a tank slapper (she stayed more-less in line the whole time), but very unusual. I let her do her dance while gently rolling off the throttle to avoid further upsetting the fragile balance (I know better than to do anything harsh in such situations, like brake for example). Came to a stop right at the crossroads and realized my rear tire was completely flat. Hooray, my first flat over 200 and I'm still standing.

I have everything I need so I took my time finding and plugging the hole. A pretty big and irregularly shaped one, right in the center of the thread. Whatever made it was long gone. Chatted with some people that came to get water from the community well (long story, these folks really live "off the grid") and was on my way to check out the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Simply gorgeous (pun intended), both the elegant metal arch bridge and the deep gorge dug out by the river that looks so tiny from above.

Kept heading west on 64 went over a pretty high mountain (10500ft). While temperatures at Rio Grande were in mid thirties, just an hour ride from there it went all the way down to 9. And then it started to rain. I went through the familiar rain preparation song and dance and continued on. It was quite miserable for a while, but it didn't last. I was back down the mountain and in balmy twenties in no time.

Entering Colorado the scenery changed like someone flipped a switch. No more arid desert or desert-like landscape, but thick forests and green fields all over. Rockies.

I encountered the 65 speed limit several times today. It's very significant because we are talking about mountain roads that are curvy by nature. Not a road you'd put a typical highway speed limit on. To me, it reads "you can do any turn on this road comfortably at 90-100. So I did, and it was a symphony of smoothness and coordination. No jerking, no twitching, no harshness of any kind - just smooth flow of asphalt under ever tilting horizon.

Dropped in Apache reservation for gas. A couple of Indian kids cute as a button ask how come I have all those boxes on the bike. I tell them because I travel on the bike and that's how I carry my stuff. "Wow!" :)

Went to see Navajo Lake SP. The lake is almost dry, it's level deep below what used to be the shore line. It's pretty anyway, I hope it will recover.

In Durango for the night. Had a ood meal and finally some fine local beer. Will figure out where to next in the morning.

Yesterday I forgot to mention how many crosses I saw on the High Road to Taos. They were on almost every turn, many of them fresh. I was wondering why so many local people die on what is so obviously a road that doesn't tolerate mistakes. A guy I met today in the gorge told me that it's a very poor area with the highest percentage of heroin addicts in the country. Such a shame that people strougle like that in a land as beautiful as this :(

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day 8

Well, I've put some more sport in "sport-touring" today. I know now that the mythical biker's Eldorado is in New Mexico. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Breakfast was as good as expected. No bacon, but nice little burgers and eggs. And real maple syrup on nice pre-made waffles.

Thanks to the handy map of scenic routes they gave me at the NM visitors center, I picked the High Road to Taos Scenic Byway. It's a mix of several connected roads with different style and scenery, but every one a pleasure to ride as well as look at. It starts with fast sweepers through Carson National forest, then twists a little tighter through some fine desert canyons and small indian villages, then opens up to fast sweepers again. The few cars I caught up with were almost always polite and slowed dow or even pulled over for me to pass. Nice people indeed.

A sign for a side road says Lake, so I quickly swerve that way. A very narrow and twisty road up and down a canyon side leads to a small desert lake. No swimming allowed (}¥»±#!!), but very beautiful and well cared for nonetheless. Chatted with some guys that were fishing. Everyone is surprised when they hear about my trip, but genuinely approving of the endeavor. No envy, just "damn, I wish I could do that, but I'm happy someone is". I won't lie to anyone and say it's easy, but the reward justifies the price tenfold.

Next leg was to Bandelier National Monument. That one was twisties and scenery galore, from riding the mountain ridge to descending deep into he desert canyon. A brief hike led me to the ancient stone dwellings. A coyote was strolling by like a bunch of tourists are nothing to be afraid of, and they weren't - two New Zealanders asked me if it was a wolf and whether they should worry about him :).

From Bandelier I continued on towards Los Alamos, with the idea to start going back from there. Just before the turn, I remembered how nice Jemez mountain was last time and how sorry I was for riding it just after sundown. Well, with plenty of time to return, up the mountain (9,000ft) I went, with a vengeance. Then down the mountain to the caldera for a short gravel ride to the visitors center. Nothing for me there today, they don't let private vehicles in (probably for the best, that gravel is no place for Suzi, although I wouldn't resist flogging her). Turn back towards Los Alamos and up and down Jemez mountain again. What a blast this ride was. Scenery here is fine (beautiful pine forest), but not good enough to distract from the fine pavement and a well engineered road perfectly suited for both me and the bike. Another "synchronicity" 100% in-the-zone ride.

The guy at the checkpoint in Los Alamos (all vehicles subject to inspection) commented on the bike and asked for ID. I saw a bit more of LA this time, but didn't hang around except to gas up.

The return was the same way I came, via High Road to Taos, but this time even faster. Boy was it fun!

Came back to Taos with time to spare, so decided to nave a good dinner (a nice little genuine Mexican eatery with a very nice patio) and then do my laundry. I'm typing this on the Blackberry as I,m waiting for the wash to finish.

Weather was perfect today - 25-32 and mostly sunny. Heavy clouds were hovering over the higher mountains (still snow covered) but never dumped a drop where I was.

Managed to install the new GPS with the suction mount on my speedometer glass (it wouldn't hold to the windscreen). It held very well all day. Garmin is no match to my hacked Curtis in versatility, but it's simple to operate and solid. We'll probably keep it for the car - the bikes need something that you can order a "scenic route" to.

At Bandelier, as I was getting ready to leave, a loud chirping sound emanated above me. I thought mocking bird again and kept looking for it until I saw the source of the noise standing on the chimney - a squirrel. Several other people noticed it too and all were surprised it was a squirrel. I took a little video, I hope it turns well.

Day 7a

Two things I forgot yesterday:

I noticed that there are some pretty weird sounding birds in Texas, but I couldn't pinpoint exactly why. Their songs were various, but foer some reason all equally disconcerting and disoriewnting. It wasn't until I heard the chirping sound of my own alarm repeated verbatim that I reali2d it was a mocking bird. For a moment, I seriously thought my alarm was malfunctioning :). They imitate all sorts of sounds, a particular one I noticed was the sound of creeking door opening. Really funky.

For me, there's hardly a sight more fascinating than a desert lake. Granted, most og them around here are dam/man-made, but the contras between clear blue water and surrounding bare rock (often red in these parts) makes the scene out of this world stunning. I'll take a dip if I get a chance.

Day 7

I love the desert. No rain, no cops, no bugs. Well, not exactly, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I had a late start today because the morning was spent changing oil (guerrilla style, right in front of Wal-Mart), buying a new GPS (the old one finally made his last flicker on the Santa Fe Trail later in the day) and looking for boots and some other gear (unsuccessfully, but I met a very interesting man in the process).

It was 30, so the I40 jaunt to Tucumcari was pleasant and quick. Enter New Mexico, a state that left a big impression when I was passing through in July 2011. It didn't disappoint this time either. Did I say I love the desert? Some may think it's dull and monotonous, but at the pace the scenery was changing I was constantly fighting the onslaught of impressions. Just by the time you say "wow, this is magnificent" there is a "holy mother of twisty canyon roads" right the next minute.

Speaking of holy crap, I've seen more deer today than my entire life (no exaggeration, there were hundreds). First there was a group of seven right by the road. I quickly turned the engine off but they saw me and ever so graciously and effortlessly jumped over the fence to move away. Then, just before Cimarron, a very nice ranch house with a neatly trimmed lawn and SEVERAL DOZEN deer on it, just grazing like they belong there. I thought it was a deer farm, that's how many there were. Then I remembered how easily they jumped over that fence earlier...

Cimmaron Canyon is even better than I remember it, a sheer joy to ride as well as enjoy the scenery. I met a couple from southern Texas at a gas stop in Tucumcari and we discussed how you can't enjoy the scenery and have a spirited ride at the same time, so I kept that in mind, but it was damn hard. And yes, deer here as well, always in groups of at least four. No pictures were taken - it was already dusk and I needed both hands on the handlebar if I wanted to ride it well and be prepared if Bambi decides to jump. None did, actually they always moved away from the road as I was approaching. Maybe those deer whistles work...

As soon as the canyon carving was over, right after Eagle Nest lake came the 64 through Carson National Forest. That was the second moment on this trip that I felt so in tune with the bike that every corner was a pure perfection of combined speed and smoothness. It's like everything fell into place and produced a feeling my English is too poor to describe. This was one of those rare moments that bring tears in my eyes - tears of joy.

Wether was cooperating today, although I was sure I'll get soaked. First there were some weird clouds that looked more like a haze with undefined shape. Once I came closer, I realized what it is. Virga, an atmospheric phenomenon when the rain that falls evaporates before it reaches the ground on a hot and dry day (it was 35, and it is the desert). Later, as I was approaching the mountains (Rockies - Cimarron is over 6000 feet, Taos even higher) I saw clouds over them that were so obviously raining that I prepared for the worst all the while hoping it will pass by the time a get there. Guess what, it did - I didn't get a drop of rain and the pavement was bone dry throughout. The temperature fell though, big time. From 35 to 15 in less than 50Km.

Arrived in Taos to find the Don Fernando hotel another pleasant surprise. Easy on the eyes as well as the wallet with all the amenities just like I want them. Went for a relaxing swim in the pool right away and anticipate a very good breakfast.

All in all, I like it here so much that I will stay another day. I don't want to repeat the mistake of just passing through like last time. The only challenge is picking which of the great roads in the area to ride.

I can't believe I'm on the road only a week. The tightly packed, strong and condensed impressions produce the time machine effect. Indeed, (to paraphrase late-great John Munro) I've experienced more in this week than some people do in a year. I only wish Duda was here to live it with me.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Day 6

And not a single cloud was seen in over 1,100Km. Many flat armadillos though :(. But, I'm getting ahead of myself...

As planned, the entire Arkansas, the whole length of Oklahoma and half of the Texas panhandle were breezed through on I40. Stopping only every ~250Km for gas and quick refreshment, I arrived to Amarillo with time to spare for a hearty dinner at Denny's (no alcohol again, looks like I'll have to buy a bottle of wine at the next gas station - go figure).

Although nothing beats twisty mountain roads and breathtaking scenery there is something to be said about the dreaded "superslab". The fact that you can cross three states and two time zones in one day gives you a palpable sense of freedom and empowerment. It's like the world is my oyster and I can accomplish anything I set my mind to (which is of course total bullcrap). Thank you for that wonderful illusion Dwight (Eisenhower, the father of the interstate system).

It's not that I wasn't tempted to take a side excursion or two. That Red Rock Canyon in Oklahoma sounded mighty fine, but they have a propensity for bombastic names here in `merica (or so I'm telling myself - sour grapes).

Traffic was quite ligth throughout, except for the trucks that like to pass each other with 0.5km/h speed difference while blocking other traffic for ten minutes. However, after trucking to Texas with Rade last year I don't hold it against them - It's a hard life being on the road like that.

About 90% of all the roadkill I saw today were armadillos. These living fossil equivalents of raccoons are no match for eighteen wheelers and are apparently too slow/stupid to run away :(.

Texas longhorn cattle were a majestic sight. Those things have a span bigger than I can show with my hands :).

As a reward for entering Tehas the speed limit was bumped up by 5mph to 75mph. Fine with me, especially if they tolerate my usual +10-15 (135-145Km/h). So far it seems like my speeding is not excessive enough to warant any action by the LEO. Let's hope it stays that way.

Another sign I saw in Texas first: "left lane for passing only". Kudos to TDOT! Add nutritious steaks and healthy gun culture and I think I like this state after all :)

My GPS is dying :(. Since my experience would be greatly diminished without it I'll have to go shopping first thing tomorrow. Wish me luck in finding what I need.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Day 5

I crossed the entire state of Tennessee from East to West. Not bad for a day ride :). But, I'm getting ahead of myself...

The word spread about the 100,000 mile Bandit and I was greeted in the morning by a fellow from Sudbury riding a GSF 650. My brother by bike from Alabama (my apology for forgetting his name, I hope he'll chime in here if he remembers the site) was there too and we chatted for a while and bid each other safe rides.

Morning was gloomy and some drizzle was coming down, but there was no way I was staying to wait it out, so on I went. Not much sky was seen on Cherohalla Skyway due to dense fog and constant drizzle at 14 degrees. The fog slowed me down to a crawl and drizzle just pissed me off. It was over in about 40km, but so was almost the Skyway :(. Fortunately, bad roads and lack of scenery are not something this area is known for, so quite a bit of fun was had all the way to Chatanooga. Then I got rained on again - it was short but heavy. Just when my clothes dried up from that drizzle earlier :(. In and out of the clouds was the game all morning.

Then I hit the interstate for some good old iron butt ridin'. I kept eating up the miles, stopping every couple of hours or so for gas and a stretch. I made no attempt to break the 330Km non-stop record Jesse and I made in 2011 - Bandit's tank is just not big enough for more and my nerves are not that thick either.

Across the Mississippi (it's f'in huge here, looks more like a lake) and into Arkansas.

There likely won't be much to write about for the next couple of days since I'll be riding the superslab all the way to Albuquerque. It will get progressively more fun from there, I promise.

Another friendly chat with a local elderly gentleman sitting in front of a rural gas station. I didn't understand him much (it was some kind of English for sure) except "Harley" and "son" (or was it "Davidson"?). Friendly and pleasant nonetheless, we parted as friends.

A well equipped guy from Saskatoon on a Triumph Tiger pulled by me at a Cherohalla overlook. He thought I was local at first but then took another look at the bike and bike said "No way you are an American, you don't ride a Harley.". A bit stereotypical but true to a very large extent. You don't see many people with "Suzuki" tatooed on their biceps. "HD"? A dime a dozen.

Day 5a

One thing I forgot to mention earlier:

Not surprisingly, most of these wonderful roads weave through national parks and national forests. Skyline Drive goes through Shennandoah NP, BRP is in it's own protected area and Dragon and Cherohalla are in the Great Smoky Mountains NP.

Weather is very spotty, with 60% POP, but it should get better as I continue West. With this part of the trip completed, I decided to set a new goal - Utah. That means due West as fast as I can, at least until I reach New Mexico. The next few days I'll mostly be eating up the miles on the interstates.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Day 4/3

As I sad, the famous Dragon was a blast, but so were other roads in the vicinity. For those that don't know, North Carolina US129, a.k.a. The Tail Of The Dragon is famous for having 318 turns in 11 miles. It's not twisty, it's like a bleeping fussili! I mean that literally, some turns are slanted so far to the side that you'd fall off of them if you stop. It is a second gear road for me, which means that I keep the bike in second gear and rev it pretty high in order to control it with the throttle instead of the brakes that can upset the handling. That also means that I look and sound like I'm hauling a$$ , while I actually rarely get up to 60 (Bandit sounds positively mighty above 5000rpm, and it is). So, on I went, both ways on the dragon's tail and lived to tell the tale (tall as it may be :) ).

Looking for dinner, the only place I found open in the area is a Mexican restaurant. This is a dry county so no beer/wine for me this evening. On another note, people around here have a very funny way of pronouncing "nine" :). The bona-fide Mexicans at the restaurant have no such drool and their English is near perfect in comparison. Language aside, people are friendly and helpfull.

Earlier today saw a Bandit just like mine parked in front of a diner and pulled over. A guy jumped right out and we chatted a while. He's from Alabama here with the wife. He got his '04 with 5,000 miles for $2,000. Couldn't believe his ears when I told him mine has almost 100,000 miles.

Day 4/2

Even being rained on was a better prospect than spending the rest of the day in the hotel room flipping TV channels. So, I bit the bullet and went for a ride to the Tail of the Dragon, thinking I'll probably have to turn back. Guess what? Even with the dark gray sky all over I haven't seen a drop of rain.

Dragon was a hoot, but the road there, back and some

Day 4

Asheville looks like a decent place. Downtown feels like a real city and there's plenty of restaurants. People were on the street last night as well as this morning. Just a note for the next time.

Hotel has a pool. Another note for the next time.

A short hop on the highway and I,m back on BRP again. This road doesn't have a boring mile, and there are more than 450. Yes, 725Km (almost 900Km if you add Skyline Drive that is practically an extension of BRP) of near perfect pavement, beautiful scenery, very little traffic (commercial vehicles are prohibited) and no man-made crap to spoil the enjoyment. There is not even a single gas station on BRP - you have to get off to gas up.

Only when I reached the end did I fully appreciated the unspoiled beauty that is the Blue Ridge Parkway. As soon as it ended, I hit Cherokee, road lined up with souvenir shops and other tourist traps. And, of course, a lot of traffic of every kind and shape. If it wasn't for the peace and tranquility of BRP it might have not been such a shock.

If I got the story right, BRP was built in the 30's as a purely recreational road. It apparently didn't have any commercial purpose even then but was a child of the "new deal" after the great depression. I can't wait to see what Americans are going to build to get out of the one they are in now. Elevator to the Moon, anyone?

After BRP the plan was to continue on and slay "The Dragon" at Deal's Gap, but weather intervened again. Got into some rain and the sky looking forward is really gloomy. Sick and tired of sweating under the rain suit and having to dry everything all the time I booked a motel in Robbinsville.

To be continued.

Apologies

My sincere apologies to all the people I didn't send the link to the blog, album and track log. Duda will keep you informed and send you all the relevant info. Again, I'm truly sorry :((

Day 3

Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway deserve a lot more ink, but I have to hit the road soon. A road like this one (it's hundreds of miles of uninterrupted pleasure) is so unique that I don't think there's anything like it anywhere in the world. My only wish is that there was no 45mph speed limit (not that I obeyed it much :) ).

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Could have been worse,

I could have been in Oklahoma, Colorado or Texas. Severe storm warnings - baseball size hale, tornadoes, flooding... Hopefully it will clear by the time (or if) I get there. "High precipitation super-cel" they call it. Scary stuff.

It was sunny just an hour ago

Crazy weather :(
Reason enough to eat, drink and go to bed early.

Flood break :)

Shenandoah river is pretty swollen today, fast flowing too. Locals say it hasn't reached it's peak yet and it could be much worse.

Some nice people made a sanctuary for "Quarry cats" by the river, I hope it doesn't get flooded.

Apart from an unsuccessful 16km errand to the nearest Walgreens (long-ish story :) ), the day was spent drying the gear (the blow dryer trick takes time but worked well) and relaxing.

Trying to figure what to eat. Thai in the hotel or mom and pop diner two blocks away. As long as they have good beer...

Tomorrow, a 1,000km of scenic twisties on Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge parkway. Can't wait.

Uploaded some pictures in the album. Check them out.

How much rain is too much?

Realized how much it rained last night when I saw a pickup truck leaving the parking lot with at least a foot of water sloshing in it's bed. Flood warnings all over the area and tornado watches elsewhere. Hopefully it all continues moving in the opposite direction I am.

Get dry, stay dry...

Boots are a b***h to dry. Note to self: put garbage begs over them next time and look like a zombie but stay dry and save yourself the hassle.

Gear

A few things saved my hyde last night (or allowed me to abuse it harder, depending on how you look at it).

- Heated jacket liner. I was still wet and miserable, but not cold, wet and miserable.

- Fox River socks. These thick synthetic soks work as well in the cold and wet as they do in hot and dry. They wick away the moisture from your skin, be it water or sweat. It's hard to explain - you still feel the wet, but you don't feel immersed in it. It's like it's there, but out of touch.

- Heated grips. By far the most valuable comfort addition o the bike. They are always there and ready to warm your digits at the flip of a switch. It doesn't have to be very cold to use them - they work to relax the tense muscles in my hands too. I can wear one grade thinner gloves then usual and change them less often which helps the overall comfort and control.

Speaking of gloves, I haven't found ones that water won't seep through after a while. The same goes for the boots, although I,m sure the truly waterproof ones must be out there. Boots are also hardest and slowest to dry which is quite a PITA :(. Mine just spent an hour in the dryer and are still quite moist inside. Gotta figure out a better way. Wait, there's a hair dryer in the room...

Day two

The sleep was good, but unusual. Although I was comfortable and slept well I kept waking up like I already had a full night sleep. Kept wondering if I overslept and thinking what am I going to do today.

Got up at 6, checked the foggy sky and wet street and went to breakfast. Loaded with fat, sugar and carbs. Motel has a guest laundry so drying the soaked pants, jacket, gloves, boots. Yes, boots too, and they are the hardest to dry. A little duct tape to make sure they don't bust the dryer door open... Desperate circumstances require desperate measures (and a bit of ingenuity :) ).

Decided to stay put for the day. Catch up on sleep, sort myself and gear out, check out the bike and maybe do an errand in the afternoon. If the weather turns good I'll go on a shorter ride in the area. Start very early tomorrow, the forecast is sunny and 23.

Get some rest and dry up

I dried up, but Suzy B was rained on all night.

Foggy and soggy

No sense riding the Skyline Drive when you don't see the effin' sky.

Day one again

If I knew Olean Wal-mart has Subway I could have killed two birds with one stone. All that's left is a "Sam's Inn" with a laundromat and I'm set for travelling throug US. Kind of sad...

A lady I was waiting in line with asks me about three wheel motorcycles. I tell her 95% are not really motorcycles. Interesting how people are comfortable with striking a conversation with motorcyclists riding solo. Not so much when they are in a group, especially if they have tatoo-ed necks and skull-encrusted club patches on their back.

Real fun started in Pennsylvania, as usual. The weather was perfect with just enough clouds in the sky to make every scene idyllic. 44 and 144 are a hoot, twisties uphill, tight curves downhill, through the lush forests, by rivers ans streams... Mother nature sure did well in preventing people to lay down their favorite and incredibly boring strait line, grid system roads.

By the time I got to I85 the weather started to turn and dark grey skies in front told me it's time to get ready for rain. And rain it did, first just a drizzle and then proper rain, at tomes quite a downpour. I decided to take a beeline to Front Royal, 330km by the fastest route. It may have been the fastest, but those 330 felt like a thousand and took four hours. Severely reduced visibility combined with limited and unreliable traction (think slippery road markings and "tar snakes" with ocasional unexpected aquaplanning) made the ride quite a challenging one. Passing a truck that pushes a wall of water in front of it and showers you in the back and on the sides with it at highway speeds is, well, kind of a Russian roulette. Then, out of the blue, the poor Suzy B started to run on three cylinders, then two, then sputtered and stopped. Right in the middle of the interstate with those trucks I passed earlier having their vengeance by showering me again.

By the symptoms I thought fuel delivery problem and I was right. However, the tank was full, so there was no way it ran out of gas. After turning the petcock to "prime" and waiting a minute the bike started like nothing happened. I revved it to stratosphere a couple of times and it didn't miss a single stroke. On we go, petcock left on prime thinking the stuck vacuum valve was the issue. About 10km later the same thing, in the middle of the highway again, this time it was night already, still raining, of course. Damn, not even my cell phone works here, how am I going to call AAA!? A little wait and it started again, only to give up a few minutes later. This time it won't start like before and the battery is in danger of being drained by repeated attempts. I'm thinking pressure buildup/release now, so I opened the tank cap. Bingo! Started right away and the rest of the trip was completed with the tank partially open (under the tank bag, so no rain as coming in. I'll get some Seafoam for it, but otherwise won't worry too much.

Got to Front Royal VA at 10, thoroughly soaked and frozen. No time nor will for dinner, just a 3/4 hour hot shower. Grabbed a power gel and made a decaf...

Day one


Friendly chat with the border guard.

A street in Aurora flanked by cherry trees in full bloom. Aroma therapy.

Hands got a little numb already. I knew I shouldn't have replaced those heavy stock bar ends. Well, I'll either get used to it, finally develop that carpal-tunnel syndrome I've been working on for decades, or buy some buckshot and fill the handlebars with it to kill the vibrations. We'll see.

Got a "stay safe brother" and a knuckle salute from a black guy in an old Cadillac (he flagged me down to tell me my headlight is flashing). Made my day.

Gas and quick Tims lunch in Olean. Next, find a Wal-mart to buy a phone/plan and continue due South.




Sent from the road.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Border

Crossing the border like a king - I don't carry my passport and my drivers license is not enhanced. Guess how they let me over?

Thinking this is one fiftieth to one hundredth part of this trip. There's a loooong way to go...

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Test

Here we are, a test from the tablet. Typing is not very fast, but there are other advantages, like the size, portability and battery life.

Now, how do I attach a picture?





Sent from Samsung tablet

Toronto-20130331-00274.jpg

Beaver work at the docks :)

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Test from Blackberry. Miel knows how to enjoy himself :)