Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Cross Country Log - Day 3

This was likely the most mentally freeing day of the trip. The plains. Growing up in Illinois and living in the Midwest a total of roughly 30 years is not sufficient preparation for life in the desert southwest. The past twelve years here in Las Vegas has been fraught with inner turmoil and a definite loathing of the desert.

That first moment on the eastern edge of Denver, Rocky Mountains growing ever more distant, was sublime. I stopped in Aurora, Colorado for a lunch time rest and celebratory Red Bull. Looking at the mountains, merely bumps on the western horizon, my eyes became misty; not for what was behind, but for what was ahead.

Plus… It was warm and dry and I could finally feel my toes again.

Eagle, Colorado to St. Francis, Kansas
Beautiful - FREE!!!

--Written in the margin...
The more complex we make things, the more things there are to break.
Brenda (my ex-wife) is suggesting that I don't go to the East Coast. Stay in Illinois, then come back.

First pen left in Pizza Hut.
Second pen bad.
Finally found third.
Thunderstorm to the North East. It plays with the earth and my soul; beautiful lightning.

OK, so woke up about six AM and it was completely dark. Went to bathroom and walked around the campground with the hope of getting warm. As soon as it was light enough I broke camp.

This is where the electrical gremlin started showing itself. Camera batteries were dead. So were my spares, so no camp pics. ok.

I ride a few miles into town to get gas. I notice the GPS was powered off. I turn it on and ride 100 yards to a restaurant. It is off again. I turn it on & leave it. Have a great gravy and rolls breakfast. (I think I meant gravy & biscuits). Check the GPS, still OK. Get batteries for camera, take a few pics & head out. (Pic below is of the restaurant where I ate breakfast.)

At my first stop it is still cold but bike is running fine. GPS is off again. I turn it back on.

I ride another 40 miles or so & bike seems to be loosing power. Running fine but weak.

At the next stop I notice a hot electric plastic smell. SHIT! I pull my quick disconnect plug from the power harness I built for the GPS and radio, then removed the fuse. The smell left. I am not sure what was getting hot but that was the end of the tracker.

Riding up and down hills was disorienting. Up sometimes seemed down and down seemed up. The mountains and trees were gorgeous but confounding to my senses.

The bike is running poorly even on real downhills. I can only get 60 MPH at times.

Up hills had to be taken in third at times. The I see why... "10,000 feet elevation!"BINGO! Too rich! I lean out the low jet and it helped a tremendous amount. The plugs may be fouled a bit, but she is definitely running better.

Going through a tunnel on I70 just West of Denver, I see another ADV Rider. I believe he was on a Dakar. He waved his foot and was gone. I wonder if he saw my stickers?

I felt sorry for my bike now, going through downtown Denver. Traffic was not as bad as Vegas but a lot of twists & turns. I knew it would be over soon. After Denver, I36 was beautiful - 2 lanes - fields - almost cried.
(Here was my stop just before getting on I36. Far off in the distance are the Rockies.)

Then, on my last 50 miles was running out of gas. Not many towns on that road in Colorado.

(Cope, Colorado. How apropos.)

Got lucky and found an automated CO-OP gas station. "It's here, or I go to the Lyons Club hall & start asking if I can buy any gas."

I swipe my PayPal debit card. Cross my fingers. If that don't fork, I have a credit card with like $10 and my ban's debit card. Don't want to use my bank's card at all - might make things bounce.

AHHHHH "Proceed Pumping on #3" I don't think I was so happy to smell gasoline.

50 miles down the road and I was in Saint Francis, Kansas!

Wonderful little town. Clean. Friendly. Still about an hour and a half before sundown so I check out the free city campground and eat pizza @ Pizza Hut. MMmmmmm

And here I am. Fire is slowly dying. Thunderstorm still waving at me in the distance. Light wind blowing & it is 9:30.

I can see the Milky Way...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My New Laptop!

I just wanted to make a little recommendation to anyone out there who needs an ultra-portable laptop. If you ride a motorcycle and need a little computer for on the road, this just might do it.

The Acer Aspire One. This is one seriously small computer. Measuring in at only 9.8 inches across by 6.7 inches deep by a little over an inch tall, and weighing in at only about two pounds, it is easy to dismiss as a cool toy, reminiscent of the Cybiko.

But this is no toy. The one I bought has 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM and a 160 GB hard drive. The OS? No Vista here! Windows XP Home edition. It has built in 802.11g wireless networking, RJ11 socket for ethernet, three USB sockets, external socket for a monitor, mic and headphone jack, an SD Card socket and finally a multi-socket that will read SD cards and quite a few other things.

Oh. And mine is blue.

But they don't all come in one flavor. There are many different configurations for this laptop. Some have solid state hard drives (i.e. no spinning disk and quieter but less storage), more or less RAM, different processor speeds, and for those Linux lovers, several flavors come installed with Linpus Linux! I have read that installing other flavors of Linux on this machine is no problem at all.

Since this is such a small, inexpensive and simple unit, there is even a growing community of hardware hackers for this PC, doing things like home control, touch screen, media system control, security... and on and on...

The drawbacks... No CD or DVD drive, smaller screen size, and the speakers pretty much suck.

For $350, not a bad deal.

So, if you are looking for a little, rugged, inexpensive, powerful laptop to throw in your saddle bag or backpack, you might want to give this one a look.

PK, coming up, my notes from Day 3 of my trip - Eagle, Colorado to St. Francis, Kansas. Ahhh!!! The plaines!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Cross Country Log - Day 2

During most of my trip, I would end the day with a little time writing in my journal. Day number two was not one of those days. The day, in and of itself, was fantastic. The ride started with the stark beauty of the desert, moved into the wonderful splendor of the Rocky Mountains and ended with a wet, hypothermic thud. Day two was one of the most photogenic of the entire trip. Unfortunately my camera gremlin started to act up after getting into Colorado. But I am getting ahead of myself.

This entry was actually written the morning of Day 3.
Cedar City, Utah to Eagle, Colorado
Camp - Horrid cold $30

Cat shit and chocolate smell while leaving Cedar City. Ate hotel breakfast & took bagel, apple & banana.

I knew this would be a long day - nearly 500 miles - well, I was close.

Everything put back on the bike, tracker checked out, I was off.

The run up I15 to I70 was fairly uneventful and traffic was quite light.

Getting on I70 was the same. Riding was fairly simple - cruise at about 70 MPH & follow the road.

There is a long stretch of road with no services just East of Green River, Utah. Just before the stretch is a small town with service stations. I pull over to gas up & a couple on a Kawasaki (some large cruiser) were having difficulty with their security fob. Couldn't even turn the switch. He walks into town to get a new battery for the fob & I chat with his wife for a bit. After a while I head into town to check on the husband. They are from LA (Los Angeles) and going to Mount Rushmore. He found a battery and I was on my way.I think I caught a gremlin from them.

I like the simplicity of my Rebel. No fob to break. No computer.
At first, Colorado was a simple ride. Then became hilly, mountainous and very twisty.

Held my own for a bit & started to become tired after about 400 miles.

I stop at a small town with hot spring spas and thought, "I should get off at the next campground." I should have.

Before this, the riding was a lot of curves & up and down slopes. Fun for a while but quickly tiring. As I saw the camp sign I thought, "just one more." I shouldn't have.

The next campground was roughly 40 miles away in Eagle, Colorado. As soon as I passed that first campground sign, the rode became worse. In and out of tunnells, up and down and curving to follow the river. Then, about 2o miles into this last leg, it became quite cold. The road was drenched from a previous rain I had to be very careful.

Then I saw the "Camp" sign in Eagle. I pull over, plop down $30 for a camping spot & in the dark with a flashlight in my mouth, a light, very cold misty rain falling, I put up the tent. That must have looked crazy.

Camp rules - No Fires... BLEK!

The night must have been 40F or so. I was so cold I slept in boots, two pants, three t-shirts, hoodie, riding jacket, two blankets and my emergency mylar blanket. I finaly fell into a fitful sleep at about two AM.

(Not sure when I wrote this... Grammar isn't wonderful so I think it was actually penned that night.)
Up. 1 AM went to bathroom. It was warm. I had to think long and hard about just sleeping there. For the first time in a long time I was scared. What the HELL am I doing here? What did I get myself into? I am in a tent in Colorado, it's 40 degrees out & I feel like I am freezing!!! WHAT!?

Friday, December 26, 2008

My Cross Country Log - Day 1

While cleaning up the living room, the notebook where I recorded my ride log was finally located. There is some bad grammar and strange thoughts throughout. Looking at it from the vantage point of today, much of it makes sense, whereas when it was penned, it seemed like only so much gibberish at times. 5,800 on a motorcycle trip does something to a person.

So, with pictures interspersed throughout, here is my ride log. Some grammar and spelling errors will be corrected but for the most part left as-is to keep my basic frame of mind intact. Italicized items are additions made to clarify something that may may not be clear, like dates and names.. Here we go...
Day 1 - Vegas to Cedar City, UT (September 26, 2008)
Hotel - Nice, about $50
Didn't eat out, had trail mix from my ex-wife.

Ride was hectic, about 100 miles in Vegas doing errands.
  • Went to DMV to renew my bike's registration. My number was nearly 100 more than the current number, so I attempted to use the automated kiosk. SHAZAM! Worked like a charm.
  • Rode over to see Brianna (my daughter) before I left. There was an auto show going on in downtown Henderson and all streets were blocked off. I managed to get close to where she works and walked the rest. They were BUSY! She works at Lenny's Sub Shop. We exchanged goodbyes.
  • I rode over to pay the rent which unfortunately is on the other side of town.
  • Then, on the way out, stopped at the bank and got $200 in travelers checks and $100 in cash. That is all I could safely take without possibly causing issues with the account.
Traffic was horrible. Now I truly know the meaning of 'road warrior.' Even after Mesquite, traffic was nasty. Weaving in and out of mountain gorges with no shoulder to speak of, with vehicles ten times my bike's weight is not a lot of fun.

After passing through St. George (Utah), I passed the Walmart distribution center that Dave and Heidi (folks from where I work) mentioned. My goal was to make Parawan before nightfall. There was just no way.

Before Cedar City I stopped and put on my clear visor. It was getting dark rather quickly.

I was hesitant to do any guerrilla camping when I can't even see where I am going, so decided to hotel it the first night.

It was nothing spectacular. With all of my adrenalin, it was hard to sleep but got about six hours.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

— John Gillespie Magee, Jr

One of my favorite poems. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Once an arrow leaves the bow
it cannot be recalled.

Thought for Monday morning...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Think you can't do something???

I stumbled upon this blog while looking for aircraft photos. If there are any topics with more photos on the internet, it could only be porn and sports. There are literally tens of millions of aircraft photos out there. And for some reason, I found this blog post about a Jessica Cox.

You see, at the age of 25 years old she flew an Ercoupe solo on May 11,2008. On October 10, 2008, FAA examiner Terry Brandt Gave her the official thumbs-up after her check ride. Jessica earned her Sport Pilot license. That singular achievement, while noteworthy in any life, is in and of itself, not a tremendous milestone. Almost anyone with enough determination can earn their wings.

What is so special about Jessica? I will let you in on a little secret. She has no arms. Born without them she learned to do what was necessary. On May 11, 2008 on a field near San Manuel, Arizona this driven woman made her dream of flight come true.

Fly safe Jessica, and keep the shiny side up! Whether you know it, or like it, you are indeed an inspiration.

Photo from Able Flight.

Snow in Vegas!!!

The worst winter storm since the 1970's! And I have some pictures! These were all taken at night with the low-light setting on my Sony Cybershot digital camera. Enjoy! I know I did!

Here is Brianna clowning around in the snow. See the snow on the palm trees in the background?

My ex-wife and daughter. Yes, snow is fun!

Bri and my adventurous self.

More snowy pics to come!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Warranty - Denied!

Well, the folks at Honda Motorcycle Warranty have responded with a resounding denied. Apparently they take exception to me doing my own work. My decision to work on my bike, with the assistance of professionals on the internet and the factory manual, apparently is not a good thing for Honda Warranty people.

Sorry, but the logic of this doesn't hold. If I were to be changing spark plugs and found a chunk of metal in the cylinders would they cover it? Are people with motorcycles under warranty supposed to have Honda mechanics do everything, including oil changes, to the tune of $95 per hour?

I am not done with them yet.

In all fairness, yes, I didn't bring the bike into the shop until after the warranty had expired. That not withstanding, this is a major problem that occurred before the warranty had expired, I did see a motorcycle mechanic when it was first noticed and the external symptom of this problem is extremely minor; just a little oil seepage.

Can you tell I am a bit frustrated with Honda right now?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

And now for the Warranty...

Well, my little Honda Rebel is nestled safely at Ride Now on Boulder. Surprisingly, well not really, Honda Customer Service had no record of the call I made to them last week about my engine woes. So, I call again, this time getting a name and explaining the situation.

As before, I am told that since I didn't get my bike into the shop before the warranty expired, my expectations should be tempered. Further explaining that the symptom was extremely minor and was not viewed as an urgent situation by anyone I spoke with, did not seem to sway the attitude of the customer service representative.

But, on the up-side, a 'case manager' should contact me within the next few days. We shall see how it goes.

And now for something completely different... Think SP CFI, baby. I am NOT letting my motorcycle woes keep me down!

Monday, December 08, 2008


A special thanks goes out to the little Red Winged Blackbirds that visited my little bird feeder this weekend. You see, there aren't many of these birds in the area. They prefer wet areas over the barren desert. Of nearly five years of having a bird feeder, this is a first.

And it came at an interesting, welcome time in my life.

Oh, as a motorcycle update, here is what I found when preparing to torque up the head and cylinder bolts on my Rebel... See all of those pretty stripped threads on the end? Those aren't from a nut that can be replaced. Rather, they are from the engine casing.

Here's the crux of the problem... This likely was caused before the warranty coverage had expired. The problem was that the only symptom was a little oil seepage, first discovereed in Kansas. So, not seeing a major problem, and with the agreement of a bike mechanic, I didn't worry about it until returning back to Vegas... AFTER the coverage period was over.

So, today she goes in. Hopefully the Ride Now dealership and the folks at Honda will agree to repair it within the warranty terms. I didn't mistreat her or ever touch that bolt. I didn't do it. Just feeling some 'motorcycle blues'.