I posted two new videos my my YouTube Channel yesterday, In the first one (see below) I talked about my conflict over owning two bikes that serve the same riding style. Since I ride on city streets and highways, my brain informs me that owning two bikes in the same general class is redundant.
Do you agree?If, after viewing the video, you have an opinion, I’ve love to hear it in a comment.
Toward the end of the video, I spot a lemonade stand. I have to say that I rarely pass up an opportunity to buy lemonade, shells, or anything being sold by aspiring 10 year-old entrepreneurs. My sister is the same way as are many of my online friends.
There is something irresistible about helping kids realize their goals that drives me to do this, even if the goal is just to earn a few dollars that day.
I also have a bad habit of not finishing sentences when I speak. I honestly don’t know if it’s a habit or a brain malfunction of some kind. Most likely it’s the former. Also in this video I just stop mid sentence…shift topics, talk to guy on the street, and omit the word ‘lemonade.’
It drives Jay, my son, nuts when I do this, but it does give me something to live for. 😀
If You Don’t Like How I Ride, Get off of the Sidewalk
It seems like such an good idea. After leaving the lemonade stand, the terrain dictated my only way out was to ride along the sidewalk adjacent to oncoming traffic until I could reenter safely. I thought the lanes were clear, but as you’ll see, I had a surprise near miss with a truck.
With my bike fully packed and tested, I departed Santa Cruz for my first night’s destination in Bakersfield. I’d fueled up the night before, performed all the routine checks on tires, electrical systems, brakes and fuel systems that one normally performs before riding anywhere. The temperature was about 68 degrees when I left.
I waved goodbye to my 16 year-old son, his mother- who’d kindly agreed to stay with him in the house during my absence- and rode out on to the Pacific Coast Highway (U.S. Route 1) heading south. My route took me only about 10 miles southbound before taking SR-152 East toward the Central Valley. About an hour later I was traveling south on Interstate 5 (I-5) where the temperature had already risen to about 80 degrees.
I-5 is a heavily traveled freight route for large semi-trailers and trucks containing all sorts of freight, including cattle and other livestock (always a pleasant aroma around those), other goods, as well as freshly grown fruit and vegetables from the San Joaquin Valley, also known as the California’sbreadbasket because the the large amount of crops grown there.
I-5 in this area is surrounded my mountains to the west and rich agricultural and ranching lands to the east. As far as scenery goes, there isn’t much, which is a good thing because the semi’-trucks demand your full attention. I discovered quickly that each truck leave a different draught signature behind them.
These draught signatures can affect a bike in many ways from inducing a sudden impact from an air blast to what felt like a high-speed wobble. Later in the trip, especially in Arizona, it felt like a giant fist was punching the side of my bike over and over.
And because of the hundreds of trucks on the Interstate, there is always another truck just ahead. I soon stopped fighting them and settled in behind a fast moving truck in the left lane just stayed at a distance I could tolerate.
My first day’s ride was only about 4 hours long. In fact, when touring on these 12 days I seldom planned a route that lasted over 5-6 hours. I did this for several reasons.
As an older rider (55 at the time) I tire more rapidly than my younger colleagues
I wanted to enjoy each day’s ride and not have a strict mileage quota
I wanted to stop often for coffee, bathroom and water breaks, etc.
I don’t see as well at night and prefer not to ride after sunset…again, an older guy thing
First Lesson: Two Star Hotels are Really Zero Star Motels
I made room reservations whenever possible at the nationwide Motel 6 chain. Because I need little more than a hot shower, a bed, and a safe place to park my bike, there was no need to spend a lot on my accommodations. Motel 6 suited me just fine and represented the lowest standard I was aiming for in my lodging for the trip.
However, on my first night’s stay, I was in a Super 8 motel in a particularly seedy-looking areas of beautiful downtown Bakersfield.
Bakersfield smells like onions most of the time anyway and on the day I rode into their fine city, it smelled like onions combined with urban grime.
When I rode into Bakersfield, my iPhone displayed a balmy 100 degrees. I quickly checked into my room and turned on the air conditioner. If the Super 8 Motel was any indication of the level of comfort I could expect for the rest of the trip, I was in trouble. It was obviously a lower standard than I’d previously encountered at Motel 6.
The photo below reveals their choice of fine writing instruments, luxurious note paper, and state-of-the-art communications systems.
The room was also adorned with graffiti. Why go outside when you can read the walls in your own room, or in this case just outside the shower?
But Bakersfield was just my first stop and the second night would find me occupying a great room in the Circus Circus Hotel and Resort in Las Vegas. However, there were a few adventures waiting for me during this day’s ride.
Day 2: Bakersfield to Las Vegas
I left at about 7a after eating a small breakfast at a nearby Starbucks and headed west along SR-58 stopping in Barstow to fuel up. While I was filling the tank I noticed two guys over by the mini-mart, also on BMWs. Putting aside my life-long introversion and solo-rider persona, I walked over an introduced myself.
Leaving Barstow I rode the 2.25 hours along I-15 northeast to Las Vegas, stopping in Baker for lunch even though it was only about 10a. In Baker I took a few shots of my surroundings.
Freshly rejuvenated by caffeine, water, and nutrients, Bazza II and I made our way north to the Las Vegas Strip. I’d booked a room at the Circus Circus Hotel and Resort, one of the strip’s oldest existing properties. The room was a steal at only $20 plus $11 in miscellaneous resort fees.
It was about 100 degrees upon arrival and inside the parking garage the air seemed superheated.
Day 3: Las Vegas to Panguitch, Utah
But by the next morning, I was rested and ready to ride to scenic Southern Utah.
The ride across SE Nevada and NW Arizona was uneventful and the terrain was largely flat. It wasn’t until I entered Utah that the scenery started to change. The small highway towns took on a charm unlike the roadside towns in Nevada.
Here the people were friendly and most of the towns were dominated by the present of a local Mormon Church. In Utah, the Mormon Church is a powerful cultural as well as religious force. Small town life was being played out all around me in any ways.
Zion National Park
Just north of St. George, UT, where I stopped for fuel, I picked up SR-9, Utah’s Scenic Highway, and rode it 20 miles east toward the southern entrance to Zion National Park. Although this road only gives motorists a glimpse of the beauty waiting further northwest, it afforded me some truly stunning vistas.
Just before leaving the park, I shot this brief clip.
It was an enjoyable ride approximately two hours northwest to Panguitch where I’d booked a room for the night.
I entered Panguitch and right off noted the dated appearance of this out-of-the-way town. Old brick buildings and friendly people gave it a real small town feel. I could feel time slowing in this small town.
I pulled into a fueling station and right way a young man , about 25, bounded up to me and asked me where I was from. I told him I was from Santa Cruz, CA and he immediately asked me if there were jobs available there. Apparently, he’d been laid off from his job and only his wife was working. He was originally from Hurricane (he pronounced it Hurrican’ as if it rhymed with Amer’can) a town I’d passed through on SR-9.
It was the BMW that he seemed most interested in, however. Can't say that I blamed him.
I rode to the Panguitch Inn, the hotel I’d booked and found the doors unlocked, the front office devoid of life, and only a note on the front desk. The note relayed this message:
“If you’ve booked a room for tonight, please drive to the North end of town to our other Motel, The Marianna Inn. Our front desk person had a family emergency.”
I found the Marianna Inn and was immediately glad about the swhich. The Panguitch Inn was a two story brick building and although it was closer to downtown, it looked a little suspect. The Marianna Inn was also was an older place, complete with a dead insect lying on the bathroom floor, but it had certain charm.. Once again, my budget for overnight stays was minimal and I’m fairly easy to please.
The motel had been recently repainted and the room was actually quite comfortable. A little too gingerbread for my taste, but hey…it was cheap and quiet. 🙂 There wasn’t a Starbucks in this little town, but I had my own private stash for the road. I can’t recall where I ate dinner in Panguitch, but I had breakfast the next morning at a coffee shop just across the street from my little abode.
From there, I rode out headed east on SR-12 for Bryce Canyon.
Day 4: Panguitch, UT to Page, AZ
Bryce Canyon was a an hour’s ride from Panguitch and it was well worth the mileage thus far to see it.
The ride to Page, UT -for the first two hours- was one full of curves and twisty roads…in other words, perfect.. then the terrain gave way to more desert with hotter temperatures and less interesting, but still beautiful surroundings.
It ended at a Motel 6 with a nearby Starbucks. I was again in the land I knew best.
In Part 3, I'll take you to Santa Fe, New Mexico where I stayed for three days soaking up the rich culture and art, then on to Flagstaff, AZ.
This begins a series of posts devoted to my 12-day, 3,000 mile solo-ride around the American Southwest in May 2013.
In May of 2013, I rode my 2000 BMW R1100RT around the American Southwest. It was a solo-ride, something a lot of motorcyclists don’t undertake for fear of running into trouble in the middle of nowhere. To be honest, there were times when I would say out loud, inside my helmet and to no one:
"If I break down here, I'm screwed."
But I didn’t break down, although on the last day of the 12-day ride my fuel pump started acting up and although I got home, it was a closer call that I’d wanted to experience. But we’ll get to that in this series that relates the experiences I had in those 12 days on the road.
Bazza II is a 2000 BMW R1100RT. You can read about how I traded by BMW f650 for it in this post. Long story short, I left home on Bazza II in mid-May and had an epic ride for the next 12 days.
This bike is made for the highways and feels really solid at high speeds. It’s not so great for around town riding; I guess that’s why the California Highway Patrol used this bike, and now the R1200RT for it motorcycle officers to ride. What a sweet gig, right?
As you can see from photo above, though the bike felt fully packed, I didn’t take a lot with me. In fact, I never used the tent I purchased for the trip except for the test-camping I did about a month prior to leaving on my ride. But I packed it with hopes of camping that never materialized.
For hard luggage, I used a Givi top case that I purchased from a fellow BMW rider; it held my clothing, Macbook, toiletries, and some odds and ends, each inside a backpack for easy removal at the end of the day. I purchased and mounted two medium-sized Wolfman Rolie Bags secured by a Wolfman Rolie Saddle Bag Mount, and packed my first-aid kit and some medical tools (just in case) in one bag and some roadside tools in the other. It was a very secure luggage system on the rear of the bike.
The front of the bike was another story. I purchased a very roomy aftermarket tank bag that contained my cell phone, Nikon camera, Flip video camera, snacks for the day, pens and paper, small flashlight, water bottles, and a few other items. The only weakness was in the way it was mounted.
This is because the RT’s fairings are plastic, as is the fuel tank. Because of this, the popular magnetic tank bags wouldn’t work. However, with some maneuvering and customization, I devised a way to keep it from sliding from side the side and it worked, though it’s still not my preferred tank bag system.
I packed a Coleman 15-degree rated sleeping bag and used it instead of the motel room beds. Each night I unrolled the bag on top of the bed and crawled inside. Given the level of accommodation I could afford, (photos to follow) I didn’t trust the bed linens. There was no way of knowing how many or why kind of people split in the bed the previous night. :-\ Nor did I want any invited critters tagging along with me on the ride.
As I mentioned before, I brought along a tent that was packed between the sleeping bag and the top case, just behind me on the passenger seat. I really should have camped, but there was one reason that far outweighed the others that prevented me from doing so.
Three weeks before departure, I suffered a leg injury.
Three weeks prior to departure, my bike and I went down. (Not really a crash, but we still went over.)
I needed to ride from Santa Cruz to Sacramento, about a three hour ride in the morning morning traffic, for a couple of days worth of work. I rode the RT everywhere and so it was not unexpected that I’d ride it there and back a few days later.
At 5:45a I mounted the bike and slowly backed it out of my carport. The RT is a heavy bike and it was fully fueled at the time. Unfortunately, I turned the handlebars a little too far and the balance of the bike shifted to the right so much that I could retain its upright position.
The bike an I fell over en masse. It wasn't pretty.
My right leg was pinned between the right cylinder head of the transverse boxer engine and a concrete slab. Yes, it hurt. 😦 After some wriggling, I managed the free myself from the ground and tried to lift the bike. Even with the adrenaline coursing through my system, I couldn’t manage lifting it back upright.
I woke up my son Jay and he helped me upright the bike. I took off for Sacramento and a few hours later, my right leg was swollen, bruised, and very painful.
I wasn’t concerned so much about a fracture as I was about compartment syndrome, a condition that results when blunt-force trauma causes swelling in enclosed spaces like the lower leg. The swelling has no place to expand and literally compresses blood vessels and nerves in the process. I was lucky and this didn’t result.
A week later, x-rays revealed the absence of any fractures. My doctor told me I couldn’t take my trip. (He obviously wasn’t a motorcyclist.) I chalked it up his inexperience and proceeded to plan my departure anyway.
It turned out that I did have a nasty bone bruise on my right shin and so I purchased a padded, elastic compression tube to wear during the day. Aided with large bottle of ibuprofen and some chemically-activated ice packs, I set out on schedule.
The seed that resulted in planning this ride began after I view Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman’s epic Long Way Round series on Netflix. In 2004, the best mates and fellow actors rode their BMW 1150GSAs from London to New York, going east. They traversed Europe, Asia, and the United States in about 4 months.
After viewing the video I read everything I could get my virtual hands on about motorcycle touring, camping, trip planning, long-distance riding tips, etc. It was great fun planning the ride and the route.
The route came about because I’d wanted to visit Santa Fe, New Mexico for some time. Its backdrop against the southern end of the Rocky Mountains, its Native American and Spanish history and culture combined with its reputation for artistry contributed to its allure.
I also had two weeks of vacation available to use. So with Santa Fe as my eastern-most destination, I looked at places to ride through and a natural highway route emerged.
In Part 2, I'll tell you about my ride to Las Vegas, meeting other riders on the way, and riding through southern Utah's Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.
I purchased it from a Suzuki dealership in Tujunga, California that was later the target of an arsonist...rumor had it at the time that it was the owner who torched it.But it was only a rumor...
Rumors aside, that bike was my first experience with daily riding. It was brilliant, even if I was an untrained and minimally skilled street rider. I purchased it in the spring and rode it all the time that summer, back and forth to work, to my girlfriend’s house, absolutely everywhere in Southern California in the late 70s.
I drove a 1968 Chevy Camaro, a classic muscle car by today’s standards, for my daily transportation until the day I purchased the bike. From then on, I led a life on two wheels.
In the winter of 1978, life on two wheels got real as the snow level on the San Gabriel Mountains dropped to 1,500 feet. These were the days before the widespread and relatively affordable extras such as heated grips and heated gear that kept you warm during cold rides.
As luck would have it, my Camaro was sidelined for some mechanical problem I can’t recall now. I was forced to ride the Suzuki 120 miles each day in frigid temperatures without and real protection. Like I said, I was untrained and minimally skilled…and after that winter, not very cold-weather riding friendly.
The Recurring Debate
I have this debate running in my head pretty much all the time. Because motorcycling is a passion, it’s never too far from my consciousness.
Should I buy another used bike or should I splurge on a brand new bike?
I don’t think I’m alone in this debate either. I’ve talked to other motorcyclists that I know well and they, too, have a similar, non-public dialogue battling it out in their heads.
After returning to motorcycling (two ex-wives and four grown children later), I purchased my beloved BAZZA I (all my bikes since the Suzuki have been named), a BMW F650GS.
Like the three BMW's I've purchased since BAZZA I, all have been a located via the online clearinghouse, Craigslist.org. I paid $3,400 for the bike and it was worth every penny.
I purchased the bike from a local guy here in Santa Cruz. He and his wife were expecting a baby, and even though they’d shared many wonder experiences on the bike and were incredibly sad to see it leave their nascent family. The woman cried when I arrived to pick it up.
It was bittersweet moment for both parties. They were losing a family friend that had taken them on many adventures, having made the decision to reduce risk and focus on their family. Conversely, I was gaining a new friend, having arrived at the point where risk was no longer a chief concern as my family, through kids growing up and leaving home, had been downsized to only me and my youngest son.
Wanting more power and bigger engine for a solo-ride I was planning around the Southwest, I traded BAZZA I for BAZZA II, a ’00 BMW 1100RT. (Not very innovative on the naming, I admit.)
I Did My Homework Each Time I bought a Used Bike
I’ve been pretty careful when it comes to pursuing bikes that carry less risk. The trade for the R1100RT for the F650GS was example.
I got the R1100RT from Brent, a stranger the day we met, but now someone I trust as well as a friend. His knowledge of BMW engines and mechanics is unbelievable.
I actually talked him into the trade of the F650GS for the R1100RT. After seeing the bike, he gave me a choice of different bikes to choose from, each had their unique aspects and all were in a state of needing some sort of rebuild. I was reasonably comfortable that the R1100RT I chose and was confident that after some time spent wrenching it into shape, it would get me around the American Southwest in 13 days.
I rode from Santa Cruz to Las Vegas, Southern Utah through Zion National Park, across northern Arizona to New Mexico where I visited Santa Fe for three days. My journey back tool me straight across the Mojave Desert an up the coast of California.
Brent is a former Apple Computer engineer who now runs a used Mac refurbishing business and is a BMW mechanical savant for fun. Together, (he much more than me) we replaced the clutch in the RT, inspected and lubed the final drive, and then replaced the tires and front rotor bobbins.
We’re currently looking at options to fix my 1150GS which we suspect has a blown exhaust valve. But regardless, his first-hand knowledge is trustworthy and I learn tons about my various bikes each time we interact.
I've always been able to get a sense about a seller's motivations. To date, I've not had a regrettable experience when it came to purchasing a used bike. I attribute this is to rider-to-rider trust and my ability to see beyond the words and phrases of an ad.
To Be Honest, I Fantasize About New Bikes All the Time
As fantasies go, it might be pretty lame, but having a shiny, new bike is a a really great feeling. Even though my 1150GS is also a used bike, it felt like new when I bought it.
It wouldn't matter if it was a KLR or an R1200GS, a new bike is a new bike.
There is something about the reality of having a brand new bike with less than 20 miles on it that makes you stand back and admire at it for hours; carefully getting to know each nuanced detail, each little scratch or dimple, as well as every potential part that could be worn or in need of attention.
I think the dedication to cleaning and riding the bike gently at first is born from this need to know the bike as intimately as possible.
But for me, the affordability of owning a used bike is what drove each of my choices. I really love new bikes, but I really don’t like having a bike or a car payment. That’s why I own a 1996 Jeep Cherokee and two BMW motorcycles that all were made in 2000. One payment was required for each of these fine machines.
So when I fantasize about a new bike, it doesn’t take me very long at all to come down from the motorcyclist’s high and instantly recall what it felt like when I had a car payment. I really hate being in debt, especially secured debt. It just drives me nuts.
Perhaps one day in the not too distant future I’ll take the plunge on a new bike. Or maybe I’ll save a ton and buy one or two of Brent’s more recent rebuilds and put some cosmetic improvement into them.
But then I get into the the other debate that also runs on tracks in my head, the debate over one bike vs. two bikes. Thus far in my motorcycling journey it’s been handy to have more than one at my disposal. But the minimalist in me responds that I’m duplicating things by keeping two.
I first knew I’d be a writer of some kind as a fourth grade student. It was as if all the dark space in my brain was illuminated with the power of an aircraft searchlight revealing this one truth.
I'd stayed inside during recess to write a summary of a biography on Francis Scott Key, a young man with revolutionary patriotism and author of what would later become the national anthem of the USA, The Star Spangled Banner.
What ten year-old kid, who isn’t ill, stays inside during recess? Only one with a solitary focus and a new-found passion that he’d never felt before. It was to be the beginning of a life-long passion with writing, writing poorly, and gradually increasing my skills.
In later years I’d become a reporter and editor of my college newspaper, publishing in trade journals and small presses. I’d later write non-fiction books, blogs on varied topics, and start a life-long habit of journaling to discover new areas of life and how I felt about them.
Life on Two Wheels
I first learned to ride a motorcycle when I was fifteen years old. Legendary motorcycle raceway announcer Bruce Flanders lived across the street from my family in Southern California and it was he who planted the seed that later blossomed into a life-long passion for motorcycling.
It was as instantaneous a conversion as my introduction to writing had been. One ride on a Honda 100 enduro bike and I knew was hooked for life. The experience was like none I'd ever known.
Later in the summer of 1972, I attended Speed Week on the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah, courtesy of the Flanders clanwho served as stewards at the event. Bruce manned the announcer’s booth at the starting line and also rode for Pops Yoshimura’s Kawasaki team, setting a world record for the stock tuned KZ-1000 at 141.703 m.p.h.
It was on these arid salt flats that I was quickly convinced that motorcycling was a way of life and not just a hobby. My eyes were are big as saucers as I wandered through the pits and inspection tents looking at bikes altered for speed and talking with people who knew something of life beyond the 9-5 home-to-office-and-back grind.
I felt as if I were walking among giants. Craig Breedlove was their testing his rocket car, The English Leather Special. I met Pops Yoshimura who only spoke Japanese and wasn’t a fan of the heat nor the environment and Bob Braverman, an astute designer and mechanic.
I quickly made friends with another teen and we rode everywhere we could on motorcycles for a week. The salt would cake up our knobby tires and the soles of our boots, but we didn’t care. We were on two-wheels and experiencing more freedom that wither of us thought possible. When the wind was above 10 m.p.h, speed trials were suspended and we’d have to make our own fun; that usually involved hanging out near the starting line or just commandeering a couple of bikes and taking off.
This was a time long before portable GPS units were commonly found on the handlebars and we were damn lucky we didn't get lost out on the endless flat and featureless landscape of the salt flats.
Later when I was 18, I flew on my own to England and lived near the Scottish border in the centuries old town of Hexham in Northumberland. It was there I pubbed around with new biker friends riding Nortons, Triumphs, and Hondas racing around the narrow lanes of Northern England. The entire experience of living in the UK in 1976, at age 18, completely immersed in a culture that revered motorcycling was pivotal in my development as a young adult.
Returning to Southern California, I quickly bought a new Suzuki GS400 and it quickly replaced my ’68 Camaro as my main source of transportation. But I was an unlicensed and untrained rider. Sure, I’d spent time on the motocross racetrack at Irwindale on Saturdays with Bruce learning how to corner and survive woopdydoos, but I was largely untrained and unskilled on the streets of Southern California.
I kept the Suzuki for a few years and sold it when I got married and moved away to attend college. That was to begin long drought in my riding experience; at times I wondered if I’d ever get back on two wheels again.
It wasn't until I'd been away from riding for two decades, raising a family and making a choice to minimize risk, that I decided it was time to reignite the passion that burned silently for a long time.
I purchased a 2000 BMW f650 GS and took the MSF’s Basic Rider Course at a local community college. I gained my M1 endorsement on my driver license and a year after, purchased another BMW – this time a former police bike, an R1100 RT that I rode on a solo tour the American Southwest in 2012.
But I wanted another GS and found a great deal on a pristine bike (the beauty at the top of this page), a 2000 R1150 GS that had been meticulously cared for by a BMW shop in Marin County, north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
When I can’t ride, I feel like a part of me is missing. It’s much like the feeling I get when I don’t publish to the web on any given day. I don’t like driving the Jeep Cherokee so much. In fact, for his 18th birthday, I gave my son Jay the Jeep for his use. I only use it when I have to and always with permission.
My life on two wheels makes me feel more like I'm doing my part for the environment and the added benefits of using the commuter lanes on highways and the ability to park almost anywhere make the experience even better.
My two passions are inextricably linked. I’ll be writing until my arthritic hands can no longer type. Likewise, I’ll be riding my motorcycles until I can no longer swing my leg over the back of a bike.
And even then, where both passions are concerned, it will take some convincing.