Monday, June 30, 2008

Glacier National Park to Banff, Alberta-371

Day 7, June 30, 2008. Got up early, packed up camp, and hit the road about 8:00am. We rode north to the Canadian border. The crossing was easy; a few simple questions, a glance at our passports, and then off into Canada.

The ride was beautiful, much of it in a broad valley between two mountain ranges off to each side. It was HOT again. In fact, record highs are being set most days, so we're a bit uncomfortable with the heat.

We stopped along the way for a "quick" lunch, and spent about an hour getting a sandwich and a drink. Similarly, we needed gas along the way, and spent probably 30 minutes getting gas. The gas station was off the main road, and apparently near some reservoir, so folks had boats needing gas. And, we didn't understand the system for getting gas (one-way to the pumps, and we were going in the wrong direction). So, it was a bit of an ordeal just to fill up two tanks. Don't even ask what it cost. Money is no object on this trip!!

Rode into Banff, Alberta, Canada about 4pm, stopped to find a room, and chose the second place with a room. We were fearful that rooms would be scarce since tomorrow is Independence Day in Canada, equivalent to the 4th of July in USA. As it turned out, plenty of rooms were available, but at a steep price.

Found a bar, drank a couple beers and walked to dinner and then back to the hotel. Washed dirty clothes, hung them up to dry, and worked on posting tardy blogs. It's now 11:10pm, and I'm quitting for tonight.

I've been on the road now for 8 days, and have had a good time. Have ridden over 3,000 miles, and am looking forward to adventures north of here and seeing Gary's brother in a week or so.

Tomorrow, north to Jasper National Park and wherever we end up.

Glacier National Park-276miles

Day 6, June 29, 2008. Spent the day in and around Glacier National Park. We got up and ate breakfast at a little restaurant near the campgraound. Pancakes and city ham; not terrific, but pretty good.

Went back to the campsite and decided to ride to the other side of the park. Since the major road across the park was closed, we had no option but to ride all the way around the park to the western entrance. A long way to get there!

Went into the western entrance and decided to ride as far on the Go to the Sun Highway as we could. It was hot, but not unbearable.

Along the way, we came upon congested traffic at a little pond, and saw in a moment what everybody was looking at. A moose! A real, live one this time.... It was moving and eating vegetation in the pond. We took some pics and watched it a while and then went on to the end of the road.

At the end, I remembered two unopened beers that were in the topcase on my bike and thoght it would be a good idea to fill a cooler with snow and pack the beers into it to drink later. A great idea, even if it was mine! We did it and drank the beers later at Lake McDonald near the entrance. Mine was an Alaskan Amber, and it was delicious. In the heat, anything would have been great.

We started back to the campground, and noted a sign to "Goatlick". We pulled off the main road to see what "Goatlick" was about, and learned that it was a viewing area for mountain goats. We quickly spotted a female and her little one, and then some others. They were doing goat things, but it was interesting to see them.

Then rode back to the campground. My only comment about the ride back was that the speed limits on Montana 2-lane roads is HIGH, 70mph on two lane roads with lots of curves. I don't think Mario Andretti could do 70 on much of them. Of course, we tried, and they were fun, but we could not do the speed limit except for straight sections. It was fun.

Got back to the entrance, had dinner and a beer, and then rushed to the General Store to buy a token so we could get a shower. It had been two days, and we both needed one badly. It felt wonderful to wash off the road grime!

Went back to the campsite and readied for bed.

I apologize for the lack of pictures, but I can't seem to be able to post them. I'll try again, but something is keeping them from being posted.

Glasgow, MT to Glacier National Park-419 miles

Day 5, June 28, 2008. A very good day of riding. We got up early, before 6am, packed our mess and got on the road about 7am. Stopped at McDonalds for breakfast and were riding west on Hwy 2 by 7:30pm. The weather was perfect! Not cold; not hot—just right.

Traffic was very light, and the speed limit was 70mph and we rode for many miles at a steady 72mph, with me in front and using the cruise control. The roads were almost all two lane today, but with the high speed limits and low traffic, we made good time to St. Mary, the entrance to Glacier National Park and the Going to the Sun Highway.

We learned at the welcome center that the Going to the Sun Highway was closed at Logan Pass due to deep snow! I had heard on TV the previous night that the road had been blocked, but it was supposed to be open today. I told the lady at the welcome center what I had heard on TV, and she said they had no idea where that story had come from; they didn't know when the road would be open. Damn!

We entered the park and looked through one campground, but didn't like the sites. Then rode to the Rising Sun Campground and found a site with good space for 2 tents and the bikes.

We're getting pretty good at setting up camp. In about 30 minutes, we had both tents set up, and the sleeping apparata put together (Gary with his air mattress and me with my high-tech cot. An easy camp to put up today.

Since we had not eaten lunch, we went into St. Mary and had a couple of beers and lunch/dinner. I tried some barbecued salmon, and it was quite good. Gary had a ribeye sandwich. A little pricey, but not out of reason.

Met a guy from Florida who had traveled all over the country with his wife. He was interesting to talk with, describing places he had visited and things he had done.

After lunch, we rode to another entrance and rode through the area; not as nice as here.

Our campsite is next to a group that includes two couples and a baby. I hope the baby sleeps well tonight! I hope to sleep well tonight. We'll see.

Tomorrow, we'll eat breakfast and scout the park. We'll ride as far towards Logan Pass as possible. Maybe the road will be open. We're not sure if we'll stay here in the park tomorrow night or move on. Guess it depends on what we see tomorrow.

Grand Forks, MN to Glasgow, MN-488-miles

Day 4, June 27, 2008. Did the wind blow or what!! It blew almost all day, at between 35-45 mph from approximately 2:00; a side/headwind. When it blows like this, there's no rest at all—constant corrections to keep in your lane of traffic. Also, some construction along the way and several rain showers.

We thought it would be an easy day today, but it turned out otherwise. Not horrible, but not easy.

We left the campground at about 8:20am, and made good time for the first while. Then the wind got up, and even though the speed limit was 65-70mph, all we could safely manage was 45 at times and 65 at most. So, we were slowed from the weather.

Otherwise, the ride was okay but hard.

Why do I do this—subject myself to inclement weather (rain showers and 55 degrees), a fair amount of work, and spend copious amounts of money? Guess I'm crazy, but I like to ride. I rode a bike a lot as a kid, including a 30 mile ride from Salisbury to Albemarle one Sunday when I was mad at my sister. Such a ride was unheard of then, and folks thought I was crazy. Guess they were right!

But I've enjoyed two wheel riding all of my life. Even as an adult, I rode a mountain bike a lot and a road bike a fair amount. Even rode from Clayton to Atlantic Beach once for the MS Society as a fund raiser. My deceased brother also loved to ride and we did several great rides together. After he died, I ended up with his excellent road bike. Still have it but need to sell it because I've given up bicycling for motorcycling.

For some reason, it's just fun. I love the sensation of power; acceleration much faster than most cars. Great brakes to stop quickly. Swerving, leaning, and the feel of the wind on my body. Hard to describe to a non-rider, but I believe it's shared by most motorcyclist. I know it's a risky hobby, but it brings a lot of joy and fun in my life, so I do it.

And I like comfort when I ride. So, the RT has more comfort than most bikes. Cruise control is great; allows a lot of rest for the throttle hand. Adjustable suspension that changes the ride from soft to sporty with the click of a switch. A good seat; the Russell Day Long Seat is great. My butt doesn't get sore at all, even after riding all day. A good communication system. The Autocom allows me to listen to Sirius Radio, talk on the phone, talk on the walkie-talkie, and listen to the GPS for directions. Pretty neat! So, riding the RT is a pleasant experience.

Tonight we're in a hotel in Glasgow, MN. It is a small town, but has several motels. The first one we stopped at was full, and they said all were full. But the clerk gave us phone numbers of all the others, and we started calling. We found one, at a cheap rate. It's okay, but has shag carpeting, if that gives you a picture of the place. But it beats nothing by a long shot.

Tomorrow, an early start (hopefully) and on to Glacier National Park and a campsite. Hopefully it will work as planned.

Black River Crossing to Grand Forks, SD-463 miles

Day 3, June 26, 2008. Today was a good one. We got up, had a “Deluxe Continental Breakfast” at the hotel and got on the road about 8:20am. The weather was clear and very pleasant and the ride to Duluth was great. Rolling hills, some small mountains, and lots of green. Very low traffic, too. An easy 200 miles that took just over 3 hours to do.

Along the way, Gary yelled over the radio “Moose on the right”. Sure enough, in a field on the right side of the rod was a big black moose, with a huge rack. We were going too fast to stop, so we had to turn around and come back. I knew it would be gone, but surprisingly, it was still there.

We stopped, got off the bikes and got out the cameras. Pictures galore. It stood so still, posing for pictures about 200 yards away. I noticed that I could see no movement and began smelling a skunk. I casually said “I wonder if it's real”. After a few minutes and more pics, I got the binoculars out. When I looked through the binoculars,. I could see that what we thought was a moose was a plywood moose cutout!! We were snookered!! Oh well, I guess the locals get a kick out of us tourists....

We got into Duluth about noon. Approaching Duluth, we crested a hill with a spectacular view of Lake Superior. Wish there had been a good vantage point from which to take a picture, but there was none, so, take my word for it that the view was great.

We got to the turnoff for the Aerostich Riders Warehouse and, damn—the road was closed. So, we rode through town until Dick stopped a trucker to ask how to get to the other side of the bay (the bridge was under some repairs).

We followed the trucker to the bridge and then followed the Garmins to the store.

Once inside, it was pretty neat to see all the things they carry in their catalog. For those who don't know, Aerostich is the holy grail for serious motorcyclists. (Not bikers—motorcyclists). They carry a lot of items, and they are high quality. I've bought a lot of gear from them and all of it has been good.

I bought some 3-fingered rain gloves and some sealer for the zippers of my bumblebee. Gary bought some of the same gloves and something else I can't remember now. We got a 10% discount for walking into the store! Dick bought nothing! 1,200 miles for nothing! Not really, what he wanted he got; a good ride with some new riding friends.

Had a late lunch at Jim's Burgers (I had a cheese omelet). It was time for us to get on the road headed west, and for Dick to go east. I was glad that Dick had joined us; having an extra rider was good, and he was an easy riding partner. A truly good guy!

So, we found our way to US Hwy 2 West and rode.

US Hwy 2 is a great treasure. It's an old highway that is 2, 3, and 4 lanes in different places. It runs west parallel to the Canada border. I runs through forests, fields, and through lots of smal towns. Most have no stoplights, so they don't really slow down progress. The road surface is in great shape, smooth, and traffic is very low. We would sometimes ride for 10 minutes without seeing another vehicle. A really good road to make good time and see lots of beautiful scenery.

We got to Grand Forks, SD and started looking for a campground. We found several in the Garmin, and picked the closest one. After quite a route, we got to the appointed campground, and nothing was there. We were in a residential neighborhood in town!! So, we picked the next closest one and rode to it. That one was a phantom, too; we were in a shopping center! Luckily, I had spotted a sign along the way pointing to a campground, and we backtracked to the sign and went down a service road that turned into gravel. But the Grand Forks Campground was actually there!

We could see a storm approaching, so we quickly put up the tents and got everything inside. We did a short walk until the rain started. Then into the tents for the night.

No dinner. No beer. But in bed at a decent hour.

Tomorrow, across North Dakota into Montana!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Columbus IN to Black River Crossing, WI-522 miles

Day 2, June 25, 2008. Whew, what a day. It started just fine; we got up, packed the tents and bikes, and got on the road about 8:30am. Stopped for breakfast and gas a few miles up I-65, and all was well.

Rode almost to Layfayette, IN, and traffic stopped. And stopped. And stopped. The northbound lanes were closed, and we were backed up for over 2 miles. It was not hot, thank goodness, but the bikes were hot.

After about 45 minutes of delays, we were able to get off into Layfayette. Thought we were over the traffic jam, but then got right back into another. The traffic was routed straight through town, and it was backed up as well. Inch forward a few feet and stop. For probably another 30 minutes.

The RT got really hot; at a couple of times, the warning light came on, saying the oil pressure was low. I think it got so hot that the oil got thin and at idle had low pressure. I knew it had plenty of oil, so I knew that was not the problem.

We decided to do something so we could roll, so we found a road to the east and took it for about 5 miles. Then county roads going north. Then back to the west to get back on I-65. Probably rode an extra 25 miles and wasted over an hour.

After a few miles, it started to rain. So, we stopped and put on rain stuff. Of course, the rain promptly stopped! Oh well, that's the way it works.

Learned a few minutes later that I-65 was closed just south of Chicago. So, we figured we'd miss that jam and ride around it. Actually we did, and that detour worked great.

However in the middle of Chicago, where there were 7 lanes of northbound traffic, it ground to a stop again! About 45 minutes lost to slow traffic there. It rolled most of the time, but at a high speed of 5-10 mph.

All in all, I'd estimate we spent about 2 hours delayed by traffic jams.

Finally, traffic opened up and we put the pedal to the metal. Not really; no pedal, but we did twist the throttle as far as was safe. Finally we rolled into Wisconsin, and the roads and traffic was much better.

I like Wisconsin. Green rolling hills. Lots of lakes. Good roads. Unlike Illinois!

We rode until almost dusk and stopped at Black River Crossing for the night. Decision was made to motel it due to it being so late and still so much to do (laundry, dinner, daily walk, blog, etc.)

No pics tonight; too tired to do it. Hopefully can post a pic or two tomorrow.

Tomorrow, on to Duluth, MN for the Aerostich Warehouse to spend some money.

Pfafftown to Columbus, Indiana-536 miles

A good day of riding. Great scenery along the way, especially in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia. Interstate 77 through West Virginia is one of the best rides on an Interstate anywhere I've been. Gentle curves, with elevation changes at 70mph is fun! And it was cool riding through most of the state.

Day 1; June 24, 2008. We got underway just a little behind schedule. Last-minute things, like seeing if everything would fit on the bikes, finding last-minute things that we knew we needed but somehow forgot until the last minute, got us a few minutes behind schedule.

Schedule—why do we have a “schedule”??? This is supposed to be a ride with no boundaries. In truth, it is, but we had made plans to meet our third rider about 10 miles from Gary's house at 9:15am, and didn't want to keep Dick waiting in the parking lot of the Burger King we'd agreed upon. Otherwise, there's no schedule except to make the ferry in Haines, AK, on July 21 at 7pm.

We got to the Burger King a few minutes late, to find Dick by his bike, patiently waiting. After a few minutes of chatter, we got underway at 9:30am. Not a bad or late start, everything considered.

Headed north on Hwy 52, then I-77 for a long time. Stopped for a bathroom break at one of the welcome centers in WV, ate a couple of cookies for breakfast, and hit the road again. Up to Beckley WV, it was cool, and at one point, I was considering stopping to put on the bumblebee. For those who don't know what the bumblebee is, it's my Hi-Viz Yellow Roadcrafter riding suit. It almost glows in the dark, it's that yellow. But you want high visability when you're so exposed to everything.

But it warmed up quickly after passing Beckley and we began descending from the higher elevations and the sun climbed higher into the sky. Speaking of sky, it was BLUE, almost dark blue all day. Beautiful.

As we continued north and west, we got onto I-81 and quickly onto I-64, where we rode a long time. West through Kentucky on I-64 and turned north onto I-65 into Indiana. As the day evolved, the temperatures, which had gotten warm, began cooling a bit.

As we approached Indianapolis, we knew we needed to find a campground somewhere south of the big city. The Garmin did not let us down. It located Columbus Woods and Waters Campground, where we spent the night. I'm writing this on posting from the laundry room, where they have a wireless connection. A good thing!

We got off the bikes, and immediately started putting up the tents. What a zoo! I was the worst—first trying to put up the rainfly without the tent! Hadn't used the tent since March, so I had not remembered the sequence. But I eventually got it put together. Next was the cot. A High-Tech cot from Aerostich; a good invention. Of course, nothing wanted to work quite right initially, but with help from Dick to hold one side of it, I got it together and in the tent. Not too bad; no injuries and only soaked with sweat from head to toe!

A few minutes of rest and then off to find some food for supper. Went into the town, Columbus, and, after some searching, found a sports bar where we could get a good, cold beer and a burger. Not great grub, but it was fine. And, except for the loud music, a decent place for a meal.

Back to the campground for a shower. It was GOOD! Clean shower stalls, good warm water, and the world was suddenly better. It was now about 10:30pm, and we were three tired puppies.

After a few minutes of chat, we headed to bed. Discovered for the first time that we were close to the Interstate, so the rumble of traffic, cars, etc, was pretty loud, masking the sounds normally heard when camping. No crickets; only traffic! Slept okay, but not good. Woke up a lot, which is normal for me, so no complaints.

Woke up this morning at 5:45, got up, found the computer, and am now writing this at 6:35am.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ready to Go

Ok, I'm almost ready to go! Have had to work a lot over the past few weeks, but work is now done! Makes me appreciate being mostly retired; work and play don't mix very well!

I believe the bike is ready for the trip. Had a scare that just got resolved two days ago. After doing some rewiring under the seat and repacking my tools, I tried to remove the seat a fews later to get a tool. Had a shock when I tried to turn the key and it would not turn. I twisted pretty hard, but it would not give!

Posted a note on the forum, to solicit help from fellow riders. Also sent a "help" note to the service manager of the local BMW shop to get his ideas. After thinking about it for a while, I decided that I had jammed the latch with the tool pouch that had been placed differently behind the latch.

I got a lot of ideas from the forum, and the service manager offered to let me bring the bike in and they would find a way to get the seat off and order new parts if necessary (in case something broke).

Had to go out of town for work, but when I got home, I decided to try the key again. This time, I twisted the key really hard, trying to be careful not to break it off in the lock. Finally, the latch opened and I could remove the seat. Just as I thought, a ratchet had jammed against the latch, keeping it from opening. I"ll be more careful where and how I store things in the future!!

Otherwise, I don't know of anything specific that I need to do to the bike.

Have practice packed and think everything is okay. Clothes in one sidecase. Extra riding gear in the other sidecase. I'm taking the Roadcrafter for low-heat to cold temperatures; I can layer under it and be comfortable. I am also taking the Joe Rocket mesh pants and jacket for hot conditions. I'll need both, I'm sure.

Camping gear goes in the Seattle bag that will ride on the pillion seat. Electronics (computer, chargers, handheld gps for walking, etc) and medicines go in topcase. Gloves and small items for on-the-the fly will go in the tankbag. Although the bike will be topheavy and pretty well loaded, I believe everything will fit. Will probably do a full-run packing job on the bike Sunday.

We're adding another rider from Gary's house to Duluth, MN. A friend and co-rider is joining us along the way to ride to Duluth to visit the Aerostich store there. Then he's going another direction, whereas we'll head west there. So, we'll start with 3 and drop one rider after 3 days on the road.

Only two more days until we leave. I'm excited and apprehensive at the same time. What will we forget? What kinds of challenges will we have? Have I packed enough ???(fill in the blanks). What is the best route? Lots of questions and few answers.

This is my final entry before we get on the road. I hope to post an entry daily, but know sometimes it will be impossible. Will post as I can.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Bike Preparation

Well, it's time to get the bike completely ready for the ride. Doesn't need a lot of work, but there are several things that need attention.

Rear tire. About 8K miles ago, I tried a new tire just released on the market. A Michelin Pilot Road 2, which was supposed to give superior mileage in the center of the tire and superior grip on the sides. A 2 compound tire, it was supposed to be the best.

Well, my experience wasn't exactly like that. First of all, I went down on the bike the very first time I rode on the new tire. My fault; cold tire on cold sealed asphalt and the bike just went out from under me in the parking lot in front of the house. Engine guard protected the bike, so no real harm. Oh, and the tire wore out about 5K before the previous tire did. So, all the hype was false in my case!

Bought a Metzler Z6 (same tire as the one that previously lasted 13K miles. Got it put on last weekend; hopefully it will make the whole trip. I think it will be close, but if the roads have a lot of roughness on the surface, it will probably have to be replaced before the ride is over.

Pulled the fairings and gas tank off to re-do some of the communications previously on the bike. Since I've gotten a different walkie-talkie (FRS) , I needed to remove the cable for the old radio and install a push-to-talk switch connecting the radio to the Autocom unit. Also needed to remove the telephone cable because I had bought a bluetooth dongle for the Autocom. About 2 hours of sweat (very hot outside!) later, the cables are removed and installed, the bluetooth is paired to the phone, the FRS installed, and everything seems to be working as it should.

Reinstalled the gas tank and cleaned up for the day.

Planning to start working tomorrow morning before the heat gets bad. Need to replace headlight bulbs, all 3 of them. Then remove engine guard, pull the valve covers off, and adjust the valves. Never done it, but have watched it on video and live and know I can do it. When the valves are right, reinstall valve covers. Then change oil and filter. If time allows, reinstall engine guards and fairing panels. If time doesn't allow, finish on Tuesday morning. I'd like to have it finished this week before leaving town. I believe the RT will be ready to go this week!!

Only two weeks and a day before we hit the road. I'm getting more excited every day!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Prelude II

Ok, I know you're wondering when I'll stop babbling about getting ready and write something worthwhile about the trip..... Be patient; I will when it's time!

Outfitting the bike has been fun, but expensive. Got a Russell Day Rider seat from a guy in Israel. Great seat! Makes all the difference in the world when your bottom is comfortable. My butt is happy now.

Barbacks. Those things that make the handlebars closer to you so you can be more comfortable. Bought one set--rode with them for a while and wanted to try another kind. The first ones simply raised the bars higher. Tried a set that raised them a little and brought them closer to me. Yes, that's better. Can ride a little more straight up, which, for someone with a grumpy neck, is much better. Handlebars are where they are needed now.

Footpegs. While the stock ones aren't bad, I wanted to try some that make my legs be less bent for hours of riding. Got some from a guy who didn't need them anymore and installed them. Legs are happier now; they decreased the bend in my knees by about an inch (doesn't sound like much, but when you're riding 8-10 hours a day, it makes a difference.

Saddlebag liners. Got a set, tried them,but sold them because they took more space than I wanted. Nice to carry clothes into the room without taking the saddlebags off, but not at the expense of space lost. Am now trying big ziplock bags. May be the trick....?

Heated jacket liner. Not knowing what temperature extremes we'll face, I decided a heated liner might bail me out if it got COLD. Bought it during cold weather, and can say that a heated liner is wonderful when it's cold outside. Packs pretty small, too. Will be a good thing to have for cool to cold weather, wherever I may be.

GPS bracket. Bought a new Migsel mounting bracket. Looks great on the bike; really well integrated into the area above the dash. BUT--the dashboard has enough flex in it that I'm worried about breaking the dash on the gravel roads in Alaska. Finally decided on a BMR shelf; it fits over the dashboard and is stabilized by two mounts to the bottom of the dashboard. Will be stable; hope it looks good. Will also help with routing wiring by having something to tie the wires to. Shelf is not here as of 6/1, but should arrive during the week. Should be a 10 minute install plus rerouting the wiring for GPS and other things.

Bought a new phone--a BlackBerry Pearl that I got to try out, but will probably keep. The problem is that it does not connect to the Autocom communications system. So, I've ordered a bluetooth adapter so the phone can connect to the Autocom via bluetooth so I can make and receive phone calls on the fly. I like to stay connected!

Radio. No, not FM, but FRS radio. I have a Motorola that worked fairly well on the Vstrom, but works less well on the RT. Found a deal on BMWST forum for a Kenwood Freetalk FRS radio with an Autocom adapter. It's supposed to be a great radio, and it shipped with an adapter to replace the battery and is powered through the Autocom. No batteries or charger needed. Hopefully Gary and I will be able to hear and be heard on the fly better on this trip. We made it work last year, but sometimes it was spotty. The Kenwood is supposed to do the job.

So, that's it for now. I think the bike is ready except for another service and a new tire. Got a couple of tires at a good price a few weeks ago, and will get the rear installed between now and the 24th. Also need an oil change and valve check. Will do that myself one day when I'm not working. Then, I think the bike will be ready to go