Saturday, July 30, 2011

BigTrip2011 – Day2 – Indiana to Ohio – MotoVlogger Meetup

Thanks to a good tip from Todkapuz, I left my hotel and road south on I-65 instead of east on I-80. He told me about a motovlogger meetup in Indianapolis for lunch. It was a mere 167 miles away, so I hopped on the bike and rode south.

I-65 from Gary, IN to Indianapolis, IN was not fun. It was straight, boring, crazy traffic, lots of highway patrol, and windy.

This wind farm was pretty cool to look at as it was massive. I was riding through it for what seemed like twenty minutes. Wind turbines on both sides of the road as far as I could see.


Eventually I made it. About five minutes later than I wanted to, but I consider it a success given the long distance I had to ride. We met at John’s Famous Stew

johns famous stew

They serve beef stew and a few other things. I wasn’t terribly hungry, so I just enjoyed my drink. The others who ordered the stew really seemed to like it.

Being motorcyclists, we had to go for a short ride together.

Vlogger meetup in indianapolis

Here we are riding around west of Indianapolis.

Left to Right YouTube Names: navythomas8, suburbanryder, bc65925, todkapuz

motovlogger meetup3

I eventually took my leave as they rode west, I turned around and headed east again. I got a glimpse of the skyline here:


Soon I was in Ohio

entering ohio

and then I was passing through Columbus, OH. I thought about stopping, but the dark clouds moving in from the south convinced me to keep going north and east on I-71.


It was a hot day of riding. The further I got from Indianapolis, the cooler it got. I think it was 95F near there.



After 4 out of 5 days of over 400 miles on the interstate, I am getting tired! I took frequent breaks and enjoyed the shade that the trees provided at the rest stops.

A nice shady rest stop to escape the heat

At the last rest stop just before Delaware, OH, I had a nice conversation with another rider. He was on a Harley and on his way home from Kentucky. He rode down there “to get a pack of smokes”. It sounded a lot like the line some MN riders use, but replace smokes with pie. Random encounters like these are great.

I ended the day in Ashland, OH after 427 miles in the saddle. My two highlights today were the motovlogger meetup and the random biker near Delaware.

Tomorrow, I continue to ride north east to visit a friend in Buffalo, NY.

Friday, July 29, 2011

BigTrip2011 – Day1 – Minnesota to Indiana

I got a pretty late start today since the BMW decided it didn’t want to go on the trip. At first I was pretty frustrated, but thinking about it now 500 miles away, I’m glad it gave up last night rather than during the trip. It only took a couple hours to swap all the luggage and get the SV ready to go. I think  left at 11am.

Since I felt like I was running behind, I decided to just take the interstate as far as I could and then sleep in a motel. I hoped on I-94 and told the GPS to take me to Indiana, but skipping the tolls.

The seat on the SV650 is not near as comfortable as the Russell “day long” on the GS. The last couple days of riding the GS, I could easily go 150-200 miles before stops. My butt is still getting used to the SV, so I stopped every 75 miles today. The schedule worked out well. It meant that I had frequent snack breaks, and the much needed mental break.

At my first snack stop, I spotted this interesting looking truck.

Interesting truck at a snack stop in WI.

My next snack break was in Black River Falls, and I snapped another photo of the orange moose. I was there last year with the Ural when we attempted the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail.

Orange moose in black river falls, wi

At a different break, I stopped and watched this scene. The truck on the flatbed broke down and was towing the trailer full of 6+ ATVs. There were four guys waiting on the side of the road when the tow truck came. He hauled the truck onto the flatbed, and then setup the hitch for the trailer. All four guys piled into the tow truck and off they went.

A fun day turned bad for these guys in wisconsin dells

I wasn’t able to stop in the middle of I-94 to get the Wisconsin border sign, but when I crossed into Illinois, I was on a smaller US highway.

Finally in illinois

My GPS routed me around the tolls, and through some nice roads. About 50 miles north of Chicago, it routed me onto US-41.

I turned right onto the road while the rest of the cars we waiting for the light. I made it about 1/2 mile down the road before they started. The speed limit was 45mph. I was going slightly over, but in no time the rest of the cars had caught me up. I had forgotten how fast people drive in Chicago. Most of the cars were doing 70mph+; it was a trend that continued on other divided roads as well.

While I was cruising with the cars on US-41, I caught up to a Bergman 400 scooter. The guy was having a spirited ride and seemed to be really enjoying pulling away from the cars at every light. I pulled up next to him after a few miles and waved. He smiled and waved back. The light turned green and off he went. A few miles later I caught him at another light. He asked where I was going, I told him the ocean. He nodded his approval. The light turned green. He cranked the throttle open wide and took off with a “roar” that only a scooter can make. This went on for about 30 miles. I really enjoyed it, and he seemed to also. When his exit came up, we exchanged a large wave and a big smile.

Soon after that, I was mired in the Friday night rush-hour of Chicago on I-94. My left hand got very sore as I languished away. I didn’t realize how hot it was until I saw a bank sign that read 90F! My mesh gear was working nicely indeed.

Eventually, the traffic cleared up and the expressway to Indiana opened up. The Chicago drivers did not disappoint and raced around darting from lane to lane at very high speeds. I slowed down to enjoy the scenery – the skyline was impressive at sunset.

I made it about five miles into Indiana before I had enough. It was getting dark, and I was feeling too lazy to switch to my clear visor. I got a cheap motel room for the night. A satisfying day of riding.

Tomorrow I make my way further east. I plan to visit a friend in Buffalo, NY on Sunday. We’ll see how far I get – hopefully past Cleveland.

Trip Starts After More Delays!

My “big trip” vacation motorcycle road trip was supposed to start a few weeks ago, but things kept getting in the way. First, the sewer backup. Then the throttle cables on the BMW.

For the past few days I have been in North Dakota. I rode the R1150GS up and my wife drove. We stayed in Steele, ND to attend a funeral. It was rather sudden.

OK Motel in Steele, ND - GS and WRX

The cemetery was in Mandan, ND (which is west of Bismarck). Here are some photos of the Missouri River valley. Not all of ND is flat as you can see, but most of it is!

Missouri River Valley Near Mandan, ND Missouri River Valley Near Mandan, ND

This morning, I woke up early and prepared to set off. I loaded up all the bags, and starting putting them on the bike. I began my pre-ride ritual, and noticed a puddle under the front tire. Oh no, not again I thought. I had recently changed the front fork seals, so I was happy to see it wasn’t them again.

puddle under BMW

Instead, I found the source of the fluid. It was brake fluid leaking out of the front brake line. Some of it was on the alternator belt cover, so it likely happened on the ride home yesterday. I’m glad it didn’t fail on the road. It was almost 1,000 miles round trip in the last three days.

leaky brake line on BMW

I called around, none of the local BMW dealers had the part in stock which meant a 3-4 day delay. After a brief discussion with my better-half, I decided to take the SV650 instead.

sv650 loaded up

The seat, gas tank, and alternator make the BMW very appealing. I prefer riding the SV more, and the bags are easier to deal with. Since I will be skipping Canada on this now shortened trip, the big gas tank isn’t as much of an issue.

The new plan is to ride east to Maine, and then follow the coast down to DE. I’ll then cut into PA and OH on my way home.

I guess it was lucky I just put new chain,sprocket, and tire on the SV.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wrenching Is Always Better With a Friend

The chain and sprockets on my SV650 were worn out, so I ordered a new set a few weeks back. I had intended on swapping them after my trip, but since I’ve been delayed repeatedly, they have already arrived. My friend Paul, heard about the arrival and offered his assistance. I’ve done the chain and sprocket replacement  before, but it is always more fun with a friend. I happily accepted.

My string of bad luck continued (shutdown, flood, funeral) however and I found my SV650 with a flat rear tire as I tried to ride to Paul’s house. 30 minutes later, I had the tire plugged and a new tire loaded onto the bike and ready to go. I like to keep spares around, you never know when you’ll need them! I usually have extra spark plugs, oil, filters, and tires. Buying them before the emergency also helps get a great price too. The tires below were the Q2s I love on the SV, but I got them for 50% off in February. :)

sv650 sprocket and chain swap

We put the SV650 on the lift at Paul’s, and quickly remove the old chain, sprockets, and rear tire.

sv650 sprocket and chain swap

New vs Old – the front sprocket was getting a little hooked. The rear looked ok. The stock SV650 is a 525, but this time I decided to save a couple dollars and tried a 520 of the same brand. The last one made it nearly 17,000 miles with little lube or cleaning.

sv650 sprocket and chain swap

While I worked on the sprockets, Paul removed the damaged tire from the wheel with amazing speed. He saved the honor of balancing it for me.

sv650 sprocket and chain swap

New rear sprocket, tire, and chain on the bike. Cleaning the wheel is easy when it’s off the bike :)

sv650 sprocket and chain swap

The new front sprocket

sv650 sprocket and chain swap

Thanks again to Paul for his help. I just love how much nicer the bike is to ride with a new tire and new chain/sprockets.


Quick Trip Update – I hope to leave MN on Friday AM. (Finally!!)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Xmas in July

Finally something positive in this week of drama! I received these three packages today, and I thought it would be fun to do a short unboxing video. I filmed it with my T2i using a f1.8 50mm. What do you think?

YouTube Video: vlog - Unboxing Fun - July 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

vlog – Sewer Backup Update

Lots of things have been going on this past week! The cleaning crew gutted most of the my basement. They removed all the flooring and the lower part of most of the walls. All of the trim, doors, and doorframes are also gone. The drying is almost done. We can start reconstruction after we get the check from the insurance company.

The adjuster showed up earlier this week. He said they’ll just cut the check for the max $5,000 since the damage is clearly more than that. Nice we can skip some paperwork and get the money sooner. According to the city and the insurance company, the damage and repair is estimated between $5,000 and $10,000.

It was hard to watch the cleaners rip apart our finished basement, but it is a necessary thing to keep the mold and bacteria out.

You may have noticed too, that the state shutdown in Minnesota has ended! I had my first day back at work in 21 days (14 working days lost). There are rumors that we may somehow be slightly compensated, but they are just rumors. It was nice to have the time off. It enabled me to do things that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

I don’t know when I’ll get to start my trip yet. A couple of other complications have arose. The route may be shortened given a reduced timeline and vacation days. I need to spend a few hours with a map and a calendar after things settle.

Thanks again for all the positive comments and support. I do appreciate it.

YouTube Video: vlog – Sewer Backup Update

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sewer Backup Delays Trip

My trip is delayed due to a sewer backup in my basement. It's a big expensive mess. I'm really sad about the delay and the damage. I was really looking forward to the ride and all of the meetups along the way. It is very doubtful I can make any part of the BMW MOA rally right now. I hope to be able to leave in a few days, and I will keep you updated as I learn more.

See the embedded video for more details.

YouTube Video: vlog – Sewer Backup Delays Trip

Friday, July 15, 2011

Meetups and Wrenching

Youtube moto vlogger meetup

As I mentioned in the previous post, I had another moto-vlogger staying with me for the past three days – Navythomas8 (NT8). We’ve been having a blast goofing off, riding around, and shooting the breeze. If it wasn’t for the shutdown, we wouldn’t have been able to spend so much time together. A positive out of the shutdown mess.

Two days ago we also had lunch with another vlogger and Polar Bear Challenge contestant – P0kerp1ayer (PP).

Here is a photo, NT8 and PP.

Moto vlogger meetup

We met at Chipotle in St. Paul, and had some tasty burritos, chips, and guacamole!

Chipotle meetup

After lunch, we rode up to a scenic overlook on the south side of the Mississippi River looking north towards downtown St. Paul. It was a fun few hours chatting away. I hope the meetups during my trip are this fun.

Navythomas8 looking at downtown st paul Meetup with navythomas8 and p0kerp1aya

NT8’s chain was getting a bit stretched and worn, so we put his KLR up on my motorcycle jack to take a closer inspection.

KLR Chain Replacement

Ah yes, there’s the problem… the chain was shot, so I cut it off with the dremel.

KLR Chain Replacement

We bought a new chain and used my chain breaker to remove the extra links and to press it back together on the bike. It was nice to have a second set of hands around.

KLR Chain Replacement


Speaking of maintenance, my R1150GS has been giving me some trouble. The throttle cable is acting up, so I ordered a new set which just came last night. I’m going to attempt to put them on myself today, so wish me luck! Nothing like major bike maintenance less than 48 hours from departure!


PS: What did you guys think of the motorcycle comedy spoof that NT8 made?

PPS: Here is a short vlog of NT8 getting a tour of St. Paul from the Ural: Navythomas8 Meetup Part 1 - Sidecar Adventure in St. Paul

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

ARVid – A Motorcycle Comedy

This week another motorcyclist from youtube and I met up. His name is Tom and he goes by Navythomas8 on youtube. He’s from Omaha, NE, and is just starting a 35 day motorcycle roadtrip. We’ve been having a blast riding around the past few days together. (making videos too!)

Here is a short spoof video we made in the middle of a dualsport ride. It was all very spontaneous and totally improvised.


Youtube Video: ARVid

Monday, July 11, 2011

St. Croix River Ride

On July 4th, my wife and I took off on my R1150GS to ride along the St. Croix River. The St. Croix is defines a portion of the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Since the Minnesota state parks were closed as part of the government shutdown, we went to Wisconsin instead. We enjoyed fun roads, great scenery, and cool breezes from the river. It was a fun day of riding. Enjoy the video!

YouTube Video: St. Croix River Ride

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Crashed Bike: WR250R 1, Pavement 0


I was at the range (also known as a parking lot) last night practicing some MSF BRC exercises. I had a class today. I wanted to polish a couple of them up, so I could show the students the “perfect” demo. I had a nice time practicing with the training bikes even though it was 90F!

I was a bit surprised when another coach showed up. We’ll call him “Bob” (not his real name). It turned out he was finishing a class that night. I kept riding while he started to get the bikes ready for class. It worked out well, I was tired from practicing by the time the second coach showed up. We’ll call him “Fred” (not his real name).

“Fred” was drooling on my WR250R quite a bit, so I offered him a ride. I worked with him last month. “Fred” is a good coach. He didn’t take much persuading and went to grab his gear. He was a little taken back by the seat height at 35”. I can barely reach the ground now that I’ve lowered it from the stock 37 inches! He had a fun time riding it and suggested we use them for student bikes. While it does meet the spec, I think it has a bit too much power and is too expensive for the program to purchase. How sad. It is such a fun bike.

By this time, the first coach, “Bob”, wanted a ride too. I had only just met him, but in the spirit of trying to be more generous, I said “sure”. He hesitated about putting on his motorcycle coat because of the heat. Fortunately, he did.

While I was talking to “Fred”, “Bob” was tearing around the parking lot. The WR250R does a good job brining out the inner-hooligan, even for a Goldwing rider like “Bob”.

Very disappointingly, there was a loud crash from the parking lot, and the WR250R’s tip-over sensor engaged and turned off the engine. It was quiet with just the light breeze blowing the trees. “Fred” used some interesting language I won’t repeat while I started the long walk to the other side of the parking lot. “Bob” sprang to his feet as I called out to ask if he was ok. He said he was.


He picked the bike up before I could snap a photo. He tore a small hole in his coat, and later we found he had a dime-sized bloody elbow. The WR has knobby tires, so it tends to slide a bit on hot pavement when ridden rough. It appeared he had the bike leaned over way to far with way too much throttle as the rear tire crossed this line of paint. You can see the tire marks from left to right.


The rear tire slid out, and the motorcycle fell onto the right side. It then slid across the pavement.


The long gouge is from the handlebar – about five feet.


The bottom mark is from the footpeg, and the little one at the top of the pic is from the axle nut.


The right handguard plastic was ground down slightly. The mirror folded out of the way. The handguard protected his hand, the brake lever, and the front turn signal.


The guard did slide down as you can see here compared to the clutch side

IMG_0845 IMG_0846 

I didn’t notice until I got home, but the bars also slid in the top clamp about 1/8” inch. The top clamp also seems a bit twisted.


The plastic muffler guard sustained this small rash here. It also did a nice job protecting the rear turn signal from the ground.


Which I don’t mind so much, as I’ve already done this to the front plastic by dropping it on rocks and trees. I’ve never crashed the WR on pavement though.


After about 45 minutes of fiddling, the handguards and bars were back to their normal position.

IMG_0848 IMG_0849 IMG_0850

I still need to adjust the top clamp as there is a slight (5-10 degrees) of twist on the bars. I hope they aren’t actually bent. “Bob” offered to pay for any damage which I still need to figure out. I declined his offer to ride his Gold Wing.

I give this battle to the WR which sustained far less damage than the parking lot. WR 1, Pavement 0.



PS: My BRC this morning went very well. The students were a fun bunch! Second half tomorrow.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ride to Duluth, Return with Goodies

What would you do with time off work? Would you mow the lawn? Clean the house? Or would you go for a ride?? As a good motorcyclist, I’ve chosen the last option.

We are approaching one week for the State of MN shutdown and the first week I’ve been unemployed since I can’t remember when. Not getting paid isn’t fun, but I’ve been loving the time off. I did clean the house and mow the lawn too. I’ve also been riding a lot which has been quite relaxing after the last few months of drama and stress.

In preparation for my trip (in less than two weeks!), I took the R1150GS for a long ride to make sure I have the ergonomics right. Since I’ve gone east and west on previous day trips, I decided to go north and attempt to escape the heat.

I rode up I-35 to Duluth and enjoyed the cool breeze off the lake and of course the fantastic views. I didn’t take any shot this trip (no idea, I brought TWO cameras), so enjoy this one from a previous trip.

Duluth Lake Shore

On the way home, I stopped at Aerostich to browse around. I’ve been drooling their three digit rain covers for sometime. My current rain gloves are insulated and way too warm for summer riding. I liked them, and picked up a pair.


They are covers, so they fit over your regular riding gloves. I chose the orange color instead of the black.


They have a reflective triangle on the outside for extra visibility


and a handy visor wiper on the left thumb.


I also browsed through their sale selection and picked up this DVD for $2: “The Return: Riding Western China”


It sounded interesting. It’s about a guy who moved from the US to China to teach English and during the off-months rides a 150cc Chinese motorcycle to the Pakistan border. The story is in two parts his first, failed trip in 2005, and then the second attempt in 2006. The scenery is pretty great. He covers the western deserts and some of the mountains. It looked like some very harsh conditions.

My wife and I watched it last night, and I understand why it was marked down to $2. He has a nice mix of still photos, hand drawings, tripod shots, handheld, and on-bike video. Since it was filmed in 2005/2006 the video gear was pretty low quality. The handheld and on-bike shots were terrible. They were extremely jerky to the point of making us both sick. By the end, we were both crying out at the TV for him to use his tripod more. His still photography is quite good and both of us thought it saved the film.

I admire his passion for making the film and trying to share the beautiful Chinese country-side with the world. I was in China in 2000, but I didn’t make it as far west as he did. I know from my own video experiences that a one-man show is a lot of work both in filming and editing. I usually spend an hour to get one good minute of video, so I can only imagine the time he put in to make a 93 minute DVD.

I don’t think I’ll watch it again, and I not sure I can recommend it. I will be looking for his website to see if he has some more current stuff. He has some good potential.

On my way out of Aerostich, I saw their motorcycle newspaper rack. They had the latest Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly and a paper I’d never seen called “City Bike” from California. More fun reading ahead!


Just over 300 miles later, I returned home. The bike ran great, and it felt good too. The recent tweaks to the handlebars are working well. I’m still on the fence on if I should leave the windshield and handguards on for the trip. What do you think?