Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Friday, February 17, 2006

  • “The jungle is dark but full of diamonds…” — Arthur Miller, _Death of a Salesman_ I am back from my dual sporting adventure in Costa Rica. (I first mentioned it back in January). I went down with four of my riding buddies and I believe I can speak for all of us in saying that we had a blast. We rented KTM 640 LC4s from Costa Rica Motorcycle Tours and Rentals and I highly recommend them to anyone interested in riding in Costa Rica. We had some bike problems during the trip (some caused by us, some caused by the KTM factory) and Wilhelm did an excellant job of dealing with these so they didn’t adversely affect our trip. I also think that the big KTM was the perfect bike for Costa Rica. Enough power to run 100 kmh on the main roads but still small enough to wrestle over single track goat trails. !@(afimages/Blog/2006/2/CostaRica-route.jpg:R200 popimg: “Our route in Costa Rica”) I will be doing a two stage write-up on this. First, I have already created a basic web page with some of my favorite photos. Then, over the next couple of weeks, I’ll write up a full trip report and link it into the bottom of the photos page. [image from the University of Texas Libraries web site.] (0)

Saturday, February 4, 2006

  • !@(afimages/Blog/2006/2/CostaRica-riding.jpg:L200 popimg: “Costa Rica riding”) I’ve listed all the details in previous blog postings but I wanted to post a quick reminder that I will be out of the country for the next week on my Costa Rican adventure. There won’t be any new blog (or podcast) postings until I return the week of February 13th. [image from the MotoAdventures Costa Rica web site.] (0)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

  • I’ve written a couple of times now about my upcoming motorcycle trip to Costa Rica…first in September and then again in October. Well, the trip is now just a couple of weeks away, so I thought I should do one last update before leaving… The first big news is that our little gang of adventurers has grown from three to five with the addition of my buddies Flash and Dork Shoei coming on board, in addition to myself, Todd Unpronounceable and Hubert. This could be bordering on too big a group, if only because different riding styles, different personalities and just plain group dynamics can be an issue. Fortunately, I’ve ridden with all these guys before so I think we’ll be alright. Besides, since I am at the sucky end of the dirt riding skill spectrum it is possible I’ll end up being the one pissing everyone off… !@(afimages/Blog/2006/1/costarica03.jpg:L200 popimg: “The challenges of riding in Costa Rica”) We are all pretty excited about the ride. As I mentioned in the October update, our plan is to split our riding time between the Nicoya Peninsula and the Osa Peninsula. At that time we had the bike rental and airplane tickets but not much else. Since then we have booked reservations at hotels in San Jose, Montezuma and Puerto Juminez. While having hotel reservations locks us into a set schedule, it also frees us up to ride all day without having to get to the day’s destination early in order to find lodging. Additionally, by basing ourselves out of one town in each of the two places we want to check out we can leave our bike’s luggage at the hotel for the days we are out out exploring rather than having to lug it everywhere we ride. Also checked off the list since the October posting is stocking up on info about Costa Rica. I bought a Fodor’s Costa Rica 2005 guide book, as well as a nice National Geographic map of the country. I doubt the map will be all that helpful, as I understand the roads aren’t well marked, but if nothing else it will give me something to read while the other guys figure out where we are. I also found a website with GPS data for Central America but the Costa Rica data looks pretty bad since the coastline of the Bay of Nicoya doesn’t exist. Nonetheless, I’ve loaded up my Garmin Quest anyway. Perhaps between the GPS and the map I can at least determine where I am, even if I can’t figure out how to get where I want to go. I decided not to bring my trusty one piece Aerostich Roadcrafter suit so I bought a Kilimanjaro Air Jacket made by First Gear. My only complaint with the Kili Air is the rather wimpy armor that is included so I upgraded the shoulder and elbow armor with a kit from Bohn Armor. The kit is excellent but unfortunately, the back protector won’t fit in the small pocket sewn into the Kili so I’ll have to use the stock foam until I can cut down the Bohn unit. I’ll be using my ancient Shoei helmet, Alpinestar gloves, Aerostich Combat touring boots and a basic pair of motocross pants and a jersey. Oh, and I’ll have a Camelbak as well… Perhaps the first adventure of the trip took place before I even left the old US of A. I made the mistake of wandering into a travel clinic last week to see what immunizations were recommended for Costa Rica (and Tibet, where I’ll be travelling in August). If you believe the nurses at a travel clinic, the entire world is a huge, dank cess pool of disease. It took me a while to shake off their fear message and focus on what I was really worried about…stuff that might kill me rather than just make me sick. I left with a sore arm, a shot for Hepetitis A & B and some Malarone pills for malaria. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll take the malaria medicine but I don’t have to make that choice until two days before I leave. I guess that if I come back with yellow fever, typhoid, rabies, polio, influenza or measles then I’ll look like an idiot but I feel like having some crazy mixture of vaccinations could be unhealthy as getting the tropical disease I’m trying to avoid… I still have to go back two more times to finish up the Hep A & B shots so I can always get additional vaccinations for Tibet after returning from the Costa Rica trip. I’m also considering joining the Diver’s Alert Network. I don’t (yet) scuba dive but one of their membership benefits is $100,000 in Emergency Medical Evacuation. Any time I’m going riding with Todd I carefully examine my medical insurance but since my current policy only covers the bare minimum if I’m out of the country it wouldn’t hurt for me to have some extra protection. If nothing else, DAN guarantees to be able to get my broken and battered corpse back to the US if Todd leads me off a cliff or something. I’ve also spent the past week pre-packing all my gear. The only luggage we’ll have on the KTM LC4 is a tail trunk. Since I have to fit everything in such a small space I’m trying to carefully organize everything. At the moment my clothes, shaving kit and miscellaneous other gear all fit in a 10″x10″x10″ space so I think I’m okay. I’ve made duplicate copies of all my paperwork but should be able to leave that with my gear duffel at the rental place so won’t have to carry that on the bike. Between my Garmin GPS and Canon digital camera I’m the designated geek…hopefully I’ll make it back with stuff or else my wife will kill me when I try to replace it. I wonder if DAN’s insurance covers spousal danger? Otherwise, I’m just taking a pair of motocross riding pants, three dirt jerseys, some bicycling shorts, three pair of socks, my shaving kit and a pair of sandals. Travelin’ light… Flash is packing the tools so the rest of us can save that space. Dork Shoei is covering the basic first aid kit, though I’m donating some Cipro and Immodium in case one of us drinks some bad water (or in case I, as the vegetarian, gets forced into eating the dreaded raw vegetable salad and spends the next week with GI “issues”…). Hubert has been voted into the role of our interpreter. He doesn’t know Spanish but since he is Swiss we figure he already knows some other language besides English and is thus one step ahead of the rest of us. He registered a complaint at this assignment but as we are functioning as a democracy we out-voted him. I have no idea what Todd’s contribution to this trip will be other than that it was his idea in the first place. So that’s about it. Just a few loose ends to finish up and then its time to head south for some warm weather and motorcycle riding. A stark contrast to the current weather in the mountains of Colorado where its freezing, we’ve just recieved a foot of snow and my bikes are languishing in the garage hooked up to battery chargers. I’ll post a trip report once we get back. If I don’t get something posted by late February someone please call the US Embassy in Costa Rica and see if five Juan Does have been found pinned under motorcycles in some remote corner of the Osa Peninsula. [image from the Costa Rica Motorcycle Tours web site.] (1)

Friday, October 28, 2005

  • Last month I posted a write-up about a trip I am planning with some friends to go dual sport riding in Costa Rica this coming February. Since there aren’t any motorcycle races this weekend, it seems like an opportune time to post a little update. !@(afimages/Blog/2005/10/costarica2.jpg:R200 popimg: “Riding in Costa Rica”) First, one detail has changed. In my first posting I mentioned that we would be riding Suzuki DRs. Well, Todd spent a couple of weeks talking to motorcycle rental companies in Costa Rica and eventually settled on Wilhelm von Breymann’s Costa Rica Motorcycle Rental Company. We will be renting KTM 640LC4s from Wilhelm though I’m sure Todd momentarily considered the additional entertainment he would get watching me try to wrestle a 950 Adventure through the jungle before settling on the smaller bike. The KTM LC4 should be a great bike for our Costa Rica trip since it has enough power to make time when the roads will support it while still being small enough to explore trails off the beaten track. With the books reserved, we booked the plane tickets through America West flying through Phoenix. This means that I’m only six hours from a hospital that will accept my medical insurance once we start the return trip. The focus our our ride in Costa Rica will focus on two main areas. Exploring the Nicoya Peninsula while staying at a hotel in the town of Montezuma on the southern coast. Then we’ll relocate to the town of Puerto Jimenez where we will explore the Osa Peninsula. My guess as to our itinerary is: - Saturday - Fly into Costa Rica, check into air port. Drink like fish to celebrate our arrival. - Sunday - Wake up hungover and grumpy. Pick up KTMs. Ride north out of San Jose, do a big loop around Arenal volcano involving little known trails, dangerous animals, flaming lava and unfriendly natives. Turn south after going around the north shore of Lake Arenal. Ride to the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula arriving in Montezuma late at night exhausted, battered and pissed off. Drink like fish. - Monday/Tuesday - either ride around the Nicoya Peninsula or sit in hammocks on the beach trying to recover from the broken bones earned during the first day of riding. Drink like fish. - Wednesday - Ride back up the Nicoya Peninsula and then down the Pacific coast to the town of Porto Jimenez on the Osa Peninsula. Despite the seemingly easy day, I’m sure something will come up which will have us wading through chest deep water on a goat path that hasn’t been used this century and which will result in us arriving last at night exhausted, battered and pissed off. Drink like fish. - Thursday/Friday - either ride around the Osa Peninsula or sit in hammocks on the beach trying to recover from the snake bites earned on Wednesday. Drink like fish. - Saturday - Try to repair all the damage to the bikes so we don’t lose our damage deposit. Return to San Jose broke, exhausted, battered and pissed off. Drink like fish. - Sunday - Fly back to the US, bragging about how everything went perfectly according to plan and it was the greatest time ever. Make plans do it again soon. One thing I decided is that I need a good 3/4 length enduro jacket to bring on the trip. I need something with armor so that I can minimize the damage riders often get when riding with Todd but it also needs to flow air to deal with the tropical heat and have good rain protection in case the rainy season hits early next year. Based on the research I’ve done online I think the First Gear Kilimanjaro Air Mesh jacket is just the ticket. Now i need to find a local dealer that stocks the thing so that I can figure out which size works. If I can’t find one in the next few weeks, I’ll just wait till November 19th and see if any of the dealers at the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show have the jacket for sale. As always, if anyone has any suggestions or opinions about gear or riding in Costa Rica please post a comment. I’ll post some more later once more of the plans for the trip have come together. [image from the Wild Rider Costa Rica web site.] (0)

Monday, October 10, 2005

  • I know I’ve said before that I love motorcycles but let me reiterate that for a second. I love motorcycles! This past weekend was a perfect reason of why that is. Motorcycles, as you undoubtedly know, are vehicles. However, they are not only vehicles for physical travel but also vehicles for emotional travel. The past week at work has been pretty hectic and as I’m sure everyone knows, a bad week at work is pretty much a reason in itself to be down on life. Coming into the weekend, I really needed to recharge my emotional batteries. Earlier in the week I dropped long time riding buddy Todd Unpronounceable an email suggesting we get out this weekend and do our annual end of the summer ride. My thoughts were that we head up into the high country in Summit County and spend a long day zig-zagging our way across a bunch of the passes over the Continental Divide. Well Todd, ever the dirt riding nut, proposed a different plan which centered around exploring forest service roads in the Routt National Forest in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming. Being an easy going kind of guy, I agreed. Now a little bit of history is needed here. I’m not a good dirt rider. Todd, on the other hand, started riding dirt around the same time I did but has taken to it like the proverbial duck to water. When riding on pavement we are pretty evenly matched but when the riding moves off road I’m often riding over my head. As a result, I’ve decided Todd is actively trying to kill me based on the rides we do that he deems “easy” and I deem “Holy crap, I’m gonna die if I try to go down that cliff”. I’ve been giving Todd a rash all summer about this despite his vehement denials of any such thing. So based on this situation I hope you can appreciate how bad my week must have been that I was willing to blindly accept anything Todd might put me through and still consider it more relaxing than what I’d just experienced at work. The second sign of just how desperate I was go to get out and ride was that I agreed to an 8am meeting time in the town of Lyons. That’s about an hour from my house which means I’d have to somehow drag my lazy night-owl butt out of a warm, comfy bed at 6 freakin’ am so I could leave on time. Despite knowing full well that I had an early morning planned for Saturday I was still up until well after midnight Friday night…its hard to break a pattern even when I know I’ll be paying for it the next day. Despite all this, we finally got out and had a fantastic day of riding. After leaving the house at 7am, I got back home at 9:30pm Saturday night. That’s fourteen and a half hours of riding with only a couple of meals and a couple of gas stops to break it up. The mileage total was just under 500 miles with 150 of those completely on dirt. We explored some favorite paved roads, a lot of forest service roads, a couple of double track trails and a few little rural dirt roads. We probably spent half the day above 9500 ft in elevation and most of that was in gorgeous national forest land. In the end, we not only put a lot of miles on the bikes but I also went from being stressed and tired on Friday to being downright ecstatic by Saturday evening. That’s how motorcycles can really move me. Some of my highlights from the ride: 1) We rode Stove Prairie Road in the morning on our way to the Poudre Canyon. Riding down into a little valley there was mist rising up from the wet grass in a meadow as the morning sun first shown through onto it. Trotting through the middle of this foggy landscape of yellows and oranges and greens was a coyote with his winter fur all fluffed up for warmth. Its hard not to loose a little of the work stress when you get to see something special like that. !@(afimages/Blog/2005/10/buffalo-snow.jpg:R200 popimg: “Snow on Buffalo Pass”) 2) We had planned to ride over Buffalo Pass from Walden to Steamboat Springs. That idea slid to a halt three miles short of the Buffalo Pass summit when we hit snow. We’d been riding through snow patches and mud for a few miles before that but eventually we hit a spot where the road was completely covered with about 2 inches of snow. Todd put forth a valiant effort in an attempt to push through but after about 15 ft his KTM started kicking up a rooster tail of slush and stopped all forward motion. We scrapped the plan to check out the Routt National Forest and spent the rest of the day exploring the Roosevelt National Forest area instead. 3) Riding on some little county roads in a wildlife refuge near Walden we came upon a big antelope buck. We ended up pacing him for almost a mile as he bounded along at speeds topping out near 30 mph. What a beautiful animal and it was amazing to see him so close and to watch him for so long. 4) We rode over 100 miles exploring Forest Service roads between Cowdrey and Rustic but my favorite two were the Kings Canyon Pass and the western end of Deadman’s Road. Both are beautiful one lane dirt roads that go over passes in the Medicine Bow range. The area is full of thick pine forests, lush creeks and panoramic views but are very lightly travelled. I think we only saw a couple of other vehicles in the three or four hours we were exploring these roads. 5) I got home a few hours after the sun had set and pulled the incredibly grimy GS into the garage. After a full day of riding, Todd hadn’t actually tried to kill me and instead was the catalyst to an fantastic day of motorcycle adventure. Despite being exhausted I really wasn’t ready to quit riding. The day’s ride had been so close to perfect that I really didn’t want it to end. I was also having a hard time remember exactly what had bothered me so much the previous week and wondering how something so minor as work could bug me when there was so much more to enjoy in my world. Have I mentioned that I really love motorcycles? [image from my photo collection.] (0)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

  • I’ve mentioned my riding buddy Todd Unpronounceable in a few of my recent blog entries. Well, his 40th birthday is in 2006 and for the big Four-Oh he wants a few of us to head out for a little motorcycle adventure. We met up today at lunch to put together a plan and we came up with a week of dual sport riding in Costa Rica. With the average temperature starting to fall and the leaves changing colors, it wasn’t hard to get excited about the idea of spending a week riding motorcycles in a tropical paradise. By the end of lunch, we had a rough outline put together: !@(afimages/Blog/2005/9/CostaRica.jpg:L200 popimg: “Touring Costa Rica by bike”) The plan, as vague as it is at this point, will be to fly into San Jose in early February. Pick up a few rental Suzuki DR-350s and then spend the next six days doing a loop through the rainforests in the Arenal Volcano National Park, up to the beaches of the Pacific ocean near Tamarindo or La Cruz and then back to San Jose. There are plenty of tour companies that operate in Costa Rica but at this point we’re just planning to wing it on our own with nothing more solid that a few motel reservations and some plane tickets back home at the end of it all. The primary goal, of course, is to ride some roads and trails (it may be difficult to tell the difference based on my understanding of the condition of the “maintained” roads in Costa Rica) in a beautiful part of the world. My dirt riding skills still suck, so I’m hoping Todd doesn’t drag me down to many bits of knarly single track but otherwise I think this will be a great example of some fly-in adventure touring. In addition to the riding, I’m hoping we find at least a little time to check out the hikes around the volcano, maybe do a canopy tour in the rainforest and drink some tropical drinks on the beach. Then again, a bunch of sweaty guys on muddy dirt bike probably aren’t supposed to sip fruity foo-foo drinks with little umbrellas, so instead we may sit around in public places drinking beer and scratching ourselves. After all, getting a group of middle aged men together for a week long birthday party will undoubtedly have its share of testosterone floating around… Anyway, so you may be wondering why I’m bothering to do a blog write-up about a trip that is still five months away? Well, I’m hoping that some of the folks that read my blog will have some experience travelling in Costa Rica or, better yet, riding there. We’re looking some suggestions of places to ride, things to do and places to stay. Since this trip is focused on motorcycle riding, then upscale resorts or multi-hour sight seeing trips aren’t on the itinerary. Instead, places that have descriptions like “quaint”, “motorcycle friendly” and “scenic” are what we’re looking for… If anyone has any suggestions, please leave a comment. I’ll probably do some more blog postings as the trip comes together in case our plan inspires others to do the same. [image from the Moto Discovery web site. (1)

Monday, September 12, 2005

  • I love my wife. I think everyone that reads this web site knows that I love motorcycles but I want to emphasize that I also love my wife. You see, this past weekend was our fifth wedding anniversary. Many wives in this big, wide world expect jewelry or clothes or other baubles for an anniversary gift. My wife? She asks if we can jump on the motorcycle and ride to northern Wyoming to go hiking in Grand Teton National Park. Did I mention that I love my wife? So this past Thursday Jonna met me at my office after work where we loaded up the GS and headed north. We stopped in Cheyenne for a quick bite of Chinese take-out then did a two hour night ride to a hotel in Casper. On Friday, we left the slab and spent the morning on little two lane roads going across the Wyoming prairie. By noon we were in the little town of Dubois where we checked into the Stone House B&B. After a quick lunch we headed over Togwotee Pass (a 55 mile long and 9650 ft high slice of curve nirvana) to Grand Teton National Park. !@(afimages/Blog/2005/9/Tetons05.jpg:R200 popimg: “Grand Teton National Park”) The park is a beautiful place. The Tetons are stunning mountains, even to someone who lives in the middle of some pretty incredible mountains. They tower about 5,000 ft over the surrounding landscape with the highest peak at 13,770. A series of lakes line the front of the range and the Snake River curls its’ way from Yellowstone in the north to the city of Jackson in the south. Throw in the odd assortment of elk, moose, bison, wolves, bear, eagles, osprey and smaller critters to have a wonderful place. Then go hike there for a weekend. Sweet! We did a short hike on Friday afternoon and then back over the Pass for dinner in Dubois. We woke up Saturday morning to cold, overcast skies but headed back over Togwotee again (as you can imagine, having to ride this pass twice a day was just killing me) so we could do a float trip on the Snake. It turned out to be too cold and too rainy to see any big animals and the weather just got colder and wetter as the day progressed. After the raft trip we decided to beat feet back over the pass…if it was cold and rainy at 7,000 ft the weather could be worse up high. That turned out to be the case as it dumped snow for 30 of the 55 miles over the pass on the return trip. A worn rear tire and heavy snow made for some nerve racking riding. We both spent the next tour hours huddled in front of the fire place in the B&B trying to warm back up! On Sunday, we turned south on some more two lane roads all the way to Rawlins. Then it was an Interstate blast on I-80 to Laramie, where we grabbed lunch. A few back roads to cut across to I-25 and then all the way south to my office. My normal commute up Boulder canyon to Nederland and home by 7pm. The mileage total for the weekend was 1379 miles and the only bike problem was a rear tire that was stretched about 500 miles more than was appropriate. Wore the rear Metzler all the way down to the cords…a stupid move on my part. A great way to celebrate our anniversary and another reminder of why I am so glad I married this woman. [image from my photo collection.] (0)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

  • I recently did a blog posting about how the adventure touring bikes were the most fun bikes around. Well, there was one bit of information I left out in that posting…that this category of bikes are just plain meant to be dirty all the time. Now I have some co-workers (I won’t name names but one of them has the initials Jeff) who have incredibly clean bikes. These are bikes that are obviously well cared for, regularly maintained and ridden with care…and for the Harleys and sport bike in the work parking lot that is entirely appropriate. But I must say that there is just something downright wrong about a bike with dual sport tires and hand guards being shiny. Just as the Harleys sprout chrome everywhere and the superbikes morph into carbon fiber beasts, the over-sized dual sport bikes just look right when covered in grim. I think that, when parked, normal people should by instinct give them a wide berth to avoid soiling their clean clothes and a protective patina of mud should constantly shield the paint from sun and rain. Fortunately, my buddy Todd Unpronounceable feels the same way… As I mentioned in my Swiss Army knife posting about the adventure touring bikes, Todd has been looking for a new bike to replace his much abused DR650. This past week he got serious and on Tuesday he brought home a shiny new 2005 KTM 950 Adventure (in orange, natch!). He immediate set about doing two very important tasks: First was removing all the silly legalize stickers that warn that riding motorcycles may be dangerous and that reading the owners manual before touching the bike is mandatory. This job took him about 1/2 an hour and by that time I arrived to help with job #2…covering the bike in mud, dirt and rocks. !@(afimages/Blog/2005/8/dirty-gs.jpg:R200 popimg: “GS after Fall River Road”) To this end, we met up at his house after work and in a constant drizzling rain we headed northwest to Rocky Mountain National Park. Once inside the park, we headed up the Fall River Road. This nine mile long road is a one-way dirt road that climbs from 3000 foot in elevation to an eventual end at 11,796 ft. There are short sections with nearly a 16% grade and the road has numerous switchbacks as it climbs up the Fall River canyon. One thing I discovered immediately is that the dirt that makes up the road bed is a fine, silty sand. Presumably this is because the rocks that make up the Rocky Mountains break down into some sort of silica but I’m not a geologist so don’t really know the details. What I do know is that when this fine silt gets wet it becomes slick. Slicker than snot, to use an old southern saying. Riding a 700 lb pound bike on this slimy surface becomes an exercise in throttle control. It took about 30 minutes to cover the nine miles up Fall River Road and I could have ridden past a herd of pink elephants without ever noticing them. 110% of my concentration was on staying out of the ruts in the road and managing the traction available while still trying to keep forward momentum going up the switchbacks. Since I was only wearing a T-shirt under my Aerostich, I was getting chilled from the combination of rain and elevation but at least the Beemer’s heated grips kept my fingers from freezing. Once we got to the top, we looked at the mud covered bikes with a sense of satisfaction. We then donned all the warm gear I normally keep in the Jesse bags (and should have put on *before* the ride) and headed back down. We stopped in Estes Park for some bad mexican food which is when we discovered that my Aerostich is much more water resistant that Todd’s…he was soaked. After a meal talking about motorcycle trips of the past and those we hoped to do in the future, he headed back home to Pinewood Springs while I made the 40 mile ride back to Nederland in the dark. I was cold, I was wet, I was smiling and today my filthy bike looks great out in the parking lot at work… [image from my photo collection.] (2)

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

  • There has been a growing amount of talk in the motorcycle magazines and on the net for the past five years or so about a class of motorcycles generally referred to as “Adventure Tourers”. The boundaries of what make up one of these bikes are pretty vague, running the gambit from things slightly too large to be a full on dirt bike (like the KLR, XR-L and DR-650) to strange long suspension touring bikes (the BMW GS, KTM Adventure, Tiger) and some others that defy even these classifications (V-Strom, Multistrada). While the characteristics are unclear, one thing definitely is clear…these are all very, very fun motorcycles. !@(afimages/Blog/2005/8/July05-sunset.jpg:R200 popimg: “Beemer with a Colorado sunset”) By way of illustration, let me describe my ride this past Saturday. My buddy Kreig just bought a used BMW R1100GS and I thought I’d put together a short morning ride that would should him the versatility of the bike. My buddy Todd Unpronounceable was supposed to be out test riding a new R1200GS but a slow leak in the front tire of his DR650 kept him closer to home, so he decided to join us. We met up in Boulder and then headed up into the mountains on Flagstaff road. This road is just a long series of switchbacks which start at 5600 ft, crests 7700 ft high Flagstaff Peak and then drops down to 7500 ft at Gross Reservoir. We rode this at a “spirited” pace. I’ve owned by GS for four years now and have, on occasion, managed to touch down a footpeg but this ride was the first time I’ve ever tapped a saddle bag (this feat being aided by a rear shock that is about 5k miles past replacement!). The wide handlebars, upright seating position and low-end grunt of the GSes really shine on this stuff. Todd’s DR lacked the gumption in the engine department but its light weight and incredible handling more than made up for it. From there we took a 4×4 road that connects Lake Shore Park with Magnolia Road. This wasn’t serious dirt biking but was challenging enough to discourage your average street bike into taking the long way around. Todd, both being a great dirt rider and riding the light DR flat disappeared in this stuff. While muscling a 600 lb bike over rocks isn’t easy, at least compared to doing it on something like my DRZ, the bike is still capable of going places normally reserved for Jeeps. My GS did pick up a few new scratches on the bash plate in this section… Next was a 10 mile jaunt on some of the local gravel roads, including Magnolia Road. The last couple of miles of Magnolia is a beautiful set of tight, paved switchbacks which drop about 1500 ft down to Boulder Canyon. Then it was 15 miles up CO-119 to Nederland. While Flagstaff is tight and twisty, Boulder Canyon is faster and more flowing so the emphasis switches from side-to-side transition to stability while leaned over and mid-range power. This is perhaps where the GS is most at home with the engine right in the fat of its torque curve in fourth gear and the bike arcing through wide sweeping corners effortlessly. The DR, in contrast, didn’t stand a chance. Uphill climbs in top gear combined with sudden bursts of acceleration simply aren’t its forte. Once up at 8500 ft in Ned, we took Ridge Rd to Cold Springs and then back out to CO-119 going north. Here the road is even more open than in Boulder Canyon so the bikes can really stretch their legs. I swapped with Todd at this point, so he could at least ride my R1150GS in place of the R12 he had intended to test. I rode his DR650 and can safely say that the bike is a freakin’ hoot to ride Supermotard style. Hold the throttle wide open and just shift your weight from side to side so the bike is kept relatively upright. The front end on the DR is surprisingly confidence inspiring, much more so than on my DRZ. Had I been willing to close my eyes at the speeds I was going, I could easily have imagined I was flying down a Supermoto track. We turned off Peak-to-Peak highway (aka CO-119) at Jamestown Road and started back down into James Canyon. Again, the first bit is a gravel road which then becomes paved. The town of Jamestown recently had a mud-slide due to the instability of the surrounding hillsides after a big forest fire two years ago. The main street through town was covered in silty sand…no problem thanks to the enduro tires on these three bikes. The canyon below Jamestown is another tight, twisty road so the wide handle bars again showed their value flipping and flopping from side to side. At Left Hand Canyon, we split up. Todd taking the DR home for a puff of air in the front tire while I lead Kreig back up towards the town of Ward. Just before Ward, we turned south onto Lickskillet road which climbs about a 1,000 ft in elevation in just one mile to reach the town of Gold Hill. Lickskillet is a maintained gravel road but it always rutted, thanks to rain rivulets criss-crossing across the road. The torque of the GS will keep the rear tire constantly spinning up as it tries to get power down to the ground while bouncing up and down over these bumps. This was especially true on my bike, thanks to the stock shock which failed to punch in on the time clock today. Still, the fuel injection is smooth enough, the tires good enough and the engine linear enough that careful throttle application will slowly build up speed while making the climb. At Gold Hill, we turned and headed down Sunshine Canyon. The first half is thick gravel which means the front tire is constantly sliding over the small, ball-bearing sized rocks. The road has a few different sets of switchbacks, so learning to trust the front tire despite the vague feel is important. The ABS really comes in handy in this stuff too as its easy to lock up a wheel when braking. I didn’t turn off the ABS on my GS but could still get the rear tire to kick out going around tight switchbacks just by stomping the rear brake pedal. This really helps square off the turns without having to lean the bike too much. The lower bit of Sunshine Canyon is like James Canyon…beautiful asphalt, steep switchbacks and a constant loss of elevation before returning to Boulder. The final show of how flexible these bikes are is that we then rode down US-36, a four lane divided highway with speeds well over the 75mph posted limit to a co-worker’s party. I was carrying a change of clothes in my saddle back and could stow all my gear (Aerostich riding suit, gloves, boots and tank bag) in the Jesse bags. I then locked my helmet on the bike and walked into the party with no one a bit the wiser that I’d shown up on a motorcycle. It was really a great example of what makes motorcycling in general, and this class of bikes in particular, so amazing. A few hours of riding that went from scraping pegs to scraping bash plates in just a few minutes. A morning of hanging out with friends and sharing the laughs that go along with riding motorcycles. Then a quiet ride home enjoying the sunset. I know that I could ride Peak-to-peak faster on my GSXR. I know I could ride the 4×4 road better on my DRZ-400. I could probably even drive to a party better in my Jeep. But the fact that I can do all of those on the same vehicle, and do it while grinning till my cheeks hurt, is why I love my big adventurer tourer. [image from my photo collection.] (0)

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

  • I have many favorite things in life. Here are a few of them: 1) Spending time with my wife: It may sound corny or cheesy but its true. In this case, my wife Jonna was driving to California the first week of July to pick up some furniture. Since it was a long weekend with the July 4th holiday on Monday, I decided to follow her out to Utah on the bike so that we could do some hiking. On Monday, I’d return home while she continued on to California. Jonna even found a nice little bed and breakfast in Escalante, Utah called the Escalante Giant Staircase B&B so we had a comfortable spot to hang out for a couple of nights. 2) Leaving work early: If there is another thing that is appealing these days its having an opportunity to get outta work at a reasonable hour. In this case, I snuck out at 4:00pm on Friday so I could get a head start on sunset while heading over the Divide. Traffic was pretty heavy in Golden so I went up into the mountains on Golden Gate Canyon State Park road and then took the new Central City expressway out to the Interstate. This new road, just opened this year to make it easier for the masses to flock into the casinos at Blackhawk/Central City, is none-the-less a great motorcycle road. Had I known that I-70 was going to be a parking lot, I would have left work even earlier and enjoyed those sweeping curves even more. As it was, once I got onto the Interstate it took an hour to clear the Eisenhower tunnel and pick up the pace again. 3) My BMW R1150GS: Ever since I bought my GS in 2001, its been one of my favorite things. The big beemer is an excellent road bike. I was able to run a speed which…ummm…optimised the time/distance equation. I stopped off in Eagle for gas but otherwise just enjoyed the MP3s and the way the R1150GS can eat up sweeping curves. I made it to Grand Junction after 335 miles at 8pm… in time to grab a quick bite with my wife and still get to bed early. On Saturday morning, we woke up early and put in another 274 miles to Escalante, UT. I-70 in Eastern Utah is pretty boring but at least Utah-24 through the San Rafael desert wasn’t at hot as the last time I went through there in 1996. Things improved dramatically in Hanksville when U-24 turns to the west and for the next 50 miles goes through the heart of Capital Reef National Park. A stunningly beautiful ride. After gassing up in Torrey, it was on to one of my most favorite roads in the entire country: Utah 12. This is 65 miles of motorcycle heaven with the highlight being a section called the “Hog’s Back” which is a curvy ridge the width of the two lane road. U-12 goes through the Escalante Giant Staircase National Monument, a 1.9 million acre desert reserve. We made it to our B&B around noon which was perfect to check in and then head out for Bryce Canyon National Park 50 miles further down Utah-12. 4) Hiking: If my obsession is motorcycles, then my secondary hobby is hiking. Both Jonna and I love to hike and this was our main goal for our weekend in Utah. I’d ridden through Bryce nine years ago and honestly thought it was a pretty lame park when viewed from the scenic lookouts on the ledge. I’d always wanted to get back and do some hiking to see if Bryce really lived up to its reputation once you were inside the Canyon. We’d planned to hike the Navajo Loop trail but a rockslide in the Wall Street section closed the decent. Instead, we hiked down the Queen’s Garden trail and then cut up the canyon floor to the lower end of Wall Street. This is a spectacular area with tall pine and spruce growing a hundred or more feet high inside the narrow canyons. Bryce is truly incredible once you are inside. The hike was only about three miles long but that was plenty in Saturday afternoon’s 100+ degree heat. On Sunday, we went even further, going 127 miles on Utah-12, US-89 and Utah-9 to Zion National Park. I’d also been to Zion nine years ago and thought it was incredible when viewed from a bike. We did two hikes, Emerald Pools and Pa’nus, but neither were as nice as the hike in Bryce. For one, Emerald Pools was very crowded. Second, the trails in Zion are either short/easy or long/strenuous. We only had four hours to hike, so had to focus on the more accessible trails. If I ever make it back, I’d like to try Angel’s Landing. With temperatures in Zion besting 103, we were actually happy to be in Jonna’s Rav4 rather than on the bike. We headed back to Escalante mid-afternoon somewhat disappointed with our hikes in Zion. 5) Hanging out with friends: The folks who know me know that I can be a pretty social guy. I love getting together with friends. As a result, I was thrilled to find out that my friend Meg and her husband Ron were going to be in Teasdale exploring Capital Reef this same weekend. We made plans to meet for dinner in Boulder, Utah on Sunday night. We all got together and had a great evening swapping stories and just catching up. Meg’s husband just opened his own bike shop, Motorcycle Repair and Rendezvous in Salt Lake City, which is doing well. Consider this my plug for his place, as he’s a great guy and loves beemers. Meg was riding her R1100S, Ron was on his R1150GS and their friend Troy was also on a R1150GS. Great folks, nice bikes and a thoroughly enjoyable evening. 6) Good food: I’m also a big fan of well prepared food. In this case, I had three different occasions to sample good eats. First was Georgie’s Corner Cafe in Escalante. If you ever need an excuse to go ride Utah-12, Georgie’s nachos could be it. This little one-woman show has six tables and great food. Another twist on the fine food theme was Sunday’s dinner at the Hell’s Backbone Cafe in Boulder. Its more expensive than Georgie’s and more upscale but the food was incredible. I had a cream of Jalapeno soup and a salad made from their own herb/vegetable garden. Everything was healthy…organic, locally grown, carefully prepared or otherwise focused on combining taste and nutrition. Bring your wallet though because it isn’t cheap. On Monday, I headed back to Colorado on the GS while Jonna pointed her Toyota westward. From the time I started rolling I knew my next riding goal was getting to the Eagle Diner in Eagle, CO for lunch. Its a 50s style diner with good, plain fare. Thankfully, they’ve added a modern twist on the 50s classic by having vegetarian options. I had a veggie burger, fries and a soda. Perfect road trip food and very affordable. !@(afimages/Blog/2005/7/Utah12.jpg:L200 popimg: “Utah 12″) 7) Great roads: This leaves my favorite thing when riding a motorcycle and that is riding great roads. The first thing Monday morning was retracing my route on Utah-12 and Utah-24. Wow, what a great way to start the day. I was stopped in Hanksville for their 4th of July parade which lasted about 10 minutes. Small town means small parade. I made it back to Grand Junction by noon which meant the mostly straight droning portion of I-70 was nearly behind me. I made Eagle by 1:30pm for the much anticipated veggie burger and fries. Since I was making such good time, I decided to start taking some detours to enjoy some of Colorado’s fantastic mountain passes. First, I took US-24 at Avon up and over Tennessee Pass (10,424 ft) to Leadville. Then Fremont Pass (11,318 ft) back north from Leadville to I-70 at Copper Mountain. After gassing up in Silverthorne, I then did Loveland Pass (11,992 ft) which bypasses the Eisenhower tunnel and returns to I-70 at the Araphoe Basin ski resort. Since it was still only 5pm, I decided to continue the theme by turning north at Georgetown on US-40 to go over Berthoud Pass (11,315 ft) to Granby. Then hit the motherlode which is going over Trailridge Road (12,180 ft) through Rocky Mountain National Park. All the tourists were apparently in Grand Lake and Estes Park to watch the fireworks because the Park was deserted. I made great time going over Trailridge, something that is unheard of in the late afternoon during the summer. Once in Estes Park, I rode to my work in Westminster to pick up my laptop, then did a loop through Denver to enjoy all the different fireworks displays. I pulled into my garage after 14 and 1/2 hours on the bike having covered 791 miles. Nothing by Iron Butt standards but a fun days ride none-the-less. I was tempted to get up early on Tuesday and ride a 200 mile loop into work just so I could say I’d done 1000 miles in 24 hours but couldn’t quite find the motivation when the alarm clock went off in the morning. All total I put 1399 miles on the Beemer, hiked just over 8 miles, visited five National Parks/Monuments, drove over 10 mountain passes in both Utah and Colorado, went from 100+ temperatures in the desert to snow banks at 12,000 ft. For symmetry I visited both Boulder, UT and Boulder, CO on the same day. I spent a great weekend with my wife but also spent a day of solitude inside my helmet. I wore out a front tire but was wearing a smile when I went back into work this morning. Best of all, I got to enjoy a lot of my favorite things all in one weekend. Life is really, really good sometimes. [image from my photo collection.] (0)