05 Chicago – Day 4

Alive

I finally awoke to daylight and Norm rustling around outside. I was thankful I had survived and the freezing ordeal was over. I found a place to take a leak, shivering like crazy and then found a place where the sun was pouring through the forest canopy and just stood there trying to warm up. The ordeal was not quite over. I was suffering a headache, hypothermic, and probably suffering from oxygen deprivation. I was a mess but we packed the bikes and renewed our journey.

We dropped down to a near normal altitude in Kremmling, Colorado. It was sunny, cool, and we found a Mocha shop. It eased the suffering some. We even walked around a bit and found a sports store which carried sleeping bags. If it weren’t for the sticker shock I would have purchased one. My resolution after Walton Creek was not to camp at altitude again with the sleeping bag I had.

Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)

Our next leg was over the RMNP. It costs $10 per rider. The speed limit was 30 mph for the length of the park but was stop and go in several places. It took us about 3 hours to travel the 60+ miles/10,000+ elevation from Granby to Estes Park. There were Lots of touristas and an equal amount of gawking at the sights but you can’t blame them because the views were fantastic. We pulled over a couple of times at lookouts. After driving through the forest you break out at the tree line into a barren landscape. Barren of trees, but with lots of elk. The bulls were in rut as you could see remnants of velvet hanging from their horns, plus they were tearing up trees and tundra. We saw one good sized 6 point bull near the road. People were sneaking up to it and getting pictures. Risky behavior.

From the peak of the National Park we dropped down into Estes Park and rode on to Loveland. Now we were in the flat lands. The landscape became less rolling and more flat as we approached Nebraska.

I began to feel better after leaving the mountains. We rode to Fort Morgan only making about 250 miles that day due to the slow traffic over RMNP. We opted for a Motel.

Note: Days Inn = $60+, near gas, food, with free wireless Internet.

05 Chicago – Day 3

Leaving Zion

The last thing Norm and I did the night before was discuss the next portion of our route. I-80 across the bottom of Wyoming would be fastest but was nixed by Norm as the road through nothingness. I-70 was a bit too far south although also fast and taking us through Colorado. We settled on Highway 40 which meanders through Colorado and over the Rocky Mountain National Park. It would be slower but, according to Vic, had a much higher fun factor without many semi-trucks. Norm had an aversion to semis which I didn’t understand until Nebraska. More on that later.

After packing and then tipping Vic, Norm and I fired up the scoots and left Zion about 0900. It was a sunny and cool day as we took I-80 north-east out of SLC and immediately got caught up in rush hour traffic. The semis were traveling faster than we were and commuters seemed to think it was a race out of the city, darting from one lane to another and around us. We had to take it slower due to our unfamiliarity with the highway and we had to watch for any unexpected deviations and the US 40 turn off. Near Park City we caught US-40 to Heber City where we took our first break. It’s a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains. Nearby a hot air balloon was taking off which added to the already colorful scenery. The ride up to Heber was fun going up and through the Uintah National Forest and Wasache Mountains. This, to me, was the real beginning of the adventure as I had not been east of Salt Lake City before.

Starvation Reservoir

The fun of US 40 ran out near Starvation Reservoir. The geography had returned to the shrub-steppe landscape of outer Hogmanistan. We took a short break at Starvation Reservoir.

“In the late 1800s and early 1900s, cattlemen and homesteaders tried to make a go of it along the banks of the Strawberry River in the area now occupied by the reservoir and dam. Their story is one of hardship, perseverance and facing near starvation in a very hostile and harsh environment. Winters were hard, long and extremely cold. Their cattle and livestock often froze during these winter months, and the short growing season was hindered by flooding, hailstorms, early frosts and other calamities. They nicknamed the area “Starvation” and it was from this reference that the highway bridge, reservoir, dam and state park received their names.” (http://www.stateparks.utah.gov/park_
pages/depth.php?id=svsp)

Although we left Utah and entered Colorado about mid-day the scenery didn’t change. It had a few interesting geological formations but remained bleak. Instead of magpies and crows feeding off road kill we flushed vultures into the air as we passed by.

About Craig, Colorado we began hitting the foothills of the Rockies and the scenery changed for the better. In the afternoon traffic was stop-and-go for about a mile somewhere between Hayden and Steamboat Springs. It turned out to be some sort of motorcycle wreck. As we passed the wreck all we could see was a burned out frame and a couple of wheels. Cringe.

 

It was soon after this that Norm whizzed by me and pulled us over. He detected me zoning out and cutting it too close to the center line with oncoming traffic. He took the lead after a break and we entered Steamboat Springs where we gassed up and replenished our food and drink supplies.

Freezing

I had planned for us to stay at Stagecoach State Park, a low elevation that evening. Norm noted that this would take us about 10 miles out of our way. His map showed Walton Creek “Campsite” near Muddy Pass outside Steamboat Springs and right on US 40. I was reluctant because I had a minimalist sleeping bag on loan from my son. I had used it at Sturgis last year and it’s fine for 50 degrees and above weather but gets cold below that. Norm was insistent though so we found the campground that afternoon. It was about 200 yards off US 40 and rustic. No amenities offered. The elevation was about 8500′ above sea level. Norm and I pitched his tent (a three man) then prepared for a relaxing evening in the woods.

We continued to tell jokes, stories, etc. through the evening and by the time the stars were out in full glory and the cold had started settling in. At about 2300 we’d had enough and crawled into Norm’s tent. I never fell deep asleep because I awoke every few minutes to feel the cold sucking the heat out of my body. I could imagine Norm waking up the next morning to find a Hogman popsicle next to him. I was seriously worried as it got colder and colder. I tried putting my leather coat over the top of me and had my sweatshirt on but I could still feel the heat being drawn out of me through the night.

Walton Creek “Camp Site” = $12 for both of us, No Cell phone coverage or Wireless (duh!).

05 Chicago – Day 2

Zion

The next day, as we approached Salt Lake City, I gave Vic a call about 100 miles out giving him a heads up that we were near arrival. Vic asked how it was going and I told him the last 100 miles through southern Idaho and Northern Utah has been long, boring, and HOT. He assured me the closer we got to Zion the better we would feel spiritually. This was only somewhat true. It stayed hot and the scenery was similar to the outskirts of Hogmanistan but we were looking forward to the Bohemians Vic was putting on ice and dinner at the Red Lizard (Iguana).

Upon arrival Vic was waiting for us pool side in the shade at the EconoLodge sipping Bohemians. We joined him and I introduced Norm to Vic and vice versa. I had discovered on the trip to Zion that Norm had been a TTY operator in the Marines stationed in DaNang. That gave us plenty of common ground for discussion and were enjoying the shade while guffawing and embibing.

A large sized woman was swimming in the pool. I don’t know if it was Vic’s ex-hippie surfer look or Norm’s and my biker looks which drew her over but she sidled up to the table and asked, “I hope you don’t think me too weird for asking but is beer all you guys do or do you sometimes do other things.” This was way to cryptic to me but Vic and Norm caught on and declined the opportunity to “partake”.

We spent the rest of the evening eating at the Red Lizard which was conveniently located across the street from the EconoLodge, taking a tour of Zion with Vic at the helm, and visiting the Port O’ Call Club where Vic and I embarrassed ourselves at stick.

Norm and I were feeling the effects of two days on the road so all of us headed back to the EconoLodge for rest. Vic stayed with us taking the roll-away but telling us he expected a “finder’s fee” for the motel.

EconoLodge: $60+, pool, no wireless, famous Red Iguana Mexican Restaurant across street.

05 Chicago – Day 1

Departure

Norm and I left Kennewick about 0630 Monday 7/25 from Hogmanistan proper and traveled to Mountain Home, ID the first day.

Our travel was largely on I-84 except where we strayed from it to US 30 between N. Powder and Baker City. It was a nice break from the monotony of the Interstate traveling through farm land and getting the bejesus scared out of us by a train’s shrieking whistle as it passed us from behind.

We stayed in a KOA that night which was run by an ex-Semper Fi. For $10 a piece we got a spot of grass for our sleeping bags, a picnic table, parking for the bikes, and access to the community head. Norm and I spent the evening drinking spirits and Coke and getting to know each other. We discovered our paths in life had been similar in many ways: motorcycles (of course), swimming and diving in high school, radio in the military, we had both lost our wives to cancer, served in Vietnam in and around DaNang, and a few other details.

Note: Mountain Home KOA = $10 each, no wireless, minimalist store with nothing nearby.

Spark Plugs

Sparkplugs

Alternatives to HD Plugs

Found some info on the web regarding alternative sparkplugs for HDs. Rather than having to purchase them from the dealership and pay premium $ for the name, you can alternatively purchase plugs at any NAPA, Schucks, or other local car parts store. I’ve shown the info for ’96 Fatboy plugs. V-Twin Cafe has plug info for Shovels, Sportsters, Twin Cam 88s, and EVO 80s.

Maker #
Champion RN12YC
Autolite 4265
NGK BPR5ES-11
HD 5R6A

Thanks and an H-man Hat Tip to …
V-Twin Cafe

Reading Plugs

If you’ve read through the Hog Blog you know I rode into my 30’s, took a 25 year hiatus, then began riding again in my 50’s. Back in the day when reading plugs you looked for a tan color on the electrode and ground strap. White indicated a lean mixture, tan was just right, and black was too rich a mixture at the carb.

The first time I pulled the plugs on the Fatboy to perform a plug read I was instructed by the manual to look for a white color on the porcelain. I did as told but wondered what the difference was between then and now. The answer is obvious but it didn’t come to me right off.

After a little research I discovered that lead leaves a tan residue on plugs. Since we are burning unleaded gas these days we shouldn’t see the tan color.


Thanks and an H-man Hat Tip to…
HD-Forums

 

Muthah’s

18 days before departure (7/16) and I’m not ready.

Stuff ordered:
Rear brake master cylinder stud: Noticed the floorboard was loose last year when I added the Kuryakin Mach II road pegs to them. It was getting worse and discovered my right floor board was held on by only one bolt, the master cylinder stud was broken. Ordered the part two weeks ago and it just got in.
Light bar from Thunder Choppers: Got it a few days ago but am having a hard time getting it to fit over my detachable windshield. I’ll give it another try but may have to return it and go without a light bar. Harley doesn’t make one for the ’96 Fatboy period. With a big enough hammer and a welding torch you can get about anything on a Harley. But, do I want to?
Tank Bag: Ordered one last week but discovered it’s back ordered until after the departure date. Cancelled the order and tried another place. They were out. Tried another and they had just sold their last one. I asked what the deal was and the guy told me there was a nation wide back order on that tank bag. I immediately searched again and found a place in New England which had one left. I ordered it.

Stuff to order:
Rubber boot and glove covers.

Stuff to do: LOTS

Still cruising the web when able. Was looking for a good packing list to compare with my own when I ran across a site called Muthah’s Rides (see link at right). Good site with lots of info plus archives of rides Muthah has made.

I noticed a place in the archives called Rider’s Roost in North Carolina where they hold Summer Rage. It occurs just after I was due in Deal’s Gap, NC. I emailed Muthah about it and he suggested I attend. We’ve been emailing back and forth since then. He’s given some good advice and recommended spending more time in the Smokey Mountains. I’ve redone my itinerary to fit the 2 day Summer Rage plus take a ride over the Great Smokey Mountain National Park down to Lake Lure.

Preparation

It’s been some time since I added a blog. I began looking for a different way to journal my trip as uploading pictures on a blog seems to be a task in it self. I didn’t find anything better so i’m back and will try to make the image trick work later. First an update.

A couple week ends ago I went on an appox. 350 mile trip. I rode with a couple of buddies to Coure d’lene, Idaho where I stayed over night with an old school chum while they drove on to Priest Lake, Idaho. We hooked up the next day in a pretty good rain. It lasted all the way to Colfax, WA, about 60 miles. This was a good and bad experience as I disovered three weaknesses in my water tightness but suffered the onset of hypothermia.

When we reached Colfax I could barely drink my coffee. My boots had become hydrophylic and sucked up water faster than my gloves. I was wearing a hoodie sweatshirt under my leather jacket and rain coat but I had left the hood hanging out. The rain wicked down into my chest and drained the heat faster than I had thought. After some consideration i’ve come up with solutions to these three leaks:

1. Waterproof your boots, dummy.

2. Wear rain covers over your gloves, knucklehead.

3. Tuck your hood in, idjit.

The trip is only 5 weeks out. I’ve done a lot of searching on the web for itenerary and supplies/equipment. I was debating a purchase of a GPS unit for my IPAQ. I also wanted to purchase a pistol for protection (I’ll be spending a lot of time on my own in parks). I opted for the pistol, a 380 Bersa (Argentinian). I think the GPS would be fun and useful in cities but the gun would bring piece of mind every night and everytime I’m standing alone in some backwoods podunk.

After the rain experience I also opted to purchase a full face helmet. I usually wear a 1/2 helmet even in the winter when the temps are in the 30-40 deg. F. Range. That’s for commuting. Althogh i’ll be traveling during the hottest part of the summer I know it can get down right cold in the mountains and I’ll be traveling hundreds of miles, not 20.

I’ve always wore a 1/2 or 3/4 helmet thinking the full helmet would be uncomfortable. I’ve been testing it out and I like it. I would use it all the time if it didn’t get so hot around here (100+ at times in the summer).

Sonny

Last summer I and two friends got to meet Sonny Barger at Sturgis. He had a new book out and when we returned home one of them found Sonny’s book at the library and checked it out. Since then I’ve been meaning to do the same.

Thursday I went to the Richland Library looking for it, Hell’s Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club. I thought it would be good spiritual reading in preparation for the trip.

Sitting at the Info desk was an elderly lady who was pretty cheery and helpful until she looked it up.

“I would like to check out a book by Sonny Barger. It’s an autobiography.”

“Well, let me check,” she replies as she inputs Ralph’s name into her computer and does a search.

I could tell when the book popped up on her screen. She maintained a calm look but said, “The Hells Angels.” like she had a bad taste in her mouth. I whipped out my Mid-Columbia Library card hoping to check the book out. It’s plastic like a charge card but has been broke in half for a couple of years of use. It still has the bar code and numbers on it so figured I was good to go. This really disgusted her. Sonny Barger, Hells Angels, drugs, sex, and crime are sinful but breaking your library card is unforgiveable.

The Richland Library doesn’t take the MCL card so she wanted to charge me $25 for a membership. Probably figured I couldn’t afford it if I hadn’t read the book and learned Ralph’s secrets regarding crime.

It turned out the book was at the Kennewick library and checked out. So, when I got home, I went online to the West Richland library (part of MCL) to reserve the book I couldn’t get logged in. I called them and they told me my card had expired. Now I’ll have to go down there and renew my card. Next they’ll want to do a back ground check and finger print me. They may figure that anyone wanting to check out Sonny’s book must be a criminal. Kind of like they tell crooks who are on the lamb they’ve won a bunch of money or a trip and to come to the local hotel to pick up their prize. Waiting for them at the hotel are the cops.

Come to think of it, the West Richland police station is right next door to the library. Hell, I read Hunter S. Thompson’s version of the Hell’s Angels when I was 16. I don’t need to read Sonny’s that bad.

100 Days

Got some bad news last night. One of my Navy buddies I hadn’t seen since the USS Knox (DE-1052) will be in Italy when I arrive in New York. Bummer. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to the East Coast again. A missed opportunity.

Another inspiring site is called “100 Days and 48 States”. Like the title, the author hits 48 states back in 1999. It’s a good web site but he still hasn’t finished the last journal entries for days 82-100. Well organized and written.

A difference between the writer of “100 Days” and the writer of “The 751”; The former is opinionated and likes to describe himself. The latter was a much better read as the ego didn’t get in the way of good writing. The former also has a bias regarding Harleys. I’m disgusted.

Just figured out I’ve got about “109 Days” before I leave. I’ll start a 90 day short timer’s calendar (like in the Nav) when I get to that point. The “100 Days” author kept a running total of hours on the bike, miles traveled, States visited, etc. For my trip, so far, it’s all zeros.

Googling & Blogging

In October this year I began searching Google for info related to traveling across country on a bike. There’s quite a bit of course. One site was especially entertaining. It was a Blog called “The 751”.

It was from this site that I got the idea of blogging my away across the US. I’ve been interested in wireless anyway and this would be a great project to test the ubiquity of 802.11. Along with the idea of a blog comes the author’s humor. I suspect it’s a good read even if you are not into bikes.So, now I’m searching the web for sites related to traveling across country on an mc, blogging wirelessly, and good roads to ride. Departure is only 3 1/2 months away and I’ve got about a billion more sites to visit. Then I have to pack.