Sunday, August 28, 2011

Come on, Irene

pork, it's the meat of kings
Yes, it's been a while since we wrote about anything. Yes, we've been in NC for two weeks. No, our stop here hasn't revolved solely around eating barbeque and beach bumming, though I must say, the water temperature is just about perfect (85 degrees) and eating a tray of chopped pork and cornbread at Scott's in Goldsboro is as heavenly an experience as I remembered. But we have also been working in between playtime and mealtime. 

Re, destroying the vegetation
We recently purchased 2.5 acres of land adjacent to a piece owned by Colin's parents and one owned by his sister, Connie and her husband, Barry near Selma, NC. Part of it was wooded (mostly pine which has been cut and removed) and part was formerly tobacco field which was overgrown with various species of very sturdy weeds. After having the stumps cleared from the formerly wooded section, we spent the better part of two days behind the handlebars of my father-in-law's DR Brush Machine in an attempt to mow down the weeds. Hopefully, this will allow the red clover to grow and feed the goats that will fairly soon inhabit the field. I like the DR very much! Obliterating a field of unwanted greenery feeds my appetite for destruction (I have long wished to go into demolition but have not yet acquired a wrecking ball and something to knock down). We also put in a mailbox so we will have a permanent address (essential for banking nowadays) and in case all else fails, a place to pitch our tent.

Symbas on the sand
Since mowing and digging post holes is physical work, we've visited the beach several times for some hot sand and salt water therapy. Since Colin's parents live minutes from the ocean, it's easy to hit the beach for a couple of hours at a time. We took the Symbas for a seaside visit one afternoon and got some strange looks when we stripped out of our riding gear to reveal (gasp!) our swimsuits. People here as well are amazed to find out that we really did ride those bikes all the way from Oregon and even more so by the rest of our plan.

The downside to living so close to the ocean is...hurricanes. Irene came to call this week, and while the waves that preceded the storm were a lot of fun to play in, the power outage is not. We helped batten down the hatches (Colin's parents have been through so many storms that they have lag bolts in the window frames and pre-drilled wood panels to hang on them) and moved all potential projectiles (plants, lawn ornaments, furniture, and Symbas!) into the garage. Irene arrived with more of a whimper than a bang and turned out to be less dramatic and more inconvenient than anything. The power is out right now, but we have a generator running on the front porch to keep the fridge cold and a couple of lights burning).

We have really enjoyed our time in NC, but we're both getting antsy to get on the road. My father-in-law will be glad for some peace and quiet. He's probably getting tired of asking how soon we're leaving in response to all of my smarty pants comments. This week, we go to Raleigh to visit friends for a few days before we head to Ohio to see my family. Following that, we begin the next leg of our adventure- preparing our mighty little Symbas for their first plane ride (I'm assuming) to Africa! Oooooh, I'm starting to dance in anticipation already!!!

PS- I forgot to mention we also felt the earthquake that hit the east coast last week. It was only a little wobbly wavering here, not like the booming whomps you feel in California. Hopefully this gets all the natural disasters out of the way for the rest of our trip!

PPS- The power came on at around 3 this morning. Yay air conditioning! Yay electric lights!! Yay internet!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A beautiful morning in Tennessee
When we woke up on Friday morning, the overcast sky was not conducive to early rising.  That coupled with the short ride to Hillsborough, NC we knew we had, made for a leisurely morning.  After striking camp, we headed down Highway 321 toward North Carolina.  Our ride quickly got longer when we arrived at the 321 "Road Closed" signs, which sent us on a lengthy but beautiful detour that wound us through the Appalachians.  Although we were gaining altitude, the bikes loved the cool, dense air and ran great with no adjustments.  After another unfortunate breakfast at McDeath in Mountain City, TN (the gas station here did not meet our high food quality expectations), we continued on 321 south through Boone, NC and eventually to Lenoir, where we jumped onto Highway 64 east.  Having lived in NC for 12 years and ridden extensively in the mountains, I decided to ignore the route that was plotted for us by Google Maps, and instead, said to myself, "I know how to get there."  This provided our first excitement of the day, as my route put us onto Highway 70 east too soon, and we found ourselves on the entrance ramp for I-85.  Mind you, we are not allowed on the interstate.  Once I realized where we were, we pinned our throttles WIDE open and made a beeline for the next exit, which was a frantic and scary 8-mile ride.  We dove off the road, pulled out the iPhone, and dutifully followed Google Maps' directions from here.  It sent us on a much more appropriate (and legal) route. 

Our good friends, Bill and Dawn
Thunderstorms were forecast for central NC, and we found them shortly thereafter.  Between Asheboro and Burlington, we dove into a gas station, zipped all the vents in our jackets, and rode into a very heavy but fortunately, small band of thunderstorms.  This was our first experience riding the Symbas through 4 inches of standing water, but they passed the test with flying colors.  The rest of the ride was in and out of light to moderate rain, and we finally made it to the home of our longtime friends, Bill and Dawn.  We had a lovely evening of dinner and conversation, catching up on each others' lives and families.  Bill and I worked together for years and started riding at about the same time.  It was fun to reminisce about some of our early adventures (like rebuilding my racebike in Bill's driveway and then putting 50 break-in miles on a totally not street-legal Moto Guzzi V50 with an open megaphone exhaust on the back roads of Durham County).  After a wonderful night's sleep, we awoke to a delicious breakfast of homemade waffles, bacon, and fresh strawberries.....and more rain.  We spent the rest of the morning working on our bikes in the garage and admiring Bill's stable of bikes (over the years Bill has bought many bikes but has never sold one of his!).  By 1 in the afternoon, it looked like most of the rain had passed, so we headed out for the NC coast. 

Arriving at my parents' house, 3800 miles and 15 days later
While we did get rained on that day, we did manage to avoid the real toad stranglers.  The scenery in eastern NC is not as pretty as in the western part of the state, but the roads are smooth and flat, so we made good time and arrived in Sneads Ferry, NC before 7pm.  My dad met us in the driveway and snapped a few photos of the end of phase 1 of our trip.

We have done over 3800 miles in 12 days of riding, and aside from the chains, it was a trouble-free trip.  Thanks to our generous friends who provided us with several nights accommodations and home-cooked meals along the way, our 15 days on the road only cost about $850.  Over the next couple of weeks we'll be visiting family and friends, going to the beach, eating east Carolina barbeque, and surveying our vast tracts of land (we just bought 2.5 acres in Selma, NC) before we head out again to Ohio and on to Toronto in early September.  Look for more updates then!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

While I nodded, nearly napping

Pluto the wonderdog!
On the morning of Wednesday, August 10th, we said goodbye to our friend Michael and his new weird a doodle, Pluto, and headed east.  We worked our way through downtown St Louis, across the old Eads bridge, waved goodbye to the Arch, and rode into Illinois.  The urban and suburban quickly changed to rural as we wound our way through southern Illinois.  The weather was very pleasant all day.  Later, we paid our dollar each and crossed a patchwork of pavement bridge over the Wabash River into the picturesque town of New Harmony, Indiana.  The long afternoon of riding continued through Evansville and into Owensboro, Kentucky.  I think that because of the effortless ride, comfortable temperature, and lack of sun glare, I caught myself actually nodding off a couple of times on the bike (NOT GOOD).  We stopped for some trail mix and apples and I woke back up.  We continued on to our destination for the night, Elizabethtown, KY.  As we rolled into Elizabethtown, our fuel lights started blinking once again, so we stopped for fuel and inquired about campgrounds in the area.  Alas, neither the cashier nor any customers were aware of anyplace to pitch a tent for the night.  Since it was an hour later than we thought (due to crossing yet another pesky timezone) and the sunlight was dwindling fast, we opted for the relative luxury of the local Motel 6.  Colin double-checked all the locks on the bikes as I carried the gear into the room.  Somehow, we seem less worried about the security of our gear and bikes in campgrounds than we do at hotels.

The next morning, we found our bikes exactly as we left them!  As we left Elizabethtown, Colin pointed as we passed a campground less than a mile outside the city.  The ride that morning was a beauty through the rolling bluegrass country of Kentucky.  We arrived in Pineville, KY in the early afternoon and stopped to find a purveyor of Clif Bars, our lunch snack of choice on the trip.  After not finding a grocery store on the main street, we continued through town. Soon, Colin said, "This looks more likely here," while we were stopped at an intersection.  I thought he meant straight ahead.  He, unfortunately, meant to the right, and when the light changed, he turned right as I rode straight ahead.  More unfortunate still, I was riding on Colin's right side.  He made it around the corner as I slammed on my brakes to avoid running into him.  After bringing my bike nearly to a stop, I valiantly attempted with every muscle I had to hold it upright, but the best I was able to do was gently lower my bike into the "napping" position.  Fortunately there was no damage to my bike other than a couple of minor scratches and my own bruised ego, thanks apparently to the spare tire strapped to the side of my gear (it even saved my brake lever, which has been a common casualty in my many prior spills on my other bike).  Colin ran back after parking his bike just around the corner and helped me lift it upright (with all our gear, we are very top heavy).  After we got me situated, Colin turned back to see his bike lying unceremoniously on its side, apparently jealous that my bike got to take a mid-afternoon nap.  It appears that in his haste to get off his bike, he parked on a down grade, and it rolled off the sidestand.  Fortunately his bike had no apparent damage when it awoke from its snooze.  We found Clif Bars, ate them and more apples, and continued on into Tennessee.  A couple hours later, Colin signaled to pull over and said there was something wrong with his footpegs.  He said after picking up his bike earlier that he thought his left footpeg was bent, but later discovered that both pegs were wobbling.  When we got off and looked under his bike, we saw that of the four bolts that attach the footpeg/sidestand assembly to the bike, one bolt was gone, two were backed out at least halfway, and one was sort of loose (the only thing holding the pegs to the bike).  We tightened the three remaining bolts, and after also checking mine, got back on the road.  We still wonder whether the loose bolts were the result of rolling off the sidestand, or if they were already loose and contributed to it rolling off.  Oh, and since our "incident," Colin has religiously used the hand signal in addition to his turn signal whenever we need to turn right!

View from the Bean Station Tennessee scenic overlook. Scenic, isn't it?
The scenery in Tennessee was beautiful through the mountains, but unfortunately as we got to Johnson City and Elizabethton, it started raining, and we again found no camping.  The sun was rapidly setting, but we kept riding, and lucked upon a really nice campground in the Cherokee National Forest (with hot showers!) for the low, low price of 12 bucks!  We set up the tent in the drizzle and crawled in for a good night's sleep under the trees.

The bikes and maintenance

Every day, I spend 20 to 30 minutes doing some basic maintenance on the bikes.  In the morning before we start riding, I check, adjust, and lube the chains, check and adjust tire pressures, check the fasteners for tightness, check the oil level, and do an overall visual inspection of the bikes.  So far the bikes have done remarkably well and haven't needed much maintenance, with a few notable exceptions. 

From others' experience, I knew the chains were the "weak link" of the Symbas (pun intended) and consequently, we were carrying high quality replacement chains with us.  The stock chains required daily adjustment and were losing tension rapidly, to the point where they were audibly dragging on the chain case by the end of each day. The bikes have also used a little oil, requiring approximately 3 ounces each to keep them topped up in the first 2400 miles.  Some of the oil found its way out of the crank breather and into the overflow tube, I guess the rest is the "angels' share."  The tires have worn well and the tubes have held pressure, requiring only the occasional 1 to 2 psi top up.  Recommended pressures are 25/28 psi, but with our added loads of 50 to 60 pounds of gear, I upped them to 30/34 psi. 

I also knew from other riders that periodically checking fasteners for tightness on Symbas is a good idea.  While you don't feel the vibration while riding, the massive 101.4 cc engine certainly seems to shake loose assorted nuts and bolts.  Because of Dabinche's experiences, I pay particular attention to the exhaust header nuts and swing arm bolt.  On average, one exhaust header nut has been loose every other day on one of the bikes, and the swing arm bolt has been snugged at least once on both bikes.  We did, however, donate to the road one countershaft sprocket cover bolt and one leg shield bolt each. 

Cutting the new chains to length
After 2400 miles of hard riding and noisy chains, we got to Columbia, MO on Saturday, August 7th.  Sunday morning it was time for some much needed maintenance beyond the daily fettling.  With the very kind assistance and advice (and garage, and tools, and rags, and enthusiasm) of Dr. Glen Heggie, we set to work on the bikes.  The first order of business was the chains.  After we removed the chain guard on my bike, I discovered what poor condition the chains were actually in.  My chain had tight spots to where one run had an inch of play and the other was drum tight.  Re's chain actually had a kinked link.  I don't know why they degraded so rapidly.  While we are carrying heavy loads and running the bikes pretty hard, the chains have been well maintained.  Since we purchased them, the chains have been adjusted and lubed every 300 to 400 miles with DuPont Teflon chain lube.  Our bikes, however, did sit on the showroom floor for over a year before we purchased them, so I am unsure of their condition prior to sale.  Regardless of why, they needed to be changed.  While I removed the old chains and inspected the sprockets, Glen got out his Dremel and cut the new chains to length.  The new chains went on easily, but after the chain guard went on, we quickly discovered that the o-ring chain is wider than the stock one, and it was dragging on the chain cover.  We removed the covers, spread them slightly, reinstalled them, and everything was quiet.

Adjusting the valves
It was also time for an oil change, so while the oil drained and I checked other fasteners for tightness, Glen was kind enough to run to the auto parts store for two new quarts of 10w40 Castrol GTX.  The used oil was somewhat discolored but neither black nor burnt smelling, and the oil screens were clean.  While the bikes' oil was drained, Glen and I took the opportunity to adjust the valves.  The valves on both bikes were slightly loose and were easily put back to spec.  We did learn that my bike lacks many of the timing markings on the A/C generator that are present on Re's.  With the valves adjusted, new chains installed, and fresh oil in the crankcases, the bikes were once again ready to roll. 

I have said since the beginning of the trip that in my toolkit, I have a wrench to turn every fastener on our bikes.  But while changing the chains and adjusting the valves, I discovered there were three fasteners on the bikes for which I lacked an appropriate tool.  Many thanks to Glen, who donated those tools to our cause!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Friends and familiar places

Our ride from Belleville, KS to Columbia, MO on Saturday was a hot one at 96 degrees actual temperature with a heat index of 105.  I have to say, our Aerostich suits perform very well in the heat (and in the wet as they've also proven on this trip), although it still gets pretty muggy inside the suits when we're stopped in traffic.  Today was our fastest paced day so far, with us averaging about 50mph.  I practiced drafting on the hills today (Colin's used to it from his racing days, but I've always been more for putt-putting along, not for achieving maximum speed).  As the day wore on, we noticed that we seemed to be stopping an awful lot for fuel, and when Colin did our fuel consumption calculations realized that our average dropped from 94mpg to about 78mpg!  Needless to say, we've decided that an extra 5mph is not worth the added cost in gasoline use.  Today's riding was otherwise uneventful, and I spent much of my time imagining the smell and flavor of fried chicken.  Some things are a challenge to find in Portland, OR- good fried chicken being one of them, and it's one of the foods we've both craved for months.  So after stopping one more time to refuel the bikes, we refueled our tummies on fried chicken and ribs at Lee's and continued to Columbia, Missouri, where we lived while attending the University of Missouri (go Tigers!).  Once our trip planning was underway a few months ago, we emailed friends and relatives to let them know what kind of craziness we'd be undertaking soon.  My former professor, Glen Heggie, who was an avid motorcyclist and is a fountain of knowledge of all things mechanical (and basically, just of all things) kindly offered advice and a place to stay if we passed through Columbia on our journey.   We gladly took him up on his offer and were welcomed into their home when we arrived on Saturday evening.  His wife, Martha, immediately guided us to the showers, offered up laundry services, and dished up delicious food and wine.  We spent a lovely evening laughing and exchanging stories about our trip so far and their many travel adventures in Canada and Europe.

Glen's happy tools getting used as they should!
We awoke Sunday morning (actually sleeping past sunrise!!!!) after an excellent sleep of the dead in a real bed with fluffy pillows.  After eating too much at breakfast and chatting away the morning, Glen and Colin adjourned to the garage to work on the bikes (look for Colin's post soon on it).  While they got going, I wrote my previous blog post and caught up on my email.  Once those duties were completed, I spent much of the day with Martha, who is a kick in the pants!  She was busy in the kitchen and I "supervised" and acted as "taster."  I really wish I'd gotten to know her while we lived in Columbia- I'm pretty sure we would have had a great time causing trouble together.  When I got to feeling guilty about the men sweating in the garage, I did go outside to assume my "tool monkey" role and hold the wrench periodically, but they seemed to have everything well under control.  I did manage to rid both bikes of most of their road grime (as least temporarily).  Once the mechanic duties were done and we were clean, we ate another wonderful meal accompanied by Delirium Tremens [my first D.T.s! (not to worry, Mom, it's the delicious Belgian beer, not the result of a nasty habit)] and more great conversation in the evening. 

Martha and Glen with Phoebe
Monday morning, we packed up to move onward to St. Louis and said our goodbyes to Glen and Martha.  Our time with the Heggies was a wonderful, relaxing (and productive) vacation from traveling.  I cannot say how much we appreciate their warm hospitality and kindness toward us, and I really look forward to repaying them when they come to visit us, whenever and wherever we will be! 

Monday night we arrived in St. Louis and are visiting our good friend, Michael.  The trip here was probably the longest journey from central Missouri to St Louis since the Lewis and Clark expedition because we were restricted to the backroads which adds about 60 miles to the trip.  It was a beautiful ride through the town of Hermann (see it sometime if you can), but I had forgotten how the suburbs of St. Louis SPRAWL on and on and on and ON.  We spent the evening catching up on life with Michael over Racanelli's pizza and Schlafly Kolsches.

Our Symbas meet Billie in St Louis!
Tuesday afternoon, we stopped in at Maplewood Scooter Company, which our follower Keith told us about, and met the very friendly Mike and Jeff.  They offered their shop space, and Mike gave us advice on clutch adjustment and also a pair of UNI pod filters to hopefully improve the bikes' performance at high altitudes.  Everyone we've met along our way has been so NICE! 

Tomorrow we move eastward, with a goal of Elizabethtown, Kentucky!

Thunderstorms and more kind strangers

The smile wouldn't last long...
We got up Thursday morning after a good night's sleep, packed up the bikes, and headed down to the only gas station in town, where we happily filled up the bikes' tanks (and ours on breakfast burritos) and started out for Colorado.  The riding today was much less enjoyable than any other day until we got well east of Ft Collins, CO.  The roads were rough with lots of expansion joints (they are hard on the butts!), the drivers were the most aggressive of the trip so far, but at least we lost altitude, and the bikes ran better and better.  Our destination for the night was Sterling, CO, but as the day wore on and we got closer, we could see a giant thunderstorm ahead of us, and the road was taking us directly toward the biggest, darkest thunderstorm I've ever seen.  While there was sunshine to the north and the south of the storm, straight ahead it was black and stormy from cloud to ground.  I thought it looked like Mordor from Lord of the Rings and half-expected to see Sauron's eye gazing down at us.  As we got even closer, the storm just got bigger, and later, when we checked the radar, it was about 50 miles wide. 

Tank Cat might have been even a better choice for this trip!
I know Boromir said that "One does not simply walk into Mordor",  but he didn't say anything about riding Symbas!  Just before we got to the edge of the storm, Re and I stopped to zip all of our vents and said our final goodbyes (just in case).  Shortly after we started riding again, we were passed by three Harleys and noticed the jeans, t-shirts, and no helmets on all the riders as they headed into the same storm.  When we got to the edge of the storm, we first encountered strong winds and pea-sized hail, which quickly turned into giant raindrops.  The hail and rain stung even through our riding gear, and later we both remarked how painful it must have been on bare skin.  After about thirty minutes, we exited the other side of the storm and rode into Sterling, CO, arriving around 7:30pm.  Accommodations were the first order of business, and we had to decide between camping and another night in a hotel.  I checked the radar on my iPhone, and it appeared the storm would pass north of Sterling, so camping it was.  After we got to our campsite, the sky continued to darken.  We hurriedly set up the tent, and Re set off for the grocery store.  While Rebekah was gone, the wind picked up, the sky grew darker, and it began to rain.  Re returned from the grocery store, and the skies opened up.  We ended up heating up our food under the overhang of the bathhouse roof and ate dinner in the relative comfort and dryness of the laundry room.  After forty-five minutes of intense rain and the absolute closest lightning strikes either of us have ever experienced, we ventured back to our tent through two inches of standing water, dove inside, and slept like babies.  Three hundred and twenty miles of hard riding is the best sleep aid we have found!

Nebraska roads were much kinder to us!
Friday morning, we woke to a soaking wet camp, and it took nearly three hours to get on the road.  Our Aerostiches and sleeping bags took a quick tumble in the dryer, and we had to wait for the sun to dry the tent before we could pack it.  We finally made it on the road by about 9:30am and set our sights on Nebraska.  It was a beautiful day for a ride, with blue skies and relatively cool temperatures.  The roads were smooth and took us through pretty, rolling farmland.  The same scenery greeted us in Kansas, and the bikes certainly enjoyed the lower elevations and gentler hills.  We were able to raise our average riding speed to closer to 50mph (little did we realize what the faster speeds were doing to our fuel mileage)  and covered more than 335 miles before rolling into Belleville, KS at sundown.  Again, accommodations were the first order of business, but there were no rooms at the inn.  We soon discovered that Belleville, KS not only has a famous race track, but it was being used this weekend, and it was also the weekend of the county fair.  We could not find a campsite, and all hotels were full.  Re asked at the last hotel if there was another campground where we could pitch our tent.  A nice gentleman in a pickup truck said, "Follow me."  We fired up the mighty Symbas and chased him down the road to a campground several miles away, where he waved goodbye, and we set up camp by a beautiful lake in a county park.  Re took off in search of food since it was already about 9:30pm and returned with manna from heaven (a large pepperoni pizza and two oilcans of Foster's lager ).  We ate pizza for dinner (and breakfast the following morning).  After the pizza and beers, we happily crawled into our tent and again, slept soundly. 

The bikes ran better and better with the lower altitude.  I adjusted the A/F screw fatter as we descended and frequently had to adjust the idle speed.  The bikes were also using a little bit of oil, and the chains were stretching at an alarming pace.  I've been adjusting the chains every morning as part of the daily routine maintenance, and by the end of the day, you can hear them dragging.  Something will have to be done soon.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Where the heck are all the people in Wyoming?!?!?

Western Wyoming roads!
After a remarkably good night's sleep under a very clear, starry sky in Hagermann, we continued the rest of the way across Idaho on our way to Wyoming on Tuesday.  The central to eastern parts of Idaho aren't as pretty as the western to middle parts.  Colin mentioned the wonderful smells in the farmlands in the last post.  I was surprised as well by the variety of crops- vast fields of corn and sugar beets (who knew?!?), but my favorite was the fields of mint (mmmm, yummy)!  The day, fortunately for us, was overcast and much cooler than Monday, and we were chased by rain all day but managed to avoid actually running into it.  We made it to Hoback Junction, Wyoming and spent the night at the local KOA.  Part-way through the night, I vaguely remember Colin making a bunch of annoying noise and asking if I was cold.  No, I was perfectly snug in my sleeping bag, on my insulated pad.  He, however, got the non-insulated version, since he tends to run warmer than me, and unfortunately, suffered for it until he located his polarfleece and socks in the dark (it's only the second time in our many years together that I can remember him wearing socks in bed, just as an indication of how cold he was!).
Wyoming high altitude meadow

We woke up Wednesday to a gorgeously clear, crisp Wyoming day to start the our ride across the state.  I have to say, this part of the country is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in the world.  The Tetons and mountain meadows full of wildflowers make a spectacular backdrop, and the air smells amazingly fresh!  It's really what I always imagined the west would look like.  Central Wyoming though, is much more stark, with lots of sage, no trees, and very few people.  Knowing that our bikes only hold a gallon of fuel, which will get us about a hundred miles, we have our "auxiliary" fuel tanks strapped to the racks on the front fenders to increase our range twofold.  This, as we learned today, is not far enough in this part of the country.  We stopped every chance we got to fill up the tanks, but still wound up in Muddy Gap, WY with both of our fuel lights blinking madly to warn us of impending fuel doom if we didn't refill now.  Fortunately for us, there was a real live, open gas station right up the hill!  YAY!!!!  We pulled up to the pumps, only to see that on each of the buttons for the three grades of fuel, in varying states of agedness, notes that said, "out of order."  Awwwwwww, nuts (that's not actually what either of us thought or said).  Colin asked the man if they had any fuel and found out that they RAN OUT AND WOULDN'T GET ANYMORE UNTIL MAYBE TOMORROW, but we could ask down the hill at the fire station if they could help us out.  So, down we went, only to find a locked fire station next to a deserted RV campground.  There was a house between the fire station and the campground with a note on the door to ring the bell for service, so I rang the bell, and nobody came.  Oh what to do, what to do.  As we stood there contemplating our next move, a couple in a pickup drove up the drive and asked if they could help us.  I smiled as desperate a smile as I could muster (which wasn't hard with as desperate as we were) seeing that the nearest town with fuel in any direction was 46 miles away, and told the gentleman of our plight, assuming he was with the fire station.  I asked if we could buy a gallon of fuel to get us to the next town, and he said no, but ...he'd give us some!  So we followed him and his wife up the hill to their home, where he grabbed a gas can and gave us enough gas to get us on our way!  We offered several times to pay him, but he refused to take anything for it.  Thanks VERY much to our road angels, Jim and Donna Sheridan!!!!  Due to their kindness, we made it to Alcova, WY for a comfy and dry night at the Riverview Inn!

Colin wants me to add something about the bikes' performance.  They run very reliably, but really do not appreciate the elevations they've endured here, especially the climbs to 8,500 plus feet and the constant running over 7,000 feet, even on level prairies.  They do alright at full throttle but lug and complain at anything less, even with Colin's several adjustments. If we do get to Nepal, we will have to sort it our before we get there, otherwise, we'll be pushing them up the Himalayas. The chains are wearing out fast.

Friday, August 5, 2011

BBQs and sagebrush

Sunday morning we got up after a comfortable night camping at Clyde Holliday State Park in Mt Vernon, OR.  It's a bargain for motorcyclists at $5 per person for tent camping.  While Re worked on the last blog post, I did maintenance on the bikes.  The chains seem to be stretching pretty quickly, but all the nuts and bolts were tight, and the bikes used a minimal amount of oil.  Later that afternoon, we went to a bbq with friends and had a good time catching up with everyone who was there., but we were a little disappointed that some people (Cindy!) weren't able to make it.

This is what most of eastern Oregon and western Idaho look like
After a second night at Clyde Holliday S.P, we arose early and hit the road to Idaho.  On the way out of John Day, we reluctantly stopped at McDeath for a breakfast of sausage McMuffins in the parking lot.  Little did we know that this greasy, pork-like product would be our only food for the next 12 hours.  The cool morning quickly turned into a hot day, peaking at 96 degrees.  We slowly wound our way through eastern Oregon and into western Idaho.  Because we can't travel on interstate highways, we are restricted to the "scenic route."  While these roads can be beautiful, most of the services are on the major highways.  Bringing spare gas cans was an excellent idea, since in several places, fueling options were more than 100 miles apart.  most of our riding in western Idaho was in rural, agricultural areas.  While it was interesting to see and smell the different crops (they grow more than just potatoes) we could never find a suitable looking place for lunch.  As the hot afternoon gave way to a just as hot evening, we decided to put our heads down and kept on riding.  We finally ate dinner at a restaurant attached to a gas station in Bliss, Idaho, then rode 10 miles south to our campside in Hagermann, arriving at about 9pm.  We covered 359 miles in 11.5 hours.  The bikes don't seem to like the altitude, so some carb fiddling may be needed soon.

PS- It's Friday now, and we're in Sterling, CO.  Since wifi is even more limited than gas stations out here, we apologize for taking so long to post this.  As we get into the more populated middle of the country, we will keep more current.  We are fine, averaging 350 miles a day, 91mpg.  Keep an eye out for tales of road angels and apocalyptic thunderstorms....  We're on our way to Columbia, MO next- should be there late in the day on Saturday!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

One day down, four hundred and something more to go!

Ready to go!
Saturday morning was like Christmas morning as a kid- we woke up before the sun rose or the alarm went off because we were ready to GO.  While I did the final apartment check and garbage runs, Colin packed the bikes.   When it was time to mount my bike, I realized it was going to take a bit more effort than I was used to, what with the step-through filled with backpack and the cases on the back tall enough to require a Rockette-type high kick to clear.  I managed, rather ungracefully, to get on the bike, and we took off, happily on our way!   It was a typical Portland morning, overcast, 60 degrees and chilly to start, but as we climbed around Mount Hood, the sun beat its way through the clouds, and it turned into a beautiful morning.  Riding the bike fully loaded is very different from unladen.  It took a few miles to get used to the handling, but once I did, it was FUN!  We made better speeds than expected, the bikes could comfortably cruise at 45 mph on level ground and most hills we could keep 35 mph.   One notable exception- a particular hill heading east out of Mitchell, OR, which gains about 1700 feet of elevation over 5 miles.  On that stretch, we both struggled to keep moving at 30mph, even in third gear.  On the other uphill climbs, we practiced our "drafting" techniques as we "jockeyed" for the lead. 

Basking in the evening sun at Clyde Holliday
We made it to John Day, OR late in the afternoon, covering nearly 300 miles, averaging 30mph (including rest stops, refueling, and lunch) on 3 gallons of fuel each.  The bikes ran smoothly, without any hiccups, and we made it to our destination.  Not a bad start to the trip, I'd say!  More to come as wifi availability allows.