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DVD, My First non-Rally


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Sometimes I just can’t make a decision. I can complicate the simplest matter. This should have been easy. Go to Death Valley, ride, have fun. Simple.


I couldn’t sleep for days before leaving, I was like a kid on Christmas Eve. I’d wake up at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning all amped up like I was leaving in 20 minutes.


The whole event exceeded my wildest expectations. I experienced many new things and had an absolute blast!


Friday, leaving day, finally came and the weather was perfect where I live and in Death Valley. Just perfect. My solo ride there was supposed to start at 5 a.m. so naturally I was up at 2:45. With Central California fog ahead, that was too early to leave so I passed the time checking everything and, what else, going on-line to check the Discussion Board.


Leaving at 5 puts you in front of Friday morning commute traffic in the Bay Area. The first hour or two was just getting away from the familiar.


The real ride didn’t start until I reached Highway 25 South of Hollister. That road is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Before this trip I would have called it a Great RT Road. After DVD though, that kind of description just doesn’t make much sense anymore. The RT seems to transform so many roads into Great Roads.


As popular as the RT is amongst us, this has to be one of the all time most underrated bikes. If people really knew what this bike was like BMW would sell ten times as many as they do. I had no idea any bike could be this much fun when I bought it.


I cleared Hollister, got to the sporting section of Highway 25 in the dark and promptly overcooked the first turn. In too fast, visibility over the rise wasn’t what I expected it to be, I was too hard on the brakes much too late and the bike drifted way off line. OK dude, calm down and ride this thing or you will never make it to DVD.


The rest of the way down 25 wasn’t what it should have been. I wasn’t patient enough to appreciate it. As the sun came up the beauty of the area started to reveal itself. The morning was fresh and crisp, the animals were starting to stir, the road was fabulous and I was in a hurry for some reason.


Turning onto 198 and heading East presented the first challenge of the weekend and the first of many firsts for me. Frost. The road glistened white all over the place. I was almost the only one on the road, normally a happy thing, but now there were few tire tracks to break up the frost. I had been uncomfortable sliding the front end of my bike around lately so I had to tiptoe around many of the turns. Darn.


Then 198 turned nasty. The sun decided to plant itself right on the pavement. Instead of stopping and putting tape on my visor so I could see I stubbornly fought the sun by riding with my left hand over my eyes. Dumb. Frosty twisty road, couldn’t see, wouldn’t stop. 198 and I weren’t getting along and it wasn’t the road’s fault.


I continued that silliness until Coalinga. One Central CA rider told me the fog on my route would start 6 feet East of Coalinga. He didn’t know what he was talking about, it started 6 feet West of Coalinga wink.gif .


Riding in fog was new to me. I made the first good decision of the morning, to stop and think about what I was doing. A guy came over to my bike and wanted to talk about riding in the fog. He asked about my route and offered good advice which I decided to follow exactly. We talked for about 15 minutes. It amazes me how friendly people are when you are on a motorcycle. None of that happens if I’m driving a car. After talking to this guy, I’m much more ready to ride. Good thing! It only took me 3 hours to get warmed up.


Maybe “warmed up” isn’t the right way to describe it. Fog is cold. I had the grips on high and my new jacket on full power and it was still cold. Condensation was continually running off the windscreen. Now I know why people in England always complain about how cold it is when they are warmer than so much of Europe, it’s the fog.


I hadn’t planned on any I-5 riding but it was a good way to go.


Through the valley, up over Tehachapi into brilliant sunlight. I felt like a mole coming out of a cold damp hole. Here was the good weather, no it was as perfect as “winter” weather can be.


I should have gassed up in Mojave but I didn’t want to stop. By the time I was 60 miles North of town I was lost and down to 2 bars of fuel. I had assumed from looking at a map that there were few roads in this part of the desert and that I’d be able to “navigate by looking around”. Wrong. I’d come up over a hill and I could see for 25 miles. Opps. No gas there and look, there’s a road in every direction. I was lost. Again. I often get lost on long rides. One of these days I’ll get a GPS.


At the Y in the road between 14 and 395 (before Johannesburg) I pulled 40 yards off the road to figure things out. As I’m looking at my map the still of the desert morning is broken by a wonderful sound. Vvvvvoo, vvvvoo, vvvvvoo-voo. 6 or 8 beautiful RT’s go blazing past me at full song. Even though I’m dressed like a bright red spaceman not one of them sees me. Talk about concentration!


I was happy about finding out this was the right road but I knew I had just missed my first chance to go ballistic with other RT’s. Darn. I’m not sure I could have caught up with them but I knew I didn’t have the fuel to try.


I still didn’t know which way to go for gas. I had two choices and was about to make the wrong one and create a REAL problem when I ran into good Samaratins number 2, 3 and 4 of my ride. Three big trucks, two of them 18 wheelers pulled over to see if I needed help.


A half hour later my problem is solved and I stop for a something quick to eat at a fast food place. Two kind old ladies come up to me and start asking about my trip. I think they were dyslexic. They gave me detailed instructions to go in opposite directions and they both waved their arm pointing in one direction while telling me to go in the other. Charming old ladies. I listened to their stories about driving through Death Valley, the danger of it all and the loose slot machines that lay beyond like the proverbial pot of gold. These kinds of moments add to my travels.


I catch up to those fast moving RT’s as they were finishing up burgers in Trona. Ahhhh, I found the flock at last.


Next came my first high speed experience on a motorcycle. I knew I’d face this decision going to Death Valley and I decided well before hand that if conditions were right I would be in for this. Conditions were perfect.


OK that’s as fast as I’ve ever gone on a bike. That’s 10 mph faster, that’s 20, those guys are still pulling away… hmmmm… I can see we’re going to be doing this for awhile… I figure this bike has about 10 more mph in it but I think I’ll cruise along right here if nobody minds.


Wow that pavement sure is going by fast… I wonder how you’re supposed to sit on this thing at this speed… Man that windscreen sure looks like a barn door going this fast, I wonder how much air it is moving… This desert reminds me of Nevada… I miss Nevada. I wonder where I’ll move to when I retire… I hope I live in the desert. Not here though, too hot… Maybe Southern Utah. Everyone says that is some place. I’m sure it is... It has lots of fast riding like this…


My happy conversation with myself is soon interrupted by a turn. A turn? Hey, how do you do turns at this speed? I like to hang off the bike a little but that might not be good here… Hmmm…


Not knowing a thing about sweepers at this speed I decide to take it easy. I’m sure I slowed much more than necessary. I couldn’t see anyone else in front or behind me even with occasional unlimited visibility and a landscape almost as barren as the moon. There were two bikes behind me and 6 or so in some other county ahead of me. I felt comfortable though. If ever there was a time and place for this it was here and now.


My first high speed run was mostly a success although I didn’t like the feel of the bike at speed and that surprised me. At times it floated, drifted and didn’t have that stability I expected. The bike definitely didn’t feel like it was going 80 mph. I found out later that I was holding the bars too tightly. As soon as I stopped doing that the stability the bike is noted for instantly appeared.


After check in at Furnace Creek Ranch the visiting started. What a great group of people! I could have stayed a week and not had enough time to visit with everyone there. What fun!


The next morning I woke up at 5. Darn. Still too excited to sleep very well. It is hopeless for me to try to go back to sleep when all I can think about is how much fun the day is going to be.


Since I was up so early I decided to ride somewhere and find a place to take some pictures of the sunrise. I thought that was a great plan but before I could leave I ran into two coffee seeking RT riders. Instead of riding off for a photo or two I spent the time visiting with those two, a far better choice. You can always take pictures. I didn’t open the camera case even once on the trip.


Now that I was an “experienced” high speed blaster I made a plan. Lower the seat, lower the windscreen, leave the side cases at the ranch. I love the adjustability of the RT. And of course I eased up on the bars. The bike sure worked better that way.


There were two rides Saturday to different places. I went on the Blast to Beatty ride, the other ride went West somewhere. The ride I went on stopped at Scotty’s Castle. I have no idea why. I guess you gotta do something touristy when you go to Death Valley but I would have rather just kept going. A mile after Scotty’s I’m going into an easy turn and I decide to use as much of the road as I can for my line, as I usually do. Wrong choice. There’s sand in the middle of the lane right in mid turn. I loose the front end AGAIN, and have to put my foot down AGAIN. I hate it when that happens. It was an easy turn, I wasn’t going fast at all, maybe 25 mph. Good thing. I was later to figure out my problem but at this stage I was still clueless. Keith Code says in his Twist of the Wrist book that what a rider doesn’t know causes all the problems. I quite agree.


For the rest of the day I didn’t handle the turns well. I noted that the more experienced riders stayed in one of the tracks laid down by cars when there was sand around. I tried that but that was so different than my normal line in a turn that I struggled. Fortunately, there weren’t many more miles of sandy twisties that day.


Both Saturday rides however, were ill fated.


One guy had serious bike trouble and another had a nasty 5 mph spill that trashed his bike. One bike needs major work and the other may have breathed it’s last.


That 5 mph spill cemented a few things in my mind. Motorcycling is dangerous and accidents can happen to anyone. There’s nothing you can do about that. I knew that before but it is as clear as it can ever be now. If I had to be as skillful as the guy that went down to continue riding I’d have to turn in my license today. It is very possible I’ll never be able to ride as well as he can. Thankfully he is not badly hurt. He’s sore but he’ll be fine.


That guy is a true biker. Mashing your bike hundreds of miles away from home in front of your close friends has to be a tough thing to go through. You wouldn’t know it being around him. He spoke of his next bike, his next ride and continued to enjoy the company of his friends all evening. When something in my life is difficult, I hope I will handle it that gracefully. That guy has my deepest respect.


One thing is for sure, if you are going to have trouble on a ride, it is far better to have it with these kind of people around. With this group, there are people that will do whatever can be done. You really see the quality of people’s character in these situations and these folks set a high standard.


These guys would give blood if they thought it would help. How wonderful.


Before going back for the day, I opted to go to Dante’s View with 4 or 5 other riders. The road was marvelous but my riding was dreadful. I was beat, too tired to concentrate enough to do anything more than mess up one turn after another. Trying to stay in one of the tire tracks and avoid sandy turns wasn’t helping either. Still, I’m glad I went on that little ride. It was something else to see with a few of the coolest people I know.


That evening the socializing continued. There was this one guy who wouldn’t stop mocking me wink.gif. He bugged me endlessly. He forced me to take my first drink of Jack Daniels. Hey that’s not bad stuff. Of course someone snapped a photo of me that made me look like I was downing the whole bottle. I can’t wait for that pic to go worldwide smile.gif. This guy made me listen to one taaaaaaaaalllllll tale after another. I can’t wait to see him again. If it weren’t for people like him I’d never be able to loosen up and enjoy things as much as I should. One of these days I’ll get him back though. When he least expects it.


Both nights I met so many great people and enjoyed every minute. If I wrote about all of it, it would fill a book. I have to do this again because even though the gathering was small there were still so many people I missed meeting.


One thing about bmwrt.com events gives me pause. Why don’t more couples attend? I saw an engaged couple (best wishes to you two, you seem perfect for each other), a newlywed couple (ditto) and 3 or 4 others. All of them seemed to be having a great time. So why so few couples? And why couldn’t I convince my wife to go? She thinks I’m just riding somewhere to “talk motorcycles with BMW people”. Doesn’t she know this is great Adventure?


Saturday night I started looking for people to ride home with. There were two pairs of riders going my direction. All four invited me to ride and they are people I’d love to ride with but as I was talking to them I started thinking a solo ride home would be best. I was full. I had experienced so many great things and been so charged up that I wanted to decompress. I wanted to wander home the long way at my own pace. I find it incredible that I’d turn down any chance to ride with these guys. Chances like that are few and far between. But I did.


The guy with the new wife suggested I go through the Lake Isabella area on the way home. Delightful idea. Fine route, 190 all the way from Furnace Creek to 395, over 178 to Bakersfield.


178 is high and very dry on the Death Valley side. Joshua trees are everywhere. Then gradually the elevation drops and the land grows more lush. There’s a neat canyon to ride at the end.


I lost the front end and slid sideways again in this canyon. For the 5th or 6th time in the last month and a half I went into a low speed turn and lost it. This time I recognized my difficulty (I hope). I saw some water in the turn, passed it cleanly then slid sideways on more water that I didn’t see. Ahhh, a pattern. Finally. The last 3 times I’ve lost the front end I’ve been going into 10-25 mph turns from sunlight into shade and missed seeing ice, sand and water in the turn.


I might not have figured this out but I had spent time this weekend talking to the Zen Master of riding and he pointed out many useful things. One specifically described my handling difficulties, or I should say my vision problem. I just didn’t realize it until I took one more sliding turn what my problem was. I wasn’t seeing slippery stuff on the road in shady turns. I discovered on the rest of the ride home that I hadn’t even been looking for slippery stuff in shady turns.


I’m grateful to have figured that out. I hope this time I really have found out how to solve this.


The rest of the ride home was uneventful and relaxing. 198 was marvelous this time and 25 was beautiful with the orange clouds and the sun setting over the mountains. By the time I got to the Bay Area I was thinking I should have ridden with the others on the way back. Next time.


I’d like to offer heartfelt thanks to everyone that attended. Each of you made the event a great one and I look forward to seeing all of you again.


I’m already excited about Torrey!

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That's a great write up, Cory. Thanks for putting it together. I tend to write things out, too, so I know how much work you put into it.


First, that email offer still stands. So think about it some more.


Second, when you get a moment, I think it would be interesting for you to skim the threads in Ride Well after your experience this weekend, and then share your perspective. You have started some very good threads over there, and with this added exposure under your belt I'd like to get in your head a bit more. I think we could all learn from it.


Welcome to the Ride.

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Great report, Cory.


I dreaded these things coming in. After missing it last year, I swore I was going to DVD this year, only to have agreed to do some consulting work this weekend. And then that died on short notice, and I was stuck.


Loved visualizing it. Hated reading it. smile.gif



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Nice write up. This was only my second DVD, but I find it one of my favorite BMWRT.com trips. There is something so right about riding out into that beautiful scenery, a hundred miles from civilization and sitting around telling tall tales with our brothers and sisters from this board. I could do the same trip many times solo or with my fiance, but it wouldn't be the same without this group.


As for the speeds we ride, you did the right thing by going at your pace. Don't worry about what speed others are taking corners at, ride your ride. Eventually your speeds will just increase on their own as you get more comfortable and smoother on the bike.


I wonder if your rear shock is setup right or possibly going bad, because the RT should be rock steady stable all the way up to the top speed. I've spent hours at 100 plus on that bike and it was just rock solid as long as the rear shock was good. Although as you said it might be rider induced by stiffening on the handlebars. Make sure your arms are loose. Your hands should just drop onto the bars not adding any pressure to them. If you haven't done so, do a search for Dick Frantz' write ups about seating position. It will definitely dial you in as it has for many people, including myself.

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All that stuff that Brian said.


It was great seeing you at DVD. I wanted to talk to you to see how you were enjoying the experience, but there was just too much going on. Actually...if I had to complain about one aspect of our gatherings is that there's never enough time. What if you really want to ride with two different groups? How can I sit at three tables at dinner? How can I have breakfast with 5 different people at different times? Why is Sock Monkey huddled in the corner shivering? Etc. smile.gif


I really enjoyed your writeup. Those roads you took south out of NorCal are lots of fun, but they can get pretty hairy at times. In early morning fog/frost/glare, I can imagine they were a real handful.


And you're totally right about the RT being underrated. People just don't understand what can be done with it if you just get the h*ll out of it's way and let it do it's thing. Places like DVD and Torrey provide a good environment to stretch your skills and really learn to trust the bike. Torrey, even moreso than DVD because the roads are typically less crowded (if that's even possible) and you don't get as much (if any) sand in the corners. That's where we learned of the RT's stability at speed and it's ability to just go like h*ll for hours and hours on end. And you get to experience some of the most beautiful and unexpected scenery imaginable. You bind it all together with some of the best people you could find, and you have the makings of an RT.COM event.


See you in Torrey.

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Brian and Russell nailed most of it.


You'll figure out the names of everyone. I'm going to post my pictures which will help. I've got the one with you drinking Jerry's Jack. smile.gif


You seemed to be riding fine. You just have to pick your own pace. If you're with a group it'll naturally break up. But it was nice having you along on the ride.



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Cory --


Nice write-up. Sounds like you're all prepped for Torrey now. Be sure to go on the Lake Powell loop ride -- I rode it last time on the Cruise Ship, but this time I'll be bringing the Cruise Missile so that Bounce can't get away from me!

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this time I'll be bringing the Cruise Missile so that Bounce can't get away from me!


Crap. I already got a taste of that with Brian. Tucked in...throttle pinned...indicating 130. K-bike in my mirrors. bigger. Bigger. BIGGER WHOOOOOSHH.




On the other hand, that orient blue looks so gorgeous that you don't even care that it's passing you. smile.gif

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OK that’s as fast as I’ve ever gone on a bike. That’s 10 mph faster, that’s 20, those guys are still pulling away…


Sounds like those Arizona KRS hoons...they're always pulling away on the sweepers. smile.gif Nice write up. That I-5 fog sure is wet -- wetter than heavy rain on the shield. I'm nostalgic already. smile.gif Come ride East when things warm up.

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Felt like I was in a recliner......eyes closed......riding next to you.........really had the visuals going!! You write, like I think, while I'm riding.......... Dang good stuff........thanks.



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