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Riding Other People's Bikes Down and Up the Best Coast


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About...uh...so long ago that I can't recall when it was, an inmate I'd never heard of posted a thread on ADV asking for some assistance getting a bike out of storage in Seattle and ready to be shipped down to San Diego. I think it was early last summer. I didn't really have much on my plate then so I sent the guy a pm offering to help out. I didn't hear back so I sent him another message. Nothing in reply, and I soon forgot all about it.


One night in January, pretty late, I'm in the garage under my wife's four-wheeled BMW and my phone starts buzzing. It's this guy from six or more months back wondering if I could still help out...and then apologizing for forgetting about the time zone difference between WA and HI. 


Basically, he had an R9T that had been in storage near Seattle for a couple of years, and it needed to get to San Diego to get on a boat for Hawaii. A trailer would be a good idea, he said, as the battery was dying two years ago and is cleverly hidden under the gas tank. The plan was for me to get it, drop it at the dealer and then it would get shipped from there, or I'd pick it up and get it shipped from my place. Easy enough. Some keys showed up in the mail, and here is what I found.




Flat tires (they don't look it but trust me, they were) flat battery, lots of dust. A little air in the tires (amazing how heavy a bike with flat tires feels!) and onto the trailer it went. I offered to save the guy a few bucks by swapping in a new battery for him and went ahead and flushed the brakes too. Does that fluid look ok to you?



Put it all back together and it fired right up.



Damn it. Battery was supossed to be ready to go. I guess it wasn't. A quick charge overnight and I rode it to the shop the next day. I left it there thinking that would be the last I'd see of it.


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A few weeks later I get a text from this guy saying he hadn't had time to set up shipping, but the shop was done with the bike and would like it gone; would I mind having it hang around -with riding privileges of course- until he could get the shipping set up? Sure - no problem. I went to pick up the bike and....it wouldn't start. Turned out the new battery I'd put in was a dud! Eventually a new battery was put in and the bike returned to my (borrowed) garage. This was about the end of February. 


We got a ton of snow mid February, but by this time it was starting to melt, so I suggested that if he didn't already have shipping set up maybe I'd just ride it down for him and fly back. Sure - sounds good - go for it! was the response. I was going to book a cheap ticket back, but in the middle of  my grandmother's 100th birthday party



I got a phone call (and I NEVER get calls that aren't spam, so I don't know why I even answered it) from a guy who was a friend of some guy on ADV who had heard from some other guy on ADV that I might be in SoCal dropping off a bike, and, if I was, would I maybe be talked into riding HIS bike from LA back up to Seattle? I swear I'm not making this up. I suppose I should have asked what the bike was, but I was kind of busy and just said, sure.


Well, I guess I'm committed - better figure out how to pack a week's worth of gear on an R9T...


I ended up taking off the tailcover and mailing it to a friend in San Diego, slapped some plywood on where it had been,



and managed to stuff all of this into a borrowed tailbag. 



I junked up the aesthetics further by replacing the one fancy bar-end mirror with two junky ones and also adding a Ram mount, heated grips, a USB port and a controller for a jacket. Ugly but functional (probably what it said under my pic in the old yearbook...)



Looks like we're ready to go....




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There is a thread about this already in ride planning, and I was just going to roll with that, but I got distracted after day three for reasons you'll maybe see - as a result you get this thread to read. I'll be adding as I can - just after getting back from this ride I ripped the tip off one thumb and typing is sort of still awkward and uncomfortable.


Here's the planning thread:


Days 1 and 2 will largely repeat what is there, but here you go anyway:


Day 1



That's just shy of 450 miles, covered in just about 12 hours - starting temp of 35f. None of that would be anything special on an RT or a GS, but I have to tell you, having grown accustomed to upright seating and weather protection it was kind of a long day - and a very cold morning - on the R9T! Not to mention I was out of shape having not really put any miles on since last Fall...or maybe even Summer!


Honestly, I couldn't have hoped for better weather in the PNW on St. Patrick's Day, and the heated grips and jacket I'd picked up secondhand just recently did their jobs well.1066571475_ScreenShot2019-04-10at7_24_10PM.png.8baa641fa6996c282ab0bf9fefe7fe1a.png


It was cool but clear in Olympia, but rolling toward Aberdeen and on toward picking up southbound 101 I found some really thick fog - enough to feel like I was riding through the rain, and to drop the visibility to very little. Fortunately I was just about the only one on the road - I guess not that may people head out early on a St. Patrick's Sunday morning... I actually really love the fog. I grew up around Puget Sound and when I'm away fog always makes me feel at home. Soon enough though it cleared up and the sunrise was fantastic, and gladly behind me so as not to be a distraction ;)


Astoria was my first stop, and I found a new to me coffee shop right under the bridge (my "old" Astoria coffee shop has slowly turned into a bistro of sorts to the detriment of the coffee part). I really enjoy riding the bridge, and when I say that I mean it's usually windy and ranges from nerve-wracking to actually terrifying. You get to be REALLY high up, and REALLY close to the waves (at different points of course), and often there are trucks and other fun things also being blown around by the wind. BUT I do seriously look forward to riding it. This time the winds were low and the traffic was still mostly just me, which was a plus as my legs were just about frozen and not being much help in managing the bike.



Coffee and warmth for me and gas for the bike and it was back at it once the shaking legs felt almost normal. Taking just my phone and having it strapped to the bars means not many pics were taken overall, but I did stop and get one of the Nehalem River as it becomes Nehalem Bay because, well, because it looks like this.



Also, I had to pee.


At this point the day is warming up, the roads are still pretty open and the bike is running beautifully. And, I mean, it should because it only has FOURTEEN HUNDRED MILES ON IT - yep, you saw that right in the video - that was the regular odometer and not a trip odometer (in fact at this point I had not yet figured out how to access the trip odometer); if all goes to plan this four-year-old bike will have its mileage doubled by the time it gets to San Diego. But I digress. I was saying how it was an awesome day.  And I was about to say how it could only be made better by awesome food. Which it was. Here:



They have their own boat and cook up their own catch, and it's my favorite place to eat on the whole Oregon Coast. Ling cod and live music. Yum.




After lunch (but no gas because I forgot - not for the first time - that there isn't a gas station on the highway in Yachats) it was back to more blisful riding. Even Florence had little traffic ( @JamesW will probably call me out for whitewashing this, but I swear it's true!) and I soon found myself just north of Brookings. A quick glamour shot of the bike


406492544_ScreenShot2019-04-10at7_25_43PM.png.cb8e766e03fca20aa523e4655c371074.png and then I was knocking on a door belonging to @Twisties and @Bullett .



I didn't get a pic of them, but if you ask nice I'm sure I can find one somewhere. I did get a crappy pic of their crappy view though

Screen Shot 2019-04-10 at 7.25.52 PM.png


and then they forced me to eat yet another delicious and I suppose more seasonally appropriate meal. Corned beef and ling cod in one day? How lucky can you get? 


I'm afraid I wasn't a great guest - after dinner and a bit of conversation they put on a movie and...well...I just hope I wasn't snoring too loudly during the film...

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Yep, the original thread had piqued my curiosity.  Enjoying the full ride report style here. Sorry about the thumb!  :(

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My advice to anyone planning on traveling highway 101 on the Oregon coast this season is give it some thought.  The city of Florence on the central coast is engaged in a ridiculous project to "beautify" Florence and this little project is going to create some unbelievable bottle necks and has already done so.  I was looking forward to getting some riding in this season but I'm instead thinking about not bothering.  In fact I'm even thinking about giving up the sport entirely.  Been kind of thinking about it the last couple of years what with the population increase hereabouts and over crowded roads with an increase in angry impatient motorists everywhere.  And then we have the rather dense smoke from forest fires that make pure hell out of a trip anywhere in the pacific northwest.


Oh, and there is another worthless project going on on HWY 126 just west of Walton, OR.  ODOT is putting in a passing lane and traffic is already horrendous.  They have installed rather dramatic speed bumps on 126 to slow traffic ahead of the flaggers and even have a state cop assigned to the area to stop hazardous drivers of which there are many on 126.  Passing lanes on this highway just increase the danger from impatient drivers in way too big a hurry to get nowhere faster.  Highway 126 intersects HWY 101 in the center of Florence and is traffic light controlled.  Good luck at this intersection no matter which direction you are traveling.


All this just to beautify Florence.  Good luck with that!  Anybody want to buy a house?

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On 4/11/2019 at 4:08 AM, Gooner said:

Yep, the original thread had piqued my curiosity.  Enjoying the full ride report style here. Sorry about the thumb!  :(


Thanks - I hope you enjoy this version. As for my thumb, well it could be much worse (I didn't do any bone damage - just skin and nail), and it's a direct result of doing something I knew better than to do...



Hi James! Thanks for chiming in - I hope you have a great summer and get some road time in either on one of the bikes or in the Mustang. Hopefully the beautification won't make too much of a mess of your daily life. It's easy for us, I think, to gloss over a lot of stuff like that in the places we just play tourist. I had a great ride one summer along the Idaho/Oregon border just after the roads were reopened from fire closures. Sure the air was awful and my sinuses paid for it for days after, but the terrain had a whole new look and there was hardly any other traffic...but I was only passing through and at my leisure...





My post in the planning thread for day two was practically perfect, so with the addition of a map and maybe a line here and there I'm just going to copy and paste it. Here's the map:




And here's the (mostly) original Day 2:


A little under 400 miles today. The weather was exactly the weather that makes everyone want to move to California - pleasantly cool in the morning moving in to pleasantly warm for the rest of the day. I was going to take 1 for at least part of the day, but I dawdled more than planned and so stuck to 101 for all but the last few miles. For the most part though it’s still a fun ride, and just south of where 1 splits off, 101 has some great sweeping turns up into and back down from the hills. 


Until I got to Santa Rosa I usually had the highway to myself, or at least only had to share with a few friendly cars trucks and bikes. Fantastic. 


Lots of riding and very few pictures. Here’s (literally) all I’ve got:


A near tragedy at my first rest stop - I was too busy watching for spinning turtle shells and almost ended up flat on my back as a result!




You can tell you’re in CA because every strip mall has a GOOD taco place. Carnitas, lengua and lime agua fresca for lunch. Yum. 





An old friend!



For those that didn't follow our "super exciting" trip report a couple/few years ago, my family traipsed around the country accomplishing not much of anything (well, except for keeping the stock of final drive bearings from getting dusty on the shelf); people foolish enough to invite us into their homes found one of these little guys left behind (along with, probably, a good amount of dog hair and whatever random bits we inevitably forgot to repack). @Traveler1 was one of our first hosts and set a high bar for hospitality - one that was met repeatedly across the continent - and I was really pleased to see the little snail we left still having pride of place in the @Marty Hill guest suite.



And a few new friends for the R9T





You know how they say you shouldn’t feed a stray because then it will just keep coming around? No? Hmm. You must have that in common with a lot of other bmwsters, because two nights in a row now I’ve been practically forced into eating delicious dinners and having engaging conversation. Foolish on the part of my hosts but a boon to me. 


Tomorrow, and I swear I’m not making any of this up, I’m planning to visit an ADV couple I’ve only met briefly -at a gas station in a tiny Nevada desert town; they asked if I’d be there early enough for dinner, and if I had “any dietary restrictions, or if [they could] just throw a hunk of raw meat in the guest room.”


I don’t know if that was a serious question, but I guess I win either way. 

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Day 3




Can you have a bad day that starts with a ride across the Golden Gate with just enough fog for dramatic emphasis? I suppose you can, but I sure didn't (maybe it helps that someone else was picking up the toll tab...you know, if that plate isn't too tucked for the cameras...and if caltrans can figure out his current address....).


Another contributing factor to my good day havingness was that I like doing things I've never done (well, pleasant things - I'd never ripped a fingertip off in a garage door before, and I didn't enjoy that at all) and I got to try something new on Day 3. Traffic was fine on 101 approaching and across the bridge, but somewhere a mile or so into my trek across the city it started to back up. No big deal - I don't have anywhere to be and anyplace you are in San Francisco there is ALWAYS something to look at. But then it occurred to me: I don't have to sit here in this line of traffic - I can split! I was admittedly hesitant at first; I mean, it's not my bike, I don't have too many miles on it, I've never really tried it before...and there was that time on our way through heavy LA traffic, heading from home in AK to our wedding in TX, when a fully kitted pirate type roared past us (scaring the crap out of my wife who was in the driver's seat with her window rolled down) only for us to catch back up to him a few miles (and maybe 90 minutes) later - except now he was behind an ambulance under a sheet... but I'm maybe not all that bright (see: thumb reference) so my brain pretty much stuck on the, it's not my bike!, and off I went.


I was pretty timid at first, but I have to admit it's kind of a rush navigating what feels like a very small amount of space and I had a great time. It also feels very cooperative at times with vehicles ahead adjusting position to allow you through. That kept me occupied and amused all through the city, onto 280 (I think...) and out around the edge of San Jose. After that I made it all the way to Gilroy




before the lure of the coast pulled me west.



I know this is supposed to be a warning sign, but I feel like they need another kind for motorcyclists - maybe instead of a diamond it should be heart shaped, or steal the Facebook "like" logo - to show excitement instead of trepidation.


I picked up 1 just south of Carmel and rode it "straight" down to Santa Barbara. Here's what I had to say about it in my planning thread:


Everything they say about Highway 1 is true. The pavement is often chunky, there are rubbernecking tourists everywhere, you’ll probably spend more time crawling behind RVs than carving through curves, the curves you do carve tend to have drifts of sand, gravel and rocks strewn across them, there are almost constant chances to plunge hundreds of feet to a salty death because guardrails are scarce, there’s no place to stop for gas and hardly anywhere to get a decent meal even though you’re paying big city prices. Oh, and the view is terrible. Seriously. Take 101 instead. Or, better, I-5. Yep.  




There were a lot of presumably rented matching convertible Mustangs out there, but not many bikes and maybe no RVs at all. It was early though :)


Somehow I managed to take a riding selfie. I swear I don't remember doing this.




So back in like November, I guess, of 2017 we were in Tonopah, NV and trying really, really hard to buy gas from a     v   e    r   y          s     l       o         w    pump. A couple came up and started talking about our rig and dogs and all that cool kind of stuff I normally love talking about. I was kind of an ass. Or at least that's how I felt later. I don't remember what time it was, but I know we'd just ridden a bit over a hundred early morning miles across the cold desert from our last night's stop in Rachel, NV, I was hungry, my hands were that fun combination of numb and achy, and I REALLY needed to pee. I was not at my best. I don't remember much of the conversation, but I do remember they said they were on ADV and were listed in the tent space thread in/around Santa Barbara.


With that information and a full stomach I managed to find them online later in the day and sent an apology. Being awesome, they said no worries, and that was that. Until a couple days before I left when I sent them a quick, hey - I' m some guy you don't know; can I sleep in your house? In their continuing trend of awesomeness, they said sure - and were fantastic hosts forcing me to drink beer (even sharing my affinity for dark over the rampant imposition of IPAs!), eat a great meal and talk about traveling. One thing I was left thinking about as I fell asleep in their guest room, surrounded by copies of, like, every Knife Digest ever published (nothing intimidating about that, yeah?), was how much we had in common and how little of it was related to motorcycles. I look for places to go on my motorcycle because I like to travel and think motorcycles, pretty much all of them, are super cool, but they happened into motorcycles because they think traveling is super cool and thought it might be fun to try it on a bike for a change. Neat intersection and without our paths likely would never have crossed.


Also, they have a stuffed giardia microbe in their bathroom.



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While I got to sleep inside surrounded by knife magazines, the R9T had to spend what was probably its first ever night outside and, I'm certain, its first night...in the rain! Heck, I'm not even sure it's ever been washed before.... Fortunately it didn't melt so I got to continue on with


Day 4




I wanted to cross over north of LA and take 2 through the mountains, but the weather was calling for snow and caltrans was requiring motorists to carry chains. Hmmm...can't got ride the mountains. I know: I'll have the most quintessential LA experience of them all: traffic. Yes, against the advice of my hosts in Santa Barbara ("Uh - that's a LOT of red lights...") I decided to get on 1 and just stay there as long as I could. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And actually there weren't that many lights. Well, not before my first stop in Malibu.




I swear I tried to find a small/local coffee shop. I mean, I even pulled over and google-mapped one, and said map brought me to this shopping area off the highway where it swore there was some other coffee shop - but it was gone and Starbucks was there. And I was hungry. And I had to pee. Let's be honest - that was the deciding factor.


Now, I'm not a Starbucks hater, and I admit to going to them in Seattle growing up around there in the late eighties/early nineties (though for Seattle chains I always like Seattle's Best's coffee better) but they have really just become the McDonald's of coffee - you can get exactly what you expect at any one of them just about anywhere. This one happened to be pretty small (can't imagine what retail square footage rents for in Malibu) and super packed. Like, there was a line of people waiting to order, half a dozen people waiting for orders to come up AND a steady stream of people coming in to pick up online orders. Amusing aside: almost every woman waiting for a coffee was wearing an ankle length wool coat and at least one scarf and talking about how cold it was; I'm pretty sure it was 52F. The funny, not funny ha ha - funny sigh, thing was almost everyone seemed annoyed at waiting 15 minutes for their drinks. This is going to be my only rant on this trip: if you can afford to live in or even visit Malibu and you can afford a chic wool coat and you have time to be waiting on a six dollar coffee at ten am on a Wednesday, well, you should be pretty pleased. Unless you really need to pee and you're in the only Starbucks in the known universe without a public restroom. At the very least you're having a better day than the poor barista making all those drinks - that dude, Jeff, was running two espresso machines, three blenders and at least two other appliances solo, and I think the whole time I was dancing quietly in place waiting for my flat white and side of icewater I only heard one other person say "Thanks sweetie" to him. Ok, I didn't call him sweetie, but you get the idea. Anyway. Rant done. I finally got my drinks and oddly chewy morning bun and went outside into the arctic blast that is late March Malibu weather to consume them. The only other people brave enough to endure the fridgid temps were a pair of spin class instructors staving off hypothermia with a heated discussion of best cleaning practices for spin equipment. Seriously. I felt very much like I had found LA.


Fortunately, just a bit down the coast, I was also able to locate the missing Starbucks facilities.



And, like Starbucks or McDonalds, even before opening the door I knew exactly what to expect. 


After that second stop it really was just traffic light after traffic light after traffic light. Filtering up to the front each time was great and there really wasn't much traffic....but there were a lot of lights. Am I glad I did it? Sure - it was very interesting to watch the neighborhoods change as I moved along. Would I do it again? Probably not, and definitely not in a car/truck.


Much to my amusement (and even more so to my wife's; phone call from her at my last gas stop: Hey - it's 75 and sunny up here - is it really 50 and raining in San Diego?) I finally caught up with the rain just about Oceanside. Highway 1 having shunted me off onto I5 around Dana Point, I really didn't want to be riding the freeway in a fresh rainstorm in SoCal, so I ducked into a rest area for a nutritious lunch of Cheetos and a Snickers bar, and I watched the rain clouds head south.



After thirty or so minutes I decided that was enough waiting and got back on the road. I did manage to catch up to the rain again, but not until I was almost at the exit for my friends' place in El Cajon. They live up a canyon - like you do in SoCal I guess - and their driveway is crazy steep to the point where you can't even see the house, let alone what's going on in the driveway parking area, until you crest the very top of the driveway. The first thing I saw looming over that edge was a pair of bulldog eyes running straight at me, as my good friend Tyson had heard the bike and was coming to say hello. He's just one of five dogs that are usually around the house, but he's always first to greet vehicles because he loves to go for rides. In anything - cars, trucks, side by sides, wagons, whatever - he's even smooth-talked the regular UPS guy into waiting at the bottom of the driveway so Tyson can get in the truck and ride up and then ride back down as the guy is leaving. He likes sidecars too:




So I'm pretty sure that his sitting next to the bike like this



whenever I was outside meant I was supposed to take him for a ride...sorry Tyson, maybe next time - no room on this bike!


And, sadly tomorrow this bike goes to the shipper and I try to get to a place called Chino Hills to find my next ride.

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Day 5




Unless I somehow, through no fault or effort of my own, become one of those people who has the money and space to acquire and keep bikes just because they seem cool, I don't think an R9T is in my future -BUT- I had a blast riding it, and looking at it, and listening to it. I also had fun talking about it - even the BMW people I talked with along the trip, for the most part, were not familiar with the model or at least had not ever seen one in person...and BMW has been selling them for, like, five years now! Come to think of it, I saw exactly one other R9T the entire trip - it was somewhere in LA along I; there was a guy riding a "Boxer Cup" livery style one the other way - he seemed equally surprised and excited to see me. I always think it's fun to have something unusual. So, for all those reasons, Day 5, where I had to hand over the key, was a little sad. 


I started out by stripping off my "fly and ride kit" 




rode into town, gave the bike a careful bath at the nearest carwash, and then wound my way to a semi sketchy looking parking lot down a sort of driveway off a back alley behind a McDonald's.




My plan had been to drop the bike at ten (they insisted I make an appointment, but said I could pick any time I wanted - seemed odd), grab an Uber to the nearby Amtrak station and hop the 11am train to ... uh... somewhere near Chino, grab another Uber to the next bike hopefully leaving on it around 4pm, and then ride a couple/few hours back to Santa Barbara for the night.  Unfortuantely even though I showed up early for my appt. and there didn't seem to be anyone ahead of me, I had to wait until almost 10:45 for someone to come out and take possession of the bike. Kind of a bummer as missing that train pushed everything else back two hours meaning I'd probably not make Santa Barbara.


I was waiting in the sketchy parking lot almost alone, but there was a rental car with a couple of fidgety dudes - one looking like he'd just changed out of some military uniform into civies, and the other, with sort of crazy unkempt hair, in an oversized Hawaiian shirt and baggy denim. Eventually one of them wandered over and asked about the bike - we started to talk but then the shipper dude came to get my bike and brought out a truck for the other guys. Wait - did I just hear you're leaving here to drive up to LA? Any chance I might get a ride? ...and that's how I got to spend six hours helping two guys from Cape Cod navigate SoCal traffic hauling a big ass boat. 



Eventually they dropped me off just a few miles from the yet unnamed bike number two


and I grabbed an Uber after all. At some point someone had joked that I'd probably end up coming back on a clapped out KLR...well, I don't know about clapped out, but here's what I found waiting outside when my Uber driver dropped me off.




Now, I don't really know any KLR owners personally, but I've heard they're a little odd...and this guy certainly seemed so. He was an interesting mix of "thanks for agreeing to get this bike up to Seattle for me" and "you seem like you might be a psycho, and I'd rather not have you in my house." Like, the bike was outside when I rolled up, the garage was closed and he came out to meet me before I got to the door. I did get to go inside to use the restroom and grab a bottle of water...and checkout his cool sunflowers print ("It was a prop in Mall Cop!")... before basically being shooed off on my way.


So, the bike. I rode a KLR one time, like fifteen years ago, from Anchorage to Seward and back, and other than being rear-ended while I was stopped at a traffic light in Anchorage first thing that morning I think I remember it being fine, so this should be good, right? I mean, the bike's got new tires, a fresh oil change - judging by how clean the puddle of oil on the sidewalk is anyway - a decent seat, not a ton of rust, enough dirty grease to hold the chain together, and - judging by the overpowering smell of gas - a fresh tank of fuel. Awesome.


I realized as I was leaving the neighborhood that I hadn't eaten - like, literally anything at all other than a glass of water - all day. Actually, I realized that right after I realized that the clutch lever didn't completely disengage the clutch. Hmm...pull over...check phone for food...find an In n Out just up the freeway two exits. Get on freeway...roll off throttle....pull over because bike has died. Shit. Did I forget to put the petcock in the right spot? Did you even know they still made - in 2008 at least - bikes with petcocks? How quaint. Petcock is good. Open cap to check and tank is full. Eventually it starts. Resume quest for food. Get off freeway almost to burgers and it does it again. Fuck. Do I call the guy? If if starts do I ride it back and head for LAX? I am really hungry. And tired. There is Motel 6, like, right there. I opt to call it a night and figure it out tomorrow. BIke starts, gets me to motel, starts again and runs long enough to get to my room. Burgers are eaten. Fries never tasted so good. Maybe tomorrow it will make more sense. Bad gas? I think the guy said he just bought the bike for $2500 and had only put less than 100 miles on it....sigh.


All in, I think I rode a whopping 27 miles - about half on each bike - on Day 5.



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mid report preamble:

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I really don't know anything about KLRs or Kawaskis in general, but when I heard the guy bought this for $2500 maybe some preconceived ideas clouded my judgment. I mean, I bought a bike for $2500 just last spring and it looked like this:



(Actually it was $2300 and it came with fresh rubber.)  *


So, I thought - hey - if he paid that much for a ten-year-old KLR it must be in super shape, relatively speaking. Maybe a faulty assumption - or maybe this thing is 10-year-old-KLR-pristine. In any case, so begins 


Day 6




I'm not going to make any of the same tired KLR jokes about milk crates or duct tape, any maybe that's because I tend to travel on a KLR budget and -only occasionally!- spring for something fancy, like a night in a motel as nice as this one:



It had been suggested to me by an optimistic friend (how optimistic is he? well, he is at this very moment, I kid you not, stuck in Houston waiting on clutch parts because the bike he bought and flew to Arkansas to ride home burned up the clutch on day two...this seemed an obvious eventuality after his first text to me on day one, but he was sure he could baby it back to CA, via Houston and Santa Fe, if he "took it easy"...)  on the night of Day 5 that it was "probably just bad gas" killing the KLR. I am not an optimist and figured it was more likely the engine getting ready to seize, but I dutifully stopped by Walmart (again, not a KLR joke - it was just the only place open at 0630), after airing the tires up from about 20psi to a more road-ready level, and bought the SECOND least expensive fuel additive that had something on the bottle about stabilizing water and contaminants.



As an aside - as if this weren't mostly a series of asides to begin with - I thought it was really funny that a state like CA, where you have to label every little product that might contain a compound or component that might sort of be carcinogenic, would let Walmart have this shelf arrangement.



Walking out of the mart, I have to admit feeling a little grumbly about the bike and toward the owner (I mean, what kind of person says, yeah I've only ridden this used sort of crusty bike like 35 miles, but I'll send this dude off on his way on a 1400 mile ride... To his credit, he did give me his Premiere level AAA card and say if anything happens just get it towed to the nearest shop and I'll figure out how to get you home...). There wasn't much going on in the lot but there were two guys who'd pretty clearly just got off the night shift parked right next to the bike and wiping the fog out of a very well used old minivan. As I walked up they both said good morning and made comments about how nice the bike was. Note to self: if you're not working the night shift at Walmart and you've got ANY bike to ride and ANY free time to ride it you are damn fortunate and you should slap yourself for any complaints you might want to make.


STP in the tank, bike well choked, a great POP out the back end and I was off. I can't remember if the bike died on the way to Walmart or not - I think it did - but I do know that it died again while I was in the middle, literally, of five lanes of morning rush hour traffic. Thanks to the courtesy of those to my right I made it to the shoulder and coasted down the next off ramp. It occurred to me that maybe I wasn't getting any makeup air into the tank - but that seemed kind of crazy since gas fumes were coming OUT of the tank like crazy. Sure enough when I rolled into the conveniently at the bottom of the offramp gas station and popped open the tank - this time with helmet and earplugs out - it went "swooooosh" (or however you spell the sound of sucking in air). 


Standing by the car wash at the 76 and enjoying a breakfast Snickers I run through the possible fixes and figure it would be funny to ascribe them stereotypically to various marques. So, solutions by brand:


BMW - have dealer install new fuel system including carb, tank and all fuel lines

Harley - replace all system parts with chrome OR fix nothing; bike will run about four miles at a time which is plenty to get to next bar

Ducati - too complicated - don't bother; just park it in livingroom or office as art

Ural - wait (not long) for tank to rust through enough to self vent

Honda - not the bike's fault - must be operator error

KLR - leave the gas cap open


Gotta say, the KLR solution worked a treat. It worked a lot better in fact than my navigational skills. I had intended to take 210 or whatever interstate bypass I was straight west until it dumped me onto 101, but somehow I ended up on I-5 enjoying the grapevine up into the pretty darn chilly hills. Fortunately there was not much traffic, the bike was honestly running great (though I must say it cleverly set my expectations very low right from the start) and I retained most feeling over the summit and to the first truck stop in farm country.



I picked that pastry because it was one we had at a convenience store one morning leaving Mazatlan - I think the Mexican one was better...


Earlier my optimistic friend had said something about both 58 and 129 being really good roads, and by coinicdence my truckstop happened to be just south of 58.


Yes, please!


Did you hear about the superbloom in CA this spring? I have now, but I hadn' then. Highway 58 turned out to be fantastic with a bunch of tight turns and small switchbacks and the pavement on the east end was new and perfect. The flowers though were pretty distracting!



I wasn't able to stop for any pics of the purple or orange fields earlier because there were no shoulders, but I think this gives an idea of how many blooms were there.


Most of the rest of the day was spent on 101, though I did make a quick detour from King City to ride Airline (25?) around the east side of Pinnacles National Park. The weather was great until the south bit of the bay area where I caught up with some light rain and a lot of traffic. I rolled into my friends' driveway in Hayward wet and hungry and just in time for dinner. Mostly I think folks were glad to see me, though Cookie didn't seem impressed.











* I don't want to make it sound like the ST was perfect - though it was in pretty great shape - so if you want to see what happened on my first trip with it, and you can stomach adv, take a look at a quick mostly-pics ride report here

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No map for Day 7 - I rode but I didn't get anywhere ;)


My friend was working downtown and offered to get me into the MoMA if I could meet him during his morning coffee break (union guys and their breaks...); sounded good to me, but the bike had other ideas - maybe she's just not a museum kind of girl. ...or maybe she's just not a freeway kind of girl, because just after getting onto the lonely Sunday morning highway I had the strangest sensation: my right foot was slowly sinking - not falling or dropping, but sinking, like in quicksand - toward the pavement. I glanced down not sure what to expect and things looked essentially ok, but the footpeg was sort of floppy. 


I'm really glad someone decided to use TWO bolts to hold that peg on...



The KLR in its natural habitat - good thing I borrowed a backpack and decided to toss in my toolkit!


I didn't happen to have a bolt of the right size, but I had a slightly smaller one I could jam in; that along with cranking down on the remaining bolt held things in place long enough to find the Home Depot in Oakland. Kind of an interesting spot -  the parking lot had brand new condos on one side but behind the store was a much different neighborhood still waiting for/resisting gentrification. Next to me in the parking lot was a guy building out a Sprinter he was already living in.



bolts found, repair in progress



the "good" bolt (in that it hadn't fallen out - yet)


I decided to go whole-hog and replace the remaining bolt as well, and then tightened the rest of the fasteners holding the footpegs/side/centerstand assembly onto the bike...because they were ALL loose. Sigh. I was happy to find exactly the right size fastener at Home Depot - perhaps that's where Kawasaki gets them?


I shouldn't give the bike too much crap though without giving some to myself. I was having a hard time getting the new bits to thread all the way in - and remember, the new bolts were exactly the same length as the OEM bits - and was worried that the threads might be off, or that I was going to destroy them trying to put it back together. I finally took a moment to step back, literally, and look at the situation. Do you see what I saw?




So, yeah. Once I remembered to, like, actually PUT THE FOOTPEG BACK ON THE BIKE the fasteners turned out to be exactly the right length...go figure.


I didn't make it downtown in time to hit the musuem, but I did find some friends for the bike to hang with while I had lunch with my friend,




and then took a quick ride out to Pt. Reyes Station to visit the jeweler who made our wedding rings and do a little birthday shopping for my wife. 


I swear at some point on this day the bike developed an exhaust leak and it was popping like mad whenever I rolled off the throttle - I was honestly frightening cattle and other innocent creatures most any time I slowed down - and I was a little worried that since I couldn't find that leak I might just instead be about to burn up a valve. Not wanting to keep you in suspense, that didn't happen and I eventually "fixed" the problem by developing a habit of keeping on the throttle a bit more and compensating with a bit of rear brake whenever I needed to slow down near anything with ears. Though a little nerve-wracking I had a good time riding around and eventually made it back to my friend's place.


He was still at work, so I decided it was time to commit to the adventure and actually put my fly and ride bits on the bike.



While I was doing that I found that, of the six bolts holding the side panels and seat on, one was barely fastened at all but also badly cross-threaded, one had the head missing but the shaft firmly in place and the other four locktited in place. I also figured out why the tank wasn't getting any air (or at least why it wasn't getting air from where it was supposed to - still hadn't figured out why it was leaking fumes).




The owner had, in attempt to keep his garage from smelling like a gas station before the days of vapor recovery nozzles, wedged those little bits of red rubber in to block the vent under the gas cap. Once I took those out I could actually ride with the gas cap closed...and the bike didn't seem to smell any gassier than it had before.


All that accomplished but my friend was still at work, so I amused myself by picking a supply of lemons to take north



yes, I know they look like oranges - they are not


and talking to some of the wildlife in the backyard




Yep - that's a fennec fox; there used to be more of them (in the yard, I mean). Also, running wild in the yard, chickens and guinea pigs and a pair of pheasants. There used to be several other animals of all sorts, but my friend's housemates are getting ready to move to Hawaii and they've had to start downsizing the menagerie.


Had a great dinner that night of pheasant egg frittata - yum.


Hopefully this concludes the shakedown portion of the ride home...



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Day 8




Originally there'd been a plan for a few friends to join in and escort me across the bay and up into Marin county...but then everyone (well, not me!) had to work. *sad face* 


I did get some company the first few miles or so,




but then I was on my own. At least the weather cooperated and I had a great day riding. Mostly it was 101, but I did take 128 from Cloverdale over to the coast - that's a nice section through Ft. Bragg up the coast



and then back into the trees and hills to meet 101 at Leggett. 


By the time I got back to 101 I was getting hungry...and I REALLY wanted one more In n Out burger before leaving CA. I figured there must be a shop in Arcata or Crescent City, but I wasn't sure I could make it that far. I pulled over to check google ... and 


damn it. I'm certainly not riding back down to Ukiah, and I'm really really certainly not riding over to Redding, so I guess I missed that chance. Stopping to get gas...and Cheetos and Starbursts...a bit up the road and google reminds me about the Samoa Cookhouse outside Arcata. Sweet - been told several times that it was a good place to eat and a lot of fun, but we've always passed it up because the menu is limited (very - to whatever they happen to cook that day) and not in any way vegetarian friendly. But! the wife is at home this trip! Pulling into the parking lot very hungry ...and maybe starting to drool just a little... I'm surprised to see it basically empty.




Hmmm... Helmet and jacket off, walk up to the door and...crap. They are open for breakfast. They are open for lunch. They are open for dinner. They close from the 3pm-5pm each day. It is 3:10pm. Sigh. Alright google - let's see if you can do better this time... and I find a burger place with great reviews. Not a great experience and maybe that's isolated, so I won't put the name in here, but it rhymes with "Star Hamburgers" and may or may not be the inspiration for the Krusty Krab from Spongebob Squarepants. Dinner, and all but the last of the dry weather, behind me I figured it would be a good idea to pick up a layer of rain gear for tomorrow. I had pulled an old second-hand Dianese suit out of the closet - in theory it was waterproof and I'd brought it instead of my regular gear because I didn't have room for liners in my luggage. Unfortunately the jacket was no longer even water resistant - heck, I'd say it was actively inviting water in. Big Five in Crescent City provided a cheap set of Frogg Toggs and that stop still left me enough time to detour through Jedediah Smith State Park to revisit Stout Grove.  Sweet.


It's a great quick trip off 101, but if you rely on GPS or google it will likely take you in and out the same way. You don't want to do that. Stout Grove is just barely into the park coming from the north and GPS will take you right there, but if you're coming from the south you want to find Howland Hill Road (follow the signs to the casino, and then the smaller signs to the park just past the casino); it's small and sort of gravel but if it's not wet you can ride/drive it with anything. If it's raining it might be a bit slick for street tires (the road is technically gravel, but in my limited experience the surface is more like slip {not sure if that's a regular people term, but in ceramics that's a very water-biased mix of clay and water you use to sort of glue pieces together when building/sculpting - SUPER slippery until it dries} AND is canted toward the downhill/drop off side...) but still passable if you're a little brave. You will get dirty though. Anyway. Going in on Howland Hill gets you about five miles riding through a great one-ish lane road surrounded by tall trees and all sorts of cool nature. There are a number of hikes you can do off the road as well.


Obligatory bike by big tree:




...and gratuitous look how tall it is selfie...



From there it was closing in on sunset and I made it just across the border into Oregon before calling it a night.


Nice bookend pic in the same spot as the end of Day 1




A quick check of the weather for Monday morning was not exactly uplifting...












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Day 9





A good friend from Tennessee who is bad with time zones texted me around five am to show off his wife's new truck. 




It's far from the worst way I've been roused from sleep (this morning, for instance, I apparently hit my still healing thumb on something hard enough to wake myself up shouting "F#$K!" ...which was also, I'm sure, a fun way for Laura to wake up...), and actually, I wish he'd texted an hour earlier as the rain was moving north and had just surrounded me.




I probably should have just jumped into my gear and run out the door, but I decided to take what would soon turn out to be a very superfluous shower and didn't get on the road until six or so. It was still a little dark and a little damp; this pic is actually one of those Apple "Live" photos, but I don't know how to make those work here. You can't see anything more when it plays, but you can sure hear the rain, so just imagine that...





Lots of wet and not much else all day. I was really thankful for the heated jacket and the pinlock in my helmet; without those it would have felt interminably longer I'm sure, and may well have become a two-day ride (honestly I should have just stayed in Brookings for a day and ridden the last leg the next day...but I didn't have any friends to play with and I get bored easily...). I was moderately thankful for the Frogg Toggs as well - they didn't keep the water out, but they did slow it down a good bit. I think if I'd been forethoughtful enough to tape up the front over the zipper they would have actually done ok.


I think the only times I wasn't in the rain that day were my two gas stops - both times the attendants (remember: it's Oregon so there is no self serve unless you're running diesel) were gracious about letting me leave the bike between the pumps while I went inside to snack and warm up a bit.




This first stop, pictured above, was in Reedsport just south of where 101 crosses the Umpqua river. As I was heading out of town and across the river I saw a bright green flash just above the road ahead and noticed the power lines swaying. My brain pretty quickly guessed that a transformer had blown, but it didn't take the logical leap to why. Coming around the bend just over the river I found a few cars stopped ahead and truck and trailer in the left ditch - with a utility pole across the hood. Oh. Shit. 


We got the guy out of the truck (pickup - pulling a large flatbed utility trailer with golf cart I think) checked the cab for pets (guy said he was alone but was a little loopy) and got him - and us - away from the downed powerlines. There were several folks helping out, so I hopped back on the bike and was contemplating sneaking under the just barely high enough side of the powerline when the cops showed up. Dang it - probably for the best. Turns out there was only one reasonable to ride in the rain by yourself kind of road that would get me around the downed lines, and it was gated. There seemed to be another fire/logging road that could work, but it looked like a lot windy miles and I wasn't prepared to get stuck overnight in the woods, so I backtracked a bit to OR 38 and took that toward Eugene and I-5.


Amusingly the radar made it look like it was hardly raining at all. Sometimes the radar is a liar.




In the end it probably saved me an hour, but if I thought I was wet before, well, it was nothing compared to how wet I got sharing 240 miles of interstate with all the semis. Yuck. Here's my next gas stop just south of Portland. Looking at the pic, I don't appear nearly as soggy as I remember feeling. Oh - one great thing about the Frogg Toggs: the hood totally kept my head dry. I had no idea how much of that dryness was solely from the hood until I grabbed my helmet at this stop to take it off...and inadvertently squeezed a cascade of water from each side of the liner. Squish!




The saving grace of the day -well, on top of the pinlock, electric jacket and dry head- was that that KLR didn't do anything wrong. Good job KLR!


I don't remember what time I pulled into the driveway in Olympia, but it was - I think - still light, and I'm pretty sure it had stopped raining by the time I slithered out of all my wet gear.


I've got several texts and pictures from the R9T guy thanking me for getting his bike to him in Hawaii - I think he and the bike are having a great time.


The KLR got reunited with its owner at the SeaTac airport a few days after Day 9 - it was bright and sunny and he seemed super excited for his planned trip with a buddy back down to LA. It started raining that night and kept it up all week; I haven't heard from him since I handed the bike back to him that afternoon; I hope he made it home.



All said, I had about a 3000 mile ride without putting a single mile on my bike, spent nine days on the road and only paid for one night of lodging, and got to see some old friends AND make some new ones - a great trip to be sure :)




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