Friday, July 31, 2009


This past winter, Mr Jack Riepe, of the Twistedroads Blog fame; had lamented several times to me the lack of greenery in my shots of Colorado during the winter.

Now that we've gone through the year's wettest month, the surrounding countryside along my commute road has greened up considerably. I've been watching sunflowers grow taller and taller along the side of the road and today thought there were tall enough to take pictures.

I spotted a small dirt trail leading off from Powhaton Road, bordering a farmer's field, which held promising stands of sunflowers. I moved slowly along this trail, till I found a suitable spot and took several shots.

However, shooting into a bright sky with a dark background, is tricky. Had to do some retouching using the services of, an online version of photoshop as it were:

I then, with some effort, turned Brigitta around on the trail and started heading out back to pavement. I stopped a couple of times more for more pictures and the best one I could manipulate is this one:

I think I'll try these shots again with bright sunlight overhead the next time and see how they turn out.

Oh, and you'll have noticed the gray skies overhead? Yep, got caught in some light rain as I neared the house. It's all good.

So there you go Mr Jack Riepe, I hope you like them. Dammit. : )

Update: Gail of, photoshop guru and beemer rider, cleaned up the unsightly power lines and towers in the first picture. I had included them since I thought they added some "flow"; but as you can see's better without them:

By the way, I don't know about you all, but the picture above reminded me of this painting:

Christina's World, by Andrew Wyeth
(yes, I flipped the picture to fit the posting)
Or is it just me?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Light from Heaven

The title of this post is what came to mind as I rode home yesterday evening. The light you see was breaking out from the gray skies above me.

I did not get to a good posing spot for Brigitta when the light was really the strongest but managed to catch a bit of it before it faded away:

Saint Brigitta, Patron Saint of Safe Riding

Moral of the posting? Always, carry your camera with you. Specially with charged batteries, mine died after I took the one shot above.

Monday, July 27, 2009

"Riding in the Rain"

Today as I left work close to 4:00 PM, the storm clouds were gathering and a few drops of rain were starting to fall in the parking lot as I got ready to ride Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer home from Denver International Airport.

Flying debris was everywhere as the winds were picking up and blowing from the North/Northwest. I headed out and straight into some strong gusty winds, hitting me on the right side and causing me to lean Brigitta over or be pushed into the adjoining lane. I hate wind from the right side, left side...not so much.

I got to "enjoy" these windy conditions for several miles until at last my chosen route home had me heading in a southerly direction. Now with the wind at my back, all was quiet and relatively still. I chose a route that avoided much more exposure to southbound winds on my right side and the rest of the ride was great.

The rain continued and grew in strength, there was buckets of the stuff! And yet, it did not bother me. I was dry with my waterproof liner under my riding jacket, my pants were getting wet but I was heading home so no matter there. The rain was falling thickly but gently with almost no wind. It was great!

So great in fact in evoked in my minds eye that scene from that old movie where Gene Kelly is dancing about in a rain-soaked street, singing that well known song: "Singing in the Rain".

I was finding the whole riding in the rain experience, after those wicked wind gusts coupled with rain, so peaceful in comparison that I tried singing the following lyrics. Really, I was having such a good time, rain coming down in buckets, that I was weaving in my lane (safely), as I am prone to do when enjoying some nice tune when on the highway.

So I give you here, the paraphrasing of the first verse of the song, sung to the tune of "Singing in the Rain":

Riding in the Rain

I'm riding in the rain
Just riding in the rain
What a glorious feelin'
I'm happy again
I'm laughing at clouds
So dark up above
The sun's in my heart
And I'm doing what I love
Let the stormy clouds chase
Every cager from the place
Come on with the rain
I've a smile on my face
I ride down the lane
With a happy refrain
Just ridin',
Ridin' in the rain

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Maria and Brigitta go out riding together

For the first time ever, both my motorcycles: Maria the 1150RT and Brigitta the R80 Airhead, went for a ride together.

Since there's only one of me (a fact that is sometimes a comfort to women everywhere), there's no way for me to ride the two motorcycles I own at the same time. Well, that changed today.

Gary, who used to be my next door neighbor, who had moved away over a year ago to Missouri; was here for the day. He flies for Frontier Airlines and his daughter was visiting a friend in the neighborhood. Gary was at loose ends so he proposed to take me up on a repeated offer of mine from the past to go riding.

He shows up shortly after 9 AM and after lending him my old riding jacket and some gloves, we were off. Gary was on Brigitta and I was on Maria. It was really fascinating to me, to see how Brigitta looked in my side mirrors! She sounded pretty good to when Gary would pull up next to me at stoplights.

We went down on CO 83, aka Parker Road, past Parker and Franktown. I then took him up CO 11 where we found many patches of gravel which slowed us way down. Once we got into Castle Rock, I looked for a spot for a photo op with Castle Rock's namesake in the background:

Gary, with the girls

Me and the Girls

We exited Castle Rock, crossed over I-25 and took Wolfenberger Road towards CO 105. Turning south on CO 105, we cruised under sunny skies down to Perry Park and I turned into the development to show Gary the many rock formations there.

Here we are at Camel Rock, one of the more well known of rock formations:

Interesting, how shooting from basically the same location, we used different compositions

It's different, riding with someone else. Way different when he's on your motorcycle! Still, I got to see Brigitta as others see her, and I liked what I saw.

After Perry Park, we cruised through to Palmer Lake and had a quick lunch at Monument. We then crossed back over I-25 and headed east back towards Parker Road. The skies were darkening quickly and I could see a rain storm approaching from the west. We hurried north on CO 83 and got near home just short of 3:00 PM I believe.

One short stop to pick up a birthday cake to surprise my loving wife with and off we went for home. We got caught in a pretty good rain shower due to the cake stop but it was worth it to see the look on her face when I brought it out. I even managed to get three of her friends to show up to sing Happy Birthday to her.

Gary and I even worked in a late evening ride after the guests had departed. We saw perhaps six deer in the fields on either side of the county roads I'd selected. We only rode perhaps 50 miles during the evening ride but it was all good. This time Gary rode Maria and I was on Brigitta.

Again, it was weird seeing Maria in my side mirrors being ridden by someone else, but again I liked what I saw. I must figure out a way to safely take a picture of my bikes when ridden by someone else while I too am riding.

A good day of riding, a bit less than 200 miles total I'd say. Looks like Brigitta's odometer records more miles than Maria's odometer though. At the end of the first ride, Maria reported 8 miles less than Brigitta's total.....hmmmm.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Site Review: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Now Online

If you've ever read Robert M. Pirsig's book, it probably took you a few times and some effort to read it all the way through; to grasp the many concepts, characters and finally the author's pursuit of the definition of "Quality". The book, loosely uses motorcycle maintenance as analogies and metaphors to allow Pirsig the convoluted tail of a ride with his son. At least, that's how the book drew me in, as I suspect many other motorcyclists were attracted to the title as well.

Photo courtesy of The new Cafe (racer) Society where I found out about the online version of the book

Click on the photo above to go to the online version of Pirsigs book.

This book has had a profound effect on many people. Some of these have tried to follow and replicate the motorcycle ride that Robert Pirsig and his son did. The ride is the vehicle by which the author communicates the mental struggles and questions he was dealing with during the trip and afterwards.

One of these Pirsig fans has a site to help you discover more about Quality, the book and here's the best part, a guide to the route taken by Pirsig as documented by other riders.

ZMM Quality's host, Professor Henry Gurr does an outstanding job of providing information for riders who wish to ride the route taken by Pirsig. He also offers links and information to help a reader to perhaps understand more fully the work of Pirsig. It's well worth your visit if concepts written about in Pirsig's "culture-bearing" book have so far escaped you in terms of understanding them. I know I sure have questions about some of the stuff Pirsig wrote!

Robert M. Pirsig and his son Chris, during that famous ride. Photo courtesy of ZMMQ

Link to the ZMMQ or Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance Quality.

So, click on the first photo, there's the book for you to read online.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Increasing Brigitta's Tailight's Lumen Output

Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer, came into my possession with a 5 watt tail light bulb. It was dim, it's light hardly visible in bright sunlight, at least to me while standing 10-20 feet to the rear of the motorcycle.

The tail light with the 5W Bulb, afternoon sun hitting the rear of the motorcycle directly

As a stopgap, I mounted an 12 LED stoplight, wired to be on continuously while the ignition was on. I felt safer.

Recently, half of the LEDs quit working and so I revisited the light output limitations on the R80.

Yesterday, I replaced the taillight bulb with a Sylvania Type 97 13.5V 9.3W bulb from the auto parts store. The light was yellower but seemed to be a bit brighter with the red plastic taillight housing back on.

Today, I rolled Brigitta out on the cul-de-sac, walked back about 20 ft and was disappointed with the perceived light output of the new bulb. Off to the auto parts store again, did some more looking around and found a Sylvania Type 105 12.8V 12.8W bulb.

I replaced the 9.3W with the 12.8W and was pleased to see I could actually see the tail light illuminated from 20 feet away. My only remaining concern now is heat output from this new bulb, will have to monitor over time.

The tail light with the 12.8w bulb, I could see a difference with my eyes, my camera...not so much

Did some research to validate my assumption that more wattage = more light output.

I found the following excerpt on Wattage is the amount of electricity needed to light the bulb. The higher the wattage is, the brighter the light will be. LINK

Another link stated incandescent bulbs put out 7-24 Lumens per Watt. Which if you do the math, it boils down to more watts = more lumens = more perceived light.

So, taking the arbitrary value of 7 from the above statement, my original 5W bulb was putting out 35 Lumens, my new 12.8W bulb is probably putting out 89.6 Lumens. So about 2.56 times more light!

No computers, local area networks or fancy electronics on the airhead, so I don't think introducing this higher wattage bulb will affect anything on Brigitta except a bit more power drain which I'll monitor via the voltmeter.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Documenting your Wrenching

I try and do what I call basic services on my motorcycles. Part of it is that I am cheap and owning beemers tend to get expensive in terms of maintenance at times. Part of it is the satisfaction of knowing the services was done and done right. Part of it is not liking to leave my motorcycles in the hands of others, and the logistics of bumming a ride from/to the mechanic/dealer to drop off or retrieve ones pride and joy.

Source: California Motorcycle Adventures (googled)
Click the above for a snapshot of Maria's log as of today

So where am I going with this you ask? Doing your own basic stuff, in my opinion, is all well and good but you must also be a zealot about documenting said services! Not only to track and schedule the next required work to keep your motorcycle humming along but also to prove to a buyer that you're steed was well taken care of in case you decide to sell it in the future.

I don't see myself selling Brigitta anytime soon but Maria? Maybe.

I spent part of this morning updating my documentation. The small little space in the owner manual that came with Maria is ludicrous for documenting work, works great for the BMW dealer to check off but that's it. I use an Excel spreadsheet to track my work on my motorcycles.

What do you use on yours?

Note: Yes, I do backups of my computer data monthly and nightly. Do you?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Southwest Colorado Trip - Day 6 Part 2: The Western half of the San Juan Skyway

As a followup to yesterdays posting, here is the scenery and thoughts I'd like put down while such are fresh in my mind.

I left Silverton, CO at 3:00 PM shortly after checking in with my loving wife after my business call was over. I took US 550, aka the Million Dollar Highway, north out of Silverton and while climbing up into the mountains almost immediately had to stop and take pictures. In fact, although it was only 24 miles to Ouray (24 really twisty mountain miles) it took me an hour to get there due to the many stops I had to make for picture taking:

The view just above Silverton, northbound on US 550

Looking towards Ouray on US 550

A closeup of Brigitta near Silverton

Once I managed to tear myself from the beautiful views near to Silverton and enroute to Ouray; I bagged another mountain pass for Brigitta. Red Mountain Pass, named as you will see for the red soil of the mountain peak it lies below of, is the dividing point between two National Forests:

Peak of Red Mountain

Heres some more shots of the Million Dollar Highway, somewhere between Ouray and Silverton I think. I was in such a rush, dammit, that I was not as careful to note locations as I usually do. Still, I hope you get a feel for the incredible mountain scenery provided by this highway.

Mount Abram

By the way, its near the above location where the Alpine Loop exits. Just in case you want to pick it up from this end of it.

Arriving at Ouray at 4:00 PM, I cruised right through this pretty little town nestled inside a canyon, I'll have to come back and visit some day. I rode onwards, found Ridgway (beautiful ridges all around) and took CO 62 towards Telluride.

As I neared Telluride, I bypassed it by taking CO 145 which comprises the western half of the San Juan Skyway. The scenery around Telluride was quite magnificent as well I might add. Here is but two samples:

View near Telluride

Sunshine Mountain and Mount Wilson

Really, towns such as Ouray, Ridgway and Telluride deserve a whole day just to explore and photograph them and their surrounding mountains.

The rest of CO 145 is pretty enough, heavily wooded on both sides of the nicely paved two lane highway. You do go through a long stretch until you reach the borders of the Uncompahgre National Forest where mountain scenery is hinted at but not seen due to the many trees.

However, once you come out for a bit and view what I saw, it made the long wooded stretch worthwhile:

I believe this is Flattop Mountain

As you can see, I was quite taken by Flattop Mountain. The sun was hitting it just right and I could not resist taking picture after picture of it as I neared it and too soon passed it by.

While the rest of CO 145 was unremarkable except of course for tight curves and smooth roadways occasionally marred by tar snakes, there is one more sight to see before one just settles down to straight riding through Rico, Dolores and finally Cortez, CO:

The rock formation of Lizards Head, next to the pass of the same name, I did not have time to ride the pass though, was fortunate to shoot the rock however from the side of CO 145.

The rest of the ride was straight up riding, fuel up when low and repeat. Cortez took forever to show up in my sights! It was 6:00 PM when I took the last picture of the day and then it was a race to get back to Pagosa Springs before nightfall.

Once at Cortez, I picked up eastbound US 160 and "put the hammer down". I made it back to Pagosa Springs and my family safe and sound at 9:00 PM as dusk finally settled in the valley. No deer sighted, which is a truly good thing!

Hope you liked the above rush tour of the Northern and Western portions of the San Juan Skyway. Its definitely one to return to over and over again I think.

EOD Mileage 77,320.

Addendum: 16JUL09: Today it was a six and a half hour of highway riding mostly along US 160 and US 285 back to Denver and reality. Not much to report really, just glad to be back home. My family joins me tomorrow as they decided to take in one more day in Pagosa Springs.

Here's a final panoramic shot of just Flattop mountain and the surrounding area.

EOD Mileage 77,652. Total for the trip: 1997 miles.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Southwest Colorado Trip - Day 6 Part 1: The Alpine Loop

A long day of riding today, so many pictures and grand views that I am having to split this posting into two parts!

The day started pretty early as the family and I rose before dawn to ready ourselves for a journey to Silverton and a family event: the touring of the Old Hundred Gold mine near Silverton. We were on the road by 0715 or so and I was riding along with my wife and kids following somewhere behind me in the minivan.

Here's a view of the ridgeline formations one sees to the west of the San Juan Skyway just north of Durango:

Looking north on Hwy 550, a few miles north of Durango, near Needleton

Last time I cruised the eastern half of the San Juan Skyway loop, it was in the afternoon. Today, I hit the same scenic points in the morning and as you can see, the light conditions today were very nice:

The Grand Turk and Sultan Mountains

Twilight Peak

As I continued on, I spotted this Harley Davidson parked off the side of the road with the rider obviously working on it. I pulled over and offered assistance. Turns out he had a flat tire. Not only a flat tire but one with three tire plugs in it. He had been headed, with his wife, to Durango to get the tire changed out. We worked on it a bit trying to find the new hole, turns out one of the old tire plugs had come out and let the air out! He replugged it with the sticky strings method kit and a short while later he was on the road and so was I.

I arrived at Silverton shortly after 10:30 AM and rendezvoused with my wife and sons. We got to the mine just before the 11:00 AM tour.

The tour is quite good, lots of historical facts about mining operations and work itself. Even my sons seemed interested at points, which is unusual. Hard work, mining, glad I don't have to do it for a living.

Once the tour was over, my family went into Silverton to look around. I spent some time taking pictures of the gorgeous views surrounding the mine area and enroute to the Alpine Loop's entry point:

The view from the mine's parking lot

Along CR 4, near Silverton

I got on the Alpine Loop road and started heading up into the hills that it is laid out against. The first mile or so is similar to the start of the "Oh My God" road so not too bad but it does get progressively rougher. Its rated as a four wheel drive road for high clearance vehicles and they mean it.

Still, I took it slow and did fine enough that I did not have any incidents. Lots of times I had to stand on the pegs to negotiate the rockier portions but it was all fine. Here are some of the views along the portion of the loop that I rode on:

An apparently still functional mining operation along the Alpine Loop Road

Views along the Alpine Loop

Not sure which, one of the several mountain peaks surrounding Silverton

I ran out of exploring time around 1:15 PM as I had a business call to make at 2:00 PM. So I turned around where I was on the loop and headed back towards Silverton where my cellphone could get a signal. I made it in about seven miles, some day I'll do the whole loop!

On the way down, the experience I'd gained with the really rocky terrain of the loop road evidenced itself in how easy I found the rest of the dirt trails back to town! I must have barely gone over 20 mph on the way up the loop, on the way back I was reaching 30 mph with no trepidations or issues.

One obstacle I did hit on the way to town though. Sheep. Lots of them. Apparently I'd picked the one day when the sheep herders truck their sheep down from the mountains for feeding around Silverton:

I parked here since the herd was blocking the road

Lucky I stopped, the herder decided shortly afterwards to push them up the road towards me!

I wonder what the sheep thought of Brigitta as they went past?

After the sheep left, I continued on into town and my teleconference. An interesting road that Alpine Loop, turns out it dumps you out on the San Juan Skyway.

Finally, a couple of panoramic shots of the area leading to the Alpine Loop:

Next: Riding the remainder of the San Juan Skyway.

EOD Mileage 77,320

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Southwest Colorado Trip - Day 5 Chama Loop

Today I decided to explore to the SE of Pagosa Springs, in the Chromo/Chama area of the state. The mountains that form the southern portion of the divide spanned by the Wolf Creek Pass are to the east of Chromo so I figured it was a good jumping off point.

After tanking up Brigitta on the east side of Pagosa Springs and picking up more hypoid gear oil for another transmission oil flush; I headed south out of town on US84 towards Chromo. US84 is a really nice motorcycling road, nicely paved and with easy curves generally following the contours of the river which created the valley it sits in.

I could see beautiful views of distant high mountains but never did get close enough. About 30 miles later I got to the very small settlement of Chromo, blink an eye and you're through it. I kept going, hoping to find county roads that went eastward closer to the peaks. The countryside was pretty with some nice looking ridges and mesas here and there.

Soon I was at the New Mexico border and I spotted the twin to Colorado's Chimney Rock shortly after transiting into New Mexico:

Chimney Rock's Twin in New Mexico, I think it's called Eagle Point

As I rode towards the next town, Chama, I spotted a sign for a historical marker just up ahead. I was riding through what I thought was a small valley at the time and being a sucker for such things, I stopped to take a look:

Looks like a valley to me, just goes to show you have to read the signs!

I got to the town of Chama and after a brief stop at the tourist information office, I headed east out of town on NM 17. The lady at the tourist office said this was a pretty drive and I must say, I now agree with her!

The Cumbres and Toltec Railroad line played a huge part in the mining history of the area. There was a museum and exhibit area in Chama and I stopped briefly for this shot of the depot:

Chama RR Depot

I kept riding east/northeast-wards out of town and surprisingly soon I was once again at the border between New Mexico and Colorado! Here's my last view of New Mexico today:

My last view of New Mexico at the state border

What had been easy curving roadway on NM 17 now became rapidly ascending and increasingly twisty roads on CO 17. The air got noticeably cooler as I felt the elevation changes.

Just before Cumbres Pass

The requisite Cumbres Pass sign

Crossing Cumbres Pass, I noted a small rail station for the Cumbres & Toltec line. The road became flat at this point and I was wondering why they called it a pass since a pass usually drops down towards a valley soon after its summit.

The answer presented itself as I was zooming along, delighting in the tight curves and views of approaching mountains. I was going fast enough that I passed the sign for La Manga pass and had to stop and turn around for the requisite pass picture:

The view back towards Cumbres Pass from La Manga Pass

After this pass, the road started gently sloping downwards and with moderate curves to enjoy. I soon entered Conejos County and came upon this grand view of Conejos Canyon:

Brigitta at Conejos Canyon

A broader view of Conejos Canyon

CO 17 really starts sloping steeply downwards at this point and disappointingly soon deposits you down on the valley floor. You transit through small settlements such as Fox Creek and Las Mesitas. It was at Las Mesitas (which means "Small Tables") since it's surrounded by small mesa formations; that I spotted what I though was an abandoned church. On closer inspection, I think it's a half-finished church which ran out of money to be finished perhaps.

Continuing on CO17 (you really don't have much choice) I was soon at the junction with US 285 near the town of Antonito. Here was another Cumbres and Toltec railroad station, the one for Antonito. I stopped here next to an old train to check in with my loving wife and take pictures:

Antonito's RR Depot

I headed north towards and through Antonitos. As I went through the town of Conejos, I spotted a small sign stating: Colorado's Oldest Church. Needless to say, I turned Brigitta in that direction!

Shortly I came upon a standard Catholic style church, located next to the Conejos County courthouse complex. The church is the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and you can see the details about it in the sign below.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Colorado's Oldest Church

Heading back north on US 285, the ride became a straight road slog to US 160. I was now fully into the southern part of the large San Luis Valley and it was just farmland and ranches all about me.

I tanked up again in the town of Alamosa and headed westward towards the western valley mountains as fast as traffic would allow. Looking back on things now, I would recommend that you turn around at Antonitos and re do both La Manga and Cumbres Pass instead of completing the loop I rode.

I hit the area near Wolf Creek Pass after about an hour of riding. The riding got more enjoyable at this point as one approaches the pass as you might imagine. Soon enough, I'd traversed the pass one more time successfully and safely and was heading towards Pagosa Springs.

That's Sheep Mountain to the left, the rocky formations in the center are where the Wolf Creek Pass Scenic Overlook is located.

Another view of Sheep Mountain

Indian Head Rock on US 160

After these pictures, it was a straight up ride towards Pagosa Springs which I got to around 5:30 PM or so. After resting a bit, I drained the oil again from the Ebay transmission. The almost 600 miles I'd racked up since the last oil change revealed oil that was less cloudy and dirty looking. So I am hopeful I am successfully removing the water contamination it came with.

EOD mileage 76,918. Now using GearSaver 80w90 GL5 Hypoid Gear Oil I got from the local Yamaha dealer. Its red instead of golden brown like the BMW stuff but should do fine.