Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Natasha in Bondage

No, sorry to disappoint, but this is not a Jack Riepe type posting in terms of salacious content and wonderfully written prose. Title grabbed your eye though, didn't it?

The time has come for me to explore the concept of sometimes trailering my Ural Sidecar Rig or my Beemer Airhead motorcycle for the longer trips across this great country. Sure, my Beemer can handle highway speeds all day long and not strain at all but the same cannot be said for the Ural.

That, and since I want my family along sometimes on the long trips, this way I can trailer the motorcycle and still help out with the driving duties of the family minivan.

Up till now, I'd always been one of those motorcyclists who believed in riding his trusty iron steed anywhere he wanted to go.  Reality now is a new job with only two weeks vacation and with the Ural I'd end up using up most of that time riding there and back, with no time to explore much at the destination.

So, I looked into trailers, the one I want is pricey and I remain unsure as to how much use I'd get out of it you know?  So when a co-worker friend of mine offered up his trailer to try out with Natasha, I took him up on the offer.

This past weekend, I was stuck near the house since I was on call for work; so it was perfect time to go pick up the trailer and see if I could fit Natasha onto it.  My loving wife had recently had U-Haul mount a trailer hitch onto the minivan so I was all set.

I drove the car out to Oscar's house, and we got the trailer attached with no fuss.  There was an issue with the left brake light but I thought I could figure it out.  Oscar and I figured it was something with the trailer wiring as its been "well used" over the years.

Got the trailer home and here's some pics of the first attempt at loading Natasha:

Oscar's Trailer, those are 13" tires and the width of the trailer is 5ft.

Note the gap I had to bridge between the trailer's deck and the sidewalk in front of the house

Turns out, regular auto service ramps from the local auto parts store, with some bricks, fit the bill

My first attempt to load with my loving wife taking pictures

Those of you experienced trailer owners will have noted I was trying the above without leaving the tow vehicle attached!  Yep, I ended up causing the front of the trailer to raise up as soon as the front of the motorcycle placed weight onto the rear of the trailer!

I quickly pulled in the clutch and eased her back off the trailer and onto the ramps to "assess" the situation.

The aftermath of the first attempt, luckily Martha didn't snap pictures of the Ural with the
trailer's front end up in the air!

After some thought, I placed a cinder block under the rear left corner of the trailer to prevent it from going down and all was well.  Yes, next time I used the minivan as an anchor.  Have you noticed I tend to learn things the hard way?

So the second attempt went much smoother, a bit of jockeying around to make sure the sidecar wheel was as close as possible to the right side frame and the left side jug, engine guard and pegs cleared the left side frame just fine!

Lining Natasha up with the ramps

You'll note the cinder block now in place!

And here she is, snug on the trailer!

It's less of a tight fit than I had originally estimated but still not much room to play with when riding her onto the trailer.

Not much room to play with.....

Oscar plans to weld a set of ramps and tailgate to the rear of the trailer

The next step, and the inspiration for the title of this posting, was to tie down the rig securely and take it out for a spin!  I used straps borrowed from Oscar and attempted what I thought was a secure tie down.

I noticed her bouncing a bit more than I liked and drove over to Oscar's place for his advice.  I was pretty much wrong on everything involving the tiedown usage methodology!

Oscar showed me how to properly tie down the rig and then she was really held in place, no more bouncing around as I drove around some more with the trailer in tow.  I noticed both my front shocks are leaking oil though, I guess the attempt up Argentine Pass took its toll!  Oh well.  Time to get them serviced!

Note the tiedowns now anchor the front wheel into place, am planning on buying a wheel holder soon

The rear proved a bit more difficult to anchor properly, will do some more research 
as I am not sure the anchor points I used will be strong enough for longer rides

Another view of the tiedowns and how Oscar "locked" the front wheel in place for now

Got Natasha back home and unloaded, worked on the left brake lighting issues.  Much troubleshooting later, finally narrowed it down to the brand new wiring module from U-Haul that was wired into the minivan's left light assembly!  Good quality control eh?

I got a replacement from them and all was well.

So, now I know I can trailer Natasha with the minivan, whether for long trips or repairs.  Lots of stuff learned while "bound" to my home neighborhood due to on call duties and some electrical troubleshooting practice.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Silver Plume, Colorado - Then and Now

A recent ride took me to the small town of Silver Plume, Colorado.  It's a very small town off the busy I-70 Interstate near the larger town of Georgetown.

I'd always thought they'd named the town after the eye-catching frozen waterfall visible on the side of the nearby mountain when one is riding on I-70.  It was actually a town that sprung up around silver mines in the area.

If you like the look of old victorian age western buildings, this town might be worth a brief stop when riding on I-70 enroute to some of Colorado's many beautiful destinations.  I found the town small but quaint, quiet and a bit dusty.

As is my wont, this posting is to showcase photos of the town that I took as part of the ride in search of Argentine Pass and compare them for you with pictures from the Denver Public Library's Western History and Genealogy catalog.  As in previous postings, you have to click the external link to see the picture at the library's own site in order for me to avoid copyright issues.

Silver Plume's Jail 2010

Occupancy limit: 2, not too comfy

Silver Plume Jail circa 1875
thumbnail picture source: DPL
if the above link does not work, click on DPL link and search for x-2182

Silver Plume Schoolhouse, now a museum, 2010

Silver Plume School circa 1908
thumbnail picture source: DPL
if the above link does not work, click on DPL link and search for x-2162

Main street, Silver Plume, 2010

Silver Plume Main Street circa 1892
thumbnail picture source: DPL
if the above link does not work, click on DPL link and search for x-2180

The Windsor Hotel, now a private residence, 2010

Silver Plume Windsor Hotel circa 1902
thumbnail picture source: DPL
if the above link does not work, click on DPL link and search for x-2214

Hope you enjoyed this short posting on Silver Plume, Then and Now.

My other "Then and Now" Postings:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Another Long Day, another Sunset Ride

Today I was awakened at 03:12 AM by a voice from Sungard's India operations center saying network stuff was down and could I help.  Again, they'd failed to raise the primary oncall engineer and so it was my "chance to excel" as my Army mentors used to say to me when handing out especially nasty missions.

Suffice to say I ended up on the phone and online for the next 12 hours or so, dealing with the non-critical crisis and my regular work.  Still, got a lot done and learned a bit more about troubleshooting Sungard's complex network infrastructure.

I caught my third wind in the late afternoon and after dinner and some mindless droning in front of the TV, went out for a ride to see if I could catch the moon rise.

Low clouds to the east and south precluded even a glimpse of the moon but I managed to situate Brigitta, my '87 R80 Airhead Beemer in a nice spot to shoot what turned out to be a pretty nice sunset.

Hope you like these as much as you liked the ones of Natasha, my Ural Sidecar Rig from three days ago.  I motored about for a while longer after the sun sank from view, the temperature was in the mid-80s but not muggy so it was not uncomfortable riding.  Soon enough though, my headlight's beam of light shone my way back to my home neighborhood and the garage.

Going to hit the rack early tonight, you just know they're going to call me again.....

Monday, August 23, 2010

Naps, services and Sunsets

Spent all day yesterday, Sunday, working on issues related to work.  I was "on call" you see and one of our customers was having "issues".  15 "glorious and fun-filled" hours later, things had stabilized and we could all get some rest.

I did manage a short ride in between crashes involving the customer's equipment though so my perfect riding record for this year remains.  LINK.

Needless to day, today I was tired and was able to take a comp day off after clearing it with my manager.  Got a couple of naps in, one before and one after lunch and felt much better.

Got in some regular maintenance on Natasha, my Ural Sidecar Rig.  Checked her valve clearances (good to go), and changed out her engine, transmission and final drive oils without making much of a mess.

This evening, after things had cooled off nicely into the high 60s, low 70s....I took Natasha out for a test ride to make sure no leaks were happening while the engine was on.

Natasha ran beautifully and we were in time for a fiery red and orange sunset , silhouetting the front range mountains rather nicely if I do say so myself:

My 11+ year old camera, an Olympus C4000 is slowly getting worse.  The zoom feature in the viewfinder no longer works and I have to shoot using the LED display.  I've been looking at cameras with at least 5x Optical Zoom, image stabilization, compactness, and good reviews.  Apparently though, point and shoots are rarely made with a viewfinder these days!  I am open to suggestions from the photographers amongst you.

Note:  I already have access to a nice DSLR, a Nikon D50 which my loving wife uses.  Seeking more of something I can keep in an outside pocket.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cheap Comms

Took receipt of the GSI Rider to Rider/Passenger 2 Way Intercom System for Motorcycle today from Amazon.com.

I'd found it quite frustrating to communicate with my sidecar passengers on occasion and figured at less than $35, this was worth a shot to see if I could easily talk with my "monkey" while riding Natasha, my Ural Sidecar Rig.

picture source: amazon.com

Installation was easy, just work the helmet liner piece out of the way, slip the speakers into the pocket where your ear goes, put the liner pieces back in place and do some testing.

It's powered by a couple of AAA batteries so I we'll see how long they last.  It didn't come with any instructions but some testing later I figured out what dial did what and such.  Each setup comes with it's own volume control, and I ended up setting both to high.

Miles, my #2 son and I went out for a short test ride on Natasha and the system did very well at low speeds, performance was a bit degraded at higher speeds like over 40 mph due to wind noise activating the mike, will have to play with what I believe is the "squelch" function on the control unit to account for increased wind noise.

Still, my son and I had a pleasant conversation about school and work as we cruised about the neighborhood and along Smoky Hill Road which is quite a busy road most of the time.

Initial impressions, I've got comms, now to see how long it lasts.

Update: This setup didn't last long for me.  I no longer use it mainly due to volume issues and mediocre performance.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Uraling to Argentine Pass, First Attempt

Got off to a late start today, didn't leave the house till almost 9:00 AM and had to be back home by 4:00PM to take my son to choose some new glasses.

Time was limited so I chose what I thought would be a "doable" mountain pass that was close enough and which I'd not tried before.  I picked Argentine Pass which I google-mapped to be off of the small mining town of Silver Plume which is west of Georgetown, CO.

Why Argentine Pass?  I was motivated by this nice photo posted by another rider on a site I use to reference possible rides:

The site is Andy Bishop's Passbagger 50 site, great reference site in terms of terrain conditions and directions to a lot of Colorado's Passes.

In order to make time, I took the E-470 Slab to I-25 northbound, this eventually lead me to I-70 westbound and by 10:30 AM I was in Silver Plume.  Pretty good time for a Ural!  I was able to maintain speeds in the low 60s except on the inclines where my Ural Sportsman Sidecar Rig, Natasha, could only manage 50-52 mph.  Still no big deal and I was not the slowest vehicle on the roads!

Once at the town of Silver Plume, I quickly located the entrance to the Argentine trail, only to be dissapointed in that it was marked for non-motorized traffic only.  I went dejectedly back to town and encountered one of the locals who UDF'ed me for a few minutes.  As we talked, I told him I'd come up to try the Argentine Pass, and he informed me you can get to it from Georgetown, off the Guanella Pass road!

I took some time though before I left and took some pictures of the town of Silver Plume for one of my "Then and Now" motifs.  More on that in a later post.

I headed back towards Georgetown on I-70 and soon was leaving that town by way of the the Guanella Pass Road.  There's road construction on that road so be prepared to wait for your turn on a "single lane" stretch close to town.  By the way, Guanella Pass road is also presently closed after Clear Lake.

I found the start of the Argentine Trail easily enough, there's cars parked there for folks who want to hike up the rocky trail.  The man I'd met at Silver Plume had said the first 1/4 mile or so was pretty bumpy with large rocks and stones but that it would get better as I went higher up.

I got to tell you, it really didn't get much better.  There's spots on that miserable excuse for a road where the boulders are pretty big as they stick out of the rocky ground!  It was a slow slog for about an hour, nursing Natasha through holes, dips, boulders, and rocks everywhere I could see!

There was a couple in a jeep who I encountered a couple of times on the trail.  They told me that Argentine Pass is rated as a "Moderate" 4WD road!  Geez, I'd hate to see what a "Difficult" road would be like!

As I slogged/bounced along the rocks and holes, all the while keeping a wary eye on the edge of the road which plummeted far down the thickly forested hillsides, I also passed several mountain bikers.  They seemed to be doing a lot better than I was!

To add to the "ambience", I saw the same two kids on dirt bikes just scooting up and down the road with seemingly no effort!  Big smiles on their faces and cheery waves as they zoomed past me.

It took seemingly a long time but I finally broke clear of the tree line and saw before me this sight:

It was quite beautiful but it was then I also realized that there was much further to go to get to the summit of Argentine Pass itself.  If you look at the panoramic picture above, you can see the trail continues along the side of the mountain on the right.

Natasha and I stopped and took a break here as her clutch was acting up a bit from the heat.  I'd tried to not touch the clutch at all on the way up but she decided it was time for a break.  I chatted with the mountain bikers you see in the picture and we watched a group of about four jeeps take runs up some old mine tailings:

A hill made up of mine tailings, all that's left of some old mine

Took this jeep two tries but he managed to make it up the hill!

I checked in with the family via cellphone from this spot.  It looked like at least another hour, probably more of even steeper rocky trail climbing to get to the pass.  Since I had to get home by 4:00 PM, I elected to turn back at this point.  I'll be back one day, with the Denver Area Uralisti hopefully coming along for mutual support.

Curiously, the way down was not as hard as the way up.  Probably because the engine was not working as hard as on the way up or I was getting "used to" the road  I used the brakes and stayed in first gear the whole way down.  There were spots where Mr Gravity provided a bit too much assistance and I had to brake hard to stay in control as we bounced on the rocks.

I managed to "contact" some rocks with my left exhaust pipe on this road, not much in the way of dings but disconcerting when you first hear the sound of metal hitting rock!

In the last couple of miles before coming back onto Guanella Pass Road, there's this waterfall/stream spot that is quite cool and relaxing.  I stopped here for pictures and to rest my weary knees which were taking quite a beating due to the rocky conditions.

A nicely cool stream along the Argentine Pass Trail

I played with the contrast and colors on this picture of the trail to hopefully give you an idea of how rough the conditions were for my poor Natasha.

Taking a short break by the creek, in the shade

One of the smoother portions of the Argentine Pass Road, I believe this is the first hairpin you come across after negotiating the first quarter mile of large boulders fields laughingly called a road.

The start of the east side of the Argentine Pass Road/Trail

So I made it off the trail without incident and soon had Guanella Pass Road and Georgetown behind me.  I ran into the typical Sunday afternoon traffic jam on eastbound I-70 and suffered through slow stop and go traffic till I got off at the US40 exit.  From there it was frontage roads all the way to Idaho Springs.  Traffic had cleared up as it always does east of Idaho Springs and I got back onto I-70 which I took all the way to C-470 south and eventually E-470 back to my home neighborhoods.

Quite a day in spite of not having made it all the way to the top of the pass.  One day, I will get there.

Note:  This road made Rollins Pass' rocky conditions seem like a picnic.  This is not a road for street motorcycles, though I am sure dual-sport motorcycles will do fine in the hands of skilled/trained riders.  Dirt bikes and ATVs I saw had no seeming problems with the terrain either!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Book Review: The BMW Boxer Twins Bible

Here's another book review for motorbooks.com.

I'd written before about BMW reference books, the coffee table version for the folks who just want to gaze at beautiful pictures and have a little bit of history to read if desired:  The Art of BMW - 85 Years of Motorcycling Excellence.

Following up, I wrote a review about the next level of BMW reference books, more technical details, still lots of great photography but of real life people using these magnificent machines, along with more history and stories:  BMW Boxer Twins.

This book is for the serious BMW aficionado wishing to become a cognoscenti of the Boxer Twins.  I could see this book being carried by judges at some Concours event for BMW Airheads, which is what the Boxer Twins are affectionately known as, to be used as reference for "correctness" for a model year.

An imagined discussion between two judges would go along the lines of:  "Look Hans, for the 1978 /7 model, the carburetors has "L" and "R" cast onto the top of the rocker covers, this one does not! Oh, and look, the piston circlips are not of the Seeger-pattern!  This is obviously not a "correct" 1978 /7!"  

Click on the photo above for a link to the book on motorbooks.com

To give you an idea, this book goes through the entire range of air-cooled models from 1970-1995.  The differences between model years, no matter how insignificant, are listed.  You get a thorough understanding of the progression of the airheads over the 25 years involved.

Want to know the frame numbers assigned to each model year and model type, this book is for you.

Ever wonder how many of your type of airhead were made, and when?  This book is for you.

Want to know what were the major differences between the /5, /6 and /7 series of airheads?  Their characteristics and handling?  Why BMW created the succeeding series?  This book is for you.

Want to be able to say you know what models had a type 246 engine vs a type 247 engine and what made them different?  This book is for you.

The level of detail involved per model year is very extensive.  At one point, I was expecting them to tell me the name of the factory worker who assembled a specific motorcycle and what he preferred in terms of beer brands!

For such a thin book, it's packed with technical and historical reference data.  As with the other two books, loads of great photographs of each model year as well.  As a bonus, the last section of the book details the history of the racing versions of the /5, /6 and /7s, which I found interesting in terms of learning how great they did at first until the limits of the technology were reached.

If you end up getting this book, in part due to this review, please tell the good folks at motorbooks.com about this review!  Thanks.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Uraling to Victor's Mining District

Steffen, a fellow member of the DAU: Denver Area Uralisti, had emailed the rest of the DAU,  links to some awesome photos he'd taken on a recent family camping trip which involved his Ural Retro Sidecar Rig.

It had been some time since I'd last ridden in the area of Victor, CO and so the pictures inspired me to take ride out there on my Ural Sportsman Sidecar Rig, Natasha.  As a big bonus, my oldest son Patrick wanted to come along!

We left the house shortly before 9:00AM and took CO83 through the town of Parker to Crowfoot Parkway which led us to the town of Castle Rock.  We crossed over the I-25 super slab and took Wolfenberger road to its junction with CO 105, a favorite riding road for local motorcycle riders.  We took CO105 southbound, passing the towns of Palmer Lake and Monument in short order.  We got onto the I-25 super slab at this point and did our best not to impede the rushing traffic heading south into Colorado Springs.

We turned onto US24 by the using the Cimmaron Avenue exit once we got into Colorado Springs.  Traffic was a bit slow at first on US24 westbound but soon cleared up once we got past Manitou Springs.  Soon enough we were at the city of Woodland Park and I stopped to get lunch for Patrick.  After that little break, we headed past the city limits and took the CO67 southbound route to the town of Victor.

Lots of riding, took us a bit over three hours to get there but Patrick did great as my monkey, riding without complaint and I think sneaking in a short nap here and there.  Using CO64, and then CO81, we got to the vicinity of Victor, famed for the gold mines of yesterday shortly after 12:00 Noon and toured the Theresa Mine first:

Patrick walks up the trail to the Theresa Mine's structures

A closer look at the structure which is visible easily from the highway

$20.67 for an ounce of gold, you can do the math for today's gold price 

We walked along the gravel path past the above mining structure and came upon Shedview.  I think it's so named due to there being a small metal shed on the hillside near the overlook.

A shot of the landmarks visible from Shedview Overlook, 
you can compare with a shot of same from today

Here's a shot of the Theresa Mine from the town of Goldville, back in its heyday

A drawing of Goldville's City Hall from back in 1978

Here's the town City Hall today, not much has changed, has it?

A view of the other side of the Theresa Mine structures

I wonder if the machine is still operable, with some work?

The control station for whatever those large winches were meant to lift/pull

Patrick and Natasha at the Theresa Mine Site

Our walking tour of the mining site structures over with, we went looking for the road which would lead us to the big mining dump trucks we could see in the distance, higher up the nearby mountain.  Turns out, there's an overlook called American Eagles Overlook, which uses CR83 to climb up the mountain.  It's a wide gravel/dirt road, easy negotiated with our Ural or any dual sport motorcycle.

We proceeded to the very top of the trail, crossing over two wide dirt roads that the mining company uses to haul the rocks they're carving out of the mountainside in their search for gold.  

Near the top, there was an overlook which mandated a stop by us.

Patrick stands at the lower overlook, with the open pit mine behind him

A panoramic shot of the mining, hopefully it gives you an idea of how big it is.  
That little square dot in the middle?  One of the monster dump trucks.

I am not sure if this old dump truck bed is the same size as the ones that are operational, 
it wasn't till I looked back that I realized what it was!

 Near the overlook, we stopped for these two shots of the large tire used by the dump trucks


We made it easily to the very top where some more mining structures are located.  We elected not to check out these structures, since I wanted to get closer pictures of the huge mining dump trucks that kept cruising back and forth from the open pit mine area.

I positioned Natasha and Patrick on the median area between the two wide dirt roads used by the dump trucks and we waited.

Doesn't look that big, does it?

OK, it's looking a bit bigger now

yeah, that's a big dump truck!

I don't think there's much that is going to contest this truck's right of way!

Here's a shot of a different dump truck, with a full load of ore/rock

Quite impressive, these dump trucks!  It was now close to 1:30 PM and time for Patrick and I to head on home as we had at least 2.5 hrs of riding to do.  I retraced my route back to Woodland Park where we hit some kind of rush hour.  Took us a good 20 minutes of stop and go riding to get to the other side of town and some clear highway!

We got back down to Colorado Springs and got back onto the I-25 Slab heading northbound.  We were lightly rained on at this point but it was no big deal, it felt quite refreshing actually.  Soon there appeared the exit for the Interquest Parkway and just in time as traffic was bunching up on the slab.

We motored onto the parkway and soon it became northbound CO83, with about 30 miles or so to go to the town of Parker.  The riding was in light traffic and without incident.  I think Patrick managed to get in a short nap or two along this portion of the riding as well!  I tanked up at Franktown and we were home shortly before 5:00PM.

Almost 250 miles of riding or so, with about 7 hours or so in the saddle.  Patrick and I had a great time riding together I might add, what a fun day.