Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day at Fort Logan National Cemetery

In what has become a yearly tradition and honor for me, I rode to Fort Logan National Cemetery to pay my respects to the folks who've served and in a lot of cases, given their life in the service of my adoptive country.

This year, my 11 year old son Miles, accompanied me as we rode on Vikki, my Suzuki V-Strom sidecar rig, which made the occasion that much more special for me.  He's now old enough to understand what the cemetery represents in terms of the costs of America's role in her past wars.  I hope he'll grow to appreciate the sacrifice that the men and women buried at our national cemeteries and elsewhere did as part of their service to our country.

Our first stop was at SSGT Bryan Joiner's grave site.  He was the son of a friend of mine.  Bryan died in his early 20s while serving in the United States Air Force.

 Bryan J. Joiner, SSGT, USAF

 Miles stands at SSGT Joiner's grave, you'll note what used to be empty ground has 
now been filled with more grave sites

 Section 44, SSGT Joiner's piece of the large grounds used by this National Cemetery

Miles and I walked amongst the rows upon rows of veterans and their spouses, with me pointing out a grave stone here and there.  I tried to get him to see how all the branches of the military were represented, what war  or was each person fought in and their ranks and units where it was listed.  Miles asked me if there were any WWI soldiers buried there, so we sought them out. 

 This was the first grave site we found of a WWI soldier, soon after this one, we found many more
I told Miles of the cemeteries in France and other European countries, where American soldiers
had been buried and are still honored by those countries they help to free.

 Along the core section of the cemetery, there is a small lake, here are some of the grave sites
along a section called Memorial Walk.

 Still along Memorial Walk, I found this view of the National Colors through the trees

Miles, taking one last look at the "Gardens of Stone"
He seemed to have taken in the words I said and hopefully will take away an idea
of the lives lost and what it costs at times to make America they way it is 
and the freedom under
which we live.

My thanks to all the men and women who've served in our nation's armed forces; in war or peace, they all served.  

 "All Gave Some, Some Gave All"

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A short ride to Greenland, CO

The first long ride attempt on Vikki, my Suzuki V-Strom Sidecar Rig with my loving wife Martha coming along.

The idea was to ride down to Cañon City and cruise up and down Skyline Drive.  The weather was sunny but cool with temperatures in the upper 50s.  The wind however, hit us hard as soon as we left the neighborhood and never let up.

I'd ridden in high winds like these but I think this was a first for Martha, and even with the windshield on the sidecar, she was not really having a good time.  We were nearing the exit to Greenland, CO at this point in time, south of Castlerock, so I exited to allow some respite for her.

She added another layer over her wind shirt and we decided to wait or another day to ride down to Cañon City and its sights.

Instead we cruised through the little settlement of Greenland and posed Vikki for pictures by the railroad crossing that apparently put this place on the map.

We stayed on dirt county roads heading northwards and trying to keep the strong winds coming from the south at our backs.

Pretty soon, the county road we were on dumped us onto CO 83 or Parker Road.  We rode to a point just south of Boxwood Canyon State Park where I like to pose the motorcycle I am riding with Pikes Peak in the background:

We rode onto the town of Parker and did some knick knack shopping to get out of the winds for a little bit.

We stopped by and visited some friends in the neighborhood, a quick little ride with no mechanical issues and some lessons learned:

Full face/Modular helmet instead of open-faced helmet on windy days.

The wired headset kit I bought to use with GMRS radios works just fine, but will need something for the monkey to speak into as only I had the headset kit.   Martha had an earphone to hear, but would have to hold her radio to her mouth to say things to me.

Vikki can hold 75mph constant speed in fifth gear with no apparently issues, her engine turning at around 4400 rpm with an adult passenger in the sidecar.

On really windy days, having a blanket to help you stay warm in the sidecar, is not a good thing.  The wind keeps trying to snatch it out of your hands.

The way the sidecar mounts for the windshield and cover tarp are designed, you can use one but not the other and my monkey prefers having the cover tarp as a lap robe.  I'll have to think on that one.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The view from the office window

As some of you might remember, I now work for eCollege as a Network Engineer.  The office is located in the SW quadrant of the Denver Metro Area, in the Southglenn Mall complex.

We're in the tallest building in the area at five stories, which provides a great view of the Front Range Mountains to include Mount Evans.

When the light is right and time is available, I sometimes go to the top of the garage parking structure next door and pose the motorcycle of the day with Mount Evans in the background.  See what you think:

Taken the morning of March 14, 2011

Taken the morning of 26 May, 2011

For the photography geeks amongst you, both shots were taken with maximum optical zoom setting engaged to make the mountains seem closer than the actually are.

As you can see, it's late May, and there's still quite a bit of snow on Mount Evans.  The road to the top, highest paved road in North America, is scheduled to be open this weekend but I wouldn't be surprised the recent wet weather will delay that for a few days.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reprint: Riding to Old Bike Ride #9

An Old Indian, a bit rough around the edges but ridable and still gorgeous
Organized once again by the inimitable Bob Ohman and sponsored by the Colorado Norton Motorcycle Club, the annual Old Bike Ride #9 had a great turnout once again of vintage motorcycles of different marques. 
The weather favored the large number of riders who came out both to show off their respective motorcycles and to drool over the old iron ridden by others.  I had ridden my '87 R80 Beemer which was pretty much one of the youngsters amongst the motorcycles that showed up for the ride.
BMW, LaVerda, Moto Guzzi, Honda, Kawasaki, Vincent, BSA, Indian, Suzuki, Harley Davidson, Yamaha and I am sure other brands I don't recall at this time were in evidence.  All classic motorcycles, still ridable and ridden by their enthusiast owners.  That's what I like best about these Old Bike Rides, it gets these lovingly maintained beauties from yesteryear out in public to be admired and to inspire memories from folks who rode them when young perhaps.

Classic looking Triumph
K Bike Sidecar Rig
Chiang-Jang Rig with BMW engine
smart looking Triumph
expanding front wheels effect
Symmetry angle
I liked the symmetry presented by the front wheels

worlds apart, both with great looks
Moto Guzzi and a Norton?
BMW R60 (pretty sure)
A classic Beemer
Italian lines and color
kind of hard to miss this Orange Laverda
there's something about red Italian motorcycles....
A new-old Royal Enfield
Moto Guzzi
a magnificently restored Vincent

Brigitta held her own against the other motorcycles....but just barely

Finally, a video of the riders and their vintage machines, as they start the ride to the top of Lookout Mountain and as they come back down enroute to the rest of the Old Bike Ride #9

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Flying the Chair

Training day today, learning to "fly the chair" or cause the sidecar portion of my Suzuki V-Strom Sidecar Rig to lift off the ground during a tight right hand turn.

A little background is perhaps in order.  I've mentioned before and other sidecarists will tell you, riding a sidecar rig is very different from riding a regular two-wheeled motorcycle.  There's no counter-steering, no leaning into curves, no putting your foot down at stops and making turns require special care.

Right hand turns are especially "interesting" if you don't take care to slow into the turn and control your speed as you power out of the turn.  They get "interesting" because centrifugal forces involved, coupled with the fact you can't lean a sidecar rig, can cause the sidecar to lift or "fly up".

This behavior, if unexpected or surprising, has caused newbie sidecar riders to get into trouble, sometimes really bad trouble.  Their sidecar is now up in the air, and reactions to try and correct things usually cause the rig to cross over the road's centerline and sometimes into oncoming traffic.

The United Sidecar Association has links to operator manuals and books on safe and proper sidecar operation and I highly encourage reading their stuff and attending a Basic Sidecar Riding Course if at all possible.  Training pays off folks, the street is not the place to learn safe operation of a sidecar rig.

So, as a graduate of the local Basic Sidecar Rider Course, it was time today to try and get a feel for what Vikki does when the sidecar wheel comes up during a right hand turn.  The setting was the local high school parking lot where there were little in the way of obstacles.

I first tried it with the deep cycle battery that I'd been carrying in the sidecar's trunk, acting as ballast as I got a feel for how Vikki rode.  This ballast, I found, made it very difficult to purposely fly the chair and I really tried!  I only got the wheel to come up for less than a second at most.

I went home, had lunch, and removed the deep cycle battery.  Now all I had in the sidecar were the tools I normally carry on any of my motorcycles.

The afternoon practice, sans ballast, went much better.  There was someone training their daughter I think in basic operation of a small sportsbike.  She and I kept out of each other's way as we each practiced our new skills.

Soon I had the "hang" of it pretty much.  I was able to steer the rig in a straight line and make right turns both wide and somewhat tight.  The turns were mostly at low speeds, granted, but I was quite happy with what I accomplished in terms of control  I'll let you be the judge.

Here's video I shot from the afternoon practice session.  It gives you an idea of what a passenger in the sidecar would see as the chair is flown by me.

Some final notes, with a passenger or appropriate ballast, a newbie sidecar rider is pretty safe.  I just don't want anyone to get the impression that training and practice is not required for a sidecar.  Flying the sidecar, in a safe environment,  is fun and cool to look at, just be sure you know what you're doing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Natasha's history with me

As Natasha, my formerly owned Ural Sportsman Sidecar Rig makes her way to Traverse City, Michigan and her new owner Michael A; I figured I'd do a final posting with links and some notes.

I first laid eyes on her in a craigslist ad, and after some emails back and forth, effected a trade with her then owner Phil B.  "The Russians are Coming"

craiglist photo

The day came, September 18, 2009 when she was delivered to me by Phil B, on the back of his trailer.
"From Russia with Love".

First time riding Natasha

My education into the "skills" involved with riding my new Russian tractor-like steed began soon afterwards:  "Shift it like a Man"

One of the main reasons for getting a sidecar rig had been having the option to take on passengers safely and in comfort:  Short rides with the boys and My Loving Wife's first sidecar ride.




What turned out to be an ongoing education into the service and repair requirements of Ural ownership also began soon after I got to know here.

My first RPOC day where what I found out in the long run were heat-related deficiencies in the design of the Urals' ignition system.

My education into the fuel/air delivery system:  LINK

My first long ride on Natasha and finally crossing over Empire Pass

Empire Pass

The first "major" breakdown, dealing with the Russian "hand grenade" alternator and the subsequent successful repairs thanks to Andrey my Russian friend and fellow members of the sovietsteeds online forum.

Here's some of the more memorable snow rides while I owned Natasha, she did great every time!
Here's a search on for rides involving Natasha:  LINK

Some of the more memorable repair episodes:
My thoughts on Ural ownership at the six month mark:  LINK

The last long ride on Natasha:  LINK

Making the decision to sell Natasha: LINK

Some final thoughts:

I am going to miss Natasha, warts and all, she provided so much fun under conditions that two-wheeled motorcycles are pretty much useless under.  

She allowed me to ride an entire year, every day, no matter what the weather, through a combined use of all my motorcycles including her in the nastier weather conditions.

I'll miss her reverse gear and her driven sidecar wheel when on slippery terrain, but believe the V-Strom will do just fine as well with the right tires and some chains perhaps.

I won't miss her struggling to keep up with traffic when going uphill, or her short service intervals, or her sometimes tractor-like riding.  

I will miss her classic looks and attention-getting presence, but believe the V-Strom will contribute her own in these terms.

I won't miss wondering if I'll be able to get home safely when some new noise manifests itself or some new behavior appears.  I won't mind being bored by the often mentioned Suzuki reliability.

I got her with 5125 km on her odometer, she left me 30,586 km later, so about 15,276 miles; this was done from September 18, 2009 to May 16 2011.

I know her new owner will appreciate, as I did, the simplicity of her design even though the execution of which was a bit lacking in terms of tolerances and metallurgical qualities.  I won't miss the issues presented by the Ural parts supply system, they've got a long way to go to match the performance of BMW in this regard.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Natasha has gone to the "Great Lakes State"

Michael A, of Traverse City, Michigan is the soon to be new owner of my Ural Sidecar Rig, Natasha.

He used a shipping outfit called, which I'd heard of via the Internet and now I've seen them in action.

It was Monday, 16 May, 2011 when the driver had arranged to be at my home around 10:15 AM so I worked from home during the morning.

I had Natasha all prepped and packed, ready to go before the driver arrived and so was able to take pictures of the entire process.

 Here's Natasha, ready for the truck....I had to remove the clear portion of
the windshield due to height limitations, it could not be over 58 inches.  I packed
the windshield in cardboard and secured it in the hack.

 One of the larger semi-trailer trucks I've seen, 
it took up most of the length of the culdesac!

 Mike, the driver/operator was very professional and friendly,
here he is lowering the rear ramp

 As big as the cargo area was, it was packed with motorcycles!

 The two closest motorcycles would end up being moved to make room for Natasha

 The ramp system allows the operator to move bikes to the upper level with relative ease
though I imagine there's not much headroom in the upper story.

 Mike then just pushed Natasha onto the ramp, and then lifted her to the main storage level

Here Mike works to secure Natasha to the multiple anchor points, 
a relatively easy operation to my untrained eye.

I left Mike at this point as I had to get into work.  I'll miss Natasha I think, especially every time when having reverse gear would be a good thing, or when I'm fighting inertia due to the sidecar wheel not being driven.

I am sure that Michael A., who used to own an Indian made Royal Enfield will get the final drive fixed soon enough and have her running the wooded roads and trails of the Upper Peninsula in Michigan.  Turns out, he knows a guy with a '97 version of the same model, so he's got a local reference for comparison and advice.

Oh, so you don't think this was all a tearful goodbye session, as a goodbye gesture from Natasha, her front brake cable broke at the brake handle as the truck operator was moving her to the truck!  Luckily, I believe there's a spare cable in the trunk.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Riding through clouds to Loveland Pass

A pretty overcast and cool day today here in Colorado, perfect weather to introduce Vikki the V-Strom and her new sidecar to the Continental Divide at Loveland Pass.

I left the house at 10:00 AM and slabbed it all the way to the town of Morrison via the E470/C470 highways, maintaining 70mph without seemingly any strain on Vikki.  Those 1000cc sure come in handy for high speed runs with a sidecar attached!

From Morrison, I transited through the small towns of Kittredge, Idledale and Evergreen, picking up CO 74 north out of Evergreen and soon turning west onto Squaw Pass Road which is AKA CO 103, the road which leads you to CO5 or the Mount Evans Road.

The road up to the top of the mountain is closed until Memorial Day I think but the ride up CO103 would prove enjoyable as other times and a bit "cloudy".

The cloud ceiling today was pretty low, perhaps 8000-9000 feet or so.  Well below the elevations one achieves while riding on CO103 towards Echo Lake I believe.  First there was just a hint of fog and mist and then as I reached cloud level it was like riding in a thick pea soup of freezing gray fog.  It was too cold for fog, I was in fact riding inside a cloud which was traversing the mountains on the way east towards Denver.

 Riding inside the clouds

 At the parking lot for the Echo Lodge

Freezing fog, you gotta love it

There was the ever present fog/cloud covering Echo Lake so no pictures of it or Mount Evans today.  I cruised downwards towards Idaho Springs, the temperature slowly rising from freezing once I descended towards I-70 and the town itself.

I tanked up here and after checking in with my loving wife, proceeded west on the I-70 slab towards Loveland Pass.  Traffic was pretty light, and the sun was trying to break out through the thick clouds that were moving swiftly eastwards.

Here's a video of Vikki and I riding up towards the summit of Loveland Pass from the eastern end:

There's two more videos of the riding I did on Loveland Pass Road at the end of this posting
Follow this LINK to see the above video on youtube

 Vikki at the summit of Loveland Pass

 The view westward from the overlook facing the Arapahoe Basic (A-Basin) Ski Resort

 The view of the mountains from my usual turnaround spot on US6

A look at the eastern entrance to the Eisenhower Tunnel where it 
goes through the Continental Divide

After Loveland Pass, I headed homewards but made a stop at Silver Plume where the Georgetown Loop Railroad is based.  The motorcycling gods were smiling upon me today, not only had I good roads and fair weather for the entire ride, I got to the train station in time to shoot these pictures and videos of the incoming train as it returned from it's loop ride:

This one's for you Mr Riepe!

 The Georgetown Loop Locomotive, at the Silver Plume Train Station
LINK to video on youtube

 Refilling the boiler on the locomotive

I liked this "classic look" shot
Note: There's one more video of the train departing the station with new passengers
at the end of this posting.

I left Silver Plume after watching the locomotive take its new cargo of passengers on their day trip.  Even though it was cloudy and a bit cold, they seemed in high spirits and enjoying the ride.

I slab it, mostly, to Georgetown where I chose to get off the eastbound I-70 slab and took frontage roads eastwards towards Idaho Springs.  I stopped at a small bridge near Georgetown Lake and got this shot of the cloud-crowned mountain to the east of Georgetown:

Georgetown Lake

The rest of the ride was just boring slab riding, it rained quite a bit as I neared the Denver Metro area but I had my rain gear on so it was no big deal.  Vikki and the sidecar did great throughout.  Quite a change being able to easily maintain 70-75 mph for long rides with no mechanical issues ensuing.

The only issue I had was the wiring for the tail light on the sidecar coming loose, and that was an easy fix.

Quite happy with my new sidecar rig, good shakedown run in the mountains, interesting weather and scenery, what more could one ask for?

LINK to video on youtube

LINK to video on youtube

LINK to video on youtube