Sunday, July 31, 2011

So, Vikki is probably history.....

Bobskoot had emailed me a link to a posting which turned out very apropos as to why I've been so quiet lately in the blogosphere.

BLUF: (Bottom Line Up Front)

Vikki, my 2004 Suzuki V-Strom tug is more than likely, toast.

The V-Strom's drive chain coming off the rear sprocket two weekends ago at the end of my trip to Montana had apparently flailed about while wrapping itself around the front sprocket.  The end result was not only a busted clutch actuator rod, damaged drive chain,  but small holes carved into the left side engine casing and some other associated damage.

The dealer where I took her for repairs said it would take around $3700 in parts (apparently the engine casing's replacement involves also all sort of bearings and other internal parts which are a mandatory and or best practice replacement).  Tack on another estimated $1500 in labor (the engine has to be removed to remove and replace the casing) and you can do the math.

I am waiting for the insurance company's own evaluation as to the motorcycle's repairability before they decide what to do with her.  Vikki was picked up from the dealer this past Thursday afternoon I found so they'll hopefully evaluate her tomorrow, Monday.


My options, as I see them, are as follows and will be driven by whatever amount the insurance company deems Vikki is worth.

Option 1:
Replace the tug (that's Vikki in sidecarist lingo) with another used V-Strom, put the sidecar back on and carry on riding.  This is the least cost option as I have all the mounting hardware.

Option 2:
Find a new tug, a used BMW Oilhead GS perhaps and use that as a tug.  This option will cost me an additional $1500 or more due to having to purchase a GS-specific sub-frame mount to use to attach it to the sidecar; not to mention also, the cost of a good used GS is higher than a good used V-Strom!  An older airhead tug, is not an option with the Dauntless sidecar I have according the the manufacturer as my sidecar is a "high end" dualsport sidecar, the A-arms on the sidecar would have to be "custom made" with the tug at ther facility, more money.

Option 3:
Take the insurance money and put in bank.  Then sell the Dauntless sidecar and put proceeds in bank.  Cut my losses and ride Brigitta, my dependable R80 Airhead Beemer while we see what the future brings.  Perhaps a 2007 or newer Ural sidecar rig which are more mechanically dependable, or perhaps a R90/6 with sidecar.  Both of these would cost more money than the proceeds above would generate I fear.

More to follow.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

No sidestand? No Problem!

When I dropped Vikki off at the Suzuki dealer to get her fixed up, she had still been separated from the sidecar and hence, unable to hold herself up without assistance.

The sidestand that is built onto her is blocked by the Dauntless subframe mount and unable to be deployed.  The lack of a sidestand had not been an issue before as she'd been attached to the sidecar.

I'd brought a stack of small wooden blocks I'd cut from a 2x4 piece of lumber but they failed miserably at holding her steady; we ended up leaning her against the side of the building, her right side mirror bearing all the weight!

Today, while surfing the usual motorcycle-content sites, I came across this picture:

I'm thinking this will be "just the thing" to help prop Vikki up once I go to get her back from the dealer once she's repaired.

No word yet from the dealer on the damages and costs to fix her up.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Montana Trip - Last Day

I had a bit over 500 miles to do today to get from Sandy, UT to Centennial, CO with a stop in Edwards, CO for lunch with a fellow Uralista.  So I left before dawn at 05:00AM, rode and froze through the mountain pass that is US6 from Provo, UT to it's junction with I-70.

I was glad when the sun finally came out and I was out of the shadows of the canyon walls that border both sides of US6, makes for some nice sweeping curves with some twists and turns thrown in for good measure but I was just feeling the chill.

As I got into the flatter portion of US6, I tanked up at the Green River exit on I-70 and posed Vikki against this large rock formation nearby:

Near the Green River exit, off of I-70 in Utah.

I met with Dana, a fellow Uralista, in Edwards, CO at around 12:30PM and we had a nice lunch.  He lent me a chain breaker tool so that I would be able to swap out the chain for the new one I'd bought in Boise, ID.  

Heading home after lunch, I ran into atypical stop/go traffic eastbound as folks were coming down off the mountains into the Denver Metro area.  It was heavier than usual, with the backups going all the way past Bakerville!

I started working my way down using frontage roads but these were full of traffic as well, resulting in a lot of stop and go traffic.  Then, it started to rain to top it all off.  

As I went past the town of Downieville, and turned onto the overpass over I-70 (Stanley Rd).  I had myself a near-miss with a SUV who'd started crossing over the middle of the road, while swerving hard right to avoid, I heard a big metallic bang and lost all power on the motorcycle, and the ignition cut out.  I coasted to a stop past the overpass and onto the side of the road.

The damn chain had come off the rear sprocket and jammed itself up in the front sprocket area!  Dammit!  Still, I thought I could self recover if I could free up the damaged old chain and put on the new chain.

Initially, it looked repairable....

As I removed the front sprocket cover to try and unjam the old chain, I found more damage caused by the flailing chain.  It had broken off at the mounting holes where the engine side cover mates to the engine.  I also found a sheared metal tube which acts as the clutch actuator so there went my plans to self-recover.  

The ignition had cut out because the flailing chain had cut the wires leading to the sidestand switch which checks to see if its up or down before allowing a rider to turn on the engine.

The wires are for the sidestand safety switch, I had thought I could "link them" together
to regain ignition, that was before I found the busted clutch actuator rod and knew
I could not repair with what I had with me.

The hole above is where the rod that acts as clutch actuator goes into the transmission case
You can see where the side cover has broken away from the lower mounting holes
I am really hoping there was no internal damage to the transmission, just to the actuator bolt.

I called my insurance company and due to the weather and accidents closer to Denver, was told an ETA of 3-4 hours before a tow truck could come get me!  So I called my friend Oscar, who true to form, dropped everything, got his trailer hooked up and was standing by me around 6:15PM or so.

His trailer was too narrow though to take on the sidecar rig so we had to separate the sidecar from the tug, which while not complicated, took some additional time.  We then muscled Vikki onto the trailer, and then put the sidecar on backwards and Oscar tied everything down tightly.

A long ride into the evening, traffic was still crap, we finally made it to his home at around 9:15 PM.  He generously loaned me his truck with trailer still attached so I could take it home and await the dealership's opening on Tuesday this week.

Dammit, an over 3000 mile trip and I almost made it home without major issues!  Still, I guess I should be thankful the accident happened close to home and ready help and that I was going slow at the time the chain came loose!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Montana Trip - Day 8 & 9: A Long Day

At my loving wife's suggestion (a fortunate one it turns out) I left the family on Friday in order to have three traveling days to get back to the Denver Metro area in time for work on Monday, the 18th.

A scan of the maps showed that I could "work in" the states of Washington and Oregon onto the list of states that I've ridden my motorcycle in.

Here's the route I ended up taking:

I mainly stayed on US2 until I got to US95, using it to make my way southwards towards both Moscow and Lewiston which are close to or right on the border with Washington State and Oregon.

First though, I transited on US2 through the towns of Libby, Eagle and Troy, where they've taken to decorating their streets with large art objects of sorts.

 Kind of looks like the eagle is trying to snatch Vikki up, doesn't it?

Can you guess that Montana is apparently known for its fishing?

Soon after the town of Troy, I came across my first border crossing sign of the day:

US95 is quite a nice two laned road, with farms and ranches bordering its length as it travels south on the western border of Idaho.  I came to Moscow, the home of the University of Idaho and used ID8 road to "cross" the border into Washington:

At this point, all I did was cross over and ride right back into Idaho.  I would spend more time on Washington soil later.

Took a while but finally I came to Lewiston, ID where after some convolute turns within the town, I finally found myself heading south along the Snake River on WA12.  Before I left Lewiston though, I found this cool old fashioned train bridge which is now an exhibit:

 This shot is for you Jack

 WA129 is one twisty road!  It hugs the mountainsides of the canyons and took me
quite a while to negotiate.  A sidecar is not really great for canyon carving, at least, the way 
my rig is set up and my limited skills!

Climbing out of a valley which apparently separates the states, I found myself at the border of Oregon
The temperature would cool perceptibly soon after this sign, curious.

 One last look at the hilly canyon walls on the Washington side

 Did I mention this was a very twisty road?

 Once I climbed out of the canyon area on now Oregon State Rd 3,  it soon broke into 
farming and ranches and then along came these mountains which are near the town of Enterprise, OR
which is near Joseph, OR on which WA82 routes one to the Hells Canyon Overlook

 In the time of Joseph, OR, if you blink you'll miss the sign that sends you to the Hells Canyon 
Overlook and you end up at the lake that is part of Wallowa Lake State Park.  Still, it was a 
very scenic park, though it did cost me time to retrace my steps.

Now, in all the turning around and taking of pictures at Enterprise and Joseph, I managed to forget to tank up on gas.  So I started on the 37 mile route to the Hells Canyon Overlook with about a half of tank of gas, I wasn't too worried though as I had my spare gas can and figured I'd fill up in the town of Halfway, on the other side of the overlook.

The road to the overlook is one of the most twisting set of curves I've ridden in a very long time.  I believe it would give the Tail of the Dragon a run for its money in terms of how many curves are involved.  The road is narrow, barely enough for two cars, filled with blind curves due to the thick forest which borders it on both side and many steep drop offs as well.  Oh, and to make things interesting, there's potholes and patches of loose gravel here and there to make sure you're paying attention!

 Here's Vikki at the Hells Canyon Overlook, frankly I was quite disappointed with the view, I found it "not worthy" of the name "Hells Canyon".  

Another 30 miles of only mildly less twisty roads later, I was at the town of Halfway, OR and the light was failing as it was close to 8:30PM by now.  Guess what?  Turns out in Oregon, one can't fill up their own car with gas, it has to be done by an attendant.  The gas station was closed as the town had already rolled up its sidewalks.

I had used up my spare gas can at the Hells Canyon Overlook and now had no spare gas, and about 46 miles to go to the nearest city: Baker City.  Damn.  The stress level was now on the rise.

Night fell as I rode on OR86, looking in vain for an open gas station in the small towns along the way.  It was after 10PM mountain time and I made it into Baker City with the "low fuel" indicator having been blinking at me for the last 20 miles or so.  I had all kinds of visions of being stuck in that solitary road, no one in sight, trying to flag someone down for a ride to a gas station, not good.

Even had one close call of riding up on a small deer that had been standing in the middle of the road in the dark....luckily, I saw it in time and braked hard to allow it to scamper off.

Once I filled up, I realized I'd made it to the gas station with less than two tenths of a gallon left in gas.....the motorcycling gods, having first seen fit to teach me a lesson in filling up when possible, had given me a reprieve!

Of course, it was late and once I found the super slab, I have over 120 miles to go to Boise, ID and the motel I'd booked for the night.  Damn.

It was a long, long, long and sore from overworked hand and arm muscles from over 18 hours of being in the saddle.  Yes, 18 hrs, and 728 miles covered under various stress conditions and overall disappointment over the sights at Hells Canyon.

Oh, and to top it off, as I approached Boise around 12:30 AM, it started to rain and then pea-sized hail started pelting me, forcing me onto the nearest exit from the I-84 slab and under the cover of a gas station's overhang!

Waiting for the rain to stop, caused me to not get to the hotel till about 01:30 AM, eighteen hours from when I'd left the cabin in Montana.  What a long day.

I woke at around 07:00 this morning and after retightening the chain on the tug, and lubing it, spent the rest of the day slabbing it on I-84 towards Ogden, UT.  I did make a stop at a local motosports dealer to pick up a new chain and had been hoping to pick up the tools needed to install it in Ogden.

In the middle of nowhere

The riding down to Utah was pretty much boring slab riding, nursing my chain by keeping the rig at or below 70MPH, in heat and very very strong headwinds.  In fact, the area where the above sign is, has warning signs of dust storms being a regular feature.  Very much no fun.

Unfortunately, I didn't get into Ogden till 4:30PM due to a late start of 11:30AM.  No one had the tools in stock and no one had time to "fit me in" to have their mechanics do the job.  I even tried, at one guy's suggestion, the tool rental shops at the autoparts stores and even Harbor Freight!  No luck.

It was a balmy 95°F in the Utah towns I tried to find the tool or mechanical help in, finally gave up and headed towards my hotel in Sandy, UT.  As a final gift, the motorcycling gods arranged for two lanes of the I-15 expressway leading towards Salt Lake City to be closed for construction which added to the travel time.

Only 350 miles or so today but it was part of a long set of two days.  In the last todays, have covered a bit over 1000 miles, I could have done the base "ironbutt" challenge!  

Got another 500+ miles to go to get home tomorrow.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Montana Trip - Day 7

Everyone was a bit worn out today, electing to all stay in close proximity of the cabin.

Bobskoot, Bluekat and Ron left early in the morning, in search of 99 miles of twisting roads starting at Lolo Pass near Missoula MT and ending up in Orofino, ID.  More details here on Bobskoot's blog: LINK

I spent the morning with my oldest son Patrick, ferrying him in the sidecar rig to a "fun center" where he successfully challenged the maze and completely lost to me in a game of mini-golf.

Afterwards, we got some Internet time at the local cafe and then we went and did something fun for me.  We both rode up the dirt road that led to the top of nearby Desert Mountain.  The guy who'd clued us in on the best way to do the "Going to the Sun Highway" had told me of the road which led all the way up to some comm gear and antennas on top.

Vikki did great running up the 7% slope or so of dirt/rocky trail, the whole 8 miles or so, until we were at the very top:

At the top

The last 1/2 mile or so was steeper than the rest of the road.  The camber was really bad in some areas which had us leaning a bit more than I liked, still, it was all good.

The mountain is very heavily forested, in fact we found some guys harvesting a fallen tree for the wood along with a couple out riding their mountain bikes.

 You can see some of the peaks located within the Glacier National Park

Going back down was a bit on the hairy until I got past the first mile down, lots of usage of engine braking and the brakes themselves.  After that, it was just straight up cruising down the trail all the way back to the cabin.

A mellow day, very little riding.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Montana Trip - Day 6 "Going to the Sun Highway"

Today, July 13,  was the big day, the opening of the "Going to the Sun Highway" and Logan Pass for the season.  The heavy snows from this past Winter had been so great that it had delayed the opening till today.

My reminder to bring three riders back with me from Logan Pass

Our plan, guided along by input from a local rider (thanks Dana) would have us going in a counter-clockwise direction starting basically from West Glacier, motoring on US Rd 2 going around the southern end of the Glacier National Park.  We were hoping, and would end up being proven right, that this way we'd avoid the massive crowds trying to get to Logan Pass from the west entrance of the park.

We left promptly at 8:00 AM after another hearty breakfast, the four motorcycles and Martha's Bimmer with her dad Richard, his friend Jon from Norway, and the two boys ensconced in the rear seat deep into their video games on their i-touches.

Martha was riding Monkey at the start of the ride, we made good time towards our first stop which was "Two Medicine" which is located on State Rd 49.  Some construction delays on US2 but nothing major, paid our fee at the park entrance and wound our way to the lake that is the centerpiece of the Two Medicine area.  I am told companies use this location to film commercials and movies involving lake scenery with towering mountains all around.

The first view of the mountains

Quite the beautiful setting, you can take a boat trip around the lake but we chose just to take some pictures.

 Some of the views as you leave the Two Medicine Lake area

 Back on northbound State Rd 49, an overview look of Two Medicine area

Another view as we exited Two Medicine

Then we rode north on US89, which eventually gets you to the town of Saint Mary and the eastern entrance to the Glacier National Park.  We gassed up here, regrouped with the car and we made plans to go into the park and stop at the Rising Sun Picnic area for a late lunch.

 The view as you approach Saint Mary from the south

After lunch, Richard and Jan along with Martha and Miles took off ahead of us and we proceeded on towards Logan Pass which at this point was less than 17 miles from where we had lunch.

Though there were not as many spots to stop on the eastern side of the park as I would have liked to have found existing, there were enough to get some shots of the magnificent mountain scenery in this part of the park.

 Some of the mountains one sees as one enters the Glacier National Park from the East Entrance

Near the Rising Sun Rest Area

As we got nearer and nearer to Logan Pass itself, the amount of cars grew in number, especially the ones coming from the western end of the park!  There was rumored to be no room at the summit parking lot and we elected to bypass it.  There was really no safe place to stop the motorcycles either before or after Logan Pass.  However, the sheer number of cars and the multiple road work projects proved favorable in causing such long delays at times that we had plenty of time to take pictures.

The trick of course, was ending up being stopped by construction where there was scenic traffic!  Still, we managed a bit.

 You can just see the long line of cars along the road, waiting for their turn 
on the narrow mountain side roads under construction

one of the highlights of the ride, besides the magnificent mountains, was the visit by a mountain goat and its kid.  We were again stuck waiting on construction and this little fellow wandered over right next to the car in front of where I was stopped.  Momma goat was overwatching it from a bit higher up the side of the road of course, but the kid really was not afraid of the hordes of people who gathered to take pictures of it.


Things eventually smoothed out in terms of constructions and traffic jams and we made it past "the loop" where we stopped to take a breather from the hot weather.

Here's Bluekat, her husband Ron directly behind her and Bobskoot

Ron, Bluekat's husband, left us at this point to boogey on down to the town of Kalispell to try and get a new rear tire as the threads were at or below the TWI: Thread Wear Indicator.  He, Bluekat and Bobskoot had hundreds more miles of riding to do before getting back home to Oregon!

We continued riding for a bit, and while there was some scenery remaining, spots to safely stop remained scarce where the light was right for pictures.  We rode on to the town of West Glacier, exiting the park and making our way to our cabin in Martin city.  I am happy to report Ron got to the Leland Honda dealer in Kalispell in time and they squared him away with a new tire for his motorcycle.

He got back at 7:00 PM, just in time for dinner.  A good day of riding, in spite of all the construction to/from and within the Glacier National park.  One note though, if you're planning a ride to the Ride to the sun Highway, don't go on opening day, the crowds are too large and annoying!

Only 160 miles today, but quite twisty and scenic.  I will update this posting with some short movies once I process them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Montana Trip - Day 5

The Montana Trip - Day 5

After a nice breakfast, the four riders in the group left the house near Martin City and headed west towards Hungry Horse for gas.  Once we fueled up, it was steady riding north of Kalispell and onto US93 towards the town of Eureka.  We were going to ride the loop from Whitefish, to Eureka and Libby and back down to Martin City.

The weather was a bit overcast in parts, sunny in parts at the start of the ride.  Still, it was cool enough that we stopped to don our windproof liners to ward off the chill.

Distant mountains enshrouded by low lying clouds

Much riding later, down US93, through some really thickly forested lands; we transited through the small town of Eureka and turned onto State Road 37, now heading south along the shores of the Koocanusa Reservoir that is formed by the Libby Dam.

Located in the upper fourth of the reservoir, we spied a bridge that looked promising for photographs.  Traffic was so light today that we were able to park the motorcycles on the side of the bridge and only three cars went by while we there playing tourist.

We then moved to the far end of the bridge and climbed up the road leading north towards an overlook we'd spotted from the bridge.

We rode on back down and back across the bridge to the east side of the reservoir and motored on southwards towards Libby.  The road is nice and twisty and points as the road hugs the contour of the canyon walls which form the reservoir.  You can see in places the raw rock where it was blasted apart to make room for the road.

Finally, you reach the bottom end of the reservoir where the Libby Dam is located.  Built by the Army Corps of Engineers, it's quite the chunk of concrete sealing off the natural reservoir formed by the deep canyon walls.

Libby Dam

You can't ride on top of this dam and so we made our way south to Forest Service Road 736.  We were wanting to cut some riding distance from our return leg of the trip as there wasn't anything in the town of LIbby that held our interest.  The forest road turned out to be pretty well paved overall and made for an enjoyable ride through thickly forested lands.  The only cause for concern, and minor at that, was the two really big trucks carrying a full load of tree trunks, as they were moving quite fast on this road.

I kept an eye out for deer and other wildlife but spotted none.  I think perhaps the logging operations have scared all the animals away?  There were spots where one side of the road dropped off to a small, thickly forested valley.  So you'd be riding along, and look down at the tops of really tall pine trees.

Eventually, we junctioned back with US Rd 2 and from that point on it was boring slab riding.  We did have a brief interlude at the Happy Inn where we'd hoped for a snack.  Turns out for some reason, Tuesdays, the grill was closed as was the saloon's kitchen next door.  So, we settled for ice cream for a sugar fix to get us through the next hour or so of steady and dull riding all the way back to Martin City.

241 miles or so of riding through richly forested land that is this part of Montana.  Kari (Bluekat) got a little taste of dirt riding as I sought to find picture spots, she liked it!