Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day, 2016

A day dedicated to remembering those who have lost their lives while in the service of the country.

Yesterday, Sunday, I paid my regular visit to SSgt Brian Joiner, USAF.  He was the son of a work friend of mine, who passed away while serving in the US Air Force in 2009.

It's always sobering to see the seemingly endless rows of headstones at Fort Logan National Cemetery.  I visited briefly with Brian and then headed home after taking a slow ride through the cemetery's roads.


Sunday was also the 10th anniversary of the first time I threw a leg over a motorcycle and started learning how to ride one properly.

The original intent and thought had been the cliched "save money commuting".  We all know that didn't happen.  :)  Proper riding gear, repairs on one's motorcycles, tires and gas....they all add up.

It's been a mostly wonderful journey, with changing goals and routes, surprising and great friendships with folks I met along the way, a broadening of one's mind, a great deal of wrenching knowledge gained and the traveling and discoveries of my own state, other parts of the USA and other countries!

There's been a few miles covered while on motorcycles, over 181K miles at the end of last year, and I've become a sidecarist along the way.  Talk about that being an unforeseen result!  It's funny how a sidecar rig becomes the preferred conveyance, though I have a perfectly working two-wheeled moto in Brigitta, my '87 R80 Beemer.  Poor thing almost never goes out now.

When I ride Brigitta, it's exactly like Jack Riepe described it:  "Closest thing to flying while still touching the ground".  She's not the fastest out there, far from it, but for me with my sidecar rig senses, she's plenty fast and maneuverable!

As I pass the ten year mark though, I'll admit that riding a motorcycle is no longer the "prozac on wheels" that Martha used to describe it as.  Not sure what happened but the excitement and eagerness to ride is no longer there.  This is reflected by the steadily declining total miles ridden each year, which started in the low 20K miles range to last year's pitiful 11.5K miles total.  Having a job which allows me to work from home hasn't helped rack up the miles either.

"Prozac on Wheels" and its present lack aside, I remain a motorcycle rider.  Rider/Motorcyclist, not biker, thank you very much.  The term Biker, when applied to what I do, irks me to no end.  Ich Bin ein Motorcyclist!

I've gone from one motorcycle to presently two sidecar rigs and one two-wheeled motorcycle.  I've ridden a small cruiser (Gretl, my first motorcycle) and a sports tourer (Maria); airheads and sidecars (gone through five so far).  There's even a 125cc Scooter in the barn but that's Martha's ride.  Stewie, the scooter, spends a lot of time garaged along with Brigitta.

Here's a video of  selected pictures of the last ten years.....I hope you like it.

I plan on adding some more countries to the list of countries where I've ridden either on two or three wheels....stay tuned!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Number One Son graduates High School


Big day for my oldest son, Patrick.  He graduated from Eaglecrest High School today, with the commencement ceremony held at the Richey Center on the Campus of Denver University.

It was a big graduating class, I think around 600 students!  The families of the students, of course added to the massive crowd that gathered for the event.

Patrick at his Kindergarten Graduation
and now a High School Graduate

 pre-ceremony pic of my sons....

 Like me, Patrick doesn't enjoy having his picture taken.

 Laura (Martha's sister), God-Mom Terri K. and Martha

 Younger son Miles played his viola in the orchestra providing 
music entertainment during the event
one more to go.....

Here's a very short video of the 90+ minute commencement ceremony.  Patrick did great we thought and now he moves on to the next phase of his life.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Giving Scarlett more breathing room

Back in January of this year, I had installed the Raceway Two-into-One exhaust headers onto Scarlett, my 2014 URAL Patrol Sidecar rig.  I had elected at that time to keep the right-side stock muffler and use it.

I'd had no real issues with the stock muffler but recent rides convinced me perhaps I was "stifling" Scarlett in terms of her ability to push exhaust gases out of the engine.

Scarlett's recent trip to the vicinity of Provo, Utah and back had revealed a rather severe lack of top end power when negotiating hilly portions of highway.  Her MPG ratings had plummeted as well since I'd had get gearbox rebuilt by URAL but I'd blamed that on the use of the OR1.02 EFI mapping which was known to be "rich".

So, I ordered some exhaust pipe reducers and they all finished arriving today.  Took me a while to remove the remaining stock muffler from Scarlett but with just minimal cursing, it came off.

I had, originally, cut a portion of the header pipe that came from Raceway to accommodate the length of the stock muffler.  Using the new adapters, I added back the length and it worked out just perfect to line up the Harley-Davidson Sportster muffler that fellow Uralista Darrell had given me prior to all this.

 The installed adapters/reducers.  Took three of them to get the right
fit for the muffler and the header pipe extension.  I'll be adding one more 
clamp I think, forward of the one you see above.

If you look closely, you can see I was able to reuse the bracket that was
used by the stock muffler's circular holder.  Lucky.

Took Scarlett out for a test drive, she sounds a bit louder than normal of course with the HD muffler but not annoyingly or obnoxiously so.  I drove her to the local toll road and warmed her up.  The first run through was a bit dismal, no power going uphill and thereby no real acceleration.  This first run, I used the stock speedometer to gauge speed and it was not giving me the readings I wanted.

Decided to mount the Garmin Nuvi GPS that I'd received from SonjaM back in 2013.  

Did another run of the same test course and this time, she ran much stronger.  It's like the EFI computer adjusted for the newer freer-flowing conditions provided by the Sportster muffler and rendered better performance?  Not sure.

Using the GPS, I was certain this time (as opposed to the highly inaccurate speedo from Ural) that I was holding steady speeds of 60 MPH.  This second run, she did both uphill portions just fine, holding 55-50 MPH, in fourth gear, with no struggling though I was at WOT.  (Wide Open Throttle).

So, satisfied with the initial test run, I filled up her tank (25.5 MPG) and we'll see how the new muffler affects the next tankful's MPG results.

On a further positive note, no backfiring from exhaust leaks when decelerating using engine braking.

More to follow.  Perhaps I've become spoiled with Fiona's more powerful engine, but if Scarlett can once again hold 55 MPH while going up hills on the highway, I'll be happy.  After all, I've learned to not exceed 55 MPH on the slabs if I want any kind of decent MPG.

If future tankfuls of gas render same dismal MPG ratings, then I'll have to again explore going back to the OR1.01 EFI Mapping or failing that, putting Scarlett back to using the stock mufflers.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Fiona will be offline for a while

I rode out on Fiona, my '99 Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig with a '84 BMW R80 engine, this morning with the objective of getting her to the top of Pikes Peak.

The skies were clear and the temperatures were warm, perfect riding conditions.

We were cruising at around 55 mph down CO 85 aka Parker Road towards Franktown when all of a sudden (no warning noises or sensations) the rig lost power and I could hear the clutch disk slipping.

I quickly pulled off to the side of the road and initially, it looked like the donut was spinning (all kinds of rubbing/spinning noise at this point) but no forward motion so I thought the drive shaft splines had worn off where they go into the donut yoke.

This by the way, is an expected event.  The rig's drive shaft came with the old type "fine" splines used to mate up to the yoke on the donut which transmit power from the gearbox.  I even have the new "coarse" splined drive shaft on hand and ready to be put in.

I pushed Fiona down the slight hill that I stopped on and moved her to a spot alongside a dirt trail out of the way of traffic on Parker Road and called my son Miles.

Miles and his friend Travis got the trailer hooked up to the PT Cruiser and shortly before 11AM they were there and we got Fiona up on the trailer and tied down.

While I had been waiting, I did some more troubleshooting and determined it wasn't worn off splines on the drive shaft.  Damn.  It was looking like possible a gearbox issue and probably a clutch disk issue as well.  The noises being made with the gearbox in gear sounded very much like when the clutch disk splines on Scarlett failed.  Damn.

We got Fiona home with no issues and about an hour later I had removed the pusher wheel, final drive and gearbox to take a look.

First major issue, the splines were completely gone from the BMW clutch disk!  It looked, just like in Scarlett's case, like they'd been machined off:

splines were completely missing!

Here's a picture of the new clutch disk when I installed 
over a month ago, note the splines.

Here's a better view of the splines.

So that explained the spinning noises of course.  But what caused the splines to be worn off?  The gearbox input splines were looking pretty bad as well.  These are the splines that mate up with the splines in the clutch disk above in order to transmit rotational power from the engine.

 Pretty chewed up eh?

Below picture is of the same input splines as they looked
when I got the rig from the previous owner.
Not looking that great to start with eh?

another view of the input splines on the gearbox as the were
when I brought the rig home.

I had also drained the oil from the gearbox and it came out the color of Olive Drab Green.  So there was water contamination as well.  Apparently, the rubber boot that I thought was there to seal the hole where the speedometer cable goes is just there for looks.  I'll be using some liquid tape to seal it off when it's re-assembled.

No big chunks of metal but plenty of metal "sparkles" in the oil pan so something has become damaged inside the gearbox.  The suspicion is that the rear main bearing for the main shaft in the gearbox had failed, coincidentally, the same bearing that had recently failed in Scarlett's gearbox. 

When you turn the yoke at the rear of the gearbox or the input shaft itself by hand, you can feel a clicking or "notchiness" while turning.  This is not a good thing.  

The theory right now is that the bearing failed, perhaps causing undue stresses on the main shaft which were transmitted through the splined connection to the BMW clutch disk splines, eventually wearing them away.

I cleaned up the gearbox, will drain it overnight and package it up for shipment to North Carolina and Richard Winter who's going to check it out and replace what needs replacing.  He wanted to also check the custom welding work he'd done to ensure the previous owner had not bent something while mounting/dismounting the gearbox.

If there was some bending of the mounts, that would also cause the input shaft to not be "true" as it mates with the clutch disk splines, causing the existing damage.

Since I'll not be doing much riding on my motorcycles next month, I'm not very bummed out at these mechanical failures.  Sure, it'll cost money to have Richard Winter fix things right but then I'll know they're corrected and the gearbox is in good shape.  I'll also be getting a replacement BMW clutch disk from Richard to replace the stripped out one.

Any sidecar riding that needs to be done before June, will be done on Scarlett, my 2014 Ural Patrol rig.  I do need to swap the muffler on Scarlett but that's minor work and the subject of a different posting.

Ah, the vicissitudes of the life of a Uralista.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Home from Utah: A Rainy Day of Riding

A rather disappointing sunrise at the Colorado National Monument where I had camped for the night.

I woke early for this, so after trying to create a usable time-lapse of the sunrise, it was time to pack up camp and hit the road.

iphone shot, tweaked with onboard software, from last night

Note: The best looking formations and canyons are visible easily from the Fruita, CO entrance to the monument.  There's an entrance on the Grand Junction, CO side but IMHO, it's best to use the Fruita entrance.

I write the above note to save you some time and gas if you're seeking picturesque canyon scenery. The eastern 2/3rds of the monument are pretty but there was a dearth of suitable spots for pictures.

It had rained overnight and this rain would be my companion for the whole day, becoming more pronounced and deluge-like once I was in the mountains near Vail, all the way to the house.

 The clouds Scarlett and I were headed towards, as seen
from Parachute, CO

 Looking towards the passes, from Vail

Looking east towards the Continental Divide and
the Eisenhower Tunnel

My Frogg Togg rain jacket did great, the upper half of my body except for my gloves, stayed dry.

Gloves got soaked, I have to locate the Aerotech "Lobster Claws" for the next time.

Rain paints didn't do so well, leaks  accumulated and by the end of the ride, the bottom half of my body was soaked.  Not cold mind you, just wet and uncomfortable.  And of course, the water drained down into the boots.  

Looks like I have to get myself some Frogg Togg rain pants!

Scarlett did great through the whole trip.  I sure missed Fiona's powerful BMW engine though on the hilly portions of the riding.  Perhaps I'll make Fiona my long distance ride rig.

Found that MPG plummets to the low 20s when going 55 or higher with Scarlett.  If I kept it between 50-54 MPH, then MPG rose into the low to mid-30s.  Still kind of sad.

Oh, Scarlett's headlight's High Beam failed sometime on the way to Utah it seems, but got home just fine with Low Beam.

1699 kilometers ridden or 1019 miles.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Going home from Utah, camping at the Colorado National Monument

Today was the last day of the gathering for work, a half day really as we were done by Noon.

A veritable hugfest ensued as expected as my co-workers said goodbye to each other.  Just before 12:30PM, I was geared up, and waving goodbye to several of my co-workers who were boarding the shuttle car to the Salt Lake City Airport.

I took Utah 189 down to Provo and from there caught US6 towards the town of Price, Utah.  The day had started with thunderstorms that woke me and I would "enjoy" rainy conditions which transitioned to downpour conditions as I neared Soldier Summit!  Still, the rain gear did its job and it never got below the low 50s in terms of temperature so it was all good.

Finally got rid of the rain somewhere near Price, Utah and there I picked up US 191 Southbound to the I-70 Superslab.  I would spend most of the afternoon on these slabs, the slowest vehicle on the road as I cruised at a comfortable 55mph.

I arrived at Fruita, CO around 5:45PM and entered that end of the Colorado National Monument.  I quickly found the campground within and found a spot for the night.  Once I had the tent set up, Scarlett and I motored out to see what we could see as sunset neared.

 The scenery within the campground area, not too shabby.

 Fruita Canyon Overlook

 Independence Monument

 The colors got really nice after the sun was below the mountains to the west
of the Independence Monument Overlook

As the light faded, I decided to shoot the rest of the Monument area tomorrow morning as I head towards Grand Junction, CO via the Monument's roads.

Long day, but a great ending don't you think?  A good night's sleep, perhaps catch the sunrise and then head on home tomorrow.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Utah Gathering: Work and Fishing

Woke in time to catch the sunrise as it illuminated Timpanogo Mountain, I'd positioned the camera on a tripod and got part of a time-lapse (battery died).

The morning was spent on briefings and meetings, as we were brought up to date on the company's progress and plans.

Sundance Resort

After lunch, we met with our fly fishing guides provided by Rocky Mountain Outfitters.  Leslie, the company's server admin and I formed one team under the guidance of Jayden who would be teaching us the art of fly fishing.

Oh, and moto-content....I rode Scarlett back down from my cabin, giving a ride to two of my rode pillion, the other in the sidecar.  You should have seen the looks we got from the fishing guides.  Sorry, but no pics.

We got geared up in rubber waders and boots which would keep us dry and warm in the cold snow melt water in the nearby river.

I had my doubts at the beginning but it turned out to be a lot of fun learning how to fly fish, casting one's line (after much trial and error).  Jayden proved a very capable and patient teacher and soon enough both Leslie and I were casting beyond our wildest expectations.

Bottom line, we spent about 4 hours in the river and we caught 8 and a half fish between the two of us.  I say half because one of the fish was a really tiny trout.  It was a combination of Rainbow and Brown trout, averaging perhaps 8-10 inches I would say.

We were so surprised by the first few fishes that we caught that no pictures were taken before they slipped away after being unhooked by Jayden.  Once we got over the shock of actually catching fish, I got some pictures:

Friday, May 13, 2016

Utah Gathering: Arrival

I woke before 6:00 AM and in time to catch the sunrise, purely by chance or rather, at the insistence of my bladder mind you.

Near Dinosaur, CO

I packed everything up onto Scarlett and off we went in the clear chilly air of this Utah morning.  Soon we were at the decent-sized town of Vernal where I had breakfast at McD's.

Vernal: Gateway to the Dinosaur National Monument

The rest of the morning was quite enjoyable canyon roads riding for the most part.  Some pretty lakes and very forested canyons were enjoyed by both Scarlett and I.

As I turned South onto Utah 189 from US40, the majestic mountain called Timpanogo appeared before us and we had to stop for pictures.  The resort is close to the base of these mountains.

Before I went to the front desk at the resort, I rode Scarlett up the Alpine Look Road that leads past the resort all the way to the end where a gate barred further progress.  The road is still closed for the winter.

 You can see the closed gate on the right

 Views of Timpanogo and the peaks around it

I got to the Sundance Mountain Resort (created/owned by Robert Redford) and was told the room wasn't ready yet.  So I had lunch while waiting for my room to be ready for me to check in.  $15 for a burger!  You'd think I was at a ski resort or something, oh wait, I am.

My fellow co-workers started arriving as I finished lunch and I joined them for greetings and hugs as they waited for their respective lunches.  As I'd already eaten, I went and got my room key, and checked into my swanky digs for the next couple of days.  I must say, very nice accommodations.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Camping near Dinosaur, CO

Scarlett and I are enroute to Utah, for a staff gathering at the Sundance Mountain Resort near Provo, UT.

I covered a bit more than half the distance to there today, and am camping on BLM land to the west of the small settlement of Dinosaur, CO "Gateway to the Dinosaur National Monument".

The original plan had been to make it all the way to Vernal, UT where there's a KOA camping ground but by 7:00 PM Mtn, I'd just made Dinosaur and there was about another 33 miles to go.

Spotted what look like telecom towers on a ridge to the NW of Dinosaur and checked the phone, why yes, there was 3G coverage!

Took the Blue Mountain turnoff into BLM land and found myself a nice cozy spot a bit off the highway but I can still see traffic from my location.

Had the whole place to myself but as I type this, a white truck has parked about 1/4 mile or more away by a sandy looking rock, I guess they're camping as well.

 Nokku Crags near Cameron Pass on CO 14

 BLM camping near Dinosaur, CO

Checked in with Martha my loving wife, she's got my coordinates via googlemaps just in case.

Friday, May 06, 2016

A Colorado Spring Sunset

5 May 15

If my limited experience with Colorado snow falls counts for anything, we should have had our last snow fall this past weekend.  We tend to get one last storm before Mother's Day, then folks start thinking of turning on their sprinkler systems here in the Metro Denver area.

Fiona, my '99 Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig with a '84 Beemer R80 engine is almost 100% in terms of being fully operational.  It didn't take me as long as I thought it was going to, to get her to this stage.  It feels good to have a spare sidecar rig you know?

After a rather frustrating day in the virtual office, it was time for Fiona and I to ride to catch the sunset.  I'd found, recently, this website called where they "predict" where in the US there's a good chance for colorful sunset conditions; this was this evening's forecast.  Warmer colors = better sunset.


 The Denver skyline was highlighted nicely in a fading set of golden browns
as Fiona and I arrived at the usual sunset watching spot.

 Yes, had to get one shot of Fiona silhouetted by the setting sun,
so sue me.

The pale yellows deepened into golden shades of yellow with dramatic blue skies framing the glow of the sun as it set behind the Front Range mountains.

another day gone by, hope you got some good riding in.....

Playing with the double-exposure tool from Pixlr: