Saturday, May 30, 2020

A try at Hagerman Pass and Riding the Leadville Train

Friday, May 29

While Martha studied for her National School Nurse Certification in the URRV this morning, I rode out with Yagi, my '06 Yamaha TW200 to see how far I could get towards reaching Hagerman Pass.

I would end up going just over 3 miles past the "Hagerman Pass 7 Miles" sign near Turquoise Lake.  Things got muddy pretty fast around mile 3, the melting snow on the dirt road making things a bit interesting at times.

 The view towards the pass at the furthest point achieved by Yagi and I

Retracing my route, there was one spot where I went into full outrigger mode to negotiate the slippery melting ice and snow:

Back on the dry portion of the Lake County Route 4, I posed Yagi right about the same spot where I posed Valencia, my 2011 Ural Patrol back in August of 2012.

Made it back to the URRV with no issues and in time for a quick lunch before Martha and I got geared up and left for Leadville on Fiona, my '99 Ural Patrol.

We got to the Leadville Train Station in plenty of time for the 1PM departure time, so a few photos were taken:

The fare was $45/person for reserved table for two in the Private Car near the end of the train just before the caboose.  You're free to roam about the train though as it moves up and down the 9.5 mile route alongside the Arkansas River, up on the side of the mountain.

There were perhaps 30 people, at most, on the train so it was quite nice and uncrowded.  The conductor told Martha a busy train load would be about 100 people.

 The conductor had to give his tour/spiel through the confines
of a face mask.....such is the new now.

 Valley view, showing the Arkansas River Headwaters

 Mount Massive framed by nearby hills

 The Water Tower where passengers can disembark for a few minutes
to stretch their legs and take pictures.

 The tightest bend in the train route: Birdseye Curve

 Martha demonstrating Social Distancing

Upon our return to the Leadville Train Station, we motored on down towards Main Street to a nearby bakery where Martha secure dessert for tonight: Apple and Raspberry Turnovers!

A couple more murals:

 Ski Joring!
more info at

We headed on back to the campsite and while Martha relaxed in the URRV, I went out with Yagi again to explore the back trails near the campsite.  Found several sites occupied by campers of all sorts, from tent campers to fifth wheel trailers.  Some nice sites for future use were located as well and recorded by me.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Boondocking near Turquoise Lake, CO

Martha and I drove Umarang, the URRV, out to Turquoise Lake yesterday.  About three and a half hours and we were free of the cesspool that is the Metro Denver area.  Probably could have made it here in three hours but construction on the I-70 Superslab slowed things to a crawl several times.

After a brief mis-routing by googlemaps, we finally found the right entry road to a dispersed camping area near Turquoise Lake, about five miles east of Leadville, CO.

Found ourselves a pretty good spot though you can still hear the cars drive by as they head to/from the lake's roadway.

Campsite altitude: 9800 Feet

It's National Forest Dispersed Camping, very close to a private RV Park called Sugar Loafing RV Park I think.

That's Mount Massive in the above picture's background, the second highest Fourteener in Colorado and #15 in North America.

After breakfast and once it had warmed up a bit from the 40°F (4.4°C) overnight low temperature, we geared up in layers and headed out to explore the nearby lake.

We tried several scenic overlooks as we circumnavigated the lake but the best views were from the Shimmering Point Overlook, a short hike is involved, easy on the way down and bit of a breathing strain on the way back up.  We were after all, above 10,000 ft at this point!

photo courtesy of Martha

After checking out all the overlooks, we headed into Leadville to see what we could see.  Traffic was light as it was a weekday and we meandered for a bit, checking out Main Street and some of the murals that catch the eye:

photo courtesy of Martha

 Tabor Opera House

I believe it was County Road 4 that we took out of town, we neared the Mount Massive Golf Course and checked out the views of this fourteener.

A gnat managed to fly in under Martha's helmet visor and lodge in her right eye so we had to stop at this spot for me to get it out from under her lower eyelid.

photo courtesy of Martha

Got back to the URRV in time for lunch and we spent the afternoon relaxing in the warm sunshine and temperatures.  Fiona is doing great, there was some mushy action on the part of the newly refurbished sidecar shock absorber but I guess it finally got enough oil in the right spots and started doing its job.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Learning the Hard Way that Fiona's BMW engine came from a California Motorcycle

Yep, another lesson learned the hard way, the Chang way.

Monday, Memorial Day, I took Fiona out for a test drive to evaluate how the recently refurbished shock absorbers affected the ride.  In regards to this, she felt fine.

However, perhaps 3 miles into the test ride, Fiona suddenly started making a sharp snapping/tapping noise that followed the RPMs.  Dammit.

I stopped, put her in Neutral gear to evaluate while leaving the engine running.  It sounded very much like a backfire or exhaust leak.  I just couldn't spot anything amiss by the side of the road.  I then rode Fiona slowly back towards home, making quite the amount of noise as I went.

Got Fiona home and took another look, since it sounded like an exhaust leak, I concentrated on the mufflers, header pipes and such.  Found no holes that might cause the noise, this being a tip from RichardM.

I removed the headers as I realized that I'd installed one of the two metal seals backwards and not achieving a good seal at the exhaust ports on the cylinder heads.  While the header pipes were off, I cranked up the engine to see if the popping noise persisted and it sure did.

Not only that, but I could see big flames/fire coming out of the right cylinder head when I revved the engine, with nothing like it from the left cylinder head.

While it's apparently not unusual to see flames if the fuel mixture is too rich, I decided to dismount the right cylinder's head to do a leak test on the exhaust valve based on advice by Brook Reams, local Airhead Guru whom I had also called.

I could have saved myself a lot of work had I taken an even closer look at the heads before I took the sidecar off and removed the head!  Dammit.

So off came the sidecar from the tug mounts, off came the right side valve cover, rocker assemblies, push rods and cylinder head.  While doing the leak test, I rotated the cylinder head to prepare to pour gasoline into the exhaust port (this to see if the gas leaked out at the valve in the combustion chamber) and lo and behold I spotted this opening:

Quite evident that a cap was missing, isn't it?
This smaller opening was my damn exhaust leak!

Now, it was obvious why the exhaust leak noises came on all of a sudden from the right cylinder's area!  It had fallen off, backed off from its thread over time, and of course created a large exhaust leak!

The opening is for the connection from the cylinder head/exhaust manifold to the air box for the Pulse Air System used by BMW back in the early 80's to meet EPA emissions standards.  The previous owner or someone before him had removed it and capped off the openings by cutting the pipe and bending it shut.

Here's a picture of the left cylinder's exhaust manifold cap to give you an idea of what fell off the right cylinder:

The header pipes obscure one's view of these exhaust manifold caps if one isn't used to looking/checking for them.  All this time, I had thought these strange caps were for a previous dual spark plug setup on this engine; boy was I wrong!

So, I got some more practice removing the cylinder head yesterday and reinstalling everything and associated hardware this morning.  I obtained oil drain plugs that were the right size: M16 x 1.5.  I got the size from both RichardM and Brook Reams (airhead guru whose tutorials I followed to take apart and re-assemble the engine cylinders in order to replace the pushrod tube seals).

Note: I got the plugs from O'Reilly's Auto Parts, they were for Subaru cars, 2011-2017.  $4 each.

The plugs came with a composite materials washer so we'll see how they stand up to the head generated by the heads during engine operation!

Here's views of the replacement plugs:

 Right Cylinder Head

Left Cylinder Head

I waited about five hours or so and after getting confirmation from Brook, started up the engine for just a minute or so and was gratified to NOT hear the exhaust leak noise that had caused me such stress yesterday!

So now I know how to ID cylinder heads which used to be equipped with the Pulse Air System to meet emissions standards.  Now I know what the sound will be if one of the replacement plugs comes off in the future.  I also confirmed that in the case of this engine and frame combination, you can replace the push rod seals without removing the cylinder, though it's much easier that way to apply sealant during re-assembly.

I'm also on the lookout for high temperature red Loctite to secure the plugs, I am unsure the Loctite will withstand the head generated by the heads but it's worth a shot anyways.

Now Fiona is ready to go camping!  I'll double-check the torque on the rocker assembly nuts tomorrow morning, re-check the valve clearances, then mount the valve cover back on for riding.  Luckily, I had a spare valve cover gasket since I tore the one on the head during disassembly.

Previous post: Riding the Front Range with Brigitta

Sunday, May 24, 2020

On the Front Range with Brigitta

Saturday, May 23

It was high time for Brigitta, my '87 BMW R80, to get some exercise!

We would end up riding perhaps 60 miles or so, meandering the county roads to the NE of the cesspool that is the Metro Denver area.

The day was warm and mostly sunny with incoming weather clouds evident to the west as the afternoon moved towards evening.

First stop was Saint Isidore Church along the I-70 Super Slab near the small farming town of Watkins.  I was hoping for a nice view of the Front Range Mountains but the haze and clouds made that impossible this ride.

So instead, I posed Brigitta near the entrance to the Saint Isidore Cemetery, a place I'd not noticed before on previous rides:

I then rode to the town of Watkins and spotted signs for the "Colorado Air and Space Port".  Space Port?  We have a space port in Colorado?  So of course, with much doubt in my mind, I followed the signs.

As I suspected based on what I knew of this area, it turned out to be the Front Range Airport, rebranded as a space port!

So, what gives them the right to call themselves a Space Port?

From wikipedia:  In October 2011, the Governor of ColoradoJohn Hickenlooper, formally requested that the federal government designate Colorado a "spaceport state" and that the airport be designated a spaceport for suborbital horizontal takeoff flights (HTVL and HTHL).[8] Spaceport designation would allow a facility offering suborbital tourism, travel, and cargo transport from one point to another on Earth. The Denver Post reported that "No vertical launches are planned at the Front Range, unlike most of the other eight certified U.S. spaceports. Instead, space planes — an emerging technology — will use regular runways and jet engines to take off and land, switching to rocket power above 50,000 feet."

So no, I didn't spot any space craft while wandering around the "space port".  

Heading west a little bit away from the "space port", one passes several solar panel farms and eventually one can see the white canopies and ugly "mustache" hotel of the Denver international Airport.

As a sign of the Covid-19 times, you could see a line of idled aircraft parked on the outskirts of the airport, waiting for more "normal" times and traffic patterns.  I wonder if we'll see such normalcy again.

The clouds had moved in by now and so Brigitta and I headed back home as winds picked up as well.

Brigitta performed flawlessly as usual, she's barely over 101,000 miles (roughly) on her odometer.  

Previous Post: Replacing Shock Absorber seals on Fiona

Friday, May 22, 2020

Replacing seals/oil on Fiona's Shock Absorbers

I returned from camping on Wednesday, May 20.  I didn't want to be out camping during the Memorial Day Weekend when seemingly EVERYONE wants to be outside seeing the sights/camping/riding/driving...etc!

Better to stay at home away from the maddening crowds surely to hit the mountains and campsites after weeks/months of "stay at home" or "safer at home" or whatever your particular state/country dictated.

Once the Memorial Day weekend debacle passes, it'll be time to go camping with Martha in the URRV, destinations are unclear as I type this.

So, with the arrival (Covid-19 delayed) of the seals from the ebay vendor located in Belarus, it was time to try and replace all the seals on all five of Fiona's shock absorbers.  All five had been leaking for a while now, and they were quite the mess.

I followed the great photo tutorial published by Bill Glaser:  LINK so plenty of pictures there with instructions.

My photos just show the differences I ran into:

On the first shock to be repaired (left front shock absorber), I put a green piece of tape to remind me of the forward orientation for the lower mounts.  The tape didn't last long.  No worries though, I learned the hard way that one side is threaded (which goes inboard) and the other side isn't.  If you mistakenly install it backwards, the bolt will not work!

Here's a view of my version of Bill Glaser's homemade shock spring compression tool.  It presses the spring down until you can access the two half moon clips that hold everything together under pressure.

I did the front wheel's shock absorbers thinking they'd be the easiest.  I was wrong.  The left side shock went just fine but the right side shock proved to be a bugger in terms of installation.  First, I forgot to put in one of the components inside the shock which I believe restrict/regulate the flow of oil through the shock assembly along with others.

the disk I forgot to put back in is the third one from the left
in the above pic

I also placed the lower legs backwards so that the threaded hole was outboard, and wasted a lot of time fighting that error, till I realized my mistake!

It proved to be such a pain to align things (had to ultimately remove the front wheel in order to see the other side of the threaded hole to align things, that I am NOT going to take it all apart to put the missing metal disk in place.

We'll see how that goes eh?

Just doing the two shock absorbers on the front wheel proved to be so taxing that I stopped and left the remaining three shock absorbers for the next day!  Just as well, as I had to tackle a failed sprinkler control valve when I went to activate the lawn sprinklers for the season!

Dale, my friend from the neighborhood, came by and showed me how to easily diagnose and fix the issue.  A $20 part later, I was back in business.  Thanks Dale!

Did incur a metal splinter while cleaning components of one of the shock absorbers.  I got through the day with it embedded in my right thumb and finally managed to dig it out, with Martha's help in cutting an exit for it, later that evening.  So yes, blood was shed.

A much magnified view of the splinter:

Friday, May 22.  Resuming work on the shock absorbers.

Started with the sidecar's shock absorber.  It removed easily enough from the frame but then proved to be very tightly screwed on, the cap that one uses the pin wrench on, and I had to resort to a vise, heat, penetrating oil and lots of effort to get it unscrewed!

After a thorough cleanup of the parts and the threads involved, everything went back together pretty well after replacing the rubber seals.  Installing it back onto the frame was easy.  Good stuff I though, two more to go.

The fourth shock absorber to be done was the left side unit for the rear wheel.  Again, it came off easily enough.  It also came apart easily as it wasn't over tightened. and once taken apart, it proved to be missing the slightly concave washer which sits on the bottom of the oil seal for the shock's shaft!  (Item 1 below).  I put in a flat washer of similar dimensions which hopefully will do the same job of protecting the deal from the spring which is below it.

The last shock absorber, the right side unit for the rear wheel proved even more difficult to take apart!  It came off the frame easily enough, but I couldn't unscrew the cap to access the inner shock components using the same methods as with the sidecar shock!

Even with Patrick holding down the shock's top eyelet to help keep pressure on the pin wrench failed to yield more than perhaps a 1/2" of movement!

We then used a ratchet strap, anchored opposite sides of the workbench and it finally provided enough downward pressure on the eyelet to compress the rubber donut seal onto the pin wrench to allow me to use full force on it.  Much grunting and effort later, the cap started turning easier and easier and finally we got it off!  Yikes.  Definitely cross-threaded!

While cleaning components and replacing seals, I noted the damage to the cup portion of the inner shock assembly:

The above damage, coupled by the fact the shock tube's threads were so damaged due to previous cross-threading either by the factory of P.O. that I abandoned attempts to use this shock absorber further.

I'll be ordering a refurbished one from ebay from the same vendor as the seals, just waiting on confirmation the one I selected is compatible.

In the meantime, I mounted one of Scarlett's old Sachs shock absorbers so that Fiona is rideable.  The shock proved to be a bit of a bugger to install, two long screwdrivers, hammers, the ratchet strap and at times a crowbar were involved in getting the upper eyelet lined up with the frame's mount point to get that sucker installed!  Yikes.

Note: I ended up using a different nut/bolt to secure the bottom legs of the Sachs shock absorber as it didn't have the threaded inboard hole to secure the stock bolt onto.  The stock bolt, and the damaged shock housing/cap along with working components will go into storage for now.

All done for now, I am beat.  My hands hurt, my knees hurt, got myself a blood blister when some tool pinched my left thumb but it's done!  We'll see if she rides better, at the very least, there won't be unsightly dripping of oil from the shock absorbers.

Previous post: Riding Penrose BLM trails with Dale and Bob

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Riding the Penrose BLM trails with Bob and Dale....

Thursday, May 14

Not much  riding today, mainly relaxing at the URRV campsite and catching up on my reading.  The sunset this evening was OK:

Friday, May 15

Dale and Bob from the neighborhood arrived Friday afternoon and after they got their tents setup and such we headed out for short ride to get them acquainted with the area.  Sorry, no pics.

Saturday, May 16

We rode around the accessible to the Ural portions of the BLM trails, concentrating mainly on the ones off of the 6101 and 6102 trails.

After this riding, we stopped at the campsite for a snack at mid-morning, then geared back up to head over to Brush Hollow Reservoir to check it out.

 Dale at the reservoir

 Back at camp for the mandatory group shot

Bob and Dale decided to do some more riding later in the afternoon while I chose to stay at camp and rest.  Here's Dale trying on Martha's riding jacket as the afternoon was quite warm and the jacket he'd been using wasn't really vented:

Luckily, Dale's fashion sense prevailed and I lent him my riding jacket for their riding:

Bob on his Honda Rancher and Dale on Yagi, the T-dub

No campfires permitted during our camping so instead we just had dinner and chatted away the evening in the URRV.  Good times.

Sunday, May 17

More riding of the BLM trails with some emphasis on practicing the riding over rocky ledges and obstacles.  This video shows you some of the highlights.  Everyone had a good laugh at each other's expense, no one was hurt except perhaps in pride and no damage to the vehicles.  So a good riding set of days!

Both Bob and Dale are quite enthused with the capabilities of the TW200, they were talking about getting one of their own.  That would open up more terrain for exploring when we ride together so hopefully they carry through those thoughts.