Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I'm back

Just when you thought it was safe to go down the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Flanman is off on another adventure. This year, the target is Bertrand, Nebraska -- not your typical adventure destination, but the plan is to get there from Maine via Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.

The bike got new brakes, new tires and a new seat. The rider has a new suit -- waterproof, breathable jacket and pants. We're traveling lighter this year -- there's almost no cooking gear to free up space for, well, space. We were way too heavy last year.

When I arrived in Maine, winter wasn't entirely gone.

Winter wasn't entirely finished.

There were still a few piles of snow on the road out to the house at Branch Lake in Ellsworth, but by the time I left they'd melted.

After 9,000 miles last summer, the tires needed replacing. I stopped at GRC, Gardner Racing Concepts, on the Bangor Road only a couple of miles from the lake where Stan Gardner, the owner, said he could get me a good deal on a set of new Metzler Tourances and would have them delivered by Tuesday from New York. True to his word, he called Monday afternoon and said they were in.

I showed up first thing Tuesday and Stan went to work. I'd mentioned I had a new tube for the rear, which had been savaged last summer in Ashville, N.C. but I forgot to bring it with me. Stan checked his stock of tubes and didn't have a 17-incher, so he said let's go get yours and we jumped in his truck and drove the five miles back to the lake house to get my tube.

Mounting the tires, Stan said the brake pads were seriously worn, both front and rear. He said he could get them, but didn't have them in stock. I called around and found a set in Bangor and he said he'd put them on for me.

So, we got the wheels back on the bike and I rode into Bangor Motorsports, got the pads and rode back out to the shop in Ellsworth. The tires seemed great but the brakes were marginal.

When we got the bike up on the lift, we saw the rear rotor wasn't between the pads but was behind the inside pad, so when I applied the brake it pushed the back of the pad against the rotor on one side and pushed the caliper housing against the rotor on the other. Things were pretty hot and the rotor had scraped some aluminum off the caliper housing. Ugly.

Stan puts new shoes on the KLR.

I got to see a real mechanic, at work. He removed the rear wheel, got the rotor off with an impact wrench and polished all the aluminum off the disc with air-driven tools -- like big Dremel tools. He also cleaned up the caliper housing and made sure there wasn't too much metal missing. Then, it was wheel back on the bike, put everything back together and bleed the rear brake. He had a Snap-On brake bleeding tool that ran on compressed air and sucked the fluid and air through the brake lines. Very slick. I asked him what the bleeder cost -- he said a couple hundred. I want one.

When it was done, I asked Stan what I owed him. He said nothing. It was his booboo that screwed up the rear brake, but I expected to pay him for installing the new pads. It's great to deal with someone who does it because he loves it instead of a corporate dealership. Stan's one of those guys. Built and raced drag bikes for 20 years -- a three-cylinder Kawasaki 750 two-stroke and a four-cylinder Suzuki, spent five years setting records at Bonneville. "It's my passion," he says.

Great shop: three or four lifts, a major drill press and milling machine, motorcycle tire changing stand and wheel balancer, bead blasting cabinet, etc. He spends the winter rebuilding crank shafts and the other three months servicing and building bikes.

The rain on the roof woke me at 3 a.m., but I rolled over, slept till 6, got up and started packing. Somehow got most of my junk on the bike – the rest is in a big box I left at the cottage.

Loaded and ready to roll.

I headed to Bangor to say aloha to Mom. It was cold enough for four layers and snowmobile gloves – high 40s – when I pulled out, but as I went south down US 202 it kept warming up. In Augusta, I dumped the big gloves and jacket liner. In Lewiston, the fleece and lined gloves came off, I unzipped the vents in the suit and dug out my perforated Hawaii gloves. When I arrived at my sister’s in Portsmouth, it was 83 degrees!

First day's ride done, we were in Portsmouth, N.H.

Betsy and I have been checking the weather online tomorrow in Western Mass, Connecticut and Southern New York. Looks good. My secret plan, buying waterproof and breathable riding gear, is paying off. No rain!

Also looks good Friday down Skyline Drive to Charlottesville. Fat City!

No comments:

Post a Comment