Monday, June 27, 2011

Hold the throttle! Hold the throttle!


This email arrived Saturday morning from David:

John,

Just finished the BMW adventure bike enduro skills program. It's an introduction to off road riding. I'm trying to get out of bed and while I can move everything there is a little pain involved.


Excellent course. Six students, two instructors and one or two guys ready to repair and adjust the bikes. You really can learn to maneuver those big BMW bikes in very tight places. Needless to say it's all about weight distribution along with clutch and throttle control.

Both my hands and forearms are really sore.

I rode the F800, one of the smaller students rode the G650 and the other four guys rode 1200’s.

One guy dropped out after the first day, think he re-injured his shoulder, another guy hurt his hamstring but he soldiered through. Seemed strange that while I was the oldest student I was probably in the best shape.

Got to try everything except water crossings. Braking exercises, ruts, washboards, gravel, hill and rock climbs, sand pit, high speed dirt circuit and even some time on the automobile course at pretty good speeds. Needless to say we all got a lot of practice lifting the bikes up.


David


Meanwhile, down on the farm...



The old Farmall Super H was relegated to pumping irrigation water, but a 7-year-old boy thought it could win a prize at the tractor pull.

While David was recovering from his two-day BMW off-road training course in South Carolina, I was in Nebraska preparing for a more rustic mechanical adventure -- an antique tractor pull, the featured Saturday event at this year's Bertrand Fair and Rodeo.



Harrison's persistent; eventually, he talked his dad into entering the old tractor in the pull.

Our 7-year-old nephew Harrison talked Jim, his dad, into entering great-granddad's 1952 International Harvester Farmall Super H. The fun began on Saturday, when we took the beast up to the scales at the co-op. It weighed in at 4,740 pounds, or 240 more than the 4,500-class limit. Jim figured there was no way we could compete with the 5,000-pounders, so we set out to lighten ship and make the weight.

First thing to go was the big pulley and pulley drive on the gear box -- about 80 pounds. Unfortunately, removing the drive left a 6-by-13-inch hole in the top of the gear box. Cutting a piece of sheet aluminum to fit was easy, but figuring out where to drill eight holes for the bolts to secure it was tougher. Jim came up with the idea of putting the bolts in their holes, leveling them up, adding a dab of grease to the bolt heads and carefully setting the aluminum on the bolts. When we lifted the plate off, a grease spot located each hole. A quick trip to the drill press and our "racing cover" was ready to fit, with the help of a round file.



Jim, center, conferred with pull organizer Kevin and decided to lighten the Super H by 240 pounds to qualify for the 4,500-pound stock class. That pulley would have to come off.

We were still 160 pounds over our goal. Jim's next targets were the big, donut-shaped, cast iron wheel weights on the back wheels, which we figured weighed about 100 pounds apiece. Unfortunately, they were bolted to the inside of the huge wheels and it looked like we'd have to remove the wheels to get to the axle-circling weights.



Getting the old Farmall into the tractor pull made Harrison very happy.

Jim solved the problem: He'd cut the weights in half with a gasoline-powered chop saw -- sort of a chain saw but with a circular blade. That took some doing -- mostly because the motor on the saw wouldn't start. Eventually, we pulled and cleaned the plug and sparks started to fly!

Of course, the bolts holding the weights to the wheels were rusted, but Jim cut the bolt heads off with an acetylene torch. With the weights off, he added two gallons of the aviation gasoline from the co-op's crop duster, I got a quick tractor-driving lesson and we were off to drop off the Super H at the fairgrounds, me on the tractor following Jim and Harrison in a pickup. "Just put it in fifth and open it up all the way," Jim said. "By the time you get to town, you'll know everything you need to know about driving a tractor."

After lunch, we were ready to rumble and Jim entered both himself and me as drivers. Kevin told me to sign the papers. "Just watch Jim," he said. "And then do the opposite."

We walked around to size up the competition and then let some air out of our tires, dropping the pressure to 10 pounds per square inch. Soft tires have a bigger contact patch and more traction.




Our Super H tractor pull team. Notice the big pulley is now missing from below my right hand.

A tractor pull works like this: The competitors pull a skid, to which is attached a trailer. On top of the trailer is a large tank of water mounted on rails connected to the trailer at one end and the skid at the other. At the start, the weight of the water tank is carried by the trailer but, as the tractor pulls forward, a cable geared to a trailer wheel gradually pulls the water tank up the rails onto the skid, increasing the load. The amount of water is adjusted for each weight class. Ideally, none of the competitors complete the 100-yard run over leveled and packed soil -- if more than one does, they add weight and there's a pull-off. The tractor that goes furthest before losing traction or power wins the class and a t-shirt for the driver.

In turn, the tractors were chained to the skid, took up the slack, revved their engines and slipped their clutches. Many did wheelies. If the front wheels lifted, the expert drivers steered with left and right rear brakes -- the rest of us just tried to get back on track when the wheels came down.

Jim went before I did. One driver had already done a complete run and his cousin's son Riley had set a good second-place distance that Jim wanted to beat. He had a good start but the old Super H ran out of power and stalled about 20 feet short of Riley's mark.

We consulted Gary Metzger, a tractor-pull veteran who runs a shiny, modified International Super M in the 5,000-pound open class. Gary asked about our tire pressure. "You can take 'em down to 7 -- 6 even," he said. Then he whipped out a pair of pliers and adjusted the carburetor to boost the flow of "av gas."

I was ready to go. The announcer blared: "He's from Honolulu, Hawaii. Jim said it's maybe his second time on a tractor and they tinkered with the carburetor a little bit ... we'll find out here in a second. OK, everybody, cheer on the Hawaii boy -- see what he's made of!"



I'm off and running. The big yellow tank of water on the right will gradually move up the rails making the load on the skid heavier and heavier until the tractor stalls or looses traction.

I blew the start. I slipped the clutch, the tractor roared, bucked against the load, bounced, started moving and stalled. On a Super H, the spring-loaded throttle lever clips into a row of teeth that hold it open. The bouncing tractor knocked the throttle loose and shut me down.

The loudspeaker shouted: "Jim, didn't she tell him that the throttle slips if you don't hold onto her?"

The event organizer was Kevin, Riley's dad, who is married to Sarah, who is Mary's and Jim's cousin -- small town, eh? He made a quick decision: "He didn't go 50 feet -- he can be restarted."

The announcer agreed: "I think if he came that far, we should give him the opportunity to re-hook. Let's re-hook him."

Since I was a crowd favorite -- a rank beginner from Hawaii -- and since I'd only gone about 20 feet, I could go again. Kevin probably figured, too, that I was unlikely to snatch second away from son Riley.

"Hold that throttle open -- don't let it go," Kevin ordered, and I was off again. The crowd was with me and there was even a little cheering as I roared up the course with Jim yelling, "Hold the throttle. Hold the throttle!"



I proudly display my antique tractor pull t-shirt trophy, awarded for showing up, not for performance.

I passed Jim's mark and just a couple of yards short of Riley's the big wheels started to slip, grab, slip some more, and finally let go. It was the second time I'd driven a real tractor -- the first was that morning -- and I came in third in class in a tractor pull. Sarah gave me a t-shirt for "coming the furthest."

That evening, I drove the Super H back to the farm. It flew down the blacktop -- easily three miles per hour faster than our ride to town.

I owe all my success to Gary and his pliers.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Getting ready for the 2011 ride


Preparing for a big, cross-continent trip takes a lot of "work."

As I left Johnson City and rode up to Maine, David stayed in Tennessee to take a few of the mountain rides we'd missed out on because of the weather and we began an email exchange:




Eastern Tennessee, southern Virginia and western North Carolina make up a spectacular region for motorcycling -- once it stops snowing and warms up.


Friday, April 1, 2011
Subject: How Are You

John,

How did things go?

I got to the Abbington Airport and tried to get my fingers working again. They got a little warmer but the wind was blowing about 15 knots.

Headed back home the long way and was still cold. Ended back in Johnson City and went and bought a pair of gloves like yours. Hand were warm getting back to the house but everything else was cold to the bone. Pulled into the garage and Jennifer asked if I was ok, I said I was OK and she said that it had snowed while I was gone.

Had a shot or two of Jack Daniels or two and while it looks rather warm when I look outside, I still can see my breath.

Hope all is well with you and that you are ahead of all the moisture I see to the west of you.

David

* * *
Friday, April 1, 2011

David,

I'm in Charlottesville -- arrived about 4:30. That stretch just north of the state line was really cold. I stopped at a bike dealer's where they had an Artic Cat sign out front to see if I could get snowmobile gloves. They didn't handle snowmobiles, only four wheelers and the gloves I already had were better than anything in the store.


By the time I got to I-64 things warmed up a bit and after I came down the hill from Waynesboro and got close to CVille it was positively balmy. Bike ran great. Anything from 55 to 80 is smooth as silk. Glad I had the windshield.

I had dinner at my sister's. She just had her back operated on and she and her husband have to sleep in separate beds -- so they booked me a room at the Best Western up the road, which turned out to be really nice. Score!

I plan to check out the weather in the morning and stay or go depending on how fast that big storm is moving. Probably stop by my sisters for a chat before I saddle up. It'd be good to get past Philadelphia on Day Two.

Rode to the motel in the dark -- first time out with the V-Strom at night. VERY nice headlights. At least three times better than the KLR.

Are you going down to the Dragon on Saturday? It's busiest on weekends when the weather's good -- which is good for people and bike watching. Just take it easy -- it's just like skiing. The turns are mostly perfectly banked. The cops patrol it but don't hassle guys too much. They mostly write tickets for crossing the double yellow line. My only trouble was getting by a Lincoln Town Car that was doing 25 all the way down.

Aloha,

John

* * *
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Subject: Watching the game in East Brunswick, NJ

Hey, David,

Covered a lot of ground today. Left Charlottesville about 8:30 (it was 39 degrees, according to Weather Channel) and buzzed up US 29 to I-66, got around D.C. and took the I-495 beltway to I-95 North through Baltimore and Delaware and across the Delaware Memorial Bridge to South Jersey. The ticket machine at the entrance to the New Jersey Turnpike wouldn’t give me a ticket -– not my fault, right? So, they charged me $6.40 when I got off at Exit 9 -– the maximum amount. Bastards. Welcome to New Jersey.

I’m in a Howard Johnson’s motel on US 1 – pretty crummy, but cheap for this close to Manhattan. Last trip, I discovered the way to get a decent deal on a motel is to pick up the free-be motel coupon tabs at the freeway/turnpike rest stop. This one is $55 but I’ve gotten rooms as low as $29. Hey, at least the TV works and has HBO!

The windshield and seat on the Wee are a great combo. Once it warmed up, I rode with an open visor. There were some showers, but the windshield kept me mostly dry. No monkey butt at all. I could have kept going up to Connecticut, but I promised Mary I’d call her at 5 p.m., so I stopped here for coffee and a walk-about. 336 miles and I’m averaging about 50 miles per gallon.

It’s too bad the weather didn’t cooperate so we could ride a couple of loops together. I would have stuck around a couple of days to do some of that, but the promised Big Storm is supposed to arrive Monday night and I’d be stuck in Johnson City until the end of next week.

Your low-speed tip-overs have motivated me to be extra careful. My Triumph Bonneville is low and unladen compared to the V-Strom and I’m out of practice and could easily dump it. So far, so good, and I’m keeping both feet on the ground when I can.

My cold has faded to an annoying cough and stuffy nose. I felt a lot better this morning after 13 hours in the sack and I expect to get my voice back tomorrow. I’m still 300 miles from Portsmouth, NH, my next stop. So, it’ll be a full day tomorrow, too.

John

* * *
Saturday, April 2, 2011

John,

Good to hear things are going well.

Right after I talked to you this afternoon I headed home. There was quite a bit of wind. From looking at all the big flags I would say between 25 and 30 knots and gusty. Too gusty for me to take the interstate -- too many cars -- but could handle four-lane divided at 55 mph.

Combination of cold and gusty wind tired me out and was glad to be back home after 150 miles. Will see what tomorrow brings. Still need to spend a couple hours in the parking lot working on low speed stuff.

Will try to make it thru the second game of the NCAA Final Four.

David

* * *
Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hi, David,

I’m in Portsmouth. I fell asleep while Connecticut and Kentucky were still at it and woke up at 4 a.m., suffering from chapped lips and coughing up the crap from the last of my cold. It occurred to me that I could be past Manhattan by sunup if I left right away, so I did. Hit the road about 4:30 and watched the sun come up while having breakfast at a McDonald’s in Stamford, Conn.



Why I try to avoid the New Jersey Turnpike.

Riding up the New Jersey Turnpike through Elizabeth, past the Newark Airport, over the George Washington Bridge and through the Bronx is quite an experience in the dark, but with no traffic it was much less hair-raising than my last ride through that territory. One thing that’s changed are the tolls. It cost $7 to cross the bridge -- $8 for a car. The Turnpike toll from East Brunswick to the bridge was $6.50!

It was MUCH colder in Connecticut than on the New Jersey side of the Hudson. I stopped a couple more times to warm up and wake up. Had coffee at McDonalds, hot chocolate at a Dunkin Donuts and a Red Bull at a gas station in Stoors, Connecticut – home of UConn (strange to be there the morning after they won the national championship). Despite all the stops and stimulating refreshments, I was still getting drowsy on the interstate. So, I changed the navigation settings on the GPS to “Avoid Highways” and took two-lane blacktop from northern Connecticut through Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. No more drowsy.

That strategy worked well. It didn’t take a lot longer since there was no traffic on Sunday morning and I got to see some of Worcester and most of downtown Lowell, Mass., and Exeter, N.H., picturesque little town that’s the home of Phillip’s Exeter Academy, the Punahou of the Granite State.

By the time I got to Portsmouth, the thermometer was in the 50s. After seven hours and more than 300 miles in the saddle, my butt was finally beginning to cramp up. Strange how the Weather Channel’s “Severe Weather Watch” became a chance of showers.

I was impressed how much getting off the slab woke me up. Bundling up and sitting motionless on a bike, even at 70 mph, doesn’t do much to keep one’s eyes open. Probably won't be so bad with two bikes and the intercom.

The forecast had been for Monday to be even warmer, but with showers in the evening. Apparently, the system is moving faster than predicted (probably why it was so windy) and now it appears it will rain Monday and Tuesday up here, but clear and warm up from Wednesday through the weekend. I thought I’d just spend the night here and leave for Maine Monday morning, but now it looks like I’ll be here for a couple of days.

Tell Donna I send my regrets for Kentucky’s one-point demise.

John

* * *
Sunday, April 3, 2011

John,

Wow, what a ride. Glad you made it to Portsmouth.


It's in the 70’s today, supposed to be nice tomorrow afternoon and then the next front comes through.

Took a short ride this afternoon and will get an early start tomorrow and go down to see Doug. May get some rain on the way back on Tuesday. Got to happen sometime.

Got a feeling you will sleep tonight.

David

* * *
Monday, April 4, 2011

Hey, David,

It’s 10:30 a.m. and the rain is starting in Portsmouth. It’s supposed to mix with snow later in the day and continue through Tuesday. It’ll probably dump more snow up in Maine before things warm up.

I’ve been reading up on Fuseblocks and Powerlets. I ran everything I needed on the KLR with one 12V outlet on the handlebar hooked into an unused, switched light circuit inside the fairing, and an SAE battery-tender lead off the battery. I know I need to upgrade from what I have now, which is just a single Powerlet battery-to-mini USB connection, which only powers the GPS. But I don’t know how complicated I want to get. I’m not good at identifying different colored wires.

I assume you’re heading down to Asheville today. I hope the weather doesn’t go shitty.

John

* * *
Monday, April 11, 2011

Hi,

Greetings from the thawing North!

A warm front pushed through this morning and brought a little rain to shrink the stubborn snow piles still standing in the Walmart parking lot in Ellsworth and the drift across the driveway to the camp at Branch Lake. There’s still only a few feet of open water around the lake shoreline -- most of the surface remains locked in soggy white slush.

Jane and I took the sheets of plywood off the screened porch, hauled the boats out into the yard and swept the place out yesterday. The storm door got blown off its hinges over the winter, bent and broken. We ordered a new one from Lowes.

Called Bangor Hydro to get the power turned on at the cabin and they said we never turned it off last fall! Just gotta flip the breaker on and things should be good. Then, I have to run the water pipe out into the lake, close all the drains in the water system, prime the pump and see if I can get the hot water heater running.

My nephew, Joey, Jane’s son, who’s turning 21 this month, took the one-day MSF motorcycle course in Bangor on Sunday, got his permit at 3:45 p.m. and was out here at 4:30 to go for a ride on the KLR, accompanied by me on the Wee. He says: “I used to just want a motorcycle. Now, I need one!” He’s taking engineering classes at Univ. of Maine during the week and going paddling next weekend in the Great Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race, but I expect we’ll squeeze in a few more rides before I leave.

I took the KLR out for a spin myself after charging up the battery and digging through the snow pile in front of the barn door so I could open the doors and get it out. Once gasoline made it to the cylinder, the bike started right up. Smoke rose off the exhaust system as she warmed, burning off the dust accumulated over the winter.

Besides being John Deere green, the KLR makes distinctly John Deere-like noises. Joey’s yearning for a sport bike, but I’m thinking I might make him an offer to keep the Green Machine in the family. He needs to save up for something worth owning and in the meantime get some gear – at the moment he has a couple pairs of muddy MX boots, an off-road helmet he bought when he was 13 and a pair of ski goggles with a limp elastic headband.

That damn cold is still wearing me out. Had a coughing fit this noon that left me with a headache, which I’m medicating with Tylenol and Merlot. It never gets worse, but it just refuses to vacate.

What are you up to? Miss the bike? I think we came over too early this year. Turns out, last year’s was an abnormally mild winter and early spring. Today, on April 11, things are getting close to where they were when I came up here on April 1 last year – running about two weeks late.

Aloha,

John

* * *
Tuesday, April 12, 2011

John,

Sorry it's not a little warmer for you and your cold. Donna talked to Jennifer yesterday, it was 80 in JC yesterday. That was the good news, the bad news was that a recent storm had left their block without electricity. John had to go out and buy a generator so he could watch the Masters.

I talked to Nick yesterday and will stop off in Pittsburgh for a day or two on my way up to NY. He said we can leave our bikes at his place in LA if we want to for whatever time we want. Thought that was a nice offer. He lives over in the valley in Northridge which has good shuttle service to LAX.

Don't know if I miss the bike but I do miss not being able to work on riding skills. Wish I knew someone here that has a V-Strom.

Must admit I was very impressed with the bike. From all I had read on the forums I was a little worried about a few things, including wind buffeting around the helmet and it being susceptible to wind gusts and turbulence from large trucks. It was quite gusty coming back to JC from Asheville on the interstate and I felt quite secure and never got pushed out of my lane. The wind noise in my helmet was something I can live with and should be even less when I get the new windscreen installed.

Just need more seat time to feel more comfortable. Have you tried the bike on dirt roads yet? What about gravel? Would be interesting to hear what you have to say about the off pavement ride compared to the KLR.

David

* * *
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Subject: Rides

John,

This looks like a nice site: http://www.sundaymorningrides.com.

David

* * *
Tuesday, April 12, 2011

David,

Yeah. Great idea. A little spotty in execution, but better than nothing in states where there's no good information online.


Joey, my nephew, bought a 1999 Honda CBR600 F4 today. Only 5,500 miles on it. Crotch rocket. Dumb ass. We go pick it up on Thursday.

Still no water or internet at the lake, but I'm workin' on 'er.

John

* * *
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Subject: Electrics

John,

This is what I think you should get. http://www.easternbeaver.com/Main/Bike_Specific/VStrom/vstrom.html The 3-Circuit Solution (3CS) for VStrom.

It will provide you with three circuits and you can have one of them unswitched if you want. We can install it in NY if you don't feel comfortable adding it.

Have you mounted your GPS yet?

David

* * *
Wednesday, April 13, 2011

David,

I’ve checked out the Eastern Beaver site a few times, but all the options leave me boggled. So, I think I’ll take your advice and order the version you suggest.

I’ve still got the GPS wired directly to the battery, but I want it on switched power. The Eastern Beaver guy likes to have his GPS on an unswitched lead, but I’ve killed the battery on the Bonneville using mine unswitched. Thought I had the GPS switched off, but didn’t and it slowly drained it. When it loses external power, my GPS asks if you want it to stay on using its internal battery or to shut down -- either way it picks up where you left off -- so a switched lead is perfect.

We go to pick up Joey’s CBR600 tomorrow, weather permitting. It’s raining today, but supposed to clear up on Thursday. He said he’d “tough it out” even if it rains. If it’s real crummy out. I’ll meet him at his apartment on the V-Strom, park it there, take his truck and lend him my jacket and pants to ride his bike back while I drive the truck. The bike would probably fit in the truck – a full-size GMC 4x4 – if he didn’t have a big tool box bolted to the bed.

Meanwhile, I’m working on mom’s taxes today. I hate this stuff. Too much like work. Still need to get the water pump, phone and internet working at the lake. Was headed down there this morning but changed my mind when the rain started. Brrrr.

John

* * *
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Subject: A turnaround

David,

I’ve had a frustrating week trying to get the water, electricity, heat and Internet running out at the cabin on Branch Lake, but today everything finally came together. The oil company delivered a new tank of propane for the space heater, I managed to get the pump and water heater running on the third try and the DSL connection mysteriously came alive – so I’m actually sending this from the lake. Whooo!

With heat, hot water, toilet, stove, lights and Internet all working, life is good. I can now move out here from town and watch the ice melt on the lake. I haven’t tried Netflix or Hulu yet on the DSL connection, but if it’s fast enough for that, I’m in Fat City.



Yesterday was warmish and sunny. I rode up to Medway, Maine, with Joey riding pillion and we collected the CBR. Medway is the "Gateway to Millinocket" – up where the townships still have numbers instead of names – about 65 miles north of Bangor.

The CBR turns out to be a sweet little machine. The physical therapist from Bangor who owned it put only 5,300 miles on it since it was new in 1999 – it looks practically new. The former owner took it up to a bike/snowmobile/chain saw shop up in Medway to get the carbs clean and balanced before turning it over and it was running well when we got there. For $3,000, it was a great buy. Joey sold his old KTM dirt bike this week to some Canadian guys for $1,000 – so he got a major, road-going upgrade for a bargain price.

I took the two-lane roads north, which following the Penobscot River into the wilderness. Coming back, we rode I-95 back to Bangor and then out to Ellsworth, where Joey went to DMV and got his registration taken care of. The CBR has the same black & yellow color scheme as the V-Strom, so we looked pretty cool together.

John

* * *
Monday, April 18, 2011

John,

Glad to hear that things are falling into place.

What are you going to do with the KLR?

Have a bid in on a sleeping bag on ebay and that should be the last "major" item I have to get to go camping.

Have been looking at routes and places to see on our way west. Have you been taking any time to create a list of things to see and do?

Not much between upper Michigan and Yellowstone.

David

* * *
Monday, April 18, 2011

Hi, David,

You caught me on a good day when things were looking up. Since then, it got colder, the lake started to ice over again (!), the Internet connection stopped working and the water heater turned out to be dead.



The fog rolls in
over Branch Lake.

Apparently, somebody (probably me) turned on the water heater last year before the tank was full. The heating elements didn’t survive the winter and when I opened the panel to look for a reset switch I discovered the wires were all black. So, we went to Lowe’s and bought a new one, which was probably cheaper than getting the parts for a 30-year-old heater.

The DSL was working Friday but off again Saturday. I called Saturday afternoon to ask WTF? They said the techs were probably testing the circuit when it was on but they must have found something and turned it off. They said the work was scheduled to be completed by 7 p.m. Saturday evening. Sunday, I went back out and the DSL was still down and the phone didn’t work. Called Fairpoint back and asked WTF? They said the technicians are backlogged and “failing to meet their work schedule commitments.” Yeah, and I’m thinking of “failing to meet my bill-paying commitments” in return.

Got an appointment with a bean counter to finish Mom’s taxes -- be good to have behind me. Tomorrow, the new water heater is supposed to arrive and Thursday the storm door. With the water heater in, the only thing keeping me from moving out to the lake is the lack of Internet. I should be able to connect with my cell phone tethered to my PC, except there’s no cell service inside the cottage, while there’s three bars out in the yard (where it's 40 degrees and blowing 30 knots). Bizarre.

I still plan to sell the KLR, but I’ve been busy and using it to go to the lake, since the road is still puddles and potholes. Once the rest of the snow melts they’ll grade and the road will be passable without getting mud all over everything. There’s still snow along the road where it’s shady and the plow piled it up. Even with a couple of rainy days, the snow hangs on. The ice went out of the lake on Sunday, though.

There’s an LL Bean outlet here in Ellsworth. I stopped by yesterday and saw they have a few sleeping bags, including a Big Agnes, and a couple of tents. The only items I was a little interested in were dry bags and compression sacks. Once I get around to sorting out my camping gear, I might go back and pick up a few things.

You’re right that thing look a little bleak between Michigan and Yellowstone. Mary’s sister Amy might have some ideas about routes to take through Minnesota and Wisconsin – she lives in Minneapolis. Lots of lakes and skeeters up there. To me, North Dakota is a blank state. I just watched Fargo on Netflix last week and the impression was lots of flat prairie and a few lakes covered with snow and ice. We could cut through there and go down to western South Dakota, which has the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Sturgis and the Black Hills. Once we’re into Western Wyoming, things’ll pick up.

The sun came out today and it was 42 degrees at 8 a.m. I think this will be a nice one.

Cheers,

John

* * *
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Subject: MotorcycleRoads.US - Great roads in the US for motorcyclists, sports car drivers, tourists, and other travelers

John,

Hope things are getting better for you back there.

This is by far the best site I have found so far.

http://www.motorcycleroads.us/index.html

David

* * *
Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hey, David,


Yes, that Motorcycle Roads site is a good resource. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer much in the Michigan-to-Yellowstone section you mentioned. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and ride The Slab.

Things turned around again yesterday. After days of pestering, the phone and Internet finally got fixed and a new water heater installed – so, with communications and sanitation taken care of, I moved out of Jane’s house and out to the cabin. The old water heater had so much sediment in it, the plumber couldn’t drain it completely and hauled it out half full. We figure it was installed when the camp was built in 1968 – 43 years ago. Not a bad run. Of course, it was only turned on 4 or 5 months of the year.

One thing my dear old mom taught me: If you want your towel to be dry in the morning at camp, hang it inside the water heater closet. I got her taxes done at the last minute – took all the paperwork to a tax preparer on Monday.

Tomorrow, I have to be around when the new screen/storm door is installed, but now that the camp is open and taxes are filed – it’s time to clean up the KLR and get it on Craigslist and Uncle Henry’s (http://unclehenrys.com/), which is sort of a New England version of Craig's. If you want to know what happened to all those motorcycles of the 70s and 80s, look no further than Uncle Henry’s. Maine is a paradise if you want to build a cafĂ© racer. Seems like half the bikes for sale have been sitting in a barn for a few years.

I was cruising the aisles at Marden’s – which is kind of a retail version of Uncle Henry’s. They sell salvage, surplus and close outs and it’s always fun to see what’s washed up. This trip, I found two large boxes of RAM mounts, each with about two dozen miscellaneous kits. I picked one up for $15 that looked like it would fit the little shelf in the front of the fairing on my V-Strom, just above the speedo and tach.

The mount kit came with a ball to bolt to a flat surface (which fortunately had a couple of holes that lined up with the holes on the shelf), a mount arm that clamps to two balls and a RAM universal ball that fits their various GPS, cell phone, etc., holders. The kit also came with a holder for a Garmin eTrex GPS, which I don’t need. But I still have the RAM cell phone/iPod holder I used on my first trip, which will bolt right onto the RAM ball that came with the kit. So, I’ll put the Garmin Nuvi GPS up front behind the windshield and use the mirror-stem RAM ball to mount my cell or iPod.

Today, it’s raining and I’m not up to much. Jane came out for dinner and I made a pot of chili.

John

* * *
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Subject: The Fastest Most Powerful Motorcycle In The World, (True Story) - Stromtrooper Forum : Suzuki V-Strom Motorcycle Forums

John,

Thought you might find this interesting, you should try to meet up with Barry.


http://www.stromtrooper.com/off-topic-member-therapy/58561-fastest-most-powerful-motorcycle-world-true-story.html


David

* * *
Thursday, April 21, 2011

David,

I read the thread you sent and sent Barry a PM. We'll see if he responds. Joey and I are riding out to Mt. Desert Island this afternoon -- too bad I don't know how to get in touch with Barry other than by private message. I think I read he works at a boat builder's, which would be helpful if there weren't two dozen boat builders out on the island.

There were actually snow flurries yesterday afternoon! The temperature was about 40 degrees, but there was a really strong wind and the chop on the lake started looking really big. Today is calm and sunny. Thermometer is supposed to get up into the 50s. That old joke about Maine having two seasons, July and winter, isn’t so funny this year.

Got the new storm door installed, so most of my camp projects are done. Replaced the cartridge in the mixing valve on the shower yesterday, too, and also replaced the shower head with a hand shower on a hose. So far, I've unboarded the screened porch, moved the canoes and kayaks out into the yard, run the water supply hose out to the lake, primed the pump, replaced the water heater and storm door and got a new propane account set up and a tank delivered for the space heater. I've got some screens to repair, but otherwise things have begun to get sorted out.

Cheers,

John

* * *
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Subject: Coming home on May 5

Hey, David,

I bought a ticket for home on May 5. I’ll fly from Bar Harbor to Boston and then do a one-way on United from Boston to Honolulu.

Bike was making clanking noises yesterday and I checked the chain. It was real loose. I gave it a good spray with chain lube, loosened the axle and took the slack up to where it’s supposed to be. Today it was fine. I thought I’d better think about new sprockets and chain before a long trip and stopped at Friend & Friend to see what that would cost and to order a new hand guard and bar end to fix the right one that was dinged up before I bought the bike.

Naturally, you can’t buy one hand guard. A set is $83. The bar ends also come in a set for $53. Oh, well -- I’ll have a spare for the the first one of us that mashes up their left handlebar. I checked out the prices on sprockets and chains: $71 for the rear and $56 for the front. The Suzuki OEM chain is more than $200, but they said an after-market DID chain is about $140 to $150. So, that’s about $270, using OEM sprockets and generic chain. I’ll have to check to see if there are better options.

I asked about Barry. He works at Hinckley Yachts in Trenton, which is right next door, between Ellsworth and Bar Harbor. I had a chat with Uriah, the F&F sales manager, who said Malcolm, subject of
The Fastest Most Powerful Motorcycle In The World story, was a real quiet guy who mostly just answered questions and didn’t volunteer much, except to Barry, but that everybody in the place was talking about him after he left. He said Malcolm never made it out of Maine. He went through a four-way stop near Boothbay Harbor and got t-boned. According to Barry, there were no skid marks – maybe he just nodded off and drove through without seeing the signs.

Uriah said Malcolm wasn’t into technology. “For him, the neutral light on the Honda Rebel must have been a technical revelation.” Said all he carried was clothes, a little camping gear and a journal where he kept notes on people he met and contacts. “He didn’t have many of those, either,” but he didn’t need many, since everybody he met wanted to help him achieve his dream.

Fixed a dripping faucet in the bathroom today, which turned into a trip to Home Depot for a faucet handle puller. I bought some washers a few days ago to
stop the drips. The cold faucet came apart easily, but the hot water tap had glued itself to the faucet handle and I couldn’t budge it. Handle came right off with the tool, which I repackaged good as new to take back for a refund tomorrow.

See you in about a week or so.

John

* * *
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Subject: Coming home on May 5

John,

Are you sure you need a new chain and sprockets? Seems a little bit early. To check the chain, count 21 pins and measure the distance between, if the distance exceeds 12.57 inches (319.4 mm) it should be replaced.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zB4DsHV8SAQ


There should be .8 to 1.2 inches of slack.

Malcolm started off in South America and had ridden to Alaska and then to the east coast, was headed to visit a daughter in DC I think.

David


* * *
Wednesday, April 27, 2011

David,

The chain is still short of the maximum stretch, but at 21,000 miles I'm not too far away from a replacement. Thought I'd check and see what it’ll cost to do the deed -- or DID, as it were :-).

I didn't remember from what I read that Malcolm had already made it to Alaska. That's good.

On a more cheerful note, it isn't raining and I'm watching the fog drift across the lake as temperatures rise through the 50s into the low 60s and the forecast for the weekend is dry and sunny. If I can finish my newsletter by Friday, I'm going to ride down to Portsmouth and maybe Boston this weekend. I heard from Martha last night -- she can't get away to come up to the lake while I'm here, but I hope I'll be able to see her down there.

John

* * *
April 30, 2011

David,

So who knew southeastern New Hampshire is the Mecca for adventure motorcycling? Stopped at Max BMW this morning and bought a Powerlet kit to electrify my tank bag.

I passed on the $25 BMW Adventure Socks, but couldn’t resist a Grunge Brush – told the sales lady I’d probably use it to brush my teeth (it’s to clean your chain). The 800cc GS650s are very, very nice, if you want to drop $11K on a bike with no luggage ($13K equipped?).

Just down US-1, there’s a Ducati/Triumph dealership. Nice guys. They had both the 1000cc Triumph Tiger and the new 850cc Triumph adventure bikes. Also very, very nice. Cheaper than the BMW, I’m sure, but with a kick-ass, three-cylinder engine.


I was going to go to Boston to see Martha, but she’s out of town. So I did some exploring locally. Found a spot called “Bob Lobster” in Newburyport, Mass., and had a 1.5 pounder for lunch. Excellent. Only needed a nice Pinot Grigio to wash it down.

Discovered my cell phone works great cabled to the Scala Rider helmet headset and running Pandora Internet radio. I put the phone in my “new” RAM mount for cell phones and iPods and ran the coiled patch cable to my helmet. Rode for hours listening to music that way and the phone still had a good charge. Once the tank bag is wired up with my new Powerlet kit, I can run a charger cord to the phone and get a good music signal into the helmet.

I’m heading north again tomorrow, stopping in Portland to see my uncle Tom (the last of my dad’s generation) and then in Harpswell, which is just south of Brunswick, where Bowdoin College is, to see my cousin Terry, the ER doc. Then, it’s back up to Ellsworth and the camp.

My ass must be out of shape. I had no problems riding up from Tennessee doing long, 350-mile-plus days. But, just puttering around here I find my butt and legs need a break after just an hour or so. It just takes a couple of minutes off the bike and I’m good as new, but it’s annoying to have to stop.

John

* * *
May 3, 2011
Subject: Getting ready to come home

David,

I took the sheepskin I used on the KLR last year on the V-Strom when I rode down to New Hampshire and Massachusetts last weekend. Although I had no sore-butt issues coming up from Tennessee, I did using the sheepskin.

It didn’t occur to me that the sheepskin was the problem. I just figured I’d just gotten soft, maybe not riding enough. But about 50 miles from Ellsworth coming back my butt was burning and I pulled over and took it off. The rest of the ride, I was fine. Wanna buy a sheepskin? Looks cool, but only feels good when you first sit on it.

Today, I installed the Powerlet tank bag kit I bought at Max BMW in Portsmouth. I found an SAE-to-SAE extension cord (came with my air compressor) to go from the bag under the tank to the battery and used a fused Battery Tender lead (SAE to eyelet connectors) to connect to the battery.

The kit has an SAE connector and a cigar outlet inside the bag, which I can use for the automobile chargers for my phone and iPod. I still need a Fuzebox to clean things up and connect to switched power instead of directly to the battery, but once I get that and have my GPS and tank bag on switched power that’ll do me.

Went through all my stuff today and couldn’t find the other Scala Rider I bought in 2009. It must be in Honolulu someplace – just not the places I looked. I’ll find it when I get back.

Two days to go. I’ll do some serious sorting tomorrow: stuff that goes on the bike, stuff that comes home with me and stuff that goes into a box and stays here. Then, it’s off to Jane’s garage with the bike – and the KLR, since I’ve had no buyers (Joey says he’ll sell it for me, though). The last couple of days have been perfect, but it’s supposed to turn wet again Tuesday and Wednesday. Ick.

See you soon.

John

* * *
Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hi, David,

Happy to say, I now have everything loaded up on the bike parked in Jane’s garage except for the sleeping bag and there’s still a bit of room in each of the cases.


Battery Tender is ready to plug into the powered tank bag lead.

I already have too many tools and there are still some on the KLR still to move, so I’ll bring the duplicates home.

Aren’t you going to miss these emails?

Can’t wait to start riding in July. Will probably leave here on July 5 or 6 and it’s two days to Geneva – 617 miles by Interstate. That work for you?

John

* * *
Tuesday, May 3

John,

Sure, have plenty of people to visit and would be nice to do some riding around the Finger Lakes. Haven't spent much time in that neck of the woods in a long time.


Have a nice trip home.

I bought my ticket to JC, I'm leaving on June 12.

David

* * *
Tuesday, May 3

David,

That’ll give you enough time to ride up here.


What else are you going to do for three weeks?

John

* * *
Wednesday, May 4

John,


> Got a few things to do to the bike, mount tires and the headlight relays.

> Spend time with Jennifer and the grand children.

> Finish a couple rides near JC and venture a little further into coal country.

> Ride down to SC and spend a couple days with my cousin Elizabeth.

> Spend a couple days with Doug and Suzie in Brevard.

> Try to get over to ride the Dragon.

> Back to Jennifer's and work on her "to do list" that she is generating.

> Head north to spend some time with Nick in Pittsburg.

> Might try to visit my aunt in NYC.

> Might try to take a Total Control MC course on Ohio.

> Visit family and friends in and around Geneva.

David

* * *
Wednesday, May 4, 2011

David,

Oh, right. I thought you’d done a lot of that already, but the weather didn’t cooperate much, did it?


After getting the bike squared away yesterday, I’ve been shutting the camp to await its next visitors, stripping the bed, washing sheets and towels, cleaning the perishables out of the fridge and bringing extra bread, chips, fruit, cheese, etc., back to town for Jane to use up. Then, there was a trip to the dump with the stuff I’d generated and a couple of big bags left over from last summer that had been visited by a raccoon. A mess, but not too bad.

I need to drive into Bangor to see mom before I leave. I’m hoping Jane will come with me.

Plugged the battery tender into the bike and picked up another $20 motorcycle cover at Walmart (gave my old one to Joey for his CBR). That'll keep it clean and out of sight in the garage while I’m gone. I assume you’re making good use of the cover I left at Jennifer’s.

John

* * *
Friday, May 6, 2011
Subject: Road Runner Magazine

John,

I just subscribed to the online version of Road Runner magazine, http://www.roadrunner.travel/login.php.

Are you going to continue your travel blog, start a new one, or what?

I am going to see how hard it is to take more pictures of my rides in and around TN. Don't want to do a blog but want to post pictures to Picasa.

Can't you come up with a way you (read that "we") can get paid for you writing about your adventures? Your writing is way better than most every trip report I have read.

David

* * *
Friday, May 6, 2011

Hi,

I'm glad you're interested in blogging. If we team up, we could come up with something better than what I did on past trips. For instance, the pictures would be much improved since we could photograph each other actually riding instead of resorting to the static, scenic stuff I was limited to.

On a two-person trip, it isn't easy for one person to blog without the other being actively involved. Travelling solo, I used time I'd otherwise spend in conversation to write, edit pictures and upload installments from the computer. I got good material from my trips with Chris, but I didn't do the writing while we were together.

There are lots of people doing trip reports these days. So, there's no guarantee we'd get paid or published. If we started with the intention of turning this summer's trip into more than a blog -- say, magazine articles or a book -- we could do that, too. But it would change the character of the ride. Let's face it; it's work -- but it could be fun, too. If a unique theme or angle emerged, it could stand out and get some attention.

Let's think about it.

John

* * *
Friday, May 27, 2011
Subject: Idaho Transportation Department Traveler Information

http://hb.511.idaho.gov/main.jsf

David

* * *
Friday, May 27, 2011

David,

That’s a handy site, if they keep it up to date.

I love the “Large Animals in the Road” warnings!

John


* * *
Friday, May 27, 2011
Subject: beartooth_map.jpg (654×626)

John,

Just looking at some of the western state road conditions.



David

* * *
Friday, May 27, 2011

David,

Cool-looking road. Should be fun by the beginning of August.


John

* * *
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Subject: How to properly adjust your chain - ThumperTalk

John,

This is something I can understand from an engineering standpoint.

http://www.thumpertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=406650

David

* * *
Saturday, May 28, 2011

David,


Wordy sumbitch, aint he? I get what he’s talking about, though, especially for dirt bikes with a lot of suspension travel.

My issue is usually a chain so loose there’s a lot of chain snatch and even chain slapping against the swingarm and other bits. The real message is “don’t over tighten.” Shouldn’t be a problem on a street bike as long as you leave about 1.5 inches of slack.

John

* * *
Monday, June 13, 2011

Daniel,

I looked up the Buell on ADVrider:

http://i210.photobucket.com/albums/bb108/itileman/Whitefish5-11034.jpg

That is one knarly looking beast!

Good luck reeling her in.

John

* * *

From: Daniel
Monday, June 13, 2011
Subject: Re: Knarly machine

Hi John,

Looks like a done deal on the Road King, and a done deal on the Ulysses. I offered a full service on fluids and two new tires on the Road King so the buyer is stoked with that.

I am giving an older Garmin GPS5 as a deal closer on the Buell. I was looking for an 2009 as most of the problems on the older models have been sorted out. He had also done some maintenance upgrades that people had been suggesting to do on the Buell. so this bike pretty much fit the criteria better than the other Ulysses that were for sale.

Pretty much set and excited to hook up with you guys in July.

Daniel

* * *
Monday, June 13, 2011

David,

Looks like Daniel will join us on a Buell adventure bike!

Here it is:



John

* * *

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cool, look forward to seeing it.

Just arrived in Johnson City. Unpacked all the new gear and will see if I can get it on the bike tomorrow.

Supposed to rain off and on most of the rest of the week -- go figure.

David

* * *
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Subject: Dragon



John,

Brevard, Dragon, Blue Ridge Parkway, Brevard -- 297 miles of twisties and three bottles of wine and I'm ready for bed.

Great day, perfect weather and a great dinner with too much wine. Will head south tomorrow, throttle hand is a little stiff.

Life is good.

David

* * *
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Subject: Re: Dragon

John,

Saw that you had updated the blog, very nice. Will send the link to friends so they will be able to follow our exploits.

I think it might be nice to include emails.

Haven't taken a lot of pictures but am working on it.

David

* * *
Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hi!

I'm scrambling around to get to the airport. Can't find the battery charger for my camera but found the missing Scala Rider while I was looking for it! I'll bring it along and let Daniel know, since I'd suggested he try to pick up a headset and he'll be able to use this one.

I'll just have to assume I left the charger in Maine. I looked everywhere and don't remember recharging the camera since I came back home in May. If I'm wrong, I'll have to find one -- it's a rectangular battery pack. I wish they made this model to take AAs.

Hope you've recovered from your big day.

Aloha,

John

Monday, June 20, 2011

Another adventure, another bike (or two)


Back home in Honolulu in August 2010, I took stock of my two-wheeled adventures: down the Appalachians from Maine to Louisiana and back up the eastern seaboard in 2009, and from Maine to California and back in 2010. Of 50 states, I had visited 40 and my map of states traveled by motorcycle looked like this:



My 2009 and 2010 adventures had taken me through 40 states.

Clearly, any new trip should go through those blank, untraveled states along the northern border: Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. I could save Alaska for another day -- it would be a big enough adventure on its own. Meanwhile, I was kicking myself. Why I hadn't made it to Florida when I ridden all the way to Savannah, Ga.? It was only a couple hundred miles from there to Jacksonville.

After my transcontinental journey, I returned to a Vespa GT200. The scooter was perfect urban transportation but couldn't fill my recreational void. I hankered for something with the acceleration and handling I'd grown used to on the KLR. I scanned Craigslist for used bikes that could fill the bill. My friend Daniel, who has a garage full of scooters and motorcycles, set a bad example.

Eventually, I found a 2007 Triumph Bonneville that a Pearl Harbor sailor was selling. It wasn't a long-distance touring bike, but Oahu isn't the place for touring. It's almost impossible to ride 100 miles on the island without finding yourself someplace you've already just been.



The Bonneville on the beach; it's retro, bold, black and beautiful.

One day, my friend David asked if he could drive the Bonnie. He'd once owned a little Honda 175 but hadn't ridden in decades. As a pilot and a sailor, he's handled challenging machines and, what's more, he'd already taken the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course and gotten the motorcycle endorsement on his driver's license. So, I figured, why not?

Shortly after that ride, David said, after following this blog since it started, he was thinking about buying a motorcycle on the mainland and maybe tagging along on my next trip. He'd crossed the Pacific under sail from Hawaii to California once and was in the crew on a second similar voyage that ended when a sperm whale rammed and sank the yacht. Now, he'd decided he was ready for something different, long-distance motorcycling.

Last fall, David started scanning eBay and Craigslist looking for an adventure touring bike. While visiting his stepdaughter Jennifer in Johnson City, Tenn. last winter, he found a Suzuki V-Strom 650 near Asheville, N.C., bought it and trailered it to Jennifer's house, where he stored it while he came home, got it registered and started researching motorcycle and camping equipment to join me on my northern ride.

Meanwhile, I considered the prospect of another long trip on my thumper. The KLR had served me well and never broken anything I couldn't fix, but it was time for a change. It vibrated painfully, the weak headlight made riding after dark a nightmare and, although it was a delight on twisty, two-lane and dirt roads, it strained to cruise at 70 mph on highways.

As luck would have it, I found a used yellow V-Strom almost identical to David's blue one in Jonesborough, Tenn. -- just five miles from Johnson City. I bought it and it joined David's i Jennifer's garage.



Here's the photo I found on Craigslist of my new mount.

The V-Strom's engine has the same displacement as the KLR's, 650cc, but it has two cylinders, fuel injection, a six-speed transmission, better wind protection, much better headlights, a better seat, easily plugged tubeless tires, more power and less vibration. Where the KLR is a dirt bike that can handle the highway, the V-Strom is a road bike that can manage dirt roads.

In March, David and I flew to Tennessee to get our bikes ready and do some riding. Johnson City is close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs down the spine of the Appalachians from Virginia to Great Smokey Mountain National Park in North Carolina. Shortly after we arrived, in spite of mostly cold, wet weather, we rode to Asheville, N.C. on the Interstate, returning on the BRP and stopping in Spruce Pine for a photo.



Spruce Pine, N.C. is a little railroad town just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

New bikes take getting used to, especially if one hasn't done a lot of riding. Once a motorcycle is at speed, it's easy to manage, but stopping, starting and low-speed turns can be full of surprises, especially on slopes, shoulders and steep driveways. Just mounting and dismounting a tall, top-heavy, loaded-up dual-sport takes practice -- especially for us "mature" riders. Having dropped the KLR a few times in campgrounds and parking lots, I wasn't surprised when David had a few adventures with the V-Strom and was happy to be there to watch him pick his bike up a few times.



David got Logan's motorcycle charged up so she could zip around the garage crashing into things while we worked on the V-Stroms.

Jennifer's house in Johnson City was a perfect base for our preparations with two, two-car garages -- one of which she put at our disposal. Grand-daughter Logan visited us frequently and there were hardware stores and motorcycle shops nearby for tools and parts. Except for the weather, which remained cold and wet despite the blooming dogwoods and daffodils, we had a pleasant time wrenching, installing new gear and sorting out what to pack.



My new ride in downtown Morristown, Tenn.

After about a week, I left Jennifer's to visit our niece Paige, who lives in Morristown, Tenn., about an hour's ride from Johnson City. Paige had spent a summer with Mary and me in Honolulu after she graduated from high school. Since then, she'd earned a degree from the University of Nebraska and moved with her partner Drew, an engineer, first to Kansas City and then to Morristown, which was near a power plant project where Drew worked.



Niece Paige at the Morristown jewelry store where she works.

I put together a monthly electronic newsletter for Hawaii nonprofit organizations and needed a quiet spot with a good Internet connection to write and edit the April edition. Paige and Drew's house in Morristown was perfect. Drew was working nights and Paige was at her jewelry store all day, so I could buckle down and get my monthly chore done, accompanied only by Jersey, their Doberman Pinscher.



My buddy Jersey kept me company while I was in Morristown.


My first night at Paige's, she and Drew took me to dinner and then went out to a 10:30 movie. After my chilly ride from Johnson City, I decided to skip the show and go to bed in their comfortable guest room. I quickly dozed off, only to awake when they came home to find the 100-pound Jersey had crawled into bed without waking me, her heavy head on my stomach. Paige chased her off, but we'd become good friends.

I spent three days in Morristown, doing the newsletter. One evening, Paige took me to visit Gatlinburg, Tenn. -- a sort of hillbilly Waikiki about 50 miles south of Morristown on the edge of the Great Smokey Mountain National Park -- where we had dinner at an Irish pub and watched tourists enjoying the attractions on the main drag while snow flurries added a festive atmosphere. Gatlinburg is home to Dollywood, the resort developed by Dolly Parton, who is to Gatlinburg what Don Ho is to Waikiki.



Paige took me to Flanagan's in Gatlinburg, where I felt I fit in.

After bidding aloha to Paige, Drew and Jersey, I briefly rejoined David in Johnson City before starting north to Maine on Friday morning, April 1, to visit Mom, get our lake cottage open for the season and put the KLR up for sale. It's 1,100 miles from Johnson City to Ellsworth -- a good chance to get acquainted with the V-Strom. I opted to take a direct route. It was too cold to dawdle.



From Johnson City (A), I rode to Ellsworth, Me. (E), stopping at Charlottesville, Va. (B), Edison, N.J. (C) and Portsmouth, N.H. (D).

The ride north took me first to Charlottesville, Va., where Mary Jean, my oldest sister, lives. The ride was a cold one, with occasional snow flurries. Spring was late this year, but the V-Strom's windshield protected me well and I put the first 300 miles behind me easily, wearing just about all the clothes I had with me.

On Saturday morning, I said goodby to Jeannie and her husband Donald and headed up US 29 toward Washington, D.C. The sun came out and the day was warmer as I sped past the Capitol on I-66, connected with I-95 and soon was negotiating the tunnel under Baltimore Harbor. Construction and a toll gate at the Delaware state line slowed things down to a crawl, creating a mile or more of bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go backup. Eventually, I was over the Delaware Memorial Bridge and scampering up the New Jersey Turnpike.

At a rest stop, I picked up a motel coupon book and decided to spend the night at a Howard Johnson Motor Inn in Edison, south of the incredible congestion that extends from Elizabeth through Newark and the Bronx all the way to the Connecticut line. When I pulled up at the motel, I saw a Fudrucker's restaurant next door and figured I'd pop over there for dinner before turning in.

Unfortunately, the restaurant never opened -- it had gone out of business apprarently. Too tired to find an alternative, I found a bag of popcorn and a bottle of wine at a nearby convenience store and settled in back at the motel to watch the NCAA Final Four championship game on TV. Before UConn won the game, I'd dropped off.

I came to at about 4:30 on Sunday morning, got up to pee and, feeling wide awake, decided to head for the George Washington Bridge before New York City woke up. It was a good plan. I enjoyed that morning's sunrise with an Egg McMuffin and a Sunday Times at a McDonald's in Stamford, Conn., having left all that mess behind me in the dark.

At Storrs, I got off the Interstate to visit the UConn campus. It was still Sunday morning and the victorious Huskies weren't stirring, however. So, it was back on the slab or the short ride up to Worcester, Mass. From there, I set the GPS to avoid highways and took back roads up to Portsmouth, N.H., where I stopped to spend the night at sister Betsy's before continuing north to Ellsworth, a hot supper and a warm bed at sister Jane's.

I spent the next month out at the lake, where several projects were waiting for me: putting out the hose and priming the pump to draw water from the lake, replacing the storm door that had blown off its hinges and replacing an ancient water heater and a couple of leaky valves. Last year's mild weather -- the snow was totally gone by April 7, when the thermometer hit 90 in Boston -- was a fond memory. In 2011, spring wouldn't arrive until May.

First, I had to charge the KLR's battery and shovel the snow keeping the doors shut so I could get it out of Jane's shed. The old, green machine was better suited than the V-Strom for trips back and forth to the lake on the muddy, potholed, snow covered, gravel road. I thought it looked particularly good with a chain saw bungeed to the cargo rack.



The KLR, with chain saw farkle, is totally at home in the woods. Yes, the lake in the background is still covered with ice in mid-April.

My nephew Joey, a junior at the University of Maine, was Jonesing for a sport bike. I tried to talk him into something more practical, but he's 21 -- not an age when practicality outweighs sex appeal -- and he'd decided that a sport bike was way sexier than a bagger.

He did the work: sold his old KTM dirt bike, took the safety course and got his motorcycle license permit. So, I gave him a ride on the back of the V-Strom up US-2 to Medway, Me., the "Gateway to Millinocket," far enough north that the towns mostly have numbers instead of names. Joey had found a 1999 Honda CBR600F with only 5,000 miles on it -- practically new. It was in Medway for a tune up at a shop that sells bikes for three months and snowmobiles for the rest of the year.



Joey takes possession of his CBR600F. Except for the V-Strom, the rest of the vehicles in the lot are snowmobiles.



Flanman and Joey at Mount Cadillac's summit in Acadia National Park.

As my stay in Maine was wrapping up, Joey was taking his final exams. So, we didn't get to do much riding together. However, we did have one fine outing to Acadia National Park and another out Newbury Neck along Union Bay. The CBR and the avuncular V-Strom look good together, don't they?

I put the KLR up for sale on Craigslist and Uncle Henry's, Maine's answer to eBay. Unfortunately, there have been no nibbles, but Joey said he'll try to sell it for me.

As April rolled into May, the ice went out of the lake, the huge snow pile in the Walmart parking lot melted into a slurry of loose gravel and I ground out another newsletter. Then, before flying home on May 7, I took a three-day bike trip south to visit family in Portsmouth, N.H. and Portland and Harpswell, Me.



The Penobscot Narrows Bridge from chilly Bucksport. I learned the stock seat is more comfortable without the sheepskin.



A lobsterman in Harpswell lined up his freshly painted lobster trap buoys in the front yard.

As usual, I put on a few pounds in my month up north. The haddock chowder, lobster and fried clams took their toll. Spending Easter with family was a treat, but by early May, it was time to get home to Honolulu to wait until July's heat melted the snow pack in the passes and made crossing the northern Rockies a possibility.