Monday, January 30, 2006

It was going to be a boring weekend

Tony was on-call at work, so he wouldn’t be joining me in any rides. The other usual suspects were busy. I didn’t feel like moping around the house, so Friday morning I called my sister Jessica to see if she was going to be around.

The plan was to ride down to San Diego and have dinner with Jess and Dave and then spend the night there before riding back the next day, hopefully hitting up some nice roads on the way.

In preparation, I went to Road Rider after work on Friday to pick up a tank bag. I’ve been doing lots of research and waffling on tank bags for the past few months. I had pretty much decided to eventually purchase a $100+ RKA when I had the cash, but was thinking I’d buy a $50 Tourmaster Mini to tide me over. It was smaller than I really wanted, but would work. As luck would have it, I browsed a little before making my purchase and found a Nelson Rigg strap-on bag that would work perfectly (about the size I was looking for). I also purchased a combination balaclava/turtle-fur neck warmer in hopes of a warmer solution than my current thin balaclava.

I left the house at 5 am, wanting to slab down 101 in the pre-dawn hours to make it to 58 bright and early. All was going well. The ST’s headlight was proving itself capable in the dark. I found that with the grip warmers on, the throttle rocker stiffened up the throttle, acting as a kind of throttle lock (more later, I don’t really like this, but it was convenient for freeway travel).

I was thinking that things were going my way when I hit pretty bad fog around San Miguel. For the next 20-some miles, it was foggy. It was also starting to get light out, but I was amazed to see that very few cars had their lights on. It made me very nervous to come up on dark shapes running in the fog without marker lights. I tried following other cars at times, but many of them were going much faster than I was comfortable with in bad visibility.

I finally made it to Atascadero, where I’d planned to get gas. At every exit I peered through the fog looking for the In&Out Burger that was my usual landmark for my favorite gas exit. I never saw it, conditions as they were, so I found myself hitting the Santa Margarita/58 exit with my tank just a few miles from empty. I circled back around on a farm road (one of the scarier parts of the day, very bad fog) to find another gas station. I asked an attendant there if he knew when the fog might burn off. The blank look he gave me was not confidence inspiring. I think he wasn’t the brightest, because he told me “maybe by afternoon” and then seemed to hang around the entire time I was fueling up, in between emptying the trash bins and refilling the paper towels.

I went back to Santa Margarita, heartened that conditions on the freeway were already improving. Once I got into town, I found that it was still pretty foggy though, so I stopped for breakfast at “Tina’s Place” which I think used to be called “Jo’s Roundup CafĂ©” back when I was in school in the area.
I lingered at breakfast for over an hour, watching the fog slowly lift, before getting going again at around 10 am. I decided at that point that I wasn’t feeling up to riding all the way down to San Diego, mainly because it was pretty cold out and I just wasn’t feeling like facing any more freeway that day.

I headed out on 58, taking my few pictures of the day. It was swoopy and sweepy with very little traffic. I really enjoyed the western part, and the straights and whoops in the center. I’ve always been a little leery of the tight switchbacks and steep grades on the eastern part of the road. I remember watching the rider before me lowside his cruiser on some gravel in that area back during a group ride of Cal Poly students. The memory has made me very cautious on this part of the road.

I hit 33 and headed into the wasteland of California central coast oil fields. Rusty pumps nodded up and down. Gravel covered the road at places where trucks could swing out while crossing to other oil fields. I could smell sulphur and dust. I was amused to notice farms and orchards on one side of the road and then a strong demarcation line with ranks of oil rigs beyond.

At Coalinga I decided to skip my usual Harris Ranch lunch. Instead I parked in front of the Red Robin and enjoyed strawberry lemonade with my open faced mushroom and swiss burger.

I headed out on 198 at 3pm, wondering if I’d have time to do 25 or would have to head for 101 and slab home in darkness, as happened on my last group ride there.

As I left Coalinga, a lone rider pulled off a side road way ahead of me. It appeared to be an early 80’s touring bike, with hard bags and a big fairing. I never really figured out what it was, but followed him briefly, watching him ride the double yellow in a few turns. I passed when I had the opportunity, not wanting to watch this accident waiting to happen. I didn’t see him again, but he wasn’t going very fast (a good thing, actually).

A little while later I came up on a convoy of at least 7 slow moving cruisers. I didn’t really feel like following them either, so was very happy to see a passing lane come up. In the process of passing them, I was puzzled when the ST appeared to lose power a few times. After the pass was completed, I realized that I had been in 2nd gear and thus found out what hitting my rev limiter feels like. I tried to be more aware of how close to redline I was for the rest of the ride.

I feel like a broken record for saying this, but I really can feel my confidence improve each time I take this bike out for a long ride. I don’t feel that I was quite keeping to the pace set my last time on this road with Tony, but I was moving. 198 really is one of the better roads in California. I’ve ridden most of the ones that are usually mentioned in top 10 lists, but 198 just feels so good. Rollercoaster!

I made it to 25 at around 3:30 and made the turnoff. 25 was business as usual. It was pretty clean compared to my last time on it. I stopped briefly at the location of a fatal motorcycle accident that I’d been present for three years ago to pay my respects.

In Hollister, dark clouds ahead prompted me to stop for a caramel mocha and change to my clear shield. I also buttoned up for rain and moved sensitive equipment from my tankbag to the waterproof trunk.

I hit a good amount of rain on the ride back to San Jose, but found that the ST’s windshield is pretty effective. By tucking at the right angle, the wind driven off the shield cleared my helmet face shield of rain. Bonus!

I got home and found Tony at his computer, after a fun-filled day of providing tech support and working through an entire campaign on one of his computer games.

Not such a boring weekend after all!

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Grumpiest Time of Year

Supposedly, January is the grumpiest time of year for most people. My day hasn't been terribly splendid, so here's a picture of a cute bunny.

This was taken the night I brought Sorsha home, back in 2002. She was about 8 weeks old at the time. Awwww.

In other news, I sent in my entry form for the Cal24, a 1000 mile/24 hour rally held in mid June.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Chowder ride

A recent thread on BARF reviewed great clam chowder places in the Bay Area. I of course praised my beloved Splash Cafe down in Pismo as the end-all be-all of chowders. Another chowder house that came up repeatedly was Phil's Fish Market in Moss Landing.

Since Splash is 3+ hours south of San Jose, I resolved to check out Phil's. Sunday being sunny and not excessively cold, I got Tony out of bed at the insanely early hour of 11 am to have a quick breakfast and gear up the motorcycles. Robert (Squidhunter) was also availble.

The riding was nice. For the most part, the roads were part of our normal "quickie" repertoire. Bailey to Uvas to 152 Hecker Pass. From there we tried out something new. With the help of my GPS and a printed map, we found Elkhorn Slough Rd, which none of us had been on before. It was very nice, but we were following a slow moving econobox and a Honda Nighthawk the entire time. In it's favor, Elkhorn is one of those roads so curvy that there are very few opportunities to pass. Unfortunately, this doesn't help if you're stuck behind someone who doesn't seem to know the purpose of turn-outs. The scenery was nice at least.

Phil's was pretty crowded, which was encouraging. Robert and I both ordered the clam chowder (Tony got a fish sandwich. He doesn't like clam chowder). Robert thought it was pretty good. I found it good also, but still not comparable to Splash's nectar of the gods. It was thick with good chunks of clam but strong potato and bacon overtones. Also somewhat grainy opposed to Splash's creamyness. Splash also has more of a sweet seafood taste.

I'd go again to sample more of their food, but the chowder there won't be my big draw. I'd like to try the cioppino ($$$) which also got high marks from BARFers.

We headed home via Hwy 1, Soquel San Jose Rd, and 17. SSJ was fun as always. We got a good run in on SSJ with very little traffic in our way. My confidence on the BMW is definitely improving. I kept Tony and Robert in my sights most of the day. I only fell behind on SSJ, but when Tony asked how I was doing over the radio when he reached the end of SSJ rd, I was able to respond that I was right behind them and pulled up just a few seconds later. A nice ride which ended up being about 100 miles for the day.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

It was such a *moment*

I went into the dealer on Tuesday to buy oil, had a neat experience...

Guy comes up to help me and I say I need some oil. I tell him what model I have and he helps me grab the right kind. I then say I want 3 bottles so I don't have to come in again so soon. Concerned, he asked me the mileage and what it's burned so far. I tell him about a quart in 1400 miles.

He says I'm fine but then says (and i know i"m mangling it, but it was such a *moment*)

"You tell anyone who asks that the hispanic from England but no british accent who's really columbian told you that if the bike doesn't move when you twist the throttle, shift down."

The guy reminded me of Antonio Banderas. Another thanks to San Jose BMW for a great ownership experience. ( so far)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Put on some mileage this weekend...

It's been a few weeks since I've really ridden the BMW. We've had some awful weather lately: winds, rain, flooded roads. With this weekend shaping up to be nice, Tony and I made plans with Sean (Thirdwaver) and Jesse (QuickNinja) to do a good long ride and then retire to Sean's house in Livermore for a Canada trip planning session. (eh?)

The plan was to do a run down 25 to 198 and get lunch at Harris Ranch before heading back the same way. There are a few other roads in that area that are normally options in the summer, but they tend to have water crossings after big storms, so we didn't want to risk them.

Sean was having someone come over early Saturday morning to replace the windshield on his car, so we knew we'd be getting a somewhat late start. I'd pushed for a meet-up around 9:30, but we ended up aiming for 10am at a gas station at Tully Rd and 101. Tony also called a couple of other friends Friday night and Robert (Squidhunter) was available.

We ended up meeting at the gas station around 10:30 and thus made it to Hollister around 11:30 for a quick Starbucks break.

Heading down 25 I was initially concerned by several areas of dry mud across the road and frequent wet pavement. Tony, in the lead, notched down the pace to a level that was fun, but conservative in response to uncertain road conditions. Tony (F4i), followed by Robert (SV650) and Jesse (YZF600R) on their sportbikes tended to pull away slightly in the curves from Sean (ST1300) and I, but we generally had no problem catching up in the straights.

The traffic situation on 25, as usual, was nil. We caught up with a few cars, but they usually courteously pulled over or just kept to the side on long straights. There were a few cases where the lead bikes "cleared out their exhausts" on the deserted straightaways, which always bothers me slightly, but I didn't really mind testing out the newly broken in R12ST on what really is one of the safest roads in the area to do so.

We stopped for a quick break at the intersection of 25 and 198. Robert had to be at work by 5, so he went west to 101 from there to slab back home. We headed east into roller coaster country. Sean and Jesse had never been on this part of 198. When Sean mentioned this over the radio, I replied with "Well, you're in for a treat." A second later, Tony said the same thing. (Great minds, eh?) Sean's response: "Guess I'm in for a treat!"

Being a more heavily traveled road, 198 was pretty clean so we felt comfortable wicking it up. Tony had mounted his new camera on the bike to try to get some videos of the road so we had to stop a few times for him to fiddle with it. We'll have to do some more experimentation because his fresh batteries kept dying.

The R12ST was really handling great. I've pretty much gotten comfortable thrashing it and no longer am consumed by terror of dropping my $17k purchase. I spent much of the day in 2nd and 3rd gear, shifting when I noticed myself hanging out too close to redline. Others have said that the 1200 engine loves to rev, and I have to agree. The redline sneaks up on you with no indication of trouble. I also love it's stability in big sweepers. I'd always had somewhat of a head-case in high speed sweepers on my YZF but am now able to relax and enjoy them.

We finally got to Harris Ranch around 2:30 and were seated after a 5-minute wait. It was pretty empty in there and we got our food quickly. Yummy as always.

We finally got going again just a little after 4pm. We knew we didn't have much light left, so we wanted to get as far as possible before it got too dark.

Getting back into the hills, we were following a few cars going VERY slow. We took advantage of a few passing lanes and got ahead of them. At first I was concerned that one of the cars that had passed the slow leader was going to be on my tail through the twisties, but I pulled away from him a few turns later.

About 10 minutes later I saw a white pickup coming up on my rearview. I radioed ahead to Tony asking if we should let him pass. As a group we pulled slightly to the side so he could get by us all at once. Sometimes it's really nice being in communication with the entire group. The truck disappeared quickly with Sean wondering aloud if we were going to come up on him in a ditch.

With the light starting to fail, we came up on the 25/198 intersection. Without even hesitating, Tony led us right past the turn-off. At that point, it was safer just to get to 101 and slab back home than to face 60 miles of deer-hunting in narrow twisties in the dark.

I had been running my Quest2 GPS all day in passive mode, letting it show me the turns up ahead. Once I knew we were on our way home via 101, I pressed and held the "find" button, which is set to automatically navigate home. Without stopping to fiddle, I was able to tell that we were 120 miles from home and approximately what time we'd get there. I love my gps. So flexible and easy to use.

The ride back was uneventful. Tony got to try out his new Widder electric vest. Mmm warmth. (Yeah, I had mine running too.) We got home around 7:30, changed, fed the pets, and got in the car for a quick ride up to Sean's house in Livermore. We got the route set for the Canada trip and then headed home for some needed sleep.

It was good to get a ride in. I'd been jonesing for a few weeks and today was definitely worth waiting for. It was around 330 miles for the day.

My only ongoing gripe is the oil consumption I'm seeing with the ST. Since the 600 mile service I've added a full quart of oil (bought from the BMW dealer). Tony helped me toss the ST up on the centerstand when we got home from the ride today. It's gonna need more oil again. Guess I'll try to pick up some tuesday on the way to the BARF 'Bux meet. Maybe 2-3 bottles this time instead of just one. From what I've heard, oil consumption is normal for BMW boxers during the first several (10?) thousand miles as the engine hard parts break in. It's strange and kinda annoying considering I've never had a vehicle that burned this much oil in so short a time. A "quirk" I'll get used to, I'm sure.

Of course, after a full Saturday of riding, Sunday morning Tony and I got on the bicycles for a 17 mile ride up the Los Gatos Creek Bike path. Ooh, my butt hurts. From my bicycle seat, not the ST.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Farkle Wishlist (sigh)

My R1200ST is a great bike, but as a sport-touring junkie I feel an overwhelming need to add schtuff. This list is to help me organize my thoughts.


  • $163 - Touratech R12GS Aluminum Cylinder head guards PN:044-0360 (These look significantly more durable than the plastic BMW brand guards for only a little more cash)
  • $155 - Racer Multi-Top Waterproof Gloves. Men's medium (probably)
  • $25 - 3M Scotchlite Reflector kit for Givi E450 from Twisted Throttle
  • $300? - R12GS Handguards
  • $108 - Givi R12ST Topcase rack from Twisted Throttle. I'm torn here. My old adapter plate works, but this would look much better. It does not appear to accommodate my Givi light kit, but it only works intermittently on my current rack anyway. This item can probably wait until I've exhausted the rest of the list.

The "It doesn't exist yet" Wishlist:

  • Hella FF50 driving lights. Now I just gotta find someone who makes an affordable (or re-createable) set of mounting brackets that put them at headlight-level, NOT wheel-level. Yeah. I'd like them, but not till I figure out how to mount 'em.
  • $500+ - Fuel cell. Maybe Touratech will modify their new R12GS accessory tanks to fit the ST. Wishful thinking?

Long -term Wishlist:

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

a sledding we will go!

A few months ago Tony revealed to me that he had never been sledding.

On Dec 30, 2005 we made plans to rectify the situation by visiting Yosemite National Park. I have fond memories of sledding in Yosemite as a child.

We didn't quite manage to get on the road as early as planned, but still managed to make good time heading to the Sierras via 152 and 140. Once into the mountains (past Mariposa) Tony took over the driving, taking his first opportunity to try out the perfomance of his new Subaru Impreza.

We entered the park along the Merced River and spent a few hours walking around Yosemite Village, getting lunch at the deli, and taking photos of Yosemite Falls and misc sights.

It was very misty and drizzly in the valley. It was difficult to see El Capitan and Half Dome .

After lunch, we headed to Crane Flat to check out the snow situation. There were bare patches and no more than a few inches of snow, but it was just enough to sled in. We toted our sleds around the snowplay area for about 2 hours, finding various hills and helping out some other sledding newbies.

A rest period sprawled on the snow turned into an impromptu 5 minute snowball fight from point blank range.

We found a really good hill and spent some time honing our skills. It started raining around this point. We finally gave up, completely soaked from sledding in the downpour.

A good day. More pics at Tony's website: