Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Life of the Party

I took up the popular "battery conversion" for my R.  I hadn't yet experienced Sudden Battery Death but my battery was approaching three years in age and was audibly weaker and cranking slower. This issue has been on my mind for awhile and I had requested Mr. Oilburner make jumper cables for my bike that are permanently mounted under the seat.  But I finally decided I would rather lose a few months of life and money from the battery then to be stranded.  So armed with battery replacement opinions from the forums, and conversion instructions, I ordered the Odyssey PC535 and went about installing it.

Removing original battery tie down.

Removing the plastic rivets, making it possible to remove/bend/replace mounting bracket.

Cutting notches into the fins making it possible to squeeze the battery between the seat posts.

After the tie down bracket was hammered out and refit, still need a washer of sorts to make up its shortcoming.

In all, the conversion was extremely easy thanks to a couple hardy souls that documented it for the rest of us. The battery sounds strong and turns the bike over quickly and easily.  I only had one confused moment on the Alabama ride when the bike repeatedly stalled.  The problem existed more between handlebar and seat when the operator continued shifting into first with the kickstand down...

Little River Canyon, Alabama

I really wanted to title this post "Beemers in the Mist".  For the first time grabbing a new electronic item I did not instantly mesh with it and learn it's intricacies through osmosis.  Therefore, I did not capture images of our group swirling through the mist along the quiet highways.  But what am I going on about, you ask?

Some old and new friends gathered to take a jaunt into Alabama and visit Little River Canyon.

It did live up to its name.  It had a river and was a little canyon.  :-)  All joking aside, it was very scenic and attractive.  The only drawback was the road rimmed the canyon and wasn't anywhere near the water.  Great for scenery as there was an overlook every mile!  Not so great for cooling off by lounging in the water.

The ride from Atlanta was mostly uneventful.  But you could say the premonition for trouble came at breakfast when the gentleman leading the ride turned to us and asked if we had input the route into our GPS'.  Any other ride of the year, with any other group of people and we would have already done precisely that.  Nothing against everyone else, but it is nice to have your own idea of where you might be going instead of relying (or forcing) everyone else to look after me.  This was one instance where Mr. Oilburner and I were completely willing to trust in others and just see where the roads lead.

To give a little background, two of the gentlemen in the group work for a BMW motorcycle dealership, and can snag any bike off of the showroom floor for a ride.  Which is precisely what these two had done.  However, neither of the bikes had been set up for GPS and the leader was running with paper maps.  Knowing that I usually keep my GPS updated was the reason for his earlier inquiry.  We had a chuckle that Mr. Oilburner and I were "unprepared".  We agreed that if it looked like he was getting a little "off-course" to let him know.

With this edict we set off towards the small hill country.  The clouds were low surrounding us, and I was happily thinking up my blog title with a great picture to back it up.  Alas, no go. Other events will have to suffice.

Our destination was a mere 100 miles from our meet location.  Not bad at all, giving us plenty of time to ride the canyon and stop at the overlooks.  We all figured that taking the highways would get us there rapidly and painlessly and we could play, rather then add an hour to the trip on back roads.  Mr. Oilburner and I were quite content to enjoy the scenery and empty highway until I began to comment that my GPS would rather we had turned right instead of left.  No matter how much I may hate to admit it, but there is more then just MY way to a destination so I sat back and didn't obsess.  Leader could stop if he wanted to.

I grew concerned as the sun was now directly covering my left shoulder instead of behind and slightly to the right.  Means our course was taking us south-southwest when we should have been traveling northwest.  Um...ok.  Given that there isn't one single straight stretch of road in Georgia this highway just might veer back northwesterly.  Another 5 miles and it was blatantly clear that we were headed due south and something needed to be done.

About this time Leader seemed to have his own concerns and pulled to the shoulder.  I coyly rode up and meekly asked if he believed he was headed in the correct direction.  He grinned and asked me if I could get us back to the right road.  No problem!  Have GPS will lead!  I headed away, making the others scramble to catch up as they were enjoying ribbing Leader.  I executed a perfect u-turn, feeling like I was pivoting on my cylinder head and putting all behind me to shame.  (I may be exaggerating this a little in my mind, but I was riding with a group of extremely experienced riders and wanted to look like I belonged there.) :-)  Mr. Oilburner assures me that my u-turn was quite respectable.

The first stop-light we hit to bunch up and a fellow rider asks me just how far out of the way Mr. Leader took us.  He rolled his eyes and laughed, storing away the "10 or so miles" answers for latter heckling.  I was basing the 10 mile estimate on the distance to our turn, thinking we would be on the correct road.  Later we determined that our little detourr was closer to 40 miles.  Mr. Leader didn't live it down all day.

But my route back to our objective was a great cutoff through small country lanes.  Much was said about the single-wide trailer homes with expensive trucks, motorcycles and cars along here.  My concerns with leading the group a little astray and not riding the roads fast enough were washed away when Mr. Oilburner expected that no one minded as they were all busy looking left and right and not paying attention ahead.  :-)

In short order we were back on solid ground and looking good to approach our destination in 20 miles.  Leader took back over as everyone felt he couldn't get us into too much trouble in that distance.  And our little time for chatter gave me the opportunity to play with my new gadget and actually get it working.

I broke down and purchased the GoPro HD.  I'm reluctant to create a permanent mount point just yet and made due with the suction cup on the tank trick.  What do you think of the pictures?

Our little group clustered at a map of our canyon ride.

We reach the canyon and have a grand time.  We pull into every turnout.  And they are all gravel.  Not a problem for the guys on the borrowed GS'.  I'm only apprehensive.  But Mr. Oilburner is riding that RT like it's a dual sport with knobbies.  He goes careening through the deep stuff, catching a little air.  I managed to get it on video and will have to share with you once I figure out how to post it.

Our merry band of bikes.

Gorgeous colors.

Mushroom rock growing in the middle of the road.  
Rude riders that we are, we just parked in the middle for photo ops.

It was wonderful actually stopping at overlooks, with actual landscape to look over.  Instead of the usual gas stations other groups take breaks at.  We would dismount, peel our gear off, oh and ah the scenery, sit and chat while the breeze cooled us off, then head on down the road to do all over again in another mile.  Great group of individuals that enjoyed laughing and relaxing.  The only drawback was having to peel our sweat soaked gear back on again.  But the alternative wasn't an option as we made smarmy remarks about all of the road-rash-waiting-to-happen-harley riders.  :-)  Seriously...can you imagine pulling your jacket back on, only to have the mesh liner stick to your arms and be pulled halfway out the arm hole near your hand?  Rough readjusting all of that! 

293 miles
2 scenic "detours"
4 wonderful overlooks
1 HOT and STICKY day (temp gauges varied, but all agree it was near 100F)
1 missed section of the canyon to go back for
1 great ride with the worst miles to time ratio ever!  (293 miles in 12 hours door-to-door for us)

Can you see where we took the major detour? :-)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

141 Miles of Nothing

May was a long, hard, sucky month.  And I am happy it is over.

With everything that went wrong, it all culminated in keeping us off the bikes. That wasn't a physical hardship for me as I was in absolutely no condition to ride.  I guess it wasn't a mental hardship for the same reason.  :-)

My second weekend alone and feeling better I forced myself to the bike.  I hadn't a clue where to go though.

One of our riding clubs was venturing out to Cloudland Canyon.  I knew I was not up for the distance but figured I could at least meet up with them, ride towards the mountains a little ways, then split off and cover the East as they covered the West.

Without verifying kickstand up time I thought I remembered something about 9:30 and hoped I had the location correct.  I pulled into the lot at 9:27.  No bikes.  This group is NEVER on time.  I guess I had the wrong location. 

Now where?  I looked to the North, thinking I could go ahead with my plans.  The thick, dark gray clouds coming South made me a little skeptical.  Instead I headed towards home hoping to figure someplace out before then.  I decide to just head up I-985 and see where it leads.  After a boring trip on interstates any old off-ramp is looking good.  I pick one and just head south, figuring I would keep going until I hit I-85 then head back home. 

It was an unbelievably boring 141 miles, mostly interstates.  I guess the brain was still fuzzy enough to not come up with anything unique or interesting.  I apparently couldn't even be bothered to stop, stretch the legs, get a drink or snack...  So I finally get on the bike after more then a month and see absolutely nothing and go absolutely nowhere. 

141 miles of nothing
But it was pleasant and nice to be on the bike