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Consumer Reports ranked motorcycle companies for overall reliability based on a survey of of over 11,000 riders.
I have to say, I agree with their rankings:
T-Minus 2.5 Months.
For all intents and purposes the bike is ready, save the seat. More on that later. Unless something really isn't working, the bike won't be changing much until the start of the rally. Here's what has changed since the last update:
- Bark Buster Storm S7: I live in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps you've heard, but it rains quite a bit around here. One of the things that I really liked about my R1200GS the handlebar guards which did a pretty good job of keeping the rain off my gloves, though I never really thought about it. That is, until I first rode the FJR in the rain. I quickly discovered that I'd taken the handguards for granted and they really did a lot to keep my hands dry. Unfortunately, adding handguards to the FJR isn't the easiest thing in the world. The typical solution you see to solve this problem is to add V-Strom handguards. Not sure if I didn't order the right parts or what, but I didn't find the V-Strom handguards fit my Gen3 FJR at all.
The problem is there just isn't much area at all to attach a handguard to the handlebar on the FJR. After a lot more Googling, I came across the S7 Barkbusters which only attach to the bar ends. These worked wonderfully, and I think they look good too.
This will likely ensure that there is no rain whatsoever during the IBR. (knock on wood...)
- Mirror Extenders: The mirrors on the FJR provide a wonderful view of the rider's shoulders. There is about a 2 inch square section on the upper outside edge of the mirror that was actually usable for seeing what is behind you. Then when you add handguards, the problem gets worse. Luckily Twisted Throttle mades a kit that moves the mirror up out just enough to make the mirror usable. The bad news is the kit is freaking $80 for two pieces of hard plastic and some mounting hardware. As far as I could find, no one else makes a similar kit. The other bad thing is that installing it involves removing the front plastic dash again. Each time I do this I manage to break off at least one of the plastic clips, and this time was no different. However, now I can see what's behind me!
- Front End Wobble: This appears to be all about air pressure. I noticed the problem was getting worse and checked the air pressure. It wasn't all that low, but it was a bit below spec. I bumped it up a bit above spec and the problem is pretty much gone.
- Raw Fuel Smell: My worry here was that I had a leak where I'd drilled the main tank. I pulled the tank and checked it and to my great relief, no leak. Now this made me feel better, but more confused. Where the hell was this smell coming from?? I checked the aux tank for any tell tail signs of a leak and could not locate anything. As I was poking around, I was very near the fuel line and WOW. There's where the smell was coming from. I sent an email to Mike Langford to ask if it was possible for the smell to be coming through the line itself. He thought this was unlikely and thought it might be a hairline fracture in a weld. Now, however, I had something new to research. I couldn't find anything useful about smell coming through fuel lines, but I did find a lot about cleaning up fuel spills and getting ride of gas smell. The prevailing wisdom for the smell problem was to use vinegar. I didn't have anything to lose, so I put some vinegar on a paper towel and used it on the line running from the aux tank to the main tank. Fast forward to the next morning, and the gas smell was almost entirely gone. Here's my theory of what happened. When I was installing the tank and testing the quick release on the fuel line, I spilled some gas which ran down the fuel line. I didn't think much of it, but that was what was causing the smell. I can't believe that little quantity of fuel would cause that bad of a smell, but apparently it did.
- Seat Saga: This is the one area of preparation that is causing me a lot of consternation. While the custom seat is better than it was, it's still by no means good. I decided to order a Sargent seat, like I had on the GS. In some ways it was better, in some ways worse. In the end, the worse was greater than the better, and I ended up returning it. It was better in that the way it positioned me on the bike was significantly better. The worse? It was so thin that I felt like I could feel every bump on the road. Crap.
In the end, I've ordered a new stock seat and made an appointment at Russell for a ride in fitting mid-April. If nothing else, I'll have a nice comparison between four different seats on an FJR.
- Passport: My passport was going to expire at the end of June 2017. This may have presented a problem given that the rally is starting 4.5 hours from the Canadian border.
- Canadian Park Pass: This wasn't exactly a requirement, but hey, they're free this year to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Canada. I'll stand on guard for that.
- Transportation & Lodging: I have now done my part to help ensure the profitability of the Marriott corporation by booking all my hotel stays for the beginning and end of the rally as well as the two checkpoints.
- Insurance: After a quick reminder of reading comprehension, I updated my liability insurance to 500 CSL.
- R1200GS sold: This was a big weight off my shoulders, while at the same time being very sad. I didn't get what I wanted for the bike, but quite frankly, who does. What I got was fair and it's done. It killed me to sell it, but I wasn't riding it and now it will be ridden. It was interesting seeing the differences between the FJR and the GS after riding the FJR for 6 months. The GS felt like driving a truck. I never really realized how smooth the FJR was compared to the GS. Granted, they are set up for completely different types of motorcycling. I think the FJR will suit me a little better for my style.
- Bike Luggage Inventory: On the GS I had a lot of extra room. A lot. As a result, I really didn't have to think about what I was carrying too much. Extra tools? Throw 'em in! Now, I need to be a little more judicious. I cut out a LOT of stuff and got my tool kit down to the bare necessities. I also removed a lot of the "nice to haves." Time will tell.
- Tankbag power: As part of my effort to cut down what I'm carrying, I had an idea. Pretty much everything I have that needs to be charged lives in my tank bag on 12 volt or 5volt USB power. When I bring those items into a hotel at night, now I'm on 120 volt power and if I have to plug in something, I need a new charger. To help alleviate the need to carry around a bunch of adapters, I bought a 12 volt transformer and put a 2 prong SAE connector on the 12 volt side. Now I can plug the transformer into the wall and power my tank bag off 120 volt power. Not sure if I'm going to bring it on the IBR, but it has already proved useful.
I never knew Peter Behm, but I did meet him once, fittingly enough at the IBA Memorial in Gerlach. He, along with Derick Dickson, were the surprise IBA guests who met us at the bonus.
And when I say I met him, I mean I shook his hand, had my picture taken, and was running back to my motorcycle in the space of about a minute. As with everything in a rally, it was go go go and I was more focused on getting my picture and getting back on the road than I was with talking to anyone. (Add to that there was quite a line of other riders waiting get their pictures.)
From everything I've read, Peter was a genuinely wonderful human being. It got me thinking about the the people who you see during a rally that you don't get a chance to really meet, and how important the pre and post rally events are. It was then that I read a comment from Paul Slaton on the Big Money Rally's site that really summed up my feelings. You can find that comment and ensuing replies here, along with RenoJohn's thoughts on Peter.
With Paul's permission, I've republished his original comment it below.
Sometimes we take for granted what an unbelievably special group of people we have in this community. I am no exception. I have squandered opportunity upon opportunity to spend time with people like Peter under the guise that I’m not worthy of their time. I have become aware that nothing is probably further from the truth.
I have denied myself the honor and the pleasure of spending time with people like Ardys Kellerman, John Ryan, and most recently, Peter Behm. Even though I met them, I can say that I really missed out on knowing them on a deeply personal level.
This is and will continue to be a travesty to anyone I interact with in the future.
These are the people who are the models for what it should be like in a perfect world. Selfless, gracious, unassuming, and uplifting. Oh yeah, and totally F*ing awesome!
So here’s the advice…take time to slow down a little bit and get to know the person you run into at a bonus. Chances are, especially in this rally, it will be someone amazingly special. I will guarantee you’ll be a better person for it. And what you gain will be a investment in the future of all you come in contact with.
Godspeed Peter and love and strength to Paula and your family.
Well said Paul. I'll do my best to take your advice.
And to Peter, may you rest in peace.
Since buying the FJR in August, I've done quite a bit of work on it. I think it's mostly ready to go, with a few notable exceptions:
- Seat: I started the process of getting a custom seat from a shop in the area prior to riding the bike in the BMRx. The initial results were less than stellar. The first problem I've found is allowing myself to be talked into the leather covering. It looks really nice, but was sliding all over it. Every time I'd brake or even let off the gas, I would slide forward into the tank. Second problem was the seating position facilitated sliding forward so I wasn't sitting in the pan itself. After riding into the BMRx, I was in pretty bad shape in the seating area - soreness and monkey butt. Not a good thing.
I took the bike up to the shop last week to have them work on it. The owner immediately identified that I was sliding forward on the seat just by looking at it. I had high hopes that they could get it fixed. After two test rides, it was better. However, I was pretty sore from the ride up to the shop (it was that bad...) that I really didn't feel like I could judge it. I took it for a ride today, and was disappointed. Sliding forward is reduced, but still there. The thing that worries me the most though is that the way they've built the seat causes me to have to lean much more forward than I used to be - and it's not comfortable. Not good.
To be honest, I don't have a great deal of confidence that this will be fixed without devoting a lot of time to it - and time is something that I don't really have a lot of. As a backup plan, I ordered a Sargent seat today to try out. I had a great experience with this seat on my GS. If I can get something that works, I'll have time to get the custom seat dealt with.
- Front end wobble: This is apparently well known with FJRs. Best theory I've heard is that it's caused by the front tire that comes stock on the FJR. Another good theory is that steering bearing should be tightened. It's not horrible, but I'm still not thrilled. I'll just have to ride the crap out of the bike and get through this set of tires.
There's a few other items that I'll need to deal with to, but aren't as critical. I've got some BarkBusters on order that should be here in the next few days. These aren't really for the IBR, but rather for winter riding around here. I also need to figure out where the wonderful raw gas smell is coming from. My best guess for this is that the tap for the aux tank is leaking a little bit. I'm going to pull the tank and check it.
More to come-
Wednesday, June 29
Work has been put on hold for a week and the bike is packed. During dinner, I managed to spill yogurt on my computer...awesome! Some emergency cleaning and popping keys off the keyboard got it cleaned up enough. I'm sure that will smell interesting after being put in a pannier for six days in 100 degree heat...
DayS -3 & -2
June 30 - July 1
Lacey, WA to DENVER, CO
First step was to get to the start, which was either a long one-day or short two-day ride to Denver. I opted for the latter and set off on Thursday morning for a reasonably boring ride to Ogden, Utah. Friday involved a relatively short day for the ride into Denver. All and all the ride uneventful, with the exception of the ride from Fort Collins into the Denver Tech Center Marriott. By 3:00 pm on the Friday before the 4th of July weekend, and apparently LOTS of people wanted to go to Denver. Not sure why, but there was a lot of traffic going into Denver. For whatever reason, I didn't fire up Waze and try to route around the traffic, so it took a while to go the last few miles.
Once I got to the Marriott Tech Center, the parking area reserved for the rally was very clearly marked and I easily got parked. I headed in to get checked in to both the hotel and the rally, both of which happened without incident. I headed back to the bike to wait for tech inspection. As I got back to my bike, one of the rally staff asked me if I was ready for inspection. I pulled out all my documentation and about 10 minutes later I was done. Easy peasy.
Given the fact that I end up not putting my cover on the bike about 90% of the time, I decided to not bring it for this trip. In hindsight, I kind of wish I had given the thunderstorms that were forecast for that evening. Oh well, whatever.
I got up to the room and checked in with the family. After that I was ready for some food so the next stop was down to the bar for a really good burger and a drink, then back to the room for an early night.
July 2, 2016
Since I'd already gone through tech inspection and there wasn't going to be an odometer check, I really didn't have much to do until the rookie rider meeting at 4:00. This meeting was intended for people who had never done a multi-day rally, but I figured it couldn't hurt. (As it turned out, about 90% of the riders attended the rookie rider meeting.)
Until then, I had two main goals for the day were washing my base layers and getting gas for the GS. These two activities took all of about an hour, so the rest of the day was filled with meeting other riders and watching TV. I did get two GREAT pieces of advice with two app recommendation for my iPad - Pocket Earth and myRadar, both of which I would use during the rally.
The rookie rider meeting was interesting, but it wasn't anything that blew my mind. The "regular" rider meeting was efficient and led nicely into the social hour and banquet. The highlight of the evening was obviously the rider pack and the staff did a great job of efficiently distributing everything to 91 riders.
I quickly retired to my room to start planning the next six days of my life. Quite nicely, the rally staff provided a text file with the waypoints along with GPX files. I spent a good amount of time working on the text file first and massaging the data to do a few things:
- Change the "Name" of the bonus to the bonus number dash bonus name. (i.e. "001 - BONUS")
- Create a comment field with the points with a leading zero dash the bonus availability (i.e. "0667 - 24 hours" or "1403 - 6am to 10pm"
Once this file was created, I ran it through gpsvisualizer.com to easily create a GPX file to import into Basecamp. The leading zeros are important since Basecamp recognizes numbers as text, and without the leading zeros you get sorting like "1, 10, 11, 12....18, 19, 2, 20, 21" etc.
From here, I sorted the bonuses in to four categories: 0 - 0733, 0734 - 0999, 1000-1700, and 1700 and up. Each of these are assigned a symbol and color in Basecamp and finally I was ready to start routing.
Now, I probably did my routing differently than most people. My goal was not to win the rally. I am comfortable with that fact, mostly because I was not willing to ride all night. Truth be told, I was a little disappointed that there was only one rest bonus per leg. While I understand this is part of the challenge of a rally, from a safety standpoint, i don't like the idea of riding for more than 24 hours at a time. Since the only person I can control is me, I planned my route to be at a motel by around 10:00 each night. Once bonus and gas stops are worked into the ride, it usually means I'm stopping some time between 10 and midnight each night. Again, since I'm not trying to win the thing, why push the safety envelope?
One thing became very clear to me during the first hour of planning. While there were several tempting combo bonuses, they were likely not doable - at least for me. For each of the combo bonuses, it seemed like there was one of the combos that was on the other side of the planet from the rest of them. Nine bonuses along the Canadian border? The 10th is in Tierra Del God Damn Fuego. You get the idea. It was doable by someone, but not me. I concentrated on just planning a fun route.
For whatever reason, I really was excited to go to Canada. Part of it was I really love Canada. Part of it was wanting to use/justify getting my NEXUS pass. Most of it was going to an area of the world I'd never been to before. Add to that the HUGE points in Canada, and I was headed north.
The catch to all this was I had to be in Reno for the required checkpoint in three days. This caused some issues. It was going to be very difficult to get all the points available in Canada, which were significant, and still make it back to Reno by around 10:00 on July 5th. (I'll explain why later) I ended up settling on a route that got most of the bonuses in Canada with some options for adding and cutting.
The other thing that I planned out the first night was my stops. Having done a multi-day rally over the July 4th weekend, my memory is still fresh with trying to find a hotel on July 4th. I ended up paying $250 for a few hours in a hotel in Vail, CO (at the time, totally worth it) and I really didn't want to repeat that experience. So, I planned out my hotel stays for the first two nights.
By this time it was about 1:00 am and I really wanted a good night's sleep to start out the rally. I decided not to plan out the second half of the rally just yet. I wanted to see how the first half went first. I headed to bed with a 5 am wake up planned.
July 3, 2016
Denver, CO to Harlowton, MT
0500 came right on schedule and I actually felt like I got a decent amount of sleep. I had packed the night before and checked out of the room via phone. I was down at the bike pretty quickly and got the various electronics hooked up and the luggage stowed. From there, I headed back into the the hotel and ate a small breakfast at the nice buffet provided by Team Strange. I don't tend to eat a lot in rally mode, but I always try to get protein whenever I can, so much breakfast was mostly sausage and eggs.
At that point, it became Hurry up and Wait. Riders meetings are important, but I really wanted to get on the road. Once all the last minute information was given out and group pictures were taken it was time to get on the bike. With nearly 90 riders starting the event and a relatively small parking lot, we were started one at a time by David E.B. Smith in doing his best Dale Warchild impersonation.
I managed to release my clutch without stalling the bike, which was no small feat given my nerves. (Do you really want to be the rider who stalls at the start?) On my way out of the parking lot Rick Corwine took a picture of each rider and I thought mine was AWESOME.
For me, the plan was to head north on I-25 then west on I-80 to my first bonus at Scotts Bluff National Monument. I was probably in the first 20 or so riders out of the parking lot, and I believe the remaining 70 riders passed me before I was outside of the Denver city limits. Apparently, I was traveling well below the average speed...
In any event, I arrived at Scotts Bluff and was excited to see a pay station. While this may seem weird, I was pumped to immediately have an opportunity to use my National Park pass and justify its purchase! The mechanics of actually getting the pass out and understanding what the staff member was saying were interesting between my gloves and earplugs, but I made it through without much issue.
The road up to the summit was very nice and winding and I passed several other riders who were on the way back down. At the summit I located the requisite bench, then proceeded to take about 57 pictures of it with my rally flag. (I was NOT going to screw up the first bonus...)
Next stop was a historical marker for Chimney Rock which was right off the highway and easy to find. At this point, the weather was awesome and I was having a great time.
Bonus code "FEATHR" was next up "9.7 wonderful Wyoming gravel" south of Lusk, Wyoming. This began my love/hate relationship with dirt/gravel roads on this rally. Despite riding an R1200GS, I have exceedingly little experience off pavement. I was, shall we say, a tad nervous.
As I turned south onto the wonderful Wyoming gravel, I took it fairly easy. Eventually, I got enough confidence to get out of second gear. As I'm cruising alone with a shit eating grin on my face, I see headlights in my mirrors. As the other rider passed me, I had to sigh and shake my head as I was passed by A GOD DAMN GOLD WING on a dirt road. I quickly came to the realization I was being way too conservative and it was time to go. The road really was pretty good.
This wasn't to say the bike felt good off pavement. I can't really describe what it was, but it just felt wrong. I was using Michelin PR4s, which are not known for their off road prowess. It finally dawned on me that there was a suspension setting on the GS for off pavement - actually there were two: A big mountain and a little mountain. I flipped the setting over to the "little mountain" and all of a sudden the bike felt right. It is still hard for me to believe that a suspension setting could have such an effect on the bike's feel but I wasn't complaining.
I eventually caught up to the other rider, (Who I just figured out was James Stovall as I'm writing this). For this bonus, you were supposed to take a picture of the grave of Mother Featherlegs Shepherd who was a "roadhouse ma'am" on the Black Hills-Cheyenne stage line. The bonus listing also informed me that this was one of TeamStrange's most famous, legend-worthly bonus locations. I guess that makes me a legend? Probably not.
It was a tough picture to take since there was a fence around the grave. With some creativity, both James and I got the shot. I took a minute to enjoy the scenery, as it really was a pretty area, before I made my way back down the wonderful gravel on my new go-anywhere R1200GS.
Next up was the Medicine Wheel atop Medicine Mountain at an elevation of 9,642. According to the bonus listing, the wheel "...is nearly 80 ft in diameter and consists of 28 alignments of limestone boulders radiating from a central cairn." I, however, will have to take their word for it because I never saw it.
As I passed through Sheridan, WY and started up US-14, the rain arrived. US-14 is quickly becoming one of my least favorite roads after the deer-fest during the 2014 Five 'n Dime Rally. By the time I got to the turn off for the Medicine Wheel it was raining and about 35 degrees. Fun. You can't tell it by looking at my bonus picture, but it really nasty up there. I took my picture and GTFO.
On the descent, the weather improved, and I continued north. At this point, I my next bonus was close to where I was planning to spend the night in Harlowton, MT. I arrived at the Chief Joeseph Historical marker around 10:00 and made it to the Country Side Inn around 11:00. I probably could have continued on, but it sure felt nice to stop. I was also treated to some natural and man-made fireworks along the way.
July 4, 2016
Harlowton, MT to Coeur D'Alene, ID
As I've mentioned about a million times, riding at night on rallies is not my favorite thing. During one of the rider's meetings, Rally Master Lisa Erbes pointed out that there is about 18 hours of daylight this time of year, so if you didn't like riding at night, get up early. I thought this was a great idea, so I was on the bike, ready to go at 5:30. After getting gas, it was north to Canada.
I had decided to skip the two bonuses about Shep the Dog. One was easy to get to, but was low points (280). The other was a lot of points (1120), but involved a 1/3 mile "narrow and irregular" path. The path didn't worry me, but the time involved did. I needed to get to Coeur D'Alene that night and I needed to go through Calgary, AB to get there. It made sense to forgo these points.
One of the things I'd done to prepare for this rally was to get a Nexus pass for crossing the border. I was hoping that this would eliminate any delays in crossing. Unfortunately when I got to the border the Nexus lane was closed. Dammit. There was only 3 cars ahead of me, but it still took about 20 minutes. (The car in front of me was invited to pull aside...) For what ever reason, every time I've crossed the border using my Nexus pass, they always ask me where I work. After confirming that, yes, I still work there and I hadn't forgotten to update my GOES account, I was on my way.
Alberta was simply beautiful. Miles and miles of rolling hills covered in flowering canola. My first stop of the day was to the town of Vulcan, who is doing its best to cash in on their name and its relationship to Star Trek. After getting a picture of the USS Enterprise and sitting in Captain Kirk's chair, I was on my way to Wayne.
In Wayne, I needed to determine what the nickname for the Drumheller Valley. First though, I was treated to a fun road and a bunch of wooden one lane bridges on the way there. I was definitely glad it wasn't raining, because those bridges looked like they'd be slick when wet.
For the record, the Drumheller Valley was nicknamed, "Hell's Hole." Lovely. It seemed pretty nice to me.
Next up was to head into the town of Drumheller and take a picture of the "World's Largest Dinosaur." There were actually two dinosaurs, one of which was definitely larger than the other, so I took a picture of that one. I can't attest to it being the world's largest, but it certainly was big.
As I turned west and started heading towards Banff, the beautiful blue skies became a thing of the past. Since I was in Canada, I didn't feel like paying a billion dollars per kilobyte of data to be able to use my phone, so I wasn't able to look at my weather radar app. There were actually several roads I could have used, but oh well, I got a little wet.
Outside of Calgary, I picked up the Trans Canada highway and continued towards Banff and corner of Moose and Squirrel Streets. Banff seemed like a nice alpine town, but there was a lot of traffic which I really didn't appreciate. However, it was nothing compared to Lake Louise...
After another short jaunt down the Trans Canada, I needed to get gas, so I stopped in the town of Lake Louise before I went up to the lake. Me and apparently everyone else in Canada. Once I was able to navigate the cars, trucks, campers, trailers, and RVs who all needed gas too, headed up to the lake. Given the popularity of Lake Louise, I wasn't surprised that it was just as busy on the road up to the lake and at the lake itself.
In the parking lot, I saw another rider who turned out to be Kirsten Talken-Spaulding. We walked together up to the plaque at the viewpoint to determine when it was unveiled by the Duke of Edinburgh. (August 21, 1985 - This would come into play once I reached Reno...) Beyond the plaque was one of the more beautiful vistas I've seen. It was very similar to Diablo Lake in north central Washington.
The weather at Lake Louise was pretty rainy and crummy, but as soon as I got back on to the Trans Canada, the sun came out. Kirsten and I left together and I ended up following her for most of the afternoon. Turning off the Trans Canada onto Highway 93, we headed south through Kootenay National Park. The theme of today continued to be utter beauty. The showers returned, but stayed away from the road which made for some of the most vivid rainbows I have ever seen. Epic.
I continued south to Crawford where I needed to get a receipt for a bonus and on to the Border. I once again found Kirsten who was just ahead of me going through the border. I discovered the best way to go through the border on a rally is to have another rider immediately precede you through the border. The only two questions I was asked were, 1) "Are you on the same thing as her?" and of course 2) "Where do you work?" No, it hasn't changed in the 12 hours since I crossed into Canada.
Coming South on US-95 through Bonners Ferry, I half expected to see Tyler Zimmerman standing on the side of the road, but he must have been enjoying the fireworks. (Apparently others saw him though!)
I had one bonus to get on the way to Coeur D'Alene, "THOMPI", which was a historical marker discussing David Thompson and his party's journey. Unfortunately for me, there was another bonus at another location, "THOMPW" that I wrote down on my score sheet so I didn't get the points for this one.
I managed to avoid deer, elk and semis and made it into Coeur D'Alene around 11:00. It had been a long day and I was ready for a bed.
Day 3 (July 5, 2016) - Coeur D'Alene, ID to Reno, NV
I was up and on the bike by 6:15 and headed into my home state of Washington. The first stop of the day was Steptoe Butte, a place I'd visited with in 1986 on a family road trip. I don't remember a thing about it, so it was a whole new experience to me! I did remember it was a state park, so I was hoping that riding to the top wasn't going to cost me $10 since I'd left my Discover Pass at home. Lucky for me there wasn't anyone checking at 8:30 in the morning and I made my way to the top of the butte and took a picture of the plaque at the top. I was trying to imagine driving up the road in a 1983 Dodge Ram Van and was glad that I was on a motorcycle instead.
After a quick trip over to Connell to determine the rabbits in the sculpture were mortgage their farm to buy a manure spreader, the next bonus on the list was the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Once there, I was delighted to discover that I had another opportunity to use my National Park Pass. While I wasn't complaining, the high point value of this bonus surprised me a bit. Granted it was only open from 9am to 6pm, but it was right off I-84 so it was really easy to pick up. In any event, I took my picture of the covered wagon exhibit and started heading to Hell's Canyon.
Hell's Canyon was awesome. It was just the road you'd expect to find winding its way along the Snake River up to Hell's Canyon Dam and its visitor center. The bonus listing warned that "fallen rocks on the road are a distinct possibility, as are high winds and oppressive heat." I completely agree with all three. 4-5 inch rocks were seemingly scattered around every blind corner on the road which necessitated a great deal of caution going through the twisties. As I crossed the dam (apparently Homeland Security figured no self-respecting terrorist would bother driving 22 miles up the dam road) I had a thought. I was crossing back into Oregon from Idaho and was reasonably sure that I had also reentered Pacific Time. Since the time on the bonus sheet needed to be local time, I ran into the visitor center and verified the time (Pacific) before I logged it.
Thus began a long slog to Reno. Unfortunately the only excitement along the way was receiving a text message from my boss saying, "Check your email." Crap. Well, at least I had something to think about for the next 6 hours... Fortunately, it was an easy question that I could answer once I got to Reno.
The ride into Reno just seemed to go on and on. I finally got into the Boomtown Casino around 11:00 and got checked in. Fittingly, the parking area was about as far away from the front door as it could be, and the room where scoring was taking place was on the far end of the hotel. By my conservative estimate, about 273 miles away. Okay, not really, but it sure seemed like it hauling all my gear.
Scoring was predictably annoying - as rally scoring is apt to be. It was very cool however, to see RenoJohn (who I've never actually met in person) and having Derek Dickson as my scorer. It's tough to complain about your score when last year's IBR winner is on the other side of the table. Derek was awesome and did everything he could to not have to ding me on points, but alas, I screwed up a few. One was the aforementioned "THOMP" screwup. The other was what made it annoying - the Lake Louise Bonus. The bonus listing asked for "...when did the Duke of Edinburgh unveil the plaque?" I answered "1985," however the answer the rally masters were looking for was the full date - August 21, 1985. I wasn't happy, but there's really nothing you can do. HOWEVER - once I got my final score, I did receive the points for this one - whether by the grace of the rallymasters or mistake. In the end, it didn't make a difference in my placing.
After I scored, got checked in to my room, responded to my boss' email, and got to my room it was close to 1:00. I fell asleep pretty quick.
July 6, 2016
Reno, NV to Tonopah, NV
I woke in a really bad mood. Though the email from my boss wasn't a big deal, it got my mind back on work and not on rallying. Losing points for Lake Louise pissed me off. The ride into Reno on I-80 pissed me off. In short, I was not in a good place mentally. And I needed to plan the second half of the rally. Not a good combination.
I made the decision that I could bust my ass and finish somewhere mid-pack, or I could plan ride around some cool places and still probably finish mid-pack. I chose the latter. I also made a conscious decision to not go anywhere near my house. Based on my frame of mind right then, just going home was a distinct possibility. I wanted to finish.
The route I planned would generally snake its way through southern Nevada and Utah, then through southwest Colorado and back to Denver. My mood improved a little after I got this route planned and made a cancellable reservation at a motel in Tonopah, NV.
I got my stuff together and hiked the 20 miles back to my motorcycle, then the 273 miles back to the rooms where the buffet breakfast and riders meeting were being held. Breakfast was good and after waiting around for the riders meeting I learned three things: 1) Holy crap, I was in 17th place! 2) There were only two items on the supplemental bonus listing and 3) The road to Ubehebe Crater that my GPS was routing me on may be closed.
Learning that I was in 17th place really improved my mood. Once the excitement of that wore off, I had a decision to made. One of the two items on the supplemental bonus list was in Gerlach. This shouldn't have come to a surprise to me, but it was in the exact opposite direction I was planning to go. I figured out that I had time to get up there if I cut out Ubehebe Crater, so I decided to go north.
The other item on the bonus listing was a trick question. The listing made it seem like you needed to go to Minneapolis to get the points, however a close read of the listing showed that you only needed to get a receipt from anywhere to get the points. On my way out to my bike, I stopped and bought a piece of candy from the gift shop. Boom. 500 easy points.
I headed out, likely with every other rider, towards Gerlach to collect my 2000 points. The road to Gerlach is very straight so it is very easy to get there quickly, so to speak. That is however, unless you crest a hill to see a line of motorcycles and cars stopped waiting for a pilot car in a construction zone. Dammit.
The wait wasn't that bad. What was bad was that it meant 30 people would be arriving at the IBA memorial in Gerlach at the same time to have their picture taken with a special IBA guest (former IBA winners). Luckily, I managed to be in the front of the pack once we got to Guru Road and I was one of the first to get my picture taken. (thanks to RenoGrace!) I then hightailed it back to the road construction to wait for the pilot car. After the construction zone, I was again passed by every rider (apparently 85 was a bit slow...) and headed to Lake Tahoe.
On the way, I stopped at Carson City to take a picture of a really creepy clown, then started the climb up to Lake Tahoe. I'd never been here and immediately fell in love with it. Such a gorgeous area. I stopped at a boat launch to take a picture of Cave Rock and pick up 505 points.
The trip down into California caused the temperature and gas prices to increase significantly. After negotiating the road construction, (which would become a theme of the second leg of this rally) I headed towards Markleeville and it's "Old Log Jail."
The jail was up a single lane road atop a small hill. The picture proved to be the most challenging part of the bonus, but I was able to get it without too much trouble. I just needed to be creative with my flag placement as I needed to get the door and the iron bars in the picture.
From there, the next bonus was "BODIE" and I needed to get there before 6:00 when the State Park closed. Oh yeah, and the last three miles were unpaved. So I wasn't going to be making up any time there. Once I got to the turn off to the state park, the road became very curvy. While this normally would have been awesome, considering I was probably going to be within 10 minutes of the park closing had me a little worried. However, once I got to the dirt, I was pretty sure I was going to make it. The dirt was potholed and pretty nasty, but now that I'd figured out the suspension on the GS, things were much better.
I arrived at the state park with 10 minutes to spare, but I didn't waste any time getting my picture of the "Bad Man from Bodie" and getting my 1, 149 points. I actually had enough time to assist two other riders in getting their points - one before and one slightly after - the 6:00 deadline. (No, I'm not saying who was after...)
The trip out...sucked. Since the park was closing, everyone was leaving at the same time. I got behind many cars and sucked down a lot of dirt. Once I got to the pavement I was able to safely pass the 10,000 minivans causing the dust storm and got on my way.
So now, its just after 6:00, and my next step was the Wells Fargo Agency and General Store. The ride there was very nice through the pine trees and I arrived in Benton, CA. Quickly, I realized that this was the gas station I skipped during the 2015 BMRx. I wasn't going to make that mistake again and filled up my tank. I got my picture and saw two other riders, Kirsten Talken-Spaulding and Billy Connacher.
By coincidence, Billy and I ended up riding together for the rest of the night. Our next stop ended up being in a rest area outside of Tonopah. I ended losing the points on this one for putting the code as "MILLERS" instead of "MILLER." That S only cost me 225 points, but still it sucked to lose it.
From there, it was a short ride into Tonopah to a motel for the night at about 11:00.
July 7, 2016
Tonopah, NV to Escalante, UT
I got a good night's sleep and was up and on the bike at 6:00 ready for the penultimate day of the rally. I was really looking forward to today, for no other reason that I was getting an excuse to go to Rachel, NV. I've had an interest in Area 51 for a good portion of my adult life and was thrilled that I got a chance to go to Rachel.
The day started, however, with a trip to a brothel and a near death experience.
The first bonus was to take a picture of an old WWII area rotting carcus of an airplane outside Angel's Ladies Brothel outside Beatty, NV. I got the picture without incident, and then proceeded to nearly be hit by a car.
I was turning right out of the brothel. Since I was turning right, I was looking for traffic to the left. As I pulled out, I saw a streak of green and instinctually moved right, which likely saved me from a wreck. A green Subaru was passing a truck in my lane and I came within inches of being hit.
After my heart rate dropped back to normal, I started thinking about how that call would have gone to my wife and family. "Justin was in an accident. He was leaving a brothel and was hit by a car..." For more than one reason, I was thankful I wasn't hit.
The next bonus was the "Eddie's World" gas station which honored Team Strange co-founder Eddie James. This was just a short ride from the Brothel and by this time it was starting to get warm - I was very close to Death Valley after all. But I didn't have time to worry about that. I needed to get to another brothel!
Next up was the Love Ranch, famous for being the place that Lamar Odom suffered a nearly fatal drug overdose. After negotiating yet more road construction, I found the required, "No Sex Required" sign and was on my way, being careful to check for traffic as I pulled out of the parking lot.
From here, I needed to get to the far side of Las Vegas to Boulder City to take a picture of the UFO outside of Area 52. Area 52 is the very definition of a tourist trap. The picture was a pain in the butt to get though due to the very dark backdrop of the "UFO" and the very white rally flag. It took me a few tries to make sure I got it right.
While my GPS was kind enough to bring me in to Las Vegas via freeway, Mr. Garmin decided to route me out of Las Vegas on surface streets. Somehow, I managed to hit EVERY RED LIGHT in the 100 degree heat until I finally got to the blessed freeway.
My next stop was the thriving metropolis of Rachel, NV. If you ever were wondering where the middle of nowhere was, it's in Rachel. There is nothing out there. I don't think I passed a single car (or UFO) once I got onto Hwy 375. As my dad would say, "It was miles and miles, of nothing my miles and miles."
Eventually I made my way through the nowhere and reached Rachel. Most places see different from what you see on TV. Rachel looks exactly like it does on TV. There's a the Lil Ale'Inn and some trailers. That's it. I bought a sticker to get a receipt and started heading back east on 375. I did pass one car on the way back.
Next up was "PIOCHE" where I needed to take a picture of the historical marker for Boot Hill Cemetery. This bonus just about did me in.
As I'm getting close, my GPS tells me to turn left on "UNNAMED ROAD." The "UNNAMED ROAD" was dirt. Not a surprise considering the bonus listing said it was "Off Comstock Rd, .25 mi of gravel past the other two cemeteries."
"Okay" I think, "I can do this!" and head down the road. Very quickly, I realized I'd made a tremendous mistake. The "UNNAMED ROAD" was probably should have been called, "UNNAMED GOAT TRAIL" as it quickly devolved into a washout with 4-5 inch sharp rocks littering it. I made it to the bottom and noticed that the "road" continued up a 45 degree incline to the cemetery. There was very little room to turn the bike around, but I managed to do it without dropping it. Mind you it's still about 95 degrees out. I get the bike pointed the way out and take my camera, rally flag, and GPS and hike up the hill to get the bonus. As I got back down to the bottom I realized that I had set my GPS on the monument and forgotten it. Dammit.
After climbing back up the hill to retrieve my GPS, I started the trip back up the goat trail. To this day, I am amazed that I didn't dump the bike, but somehow I got back to the top. After swearing in my helmet for a while, I finally got cooled off, both mentally and physically, and headed for Brian Head, UT and Chessman Ridge.
Thankfully, Chessman Ridge was at 10,460 ft, so at least it was going to be cooler. I'm sure there was an epic view, but I didn't see anything but the sign in the parking area. After getting my picture, I headed straight to Escalante, UT for the night, arriving at about 8:30. While this may seem a little early, given the route I'd chosen to take, there really wasn't any reason to continue on. It did give me even more time to enjoy the room at the Cowboy Country Inn. I was lucky enough to be in the "Harley Room" which was tastefully decorated in corrugated metal siding and Harley Davidson branded items. It absolutely exuded class.
July 8, 2016
Escalante, UT to Denver, CO
The last day of the rally started at 0530. Well, it started before that but I was up and on the bike by 0530. Another rider had come in after I did the previous night, but I didn't recognize the FJR. I headed out to get the "LASTWG" bonus which commemorated the Mormon settlers who had to blast a hole through the rock so they could get their livestock and supplies across the Colorado River. I took a moment to read "The Story of the Last Wagon" which was really interesting. As I was wrapping up, I saw the other rider I saw at the motel go by on the road - he must have gotten the bonus the night before.
Simply speaking, I love UT-12. It's one of my favorite roads. Not accidently, I was on this stretch of it early in the morning before it was packed with RVs and other slow moving vehicles. The sun was still low on the horizon and the diffuse light made the iron ladened rocks seem to glow.
My enjoyment of the landscape came to a sudden and abrupt halt as I approached a corner and saw the rider from the motel standing on the side of the road, flagging down traffic. A truck was in front of me and we both stopped, my heart in my throat. I saw no motorcycle - only the rider. Not good.
After I found a place to pull off, I was better able to see what happened. Basically, he just missed the turn and continued straight into the sand. Luckily for him, this happened on one of the few places on Highway 12 you could miss a turn and not plunge off a cliff.
We got the bike up and I asked the other rider if he wanted me to stick with him for a while, and he said yes. He said he just wasn't paying attention and missed the turn. Once he got into the soft sand, he wasn't able to hold up the bike and had to set it down. The bike was none the worse for wear, so I rode behind him for the next few miles.
Over the next few miles, it appeared that every cow in the state of Utah had decided to camp out on the road. Seemingly, around ever turn, was another herd of cows. Unlike deer who will move when you approach them, cows just sit and stare back at you.
After negotiating all the future hamburgers, we made it to Behunin Cabin, which was built in 1882 by Elijah Behunin and his family. I got my picture, and bid the other rider farewell.
My next bonus wasn't for quite a while, so I was able to enjoy a nice ride through the remainder of Highway 12 and then US-191 down to Moab. From Moab, I headed east on Highway 46 up to La Sal. While I've been through Moab several times, I'd never been up this way, so I was excited to see some new landscapes.
Arriving at the "LASAL" bonus, I got my picture easily enough. As I was packing up, a woman was leaving the post office and saw my license plate. She was originally from Tacoma and had grown up in western Washington. Small world.
Next up was "PLACER" in Placerville, CO. Placerville was a mining camp that in more recent years has been overshadowed by Telluride, which is right down the road. I got my picture of the old schoolhouse and continued down the road to "MORROR" which involved a fun ride up the Morrow Point Dam Road off of US 50. The interpretive panel that I needed to take a picture of was behind a construction zone, but I managed to get my picture and was again on my way.
From here...more damn road construction. I was really looking forward to riding through southwest Colorado, but unfortunately, my main memories of this leg of the trip is sitting in road construction on US-50. After finally clearing all the flaggers and pilot cars, I finally made it to Monarch Pass to get my penultimate bonus for the rally. There was a couple of 20-somethings there who were nice enough to take my picture. (they rode bicycles up... no thank you.) It was fairly cool up there, which after sitting in hot nasty road construction all day was a nice change.
Heading down the other side of the pass was road construction free and I hit the last bonus in Leadville, CO about 1730, and hightailed it into Denver. I was ready to be done. I had time to grab at least two other bonuses, but at this point, the thought of a hamburger and fries was pushing any thoughts of additional bonuses out of my head.
I arrived back at the finish line just before 1930. At least I wasn't the first to arrive, but I was among the first. At least I got a parking place near the front door. I checked in, took my stuff up to my room, and prepared for scoring. This wasn't that difficult as I make sure I fill out the paperwork as I go, but it never hurts to have a second look at it.
Scoring went smoothly, and the only points I lost was for the aforementioned "MILLER" bonus where I'd added an extra "S" to the bonus name. Oh well, I was just happy to be a finisher.
At the banquet that night, I had a great time and found out that I'd finished in 26th place. Not bad at all considering how easy I took it on the second leg.
I had two big takeaways from this rally. 1) I need aux fuel, and 2) I need cruise control. Both of these are not easy to add to a 2012 R1200GS.
Chance I will stay at the Days Inn in Evanston, WY ever again
The next morning, I got everything packed back up and headed to Denver BMW to drop of the bike for service. I needed to be back at work Monday morning, so my plan was to fly home and leave the bike in Denver for the week, then fly back the following weekend and ride home. Everything went smoothly with that plan, with the lone exception of the DAYS INN IN EVANSTON, WY where I was blessed with a room that apparently had bedbugs! Awesome! I didn't notice this until I got home and my wife noticed the little red bumps all over my back, arms, and legs. When I called the DAYS INN IN EVANSTON, WY to let them know about the bedbugs, they seemed wholly unconcerned. I decided that I would make sure everyone I knew, knew that I had gotten bedbug bites at the DAYS INN IN EVANSTON, WY.
My clothes were immediately packaged up in a garbage bag as we looked up how to kill bed bugs. (Hot dryer for 30 minutes). This necessitated an email to Mario to make sure I wasn't going to destroy my LD Comfort in the dryer, but in the end, any remaining bed bugs met a hot, and hopefully painful, death.
The more I thought about the changes I wanted to make to the GS for the IBR, the more I came to the realization that it would be far easier just to by a new bike. After some looking around, I found a brand new 2015 FJR at a local dealer. Since it was a year old, I got an awesome deal on it.
Well, not really.
He is, however, figured out a way to ride 28 hours in one calendar day. You can read all about it on his site.
In a nutshell, he's planning on starting his ride in the Eastern Time Zone, then traveling westward across the country with midnight stalking him like a hungry predator. Every time he crosses a time zone, he'll gain an hour. If midnight catches him before he reaches Pacific Time, his motorcycle will turn into the pumpkin and he'll have to go back to his wicked stepmother's house in rags. Oh wait, that's another story.
So why is he doing this? Aside from the obvious fun, he's hoping to raise $5,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. If you're interested in helping him out, here's the link to his donation page.
Best of luck Paul!
Thanks to SquareSpace and the folks at Let's Encrypt, you are now viewing LongRidersRadio.com via a secure connection.
While it's not very likely that the government, your employer, or anyone else gives a crap about what you're looking at on this site, there's a lot of good reasons why all internet traffic should be encrypted. Not to mention that Google prioritizes sites that offer encryption in their search rankings.
Carl Reese from Episode 39 just got done setting another record, this time in Ecuador for a gain/loss in elevation of 56,678 feet on a motorcycle in a single day.
More info can be found on Carl's website.
No, not really. Apologies for the click-bait, but this is worth it.
The CBC show This is That (Think The Onion for radio) did a really funny segment where they interviewed an Iowa "legislator" who wants to ban Canadian drivers from US roads.