One Lung Monsters
We've selected an eclectic quartet of British, Italian, Japanese and quasi-American "thumpers," from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s that still retain the "right stuff."
Since they first burbled, barked and sputtered upon the scene in 1894, the world has seen the rise and more often the fall of more than 2500 different makes of motorcycles produced by more than 30 countries in about every form imaginable. A hundred years ago when backyard mechanics were strapping motors to bicycle frames, one-lung monsters gained center stage until the advent of multi-cylinder designs supplanted their star billing. Yet, the singles carried on, finding their own loyal band of adherents, owners who both rode them on the street and flogged them on the tracks. In fact, it was not uncommon for riders owning twin cylinder bikes to plug up one jug and enter single competitions because of the "fun factor."
Going through our archives, we've selected an eclectic quartet of British, Italian, Japanese and quasi-American "thumpers," from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s that still retain the "right stuff." They represent a remarkable synthesis of form and function not seen before their creation and in the opinion of many enthusiasts, not seen since. This is a tale about unique motorcycles but as you'll read, the men at their controls were one-of-a-kind as well.
Night of the Comet
After being trounced at the 1934 English TT race, Phillip Vincent, owner of Vincent-H RD and engineer Phil Irving decided to build their own half-liter engine rather than rely on the JAP engines they had campaigned to naught. The new 500cc powerplant featured splayed aluminum tunnels carrying extra-short pushrods that activated valves which were assured of perfect alignment via a double guide arrangement. It was a jewel of engineering synthesis, a combination of non-complex overhead valves mated to the high-speed capability of an overhead camshaft. Production of the 500cc Vincent included the 92 mph Comet and the tamer Meteor (60 mph) road bikes, as well as the TT Replica racer. There was also a performance tuned Comet Special road bike. Quickly designed and built in time for the 1935 English TT race, the new Vincent-HRD Comets finished seventh and ninth, an admirable showing, considering it was their first race. The road versions were guaranteed to do 90 mph..." When in standard road trim, the Comet "gives a comfortable cruising speed range between 65 and 70, but can with advantage be altered for speed events..."
Whereas the tendency is to describe a Comet as half of a Rapide or Black Shadow since it is one-half the displacement by way having a single rather than twin cylinders, in truth the 500cc Comet single came first, eventually evolving into the fearsome 1,000cc Vincents that now enjoy fame of mythic proportions. While the 500cc Comet and the later 1,000cc models varied considerably in power, the other appointments are interchangeable with minor differences in fitment and actuation. When describing the 500cc models, the factory manual states: "Riding methods are similar to the Rapide, except that when engaging bottom gear from neutral it is advisable to lift the clutch and "blip" the throttle two or three time to free the plates; bottom gear will then engage quietly." When in standard road trim, the Comet "gives a comfortable cruising speed range between 65 and 70, but can with advantage be altered for speed events..." The bike's dry weight was 390 lbs and the 0-60 sprint required 9.5 seconds to complete..."
In racing trim, the Comet was renamed the Gray Flash (little brother to the 1,000cc Black Lightning racer) earned considerable acclaim. The 115 mph Grey Flash (195O-51) was built in limited numbers, and purpose-built for racing by the factory. Like all C Series Vincents it featured Girdraulic forks which combined springs and hydraulic damper, all cast in aluminum. The cantilever rear suspension incorporated dual shock absorbers running beneath the seat, and as did its larger brothers, the Grey Flash used its engine as a stressed member of the frame. The Grey Flash did take on special additions including triple valve springs and polished and lightened connecting rods while its weight was trimmed to 350 lbs. Unfortunately it was introduced about the same time that Norton's unbeatable Manx took over the racing circuits. Still the Comet did blaze a glorious path, managing to take many wins in English national races, often with an apprentice Vincent factory rider by the name of John Surtees at the controls.
In truth the 500cc Comet single came first, eventually evolving into the fearsome 1,000cc Vincents that now enjoy fame of mythic proportions.
Gone in a Flash: 1950 Vincent Comet "Red Rocket"
Al Mark learned how to roadrace at the age of ten, back on the farm in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. The year was 1942, shortly after the beginning of World War II. His first "wheels" were a 250cc Royal Enfield, a Model A Ford and a massive Ford Ferguson steel-wheeled tractor. "It only went 2-3 mph, but it was a beginning," says Al. Later at the age of 14, Al bought a Whizzer motorbike and rode around Chicago. "At the time there was a big gasoline strike with no cars or buses running. My older brother had a tank of white gas, so I'd fill up my Whizzer and have all Chicago to myself...just me and Whizzer moving through the deserted streets."
Many years later, Al made the transition from the streets of the Windy City, to the equally blustery "Streets of Willow" at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, California, after he decided to "Go West", like other young men who sought fortune and adventure. The year was 1950. Al took employment as a motorcycle courier for Western Union and then for various architectural drafting firms, delivering blue prints back-and-forth across LA "At the time, there were about 125 guys on all kinds of bikes doing the exact same job, 'shagging' as it was called. I rode a 74-inch flathead Harley."
One day, when his bike quit on him, a helpful fellow stopped on a 1,000cc Vincent and gave him a ride. Al wrangled a chance at the controls himself, and immediately decided he had to have his own invincible Vincent. He eventually found a "preowned" 1950 Black Shadow with a $600 price tag, a hefty sum in 1950. On every Saturday, he would drop off ten hard-earned bucks until he paid off the layaway Vincent. "It took me a year to learn how to ride it after coming off that flathead Harley. It was around that time, that I got interested in roadracing."
The work scene was changing with the times as well. Little English Austin mini-panel trucks with 50 mpg displaced the motorcycle for delivery work, but Al still "shagged" a total 85,000 delivery miles on his trusty Black Shadow. "I guess you could say it followed everywhere. It was only at 100,000 miles that I rebuilt the engine. In fact I got 72,000 miles out the first set of points which were factory platinum units."
"I painted it red because I wanted people to see me on the track and get out of my way or at least give me a wide berth."
Meanwhile, Al was wheeling around Willow Springs on quite different machines, including another famous single, a Manx Norton. The "Red Rocket" 498cc single cylinder Vincent Comet seen here, sadly enough passed into Al's possession as a gift from a dying friend. In stock non-race Comet form, the bike had had been sitting outside at prey to the elements for 27 years, and Al was determined to revive it, spending two years and then some, brining the little Vincent back to speed. He added his own personal interpretation, including the red paint job and bolted on the Manx Norton replica Peel Dolphin Mark II fiberglass fairing which gave a 6 mph advantage of the standard stiletto fairing of the era. He also mounted a tachometer, rewired the entire bike, and modified the distributor using a small jeweler's lathe. "With that tinker toy lathe, it took me nine hours just to modify the 27-tooth countershaft sprocket."
With only 26,000 original miles, the original standard cylinder bores were found to be quite serviceable. Well-known Vincent expert Marty Dickerson supplied a brand new standard 11:1 piston while legendary restorer Mike Parti implanted an Alpha big end and lined the flywheels. The heads were ported to match the Amal GP carburetor that Al found at a swap meet where he also located the Norton 4-speed transmission now found on the Red Rocket in place of the standard Burman box.
As for the name of the bike, Al says he took creative license in assigning it the moniker of "Red Rocket" as the Vincent is technically a Comet streetbike that's been massaged into a Gray Flash replica, with a Manx fairing and a red paint job. "I painted it red because I wanted people to see me on the track and get out of my way or at least give me a wide berth."
Dirt Devils Re-Discovered! Yamaha YZ Works Racers
So Cal resident Lee Fabry holds onto things... like his first bike, a Hodaka Ace-90, given to him by his father in 1966. This started a chain reaction, leading to a collection of over 140 motocross bikes. As necessity would have it, most were sold off, over the years. However, Lee would go-on to build a "dream garage" for himself, in which to pursue the restoration of extremely rare and valuable factory race bikes, the créme de Ia créme being a pair of Yamaha YZ works racers.
Lee knows his race bikes from both sides of the handlebars, his competition experience stretches back to 1968, when he started desert racing in California District 37. After several years motocrossing, he returned to the desert, earning two #1 plates, in SCORE and NORRA events. Fluctuating back-and-forth between racing motorcycles and building street rods, after a few years, the dirt bike urge struck again and he was back to racing. Not content with bikes from the showroom floor, he created some interesting hybrids including two XR-200 Honda-powered YZ-125 Yamahas to which he added water cooling and raced in several Four Stroke Nationals.
"In 1985, I sold all the street rods, bought a house with a six car garage in Monrovia, CA, and started buying up all the old dirt bikes I could find" says Lee. "These were bikes that I always wanted, but could never afford as a kid. I concentrated mostly on Japanese "works" bikes as they are the rarest and also the most valuable." However, while he was restoring classic racers, he also stayed in the thick of things, racing vintage motocross on modified 1974 Yamaha YZs. Lee would eventually find and restore two of the rarest motocross racers, a 1964 YZ-360 and a 1971 YZ-500.
"These were bikes that I always wanted, but could never afford as a kid. I concentrated mostly on Japanese "works" bikes as they are the rarest and also the most valuable."
The YZ-500 is truly a one of a kind machine, or as Lee says, "The only one known to exist from eight or so that were built in 1971, to compete in FIM Grand Prix Motor Cross." A total departure from previous models, it featured a completely new non-derivative design.Weighing a mere 187 lbs., it owes its feathery lightness to lots of money, as in: sand-cast magnesium engine, hubs and triple clamps.
There's titanium too, lots of light titanium where it counts, for example, a cross-through titanium shaft for right or left side shifting as well as titanium rear brake pedal perches on both sides... also titanium axles, bolts, pins and fasteners. Yamaha did not scrimp, the gas tank and airbox are hand formed aluminum, while billet aluminum went into the fork legs, 35 mm fork tubes and even the machined "Thermal Fl" shocks.
Yamaha engineers chose the heavier mono-shock design, because of its enhanced handling benefits which they believed overcame the extra weight and gave them the winning advantage. The major fly in the ointment, was the Yamaha frame, which a tendency to break. To the rescue, came Pierre Karsmakers who convinced Yamaha to construct a few new frames based around the existing OW-13 components. Evidence that the new frames actually worked, was later substantiated by the racing success of Karsmakers, Tim Hart and Mike Hartwig.
The YZ-360 seen here, was one of twelve or so built with the original Japanese frame and is one of only two known to exist today (the other is in Canada). For three years, Lee sorted through rumors, searching for clues to the bike's whereabouts until his dogged persistence finally paid off. He learned that after escaping the Yamaha crusher (the usual fate of all "works" bikes), the YZ ended up in a small town the Mexican border, west of Calexico, CA. It had been sitting there, in a state of major disrepair, since 1975.
Finding the bike after a three-year hunt was only the beginning of the epic quest. Over the telephone, the owner, very suspicious after having been "tracked down", not only didn't want to sell the fugitive Yamaha, he didn't even want to talk about it. After intensive cajoling, wheedling and begging, the owner agreed to let Lee "just take a peek" at it. That little peek required a 5 1/2 hour car trip. However, with more coaxing and a bag-O-cash, the long-lost YZ finally belonged to Lee. It would take another nine months of intensive research and restoration plus a few more bags of money, before this showstopper was complete. For three years, Lee sorted through rumors, searching for clues to the bike's whereabouts until his dogged persistence finally paid off.
While he was able to rescue these stalwart race bikes, Lee laments over the fate of so many other noteworthy motorcycles, which have been destroyed by the crusher in the name of "product liability" and "protecting technology."
He summed it up best, when he said, "At least a few slipped through for guys like me."
Riding Rings Around the Competition: Gilera Saturno 500
Japan lists Samurai swords as national treasures, England guards the Crown Jewels, and Argentina, well...it has a motorcycle, or had a motorcycle that bares that distinction. At last report, this particular 1953 Gilera Saturno 500cc road racer now resides in California, a far cry from Buenos Aires from whence it was spirited.
Rumor has it, that only three Saturnos exist in this country. However, this particular immigrant from Arcore, Italy boasts a very machismo pedigree, as it was ridden to victory in the 1959 and 1963 Argentine Grand Prix, by Benedicto Caldarella, the Gilera Factory rider.
While most enthusiasts respond to the names Ducati and Moto Guzzi, few perhaps are familiar with Count Guiseppe's Gilera, despite the fact that the Count's four cylinder Superfasts garnered a sizeable share of glory from their early to mid-fifties racing successes, including three TT victories, six worldindividual championships and five manufacturer's titles. The first Gilera, a spindly motorized bicycle, putted onto the Italian stradas in 1909, while the first major coup for the factory came when a supercharged 500cc four-cylinder Gilera snatched the world speed record away from BMW with a blistering 170.37 mph, way back in 1937.
However, when blowers were banned after WWII, Gilera switched to their 500cc single cylinder Saturno, in an effort to retain its racing prestige. Minus three cylinders compared to its factory predecessors, the thumper displaced 497.8cc and sported innovative shaft and pivot distribution. It produced 36bhp at 6,000 rpm, giving a top speed of around 111mph. For five years, the Count and his crew squeezed every drop of performance out of the Saturno and in the course scored many victories. The Saturno earned wins at the 1947 Italian Grand Prix and 1950 Spanish Grand Prix. However, it is perhaps best remembered for Nello Pagani's second place ranking, behind Britain's Les Graham on an AJS in the 1949 500cc World Championship.In a last ditch effort, Gilera transplanted another 500cc single cylinder powerplant, the Bialbero, into the Saturno frame, but it met with little success.
By the 1951/52 season the Gilera single was pumping out 38 bhp and maxxing-out at 120mph, but by this point, the Saturnos had run out of development room. In a last ditch effort, Gilera transplanted another 500cc single cylinder powerplant, the Bialbero, into the Saturno frame, but it met with little success. By 1957, the factory withdrew from sponsored racing, although privateers kept the banner waving for a few more years, until a final fadeout.
Enter Todd Millar, a So Cal local boy fresh out of the Navy in 1959 and enjoying some shore leave in Sicily, a locale remarkably like Southern California in its appearance. Although it is at this point that he may have encountered his first Gilera, his first motorcycle was a BSA Starfire Scrambler, and he had remained "strictly British" until, mama mia! he discovered Italian machines. A self-admitted slave to them ever since, he leans toward the classic lightweight singles especially the extremely rare and extremely fast. Todd remembers that everyone's favorite in the early 1960s was the Ducati Diana or the Parilla 250 Grand Sport. However, he was "doing very poorly" racing a BSA Goldstar at the time, mostly viewing the back ends of Norton Manx's and Matchless G50's at the track.
Several years ago, his venture into the world of Italian motorcycles took a different slant, with not so much a focus on authentic 100 point restorations, but rather the production of "road racing specials," an outlook influenced by the generally incomplete nature of old Parilla, Ducati, and Gilera "basket case" projects.
However, in the case of the Gilera, Todd was a bit more lucky, coming up with an almost 100% complete machine, resulting in one of the most authentic restorations in existence. He and his restoration team were even more fortunate, in that they were able to contact the bike's original owner, Benedicto Caldarella. They also learned how the Gilera had been "persuaded" to emigrate to the U.S., where it subsequently migrated into the racing stable of Jody Nicholas, holder of national #58 on the AMA race circuit during the 1960s and a factory racer for BSA and later Suzuki. Jody raced the Saturno on occasion, the last time being in the late 1970s, at Laguna Seca, where he took first place in the vintage class, his nearest competitor was the late, great, Don Vesco on a Manx Norton.
After Todd acquired the Saturno and preliminary restoration discussions began, concern was voiced that the bike was going to be "very flashy" unlike the original no-frills factory edition. "No way did the original bike look as shiny." says Todd, "We didn't want to be accused of something like chrome plating the Holy Grail, but we believed that a little bit of poetic license was allowable." Fortunately, the photos secured from Caldarella indeed showed polished cases, thus Todd opted for an increase "in the quality" of the painting, chrome plating and polishing. It should be noted, that the inside of the Saturno's engine is as lovely to behold as the exterior, a complete mechanical rebuild was included in the restoration.
"We didn't want to be accused of something like chrome plating the Holy Grail, but we believed that a little bit of poetic license was allowable."
Todd is quick to heap praise on the support and expertise of the enthusiasts at Pro Italia Motors in Glendale, CA who helped make the project possible, and to metal artisan Tom Rightmyer who fabricated the impossible and to upholstery wizard Gary Sonniksen the third team member. Todd's formula for exotic design was based on a mixture of Italian wine and woman to generate the proper inspiration plus a fair amount of time for fermentation, anywhere from six months to a year and a half of intensive research and reconstruction. Todd's success can be measured in the number of wins the Saturno has accumulated when shown in competition.
As for the cloak and dagger operation that brought the Gilera out of South America, it can be conjectured, unofficially of course, that certain important and powerful individuals received certain favors and goods, and that once upon a time, amidst a shipment of prized Argentinean beef, a small herd of rare racing motorcycles appeared as tourists, and all returned home as required by Argentinean law. However, it's also safe to say, that there is a Japanese bike in Argentina today with a Gilera sticker on the gas tank. Talk about sticker shock.
The Forgotten Harley Hero: 250cc World Champion
If you talk to "hardcore" Harley riders they tend to look sideways at Sportsters, generally considering Big Twins as the only Milwaukee marvel to count. Mention the Buell and the 2004 lineup of Sporties and the word "exception" might enter the conversation. But suggest that Harley's greatest track star was a ringy-dingy 2-stroke and you'd be laughed out of town. We're not talking snowmobiles or golf carts here, we're talking fast and ferocious motorcycles... and not only half a gold ol' four-stroke, but sporting only one cylinder to boot.
A case in point is the Harley-Davidson Aermacchi Grand Prix racer. Aermacchi, hey, that's foreign like "air machine" or something Italianish. Right you are! It seems that toward the later 1950s, the Harley-Davidson Motor Co. wanted to market a lightweight machine to fill a growing consumer interest. Rather than go to the trouble and expense of tooling-up for such an effort, they decided to buy most of an already successful Italian firm, Aermacchi. Here, they had a ready-to-wear 250cc horizontal four-stroke single, ready to unveil on their dealer showrooms. All it needed was a little "badge engineering," that is peeling off the Aermacchi logo and pasting the HD logo on the gas tank.
Aermacchi, hey, that's foreign like "air machine" or something Italianish. Right you are!
Harley did just that, and in 1961, added a "new" motorcycle to their line, called the "Sprint". The H-D Sprint was aimed at customers already buying the British Triumph 250 Cub (don't ask why), and two other Italian single cylinder success stories, Ducati's Diana, and Parilla's Grand Sport and Tourist models. Since Milwaukee also noticed that the lightweight (as in 238-245 lb.) single cylinder 26-28 HP Italian stallions often smoked the full-blooded American-made H-D Big Twin's on the street and track (the more things change, the more they stay the same. --Sean), the Harley honchos quickly realized the potential for a competition spin-off and looked toward modifying the Aermacchi's to qualify for US racing requirements.
While WR 750 Harleys were the long distance dirt track champs, Milwaukee wanted something quick and nimble for racing in the dirt. The result, was the Harley road race CRTT, which was an Aermacchi racer with Harley decals. The CR5 Scrambler and the CR short-track racer soon joined it. The latter featured an altogether new frame, an upper double-cradle arrangement that utilized the engine as a stressed member. Carroll Resweber blitzed the competition on just such an H-D Aermacchi, in the first short-track race of the 1961 season.
By ambling into their local authorized H-D dealership, novices could benefit from the off-the-shelf, take-it-home-and-race-it moderately priced little screamer. However, it was 10 years later, in 1971 that an altogether different animal appeared in the formidable form of the first air-cooled Aermacchi 250 two-stroke twin, a true beast of a bike capable of 140 mph. In 1974, French champion Michel Rougerle used his (at that time) unique chest-to-the-gas tank riding style to place third in the Italian Grand Prlx aboard the H-D Aermacchi (called the RR-250 in Europe); in the same year, U.S. AMF-H-D factory rider Gary Scott won the 250cc road race event at Loudon, New Hampshire.
While the bike was also built in 350cc and 500cc versions, it was the 50 HP 6-speed 250 that earned enough points to win World Championships in 1974, 1975 and 1976 ridden by brilliant designer/rider Walter Villa. With it, came two road racing World Championships for Harley Davidson. To further prove his own talent and that of the machine he developed, This particular Aermacchi H-D Grand Prix machine was spotted many moons ago, at the California Hanover Bike Show while being well-guarded by a large German Shepherd.
Villa also won the 350cc Championship in 1975. Of considerable note, is that it apparently had zero miles on it... a 20 year old machine literally fresh out of the crate.
Unfortunately, the name of the owner (and his dog), both residents of Berkeley, CA have fallen into the black hole of lost notes and will remain unknown until someone writes in with the information which we will then acknowledge. We do however know, that the bike was for sale when photographed. Though at this point, its whereabouts remain a bit of a mystery. However, it's no mystery, although certainly a gray area in Harley history, that this petite two-stroke go-for-broke Italian racer packed some serious pizza-pounding performance, and that it was also ridden by some of the great riders of the sport.
Home Is Where The Hog Is...
Like any good road trip, this tale began with a few unexpected twists and turns.
Twas late October, the BiketoberWest and Love Ride events were coming up, and I found myself in need of a trusty steed on which to waddle along the parade routes. Hmmm, what ever shall I ride? A few mouse clicks worth of research revealed that the last time MO did a H-D Road King piece was in 1996. I suppose we can be excused for repeating ourselves once every 7 years or so, eh? A few phone calls to H-D Fleet later, and I was set and ready to roll on a 2004 RK. So far so good, right? Little did I know that a few days later, I no longer would have anyplace to roll to.
The San Diego based BiketoberWest event wound up getting cancelled due to the fact that nobody seemed to want to ride straight through an entire county’s worth of raging inferno just to see the Edgar Winter Band play. Seeing as the Love Ride was practically in my backyard, this now meant that the touring capabilities of the RK would be squandered unless I came up with another story idea. Let’s see, where should I go? South into the fires was out. North up the coast was an option, but the weather was always colder up there, and it was already pretty nippy in L.A.. From where I live, I’ve only got about three blocks worth of West before a bike turns into a submarine. So how about East? Someplace warm. Arizona maybe? How about Flagstaff?
A Fistful of Gnarly Nortons
Call this an homage to Nortons I have known (or even owned in some cases) and loved. If you've never "Snorted" then you haven't really lived, at least not motorcycle-wise.
Call me biased to the breed and forget the Prince of Darkness jokes since, at last count, I've owned and ridden seven Nortons including several 750cc and 850cc Commandos including two Fastbacks as well an Atlas café racer and the semi-vaunted John Player Replica (with a George Gjonovich 810 kit no less). As to when it was, that the single and vertical twins were first referred to as "Snortin' Nortons," that date is long lost in the mists of Brit Bike History. However, even the non-Britophile responds to the sound of these magic Norton words: Manx, Commando and Dominator. Beyond the stock machines, themselves legends, lies the land of custom "café racer" Nortons. Bikes that are fitted with aftermarket and sometimes even homegrown parts that make their own statement yet are punctuated with a common heritage of excellent handling, stout performance and the looks to match.
If you've never "Snorted" then you haven't really lived, at least not motorcycle-wise.
Bikes From the Freakin' Fringe
Deep from within the bowels of the Bad Bikes Gone Wild archives we present ten motorcycles that run the gamut of "What the fu..?"
All sizes, shapes and dispositions and all caught on film! From a 24-inch knucklehead with a $15,000 price tag, to a Corvette LT-1 powered 12-footer built in a garage, to an "unsafe-at-any-speed" Porsche 911 BMW, to the grandfather of the Segway, and more... we got'em right here.
1. Hogzooooooooom! Shark-Finned Chrevo-Davidson
1957 was the year of Sputnik and fins. The Russkies got their satellite in orbit first, but Chevrolet built a car that would put car buffs in orbit for as long as there are cars and buffs. The '57 Chevy's fabulous fins became an icon in the history of the automobile. Hogzoom echoes that history albeit on two wheels, the shark finned beauty built several years ago by a guy named Vini who worked his metal magic out of a company called Ultra Kustom Cycles l
Milwaukee's Racebred XR
You could have any color you wanted as long as it was Jet Fire Orange.
For some 34 years running, the XR750 has been the ultimate "do it in the dirt" warrior, its victories literally spanning decades and dirt (and paved) tracks across the country, both in the hands of factory-sponsored pro's and independent riders as well. Introduced in 1970, the XR750 took over where the vaunted KR-TT's left off. Its first couple years, run with iron barrels, were problematic, but when fitted with aluminum cylinders and cylinder heads the new factory racers found their stride. Equipped with Ceriani forks and Girling racing shocks, the engines were stuffed into welded, tubular 4139 steel frames, its aluminum spoked wheels shod with Goodyear rubber. While the early ironhead design, basically a destroked 880cc Sportster, made for 70 hp, the aluminum upgrades, combined with polished valves, pistons and cams, chromed valve stems, and compression bumped from 8:1 to 10.5:1 brought out 20 more ponies, the XR's cranking out 90 hp in a bike that tipped the scales at 290 lb. Dual 36mm Mikuni's fed the hypo-ed Sporty motor, a 4-speed tranny shifted through a dry clutch and spark was provided by a Fairbanks-Morse magneto. You could have any color you wanted as long as it was Jet Fire Orange. Its lightweight precluded a starter of any kind, so it's a hump and bump roll-on to get it fired up.
The Flying Red Chair
Tom Ridyard always liked things with wings.
An aircraft inspector by profession, he also enjoyed fabricating alternate winged means of alternate transportation. Several years ago the Phoenix, Arizona resident managed to build a Cessna 150 in his backyard from spare parts, and then took on another lower to the ground project, this one-of-a kind sidecar.
Sidehacks or "chairs" as they are called were a very popular form of transportation both in Europe and the United States during the early 1900's because they were less expensive to purchase and maintain than automobiles. Today sidecar racing in the U.S. is not the sensation it is in England and on the Continent, so Tom could be considered a member of the "fringe element" of American motorcycling.
MO on Tour : Okanogan Co. : Part One
OKANOGAN CO. BIKESHIPPING HEADCASES HELMETS FUELINJECTION CUSTOMLEATHER TANKBAGS
By Don Crafts, Chicago Desk 09/29/03
Our story begins in a warehouse near O'Hare. I'm standing in line with a dozen truckers. A lovely group of guys. They are picking up shipments. I am dropping one off - a gorgeous, red, '98 Moto Guzzi Centauro Sport. No one mentioned to me that Monday morning at 7:00 a.m. is positively the worst time to try to organize a bike drop off. But there is nothing to be done about it now.
Armed with my shipping documents I wait my turn for the next available forklift operator. One finally arrives. After handing over my papers he disappears into the bowels of the warehouse. Returning minutes later with a large metal container with the words "FRONT OF MOTORCYCLE >>" displayed boldly on each side.
This will be my bike's garage for the next four days.
MO on Tour : Okanogan Co. : Part Two
OKANOGAN CO. BIKESHIPPING
HEADCASES HELMETS FUELINJECTION
Speaking of helmets, a full-face helmet is possibly the most difficult piece of riding gear to transport. It's big, clumsy and requires some protection. The best solution is to store it in your bike's hard luggage. This isn't an option on the Guzzi nor is it an option on most cruisers or sport bikes. Enter Hazardous Sports - a sponsor of an American Le Mans Series racecar.
"the Case carries itself with an understated air of seriousness"
HAZARDOUSLY SPORTING [hazardous-sports.com | 866.HAZ.GEAR]
Hazardous Sports makes a clever piece of luggage they call a Head Case. It is a rugged, well-padded helmet carrier. It makes a suitable carry-on or can be strapped down next to your bike in a Forward Air container. The bottom of the Head Case is ringed with mounting rings. My helmet survived the trip from Chicago to Seattle and back without drama. I've grown to love the Case. With its impressive style and bold textures the Case carries itself with an understated air of seriousness. From its elastic netting to its beefy rubber handle, the build quality is top shelf. No half-assed biker would own one. This is for the serious enthusiast who respects the sport and his equipment.
MO on Tour : Okanogan Co. : Part Three
BIKESHIPPING HEADCASES HELMETS FUELINJECTION
LANGLITZ F*ING LEATHER [langlitz.com | [email protected] | 503.235.0959]
After four hours of riding I become strangely aware of my own comfort. Comfy boots, comfy denim and, more to the point, a comfortable motorcycle jacket. I am not twisting, tugging or shifting around in it. Like an old pair of boots it is. And that is a very rare thing indeed. For most of my riding career I have fought my jackets. They never fit properly. Invariably they are too long in front. The torso is as wide as the shoulders (thanks to the typical American physique...). They balloon up like the Michelin man at speed. They flap in the wind. You name it, I've wrestled with it. Finally I decided I'd had enough. It was time. Time for my last jacket. There is only one place to get the last motorcycle jacket you'll ever buy. Langlitz Leather in Portland, Oregon.
"a haze of black leather, biker machismo..."
Three Up On The Parkway
We headed north from Atlanta. Between Atlanta and the northern border of Georgia are some superb motorcycling roads. U.S. Highway 19 going north from Dahlonega is a good example. Though it is a broad highway, with most sections having a climbing lane, it has plenty of curves that can challenge your skill. There are also a few decreasing radius curves, so I encourage first-timers on the road to take it a little easy. This is especially true on a Ural, since the strange, hypnotic effect the rig has on elderly drivers makes them all want to swerve over into your lane for a good look. (My god, Mildred, say, what? Why I think I saw one of those when serving with Monty at El Alamein.) Another thing about traveling on a Ural is that it makes everybody smile. So at most food or gas stops somebody will come over and ask about it. Even at scenic turnouts, you're liable to get one or two curious souls. And you will stop fairly frequently. When hauling three people and luggage up mountain grades, the engine tends to overheat.There are many scenic overlooks on the parkway. Even the unnamed ones can offer beautiful views.
As there's no temperature gauge or radiator, I just used the traditional technique of feeling how much heat was on my boot. When she got what I felt was a little too warm, we stopped.
Periodically checking the engine heat and listening for excess valve clatter may be a little inconvenient, but there is a plus side. I know this may sound like an odd viewpoint, but the Ural involves you in the riding experience far more than one of the refrigerator-reliable modern bikes. But it's not just the mechanical issues that keep you "engaged." It's also the sense of personality. Some bikes have it and others don't. Federico Minoli, the former CEO of Ducati, identified it best when he said that to him there were only three "brands" of motorcycle--Harley, BMW, and Ducati. Each had its own different way of doing things, and, in doing it their own way, each brand had a unique personality. The Ural is short on power, but long on personality. It's pretty just about everywhere up here.
After passing through Blairsville, Georgia, and crossing into North Carolina, we stopped for the night in Murphy. A little repair work was called for, as the headlight had blown out during the day. This wasn't a totally unexpected repair. The light had blown during break in, and I had brought extra fuses with me. The next morning we went a few miles west for rafting on the Ocoee River. There are sections of class four rapids on the Ocoee that often throw a few dozen tourists a day out of their rafts and into the chilly water, even with a guide to keep you out of serious trouble.
After the rafting trip we headed north on Tennessee Highway 68. We stopped in Tellico Plains for gas and food. From there Tennessee 168, also known as the Cherohala Skyway, heads east to Robbinsville, NC. This recently completed road takes you through some areas of the Cherokee National Forest that were previously inaccessible. It's a glorious, curvy ride with many sweepers across unspoiled mountains, so it has become a frequent destination for local riders. As it was a beautiful day, we found a dozen or so motorcyclists gassing up at the intersection. There was an incredible array of sport machinery. One guy had brought his R-1. His wife was riding his Honda Blackbird, and his friend was riding his RSV Mille. The natural smart ass in me wanted to ask him, "What about your 996?" Fortunately he beat me to the punch. Seems another friend of his was going to ride his 996, but they couldn't get it started since it had sat too long in the garage without being ridden. Then he branched off on a discussion of his new carbon fiber wheels on the Blackbird. They weighed something like 15 ounces apiece. His wife sat happily perched on the XX. Yeah, before you ask, she was gorgeous.
His group had to be going, and we did, too. He fired up the R-1, his wife fired up the CBR XX, and his buddy fired up the Mille. The three of them left, being hauled by something like 400 aggregate horsepower. We started the Ural, and the three of us chugged up the grades toward Robbinsville, hauling three people and a week's worth of luggage with our 35 horsepower. About halfway there, the pack of three passed us, returning from Robbinsville. We were doing about 40. They were moving at about warp 9.
At Robbinsville, we turned south on U.S. 129 until we reached U.S. 74, where we turned east into the Nantahala Gorge. The gorge narrows in some points until there is only room on the floor of the valley for the Nantahala River, a set of train tracks, and two lanes of Highway 74. The road leads you through mist, underneath overhanging trees, and alongside the river on one of the most beautiful rides in the mountains, even though the road usually has a heavy traffic load. Early morning rides are a special treat on this road, since you can skip breakfast. The fog is thick enough to chew.
Though we didn't "do" the Nantahala on this trip, it is another whitewater river, though far less challenging than the Ocoee.
That night we stayed at the Nantahala Inn on the eastern end of the gorge. The restaurant is good, and they have a variety of lodging ranging from the fancy to the rustic. I noticed the headlight had blown again, and swapped the fuse, a little worried that this might be a consistent problem.
The next morning we headed east to Cherokee, North Carolina. Cherokee is inside the Cherokee Reservation (or, more formally, the Qualla Boundary). Cherokee has many attractions, ranging from the truly-tacky-tourist variety to the worthwhile. We successfully avoided having our picture taken with the "authentic native american," a Cherokee wearing a Sioux war bonnet.
The Blue Ridge Parkway begins just outside of Cherokee, NC. The road is perhaps the finest motorcycling road in the country. In my (humble) opinion, the only serious challenger for the title is the Pacific Coast Highway. Construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway began during the Depression as a classic "make work" project. The whole road, all 469 miles of it, has a speed limit of 45 mph with a few slower curves marked along the way. At last, a road fit for a Ural!
The Parkway rarely has much traffic, except in those areas adjacent to cities such as the section that goes through the outskirts of Asheville. There is not much gas or food on the parkway and few exits. So you need to plan your food and fuel stops. The parkway is numbered each mile along its length, from north to south. Cherokee is at mile marker 469. The elevation at the beginning of the Parkway is 2020 feet. The highest point on the parkway is at 6047 feet, and it's only 37 miles away from Cherokee. So you have a lot of climbing in the first miles. For the Ural it meant two cooling stops, but there are plenty of scenic turnouts that are worth stopping for. We crossed the crest of the Parkway and continued on to our first turn off, U.S. Highway 276 at mile marker 412.
US 276 is a spectacularly curvy roads. A turn to the south will take you down a few miles of asphalt to Looking Glass Falls, which is visible to the left from the road. It's a good place to slide off your boots and enjoy the view. But we'd been there on the last trip, so turned to the north and covered the eight miles to the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Resort (828-235-8350). The "resort" is a motorcycles-only campground with a convenience store, bath house, and rental cabins as well as camping. The casual dining facility on site offers dinner and breakfast, and the food really is home cooked. If you stay for breakfast (and you should) you'll have to choose between Dee's biscuits and gravy and her blueberry pancakes, a tough choice. The bikers at the campground are happy to share their knowledge of the local roads, and there is a great selection of curvy pavement in the area. Aiding the evening conversation, Henry, Dee's husband, builds a fire every night. The campground is a good base for many days of enjoyable riding and hiking nearby.
When we stopped for the night, I drew the usual crowd of riders who wanted to examine the strange beast that had stopped in their midst. I had plenty of time to talk, as the headlight had blown again, and I resolved that I would fix the problem. The Ural's manual is very detailed, but the wiring chart has no color designations on it, which makes any electrical work a little tricky. (Think of the work floor in the Ural factory. Boris says,"Ivan, hand me wire." Ivan says, "What color?" Boris says, "What you got?") It took me a little while to figure out that fuse three not only powers the equipment on its circuit, but also provides power to fuse four. So fuse three tended to blow often. I ran a lead off of the hot side of three to the hot side of four and spread the downstream load over the two fuses. End of headlight problem. (There are a few other wires you need to cut, so don't try this without a thorough check of the wiring chart, such as it is.)
The next morning we got up and headed north on the Parkway. At milepost 408 you'll find the Pisgah Inn. The rooms are clean and reasonable, though you need to reserve in advance for most weekends in season. The restaurant has one of the best views in the Smokies. The food here is quite good, with local trout almost always available. Dinner in the restaurant offers a natural light show if you can manage to arrive just at twilight. As the sun sinks down, the mist rolls in, creating patterns of green, gold, and sunset red that constantly change. This part of the parkway is one of the most beautiful, with changes in vegetation that follow the change in altitude. But the altitude can result in unpredictable weather. I've been trapped at the Pisgah Inn by a late April snowfall.
Between Pisgah and Asheville, you'll go through a series of tunnels as the Parkway cuts through the mountains. Of all of the sections on the Parkway, this one reminds you of why you ride a motorcycle in the first place. The riding is challenging enough to be interesting, and the scenery is simply fantastic.
You will be in for visual treats across the next 100 miles. Craggy Gardens (milepost 367) is a beautiful stop on a clear day. In springtime, the area is overrun with flowers. Around milepost 355, Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi, will come into view. Crabtree Meadows at milepost 340 offers a small restaurant, picnic grounds, and a relatively large campground. You can also hike down to the falls. It's a tough walk to an isolated place of tremendous natural beauty. But at Crabtree Meadows we were reminded that motorcycling can be a dangerous sport, especially for the novice. That morning, two riders were heading south on the parkway and came into a 35 mph curve. They apparently froze when they thought they were going too fast and plowed directly into an embankment. Both were airlifted out to a hospital in Asheville, but one was DOA. The patrolman I spoke with said he doubted they were going 45 when they hit the embankment. They had left no skid marks on the road. Apparently they'd panicked and hadn't even tried to brake. We left Craggy Gardens chastened and cautious.
We ended our northward trip at Blowing Rock, NC. Exiting at milepost 292, we headed to Crippen's Country Inn (877-295-3487, http://www.motorcycle.com/mo/mccontrib/03_Ural_Parkway/http//www.crippens.com). From the moment we walked in the door, we were made to feel at home. There was fresh coffee available and a delightfully furnished room. The bathroom was outfitted with a claw-footed bathtub. But the most marvelous treat was the restaurant. It has won numerous awards and serves superb cuisine. Dinner is not inexpensive, but worth every penny. I have eaten in many fine restaurants in the U.S. and Europe that could not come up to the standards of the restaurant at Crippen's. Departing Crippen's.
EBass' BMW K1200RS Walkabout
"Hey, EBass, BMW just called. They want to know if you feel like cruising up to Lake Tahoe for the 80th Motorrad celebration. They said they'll put you up in a honeymoon suite at the Squaw Creek Resort, wine you, dine you, and give you a K1200RS for the trip."
"Yeah, fine, whatever, I'll call 'em back as soon as I ... huh?! Tahoe? Resort? K1200RS? Gimme that post-it!"
For those who have never been, Lake Tahoe is a beautiful mountain area renowned for its year-round bevy of outdoor games and indoor gaming. The lake itself straddles the California and Nevada borders 6223 feet above sea level, and if you ever find yourself a contestant on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and are asked, "If Lake Tahoe were tipped over, how many inches of water would the state of California be covered in?" The correct answer would be "14.5". Now you owe me one. I just saved you a lifeline.
I've visited the region several times during previous winters for the terrific skiing and snowboarding, and in fact at one time the alpine vistas of Squaw Creek served as the scenic backdrop as I rang in the New Millenium by making wild primordial love in front of a fireplace to Satan himself... back when she was my wife. And yet, I had never been to Tahoe during the Spring, nor by motorcycle, and so this was an opportunity not to be missed.
The K1200RS is the sportiest of three editions, which also include the fully dressed LT and the far more lightly encumbered GT. The K 1200GT was reviewed on this site back in January by resident go fast man, Sean Alexander with a sidebar by the Leisure World retiree formerly known as Motojournalism Legend, John Burns.
THROUGH THE YEARS
Production motorcycles are flawed. If they weren't, there would be little need for the aftermarket industry. Two-strokes, especially, respond well to even the smallest changes, and improving power is much easier - and less expensive - than on a comparable four-stroke motorcycle.
This bike needs a serious dose of Slim-Fast!
And the RZ500 is no exception to this. Having owned one for over ten years has exposed me to its various weak points. Luckily there are few: Yamaha's big two-stroke is a very impressive motorcycle right out of the box. The steel frame is quite rigid (the Japan-only RZV's aluminum frame is even better), and the engine cranks out class-leading power. But the 500's biggest downfall in stock form is its weight.
Catching the Nine-Sixteen
They say it's not so much what you know as who you know. For a while I felt a miserable failure at both, knowing neither who nor what could alleviate the personal torment of having my motorcycle laid up in the shop during the prime riding season's peak. As each mechanical setback proved worse than the last, the skies over my home of New Jersey were setting records for being incessantly pleasant. In fact, it was about the best summer anyone could remember in years, one that gradually ripened into a dazzling autumn of golden sun and vivid foliage.
Of course, I was forced to watch as every rider in the area with a bike was out on the road where they damn well belonged, tails wagging furiously like puppies in a petting zoo as my own mood darkened. I prayed for rain. Nuclear war became thinkable. Marilyn Manson started to sound like the best band of the 20th century.
Yossef And The Dolomites: MORons in the Mountains
There I was, at 5400 feet and with a little problem to dwell on. To continue or not? Nah, I wasn't skydiving, the height misleads somewhat.
I was in the Dolomites, the wild mountainous range that stretches between Italy and Austria, at the tail end of a long European tour, days away from flying back home. I was dying to sample the ultra high passes that were lying ahead, but the rain, the cold and my constantly misting visor convinced me that it was best not to finish this fine 2000 mile trip at the bottom of a sheer 1000 ft. drop. I meekly turned around back to the safety of the highway while promising myself that I would come back here sometime. Two years pass slowly, in the meantime I find myself living in Milan, Munich's INTERMOT show is in the cards and there's a ST2 Ducati that's in need of some road testing. Last chance to check if these passes are indeed Europe's finest free roller coasters before the looming winter.
Two years ago, my U-turning point was at Passo del Tonale, the first real pass as you start making your way up from the center of Northern Italy and that's where I put my sights on. I take the autostrada (highway in Italian) that leads to Lecco and gas it. As you pass Lecco and enter the pre-Alpine area the autostrada turns more into a "tunnel-ada".
Living With the VFR
OK, let's start with the obvious. This article is about a VFR.
That means it's a pretty good bike by anyone's definition (except maybe the Highwayman and other selected retards). It also means that you've probably seen one or two (or seven) road tests on it. The particulars are well known, about 100 hp at the crank, 55 or so ft/lbs of torque, fuel injected V-Four, linked brakes, etc.
By the consensus vote of the motorcycle editors on the planet, it's the best all around street bike made, even if it doesn't sell all that well in the US. So if you think I'm going to tell you it sucks, well, you're wrong. But this isn't a road test. Nor is it a long term wrap up by the gilded motorcycling press. You know, the guys who call Honda and whine because they need a new tire and then have the oil changed every 300 miles by their ill-paid pit slaves.
This article is about living with the VFR in the real world, by a guy who changes his own oil, checks his own fluid levels and tire pressure, and has a real wife who sits on the back.
It's about the good and the bad. And yes, even the mighty VFR has a few zits and nits.
The last thing I thought about before departing for a Caribbean trip was bringing my riding gear with me. Let's see, a trip to the islands: Sunscreen? Check. Swimsuit? Check. Mask and snorkel? Check. Leather jacket? Hmm. Riding boots? Err, no. Next time, I'll know better.
Danielle and I came to the Caribbean with family and friends and stayed on the British Virgin Island of Anguilla. Our story begins when Danielle and I chose to take a side trip and elected to check out nearby St. Martin, 150 miles east of Puerto Rico. Initially, I imagined traveling around the island inside one of the ubiquitous private/public commuter vans among the locals. Boring? You bet. Sure, our range of possibilities would be limited, but it would be simple and cheap. However, I am always on the lookout for a good adventure and riding in passenger vans doesn't qualify as an adventure.
Motorcycling the Mediterranean
Catalonia is a jewel-like country filled with a rich history, breathtaking scenery and friendly inhabitants. Nestled in the northeast corner of Spain, Catalonia boasts a wide variety of natural terrain including golden beaches, towering mountains and dense swampland -- all contained within its small (32,000sq km) area. For the motorcyclist searching for a mix of culture, scenery, great food and twisting roads, it may just be a dream come true.
Founded in the ninth century by the Franks as Marca Hispancia, Catalonia's history, culture and architecture have since been influenced by several societies, including Roman and Greek. Such a diverse and lengthy background has created a unique population, as well as a fascinating variety of architectual styles. Even more enjoyable is the huge assortment of culinary dishes. Most villages proudly offer forth meals native to their region. Delicious local specialties like Conill amb allioli (rabbit with a Catalonian sauce) in Catalonia's interior, or Arrrs a banda (black rice with cuttlefish) on the coast, make the trip worthwhile on their own.
Europe, July 20, 2001 -- Some years ago, Michelin ran an extremely effective advertising campaign in British biking magazines. In the ads there was a large black & white photograph depicting a beautiful snaking alpine road. At the bottom of the picture, and against any advertising common sense, a small rider and bike could be seen leaning into one the road's corners. The copy of the ad was genial and smug: "Between Aosta and Montblanc lay some of the world's most breathtaking roads. Probably."
More than once, I stared at the ad while in bed, just before falling asleep. Could such an amazing road exist? And then, one day, that little bulb popped up in my head. Wasn't it time to check that place out?
And that's how I found myself one day in Munich, aboard a BMW F650GS with all my gear for the next few weeks packed neatly away in the hard cases, heading west towards France.
The plan: A loop, a few thousand miles long in and around the Alps, by the end of which I should be back in Munich after passing through that marvelous snaking road I dreamt of years ago. But that's a long way off. My first target as I am leaving Munich is the area of the Magny Cours racetrack, right in the heart of France. Even dyed in the wool bike racing fans shouldn't be unfamiliar with this name. It is usually the home of the French F1 car GP, but this year it is going to host for the first time the grandest 24 hour bike race of all: the Bol d'or. This is not just a race; it is very much France's largest biking event, their very own Daytona if you wish, with some 70,000 bikes pulling in last year.
So although the desire to hit those Alpine roads was burning my gloved hands, the temptation of watching for 24 hours straight, some of the best racing Superbikes and joining this massive bike fest, wins me over. I have 500 miles to put away and about a day before the race starts at 15:00 hours the next day. Mission Possible I.
Good Morning Vietnam
A few months ago we received a small package in the mail with a return address we didn't recognize and postage was paid for in a large number of small denomination stamps. We agreed -- it was from the Unabomber.
But isn't the Unabomber in jail? Yeah, he is. But what about someone close to the Unabomber, like maybe a relative? No, his brother was the one who informed the police after the Washington Post published his rambling manifesto. Comrades? No, he lived alone in a log cabin and he doesn't seem even to mind solitary confinement.
"Who would want to send a bomb to MO? I mean come on, does anyone really hate us that much?" asked Managing Editor Mark Hammond.
Well, yes, they do, but before we could warn him Hammond had ripped open the package and was inspecting its contents.
The Great Escape, or: Hey, Weren't Those the Rocky Mountains?
"Temperatures are expected to top out over 100 degrees (38C) today," drawls an unenthusiastic voice on the radio. "There's an overturned tractor-trailer downtown and a four-car pile up on the Hollywood Freeway has traffic at a stand-still all over LA."
"Great," I remember thinking to myself. An idea pops in my head, and the telephone beckons. I dial.
A familiar voice answers: "Hello?"
"Hey Pete, let's go to Colorado."
"We're there, dude."
And so it began -- in the midst of a heat wave -- the start of this, a two-week journey that would cross seven states, five National Parks, 3500 miles (5600 km), and not one traffic jam or a single ticket-waving, revenue-generating policeman.
Here's What We Planned:
Our mounts for this journey would be a 1994 Honda CBR900RR, and a 1989 Yamaha FZR1000. Not what the manufacturers had in mind as touring bikes, mind you, but when you have a hankering for the twisties, there's nothing like a mega-sportbike with saddlebags to burn up some asphalt.
Our route would take us the fastest way out of this hell hole known as Los Angeles, CA -- we'd make a beeline for bland old Interstate 15 (a major four-, five- and six-lane freeway), and straight into Utah, where the real riding would start. Once we got off the superdrone expressway at St. George, Utah, we wouldn't see another straight road for the next 2000 miles (3200 km)!
Riding due east would take us through the southern half of Utah, and into Colorado for a couple days in Durango -- the mountain biking headquarters of America. Then up to the northeast corner of the state where we would camp for a night in the Rocky Mountain National Park, and northwest through Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park, where the deer and the buffalo roam for Independence Day weekend. Our plan was to either build a house in any of the National Parks and stay there for the rest of our lives, or head south out of Wyoming into Utah, following back roads that parallel the interstate to St. George, then back to Los Angeles.
Sounds like fun, eh?
But Here's How it Really Happened:
Taking off in the middle of a heat wave, which we did one shitty afternoon, wasn't such a good idea. We hit Las Vegas, Nevada -- due East of Death Valley, CA -- in the middle of the afternoon, and a cheesy neon thermometer showed 120 degrees (49 C). It may as well have been 220 (bloody hot): Decked out in jeans, boots, leather jacket and gloves, we were on the verge of passing out. Pete and I stopped for gas and three gallons of Gatorade each, then completely soaked our hair, shirts and jeans with water from the rest room's sink. The jeans were dry in the first couple of miles, but the our hair and shirts provided relief from the desert's furnace for quite some time.
We'd hoped to soldier on through the heat and into Zion National Park to camp the first night, but the heat and frequent stopping to re-soak our clothes meant that by the time we reached St. George, 395 miles (630 km) from Los Angeles, we were ready for a cold shower, a swim in a tub of ice, and bed. We found a motel that could provide everything but the tub of ice and checked in. Their pool was a close substitute, so we floated around in it for a while, unwinding from the road, completely exhausted but excited about what the rest of the trip was going to be like.
By seven o'clock the next morning, it was already over 80 degrees (27 C). What was supposed to be a leisurely vacation turned into a race to get away from the heat wave and up into some real elevation.
State Route 9, off US 15 a few miles north of St. George, meanders its way past three different creeks, and through five small towns while climbing about 3,000 feet before stopping at the entrance to Zion National Park. A toll booth will grab two US dollars from each motorcycle in exchange for an information booklet about the park, a smile from Mr. (or Ms.) Ranger, and access to the park. The fee is also good for as much camping, and as many trips into and out of the park as can be done in one week.
Zion is a visually-spectacular park with seemingly-unnatural rock formations, arches, and sheer vertical cliffs. The roads are well-kept, though somewhat narrow and sandy. About a mile into the park is a mile-long tunnel through solid rock, barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other. As we neared the entrance, traffic was being stopped to allow an over-sized camper to come through from the other direction, and we used the break to cool off under a rare shade tree and suck down more water.
The road through the park is 14 miles (22.5 km) long and it takes about an hour to reach the other end. Speed limits are "strictly enforced" but with all the lookey-loo's (ourselves included), speeds never get high enough for anyone to enforce. Probably why we never saw any type of law enforcement there.
Once clear of the Park, State Route 9 ends 15 miles (24 km) later at US Route 89. For the next 50 miles (80 km) the road opens up and gently climbs to about 6000 feet before dropping into a valley on its way to Bryce Canyon. One side of the road follows the Virgin river, and lush green farm-land lines the other. The rolling hills are small and the curves are graceful and flowing. It felt good to open up the bikes after the crawling speeds through Zion.
Feel The Heat!
It had, as so many have said in reflection, seemed like a good idea at the time. To ride through the natural furnace that is Death Valley. Hundreds of miles of nothing but sand, rocks and an occasional hearty sagebrush. A place where the land turns mean and punishes those who dare enter its boundaries. Where engines struggle against intense heat, gaskets disintegrate under its relentless assault, and radiators boil over with regularity.
What compelled me to make such a journey, I am not sure. Perhaps it was my tour, just weeks before, through the Monterey Peninsula. Having already traveled through the most beautiful part of California, I may have had some subconscious curiosity to see the Golden State's most hideous and inhospitable landscape. Maybe I was seeking my own brief glimpse of what Chris Scott encountered during his Saharan tours. Of course, I'm not naive enough to believe that a day trip through the paved roads of Death Valley could compare to Scott's adventurous treks into the African desert, but perhaps the chance to get a brief taste of what he experienced motivated me to pursue my own trek.
Albany, NY, September 2, 1999 -- People driving along Route 4 near Albany, New York are often shocked to see a bar called Mother's Roadhouse and Faith Community Church sharing the same sign. Those who stop will find a hell-raising honky-tonk, a helping hand, and, if you're there on Sunday, maybe even salvation. Fran Zyglewicz is the proprietor of Mother's, located at 8 Troy Rd. (Rte. 4) in East Greenbush, NY.
"Everyone is welcome, naturally, but the majority of the crowd here is a biker crowd," she says proudly. "I've spent my whole life in the tavern business!"
Her parents owned taverns in Oklahoma and Texas while she was growing up. Mother's, which Zyglewicz bought in 1992, isn't the first biker bar she's operated.
Building the Henning Honda CB500
When Motorcycle Online heard that racer Todd Henning and Kinetic Analysis' master tuner Kenny Augustine had joined forces to build an American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA)-legal Honda CB450, we smelled victory in the making and decided to get a scoop on the story by volunteering one of our editors -- resident Gearhead Aaron Cooley -- to help out one late night the week before Daytona. The pair worked for about 10 hours, flattening cylinders and test fitting parts on old Honda 450s. In exchange for Cooley's help, Augustine gave us a tuner's eye view of exactly went into the world's fastest vintage Honda CB450. At first, a vintage Honda twin might seem to be a bike destined for perennial back-marker status, especailly when competing against high-dollar classics such as Nortons and MV Augustas, but in reality the 450 powerplant has only a few minor design flaws -- and in the eyes of Augustine is the best choice for the class.
Why a 450 Honda?
Paradise, Not: Crashing Hell
"You'll need surgery."
Dr. Jensen, the ER physician at Westside District Hospital, was matter-of-fact and professionally calm.
But I just gaped at him, glazed, a dozen questions hazily buzzing in my head, and all I could manage was a weak, stupid, "What … ?", while steadying my broken left hand with my right, looking like a fool and feeling like an idiot at the same time.
"Yep. You have breaks at the base of the fourth and fifth metacarpal bones, see: Here and here." He held up the X-ray, taken a few minutes before by a strange, mean little tech with an indeterminate accent, and pointed with his finger. "I've been a surgeon for thirty years," he said. "I know something about this."
I had no doubts. Dr. Jensen radiated an air of collected confidence, and he looked as though he'd been a surgeon since a long ago time when scalpels were fashioned of flint and bone. But my anxiety was inspired by pain. "Is it bad?" I asked.
And The Weather Gods Smiled
January is not the month of choice to kick off a motorcycle test - at least not in Colorado.
But when Motorcycle Online asked if I wanted to test ride BMW's R1100RT it looked like an opportunity not to be missed. Our weather had been fine over the holiday season, and bargain plane fares were in force. With a five-day forecast of good weather in hand, my passenger and I hopped a red-eye flight to Los Angeles for a wintertime two-up cross-country adventure.
We arrived at MO's secret headquarters by mid-morning, but had very little time for chit-chat. Threatening clouds loomed overhead, so we hurried through Editor Plummer's pre-flight briefing and prepared for our journey home. The R1100RT was beautifully finished in metallic blue, and made a fine first impression. Included with the bike was a BMW Kalahari riding suit with matching BMW-by-Widder electric vest. I replaced my traditional leather jacket and pants, sweater and snowmobile suit in favor of BMW's suit, although it was disconcerting to exchange gear that's known to do the job for untried equipment. In any case, I refused to give up my trusty DryRider rainsuit, in spite of the high-tech BMW suit's watertightness claims.
The Great Adventure
Follow along as our intrepid tour reporters Kevin Hawkins and Dave Kellner journey across the Great Plains of the U.S. to the Pacific Northwest and back in search of motorcycling's Holy Grail.
Together they survived yawning Midwest potholes, gnarly weather, wayward cattle drives, a high speed chase against a police helicopter, and most of all, each other. Based in North Carolina, Kevin normally is a systems administrator with AT&T and Dave is an elephant and rhino keeper for the North Carolina Zoological Society. But on occasion their wives flee as they transform into rabid motorcyclists.
Kevin and Dave's Great Adventure
Part One: Rim Shots
By Kevin Hawkins,
June 6, 1997, Greensboro, NC
Putting It All In Order
THE INSANE MEXICO TRIP
We knew there'd be trouble when Vintage Editor Rob Tuluie took his Championship-winning Norton racer touring through Mexico. And there was. Lots of it--so follow along with Rob on his tour-de-farce through creek beds, catacombs and treacherous mountain roads at neck-breaking speeds.Colette is a really cool cat. We had met in Austin, Texas and soldiered on together through freezing cold weather to Acunia, a Mexican border town a few hours away. Acunia used to be a well traversed red-light brothel town, but nowadays has regressed to a low-grade booze-stop--serving one's needs with several bars on every block--and, for just that reason, is always a good port-of-entry into Mexico.
On our way there I was freezing my butt off on my ex-vintage racing Norton, replete with clip-ons, thinly padded seat and race compound tires--a true race-tourer!
Colette graced a veritable Winnebego, a BMW R100GS , which she had previously ridden all over the continent, including Alaska. After we replenished our dangerously low blood alcohol level in Acunia and caught some shut-eye, we spent the next two days driving to Satillo, through the mountains and onwards to this little hidden-away mountain village, which was supposed to be really cool. Problem was, we couldn't find the road to the town, most likely because there wasn't one! The only way to get there was through a dried-up creek bed that paralleled some railroad tracks. So we were plowing through this creek bed, when suddenly I hit this rock, busting open the primary engine case on the Norton. This really wasn't the place for a major mechanical rebuilding endeavor, so I duct taped over the one-inch hole--Nortons have dry-sumps--and tried not to hit any more rocks.
Virtual Tour: Rome, Italy
Hello, world. Are you ready for an exciting virtual trip to Roma, Italy? Yes, that's right, a tour of one of the most wonderful cities in existence. Of course we won't simply tell you about the beautiful sites -- and there are thousands of them -- we'll let you have a look around Roma from a motorcyclist's perspective.
First, you've surely heard about the Colosseo.
The Colosseo is a 2000 year-old architectural masterpiece that was used as an opera. The ancient Romans used to go there to see Gladiators fighting against wild animals. And this heritage may be one of the reasons for current Roman bikers' aggressive way of riding -- we always seem to be 'fighting' terrible traffic everyday. Just beside the Colosseo stands the Foro Romano. It's what remains of ancient Roma, and contains many monuments and works of art.
Beth Dixon: Day Sixteen
DAY SIXTEEN Sunday, Oct. 2
After filling the gas tank and a quick breakfast, I left Cloverdale on Highway 101 headed south. I wanted to stop at the Korbel champagne cellars in Guerneyville on the way home. I thought a bottle of brut would be a great way to end my vacation. I had plenty of time for a little side trip. Cloverdale to Sunnyvale is only about 150 miles.
I took the Guerneyville/Westport Road exit. Wrong exit. It got me where I was going, but it wasn't the road I was thinking of. Westport Road is a tight, twisty two-lane with really awful pavement. The road surface is strewn with potholes, frost heaves and all manner of rotten pavement. It tried its best to knock my teeth out. Sheesh.
Westport Road did join up with River Road, the road I had wanted off of 101. There must be an exit further south for River Road, and I just hadn't gone far enough. Oh well. River Road has much better pavement, and is more of a medium-speed sweepers sort of road. I found Korbel no problem.
Beth Dixon: Day Fifteen
Saturday, Oct. 1
I got up when my alarm went off. Amazing. I caught up on my trip journal while eating breakfast. Godfrey paged me, so I called him back. All was about the same at home. John was doing well. Randy Davis was coming into town some time today, moving up to the San Jose area from San Diego. I'd left a key to my place with Godfrey for Randy, in case he needed a place to crash for a while.
I packed my saddlebags and took them down to the Duc. Saw a Harley in the parking lot ... on a trailer. I wanted to take a picture, but couldn't get up to my room for the camera before a couple got into the truck towing the trailer and drove off. I was ready to go, on this the last day (or so I thought) of my trip.
I headed south on I-5 and gassed up in Red Bluff. I knew there wouldn't be many places to get gas again until I hit the coast. I took 36 west, towards Platino, a 90-degree turn off of the I-5 business route into Red Bluff. Immediately, I stopped to wait for a rather long freight train.
The beginning of this route is quite fun. It reminded me a bit of Highway 128 from Albion to Cloverdale. Two lane, fairly narrow with little shoulder. Up and down over little rises and hills, lots of lefts and rights -- almost constant turning. Corners were posted for speeds from 40 to 25 mph. I was having a grand time. It was partly cloudy, but fairly warm. I was quite comfortable and was really enjoying myself.
A few corners had a sprinkling of gravel in them, but I didn't think much about it. I watched the road surface a little more carefully, but didn't slow down much. Remains of various road kills popped up here and there. The little bit of gravel in corners grew to a lot of gravel in corners. Sometimes dirt, water or mud was added for good measure. The gravel grew up -- rocks ranging from golf-ball sized to orange-sized sprung up. Blah.
I kept expecting road conditions to get better. Brad Turner and some others had ridden this road not long ago and had had a really wonderful time. None of the guys had mentioned poor road conditions. But instead of getting better, things got worse.
I began to get tired of "rock slide area" signs. I was climbing up the mountains, so corners stayed tight and some were blind. The road surface was constantly covered in gravel, mud or rock. Unless I followed the path a car's tires would take around a corner the rear would slide out on me. I rounded a corner to find...a construction zone.
They had removed all the pavement and were rebuilding the road bed. Heavy equipment was everywhere. Flaggers were stopping traffic on either side of the work area. Traffic was allowed through only once every hour. I had some time to wait, but couldn't get off the bike. I was parked on dirt and gravel, on the side of a hill. The downhill side was on the left of the bike. The Slut would have fallen over if I'd tried to set her on her sidestand. I couldn't back up because the "road" sloped up- hill in that direction (not that it would have actually helped) and there wasn't any place in front of me that would have helped either. I turned her off and waited, trying to be patient. I was severely behind schedule if I wanted to make it home today.
They sent out the water truck to wet down the area before they let traffic through. Wonderful. Wet soggy mud and gravel is _such_ an improvement over dry dirt and gravel. Yuck. They let traffic through from the other side first -- I waved at the guy on the BMW as he went passed, and he waved back. The two Harley riders ignored my wave. Twits. Now it was my turn.
There was only one pickup truck in front of me, but behind me was a motorhome followed by a string of vehicles. We started through the construction zone behind the pilot car. Easily two miles of rutted dirt, downhill. Moving construction equipment added that E ticket ride thrill factor. It wouldn't have been that bad if my clutch hand hadn't started to cramp up within the first half mile. The pilot car was traveling slowly, not wanting to let the traffic behind him get too spread out, I guess. The Duc was barely running above an idle. Maybe 15 mph. I was either coasting downhill, which was a little too slow, or had the clutch out in first, which was a little too fast. I alternated between the two, which wore out my left hand in short order. Guess I should squeeze a racquetball or something.
Once through the construction zone and back on pavement, I shook my left hand a bit and cursed Brad Turner for suggesting this route. Grrrrr. But after a half-dozen corners or so, the gravel cleared up. Now this was more like it. Much better to be able to really lay her over and head for an apex. I was tentative for the first few non- graveled corners, but then started to wick it up a bit. I came flying around one blind, uphill corner to find myself facing the ass end of a cow. Bossie was standing in the middle of my lane, and she didn't look like she was going to move any time soon. I waited for the oncoming car to go by, then cautiously motored by the cow. Silly beast.
I figured anything that could come up along this road already had, but I was wrong. The gravel was back. I found three pickups on my side of the road, using both sides of the yellow line, coming around a blind hairpin. Sheesh! If Brad had been anywhere close by, I would have thumped him one. This road would be really fun, once the road construction is finished and there's been enough travel on it to get the gravel off the road surface. However, the day I was riding 36 it was a royal pain in the ass. It took me four hours to ride 130 miles. I would either ride until late at night or not make it home until Sunday.
Beth Dixon: Day Fourteen
Friday, Sept. 30
I slept late; didn't wake up until almost 9:00am. Rob had planned to a stay at home and go to work late. He wanted a ride on The Slut. He'd remembered a 9:00 meeting and had had to go to work. Oh well. Next time. I drank a Snapple while catching up in my trip journal, then moved the bike from the garage to the street. I slung the saddlebags on the Duc, patted Muffin-the-cat goodbye, and made sure the door locked behind me. I filled the gas tank at just before the freeway. I was on I-5 headed south by 11:30a.m. Once again, I was late.
It was cloudy, damp and cool. There were a few really good roads I wanted to ride once I got into California. I had elected to stay on I-5 today and ride to either Redding or Red Bluff then stop for the night. I'd been warned the Oregon coast was a non-stop Winnebago Shuffle. I thought I'd make better time on I-5. I could ride all the fun roads tomorrow only if I made it at least as far as Redding today.
Other than a stop for gas and a couple of breaks in rest areas to stretch, I rode straight through. I had some munchies with me, so didn't need to stop for lunch. It never got warm and the sun never showed itself. I tense up when I get cold, which is not good. The first time I stopped in a rest area, I put on my electric vest. What a great invention. I know my hands and feet were not really any warmer, but my body trunk was kept warm so I felt better all over.
The ride was rather boring other than the semi-twisties over the Siskiyous. It finally warmed up as I decended into the California valley. I pulled off an exit to take off my electric vest. The clouds started to break up too.
I rolled into Redding about 6:30pm and pulled into a Motel 6. There was an FJ1200 in the parking lot but I didn't see it's owner. I checked in, then walked across the street to a convenience store for dinner and break- fast fixings. Back in my room I took a shower, then ate dinner while reviewing my map for tomorrow's route. I watched TV for a while but didn't find the weather forecast for the area I'd be riding into. Called Godfrey to check in. He was out, so I left a message. If I didn't call every couple of days, I knew he'd worry about me. I turned in about 11:00, looking forward to the next day's ride.
Saturday: I repeatedly curse Brad Turner and his "you gotta ride 36 -- it's a great road!" suggestion.
Beth Dixon: Day Thirteen
Thursday, Sept. 29
Slept in until about 9:30am. Showered and chatted with Rebecca. Finally getting my ass in gear, I followed her over to Shucks for some oil. Chris had volunteered his garage for an oil change. The Slut was overdue for new blood. Back at the Team WetLeather garage, I lubed the chain while waiting for the motor to cool off a little. Drained the oil noting there were no nasty little bits of metal present on the drain plug. Used a monster pair of channel locks, fondly known as the Oil Filter Wrench of Choice, to remove the filter. Buttoned her back up again, and searched in vain for a funnel. We made one out of an old oil bottle and called it good. We were cleaning up the garage, making sure all was as we found it, when Chris came home for lunch. Rebecca noticed the oil sensor boot was loose, so Chris sealed it with gorilla snot and snugged it over the hex nut. The Slut was ready for the remainder of the trip.
I packed the bike, making sure rain gear was easily accessible. It had been cloudy all morning and didn't look to improve any. Time to head south. Followed Rebecca's directions to the freeway and was on my way once again. I stuck to I-5, I wanted to make it to Rob's for dinner and was leaving later than I had expected. I'm always later than I plan to be. Oh well.
The further south I went, the darker the clouds became. Then it started to rain. It sprinkled for a while then rained hard for a short period. Just enough rain to make the roads wet and to spot my faceshield, but not enough rain to wash the oil off the roads or get my leathers wet. I kept riding. It wasn't raining enough yet to make it worth stopping to put on rain gear.
The second time it started to rain on me, I was two miles from a rest area. I figured I'd pull in there and put on my rain gear. By the time I came back from the bathroom, it had stopped raining again. I had a bit of time to kill if I wanted to. I got a cup of coffee and decided to catch up on my trip journal while waiting for the weather to make up its mind.
I sat at picnic table, intelligently choosing one under a canopy, near the bike. I refolded my map and started writing. I wasn't there long when a man in his early 40s came by to chat. The conversation moved from "you have a pretty motorcycle" to "how do I learn to ride?" I told him about the MSF and gave him the 800 number. We talked for a while more, then he left. I decided I might as well pull on my rain gear. If I didn't need it, no harm was done.
I headed south on I-5. I really hate interstates. I get very bored traveling the superslab. There really wasn't a good alternate route that fit my schedule, so I stuck with 5 and tried to make the best of it. Outside of Portland, I stopped to top off the gas tank. I'd have plenty of gas to make it to Rob's so wouldn't have to stop in Portland proper. Near Winlock, the odometer rolled 13,000 miles.
Beth Dixon: Day Eleven
Beth Dixon: Day Ten
Monday, Sept. 26
Up about 9:00am Mountain time. Great view out my window of the side of a mountain. I went to the restaurant for some hash browns and ham, then back to my room to pack up. Rolled out of the parking lot about 10:30a.m. heading east. Stopped in Lolo Springs for gas. Only took 3.2 gallons, so I wasn't as close to running on fumes as I had thought. Took 93 North through Missoula, MT, to 90 West. I needed to cover some distance if I wanted to ride Washinton Highway 20 the next day. Just west of Missoula, the odometer rolled 12,000 miles.
I-90 wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. It is scenic for an interstate. Follows a river; nice rolling, tree-covered hills too. The pavement is in good shape and I didn't see any highway patrolman. I kept her up to about 85mph and covered ground. It was warm and sunny, but not so hot that I was too warm. Very comfortable, as a matter of fact.
I stopped in a rest area west of Missoula about 80 miles. Met a guy from South Africa. He come over to look at the bike. Years ago, he had toured Europe on a BMW R65 and has a newer BMW at home waiting for him. He is touring the U.S. in a van; stopping when he feels like it and camping along the way. He was headed for Seattle, then south along the coast. I gave him my phone number so he could call when he was in my area (and he did contact me when he came through town.)
Back on the road, I kept up a good pace most of the way into Wallace. Slowed by road construction, I figured I might as well stop for gas. It seemed like all the really great (read "twisty for a freeway") sections of I-90 were down to one lane due to construction and traffic slowed, stuck behind motorhomes or trucks. Grrrr.
Back to west on I-90. I stopped again just east of Spokane at a rest area. I was making good time and would be going through Spokane just as rush hour started. I wanted a break first.
Beth Dixon: Day Nine
Sunday, Sept. 25
Chris Spindler was up and had his BMW packed before I was conscious. I awoke to the sound of a K-whiner riding off. Godfrey was already up (does the man _ever_ sleep?) and about. Jeff came to and stumbled to the kitchen to plug in the coffee pot. Coffee helped. I felt almost human after a cup or two. Jeff packed up his Ducati and rode for Boise. I started to pack my Duc and Godfrey to load the VSSC. Pat wandered out of the bedroom looking worse for the wear and mumbled something about pancakes. Godfrey and I decided to stick around for breakfast. :-) I finally left the Loughery's about noon.
I took I-95 South to 12 East. 95 is a decent two-lane highway, but rather boring. The corners were few and far between. Those I could find were posted at 40mph. After the first couple, I ignored the signs. At least it was easy to pass. I gassed up outside of Lewiston so I wouldn't have to go through downtown again. Found 12 East and promptly went flying right on by a highway patrolman. He must have been busy with his coffee and donut because he never even looked up.
12 is a nice road. I like roads that follow water anyway, and 12 follows the Clearwater River. Nice sweepers the entire way, good pavement, easy to pass motorhomes and other rolling chicanes. Again, any corner signed at 40mph or above was an "ignore the stupid sign" corner.
I filled The Slut's tank in Orofino because I wasn't sure how much gas there'd be from there to Lolo Springs. I could have waited to Kamiah.
Beth Dixon: Day Eight
Sat., Sept. 24
Up about 7am. I hate folks who're cheery first thing in the morning. Bill is one of _them_. Grrr. He also seemed rather surprised that his chiming clock hadn't kept me awake. I didn't even know the damn thing chimed. I can sleep through almost anything. A cup of coffee helped me to wake up. Bill covered the table in waffles, bacon and fruit. Very tasty. Bill's coffee cup had an astrological sign on it (Scorpio, I think) and I admitted I knew nothing about such things other than that I am an Aquarius. "Well _that_ explains a lot of things," was Bill's reply. Not sure, but I think I'd just been insulted. :-)
I packed up the Duc and signed the garage door. Guy Pace had arrived and the four of us left for the Loughery's. Guy on his Voyager or Bill on the FJ leading Chris on the K-bike. I rode sweep on the Ducati so I wouldn't hold anyone else up. We left Bill's place in Pullman about 10:30am.
We took 270 East to 27 North to 6 to 3 to 95 into Coeur d'Alene.
Beth Dixon: Day Seven
Friday, Sept. 23
Up about 7am. Who knows why. Made some coffee and grabbed a donut from the "help yourself" box in the hotel lobby. Ate it while talking to the manager, then played with Chancy for a while. Nice dog. Borrowed some old cleaning rags to wipe the majority of the squashed bugs off my leathers. Yuck. Decided I had plenty of time to stop at the Pendleton Woolen Mills and take a tour. Called for directions. Not sure how the person who answered ever made it to work. I was less than 5 minutes away, and I got a "you can't get here from there" response. Sheesh. Back to the lobby. The hotel manager gave me directions so easy I didn't even bother to write them down.
Found the mill easily. Next tour started in 15 minutes, so I looked around the store. Big mistake. Lots of really nice blankets. The tour was interesting. More involved that I thought. Lots of prep work before the wool is even ready to weave into a blanket. The jacquard looms were weaving Native American blankets, and some of the patterns I recognized. After the tour, I asked the folks in the store if they could ship a blanket for me. "Of course," they can. Damn. Guess I have no excuse not to buy one. I've wanted a Chief Joseph blanket from Pendleton for a long time, but just couldn't justify the cost. This was my vacation and I should do something nice for myself. Besides, I'm always cold so there is no such thing as too many blankets.
Back at the hotel, I packed up the Slut and checked out. Hit the road (figuratively speaking) at 10:30am. I took 11 North to 204 East into Elgin, then onto 82 East past Enterprise and into Joseph. Most all of this was nice sweep-y sort of two lane road with passing zones.
I followed the main road through Joseph to Wallowa Lake State Park. Very pretty place. I'd been told the marina there had sandwiches and cold drinks. They'd closed early for the season due to the lower-than-normal water level. Oh well. I was hungry but I wouldn't starve anytime soon. I spent some time walking through the park, threw a pine cone at a squirrel, refolded my map. Talked to a BMW rider who thought I was nuts to tour on a Ducati. He was headed for some rally near Walla Walla. Stopped at the Chief Joseph monument on my way back into Joseph. Was very creative, almost Noemi-like, parking in the loose-dirt-and-rock, steeply sloped turnout. Barely made it out of there without further casualty to bodywork.
I followed the road back to Enterprise then took 3 North which turned into 129 as I crossed into Washington.
Beth Dixon: Day Six
Thursday, Sept. 22
Left the Gracious Goldings' place at about 10:30. Took 205 South to 14 East. 14 East follows the north side of the Columbia River Gorge. I'd done this trip along the south side on the superslab a couple of times. This road always looked like much more fun.
Nice, winding two-lane through trees and bushes and grass and ferns. I like ferns. Don't have them in this area of Calif., just too damn dry. And lots of historical markers. I like historical markers. It only takes a minute to pull up alongside and read one, and I have a better feeling and appreciation for the area I'm in when I know something about it.
Traffic was reasonable, though I got stuck with more road construction. The weather was perfect -- warm and sunny.
After the initial bits of medium-tight stuff, the road opens into higher speed sweepers. Fun! After the Tunnel from Hell episode last year, I always approach tunnels with a bit of caution. I'm never sure if I'm going to be able to see once I get into the tunnel. I make it standard practice to open my faceshield, pull my sunglasses down my nose so I can look over the tops of them, then shut my faceshield again. It makes me feel like a granny, but it _is_ nice to be able to see where one is going! The tunnels along 14 are all short and straight, so I had no problem.
Hit another bit of road construction. Interesting. The "road" was down to one lane while construction crews were working on what used to be a bridge. A temporary bridge had been tossed together consisting of I-beam supports overlayed with wooden planks. The planks weren't fastened to the supports. Watching the semi a few vehicles in front of me make these boards jump was rather unnerving! The Slut made it across without a wobble, though. Trusty bitch.
By this time, I'd reached the dry side. Blah. I much prefer the wet side. I stopped at the 97 turn off to gas up and grab some lunch. It had gotten rather warm (into the 80s) and a cold drink was much appreciated.
Beth Dixon: Day Five
Wednesday, Sept. 21
Spent some time on the phone talking to Godfrey and the fine folks at State Farm. Finally had The Slut loaded up and left the hotel about 10:15am. Took 5 North to 58 East.
58 East is a nice road. At first, it's rather flat. Smaller roads join up from both sides, making traffic more of a mess than it should be for such a rural area. I got stuck behind a flatbed semi with a nice fresh load of baled straw. It was definitely bedding material, rather than food stuffs, for hoofed critters. I know. It was flying all around me -- a huge "cloud" of the shit.
Beth Dixon: Day Four
Tuesday, Sept. 20
The alarm went off at 7:15. I turned it off. Promptly went back to sleep. Woke up a little while later. Stumbled to the bathroom and flipped on the light. No light. Open eyes, then try the light- switch again. No light. Shit, no electricity in the hotel. I felt around the bathroom counter until I found my glasses, then pulled on my sweats and went to find the complimentary breakfast. I was all set for a nice English muffin, until I realized there was no working toaster. Cold cereal had to do. About the time I finished breakfast, the electricity came back on. Sigh.
I tossed the luggage on The Slut and got started. There was little traffic on 97 and what was around was easy to pass. Lots of nice little old couples in late model 4-door American sedans. _Very_ easy to pass. I took the left off 97 onto 62 towards Crater Lake. The scenery got better, but the pavement got worse. The road from the ranger booth to the visitor's center was more dirt and gravel than pavement. Yuck. A guy on a VFR approached in my mirrors and I waved him by. He went by standing on his footpegs and spewing gravel off the rear tire. Either a very good rider or just basically nuts. Once onto the perimeter road around the lake, the road construction was behind me.
I started up the west side of the lake, stopping often to take pictures. I made it all the way around, stopping at about every other lookout. Sometimes I'd take photos and sometimes not. If no one else was around, I'd sit down for a few minutes and be quiet. Then the critters would come out. Birds and assorted rodents are common if you bother to look for them.
After one lap of the lake, it was still too early to leave. So I did another lap. Saw two couples on Goldwings, and an entire group of assorted cruisers. They filled a parking area. I came around a corner to find them all standing along the side of the road waiting for me. I suppose they heard me coming. :-) I got a big wave from all which , of course, I returned. At the end of the second lap, I was beginning to learn the road. I had a bit of time, so I did a third lap at a slightly elevated rate of speed. Had a big grin on my face during that one.
Beth Dixon: Day Three
Monday, Sept. 19
Roland was on the way south long before I was awake. Ed, Bonnie and I got up at a more civilized time, chatted. Again, I made a pig of myself. This time over Ed's buttermilk pancakes. It took me a while to get it in gear, but I knew I didn't have far to go.
I left Ed's about 1:30. I took 395N thru Reno. Was passed by FOUR police cars though I was doing about 70mph. Never did see what the hurry was. Maybe the local donut shop was having a sale. Stopped for gas in Susanville and took 139 past Eagle Lake. I like this road. It's not so tight it takes forever to get anywhere, but it's tight enough to be interesting. The painted cattle guards always make me laugh. Cows are stupid. The road near the lake is always good for bird watching. Very little traffic. Stopped in Adin for gas but probably could have made it to Klamath Falls.
Beth Dixon: Day Two
Sunday, Sept. 18
Got up when I felt like it, showered, grabbed a bagel for breakfast. Decided it was silly to bring a tent on a two week trip and maybe use it twice. Repacked the bike yet again.
Left for Ed Hackett's about 2:30pm. Took 237 East to 680 (I bypassed the 880/Mission section) to 580 to 205 to 5N to 4 to 99. All yucky freeway, but it gets me to 88. Hee. I like 88. Did not see any kangaroos outside of Jackson this time. Took 88 to 395 to Ed's place. Pulled into the driveway about 7:30 just after dark. Bugs come out along 395 after dark. Blah. Parked next to a loaded BMW I didn't recognize. Was greeted immediately by Roland Smith. Ah, it's one of Roland's bikes. Spent a grand and lazy evening chatting with Roland, Ed and Bonnie, Ed's roommate Monte, and Monte's girlfriend Maralee. Bonnie needs to learn about sunscreen. :-) Maralee makes excellent chocolate chip cookies which went very well with Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia.
Shortly after making a pig of myself, I crashed.
When her relationship blew up she decided to take her Ducati and see all her friends on the West Coast. First day out, she crashed in the dark on an oily on-ramp. Read what happend next in 16 installment, on-line, right from the heart.
BETH DIXON is living proof that beauty comes from within, the kind of woman who has the honesty and sense of humour to look herself in the face and remark that she has a pretty good waist.
As a teenager she was a tomboy who had her own way of making friends with the opposite sex. If she couldn't attract boys by looking pretty and acting stupid, she did it by out-dragging them from the next stoplight.
This, plus the warmth of her personality, proved a pretty potent come-on then, and still does, more than 15 years later. Nowadays, she is a 34-year old office manager for a high-tech public relations firm near San Francisco.
If anything her circle of friends is larger than ever, men who find a gutsy woman with a big laugh and a caring attitude a pretty attractive package, especially when stretched out over a fire-engine red Italian sportsbike. Beth is tight with some women, most of them riders, but she has always made friends more readily with men than women.
"I'm very much treated as 'one of the guys,'"she says.
Beth's introduction to motorcycles was at a Bay Area networking company. Her hobbies were Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) racing and SCUBA diving, so it was no big leap to begin riding pillion on a fellow employee's Kawasaki Concours.Nor was it very surprising when she became dissatisfied with being a passenger and signed up for a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) course for beginning motorcyclists.
"I really struggled at first," she remembers. "I'm not especially co-ordinated and take things slowly when I'm new to them. I need a long time to build enough self-confidence—in my skill level rather than in the machinery—to feel comfortable at anything. It was practice, practice, practice. Eventually, I got to the point where riding was more fun than work."