Sunday, October 01, 2006

Motorcycle Touring - Getting Started

Like motorcycle virgins my very first motorcycle trip, that extended for more than a day and a night, was fraught with excitement and trepidation.
Back in the mid eighties some friends and I took off on what would be the first of many bike trips that we would take together. Like young rebels we were full of spit and vinegar although our rides did not reflect our earthy attitudes.


The Born To Be Mild gang, Jim, me, Darcy and Grant and taking the picture was Debbie, Darcys wife,who was brave enough to ride with us, but not brave enough to pose with us.
I was riding a 1981 Honda 400T Hawk, my friends were on similar bikes, a Honda CB 450, and a couple of Suzuki 500's, all two cylinder, chain drive, air cooled bikes, not big by any means but certainly adequate for motorcycle touring.



Our trip was not a major undertaking but an adventure for us first timers at the art and joy of motorcycle touring.
Our first ride originated from Edmonton Alberta through the Rocky Mountains to the townsite of Jasper, south to Banff, further south through Radium Hot Springs and then back east to Calgary, Alberta.
As usual we were loaded to the nuts, everything we would need for a week of riding and camping, bungeed to the backs of the bikes.




Grant relaxes while we stop yet again to take pictures and converse about how sore our butts are from those slender banana seats.



One of the perks of riding through a national park is the abundance of wildlife, along with the deer further down the road we saw a black bear and her cubs crossing the road, we stopped to observe but were too nervous to get off the bike to get the camera.



Of course when it comes to deer, I am a fearless bipod, besides at that time I am sure I outweighed the deer by a three-to-one margin.
I don't think the cheap yellow plastic riding gear ever goes out of style.



After a couple of beers (notice the stubby bottles) after a hard days ride some one said they saw elk grazing next to our camping spot, I had my gut sucked in so hard for the picture I couldn't breathe for awhile and missed the elk completely.
It was nice to be able to camp amongst the animals except later in the evening a big black bear ambled by, too close for our comfort and again no picture was taken as we were all ready to flee if the bear so much as noticed us.



Darcy giving Grant a lesson in trick riding, being able to steer my bike with his feet. Grant as usual appears enthralled by the antics.


That Darcy was always sneaking around taking pictures, this time catching the pup tents unaware. Actually Darcy took all the pictures although he may not want to take credit for them.


I miss the daily maintenance of a chain drive bike, adjusting and lubing, adjusting and lubing.



That's Jim on the bike, whenever we needed some gas to start the fire we would send Jim on an errand and drain some gas from his bike for fire starter. Jim could never understand why he never got as good of mileage out of his bike as the rest of us.



That was the first of many bike road trips we took together, it was the second bike I owned and the first one reliable enough to go out of town without worrying about breakdowns.
We never traveled far in a day, often stopping to sightsee and check out the local attractions, but it was a good first trip, one that opened the door to others.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Riding the Rockies

These are a few photos that I took when a friend, Darcy and I did a five day tour thru the Rocky Mountains and then continued on to redo a ride we had done twenty years ago.
The ride was from Creston B.C. north to Kaslo with two free ferry rides across the lakes, over to Nakusp and then coming out at Vernon B.C. This has to be one of the most scenic and twisty roads that any biker can take through British Columbia. It is loaded with twisty roads and scenic lakes and not the hordes of tourist traffic one would expect to find in B.C.
One of the many switchbacks n the road between Kaslo and Nakusp
The green waters of the Big Horn dam west of Rocky Mountain House in Alberta
No matter how many time I have crossed the rocky mountains of Alberta and B.C., the scenery is always spectacular to a flatlander like myself
This is Saskatchewan River Crossing on the Bow Valley Parkway, highlighted by great roads and light traffic it is also the place where gasoline costs the most.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Hells Angels never wave back

The one great thing about riding a motorcycle is the camaraderie of fellow bikers you meet on the road.


Because we are kindred spirits out on the road, bared to the world not surrounded by a cage, bikers have developed a nifty little habit of waving to each other. Like an acknowledgement of the fun and adventure we are sharing.

Sometimes it can be a little tiring and boring when the road is loaded with bikers but in most cases it is a salute to one another and usually merited.

Recently on a trip through the Rockies we came upon a pack of riders and despite my friendly wave and salute, not one in the pack of Harleys waved back.

After my friend and riding partner stopped for lunch, I mentioned that not one of that pack of bikes had waved back and I mentioned that after not receiving a wave back, I gave them the finger.

That was because that was the Hells Angel he stated, looking at me like I was some kind of organ donor.

At which point, I admitted that they were a mile past when I gave them the one finger salute.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Photo Blog of First Ride of the Year

Got the bike out of winter storage last week, had to drag it over a couple of snow banks to get it to the shop so I could charge the battery and bring it back to life for another year.

Can't go too far as I need a new rear tire again, they only have a life span of about 6,000km or so, and the one I got on the bike shows no tread at all.

But I did manage a small ride around town to take a few pics.





You come across all kinds of things in a small town, so it was not unusual to see a tractor parked out on the front lawn. Seems to be one of those photos where you have to pick out what does not belong in the picture, the tractor, the bike or the snow.
And with the snow melt there is an abundance of water everywhere. I biked around town and this was the best reflection shot I could get, the background is not that great.



This is maybe the one of the shortest rail lines in Canada as they took the tracks out years ago and all that is left is the granary which was saved as a museum piece and they left enough track to park an old caboose, cattle car and grain car. They had the tracks out before they could get an engine in there and now will have to truck one in to complete the mini train.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Brokeback Motorcyclist

The other night at our regular poker night, one of the boys mentioned that he had seen the movie Brokeback Mountain. The jeers , catcalls and taunting from the guys came in a thick and deadly barrage.
His excuse he explained, after the verbal carnage, was that his wife had wanted to see it, and he just tagged along.
Personally I have no such desire to see the movie and as a matter of fact the last movie that I had seen in a movie theatre was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when I took my young nephew. I can think of better things to spend my money on as life's priorities take a toll on the pocket book. Usually I spend my money on bikes, babes and beer and the rest I just waste.
In the old cowboy movies it wasn't unusual for the hero to fall in love with his horse, dog or cows and of course the girl next door, but never another cowboy.
And things around here, out on the prairies, hasn't changed much in the last 100 years and thats about how we like it. The fancy cowboys have a tendency to migrate to the urban centers leaving us to our horses and girls and in my case, my iron horse.



Thursday, March 30, 2006

Hoss Hauls Heavy Humanitarian

When you got a lot of stuff to deliver and no
snow for your sleigh to glide on, who ya gonna call?

The biker type guy at the reins is Hoss, the guy on the back is some kind of delivery fellow from the far north. Hoss has managed to ride his Lehman trike every month of the year since he got it, don't hurt to have a third wheel for stability in the ice and snow.
Lehman trikes are made in Westlock, Alberta and Spearfish, South Dakota and sold world wide. The trike conversions are made for all the brands of motorcycles but I think Hoss bought his for the throaty roar and rumble of the Harley engine.
You can usually hear Hoss thumping around town on his Harley most times of the year, he uses it as a daily commuter to work, takes it to meetings, goes golfing on it, and sometimes lets his wife ride on the back. Rumor has it that he will be riding the big white thumper down to Sturgis bike week this upcoming year, dressed to the hilt in his Harley gear, you will know him when you see him, he is hard to miss because he will try to sell you some real estate.
You meet the nicest people on a Honda they say, with a Harley you are sure to be surprised who is going to be riding.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Castor Motorcycle Club

The Castor Motorcycle Club was born two years ago at the White Goose restaurant in Castor Alberta.
At present we have one member and are not actively recruiting new members. At the organizational meeting over coffee, which I paid for, there were five prospects including myself who were expressing an interest in joining.
The bulletin sent out encouraged prospective members to ride their bike to the meeting, discuss setting up and organizing a motorcycle club and then end the meeting with a ride. Observing the meeting but not participating was the local plumber, a cowboy and the owner of the restaurant none of whom ride motorcycles. The cowboy did want to know if he could join with his horse substituting for a motorcycle. He was denied entry.
Of all the prospects who attended only myself, Rod, and John actually brought our bikes to that first meeting. Rod had a 500cc Enfield he bought in India, and didn't think he could make that Sundays ride, so John and I did a small ride.
The two bikers who were actively encouraging me to get the club up and running never even showed up themselves.
The first meeting was less than stellar, but undaunted we decided to have another meeting in two weeks when the weather was better. The subsequent meeting had a poorer showing with only two bikes in attendance and fewer prospects. John and I went for a ride to celebrate the new club. No meetings and no members have joined since, and John has moved away.
Thus membership is down to one member, me.
In a town the size of Castor, 932 residents, new prospects for the club are slim.
So now memberships in the Castor Motorcycle Club are being offered thru this blog. The only requirements needed are:

1. You must ride a motorcycle.
2. You must live on earth.

As we are a casual club there will be no meetings to attend, no fees to pay, and no colors to wear. Unfortunately we cannot offer charter memberships, as this is the second offering. If you think you have the right stuff and are straining to become a member, act now as this is a limited one time offer that may never come again.
What you need to do is send me a self addressed stamped envelope, with your name, location and cycle that you are currently riding, and in return you will receive a membership card in the mail. Your name will also appear in the upcoming members list. Thats it, thats all it takes to become a member of a motorcycle club, you will be the envy of your friends when you flash your card and tell them you are a member of this exclusive club.

Send your SASE to;

Castor Motorcycle Club
P.O. Box 762
Castor, Alberta Canada
ToC 0X0

This offer is only available thru this blog in the above mentioned manner and no phone calls, e-mails, or personal requests orally will be accepted.
The above photo of the author trying to recruit another biker into the Castor Motorcycle Club while I was having my picture taken.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance



I can't remember if I read Robert M. Pirsigs book before I got a motorcycle or not, but I believe it was before. I have read the book about three times now and am going to read it again.
The first time I read it, I skipped most of it, only reading the parts about the motorcycle trip from Minnesota to Montana. I didn't read the underlying story as it seemed to be too deep and complicated for my liking.
Within a few pages of reading the book he sums up what I feel like when I am riding my motorcycle.

You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more T.V. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.
On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.

I am in the scene, I am out in the open, the sights the smells are all there touching me, it makes a guy feel alive, in control. Most times when I climb on the bike for a ride, wether it is a short jaunt or a tour of some kind, I can't help but smile to myself, the feeling of freedom and horse power washes all the cares of the day away. Even on a tour last fall where we encountered rain and snow showers I was laughing, so happy to be in that moment. The road was slick, visibilty was poor but the heat and sound rising from the engine, and the impossibility of it all, made for a great ride.
While surfing the net I came upon a site that contains original photos of Pirsigs now famous ride.
He is an unassuming looking fellow but the photos tied all the loose ends together and re-established my link to the book. I found my paperback copy, the pages are yellowed and dusty but in surprisingly good shape and ready for another read.
If you are interest and want to dwell on it further , here is the link to the site;
http://ww2.usca.edu/ResearchProjects/ProfessorGurr/

Monday, March 20, 2006

Homemade Cargo Trailer

I always liked the thought of pulling a little trailer behind the bike, so handy when going camping, you can load it to the nuts with all your gear. I have used it a couple of times and it works great, easy to pull, lots of room, held all my camping gear plus a full set of golf clubs.
I had the trailer frame and just chopped it down narrower, sand blasted the frame and rims, wired it and painted it. The top box is an RV roof top carrier and the luggage rack on top is from a couple of old station wagons.
Seeing as I had most of the items on hand it was an inexpensive project, the most being the RV pod which cost me $100 bucks. I am still on the lookout for an older metal cooler to attach permanently to the tonque and since the stator is not that great on bike, some L.E.D. lights.
It tracks good behind the bike and on the flats does not slow me down, but on the hills I have to down shift now.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Little Wing




1981 Honda GL500 Silverwing interstate

I was looking for another motorcycle after being out of biking for about 12 years when I bought this Interstate.

I was looking for a used Goldwing, about an 82 or 83, and most of the ones I had seen were high mileage models. I had almost purchased an 82 Goldwing in Red Deer and had talked the dealer down in price but did not have a chance to take a good look at the bike or test ride it, when I returned the following Saturday to inspect the bike better, the salesman told me the bike had been sold. OH well I thought, thats what I get for being lackadaisical about the purchase.

I returned to the dealer a couple of weeks later and the same bike was back on the sales floor with a higher price tag on it. I guess they had considered my offer and thought it to be too low and took the bike off the floor, only to return it with a higher price. I had checked periodically and the same bike is still sitting on the sales floor one year later.

I had seen this Silverwing in Camrose earlier and liked it, lower mileage, good price and in excellent shape. Since I was pissed at the Red Deer dealer anyway, I dropped in one day at the Camrose dealer while I was on a trip to Edmonton with a friend and purchased the little wing. $1,500. dollars of Canadian cash and I was a biker again, felt good. A few days later with my old beater of a helmet I had the same friend drop me off in Camrose to pick up the bike.

Being nervous after those many years of non-riding I felt a little apprehensive about riding and headed straight into the residential area to practice up a bit. Five minutes of riding, starting and stopping did the trick and I felt confident enough to hit the main roads and tangle with traffic.I rode the bike home, about 100 miles, on a hot sunny day. I did the speed limit still trying to sharpen my biking skills riding without incident, only having a couple of road hogs close in fast from behind and pass too close for my liking. It's been over a year since I bought the bike but I can still fell the heat of the sun, road and engine as I road that day. The Silverwing has a V-twin engine but is mounted so the heads stick out the sides next to the riders knees, a small pain in hot weather riding but a pleasure in the cold.

It was in September that I purchased the bike and so I had a limited amount of riding before the snows of winter came, but I managed a few small trips to familiarize myself with the bike. The previous owner had mounted forward footpegs, extra driving lights and added a cycle sound radio mount complete with radio and speakers. The tires were wore out, with the back one being completely void of any tread and the front one was cupped badly. The paint was good on the fairing trunk and bags showing only little wear and tear, but the seat had some minor tears, and the fairing mounted mirrors were replaced with handle bar mounted vibrating useless cheapoos.

In the spring I replaced the tires with a set of matching Bridgestones, had the seat recovered, threw away the cheapoo mirrors and bought some expensive replacements from the Honda dealer. And the first thing that I usually have to install is a cigarette lighter, for me smoking and riding go together. Am I worried about getting cancer? Hell NO, I ride a bike, smoking is a minor matter in the grand scheme of things.I also bought some Harley floor boards, manufactured some mounts and threw away the pegs. Much more comfortable riding with floorboard rather than the stock pegs as you have more range for foot positioning.

The replacement mirrors were another matter entirely. Although the replacements which were identical to stock mirrors looked a lot better mounted on the fairing rather than the handle bars, the mirror surface had a flat surface and a tint to them which I did not like. I did manage to find a set of OEM mirrors at a swap meet. In swapping out the glass I managed to break one and now have an original clear convex mirrror on one side and an ugly, flat, tinted on the other side. Oh well more swap meet hunting should resolve the matter.

The next project was to make and install a tow hitch to the bike. I had a Gold wing before and towed a small cargo trailer and wanted the same setup although lighter to match the bike. With the help of some non biking friends with access to a welder, cutting torch and some ingenuity we managed to come up with a decent looking hitch.

One draw back that I thought the bike lacked was protection for the lower legs and feet. Although the fairing, which is identical except for the lowers is the same used on the Goldwings of that era, provide good upper body protection the bottom is quite open and breezy. I fashioned a couple of curved alluminum pieces and attached them to the existing lower fairing. I tested them in some rainy and snowy weather and they proved to be good and give the feet more protection from the elements. It could be another matter when the warm weather rolls around but they are only secured by two bolts apiece and take only seconds to remove.

The bike is an off shoot of the Honda CX 500, and was only manufactured for two years as a full dresser 500cc model and in 83, they bumped it to a 650cc. It has about 45hp and is a high revving son of a gun. At highway speed 100kph [60mph] it revs at about 5700 rpm. This can be a little disconcerting to some but after you get used to it, it becomes quite natural and the little bike will go all day at hiway speed plus with out a problem. The higher revving engine delivers a lot of torque and the bike is quite responsive. I had alway liked the look of the bike and had a CX500 previously that I had added a fairing to and tried to make a touring bike out of it. The bike had ample power and I managed to cross the USA and Canada twice before on the old CX500. People who say you need a big bike to go touring on are filling you with BS, after all many others have toured with much smaller and made out quite fine.

If you are in the market and see one of these bikes for sale and wonder how good it is, buy it, you won't be disapointed. They are reasonably priced, nimble to handle, have loads of power and the engine is all but bullet proof. And there are a lot of resources on the internet which include a lot of happy owners.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Welcome



Welcome to my new blog.

This hopefully will be a journal of my motorcycles, my friends motorcycles and the road trips that we have taken and will take in the future.

Thats me posing in front of the Last Chance Saloon in Wayne Alberta, a small trip Darcy, Grant and I went on last summer. It wasn't a huge trip, just a jaunt around Alberta, to get in some riding time.

Darcy had been to this bar before, but it was a first for me. It seems it is a popular destination for local bikers as the road is windy and the terrain spectacular, as it is located in the Drumheller valley. Buffalo burgers and beer was so good we visited the place twice.

So this is how it starts, the blogging stuff, more to come and along with the bike stuff sometimes a guy can throw in a little philosophy, politics and sports just to make it more interesting.

Feel free to browse the site and comments are welcomed.