Friday, July 30, 2010

Report from the jungle

Our yard looks like a jungle and I have no idea when I’m going to be able to mow it.


Because it’s oppressively, insanely hot. Even for a riding mower. The heat index right now – 6:37 p.m. – is 103. It’s going to 120 tomorrow and 121 Sunday.

And, yes, it’s cooler in the morning, but the grass is wet with dew and will choke the lawn mower. By the time it dries out, the heat index us back up into the danger zone. And, of course, the heat and humidity just make the grass grow that much faster.


Issued by The National Weather Service
Memphis, TN
3:29 pm CDT, Fri., Jul. 30, 2010








More Information



Thursday, July 29, 2010

2010 Midlife Crisis Tour Wrap-up

lisa me bike

I read the weather radar correctly yesterday afternoon and caught only a few sprinkles as I rode the last 100 miles or so, clipping the back edge of a line of pop-up storms crawling east across northeast Arkansas.

I made my final gas stop at Bill’s Fresh Market on the northside of Jonesboro and rolled into my garage about 5:45 p.m.

I had a great time traveling, rallying, visiting my sons and their families, riding my favorite road, and catching up with a longtime friend.

Here are the stats:

  • Total miles: 5,414
  • Days: 17
  • Gas cost: $385.53
  • Gallons used: 131.78
  • MPG: 41.1
  • Lodging cost: $352.88
  • Cost/Day: $50.14
  • Cost/Mile: 16 cents
  • Maintenance costs: $113.97
  • Total trip cost (not counting food and incidental purchases): $852.38

Remember that right side combination switch that cost me a little less than $500 back on July 9? It gave me a major Maalox moment last Monday morning when my bike wouldn’t start on the first 6-7 starter button presses in Steve’s garage in Las Vegas. Happily, the engine fired on the first push every time after that.

But, I noticed yesterday afternoon that my right turn signal wouldn’t turn on most of the time and when I turned on the left turn signal, I couldn’t cancel it most of the time and it just had to time out by itself. BMW K-bikes have the right turn signal button on the right combination switch and the left turn signal button on the left combination switch. The button that cancels the turn signals is on the right combination switch. So everything that was malfunctioning was controlled by the right combination switch. Clearly, they gave me a faulty switch. Fortunately, BMW parts are warranteed, so my bike will make a return trip to Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles in Cape Girardeau, Mo. someday soon for yet another right combination switch.

LATER; I just talked with Pat at Grass Roots. He's ordering a new right combination switch which should arrive next week. He'll call when he has it in hand and we'll schedule a time to switch the switch.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The last leg of the trip

sue&me I’m stopped for lunch at the Subway in Vilonia, Ark. and listening to the recitation of health violations at an employees’ meeting. There were a lot of them, but nothing lethal. They’re on probation for three months.
I decided to stop here for lunch because I was overtaking a small thunderstorm and figured it was a convenient way to let the storm get out of my path. Plus, now that I have the netbook fired up, I can see the Weather Channel radar and know when it’s safe to go.
I spent a pleasant evening and night last night at the home of Sue Crumbo, a lifelong friend and high school classmate from Delphi, Ind. at her home in Edmond, just north of Oklahoma City. She and her boyfriend Guy feted me grandly with a huge steak and lots of beer. I slept like a rock until Sue tapped on my door at 6:30 a.m.
She served up a cheese omelette, toast and coffee and we chatted until 8:30 or so. The rush hour over, I loaded up and headed for home.
It was great to see Sue. I haven’t seen her since our 40th class reunion in 2003.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Good morning, sunshine

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - So why the hell am I blogging and having a second cup of coffee in my motel room instead of riding?
I am on the west side of Albuquerque, which means I have to ride through an unfamiliar city during morning rush hour with the blinding light of the rising sun in my eyes. I can only control one of those variables, so I’m waiting for the sun to get a little higher in the sky.
I have about 550 miles to ride today – from here to the home of lifelong friend Sue Crumbo in Edmond, Okla. It involves about 9 hours of riding time, plus maybe two hours off the bike for gas and food, plus an hour lost to a time change, so I expect to get there around sundown. This could be completely off, of course, in the event of rain, construction, or any number of other unknowns. The bottom line is that it’s gonna be another long-ass day on the superslab.
Which brings me to another point. You can’t pour a cup of coffee out of those goddamned cheap in-room coffee carafes without spilling. It’s a design defect that fails to take into account the Coandă effect – the tendency of a fluid to be attracted to a nearby surface. (The principle was named after Romanian aerodynamics pioneer Henri Coandă, who was the first to recognize the practical application of the phenomenon in aircraft development.) It’s the hallmark of poorly designed pouring containers and it’s particularly annoying in a coffee carafe.

Monday, July 26, 2010

600 miles from Las Vegas to Albuquerque

ALBUQUERQUE, NM - I was on the road about 5 a.m. today, keen to gain altitude into Arizona before the heat of the day. It was about 92 when I left Steve and Nicky’s house in Vegas and that was the hottest temperature I experienced all day. I actually felt a few sprinkles as I rode through the pre-dawn darkness in Las Vegas.
My new starter button refused to work for the first several presses this morning, giving rise to feelings of despair. It finally fired and continued to fire on the first press the rest of the day, but it’s alarming to say the least, since I spent almost $500 to replace one that was doing the same thing. The audio extension cord I use to connect my in-ear monitors with the GPS broke and I lost my GPS sunshade, all in the space of a few minutes. I was gratified, however, to see the oil level right where it’s supposed to be when I knelt in Steve’s garage and peered at it.
Riding into the rising sun is a miserable experience, especially in unfamiliar territory. I made my way across Hoover Dam and down to Kingman where I picked up I-40 which I will follow all the way to Little Rock.
petrified02 I’ve been neglecting my National Parks Passport on this trip, but recalled that Petrified Forest National Park is near the Interstate. Turns out it’s right next to the Interstate and I was able to go to the visitors center without paying admission to the park and got four stamps for my passport, including Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, Historic U.S. 66 and Painted Desert Inn.
I gassed in Vegas, Kingman, Flagstaff, Gallup and Albuquerque today. In Gallup, I found a McDonald’s with Wifi and secured a room at an Econo Lodge in Albuquerque. It’s kinda shabby, but I’m tired and I don’t care.
I got sprinkled on several times this afternoon as monsoonal showers popped up over the high desert. A rainbow greeted me as I rode into Albuquerque.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Right on, Morgan Freeman!

Lisa tries out grandpa’s bike

lisa bike

A tourist in Vegas

Steve gave me the grand tour of Las Vegas and Red Rocks Canyon today. We stopped at the Bellagio to check out the Fontana Showroom where he used to play and to catch the fountain show.


Viva Las Vegas


LAS VEGAS – I rolled out of the motel parking lot a little after 7 a.m. in gray chilly weather, but was soon in bright sunlight as I rode east and up the mountainside toward U.S. 101.

I gassed on the east side of Paso Robles, but forgot to get the receipt and record my mileage, so I have to reconstruct it for my travel log. I remember the gas was $3.29/gallon and I was able to get the mileage reading since I reset my trip meter at every fill-up. Now all I have to do is wait for the charge to clear on my online bank site and I can calculate the amount of gas.

I stopped to shed my windstopper pullover somewhere between Paso Robles and I-5, paused at the Lost Hills exit for a McDonald’s parfait and coffee, bought 1.5 liters of Smart Water (water + electrolytes) for my Camelbak, and headed on down the road.

I gassed again at a no-name gas station in downtown Tehachapi that had the filthiest restroom I’ve seen in years. I thought about photographing the toilet, but this blog has to have some standards.

Once over the pass, I was into serious heat. I gassed again at Barstow and rode back into the oven that is I-15 at this time of year. The weather

steve lisa fremont

feature of my Garmin Zumo 550 told me it was 106 when I finally reached Las Vegas. Garmin directed me to Steve and Nicky’s house and I rang the doorbell just as Maria called on my cell phone. Lisa opened the door and my day’s ride was over.

After several glasses of iced tea and some chips and salsa, I took a shower and about an hour’s nap.

Nicky drove Lisa and me down to the Fremont Street Experience where Steve was playing for an Elvis impersonator contest.

Here’s a shot of him and Lisa during a break in the action.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Elephant seals

SAN SIMEON, Calif. - I had dinner tonight at the Sunset Grill.

Not the one from the Don Henley song. The one attached to the San Simeon Motel 6. The food is overpriced and the service is so indifferent as to cause me to omit the tip. I ate there because I was too lazy to get on the bike and go find decent food at a reasonable price. Serves me right.

I spent most of my time there poring over The Cambrian, the local paper published in Cambria and serving the north coast of San Luis Obispo County.

It reads like any other local weekly paper. Except they have an Elephant Seal News column.

Elephant seals are a big deal here. They haul out on the beaches and tourists flock to stare at them. Maria and I spent part of an afternoon photographing them back in July of 2002.

Columnist Joan Crowder is a volunteer docent for Central Coast Friends of the Elephant Seal and she devotes about 12 column inches this week to a gaffe committed by some hack writing for an airline magazine. The writer opined that a tourist traveling down California Highway 1 might want to “finish the day by communing with walruses at the Hearst Castle.”

Well, as any halfway bright person knows, there are no walruses here. Those big animals on the beach are elephant seals. And there is no way in hell any of them are going to haul their 3 ton bodies five miles inland and up the 1,600 foot high hill where newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst built his absurdly lavish mansion that was the inspiration for Citizen Kane’s Xanadu.

I hope the airline magazine didn’t pay much for that piece of fluff.

An afternoon on my favorite road

me bigcreek
SAN SIMEON, Calif. - I waited until noon to head for the coast and still was in fog all the way to Nepenthe. I took so long to clear the room that my magnetic room key timed out and I had to get it reset to get my helmet and jacket out of the room.
I felt tight and tense all afternoon and never did relax into the ride like I wanted. Even so, it was fun.
temple bell I had a mocha and a pastry at the Cafe Kevah, chatted with a Canadian MotoGP fan and a guy from Arizona and his son on a Harley. “Did you ride all the way from Arkansas?” the kid asked. “Well… yeah,” I said.
The massive bell that’s been a feature of the Phoenix for as long as I can remember remains unsold at $3,595 but the price tag has been amended to say, “1/2 price if you can haul it away yourself.” At $1,797.50, it’s almost a bargain.
clutch problem I pulled over at the turnoff just south of the Big Creek Bridge to take pictures and enjoy one of the best views on the road. While I was there, a father and son on BMWs rode in. The son had just broken the clutch cable on his red K75S and they asked if I had a set of vise grips. Sorry, don’t carry them. I suspect they had to call for road service. While you can shift a motorcycle without a clutch, it would be a nightmare to try it on that road.
bigcreekoverlook As I expected, there was a steady stream of northbound sportbikes and not much southbound traffic. The winter storms appear to have beaten up several parts of the PCH south of Lucia. I encountered three places where traffic narrowed down to one lane and was regulated by stop lights. The southernmost one advised motorists to “Expect 5 minute delays.”expect delays
I spent the last 12 miles or so behind a slow moving truck, descending at last to Ragged Point where I treated myself to the first chocolate malt I’ve had in years.
The rest of the ride was coastal sweepers as I cruised on down to San Simeon and the Motel 6.
I just consulted my GPS and find that it’s supposedly a 6 hour and 25 minute ride from here to Steve’s place in Las Vegas. It’s also supposed to hit 111 there tomorrow.



I was reviewing my pictures this morning and found this one in the series that Maria shot just before I left on the morning of July 11.

That’s Frank, the free-range neighborhood dog who belongs to everyone and no one. He’s wonderfully friendly. Notice the blur of his wagging tail.

Burning time, burning fog

trip log
MONTEREY, Calif. - It’s 8:30 a.m. and I’ve been up since 6, but I’m not heading down the coast for a few hours.
Why? Because of the Marine Layer. That’s ocean fog to everyone who lives more than 50 miles inland. It shrouds the coast much of the day this time of year. If I want to ride in sunshine, I have to wait for it to burn off and that may not happen until noon in some places. The first time I visited the Big Sur coast, back in July, 1986, I rode up from Burbank on a Sunday morning. I made the whole ride without seeing the sun. The road blew my mind anyway. When I came back a day or two later, I was absolutely enchanted. And I still am.
So I’m sitting here in Room 120 of the Monterey Motel 6 updating my trip log and sipping free coffee from the office. Upon reflection, it’s about the same number of steps from my room to the office as it is from my upstairs office to the coffee pot in our kitchen. But at least I have Sweet & Low at home. All they have here is sugar and even with two packets, the coffee tastes nasty.
I see that I’ve covered 3,240 miles since I left home on July 11. I’ll probably do another 2k by the time I get home. Who knows, I may actually earn a 10k award for 2010 from the Indianapolis BMW Club. It would be my 14th overall, but my first since 2004.
Today’s mileage will be low, but the smileage will be high, since I’m riding down my favorite road. My destination for today is less than 100 road miles from here -  San Simeon. There’s a very nice motel there where I can get a good night’s sleep. I’ll need it on Saturday because that’s when I take on the heat of the Central Valley and the Mojave Desert on a 430-mile ride to Las Vegas to see Steve, Nicky and Lisa. I’ve done the Mojave in July before, back in 2002 when I rode my old ‘91 K100RS from Kingman, Ariz. to Monterey to meet Maria for a few days of California fun. I remember it was pretty damned hot and I drained my Camelbak twice. I have a bigger Camelbak this time and now I wish I’d bought one of those water-cooled hot weather vests they were selling at the rally.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


bike big sur01

MONTEREY, Calif. – I’m back to one of my favorite places in the whole world – the Monterey Peninsula and the PCH south.

It was reasonably warm when I left Redding this morning and I realized I needed to get to the coast before it got insanely hot in the Central Valley. Gassing on the south side of Redding, I confirmed what I had suspected, since my left in-ear monitor worked fine yesterday. The problem is in the right-angle connector between my extension wire and the GPS unit. That’s a huge relief since I initially worried that I was doomed to ride the rest of the way home with only the right speaker functioning.

Garmin routed me around the east and south side of the San Francisco Bay area, which involved several miles on I-680. I crept along for about two miles at one point near Sunol where three lanes narrowed to two for construction. Then, just north of Gilroy on U.S. 101, a bimbo in a red car tried to merge with me in the far left lane. I jammed on the brakes just in time and she waved a half-hearted apology.

Turning west toward the Monterey Peninsula from U.S. 101, I began to get long-forgotten coastal scents of eucalyptus, flowers, the sea, and other stuff that filled my helmet with intoxication.

Garmin led me to my motel which turns out to be across the street from one of the places Maria and I stayed eight years ago. I arrived about 1 p.m., checked in, dumped the contents of my saddlebags in my room, gassed and headed for Big Sur and Nepenthe, my favorite eatery on the coast.

I chatted with a kid from Oklahoma on a Suzuki who told me MotoGP is this weekend at Laguna Seca, which explains the hundreds of sportbikes all over the place.

It was overcast and foggy as I rode past Carmel Highlands, but the sun broke through as I neared Nepenthe. I found a parking space and adjourned to the Cafe Kevah for a mocha latte and a breakfast burrito. I tried to soak up the ambiance, but I think I was still too jangled from the road to relax into the Nepenthe atmosphere. There was a family with a screaming baby sitting at the next table, which didn’t help. I gave Maria a call to gloat about where I was, but couldn’t send a photo because there’s no Sprint data service down there.

nepenthe01 I went up to the main restaurant for some photos and did a quick sweep through the Phoenix gift shop, but didn’t see anything I couldn’t live without. So I bought a 40 cent postcard, saddled up and headed on south to the Coast Gallery.

nepenthe02 I bought a cup of potent dark roast coffee and settled into a seat on the Coast Gallery upper deck to watch the traffic.

There was no shortage of northbound sportbike riders thrashing their bikes through the curves, interspersed with slower traffic.

I was in no mood to race, so I timed my return to the road to put me behind a slug of slow moving traffic. Even so, I was passed by an SUV and a half-dozen squids, all on double yellow.

I’d forgotten how horrible northbound rush hour traffic can be approaching Carmel and Monterey and I crawled along for about 15 minutes before I told Garmin to find me an alternate route to the motel. It did and I’m sure I saved myself another 10 minutes. I considered joining the riders who were lane-splitting, but chose not to risk it with the oversize saddlebags on the bike.

Maria was home and ready for a Skype conversation. Skype is coming in very handy on this trip and I think it’s making my absence a little less troubling for Maria. I know I enjoy our conversations.

Now, I think I’m going to pull the tankbag and GPS off of the bike and secure it for the night and walk across the street to Denny’s for dinner. I probably should ride down to Fisherman’s Wharf for some real Monterey cuisine, but I’m tired and don’t want to bother.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010



The signpost in Pioneer Square


Posters in Portland

posters01 poster02 poster03

Short day, hot ending

redding rodeway REDDING, Calif. - I’m not used to stopping for the day at 3:35 p.m., but it felt pretty good to get off of the bike and into an air conditioned motel room in the 97 degree heat of Redding.

I covered 424.3 miles in 6 hours and 40 minutes of riding today and I’m poised for a 315-mile jaunt tomorrow to Monterey with an afternoon/evening foray down to Big Sur.

Sean took me to a spectacular little German bar and eatery called Prost! last night. They have all of the great German standards on tap and their outdoor patio features tables and benches from the Spaten beer tent at Oktoberfest in Munich. I had a brat and sauerkraut and a liter of Spaten Optimator.

me sean ruth I was up by 5:45 a.m. today. Sean and Ruth got up to chat and see me off and I rolled out onto NE Fremont St. about 7 a.m.

I was dogged by clouds and temperatures in the mid-50s as I rode south on I-5 and I stopped to put on the Gerbings heated jacket liner. I stopped for gas and a McDonald’s breakfast of coffee and parfait at Cottage Grove and pulled into a rest area a short time later to shed the jacket liner.

A guy was panhandling outside the men’s restroom with a dog on a leash and a sign saying he was laid offpanhandler and had kids to support. It may have been a scam, but I liked the dog, so I gave him a $5 bill in exchange for permission to take his picture.

I stopped for lunch and gas at Ashland – the last time on this trip that I had to deal with Oregon’s annoying law that requires a gas station attendant to assist with the refueling process. Lunch was a $1.29 Burger King double cheeseburger washed down with water from my Camelbak.

I chatted with a couple who were eating outside with their 15-year-old Australian shepherd mix. They said they moved to Ashland so their daughter could go to college, but hope to move away as soon as she graduates. The guy said the extreme left-wing vibe of the campus and the town make him crazy. I could sympathize.

The folks at the California fruit inspection station waved me through, apparently convinced that I wasn’t transporting any produce or dangerous insects.

The motel here looks like it started out as a Howard Johnson’s because it has those little cupolas on the roof. The room is kinda musty, but the price is right and it earns me points on my Choice Hotels account.

Also, the bifocal sunglasses are perfect for letting me see my GPS clearly while not interfering with my ability to watch the road ahead. Who knew they could be had for just $19.99? They do need nose pads, though. And my left in-ear monitor has returned to life. And I’m enjoying the hell out of having two ultra bright and fully functional headlight bulbs.

Sean further lightened my load this morning by volunteering to ship my big black and yellow waterproof bag of camping stuff home for me, so I don’t have to schlep it around the rest of my trip.



Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Tuesday afternoon report from Portland


PORTLAND, Ore. - My $19.99 Dr. Dean Edell bifocal sunglasses arrived this morning and it appears I guessed exactly right about the level of magnification I need to see my GPS clearly while riding. The magic number was +2.00.

sean at powellsWe went downtown this afternoon to cruise the fabulous Powell’s Bookstore and in the process I found an eyewear store that had the perfect case for the sunglasses for about $8.

Sean bought me a copy of the Mark Twain’s “new” book, “Who is Mark Twain,” a collection of his writings that he decreed could not be published until 100 years after his death. Powell’s, by the way, is the most amazing bookstore I’ve ever seen.

At the risk of sounding like a rube from Arkansas, I was dazzled with the way downtown Portland handles the parking meter issue. Instead of meters on parking spaces, they have strategically placed kiosks that vend parking stickers. You buy as much time as you need, take the sticker bearing the expiration time, and use the post-it-note-type adhesive strip to stick it to the inside of the car window facing the curb. The instructions advise angle parkers to put the sticker on the driver’s side window and motorcyclists to stick it to the headlight, adding that unexpired time may be used on another block. It’s cheaper than maintaining and emptying thousands of mechanical parking meters that parkinghave dubiously accurate timing mechanisms. I wonder how long it takes for a system like parking02that to pay for itself.

While sipping mocha at the Blend Coffeehouse, I reviewed my route south from here and decided against cutting west to the coast either at Grants Pass or via the Klamath River highway. While the scenic ocean route would be more entertaining, it also is longer and slower. I decided to stay on I-5 instead, riding 425 miles tomorrow. That would leave me only 276 miles to ride Thursday to reach my next motel in Gilroy. I presumably would arrive in time to unload my stuff and run down to Nepenthe for dinner. Then I could take all day Friday to savor the 133 miles from Gilroy down Calif. 1 through Big Sur to the next motel at San Simeon. What a treat – Nepenthe for dinner and Nepenthe for breakfast.

I might even get ambitious and take in Hearst Castle at San Simeon. Or play with the elephant seals on the beach.

I got an invitation to stay with lifelong friend Susan in Edmond, Okla. when I pass that way next week. Here’s a photo of me and Susan (she’s on the right with Jeannie Taylor in the middle) on our first day of school back in 1951.




I’m having a mocha at the Blend Coffeehouse and Cafe while Sean takes care of some business this morning.

The mocha looks beautiful, but tastes a little thin and Ovaltine-like. I guess everyone has their take on how to make a mocha.

We’re mostly just hanging out today without a specific agenda other than keeping an eye out for the UPS guy and my bifocal sunglasses.

We had a delightful dinner last night at Miss Delta, a spinoff from the popular Delta Cafe. The cuisine is Cajun and the jambalaya was excellent, washed down with a 40 ounce bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon presented nicely in an ice bucket.

I got my laundry done yesterday, so I can pack and load the bike tonight to be ready for an early morning departure for California tomorrow.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The glass is half full

It occurs to me that the casual reader might get the impression that I am forever fussing with my gear at the expense of the motorcycle travel experience.

That thought struck me this afternoon when I recalled my first long ride back in 1986 from Indianapolis to the BMWMOA rally at Monterey, Calif.

I was riding with Tim and Linda Balough, who were experienced long distance riders. They recommended the use of earplugs to minimize the fatigue from wind noise. I declined their offer the first day. Somewhere around the middle of the second day, I believe it was near Kansas City, Kans., I tried a pair of earplugs and I’ve been using them in one form or another ever since.

They didn’t keep me from developing tinnitus but they did make long rides easier.

I’ve been adding amenities and tweaking my style ever since and it’s continuing on this ride. The downside is that the more extensive and complicated your gear gets, the more likely it is that something will fail. Like a GPS cradle or an in-ear monitor speaker. Some things can be fixed on the road, some can’t.

The trick is to let it go and not obsess about what’s wrong while you’re having the glorious experience of travel.

I can do that while I’m riding, but my mind naturally comes back to it when I’m off the bike and blogging.

It’s always something

I should have listened to my inner voice when it whispered that I should look into a back up set of in-ear monitors from one of several vendors at the rally last weekend.

That’s because the left speaker – the one Marilyn Navia repaired for me a couple of weeks ago – quit working today. No external sign of damage and no tugs on the wire. I thought I noticed it dropping out as I rode up to Portland yesterday from Redmond, but chalked it up to my imagination.

So now I get to ride the rest of the trip with only the right speaker functioning, which of course is better than none.

I made the discovery when I prepared to ride back to Sean’s place from BMW Motorcycles of Western Oregon in Tigard, having sorted out one of my major concerns with my bike. You may recall that I discovered I had a dead low beam headlight bulb about an hour after I left home on July 11. I’ve been riding on high beam ever since, waiting for a chance to get it replaced by a dealer. That’s because a headlight bulb on my bike is a major undertaking – there is very little room for human hands under the fairing, thanks to the presence of the motor that raises and lowers the windscreen. It’s so tight that mechanics prefer to dismantle part of the fairing rather than replace bulbs “by the book.”

I did it once back in June of 2004 and vowed I’d never try it again. Since then, I’ve lived in constant dread of a burned out headlight bulb and wished for a headlight system that was immune to such failure. While it’s not the ultimate solution of an HID conversion kit, the PIAA bulbs have a one-year warranty and a considerably longer life expectancy.

shades I also took a stab at another problem/want. I found some bifocal sunglasses on for $19.99 with the option of next-day shipping. Problem is, I’m not sure what level of magnification is right for me. They range from +1.25 to 2.50. With only 9 minutes left to place my order in time for delivery tomorrow, I didn’t have time to run down to Walgreens and try on a few pairs to see what works best. So I gambled that +2.00 would work and fired off an order. They gotta be better than plain sunglasses and for only $19.99, it was worth a try.

We’ll know tomorrow.

I crunched some mileage numbers this afternoon and determined I need to leave Wednesday morning in order to have a full day with Steve, Nicky and Lisa in Las Vegas before Steve and Lisa fly off to Chicago on Monday for a doctor appointment.

So I’m aiming for Arcata, Calif. Wednesday night, Gilroy, Calif. on Thursday night, San Simeon, Calif. Friday night, Las Vegas, Saturday night, Albuquerque Monday night, Oklahoma City on Tuesday night and home on Wednesday. That’s the plan, at least. Ted Simon likes to say the interruptions are the journey. But I don’t like troublesome interruptions.

Getting enlightened

bmw tigard lounge
I’m in the customer lounge area of BMW Motorcycles of Western Oregon in Tigard while the service department replaces both of my headlight bulbs with kick-ass PIAA bulbs. Whereas the normal low beam bulb is 35 watts and the normal high beam is 55 watts, these are twice as powerful while drawing the same or less current.
I really just needed the low beam bulb replaced, but the PIAAs have a warranty and the security of knowing I have two brand new bulbs that will last a long time is worth the $100 or so.
This is the most deluxe customer lounge I’ve seen in any motorcycle or car dealership. Big screen TV, free Wifi and a pool table. How cool is that?
Sean and Ruth took me out to dinner at an eclectic restaurant that features Northwest food and an inscrutable menu. I put together a dinner of blue cheese salad wedge and meat pie with a couple of beers and considered myself extremely well fed.
It was great to be back under a roof with a real bed for a change and I slept well and long.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hanging with Sean and Ruth

sean mixing01
I arrived at my son’s place in Portland around noon today after an uneventful ride up from Redmond.
Well, maybe not uneventful if you consider cold to be an event. It was downright chilly coming past Mount Hood. Overcast skies and temps in the mid-50s.
It’s great seeing Sean and Ruth after several years. We should all be ashamed of ourselves for letting so much time get away from us. He’s working on an audio project while I catch up on blogging.
coffee line I was up before 6 this morning and walked over to help Charlie and William with the coffee. They started serving at 5 a.m. and had made more than 1,000 cups of coffee by the time I got there. We were all surprised by the huge demand for coffee on the last morning of the rally, even as the rally’s tent city was disappearing before our eyes.
I made my tent disappear about an hour later. I managed to lash the big pink canvas chair to my luggage rack, but gave up on the cheapo sleeping maxbag. At Wayne Garrison’s suggesting, I offered it to the BMWMOA folks, but they pointed me to the Airhead compound. The Airheads bring big stuff like couches, so they have plenty of room to take stuff home and were glad to have the slightly-used bag, It would be OK for car camping for kids’ sleepovers.
There were dozens of dogs at the rally and I petted as many as I could. My favorite was Max, a 13-month-old Australian cattle dog who is one-quarter Australian shepherd. I met him yesterday afternoon in front of the vendor building. He was unusually friendly for the breed, which tends to be a bit stand-offish with strangers.
None of us won anything at the closing ceremonies drawings last evening. As usual, they were a little long, but not egregiously self-congratulatory like some I’ve endured.
The high point for me was when the woman singing the National Anthem hit the high notes and a little dog two rows behind us started howling.
The official attendance tally was 6,109. Not a record, because the center of gravity of the BMWMOA is east of the Mississippi, but still a good turnout for a rally in the Pacific Northwest. If the weather is good, it will be much bigger next year in Pennsylvania. Bloomsburg, Pa., to be exact. Right at 1,000 miles from my home.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday mid-day rally report


REDMOND, Ore. – I did my turn as a volunteer last night – the 9 p.m.-midnight shift on the shuttlebus.

I was the conductor/safety guy and I rather expected I’d be dealing with drunks going home to their campsites from the biergarten.


Guess who rides the shuttlebus from 10 to midnight. Teenagers.

I had the odd experience of riding through the cold and dark on a hard wood seat listening to a half dozen or so Canadian teenagers jabbering about stuff they don’t know shit about for lap after endless lap of the fairgrounds. One or two would get off to climb aboard a few laps later or be replaced by others.

I chose not to share my wisdom, hard won through years of experience – I was going to BMW MOA rallies decades before they were born – because I realized they really don’t give a damn what an old American guy knows.

Once off duty, I fell asleep almost immediately and woke up reasonably well rested a few minutes before the first rays of the sun painted the eastern side of my tent. It takes very little time for the sun to make the inside of a tent unbearable, so I pulled on my pants and boots and stumbled over to the coffee stand to lend a hand.


Back at the Indy Club compound, I bade farewell to Howard Mudd, who was packing to head home to Seattle. If you’re an Indianapolis Colts fan, you may know Howard as the offensive line coach who helped take the Colts to the Super Bowl this year. He has since retired. I’m not much of a football fan, so I know him as a nice guy and a competent motorcyclist. He’s been a member of the Indy Club for several years, but never made it to the meetings because he always seemed to have more pressing business on the Sundays of the meetings.

I hooked up with Dom and we rode to breakfast at Sisters, a small mountain town about 20 miles west of here. We found a popular little restaurant with two open stools at the counter and I wolfed down a cheddar cheese omelet, hash browns and wheat toast.

I led the way back to Redmond, listening to FOX News on my XM radio for the first time since the Great GPS/XM crisis of last Sunday afternoon.

We gassed at a Union 76 station, putted back to the rally site and chatted with friends until we all split up to go to seminars, shop, ogle at bikes or blog.

So there.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Oh noooooooooooooooo!

mr bill



My new Garmin cradle and power cable showed up a little before noon.

I tried the new cable with the old cradle first without success. So I tried the new cable with the new cradle and voila! my Zumo 550 could get power from the bike. O, frabjous day! Calloo! Callay! What a relief to have GPS and XM radio back.

(Although, truth be told, it’s been kinda nice to be disconnected from the news and political craziness for four days.)


Here’s a stitched-together panorama of the main vendor street. The vendor exhibition hall is to the left, the BMW MOA Country Store, Cyber Cafe and charging station are on the right.

Big Trouble


Notes on the thermostat at the Red Dog Depot.

Friday morning at the BMW MOA Rally

red dog wall

REDMOND, Ore. - We walked off of the rally grounds last evening for dinner at a nearby restaurant. It was cheap uninspired food.

On the way back, however, Dom introduced me to the Red Dog Depot, an eclectic bar and grill that has hundreds of portraits of dogs covering the walls. If you’re a dog person, as I am, you’d find lots of reasons to smile. I Skyped Maria just so she could see the place through the eye of my netbook webcam. While we were chatting, I got a Skype call from Tim Balough.

wile e coyote He and Webb and Cindy were ensconced at a motel in Baker City, Ore. where they were waiting for a call this morning from the insurance adjuster about where to take Webb’s bike for an estimate and/or repair. Thankfully, Webb was not seriously hurt when the deer t-boned him on the left side. Yep, the deer came across a lane of the two-lane highway to get him. I got the impression that they haven’t ruled out a rally appearance, but got a voicemail from Tim this morning saying they’ve rented a U-Haul truck, loaded all three of their bikes and are heading home to Alma, Colo.

I slept well last night. It was warm enough that I probably could have gotten by with my ultralight sleeping bag. I was up with the sun at 5:30 a.m., brushed my teeth and strolled over to the coffee operation run by Charlie and the BMW RAMS. People were draining the coffee urns faster than Charlie and William could fill them.

I had the buffet breakfast again and chatted with a guy from Alberta who was waiting to have LED driving lights mounted on his GS. When I got up to leave and we shook hands, I noticed he was missing all of the fingers on his right hand. “Frostbite,” he said.

Now I’m hanging out in the Cyber Cafe, charging my phone and iPod and waiting for the UPS truck to bring my GPS cradle and power cord.

The temperature soared deep into the 90s yesterday. Today is expected to be a few degrees cooler. I haven’t seen a cloud since I got here Wednesday afternoon.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Hey! BP says the leak is capped.

It’s about time.



I’m rallying!

We got to the BMW MOA rally at the Deschutes Fair and Expo Center in Redmond, Ore. about 5 p.m. yesterday and quickly located the Indianapolis BMW Club compound.

After a long hot ride across the high desert of central Oregon, and pitching my tent in the hot afternoon sun, I was too busy and too tired to blog.

The folks who got here a few days earlier had shivered through overnight lows in the low 40s and high 30s. I brought a light summer weight sleeping bag and realized immediately that I was in for four nights of misery if I didn’t get a heavier bag. So Rick Nelson and I drove over to a sporting goods store where I snapped up a ridiculously bulky bag for $50 that’s rated down to 25 degrees. Rick made me a birthday gift of a pink canvas camp chair. (It was my 65th birthday, btw.) The bag works wonderfully and I’ll UPS it home on Sunday.

indytent We fussed over my recalcitrant GPS cradle without success. I worked on it again this morning and finally gave up. I decided to go for an extreme fix – buy a new cradle and power cord. I ordered them from Touratech in Seattle and they’re overnighting them – should be here by noon tomorrow.

I had coffee with Charlie and William of the BMW Riders Association of the Mid-South – Charlie is the coffee chairman for the rally – and had breakfast with his wife Deb at the $10 buffet in the biergarten.

larryparker I found BMW Motorcycles of Western Oregon’s tent and was pleased to see my old Thorntown neighbor, Larry Parker. He hooked me up with his son-in-law who co-owns the business and I made an appointment for 10 a.m. Monday to get my low beam headlight bulb replaced at their shop in Tigard. Larry tells me our renters are being good neighbors and that their golden retriever is ultra friendly.

The dealer is running a special on riding pants that normally cost $275, on sale for $125. I tried on a pair, but the inseam is impossibly long, so I had to pass on what is a killer deal.

I also checked in with the Gerbings rep and bought the connection stuff I need to make my electrics useful.

Sean Franklin and his is conspicuously absent from this rally. I had hoped he could help me with the GPS puzzle, so I phoned him at his store in Eureka Springs, Ark. He referred me to Touratech.

And now for the bad news. Webb Bernhard hit a deer en route to the rally with his wife Cindy Fort and Tim Balough. The report we got was short on details, but the gist of it is that Webb is only bruised, but his bike is unrideable and they won’t be at the rally. My guess is that they were fairly close, since they left on Monday.

Redmond is apparently bad juju for Webb. He had an episode of acid reflux, barfed in his helmet and crashed while leaving the first BMW MOA rally in Redmond in 2001. He injured his hand and they had to haul their bikes home to Indianapolis in a U-Haul truck.