Jun 29, 2016

Closing the Loop, Heading Home

2016 Day 8-9 (9)Scott and I took a relatively long drive, yesterday: from Cottonwood Hot Springs to Pagosa Springs. We split up and took two different routes. I wanted some of the US 50 experience and he wanted to try out a barely-marked road from Cottonwood part way to Gunnison. Apparently, the two routes are pretty similar, since we arrived at the designated restaurant close to the same time. From there, we rode to Pagosa and arrived around 4PM.

2016 Day 8-9 (1)On the way, I saw some seriously decimated pin forests. I took this shot because I felt that it did a fairly good job of showing how badly damaged the southern Colorado pine forests are. We drove through almost 50 miles of this kind of scenery. Nearly, the only green on the mountains were deciduous. At least 90% of the pines are dead or dying. The Forest Service is solidly between a rock and hard place. The forests need to burn to kill off the bugs that are killing the trees. If the take burn, they will take out a lot of property and people will be whining that they’re not being protected properly.

2016 Day 8-9 (12)

I snagged a shot of Scott reloading his gear at a quick roadside stop; just toi prove that I have at least one real friend on this planet. There have been doubters out there.

After a day hiking around Pagosa Springs and hitting the hot water hard, we crashed fairly late for us and I got up early to do a full pass maintenance on my bike. About 7AM, I hit the road toward home. Two hundred miles later, I stopped for a few hours to catch up with an aunjt and uncle who live near Castle Rock. From there, I hit the road about 5PM, so instead of taking the familiar route up I76, I went straight west and followed CO 86 to I70 where I’ll turn north at Colby and head into Nebraska.

2016 Day 8-9 (18)North of my route, the weather looked fierce. Storm clouds were black and ominous to my left for 100 miles. Eventually, I wore out and the rain started to slide my direction. I found a cheap motel and unpacked quickly. Before I could get back, it was pouring. I got soaked bagging up the bike buit it was worth it. The streets were overflowing and myt rear case is not particularly water-tight.

Tomorrow, I head north in about 60 miles.

Jun 28, 2016

Old Colorado, New Colorado

Yesterday, I passed through Vail, never one of my favorite places in Colorado. The last 20 years have been tough on that part of Colorado. 1%’ers have cluttered up the mountains with their litterbox condos and incredibly ugly shopping centers. It’s hard to tell there are mountains around the place. My old haunt, Steamboat Springs, is similarly ratted-out with overpriced housing and trendiness. I don’t see me ever going back there again.

Scott recommended meeiting in Leadville and that turned out to be a great suggestion. Leadville hasn’t been mangled by the weirdness of our deficit economy and it is still a very traditional Colorado town. Colorado’s generally insane drive to contaminate as much of that state’s beautiful and rare assets has bothered me since I was a kid visiting the state with my family. It’s nice to see that not everyone wants to turn the mountains into New York.

2016 Day 7 (1)From there, we headed off on a huge 54 mile adventure to Buena Vista and Cottonwood Hot Springs. This is one of the nicest private hot springs I’ve experienced.  The surroundings are beautiful. The springs are hot enough to satisfy a boiled egg. It’s been a good day. In a couple of days, I’ll be pounding my way back home, so getting to hang with a friend and relax in a place that I like a lot is a gift. Tomorrow, we’re heading for Gunnison and, possibly, Pagosa Springs. After that, I’m aiming my bike toward Denver to North Platt and up into central Nebraska and home. I might take as long as three days to get back home, but I might also decided to pound some super slab and make time across the flyover territory. I think I saw the best Nebraska has to offer on the way out and it might be hard to find a return path that has anything near last week’s ride out.

2016 Day 6 (4)Scott is on a 2014 V-Strom, with ABS and all the Suzuki trimmings. My old rat bike is a decade older and a generation older technology. Hopefully, sometime this trip we’ll swap bikes and I’ll get a feel for what the new model is like.

Jun 26, 2016

Our Own Worst Enemies

steamboat_springs_coYesterday, on the way up to Steamboat Springs via CO 14, I got a taste of why the MMSC keeps publishing those silly “Start Seeing Motorcycles” stickers. The road was pretty packed with bicyclists for the first 40 miles. RVs and cages were intermittent and moving easily at the speed limits. Half way to Walden, a half-dozen squids on sportbikes wearing everything from full leathers to jeans and a jacket came blasting through the traffic, passing on both sides of the uphill lane, squeeking into spaces between cages where they barely fit, passing so that traffic in both directions had to make evasive maneuvers to keep these Darwin Award applicants from fulfilling their deathwish, and making as much noise as a poorly setup sportbike in 1st gear at 50mph can make. A dozen miles later, the clueless pack was scattered at a rest stop planning their random motions back down the hill, I imagine.

There is no shortage of reasons motorcyclists are among the world’s least popular people. Do a Google search for “I hate motorcyclists” to get a taste of opinions, reasons, and the level of anomosity. We’re loud, arrogant, incompetent, dangerous and self-destructive, expensive, selfish, and we whine a lot. We make such a small contribution to actual transportation that we probably shouldn’t be allowed on major highways or, even, public streets. We kill and maim ourselves in big numbers, barely make a noticable dent in miles-driven on public roads, and we expect more special rights than any other minority group on the road and, maybe, in society (especially considering our meager “contribution”).

IMG_7635[1]This pair of clueless squids started off my morning by making a super noisy pass through the motel parking lot, stopping at the lot’s exit to play with their cellphones (I was too late to get both of the dweebs “tweeting” or whatever it is that dorks do with their phones in such situations), exited to the right, made a u-turn in traffic, and passed back the opposite direction as noisly as possible. Clearly, motorcycle licenses are WAY too easy to get.

Jun 25, 2016

And Into the Mountains

2016 Day 3-4 (6)Yesterday, I rode from Valentine to Sterling, Colorado. I started early and stopped often. US 20 and US 83 are old stomping grounds for me. Back in the late-70’s, this was US 83 and I drove that path to death. 100,000 miles per year worth. After six years of that kind of driving in Texas and Nebraska, I learnery d to hate driving; at least 4-wheel vehicles.

However, this period really changed my two-wheel life. I went from a guy who owned a motorcycle to a motorcyclist who was part of a small-but-my-first community of off-road riders who were motocrossers, trialers, cross country and enduro riders. To be honest, this is the first community of any sort I ever belonged to; except musicians who might not qualify on several counts.

2016 Day 3-4 (1)This amazing river was a place we went for escape from our tenuious life in Nebraska. We took friends and family on river trips from Valentine to one of the many exit points downriver; usually at the Rock Barn campground. All sorts of independent tought came out of those trips. If I could pilot a canoe over Rocky Ford, I could probably take on a lot more work, responsibility, and challenges in my regular boring life.

2016 Day 3-4 (14)The ride across the Sandhills was terrific. It was greener than I’ve ever seen it. The road was well designed and scenic. Nobody was waiting for me at the end, pissed off because my employer had promised I’d be there hours earlier. At the end, an afternoon with a friend I first met when we were both kids, in 1965. Ed and I played in a couple of bands and have been near-brothers for fifty years. Unfortunately for him, we’re closer than either of us imagined. I discovered he had a moderately worn 1997 Winnebago Rialta in his driveway. So, I’ll be sending him a packet of all of the crap I learned about the Rialta and VW when I get back home.

2016 Day 3-4 (16)This morning, I headed off for the mountains, after cleaning the bike and doing a fairly intensive inspection. Cleaning your vehicle in water-starved Colorado is surprisingly expensive. I followed CO 14 all the way to the Rabbit Ears pass and Steamboat Springs. What a great road! That might be the prettiest way I’ve found, yet, to get to Steamboat.

Today is a screw-around day. I got to Steamboat about 2PM, checked into the hot springs pools and blew 2 hours mellowing out.Lucked into a nice motel room for non-holiday prices, and spent the day wandering around Steamboat. Tomorrow, a short ride to Leadville to meet Scott.

Jun 23, 2016

Trip Slideshow

I have setup this slideshow so that it runs newest to oldest. If you've seen it once, it will probably be different (at the beginning) the next time. Most likely, I won’t have the internet service on this trip to constantly update my slideshow, but as I add pictures they’ll show up on this post.

Back and Forth and In and Out

2016 Day Two (1)The back and forth bit is mostly about my tire solution this morning. After a few hours of calling dealers and repair shops, I found a dealer in Sioux City with a tire, a really good tire. After driving back about 70 miles, Midwest Honda Suzuki Kubota swapped out my dying Bridgestone for a Continental and got me back on the road by 10:30AM. By the time I got back to where I’d begun my morning, I was about 2 hours behind my original schedule since I’d have had breakfast before heading to Ashfall State Park.

2016 Day Two (2)The old but younger me would have been pissed off at having spent a premium for not adequately evaluating the failed tire. I just can’t generate much energy for that sort of self-recrimination tonight. I looked at the tire repeatedly, not to mention having just installed it right after I got back from last summer’s Nebraska trip. The tire couldn’t have more than 1,600 miles of wear and I just don’t have the kind of experience to be able to known when a tire brand is going to be worthless. Now I know and I’ll avoid Bridgestone from here out. Hopefully, the experience with the new Continental TKC 70 will be better. About 300 miles later and so far so good.

2016 Day Two (10)The “in and out” bit is about the landmarks I stopped for today. As usual, I collected a few abandoned building shots. For some reason, this route (US 20) pulls me past a lot of abandoned Nebraska school buildings. Those structures always leave me a little sad. But I take their picture anyway. Today, my usual picture stoppers (tailgaters) were mostly absent. I think I captured some of my best rotting architecture images ever.

2016 Day Two (21)My first stop was Ashfall Fossil Beds State Park. Wolf and I discovered this amazing paleontology site when we did our Rocky Mountain Tour a few years back. Not much has changed since then, but I still wanted to see the place again since my family spent a lot of time in that general area 40 years ago and the history is incredibly interesting. After asking a fairly stupid question, I ended up getting a long, detailed explaination of how you tune your eyes to find fossils from the park’s resident professor. I am probably still going to miss most, but I have a better shot at seeing some now.

2016 Day Two (34)Finally, my end target for the day was Valentine, NE and the Niobrara River. This is another place my family cherished when we lived in Nebraska. For a while, I was almost an expert at the river. Between the Niobrara and the Elkhorn, I never canoed so much in my life before or after. Even the lake in my backyard in Little Canada didn’t see nearly as much effort as those two rivers.

Again, I lucked into a decent priced room and the camping gear remains untouched.

Jun 22, 2016

One Down, Some to Go

2016 Day One (46)My first day on the road lasted about 12 hours and a little less than four hundred miles. Not much by Iron Butt standards, but pretty good considering I spent almost three hours in the National Music Museum in Vermillion, SD this afternoon. After a winter spent learning how to build an acoustic guitar, this museum means even more to me. I have a new appreciation for nlay work, binding and shaping, complicated shapes, structural bracing, finishes, and the creativity and artistry that luthiers and instrument makers have exhibited over the centuries. I’ll post the pictures I took at the museum here, but if you have any interest in wordworking, metal work, or art you should visit this national treasure yourself.

Supposedly, last year when Scott and were at the museum, the big exhibit was Bill Clinton’s sax. I don’t remember it, if I saw it. That was a cluster-fuck of a visit, since Scott was panicking over a lost master link clip on his Honda. I got drug into his deal and that pretty much turned the museum visit into a multi-tasking event and I am unable to do that dance. This time, I wallowed in endless time (3 1/2 hours before the museum closed) and mono-tracked on the museum contents. As a destination, Vermillion is pretty satisfying.

2016 Day One (47)When I came out of the museum, a couple of guys were looking at my bike as if they had something they needed to say to me. There was a nasty puddle under the bike and it sorta looked like I’d sprung a leak. I’d had the bike covered and the “leak” was my Camelbak dribbling all over my gear. No problem.

I left Red Wing about 6:30AM this morning. Taking MN 19 west until it eventually merged with MN 60, I kept at it until breakfast at Mountain Lake, MN. I’d show you a picture of what I ate, but you’ve probably seen breakfast before. If not, I recommend the only restaurant in Mountain Lake where you can eat a decent omlet and take your own picture.

On my to-do list was “take lots of abandoned building pictures.” Everytime I passed a cool looking relic, there was a cage or semi on my ass. So, not a single historic building in the camera today. My razoo Garmin Nuvi 500 routed me along mostly two lane roads except for when it tried to send me down dirt roads or when I hooked up to 60 for a while. That got me to Vermillion at about 1PM. I made a couple of laps around the museum and left Vermillion at 5PM.

Road construction and impatience sent me down a Nebraska country road that turned into about 20 miles of intermittent deep gravel and sand. Finally, I hit NE 15 south to US 20 west and I was making time again. Since tomorrow’s goal is Nebraska’s Ashfalls State Park, quitting early seemed like a good plan.

2016 Day One (48)I found a cheap motel in Randolph, NE and settled down for a quiet evening with a book and my blog. However, after pulling the gear off of the bike I did a maintenance loop around the bike. Son of a bitch if my nearly new back tire wasn’t already bald! If you look at the damn tire in the “leak” picture above, it looked good. Less than 100 miles later and the Bridgestone Trailmaster has worn to nothing. About 30 miles of that was gravel road, so if that’s what “Trailmaster” means to Dunlop, I’ll be remembering that when I replace the tire.

Jun 21, 2016

Slow to No Start

Today was supposed to be the first day of my Rocky Mountain Hot Springs tour, but yesterday was a lost cause so I put off leaving for a day. I don’t really have much of a schedule planned, so a day here or there means nothing. Tomorrow, I just want to make it to the corner of southeast South Dakota in time to visit the National Music Museum in Vermillion. I’ll probably find a motel close to there. Next stop, Ashfalls State Park in Nebraska.

Jun 18, 2016

Is This A Good Thing?

For those of you who still imagine there is such a thing as “German Quality,” the news that "Ducati Is Not For Sale" is probably a good thing. For those of us who wouldn’t consider an overpriced, overcomplicated, barely-supported Ducati as anything other than a rich guy’s toy, it’s pretty much a wash. For everyone else, it’s a serious question. If the notorious VW/Audi corporation is planning on hanging on to Ducati to the bitter end, where does that put Ducati’s customers?

Jun 15, 2016

Letter to the County

For about five years, I kept data on my local sheriff’s department “work” regarding controling noise in my neighborhood and filed a report to the sheriff’s department. Yeah, I know, cops are lazy and arrogant and don’t like citizens to tell them how to do (or not do) their barely-qualifies-as-work “jobs.” Still, my property taxes were not insignificant and I thought an occasional nudge might, eventually, get the uniformed tax collectors off of their fat asses. It had, as you would expect, exactly no effect whatsoever. Not even a polite response. Since we were leaving Little Canada last spring, my “last” letter never got mailed. This morning, I was cleaning out the Drafts folder in Outlook and found this:

Sheriff  Bostrum,

Here I am again. Although since you haven’t responded to the last several letters I’ve written your office, you may not know or remember that I’ve been here before. I have been a Ramsey County resident and tax payer for 20 years. Since the first year I moved to Little Canada the Sheriff’s office bill to my city for what passes as law enforcement has gone from $90,000 per year to $1,338,276 in 2014. In fact, for the last five years, the annual cost increases have been greater than the city’s entire 1997 “Police”  budget.

I have been keeping a log of loud motorcycle incidents and the numbers suggest to me that Ramsey County's noise ordinance isn't working very well. Since April 8, when I began the log, through June 1, I have heard 301 violations. This is an average of about six per day which is a lot for such a small section of the city, especially for a city that enacted a noise ordinance about four years ago that was intended to curb this illegal behavior.

I believe that a very conservative estimate of the average number of violations in the entire city to be at least 15 per day from May through October which means that for the first three years of having the ordinance, there have been over 8,000 violations.

As you might know, since 1983 all motorcycles sold in the United States must have an Environmental Protection Agency noise compliance label attached to the chassis at the factory and a matching label engraved on the muffler. Replacing the muffler with one that lacks the label is illegal under federal law.

In fact, the city of Denver enacted an ordinance last summer that's based on the EPA label system. So far a number of bikers have paid a fine, and one has decided to dispute his violation by questioning the constitutionality of the ordinance. That's yet to be ruled on by a court. There are more than a few laws that could be used to return some semblance of public peace and quiet, if we had a law enforcement system that worked for that purpose.

This isn't only a quality of life issue, it's also a public health problem since medical research has increasingly found that exposure to loud noise is unhealthy.

I have no problem with quiet, legal motorcycles, just the loud ones.

So for the fourth consecutive year, I'm requesting that the sheriff’s officers consistently enforce our laws and ordinances to reduce the number of loud motorcycle incidents.


Thomas Day
Little Canada, MN 55117

Appealing to an American cop’s sense of duty is a pointless exercise. This group of “public servants” is so entitled that they believe they are above laws, beyond reproach, and only bother with enforcing laws that don’t interfere with their donut breaks or make them think particularly hard. Red Wing is even less inclined to pay attention to noise laws. Oh well.

Jun 4, 2016

This May be the Last Time

Last year's MMSC training season was pretty much a bust. The first 3-4 months were a clusterfuck of mostly Century College classes that I signed up for because I assumed I'd be shuffling between our new home in Red Wing and the house we were selling in Little Canada. Instead, the Little Canada house sold in March and I ended up trying to make the 60-mile-one-way commute less miserable by checking into hotels for a day so my wife and I could pretend we were getting something out of the trips. The season ended with a foot injury that almost turned me into an invalid for the last months of that summer. Century has been my home school for almost ten years and when I tried a couple of classes closer to my new home I was reminded of my original reason for keeping it close. Unfortunately, there are some really awful instructors out there and I'd just as soon not even know them let alone work with 'em.

The sign-up process for MMSC classes has been a giant hassle since the first year the state took over the program. Each college has it's own meeting (I hate all meetings) and instructors are asked to select class dates 5-10 months into the future for the next year's season; usually sometime between November and early January. It you want to teach at four locations, four meetings at various inconvenient times. Way back in 2002, the state tried an on-line sign-up but too many of the seven or eight 90-year-old long-term instructors couldn't figure out the pipes and wires of "the new-fangled intrasnet-thing" and instructors with senility pulled rank and bawled until the system was drug back to the 1800's.

This year, I decided to give myself a break for the first time since 2001. I only went to the Red Wing sign-up. Later, I ended up volunteering for an IRC (Intermediate Rider Course) that turned into this television PSA: "Experienced motorcyclists most at risk for crashing." So far, one of my four classes has cancelled (due to low turnout). This weekend will be my only BRC of the season. Sometime in July, I'm supposed to do another IRC in Red Wing. After that, I'm free for the first summer in 15 years. The purpose of this break is to see if I miss it. If I don't, this will be my last MSF/MMSC season.