Great Lakes Gold – 2009

I hadn’t really planned on doing a Great Lakes Gold ride this year, since I had several other rides I wanted to do, but when I changed jobs back in May, and consequently lost a week’s vacation time, I had to change some of my plans. Griff had talked to me in the past about attempting this ride, and with the route for it only being a few miles from my house, it once again entered into my thoughts as a route I could do on short notice, and with little time off. The real tipping point is when I was reading about all you peeps that went out to CFR. It was as I was reading about those rides that I decided I NEEDED to get on the road for a few days.

I got the go ahead from both my wife and boss at the new job to take a few days for the ride, but they seemed in total agreement that I was totally nuts. While a few people outside of the riding community thought the idea sounded cool, everyone agreed that I was crazy for wanting to do the ride. When asked “Why” I answered that it was for the same reason I use to mountain climb; because it is there, and I like the challenge of it.

The first item I needed to take care of was getting a new passport. I was a bit worried about getting it in time, but as it turned out it only took about 3 weeks. I did not pay the extra money to have it expedited.

Planning the route was pretty easy, since there are several reports online from people who have done the ride in the past, and with the points you are required to get receipts from there isn’t a ton of room for flexibility. I am having problems getting my route to print, but here is what my route looked like more or less, but I started in Rockford IL:

The two decisions I had to make was if I wanted to do the route clockwise or counterclockwise, and if I wanted to take the northern route while in Canada, or stay closer to the lake. I decided to go counterclockwise, since that way I would be going around Chicago during the very early hours of the morning, and at the beginning of the ride. Being tired and not knowing for sure what time I might hit the Chicago area as I was trying to finish the ride did not seem like a good idea to me. I decided to take the northern route while in Canada because I wanted to avoid as much traffic as possible and the fuel stops were close enough together to be doable.

As the time for the ride got closer, a few other forum members were talking about going with me, but in the end work got in the way for them, and I went on my own. There are pro’s and con’s to with others or by yourself, and I was fine with either way.

I have to admit that I did this ride with as little planning and preparation as I think I have done just about any trip in my life. I did borrow a SPOT from another forum member, but at the request of my wife I had it in the “OK” mode for the ride. This way I could send her a text message every few hours to let her know I was OK, since she doesn’t have access to the internet while at work, but could keep her cell phone with her. The day before the ride I was going past an REI store, and decided to pick up a few MSR fuel bottles just in case. I ended up not needing them, but it was very nice to know I had them just in case. I also had the tires on the bike changed the day before I left, and I was darn glad I did with the amount of rain I hit. Other than that, it was pretty much just get on the bike, tell the GPS to “GO”, and then ride, ride, and ride. I didn’t make any hotel reservations, I didn’t do anything to “Get in shape” for the ride, and I only took a few very brief minutes to look over the bike before hitting the road.

After short night sleep of about 5 hours, I hit the road at 3:19 Thursday morning. I had checked with the gas station I wanted to use for my starting receipt the day before to make sure I could get the receipt I would need, and there appeared to be no issues. However, when I went and filled up before getting on the actual route, the printer at the pump failed. OK, into the store to get a copy. SHIT, the copy doesn’t have half the information I need. Back out to the pumps, back up to another pump for a splash, and then the correct receipt. I lost about 10 minutes right off the bat.

The ride around Chicago was completely uneventful. I ride in the area a lot for work, so I am familiar with the roads, traffic patterns, and tolls.

That brings up my first point of advice. DO NOT even think of trying this ride without an I-Pass or EZ-Pass for the tolls. As it was I still had to manually pay a toll in OH, and for the bridge right before the border, but otherwise I only had to slow down, and I didn’t have to fumble for any money.

I made really good time going across Indiana, and Ohio, and the roads were pretty much just mile after boring mile of slab. There were a few things to see here and there, but still, slab is slab.

My real first bit of excitement started as I was entering Pennsylvania, and then my first gas stop in New York. As I was entering into PA, the sky’s got dark, and the temp dropped like a rock. I still had my heavier clothes under my Stich from the beginning of the ride, so the temps actually felt good for awhile, and in the end the rain was light and brief. My planned gas stop turned out to be completely closed, and the next stop for gas that was right on the highway was 32 miles away. I wasn’t as far into my reserve as I feared I might be when I pulled in, but the 50+ cars waiting in line to get gas once again cost me a bunch of time. The sky as I entered PA:

One downside to starting a little earlier than I did was that I hit the border right at rush hour. It still may have been a good thing tough, since I think it would have been even worse later into the night, with people going north for a three day weekend. It only took about 15-20 minutes, and I consoled myself during the wait by looking at the SMOKING HOT Canadian border agent. Sorry, the camera had been packed away due to the fear of rain, so no pictures. I was surprised that she didn’t even ask me to take off my full-face helmet, but maybe she had seen enough of my ugliness to decide she had seen enough of my ugliness.

After crossing into Canada, I got my first appreciation for how SLOW their speed limits are set. The first few miles after the crossing were bad, but then people started to ignore the limit more and more as we drove towards Ottawa. My first gas stop in Canada was also a bit of a surprise for me. I now remember reading something about the gas stations up there not having “Pay at the Pump” but when I first rolled in, and couldn’t see a place to insert my credit card, I was perplexed. Then when a guy came out and wanted to fill the bike for me, I was stunned. I haven’t seen a full service gas station in probably 20 years. There were several full service stations along the way, but they were all OK with my “I’ll fill it, and you can keep me company” statement. If they thought I was going to let them overfill the tank, and get gas everywhere, or under fill it so I run out on one of the longer legs, they were very mistaken. As I was paying for the gas a few ladies commented that I was going to get rained on. Sure as hell about 15 minutes of driving West, and the sky started to open up. It rained HARD and HEAVY for the rest of the way to North Bay, and there was a lightning show that made me seriously think about trying to find some place to hold up, but every time I thought about it there was nothing in sight, and when there was a place to stop it seemed to be letting up. The up side of the rain was that I knew the chances of encountering any wildlife on the road went way down.

When I got into North Bay I was feeling pretty good, but decided I had had enough for the day, and didn’t want to ride in the rain any longer. I topped off with gas, spoke briefly to a guy working at a local air force base about the FJR and how much he liked it, and then went to the Super 8 to get a room. I got the last room they had, a “Suite” and got a good 4 hours of sleep. I must have been more tired than I realized, since I was sound asleep within 5 minutes of lying down. I think the rain over the last 3 hours of the ride really took its toll, and in retrospect stopping and getting those few hours sleep was one of the best decisions I made during the ride.

I awoke to my “Screaming Meanie,” and since this was the first time I have ever used it I had a hell of a time figuring out, while still half asleep, how to turn the thing off. I was smart enough to jamb the thing under the pillow and then press buttons, instead of waking the entire hotel up. I was also smart enough to have it set on the lower level, since I am a light sleeper normally. I quickly took a shower, and basically got back to feeling human again. I hit the road to head north into the woods at around 3:45 am.

The rain that made my life so much fun the night before must have been on the edge of a cold front that made the first few hours of Friday a real joy. From North Bay up to Cochrane the temp never got above 40 degrees, and went as low as 35 degrees. I was SO GLAD I had packed my electric heated gear with me. Who would have ever though I would be freezing my ass off on a ride at the beginning of August? The other thing that came with the cold temps was fog. All of the rivers and lakes in the area were giving off really thick fog, which made visibility go down to a few yards in some places. There are few things that are more fun than freezing your ass off, while riding through thick fog, and trying to keep an eye out for the odd Moose that might be on the road.

I wasn’t entirely sure that I was even going to make it into Cochrane, since do to filling up the night before, and then going to the hotel, I had added about 20 miles onto my route. In the end, I was 48 miles into the reserve when I made it to the Husky Gas station in Cochrane. This is a 24 hour station for anyone who is wondering, and there were actually a few newer stations along the way, but they were all closer to North Bay. After filling up, I ended up talking with the cashier, who just couldn’t understand why I would want to ride a sport touring bike and not one of the new Yamaha V-Star cruisers. I guess you either get it, or you don’t.

Pretty much all of the roads I was on while in Canada had a speed limit of 90 KPH. That is something like 56-57 miles per hour. As I was riding the roads after fueling up in Cochrane, I thought that there was just no way anyone could be expected to ride roads this straight, and this empty at that speed. As it turns out, the local authorities really do expect you to stay near that speed limit.

I won’t ever thank an officer for giving me a ticket, but I am thinking about writing a letter to this officer’s superiors to let them know that this officer set the standard for being polite and courteous. In the end he gave me a pretty good break off of my 27 KPH over the limit, and I have to pay a small fine. It is funny how the officer being nice about things, and treating me like an adult instead of a kid who got caught with a his hand in the cookie jar, made a huge difference in my attitude about getting a ticket. Thanks Officer J. Kingsley. I tried to keep it within the 20 KPH grace area the officer said he normally allowed people from then on, but I may have gone a little over that once or twice. Here is my only souvenir I brought back from Canada.

Things were going fine until I was pulling into Thunder Bay. While sitting at a light just before my next gas stop I noticed my reflection in the tailgate of the pickup in front of me that one of my headlights was out. I decided not to take the chance of the other one burning out while in Northern Wisconsin later that night, and having to try and change it out in a dark parking lot, or worse yet on the side of the road. I spent a good 15 to 20 minutes getting the headlight changed out in the parking lot, and overheard the usual comments about my bike and Stich from a group of “The Tribe” that had pulled into the gas station.

I had been looking forward to the stretch of the ride from Thunder Bay down to Duluth, since I had heard the views of the lake were pretty good, but to be honest I wasn’t all that impressed. Here is one of two photo’s I took:

I think the views might be better if you are going in the opposite direction, but I don’t know. Unfortunately, I also was riding this section late in the afternoon Friday, which meant there was all kinds of weekend traffic. Luckily, I hit the border crossing just right, and was able to get through in a total of about 5 minutes, and was actually a little happy that the US border agents asked me to take off my helmet and asked a few more questions. I am OK with it being slightly harder to get into the US. There are several tunnels as you are about to get into Duluth, and I found those kind of cool.

I made the mistake of planning for a gas station right in downtown Duluth, which was off route, even though it looked like it was very close. There are several gas stations a little further south of where I stopped that are right on the route, and would have saved me probably around 10-15 minutes. I also had the joy of once again having to go into the gas station to get a receipt, since the receipt at the pump refused to print. I am usually very fast at getting in and out of gas stops, but on this ride I ran into more problems with the automated pump receipts than I ever have in my life.

It was amazing how the temps began to rise as soon as I was headed south and away from Lake Superior. From North Bay down to Duluth the temps never got above 65, and Duluth was downright chilly at 60 degrees, but within minutes of heading south it was in the mid 70’s. And that was when the rain started again. It rained a light steady rain for just about the entire state of Wisconsin, which while not a lot of fun, once again had the benefit of lowering the chances of having a close encounter with a forrest rat. Overall Wisconsin was uneventful, and despite the traffic being pretty heavy I made good time.

I pulled off at the same exit I had started the route at, and went to get my final gas receipt, from the same station I had stated at. You would think that with over 16 pumps to choose from my chances of getting one that wouldn’t give me a receipt would be very slim, but sure as hell, the receipt gods once again decided they didn’t like me. So I pulled over to another pump to do a splash and get the oh-so valuable paper receipt. Once again, I had no luck, as the pump read “See clerk for receipt” and from my experience at the start of the ride, I knew that wasn’t going to do me any good. So I decided to dash across the street to a Mobil to try again. Again I put in about $0.12 worth of gas, and again I got the dreaded “See clerk for receipt” message. I went in and after a few minutes of trying to print something the clerk said “Sorry my printer is freaking out.” At this point I am about ready to lose it. I stomp back out to the bike, and head towards the last gas station that I can think of in the area. Luckily, on this my 4th try, I finally got a good receipt with all the information required by the IBA. I could have asked any of the maybe 16 year old clerks for a hand written receipt, but I wanted a computer one that in my mind seemed more official.

I finally pulled into my garage at 11:32 Friday night, after 2483 miles according to the ODO on the bike. The GPS gave the total mileage as 2437.5 miles, which sounded to be about the right amount I know my ODO is off. My overall average speed was 62.2 MPH, and my moving average was 67.4 MPH. Max speed was …..OK it was 111 MPH at one point. My stopped time was 2:59 minutes, but keep in mind that ALL of these numbers do not include my 5 hour rest stop in North Bay. That is probably when some punk kids took my bike out and ran it up to 111 MPH. Fooking deviants.

During the entire ride I consumed about a half to ¾ of a gallon of lemonade, which is my preferred drink for LD rides. Tart enough to wake me up, no caffeine, and still hydrates. I had a small bowl of oatmeal before I started the ride early Thursday morning, and then only had 3 Snickers bars while at gas stops. I didn’t even think about being hungry until I was almost home.

As far as my gear, my Sidi “On Road” boots were 100% waterproof throughout all the rain. They get an A++ in my book. My Aerostich also was completely waterproof during the ride. My Stich has been great ever since I started doing the wash in waterproofing at the beginning of the season, started paying very close attention to the inner flaps and how they line up when I know I am going to be riding in the rain, and I seam sealed the entire suite. I chose to wear my Shoei X-11 instead of my Multitech for the ride, since I figured I wouldn’t be talking to a lot of people, wouldn’t be eating much, and the X-11 is far more comfortable for me. I took several pairs of gloves, but only used my Icon medium weight ones, and the North Face rain over gloves during the entire ride. I had used the North Face gloves in the past and had problems, but I once again used the wash in water proof on them, and they were perfect throughout this ride. I like them since they are a glove, and not a mitten.

I used my pair of LD tights for the first time on this ride, and they are great. I think that because of them, the Russell seat, and the cooler temps I had literally ZERO monkey butt at the end of the ride. The bike ran perfect, and other than the light bulb, I had no problems. I added PHID’s this last winter, and they were fantastic in the very dark areas.

I am glad I did this ride, but to be honest I am not in any hurry to do it again. While not quite as bad as riding across the Great Plains, I found it to be fairly boring overall. It was a good challenge, and time on the bike is always better than time in the office, but for the next ride I want to have something better to look at. I think the BBG I did on the way out to NAFO last year was harder than this ride, but that was probably due to the heat for that ride more than anything else.

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Replacement FJR

All of the information and pictures here were posted over several weeks on both the FJR Forum and the FJRiders Forum. I decided to add them to my blog as well.

In September of 2010 while on a ride in MO I went into a corner too fast, and ended up low siding my 2006 FJR. While I walked away with only a few bumps and bruises, the bike ended up being totalled. I now have a replacement very low miles, STOCK, 2006 FJR, and I plan on spending the winter setting it up for IBA rides and hopefully some rallies.

In the last two weeks I have managed to get a little, not much, but a little done on the bike. Mostly, I have been taking things off of the bike, so I can add farkles.

Once some of the items were out of the way, the first thing I did was to get rid of the PAIR system. I was able to get the needed hardware off of the old bike before i turned it in, and I really like the way this cleans up the engine compartment. It makes doing a TBS a hell of a lot easier.

I am also hoping the extra space will make adding the needed lines for a fuel cell at some point in the future a little easier.

Next I removed the handles bars, triple tree, front tire, and forks.

I did this to change the front tire, add 90 degree valve stems, put on a super brace, install risers, and add the stem mount for my ZUMO gps.

The other advantage of taking all these things off is that it makes getting at the head lights a lot easier, and installing the HID’s is the first thing I will do before putting things back together.

One thing I have learned from working on the bike many times now, is that since I almost never get to work on it for more than an hour or two at a time, keeping things in order is critical. One thing I do is to take any fasteners for a panel or part and put them in a zip-lock bag. I them tape the bag onto the part. The more I label things, the easier it is to get things back together, sometimes several weeks after I have taken them apart.

I should receive my rebuilt Penske rear shock on Monday. When I go to install it, I am going to take the rear tire off and also grease the splines on the drive shaft. I am then going to be doing the needed modifications to go over to the dark side, and run a car tire.

I hope to get to work on the bike again tomorrow, or maybe next weekend, but with two little kids, and Christmas just around the corner, free time is hard to come by.
I got up at 4:15 this morning to try and have a few hours to work on the bike without interruption.

If there is a HELL, I am positive that working on the headlights of a Gen 2 FJR will be one of the worst things souls will have to do there. It took a while, but I was able to get the HID conversion set installed. The number of wires you have to deal with, and try to hide is….challenging. I think the way I have things zip-tied will work.

By the time I was done with the fooking head lights, I wasn’t in the mood to deal with anything too involved. So I slide the forks back on for a minute to help align the triple tree, and then installed it with the risers.

I wanted the get the handle bars out of the way, and this work was pretty easy. I then finished putting on the BMW grips, the heavy bar ends, my Pazzo levers with the new long clutch lever installed, and I decided to give the hand guards I have another try.

It looks like it will be at least a week until I get another chance to work on the bike. By then I know the rebuild Penske will be ready to install, and I am hoping the Clearwater lights I bought will be here as well. I forgot to mention that I also added the Vista Cruise, which I use as a back up for the Audiovox CC, and when I just need to free up my right hand for a few seconds.

My full day set aside for working on the bike turned into only about 4 hours, but I was still able to get a few things done. First I drained the fork oil. Judging from how the oil looked (it only had 8K miles on it) I am really glad I took the time to do this. The forks are still hanging in the shop, since the oil takes quite awhile to drain all the way.

Then I took off the rear wheel, and pulled the drive shaft the grease the splines. I also took off the rod that connects the rear brake, since i am going to convert over to the dark-side. I then took off the stock rear shock, and installed my newly serviced Penske.

I then put my Audiovox CC on, though the install is far from complete. I will have to talk to Smitty to figure out how to complete a few of the connections.

I also started to pull some of the electrical wires from the front to the tail of the bike where I have the Fuzeblock mounted.

I didn’t connect them, but I just couldn’t resist mounting the Clearwater lights on one side of the bike. I think I am going to need to modify the brackets sent from Clearwater, since they are not drilled out enough to allow them to mount on the metal studs for the mirrors. They sit on top of the rubber gasket that normally goes between the mirror and the plastic, and I don’t feel like that is solid enough. Still, they look great!

Hopefully I will get a chance to work on it for a few more hours this weekend.

Weekly Update:

I don’t feel like I got much of anything done this weekend, but I do feel like I spent a lot of time chasing my tail, and making trips to the hardware store.

I was able to finish making my stainless steel brake bar, and got it installed. This required one of the trips to the hardware store, for 5/16″ drill bit, after I FRIED the one I had.

I then decided to try and finish mounting the Clearwater lights. I wanted to drill out the mounting brackets that came with the lights, so that they actually went over the studs from the mirror mounts, and didn’t just sit on top of them. I wanted to make the fit of these as perfect as I could, and while it looked like a 3/8″ drill bit would work perfect, I ended up having to make another trip to the hardware store to get a 25/64 bit. Even at that size, the brackets are VERY tight on the posts. I think the 4 light set up looks bad-ass, but I won’t be 100% convinced until everything is hooked up, and I can use them on a dark road.

I spent a decent amount of time pulling wires, and starting to get things set up for connecting the Krista’s. Between all the wires for the 2 sets of Krista’s, and the wires form the converting the head lights to HID’s the nose of the bike is a mess. I am just praying everything works when I start the bike up and turn the lights on. Otherwise it is going to suck to pull everything out to find the problem.

I also wanted to finish changing the oil on the forks and get them installed, but I ran out of oil after finishing one of the forks, and there wasn’t anywhere to buy fork oil that was open on a Sunday. That will have to wait until next week.

I have also been making slow progress on hooking up the Audiovox Cruise Control, but I have NO IDEA what needs to be done in regards to hooking up some of the wires just behind the air filter. I didn’t have time to inspect them carefully before I removed them from the old bike, and I know something needs to be changed in regards to the factory settings, but I again I don’t know what. Any help would be great, and I have sent an E-mail to Smitty, since he installed the unit on my old bike. FWIW, I have red, blue, and purple wires coming from the Audiovox that need to be hooked up.

The fuel cell from Joe will be here tomorrow, but I haven’t done anything to get things ready for installing it. I had been hoping to have bought some of the fittings and fuel lines by now, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

I almost forgot, that I also received the G2 throttle tube from Highlander, and installed it. It was a piece of cake to install, and I hope it smooths things out as much as some of the people who have them say.

I had a few hours to work on the FJR this morning, so here is an update on what I have gotten done.

First thing this morning I got the Fender Extender glued on to the fender and clamped. I will leave it clamped for at least 2 or 3 days, and then it will be ready to be installed.

Next up was installing the car tire on the rear. This took a little longer than I had planed, but it all went together just fine. I was surprised when I went to pick the tire up on Saturday after having it mounted and the owner of the shop talked to me about how he ran a car tire on his Valkyrie for several years before he got rid of the bike. I guess I now be dark siding.

I decided to do something easy next, so I installed the Cee Baileys headlight guards. I know they look dorky, but I had them on my first FJR, and after 77K miles the factory head light plastic looked like new, while the guards had several deep scratches.

Then it was time for more wiring. I am so sick of doing wiring on this bike, but it has to get done. First I installed the Brodie ground spider harness. This was pretty easy to do with as many of the panels as I already had off the bike. I will say that a dental pick with a 90 degree bend at the tip worked great for getting the covers off, and the spiders out. I then installed the switches for the Clearwater lights, and for the Gerbing heated gear. I really liked the way the knobs from Clearwater looked, so I had them send me a few extra, and the knob fit the Gerbing control perfectly. I am really pleased with how the install of the three control knobs turned out.

I then installed the Addmore light harness for the lights that are installed on my Givi E52. Hooking this up was a breeze with this kit, though I did not run the wires strictly the way they advise, since I had to take into consideration how I had previously had the wiring run. I then mounted the plate for the Givi, which is about as easy of a thing to do as you can imagine.

I then installed all the fittings on my TAT fuel cell, and mounted it the bike, making sure that all the lines would not be pinched, and everything would work as it should.

There is still a ton to do, but I am putting things on the bike instead of taking them off, and that is a good feeling.

Well, I went out to the shop to take some picture of the work I got done today, and the batteries in the camera were dead. I will have to give more pictures for the next update.

I got up at 3:00 am this morning, so that I could have a few hours to work on things, and not have to worry about the kids, or my wife who is currently suffering from a herniated disk. Free time has been very hard to come by lately.

I finally got the front wheel installed, along with the front fender with the fender extender on it, and put the brakes calipers on. I then installed speed bleeders on the brakes and the clutch, and completely flushed the entire system. There was some nasty crap in the reservoir for the clutch, so even though the bike only has 8K miles on it, I was really glad I did this.

I then finished greasing the side and center stands, and for the first time in three months took the bike off of the cycle stand.

I then changed the anti-freeze, which probably didn’t need to be done, but with all the body panels off it was easy to do.

Next up was installing the Datel volt meter. I installed it in the exact same way and location as I did on my previous bike, as pictured earlier in this thread.

After that I just couldn’t resist starting the bike up to check to make sure all of the electrical items I added actually work. I added some gas into the tank, and set it next to the bike on a small work bench that works perfectly for supporting the tank and hooking it up, but not having the tank actually on the bike itself.

I had a few things to work out with how the Krista lights were hooked up, since I had hooked into the wrong wire on the horn (so that the lights go on high when the horn button is hit) and it took me a few minutes to figure out the problem. Otherwise everything worked just the way it should. I will have to wait until I get out on the road to try the cruise control, but it powered up just the way it should, so I hope it is all set.

I still have at least a full days worth of work to do before the bike will be ready to hit the road, and depending on the weather I might put off drilling the tank for the fuel cell for a few weeks, but I am starting the see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Now that the bike is up and running, I need to do a TBS, and chance the oil. I also need to clean up some of the wiring, since i am always hesitant to cut everything to final length until after I have checked to make sure it is actually working.

OK, photos as promised:

Rear of bike with Givi E52 with Admore light kit installed, and lots of reflective decals.

Datel volt meter installed just aft of the battery compartment.

Aux light switch and dials for dimmers on Clearwater lights and control for heated gear (knob on right).

HID head lights on low beam, Clearwater lights all the way down.

HIDs on low beam, and Clearwaters dialed all the way up, but still in the “low” setting.

HIDs on high beam, and Clearwaters on full blast.

You can see how much more light is thrown off on each setting by how light the background, which is behind where the lights are projecting, gets.

I was also able to take a few minutes and get the TBS done, though to be honest it didn’t really need it.

It was another 3:00 am start to try and get some work done on the bike this morning. It is actually starting to look like something I could ride again.

Here is how I routed the wires for the Krista lights.

And now a few pictures of how the lights work pointing out the door of my shop.
First is the HID’s only, and the Krista’s off.

Now with the Kristas on the lowest setting. I didn’t think there was almost any difference, but the Kristas in this mode will be acting as marker lights, and making me more noticeable.

Now with the Kristas turned all the way up, but still in the low beam setting.

Lastly, everything thing on full blast.

The one MAJOR thing I have not done is hook up the fuel cell. I need to research it more, and then grow my balls enough to drill the tank.

The Rifle windshield I ordered will be here tomorrow, and then I need to place an order for the N-Line dash and a few other goodies. I also bought a Garmin 2720 today, so I will be running it along with my Zumo 550.

Thanks to the dog waking me up at 3:00 am this morning, I got out to the shop early and got some work done. (The dog is getting old and can’t hold it like she used to).

The sealer to keep the tank from rusting again had dried for almost a full week, so it was time to put the bulkhead fitting in, and get the tank back on the bike. I decided to route the line for the fuel cell down the right side of the bike. here is the bulkhead fitting installed:

I was able to get the fitting installed without resorting to anything other than a standard 3/8″ ratchet. I bought the quick couplers from Sampson ,and they seem to work really well. Here is the tank mounted on the bike, and the quick coupler sticking out just a little from under the tank.

And a picture of the line going back to the fuel cell:

I put enough gas in both the tank, and the fuel cell to make sure nothing was leaking, and everything seems to be working. I had enough gas in the cell that when I opening the transfer valve, I could just barely hear fuel moving into the main tank. I put the seat on, and that part of the job was done.

I then needed to get the N-Line dash completely installed, and all of the accessories I am planning on keeping on the dash.

So I will cut to the chase. Here are the pictures as she is now, ready to go for a test ride tomorrow.

Front with Clearwater’s and HID’s on low:

With Clearwater’s and HID’s on high:

And the final touch:

So far, the list of things I have done to the bike since I bought it are:

>Installed Penske rear shock.
>Installed G2 throttle tube.
>Installed BMW grips.
>Installed hand-guards.
>Installed Pazzo levers.
>Installed heavy bar ends.
>Installed HID front light conversion.
>Changed final drive oil.
>Greased drive shaft splines.
>Installed “Darkside” rear brake caliper brace.
>Installed PAIR covers.
>Installed Vista cruise.
>Changed fork oil, and adjusted settings.
>Installed Super-Brace.
>Changed to Iridium sparks plugs.
>Changed air filter.
>Installed Audio-Vox cruise control.
>Installed fender extender.
>Installed dash mounted Gerbing heat control.
>Installed Cee-Bailey’s head light guards.
>Installed 90 degree valve stems.
>New PR2 front and Darkside car tire rear.
>Installed Brodie ground wire harness.
>Installed handle bar risers.
>Installed reflective decals on side bags and Givi E52.
>Installed Givi E52 with Addmore light kit.
>Installed speed bleeders on brakes and clutch.
>Bled brakes and clutch.
>Greased center and side stands.
>Changed anit-freeze.
>Installed Datel volt meter.
>Performed TBS.
>Installed motovation sliders.
>Installed Clearwater Krista LED lights.
>Changed engine oil and filter.
>Installed Rifle windshield and tuning blocks.
>Installed ZUMO 550 on stem mount.
>Installed N-Line dash shelf.
>Installed Garmin 2720 on dash shelf.
>Installed V1 radar detector with visual alert.
>Installed XM antenna on dash shelf.
>Installed TAT fuel cell.
>Treated gas tank for rust, and sealed it.
>Disconnected windshield auto retract.
>Added Russell seat.

I still need to get the fuel cell cover I have on order from Lind-T, put the Skyway hydration system on when I need it, and put the rest of the tank bag system with the rally book on when I need it. I think that about covers it.
A little update, since I finally got some of the products I was waiting for from Linda T. Here is the bike in full rally mode from the Bonzai rally last weekend. Hydration system, rally book, and fuel cell cover.

I still want to add map light for longer rallies, and then there is the entire communications system to upgrade, but that will have to wait for awhile.

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2011 Rallies

2011 Rally Season

After several years of thinking about and wanting to ride in rallies, I finally decided that 2011 was going to be the year. I was going to ride in 4 rallies this season, starting with the Bonzai Rally, then the Rally Rallie at CFO, the MN1K, and top the season off with the 5 day BitE rally.

I had spent the entire winter working on my replacement FJR, after totaling my first FJR last September, to make it as close to the ultimate LD / Rally bike as I could. See here if by some chance you have not seen the thread before:

I have to say that the Bonzai was NOT the rally to take on as the first one out of the gate. It was a great rally, and at only 12hours not too long, but having to find and input 60+ locations into the mapping software, and then plan your route, all in an hour and a half is not an easy thing to do. I roomed with Derek Dickson (stryg8r) which was both good and bad. I was able to witness first hand just how fast getting all this information processed can be done, but seeing him walk out the door to start his ride when I only had half of my information input into the computer was also frustrating. Derek and several others can vouch that I was more than a little frustrated at the beginning of the rally. I left the rally HQ with no plan, just the majority of the bonus locations uploaded into the GPS. I literally just looked at the GPS to see where the next closest location was, and that is where I went. I also tried to keep an eye on how much time I had to get back, so I wouldn’t be penalized or DNF.


(Just before starting the Bonzai. Notice almost no one left in the parking lot.)

 When I looked at the route I ended up riding after the end of the rally, it was a nice elongated loop, and I had managed to put together a decent ride out of a lot of luck and the drive to keep moving at all times.  I ended up being the top novice rider, and something like 12th overall. I was ecstatic with that, and the rally bug had bitten hard.

(The Bonzai Route was something like this)


(Not quite so grumpy at the end of the Rally.)

Next up was the Rally Rallie put on by Rick Corwin at the CFO rally. The rally was only 8 hours, and we received the bonus list about 3 days prior to the start of the rally. This allowed the riders enough time to really plan their route, which I enjoyed. Rick had several combo bonuses incorporated, and it became obvious that the winner was going to be the one who could combine routes to get as many of the combo’s as possible. Other than the slight curve ball Rick sent our way by giving us yard sticks as rally towels, this rally went pretty much by the numbers for me. I even had some extra time to hit an extra bonus before I had to head back to the hotel.

(TheRally Rallie Route was very close to this, with some last second changes)

If Rick is going to put this rally on again next year, I cannot recommend it highly enough for all riders, but especially anyone who wants to try a rally for the first time.

(Just look at that smile on my face at the end of the Rally Rallie)

Next up was the Team Strange MN1K at the end of July. By this time I felt like I was starting to get some understanding of how things needed to be done, and Derek had been answering my questions and giving me suggestions for months. Dana, (Opt8low) who had been encouraging me to get into rallies for years, had also been answering questions and giving advice, so I felt like I had picked up on a lot of little things that could help me. I had a few mechanical issues while on the way up to MN for the rally, but was able to get them sorted out shortly after getting to the hotel.  At the kick off dinner on Friday night  I felt like I was among the stars of the LD world. Both Peter Behm, who had just won the 2011 IBR, and Marty Leir, who had won the 2007 IBR were there, and I recognized about half the people in the room as riders who had been in and finished previous IBR rallies. I felt like a very, very small fish in a huge lake.  I starting thinking that my goal would be to finish in the upper half of the field. At the end of diner we received our rally packs, and it was off to the hotel to plan for the next day’s ride.

I was amazed, and honestly more than a little concerned, when after only about 45 minutes I had what I thought was a good route. I decided I would get the route uploaded and ready to go and then review it a little more. Having done that and not seeing any obvious big problems  I was able to get more than my usual amount of sleep the night before the rally, though I also tossed and turned a good amount with nervous energy to get going on the ride. Derek and I had agreed to meet for breakfast before going to the start of the rally, and after pushing and prodding him I was able to find out that at least the beginning of our routes were the same. That made me feel a lot better about things, but I also wondered if I was going to be able to keep up with the pace he would be setting. My concerns about how efficient Derek would be were realized when at the first bonus he had taken the required picture and was gone before I had even figured out what needed to be done.

(The Covered Bridge, 1st Bonus of the MN1K)

Throughout the first 8 hours of the rally Derek and I played “catch up, keep up” as we went from one bonus to another. He would get out in front of me, and then I would take a gravel road short cut and end up in front of him, only to have him be in and out of the next bonus location in half the time it took me. By late afternoon our routes had split apart from each other, and I found I was running ahead of schedule. This allowed me to add two additional bonus locations on to my route, and that is what made the difference for me. I didn’t add them in the most efficient manor, but it was good enough.

(Bonus #24 which made the difference)

Derek and I both planned on taking the 4 hour rest bonus at the very end of the rally, and decided that we would meet at the same restaurant we had eaten breakfast at. He called me when I was still about 20 minutes away from the restaurant asking where I was, but I was having issues with the microphone in my helmet so it took awhile before I could get him to understand that I was getting close. We both had something to eat and reviewed the bonus locations we had been to and the pictures we had taken. Then there was nothing left to do but to try to sneak in a little sleep, which the manager of the restaurant did not approve of, before heading for the finish line and the scoring table.

Derek had indicated that my route and point totals sounded really good, but with the experience of some of the riders in the rally I figured he was just being nice. I was hoping I could manage to finish in the top 10 or 15 since my ride had seemingly gone so well. Then the more I talked to the riders at the finish it became apparent that my ride was actually really good, and maybe I did have a shot at winning.

(MyMN1K Route)

Still, Derek and Dana had a good old time messing with my head while we were waiting for the results to be announced. In the end I managed to pull off winning the MN1K, which still seems amazing to me, and Derek finished a very close 2nd. What was more amazing is that it meant a slot to the 2013 IBR. Now I just had to convince my wife that it was OK for me to ride in the IBR.

My wife and I had SPECIFICALLY discussed the 2013 IBR, and had agreed that I would not apply for it since she wanted me to wait until our kids were older (they are 5 and 3 right now). Maybe it was because I won the slot, or because she just didn’t want to rain on my parade at the time, but my wife seemed to accept the idea of me riding in the IBR very easily, and even started talking about bringing the kids with her to the finish line, wherever it might be. I am one lucky guy.

(I still can’t believe I won the MN1K)

In two VERY short weeks it was time to leave for the BitE rally. During that time I had once again asked Derek about a million questions, and generally been a pain in his ass. Since he was going to be riding right past my place to get to the rally we had agreed to ride down together. Derek wanted to make several stops along the way for the “Smoke Chasing Rally” which was fine with me; I was glad to have the company for the ride down.  We made our way from one stop to another, up until the time that Derek’s camera had some…issues. Then it was time to hot foot it down to Statesvile NC, where the BitE was being based from.

We met most of the rest of the riders and the rally staff at dinner on Saturday night and confirmed what the schedule was going to be for Sunday. Sunday was spent doing some paperwork, ODO check, and making a trip to a local Walmart to get some medicine to try and help me get over a cold I couldn’t seem to shake. I started to wonder if I was getting strep, since my throat was killing me. Luckily I was feeling better by the start of the rally, but my wife did end up with strep while I was away on the ride.

We received the locations for the first leg Sunday morning, but no point values until the end of the dinner Sunday night. Then it was off to try and plan a route for the first leg of the rally, which went from 5:00 AM Monday morning to 5:00 PM on Tuesday. The check point was at Ed’s Last Resort in Surrency GA, which was several hundred miles to the south. Obviously it would have been best to start heading south right out of the gate, which is why I was pretty sure the best route would mean heading north. That is just how the rally bastards do things. Sure enough, my route took me north into VA, WV, back into VA,  and over to Washington DC. Then it was a little further East to DE before heading south along the coast. I felt like my route was good, but nothing fantastic. I was trying to not press too hard since this was my first multi day rally, and it would mean spending more days in a row on the bike than I had ever done before.

(1st Leg Route )

Monday morning I met Derek for breakfast, and when I once again pressed him for some information about his route he stated I was now “the competition” so no insight for me. Fair enough. As we all left the parking lot I was a little surprised to see only one other rider heading north behind me, and that rider peeled off after about 30 minutes. I rode from one bonus to another, and started to get into some of the best twisty roads I have ever been on. WV has some roads I really need to get back to one of these days, but by Monday afternoon I was REALLY sick of twisty roads and felt like I was behind schedule because of not being able to make any real time on the winding roads. Still, I managed to get to the bonus at the US Naval Academy before the time window for it closed at 8:30 PM, and that was the key for my entire leg one  route. From there it was over to Delaware for a fuel receipt and then to start the trip down the East coast.

I wanted to find a McDonalds or some other kind of all night restaurant for the three hour rest bonus we all took (the points made it impossible to ignore) but by 12:45 am on Tuesday morning I couldn’t find anything that was open, and ended up sleeping for just under 2 hours in the parking lot of a 7/11. When I went to get the receipt to document the end of my rest bonus I noticed the receipt for the beginning of the rest had 12:45 PM and not AM on it. I started to wonder how screwed I might be, but figured there wasn’t anything that could be done about it.  I continued the long, slow trip down the coast, picking up as many bonuses as I could. The traffic was bad, and I wasn’t making good time, but I wasn’t far behind schedule either. I dropped one very low point value bonus from my route, and I only made it to the check point with 15 minutes to spare, but good enough is good enough. Luckily for me the rest receipt had a time code on it for the credit card approval, so the damn “PM” on the receipt ended up not being an issue. Another big lesson learned, look for the invoice and approval codes on the receipts, since they have a lot of the information you need.

While the scoring was being completed at Ed’s Last Resort, which was the location for the check point (thanks again Ed!) I was able to take a shower and grab some food. I hadn’t eaten anything more than a Cliff bar and an apple since early Monday morning. Between the food and getting cleaned up I almost felt human again. Rick Miller announced the leg one results before letting us open the leg two bonus packets, and much to my amazement I was in first place. I had talked to Derek once or twice during the first leg, since we finally figured out what I was doing wrong with my microphone set up, and he mentioned he was putting in a ton of miles. I figured he was going to be way out in front of me in points, and I was OK with that. With being ahead of Derek by a HUGE 9 total points, or 0.0022%, I knew Derek was going to be gunning for me in the second leg.

It was too hot, and there were too many people around for me to concentrate at Ed’s so as soon as I confirmed there weren’t any bonuses that would require an immediate departure, I hot footed it to a hotel I had researched in the weeks leading up the rally, where I could plan my route and get some much needed sleep. For the 2nd leg we were given two different rally packs, a “B” and a “C”. We needed to choose which of the two we were going to use, and go from there. For a lot of reasons I went with the “B” list. Mostly it had a lot of places I just wanted to go to, and it was less complicated. Places I really wanted to go to included:

(The Coon Dog Cemetery in Alabama)

(The Popeye statue in Chester Illinois)

(Annie Oakley’s grave in NW, OH. I thought it was great that there were flowers on her grave)

and the Flight 93 memorial in Pennsylvania.

 It is really great when you can have a route you feel good about, and it also happens to take you to places you want to go.

As I was checking in to the hotel where I would be planning my leg 2 route, and getting some sleep, Derek showed up there as well. I planned my route, and got 4 hours of sleep before heading back out, and I wasn’t surprised in the least to see that Derek had left before me on Wednesday morning. After a few hours of going through Georgia and then down into FL to head west on I-10 I received a call from Derek, who said he was already in Mississippi. My first thought was that he was on the same route I was on, and hours ahead of me.  I had needed the sleep the previous night, so I figured whatever the case, it was what it was. I later found out that Derek had chosen to use the “C” route listing for the 2nd leg, and was putting in some massive miles to try to claim some of the large point value combo bonuses I had shied away from.

Wednesday went well, and I made very good time on the open smooth runs of slab throughout the south. It was warm, but not nearly as bad as I knew the south could be. Everything was going according to plan, and I was actually a little ahead of schedule when I headed for the bonus in Cairo, IL. Then, my “oh so perfect plan” turned to ash on the western banks of the Mississippi. The Garmin wanted to route me into Cairo from the west, or Missouri side, which makes sense since there is interstate on that side, and it should be faster. As I was a few miles south of where I needed to exit the highway to head for Cairo, I caught a glimpse of a sign that said something about a bridge being closed ahead. I only caught part of it, since I was passing a semi at the time, but after a quick check of the GPS I noticed there were two bridges going over to Cairo, and figured even if one of them was out it wouldn’t be a problem. WRONG. Not only was the bridge I was being routed to out, but so was the one to the north of it. Now I should have looked even further north to the next bridge, but I had it in my mind that I needed to enter IL as far south as I could, and I just wouldn’t give up on that idea. Luckily, there was a ferry a few miles south of where the bridges were out, and it could take me back over to the KY side of the river where I could take back roads and enter Cairo from the East. The only problem was that after riding all the way down to where the ferry is, I found out that the ferry wasn’t working. I had to drive all the way back up to where I had been before I could get back on the highway, so I had wasted at least 2-2.5 hours by this time. Once again, I should have just headed north to the next bridge up river, but I was just trapped in the mind set of having to enter IL at Cairo, so I headed all the way back through Missouri and into Western Kentucky. I eventually ended up in Hickman, KY at a BP station that had good receipts. There were only about 30 minutes until the window for taking a rest bonus that was worth a lot of points closed, so I decided to hunker down at the gas station and try to get some rest before heading back out for the elusive Cairo bonus.

I had read many times about riders sleeping in the self serve car washes as one version of the Iron Butt hotel, and since the gas station had such a car wash I thought I would give it a try. The good people of Hickman were obviously very concerned about my welfare, since at least 8 of them stopped by and woke me up to make sure I was OK; including the sheriff. They all meant very well, but they were killing me. The heat and one billion percent humidity didn’t help either. As I was waiting for the time to pass so I could get my receipt to document the end of my rest bonus I noticed that one of the doors on the ice chest in front of the now closed gas station (I had checked to make sure they leave the pumps on) was not locked. I leaned my entire upper torso into the freezer for several minutes to try and cool off while waiting for time to pass. It was the best I had felt in hours.

With three hours and one minute of “Rest” recorded per my receipts, I headed back out on the road. No matter how far east I went, the Garmin continued to want to route me back to the non-functional ferry, or the closed bridges. It was only after at least a good hour or more of forcing the matter that Garmin finally gave up, and agreed on completing the route into Cairo from the East.

(The elusive Cairo Bonus)

The rest of the day went fairly well, and despite having to drop two medium size bonuses, one for 551 points in Kentucky, and one for 388 points in central West Virginia, I was able to stay with my leg two route for the most part and made it to the largest point value bonus of leg 2 for me in PA, before the time window for it closed at 8:30 PM.

(The 1300 point bonus at Hyner View State Park, PA)

After that I knew it was time to get some rest. I headed a few miles south and thought I had landed in nirvana. I found a Pilot gas station where I knew I would be able to get a good receipt, and nice new McDonalds for some food, and several hotels where I could get a really good night’s sleep. The rest bonus for that night was once again only 3 hours, but I could afford to take about 6 hours, since the next bonus I was headed for wasn’t available until after 5:30 the next morning.  I figured I would check into the hotel, and then get my start of rest bonus receipt and some food before heading to the room and calling it a night. As I was walking up to the check in desk at the hotel I had a feeling I was in trouble. There was a couple there ahead of me, and the desk agent was shaking his head with an apologetic look on his face. Sure as hell, there was a huge baseball tournament in town and every single hotel room for miles was taken.  I couldn’t push on any more to find another town with hotel rooms, so I got my receipt to start the rest bonus, and headed for McDonalds. Luckily for me the manager of the McDonalds was very understanding, and let me sleep in the restaurant for about an hour and forty five minutes before telling me I had to go because they were getting ready to close for the night.

I got my end of rest bonus receipt, and headed for the Flight 93 bonus which was available 24 hours a day according to our rally book. Since I was hours ahead of schedule I really took my time getting to the memorial bonus. However, when I got to the gate the GPS wanted me to enter the memorial at, I found the gate locked and this sign:

(First gate I stopped checked out at the Flight 93 Memorial)

About a quarter mile further down the road was another gate, but it too was locked. I was already about a half mile down the road, and headed towards the next bonus when I thought that since I had time I should double back and really document that the bonus was closed. In the process of doing that I took this picture:

(The Correct Flight 93 Bonus Photo)

Of course I didn’t take the time to actually Re-read the bonus listing, since it was for the Flight 93 Memorial, and it was obviously closed. Later I realized that the rally book told us to take a picture of the “Brown and white Flight 93 Memorial Sign that gives the hours the memorial is open.” Nothing more than stupid luck that I happened to go back and take a picture of the exact sign they wanted.

After that I was headed for “The Coffee Pot House,” but it wasn’t available until 5:30 AM. I got to the bonus and could have easily taken the picture early, but then it would have been rejected at the scoring table. Instead I put a fleece on under my Stich to stay warm and took an hour and a half nap on the gravel area in front of the bonus. I woke up shivering, but only had to wait about another 10 minutes until I could get the needed picture and get on the road towards the finish.

(The Coffee Pot House)

 I was really fighting to stay awake and alert as the sun was coming up and had decided I would have to pull over for an Iron Butt Hotel rest break, but then I found a McDonalds. I decided to play a card I had been holding back and planning on for months. Since mid June I had cut ALL caffeine out of my diet strictly with the thought that if I needed a pick me up during the rally I wanted the caffeine to have some affect. I got a medium coffee from McDonalds and chugged about ¾ of it. WOW!!!  I felt like I could take on the world, but hoped that I wouldn’t have the caffeine crash before I got to the end of the rally.

I picked up the good size bonus at the Mathias, WV post office,

And then after a good chunk of slab got on to the Blue Ridge Parkway and several other great roads to pick up the last of the bonuses I wanted before calling it a day.

At the last bonus, which was a sign for the birthplace of General J.E.B. Stuart, the FJR decided it had been working too hard, and needed to lie down and take a rest.

(Tired FJR)

I had stupidly parked the bike with the kick stand on the uphill side of the gravel parking area, and almost as soon as I got off the bike it started to fall away from me. Try as I might I could not get the bike back up, since the tires were uphill. I am sure the car tire made this significantly harder, and that it wasn’t my complete lack of correct technique. Luckily for me a passerby sent two big, and I mean BIG, guys down from the local convenient store to give me a hand. These two guys probably could have lifted the bike completely off the ground if they had wanted to.

With their help I was back on the road, and had only lost about 15 minutes. As I arrived at the finish I noticed that I still had 35 minutes until the penalties started, so I took 5 minutes and put some gas in the bike and collected a North Carolina fuel receipt which somehow had eluded me over the last 5 days.  The one bonus that carried throughout the entire rally was to get fuel receipts from at least 16 different states. I had 17 at the end of the rally, and that was after having to throw one out, since I needed to use it for the beginning of a rest bonus I had not documented quite right. Again, luckily for me the receipts all worked out OK.

One of the things I was most happy about was not losing any points at the scoring table for either the first or second legs of the rally. I had some very close calls, and receipts that were reviewed by all three of the rally masters, but in the end everything passed muster.

I had spoken to Derek during the last day of the rally, and he told me he had bitten off more than he could chew, and was not going to be able to get all of the points he had planned on. Part of me believed him, and another part figured he was just playing head games.  I was tired enough that it didn’t matter that much to me. I had planned my ride, and by and large ridden my plan. I had finished my first ever multi day rally, and hadn’t had any really major issues.

(What my actual route for Leg Two of the BitE ended up Looking like)

Winning the BitE was the perfect end to my first season of being in rallies. I had done better than I could have ever hoped for. A HUGE part of my success was just luck. I had done a lot of things to help get me into a position to be able to take advantage of that luck, but I still had more than my fair share of good fortune during this rally season. The prize for first place at the BitE was another slot in the 2013 IBR, but this one came with a paid entry fee. I figured this would make it even easier to keep my wife convinced that I needed to plan on riding in the IBR.

The Saturday morning after the BitE Derek and I had breakfast, after getting  10 hours of sleep that was desperately needed, and then went our separate ways to head towards home. Derek wanted to scout a few places for future LD rides, and I just wanted to get home. The miles on the way home seemed to fly by at first, but the closer I got to home the slower things seemed to go, and I was glad when I finally pulled into my driveway at just after 10:00 PM on Saturday night. During the 7.5 days I was gone I had ridden 6489 miles, which was way more than I have ever ridden at one time in my life. I had seen many great and strange things, and had found out a lot about my abilities to plan and ride long distances. I also found out where my personal limits are, and how I need to plan for them in the future.

I have been home for a week now, and the desire to ride more rallies has already got me looking at what rides I might be able to squeeze in still this season, and which rallies I want to plan on for next year. The 2013 IBR is a long way off, but it is also something I think about and am already making mental plans for.

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