Archive for May, 2011

Google Latitude

28 May 2011 at 10:00 pm
by Berck

Sydney asked me how my trip to Russia was, this evening. Confused, I looked up my Latitude history, and found this:

So, in addition to being transported to Russia, I was also transported to tomorrow, and back! I can’t begin to guess what caused this problem.

The other amusing thing is that Google doesn’t know that Dad’s router is no longer in Memphis, TN. So I make lots of jumps between here and Memphis, too.

Day 3, continued

22 May 2011 at 7:14 pm
by Berck

As I rode through the farmland approaching the Mississippi, I could tell that much of it had flooded recently, and there was still a lot of water in some of the low places. The very small country road I was on crossed the interstate. Before it did, I pulled off at a truck stop in order to top off with some 93 octane fuel. 93 Octane seems to be available at big gas stations on populated areas, but often 89 was the best I could find on the road. 93 octane did a pretty good job of preventing auto-ignition unless I let the bike get extremely hot. I don’t know if the issue is simply a lack of the proper fuel (the manual says to use 95 Octane Leaded Gasoline), or if there’s another issue. The timing is right on, and the carb jets are stock. I’m thinking I may swap to even richer jets for the ride back to see if that helps. I’m also considering buying and carrying a gallon of toluene for the trip back.

I went through my 20 minute rest/fuel ritual of buying something to drink, walking around a bit, cleaning the bugs off my facemask, checking/adding oil and so on. I also called the phone number for the Dorena-Hickman ferry across the Mississippi. A pre-recorded message indicated that the ferry was closed due to the high water. I wasn’t surprised, and had my back-up route planned already: I’d cross on US-60 at Cairo. I left the gas station, headed across the interstate, and found this directly on the other side:

That’s 20 miles west of the Mississippi. While I’d anticipated some flooding close to the river, it became clear that I was truly clueless as to the scope of the problem. This part of Missouri was flooded on purpose in order to save Cairo, something I was aware of, but that was two weeks ago! I didn’t realize the water hadn’t subsided significantly since then.

The obvious choice would have just been to get on I-55 north at that point, but I-55 North was a solid parking lot as well. Apparently all but one lane was underwater up ahead, and even that was intermittent.

Trying to figure out what to do was made absolutely miserable by the swarms of bugs who were the sole beneficiaries of all the flooding. The standing water made for great breeding grounds for millions of insects. It takes them about 20 seconds to start swarming me after I stopped anywhere, and I found it miserable even in full gear… If I left my facemask down, my glasses would fog up and I couldn’t see in no time.

I headed north to Sikesville, Missouri which, it turns out, was one of the biggest cities I’d seen in a long time. All of the campsites in the area were under water, it had now started raining, and the bugs were still pretty bad in Sikesville.

I never realized the unpleasantness of flooding. Water everywhere is dramatic looking, but assuming you don’t get swept away in flood waters, how bad is wading around in some water for awhile? Bad.

No one ever seems to mention the stench in news reports. Flood water that’s been sitting around for a week not only grows epic quantities of bugs, but it also starts stinking.

I gave up on camping and found a motel room. It was a lot more money than I’d have liked to spend, and it felt like giving up, but these were pretty unusual circumstances. A shower and bed were welcome, and I was even able to park Yoshiko right outside my window, which made me feel better. For once, I was able to leave the camping gear strapped to the bike.

I spent some time in the motel room trying to figure out where to cross. There were conflicting answers about whether the US-60 bridge was open or not.

That morning, I decided to give it a shot. I headed east on US-62, but the road signs quickly let me know that the bridge to Cairo was closed, and I-57 was the only option. So, for the first time on the trip, but with no other options at all, I hopped on the interstate and crossed the Mississippi into Cairo.

The crossing itself is a bit spectacular these days. You can see where the water should be, and also see that it’s just everywhere. Folks who built the interstates did a really good job of keeping the road well above the water, even in a 100-year flooding even like this one.

I took the first interstate exit after crossing, and stopped in the outskirts of Cairo to take a few photographs:

This is the US-60/62 bridge that was closed:

I’m pretty sure this is not a boat ramp:

Fortunately, the Ohio bridge was open, and I headed out of Cairo.

Flooding was evident for the next 30 miles across Kentucky. The water had obviously receded quite a bit, but there was still plenty left.

Things went fine until I got to Clarksville, TN. The highways in Tennessee aren’t terribly well marked, and I wound up heading north, and even just crossed the border into Kentucky again, briefly. I got headed back toward my planned route, but then I got to the outskirts of Nashville, and the signage got worse.

I wound up too close to Nashville with no good way to get out of it. I eventually took I-65 south to 155, where I was able to exit at “Lebanon Road”, which, I hoped, would take me to Lebanon the way that people got to Lebanon from Nashville before interstates.

That worked okay, but I was still moving a lot more slowly than I thought I would. It seemed to take forever to get anywhere, and for the first time on the trip, the weather got pretty hot. Yoshiko started detonating up hills. At some point, I found the road signs totally bewildering and stopped to figure it out.

A fellow with a long grey beard pulled over in his pickup truck and said, “You look like you might need directions, where are you going?”

“Er, well, Dunlap, TN, and I will admit I’m a bit confused.”

He gave me pretty good instructions and was thrilled to see a guy riding an old, small, Honda from Colorado out here. He handed me his card in case I got into trouble… He’s from the local Bikers for Christ chapter. I doubt we have much in common other than motorcycles, but he was a really nice guy and I’m glad he stopped. Maybe I should talk nicer about Harley guys, since it seems like a huge number of them rode little Hondas back in the day. I haven’t gotten a single, “When are you going to buy a real bike?” sort of nonsense on this trip… in fact, nothing but a whole bunch of support from everyone I’ve encountered.

The rest of the ride was pretty easy, and after 4 days, it’s been good to stop. I think I’ll plan on taking at least 5 days to get back.

My rear tire is very well worn, and I don’t think I’ll have enough of it left to get back home, so I’ve ordered another one. This was completely unexpected, and a bit disappointing. 1,500 miles is not a very good lifetime for a tire. More indications that a CB350 is not a touring bike.

I’ve also had Jonah send me carburetor gaskets so I can sort out the hesitation at 55mph. I hope.

In the meantime, Dad is doing well, and I’ve been moving furniture around so that I can move other furniture around. I’m making progress, though it doesn’t always look like it.

Day 3

18 May 2011 at 10:50 pm
by Berck

So, it’s been a good trip so far.

I was pretty nervous starting out. It doesn’t help that heading east from Colorado Springs seems the wrong way. Everyone knows what Kansas is like, what not everyone knows is that half of Colorado is just like all of Kansas.

I started with a full tank of gas and sort of figured I could make Kit Carson without stopping. After passing the sole gas station in Ellicot, CO, then a sign that said, “No Motorist Servies Next 95 Miles,” realizing that would put me somewhere around 125 miles since I’d fueled, I turned around and elected to utilize that gas station.

Ellicot is a pretty lonely place. I looked around for a bathroom, but the gas station was unattended, so I went without.

I’ve flown over it many times, but it had never seemed so far away and desolate. From the air, every place is quiet, and you can always imagine that there’s plenty of hustle and bustle on the ground. I might have imagined a bit much when it came to Ellicot.

Back on the road, I was starting to get cramped, sore, and already worried about Yoshiko, my 38-year-old steed. I was maintaining about 65mph, the speed limit, and was getting passed now and again. I was, in fact, getting passed by everyone going in the same direction I was, but fortunately there weren’t many vehicles. I don’t think it had been quite an hour, and I was already seriously questioning my wisdom. I was probably only here because a bunch of crazies from the internet told me it was a good idea, and who was I to think I could take it? My ass was sore, the vibrations were intense, and I hadn’t gone anywhere yet.

And then, in my mirror, a motorcycle. I thought it strange there’d be a Harley rider out here in the middle of nowhere–they tend to hog the interstates and clog up the more interesting roads–rarely do I see them on the boring roads that go places.

As he approached, I saw that this was no Harley rider. I moved over to the right side of my lane and he slowly passed in my lane, on the left. I first noticed the big, square, panniers, then the round BMW logo, and suddenly I realized I wasn’t the only guy headed east across the plains this morning. In fact, this was probably one of the crazies from the internet that convinced me I should be out here. I waved, and he gave me a big thumbs up. I’m not sure if he knows it, but that simple gesture raised my spirits for at least the next 100 miles. [If you were headed east on CO 94 Monday morning on a BMW from a Denver dealer, thanks for keeping me from turning around.]

The transition from Colorado to Kansas would have gone completely unnoticed if it weren’t for some relatively minor signage. I pressed on, buying fuel where I could and taking relatively long breaks at gas stations. I would have liked to stop somewhere else, but I was already spending an awfully long time time at gas stations, and even though this trip was originally conceived with no deadline in mind, circumstances change and I really needed to get to East Tennessee before the end of the week.

I stopped for the night at Cedar Bluff State Park. It took me awhile to decipher all the signs and calculate that it was going to cost $12.70 to camp in the cheapest campsite. I had a $20 bill, a $10 bill, a $1 bill, and some pennies. I’d started the trip with a zillion $1 bills, but I’d used all of them buying gas or soda. (I bought a lot of gas a gallon at a time…) I decided, screw it, and put $11 in an envelope, filled it out, and dropped it down the tube. So, I shorted them $1.70. I left them my name and address. Maybe they’ll bill me. I really do believe in paying for campsites, I just can’t believe I forgot to carry more change. Also, campsites are getting a lot more expensive these days.

I rode down to the farthest campsite, and put my foot down in sand. I had fun digging a trench back to solid ground with my rear wheel, and finding someplace where I could actually set the bike on a stand.

I went to sleep pretty quickly, but the moon woke me up. Then the owls. Then the coyotes. Then the coyotes woke up the geese. The the geese woke up the other birds. Eventually the cacophony of a wildlife cornucopia burst into life making it impossible for me to go back to sleep. Fortunately, it only took another half an hour after that for the sun to come up.

I packed everything up and took a shower. As I was coming out of the shower, what must have been the only other soul at the whole state park said, “Wow, you must be pretty brave to ride that thing all the way from Colorado.”

Folks in Kansas are friendly and kind. I’ve learned that the only people who realize I’m crazy are motorcyclists. Everyone else just thinks, “Guy riding a long way on a motorcycle.” Riders notice that it’s an old, small, motorcycle. I’m not the most sociable guy, but I’ve enjoyed the comments.

At some point, I parked in the line of fire in Iola, KS:

The wind across Kansas was simply brutal. At times, wide open throttle in 5th gear got me all of 55mph. I could downshift and do better, but that seemed brutal. Eventually, I noticed some detonation, particularly from 5,500-6,000rpm in 5th gear, either uphill or when the wind was really strong. Downshifting would stop the detonation, but 7,000-7,500rpm for extended periods seemed unkind to Yoshiko.

I used only 91 octane gasoline, which was the best I could find, but clearly that wasn’t enough. I tried a bottle of octane booster stuff from the gas station, but it didn’t do anything. So, mostly, I went faster in 5th, or slower in 4th.

The speed limit on just about every road was 65mph except in town. At 65mph, I felt a bit like a rolling roadblock. I was being passed by everything. Station wagons, dump trucks, cattle trucks, a school bus and even a damn RV.

I also got stuck in construction. For those of you who haven’t experienced it, construction on two-lane roads in Kansas is not like construction on the interstate. There aren’t some annoying barrels that mar your otherwise uniform view of the uniform view… No, my friends, this is some serious construction. (Or, should I say, “Road Works”.)

I’m not sure what’s being worked upon, or if anything’s being constructed. What I am sure of is that every so often, traffic in both directions comes to a stop. At this point, hit the kill switch, flip down the kickstand, and dismount. It’s going to be awhile….

A long while later, traffic in the other direction will flow for awhile. At this point, it’s time to mosey on back to the motorcycle. I suppose that it’s possible the side you’re on will start before the opposite side. That will only happen if you happen to be on the side I’m not:)

When you eventually get to move again, it will be at an agonizing 40mph (during which time at least no one is passing me) while everyone follows a “pilot car” through the “dangerous” non-existant “construction”.

After the pilot car pulls off, everyone takes turns passing me until we get to the next construction site, which will be placed at a distance from the previous construction zone carefully calculated to install maximum frustration.

Eventually, I saw this:

A curve! And then, right after that:

A Hill! No way! I must be getting to the end of Kansas!

Sure enough, I was, and the terrain was getting absolutely beautiful:

(from the next day, which is today:)

I spent last night at Lake Pomme de Terre State Park. I guess “Potato Lake State Park” was taken, so they had to get all creative with the name.

The campsite was very pretty and staffed with a campground host. A couple answered the door of their gargantuan semi-movable palace with playing cards in their hands. I wonder how you get to be a campground host. I’m guessing that since it seems to involve a place to park your RV for a very long time, and old people have to drive all over the damn country looking for a place to park their RV’s, that this is a very desirable gig.

They needed my drivers license. And my telephone number. I wasn’t aware that you needed to be able to drive and own a telephone in order to camp in Missouri, but it would appear that’s the case these days. Since they were nice old folks who’d kindly pulled their RV the hell off the road, I complied without too much complaint.

I was a bit confused why Yoshiko was idling was idling at 2,000rpm. At first, I started to think that something was very wrong, then remembered the elevation. I pulled out my Droid to check: sure enough, 299 feet. That’s a long way down from 6,500ft where I’d last set the carburetors. I tried to set them at the campground, but realized that was simply bad manners at best, and really obnoxious at worst, so I went to sleep.

I slept well, and the $13 campsite came with a nice hot shower. I eventually got on the road and stopped at the first gas station I came to. I got out my screwdriver, tweaked the carbs, and and then adjusted the chain which had developed a bit of slack.

I enjoyed the most of today a lot. Riding through the hills of Missouri is a truly pleasurable experience. The weather is great, and after the wind in Kansas, pretty much anything is likely to seem like paradise. I took endless twisty backroads from little town to little town.

Yoshiko developed a bit of a sputter at about 50mph. It started in Kansas, as just the slightest hesitation, but has gotten consistently worse as the miles go by. It’s gotten to where while it’s still worst at mid-throttle, 5,000rpm, it will sometimes continue for a few seconds even at full throttle. Once I get up to about 6,500 rpm it’s perfectly smooth. It only happens sometime, and sometimes I can go a hundred miles without the hesitation. It’s sort of a surging motion, feels like it’s probably firing intermittently on one side.

I think it’s probably a fuel problem, but I’m not cracking open the carburetors while it’s still running. I’m not sure I brought a spare float bowl gasket with me, and those things swell to epic proportions in no time thanks to the damn corn lobby. At some point, I decided to check the points just case. Sure enough, the right point set had developed a bit of a calcification. I stopped at a grocery store and bought an emory board, which I used to file it flat again. I set out, and while it seemed okay for the first minute, it immediately got worse, then the engine died all together.

I pulled over to the side of the road and realized that it would probably work better with the fuel petcock in the “on” position. That done, I continued as before, with the hesitation no better. The points were just a red herring.

As I got closer the Mississippi, the curves straightened out, the hills got flatter, and the trees shorter.

It’s getting late, I’ve still got 300 miles to do tomorrow, and I’m falling asleep. I’ll leave you with a teaser for what’s to come, and why I’m spending the night in Missouri… in a motel room, and not a campsite:

Berck’s Journey Day Two

17 May 2011 at 9:33 pm
by Jonah

Just talked to Berck for about 45 minutes. He had much better cell reception tonight compared to last night. He’s at the Pomme de Terre State Park in Missouri at a nice campground by the lake, lot more bugs than last night. This morning the coyotes awoke the geese, and the geese woke up Berck and kept him awake, so he finally got up as soon as the sun came up.

He had a surprisingly good lunch at the Copper Kettle in Eureka, Kansas. He had a constant, brutal southeast headwind all day yesterday and today. The wind pushes against his helmet at hurts his jaw. But as soon as he neared the Missouri border, the wind died down and the road stopped being so straight and level, and he started enjoying the ride much more. He says he doesn’t know if Missouri is truly beautiful or it just seems that way after Kansas.

People are amazed that he’s driven all the way from Colorado on his little motorcycle.

At every gas stop, he’d check his grades. All but Calculus III have posted as of today, and he has A’s in everything!

He did 435 miles today. He’s been passed by numerous semis, school buses, even an RV. He did pass one vehicle today, though.

Berck’s Journey, First Day

16 May 2011 at 8:42 pm
by Jonah

Just talked to Berck. He’s spending the night at Cedar Bluffs State Park, where camping is $12 a night. He said he spent an hour trying to find a campground. His phone isn’t tracking very well, so it’s really only been showing when he stops to get gas. Most of the time it just says, “Kansas.” He’s been fighting the prairie wind. He didn’t pass anyone today and was passed by multiple semi trucks. About a thousand miles more to go.