Friday, August 27, 2010

The BMW R1200R and I Go Have Pie for Lunch!

The zooty white BMW has been sitting alone and forlorn in the garage for more than a month...nearly 5 weeks to be exact. I really need to get her out, rotate the air in the tires, move the oil around in the engine, and top off the battery charge. But it's been so damned hot this past week!

We're supposed to have a little break in the heat here in the Houston area this weekend, so a quick 3 mile run in the morning and then maybe a little ride...say, about 100 miles or so...on the BMW. I thought maybe find a bakery down south of me and make a coffee and donut run.

So I called friend Mike, see if he'd be up for a short little ride this morning, and he's "in!" We agreed to a 10:00 AM start, but delays moved it to 11:00 and then 11:30 AM before we could get on the road. This changed the ride from a donut run to a pie run. So we're going to Tony's in Sealy for a good homestyle lunch and then homemade pie.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I had the bike backed out of the garage but when Mike arrived, he announced that he had a brake problem on his K1100RS. They seemed to be sticking, but repeated hard braking in my driveway failed to replicate the problem so we decided to just go ahead and head out. He admitted that the bike had been sitting up for a couple of months and hopefully it's just a temporary problem.

When I hit the starter button on my bike, the starter turned over sluggishly...no surprise. But she did start. So, finally, we were on the road headed west. We took the long way - down 59 to 99 - to get to 1093 toward Fulshear. My, but 99 has really gotten built up! Traffic light after traffic light after traffic light convinced me that US 90-A would have been faster and shorter.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chicken and dumplings, cooked greens, corn, cornbread.

For dessert: chocolate meringue pie.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Earlier this week, friend Keith and I had made arrangements to get his BMW in to the dealer's for a possible brake problem. The plan was to get it over there Thursday morning and I'd meet him there, be available to give him a ride home if the bike needed more work. But...his bike wouldn't start, dead battery. He put it on the charger but by early afternoon it still wouldn't start. We agreed that he would keep it on the charger until Friday morning and try again and then call me by noon Friday with the verdict.

So, I kept my cell phone close at hand during my lunch ride today but did not hear from friend Keith until I got home. He called just minutes before I walked in the door, saying that he was at the BMW dealer after having driven down earlier in the day, buying a new battery, returning back to his house to get the battery installed. I got out of my riding gear, put on some shorts and sandals, and then drove over to the BMW dealer to meet up with him.

Turns out it was the rear seal on his final drive...very good news, as it could have been much worse. The bike isn't going anywhere today so I drove Keith up to his house, where he put together a light dinner for us both and we got caught up on kids, grandkids, travel plans and life.

Long, but very good day. And...I got chocolate meringue pie!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Heat and Hummingbirds

It's been so hot here in Houston. We've been setting new heat records every day this month. Unfortunately, the weather pattern that has set up this heat is also preventing the nights from cooling down. So, our lows have been in the low 80's. The weatherman says this is because of the high humidity, which prevents cool-down in the evening. That concept is beyond me, but it must be true.

As a runner, I've had to deal with this early morning heat. Normally, getting out early in the morning, before the sun rises, will get me low to mid-70's temps this time of year. Not so, this year. This month, no matter how early I'm getting out there, it's hot and humid! If I don't finish my longer runs by 8:00 AM, I'm flirting with 90 degree temps as the sun gets above the horizon.

This morning the slightly cooler air was immediately noticeable as I walked out the front door. It was maybe 77-78 degrees but, compared to what it's been, it felt like a downright cold snap! To add to the delight, a full moon was setting in the west as a blood-red sun was rising in the east.

It was a good run and, afterward, I ate my breakfast and watched the hummingbirds and their antics at my feeders.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Houston Marathon: I'm in...

Houston marathon and half-marathon went to a lottery system this year for the 2011 event. No surprise and fully expected, given the debacle that was last year's event registration. Both events filled within 36 hours of open registration and there were reportedly thousands of unhappy runners who didn't manage to get registered because of an overloaded internet registration system.

So yesterday I received the email that said "Congratulations." I'm in and my credit card has now been charged the registration fee. I will be very curious to see what the total numbers are, and how many folks entered the lottery versus how many made it in. Based on the hundreds of comments made at the marathon page on Facebook, I'm betting that the numbers are down significantly and that everyone who entered the lottery made it into the race.

Guess I'm now committed, even though I've been scouting a few other alternate races in the Dec-Feb timeframe. I'll do Houston, since I've paid my money, but I may do one or two others that look very interesting, as well. We'll see...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

BBG on an FZ6: A Test of Stamina and Toughness of Mind

With a little caution I rode out of my driveway at 2:15 AM early Wednesday morning, heading for the big, new Buc-ee's near my house to get the starting receipt that would begin a 24 hour test of my grit.

At 2:33 AM I was heading down 288 south toward Angleton, a necessary little side trip on my way to Denver CO, needing to log enough mileage to meet the minimum requirements for the ride. Riding around Houston at this time of the morning is a dangerous enterprise, hence the caution, and there's nothing like a motorcyclist heading down a dark highway to perhaps alert the local police to someone who may be up to no good. This was in the back of my mind for the next hour or until I was up on I-10 where traffic 24 hours/day is more typical and expected.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

All this past week I've been getting the motorcycle - my FZ6 - prepared for this IBA endurance ride of 1500 miles in less than 24 hours and in the last few days I worked on getting myself prepared, as well. Packing for this trip was the easiest part. The hardest part was convincing myself that I could do this on the FZ6. In the record-breaking heat.

My originally planned route would have taken me north through Dallas then up to Oklahoma City before turning west on I-40. But extended forecasts were for triple-digit temps for much of the day along this route. Forecasts along an alternate route - due west on I-10 to Las Cruces then up I-25 to Denver - were for temps in the mid- to high 90's, with only a slight possibility of 100+ temps along a short section of this route. It looked like going west rather than north out of Houston would be my best bet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Throughout the morning as I rode west on I-10 toward New Mexico I was blessed with cool, comfortable temperatures and cooperative gas pumps as I made my gas stops...Angleton, Brookshire, San Antonio, Sonora, Ft. Stockton, Van Horn...everything was going smoothly and traffic was very light.

It was my favorite time of day to ride...early morning hours just before sunrise, when the light is soft and magical, the roads hushed as the world still slumbers.

After the stop on the east side of San Antonio on the Anderson Loop I noticed an interesting phenomenon related to the GPS's arrival time. Whatever time I lost at each of the gas stops was recovered within 75-125 miles. My arrival time never wavered from the estimated 12:20-12:30 AM CDT all across Texas!

This changed, however, when I reached El Paso, where traffic was heavy and crawling along at 40-50 mph through this city which strings itself out along the interstate for miles and miles. It began to get hot, too, with temps approaching 95 degrees and feeling like 195 degrees. Heat from the radiator of my FZ6 was beginning to sear my kneecaps.

Traffic opened up and I started to move a little faster as I neared Anthony, but that was short-lived as I ground down to a stop-and-go a few miles into New Mexico. Here the interstate is down to one lane with construction and I could only guess that the back-up was due to the lanes merging into one. But it didn't get any better once past the merge spot and I crept along for a couple of miles. I was getting seriously overheated in the near 100 degree heat and with the 210 degree radiator blowing scalding hot air across my shins and knees.

Finally I reached an exit ramp where state police were directing everyone off the interstate and onto a two-way road that ran parallel to the interstate. Once on this road and moving along I was able to see that a truck fire had traffic stopped and those unfortunate enough to be caught behind the blockage but west of the exit ramp were in for a long wait. I was thankful of my timing. Being caught on that stretch of limbo would have meant the end to my BBG ride.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now I was moving again at highway speeds and the FZ's radiator temps dropped from 210 to 190 degrees. It was a small relief on my knees and shins but I was really looking forward to my planned stop in Dona Ana for gas and a break! It felt so good to get off the bike and into the air-conditioned C-store. As I dismounted the bike I knew I had gotten dehydrated. The change in altitude from sitting to standing gave me a bout of momentary low blood pressure dizziness. A pint of Gatorade and an ice cream bar did wonders for my outlook and core body temperature. I knew that this was probably the worst I'd experience and feel and that as the day progressed and my route took me further north, the temperatures would abate some.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I-25 between Las Cruces and Albuquerque is new "riding ground" for me. As I rode along, I took note of the mountains off to my right and then, further along, off to my left. It was just interesting enough that the miles seemed to flow along and before I knew it I was near my next gas exit in Belen NM.

This was the turning point for me, psychologically. I knew that once north of Albuquerque it would start to get cooler as the sun went down. I also knew that I was more than 2/3 of the way there. If for some reason I could not complete the BBG within the time limits, my receipt at Belen NM would serve as my ending receipt for a SS1000.

But...I was in really good shape at this point, physically, mentally, and time-wise. It was looking like I'd get in to Denver at approximately 1:18 AM CDT, more than an hour ahead of the cut-off time. I only had 2 more gas stops - Las Vegas NM and Walsenburg CO - before arriving at the final gas stop in Denver.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From this point forward I rode with a light heart and head...the time pressure seemed to dissipate and I no longer was worried about the possibility of failure. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride on I-25 north of I-40, where the mountains turn green and the low slanting sun turns the cliffs and bluffs a brilliant and deep red.

The sun was just dipping behind the mountains as I arrived in Las Vegas NM for a gas stop. It was a quick stop at a small little Shell station in a tiny little town. My mood was elated as I continued to have smooth gas stops, with no receipt problems, vacant restrooms, and easy access from the interstate. My gas stop planning was really paying off! Just one more gas stop before Denver! I was still maintaining "steady state" on the gas stop/arrival time and with only one stop left, I began to look forward to the end of the ride.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Once I left the gas station in Las Vegas NM and got back onto I-25, I rode for nearly an hour in the soft dusky lighting of sunset. It was so peaceful! It didn't become fully dark until I approached Raton. This meant riding across Raton Pass in the dark, with deer crossing and bear warning signs posted every mile slowing my speed down somewhat as I climbed to over 7,500 feet elevation. I was thankful I'd thought to put on my jacket liner in Las Vegas but even so, it was chilly and I found my jaw clenching against the cold.

Construction delays through Pueblo chewed away at some of my arrival time buffer so that now the GPS was showing a 1:35 AM CDT arrival time. But at this point I'm so close it really didn't matter. Lane closures, flagmen, deeply grooved roadbed...it didn't matter. I was functioning on excitement at this point.

North of Pueblo the roads were smooth, fast, and lit with the never-ending mergers of the various communities along the I-25 corridor all the way to Denver. Before I knew it I was on the outskirts of Denver looking at exit numbers in the 180's. My target was exit 199 where I'd get my ending receipt. And there it is!! Down the ramp, turn left, go under the freeway, turn left, then right into the gas station where I'd fill up one last time and stop the clock that began 23 hours ago in Pearland TX.

I was elated! A BBG on a sportbike! Doing it 2 years ago on a BMW was one thing, but I wanted to try this, wanted to see if I could withstand the relative discomforts of a more sport-oriented motorcycle than my BMW.

Stats:

Miles: 1537 miles

Time: 22 hours, 58 minutes

Friday, August 6, 2010

FZ6 Update...

She now sits in my garage, shod in shiny new tires, sporting a shiny new chain and sprocket set and hopefully is ready to go. Mike picked me up on his FJR and brought me over to the dealer's just before noon.

Just as I was getting ready to leave the dealership, a couple of good-looking young men, loose tank tops barely concealing their ripped muscles and "six packs," tattoos on their arms, charming toothy white smiles that only 3 years of braces can produce - obvious sport bike riders - were leaving as well, and they stopped to chat with me a bit, asked me about my tankbag. They'd never seen one before but could dig how handy and convenient it would be to have one. Asked me what something like that costs (I said around $50), where do you buy them (I suggested Discount Motorcycle Tire over on Spencer Highway at Shaver, in Pasadena). I think they were just curious to find out who this "granny" was getting ready to ride off on an FZ6.

Then Mike came over and joined us and we learned one rides an R1 (awesome!) and the other a GSX 750. When one of them mentioned "Hayabusa" I had Mike tell these kids about The Texas Mile, as I thought they might enjoy something like that...you know, lots of speed! They seemed truly interested, wanted to know where Goliad TX was, and a few other questions. And did I say these fellas were a couple of "lookers?"

On the way home I noticed a really loud whine coming from the front tire - annoying as all get-out - so when I got home I checked the pressure in both front and rear and found the front to be 15 lb low, the rear 10 lbs low. HOPEFULLY it is simply technician error. I aired the tires up to 40 psi front and 42 psi rear (a couple of psi higher than spec, since the tires are hot) and will check them in the morning when the tires are cold and again in the evening, make sure there are no slow leaks.

Everything else looks good to go: No leaks from any of the radiator connections, good tension on the new chain, engine running like a top (but then, it always does). I checked the tankbag, made sure everything I'll need is there, and checked the accessory tool kit I carry in one of the Givi sidecases, moving the more accurate brass dial-type tire pressure gauge from the BMW to the Yamaha, just in case.

Now, thankfully, I can concentrate on packing for the trip.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Weather and Motorcycle Decisions

Well, okay...it's 5 days until I leave for Denver CO and the bi-annual IBA Meet and I'm facing hotter-n-hell weather and a bike that's been in the shop for a week and still no word on the status of the wayward sprocket set we ordered last Friday.

I'm doing a Bun Burner Gold (BBG) to Denver and want to do it on the FZ6. I've done one on the BMW - a piece of cake on that more-than-capable machine - but want to do one on a more sport-oriented bike, one not typically set up for LD riding. So I made an appointment (!!) to bring my FZ6 in to the Yamaha dealer for its 24,000 mile service (a biggie) and to fit those Dunlop StreetSmart tires I won from AMA two years ago (finally!!).

"Not a problem," I was told. Bring the tires on by and then bring the bike in on Thursday and we'll get it done. This is LAST Thursday I'm talking about. I drove the tires over there, spoke to the service writer, spoke to the Parts Counter guy and then rode the bike over there first thing the next morning. I figured I'd have the bike back Friday, Saturday at the latest.

No word from them on Saturday, so I called them first thing Tuesday morning (don't you just hate that "Sunday-Monday motorcycle shops closed" thing??). Well, the UPS delivery usually arrives at 11:00 AM, takes a couple of hours to unpack and "invoice in" the parts, and then we should be good to go by the end of the day. No parts on Tuesday. The Service Writer called me to inform me of this, and said he called and was told the parts should be in by Thursday.

Well, it's now 5:00 PM on Thursday, so I guess either the parts didn't arrive, or they didn't get the bike done in time to pick it up. I'm really hoping they'll get it done Friday early, so that I can pick the bike up and put some "shake down" miles on it in case it needs to go back to the dealer for some adjustment. See, it's a really major service: Valve adjustment, new chain/sprockets, new tires, flush radiator, oil/filter change. Lots can go wrong with all this work and I'm looking at a VERY LONG one-day ride on Tuesday night, i.e., 1500 miles in less than 24 hours through some areas and at some late-night hours when help won't be available should something go wrong.

As a back-up I always have my BMW, which had a major service 5,000 miles ago and just got back from a trip to the BMW rally, so I know she's running very well. But I've already done a BBG on a BMW. I want to do it on the FZ6!

~~~~~~~~~~~

Now, let's add to this the fact that the extended forecasts for the Heartland of America - and my primary route to Denver - show it will be at least 100 degrees with a heat index well into the 110's. A check of the extended forecasts for a more southerly route showed relatively lower temps in S. Texas and NM and 20% chance of rain along this route which always mitigates the heat. So I spent a good part of yesterday re-routing this ride to take a southerly route through TX and NM instead of my original route which would have taken me north up to Oklahoma City then west toward CO.

When I plan an extreme Iron Butt ride such as this, I always like to plan the gas stops as well. Anal -maybe - but it eases my mind knowing that the GPS will tell me when to get off the interstate and get gas so that I don't have to worry about the gas gauge. Plus while planning the route, I can slide the gas stops around to maximize my bike's fuel range, for optimal efficiency. In the case of I-10 across TX between San Antonio and El Paso, this is important. I find that my maximum efficiency is obtained if I get gas on the east side of San Antonio, then I can get to Sonora on a tank and then I make two shorter-than-range stops, one at Fort Stockton and one at Van Horn, before pressing on to Las Cruces NM. It's the only way with a 200 mile range bike.

I also like to use Google Satellite view to check out the gas station situation. Microsoft Streets & Trips doesn't always show all of the available gas stations, so a "fly-over" of a proposed gas exit gives me the information I need to plan the stop. A quick street-level view confirms the gas station is actually there and open for business. I've learned that the satellite view is getting "dated." For example, it shows a gas station at the corner of the street where the IBA event hotel is located, but a street view shows that the gas station is no longer there, torn down, sodded over, and now part of the landscape for a new business tower.

So all the work I'd done on the more northerly route through OKC is out the window, and now I have a finely honed route through TX and NM instead. It should be cooler. I should actually be able to make better time, with the higher speed limits in western TX compared to what I'd experience on I-35 heading north toward OKC. I'm familiar with all of the first half of the route, having ridden it many times.

Now all I need to do is get that FZ6 back into my hands, get her out for that shake-down ride over the weekend, and then pack for a middle-of-the-night departure on August 11.