Tuesday, October 30, 2012

El Nino at home with an issue? - Oct 30

Ah yes, souvenir stickers 

"El Nino" my 2006 Kawasaki Ninja 650R has always been the most bulletproof bike I've owned; never broke down, never required any serious maintenance, just add fuel, do the oil changes, clean the air filter, that's it. However prior to setting out on the recent ride to Nogales I felt a very slight vibration, hardly noticeable but there nonetheless. A visual inspection revealed nothing out of the ordinary so I chalked it up to what? An anomaly? An aging rider's nervous fandango? In any event I decided not to worry and went along my merry way.

Then fast-forward to the last day’s ride of over 500 miles. It was fast, averaging more than 65 mph which is hustling right along when you take into account fuel stops, lunch break, stops to change into cold weather gear (helmet, boots, etc.) In short I ran the wheels off El Nino with nary a complaint but the faint yet persistent vibration. But by the time I reached home it had progressed beyond the “faint” level and was becoming highly noticeable, particularly at speeds over 65 mph. 

I've talked to a couple of my local riding buds Jerry Smith and Ron Wardman and there seems to be a consensus that it's likely El Nino has thrown a wheel weight. Should that be the case it will be a simple fix and of little concern. A quick trip to the garage for an inspection yielded nothing, there are weights on both wheels but of course I've no way of knowing if some are missing. 

The rear wheel seems to have one...

As does the front wheel...

Anyway there you go, my latest report on things relating to the Mexico affair. As of this posting date I've yet to find the time to dig further into it. Riding off to Mexico a second time was great but I'm now way behind things here at home so it will have to wait a bit. 

Postscript: At least I can rely on Riley lending me a hand with posting reports of the blog. Don't know what I'd do without him.

Film at eleven as they say….


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Return to Mexico Day 09 – Oct 19 Home in Bandon

This would be a great day to test all of my cold weather gear. When I stepped outside of the motel this morning the freezing temperature took my breath away. I think Winnemucca must be fairly high in elevation to warrant such a crisp morning but at least the sun was coming up and it looked to be a great day for a ride. Home was still well over 500 miles away and I wasn't sure if I'd try to make it in one shot or layover in Klamath Falls again.

I gathered up my gear and began the loading process on the bike. The panniers were well balanced as I'd gradually shifted things around each day until finally arriving at a good mix. That seems to be the case on all my trips, I start out with what I feel is a decent arrangement but always end up with a new one as dictated by weather. While I was loading up I overheard a lady say "I wouldn't want to be riding a bike this morning, it's freezing!" Looking up I saw her and her husband carrying their bags along the overhead walkway. When they reached the bottom where I was at I responded with "A bit too nippy for you is it?" We all laughed and the guy, an older man just shook his head. I don't think they were riders.

With breakfast out of the way and the bike gassed up I set out on a westerly course towards home. My getup was keeping me toasty warm; I was wearing several layers of specialized gear including an electric heated vest. This worked well in conjunction with the electrically heated grips on the bike. In fact I was able to turn the temps down a little on the grips as my hands were getting too warm. 

Nevada's 70 - 75 mph speed limits contribute greatly to achieving long distances in a fairly short order and for the most part I seemed to be the only one on the road. It wasn't all that early, I'd left the motel at 8:00am but traffic was nearly nonexistent. "Good deal" I thought and dialed up my speed to a bit over 80, always keeping an eye out for the occasional trooper. I'd covered over 40 miles before I spotted one parked alongside the road and clearly visible from a mile away. I'm not sure how easy it is to lock onto a target as small as the Ninja from that far away but I've been told if you can see them they can pick you up on their radar. I slowed a bit to 73 which I held as I passed him by and for the next couple of miles. My GPS is dead on for speed and I'm told most officers won't bother with you until you're over by 6 mph - learned that in Bad Boy Traffic School a few years back.

The day wore on and I continued to make really good time, the Ninja was chewing up the miles and except for fuel stops we maintained a high average speed. The Garmin GPS has a nice feature built into it, when you press the "Where To?" button one of the standard selections is "Home". I'd opted for it and an arrival time of a bit after 4:00pm was displayed, plenty early enough for me to continue all the way if I felt like it. When I'm touring I let my body tell me when to stop for the day or keep going. Like a lot of old geezers it's my back that usually does the telling or occasionally it's my butt. Today neither one was complaining so I kept up the pace and other than a couple of low fuel warnings it was an uneventful ride.

The temperature had increased slightly but I kept my cold gear on because I knew when I reached the coastal area it would turn nasty; Linda had told me it had been raining heavily and it's never the warm variety. Sure enough, about the time I got within 75 miles of the coast the rain hit accompanied with chilling temps. My gear was up to the occasion but the open-faced helmet I was wearing was no match for the pounding rain and I was unable to see well enough to continue. On this trip I'd packed fairly light as I hadn't expected to be gone long so as a concession to the wide variation in weather I'd brought two helmets, one designed for warm sunny stuff and one for nasty rainy stuff. I stopped and switched them out and was thankful I'd had the room for both, I could see clearly again and the added bit of warmth was welcome.

I arrived home at 5:00 pm just slightly behind the GPS predicted time and saw by my daily trip indicator I'd covered 543 miles with a total of 3,380 miles for the trip. That averages out to a comfortable 375 miles per day which is pretty typical for me. Linda and Riley were gone to Coos Bay to visit her daughter so it was only Toby on hand to greet me but his enthusiasm was more than enough as a 'Welcome Home'!

This is Toby, now at age 3. He's a typical Aussie, hyper active and slightly crazy. He has 2 speeds, dead stopped and flat out. We love him, he's our protector. He's also a bit cowardly but no one knows that.

This is Riley, age 4. He's supposed to be half Aussie and half Collie. Is he goofy looking or what? He's the world's biggest tail wagger and needs to be within 2 feet of us at all times. He loves everyone. 

So that’s it, I had a good time, the riding was excellent and I accomplished what I'd set out to do; namely get El Nino properly exported out of Mexico and myself as well. Should I decide to return again I'll be able to do so without any red tape at the border and who knows, maybe one day I just might.



Return to Mexico Day 08 – Oct 18 Winnemucca again

In a word "Crisp" tells how it was outside this morning, nothing else would describe it. I awoke at 5:30 am all by myself, no big hairy dog sticking his goofy nose under the covers looking for me, I just woke up. By way of explanation Riley our Collie/Aussie Shepherd mix monster dog has this thing about poking around for me until I surrender and get up. Besides having a really cold nose he wags his tail against the wall and doorway which sets up a helluva loud racket, not something you can sleep through or ignore. Then as if he's not enough Toby our other Aussie dog joins in and attempts to climb over him to get to me. Waking up all on my own is a rare happenstance that doesn't come around often.

My ride today would take me north to Winnemucca, NV, my stay for the next to the last night on this trip. It was easy riding with more endless miles crossing the great basin; the nearly non-existent traffic making cruising speeds of 75 - 85 mph easy. This is El Nino's realm, wide open spaces with sunny open skies the total time, perfect riding weather, wotta deal. 

Early in the morning I reached Goldfield just as the little town was beginning to stir. Most businesses were still closed when I passed through but a few locals were out on morning walks enjoying the sunshine. This little town always peaks my interest; it's re-mindful of the old Wild West boom towns that went bust and nowadays is home to some very strange looking characters. 

Welcome to Goldfield

One of the nicer homes in Goldfield

Goldfield's early morning main drag

Continuing my ride north I came upon what appeared to be a complete but totally abandoned settlement. 

Businesses of all kinds, small houses, all empty and broken down. Where did all the people go? There were no names, just tons of graffiti and broken windows, etc. Hey maybe they're all in jail? Maybe they got beamed up to the Mother Ship?

If you happened to see the dark comedy vampire film Dusk Till Dawn you might relate to how this one appears. All it needs is a biker gang or two and Cheech outside hawking the highlights available.

I stopped long enough to clean the bugs off my helmet's face shield and wonder a bit about the history of the place. In its day it must have been one rough and tumble little town, probably not the best place for old guys like me to hang out.

I rode the rest of the way to Winnemucca without taking any more pics and stopping only to refuel. El Nino was managing over 50 mpg at regular speeds of 75 - 85 mph, a very impressive show. The chain oiler functions as it should although I'm finding it necessary to dial the flow back a bit, the chain's nearly too oily. So's the rear wheel...

I mentioned it was crisp this morning? Well to illustrate, I wore my heated electric vest and turned the heated grips full on. Those two items go a long way towards keeping me warm but I was still wearing my summer boots which allowed my feet and ankles to freeze. A conveniently located rest stop appeared on the horizon so I pulled in and changed to winter gear. I even changed to my full coverage helmet, a concession to my Jack Frost nose. What a difference that made! I think a few of the folks watching me struggle into knee-high socks while hopping around on one foot were probably getting their chuckles but I didn't care, I'd never see them again.

A couple of hundred miles further on and I was once again in Winnemucca where I found a great room at the Days Inn for just a little more than Motel 6. Besides an overall improvement in quality it includes breakfast plus coffee at all hours, my kind of place. So I'm in for the night, I've already managed to have an early dinner - chiliburger the size of a human head - and the boob tube beckons.

See ya,


Return to Mexico Day 07 – Oct 17 Beatty again

I hate to keep mentioning how great the weather is on this ride, continuous sunshine while it's raining non-stop at home. Plus, according to the Weather Channel more than a few of you are experiencing tornadoes and hurricanes...eww. I'll be getting my share of the wet stuff in another day or two so I'm going to enjoy this as much as I can. 

I'm back in Beatty, NV this afternoon after an easy ride of less than 400 miles. I'd say what the actual mileage was but I'd have to pause this and go to Google Maps, etc. and it really doesn't matter, eh? 

This morning I woofed down a Big Breakfast at McDonald's; then got back on track and headed west towards Hoover Dam and Las Vegas. Not much occurred to write about until I spotted the little town of Seligman, famous as a historic site for the old Route 66 highway. Having never been there and with plenty of time to spare I bailed off the freeway for a look.

As might be expected the folks who live in Seligman long ago learned to capitalize on their little town's history so the place is comprised of non-stop tourist traps and old motels. Tour buses were everywhere plus RV's full of old blue-hairs, many of whom were wandering in the street oblivious of motor traffic. It was fun riding through and taking pics but I resisted the stop-to-shop urge and only stayed a short time.

Seligman's main drag looking west

Tourist traps await all who enter here

The Supai Motel - izzat Japanese?

Motel 66 - the real deal

With Seligman under my belt I continued through the Las Vegas area and on north. My lunch stop was way out in the sticks at a place called Indian Valley, complete with the usual casino. I scarfed down a double Snickers with a 20 oz bottle of Glaceau Vitamin Water, Tropical Citrus flavor thank you very much. Think thin sez I.

Moving on it wasn't long till I approached my destination of Beatty, just past the Junction of Highway 373. 

This also happens to be where some of the more creative Marketing 101 Nevada style billboards begin to appear. Free enterprise and all that...well, maybe not exactly free I suppose.

So being of the sort who can resist most sales pleas I continued riding the short distance into town where my usual haunt was waiting, Motel 6, home away from home. Just after checking in and during the unloading process a small group of stealth cars arrived and parked close to El Nino. 

This was my first encounter with cars in disguise livery so I snapped a few pics. One of the drivers happened by and I commented "I expect you guys are the subject of a lot of photos" to which he responded "Maybe so but they're not worth anything." I supposed he figured me as a Pavarotti hoping to make the big score of something. Managing to conceal my disappointment I continued clicking away.

Stealth Car Number one:

 Stealth car number two

Stealth car number three

So there you have it, look for these new beauties in your dealer's showrooms soon and you can say you saw them here first. Cool huh? That's what I thought too. Anyway now it's time to head to Denny's for my evening repast aka fat fix. 

See you soon. 


Return to Mexico Day 06 – Oct 16 Flagstaff, AZ

Kind of a lazy day today, I rode north all day occasionally stopping to mess with the bike and for pics. Breakfast was early at Dag's Cafe where I got another hamburger fix, this time in the form of a breakfast patty with eggs, spuds, toast, etc. They seem to have the best burger material going which keeps calling out to me. I discovered this place on my last trip and they're still great. That’s probably why the locals eat there. I'm really sharp in the morning.

Before getting back on the road I had to take care of my ScottOiler automatic chain oiler system. I'd left the factory oil and refilling tool at home so it was time to get creative. The oiler has a small reservoir bottle that hangs on the side of the bike and the filler hole for it is tiny. After looking at all sorts of little plastic bottles and funnels I happened on a small bulbous gizmo used for flushing ears. It turned out to have just the right size tip and it was easy to refill the oiler's supply bottle. Walgreen's - ya can't beat 'em.

There were a couple of Harley guys watching me work. Their bikes were really shiny and clean. They smoked and watched and watched and smoked. I don't think they had a clue what it was that I was doing. I nodded at them and said "Clean bikes." They stared.

Once the maintenance was done I headed north towards Flagstaff where I figured to spend the night. I'd never been there and the ride through the mountains looked interesting.

The little towns of Florence and Superior passed quickly as did Globe and Claypool where I paused to take pics of their mining operations. None of them looked very pretty and judging from the ravaged look of the hillsides not much had been done to restore them. I guess a lot of the really nasty damage was done before the laws were passed requiring a less invasive method of mining.

The Tonto National Park system starts around Globe and there are tons of places to visit. I managed to stop at a few and shoot some pics but it would take days to visit all of them. The cliff dwellings would be of particular interest and there are lots of campgrounds to stay at while you explored.

The road north takes you through the main park and into the Apache Mountains. In the beginning it's not a pretty road but soon takes on a new look. I stuck with it. Didn't see a single Apache but I knew they were out there...watching me....

The morning passed quickly, my stomach started to grumble so I stopped for another nutritious manly lunch. Yum yum. A bag of Snickers, the perfect well balanced meal for manly men.

After lunch I pulled into one of the park’s observation points for a long distant view of the cliff dwellings. This is one place I’d like to come back to for the hike up to the dwellings. Maybe have another one of those manly lunches.

Lunch seems to have made me a bit shaky so even the image stabilization feature of the camera is overwhelmed. Anyway this is the best I could do to shoot the upper cliff dwellings. So squint, they're in the picture mid-way down on the right side.

Roosevelt Lake and Dam are alongside the park road so campers are everywhere. The lake  is the little blue thing way off in the distance surrounded by tourists. The tourists are hard to see even if you squint so you'll just have to take my word for it, they're there.

I liked the bridge next to the dam, it looks pretty in its blue livery. Who the heck decided to paint it blue anyway? Great choice no matter what.

After leaving the cliff dweller area I rode north again, and encountered 20 miles of road construction. Ordinary stops are easy but this one would compete with the ones I ran into in Alaska, long stretches of dirt surfaces coupled with occasional tiny gravel. I spent a lot of time standing up on the pegs ala` real adventure bike riding. The three trucks in front of me kicked up all sorts of debris and dust clouds which quickly coated everything on the bike, me included.

Eventually it ended and I was back on a regular blacktop road which took me past Mormon Lake. No one was stopped at the unmarked viewing area so it was an opportune time to tinkle. Maybe they should install a facility? Hey I'm OK with bushes...

That’s about it for today’s picture taking; I arrived in Flagstaff late afternoon and checked into the local Motel 6, my home away from home. Time now to go to dinner; there’s an Indian restaurant right across the street I ‘m going to try; maybe get my curry fix. May even get my beer fix.

See ya,


Return to Mexico Day 05 - Oct 15 Nogales, MX

This morning I awoke to the bow-wowing of Mike's neighbor's hound and try as I might I couldn't get back to sleep. It was nearly  6:00 O'clock anyway and time for me to roll out so up I got. Mike and Lou were still zoned out so I did my best to tippy-toe around without making too much racket and soon I'd done the hosing off routine and was packed up. I wanted to say goodbye and thank them for their wonderful hospitality but figured they'd appreciate it more if I didn't disturb them. I’ll catch up with them later.

Today I'd ride south to the border crossing at Nogales. This would be a repeat of how I entered the country last spring so even the GPS routes were set up making this a no-brainer. Well, for me at least, apparently Garmin is still dealing with too steep a learning curve. One thing I learned long ago, if the GPS tells you to go somewhere suspicious sounding - like ride way the hell out of the way for instance - it pays real dividends to pull over and restart the process. Today the beast wanted me to travel via SAN DIEGO in order to reach Nogales, MX! Ha ha Garmin, that's real funny. The way I cured things was to change the destination to Nogales, AZ which apparently Garmin can find without too much difficulty.

I stopped for breakfast at the International House of Pancakes just outside of Nogales. After the oatmeal deal I spent some time getting the bike ready for the crossing, filled the gas, washed a ton of bugs off my visor, swapped the GPS software out for the Mexican maps version, moved my passport to the tank bag where it was easy to reach and generally got things organized. The border cops like it when you're ready.

The border crossing went smooth as could be, both the American border guards and their Mexican counterparts seem to find it amusing when an old geezer rides up on a bug-splattered Ninja. They waved me right through and I soon found myself banging away in heavy crazy Mexican traffic with all the worker bees. 

The high point was when a Mexican bike cop pulled along side of me and struck up a conversation about the Ninja and where did I live and yadda yadda yadda to the point I became worried about either getting lost or crashing. His English was fair but I'm half deaf so I begged off by saying my ear plugs were working overtime and if we were to carry on we'd have to pull off the road. He grinned, said "ride safe!" and went on about his official biz. Last I saw of him he was blipping his siren and flashing his lights at some poor local in a truck. I love traffic like this, nice and light, well organized...never make eye contact.

When clear of town I rode south and eventually arrived at the same place where I'd acquired the temporary vehicle import permit, around 20 miles or so. I asked the first official looking guy if this was also the place where you did the "returno" process and he pointed at the building and said "Si, eet's that one amigo." So, being familiar with this particular understaffed place I got in line behind two Mexicans and waited for over half an hour while an extremely confused Mexican guy worked his way through whatever the hell he needed and I finally got my turn. The gal in the booth took one look at my docs and said "I'm so sorry but you need to take this across the street, that's where they do this work." Nice. Gracias senora… 

So off I went, first to have my passport stamped thereby exporting myself out of the country and then rode over to have the bike done. The trick in any of these places is to find out which one is the correct one for your requirements; otherwise you get to enjoy the grand tour of officialdom ala Mexican style.

Once finished however, it was all nice and pat and I set out for the ride back to the Motherland. The final encounter with Mexican officialdom occurred a few miles up the road where the Ninja-suited Federalis were out in force stopping travelers going in both directions and doing their vehicle searches in earnest. I bumped along at walking speed and they all nodded and of course smiled at me and waved me through. In a way that ticks me off a little, it's as though they automatically assume I'm harmless and incapable of doing wrong. Maybe I need to work on my appearance a bit...

A few miles up the highway I came to a toll road option that said it went to the good old USA border crossing and at four bucks I opted for it. Negotiating downtown Nogales is not my idea of a fun time and who knows, maybe the lonely biker cop would be waiting for more conversation? 

I pulled off to the side of the toll road for a view of the Nogales Burbs. They may seem a little rough around the edges but when you consider the weather is mostly warm you wouldn't need much.

Finally arrived back at the border where crossing was relatively easy although the US border guard really wanted to talk bikes which probably pissed off the poor guys waiting behind me. We waded through his own experience with the requisite Harley which he no longer owns and nowadays lusts for a Kawasaki "Just like yours." This has happened before so I don't mind chatting it up with them; it is after all a lot better than having your bags searched.

The next stop came shortly after his station where the drug doggies completely ignored me and another polite grinning guard waved me through. Lots of grinning going on there; why exactly I'm totally uncertain of but at least they all seemed friendly enough. Maybe I remind them of their grandfathers? Which brings up the question of did their grandfathers all ride Ninjas?

Anyway that was that, it’s a done deal for El Nino goes back to Mexico. We were soon on the road banging along at 75-85 mph in sunny southern AZ. I headed north along the same general track I'd taken in the morning, rode through the Pinal highway forest preserve something-or-other and after a few hours of that I decided to pull the plug for the day.

I love these big guys

This is the road north out of the Pinal preserve place. Fantastic scenery lasts for miles and it's a great ride on a bike. Traffic is nearly non-existent and there no end of stuff to look at. Plenty of rest stop ops too.  

Last spring I'd stayed in a really clean but cheap motel - The Grand Vista in Coolidge, AZ - and I headed their way. The room is as before, clean, working air conditioner, complete kitchen with a fridge that makes a constant rattling noise, and most of the linen is without holes. I like this place and at forty bucks it's a home run. Plus Coolidge is home to some nice little family run restaurants that serve great food. Like cottage cheese with sliced tomatoes and burger patties. Yum. Low carbs.

Tomorrow I'll head north again, probably just back-track along the same route I took to get here but I know it will be interesting as everything will have a new view. Sort of like looking out the back window of a bus or car. Presuming you're not the one driving, eh?


Return to Mexico Day 04 - Oct 14 Oracle, AZ

I left my snug digs at the Beatty, NV Motel 6 fairly early, good weather again but nippy same as the previous couple of days. Today I'd be in AZ if I moved right along.

The lower nippy temps called for more cold weather gear, the kind designed to scare hell out of little kiddies. Halloween is early this year, right kiddies?

Riding fairly fast I made good time due to the 75 mph speed limits on most freeways. Saw some places with really intriguing names...like this one. Excuse me? You're from where? Izzat in the US of A? I’d never have seen this town had it not been for making a wrong turn. The ride through the open countryside was great, just one of the fringe benefits of almost but now quite being lost. 

After touring Pahrump I soon realized I could make Oracle early enough to take my friends Mike & Lou Hatfield out for dinner. As it turned out the sun had just set when I arrived in their neighborhood and had it not been for the GPS I wouldn't have found their place. 

Lou had already started dinner by the time I got there so I not only had a great meal they had a clean comfy bed for me to crash in. Mike and I stayed up late yakking about scooters, then my systems started shutting down and I was done for the day. Man this sure beats the heck out of Motel 6!