03 December 2012

Four Day Weekend!

Putting Christmas shows onstage typically means I have to work the day after Thanksgiving. This year, in order to bring you all Irving Berlin's White Christmas, I didn't get the four day weekend most of the production shops did. But to make up for it, I got one this weekend. As I have absolutely no desire to participate in the Black Friday madness that occurs each year, I am more than happy to wait for another time when I can get out and about while most other people are working. Most years at this time, I could head up to the mountains for the weekend to snowboard or ski. This year has seen temps in the mid 60s for most of November, and now into December also. So, rather than buying a new deck and paying for a lift ticket, I hopped on The Ice Queen and headed to the mountains via asphalt. At 67 mpg, this is a relatively inexpensive way to spend the day in the mountains!


I took off through Golden, but immediately turned onto 119 and headed through Blackhawk. On the weekends, this road is clogged with car- and busloads of people heading out to the small gaming town. But on a Thursday morning, it's a nice swift, twisty ride. I rode out to Nederland, where I stopped at my usual haunt, the Blue Moon Cafe. It has been around for a number of years, but was purchased about three years ago by a German man who ran out to chat with me about my bike. He used to have an 1150GS, and it's pretty clear he misses riding.

Stopped for a few minutes right off the Peak to Peak Highway.
Waving as I pulled out of the parking lot, I continued on the Peak to Peak. This time, when I got to Hwy. 7, I turned left towards Estes Park. It has been more than a year since I was last there. July 4th weekend, last year, I rode Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park from Grand Lake to Estes Park. The road was stupid crowded, and they had to cut through feet of snow to get the road open that weekend. This year, the nearby Fern Lake fire is evidence of the still dry conditions.


At The Stanley Hotel. Hell no I didn't go in. If you don't know, Stephen King stayed here and it inspired The Shining--the sole reason identical twin girls creep me out!
I made a quick stop at The Stanley Hotel and rode through town, deciding to keep heading on. I had gotten a later start than originally planned, so I needed to move it if I wanted to do the rest of the ride I had planned, and make it home before dark and before deer came out after me. There are several routes into and out of Estes Park, and I took Big Thompson Road (Hwy 34) which follows the Big Thompson River east to Loveland. It's a nice road through some beautiful scenery, but beware! If you wind up behind a jerk in a white pickup towing an empty trailer who refuses to use the slow vehicle turnouts, it is several miles before there is an opportunity to pass! Once I got around said jerk, the ride was great--twisty road through a tall rock canyon.

At the east end of the canyon is a sign saying Carter Lake to the right. I took that and headed south. I wasn't really sure where I would get to, but how lost could I get if I kept the mountains off my right shoulder and kept going. Eventually I would hit something I knew, and that was 75th St which goes through the west side of Longmont, jogs to 73rd, and spits you out onto Diagonal Highway at Niwot. I rode through Boulder and picked up 93, successfully making it home before dark and avoiding wildlife.


Friday was maintenance day. I decided it was time I learned to change my own oil. How difficult can it be? I have the repair manual on the iPad, and I know how to read AND follow directions. I wouldn't even write about this, but for those of you who do your own oil changes, I feel like you should understand what a pain in the ass it is to change the oil and filter on a F650GS. It takes twenty minutes to assemble all the crap you need just to do it--which includes time to root through the garbage and find an empty toilet paper tube. What's that? You don't need and empty toilet paper tube to change your oil?? Well, I do--you clearly don't ride a bike like mine. To be honest, dealers actually have an optional part you can buy, but why spend the money when a toilet paper tube will do.

Changing oil requires 3 different Torx, 2 Phillips head screwdrivers, a hex set, and the removal of so much hardware, you think your bike will fall apart. Did I mention the toilet paper tube...?

First step, take bike almost completely apart. I'm. Not. Kidding.


The front sprocket cover on the other side and the bash plate have to come off also.
Unlike most bikes, my gas tank isn't in front of the seat, it's underneath. The "hump" as I like to call it, (as in my Wolfman "tank bag" is actually a "hump bag") contains the battery, airbox, and oil tank. Yup, way up there. The F650GS has a sump pump in the design, which I'm pretty sure they put in just to make our lives difficult. It means changing the oil and filter requires draining oil from three places, and checking oil levels can only be done after riding about 10 miles.

Draining oil from the tank happens first, then the drain plug, then from the spot where the filter lives.
So, I drained the oil from the upper tank, pulled the drain plug and drained it from beneath the bike, then carefully fitted the toilet paper tube under the filter cover in order to direct the oil away from the bike, rather than over the whole right side of it.

A black cat is useful to have around when changing oil. If any is spilled, you can wipe it off the driveway with the cat, and you never see it (if I had used the big dumb orange cat, it would have stained...)
Once I was done and had the new filter in and the appropriate amount of clean new oil, rather than putting her back together, I decided to install the new USB power port I got. Before leaving for Alaska, I bought a 2.1 Amp TAPP USB power outlet from 3BR Powersports. About halfway through the trip, it failed. When I got back, they were more than happy to replace it immediately, but changed the installation instructions. It was recommended that the TAPP no longer be wired always hot. This defeats the purpose of me having this outlet to charge my phone, iPod, or Sena headset at night when I'm camping. Originally I bought the 2.1 Amp version because it would charge my iPad as well, but now I had to make a choice. Charge all my devices only while riding, or charge all devices except one whether my engine is running or not. The iPad holds a charge long enough to make it to a hotel, so I chose the TAPP Lite. It has a 1 Amp max output which is enough for just about everything, and I wired it right to my battery, using the original mounting bracket I had for the old one.

I got a super fancy thermometer for my birthday last weekend and I would have installed that also, but I'm waiting for one more mounting piece. So, now I could put my bike back together. And wash my hands. I don't mind getting a little dirty, but I'm happy to hit the Gojo at the end of the festivities.


Motogear Outlet in Arvada has a couple of sales a year. The last one I went to was in April, and I ordered my Olympia AST 2 jacket at that time. I wore that jacket to Alaska, and the rest of the summer anytime I rode out of the city. It's a great jacket, but it is a little heavy and bulky to really be a comfortable summer jacket. At the end of summer I tried on the Olympia Airglide 3 jacket. It's a three season jacket that is perfect for our summers here. It was still a little too pricey at the time to justify buying it at the end of the season, so I held off. Saturday it was on sale and a great deal. I bought it in red!

I am a short girl, but I've got long legs and long arms. Olympia seems to be the only company that makes jackets with sleeves long enough for me. I love their gear!
Leaving Motogear Outlet, we headed northeast to Hudson. A few miles off I-76 is The Wild Animal Sanctuary. I hadn't been there before and was pretty amazed by their facility. It is a 400 acre piece of land housing close to 300 large, carnivores. Lions and tigers and bears, no shit! Also wolves, leopards, servals and a number of smaller animals like the little red fox and the silver fox. (Technically I think he was a tree fox, but his silvery-white coat and little black ears made me think of him as The Silver Fox) This is a privately funded sanctuary which has acquired it's animals from closing circuses, zoos, and a large number of individuals who thought these animals would make great pets. Many of them have suffered a lot of abuse in the past, but in their habitats, which range in size, from 1 acre to upwards of 15 acres, you can see they are living much happier, closer to normal, lives.

Be aware-- if you are on a motorbike, there are 3 Irish Wolfhounds that live just inside the sanctuary who are bigger than my bike and WILL charge you. It was slightly terrifying.

This tiger wasn't rolling around on his back, he was sleeping like this--belly to the sky, paws in the air.
This was the vantage point for the sanctuary--about 15 feet above the habitats. Most of the animals paid no attention to the two-leggeds above them, but this guy checked me out and we had a little chat. He says life is good.
After spending a couple hours walking around, we got back on the bikes to head home. Not being in a hurry, we took a bunch of country roads, a few miles of some easy dirt and gravel (I'm totally addicted to dirt roads and trails now!) and skirted the edges of cities and towns to get back home. I have only ridden east of Denver once before, and now I remember why. The roads are straight. Straight, straight, straight grid roads. And flat. Not that it isn't worth doing, it just isn't worth doing a lot, unless you don't like to turn.

Somewhere north of Brighton. I loved that Hotel 85 sign--totally classy! I think they might be cash only....


Not gonna lie, the bike didn't even make it out of the garage. I had shit to do, and a Broncos game to watch. Still, it was a great weekend!

*UPDATE* The mounting part for my new thermometer came in, so I installed it tonight when I got home from work. Now I just need a compass and an altimeter, and I'll be all set. I have found that on long trips I become obsessed with knowing the temp, altitude, and direction in which I am heading. I also want to know the population of all the towns and cities I pass through, but as far as I know, they haven't made an instrument which can tell me that.



  1. Sounds like you had a great time. I love the idea of wiping up the oil with the black cat:):)

    However, orange and black do well together, like in orange cat and black oil. sort of halloween style.

  2. Back in 2010, I purchased a new Ultra Classic from the Harley dealer in Anchorage on their Fly-Buy-Ride program and was fortunate to get two weeks off work to ride it home to Cincinnati. The entire trip was something that I considered to be once in a lifetime - until I got home. I was not able to explore as much as I would have liked, so I have decided to head back to Alaska on my 'Retirement Ride' in 7-1/2 years, this time via the Top of the World Highway.

    It was during my research that I ran across your blog. I've enjoyed reading about your adventures; it has brought back some very fond memories.


  3. Hey John! Thanks so much for your comments. The trip was fantastic (in case I hadn't made that clear :) ) and a big part of what was so great about it was really getting to spend time there. I hope you love your trip when you do it. Make sure you keep me posted when you go!