28 April 2014

Spring Riding in Colorado!

Left Hand Canyon--September, 2013

The state of Colorado experienced record rains and horrible flooding in September last year. The photo above is one I posted shortly following the floods, showing where the swollen river had washed away the road in Lefthand Canyon. Roads in the flood areas were temporarily repaired and open prior to Christmas, and work has continued to improve and repair the communities ravaged by the flooding.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a break from the kitchen remodel I am currently working on, and went out for a ride. My original thought was to head up north to Ft. Collins and ride around the back roads, but I found myself riding through Boulder, heading towards Lyons instead. As I passed the town of Crestview, I began wondering how the small towns were coming along, and I made a left at Lefthand Canyon Dr.

I stopped at Buckingham Park to take a walk, and was amazed to see what heights the river had reached, and the damage it had done. Healthy trees, 60' tall with trunks 18" or more in diameter, had been ripped from the ground. Concrete bridges lie crumbled, and metal structures are twisted grotesquely, revealing nature's strength. The power of swiftly flowing water was evident everywhere.
Road crews were working non-stop, as many parts of the road are temporary gravel or hard pack dirt. Many homes along the river's banks are in ruin, or partially so. Some houses lay half open to the elements; whole rooms or floors have been washed away. It was almost as if one could peer into them as one would a doll house.
I slowly rode through Jamestown, and headed out to Highway 72 via James Canyon Drive and Overland Road. Only as James Canyon Drive crested its highest point and turned into the dirt road that was Overland, did it occur to me that I had no map, had never ridden those roads, and don't carry GPS. After the brief thought that I might get myself lost, I continued on, figuring I could always turn around and ride back out the way I had ridden in.
There was no need for turning around, however, as I came out exactly where I expected to on the Peak to Peak highway. I turned right at highway 7 and rode one of my favorite pieces of highway into Lyons. Have I mentioned this before--I LOVE that short piece of road. Big long sweeping curves with a moderate speed limit that keeps a rider in a lean for almost the whole road.
Pulling into town, i saw that parts of Lyons which lie along the river looked much the same as the Jamestown area. Houses were wrecked, others had large piles of belongings lying along the roads. There is a huge effort to clean up, and restore life to normal, so I stopped at Oskar Blues to have some lunch and support the community. It was a beautiful day, and long after I was finished I sat out on the deck enjoying the warm sunshine.
That ride was so lovely, and such a welcome break from the non-stop work on the kitchen, that a week and a half later I insisted that Josh and I stop work early on a Saturday, and take a ride somewhere--anywhere--with our friend Doug Sager. We met Doug at work when we first moved to Colorado, and about a year later he left to travel the world with Cirque d'Soleil's Verekai. Before he left, in the summer of 2008, he and Josh went on their first motorbike road trip--a trip that would inspire each following road trip in the summers to come.
Doug returned to the states at the end of March after working the winter Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. He stayed with us for about a month, before leaving again to head to Vegas to join the Rod Stewart tour. (Uh huh, that guy is till touring!)
We set out on a warm, sunny afternoon, and headed into the hills. I rode my GS, Josh rode his V-Strom, and Doug rode his Honda Shadow 1100. We headed into the foothills (stopping so I could put another layer on--80 degrees in Denver does not mean 80 degrees in the mountains!) and spent a couple of hours riding familiar twisty roads with gorgeous scenery. Colorado is really one of the most beautiful places to ride.
Josh and our friend Doug Sager in front of Tommyknocker Brew Pub, Idaho Springs, CO.

We stopped for a bite in Idaho Springs at the Tommyknocker Brew Pub--I had to have the nachos! For some inexplicable reason, I am drawn to ridiculously high-piled plates of chips, beans, salsa, and cheese--mmmmmmmm....

As we sat chatting, out the window I noticed a couple walking across the street, as though to come in. They made a quick detour to look at the bikes, then came into the restaurant. As I watched them, I wondered which bike he was looking at, or if he was just pondering the sight of two dual sports and a cruiser, all obviously traveling together. When the couple came in, the man noticed us and our gear and came over to the table.

"Who is riding the BMW?"

Somewhat surprised, I said I was. He smiled a big, broad smile and punched me affectionately in the shoulder, saying, "Keep on riding!"

Josh and Doug sat stunned as they walked away. I started laughing and they joined in. Eventually the guy came back to the table to inform us that the V-Strom was pretty cool too. Doug pouted, and we laughed even harder. That guy, and the ride of course, made my day.

We left Idaho Springs with me in the lead, fueling up the cruiser just in case, and rode the highway that takes people to the Mt. Evans road. That is another stunningly beautiful road to ride, full of fun twists and turns. It was blissfully empty of cars for which I was thankful as we headed down the backside into Bergen Park. It was clear that although it was 80 degrees--Spring--in Denver, it was still winter up there. The roads were still heavily sanded through the corners for snow, and in some places,the snow came so far out into the road that our lane was down to being less than 3' wide.

As we dropped further down the mountain, the temperature again warmed, and we turned to head through Evergreen and Morrison and on to home. It was a great day, and I was so happy to finally get a chance to ride with my friend Doug before he headed out, once again, to live his rock 'n roll lifestyle.


23 April 2014

Maintenance Woes and Rewards

As far as motorbiking is concerned, anyone who rides knows the rewards of maintenance. A bike that purrs along smoothly, turns without hassle or force, and money-saving gas mileage are a couple reasons to keep on top of it. Sometimes work needing to be done is expensive and sometimes it's time-consuming. Those two things suck, but sometimes it is just worth it for someone like me (less than mechanically inclined...) to try to find someone to whom I can throw money at and have the job well done.

I think someone re-used an old crush washer....

So here is where I get to the heart of this post--the intense frustration of ferreting out a good mechanic, and winding up with garbage work for a large payment. Last summer in San Diego, I knew I needed some work done so I asked around to find out who had a BMW mechanic he liked. I was given the name of someone located out in Santee, and when I looked him up online, it looked like he had loads of experience and customers.

I set up a time to drop the bike off--before his shop opened I got there, left it, and dropped the keys in the mail slot--and waited to get a call telling me what needed to be done beyond what I had asked for, and the estimate. I had asked for several things to be done including changing the front tube in my tire (it was constantly leaking), changing out my headlamp which had just gone out, and an oil change. The truth is that I am capable of doing all those things, but when I live way from home and don't have my full garage, it is much more economical to have someone else do it. At that time, I had also started to have some issues with my acceleration, and I guessed I probably needed my valves adjusted. This was something beyond my capabilities, so I took the bike in.

In the afternoon I got a call from the owner of the shop, and he listed what needed to be done, including all the stuff I asked for and valve adjustments. He also told me there was a leak between my oil and coolant and I had some of each in places it didn't belong. Crap. Ok, that was going to be expensive, but that was not what bothered me about that call. The owner spoke to me in such a condescending manner. I finally said that I was relatively new to motorcycling, and though I didn't know much about maintenance, I was trying to learn as I went. When he got done lecturing me on how long I should go between valve adjustments, he finished by saying, "...and it looks like someone has been riding this in the dirt."

Well, no shit.

This was where I lost my patience and in a very pissy tone of voice, I explained that in the past two and a half years since I had gotten the bike, I (that's right, little ol' me) had put 25,000 miles on it and had ridden to Alaska, finishing out the previous summer by taking the bike off pavement and riding jeep trails--you know, in the dirt-- and finishing out the winter by riding through a couple of snowstorms as well.

His tone of voice changed and he lost some of the condescension with which he had previously been speaking.

I okayed all the work, but that conversation should have made me take my bike back and just go to the dealer.

I got the bike back, and it felt a lot better. I was pretty happy with it, but about a week later, I noticed my front tire was low. I filled it, rode off to work, and forgot about it for about a week...when I discovered it was a little low again. I filled it, feeling frustrated, went to work and forgot about it again. A few days later I left work at lunch on the bike to go pay the mechanic for work I was having done on my truck. My tire felt low again, and when I got to the shop, I bent to look at it and found oil EVERYWHERE.

I called the mechanic and he said DON'T RIDE IT! I loaded it up in my newly repaired truck, and hauled it out to Santee again. When the bike mechanic called, he apologized and said there had been a mis-seated gasket and a loose hose clamp--no charge of course because it was their fault.

I picked the bike up the next day, and left San Diego to return to Denver, bike safely in the bed of the truck.

Since I have returned, I have also replaced my front tube--in my panic about the oil leak I failed to ask them to repair the tire they didn't the first time but charged me for--and changed my oil, finding some troubling things. I had noticed a small leak in the drain plug (did they use a new crush washer or just use the old one...?) and when I attempted to pull the filter cover off, I saw that the screws had been over tightened and one of the screw holes was cracked.

Since I have done the work on my bike, my front tire has stopped leaking, and so has my oil. I suppose these are not big problems, but what has me completely frustrated is wondering, in the wake of all this crappy work--on some remarkable simple and routine things--what the real work on my valves, brakes and oil/coolant situation is like.

I forked over $1100.00 for that work--which I had to pay for in cash because the owner is too cheap to pay credit card fees. Aargh! And I was treated like a stupid little girl!!

On the flip side of this issue stands Peak Performance--the shop in Lakewood next to Let It Ride. I have found them to be reliable, fair, and completely unpretentious. And...I am completely capable of doing some of my own maintenance. The only problem is it takes away from my riding time....

For right now, having changed my oil, front tube, and air filter, my bike is purring like a kitten. Spring has arrived--time to ride!