30 June 2013

Short Interruption for Late Breaking News

We interrupt the usual program of vacation trip coverage with some up-to-date news.

Yesterday was a big day in the riding history of this family as the most important member got her first brand new motorcycle:

Andrea and her R1200R
"90 Jahre BMW Motorrad" Special Edition

This was in the making for quite a while. Late last year she did a test ride on a 2012 BMW R1200R but at that time she said it was a bit too much. Now it's about 5000 miles of riding the F650GS later and the perception has changed slightly. When we were on our trip, we had two days "down time" in Las Vegas and she did another test ride on an "R" and after going on a highway for a bit, doing some more riding on city roads, she was sold. The R seemed to be "the bike".


Now, it was about finding one. There are sometimes used ones on the market, but we also heard that BMW San Jose had one of the "90 Jahre BMW Motorrad" special edition bikes still coming in. One day after our return home from our trip, we put down a deposit on that model. It was already on the ship from Germany and supposed to arrive this week. And so it did.

It arrived on Thursday, we picked it up yesterday and right away went for a day trip in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We rode Highway 9 to Santa Cruz, 1 to Pescadero, Pescadero Road to 84 and 84 up to Alice's Restaurant - one of our favorite places to go on the bikes.

This was already a super nice and twisty route - both proud owner and bike performed flawlessly! Only the helmet prevented the smile from going all the way around.

Today we continued the "break in" period with a ride to the North Bay. Our initial target was Point Reyes but with Highway 1 jam packed with cars between San Francisco and at least Stinson Beach, we turned around and headed for the Wine Country.

Proud Owner

It was a beautiful route, just incredibly hot today. We had 42C (108F) but still were having lots of fun.

Even I was allowed to sit on it and make "vroom, vroom" noises for a little bit before being chased off again.

"Vroom, vroom"

Tiger and New Stable Mate

On the way home we hit some cross winds – Andrea's favorite kind of wind on the motorcycle – and while I was being blown around, I checked in the mirrors and saw exactly nothing happen with the R.

It's a very beautiful motorcycle for a very beautiful rider!

From Andrea:

On our way home from today's trip we rode the last stretch on the highway. At some point I noticed a gusty wind area sign and indeed saw Guido bouncing a bit left to right shortly after [Guido: "a bit ..., argl ... it was actually quite bad!"]. I felt the wind myself on my body but that was it. While riding at about 65mph, the R kept going like on rails, very steady and unimpressed by those wind gusts. After the struggles I had on the F650GS, I was very pleased with this new experience! Guido was asking me whether I could feel the wind. "Yeah, I do. So?"

Overall, the R handles nicely not only on highways but also those twisty roads we went on the weekend. We kept it easy of course for those two first days. I'm especially careful in slow maneuvers on parking lots, gas stations, and such, just don't want to drop the bike due to stupid action or lack in concentration. It also feels like it's made for long trips. Especially with the comfort seat, Guido is afraid that he might ask for a break while I could still go on and on and on.

Another detail I found really handy in general for those days with temperature >40C: I soak my helmet cap in water before riding. This helps extremely for staying fresh and awake in case of a long riding day in hot weather.

29 June 2013

Summer Trip - Day 6

The night on the KOA camp ground went by without major issues. We found that my camping pillow is too loud if I don't wrap in a t-shirt or so, but that's an easy fix. Other than that, it was comfortable - definitely better than in a tent.

We started the day with a ride on 128 between 191 and I-70. Again, it's all about the gorgeous landscape.

Having fun in Utah

More fun

The "yellow lines shot"

We went North East on 128 and when it started to become straight and boring we headed back. After that, we made our way into the Northern parts of Canyonlands NP.

Enjoying the View

Are you afraid of height?

We had an early dinner in Moab and later tried to get some sunset photos in Arches. Unfortunately we went into the wrong area and all we got was shade. No shots from there - they're really not worth it.

28 June 2013

Summer Trip - Day 5

The fifth day of our trip started early in the morning in Torrey, UT. The Days Inn included an okay breakfast and we were on the road again with beautiful weather - that's what we hoped for as we didn't want to ride through Capitol Reef in rainy weather.

Capitol Reef National Park

Capital Reef

This reminds me to write a little bit about the set up we used for this trip:

Andrea's tank bag has a removable camera insert where she carried the Canon 40D with a 70-300mm zoom lens. She also had our compact Canon SD880 in there, while I took photos with the iPhone 5 only. This was a pretty good set up, although it would have been even nicer if we had also brought the 17-40mm lens for the DSLR. We could have used it quite a bit, but overall it wasn't a big issue to use the compact camera for wide angle shots and the DSLR for zoomed in and close up photos.

I had mostly all kinds of small stuff in my tank bag, from tire pressure gauge over power cable for the Sena SMH10 to additional earplugs, GPS carry bag, visors, and so on. It was a very workable setup that allowed Andrea to sometimes take photos with both cameras without getting off the bike, just stop, put down side stand, pull off gloves, grab camera, take desired photo, put everything away / back on and move on.

The trusty Tiger

Regarding our bikes – the Triumph Tiger 800 did very well on this trip. On the second day I had to fix an issue that was a left over from the repairs earlier this year after I had a run in a with a deer - the idiots in the shop had installed the ABS sensor wrong + overlooked a slightly warped left brake disk, that just on top of all the other mistakes they have made while repairing the bike.

Of course, I couldn't fix the brake disk while on the tour and it seemed that the heat in Death Valley and Nevada and later Utah made it warp even more so that it started grinding on the ABS sensor in some part of the wheel revolution. I took out the ABS sensor, found that the shop had mounted it with "fork leg, sensor bracket, washer, bolt" instead of "fork leg, washer, sensor bracket, bolt" order, meaning that the washer actually belongs between sensor bracket and fork mount, which pulls it back about 1mm from the ABS ring. I checked this in the repair manual and luckily it was also the fix I came up with on the road when I heard the sensor grinding against the ABS ring. Fortunately, everything still works, and with my fix there was no grinding anymore, just a stutter when coming to a stop, thanks to the still warped disk.

A new disk got in today and I'm going to install it tomorrow, that should now hopefully cure the last issue of what these guys at the shop did to my poor bike. Did I tell you that I'll never spend another cent at this shop?

Capitol Reef in the morning sun

Mordor in the sunshine?

After going through Capitol Reef National Park we hit I-70 and headed further East towards Moab.


Near Moab

In Moab we decided to stay at the KOA campground, but to have at least a little bit of luxury we took a cabin for the two nights we wanted to stay there.

The cabin had power and WiFi, the restrooms and shower were just 20m away, so it was actually quite nice.

Cabin at KOA Campground

After settling in at the campground we headed back North to Arches National Park.

Obligatory Park Entrance Photo


In the photo below you can see "Delicate Arch" - we didn't want to hike there in our heavy motorcycle boots and other gear, so the 300mm zoom came in VERY handy!

Delicate Arch is also on this panorama shot, can you see it?

Click on the photo for a larger version

One of the rare shots with Andrea

"The Bird"

The day ended nicely with a dinner at the campground, cooked on our camping stove, with the rest of the red whine we still had from Henderson.

Again, it was a beautiful day.

24 June 2013

Summer Trip - Day 4

Leaving Brian Head we made our way back to the Cedar Breaks National Monument which looks a lot like Bryce Canyon.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Still Cedar Breaks

Enjoying the Day

Did I mention that I love the Panorama feature on the iPhone?

From there we made our way through Grand Staircase - a slightly different landscape ...

Great Staircase

Obligatory Park Sign

View Point at the Million Dollar Highway

Along the Million Dollar Highway

We timed our lunch break perfectly - it just started raining when we were in the restaurant. It stopped before we left again.


The afternoon was quite an interesting ride as we somehow made it through a break in the rain all the way up to Torrey, UT. 

The Storm Chasers

When we got to Torrey we decided that we have pressed our luck enough for the day and checked into a Days Inn and this turned out to be a very good idea as more and more heavy showers came through. At a shop there we found some interesting "earplugs" - maybe more tasty than the ones we'd been using, or maybe not ...

Tasty Earplugs

The route for the day:

Brian Head to Torrey

23 June 2013

Summer Trip - Day 3

After staying at the really nice Marriott Springhill Suits (nice hotel btw) we started our day by just getting out of Las Vegas and out of Nevada into Utah.

For some reason we didn't fill up the bikes right away but planned on doing so somewhere along I-15 North East of Las Vegas. Interesting enough, civilization stops very suddenly when you drive out of the Las Vegas metropolitan area.

Neither my cell phone nor the GPS showed another gas station for quite some distance, so we decided if we wouldn't find one before or at the next major intersection (with NV93) we'd turn around and play it safe.

Fortunately, both phone and GPS were completely wrong. There is a huge gas station at the I-15/NV93 intersection and there are more coming further North, too. Lesson learned: don't trust the GPS or phone to find the nearest gas station, but also don't rely on them to be super close together - especially not in States like Nevada, Utah, or Arizona where there are long stretches through deserts and other non-populated areas that might or might not have an open (!) gas station.

Anyways, desert climate aside, once you get close or into Zion National Park, there is some amazing nature to be seen.

Flower right before the entrance to Zion National Park

Close to Zion NP

"Schattenparker" (Shade Parker?)
Entrance to Zion

We basically just passed through as Zion was not on our list of "To Dos" for this time. We had been in this area before, also to Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon, our target area was further East. But as it is some amazing landscape, here are more photos we took along the way (sometimes with the bikes, just to prove that we didn't use pictures from other trips we took ...).

Having fun

Along Route 9

"Find the House" (Click for larger view)

Still in Zion NP

Once we were through Zion, we slowly made our way East on 9, North on 89, West on 14, and then turned towards Brian Head.

Brian Head is basically a Ski Resort that was virtually deserted when we were there as the snow was gone and it didn't look like anything else would happen up there.

On the way to Brian Head, yes that is snow

Well deserved dinner at the Double Tree Resort & Spa, Brian Head, Utah

The way to Brian Head also had a special challenge for me - quite a lot of deer along the way. That evening we saw a few along the road. Same the next morning when we headed on. We were extra careful and didn't have any scary situations luckily.

This was also the last of our pre-booked hotels. More to come ...