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Monday, August 29, 2016

Odyssey on Two Wheels



Odysseys is defined as a long wandering voyage or journey full of adventure. Also as a series of experiences that give knowledge or understanding. That is how I feel about our upcoming two wheeled expedition. At the end of this week, we will hook up the trailer, travel more than 2,000 miles to embark on our own Arizona odyssey. Granted some of the knowledge or understanding may be learned in just the nearly nonstop drive we are planning to get there. It will be a true test of our nearly 40 year marriage. (40 years in October.) A test of endurance for sure.

I have charted out a very ambitious circuitous route of over 1,000 miles for the two wheeled portion of our odyssey. Usually, when people think Arizona, they also think Grand Canyon. There will be no major tourist stops unless you consider Sedona high on that list. So let me dissuade you from that image before it burns into your mind.

Beginning in the northeast portion of the state we will “attempt” to get a room at the iconic Wigwam motel. If not, a photo stop is on my list for sure. From there we will visit the Petrified Forest, then make a stop at the Impact Crater. Something I have only seen from a plane. Then we make our way to Flagstaff. After a small jaunt north to Sunset Crater, we will continue southerly visiting cities and towns like Sedona, Prescott, Wickenburg, and Jerome, eventually ending us in Tombstone. After Tombstone we will test or mettle on Devils Highway as we close the loop. (Check out the great blog in the link.)


The Wigwam Motel
Holbrook AZ

It’s been a long summer with a modicum of riding compared to what we typically do. We’ve spent a good portion of our time on the hunt for a replacement bike for Andy, and in dealing with insurance companies. To say I’m looking forward to this trip would be an understatement. I love traveling and there is no better way to see this great country of ours than on two wheels. And considering that this is the 100 anniversary of the National Parks system, a number of our stops will be through several. Stop back here in the next two weeks and I will post photos of our stops, and update with longer text as time permits. Don’t forget to check out my Facebook page, Motorcycle Touring and Travel Community. Like my page so you are notified when I post photos there as well.


Our planned loop.




Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Déjà Vu


When all was said and done, the insurance company returned a verdict of “totaled” for Andy’s 2004 Vulcan.  The dejected look on Andy’s face said more than any words he could have expressed. He loves that motorcycle! Then began his investigation into purchasing the bike back from the insurance as salvage and rebuilding the bike to its glory.  First we discovered the true cost of rebuild which was astronomical, but that wasn’t the only problem. We would have to apply for a “salvage title” from the state at a cost of $10. Then once repaired would be subjected to the state’s approved “savage inspector” at a cost of $50. Followed by a regular state inspection, and new registration. All in all, it really wasn’t worth it, but Andy being who he is needed to see all the facts laid out.

Hence began our search for a replacement for the same price the insurance was paying us for the totaled bike. Where are you going to find a great bike for $3100? One that would be everything you had just lost. We did find a few in our price range but none of them “called” his name. His loss was too fresh and no substitute was going to fill that void.

Then on Craigslist to my amazement I saw a motorcycle twin just a 45 minute ride away. We went for a visit. The ad said “needs battery and tune up”. So Andy came prepared with the battery from the old bike. We arrived and saw the bike, body was great, mileage only 12,000. Wow, on a 2004? That’s barely broken in. And before even sitting on the thing Andy was making an offer of $3100, which the guy seemed all too quick accept.

That is when Andy decided to pop in the battery and take her around the block. Once the battery was in, the bike was hard to start. After a few backfires, she started and off he went. But on his return, having been alerted with “hard to handle steering” he had a change of heart. They guy dropped it another $100. Andy apologized and said we would be going on our way.


In the next week we saw nothing else for sale in our price range. We also spoke with a few dealers about the hard steering. With their suspicion that the bald tires would cause that, we sent the guy a note and said we’d take it for the $3000. It was a gamble.

Andy went to get it, loaded on the trailer and brought it home. Then began the stripping of chrome and bags off the old bike and transferring it to the new. Andy even swapped the tires out too. Poor old totaled Vulcan looked a sight, but new Vulcan was looking better than ever. Andy feverishly spent every spare hour at it as we weren’t sure when the salvage truck would arrive.

Once the new replacement Vulcan had all the chrome, highway bar, bags and new tires on, Andy once again tried to start it. Nothing happened. It sputtered but not even a backfire could be had. He got off the bike, removed the air filter cover and discovered a family of mice had taken up residence! Once cleared out the bike started and off to the dealer for a tune up.

I’m happy to report that the bike runs like a charm. The mechanic was impressed with the nice body and running condition after its tune-up. And just in time as we are now on schedule for our epic vacation to Arizona; the major reason for the frenetic search for a replacement.  I find it amusing that the bike is identical save the windshield, backrest and lack or light bar, but to each his own. And none too soon as the truck was in sight.


Old Bike


New Bike

Donating parts and chrome.


Getting some chrome.



Seeing double


Goodbye old friend. Such an undignified end.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Expect the Unexpected


You’ve all heard the platitude, “expect the unexpected”, and no truer sentiment can a motorcyclist hold any time they head out on the highways and byways of this beautiful country of ours.  This, and skills training may keep you alive. On a recent motorcycling vacation through upstate New York, this tired platitude served us well.

We had just traveled the length of Skaneateles Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in Upstate NY.  Of all the Finger Lakes, this is the one with the highest altitude. And indeed we were even higher still as we could view this lake from the ridge on which we rode.


After riding down from the ridge to the lake, dipping our toes in the water to cool off and meeting some great people, we headed on our way back to the ridge, around the northern tip of Skaneateles, to the northern tip of Owasco Lake. Here our lovely two lane country road ended, and we dropped into the outer fringes of the city of Auburn. This is where we met Carol by “accident”. Carol, age 76 was parked along the curb right near the clump of trees inside the blue circle of the photo below.


As we came along, Carol pulled out. No directional, no rear lights to indicate she was about to move. Andy aggressively applied the brakes, squealing tires with the effort and attempting an evasive move into the opposite lane. But Carol wasn’t just pulling away from the curb. She was attempting a U turn. With no exit Andy’s front end met her car just behind the front driver side door.  Thankfully she stopped short and Andy in a very LOUD voice told her not to move as he was now pinned between bike and car. People appeared from every doorway, helped right the bike which was leaning at an angle against the car with Andy in between. Someone called the police. All of these people were very kind and helpful.

Andy is OK, and here is where I want to do a bit of lecturing. Andy did everything right and walked away as a result. He used the brakes. ALL of them. This slowed him down from 30 MPH to whatever it was when he made impact. He did not “lay it down” as some people claim them must do. If he had, he would not have been able to slow or reduce his impact. He had on his jacket, helmet and a pair of Kevlar riding jeans. Despite the jeans he did receive a puncture wound just above the boot where his leg met the petcock. 

After exchanging information, filing police report and calling the insurance, Andy inspected the bike. The tire rim did not seem bent and the motorcycle still rode true. The headlight was broken, but he still had the two extra lights working on the light bar. (We later discovered the headlight bulb had not broken and still worked. So we covered with a plastic sheet and protected the bulb.) We pulled the fender out with a crowbar and continued on our vacation. The motorcycle looks a bit bedraggled, and yesterday we discovered that the dealer considers it totaled. That is mostly because it’s a 2004 so the book value is low compared to what the parts cost to fix it. If Andy has his way, he will get it repaired.

Andy was determined not to let this mar his vacation and we continued on to enjoy Lake Ontario, tour Fort Ontario and more great roads around upstate NY. We ended our trip in Kinston NY where our daughter was taking part in her first ever triathlon. We are proud of her and happy we were able to witness her accomplishment.




I will close with my usual lecture. If you haven’t taken the basic rider safety course, do so. It’s never too late. Or take the experience rider course. A refresher is never a bad thing. Practice your skills in parking lots, wear your gear. Your daughter might be the next one waiting for you at her first ever event.