Another Anti-Adventure Road Trip

Hondarider

Adventurer
In just 4 short weeks, I'll be hitting the road from MA to CO for what is sure to be another unexciting affair...thousands of miles of well maintained highways, comfortable accomodations, well prepared meals, and helpful characters...all conspiring to prevent me from penning a truly epic tale of adventure and heroism...dooming me to a life of bland sameness...no doubt due to an obsessive compulsive need for over-preparation.

I wouldn't bother reading this if I were you. Sure, there will be lots of photos and colorful prose about mundane things that I will try to make exciting, but in the end, I'll probably just drive home...healthy...well-fed...in need of a hair cut.

Then again, the trip hasn't even started yet. There is still the possibility for things to go wildly, horribly awry...car problems...motorcycle crashes...food poisoning...flea bag motels full of meth-heads...incarceration...Big Foot sightings...homoerotic cowboy photos...animal attacks...or really bad sunburn.

It's all out there. It could happen. I'm open to the experience and I'm willing to document it fully...even the embarassing parts...especially the embarassing parts. Maybe it won't suck. It probably will...

A little background...

I took a motorcycle trip out from Massachusetts to Colorado (Link to my Silly Story)a couple years ago with a coworker and documented our utter lack of adventure on another forum. To my continued surprise, the ride report was well received and I was rewarded with some curious feedback in the way of invitations...from complete strangers...to join them on other motorcycle trips. A strange development when you consider that the bulk of my ride report involved ridiculing my travel partner at length. I'm not sure who would want to sign up for that kind of derision during precious vacation time, but there were (and continue to be) quite a few. A lot of weirdos out there.

One such weirdo is LaDue. This gentleman contacted me with an invitation to join him and his merry troop of Iowegans (????) on an annual pilgrimage to ride dirt, eat food, talk **********, and drink beer in Colorado. The notion of traveling cross-country to meet a bunch of complete strangers...and then to travel with said strangers into the remotest backcountry locales...where no one would hear my screams...seemed ridiculous at first. However...as time passed...and the brevity of life wore heavily on my soul...my desire for adventure overpowered my sense of caution...and I signed on. This is the tale of that trip.

So here's the plan...

On 8 July, I will throw my dirt bike on the back of my car and I will drive from Massachusetts to Colorado as others have done countless times before. I will eat many country-fried steaks. I will drink vast quantities of Mountain Dew. I will be polite and outgoing in my interactions along the way. I will probably overpack for every possible contingency, but forget some key item like the ignition key to my motorcycle. I will arrive Gunnison, CO on or around 11July. I will introduce myself to a group of potentially sociopathic strangers (Surviving the Game). We will ride. I will fall down. I will bleed. I will capture it all on my trusty helmet cam. We will eat. We will drink. We will laugh (I hope). Somewhere around the 17th, having logged hundreds of miles on mountain passes...having worn the knobbies right off of my D606s...having narrowly escaped lightning strikes and wild beasts...I will drag my tired self back to Massachusetts and return to work promptly on 20July. There's almost zero potential for adventure, but I'm still hopeful.

There are a couple early plot twists...

1. I don't even have the car yet. I've been waiting months while it was manufactured in some far off land and then transported half way around the world...only to be stuck in Newark, NJ.

2. I have yet to even test my motorcycle carrier. I'll probably lose the bike somewhere along the highway. I'll take plenty of photos if that happens.

3. My father is coming along for the ride. We haven't spent any significant time together in the past 30 years. I'm not even sure that we like one another. I haven't the slightest idea how that will play out. Could add an extra component of drama as I live out my own personal Field of Dreams.

I'm hoping to document as I go...certainly for the preparation stage...and then as WiFi/cell service allows. I sincerely hope that I don't disappoint. I love not knowing what will come. If setting expectations well in advance of the actual trip seems like an open invitation to disaster, well, that's what I'm going for. Wish me luck!
 
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Pilat

Tossing ewoks on Titan
I wouldn't bother reading this if I were you. Sure, there will be lots of photos and colorful prose about mundane things that I will try to make exciting, but in the end, I'll probably just drive home...healthy...well-fed...in need of a hair cut.
Haha, excellent! I'm in!
 

Hondarider

Adventurer
So this ride report will jump back and forth between 4wd SUV and motorcycle if everything goes according to plan. Accordingly, I'd like to introduce the motorcycle component of the trip.

It's a 2001 Honda XR650L. Sure, it's heavy and slow...sure, the motor has been around since "The Gipper" was in office...sure, it exudes all of the sexiness of Bea Arthur...

but...it's as reliable as an anvil, parts can be found at any 7Eleven, and its cheap enough that you won't cry if you crash it (at least it started off as cheap)

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As an added bonus, there are multiple riders sporting the same antiquated dinosaur on this trek so we can share a common pool of spares. Mr. LaDue seems to be bringing an entire bike's worth of spares.

I have spent a few bucks on upgrades in preparation for the trip
- Acerbis tank that holds 275 gallons of fuel
- Corbin seat for extended bum happiness and because chicks dig black leather
- bar risers, tall bars, and new pegs in case the Corbin seat doesn't work as advertised
- full suspension overhaul to include new springs, seals, oil, valving, etc (more $$$$ than the bike is worth)
- fresh Dunlop D606s because that's a cool sounding number
- tail rack for carrying all sorts of tools that I'll need when the rear subframe breaks off from the excessive load of too many tools that are needed for when the subframe breaks off...
- heated grips for those cold Colorado mornings
- skid plate for errant bowling balls on the trail
- brush guards to save the levers when I fall down
- folding mirror to impale myself on when I fall down
- air box mod to gain an extra .001 horsepower
- desmog because smog sounds bad
- obnoxious pipe because loud pipes save lives (I read it on a bumper sticker)
- heavy duty tubes because I hate changing tires oh so very much

...and some other crap that I'm sure I don't remember. In the end, I think I've made it even heavier and slower than when it started, but I have my scary talent to make up for it.
 
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Hondarider

Adventurer
Bike Preparation - cont'd

For the sake of continuity, this is where I'll expound on all the tools and spares I intend to take along for the bike. It may be noteworthy or it might just highlight the type of obsessive compulsive nutbag I am. I think the list will grow continuously right up until the morning that I leave...when I try to squeeze a Bridgeport and a MIG welder into the back seats of my car. More to follow.
 

Hondarider

Adventurer
Vehicle Preparation

After trekking out to Montana and back via Colorado last year, I've decided that a Jeep Wrangler is not the most comfortable way to cover huge distances in comfort. It's not horrible on the highway...and the Wrangler Unlimited is so much better at it than the Jeeps that came before it... but with 4.10 gears and Mud Terrain tires, there are better options IMO. They may give up something in the areas of rock crawling or "real off-roading", but as it turns out, that comprises about .01% of my annual driving. I'll likely always have a Jeep for tooling around in my own backyard, but for traveling long distances, I'm going to try a 4Runner instead.

Sadly, Mr. Rubicon has got to go. As it turns out, nobody else in my house likes riding around without the roof or doors. They complain about the wind, the cold, the rain...complain, complain, complain. And when I'm by myself, its just a bit of a hassle to remove everything with the knowledge that it'll probably rain in an hour. Perfect days are few and far between in New England, which is why I haven't even had the roof off since last July.

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If things go as planned, this should be here about a week before my trip. (IMAGE BORROWED FROM SOMEONE ELSE'S THREAD)

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Clearly I'm a ************ for owning either of these beautiful vehicles. I'm not worthy of either of them. Good road trip stories do not include factory fresh vehicles and credit cards. Truly good road stories involve a dirty high school kid on a CT90 or otherwise improbable motorcycle...a pocketful of cash that won't even cover gas...all worldly posessions in a surplus Army duffle bag...an old pink tent from childhood...frequent breakdowns...helpful strangers who take you home and feed you...selling yourself for gas money at a truck stop...sleeping under picnic tables...dumpster diving behind a donut shop. That's adventure. That's the stuff that stories are made of. That's probably not going to happen here. This won't be much fun. Turn back now.

...although...I might sell myself at a truckstop...but it won't be for food money...just recreation...and that's another forum all together.
 
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Hondarider

Adventurer
Transporting the Motorcycle

I spent many sleepless night considering how I might get my porky XR from MA to CO and back...not because it was a particularly troubling or challenging issue...just because I like to lay in bed and ponder the logistics of motorcycle transportation...I'm dorky like that. The natural answer was to trailer it. I've trailered lots of things to lots of places with a modicum of success; never having lost a load or caused a 42 car pile up...and I have multiple trailers at my disposal. However, there are a few disadvantages to pulling a trailer:

a. The extra axle. An extra axle means extra wheel bearings, extra tires, extra leaf springs, extra lug nuts...extra potential for mechanical failure of some sort. Now, I'll give you that a little preventive maintenance and a healthy spare tire can mitigate just about all of this risk, but I've spent a lifetime fixing mechanical things and I see risk of failure wherever I look. (Don't even get me started on the rides at the traveling carnival...yikes!)

b. Added length. A trailer adds a bit of length to your rig. In this case, I was considering my 4' x 8' trailer with a 4' tongue. That's 12' of additional length on top of the 4Runner. That's nothing compared to the 53' boxes you'll see being towed down the highway of this great country...sometimes doubles...maybe even triples...but there are places where that extra 12' are a nuisance. For instance, when you stop for gas is a busy urban gas station where pumps are in high demand and space in short supply. That extra 12' means that you're either going to occupy 2 pumps at once while filling your tank or you'll take the outside pump and your trailer will be hanging out and obstructing the flow of traffic around the pumps. It's a high pressure situation and I've seen tempers flare in both scenarios...don't even consider running inside to take a leak or to buy some Funions...you'll come out to some irate soccer mom giving you the evil eye. If you then proceed to wash the bugs off your wiindshield for 5 minutes, she might just pull out a gun.

c. Security. This one is just a continuation of the length issue. While I don't believe that a trailer is any more risky than any other means of hauling your bike, the trailer forces you into more risky locales. Due to the long length, you are rarely able to find a spot to park your rig right outside the door of the restaurant, WalMart, or hotel; under the realtive security of bright lights and watchful eye of fellow travelers. Instead, you're often relegated to some far off corner...out of sight from the staff...away from steady traffic. This has always concerned me at hotels where I've left my prized posessions off in some dark corner of lot...backed up against an adjacent vacant lot or side street...assuring unfettered access and a quick getaway for somebody who thinks they deserve my stuff more than I do. I end up laying in bed worrying all night and touring the parking lot in the wee hours of the morning like an Army Private on Fire Guard. Is it all in my head? Yes. Have I ever had an issue? No. Am I obsessive compulsive nut bag? Stated.

d. Tolls. There are a ********-ton of tolls along our Interstates. Especially, it seems, when you're traveling on I-80/I-90 across the middle portion of the country. It's maddening unless you have an EZPass transponder. However, its my understanding that you cannot use your EZPass if you have additional axles beyond the 2 that are customary on cars and motorcycles. That means stopping. I hate stopping. It screws up my average speed and I spend hours calculating my average speed, my time to destination, and the associated costs of unnecessary stops. Useless math exercises are my jam! (I know that GPS will do all this for me, but I'm suspicious of technology and reluctant to put my trust in anything that could go completely blank without notice)

So for these reasons, and my passion for researching my next procurement, I sought out other transportation options. The best solution would be to buy a truck. I've had lots of trucks...some very nice ones...and a truck would be ideal for this effort. I hauled my GSA back from Atlanta in the back of a Tundra and it was like heaven...powerful...luxurious...quiet...secure. I was even able to tour Great Smokey Moutain National Park and sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway while the bike stayed securely strapped in the back - never moving through the curves.

Cartoogechaye-20111015-00099.jpg

Sure, a truck would be perfect...even a Tacoma could get the job done for the XR. The only downside would be that once the trip was over and the bike was back in the garage, I'd have a truck...an empty truck...one that would most likely stay that way 99% of the time...hauling a full load of sailboat fuel and not much else. That's always been my issue with trucks. They're perfect for that 1% when I need them and then slightly less than perfect the other 99% of the time when I really don't need to haul anything. Compound that with the multitude of trailers that I seem to be collecting and I really don't want another truck. I've gone 10 months without one and I really don't want another.

My choices dwindling, I hit the Internet in search of other options. After days of surfing and reading everything I could find, I was leaning towards one of those receiver hitch/slide-in-rack/ramp/tie down motorcycle carrier thingies. I saw the pictures, read the reviews, and looked for evidence of epic failures. I compared fixed vs. electric vs. hydraulic...Harbor Freight's $200 offering that will carry a motocross bike vs. $2000 RV units that will carry an Ultraglide. The options were dizzying. My primary concern was sloppy fit or flexing. The idea that my bike might be flopping back and forth in my rear view mirror for 5000 miles gives me agida as I type this. However, if I could find a good unit, this could mitigate all of my concerns in one fell swoop...or it might leave my bike skittering down the highway behind the 4Runner like Aunt Edna's dog behind Clark Griswold's Wagon Queen Family Truckster.

After a bit of Craigslist sleuthing, I uncovered a VersaHaul unit available just down the road from my house. Based on my exhaustive research, these units seem to be well regarded and rated for 600lbs; well above the wet weight of the XR...as long as I drain the 275 gallon tank before loading it. I called the gentleman up and closed the deal later that evening. Unfortunately, once I brought it home, I realized that my XR was in pieces and I don't even own the 4Runner yet...and I really, really want to try it out. So I grabbed my wife's Jeep and an even heavier motorcycle to see how it works.

IMG_0425.JPG
 
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Hondarider

Adventurer
VersaHaul Bike Carrier

The VersaHaul is a stout unit with a couple neat features.

1. Receiver fit. One of my concerns was the fit between the carrier frame and the 2" receiver. I have a Thule receiver box that flops back and forth in the receiver as you motor down the road. It's completely secure in that it can't possibly fall out, but the rocking is maddening. I've tried shimming it and ratchet strapping it, but nothing really works. It just shifts and wobbles in every turn and I don't like it. Great box though...I'd recommend it otherwise.

IMG_1573.jpg

I digress. So back to the fit of the Versahaul. The tongue of the carrier slides into the receiver like any other unit, but then there is this little bracket doohicky with 3 bolts that secure the tongue tightly against the receiver...theoretically preventing any motion or slop in this connection. I like it alot. I wish I had thought of it. The bracket doohicky is an entirely separate piece of hardware so I will definitely be using it to secure my Thule box in the future.

IMG_0432.JPG

2. Adjustable position. Hanging a motorcycle off of the back of your vehicle is a precarious proposition at best. The vehicle wasn't designed for this. The receiver wasn't designed for this. The tongue capacity was not calculated based on this scenario. I recognize this. I also recognize that as you move the motorcycle away from the the rear axle of the vehicle, sketchiness (S) increases exponentially. I think the formula is S=(Ce^md)*L where C is the rated capacity of the tongue, e is the constant associated with the natural logarithm, m is the weight of the motorcyce, d is the dumb-*** factor, and L is the length of the tongue. Who says that you won't use all that math you learned in school? Anyhow, the good folks at VersaHaul do help to lower the overall sketchiness quotient by allowing you to adjust the distance from the receiver to the bike. The ramp is adjustable so that you can move the bike as close as comfort allows to the back of the vehicle. S goes down as L goes down. For a Jeep Wrangler, you're stymided by the presence of the spare tire, but I suspect I can get pretty close with a 4Runner.

IMG_0429.JPG
 

Hondarider

Adventurer
VersaHaul - continued

There are/were a couple issues to be resolved with the carrier before I embark on my journey.

1. Brake lights. I don't know if you noticed, but the tail lights of the Jeep are completely obscured. I'm sure that would raise the interest of even the friendliest of LEOs. So with a quick trip to the Tractor Supply Store, I was able to source a pair of trailer lights for the princely sum of $25. A little drilling...a little soldering...a little hot glue gun action...and we have working tail lights that plug into the trailer connector.

IMG_0442.JPG

2. License plate. The plate is likewise obscured, but the VersaHaul has mounting screws for a license plate. I'm hoping that the lack of illumination for the plate will go unnoticed.

3. Tongue weight. With the Buell on the carrier, the Wrangler dropped about 4.5". The XR is lighter, the 4Runner has a higher tongue rating, I should be able to position the bike closer to the rear of the Toyota, and I won't have any kind of significant load inside the rear of the vehicle. That being said, however, I don't want find out at the last moment that the 4Runner has soft springs and is going to squat 6" under the load. Unfortunately, I won't even receive the Toyota until the last possible minute when its too late to do anything about it. I think I'm going to order air bags for the rear axle just in case. They're reasonably inexpensive, they can be adjusted for the load, and I'm not finding any horror stories about their use. I'm hoping that it will be a quick installation and immediate success. That could be foreshadowing if I had any idea how this story was going to turn out.

4. Straps. Much has been written about the best methods for strapping down a motorcycle for transit. People will caution you not to compress the suspension for fear of damage to springs and seals. I'm not sure what to make of that since springs and seals were designed for motion. However, I will concede that I was hauling a motocross bike years ago...utilizing only two ratchet straps to the handlebars with the front tire against the front wall of the truck bed...the same way I had transported bikes a hundred times before...and I hit a speed bump. The front suspension compressed, the straps went slack for a millisecond, the hook fell off of the right bar, the front suspension rebounded, and the bike was catapulted violently against the left bed rail of the truck...nearly falling right over the side. I damaged the bike and the truck...at 10 mph...in the parking lot. That sucks. Since that day, I've adopted a few new tricks. I use soft ties as I find hooks don't fall out of those as easy. I tie the bike at 4 points just in case I lose one. I also bungee the hooks to the bike to ensure any slack is immediately taken up without the possibility of the hooks coming off. For this trip, I'll probably go overboard...strapping the wheels, themselves, to the rail...adding random straps to foot pegs or any other attachment point. I'm not sure which is scarier...the bike falling off of the back at 75mph or the bike smacking into the back of the Toyota during a panic stop. Both scenarios sound costly. I'll have to add some pics later.

Incidentally, the VersaHaul unit is rock stable in the static condition...no wobbling...no flexing...no detectable movement of any kind. I'd really like to perform some dynamic testing before the actual trip to see how it handles bumps and such. I'm also wondering what 34 hours of highway grime is going to look like on the bike when I (hopefully) arrive in Gunnison.
 
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pricey

Observer
See! I'm already running into friendly people...willing to help out when called upon....this is definitely going to be a boring read.:coffee:

Thanks though!
It's only when you turn up at someone's house for that 'help' that things can go from beige-and-boring to something else though. Like if they tell you they have an affinity with knives and that they'd love to be in the military but they failed psychological testing or they ask you to put your keys in a bowl by the door and ask you to come meet their like-minded friends etc. etc... :D
 

Hondarider

Adventurer
Ok well you may need something so far from home. Metric, standard or whitworth! Don't hesitate.
Whitworth?!!?! Now you're just showboating. I've spent a lifetime amassing what I would construe as a respectable tool collection, but I don't think I own anything Whitworth. Just the word alone can launch even the most pragmatic gear-head into flights of mechanical fancy and British daydreams...T.E. Lawrence astride a Brough Superior...a Jaguar XK120...a Morgan 3 wheeler...or even a Sopwith Camel. Some day I might just buy a pre-unit Triumph just so I have an excuse to buy some Whitworth tools. Thanks again for the kind offer.
 

Hondarider

Adventurer
It's only when you turn up at someone's house for that 'help' that things can go from beige-and-boring to something else though. Like if they tell you they have an affinity with knives and that they'd love to be in the military but they failed psychological testing or they ask you to put your keys in a bowl by the door and ask you to come meet their like-minded friends etc. etc... :D
Anything for a good story.
 

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