Archive | June 2012

Throttle Control Issue Fixed

I picked up my bike at the dealership today. They spent almost four hours troubleshooting and (hopefully) fixing the throttle control problem. They said it’s a not uncommon problem and it’s mainly a matter of cleaning and greasing all the sensors. No parts. All labor. Almost $400 worth. Fortunately I have an extended warranty and it only cost me $50.

I have to wonder,though. I’ve been riding motorcycles for about 50 years. All with throttle cables. No problems. New and improved ETC (electronic throttle control) and it gives problems, and apparently not just to me. I know HD had their reasons for going to the ETC, but it seems the more they complicate a motorcycle the more likely it is that something will go wrong that will require a $90 an hour mechanic to fix.

“I can’t wait to get on the road again.”


GAR 2012 Day 9 Home Again

With Tropical Storm Debby churning in the Gulf and rain threatening NE Florida, we decided to forego our planned six-hour ride back home and motor down I-95 instead for three hours. Since we weren’t leaving until 9, I still had time to wet a line in John’s pond. No trophy fish today but I did catch one small bass before heading back to the house to pack the bikes. Early morning fishing may be the second best way to start the day, with early morning riding, of course, taking the number one spot.

Steve said goodbye temporarily to his Fat Boy, leaving it in John’s shed until next weekend when he’ll haul it to Jacksonville and assess the damage. Consequently, he had to ride home behind Ruth on her bike. Like that would really happen. He rode John’s bike back while John joined Sue in the car.

I continued to have throttle failure issues, this time on the interstate at 75 mph. After two episodes, I told Steve and Ruth and Jack and Lori to ride on to try to avoid the rain and Marilyn and I would get home when we could with John and Sue watching our backs. Not long after we got back on the road and about 60 miles from Jacksonville we ran into rain but I had already made the decision not to stop for rain gear if we hit rain. As we were about to enter some I-can’t-see-shit driving rain, we passed the SRJL quartet on the side of the road suiting up.

Eventually, we rode out of the rain and we all made it home to dry clothes and hot showers. Another Great Adventure came to an end after more than 2,000 miles of great riding on the most diverse set of roads of any GAR so far.

For those who have been following along on the hdrider blog, thanks. It’s been fun sharing GAR2012. The blog will continue with periodic entries in the coming weeks and then go back into daily update mode in August when I ride west for a four week, 15-state tour. Stay tuned.

“I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

GAR 2012 Day 8 to Walterboro

We had a chance to sleep in this morning (which I failed to take advantage of) since we didn’t go kick stands up until almost nine. Steve needed a new rear tire, particularly given the likelihood of rain tomorrow on the final day of the ride, and the HD dealership didn’t open until nine. He opted to wait for the new rubber at the dealer while the rest of rode to the USS North Carolina to start the self-guided tour.

It had been more than 30 years since I last visited the USS North Carolina memorial with daughter Heather when I was in grad school at UNC. Wandering the ship’s spaces, climbing up and down the ladders and seeing sick bay brought back memories (neither good nor bad) of my brief stint as a tar aboard the USS Columbus CG-12 more than 40 years ago.

Steve rejoined us at the battleship about 11 and we stayed another hour. We saw much of the ship, but not all.

I had originally planned to skirt the coast on US 17 through Myrtle Beach and Charleston before heading inland to Walterboro, but the noon departure from the ship was a couple hours past my original schedule, so we set off on a shorter, quicker route. When we stopped for fuel an hour after leaving the ship, Steve’s bike was making a most unpleasant noise, emanating from the front rocker box. Not good. Steve called HD road side service and set up a tow but the truck never showed so he cancelled it. We called John in Walterboro and he hooked up a trailer and drove to rescue a stranded Steve. The remaining five of us waved at John as he passed by on the north-bound side of the Interstate.

My single throttle failure today pales in comparison to Steve’s epic engine fail.

Tomorrow, with Steve riding John’s bike and John riding back with Sue in the car, we head home and hope to avoid the rain.

“I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

GAR 2012 Day 7 to Wilmington

The Ocracoke Harbor Inn provided a restful, if not luxurious night’s rest. We went kick stands up at 8 a.m. and headed for breakfast before starting today’s adventure.

The day’s ride was only about 180 miles but was divided into two parts. The first part was one mile and the second part was 179 miles. Between the two parts was a 2 1/2 hour ferry ride across Pamlico Sound between Ocracoke Island and Cedar Island. The landing at the latter was our ticket to the mainland. The ferry ride may have been the best part of today’s adventure.

For some, the ferry’s comfortable passenger chairs plus the drone of the boat’s engine plus the gentle motion of a calm sea equalled nap time. For others it meant a sea breeze in their face, warm sun on their skin and a chance to day dream without worrying about driving into a ditch or dodging an errant varmint.

The majority of today’s ride showed us some seaboard countryside but also multitude of small towns with run down strip malls featuring second-hand stores, tattoo shops, and other assorted struggling oddly-named businesses. It also featured towns with traffic lights clearly timed to break up our group and leave the stranded riders baking on hot asphalt. Late lunch at a Dairy Queen thanks to Queen Ruth was a perfect stop. When you’re riding in the heat nothing is better than a blizzard.

The hotel pool in Wilmington offered a well-earned reprieve from the heat and a chance to soak off some of the day’s accumulation of road grime.

Tomorrow we’ll start the day on a ship of another kind: the U.S.S. North Carolina. After that we’ll head back to Walterboro to rejoin John and Sue for one more night of their delightful hospitality.

“I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

GAR 2012 Day 6 to Ocracoke

Kick stands up at 7:30 this morning in Rocky Mount and kick stands down at 5:15 this afternoon in Ocracoke on the Outer Banks bookended a full day. Ride leader Steve and event planner Ruth kept the Great Adventure train on the tracks and on schedule.

Although we only covered 237 miles today, the ride through North Carolina farm country in the morning and the flat coastal plains provided a stark contrast to the mountain roads of a few days earlier. Our first stop after crossing over to the barrier islands was at the Wright Brothers’ Memorial and museum at Kill Devil Hills. Interesting to note that the Wright Brothers started building flying

machines at the same the Harley-Davidson Motor Company began to produce motorcycles. We took in some of the museum exhibits, stood on the spot where the first manned flight left the ground, and played around on a full-sized sculpture of the original plane.

Riding on the Outer Banks doesn’t offer the challenges of mountain twisties, but cruising along at a leisurely pace provided a chance to enjoy the ocean scenery. The leisurely pace was sometimes too leisurely today thanks to four episodes of throttle failure on my bike that left us limping along at 20 mph until I could shut off the engine, reset the computer and regain control of the throttle. Sure hope it keeps working well enough to get me back to Orange Park.

Ruth’s plan from the beginning was to visit lighthouses and we managed to get to three of them, including the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. Five of us climbed the 287 stairs to the top and waved at Marilyn who didn’t see us. Nice view from the top. We were able to see where the light house had been moved hundreds of yards in 1999 from its original position to its current location. One hell of an engineering feat.

The ride ended with a 40 minute ferry ride to Ocracoke Island. Hopefully that short ride prepared us for the two and a half hour ferry ride tomorrow back to the mainland where we begin the ride to Wilmington.

“I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

GAR 2012 Day 5 to Rocky Mount

Everyone knew the stay in Maggie Valley would be brief, but the two-day stint at Saving Grace made leaving the valley that much harder. It’s easy to see why so many people have made the Valley their home away from home. The trip down the mountain from the cabin with loaded bikes was considerably easier than our first excursion going the other direction.

We retraced our route on US 276 that brought us to the Valley two days earlier through Pisgah National Forest and over the mountains. Starting any day on 30 miles of mountain roads will always bring a smile to my fuzzy face. At Jack’s suggestion we visited Looking Glass Falls. Good call Jack. We were there early enough to have the place to ourselves and enjoy the falls undisturbed.

Because today’s ride was the longest of the trip (385 miles) we had to mix in some interstate riding with mountain and country roads. Despite our best efforts to avoid the quick turns and u-turns that marked yesterday’s ride, today’s adventure included the most egregious misstep of the 2012 Great Adventure. But it wasn’t the fault of the ubiquitous GPS. No, today’s screw-up rests solely on the shoulders of the ride leader. That would be me. Expecting a highway split that would send us east, I carefully positioned the group in the left hand lane of Interstate 26. But evil traffic engineers had opted for a right lane exit and a fly over spanning the Interstate. Marilyn and I managed the quick lane change to execute the flyover, but the rest of the group continued sailing southward to South Carolina. They reversed directions in another state entirely. Marilyn and I only enjoyed 20 minutes of quality alone time on the side of the highway before the missing members of the flock returned to the fold. Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

Group riding on interstate highways through large cities tests riding skills and one’s faith in his (or her) fellow man (or woman). Charlotte and Raleigh today tested both. For some reason, the natives seem to think the asphalt testing grounds belong exclusively to them, trying to enforce ownership by occupying the same spaces we intended to use. But we managed to get through urban battlefields and ten hours after we left Maggie Valley we reined in our steel steeds at the Hampton Inn in Rocky Mount.

To our great delight, the good folks at the Hampton had declared on their marquee that today’s guest of the day was our own Ruth Lee. We have, as a result, treated her since our arrival as the princess that she is.

Tomorrow the Outer Banks, light houses and ferry rides.

“I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

GAR 2012 Day 4 in Maggie Valley

Maggie Valley is a good place to ride a motorcycle and to kick back and relax. So we did both. I started the day by watching a river of fog meander benignly through the valley below. What a way to start the day.

Still recovering from the previous day’s ride, Marilyn and Sue opted for a peaceful day in the woods at Saving Grace.

After a leisurely breakfast, Jack and Lori, Ruth and Steve, and I departed for a loop ride to Cherokee, Bryson City, and Franklin, depending again on Jack’s directionally-challenged GPS. Unexpected quick turns at the urging of the GPS can and do lead to intense and animated conversations between the leader and his wingwoman who was clearly taken aback by Jack’s failure to provide a timely turn signal.

But for the most part we were on the roads we expected and especially enjoyed the snaky NC 28. The speed through the turns was sufficient to be exciting without stimulating a pucker factor. The final leg of the route brought us the back way over the mountain to the cabin, which wasn’t as challenging as yesterday’s inaugural hill climb but was nevertheless made more interesting by the occasional indecision generated by the murky messages emanating from Jack’s GPS. Which-way-should-I-go? Which-way-should-I-go?

In the meantime, John had made a short ride on his own and had returned by the time we got back from our four-hour loop. A quick lunch re-energized Ruth and Steve and Jack and Lori, and John joined them for another brief ride. I took the opportunity to try to reduce my sleep deficit.

It was another good day all around. This evening we’ve been reviewing rides for the next few days to try to ward off the dreaded GPS-induced quick turns.

It will be tough to say goodbye to “Saving Grace,” our definitely not so humble abode in Maggie Valley. This was a memorable waypoint on this year’s Great Adventure.

Tomorrow we say goodby temporarily to John and Sue and the remaining six of us will head east in search of new roads and whatever awaits us there.

“I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

GAR 2012 Day 3 to Maggie Valley

I should start at the end of the day because that’s when the “adventure” began today. But I won’t. I’m going to make you read today’s whole damn blog.

Jack led today’s ride of nearly 300 miles, depending heavily on his imperfect GPS, yet getting us to our destination nevertheless. Actually, Jack did a great job and took us on some South Carolina back roads that made for pleasant riding, especially SC 703. Saw some deer crossing the road early in the ride. Jack seems to attract deer. No collisions today, though, so that’s good.

We saw all of Greenville we wanted to see during Jack’s shortcut to the Greenville Harley-Davidson dealer. A couple of shirts and a pin later we were back on the road. Sort of. Not only does Jack attract deer, he also appears to activate red lights. Eventually we made it out of Greenville and tackled our first mountain road. We were quickly reminded why they put tread on the sides of those Dunlops.

Saw some clouds and some wet roads but avoided the standard afternoon mountain showers so common to the Smokey Mountains. Got to Maggie Valley and picked up the check-in packet for the cabin. And now the adventure began.

From the check in location it was only two miles to the cabin (or would have been if we had made all the correct turns in the first place). But the two miles were straight up. Well not exactly straight up. There were five switchbacks to negotiate. Not a problem if you’re hiking. But on a fully loaded, 900-pound motorcycle it’s a little more of a challenge. The Great Adventure Riders rose magnificently to the challenge, powering through the hairpins with nary a toe touching the asphalt. With a collective total of about a dozen u-turns, we all made it safely to Saving Grace, the name given to our cabin by its owners. It was worth the ride up the mountain. This is a beautiful home with gorgeous views from the deck and the two-story living room.

Tomorrow the Great Adventure continues. Can’t wait.

“I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

GAR 2012 Day 2 near Walterboro

Today’s short ride (about 100 miles) took us to Beaufort, SC, on the coast. The weather was perfect and the ride was relaxing, following shaded roads in some places and picturesque low country at its best.

One of the best things about traveling is the chance to visit new places and be pleasantly surprised at what you find. John and Sue, who had been to Beaufort, told us it was an “artsy” village with lots of interesting shops. Their description, as far as it went, was accurate. But we also discovered that Beaufortians are proud of their past, which dates to the early colonial period, and includes pages from both Revolutionary War and Civil War history.

But the nicest surprise was an immaculate park that borders the marina. Swings, flowers, groomed grassy and picnic areas, great views of the waterfront. It was nice spending an hour taking it all in.

Back at the West’s house following the ride, we relaxed in the pool, soaking up rays and enjoying the camaraderie that marks this group.

And what Father’s Day would be complete without a little target practice. Strong believers in the exercise of our Second Amendment right to bear arms, most of group does just that. Even Marilyn and I took a few shots at a paper bad guy.

We continued to put a dent in the unseemly amount of provisions we hauled in yesterday. Tonight’s repast had a South of the border theme with venison tacos and spicy queso dip. We are waiting for the taco dust to settle before attacking several containers of ice cream.

Jack will lead tomorrow’s ride to the cabin in Maggie Valley and went over the route today. About 300 miles over mostly state and US highways with a great finish on a twistie through the mountains. Well planned down to the rest stops and lunch break. Weather forecast looks good again tomorrow.

“I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

GAR 2012 Day 1 to Walterboro SC

265 miles through NE Florida, Georgia and South Carolina on mostly back roads and bypasses. John and Sue. Jack And Lori. Ruth and Steve. Marilyn and me. We left work and worries behind us. Well mostly. Today was a great way to start this 9 day adventure. Perfect weather, great roads. Having what I hope is minor issue with my bike involving the throttle sensor. Hope it doesn’t develop into a larger issue.

One of the best things about these kinds trips are the unique eateries you discover along the way. Th Purple Pickle in Darien Georgia, for example. Clearly not a chain. Local art on all the walls, including the unisex bathroom. Slow service gave us time to talk and good food gave us something to enjoy.

Arrived at the West’s in Walterboro about 6 p.m., making it a 7 hour ride. If you wanted to, you could do it 3 hours on the interstate, but who would want to? Headed immediately to the grocery store where we bought enough food for 16 people for a week. The 8 of us will be here 2 days. And we’ll probably eat all the food. Marilyn fixed a salad while I set fire to a half dozen ribeyes. My Jack D was sitting on the grill shelf and I singed my lips in the middle of my chef’s duties. But everyone enjoyed the steak and grilled corn on the cob.

The best part of the meal wasn’t the food. It was the friendship. This was a great way to begin GAR 2012.

“I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

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