26 September, 2009

By the Numbers

In spite of the early difficulties, I did make it all the way to the Pacific and back.
Here are a few stats from the trip:
the general route is pictured above. Couldn't get the googlemaps highlighted map to display correctly, but this is close

18 U.S. States and 1 Canadian Province
7,300 miles (11,700 kilometers)
That's the equivalent of driving from New York City to Nairobi, Kenya
29 days, 28 nights
16 days over 100 miles driving, 13 days under 100 miles (incl. 7 of 0 miles)
average of 440 miles per day during driving days
longest distance in one day - 640 miles
18 different locations for the night, 5 stops for multiple nights
3 nights staying on my own, the rest with friends

More stories to come...

25 September, 2009

Is this going to happen?

I was about to start a trip westward with my recently acquired BMW 650 motorcycle when I rode it nearly 100 miles (2 hours) away to Johnstown. It was a very nice ride across Route 30 over the mountains and should have been a great warmup to the trip I was to begin 2 days later.

BMWs are known to be reliable machines that last and last. I've known people who have ridden them all over Africa, the US, and Canada. Two guys rode from London across Europe and Asia, flew to Anchorage, Alaska, and then continued to New York City on BMW motorcycles several years ago (nearly 20,000 miles altogether), and the documentary (the Long Way Round) was a television series chronicling their difficult journey. The bikes made it ok, though, and if they could make that journey, you'd think I'd have no problem getting across the US and back (ok, mine wasn't as new or the same model they used).

So I'm in Johnstown in the middle of the day and put the key in the ignition. The key doesn't go in. When I pull the key away, I notice the plastic dust guard is cracked. (See the photo with the arrow pointing to where the dust guard used to be if you have any question as to what I'm talking about). I managed to get the bigger piece out, but in the process pushed the smaller cracked plastic piece further into the ignition. I don't know anyone in Johnstown and don't have any precision tools with me and the cycle. So I try using my smallest key and a pen cap to dig the plastic out. No success, but rather it is now even further down the ignition to where there's no chance a key or pen cap is going to fit under. I stop a passer-by who thankfully had a couple of those tiny, long flat screwdrivers that are useful for eyeglass and other tiny screws. I borrow those, which would have been perfect at the beginning, but at this point, I do nothing more than knock the plastic further yet into the ignition, and can no longer even see the plastic without shining a flashlight into the hole. Realizing I'm in a bit of a jam, I call a local motorcycle shop who refers me to a locksmith. The locksmith said unless I had the entire ignition out of the bike, he could do nothing, and that I needed to be careful using anything too hard down in the ignition system as the tumblers (that set the cut for a key to work) could easily be damaged and result in the key no longer working. It's now been 45 minutes or so. Out of frustration, I deduce that since the piece that fell in is plastic, and the screwdrivers are metal, I can carefully smash the plastic into tiny bits so that the key can be jammed in. Of course that didn't work either.

I walk down the road a mile or so to where I was told a motorcycle shop is. The shop owner comes back to the motorcycle with me and takes it back to his shop. It doesn't take long to determine the plastic is not coming out. At this he says he can take a couple hours to get the ignition out, send it to a locksmith, and wait an hour or so till the locksmith can determine if he'll be able to get the ignition opened enough for the plastic to come out, and then take time to put it back into the bike leaving an earliest possible solution coming in the evening for a couple hour ride back to Chambersburg. Of course, there's also the chance that after several hours, it turns out that even this proves unsuccessful and I'm left at square one (minus an ignition). The other alternative is to hotwire the motorcycle and be able to get it home to figure out what action to take. I chose option two. So after an hour or so, my motorcycle was wired up and ran by an on/off switch instead of the key. But I got home that evening.

I didn't feel too comfortable traveling across the country and having just anyone be able to turn on the bike without a key or anything, so started calling to try to get a new ignition ordered to put in. It took a day for the dealership to tell me that they found the right part, but then the next day found the part was discontinued and I had to purchase a three lock set (ignition, fuel tank, and seat) which was 3 times the cost just for the hardware. At this point a friend I was talking with about it said he may be able to drill out the plastic. Having nothing to lose from the ignition being damaged, he tried. It took several hours another day later, but amazingly it worked. An air compressor blew out tiny bits of the plastic, and the final tiny piece that was really jammed in came out through sucking it up into a tiny WD40 straw. Hallelujah!! I can get this show on the road.

Not just yet. In bringing the motorcycle from his shop to my house, he notices an exhaust leak. Instead of trying to start such a long trip like this, I order the part. But, I also got the idea to take the bike to the first stop (a friend's in South Carolina) where there is also a dealer that could order the part, and actually get it in a day earlier. So I ordered it there also and took the motorcycle down in the back of my truck, and my friend in South Carolina was going to drive the truck back to PA. When the store called that the gasket was in, I went to pick it up and it turned out to be the wrong gasket. So, I ended up heading with my friend back to PA the next day, in the truck, with the motorcycle in the back yet again.

The following day I picked up the gasket from the nearby dealer who I'd also ordered from, and thankfully it was the right part. So the bike was put together and I decided to give a third try to the expedition.

To be continued...

22 September, 2009

Walking like John Wayne

It's been a long time since I've updated anything here. Well, that is about to change. I've got some writing material following a cross country motorcycle journey. It was a long time in the saddle, but my tookus is now resting and recovering. It was a blast, and the last five weeks might take a few posts to fill in the details of. I don't have all that many photos, but there should be a few to accompany the stories that will be told.

Since it has been so long since I'd posted, I don't know if anyone reads this anymore. So this is just to give those who might happen to check it a notice to keep checking back over the next few days to hear the beginning of the Blue Mamba Trail saga.