Friday, December 6, 2013

30th Annual LA Barstow to Vegas

     So this is my dad 5 days after LAB2V.  Yeah ouch.  6 broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a busted clavicle - most broken on both sides for a grand total of 11 fractures.  How'd it happen?  I'll get to that. 

     This was a good year for the 30th LAB2V.  Rain a couple days before and a light drizzle on day 1 left us with almost no dust for nearly 400 miles.

Sign-in on day 1 had the same problem as last year in that they have the tables setup inside a motorcycle shop.  While I can appreciate that this is nice for keeping the staff warm, the end result is that 15 people are cozy and 500 guys dressed for riding in 37 degrees with chance of showers are sweating their butts off.  I stayed wet from that all day.

Day 1 riding was nice.  We followed a similar route as last year out of town, but that's where the similarities ended.  It was a short day at only 140 miles, with some really nice views and a lot of very deep sand washes.  Even with the rain it was pretty tough going through some parts.  Dad dropped it a few times in the sand but made we made it to Barstow early all the same.

Day 2 had a nicer start since we just lined up at the check in gate on our bikes and rode through as soon as they opened the ride.  

A longer trek on the road meant that by the time we hit the dirt the herd of bikes was already starting to thin out.  We made great time, and hit a long section of powerline road and we were just smoking along at about 45mph.  I was getting a bit tired and thought about pulling over for a break several times figuring my dad could use a break as well.  Wish I had.

Every 1/2 mile or so on the powerline road we'd hit a section of sand.  So long as you stayed in the wheel ruts it was fine, but if you hit the center hump or shoulder it was DEEP.  Well my dad managed to clip into that center hump and went down HARD.  I saw him in my mirror as he tumbled.  2 riders stopped to help him up and I pulled his bike off the road while he sat on a hillside trying to catch his breath.  His bars were bent badly but the bike was still ride-able.  A glance at the GPS showed that we were pretty much screwed for getting to a paved road.  Either 38 miles ahead to Baker or about 30 miles back the way we came (and into opposing traffic).  Dad said he felt okay and he wanted to keep going and ride it off.  A couple miles later, despite going much slower, he hit sand and went down again, this time hurting his leg.  

We limped along at a very slow pace until we hit Baker and fueled up.  He was still up for continuing on, but once he saw how deep the sand was on the trail out of Baker we decided to take a 25 mile detour on the freeway to skip that section.  When we hit our exit and got off the freeway we stopped to stretch our legs at a gas station.  He was hurting really bad at this point.  The freeway ride had allowed him time to hold still and everything tightened up.  It was hard for him to throw in the towel, but we decided that it was for the best and phoned the wives in the chase vehicle.  He was content to stay there and wait for them while I continued on.

I really thought I was behind at this point so I tore into the trails, averaging about 55mph the whole way to the lunch stop.  

It wasn't until lunch in Sandy Valley and talking to other riders that I realized I was pretty close to the front of the pack.  This was nice as it allowed me to take the longer and more scenic route to Red Rock Canyon.  Once again, I attacked the trail and made great time.  

Red Rock is always revered as the best part of LAB2V so I couldn't wait to try it.  I hit the trail and had easy terrain for the first several miles until I came upon a group of about 10 bikes waiting in line.  Supposedly somebody had crashed and we were waiting to get through.  I waited a few minutes until it was my turn and cruised around a bend.  Up ahead lay a very rocky and fairly challenging but small hill.  Littered throughout were riders that clearly were in over their heads.  One guy on an adventure bike seemed to be having the most trouble and causing the majority of the traffic up the easy/preferred trail so I parked my bike and took his bike up for him.  Once he was out of the way however, the very next guy behind him and the rider behind that guy both tipped over and the traffic jam was no better.  The line had already grown by half a dozen more riders so I figured if I wanted to get through, better to just go and let people figure out for themselves that they needed to turn back.  I picked an ugly line through huge boulders and made it without incident.

Unfortunately the traffic didn't stop there.  Just a couple turns ahead and I hit another traffic jam.  This time the snow that dotted the canyon had frozen to ice on the trail and nobody could get traction.  I aired down my tires and plowed forward along the side of the trail avoiding all the stuck riders.  A guy tipped over in front of me on the last bit of hill so I had to dismount and run the bike up the rest.  Another hill, much steeper and icier than the last greeted me - once again it was blocked by riders waiting their turns.  I had no choice but to sit about 20 minutes until enough room opened up that I could squeeze by.  I chose to run my bike up, and made it easily, managing to dodge several downed riders and some guy snapping pictures from the middle of the trail.  

Another hill loomed ahead, this time I wiped out myself about midway up.  I'd been at this for well over an hour at this point and was getting quite tired.  It seemed like every hill was worse than the last and I was seriously ready to throw in the towel.  When I managed to get my bike pointed uphill again I ran it a bit, only to have 2 guys tip over in front of me completely blocking the trail.  I was done.  I had no idea how many more hills like this we had to go and at this rate I'd be lucky to make Vegas by 3am.  I turned my bike around and headed down, cautioning others as to the terrain ahead as I went.

It took awhile to weed through the traffic and was infinitely more challenging than it had been going up since not only were the preferred routes blocked, but also several alternatives.  The only route was down the stuff that nobody wanted to try to ride up.  My clutch hand was shaking by the time I made it to the rocky hill where I'd helped the adventure bike up. 

I was disappointed, but not so much as a week later when I watched a YouTube video somebody had posted of their ride through the canyon.  Turns out the hill I turned around on was the last one, and the sailing was smooth from then on.  I was 150' away from completing Red Rock.  Next year...

The alternate route was boring.  Nothing but a paved mountain road down into Vegas.  I phoned my wife at the finish line so she could get ready with the camera, and rolled in to be greeted by my new best friends.  

Mom and dad were there, my dad hurting but not complaining.  In fact, one of the 1st things he asked me as I was stuffing Thanksgiving leftovers down my face was how the terrain was after we split.  When I told him he was remorseful, saying he probably could have made it then. 

It wasn't until we were home on Monday and he was still hurting that he decided to go to the ER and we found out the damage.  Once I heard the tally and thinking back to how disappointed he was for not finishing, all I could think of was:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Delayed Dash to the Memorials


     2011.  I had just moved back to California and was interested in getting into some dual sporting around here.  I stumbled across the District 37 AMA website and saw the Los Coyotes Dash to the Memorials ride to happen the following weekend.  Unfortunately funds were tight and logistics was a problem so I was unable to go.  However some awesome rider posted a GPS track of the ride so today my dad and I made the trip.  68 degrees, mildly damp soil with ZERO dust, 121 miles, 4 memorials, and nobody on the trail but the two of us.

     Scattered showers yesterday left the desert in an ideal condition for desert exploration.  As anyone that rides SoCal will tell you, once you manage to find a riding area that hasn't been closed by the green movement, you're going to have a lot of sand and even more dust.  I can't say we avoided the ever-present sand, but the mild rain meant almost no dust all day.

     Morning was a bit cool at 37 degrees as we setup for our ride at the Cuddleback staging area.  We'd left home at 5:30am hoping to get an early start but this was a bit cooler weather than we'd hoped to ride in.  Thankfully we managed enough layers to stay fairly comfortable until the temperature climbed over the next hour.

     This was my dad's 1st taste of sand in 45 years and he had two crashes within about 100 yards of one another.  I was a bit concerned that our day would end before it began but he kept on and those crashes were the only ones he had all day.

     After about an hour we arrived at the Husky Monument - a small patch of desert that has become a place to remember riders that have passed on over the years.  As I saw the words left by loved ones, the trinkets, the solar garden lights, the custom painted gas tank, the numerous handlebars and sprockets, the helmet cemented into a vault, the plastic stripper hanging off of a flag pole, and the empty Jack Daniels bottle, I couldn't help but think of all the people that think off-roaders are just dirty rednecks out trying to pollute and smash every living thing in the desert.  To those people I say go to this monument.  See past the brashness of the airbrushed middle finger and see that riding the desert isn't about the exploitation of the environment.  Its about families.  People brought these items to this location to honor and remember a loved one that loved riding the desert.  One death does not end a legacy of desert riding.  Their friends and family, whom with they shared countless lies over a dying fire continue to ride, and visit this place to remember those that are no longer with them on the trail.  We're not Nitro Circus out here, we're just normal folks that enjoy spending time camping and riding wide open spaces with the people we love.  I felt lucky to be able to visit this place for the first time with my dad.

     My dad was thoughtful enough to bring a small token to leave as respect for those that are no longer with us.

     Back on the trail, it was a long trek to our second destination - the XB-70 memorial, followed immediately by the crash site of the F-104.  These planes suffered a mid-air collision in 1966 while flying in formation for a publicity photograph for G.E.  We had a bit of trouble finding the XB-70 memorial using the GPS coordinates I'd found online, but managed once we extended our search beyond where it was "supposed" to be.

Twenty minutes of deep sandy whoops and we made it to the crash site of the F-104.

     Leaving here, we had a quick and uneventful trip down into Hinkley where we stopped for gas and a couple sandwiches.

     After that, it was another quick shot out some powerline roads, followed by jeep track until we came upon the crash site for the B-1a.  This crash occurred in 1984, and unlike the 2009 F-22 Raptor crash site, the USAF didn't spoil the historical significance of an impact zone by trying (quite poorly I might add) to erase it from the desert.  An area the size of a couple large houses is dotted with melted and burnt debris.  Pieces of fiberglass and carbon fiber flap in the wind, next to bent chunks of riveted aluminum.  The whole impact area is black and grey with ash, and at the center a lonely cairn stands for the pilot that lost his life when his ejection capsule malfunctioned during a low altitude maneuver.

     From here it was a tired and spirited jaunt back to the truck cruising across the desert at 45mph.  As I rode I thought about the things I've seen from the back of a motorcycle.  Sure you could probably take a 2WD car to these sites, but most people wouldn't.  You could hike there, or mountain bike, but you'd spend all day getting to just one location and back, and be exhausted for your effort.  We managed to see all four, and explore some truly beautiful back country, all for about $20 worth of gas.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Trackmaster II Rear and Parker DT Front

     I haven't had a chance to ride the bike offroad yet with them so a review will be posted later.  I convinced my dad that he'd spend less time on his butt if he had tires that didn't spin out every time the trail got a bit loose.  Catch is we spent a lot of money and effort lowering his bike and finding tires that weren't tragically taller than the stock rubber isn't the easiest thing in the world.  Supposedly this is a good combo for SoCal desert riding and they come in sizes pretty close to the stock tires.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Post That Never Was

     So I got a skid plate installed on my dad's WRR and man was the thing loud.  Had this vibration at certain RPM's that made your fillings hurt.  I concluded that this was due to a large unsupported surface area on the Flatlands Racing plate where the skid rested against the frame rails.  I'm also well aware from my XR experience that having a plate like this will trap water against the frame and cause premature rust.  Well I don't have the vibration issue on the KTM, but I do notice a bit more engine noise with the plate on.  So I figured this would be a good time to conduct a very scientific experiment on dB increases from skid plates and ways to correct them.  I wrote the whole procedure out on here complete with a conclusion that I was sure to have.

...And then I did the test.

     Well apparently while a skid plate does increase the noise level at certain RPM's, at anything more than a crawl these noises are negligible compared to wind and exhaust noise.  I ran the experiment at several different speeds but kept finding that the WRR (the worse of the two) was reading the same dB both with and without the plate.  So why did my fillings say differently?  The only conclusion I can come up with is that its more of an issue with the frequency of the sound than the loudness.

      So to deal with the vibration noise as well as the rust issue, I went through with my plan of sticking 8 rectangles of 1/4" neoprene gasket material to the plate at various locations between the frame and skid.  Vibration noise gone and water now drains.  Yay?


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ride Number Two

     I gotta admit.  I'm enjoying having my dad along for rides.  Better than that, it appears that he's actually enjoying himself as well.  

The bike is working out great and I think we really hit a home run on choosing the WRR.  As with any new bike, there's a learning curve where you figure out how the bike handles to different situations and where the limitations lie.  Turns out the same methodology applies to dads that haven't been on a motorcycle in 40+ years.  He's doing great - way better than a new rider, but these bikes are quite a bit different than anything he's used to.  Don't get me wrong, he loves his bike.  We're taking it easy - just doing some short runs in the local hills to loosen up the joints and get him more comfortable on the bike.  Last week we did 25 miles and I uh...forgot to take any pictures.  Today we did 35 miles, and I managed to dig the camera out a few times and snap some shots.  I'm trying to reintroduce him to riding gently and having fun the whole way, rather than just dump him into a 200 mile day and see if he'll ride again once the swelling subsides. 

Back to the 'dad enjoying himself' thing.  We're actually having a dialogue about places he wants to go riding!  Its kinda weird after 20ish years of bugging the guy to come riding with me.  Death Valley, Moab, Colorado, Anza Borrego, and various local aviation memorials have all entered discussion.   Next ride if the weather cooperates I think we're going to ditch the local mountains and head for the desert.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Universal Samson Bed Rack

     Now that I'm once again having to haul around 2 bikes I figured it was time to find a better way of securing them.  Annnnd since RMATV saw fit to send me a $50 gift card, that gave me 2 options since that's how many varieties of bed racks they carry in stock.  I ended up going with the Samson Bed Rack by Universal simply because it had good reviews and it looked decent.  1st off, let me say I'm pretty impressed with how well constructed it is.  Smart design, and pretty darn lightweight too.  I've been leery about bed racks in the past b/c I always figured it would be a massive pain to bolt it up.  Not so!  Sure you have to work blindly, but there's enough room to hold a wrench between the bed and the cab and get the job done.  The whole installation took me about 20 minutes, and I even added a bit of RTV smeared on the exposed metal of the drilled holes for rust prevention.  Anyway it looks good and I'll edit this post once I've had a chance to use it.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Meet the Pops

     I think I've spent at least 200 man-hours trying to convince my dad to get a dual sport and join me on my rides.  Yeah he's 63, so what?  He's actually in damn good shape compared to a lot of the guys I see out on the trails, and there's plenty of riders that are older than him - especially in the dual sport community.  Plus he used to ride when he was younger - granted a few things have changed in the 40 years since he last rode a bike.  Imagine my surprise last week when he suggested that we start looking for a bike for him...

     The search ended on a 2013 WR250R.  From reading the forums, I can't seem to find anyone that doesn't love these bikes.  A few guys have wanted more power than you can get out of these engines and have gone to a larger platform, but even they have said that they loved everything else about it.  The bike is rock-solid reliable too.  I mean valve adjustments at 26,000 miles suggested by the manufacturer???  That's just plain silly right there.  Anyway I like the bike, and I think it'll be enough to keep him busy without feeling overwhelmed.  I snapped a quick pic of it while its still all shiny and scratch free.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

New support vehicle

     Sadly not much news to report on actual riding.  I went on a trip to Mammoth but a combined effort from the hotel, wife, kid, dog, and broken motorcycle gremlins only allowed me to use about 1/2 tank of fuel - mostly on the road.  Nothing major broke on the motorcycle.  Have a small oil leak around the valve cover, but I snapped my fuel filter.  A 5 minute fix when your wife isn't grocery shopping 20 minutes away in town in your only other vehicle.

     On the other hand, my failed Mammoth trip did light the fire into getting a truck that I would trust to pull my trailer.  My Nissan Titan is a lemon.  It's on its 3rd rear differential (leaking again), 2nd front diff, 3rd set of exhaust headers, constantly blows fuses to the trailer brakes - I hate the thing.  So instead I managed to trade in the lemon for a 2013 Dodge 2500 HD Diesel.  Weeee!

    Haven't had the chance to tow with it yet but the thing is a BEAST!