Archive for the ‘adventure riding’ Category

Thoughts on Road Trippin’

In my time as a motorcyclist, I have taken a handful of cross country trips. I am not an expert by any means but I am completely comfortable packing a bag and leaving out for over a week or more with no reservations. On my last trip, as I didn’t organize or plan it, things were done differently. The stark contrast between the two styles of trip was something I felt would be worth talking about. It is something I will have to consider when planning my next trip.

 

On my first couple adventures I camped most of the way only occasionally getting a hotel room. I never made any strict plans on where I would camp either. Basically, I would look at the atlas each morning and pick a camp site that I thought I would be able to make it to and a backup site just in case I failed to reach the farther one. This worked really well most of the time. The times it did not…well, that might have to be a topic for a later post.

 

As there were few rigidly planned stops, I rarely researched the attractions in any of the areas I was going through. Truth is, I likely missed out on a lot of cool things to see while I was on the road. Traditionally, my goal was to keep moving and move I did. So much so, that I didn’t take the time to smell the proverbial roses. Though there is not much I would change about my trips, this is one area where I feel I shortchanged myself. Next time I have the general idea of where I am going, I will research things along the route. Also, a smartphone will be an asset once on the road. Once I get the daily plan laid out I can do a quick search for points of interest along the way.

 

When there were places I planned stop on the road, all of my gear was strapped to the bike. This made it really hard to see some of the attractions in the places I did stop because I was afraid to leave my gear. While not a concern in some of the more rural areas I went through, I certainly would not leave my stuff unattended in touristy spots or city streets. For example, my traveling partner and I took turns walking around New York City because the minute we stopped we could feel the eyes on us and our packs. If you have locking bags, this doesn’t effect you but with a backpack strapped to a sissy bar, my gear was an easy target.

 

The last trip I went on was put together by a friend and thus, I was following his lead. His road trip style is a stark contrast to mine. He planned to the letter and knew where we were going every day and where we were staying every night. There were also a ton of landmarks and things to see that he researched, read about and knew whether or not were worth seeing.

 

As his planning included lodging in KOA cabins in most of the cities we stayed in, we had a place to stow our gear. This meant that nobody had to stay with the bikes and we could walk around worry free. It sounds so simple but this was vastly different than what I was used to. Honestly, it was liberating. Which brings me to the next point: we actually took time to explore and see the places we were riding through. I’m not saying I saw every cool things in every city but I saw more than I had previously by a long shot.

 

Different is good. In some cases, like this one, it can be great. Though I wont say that I will make every trip from now on a tour of each place I go through, I will certainly do a little more homework. In terms of lodging, there will still be nights I go without reservations but if I am passing through a place I really want to see, I’ll get a cabin at the KOA or a room at a cheap hotel so I can wander without worry. It really boils down to what you want out of your trip: saddle time or site seeing. I think going forward, my trips will be a hybrid of both.

Ride to Davis Ferry – a motorcycle ferry tale, or How to Service a Battery

David Haynes (WRBS) has been talking about the Davis Ferry since the first time I met him over a year ago.  From the first time we talked about it, I expressed an interest – I always enjoy unique and interesting rides and destinations.  I believe there are only 3 ferries left operating in Alabama.  The stars aligned and we set out early on Wednesday morning, headed down south for our first stop in Thomaston – at the Alabama Rural Heritage Center .  David had set up an interview with a board member to discuss the Center and the upcoming Pepper Jelly Festival for an upcoming article in Alabama Living.  After sitting in on the interview, we had a quick visit to the gift shop at the center, where they displayed a wall of pepper jelly, and rows of folk art from Alabama artisans, a few of which David had met and interviewed.  After awarding us with some pepper jelly, we were on our way south to the ferry.

Arriving at the end of the pavement, we encountered what looked like a controlled-burn of the woods, as we entered the dirt section leading to the Alabama River and Davis Ferry.  At the end of the road, a family had setup a fishing spot in front of our bikes, but reported no bites “due to wind”.  We munched on “lunch” and waited for the ferrymen to get back from their lunch break.  We saw Bart (Bartab) roll up on the other side, as we noticed some activity and the other side of the river spring to life.  A few minutes later, the ferry cranked up, and a plume of water came up on the side of the craft – they were under way.  They more than half way across when I realized the water-plume was formed from a paddle-wheel, just like the steam boats.  One, thinly-constructed paddle-wheel was moving that large craft across the swift Alabama River.  It was worth the trip just to see that antique in operation, a bonus to get to ride across.

As the craft landed, Bart rode his Triumph Tiger onto the ramp like a Marine landing on the beach on D-Day.  He was the only traveler, and quickly turned around to board the craft again with us.  On board, we hardly felt movement, but the craft moved us to the other side quite quickly, maybe 200 yards across.  Upon landing on the other side, the operators hustled us off, and we wandered through the park that ran along the side of the river.

This is where our trouble began.

 

Bart had explained why his engine was running the whole time we were crossing – he was having issues with his motorcycle battery .  He commented he had another battery just in case, but did not want to fool with it if he did not have to.  So we rolled to the end of the park, and as we were leaving Bart stalled the bike.  No big deal, he has another battery, right?  He quickly installs the battery, hits the start button and we hear the whine starter, but no engine spinning.

 

So after 45 minutes of troubleshooting, an attempt to pull the engine case loose, and more bump-starting-by-tow-rope, we decide to pull it to the top of the hill.  Well that turned into let’s-tow-it-30-miles to the first mechanic we can find, or sign of civilization, or whichever comes first.  Pretty hairy stuff pulling any bike, with a bike.  Hairy for the puller AND the skier, pulling uphill, on a dirt road, then almost 30 more miles up and down hills and twisty roads, we were experts by the time we arrived at M&S Auto in Camden.

Bart strolled in, asked if we could simply leave the bike inside his shop until tomorrow.  Certainly no hayseed from Camden would know anything about a sophisticated European adventure machine.  How could he know anything more than 5 grown men, probably with a combined 100+ years of riding and mechanical skills, that were unable to diagnose a complex electrical problem?  He insisted he might be able to solve the problem, and have us back on the road.  So instead of insulting the hayseed, Bart removed seat, and pointed towards the battery.  In less than 2 minutes, the hayseed expert mechanic pointed out the problem – the battery was spun around and the terminals were crossed.  Within 15 minutes, the hayseed engine surgeon had changed the fuse, charged the battery, and had the bike running again, with all of our tails between our legs – how did we miss that?  How did the starter turn (albeit backwards)?  Lights came on?

Glad we got it back running, I should have tipped the guy – it was worth $20 not to have Bart riding BITCH all the way back to Hoover.