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W.D. & Me On Our First Long Motorcycle Ride 36 Years Ago!

Dallas -Dumas 411 miles, motorcycle, route, ride

My route to/from Dallas, Texas/Dumas, Texas (411 miles)

Several weeks ago I met my cousin W. D. (aka Dub) in Lagrange, Texas (of “Chicken Ranch” fame). Dub recently bought a new camper for his retirement travels and was setup at “Colorado Landing” RV park. He and I lived close by growing up and have been like brothers since we were kids. Dub is 18 months older, so like any little brother I wanted to do everything Dub did. Cousins are your first and best friends. We have a long history so we spent the day visiting and talking about old times.

My KZ400

My KZ400 that I rode on the trip.

Dub and I rode our first long motorcycle ride together. He lived in Eastlake, Colorado just north of Denver, Colorado and I lived in Dallas, Texas. We were young and rode the trip “on a wing and a prayer”. The only thing we planned was the date of travel and our destinations.  We met each other in Dumas, Texas which was about midway for each of us. Back then there were no cell phones to communicate with each other as our trip progressed. Dub devised a crazy way for us to communicate on our trip without having expensive long distances charges. When we stopped for gas or to eat etc. we would call Dub’s wife Barb “person to person”. If everything was okay we would ask to speak to ourselves. Barb would reject the call if everything was okay. If either one of us had any problems we would call and ask to speak with Barb. Barb would accept the call and we could tell her what our problem was. This worked very well. As the day progressed we kept checking in and knew the other rider was having a good ride. Fortunately, we did not have any problems that needed to be relayed during the trip.

That first day the weather was great… not too hot or too cold. We both made good time and arrived in Dumas about 5 or 10 minutes apart. I was riding a 1974 Kawasaki KZ400 and Dub was riding a 1974 Yamaha 500. Seats on our bikes were not made for staying in the saddle for hours on end.  As the hours became longer and longer it seemed as though we were sitting on 2×4’s turned edge ways. When we met up, we both shared similar stories about how hard the seats were. I had passed many riders that day who were standing while riding. It wasn’t long before I understood why they were riding that way. I was soon doing the same. If I remember correctly I could only travel about 100 miles before stopping for gas. It was a welcome break from the saddle. I also had to stop occasionally to oil and make adjustments on the chain. Because of that trip I decided my next bike would not have a chain drive.

motorcycle, route, ride

Our route from Dumas to Clovis (182 miles)

We were a bit paranoid about parking our bikes outside the motel room, so we pushed them into our room for safekeeping. Nothing like the smell oil and gas as you sleep. The following day we got an early start and headed to Clovis, New Mexico. Dub’s brother John was stationed at the Air Force base in Clovis. It was a short ride relative to the day before. We stayed with John a couple of nights. John had a bike so we spent the following day riding around Clovis. Dub had a minor mishap the first day. Shortly after starting his ride he broke his windshield and had ridden with half a windshield. We checked with the local Yamaha dealer there in Clovis to get a replacement windshield. They had a windshield that was the same size and shape but the mounting holes did not match. We solved the problem by drilling a couple of holes to make it work. Later on the trip, Dub would find replacing the windshield to be a good decision.

Clovis - Eastlake 511 miles

Our route from Clovis to Eastlake (511 miles)

After a good visit and rest we rode to Eastlake the next day. It was a long ride of 511 miles. As we started out that day it began to warm up. We noticed there were hundreds of tarantulas sunning themselves on the road that day. We entertained ourselves by holding our boots just above the pavement and when our boot hit a tarantula; it would go flying down the road. Please remember this was 30 plus years ago and our youth was showing.

The weather was great when we started but then turned to light snow and eventually rain. When we started up Raton pass (7834 feet or 2388 meters elevation) the clouds started to roll in. As we reached the top of the pass snow started falling. To add to the situation both of our bikes were carbureted and ran really rough in the higher altitude. I think at one point I may have downshifted to second gear climbing the pass. On the other side of the pass it was all downhill to coin a phrase. A short while later, I thought I had a major engine problem. It was as though I turned off the key. No power… it was a dead engine. I watched as Dub’s tail light became smaller and smaller as he rode farther away. Dub had not realized I was falling behind. I was in a bit of a panic not knowing if he would realize I was not behind him any longer. About a mile down the road Dub turned around and came back to see what the problem was. I had taken my hand off the handlebar to wipe my nose and in the process I inadvertently hit the kill switch. Because of the gloves I was wearing I did not feel my hand hitting the switch. It took a few minutes to realize what had actually happened. What a relief to know there was no problem. After having a good laugh we continued on our way. The snow eventually stopped and we thought we were out of the worst of it but then it started to rain rather heavily. I was wearing a cheap rain suit. It worked well until the pants started to come apart from the knee down. I was getting soaking wet from the knee down. Being wet is one thing… being wet and cold is another… As we were riding through Pueblo Colorado we were passed by a car full of kids. They rolled down their window and were laughing and shouting at us riding in the rain. We had the last laugh. They ran off the road while trying to make fun of our situation. Dub and I smiled and rode on.

Later, we stopped at a rest stop to call Barb and let her know our ETA. While Dub was talking to Barb I decided to put on some dry socks. Sitting on the curb by my bike I thought the warm engine would feel good on my cold wet feet. I was right. I was lying on my back with my feet on the engine when Dub came looking for me. Because I was lying down he could not see me. He was walking around wondering where the heck I had gotten off to. We had another good laugh when he saw me laying on the ground. The engine heat did feel really good on my cold wet feet.

It was still raining when we got to Eastlake after sunset. Dub’s driveway was long and was two strips of concrete made just for a car. Because the concrete was narrow, wet and slick, we both slipped off the runners and dropped our bikes.  We just let them lay and went in the house to clean up and warm up. Later that night we got the bikes up to the house and cleaned them up the next day. We learned a lot that day…

I stayed several days visiting, site seeing and resting up before riding back to Dallas alone. I missed having my cousin riding along. For the most part the ride was uneventful. I had good weather, a bit cold and partly overcast the first day but not bad considering it was October. When riding that time of the year in Colorado the weather could have been really bad. I was lucky.

Eastlake - Dumas 401 miles

My route from Eastlake to Dumas (401 miles)

I stopped at Capulin Volcano to take a break and play tourist. On the way up to the top of Capulin one of the supports broke on my windshield. I was in a bit of a panic until I figured out a fix. It held together the rest of the trip.

I spent the night in Dumas again. I got an early start back to Dallas. Somewhere along the way I lost my Air Force fatigue shirt I had strapped to the luggage rack. I rode a ways back looking for it but had no luck finding it. I paid 4 years of my life for it and didn’t like losing it. Your fatigue shirt was like a “badge of honor” back in those days.

Until this ride, the longest ride I had been on was a 610 mile round trip. This ride of 1858 miles round trip ignited my love of motorcycle touring. It took me out of my comfort zone and I learned a lot from this trip. After this ride I knew I needed better gear and a bike better suited for long trips. I started a family shortly after that trip and I had to put my riding on hold for 23 years. Now I am trying to make up for lost time. My posts here will attest to that.

Dub & Me

Dub and me 30+ years later…

Dub still rides but has downsized to a Yamaha scooter. We hope to do some riding together again. We have tried to get together to ride but life has gotten in the way. I’m going to try to get him to ride with me in May. I plan to ride the “Texas Independence Trail Region”. Stay tuned for that post…

Planning Motorcycle Trips

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To me, planning motorcycle trips is a necessity for a good motorcycle trip. You can never over plan but you can under plan…

In 1977 I took my first long motorcycle trip of 1800 miles. The only thing I planned was the start date, return date and destination. In spite of the lack of planning it was a good trip. Fast forward to June 2002 and I’m a lot older and I would like to think a lot wiser (I may get an argument from Janet on that point). This was my first long ride in 25 years and it was Janet first long ride ever. To top it all off it was to a place (Big Bend National Park) that is not forgiving if you have not planned. Because this was Janet first long ride, I wanted her to enjoy the ride and continue riding with me. I planned every detail of the trip. Because everything is “few and far between” in West Texas I knew where every gas station, lodging and places to eat were. I did make some mistakes. Nothing that ruined the trip but we learned from the mistakes. We have learned a lot and continue to learn more as we travel by motorcycle. This post is about my method of planning our trips.

Destination or Destinations

Every trip begins with a destination or destinations. We pick destinations in various ways. Some of the ways are…

  • Destinations come from places I have always wanted to ride or after traveling somewhere and realizing the trip would be a great motorcycle trip.
  • Friends are always telling us about some of the places they have traveled and have suggested rides. It’s always good to get first hand information, recommendations and you can always ask questions and get suggestions.
  • Some destinations come from reading blogs like this one. Some of my favorite blogs are Coyote , Moto Hobos, Observations of a Perpetual Motorcyclist, Crossings and alison’s wanderland to name just a few. The nice thing about following blogs is you can always get more information from the bloggers. Bloggers are always happy to share their knowledge. Just ask…
  • Some destinations come from motorcycle publications or travel publications. My favorite publications for destinations are Ride Texas, Roadrunner and Rider magazines.

Route Planning

Once we have chosen the destination, we start planning our route. Not a simple task. When riding with the wives I try to keep the mileage per day from 200 to 350 miles. The wives have things they like doing, so I plan accordingly. If just us guys are riding I try to keep it under 500 miles per day and plan the route accordingly.

The routes are not always direct. We try to see what interesting things are along the way and plan stops if they aren’t too far off the beaten path. The stops can also limit the mileage per day depending on what the stops are. You can’t see something like Big Bend in an hour…

Another consideration is lodging. We might be able to travel further on a particular day but our lodging options maybe “slim to none“ in some of the more remote areas. I am a member of most of the motel chains reward programs so I check their websites to see what is available at the planned days end. Depending on the time of year, its popularity and the remoteness I may make reservations. In places like Big Bend National Park don’t expect to ride there in the spring when the cactus are blooming and expect to get a room. It ain’t happening, reservations need to be made a year in advance in Big Bend!!! Do the research before you go… Reservations are always a good idea if traveling to popular areas at popular times of the year. Unless you like sleeping on picnic tables… You should make reservations.

The availability of gas (petrol) is a consideration in route planning too. Depending on the range of your bike and the remoteness of the area it might be a good idea to know where gas stations are before you go and plan gas stops accordingly. If you don’t have many options in an area you might want to call ahead to know business hours. Sometimes they maybe closed or out of business.

I have several road atlases that are a good source for finding scenic routes. I usually google the routes to read about what touristy things are on the route as well as what others have written about the route. We don’t want to miss anything. It might be a while before we can get back to the area.

Once all the information is collected, I start planning the routes for each day. I use google maps the most. It allows me to plot a route with via points, determine mileage and if there is a question about road quality you can check the satellite view or use the street view to get a really up close look. This has been very handy over the years. I have changed routes when I realized the road in question was a gravel or dirt road. We have traveled a few of those roads and prefer not too. You can also check for motels, restaurants, gas stations or other services you may need.

Road construction could be a big issue so I check our routes before we leave. Each state in the U.S. have websites to check road construction areas.

As I map the route I enter mileage, stop information and other need information into a spread sheet. When I make changes the total mileage is recalculated. I print out the spread sheet so I can refer to it on the trip and I use it for entering destination and via point into the GPS each day. Below is the information for one of our riding days.

Itenary example, spread sheet, trip, plan, ride, motorcycle

Before I used a GPS I would printout each day as above and placed it in a map holder on my gas tank as a “quick reference” while riding. It was a great low tech method. The mileage between via points helped to know when my next turn would be and onto which road. Then came the GPS and now I don’t travel without a GPS or maybe I should say I would prefer not to travel without one..

Weather Information

The weather on the trip is good to know but the weather history is useful too. I always check weather.com for the average high, low and record temperatures and the average perception of each area we are traveling. This also helps me determine the best time of the year to travel “weather wise” and it helps to know what to pack and not to pack.

This summer we are planning ride to 4 national parks, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier and Banff. We will be leaving Texas in 90/100 degree heat but in the parks it will be 20 or 30 degree colder in the northern higher elevations and much colder at night. Needless to say we need to pack accordingly.

I hope this is of some use to novice and seasoned riders. One thing I’ve learned while traveling by motorcycle is you can never know too much but you can know too little. Be prepared…

I hope we see you down the road somewhere… Ride safe…