Category Archives: walk-about

jim’s half cen­tu­ry cel­e­bra­tion walk-about the USA.

Preparing to go ‘walkabout’

As some you already know, your obe­di­ent scribe is plan­ning a trip, what my wife and I refer to as ‘going walk­a­bout’ after the aus­tralian tra­di­tion of ‘see­ing what’s out there’. In this case, I’ll be using a KTM 950 adven­ture for trans­porta­tion, and ‘out there’ is shap­ing up to mean­ing most states west of the Mis­souri riv­er; cur­rent the rough­ly plot­ted course doesn’t include kansas, okla­homa, neva­da, north dako­ta or mon­tana.

Grand plan is a rough rec­tan­gle, with seat­tle, san diego, austin, and des moines form­ing the cor­ners. I have friends and/or fam­i­ly in all those places. The only hard date in the 4 week adven­ture is that I and 3 bud­dies have tick­ets to the World Super­bike races at Miller Motor­sports Park in Utah on memo­r­i­al day week­end.

So with this in mind, I sold my BMW F650 (a nice sin­gle, but cross­ing texas on a 650 sin­gle didn’t appeal) and acquired a low-mileage KTM 950 adven­ture and set about set­ting it up for trav­el­ling like I like. This meant replac­ing the bald back tire, chang­ing the oil, adding con­trols for the heat­ed grips (instead of the sim­ple switch) and for con­trol­ling a heat­ed jack­et lin­er Warm-n-Safe makes these great con­trollers . It also includes a GPS mount­ed some­where easy to reach and easy for 50-year-old eyes to read. Pics in the next install­ment.

All of this is pow­ered from a ded­i­cat­ed, fused cir­cuit that is run from the bat­tery in the skid plate, up to the under-seat tray, and then dis­trib­uted to the var­i­ous acces­sories from there. also includ­ed is a relay to insure that I can’t walk away from the bike with the grips turned on.

The bike already had a lot of what I think I’ll need: fac­to­ry pan­niers, tank bag, rear bag, hand pro­tec­tors, crash bars, after­mar­ket seat from Renaz­co Rac­ing, and the fac­to­ry ‘tour­ing wind­screen’. What it didn’t have was decent lights. A lit­tle read­ing turned up the answer: the USA head­light is but a pale imi­ta­tion of it’s euro­pean coun­ter­part. Soon, a box arrived at the house with a euro head­light and switch, and an H7 low-beam HID con­ver­sion. Install hap­pen­ing soon. Read about it in the next install­ment of ‘prepar­ing to go walk­a­bout’.

Right now, I have to get ready for the April Fool’s Tri­al! see ya there!


And away he goes…

The bear is on the road.

The Tur­bo Giraffe prepped and wait­ing in the sun­shine.

turbo giraffe

sun­shine! a good omen for the first day out.

The man him­self, suit­ing up.

getting the hydration pack settled

where’d that buck­le go?

Every­thing is good to go.

the rider and his machine - ready to go

all sys­tems go

And away he goes…

heading out on a great adventure


day 1, in which very little exciting actually happens

well, day 1 went pret­ty well. I sit here in the pala­cial liv­ing room of my friends Joce­lyn and Steve, after a nice din­ner, steal­ing their inter-tubes.

two tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties reared their ugly head: the GPS anten­na can­not live on top of the radar detec­tor: the radios inter­fere with each oth­er. so, att the first stop, i moved the GPS anten­na. prob­lem 1 solved.

sec­ond tech­ni­cal issue was that my fan­cy 12volt/120volt usb-charges-every­thing wid­get doesn’t. specif­i­cal­ly, it won’t charge the cell phone. appar­ent­ly, not enough cojones to charge this new-fan­gled moto cliq xt. for­tu­nate­ly, i have awe­some friends, they took me to radio shack, and i now have a charg­er that works.

tomor­row, the ore­gon coast to see Michael and Judy, then shoot­ing for the oregon/california bor­der or there­abouts. let’s hope for good weath­er.

more lat­er, folks


Walkabout Day 2: In which I went down the drain. drain, oregon. really!

447 miles today, a lit­tle longer than I usu­al­ly like, but there were Issues. It appears that rain is head­ed for the north­ern cal­i­for­nia coast tomor­row. In con­sid­er­a­tion, today’s plan was to get far enough south that cut­ting inland could be done fair­ly ear­ly tomor­row, in an attempt to stay dry. Look­ing at the weath­er for­cast for north­ern cal­i­for­nia tomor­row, it appears that it was futile.

any­way, today’s ride went from port­land to eugene on I5, the south to ore­gon 38, on which I found the drain:

drain, ore­gon, we’re going there.

 being in the neigh­bor­hood, I stopped in to see my friends michael and judy. they are camp hosts at Tug­man State Park, and they keep a big dog in the front win­dow of their motorhome:

a big dog, he needs a big win­dow

 from, there it was a quick blast down the coast, where I found this great veteran’s memo­r­i­al and accom­pa­ny­ing view of Coos Bay’s bridge:

vet­er­ans memo­r­i­al at Coos Bay

At this point, I decid­ed that my best bet to beat the weath­er would be to get to Eure­ka today, so that I could head inland first thing in the morn­ing. So I rode south. There is some awe­some coast­line in south­ern ore­gon and north­ern cal­i­for­nia.

dra­mat­ic coast and clouds in south­ern ore­gon

such scenery!

 So that was my sun­day in a nut­shell. It was sun­ny and warm north of eugene, and cloudy and cool, with a few rain­drops, on the coast. Not bad rid­ing, once I put the heat­ed lin­er on; cool­ing off, going fast? turn the heat up a bit. slow­ing down, or the sun has come out? turn the heat down a bit. Bike nev­er missed a beat, and seems to be a pro­found­ly com­pe­tent trav­el­ling com­pan­ion. Arrived in eure­ka around 5:30, found a hotel (I hate camp­ing in the rain) and then found a place called Lost Coast Brew­ery and cafe for din­ner. good beer, decent food, and only 5 blocks from the hotel.

And now I sit here pon­der­ing tomor­row: do I pack up ride south in what appears to be cer­tain rain (NOAA says 90% chance of pre­cip­i­ta­tion from here to San­ta Rosa- that means it’s gonna rain, folks!) or do I cool my heels here in Eure­ka and ride south on tues­day, when it is sup­posed to be sun­ny? I hate rid­ing with wet hands and feet; will my gloves stay dry? will my boots leak? grrr.… On the oth­er hand, a rainy day in eure­ka is not like­ly to packed with excite­ment. 🙂

 I think i’ll have a snack, get some sleep and make the call in the morn­ing, depend­ing on how hard it’s rain­ing.


Walkabout day 3: in which there were snowflakes…


307 miles today, but it felt a lot longer, most­ly due to toren­tial rain, cold, and even a lit­tle snow just north of Lay­tonville, CA. Yikes. Wait­ing this morn­ing in the hotel in Eure­ka, I real­ized that I hate doing noth­ing. I could have spent the day in Eure­ka and avoid­ed all the unpleas­ant­ness, but I was already rest­less in the 20 min­utes I wait­ed, and felt ener­gized when i got on the road. Every­thing went fine except that my gloves were soaked by 60 min­utes in, and get­ting cold. I stopped in Gar­berville for gas, and bought a pair of cot­ton gloves and ‘Marigolds’, you know, big rub­ber kitchen gloves. used those for the next 40 miles, but it was the cold­est 40 miles of the day. up to 1800ft. above sea lev­el, and I actu­al­ly saw a few snowflakes going over Rat­tlesnake Sum­mit. Got to Lay­tonville, had cof­fee and lunch and thawed my hands out: they nev­er got numb, just painful.

Two cold and weary bik­ers are inside get­ting warm

I also used the lit­tle local ‘free ads’ paper to help dry my gloves out, by rip­ping up the pages and stuff­ing the gloves full, wait­ing 15 min­utes, rinse repeat. Got them somwwhat dry. Got back on the road and felt good. but soon it became obvi­ous that the gloves are get­ting cold­er faster than the heat­ed grips can heat them. So I stop in Uki­ah and pull into a Hon­da deal­er; not open. there’s anoth­er gent there com­plain­ing of the same thing. Turns out he’s a cop from eure­ka, and a big fan of the Fly­ing Spaghet­ti Mon­ster!  yay for ran­dom­ly met friends! but no gloves will be had  there today. Down the road I find a sur­plus store, where I score a pair of ladies ski gloves, size large, gore­tex, for $35. I call them my Tom Rob­bins sig­na­ture mod­els, as the thumbs are longer than any I’ve ever seen. In any case, the offer­ing of $35 must have been big enough for the gods as I only had about 35 min­utes of rain the rest of the day.

gor­geous views like this were every­where…

The rest of the trip was grey and blus­tery, some blue sky, and gusty winds.

your obe­di­ent scribe, at some famous bridge

Espe­cial­ly on the point above the Gold­en Gate bridge. just about blew the hel­met over, sit­ting on the ground! yikes. And I had to get back in the groove of CA free­way rid­ing: leave no space and go 80mph! rii­ight!

anoth­er 30 miles of real­ly pret­ty light Bay Area traf­fic, and I’m safe­ly land­ed with my friend Mark in San Car­los. A hot show­er and some chill time, and now it’s time for din­ner. see ya tomor­row!


Walkabout day 5: Sierra Nevada foothills and Tehachapi Mts.

Arose this morn­ing at Chez Grrrl­dogs in Galt to a beau­ti­ful morn­ing, at least out­side. Inside my head was a dif­fer­ent sto­ry, I was a bit blue and home­sick. This usu­al­ly hap­pens to me on a trip, about day 5 or 6; I wake up in the morn­ing, and won­der why the heck I didn’t just stay home in my nice com­fy rut! But cof­fee helped, and the first 200 miles of the day were spec­tac­u­lar scenery and won­der­ful roads. Joined CA-49 at San Andreas and rode it, and a few of it’s cousins all the way into Fres­no. This part of Cal­i­for­nia is nice! You can keep LA, but the Sier­ra Neva­da rocks. Here are some exam­ples of the roads and the scenery:

After hit­ting Fres­no, it was a cou­ple of bor­ing hours to Bak­ers­field (today’s triv­ia: obvi­ous­ly there is a Buck Owens Boule­vard in Bak­ers­field, but did you also know that there is a Mer­le Hag­gard Dri­ve?). At Bak­ers field, I hung a left into the Tehachapi maoun­tains, and end­ed up in, odd­ly enough, Tehachapi. Cool old rail­road town, a bit down on its luck, and windy! The entire east­ern hori­zon is wind tur­bines, and there here for a rea­son!
(yeah, it’s a crum­my pic­ture and hard to see. i was tired…)

Walkabout, day 6: wind farms, switchbacks, and rainbows.

Woke up ear­ly this morn­ing, but not in any par­tic­u­lar hur­ry, as my des­ti­na­tion for the evening was my friends Mark and Ln’s place, Sun­fire, in Escon­di­do. GPS says 202 miles. I get a road rec­om­men­da­tion from Mark (Fort Tejon road up into the Ange­les for­est, high­ly rec­om­mend­ed), and head out. I avoid the free­way and wind up rid­ing through the wind farm:

Then it’s up into the moun­tains, where I spot one of the most beau­ti­ful rain­bows I’ve ever seen, just a line of col­or in the clouds. The pic­ture doesn’t real­ly do it jus­tice, though.

Then on over the moun­tains, through beau­ti­ful for­est, on one of the nicest roads I’ve rid­den so far. Flow­ing turns, sur­pris­ing switch­backs, it had every­thing… except for a vis­i­ble LEO pres­ence: per­fect!

After an awe­some ride through the moun­tains, it was a very unevent­ful cou­ple of hour ride through the east end of LA basin, down through Temec­u­la, and on into Escon­di­do. Arrived ear­ly in the after­noon, hav­ing plen­ty of time to get tires ordered, check the bike over thor­ough­ly, and relax with Mark over a beer, and lat­er with Mark and Ln over a good ital­ian din­ner. Life doesn’t suck.
Tomor­row, the Blythe intaglios, and on to King­man, Ari­zona. Sat­ur­day, the Grand Canyon!

Walkabout day 7: it gets hot in the desert…

Had a leisure­ly after­noon yes­ter­day with mark and the dogs. Got a pair of tires ordered, and it looks like they are going to the right place in texas, and will beat me there. yay!

Got a fair­ly ear­ly start this morn­ing, leav­ing Sun­Fire at about 7:30. Head­ed up to Warn­er Springs, then over the hills into the Coachel­la Val­ley (Palm springs, etc.)

Sat through a few stop­lights in Palm Desert and stopped for gas in Indio, and it felt way hot­ter than I was expect­ing. Start­ed cool­ing off as I gained alti­tude going east, but upon drop­ping into Blythe, it got warmer. Stopped for lunch in Blythe, my ther­mome­ter read 93. Stopped just north of town to take a gan­der at the Intaglios there. It was a short gan­der, as wan­der­ing around on that exposed butte at 2:30 in the after­noon was a blaz­ing expe­ri­ence.

Even my GPS was ready to go

After that, it was pret­ty much a hot grind north­ward to King­man. I saw a bank ther­mome­ter in Park­er, AZ that said 97. My tankbag ther­mome­ter nev­er read high­er than 95.8. That was hot enough, thanky­ou­very­much! It was cool to watch the scenery change from com­plete flat low desert to crag­gy, high desert here in king­man. I feel bet­ter now that i’ve had din­ner and a show­er, and i now know that i can sur­vive, pret­ty com­fort­ably, a day of rid­ing in near 100 degree temps, on this bike, in this gear. That is con­fi­dence-inspir­ing. I think in a few days, I’ll be ready to tack­le Tejas!

Walkabout day 8: natural wonders

385 miles today, King­man to Kayen­ta, AZ. An absolute­ly beau­ti­ful day. Temps from 65 to about 80, clear skies with the occa­sion­al cloud. Rode to Grand Canyon Nation­al Park, took a bunch of pic­tures, bought the req­ui­site lapel pins. Had ‘a moment’ on the way there though: about 15 miles west of Williams a 2 ton dualie flatbed in front of me blew it’s out­side right tire at about 70mph. for­tu­nate­ly, I was rid­ing in the left 13 of the lane, like we were all taught, and dodged all of the debris and the rapid­ly slow­ing Ford. Whew! Got my heart going for a moment there!
Not too long after that, a guy on an orange Moto Guzzi, with a Pump­kin for a hel­met passed me on I-40. I caught up with him at a gas sta­tion lat­er. His name is Jim, and his hel­met was made by a com­pa­ny called Head Trip. Wow.

Need­less to say, Grand Canyon was stun­ning:

The absolute hi-zoot way to see the Grand Canyon would be to book a room at one of the lodges on the rim, leave the car in Williams, and ride the train up. Looks real­ly cool!
Left the main lodge area and head­ed east, stop­ping at Desert View, where they built a real­ly cool obser­va­tion tow­er in the 30’s.

It was then across the Nava­jo nation to Kayen­ta, where I paid through the nose for a hotel room. Tourist sea­son, dontcha­know. There’s a bus of Asian tourists that checked in right behind me. After show­er­ing and grab­bing a bite, I decid­ed to run up to Mon­u­ment Val­ley to catch it in the late light of the day. Glad I did:

Today’s cul­tur­al note: I go into a Sub­way here in kayen­ta, which is deep in the Nava­jo nation. When I open the door, there’s a very loud, very clear DING! from the door. Every head in the place swivels towards me, most swiv­el away, but there’s a cou­ple of folks obvi­ous­ly won­der­ing if I’m lost. Felt very much the out­sider, I did. I sat down and had my din­ner, and watched the scene replay itself every­time some­one came in. In most cas­es, the entry drew no more notice. I won­der why they have such a loud and atten­tion-get­ting door bell there?

Left­over mus­ing from yes­ter­day: enter­ing King­man, passed an absolute­ly Ginor­mous fac­to­ry; sign said Nucor. Turns out it’s an old steel mill, shut­down decades ago when it was North Star steel. Nucor bought it in 2007 and restart­ed it as a rebar plant last year. Good to see at least a few basic indus­tries still in this coun­try.

Walkabout Day 9: a road to remember


356 miles today, Kayen­ta, AZ to Taos, NM. Stel­lar weath­er the whole way, 60s and 70s and no clouds. Much of the morn­ing was spent cross­ing the east­ern hald of the Nava­jo nation. It’s fair­ly obvi­ous that, at least in this area, the Nava­jo are not get­ting rich off of gam­bling, maybe a few, but many of the rur­al Nava­jo still appear quite poor. Some­where in east­ern AZ, (I think), I crossed the Con­ti­nen­tal Divide.

Then I head­ed for Dulce and Char­ma, to get to high­way 64. Phil rec­om­mend­ed that road, OMG was he right! miles and miles of long, flow­ing switch­backs climb­ing up the moun­tain side like a home­sick angel. from 7000ft in Tier­ra Amar­il­lo to 10,586 at the top. And it was chilly up there. Still, if you get a chance to ride this road, take it. You will not be sor­ry you did. Well, maybe if you’re on a DRZ-400, I’d guess it’d get seri­ous­ly wheezy and down on grunt at 10,500ft! 🙂

Taos is a cute lit­tle town, old time ranch­ing town, now made art­sy by the influx of artists and $$$. Still, not a bad lit­tle town. And the nice RV park on the south end of town has WiFi!

rub­ber side down, every­one!