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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Back to TN

An evening of relaxing with Dave & Janice and I'm ready to try again.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Why wait for next year?!!

I'm heading back to TN tomorrow. I don't have time to go the whole distance but I'll ride the TAT for a few days before turning north back to CT.

Can't keep a Transalp down!

Friday, June 28, 2013

I get by with a little help from my friends

12 quarts of oil and 3 oil filters cleared the "chocolate milk" from the engine. It took 2 days to get it to clear. Everyone at the campground was very helpful and supportive. There were the usual good natured jokes but everybody was on my side.
Now I'm in Columbia South Carolina at a friends house. I took the headlight out and drained the water out. Nothing was spared when it went swimming.
Tomorrow I'm going to another friends in Bluffton South Carolina and then up the Blue Ridge Parkway back to Connecticut.
There's always next year for another try!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Those of you who have ridden with me before will understand this picture. I got through 3 water crossings but fell over on the 4th one. The bike went totally underwater and sucked water into the engine. I had to get off the bike in the middle of a stream, take all the luggage off, and then pick up the bike.

Once I had the luggage over to the bank I had to go back with tools and pull the spark plugs to get the water out of the engine. After 15 minutes of pumping water out of the engine with the starter motor I finally got it started. It only ran on one cylinder until I calculated that I should remove the air cleaner cause it was soggy too.

After a half hour of engine work in the middle of this stream I finally got it running well enough to pull it up on bank and let it dry out. My TAT Adventure had ended after 6.8 miles. Now I'm back at the campgrounds. I replaced the oil and it looks like chocolate milk. I rode it around a little bit and drained it again and it still looks like chocolate milk.

Today I'm going to look for a shop that can change the oil and filter. I think my adventure's over and I'm just going to try to limp back home. Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Wooden Tents II

The tents.

Wooden Tents

I stayed at the Cherohala Mountain Trails campground. Kellie and Wayne are perfect hosts. I spent the morning sorting out my gear. Wayne is going to  ship home a whole bag full of stuff I don't need. Less is more on the trail.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Why I love Tennessee

The food is so good it's unbelievable. The roads through the Smoky Mountains were great and I had a lot of fun.
I'm staying in a little cabin in the woods tonight and I start the Trans America trail tomorrow. I'm told there's four water crossing in the first few miles. I'll post videos tomorrow I have a waterproof camera.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ready To Go - At Last !!

Hard as it may be to believe, I've finally finished my list of things to do and I'm ready to leave in the morning.

Since the last post I've had a few more square peg / round hole issues but each was dealt with in turn with patience and grace. What a crock!! I was going totally mental with the stress and aggravation. I realized that I had become my own worst enemy and took a day off to let my brain chill. There's nothing like a day spent hiking in the woods to put things back into perspective.

Now, finally, it's all together. I've taken a couple of shakedown rides to make sure nothing obvious is out of whack. I'll spend tonight going over the lists one more time to see if there is anything I've forgotten. A few more items to pack and then it's off to a good night's rest.

Tomorrow I'll hit the highway south. Because of the delays I've had to drop the idea of a leisurely ride down the Blue Ridge Highway. Instead I'll slab it down to Tennessee and start the TAT on Monday. From now on, all the posts will be from the trail.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pounding Nails With My Forehead

Still in CT. As you might guess, exhaustion and frustration are setting in. People who know me know that I'm a pretty optimistic guy. Problems are never personal, there is always a solution, I just need to find it and make it happen.

Diagram of Honda Motorcycle Parts 1989 XL600V A SHOCK ABSORBER Diagram

1552464-MN9-000COLLAR, DAMPER (LOWER)$13.65$10.09

1652464-MS6-620COLLAR A, CUSHION ARM$13.65$10.09

1752464-MS8-000COLLAR B, CUSHION ARM$15.04$11.11

Yesterday was a bit over the top. In my defense, I have never rebuilt an articulated rear suspension like the Pro-Link mono-shock on the Transalp.

My first mistake was thinking that parts 15, 16, and 17 in the diagram were simply spacers. When ordered the other parts I didn't order them. This was a fatal error as it turns out, these Collars are actually the inner races for the roller bearings (28). Another day lost waiting for Honda to overnight them on a Critical Special Order.

When they arrived Ben pressed the bearings into the dog bone (weird part in 14) and I headed home ready to reassemble it all and get on the road.

This is where I took a left turn off the ranch. Honda parts always fit! No ifs, ands, or buts! I've repeated the mantra often, "If it doesn't fit together easily, I'm doing something wrong. It's not the parts." Yesterday I forgot that and wasted 4 ½ hours trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole.

My mistake was mixing up Collar A and Collar B when I installed the dog bone. They look virtually the same and but B is just a ½ mm shorter than A. As luck would have it I picked up B and put it when A should have gone. Then I tried to put A where B should go and it wouldn't fit. Tired and irritated I thought it might be something bent or out of shape. I decided to make it fit.

As I said, 4 ½ hours later I did what I should have done in the first place and went for a walk. When I got back I disassembled the dog bone and, sure enough, the parts were different. 5 minutes later Collar B went where it was supposed to (and fit better) and Collar A slipped right into place without the slightest struggle. Honda parts always fit!

It would be easy to prattle on about some life lesson to be learned here but I'll spare you. After getting it reassembled and torqued Beth & I went out for a quiet dinner and I relaxed with a glass of Irish whiskey. Could this be the turning point? Will it all get easier now?

After all, what else could go wrong?

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Used Parts


12 Volt USB Charger...

Not so good


Everyone wants to be Green these days but sometimes it's an advance to the rear.

Despite what I said yesterday, the only way to keep writing for this blog on the trip is to take pictures with my mobile phone and publish when I'm near a community with cellular service. The trick is to keep the phone charged so that it will keep working.

My first attempt was to get a Nomad 7 solar panel. Costco had one with accessories for $99. I would just hook it up, point it at the sky, and be off the grid. The theory was much better than the practice. The 7 watt panel would eventually charge my phone when it was pointed directly at the sun on a bright day but wouldn't do a thing on a cloudy day.

Worse, if I didn't unplug the phone at the peak of charge the panel would back feed and discharge the phone battery! I put it out in the afternoon with a 60% charge and came back in the morning with a totally dead battery. To my simple mind a 50¢ diode from Radio Shack would have cured this but what do I know?

Thanks to Costco's great return policy I got all my money back and went looking for another solution. What I needed was a source of power for the USB port. And there it was waiting for me at my local Cycle Gear shop. A 12 Volt Power Adapter and a 12 Volt USB Charger Adapter. Total cost only $15.98.

This is actually greener than the solar panel because it's simple wiring for an already existing power source. No extra silicon mining and processing, no heavy metal lithium storage device, no huge packaging footprint. It works day and night and draws less than ¼ amp from the battery.

Simple is always better. In this case it's a lot cheaper too.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

The clock is ticking ...

The parts arrived yesterday and Ben is installing the new bearings today. Then it's up to me to assemble the pieces and bring order out of chaos. Stay tuned.

While I was packing last night I was looking over some of my old rules for motorcycle traveling:
  1. No iPod! Traveling is about listening to others, not yourself. This is the most important advice I can offer.
  2. Be willing to expose yourself to solitude. It's amazing what the world has to offer if you open yourself to the experience.
  3. Put your mobile phone in a plastic bag and wrap it in 10' of duct tape. If you can't fix the problem with the duct tape THEN you can call for help.
  4. Minimalism — lay out everything and then remove half. Wait 3 days and then remove half of what’s left.
  5. The slower you go the more you see. If you see the word "Old" in a road name, take it!
  6. Imagination will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no imagination.
  7. Make a plan, set a date, stick to it.
  8. Everything will wait until you return if it's truly important.
  9. Do not be route obsessed. If it says "West", and you're heading west, go exploring.
  10. When you meet someone along the way offer to send them a postcard.
  11. Yesterday's t-shirt can make a pretty good towel in a pinch.
  12. Never get a room at a motel next to a stop light. Always try to get a room on the top floor.
    Note: Gretjen says that you should avoid a camp site 50' from the Union Pacific main line.
  13. Nothing beats camping under the stars but sometimes a hot shower in a cheap motel is worth every penny!
Saturday, the 15th is the new launch date. Keep your fingers crossed.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Waiting for Godot (the FedEx guy)

Spent all day yesterday waiting for parts to arrive from American Honda so I can put the rear suspension and new shock on the Transalp. Nothing ...

However, I spent my time productively. I looked over my maps and realized that since I was taking the Transalp I could go to Tennessee by way of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The TA is a much better road bike than the ATK which is limited to 50 mph due to the gearing. The TA can cruise comfortably at 70 mph and still perform adequately off-road thanks to the Dunlop 606 tires.

My intention is to slab it down to D.C. and then find a place to camp for the night. After that it will be south along Skyline Drive and BRP until I get to Asheville, NC and then jump over to Tellico Plains, TN to start the TAT.

I haven't been on this route for a long time but remember it as a place of quiet and simple elegance. It will be a stark contrast to the mountain passes of Colorado and the desert vistas of Utah. America has such a diversity of landscapes that I am constantly humbled by its beauty.

Getting to the adventure should be part of the adventure!

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

It's Déjà Vu All Over Again!

Do you get the feeling you've seen this picture before?

For pissing off the gods Sisyphus was consigned to an eternity of endless effort and frustration. He  was made to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill but before he could reach the top the massive stone would always roll back down, forcing him to begin again.

I'm beginning to feel the same way. Every time I think I've got the latest problem solved another appears and it begins all over again. Now I've got a new machine and I get to do all the things I did to the ATK once more. It's like playing Moto-Whack-A-Mole.

24 year old Honda shock vs new Hagon shock with remote adjuster.
However, it does give me a chance to upgrade some of the components and get the Transalp in tip-top condition. There are a number of things I've wanted to do for some time. I've been collecting parts but whenever there was a good day, riding always took precedence over wrenching. Now, however, I can't do the riding until I do the wrenching!

The Gods must be laughing.

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Plan T

It appears that Zeno was an optimist. The goal line remains elusive and I'm switching to Plan T.

I took the ATK out for another test ride and an electrical gremlin appeared. The juice from the battery would disappear and then reappear intermittently. Another problem to be chased down and fixed. Frustrating!

Then came the coup de grâce, the mileage was only 35 mpg. With a 3.5 gal tank this is just 120 miles per tank. There are many sections on the TAT that are very near that and one that is 180 miles between fuel stops. Not even close. And this was optimal high gear cruising around town, not 2nd gear digging through the desert. Even with the spare fuel cells I was planning on bringing I would have no margin for error. Plus I won't be anywhere I can call AAA for help.

So on to Plan T.

My trusty 1989 Honda Transalp has served me well since I bought it new. I've ridden across country on US 50, traversed  the White Rim Trail in Moab, and gone off-roading in Baja with it. As well as all of the abuse it's taken here on New England single track trails.

It will take me a few days to go over the bike and make sure it's ready for another adventure. It's heavier than the ATK and doesn't have as much suspension but it does have a 4.6 gallon tank and gets 45  mpg which gives a range of ~200 miles. And it's a Honda! I have every confidence that it will prevail. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Zeno's paradox

In ancient Greek times Zeno proposed several paradoxes. One stated that when a person tries to reach a goal the person must first move half way to the goal. From there the person again moves half way to the goal. Since there will always be some (infinitely) small distance left to divide into halves, the person can never reach the goal.

That's how this trip feels. I'm still at home making my lists of things to do so I can go and every time I check off two items one more gets added. I checked the valves and other tune-up items but missed tightening up an oil line which produced the leak I noted in the last post. Cleaned and re-jetted the carburetor but the new floats were upside down which meant another disassembling. Although I learned that "ALTO" means top in Italian, it meant more time and energy dissipated.

As you can see the packing has yet to be completed. I've set out everything I want/need to take but I'm sure there is something I'm missing. That's why they make dumpsters and credit cards. Throw away what I don't need and buy what I've forgotten.

In case you're wondering, the answer to Zeno's paradox is found in modern calculus and limit theory. Zeno did reach the goal and I will get on the road!

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Not so good

2 days before the start of the trip and I'm stuck on the side of the road with a big oil leak. Hopefully it's something I can fix quickly this afternoon. Otherwise I'm beginning to think that taking the Transalp as the backup bike is the smarter move. Too much adventure before I start the adventure, that's what I'm thinking.