Saturday, December 17, 2011

Seattle International Motorcycle Show

Seattle International Motorcycle Show started yesterday and runs through Sunday at the Washington State Convention Center

 It's a beautiful sunny morning and predicted high today is 50 degrees. 

Motorcycles park for free.

 RTWDoug is at the show this year. This is his signature line from ADVrider -
2011 Magadan (I hope!) (03 Harley 1200 Dirtster)
2010 Europe and the Middle East (75 Harley Bobber)
2009 Around the World ('62 Harley Chopper)
2008 Europe (TDM and Guzzi Falcone)
2007 Europe (TDM850)
2006 Around the World ('48 Indian Chief)
2005 Europe and N Africa (KLR650)
2004 Europe (KLR650)
There's lots of pictures from the show at Motorcycle Show - PNW Riders.

Here's a random picture of my Sportster :-)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bike's Looking Good

Our next door neighbor Drew has his traditional bike-in-a-tree Christmas decoration up and it's looking sharp.

Postscript 2012 - This picture makes me sad now...Drew drowned in a rafting accident on the Green River this Spring. He was a really nice guy and a good neighbor.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Black & Decker Workmate 425, Motion Sensor Light, Sawzall

I picked up a Workmate 425 on Craigslist Friday for 35 bucks. It's in good condition and they go for about 100 dollars new so I think that was a fair price. I thought they were kind of a joke when they were advertised on TV years ago - a gadget they were trying to sell as a gift - but not really useful for much. I was wrong - it's really a smart idea. Even if was just a portable sturdy table with a wood top it would be handy.

The Workmate folds up small, has horizontal, vertical and irregular shape clamping ability, will hold 550 pounds and is easy to pick up and move around. I spent many years finding places to cut wood - on a deck edge, pickup tailgate, on a chair or between two chairs, and sometimes sawhorses if I had enough work to do - to justify getting those out and putting them together.

I made a sacrificial top for my Workmate with some scrap 3/4 inch plywood and a 1X2. I'm going to varnish that top just to make cleanup easier since my idea is to use that top when I'm doing mechanical work, yard work type things, painting or other jobs that would get the top of the Workmate dirty or scratched. I cut the plywood a little bigger than the OEM top and screwed/glued the 1X2 on the bottom to give the Workmate clamp something to grab onto. Now I have a sturdy table I can use to hold tools etc when I'm working in the yard, on a car or a bike outside.

 I used my Workmate to hold the plywood while I cut it and two nice advantages were apparent -
1. I didn't have a bunch of sawdust to clean up because I could set the Workmate in the driveway and 2. Having the plywood firmly held in place made it a lot easier to make a clean/straight cut.

Workmate will be handy for drilling as well - the center piece of the top is removable so there's no worry about drilling into your workbench/chair/tailgate/deck.

Ron Hickman invented the Workmate in 1961 but it wasn't until 1972 that Black and Decker began to mass-market it. Ron Hickman also designed the Lotus Elan sports car.

This is a video of an British guy showing how to use a Workmate -


I installed a new motion sensor light in the alley behind the garage yesterday. Nothing special about it other than it works and was simple to install and adjust. The old one was about 20 years old and the sensor was getting so cloudy it couldn't see anymore. I took the sensor off of it, twisted some wires together, added a switch I had laying around and now I have a dual bulb spotlight mounted in the garage to give me more light when I'm tinkering in there.

The motion sensor I installed has a 150 Watt halogen bulb and cost a little over twenty bucks. If it lasts 20 years like the old one I think it's quite a bargain. It's the Heath Zenith SL-5511-BZ from Amazon.


I'm looking forward to getting a Milwaukee Sawzall I ordered from Amazon later this week. It's the Milwaukee 6519-31 which has a 1 1/8 inch stroke. The other model in that price range is the 6509-31 with a 3/4 inch stroke. I also bought a set of 5 Pruning Blades and a set of 9 general purpose Wood and Metal Cutting Blades.

My main goal for this saw is to cut down a Photinia shrub/tree in our backyard. You've probably seen those trees before - they are very common in landscaping around McDonalds, office complexes, malls and places like that. They have red leaves and grow pretty quick. Depending on how you prune them they can be more tree-like or bush-like. The one we have is more dead-like. It has some kind of rust/fungus/blackspot on it. I heard Ciscoe say that's pretty common for those and there's nothing you can do about it. So I'm going to dig around the bottom of it and see how close to the ground (or how far below ground) I can cut it.

Sounds fun.

Those Sawzall's are cool for demolition work too - they'll cut through nails and electrical wiring and stuff real quick. Make sure you want to demolish those things before getting too carried away.

I'm looking forward to using the Sawzall as a hacksaw for cutting pipes, bolts and other metal bits. Cutting with a hacksaw can be pretty slow - I figure I'll save about 10 minutes of sawing time every few years by having a quicker cutting method. More recliner time.

Milwaukee Electric Tool has been making the Sawzall since 1951. Some people might call the ones sold by Ryobi, Craftsman, Dewalt - a Sawzall - but they aren't the real deal. Calling a reciprocating saw a sawzall is like calling a circular saw a skil saw, plastic tape - scotch tape, adhesive strips - bandaids..etc..

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Whidbey Thanksgiving 2011

This a collage of the photos I took over Thanksgiving at Useless Bay on Whidbey Island. You can click on it to go to the Flickr set of photos. We had a really nice relaxing time with people, dogs, rain, wind, some sun, games, and a variety of good food. The house had lots of room for sleeping/relaxing/lounging, the kitchen was large and well stocked with all the pots, pans, and utensils we needed for cooking. It was great being so close to the water. I got to ride my motorcycle on the ferry going over and back a few times which is always fun - makes me feel like I'm going on a trip. It seems odd but it costs less to ride a motorcycle on the ferry ($3.45) than it does to walk on ($4.50). All in all a really nice Thanksgiving - very low stress with everyone pitching in and no major cleanup to do when everyone left.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Vise Coming My Way

I've been looking for a small vise to use for my home handy-man/manic/maniac activities. I scored this beauty advertised in the 1924 edition of Popular Mechanics.

The vise was made by Goodell-Pratt (Makers of Mr. Punch) located in Greenfield, Massachusetts. The vise I'm getting is No. 161 with the 2 inch jaws. It was $2.60 back in the 1920's and I got it for about 8 times that via eBay.

This is a page from the 1926 Goodell-Pratt catalog showing the vise.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

SweeTango Apple

I'd never heard of the SweeTango apple until I read the article  "Crunch" by John Seabrook in this month's New Yorker. I'm looking forward to trying this apple, from what I've read they are sweet and crunchy, with maybe a hint of spice.

The SweeTango is a hybrid between the Honeycrisp and the Zestar. I don't recall seeing the Zestar apple around here - I think it's more of a local apple in Minnesota.

All three of these apples - Honeycrisp, Zestar and the SweeTango (sweet and tangy) were developed at the University of Minnesota. The picture below of some Sweetango apples on a conveyor belt is from Wikipedia.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do

Summary - in case you don't have 9 minutes to watch the video. You should let your kids play with fire, use sharp knives, throw spears, take apart appliances and drive a car. This gives them a chance to learn how things work and how to use them safely.

Children raised in an over-protective  hyper-safe environment have no chance to learn self-protection skills - increasing their chance of being seriously injured when they encounter potentially dangerous things outside the home, or growing up to be overly cautious fearful adults.

Across the Country on a Honda C70 Super Cub

Across the Country on a Honda C70 Super Cub - ADVrider I love these stories where someone takes an old cheap motorbike on a long trip. This guy is 18 years old - riding an old Honda moped, that he fixed up himself, from California to New York with a budget of 600 dollars. Top speed 35 mph. Dangerous? Yes, but totally awesome. He's got some writing skills too.

This isn't his bike but this is what a Honda C70 Super Cub (also called a Passport) looks like.

It's got a 72 cubic centimeter engine (4.4 cubic inches), about 5 horsepower, and gets 115 mpg.

I've posted a link to this one before Sydney to London on a moped called Dot - ADVrider it's quite an epic moped adventure as well.

One of the nice things about being young is you don't know what you can't do. An older person creates lots of rules about what they can't do and would think of all the reasons why riding a moped for thousands of mile is impractical, foolish, unsafe - and miss out on a great adventure.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Monty Python's Spamalot

I'm looking forward to seeing the play Spamalot this Thursday at the Mt. Baker Theatre in Bellingham. Spamalot has been around for awhile now - it opened on Broadway in 2005, has toured in fifteen countries. This is the third U.S. tour.

The Mt. Baker Theatre is a nice venue, built in 1927 and designed by Robert Reamer who also designed the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, Lake Quinault Lodge, the Old Faithful Inn and the Fox Theatre in Billings Montana - now known as the Alberta Bair Theater.

This is a picture of the theatre I took when we were there to see Arlo Guthrie and his family play.

Monday, November 07, 2011

iPad2 For B

Betsy's iPad2 is on it's way from China.

When I got the UPS tracking notice it said the iPad shipped from EPZ, China. I thought maybe EPZ was the English name of a city in China - but it's an acronym for export processing zone - a free trade zone where items are shipped without intervention of customs.

I think she's going to like being able to access news, some email, chat, games and whatever else the iPad has to offer. 

Thank you Steve Jobs. Amazing to me to think about the impact things he designed have on our lives. Point and click, touch screens, Google and Maps in your pocket (iPhone). Very cool stuff and real game/society changers in some ways.

She'll need to get the camera adapter so she can download photos and maybe one of those snazzy magnetic covers.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Best Riding Advice

P1020130 by Jack Crossen
P1020130, a photo by Jack Crossen on Flickr.
A good goal when riding a motorcycle is to keep the word "smooth" in mind when you stop, start, accelerate, and turn.  It's not too hard to lock up the wheels when stopping or spin the tire when starting/accelerating - so the "smooth" mantra helps.

Turning is a little different. Smooth is still good but it's not enough. On dry/clean pavement it's harder to lean the bike over to the point where the tires lose traction than some riders assume. The result of this is that when a rider enters a turn too fast, some accidents happen that could be avoided.

Two things can happen that cause this - (a) the rider applies the brakes non-smoothly in the turn causing loss of traction or oscillation and subsequent low side or high side crash or (b) the rider "gives up" or panics in the turn and stands the bike up thinking if he/she leans the bike over anymore it will slide out from under them.

The goal when entering a turn is to slow before the turn and then accelerate after the apex. It's possible to brake in a turn but it must be done with care and it's not something you want to practice the first time you go into a turn hot. Try some front/rear braking in a turn at slower speeds and see what it feels like.

In some rare situations it may be possible, and your only option, to stand the bike up in a curve and apply the brakes in time to stop or at least reduce kinetic energy. Examples would be road debris, an animal or a stopped car is in your path and there is no option other than to slow as quickly as possible.

The point of this post is that I wanted to repeat what I thought was one of the best pieces of riding advice I've read/heard/practiced.

When you enter a curve too fast and aren't sure if you are going to make it - KEEP LEANING.

The first line of defense is to not enter curves too fast of course. If you happen to get into a curve where you think you are going too fast, rather than giving up and running off the road or into oncoming traffic, keep leaning.


If you can ride on a dirt or gravel road it helps to get a feel for how the bike handles and brakes work (or don't) on a surface with less friction. When considering how to use your brakes during a turn on dirt or a slippery road it's of some interest to note that dirt flat track motorcycles originally had no brakes, since 1977 and to this day - they have only a rear brake. Those riders slide the rear wheel out to bleed speed in the turns. You probably won't be doing that on the street (and your front brake is your friend a lot of the time), but if you can get some experience riding a light bike on a dirt/gravel road or track that's great.

Growing up in Montana there were quite a few dirt roads. I never thought it was anything special to ride on a dirt or gravel road - it was just something you learned to do and put up with. I'd much rather ride on a smooth paved road, but every so often I like to ride on a gravel or dirt road to see what it feels like. The only problem is the nearest gravel road of any length is about 50 miles from my house.

To this day I remember riding my Honda 350 on a dirt road fourty years ago and coming into a corner too fast. I locked up the wheels and made a perfectly straight exit from the road and into a field - turned around and continued on to work. The part that sticks in my mind is seeing my perfectly straight skid mark through the corner and out into the weeds, and thinking - that wasn't very smart but at least I was lucky.

Now that I'm older and have used up a lot of my luck I try to ride smart most of the time - not always though. I'll do a few stupid things now and then just to keep things interesting or because it's fun. I have pretty good risk assessment skills so nothing obviously life-threatening. One of the advantages of age is you can choose your stupidity - not like when I was younger and did stupid stuff  fairly regularly with no real idea why other than it seemed like a good idea at the time.

If I have to ride a motorcycle at a sedate pace all the time, I'm hoping it's when I'm 80 something, but not quite yet.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hot Water Heater Repair

I was feeling pretty good Sunday morning when I took this picture. Betsy had left me a note saying the hot water heater wasn't working and I had the parts to fix it in that plastic bag - so I thought.

Here's the long boring story...

When I tried to light the pilot light it wouldn't stay lit once I released the reset button. Most likely cause is the thermocouple (copper tube inside the plastic bag). That piece with the tubes and red wire sticking out of it is the burner assembly. The assembly is made up of - the burner (that rusty looking thing), a gas tube for the burner, another for the pilot light, a wire for the piezoelectric spark generator and another copper tube that holds the thermocouple. You have to take the burner assembly out of the hot water heater to remove the thermocouple.

 I was pretty happy that Lowes had a new "universal" thermocouple for about 7 bucks - until I figured out this particular Whirlpool hot water heater has (had) a unique thermocouple.

Little did I know that  this hot water heater is quite famous on the internet for it's thermocouple design. It was the subject of a Class Action, a couple of videos by a home handyman - Left Hand Thread Thermocouple Water Heaters and many web forums documenting Consumer complaints about Whirlpool Water Heaters.

Even though this water heater has quite a reputation on the internet - the people I talked to at Lowes don't know much of anything about the water heater or parts for it. I tried ever place I could think of and no one has this part. Whirlpool told me to tell Lowes I needed the "A" kit - most of the time the answer was - "what"? "You need A kit?" The Lowes in Monroe told me they had the "B", "D" and "G" kit but no "A".

 It's pretty disappointing to me that two brands I've associated with quality products - Whirlpool and Maytag have ended up being not so great. This water heater has worked fine for 6 years so I can't complain too much. The Maytag Performa washing machine (another Lowes purchase) would walk across the basement since it didn't have an out of balance switch - I was glad when it quite working for good. We rolled the dice and bought a Kenmore that's working fine (fingers crossed).

 This water heater has a 6 year warranty on it. The manufacturing date was the August 2005. Since I didn't have the original receipt and never registered for the warranty, the warranty runs from the manufacturing date.

Whirlpool doesn't make water heaters - they just put their brand on them. This water heater is assembled in Tennessee by US Craftmaster aka American Water Heater. I'm getting the new improved thermocouple overnight from the manufacturer in Tennessee. It should show up Tuesday afternoon. Even though I was a member of the class (for the class action suit), Whirlpool told me they won't give me the new improved thermocouple since my heater is out of warranty. If I had most any water heater than this I'd be able to fix it with a 7 dollar part - I'm paying 65 dollars for the part and overnight shipping from Tennessee. There's no local source.


A thermocouple is a device made of two dissimilar metals that converts heat into electricity. Using this property, the water heater thermocouple senses when the pilot light is lit and sends an electrical signal to the gas controller allowing gas to flow. The thermocouple sits in the pilot light flame on a gas hot water heater and outputs a small voltage (20-30 millivolts) when it's heated by the flame.

If you've ever lit a pilot light and wondered why the directions tell you to hold the "reset" button down for a minute - it's because you need to heat up the thermocouple so it generates electricity. The reset button bypasses the thermocouple but once you release it the controller needs to see the electrical signal from the thermocouple to keep the gas valve open.

The thermocouple in the Whirlpool hot water heater is unique in that (a) it has left-hand threads (lefty tighty) and (b) it has a fusible link inside a bulb in the copper sheath. If the material in the fusible link gets hot enough it melts, interrupting the electrical signal and shutting off the gas. This is a one-time event since once the fuse melts it's not repairable or resettable.

The reason for the left hand (odd-ball) threads on this thermocouple is the engineers who designed this water heater didn't want you to install a generic thermocouple - since they don't have the fusible link.

The new improved thermocouple doesn't have the fusible link - it has a typical thermal overload switch (resettable) mounted in the burner door and it has an adapter so you can use a generic right handed thread thermocouple.

Hot water heaters built since 2003 are sealed around the bottom where the combustion chamber is except for an air vent/flame arrester under the heater that lets air in but keeps flames from jumping out if you happen to spill gasoline near the gas hot water heater. The term for this feature is - flammable vapor ignition resistant or  FVIR. Suffice it to say with lots of safety features it's pretty hard to start something on fire with your gas hot water heaters nowadays.

I'm glad I like to learn how things work and fix things that are broken, but I'd like to take a hot shower without having to drive to the gym - so I'm hoping the parts show up tomorrow and the hot water heater  is working by tomorrow night.


The kit "A" showed up about 3 pm Tuesday and I had it installed an hour or so later. Taking the old burner off, installing a new burner jet, reusing the old piezo-electric starter, connecting the new pilot light pipe to gas controller, new main gas pipe to gas controller, thermo-couple adapter and it's wiring was all sort of interesting. I'd rate this job about a 2 on a difficulty scale of 1-5. It's probably about a 3 on a potential danger scale of 1-5 given the danger associated with natural gas leaks/fire/explosions.

The mercaptan (a thiol) added to natural gas makes it pretty easy to detect a leak with your nose - so if you smell that stinky rotten egg smell don't try to light the pilot light, shut off the gas supply, and find the leak. Natural gas is odorless without the mercaptan, but as a result of the New London School Explosion in Texas in the 1930's it was mandated by the Texas legislature and it's use spread around the world. The human nose is extremely sensitive to some thiols - for example the smell of a skunk can be detected at 10 parts per billion. I love Wikipedia...

 If you read the directions carefully, take your time and have some experience with tools, electricity, gas, pipes and stuff it's not a big deal. If that's not your thing I'd call a repair person.

One thing I like about working with your hands and head is the immediate unambiguous feedback that lets you know if you did a good job. The desired end result of this task is easy to define and measure - (a) don't burn down the house (b) don't  blow something or someone up and (c) have hot water.

No arguing, debating, speculating, guessing, just the facts - it either works or it doesn't. If only everything was so clear cut.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Thread of AWESOME!

I think the The Thread of AWESOME! at Adventure Rider has some cool, funny, weird stuff - like this awesome video about how an octopus can camouflage itself by changing it's skin color, pattern and texture.

There's a lot of different stuff people have posted on that thread; here are a few other videos that I thought were cool -

Brickies Labourering in Bangladesh
3D Printer
MikroKopter - HexaKopter.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Riding Gear

I bought some replacement gloves recently. One pair is the Olympia Sports Monsoon Gloves for riding in the rain and another pair of Olympia Sports gloves that are vented for riding when it's hot.

I'm not particularly pleased with either pair. The fit of the Monsoon gloves felt good at the store, but now I realize the thumb on one is longer than the other. I bought those to replace a cheap pair of Tourmaster vented gloves I bought on Ebay - which I really like but were getting holes in them.

The lining of the Olympia Sports Monsoon gloves has a weird plastic feel that doesn't breathe and it is not sewn to the glove so when you pull your hand out the lining tends to come out of the glove, so it's hard to put the glove on again. The length of the glove is wrong too - they are a little too long to go under your jacket - but not long enough, or wide enough, to go over.

The vented gloves have bumps and lumps inside from the way they are constructed. I also saw a pair of gloves in Harbor Freight that were sold as mechanic's gloves that look very similar for 1/3 the price.

When you spend a lot of time on a bike, or ride in different weather conditions - hot/cool/cold/wet you need the right gear, so you are concentrating on riding and enjoying the ride.  Little things are important. Anyone who rides on two wheels knows that a piece of clothing that feels good when you are standing/sitting around can become a big distraction while riding if you end up getting wet, blisters, chaffing, too hot or cold.

Conclusion - I won't be buying Olympia Sports riding gear in the future. They may make some great stuff but I'm not going to take the chance.

I have some Firstgear pants, jacket and gloves that are great. Same for the Tour Master rain pants I have and the Harley Davidson jacket and boots. They aren't motorcycle specific, but the Frye leather boots I have work very well. They are comfortable leather, good protection and can be relatively waterproof with application of Sno-Seal.

I've almost worn out a pair of generic elk skin gloves that I wear a pair of gel cold weather REI bicycle gloves under - those have worked well. I have some deer skin gloves I bought at the Farmer's Coop with Seirus glove liners from REI that are nice and comfy too.


One little (or maybe not so little in the big picture) thing that bothers me about the nice Harley jacket I have is that it was not made in America. I was surprised to find that on the tag...but maybe it's too much to think leather jackets, or much of any clothing, will be made in the U.S.A. I think Frye boots are made in the U.S.A. but I don't know for sure - their website makes it seem like they would be. 

The deer skin gloves I got at the Farmer's Coop have a big American flag and U.S.A. on the tag - which I was happy about when I bought them. Turning the tag over, it turns out the gloves are made in China - the deer came from America.

Beartooth Highway by Jack Crossen
Beartooth Highway, a photo by Jack Crossen on Flickr.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Riding in The Rain - Again

P1010197 by Jack Crossen
P1010197, a photo by Jack Crossen on Flickr.
I get to ride in the rain quite a bit this time of year. It's fine with the right clothes, traffic and light conditions.

Riding on I-5 during rush hour in the dark in the rain is right at the limit of my risk calculation strategy though. I would not do that on a regular basis. There's too much chance for someone in a car to stop short or pull into the car pool lane while your zipping by - and no matter how good a rider you are, you aren't going to be able to slow down in time. When traffic is heavy the car spray can cause a fog, you deal with the lights of oncoming traffic causing glare on the rain drops on your shield..etc. Once you get above 50 or so the wind will pretty much clear your face shield - certainly good enough for daylight, but not so much in the dark.

The main thing is to ride smoothly, slow down, ride at a pace that you are comfortable with, if possible stay off the road right after a light rain (when the oil and stuff hasn't been washed off), watch your following distance, plan ahead/look ahead, don't stop/start quick on the white slippery markings at intersections, and practice in low traffic conditions so you get a feel for the traction.

If I was planning a trip where I might be riding in the rain/cold,  hot, or even a little snow I'd try and practice that riding and make sure my gear is adequate, on short hops first. If snow was sticking to the road or it's icy - I'd pull over no matter what. When I rode up from San Luis Obispo a couple of years ago in February I'd been using my gear around town and had practice riding in the rain - but I'd never been on that bike, and I've ridden when there was a little ice and snow on the road - so I don't always follow my own advice, but as a general goal it sounds good to me.

I was accelerating onto I-5 this morning going 55-60 mph - in the dark in the rain, and gunned it just a little too much - the rear tire started to spin up and I got a little weave going. Live and learn. I like the challenge/focus of that - you don't get a lot of free passes to learn so you ride with care, smoothly, taking into account your abilities and the bike. It seems very elemental? to me. It's you and the elements - the cars, rain, road - and your concentrating on surviving some times - enjoying the ride most times. It can be very relaxing in an odd way since you are going to forget about whatever else was on your mind  as you focus on what's happening in the moment.

Which brings up one final point - if you find you can't focus for whatever reason, you're very tired, really stressed out to the point of not being able to let it go, intoxicated, too cold or hot, - it's best to stay off a bike. I know from experience you can survive doing that for short periods of time but over the long haul it's asking too much of your guardian angels/luck/karma or whatever you like to call it.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Good Weekend

Quite a few things going on this weekend.

The painter finished the house painting earlier in the week. He did a good job and we are pleased with the quality of the work. My job was to finish the trim/fascia board on the garage which was just about the right amount of time on a ladder, prepping and painting for me. I'll paint the body of the garage next summer.

I installed a new metal screen door on the back door since the old wooden one I'd put up years ago had reached it's service life. The metal door was easier to hang than the simple wooden door, since it has a frame - making working with a non-plumb door frame easier. It still took a fair amount of fussing around to get it to swing and latch - but I'm satisfied with the end result. The only bad thing is the window is up too high for Edgar to look out - but he can keep an eye on the front door.

Becca had sent me an offer from Living Social for coupons at Lynnwood Harley Davidson which seemed like too good of a deal to pass up. You got a 100 dollar gift card for 50 dollars. The limit was two per customer. I used my first coupon to get a couple of pairs of gloves - one waterproof pair and one warm weather vented pair. They are Olympia brand gloves. H.D. gloves are good quality but the price differential for the Harley brand adds more than I wanted to pay. I got a H.D. stocking cap and a Flydanna cotton head wrap (doo rag) to get to a hundred dollars worth of merchandise. I like to wear something under my helmet that is washable since you tend to get dust/road grime inside your helmet over time - especially the open face helmets.

I think I'm going to get a nylon H.D. jacket with the other coupon. I was going to get air and oil filters but I can get a K&N filter from Amazon for a good price with free shipping so I'm going to do that.

On Saturday we took pictures of Becca and Alex at Grand Avenue Park to use for their wedding invitation - what a good looking couple. Later in the day we went to Alex's parents house for dinner - which was really nice.

On Sunday I replaced the front brake pads on the Concours with some new EBC sintered pads from Murphs that I'd bought some time ago. I was holding off replacing the pads on the bike since they had lots of  pad material left, but one of them had worn at an angle which was causing some pulsing - so it seemed like false economy to take the risk of trying to completely wear out that set. The brake caliper pistons were dirty and a little corroded so it was a time consuming task to clean those up with brake cleaner and 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper. Everything was nice and shiny when I was done though.

I finished reading the Motorcycle Consumer News magazines I'd checked out of the library. I think that's the best motorcycle magazine available - they don't have advertisements so the reviews are unbiased and they cover a variety of topics - new bikes and products, history, safety, maintenance, and rider health.

I washed my KZ1000P, oiled the chain and took all three bikes out for rides over the weekend. I think the best thing for a motorcycle if you want to keep it running is to ride it regularly for at least 20 miles at a stretch - long enough to get the oil up to temperature and evaporate the moisture inside the engine. I also like to exercise the carburetors running them wide open for awhile and doing some engine braking.

Rachel and Kelly went to the Seahawks game on Sunday (we all got to go last weekend to see the Hawks win over the Arizona Cardinals). I hope they didn't leave early since that turned out to be a close game with the Hawks almost winning in the final seconds with a 60 yard field goal, which didn't work out. Still I think it was a lot better performance than a lot of people expected.

I'm looking forward to this week - getting my rain gear on, trying out my new waterproof gloves, watching my favorite TV shows (Project Runway and Parks and Rec), working - just the usual stuff.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Near Misses - Driving Defensively

I was getting some pulsation from the front brake on the Connie and thought it might be due to brake pad glazing. I'd gotten some grease on the front disc when I pulled the front end off to check the stem bearing and thought that might have contributed to the problem. Pulled the brake pads out and sanded them a bit, cleaned the pads and rotors with brake cleaner. I went out to bed the pads in  by doing some hard braking at 50-60 mph. Front brakes were working a lot better when I got done...which turned out to be good.

I passed a line of cars and was just about to enter an intersection with the green light when a van made a left turn in front of me from the far right lane (parking lane). There's a dedicated left turn lane at that light, plus two thru lanes and then the parking lane on the far right. I was caught off guard because it happened really fast and I wasn't anticipating that person to cut across 3 lanes to make a left. I reefed on the front brakes but also managed to lock up the rear - I think the skid started on the white cross walk/stop line paint. Once the rear wheel starts to slide it doesn't have much stopping power and the bike will start to fishtail as you try to steer. Get enough sideways motion and you'll either lowside, or let off the rear and as the bike straightens up - highside.

Just scraped by the van. My main goal was to reduce the force of impact if that happened (and steer left to avoid the impact). I was mostly curious who was driving the van. It was a young kid - he felt really bad, motorcycle rider himself and just didn't see me. I think he was late for something at the Community College and had been looking at a map or something and saw the line of cars a 1/2 block or so behind me and figured he could zip across the intersection no problem.

Reminded me once again how important it is to drive defensively, scan ahead for possible hazards, practice quick stops/swerves, concentrate on using the front brake and staged/progressive braking.

That's the third near miss I've had in the last several years. One where a guy on a cell phone ran a red light and the other when two girls stopped their car in the road on a blind spot on a curve in Mt. Rainier National Park. They were looking at something...I locked up the rear wheel on the Sportster that time too. It's a really ? sinking feeling to feel a bike start to fishtail - because you can't tell right away how bad it will get.

There are two theories on what to do if you lock up you rear wheel - one is to keep it locked up which may mean you will put the bike down but at least on a low side rather than going up and over. I think keeping the rear wheel in a skid is a bad idea unless the bike is moving in a straight line when the skid starts...and even then it doesn't make sense to me because of the decreased braking action of a skidding tire. The other is to keep your eyes focused where you want the bike to go, let the rear wheel skid if it starts and release the rear brake - assuming the front and rear wheels aren't too far out of line - if they are the natural tendency of the wheels to line up once the rear starts spinning again, may cause the bike to snap up and over and for you to go over the top.

Ideally you don't lock up either wheel and don't get into situations where you have to do emergency stops.

From HowStuffWorks "Motorcycle Riding" -

"Both brakes should be used at the same time, although the front brakes are more powerful and will typically provide 70 to 90 percent of the total braking force. New riders often fear using the front brake, but it should be applied every time a motorcycle is slowed or stopped. Many accidents are caused by riders braking incorrectly. According to the California Highway patrol, locking up the rear brakes is a factor in the majority of motorcycle crashes."

Motorcycle Braking: 15 Questions and Answers - webBikeWorld

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why Ride?

No particular destination in mind other than the road.

Riding gives me an opportunity to focus, feel the air, the temperature changes, the road and smell the flowers/exhaust fumes/trees/rivers/moss/hay/cabbage etc.

I like waving at other people riding motorcycles and the feeling that we are both sort of getting away with having some extra fun while everyone else is inside their cars.

I like the challenge of managing risk, driving defensively, being alert. I like doing motorcycle maintenance - learning about how things work, how to fix them. I like reading about riding techniques and other peoples motorcycle journeys. I like to try and improve my own riding techniques.

The feeling of riding a motorcycle has some things in common with skiing, riding a bicycle or in a boat.    I like the sense of acceleration/deceleration, leaning into curves, shifting your weight, going slow or fast - but most of all not having anything between you and the environment. Keeping focused on the road to look for traffic, people, animals, road hazards, cars ahead/beside forces you to not think about other things - very good therapy. On long trips you can start to get inside your own head but there's always something that breaks you out of that so you can't spend much time worrying or thinking about what might have happened or might happen.

There's something very appealing about being on two-wheels. It brings you back to the first time you had some independence - maybe when you were 3 or 4 and first learned to ride a bicycle. That first bicycle expanded your boundaries and that's what a motorcycle can do as well.

I could be happy and am happy just riding. I'm really glad I have a chance to try motorcycling again after a long break when I last rode in my twenties. I've managed to ride about 36K miles in the last couple of years. It hasn't gotten old.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Trip Report

It's that time of year when school is starting and the kids have to write a report about what they did last summer. Here's my trip report for my mini-vacation/2000 mile 5.5 day motorcycle ride last week to Crater Lake National Park, Mt Lassen National Park and California Highway 1 north of San Francisco.


Day 1 Sunday - I had some other commitments on Saturday so I ended up packing and leaving Sunday around noonish. My goal for day 1 was to ride to the Sisters City Park and camp overnight. I-5 was uneventful except for being hot and slow around Portland to Salem. There's sections of I-5 through Oregon that are two lanes in each direction. You have to practice patience when you get someone who wants to practice formation driving, or drive just at or below the speed limit in the left lane - plus the occasional semi race where one eighteen wheeler is passing another with a closing speed of several miles per hour.

I headed east at Salem onto highway 22 to go over North Santiam Pass. The more interesting route to Sisters from a motorcycling perspective is to head east from Eugene but I'd ridden that way last year and only had the afternoon to get to Sisters City Park and set up my tent.

Fire West of Sisters Oregon by Jack Crossen
There was a pretty impressive forest fire west of Sisters around the Hoodoo Ski Area. Lots of fire fighting equipment moving up and down the highway and a firefighter campsite set up a little outside of Sisters.

The campground in Sisters is a good deal. Nice ground for putting up a tent and within easy walking distance of downtown. It's pretty quiet and a creek runs through it as well - so for 12 dollars a night it's a pretty good camping bargain. Not sure what it would be like finding a place in the peak times of summer but I imagine if you showed up early in the day you could claim a spot.


Day 2 Monday - My goal on Monday was to ride to, and around, Crater Lake National Park and then continue south to get fairly close to Lassen National Park for the next day's ride. Sisters to Crater Lake is only about 130 miles so it's a pretty short jaunt. Crater Lake was pretty awesome.
Crater Lake by Jack Crossen
The only thing that bothered me a tiny bit was the park employee taking money to enter the park said "good luck" to me as I pulled away. Come on buddy you don't say "good luck" to someone riding a motorcycle - maybe "ride safe" or "keep the shiny side up" or "have a nice trip", but good luck? If I had to depend on my luck to ride I shouldn't be on a motorcycle or any vehicle for that matter.

I spent a few hours at Crater Lake riding around the rim (on the road) and then headed south on 97 to Weed, California where I caught I-5 for a short trip to get onto highway 89 south to Lassen. My stop for the night was the Hat Creek Campground. That place looked pretty good from the internet because it had showers and wifi but I wished I would of stayed at one of the national forest campgrounds nearby. The rate for a tent site was $30.80. My main reason for staying there was so I could take a shower. The national forest service campground would have been 16 bucks, so I ended up paying 14 bucks for a shower and what ended up being almost no sleep. The people at the desk were real nice and told me they gave me the "best" campsite in a private spot by the creek. Sounds good so far.

Once I drove in, the campground had a weird vibe to it - quite a few people who appeared to be permanent residents living in dilapidated RV's/vans of one sort or another, wandering about in the dust, staring at me as I entered their domain. I couldn't keep myself from imagining that if there is ever a zombie invasion in the U.S. it may very well originate in that campground.

One of them who seemed to have some official power offered to lead me to my campsite on his four wheeler - nice guy but I couldn't hardly see because of the dust he was kicking up. The wifi didn't work in the campground - it may have been accessible in the main office but not where I was staying. When I checked in I asked the check-in ladies if there was a password and they told me you just make up your own password. I think they meant it wasn't password protected but whatever.

I thought it was sort of odd that the check-in lady asked me to not give the shower combination to anyone else..? Who? The tent site was covered in a layer of crushed (sharp) gravel - not the best. It was still fairly dusty even with the attempt to make a bed of gravel. I'm wandering around looking for the shower and some nice hispanic guy sees I have a towel and says "you looking for a shower? It's right over there - the combination is 1002" Oh okay thanks.

The picnic table at my campsite was really dirty even by campground standards, it looked like someone had been working on an engine or something with a fair amount of oily greasy parts to lay out and the picnic table made a convenient work bench.

The real kicker was that I've camped beside roads before and had to deal with the noise, in this spot I felt like I was camping on the road. Yes my campsite was beside the creek which was also beside a highway used by logging trucks all night coming down a grade and using their engine braking techniques to slow down and make a heck of a lot of noise. Ear plugs helped some but the headlights shining in my tent and wondering if the sharp gravel was going to puncture my Thermarest pad or me kept me from getting much sleep at all.


Day 3 Tuesday - I was up before the sun and headed off bright and early. It was a nice ride. Hardly any traffic at this time of year. On one isolated stretch of road I saw a guy walking and pulling a small wagon loaded with what might of been camping gear and food. I wish I would have stopped to see what the story was but I wanted to get to Lassen. Later in the trip along the coast I saw a younger guy riding a skateboard in a fairly remote area with a backpack on his back, looking like he was on an extended trip...people in the U.S. really like to get out on the road.

I think I was one of the first people at the entrance to Lassen National Park that morning because the ranger was just putting up the flag. It's 5 dollars to ride a motorcycle into Lassen (same for Crater Lake) so that's a benefit since it's twice that or more for a car.
Road in The Distance by Jack Crossen
Lassen National Park is a good place to ride - the roads are clean/smooth and there are some fun curves. There's enough to see that it's interesting and not at all like Yellowstone in the busy season with the huge traffic jams when someone stops to look at a moose/buffalo/bear.

This is a picture near the geothermal area in Lassen called the Sulphur Works where you can see the road in the distance - it's pretty and has some twists and turns to keep things interesting. The geothermal stuff isn't anywhere near as impressive as Yellowstone but it's interesting and has a real strong sulphur smell. The boiling mud in the picture below looked like it was being pumped by an aerator in a man-made fountain it was bubbling so perfectly.

Boiling Mud - Lassen by Jack Crossen

In the afternoon I headed out of Lassen heading west to Red Bluff and I-5 again. I road south on I-5 to Williams California where I headed west again on 20 to Clear Lake. I camped at the Clear Lake State Park on the south side of the lake. It was great compared to the place I stayed the night before and it had showers that take quarters. Lots of squirrels and crickets to keep me company, no logging trucks or shining headlights at night. One of the other nice things is that the park employee suggested I pick a campsite and then pay. I was tired from not getting much sleep the night before so I went to bed early.


Day 4 Wednesday - The area west of Clear Lake is nice - lots of vineyards with the harvest in swing. It took me a little while to figure out the main road but I got to see quite a bit of nice grape country. This part of the trip took me to one of the most "interesting" roads of this trip - highway 175 from Kellseyville to Hopland Ca. I hadn't planned on that route but I didn't want to hit traffic in Santa Rosa so I decided to get onto 101 by that road. Highway 175 is also called the Hopland Grade. It is steep and really curvy. I saw a few Mini-Coopers on the road which looked fun. The curves are so tightly packed together that I had the feeling of slalom skiing rather than riding a motorcycle. The road is narrow and I found out later from a barista at Starbucks that it is the site of not too few accidents where someone crosses over the centerline or goes off the edge. It was a pretty good workout.

Bodega California V by Jack Crossen
From Hopland I headed south on 101 to Santa Rosa and then west on 12 to Bodega Bay. This turned out to be a long (fun) day. Bodega is a cool little town - especially the week after the Labor Day crowds have gone home. The school there was in Alfred Hitchcock's movie The Birds. It's got a surf shop, a cool market/cafe and a strange looking ramshackle casino (which I later read is not a casino but rather a pretty cool bar that serves good food). Now that I know that's not a casino it doesn't seem so strange that it would be in such a modest building. Looking at it from the outside I thought it must be one of the poorest casinos I'd ever seen. Bodega is about 60 miles north of San Francisco but it seemed like a world away from the city on this particular Wednesday.

Pacific Coast Highway by Jack Crossen
I had a 3 seaweed salad made with hiyashi, wakame and hijiki seaweed for lunch (figured I should eat some local food and I was real close to the ocean) in Bodega and then headed north on Highway 1. The section of Highway 1 north of Bodega is beautiful and a good road for riding with it's twisty bits.

My destination for this night would be MacKerricher State Park a few miles north of Fort Bragg. This was the nicest campground I stayed in. They had showers, a pretty beach, seals and a gray whale skeleton. Some critter tried to take my bike or maybe the partially eaten Odwalla bar in the tank bag but all I saw after the fact was his paw print on the seat the next morning.

MacKerricher State Park X by Jack Crossen

Seals VI by Jack Crossen

Whale Skeleton by Jack Crossen

Lucky I Didn't Leave the Keys in It by Jack Crossen

Some Critter Tried to Take My Bike by Jack Crossen


Day 5 Thursday - Up bright and early and on the road north out of MacKerricher State Park. Lots of natural beauty and good riding on CA-1. I like the photo with the fog and the stand of stately redwoods.

North of Elk on PCH 1 Again by Jack Crossen

California Redwoods by Jack Crossen

There's lots of towns that seem to have a population of 492 (or so) people on highway 1. They are all the sorts of places that look interesting but I only had a week so I couldn't stop at every one. I did stop at Elk which had this funny sign.

Elk California III by Jack Crossen

Did I mention I saw a lot of Naked Ladies alongside the road?

You see them in the most unlikely places - all alone in some remote dried up grassy areas, bunched together in random spots beside the road or sometimes like these lined up along a fence.

Naked Ladies II by Jack Crossen

The lady (not naked) in the store in Elk gave me the scoop on these pretty pink flowers. They were grown commercially at one time in some areas along the coast. They bloom twice a year. They are a type of lily known as naked ladies because they drop all their leaves and then the pretty pink flowers show up. Apparently squirrels pick up the bulbs and move around with them in their mouths and then decide they aren't good to eat so they spit them out some time later where they grow in odd random spots beside the road. They have a fragrance which people find pleasing, but apparently not deer so that keeps them from being eaten. I'm kind of wondering if part of the reason you see them beside the road by themselves is the bulbs fell off a truck at some time...but I like the idea of squirrels planting them so I'll stick with that story.

I was planning on camping near Florence Oregon on Thursday night but by the time I got there it was getting a little late and the state campground seemed like a hassle. They wanted you to pay for two nights and it was self serve and people were dallying around, so I headed to the Park Motel in Florence where I've stayed before during a torrential rain storm on my way up the coast in February 2010. It's the quintessential Mom and Pop motel - friendly, clean and relatively inexpensive. The rooms have a fridge and microwave and that knotty pine paneling that always reminds me of being on vacation. They encourage you to park your motorcycle right at your front door and on this particular morning the owner gave me a towel to dry my bike off.


Day 6 Friday - Took a leisurely ride west from Florence to Eugene. That's a nice road too.
Between Florence and Eugene Oregon by Jack Crossen
It follows the Siuslaw River which was filled with salmon fishers in boats. There's a cool little stop in the road somewhere along the way too for coffee and snacks.

After my leisurely ride to Eugene and looking around the city for awhile I headed back north on I-5 for home. If I had the trip to do over again I'd plan to not come into Seattle on a Friday afternoon. Traffic was terrible and added an hour or two to the trip.

All in all a really great trip though. I'm glad I got to see Crater Lake, Lassen, and ride CA-1 north of Bodega. I wanted to ride from Crescent City California to Grants Pass Oregon but it was so hot in Grants Pass that day I decided to stick to the coast. I've heard that's a good motorcycle road...also read that the road west out of Red Bluff to the coast may be the best motorcycle road in California so there's always the next trip.

I posted the pictures I took on this trip at Crater Lake, Lassen and Cali Hwy 1 - a set on Flickr

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mountain Loop Highway

I took my police bike out for a ride Sunday around the mountain loop highway - Everett to Granite Falls around the loop to Darrington and back to Arlington and home. It was dusty on the 13 miles of gravel because there were a few other cars/trucks in front of me or going the other direction - but a good day for a ride.

View Mountain Loop Highway in a larger map

Sunday, September 04, 2011

City Park - Sisters Oregon

I'm staying here tonight. Pretty good deal for 12 bucks.

I've got my Jetboil, Pete's French Roast, coffee maker, noodles, textured vegetable protein, oatmeal and Odwalla bars - so I'm all set. Pretty much just have to buy gas, pay for camping and an occasional espresso this week.

Fire West of Sisters

Big smoke plumes from the forest fire near Hoodoo Ski area, Big Lake and Shadow Lake - west of Sisters Oregon

Filling in the Blanks Ride

There's three places I've been close to in Oregon and California and wanted to check out but for one reason or another (time, weather, other plans) wasn't able to -

Crater Lake National Park
Mount Lassen National Park
California Highway One North of San Francisco

I'm taking this week off to travel down that way. It's about a 2000 miles trip total. I plan to camp as much as possible. I can't think of anything more fun than riding a motorcycle, seeing some beautiful parts of the U.S. and camping out. I should probably stop writing and start packing so I can get going.

View Sisters, Crater Lake, Lassen, Highway 1 in a larger map

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Overnight MC Trip to Republic Washington

View Keller Ferry in a larger map

Rode about 600 miles Friday and Saturday. It was a good time to be out. Traffic was light and weather was warm and sunny. I really like the area around Republic. The forests and hills remind me of some of my favorite parts of Montana. Highway 21 from the Keller Ferry to Republic parallels the Sanpoil River with some nice rock formations. It passes through the Colville Indian Reservation and National Forest. It's more of a dry country than the forests over here on the wet side of the mountains - smells different, not so moldy.

The Northern Inn in Republic isn't a bad place to stay. My room was 75 dollars and included a refrigerator and microwave. A/C works good, owner is friendly and the deck has some comfortable chairs to sit in and take in the sunset. Anderson's Grocery and a natural foods store are just down the street.

I rode out to the Wings Over Republic fly-in on Friday evening. It looked like most people were camping under the wings of their airplanes and not much going on. I checked out Curlew Lake state park where I camped last year. That's a really nice park, with camping spots on grass, and a swimming area.

The highway was crawling with deer at dusk. Coming up from Curlew lake there was a group of deer standing in the road and one buck ignored my horn and wouldn't get off the road until I kind of aimed my motorcycle at him. There's a lot of deer killed by vehicles in that area of Washington. I wouldn't choose to do much riding at dusk, or after dark.

This is a picture I took from the Keller Ferry.
P1030030 by Jack Crossen
P1030030, a photo by Jack Crossen on Flickr.

That part of the Columbia (Roosevelt Lake) is called the Sanpoil arm because it's where the Sanpoil river flows into the Columbia. The lake is formed by Grand Coulee dam which is about 13 miles downstream. Grand Coulee dam was completed in 1942. Roosevelt lake is named after Franklin Delano Roosevelt who was president at that time.

Nice ride home on Saturday on highway 20 from Republic to Tonasket, Omak, Twisp, Winthrop, over the Cascades to Rockport and then south on 530 to Darrington, Arlington and back home. Highway 20 from Republic to Tonasket is 40 miles of mostly downhill riding through open range country, with some nice curves and almost no traffic at 10 am on Saturday. Next time I'm in the area I want to go east from Republic over Sherman Pass (5575 feet) and on to Newport Washington.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I Plan To Do A Lot of Drinking Tonight

Northern Inn - Republic Wa.

This is where I'm staying tonight. Republic is a pretty little town surrounded by hills and pine trees. The Northern Inn gets good reviews, has reasonable rates and I like it.

Sent from my iPhone


Postscript - Sharp eyed viewers may wonder why that sign says Bird Motel. Okay, that isn't really where I stayed. That's a bird house that looks like the Northern Inn.

Keller Ferry

It was fun to ride this little ferry. Nice and cool on the water. I wanted to ride it last year but it was shut down for repairs. It's in the high 90's and sunny. Very nice :-)

Sent from my iPhone