Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kitt Peak with the In-Laws (Part I)

Fifty miles southwest of Tucson is a famous national observatory called Kitt Peak.  I've been wanting to ride there for awhile but other trips, and weather, kept me pushing it back all winter.  In a long, round about way, an opportunity to ride it came this weekend.  My wife and I were having dinner with her parents, on Friday night, when they announced they were taking my wife's nephew for a visit to Kitt's Peak the next day.  Unfortunately my wife had an all day class Saturday and wouldn't be able to join them.  Hmmm, sounds like the perfect opportunity to invite myself along and put some miles on the Bonnie.  Plans were made and I suddenly had my Kitt Peak ride! Woo Hoo!

The next morning her parents called when they were leaving their house and I told them I'd meet them in the parking lot of the observatory.  I was excited, as this would be my first ride where I gained significant elevation.  The peak sits at 6,875 feet.  Can you say curvy mountain roads..muhahahah.  I rode through Gates Pass and headed southwest on Ajo Highway until I came to the Kitt Peak turn off.

You can see the 4 meter telescope right off the highway.  One of many telescopes they have up there.  I met up my wife's parents when I pulled off to snap a few pics.  Talk about timing.  I told them I'd meet them at the top and they waved and headed on.

I thought this small mountain range on the way in looked pretty cool.  Had to pull over and snap a photo. 

I took most of the following pictures as I was headed down the mountain.  I wanted to enjoy myself on the ride up, plus people were waiting on me.  Through the magic of blogging, I'm able to make it look like I'm snapping pics as I ride up.
Most of these pull-outs had tons of loose gravel.  I had to rub the ground with my boot just to make a solid footing for the kick stand.  Gravel is the bane of any motorcyclist.
Curvy roads, great views, and you keep wanting to look up to see the telescopes.  Where's that autopilot button?
This is a great shot as it shows the road curving up the mountain.  What a blast to ride!
Kiri's father told me the temperature dropped 10 degrees at the top.  It felt like it.  I was only in a t-shirt and mesh jacket and it got a little chilly going around those curves.  Can you say chicken skin?
I finally made it to the top.  Not sure why, maybe because the basketball championship had started, but the top wasn't busy at all.  There are days when you can't even find a parking spot, or so I've been told.
 A couple of other bikers that I had trailed near the end of the ride.  At one point I saw the rider of the trike point out loose gravel on the road to his fellow riders.  The other two riders were going pretty slow.  I'm not sure if they were new to riding but it seemed like it.

Right away you can feel the education of the place.  Quite a few Universities have a presence here.  What's amazing is that they leave it so wide open for the general public to explore and discover.  You don't feel locked down at all.
The visitors center, where I met up with Kiri's parents.
Here's a good shot of my wife's nephew looking like a G6.
I couldn't help but grab a self portrait in the reflection of a window.  This is more of a G4.
More pic's to follow this week.  I took so many photos I feel the need to space them out.  Don't want to overload everyone all at once.  Pace yourself people.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tucson Vintage Motorcycle Riders

I've been on-call for the last week, so I wasn't able to sign up for any Freewheeler rides over the weekend.  This doesn't mean I've been off the bike the whole time.  I was able to take a short ride with my dad on Saturday.  He owns a Honda dual sport and we were finally able to meet up and ride through Gates Pass.  Good ride, but it's starting to get a little warm in the afternoon.  Morning rides are going to be the way to go as summer sets in.  I can't imagine riding the bike in 100+ degree weather.

I check the Craigslist motorcycle listings, for Tucson, just about every day.  I like to see what people are selling and you can start to learn the alphabet soup of cycle names after you see them over and over.  BMW is the worst..K100RS..I'm sorry but to the beginner motorcycle rider that means absolutely nothing to me.  Where as Ninja 250 paints a picture pretty quick.  End meaningless ranting.  Sometimes local bike clubs will post meet-ups in the ads and one caught my eye as it dealt with vintage bikes.  The Tucson Vintage Motorcycle Riders usually meet once a month at a local brewery downtown.  I had seen their ads last fall, but had been unable to attend any of them.  Well I decide to go see what it was like tonight.  Unfortunately everyone else had plans so I ended up going stag.  The Barrio Brewery, where the meet-up was held, is a pretty cool place down by the rail road tracks.  It's sort of neat to have a meal outside and watch the trains roll by and watch the people look over the bikes.

This had to be my favorite bike there.  I'm not sure what year it is.

A good looking BSA.
The Bonneville in the bottom left isn't vintage, it's just a few years older then mine.  It's hard to see but he had installed forward foot pegs for resting his legs on longer rides.  I may have to look into those.
Nice looking BWM, but those boxer motors are sure strange looking.
There were two vintage Indian's there.  This one is a 1938 I believe.  I was able to capture some video of the owner running the engine.
If only I could test drive all these bikes!!
I love gauges.  I wish my head light had a amp meter in it.
This looks like a older goldwing?? Not sure.
This is the other Indian that was there.  I'm not sure what the wooden cane was all about.
I'm not sure if that ornament was original or not.  It appeared to be made of plastic.
The sun setting on the orange paint of this Ducati was pretty cool.  The picture doesn't do it justice.

I had a good time.  Supposedly they're having a bike show and swap meet on April 10th at the same location.  I'm definitely going.  I'll make sure to post photos from that one as well.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Iron Butt Warmup

Iron Butt what? No, hold on, my blog isn't switching over to a "Mature" content rating. For those of you who still needed proof that motorcyclists are a little on the nutty side. Wander on over to the Iron Butt Association website. Go ahead. I'll wait.

IBA main page.

About the IBA.

That's right.  A few of my fellow Freewheelers are interested in picking up the 1000 miles in under 24 hours "Saddle Sore" achievement.  I'm not saying I'm one of them, but getting a couple of long distance rides under my belt will be perfect for planning some trips this summer.  I'm not against the IBA.  If people want to push/test themselves on their bikes I'm not going to stand in their way.  But I'm not in that mindset right now.  Being fairly new to the motorcycle scene I'd rather take my time on trips and enjoy the scenery.  It's the journey and not the destination etc etc.

Anyway... here was the first warm-up route for those eventually going for the gold.  The initial goal was somewhere around 450 miles.  We ended up skipping the last "purple" leg of the trip for reasons I'll get into later. 

View Iron Butt Warm Up 475 Mile Warmup in a larger map

A quick snapshot of the odometer before leaving the house.

The night before the ride we had a total of six riders listed as going.  As is always the case, putting yourself down as going and actually showing up are completely two different realities.  As the first rays of sunlight reflected off of the International House of Pancakes sign, our merry band of travelers found ourselves three people short.  Hey, no sweat off my brow..the smaller the group the better, in my opinion.  I forgot to snap a picture of my breakfast.  Sorry Jeff!  You'll just have to imagine the scrambled eggs, toast, bacon and hash browns.

On a side note.  As we were leaving the city I noticed a Google maps picture vehicle.  You know, those vehicles that drive around and snap "street view" pictures for Google.  I had heard they were in town.  I always imagined they were big vans for some reason.  But it looked like a little Ford Focus or something like it with a odd looking ski pole setup on top.  I'm not sure if it was actually filming, but I'll keep checking where I saw it on Google maps and hope I got myself captured on film:)

We headed west out of town towards the city of Sells and then Ajo.  Stacy, the leader of our little pack, may have taken a few shots over her shoulder.  It's an unknown fact that she has three hands which allows her to take pictures and drive at the same time.  No safety violations here.  Move along.

I'm the friendly looking guy in the neon yellow jacket directly behind her.  I knew it was going to warm up in the afternoon so I decided to grab the Intake Air 2 Tour Master mesh jacket.  It came in handy in Phoenix where the temperature probably hit the mid eighties in the sun.

We made our first gas stop in Why, AZ.  Don't ask why.  There was a small casino next to the convient store.  I'm not much of a gambler, plus we were going for time.  So after filling up and a quick bathroom break we were back on the road.

Our route took us across the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range.  The Air Force uses it as a bombing range for the various nearby military bases.  Some pretty country in there.  Luckily no stray bombs landed on the road.

Our next stop was Gila Bend.  The gas station had a ton of arts and crafts out front.  One of the more interesting items were these metal wind catchers in the shapes of peacocks.  Their bodies had heavy stones balanced on a rod, and when the wind caught the metal feathers the birds rocked back and forth.  Neat stuff.

Here Stacy and Walker, our third rider, contemplate some of the crafts.  Unfortunately Walker had to turn back to Tucson at this point.  He said he was starting to have some problems with his clutch slipping and wanted to turn back before something serious happened.  We wished him luck and continued on, down to two.  At this point it felt like a Agatha Christie novel.  Who was going to disappear next?

Stacy and I headed north out of Gila Bend on Old US Hwy 80.  This was the best part of the whole trip.  It was country I hadn't seen yet.  We passed through large agriculture fields which smelled like earth and plants..something you don't seem to experience in a car.  We passed by large cattle ranches where you could smell the sweet odor only cows can produce.  We even saw a shrimp farm that was starting to produce algae bio fuels.

We crossed this neat looking bridge near Gillespie Dam.  Apparently it was built in 1927.  The dam, which was built in 1921 apparently failed in 1993 due to heavy rains.  I could see a portion of the dam that had broken away.  It looked like some giant had come along and just pushed a part of it over.

We made a left turn at Salome Hwy and started making our way back to I-10.  We pulled off the road at one point to check our maps and stretch our legs.  This also gave us a chance to take some more cool photos.  Who is that hot looking guy sitting by the side of the road??

Stacy looking stylish next to her Yamaha.

We finally got back on I-10 and headed straight for Phoenix.  At one point I-10 turns into a tunnel running beneath downtown Phoenix.  It's really pretty neat to ride on a motorcycle.  We stopped at a Circle-K to refuel.  They didn't have any public bathrooms, so I had to run next door to a "Ranch Market".  I had three different people give me bad directions in the store on the actual location of the restrooms.  I was starting to think the entire store was out to get me.  I did locate them eventually, but I must have looked pretty silly wandering the store in my ass-less chaps and neon yellow jacket.  I'm sure all of Phoenix had a good laugh.

It's at this point that Stacy and I decided to cut the trip short and head straight back to Tucson on I-10.  We could have kept going, no sore butt yet.  But we both had some things we could still make if we turned back early.  I wanted to make my weekly disc golf.  And she wanted to get back to a soccer tournament that was taking place in Tucson.  So we jumped back on the freeway and made good time back to town.  My odometer showed 399 miles total.  So we were short 50 miles or so on our goal.  No problem..50 miles is nothing.

My helmet shield looked pretty nasty with all the dead bugs.

The next warm up ride is supposed to be 700 miles.  I have a month to decide if I want to go on that one.  I'll keep you posted:)