Thursday, April 7, 2022

New Arrivals

 Sorry.  It has been a while since I posted.  This has always been a little hit or miss.  It's been a busy year, so I'm just going to put it all out there.

In the early fall, I had geothermal installed.  The picture above is a big ball of tubing.  They dug 5 trenches 2 feet wide, 4 feet deep, and 150 feet long, each.  Needless to say, my front lawn was destroyed.  And I volunteered.

I also had a few solar panels installed.

Then my sister and I headed south.  We got to explore a bit in the Appalachians.  Fall color change was late, but by dumb luck we timed it perfectly.  The trip started out with some color and some green.  In the middle we got nice color like the picture at the top of this post from Little Switzerland.  In the later part of the trip the leaves were falling and you could see through the branches.

Part of the reason for the trip was digging into family history.  We followed, as best we could, the trail that one of our ancestors took to emigrate from Virginia to the Ohio River in 1769.  

We also got to find the land that another of our ancestors owed in about 1800 on the border of Virginia and N. Carolina.  Who knew?  I have some southern roots.  A picture of the creek on my ancestors property is below.

And we got to explore twisty roads for a motorcycle ride I am hosting later in the year.

After our trip, thoughts turned to home and we had a very pretty winter.  The deer were a common sight and you could say that they fertilized my yard.  Best to step carefully.

I'm kind of surprised that I didn't think about this earlier.  After 10 years, I sold my little red Fiat to a very enthusiastic lady who I'm sure will take good care of it.  It was actually a little hard to let go of it.  I am not like my friend Doug who can change bikes and cars every year.  Somehow, I seem to get attached.
I replaced the red Fiat with a 5 year newer (but still used) Fiat 500 Abarth.  It is a dark gray which wouldn't have been my first choice.  I always like bright colors on little cars so you see them.  Even more surprising that selling the red Fiat is that I have forgotten to take any pictures of the gray one.  That aside, I am enjoying it and hope it lasts as long as the red one.

The most recent additions are the new camera and the new bike.

The camera is a Sony RX-100 mk VII.  It gives me a nice zoom lens and phase detection auto focus in a small size that will make it easier to take on the bike.

The motorcycle is something of an impulse purchase, only the impulse took 3 months for me to pull the trigger.  It is an MV Agusta Turismo Veloce.  It's also the first road bike for me with a good reputation for handling.  It is an addition to the fleet, although the ZRX1200r has to go.  Like I said, I get attached.

At this point, I don't have enough experience with it to comment, but it should be fun learning.  Of course, I have to make modifications so that I can tuck my knee into the designed pocket.  I'm thinking higher seat and lower pegs will be needed.

Ok, you are all caught up.  You can get on with your life.

Motorcycle Plagiarism

 Of course styles change and product appearances follow each other, sometimes to the point where they all look alike.  But I feel Honda, with their up coming Hawk 11, is guilty of straight out copying the MV Agusta Superveloce.  Sure, the MV has an additional side fairing and the MV guys probably aren't going to care because the Superveloce is still better looking and likely a more enjoyable ride.  But this is pretty blatant to me.  Doesn't Honda have any shame?


OK, they are not the same.  The Honda is blue.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Colorado Passes

 I have been working on the KLR to get it prepared for exploring on dirt. I even had a chance to ride it briefly with the new knobbies on both pavement and dirt. I felt like the relative dirt rookie that I am. It will take some practice to get comfortable.

I have also been scheming on shipping the KLR out to Colorado, leaving it there for several years, and going out each summer for some exploring. I am also thinking about taking a 2 day dirt riding school. On my way to the school, I thought about riding over Hagerman Pass. I remember Hagerman Pass as a pretty easy dirt road that I last drove in a rented Firebird. From what I can tell, it has degraded to the point that it is now restricted to high clearance vehicles. Not a problem for the KLR, but no more low cars. 

 That got me reminiscing about earlier trips to Colorado and passes I've crossed. One of those, Schofield Pass, I have done twice for work, once in a passenger car. It was always a tough pass with several tough sections, but I never realized how dangerous it was. Schofield Pass now holds the title of the deadliest pass in Colorado with 17 people dead trying to cross it. I think the count was only 6 when I was there last, so people have been busy.

As an aside, on one of those work trips I met a beautiful girl on a dirt bike and watched her pick her way past our little caravan and up Schofield Pass. What she was doing seemed so much easier than what I was doing that I got thinking about motorcycles, so I think I need to visit Crystal City at least on the KLR. To this day, I wonder what she thought of the one tall American among 7 Japanese men and our trying to do the pass in that passenger car.

Below Schofield Pass is the ghost town of Crystal City and that brings me back to an off-road trip that my father and I took in the mid-90's. Actually, to be correct, I can't call Crystal City a ghost town. It has never been occupied through the winter, but the people who owned the mines in the late 1800's loved that valley so much that they kept the property after the ore was gone. Their families still own the land and many come up to stay for the summer. It's a favorite place of mine, so I can understand the sentiment.

My father had never been off-road and I really enjoyed the smile on his face as he bounced the borrowed Jeep across the rocks as we explored the Colorado back country.

Although we didn't try Schofield Pass, we did visit Crystal City and it's beautiful valley. The Power House shown in the photo is both historic and innovative. Water was brought in from the reservoir and the water turned a vertical water turbine which in turn drove a generator for electricity. The vertical log structure you can still see housed the turbine.

Since we weren't going try Schofield, we turned north out of Crystal City into the Lead King Basin, before turning back west to Marble. What a beautiful valley.

Two other passes from that trip stand out in memory, Stony and Taylor. Stony is further south in the San Juan Mountains. Several small creeks gather from slopes around Stony and form the headwaters of the Rio Grande River. That wouldn't be special on its own, but there is a big, beautiful valley, 20 miles long, and surrounded by 13,000 feet peaks. Just one little 2 track road down the valley, it seems very pristine. Of course, the truth is that it was the main supply road from the east to the Silverton mining district, so I'm sure it wasn't pristine 130 years ago. The picture shows my father and the Jeep far down that valley. You can even glimpse the Rio Grande in the picture, wide, clear, and energetic.

The other pass, Taylor Pass, was far more of an adventure than Stony. We start high in Taylor Park and started climbing the south side of the pass. Part of the way, the trail dips down into the creek and used the creek bed as the trail. With high, rocky banks on both side and water rushing down the mountain and splashing against the front of the Jeep, both my father and I weren't smiling, we were laughing, and hoping we could eventually get out of this creek. The picture shows the place where the trail finally exits the stream. What a relief.

The south side of the pass has a medium slope, but the north side of the pass is a cliff. Back in the 1890's, people would take apart their wagons and let the wagons and livestock down the cliff on a pulley. A bit later, they cut a narrow road in the cliff and down into the valley. The picture shows the valley from the top of the cliff at the top of the pass.

It likely won't be this year, but I hope to get back to some of these places on the KLR. This year will probably be chasing some family history a bit further north. But these pictures have certainly stirred those memories and made me want to go back and get the feel of those places again.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Look Alike?

 In truth, I'm impressed with the Harley PanAmerica.  It seems competitive with the BMW GS and the Ducati Multistrada, at least the L-2 version.  It's not great for serious off road, but then most customers won't use it that way anyhow.

I feel like the engineers at Harley have been constrained by the 1930's era Harley design and that has really held them back.  With the PanAmerica, those constraints are off and I think that they have done some good and original thinking.  The engine is quite good and so is the chassis and electronics.

But I have to admit, the styling of the front will take some getting used to.  I thought about it and decided that it reminds me of a 50's sci-fi robot.  One gent quipped, "Does the Pan Am shout, 'Danger, Will Robinson, Danger?"

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Live motorcycle Dynamics - Well, in a straight line anyway

 Someone on the MC Chassis list came up with this link.  The bike in the simulation is a one off being built by an individual using a Triumph 675 engine.  Not stated if he hopes to race it in Moto2, but it is a pure race bike.  It uses a SaxTrak front suspension which is a combination of telescopic struts with an A arm to the frame connecting just above the tire.

The simulation has a slider on the bottom that varies brake/drive and you can see the g's shown at the c.g.  I don't know how if the simulation is correct in all aspects, but it looks pretty right.  One thing that surprised me was how easily it was to take the vertical force of one tire or the other to zero.  That is, zero force on the front tire represents a wheelie and at the rear, rear wheel lift.

Wouldn't it be cool if you could change geometry, just to see what happened?  Of course, you can buy Tony Foale's software.  Anyway, something to play with and a good thought starter.

An update.  The page has been updated to allow change in rake and anti-dive, but how things work is a little unclear.  The green slider at the bottom may be braking, not engine drive, but the definition isn't clear.  It is also odd that both suspensions seem to be set up at near full rebound which explains why it wheelie's so easily.  I thought about withdrawing this post because it isn't clear what is happening, but then it is kind of fun to play with anyway.  Just season with the appropriate amount of salt.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Automotive Outlier Update or the Lost Soul of VW

Since July, I have been thinking about this issue and an electric car still seems like a good idea.  In fact, once I got my mind around the idea, buying another fossil fuel car just seems wrong.

But then, there may not be a good choice out there for me, at least not yet.

When I started researching EVs, I thought about what things would be important to me in choosing a electric car.  Of course, most important would be fitting in the car with my height and neck/headache issues.  Not many cars are truly a good fit, so this isn't trivial.  

Next would be a good driving feel.  I can't seem to live without that.  And styling fits in there too.  I can live with a lot of styling choices, but there are some I just can't.  Alas, one of those is the Tesla 3.  Besides being expensive, I find both the inside and outside ugly.  The nose reminds me of a duck or the back of a Henry J without fins.  

Plus, I don't really like Elon, so Tesla is off the list.

I had been leaning toward VW, since they are working very hard on changing to EV after their diesel debacle.  The Buzz microvan that I mentioned in the earlier post looked promising and the ID.4 looked good enough that I put down a refundable deposit to order one.


But then I drove a current Jetta.  What an awful disappointment.  The ride was soft and floaty.  The steering was very slow, very light, and non-linear.  There was absolutely no precision and no joy in driving this car.  As it happens, a friend of mine rented a Passat for work about the same time.  He reported the same issues.  Basically, US VW cars, except possibly GTI variants, drive like 1980's Buicks.

I remember visiting Germany and working with the VW engineers on what character a car had to have to be a VW and driving precision was at the heart of it.  I'm afraid that VW in the US has lost it's soul.


So now what to do?  Tesla is out for me.  VW looks doubtful too.  My best possible guess at this time is the Ford Mach e.  I hope I fit.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

KLR, the next step

 The last few posts have been more about people than projects, so I thought I would go back to the motorcycle that started this blog.  Or more correctly, this blog has been about travel and projects, but since much of my travel has been on a motorcycle and motorcycles have also been projects, there are more than a few posts on the KLR.

In truth, I find it hard to sell projects, especially cars and motorcycles.  I kept Gidjet for more than 30 years.  I have had the KLR since 2003.  When I bought the KTM in 2016, it replaced the KLR for club riding and other motorcycle travel/exploring.  I thought about selling the KLR, but it has more emotional value than it is worth to any other person.

Over the years, one person really liked the KLR, my friend Mark Doman.  I had sort hoped that I could pass it on to Mark, but if you read a couple of posts earlier, Mark passed away this summer.

 Tomboy Basin, 11,500 ft elevation and once the richest town in Colorado

With the pandemic, I didn't ride very much this year, just a few hundred miles, but those miles were on the KLR.  It is still a solid, reliable bike with lots of life left in it.  As winter came on, I needed to decide what to do with the KLR.

Headwaters of the Rio Grande

After not traveling for more than a year, I kept reading about places out west that I had been or wanted to go.  The Tomboy Basin and the headwaters of the Rio Grande in Colorado. Elk City, the White Bird Grade, and the Old Spiral Highway in Idaho.  Actually, the whole Salmon/Snake River area.  And eventually Brittania Beach, Bella Coola, and Gingolx in British Columbia.  Many of those places are dirt road or off road.  

 Old Spiral Highway

So I hatched a plan.  The idea was to convert the KLR for dirt/off road use, get some training and practice in riding off road, and get the bike out west for a few weeks (hopefully 2021).  Then store it out there and go back west every year for a few weeks of exploring.  Leaving the bike out there makes sense because the ride across the plains isn't any fun.  Tentatively, John D. will join me the first time and trailer our bikes out the first time.  

Bella Coola, BC

 Gingolx, BC

I want to acknowledge the pictures above.  The historical picture of Tomboy comes from The historical picture of the Old Spiral Highway comes from the Lewiston Tribune.  The pictures of the Rio Grande, Bella Coola, and Gingolx come from Google images.

 I admit to getting older, so the riding won't be aggressive, but it is still necessary to prepare the bike for tipping over and for good traction on poor surfaces.  The KLR is too heavy for riding in much mud or sand and I don't like that stuff anyway, so the plan is to mainly stick to Forest Service and mining roads.


It's amazing how adding some knobby tires makes any bike look tougher.  The luggage rack came from Ukraine, but the other bits are more local.  The skid plate is for Rocky Mountain rocks and the crash bars are to keep the radiator from being crushed in a tip over.  Off road footpegs have been added for traction and lowered for riding out of the saddle.  I also made some spacers to lift the handlebars for a more comfortable standing position on the bike.  Just a few things left to do like power the GPS.  This year has reinforced the idea to live now, don't wait.  I am looking forward to new explorations.