|08-12-2011, 04:21 PM||#1082|
Joined: Jul 2010
Location: Los Andes,Venezuela
I was dating this girl
Well Only in my dreams
Nice update Jay, I will like to see 1 girl from every country you have visited
|08-15-2011, 10:22 AM||#1083|
Living on a DR
Joined: Jan 2006
Location: New Delhi - new 'home' for post RTW
I ain't no Striking Viking and I find it hard just to walk up to girls and take a picture of them, without getting a slap This one here was special, though.
|08-15-2011, 10:39 AM||#1084|
Living on a DR
Joined: Jan 2006
Location: New Delhi - new 'home' for post RTW
Europe, Part 4: A Day in Munich at the BMW Museum
April 25 - 27, 2011
From Prague, I headed across southern Germany to visit a friend in Switzerland and passed through the Bavarian capital of Munich. Ever since I saw my first Road&Track magazine in my early days, I've been drawn to BMW cars and the passion hasn't let up. I was thrilled to finally be visiting the home town of this revered marque and its fantastic museum. If you're not interested in cars, skip to the next post.
Taking sinuous secondary roads from Prague across the southwest of the Czech Republic. In my days of touring the asphalt of the US, I dreamt of riding in Europe and now I knew that those dreams were justified.
I love roads that don't have all the markings on them and are not that wide, which seems perfect for motorcycling.
Heading off into the green hills of southwestern Czech country.
The markings showed up and the traffic increased but the riding was still enjoyable.
Passing by a lake near...
...the border with Germany, which was now just open and I can imagine how before Schengen and when the Iron Curtain was up, this portal to freedom must've been lusted by so many on the other side.
As I rolled back into Deutschland through the small border town of Bayer-Eisetentein, I noticed the changes immediately. There were a lot more Mercedes, BMWs and Audis running around.
I made sure to use up the last of my Czech Crown at a petrol station near the border as now I was back in the Eurozone, the countries in the EU that have adopted the Euro as their national currency. A single European currency was the dream of many economists and politicians on the continent since the end of World War II to unite all their peoples. It was introduced on January 1, 1999 and slowly got adopted by more and more member states. The transition was surprisingly smooth considering the varied economies and cultures that this currency was tying together. I remember seeing a BBC program where a reporter left with £100 from London and changed it at every country through Europe and when he got back, he only got £75 back. This loss in currency exchange was one of the goals of the euro, among others. Today, it is considered to be the second reserve currency of the world, behind the US dollar, but the value of all its notes in circulation have surpassed the dollar. $1 = €0.70. That €50 note is worth $71.
While the dream of the single currency was realized, Europe is still a strange union among cultures with clearly defined boundaries. This venn diagram helps to define which countries are party of which treaties in the area known as Europe.
Riding the beautiful roads of Bavaria and heading to its capital of Munich.
I spent just one day there and I spent that entire day getting to know my favorite car company.
The iconic BMW Tower, known as the Vierzylinder, as the four towers represent a four-cylinder engine. It was built in time for the 1972 Olympic Games at Munich as has been serving as the group's headquarters since then. The round shape in front is the BMW Museum, which extends a few floors below ground. For €12, it was a special treat.
Upon entering the vault-like museum, this is the first display to greet visitors. Round metal balls are suspended from thin wires and they move up and down to create different shapes.
Along with me, everyone else there was in silenced awe of the display. It went on to create all kinds of cars through BMW's history.
As was explained in the movie Finding Forrester, the BMW emblem of blue and white quadrats represents a spinning propeller against a blue sky with clouds. The company came together in 1916 when World War I aircraft engine manufacturer Rapp Motorenwerke became Bayerische Motorenwerke and was then bought by Bayerische Flugzeugwerke who were making motorcycles and that soon became an integral part of the new BMW company.
An impeccable BMW R32, the first motorcycle to wear the BMW badge, being produced from 1923 to 1926. It was a redesigned Helios motorcycle that was made by Bayerisch Flugzeugwerke (BFw). The redesign by Max Friz addressed the cooling of the cylinders by laying the boxer engine with its two opposing cylinders sticking out in the wind for adequate air cooling and coupled it with a shaft drive to the rear wheel. Amazingly, 90 years later, that configuration is still what defines most BMW motorcycles. It's not to everyone's liking, but it seems to tickle enough consumers to keep the design going. This is one of the primary aspects of the company that has kept me a loyal fan - their ability to buck the trend and stick to their ideals in a sea of convergent designs.
The first car to carry the BMW badge was the Dixi 3/15, produced from 1927 to 1929. This car was a German version of the English Austin Seven, which was made under license by Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach using the Dixi marque, which BMW bought in 1928 to enter the automobile industry. The car made 15 horsepower and hit a top speed of 75 kph (45 mph).
Many variants of the 3/15 were produced, including this cute roadster in the open-top gallery.
Behind it was the sexy BMW 507 roadster, considered one of the most handsome cars of all time with its long bonnet and swooping lines. It was produced from 1956 to 1959 with only 252 examples ever made. While being an aesthetic success with 202 models still surviving, it was a financial failure for the company due to the expensive manufacturing costs and drove them near bankruptcy. The body was made of hand-formed aluminum and thus, no two cars are exactly alike. From its initial list price of $10,000 in the 1950s, the 507 now auctions for a million dollars.
The 507 inspired the future roadsters of the company and is best captured in this BMW Z8, which is the exact car that was used in the 1999 James Bond film, The World Is Not Enough. In the movie, the car was swapped for a model before being cut in half by a helicopter saw.
From the early days, BMW advertising showcased their superior precision engineering, captured here by a micrometer.
The company's racing motorcycles were setup in an interesting display to depict them flowing around a race track. Up front is their newest S1000RR, which actually conforms to the current trends of putting in an inline-4 engine, driven by a chain and looking like most of the Japanese competition.
A bit further back in time showcasing BMW's motorcycle triumphs in the Paris-Dakar Rally. On the left is a BMW R80G/S, which in 1980 launched the still running G/S line of dual sport motorcycles. The G/S (Gelände/Straße) is German for off-road/on-road. The blue one on the right is a more recent brother, the F650RR, built by Richard Schalber and Touratech to compete in the endurance rally event. Its 700cc single cylinder produced 75hp and it had a fuel capacity of 50 liters (13.3 gallons)!
BMW's dual sport motorcycles took off after its numerous successes in the Paris-Dakar Rally and is considered by many to be the obvious choice for around-the-world motorcycle travel. However, I quite don't like their complexity and heaviness, instead preferring the simpler Suzuki DR650.
Low-slung motorcycles with racing side cars. I'd love to try this someday.
The 1937 WR 500, a streamlined motorcycle, nicknamed The Egg, which with its 500cc supercharged engine set a motorcycle world speed record in 1937 of 279.77 kph (173.88 mph). It was ridden by Ernst Henne and the record stood for 14 years.
Hill-climb challenges were used since the early days to showcase the strength of engines. That's some serious grade there, coming close to 45 degrees.
Another avenue of telling the world about your brand and letting them see for themselves your reliability and sportiness was to get into the top echelon of motorsport, namely Formula 1. It's a motor racing series that's been running since 1950 and the formula is a set of rules agreed upon by all the competitors, such as car length, engine configuration, etc. This is the 1983 Brabham BMW BT52 with its distinctive dart-shaped profile, powered by the awesomely powerful BMW M12/13 turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine, which in this car made 850 hp but by 1986 was producing around 1,300 hp from a four-banger. Those were the days of unlimited engine tweaking. Nowadays, everything is very restricted. This was a good promotion for BMW's 4-cylinder engines in their production cars compared to Ferrari's V12s. This Brabham was designed by Gordon Murray, who then went on to design the legendary McLaren F1 road car.
The rear of the car with its massive wing to generate as much downforce as possible. It's the same principle of an aircraft's wing, but flipped the other way so instead of generating lift to take off, it generates downforce to push the rear tires into the ground and stay in contact with the track as it rips around corners. Having test driven a Formula SAE car that I built during my college days at Purdue, I can attest to the addiction that downforce is, which I guess is the continued attraction to four-wheeled transport even though I am so deep into motorcycles. I don't discriminate, as the feeling of riding two wheels is different from that on four wheels. On a street motorcycle, you lean into the corner and become an integral part of the riding dynamics, while in a race car, you are stuck to the chassis and fight the g-forces (weight of gravity against your body) as your steer it through a corner. I love both feelings.
The clean rear end of the 2006 BMW Sauber F1 car, which highlights the importance that aerodynamic efficiency gained in the recent years of car development. With engine design being restricted in the name of cost, aerodynamics is currently the area where teams differentiate themselves. A clean underbody (you can see the flat floor and the front wheels) is crucial these days in creating as much downforce as possible. Regular road cars don't go anywhere near as fast, so the underside of regular cars is just a mess of engine, exhaust and suspension components.
I then walked over to the engine alley with all the super motors from BMW's history on display. Being a mechanical engineer with a gear head passion, this is considered art to me. When I was young, I was just interested in the numbers, such as horsepower and torque, but after my education and learning how to tear down and rebuild an engine, the appreciation of the beauty within is much deeper. This is the BMW P84/5 F1 engine for the 2005 season. It's a 3.0 litre V10 making around 900hp at 19,000 RPMs, but it was detuned from the previous season for the sake of reliability that was forced on the teams.
A fine example of the art of bending exhaust header pipes. Here, five exhaust headers are blended into one and to achieve a smooth running engine, the lengths of each exhaust header must be identical, taking into account all the bends. It's a complex science, first simulated on the computer and then skillfully hand-crafted in reality by specialists.
The famous BMW M12/13 (mentioned above in the earlier Brabham Formula 1 car), considered the highest ouput per cylinder ever produced for a car. In its peak configuration, it made about 1,450 horsepower from a 1.5L four-cylinder turbo engine; that's 362.5 hp per cylinder with each cylinder having a capacity of 375cc. Comparing that to the current most powerful road engine in the Bugatti Veyron EB16.4, which makes 1001 hp from a 16 cylinder quad-turbo engine with a capacity of 8L (translating to 62.5 hp per cylinder from 500cc), it makes one realize the technical supremacy that was achieved with the little M12/13 engine. Of course, it was built for a specific purpose and had to be rebuilt after every race, but still, wow. The engine is on the left side and the massive turbo lies on the right.
The BMW 132 9-cylinder radial aircraft engine that was used heavily by the Luftwaffe during World War II. The chairman of the company at the time, Fraz Josef Popp, tried to stop the company from becoming a war supplier because after supplying aircraft engines to the German army in World War I and with their subsequent defeat, BMW's survival was at stake as when the engine orders stopped, the company's lifeline was cut. Popp knew the war would end at some point and the orders would stop again, but the Nazi government demanded almost all of his production facilities to be converted to building aircraft engines. And to support the increased production, the Nazis supplied forced labor from concentrations camps (such as Dachau) to work in the factories. BMW regrets this period in their history and there was a section of the museum dedicated to telling this story. They've since compensated the surviving workers.
The hall of production, showing their aluminum body construction.
The hall of design, showing how a car is translated from concept to clay model before building a prototype. This is a clay model of the 1 series.
A timeline display of BMW's trunk emblems. This is another reason why I've liked the company: sticking to simple yet meaningful designations of their models. A 325i (a car I owned) signifies a 3-series car with a 2.5L engine with fuel Injection. However, lately they've been straying slightly from this due to marketing pressures.
At one end of the museum was The Vault, showcasing the design stars of the company. This is the eternally beautiful BMW 3.0 CSi, highly revered by car collectors for its simple, yet elegant lines. This car's design will still be appreciated a 100 years from now.
Moving into the motorsports hall and marveling up close at the 1975 BMW 3.0 CSL (the race car version of the previous car), known as the Batmobile, due to its wide bodywork. Besides building engines for other race series, such as Formula 1, BMW's reputation for a solid handling chassis were showcased in their countless wins in production car racing, especially with the CSL. The early days of BMW's racing also cemented their motorsport colors, the bands of light and dark blue, followed by red. The light blue represented the blue from the Bavarian flag and in the early days, Texaco was a major partner of BMW and the red represented them and the color in-between was used for a transition. However, nowadays, BMW says that red is supposed to represent motor racing.
The original deep-dish BBS wheel rims, with the hub (golden part) set in about 20 cms (8 in) from the lip of the rim. This allowed them to use shorter axles, for better control, while using the widest tire possible for maximum grip. Nowadays, these kind of rims are pranced about on hip-hop stars' SUVs.
The BMW M3 GTR sporting a massive rear wing and an under tray rear diffuser (the slats below the bumper). This signifies a flat floor under the car, like Formula 1 race cars, to reduce the disturbance to the air as it passes under the car. More turbulent air creates a bigger aerodynamic profile, meaning the car meets more resistance the faster it goes.
From the motorsport hall, I flowed into the next logical place, my favorite side of BMW, it's M division. M stands for motorsports and signifies the highest performing of their production cars in each class. So, for the 3-series, the black M3 up front would be the highest performer in that series. For the 5-series, it was the M5 and so on. Besides having a more powerful engine, the M cars have more racy suspension and handling dialed in, making them more of a driver's car, as opposed to the luxury that the casual up-market buyer is looking for. These cars cemented BMW's reputation for making real sport sedans. Any car wearing the M badge has been tested and tuned at the Nurbrugring racing circuit, where BMW keeps a permanent testing facility. In my view, other high-end manufacturers make luxury cars with some sportiness thrown in, while BMW makes sporty cars with some luxury thrown in. I'm clearly biased here.
A bit back in time and one car of my dreams, the E30 BMW M3 from 1989, which showcased simple design with a powerful engine and superb handling. Behind her are the original M cars, the 1984 M5, 1983 M635CSi and the 1978 M1.
A shot of this simple, yet butch-looking front end, which displays the traits of most BMW's, namely the double kidney grill sandwiched by twin headlights. The company has tried to keep this common trait through all its cars but the headlights are now merging into one unit, but the double kidney grill will live on.
More exciting than the cars up front was this M engine sound display in the back with headphones hanging from the ceiling of each engine racing through its revs as it motored through some twisting curves. I think I spent about 20 minutes there, listening to each display with my eyes closed and feeling the gear changes as I drove these imaginary M cars. There was a similar display at the launch of the new E90 BMW M3 at the Chicago Auto Show with the engine racing through its rev and my friends had to come back and get me as I was so enthralled by those primal auditory waves.
The car that started BMW's resurgence in the compact, sports car segment, the 1968 BMW 2002Ti. Besides looking quite chic (even today), it was lightweight with a strong enough chassis and 2.0L engine to provide responsive driving in a family-looking car and cemented BMW's place in the US as a maker of sporty cars. This car is credited with inventing the category of compact sporting sedans, which are now very popular is numerous car companies around the world and it's the predecessor of the 3-series.
The cutesy Isetta, an odd-ball in BMW's history, but this little bubble car saved the company, when times were tough after the end of World War II. Since BMW made aircraft engines for the Nazi government, they were banned by the Allies from producing automobiles for three years after the war. The company survived by producing bicycles and kitchen supplies and slowly got back into motorcycles and then into cars by 1952. The design for the Isetta came from an Italian company, Iso who wanted to make a micro car for the city and their innovative design revolved around the whole front of the car being the only door, which swung out with the steering wheel and dashboard to allow ingress. This allowed them to make a very short car, which was ideal for parking. I had a Mini Cooper in the US and the shortness was very handy when trying to find parking in the city. BMW licensed production from Iso to produce the Isetta for the German market and get their automobile production going again. It had a motorcycle's single cylinder engine, making 13 hp and was renowned for its fuel efficiency of 3 liters/100 kms (77.6 mpg), and it was chain driven.
After seeing the regular part of the museum, I climbed back up above ground and into the raised bowl for a special exhibition of BMW's Art Cars. I had timed my visit to Munich just right since all 17 of the Art Cars were on display back at home. The Art Car project started when French racing driver, Hervé Poulain invited Alexander Calder to use his race car as a canvas for a painting. Poulain then went on to race the car in the 24 hours of Le Mans endurance race. This started a program at BMW of artists being invited to paint special cars, which were usually raced and then put on display in various museums around the world. This is Art Car #2, designed by Frank Stella in 1976 using a BMW 3.0 CSL. The graph paper design was used by Stella to capture the precision of motor racing.
Art Car #4, Andy Warhol's 1979 BMW M1, probably the most famous of the Art Cars. Warhol said he wanted to depict speed by his colors and when the car was seen at high speed the colors would all merge. A unique thing about this car was that Warhol painted it himself, compared to most other cars that were designed by artists and given to others to put the paint to the metal. This M1 went on to race in Le Mans and placed sixth overall.
Two 1989 E30 M3 Art Cars, #8 in the foreground by Michael Jagamara Nelson and #7 by Ken Done. Nelson, from Australia, turned his car into a Papunya masterpiece, a form of painting by the Aborigines. The abstract shapes have in them embedded kangaroos, emus and opossums. Ken Done, also from down under, tried to portray the beauty and speed of vibrant parrots and parrot fish on his M3.
I think an art student can appreciate the diversity in artistic styles that the BMW Art Cars represent. This 1999 BMW V12 LMR, #15, was designed by the conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, who used words to convey her emotions. The car has messages that she says will probably never become void. The message on this sidepod reads 'you are so complex, you don't respond to danger.' The rear wing reads 'lack of charisma can be fatal.' I like it.
The newest art car, #17, designed in 2010 by Jeff Koons is of a BMW M3 GT2. Koons wanted to capture the power that was under the hood and his explosion of colors is supposed to resemble the motion of this extremely fast car. It says something about the company when they commission an artist to paint a car and then go and race it, risking damage to their fine work of art.
Across from the museum is BMW Welt (world), which is a huge multi-purpose hall used for car deliveries, exhibitions and show-casing all the latest models. I wandered inside and managed to get myself on a factory tour. No pictures were allowed but it was very impressive to see the precision in the robotic chassis welders, a sort of robotic dance with sparks flying everywhere.
Inside BMW Welt and marveling at a sculpture of exhaust headers. They had informative displays on the internal combustion engine and how all their latest electronic aids functioned. After spending the whole day immersed in BMWs, I reflected on the smile-inducing drives of my very own Bimmer.
Meet Tiana, my 1992 BMW 325i that I bought when I was 19 after slaving away in a Pizza Hut for two years after coming to the US for college. She had 241,000 kms (150,000 miles) already on the clock when I got her and I put an additional 72,400 kms (40,000 miles) driving all over the US until she sadly got rear ended when I moved to Chicago. This is in southeastern Minnesota where I used to go for joy drives with Harjoth, testing the limits of the car and my driving skills, hitting its top speed and learning all about g-forces.
Going on a road trip with Tiana, Harjoth and the Rana brothers to the Rocky Mountain National Park. This is at the summit at 3,713 m (12,183 ft). The car was everything I had imagined a BMW to be and more. Its excellent condition for a ten year old car and good design had many people thinking it was a recent car or even a new one. I learnt how to wrench and maintain an automobile with her and she was very early in the line of mechanical beauties in my life that leads up to sanDRina.
Speaking of whom was getting some welds fixed up. My friend, Michael, from Hamburg put me in touch with the dual-sport community in Munich and Erik (with the welding torch) offered to put me up for two nights. He rides a KTM 950 and asked if I needed to fix anything, which is a common question from one biker to a biker who's traveling because we know that there's always something that needs fixing, but which can wait a while and isn't urgent. My heavy panniers had started some cracks in the luggage frame after all the corrugated roads in Patagonia and I still hadn't gotten around to fixing it up. Erik said he had a welder and working as a test engineer for a tank company, I knew I could trust him. We're at his friend, Jens' house, where he keeps his welder since he lives in an apartment block and Andy came over to help, by feeding the wire in the welder.
That luggage frame has been welded-up quite a few times now, but I can't fault the design. It's just that my panniers are too heavy and after some fast off-road riding, she needs a few welds.
I repaid Erik the best way I know by preparing my chicken curry for him. He was a very easy going guy and I enjoyed hearing stories of him test-driving WKM Tanks before customer delivery. On the side roads in Germany, I saw road signs that warned of passing tanks and now I understood why, because they're allowed to do road tests on the public roads and sometimes they have to move from one facility to another. Erik has made some crazy tours with his KTM, like going on a winter off-road trip to Poland and he just came back from the Baja Saxonia rally. He has a nice story of why he ended up in Munich. He said after working four years in the army as a truck driver, he was riding his bike near Munich when it broke down. A man offered his place for Erik to fix his bike and he decided to stay.
The underground garage at Erik's place. Due to lack of parking spots, as would be expected of Germans, a technical solution was found where four cars can be parked on this moving platform that owners move back and forth to get their cars out. While I was marveling at the idea, Erik was complaining that it's not amusing when it stops working and you can't get your car out. That's the problem with technical solutions - what do you do when it inevitably fails?
Erik was thrilled to see my self-painted olive green DR as he too has painted his KTM a similar color and like me, he's been derided by his riding buddies of his color choice but he felt vindicated that a world traveler would choose the same color. Being a proper gear head, he has an unused Audi and a boat. After Tiana got rear-ended, I kept her for a year before deciding what to do and just used her as storage space, which Erik completely understood.
Taking off the next morning and passing through downtown Munich to pay homage to their world famous beer, such as Hofbrau, which has a beer garden in Chicago.
I know there's a lot more to be experienced in Munich, but I enjoyed my time spent in the hallowed halls of the car company that I've held up on a pedestal since childhood. Since those days, I've dreamt of visiting Munich just to experience BMW and my expectations were very high and they were surpassed. The brand lives up to its reputation and I think I've conveyed my fascination with this company. I'll come back some other time to experience all the other things that Munich is known for, such as massive beer gardens and a warm social life.
|08-17-2011, 10:30 AM||#1085|
Joined: Aug 2010
Location: Tangará da Serra-MT
amazing read your stories in africa so far... waiting for the full reports! like we said here... go with faith!
|08-20-2011, 01:39 PM||#1086|
Living on a DR
Joined: Jan 2006
Location: New Delhi - new 'home' for post RTW
Europe, Part 5: Switzerland, for maintenance and the Alps
April 27 - May 2, 2011
I had been in Europe now for a couple of weeks, but I hadn't been in a place where I could wrench on the bike. There was some long term maintenance issues that I wanted to address before getting to Africa, namely swapping out some leaky gaskets on the engine. Thomas, a rider from Switzerland, had been following my trip in South America and once in Europe, invited me stay and work on the bike. After a few days there, I headed out across the Swiss Alps into Italy.
Tunnels on the Autobahn. Heading southwest from Munich towards northern Switzerland. I was caught in some spring rains the whole morning and finally the skies cleared.
Beautiful light in the late afternoon shining on the northern foothills of the Alps as I went around Lake Constance.
I crossed the Rhine River and rolled through the semi-open border into Switzerland. They've recently joined the Schengen Treaty so that now I could enter without needing a special visa. However, there are still customs checks at the border, but I wasn't stopped. Close to the German border, I was headed for Gippingen, a small hamlet near the town of Leuggern, about 50 kms (31 mi) north of Zurich.
Thomas, preparing a barbeque for a weekly gathering that he has for his close friends. He and Andrea had recently traveled from the US down to Ushuaia and were slowly getting used to being resettled, but the itch to get moving again hasn't died down and they're planning to head through Africa in the next few years.
Dave, whom I met in Frankfurt, had also made it here by now and he's slicing up some freshly grilled ribs. Thomas and Andrea had met Dave during their South America trip and now on his round-the-world journey, he was passing through Europe after Asia.
An excellent barbeque dinner, surrounded by a whole cadre of Heinz sauces. I had never seen so many different kinds of sauces, ranging from curry mango, cocktail, knoblauch, sundried tomato, barbeque and hot chili.
Getting to know some of Thomas' friends over dinner.
Spending my days in their garage and finally giving sanDRina some much overdue care.
The main items I had to take care of were these two leaking gaskets. One was at the Cam Chain Tensioner housing and the other was from the clutch spindle.
Painstakingly scratching off the old, ineffective paper gasket at the tensioner housing. If something is leaking, it's most likely due to a gasket being at the end of its life. These leaks started towards the end of South America and I had the replacements sent in a care package, while I was in Europe.
After maybe an hour or more, I had a clean surface to mate the new gasket to. If there's any part of the old gasket left, it won’t form a proper seal and there'll be a leak again. The thing with working on an engine is that there are no shortcuts. It takes time, but if you do it the right way the first time, you'll be good to go.
New gasket going on the cam chain tensioner and note that the tensioner bolt has been pulled into the housing, which will be released once it's assembled back on the engine to set the correct tension on the cam chain. This is what I should've done in San Francisco to have avoided destroying my original engine. It was an expensive lesson but now I know for life.
The hard plastic gasket around the clutch spindle got replaced but I could hardly tell what was wrong with the leaky gasket. When these parts reach the end of their life, it might not be evident to us that its structure has started failing and it's not that effective as a gasket anymore. Some people are surprised when I tell them I'm going to make it back to India on this same bike as they can't imagine that it would survive till then. Of course, not everything's going to make it, but with preventative maintenance of replacing things before or as they fail, this machine called sanDRina can keep ticking as long as I care for her.
Having a look at the starter gears to see if I could find where this occasional noise is coming from when I shut down the engine. I couldn't see any wear on the teeth or anything that looked like it was failing. I was told it was just a feature of higher mileaged single cylinder engines for the crankshaft to spin a bit more after turning off the engine, resulting in a loud knock. It’s been there since Brazil.
That's the look when I realize I have a major problem on my hands to contend with. Before replacing the valve cover gaskets, I did a valve clearance check and everything looked to be in order. In doing this check, the outer spark plug (it's a dual spark setup) is removed so that the piston can be moved into position without resistance. Since I was there, I decided to check the condition of the inner spark plug, but it required a lot of force to remove it, which was strange. After going back and forth a bit, I gave it a slightly stronger nudge and...
...realized I had broken the spark plug in the engine. This was an unusual issue because spark plugs don't usually get broken in half. A common issue is to apply too much force when installing a spark plug and stripping the threads. These spark plugs were installed at the service shop in Brazil and I have a feeling that one of apprentice mechanics who was charged with putting the engine back together might have cross-threaded this plug, resulting in it getting stuck when I tried to remove it and thus, breaking off the threads. The threads of the plug were wedged in the cylinder head and the ceramic tip was broken.
I had to find a way to remove those threads and see if a new spark plug would fit. Thomas called up a friend at a nearby KTM shop and he told us to bring him the cylinder head. This was towards the end of the day, so I had to work quickly to remove the cylinder head from the engine.
Thomas lending a useful hand to get the job done properly.
This is looking at the bottom of the cylinder head that covers the piston. The hole on the left is for the outer spark plug and the inner plug, stuck in its hole. The larger circles on the top are the exhaust valves and the smaller ones are the intake valves where the fuel and air come through to get ignited by the spark plugs.
We rushed to Roger's KTM shop, which had just closed down for the day but he was still willing to help. He managed to remove the old threads and I was eager to find out whether the cylinder head was damaged beyond repair or not. I was thinking through my options of how I could get a new cylinder head shipped to me, but luckily Roger said he could save this head.
Drilling out the old threads left the hole a bit too loose after it was re-tapped and I was eager to get moving in the next few days, since my European visa was expiring and extensions are not an easy affair, so I suggested to Roger whether he could find a way to permanently seal a new spark plug into the hole and I would deal with it later. He liked the idea and bashed in the new threads a bit to get better engagement and applied Red Locktite to the new spark plug, which would prevent it from being removed. He said a spark plug could easily last 20,000 kms or even 40,000 kms, which would easily see me through to South Africa, where I know I could get replacement parts for the engine.
So, that's my situation now. I have a cylinder head with a permanently sealed spark plug. The whole cylinder head will need to be replaced when this spark plug reaches the end of its life. Roger assured me that it wasn't that big of a problem, since if I just replaced the other spark plug, the engine's ignition computer would compensate and all I would lose would be a few horsepower. Cleaning off the top of the cylinder, getting ready for reassembly.
The Camshaft, which is connected to the Crankshaft via the Camchain to regulate the opening and closing of the intake and exhaust valves.
Assembling the camshaft back in its place on top of the cylinder head. It was a bit tricky dealing with the chain and we needed all three minds (Thomas, Dave and me) working together to get this just right. I spent lots of time making sure that everything was spinning around correctly and going over and over my work before closing things up. The locktite and new silicone gaskets would cure overnight and I would find out the next morning if I was good to go or not.
Thomas heading to work on his bicycle and Dave's DRZ400 in the background. Andrea planned to take us to a festival that evening, but since Thomas works the late shift at the nearby train station, he couldn't join us.
Andrea took us to the Mittelalterfestival, a medieval festival across the border in Germany. In the US, they would call this a Renaissance festival. Most of the people dressed up in medieval clothes or just simply went goth.
Swords, axes and shields for sale.
It was a big venue with new age music from the misty stage.
Lots of traditional food was on hand and we got this...
...super-thin pizza of sorts to start with, called Flammkuchen mit Schinkenwürfel.
The next item was gyro cuts being stewed up. I liked the decoration around their kitchen.
Andrea getting us some gyro sandwiches.
Behind the new age area was a regular rock band setup in front of this old house.
An old-fashioned beer house.
Imagining what the scenes inside beer houses would've been like back in the day here.
Our group for the evening: me, Ute, Sabine, Stephanie, Andrea and Dave.
After the fun evening, we swung by the train station to say hello to Thomas, who's the station manager at Gippingen.
He's responsible for controlling the rail traffic through his station. He said this was one of the last places in Switzerland to still have manual control of this operation and within two years, a computer was going to replace him and I think that's when they'll set off on their next travel, into Africa.
The next morning, I fired up sanDRina and everything sounded good. I went for a test ride and was confident in taking off the next day. But before that, I was requested to prepare a curry. It was a last minute thing and we couldn't find any fresh chickens but there was salmon on hand, so I made a salmon curry.
Getting ready to chow down on Thomas and Andrea's patio with all their friends. I enjoyed these few days spent here and was grateful to Thomas and Andrea for letting me get things in order before setting off for Africa. It's always comfortable staying with people who've gone on a big journey themselves as they clearly understand your needs.
Auf Wiedersehen Thomas and Andrea. I hope to see you guys on the road somewhere...
From northern Switzerland, I was heading to Venice to catch the Visemar ferry to Alexandria. It was early May and thus not all the high passes through the Alps were open yet, but Thomas suggested a route to cross this majestic mountain range. Click on it to go to the interactive version in Google Maps.
I avoided the highways, since besides being boring, the tolls are quite expensive and it's harder to get close to the scenery. While waiting for a construction light to turn green, I took in this sight of a wooden shed at the bottom of a green hill.
Europe is crowded, compared to the vast expanse of the Western US or Patagonia and it's only a few kilometers before you pass through another small, charming town. Even though it's a very industrialized country, the tractor passing through town emphasizes how agriculture is still a big part of the European economy.
Getting my first sight of snow-capped peaks in the distance. I had this impression that Switzerland was all mountains, but it's generally flat in the north and the big mountains are to the south.
That looks like Spring has arrived. A blooming field in the foothills of the Alps.
Now those are the Alps. It was stunning to see how close the rocky peaks felt to all these little hamlets.
sanDRina blending in with the jagged horizon of the Swiss Alps.
A wide angle shot of a huge valley, where I took a little break to let it soak in that I was finally riding in the Alps.
The small town of Wildhaus walled in by the pushed up landscape.
Heading down twisting roads and having to concentrate hard to not get distracted by the scenery in the distance.
Riding down into this big valley where the small country of Liechtenstein lies across the Rhine River.
Officially called Fürstentum Liechtenstein, the principality has the second highest GDP/capita in the world, due to a strong financial sector and being a tax haven in heavily taxed Europe.
It's such a small country, measuring only 160 sq kms (61 sq mi), that within a few minutes, you're either in Austria or back in Switzerland, whose country designation is CH, referring to the Helvetic federation (Confoederatio Helvetica) that formed the country of Switzerland. Vaduz is the capital of this small country and they rely on Switzerland for many things, such as their currency, fire fighters and army since it has no military.
Half the country is flat and the other half is mountainous, with stony villas perched on their edge. The principality was formed after the Liechtenstein dynasty started acquiring land in this region and through the breakup of various confederations and empires, this region stood on it own.
A shot of a cute rear end showing the unique plates of Liechtenstein, which like Switzerland, don't conform to the EU plates.
A modern building with asymmetric glass panels, perhaps resembling the peaks of the Alps in the background. It's interesting to note that besides producing machinery and ceramics, Liechtenstein is the world's largest producer of sausage casings. No matter how small a country you are, you can be the world's largest in something.
A tall church tower in this Alpine nation, known for its great skiing.
Heading out of the urban area and...
...crossing the southern border back into...
...the land of Schweiz.
The road narrowed and crossed this small bridge and I felt like I was riding into a walled city.
The beautiful countryside of eastern Switzerland...
...making for excellent motorcycling.
Passing through the town of St. Luzisteig and remembering Thomas' instruction to not exceed the speed limit as the fines are very expensive.
It was a Monday, however, most of the towns and villages didn't appear to be bustling and I guess that's the charm of these old hamlets here.
Exiting town and noting the end speed limit sign, which meant the limit was now 90 kph (56 mph).
Seeing mountains in the distance, I was looking forward to crossing them.
But before that, I was content with passing through tree-shaded country lanes.
Working my way through the small city of Igis and noting how all the traffic respected the pedestrian crossing zones.
Taking a break in this flower-filled meadow and it's vista of the snow-capped Alps.
Looking across the valley and seeing the clear distinction between the green forests and the white caps, demarcated by the snowline or treeline.
sanDRina inhaling the spring alpine flowers.
A mechanical beauty surrounded by natural beauty.
The alpine reservoir of Lai da Marmorera below its full capacity as I climbed the mountain pass. The Italian name telling me I had entered the Italian side of Switzerland, which is German in the northern part and French in the west.
Getting very close to snow and feeling the chills as I climbed up to...
The summit of Julier pass, which was freezing cold at an elevation of only 2284 m (7,491 ft).
Lake Silvaplanersee as I turned on the main route south from St. Mortiz down into Italy.
Spending a few days with other bike travelers was a nice change as I feel we’re all old friends, the first time we meet. I guess because the experience of traveling on a motorbike for a long time changes your perception of the world.
I was feeling good about taking care of the oil leaks on sanDRina, putting some life back in her heart, but now I had another issue to keep at the back of my mind; the condition of the inner spark plug. My first day’s ride through the Swiss Alps was a good of a test as any and the engine felt smooth, so I could rest at ease.
|08-21-2011, 11:43 PM||#1087|
Joined: Jun 2007
Location: Switzerland, near the border to the BlackForest
excellent and +1
thanks for the nice writeup about your stay at our place, what a fun .... even with the plug
Roger is still asking about the plug and your progress travelling further south.
We wish you all the best and looking forward to the next step`s in Africa
Happy trails and have fun in Nairobi
Thomas & Andrea
PS: btw. ..... all overlanders, RTW, Transafrica, etc. are welcome at our place
|08-23-2011, 12:04 PM||#1088|
Joined: May 2011
Location: Rancho Cucamonger, CA
Jay, i am so inspired by your journey! thank you for sharing so much. :)
530EXCR and a bunch of 2 strokes that you dont want to read about. :)
|08-24-2011, 02:26 PM||#1089|
Joined: Oct 2005
Location: Denver, CO
Very excited that you have enough connection to go back and catch us up. Can't wait for more.
RISK: "The loftier your goals, the higher your risk, the greater your glory."
|08-25-2011, 08:03 AM||#1090|
Living on a DR
Joined: Jan 2006
Location: New Delhi - new 'home' for post RTW
|08-28-2011, 11:51 PM||#1091|
Joined: Jun 2008
Location: Chugiak Alaska
Looking at your broken spark plug, I'd suggest putting some "anti seize" on the threads before installing the plugs. Looks like they've been in there a while. With all the heating and cooling cycles, steel (plug threads), versus aluminum (head), spark plugs will get seized in place. We do this on all our aircraft annuals. It's standard operating procedure on aircraft cylinders (aluminum).
Take care and thanks for the great write-ups.
2006 Yamaha TW200
2008 Yamaha WR250R
2008 Suzuki DR650
2012 Yamaha XT1200Z
1978 Yamaha TT500
|08-31-2011, 02:43 AM||#1092|
Living on a DR
Joined: Jan 2006
Location: New Delhi - new 'home' for post RTW
Thanks for the suggestion and yeah, I think that's what lead to the problem. I did put anti-seize when I installed these new ones.
|08-31-2011, 03:30 AM||#1093|
Living on a DR
Joined: Jan 2006
Location: New Delhi - new 'home' for post RTW
Europe, Part 6: The Italian Alps down into Venice
May 2 - 4, 2011
I was getting near the end of my trip in Europe and had a fabulous ride through the Italian Alps as I made my way down to Venice, to catch the ferry to Alexandria. The mountainous roads were excellent for riding and I enjoyed the architectural heritage of Venice.
Entering my last country in Europe, that land of pasta and Ferrari, Italia.
Within a few kilometers of the border, I was at the shores of Lake Como, the famous getaway for Italians and the jetset crowd.
Passing thru the town of Sorico and noting the church poised high above in the hills and commanding attention and respect.
The old, stoney clock tower next to a modern tabacchi (convenience store for cigarettes, espresso and lottery tickets).
I spent the night at a nearby campground for a hefty fee of €22.
Heading east the next day and riding through the industrial valley around Delebio and noting the nearby massive mountains. I also spotted the sign for Tata, an Indian automotive company.
The foothills of the Alps were looming ahead and whispering of twisting roads.
Looking back at the industrialized valley I had passed through with Lake Como off in the distance.
Morning light shining on the green Italian Alps.
Looking across the valley at a small commune surrounded by thick forests.
I was enjoying the ride and had to stop often to admire the views. The prominence of the Alps is what left me in awe. I would see some clouds on top of some mountains in the foreground and then see some dark patches further back and realize there were bigger mountains behind the clouds.
Narrow Italian Alpine roads, meant for sport cars and motorcycles. Note the lack of a shoulder, being barricaded with guard rail on one side and rock face on the other.
Getting very close to the snowy Alps. I had only seen views like this when I went on ski trips and didn't think I could get this close on a motorcycle. In the US, the Rockies lose their snow pretty quickly, but I am still very early in the season, with snowfall just ending a few weeks back here.
The roads were well-signed and I was enjoying the tight, technical riding.
Another awesome vista of the Alps, which were formed around 60 million years ago when the African continent pushed the Italian peninsula into the European continent and raised the crumpled land. They are still growing by about a centimeter each year.
Crossing Passo del Tonale at 1883 m (6,176 ft)...
...that had a still running ski resort heading off into the peaks. I guess this is some really late spring skiing, but if there's snow, why not. I had skied in Europe once, across the Alps in Austria and had a good experience getting to know this snowy land.
The ski resort map, with me coming from the left and heading down to the right. It snows at much lower elevations in the Alps than the Rockies or Andes.
A clear view of the snow-covered Alps. I had been much higher in the Andes, that too in winter and hardly came this close to snow.
From there, I exited the snowy parts of the Alps and it got warmer as I got down to the foothills. Pulling off in this rest stop for...
...a spot of lunch at the L'Oasi del Groll mobile cafe. I chatted up some Italians in a nearby work van and they concluded that I could afford to travel like this because I was from India, which is a booming country now, unlike Italy, which is stagnating. I guess seeing Tata trucks drives the message home. I was surprised and pleased that citizens of a developed country like Italy would recognize people from India to be rich, nowadays. They're probably selling more Ferraris in India and China than here.
Down in the valleys again, but the mountains weren't far away.
I got on the highway, which with four lanes was taking up all the space available in this narrow canyon.
Leaving the Alps, the landscape got more industrialized as I got closer to Venice.
Riding down this channel, close to the sea and arriving at...
Camping Fusina, where I spent my last night in Europe as I would be taking the Visemar ferry the next day to Egypt.
After settling in, I took a small ferry across the bay towards the old part of Venice.
Crossing the shipping lane that I would be taking the next day as I exited Europe.
The island of San Giorgio in Alga, shining in the late afternoon sunlight. Monasteries were built from 1000 AD onwards but a fire in the 18th century destroyed most of the buildings and it's currently abandoned.
Approaching the modern residential part of Venice, the island of Sacca San Biagio on one side of the Giudecca Canal. It's a recent island, which was made in the 1930s after being used as a landfill for the city.
And the traditional older part of Venice on the other side. It's right on the Adriatic Sea, which cemented its role as an important port to Europe for centuries.
Click here to see the high resolution version.
The peeling facade of this building, revealing it's previous brick red coloring.
Getting close to shore and...
...arriving at Zattere in Dorsoduro, where the ferries docked.
Ahh, good ol' Venice, still surviving with its buildings surrounded by the waters of the Venetian Lagoon. There are no roads in old Venice, except for canals navigable by small boats. Its history dates back to Roman times, with the majority of expansion from the 9th century onwards. The buildings sit on sunken wooden piles, that have become petrified into stone over the centuries
Crossing the Accademia bridge over the Grand Canal, that cuts through the city.
The classic shot of Venice, showing its buildings right on the water's edge.
Narrow streets, just wide enough for two people.
The Chiesa di San Moisè, a Baroque church dedicated to Moses, which was rebuilt in the 9th century.
Pizza San Marco (St. Mark's Square), which is regularly flooded in the acqua alta season (spring and autumn) due to the tides of the Adriatic Sea. With the ever persistent rise in sea levels, Venice has been ear-marked as a city that would succumb pretty quickly as sea levels rise over this century due to global warming. They're trying a technical solution of building a huge movable sea wall but I think that too will be overcome by the rising sea within a few decades. The city might have to be abandoned at some point in the future.
But before that, come over and enjoy the splendid setting that old Venice harbors. A street lamp in the shadows of Campanile di San Marco, the bell tower of St Mark's Basilica.
The stunning Byzantine facade of the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco, built in 832 and intended to project Venetian wealth and power.
The Doge's Palace, the residence of the rulers of Venice, built in the 14th century.
A sunset shot of the three main sites around St. Mark's square.
What would Venice be without its gondolas? The island of San Giorgio Maggiore in the background.
The Chiesa di Santa Maria del Giglio (Church of Santa Maria Zobenigo), showcasing the best of Venetian Baroque facades.
Walking in to an exhibition of old string instruments from the Artemio Versari Collection, put on by Il Museo della Musica.
Appreciating the details of this Contrabbasso, played by Niccolo Amati in 1670.
Most of Venice has not changed for hundreds of years and this photo could be from two centuries ago.
But in contrast, the shops are very modern, like this pastry shop.
Walking back to the ferry and enjoying the sunset over this time-trapped, sea-locked city.
Back on the mainland, the campground was right on the sea shore and I was surrounded by camper vans.
Passing through Italy was a nice way to end my trip through Europe. The Italian Alps provided some stunning scenery and excellent riding and I know there's a lot more to explore in those mountains but Africa was calling.
I enjoyed the past few weeks in Europe and was glad to have met so many interesting people whom I could connect with. I criss-crossed the continent and passed through varied landscapes, from industrial flat lands through to snow-peaked mountains.
|08-31-2011, 01:48 PM||#1094|
Joined: Oct 2005
Location: Denver, CO
Great. Can't wait for more.
RISK: "The loftier your goals, the higher your risk, the greater your glory."
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