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Old 11-03-2010, 08:23 AM   #1
HowlingMad OP
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Location: Cranberry Country, MA
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The adventure was just getting her home

One day a fellow inmate, RTLLTR and I went out for a few hours to explore some local dirt. I was on my Dakar, my smallest woods machine and he was on his KTM 950 Adventure. Despite being at least 50 lbs heavier, Scott seemed to consistently leave me in the dust without trying. "Hop on and try it" he says, something my wallet would regret later. After only 20 minutes, I was hooked. Three days later I found one I could afford, just the right distance away. About 2500 hundred miles if I took a little time.

The problem was that I needed to be back for another trip north to Montreal to ride with friends up there. It's a tough life right now.

So, this is a quick story of getting the bike home, which turned out to be an adventure in itself.

The plan was to fly out to Denver, pick up the bike and find the most exciting path home within six days. I used the trip planning thread to gather ideas (great resource, btw) and Wind-Venture and several others came up with some really great ideas. Unfortunately, the bike had other ideas.

By the way, I'm way behind in my other ride report so this one will be short and sweet.

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Old 11-03-2010, 09:16 AM   #2
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I love the adventure of buying a bike far away and riding it home. There's so much that can go wrong, which is the right recipe for adventure. With some basic tools, a good attitude and a willingness to ask others for help, you can always get home. It's always a good idea to buy a round trip ticket if you haven't seen the bike, something I opted not to do on this trip. I'm still not sure if I'll regret that yet.

I had a very nice buying experience with the seller who is a very regular guy and went out of his way to greet me as I stepped off the plane, something I hadn't expected as I walked right past him headed for the exit. How rude of me.

Anyway, after changing the oil in his friends shop and a quick celebratory burrito, we swapped paperwork and got a final picture before starting off.

Meet Wayne, a real nice guy who's been all over the place and has some really great stories.

The initial damage report:
-weak battery
-cam chain tensioner or similar noise
-possibly leaking fork seals

Other issues:
-Damn it's tall
-Kickstand is about a foot too long
-2500 miles on this seat?
-what? I can't hear you over the straight pipes. (Akrapovic's without baffles=muy loud)
-Do I need to worry about rejetting coming from 5000' to sea level?

It's already 3:30 and I'm just leaving. The plan was to take Wind-Venture's suggestion and head for Great Sand Dunes National Park. I figured I could ride into night if I knew I had a campsite. Back at home, my wife was manning the helm and researching campsites for me.

I stopped several times along the way to make adjustments and just to absorb the glee that comes from buying a new bike in a strange land.

As I approached 10,000 feet, snow seemed to be a more regular feature, something I wasn't expecting to see in October.

I was quite happy that I took Scott's advice and made a pigtail to charge devices and a plug for my heated vest.

I was starting to worry about the carb jets. Were they set up for Colorado elevation and would it give me trouble getting home? Perhaps that would explain the horrible fuel economy I'm already getting. Wayne said he gets 200 miles at 75-80mph before the light comes on, but it's coming on at 150-160. Ruht roh.

I have no idea what the temperature is as I ride well into the dark, but the grips are on high, I'm dressed for sub-arctic and I'm still cold. At one point I pull over just to see if the grips are working since I can't feel any heat. Yup, they're on, it's just damn cold. (later, I would find out the grips work so well they actually burned my hands with summer gloves on, so you know it was cold.) Bethany (my wife) tells me it's going to be in the 20's tonight in this area.

Lucky for me, the original owner set the bike up with a really amazing set of Hella lights. Despite where they are mounted, they do an amazing job of illuminating these empty roads as I travel south. The original owner also installed a voltmeter, ( you may have noticed in the very first photo above the speedo) which I was carefully monitoring since I was running all the lights I could find, heated vest and heated grips on high to battle the plummeting temperatures. What a voltmeter doesn't tell you is how well the battery is absorbing the voltage given by the alternator. Something I would quickly learn.

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Old 11-03-2010, 09:48 AM   #3
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Well, this is where the trip starts to get interesting. Bethany tells me there is camping at the Great Sand Dunes NP (GSDNP), so I push on knowing I'll have a place to stay. My butt is sore, I'm shivering and I've been pushing the miles so much that I haven't stopped to eat dinner or buy supplies. I've done enough moto travel to know this is a bad recipe. But hey, I have a new (old) bike. What could possibly go wrong?

In absolute darkness I close in on GSDNP, anxious to crawl into my sleeping bag and warm up. No dinner tonight since the emergency meal I brought requires heating and I have yet to buy any fuel. No worries, I'm still running on the ear-to-ear happiness of a new motor. I see the signs for GSDNP and mistakenly pull into the San Luis State park, just around the corner from Great Sand Dunes. I don't realize it until I come to the gate and see the sign saying "park closed, no camping".

The gate is open. Tempting. I'll just have a quick look. I'm really too tired to go the extra mile to GSDNP and camp there. Almost a mile in and, hey look, shelters for camping and not a soul in sight. Perfect. Since I'm arriving quite late and intend to be up and gone before sunrise this looks like as good a spot as any. Except for the no camping signs of course. But I was too tired and cold to move on. I take the farthest shelter, a small corrugated covering with a picnic table and decide to turn the bike around for a quick getaway in the morning. As I attempt my first off-road with my new steed, she bucks me off and lays down for a quick nap. Drats.

I have a habit of dropping bikes at the end of the day. I should know better than to have attempted this while so tired and cold. Not to mention I stink off road.

The last time I attempted to upright a fully loaded bike on a trip at night I managed to herniate a disc. I thought of my wife calling me an idiot and decided to unload at least the topcase and duffle before attempting. While grunting and groaning to upright the beast I notice sand wet with fuel. Not good.

Once upright, I figure it's best to make sure she turns over so that I'll know if I'll have an issue in the morning. Apparently it's been a while since I've owned a carbureted bike since the obvious smell of fuel probably indicated I flooded it when toppled over. Instead of waiting, I tried to start her. By the second crank I know I have issues, the battery is noticeably weaker with each revolution. The cold and extensive drain while riding with every accessory on has flattened my battery. Best to leave it until morning when the sun can warm it a bit I tell myself.

So, I unpack my bivy bag, have a few chocolate coconut treats my wife made for me and a call it a night. It's hard to sleep knowing what I've let myself in for. I get up a short while later and walk to the entrance hoping that there might be cell reception. I'd like to call my wife to let her know where I was and that I was ok. No luck.

A few more chocolate treats and attempt to sleep again. It's cold and I have much on my mind. I've only just started my adventure but it's not going as planned. I'm reminded of another inmate's saying "the adventure starts when things stop going as planned." It cheers me up a little and I am able to get a little shuteye.

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Old 11-03-2010, 10:31 AM   #4
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That's quite the adventure getting your new ride home! Thanks for the details and pics
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Old 11-03-2010, 10:57 AM   #5
_twin brothers on the go_
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Sounds interesting. Continue!
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Old 11-03-2010, 11:05 AM   #6
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Jeez John, you bringing the 990 back for the Toys For Tots? Hope you have better luck today. Sounds like your in need of a new battery.
Noise annoys, ride stealth
2013 KTM 500EXC
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Old 11-03-2010, 11:10 AM   #7
HowlingMad OP
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I am awakened several times in the night by the howl of coyotes. Normally I might not take much notice, but the increase of attacks in the news and recent reading about how they've discovered evidence of cross-breeding with wolves has increased coyotes aggressiveness seems to occupy my thoughts. I hear them moving closer and closer throughout the night. By 4am I can hear their little pitter patter on the dirt road not far away and decide I look too much like a burrito myself. Ironic. I'm really only worried about being trapped in my little cocoon like a packaged little to-go snack for a pack of coyotes, so I get up and in the commotion they all scatter not to return again. It's dark, I can't sleep and the sun won't be up for at least three hours. I'm so tempted to try the battery. If it starts by some miracle, I can get out of here and continue on my journey. If it doesn't, I may be depleting the last amount of juice needed. It will surely start better in the warmth of the sun, so shouldn't I wait? Nope, let's try it. grrrr rrrr rrr-click-click-click. Shit. Dummy, you should have waited.

Now I have lot's of time to kill. I go for a walk and investigate the facilities. Pit toilets, yeh. Mens room; whoa, no thanks. Womens room: clean and a little warmer. This will do. Should have brought something to read.

Back to camp and still lots of time to kill. I sort out my packing, something I was itching to do. The sun slowly starts to peek it's head up and I capture some photos. The battery in my camera is even hating the cold and falling off more quickly than normal. Still, I am able to capture some of the sunrise.

Despite the issues, it's a great morning and I feel alive. And cold. A little hungry too.

As the sun reluctantly comes up, I see that it has been a little cold during the night. I can't really blame the battery too much.

As I wander around killing time I find this little gem. It's a sign alright. Sometimes you have to look for them, but I found mine.

I wait until 8:30 or so before attempting to start her again. Somehow I know it's not warm enough, but can't be sure this battery has anything left in here anyway. Click click. Rats. So, where is the battery on this thing anyway? Oh, right. It's located in the belly of the beast and the useless Touratech toolbox has to removed to get to the recessed 10mm bolt holding the skidplate which hides another door where the battery hides. Yeah. Can't wait to do that. Do I even have a 10mm socket? Will anyone else in this rural area? One bridge at a time please.

1. Walk out to the main entrance and wait for someone to come by who might have jumper cables and a 10mm socket and persuade them to drive into the closed park almost a mile and help me jump my bike.
2. Push the bike to the front, inspect the tools and attempt to access the battery in hopes someone will take pity on my stupidity.

Since I have only heard one car in three hours on the main road, It seems like I had better start pushing the bike. Who would want to drive into a closed park to help someone who shouldn't be there in the first place? Having said that, it's probably a good idea for me to get out of here anyway.

The first problem is that the campsites are down in a hole. It's only about 8 feet in height difference and the slope is gentle, but damn she feels heavy and the gravel is loose. One little step at a time, I'm able to get it out of the hole. That gives me the confidence to know I can push it all the way out, but it won't be easy or fast. I push for about 75' at a time before I'm dripping with sweat. More chocolate treats and water. I'm very grateful for both right now. I'm really working up an appetite since I missed dinner last night.

You can start to appreciate the distance here. I'm not halfway out yet.

Once I hit the entrance it's more uphill, but it's paved so the going is a lot easier. I make my way to the main road. Not a car has passed yet. This could be a long wait. Once at the main road I investigate the toolkit situation. I'm quite lucky and have all the tools I need to remove the TT toolbox from the skidplate, but also the pesky 10mm socket and driver. Yeh! Ooh, and I hear a car. I drop the tools and run to the road to flag the passing truck down. I see the passenger look at me as if my spaceship just crashed and they keep going. Gee, thanks. I return to my work. Only a few minutes later another pickup rumbles down the road. I am determined to be more aggressive and stand in the middle of the road. Two old timers come to a stop. The look on their faces say the same thing; "well what the hell is this all about". I explain my problem and they turn in the road to investigate. The driver isn't sure if he has cables or not. They both get out and while the driver tears his back seat apart looking for cables the passenger inquisitively looks at my bike with her belly exposed like a C-section patient. Both of these guys are well into their sixties and have the art of saying a lot with just a look down perfectly. I can see the passenger thinks this is the strangest concoction of nuts and bolts on two wheels. I'm starting to think he's right.

Success, the driver finds his cables and the two old timers look on as I attach the cables to the bottom of the bike, something they find quite amusing. With a quick crank she turns right over. I feel like jumping up and down to celebrate, but I restrain. I thank my saviors for stopping to help and snap a quick picture. Why didn't I write down their names? Idiot.


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Old 11-03-2010, 11:13 AM   #8
HowlingMad OP
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Location: Cranberry Country, MA
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Originally Posted by Nice_Rumble
Jeez John, you bringing the 990 back for the Toys For Tots? Hope you have better luck today. Sounds like your in need of a new battery.
Hi Skip!
I think I will bring the new girl to the dance. She's a little lighter on her feet despite her Austrian roots.

See you soon.

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Old 11-03-2010, 11:25 AM   #9
HowlingMad OP
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I waited until the two old timers left and did a quick celebratory dance and video journal.

Powerbars never tasted so good @ Yahoo! Video

The sound of the motor running is the most beautiful thing I've heard since I last spoke with my wife, I'm celebrating with my emergency Powerbar. The bike died because of blah blah blah. Hallelujah, it's running. I love my wife.

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Old 11-03-2010, 12:06 PM   #10
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Old 11-03-2010, 12:31 PM   #11
Is this thing on???
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Joined: Apr 2002
Location: Hooksett, NH
Oddometer: 504

Looks like you've got a ways to go!

BTW: Your R1150GS looks Very Nice!

2010 BMW F800GS
2008 BMW R12GSA
Pulling on that bike with all I have, I fear that I will pop a vein in my anus any second. - metaljockey
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Old 11-03-2010, 02:04 PM   #12
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I like trouble
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Old 11-03-2010, 05:03 PM   #13
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this looks interesting

...and at least you got the first drop out of the way

Tiger 1050, Bonneville, Brutale

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Old 11-03-2010, 05:22 PM   #14
Joined: Aug 2010
Location: Cullman AL
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I think we have all been there,battery deal, good luck, I will add a prayer for you tonight!
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Old 11-03-2010, 07:01 PM   #15
HowlingMad OP
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So, my plans begin to take a different shape. I'm now afraid to turn the bike off until she's run for a while. I have no way of knowing how long that will be. The newly nicknamed "lie-o-meter" still tells me she charging ok, just not how much the battery is actually able to take. So, just a few miles up the road I reach the Great Sand Dunes National Park and the first sign of cellular reception in some time. I snap this picture while chatting with my wife (all the while the bike remains running). It's the closest I'd get to GSDNP.

The original plan was to make my way southerly and continue to stay off the interstates. I was going to head through the Cimarron National Grassland, but the battery issue keeps me closer to the more populated routes and I make my way closer to the slabs.

I stop for lunch at a Safeway; peanut butter and honey on English muffins with a side of yogurt. Bethany has already spent hours trying to locate a battery in this area, but anyone who has it in stock is back towards Denver. She reached out to Scott (remember the one who got me into this mess?) and together they search for alternative batteries to fit this oddball Austrian. Apparently, very few KTM dealers stock them since they have a limited shelf life. I'm also learning that this is a bit of a weakness on this bike and they need to be replaced more frequently perhaps because of their location. Whatever the reason, I'm going to stay on the beaten path until I have a new battery. Bummer. This was going to be one of the areas I could slow down through since there isn't much to see until after the plains states. (No offense to any of you Midwest folks, but when consulting several books on great roads, not one book even listed Kansas.)

So after a very late start, much of the second day was spend hauling towards my next campsite. A long stop for groceries and phone calls left me restocked but behind schedule. Several people came up to ask about the bike and then offered to help. There's a NAPA across the street so Bethany researches crosslistings for NAPA batteries, but no luck. Back in the saddle and pushing the distances in order to make time again. Bethany continues trying to locate batteries, KTM dealers and campsites for me back home. This would have been a whole other trip without her.

She routes me to a quiet little campsite somewhere in Kansas. My criteria: cheap with a shower. Emphasis on cheap. I'm rarely going to see any of the amenities, so why bother? I arrive after dark again, it's almost 9pm and as I pass tents without lights on, I become very aware of the noisy exhaust. How does one apologize for such a thing? I do my best to quietly putter in and set up camp. Luckily I was able to make a grocery stop today and so a hot dinner for me, yeh! One packet of lipton noodles and two cheese sticks. Cheap, warm and it put me right to sleep. Tonight I've elected to use my tent and have less fighting with the claustrophobic bivy. Result: a very sound sleep.

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