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Old 08-06-2010, 04:35 PM   #1
MotorCade OP
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First ride, first adventure.

Ok... since this is my first ride report - I'll kick it off with a little background.

My name is Cade, and I'm a 32 year old engineer type. I work in the San Fernando Valley for a little firm that manufactures rocket engines for the space shuttle and other various combustible vehicles, manned and otherwise. So controlled explosions are our business, and as we all know, control is an illusion. So I make a living fixing things. There will always be broken things.

As an engineering type, I was always the quirky kid with two left feet and who wasn't much good at any sport involving a ball. I had no understanding of the nuances of sports and due to my parents divorce, I was taught to throw by my mother. Thanks mom.

So I stumbled (literally!) through my adolescent years until around puberty when I discovered that on a bicycle, your feet don't get in the way. Other kids were discovering girls, I was discovering bikes. Now that I write this, I think maybe it wasn't such a good deal.

Bikes were my gateway drug to all things mechanical. I still ride - but I progressed to jeeps and then cars, and then race cars - eventually even instructing for a little while. However, I didn't trust myself on a motorcycle - too much love for speed - until last year, when I bought my first motorcycle, a Ducati 748. My cars are gathering dust, as I commute on the Duc. I have 3 (two projects and a race car), plus the wife's car - 4 total. I'm hooked, and I'm only continuing to feed the addiction here on ADV- which brings me to my ride report.

The Duc is great. But I need something slightly more practical. Sparing you the details, I decided on a used KTM 950 Adventure, 2006. The one I wanted was in Oakland, 8 hours north, and I'm in SoCal. Time for a mini-adventure!
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Old 08-06-2010, 05:01 PM   #2
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Old 08-06-2010, 05:03 PM   #3
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Doing this on the weekend is too easy. Fly to Oakland on a Friday evening, get the bike, dawdle around, and end up at home? To hell with that.

I'm going on a Thursday.

This means that the only people on the airlines are business travelers, the fares on Southwest are cheap, and I have a deadline since I have work the next day. So I schedule my vacation day.

I book my flight - first morning flight on Southwest - Burbank to Oakland, leaves 7:10, lands at 8:20. Schedule a cab from the airport at 8:40, and schedule a maintenance service at Tri-Valley KTM for 10:00 My schedule is tight, but achievable, with a little wiggle room.

The big day comes, and I'm up at 4:00 in order for my wife to get me to the airport and get back in time for work. Flight loads on time and then sits on the Tarmac for a 20 minute delay. Crap. Wheels up at 7:35.

I attempt to nap on the plane, but I'm too excited. Or too caffeine-addled. I didn't eat breakfast, but I've had 4 cups of airline coffee. Not bad coffee. Good service on Southwest... and comfy chairs, relative to other airlines I've flown. At 6'2 and 215, most airline seats keep me feeling closer than I'd like to the other travelers. Half are business attired zombies - awake but not - moving by muscle memory. Most of the rest are college kids on break. What's left is anyone's guess. Some normal, some not so. I usually get stuck next to the morbidly obese guy or the ex-hippie who wants to share her political views with me. I would like to point out that traveling light has an unexpected advantage...wearing your motorcycle jacket makes you appear even bigger than you are, and combine that with an already big frame and a small surroundings, and no one will even look you in the eye. I've never been afforded so much personal space. I might do this every time I fly now.

Plane lands - hey... ahead of schedule! Sweet. Thanks SW!

I cruise out of the airport - only have my helmet bag and my backpack with some cold weather gear and rainsuit- just in case. Cabbie calls - right on time. I jump in, and off we go. Here's where my schedule gets screwed. Intentionally or not, I'll never know, but my cabbie is spending more time talking and looking at me in the mirror than driving. He gets off track, and we end up in Berkeley. Berkeley is not where I'm supposed to go. My cabbie is Muslim. He's very liberal. He owns the cab company. He's a bee-keeper. He's beaten an addiction to computer games. This is fascinating - except that by the time we get there, the meter is reading 112 dollars when it should have read 60 and we're an hour late. My service appointment is supposed to be starting now - 10:00am. The last hour has been incredibly painful. Besides being late, I'm Christian, former military, pro-gun rights, and pro-Israel. I think I'm going to bite my own tongue off before we arrive, but I succeed in keeping my opinions to myself and get out of there at $60 bucks after all.

We pull up in the driveway, and now I see my bike for the first time...

to be continued... (sorry, gotta get somewhere right now! I will be riding there, of course.)
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Old 08-06-2010, 09:56 PM   #4
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Ok.

So I see the bike for the first time! no wait. Are those tires flat? Looks that way. The Cabbie stops in the driveway, and I get out and get my stuff. The bike is in the driveway - seller not in sight. I walk around the bike and check it out.

The seller told me the bike had barely seen dirt. Bodywork was clean - but there was plenty of dirt in spots up under the body. Tires were described as 80%. More like 40%. Tire pressure definitely low. Chain rusted, but he'd told me about that. Hack job of installing the heated grips and aftermarket barkbusters. Functional, but not very pretty. Weirdest part was the front fender. It's bare... all the paint has been flaked off, leaving a weird grayish plastic color. Seems like the bike has been parked in the side yard uncovered for a while.

Still - a lot to love. Only 7000 miles on the bike, full hepco becker gobi set, scotts steering damper, and the grips and barkbusters could be reworked correctly. Price was still pretty fair, and I was sort of up a creek at this point... either eat my deposit and my airfare and walk, or buy the bike. I'm handy with a wrench...

So my inner monologue holds a vote and decides by a 51% margin to stay the course. I knock on the door. Seller answers - guy's in his late 40's maybe - salt and pepper hair and a broken arm in a blue cast. Seems like a nice enough guy when we talk, and we walk back to the driveway. We make small talk, he shows me his new bike in the garage. Brand new F1200GS. He's about to take his kids to the lake in their wakeboarding boat - also parked in the driveway - his Porsche had been moved to the street - and so I hand him the money, and he hands me the paperwork, and I open up my iPhone to find the nearest service station to check air. It's not far, and I button up and get ready to go.

During all this, a few (seemed minor - turned out to be minor) red flags were going off in my head - guy definitely over hyped the condition and didn't describe some stuff. Didn't have the second set of keys or the manual. The fact that he didn't air up (or fuel up, I later discover) the bike. Discovering it was Utah titled. (another pain in the ass waiting to happen at the DMV) And a big one, at least to me, is when I'm handed the blank bill of sale and told - here, you can fill it out and claim whatever amount you want to avoid taxes. Maybe we've all done it. HOWEVER, if you'll cheat the government, you'll cheat me. All that said - the overall picture was just a guy who was kind of self-centered type A personality, who just wasn't much concerned with taking care of stuff. Nothing overly malicious - just one of those guys who thinks the rest of us are too dumb to know when we're being lied to, and thinks that his lies are harmless. I suspect he honestly believed his bike was near perfect, because it was probably pretty good when he last parked it.
So - I wanted the bike - and I recognized that there was likely to be more stuff to find - and I knew I could probably deal with it. I was ready for this bike.

I putt putt out of there, mindful of the tires, and get to the service station. Yup - 5 psi. I fill them back up, guessing at about 36, and then head over to Tri-Valley KTM. First big positive - bike seems to be running well. And I discover the next two things - brake pads squeal like a cat in heat, and the fuel light comes on. I'm starting to question my judgement, and buyers remorse is getting ready to slap me.
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Old 08-06-2010, 10:14 PM   #5
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Then I get to Tri-Valley KTM. I'm over an hour late. The service techs fawn over the bike and ask how much I paid. I tell them. They affirm that it was a fair price. The stuff I pointed out was niggles - great bikes - can't kill em - etc - etc. Buyers remorse is assuaged.

I leave the bike with the skilled techs to look over for anything that might affect my ride, and to swap out the chain.

I have some coffee and talk to the folks in the showroom. Great group - all enthusiasts. Shop dog is Brody - a bull mastiff puppy - all 90 or so pounds of him. I love dogs, so I spend some time scratching him behind the ears and getting my hand drooled on. I read all the magazines. I look at all the parts. I sit on the bikes. I peek into the shop. Someone had a Remus Evolution (I think) installed on their 990. Sounds beautiful. I know what exhaust I want now. Generally, I make a nuisance of myself, and ask all the noob questions about anything and everything. I receive confirmation that BMW enthusiasts are the snobbiest. ok... ok, just kidding.

As I was an hour late for my appointment, they got me in as best they could, and managed to get me out at 1 pm. Not bad for being as understaffed as they were that day. Over 60 bikes in for service - two techs and a service advisor were scrambling that day.

Only one more thing was identified during the service: Two oil leaks - one from the valve cover, and one from the oil drain plug. I agree that those aren't major and can be dealt with when I do my oil change and valve service. Pad noise was probably glazing from sitting so long. Everything else checks out and bike is good to roll!
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Old 08-06-2010, 10:17 PM   #6
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Old 08-07-2010, 12:03 AM   #7
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So Far, so Good... What Happens Next?
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Old 08-07-2010, 01:32 AM   #8
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Old 08-07-2010, 07:26 PM   #9
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Anyways... I check the map on my phone and commit it to memory - a couple easy turns and down the 680 to the 101 and then 190 miles-ish to my brother in law's house.

As soon as I leave the dealership, my low fuel light goes on. Crud. I pull into the service station on the corner and try to figure out how to fuel this thing up. I vaguely remember reading something on the forum... but the owner said left tank first, then right. I figure that's probably what the forum said, too. Ok. No sweat. Hmmm... this takes some dexterity that I don't really have. I think I probably gave some people at the gas station a laugh as I tried to hold the bike upright with my knees, while dragging the hose across to fuel the left side first. Then I fuel the right. Managed to get 4 gallons in. I wonder how much this tank holds? I guess at 5-ish gallons.

Resetting the trip meter is easy - I flick through the modes. What is F mode? Set button doesn't seem to respond there. Oh well. I guess I'll figure it out later. I reset trip 1 to zero, and pull out. The fuel light doesn't go out. What the h...? Buyer's remorse briefly sets in while I try to decide whether or not to go back to the dealership for assistance - it's only a half mile away. I decide that it's only a light, and I can deal with it later. I'm already WAY behind schedule.

Hey! It went out on its own. Must be some kind of computer thing.

It's about 60-ish degrees out still, even though it's afternoon, so I decide to turn on the heated grips. Oooh... toasty! I never knew.

On the highway, helmet buffeting is a bit nasty. Then again, I'm cruising at a pretty good clip - low 80s - and the bike is riding really smooth and sounding good, except the wind noise is deafening. It's a little more vibey than my Ducati, but not horribly so. I notice that the front wants to tramline a little on our lovely California grooved concrete slabs, so I ratchet up the steering damper a little, and that seems to settle things down. Bike seems fine at all RPM, but seems to like to be above 5K the best. Below that feels a little bit like it's lugging - not quite, but extra vibey - and above that it's smooth and powerful.

I manage to tolerate the wind noise until Gilroy. I think it was Gilroy. Anyway, I see a home depot ahead on the left side of the 101, and decide that I'm getting off to get some earplugs. I get off and go under the highway and head to home depot. I park next to the hotdog stand out front, and run inside. I pick up a pack of yellow foamies and grab a polish sausage from the stand when I come back out. Home Depot - if you're reading this - (ha ha) then please put some spicy mustard in the condiment rack. Onions and sauerkraut are a good start, but yellow mustard is for kids or people with no taste buds. It's the first thing I've eaten all day, so it tastes great!

While I'm in line for my food, the guy waiting in front of me points at my new bike. He's a little older than me, maybe 15 years or so older, and wearing a white t-shirt and a grubby ballcap. In other words, pretty much Home Depot's average customer. "That yours?" I nod that it is, and he smiles. "How do you like it?" I tell him that I love it so far, which is true, but I just got it. We get to talking, and it turns out he used to ride, and is considering getting back into it. He's named a host of old dirtbikes he's had - half of which I've never heard of, the other half I identify as stuff from the late 60s. Bultacos, triumphs, and hondas. He wants something dirt that he can ride on the road, too. I let him sit on the bike - "It's tall!" he says. That's true. I'm 6'2" and a little on the leggy side, and I can flatfoot it, but only just. Anyways, he loves the bike, tells me it's beautiful, etc. I'm feeling better about my purchase... and I've never thought of myself as one to need outside affirmation before... maybe my self image is wrong. Hmm. I'll think about it later. I scarf down my polish dog and dr. pepper, and throw the chips into the side bag for later. Time to get going!
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Old 08-07-2010, 08:18 PM   #10
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good stuff!
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Old 08-07-2010, 08:33 PM   #11
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Gilroy to San Miguel

The next leg ends up taking me all the way to San Miguel, a tiny town just north of Paso Robles.

I am glad of my new foamies, as the wind noise is much reduced. The entirety of this leg is windy. Every flag I pass is standing straight out and whipping away. I pass a small regional airport and glance at the windsock. Yup - gotta be at least 25 knots of wind out there. And what's worse, it's mostly a crosswind, and it's highly variable. I'd be leaning the bike into it one way, and then suddenly it would shift, and toss me in the direction of my lean. Passing semi-trailers was a bit of a pucker.

During one (short) bit of calm, I tried standing up on the pegs. Mostly to stretch my legs - or so I told myself - but I'd read on here that it was fun. It is! So this is what it feels like to be 7 feet tall and able to run at 80 miles an hour! I got a couple of funny looks from other drivers, but that's ok. I know they're picking their noses when they think no one is looking, so we're even.

Traffic is at a standstill up ahead. Don't know why, but it winds up a big hill ahead of me, and over it. I slow to a crawl with everyone else, and stand up on the pegs again to see over the truck in front of me. This standing up thing is great! I see some flashing lights halfway up the line, so I decide not to cruise up the shoulder. I start picking my way down the centerline, mindful of the fact that I am now much wider of stance, particularly since I have hard luggage, than my little Ducati I'm used to.

I pass the cop and continue filtering through. I slide in behind a red Wee-Strommer with bags, sitting in the left lane behind an RV. The RV is next to an RV in the right lane, and the two of them take up so much road that we can't squeeze through. He sees me in the mirror, pivots in the saddle, points at the bike and gives a thumbs up. I return the favor. Cool. I'd been trying the 'wave' on other motorcyclists on the way down. On my sportbike, everyone except Harley guys would usually wave back. Even Harleys sometimes would. But on the Katie-M, I'm somehow not part of their in-club any more. Sportbikers ignore me, Harleys ignore me. It's only the dualsports or tourers that return the wave. Maybe that's why we're 'inmates?'

The RVs finally part enough to pass between, and I squeeze through, and the fellow on the Strom right behind. We crest the hill at about 15 miles an hour, and keep picking our way through. Another mile or two of that, and we pass another group of police cars on both directions of the highway. They're trying to tow an overturned car from the center ditch, and having a bit of a time of it. It went off right before a bridge, so the ditch is really deep, and tree lined. It looks like no injuries, because there's a fellow standing there looking forlornly at his upside down car, and the paramedics look bored.

But the road opens back up here, and I scoot off, and the Strom drops back or exits. I'm not sure - he just didn't stick around.

After some time passes, I filter through a second bit of stuck traffic, with no apparent reason for the slowdown. It passes uneventfully and I continue south, one eye on my trip meter as it's ticking up to 150-ish.

The low fuel light finally comes on at 165 miles, just north of Bradley - which is apparently just an oil company station. I saw no conveniences, no homes, no town. The 'F mode' is displaying on my dash now, and the mileage is ticking up. So that's what that's for! Pretty clever! F mode, as in - F...! I'm out of gas!

So now I'm irrationally worried. I'm not sure how far it is to the next town, and I'm clearly in the middle of nowhere, and I really don't know how much reserve is available when the light illuminates - or even if it is accurate when it does. I settle down by reminding myself that even if I knew all those things, it wouldn't make a difference. I can't make the next fuel station any closer, and I don't have any more fuel, so I'm either lucky or I'm not. It's an adventure, right? All the same, I slow down to 75, figuring I'll get another mile or two if I have to run it dry. I'm not eager to push this big bike down the side of the highway.

The next fuel station I sight is in San Miguel, and I was right to relax as it wasn't far. I pull in with 177.7 miles on the tripmeter. There's only one gas station, and not really anything else at this exit. A road parallels the freeway on both sides, but I don't know where it goes. A couple cars are at the service station, as well as two motorcycles - both BMW sport tourers - and a Can-Am three wheeler.

I pop into the service station for a sugar-free Red Bull, the big can - not because I'm on a diet, but because the regular stuff is too sweet - and ask where the restroom is. Around back. I walk out and stand in line behind a short-ish, plump-ish but not obese woman with a close haircut and a weathered look. I knew girls with her build back at school, who played women's rugby. She's standing behind a family of four who look like they've been waiting a while. So I ask if that's her Can-am.

It is, of course - I'd seen the group of them getting off as I pulled in (three women, all built about like her) - but hey, we all like to talk about our motorcycles. She's thrilled to share, of course, and so we get to talking. She likes the Can-Am, but misses two wheels. The Can-am doesn't countersteer, and it took her time to get used to. I ask why she doesn't go back to a conventional bike. Apparently she's a survivor. Got hit by a semi a couple years ago, and broke a lot of stuff and degloved pretty significant portions of her legs. I told her that I'm impressed that she's back out on the bike, which leads into a discussion of risk.
"My friends think I'm nuts for getting back out on the road on something, but I love the feeling, and besides, I'm aware of the risk. I've started asking them if they've been in a car crash, and if so, how they could ever get back in their car again."
She's got a point. If anyone should be aware of risk, it's us motorcyclists. If you're on a bike and haven't come to grips with the risk inherent, you ought not to be riding. On the other hand, if you've honestly appraised it, and are accepting of it... ride on, and ride on again if able, if an accident happens to you.

So the group of them had decided to go on a 'women's only' ride, and leave the boyfriends and husbands behind for a weekend. Apparently that didn't sit real well with them, and they decided to 'do their own ride' which happened to follow the same routes on the same days as the women.

If those involved happen to be reading this... Don't puss out like that again! Man up and do your own ride! You're making us men all look like unimaginative whiners. It's in the man code. And any woman who can get hit by a semi and live to ride has earned the right to call it like it is.

Eventually I get my turn for a potty break, and I head back to the bike - fuel up - give a wave to the women's rugby motorcycling club, and get back on the road.
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Old 08-07-2010, 09:48 PM   #12
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Paso to Pismo

It's about 4:30 when I get to Paso Robles, and the rush hour traffic is starting up. For Paso Robles, that doesn't mean much. Traffic is perhaps medium, and flowing well. The scenery around this area is beautiful. Rolling brown hills and green trees. The road dips deep into valleys and climbs back out.

The bike is running great, but my ass is sore. I'm shifting position every couple of minutes. I feel like I just got out from being paddled in the principal's office. I'm ready for a breather long before I start seeing the ocean on my right, sometime near or after San Luis Obispo. It sort of began to run together there, as I was hungry, tired, and sore. My hands were somewhat numb.

I'm counting down the miles to Pismo Beach and my brother-in-law's summer cottage. I plan to stop there for an hour or two for rest and dinner. The rest of this leg passes uneventfully, and before I know it, I'm already at Pismo Beach, and I exit. I stop to turn onto the 1 and almost drop the bike when I forget to put my feet down. My brain is number than I thought. A mile later I'm at Jason's. His company sends him to Pismo Beach for 6 months of the year and pays for a little duplex within walking distance of the beach. It's now about 5:30.

Jason is rather round, prematurely balding, and has a smiley face on all the time. He's one of the nicest and most charismatic guys I know. I'm related to him because our wives are sisters, and he's my favorite brother in law. They have two kids, both under 3. Emmy is thrilled to see me at the door, because I'll tickle her and toss her in the air. She's a budding daredevil. (I'm positive she's going to be a motorcyclist one day!) Addy, the baby, fixes me with a nonchalant look and struggles to sit up. She's almost crawling and is the quietest and least fussy baby I've ever met.

I go in, and Jason directs me immediately to the stove, (see, best brother in law ever) where a pot of spaghetti sauce is still hot, and noodles are in the strainer in the sink, still warm. Perfect. I load up a plate and sit down on the couch. My butt protests sitting down, but the rest of my body disagrees. This adventure thing is going to require some better physical conditioning. My sister in law comes out from the bedroom, gives me a hug, and informs Jason and I that she is taking the kids with her and going shopping. Excellent news... As soon as the kiddos are gone, the Xbox360 is plugged in and we're shooting Nazis. We eat half a bag of chocolate chip cookies.

I text my wife around 6:30 and tell her I'll be getting on the road shortly. But we're so close to beating the game... ok, just a few more minutes.
I text my wife again at 8:00 after Jason and I have successfully stormed the Reichstag and executed every Nazi in sight. It's twilight now in real life. I still have two more hours of riding ahead of me. Fortunately, I brought some cold weather gear.

I zip my jacket liner in, and put on a fleece sweater before putting on my jacket. I add glove liners to my gloves, and a balaclava under my helmet. Unfortunately, I didn't expect it to be as cold as it will turn out to be, so I didn't bring more for my legs. Jeans will have to do. I make my goodbyes, kiss the baby girls, hug my sister and brother, and hit the road again.
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Old 08-07-2010, 10:32 PM   #13
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The sun is down, and I'm freezing. Mostly my legs, but that's enough to make the rest of me cold, too. I've clamped my legs tight against the tanks, hoping to keep them out of the wind as much as I can, and maybe pick up a degree or two from the engine heat. It's not very successful, and my teeth are gritted to keep them from chattering.

I'm a few miles away from the 154, which cuts the corner to Santa Barbara by turning inland and through the mountains. I had originally planned to follow the 101 all the way home, but now I reconsider, weighing the alternatives. Time wise, it's about the same, as the 154 is a slower route. I'm trying to figure out which will be warmer - inland could be warmer than along the ocean, but the mountain elevation could make it colder. It's a gamble, and I decide on the mountains because I like twisty roads - and I exit for the 154.

I just discovered the headlight on the big bike is adequate. I can easily overdrive it at 55mph. The high beam is great, but there is enough oncoming traffic to keep me flicking back and forth between the two.

Some combination of leg numbness, inland temperatures, and slower speed means that I've begun to feel warm enough that at least I don't have to grit my teeth against the cold anymore. As the road passes Lake Cachuma, it climbs into the mountains and turns fun. I follow a slow-moving Volvo through some twisties and then roar by when a passing opporunity presents itself. oops. I didn't realize how much easier he was making it for me to see the road. I'm back to overdriving my headlights, and the road is really curvy right here. I slow back down and let another car pass. I drop in behind him, and follow him down the other side of the mountain into Santa Barbara.

I know the route well from here on in. I proposed to my wife on the beach in Santa Barbara. It's a beautiful town. I wish they had some aerospace jobs!

Once the road levels out and straightens, I take a left at the stoplight onto the 101 again. I'm still not feeling cold as I merge back up to speed with the ocean on my right again. Must be the numbness, then. My hands feel dull, even with the heated grips. Numbness is better than feeling the cold, I figure.

I'm really enjoying this bike, tired or not. It has a laid-back feel to it. Plenty of power, but well balanced.

I'm running low on fuel again. I consider stopping in SB for fuel, but decided to push it and see if I can make it all the way home. I still have Ventura, Oxnard, and Camarillo to pass through.

Nothing much else to report. Beautiful dark ocean crashing on my right, big cliffs on my left all the way through Ventura. Oxnard and Camarillo are mostly fields, and climbing the grade up from Camarillo into Newbury Park was a comfortable feeling of arriving home. Only a couple miles left to go.

I stop for fuel less than a mile from my house. I fill the left first, then right, then nearly drop the bike when my left foot slips out from under me. What the? There's a huge puddle of fuel underneath me now. Maybe it was really supposed to be right tank, then left? Anyways, whatever I did, it didn't work. I push forward out of the puddle, just to be on the safe side, and start back up.

Pulling into my own driveway, all I really wanted to think about was sleep, but I unclip my bags, and push the bike into my side yard for the night. Have to make a home for it in the garage later. Home sweet home! And without serious incident or breakdown! It's 10:07 - 16 hours after I first woke up to start my adventure, and I've traveled by car, plane, taxi, and bike. I kiss my wife and crawl into bed without a shower. I've got work in the morning.

I'm loving my new bike, and excited for many more adventures to follow... hopefully not just daytrips... and I'll try to have time to take some pictures for the next one. Thanks to those of you who took the time to read all this! I'll try to get a pic of my bike up tomorrow - can't get the computer to agree with me right now.

Cheers,

Cade

MotorCade screwed with this post 08-07-2010 at 10:58 PM
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Old 08-08-2010, 12:31 AM   #14
JCA1981
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Location: The Empire State... some empire; we're bankrupt
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Great story. Would love to see some pics of the bike.
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2009 Royal Enfield Bullet 500avl
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Old 08-08-2010, 01:42 AM   #15
Blacknblue
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You write really well, for an engineer.

I like Dr. Pepper too.
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