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Old 08-26-2010, 07:44 PM   #1
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Quarter Life Crisis - 2000 miles of CO, NM, AZ, NV, and UT in 6 days

DISCLAIMER: I’m long winded. I’ve pared this down and it’s still long. Sorry.

Quick background: I’m 24, have a wife, an engineering career, a house, 3 cars, 2 dogs, the whole package. Life is decent, but has moved very quickly, and about a month ago I had a minor melt down. I felt my youth was slipping away a bit, I love my life and the things it has afforded me, but I needed to take a break and feel like a kid again. I had just sold my PSD Excursion, so money was good, and I needed to get away for a bit. I blame Expedition Portal for planting the seed and ADV for bringing the idea to fruition. It was between a trip on a yet-to-be-purchased bike or a trip to Alaska, likely to buy an 80 series Landcruiser to drive home. I already have an FJ60 and the bike was way cheaper, so the choice was pretty obvious.

I immediately began shopping. For whatever reason a KLR (I know, I know) was in my head from the beginning. Upon further research there were a few available, most of them being 08's or 09's. I had yet to learn about the oil consumption issue, and didn't think I had the money for much more (both turned into regrets later down the road), so I chose a relatively low mileage green 08 with some cosmetic issues and a set of Jesse luggage.

I was headed to Boise, ID the next week so I took the opportunity to visit the guys at Happy Trails and pick up some PD nerf bars, a skid plate, a rear master guard, a fuel screw, some 12V stuff, and a handful of other stuff I already forgot about. They also had a mean deal on the 2010 Firstgear Rainier jacket (d3O armor), so I got one as well as some Klim Dakar pants.

When I got home I kept ordering, picking up an HJC FS-15 helmet, some Fox Comp 5s boots, and a handful of other things. My full crazy long gear review thread is here. I also needed solo camping stuff, so I picked up a Kelty Grand Mesa 2, a Big Agnes Lost Ranger with an insulated pad and pillow, and some other essentials.

An hour on Google maps and I had my route: South to Ridgway, over to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, to Vegas to visit a friend, back to Zion National Park, up to Moab for a couple days, and back home to Fort Collins. I worked some long hours to build up the time off and had it scheduled for the 14th through the 21st of August.

The weekend before was a big prep weekend, I played with the carb, put on all of the goodies I bought from HT, and fully loaded it up for a test ride. Definitely a bit of a pig with all the gear, but not horrible. It really showed the need for a new rear spring (I’m 6’2”, 190 lbs), but aside from that everything seemed to be in order for distance. I rode it to work a few times loaded up (bumped into my Outback once, it takes a while to realize how wide the bags really are), spent the next week gathering up all the random stuff (camp stove fuel, waterproof matches, etc.) and the last night in town packing and laying it all out to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. Bags packed, I was ready to ride…



The fruits of my labor



Another angle

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Old 08-26-2010, 07:47 PM   #2
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Day 1 Ė August 14th Ė Fort Collins, CO to Ridgway, CO

I woke up well before my alarm, ready to go. The bike was packed, gear was laid out, so it was literally about 15 minutes from bed to the bike. Gave the dogs and the wife hugs and set off for parts unknown. As soon as I got on I-25, something felt off. Any speed over 70mph put me into an odd wobble. No matter how rigidly I held the bars itíd continue. Hmm, must be the luggage. I got off at the next exit and rerouted. Luckily there are many routes south, so I took 287 through Longmont, then 36 over to 285. Much better.

285 was my first bit of new road, and it was a good one. Slow, curvy, scenic, and quite comfortable. Nothing but blue skies all day and only minor traffic. I really forgot how nice it is to hear, feel, and smell everything on a bike. Beats the crap out of a car. I hit some construction traffic somewhere near Jefferson, stopped for a few minutes. Gave me time to kill the bike and play with the new GPS a bit.

I was going to stop in Buena Vista for lunch, but it would require a detour, so I pressed on after filling the bike up. Stopped at a pit BBQ in Poncha Springs (closed) so I grumbled and spent $12 on a gas station lunch and beef jerky. Note to self, detour to Salida next time. Turned on to 50 and headed west for a while. Very pretty compared to the flat valley that Buena Vista is in. I found a Kawi shop in Gunnison and thought I might pick up a spare clutch cable, but decided against it. I did, however, stop at the Crested Butte Brewery for a bit. Sampled a few of their beers (they only had 2 of their own brews on tap, they ran out of the rest the night before) and continued on.

Stopped to look at the reservoir between Gunnison and Montrose (another nice curvy highway) and turned south on 550 in Montrose. The western slope is odd, big flat areas surrounded by giant mountains. The ride from Montrose to Ridgway was no different, the mountains just shoot up out of nowhere. I got in to town and tried to get my bearings, but couldnít find the hot springs anywhere. Pulled out the trusty blackberry as I chatted with a guy letting his horses wander around a park (he was amazed that my bike was a KLR, he owned an old one and hadnít seen the redesign) and found out I was close. Rolled in a little after 4.

The one thing I donít like about bikes is the rigamarole involved in getting on and off. Drop side stand, kill engine, open shield, take off sunglasses, take off gloves, take off helmet, take out earbuds, stow everything, etc. Gets a tad old and I had my first real fun with it in the gravel parking lot. Anyway, I went in and got checked in and taken for a tour. For those that donít know, Orvis hot springs is clothing optional, and I thought it was hilarious wandering around in full riding gear with a whole bunch of old naked guys just lounging in the grass. They showed me to my campsite and I brought the bike over.

I still hadnít figured out the easiest way to get the bike on the center stand, but the gravel was forgiving so I left it on the side stand all night without issue. Setting up the tent on their little deck setup (see the pic) was odd, but easy enough, and about 15 minutes later I went to take a dip. I had been given strict instructions from my wife to stay clothed if there were any attractive females near my age. There were, and I did. I spent the afternoon reading ďLong Way RoundĒ in a nice warm pool of naked folks.

A dinner of easy mac and a quick shower and I drifted off to sleep to the sounds of the potheads next door giggling. The 40oz of Bud Light I picked up in town (trying to stay true to my 24 year old roots) definitely made this an easy task. My sleeping bag really paid for itself that first night, the deck setup made for a cold night even with 50+ degree ambient temps and I was happy I sprung for a down bag.

Notes from the day:

Already obvious KLRís donít like highway speeds. This will get annoying
$33/night is too much for camping, even with free naked hot springs. Donít think Iíll be back, though hippy chicks can be fairly attractive and donít have a problem with the lack of clothing
Easy mac is gonna get old fast, but it gets the job done
Getting a bit lonely already, I need a travel companion in the future



Mountains from my campsite



Said campsite
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Old 08-26-2010, 07:52 PM   #3
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Day 2 Ė August 15th Ė Ridgway, CO to Grand Canyon NP, AZ

The sun woke me early and I packed quietly, though the hippies in the campground were definitely zonked and didnít even stir. I was surprised that it only took about 15 minutes and went back together easily. Back up to Ridgway and through 62 to 145. Great ride, reasonably twisty and very scenic. I stopped at least 4 times for pics and the morning air was great.

Cortez was the beginning of the heat. Stopped at the 4 corners monument for lunch, the obligatory picture, and my first pannier sticker and continued. The 3 or so miles of NM along 160 was all I saw of that state, but Iím counting it. It was bloody hot, I didnít want to stop for longer than I had to, especially with a long ride ahead of me. 160 to 98 to 89A, not a lot to report, just flat hot desert. I really wanted to go to Tuba City for no other reason than the name, but I listened to the GPS and continued on. Things finally cooled down a bit as I approached the turn to 67, so I stopped and grabbed a few pics. It should be obvious by now that I am not fit to use a camera, but I try nonetheless. The density of other ADV-style riders had significantly decreased all morning, but they started to pick up again near the canyon.

By 67 I feel like Iím back in CO. Nice forests, great twisties, cool air, hard to beat. I roll through to the entry station to the park where the ranger is confused as to why I want to pay her (itís free admission weekend but I want an annual pass for the other parks). $80 lighter I ride into the park. Thereís a herd of buffalo that greets you in the first prairie you ride through, but it was too crowded to stop for pics. I pushed on to the campground, which was much more relaxed and less hippy filled than the hot springs.

The first real treasure I found was the general store at the north rim campground. Well stocked and cheap, I picked up another pannier sticker and dinner with a beer, all for around 8 bucks. It would not be my first visit to this store as they also had power and free wifi. I headed to the rim to check it out and call the family, then picked up a few more beers and got a fire going. Great night. I capped it by falling asleep with ďLong Way RoundĒ still in my hands.

Notes from the day:

Donít really like Arizona as a driving state, nowhere near the scenery that CO has
The North Rim is so much quieter and calmer than the South Rim, stoked on that
The general store really is a hidden gem for the weary traveler. Even the beer is reasonably priced
The side stand is way tippy. Center stand as much as possible from here on out



Cliffs outside Ridgway



Gorgeous lake near Telluride



Obligatory 4 corners shot taken by some old ladies



My first view of the Grand Canyon



Bike all tucked in for the night
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Old 08-26-2010, 07:58 PM   #4
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Day 3 Ė August 16th Ė Grand Canyon NP, AZ

I woke up way warmer than I had been in CO. Again, I attribute this to the deck setup. I also figured out the fly setup on my tent and it vents so much better now, so no condensation inside either. No riding today, but I wanted to get started on my hike early so I got up a bit after 7.

This was the first real time I had left a tent unattended, so I threw my riding jacket, pants, and boots in the panniers just in case. I could get home without a tent, but without a jacket would be tough. Rode over to the Kaibab trail and started down. Dodging big piles of Mule crap, I made my way into the canyon. I was hoping to do a big loop (9.5 miles total) but it quickly got really hot really quick and I decided to see how I felt. It wasnít quite as fun as I expected, the view didnít change much since youíre just in one canyon. I went in about 2 miles to the tunnel, where I found the mules getting ready to turn around. I took some pics, and headed back, hoping to beat the mules out of the canyon.

The hike back was way harder. I am out of shape and it showed. I drained my camelback but made it out in one piece and ahead of the mules. Happy to avoid fresh crap on the trail. Motored back to camp and checked my watch to find out it wasnít even noon. Hmm, what else to do? There was a laundry/shower facility there, so I knocked out a load and rinsed off, then headed to the store to steal power and wifi. Checked email, boogered around planning my route from Zion to Moab, and just hung out. It was a nice feeling. Checked the watch again, not even 2. I decided to go see some other overlooks, which was fun. Ran into a guy on a V-Strom hiking out in riding gear just like I was. Got some good pics and headed back after stopping at no less than 3 overlooks.

By dinner I was starving, so I headed to the deli and saloon at the rim. Not as cheap as the general store, not by a long shot, but sustenance. Took some last pictures, drooled over a well equipped GS, and went back to camp. Listened to some music by the fire and turned in early knowing tomorrow would be hot and boring. Good day nonetheless.

Notes from the day:

Not my favorite place to hike. Itíd be fun to camp in the canyon and hike out the other side, but for day hikes I wasnít too impressed. Still worth the time
My little sister is in Africa and she climbed Kilimanjaro around the same time I did this trip. Little booger always knew how to one-up me
Again, high praise to the store, those Grand Canyon Brewing beers went down smoother than the ones that were 3x more expensive on the rim. I like seeing national parks that donít rake customers over the coals



View from the tunnel I turned around at



Can't remember what this is called but it's cool



The storms in this pic are awesome. Cool view.



Another shot in to the canyon. Odd light that day.



The only other shot I have of me, taken by a nice couple that didn't speak english.



Sunset over the north rim, great closing view of the canyon.
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Old 08-26-2010, 08:00 PM   #5
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Day 4 Ė August 17th Ė Grand Canyon NP, AZ to Las Vegas, NV

Woke up early to a bright sunrise and started packing. In the process I checked the oil to find it a quart low. Damn, sure enough I had gotten an oil burner. Better start saving for the 685 kit. Poured in the spare quart I brought with, said some choice words, and scooted off. Highway 67 was just as fun on the way out as it was on the way in but the cops on 89A were enough to make me slow down.

389 and 59 were nothing to write home about, but Hurricane was a nice town. I stopped at McDonaldís (had a craving for French fries) and ran into a bunch of French tourists on Harleys. Didnít have a chance to chat with them, but it was pretty funny seeing these big burly bikers chit chatting in what sounded like French poetry. Never did find out where they were going, but watching the leader draw out their route on a white board in a gas station was entertaining.

Near St. George it got stiflingly hot. I stopped in Mesquite to get gas and another quart of oil and was glad to get into some A/C. I wandered around WalMart for about half an hour, I had a lot of day to kill before Iíd get to my friendís house because he was working late. Called a friend who had a house in Mesquite hoping to jump in a pool for the afternoon, but he was out of town. Finally, I sucked it up and headed west. I found out later it was 108F when I rolled through. Brutal.

I-15 was no fun. Hot, dirty, empty, and the bike wasnít happy, even at 70. It ran hot and drank a lot of oil. I sucked it up, pushed through and decided to head through Vegas to the Hoover Dam. I got there around 4:30 (still super hot) and was convinced theyíd make me empty everything in my boxes at the checkpoint. I had a .45 unloaded and locked in a case in one of my boxes (legal in NV if Iím reading the laws right) and wasnít looking forward to dealing with that. They just waved me through. Good security. I rolled across, didnít want to pay to park, so turned around and headed back. I was tempted to wheelie across, but decided it wasnít a good idea.

A storm chased me into a parking garage at Sunset Station so I decided to go waste some time and money. They suckered me into a players card and gave me some cheesy gifts (mugs and a piggy bank) that were not worth the storage space, so they were left in the garage. Headed over to my friendís place at about 7, grabbed a shower and hit the town. We had dinner at a place called Firefly, they have amazing tapas and great drinks, and itís not overly expensive. 6 tapas and 4 drinks between the two of us was about $75 before tip, canít complain.

The buddy I was visiting is a bartender, and thus knows all the other bartenders in town, so we drank for free (minus tips of course) all night. Lost about $80 on blackjack, stopped at Robertoís for some carne asada nachos, and crashed hard on his couch, a welcome relief from the sleeping bag.

Notes from the day:

Blackjack is an easy way to lose money, but was fun nonetheless
ATGATT sucks above 100F no matter how fast youíre going. Still worth the safety
Not a fan of the KLR on 4 lane slab. Wishing I would have gone with a GS, being able to cruise comfortably at 80 would be nice. Stay tuned on thisÖ
Carne asada nachos are bloody brilliant, especially after a few drinks



Only pic of the day, a crappy one of the Hoover Dam from an overlook
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Old 08-26-2010, 08:05 PM   #6
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Day 5 Ė August 18th Ė Las Vegas, NV to Zion NP, UT

Something woke me up early. The need to pee, a slight hangover, the sun, Iím not sure which, but it was early and I decided to get moving as I wanted to miss the heat. Packing was easy (no tent or bag) but sure enough, lost more oil due to the speed and heat of the last day. I was out before 7, filled up on the way out of town, and headed back east. The Vegas detour was a coin flip, Iím really not sure if it was worth it but I had fun.

I made it to Zion early, well before noon. They let me set up camp even though check in wasnít until noon and I plodded around in the river for a bit. The ground was rock hard and I couldnít get stakes in, so I anchored my tent the best I could but couldnít keep the rain fly venting properly. I figured Iíd already gone one night with it just draped over, how bad could another be? Big mistakeÖ

There were little frogs all over the place, so I snapped some pics. Lizards too, they were like ants out there. I had some lunch and hopped on the bus into the park. I got off at almost every stop and took short (usually sub-mile) hikes. None were overly impressive, but I much preferred them to the Grand Canyon. Next time Iíll plan better and bring proper shoes to hike the narrows (the hike is mostly in a river). I tried to talk to some tourists, but it seemed no one spoke English, which had become a recurring theme of the trip. It was getting lonely.

The afternoon was the beginning of the end. It got really hot and there was little to no shade. I perched myself in a dead tree and read some more of ďLong Way Round.Ē After a while I got bored and hungry. I went to plug my phone in to discover it wasnít recognizing the charger. I tried it on the bike, same issue. Ruh roh, this could be a problem. After a failed attempt to cook more easy mac on my camp stove I was hot, hungry, tired, and generally upset.

I gave in and rode into town to find dinner. I called my wife from the parking lot and she was in rough shape too. She had started a new job that Monday and it was taking its toll. I did my best to console her then headed in to Oscarís Cafť. If youíre in the area, go here. Awesome burgers and great service. I had the Murder Burger and bsíd a bit with the French waiter about his XR650R. Nice guy, Iíll be back.

I was in higher spirits, so I laid on my picnic table and read some more by headlamp. It was quite nice, finally cool, and gave some good photo opportunities. I was about ready to climb into bed when I saw the flicker of lightning in the distance. Damn, I thought I had outrun it all, no such luck. I tarped the bike up and battened down the hatches. It was bloody hot in the tent, in no time I was down to my underwear. I drifted in and out of a restless sleep for an hour or so until the loudest thunder Iíd ever heard jolted me awake. I peeked outside, it was pouring and very humid. The rest of the night was rough, I got barely any sleep and couldnít cool down.

Notes from the day:

I-15 is much nicer before noon. I didnít use any oil this time. Still a boring highway though
Springdale is a very nice town, Iíll definitely be back to the park and Oscarís Cafť
Though Iím loving the bike, I miss the AC of my cage sometimes
Iím sick of tourists that donít speak English



Little amigo number one. Not really scared of humans.



Shot through the park



The virgin river, much calmer than it'd be the next day



The little black orbs are Zion snails, found only here. I was stoked to find one and for some reason wanted to eat one just to say I had, but I held back.



Looking up a weeping spring with some hanging gardens



Another little buddy



Good end to an iffy night
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Old 08-26-2010, 08:08 PM   #7
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Day 6 Ė August 19th Ė Zion NP, UT to Fort Collins, CO

I awoke at 6AM to my phone ringing. It was my wife, calling to say our Great Danes eyes were swollen almost fully shut and asking what she should do. I told her to leave him and check on him later in the day (turns out he got stung by something, $92 in vet bills later and all was well). I was still crazy hot, so I threw on some shorts and walked to the river for a bathroom break. I was surprised to find it probably 20-30 feet wider than last night and full of debris and broken tree parts. Rain takes its toll in the high desert, I wonder where all the little frogs went. I was really hoping to ride dirt to Moab today, but after that rain Iím sure itíd be rough and muddy, so I reluctantly decided to continue on the slab.

The tent was filthy and my sleeping bag was drenched in sweat. Aside from that everything did its job well. I packed up and headed out, again before 8AM. I got to Richfield and put on my rain gear as the skies ahead were very ominous. It started pouring before I even pulled away from the gas station and continued for 100+ miles of desolate I-70. The last few miles had me riding through standing water on the highway with water pouring in my helmet vents. It was intense. I stopped in Green River and looked back to see the wall of rain chasing me and heading directly towards Moab. I didnít feel like battling the rain for another few days, so I called it quits and decided to take the final 400 miles home that day. Another decision Iím on the fence about, but with a Landcruiser and a KLR, Iíll be back.

I was hoping to have lunch in Green River, but was lucky to escape before the rain caught me again. It was clear skies ahead, but the rain just kept chasing me. I pushed hard all the way to Glenwood Springs, where I stopped for some pizza and a coke. Couldnít have been more than 15 minutes, but by the time I got back on the highway I could see a storm coming over the mountains behind me. I kept rolling until I got to Arvada, when I finally had a chance to pull into a parking lot and call my wife. I stretched out, looked over at a fairly clear sky, and headed for home.

Rolled in around 7PM to the surprise and delight of the wife and the dogs. Did some unpacking and crashed on the couch in front of the TV for a while. The cold drinks were great and my bed felt amazing. I drifted off to sleep reflecting on the trip and already formulating the next trip and bike in my head.

Final thoughts:

Aside from the oil consumption and highway issues, the KLR wasnít bad. That being said, on the planned AK trip (Iím hooked) Iíll be picking up a GS. Probably holding on to the KLR though, it should do better in the local dirt than the GS will. Might end up with a more dirt oriented bike in the future too, who knows
I have nothing but good things to say about the gear. Full review is here
I need to plan better for food if Iím not planning on stopping daily. I also need to find stuff tastier than easy mac. Mountain House need not apply
I also need to schedule better, too bloody hot in August. Iím thinking AK in June/July and other trips in the lower 48 in April or September
I need to get back to Moab, regardless of vehicle. Bummed I missed it
Good trip



The only pic from the day showing the flooding river. The bank used to be in front of those plants.
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Old 08-27-2010, 10:01 AM   #8
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To bad you had to deal with the KLR oil issue. That is a huge deal breaker for me ever thinking on getting a Kawasaki anytime soon.

They used to be pretty good bikes in the day. Thanks for sharing the ride report. Excellent read.
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Old 08-27-2010, 10:40 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by manshoon
To bad you had to deal with the KLR oil issue. That is a huge deal breaker for me ever thinking on getting a Kawasaki anytime soon.

They used to be pretty good bikes in the day. Thanks for sharing the ride report. Excellent read.
It's definitely frustrating, but easy enough to deal with. I had a Saab 92x Aero (WRX) with the 2.0L, and that motor liked to eat oil too without provocation. I didn't find out about that early enough and ended up running it low and spinning a rod bearing, which has left me on high alert ever since. Even if it didn't use a drop I'd check it religiously.

Aside from that the bike did alright, you can only ask so much from a thumper and I believe it did its job.
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Old 08-30-2010, 05:12 PM   #10
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Nice report. Good for you for getting out there and doing it - an inspiration.
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Old 08-31-2010, 05:36 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by browneye
Nice report. Good for you for getting out there and doing it - an inspiration.
Now that I'm back I can't believe I was hesitant about it. I'm hooked and already planning a few years out.
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Old 09-03-2010, 08:32 AM   #12
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Just found this in the regional forum: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=616183

Looks like the storm that I rode through did indeed hit Moab and do some damage. I probably would have been stuck inside all day, so I'm glad I packed it up and headed home. I'll be back.
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Old 09-06-2010, 11:06 PM   #13
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I'd have eaten the snail.

And by GS running all day at 80, I take it you mean a big one. 650's don't like to run like that unless they have four cylinders and six gears.
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Old 09-17-2010, 11:43 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scottysix9
I'd have eaten the snail.

And by GS running all day at 80, I take it you mean a big one. 650's don't like to run like that unless they have four cylinders and six gears.
I do mean the biggin, 1150 or 1200. Starting to look around and see what's out there...
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Old 09-24-2010, 09:07 AM   #15
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Random update: Traded the KLR for an 04 Ural Tourist. Should be an interesting rig.
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