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Old 06-01-2011, 09:43 PM   #1
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Maine & New Hampshire Memorial Day weekend

I headed out this past Saturday morning for 3 nights with the intention of riding up to camp near Baxter State Park, then somewhere in the Whites, then onto Grand Isle in Lake Champlain, then heading home Tuesday. You know - a nice Memorial Day weekend (+1 day!) solo ride to drop off the grid for a bit. Well, plans are for changin', right?

Here's my bike loaded and ready to go. You can probably see here how I had to distort the laws of physics to close those saddlebags. 2006 Sportster XL1200R. I love her, but she has problems. More on that later... Also, don't tell the Harley guys I use a tank bag. I'm so uncool.



Day one I headed up the superslab from Boston to Maine, then hopped off the highway and headed vaguely north. Stopped at a Tim Horton's for a quick bite - my first TH experience! Like Dunkin Donuts, but friendlier. Makes sense I suppose. The further north I went, the fewer people I saw. There were lots of quaint and beautiful little towns. Here's a dam in Anson, ME:



It was mostly good weather, though it got gradually mistier and foggier as I went. I never really got rained on, but by the time I was in no-man's land, I was pretty wet. There are really some amazingly empty roads up there, but surprisingly straight given the landscape. Route 26, 16, 43, 11, some others. On one 20ish mile stretch of route 11 between Milo and Millinocket, I think I saw 2 cars, 1 house, and several turn offs for logging roads. It's remarkable to me how integral to this area logging is, and obviously has been for a long time. Seems like they'd run out of trees… Unfortunately, it was so foggy I couldn't see much scenery, except some neat man-made sites. Here's a weird bridge a little southwest of Millinocket that I didn't really understand. A footbridge, but with an oddly ominous warning sign above it.



The planks were not level, and had gaps in between them:





Does something mechanical use the grooves in the boards?

This footbridge was in between the vehicle and rail bridges that span the same river.

Overall it was a great ride, and definitely a land worth seeing. I plan to go back someday in clearer weather. I camped in between Millinocket and Ambijejus Lake at a place called the Big Moose Inn. The people were friendly, the campsite area (separate from the Inn and cabin area) was empty and thankfully quiet. Except holy shit the skeeters are vicious this year. Swarms of them, fighting each other for chance to suck some of my sweet blood. Eat Deet you bastards. I think this picture shows my flash bouncing off the little monsters:



Also, getting to the quieter campsites meant fishtailing my way up a deceptively steep gravel road. Not my comfort zone. I took pictures but they don't do it justice so I won't waste the bandwidth.

One more thing I was excited about on this trip was to try out a couple of new pieces of camping gear. Just a quick word on those. REI Half Dome 2 (not the 2 Plus, which is just slightly bigger). It's a great tent, held up well through both nights of rain - and the second night was pretty heavy thunderstorms. My only complaint is that the rainfly needs to be guyed out on the ends to keep it off the tent walls. In rain, condensation forms on the inside of the tent otherwise. This would be fine, except they don't give you enough stakes to do that, and I didn't think about it until I woke up with wet tips of my (thankfully synthetic) sleeping bag. If you want a nice large solo tent or cozy 2-man, it's a fine tent - just make sure you have some extra stakes. The other new gear was a Big Agnes insulated inflatable sleeping pad. Awesome. Lightweight, comfy, compact.



Anyway, a pizza and a few beers at the Loose Moose sounded perfect. Now originally when I planned this trip, I had hopes of beginning day 2 by taking the Golden Road north out of Millinocket for 70 or 80 miles of one of the most remote roads in New England. Unfortunately, after some looking around online and asking friends it seemed like a) it was an off-limits private logging road and 2) my Sportster would not likely fare well with the bone-crunching, tire-destroying road or its psychopathically unsympathetic truckers. So I abandoned that idea. But at the bar over pizza and beer, I asked a couple locals about Golden Road. I got the impression that no one would really care or even notice if you were on it unless it was a weekday when the trucks were running. Except maybe if there's a sheriff up there, which no one thought would be too likely. Not sure how that encounter would end. Probably just with a stern 'get the hell out of here'. Of course, the vicious terrain still kept me scared. But with the right bike, could be a fun ride. On my way up I did ride the first 10 miles or so of Golden Road from Millinocket up to Millinocket Lake where I camped, and it was paved but not well maintained. From there I think it gets worse quickly.

Day 1. Success. 367 miles.
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Old 06-01-2011, 10:04 PM   #2
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Day 2

Day two, I headed north for a few miles to check out a view of Katahdin that my new drinking buddy Roger told me about the night before. 'Look for the big rock, you can't miss it.'



And I assume that Katahdin is somewhere behind this fog. Sigh, oh well.



In hindsight, I should've ridden the few more miles further to the entrance of Baxter State Park, even though they don't allow bikes in, because why the hell not, but I was in a hurry due to a slightly late start. Southwest toward Twin Mountain. I backtracked some rather than chance the Golden Road, then turned kind of west and north to see more of rural Maine. The fog was even worse than yesterday:



Milo, ME:



In addition to the bumper crop of skeeters this year, the rains caused some spectacular falls. Anson, ME:



Maine has some pretty awesome rest areas in the middle of nowhere on little picturesque country roads. They aren't kidding when they claim 'Vacationland'. I knew the coast wanted that title, but I was surprised how inviting this part of Maine also seemed to be.



There were some insanely bumpy roads through here. One of my recent upgrades to the Sporty was some new Progressive shocks. I opted for the heavy duty springs. I think that was a mistake. As soon as I got home, I contacted Progressive about a spring swap to softer springs. The shocks do handle well, though, and I don't bottom out anymore.

Dixfield, ME:



Now is a good time to mention that last year my Sporty treated me to some battery woes and had me limping through Northampton after a group ride to western Mass in August - lights flashing, gauges twitching, bike lurching. After pulling the bike apart multiple times, it seemed like the gremlins mostly went away. I rode close to 2k miles between then and last week. Guess what's back?

After riding over some particularly bumpy roads, my gauges both bounced to 0. Shit. Soon the gremlins were back in full force. I stopped a few times and pulled the battery, checked ground cables, tugged at electrical connections, tightened bolts, and so forth. Sometimes I'd start the bike back up and it would run fine for a while, sometimes nothing changed. It also seemed fishy that last August when these problems first started, I was using GPS and phone charger, and the next time it happened (today) was the next time I was using both… Hmm… By mid afternoon, I had convinced myself that I should just start replacing things that might be suspect, starting with the battery which was at least 4 years old. Maybe 6. Only I'm in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday and tomorrow's Memorial Day. I decided to opt for a slightly more direct route to my next campsite, and maybe look for something tomorrow or just limp back to Boston and deal with it later.

At this point, stops to take pictures came fewer, because if I could get the bike up to a nice cruising speed, it seemed mostly happy as long as I didn't stop. Really wish I had that bigger gas tank (currently on order) already installed. Stopping for gas every 80-100 miles and praying the gremlins don't catch me sucks. However, I hadn't really eaten anything all day, so a stop by Smokin Good BBQ in Bethel, ME on Rte 2 hit the spot. As a native NC country boy, I can say the pig was pretty good. Tender, moist and plentiful. A friend of mine at work had been raving about this place for a while, so I was looking forward to it all weekend.



I rolled into the Twin Mountain KOA (online reservation FTW) around 7. Tyler, my escort to my campsite (!) asked about my bike and my plans and I mentioned I was probably going to cut my trip short tomorrow. He immediately offered to send over 'some people'. Uh.. ok. I admit to being part skeptical, part scared. 15 minutes later he came back with Clyde. Clyde works at the campground and is a longtime Harley guy. In the good way. We chatted for a bit and he agreed that changing the battery should be first on the list. Oh and by the way, there's a Walmart right over there - they carry motorsickle batteries, and they're open all the time. No shit! I didn't even consider Wallyworld. Clyde generously offered to run me over there and after a requisite amount of 'no, you don't have to do that', I gratefully accepted his offer. Just had to meet him at the Ice Cream Social in 15 minutes. Yes, the Ice Cream Social. So I yanked the battery (again) and headed over to hitch a ride with Clyde, high on ice cream. On the 20 minute ride over, Clyde told me of his long distance riding style. 1100 miles in one day last year. Wow! This year, he's shooting for 1500 in 24 hours. Will need to average 80 mph. To each his own, and I wish him the best of luck, but that is not for me.


Powerless Sportster. You in the back, shush with the Harley jokes.

We arrived at Walmart and of course, they didn't have the battery I need. It didn't even look like they carry the battery I need. There was one that kinda measured about the same, but… it's a tight fit in there, and will it even work? Customer service called another Walmart (in Littleton) to see if they had the battery. Sure do, they say. Clyde wanted to head over there, but I couldn't stand to chew up any more of his time. What a nice guy. He even offered to let me take his bike the next morning if I didn't trust mine. And when we got back to the campground, he refused to take any money for gas. 'Just help somebody else out sometime, and maybe it'll get back around to me someday.' You got it, brother.

A quick shower and a phone call to say goodnight to the love of my life, then off to bed. I was awakened in the middle of the night by an intense thunderstorm. My first thought? Oh damn. My riding jacket and pants are on the picnic table. Tomorrow's gonna be a swampy day.

Day 2. A mixed bag. 299 miles.
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Old 06-02-2011, 08:12 AM   #3
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Day 3

The next morning I took a little longer to break camp than usual, because I didn't really have more of a plan than 'Go to Walmart, buy a battery, see if my problem reoccurs' and also because I was hoping my gear left in the rain would dry out. It did a little. After a quick goodbye to my new pal Clyde, I headed off to Walmart in Littleton. Their battery isle looked suspiciously identical to last night's scene in Gorham. Uhoh. I asked someone who came over and verified that they didn't have my battery. And it looked like they don't even carry it. AGGHH! The nice gentleman recommended a few auto parts shops in town I should try. Thanks. VIP Auto, no luck. Plenty of other MC batteries, but not mine. Some other place I can't remember the name of - closed. Napa - closed.



The entire time I was riding around cruising for battery, the problem was not present at all. Bike was running great. But I still didn't trust it, and didn't plan on heading too far off the beaten path or too far away from home. Also, at this point (Monday) NOAA was predicting that Lake Champlain would crest Monday night, leading to wide scale flooding in northwestern VT, including Grand Isle - my original destination for Monday. This was clearly not meant to happen. So here was my new plan: point myself south and head home via scenic, fun, but mostly direct routes. Spend my already-claimed vacation day tomorrow getting a battery for the bike and trying to make sure it fixed the problem. But before I did that, I decided I might as well call Harley dealerships in the area to see if they're open. Harley dealerships are known for having pretty much 9-5 business hours, and being closed on Mondays altogether. Meredith, NH - Closed. Barre, VT - Closed. Then I called Granite State HD in Lebanon, NH - and someone answered the phone! I stumbled for a second, expecting the friendly greeting I heard to be followed by something like 'we're closed, too bad for you'. Turns out they're open until 6. Perfect. New plan - head to Lebanon.



I always feel out of place at Harley dealers. My Sporty is well, only barely a Harley, and the chrome is pitted and scratched, and my bike hasn't been washed in a year. Then there's my full face helmet & full riding gear among the doo-rag donning tough guys. Mostly I just feel like an oddity, and almost never do I get treated badly because of it, but it is an odd scene. I think I earned back from this crowd some of the respect lost to choosing protective gear by showing up with all the tools I need to pull my bike apart in the parking lot. Service department - no thanks.

When I got to GSHD, I turned the bike off. Then turned back on to see if the problem manifested. Now, when the battery on my bike is connected, the gauges make this slight 1-second swooshing sound and bounce just a little as they're getting power. When I turned the key back on, the gauges starting doing this and wouldn't stop. Ignition off, gauges stopped. Ignition on, swooshy, bouncy gauges. I decided I better get that battery disconnected quick. As soon as I touched a wrench to the grounding stud, it stopped. Then back to normal behavior. Okay, so maybe the grounding strap deserves replacement too. Turns out when I pulled the battery, the grounding strap had a little nick on the underside. Maybe that was touching the frame and creating a ground loop? Can bikes have ground loops? I thought that was only an AC phenomenon… Anyway, something about it wasn't right, so I bought a new battery and grounding strap, plus some dielectric grease (belt AND suspenders) and spent the beautiful afternoon installing them. I could practically hear the questions of 'what's the guy in the funny pants doing to that girl's bike?' :-P A couple people came by to make sure I had all the tools I needed, a couple just out of curiosity. Friendly folks up this way. Oh, and oddly, they charged me $5 to dispose of the battery. Isn't it normal to charge you if you *aren't* swapping them an old battery? The parts guy was apologetic and said he didn't really understand it either - probably a delivery fee or something.



As an added benefit, it was gorgeous and sunny by this point, and my wet riding gear laid out in the sun was mostly dry! With the battery back in the bike and everything wired up, I aimed south-ish on the GPS, looking for the bumpiest roads I could find. And I found some bumpy ones. Thankfully, everything seemed to work just fine. 4a, 114, some other smaller roads that I can't remember, Roby Rd (?) into Manchester! Oops, wasn't paying close enough attention to where I was and ended up in Downtown Manchester at 5:30pm. Too far east, so I headed back southwest out of town back into Massachusetts. Seemed fitting that after all the nice sights, the Welcome to Mass sign was tagged.



Hopped on route 2 in Fitchburg and made a bee line for Boston. Home by 8pm. No more bike troubles.

Day 3. Frustration. 267 miles. 934 mile 3-day total.

Day 4 was aborted due to flooding and gremlins. Instead I went to work, deciding to save my vacation day for another time. Even without it, it was a fun weekend. Saw some great roads and sights, got in some therapeutic alone time on the road, and hopefully fixed a nagging electrical issue with the bike. Just in case i'm planning on going over the electrical connections crammed under the seat and soldering anything that is currently using more temporary connections. I'll also clean up the grounding wires to various farkles (heated grips, GPS, outlets). I guess I won't know for sure until the next time I'm far from home.
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Old 06-02-2011, 04:44 PM   #4
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Old 06-02-2011, 05:06 PM   #5
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Great stuff. I don't think I would do well as a Harley guy as I like the way your girl's Harley is set up (except for the electricals).
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Old 06-03-2011, 06:35 AM   #6
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Great stuff. I don't think I would do well as a Harley guy as I like the way your girl's Harley is set up (except for the electricals).
Thanks. It's a work in progress - I have lots of upgrades planned for this summer - bigger tank, better luggage, working electrical system, higher seat, lights.
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Old 06-03-2011, 09:31 AM   #7
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the funny wood decked bridge is for snowmobiles....
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Old 06-03-2011, 10:16 AM   #8
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Right! Snowmobiles! Now *that* makes sense. Didn't even occur to me - once again showing that I'm not a native new-englander.
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Old 06-03-2011, 10:17 AM   #9
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Great write up, thanks for sharing. My buddy and I were up around you those same days- Black Rt and a black 06 1200R-- some nice riding over the mts outside Manchester to the East.

I'm curious about your extended tank you're getting- were they able to match the OEM Paint scheme on the Roadster- I'd also be curious to hear how much they're charging for those too..

After about 100miles on the Sporty it seems it's time to look for gas, and now I don't mind it due to a so-so seat/peg/bar positoin, but hoping to change those three and extend comfort time.
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Old 06-03-2011, 10:40 AM   #10
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I'm curious about your extended tank you're getting- were they able to match the OEM Paint scheme on the Roadster- I'd also be curious to hear how much they're charging for those too..
It's a HD part - 4.5 gal, color matched, therefore the long order time (6 weeks, they say) and somewhere around $650. It's supposed to match the other paint. We'll see. I didn't get to choose a badge/logo - hopefully it won't be too obnoxious. I like my current understated one, not so much a lot of others out there.

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After about 100miles on the Sporty it seems it's time to look for gas, and now I don't mind it due to a so-so seat/peg/bar positoin, but hoping to change those three and extend comfort time.
Yeah, I like to stop a lot too, but there's a difference between pulling over in the middle of nowhere because you need a break and frantically looking for a gas station in the middle of nowhere because you've already burned through the gas you just bought! I filled up 10 times this weekend, in 3 days and less than 1k miles. That's just dumb. But after about 80 miles on a trip like this, I start thinking every time I see a gas station - how far is the next one? Do I have enough gas to get to it? Do I want to risk it? The GPS helps for sure helps with it, but it's still annoying. I can't wait for the extended range.
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Old 06-03-2011, 10:46 AM   #11
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The 4.5gal tank is just such a good idea, but I'm afraid of throwing off the proportions of the bike- making it look 'top heavy' ... and I can't tell for sure what the logo/color scheme of the new tank will be from the dealer- I really like the banner style painted logo of the tanks we have now. Could you post up a picture of yours when you get it? It's kinda disheartening to me too that a 'reasonable' size tank will cost 10-12% of the value of the bike... ugg

BTW, while I'm asking, what's the windshield you've got? I'm using the HD Quick Detach one but it could use some 'refinement' and I'd like to try one a bit more aerodynamically correct similar to your set up--

AND- 'Rep' to you for doing 1k on that OEM Flat No-Support No-Cushion Seat....

Ride Safe, B.
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Old 06-03-2011, 11:29 AM   #12
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The 4.5gal tank is just such a good idea, but I'm afraid of throwing off the proportions of the bike- making it look 'top heavy' ... and I can't tell for sure what the logo/color scheme of the new tank will be from the dealer- I really like the banner style painted logo of the tanks we have now. Could you post up a picture of yours when you get it? It's kinda disheartening to me too that a 'reasonable' size tank will cost 10-12% of the value of the bike... ugg
Yeah, I'll definitely post some pics once I get the tank running. I agree the cost is frustrating, especially since the stocker is near unusable. I've had it with the peanut tank though. I get irritated everytime I stop for gas. I'm optimistic about the size looking okay, since some of the newer Sportsters come with 4.5 gal tanks stock (the Custom for sure, maybe other models).

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BTW, while I'm asking, what's the windshield you've got? I'm using the HD Quick Detach one but it could use some 'refinement' and I'd like to try one a bit more aerodynamically correct similar to your set up--
HD Sport Windshield. Not quick detach. I like it ok, though I think eventually I want one of the larger quarter fairings. Maybe a Rifle or Arlen Ness. Something that gives a bit more wind protection and surfaces to hide farkles. I like farkles.

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AND- 'Rep' to you for doing 1k on that OEM Flat No-Support No-Cushion Seat....
Heh. I actually have a plusher HD touring seat for when my wife is riding with me, but the shape isn't quite right - pushes me forward too much. Solo, this one is actually a little more comfortable. Neither is all that great though.
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Old 06-03-2011, 03:25 PM   #13
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Hey Pescatore... i never got away on our Victoria Day Weekend, up here in Canada.
Thanks for taking me along for the ride.

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Old 06-03-2011, 03:38 PM   #14
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Great story and pictures. Heck, in a bind. get some extra wire and tie a battery to the back seat. ;-) . Loved the days I spent running about that area for several days in the Summer of '02. Nice country.
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Old 06-03-2011, 04:09 PM   #15
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Hey Terry, Nova Scotia was actually my original plan for this past weekend, but I was worried I'd need a little more time to do it right. Hope to make it up there soon! You should def head to Northern Maine sometime for a ride though - should be a short trip for you, and well worth it.
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