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Old 07-21-2013, 04:30 PM   #46
mcgarrett OP
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Day 16 - July 7, 2013
Chelmsford, Massachusetts, to Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
~300 miles


Day 16

The weather forecast called for another scorcher everywhere I'd be riding today, so I wanted to get an early start. I also wanted to do a quick run, and I found out from the desk clerk that there was a rail-trail right nearby. I did about three miles, showered, ate breakfast, loaded up, gassed up, and hit the road by around 7:30am.

I hoped to avoid the superslab as much as possible, but that wasn't practical for the first few hours. I took I-495 south to I-90 west, had a brief GPS-induced detour in Chicopee, and then hopped onto secondary roads near the Berkshires. I encountered a lot of holiday traffic on all the roads, and the temperature was in the upper 80s approaching mid-day. I crossed the Hudson River at Catskill, New York, and made the fateful mistake of getting on I-87 south. I planned to exit near Kingston and take Rt. 209 almost all the way to Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, but I-87 was a parking lot with people heading towards the New York City area. I slogged my way through the traffic and eventually reached my exit for Rt. 209. The scenery was a small consolation for the heat and melee of returning vacationers.

Day16-17a

Day16-17b

Just before the small town of Wurtsboro, traffic came to a complete stop. We finally inched our way ahead, and I saw the remnants of a wrecked BMW RT series bike in the intersection. I couldn't tell from the scene how the rider had fared, but it was a sobering reminder to maintain my situational awareness, especially when my thoughts are on the deteriorating sprocket/chain and getting home.

While waiting to get through the accident scene, I saw some scary lightning bolts and dark clouds ahead. This weather calamity was moving towards me as I was moving towards it, and I pulled over to zip up my jacket and pants just in time. In the blink of an eye, I rode into a wall of blowing rain and very limited visibility. I'd swapped out my scratched pinlock visor for the stock one in Digby, and it was quickly fogging up. I cracked it open a few millimeters, slowed down to a safe speed, and then felt the painful impact of hail hitting me. I was looking for a safe place to pull over when the storm passed by as quickly as it had rolled in. Just ahead, I saw road flares, emergency services vehicles, and the disaster movie-like scene of a power pole and line in flames. It would have made for a great picture, but I thought it best to get out of there before they shut the road completely. That was probably a good choice, because several power company trucks sped by me in the opposite direction heading towards the calamity.

Rt. 209 runs through the Delaware Gap National Recreation Area just across the Pennsylvania border, which is a very nice ride. I'm sure the Recreation Area contains some scenic and interesting diversions, but I was really hot and there were a ton of people recreating, so I proceeded through at the maximum allowable speed.

I hit a lot of traffic just before East Stroudsburg, and my route required getting on I-80 west for one exit. I'm glad I wasn't heading east, because it was an absolute parking lot, much like I-87 was earlier. I pulled into the Hampton Inn in Stroudsburg and again managed to secure VIP parking under the awning at the front entrance. I tightened the chain for what I hoped would be the last time, showered, and walked into town for a passable non-Subway meal (cheese pizza, very light on the cheese, please). When I left the restaurant, the roads were soaked from a storm that must have passed by while I was eating. Some very dark clouds were still on the horizon, though they seemed to be moving away.

Day16-17d

Day16-17e

Tomorrow would be the last day of this adventure. I programmed a route into the GPS that went through the ghost town of Centralia, a place I'd read about and wanted to visit for quite a while. From there I planned to ride directly to my regular mechanic, George, at Beemers uber Alles in Manassas and catch a ride home with my wife for the final 14 miles.

Should be an easy day, right? No need to wait for the final installment; it's right below.

Day 17 - July 8, 2013
Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, to Manassas, Virginia
~288 miles


Day 17

I was on the road early taking I-80 west to I-81 south. Traffic was fairly light and the weather was mild, both welcome changes from the past two days. The trip to Centralia would be about 78 miles, and I exited I-81 near Hazleton for 40 minutes of rural backroads. For those unfamiliar with Centralia, the Wikipedia entry is worth a quick read:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centralia,_Pennsylvania

This Radiolab podcast also gives an excellent overview of the Centralia story:

http://www.radiolab.org/2010/oct/08/

I'd read a few Ride Reports involving Centralia, and some of the authors had been underwhelmed by the ghost town. I set my expectations low for what I'd encounter, and I was pleasantly surprised by the surreal and post-apocalyptic vibe. I saw the characteristic objects associated with housing subdivisions: streets, curbs, driveways, and fire hydrants. Everything except for houses, people, and cars. It really is a ghost town.

Day16-17g

Day16-17h

Day16-17i

Day16-17j

Day16-17k

I rode up to one of the well-maintained cemeteries in town where you can occasionally see smoke from the coal mine fire rising from cracks in the ground. No smoke today, but you can almost feel this living and breathing fire doing its thing just below you.

Day16-17o

Day16-17p

Visitors to this part of Centralia should tread lightly, because cave-ins and toxic gases aren't unheard of.

I made my way to the abandoned stretch of Rt. 61 that used to go through the town. It's pretty inaccessible unless you approach by foot or have an ATV or adventure bike. I navigated through some puddles and over a dirt mound and found myself on a graffiti highway.

Day16-17q

Day16-17r

Day16-17t

The road is treacherous in spots, with huge cracks and openings in the pavement, so I advise caution if you're riding through on two wheels. The abandoned stretch of road runs about 3/4 of a mile before rejoining the new Rt. 61. I made my way back over to I-81 south and proceeded towards Harrisburg, bypassing it via I-83. From there, I hopped on Rt. 15 south, gassed up in Gettysburg because my auxiliary tank was still acting up, and made an uneventful ride to Beemers uber Alles. I had called George, and he was expecting me when I arrived at 1:30pm.

Day16-17v

I went through the laundry list of issues with George, stripped all the gear from the bike, and finished the adventure in the air conditioned comfort of a MINI Countryman.

Full set of pics for Days 16 and 17:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/9861969...7634573812814/

Final Thoughts

When one undertakes an adventure like this, I think it's a good idea to remember the words of Sun Tzu, paraphrased here in an altogether different context: "Know your bike and know yourself." The corollary from Inspector Harry Callahan of the San Francisco PD is also helpful: "A man's got to know his limitations." As a result of experiences in my professional life over the years and my participation in endurance sports, I had a very good sense of what it was like to push myself out of my comfort zone and still function capably. I also knew how much I could push myself before reaching what I call a commonsense safety threshold. I say this to make the point that I avoided pushing through that safety threshold on my adventure, even though the opportunities existed to do so. I stopped for the day when I felt it was necessary, I slowed down when the conditions called for it, and I avoided falling into the trap of proceeding forward at all costs, much like the "summit fever" that afflicts some who attempt to climb Mt. Everest. The closest I came to that safety threshold was the final push to Red Bay. Everyone who rides knows that motorcycles are an inherently risky undertaking. Adventure riding ups the ante, but one can still have a full and enriching adventure by reasonably managing these risks.

As for knowing my bike, I definitely came up short here. I'd had limited on-road experience with the X-Challenge and even less off-road. I also lacked a good understanding of how to fix problems on the bike. I'd grown spoiled by riding new bikes in tame urban and suburban environments and hadn't taken the time to learn the fundamentals of motorcycle repair. I'll remedy that before the next adventure.

Rating my gear:

- Arai XD-4 helmet - Generally comfortable, but a little noisy. The pinlock visor works well when it maintains its seal and isn't scratched.
- Sena SMH10-11 Bluetooth - A part of my daily commute and worked well.
- Klim Badlands Pro jacket and pants - I'd call this a good three-season suit, with the exception being summer. It vents well, but anything over 80 degrees is going to be uncomfortable. Anything over 90 will be unbearable.
- Klim Hydrapak - Good capacity and easy to use while riding.
- Sidi Adventure Gore-Tex boots - Lived up to its billing as waterproof, but a bit hot over 85 degrees.
- Held Air N Dry gloves - Not as much "Air" as I would have liked, but the Gore-Tex chamber was fairly waterproof.
- Held Warm N Dry gloves - Good waterproof gloves for temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees.
- Gerbing’s GLT5 heated gloves - Good for dry conditions below 50 degrees.
- Gerbing’s heated jacket liner - I used it when the temperatures were below 50 degrees, and it kept my core warm.
- Buff neck cover - Worked as advertised.

Rating my bike: The X-Challenge as I configured it was very well-suited for the Trans Lab Highway, but it sacrifices some comfort on the superslab.

- Various Touratech protection farkles - I didn't have to test them, but I was glad to know I had them in case.
- Touratech pannier racks and steel subframe - They seem to have worked fine.
- Hyperpro rear shock and fork springs - Handled the off-road and gravel well.
- X-Tank - Worked well for most of the trip before experiencing issues the last few days. Still waiting to hear what caused the problem.
- BMW Navigator IV GPS - What can one say about a GPS unit? When it works, it's great. When it sends you on a crazy detour, it stinks.
- Rotopax 1-gallon gas container - Good design and served its purpose.
- BMW low seat - Just terrible for anything over 30 miles.
- John Deere tool tube (manual canister) - It was a good last-minute idea, but I'm leaning towards a proper skid plate tool box for the future.
- Pro Screen Dakar windscreen - A must for the superslab and protection from flying debris on the TLH.
- Woody’s Excel A60 wheels - Solid from start to finish.
- Continental TKC80 front tire - Great on gravel, reasonable on pavement. Decent wear.
- Heidenau K60 Scout rear tire - Same as above for TKC80.
- Adventure Spec Magadan pannier bags - One has to decide if the trade-off for soft bags vs. hard cases is worth it. They worked well, but they're a hassle to load and unload each day if you're carrying a lot of stuff. Also, I've noticed some minor de-stitching in a few spots, and I'm considering exchanging them for new ones.
- Kriega US-30 tail bag - Good design, waterproof, and easy to mount.
- Giant Loop Diablo tank bag - Just "water resistant" unless you seal the seams. I didn't, and I found that water got in pretty easily. Put your items in a ziplock bag if you want them to stay dry.
- Sea to Summit compression dry sacks - Definitely a failure for what I tried to do with them. Road debris caused some perforations in the waterproof material, and they might not be well-suited for most motorcycle applications. Returned to REI.

Rating the TLH: I'd rate some segments as an 11, using the Nigel Tufnel Scale of Superlatives. So much of it depends on the state of the road and weather conditions. We got lucky with the weather for most of the TLH days, but the gravel was still very tricky in spots. The speeding big rigs added to the need for complete situational awareness and mental focus. I'm sure that seasoned off-roaders will find the experience less challenging than I did, but I think the TLH still qualifies as a proper adventure: an exciting or remarkable experience.

I drew inspiration for this adventure from a number of sources: Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman (somewhat wealthy adventure riders), Neil Peart (lyricist and drummer for a small Canadian garage band), Yermo Lamers (rider/writer/philosopher/coach), and those who went before me and prepared excellent Ride Reports. Thanks also to my wife for encouraging me to do it, to Chris for being a great riding partner, and to those who helped me along the way. If you're thinking about doing the TLH, stop thinking about it, and make it happen!

TLH2013

mcgarrett screwed with this post 07-21-2013 at 04:36 PM
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Old 07-21-2013, 05:25 PM   #47
Doug329
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Thanks again for the entertaining and informative ride report. Glad you made it safely.

Your evaluation of all your equipment was good, and not seen in ride reports as often as I should. Info. like that is what better prepares someone for a similar adventure.

It would be interesting to hear what all the Tech at BMW finds with your fuel system, and your electrical problems.

Thanks again, Job well done.
Doug
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Old 07-21-2013, 05:30 PM   #48
barko1
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Congratulations on taking on the challenge. Your experience level has grown considerably and you'll be better prepared for future challenges on the moto or elsewhere in life. It did drive me crazy that you didn't directly go and get that chain/sprocket issue addressed. If that chain flies off it can do bad things.

I was on the TLH a few weeks ahead of you but in my truck camper with the wife and two dogs. I kept on eye on the road surface with the bike in mind, those construction areas seemed to be the biggest challenge. We were ahead of the bugs, no fires, but Lab City had no power to run the fuel pumps the day we got there, had enough to get to Churchill Falls. Saw a low of 32 degrees, avoided heat. Camped along the road every night, saw a few bears, a fox with a rabbit in his mouth, and a bunch of porcupines. Met great people and encourage people to get up there before it is all paved and too much civilization takes over. Suggested read: Braveheart or anything about the 1903 Hubbard expedition of Labrador. Thanks for the report!
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Old 07-22-2013, 08:14 AM   #49
monnomania
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Nice Job Michael

Bummer about the chain....you get to chalk that up to experience and know that you will be ready for it in the next go-around.

I think you should be proud of this achievement. You did well.

Chris
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Old 07-22-2013, 08:15 AM   #50
monnomania
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MY learning lesson

One, probably the most important, of the After-Action Learning Lessons we must acknowledge is that the decision to go should NOT be lightly taken. None of the RRs I have read discuss this point.

The Trans-Lab is, whether it is paved or not, far from anywhere; meaning help. If you don't know yourself, have a minimum motorcycle competence or have mechanical autonomy it is not extreme to say that you endanger yourself and risk those around you.

There are more than a few RRs with photos of broken bones and helicopter rescues...we were lucky and had great weather to help us along.
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Old 07-22-2013, 07:15 PM   #51
IgoFar
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Excellent ride report! It's possible that we crossed paths. We did the same ride, except we left on the 28th, crossed into Canada in Calais, Me. on 7/1, and made the run counterclockwise. I recognized some of the landmarks, such as that lobster shack by the bridge in Maine, we stopped there too. We probably saw the same icebergs in Red Bay and outside of L'Anse aux Meadows.

We were not sure if we were going to be able to ride the Trans Lab because of the fires. In St. Anthony, we ran into a group of five riders from Texas who were making the same trip. They told us that the road was closed, and a Mounty confirmed it. They turned around. We rolled the dice and crossed over and everything worked out okay. It was an awesome trip. A true adventure.
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Old 07-25-2013, 02:26 PM   #52
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The patient has been released from the hospital and is ready for a new adventure.



Thanks to everyone for your kind words.
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http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=903321

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Old 07-25-2013, 03:01 PM   #53
Trane Francks
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcgarrett View Post
The patient has been released from the hospital and is ready for a new adventure.
Looking forward to following you along on the next one!
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Old 07-25-2013, 03:41 PM   #54
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Originally Posted by mcgarrett View Post
The patient has been released from the hospital and is ready for a new adventure.



Thanks to everyone for your kind words.
Great ride report! I am writing out of genuine concern about the photo you posted of the new chain and sprocket. It looks extremely tight to me in the picture. Your bike may have a different spec than what I am used to but there can be serious problems caused by having a chain too tight. Usually as the suspension travels through its range the chain will tighten more than when the suspension is unloaded. Too tight of chain can excessively load the output (sprocket) shaft bearing causing bearing failure and/or oilseal failure. It is hard on the rear wheel bearing and can prematurely wear the chain and sprockets. The chain needs a certain amount of slack travel. Your owners manual or a service manual can give this spec to you. A loose chain is much less damaging than an overly tight one.

Best Regards and Ride Safe.....justjeff
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Old 07-25-2013, 04:32 PM   #55
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Great ride report! I am writing out of genuine concern about the photo you posted of the new chain and sprocket. It looks extremely tight to me in the picture. Your bike may have a different spec than what I am used to but there can be serious problems caused by having a chain too tight. Usually as the suspension travels through its range the chain will tighten more than when the suspension is unloaded. Too tight of chain can excessively load the output (sprocket) shaft bearing causing bearing failure and/or oilseal failure. It is hard on the rear wheel bearing and can prematurely wear the chain and sprockets. The chain needs a certain amount of slack travel. Your owners manual or a service manual can give this spec to you. A loose chain is much less damaging than an overly tight one.

Best Regards and Ride Safe.....justjeff
Thanks Jeff. I just checked, and it's about 1" unloaded, which I'm pretty sure is the spec. I know George knows his stuff, and he's very meticulous about getting everything right with the servicing. I will keep an eye on it, though.
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Old 07-25-2013, 04:49 PM   #56
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Thanks Jeff. I just checked, and it's about 1" unloaded, which I'm pretty sure is the spec. I know George knows his stuff, and he's very meticulous about getting everything right with the servicing. I will keep an eye on it, though.
Good to hear!
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Old 07-26-2013, 09:00 AM   #57
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Funny, my first thought when seeing the pic was also, "That looks too tight."

See what BMW specifies for that bike. 1" is much tighter than dual sports usually call for, due to the amount of suspension travel. Typically it's more like 1.5" or so. I would tend to leave it a little loose, just in case.

--mark
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Old 07-26-2013, 09:21 AM   #58
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Yup yup...

Yes.... you'll have the tightest chain when the Countershaft sprocket-Swingarm axle bolt- Rear axle bolt all line up in a straight line.
At this point you'll want about a 1/2" slack... (at the center of the span between Countershaft sprocket and Rear axle) on my bike this is 24" or just under the passenger footpeg.
I used a strap and tightened down the suspension until I acheived this.
On my bike this 1/2" slack in this compressed state (much like a loaded bike hitting a bump) equals 2-1/8"-slack in the chain when the suspension is completely unloaded.
Like leaning way over on the sidestand or when on a centerstand.
I run it between 2-1/8" and 2-1/4"...
Your bike will be somewhat different but not alot.

Peace,
Jim
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Old 07-27-2013, 03:32 AM   #59
monnomania
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Awesome

Great discussion on the chain...all good info to carry around on the next adventure.

Michael, what did you decide on the luggage conundrum?

You have more upgrades (or maybe downgrades) planned for the bike?

Chris
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Old 07-27-2013, 04:40 PM   #60
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Great discussion on the chain...all good info to carry around on the next adventure.

Michael, what did you decide on the luggage conundrum?

You have more upgrades (or maybe downgrades) planned for the bike?

Chris
Chris,

I found a way to attach a Kriega US-5 bag to the each side of the US-30 tail bag. I think they'll be a decent substitute for those dry sacks that got perforated by debris.

I'm still considering a skid plate tool box but haven't found the right one yet. That's about it as far as upgrades.

Michael
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