Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cabinets 2009 Part Deux

Berlin Flats Campground

When Earl and I were up for our ride in the Cabinets back in June we dropped down out of the hills and actually hit pavement for about 25 feet. Just long enough to hang a hard right back onto the gravel of forest service road 412. We stopped to check the map to see where we ended up. I saw a sign a short way down the road and realized that we were about 7 miles from the town of Prichard Idaho and a few miles from a U.S. Forest Service Work Camp. We decided to head away from civilization following our practice for the week and wanted to gain some altitude again. On our way up the road I saw several campgrounds and noticed a lot of good places to camp and adventure during the day. A few miles into our ride and at about 5500 feet Earl and I came across snow and mud that was impassable and we ended up taking a different route and dropping into Heron MT. I vowed that I would be back and follow the road where it was covered with snow.

Where this picture is taken is the cutoff that headed up in altitude to Earl's and my ending point from the snow. This time though I could not be as careless since I had my friend Casey on his bad ass little KX65 and his mom Lisa (my woman of course) on her Polaris 4-wheeler. We followed the road all the way to Gem Pass. This put us at another crossroads that went 3 ways. Up to the top of 2 peaks and another back down into a beautiful valley. As my exploratory nature took over we headed up a hill into a area that had been badly burned by fire within the last year. What an eerie and dismal place. This finally turned into a road/trail of nothing but slate stone and shale. Not the easiest thing to ride on. By this point we were cresting 6000 feet and and Casey's two stroke 65 was not a happy camper at all. It was either all or nothing on the throttle. I adjusted the carb a few times and it ran better as I made adjustments. By the time we got to the top of this mountain we felt on top of the world. We had a gorgeous lookout over Montana and Idaho as we were riding the border. We ended up on Idaho Peak at 6508 feet. I know many people get to higher places but man what a feeling to share this with my friends.

We hung out here for a while and decided to drop down a bit and have lunch in a grassy area a little lower down. We finished the days adventure by following a few smaller roads back down to good old 412 and went back to the campsite. We had a nice spot just about 50 yards or so from the North Fork of the Couer D' Alene river which was running pretty good for August too. There was only one other group in the whole campground and they were all the way on the other side. Peaceful and quiet and really nice. We got up the next day and decided to head out once again but elected to go a different route down FS151 up to Porcupine Pass and once again the Idaho/Montana border. We made our way up to about 5500 feet or so and found it easier to stay below there so Casey's bike would run a little better. Both Casey's bike and Lisa's Polaris had minor issues during the day but were taken care of pretty easily. We road up and around several passes and followed small canyon edges. Adventured up roads that were supposedly closed to wide open forest roads that Casey and I could race down and really make his 65 scream. I guess it looked pretty humorous seeing us take off from behind with my KLR being so tall and the 65 so much smaller. I am really impressed with the power of that little Kawasaki. Next one will be a 4-stroke though.

We ended up riding about 100 miles in two days and was impressed how well Casey did keeping up. There is a lot of difference between my KLR and his KX as far as putting on miles. Lisa being on the 4-wheeler just hung on and enjoyed the scenery. She even pounded through a mud puddle or two like and old pro. We will be back up in the area again for sure. This time we will be there a little longer and find more neat places to see. Anyone want to join in?


Friday, July 24, 2009

Cabinets 2009

East Fork of the Bull River

My friend Earl and I have this affinity for the Cabinet Mts in Idaho and Montana. They are fairly close to home and just absolutely beautiful. The picture above is at about 5500 feet up on Gem peak just below the lookout tower. We could not get to the top because of some snow but we did hike to the top anyway.

Our adventure started out in Spokane WA and we headed east to Sandpoint ID. Enjoying the scenery that part of the country offers we continued east further towards a little town in Montana called Noxon. We headed north on hwy 56 off hwy 200 to my friends cabin located a ways off the highway on the west side of Government Mt.

This is not a good picture of the cabin but it gives you the idea of what we were staying in. This cabin was built by a friend of mine over several years and it is very comfortable with all the amenities you could imagine. For the most part we cam back from riding the back roads and trails only to cook up some dogs on the fire and then crash on the cots in the loft resting up for the next day.

The first day of riding brought us all over the place with about 160 miles logged on everything from highway to forest service roads. We adventured to the top of every peak we could make our way to. Some of them still had snow and my favorite.......mud. Earls KLR is more oriented towards the street and has on Avon Grippsters. Those tires are about a 25% off road and 75% on road tire. Believe me it made for some amusing trail rides watching him go through snow and then mud and then snow all over again while the back end of his bike was whipping back and forth really fast. I started laughing so hard at one point he could hear me over the sound of the motorcycles and through helmets. We had to pull over and get it out of our system so we could continue. I have pretty aggressive knobbies and was having a blast tearing up the roads and trails.

After the first day of riding we convened at the cabin with out dogs and a nice cozy fire to relax by for the evening. We were sitting around the fire shooting a .22 and being the general noisy people we can be and in a short lull in the action we were amazed at how several deer approached the area around the cabin. I seem to recall about 5 of them and two were bucks. A 4 by 4 and a 3 by 3. Beautiful animals so close. One of the does actually walked all the way around the cabin munching on the soft grass for about an hour. All in all a relaxing evening.

The next day brought some really interesting adventure. It was the absolute best day of riding I have ever had. We rode the Idaho Montana border most of the day and came to Porcupine pass and dropped down into Idaho towards the town of Pritchard. We worked our way back up the hill and hit some snow about 5500 feet. It made for some interesting travel as we had to traverse this road with patches of snow with mud holes in between. We took most of the gear off the bikes and hiked it up to where we thought we would end up to load back up. I hopped my my bike and tore through the snow and mud grinning all the way. Now once again back to Earl and his less than knobby tires. We actually walked his bike through the woods a few times simply because it seemed safer to do with his KLR. Especially since his is an 08 and has a lot more fairing to damage. We worked through about 300 yards of this until we got to a point that we could not get any further no matter what. We back tracked about 100 yards and got on a road that lead towards the town of Heron MT. We got about 5 miles down the forest service road and as I cam around a corner Earl was stopped with a flat tire. Well we tried to be prepared and I had some slime and he had a CO2 pump for the air. OF all things he picked up a nail up there somehow. We pulled the nail, removed the stem, squeezed in the slime and used to CO2 pump. Up went the tire and we noticed that there were still leaks all over the tire. Uh Oh. We had 3 more cartridges so what we ended up doing was actually kind of fun. Well for me anyway. Earl rode as far as the air would remain in the tire and when I caught up I would lay on the road, hook up the CO2, pump the tire and Earl would tear off like he was on a NASCAR pit road. Needless to say we got about 2 miles from the town before we had to stop for fear of ruining the tire completely.

I am going to let Earl finish the flat tire part of this story as it becomes very amusing. Even a little bit of thievery involved. (there was a trade though)

The above picture is the next morning at the cabin where a convenient stump worked as a perfect bike stand. Earl had to ride my KLR about 90 miles to get his tire fixed.

There is so much I know I am forgetting to write about but all I know is I can't wait for next years adventure ride.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

You get what you deserve.

So I am going to veer off the course of my usual posts here and throw in a curveball. This post is a little personal much like my posts about my accident from a few years ago but I have found that I am in a comfort zone and able to jot a few things down.
Back in 1995 I met this girl who at the time was 19. We hit it off and somehow, someway, I fell in love and quit working in Alaska to spend more time with this person. About 5 years went by and I married her and what do you know but about 7 years later I had enough of many issues and went my own way.
I am now with a woman whom after all this yammering is the subject of my post. She started out as a friend whom I eventually started dating and turns out we are quite the couple. I was in a relationship that was not healthy and now that I am in a good trusting and most of all respectfull relationship I have no idea how I managed so long before.
This woman I am with is named Lisa and she has turned out to be one of the best friends I have ever had. I am comfortable telling her anything and knowing that she is not judgemental or in the least bit condecending about what I choose to do. Makes things a lot easier as far as being myself. For those of you that are in a healthy relationship you will understand. For the unfortunate few that are not I am sorry. All I can say is your time will come. I have never met a more accepting person and this is not to say I am difficult just that no matter how you look at things there will be a difference in how things are looked at simply because we are different sexes. Being different is not a bad things as long as you respect each others views. I have found that is one of the keys to a good relationship. Respect each other and it will take you a long ways. Advice from a guy who has been there and done that more than he cares to admit.
As a closing to this little personal post I just want to say. If you found something that works for you.....then run with it and make the best of what you have. You just never know.


The silly woman at the bottom of my blog is the one who has made me so happy for the last year. Thanks babe for the pose.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What the heck is a Doohickey?

So this past Saturday a local KLR rider hosted a tech day. My friend Earl Thomas was there with his camera as usual. Check it out here;

I ride a 2002 KLR 650 and for the most part it is one of the most reliable motorcycles available and has pretty much been the same bike from 1987 until 2007. Says a lot for the design and capability of the machine. I read an old Cycle World article recently from I believe 1991 that said the KLR was good at everything but not great at one particular thing. Basically an all around good bike. I really can't disagree as I have challenged myself on the thing and it still leaves me grinning from ear to ear.
The one downfall that the Kawi has is the cam chain tension adjuster. AKA the Doohickey. For some reason Kawasaki used two pieces welded together to make this adjuster and a really weak spring to retain tension. For some reason the doohickey "also referred to as the Doo" tends to break and can cause severe damage to the cam chain and other parts. When this tech day came about I figured it would be a good day to get this done and make sure everything was ok on the bike. Needless to say when I open up the left side of the stator housing and got to the Doo it was broken.

If you look at the picture and see the cam shaped adjuster at the bottom of the case you can see where it is supposed to be a whole piece that goes around the shaft. Not good in my book. We used a magnet and searched and dug all over the case looking for the broken piece but was not able to locate it. The spring for the tensioner had descent tension still but I replaced it and the Doo with a very high quality part from Eagle Mike. (Thanks Mike) Got the bike back together and fired it up to immediately notice a little less noise from the cam chain. Good day all in all and even got a little over a hundred miles logged by days end. Thanks to all who helped!

My broken Doohickey


Monday, April 27, 2009

Plate? What plate?

A few weeks ago I was out and about trying to find a few roads I had not been on with the KLR to explore and see what was around the next bend or up the next trail. I was running up and down a small back highway and just taking any dirt road or trail that I thought I could squeeze down and see where I ended up. I ended up coming across some trail that was off of a rail crossing and went down this odd trail that for some reason was paved with asphalt. It became obvious that it was an old rail bed by the look of all the crushed basalt next to the trail. The trail ended up going from dirt and asphalt a few times and I even slowed down to hit a few side trails until as usual around here I came across a no trespassing sign. A few miles into the trail I was going probably 50 mph or so and the trail turned in to dirt once again with a few whoops spaced apart so I could conveniently get in a rhythm and blip the throttle just right to get the front wheel up and cruise across. Being that I ride a KLR it is heavy and after a few times of these whoops I felt and heard the rear suspension bottom out. What I did not know at the time was that on one of the suspension bottomings the rear knobby tire came up and chewed a nice crescent shape out of the rear lower fender that my license plate is attached to. Needless to say I actually ran into a fish and game officer later who did not notice the plate missing but the sad thing is neither did I.
Two weeks go by and I am going out to do errands and low and behold no plate. I backtracked all over the place trying to locate my plate in hopes that I would not get pulled over in the mean time. No such luck on the plate. Oh well what's another ten bucks when I had such a good day of riding. If you look carefully at the bottom picture you can see where the tire took out the fender. The new plate is as high as possible while still being under the license plate light that is required in Washington State.
My chewed up inner fender

Monday, April 20, 2009

Maps - Yea I need one.

So being that I have Mondays off I like to get out and have a little me time. I saw the sun was out and hopped on the KLR and headed out the Palouse highway towards Freeman. I have lived up here in Spokane for the most part about 30 years and have seen Mica peak in the distance forever. It is said in this neck of the woods that you never plant your garden until the snow is melted off Mica peak. Mica peak is 5205 feet high and it has the local Doppler radar radome atop it. I have wanted to find my way up for years and as I left home elected to try and find a way up. I don't carry any maps on my bike and my handheld Garmin Etrex Legend is on the fritz. I figured no matter what I would have a good time trying to find my way up. My first attempt was going through the town of Mica itself and as I rode up every side road heading towards the peak off the main route from town I never got more than a mile or two before the road turned into a private road with no trespassing signs. What a bummer. I worked my way around the whole west side of the mountain until I got to the south side and finally found a road that seemed like it was a little promising. I followed the road for about 5 miles until it finally turned into the usual switchback you see on these kinds of roads. Gravel turned to dirt and inevitably the dirt turned to mud from the snow run off due to our record setting snowfall. Well I have a fairly knobby tire on the bike and it tractored it's way up the hill well until I came to a spot where it apparently was a driveway. I backtracked a bit and saw a better spot to go up but will have to wait for the snow to subside a little further. Needless to say I will be getting a map and using my GPS next time but I will find a way up that hill yet this year. It is amazing what a few hours on your bike can do for your outlook on life. I love it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

New vs.Old?

Ok so here is my opportunity to pretend that I am a big time magazine editor and have just gotten back from testing the newest model bikes and am sitting down to write out the article. My friend Earl and I met up and went for a nice little ride and he pulled over to ask if I wanted to trade rides for a few miles. I ride an 02 KLR650 and he has a 08 KLR650. Now for those that know these bikes they have been the same from 87-07 and the new 08 and up have new fairings, some cam and suspension tweeks. Like anything in this world we all make the things we own express our personallity a bit. My 02 is pretty close to stock it just has a few "farkles" ( KLR speak for mods) Different bars and grips and it is geared down a tooth on the front. I also have some fairly aggressive knobbies on it as well. Earls 08 looks like a beheamoth compared to mine especially since he has the aluminum panniers mounted. Other than that he has a tall windscreen for the cooler months and stock type rubber.
One of the first things I noticed as I climbed on his KLR was the more firm seat. Nice touch since I weigh 220. His bars are also further back and his grips must be a harder durometer rubber and a bit thinner. It also seemed to feel a bit lower as well. I am not sure if this is due to the fact he has his panniers full of things or that it is the result of Kawasaki lessening the suspension travel or the reduction in static sag dialed into the 08. So as I fire up the 08 all sounds and feels pretty much familiar until I go for the shifter. Diffferent placement and length. As we pull away the gearing difference is more than noticeable as I kill it like a 15 year old trying to drive his first stick car. We pull out on the highway and for the most part the power feels the same but it immedietely strikes me how much smoother it is with the Avon grippster tires on. We move along down the highway at 55 and the tall windscreen is a noticeable improvement as well as the larger fairings all together. I was also able to feel the wind pulling at the panniers behind my legs. For the most part I could tell I was riding the same motorcycle just with a few improvements. Overall I was actually looking forward to getting back on mine since it is comfortable to me and has a little more of a dirt bike feel with the small fairing and minimal wind protection. Just seems to be my style. I guess the only thing I may change on my KLR would be the seat for starters and then maybe find a way to get a little better light out of it. Good experience overall. Thanks Earl.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My new too me scoot

Well since I have had this blog most of my posts have been about my job. I strayed a little from this in December when I decided to put down a very personal post about a tragic incident that happened back in 99. Well as the title states "Random Thoughts" I figure I will throw in a little two wheeled blog about a recent day.
Back in March of 2008 I got a call from my friend many of you know as Earl. He had a tone in his voice I recognized as excitement. He had just purchased a 2008 KLR 650 in green. I knew a little about the bikes and had more than once engaged in a conversation with him about what a good bike it would be to have. Well finally after wanting one for about 20 years he had one. When I finally got to see it I was amazed at how large it looked for a dual sport type bike. Anyway as I watch him get more into his adventures with his KLR and his continued "farkling" which is a term used a lot on for modifying your KLR I could not help myself but see what this dang bike was all about. So on Saturday March 7th I found me a 2002 model and picked it up. Kind of a humbling experience when you ask your friend(once again Earl) to ride your new pride and joy home for you because you are working and actually have no motorcycle endorsement. I guess the way I look at it is that I would want no one else to take that first ride on my new cycle. When we get to the house he tells me it must be re-geared because of highway rpm but the best part is he said it rode very well.
So as typical in March around here when you want it to be nice it freakin snows. It took about two more weeks for the weather to be descent enough to hop on and take a ride. So.........for the first time in knowing Earl for the last almost 20 years we got to take a ride together on our own bikes. We had talked about this for years but were never able to make it happen due to the many issues that life throws out there. Not that it was any sort of epic ride by any means but I got to share it with a good friend.
I guess to be honest I just want to tell everyone that I now have a KLR of my own and am absolutely taken by the riding experience and also that I am looking forward to many many rides with Earl. (also my dad who has a HD Road King and said he wants to ride with me but good luck keeping up) HA!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Healing Process (cont)

So as we are in the ambulance speeding to God knows where in Kuwait City I refuse to lay down on a gurney for the trip. I was very uncomfortable at the time and did not want to feel even more so by getting into a bed while moving. Maybe I am stubborn but I refused. When we arrived at the hospital I could see the several other ambulances that had brought others from the crash as well. I was put into a wheelchair and wheeled into the ER and the uncomfortable feelings strengthened as I was being seriously watched by the Kuwaitis. We went to a waiting room and I was there for a while until they got me in for x-rays. After the x-rays I was seen by a Kuwaiti Dr. that had very and I mean very limited english. Not that I expect him to know english it is just frustrating. After a ten minute exam he tells me I have a contusion in my back and sends me away. I get up out of the chair and feel the pain shoot once again but in my head I say it is a bruise and go about my business of trying to find someone to get me to my base and around some people I knew. While walking down the hall I saw a few of the other accident victims and talked to two guys whom I knew had not been injured but were with a Captain who had collapsed. I am able to find a way to get a hold of one of my superiors and to be honest I don't remember much about the next few hours since they handed me some pills from a blister pack and said take every 4 hours. Anyway a few hours later I am at Al-Jaber Air Base and was put in front a Lt. Colonel. The time was somewhere around noon and I was told I needed to call home and talk to my family since the accident was getting ready to hit the news. I told them it was midnight at home and that they would be asleep and not see the accident until later. I was instructed once again to call and I did. When I called and as all you parents know that if you child calls in the middle of the night there is a problem. So my mom answers and I tell her kind of fast and vaguely that I was in an accident and I am ok. I explained I did not know what really happened at the time and that my back was hurt but at least I was alive. I told my mom that I would call my girlfriend the next morning and for her to wait until I did that before she talked to her. Anyway I get a little sleep and call the girlfriend a few hours later which might have been about 10am here in Washington. Finally later that day I get a notice from my Commander that he wanted to see me. I go see the Commander of the base and he talks to me for like ten minutes telling me what a hero I am and that the base is going to do everything they can to help me and the others from the accident. He offers to send me back to NC instead of stay there for the 90 days. I think about it for a few minutes and decide that I would like to be home for the tour. Later that day once again I get called and have to do a debrief meeting with all the other victims and we spent a few hours talking about what we saw and heard on the C-130. It was nice to talk to these people but I was not able to really talk like I wanted to. That did not happen until later when I was able to get through to my friend who is a pilot (Earl). I finally got some relief by being able to explain to him what happened and not speak in lay mans terms about flight terms. Anyway he was the only one as well that I was fully able to tell things to since he was a friend not family that I did not feel i needed to protect from the real situation and how bad it was. ( good friends can never be replaced ) Two days later I am notified that we are going back to the airport to have a small memorial for the deceased Airman and we get to the flight line and are told that our beloved A-10s are going to fly over and do a missing man formation. I am very excited until a Chaplain who is a Colonel comes to the podium where we are getting ready to honor fallen Airman and he says over a loud speaker to go ahead and "just hang out in a loose con flab". At this point I am literally saying "what the fuck"! This is how we are showing respect. It was at that moment I realized that since we were not shot down or that the accident was not caused by an enemy that this was no big deal to the Air Force. So as I am standing there in disbelief I here the distinct sound of the A-10 coming and as a lot of us did I snapped to attention and when the Warthog flew over and the missing man went skyward. ( those that have seen this understand) After the fly over the Colonel says a few words and thanked us for coming. What a sad, sad day. So a few days later I am put on in a truck and driven back to Kuwait City International with an Airman that broke his ankle. I was put in charge of him since I was ranking and when we got dropped off at the airport and walking out onto the tarmac to get on a KC-10 we had to walk right by the wreckage. Imagine a C-130 with no landing gear sitting on pallets and gaping holes in the sides. Not an easy thing to have all those thoughts flood back in such a short time. An image I will retain forever. So after a nightmare 20 hour flight back to Baltimore I end up renting a car to get us home. Felt great to get there but I was in such pain in the next few days I could not even drive to the Dr.
A few months later when Sgt. Bolin got back I spoke to him and he related a story of the crew members who were with the Captain that night. He was told that when the ambulance arrived at the hospital they wheeled the Capt. into the ER and when they got the a room the Dr.s pronounced him dead and walked away. Not once did they attempt to resuscitate him or restore his heart beat. He had only been out of consciousness for about 10 minutes and they spent no time working on him. I come to find out later that a para rescue team had been called from the base to assist us but were called back before they arrived. These crew members who were trained on CPR worked on the Capt for 15 minutes until they were ordered to leave the hospital. Sickening, this just makes me sick to think that happened.
As for the next 6 months I am doing physical therapy and going to a Dr. They give me the ole military pill of 800 Motrins and some Tylenol 3s to help me get by. I spent months asking for an MRI to really find out my issues. I eventually get to see a joint Dr. (can't recall what they are called) and he discovers my sacroiliac joint is dislocated. ( This is a cartilage joint in your pelvis) Some treatment later and I am finally getting some relief.
A few months after my accident I am watching the news when the USS Cole was bombed and a few days later was again watching the news when they showed the honor guard removing the bodies of the dead Navy and Marine guys and lost it. I was so angry that the treatment the people received from the Air Force because it turns out it was pilot error that caused the accident. I will never be able to forgive the Air Force for this. Every soldier deserves the respect due no matter how or why they passed.
So about 6 months later I am up with my time and I get my discharge and head home to Washington. I file for VA Disability and they send me in to finally get the MRI. Turns out I have bad disks at L-4 and 5 and S-1 and 2. Pretty low in my back but still pain full. Why did they not do this months ago? I will never know.
So now here I am about 10 years later and I am living with back pain daily but I am thankfully able to function pretty much normal but still have issues now and then. The thought crosses my mind on a daily basis and the anger over the pilot gets easier to deal with too. I recently met someone who put something out there to me one day when I was telling her how angry I was at the pilot for his error and that he got off almost scott free for killing people. She said I have every right to be angry but something to think about. She said to put myself in his shoes and imagine what he must have to live with and isn't that punishment? I can never thank her enough for giving me that point of view.(Thanks Lisa)
Also to my friend Earl who was always available to talk to about it like a true friend does. An empathetic ear is always nice.