Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Destination in Time

Every couple of weeks or six, I'll pop down to Team Oregon headquarters on my day off to interrupt the girls in the office to chat, preventing them from getting any work done. I figure that if I'm not working on a Friday, neither should they.

During one impromptu visit, I was chatting with Rhonda at the reception desk and we got on the subject of covered bridges. I mentioned to her that Brandy and I were trying to get photos of our bikes in front of every covered bridge in Oregon. I told her how we would map out a route, pack a lunch and ride to the bridges to take photos. She thought this was a great idea and asked if I would write an article for the Team Oregon newsletter...

Destination in Time

Bradley and Brandy LawrieIn the motorcycling community we often hear an adaptation of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote “Life is a journey, not a destination” more so as “It’s not the destination, but the ride.” This holds true for many, and it is a great mantra when applied to riding solo. But what happens when our riding partner, whether a friend or spouse, poses the question “Where do you want to go”?
Where to go? But I thought it was about the ride? Ironically, I am guilty of asking that very question, putting the focus of the ride on the destination. For the answer, we check our calendar for any local events; many of us participate in motorcycle shows, charity rides or poker runs. Some of us live to ride and ride to eat, visiting quaint little cafes, delis or tiny eateries in neighboring counties, possibly hinting at an excuse to ride out to the coast.
But what if the journey was back in time, and the destination was 1928?
Oregon boasts the largest collection of covered bridges in the West. There are fifty covered bridges throughout the Willamette Valley, Southern Oregon and the Coast, including one in Portland and another in Central Oregon.
BridgeBridgeBrad and Brandy
To travel back in time I unfold a paper map, and with pencil in hand, stitch together a route consisting of two or three covered bridges while my wife packs a tasty picnic lunch. Then, with our time machines fueled, we set off.  We’re not in a hurry; we leave the GPS at home, our cell phones are shut off and stowed down deep in our saddlebags, as not to upset or perhaps change the delicate time-space continuum. 
Arriving at our first destination, we slowly ride across the bridge, listening to the large timbers creak, feeling the planks ever so slightly stress beneath our tires. We ride out the other end of the bridge to park under a shade tree and shut off our bikes. There is a hush as we remove our helmets, and without talking we acknowledge that we are indeed back in time. No one is around, there isn’t any traffic, our bike engines “tink, tink, tink” as they cool in the shade of the trees. The birds are chirping over the burble of the creek below. Listen carefully, a horse in the distance responds to our presence. The rustling of leaves beneath our feet transports both of us to our younger days as kids playing in the woods. 
Holding hands, we stroll back under the privacy of the sheltered trusses to steal a kiss, as is customary during our visits. You see, not only were covered bridges known for protecting travelers from storms, as well as used to hold dances, parties and town hall meetings, they also protected lovers from sight and became known as "kissing bridges.”
They were built to preserve the bridge decks and trusses from the rain, preventing slippery bridge decks and lasting much longer than standard open wooden bridges. They were even designed and painted to look like barns, so as not to scare horses as they pulled wagons across.
We tote our picnic lunch down to the water, then sit and enjoy quiet conversation. Before leaving to visit the next stop on our route, we take a photo of our bikes in front of the bridge. Eventually, we hope to get photos of our bikes in front of all fifty covered bridges in Oregon.
More detail for where to find these tranquil spots can be found on my blog, Troubadour on a Tiger. And if you see our bikes parked near a covered bridge, remember to mind the paradoxes of time travel.

We still have several bridges to get, now that the weather is starting to cool off, we shall.
Hope you enjoyed the article, I certainly enjoyed writing it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

VTO? Okay!

Last Friday I wanted to replace the chain and sprockets on the Tiger, but I was struggling to get the counter sprocket off so I called up my bestest buddy Polar Bear and asked for help. He brought his impact driver, but my little compressor just wasn't up for the task, this was going to take brute force. With a breaker bar, an extension pipe and some muscle it came loose! Never let fear and common sense stand in your way. We fiddled and finessed the adjusters until we felt it was straight and snugged everything up. Thanks Andy, she rides like a new bike!

He mentioned he wanted to swing by the bicycle shop, I'm always up for checking out bikes so we hopped on our Tigers and rode downtown. We ambled through one bicycle shop, then another, and another and then another. I've been looking for a new bike for a couple of years now, but just couldn't find the right one... until now. The second shop we strolled into, there she was, all alone in the back storage room. Since it was the end of the day and we were in full motorcycle gear, I told the bike guy I'd come back Saturday for a test ride.

Needless to say, Trobairitz and I both took our new bikes out for a tootle on Sunday.


It is a bit slow at work, so management implemented voluntary time off (VTO). Monday morning they went through the list of employees in each department, asking if anyone wanted to take the day off. It wasn't long before half the crew went home for the day, then that afternoon they went through the rest of the list asking us if we wanted Tuesday off.

I wouldn't have to get up early, the weather forecast predicted decent weather and I have several projects at home that I could get started on.

Or...  I could go for a ride.

Guess who still has several projects at home?

Bald Hill is just out our back door, and within a half hour of heading out this morning I was texting Brandy from the top. A text was my best option as I was too out of breath to talk over the phone.

Overlooking Philomath
It was a bit cool and overcast, but I was plenty warm and I certainly appreciated the cooler temperature.

Corvallis below
Switchback on the way up

Obligatory "backsisde of handlebar" shot

Obligatory flower shot with the handlebar backside.

I met and talked with a couple of other riders who recommended some other trails to check out. 

So off I went.... then my camera battery died.

 It was a great ride and sure beats loading trucks all day, I may have to call in sick Thursday ;)

- Troubadour on a Trek

Monday, May 26, 2014

OHV Mud and a BMW

Late last week, Polar Bear invited me to go play in the mud up at Huckleberry Flats OHV area on Saturday with him and his cub. I wrote about our previous trip, to the lookout and how much I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I couldn't turn down an opportunity to go again.

Saturday morning I woke to a text message stating he was on his way to pick me up, so I jumped out of bed and downed a couple of cups of coffee and a slice of toast. I rushed to get my gear together, wheeled the little XT out of the garage and was brushing my teeth when he pulled up.

We loaded up the XT onto his trailer and with another cup of coffee in hand we were off for a day of riding. The sky was overcast and the temperature a bit cool at 59ºF, but we were headed to higher elevations and hoped to leave the worst of the weather in the valley. We arrived about 10 am, the sun was shining and the temperature was just above 60ºF... perfect! We unloaded the bikes, geared up and Andy fine tuned the cub's little CR60.

I made a couple laps around the warm up loop just to get back into dirt bike mode... loosen up my shoulders, relax my grip on the bars, weight the pegs, lean the bike. That's better! Let's go!

I led the two bears onto the first trail out of the staging area, keeping it on the green, easy trails as not to hurt ourselves early in the day. Little bear cub trotted along as cubs do, slipping and falling on occasion but picked himself up and would poke along some more. I enjoy having cub with us, he keeps us "adults" from making stupid decisions. Riding behind cub can be slow going and difficult to pass as he tends to wander aimlessly back and forth along the trail, but I learned quickly that he avoids puddles so when an opportunity presented itself in the form of a long, shallow puddle I took it. Poor kid, I wish I had a camera, I looked over my shoulder to see the wall of water cascading down, he took it broadside. I laughed out loud in my helmet and admit I felt a bit of remorse, but that soon subsided when we came upon the next puddle and dad did the same thing... to his own son! I knew if Andy was capable of soaking his own kid, I was fair game and I distanced myself from him and any other puddles the rest of the day. We stopped up ahead for a bit and cub laughed while reciting his story of his recent initiation shower, so all was good.

We rode on until we came to a fork in the road, not ready for lunch yet, Polar Bear led the way down the road less travelled. Maps? We don't need no stinking maps! Needless to say, it wasn't long before we went from novice green trails to a bit more difficult blue trails. This should be interesting.

The trails descended down to a creek and bridge, but before getting to the bottom we had to pull cub out of the weeds first. This ended up being a good thing because it gave us a chance to scope out the next portion of the trail on foot and survey the best line to ride down.

I'm not so sure cub would've had made it down safely on his own, so Dad walked his bike down for him then hiked back up to ride his trials bike down. What a beautiful day for a hike in the woods!

This is much steeper than it looks on camera.

Polar Bear made it down unscathed as did I, now all we had to do was climb back up the other side. I went first and made it up without too much trouble. I stopped at the top and started walking back down toward the sound of kick starting two strokes, catching a glimpse of a small front wheel and a small bike looping out. What a beautiful day for a hike in the woods!

Finally, with all three of us at the top, we discussed taking the well groomed gravel road back to the truck for lunch. For some reason cub hadn't had enough punishment yet and tootled off, leading us down a rabbit hole. Alrighty then, the trail again descended down to a creek, this time sans bridge. I squeezed past another one of the bears' impromptu stops, made the small creek crossing and into an immediate "oooh shit", rutted climb up the other side. I caught the rear tire in a rut and up against a tree root, which caused me to stall the bike and lean into the bank. I thumbed the magic starter button, backed out of the rut and proceeded up the hill. I knew that this was going to be much too much for cub but... what a beautiful day for a hike in the woods!

Together again at the top, we took a break and in disbelief watched a half dozen quads come up the trail we just did! These weren't wimpy sport quads however, these were big workhorse rigs with winches on the front that you normally see on farms. I wonder if there is room in the garage....
We were getting hungry, cub was done for the day, so geared up and followed the road back to the staging area for lunch.

Andy and I spent the rest of the afternoon plugging about the rocks near the staging area on his trials bike, and making laps around the warm up loop.

- - -
Cue the BMW!
- - -

The warm up loop was muddy, much more than it had been that morning. After a couple of laps we sat at the exit on our bikes, about ready to call it a day ourselves when this young man showed up on a pristine BMW F650GS, looking like he just stepped out of a BMW brochure and Rev'It gear photo shoot. I swear his uniform still had the tags attached, it was that clean.

He dismounted his Heindenmeow shod steed, made eye contact with us, then sauntered over to strike up a conversation.

One must remember that although Polar Bears look all cute, cuddly, and approachable; they are wild animals and as such can be unpredictable.

Our new friend told us that he was camping just South of Oakridge and that he just finished riding the Aufderheide highway. He followed the signs to the Huckleberry Flats OHV, then sealed his fate by mentioning to us that he had an ATV permit on his bike.

I swear polar bears can smell naivete, because without missing a beat and in a straight out, bold face lie, Andy told our new friend that the warm up loop was an easy trail and he should try it.

I looked at Andy in disbelief, waiting for him to let this poor kid off the hook.

We sat there, on our bikes, covered with mud and in complete, utter amazement that Cisco Kid couldn't put two and two together. I finally mentioned that "there might be some mud in the corners", but that didn't deter him as he walked toward his bike.

I took one last look at Andy as he was scrambling to put his helmet on to follow this poor sap down his own rabbit hole.

He did quite well, standing on the pegs, navigating his 500 pound machine around the small puddles toward the shade of the trees. I came up behind him on a particular tight left hand turn as he slowly and very gently set his brand new SW-Motech crashbars into the muddy bank side. Motioning me to go around him, I declined, assuring him that I was fine and we were there to help if need be. He hefted his bike back up and proceeded over much higher whoops and through deeper water filled ruts before exiting out back to the staging area.

"That was a bit more than I had bargained for"

"Yes, but now your bike looks like a real adventure bike"

Not wanting to stick around and chat, he quickly shook my hand, mounted his bike and rode off toward camp.... or the nearest laundromat.

"Just think of the story we just created for him" Andy said.

I laughed, "You're an asshole!"

- - -

Sunday, May 18, 2014

EZ Oil Drain Valve

I was sitting in the library the other day reading one of the many motorcycle magazines I subscribe, Sport Rider in particular, and came across an article for a simple ball valve to replace your oil pan drain plug called the EZ Oil Drain Valve ($23.95).

Remember my incident a while back of the cracked oil pan? I had to remove the pan, pressure wash and degrease it so it could be welded to repair a couple of hairline cracks that were caused by an overzealous mechanic who took the term "crush washer" from pronoun to verb.

This repair to my oil pan creates an uneasiness whenever I change my oil, for fear of stressing the welds by tightening the drain plug to the recommended torque.

Upon reading the review, my fear shifted to dreams of a one time install of the EZ Oil Drain Valve and each subsequent oil change thereafter... cake.

I jumped online, found a free shipping discount code, placed my order and cleared my schedule for the following Friday to change my oil. 

The valve arrived from California within two days, then it was just a  quick jaunt on the Tiger to Autozone for some oil and a filter. Rotella T6 synthetic was on sale so I bought 2 gallons, 2 filters hoping they would fit in my pannier.

With the oil and filter home, my Tiger warmed, I was ready to get this done. Carefully removing the drain plug and old filter was easy peasy, the installation of the new valve was somewhat unnerving; were the threads tapered and what's with this o-ring? 

I threaded the valve into position by hand, then reached for my Saskatchewan socket set and ever so gently turned the valve until the o-ring seated against the flange of the pan. So far so good. I replaced the filter and buttoned everything up. Now to add the oil, add a little and check for leaks. Add a bit more, no weeps. A little bit more, check again.... then... meh, fill 'er up.

Looks good, but does hang down too low? Not any lower than the exhaust or filter, besides, the center stand hangs lower. Sure, the sidestand bracket will protect it, right? How often do I ride the Rubicon Trail anyway?

But that handle, ohhhh pretty, I'm tempted to touch it. Then visions of my friends being led into temptation flooded my mind; four litres of motor oil pooled under my bike and running down the storm drain at the next bike night are images I cannot get out of my head. So my next stop is the hardware store, the manufacturer recommends using a 5/8" hose clip to secure the valve from "accidental" operation.

That, and if I don't tell them they won't know, right?!?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Huh? Wha? Is it Spring?

No worries, I didn't miss the first day of Spring. I did manage to ride, although it was just my mundane, uneventful, 22 mile commute along a fairly straight, four lane highway, it was still a ride nonetheless.

Evidently, I seemed to have disappeared from the blogosphere (Trobairitz keeps my updated on everyone) as my job has taken me away from the computer and somewhat off the grid. This is a good thing, I am enjoying my new job and find it hard to believe it has been over a year. I've finally earned some vacation time now and look forward to some rides this summer.

We managed to get out once this year for a couple of covered bridge photos that Trobairitz wrote about, but that is all so far. The weather just seems to be so slow to warm up and the Oregon rain is making the pleasant and dry riding days few and far between.

I've been keeping busy in the garage chasing an electrical gremlin and charging issue in the Tiger by replacing a rectifier, only to discover that the culprit was simply a 30 amp fuse. Fortunately, I was able to return the rectifier and put the old one back in. Who knew the charging system was fused?

Then recently, I  wired both of our bikes up with Hyperlites, because you know, once I get something working fine I can't just leave it well enough alone.

These are great lights and seem to be doing exactly what they are designed to do, waking up inattentive drivers.

Other than a bit of yard work, a few honey do projects here and there, and one weekend teaching, it has been a quiet Spring so far.

I did manage to sneak a solo ride up to Oregon City this weekend for a Team Oregon instructor update presented by our very own Intrepid Commuter.  It was a good day, as I learned a lot and I was able to meet other instructors that I had not met before, and catch up with a few instructors I've either worked with or known prior.

I enjoyed the ride home, pretty much staying dry for most of it, but I realize how out of shape I am for riding. Less than one hundred miles and I was ready to get off the bike. Not only do we need to sharpen our mental focus coming out of hibernation, apparently physical reconditioning is required as well.

Happy Spring!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Snotgun Creek OHV

According to the Oregonian: Seventy-five percent of the state is in severe drought, with another 24 percent in moderate drought and about 1 percent in extreme drought, according the U.S. Drought Monitor.

I beg to differ, as the mud and slime we experienced yesterday definitely proves otherwise.

Polar Bear offered to haul me and our bikes out to Shotgun Creek OHV area for an afternoon of trail riding. 

 I'd never been to Shotgun Creek and despite hearing conflicting stories of the trails I decided to give it a go. 


One of the stories I have heard from a very experienced KLR650 rider and friend is that they call it Snotgun Creek for a reason, it is slicker than snot. I've also heard from coworkers that it is quite technical and I've heard mutterings of a rock garden.  We did not attempt this.


Well then... Never Let Fear and Common Sense Stand in Your Way (NLF&CSSIYW!)

We unloaded the bikes and I proceeded to watch Andy disassemble his bike trying to track down an elusive spark issue. Evidently it was a faulty kill switch button, so with a snip of the wires it wasn't long before we were gearing up and off in search of some trails. 

We parked at the lower Crooked Staging Area under Andy's advisement that it is easier to roll a disabled bike downhill than it is to push it uphill back to the truck. That doesn't bode well, does it? We headed up an easy green run; much like ski mountain runs, offroad trails are designated by levels of difficulty from green to blue to black. Trail 26 starts off green then turns into Trail 22 which is a blue trail or "moderately difficult".

This is not my video, I found it online, but it is of the trail we took from the staging area. 

Thanks and recognition to liv2day00 for the youtube video! 

With a dualsport bike on DOT tires in February, I was definitely "broadening" my experience level.  As the trail transitioned from 26 to 22 and green to blue, the grade also transitioned from an easy climb to a much more challenging endeavor. The mud is a reddish, pottery clay consistency and the trail is heavily rutted which grabs your front wheel preventing you from maintaining any control of your bike whatsoever.

Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way as my front wheel climbed out of a rut then was pulled right back in, throwing me to the ground in an instant. As I hit the ground on my left side, something in my chest popped. Ahhh yes, that familiar feeling of an old injury from remodeling where I suspect I pulled a chest muscle or ligament. I picked up the XT, took a deep breath, assessed that nothing was broken... with me or the bike and proceeded up the hill to find Andy waiting. With both of us dropping our bikes once more on the way up, we stopped at a clearing to catch our breath. 

That's some slippery shit! Getting old sucks!

Making our way up to the road, we followed it back down to the truck for a bit of a break then decided to take the easy road up to the upper staging area or the new Cascade View OHV Complex. I didn't have my lovely, and photogenic photographer with me to take photos so I found these online.



I did manage to snap a couple of photos of Andy practicing what he learned last weekend from Jordan Szoke.

The sun was dropping so we rode back down to the truck. I did encourage Andy to try something stupid but I suspect he was nearly as sore as I was at the end of the day.


"Thanks for driving Andy!"