12 June 2018

NEW (to me) Motorcycle and Road Trip — Aug 2016

August 2016

The US government forced me to leave ViLa at home in Dalat by denying La's visa application WITHOUT explanation after $180, three months, and a one-question interview.

Yes, they can do that. What they unfortunately don't understand is that NEITHER of us has any interest in living in the US—me because there are so many other places to live when you have White Privilege and a US passport; her because "it's too expensive" and she'd miss her family too much.

I flew to Saigon and then to the US, though only after promising Honey every 20 minutes when she asked, "Yes, con gái (daughter), Daddy will come back to Honey and Mommy."

To which she always replied, "Are you sure?"

"Yes, Honey, I'm sure."

I was, once again—if memory serves, this is number 10—going to meet and pick up my new ride and have some fun:

"She" is a 1989 BMW R100GS BumbleBee (note the paint scheme) and the best-fit-for-me bike I've ridden in the entire 3+ years since I bought my first. What a bike! Very comfortable to ride and in great shape. The R100GS is an "airhead", meaning the engine is air-cooled. It is also the original Adventure Bike and the grandpappy to the current very popular R1200GSA.

I bought the Bee from Dale in Spokane, Washington through an advertisement on ADVRider. He was the third owner and had most of the maintenance paperwork from Day One. Dale has another BMW and a sidecar rig and sold this beauty because he wasn't riding it anymore in favor of, mostly, the hack. He was very accommodating, to the point of holding the bike for me in his garage for four months until I could get back to the US after I sent him a $1000 non-refundable deposit. He met me at the Spokane airport; drove me to his home where he took the time to go over the bike completely with me; gave me a box of spare parts and special tools; and helped me box up and send the stuff I didn't need for the 1000+-mile road trip "home" to Tacoma.

Dale led me in his truck to a UPS store where I shipped the boxes and then to a DOT licensing office where I transferred Bee into my name and paid the taxes. That gave me a license plate and registration; the title came later in the mail.

Now that I'm the legal owner, I can head out of town and ride mostly south before turning west. I had a couple days to get to the Rally in the Gorge just outside of Hood River, Oregon, where I'd meet up with friend Rick and 100 or so other motorcycle enthusiasts for a weekend of camping, riding, talking, and learning.

The first night, I stopped at a campground near Lewiston, Idaho and ended up a few sites down from a Harley guy who wanted to know why I wasn't riding a Harley. Really??? Have you ever ridden anything else?

I wanted to answer, "Because I'm NOT a sheep (follower)!", thought I managed to hold my tongue for once and said, "Because I'm riding this beautiful classic BMW that can go anywhere I have the stones to take it." This is definitely a bike on which I will run out of talent LONG before I've reached its limits.

As is my habit, I took the scenic route,

avoiding highways and straight lines as best I could, and enjoyed every bit of it.

Those are actual full-size aluminum canoes in the sculpture
Eventually I pulled along side the Columbia Gorge

and, after one more photo stop to capture Mt. Hood,

turned into the Hood River Fairgrounds.

The Rally was a good weekend that would've been better had the food vendor honored their contract and showed up to do breakfasts. Instead, we got to ride 15 minutes into town for meals and then 15 minutes back for events. No dealbreaker, but a PITA. The organizers did manage decent dinners and one evening put together a pretty good dessert bar with peaches, ice cream, and assorted goodies.

My second-hand-and-like-new Redverz Atacama tent

was a big hit with the crowd, in part because you can stand up inside it and because the center section is a "garage" for the motorcycle that doubles as a refuge from bad weather. Within a few minutes of his first sight of mine, friend Rick (at right in one and at left in another of the above photos) decided to 86 his "yoga tent", seen here on the left edge of the photo, as soon as he could find a second-hand Redverz. He called it the yoga tent because, he said, getting undressed/dressed was about equal to one yoga class.

I had a yellow Atacama that I'd shelved when I bought the green one and told him that if my friend Gee back in Vietnam didn't want yellow, it was his. I later found a green one for Gee, so Rick is now the proud owner of his dream tent. As are Gee and I.

One of the reasons I went to the rally was to ride Maryhill Loops Road—a private, gated road with an interesting history that is only open by appointment and payment of a sizable fee.

I'd driven it many years ago in the 2005 MINI Cooper Cabriolet I still miss and figured this would be my only chance ever to ride it on a motorcycle. If you ride, you can see why it is worth going out of your way for.

While riding Maryhill Loops Road was the most fun part of the rally, learning how to properly set up the bike's suspension was the best part of the rally. Jesse from Truitt Motorcycle Education helped us understand sag and the difference between static sag and free sag. Then he worked with us to set ours correctly. Doing so did make a noticeable difference in how the bike felt and responded on the road.

If you'd like a copy of Jesse's worksheet (he gave me verbal permission to share it), send me an email and I'll get a PDF copy to you.

After the rally, Rick and I rode down to the beautiful Timberline Lodge at Hood Mountain. Built in 1937 under FDR's Works Progress Administration (WPA), it is one of the National Park lodges designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood. It was used as the model for the lodge in "The Shining" movie, though the movie was filmed on sets in England. More on its history is available here.

There was a wedding reception on the stone patio, so we were unable to go out there. The one lingering memory I have of the place is the very ripe-smelling backpackers congregated in the sitting area so that the wedding guests got to walk through them to get to the reception. Since we didn't have gas masks with us, our stay was relatively short.

Rick and I parted ways after the lodge—he went directly back to Seattle and I took the scenic route to Tacoma via Mount Saint Helens.

Mount Hood
Mount Saint Helens
Mount Saint Helens

I was headed to a special, rarely visited, Mount Saint Helens overlook when the new-to-me airhead carburetor starting pissing gas all over my left boot—at about the furthest north point on this route (blue line). I'd heard of this issue, though I'd hoped that when it happened, it would be somewhere closer to home base. When I removed the carb bowl, I saw the gasket was broken—and me without a spare.

I matched the cut gasket up with the bowl rim as best I could and reinstalled the bowl. It seemed to hold, BUT it was getting late and I was NOT in the mood for either wild camping or getting stranded without backup gas canisters (which I now carry everywhere), so I turned around and headed back south because the closest campground to the south was a LOT closer than any to the north.

Just about twilight I passed the Swift Forest Campground,

turned around, and went in. After paying for the site and setting up camp,

I put the bike in the "garage" because two sites down there were a couple pick-em-up trucks of unsavory-looking characters  who showed an unusual amount of interest in it. "Out of sight, out of mind" as someone once said.

I went to take a shower... and found only a bathroom. DAMN! When I went to the campground caretaker to ask where the showers and camp store were, he said with a straight face, "About 5 miles down the road at Eagle Cliff." WHAT??? He was less than thrilled with my suggestion that he disclose this when people arrived and paid the fee. I was pissed off that I'd have to sleep dirty. Hell, I shoulda wild camped.

I woke up early the next morning and hit the Eagle Cliff store where I was able to fill up the tank, take a shower, and grab a few things for "breakfast".

Clean, less hungry, and full of fuel, I headed up NFD-25—a tight two-lane road full of frost-heave that's closed in the winter and well worth the effort to get there. After a fun and challenging 45 miles, I made it to Randle, WA, almost due south of Mount Rainier. From there, it was a short hop to Tacoma and what passes for civilization. 

My next goal was to open the dozens of boxes

of things I'd ordered from Amazon, eBay, and and that Liz very gratiously held for my arrival—things I can't buy in Vietnam and I'm going to take back with me in a month or two.

It's kinda like a self-funded Christmas.

Once the boxes are open and contents sorted, I'll head to Montana for an Airheads Workshop where I'll spend a weekend learning the intricacies and pitfalls of wrenching on the BumbleBee.

Or so I thought...

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