Wednesday, September 28, 2011

XC Trip, day 10...morning

Bonneville Salt Flats. The AMA BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials. This was something I'd been looking forward to for a long time. I think the AMA got their own week of speed trials about 7 years ago, so that there would be more time for motorcycles, rather than trying to work their own event into the world renowned Bonneville Speed Week, where just about anything with wheels can run. BUB is a motorcycle aftermarket accessory company specializing in exhaust systems, and I guess the owner is a speed freak and runs bikes on the salt flats, so he decided to invite the AMA to join in the fun. (That's what I remember reading when the whole thing got started 7 years ago, but don't quote me on it.)

As we were riding from the hard road that brings you into the salt flats to the pit area a few miles in on the salt, I had a very strong feeling of having done something like this before. It felt very much the same as when we go ice racing, white and flat for miles all around, not much surface grip, and the general excitement of performance engines and fuel in the air.

I'll let the pictures do the talking, there was so much to see and absorb. I'll just say that it was great talking with the racers and hearing stories about their efforts. As usual, you take the simplest premise..go as fast as you can in a straight line..and then you find out just how hard it can be, poor traction, high density altitude, high temperature, vicious salt attacking everything everywhere, wind. We'll be back with our own bike, to give this a try. I swear.

Go to this website, they've posted preliminary results. You'll have to cut and paste;

More to come on this topic...

Monday, September 26, 2011

XC Trip day 9

The next day's route would take us south out of Idaho past Bear Lake and into Utah. Another very pretty ride that continues on Rt89, that funnels you down through mountain passes and National Forests. I lost track of how many National Forests we passed through on this trip, probably close to a dozen anyway. Once we reached Brigham City Utah, the road became more typical freeway, and not quite as scenic. Our destination was the Bonneville Salt Flats, where the AMA was holding a week long Speed Trials.

We stopped for gas and lunch just outside of Salt Lake City on RT 80. As we got back on the highway we had The Great Salt Lake on our right. Last time I passed this way I didn't stop to look at the lake, but this time we had the time so we pulled in at a marina. There was a long stretch of "beach" before the water, it was hot, we'd just gotten our jackets on etc. so I just took a couple pics and we rode on. As we were passing the lake there were some roadside pools, and I saw several American Avocets standing by the water. Another life bird for me, seen on a motorcycle at 70 MPH. There would be more "lifers" later on this trip.

The Salt Flats go on for quite a while, and you don't get to the actual speedway until you're almost at Wendover, so we pulled in to the speedway sometime late afternoon. We had already decided that we'd come back in the morning, but I still wanted to see what the place looked like. We spoke with the guy at the ticket booth, who was very helpful and friendly, and said we were welcome to get off the bikes and look around. One of his helpers was a British bloke named James, who was there for an attempt at a record in the Vintage Production 100cc class with a British bike called a James "Comet". A very pretty little scoot, nice enough to make it onto the event T-shirt this year. It was great meeting him and talking about the bike and the salt.

We also met a guy coming off the salt with his BMW K bike, it was clear he had entered in the "Run What Ya Brung" class, and he was very entertaining, another British dude. He was still pumped full of adrenalin, he had gotten up to about 130mph or so, but was losing track of the course, or trying to zip his leathers or put on his sunglasses, I don't remember, and wound up taking out a marker flag, which DQ'd his run, but he didn't really care too much, he was pretty thrilled with the whole thing.

After a while we got back on the bikes and headed into Wendover, found the Super 8 and checked in. We walked into town for refreshments which we brought back to the room, and had a quiet night.

The Great Salt Lake...

James, with his "James"

Run What Ya Brung dude

Friday, September 23, 2011

XC Trip Day 8

Breakfast the next morning was at the Canyon cafeteria, which is not quite as nice as the Lake Lodge in Yellowstone, but it was OK, kind of 70's school architecture. After breakfast we asked at the information desk about where we might take a quick walk before hitting the road again. The Ranger asked if we'd seen the Canyon yet. Duhh, nope. So we took a quick ride over to the Canyon and walked a bit of the Canyon trail. At the top there's a great view of the upper falls of the Yellowstone River, and further down the trail you get views of the Canyon. I honestly didn't even know there was a Canyon in Yellowstone (despite all the obvious clues), so I was amazed to see the size of the Canyon. You gotta go see this place.

Then it was back on the bikes for the ride through the park, stopping when there was something to look at, like geysers or bubbling mud holes or other noxious things. Whenever traffic is stopped on the road you can count on seeing some type of wildlife. At one of these stops we saw a pair of Foxes hunting in a field by the road. It was pretty entertaining, and lots of people stopped to watch them pouncing on grasshoppers and butterflies. Further on we saw more Elk. We missed seeing Old Faithful by a few minutes, but we did catch some of it from the road.
Then as we were getting close to the exit we caught a glimpse a Black Bear through the trees, walking away from the road.

By the time we got to the southern entrance to the park it started to drizzle just a bit, so we put on our rain suits and headed south. The road from Yellowstone to Jackson is still one of my favorite rides. You follow the Snake river south and pass Jackson Lake with a great view of the Grand Teton Mountain range beyond. The weather stayed overcast and rainy for most of the ride to Jackson where we stopped for a late lunch break.

Once we got on the road again the skies were kind of clear directly in front of us, but threatening storm clouds were moving in from the west. Soon there were storm clouds right and left, but there always seemed to be a patch of clear sky where we were heading, so it became a race against the storms to get to the next town down the road. But we'd get to the next town and it wouldn't be raining yet, and the sky was just a little lighter ahead, so we'd keep on going. It was a fairly exhilarating ride, as the road constantly descends through these steep mountain passes, funneling you down lower and lower. We reached Montpelier Idaho just at dusk. Super day.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Race report OVRP 9/18/2011

We interrupt the XC Trip reports to bring you this race update...

Rounds Racing made an appearance at Oakland Valley Speedway on Sunday, featuring the debut of Hannah Rounds, racing the well worn but still beloved XR100. This event was a combined AMA Vintage National and local club race, so I entered my XT500 in the AMA Hotrod Singles class and the local Senior 50+ class.
There was another debut at this race, Scott was the chosen rider for the Royal Enfield "Bulletproof Badger" project street-tracker owned by Leon Stanley, of Cycle Icons. The bike was ridden to the track from Trenton by Leon and my brother Mark, who did the paintwork and some of the prep. Once at the track, the lights were swapped out for number plates and 19" wheels were installed. After assessing the class structure it was decided that the Badger would be most competitive in the 750 Brakeless class, so the rear brake was disconnected.

Scott would also be riding his XT500 in the 500 Masters class.

Practice went smoothly enough, with everybody getting a chance to get a feel for their bike and the track. Scott was able to get two practice sessions on the Badger, the second cut short because the right side footpeg was loose and rotating down, so he couldn't get enough leverage to keep the bike stable. It was also popping out of gear because the rearset shift lever was contacting the track, so the stock forward mount lever was installed, and the footpeg tightened.

Heat races started with Scott in the Masters class, where he got a 4th, which put him on the second row for the feature. My Hotrod Single heat was next, I had a poor start, and trailed the field coming in last out of 5, but feeling like I might have a chance with a better start. Hannah's XR100 heat was next with only 3 bikes, but she went out and gave it her best, showing great form and wishing she had more power from the little XR100.

The Senior 50+ heat was next, and I had to start on the second row for some reason, so I had to pass a couple guys to get a 3rd, which would give me a decent line choice for the feature.

The Brakeless heat was last, and as we were getting the Badger started in the hot pit, we discovered some problems. The clutch felt kind of funny, and upon engaging first gear we heard a loud clunk followed by silence as the engine stalled. The chain had popped off the rear sprocket, so we managed to roll it back on while frantically waving at the gate marshal to hold the race for us, only to repeat the whole thing again. Then we discovered that the rear wheel was cocked in the swingarm because the left side axle adjuster was broken. At this point we waved the gate marshal to start without us and we pushed the Badger back to the pits. After some amount of fiddling and scratching it was determined that the clutch was fried, so the Badger's day was done.

Features! 500 Masters was first, with a full field of 15 bikes at the start. Scott had a good spot on the second row. The race had to be restarted after a crash in turn one on the first lap. Scott had a better start on the restart anyway, this time coming around holding down 5th place across the start/finish line. There was a huge battle for the lead between the 4 bikes in front of him, which kept everybody close the whole race long and kept us on the edge of our seats. On the last lap the leader had caught up to some lap traffic on the back straight and wound up crashing into a rider, taking the lapped rider out and sending him up to the wall, which allowed everybody in the top 10 to move up, so Scott got a well earned 4th place!

My Hotrod Singles feature was next. I had a decent spot on the line, and before the light turned green one of the guys jumped, so he went to the penalty line. I wound up getting a decent start but I was still in 4th place after the first lap. The guy in front of me was on a framed XT500, and he got a little sloppy going into turn 3 a few laps into the race, and I was able to duck under him and hold the inside line as we went back into T1. I continued to defend the inside line for the race and finished in 3rd, which I'm still pretty pleased about.

Hannah successfully raced to a 3rd place finish, no crashes, no drama, so that was an excellent debut.

The Senior 50+ feature was an easy win, my 500 had the rest of the field covered.

So Rounds Racing went home with a 1st, two 3rds and a 4th. Not bad.

Heat race action in Hotrod Singles

Scott's 500 Masters heat

All the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't get the Badger racing again.

Brother and sister, comparing racing notes?

For more photos, go to the Badger facebook album, by Ron Truch...lot's of nice pics in there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

XC Trip day 7

It was around 7:45pm when we rode into Buffalo SD so there was still some daylight to spare, and the signs on the highway said we'd find a Super 8 a couple miles up the road. We pulled into their parking lot and we were a little giddy at our luck, not running out of gas, missing the rain storms on the horizon, and finding a Super 8 and a Mobil station nearby. I heard nighthawks calling above us and looked up to see dozens of 'em buzzing around, getting moths and whatever else was flying in the evening sky. It was all good.

A routine check-in at the hotel, and we found out there was a laundromat next door, bonus! We got the laundry started and walked across the street and ordered some take-out. The food took awhile, but it was great and we weren't in a hurry. Got the laundry done and repacked, played some more cards and went to bed.

I was really looking forward to the next day's ride. We would be riding through the Big Horn Mountain range to Cody, and then north out of Cody, briefly into Montana and then southwest into Yellowstone. The ride didn't disappoint.

We got back on Rt.90 briefly to get up to the Ranchester exit, then turned on to Rt. 14 which starts out as a red tinted road heading into the mountains. The only bummer was that they had been repaving the road, so the really cool red tint was replaced by fresh black tarmac after a few miles. The climb up the eastern side was nice, lot's of big switchbacks with expansive views back east, then we got into the high mountains, passing a few snow fields and high meadows. The descent on the western side was really spectacular. Just one beautiful view after another in every direction, and the road was ours. The weather was perfect too, so we stopped frequently to take pictures.

We finally reached the Plateau between the Bighorn Range and the Rockies. Passing through Greybull I noticed an airport on the right with some old piston engined transport planes. I was about to keep on going when I saw a Canadian Air Force C119, and a few other planes that I couldn't quite put my finger on...I had to stop, turn around and take some pictures. I'm not sure Hannah was thrilled, but it needed to be done.

Rt. 14 brought us into Cody for lunch. There were signs advertising the weekly Saturday Night Rodeo. We asked our waitress about the Rodeo, and whether it was worth coming back out from Yellowstone for, and she said it would be at least 4 hours of driving, and she wasn't a big fan anyway, which made us feel a little better about missing it.

The Northeast entrance to Yellowstone is pretty spectacular. You actually enter the park in Montana, and the views on the way are just great. Once you're in the park you start seeing these huge meadows with mountains all around, rivers flowing through, just beautiful. Then you start seeing buffalo, or more properly, Bison (bison bison) and it's a little more incredible. We had a ways to go once we entered the park, our reservation was in the Canyon area so it was another hour to get there, and we rode through some minor showers. No big deal though, got to the Canyon, checked in and found our cabin. After a quick bite we hopped back on the bikes to see if we could find a nice sunset or something. It was too far to ride for a good view of the sunset, but we did see some Elk. 2 large mammals accounted for...

As I said, lots of mountain views;

10 points to the first person that can identify this 4 engine plane...

Monday, September 12, 2011

XC Trip day 3 - 6

So we reached Ann Arbor and found a motel and food. Not the nicest part of town, but well positioned for an easy escape the next morning. We got on the road and blasted through Michigan pretty easily, turning south to dip under Lake Michigan before heading north again into Chicago. At some point I decided to let the Garmin guide me into the city, since I could plug in the address of the hotel it would be a lot easier than reading a map while riding. As we got closer to the city it was looking like rain was inevitable, so we put on rain suits after paying one of the innumerable tolls, and were rewarded with a pretty steady hard wind and rain all the way into the city. I was nervous about the Garmin getting wet, but I couldn't navigate without it, so I risked it and left it up. No problems, it worked fine and got us to the hotel with minimal hassle. We then discovered that the hotel (Hyatt Regency) was not accustomed to, or equipped for motorcycles. After a little standoff with the Valet parking manager (who turned out to be very accommodating after all) we were able to park in the VIP area (all it took was money).

Once we dried off, the rain stopped and we were able to walk to the Navy Pier and enjoy some typical tourist stuff, including a 90 minute sail on the "Windy", a steel schooner plying the tourist trade business along with about a dozen other types of power boat/yacht. It was fun, and when we were cast ashore we headed back into the downtown area to look at architecture, and we saw some really neat buildings too.

The following day was our mission to see Whitewater Wisconsin, where my dad was born. We got there and had a very nice lunch at a little cafe in the downtown area. It's a pretty little town surrounded by agriculture and golf courses. I think my dad would have been proud of the place.

Then it was off to Iowa, following Rt. 18 west from Madison. If you've never done it, it's a pretty amazing thing, riding through endless miles of corn. Nothing but corn, except for the occasional soy fields, then more corn. Two days of it actually, with a stop in Mason City Iowa, where I got carded at the "Prime & Wine" restaurant and had to go back to the hotel to get my ID, which I dutifully did. Then found out they only had one cut of well done prime rib left, so I had the salmon. In the middle of Iowa.

The next day was pretty much uneventful. We stopped for gas in Spencer IA, which is a pretty little town, it has a divided 4 lane main street with lamposts hung with flower baskets. When I went back into the gas station to see where they put the recycle bin the young lady behind the cash register didn't know what I was looking for. Not a clue.

We pressed on to reach Murdo SD that evening, which was about 70 miles past Chamberlain (which is where we crossed the Missouri River, having crossed the Mississippi at Prairie Du Chien, WI).

There was a Super 8 right by the highway so we checked in (with a little tedious and unneccesary drama trying to get a room key that would unlock the door) and rushed off to find some dinner. After dinner we were back in the room playing cards when I thought I heard some thunder. I opened the window and the wind was blowing really hard, leaves and litter just whipping around in the parking lot. We ran out to the lot to see how the bikes were, I was afraid they'd be knocked over because we'd left the top cases on. Luckily they were still upright, but the wind was rocking them pretty well. We were able to move them around to a safer spot for the night, but the storm never really reached us anyway. A weird thing about Murdo, there were thousands of crickets in the parking lot and around the motel. You couldn't walk without stepping on 'em, and when the wind picked up they were just getting blown all around. The next morning there were dead crickets everywhere. We weren't sorry to get on the road.

The Badlands of South Dakota were next, very scenic, and so was Spearfish SD, with a really entertaining riverside road with beautiful views and sweeping turns, worth the side trip out of Sturgis. We stopped for lunch in Wall, which is another roadside tourist trap where you can spend money on all kinds of stuff. We made it all the way to Buffalo that evening, nervously glancing from our fuel gauges to the threatening skies and back down to the blinking fuel gauges. That was the longest single no-stop leg, 211 miles.

Aboard the Windy

Bright lights, big city

Approaching Whitewater

We're in cowboy country now