Sunday, October 23, 2011

300 EXC rebuild

I finally finished the rebuild of my KTM engine. I had to tear it down because of a couple episodes of air filter leaks allowing unfiltered air, dust and sand into the engine. I had hoped that the damage would be limited to the top end, but the connecting rod had some play, so it turned into a complete tear down. I started on a Sunday a few weeks ago, and I had the cylinder off pretty quickly, but I ran out of time to split the cases, so that would have to happen on a Thursday.

Parts were ordered and the cylinder was dropped off at the Crank Shop on Kellog road Essex to be re-chromed. They sent it out and said it would be two weeks, which gave me some time to get the cases split. That job went pretty well considering I had no service manual. The rod took longer to arrive than I had hoped, but when it came in I dropped it off with the crank at the Crank Shop and asked if there was any chance I could get it back in time for the weekend. The nice young lady at the counter laughed and said probably not, but she'd ask. I got a call the next day saying it was ready, which was very cool since that would allow me to get the bottom end back together while waiting on the cylinder. Things went well until I realized that one of the new crank bearings was going to need to be pressed onto the crank, and I lacked the technology to accomplish that. I drove back the the Crank Shop with the crank and new bearing and asked if they could get it on for me. Five minutes later I'm walking out with the job done. LOVE those folks. And better yet, she called me the next day to say the cylinder was back.

Along with the new parts (crankshaft and transmission bearings, full gasket set, new reeds etc.) I ordered a service manual. Service manuals all seem to share a few common traits. They're often indispensable for certain procedures, but just as often they seem to omit critical information about how to actually do stuff. I ran into this with the transmission shift drum and forks. The instructions just said to install the forks on the drum and then install the pivot shafts. No specific reference or index points, but they did have some photos of the assembly. I did what the manual said, but couldn't get the transmission to shift into all the gears, just 1st, 2nd and 3rd. I was convinced I had done something wrong, and I proceeded to take the tranny apart. After several attempts to solve this with no better results, I just gave up and continued putting the engine back together with the hope that it would somehow find 4th and 5th gear once I had it running.

Sure enough, once I put everything back together and tested the bike, I had all 5 gears.

New piston from KTM.

This is my cylinder after the re-chrome job. Lovely.

Engine cases etc. Not exactly a sterile environment.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Somewhere in Charlotte...or is it Starksboro?

This past Sunday Art Clifford invited me to tour the Clifford Tree Farm with him and another couple. The tree farm is in the foothills of Charlotte and Starksboro, we rode Honda ATV's from his dairy farm up some logging roads and across some neighboring properties to get there. His family has logged the farm four times in his life, and it looks like nobody has ever set foot in it. Absolutely beautiful woods with mountain streams flowing through them, waterfalls, and some stone walls built in earlier times to line roads or mark boundaries that were washed away in the great flood of '27.

In the 70's, Art and his wife wanted to build a pond up on the hill. It would require a small dam to be built across a shallow little gorge. He went to the state and got permission to go ahead, with the proviso that the state would send somebody up periodically to check the status of the dam. The 4 acre pond is fed by a nearby brook, and drains back into the brook by a pipe that regulates the pond level. Quite an engineering feat. More recently, they built a small cabin with six bunks and a fireplace in it, a great spot to hike to and spend a night. The Cliffords don't discourage others from hiking there, they have an "open land" policy, as long as you respect the land and leave nothing but footprints.

This is a hunting camp (Deer Camp as it's known around here), Art on his ATV.

A Sugar House that was built before the war. A family of 5 lived here for several years. The shed on the right is connected to the house by a covered hanging trolley, so that they can supply dry wood for the sap boiler.

The pond. Art's wife, Suzy, mows the grass and maintains the property. He claims it keeps her off the golf course...

During the construction of the pond, some nice rocks turned up. Art planted them and had an artist come out and etch these footprints for Suzy's birthday.

Suzy's Glen, she cleared the brush and saplings to open this view of the waterfall.

Ok, I forgot to talk about the ATV I was riding. It was Suzy's, a Honda 425cc utility type, automatic tranny, power steering, independent suspension, 2 or 4 wheel drive, quiet, comfortable. So easy to ride it was really almost cheating. The closest I've come to just floating over the ground. I actually want one.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

XC Trip final day

Sunday was our last day to ride, and another foggy day in S.F. We rode to the beach for the official water ceremony, which would involve collecting some water from the Pacific Ocean, which we will introduce to the Atlantic Ocean at a later date. We hadn't given much thought to the process of collection, and it was proving to be a bit awkward without getting wet. I summoned a passing surfer to help us, and he was very obliging.

That mission accomplished, we had a little more time to kill so we walked up to the Cliff House restaurant/bar/gift shop/historic site, and took a look around. Then it was a couple blocks ride to Paul's place where we would leave the bikes to be picked up by a shipping company.

Once the bikes were in the garage, and we'd had a chance to ogle Paul's collection of bikes, BMW R75, Honda VFR, Honda TransAlp, Ducati 916, we headed into S.F. for the afternoon. It turned out that S.F. was not prepared for the traffic on Labor Day weekend. Paul had offered to drive us over to a beer garden/hiking club type of place in Marin, but we couldn't get over the bridge because the traffic had come to a complete stop. We bailed on the beer garden idea and found a place to have lunch downtown. After lunch we ran into the same traffic problems, couldn't get anywhere near Lombard Street or the Wharf, so we gave up on the notion of seeing the tourist sites and went back to Paul's. Martha had been preparing a great meal for us, tacos with lots of different options, and we had a great dinner at their place.

The next morning we caught the shuttle to the airport, and submitted ourselves to the TSA and the airlines for the next 15 hours.

Vermont plates at the beach drew some attention from a few passersby.

Not exactly beach wear...

The bikes parked outside of Paul and Martha's place.

Paul and Martha, expecting their first baby very soon.

The total miles according to the Garmin. It's probably the most accurate over the two bike odometers.

Well, I've obviously left out a lot of the trip. I still have some of the songs running through my head that snuck in there on the slightest suggestion, and stayed for days. Some great moments on the road and in hotels, gas stations or park gift shops.

Thanks to Sandy, Hannah, Scott, Bill, Uncle Richard & Sandy, Paul & Martha, and friends who helped outfit us or work our shifts.

To paraphrase a great quote from a WW2 GI, I am one lucky son of a bitch.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

XC Trip day 14

Uncle Richard escorted us out of Santa Maria and onto the Pacific Coast Highway up to Ragged Point. This was a pleasant ride, we were expecting it to be chilly and foggy, and it was, but still a nice day. We stopped to look at Elephant Seals at one of the roadside pull-offs where they had signs saying we could see them. Cool.

At Ragged Point we warmed up with a cup of coffee and a danish, said goodbye to Uncle Richard and headed north on Rt 1. We soon fell in behind a little red Karmann Ghia, and had a very entertaining time following him as he carved his way through traffic. The guy driving (flogging) it was really getting the most out of that car, and in fact he got away from us. We caught up with him at one point, but then it was time for a lunch break and we never saw him again.

We had lunch in Big Sur, at a great restaurant looking out over the ocean. While we were eating we watched an Otter diving in the kelp beds and eating clams. More coolness.

After Big Sur Rt 1 gets a bit less scenic until you reach Santa Cruz, which was where we headed inland on Rt 17 to bring us into San Fran. I missed a turn that would have given us a nicer ride, but we still got to our hotel by the airport in plenty of time to check in and do some exploring. We decided to head over to Muir Woods, which meant crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. I wasn't sure what the best route would be, but I don't think it would have mattered, the traffic was pretty bad everywhere, since this was Labor day weekend.

Unfortunately, the bridge was wrapped in dense fog, so you couldn't really see much at all. I was bummed, 'cause this was Hannah's first time here and it would've been nice to have a clear day to see the bridge and the view. Anyway, we pulled off into Sausalito so that she could check out the houseboats in the harbor. Then we headed on to the entry road to Muir. This is a very tight and fun 2 lane road that winds down into the park. We got there with only about a half hour of daylight remaining, so we just walked into the main trail far enough to see and touch some Redwoods. It was dark by the time we crossed the bridge again, and we decided to call it a day and headed back to the hotel.

Unc. Richard's house.

Unc. Richard's BMW, custom paint and details, a pretty bike.

Ready to go.

One cool veedub.

We just saw a Sea Otter!

Monday, October 10, 2011

XC Trip day 13

Our first day off the bikes. We got to sleep in a bit, and then Richard and Sandy took us to breakfast at one of their favorite restaurants a couple towns away.
After breakfast we drove to the beach for a little sight-seeing. I hadn't realized what the plan was, it took us quite awhile to get to the beach considering it was supposedly 10 miles away,but then Richard pulled up to a beach entrance, paid the lady, and we drove right onto the beach....oh, you can do that here?

Oceano, Grover and Pismo Beach. I think this was the only stretch of California beach where you can drive on and have access to the dunes. And tons of people do it. With trucks, buggies, quads and motorcycles. You can rent dune buggies there, 2 seaters up to 8 seaters. They look like fun, but I bet they're underpowered, they use a decidedly industrial looking Honda V-twin.

I did a little bird watching as well, then we drove further up the coast for an early supper in another town that I forgot the name of. There was a Farmers Market on a boardwalk by the beach. Very nice. We drove down a pier and stopped to look at seals lounging on a floating dock. And after dinner Richard drove us to a scenic overlook, but by that time the sun had set. We saw some Mule Deer browsing there though.

Uncle Richard and Sandy's house in Santa Maria.

There's almost always a photo opportunity with Unc. Richard!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

XC Trip day 12

Sequoia National Park was next on our list. We had to ride south out of Oakhurst to Fresno, then turn east to head into the park on Rt 180. The ride was fine, we followed Uncle Richard since he knew the area, and I was happy to just follow and sight see. I almost took that too far though, as we were cruising through some farm land I spotted a falcon flying over a field on my right. I looked at it for maybe two seconds and looked back at the road just in time to catch myself from riding straight into a ditch. The road had made a gentle turn to the left and in my distraction I had stayed straight. One more second of me trying to ID that falcon would've been disaster.

It was a very strong reminder to keep my focus on the job at hand. Anyway, we got to the park, waved my pass and we were in. Just to discover that they had recently resurfaced the road with a layer of fresh tar, which is then covered with pea gravel. So for the next 40 miles the best we could do would be about 30 mph, slower in some of the tighter turns. There were cars and trucks building up behind us, since we were apparently the slowest things on the road. I passed Unc. Richard and pulled over to let the traffic through, and check our map to see how much further we had to go. My Garmin suggested that we had another 2 hours, but it turned out that I'd set it for the south entrance to the park. In fact it was only another 15 minutes to the "Giant Forest", which is where the General Sherman tree is.

The General Sherman sequoia is the most massive living thing on the planet. It's heavy.

We headed out of the park and ran into more road construction, which held us up another half hour, and when they let us through we still had 20 miles of 30 MPH speed limit. We were heading to Unc. Richard's house in Santa Maria, and wound up getting there after dark. It was a loooong ride. I did spot a B17 parked at an airport near the highway, but I don't remember which airport it was, and I didn't want to repeat the morning's distraction.

A Giant Sequoia

The General Sherman

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

XC Trip day 11

The ride on Rt6 from Tonopah to the California border was relatively short, and again we noticed a fairly abrupt and distinct change in the landscape once we crossed the state line. We got into some rolling hills, the road started to curve again, and then we came over a crest and saw snow-capped mountains on the western horizon. Beauty.

Turning north on to Rt 120 you go through a fun section of dips and rises up into some foothills, and then it brings you past Mono Lake before turning west again. The ride up to Yosemite is very pretty, climbing into the mountains towards Tioga Pass (9,960 ft) where you actually enter the park. We had to stop for about 15 minutes for road construction but luckily we were at the head of the line, so when they cleared us we had the road to ourselves up to the gate. I had purchased an annual National Park pass at Yellowstone, so we were cleared pretty quickly.

The first hour of the park was nice. Great views of the mountains, in fact I came to the conclusion early on that this place was all about the rock. Rock mountains. Huge rock faces that you could see were once liquid (igneous?). Rock all around, and some trees and lakes and streams thrown in. We caught up to traffic pretty quickly because the speed limit in the park is 35 MPH, and with no places to pass we had to putt along for quite a while. Like 4 hours.

The plan was to meet Uncle Richard in Oakhurst, where Sandy had booked us into a Best Western. We were a little late pulling into town, but found the hotel quickly, and Unc. Richard motored up shortly after. We had a great evening catching up on events over drinks and dinner at the hotel.

A lot of the highway signs were riddled with bullet holes...

Climbing the access road to the park.

This was as close as we got to Half Dome, unfortunately.