Overland Expo East 2014, Part three


When I’d set up my ride plan, before leaving, I’d planned to head towards friends in Maryland after the expo, then continue to visit along the east coast while I rode towards Twisted Throttle in Rhode Island. I was going to be giving a talk there, and had given myself a few days to ride up. That was before my engine issues, though, and now things would have to change.

Instead I pointed Curiosity towards Delaware, where I’d had some parts shipped so I could fix the engine. This was not far, but with the lack of power (Curiosity could really only manage 45mph) it was going to take two days to get there. So, leaving late on Monday probably didn’t help. It was another cool morning and I wanted to say good bye to the Overland Expo staff who were already busy taking everything down and cleaning up the venue. I know how much work it take to put on an event the size of the Expo, and appreciate all the effort the staff and volunteers put in.

I tried the interstate for a while, but didn’t feel save at the speeds Curiosity wanted to move, so exited onto the smaller highways. I like that sort of travel better, anyway, but it’s not always the best for making miles – especially in the highly developed East Coast.

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The Virginia Welcome Center was decorated in “Virginia is for Lovers” theme, which made me miss my girl friend back in Wisconsin. But there were coupon books for hotels and I grabbed one. I rode until after dark (something I am not a fan of doing), and found a hotel with a discount coupon for the night. After the chilly weekend of camping at the expo, the hot shower felt very nice. I still think hammocks are more comfortable than beds, though I wasn’t going to complain.

I was up early in the morning, leaving just after daylight. I still had a long way to go, and wanted to arrive at Chris’s (from The Pace Motorcycle Podcast) that night. He had graciously offered me a couch, somewhere to fix Curiosity, and picked up the parts from the local motorcycle shop who’s ordered them in. Curiosity’s weakened condition again led me astray, and a distance which should have been an easy day’s ride ended up with my arriving after dark, tired and a bit stressed. I was, to be honest, probably not the best company. But Curiosity’s parts were there and, after sitting and talking for a while and a good night’s sleep, in the morning I installed the new adjustment screw for the intake valve. And the bike wouldn’t start. After some more tinkering I regapped the spark plug and was on my way.

Chris was already at work when I hit the road, but I still can’t thank him enough for aiding a rider in need, even though I didn’t really need his full-on moto-garage. He also gave me some good tips on getting to where I wanted to go next – RevZilla in downtown Philly.

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Overland Expo East 2014, Part Two


I remember going to my first Expo in 2011. It was in southern Arizona, near the border with Mexico. Hot, dry, and seemingly in the middle of no where. It didn’t even feel as though there were many people there, until we were all gathered together.

Taylor Ranch was a large area, and it felt spread out. The camping area didn’t seem all that crowded, though it did also seem to go on and on. Over the course of the weekend it was hard to really get a sense of how crowded the venue was, how many people were there. So, when I went to Roseann’s opening remarks Friday morning, I was curious on how big the crowd was going to be. My first West Expo had seen a small group of people, and the most recent West Expo we had filled the bleachers. This was more the small group, but it was cold and raining Friday morning so I am going to put most of the blame there.

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Of course, by the time she was done speaking there were a lot more people there, they had just come in late. It was early in the morning.

I had a author booth, which limited how many other classes I could attend. I was getting better at the table thing, after living there every moment I wasn’t teaching, back in spring. I did leave from time to time when I didn’t have a class, just not as much as I probably should have.

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It was a pretty location, with the indoor vendors and authors sharing the one building with the Overland Theater. Other classes were held in tents, which was nice once the chill faded during the day, and there were a couple impressive driving courses (one each for trucks and motorcycles). The truck course was apparently extra tough, with the recent rains, resulting in a couple serious failures and numerous people getting stuck. I guess that is the point, though. And, if you are going to break down, doing so at an event like this, full of knowledge and tools, isn’t the worst choice.

I spent a lot of time hanging out the Ken and Carol-Ann Duval, an Australian couple who had been wandering around the America’s for the last few years, on their second time around the world. They were heading to Asia in the Spring, so this was my last chance to see them before the left. I also spent time with Alison (from Alison’s Wanderland) and Alistair (WhilstIWasOut), but didn’t take either of their pictures with my camera. This was at least partially Alistair’s fault, because he had this really cool vintage looking camera which was actually all modern inside. It even made this cool shutter click sound.

This was my busiest Expo to date, with three solo classes (each having two sessions), co teaching a class with Alison (two more session), and moderating my first round table. The round table was outside on what was the coldest day of the event.

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It was an event marked by early morning frosts and cold evenings. I was fine in my sleeping bag, but getting out of it each morning was a struggle. Since I was supposed to be an instructor meeting every morning at 730, just when the sun was cleaning the surrounding mountains, having to leave the warmth of the bag to walk the 15 minutes to the building seemed unusually cruel. There usually wasn’t even hot water yet.

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After the meeting I’d go back up the hill to the camping area for breakfast and to bring Curiosity back down. Technically motorcycles weren’t allowed in the venue area – it was a long walk – but I needed Curiosity for some of my classes during the day and found a place to hide it close to the classrooms. One day I didn’t have time to move it after one class and before the next, and it was apparently used as a prop for the next few classes until I collected it laster on my way back to camp. Sunday, though, I just walked down since I wouldn’t need it.

Sunday was the last day of the expo, and a lot of people were already packing up and leaving. By evening the crowd size had dropped considerably. I was staying until Monday morning, braving one more night in the cold. I had almost sold out of books, which was a problem since I had another event after this and no time to have more printed and shipped, and was hoarding the last few copies of each. There was a large dinner/BBQ Sunday night, with lots of food and free drinks (up to a point), though we still had wine left over.

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And desserts too. So many desserts.

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After dinner the Duvals and some other friends (Alistair included) announced they were headed into town to sleep, rather than camping and dealing with frost/wet gear in the morning. I couldn’t blame them, it was cold at night. Since I didn’t have to wake up for an early meeting and had little to pack, I decided to stay. I had a couple days to get to a friend’s house where I’d had parts shipped. I wanted to stop somewhere else along with way (The Pirate’s Tavern in Maryland), but with Curiosity running so poorly I just didn’t think I would be able to do the miles in the time I had. I was right.

In the morning the hill, which had been packed with tents and vehicles, and served as one of the hubs of activity for the weekend, was bear. Curiosity all along where I had parked it Saturday night.

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I packed up and rode back out to the registration desk to say good bye to the Expo staff and thank them for having me again. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do speaking events in 2015, though attending as a non-presenter was always an option. It would suck to not see them for a year.

After that, I started north and east, off the interstates, on my wounded bike, hoping it would get me where I could fix it.

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Overland Expo East 2014, Part One


I hadn’t known anything about Overland Expo adding an east coast event before it was mentioned at the start of the Arizona event in May. I’ve always enjoyed OX, both as an attendee and as an instructor, but I wasn’t sure I would have the time off to attend. As it worked out, my employer (Bell Ambulance in Milwaukee) was willing to work with me on the vacation time request, and I able to head back to North Carolina.

In the mean time, I’d gotten Curiosity all fixed up. Even better, a new custome seat from Russel Day Long had arrived, replacing the 30+ year old saddle I’d been riding around on.

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The seat was on the of the half pans the SR250-T model came with, leaving room on the back of the bike for the trunk.

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I wasn’t going to use the trunk. Instead I installed an auxiliary fuel cell I’d gotten when I was doing endurance riding on my big touring bike. A friend who was good with a welder made a bracket that fit the trunk mount, and I added the fuel line between the fuel petcock and carb. The plan was to run the fuel cell empty, then switch to the main tank. It was something I’d thought about before, but the seat wasn’t comfortable enough to ride far enough for it to be practical.

As part of the time off from work, I switched to nights for the last two shifts before I left home. This meant that, instead of leaving home at 7 or 8am, I arrived home from work at 645, having been awake since 3pm the day before. I had thought I’d be able to just hit the road, but was too tired and decided the safe thing to do was sleep for awhile. This meant I didn’t really get moving until mid day, something which would cause me issues all the way south. I had a minimum distance I needed to ride in order to make it to Asheville in time, and as the day went on it was increasingly clear I wasn’t going to make it. It was also clear that Curiosity wasn’t running well as the day went on. I had expected that I’d need to adjust the valves daily, but this was still disappointing as the bike slowly lost power.

I found a hotel for the first night and woke up early. There I found Curiosity had, again, destroyed its intake valve adjustment. There wasn’t much I could do, other than take out the lap that I could and get moving. I’d wanted to reach Ashville around noon, and the venue for Overland Expo East before 2 (I wanted to stop and get some groceries, and didn’t know exactly where I was going). I really hadn’t gotten close enough the day before for this to be practical, which I why I’d gotten up so early. Curiosity was struggling to make enough power, though, and I was feeling worse and worse about pushing. Finally I stopped and contact OX to say I was running late (there was a meeting at 4 for all instructors, it wasn’t looking like I was going to make it), and then arranged for adjustment boots for the intake to be shipped to a friend along the east coast, so I could at least patch Curiosity after the weekend. I would have to ride another 600 miles, but needed to get to OX east first.

Once I’d admitted I wasn’t going to get there I time, I eased off a little but kept riding, finally reaching the venue, Taylor Ranch. It was a nice place, though the security at the gate was odd. As it turned out, the ranch was only open for certain hours during the day, and I had just made it before the shut the gates. No one had gotten my “I’m going to be late” message, but apparently no one was worried either, though Curiosity’s rattle attracted a fair amount of notice. It did sound quite bad by this point.

I checked in, learned I’d just missed the gate closing, was directed to the camping area and told there were specific traffic flow rules that had to be followed for the weekend. These would cause all sorts of headaches as I had to move Curiosity around for my various bike classes.

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I found were most of the ovetlanders I knew were camped, but it was a terrible hammock spot so I went off on my own. I’m kind of glad I did, since their area (overlooking a lake and the main venue building) became very crowded. This way I could visit and then go somewhere quieter to sleep.

The First Overland Expo East would officially start in the morning.

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Horizons Unlimited 2014, Part Six


My ride plan had been to leave Iron Horse Sunday and head for the Ontario HU meet. This plan had hit a snag when I needed to replace my chain and sprockets before going anywhere other than Robinsville, the closest town.

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I had already ordered the parts I needed, so Monday morning I packed up, said some more good byes, and rode the short distance to town and the recommended hotel. It was a bit early to check in, so I went to find Wayne’s, the local motorcycle shop I had been sent too when I asked locals for help the week before.

Wayne’s was a but further than I thought it would be, but I found it. Wayne himself wasn’t there, and his counter person had no idea if the parts had arrived, so I decided to wait for Wayne to come back.

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There were two guys from New Jersey there, Deals Gaps was just up the road, having tires changed. There were sport bike riders, their machines looked more like track bikes to be honest, and while one of them loved to talk, it wasn’t about motorcycle things for the most part, and the parts that were didn’t really interest me. He was out on the road, though, and that counts for something.

Wayne came back and told me they were still waiting on the sprocket, it was due to arrive with that day’s UPS shipment. I went back into town, ate, and then tried the hotel. It was still early, but they let me have a room and I unloaded Curiosity and took a very long, hot, shower. That felt pretty good.

Close to 5pm I went back to the shop. Wayne’s helper was gone and he quickly got Curiosity into his bay and started work. I had planned on doing it myself, but the fee for installation was small and I was pretty sure he’d be able to do it a lot more quickly. I was right.

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Rollers were breaking off the chain, which was a bad sign.

In not time at all Curiosity was back together. It was early and I wondered if I should’ve skipped the hotel and started north, but decided instead to go to bed early and get and early start.

In the morning, before dawn, I went out to adjust the valves, which had a bit of clatter, and found the adjustment screw for the intake valve didn’t have any adjustment left. The rocker arm itself was hitting the intake valve, which meant the valve wasn’t opening all the way. My on board volt meter kept flashing red too, saying the bike wasn’t charging, but it was running and had been for a while, so I decided that was probably a false reading.

I rode off after the sun was up, passing through Deals Gap again and heading north. I’d lost two planned travel days and was eager to try and make up some time, but the intake issue meant I didn’t have as much power as usual, which slowed me down. Still, it was a nice ride in the morning.

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Over the next day and a half the bike ran worse and worse. It wasn’t charging, and I made a habit of stopping where I could buy a new battery when needed. I cancelled my appearance at the Ontario HU event, there was no way I was going to make it in time. Wednesday afternoon, after the bike had been running well, I stopped at a truck stop for food and fuel. It was the first time I’d stopped since the day before where I couldn’t buy a battery, and the bike wouldn’t start.

I worked on it for hours, but it was clear the regulator/rectifier had failed. It was the one part of the bike that was routinely an issues, and for years I had carried a spare. This was an aftermarket model and had been problem free, and I had stopped bringing a spare along with. That choice was now suspect.

Lucky for me, I have a woman who cares for me very much, and she came to rescue me at 11pm. Curiosity had to stay behind, since there want a trailer, and he next day I rented one from U-Haul and made the return trip. I had made it to three and a half hours from home.

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