Off to the Mud – Mountain Madness 2017

When I got home I worked on a seperate project – taking pictures of a triathlon team while they were training, and then completing their tri – so I didn’t do an special, particular motorcycle travel. I did ride around a lot, since I like riding motorcycles and my camera gear fits into the luggage (which might have been a requirement).

Horizons Unlimited was having it’s first east coast USA Mountain Madness event in Maryland during August, and I was going to “compete” in it. I put the qoutes on because I am not very competive, and even less so when I am riding challenging roads. If you didn’t know, the Mountain Madness event is an off-road scavenger hunt, similer to an Iron Butt rally (though with much lower daily miles). Before the event, someone went and rode around, placing small (1 inch by 1/2 inch) tabs at locations around the event HQ. Pictures were taken and approximate GPS coordinates were noted. This information was put into a very nice binder to help people find them.

The HQ Location was nice. They gave me money for the casino.

The roads were rated from one to five. Ones were the easiest, poor pavement rather than gravel. Twos weren’t much worse. Fives were where the roads that caused the guy placing the tags (who is a motorcycle instructor and apparently extremely good off-road) to fall over. There weren’t many fives.

Mountain Madness is a team event, so no one rides around in the woods on their own. This is a good thing. I was going to have a team, but everything fell apart not long before the event. This wasn’t a problem, since there are other solo riders. In my case I was added to a team with other solo riders. There are also two sub-classes. You can use a GPS or only maps, and the motorcycle were split between single or multi-clyinder machines. You had to pick one of each, so there were four groups. GPS/Single. GPS/multi, Maps/Single, and Maps/multi (which didn’t have any entrants for my event).

Before riding the event, I had to get there. I’d just done a long trip on my SR250, but for the Mountain Madness event I was going to bring my CSC RX3 –

I took a slightly different route, swinging through Pennsylvania on the way

Once I was there, I set up camp and headed back for tech inspection. Yes, tech inspection. Mostly they were concerned about spark arrestors, since we would be in state and national forests and no one wanted any accidental fires. My Roxxie (named White Rabbit, or just Rabbit) has stock exhaust, so it’s a non-issue, but since the bike is still a little uncommon it gets some extra attention.

Okay, technically I was the only bike in the tech area at the time, so there wasn’t anything for the people to do other than stare.

Eventually more bike started to roll in –

I totally wanted some of these guys to go

Okay, I’m kidding. It’s a nice riding area and attracted motorcyclists of all types.

where are you going to put that stick Mark? WHERE ARE YOU GOING WITH THAT STICK!!???

It's supposed to be like that.

There were a few people who did last minute bodges, but it wouldn’t be an HU event with a few interesting modifications.

Since I was through tech inspection early, and watching people have their exhaust pipes probed is only fun for a while, I relaxed until the evening program.

Definitely a nice location.

The evening (Friday) was going to cover how to use the binders and maps to find the tags, how to record the tags to get points, and other ways to get points while at the event (social media posts, picking up garbage, etc). No one was going to be able to get all the tags, so you had to pick and choose based on what roads you wanted to ride and the time available. Tags on harder roads were worth more, but they took more time to get so you couldn’t get as many of them.

We're going to talk, but it gets better.

Doomed, you're all doomed.

After all the rules stuff, we were sent off to our beds. A lot of the competitors were staying at the hotel/casino, but I’m cheap and had a tent site in a (very) nearby campground. I went to get a decent night’s sleep so I wasn’t too awful in the morning.


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Overland Expo – Spring Road Trip 2017

If you haven’t been to an overland expo, and you are interested in overland or international or adventure travel (and I am not being particular about any other details here, just interest in one or more of those things), you should go. I’ve been going off and on since 2011.

Okay, to be honest, I went in Spring of 2011 because Carla King thought I should I was leaving in a few months to spend a long time on the road and going to something like Overland didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Looking back, I’m glad I went. It was a really good time.

So, I’ve been going and presenting regularly since 2013 (having gotten back from South American in 2012). I started just talking about my trip and packing, but have added in other things people seem to want to know about – budgeting, finding time to travel, photography – and sometimes have a table with the authors where you can buy books or stickers. Most of the time I’m meeting travelers or talking to people who want to be travelers or looking at all the cool traveler kit that wasn’t available last year.

As a reminder, I documented this trip on a Minolta x370 Film camera, so these are scans of the negatives.

I had spent a few days in Albuquerque, and left in the morning to ride to Flagstaff where Overland Expo West is located. It was a new venue in 2017, and it looked much easier to get to, and closer to Flagstaff. But the ride from Albuquerque to Flagstaff was long I-40. And I-40 isn’t the most friendly of interstates.

Now I know so of you will point out that I could have gone around, and or avoided parts of the interstate, and you would be right. But there just aren’t a lot of good options, in fact there are so few options that stretch is one of the few in the USA where they allow bicycles.

I was well rested, and it is more than 300 miles, but I was still pretty drained by the time I got to the city. Rather than shopping, I went right to the venue to get a camping spot, figuring I would head back into town for supplies later. All that worked to plan, though the camping area was huge and it was hard to find people who were already there, unless you just lucked into it.

Friday morning things started with a set of opening remarks –

Which a friend of mine (Gina) translated for the hearing impaired.

With that out of the way, it was time for classes and tech sessions. I was teaching a lot at this event, and didn’t have an author table. I did try to check out some of the other things going on.

There was a Land Rover course, where you got to drive a land rover and the best times were in a drawing for a trip to Peru –

I would be going to fast for a good time, but would have a great time.

In the truck area they were also doing this –

Which I think was supposed to explain how far over you could lean without tipping. They were also talking about proper techniques to right a truck which had rolled over, but mostly I think they were just playing with their kit.

With the larger venue (it was very large, still full though) and being closer to Flagstaff, there were a lot more food options. Mostly food trucks, which came in and set up for the weekend around the site. Mostly near the camping areas, and some near the vendors. At the old site there was pizza, sometimes, and a restaurant that was good but expensive. And whatever we could cook, of course. Busy days cut into cooking times though.

Here, there was wood fired pizza, salads, burgers, BBQ (well, it wasn’t the Southeast, but they were trying), and all kinds of other stuff. So much yum. Of course, I’m cheap when I travel so I didn’t get to try all of it.

so good

My favorite time though is Sunday morning. There are no sessions, so I have time to walk around and look at stuff. The vendors, though, offer up breakfast items. Not all of them, but a lot of them. You just need to bring eating utensils – plates, cups, whatever.

It’s also a chance to actually talk to some people who previously I just had time to wave at as we went in different directions.

7P does bacon sandwiches. Bacon. Sandwiches.

I don't actually know this guy, but it's a look for sure.

This may also have happened –

That is not fruit juice

but I am not going to go into the details.

Sunday night, after the sessions, is the closing BBQ (Really good food, it’s included with the Overland Experience package and I recommend it), which lets everyone relax for a minute, talk, and make sure all contact information has been shared before everyone scatters in the morning. I know a lot of people skip this, wanting to get back on the road earlier than Monday morning. I wait until Monday morning, it’s not list I travel all that fast anyway.

Goodbyes suck

I don’t usually take a lot of pictures then. I didn’t take any pictures in the morning, or the ride home. In face, I actually went home very quickly, since I was missing my wife at this point. Some time, hopefully very soon, she’ll get to come with me on this stuff.

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It’s Not A Wrong Turn – Spring Road Trip 2017

Since I don’t always remember, I’ll mention this right from the top. All the pictures in this post – and most of this ride report – were taken with a film camera. The camera in question is a Minolta X370, and the film Fuji Superia of various ISO (200 or 400).

Okay. When I got married in 2016 (Hi Sue!) she came with a family. That seems obvious to a lot of you, so you will have to just trust when when I say it doesn’t always work out that way. Anyway, some of that family (in 2017) were living in Albuquerque. Yes, that Albuquerque. I have to admit, I’ve never stayed in Albuquerque, only passed through it or stopped to look at something (like the petroglyphs). Since they were living there and had a guest room, and Curiosity was due for service…well you get the idea.

I didn’t have a full on plan of what to do while I was there, other than hang out and see them and service the bike and see some stuff. So, no plan at all. Their place was nice. Living in the Midwest for most of my life (of living anywhere), the difference of the architecture in the Southwest is always interesting.

No Air-conditioning.

One thing that surprised me is the lack of A/C. It seems like a no-brainer. Central air for everyone! But, a lot of the residences have this cool air thing on the roof. It’s probably more environmentally friendly, and I guess it’s quieter. The roar of 200,000 central air units would probably be a bit much.

I arrived a little early, and they were still at work. “They,” by the way, were Andrew and Paige. They are the nephew and niece-in-law of my wife, so I guess they were my nephew-in-law and niece-in-law-in-law, or something. Well, I had extra time and spent it walking around Nob Hill, which is an artsy area near the University.



I have no idea

Anyway, they set me up in a nice guest room and a shower (I love showers. Hot running water is the best thing ever), and I got into normal person clothes. We hung out and chatted and went to dinner, though everyone agreed we wouldn’t be doing that every night (cuz you know, money). It was nice to catch up, Andrew and Paige are good people.

They also had suggestions on things I should be doing, while I was in town. Old Town was high on their list of places to see, even though they hadn’t been there yet. The next day, while they had to work (I felt a little bad) I saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and went for a walk around town. The train station was cool.

I want to take a train trip, someday

Even though I’d just had the Old Town tip, I wanted to spend a full day there. So, I walked around the University area some more. This also meant I had time to work on the bike, before I had to get back on the road.

Alien plants? Are they recruiting the bees for takeover plans?

Thats a house

But, I did get to Old Town, don’t worry.

My last night there, we went to a soccer game. Andrew and Paige were in a league, and I thought it would be fun to watch. I like soccer, but that night. Well, it was cold (Cold for me, for the desert SW it was probably freezing), and drizzling. We got a nice rainbow out of it, but it wasn’t a physically comfortable time to sit and watch.

Nice view

It was a nice location, but in the morning I was on the road for that last ride down I-40 to Flagstaff.

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It’s Just A Spot of Bother – Spring Road Trip 2017

So, the bike wouldn’t start. It was damp, not quite raining but definitely wanted to. I was near Birmingham, but really was in a small road between small towns. Luckily for me, there was a landscaping company’s building nearby. Only one worker had shown up and he wasn’t planning on staying. As I said, damp rainy day. Not the best for landscape work, I guess. He had some vehicle maintenance he was going to do, and if no one else had shown up when it was done he was leaving. I hoped to be gone before then.

Curiosity only has one fuse. It’s under the seat, so I have to unpack the rear of the bike to get at it. And it was blown. I had a couple spares, so put one in and started the bike. Blown fuses aren’t something to just ignore. They blow for a reason. Unfortunately for me, with Curiosity sometimes that reason is “30+ year old motorcycle,” and there isn’t anything I can see or do to make it not happen again.

I took a spin around the muddy lot, and everything seemed okay, so I loaded the bike back up (moving the fuse so I could reach it more easily if I needed to, it was just in the wiring harness), and got back on the road.

And 10 minutes later it blew again. And I replaced it again. I had one more spare left.

Which went into the bike a few minutes after that.

So, another mile and a bit down the road, when that fuse blew, I pulled as far off the road as I could, got out a soda, and assessed my options. My riding gear can all be secured to the bike, and my usual response to this sort of thing is to lock everything up and walk to get parts or help. But this was a small road, with a lot of blind corners, and there wasn’t a safe place to park. Google maps showed me an auto parts store about 3 miles away. So, with the mountain roads, around two and a half hours walk, road trip. It also said it was mostly down hill. Pushing the bike would slow the walk down a lot – but it would also keep Curiosity from causing an accident on the narrow roads and maybe we could coast for some of the way. As a plan, it even works, some, for a while.

I have a friend, a pretty good friend actually, who doesn’t even pay attention to my travels unless something is going wrong. He is fascinated by the way things just work out when it looks like everything has gone wrong.

While I was walking, a truck pulled over in front of me and stopped. He was a local minister, and his son (on the way to work) had passed me pushing the bike. The son called the father, who loaded up his truck with gas cans, jumper cables, some tools, head out to help. Of course, I didn’t need gas or tools, he he took over to get me fuses from the auto parts store.

While he was stopped, another truck pulled over. This one was larger, and wanted to makes sure we were all okay. He didn’t have fuses either, but waited with me (making me harder to be accidentally hit by another passing car) while the fuses were bought, and while I installed one. I was honest and said I didn’t know how well it would work, since I’d been blowing fuses, and was just trying to get to town. The idea of me pushing Curiosity “all the way” to town seemed to stun my helpers. but what else was I going to do?

So, fuse installed, bike running, I re-geared up, repacked, pulled out into traffic, passed my two saviors with a wave – and the bike died. At this point I seriously considered by-passing the fuse (which would tell me where the short was occurring from the smoke and flames that would result). But, instead, the second truck offered me and the bike a lift into town.

Oh yeah, quick confession. For the ride report almost all the pictures were taken with a film camera –

Minolta Goodness

However, the next few shots are from my phone. This was so I could easily update people on what was going on, and I didn’t want to be taking two pictures of everything.

Yay for light bikes!

We took all the luggage off Curiosity and then lifted the bike and laid it down in the back. Without the luggage, the bike weighs less than 300lb, so it wasn’t all that hard with three of us lifting. Then I got a ride with the minister, following the truck with Curiosity, to the Advance Auto Parts. I also confirmed there wasn’t a hotel or motel within a couple of towns, so I had to get moving again.

I bought all, and I mean all, of the 20amp fuses they had in stock, and then took Curiosity as far apart as I need to, to get at all the problem areas of the harness. The big problem is the tangle of wires inside the headlight bowl, and I spent a couple of hours going through connections, feeling along wires for worn insulation, and occasionally starting or trying to start the bike (and blowing a fuse). Twice I thought it was fixed and went for a ride in town (asking the store to watch my luggage), and it blew again. There was a grocery store next door, so I went there and got lunch, sitting and watching traffic while I ate to give my brain a break from the bike. I hate electrical issues, and Curiosity’s age and…experience…means it has all kinds of little problems. I found dirty and loose connections all over. But none of them fixed the bike – until one did.

The lights came on. The bike started. I rode around the lot for a while and it was fine. I went around a couple blocks, and it was fine. I went inside, washed my hands, came back out and the bike still started right up. I repacked, getting my riding gear on again, and Curiosity still re-started when I hit the button. There wasn’t anything else to do, other than hit the road. I’d been stopped for 5 hours.

The delay messed with my ride plan a little, but I wasn’t too worried. I had some extra time to cross the south, and planned to stay in Albuquerque with some family for a few days as my next planed stop. Even losing most of a day’s riding, it wouldn’t be hard to get there when I said I would, so I relaxed and enjoyed the smaller highway and slower travel. For example, when you see a sign that says “Kermit the Frog Museum,” you stop.

Leland Mississippi isn’t where Jim Henson was born, but the small Deer Creek is rumored to be the first place he dreamed up Kermit. The creek wasn’t much to see, actually, and the woman working the museum seemed a little to desperate for someone to talk too, but the museum itself was interesting and had a lot, I mean a whole lot of Kermit stuff.

Also Miss Piggy

This one might be a little creepy

I also stopped in Paris (Texas) where they have a sort of Eiffle tower replica with a certain Texas twist.

I am not sure how I feel about the hat

Texas also gave me the nicest wild camping of the trip so far. I think it used to be a picnic area and overlook, but an interstate highway was put in and the state highway stopped seeing much use. While I was there only one other car passed below me.

Yes, this was film

This was film too

After dark, a truck pulled and and sat for a while at the other end of the parking lot. While I know it could see the bike, I’d set my camp up screened from the lot for some privacy. It was there for a while, creaking softly, then left. So I guess not all the locals had forgotten about the place.

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