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Pale, acute, mobile
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Greetings All,

Back on August 10th, I packed up the Vector (2006 StreetRod that I picked up almost a year ago) and pointed it towards an island somewhere in lower Puget Sound. Apparently there was going to be a party there and I figured, "So what if I'm more than 2000 miles away. A friend is having a soire and I simply must attend. Anything else would be uncivilized."

I worked that last Friday and took off after I got home that night. As per usual when blasting for points westward, I made it from home in Ann Arbor, MI to Madison, WI that night. On Saturday I stayed on the slab, using I90 to make maximum time towards the better roads on the other side of the Dakotas. Traveling west through the plains states during the last weekend of Sturgis is a weird experience. Over 780 miles of travel that day, I saw a grand total of four bikes heading west. Heading east I saw about 10,000 bikes. I was prepared to be forced to ride into Wyoming to find a room for the night, but the first place in Rapid City that I stopped had vacancies. I guess that last weekend of Sturgis isn't very popular any more.

The next day's ride to Cody, WY started with nice calm weather but then God flicked on the "high-winds" switch when I crossed into Wyoming. Bucking headwinds all the way to Buffalo, WY, I posted nearly my worst mileage for the two weeks: 31mpg. Yuck. (Note the previous day in SD was even worse.)

West of Buffalo, I crossed the Bighorn mountains and the Vector saw its first mountain pass. Damn, this bike is a blast. I've traveled this road before on the Cruiser ('92 Heritage Softail) and I couldn't lean it over anywhere near as far. Also, the truck ruts in the pavement could make the Cruiser wallow if you took the corners too fast; not with the Vector. Lean this bike over and it's as steady as a bank vault. I think I'm really going to like this bike.

West of the Bighorns it was 105-degrees in the shade. I nearly melted into a puddle of pale colored goo by the time I reached Cody and got the air conditioner in my cheap hotel room cranked up to the quick-freeze setting.

The next morning I took the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway to the northwest and picked up US212 to double back through Beartooth Pass. The skies were a bit hazy due to nearby wildfires and the east entrance into Yellowstone was closed. The result was that traffic on the Chief Joseph was busier than usual because so many tourists had to detour to the northeast entrance into Yellowstone. Luckily the Vector was plenty capable of manuvering around the extra land yachts. I ended up tucking myself in behind a Ducati and a Triumph and we had a good ol' time making nuisances of ourselves.

Later that day in western Montana the plot thickened. Actually, the air thickened . . . with smoke. I decided to head down into Idaho and Montana route 43 through Wisdom. Little did I know that the hills around Wisdom were in a state of total flammage. As it turned out, I didn't see much in way of flames but it couldn't have been far away. My throat was getting scratchy from breathing all that smoke.

The next morning, my black bike had turned grey with all the ash that had fallen out of the air overnight. I headed south and west and was enjoying the scenery that I could see through the smoke. I knew that one of the roads I was planning on traveling later that day was closed due to fire, but I rolled the dice and headed in that direction anyway. Perhaps the fire crews would have it under control in five or six hours.

Riding through a narrowing river valley I was passed by a BMW K1200S, fully loaded for touring. As he sped away into the tightening curves, it occurred to me that I had yet to fully test the Vector's handling capabilities. The Bimmer probably had similar handling characteristics to the Vector so I caught up to him and used him as a guide through the canyon. This was a total joy, railing around corners at speeds that were simply impossible with the Cruiser. When we stopped for gas in Stanley, the Bimmer rider came over to verify that the bike that was tailing him really was a Harley. It was a humorous moment.

This probably isn't news to most of you, but here goes: Hells Canyon is a seriously hot place to be riding around in full leathers. The roads are twisty down into the canyon so you can't go fast enough to get much of a breeze through your vents. I burned my nose off and almost melted (again) before I finally reached the base of the canyon and the road crossed to the Oregon side (west) and that was in the shade.

After enduring my descent into Hells Canyon, I had reached a T-intersection where the road turns south to head up the canyon wall towards the town of Halfway. To the right was a short road that led to the Copperfield Campground which is where I originally planned to spend the night. Being as hot as I was, I stopped the bike at the intersection and sat there in silence (I hadn't seen another car for miles) pondering my choices. It was still rather hot and the prospect of a hot night in a tent wasn't very exciting. If I turned left I may be able to find a motel with air conditioning, but not before I was out of the canyon and back in the hot sun. What to do, what to do? Just then I catch movement to my left and not 15 feet (5 meters) away is a deer standing in the middle of the road. She watches me for a moment and then continues across the road and starts up the hill on a game path that is now obvious in the undergrowth. As I'm sitting there reflecting on the rareness of such an encounter, a fawn jumps the guardrail to my left and follows its mother across the road and up the path. This fawn is followed by another fawn and another doe. Right about now I decide that I need to try to capture this on film so I dismount, dig for my camera, and take a photo before the deer disappear into the landscape. It's strange how life throws you moments like this just when you're preoccupied with your own problems/discomforts. Somehow, the rest of the day was suddenly much easier to manage.

The next day I needed to cross Oregon to Portland to spend the evening with some friends. Not wanting to miss anything, I blew off the slab in favor of the Blue Mountains Scenic Byway. This was a pleasant road through some gorgeous pine forests but I didn't know part of it had been on fire. Soon enough I'm presented with a Road Closed sign and I stop the bike and wonder how much backtracking I need to do to get around this impediment. Up walks the park ranger who was sitting in a nearby Suburban and she tells me that the road is going to open tomorrow and if I take it real easy, she reckons that I can sneak through.

Truthfully, it was no problem. There was some brush and pieces of wood on the road from the fire fighting efforts and there were a few pieces of equipment still parked on the road but it was nothing overly daunting.

Oh, if you haven't seen Mount Hood before, you need to travel more. A single conical snowcapped mountain, isolated out in the middle of the rolling hills. I was impressed. I reached my friends house a bit tired and more than a bit dehydrated (my own fault). We spent a fine evening and I probably doubled their water bill for this month. (I should probably send them a subsidy check.)

What followed next was one of the most enjoyable days of the trip. I took a short ride up the I5 to Castle Rock and took 405 up to Mount St. Helens. To truly appreciate the scale of the 1980 eruption, you've got to visit this place. At the closest vantage point, the mountain still looks to be a fairly safe distance away. You find yourself humbled in the face of nature when you consider that where you're standing is close enough that during the eruption you would have been incinerated in the first few seconds. They wouldn't have even found bones; maybe dental fillings.

I then traveled back to the Columbia River and followed it to the Pacific. The peninsula that protects the north side of the mouth of the Columbia is called Cape Disappointment. There is a state park there and I had miraculously managed to reserve a camp site here before I left on this trip. It was truly a lovely setting. You've got your traditional picnic table and fire pit. Your surrounded by pine trees and you pitch your tent on a soft bed of pine needles. You follow the sound of the surf out the backside of your campsite and you're on the beach, which stretches south to the point and north about 200 yards to a cliff. On top of the cliff is an old lighthouse that is still operational. It was fantastic. I set up camp and headed up the coast a mile or two to the Crab Pot for a pound of Dungeness crab legs. Then it was back to the campsite to get some firewood and enjoy the evening.

About the time the fire was dying down it was late enough that the sky was quite dark. I ventured back out to the beach and took in the vista. The stars nearly came down the horizon and the Milky Way was clearly defined overhead. At the horizon I could see the flashing beacons of several ships. And to top it all off, about every 15 seconds the brilliant beam of light from the lighthouse at the top of the cliff rotated around and out to sea. If Mary had been with me, it would have been a very romantic moment. Alas...

[Continued in the next messge in this thread.]

Ghost
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Part two of trip report

Early the next afternoon I was crossing a bridge onto a certain island towards the south end of Puget Sound. My friend Snarl has been hosting an annual party here for years but I had never been able to attend. Not knowing the route to his home, I stopped on the shoulder to get out my phone and let Google Maps find how to wind my way across the island to the Par-tay. Just about then, a pickup slows down and a guy rolls down his window to ask me something. A quick scan of the truck reveals a Harley sticker in the window and a keg of beer in the back. I put my phone away; this truck must have something to do with Snarl.

The Par-Tay itself has been addressed (beat to death, really) by several threads on rec.motorcycles.harley and none of the other attendees ride a V-rod or lurk in the 1130.com forums. Consequently, I won't rehash the play-by-play. It was a great time and damn well worth the travel time to get there.

Sunday I rode up the Puget Sound side of the Olympia Peninsula and took the Port Townsend ferry to Whidbey Island and back the mainland. There must have been a two-hour wait at the ferry but riding a motorcycle has its advantages. I rode right to the front of the line and was put on first with three other bikers. Where else do motorcycles enjoy such favoritism?

I found the trip across Washington on route 20 rather enjoyable. Not much traffic, great scenery, a little isolated in the higher elevations, but entirely worth it. One word of warning though, towards evening deer seem to poke their heads out from each and every tree. If you can, plan your day to get off the road several hours before sunset.

Truth be told, the remainder of the trip was uneventful. I picked up US2 near the Washington/Idaho border and stayed on it all the way into the upper peninsula of Michigan. I did take a detour through Glacier National Park on the Going-to-the-Sun road, of course (duh!), because it is a moral imperative.

Once in Michigan I took some time to revisit the Keweenaw Peninsula region. I went to college up there back in the Jurassic era. I spent my last night in a roadside motel next to the Hilltop Restaurant. This also is a moral imperative because you have to get one of their sweet rolls for breakfast. You order it, eat as much as you can, and hope that the rest of it will fit in your saddlebag. Seriously thought, they're a real treat.

Late Saturday afternoon I pulled into my garage and shut off the Vector. The following are a few stats from the trip:
Number of days: 15
Total miles: 6157
Average miles/day: 410
Average miles/gallon: 37.67
Average distance on a tank: 139.3
Maximum distance on a tank: 186.0 (V-gauge reported that I used more than 4.9 gallons)
Maximum miles/gallon: 42.18 (forest roads in eastern Oregon)
Minimum miles/gallon: 30.5 (bucking headwinds in South Dakota)

The Vector performed flawlessly. This is the longest trip so far on this bike and my only complaint is that the H-D Sundowner seat, while more comfortable than stock, is not up to the task. I'll tear it open this winter and rework the foam with gelfoam and tempur to get it right. In all fairness, I must mention that I installed significantly taller handlebars on the Vector to create a more upright seating position. The Sundowner seat for the StreetRod is designed to accommodate a rider leaning forward for the stock bars. This clash between the factory's design and my implementation is the biggest reason I need to rework the saddle.

For those who were hoping for visuals, I posted a few photos at the Ghost Cruises site.

I tour, therefore I am,

Ghost
 

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Great story, Ghost!

I can't beleive there was another R in the puget sounds area and I missed it!
 

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Wow... Really nice right up, sounds like a blast, luckily you didnt hit anything too gnarly in WY, lived in Laramie for a year boy does it suck up there!
 

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Great read. Hope I can do that some time. Got a friend that lives in Seattle. Don't ever see myself getting 15 days off though.
 

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Thanks Ghost, I felt like your wingman while reading that... looks a road trip you'll never forget. Besides the seat, what would you do differently next time?
 

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Living Free...
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Great, great read!!!! Sounds like you had one heck of a time and glad you made it back safely! Thanks for sharing!
 

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Great!

Ghost,
:notworth:
Excellent account of a fantastic trip!
Thanx!
Doc
 

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Grew up in Mt, good to hear you enjoyed my old stompin' grounds... Norht and South ends.

Thanks for sharing a great story!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
ViagROD said:
Besides the seat, what would you do differently next time?
In spite of the fact that I had a great time, there are a number of things I'd do differently:

Time--This trip was a little too long and a little too short. More precisely, I went too far in the time I had. A third week would have meant fewer miles per day and that translates into more time to explore, hang with the locals, relax at the end of the day, etc. Back in the late '90s, I traditionally took three weeks off and traveled anywhere from 6000 to 8500 miles. It simply made for fewer days where I felt I was pushing hard.

Camera Bag--I don't have a place on the bike where I can stash my camera where it is easily accessible. My jacket has large vents and I can fit the camera inside the vent pocket but on hot days the vent is open and the camera won't stay in there. I confess that there were a number of nice photo opportunities that I ignored because I was sick of digging the camera out of the top of the saddlebag.

Sunscreen Discipline--I wear a full-face helmet and I neglected to wear sunscreen for the first two days. Can you say, "stupid"? (I knew you could.) For the next several days, it didn't matter that I was now applying sunscreen with a trowel, my thoroughly cooked nose was in agony at the end of the day. Being inside the helmet under the visor was like keeping my nose inside a greenhouse. Which is realted to...

Taller Windshield--The touring windshield that H-D makes for the R is plenty tall to provide adequate protection for the stock riding position. However, I installed taller bars so I could sit upright when I ride. The windshield still keeps the the majority of the wind off my chest (so my arms aren't sore at the end of the day) but the top of the windstream hits my helmet right at the upper third of the visor. I swear, if I hunch down even two or three inches I can reduce head buffeting to almost nothing. The windstream on my face meant I couldn't ride with my visor cracked without the windstream irritating my eyes, thus adding to the aforementioned greenhouse effect on my poor nose. I can either install a taller piece of lexan, or I can have someone heat up the current piece and create a recurved edge to flip the windstream over my head.

Highway Pegs--I think I had them an inch or two too high. Minor detail.

Chrome Covers--6000 miles of road grime without a thorough cleaning and my aluminum covers look like absolute sh*t. I'm done with this ridiculousness and will install chrome engine covers this winter. I'll also powdercoat the wheels.

More visibility--While I left the fork reflectors on the bike (the rear reflectors are covered by the saddlebags), it still isn't visible enough from the side or rear. I'll be installing some additional side marker and rear (running and brake) lights this winter. Note that the combination of the stock headlight and the PIAA 1100X worked just fine.

There, that's way more information than you really wanted, but there it is...

You never stop learning,

Ghost
 

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thanks, ghost. Excellent write-up! :notworth: You make me jealous 'cause I'm stuck at work every summer. I've managed to sneak away a couple times over the last few years for a trip from calgary to the sunshine coast (north of vancouver). But marathoning to get where I was going, and missing so much on the way. Tours like yours are why we ride.

and, I find the solo trips are often the best
 

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Good write up better than the guys who write in bike mags, Dont want to hear how they scrape on every corner or wheelstand on every straight, your story made me feel like i was almost there , Good One
 
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