Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bonneville Excursion 9/18/07 - "I`ve got no place left to go!"

Home again, home again! We did it. WOOHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! As of about 7pm this evening, Funks and I planted our feet back on the asphalt of my driveway and declared ourselves cooler than about anyone else in the world we could think of at that moment.

Enough about our coolness for now, however. I'm sure you're all dying to hear just what exactly transpired today between Columbia, Missouri and Indianapolis, Indiana.

First off, it was the momentous final morning packing of the bikes exercise.

This was one exercise we were not going to miss.

Clearly you can see the joy in my face at the knowledge that I wasn't going to have to lug four bags and a helmet down halls and elevators and crashing through doorways yet again tomorrow.

Breakfast was ignored for the time being, with the desire to be on the road far stronger than the desire to eat. We put about forty or fifty miles on the bikes before we stopped to gas up at a little spot off the highway. The station was the only thing to stop for immediately off the highway at that point. It was surrounded by fields of soybeans, a sight I hadn't seen in weeks, and it suddenly looked beautiful and heartwarmingly familiar to me.

After we gassed up and ate some breakfast bars, I asked Andrew to pull his bike over off the nearby frontage road and grabbed a pic of our machines with that gorgeous midwestern background setting them off. I was struck at the same time at the fall colors just beginning to creep in around me. We'd been gone a long time. This was all green nearly three weeks ago.

The rest of the day was spent largely leaned over the gas tank watching road signs and looking for the first ones that indicated towns in Indiana. We stopped for lunch around noon and got to witness a family (or some aggregate thereof) attempt to drive a car across the country without any water in the radiator against the warnings of a very well-meaning passerby.

Following lunch I wanted to get some oil, which led us on a five-store goose chase. Apparently, while you can buy REAL gasoline (93 octane as opposed to only 91) in the Midwest, they don't sell 20W50 motor oil in gas stations. I finally scored some at an Ace Hardware, by which time I was ready to write letters to every major oil company on the planet.

After lunch we realized "only one more gas stop between here and home." Here it is, the final stop, Exit 136 off of I-70. I have no clue where that is, but it's sorta near Terre Haute in a kinda sorta way. There was a '62 Pontiac Tempest four door parked there. That and the fact that the place was clean were about the only notable things about the station. When we were done with photos, I made a flourish with my hands and pointed east. As I finished Andrew said, "Let's go home." It had been a long time coming.

7:15pm, September 18th, 2007. The Bonneville Excursion has been a screaming success. Since the earliest moments of its inception at a Steak & Shake at the corner of Westfield and 86th Street, through all the plans, Maxton Mile racing, day trips, purchases, setbacks, repairs, hotels, a tire, a battery, rain, freezing temps, heat, cuts, bruises, scrapes, sunburn, salt, meteor dust, petrified trees, gasoline, duct tape, triumphs, annoyances, worries, and some very crappy roadside fast food - through ALL of this and so much more we've had what can only be described as an incredibly awesomely fabulously fantastically outstandingly wonderfully INCREDIBLY GREAT TIME!!!!!

...and we were hungry. I had no food at my house. There was only one choice, back to where this whole thing started:

When we were finished eating Andrew said, "I'm ready to go, unless you need to take another picture or something." "Of what?" I asked. "Oh, I don't know," "Just like this?" I asked, raising the camera. I laughed at the result. "We're not in the picture! Just the empty plates!" Andrew looked at it. "Perfect," he said. "We're done."

So we are. Thanks to everyone who read along. It's been a fantastic journey that i wouldn't trade a moment of for anything. I can't believe we pulled it off! What next???

Well, now that I ask, I would like to get a record on the books, or maybe get the BMW into the 130 Club. Huh...maybe next year we could-


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bonneville Excursion 9/17/07 - Auntie Em! Auntie Em!

Morning in Burlington, Colorado. Getting packed up and ready to go.

It always seems like you're in the middle of a desolate no-man's land when you've been riding late into the night. When we were getting packed up I realized that we were not in the middle of nowhere, and that there was a massive John Deere dealership across the street. Just my reminder to me that things aren't always as they seem.

We were relieved to see sun and feel warm temps as we got ready, versus yesterday's cold and rain. However, the forecast had said "windy" the night before, and once we got on the road we truly appreciated what all that one word can encompass. I estimate that we spent at least half of our ride time tilted at a 60 degree angle while trying to ride in a straight line. I will always remember Kansas as WINDY! Some chick on a broom came by and said, "Y'all are fools! Get one of these on a day like this!"

Actually, there were some older fellas at a mom n' pop restaurant that were commenting on "those bikes outside," and "can you imagine tryin' to ride on o' them on a day like today?" Sure, can, buddy. It's all WORK!

For lunch Andrew got soup, and so was provided with a large basket of approximately fifty different kinds of crackers. Right on top was the legendary Captain's Wafers. Why are they legendary? Never mind their crispiness, light salting, and fine buttery taste, note the fact that said wafer is named specifically in the song "Camel Walk" by the group Southern Culture on the Skids. I quote: "Who's in charger here? Where's my Captain's Wafers? Don't go 'round hungry now, the way you eat that oatmeal pie just makes me wanna die!" High poetry.

After lunch and more buffeting on the road, we stopped for gas at a little RV park. Nearby was a little brook with a duck crossing. I haven't seen one of those in ages. There were little ducklings tottering about, but we had to get back on the road, and I didn't have time to wait and see if they would have a mind to actually cross at their designated area.

Every time we stop for gas the face shield must be cleaned. This time a really healthy-sized moth bid its final farewell smack in the middle of mine. At least it was polite enough to do so low in the field of vision.

Funks strikes a pose in front of the RV park building. I wish they still made buildings that were one of a kind like this one. That was one of the signature joys of this trip, coming across all these different, cool old buildings that were constructed with the idea for them to look totally individual.

We ended up being on the road late today. It didn't help that we lost an hour going into Kansas. We did make our goal of reaching Columbia, Missouri, however. Tomorrow we should have a pretty short ride ahead of us. We'll try to be on the road at a decent hour, say 4 or 5pm? It would be awesome to get home and have a few hours to get a couple of things in order and then get in bed before midnight.

That will be the end of it. Tomorrow is the last day of the Great Bonneville Excursion. Tonight has already begun the first of the lasts. The last crappy dinner at a roadside fast food joint. The last night of riding late to reach a spot on the map. The last night in a hotel room. After tomorrow it's back to the real world. I'm conflicted, but the last few days have given me time to get used to the idea. Going back to work won't be the best, but then it will be nice to get up in the morning and not have to pack things up and figure out where we need to be at what time.

What an excellent time we've had! What a truly fabulous time we've had! I wouldn't trade any of it. It's an adventure that I'll never forget.

I really hope tomorrow is adventure-free, though. I nice, easy, non-windy, non-rainy, non-freezing, non-construction and accident-laden trip home tomorrow would be heaven!


Monday, September 17, 2007

Bonneville Excursion 9/16/07 - To Burlington, CO - ride, ride, ride...sleep

Looking at our map we determined that we'd lost a lot of time on Saturday getting the battery for the Honda, and that today we'd have to really make up for it, or else run the risk of dragging our sorry, exhausted behinds into town on Tuesday night at midnight and then trying to get up and go to work the next day.

We were up from the Holiday Inn in Heber City at 7:30am, and on the road about an hour later. We chose a route recommended by my boss, herself an avid BMW rider. It wound us east on US40 across Utah just into Colorado where we took US64 down to US13 which finally put us on familiar pavement, if by name only - I70.

The morning's ride was great. My boss' route took us through some fabulous scenery as promised, though it was very chilly this morning. I took the shots below when Andrew finally pulled past me and signaled for the shoulder. He was too cold to go further without more insulation. I agreed, and added a long undershirt, my heavy gloves, and the insulating liner for my riding jacket.

We're much happier when we're warm! Even though it looks nice out, the wind was far too cold for comfort. It turned out that the day would never warm up enough for us to remove any layers. In fact, we would add more!

Round about 2:30pm we stopped for gas and lunch in Rifle, CO. Don't you love the name of the convenience store? There's something very wrong with that. I feel vaguely dirty for even having been in the parking lot. I kept looking for a little sign that said, "Adult novelties" or something. Who came up with that name???

Lunch in Rifle turned out to be the last time we would see the sun for the rest of the day. The bar and grille we ate at had the Denver game on (we were headed directly that way), and they suspended the game as we watched due to thunderstorms. How awesome - riding through thunderstorms.

When we were done eating we got ready for rain riding. I covered up all of my non-waterproof bags, and put the stuff inside my hard cases in garbage bags. Thirty-year-old BMW luggage just doesn't seal up like when it was new. I cope. I got out my rain jacket, but strapped it to the luggage to put on later in case real rain fell. It's too hot to wear when it's sunny out.

About twenty minutes later I got the "opportunity" to put on my rain jacket. Nifty. We had to pull over at a gas station, as we basically rounded a bend and realized we were about to hit something more than occasional sprinkles. We would roll in and out of various degrees of rain the rest of the day.

At least we were finally on I70. That little bit of familiarity helped, as did the knowledge that we wouldn't have to figure our route out anymore the rest of the trip, it would just be, get up, head east, and go.

I wanted to stop and take at least one or two other pictures, but the morning whipped by rather quickly, and the afternoon weather was so spotty I didn't want to get out the camera. Heck, in Vail we got so high up that we were freezing, and when we stopped for gas I put on my long underwear bottoms. We both had frozen hands. There was one picture I wish I'd stopped for in the morning. It was in Dinosaur, Colorado, and it was for a church. It said, "Dinosaur Baptist Church" hand-lettered with white letters on a brown plank sign. THAT was a missed opportunity. I wish I could have seen what a Baptist church for dinosaurs looked like - probably really high ceilings, I bet.

It was more riding and more riding the rest of the day. We stopped only for gas, and said stops were as quick as possible. We would check the map and continue on. Kansas wasn't getting close fast enough. We got into Denver a little later than I'd hoped, and we just kept on going straight through town as dusk turned to dark.

Finally, at a gas stop around Bennett, CO, we decided that we'd continue on to Burlington, which is not too far from the state line, and see if we felt like going further (in the photos you can see us puffed up in our extra ten pounds of insulated clothing and rain gear. Yeehaw.). About thirty minutes later we pulled off for Burlington, with me thinking it was time to stop, and Andrew gets pulled over by a cop for having a taillight with low visibility (it's a vintage style taillight that, well, it's just not very bright). He didn't get a ticket, but was told to replace it. This was definitely a sign that it was time to quit for the night, so with 640 miles clocked on the odo, we hit the Comfort Inn down the street, and called it a day.

Upon checking Google Maps in the hotel, we were thrilled to see we'd put a big dent in the trip. We can do about ten hours of riding tomorrow, and maybe eight on Tuesday, which should put us in Indy by around 6pm or so that day. This is what we've figured. If all goes well. If!


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bonneville Excursion 9/15/07 - Never a dull moment, unfortunately.

Today was supposed to be the relatively uneventful return of the Ryder truck to Salt Lake City, followed by the welcome return of hands to grips and tires to asphalt with eyes finally turned east once again after two weeks of westward adventures.

Well, that last part finally did come around, but it was much, much later in the day than either of us had planned, like 6:30pm instead of 1 or 2pm, but let's begin at the beginning, shall we?

After getting all our crap packed up and the last of the cleanup done on the rental, I went inside to ask one more time to talk to either the owner or the manager. There are far too many idiotic details to relate about this whole suit business at this point. Suffice to say that apparently neither the manager or owner have been near the building except for a couple of minutes on two different days. The guy at the desk was already two hours over his shift and apparently his replacement had stiffed him and was refusing to come to work. He wanted to talk to the owner or manager as much as I did. He gave me a number, I called it, I got voicemail for a person who didn't match the name I wanted, but left a message anyway. I left yet another note at the front desk, a really long note. The note from the night before, which the owner would have read if he'd ever showed up, was still sitting there. I had them both photocopied for my references. I am not anywhere near done with this situation.

Having gotten absolutely zero communication from anyone in a position to do anything about the returned package, Funks and I said a big "F*** you" to the Days Inn of Wendover, and left town. On our way east we passed through the amazing salt flats one last time, and asked Funks to get a shot of the mountains in the distance that appear to float above the horizon. The heat and sightline weren't perfect for it, but you can see a bit of the edges lifted off the horizon in this photo. On the proper day they look like they're levitating. The Donner party must have freaked out, even before they started eating each other.

Two hours later we pulled up to the gates of Ryder, ready to end one part of our trip and begin the final leg. In about an hour we had the bikes unloaded and all our gear repacked for mototravel. Funks tells me he's all ready to go. I fire up the S and pull around the truck to where he's parked, and he's gesturing wildly and not appearing happy.

"What" I ask.
"It won't start! The damn thing won't start! Just forget it!" and with that he jumps off the bike. We study it for a bit, not wanting to really start taking things off of it, having just packed, but there's not much choice. Not only will it not turn the starter over, but when he tries to kick start it he gets not even a pop. Sounds like the battery's out of commission. A mechanic walks up as we're studying it, and we ask for help. Moments later Andrew's got the bike at a service bay, and three mechanics are watching as he gets the bags and seat off. A loose negative cable is discovered on the battery. Jubilation is felt. Said cable is reconnected and the bike jumped. Ignition! Moments later, the bike dies again. Another jump gets it back to life, and I hold the throttle with the revs up while Funks puts everything back on the bike and gets ready to go. The plan is to ride to a nearby Autozone and get a replacement together.

I get on the BMW, get turned around, and hear one loud exclamation of profanity. I look up, and Funks is off the bike again. "It just died!" he says. "Forget it! I'll ride with you and we'll both get the battery!"

I said, "How 'bout I go get the battery and you stay here."
"Okay. I have to pull the bike out of the back service area anyway, because the gates close at 5pm they told me."

Some time later I return with the battery. It's not full of acid, so we have to screw around with that. Once we've got all the bubbles worked out of it, Andrew is finally able to install it. Before going any further with reassembly he says, "Lemme give it a quick try." Nothing. More profanity. He pulls the side cover off. I'm talking about tracing battery cables and bad connections and then I say, "Hey! How about the fuses!" "I was just gonna do that," he says. He's a step ahead of me.

After some poking and ogling of said fuses, it's determined that the all LOOK good, but how can you trust a fuse by it's appearance? Funks pulls the suspect, replaces it with a spare, hits the trigger, and VOOOM! We have fire!!! Elation is apparent as the seven o'clock hour begins to creep in on us and the sun starts looking low in the sky. The only thing we want to do is get the hell out of Salt Lake City.

Ten minutes later we're pulling on to the highway ramp and I'm looking in my rearview mirror and praying that I see Andrew keeping pace with me. I am more ready to go that I'd realized. Now that we're finally rolling, I really want to roll!

It's so late in the day that there's not a lot we can hope to accomplish in road miles, but we give it our best shot and roll clear of SLC, finding some beautiful mountains on I80 east of the city. As the sun sets we head down into valleys as we leave 80 and take US40 east toward Heber City. It gets cold and darker. As we roll into Heber an hour later Funks rolls up next to me and points to his gas tank. Time for a stop. As we're filling up we both agree that the town looks like a really nice place, and that we might be able to find real food here, as well as a place to stay. A fellow rider pulls up on a big cruiser and tells us that we can get both. Excellent.

About two miles down the road I see a small neon sign on the side of a building announcing "BBQ." It looks small, clean, and definitely non-chain. I pull in, motion Funks up next to me, and I ask if he approves. I get the nod, and we grab two parking spots right in front of the building on the street. We're ready to dine at Spin Cafe.

It's the thrill of our last culinary week. Real food! Not since the Boulder Mountain Lodge have we had anything near this good. Funks orders up brisket, and I go for chicken and mushroom pasta. They have flavored Cokes! I'll have one each of vanilla and raspberry. Dessert is gelato. Funks gets three scoops in three flavors that he can't even eat through halfway. I get a concoction of coconut gelato covered with pineapple and bananas that have been glazed in brown sugar with whipped cream topping. It's a gastronomic slaying of the highest order. I can die happy now.

See? Aint it grand??

If you're even in Heber City, stop in here:

As we got ready to go, I saw this sign across the street:

Better help wanted? Well, whatever it takes to improve, I guess.

We asked our wonderful waitress Jaimie where a good place to stay was, and she directed us down to the Holiday Inn. "It's new, and it's really nice," she said.

We passed some kind of quaint and possibly cheaper hotels on the way, and I was wondering why we should stay at a chain, but when I walked in this massive clean room, made up all nice and with desk staff that was a million times more helpful than a week's worth of Days Inn staff, I was convinced we'd done the right thing. As you can see, Funks himself is in full approval of our night's digs.

You'd think after all that Bonneville madness that it would be just some quick blogs about how many miles we're doing for the easy ride home. I guess I'd be pretty thrilled to simply make some mileage reports and leave it at that, but as you can see, our experiences are far from done. I have no clue how I feel about that, but I am looking forward to some reportedly lovely scenery along our ride tomorrow, as my boss promised to me when she gave me this route home.

Tomorrow, more miles, more...I have no idea, but there will be more.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bonneville Excursion 9/14/07 - Fast times, good times - Part 2

There were so many photos from today that I figured it would be best to split this up into two blog entries.

After walking around the pits and visiting a bit, Funks and I headed up to the starting line of what is called the Long Course, where all the cars run for record attempts, many achieving speeds well over one hundred mils an hour, and sometimes even two or three hundred.

An El Camino that has made history at the salt flats.

Vesco car 444 gets ready to make an attempt.

Jaws. Awesome paint job. This streamliner was powered by an extremely loud V8 that nearly deafened me when it fired up. I don't know how fast they went, but when it was gone it was gone!

The Vesco team prepares their driver. Due to the heat, they pour water down the neck of his suit to keep him cool during the run.

The driver is buttoned in.

Fired up and ready to run!!!

Push off! Even though these cars are extremely fast, they're often geared so low that they need a push start from a support vehicle to get up to a speed where they can really run properly.

Team Vesco disappears down the course. We all waited impatiently for the report on their attempt. The record was not to be set today. They ran 193mph on a 203mph record. Rest assured, they'll be back to try it again. This car has set numerous records over the years. Its tradition is long and proud.

An exhaust pipe exit ahead of the front wheel? Turbocharged! A big one, too, from the looks of the pipe diameter. This guy told me in the pits that he had qualified with a 220mph run, then broke the wastegate on the turbo and slowed down to 203mph. "I've got the record at 203, but I really wanted that 220." Didn't happen today. The run after this photo was another 203mph.

Oil can? Maybe, but I'm guessing it's modified, full of gas, and used to prime the fuel injectors on that bright orange Jag.

This guy was going for the record in Production X class - a screaming 90mph with an old flathead Plymouth six! Hoowee! (They've got everything here!)

A cool-looking Suzuki twin.

A hot, stripped-down V-twin rocket.

Allow me to pay photographic homage to Monte, the start at the Long Course who also did the announcing at the driver's meeting that helped Funks and I get a loaner set of leathers. I shot these after thanking him for his help.

I love the "big go" sign. He sweeps his hand down the course as if to say, "Go get it!"

Signaling the driver. Time to hit it.

Hit it!

The Indaco Metals streamliner. These guys were staying at our hotel. We swapped stories with them in the parking lot in the evening.

Some of the Indaco crew hard at work in front of their flamed Ford.

This orange Ford roadster was waaay louder than I'd ever have guessed it to be. I was on the phone with my brother Ben when it fired up. "What was that?" he asked when the fuse was lit.

It was a heck of a day, so much to experience! Funks and I stopped at the End of the Road (end of the asphalt where the salt itself begins) before we got back onto the main road. We unloaded the bikes and had them washed from a nearby portable water source, plus had the rental truck washed as well. Funks suggested we snap a shot out there on the salt before we took off, as we hadn't done a tripod shot with both of us in it for quite some time. Excellent idea. You can see the mountains behind us and the vast expanse of salt all around. You can also see us grinning like idiots, because this was definitely one of the most outstanding vacations either of us had ever had!

Tomorrow morning we check out of the hotel (that has STILL not managed to set things right about that stupid suit issue!), and start heading east for the first time in two weeks. We understandably have mixed feelings about returning. We're tired, but not all that excited to go back to work! It'll be nice to get up in the morning and not have to figure out which road to take next, however.

I've got a few more days of riding left before Indiana is on the horizon. I'll keep you all posted.


Bonneville Excursion 9/14/07 - Fast times, good times - Part 1

We got all our runs done yesterday, so today we were in full-on relaxation mode. We just hung out, visited, looked at cars, and watched other folks race. I ended up with over 400 images on the Nikon. Here is but a taste of my day's excellence.

Driving in this morning. Best road sign in the world.

Very nice flamed Ford that I found out later was a push car for a racer!

Me and Fred, the big chicken. (I think his name is Fred. He didn't say much.) He's the mascot of the salt. I think he used to have a job at a KFC before he was rescued and redone for salt duty.

Me and Don. Don ran the Dodge pickup in the background. Don's from Cinic and his boys both live in Indy. Great folks. Don loaned me a hammer and an air compressor. I loaned him my pants. Quick friendships form on the salt!

Superbad flathead Ford roadster.

The same Ford's engine bay. Notice the amazingly awesome Paxton supercharger wedged in down there near the lower left corner of the shot. This thing puts out serious power.

...and serious power has a serious cost! The Ford's supercharger belt cover.

Willie may be wasted, but he puts together a great flathead.

Hot Ford engine.

Sticker on the Vesco 444 Streamliner. I want one of these stickers on my car.

All ages are found at the salt. I can't tell who is in control here, but they were having fun.

Vesco 444 car suspension. Not your average hardware.

The Vesco car runs a Riley-equipped Ford four cylinder.

The team snaps the lid on the Vesco car in preparation for a run. They were going for the 203mph record, but had only run 194mph earlier in the day. For those who are wondering, yes, that's over 200mph out of a vintage Ford four cylinder engine from the 30s!

A Studebaker awaiting trailer loadup on the salt.

Funks at work making some magic.

Salt gets on everything out here, and I understand it was a dry meet this year, so it can be much worse. I was told "You'll grow three inches" walking around the pits. We were lucky, but it still sticks good.

The best way to see the pits.

The best way to travel to a meet - an '07 Kenworth mated to a '68 Airstream trailer.

Jag exhaust. They have a sports car class. Lookit all them pipes!

The Jag waits for a chance at a record.

More to come...