|First Quarter 2017||Louisiana MSTA Newsletter||Page 1|
The 2017 riding season has gotten off to a good start, many good riding days this winter. January 15 I did a track day at NOLA Motorsports Park on my Yamaha YZF R3 with perfect riding weather. Chief Cat Herder Tony Crowell organized a lunch ride on Saturday, 11 February, meeting in Denham Springs and riding back roads to the Bar B Q Station in Independence. The rider turnout was good, including our newest members Chuck Boyland and Paul Thibodaux. Although Chuck, who rides an FJR, has been a member for some time this was his first ride with the club and it was great to finally meet him. And though Paul has ridden with us several times this was his first since becoming a member. Paul rides a Concours 14. Also riding were Kevin Yeats, John Lipani, Guy Lombard and Eric Babcock and myself. Not wanting to waste the continuing good weather, on Sunday I met Chuck and two of his riding buddies at Osyka, MS for a 280 mile loop around south Mississippi with a lunch stop in Columbia.
Later in February I prepped my 08 Concours 14 for the track and tailored to Jennings GP in Florida for the joint COG/MSTA Sport Tourer track day, see my report below. Finally in mid March ten MSTAers including 5 from the Louisiana chapter spent a long weekend in the Texas Big Bend country. Highlights and lowlights plus many pictures below.
36 MSTA and COG (Concours Owners Group) members convened in Jennings, FL for track day training with author and trainer Ken Condon and his daughter Janine. Most COG members arrived Thursday and camped at the track. Most MSTA members camped at the Quality Inn in nearby Lake Park GA with a group discount arranged by Diane Park. We MSTAers gathered for dinner Thursday evening at the Rodeo Mexican restaurant across the street and later planned our "race" strategies back at the motel while enjoying some fine Bourbon.
Track gates opened at 7 Friday morning and those who had not already set up pits the day before did so and all prepared for tech inspection. Doug Westly and Becky Deschazo-Westly and the COG reps assisted with bike prep and performed tech inspections.
Next was the 8:30 riders meeting where we were briefed by Ken and divided into two groups, fast and slow with about 2/3rds opting for slow group. The majority of the 36 riders were first time track riders wearing rented leathers. As a veteran track day rider I felt compelled to ride with the fast group, although I'm really only half-fast. After Doug Westly, Doug Re and the track director gave a detailed and thorough briefing on track rules and corner flags the meeting was adjourned and fast group was instructed to gear up.
Every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour the track director would announce over a the PA system first, second and 3rd call and then "track hot". The first session at 9 o:clock was a follow the leader. Riders were broken into groups of 4 or 5 with a leader for each. We were instructed to pull over after each lap and let the rider behind have the advantage of closely following the leader and learning the proper line through each corner. I was pitted close to pit in and found myself first in line as Doug Westly waved me onto the track. The event organizers worked to keep us on schedule and did quite well at despite the task being very much like herding cats!
I thought the follow the leader session was awfully slow and I had to fight to keep from getting to close to the rider ahead. After two laps following the leader I pulled off line to let the group go by (Yeah I cheated and got an extra lap) Before long I was back in 2nd spot one more lap. The checkered flag came out and we returned to pits and then filed into the classroom. The first classroom session was on track lines. Ken had some great slides to demonstrate his points. Much of the classroom instruction was probably old hat to many in the fast group but Ken pointed out that his one of his goals was to discuss concepts covering techniques we have already been using subconsciously in order to bring them into consciousness for improvement and fine tuning.
Back on the track for session 2 I again found myself at the front but was soon passed by half of the group. Billy Acklin on his Aprillia motard passed me like I was standing still. The pace had increased dramatically, we covered only 17 miles the first session, at the end of this one my trip meter would read 47. It would take me most of the session to begin to get familiar with the track and learn barking points and turn-in timing. The absence of uniform road widths and painted lines to give easy reference points for locating turn-in points and apexes makes learning a track a challenge for me. However by the end of the session I had figured out what the strategically placed red arrows and target circles were for and learned to use them. Jennings GP is flat and relatively featureless due to the wide runoff areas with corner worker stations very far from most corners. I reckon this is why they have deployed the red arrows and targets, a feature I have not seen at any of the five other tracks I have ridden.
The next classroom session was about Braking, Shifting and Throttle Control, again a topic I think many COG and MSTA members are on top of. I was happy to hear Ken does not use the rear brake on a racetrack nor does he blip the throttle for down shifting, feathering the clutch instead. At this point I am becoming a big Condon fan. One term Ken used to describe proper throttle control was "racheting". I think most of us already knew the importance of smooth, gradual throttle openings on corner exits but I thought rachet was a good way to describe and think about it, a good example of bringing a technique to the conscious mind.
During the third morning session I was only passed by a couple of riders and I managed to catch a couple and actually pass them. I was starting to learn most of the lines and braking and turn-in points and could start increasing my speed and making small adjustments to see what worked best. That's when I started dragging the left peg feeler in turns 6, 8 and 10. Turns 8 and 9 are the slowest corners on the track and it was a challenge to get the sequence just right. I was not going very fast through there and scraping meant I was probably making mistakes. I decided to slow down and concentrate on smoothness. That worked and I felt more comfortable. However, by then mental and physical fatigue was setting in. I was glad when the checkered flag came out signalling lunch break.
The food truck parked not far from my pit offered grilled hamburgers and pulled pork BBQ sandwiches. The pulled pork was, I do believe, the best I have eaten and I am a big BBQ fan. More meat than could stay on the large bun and I had to eat the rest with a fork! This meal was included in our fee! What a deal!
During the lunch break there was a joint class outside under the pavilion on body positioning, instructed by Ken and demonstrated by his daughter Janine on her SV650. The positioning was tailored for street riding; just moderate body position shifting , not full hanging off. Again a technique that personally I had incorporated into my street riding years back, but I had noticed many riders sitting straight up in the morning sessions. I suspect this instruction was probably the biggest benefit to most of the class.
At 1:00 pm we set out on the track to try it out. I had to pull in after a lap to tighten my brake perch. I have a ram mount there with nylon spacers under the clamp bolts. Apparently the repeated hard braking in the earlier sessions had loosened them up. No problem, my tool box was ready and I was right back on track and got in some good, smooth laps. But on the penultimate lap of the session my low fuel light came on. What! I had started with a full tank, good for 190 miles of normal riding. I pulled off to look for gas. I had heard gas was available at the track but I rode around but could not find any gas for sale. But the race pit across from my spot had several cans. I asked the folks sitting there if they could spare a gallon and they cheerfully handed me a can refusing payment.
I was a little late for the next class session which covered trail braking, another technique that naturally transferred from track days to street riding. Back on the track I tried to think about trail braking but found myself already doing it before I could "tell myself" to do it. At this point bad right thumb was beginning to throb from the hard braking and becoming a distraction. I pulled in a lap early and decided to call it a day. I don't like to ride when I cannot give it my full attention.
The track and general facility as well as the instruction were all great in my opinion and well worth the fee and the long trailer haul. Ken Condon really knows his stuff when it comes to riding and has a great talent for teaching. And the fact that his course is tailored for the non sport bike rider and first time track day rider makes it unique in my experience. If this event is repeated next year I highly recommend it.
The MSTA gang gathered again for a group meal at the Cowboys Restaurant next to the Quality Inn for a good meal and chat about the days events. Again it was clear that everyone had a blast and hoped that this would become an annual event.
The Bayou State gang has been making a trip to Big Bend for several years with a different mix of riders over the years. We skipped 2016 due to anticipated bad weather but when Louisiana members Kevin Yeats and Tony Crowell proposed a mid March trip myself (Concours 14), Eric Babcock and Guy Lombard (R1200GS) were all in. In addition to the Bayou boys there were 5 out-of-staters, Don Laderer (ST 1300) from California, his son Chris (R1200GS) from Houston and Ron (KTM 1190 Adventure) from Fort Worth; Scott Stewart from Arkansas (KTM 1190 Adventure) and Jimmie Girton(Concours 14) from Kansas. Our final destination was Alpine, Texas, north of Big Bend National Park. Everyone but Don met up on Thursday night in Fredericksburg, Texas. Jimmie and Ron met up in Muskogie, OK and road in together. Tony and Eric met in Baton Rouge and rode in via I-10 as far as Houston while I took US 190 and LA and TX 12 to Beaumont and then US 290 to Fredericksburg. Kevin trailed his ST 1300 to a friends house in Kerrville. Don, would ride in from Los Angeles and meet us in Alpine on Friday.
For me the first day brought a challenge. A flat tire in east Texas on TX 21 10 miles north east of Bastrop. I had encountered a lane closure on US 290 at Giddings a few miles back and had made an off pavement excursion trying to ride around it. I reckon that is where I picked up the sharp stone that punctured my brand new Avon Storm or maybe I ran over something sharp on TX 21 at any rate my dashboard gave me the low tire warning and 24 PSI Rear. I began to thumb the Zumo's touch screen to search for a gas station but before I could even get to the search screen the TPS was saying 16 psi and then 12 and I had to pull onto the narrow shoulder. I felt pretty unsafe there and crawled her a dozen yards to the next driveway, dirt but a short paved apron gave me a decent working platform. But with the tire at 0 psi the wheel was practically on the ground and heaving with all my strength I could not get it up. I turned around to use the mild slope to my advantage but still no go, even with all the luggage cases removed.
I got out my tire repair kit and hooked up the 12 volt aerostich pump and it actually inflated the tire and I was able to get the Concours on the center stand. But once the tire was off the ground the air was coming out as fast as it would go in and with the noise of the pump I could not hear the leak. I examined the tread thoroughly but could not find a puncture.
I was about to google the nearest tow service when a neighboring cattle rancher and his 5 year old daughter rode up in a duallie. Tobiah said he lived nearby and asked me what I needed. I explained the situation and he said he'd be back in 10 minutes with a his air compressor and some soapy water. He was soon back with a huge compressor in the bed of his truck. In about 5 seconds my tire was aired to 70 psi and the puncture was obvious - deep in a center groove in the Avon a 3/16 inch slit that was nearly invisible when the tire was deflated. I had a sticky rope plug inserted in minutes and it was holding air. I thanked Mr Henneke profusely commenting that I was on the first day of a 6 day trip and he had just saved it. Tobiah laughed and said: "I don't know if you believe in God but I've helped out about a hundred folks along this stretch over the last several years and I believe that God put me here for a reason". I wasn't about to argue with him!
I was back on the road after an hours delay. With one eye on the TPS readout I stepped up the pace hoping to make it to Fredericksburg in time for dinner with the gang. As I pulled into the Econo Lodge I got a text - they were at the Mexican restaurant across the street. Ten minutes later I was too, drinking a large Top Shelf Margherita!
During the meal I learned that I was not the only one with problems. Jimmie's Concours had sprung a radiator leak about 30 miles from Fredericksburg. Eric had patched the leak with some epoxy before dinner and after dinner he rode to a parts store for radiator stop leak and put it in. As the veteran Concours owner my job was to put the plastic back on, which I managed to do with only one screw left over?!?
At about 8:00 am Friday morning the group split up with Kevin leading Chris and Scott southwest through the Hill Country to ride a couple of the Twisted Sisters while Tino led the rest of the gang west to Sonora to eat breakfast at one of hundreds of favorite mom and pops and to explore some new roads that looked inviting. Specifically TX 189 and 163 both of which proved to be fine motorcycling roads. These roads more or less follow Dry Devils River ending eventually at Comstock where we joined US 90 and then met up with the others a the Pecos River overlook. We stopped for a good while enjoying the scenery and taking pictures before continuing on to Alpine During the days ride both of the KTMs had suffered gas geysers while refueling, splashing both Scott and Ron with copious amounts of gasoline!
For our three nights in Alpine the ten of us were spread between three different motels due to limited availability but we all met for dinner Friday evening downtown at the Holland House. The food was good but the service and prices did not please.
About 8:30 Saturday morning everyone rode together to Presidio then to Study Butte/Terlingua on 170 where we fueled up before riding into Big Bend national Park. Just past the entrance to the park the group was to split up for the ride to Santa Elena Canyon, a popular attraction on the Rio Grande. And split up we did, some not seen again until the return to Alpine. The idea was for the "adventure" riders to take the shorter, unpaved Old Maverick Road while I would lead the Sport Tourers on Ross Maxwell Scenic Route, both groups meeting for lunch at the Chisos Basin Lodge restaurant. Tino assured all that any motorcycle would have no problem navigating Old Maverick. However, for those who like sport touring Ross Maxwell is won of the best roads in the area in my opinion.
The first snag in the plan was Don's ST 1300 would not restart after stopping to pay the NP entrance fee. He pulled out a booster battery and began to hook it up. Although we offered to wait for us he insisted we ride ahead and the three of us had a delightful ride to Santa Elena Canyon. Somehow, Don's GPS malfunctioned and he ended up going straight to Chisos Basin and waited for us there. I'm still unclear what transpired on shorter Old Maverick but the Sport Tourers arrived first and collected Don. Tino and Guy pulled up as we parked at the restaurant. It was 2:30 pm by now and the dining room was packed so we sat at the bar and had a nice lunch. Still no sign of Eric, Scott, Chris or Ron as we paid our checks and got back on the bikes. Don insisted on staying behind and waiting for his son Chris. As we were about to pull out of the parking area, Scott, Ron and Eric pulled up. Still no sign of Chris. (Maybe he was looking for Don!) Eric and Scott decided to eat lunch. Tony, Kevin, Jimmie, Guy, Ron and I headed back to Alpine. But by the time we were back to the other end of Ross Maxwell, there was only me, Tony and Kevin. We waited at the intersection of 118 for a while and finally someone came into sight. I swear it was Chris! Eventually we all arrived safely back in Alpine and everyone was happy!
Staying at three different motels makes meal planning difficult and no one suggested a return to the Holland House After about 20 text messages we more or less agreed on Harry's (until we discovered Harry's is a bar and does not serve food). We were going to settle for a Sonic but on the way there we came to Fatz BBQ joint. They had no alcohol but a quick call to Kim (don't ask) and she was there with a 12 pack of Dos Equis. The BBQ was good and then we walked on to Harry's for some Texas craft beer. The bar looks like something from a Clint Eastwood western but the outdoor patio was delightful.
Our original plan had been to head back on Sunday but Jimmie, Ron, Tony, Kevin, Eric, Guy and I decided to stay and ride the Davis Mountain loop. This was scenic and the road to the McDonald Observatory was fun. The loop was only about 130 miles and we were back in Alpine by 2:00 pm. Don and Eric and I walked over to Harry's while Tino and Kevin relaxed in their motel room.
Drink local craft beer on the outdoor patio at Harry's was again delightful in the cool evening but after a Big Bend and a Tejas I was ready for a Bourbon. The
Bar maid gently explained that Harry's license was only good for beer and wine. An wizened old
coot gentleman with a German accent at the end
of the bar had overheard and spoke up. He had no Bourbon but would I settle for some Canadian Whiskey? You
bet I would! He got up and asked how I took it and disappeared into a back room, emerging with a bottle of
Canadian Mist. On the rocks I replied and asked what can I pay you as he poured me a triple. I offered but the barmaid
insisted I could not pay for the whiskey but I could buy him a beer, which gladly I did.
Monday morning Ron and Jimmie headed north for Fort Worth and Kansas while Eric made a pre-dawn departure hoping to arrive home early. Tony, Kevin, Guy and I rode US 90 back to Comstock then rode TX 55 and FM 355 (Twisted Sister) on the way back to Fredericksburg, Kevin peeling off at Kerrville to pick up his trailer. We all had rooms at the Super 8 just on the edge of historic downtown Fredericksburg. It was early so Guy and I had couple of rounds of fine Belgian and Bavarian brews at the Auslander Biergarten just a block and a half up main street. By then Kevin and Tino were hungry so we met them across the street at Der Lindebaum authentic German restaurant. Great food and more good brew! A fitting final meal of our trip.
STAR 2017 promises to be an outstanding event. Stacie and I and other members are already registered and raring to go. If you have not already, make your plans to attend, I guarantee a great time. And plan on attending one of the many great regional events throughout the riding season. Check out the official AMA sanctioned event schedule here and non sanctioned events here
That's all for now.
Keep riding & smiling
Bob Chappuis, Editor