|Second Quarter 2014||Louisiana MSTA Newsletter||Page 1|
This quarter we have ride reports on MOARK 7 and STAR 2014. Other than that we got together for an open house at Abentuer Motosports in Baton Roge and a breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Gonzalez which I rode out to on My Ducati 1098 to show it off. That is the longest trip I have made on it so far. It is not very comfortable. Somewhere between a wooden bench and a torture rack. Betwen MOARK 7 and STAR I was busy upgrading/refurbising the Concours 14, more on that in my story below. THIS JUST IN: TONY GOT A NEW BIKE. I think it is an F800 GS.
By "Ninja Bob" Chappuis
As riding season approached I started looking at event calendars on both the MSTA and COG websites. March was still plenty cold so I wanted to do something in April. Cog had an interesting event in the Hill Country but I have done the Twisted Sisters three or four times in the last couple years. An Arkansas COG event was a camping deal and I started thinking about getting my camping gear ready. But then on the MSTA website I spotted MOARK7. What! How did I miss 1-6? Looking into it further I realized MOARK was an annual ride put on by the Michigan Squadron, for years one of the healthier state MSTA chapters. I shared the link with the usual suspects and got one YES! And a couple of probables.
The Michigan folks have come up with a sound plan: ride or trailer down from the thawing north to Farmington, MO on Wednesday then ride some great twisties between there and Mountain Home, AR, a great home base for some fabulous Ozark mountain riding on Friday and Saturday. I made reservations in Farmington and Mountain Home for myself and long time MSTA member and friend Jim Girton of Olathe, KS and put a new rear tire on the Concours 14. As the departure date got close LA member Paul Lefort confirmed he would meet us in Mountain Home on Thursday and at the last minute Dennis Hedrick called to say he could not get away until Wednesday afternoon but would arrive in Farmington Wednesday night.
The weather forecast called for lows in the 40's and highs of low 60's throughout the trip with dry weather until Sunday. Wednesday morning I hooked up my electric gear and winter riding suit and started out about 7:15 am in 44 degrees, which turned out to be the coldest temp of the trip. I headed north on the Blues Highway (US 61) to Woodville, MS then got some twisties practice on MS 563 to connect with MS 33 to save some miles and bypass Natchez. On 33 I cranked up some throttle to make some time thinking I was LEO safe on the back road. Wrong. North of Crosby a well hidden Trooper nailed me for 83 in a 55. Not a good start. Back on the Blues Highway at Fayette, I had the blues for sure, having to stay close to the speed limits. My 560 mile day to Farmington would be a long one.
At Vicksburg I got on I-20 for about 3 miles to get through the city then back on 61 continuing more or less due north. I stopped for gas just north of Panther Burns.* I continued north on 61 though Alligator and turned west onto US 49 crossing the Mighty Mississippi at Helena, AR. The river seems as wide here as I have seen it. As I write that it occurs to me that I have lived all my 61 years in cities and towns on the Mississippi. I have crossed it by bridge, ferry, speed boat and kayak, but it is always a pleasure to make a new crossing.
After Helena it was north on AR 1 through Forrest City and Jonesboro and Paragould. Near the Missouri line I found myself on US 67 which took me into Farmington. I found the Super 8 and spotted a bunch of sport and sport touring bikes as I pulled into the lot and a couple of riders greeted me as I dismounted, including my old friend from Kansas, Jim Girton and Michigan State Director Gregg Mitchell who had organized the event. Other riders were unloading trailers. About half of the two dozen or so Michigan Squadron had ridden down from the Detroit area on sport tourers but the other half had trailered their sport bikes down. After getting unpacked and settled we all strolled to Dexter's BBQ for a fine meal. As we were returning to the motel Dennis Hedrick rode in on his new Triumph Tiger 800. After Dennis got introduced and grabbed a bite we all gathered for a Rider's Meeting in the motel lobby.
The Michigan Squadron led by award winning State Director Gregg Mitchell takes group riding and safety seriously but without losing any of the fun factor. One thing they do differently, at least in my 30+ year group riding experience, is to break up into 4-6 rider groups, each with a designated leader. At the riders meeting each leader is introduced and his or her pace described and riders are assigned to a group based on their own pace and comfort level. Of course, most of the Michigan Squadron are long time riding buddies and stuck together as usual. On the two heaviest and least sport oriented bikes Jimmie Girton and I ended up in the “slowest” group led by Jan. I have been a member of MSTA way to long to be embarrassed about following a female rider. As it turned out Jan was anything but slow. She proved to be a great ride leader, maintaining a perfect pace (for me, at least) and never making a wrong turn. Before too long we caught sight of the group that left ahead of us and I believe Jan slowed up a bit to avoid overtaking.
The weather was a little cool at the start but we were shedding liners and changing gloves at the first break. The planned route took us west out of Farmington and quickly onto twisty Missouri P and 32 to Salem, MO where we turned south on 19, another good twisty road. In fact, the whole route to Mountain Home was excellent. We stopped for a nice lunch in Mammoth Spring at the Riverbend Restaurant adjacent to Mammoth Spring State Park with a nice view of the park and Spring River.
We were in Arkansas now and we continued south on AR 9 to AR 14, both quite twisty, and then to Push Mountain Road, one of the best in Arkansas, for the final leg into Mountain Home. Everyone arrived safe and happy at the Comfort Inn. Paul Lefort, Louisiana member also soon arrived on his FZ1. Everyone checked in, unpacked and then headed across the street to the Arena Sports Bar for food and beverages. The atmosphere, service and food are all great at the Arena and the beer was good and cold. Dennis and I split a delicious medium pizza which we could not finish and ended up giving nearly half away!
After dinner Gregg held another rider's meeting to plan Fridays attack of several of the best roads in Arkansas. Dennis had had a ball with the fast group but he and his 800 Tiger had been overworked keeping up with the big bore Ducatis and Beemers and he did not want to work that hard again. So we prevailed on Paul to lead the Bayou State Boys plus Jim Girton. Most turned in early to rest up for the ride.
Friday turned out to be another fine riding day. The groups headed out on AR 201 to Push Mountain Road taking it to 14, then to 87 both superb, to Mountain View then 9 and 16 to Clinton where we stopped for gas and to Pelsor where we turned north on AR 7. Paul was maintaining a blistering pace but due to a few wrong turns and some back tracking we never caught the other groups until we stopped for lunch at the Cliff House south of Jasper. Despite riding in this area of Arkansas many times this was my first stop at the Cliff House and I was quite impressed with it. Great view, friendly service and good food. After lunch we back tracked on 7 and 16 to Witts Springs then turned north onto 377 and 74 to Marshall then 27 and 14 to Big Flat and Push Mountain Rd once again.
Back to Base Camp Comfort and the gang at the Arena. More good food and drink and camaraderie. No riders meeting tonight. The Michiganders were riding back to Farmington, Jim back to Kansas, Paul and Dennis leaving early to make it all the way home a day early and score some domestic points. I seem to earn more points by staying away longer so I would take the scenic route down Byway 7 and stop at the half way point in Arkadelphia, AR. The original plan to ride back to Farmington made no sense with thunderstorms predicted to move in on Sunday. Not to mention my rear Shinko was shot at only 3500 miles and I'd need to baby it to even get home from Arkansas.
Paul and Dennis were long gone by breakfast. The Michiganders started heading out in small groups, At 8:45 Jim and I were probably the last to leave. I rode 201 and Push Mountain one more time, I felt like I was exorcising a ghost. R.I.P. Bruce. Then 14 and 27 to Scenic Byway 7 at Dover. I crossed the Arkansas river and got into some sweet twisties and was wishing I had more tire to play with. Never-the-less I caught and passed a gaggle of about 20 cruiser riders in pirate suits. Soon after that I stopped and checked my rear tire and it was looking fuzzy bad. I stopped for gas in Russellville and asked the clerk for directions to a bike dealership. He said the Honda dealer was close by but they would not work on my Kawasaki and the Kawasaki dealership closed at noon. However there was a small bike shop half a block away. I thanked the dude and headed over to “The Twisted Grip”. They also close at noon on Saturdays and were closing up shop as I rode in and explained my situation. However, shop owners Karen and Perry Brogdon immediately started working on a solution. They did not have a 190/50-17 in stock and Perry, himself an experienced rider, and I discussed my options. After considering going up or down one size we sent Karen to the Honda Dealership for the correct size Shinko. I had a great time chatting with Perry as he mounted the tire and I was back on the road in less than 90 minutes! Karen and Perry are originally from Vicksburg, MS and are great folks.
It was great to have a new tire on as I hit the sweet twisties north of Hot Springs. There was event going on in Hot Springs and traffic was bumper to bumper until the other side of Lake Hamilton. The rest of the ride was uneventful and I pulled into the Quality Inn in Arkadelphia shortly after 4:00 pm. A little later I walked the 80 yards to the Ta Molly, a Mexican restaurant and had a nice meal.
Sunday morning I ate free breakfast and headed for home continuing south on 7 through Dalark, Sparkman and Camden, AR which has some amazing murals painted on many of the downtown buildings. Next time I gotta stop and take pictures!. Then on to Smackover**, Norphlet, El Dorado and Junction City, more great back road names. At El Dorado I had peeled off of AR 7 onto US 167. Junction City straddles the LA/AR state line so I was back in the boot. I stayed on 167 to Ruston then LA 146 to Chatham where I turned east onto LA 4 which is a nicely maintained, hilly road with plenty of nice sweepers. I got gas and lunch in Columbia then rode LA 126 to LA 8 south of Aimwell. With numerous hills and curves 126 might be the best motorcycle road in Louisiana but a recent repaving has left a stretch of it with a less than optimal surface. I followed 8 to Sicily Island and then US 165 to Ferriday, crossed the river at Natchez and then home to St. Francisville on the Blues Highway. 1761 total miles. And it was a delightful trip with pleasant temperatures and not a drop of rain plus great roads and companionship. A big thanks to Gregg Mitchell and the Michigan Squadron for organizing MoArk7!
* One of the many things I enjoy about traveling the back roads is the town names. “Panther Burn plantation off of Highway 61 just north of Greenville, Mississippi. A legend surrounds the plantation wherein at the turn of the century before last a wild cat, a tail dragger, a black panther, the last vestige of the vanishing frontier, displaced from forest and plain, homeless in the wake of further expanding cultivation of farmlands... the animal, out of a sense of hunger and general discontent began to howl all night, to harass the countryside, and to raid the chicken coops of the local farmers. Fed up with this worrisome nuisance, the planters launched a campaign to rid themselves of this creature who slept all day and prowled all night. When they caught sight of it, they fired their rifles and tried vainly to shoot it, but the panther was fast and they always missed. Then they set traps, but the panther was cunning and it eluded their traps. One night, a posse of irate farmers managed to run the animal into a cane brake (a stand of wild cane bamboo growing) and then they set the cane on fire. The shrieks and howls of the panther perishing within the flames were so horrific that the place became known from then on as Panther Burn.” (from an edited version of an essay by Joe Ambrose ) Another story I read said that the name came from the local residents burning old tires at night to keep the Panther away.
* * “The name Smackover comes from an anglicization of the French "Sumac Couvert" which translates to 'covered in sumac'.” (WikiPedia)
By "Ninja Bob" Chappuis
Thirteen Louisiana members/members of household made the trip to STAR 2014 in Rapid City, SD. Stacie and I rode out on Thursday June 5 for a 4 day ride including a visit with family in Wichita, KS arriving in RC on Sunday. Tony, Guy and Dennis departed on Wednesday also making a four day ride arriving on Saturday.
Rod Fors made a solo ride hitting some scenic twisties in Arkansas en route. Kevin Yeats trucked his Honda ST1300 while Paul Lefort and son Paul drove out hauling Paul's Yamaha FZ1 and their two dirt bikes. Paul's wife Dana and two daughters flew out on Wednesday the 11th.
For Stacie and I this long looked-forward-to trip was actually the maiden voyage for our newly refurbished 08 Kawasaki Concours 14. Upgrades included a Seth Laam Custom seat, Ohlins shock (20% discount from STAR 2013 donated by Ohlins USA and member Don Laderer, thanks Don and Ohlins, and new ZX14 Ninja front forks with GP Suspension custom springs and valves. Due to some unforseen delays the forks did not arrive until the weekend before our departure and that only with UPS 2nd day air!
Stacie and I spent our first night in Paris, TX a frequent stopping point for us, a 382 mile ride via the Audubon bridge, Pineville and Shreveport and Atlanta, TX. The Quality Inn in Paris has a nice pool and is located walking distance from several restaurants including the Fish Fry just across the highway that features all you can eat catfish for less than $14.
Friday morning we headed north out of town but some construction and road closure had my Garmin confused. The recalculated route put us inside the Campbell Soup plant. The kindly security guard gave us directions, opened the security gate and we were on our way to Wichita. My son and his family live in Wichita and I love to visit my granddaughters, Gabriel and Loralai. I have have perfected my favorite route, generally avoiding big cities and Interstate highways where possible. Metro traffic annoys me and Interstates bore me. Our route through Oklahoma took us through Tecumseh, Stillwater and Ponca City.
As we approached Stillwater the skies began to darken. Soon there was a thick, dark cloud directly in our path and I knew a stop for rain gear was inevitable. I held off, looking for a safe place to pull over but finally pulled onto some sketchy gravel, wide and off the road but uneven. We pulled on our gear just as large drops began to pelt us. We road through moderate to heavy rain for about 20 miles, then another 130 miles of light rain. We got a bit damp. We stopped for lunch at a fuel station and had a chat with a fellow MSTAer en route to Rapid City, a Texan on a BMW R1200RT. I think his name was Horton.
We arrived at the Super 8 in Wichita about 4:00 pm after 356 miles and freshened up for the evening's festivities. My daughter-in-law's great nephew, Brayden, has Cerebral Palsy and in 2013 was awarded “Most Inspirational Athlete at the Kansas Special Olympics Summer games. That meant he would be lighting the torch to begin the 2014 games at the Opening Ceremony! Stacie and I, my son Grant, his wife Delcie and the girls had a fast food meal in our motel room then piled into Delcie's minivan for the short ride to Cessna Stadium on the Wichita State campus. There was a large crowd of supporters for the special athletes on hand to view the ceremony and cheer on the athletes as they entertained with several song and dance performances followed by awards presentations. The ceremony concluded with the lighting of the cauldron with the olympic torch that had been carried across Kansas by a relay team of law enforcemnet officers. Brayden was the star of the show as he was held up to the cauldron with torch in hand. His wide smile of delight was visible all the way up in the stands where we were seated. It was quite moving.
Saturday morning we left Wichita about 8:30. Again we were initially thwarted by road construction on our route and made a few blocks around downtown Wichita before we could make good our escape across the Arkansas River. We zig zagged our way across the Kansas prairie and crossed into Nebraska south of Alma. Like Kansas the day before, the Nebraska Prairie stretched as far as the eye could see in every direction, but it was a little greener and a little more hilly. By now we had run into a strong headwind and gas mileage had dropped from the typical 40-42 to about 35. The extra bag I had attached to the topcase was not helping. I had also underestimated the general lack of population on the great prairie and the scarcity of fuel stops during my route planning. Accordingly, the night before I had added some fuel stop waypoints to my routes. However, the fuel mileage was so low I was worried about even reaching these fuel stops and was stopping for fuel early and ended up making an extra stop each day.. At Gothenburg we got on I-90 for the final 35 miles to North Platte, our days 401 mile destination for Saturday. The Ramada North Platte was allegedly just off the Interstate but we could not find it. My Garmin showed us right on top of the waypoint but there was only a Comfort Inn. I had considered the Comfort Inn but had picked the less expensive Ramada as it had the only outdoor pool in town. We pulled into the Comfort Inn parking lot to figure things out. Looking across the highway we saw a desolate looking building with a big sign post but no sign. That was what was left of our Ramada Inn. That night and still today searching the Wyndham Rewards or Ramada Inn websites they show no Ramada Inn in North Platte. But my reservation confirmation and Super Pages sure show it!
I pulled out my Choice Privledges card and dialed the 1-800 number. I had a room reservation for the Comfort Inn at the MSTA discount in 5 minutes. We walked inside and checked in. The room was nice as was the indoor pool. However, it eventually filled up with so many chill'ns that the noise level was unbearable. Sunshine is not the only reason I prefer outdoor pools. The biggest drawback to the Comfort Inn was it was located across the highway from the eateries and the highway was just too wide and too busy to cross on foot. After “relaxing” we don't get back on the bike for dinner so it was Domino's delivery.
Sunday we had an easy 317 mile ride to Rapid City. We wanted to arrive early, get checked in, freshened up and registered so as to have more time to socialize with old friends seen only once ore twice a year, one of the things we love about STAR. We rode north and west on Nebraska 92 and 97 then 61 north at Arthur all the way to the South Dakota line. Entering SD we also entered the Pine Ridge Reservation. Soon we were on a series of roads marked BIA-##, I assume BIA stands for Bureau of Indian Affairs. We stopped for fuel and a hotdog in Kyle. After a little haggling I bought a bead and rawhide key chain from an Indian selling (allegedly) Lakotan art outside the store. He said his other job was working at the Casino.
We arrived at the Holiday Inn about 2:00 pm and were immediately greeted by several friends. No delay at all checking in and the room was extremely nice. Registration also went very smoothly and we were soon relaxing at the bar. Later a group of us had supper at the hotel. We made plans for a Monday morning group ride of one of the rally routes then some turned in early while others (including Stacie and I) headed back to the bar for more drinks and conversation.
Monday morning I rode solo with the Louisiana guys while Stacie explored downtown. The LA group consisted of Tony, Triumph 1200 Adventure, Dennis, Triumph Tiger 800, Kevin, Honda ST1300, Guy, BMW R1200GS Adventure, Paul Lefort and son Paul on a Yamaha FZ1, and myself on my Kawasaki Concours 14. The Louisiana gang was joined by Californian Don Laderer on a Honda ST1300, Kansan Jim Girton on another Connie 14, and Keith Danielson of Michigan on a BMW R1200GS. Our route took us up to Nemo, Sturgis, Central City and Spearfish on some great twisty highways. We stopped for lunch just south of Deadwood at Boondocks 1950's Theme Park and Diner for some Buffalo Burgers. This was a really cool joint. Then down to Mount Rushmore before heading for Custer State Park and Iron Mountain Road some of the best twisties in the area. At that point my engine started sputtering. It would cut out momentarily on acceleration then surge back to life with a jerk. I decided the smart thing to do was head for the closest gas station for some fuel injector cleaner and a fill up. The same symptoms, only engine issue I have had with the Concours in 6+ years and 124,000 miles, had occurred at the 2012 Bulls Shoal event in Missouri. That time, fuel injector cleaner and/or fresh gas had cured the problem. I pulled over and stopped and told the riders behind my situation. Jim Girton volunteered to ride back with me. We backtracked on 87 then took 16 to Hill City where Garmin said there was fuel. The fillup and injector cleaner worked as it had in Missouri but I would not be convinced until I had covered some test miles. Had I been more daring I would have run the test on Iron Mountain but with it's 17 switchbacks I chickened out and took the direct route back to Rapid City. I was disappointed to have missed such a famous road but an engine cutting out in the middle of a switchback was NOT something I wanted to deal with.
Monday night was the Membership Meeting and the announcement of the STAR 2015 location. I think everyone was happy to hear it would be in Arkansas. That's practically in our back yard. After the meeting the group walked downtown to an Italian place for supper, I think it was called Ciao and it was OK.
Tuesday was the 250 mile lunch ride to Hulett, Wyoming and Monday's gang plus Stacie and and Idahoan Doug Weir on his Honda VFR 800 rode out together to ride more great roads and scenery, including Devils Tower . The lunch was very good and the venue, the Ponderosa Cafe, was neat and the service effiecient and friendly. We headed back to Rapid City via some more nice roads instead of the quicker Interstate 90. Throughout the ride the Concours never missed a beat.
Tuesday night the gang walked downtown for a meal at the Firehouse Brewing Company. We got a big table upstairs and had a great meal which I enjoyed with a couple of fine in-house brews.
On Wednesday everyone wanted to do the Badlands loop. As the group rolled out of town I had to stop a couple of times to deal with some heated gear issues. We were wearing our heated gear in the Black Hills mornings as it was in the 50s. Due to the stops we lost track of the gang but it was fine as we were in the mood to ride by ourselves and I had the route in my Garmin. Badlands National Park turned out to be the highlight of the trip, scenery-wise. The rock formations were unlike anything we had seen. I handed Stacie the camera to take from the rear seat but we also stopped a few times to take some pictures.
We caught up with the gang at the famous Drugstore in Wall, SD just outside of the park. This place is HUGE. We had to walk through about 3 miles of souvenirs to find the cafe. We ordered some food and sat down with the gang who were fishing up their lunches. I bought a Badlands shot glass before we left. The return trip was via I-90 and the headwind was fierce, wrecking my fuel mileage. It was an unsuauly windy day even for the Badlands. I had gotten a wind advisory alert on my smart phone warning of 25-35 mph sustained winds with gusts to 45. The gang wanted to go 75-80 on the slab but my cockpit range calculator said no. Despite the loop being only 161 miles I could not be sure to make it back to Rapid City at more than 70 mph. The all time low of 29 mph had me wondering if my engine was indeed healthy.
Wednesday night of course is the big banquet and bike raffle night and the official end of STAR 2014. The food, service and company were all great but we did not win any big prizes. STAR 2014 came off quite well, I think the EC and volunteers did a great job. I am puzzled by the relatively low turnout of about 260 (if I heard right). Maybe the semi remote location was to blame but for many of us the new and different location was a draw. Also puzzling was low number of vendors and lack of a guest speaker.
Thursday morning the Louisiana gang went off in multiple directions. Dennis and Kevin took direct routes home. Tony and Guy continued their adventures into Wyoming and Montana with Guy flying home after a crash and Tony eventually ending up in Iowa. Paul and family would remain in Rapid City for the rest of the week. Stacie and I rode 404 miles to Stratton, CO for Thursday night with a lunch stop in Alliance, NE and a visit to Carhenge where we saw Don Moe of FL. Jim Girton rode with us as far as I-70. Stratton is a tiny town of less than 700 and we stayed at the only motel which was next door to the only restaurant. Stratton does have a winery also next to the motel and our motel room got us a free wine tasting which we thoroughly enjoyed. We ended up buying two bottles. The room also included a free hot cooked-to-order breakfast!
Friday's ride was 346 miles to Amarillo, TX and the Big Texan Steak Ranch, another of our long time favorite stop-overs. We were pleased to see the rooms had been refurbished since our last visit and although the steak house visit was as much fun as ever the steaks were not as good as in the past.
Saturday we rode 401 miles east across North Texas on US 287 back to Paris. We STILL had a headwind and struggled with poor fuel mileage. Although my Garmin maps are the latest available the points of interest database is out of date or just inaccurate. The reliablity of a fuel station POI in Garmin seems to be about only 50% in rural or remote areas. Many actual stations are not listed and many that are listed are out of business. At one point on 287 I made a bad decision and passed up fuel in Vernon because I wanted to avoid an extra fuel stop. Garmin showed the next fuel in Electra, 18 miles away and my range calculator showed 20! Way to close for comfort. Luckily for us there was an Alon station (and a Subway!) in the middle of nowhere (actually Harrold, TX) about 10 miles short of Electra. We pulled in with 190 miles on my fuel tank trip meter and filled the 5.8 capacity tank with 5.6 gallons.
We checked into our favorite corner room at the Quality Inn and enjoyed another sunny afternoon at the pool. For supper we strolled a few blocks and ate at an Applebee's.
Our final day on the road brought about a complete turnabout in fuel mileage. The wind had finally turned in our favor. I was pleased to see my average mpg climb above 40. We stopped in Clarence and ate some of the best BBQ in the state at Grayson's, topping off another great road trip and another great STAR.
Touring on an older motorcycle brings a few challenges. We were pleased with the comfort afforded by our upgraded seat and refurbished suspension. However in addition to the engine hickup my front brakes also began to pulsate during the trip. Pulsating brakes are a well known issue with the Concours 14 with many rotors being replaced under warranty. Mine however were just flat worn out. At 124,000 miles the rotor thickness is 3.5 mm, far below the specified service limit of 4.5 mm. Since returning home these have been replaced with EBC rotors. As for the engine hiccup it may have been just bad gas. However, the “Online Consensus” is that the Concours' non-replaceable fuel filter, hidden inside the fuel pump is subject to clogging and causing the symptoms I experienced. Although the pump must be dismantled and the parts fiche does not show a separate filter, the same filter is available for the Kawasaki Teryx 4 wheeler and there are online tutorials to show me how to put one in my Concours. So we are all ready for the next road trip!
By Anthony “Tino”Crowell
A few years ago, when I was heading home from STAR in Taos, NM; I wanted to take a scenic road that just happened to be unpaved. I was riding a 2005 VFR at the time, certainly not anyone’s idea of adventure bike, but a capable bike nonetheless. I was only able to convince one of my riding buddies to join me and believe me when I say it took SOME convincing. Kevin rides a pristine ST1300 and goes into a severe state of depression when so much as Gnat touches his bike. In fact, when I ask anyone to join me on a dirt section they look at me as if I had just asked them to volunteer to be strapped to the spinning wheel of a circus knife- throwing act.
He was very apprehensive, but I think he enjoyed the scenery and the solitude of the road which goes across northern New Mexico and heads east into the Oklahoma Panhandle. It was over 20 miles of hard packed dirt with a touch of gravel. Certainly not Paris-Dakar material. That ride started me thinking of all the roads in this country that are not paved and that I was missing out on. I dipped my toe into the adventure bike market very gently at first, buying a Triumph Tiger 1050. Decidedly not a true ADV bike but with a wide handle bar and the right tires not too shabby.
Next up was my current bike; a Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200. Sure, it’s on the heavy side but it’s not like I’m going to enter it in a moto-cross race. So when planning for STAR 2014 began, I started to look for interesting roads that may or may not be paved. I found several including some real gems. I was riding with two buddies however that took some amount of convincing to follow me. Both had very good bikes for the task; one on a BMW 1200 Adventure and the other on a Triumph Tiger 800. Our first test was the dirt road leading to Monument Rocks in Kansas.
If you haven’t seen these things, I highly suggest a detour off the main road. Very interesting rock formations that; unlike many attractions are NOT fenced off. You can actually ride your bike right up the to rock formations. The dirt road that led us there was as smooth as many paved roads we encountered, with exception of a few spots that were washed out because of recent rains. In fact, the dirt was MUCH smoother than much of US Highway 71 in LA, which we had ridden two days prior. 70 MPH plus speeds were easily maintained and the scenery was a big surprise for most people that think Kansas is a featureless wasteland. It was one of the highlights of my trip. My two compadres were very reluctant to follow me but did anyway, and I think they are glad they did.
Once at STAR, there was another dirt/ gravel experience that created a nice shortcut on a county road so as to avoid the traffic in the city of Lead. A little more gravel, (on about three quarters of the length of the road), than any of us would have preferred but… again, nice scenery. This time I was able to convince three riders to follow.
After STAR, I made my way over the Beartooth and back into Wyoming where I found another dirty gem. County Road 505 south of Casper, WY is a very nice dirt road that traversed some very nice scenery that I would have missed on the pavement. Now…ANY bike CAN be an adventure bike. Heck, Nick Sanders rode and overloaded Yamaha R1 sport-bike AROUND the WORLD! But let’s be honest… if you were going to drive to Alaska would you rather take a Ford Fiesta or a Ford Explorer?
My point to all this jabbering is: If you look at the map and see an interesting road, don’t be afraid to explore it, even on a bike that is not typically thought of as an adventure bike.
That's all for now. A big THANKS to Tino for his article and photos. Stacie and I are planning a late August trip to Arkansas and Nashville. It's gonna be HOT!
Keep riding & smiling
Bob Chappuis, Editor