|Second Quarter 2017||Louisiana MSTA Newsletter||Page 1|
It has been a very hectic 9 weeks since my 09 Concours 14 munched its exhaust valves as I was preparing it for the 2500 mile trip to STAR in Colorado Springs. (And yes, that is my excuse for this newletter being late) The wild and crazy story is detailed below after Tino Crowell's story about his spring trip to Queen Wilhelmina, thanks Tino!
The 08 Concours is salvage and the 09 is out of commision. Not wanting to miss prime riding season I decided to buy a bike I have been very interested in since it first came out earlier this year. I was always impressed with the Multistrada 1200 but it just seemed to big and heavy for off road. The 950 might be just right as a true all arounder. Not sure I like having the dealer so far away but TTRNO seems like a great outfit. So far I am loving the 950.
I first rode a motorcycle on the Talimena Scenic Drive on July 4th, 1976. The road opened in 1969 and runs along the tops of Rich and Winding Stair mountains between Mena, AR and Talihina, OK. It is signed as Arkansas Highway 88 and Oklahoma Highway 1 and Itís 54 miles of curvy, scenic road that connects the two communities.
I remember that July 4th all too well. Not only was it our Bicentenial, but I got the worst, most painful sunburn of my entire life on that day. This was when I was dumb teenager and before I wore the proper gear. I rode in short pants and a tank top. A stupid and painful mistake.
I had relatives who lived in Talihina, Oklahoma at the western end of the drive. I lived in north Louisiana so it wasnít much of a drive to southeastern Oklahoma.
My Uncle would load my Honda CB360G, his XL250 and my cousins SL100 on a trailer and we, along with my Aunt would pile into the í74 Cadillac Sedan Deville and head to Talihina. My aunt would have the Caddy loaded down with all manner of sandwiches, drinks and snacks. As soon as my Uncle Bill got home from work, we would set out for Texarkana where we would make our one and only stop of the trip, at the Gulf gas station located on Stateline Avenue, (US71) at I-30. We had travelled this route on many trips as kids and all knew that the Gulf station was the one and only stop on the trip so you had better get your business done there.
We always arrived in Talihina about 10 PM and after visiting with the relatives awhile, tried to get some sleep to get an early start for riding the next day. Our relatives there, (my Great Aunt and Uncle), lived in a big old house with no air conditioning, butÖhad a large attic fan, that kept the place reasonably cool if you opened all the windows. They had a huge, grassy back yard, that my cousin and I used as a flat track course on his little SL100. In the early morning hours when the grass was still wet with dew, we could slide that 100 like we were at the Springfield Mile. Great fun!
After a typical breakfast of home- made biscuits, ham and eggs, we would hop on the bikes and get on the Scenic Drive, me aboard the 360 and my uncle and cousin riding two-up on the XL. We would generally ride the length of the road all the way to Mena, with a stop at the Queen Wilhelmena lodge on top of Rich Mountain just across the line in Arkansas.
Except for the horrible sunburn, those times visiting relatives SE Oklahoma as a kid and later a teenager are some of my fondest memories. My Great Aunt and Uncle who lived there have long since passed away. My Uncle Bill, was my main riding partner and accompanied me on many trips until his health failed him in his seventies and he passed away a few years ago. I have no ties to the area anymore except the great memories of my early years visiting there.
It has been a beautiful spring here in Louisiana, and the forecast for late April in southeast Oklahoma and western Arkansas looked good; so, I threw some underwear in a bag and me and the GS set off at 4:30 AM for Queen Wilhelmina. It was a tad cool at 58 degrees but the temps in the afternoon were supposed to be in the low 80ís with low humidity.
Just as the sun was coming up on I-49 I saw a huge plume of black smoke in the southbound lanes. As I got closer I could see a truck was completely engulfed and traffic was already starting to back up. Glad I was northbound. I had a beautiful sunrise at my back as I exited the freeway south of Alexandria and headed for Leaís Lunch room on US71 in Lecompte. When Iím northbound in LA I usually stop in for breakfast and chocolate pie.
Appetite satisfied; I continued northwest on 71 then back on I-49 to Shreveport. Between Natchitoches and Shreveport, the tractors were out cutting the tall grass in the median. Sun at my back, great temps and the smell of freshly cut grass. It doesnít get much better than that on a motorcycle.
In Shreveport, I took the I-220 loop over Cross Lake. I thought back to when I was younger, growing up near here when officials were trying to determine the route of I-220. Environmentalists had a fit when they found out that the freeway would go over Cross Lake. They fought it for years predicting the devastation of the free world as we knew it. Well, they built the bridge and the loop andÖ wait for itÖ nothing bad happened.
After a brief detour, back to US71, I hopped back on the newly finished I-49 north that runs from Shreveport to Texarkana. Since I was waxing nostalgic for the old days I exited the freeway just south of Texarkana back onto US71 and rode Stateline Avenue through the middle of town passing many of the old sights I used to see as a teenager. The old Gulf station at I-30 is long gone and there has been lots of new construction in the area, but it still brings back fond memories.
Continuing north on 71, I was headed to Dequeen, AR and then up to Cove, where I would turn due West and enter Oklahoma. This was the first scenic and curvy road of the day and it would only get better. Not long after I turned north on US259, I rode up the backside of Three Stick Mountain. Iíve seen many people hang glide from here and land down in the valley near Big Cedar but the place was deserted on this day. Now the fun begins. US259 down the north side and then up to the Talimena drive is curvy and fun.
I turned onto the Scenic Drive and immediately noticed how poor the pavement was. The Oklahoma side has always been a little rougher that in the Arkansas part of the road. I had not been on the road in several years so I had hoped that OK may have put some new pavement downÖunfortunately they had not.
As I climbed in elevation heading east, I noticed that the wind from the south had really gone into overdrive. I had a nice but windy ride to the lodge. As I parked, I noticed that the wind was even stronger here. I didnít put my cover on the bike for fear the wind would catch it and blow the whole kit and caboodle into the Lodge. I estimated the windspeed to be a steady 30 knots with higher gusts. I noticed the place was almost empty. It was a Tuesday, but I did expect a few more people there.
After stowing my gear, I went down to the restaurant and had supper. Great service, but it should have been since I was the one and only customer. Afterwards I walked down to the camping area to check it out for future camping plans. The campground is as nice as the Lodge. Very clean and well laid out and within walking distance of the lodge and restaurant if you donít feel like camp-cooking.
Back in my room I was alarmed to learn that huge storms were heading my way. Hail-filled wind and rain storms were marching toward me and had already left some devastation in Oklahoma. The big stuff hit about 10 PM. I switched back and forth through all the local stations that were covering tornadoes. Lucky for me, none very close and the worst storms seem to be surrounding the lodge on all sides. Finally, the lodge got a direct hit. It rained so hard I couldnít see my bike from my window. It only lasted about 20 minutes but I was sure that the bike would have been blown over when it was finished. I was relieved to see that it withstood the storm and was still in one piece later.
I knew it was bound to be cooler the next morning but had no idea how cool. Little Rock TV stations were forecasting high 40ís. When I departed the lodge, it was 41 degrees, misting rain with 25 knot winds out of the west-northwest. Since I would be riding east-southeast most of the day, the wind direction was the only weather luck I would enjoy early on.
I had not really anticipated the cold misty rain; however, it did provide a good test of some new riding gear I was trying out. I wore some new BMW Summer 3 pants that; coupled with a lightweight pair of long underwear worked well. Under my Klim Overland jacket, I wore a long sleeve t shirt, Aerostich electric bib, with a Merino wool zip T on top.
I wore ventilated summer boots but was able to keep my feet fairly warm by hiding them behind the GSí bodywork. Since the weather was so crappy, instead of taking the scenic drive into Mena, I turned down AR272 and went down to the valley and onto US59/270. A quick jaunt on US71 southbound down to Wicks, AR so I could pick up US278 and make my way to Hope. US278 is a great road, full of sweeping turns for almost 80 miles to just before Hope where it straightens out.
I made my way back into Louisiana at Haynesville and turned east and south to Ruston where I was scheduled to have lunch with my Aunt who lives nearby. The sun finally made an appearance once I crossed the border and things warmed up nicely after that. After lunch, I had to decide on the quick way home or the longer but less windy route. Since the wind was still howling out of the west and I was going south, I decided to ride through the woods most of the route and use the millions of pine trees as a windbreak.
This decision would eventually bring me to LA126 which is probably the best motorcycle road in LA. Over 20 miles of 35 mph sweeping curves located in the Chalk Hills of northeast LA. Not impressive to most, but for LA, this is the best we have. This would be the last fun road of my 2-day trip. From here, just a quick stop in Natchez, MS at a scenic overlook near the Mississippi River bridges to shed some more clothes. The sun was out in full force now and the winds had died down, making for a very pleasant ride back to Baton Rouge. Pleasant that is, until I hit the freeways in BR of course. Then I had to endure miles of stop and go traffic that defines Baton Rouge. Sadly, the worst part of any trip I take is the city in which I live.
Baton Rouge aside, itís always nice to get away from here on a motorcycle, even if itís only for a 37-hour trip.
By Ninja Bob
I like to be prepared. STAR is usually our big event of the year and I try hard to insure nothing gets in the way of our typically wonderful time. For a long bike trip a comfortable and reliable motorcycle is a top priority. My 09 Kawasaki Concours 14 was overdue for its first valve adjustment at 29,000 miles so 45 days from departure I decided to dive in. I have done literally dozens of valve adjustments in 47 years of riding, including three on my 08 Concours 14. It is an involved and tedious job but not really difficult. However I was hampered a bit by the 12 or so stitches in my wrench wrist from a recent surgical incision. Several tasks seem harder than I remembered, the bandage made working in close confines awkward and uncomfortable and the old arm seemed kinda weak... But I got the job done and subsequently put about 500 sweet running miles on the engine before things went suddenly south!
I was accelerating hard in 4th on a country road and the motor just died. When I coasted to a stop on the edge of the road I tried the starter. The starter spun at about double normal speed. No compression! A good Samaritan on a cruiser with his young son on back stopped to help. The kind soul rode to his nearby home to fetch his trailer and towed me home, 35 miles one way. Lane has only been riding about a year. His dad, a lifelong rider has been fighting cancer and Lane took up riding to spend quality time with him while he can. Sadly, his dad has reached the point where he no longer feels safe to ride. Lane is selling his Star motorcycle and will buy Lane, Sr's' Harley. You meet the nicest people....on a motorcycle.
Back home in the garage I went through the tedium of removing body work and fairing brackets and engine mounts and pair valve and stick coils and etc. once again to remove the valve cover, then the cam caps and exhaust cam. The verdict: two bent valves and two dropped, cam sprocket bolts sheared off. That's as far as I've gone so far, engine is toast. The consensus seems to be that you can buy one cheaper than you can get an engine rebuilt, even if it's just top end damage.
Three weeks till departure for STAR. Plenty of time to get the 08 ready but lots of work to do. Transfer the highway pegs, mounts for GPS and radar detector and electrical harness for same, swap the brand new Avons I bought for the trip, change the oil, a few other miscellaneous farkles and some cosmetic touches so the old girl (170,000 miles old) doesn't look quite so worn out.
Finally, ready to go. And then 5 days before departure I'm running an errand and we get rear-ended by a Toyota. I'm on a state highway, normal traffic, riding behind a line of 4 vehicles. We all brake as the first in line slows to make a left turn. I hear squealing tires behind me. A glance in my mirror showed a red car closing fast. I released the brake and begin to swerve toward the shoulder, but too late. I feel an impact and we are jolted forward and I watch my left saddlebag fly past and into the ditch. Luckily I don't go down and am unhurt. But the Concours is! The muffler is broken in half, the bag latches are broken and the base of the right bag is cracked The rear fender is cracked, the license plate crumpled and a piece of Corolla inner fender is wrapped around it. But the fatal blow was to the main frame. ($2,200 retail), a break where the steel rear sub-frame connects.
The other driver was insured and the insurance company has subsequently treated me fairly but what about STAR? For both myself and Stacie, the ride to and from STAR is always just as much a part of the fun as the event itself. And although there are plenty of non riding things to do in Colorado Springs a STAR without a bike was just not palatable to me. And driving 1200 miles in the noisy, uncomfortable cargo van with a sport bike in the back was not appealing to Stacie. Friend and MSTA Scott Stewart to the rescue! Hearing about my dilemma he immediately offered up his spare bike, a 2004 BMW R1150RT. I am not sure Stacie would have said yes to just any bike but we had ridden RTs in Europe and she liked them a lot, even more than the Connie! YES!
We would load the van with our travel clothes and riding gear and change the first day destination of our route from Paris, Texas to Gentry, Arkansas and Scott's house to pick up the RT on Thursday. Scott and his lovely fiancee Eileen were also going to STAR but leaving Friday.
The next challenge was a GPS mount. This episode really hammered home how dependent I have become on a GPS for touring. I know that way back long ago I somehow navigated around the USA using only maps but I the thought of that now really freaks me out. Had to have my Zumo! I have a collection of 5 or 6 RAM mounts I have used on various bikes over the years. I packed all of them hoping one would work on the RT. I also packed three different tanks bags and a bunch of tools.
Stacie and I headed out in the cargo van Thursday morning for a 520 mile trip north to Scott and Eileen's place in Gentry, AR, stopping for fuel and a BBQ lunch in Pine Bluff. We arrived about 5:30 and were greeted with hugs and a cold beer. After a chat and tour of the house Scott and I got to work prepping the RT. Despite the RT's handle bar and controls set-up being totally different compared to the Kawasaki, my RAM clutch clamp mount bolted right up to the Beemer's switch pod with a pair of slightly longer machine screws. The RT was already wired for a GPS and it was a simple matter of connecting the Garmin harness.
Next challenge was luggage. Stacie and I travel with RKA inner bags designed specifically for the Concours saddle bags. Either the Kawi bags have greater capacity than the RT bags, the interior shapes are incompatible or a combination of both. At any rate only about 2/3s of our stuff would fit. Same held true for the top case. We had to pack a bunch of stuff in Eileen's Toyota trunks! Also none of the three tanks bags I had brought were a good fit on the RT. Scott kindly loaned me a tank bag he had for his KTM. This provided needed extra space for rain gear. Scott suggested I take a short test ride to make sure everything was secure and I didn't have any concerns about the bike. All felt good and Stacie and I geared up and rode the 20 miles to our motel in Siloam Springs. We ate at the Mexican place next door and celebrated with a monster margarita.
Friday morning we headed west to Tulsa via Scenic Highway 412. The RT felt good and it was great to be on the road on a motorcycle. After a brunch stop in Sapulpa, we continued west through Guthrie and Kingfisher then northwest to our Friday destination, Woodward, OK. Miles for the day 308. Woodward seems to be a dying town and the Days Inn we checked into seemed on the verge of going out of business. I had picked it because of the outdoor pool but the pool was closed. However, the room was clean, the bed comfortable and the AC worked. There were no restaurants nearby but the gas station across the road had a hot deli and we were able to fill our bellies. Afterwards we sat on chairs in the motel breezeway with some beverages and watched the trucks go by.
For Saturday we had plans to meet up with LA member Rod Fors at the Days Inn in Trinidad CO. Rod is one of the nicest and most interesting guys you will ever meet and it is always a treat to spend time with. We rode through the hot and windy Oklahoma panhandle stopping for fuel and food in Boise City. The panhandle still lives up to its nickname, no mans land. We turned onto I-25 at Raton for the final leg to Trinidad, arriving at the Days Inn at about 3:40 pm after 332 miles. The entire parking lot thad been resurfaced he previous day and there was yellow barrier tape spread everywhere as the asphalt was still tacky. We finally found a suitable spot to park im the shade that was not too sticky, far from the office but with amazing luck it turned out to be next to the stairs leading to the room we were assigned. Rod rolled in soon after we did and before long we were lounging by the pool. Later that evening the three of us walked downtown to Main Street to Black Jack's Saloon and Steakhouse for some excellent steaks. Afterwards, Rod and I climbed the hill above the motel to the Trinidad Golf Clubhouse bar for a couple after dinner drinks.
The Sunday run up I-25 to Colorado Springs was just 125 miles. Rod rode on ahead. Stacie and I stopped for brunch at a Cracker Barrel in Pueblo and arrived at the Hotel Elegante at 1:30 to be greeted by Jim Park, another greeter and some cold bottles of water. The rest of the Louisiana gang had arrived the day before and were out riding but we soon ran into about 20 old friends from all over the USA. Our room at the Elegante proved to be super nice and convenient to both the lobby and parking. I had opted for a room upgrade when I reserved our room because it featured a balcony but I don't recall reading about the free happy hour hot hors d'oeuvres and three free drinks per person plus special breakfast. The free food and drinks were probably worth more the extra expense but whose counting?
The LA gang rolled in before too long and we were soon planning a group dinner via text phone. The LA gang includes some honorary Cajuns who usually end up riding and eating with us. Keith Danielson from Michigan, Don Laderer from California, Jimmie Girton from Kansas, Gary Kozlowski from Nevada and Chris Laderer from Texas. The LA gang attending STAR this year who actually reside in the Bayou State were Paul Lefort and son Paulie, Kevin Yeats, Bob & Stacie Chappuis, Tino Crowell and Rod Fors. All or most of the above walked to the Outback Steakhouse Sunday evening. Over a fine steak dinner we planned a group assault Monday morning of famous Pikes Peak.
Twelve of us rolled out from the Elegante and headed for the racetrack road that runs up the famous mountain. We arrived at the toll plaza to find a traffic jam. I never did find out what was going on but after about a 10 minute wait we were waved through. In the confusion Jimmie and the Concours fell over. Jim was unhurt but his shift rod was upside down. Keith and I parked our bikes to assist Girton while the rest headed up the mountain. Danielson whipped out his tool pack and soon had the shifter sorted out and the three of us had a great ride to the summit. There the wind was howling and the temperature was in the low 40s! Several of the gang, including myself were suffering from the altitude. I bought a souvenir shot glass and drank a bottle of water. The ride up and down the mountain was great fun and the RT handled great on the switchbacks. On descent we all met at the base and then headed north on US 24 to Woodland Park then up CO 67 Decker Corner Cafe for a burger before heading back to the motel. That evening the gang grabbed a shuttle bus to Buffalo Wild Wings.
Tuesday is the traditional lunch ride. The usual suspects again gathered to ride a modified route which included a tour of Garden of the Gods. Amazingly, I think this was my first visit to this magical attraction. The lunch ride included some of the roads we were on Monday but the roads were good enough to repeat. At Deckers we crossed the South Platte and went west on CR 126 to Pine Valley Park, the lunch locale. The picnic lunch was only average but the setting was scenic and peaceful. After lunch our loop took us north to US 285 then back south on CR 77 and home on US 24. A very enjoyable ride. Dinner that night was at Old Chicago and I had a delicious pizza. After dinner the gang met in the motel bar for drinks and planned the rides for Wednesday.
Most of the adventure bike riders, Tino, Kevin, Keith and Scott, had planned a 300 plus mile route that included some unpaved parts. Stacie I decided make a ride about half that length and the remainder of the gang joined us: Jimmie, Don, Chris, Gary, a friend of Gary's and Denise Dickerson. We took US 24 to Divide then CO 67 south to Cripple Creek then a loop on some county roads and CO 9 back to Cripple Creek for lunch at one of the casino restaurants. The food was good. Stacie and I both enjoyed a buffalo burger.
The Wednesday night banquet went fairly quickly with no guest speaker. The food and service was excellent. None of our group won any prizes but our friend Jim Coleman's wife won the Africa twin and generously donated it back to the club. Amazing!.
STAR was over but the fun was not. On Thursday Stacie and I, Chris and Don, and Tino, all rode separately to Amarillo, TX. Our 369 mile ride was uneventful other than a brunch stop at the Holiday Inn in Trinidad and an 18 wheeler rollover! There was some major construction on the mountainous section of I-25 near Raton, NM. The traffic was slowed to about 10 mph and as we idled along in the southbound lane an 18 wheeler in the northbound side ran off the road, up the embankment, slowed to a stop and rolled over in a cloud of dust and crumpling sheet metal. I was glad to be southbound!
I had booked the last available room at the Big Texan Motel and when we pulled in I saw why. Twenty identical black Harley Davidson baggers were lined up in two neat rows in front of the motel. It was a foreign tour group with riders from Switzerland, Germany and UK.
Chris Don and Tino soon arrived at the Marriot next door and they later joined us at the Big Texan for beers and steaks.
Friday was a 326 mile ride back into Oklahoma to Ponca City. The Quality Inn had a real nice pool and Frazier's Bar and Grill on the premises. Frazier's had friendly wait staff, two for one drinks and excellent Bar Food. And just up the road was one of the slickest car washes I have ever seen. I managed to get a weeks worth of dirt and bugs off the RT.
Saturday, our last day on the RT, was only 200 miles to Scott and Eileen's place and we arrived about 1:00. We returned the BMW in good working order, it had gotten us through STAR without a hiccup. We transferred our stuff to the cargo van and headed back to Siloam Springs, checking into the same Quality Inn. Scott and Eileen later met us at a restaurant they suggested in the Springs, called 28 Springs. It had eclectic decor and an upscale menu and we all enjoyed an excellent meal.
The ride home in the cargo van was was not as boring as it might have been. Our planned route had us catching up with a massive storm front. Instead of fighting through Little Rock in the storm I turned off I-40 at Russelville and drove AR 7 through Hot Springs and El Dorado. This added an extra 50 miles to the route but was less stressful, the scenery was better and making time on damp Scenic Byway 7 kept me awake.
Another STAR under our belt, my 24th! I'm already planning my route to La Crosse, Wisconsin!
That's it for quarter number two. Thanks again Tony for the ride report!
Bob Chappuis, Editor