|Spring 2018||Louisiana MSTA Newsletter||Page 1|
The weather has been very nice so far in 2018, many good riding days! And already some good week long group rides. I joined the Florida chapter for their get together in Ocala in March and in April I rode out to Flagstaff, AZ with 4 other MSTA members, led by Tony Crowell. See my Florida writeup and Tony's Arizona trip story below.
Next ride is a mid-May weekend trip to Queen Wilhelmina State Park in Arkansas, site of one of the earliest HSTA regional events, although the event has since moved to a central Arkansas location. Then in June is the main event - STAR 2018 in La Crosse Wisconsin. You don't want to miss it!
by Ninja Bob
As spring 2018 finally began to arrive I had some business to take care of in the Sunshine State, great excuse for a road trip. I left on Wednesday about 8:00 waiting for the sun to warm the chilly air a bit. I headed east on back roads through the old West Florida Republic, a route I've traveled many times. If you've read any of my travel tales before you know I dislike riding on the Interstate, especially Interstate 10. If traffic is light, the monotous drone is boring and I struggle to stay awake. IIf the there is traffic on I-10 you will be constantly abused by many poorly behaved 4 wheel motorists. It takes the fun out of riding so I stay on secondary highways or county roads whenever feasible. It is a challenge to get acrioss the obstacle of Mobile Bay without riding I-10 but I have found a bypass for Mobile that winds through several rural county roads near Stockton, AL before delivering me to an I-65 on ramp for a short hop across the Tensas River. This year two of the county roads had washed out and gone to gravel and that slowed me down a bit. I still arrived at the Quality Inn in Crestview early enough to get some work done on the MSTA forum and call Steve Sefsick of Shoodaben Engineerring in Wesley Chapel, FL, just north of Tampa, to finalize plans for some work to be done on the Concours.
A couple of years back I began hearing about an ECU (Electronic Control Unit) flash available for the Concours 14. I have had Power Commanders on my 1999 Honda VFR as well as on my Concours 14s. These are add on units that alter the digital fuel intruction signals from the ECU to the fuel injectors. The ECU flash actually alters the fuel map and other control signals stored in the ECU. (Many readers probably know more about this than I but I'm providing this quick summary for anyone else interested) The flash is not cheap and it involves removing and sending your vital and costly ($1500) ECU to the flasher.
At first I was not interested since I felt my Concours already ran exceptionally well. However, as a frequent reader of two Concours 14 forums I was being bombarded with glowing praise of Shoodaben Engineering's flash. Many claimed the flash made the Concours14 seem like a whole new motorcycle . I still had some doubts but eventually wore down and decided to try it. But the thought of trusting my ECU to the mail was holding me back. Then my friend Jim Park invited me on Facebook to a Florida MSTA just for fun event headquartered in Ocala Florida, just 72 miles north of Shoodaben Engineering in Wesley Chapel, FL. I had been to a three of Jim and Dianne Park's Florida events and always had a great time, they are excellent hosts! So I made plans via email with Steve Sefsick to visit his shop at some point while I was in Florida for the Ocalqa event.
Thursday's ride to Ocala was uneventful but pleasant. I went east a bit on I-10 to De Funuiak Springs where I turned south on US 331 to Freeport and then east on FL 20 to Apalachicola National Forest and then through the forest on 267. From there it was US 98 and FL Alt 27 to Ocala. I met the first of four Steves on this trip checking in at the motel office. I am really bad with names, but 4 Steves? Forgive me I I mix them up! This Steve was riding a BMW GS and was from Fort Lauderdale (I think) I got the word that the group would be meeting in the bar at the Ruby Tuesday next door for greet & meet & beverages and to plan the dinner meal. About half of the 20 something event attendees were there Thursday night and we ended up having a nice meal at Ruby T's.
I got in touch with the Shoodaben Engineering Steve and made plans to visit his shop at 1:00 pm Friday. This would let me ride in the morning with the gang.
Jim Park had planned a ride for Friday that started off with breakfast at the Pancake House at De Leon Springs State Park. This place is famous for it's guest tables with griddles built in. The guests cook their own pancakes and other breakfast items! After splitting into two groups we took a meandering route around the southern edge of Ocala National Forest, enjoying some nice scenery and pleasant roads with little traffic. However Jim's route was not direct as it covered some of the best local roads and by the time we reached the restaurant the place was full and the expected wait for tables was about an hour. Most riders chose the wait, but I did not have the time. I did have time for a cup of coffee and to look around. The park was beautiful with a large lagoon and waterfall and we got to see some manatees up close. Jim Park and South Florida State Co-Director "Van" VanSteelant had eaten at the pancake house more than once and were kind enough take a short ride to the Blackwater Inn with me for an early lunch. We got a table with a nice view of the St. John's River. I had a nice fish sandwhich before heading for Wesley Chapel.
Despite some traffic I arrived at Steve Sefsick's home/shop on time and was greeted by Steve and his friendly Pit Bull. Steve is a talented mechanic and a very nice guy. He is a Concours owner himself and we knew each other from the Concours forums and had lots to talk about. Eventually we got down to the job at hand, flashing my ECU. With that done we then hooked up the Concours to a KDS3 (Kawasaki Diagnostic System) to program two spare keys I had purchased. The Concours uses KIPASS (Kawasaki’s Intelligent Proximity Activation Start System) and comes with two wiresless immobiliser key fobs. If you ever lose both of them you are stuck and out big bucks. My used Concours had only one so I bought a couple spares but needed to have them registered to the bikes computer. After a little trial and error we got all three fobs registered and functional.
I was eager to test out the flash so I thanked Steve, saddled up and headed back to Ocala. The work had taken a good bit longer than planned, mainly due to all our chatting so I got on I-75 to make some time and get back in time for dinner. The traffic on I-75 was running at about 80, I like to go with the flow or a little faster but running the Concours at 80 or more typically put a big dent in my miles per gallon, 38 or less. I was amazed to see the onboard mpg calculater showing 44! I was skeptical and thought maybe the flash was skewing the readout but subsequent actual gas station fillup calculations confirm the increase. The flash will pay for itself!
Back at the Quality Inn in Ocala the word was out to again meet at Ruby Tuesday's. This time the meal was at a nearby Mexican restaurant. Our group had grown and although we all got to sit together the food did not all come out together. Some of us were finished eating as others were just getting served! But the chow was good and the company great.
On Saturday morning Jim Park and Don Moe led two groups to a local diner where we had breakfast. Then we headed for the town of Micanopy where we parked in an old historic section and saw some sights and hung out at a icecream shop for a while. After that pleasant rest we got back on the bikes and looped north up to FL 20 then south through Orange Springs and Fort Mcoy. Back in Ocala and the Ruby Tuesday for more beverages and another good meal and more comradery. I met two more Steves this day and had lengthy, interesting conversations but any details are lost.
The Ocala event was officially over on Sunday but I would not head home yet. Instead I headed southeast to Titusville to visit with some good friends and MSTA members, Chuck and Francis Headrick. I met Chuck and Frances at the first HSTA STAR in 1983 and we have been friends ever since. Chuck and Frances are two of the nicest people you will ever meet and it is always a treat to spend some time with them.
Most of the MSTAers were gone by the time I went to breakfast. I got a 7:30 am start for the 120 mile run to the Atlantic coast and Titusville. I arrived at around 10 after dodging some heavy traffic approaching the Orlando area. It was great to see Chuck and Francis as it had probably been a couple years since my last visit to their summer house in Murphy, NC. We went out for taked out lunch and then relaxed and got caught up on family news. Later that evening we had a nice dinner at Beef O'Brady's in Titusville then back at the house just chatting and watching some TV.
The next morning after Francis fed me a delicious breakfast I headed home stopping about half way in Tallahassee. In my younger days there were many trips home from Chuck and Frances's house after the Daytona 200 that were done in a single day (700+ miles) but no longer. My route to Tallahasee took me up US 1 through Daytona Beach for old times sake, on up to Ormand Beach where I turned west on 40 and rode back to Ocala. I then retraced my incoming route back to Perry where I tool 19 noethwest to Tallahassee. THe final leg of the trip home was uneventful, but I did skip the gravel road Mobile bypass and instead got on I-10 at Pensacola and rode it through the tunnel across Mobile bay.
It was a great road trip, lost of fun, got a great performance enhancement for the Concours and got to visit some old friends.
After retiring in 2016 I decided I needed to start to click things off my bucket list. The biggest item in the bucket is a trip to Alaska which I have wanted to do since a teenager. I hope to check that off summer of 2019. However, there are tons of more roads, places and things that I need to see; Alaska is just the biggest thing in the bucket. Around Christmas time I started to plan a trip to Arizona to click off two famous roads that have somehow escaped my past travels. US191 (old US666), also known as the devil's highway, and the Rim Road that follows along the top of the Mogollon Rim in northern Arizona.
When news of the trip got out, some of my riding buddies expressed interest, so what was planned as a solo trip turned into a trip with 5 riders from 3 different States. Chris Laderer (R1200gs) would be joining us from Houston. Jimmy Girton, (Yamaha Super T) from Kansas City and the 3 Louisiana riders. Me, (R1200gs), Bob Chappuis, (Ducati MTS950) from St. Francisville and Paul Lefort, (Triumph Explorer) from Thibodaux.
The plan was to meet in Mineral Wells, Texas on Saturday and begin the real journey on Sunday morning. The forecast was bleak for Saturday but only Jimmie, who rode across Oklahoma had to brave any real storms, the rest only had a light shower or two. Later that evening, after we had all met at the Knights Inn, the weather really got interesting. Strong wind and rains had us thinking we would be picking our bikes up off the ground…luckily, they remained standing and undamaged. The Knights Inn was the worst hotel we would stay in on this trip. One of the filthiest places I have ever stayed. If you find yourself on a late night in Mineral Wells and really need a place to stay, keep riding and find an abandoned crack-house. It will be cleaner.
As expected after a cold- front moves through, we awoke to clear skies and a cold, north wind gusting into the thirties. Luckily for us, as we made our way west on US 180, the further we rode the less wind we encountered until by the time we hit Hobbs, NM, it was no longer a factor. It was time for lunch in Hobbs so we chose the El Caballero, a small hole-in-the-wall place across the street form a much larger Mexican place. We had our doubts about our choice until a 400-pound guy got out of his car to go into the Caballero. It was then that we KNEW it must be good. And…it was. Afterwards, we were on our way west to Artesia and to our respective motels in Alamogordo. The highlight of the after-lunch ride to Alamo was US 82 to Cloudcroft. I hadn’t been on this road in years but it was just as scenic and curvy as I remember. Upon arrival in Alamogordo we checked into 3 different hotels but all within walking distance. Needless to say, our lodging was much, much better than the previous night.
The next days ride would find us droning along I-10 in Southern NM. The only highlight being the El Mirador Restaurant in Deming. A friend of mine who used to live in Deming suggested the red and green chili enchiladas for breakfast. In a word: Outstanding! If you’re ever in town… More droning on the slab until we exited at Lordsburg for a quick jaunt into eastern Arizona. By the time we stopped in Morenci for gas it was starting to get pretty warm. Morenci is a mining town at the southern end of the Devil’s highway. After fueling up we rode up onto the top of a huge copper mine. It was fascinating to watch the gigantic trucks and other equipment move around the pit. One of the coolest things happened just up the road a bit where a flagman blocked our path. He told us that they were about to blow part of a mountain away with explosives and that we would have to wait for about 15 minutes. We got to see the explosion and after a few more minutes continued north on US 191. The road and scenery would only get better and more fun for over 100 miles all the way to our night’s stay in Eagar, AZ. We rode curve after curve higher and higher into alpine meadows that stretched forever. As we rode north we could see huge forest fires in front of us. Luckily, we skirted the fires and they didn’t close the road. We did see hundreds of firefighters and their equipment camped out in the forest along our route. It was very impressive, they had set up makeshift garages, medical tents, chow halls and helicopter pads.
Eagar is a small town. Luckily for us we all got rooms at the Best Western that had a nice bar and restaurant located just next door. Located at a pretty high elevation, it was fairly cool when we departed the next morning. It got even cooler as we approached Show-Low. It was just south of there where we turned onto the other bucket list road. Forest Road 300, the Rim Road. Before the trip I had watched several You Tube videos of people riding along the Rim Road. The road was graded dirt that ran along the Mogollon Rim and had many scenic places to stop and look south off the large escarpment. It looked fantastic in all the videos. What I did NOT know was: The Rim Road is very different depending on the section you happen to be on. The section we were on was NOT the one in the cool videos. Our section was rough as hell. After only an 1/8th of a mile two of our crew decided they had had enough. Bob and Jimmie would take AZ 260 west and meet us on the other end. Paul, Chris and I said, “in for a penny, in for a pound” and continued on the road. Rocky, rutty, rough and with almost no scenic views…I had made a bad choice. It quickly became apparent to me that the one in the vids is located further west…Damnit! We did get to see some wild horses though. That was the highlight. Only until 3 miles before the end did we find a graded road. It was super nice. One could easily do 70 mph on it.
It took so long traveling the Rim Road at 20 mph that Bob and Jimmie sought refuge in a restaurant in Pine, AZ. We eventually caught up with them and got rehydrated. After Pine, we climbed back up the rim and continued east on AZ 260 a very nice road. Curvy and scenic…just like we like them. Pretty soon the road started to descend on the valley near Camp Verde. This is where we saw the highest temps of the trip 95… degrees!
After fueling up we couldn’t wait to get out of the heat. We hopped onto I-17 north and got some relief but that was short-lived because I decided to take the guys through Sedona. Sedona is a beautiful town at the end of Oak Creek Canyon. I hadn’t been to Sedona in 20 years. I forgot how much traffic can be found there. It was brutal. As we inched our way through the canyon the speed picked up but there was so much traffic on 89A, it was not a very fun ride… but… it WAS beautiful. I would like to go back and ride it about 5:30 on a Sunday morning with no traffic.
As we climbed out of the canyon the temps rose to a perfect 72. We spent the night in Flagstaff. Usually, Flagstaff is fairly cool because of its elevation but they were in the midst of a little heat wave so when we departed early the next morning the temps were reasonable with a bright sunny sky to face as we headed back east. Jimmie left us here and headed south to visit relatives in Sierra Vista, AZ. The rest of us continued southeast in search of Pie in Pie Town, NM. We motored east on I-40 until Holbrook where we would make our slight turn to the south on US180. From Holbrook to Springerville we probably didn’t meet or pass over 6 vehicles. Great weather and scenery and with the road to ourselves…it doesn’t get much better. It was on these wide -open stretches that the boys decided to open the throttle to the stops and let the motors run free. Not all at once mind you. Bob got the party going with a first blast past everyone, followed by Chris, then me and finally Paul.
When you live “back east” you really appreciate the openness of the west. The air seems fresher, the sun brighter, the people nicer, the food better. I love everything about it other than possibly having to ride 100 miles to a store, or hospital, or etc.
We arrived in Pie Town around noonish. The ladies were busy making about 20 different kinds of pie. I had chocolate. It was Delish! The head pie lady said the population of Pie Town was about 80. During our stay for lunch, we saw probably 40 percent of that at the pie place. Tourist from all over stopped in while we were there and it was nice chatting with them. Pie Town was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
Continuing east on US60, our next stop would be at the Very Large Array on the Plains of San Agustin. These huge radio-telescopes are pointed skyward to listen for intelligent life elsewhere. A great photo spot on 60. From there it was mostly downhill to the valley and the town of Socorro for gas.
After a short trip on I-25 we again turned east on US60 and watched as mile-long trains tried to keep pace with us. Our planned stop for the night was the little town of Vaughn. Vaughn is a railroad town. We stayed in a railroad hotel and ate in a railroad diner. Vaughn was also the place where our group would split 4 ways. I left at first light, headed northeast for Oklahoma City. Chris was headed down to Roswell with an overnight in Brownwood, TX. Paul was headed southeast to Lubbock, then onto Tyler, TX for the night, and Bob was headed pretty much due east to his nightly stop in Ardmore, OK.
I lucked out and had a nice tailwind all the way from Santa Rosa, NM to Shamrock, TX. I stopped for a quick photo at the Cadillac Ranch just west of Amarillo. While stopped with the other tourist, I met a guy riding a heavily loaded Suzuki SV-1000. Alexi is a Russian who was headed from Maryland to San Francisco. I made it to OKC in time to visit with some old friends and catch an OKC Dodgers AAA Game.
I departed OKC about 9 AM the next day and arrived home at 10 PM. I was last of our group of four to make it home but am happy to report everyone made it home safely.
A big THANKS to Tino for contributiong his write-up. Great job, I felt like I was back on the road experiencing it all over again!
Only a few weeks away, STAR 2018 in La Crosse, Wisconsin promises to be an outstanding event. Stacie and I and other Louisiana members are registered and getting ready to go. If you have not already, make your plans to attend, I guarantee a great time. Full details and online registration below and at the MSTA website:
Download a mail-in Registration Form
Raffle Tickets for 2017 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT
That's all for now.
See you in La Crosse
Bob Chappuis, Editor