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Thread: Albuquerque to DC in April

  1. #1

    Albuquerque to DC in April

    Hello all

    Generally, I would not post a ride report involving all Interstate, but I think this one has some interesting lessons in it which may be of use the next time you cross the US to attend a rally, ride an Iron Butt SS50, you know - any time you take on one of motorcycling's little challenges.

    I apologize for not taking any pictures - I usually do - but you will get an idea from the context that I had my hands full.

    Sunday morning April 20, 2008 and I am sitting at my home office desk with a hot cup of coffee watching the thunderstorm pass over - rivulets are forming in the front yard and we are under a flood watch here in the Virginia suburbs west of Washington, DC, with an inch of rain expected today and another inch tonight. Good thing I got home last night on a beautiful 83 degree afternoon before the front blew in.

    So I want to share some notes from the motorcycle trip I just completed - just some things of possible interest I want to share. First the circumstances.

    Over the past winter I had not been able to ride my 06 GS ADV much at all, and was really starting to question having that bike. I had done just a little bit of light trail riding and for that I was sacrificing weather protection and a reasonable ride height. So when Don Alejo from ADV Rider told me he was passing through DC on his way back from Argentina to take up a sales job at BMW of Santa Fe, I asked him if he wanted to ride my bike out there. He's a crazy guy, leads motorcycle tours all over the world, so he was up to the task and he rode the bike out to Albuquerque and Sandia BMW, parent dealership of Santa Fe BMW. On the way out, the final drive on the BMW blew up and he had it changed at BMW of Little Rock. That was when I decided I would not go out and recover the bike - I would sell it in ABQ and pick up a new bike here. I had 30,000 miles on the ADV, one final drive failure, and a number of electrical issues including replaced ZFE under warranty. I had looked at R's and RT's at Bob's BMW here in the DCand was kind of thinking along those lines.

    Then I called Dean Jones. Dean is a great guy - very professional and experienced sales manager at Sandia and an experienced motorcyclist who loves the sport. I asked Dean to price out a new RT for me with the GS ADV in trade.

    Dean called me and told me that he would do that, but did he have a deal for me. An exec bike purchased by the dealership last Fall and fixed up and ridden by the dealership staff as a daily rider and to sales and service meetings, down to Phoenix, stuff like that. Not a demo bike, but a bike for the staff. As such, they had farkled it up - full Remus with graphite can, black powder coat on the wheels and cylinder heads, new BattleAx's front and rear, just completed 6K service - all the stuff I would have done and all the factory stuff you can get on the bike. Lots of folks had offered to buy the unique bike, but Dean made me an offer I couldn't refuse.

    The only thing I needed to do was go out and pick it up, a problem for me because I really have no time. So sitting in the First Class lounge waiting for my flight to London the previous week, I just bought myself a ticket to Albuquerque. Last Wednesday I flew out there.

    I arrived in the afternoon on Wednesday with just a little bit of gear - some riding pants, light summer riding boots, and my Held Steve gloves. I had never met Dean but he came out to Albuquerque Sunport in a beautiful new 535i twin turbo (dealer demo - Sandia is a car/bike BMW dealership) and picked me up. We went back to the dealership and looked at all the cool stuff - brand new M6, stuff like that. Then a couple of locals from the ADV board came out to meet me and after that I bought a new HJC flip-face helmet, completed the transaction, and went over to the hotel next to the dealership to repack and rest.

    So as I repacked I watched the Weather Channel. On Monday it had looked like a clear ride, but now I could see a front forming over the great plains that I would be riding into. I had a Gerbing jacket I was going to return for Don Alejo to another guy in the DC area and I discovered that the controller/BMW plug was not in the stuff I picked up at the dealership. Uh oh, going to be a cold ride. I had an old BMW Kilimanjaro jacket and the non-functioning Gerbing and that was it - yikes - I had to hope the bike's weather protection, heated grips and seats would keep me warm enough as I left the next morning in the pre-dawn darkness.

    I awoke the next morning as snow fell just to the north. I loaded up the bike, and at 0445 pointed it East - it was bitterly cold and I looked down at my RID to see air temp at 37 and the little "snowflake" frost warning blinking at me.

    To be continued.

  2. #2
    So I really love my sweet wife and I've been traveling so much all over the world for business lately I really wanted to blast home in two days and spend the whole weekend with her. 1881 miles in a straight shot. I have crossed the US by motorcycle several times, completed long distance events including an IBA-sanctioned Bunburner 1500 and SS2000 (back-to-back SS1000's) so in theory I can do this trip in two days. Maybe even get to Arby's at the end of the second day and then up early Saturday and home in the afternoon.

    Two developments, it was a bit earlier in the season than I had ever done the trip and the weather was starting to look marginal along my route - a high pressure system covering the East was butting up against a low headed East out of the rockies and the turbulent front was oriented North to South right along my route, headed East, just like me.

    So into the dark I headed early Thursday, up the hill out of ABQ in the dark. I like doing this trip early in the AM because the winds usually haven't picked up yet. But my god, it was cold as balls. On any other bike I would have frozen even worse, if that is possible. I stopped, still in the dark, in Cline's Corner and had a cup of coffee, then went uout and it was still freezing - but the sun was just starting to come up. By Tucumcari I was so cold again that I had to stop at a McDonalds for a cup of coffee - I think it was around 0700 and the sun was not all the way up. As I hit the 270 degree off ramp I slowed more than I usually would because I was aware there could be ice and there they were, two mule dear, one right in my path just staring at me. I slowed and made a deliberate move to the right - at the last minute the deer figured it out and ran off to the left. That was close. The coffee was good and I warmed up a bit and got back on I-40 East. Temp still in the 40's, and as I got up to the Texas border, the wind started up from the North. As I headed east, the north wind was not too hard to handle, just lean left a bit. But the wind picked up and picked up - not gusty, but strong. The temperature was around 45 and with the wind I was thoroughly chilled - completely cold to the limits of possibility. As I rolled into Amarillo the wind was so strong the flags were standing straight , wind blowing north to south. I went in to a Waffle House full of cowboys and ranch hands and I could not stop shivering. I heard the words "Looks like you was getting blowed all over the road back there" and I saw two over-the-road truckers at a little table, right out of central casting, hoisting their coffee mugs to me.

    I knew I could stop and check in to a hotel, but heck, it was barely even mid-day and I hadn't really come that far. I rode out to the Texas info center just to the East of Amarillo and was helped by two lovely Texas Belles. They got on the computer and checked wind speed and temp in the little towns to the east of me, starting about 50 miles out. It looked like an hour to the east, the wind was down to 20-23 MPH and the temp was up in the mid-50's. If I could make it that far, things would be much better along the rest of the route. I left the ladies and went into a little theater room they had set up with a big screen showing The Weather Channel. They put up a map with wind speeds in the Great Plains and there was a big 40 sitting right on my head, in the middle of the Texas Panhandle. I would never have made it this far on the GS, but the RT made it bearable. I just had to get on the road, gut it out for another hour or so, wait for it to warm and the winds to die off a bit and make a run to Arkansas. My initial thought of getting all the way to Memphis on day 1 was throttled back and now I just wanted to get to Arkansas - anywhere in Arkansas.

    To be continued . . .

  3. #3
    Back in to the driving wind and cold, but by the Oklahoma border the temp was up in the low 50's and the wind just required my attention, not my constant diligence and a 10-20 degree counter-lean. Into the early afternoon the sun broke out and the winds calmed substantially and I started thinking that I could ride through until about 2000 if the weather continued to calm and maybe make it through to Nashville. I also realized I really, really needed a controller and plug for the Gerbing and decided that I would try to find BMW of OKC (been there before) to pick one up and also get a few other things like spotter mirrors (stock mirrors are disappointing on the new RT) and maybe some rain gear.

    So, I'm cruising across Western Oklahoma - the wind has died down enough that, with cruise control on, I can easily manage the bike with one hand. I really miss my Sirius radio and GPS, but I get a lot of time to think.

    Then up ahead I see a line of squalls - dark cells of clouds going up pretty high. The are coming out of the south/southeast, opposite direction from the north winds I left behind. It doesn't look like it is actually raining straight ahead, but I will need to ride through the squalls. Remember, I am headed east and this new weather system in now blowing up in front of me, crossing from right to left and hitting me (potentially) on the front part of the bike, not the side or the rear. This is worrying - from my experience, out on the open road, strong winds hitting you on the front of the bike tend to make your grip on the controls less secure and blow the front around, making it harder to control.

    Anyway, maybe a moot point - approaching OKC I started to pass under the leading edge of the dark clouds. No surface winds - great! I will scamper under the little squall line and have a nice rest of the day, straight through to Arkansas.

    If only. The surface winds caught up with the front and out of nowhere, all of a sudden I was almost blown off the bike - the wind hit me like a ton of bricks on my right shoulder in the same direction that the clouds were passing over my head. It was like riding into a chain across your path at chest level, I grabbed on to the bars and for the 50 miles or so into OKC I had to fight to prevent from being blown off to the left.

    Riding into OKC the effect of the structures of the city helped me deal with the wind, but I knew it was out there, and this south/southeast wind was much harder to deal with - I extimate it was gusting to about 25-28, but it was more difficult on the road than the 40 mph wind had been from the north - blowing across the front of the bike, and gusting, it made the front of the bike squirelly.

    I rolled into BMW of OKC about 1600. They were very nice and helpful - a very well-stocked BMW/Ducati dealership with a very impressive range of accessories. They had everything I needed. We checked weather to the East - it looked like there was a front out there sure enough, between OKC and Fort Smith - but maybe I could make it a couple more hours, to Henryetta. Any distance today would be distance I would not have to cover tomorrow, but Arkansas looked out of reach because of the weather front.

    I decided not to buy raingear (I didn't bring any as the long range weather report hadn't predicted rain) and I rode out to the East. As soon as I got out on the open highway the south winds started blowing me around - I had been riding 12 hours, had not covered much ground, and was exhausted. Dark clouds were now right in front of me, and in Shawnee I rolled in to a Motel 6, next to a Denny's. I checked in and right after I buttoned up the bike, the sky opened up and the storms over Oklahoma that night were the major national weather news of the night.

    Good thing I stopped when I did. No way I would make it home in 2 days now. As I watched the Weather Channel I could see that the front that was dumping on me was headed east, and I would be following it until I got home. It would be a challenging riding problem, getting home through this crap. It was early in the season - these things happen this time of year. It had only been a week earlier, but it seemed like an eternity, that I had been sleeping in the lap of luxury at the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone, London - one of the "Leading Hotels of the World". But that stormy night, Motel 6 had left the light on for me.

    To be continued . . .

  4. #4
    I awoke at 0400 in Shawnee, Oklahoma, to the sound of a metal sign creaking as it blew in the wind. It was the clearance sign on the Motel 6 check-in portico. It was dry out, but it was more windy than it had been the night before. Uh Oh. I turned on The Weather Channel and it showed the line of storms, a full blown north-to-south front several hundred miles long, was looming out to the east of me and moving east. It was going to be a long day.

    I plugged in the Gerbing and it worked great - thank God, because it was in the low 40's with a howling wind. I got on to the Interstate, and as I pulled around I saw a flag blowing in the stiff wind - NORTH TO SOUTH! It was my old friend, the north wind, blowing through at about 25 to 30 miles per hour with gusts. But it was the north wind, the one I can handle just fine going east.

    Had a great run out of Oklahoma - watched the sun rise (great to ride west to east and leave before dawn!) When the sun came up there were scattered clouds but winds calmed down near Fort Smith and I had a great first half of the day. About 30 miles later I caught up with the front and by Conway, Arkansas, I was in heavy rain and getting wet. My leather gloves soaked through and gave me blisters. I stopped at a Starbucks and waited 45 minutes or so until it cleared. Then I got on the road, went 30 minutes, caught up with it and pulled off. This happened all day long and made for slow going.

    I will ride in the rain, no problem, but on the Interstate packed with semis, I draw the line when the visibility drops to the point that they have a hard time seeing me. Got into Little Rock mid-day, kept on going - longer periods of good weather when I waited longer, because I was chasing the front.

    Late in the day I got to West Memphis, Arkansas, just a few miles from the Mississippi. The sky ahead was absolutely black and the wind was now starting to howl down the Mississippi River basin. Having a cup of chocolate in the gas station I talked to an old guy on a dresser headed the same way as me. He looked experienced and was pretty well geared up. Told me he wanted to make it through to Knoxville tonight. "No ****ing way" I thought - no I knew - but I did not have the heart to tell him and off he went.

    Then I looked at my bike and saw that the paper temp tag provided by the dealership had just about disintegrated. Chunks of the numbers were missing, it was soaked and tattered. The first cop who saw me would probably impound my bike. . I back-tracked to a Wal-Mart in Forrest City and bought duct tape, a Sharpie, clear packing tape, and picked some cardboard out of the trash. I took about an hour and reassembled what pieces I could, used the sharpie and cardboard to reproduce the rest, and just wrapped packing tape around the whole mess, all the way around the fender. It looked like ****, but it was the best I could do and if a cop stopped me, at least I could tell him I made an honest attempt to display my tag. (Note: I have actually crossed the country on a bike with temp tags before - and in that case, when I had more time to prepare for the trip, I had wrapped the tag in plastic and sealed it with duct tape before zip-tying it to the bike. Moral here is - take your time, prepare, and look out for every possible contingency on the open road.)

    While I made the repair to my tag, it had cleared a little. I headed East and the Mississippi river was absolutely black with a huge cloud. I could not see across as I rode up the ramp to the bridge. Ahead was only blackness from the clouds - the winds howled and I was worried I might get blown around up on the bridge, but I was fully committed, going up the ramp with a semi to the right of me and a concrete barrier to the left. I made it up and over and came out in Memphis, Tennessee. It was raining hard and I was moving. Stopped and waited for a while, then hit the heavy rush hour traffic in Memphis and made it through. It was about 1700 and I had been on the road for a little over 12 hours. I was on the East side of Memphis and traffic slowed to a stop on the Interstate. All day long, riding in the rain, I had seen cars that had skidded off the road. Near little rock, one had come from the westbound lanes and was off to the south of the eastbound lanes with tracks in the median - glad I missed that one! So here outside of Memphis, stuck and not moving, another downpour hit and sitting still, I became soaked to the core. When you are moving, it doesn't matter how hard it rains, it stays off you pretty well, but sitting still I could feel the downpour pool up in my seat and soak through my riding pants. That was it - I checked in to the nearest hotel, even with about 3 hours of daylight left. A half hour later it had cleared, but if I had continued I would have just ridden into the mess again. That was it for the day.

    On The Weather Channel, Saturday looked good except for Knoxville/Bristol the following day. I was a long day's riding, 800+ miles from home.

    To be continued . . .

  5. #5

    (also, check your adv pms )

  6. #6
    Well, Up at 0300 on Saturday just East of Memphis. Long day ahead. If I don't make it the 800 miles + on Saturday, rain is forecast all day Sunday and Monday in DC. The weather is supposed to be nice there on Saturday.

    So up early - need air for my tires, had trouble finding some, but finally hit the road headed east at 0440. THe 90 degree adapter I usually use on the rear wheel air valve was not in my hastily packed toolkit, so I could not use the long, rigid air fillers that the big trucks use and had to find a station with an air machine, then had to go in the store and get three quarters so I could use the machine. It was cold but the electrics work fine, and when the sun rises, the sky is blue and beautiful. Through Nashville, not a cloud in the sky. Couldn't be better, the weather guys got it wrong, this thing must have blown itself out. Whoops, not so fast - I rolled into Knoxville and caught up with it - the sky turned black and as it started to pour I took an off ramp which put me - right at a Cycle Gear store! I'd never been so happy to see a Cycle Gear store in my life! To get home, I could not sit around, I needed to ride, so I bought a set of Frogg Toggs (like the set I have at home), a set of Goretex gloves, and a high vis vest. When I left the store it had cleared, but I knew I would just be riding into that storm again.

    It was clear but the streets were slick as I rode through Knoxville. On the four-lane part of the Interstate downtown, I was passing a redneck in a pickup with a Glock sticker on it. I was passing in the number 1 lane with a concrete barrier on my left and no shoulder. Redneck changes lanes right into me - I had nowhere to go - had he not heard the horn and swerved back, I would have been smashed. Once he did, I was still right next to him. I looked right at him and was so pissed I broke my own rule and flipped him off. I slowed and got into the right lane. He swerved across 4 lanes of traffic and intentionally tries to hit me. I just got off the road, waited a few minutes, and moved on. He had a Tennessee plate and soon I would be in Virginia. What an idiot. Him, for trying to kill me over nothing, and me for exacerbating the situation with my one-fingered salute.

    Rain off and on all the way to Virginia, but I was geared up - hi-vis vest, white helmet, waterproof gear, all was fine. In Virginia, headed north on I-81 and it started to clear. Going up the hill near Marion winds kicked up and squalls crossed east to west all day. The gusts were pretty bad but I was pretty sure I could handle them. Now fatigue was stating to set in - 500 miles down for the day and winds, storms, and semis ahead for almost another 400 miles. I couldn't stop, because the heavy rains were forecast for Sunday.

    Hour after hour up the Shenandoah Valley and finally to I-66. It cleared, the temp rose to 83, and I turned east and rode the last hour into Fairfax County, VA, and home.

    That was quite a ride.If I ever do it in April again, I will plan more. Just taking off with minimal planning is not good for April - July or August maybe, but April is the cruelest month, and deserves all of our respect.

    Ride safe, everyone. Hope to see you all down the road, in better weather.

  7. #7
    univers zero tessler's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    New York City
    Dynamite stuff, Bob. Fantastic, descriptive writing. I especially dug the impromptu MacGuyver tag-making session. Glad you made it home safe on that new RT.

  8. #8
    BeemerBoy terham's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Exit 31, PA TPK
    Great trip report - even without pictures. Glad you made it home safely.
    R75/5 R100RS K100RS R1150RT
    My Smugmug

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by terham View Post
    Great trip report - even without pictures. Glad you made it home safely.
    he was packing light, no camera allowed!

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by BubbaZanetti View Post
    he was packing light, no camera allowed!
    Another good point - I always carry my camera in my tank bag - on this trip - NO TANK BAG, so no easy access to camera, so no pics!

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