Friday, February 2, 2018

Roller Coaster Life

Today was a BUMMER

Another day wrenching on the sidecamper. With the new front tire mounted, remembered I needed to check the front wheel bearings before mounting the wheel back on the rig. 
Hmmm, a little notchy, better replace them now that the wheel is off. 

Bearings are a wear item, particularly if you ride a lot of gravel where sand and dirt can work into them. Bearings are dry pressed into the wheel housing to hold tight. To remove, are pressed or knocked out. 

After struggling for hours and hours, trying various inpromptu methods ( I don't have a 20 ton press for properly removing wheel bearings), finally got the right bearing out. 

Though the right bearing felt sort of "OK", on closer inspection, it was leaving uneven wear marks on the wheel. Okay, that is not too bad. Can smooth that out before inserting a new bearing.

Now to remove the left bearing. 

No matter how much I banged, hammered, pulled, pushed, gutted, swore or sweet talked,  the left bearing would not budge. Tried heating the bearing and wheel to an untouchable temperature, nothing!  From the longest lever to the baddest hammer, that bearing would not come out.

As a last resort, the internet says you sometimes have to destroy a bearing to remove it.  Easier said than done. The steel used in bearings is super hard and tough. After wearing flat the teeth on four different saw blades, drove to ACE Hardware and bought a carbide Sawsall blade.  That didn't work either. 

Finally started making progress with a steel cut off blade and Dremel tool. Cut, cut, cut, nothing is coming loose. Tried a steel chisel.  A piece of the bearing snapped off.  WHAT the.......?
Under the piece that snapped off was JB Weld.  Someone had permanently JB Welded a replaceable bearing into the wheel. Thanks someone, you have ruined an expensive custom wheel by permanently cementing what is suppose to be a removable part. 

Called Stroker 77, the manufacturer of the wheel. He said box it up and ship it to him. He'll do what it takes to repair and/or make a new hub.

Well, the sidecamper won't be leaving the garage anytime soon. Not until the new front wheel arrives.  Bummer!!!!!! expensive BAD DAY!!!!


Riding the sidecamper to Alaska was the plan for the 2018 summer. WAS is the key word there.

An early morning phone call from South Africa shows up on my cell phone that dramatically changes my riding plans. Thinking it was a Nigerian Prince wanting to give me a million dollars to help him deposit funds in the US, I almost did not answer. 

Reluctantly picking up ...  "Hello"
in my lap fell a golden opportunity I never dreamed could happen.

No Nigerian Prince calling,  something better....

The caller, Nicole of SAMA Motorcycle Tours, informed me I was the Grand Prize winner 
of their 17 Day Best South African Road Trip for 2018. Every year they collect thousand of entries from around the world, then draw one name from the basket to determine the winner.

It includes use of a BMW 1200GS motorcycle, petrol, toll fees, hotels, meals, entry into several wildlife refuges, a tour guide, a chase vehicle carrying our luggage, spare parts and a mechanic.  
"When...  do you want to go?" she asked. 

Stunned, speechless and in disbelief, I mumbled some reply. A follow up email from Nicole confirmed the news. It was true!  Just select which of their scheduled 17 day tours I wanted to join. 

I have read and followed many accounts, books and stories of riders experiencing Africa on a motorcycle, but never once thought I would one day join their ranks. All of my riding has been in the Americas: North, Central and South. Places I could easily reach. Now that is about to change. 

The seasons in South Africa are the opposite of the northern hemisphere. The SA riding season ends early May as they go into their winter and restarts in our Fall. So come first week of April, I will be in Johannesburg looking over the BMW steed that will carry me on this 17 day adventure. 

Now to stock up on fresh memory cards, underwear, batteries, visit the Doctor for shots, check airline flight schedules, select riding gear (Cold or Hot?), figure out how to pack it all, etc. and more.

This Ride the Horizon blog will be the avenue to share with you the experience, the sights, the vistas,
the people, the ride, the good, the bad and yes... even the ugly.

Every year there have been new horizons to explore, relish, photograph and savor. 
2018 will be another new horizon.

Here is a SAMA Tours video featuring the Best South African Road Trip.  

Bummer day forgotten, cause Princess SAMA called! 

On to the Fantastic Days


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Good Day for Wrenching

(A LONG motorcycle wrenching post today, may not interest non-riders)

When winter comes to south Texas, we don't ride, we wrench.  
Last year winter came on a Friday. This year, a Tuesday.

Hit a high of 29 with sleet. Roads are covered with ice, schools and businesses closed. Yankees say Texan don't know how to drive on snow and ice.... We know how, but choose not to. 
Throw another jalapeño on the grill, I feel a draft.

Too cold and icy to be out riding now that winter dropped in. Time to put the wrench to the sidecamper rig. After riding most of eastern Canada last summer, the side camper needs a good going over before the next riding season arrives when we plan to go back to Alaska. 

There are a few issues needing attention, a few changes to be made and a few upgrades.

When in upstate New York, the bike lost the ability to shift gears when the clutch reservoir went dry. The clutch slave cylinder was slowly leaking brake fluid, so a rebuild kit was ordered. 
With the side cover off to rebuild the cylinder, took time to clean up the counter sprocket area.

The six thousand miles to Canada and back revealed a problem with the new seat. (My long legs need a taller than normal seat). It was sloped too much towards the front causing me to slide forward when riding on rough roads. On smooth pavement it was okay, but not on gravel roads. I know what the roads will be like in Alaska, so a seat rework was called for. 

The same builder reformed the seat by adding more foam. I then tested, cut, tested, and cut until the foam was the right height, slope and shape. They'll recover it with vinyl next week.

Next needed to check the rear wheel bearings. Before starting the trip last summer, I had replaced the rear bearings. By the time I reached in Maine heading north, they were shot. New bearings were installed in Ellsworth Maine.  Now to check if they again need replacing. With the rear wheel off, also wanted to mount a new rear tire, replace the rear brake pads, change the rear sprocket to a lower number and install a new 530 chain. 

The good news is the rear bearings are fine. No rough spots or notch-i-ness when spun. No need to replace, though I do carry a spare set.

By changing the rear sprocket, am going for slightly less lower end torque and a slightly higher top speed. The OEM sprocket has 41 teeth. The current larger sprocket has 46 teeth. With the 46 tooth, it has great low end torque (almost too much). But at 60-65 mph the engine is revving over 5000 rpm. Too high for all day riding in the south. 

Decided to try a 43 tooth. If the 43T sprocket makes the clutch work too hard to start rolling from a dead stop, will switch back. 

If you are familiar with the Vstrom1000, you might have noticed there is only one muffler on this bike.  I had two mufflers when I left for Canada last July. The left muffler strap broke somewhere in Canada. I found it snapped in Ohio. The loose muffler banged around so much a hole was beat into it. Decided to remove the damaged left muffler, switch the right muffler to the left side using the one good remaining muffler strap. Then capped off the right side exhaust down at the mid-pipe. This change will only affect performance at high rpm's, or at high speeds. Which on this rig is not an issue. 

The empty space on the right where a muffler once resided? Will fit in a 4" PVC pipe storage tube. 

While on the subject of wheels, with the rear wheel back on, time to remove the front wheel. 
A much more complicated procedure requiring the removal of twenty-one bolts (21). The brake rotor bolts must be removed while the wheel is still on the bike in order to lower the rotor so the brake calipers can be removed from the wheel.  Then the axle bolt can be removed. 

Checked the front bearings. Not bad but not smooth, so they need replacing. I have a set of front bearings on hand, but will need to borrow a bearing puller to remove the old bearings. Also ordered replacement brake rotor bolts as a few were wallowed out.

The brake caliper brackets were chipped and rusting. Decided to send them out for a sandblasting and a powder coating. 

Had a new front tire mounted.  Found a good tire shop that will dismount and mount a car tire on my custom wheels for ten bucks per tire.

 By next week the front wheel will be ready to reinstall. 

My parts replacement philosophy when prepping for a long trip is this: it is less expensive to replace a part or component in the comfort of the garage before it really needs replacing than to have it wear out on a remote road with the inconvenience and expense of towing and lodging while trying to find a replacement part at a much higher cost. 

Have you ever compared the prices of tires in Alaska to the tire prices in the lower 48 states? 
It costs a lot to ship parts to Alaska. The prices reflect that fact.

Have upsized the front tire from a 145/80-15 to a 165-80-15. The same size as the rear and the sidecar.  It fits fine in the leading link front forks, no rubbing. It might make steering more difficult to handle. If so, will return to a narrower tire. Having the same size tire on all three corners does simplify the replacement question.

Next issue: Was not happy on the Canadian trip having to swing the 15 gallon aux fuel tank out of the way, then insert the support leg before opening the camper for the night. If the ground was uneven, as it frequently was. I was having to lift the tank with all its weight in order to insert the support leg.  Then lift again in the morning to remove the leg. Sometimes the leg did not want to come out.

In searching for a better solution, decided to use the 8 gallon aux fuel cell I have on hand. Will mount it on a frame that will carry the weight over the rear tire of the Vstrom.  With the tank behind me, the rig will be more aerodynamic, i.e. less wind drag and no more cussing at an uncooperative support leg.

Only how to configure it?

In order to keep costs down and not have to carry all that extra weight on the bike's rear subframe, decided to utilize the existing tubular frame (after cutting it smaller) with the existing pivot post on the sidecar chassis. Cut and resize the platform but add a front extension that will be over the passenger seating area.  Rather than in the wind across the back of the camper, the smaller fuel cell will be behind me on the bike. 

By utilizing the existing pivot post but swinging the platform around from the camper side to the bike side, a second vertical support post/brace will be added diagonally opposite the existing pivot post. This will will place the weight forward and over the rear tire. 

The existing top case will move back, ride aft of the fuel cell. Since it carries little weight inside, it should not be an issue. It also means, to balance total weight fore and aft, I can carry more weight in the big white wedge box in front to the camper tub.

The fuel cell will ride directly behind me over the passenger seat. Can fit a back rest to the fuel cell too. Now to find the proper fittings to plumb the cell to the inline shut off valve leading to the main tank.

Why a pivoting and not a fixed shelf? I want the weight of the extra fuel forward, but not carried on the bikes subframe. Also I need to be able to swing the fuel cell out of the way in order to remove the seat to access the fuses underneath. That doesn't happen very often, so the left frame brace will be held in place with a bolt, with a quick disconnect on the fuel line.

When not needed, the entire assembly can be disconnected, lifted off of the pivot post and set aside.

Have added a clevis bracket to support the far side of the fuel cell, allowing the swing out feature and  for easy removal. The clevis will be attached to a leg extended down to the passenger's left foot peg mount.  A good solid mounting point.

By now you may have noticed the camper tub is not on the rig. Yeah, discovered an issue that necessitated the removal of the tub. The tub is not heavy, just awkward to grip and handle due to the size and smooth slick surface.  Employed an engine crane to lift the tub and move it out of the way.

Was very lucky to find this potential disaster here at home in the garage and not out on the far side of nowhere...

Somewhere on the rough roads in Labrador, the sidecar shock mounting post took a beating. A crack developed where the horizontal stud goes through to hold the shock pivot arm. If that had snapped off when out on a long trip... a costly repair.

Ground off the powder coating so the welder can see where to make the repair. Once the rig has all three wheels back on, will ride over to my favorite welder, John Klein, to repair it. He can make a stronger weld if the tub is not in the way. 

Decided to remove the tub not only for John to work on the post but also to look for any other cracks that might have developed. Could not find any. Good!

All of this work would not be possible if one did not have the proper tools. 

In my case, a battery powered drill, an electric carving knife and red wine. 

The drill makes small holes bigger, 

the knife eases the shaping of the seat foam 
(but don't tell the wife when the turkey tastes funny next Thanksgiving),

and the red wine.... 

Well, everything goes better with a good Malbec from Argentina.

Saludos,  Cheers, 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Best Photos of 2017

It's New Years Day 2018, time to take a few minutes to review what was accomplished in 2017. For one thing, I took more photos in the last twelve months than any year previously, so that was good. Maybe because I had a new camera to play with, a SONY RX10 III. I love this camera.

One of the reasons I bought it was because it had 4k video capability, which I have yet to use. Its' capacity to capture still photos amazes me. 2017 definitely was a year that expanded my photographic reach and pushed me into learning new techniques. This winding path of learning to capture better images has been both rewarding and challenging.

In 2017 a second tool added to my photography arsenal. Am learning to use Luminar photo editing software. Since it was written on and for a Mac computer, it is very intuitive to use. I can highly recommend it.  After struggling to learn Photoshop, Luminar is so much easier to learn and use. It is now available for Windows computers too. 

Let's look back now at what I consider to be some of the better images 
I was able to capture in 2017.

Still Life

                                                                                                                                 Waiting for Pizza

                                                                                                                                      Mother's Rose

                                                                                                                                      Classical Pause

                                                                                                                                      Autumn Sun


                                  Yellow Tram

                                                                                                                                         Cottage Lane

                                                                                                                                  Foggy Morn



                                                                                                                          Danube Waterfront

                                                                                                                           Coastal San Sebastian

                                                                                                                  Rimbach, a German Village


                                                                                                                                           Velvet Buck


                                                                                                                             Houston Overpasses

                                                                                                                         Budapest Nightlights

                                                                                                                                  Tagus River Spain


                                                                                                                                      Tranquil Forest

                                                                                                                                       Chilly Morning

                                                                                                                                          Lady in Red

In the Fall of 2017 was able to finally finish, assemble and publish two more books 
of my travels and photos. 

2018 looks to hold even more adventures, learning, growing and traveling.
I'll see you on down the road.  Happy New Years


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas eve morn

No snow in South Texas for Christmas, but then we never much expect it either...

Started the day with an early morning ride on a new rig in the stable,
a BMW/Hannigan set up.

Headed out into the foggy bottoms...

The sun finally raised its head and started burning the low clouds away...

Bright sun for the rest of this very breezy day. 

No icicles hanging from the trees down here, so spanish moss will have to do...

Side note: every year some yankee transplant to Texas will drape spanish moss all over themselves as a Halloween costume. Little do they know, but soon learn, ticks, mites, fleas, 
no-see-ums and other biting critters make their homes in the moss. 
No one does it two years in a row.... Hmmmmm. Living in the south makes one smarter.

This as yet un-named rig is a fun ride. Smoooooooth and easy.....
Hmmm, Big Easy or... Velvet Hammer... nah, that sounds like a cocktail.

Either country lanes or interstates, this rig gobbles up miles of paved surfaces...

Gone to the dark side with a rear car tire, so can ride until the cows come home....

Merry Christmas, y'all


Monday, October 16, 2017

Snippets from Madrid

Friday, October 13, 2017

Leaving San Sebastian in the early morning, we arrive in Burgos, Spain.
Only stopping long enough to see the cathedral and grab a quick bite of lunch.
An open air table awaits...

Our waiter was quick to bring the caña, vino, spicy olives, bread and salchica (sausage). 

Fall has arrived in Burgos too.

 By late afternoon we are in Madrid, the capital of Spain, with just enough time to visit the oldest building in Madrid before sunset.

Ironically the oldest building is not from Spain, but from Egypt. The Debod Temple was a gift to Spain from the Egyptian government when they were relocating ancient temples and ruins that would be flooded once the Aswar Dam project was completed in the 1960's. If not moved out of the flood zone, they would have been covered by the rising water and lost from view forever.

Spain agreed to accept this gift for their help during the dam construction.
The officials created a new park for it on a ridge not far from the royal palace.

 Early the next morning we are out and about. The weather is cool in the early morning as we stroll down to the Plaza de España where Madrid's most famous statue stands.

Don Quijote (Quixote in English) with his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, stand immortalized under the watchful eye their creator, Miguel de Cervantes. They guide says Cervantes' novel (Spanish: El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha ) has been translated into more languages than any other book in history, except for the Bible and Harry Potter.

"Into the dark woods, Sancho. Marcela must be saved from the pastoral clichés."

Don Quijote's mind wanders in and out of reality as he wishes to live in an age of chivalry, honor, conquest and defending fair maidens. Woven thru the stories are his quests to right the wrongs his mist filled mind perceives, all in the honor of the lovely maiden Dulcinea.

At sunrise,  a solitary nun walks past the headquarters of Spain's Army.

One of the city gates of Madrid, Puerta de Alcala'

Toledo is one of my favorite cities in Spain to visit, the history, the architecture, the culture. 
The first written reference to Toledo was in a Roman document dated more than 180 years BC.

For hundred of years Muslims, Christian and Jews peacefully lived together in Toledo. In the city centre, houses in the old Jewish quarter are still occupied today, though now there are no Jews living in Toledo.  General Fransico Franco, the Spanish dictator in the 1940's, aligned himself with Germany and Italy during World War II.

As a people very proud of their heritage and history, the city of Toledo erected a statue to Don Juan de Padilla who, over 500 years ago, resisted efforts of a Spanish King to remove control of Toledo away from the local residents. Padilla lost his head for resisting the King.

Toledo, the former capital of Spain, was a strategic center for the production of military swords, spears and armor during the middle ages. Toledo metal smiths were acknowledged as some of the best of their time.

Due to its strategic location, high on a hill surrounded on three sides by the Tagus River, Toledo was attacked numerous times over the centuries, but usually with little success. Thus the city centre remains today as it has been for many centuries.

There were several outposts across the river from the main city fortifications to help defend the city centre. You can see how the defenders could easily spot any approaching armies.

The few bridges that did lead into the city were easy to defend.  The river prevented any heavy armored soldiers from crossing. For those attackers who swam across without armor, they were easy prey to the arrows flung down from the high city walls.

Thus ends our time in Spain. Tonight we dine with friends, tomorrow we fly home to Texas.
Hope you enjoyed the sights as much as we did wandering around Europe. 

Until the next horizon ride, Abrazos mis amigos,