My new favorite road sign

While I was in the motorcycle shop looking around waiting to pay for my new tube I saw a sign that pretty well summed up my feelings about breaking down on the road when I’m alone. It’s a little scary and very frustrating and crying is definitely an option, but so far I’ve sucked it up and figured out what I needed to do. Basically my thinking is that anything that happens that doesn’t injure me is just not that bad. So I burst out laughing when I saw this shirt:

So on my return I used Adobe Illustrator to create my own version. I swear — I may just have this made into stickers and put one on my motorcycle.

Posted in Trip Reporting on Nov 13th, 2012  

Natchez Trace Parkway

(I got home a week ago but have been running non-stop since my return.)

I didn’t get away from La Follette until close to noon and got to ride through the northwest gusting winds from hurricane Sandy through Knoxville and Nashville. I promised myself before getting on the road that I would clear my head and focus on the ride, but after looking at houses in Tennessee I was pretty preoccupied and had to remind myself to stop thinking about it.

West of Nashville I stopped at the Loveless Café. The Loveless is a fairly famous establishment that serves classic southern cooking in huge portions. If in Nashville or on the Trace it’s a highly recommended stop. The food was good and the service was great.

I rode part of the Trace that afternoon and started again the next morning in 27 degree temperatures. That was a new record low for riding (previous was 29) so I had all my cold weather gear on. I kept thinking about the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man, or the Pillsbury Dough Boy, or the Michelin Tire Man and trying to decide which of them I resembled most closely.

The first stop on the Trace was at the grave site of Meriwether Lewis.




After riding a section of the the Old Trace that wandered through the trees I took a break in Collinwood when I saw a sign for a welcome center. It was a little chilly for the unheated restrooms along the parkway. I was greeted at the door and encouraged to help myself to hot coffee and cookies and refill my water bottles. The people were so nice I hung out for a while chatting with them.

One of the most surprising things I saw along the Trace was an over 20 mile stretch after a sign reading “Tornado Damage April 2011”. I didn’t stop to take pictures, but it was staggering the damage that went on for miles. The forest was simply snapped off about 15-20 feet off the ground. I would look to the left and right and see homes not very far away that had undamaged trees. It was like the tornado had followed the road.

The original plan was to ride the entire parkway to Natchez but I bailed after about 300-350 of the 450 miles and headed for east for home. I was clearly preoccupied with other things and decided to do the southern part of the Trace when I was more focused.


Posted in Trip Reporting on Nov 12th, 2012  

I don’t know if I can afford another tire change

I would like to preface this with a short story. I attended a tire changing clinic a couple of years ago and after watching big, strong guys wrestle with getting the old tubeless tire off the rim and the new one back on I later told a friend the clinic left me feeling I only wanted three tools for changing my tubed tires on the road – a good riding buddy, a cell phone, and a credit card.

My previous tire change before leaving for Vermont and Canada resulted in my ABS brakes and speedometer going out about four hours outside of Dallas. I made it to Kentucky and stopped for the night to research the problem and ended up at the Louisville BMW dealer the next day. There I found out the ABS ring on the rear wheel had been cracked and one third of it had fallen off. The service manager who had worked on BMW motorcycles for many years had never seen a broken ABS ring and he couldn’t believe someone could be so rough when changing the tire to break it. Neither could I.

My extended warranty covered the repair, but it didn’t cover my additional expenses for hanging out in Louisville while the ring was over-nighted and installed.

Up until then I had been kind of afraid of removing my own wheels, but after that I decided I would remove my wheels and take them to have the new tires mounted in the future so I could make sure nothing got broken.

A couple days before leaving for Tennessee I decided I wasn’t comfortable with the tread on my back tire and had a new tire put on. I had been reading good things about the Kenda K761 and decided to try one instead of the Metzeler Tourance tires I have already had. The big reason being the price difference.

I called around and found the tire at a local motorcycle dealer and took my wheel in to have it put on. I brought it home and put it back on the motorcycle, put all the tools away, and was washing my hands when the phone rang. It was the motorcycle shop telling me the parts guys had just brought the service department my new tube. The tire had my old tube in it. Not good.

Despite the fact I was running out of time I took the wheel back off, went back to the motorcycle shop the next morning and once again got the tire mounted but this time with a new tube as well. Good grief, what a fiasco.

So after spending the night in Tallulah, LA imagine my surprise when I found my rear tire totally flat the next morning.

I tried my air compressor and it was dead. Great. A tire shop up the road sent a truck and when the guy aired up the tire it immediately deflated again. At least he only charged me $10.

The nearest motorcycle shop was 15-20 miles back in Vicksburg, MS. They would help me, but they were going to charge me $230 t0 come get the bike and then put in a new tube. I felt a little taken advantage of, but didn’t see what other options I had since the motorcycle couldn’t be ridden and I had no way to get the wheel to them.

The owner himself came to get me and I was relieved when he showed extreme care loading and tying down the bike on the trailer. He ended up being a really nice man and we had fun talking on the way back to the shop.

When they got the tire off they found multiple folds in the tube – the tube was so big for the tire it folded over and the worst of the folds wore through causing an almost half inch opening in the tube. No wonder it wouldn’t hold any air.

I was in shock at how badly folded the tube was and that it clearly was too big for my tire.

They checked the rim strip and their guess was that it was the original because it was worn through in more than one spot. While It hadn’t caused any leaks in the tube it clearly should have been changed along with the tire. It only added to my disbelief.

The red circle on the picture to the left it the tear that was leaking.

The two men who worked on the bike showed me the proper way to put a tube in tire to avoid damaging it when putting the second side of the tire on the rim. They showed me that it was the correct size.

They had noted the mileage on my bike and asked what I did for a living. I told them I had been a career accountant and they found it very funny that a female accountant was traveling all over the place on a motorcycle. They were really great and had a good time giving me a hard time about things and started asking when I was going to the Arctic Circle.

They took great care getting the wheel back on the bike (no broken ABS ring) and showed me some things to do to make it a little easier. All in all a good learning experience.

Yes, I still think $230 was a little pricey. But they took really good care of my motorcycle and me and in the end I think it was worth every penny just to get back on the road confident of my back tire and tube. These folks need to make a living too and the owner alone spent 2 hours on my motorcycle plus the other tech who assisted.

So if you have motorcycle problems in the Vicksburg area I would call Mike and Kay at Vicksburg Cycles. They sell Kawasaki and Suzuki motorcycles, but worked on my BMW. Was that why they charged so much? Just kidding.

The guys suggested I bring the tube home with me and take it back to the dealer who mounted the tire originally. I think I will take it in and talk to the owner. It’s not just the expense and the inconvenience of having a flat on the road, I feel they did something that had the potential to kill me. I feel very lucky the tube went flat overnight and not when I was going 80 MPH on the highway.

So all told the cost of the tire, new tube, mounting, and then replacement of the tube in Louisiana was $405. For one tire. So far my switch to Kenda hasn’t saved me a whole lot of money. I think that tube may qualify as the most expensive tube of all time.

So now I’m rethinking my three tools for changing tires at home – maybe mounting tires is something I need to learn to do myself. At least then I’d stand a chance of having the proper size tube and the rim strip changed when it was worn. And maybe I could make a trip without having to stop for repairs.

Posted in Motorcycle maintenance, Trip Reporting on Nov 12th, 2012  

Day 2 – Dickson, TN to La Follette, TN

Beating the storm

Checked the forecast and left earlier than planned because rain was so close. It was misting on me as I loaded the motorcycle.

I was on the road at 7:30 which put me into Nashville in the thick of rush hour. I tried the 440 loop and it wasn’t great — an older road with construction that bogged down when we got close to I-24. Even with slowdowns I was on my way out of Nashville by 8:30.

Stopped at a rest area and a truck driver came up to talk to me. He said we’d been passing each other ever since we left the Dallas area at the same time yesterday morning.  Goes to show how my 4 gallon tank effects my progress. He drives slower, but I have to stop for fuel more often.

Sure enough, I recognized the nice South Carolina decals I had noticed on the tractor part of his rig. He was a motorcycle rider too and said he could tell by my build that I was a female so he was glad to have the chance to meet me. We chatted a while before we both needed to get back on the road.

It was sunny at the stop but I rode into dark cloud cover not long after and when going over one of the mountain ridges got caught in showers. Nothing too bad and I stayed dry.

Arrived in La Follette in sunshine and almost 80 degrees. The cold front I was wanting to beat arrives tonight. Low’s in the 30’s and high’s around 50 with rain for the next few days so I’m going to be a wimp and rent a car. Enterprise has a $15 a day special so it even fits the budget.

I hope to get pictures of the fall color tomorrow.

Gear issues

Gerbing heated jacket

I’ve decided one of my very favorite things about my heated jacket on cold days is the heated collar. There is something about that warmth around the neck that  almost makes up for the fact the rest of the jacket is so large it isn’t close enough to my body to be as warm as it should. That’s the result of having bought Gerbing  heated gear that was only available in men’s sizes at the time.

I’m really toying with the idea of wearing a long sleeve shirt over the jacket to see if keeping it closer to my body will be warmer but I’ve already had a problem with wires digging into my elbows and knees and don’t know if a shirt will make my elbows hurt worse. I will save that trial for a 35 or 40 degree day. It was upper 50’s this morning.

Garmin hardwire

I really like my Garmin Nuvi 2450 but had the second Gilsson hardwire fail about 7 hours out from Dallas yesterday. It was firmly wired into my Centech fuse block so the failure is in the adapter somewhere. At $29 a pop I’m now $60 into this effort when the GPS only cost $169 so I officially give up. I went to Radio Shack and bought a cigarette lighter charger for the rest of the ride. My worry is it will vibrate out of the cigarette lighter socket I have in the tank bag, but at least I can plug that back in. I really missed the GPS yesterday afternoon and today.  The charge from the AC adapter only lasts 2 hours.

Funny thing about the GPS. I found out you could download different vehicles to show on the map. I switched from the default car this morning to a black motorcycle. I had to pull over and change it. I swear it looked like a coffin traveling along the map and it creeped me out so bad I couldn’t stand it. I changed to a beach ball the rolls along the route and found that entertaining for the hour battery lasted. I think I’ll try the yellow rubber ducky the next time.

Posted in Motorcycles & Gear, Trip Reporting on Oct 26th, 2012  1 comment

Day 1 TN to Natchez Trace

Good first day

I was on the road at 6:00 AM so it was dark. I don’t ride a lot in the dark but had been happy with my new Vision X Solstice Solo 10 watt LED auxiliary lights because people have told me they make me so visible during day light hours. As Vision X Solstice Auxillary LED LightsI headed toward I-35 I was trying to find the switch to see if they were on. They weren’t.

Oh. My. God. I hit the switch and the road lit up 2 to 3 times brighter. I can’t believe these little 10 watt LEDs can throw so much light. I love them.

I took George Bush tollway all the way to where it now connects with I-30 east right before you cross Lake Ray Hubbard. It was awesome — more traffic than I expected at that hour, but 70 MPH all the way. I was well on my way to Texarkana by the time the sun came up.

Thrilling I-40 again

Got through Texarkana and Little Rock with no problems. I love the 440 loop around Little Rock. The skies finally cleared and I had sunshine on the way to Memphis. Saw a little lake with Canadian geese walking around.

I had a heck of a south side wind from Little Rock to Memphis. I may be alone in this, but I find this particular stretch of I-40 boring and really unattractive. The side wind didn’t enhance the experience.

I tried the south loop of 55 to 240 to avoid 40 through Memphis. I think I like it better than taking 40, but it was 1 in the afternoon so hard telling what it would be like during rush hour.

Got farther than expected going 635 miles before stopping  in Dickson, TN for the night so I only have 235 miles to get into La Follette tomorrow.  Rain is forecast around noon so I hope to stay out in front of it.

A few days in La Follette and then I’ll head back to Nashville to get on the Natchez Trace Parkway to go south to Natchez.

Posted in Trip Reporting on Oct 25th, 2012  

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