Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2014 Yamaha Super Ténéré Gathering

In 2012 I was planning my ride to Alaska when I found out the first Yamaha Super Ténéré gathering was going to be in Whitehorse, Yukon.  Plans were changed and I combined the trip to Alaska with a stop in Whitehorse where I spent 5 days riding with friends on some of the most beautiful roads the area has to offer.  The event was outstanding and I made lots of new friends.

I'm standing in front of the Yukon Yamaha sign with black jacket

When the 2013 gathering was announced in Ouray, southern Colorado I wasn't sure I was going to make it.  It was a long way out for me, a little over 2000 miles from my house, but my brother had recently moved to New Mexico and now I had a reason to visit him.  Plans were put in place and I rode to Las Vegas, New Mexico were I picked up my brother on his BMW GS and then proceed north to Ouray riding the Million Dollar Highway before arriving in Ouray.  The even was just as good as the first, saw some old friends and made a few new ones.  The Ouray area has some outstanding roads and mountain passes.

I'm standing in the middle with the grey shirt and giving the one finger salute like everyone else

The 2014 meet was announced a while back but I wasn't sure if I could make it due to a new job and family vacations.  The event this year is in Marble Falls, Arkansas, smack in the middle of the Ozarks.  The Ozark Mountains have some of the most scenic rivers, valleys and majestic lakes in America.   There's an old folk saying about the Ozark Mountains: "It's not that the mountains are so high, it's just that the valleys are so deep."

Today I got approved for my 2 week vacation from work and now plans are in place for my trip south.
I have never ridden a motorcycle in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana or Texas and with the rally in Arkansas I started thinking about the possibilities and locations I could visit.  Plans have been made and now I have a rough route I plan on taking before arriving in Marble Falls.

I will leave NJ and head south towards Atlanta where I will visit a friend.  I will then head to Panama City in the Florida panhandle where I will make a right and continue west. I will ride along the coast through Pensacola, I will visit Mobile in Alabama, Biloxi in Mississippi, New Orleans in Louisiana and make my way to Galveston in Texas.  I will turn north in Galveston and ride through Texas country through Houston and Dallas.  I plan on leaving around lunchtime straight from work on a Friday and then spend the next 16 and a half days on the road.
Hopefully I will be able to do some of this in Arkansas.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Yamaha XT

In the early eighties I bought a Yamaha XT 250, my first motorcycle.  I was in my last year of college and didn't have much money, a used bike was my only option.  I ended up buying a used bike with very low mileage.  The previous owner already had installed a Supertrapp exhaust and it came with a brand new Yamaha jacket and an AGV helmet.  I had never ridden a motorcycle but the day I picked it up I mounted the bike and rode it home, no license or insurance.  I was young and taking risks was no biggie.  I later got a permit but never got my license.  A year later I got married, sold the bike and soon thereafter moved from South Africa to the USA.
In 1980 the first generation XT 250 had a 4-stroke, single-cylinder, 249cc SOHC air-cooled, 2 valves/cylinder with 22HP @ 8600 rpm.   The second generation released in 1984 had its top-end output reduced to 17HP @ 7,500 rpm due to emissions control considerations.  The XT had a single shock running up the center under the tank.  This photo is from the Wiki page

In 1982, the movie "First Blood" hit the box office starring Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo.  In the movie when Rambo flees from prison he rides a stolen Yamaha XT 250.  Most people didn't notice but if you listen closely the bike sound is from a 2-stroke engine.  The director obviously decided the 2-stroke screaming sound would fit better with the hectic atmosphere of the chase scene.

I had so much fun with the little XT 250.  I rode the bike everywhere I could night or day, highway and dirt roads.  I was only 22 and felt invincible. This is a scan from a badly deteriorating photo and yes, before you ask, I was going out to a party and was wearing red corduroy pants and nice shoes. It was the early eighties, corduroy was in style.

Last year I rode to Ouray, Colorado for the second Yamaha Super Tenere gathering and at the end of the meet I went north making a stop in Aspen.  While walking around town taking photos I come around a corner and right there in front of me was a Yamaha XT 250 exactly like the one I had.  I couldn't believe my eyes, same color and same generation.

Seeing the XT 250 again 30 years later brought back lots of good memories.  It wasn't in the best shape but with a little TLC it could still be turned into a good motorcycle.  I didn't have a chance to see the owner.

A few weeks ago, I am returning home from my parents home and came upon a XT 500 for sale.
The Yamaha XT500 is a twin-valve single-cylinder enduro-adventure motorcycle made by Yamaha from 1975 until 1981.

The bike was a big success and it laid the ground for the later range of XT bikes ranging from the XT125cc to the current XT660Z Ténéré (the 660 is not available in the USA) and XT1200Z super Ténéré.  The XT series contributed largely to Yamaha's image.
The XT proved its performance and reliability by winning the first big African rallies, which were on the rise in the late seventies. It started with Paris–Abidjan-Nice and then the Paris–Dakar Rally, which confirmed the supremacy of the XT 500. Wiki
The old and new XT

The owner came out and started the bike for me, it was great to hear the thumping sound of the big 500, the sound bringing back good memories of my XT 250.   If I had the money I would have bought this bike but with three bikes already in my garage I don't think my wife would have been happy.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Gathering of the Norton's 2014 - 2

As promised here's some of the other bikes present at the Gathering of the Nortons at Washington Crossing Park in Pennsylvania.

A beautiful MV Agusta F3 800 with a Ferracci Carbon Fiber slip-on.   Lists on Ferracci website for $1180.
These F3's sound awesome and the Ferracci makes it even meaner.

The Triumph X-75 Hurricane was a 'factory special' motorcycle designed by fairing specialist Craig Vetter. It was ultimately released as a Triumph model in 1973.

There was a time when I was younger that all I wanted was the Kawasaki Z1 but I was too young and couldn't afford one.   The Kawasaki Z1 was a motorcycle introduced in 1972 by Kawasaki. The Z1, along with Honda's CB750 from 1969, introduced the four-cylinder, across the frame, disc-braked layout to a wider public.   The bike was also known as Kawasaki 900 Super Four

The Honda CBX was introduced in 1978 as the first production Honda motorcycle with an inline six-cylinder engine.  The twin-cam 24-valve engine produced 105 bhp and sounded amazing.

This is a custom motorcycle with a Yamaha 750 twin engine

The Kawasaki ZRX1100 (nicknamed the Rex in the UK and the Z-Rex in the US).  I would love to have a Kawasaki ZRX1100 or the later 1200 with this green color

The MV Agusta was the motorcycle upon which Giacomo Agostini, John Surtees, Mike Hailwood, Phil Read won 17 world MotoGP (then 500cc) riders championships

A beautiful Triumph motorcycle, love the exhaust and the paint job

A 4-cylinder in-line engine Indian motorcycle.  In 1940 the Indian 440 cost $1000 while a typical Chevrolet car cost about $700

A little Honda 300cc in immaculate condition

There was a time I was seriously considering buying the Moto Guzzi Stelvio 1200 NTX before Yamaha announced the Super Tenere was coming to the USA.  This is a beautiful motorcycle.

Not sure what motorcycle this is.  I have asked people on my Google Plus circles and no one could tell me what makes it is.  I loved the helmet.

There were lots more motorcycles at the show.  It seems the show keeps getting bigger which is great for any motorcycle motorhead.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Gathering of the Norton's 2014

Spring is upon us and once again we start the riding season with a great event.  Every year the Delaware Valley Norton Riders organization hosts the annual "Gathering of the Nortons" event at the Washington Crossing Historic Park.  This year's event was the 21st and as usual it was a great event with lots of Norton's on display as well as an assortment of other British, American and Japanese motorcycles.
I rode in with the Monmouth County Kruizers group and later left with the RAT group (Riders Association of Triumph), my usual riding buddies.

As usual, I took lots of photos and obviously had to take a photo of my pride and joy, my amazing Yamaha Super Ténéré.

A beautiful Harley Davidson

The Norton Commando is a British motorcycle with an OHV parallel-twin engine, launched by the Norton Motorcycle company in 1967.   Initially a 750cc displacement but in 1973 it became an 850cc.

There were probably over 50 Norton Commando's on display. The event is always a great get together of Norton's.

Besides Norton's there were quite a few other motorcycles, some well known others not so much.  I had never heard of the Condor A350, a Swiss military motorcycle.

Two British Matchless motorcycles still in good shape.

The Norton Commando VR880 was built by Kenny Dreer in the late 90's.  The VR880 is basically a ground-up rebuild of an old bike using many modern improvements and a bored-out motor.

I will post photos of other motorcycles on a later post.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Miles on the road

I have been very lucky finding the time, money and health to be able to do a few very long distance trips and quite a few others closer to home.  I have been as far north as Gaspe in Quebec and as far south as Key West, Florida along the east coast.
I did a cross country trip by motorcycle and one by car.  I have gone as far north as possible to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska on the West coast of North America, and hope to one day be able to ride to South America and hit the southernmost point in Argentina.
The trip to Alaska was 12901 miles, the cross country was about 9000, the Key West close to 3400, Gaspe about 2300, Las Vegas, NM and Ouray, Colorado about 4000, the Buffalo trip about 1100 and Death Valley tour about 400 miles on a Harley Davidson.  These trips totalled 33100 miles (52960 Kilometers)

For 2014 I plan to tour the south states starting in northern Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and then make a stop in Marble Falls, Arkansas for the 2014 Yamaha Super Tenere gathering.

There will be many more shorter trips closer to home this year and if vacation allows a few other longer distance trips outside New Jersey.

I wish everyone a safe summer and hope you have a great riding year.  Keep blogging and take lots of photos.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Day 23 - Return to Tok

This post is a continuation of my Alaska trip in 2012 for anyone reading my blog for the first time.

From Valdez to Tok it's 255 miles, maybe I could make it with one tank, I had filled the gas tank back in Valdez and that's always a good thing in Alaska.   There's a saying in Alaska, "never pass gas" and it's so true as I encountered lots of gas stations like this one, closed or abandoned.  I did find gas along the way.

A little later I see a bald eagle flying around and quickly stop the bike for a few photos.  I zoomed in but the eagle kept flying in circles and getting further away with every circle, after a while I gave up and continued on my way.

130 miles from Valdez I took the Glenn Highway - Tok Cutoff and quickly pass Gakona Lodge and Trading Post stopping again when I reach the Red Eagle Lodge.  Looked like a decent place to camp or rent a cabin but I was set in returning to Tok, after a few pictures I continue on my way.
Red Eagle site

Somewhere on this beautiful stretch of road I was doing close to 90mph on my speedometer, actual speed around 85mph, when I see a white car in the distance.  I should mention I had seen very few cars along this road and hardly any police the whole time I had been in Alaska.  I had taken my radar detector out and stashed it in one of the bags while still in Canada where they are illegal. As the car approached the last thing on my mind was police until it was too late and I saw the blue and red lights on top of the car.  I hit the brakes hard as he passed, didn't see the lights go on and after looking in my rear view mirror and not seeing his brake or the police lights go on, I continued on my way.  About three minutes later I glance at my rear view mirror and see a white car approaching with flashing lights, oh crap, I pull to the side as he approached and immediately stop and remove my helmet.  A very young officer gets out and the following conversation ensues:
Officer:   Hi there, do you know how fast you were going?
me:        I'm so sorry officer, yes I was speeding, it's such a beautiful road and I'm trying to get to Tok
             so I can call my wife which I haven't seen in almost a month, I wasn't paying attention.
Officer:   You were doing over 85mph, I see you from NJ, do you know what the speed is in Alaska?
me:         65mph? I haven't seen a sign on this road.
Officer:   speed limit in Alaska is 55mph
me:         oh, I'm so sorry, please don't give me a ticket.
Officer:   don't worry, I'm not going to give you a ticket but can I see your license?
               you not running away from anyone are you? or done anything bad?
me:        (with a surprise look in my face) no officer, just returning back to NJ.
              Thank you for not giving me a ticket.
Officer:   okay, I'm going to run your plate and drivers license, just hold on.  (goes back to his car)

I couldn't believe my luck, no speeding ticket.  What a nice young officer.  He comes back, hands me the license back, didn't even ask for registration or insurance.  He starts chatting, interested in my trip, wants to know where I've been, where I'm going next and what made me come to Alaska by motorcycle.  I simply make a hand gesture to show the scenery around us and say "I'm here to see this, who wouldn't like to visit this beautiful state?", he agrees with me and as a parting comment says:  "ride safe so you can return with your family".  I thank him again and continue on my way while he makes a u-turn and continues south.

More abandoned buildings, I see lots of this in Alaska

As I approach Tok I see a sign for the Little Tok River, I wondered if there's a "Big" Tok River.  Someone had used the sign for target shooting.

I stop at the visitor center in Tok and call my wife while this guy gives me the suspicious eye.  I see a small supermarket across the street and head there for supplies.  After buying something to eat, I stop at the gas station next door and fill the gas tank again, never pass gas.

I already knew where I wanted to camp, I had read so many motorcycle blogs and reports on the ADV site, I ask for directions at the gas station and head to the Thompson's Eagle Claw campsite.  I meet Vanessa, the owner, and she quickly gives me the lay of the land.  Vanessa mentions the campsite has no running water, electricity or Wi-Fi, she lives off the grid, but they have tent sites, a tee-pee, wall tent with cots, 4-person bunkhouse, a cabin for 2 and we just added an old ambulance that sleeps two, she adds.  An ambulance? I ask.   Yes, she says with a smile, but it's already booked by another rider.  The best part, it's only $10 per rider, you can't beat the price.  I quickly setup camp and start preparing my dinner.
Thompson's Eagle Claw campsite

Preparing dinner, can of soup, Chef Boyardee Big Beef Ravioli, 2% milk for after dinner coffee and next morning first cup of coffee and fresh water.

These are some of the other accommodations at the campsite, I would have liked to stay in the tee-pee but it was reserved for another rider that hadn't yet arrived.

The ambulance is a weird place to spend the night but it's all part of the experience at the Thompson's Eagle Claw campsite.  If you look careful on the second photo you will see a 5L wine container on the counter, it was supplied by Vanessa, the wonderful hostess, for all the campers to use.  I had wine with my meal in a plastic cup, it tasted really good.  She has water containers, cooking equipment and other necessities available for all to use since there's no running water. The door to the left is the restroom, a hole in the ground but everything was clean.

All the tables have a flower pot with different kinds of flowers.  Overall it was a very pleasant experience and a campsite I would love to visit again.

A German couple was camping on the site next to mine and we chatted for a while about their trip and my adventure.  They had shipped their bikes to the USA and had done the trip to Prudhoe Bay, they were on the way south too.  There were a few other bikers at the campsite but no one I knew.  I really enjoyed my stay in this very quiet campsite far away from the road.  I felt I was in paradise and didn't want to leave Alaska.

Tomorrow I will ride about 90 miles south and I will be back in the Yukon, I feel sad I have to leave this wonderful place.

To be continued......

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