Saturday, June 18, 2011

From the North Oregon Coast

I eat too many turkey meals.  I should find a backup eatery but Subway is good and fast and... well, fresh.

Wednesday morning I headed for the coast to work for three days.  I used our place at the beach for two nights as a base for working from Newport to Astoria.

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This was lunch in Newport on Wednesday.  The ride through the mountains in the morning was mostly wet but at the coast the weather was nice.  It was in the low 60's (F) with the usual onshore breeze of good fresh air.

The weather for the three days was suppose to be mostly dry.  There was only a 30% chance of showers on Wednesday morning.  I debated on whether to take a regular duffel bag or my Helen 2Wheels waterproof bag.  Amber reminded me that this is Oregon and it can rain at any time. I didn't really need a reminder. I ended up getting the 30% on 100% of me so I was glad I had Helen's bag.  I've had this large roll top sack for over a year and it has served me well.  It's surprising how much one can pack in it when items are rolled into tube shape.

When I first started using it I was a little nervous about leaving it on the bike when I'm inside on a sales visit but so far it's been fine.  I don't put anything too valuable in it and I generally park in areas which are not too public.

Below are some road trip photos.

A beach chapel that has weathered many storms.

Twin Rocks (Rockaway Beach) as high clouds approach. 

This one is titled, "Waiting for Sunset".

It's nice to stop and explore in these small coastal towns.  I stopped here Thursday afternoon to get something to drink.

Friday morning the clammers were out during low tide in Tillamook Bay. Homemade clam chowder sounds good.

I have many photos of this lake.  On a clear morning when it's calm I can't help but stop and click a few shots.  It's a serene view that's quite different than the hustle and bustle of downtown Portland only 90 miles away.  What would life be like without the push and pull of a BlackBerry and computer? 

The trip was a little over 400 miles.  It was a pleasure to be on the bike.  For a while now I've been experimenting with riding at higher rpm.  On the way back to Portland through the mountain range I stayed in 4th gear most of the time.  The speed limit is 55 mph with nice sweeping curves. The bike handled better at the higher rpm with easier ability to roll on and off the throttle and less shifting.   

I hope you get some higher rpm this weekend!

God's speed.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Photos From the Week

With a full week of good weather things lined up nicely to acquire some quality saddle time.  Although I was "Riding and Thinking," rather than post any particular thoughts I decided to share a few photos from the week. Nothing earth shattering just some doodling with the camera.

The one above is the oil cooler radiator vents.  After doing the brakes last Saturday I washed and waxed the bike.  If you look closely you'll see the haze of dried wax yet to be polished. Kind of a different view.

Yesterday while working in Corvallis I parked under a large shaded area.

Something caused me to look up and I noticed how the branches seem to be leaning toward the sun. These old trees make a nice big shade canopy.

Before leaving Corvallis I like to stop at Great Harvest Bread to get something before hitting the road for home.  Instead of taking the Interstate I took the country way through small towns.  I happened to get behind a guy on a cruiser bike.  Out in the country we rode at a good pace but in the towns he went pretty slow and kept a large distance away from the car in front of him.  I try to learn what I can from these experiences.  I realized that I tend to drift in a little too close sometimes when following traffic.  The obvious problem with this is when traffic stops suddenly.  The other issue, which I don't think of as often as I should, is road debris.  It's harder to see and react when following too closely.

This was today behind one of the hospitals I visit.  It would have been nice if I could have gotten the bike in that lift.  Looks like it's waiting in line for the next ride.

Today I had lunch at a mall.  While walking back to the bike I noticed the light gently bouncing off the back wheel.  This shot looks a little lonely but in my humble opinion the mall is actually a happy place.  The sun didn't show up today so everything had the Northwest shade of gray. 

Just some doodling with the camera while on two wheels.

God's speed.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Brake System Transfusion

Back in April I devoted a post to trying to break a boxer engine myth by showing the relative ease of a routine valve adjustment.  At the end of that post I commented about flushing the brake system in the coming weeks.  I intended on doing this post sooner but I've been fighting a virus with a persistent cough for the past  month. Friday I finally went to the doctor at the strong urging of my wife Amber.  The prescribed antibiotic seems to be doing its work.  I feel somewhat better.  I wasn't aware of the general state of crumminess that had overtaken me.

The weather was nice yesterday.  It was the first summer-like day of the year.  Sunny and about 85 F.  A perfect day to go riding but I thought I should get the much needed replacement of the brake fluid done.  

I've decided not to go step-by-step through this process for two reasons.  Firstly, it might be boring but the big reason is I want to avoid any liability issues.  The brake system is obviously an important part to the safe operation of the motorcycle, consequently, care should be used to make sure no air gets into the brake lines and no leaks are evident when done.  I used a comprehensive writeup available online on the BMW Motorcycle Owners Association forum by a member Semper Fi.  If you're a member and you log in you'll also see his photos.

But this post is not about BMW stuff.  As with the valve adjustment post, I'd like to encourage you to try flushing your brake system yourself no matter what brand you ride.  The tech support post by Semper Fi is only mentioned to show that once you find a good source for step-by-step instructions, it's similar to finding a good recipe for brownies. It's hard to go wrong when you follow the recipe.  Okay, maybe some surprises can pop up but trial and error does wonders for gaining experience.  As I mentioned above, ingesting air into the brake system is the biggest threat and you'll know if it happens before you go for a test ride.  More about that in a minute.  

This is as close as it gets to a hospital setting in our garage.  When I looked at this photo it seemed sort of medicinal with the vacuum gauge and the old t-shirt spread out.  The t-shirt is protecting the painted surfaces from an accidental spill of the brake fluid which is very bad for paint.  The vacuum gauge (Mityvac) is used to draw the old fluid out of the reservoirs and to bleed the brake system.  The setup above is the first step which is to draw the old fluid from the front brake reservoir. 

Here is the the bleed nipple on the front brake reservoir.  This is conveniently used in the process to replace the fluid in the reservoir.

Brake fluid is not suppose to look like your favorite iced tea on a hot summer afternoon.  Pop open one or both of your reservoirs and if it looks like this and it's been a while since it's been changed then this project should make it to your list of things to do.  Good brake fluid is clear.  

The brake system works by hydraulics.  The fluid doesn't compress much so when we pull the brake lever the piston at the lever forces the fluid down the line to compress the pistons in the calipers on the wheel(s).  Over time however, a couple of things happen. One is that air can get into the system, either by absorption directly into the brake fluid or more commonly by absorption of water, which contains air.  This makes the fluid turn dark and the brakes feel a little squishy.  As a rule of thumb the brake fluid should be checked once a year at the very minimum. The fluid level should be checked more often.

This photo shows the old nasty fluid has been flushed and replaced with new.  One way to do this is to use a small syringe or turkey baster to pull out the old fluid.  Always leave a small amount in the bottom of the reservoir that covers the hole where the fluid goes to the brake line.  This keeps away the dreaded threat of inducing air into the system.  After adding new fluid, then it's a repeated process of drawing out and replacing most of the contents of the reservoir through the bleed nipple until the fluid looks completely new.

After the reservoir has been flushed it's time to flush the line between the reservoir and the calipers on the wheels.  I removed each of the two front calipers and spread the brake pads apart being careful to make sure the fluid in the reservoir didn't overflow from the back up of fluid.  Then it's the same procedure as with flushing the reservoir.  It's a repeated process of drawing out the fluid at the caliper with the vacuum gauge and replacing it with new in the reservoir until the fluid being drawn is clear.

When that's done the calipers are reinstalled and the brake lever is pumped, while keeping an eye on the reservoir level, until the pads make contact again with the rotors.  At this point it's time to see if any air has made its way into the system by bleeding the brakes at each caliper.  I won't go through that step but the photo above shows the setup I used for bleeding the front.  

This is how the fluid should look as it's coming out the bleed nipple at the caliper during the bleed process.  No air bubbles and clear fluid. This is where we make sure things are right well before the test ride.

When the front brakes are done the same process is used on the rear.  I thought the photo above of the rear reservoir shows the somewhat dramatic difference between old and new fluid. 

That's pretty much it.  While riding to church this morning the brakes felt stronger and I think they grabbed a little earlier.  Remember that the goal when done is to have no air in the lines, no leaks, and ending up with all new fluid throughout the system.  Before going on a test ride straddle the bike and make sure the brakes are firm and have a strong grip.  

Then maybe have a brownie, a glass of milk and go for a ride.  You might avoid iced tea for a while though.

God's speed.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Second Year Thoughts

Two years ago today the liftgate on the delivery truck touched down on our driveway with the Beemer.  Little did I know it would begin an adventure that I still can't believe I get to enjoy.

I've met so many wonderful people as a result of riding. Being among those who experience the thrill of straddling a motorcycle is a privilege. As the weather warms and more riders take to the roads it's great to see how many choose this form of traveling.  I've made a personal commitment to wave to all other riders.  I figure they deserve a salute of respect for being on two wheels.

The other night one of our daughters reminded me that the motorcycle was responsible for getting a new sales account.  I had been trying to sell the hospital for years and getting no where, not even an appointment.  One morning as I rode into the parking lot I saw one of the engineers working on his motorcycle. I walked over and starting talking with him while he adjusted his clutch cable. He was on his morning break.  We didn't talk business at all - only motorcycles.  When we went inside he introduced me to his manager and said that they should start having me come around regularly and buying from us.  I was pleasantly surprised.
Yesterday, just before leaving the park where I took the first photo a man and his wife and son pulled into the lot in this well restored Toyota Landcruiser.  He drove around the grassy circle raising one and sometimes two wheels off the ground while his wife took pictures. It was fun to watch and a unique way to get on two wheels.

As I wrote one year ago today, I had no idea that riding would grip me the way it has when I began riding again 3 years ago.  "And with the number of riding years ahead of me dwindling, I'm going to continue to enjoy as many miles as the good Lord will allow."

Again, I wish you many enjoyable and safe riding miles.

God's speed.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Knowing When to Stay off the Bike

While riding late in the afternoon almost two weeks ago I stopped to catch a silhouette shot.  Many times when I'm riding late in the day or first thing in the morning I see a photograph I'd like to take but it means pointing the lens toward the sun.  I don't mind doing this, in fact I break this photographic rule quite often. I can never get the photo to look the same way my eyes see the landscape.  It has either too much highlights or the shadows are too dark.  I know that HDR processing would take care of this but I wonder if someday cameras will have the technology to see what we see.

Isn't our ability to see things the way we do amazing?  Our eyes automatically adjust to highlights and shadows and even take care of white balance.  I believe they are more evidence of an intelligent Designer.

Today was the first day that I've been on the motorcycle in almost two weeks.  I've had some sort of "bug".  It wasn't a cold because it didn't progress like one.  It started with a sore throat and aching then went to a persistent cough that's still hanging on. I feel much better but this morning as I twisted the throttle to accelerate onto the freeway towards downtown I felt a little fuzzy.  Fuzzy as in not quite as quick mentally.  Within a few miles that feeling went away.  It was good to be in the mix again stirring it up with the morning commuters.

A good friend, who is also a customer of mine, rides diligently everyday about 45 miles into Portland. He has a saying when he's sick.  He says he doesn't like to ride when he's not "on top of his game".  I like that plan. It sound like he's a key player on a sports team and doesn't want to let the other players down. This is brought into focus when I think of my family as my team.  And even other drivers on the road, those folks are counting on me to be on my A game as well.

As much as I dislike staying off the bike, especially when it's sunny and everyone is riding, when not feeling 100 percent it's best to keep the helmet on the shelf.

I hope you're on top of your game these days.  If not... don't let your team down.

God's speed.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Couple of Errands

Last night when Amber got home from work she said the 4Runner had a funny smell. When I went to check there was a slight amount of steam coming out from the grille.  Upon opening the hood it was apparent that coolant had sprayed across the front of the engine. There was a slight hissing sound which lead us to a couple of cracks in the top of the plastic radiator. It's usually good when these little opportunities happen late on a Friday but they tend to tweak the weekend plans a bit.

I took the Vespa to the parts store this morning because it's the ultimate errand machine at roughly 65 mpg. I also took it because it's fun and it was a beautiful day and it needed some attention. I guess it could be called a mini Italian Garage Queen.

An Auto Zone opened about a month ago in our town and I am happy to give them my business. I like Auto Zone and it will replace the other store I've been using for generic parts.

Here is were I buy the import parts. I've shopped here for years. They know me and their prices are very competitive. When I called earlier in the morning to order the radiator they gave me a choice. A plastic one for $129 or a metal one for $210. Since we have about 357,000 miles on the original plastic one I went plastic again. The only stickler with these guys is sometimes I don't get the right part and don't find out until I can't make it fit on the car. More about that in a minute.

I used bungy cords to lash the radiator to the Vespa. That was a first. I mentioned to a guy walking into the store that the ride home might be tricky. He said yeah, but he's been to Asia and seen worse on a scooter. I was slightly concerned about the radiator falling off and the car behind me running over it.

These hairline cracks shown below were the problem in the old radiator. I think we got our moneys worth out of it though. The 4Runner is 15 years old.

Before leaving the store with the new one, Gerald the counter guy, was bothered by the fact that the box had been opened previously. We checked it and everything looked okay but it wasn't until I got it bolted in and went to hook up the bottom hose that I noticed the radiator was too short. It turns out it's the wrong one. I'll get it exchanged on Monday. This probably happened to the last guy who bought this one. Sometimes Murphy's law is unavoidable when it comes to cars and motorcycles.

Late last night Amber came down with a 24 hr. flu as did one of our daughters. I was chief cook and bottle washer so dinner tonight was quick and... cheesy.

This was another first. I've never brought pizza home on the bike. The best part was hearing the comments people made. Even the guy in the store asked, "How are you going to get the pizzas home on the bike, man?" Oh, they shouldn't be too hard after bringing home a radiator on a Vespa.

God's speed.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Some Thoughts on the Road

Yesterday morning as I rode to the county jail to do volunteer work, I had some wonderful memories in my thoughts.  Not only being Easter, it happened to be our 40th anniversary.

 Some thoughts on the road:
  • I'm thankful that Amber agreed to marry me.
  • I can't believe she's put up with me all these years.  
  • I'm thankful God has blessed us with our family.  
  • Forty years ago I didn't know that my love for Amber would be greater today than it was then.
  • I wouldn't change a thing.
These years have gone by way too fast.  Treasure each day.

God's speed.