Friday, June 21, 2013

Running Tornado Alley

It's my first night on the road and I'm having a bit of a rough sleep. The wind has picked up and it's knocking the tent around and just on dark before I tucked in for the night I spied some pretty mean black clouds around. Wouldn't normally bother me, the Macpac Minert tent is built for mountain storms.

Adding to the lack of sleep is a sore ankle, it's black and swollen as a result of the little accident in the creek last week, I'm only clad I'd upgraded to the heavier Crossfire boots when my Sidi Adventure's wore out, may have been a broken ankle before getting out of Oklahoma otherwise.

So I'm laying in my tent, I've found some free camping in the town Park of Greensburg, Kansas. I'm thinking about the roof on the toilet block right next to where I pitched. Thinking the concrete block walls are pretty solid but that roof sure did look a bit shabby. Before turning in for the night I'd run through my best tornado evacuation plan and the "brick shit house" was looking like the best option, might just have to bear hug that typically grotty public bowel if the roof goes though! Actually thinking about it now a toilet may not be a good place to be in a tornado, with 200mph winds that's got to produce some very low atmospheric pressures, bit like one rather big vacuum shit pump, could get messy.

Well of coarse I didn't have use the toilet as a make shift tornado shelter, but I just happen to be camped up in Tornado alley right in tornado season and it would have been a different story if I had of been in town on the night of  May 4th 2007 when this little Kansas town was completely taken out by a massive EF5 twister that was 1.7 miles wide with winds over 200 miles per hour. During my stay in Oklahoma the town of Moore was hit by a nasty tornado resulting destruction and deaths.

Anyway, after the delayed start It's good to be on the road again. Lot's of little things have gone wrong so far on this trip which has had me a bit frustrated. Sometimes when things don't go quiet as planned you can start to question what you are doing. Sometimes I question this whole bike trip? It's costing a lot of money, most people tend to get themselves a house and a family around my age, sometimes I feel it's costing my health too, I'm not getting my usual level of exercise and of coarse managing diabetes is a little tougher when traveling.

It takes just one day though and I am no longer questioning what I'm doing. One day heading off into the unknown on my own, on my bike and I know exactly what the hell I'm doing. It's hard to explain the feeling as you travel across foreign landscapes on your own. One minute you are marveling at the surroundings, one minute you are lost in your own thoughts in your own little world far away from anybody, friends , family, and of coarse the usual working routines. Then, the next minute you run wide on a sandy turn and your heart misses a few beats as you regain control of the bike and your thoughts concentrate of the road ahead and the consequences of a crash out in the middle of no where.

Fields of gold in Kansas

Never seen so much wheat or wind generators, must have been over a thousand generators

Big horizons in Kansas

Greenburg in Kansas was hit by one of the worst tornadoes in history

Greensburg is also famous for it's massive hand dug water well

As I'm nearing the Rockies in Colorado the flat plains are beginning to take it's toll though, It's taken me a couple of days to blast across and most of the time on pavement at 70 mph but also finding some nice little dirt roads criss crossing through massive fields of wheat, wind farms and in some places sweat bugger all!. At times the contrast in dark clouds, intense blue light, and massive horizons is truly a beautiful sight, but the strong side winds and heat is wearing me down, I arrive in the town of Walsenburg with a hazy smoke cloud drifting to the north as a result of recent fires around Colorado Springs and also a nearby fire just erupting with huge column of smoke and red glow at it's base just like a volcano, very impressive sky's just on dusk.

My gps is guiding me to free forest lands camp but when it takes me right into the town centre and out side the tourist info I realise that the coordinates must have got mucked up. It's now late and I opt to set up camp with a whole bunch of truckies on the edge of a large truck stop area. I talk with a few and they just can't believe where I've been, they want to buy me dinner. One of the drivers helps me change my rear tire with the aid of his compressed air pump. He's been stuck at the stop for a few days waiting for parts. " What happened" I say. He says " one of my trailer wheels broke of and run across the road, I had to go retrieve it". I thanked him for the air and told him I has clad not to be passing him when that happened! I go over to the nearby diner and end up have dinner next to a big group of Amish who are also passing by.  Truckies, Amish, wildfires and thunderstorm's, I've seen a lot today, you never do know who you're going meet and the sights that you see.

The following day is more pavement as I head for Durango and lucky just sneak through Wolfcreek pass before it is shut down by a nearby wildfire.

"Time to get out of Dodge City" not much to see but beef plants

The plains are fill of dirt roads layed out in mile by mile grids so you can just hop off the main highways when they become to much, this is what it looks like on the gps and...
this is what it looks like for real

Storm chasing in Kansas, well more like trying to run away from them!
That's smoke from the far away Colorado fires
I wasn't the only one not enjoying the wind. These massive wind turbine blades in transit were parked up, waiting for the wind to drop I guess. Wouldn't take much to get them air bourne heading down the road!
These friendly truckies convinced me to stay with them the night

Time to replace that worn out rear at the "told you so service center"

Was lucky enough to sneak over Wolf creek pass in Colorado just before it was closed due to this fire
After several hours of pavement I'd had enough and managed to find some forest roads on the way into Durango

6 months later and I'm back at Omars in Durango

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Back in the saddle

Ok, I'm back in the saddle, well not just yet!! I've been over in Oklahoma now for a few weeks, reunited with the trusty DR650 which has been in the good hands of throttlemeister aka Oklahoma John. I have to say straight up that John has just been incredibly helpful. Firstly giving me a place to leave my bike and now giving me free reign in his impressive workshop, a bed for the last few weeks, and also hooking me up on some great local rides. John is a true adventure rider himself with many heroic tales from his own travels in North , Central and South America. It's great to spend some time with someone you can really relate to about long bike trips. I like John a lot, he has a easy going nature and a fun outlook on life and is always enjoyable to be around. He's just a super great guy and I'm going to give him one hell of a good time when he makes in down to New Zealand during his own motorcycle adventures!!
With the Dr up and running we were off to a local Adv Rider rally (slap) in the bordering state of Arkansas. Adv Rider John Downs was back from his travels in Colombia and joined us for the trip over to the rally. Was great to take in some trails and just talk bikes and drink a beer or two with the 100 or so riders.
The fairly small list of things I wanted to do on the bike has turned into quite a major. The forks seals started leaking at the rally so that was another thing to add to the list. Although there was no signs of wear I decided it was a good idea to replace the steering head bearings and also the rear suspension linkage bearings while I had access to a workshop. Rear wheel bearings where replaced again, new heated grips installed and a new led headlight to replace the stock light which is pretty useless. I try to avoid riding at night but every now and then you get caught out and I wanted some decent lighting. The Led would also reduce the electrical loading on the stator.
Last year I managed to smash up my Eagle screens windshield which was a bugger. I decided I could try and reuse the top half mounted to the new light faring. The new light was mounted on a custom made frame which allowed me to mount a small dash and also mount the GPS up high  that would hopefully enable me to keep one eye on the road while viewing the GPS. The frame turned into a bigger project than anticipated. I did a shit load of cutting and drilling and fitting the frame was a big job. While at it my shabby accessory wiring was replaced with the help of John's excellent skills and a nice relay kit from Eastern Beaver.
So with all the work complete it was time for one last ride with John just to shake out any issues. Everything went well and the new Baja Designs headlight puts out a ton of light. Even managed to crash test the new faring on a slippery creek crossing and it fared well. Unfortunately my ankle and knee didn't! It wasn't a big crash but I guess I managed to get my foot twisted up under the bike as it went down badly spraining it in the process.
So I'm off to a later that hoped start with all the extra work on the bike, broken computers, faulty bearing parts, credit card problems and Tornado's and as of today twisted up and painful body parts aswell all thrown in, but I'm having a great time and looking forward to some more riding.

Last days before leaving NZ, a beautiful tranquil winters day

12 hours on this and I was transformed to this....

The concrete jungle of LA

Meeting up with John at Tulsa airport in Oklahoma

Arrived in Tulsa just in time for the Adv riders weekly pub craw. John and Tomski like a drop or two

nice name tags for the Adv Rider rally

John downs attempts of CPR are unsuccessful for this Armadillo

Lunch break at the funky Oark Cafe where there buttermilk pies are legendary but unfortunately lethal to diabetics!

Riders at the slap adv rider rally

Enjoying the great scenery with Throttlemeister

My home for the last few weeks

Operation Dr overhaul at the Thottlemeisters workshop

New Baja Designs Squadron Led headlight mounted with the remains of my broken Eagle Screens windshield works well and the light is very impressive. Draws 42 watts which is LESS than the crappy stock headlamp. Had to use a dimmer unit so not to blind oncoming traffic.

New cockpit layout has the GPS and Vapour mounted up higher, new voltmeter, and new heated grips switch and 12 volt socket for charging up on the fly, all held together along with the headlight by a very expensive piece of framing, well it took bloody hours to construct anyway.

A nice day off the bikes enjoying a leisurely float down the river

Checking out the Arkansas forests from an old fire lookout

Nice big feed of ribs after a days ride
I just dragged myself out from under the bike. Very innocent looking crossing but the fist size stones were slippery. Not a big crash at all but I got my foot in the wrong place and twisted it up bad under the weight of the bike. This is by far the most damage I've done to myself in all of my overseas riding  (well not including mountain biking) as of yet and I've barley been on the bike this year, but I guess I had a good run last year!