Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mods, Farkles and Frustrations - By Kevin

Talk to any adventure rider and before long they’re sure to start listing off their “farkles” – that is, the little extras they’ve added or done to their bike to make it their own. I have many “farkles”. I also have a collection of new colorful metaphors to describe the engineers at Kawasaki.

There are certain truths one accepts when gearing up for a trip across the continent. It is true that I would have to add or make several changes to the physical characteristics of the bike. For instance, I knew that I would need to replace the uncomfortable stock seat and small windshield for comfort. It was also true that I’d have to add luggage racks to carry all my gear, heated grips to keep my hands warm, and highway pegs to give my legs a rest.

The unexpected truth of owning a KLR, I’ve discovered, is that I would be required to complete many “upgrades” to make the bike mechanically sound. The truth, I found, is that I would need to posses a willingness to tear into my bike on a very intimate level. The truth is… I was in big trouble.

As Larry jests, the biggest thing I’ve ever torn into is a hamburger. While I’d say that’s a bit of an exaggeration, it’s not untrue to say that I’m better at tearing things apart than putting them back together. So to save me from myself, Larry agreed to come a week or so early to help me get my bike ready for the trip.

Experts will tell you that a necessary upgrade to the bike is to make the sub-frame stronger. The stock bike relies on two low-grade, undersized 8mm bolts that carry the load of anything bolted on (luggage, rear rack) or sitting on (rider, passenger) the sub-frame. (Insert colorful metaphor for Kawasaki here). Since that rider would be ME, I opted for the upgrade. The solution, ironically, is to drill a bigger hole through the old ones and then through the center of the thick metal sub-frame. Did I mention that you only get one shot at this?! So with every ounce of courage I could muster, I rolled up my sleeves, picked up the drill and (drum roll, please)… shamelessly handed the drill to Larry. He skillfully completed the repair as I cheered encouraging words of support: “Please don’t screw this up!”

We've done a lot to the bike in the past few days. For those interested or easily impressed, I’ll list the upgrades to my bike in the next blog. Larry will claim I’ve done my share of the work. I’d say he’s being overly generous. He’s a great guy, a great mentor and I owe him big.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Getting In Gear - By Kevin

My motorcycle adventure begins with buying stuff.  Lots and lots of stuff.  And since I’m not a great tinkerer like Larry, this meant buying said stuff off the proverbial shelf – or in my case, the internet.

Most people who get a new motorcycle only need begin with the basics.  A good helmet, new jacket, some gloves and maybe, rarely some good boots to protect the ankles.  Riding to Alaska, as it turn out, requires an amount of gear and supplies just short of taking a trip to Mars.  So I set off on a journey of another sort and began procuring the six pages of “essential items” for our grand adventure.

Alaskans and fellow adventure riders will tell you that, if you are smart, you should be prepared for weather ranging from anywhere below freezing to near 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Add snow and slippery-as-snot mud if you’re heading for the Arctic Ocean and Prudhoe Bay.  Famous last words from me may go something like this: “Sounds like fun!”

 I am a frugal man, by which I mean I don’t mind spending money as long as it is on something that is necessary, of good quality and of good value.  I also have a tendency to be a wee bit overcritical.  This has led to an excessive (read “ungodly”) amount of hours on the internet researching, testing and usually returning motorcycle products.  The proverbial “one step forward, two steps back” has been my approach to buying gear.  My lasting purchases have been with retailers who lack any return policy whatsoever.   Ebay and Craigslist have forced me to commit, for which I am thankful.

So it’s less than a month before we leave on the trip and I’m happy to report that I have most of the gear.  The road shopped has been long and mentally tiring one and I find myself anxious yet excited for the real road to begin.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Panic with one day to go before leaving Florida

There will be no pictures with this post, things are in too much of a mess here. Doing my final packout I find that I have too much stuff and will need to pare it all down. Seems as I did not include the medicines I require, which was quite a pile since I made the doctor give me prescriptions for the whole summer instead of the monthly supply I usually get. Also, there are just too many nice to have things that will get left behind. I will take some of these things with us to Indianapolis anyway, maybe I can hide them on Kevins' bike. You won't tell him will you?

Next post: Indianapolis!