Saturday, 3 October 2009

Day 14 - end of the road...

We made it to the end of the road!

First of all, I apologise for the delay in updating the blog for the last day. The closing celebrations went on until early morning!

When we woke up at Big Bear Lake there was frost outside. Luckily, by the time we was ready to leave the sun was out and it had warmed up.

Before we set off Alastair gathered both groups in the car park and explained what was going to happen throughout our last day. The second group left first shortly followed by our group.

The first part of the journey was more mountain roads going up then down the mountain.

I just loved the twisties but politely stayed in third position resisting temptation to make good progress and enjoy the road to the full as I didn't want to get lost on the last day. We arrived at a meeting point half way down the mountain where the other group were waiting. We then learnt that one of their members had got a puncture so Aliastair left to go back up the mountain to help out. In the mean time we all stood around taking some photos of the great view of LA from the mountain side and chatted about our previous 13 days of riding. After a while Alastair turns up followed by the Irish chap who had the puncture and of course Trey the scooper. They put some more air in the tyre and we all set off again down the mountain roads to the freeway that we was going to take into Santa Monica Boulevard.

The freeway ride was long (nearly 100 miles) and busy with lots of slow riding and lane swapping. Alastair had quite a job keeping 30 bikes together through the busy LA traffic which was a real experience and would probably worse than London traffic! Most of the drivers around here do not give motorcyclists any consideration, but thankfully we all survived without any issues. We finally got to Santa Monica Boulevard at about 1:30pm parked our bikes in an underground car park and walked the short distance to the end of Route 66 marked by the Will Rogers memorial plaque.

Wow, what an achievement, finally we had done it, reached the end of Route 66 having ridden more than 2500 miles since we left Chicago 14 days ago. Once we had done all the photo shoots we went to an English pub for a drink and a few of us had food as well! Then it was a ride back through the busy traffic to the hotel to unload the bikes before setting of to Eagle Rider where we was to return our bikes. Some of us were sad to depart with the bikes for others it was a relief!

A view from the rear...

I'm not a very eloquent person when it comes to writing, (or speaking for that matter). But I would really like to take a second and reflect on, and thank all the participants of the Route 66 crowd. For the last 14 days, I have been your "Guide/Tailgunner/Errand boy/Pie critic/Food taster/Weather forecaster (sage)/and general interpreter". All jobs that made me smile and look forward to getting up and going again. You two, as well as the rest of the group have been a delight to ride with every day. We have seen everything from Freezing cold nights, hot humid days, Desert dry heat, to a Midwestern Thunderstorm that rained 3 inches in 1 hour. You all accomplished those with a smile and were eager for more. We rode the back roads of America and were lucky to meet some warm and open people along the way. Those people were warm and open because our group was equally warm and open. You were always smiling and delighted to be where ever we might pointed. Last night you all stunned me with gifts as well as praise. I am the one that should be presenting you with tokens of gratitude. You shared your Love, friendship and humor and allowed me to become one of you for a brief period. You are all welcome in my home anytime you are over. Thanks to all for a wonderful 2 weeks...

I love riding with people from the UK.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Day 13

The main attraction of the afternoon was the California Route 66 museum at Victorville after which we had another good ride through the mountains. Alistair set a good pace, and through the bends the sound of grinding metal would often be heard. From the back it was noted that big Al was unable to shake loose the ever present 'Staff' who could be seen cranking it down and around. Steve is currently trying to find a file to get rid of evidence from the bottom of his bike and during the ride would wonder why the sound of grinding continued even when he was upright, only to see in his mirror 'Blademan Cliff' grinding away. Into the town limits and it was a slowdown to 30 mph with a fill up and onto Big Bear Lake where we were staying the night.

As we left Needles and started to ride through the Mojave desert the wind was much calmer than the previous couple of days but still had a bit of a chill to it. Luckily, I went prepared and had a few layers on.
Several stops in the morning to see more historic sights of the old route, one of which was a cafe where we had coffee and apple pie, (just the one piece of pie today) at Ludlow. Again like most of the cafes and other road side attractions along this route there was an old car outside, with flat tyres and even flatter paintwork!
We had lunch at Barstow Station, where they had some old railway carriages for restaurant seating. The donuts here were good, in fact very good so after my initial taster one, I got two more, (well I did only have the one piece of apple pie earlier)!

A woman's perspective of the trip...

Hi everybody, Lyndis here, pillion to Chris riding R66. Ive been asked to add to the blog with a female view point on this trip. Hi Jen and Jacs I think this may be my 15 minutes of fame at last.

Our day begins with what I call the motor bike dash. This is twenty odd people running out of the hotel to pack their crap, no, sorry i mean personnel possessions on to their bike, no mean feat for the two ups. We have designer luggage, black bin liners. Having watched this event for the last 10 days I think it would make a great TV game show, so any program produces out there get in touch. Despite this daily trauma ever body smiles and looks happy, my guess is that we are all insane. Who but a mad person would ride 2 to 3 hundred miles a day on a hard motor bike seat, on the wrong side of the road and pay money to do it.

Next comes the petrol stop, this is quite an event trying to fill up all the bikes. We have tried using credit cards but as we have no zip code they don’t work so we pay up, fill up, then collect our change. People from all over the place ride this route, so when will it occur to someone to get a better system.

The route is fun to follow, with lots to see and interesting places to go. We are travelling with a great bunch of people, who have mixed well and been fun to be with. We have Brits, Scots, Welsh, American and Australian. Everybody eats too much and we seem to have a daily stop for coffee and pie. Graham the person responsible for this blog is one of the fastest eaters i have ever met, a few days ago his buddy Steve announced he had beaten Graham in a pie eating competition, using unfair tactics and failing to tell Graham they were racing , all is fair in love and war.

We have a couple along with us and guess what they are on honey moon. No sun kissed beaches, no romantic dinners, just a bike and a bunch of miss-fits. I am sure everybody wishes them a long and happy life together.
We have visited lots of different stores on our travels and you can buy almost anything. On this trip there are only three females, so shopping is of low priority. One day we went to a jewellery shop a few of the guys bought gifts for their loved ones, but mostly the men were out of the place quicker than a rat up a drain pipe. Had it been a bike shop they would have had to be pried out with a crow bar.

For the ladies out there trying to decide if they should accompany their man, go for it. My only tip would be to bring a gel seat to aid your comfort on the road. We spend a long time in the saddle. I paid 106 dollars out here for one and that was with 15% discount , a high price to pay for comfort. The good side to this is the vast amount of interest in my butt that my complaining created. At my age any interest is greatly received .

Doing laundry on these travels is a challenge, some of the guys don’t have a clue about using a washing machine, at least that’s what they claim. I have just dyed all my whites pale green, my hubby said there was no time for separate loads, put them in all together on a cold wash to save time. Oh well a good excuse to buy new when I get my hands on a suit case at the end of this trip
We have visited some great places on out travels especially the Grand Canyon.

There are two guys here who will remain nameless, but i am sure they know who they are, who decided to torture me cos I am afraid of heights. They climbed into trees and laid over barriers at the edge of the canyon, they have scared me for live, but I don’t think they feel even a bit guilty.

All in all it really is a great experience, but I need a holiday after this!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Day 12

Time to burn rubber, and it was steady little run down the mountain, round some tight turns and long straights where those who wanted to have a play, could.
Interestingly, Cliff was seen hanging off the seat of the Road King giving it some like it was a fireblade, which led to Tony calling him 'Blademan' Tony couldn't play as Di was experiencing some form of motion and equilibrium malfunction. I suppose that what happens when you bolt your food and spend 45 + minutes sitting on something that resembles a spin dryer witrh a load of bricks inside on speed. Dennis was also seen giving it some big licks on the straight. Graham spent a lot of time with his bike collecting road rash on the pipes and pegs.
Arrived at hotel and some of us then popped out to get our photos posing with the route 66 sign.

A blast through the desert to Oatman, home to wild burro's where they are armed with sharp teeth and short of patience if you dont feed them. This place was straaight out of the western movie's with real wonky boardwalks and character buildings to match. We didn't arrive in time for the western shoot out but never the less, this town was full of character and the locals were really nice, wanting to talk to us all.

Another great stop was on the road going west from Kingman where we found Hackberry's general store. This place looked just like it did in the good ol' days when Route 66 was a busy highway.

At Seligman we learnt about Angel, the founding father of the route 66 preservation society, and he was still working today shaving customers. This town was another little route 66 gem. Full of old memories and preserved bits of the past mingled with the modern tourism industry that fights to preserve whats left of the old route 66. Here the $ in our pockets was shown the light, and much was purchased, from brown leather chaps (nice!) to key rings and cards. The timed stop passed swiftly and all too soon it was back on the bikes and on to Mr D's diner where we had probably the best burgers so far.

The day dawns, and I remember last night. A spaghetti western restaurant and 2 x 14" pizzas. One for Steve, one for graham. By the time Steve had eaten two slices, all that was left of Graham's was one bit of red pepper! On the table in the room were 4 bits of Steve leftover pizza. Yum! cold pizza & coffee for brekkie!

As we set off early in the morning we experienced the same strong winds that we had the previous day. It made the first part of our journey very hard work and seemed relentless until our first stop at Williams. Along the way one of our group had been 'blown off course' along with our guru, and ended up at Seligman, some 39 miles away from us! (Apparently wind plays havoc with pratnav's) They were supping coffee some 40 mins before we arrived!

Williams had some great Route 66 sites and several gift shops to browse. I took this opportunity to buy a long sleeved top to wear straight away as I was cold from the winds earlier. An old railway town, it still retained the charm and some splendour of its former glories, with many of the old shopfronts and garages still visible. A quick walk around the town then it was off to Seligman.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Day 11

Thanks to Cliff for the above photos of the Grand Canyon.

Today is another rest day so I took advantage and had a layin. We then had the hotel buffet breakfast before leisurly getting ready to take part in Trey's ride to the Camerons trading post about 60 miles away around the canyon ridge.
The ride took us through the Canyon Park which was good, some lovely sweeping bends and beautiful vistas really added to the chilled day we were having.
The warm air was encouraging the pines to release their scent, so the ride was very relaxed and without stress. A bit like a Radox bath on wheels.

At the trading post I bought Karen yet another gift, I don't know, it must be the heat getting to me, or the fact that I appreciate her understanding my need to feel the road beneath my wheels and letting me away on another motorcycle jaunt.

The winds that were forecast had come and went up to about 50 mph which made the ride back rather
interesting. Steve was having fun on the fatboy, because it had solid wheels and the wind was steering the bike! There were a few times when we were down to about 35mph in the open.
Things improved when we got to the forested parts, and we had a lively ride back in places where footpegs were profiled once or twice.
We stopped off at a few view points on the way back to get some more photos of the Grand Canyon, then back to the hotel and straight to the bar to wash down the dust that was blown up by the strong winds.

It was happy hour, so we made the most of what was left, and then just on the button, in walked our weather guru, Trey. The barman immediatly said, "hi there again, welcome back" Oops, cover blown.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Bike reviews...

Bike choices...

There are two clear choices if you want to ride a Harley solo on Route 66. You can go the retro route and hire a Heritage Softail with leather panniers and acres of chrome or you go the more practical route and settle for the Road King with hard panniers. Both bikes have similar performance characteristics and the all-important screen to prevent bugs in your teeth. Personally I would favour the Road King as it has cast wheels rather than spokes – a can of tyre foam gets you going quickly if you have a tubeless tyre, whereas repair of the tyre on a Softail requires removal of the wheel and replacement of the inner tube and that is not a roadside repair. The suspension on the Road King can be simply adjusted by using an airline to the rear shock – look for the valve towards the rear of the seat on the nearside. The Softail has only a single disc up the front that can overheat and becomes less efficient on the downhill grades – especially important if you happen to be two-up on the bike... There are other alternatives. You can be Arnie on the FatBoy and run the risk of a personal Terminator in the kind of side winds that brutally shifted the FatBoy sidewards as we crossed the desert in Arizona (those solid wheels are a nightmare in gusty weather) and the lack of a screen also adds to the fatigue over distance. The same issues arise with the Harley LowRider – spoked wheels and no screen make it a less obvious choice for a two week Road Trip.
For two-up riding there are only really two choices of limo-bikes. The die-hards will favour the Harley-Davidson ElectraGlide for an authentic and romantic all-American experience. On a practical level I prefer the USA-assembled Honda GoldWing as a better handling, better performing and less demanding ride. I have ridden the whole of Route 66 (2500 miles) on both and have to say that the Honda was a much easier bike to manoevre, especially at slow speed. The reverse gear is also a welcome bonus in tight parking spaces – especially on slopes! My wife has ridden pillion on both bikes and definitely prefers the Honda for comfort so it will be the GoldWing in future for both of us. That suits me. I prefer to hear the stereo rather than the booming exhaust of the V-Twin. I also find that I am much less fatigued after a day on the Honda – the ElectraGlide really is quite hard work. Both have big screens, big stereos, cruise control and pillow seats. You pay your money and make your choice.
Other things to look for on the Harley are:
Tyres which need to have enough tread to finish a long trip.
Riding position is crucial if you are going to have a comfortable ride.
Feet forward can really strain your back if you are not used to it.
Consider footboards rather than footpegs so that you can move around a bit on the bike.
Look for a backrest – especially if you are carrying a pillion!
Check the oil and look after the bike. Gear shifters can fall off, bolts work loose due to vibration and the exhausts have been known to work loose and blow exhaust gaskets. Things need to be tightened up and a visual inspection each day is recommended.

If you are not too hung up on the Harley thang there are many European and Japanese bikes available that perform admirably on Route 66. The Harley Sportster is definitely eclipsed by the Honda Shadow for both comfort and speed (and reliability) and any BMW will complete the tour with teutonic efficiency. The Honda STX1300 makes a good option for two-up if you are familiar with the machine (seat height is an issue for me) although it is maybe a bit too fast for the sightseeing and slower pace that Route 66 deserves.

Whatever your ride, rest assured that the Mother Road is there for you to explore. Why not come and join us on an American FlyRide holiday of a lifetime and get YOUR kicks on Route 66!

Alastair McFarlane
Tour Director, MCi

Steve's bike review...

Bike chosen for the route 66 trip was a fat boy.
Reasons? well I have a Road King at home so wanted to try something different.

This review is based on a bike that was rented and has about 26,000 miles on the clock.
First impressions are that the handlebars are quite wide and drop down. I feel that riding in this position may give me some wrist aches. I'm proven right, but its not as bad as I feared.
Its a heavy old beast, with big alloy wheels and a grunty engine, that coupled with the height gives the impression that the weight is low down. This helps with slow manoeuvring and a few figure of eights gets it onto full lock on the stops without too much trouble with balance being achieved by shifting your weight to counter the lean inwards.

Out on the open road, and the position is OK for me at 6'2", but I find the legs a bit cramped. I would have liked some highway pegs to stretch out on. Steering to me feels a bit 'mushy' with all the front suspension soaking up the bumps and leaving the rider with a wobbly feel at speed. However, its ability to turn into corners is without question, but the footboards tend to grind up too easily.
Ride is nice with the rubber engine mounts taking out a lot of vibration, with the gearbox doing the usual HD clonk at each gear change, and sometimes being a pain to get neutral when hot.
Acceleration is OK if the gearbox is used, and providing you can hang on, illegal speeds are possible on the interstates. Prolonged riding at speed will fatigue you, as with the wind pushing you back in the seat there is a tendency to lean back and use the luggage on the passenger seat as a backrest. An aftermarket rider rest would be a bonus.

Braking was interesting, with a single front disc to pull all that weight plus mine to a stop meant that effort is required to get any kind of reasonable stopping power to the wheel. So after a couple of days you develop a grip in your right hand that is equaled only by the terminator.

OK lets look at the luggage space. If you are riding alone, then the two measly leather panniers with kit strapped to the seat is enough. If you are two up, then forget it.
So on the subject of seats, the fatboy has a nice wide rider seat that feels comfortable for a few hundred miles, but I found that the pillion strap gives two nasty little pressure points that tucking the strap down partially solves.
Fuel economy is reasonable. With its now 6 speed box 200 miles out of a tank is a reality if you ride sensible. (Boring)

Did I like the bike? Well its OK in a straight line, but the ground clearance limits the fun on bends, as prolonged grinding of the boards would become expensive, and could prove dangerous if you really get one of those OFMe moments and need to get it over. Its a staid bike that would really suit the steady plodder who's days of scratching are over and who wants A to B in comfort and pose. I wouldn't buy one to use in the UK. For the US its a bit of fun, but not as much fun as the Low Rider which I rode for a day. Now that's a bike that talks to you!
This review is the personal view of Steve Mingay, and does not represent the views of any other person.

Graham's bike review...

My bike for this trip of a lifetime is a 2008 Harley Davidson Low Rider (Dyna series) with a 1584cc V twin engine with electronic fuel injection .

I must admit, after having this bike for a week now, so far I am very impressed.
Once you get used to the loud thud as the engine starts you can relax, if you heard that noise on a Jap bike then you would certainly feel the pain in your wallet.
For near on 1600cc it isn't as quick as some bikes half the size but it does have bags of torque which gives you ample power for over takes.

Then there is the loud clunk when you change gear, it is a very positive, (almost agricultual) method of changing gear, not silky smooth like a Honda gear box but having said that I have no missed gear changes and finding nuetral has been very easy. There is a '6' that lights up in the speedo when you are in top gear. What makes me smile about this is that there is a slight delay from selecting the gear to the light coming on. It's like a very laid back american thing you know... oh' you selected 6th gear, I'll just go and turn the light on for you!

The seat is reasonably comfortable, although it does seem to have soaked up the water and remains wet for a few days later. I found it best to put some anti-slip matting on it which helped stop my bum getting wet and also made the ride more comfortable because I wasn't sliding around on the seat.

Foot rest position is just fine for me and I can even reach the forward crusing pegs which I just love for the long straight roads here, plus there wasn't to much vibration.

The handle bar position is great but this does bring me on to one small concern which I noticed within a few miles of riding the bike, that is that there appears to be some free play in the stearing or front suspension as when I brake I can feel a small amount of movement that ends with knock. I am getting used to it now but if this was my bike I would certainly have to get tgo the bottom of it.

Brakes, are, now there's a thing that needs some looking at. The rear brake has too much travel for my liking and the front brake when gently applied seems to re-act like it has a warped disc, if you give it a big handful then it does not seem so bad and does pull the bike up to a stop, so it does do its intended job. However, I don't get much feed back from the leaver, it almost feels like the pads are made from wood. Unlike my Honda back home where I get a very good response through the front brakes leaver to an extent that you can control the front brake very nicely, even in a downwards inclined corner where you need to control the speed during the corner to keep the steering more positive.

I have now riden Steve's Fat Boy and can definatrely say that for me, the Low Rider is definately better.The Low Rider fits my short legs better, although the Fat Boy is not too bad for that, but the Fat Boy is top heavy and therfore not as nice to ride slowly manouvering through tight turns. Also the Fat Boy isn't as quick and tends to wobble a bit above 80 mph. The straighter position of the Low Rider handlebars is also more comfortable for me, especially when travelling on the freeway without a screen.

Despite a few little niggles and querkes with the HD Low Rider, (which all adds to the character of the bike) I am impressed enough to consider buying one. OK, I know the guys in my local club I ride with (CAM) wouldn't be impressed with that, but heh, the Deauville was thought to be a dullsville before I showed them otherwise!
Now what colour do I want???

Day 10

Trey enjoying the sunset at the Grand Canyon.

We rock up to the hotel to find the other MCi tour group is here, and we book in at 4 pm, with our weather guru, part time historian, rear gunner/road captain and all round good geezer and interpreter Trey, taking those who want to see the sunset over the rim at 5 pm.

A fill up with water, and its about 100 miles to the Grand canyon through some good roads, where we see the boys playing. At some point during the ride one of the HD's decides to shed its heel gear change lever.
Anybody found one?

Back on the bikes and it was a hot ride over to the meteor crater.
This thing is big! but its not the biggest. This one is the most intact and preserved due to the little rain they have. (6"-12" pa) It has a rim of two and a half miles and a depth of 550 feet! It's only 50,000 years old, so by crater standards that's young we're told.
Most of us had the little walk along the trail to see a bit more, but the pictures here just cannot convey the huge size of it all.

We've just arrived at our hotel in the Grand Canyon after a short ride in terms of mileage, but via some interesting spots.

First call of the day was just a couple of miles from our hotel in Winslow, to the corner made famous by the group 'The Eagles' in 'Take it Easy'. Here is a mural on the wall that embodies key lines from the song. The statue stands on the corner, whilst overlooking him is the "girl my lord in a flatbed Ford" and above that one of the woman with him, in a window. A dream or wish?

A visit to the shops on that very corner, saw us buying trinkets and T shirts.