Back to Writing About Riding

The last writing I did on this Blog was the day after I finished my “Epic Post-Retirement Ride to Alaska, the Four Corners of the US, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Labrador” on September 19, 2013. At the finish of the Epic Ride, my NT had had 78,949 miles on it.

I kept riding it and had figured that I’d ride it till either I died or it did…or until one of the other of us either couldn’t ride or be ridden any more.

We had several adventures since then. I finally did an Iron Butt Association Bun Burner Gold during the Rachel Insanity Days Rally in Nevada. The ride was in the middle of May of ’16. The organizers told us that the average high temperature in Nevada on the weekend of the 16th was 70F, the average low was 48F, and the average rainfall for the whole month of May was less than a half inch. Wrong! The high might have been 51, the low was 13, and I rode about 300 mile in rain. But I rode 1524 miles in 23 hours and 48 minutes!

I rode two of the Southern California Motorcycle Association’s Three Flags rides. I had a deer hit me at high noon on my way to a third Three Flags ride. That shattered my left hand and did $2700 damage to the bike. Then later in ’16, I had knee replacement # 6.

After that I lowered the bike an inch. For another year or so after that, I had trouble getting on and off the bike without dropping it until a friend shortened the sidestand some more.

I had a few mechanical issues that could have ended my bike’s useful life, but they ended up being fixed and as we got the spring of 2020, it was running like new and still not using any oil. With new tires I was ready to keep riding for a long time!

“Dudley” in February, 2020″

Lookin’ good … if you don’t look too close! But still running almost as good as new. I did a few short rides in the spring and then attended the ’20 ST/NT-Owners Rally in Spearfish.

And it wasn’t long after that when things changed suddenly. Joe Forstie, a friend from the NT-Owners forum posted about his new bike. He’d bought a Triumph 900 Tiger GT Pro and traded his ’10 NT for it. I’ve known Joe since ’12 and knew he maintained his NT the way the USAF used to maintain his KC-135s when he was driving them. I checked with Joe to see if he had lowered the bike. Since he has short, stubby little legs like I do, I was pretty sure he had. He confirmed that and I got on the phone with Empire Cycle in Spokane Valley, WA. Before I called, I knew that they were asking $4999 and that the bike was equipped the way I wanted it to be. Big lids – check. OEM undercowl – check. Topbox – check! A real cruise control – CHECK!!

I had decided before I called that I’d ask for new tires and that I would hope they’d give me something for my old bike as a trade-in. The sales manager instantly agreed to the tires. We talked about my bike and I told him the truth about some of its issues: non-working Rostra cruise control, barely-working pannier latches, high mileage. I sent him some pictures and an hour later he was back with an offer of $1500 trade-in to go with the tires.

I jumped on that offer and we decided that I’d be there to make the deal on July 20. On the night of the 18th, I went to bed early, went right to sleep, and then woke up an hour and a half later. Just like a little kid on Christmas Eve. I never went back to sleep, so finally got up and out of town at 7AM. I had two days to ride the 1050 miles, so I figured maybe I could get to Billings before I needed to stop. But I made it 877 miles without ever getting sleepy. A night in Missoula put me only 192 miles from the dealer. That gave me time to eat breakfast with a new NT owner and member of NT-Owners.org.

Here’s a link to my ride to Spokane and back: https://spotwalla.com/tripViewer.php?id=23e3c5f448eea7eedb

This is “Dudley,” my old bike after we got to Empire Cycles in Spokane Valley, WA

My “old” bike was actually built after the new bike. Dudley’s SN is #00079; the “new bike’s SN is #00063. They might have been built on the same day.

I got to Empire at 2PM and by 3, we’d done most of the paperwork and their service department was at work changing tires and swapping a few of my “keeper” items from the old to the new bike. Saddle, windscreen, GPS. Joe had ridden down to the dealership and by 5 we were ready to ride back to his house and then meet a couple of other NT owners for dinner. I learned very quickly that the new bike was barely possible for me to ride because the shift lever was too low for me to get my toes under. Empire’s owner said they’d get me back in after lunch. And that ended up with me buying a set of heated grips.

This is the new bike in Butte, MT

I got out of Spokane at 4PM and rode to Lewiston, ID, through the Palouse. This is a beautiful area of steep rolling hills that is the most productive wheat growing area in the country. Just a a couple of weeks later two little towns that had been within a few miles of my route were completely destroyed by fires.

A fuzzy look at the Palouse

My night in Lewiston turned out to be a mistake. I ate at the hotel’s restaurant and woke up in extreme “intestinal distress” that lasted all night. I finally got out of Lewiston and rode over Lolo Pass, along Lewis and Clark’s route to the Pacific. Shortly after going past the famous “Winding Road Next 99 Miles” sign, I passed one truck. About 30 miles later, I was passed by a Highway Patrolman on his way to a wreck. I rode 107 miles without passing or being passed by another vehicle!

The Clearwater River on the way to Lolo Pass.

I stopped in Hamilton and ate a light late afternoon meal and then headed on south on my way to Wisdom, passing the Big Hole National Battlefield where the Nez Perce tribe were attacked by US Calvary troops. The Nez Perce were trying to escape to Canada after their treaty rights had been violated. At the Big Hole, their small group of warriors held off the Calvary while their women and children escaped. They made it to the Bear Paw in Montana before finally surrendering.

All afternoon, the smoke got thicker and thicker. I wondered where it was coming from. Turned out to be California smoke.

Smoke from California south of Butte, MT

I spent the night in Butte without eating, but at 3:30 I was sick again. I had planned to ride to Red Lodge and spend the night there before riding Beartooth Pass and the Chief Joseph Highway and then US-14, 14A, and 16 in the Big Horns in Wyoming. The sickness caused me to cancel that. I finally started feeling pretty good east of Billings. I stopped in Buffalo, WY, and since I hadn’t eaten and was feeling decent, I ate a light meal…only to be sick again at 3AM. I got out of Buffalo at noon and rode home. I got here at 6:30. All the way from Buffalo, I kept playing one song over and over in my head: “Horse With No Name” by America. I think the bike was trying to give me a hint about his name.

“Horse” in August…getting used to his new home!

After I’d been home a bit, I started getting its disguises in place — the HMW stickers and the ST700 stickers — and some other stickers. I had it out in the driveway taking some pictures. I finished and put it back in the garage. Then I got in the car to move it back into the garage and SiriusXM was playing…you guessed it…”Horse With No Name” by America. That settled it!

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Back to Writing About Riding

  1. Pick

    I hope you and Horse have many happy rides together! Thanks for sharing. You’re still my hero.

  2. Dave

    Sounds like a shit ride. Wonderful route but … three days of riding sick. You got more grit than me. I think I’d crawl into bed a sleep for 24 hours after promising myself to never speak of the ride again. Still, the route was epic. All the more reason to revisit again and again and again.
    Congrats on the Iron butt gold. Aren’t you getting a little old for that. Glad to know you’re still kickin’ it.

    • Dave, the only day I felt bad while riding was on Saturday, from Butte to east of Billings about 40 miles. The other days, I felt decent except from about 3AM-11AM. I wish I’d been able to do Beartooth, Chief Joseph, and the Big Horns. Hopefully, South Dakota and Wyoming will open back up by summer or early fall.

      I was only 73 when I did the BBG. In the summer of 18, I tried the How the West Was Won Rally. It’s a 38-hour rally that starts and ends in Grand Junction. If I had completed the route I planned, I would have ridden about 1800 miles. But it was another of those rides where I didn’t sleep the night before it started and I ended up turning my ride into a How the West Was Won Tour. I rode about 1400 miles, got 8 hours of sleep and was back in time to attend the post-Rally banquet. I won’t try another rally. But I have served as staff at the HW3 and will again next year if we are able to have it.

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