As far as motorcycles are concerned, the recent weeks have brought some changes to my life. In my last report I am pretty sure I mentioned riding Russ Dickerson’s Vstrom up Hwy 28 and back for a little test ride while attending the Founders Feast a few weeks back. Well after that evening, I was hooked and decided to start seriously looking to buy a Vstrom after the first of the year. Well, about a week after that trip I signed onto cycle trader and did a quick search for a 2004 or newer Vstrom, nation wide. About half way down the webpage I saw a picture of a 08 from the rear with Jesse Bags and an auxiliary fuel cell. As you can imagine, this caught my attention which was further amplified when I saw it was in Atlanta and it had 18,500 miles on it. Digging through the ad and studying the pictures I noticed that the seller was an IBA member as the bike was pictured with an IBA tag back. So I sent the seller an email asking for further information on the bike and left him my contact information.
Closer to home we made a stop by Mike Brown’s to show it off a bit and talk possum as well. After jawing for a bit in his driveway and enjoying some fresh brownies from Mike’s better half, I pulled the Vstrom in the shop for the first time around midnight.
Monday after work I rushed home and began tearing down the FZ to get the J&M and other miscellaneous things off of it. In addition I started working on the Vstrom by removing the peg lowering mounts, stickers from the bags and fairing and put a little polish on the scars from where it had decided to take a nap with the previous owner. I called it quits sometime around midnight.
Honestly I was dreading this part because I have done it once on the FZ, two or three times on Dad’s old Nomad and had to adjust the wires on the FJR as the previous owner had installed one on that bike. I had a feeling this would take some time and I wasn’t sure of all the signal (spark, etc) wires were on this bike. I don’t know if I got lucky or what, but Dad and I had the wires ran and hooked up in less than two hours. We put the tank on, rolled the bike out and fired it up to test for any noise in the system. Crystal clear… damn we’re good!
Next part was to figure out how to mount the CB antenna. Fortunately we don’t live too far from a truck stop, so we headed over to Bill’s to see what we could find. For 10 bucks I picked up a mirror mount and after some pondering, Dad and I mounted in on the left bag support and it looks great! He gave ourselves a few high fives for that one. (Also helps when your old man is a “retired” chicken hauler)
Dad went on to bed after that, however I stayed up and continued working. I went ahead and ran loom on all the wires, zip tied everything in bundles that didn’t need loom and secured the bundles so they wouldn’t move around or get separated. I was still feeling good so I went ahead and pieced the bike back together. When I finished up, I stepped back and looked at my phone. It was 2am.
Thursday morning I had to take care of some things at the bank and get the tag taken care of. So that gave me some time to sleep before I had to do all that. (Went to work late that day) Once complete I came home with the intentions of riding to work, that idea was killed as I rolled the bike out and rain began to fall. I’m not one to complain about riding in the rain, but showing up to work wet would be less than fun. Thursday night, Dad and I spent the evening cleaning the shop and doing a bit of pre planning for a SS1000 on Saturday which I will get to in a moment. Off to bed by 11pm.
(Side Note: I really enjoy rewiring bikes to add farkles. Honestly. So if any of the long distance riders are looking to add some toys to their bikes. Let me know, Id be happy to have you over one weekend and we can take care of it. All I'll charge is a 6 pack of beer and a few good road stories. )
Going back to March 2011 for a moment when Mike Brown, Dad and I completed the BBG.
The first morning when we were eating breakfast in the hotel, Dad and Mike Brown sat down next to a fellow who introduced himself as Jack Shoalmire. I was later introduced to Jack once I arrived after refusing to get up when Mike pounded on my door that morning. When I arrived, my father was talking to Jack about “The Glory Days” when he raced MX in southern Florida in the late 70’s. From there the discussion moved to our Hare Scramble days, the ISDE’s and enduro’s of the mid/late 90’s in the south east. We must have sat there and swapped racing and trail riding stories for a couple hours that morning before heading off to Daytona. Dad and I both really enjoyed our conversation with Jack and were looking forward to seeing him again at the party in 2012.
One evening when I came home from work/gym Dad was sitting on the couch and had a strange look on his face. When I asked him what was going on, responded that our off road buddy from Jacksonville, Jack Shoalmire, had passed away. What a shame, the world had lost one heck of a rider and a super nice guy.
After this I got on the MTF and thumbed through the information regarding Jack and before long the tribute ride idea had surfaced. One of Jack’s riding goals was to complete a SS1000 in all 50 states and to my understanding he was well on his way to completing this goal before his passing. So as a tribute to Jack, Howard Entman set up a ride on October 15th that would have at least one rider in each state in the US to ride a SS1000. He asked for volunteers and at the time I hadn’t seen where anyone from NC had signed up. Our time with Jack was short especially compared to some of the IBA/MTF members but I didn’t want to see NC not be completed and felt like this would be a great ride to be a part of. So I signed my father and myself up for NC.
Several ideas had surfaced on the forums about ways to make this even more special, one of which was to have all the riders with SPOT’s sign into a common SPOTWALLA page so that we could all be viewed at once. During the IBR this year someone took a screen shot every so often of the common SPOTWALLA page and made a short video of the trackers moving their way across the US. The same would be done for this ride as over 150 riders made circles of all 50 states. In addition we were asked to take photos with our bikes and ourselves with signs or land marks that are significant to the state we were riding.
Friday evening once I got home from Charlotte, Dad and I began putting the finishing touches on the route and the bikes. We took the bikes outside and made some adjustments to our headlights/aux lights in order to light up the road better with out blinding oncoming traffic. Dad had spent a few hours here and there during the week nailing down the route for the trip. The route we chose was based off the in state route that was used by the MTF back in 2009. He modified slightly so that we could start and finish in Lexington, NC. With the added mileage we were able to eliminate the stop in Wilmington and keep moving down 95 to Lumberton. Route sheets finalized, bikes set up and gear ready for the AM. We went to bed around 11pm with plans of leaving at 7am.
I forgot to set my alarm.I woke up at 630 and realized that something was wrong and it then it dawned on me that Dad must have been counting on me to wake him up when . Oops, we needed the sleep anyway.
7:30am Dad and I are at the gas station to start the ride. Turned off the pump and checked the address and time stamp on the receipt. The time was over and hour off, we noted this, got the attendant to sign off on it with contact information and headed out.
Start of the ride was fairly uneventful; we headed down 85 to Hwy 150 to connect us over to 74 just outside of Kings Mountains, home of our one and only, Grizz. We took this route over 85 in order to avoid some super slab and to avoid potential traffic from the race that was going in Charlotte that weekend.
We made our next fuel stop on 74 to document the corner and after a few moments we were back on the road heading west to Asheville and Hwy 64.
Hwy 74 is a pretty empty 4 lane divided highway and is great for making up a little time. Once we got to Hendersonville we merged off the slab to Hwy 64 and into Hendersonville. This was the start of our 2 lane slow pace through the NC Mountains. The leaves were starting to turn in this area, but weren’t quite at peak yet so it made for a nice ride as we headed to Murphy, NC.
Traffic picked up as we made our way into Highlands which was one of our planned stops. We were both starting to get a bit hungry but we lost a bit of time coming through Highlands so we decided to munch on some Fig Newtons and keep rolling.
"Hell, I got to go!" - Cledus Snow, Smokey and the Bandit
Not long after we got on 40 we picked up a fellow rider that was on BMW and heading east as well. After we passed him he fell in behind Dad and followed us down past Black Mountain at which point we got separated and we lost track of him. However, during this mini-convoy we picked up a Honda civic that decided to roll with us. He would swap lanes with us, move in and out of traffic and covered our rear for miles! When we pulled off in Marion he continued past us. I threw up wave to thank him thinking that maybe he was a rider as well. We stopped at a Love’s truck stop for a hot dinner and to top off with fuel. We enjoyed a Godfather’s calzone before putting our liners back in the jackets and heading east again.
We reached Durham much quicker than I had anticipated. I was used to rolling through the section of 40 between Greensboro and Raleigh as I used to live on the outskirts of Raleigh and to be honest I have come to hate that road as it is so boring. I guess it was the heavy traffic and just being on the bike that made it more entertaining. We made a fuel stop just off I-85 after the 40/85 split to note the corner and we continued north on 85 to catch 158 which led us into Roanoke Rapids, just off I-95.
Now at this point my father and I have both admitted to each other that we are beat. We are cold and we are tired. We both feel like we have more in us, but exhaustion is starting to set it. So we took a few moments to rest, eat some figs and drink some water. After a few moments of resting I decided to do a bit of cardio to get the blood pumping and bring myself back on top. This is what I did: I started with both feet on the ground then put my left foot up on the curb then I brought my right foot up. Following that I stepped off with my left followed by my right. I did these briskly for a few moments and once I felt like I was warm and alert I saddled up and we headed off.
We set a path down I-95 south.
Some where south of Raleigh we were moving down through the left lane approaching a car and passing one in the right lane. We caught up to the car in the left; (Malibu) then slowed up and waited for him to continue his pass on the car in the right lane. Just as he got up to the car’s blind spot, the driver of the Malibu hit his brakes very abruptly and held them. Dad and I had to check up quickly to avoid rear ending him has he went from running 75ish to around 45mph. As Dad and I were trying to avoid this situation he quickly moved into the right lane. Not having an idea what this guy was thinking, we moved past him rather quickly.
About a mile later I looked in my mirror to see a set of head lights gaining on us quickly. I called over the radio to Dad to make sure he was aware of this and as the car got closer I realized it was the Malibu again. He continued past us and got up maybe 200 feet before he slowed up and dropped back beside us and then rode in my blind spot for a while. We sped up, slowed down and did everything we could to try and shake him but he remained in my blind spot the entire time. Finally after a few miles we caught some other traffic and we got separated. Dad seems to think the guy was rather sleepy and was just following with something as he couldn’t keep a steady pace. I guess we were just north of Lumberton when the guy finally pulled off. I hope he got home safely.
Just before our exit onto 74, Dad saw a sign for a Waffle House and pulled off. What could be better than Waffle House at 2am when your 800 miles into a ride. I can’t think of much…
Now I don’t know about you, but I have never been overly impressed with the crowds that gather at a Waffle House, nor the staff. But then again after riding many miles I’m sure my father and I looked like we fit right in. However, when we got off the bikes I heard a two way radio going off in between some trees in the front lawn. It was dark over there so I couldn’t quite make it out. After we got things situated and secured on the bikes, an armed security guard walks out of the shadows there and into the parking lot. This was a first… where are we again?
Breakfast was good, a nice hot cup of coffee a couple waffles and bowl grits. Man that hit the spot. Before we left I stopped by the restroom to wash my face with some hot water and walked out the door. As we were leaving there was a rather inebriated (I hope that’s what they were) family walking into the restaurant and were raising a bit of cane. The officer was standing by our bikes and was complimenting us on them while keeping a close eye on the family.
Needless to say we got out of that area in a hurry and with that we decided to go down the road further to find another gas station. That was all fine and well, however, Dad had just gone down to his last bar of gas, which was flashing and as it turned out, that was the last fuel for 40 miles on Hwy 74. No worries though, the engineer had a plan... I had just installed a quick disconnect on the aux line leading to the main fuel tank. I had just emptied my auxiliary tank but my main tank was almost full. I was planning on emptying one of the bottles of water in Dad’s tour pack, and then taking the connector loose on the fuel line from the main tank and draining the needed fuel into the water bottle until he had enough gas to get going. Eventually we made it to Laurinburg and found a station open before the FJR started to stutter. However, this did give me an idea for a tool to keep on the bike. I am going to pick up some more of those disconnects and have one on an open ended hose so that I can pump gas out of my fuel cell to another bike if needed. Store that under the seat behind the fuel pump. At the point the Vstrom will double as a tanker!
After topping of the tanks in Laurinburg we made our way further up 74 to 485 and then to 85 in Concord, NC. Another stop in the University area and we headed home. Just like our last saddle sore, this stretch of 85 seemed to be the longest of the trip.
At 4:49am we pulled into the BP on Hwy in Lexington to get our final receipt. I was beat. It took all I had to get to that stop and if the house wasn’t just a few miles down the road, I would have slept there. In fact, I even kicked up my feet on the frame sliders and laid my head back on the fuel cell. That set up would work fine for an IBA hotel… just sayin’.
It was a good route, but a tough one to the say the least. This was the first ride we had done like this without taking the super slab the entire way. It was eye opening to see how much the two lane roads kill your rolling average/time.
1.) REST! If anything, this was probably my biggest short coming for this trip. I had stayed up late every night working on the bike and then woke up at 5am every morning to get to work. I had it in my mind that maybe since I was staying up late and getting tired that I would sleep better the night before the ride which I can never seem to do. I did in fact sleep like a rock Friday but I still didn’t go to bed till around 11pm and that wasn’t enough to make up for what I was deprived of during the week.
2.) Diet. For the past 6 months I have been on a bit of a health kick. I have been bulking up and eating a lot of healthy foods several times a day in order to put on mass. With this I have been watching my sugar intake and keeping that under 100g a day. (Those sugars are mostly fruit sugars) Also, I have been eating complex carbs, lots of protein, and drinking lots of water. Due to my time working on the bike I did not get the gym each afternoon after work, in addition I started drinking coffee during work. (loaded with crème and sugar) I was eating fast food for dinner and having sodas with lunch. My diet was shot all to hell and I was feeling like crap because of it. It’s a good habit in life to monitor how much sugar you take in on a daily basis and to eat right, but this should be done for these rides as well. If you are on a healthy diet that is working for you before you set out on one of these rides, maintain it through the ride. Do not change things up as your body is used to it, it is harder for it to adjust and it will fatigue you as it adjusts to the change.
3.) HYDRATE! This really should be a no brainer, but honestly we are all guilty of it and Dad and I were on this ride. I normally wear a camelback during a ride like this so that I can continue to drink small sips of water as I ride to stay hydrated. You may not think you need it as you just sit on the bike and ride, but sitting out in the sun on the pavement will dehydrate you. In addition, when you dehydrate you begin to cramp and soreness will set in on your muscles which you are using most. On a motorcycle that is your abdominals, shoulders, neck and quads (thighs). During this trip we just carried bottled water and during our stops we either drank coffee or sodas when we ate.
4.) Mentally prepare. This is where we really blew it. Dad and I jokingly said before we left, “Its just a 1000 miles, we got this!” I can’t speak for Dad but I can say that I am guilty for under estimating this ride by thinking it was, “just a Saddle Sore” and didn’t take it too seriously. Mentally prepare yourself for the fact that the last 300-400 miles are going to be difficult and the last 100 will be the hardest. You are going to be sitting on a motorcycle for close to 24 hours and having to concentrate the entire time. It’s not easy, it never will be.
5.) Do not do this on a new bike. Unless you’re Tim Yow (I think you hold the record for SS1000’s on different bikes. I don’t know how you do that.) While the Vstrom was similar to the FZ in seating position, it was still very different. I was using muscles in ways that I didn’t have to on the FZ. I was still learning the bike and how it rode. Shifting, turning, braking, etc. That was just more effort I had to put into the ride that I didn’t need to had I done it on the FZ. Now with that being said, I don’t think I could have done it on the FZ because it was a harder bike for me to ride for longer distances and I would have frozen on the way home. (Thank you heated grips on the Vstrom)
In a nut shell, I think that is about it. It was a great ride, a very tough one and one that we almost didn’t complete had we not stepped back, took a break and then dug deep. Had it been another 100 miles longer, I don’t know that I could have completed it. But you know, Jack was a hell of a rider and from all his trip logs it seems that he never really took the easy way. So I am sure this is the way Jack would have wanted it.
Jack Shoalmire (9/30/1942-8/28/2011)