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9.13.2017

NorCal Revisited Part 4: Eleanor does the Corbin Factory

It was my kind of vacation day: get out of bed, ride, eat, chill, ride some more, sleep, repeat. There was some hockey thrown in there as well, and I'll talk about it a bit later. But first, I took a 5:30 AM departure on Friday morning from Petaluma all the way down the 101 to the world famous Corbin seat factory in Hollister, CA. It was approximately a 130-mile jaunt from start to finish, and I made it there as the doors were opening at 8 AM. Traffic was non-existent, even in the more populated areas such as Alameda and San Jose on the 580/880, and Eleanor ran like a charm for the straight shot down.

First guest motorcycle here!
So why were we here? Below is Exhibit A. The Corbin seat on Eleanor has seen over 192,000 miles of road in ten years, experiencing every weather condition that has hit the continental United States short of a hurricane and a tornado. The leather was dried up and shot, the foam gone in some places from wear and exposure, and it was long overdue for a complete refurbish. Fortunately, Corbin has a special program in which a seat purchased directly from them can be restored to original factory condition for half the cost of a new one, provided that you bring the seat in. (Side note: if you purchased the Corbin seat private party or through eBay, you would get 30% off a complete refurbishing.)

Now, this isn't the first time that I have been to the Corbin factory. I was here once before back in July 2011 en route to the Women On Wheels® International Ride-In™. If I had thought ahead sooner, I would've had the seat done back then, but like many things in my life, it was worth the extra wait.

This seat has seen many things. It was definitely time for a refresher.
On-site ride in service at the factory is done in an appointment-based, first-come first-served basis. I called ahead on Wednesday to get a slot for Friday. When I made it to Corbin that morning, there was a gentleman with a 2015 version of my Yamaha FJR1300 who was there to get a full rider and passenger seat combo. It was nice to get a neighbor with a newer, yet nearly identical ride (everything from the tank to the tail is practically the same). Since we both had different preferences for what we wanted in our seats, it was fun to see the options that were out there and find out what we each chose for our own needs.



Seat creation/restoration takes a few hours, so I took a break inside the Wizard's Cafe for a little blogging, photo organization, and a breakfast burrito. Coffee was complimentary and there was a lot of it to go around.


This was a very tasty burrito.
After an hour or so, my "seat wizard" came back with my seat without the leather covering. He placed a temporary seat pad on top of the foam and asked me to take a lap around the street to see how I felt. I will say, it had been so long since I had a cushiony seat on Eleanor that it felt like I was riding on a cloud. When I came back from my test ride, I talked to the gentleman with the FJR who had made a slight modification to his custom seat. The middle area was replaced with a softer foam that reduced the pressure to the tailbone and related area. After sitting on his seat in comparison to mine, I requested to have my seat's internals done in the same fashion. It's moments like these when I knew that it was totally worth it to spend the extra miles to get exactly what I wanted. After all, I'm looking at several more years with this bike at the minimum, and I'd like to enjoy every minute of it. It was also great to receive peer feedback and suggestions that helped improve my own seat.

Here's the unfinished seat with a test ride pad.
Here's a closeup of my "neighbor's" seat after the softer foam was added to the main area. My front seat received the same treatment.
The service areas where the trimming and shaping of the foam were within walking distance of where the motorcycles were staged.
My "neighbor's" finished product, a front/rear seat combo with a smooth top (similar to my original seat) with color-matched welt and a textured side vinyl pattern. He was very happy with the results.
As for me, I decided to change it up this time around and requested stitching on the top of the seat. The extra stitching also offered a little extra foam cushion on the top as well as a nice textured look. The sides were lined with a textured vinyl pattern with the welts remaining black.


Eleanor's odometer reading at seat restoration.
The new seat's maiden break-in ride was a 150-mile ride from the factory all the way back up north to Sacramento where I was headed to meet up with my other friend and then carpool another 40 miles westbound toward Vacaville for the first game of the Vacaville Classic hockey tournament. It was a long, yet very productive day, and with the 250+ riding miles on the road that day, I still pulled a 2-0 opening game win. I'll discuss the rest of the outcome of the tournament in the next blog post, but I will say that there were a lot more miles involved as well as really warm temperatures!



9.06.2017

GUEST POST: Tips for Long Distance Riding

All right, here's another guest post about riding your motorcycle through hot and humid conditions.

If you're a motorcycle enthusiast and are interested in becoming a guest blogger on here, fill out the inquiry form on the right side of the page and I'll get back to you.

Disclaimer: Any opinions expressed within this blog post are those of the author and not necessarily held by Two-Wheeled Tourist.

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Nothing beats a long-distance trip, especially when on the back of as two-wheeled beast where you can feel the wind beat against your face and the sun shine on your shoulders. It may seem like a fun idea to just hop on your motorcycle and take off for destinations unknown just to ride across the country, but as any seasoned rider will tell you, a long-distance ride takes careful planning.

Some riders love the feeling of a long ride coast to coast while others prefer to ride part of the way and then have the motorcycle shipped the rest of the way. This is an ideal choice for those who may be traveling through barren areas of the country or who are traveling from a cold area to a warm or hot and humid climate and don’t want to ride through snow and ice or through the humidity in a hot climate. Some riders, however, will ride through all weather and circumstances. If this is you, then you may need to consider some important things about the ride before you leave. The most important will be to make sure everything is ready to go.

You can use the following long-distance riding tips to help ensure your ride goes smooth and you don’t run into any major issues along the way.

Make Sure Your Bike Is Ready
The distance you travel is going to be dependent on the reliability of your motorcycle. You will need to make sure she is ready to roll and that all will go well even when you are hundreds of miles away from home.
  • Check your tires to ensure they are inflated properly for a long-distance trip. 
  • Check around the bike to make sure nothing is loose or broken. This includes your luggage racks, handles and other parts that can loosen during a ride.
  • Fill fluids
  • Make sure your lights work. Check the front headlamp as well as your back lights and signal lights.
  • Test the battery to make sure it is in top condition.
  • You will want to check your chain or belt to make sure it’s in good condition.
  • Check the spark plugs.
  • Test the brakes to make sure they work well.
Planning the Road Trip
Besides checking the motorcycle to make sure it is ready for a long ride, you will also want to map out the trip to make sure you are prepared for what lies ahead.
  • GPS is nice, but you are bound to travel through dead spots where GPS won’t work. Get a map ready and printed so you will have a backup to use when you need to know which direction to go if your GPS fails along the way.
  • Contact hotels that are on the way to get rates and see how far they are from the highway. It’s best to know where you can lay your head when you get tired after riding hours on end.
  • Plan for fuel stops by mapping out the gas stations along the way. Just because you may have enough fuel doesn’t mean you won’t need to stop for a drink or to grab a quick bite to eat. You will also want to stretch your legs after riding a distance.
  • Traveling out of the country? If so, you need to make sure you have the proper paperwork in hand when you get to the border or you will have to turn around and find another location to head to. 
Gearing Up
Before you hop on your bike to trek across the country, it’s wise to make sure you are all geared up ahead of time. As you know, you won’t have a great deal of space on the motorcycle, but don’t let that damper your decisions when determining what to wear or pack for the trip.
  • Before you decide on clothing to wear, you need to pack a kit with jumper cables, tools, flat tire repair and other road trip tools that may be needed in case of an emergency along the highway. 
  • When you pack clothing, you will of course pack as light as possible, but try to compress everything into the bag by rolling things up tightly as you pack. This will allow for more clothing items to be placed inside your bag.
  • Pack a first aid kit and items like chapstick, sunscreen, ear plugs and waterproof matches. 
  • Keep a list of names and numbers printed and packed inside a bag. You never know when you may need to reach an emergency contact and will need their number.
  • It may be nice and sunny when you head out, but pack rain gear or even cold weather gear if you plan to travel into various climates.
  • Use plastic zip lock bags to help keep your travel gear nice and dry if it rains.
Whether your long-distance trip is to the next state over or from the east coast of Georgia to the west coast of California, be sure to notify friends and family that you are leaving. You will also want to let those closest to you know your planned route. While most rides go smoothly, having someone with knowledge as to where you will be can be a great help if you have a breakdown on the road and someone needs to locate you quickly. Your trip may be filled with adventure depending on where you travel to and will be a great experience, but keep in mind that the most important thing on your trip is to be safe when you ride.

8.02.2017

NorCal Revisited Part 3: Reclaiming San Francisco

My homework was done, and I was ready to jump on Eleanor and play! I looked on Google Maps and found out that there was a road that leads out of Petaluma onto some really nice twisties and headed out toward PCH. It was going to be a bit cooler going into this region (around the mid-60s), so I made sure that I inserted my rain liner into my mesh jacket to add more layers to battle the winds and fog on my way down toward San Francisco.


I had no idea what visually stunning sights I was in for as I was riding down these serene, two-lane roads. There were small lakes, seemingly unending hills, and very picturesque land forms as I rode through on a good clip. However, I had to come to a complete stop for this lake area amid the hills, otherwise known as the Nicasio Reservoir.




Once I made it onto the US-101 southbound heading into San Francisco (around 10:30 AM), the fog was so bad that I delayed taking a photo at Battery Spencer until later in the day when I was on my way out. Temps had also dropped down to the upper-50s so getting through the Golden Gate Bridge and into the city where it was warmer was a priority. It was surreal to cross back into San Francisco again from the north; it had been over six years since I had done it, and the third time that Eleanor had seen the bridge. I had ridden across the Golden Gate Bridge on another motorcycle before this, my 2005 Suzuki SV650.

A post shared by Christine (@twowheeledtourist) on

I learned a couple things once I made it to Fisherman's Wharf. First, with a motorcycle, you can park for free right in the entrance of the wharf. Second, I need to bring my FastTrak transponder with me the next time I return to Northern California. All of the toll roads are using the system now.


My first stop in the Fisherman's Wharf was the Musée Mécanique, a penny arcade and museum filled with video games and arcade machines from various decades, all of them fully playable. As I had done a decade prior, I threw a few quarters into the X-Men vs. Street Fighter game and beat the snot out of another patron. After that, I ventured outside to check out Alcatraz from a distance as it could be seen in plain view the day I was there.



Hmm. That's not what I think about when I envision a bunch of bimbos in a box.
There were too many food selections to choose from for lunch, and I had a little too much fun taking photos of everything. This may involve multiple visits back up here. I'm not complaining about that.

If it lived in the ocean, it'll probably end up on a roll. The options were endless. Would you like some rolls with your crab, lobster, or shrimp?

A pair of disgruntled giant lobster and an indifferent crab.
That's a long way to swim if you're planning to make any sort of escape.
Getting my clam-on-clam fix with a little help from the squid. This was totally worth the ride down to the city by the bay.
Even the Magikarp couldn't resist all the attention!
Cooked crab...master of the resting bitch face.

I have a feeling that these socks wouldn't fly well at my job. The kids would find it funny, though.
After lunch, I headed over the hilly parts of the city into Japantown to Daiso in an attempt to find a budget Apple Lightning cable to charge my iPad (I had forgotten mine at home). Unfortunately, they were sold out of them so I made my way to the flagship Apple Store in Union Square.


I spent a little time perusing this two-story, open air store and had the chance to plug my iPad in to get a little juice while I surfed the Internet on a display MacBook and took a break. It's a pretty cool location and it was packed with all sorts of visitors. I ended up getting out of there with a Lightning cable. (Tip: You have a 14-day return window if you buy anything from the Apple Store.) This is great for those people who just happen to be out of town and are forgetting anything.

Tangela is here to inquire about the new MacBook Pro.
Switching gears from technology and back to motorcycles, I rode to BMW Motorcycles of San Francisco to check out the store and ask for some assistance in topping off the oil on Eleanor. She tends to burn a little more oil than normal because of her mileage and age, and I was receiving an oil light on my dash while I was near the Nicasio Reservoir. It's a level, not a pressure, sensor. The service manager there wasn't too busy and helped me out in the service bay. I even got a t-shirt and stickers out of the whole deal. I'd definitely come back and visit again.


After that, I made a quick stop to the nearby D-Store to see if there were any good deals on motorcycle gear before riding back to Battery Spencer to get that view of the Golden Gate Bridge. By the time I got there (about 7:30 PM), the view was just perfect.


I made it back to Petaluma around 9 PM and had to find some creative parking on the street. The roads are severely banked here so I had to be careful where I put my kickstand down. In reference to the title of this blog, returning to San Francisco and some destinations that I have not seen in ten years brought closure to what were tumultuous times in my life. In many ways, even being back up here was a cleansing experience.

My next stop the following day, the Corbin Seats World Headquarters in Hollister, CA, would bring some of that healing energy onto my trusty Yamaha FJR1300 in the form of a completely restored rider seat.

That parking angle is just slightly unnerving...

7.26.2017

NorCal Revisited Part 2: Breakfast, Homework, and San Rafael

Day 2 was a "homework and chill" kind of day. Since I'm currently in grad school and taking an online class during the summer, I had to complete the weekly readings and assignments while I was up here. Thanks to my laptop, wi-fi, and remote access back to my desktop PC at home, I was able to finish most of that within the course of five hours and a bunch of social media time killing in between.

Eleanor took a break today. Considering that Petaluma is significantly cooler than the inland route of I-5, I think she enjoyed the change of pace as well.
But before that drone, I joined my friend for an early morning breakfast at Hallie's Diner in Downtown Petaluma (125 Keller St, Petaluma, CA 94952). I had cornbread pancakes, chicken sausage, and eggs for breakfast. Those pancakes were so tasty and filling. I had never enjoyed cornbread pancakes before and now I want to make them. After this and a load of coffee, it was off to work on that. I won't bore you with the details of that, but let's just say that creating databases with minimal instruction would've been difficult if this process and related software weren't part of one of my jobs.


Once my friend came back from work, we jumped in her car and drove down US-101 to San Rafael to meet up with another old friend for dinner at Sol Food Restaurant in its downtown district.

How far is it to...? Never mind.

Reunited and it feels so good!
For dinner, I ordered the pork chops with black beans and a split of garlic plantain and regular plantain with a side of salad and pickled onions on top. This was very flavorful and a lot of food for the price. Not pictured was the mango tea that topped off this very large and delectable plate.


After dinner, we headed over to Double Rainbow Cafe to have some post-dinner coffee and catching up on life. I learned about several short-term car rental services that were available in the Bay Area because of the shortage of space and the fact that many people up there don't have cars because it's just too damn expensive. This is a beautiful place but man, the property values here are through the roof.

Speaking of inexplicably high property values, my next stop in this vacation journey will take me to San Francisco and visit particular parts of the city to revisit old haunts and create new memories. I did enjoy my time here in San Rafael and would definitely like to revisit the place again someday.