Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: 2017

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.

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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.


7.19.2017

NorCal Revisited Part 1: Riding through the broiler.

I had a chance to escape from Los Angeles life for a while, so I jumped on a very much repaired Eleanor and headed up north to the Bay Area to recharge myself. However, to pull that off, she and I had to blast through a little bit of hell...more like 430 miles of it.

My return up to Northern California will be the first time I've done so since 2011. As I progressed through this trip, I was able to revise a few stories and memories that had stemmed back to 2007 and a previous life.

The traffic wasn't anything unexpected leaving LA on the 405 North. Temperatures on I-5 started off nice in the 70s, but as soon as I reached the Grapevine region, it had suddenly risen to the 90s, forcing me to pull out the evaporative cooling vest to supplement my Fly Racing Flux Air Mesh jacket that I had chosen to take up with me instead of my standard Aerostitch Roadcrafter jacket. To top off the set was my Camelback Rogue 70oz Hydration Pack filled with ice water. There was no logical way that I could survive the temperatures with my standard, in-town gear, so out came the hot weather accessories.

The ride up was hot and uneventful. Eleanor had no issue blasting past the trucks and the cars, maintaining constant speed the whole time. I was really happy with my shorter Cee Bailey windshield that I had replaced my old one with, and its additional thickness and weight kept it from flopping around in the gusts. I only stopped a few times to get gas, soak my cooling vest, and refill my Camelbak. However, I did take one special break in Gustine/Santa Nella, CA to Pea Soup Andersen's to revise a memory from a previous journey to the location in Buellton. Thanks to that trip, I now have officially been to both locations in California!

Hot soup during this time of the day? If it's split pea soup, hell yes!

Exterior of Pea Soup Anderson's in Santa Nella/Gustine, CA.
I made it to my first stop, Dharma Trading Company in Petaluma, CA, by around 2 PM (I had started riding around 6:30 AM.) to visit my friend and pick up the key for my lodging. She had kept a sign that I had sent to her a couple years back that was passed on to me by another friend. Considering that she works for a dye company, it was so fitting that she had this displayed prominently in her office.


I was zonked after that 430-mile ride, so I had a fried chicken sandwich at the nearby Pub Republic before heading back to the house, unloading my gear, and relaxing.


Once my friend came home from work, we walked through Downtown Petaluma and had some Mexican food. Honestly, the food was pretty forgettable as the shrimp did not have to be that salty at all. But we did stop by a 7-11 to get Lotto tickets and an It's-It ice cream treat. This is one of those regional things that I had heard of but did not get the chance to try until now. I think it will be slightly mandatory for me to have at least one of these every time I come up to visit. Besides, every good motorcycle ride has to end in ice cream. That's a very well-known unwritten rule!

6.01.2017

How long does a windshield last on a Yamaha FJR1300?

The answer...about ten years, 190,000 miles, or until I can get around to replacing plastic that was probably on its way out at least 20k miles ago. I don't normally look through my windshield so it was something that I didn't care about for a while.

The original windshield, a Yamaha OEM extended touring version (4" taller, 1/2" wider) made by National Cycle, has been on Eleanor for all but 1200 miles of its life. That's 190k of every possible weather condition short of an absolute blizzard, road salt, bugs of every size, dirt, soot, and all sorts of crap hitting it at any given point on the road. By the end of its life, the plastic had yellowed, especially at the top, and there was a lot of distortion/fogging on it. Yeah, it was time for it to go.

Its replacement is a barely-used, Cee Bailey's 2" above standard OEM windshield taken off of a 2006 Yamaha FJR1300. If you haven't tried a Cee Bailey's windshield, I would suggest giving this company's products a shot. I could feel the quality of this aircraft plastic in my hands as I was installing it.

As for installing it, it's relatively straightforward. There are two bolts at the bottom of the windshield that have to be removed using a 3mm Allen key. That removes the decorative/protective cover that hides the plastic Phillips head screws that keep the shield in place on top of rubber bumpers. The entire process took less than ten minutes to do, and that was me taking my time. And you can do it without having to electronically raise the windshield.

In terms of image, replacing that plastic made my bike look several years younger again. I didn't realize how much of a visual difference it would make to Eleanor, and I'm really glad I did it when I was able to do so. I guess it's the same effect as getting a new pair of eyeglasses. Also, using a windshield that's 2" shorter than what I've been using has increased airflow and has made the bike feel a bit more aerodynamic than I've been used to.

Now that the major electrical issues (failing relays) have been attended to, I can focus on more of the other comfort items on the bike. She's still in the running toward 200k miles barring anything catastrophic so I'll make sure she'll look good on the way there. Perhaps I'll go back to doing some long-distance weekend rides for old times sake. Yes. That would be amazing.

5.29.2017

Introducing...Pam the 2011 Kawasaki Versys 650!

So, with Eleanor having traveled back and forth to the "spa" (a.k.a. sick bay, personal garage at the dealership, etc. etc.) with the ongoing headlight issue that has haunted her for the last year and change, I found some room in the budget back in April to go pick up a little sidekick motorcycle to add to my vehicle fleet. I was looking for something that was utilitarian and not meant to replace my 2007 Yamaha FJR1300 by any means of the imagination. I thought about bikes that I had previously test ridden that were affordable and fit my personal needs, and one of the first that came to mind was the Kawasaki Versys 650.

4.27.2017

Happy 10th Birthday, Eleanor!

This is how Eleanor, my 2007 Yamaha FJR1300AWC and my long-time companion on many a journey, started her 10th year of operation...by not operating very well at all! (Cameo by my cousin who took me home after my tow.)

Eleanor officially turned ten years old on April 26, 2017. This is a testament to both the stubbornness and longevity of this bike and its owner. However, the last couple years have slowed her down a bit as the combination of the road salt of the Midwest, mileage, and having endured every rideable weather condition imaginable in all that time caught up with her. Her electrical connections have required some rehab and cleaning, and every now and then, those issues reappear and deem her unsafe to operate on the street.


Case in point, her headlights stopped functioning on April 25 as I was leaving from my class that night at CSULB. I made it down one exit on the 405 North before I pulled off and hung out at a gas station and a donut shop for about three hours while I waited for a tow truck to transport Eleanor back to Pacific Motorsports in Harbor City. Allow me to explain my difficulties.


Now, I will say that this long span of time being stranded did allow me to broadcast a couple Facebook Live posts and reconnect with a few friends online that I hadn't spoken to in years. When the first tow truck arrived an hour later, I had to decline it because the person showed up without a flatbed vehicle. The second driver, Matt from SoCal Moto Transport, brought the appropriate equipment and vehicle and performed a flawless transport of both her and me back to Harbor City.

I referenced some posts from this time last year, and not surprisingly, Eleanor encountered the exact same issue with her headlights and spent her 9th birthday at the dealership as well. It's pretty obvious that I need a more permanent solution to this repair. However, that engine still runs as strong as the day I bought her from Long Beach Yamaha (now Del Amo Motorsports Long Beach) ten years ago.


I wonder if Eleanor has just become a diva in her old age or likes facials, but regardless of the reason, it's been a bit inconvenient to have her unavailable to use for my random video shoots or for those moments when I want to go far but reduce the amount of dead dinosaur juice that I want to burn. My solution, a new addition to my vehicle fleet, will be introduced in another post. I'm still unwilling to give up on my old friend, but my very busy life meant that some issues had to be rectified. I'm very confident that she'll be back to somewhat normal; I just have to wait a little longer.

Enjoy your facial, you silly bike.

1.25.2017

GUEST POST: Tips for Riding in Hot and Humid Conditions (Jason Mueller)

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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Whether you are a seasoned rider or a beginner to the great two-wheeled adventure, if you plan on riding in a hot climate, you will need to think about staying cool during your ride. You have most likely already searched for, and found, the perfect riding jacket, boots, gloves and helmet, but have you considered how to be comfortable during a hot and humid ride? When you are on the motorcycle, heat doesn’t just shine down from the sunshine above, but it can be brutal as it flows straight up from the pavement you are cruising on as you head down the highway.

Bikers who live in hot climates or those that may be headed to a warmer climate from the north this winter will want to consider some of the best ways to take on the heat from riding on a hot and humid day.

Hydrate Often
Most of us know to stop for a good meal along the way or for quick water breaks when it is hot outside, but there are other ways to stay hydrated when riding as well. One thing you can do is wear clothing that helps keep your body hydrated during a long, hot ride. Wearing gear that is well ventilated will help keep your skin cool and your body temperature down.  Another thing to consider is wearing a backpack with a built-in water reservoir to drink while riding. This will help you stay hydrated without needing to make frequent stops for water along the way.

Layer Up
Chances are, when the ride begins it may be early morning or you may be in a colder climate. Once the sun comes up or the day progresses and begins to heat up, you are going to want to shed some clothing to stay cool. Be sure to layer up when you get dressed for the ride so you will be able to take items off one at a time to start cooling down. Make sure your clothing is adequate for the ride and that you don’t wear anything ultra-thin for safety reasons. Even when it’s hot and humid outside, you need to wear proper riding gear to stay safe.

Meshing Around
Mesh vests, gloves and even shirts for men are a way to keep cool during a long ride in the heat. There are many mesh vests, shirts and other outerwear that are made with fabric that help withstand the elements while keeping the skin cooler in the heat. Mesh gloves will keep your hands protected while staying cool. While come may say that worrying too much about the clothing you wear is a little narcissistic, it is definitely necessary to plan your wardrobe when you take a ride whether the weather is hot and humid, wet, cold or even windy.

Plan Your Route
Hopping on your bike and taking off down the highway sounds like a fun thing to do, but taking time to carefully plan your route will save you time and help prevent you from becoming lost or worse, finding yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere with no gas and no filling station in sight. Finding yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere when it is hot and humid outside can not only be inconvenient, but it can also become very dangerous if you have no water or way to cool down.

Contact
Whether you are taking a quick ride to the store, or you will be traveling a hundred miles a day, be sure to take your cell phone so you have a way to contact someone in case there is an emergency on the road.  You also may need to have your cell phone with you if you run into a situation where you need to have the motorcycle shipped due to mechanical issues in the heat or if a collision occurs.

While many riders who have been riding for many years may already know the best clothing to wear and which ways work well to stay hydrated and cool during the heat, this is not true for all riders. Not everyone lives in hot climates and if you are coming from a cooler area, knowing the signs of a heat stroke and taking precautions to keep your body cool inside and out will go a long way to beating the heat and having a great ride. If you have taken the right precautions and feel ready to ride, be sure to keep safe riding at the top of your list of things to do during the ride, and above all else, hop on that bike and have some fun!

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About the Author
Jason grew up riding dirt bikes and then turned to road riding.  He is currently living in Costa Rica where he works online for his company, A-1 Auto Transport.

1.06.2017

Fun Peeks: Yamaha FJR1300A-P Concept

I'm starting 2017 with eye candy. Back at the International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach in November 2016, the Yamaha section had this gorgeous motorcycle specimen on display as a "concept" bike. In Europe, this isn't a concept bike! This is a normal patrol bike across the ocean in several European countries! *sad cry* I digress.

In addition to the Yamaha FJR1300 offered as a police bike abroad, the XJ600 and XJ900 are also get the law enforcement outfitting. I'd be more afraid of a smaller police bike that can zip through anything to take a baddie down than a larger one, to be honest.

I also wonder, aside from the obvious add-ons of lights, crash cages, a rear trunk cover instead of a rear seat, and narrower city cases for more effective lane-splitting, if there were upgrades to the electrical system such as a larger battery or stator like is done with the BMW R1200RT-P.

Filing this under "things to make you drool that you won't see in the wild United States." I think Eleanor would look good in white. At least people would pull the hell over when I'm trying to filter through gridlock because of the intimidation factor. What do you think?