Show Me MO

May 18— Four days of motorcycles, twisty roads and great weather.

Rex, Brad and Chris begin their ultimate adventure.That was the recipe for our recent excursion into Central Missouri (aka the Precious Moments Tour). The Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach, MO made a great HQ to begin and end our daily rides. Most of the roads throughout Missouri are well maintained and offer some great scenery. And our timing was perfect– we couldn’t have asked for better weather.


As usual, there is always the unexpected to deal with. This trip was no different. Even before we left Tulsa, the Suzuki Bandit that Chris was riding spat out its drain plug. A fortunate stop at a Quik Trip spared him of any serious engine damage, while soiling their parking lot with the Bandit’s last quart of oil. Amazingly a parts store across the street had a plug of the correct size (14mm x 1.25 if you’re curious).

Here’s a 30 second spot we shot at the resort…
http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docId=-2716245207973939240&hl=en

Everything went great as we rolled along OK-20 into Missouri and stopped for lunch in Noel. After lunch we blasted off on to Highway 90. The weather was still perfect- sunny, no wind and temps in the mid seventies. Then the parades began.

We didn’t realize it, but Highway 90 must have been the Poker Run capital of Missouri on that particular Friday. Suddenly we found ourselves stuck behind long lines of American-made noisemakers, barely managing to maintain the speed limit. After several frustrating miles we were finally able to weave around them and resume “touring speeds” through the twists and turns of this legendary road.

Taking in some Americana at a roadside stop.

Turning north at Cassville finally put us into clear airspace, as we headed north for Osage Beach. Upon our arrival at the Tan-Tar-A Resort I was pretty wide-eyed. We passed the golf course, horse stables, turnoff to the long-term estates, swimming pool, another swimming pool.. it just kept going. The rates were comparable to condos in the vicinity (which look like giant apartment complexes to me), but the resort seemed huge and rambled up and around through the woods.

When we checked in we insisted on a room with a clear view of the parking area. It was a needless concern. The security seemed more than adequate. We parked all three bikes in the last parking space and began the trudge up seven flights of stairs to our room. I was wondering if the “parking lot view” we had requested was worth when I walked out on the balcony. Wow! It looked we had been issued the highest room in the whole complex— our door opened out on to the treetops with a beautiful view of resort and Lake of the Ozarks.

Rex and Brad get in touch with their native roots.

Each day we tried to set off in a different direction. Between glancing at maps and a little dead reckoning we tried to get ourselves lost in the middle of Missouri. On average we would ride about 200 miles a day.

One of the most exciting moments occured Saturday morning as we headed east. Earlier my GS had been running pretty half-ass. At one point accelerating uphill became a luxury I rarely experienced. This particular morning I had tweaked on it a bit and thought it might be running a little better. I lead the way as we meandored along one of the many “letter roads” in Missouri. After a few miles the poor acceleration seemed to return. But even worse now. As I struggled to maintain the speed limit, the big BMW seemed to dig in its heels. I didn’t realize just how right I was!

We’re rolling along past long rows of pickups and people walking around with shotguns. The pops of skeet shooters had caught my attention a mile or so back. When I realized it wasn’t my bike making the noise I returned to the task of struggling up hills. Moments later Brad pulls alongside and hollers something about “..rear.. on.. fire..” between the pop-pop of shotguns across the road. Even though I wasn’t quite sure what he said, I instinctively pulled in the clutch lever. The Bimmer immediately slowed as though… as though the brakes were on!

Now I’m beginning to realize what Brad was hollering about. I get parked on the non-existant shoulder, hop off and run around the back of the bike. The acrid smell of brake pad material is now heavily apparant. As I look down at the rear brake rotor I realized that Brad really had screamed, “Your rear brake’s on fire!”

I’m not sure, but I think I tried to blow the fire out. Only problem was my helmet was still on. Fortunately I remembered putting a bottle of water in my top box when we headed out that morning. I fumbled with the latch and dug out the precious half-bottle of agua to extinguish my burning bike. Disaster averted!

Turns out the locknut on the rear brake adjustment rod had loosened. I spent the rest of the morning rear-brake-less until we stopped at a local chopper barn (seriously, it was called Chopper Barn) and I bought some brake fluid and bled the rear system. But that’s an entire story in itself!

The next day we toured north toward the Missouri River. For lunch we made a quick stop at a local grocery store in Booneville for some homemade sandwiches. A local park provided the perfect break. Afterwards we followed the Lewis & Clark Trail back toward our HQ.

The rest of the trip was pretty much uneventful. Not one single fire. Other than that bit of excitement, we definitely plan to do it again.

Precious Moments Tour


Update!
The 2009 rally will be held May 15-17.

So it’s time to dust off the bike and do a little motorcycle touring. The destination is central Missouri. Porcelain figurines may be involved.

If you prefer to stop reading now I’ll understand.

The official base of operations will be the Tan-Tar-A resort. Between rounds of golf, tourists like us can enjoy everything from a relaxing dip in the pool to parasailing to Burger King. It’s located on state road KK just off US-54 in Osage Beach, MO. They have a helpful page with directions from different cities.

Here are some links I’ve dug up that might prove helpful to wayward travelers (and lost Okies) as they meandor during the….

Up above we have a locator map from the Missouri State Parks & Historic Sites. There seems to be a good deal of festive happenings near the Lake of the Ozarks. Just up the road is the University of Missouri in Columbia. Central Missouri is also home to state capitol (no, it isn’t St. Louis) and other scenic and historic junk.

Routes to and from abound on MotorcycleRoads.US, Dan Kalal, Car and Driver and (of course) Places2ride.com.

Nearby accomodations range from rustic (I’m not even sure what a Yurt is!) to houseboats to cutesy B & Bs. For that resort lifestyle we all crave there’s Tan-Tar-A. The most interesting option is the slew of condo rentals available. Rates vary from moderate to wild.

A possible route.
I played around with Mapquest’s new beta version and managed to string together a route free of toll roads or Interstates. It takes a little coaxing to keep it the route on the skinny lines- but it can be done. Here’s a suggested route from Tulsa to Lake o’ the Ozarks.

We’re number 751,306!

It’s probably a little premature to pass out those foam rubber fingers like they have at footall games- but there is cause for celebration nonetheless.

aerial view of Beeline Motocross ParkMany of you probably know that I moonlight as the webmaster for a motorcycling site called Places 2 Ride. The site began in 1998 as a promo for my buddy Brad’s motocross track (aerial view at right). People were e-mailing him from as far away as Michigan asking about other places in Oklahoma to ride their dirt bikes. To save time we started posting info about Oklahoma’s off-road riding areas and MX tracks. Eventually we registered the domain name: places2ride.com. As the name implies, it is a site about places to ride motorcycles. Today this includes motorcycle race tracks, scenic highways, popular urban boulevards, twisty trails, etc.

The cause for celebration has to do with visits to Places 2 Ride web site. For years the site has been a popular stop for a small number of regional motorcyclists. Recently I have made a full frontal assault on making it a nationwide listing plus events, riding gear reviews and newsfeeds. When I began my campaign the site was ranked by Alexa somewhere in the 1.5 to 2 million vicinity. That basically means there were about 2 million web sites more popular than Places2ride.com.

Today that number is 751,306.
Alexa Certified Traffic Ranking for www.places2ride.com

I doubt that Yahoo is worried about losing traffic, but it’s reassuring to see your efforts produce tangible results. Now, back to the grindstone…. next month I’m shooting to break 700,000!

www.places2ride.com

Motorcycle Consolidation


Last week I purged the inventory to make way for my latest mechanical acquisition. My trials bike went to a good home locally and the Transalp took a road trip to Colorado with its new owner. All this effort was to make way for a new motorcycle that is comfortable two-up and more capable on the highway.

It’s a 1995 BMW R1100 GS.

I found it on eBay and hauled it home from Hot Springs, Arkansas. It has high mileage (for a bike, not for a BMW I’m told) and some loose bolts here and there. But it’s getting sorted out and promises to be a fun bike. Most importantly, it has met with the approval of My Passenger.

Sold by Weight…
Pound for pound I’ve made a pretty good swap. My observed trials bike was a 170 pound Beta and the Honda Transalp was around 400 lbs. The towering Bimmer is a 500 pounder but easily hauls another couple of hundred if you fill up the topbox and pannier cases. So far I have no plans to re-create the Long Way Round, but I am hoping to get back on the road and take some longer trips.

The Machines I Have Known

A Work in Progress

I thought it might be fun to catalog all of the motorcycles I have owned. So here goes– beginning in 1974 and my fourteenth birthday….

1970 Speedway Super Spyder

This was a Sachs 125-powered dirt bike with 15″ wheels. They were built by a mini bike company in Florida and the Spyder (the “Y” made it even cooler) was their top of the line Big Bike.

Like most things I got for my birthday, this one was broken. Dad and I put it together from a basket full of two motors. It hauled ass but had a habit of mis-shifting if you revved it too high.

1978 Kawasaki KZ650 SR

KZ650-SR in front of the Oklahoma capitol.

I traded a `74 Fiat 124 Spider for this bike (no “Y” so it had to go). Such a sweet ride. Damn reliable motorcycles and not bad to look at either. If you frequented the Bleu Grotto you most likely saw the SR parked out front.

1981 Kawasaki KZ750
Didn’t have this bike very long. Probably had something to do with Jackie burning her leg on the muffler. My bad.

1989 Kawasaki KDX200

Me and the KDX during a trail ride near Prattville, OK

After a long hiatus it became apparent I never got the “dirt bike thing” out of my system. I bought the KDX and returned to motorcycling circa 1997.

It was a great bike for rejuvenating those long dormant genes. Cheap and plentiful, and just new enough to have a power valve to soften that two-stroke powerband.

The KDX is a versatile trail bike and I’d recommend one to anyone wanting to go play in the dirt. Scratch that… I’d recommend one to anyone. Everybody needs a KDX or two.

1995 Kawasaki KLR650

This dual sport was my first street bike in about 15 years.

It was originally this bizarre turquoise color but I changed out the plastic for the earlier blue color. The anemic muffler was replaced with a Cobra can that sounded nice and weighed several pounds less.

KLRs are fun. The 650cc single is a huffer. I had fun exploring gravel roads and some dirt trails. Getting very “dirty” was not so much fun. It’s just a little too big and heavy and underpowered to go very far off-road.

But the worst part of the ride is getting to the trail. Three chains and two balance shafts later they still vibrate your dentures loose.

1996 Triumph 900 Sprint

The only brand new motorcycle I ever bought. Hell, it’s the only new vehicle of any kind I’ve ever bought. Picked it up brand new from Atlas in 1999 (yes, it was brand new but three years old). This was our return to a real street bike and we took some wonderful trips on it.

Jackie still curses me for selling the Sprint (or Trumpy as she calls it). Comfortable bike, good power, smooth and reliable. But what a doggone top-heavy sumbitch. When these early Triumphs are dropped it’s usually in a parking lot doing about 6 mph.

What it lacked around town it redeemed on the open road. These early Hinckley Triumphs are well-built and the Sprint is a fine sport-tourer. That soft luggage is made in New Zealand by a company called Ventura. That’s great stuff too.

1994 Kawasaki KX250

This was my last “dirt bike” and was modified for trail riding. It had an A-Loop flywheel and fatty pipe to make it less a motocrosser and more a woods bike. Very fun. Still very fast.

I raced a season of cross-country with the OCCRA boys and decided I was too old for bouncing off of trees. Had a lot of fun and, fortunately, never really got hurt. Knock on wood.

Bad puns aside- after I sold this I quit racing off-road and started learning how to ride observed trials.

And now for something completely different.

1989 Aprilia 280 Climber
The Climber (in the background of the photo below) introduced me to observed trials riding and that was a real eye opener.

These bikes worked great for Tommy Ahvala. Didn’t work as well for me. The Rotax had a habit of selecting gears on its own despite the rider’s suggestion. I rode it one season and decided I liked trials enough to get a more modern bike.

1997 Beta Techno
A proper trails machine.

The photo shows the Beta shortly after arriving from Portland, Oregon and the Climber preparing to leave for California. We kept the Forward Air truck line in business that month!

The Techno was a fun motorcycle. It was the uprated version with the 280cc mod and could yank stumps right out of the ground! Of all the Italian machinery I’ve owned the Betas have to be the best built. Very well made.

1989 Honda XL600V Transalp
My next street bike was a cult bike I’d long admired. This Transalp came up on eBay and I knew it was worth a shot when I read the location: Woodward, Oklahoma. Who the hell within 100 miles of Woodward ever even heard of a Transalp?!?

To this day the Transalp is one of the most popular Hondas in Europe. But they didn’t sell squat in the US. They were only sold in `89 and `90, long before the term “dual sport” was even coined. But it’s no surprise they didn’t sell here- much too practical a motorcycle for the American market.

I really enjoyed riding this bike. Around town it’s great. Smooth 600cc V-twin and great, neutral handling. But on the highway or two-up the twin starts to show its relative lack of ponies.

2003 Beta Rev 3

More fine Italian aluminum. An excellent machine and an absolute blast to ride.

The Techno was getting tired and saggy in the rear end (quiet in back, please) and all signs pointed to the monoshock. Instead of shelling out for a replacement I sent it off to teach another newbie rider and bought myself a Rev 3.

Unfortunately my back started giving me trouble and I wasn’t dedicated enough to keep risking serious injury. This was my last trials bike.

1995 BMW R1100GS
I was hanging out at Brookside Motorcycle Company one day and made the mistake of riding a GS. I loved it.

I picked this GS up on eBay with full bags and an Aeroflow windscreen. Thought I got a great deal. Turned out it wasn’t such a great deal after all. A persistent problem kept it from making any go after about 2/3 throttle. Otherwise it ran great!

We had a few good trips on it (Show Me Mo)– enough to convince me I really like the BMW thing. The GS is a versatile machine that easily handles the gravel roads and far off trails, and it’s comfortable enough to take you to them. Jackie found it comfortable and only wished it would dependably run right! I could never cure the running problem and it made long-distance touring a real headache. I sold it and…

2003 BMW R1150R

..that brings us to the latest beemer.

This is a sweet bike. I bought it from a fellow in New Mexico (road trip) with only 16k miles. It originally came from Dallas and has been well cared for (unlike the aforementioned BMW).

I wanted another GS but they demand a premium price. Hey, they’re an icon. For the price of a mid to late nineties GS we’re stylin’ on a 2003 R. And I like it.

The R is also able to get it’s feet a little dirty. With the right tires some people get downright “off road” with them. But most importantly it’s comfortable two-up and handles great. Highway cruising really is cruising with the motor ticking along less than 4000 RPM at 80 mph.

Update: August 2009

2005 BMW R1200GS
R1150R meets its replacement: R1200GS

Okay, I admit it. I’m a GS guy.

The R (see above) is a great bike. But if the road turns into gravel or Jackie and I want to do some serious miles, it’s not the best choice. I’m just a freak for versatility, and the GS is versatile. Tour all day, explore a gravel road, commute in heavy traffic, you name it and it does it all pretty darn well.

When I found this `05 GS available for well below book I had to have a look. It’s a beauty, matches my helmet and is well farkled, so we made the trek across Missouri to buy it.


 

Alfa Romeo GTV during a trackside yoga session at Hallett
The End
(for now)
Not really. I’ll update this as time goes by.