Sunday, June 15, 2014

Charging system diagnosis

The battery took a charge, so it's probably good.
The bike started and ran on battery, so it's not wiring. 
The stator output with the bike running 5k RPM is 0.  ....Problem.

The oil that came out prior to pulling the cover was the ugliest oil I've ever seen.

The rotor has some mysterious crud in it that turned out to be soft and gummy.

The stator is clearly burned.  I assume the burnt insulation is the crud in the stator.

Close up of stator badness:

There are several bolts to keep track off: some longer, some shorter, some washered.  The dowel pins to align the case are the same diameter, but different length than the dowel pins which align the speed sensor.  They can get mixed up (and did).

When re-assembling, the dowel pins and clutch push rod have to align, as well as a large dowel pin which sits in a boss inside the cover (this pin is the axle for what I assume was the starter gear).  Doing that is tricky because the rotor magnets want to pull the stator/cover out of your hands for the last 1".  You also have to keep a gasket in place while doing that.  Not difficult, just fiddly and tedious.

The new stator output (3 yellow wires) against each other was right at 65V AC, where it should be.  After re-plugging the harness, the battery sees 13-14.5V, again, good - the charging system is working,.  I'll cross my fingers about the regulator/ rectifier and the battery longevity.

Several long rides have produced a slight smell of 'burning'.  I'll have to check wire routing, and hope that it's just spilled oil cooking off.
An OEM stator was about $325, another $10 for a gasket.  Two weeks without a bike starting on Labor Day = sucko.  Getting around without my primary transportation = PITA.  Wrenching on bike in poorly-lit garage until 1am = airbags.

WVSADVWE Epilogue: the ride of shame

The Saturday after Labor Day weekend, I was once again at Hermey's in Port Clinton, PA.  This time, tho, on 6 wheels instead of two.

It being a perfect Saturday afternoon, Hermey's was crowded, so I had lots of 'waiting' time to fill.  With a broken, 2.5 year old, underpowered, buffety bike that had just stranded me, I began to seriously talk myself into a BMW.  Brand new was out of the question, but a trade had just come in '10 minutes ago'.   A 2009 with 20k miles in nice shape. Price unknown, even to the dealership.  They're quick to offer a test ride.  On a bike so recently traded, I asked if it's been looked over.  Are the tires inflated?  Are you sure the brakes work?  I'm assured all is in order, the bike has been gone over prior to trade.

...And another test ride.  The GS is a great bike, I guess.  I mean, I know it's a great bike.  Why doesn't this thing blow my socks off? 
It certainly takes you around quickly, effortlessly, and without worry or drama.  A big part of that is the tech, the build, the design... you have paralever, an automatic suspension, ABS, traction control, and riding modes.  You have a telelever, linked brakes, and great stopping power.  You have a torquey engine that's easy to control.  You can wail down the highway at 90mph all day like it's nothing.  This thing is amazing, and yet, I'm always IMPRESSED, but I'm never INSPIRED.   It feels too automatic or something.  I think this is my issue, not the bike's.  I think I'm old and jaded and have crossed over from 'hard to impress' to 'impossible to impress.'  It's a pleasure to ride this thing.. it's just not a 'thrill' - the bike is never straining or struggling, or bouncing or stepping out, or doing anything a sophisticated, mature German citizen shouldn't be properly doing.

...but wait, it just stalled.   And it doesn't want to start.  And at the next light near Cabelas, a mile or two from Hermey's, it's dead.
On a strange, used, bike, it takes a few minutes to deduce that you're out of gas!!  My very first bike ride since having to have the VStrom towed has ended in... needing a tow.
I called the shop, and Herm once again came out with the trailer, this time with gas.  He was terribly sorry, I was just amused by the whole business, the back-to-back rescues, and the fact that I had specifically asked if anyone checked that the thing was ready to be ridden.

And despite all that, I'd spend days trying to figure out financing, get spousal approval, plan how to dump the Wee, and announce to all who would listen that this was my new bike.  I got distracted by the Wee repairs long enough to realize the perfect storm assaulting our finances.  This will have to wait a few more months, at least.

But in the meantime, 4 days and $44 dollars later, the Glee finally completes the WV trip in shame.


With cell service, I was able to check the advrider tag, which was in McVeytown, less than an hour from camp.  Maps and GPS couldn't find it, due to the poster mis-naming the road.  After a little struggling, I grabbed it.

GPS plotted a route back to camp which I confirmed contained squiggly lines pointing south - which meant over the mountain.  This wound up a highlight of the trip: farm roads, mountain tracks, gravel paths thru the woods, over a ridge, down into a valley, over another ridge - all off pavement.  It being noon on weekday, the only car I passed was a DCNR truck.  PA is a beautiful state, and I've seen so little of it.  I wondered why I bother to leave it on trips.

I broke camp and loaded up for the trip home.  Wanting to duplicate the success I had with fast-moving two lane roads (and avoiding rt 81), I plotted some waypoints to get to Hamburg.  I chose poorly - it was a parade route with a 40-45mph limit thru every little town between Harrisburg and Pittsburg.  I was stuck behind a carload of Mennonites who didn't get above 35mph for many miles.  Frustrated, I bailed, routed to 81, and blasted to Hamburg.

In Hamburg, I had lunch and planned to check out Hermey's and Cabela's.  First stop: Hermey's.  Loaded and covered with WV dust, I figured I looked 'legit' enough to test ride the new GS1200 wet head.  For $22k, I want to my head to explode with awesomeness.  It was a nice bike, but honestly, just doesn't seem 'worth it' to me.

When I got back to the shop with the GS, a guy was pushing bikes into the garage.  I asked if they were closing - he said, "no, there's a bad storm headed here.  Hail.  Maybe 20 minutes."  With that, I bolted for home, which is tricky because it involves riding past Cabela's and not stopping.
I pulled off rt61for an OCD key and luggage check, and noticed my ABS light was lit when I re-mounted.  Having bounced the bike around for days off pavement, I assumed I had a dirty or loose ABS sensor - the sort of thing to check when I get home.

I got on rt 78 just in time for rush hour.  In heavy traffic, I got in the left lane to overtake a semi.  I noticed my turn signal didn't seem to fire.  About halfway past the trailer, I took inventory: no turn signals, no 4 ways... hmmm, maybe a relay or something.  To confirm it wasn't my worst fear, I cupped my hand over the display to confirm backlighting... and instead confirmed my worst fear: dim lights. My charging system had failed.  The whole bike was running off the now-quickly-dying battery.  I IMMEDIATELY tried to get around the truck and back into the right lane, because I knew the ignition was on borrowed time.... and I IMMEDIATELY lost ignition, and immediately pulled in the clutch.  It seemed a long shot to drop 6 gears and come back up 1 with a dead gear indicator, so I just held the clutch in.

"So there I was..." coasting, on a dead bike, with no signals, 70mph, in the left lane alongside a semi, with rush hour traffic crawling up my butt.  I briefly considered pulling onto the narrow shoulder between the white line and the median, but decided that was no place to be stuck.  In a few seconds, I'd slowed enough that the truck was now overtaking me - I planned to duck in behind him when he passed me... but the flipping jerks behind me, seeing me slowing, changed their strategy from 'tailgate the motorcycle' to 'change lanes and pass the motorcycle on the right.'
I know they didn't know I was dead at 65mph, but that pissed me off anyway.  I started waiving my right arm wildly, chopping my hand at the right lane and started coming over.  Someone let me in and I went straight across to the shoulder.
With nothing to do but try and coast as far as possible, I rode it all the way out - coasting slower and slower, dodging an unreasonable amount of tire skeletons and rusted metal car parts in the 'shoulder', until I finally came to rest a 20 feet from a break in the guard rail for a drainage cut.  I pushed the bike up to the break in the guard rail to gain a few precious inches of space and took stock.

Standing on the left side of the bike, traffic was blowing past at 75mph only a few feet away.  Working on the bike here was beyond impractical - it was deadly.  And in a few minutes it would likely be hailing on me.  I quickly abandoned any plans of roadside diagnosis or repair attempts.  I grabbed my phone and a waterproof box, and a hat, covered the bike, and walked down the cut.

The cut was STEEP, and led into unmolested woods: tree roots, thick undergrowth, invisible footing... I slowly and carefully planned a route down the slope, picturing the agony of adding a fall and a broken ankle to my plight.  A few minutes later, I emerged in a farm field, spotted the house, and started trudging towards it.  Two dogs started alert barking from near the house, one of them charged me - which scared me for a second before I remembered I was a dog expert - I made friends with him and kept plodding towards the house.  The front of the house was screened by some serisously over-grown trees.  The grass seemed a foot high and there was no evidence that anyone had been to the front door in quite some time.  The front windows were obscured from the inside by piles of random objects.  I started wondering if the house was abandoned, then wondering how to account for the dogs if that were true.

As I stood there perplexed, a voice cracked from behind me, "can I HELP you with something?"  I turned to find an older woman who clearly belonged to the property.  I explained that I had just broken down on the highway and had come down the ravine to walk to town.  She got a little animated - apparently 3 people had been killed just a few weeks prior in exactly the same situation: a breakdown with an inadequate shoulder, a passing truck... tragedy.

She offered help, I thanked her said I was going to follow the old road to the next town, which I thought was a mile or two away.  With that, she was gone and I was walking.   It had been maybe 20 minutes since I lost power, and right on schedule, the rain started coming down.  I'd only gotten 30 yards up the road.  It was clear it going to be a major storm: high winds, black sky, big raindrops.  The old road paralleled the farm, so I headed for the nearest outbuilding, which appeared to be the woodshed.  The skies opened up.

Snug in the woodshed, and with 15% battery, I decided it was time again to admit defeat and call in an airstrike.  My wife would be at work for another hour, and then would need to drive the ~ 30 miles to where I was.  With some time to think, I decided the bike would need professional extraction.  I called Hermey's and made arrangements.  I can't say enough good things about this dealership.  They dropped what they were doing to pick up my bike, haul it back to their shop, store it for a week free of charge... for $44.  And I'm not even riding a marque they sell.

Trying to be pro-active, I next called the state police, who wished me good luck.

Somewhere in there I got the frustrated, "OK, where ARE you?" text and soon I was in the car with my wife heading towards Hamburg to get back on rt78 to strip the bike and meet the tow.  The shoulder seemed a lot wider than I remembered... I loaded gear from the bike to the car and waited for the tow.

Before long, a pickup truck pulling an enclosed trailer stopped some 20 yards ahead of us.  I started pushing the bike towards the trailer, reaching a jogging pace.  By the time I reached the trailer, the driver had the gate down and I rolled right up into the trailer without stopping. He had it chocked and strapped in before I caught my breath, and was rolling in literally about 1 minute after stopping.

As he rolled away, it briefly occurred to me that a stranger with a trailer had just loaded and left with my bike, and I had no receipt, no paperwork, no license, no ID... not even the guy's name.  I hoped it was legit.

In 4 days, I'd ridden 1016 miles; 25 more and I'd have made it home.

Monday, June 02, 2014


Monday morning I woke up to about 40 degrees.  Thankfully I'd packed my cheap down jacket (and pillow) and made coffee in total comfort.  The gang of four at the next site made a giant pot of rice and did group calisthenics.

A brochure I'd picked up at the camp check promised cell phone, wi-fi, A/C, and a massive gift shop at Smoke Hole Caverns - a short trip north on rt 28.  I packed up camp and was at Smoke Hole 20 minutes before they opened.  The gift shop WAS massive, but the cell service was non-existent.  I signed up for the first tour.

A pair of very shrill co-eds led a large group of locals+me into the cavern.  Surprisingly, photography is allowed (altho a challenge in the dark).  Caves have always amazed me.  This one was a little more on the 'bastardized for tourism' end of the scale, vs. 'preserved fanatically by fascist spelunkers.'  I don't know if I'd do it again, but I'm glad I did it.

Caved out, I plotted a course back over Dolly Sodds, thru Laneville, the Canaan Valley.  The guy with the KLR told me there was a lot to do in Davis.  Somewhere along the way I once again hit a m/c 'zone' and tried desperately to somehow grab onto "right now" and hang on to it.  I felt a tangible sense of loss and hopelessness knowing that these moments - here doing this amazing thing in this amazing place in this perfect weather with no worries or hassle - here where I have achieved "flow"- this is temporary, fleeting.  It will end, and the mundane will return.

I want to remember the two hours surrounding these pictures:

The rest of the day was just riding, some even fairly grueling.   Davis was nothing to see, so I didn't stop.  Rt 55 across WV is just OK (by day 3 anyway).  Eventually I hit Romney again and stopped for lunch and to check in and re-plot.  Romney Cycle was STILL closed.
I decided that I'd been everywhere I wanted to go in this area, and was getting annoyed with the lack of service.  I headed east planning to then swing north and head toward home.

Somewhere along the way I got stuck behind a pair of cut-wearing HD riders, the trailing rider was clearly an unskilled noob who's eventual wide run over the double yellow compelled me to pull over and find a better way.  For kicks, I plotted to Front Royal and for a brief moment considered heading over to/ down the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I changed my mind at the thought of having to slog home tomorrow from so far south.

I crossed 55 into VA, then north, ultimately to 522 and the welcome center on the PA side, where I stopped for help finding a campground for the night.  Several great free maps in hand later, I was bound for Follow's Hollow State Park in the Tuscarora Woods.
Now Monday night, the place was deserted but for me and a large family of Mennonites at the far end of the grounds.  At dusk, two bike packers arrived and quickly hid themselves at the walk-in sites.
What a nice camp site -  a stream flows the park about 20 paces behind the site I picked.  I was lulled to sleep by the sound of that stream.


'Camping' in a hotel in town has it's benefits:

New phone didn't take a charge from the USB-12V adaptor I'd packed.  Still didn't have a map of WV. Forgot to bring my hat.  Needed some traveling cash.
Next door to the hotel was a Walmart... done.
Need gas.  Next to Walmart was an Aarons... done.
Hungry.  Continential breakfast at hotel... done.
Pack, load the bike, stock the cooler.  Fed, watered, fueled and ready to roll.  8AM.

A short trip down rt220 to rt 50 deposits you close to Storm Lake:

Then Rt 42 to 75, and a long, rocky dusty climb to Dolly Sodds packed with holiday weekend outdoorspersons.

On top of Dolly Sods I passed a loaded KLR off at the edge of the woods.  I stopped and chatted with the rider for a while.  He was a jackpot of local info.  Dolly Sodds has dispersed camping and so you can't get skunked for a camp site - in exchange you have to pack in your own water.... and no bathrooms... but you get to ride this:

Descending Dolly Sodds to rt 28, and I could tell by the terrain I was close to Seneca Rocks.  Then sudddenly I'd passed them.  The big general store at the junction of rt 28 and 33 was crowded with bikes and campers, and the distraction is enough to miss the rocks immediately adjacent.  I kept moving, but in a short distance saw a sign for Seneca Rocks camping.  It was early afternoon, but after the fiasco of the previous night, I was taking no chances.  $20 later, I was set up at a beautiful site.  It wasn't until I made lunch that I realized that the new cook set lacks a means to fry.  My tiny bottle of oil was worthless.

Refreshed, and with the bike unloaded, I hit the road for Spruce Knob.  Unloading the bike always makes more handling difference than I feel like it should.

112 winds up the knob, offering fantastic views which are actually so common here that they're starting to be less exciting.

Obligatory picture on top of WV.  It's no Mt. Washington.  The perfect weather and 2000' lower elevation make the summit a little underwhelming.  

I hiked the 900 feet to the observation tower, and then the 1/2 mile 'interactive trail' on top.  The trees show evidence of the prevailing winds, but it's no "Krummholz".

Google has a pic of any place there is... but if you put yourself in it, you might remember being there.  You need 8' long arms to get a selfie which captures some of the grandeur behind you.

Next was more dusty gravel a surprisingly long way to Spruce Knob lake, which, while pretty, didn't really offer much to do.  A few pics later, I plotted a big loop back towards Seneca Rocks: 40 to 29 to 33.  A big chunk of that route was dirt/ gravel and threaded a stream with dispersed camping, fantastic scenery, and few people.  When you picture a riding vacation on a dual sport, I think you mind's eye actually conjures some of this route.
By around supper time, 33 deposits me back at the junction in front of Seneca Rocks.  I stopped at the general store for a photo op and a strawberry ice cream cone. 

I was close to the campsite (I think I stopped and ate supper there).  I had enough daylight left to try and hit Franklin, where I assumed I might find some cell service.  Daily check-ins are expected and I didn't want to worry Mrs. Awesome.

Seneca Caverns isn't a big diversion and is a potential 'to do,' so I left rt 28.  Around a bend a turkey vulture took off from the other lane and paralleled me for a while at low altitude.  I was riding alongside a vulture at eye level - amazing.  In the farm fields lining the roads, young calves were running and frolicking, new lambs were eating grass thru the fence a few feet from me as I passed.  It was all very happy-making.
I arrived at Seneca Caverns to find a young docent locking the gate.  I got some particulars and was told I might find cell service on the mountain I need to cross to get to Franklin.

On top of the mountain to Franklin, I stopped in sight of the cell tower and still had nothing.  I rode into town and gassed up - no service here, either, but a strange sight - a pay phone.  We often joke about how you don't see pay phones anymore.  Unable to complete a collect call, and unwilling to doff gear and get pounds of change, I headed for camp the way I'd came.  This time, I stopped at the lookout over Germany Valley and read the civil war historical plaque there.  Atop the mountain, I could hear a loud, angry woman shouting obscenities from the valley below.  I'm sure there's a story there, but I don't know.

Back at camp,  the neighboring site had been pitched by a group of 4 or 5 older Asian men.  The were up late talking, laughing, and occasionally singing a few lines.  It was interesting to hear older, reserved, quiet revelry in a foreign tongue.
A bad night ensued - several times I awoke on the ground laying on a deflated air mat.  What I thought was a gear failure turned out to just be an idiosyncrasy of the valve cap.  At some point one of my re-fills held.
Then it got cold.  The Nemo sleeping bag was perfect.

Sunday, June 01, 2014


There was a rally at Romney Cycle in WV a few weeks ago which I'd looked forward to for months, only to get sick days before the trip.  Daunted, depressed, and three weeks late, I decided to ride my plan.  Pro: 4 day weekend.  Con: Labor Day.

I spooned on a brand new set of Shinko 705's which took most of Friday afternoon/ evening.  Had I instead been packed and ready to roll, I could have left directly from work Friday for 4 nights.... or gotten the bike packed so I could've left first thing Saturday AM.   I finally rolled out about noon.

Debutted the cheapo JC Whitney trunks as panniers.  Not trusting them completely, I ran a strap thru the frame to capture each of them so if the latches failed, I would not strew gear.  This worked perfectly.

Rt78E to 81S to 76W - a long highway slog which buffeted me to double vision by the time I stopped for a reset at the services near exit 189 - or maybe 201.  I re-plotted a route which ultimately led to 522/ Rt70S.  Somewhere along the way, I climbed a windy road up a mountain.  There were lots of bikes and a pull-out at the top... maybe a bar, too.  GPS says Rt30

39.915496, -77.957538

South to Rt68W, pretty countryside, nice ride... then back on the interstate for another beating to Cumberland, MD, from whence a 30 min jog down rt28 delivered me to Romney in the early evening.  The m/c dealer was closed.  I found a Sheetz in Romney and got some groceries and started looking for campsites.  The first one I called was booked.  The second and third didn't answer their phone.  I headed south to one suggested by the first call.  I pulled into one in the seeming endless string of private campgrounds along the south branch of the Potomac and got promptly shown the exit.  The campsite recommended was closed for the weekend, abandoned.  Starting to panic, I tried to make some more calls but Verizon has forsaken WV.
When it reached a point where I'd be searching for sites in the dark, I decided to head back to Cumberland (civilization) via a route which would take me past a lot of campsite pins on my map.  It was a nice route, and I was running fast to save daylight.

Without planning it, I arrived at and crossed the Oldtown Toll Bridge, which I'd run across in the run-up to the missed Romney camp-n-ride trip.

More 'tickets be damned' running up 51 delivered me to Cumberland about 30 minutes before dusk.  The hotels in the downtown were full, and I spent 30 minutes of precious daylight on the phone with a worthless booking agent.

When all else fails, call in the big guns...  I called and explained my situation to Mrs. Awesome and within minutes I had a room booked in Keyser, WV.

It's nothing to ride in the dark when you have a destination that doesn't require sleeping alone in the woods.  I arrived in Keyser in the dark and checked in.  The clerk said that all the rooms were booked - I think I got the last one.  There was a big 'do' in Cumberland, and a flood had caused the DNR to shut down several campsites on the busiest camping weekend of the year, which shunted a lot of campers (including this one) to hotels.

In my room, I wondered why TF I camp.  Here I have a clean, private bathroom, internet/ phone connection, ice, a mini fridge, clean water on tap, climate control... not to mention a bed and TV.  All this plushness makes a lot of sense for a first night after a big mile day - and it enables more miles.
I started planning my time in WV.

Microtel room 311 (suite), Keyser, WV