Insert Clever Broken Foot Title Here

Within a few days of telling my riding partner, John, that within the next six weeks I wanted to ride a mostly two-lane Ironbutt ride I had routed out in eastern California and south-western Nevada I broke my right foot.  The healing time for a fractured fifth metatarsal is typically six weeks.
For the last five weeks I’ve had my foot in an air boot and the breaks are healing nicely.  The first thing that anyone who knows me, looks at my boot, and says something is along the lines of…“Motorcycles are dangerous.”
“I know,” I say.  “I should definitely give up the dangerous activity I was involved in when I broke it, right?”
I broke my foot doing yard work.
Stupid, I know.
Our three dogs were being kept in our yard by two rotten, dilapidated, old wooden fences.  Had they tried very hard they could have broken them down at any time.  Fortunately, all three realize that whoever their new owners would become wouldn’t give them morning treats before their owner’s breakfast, and so, they stayed in the yard.  The fences, still, had to be replaced.
I wanted to replace both side fences with something that would last longer than a typical wooden fence and would be strong and high enough to keep put the coyotes that occasionally cruise our neighborhood.  I hired a local fence company to construct a six-foot chain-link fence with grey overlapping privacy slats.  I figured it would stay strong and secure for many years.
As Good Neighbor Fences was wrapping things up I realized that a few of the gaps were a little bigger than I had hoped and was worried that our Chihuahua mix would be able to force her way out if properly motivated.  I did my research and found I could build “puppy-poles” in the areas with larger gaps.  Relatively easy to construct, the puppy-poles would overlap the existing framing material in certain areas to close any gaps.  If figured I needed about a half dozen, or so.
I went to Home Depot to buy the materials I would need and was home as they were cleaning their mess up.  I went to work cutting the tubing and arranging the hardware.  A single bag of parts was still in my truck so I walked around the bed and grabbed it.  On my way back around the truck a perfect storm of otherwise benign events occurred in the course of a few seconds.  Our driveway slopes down to the curb.  My right foot planted on the driveway slope to turn to the left to get back to my chop saw.  At that time, my right shoe, way too loosely laced, began to roll over towards the street.  The momentum of my body weight on the rolling shoe took my foot with it.  It rolled with the shoe.  I began to lose my balance and watched the side, then sole, of my right shoe appear.  When I could actually see the entire sole of my shoe I felt and heard a “pop” and very quickly took several steps in an attempt to not fall to the ground.
The pain wasn’t really bad.  I put weight down on my right foot and found that with most of the weight on the heel I could still move around.  I continued to cut the tubing and then build the barriers I needed.  Every five minutes the level of pain would increase.  At the thirty-minute mark I needed to make another trip to Home Depot because I was short on some fasteners.
I hobbled through Home Depot by walking on my heel and bought what I needed.  The last few puppy-poles in place, I cleaned up my tools off the driveway and headed inside.  Alex noticed I was limping and asked if I was okay.  “I injured my foot,” was all I could say.
I sat down on the couch and removed my right shoe, figuring it would be best to ice it.  It was bad.  I knew it was broken.

I texted Lisa sending her the picture above and typed “I’m gonna need you to take me to urgent care tonight.”
“F….what did you do?”  Translated:  What kind of dumb thing did you do on your motorcycle to cause that?  (Just kidding.  She was actually very empathetic.)
When she got home we drove to the urgent care center in Huntington Beach where they confirmed three fractures in the fifth metatarsal.  They wrapped it in a temporary splint/cast and gave me crutches to use.

It’s been many, many years since I’ve had to use crutches.  The last time was when I broke the fifth metatarsal on my left foot about twenty-five years ago.  Let me tell you, crutches blow.  Body weight on the palms and upper torso gets uncomfortable really quick.  Fortunately, I only needed to use them for about ten days before I could get along for the entire day in the walking boot.

Five weeks has passed and the bone is healing nicely.  The Dr. cleared me to begin mixing in walking in a regular shoe an hour at a time.  In a couple weeks I should be okay to abandon the walking boot for good.

Making More Friends….

In 2009 Alex and I went to the Long Beach Motorcycle show.  We spent a few hours looking at all of the bikes on display from $2000 scooters to $40,000 Harley-Davidsons.

The bike that spoke to me that evening was far from the most expensive and nowhere near the best handling or most comfortable bike.  The Royal Enfield Classic was newly redesigned and available in America.  Its 500cc single cylinder engine was old looking but used modern fuel-injection to introduce gas into the combustion chamber and electronic ignition to energize the spark plug.  The engine was of a unit-design in which the engine and transmission share a common aluminum case rather than the previous design that kept the engine and transmission separate but linked together by a multi-row primary chain.

English production of Royal Enfield motorcycles dates back to 1893 with the formation of the Enfield Cycle Company.  Early models included bicycles, true motorcycles and powered four-wheel carriages.  Motorcycle evolution occurred regularly and through 1920s and 1930s and Royal Enfield was as contemporary to England as Harley-Davidson and Indian were to the United States.  In the 1950s Madras Motors in India bought tooling and manufacturing rights to produce Royal Enfield motorcycles domestically.

Some models were imported into the US in small numbers over the years.  The lack of an American importer and distribution and service network limited the number of bikes on the road here.  In 2007 a major revamping of the Enfield line resulted in new models that appeared to be of an old design but used the modern unit engine and updated components.

I had decided that I wanted to buy a Royal Enfield C5 (solo seat) model.  None of the Enfields are particularly expensive but in some cases build quality was suspect.  In my last six years I rotated through the V-Strom, the Voyager 1700 and the Gold Wing.  The thought of getting a Royal Enfield was always there but kept being pushed into the background.  I recently made the final payment on my Gold Wing and the time seemed right to get an Enfield.  In addition, Royal Enfield had made strides in improving quality control and a number of improvements have been implemented into the new models so that reliability is no longer a concern.  The bikes still require more attention than a modern Japanese motorcycle, but its use as a second motorcycle would allow for low accumulated mileage and plenty of time to maintain it.

I won’t go into a ton of detail about the sales experience other than to say that I first attempted to buy a C5 from Route 66 motorcycles in Marina Del Rey and the experience was very poor….very reminiscent of a used car buying experience from an independent lot in the 70s.  On the other hand, I ended up buying mine from Southern California Motorcycles in Brea, CA.  Their dealership is run like a very good car dealership is run.  I was happy with the buying experience and feel I got a very good price from them.

The model I bought is the C5 Chrome model in burgundy.  The base C5 models come in a number of colors including black, tan, maroon, and blue.  They are also available in “military models” that come finished in matte paint schemes of olive drab or sand tan.  I really like the military models but did not want the matte paint finish.  Had I had a choice of the entire color palette, I would have chosen the Lagoon Blue – a great color that brings to mind motorcycles produced in the 1930s and 1940s.

No one had blue.  The one I didn’t want, based on pictures I had seen, was the Chrome model.  In pictures it appeared to be almost all chrome…too much splash, too much “look at me” for my taste.  Blue was my first choice, black second, tan third.  Until I saw the Chrome in person.

At Route 66 a Chrome Black model was available for sale and in person it looked much better than in the pictures on the website.  The tank is mostly chrome and a number of other items are as well, but it looks much more balanced in person.  Route 66 had a tan and a Chrome black model available.  I tried to make a deal on the Chrome black model but it didn’t work out with them.  So Cal Motorcycles in Brea had two Chrome maroon models available.  They, too, are much better looking in person than in any picture I’ve seen.  I bought a Chrome maroon 2015 C5.


My Gold Wing is the best bike I’ve ever owned and I have no interest in getting rid of it.  On the other hand, it is a handful when running quick errands, isn’t the best bike to ride at slower speeds when Kayln and I ride together, and isn’t fun to just putt around on.  The Enfield is.

The 500cc single cylinder engine is fuel-injected and has a modern electronic ignition system and wiring harness.  The seating position is relaxed and comfortable.  It is light and handles surprisingly well for something that appears to have been built 50 or 60 years ago.  It has enough power to maneuver in and out of traffic and can be ridden on the freeway but is most comfortable below 65 mph.  It is capable of more but isn’t happy going much faster.

The new C5s are known for having a few weaknesses that I wanted to fix soon after purchase.  I replaced the wet battery with a modern Shorai Lithium-Iron battery – yes, Iron, not Ion.  The battery terminals are reputed to be paper thin and promise to break the first time the rider gets more than 30 or 40 miles from home.  The terminals were replaced with power terminals designed for high quality automotive stereo equipment.  In addition, the terminal ends were installed on the battery so that they were not stressed in their attached state to prevent engine vibrations from inducing cracking or breaking.  They were also taped in place  on the battery so that any movement of the battery cable would be in the flexible portion of the cable and not on the terminal.

A few smaller modifications were performed and engine break-in was started.  The engines are set up very tight from the factory.  Apparently, as I learned, while Indian culture easily accepts the normal top end engine noises produced by the valve train, piston slap is not tolerated.  Therefore, the piston to bore clearance is very tight.  Other machining processes are cruder than state of the art Japanese machining and many parts have to “wear in” to each other.  Operating the engine in a way that produced any higher than normal heat during the first 500 miles or so can result in abnormal wear, a scuffed piston or cylinder bore, or rings that never seat satisfactorily.  Fortunately I bought the bike in early January and have had cool weather to break-in my engine.

I rode the bike around the neighborhood for several days to allow for minimal heat build-up over the first 20 miles.  Then, I rode the bike to Long Beach for breakfast and then back to allow the engine to come operating temperature then have a cool down cycle before coming home.  I followed that up with a number of ten mile trips in the Westminster area until I reached 100 miles.  At 100 miles I performed my first oil and filter change.

I expected there to be quite a bit of “stuff” stuck to the magnets on the drain plugs after 100 miles but I found there to be just a little.  The oil was not excessively dirty and did not glitter when set in the sun – a good sign that there was not a lot of microscopic metallic particles suspended in the oil.  The filter did not look excessively dirty.  The break in was going well.

In the beginning I noticed that when I turned off the engine, the piston would stop very quickly in its bore.  As the break-in has proceeded the fit has seemed less and less tight.  In addition, the engine runs freer and seems happier to be running.

I posted something relatively bland on a Royal Enfield forum just to get a first post going and introduce myself.  Forum member “Scotty Brown” responded to my post with a personal message.  He was, he said, another C5 owner – a 2013 – that he’d ridden his bike 8500 miles without any real trouble and that he hasn’t run into another Royal Enfield rider yet.  He said he lived in South Orange County and wondered if I’d like to get together for a ride.  That sounded great to me.

I was on vacation for a week and would be in town for most of the time so Scotty and I arranged to meet on a Wednesday and go for a half day ride.  We were weathered out on Wednesday so we pushed the ride back a single day to Thursday.  We planned on meeting at the Silverado Canyon café and would get to know each other over breakfast.

I didn’t have enough miles on my C5 to feel comfortable riding to Silverado Canyon on the 22 freeway so I used surface streets past Disneyland and Angel Stadium and thumped along to the Irvine Lake area.  I was early but Scotty was already there.  He walked out to the road edge and directed me into the parking lot in the spot right next to his bike.

“I could hear you coming,” he said.  Two Harley Davidson Glide models of some type were parked nearby.

We shook hands and both took a few minutes to look at each other’s bikes.  He has already performed a number of modifications to better suit his bike to him.  The large stock silencer was replaced with a stock HD Sportster muffler.  The uncomfortable solo seat was replaced with a larger, tractor-style seat – much more comfortable he assured me.  He had recently replaced the stock Avon tires with Dunlop K70 tires – a more period correct set of tires with a universal tread pattern and taller sidewalls.

I had eaten breakfast with Alex and Kayln and wasn’t really hungry.  I did want a cup of coffee, though.  Scotty ordered coffee, too, and we sat down and talked.  He told me he was 78 years old and had been riding for a long time.  He took some years off from riding but then took it back up again and has been enjoying his Royal Enfield.  He bought his for the same reason I bought mine – the character, the look, the lazy riding experience.  He also mentioned he had raced motorcycles earlier in his life.

He asked how many miles I wanted to go on our ride and I told him I’d like to go about 100 miles or so.  He agreed we would minimize any freeway miles and suggested we take the back way to Corona, then down to Lake Elsinore on the canyon road and finally the Ortega Highway.  It sounded good to me.

When we had finished our coffee we walked back out to the bikes.  Scotty noticed that I changed the lenses on the pilot lights, two small white lights above the headlamp, a Royal Enfield feature from long ago, to red for the port side and green for the starboard.  He had done the same thing.  I said I had changed them to reflect a past in aviation and sailing.  He said he changed his because of his experience in the Merchant Marines.  Then he mentioned that he use to fly as well and listed off two Cessna and a Mooney that he had owned in the past.

We left the restaurant parking lot and rode the two lane road back to the Orange area.  We motored around on city streets that ran approximately parallel to the 55 freeway, then the 91 freeway.  We ran out of road at the Gypsum Canyon road intersection and entered the 91 freeway for a three minute cruise at 55 mph to the Green River exit.  My Enfield happily thumped along.

At Green River we cut through neighborhoods and travelled up boulevards, ending up on Temescal Canyon road.  Eventually we reached the base of the Ortega Highway and began the climb out of the Lake Elsinore area.  The pace was spirited but not dangerous and we rode faster than I expected a 78 year old man riding an old fashioned motorcycle to ride.  Scotty handled the curves with ease and seemed to choose clean lines.  Our torquey singles easily pulled us up the hill.  The light weight of the Enfield and good natural ground clearance allowed us to quickly lean over into turns and just as quickly right ourselves for the following straight.

We stopped at the Lookout Café for a break, to grab some lunch, and allow my bike to cool as it had run for about 60 minutes without stopping.  Only a handful of people were there – a few cars, a few motorcycles.  The two Enfield motorcycles attracted attention and before we had our helmets off two bikers walked over and began asking questions.

I’d only owned my bike for a couple weeks and already had experienced some of the attention the bike gets.  Scotty mentioned that I had better be ready to have conversations with people everywhere – gas stations, at red lights, in parking lots.  People want to know more about these old looking bikes.

I still wasn’t hungry but could use something to drink.  Scotty ordered lunch.  I got a cold drink.  We walked out onto the patio and found a seat in the shade.  It was a beautiful day – cool, about 70 degrees – a little breezy, a day similar to the one that I had when sailing the Excalibur back to Long Beach from South Coast Shipyards.  Most of the rest of the country was experiencing cold weather, rain or snow.  It was perfect in Southern California.

We exchanged stories about riding and flying.  We talked about previous bikes we’ve owned.  I told him I enjoyed shooting with my Dad and kids and he pulled out a business card he had used while offering shooting instruction and so we talked about guns.  We both agreed that .22s are a great diversion and found we own some of the same guns.  It was a good talk.  We spent about an hour on the patio and then decided to get back on the road.

The Enfields were still being looked at, this time by another pair of riders, and we geared up and cruised further up the hill.  The Lookout Café is near the summit and in only a few minutes we were heading downhill on the backside.  The ride continued to be fantastic.  On the way down, Scotty and I maintained a quick pace once again.  I noticed this time, however, that he did not brake going downhill and entered his turns from just inside the center line to the apex very cleanly, curve after curve.  We could have ridden faster, but this pace just felt very fluid, very natural.  It didn’t take very much time until we neared the end of the Ortega Highway and took Antonio Parkway to Crown Valley Parkway where we planned on ending our ride at Pacific Coast Highway.  Scotty would head home, I’d head north on PCH back to Westminster.


We took a few pictures and decided to get together again for another ride.  I reflected on the Enfield as a bike while riding home.  The bike itself is great.  The chassis handles respectably, the engine develops just enough power to be fun, the gearbox shifts up and down better than expected, the brakes are adequate, the seat is tortuous.  I will be addressing the seat in the future.  I really enjoyed the ride and the bike seemed perfect for this type of ride.  It cannot replace the Gold Wing.  It doesn’t have to.

When I got home I looked over the bike.  Other than a small amount of oil on the engine case below the countershaft sprocket, everything looked good.  The ride hadn’t strained the engine and it seemed the further into the ride I got, the better the engine ran.  It was breaking-in, loosening up nicely, and felt smoother and ran quieter.

I got an e-mail that night from Scotty.  He said he enjoyed the ride and looked forward to doing another one.  His e-mail included the pictures below.  Each was captioned.:

Scan 3_2


Scan 4_2


Scan 5_2


Scan 6_2


When he mentioned that he had done some racing at Ascot Park, it didn’t mean much to me.  I’d been to Ascot and seen car races there.  I knew that they held countless amateur events there and figured Scotty had entered some.  It was not unlike the racing I used to do.  I, and a group of friends, would sign up and race in Beginner and Novice class motocross racing at Glen Helen Raceway or at De Anza when it was still open.  For me racing meant trucking in the same bike I used to ride trails and race against other novices like myself.  It was fun and I expected, and usually accomplished, finishing mid-pack.  I’d load my bike into the back of my truck at the end of the day and go back to being a mechanic on Monday.

Scotty had actually raced in feature races on dirt and road racing circuits.  His ability to ride cleanly, quickly, and with minimal braking, into corners made much better sense now.  It wasn’t dumb luck I was witnessing.  I was riding with someone who was skilled.

We’ll likely ride again soon.  I’d like to take the Ortega Highway from San Juan Capistrano to Palm Springs and back.  The two lane serpentine road that links the two cities seems ideal for a bike like the Enfield and Scotty proved to be a great riding companion.

The Excalibur is on the move….


I was contacted several months ago by a man who was shopping for an Excalibur sailboat.  He explained that he had found one in a boatyard that needed a lot of work and wanted to know if I had any info on it or if I knew of any that were for sale.  I told him I didn’t but if I did, I’d let him know.

I also told him I’d contact Mark, the man that bought my Excalibur, see if he was ready to step up to a bigger boat yet, and if so, see if I could coordinate a sale between the two.  The last time I’d talked to Mark, he was actively refinishing the cabin.  The starboard berth had been rebuilt much like I had decided to do earlier and the interior was in the middle of wood refinishing and a coat of white paint.






I called Mark and asked him if it was okay to give his info to the man I’d spoken to.  He said he was good with that but not sure if he was ready to sell just yet.  They talked and eventually were able to put together a deal.  Last week the Excalibur was loaded onto a flat bed and trucked north on Interstate 5 to the Bay Area where it will continue to see improvements until it is put back into the water later this spring.  It is currently on stands getting a new coat of bottom paint.  The new owner, Howard, has named the Excalibur Forever Young – possibly the first time the boat has had a name.  Howard and I have traded a number of e-mails and he promises to keep in touch.  He is also a rider and owns a Moto-Guzzi with a sidecar.




As much as I was happy that the Excalibur went to Mark, a good man with an enthusiasm for sailing, Howard seems like an even better fit.  He is retired and looking to spend time on the San Francisco Bay in a good handling sailboat.  I’m glad to see that a little boat that was days away from the scrap heap in 2011 is now owned by another caring owner who will use her and enjoy days on the water.

Beginning to End – Highway 78, a Google Earth story


Note: I am a decent photographer. I am a decent rider. I am terrible at stopping to take pictures while on a ride. As I wrote this post, I realized it was going to end up long and that pictures would definitely add something. Because I didn’t take even a single picture, I decided to use screenshots exclusively from Google Earth. Cheating, I know. Try to enjoy anyway.

A few years ago I rode the Ortega Highway from Palm Springs to San Juan Capistrano. I didn’t know it at the time, but when planning later rides I realized that I rode Highway 74 over its entire length.

The concept of riding a road from beginning to end is, I think, pretty cool. I like to know that I covered every mile available on a finite stretch of road. I wonder how many people have travelled the 10 freeway from beginning to end, or the 40, or the Northern Highway 2. I have looked and begun planning a number of rides that will start and end at the highway terminus.

Highway 78 spans about 220 miles from the Pacific Ocean in Oceanside to its end at the 10 freeway just west of Blythe, at the border of California and Arizona. The stretch between Oceanside and Escondido is a boring 4 lane freeway typical of many in Southern California. From Escondido it shrinks to two lanes and stays so for most of the remainder of the trip. It winds through the mountains to Julian and then straightens as it passes through arid Ocotillo Wells. Near the Salton Sea it briefly joins Highway 86 and picks up another lane in each direction. East of the Salton Sea 78 continues with two lanes and winds through agricultural areas, the Glamis Dunes, more rocky desert, and finally more green agriculture afforded by the close proximity to the Colorado River.


I spent four years between the ages of 13 and 17 living in Oceanside, CA. It was a great place to be during that time of my life and I seem to head that direction when I go for rides without a lot of pre-planning. It’s because of this that the ride from my house in Westminster to Oceanside was very familiar. I did make one stop to adjust the shield on the Goldwing but it consisted mainly of cruise-controlled speed at a constant rate through San Clemente, Camp Pendleton and finally Oceanside.

Just before the Oceanside/Carlsbad border, I exited the 5 freeway. The changeover has two dedicated lanes for the 78 so I transitioned onto the 78 without a stop. This part of the ride was the one I least looked forward to as the four lane section of road between Oceanside and Escondido has the potential to back up for no reason even at odd hours. Fortunately, traffic was light. I only spent a short time riding before the four lanes ended in downtown Escondido.

Highway 78 works through Escondido but only after making several 90 degree turns at sparsely marked intersections. I checked my progress against my GPS to be sure but found I was where I intended to be. A truck with garden nursery markings skidded to a stop next to me at a traffic light. I intended to be the first off the line but was concerned that he might be in such a hurry that he would drive dangerously behind me just because I was there.

I lazily pulled away from the light while the nursery truck sped away. I was right. He was driving way too fast for a company truck and even though my lazy pace was probably faster, I didn’t want to chance being rear ended by him when he overshot a corner. I stayed safely behind him.

A few miles later, we came to a red signal light with two lanes proceeding straight ahead. In the left lane was a Corvette. I chose the right lane for the same reason as before. The Corvette, though, had no intentions of going fast. When I pulled away from the intersection he held up the nursery truck and 100 yards up Highway 78 two lanes merged into one.

I had a blocker behind me and no traffic in front of me so I picked up the pace and enjoyed the curves by myself all the way to Ramona. I encountered no other traffic going in my direction and only a few coming down the hill. I never saw the Corvette or nursery truck again. I assume they both turned off somewhere.

My experience with the town of Ramona was limited to football games. The way the schedule worked, I only played one game in Ramona. The other two were played at home. El Camino played freshman games at El Camino but at the time all of the varsity games were played at Oceanside High School. The single game at Ramona is memorable because just as halftime ended I was stung by a bee in the throat. I’m not allergic to bees so it wasn’t life threatening but we started on defense and I was playing defensive tackle. On the third play from scrimmage I was involved in the tackle, felt light-headed, and then the lights just went out.

I remember falling but don’t remember hitting the ground. A coach told me later that the bee was still attached to me, stinger still in my throat just below the Adam’s apple, its lower body pulsing. My shoulder pads had trapped it so it couldn’t escape.

I woke up quickly and was carried off the field. I found out later that one of the first things they did when checking me out was loosen my pants so when I was helped off the field my pants were around my knees.

Ramona, at least at the time, did not have a strong football program. Every game El Camino played against them in the early 80s ended up in a blowout. Many games were shutouts. I always felt sorry for them. They belonged in a league with other small schools and had to endure losing seasons year after year.

This time, though, Ramona was just a small town I passed through. A few cars going each direction were on 78. One was a County Sheriff patrol car that looked me over but must have deemed me safe, because he didn’t even follow me out of town.

The ride to Julian was similar to the Ortega Highway – fun to ride at a quick pace with an occasional peg scrape, but much slower than an actual sport bike would ride it.


The further up the hill I got, the less farming and agriculture I saw. Julian is known for its apple pies and, I supposed, locally grown apples. I saw stands and pie stores but no orchards. Highway 78 very quickly transits through Julian and in just a few minutes I was back in the forest on curvy roads.


I knew that the backside of the Palomar Mountains would very rapidly turn to desert but it actually happened even faster than I thought it would. I hadn’t descended the mountain for more than a few minutes when the color changed from green to brown and grey. I no longer rode into and out of shade created by the overhanging trees. The landscape consisted only of rock and sand formations.

Small sections of Highway 78 after the Banner Grade appeared to be carved out of rock formations. The walls are obviously cut away to allow for the road to be graded, but instead of being cut in a relatively straight line, the cutaway section curved left and right for a few miles. On the map they appear to follow a natural creek path.


Shortly after Sentenac Canyon the road becomes even less travelled, mostly straight, and the surroundings are very desolate. At one point, for several miles, I had to make almost no steering corrections. Gentle nudges on the tank sides with my knees were all that was required to keep the Goldwing on the road.


Signs designating camping and legal off-road riding areas popped up occasionally. In one of the straighter sections I passed a parked Border Patrol vehicle that was partially hidden behind a dilapidated structure. I was doing 75-80 mph at the time. He didn’t appear interested in me at all but I slowed down just in case he was to let someone know I’d be coming towards them. I made an effort to keep count of the number of vehicles I’d seen per mile and estimated that the Border Patrol vehicle saw less than 20 cars in the hour surrounding the time that I passed by him. I’d have another brief, casual encounter with the Border Patrol later.

I ran into Highway 86 at the Salton Sea and turned right onto the four lane road that was made up of the concurrently run Highways 78 and 86. Westmorland was the next town I’d run through and I decided to take a break.

When I put this ride plan together nearly a year ago, I planned to stop for fuel at the Shell Station as I entered Westmorland. My main tank was down to ¼ full, and while my auxiliary fuel tank meant I didn’t need fuel yet, I did have to pee.


The Shell Station is the first store and fuel stop that drivers encounter when they drive into Westmorland and, therefore, is very busy. The gas islands were constantly dispensing fuel and people were shuffling into and out of the store. It took a few minutes for the bathroom to empty. I exited the bathroom with plans of getting right back on the road but I was getting hungry and I feel guilty any time I use a business’ restroom without conducting some kind of business there.

The refrigerator had fresh looking apples so I grabbed one with the thought that a $1 apple was worth a one-minute pee. When I turned around to pay for the apple I saw the hot box. Most convenient stores have a hot box with hours old hot dogs or sausages rotating on the roller grille. This Shell Station had handmade burritos wrapped in foil.

A proper burrito can’t be eaten right after assembly – to do so ruins the concept of a meal wrapped in a flat, flour-based, mostly-sealed, container. The ingredients have to have a chance to flow together, mix and congeal before eating. This takes time. An hour or more in a hot box is ideal. Anything less is Taco Bell.

I proudly grabbed the one up front with “Pollo” written on the foil with a black Sharpie. I knew that freshness protocol demanded that the newest burritos would be placed to the rear. I wanted the oldest.

I had left my gloves back on the Goldwing and nearly burned the palms of my hands trying to hold the burrito, but at the same time, keep the apple cool. I paid and walked out to the bike. A gold Buick that I had passed when I turned onto the 86/78 section was parking next to my bike. A man, probably in his late 70s, exited the driver’s side while another man, probably his twin brother, got out of the right front door, walked to the trunk, pulled out a walker and walked it to the passenger in the back seat – a woman, probably 120 years old. The brother got a wheelchair and wheeled it to the walker. The woman used the walker to support herself so that she could shift her weight over and plunge into the wheelchair. The efficiency in movement was impressive. They had obviously done this before. None of the three spoke. Just before all three entered the store, the men signed something to each other. The other agreed with a head nod.

I had just finished the apple when the three came out of the store. The other brother was pushing this time but all three were still silent. I began to eat the burrito – it was still about the temperature of the sun – and caught the eye of the driver just before he closed his door. He smiled, pointed to the Goldwing and gave me a thumbs-up. I spoke to several hearing people throughout the day. My quick conversation with him was the best one.

The burrito was awesome.

I thought later about what a poor choice I’d made. At the furthest point I’d be about 350 miles from home. I could have gotten home really late and have to use the excuse that I was forced to make regular breaks on the side of the 40 freeway with the Goldwing shielding my bare ass as I abandoned portions of the burrito. Fortunately, at least at the Shell Station in Westmorland, CA, food preparation hygiene is important in the Imperial Valley.

I mounted the bike and continued through Westmorland. The 78 broke away from the 86 to the left and shrunk back to two lanes. For several miles I drive through large, corporate farm fields. I regularly encountered large semi-trucks and trailers. The trailers loaded tall with hay produced a large powerful wake that pushed the Goldwing to the right shoulder every time I crossed paths with one. Some trucks appeared as large but produced almost no side wake. Weird thing, aerodynamics. Car traffic was almost non-existent. I was the only person heading east as far as I could see in front and behind me.

I had opened the auxiliary fuel tank valve to gravity-feed gasoline into the main tank but after several miles, the fuel gauge did not indicate that the fuel level in the main tank had risen at all. The level didn’t drop, either, though, so I kept heading east. I believed in my Quicktank.

The farms ended fairly abruptly with a last water canal that formed a geographic, as well as topographic, border. Once beyond, there was nothing but brown desert again. Signage increased for the Imperial Valley Dunes Recreational Area. A long stretch of razor straight road led into the actual dune areas. Some of the dunes within sight of the road were several stories tall but tiny in comparison to some I’ve seen to the south. The width of the Glamis dune area off Highway 78 is only about five miles. It took only a few minutes to cross.


The road curved and dipped east of Glamis. I approached the intersection at S34 and had a moment every rider dreads. I was coming up a slight hill at 55 mph and saw, via my GPS display, that an intersection was ahead so I released the throttle to coast. When I had almost reached the intersection I saw the top of a white truck in the left turn lane. I could see the truck but wasn’t sure if the truck saw me because I could only see the top half, not the entire cab. I worried that the driver would make his turn into my path. I started looking for escape routes. Neither the left or right was perfect but if I had to, I was going left. The driver was looking to his left, not at me. I applied brakes as hard as I could without skidding. At the last second, the driver made eye contact with me. I could see the nose of his truck dip as he braked to a stop and waited for me to go through the intersection.


I tipped my helmet and waved to him as we crossed paths. I noticed another car approaching from the right on S34 and was glad I decided to go left if I had to. He would have complicated things.

A few miles later I came upon an isolated Border Patrol Station. It is designed to only stop traffic travelling towards Blythe. I slowed and worked my way under the shade cover. Two agents and a German Shepherd dog waited for me. I stopped and waved.


I had earplugs in and hoped I would be able to hear them well enough that I would not have to remove my helmet and take the plugs out.

“Good afternoon, Sir. How are you today?”

“Good,” I yelled. Hopefully it was just loud enough that they could hear me but not so loud that I would deserve secondary inspection and get to meet Fido.

“Sir, are you citizen of the United States?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Sir, would you take off your glasses?” I was wearing a pair of dark Oakley sunglasses. I pulled them away from my face and looked at him. My pale skin and hazel eyes confirmed my non-accented English.

“Thank you, sir. Have a nice day.”

“Thank you,” I said.

I released the clutch lever, waved, and continued on. They looked disinterested. I was just some oddball out in the middle of nowhere wearing hi-viz orange on an expensive touring motorcycle.

More desert. More undulations. A few turns. The scenery began to turn green again and I could see on my GPS that I was near the Colorado River. The road went through the middle of Palo Verde and Ripley – both small towns. They must be ungodly hot in the summer. They were comfortable in mid-October. Blythe wasn’t very far away. Highway 78 would end with the overpass at the 10 freeway.

Four ninety-degree turns following agricultural canals in the farms west of Blythe marked the only real turns for miles. Each was marked at 15mph and all had signs of drivers who went in a little too hot, got on the brakes too late and ended up in a canal or field. I didn’t speed through them.

Highway 78 begins without fanfare in a neighborhood in Oceanside. It ends equally as bland at the 10 freeway a few miles west of Blythe. A simple, small sign reads “78 End.”


So, I found myself in Blythe in the mid-afternoon of a mid-month Monday. Trucks were travelling on the 10 freeway in both directions. The decision I had to make was to either head west on the 10 and run into rush hour traffic once I reached the Riverside/San Bernardino area or go east for a few miles and exit at Intake Boulevard and use the 95 north to pick up the 40 west at Needles. The 10 freeway was the shorter route but I figured I would crawl through the Inland Empire. I estimated I’d make it home about 8pm, maybe a little earlier if traffic was lighter than usual. The long way, to the north, would give me a chance to ride another 100 miles of two lane, then almost 300 miles of Interstate and would put me home before 10pm. The choice was easy.

I exited Intake Boulevard, fueled up, and took a pit stop at the Mobil station near the freeway exit. My Quicktank still had 2 to 3 gallons remaining. I refilled both tanks, drank a bottle of water, emptied my bladder and got back on the road.

Highway 95 is another road I’d like to ride from beginning to end at some point in the future. Its entire length – from the US border town of San Luis, AZ to the British Columbia, Canada, city of Golden – is over 1700 miles and consists of primarily two lane roads. Today I’d only be covering about 6% of the total length.

Highway 95 provided a very quick escape out of Blythe. Within a few minutes I went from small town to farm fields to desert landscape. Several times the 95 comes close to the Colorado River and when it does, all plant life is greener. Several signs advertised vacation spots on the river. In many cases it appeared that construction had begun and then was abandoned or completed, used for a while, and then left to rot.

The road condition was good and I was able to make good time, near Interstate speed. I passed a number of cars and trucks when the lane stripes indicated it okay to do so. I was passed by a few. I recognized the intersection at Highway 62. I had crossed the 95 while going east on 62 a few years ago on a trip to the Phoenix area. A ride report can be seen here:

The 95/62 intersection has little commerce – remnants of a long closed gas station, a sign for a café that is completely gone, an Agricultural Inspection Station for the State of California, a still open gas station, and a more recently closed restaurant with a For Sale sign in the window. 100 yards further, the desert takes over again.

Long, straight sections of the 95 vary from small hills to huge open washes that the road surface bisects. To mark the ending of one long straight, stretch of highway, the blacktop curves to the right and then back to the left to go through and around a section of rock formations. They seem to mark the end of the previous wash and the beginning of a different type of topography. For several miles the road ripples along, allowing the trip to feel like an early wooden rollercoaster. Small foothills pop up everywhere. They are a sharp contrast to the low flat area only a few miles away.


Highway 95 was the highlight of the trip. I didn’t see a single Highway Patrol vehicle on the road the entire 100 miles. I was able to maintain a speed, while above the suggested limit, that did not exceed good sense. The amount of curves, waves, straight sections and changing sceneries kept the ride interesting. Very little traffic meant very little turbulence to ride through making the ride smooth, quiet and relaxing.


I was reminded that I was in the middle of nowhere by having to dodge two coyote carcasses that both had been hit shortly before I got there. Both were in the middle of my lane and both forced me to divert to the right or left to avoid them. Both times I was glad they didn’t have the opportunity to dart in front of me while still alive.

I saw glimpses of the Colorado River again as I approached the town of Needles. I also saw the 40 freeway to the east even though I had several miles to go before I would transition onto its surface.

Needles Airport is smaller than I anticipated. The prevailing winds justify two runways set 90 degrees apart. The runway surface is paved. The terminal building, ramp and hangers are small but appear modern.

Needles is one of the lucky towns. When Interstate 40 was built and cut off many smaller towns from receiving east-west desert traffic, Needles kept traffic from both the 40 and Route 66. For a short time before entering the town proper, Highway 95 is part of Historic Route 66. My kicks on Route 66 ended after ½ mile when I exited Highway 95 and started west on Interstate 40.

Halfway between Blythe and Needles I opened the valve on my auxiliary tank when ¾ of capacity was left in the main tank. I had put some thought into my experience earlier when I waited until the fuel level in my main tank was very low before switching over. I thought if I opened the valve earlier in the process, while the fuel pickup was still covered by several inches of fuel, I would be able to allow the fuel pump to pull fuel from the Quicktank until it was dry. If gravity was stronger than the pressure in the tank and began raising the fuel level too high, I could always turn off the valve and wait for the fuel level to get lower before opening the valve again.

The fuel level in the main tank remained exactly at ¾ full all the way to Needles and remained there until just before reaching Barstow.

I really like travelling on Interstate 40. Although it runs just to the south of Interstate 15, it is a completely different experience. The drivers racing to and from Las Vegas on the 15 are non-existent on the 40. I haven’t ever travelled on the 40 during a holiday weekend rush when people are coming from and going to Laughlin and the Colorado River and I would guess that those days can be difficult. In my experience, the 40 presents more truck traffic that is moving at the same speed. For the most part, truck drivers are professionals who know that maintaining their Commercial Driver’s License is necessary to maintain a livelihood.


I was able to set the cruise control at 75 mph in Needles and didn’t turn it off until I reached Barstow. The desert between the Arizona border and the Interstate 40 terminus at the 15 is beautiful. The elevation varies along with the terrain. The tones of desert brown vary from light tan to an almost-black chocolate brown. Some areas are heavy with vegetation while other are filled with consistent, smooth, wind-blown sand.

I rode into the sun and fought glare for the hour before the sun set, but as I neared Barstow and the sun was setting, everything cleared. Traffic was light and I maintained a good speed. The fuel gauge, which had been frozen since the halfway point between Blythe and Needles, began to settle downward. When I stopped in Barstow for some dinner I had just over ½ tank full.

My ear plugs had dulled the sounds around me for the past three hours so when I arrived at Chipotle and removed them, it felt like waking from a dream. Behind me two young women were exiting a filthy compact SUV with North Dakota plates and talking to each other about a third woman who was not there. A truck driver exiting the 15 freeway used his engine brake to slow down before turning. Another couple, this time a man and woman, appeared to be arguing. I heard only the last few words before the driver’s door of their BMW closed and the loud conversation became muffled.

My legs were stiff. My back ached. I bent over and stretched my legs, back and neck before entering the restaurant. While I hadn’t noticed much bug activity to my face shield, the entire nose of my bike was covered in dead bugs. The Goldwing was clean when I had left a little after 9 o’clock in the morning.

I was really hungry and didn’t consciously choose Mexican food a second time. A Chipotle bowl just sounded good and I figured it was a slightly healthier choice than a burger. I was stared at by a number of patrons in the restaurant. A 6’3” man wearing armored gear stands out. I had two distinct ribs running the length of my head from my helmet. No amount of rubbing removed them from the top of my head.

I ate dinner quickly and got back on the road. I reused my ear plugs but one refused to seal. I dealt with quiet in the right ear and extreme wind noise in the left for a few miles before deciding to stop and refit my ear plugs. I pulled off the 15 freeway at Hodge Road. There were no street lights and the moon hadn’t risen yet. The only ambient light I had was the reflected light produced from my headlamp off of a street sign. Ahead, less than 100 feet away, a pair of eyes glowed. I turned on my high beams and saw a young fox. It was feeding on something and when my lights illuminated him more brightly, he ran into the darkness. I removed both plugs and allowed them to expand before rolling them and placing them back into my ears. I waited for them to completely seal before putting my helmet back on.

The young fox returned to its meal. It must have decided that I wasn’t enough of a threat to turn off its drive to feed. I turned back to the onramp and sped back into traffic but travelled at a conservative pace. I calculated about 120 miles to home and with my Quicktank empty and main tank at about ½ full, I decided to see if I could make it home on my remaining fuel.

Every few miles I would mentally calculate my remaining range and fuel and it wasn’t until I was down the Cajon Pass that I really thought I could make it home. I’d driven and ridden the route from the high desert to home dozens of times. Traffic was light and I didn’t have to take the Goldwing off of cruise control at all down the pass, and onto the 210 and 57 freeways. The slower speed improved my mileage just enough that I began to think I could make it. I decided that as long as the fuel light did not come on before I reached the 91 freeway, I would be good.

The light remained off, and the cruise control on, until I exited the 22 freeway at Beach Boulevard. Almost simultaneous with the brake application that turned off the cruise control for the first time since entering the freeway at Hodge Road, the low fuel light blinked once and then stayed on. I rolled into my driveway just after 9pm. The ride total was 665 miles in about 12 hours’ time – not a Bun Burner Gold pace, but not bad for a relaxed-pace tune-up ride. The ride from Blythe to home, after the second fill-up, was almost 400 miles. The Quicktank nearly doubled my fuel range and worked flawlessly.

It was a good ride. I finished with minimal soreness and was fresh for work the following morning. The Goldwing ran without a hiccup and averaged 40 miles per gallon over the length of the trip even though for most of the ride I didn’t attempt to get good mileage. The newly installed Windbender shield proved to be a great addition and the Quicktank has turned out to be everything I’d hoped. All in all, a great Monday.

Your spirit is the true shield

Before I enjoyed long rides I actually owned two bikes very suitable for all day riding.  In the early 90s I rode a BMW K100LT and then in 2009 I rode a 2006 Kawasaki C10 Concours.  I rode both of them on long rides before I knew how to do it really well.  I just needed to be someplace a long distance away and rode instead of drove. Both had oversized, non-stock shields on them, and neither of them exhibited any signs of head-shaking buffeting – an uncomfortable airflow over the bike.

It wasn’t until I flew up to San Francisco and bought and rode back a 2006 Suzuki DL1000 VStrom that I even realized firsthand what buffeting was. The DL1000 is a fantastic bike.  It has good power, stable handling and is a good blank canvas for almost any type of riding one would like to do but it takes a lot of modifying to turn it into a long distance capable bike.

What it needed more than anything else was an effective shield to manage the airflow over the rider.  The stock shield was too short to be useful but just long enough to cause air to come cascading over the top edge before curling up in a fit of turbulence.  Unfortunately, this occurs at head level for most riders.  I spent the afternoon riding from the Bay Area back to Orange County in agony.  About 60 minutes into the ride my head began throbbing from the constant beating it was taking from the confused, turbulent air slamming into my head.  In addition, the seat, when I bought it, was the stock seat.  Suzuki did not bless the VStrom line with good seats.  By the time I got to Los Angeles, my butt and head were fighting about which one would give in first.

After trying several different “sure-fire” aftermarket shields and fixes for buffeting on the VStrom, I finally found the Cal-Sci shield in extra-tall.  It was the answer I needed and I used the Cal-Sci almost exclusively until the day I sold it.  The buffeting was gone and the ride became calm and relatively quiet.

The VStrom, while a good bike, is not the best choice for a long distance bike.  Mine, as good as I could make it, was still light enough that it was blown across lanes in strong crosswinds.  Fuel range was only adequate.  The tank was relatively large, at 5.8 gallons, but I rarely got more than 180 miles before the low fuel light illuminated.  Lean fuel mapping caused the bike to run poorly unless a tuner was used to properly enrich the lean spots, but while that improved the way the bike ran, it also limited range.


Loaded with equipment and with a Russell seat my Strom saw me through my first documented Ironbutt ride.


Lightened up, it was a respectable sport bike for a slow, middle-aged rider like me.

Back to shields…..The VStrom taught me that with my height and long torso, I required a tall shield in order to get smooth airflow.  For the year that I owned my Kawasaki 1700 Voyager, I ran an extra tall 7JURock shield and was pleased with the comfort it afforded me.  Air management on the Voyager was very good.  I’ll save the rest for another entry.

I had hopes that my Goldwing would be perfect for me right out of the crate but I also knew that wasn’t likely to be the case.  On delivery, I was handed the keys to the bike with the shield in the lowest position.  I wore a Shoei RF1000 helmet that I’d had for several years and was the benchmark in my mind, for how quiet helmets should be.  The airflow off the shield was smooth but the ride was loud – louder than any of the bikes I mentioned above.  I hadn’t started wearing earplugs yet, either, so my first impression of the Goldwing was that it was a nice bike with poorly positioned handlebars and a really loud ride.

After I got home I raised the shield and went for another ride.  In the highest position the ride was much quieter but I felt buffeting about equal to the VStrom before the Cal-Sci shield was installed.  I was disappointed in my new Goldwing and I hadn’t even made the first payment.

Research indicated that I had even more choices in shields for the Goldwing than I had to choose from for the VStrom.  Some people swore by the Tulsa X-Tall shield, others the F4, still others the Windbender, and some swore by the V-Stream.  I determined that a shield would be my first purchase for the Goldwing, followed by having a Russell seat built for me.

I over-researched the shields mentioned above and found myself completely confused.  Following the formula for success that I’d had after several failures with the VStrom, I bought the biggest, tallest shield available for me – the F4+4.  It is a monster of a shield – four inches taller and two inches wider than stock.  It offers a hardened surface that is very difficult to scratch and can be cleaned with almost anything short of sandpaper.  The optics are very clear and it offers excellent airflow over the rider and very complete wind protection.  The model I ordered had the stock style vent in place to allow some air to the rider and to partially fill the area of negative pressure behind the shield that causes buffeting in the first place.  It is a very expensive, very high quality shield that is not adjustable up and down.


The F4+4 – not my bike, but this shows how big the F4 Customs shield is.

I ran the F4+4 for almost two years and was very satisfied with it unless the weather was hot.  Above 80 degrees ambient resulted in a hot, stuffy ride behind the big shield.  I thought it was the price I’d have to pay to have a smooth, quiet ride.

Shortly after I bought my new shield, I decided to address the fact that the stock bars on the Goldwing were too low, short, and too far back to be comfortable for me.  I would experience middle back and shoulder pain after only 45 minutes on the bike.  The answer seemed to be a set of bar risers or Heli-bars.  Heli-bars are a work of art.  They are adjustable over three different planes and should be able to offer anyone comfortable control placement.  I installed mine over the course of a Saturday morning and found the perfect, most comfortable position possible.  My bars were now taller, straighter and further away from me.

Unfortunately, at near full lock, the bars contacted the side edges of the shield.  On the right side, enough contact was made that it put significant pressure on the brake lever.  A sharp left turn at parking lot speeds would result in unintended brake activation and probably put the bike on the ground.  An adjustment to the bars was made to prevent bar contact but that put the bars in a position too low, too far back and too swept back to be as comfortable as I wanted.

I rode the bike that way for almost two years and eventually forgot about the bar setting I wanted.  The F4+4 continued to offer good, relatively quiet wind protection.  Clean up was very easy.  Rain protection was pretty good.  In hot weather, though, it was way too warm to sit behind.

At the beginning of summer 2015 I considered putting the stock shield back on, set it in the lowest position, and keep it there until the weather cooled down.  Instead, I spent a Sunday morning cutting a second vent opening above the existing hole and placed a spare vent assembly from another shield that was almost an identical match for the F4 vent which was almost an identical match for the stock Goldwing vent.  I felt that it would increase the amount of air making it to me which might allow for a cooler ride.

Unfortunately, I also noticed when I was in very quiet environments that I had a constant ringing in my ears.  30 years of riding without adequate ear protection had resulted in tinnitus and some minor hearing loss.  I had always thought that being behind a shield or wearing a full face helmet was enough noise protection.  I’d found out that it wasn’t.  I had concerns about ear plugs blocking the sounds around me and thought that I’d be missing out on important things like traffic or sirens and so never wore them.

On my double-vent F4+4 shield shakedown ride, I put in foam ear plugs.  I found out that I could still hear everything I needed to, including music from my in-helmet speakers.  The wind noise, however, was completely blocked.  Completely.  I didn’t realize how much less fatiguing it would be without the wind noise – even the abbreviated amount I was subjected to behind bikes with full fairings and shields.

The amount of cooling breeze that I received behind the shield was increased significantly.  Although the vent doubled the area that allowed air to my torso and face, the result felt as if it was more than twice as much.  I considered cutting down the sides of the F4+4 shield in order to make room for the Heli-bars to be used in the most comfortable position but avoid hitting the shield sides.

I also wanted to add an auxiliary fuel tank to the Goldwing. Realistically I could ride 220 miles on the stock Goldwing fuel tank which isn’t terrible, but not the range I wanted for some of the rides I’d planned.  I had added a 5 gallon tank to my Voyager 1700 and nearly doubled the fuel range.  I looked at ways that I could build a new mount to use my Voyager set-up on the Goldwing.  The only issue with doing it was that it would interfere with the opening of the top box because the Goldwing box is hinged to open forward.  The top box would only open an inch or two before making contact with the fuel tank.  The Voyager top box opened to the side so the tank could sit less than an inch away but not affect the way that it opened.

Dayle Martin at Firecreek Accessories manufactures “Quicktank” auxiliary fuel tanks for the Goldwing.  It is a low profile 4.7 gallon fuel tank constructed of stainless steel that mounts above the pillion seat yet allows for the top box to open normally.  He is also the manufacturer of the Windbender windshield.  I spoke with him about placing an order for one of his tanks and was struck by his knowledge, his enthusiasm and professionalism.  He made me give a second look to the Windbender shield.

The reason I didn’t buy a Windbender in the first place was its looks.  I was used to a one-piece shield that complements and flows with the natural lines of the fairing.  The Windbender is made from two overlapping pieces with a gap between them.  The gap, along with a flip along the top edge of the upper shield  combine to form a stream of high speed air that flows over the rider and a second slower speed stream that flows air to the face and torso of the rider.  I had heard mixed reviews of shields with a flip on the trailing edge.  I’d read many accounts of the flip actually creating more problems than it fixed by actually encouraging turbulence to the rider if the mix of shield and rider height was not ideal.


The Windbender on my bike in the high position – perfect for high speed open highway riding.  I still look several inches over the top of the shield.


In the low position – great for staying cool at speeds under 50 mph.

The ride with the Windbender is very comfortable – the flow of air that would cause turbulence and buffeting is deflected well above the helmet of the rider.  Without ear plugs, wind noise with the Windbender is higher than that of the F4+4.  With ear plugs wind noise volume is identical and the amount of air cooling the rider is better with the Windbender although only slightly better than with my F4+4 with two vents.  It’s been said that sitting behind the Windbender is like sitting on a park bench in a moderate breeze. That’s an accurate description. I’d also add that the amount and type of breeze behind the Windbender, once the optimum position for the rider is found, is similar to riding a naked bike at 30 mph.

I am tall enough that I am able to look over the top of both shields – just over the top of the F4+4 and several inches over the Windbender in the optimum setting. I can also say, that when using the Windbender on a long ride, even in my optimum position, several inches below my view line, bugs splatter onto the shield en masse. None, though, make it to my helmet shield. The airflow carries them well above and behind the helmet of the rider.

The Windbender, because it is narrower on the sides, allows me to adjust my Heli-bars exactly where I want without contact between the controls and anything else.  It took me a while to adjust the base and top shields before I found a setting that I really like.  The result was a smooth ride up to triple digit speeds.  The Windbender, because it is slightly smaller, also offers less wind resistance in all directions and has given me back a mile or two per gallon in fuel mileage and my bike is less likely to be blown around by frontal and cross winds at highway speeds.  It is the best shield for my Goldwing with me as the rider.

The look, too, has grown on me.  When I visualize my bike now it is always with the Windbender. It just looks normal to me now.

Have Fuel Will Travel

I can ride about 200 miles on my Goldwing before I start to feel discomfort.  In most cases this is about three hours.  Sometimes all I need to do is shift my toes backwards onto the passenger boards to take the weight off my tailbone and stretch my upper legs.  Other times I shift forward and place my boots on my AeroPeg highway pegs.  This seating position mimics the feet forward position that cruiser based touring bikes use.  This allows my knees to straighten up a little but is only good for me for about 10 minutes before the weight on the tailbone is too much.  Regular position shifts are the key, however, and so even when I begin to feel discomfort, I can continue to ride until something else forces me to stop.

Usually that something would be fuel.  I constructed a mounting system to add five additional gallons to the fuel capacity of my 1700 Voyager. I noticed long distance riders usually carried additional fuel on their bikes.  Before fuel injection became the standard, carbureted engines made adding additional fuel a relatively easy project.  An auxiliary fuel tank could be added above the level of the main fuel tank and a simple ¼ turn valve could be utilized to allow gravity to flow fuel to either the tank or to the carburetor feed line directly.  Carbureted bikes became super-tankers.  Some purpose built long distance machines had nearly 20 gallons of onboard fuel.

Fuel Injection made things a little more difficult because fuel needed to be moved to injectors under pressure and tanks began to be sealed tight with evaporative emissions equipment and non-vented caps.  Purge valves and charcoal canisters became the norm in an attempt to keep raw gasoline vapors from the atmosphere.  Auxiliary fuel systems had to evolve, too, and became more complicated.

Some used fuel pumps to transfer fuel to the main tank.  This allowed for a greater range of fuel tank placement since the tank didn’t have to be above the main tank level.  Most were still mounted behind the rider – over the pillion seat, in or on the top box, or on a trailer hitch platform in a tail-dragger configuration.

Not having to stop for fuel doesn’t mean not having to stop.  Bladder sizes are limited.  Dehydration while on a long ride is a danger and the constant hydration necessary to combat it comes with regular pee breaks.  Eating and drinking can be done while on the move.  Peeing can’t. I’ve found that frequent fuel stops that include bathroom breaks start to include meals and next turn in to 30+ minute stops.  LD riders can’t make good time with long stops every 200 miles.

The Voyager auxiliary fuel system was relatively simple to develop but it happened in two stages.  I wanted to mount the tank and pump above the pillion seat but at first couldn’t figure out a way to fit the tank and have a mounting structure in place that would fit in between the rider and the top box.

The first version involved removing the top box and building a bracket that would bolt to the top box mounting threads that a 5 gallon spun aluminum tank could be mounted to.  It resulted in a bike that looked like a bagger with a pony keg on it.


Fuel was pumped out of the keg tank by a Facet fuel pump controlled by a rocker switch mounted in the fairing.  The circuit was very simple because the Facet pump operates on only 2 amps or so. It included an accessory power circuit fed through a heavy duty, waterproof, lighted rocker switch.  No relay was necessary.

When the ¼ turn valve was opened and the switch activated, the pump would send fuel through a ¼” fuel injection fuel hose that led to the fuel return port on the fuel tank.  When the main tank displayed full on the gauge, the switch was turned off and the ¼ turn valve closed.  Because the fuel return port is high on the fuel tank neck, there was no back-feeding into the auxiliary tank.  If I were to do it over again, I would have chosen a Facet fuel pump with a built-in check valve.  The pump I used did not have one but the ¼ valve, when closed, acted like a check valve.

The system worked well.  I performed a few short day rides to test the system and then used it on a Bun Burner Gold (1500 miles in less than 24 hours) ride.  My fuel range increased from less than 200 miles to more than 300 miles and the system worked perfectly.  My riding partner on that ride, John Paolino, could only go about 200 to 220 miles between fill ups, so I would typically transfer my fuel and about 30 minutes later we would be stopping to refuel his FJR1300.  I would refill the keg tank and put a splash in the main tank at our fuel stops.  I think the details of that ride are located in another post.

The auxiliary tank idea worked well but on that ride I didn’t have a top box to store things that I needed regularly so I wore a back pack.  I didn’t like wearing the back pack and didn’t like the idea of having a touring bike without adequate storage so I rethought the idea of the tank in front of the top box but behind the rider.  I found that if I removed the passenger backrest padding and shifted the top box back about two inches the tank would fit and, as a bonus, act as a backrest.

I began work on a new mounting bracket that was rectangular in shape and constructed of square tubing.  The main bracket would bolt to the top box mounting platform using extra nuts below the bracket to prevent stressing of the top box mounting platform threads.  The top box would bolt on top of the new bracket two inches further back by using existing holes in the square tubing.  The fuel tank bracket would bolt to the main bracket in four places.  The only stressful part of the build was tack welding the brackets while it was bolted onto the bike.  I covered everything I could in wet towels to prevent splatter burns. I worried about burn damage and the possibility of fire but everything turned out okay.

I finish welded everything off the bike and then bolted the components together.  It fit properly and was comfortable as a backrest.  I took everything apart and sent it for powder coating.  Once it returned, I finished it off by plugging the square tube ends with plastic plugs.  All hardware was matching stainless.  The system looked good and worked well.





I put a few rides together with the fuel setup without issue.  I performed one Saddlesore 1000 (1000 miles in less than 24 hours) solo and was able to refuel at 300 miles.  Stopping only twice for fuel and a splash 100 miles from home made a big difference.

It was while riding home after abandoning a later BBG attempt that I realized that the Voyager wasn’t the bike I really wanted. The bike I should have bought was a Goldwing.  The Voyager, while pretty well sorted out for distance work, wasn’t a Goldwing.  Less than two weeks later I put the Kawasaki back to stock and traded it in on my current Goldwing.

The GL1800 is the finest touring bike ever produced.  Even though I made a few changes to make my bike mine, there is no other bike, at any price, I’d want for the kind of riding I ride.  The BMW line of touring motorcycles are fine machines and even though I could have gotten one for about the same price as my Goldwing, I didn’t want one.  I’ve ridden the Yamaha FJR1300 and even though it is a much faster, better handling bike than the GL1800, I didn’t want to spend 24 hours or more on one, even with a shield and Russell seat. The H-D touring bikes have the same limitations as the Voyager. I never could come to grips with sitting primarily in the feet forward position.

I initially thought I would build a new mounting platform to put the keg tank behind me for my new Goldwing.  While it could be done and would fit behind me, the forward hinging Goldwing top box would be prevented from opening.  I learned with the Kawasaki that having a top box was almost a necessity and didn’t want to give up the easy access to things I’d need.  My keg tank, at least over the seat behind me, wasn’t going to work.

Dayle Martin of Firecreek Accessories builds a fuel tank specifically for the GL1800.  It is very low profile, 4.7 gallons, constructed of stainless steel and tig-welded together. It bolts to the passenger grab handles and is very easy to remove or install on the bike so it doesn’t have to be on the bike at all times.  The fuel tank mounts high enough that it is advertised as gravity feed (more on that later) so no electrical additions are necessary to run a fuel pump.  The Jiffy-Tite quick connect and disconnect fittings allow for no fuel loss during transfer and no leaking when the fuel tank is not mounted to the bike.  The suggested fuel line for plumbing is #6 AN with leak-proof fittings for safety.

Plumbing the tank to the bike is easy but does have one moderately difficult step.  Dayle has instructions on his site so I won’t go into a lot of detail about how I installed it.  The fuel sender plate must be drilled in a precise location to mount the fuel feed. If not, the sender will not fit back onto the fuel tank.  I chose to use JB Weld Marine to secure the #6 AN bulkhead fitting to the sender plate.  I felt that once it was cured it was less likely to leak at some point in the future than rubber seal washers.

The AN fittings allow for fuel-tight joints more reliable than simple fuel injection hose and clamps.  While I followed Dayle’s directions exactly, I believe that in the near future I will change a few of the fittings around to minimize the number of sections comprised of fuel hose.  It’s nothing that’s absolutely necessary, but I can think of two areas I’d do differently.

I installed the tank on the bike, connected the fittings and filled the Quicktank with a five gallon gas can.  It did not leak.  The main tank on the Goldwing was almost empty and was nearly full fifteen minutes after the ¼ turn valve was opened.  Everything checked out good during the garage check.  I removed the tank and stored it until I would use it on a shakedown ride.



I decided to test the tank out for real on the Highway 78 ride.  The details on the ride are in another post so I’ll just limit comments about how the tank did on the ride.

The week before I left I called Dayle at Firecreek and we talked about the Windbender shield and my new tank.  I told him I would be trying out the tank on a real ride and explained that I’d be in the Southern California desert for the day.  He told me that in hot weather he’d had a few concerns from owners about the tank not wanting to fill due to pressure build up in the tank.  He explained if my tank didn’t want to fill I could pull over and open and closed the gas cap to release the pressure in the tank and then it should work properly.

I planned to ride from Westminster to Blythe via Highway 78 without stopping for fuel.  When I reached the 180 mile mark the fuel gauge indicated I was about 1/8 full so I opened the valve to allow fuel to flow into main tank and continued on.  The fuel level slowly raised one mark but didn’t go any higher.  I continued to ride into very sparsely populated two lane desert and was a little worried that the fuel level wasn’t going up.  It wasn’t going down, though, either so I knew I was getting fuel.  I made it to Blythe with a few gallons to spare in the Quicktank but the main tank fuel level gauge didn’t rise more than a single mark.

I decided that for the second fill-up I would ride for approximately 50 miles then open the fuel valve on the Quicktank.  I felt that if I kept the fuel level above the fuel sender and bulkhead fitting the Goldwing fuel pump would suck fuel from the Quicktank along with fuel from the main tank.  In theory, if the level didn’t rise, and it didn’t during the first tank, the fuel pump would suck the Quicktank dry and then pump the rest of the fuel from the main tank.  The fuel level should stay at ¾ full for a long time.  When it finally started dropping, I’d know the Quicktank was empty.  If the level rose I would just reach back and turn off the fuel valve.

I had ridden 50 miles, about halfway between Blythe and Needles, when the gauge read ¾ full.  I reached back and opened the valve from the Quicktank.  I rode on and the fuel level didn’t rise or fall.  In fact, for 175 miles the fuel level stayed at ¾ full.  When I reached Barstow and stopped to eat I looked in the Quicktank with a flashlight and saw that the tank was nearly empty.

I ate at Chipotle and got back on the 15 freeway.  Midway between Barstow and Victorville I noticed that the fuel level had begun dropping.  I calculated that I had just enough fuel to reach home but dropped my speed 5 mph to be sure.  On the second leg I rode almost 400 miles at speeds averaging 75 mph without fueling.  Not bad at all.

The Quicktank works differently than the keg tank did on my Voyager.  Rather than drain the main tank first, it appears that I can run on the Quicktank earlier in the cycle between fuel stops.  It is very high quality, made from premium stainless steel, is baffled, light, extremely low profile and fits well.  It’s so light that I can’t tell that it’s behind me.  It doesn’t make contact with any part of my body.  It doesn’t rely on anything more than simple fittings.  No electrical.  No pump.  No switches.  To say I’m pleased is an understatement.

What’s next?  Well, the keg tank is still in my garage on a shelf waiting to be used again.  I figure I can buy a trailer hitch with a vertical receiver for the Goldwing and build a mounting platform for the keg tank.  I should be able to wire and plumb the keg tank to feed the Quicktank.  16 gallons.  600+ miles between fuel stops.

I gotta go.  I hear a chop saw and welder calling me.

Origins and Relations

Apparently the last name ‘Lipps’ has as one origin a shortening of the family name ‘Phillips’ or Philipps’ depending on the source language and country.   My grandfather explained to me that our family name was changed at one point from ‘Lips’ to ‘Lipps’ to differentiate between two families in competing businesses in the same neighborhood in Chicago.  Both were said to be in the upholstery business and there was confusion among their customers about who was who.  Because my familial line was the better one, we got the extra ‘P.’

Another story was that the name was longer and reduced to ‘Lips’ during the immigration process.  I’m not sure if either is 100% factual but both make for a good tale.

In any event, the name ‘Lipps’ is not very common.  The name ‘Todd’ ‘Lipps’ is even less common.  I know of one other man with our name.  He is the semi-well known banker I refer to in my introductory post.

I don’t know him but he has reached out and tried to contact me.  As an intro, he asked me, “What was it like growing up with the name Todd Lipps?”  I answered him, but the answer I gave him was a sarcastic response about growing up in a rich and influential family who spent summers in luxurious vacation spots, private schools, gated communities and jetting to a home in the Hamptons.  None of it was rooted in truth.  In fact, the truth was completely opposite.  I didn’t mean anything rude by it.  At the time I didn’t think much about it, and didn’t consider that receiving that from someone he didn’t know would come off as incredibly dick-ish.  In time I realized that it did.  He didn’t reach out again.

From everything I can tell, he’s a lot like me – about my age, a professional in his field, has a family and kids, may like some of the same things I do.  Sorry, Todd.  You were the better man.  I wasn’t very nice.

Louis Lipps played wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He’s probably the most famous Lipps.

There is an island in Antarctica named Lipps Island after researcher Jere Lipps.

My wife is Lisa Lipps.  But not that Lisa Lipps.

There is the unincorporated community in Wise County – Lipps, Virginia.

German philosopher Theodor Lipps was an influential university professor who inspired Sigmund Freud.

Lipps, Inc.?  Funkytown?

There are some Lipps’ in directory listings in a number of areas.  There are a couple of us in the FAA pilot license database.  There are three of us in the Ironbutt ride database – all Americans.  All riders.  We’ve never met.  We may or may not be related.  One rider stands out above the rest.  Earlier this month Erik Lipps finished fourth in one of the most difficult motorcycle events in the world – the Ironbutt Rally.

The IBR is held every other year on odd-numbered years, usually attracts close to 100 of the best long-distance riders in the world, and the top finishers usually ride about 13,000 miles over 11 days.  There is some confusion that the rally is a race – a two-wheeled version of the Cannonball Run – but nothing is further from the truth.

The riders have a set starting point, two staging locations about 1/3 and then 2/3 of the way through the event, and a known finishing point.  This year the start, the end of stage one and the finish were all in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The end of stage two was in Kingsport, Tennessee.

There is no pre-established route for the riders.  The IBA gives every participant a list of bonus locations.  Each location is worth a specific number of points.  The riders individually decide on the most efficient route to scoop up as many bonus points as they can.  Faraway locations may carry big points, but several closer ones may have a larger cumulative point total.  There are several catches, though.

The riders have to check-in via phone at specified times or they are docked points.  The riders have to check-in at each stage-ending checkpoint during a two-hour window – not making it in time means a DNF.  It’s after this check-in time – usually less than 10 hours – that riders eat real food, shower and sleep for more than a couple hours at a time.  On the road the riders are in the saddle for 20+ hours per day over the 11-day event.

The riders are not without sleep.  The IBR organizers offer bonus points for sleeping between checkpoints — usually more points than a rider could have gotten had he or she ridden on to other bonuses.  Because it is not a race, speeding and dangerous riding is not encouraged.  If a rider gets somewhere too fast it can mean trouble with the organizers.

At the finish, riders have drained the adrenaline that’s gotten them through the last days, out of energy, sore, just plain exhausted.  Most have endured in the same riding clothes for several days and because the IBR is held in any weather, most are suffering from some form of rash caused by wet conditions and dirty clothes.  None compete for a cash prize.  There isn’t one.  The winner gets the biggest trophy.  Other finishers get smaller trophies.  All finishers get an IBR license plate frame and a three-digit IBA number.  To put into perspective how difficult the event is, consider that a little over 500 riders have finished the rally in its history.  About eight times as many have summited Mount Everest.

A rider receives the bonus list near the start of each leg and begin route-planning.  As stated above, each location earns a rider a specific number of points.  Proof that a rider has been to a bonus location is usually established via photo – the rider must snap a picture of his or her towel with their competitor number on it at a specific location like a sign or sometimes with an obvious landmark in the background.  Sometimes a receipt with a time and date stamp is necessary.  Group photos in a very tight time window that earn points are peppered throughout the rally.  Some locations only reward a rider points during daylight hours.  Far off bonus locations carry big points – Key West, Prince Edward Island and Alaska are typically available, and all are probably doable mathematically.  The question will come down to the max number of points per mile ridden, however, and so riders may stretch their legs over great distances, or stay within a days’ ride of the next checkpoint, in an effort to get a max number of individual bonus locations.

Each year the IBR has a theme that ties most of the bonus locations together.  This year it was National Parks.  In order to be credited as a finisher, each rider had to gather points at a minimum of 50 different bonus locations in at least 25 different states.  Riders went as far south as South Padre Island, Texas, and some ventured north into Canada for the points available there.  For the most part, bonus locations encouraged routing east of the Rocky Mountains and very few riders picked up points in the western states.  On the last day of the event some riders were still 1100+ miles away.  Most rode through the night continuing to collect points, finishing shortly after dawn on Day 11.

The motorcycles all start out as bikes that are used as vanilla commuter or touring bikes every day.  Most are then highly-modified to suit the needs of the riders.  Most have some form of custom seat that is comfortable hour after hour, day after day.  Most also carry additional fuel up to the IBR max of a little over 11 gallons.  Auxiliary fuel can be as complex as remote tanks that feed the main tank via an electric fuel.  Some tanks are gravity fed.  Some riders carry extra fuel in the form of a plastic gas can that can be purchased for $20 at Wal Mart.  Most bikes have multiple GPS units, some radar detectors; some are so electronic-laden they rival a modern jet.  Almost all have additional lighting to give better viewing of the road and to make the riders more visible at night.

Recently the Yamaha FJR1300 has been a consistent high finisher.  Honda’s Gold Wing is well represented.  BMW is a popular bike though recently a number of mechanical failures on BMWs contributed to DNFs.  A number of Harley Davidson motorcycles are ridden each rally.  The winner this year, Eric Jewell, rode a Honda ST1300.  He arrived at the finish with a failing fuel pump.  Had it completely died, even a few miles from the finish, he could have DNF’d.  Many of the bikes complete the rally on the same set of tires they started on.   Some rears get changed after the end of one of the legs.  Most go without an oil change over the course of the rally.

Some years the “Hopeless” class is packed.  These bikes, usually older, or smaller, have a much greater chance of failing to finish due to mechanical issues.  In years past, a rider finished higher on a 250cc scooter than he had in a previous attempt on a Gold Wing.  This year Kurt Worden finished 37th on a Kawasaki 250 Ninja with 90,000 miles.  As I understand it, he rode on the stock seat.  This class, though not competitive with the top riders, is very interesting just because almost every rider on one will have some bike-related difficulty to overcome.

Al Holtsberry, 79 years old, is the oldest finisher of any IBR.  2015 was his fourth rally finished and he rode nearly 1300 miles during his last day in order to make it back to Albuquerque in time.

Erik Lipps, one of the three Lipps’ on the IBA finisher list, was a rookie in this year’s event and because he is an experienced rally rider, was expected to finish well.  He was not expected to finish as well as he did, however.  He ran a fantastic Leg 1, finishing third in points.  His second leg was a bit of a setback and he dropped several spots after the points were totaled.  His third leg was extremely efficient, extremely quick, and by the time it was over, he had finished in fourth.   Rookies don’t generally place anywhere near as high.  Erik spent much of early 2015 prepping a newer FJR1300 for the rally when his old bike’s reliability began to be an uncertainty.

Are Erik and I related?  I have no idea.  Was his family name derived from something else or changed when they came to America?  Did his family compete with another for upholstery business in a Chicago neighborhood shortly after the turn of the century?  I don’t know.  Related or not, we are brothers.  Congratulations, Erik.  You did well.

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