Monday, September 6, 2010

Top O' the Rockies Rally, Almost / The Electrical Idiot

Submitted by Doug Schafer

A series of problems had conspired to keep my 15 year old granddaughter, Megan, and me from doing the Beartooth Pass/Chief Joseph Highway and the Top O’ the Rockies rally in Paonia, Colorado, for the last several years. This year I hoped it would be different. And it was, kinda. About 8 days prior to departure I had discovered that my shock had died. A fast internet search and calling all the dealers within a reasonable radius revealed nothing available on that short notice. Ron from Judson Cycle came through for me by “borrowing” one from a bike in storage. Thanks Ron!
We were pretty much set Saturday night. The bike was loaded Sunday early AM and we set off on our great adventure. We took the back roads to Hulett, WY, then to Devil’s Tower. My one and only picture was taken of the Tower and Granddaughter. Then on west to Buffalo to stay at my special camping spot in their KOA. Can’t, because it now is part of the parking lot for Hamilton Suites. Damn! Oh well, 550 miles and we elected to motel it that night. Up early in the morning and North on I-90 to Ranchester then West on 14A over the Big Horns. Wyoming DOT, in their wisdom is straightening 14A just before you get to Burgess Junction. They were wetting down the talcum powder dusty gravel making about 300 yards of scary, slippery, sloppy, unpleasant construction. They should just ban cars and trucks and leave the crooked roads for us bikers. Right?
While at breakfast at Bear Lodge, I realized that Marge and I had been having breakfast here many years ago (29 years almost to the day) with Meggy’s mother, Shelly, when Shelly was 15 years old. Dejavu all over again. We considered the gravel road up to the Medicine Wheel but settled for reading the “Point of Interest” sign instead. Down the West side, about 2300 foot drop in 10 miles, very steep with lots of curves and switchbacks. Meggy wasn’t impressed with her foot pegs dragging “lots of” times (one). We finally made it to the KOA at Cody and coughed up the grand some of $37.50 for a tent site. Who was there but Gary Plush, an old friend from Mobridge and a fellow member of the Autobahn Society. While we talked, Meggy disappeared to the horse coral. She came back later requesting $5.00 to ride the horses. Regular rate is $35.00. Something about pretty girls and skinny cowboys. Gary coughed up that $5.00. I advised the cowboy that she was 15 and I was retired Law Enforcement. I believe he got the point. She was gone long enough that I went looking for her, but indeed she was with the horses. Skinny cowboy in close proximity.
The next morning we headed up Chief Joseph highway. Great biking road. Then turned East on US212, the Beartooth Pass highway, elevation 10947‘. Ran into road construction again. The mosquitoes were horrible as we waited about 20 minutes for a flag car. I was bit multiple times in the only skin available, my right wrist and the nape of my neck. Meggy wasn’t bitten once. Just goes to show you who is the sweetest. Not!! We stopped at the store and picked up a “Got Altitude” T-shirt for her. Megan got some great pictures looking west from the pass, then down 2800’ in 12 miles into Red Lodge for breakfast. Back to Cody and headed to Meeteetse.
About Meeteetse I noticed that the volt meter was starting to register discharge and it keeps slowly going down. We stopped in Thermopolis, WY, and got a motel room across from an O’Reiley’s Auto parts store. I called Ron from Judson and we talked over my electrical problem. It sounded like a rotor problem. I‘ve been through 3 of them in 240K. Last time I had a rotor problem and didn’t take Ron’s advice it cost me near $500.00 in Seattle. This time we agreed to have a rotor Next Day FedEx and then we would be on the road. As it was about 6 PM it would be a two day Next Day delivery. OK, 2 days in Thermop (local’s vernacular for their town). O’Reileys charged the battery and it took 5 hours to charge for no fee. Well, the rotor got lost and I spent 72 hours confined with a 15 year old girl, in a motel mostly watching “Hannah Montana”, “the Witches of Waverly Place” and “a Suite Life on Deck” (Disney Channel) hour, after hour, after hour, after…. Well you get the idea. They say you lose so many brain cells per day, I’m sure I lost that many per hour while the TV was on. I don’t have that many to give up either.
By the fourth night in town my frustration level was peaking. It seems that they could not track the rotor any further than St Paul, and couldn’t insure that the rotor would even be in the next morning. I knew that I could get at least 100 miles on a fully charged battery from experience and Ron suspected many more if I could disconnect all the lights. So the plan was to get up the next morning, ride as far as we could, charge the battery and repeat until we got home. I checked both auto parts stores in town and finally bought a really nice battery charger. Cut the ends off, attached a different connection to match the current set up for charging on my bike, and was ready to go.
Up early the next morning (Saturday) and on the road. Stopped in Ten Sleep for gas and headed east. Stopped for Breakfast at the Deer Lodge, retracing the steps from when Shelly was with us so many years ago, and east to Buffalo. An early morning start, a full stomach, and a child that likes to sleep in, caused some heart stopping times as Meggy would nod off in a 65 MPH sweeper and she would start to slide off. Even with me shaking her, this happened about 3 times. We did safely make it to Buffalo, where it dawned on me that the volt meter wasn’t even starting to show discharge. OK, east to Gillette, gas in Moorecroft, still no discharge. On to Sturgis, where I stopped to look at my next bike, a blue F650GS, at Sturgis Yamaha/BMW. Meggy’s not impressed. Looked to her like it would only hold one person. Good for me, I think she is planning on another riding adventure. She makes the decision to continue to get home in one day and so we “slog” home finally arriving at home about 9 PM. AND in all that time absolutely no discharge on the volt meter.
We will let Ron figure out the problem next week. And as for Meggy, “Well, are you ready to go to Paonia next year?” Her response, “Ask me next year.” I’ll take that as a yes. Bob Vagstad, former Autobahn Society regular, regretted that he hadn’t gotten his granddaughters involved early enough in motorcycling and that they simply moved on with their lives. Bob, I’m trying, having a blast and making great memories.
Postscript: talked with Ron today and he thinks possibly it’s only a “bulb” problem. Will have to drop it off for him to look at. He laughed during our whole conversation. I wonder why??

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