Monday, October 13, 2014

The Great Bike Trip - Preparation

A few months ago, I got one of my famously great ideas.

I'll preface this by sayin' that for the most part, I'm a homebody. I know my home area, like it, and prefer to stay relatively near it. That said, I do occasionally get a fierce case of wanderlust and just wanna run off somewhere completely stupid, for no apparent reason.

In this case, I'd had a hankerin' for some time to go to Texas, specifically to see the Alamo. I'd never been to Texas before, and the history surroundin' the Texas Revolution has always fascinated me. At some point in the early thinkin' stages, it occurred to me that ridin' the bridges down to Key West in Florida would be a purty cool thing to do too, so that got thrown into the mix as well.

My current work schedule allows me to take a week off for minimal vacation time, which is somethin' that will likely change in the near future as I attempt to move up in the world.

So, I decided that a road trip on the bike was in order.

Before I got too far into the plannin' of things, I made sure to clear it with my lady. Bein' that there's a measurable shit-ton of items around the home that need tended to, runnin' off for a week and spendin' a small fortune on gas wasn't exactly a responsible decision. Since then, she's pointed out several times that she never really agreed to this. However, she never said I couldn't, which sounded like permission to me.

I'd already had a rough route in mind, so the next part was to actually put it to paper and figure out who I knew along the way that might have a spare couch and be willin' to put up with me for a few overnight hours. I managed to make contact with a smatterin' of family and friends. Addresses were gathered and final arrangements were made.

Then came the really stressful part; preparin' the bike. As I'm down the two bikes, and the Triumph was just never that comfy for the long haul, the KLR650 got the nod for the trip.

Those of you who peek in on this blog from time to time know that I've had many adventures that center around malfuntionin' bikes, usually about as far away from home as I'm likely to get on that particular journey. I was hellbent to try to keep that from happenin' on this trip, so between that and the need for some ergonomical updates, I felt the need to throw a few dollars into the bike. After I finally figured out what all I needed, and some of what I wanted, I poked around the interwebs and got most of it ordered. I waited for most of it to pile up, then basically tore the bike apart and built her back up.

Schlongie had laid the bike over a few years back and bent the handlebars. It wasn't too bad, so I've been livin' with it. However, the awkward arm position put a purty good kink in my shoulder after a few hours of ridin', so a new set of bars and the related accessories were in order. I decided to throw on a new clutch cable, since the one on there was the original and was already livin' on borrowed time. I added a magnetic oil drain plug, which is somethin' that I should have done a long time ago. To smooth out the ride, I found a set of wheels with half-life street tires on 'em, so I swapped the knobbies out for them. I also put on a different front gear, which was supposed to increase speed at a lower RPM. To help with visibility, I sprung for a new and brighter headlamp, and added a couple cheapo auxiliary lights, as well a few feet of reflective tape on the rear fender and my helmet. Somethin' in the coolin' fan system had taken a shit and rendered the fan inoperable, so with some help from my lady's brother, we added a bypass switch to get that workin'. I felt that most everythin' else was up to to the task, so I rounded it out with some general maintenance and put 'er back together.

Then came the time to start fabricatin' the stuff that I was too cheap to buy.

Knowin' that cargo space would be at a premium, I decided to built a toolkit to mount on the front frame (the inspiration for that idea, and many others, can be found here). Usin' mostly scavenged angle iron, PVC, steel pipe and zip ties, and with a little patience and some help from the maintenance guys at work, I turned out a purty nice piece, complete with highway bars, for less than $15.

A few beers, some plexiglass in the oven, and a cardboard mold yielded a serviceable windscreen. A cheapo bead seat cover from Auto Zone was altered by my lady to fit my bike seat, and I wove it on with some paracord. Last, but not least, a Sterlite food containter, an extra fork clamp and some creativity yeilded a GPS mount that allowed for easy removal of the unit. You'll see pictures of them in the upcomin' posts.

Overall, the prep work for this trip was very educational and satisfyin' to complete, but it absolutely consumed me. I was a shitshow at work, I did only what needed to be done around the house, and I didn't even bother to go huntin' except for a quick outin' for doves one evenin'. I'd spend hours on the internet, researchin' parts, checkin' routes, and lookin' for more ideas. I literally could not think of anythin' else except what needed to be done to make the trip happen without any hiccups. Alas, by the time I had the bike packed on the eve of the trip, I felt relatively confident that I'd gotten most of my T's crossed and I's dotted. Besides... any hiccups would just be another part of the adventure, and I had a few backup plans in place. All that was left to do was start ridin'.

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