~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Monday, March 28, 2005

800 Miles of Flowers - Enough Already

on the road between Casa Grande and Coolidge

Wildflowers are a good reason to ride. Even rough, tough bikers are impressed by the display nature puts on during Spring in the desert. Last weekend I went wandering a bit with Darin and his Caponord and this past Friday it was me & Angrybob and our Capos burning up the back roads between stops to smell the flowers and take pictures. Is it ok to for guys to stop an admire flowers if you rode 120 mph to get there?

Between flowers and pictures we managed about 200 miles including some triple digit sweepers and a tasty lunch at Raul & Theresa's Mexican Restaurant in Goodyear. R&T have right-up- front parking spaces for motorcycles and that alone makes them worth visiting for lunch or dinner. Try the House Special, very tasty.

Saturday I decided the Kawasaki 1600 was feeling neglected so I rolled it out for a short run around. First stop was the Kawasaki shop to browse the '05 models on the show floor. The 1600 is over two years old now and that means it's time to think about replacing it with something else. Why you ask? Well...because...uh...because. No logic, no justification, just want a new scooter (again). I guess if I don't loose my shirt selling a newer bike too soon every couple of years life just doesn't make sense. I wonder what that Vulcan 2000 is like?

After the shop visit I wound my way back to Casa Grande and then over towards my familiar haunts in Coolidge and Florence. I say haunts with a bit of dry humor because once again I found myself stopping at the old Adamsville Cemetery. This time I wanted to see how the place looked in it's spring greenery. When last I was there it was desert dry and forlorn, a somber place. With all the flowers and rain it's now green and forlorn but not quite as somber. I need to rustle up the pictures I took a few months ago and post it here with the most recent one.

As always the big Kaw was trouble free to ride, a starkly different bike than the Aprilia but still a very pleasant ride, especially when one wants to think about things other than late braking and speed limit breaking. Despite the fact that I didn't actually go anywhere in particular I still rolled up 200 miles in the course of the day.

Sunday I got up and for some reason didn't really feel like riding. I sat in the big comfy chair in the living room pondering this and decided that since it was Sunday, a holiday, little traffic about, and a perfect blue sky day with kind temperatures, that I'd be as dumb as a box of rocks to waste such a day. So off I went to see Kitt Peak National Observatory and points there about.

The Aprilia was rolled out of the garage rather than the Kaw because for traveling and winding roads the Aprilia beats the Kaw hands down. Just based on thought of listening to the exhaust all day the Aprilia wins. The Italian v-twin makes the most wonderful sound when you roll off the gas for a curve, blip the throttle once for the downshift, shift and then start the roll on after the apex. I know with modern gearboxes there's no need to blip the trottle for a downshift like we did in the old days but it just sounds so darned nice. I don't even care that much if I'm fast or slow in the corner, whether my line and apex is corrent, or my braking was clunky. I just love to listen to the motor work up and down.

Kitt Peak is worth a visit for the ride, the view, and the observatories

Kitt Peak is about 100 miles or so southwest of me and the observatories are located at about 7,000 feet. As much as anything I wanted to see what the desert looked like from above since down at ground level the foliage tends to block a lot of the view of the small flowers that are carpeting the Sonoran Desert right now. The road up Kitt Peak is one of the better know rides in Arizona with about 12 miles of winding road and spectacular views. Unfortunately the road surfaces is less than ideal, rough and cover everywhere with tar strip repairs. During the cooler temps that just makes for a rough ride but when the weather warms the tar strips become slippery and invite catastrophe.

The ride up the mountain was real fun, I rode in shall we say "a sporting fashion" and there were only about three cars to be dispatched on the way up the mountain. I'm pretty sure I didn't do anything real unsafe or whatever but the sightseers in the SUV and station wagons might have seen it differently. I've wondered sometimes what car people think or say when a bike blows by them on a mountain road at several times their speed and in a blink disappears around the curve in the road clearly marked "30 MPH." Probably best not to know. I like to imagine that the kids are amazed, mom is horrified, and dad is annoyed but secretly envious.

After Kitt Peak (went there, got the t-shirt) I looped around and did Aravaca Road, again at a sporting pace (for me). I did stop of course and shoot some pictures at a favorite spot before doing the second half of the road. I noticed this time that there seems to be more houses out there now...and I use the term "house" in a loose sense. "Forty acres and mule" is still some people's dream and they are trying to living it out with 3 acres, a singlewide mobile home, and a faded 1990 Chevy Malibu with 900,000 miles on it. There's a story hidden in that last sentence but I still need to calm down when I think about it before I can write it out. Let's just say for now that some moron came within a hair breadth of ruining my day and probably the rest of my life.

east of Aravaca, just off the road a ways

OK, so I did Aravaca which is a fun, fun road on the eastern half, and then found myself at the little town of Amado and I-19. Yuk. What to do? The little town of Tubac, which has been there since 1750-something is about 15 miles to the south and I know for a fact has a good deli so off I went down the slab. As always Tubac is interesting in a touristy, artsy, historical way. Whenever I stop there I see amazing Southwestern art goodies and copper and steel metal sculpture that would look great in or around my house but as I'm always on the bike with no room for such things I've saved a small fortune in money not spent.

After a late lunch in Tubac I hopped back on I-19 and headed north with the intend of slabbing it the 100 miles or so back to home. Yuk. Rolling up the freeway I was mildly bummed at the thought of riding the freeway home but what else to do? The Aravaca exit loomed and without thinking a whole bunch about it I took the exit and headed back up Aravaca Road running it east to west for the first time. I have to say that the road, as fun as it is, seems more fun when ridden east to west. I was riding into the now lowering sun but the road was highlighted in a way that made the long dips and curves look even more pronounced. Running east to west there's even a downhill curve that when I hit it reminded me of the "Corkscrew" at Laguna Seca. Maybe not as dramatic as Laguna but still a whale of a lot of fun to drop into and around at 80 mph+.

After Aravaca road it was time to just sit in on the straight desert roads and kill bugs until I got home. I still couldn't bring myself to get on the freeway so when I got back up to Marana and I-10 I stuck to the access road that parallels the freeway and made nearly as good a time back to Casa Grande and without the traffic and unpleasantness of the freeway. Arrived home just after sunset, my butt a moderately tired, the rest of me a little tired, and another 400 miles rolled up on the Caponord. Sure glad I didn't waste that day, it really would have been dumb, especially in July when it's 110° and that particular ride would be undoable.

Odd thing, despite riding 800 miles this weekend I didn't take all that many pictures. When the riding is good and there's a choice between a sweet road and taking pictures, the motorcycle still wins the argument over the camera. A few pictures from the weekend are here if you're interested.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Angrybob Isn't

East of Buckeye, AZ - Angrybob ponders the meaning of life and how to get back down the hill.

Friday I had the good fun of meeting fellow blogger and Caponord owner, Angrybob, from MotorcycleBloggers.com. Bob and I have been trading messages on the subjects of Aprilia motorcycles and blogging for a while now so a chance to meet in person and get in a nice ride was great. How ever easy it seems to make friends on the 'net, there's no substitute for meeting and actually shooting the bull live and in person during the course of a ride and over lunch. I was going to do a write up about our Friday ride but since I went riding Saturday too, and again today, Bob beat me to it over at his blog. Cool. Now I can just link to his report and save some brain power. Thanks Bob!

By the way, in my effort to ride with every last Caponord owner in Arizona, Bob makes the third owner I've managed to ride with. Only two left. Yup, there's only about six of us in the whole state, maybe seven of Steve down at Renaissance Motorcycles in Tucson sold that red Capo he had on the show floor awhile back.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Desert is Green

outside Hickiwan, AZ

I finally made it down around Ajo, AZ to see the wildflowers and they were very nice, even spectacular in places. The desert is green right now, not it's usual desert brown and it's amazing to see. Ok, if you live someplace that isn't a desert, Spring green is interesting but here where the only green is usually cactus and sorta-green scrub brush, a gazillion acres of green grass and wildflowers is pretty impressive. Even the cactus look plumper and more prickly than usual, not unlike me.

After much conflicts of schedules and such I was able to get together with my friend and fellow Caponord owner, Dr. Darin. Several months back he'd been talking about getting a Kawasaki Concours to share the garage with his Harley. I blathered on so much about the joys of the Caponord that when a nearly new one popped up for sale at a local dealer Darin went down, took a peek, and went for it. It's a silver one, very nice, but everyone knows the silver ones are not as fast as the blue ones.

I've been working on getting the vast numbers (6) of Caponord owners in Arizona all together at one time for a ride but thus far silly things like work, wives, new babies, and assorted other non-excuses have kept it from happening. Thus far I've managed to ride with Shane (a red Capo) and now Darin. I remain hopeful for more complete gathering before the year is over.

Despite some gray looking clouds when I left the house we wound up with near perfect weather, 64° - 72° all day long. Darin and I met up in Maricopa and took Highway 238 "Dead Cow Highway" out to Gila Bend and then turned southward on highway 85 to the semi-alive copper mining town of Ajo.

old church, Ajo, AZ town square

The copper mine is pretty much kaput now because of the price of copper so the town is a mixed bag of rag tag buildings and a beautiful downtown area that the city fathers are trying hard to keep attractive and inviting to tourists. I have to say they are doing a find job of it too, the area is great for photographs and the town square is clean, green and very picturesque. It's got the makings of a nice artists colony except that it's quite a ways off the main highways and not known for being picturesque. Hopefully word to the contrary will spread. The old churches on the town square are especially nice and brilliant white. I could have spent hours just shooting pictures in Ajo but settled for a dozen or two and a good sandwich at a deli on the square.

Outside of Ajo we swung north for a bit on BIA 34 (Bureau of Indian Affairs) which runs through the Tohono O'oham Indian Reservation down there. The road is little traveled by tourists as it does not go anywhere but to the little Indian community of Hickiwan which doesn't include so much as a gas pump and general store. The lead picture above was taken about ten miles outside of Hickiwan. The road runs through a land that is vast, remote, utterly western and right now as green as Ireland. The roads are so empty and reasonably smooth that you could be tempted to run extra-legal speeds easily, just remember that it is Indian Reservation and the police out there do not have a sense of humor about speeders from off the "Res."

roadside flowers, Sells, AZ

Between BIA-15 and little town of Sells, along Highway 86 is where the flowers really hit their peak. Yellow ones of some sort are the most common but white ones, purple ones, fiery golden ones and orange ones were all in abundance in different areas. Can you tell I don't know squat about flowers? They are nice to look at and that's enough for me. There was an especially nice area of flowers at one area along the road and I really wanted to get the Capo into the middle of them for a picture but I just couldn't bring myself to trample them just for a picture. There were countless thousands of flowers but I found that I didn't want to squash any of them with the wheels. I must be getting soft in my old age.

no tire tracks, please

By the time we stopped a bunch, took pictures, ran low on gas, and generally noodled away the day we never did get over to Aravaca Road for it's excellent twists and curves. Next time for sure. Darin loved the Remus exhausts on my Capo and pronounced the stock pipes on his Capo "wimpy." The stock ones are not wimpy, just a little too civilized. A 990cc v-twin should sound like more than just a big trail bike. I'm betting Darin weakens and goes for new pipes soon.

So we had a great ride, about 315 miles plus another 80 for Darin since he started out up in Phoenix and we'd have gotten in another hundred or so if we had started out a little earlier. Next time for sure.

If you like old buildings and wildflowers more pictures from the ride are here.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Leaving Your Mark

Chiseled in stone, an ancient handprint. Painted Rocks National Monument

I finally got out for a decent ride on the bike Sunday. Between rainy weather and a chest cold my riding season has had a bite taken out of it. Seems like something happens every year to steal away some of the best days.

Having two bikes in the garage there is always the decision to be made as to which one to ride. I rode the Kawasaki 1600 last so this time I took the Aprilia. Besides, the Caponord is generally more fun, especially solo, than the 1600 Kawasaki. The poor Kaw had sat for so long since it's previous ride that it barely started; no such lack-of-use problem with the Caponord as it begs to be ridden. To be honest, I'd just sell the Kaw and stick with the Aprilia but I'd have to take a loss on the 1600 and until I've gotten more use out of it I'll hang onto the bike.

I visit the Painted Rocks National Monument about 90 miles southeast of Phoenix. There's a large pile of black, granite looking rocks (hey, I'm not a geologist) there and people have been carving symbols on them for about 1,000 years now. Some ancient rock art, more properly called petroglyphs, are painted on, these are literally carved in stone. The carvings are attributed to "the ancient ones" as no one seems to know precisely which forbearers of the modern Indian tribes did the artwork. Since the government started protecting the site way back when any additional carvings have been kept to a minimum.

Besides the symbols the Indians carved before Columbus was born, Spanish military guy and explorer Juan Bautista de Anza carved his name there in 1750-something, a few pioneers etched their names there in the late 19th century, and some putz name Tino carved his name there in 1983. Considering how base and thoughtless modern man has become I'm surprised someone has not already snuck in at night and chiseled "Metallica Rulz" across 1,000 years of history. Thank goodness the site is protected now or people would carve things to pieces or more likely dynamite the place and sell the chunks on eBay.

What year does it stop being historical and just become graffiti?

The Painted Rocks site is an amazing place to see, there are thousands of carvings etched into the granite rocks and in an area of only a few acres at most. I always thought the ancient people sort of scratched the surface of a the rock but the figures are close to 1/4" into the rock. It's no wonder they remain visible after so many centuries. Archaeologists and others are not in agreement as to the meaning of the rock symbols. Some are obviously lizards, the sun, a ram, or a snake. Others are more cryptic and may represent a house or the life force and I found one that looked to me like a wooly mammoth but it might have been a javelina (wild pig thing). And don't laugh at the mammoth idea, the darned things made it into the Southwest at one point, paleontologists have dug up wooly mammoth bones south of Phoenix on the Gila Indian Reservation. But what the symbols meant to the ancient people who carved them is anybody's guess and they not unlike an Italian motorcycle owners manual now that I think about it.

I admit that when you sit there and reflect on the carvings and how long they have been there the idea of obtaining some degree of earthly immortality is appealing so it's not difficult to understand why explorers, settlers and later people decided to add there names to the rocks. Now the Painted Rocks are a protected cultural site as they should be but I did have a thought while riding home about finding some remote place in some other corner of the desert with similar type rocks and carving my name and the shape of a motorcycle so people a 1,000 years from now can sit in the early morning light, ponder the immense significance of my handiwork and say "Huh?" And don't carp at me about damaging the environment, what the ancients did to leave their mark is no more valid the things we do to be remembered. The only difference is that their work will last longer than a bad rock 'n roll song or a web blog.

A couple of these big guys are living large around the rocks off the bugs and greens made abundant by this year's exceptional amount of rain in the Southwest:

This guy's people have been there longer than our people (he's about 10" long, by the way)

Anyway, it was a really nice ride out there and back, the weather was perfect and there were lots of wild flowers to be seen. The Aprilia is always a joy to ride with the 990cc -V-twin rumbling away through the Remus mufflers. The petroglyphs are interesting enough that I need to go back and shoot more pictures, preferably in the early morning light. There are also lots of dirt roads in that area so some dirt excursions with the Caponord are in order.
More pictures here if you're interested ancient rock art.

Friday, March 11, 2005

What's the Difference?

This is sort of a continuation of a topic over at Sport Touring.Net and I got such a kick out of it that I thought it deserved it's own expansion here.

When I was in the process of swapping my Aprilia Falco for the Caponord, my non-motorcycling neighbor looked at the two bikes and discerning no functional difference between them asked "What's the difference between them besides the color?" Since she's a nice lady I put it into a basic analogy for her: "The Falco is the hot Italian fashion model, the Caponord is her sister who is a gourmet cook." My neighbor, who happens to be a psychologist, replied "Doug, you're better off with the gourmet cook." Truer words were never spoken.

Anyway, for those who are not into bikes and think that all bikes are about the same, the pictures below illustrate the differences between certain brands of bikes as I see them:

Japanese bikes:

German bikes:

British bikes:

American bikes:

Italian bikes:

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Motorcycles as Toys

I admit it, I'm a bit of a nerd and I still have a fondness for toys, especially the toys of my youth and as my youth now includes any years under the age of 50 that gives me a pretty wide range of interest. My former father-in-law got me started collecting toys about twenty years ago now. He has a very large and extensive collection of toys, memorabilia, and complete automobiles reaching clear back into the 19th century. And when I say large collection, I mean large, large as in buying a closed furniture store and turning into his own private museum. Fun place to visit on those rare occasions when it's open to the public.

I used to have one whole spare room in my house devoted to the toys and dolls my wife, son, and I collected and also six or seven '70s vintage Bultaco dirt bikes in the garage. The toy collection was reduced by 50% about five years ago with my share being sold off on eBay to stay afloat financially. Sadly, all the Bultacos are gone save one extremely ratty 1970 Sherpa S 100 Model 30. The engine has been fully restored and sits in my living room; the frame and attendant bits lean up against the back of the house, yet another "someday" project to ponder as I mow the lawn. So I don't have many toys left but the ones I absolutely hung onto and would not give up despite emotional and financial deprivation were the diecast motorcycles. Big surprise, eh?

Over the years Franklin Mint and Danbury Mint have done some nice bikes in 1/9th scale (or is it 1/10?), mostly H-D (of course) but also some excellent Indians and one especially nice and pricey BMW R50 w/sidecar. I don't think much of "Mint" psuedo-art stuff in general, most of it is no more collectable than the unique, limited edition decor my two dogs leave in the back yard.

I have no illusions about the collectability of the motorcycle models I have from the Mints and you shouldn't get your hopes up for your limited edition Dukes of Hazard Tea Set either. It's ok to enjoy collecting for the sake of admiring the item but if you intend to make real money at it you'd best look someplace other than mass produced "collectables" unless you are very shrewd and can play the fads. Being a day trader on the Internet is financially less risky.

The smaller scale bikes being made by the Mints, Maisto and other companies, typically 1/18th scale, often lack detail and presence unless collected and displayed in quantity. Quantity is fun, having 100 or 1,000 diecast vehicles on display is impressive but takes up space and dusting them takes forever so eight or ten larger scale bikes works out nicely. And since I won't buy scale Harley's anymore, don't (normally) by the smaller scale bike models, the number of bikes insisting on acquisition is limited and therefore less demanding on my pocketbook.

The detail of the smaller models are improving though and I recently sprung for a 1/35th scale 1956 Ducati Siluro speed record bike that the local Aprilia / Ducati dealer had for sale at a measly $9.99. One of my abiding interests is land speed record machines so how could I resist? The model is by New Ray and they seem to have made a whole line of late model Duc stuff. If you can't actually own 999 you can at least have a tiny one and daydream about having your bum roasted by the exhaust as you blast down endless swooping canyon roads like some wealthy, California-type bike guy... [yeah you know who you are. LOL].

The larger scale Mint bikes are very nice and with their better suspension detail, working bits and pieces, are often times almost worth the $100 - $135 asking price. I've purchased most of the Indians and one of the old H-D's from the Mint places. There are also some board track racer models that look wonderful and are tempting...I love the old stuff and you can pick it of Ebay at good prices. Be strong, Doug. Resist. As my former spouse told me on more than one occasion, "You can't buy them all."

Besides the Mint companies several big name toy makers in the US and Europe make a variety of interesting models although few match the larger Mint models for detail. Tootsie Toy has done some diecast touring version R60 BMW's in 1/9 scale, I found them at Toys R Us about 6 years ago and most likely they can still be found at toy fairs or on-line somewhere. The prices were more moderate, about $25 as I recall. They are "back of the shelf models" when displaying them as the detail is not exceptional. Matchbox has done some larger scale H-D stuff that's not too bad if you like modern Hogware. I had two of them because I got a deal but gave one away to make space, and I think I'll give the remaining one to the next Hog rider that shows up at my house just to clear a spot on the shelf for something more interesting.

Revell Europe has done a variety of bikes in 1/10 scale include an old style MV Agusta 750/4 which I have and Ducati is becoming increasingly popular as a subject. If you're a MotoGP fan, Guiloy of Spain is doing a whole series of modern race bikes mostly in smaller scale but also some 1/10 scale and 1/6th scale. Schuco of Germany does a bunch of interesting bikes and pretty nicely detailed including the R90S in both silver smoke and Daytona Orange. I have both of those and the Silver Smoke version R90S sits at the forefront of the shelf because I will never, ever, get tired of looking at that amazing bike and daydreaming about the rides I took on it.

There are a few Aprilia models being done but thus far they are only in the smaller scales so I've resisted those. As much as the world needs a 1/9 scale Caponord and Falco I'll probably have to wait awhile for someone to make those.

All in all I guess I have a dozen or so of the ~1/10 scale bikes and If I'm a nerd then I'm a motorcycle nerd and I can live with that.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Motorcycle Bloggers Group

Fellow Arizona desert rat and Aprilia enthusiast, Angry Bob, has gone off the deep end. Proving that he's not entirely in his right mind he and some friends have started their own blog entitled Motorcycle Bloggers Group. Their plan is to do a team blog, that is to say, each guy taking a turn with the writing so as not to burn out the way most bloggers finally do.

I tried to talk Bob out of the whole thing as blogging is a terrible burden to bear in life and when friends find out you're a blogger they never really treat you the same after that. Party invitations drop off, people won't sit next to you on the bus, women whom you once dated avert their eyes when asked if they knew you. Blogging's not an easy life, Bob, but welcome to the deep end and best of luck!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Romanian Iron Man?

1000 mile per day Iron Butt riders are endurance lightweights compared to Bogdan Vasilescu of Romania. I got an e-mail from him the other day commenting favorably on my blog and remarking that he'd spent about three hours reading the whole thing through. Zowie! Read the whole thing? That feat of endurance, both physical and mental, (probably more mental) surely deserves a mention here. Your interest, sir, does me great honor!

Taking delivery of your first bike, even a 17 year old GPz is always a good thing.

About motorcycling in Romania, Vasilescu says "Riders are mostly split into three categories: rich (new bikes of all types, usually recent models), medium-class (second hand japanese bikes) and low-end (really old, '60s-'70s russian or german models like Jawa, MZs, Dnepr, Voshod and so on)."

Vasilescu just recently bought his first motorcycle, a "17 year old Kawasaki GPz 500S." I have to congratulate him first on getting a bike, always a good thing, and second on not getting stuck with an old 1972 Dnepr. The Kaw 500 is a pretty nice bike even used and way better than the Yamaha 60 I had to start with. I hope Vasilescu will favor me with a picture or two when the weather warms and he gets out riding more on the GPz.

"Cafe de Coke"

A really interesting picture Vasilescu included with his e-mail is of "an old airplane, transformed into a pub (it's really funny: under the wings there are tables and benches, for the summertime; inside, more tables and benches, for the winter time)" The plane is a Douglas DC3, one of the most successful aircraft designs of all time. Nice to see it's not just gone to the scrap heap but still serving a useful purpose and what could be more useful than dispensing beverages to thirsty motorcyclists?

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