Day 43 – BMW Rally
Date: 07/14/2016 Thursday
Starting Location: Shelton, CT
Intermediate Location: Hamburg, NY
Ending Location: Depew, NY
Starting Odometer: 13,773
Ending Odometer: 14,216
Mileage Driven (days): 443 Miles
Mileage Total: 7378 miles
Today’s MPG: 40 mpg
Total Average MPG: 41 mpg
States Visited: CA, NV, AZ, UT, NM, CO, UT, WY, ID, WY, MT, WY, SD, MN, WI, MI, WI, IL, IN, OH, PA, NY, CT, MA, VT, NH, MA, CT (22 States so far)
My early morning start
Well, let’s review the plan… Pack the bike the night before, get up early, leave Carl’s house by 5AM, hopefully missing the rain in Shelton, and also hopefully missing the rain at the destination by arriving before 2PM. It sounds simple enough, right?
Well, several things went wrong the plan, from the very beginning. First of all, at 5AM it was raining pretty hard in Shelton. So, a 5AM departure did not make much sense. If it’s both dark, and raining, it seems like it makes sense to wait for the rain to stop, and for the morning to break. By about 5:15 AM, the rain had stopped, and I was ready to go. And so, at 5:15 AM, I was headed for NY State. I was able to avoid rain through most of Shelton, into Newtown, and onto 84, but I did have a few sprinkles along the first 20 miles.
I called an audible…
The night before I made an alteration to the plan, and instead of taking the Merit Parkway to Rt 33, and then traveling NW across CT, and NY, I decided to ride North to I-84, and to take this Interstate to the NY Thruway, and had North on the Thruway, hopefully being on the Thruway (I-87) by 6AM. Leaving 15 minutes late made this impossible, but the last minute change had the desired impact, and it did in fact get me all the way into NY at I087, by about 6:20 AM.
The obvious benefit of this approach was that I would be on a busy Interstate, but I would be on it so early that there would be very limited traffic. Add to that the fact that I’m headed N, while most traffic is headed S towards New York City made this a pretty good plan. I arrive as stated, and and was proceeding North as planned.
Lost in NY
I traveled on I-87 until I exited, and began to ride secondary highways, avoiding the Interstates from here out. The transition from the Interstate to the secondary highways is straightforward in some cases, and complicated in others. In this case, the transition would require exiting the highway, and traveling through town, through a roundabout, and then finally taking the secondary highway as planned.
The complex transition was made worse when I discovered a bridge that was closed about 5 miles from I-87. The folks at the bridge seemed to think that there was a well marked detour, but I couldn’t find it. So, I found myself wandering around NY State, trying to locate an alternate route to the next way-point.
Eventually I stopped for Breakfast at Panera Bread, and sat next to a guy that looked like he might know his way around. I started a conversation (while drinking a nice hazelnut coffee) and he was able to get me straightened out very quickly. I jumped on the bike, followed his instructions and was quickly back on track.
And then the rains came
At the 200 mile point, I texted my brother to way “200 down, 200 to go”. I reached this milestone at about 10 AM. It looked like it would not be a problem to complete the journey in the remaining 4 hours, if I was to arrive by 2PM.
So, here’s the problem. The rain storms were appearing in the West, and would then travel East from NY, into Connecticut. If I’m traveling West, and the storms are traveling East, then it is easy to see how I’m likely to have to ride through the storm. And so it was written, and so it was done.
Within 40 miles of TXTing my brother, I hit my first storm. The rains got heavy, but I was able to continue on, with the rain never corrupting my visibility too much, and never causing me to feel concerned that my visibility was deteriorating beyond a safe limit.
And then, I remembered about the Rain-X
Getting a bead on it
Earlier, on the evening before I left, I applied Rain-X to my windshield, and helmet visor. From the reports that I’ve read about the Rain-X product, it is the least effective of the 3 different rain-management products. Although it is described as the least effective, it seems that it did a pretty good job of causing the rain to bead on the windscreen.
As I was driving along at speeds between 50 and 70 mph, the rain would build up, and then the wind would blow the beads of rain off of the side of the windscreen and visor. At last, it seems that I was going to be able to maintain good visibility while driving in the rain.
Arriving at the hotel
And so, after 9 hours on the road, I arrived at the Pink Fountain Hotel at about 2:20 PM. To say that my first impression was disappointing is like saying that Michael Phelps is a pretty good swimmer. Both statements are gross understatements of the situation in front of us.
So, I checked into the hotel, and went into my room. The room looked like it was equipped and painted in the 70s. There was dirt where it shouldn’t be, the caulking around the tub/shower was missing, or hanging out of the joint at the wall. The place was generally a really poor hotel, sometimes referred to as a sh#$hole.
Time to check-in at the rally
Since I arrived at the hotel early, it made sense to get to the rally, check in, and look around. I arrived at the rally at about 3:00. After checking in, I walked outside, around the perimeter fence, and into the rally. As I walked in, I came upon the first entertainment at the rally. The Carnival Kids Steel Drum Orchestra was playing, and they sounded pretty remarkable for a high-school band.
Am I a maniac?
So, I decided to film one of their songs, and I’ve inserted the video below. Enjoy, it’s a whole lot of fun.
Why bothering to go to a rally at all
There are a whole lot of reasons to attend a rally like this. We’re given access to BMW motorcycles, and can go for test rides. We can attend technical skills training for road riding or off-road riding. We can complete in a competition called the GS Giants, and perhaps my favorite reason of all; We can talk to the vendors that make products for Adventure Riders, and for BMWs.
At this rally, I needed to talk to several vendors. I wanted to talk to Michelin to find out why the handling of my bike is suffering after putting a new Michelin tire on the front. I wanted to talk to Sena about my communicator, and some intermittent problems that I’m having with the Bluetooth connectivity, and I wanted to talk to Touratech and Sargent about products of theirs that I own, but am having some issues with.
Locate the vendors
The first step is to locate the vendors, and figure out which ones to talk to first, and what topics to bring up with them. I located Touratech, Sargent, Sena, Michelin, Clearwater Lights, and Ted Porters Beemer Shop.
I’m sure that many of you are wondering what the rally looks like and how it’s setup. So, I’ve added a gallery of a few shots of some of the vendors. Notice how it resembles a trade show?
Extract the knowledge
One by one, I visited the vendors and started asking questions. For each vendor, I presented a set of facts, opinions, and questions, looking to understand what approach would be best to solve the problem. For all of these vendors, I was given a homework assignment of sorts. I planned on visiting the vendors on Friday, in order to resolve the problems one at a time.
Request the repairs
The Michelin team suggested that I had committed a mortal sin, and that was why I was having handling problems. A mortal sin I asked… What on Earth had I done wrong?
It seems that my rear tire, the Heidenau K-60 Scout is a bias ply tire, as was the Continental TKC 80. The Michelin Anakee Wild is a radial tire, and the mortal sin was matching a radial front tire, with a bias ply rear tire. Confronted with this explanation of what I was feeling, it all started to make sense. I was told that the easiest way to solve the problem was to replace the Heidenau with a Michelin tire. I decided to sleep on this decision.
I also spoke to the folks at Touratech. I own a carbon fiber touratech helmet, and it has cheek pads which are designed to pull out of the helmet easily, while the helmet is still on the rider. This capability is a safety feature that allows emergency personal to remove the helmet, without stressing the neck or spine, if necessary.
In my case, the cheek pads were coming out about every 2nd time I take the helmet off. Each time they pad pulls out, I have to insert it back into the helmet, and carefully put the helmet back on my head. It was becoming quite a nagging issue, and I wanted to get this problem solved. So, I spoke to the folks at Touratech, and they suggested that I bring the helmet to them on Friday, so that they could take a look at it.
I also spoke to the folks at Sargent seats about 2 tears in the seat that I purchased 2 weeks before I left California. The folks at Sargent also asked me to return on Friday, so that they could look at the seat.
At this point, I was making excellent progress, but only time would tell whether or not I was going to resolve all of the problems.
Here it was, the end of the first day at the rally, and the entertainment was starting. I stayed around for a little while, listening to the band before deciding it was time to head back to the dreary hotel called the Pink Fountain. Yuck.