Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A Harley, Chilly Weather, Rain, 350 Miles

What the hell is the matter with me? I ask that because I mostly enjoyed it. If it were a matter of public policy I'd call it a GOP kind of thing, but it was...necessary. Harley Davidson built a very cool motorcycle with the Screaming Eagle Springer Soft Tail but that came with a caveat, some of those parts are real ... special. I refer specifically to the front tire, a Dunlop D408F in 130/70R18 a wonderful tire that apparently is made of unobtainium. That is to say that they are on back order ... everywhere. Well, there was one, in Vancouver, WA at Columbia Harley Davidson and that is better than 350 miles from me here in Baker City, Oregon.

The tire issue was not a minor deal, the scooter had reached its 10,000 mile service schedule and the tires were in shape for no more than 500 miles of usage without getting flat out dangerous. Time was an issue, buck season opened 10/3 and closes 10/14 and 10/19 I need to be in Florida until 10/27 for a wedding, October is a scheduling nightmare. I talked to Columbia and the Parts Manager went to the shelf and pulled my tires and scheduled me for 10/1 for tires and service. So far so good, then came the weather reports and they sucked for motorcycling - 50s and rain showers ... and that's not in the mountains several thousand feet higher.

I don't much care for long underwear but I bought a set of poly propylene top and bottom and dressed a bit. At 5300 feet at Dixie Summit it wasn't enough at 65 mph in the driving snow. The operative word for that was, "Brrr." Things moderated a bit later as I dropped down into the valley to Prairie City and stayed pretty good until a ways past Mount Vernon where it began raining ... at a road construction flagger stop. The flagger assured me of a 10 minute wait so I broke out the new rain suit, yes new, I don't like needing such a thing. Ten minutes was a bit conservative, I sat in the rain for about twenty. It was a bit blustery with temperatures barely into the fifties and either high humidity or drizzle so I wore the suit - to Sandy, Oregon. I don't have anything polite to say about the weather crossing Mt. Hood at dark other than two words - rain and cold. The amber goggle lenses proved their worth as did the face wrap. My brother-in-law remarked on my status as "crazy son-of-a-bitch" when he put me up.

The ride from Sandy to Vancouver was pretty nice other than being almost all freeway. I got to Columbia at a few minutes after 9 AM and they pulled my bike directly in and started in on it ahead of some others because I was riding and they understood my situation. The 10K service is pretty extensive anyhow and when it involves that bike it is more so. I got to visit with the tech some as he worked on it and I learned some things that the service manual doesn't cover. Bill Green has a passion for motorcycles and his 30 years of working on them is evident. He corrected the torsion resistance on the springer axle moment arm, a condition that should not have existed and affected tire wear pattern and handling. From the beginning I've been impressed by this scooter's behavior on the road, the correction made a very real difference for the better.

I like family businesses and especially ones that endure, Columbia started in 1945 and is still in the Kreofsky family. I didn't buy the bike from them and I'm not in their service area but they treated me real well, so I pass out a kudo to them. Thanks all.

The return ride was a near replay of the one over, Mt Hood did its job on me and the last 20 miles were also in the driving rain. Some of you familiar with the state may wonder why I took OR7 to US26 to Sandy from Baker City. It is prettier than I-84 a ride and has a much smaller chance of forceful winds. It also allows a slower pace, the difference in wind resistance between 60 mph and 70 mph is astonishing to those who've never ridden and I have no windshield or farings or ... Add to that the idea of riding in the wet road spray of semis and others - well the two lane seemed a much better bet.

That trip tired me out, but in the end balance it beat sitting around picking my nose.


Kevin said...

Very entertaining travelogue, Chuck! I've done my share of miles in the rain and those were in or near the Gorge back in my college days traveling between Walla Walla where I went to school and the PDX area where my friends lived.

Of course my miles were all on rice-burners. But it's just as brutal slicing through sheets of rain regardless of where the bike was manufactored.

Chuck Butcher said...

Bikes can be addictive but they also don't have roofs and such. Most of the people I ride with have Harleys but some ride metric bikes. I figure up on two is just that despite that I'd never own a metric bike as long as there are actual Harleys. That is a matter of personal taste.