Paul and Voni

Paul and Voni Glaves'
"40 in 7"
May 16-23, 2005

You've all seen the somewhat crude bumper sticker,
"Sit Down, Shut up, Hang On."

When Voni gets an idea and starts to run with it, well…, then.., who am I to argue?

Actually, when Voni suggested a 48 State plus Hyder, Alaska ride to arrive at Hyderseek on May 26 I agreed it was a good idea so we both put our heads to planning the ride.  We planned to attend the Iron Butt Association National Meet in Omaha on May 14 where Voni was on a Women Iron Butt Riders panel so we structured a ride plan around that fact.   May 14 was our 39th wedding anniversary, so dinner with 300 or so friends was a great way to celebrate.
IBA Panel

I used Street Atlas USA and Mapsource software to run routes 100 different ways.  We wound up with a plan to start in Baker, Montana at 4:00 p.m. MDT on Monday, May 16.  East, south, west, and north would hit all 48 contiguous states and get us to Alaska.  We had broken the 240 hours (10 days) into eleven riding segments.  This plan had a half day at the start, but would have us riding the last 431 miles from Prince George to Hyder fresh in the first half of the last day.  Daylight in moose and bear country is a good thing.  Organizing sleep time and minimizing riding in the dark worked better too.  So on Sunday morning after the IBA Meet we headed from Omaha to Baker, Montana.

SUNDAY, MAY 15:  The 49 state ride almost came to a flaming halt even before it started.  Almost exactly 23 miles north of nowhere in South Dakota (actually 23 miles north of I-90 mile marker 170, on state highway 63) Voni's bike died and she coasted to the side of the road.  I noticed her headlight had gone out so pulled over.  Her bike was electrically moribund - every circuit was dead.  I pulled the left fairing side panel, headed to the battery.  I could hear it gurgling.
I disconnected the ground lead and went to pull the battery.  It was too hot to grab without my gloves.  When I got it out and tested it, my volt meter read 4.69 volts instead of 12 to 13 like it should.  I checked the circuits at the fuse box, and everything showed to be shorted to ground.  Everything!  There seemed to be a problem with the wiring harness - how bad or not bad I didn't know yet.  Exactly why the battery didn’t blow up or melt down, or the bike catch on fire I wasn't sure. Meltdown
With some of those cell phone connections with which you can hear about every 3rd word, Voni called our emergency road service.  Somehow Voni got them to understand that we needed a bike tow and where we were.  It took two or three calls.  Exactly how she did this I’m not sure.  I might have thrown the cell phone in the ditch.  I was a little stressed right about then.  Not long after that we got a call from the wrecker driver who was on his way.  In about 45 minutes Joel Stephenson, who is Pioneer Service, Inc. of Murdo, South Dakota showed up with a pickup truck and large flat bed trailer. We loaded the bike.
Trailer Pickup
My plan was to haul the bike to a motel in Kadoka, South Dakota.  The road service's plan was to haul the bike to a Honda/Harley Davidson dealership in Pierre.  It was Sunday!  I figured if the wiring could be repaired I could find the problem and fix it as fast as a non-BMW dealership which wasn't even going to be open until Tuesday anyway.  If it couldn't be fixed then I'd just go get my truck and haul it home.  Joel understood, and offered to haul me to his place in Murdo where I could work on the bike.  Kadoka was 42 miles closer to Baker.  Murdo was 42 miles closer to home.  Tossup!  Off to Murdo we went - Voni riding in the truck with Joel and me riding my K75, following behind.  Somewhere between nowhere and Murdo, Voni convinced Joel that dropping us with the bike at a motel would be just fine.  The truth is I would hate “help” when trying to deal with a wiring harness problem and she knew it, even though I really did appreciate his offer.
At the motel I pulled the other fairing side panel and the tank.  Then I started carefully staring at the wiring harness, looking for anything that looked like heat, melting, smoke, or other problem.  The harness snakes around a lot of things and goes through a lot of nooks and crannies so this took a while.  Finally I found what looked like a little hot spot in the insulation.  I'd found something.  That was the good news.  It was in the main hot lead where it disappeared from sight underneath the battery  tray.  That was the bad news.  To get to it to even make sure it was a problem and not just a brown spot in the 12 year old wiring harness I would have to remove the battery tray, which, on an R1100RS means removing the Motronic engine computer and the ABS unit before the tray can be removed.  And, this means opening up the brake lines at 4 locations.  I hate that.

As much as I didn’t want to, I didn’t have much choice so I pulled the Motronic, the ABS unit and battery tray.  There clearly was melted insulation on one of the main hot leads from the battery.  There are two of them.  I traced this lead till it went straight down and out of sight.  Resuming at the bottom end I discovered this was the big lead straight from the battery to the starter solenoid hot lug.  It was completely shorted to ground somewhere – no question.  I disconnected it at the starter  and it went open – no short any more.  I figured the starter was shorted internally but just how I couldn’t figure out.
Then I noticed burn marks right where the connector makes a 90 degree bend over the back edge of the solenoid can.  It looked like weld splatter.  That is where it had rubbed and grounded.  With the battery lead still disconnected, I tested the starter motor with jumper cables run from the K75 and it worked fine.  So I carefully isolated the lead to the starter and wrapped all of it I could reach with the better part of a roll of electrical tape for good measure.  The other hot lead into the main harness, and all those little wires in that harness were just fine.  I went to bed!
In the morning Voni headed off to the local auto parts store to buy brake fluid, a vinyl hose to use to bleed the brakes, and wire ties.   I started putting things back together.   When she got back I reinstalled the ABS unit and bled the brakes.  Joel, the tow truck driver, stopped by to see if I needed any help.  When he drove up I had just started the bike.  We both grinned.  I got the bike completely back together about 10:00 a.m.  We decided to go on to Baker and just start the ride a day later than planned.  Voni called a couple of the motels on our schedule to change reservations.  We’d change the rest later.  We jump-started the bike.  The charging system was working, so off we went.  I figured the battery would be ruined after that kind of overheated load test but figured we would just buy one that I could somehow make fit along the way.  At the first gas stop the battery started her bike fine, but I didn’t think I should trust it.

After riding about 350 miles we arrived at Baker, 45 minutes before our originally planned start time on Monday.  I knew the weather was favorable for starting Monday and looked like it was going to be a big aggravation if we waited till Tuesday.  We looked at each other, smiled, and agreed “Let’s do it!”  We grabbed a quick meal of buffalo burgers at the local drive in and got two enthusiastic long time Baker residents to verify our starting data.  Voni called the motels back to restore our original reservations.  By now the motel folks were good friends. Paul

MONDAY EVENING:  We headed generally east.  This was our Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota leg.  We each had a medium sized spiral notebook.  The first several pages were our logbooks.  Then, in expected order, we had pre-labeled pages for each state.  As we went, all receipts would be stapled to the correct page.  After uneventful stops in each state, we stopped for the night at a motel in Kennebec, South Dakota.  421 miles.  The lady who ran the motel had saved us the last room she had.  She was very impressed that we had arrived within a few minutes of our predicted time.  The Garmin GPS autorouting feature is a great planning tool.. 

TUESDAY:  We slept 5-1/2 hours, and headed generally east once more.  More fuel in South Dakota.  Then a jog down to South Sioux City, Nebraska, an angle northeast across Iowa, turn right on I-90 in Minnesota and head through Wisconsin to Joliet, Illinois where we stopped for the night.  911 miles.  The ride was pretty straightforward.  The winds were strong in South Dakota (duh) but were unexpectedly out of the east.  My little K75 with its modified, taller 2.91:1 rear end gearing didn’t like the headwinds at all.  It was a bit tiring, or maybe tiresome is a better word to describe it.  I laughed to myself as we entered Illinois heading south on I-90/94.  At the first opportunity the State of Illinois stopped us to collect a toll.  Great "Illinois Welcome Center."

WEDNESDAY:  Neither of us had been looking forward to this morning.  We hate south Chicago, I-80 traffic on a good day and had heard that the construction just over the Indiana line was pretty grim.  Rolling at 5:30 a.m. we cleared the trouble spots before they got too interesting and we made good time traveling east.  Indiana, a jog north to Sturgis, Michigan, and then Ohio.

Bikes 2
On to Pennsylvania, New York and finally Vermont.  The last hour or so was in the dark, riding mostly rolling mountain roads.  We got off the interstate-tollway system at Troy, New York and took the back roads to Bennington, Vermont.  It seemed like we spent an awful lot of time just getting through Troy, but the mental stimulation of new surroundings and unclear direction signs kept us sharp.  I know there must have been a better, quicker way, but that had a lot higher probability of us getting off track, lost or delayed.  I just kept following the Highway 7 signs.  Voni called ahead to the motel because when she made the reservations the lady said they usually closed the office at 11:00 unless they were waiting for somebody.  They only had to wait a few minutes and greeted us warmly.  This was the day I figured out I hated toll booth stops.  The next day was the day I discovered I really, really hate toll stops.

Voni had told me earlier in the day that her Gerbing electric jacket liner had quit working.  I had checked the liner itself and it checked out OK.  There was a problem somewhere in the wiring or the controller.  By then it had warmed up so it wasn't critical but I knew I needed to deal with it as soon as I could.  When we got to the motel I checked the lead on her motorcycle.  It was fine.  Then I checked the blue plastic Chinese, Gerbing (not Warm'n Safe) controller.  It was erratic.  I thought it might be one of the connections on the controller (two-pole trailer type) so I cut off and replaced both of them.  It was still erratic.  At best it seemed to work only for a few seconds at a time.  No big deal.  We had a spare jacket liner connector cable with an in-line switch, and several other spare components with us.  I had a dashboard switch which controlled one two-pole accessory lead on my K75.  This is a lot easier to use than fumbling with an in-line switch (with gloves on of course) so I put my old, made-in-the-USA, Warm'n Safe controller on her bike.  I plugged a short lead into my switched line and positioned it where it was easy to plug-in my jacket liner cord.  That problem was solved - I'd just have to use the dashboard switch for the rest of the trip.  Bedtime!

THURSDAY:  This day was expected to be the hardest day of the trip – and it was.  We shook frost off the bike covers and started out on delightful two-lane roads in Vermont and New Hampshire.  But, my logbook for the rest of the day simply chronicles toll stop after toll stop, and fuel stops through Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.  Though we’d been warned, our midwest minds hadn’t imagined the endless quantity of toll stops.  I told Voni that all of those stops at toll booths was like getting pecked to death by a duck!  Our plan was to stop for the night at Winchester, Virginia.  We didn’t make it quite that far.  We left the interstate to take a two-lane road heading southwest through the northeast corner of West Virginia.  No sooner had we pulled onto the fairly narrow two-lane stretch of this, dark, asphalt road, then it started to rain harder.  Even between rain spells it was humid and fogging was a problem.  I’ve always maintained that I can handle riding in the cold, riding after dark, or riding in rain – but any two or more of them in combination make a problem.  Well, it was dark and steadily raining and the dark road surface provided very poor reflectivity.

We crossed out of Maryland and stopped at the first gas station.  Heavy rain!  Dark!   Oops!!!  We had just fueled at a station in a sliver of Virginia, not West Virginia.  We dried our glasses and face shields.  Back out into the rain again.  Finally after a few more miles we stopped and bought some snacks and a thermos of coffee for morning (receipts), and found a motel in Charles Town, West Virginia.  We were about 25 miles short of our intended motel at Winchester.  But even if it was still raining in the morning it would be daylight.  We’d had enough.  It was midnight.  A measly 770 miles.
This is a horrible part of the world to try to get through at a decent pace.  I've ridden better roads in third-world countries.  We had passed through the environs of Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and finally, Baltimore in the rain.  We passed through Newark with “projects” on both sides of the road.  We did an hour long paddle-foot in construction at Hartford, Connecticut.  A guy in a car next to us rolled down his window just to warn us that it usually went on for about 3 more miles.  Now if this happens all the time, and the drivers know it is going to happen, and they even know how many miles the backup will be – why are they still driving there?  There must be other routes the locals know and could use! Bikes 1

By the way:  a turn signal means I need to turn or change lanes.  Maybe I really need to get over right now!.  It doesn’t mean you should speed up, cut me off, and get there first just to show me who’s better, tougher, meaner, faster, or smarter.  I’m from Kansas!  Did I mention I hate toll stops, rude drivers, confusing signs, and rain.  If not, I have now.

FRIDAY:  The day began as the type of day any motorcycle rider has learned to hate.  It got worse later.  Windy and raining -  but it still was a lot better than in the middle of the night.  We hit I-81 and headed south, intending to make up the time we’d lost the night before.  We didn’t get very far.  The charging system on my K75 was acting weird.  It was charging – some.  But the volt meter display on my Garmin GPS III+ (which I won’t give up precisely because of that voltmeter) said that it was barely maintaining battery voltage, and the red charging system warning light was flickering from dim to brighter and back to dim.

I saw a truckstop on the right so took the exit and pulled in.  We went inside while I pondered the situation and wiped a few things dry.  I concluded I might have a regulator problem, a loose connection, bad brushes, dirty slip rings, or something unusually wet.  It was still raining.  I went out and poked and prodded looking for loose connections.  I concluded that whatever the problem was, it was inside the alternator.  Voni started looking at the BMW MOA Anonymous Book and I started figuring where the nearest BMW dealerships were.  Given our schedule it looked like we might be finished.  On a whim I decided to spray the brush/slip ring area of the alternator with some WD-40.  I started the engine and aimed the little red tube through a slot in the alternator housing and gave it a shot.  I revved the engine and the warning light went out.  The volt meter said that the voltage was back up to normal.  Wow!  When I walked back into the building Voni could tell from the grin on my face that the news was better than bad, at least.  Several of the store patrons were also relieved to see our dream ride back on track.  A truck driver said he’d always wondered where BMW riders were headed.  Now he knew they might very well be doing a 48+ ride.  He liked that idea.  Grin

We saddled up, with only about an hour lost with this problem.  Everything was fine as we rode southwest.  We had a delightful ride off the interstate up to Middlesboro, Kentucky and back.  This is marked as a scenic byway so I was expecting a narrow two-lane road like we’d encountered in Virginia.  But this was Tennessee, and mostly a nice 4 lane divided road that twisted and climbed towards the Cumberland Gap.  Then it was on to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.  As the lights of Atlanta gleamed, we took the empty HOV lane.  Voni said it was the best e-ticket ride she’s ever had as the road twisted and turned and the HOV rules kept at bay all of the riff raff traffic!  I had a few moments of concern when I discovered it was time to get out of the HOV lane and immediately be about 4 lanes further to the right, but when I looked in my mirrors there was hardly a car in sight.  Whew!

As the day wore on I had became increasingly concerned about the K75 charging system.  The rain had stopped and it was dry, but as we went along, the charging voltage kept dropping slightly until the light started flickering again.  Another shot of WD-40 restored charging again.  I was puzzled by this one, and had plenty of time to ponder it most of the day.  By the time we reached the motel at LaGrange, Georgia I knew I was going to have to pull the alternator out of the bike to see if I could find and fix the problem.  I was about 75% sure I’d need a regulator, brushes, or something else I didn’t have, but didn’t tell Voni.  She needed her sleep - not a night of worry.  We went to bed immediately because bike maintenance was going to be the first order of business in the morning.  857 miles.  Not bad given the delays, and we were back on the plan – maybe!

SATURDAY:  I got up early and pulled the alternator out of the bike.  When I removed the back cover and the regulator/brush holder the alternator didn’t appear abnormal in any way.  There was some discoloration on the slip rings but it didn’t look bad enough to explain the problem. 

The brushes had plenty of length and didn’t seem to be sticking in the brush holder.  The contacts between the regulator and the alternator seemed clean.  But I decided to clean everything up anyway.  I had stopped the day before and bought a can of electric motor cleaner.  I used a fingernail emery board (thanks, Voni) and a pen knife to clean the slip rings down to clean copper.  I made sure the friction contacts where the regulator fit the alternator were clean and shiny.

As I was about to put it back together, as an afterthought I scraped a little at the contact end of one of the brushes.  I discovered I was scraping a stiff goo about the consistency of old fashioned non-hardening Permatex gasket cement.  It took only moments to scrape all of this goo off the ends of both brushes.  Then I cleaned everything up with the electric motor cleaner, let it dry and put it back together.  I put the alternator back in the bike and it worked perfectly. In fact, judging from the voltage readings I was getting on my volt meter it was working better than it had in several years.  We were entertained by a group of kids in the parking lot waiting for their coaches to take them to some tournament.  They were almost as glad as we were to hear the mechanic had turned this trip around once more.  This whole process delayed our start about an hour and a half, but it was worth the time it took.  Once more, we were good to go!

After a gas stop in Auburn, Alabama we headed to Walnut Hill, Florida.  Walnut Hill, Florida was one of my secret weapons for this ride.  Almost everybody uses Century, Florida, which was Ron Ayres' Florida stop, but that was a bigger jog off the interstate than we wanted if we could avoid it.  So, in March returning from Daytona I had a hunch and it paid off.  Atmore, Alabama sits just 6 miles south of the interstate right on the state line.  I reasoned that there might be receipt spewing businesses south of the line in Florida, and went scouting.  Sure enough, we found a liquor store, Family Dollar store, Piggly Wiggly grocery store, and several other businesses south of the line in Florida.  Welcome to Walnut Hill, Florida 32528.  Interestingly, although the Piggly Wiggly and the Family Dollar stores are physically attached to each other, my receipt from the Piggly Wiggly said Walnut Hill, Florida while Voni’s from Family Dollar said McDavid, Florida.  Oh well!  They both said Florida.

We proceeded through Mississippi, Louisiana, and on to Arkansas – the K75 alternator was alternating, regulating and rectifying away just fine.  We mostly rode two lane roads until we reached I-530 at Pine Bluff up to I-40 at Little Rock.  Our destination for the night was Clarksville, Arkansas.  About an hour before Clarksville we were passed by two riders – one on something lit up like a KMart blue light special.  It was a Suzuki Burgman 650 (big scooter) with blue fiber optic light string arranged along both sides.  We stopped for gas about a half hour later at Russellville and they were fueling as we pulled up to the pumps.

We met Lynne Slater who rides the scooter and her husband Blake riding a Yamaha FJR 1300, from London, Arkansas.  She mentioned we looked like we were on a long ride, and Voni explained enthusiastically what we were doing.  Lynne said she was on the LDRiders list and had just done a Saddlesore 1000 – with her dog if I understood correctly.  We chatted about long distance riding for a few minutes and headed off.  They peeled off at the London exit, 7 miles or so down the road and we went on to Clarksville.  Again, it was fun to share our plans with the motel staff.  Everyone along the way was so encouraging, caught up in our enthusiasm.  826 miles.  Good day! Lynne and Blake

SUNDAY:  Voni’s battery had been starting the bike fine, despite its earlier abuse, but her ABS system was sometimes faulting on startup.  I thought about this as we rode past Bentonville BMW in Bentonville, Arkansas – on Sunday morning - and BMW Motorcycles of Oklahoma City later in the day.  Oh well – there was always Salt Lake City – old friends of Voni’s – who ought to be open when we came through in a few days.  Meanwhile – that overstressed BMW by Exide gel battery kept on going!

We jogged north to the southwest corner of Missouri (fuel) and then over to Baxter Springs, Kansas for breakfast at McDonalds.  McDonalds has great receipts – all the needed information printed in big letters - always an address - and the date and time are usually correct!  After we left Baxter Springs we headed southwest on I-44 and then west on I-40.  Rolling!  This was the only really HOT day of our trip, almost 100 degrees. After stops in Oklahoma and Texas for fuel we rode to Moriarity, New Mexico, just east of Albuquerque.  This was a long day – 897 miles – but we arrived at the motel at 9:30 p.m. ahead of schedule.  As the sun prepared to sink in the west, the sky changed colors in a vivid display that kept us entertained.  We'd enjoyed the whole day's nearly 900 mile ride in daylight!  We went right to bed.

MONDAY:  After almost exactly 8 hours of sleep we headed west again.  We passed through Albuquerque early enough that rush hour wasn’t an issue, although some road construction messed traffic up a little.  I had been thinking about our paddle footing construction zone experience back in Connecticut and decided that the oil in Voni’s RS might have been heat stressed a bit in that episode.  I wasn't concerned about the oil in the water cooled K75, but decided to change oil in both bikes anyway.  We'd ridden almost 7,000 miles since leaving home.  Our plan was to go to Gallup and then just far enough west into Arizona to get a receipt.  We would then backtrack to Gallup and head north to Colorado.  At Grants, New Mexico I saw a big Walmart store so we pulled off the interstate and rode to it.  I bought two big jugs of oil and an aluminum foil turkey roasting pan.  We went over to the corner of the Walmart lot – by the carnival – and changed oil in both bikes.  We poured the old oil back into the jugs and gave them to Walmart to recycle.  While I changed the oil Voni did a little shopping, including some great shaved ham and cheese which we had for breakfast.

We made it exactly 8 miles further down the road before the entire trip came to a very abrupt halt about 9:00 a.m. We were approaching a series of bright yellow warning signs – advising of possible zero visibility ahead.  Traffic wasn’t heavy, but it wasn’t exactly light either.   Short story - one car and one bike cannot occupy the same space at the same time, even in the wide open spaces of New Mexico's I-40.

K75 Crunched
A mini-van and my BMW motorcycle collided.  The point of contact on my bike was the side of the front wheel, and then when the bike fell over, the van ran over the front end, more or less removing it from the rest of the bike.  Sort of a novel kind of edge trap.  Stuff off of and out of my bike scattered all over the road and the shoulder.  I simply fell to the right off the side of the bike – hard.  The car whooshed past me.  I bounced a couple of times, did a shoulder roll, got up, looked at the bike, and actually said out loud, “I don’t think I can fix it this time.”
The venerable K75 is toast - 369,647 miles showing on the odometer.  I was unhurt except for one broken rib.  I first landed on my right side, arms approximately in handlebar position.  The break in the rib lines up perfectly with my bony elbow.  It hurt like hell but only when I coughed or laughed.  I did take an ambulance ride, sitting up, joking with the EMT, no lights or siren or fanfare.  A half dozen X-rays, lots of poking and prodding, and one pain pill later I walked out of the hospital emergency room to a rental car which Voni had them deliver to us.  The Aerostich Roadcrafter, boots, gloves, and helmet all held up perfectly.  All the gear - all the time folks.  No kidding here!

Tough day!  Exactly 120 miles, not counting the 7 or so in the ambulance.  As usual, Voni rode more miles than I did, riding to the hospital, and eventually to Santa Fe, but those aren’t part of the trip mileage.  So, 5,678 miles through 40 states in six and a fraction days was the final tally.

We stashed Voni's RS at Ira Agins’ in Santa Fe and brought a rental car home with all the stuff from the bikes in the trunk and me pouting on the passenger side.  We hauled most of the odds and ends inside the Tourpack trunk off the K75.  It had just been sitting there on the road so when they started cleaning up the mess they put stuff in the trunk and had it waiting for us to pick up at the tow lot.  Checking things out later, my laptop, camera, GPS III+, V1, tools, spare keys, and virtually everything else was accounted for and worked!  I don't know what happened to the GPS V, but ordered a Streetpilot III to replace it.
Stuff in Trunk

Riding Again
SKIP TO SATURDAY, MAY 28:  One beautiful 80 degree day in Lawrence, Kansas.  So, in keeping with the “climb back on the horse” or “pet the dog that bit you” philosophies – I went for a ride on my R1150R.  Not a long ride – but 14 miles into and around Lawrence and back just to see how it felt.  It felt good!  Real good, even if my rib did hurt a bit.

This bike is shaping up nicely.  It has Jesse bags and top case.  It now has auxiliary lights installed.  For a look at the lighting setup, Click Here.

SKIP TO 2006:  We had such a good plan, and we'd had such a good ride going that we definitely plan to finish it.  We overcame a lot of obstacles (mechanical, weather, navigation) along the way.  We were having fun.  We met an awful lot of happy, enthusiastic people who were very encouraging to us.  At the end of the ride when the chips were down, the police, emergency responders, hospital staff, tow yard folks, rental car staff, and everybody  along the roadside were just all so helpful.  Not to mention the outpouring of support and concern from literally a dozen dozen of our motorcycling friends and acquaintances.  Very special thanks to Ira Agins and Lisa Landry.  We are both smart enough to know this could have been eversomuch worse - Paul is happy to be alive and essentially uninjured.

So, next May, we will start in Grants, New Mexico at 9:00 a.m. and ride the last three days just like we planned them.  See you all at Hyderseek 2006.