First Ride of 2018

It’s been a long winter, folks.  I’m not sure when I took my first ride of 2017, but according to my posts on Facebook it was before March 20th.  This year, though I had my 2008 Yamaha TW200 out for a short ride in January and again in February, it’s just been too cold and nasty to take a real ride anywhere.

So last weekend I looked at the upcoming week’s forecast on the Weather Channel and saw that Wednesday the 11th and Thursday the 12th were both supposed to be very nice days indeed; in fact, the weather for the 12th was forecast to be in the mid-70s. I knew I had to get out and ride.

My Plan

I intended to spend the morning of the 11th preparing my 1980 Honda CB650, do some work the afternoon of the 11th, and then take off all day on the 12th and just ride. But they say no battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy, and in this case the enemy seemed to be work. Among the tasks I needed to complete on the Honda was installing a new battery, fixing the choke, changing the oil and filter, lubing the chain, checking the tire pressure, and installing a dashcam I received for Christmas. That last bit involved installing several items to make it work, and constructing a wiring harness to connect those items together.

The Execution

Note:  This section is all about me working on my bike.  It’s probably not very exciting.  If you want to skip to the riding bit, scroll down to the “Work Intrudes” heading.

I was so busy the morning of the 11th that the only thing I got done was installing the new battery. Needless to say, I was running a little behind.

So the morning of the 12th I needed to finish at least the critical parts of those tasks.  Optimistically, I was still planning to do all of the above. Because installing the camera and fixing the choke required the seat and tank to both be removed, and I knew I had to fix that choke, I started there.

The choke failed because the little clamp that holds it in place over the carbs had fallen off.  It’s only held by one screw, and I assume it vibrated loose.  I cut and ground and bent a piece of steel into a rough facsimile of the missing part, needing only the hole drilled for that screw; then I went looking for an appropriate replacement screw.  I was sure it was an M4, which I had in my parts box… but it’s smaller than that, an M3 probably.  Gah.

I had considered and rejected using a zip tie to hold the cable, but at that point it seemed the only thing to do.  I should have started there… I used a single zip tie to secure the cable to the arm provided to hold it, and it worked perfectly.

Now I started in on the camera, a nice Yi dashcam I got from my daughter for Christmas.  It needs USB power, so I got a USB charger which came with a battery tap, fuse holder, and 7.5 amp fuse.  Obviously I didn’t want it on all the time, so I needed an accessory relay; I picked up an RL44 relay at a local auto parts store to fill that requirement.

All of the components fit nicely into the tool holder behind the left-hand side panel of the Honda.  I keep my tools in a tail bag, so the space was unused anyway.  I hooked it all up and turned on the key, and lo, the camera awoke!

With that done, I put the tank back on the bike, and then turned my attention to the seat.  I remembered I wanted to adjust my softside saddlebags so they would ride a little higher, so I turned the whole works over to unhook the buckle.

The right side bag was torn open all along the lower inner edge.  Gah, again.  So I quickly took the bags off the seat, since I was certainly not going to try to fix them too!  I wanted to get rolling as soon as possible… I was, as they say, burning daylight.

Checking the tire pressure and lubing the chain didn’t take long, but I ran out of time before I got down to the oil change. I took a look at the mileage and decided I could get away with changing the oil after my ride. I checked the level and added a little bit, pulled out the newly repaired choke and started the bike.

Then I watched in disappointment as the camera woke up, then shut off, woke up, then shut off, over and over.  Apparently, power delivery was smooth and made the camera happy when the key was on but the bike wasn’t running (accessory mode) but if the engine is running the power becomes unreliable or cycles up and down or something.  No idea if it’s the USB power adapter, or something about how the RL44 is installed, or what, but I knew I didn’t have time to mess with it.  Off came the camera; the rest of the wiring got to stay where it was, awaiting another day when I can evaluate the situation.

I was ready to ride, but I didn’t have a plan as to where I wanted to go.  But that would be decided for me, at least in part…

Work Intrudes

In the middle of all of that I had received a few business phone calls, one of which seems to require immediate service, so as soon as I had all of the above done, I suited up and rolled out. I went south from my home in La Belle on Route D, cut over on 156 and continued on D to Philadelphia, then took 168 over towards Palmyra. If you’re familiar with the area, you’ll know that there is a river valley on 168 with a long bridge; they replaced the bridge a few years ago, but I still remember the five through trusses that used to comprise it.

But I didn’t go that way. I turned off on Marion County road 324, a paved county road (of which Marion County has many, unlike most Missouri counties), which comes into Palmyra as New Street. I got to my customer’s site about 11:30am, went in and got them taken care of fairly quickly, and was able to resume my ride by about noon. I was kind of hungry, but I decided to push on to Hannibal before stopping to eat.

As I said, Marion County has a lot of paved county roads. I’m somewhat familiar with the roads in the area bounded by Highways 61 and 168 between Palmyra and Hannibal, and I chose to cross over 61 and take one of those roads that cut across to 168 just to see some country I hadn’t seen in a while. For the record, that was County Road 402. I then ran the remainder of 168 into Hannibal and stopped at the Taco Bell for lunch.

Now The Fun Starts

I really didn’t have a plan for where to go next, except that I did want to ride my bike on roads I had become familiar with while working in Hannibal years before. In particular, Route N which runs from 79 back through the country and connects to New London via Route V was of interest to me. You see, many years ago I worked for a company in Hannibal, and I was sent to New London to attend to a customer there; I was unfamiliar with the area and asked one of the other employees for directions.  Rather than giving me the direct route on 61 he sent me down twisty 79 to even more twisty N to get there.  The boss heard him, and evidently he thought it was a fine prank since he never let on that I was being led astray.  In the car I owned then the many curves and hills were annoying, but I remember thinking how much fun they would be on a motorcycle.

Here at last was my chance.  So I wended my way downtown by one of those back-street routes you learn when you live in Hannibal for any length of time, and then I took Highway 79 south out of town. I considered running up to Lover’s Leap since I was passing by there, but quickly decided not to.  Not nearly interesting enough on a day when all I wanted to do was ride.

It was, and had been, a beautiful day and I was enjoying the ride immensely. But turning off on Route N put me on a road that I was not particularly familiar with, and this made me even happier. Riding the interesting, intricate curves through the hills past woods and farmland was exactly what I was wanting to do. Route N turned into Route T, and then I came upon the junction with V that would take me to New London. But when I reached that junction, I noticed that the road sign indicated less than 30 miles to Louisiana Missouri if I was to go left instead of right.  I turned left.

Now I was on a road I knew nothing whatsoever about, except that I was sure that it had to reconnect to Highway 79 if it was going to get me to Louisiana. As I have said before, one of my favorite things to do is to see places I’ve never been before, and riding a motorcycle is by far the best way to do that.

Eventually the curves and hills fell behind me and I found myself back at Highway 79 on the broad Mississippi bottom, so of course I turned south to complete my trek to Louisiana. I had not planned to take my first ride of the year such a long distance from home, but as each step I took further from home made the distance to Louisiana shorter, the temptation grew stronger.

All along the way, I would stop from time to time and take a picture with my phone and send it to Tracy. It’s been our custom since I got my Yamaha back in 2009 that I would call her about once an hour while on a ride just so she would know where I was and that I was okay. But this time I was wandering around the countryside on a weekday afternoon when she was at work. It would have been rude to continuously interrupt her, so I chose to text her pictures and brief notes every so often to accomplish the same goal.

Louisiana City Limits

When I reached Louisiana, coming in on the old road from the north, I stopped right at the city limit sign and send her a photograph of my bike in front of it. She had no reason to expect me to go that far, and I laughed when she responded “Wow.”

I gassed up at Louisiana, as I had at Palmyra earlier. Of course I also took a brief potty break and then got myself a bottle of water and drank it, as hydration is important. I saw several Harley riders at the convenience store where I stopped; all the regular motorcycles I saw on the road that day were Harleys, in fact. Harley Davidson, they tell me, is having a financial downturn right now, and I can tell you why. Everybody who ever wanted a Harley Davidson seems to have one now, so there’s less of a market for new ones.  I think we’ve reached Peak Harley.

After my brief break, I went downtown and ran the length of Georgia Street back to the west. If you’re familiar with Louisiana you know that Georgia Street connects to 54 at the west end of town. I turned on to 54 and continued west until I got to the Allparts building. Route UU goes past that building on the north side and winds through beautiful country before connecting back to Highway 61. I had always wanted to ride a motorcycle on that road, and I finally got my chance. It was gorgeous.

When I got to 61, I didn’t get on the four-lane. Instead, I crossed over and took the boundary road south into Bowling Green. At the first four way stop where the boundary road crosses Business 54 I took a right. You see, there is a Northeast Missouri photo tag thread on the website that as far as I knew at the time had been stuck at a location in Bowling Green since 2012. I intended to pick up that tag, and in fact found the location and photographed the bike there as is required to pick up a tag. Later when I got home I looked it up, and discovered the tag had been picked up in August of 2017, so I didn’t get it… but the new tag is near me, and I plan to grab it soon.

I had seen on the road sign at the four-way stop that Curryville was ahead in that direction. I got a ticket at Curryville once, as it was it well-known speed trap to everyone except me. But that’s another story. On this day I decided to risk going through Curryville.

Art's Flea Market

I hadn’t gone far from where I (thought I had) picked up the tag when I saw a sign for Art’s Flea Market. I overshot the place, and looped in the road to go back to it so I could shoot a picture and send it to Tracy. We both enjoy a good junk store, and this one looks very interesting. We will have to go back with a car or maybe a van or maybe even a pickup truck… who knows?

The road to Curryville was not particularly exciting, I have to admit. I went through Curryville five miles an hour below the speed limit the whole way and never saw a cop. I wonder if they finally shut their speed trap down. Anyway, past Curryville the road straightened out and got really boring, and as I needed to turn my front wheel towards home I was looking for a paved road north. It took me some time before I found one, a road lettered F which not only ran north but was pretty as well, with a nice twisty bit in the middle.  I came up behind a Can-Am Spyder with an older man driving and a woman of indeterminate age riding behind him, and they turned on the same road; I followed them for a while but he didn’t corner as aggressively as I do, so when I got a chance I passed him. He waved, I waved, seemed like a nice guy and I hope they had as much fun that day as I did.

When Route F road ran out I found myself at Highway 19, five miles from New London and four miles from Center.  I saw no point in going back toward New London, so I went to Center.

I stopped at a convenience store there to gas up the bike again, visit the restroom, and check in with Tracy. I sent her a text while I was waiting in line for the facilities, telling her where I was and that everything was alright and that I had nothing interesting to show her.

When I rolled out of there, I took the Route H north. I had actually looked at the map and confirmed that the road connected to Highway 36 near Rensselaer. It looked promisingly curvy, but it’s often hard to tell looking at a map. Still, I had high hopes.

Jim's in Center

I hadn’t made it out of town yet when I saw something to stop for. A store, looking like an old-fashioned gas station. I don’t know if it’s a real store or just a kind of art piece put together by someone with a lot of vintage signs and such, but it was pretty cool.  I knew I needed to take a picture of it and send it to Tracy. So I found a place and I did it.

Then I continued on my way, and I was not disappointed in the road. Curvy! Part way between Center and Rensselaer is a town called Spalding. There’s really not much town there, just a city limits sign, but the road does an S plus one curve right after the sign which was quite entertaining. In fact, the whole road was beautiful, and I was having a great time.

Just north of Rensselaer I hit 36. I’m not much of a fan of riding on a four-lane, so I went west just until I found another paved road going north. This happened to be Route E, the road through Woodland.  It has a narrow, low underpass and more curves than you can see on the map (seriously). I had ridden on the north part of that road before, but I don’t believe I had ever run the entire road in one stretch.

Route E runs out at Route C, which runs from 168 near Palmyra to Route Z connecting south to Monroe City, or staying on C connecting to Warren. If I turned right, I would shortly be back in the Palmyra area. Probably I should have done that, but the road in the other direction to the Z junction is one of my favorite roads to ride on, and the day was still beautiful and I was still feeling pretty good and not ready to quit just yet. So I went that way, and when I got to Z I turned north. That road leads to back to 168 near Philadelphia, but not before you go through a really interesting twisty section in the middle with a somewhat scary downhill curve with a steep dropoff on one side. A short run on 168 over to Philadelphia, and again I turned north on Route D.

Had I stayed on that road, I would have been retracing my morning’s route. But just a few miles north of Philadelphia is a turn off onto Route J, an interesting road that leads into Shelby County. So I went that way. J runs out at an interesting junction with a couple of other roads; you can turn one way and go south back in the general direction of Shelbyville, or take another road that leads to Bethel. The remaining road, Route W north, is another pretty, curvy road that I always enjoy. It does have one defect, though… it runs out to gravel.

I don’t really care for riding the Honda on gravel. It’s kind of heavy and unwieldy, and with smooth road tires, a little slippery. But I liked the paved road leading up to that point enough to go ahead and deal with it, and I was not disappointed. Better yet, the gravel was swept, as I call it; that is to say, passing vehicles had cleared the gravel from the wheel tracks, leaving a hard-packed surface. So it really wasn’t a bad ride through that two or three mile section of gravel before I got back to the junction of Route D and 156, just eight miles south of my home.

There’s nothing exciting to report about that last eight miles at all. But it was still a beautiful day, and it had been a blast, and as I cruised the last few miles home I thought back on all the places I’d seen and all the roads I’d experienced.

Perhaps it’s a bit of an anti-climax at this point, but I will go on to say that when I got home, I did finally change the oil in the bike. Hey, you’ve got to do the maintenance sometime.