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Getting Acquainted: LA to DFW on my new FZ1

Joined
Aug 2, 2006
Messages
629
Location
San Jose, CA
Setting The Stage

If you ride long enough, hard enough, eventually it’s going to happen, and mid-morning on September 25, it happened to me. I took the VFR into a fast left-hand sweeper a bit too fast, stood it up and rode it off the curve at about 80 mph, down a grassy hill before hitting a small ditch. The impact bounced me up over the front of the bike, where a brief flight was followed by a sustained sky-ground-sky-ground tumble. I got off extremely light, walking away with only a slightly sore left shoulder and some fresh grass stains on my leathers; the VFR was not so lucky. She had obviously gone through a flight and tumble similar to mine, and would up with the fairings trashed, entire front fairing stay and rear subframe both bent, gas tank dented, forks tweaked, and so on. Totalled at 76,595 miles, three years and eight months after picking her up, brand-new, from Charlotte Honda.

Nope. Not gonna buff out.
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The search for a new bike began right away. I wanted something that I could use for everything the VFR did: 60 miles of daily freeway commute, two-up multi-day touring, weekend sport rides, and trackdays. I wanted comfort, bulletproof reliability, and easy, cheap maintenance. After much research and numerous test-rides, I settled on a Yamaha FZ1, and began to hunt for my next bike. I messaged back-and-forth with a couple of people on FZ1OA and craigslist, trying to find the bike I wanted at the price I wanted, when this ad popped up. I immediately fell for the blacked-out look with the naked headlight conversion, as well as the plethora of aftermarket goodies. I messaged Brent (smedzz) right away, and over the next few days, we had a few conversations, agreed on a price, and the deal was done. All that was left now was getting her home...

This is the picture that sold me the bike.
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Thursday, October 14: DFW - LGB - Huntington Beach - Laguna Hills


I purchased a one-way ticket from DFW to Long Beach, getting in early Thursday evening. I managed to get all my stuff crammed into two bags that I figured I could sneak onboard as carry-ons, except for my actual riding gear. This meant that whatever I would be wearing to ride, I’d be wearing on the plane. I was almost going to go with my insulated Cortech jacket and jeans, but the forecast showed temperatures in the mountain passes of around 40F, with a slight chance of rain. I wasn’t going to risk cold rain in jeans, so I instead chose to bring along the glowstick--my day-glo, one-piece Olympia Phantom suit. I was not looking forward to nine hours of travel time in a suit that is extremely warm and doesn’t vent all that well--not to mention the predicted 98F temps I’d see while crossing the Sonoran Desert--but I still figured it was the wiser choice. I didn’t know at the time how right I was.

Ready to head to the airport. I like to keep a low profile while traveling.
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Racing fans will probably recognize this sight, just after takeoff from a layover in SLC.
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I arrived at LGB at 5:45, and had a short wait while Brent fought traffic to come pick me up. He eventually got there, and we had a nice chat about motorcycles, riding, and racing on the drive back to his place in HB. Turns out he’s an ex-track rider / sponsored racer who bought the FZ1 as a street bike when he got out of the racing scene, and just hasn’t ridden it as much as he thought he would. So, he decided to sell it to someone who would get more use out of it... enter me. After looking the bike over and taking it for a spin around the block, I handed over the cashier’s check and we signed the title and bill of sale, and I had my motorcycle. Brent was pretty sad about being bikeless for the first time in quite a while, but he’s thinking about getting back into the track scene, and I’m sure it won’t be long before he’s got another race bike sitting in his garage.

One last pic of Brent and his FZ1 together.
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Myself and Brent.
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I had hoped for a nice sunset cruise down PCH to my uncle’s place in Laguna Hills, but it was full dark by the time I left Brent’s. Oh well, I can still ride it and at least pretend I’m enjoying the nice views. Vic and I used to come down here all the time on weekends when we were attending USC, and it was neat to see what had changed and what was the same. A bunch of exotic car dealerships sprung up around Newport Autosport, which looks like it has turned into a Tesla Motors showroom. I should have stopped to get a few pictures, but instead I just kept on heading south...

At the intersection of PCH and Newport Coast.
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I found Uncle Mike’s house without any trouble, despite only having been there once before, several years ago. He was out working at a nearby restaurant, so I grabbed a quick shower and Aunt Debbie and I headed down to see him and have some dinner. Then it was back to the house to organize my stuff and repack the bike for the next day’s ride before heading to bed.

Thursday night dinner at King’s Fishhouse with Uncle Mike and Aunt Deb.
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Joined
Aug 2, 2006
Messages
629
Location
San Jose, CA
Friday, October 15: Laguna Hills, CA - Prescott, AZ
Map - 434 miles

All loaded up, ready to hit the road.
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I had a cup of coffee with Aunt Deb early Friday morning before getting on the road at about 8AM. It was a bit chilly and misty--typical coast weather. After topping off the fuel tank, I jumped on I-5 south towards San Juan Capistrano and the first “destination road” of the trip: CA-74, the Ortega Highway. I took it pretty easy up the mountain; the combination of a new, unfamiliar bike, an unknown road, and cold, damp weather made me a pretty cautious rider.

It was still a pretty fun ride up, though.
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Heading down the mountain into Lake Elsinore was another story. As soon as I hit the crest of the mountain range, the fog thickened up and visibility dropped significantly. I ended up following a Jeep down the hill, torn between “shoot, I’m following him to closely,” and “****, where’d he go?” I didn’t pull off to take any pictures, partly because I didn’t want to lose the jeep, and partly because I was afraid of getting run over by other traffic in the fog. I breathed a big sigh of relief when we finally made it down far enough to get beneath the clouds.

I continued on CA-74 through Perris and Hemet, where I stopped for a bit of breakfast, and then up towards the Pines to Palms Highway, which would take me to Palm Desert. I was almost going to just cut up to I-10 from Hemet and skip out on Pines to Palms; I hadn’t enjoyed the foggy ride down the Ortega, and it looked like this might just be more of the same. In the end, I decided to be foolhardy and ride it anyways.

Heading eastwards out of Hemet... hope the road up in those mountains is clearer then Ortega.
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It turns out I made the right choice. The road quickly climbed right through the clouds with a minimum of fog, and I was soon riding along a beautiful mountain road in bright sunshine--the first time I’d seen the sun today.

Hurray for nice weather!
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Stopped to remove my suit liner after passing through Mountain Center... the day was starting to warm up.
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Overlooking the switchbacks above Palm Desert.
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By the time I got down to Palm Desert, it was downright hot. I had planned to swing south to see the Salton Sea, but it was already close to noon, the day was only going to get hotter, and I had 200 miles worth of Sonoran Desert to look forward to. I opted instead to just jump on I-10 and book it eastward.

I was somewhere pretty far from Barstow, smack dab in the middle of the desert...
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I did have reservations about buying a naked FZ1, instead of a model with the stock half-fairing. I had test-rode fully naked bikes like the Z1000 and Speed Triple, and part of what turned me off to them was the extreme windblast I got at freeway speeds. However, I liked everything else about the FZ1 enough that I figured I could deal with the lack of wind protection, or install a flyscreen if it came to that. However, while straight-lining it along the 10 I found that I was perfectly comfortable maintaining an indicated 80mph for extended periods. Get much above that required a lot of work and commitment, but I figured that wasn’t a bad thing. On the VFR I could try to cruise at 80 and find myself accidentally hitting 105; that wasn’t a problem on this bike. I knew when I was speeding up.

Crossing into the Grand Canyon State.
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Speaking of speeding up... this thing has another dimension of power compared to the VFR, as well. Wide-open in 6th gear feels about comparable to the VFR’s 4th gear. I’m sure that the gearing changes (-1 front / +1 rear) had something to do with that, but still, this thing has just loads of oomph. Another thing I was worried about due to the lower gearing was the engine feeling to buzzy at speed, but it really wasn’t that bad at all. It does have a more high-frequency vibration then the VFR, but it’s not so noticeable as to be an annoyance; at 90mph indicated the engine is only turning a smooth 6k RPM.

US-60, after breaking off from I-10. I may or may not have seen 150 mph somewhere around here...
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The small towns of the desert quickly pass by...
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At least they aren’t without a sense of humor.
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The highway engineers who set the speed limits apparently have a sense of humor, as well.
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As I approached the town of Congress, at the base of the mountain range I would have to climb over to get to Prescott, a huge thunderhead was growing upwards in front of me. A quick check of the weather radar on my phone showed that it was just past the town, right along the road I had planned to ride. I decided to stop in Congress, have a bite to eat, and reevaluate the situation.

I shot a couple of pictures here, but wasn’t lucky enough to get one with the frequent lightning flashes around the base of the cloud.
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From Facebook: “Congress, AZ. Rainbows are mother nature's way of saying ‘Im gonna douse you, so here's something pretty...’ yep, I'm going over there.”
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Another check of the weather radar after my snack showed that the storm had moved off to the side just enough to provide a clear path up the road. I quickly geared up and got rolling before it could change it’s mind and come back.

Heading for the sunny spot.
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The road up and over to Peeples Valley would have been fantastic if it wasn’t freshly drenched. It was still very scenic, with the view back over the desert and the lightning flashes from the storm that was still right there.

Crossing Peeples Valley, with more rain off in the distance.
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Next up was the road up and over to Prescott. Yowza! This was definitely one of the highlights of the ride: perfect smooth asphalt, dry, grippy, and endless esses signed at 25mph. It was a blast. As I came down the hill into Prescott I saw a sign for a National Forest campground and pulled in to check it out. It had minimal amenities, and was fifty miles short of my planned stop, but it was already 6:30 in the evening (I had lost an hour crossing into Arizona) and the sun was setting. I set up camp, then cruised down to the town a few miles away to grab some dinner to go. Ended up hanging out with a drifter the next site over from mine, trading stories around his fire until it was dark, before heading off to bed.

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Joined
Mar 25, 2007
Messages
11,836
Location
COS
Sweet look'n fizzy! I love the nake conversion! :thumb:
Now all the pics I saw on FB are making sence :lol2:
 
Joined
Oct 9, 2007
Messages
11,219
Location
Far East DFW
Moar!

Loving it. Nice getting acquainted with the new FZ1 on the road. So many similarities with my trip getting the bike from KC to Dallas. A much shorter trip, but the weather moving just out of the way for you and having to take the slab instead of the fun stuff because of the weather. Looks like fun. I came very very close to buying a bike in California and riding it home, but finally decided I wanted the FZ1 instead. Good choice of bike, if you aren't loving it already, just know it keeps getting better and better.

Can't wait to see more.
 
Joined
Feb 17, 2005
Messages
1,731
Location
Lindale
Great trip report, looking forward to your future posts. My son has an '07 FZ1 (black). I'll have to show him your cool-looking naked conversion.

I've had thoughts about flying out to buy a motorcycle and riding it home long distance, for years now. I sold my last two motorcycles (a Connie and a K1100RS) to purchasers from California who flew out and rode them home.

Have a continuing fantastic and safe ride home.
 
Joined
Aug 19, 2009
Messages
623
Location
Charlotte, NC
Fantastic report so far man. Those looming clouds look all too familiar. Oh I also have to say that might be the best looking fz1 I've laid eyes on. Really liking the blacked out naked look. Can't wait to see how the rest of the trip went. Was cracking up at the pic of you in the suit, picturing the looks you got on the plane. haha.
 
Joined
May 9, 2010
Messages
205
Location
Lubbock
Very cool, looks like lots of good riding; thanks for sharing!

By the way - you ought to consider turning that riding suit off when you stop, I suspect it will help save the batteries :trust: :duck: :lol2:
 
Joined
Aug 2, 2006
Messages
629
Location
San Jose, CA
Sweet look'n fizzy! I love the nake conversion! :thumb:
Now all the pics I saw on FB are making sence :lol2:
Heh, giving you ideas for yours? :trust:

Was cracking up at the pic of you in the suit, picturing the looks you got on the plane. haha.
The best was when I wandered into a bar/grill in SLC, looking to get a bite to eat during my layover. There were maybe 10 people in there, and when I walked in, everything just... stopped. I felt kinda conspicuous. :oops:

How tall are you? Just curious because I've been looking at the same bike.
I'm 6'1", and the FZ1 fits me about perfectly. Legroom is comparable to the VFR, and I think the bars are actually a bit higher and more upright, despite the fact that the Rizoma bar and risers are a bit lower then stock. A stock setup would have even more room.
 
Joined
Aug 2, 2006
Messages
629
Location
San Jose, CA
Saturday October 16: Prescott, AZ - Clifton, AZ
Map - 439 miles

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I woke with the first light of dawn on Saturday morning. It was chilly, but perfectly calm and clear. Camp was broken down and packed up in short order, and I was soon headed down the road into Prescott. I decided to skip breakfast in Prescott, and see if I could find something farther up the road in Jerome or Cottonwood.

Heading up the mountains on the north side of Prescott.
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The sun just peeking over the ridgeline.
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I can’t get over how good this motorcycle looks.
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The road to the northeast of Prescott isn’t quite as good as the one to the south, but it’s still a lot of fun.
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After the crest, looking down into the valley below.
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The road wound it’s way down to the town of Jerome, an old mining boom town built onto the side of the mountain. It’s since turned into a tourist destination, with quite a few B&Bs, art galleries, and museums. I found a cafe serving breakfast along the main road through town, but it’s menu (and prices) weren’t quite to my liking, so I kept on down the mountain.

The road heading out of Jerome.
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Looking back on part of the town.
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My original plan had me spending the last night at a state park just outside of Cottonwood, AZ. However, my slower then anticipated pace, along with the time change, caused me to stop short in Prescott, and I finally reached Cottonwood at about 9AM. I spotted a decent-looking cafe right along the main drag and decided to stop there for some breakfast.

Crema Cafe, Cottonwood, AZ.
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The day was warming up, and I removed and stashed away my suit liner after breakfast. I also gave the bike a quick once-over and did a double-take at the rear tire. It certainly had some wear on it when I picked the bike up on Thursday night, but I figured it would be enough to get me back home. Now, it looked like half the remaining tread had since disappeared! I realized that yesterday’s extended high-speed freeway riding, combined with occasional jaunts into (sometimes deep into) triple digits was probably killing the tire far faster then I had anticipated. There was still quite a bit of mileage left in it--it wasn’t even to the wear bars yet--but I would definitely have to watch my wrist more if I was to make it home. I stopped off to put a few more PSI into the tires to try and slow the wear before getting back on the road.

On the way out of Cottonwood. That’s Jerome in the background, up on the mountainside.
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I was now travelling east along AZ-260, which starts in Cottonwood, and which I would end up following all the way to its end at the town of Eager. It passed under I-17, the main freeway link between Phoenix and Flagstaff, and back up into the mountains towards Payson. The temperature dropped as the road gained altitude, and while I didn’t have my liner in, it wasn’t so cold as to be uncomfortable.

In Payson, I had the close call of the trip. This part of Arizona is in love with roundabouts; I must have passed through a dozen of them along AZ-260. I have no problem with them, and neither did most of the other drivers I encountered along the way, except for one old biddy coming around one in Payson. I was coming up to the roundabout at about 20 or 25 mph, just as she was coming around it from the left. There was another car following along behind her, a few lengths back--easily enough room for me to slot right in, and I barely had to adjust my speed at all. So, I’m all lined up to roll right into the roundabout behind this old lady, when she sees me coming in from her right, slams on her brakes, and comes to a screeching halt right in the middle of the roundabout, directly in front of me. Thank god for the brakes on this thing--I don’t think I stoppied, but it was close. I got it stopped several feet from her passenger door (actually, I was still behind the ‘yield’ line painted at the entrance to the roundabout!), while she’s staring me down out her window, honks her horn, and gives me the universal “what’s your problem?” hand wave. She sat there for a few more seconds, yelling something, then took off down the next exit. Jeez. There were now several cars backed up around the roundabout, and the next one in line (the one I was going to slot in front of) gave me an embarrassed wave ahead, so off I went. It took a few miles for my heart rate to return to normal after that one, though.

From Payson, I continued along AZ-260 through the Sitgreaves National Forest to the town of Show Low. It was a nice ride, nothing hugely fun, but decently scenic and entertaining. As I came up on Show Low, more thunderclouds loomed up in my path, but again, they were just beyond the town in the direction that I’d be leaving.

Yep, definitely raining over there.
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In Show Low, I asked around after a motorcycle shop with the hope that I might be able to get a new rear tire spooned on real quick. I was directed to Show Low Motorsports, a multi-line dealer over at the east side of town. Unfortunately, all they had in stock was a super-soft Bridgestone compound for $300, that they wouldn’t be able to get around to installing for several hours. No thanks, I’ll press on. On the bright side, they were doing a cookout with burgers and hot dogs, so I at least got a free lunch out of the deal!

Lunch stop at Show Low Motorsports... no new tire, though.
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The road headed even farther up in elevation from Show Low, so I put my liner back on before continuing. It was a good choice--just outside of town the rain started up, and continued steadily for the next twenty or so miles, while the temperature continued to fall. By the time it stopped I was at the 7,500 foot mark, and it was cold. The road continued to climb all the way up above the 9,000 foot level before beginning a slow decent across the high plains. The FZ1 doesn’t have an ambient air temp gauge like the VFR, but my seat-of-the-pants-ometer says that it was somewhere in the 35-40F range up there. Cold.

Beautiful scenery, though.
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Heading back down across the high plains.
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After reaching the end of AZ-260 in Eager, I turned south on US-191, the Coronado Trail Scenic Byway, which was formerly signed as US-666, popularly known as the Devil’s Highway. The ride from Eager up to Alpine was pretty enough, and had some fun, fast sweepers, but I knew the real challenge was still to come.

A sunlit peak off in the distance.
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At Alpine, I stopped to refuel. There’s a whole lot of nothing between here and Clifton, 94 miles to the south, except for mountains, forests, and one of the twistiest roads you can possibly imagine. Google maps says it will take 2 hours and 38 minutes, meaning a 36 mph average. Applying my standard “motorcycle speed” correction to that, I’m expecting it might take 2 hours, tops. I pulled out of Alpine at about 3:30 PM, plenty of time to make it to Clifton before dark and find a campground. Right?

Right.

Or maybe not.

A very scenic gas stop in Alpine, AZ.
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Joined
Aug 2, 2006
Messages
629
Location
San Jose, CA
Leaving Alpine, US-191 consists mainly of big, fast sweepers through the aspen forests as the road slowly climbs from Alpine’s 8,000 foot elevation up to a crest at 9,200 feet. The temperature fell back into the forties again as I gained altitude, and there were a few light showers here and there, along with a brief smattering of hail. However, I was riding 191, something I’d wanted to do for a long time; I wasn’t going to let a bit of cold or rain or hail get in the way of my fun. I managed to keep a spirited pace up along the curves, stopping only to grab a few pictures here and there.

Beautiful colors in the forests.
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Deep breath. Here we go...
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At the high point of the road, there is a stunning vista of the mountains off to the west. The sun falling lower in the sky backlit the pouring rainstorms in the distance, making for simply amazing views.

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The rainy vistas continued as I began my descent from the crest. It seemed like everywhere I looked, there was another beautiful shower off in the distance.

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Of course, with all this rain around, I guess it was inevitable that there would eventually be some along my path. I was about 35 miles out of Alpine, having just finished a set of particularly intense switchbacks, when it decided to make an appearance. I remember being thankful that it had at least let me get out of those twisties and on to a relatively straight and level section before opening up. Besides, I’d been riding in rain here and there all day, and while this was a much heavier rain then I’d previously encountered, at least it never lasted that long. It wasn’t quite as cold as before--probably in the fifites--and I was still dry in my glowstick, with my waterproof Sidi boots and insulated winter gloves. I’d be fine.

Well, the rain never let up. It just kept coming, for miles and miles, getting ever harder and more intense. The straight bit I was riding when the rain started quickly turned back into cliffside switchbacks. The rain was so hard it seemed that there was standing water on the road even on steep inclines, and I couldn’t stop thinking about my almost-bald rear tire back there, trying to channel all this water out of the way. I was taking sections signed at 25 mph at that or below, and still giving myself severe scares while braking into hairpins or feeling the front slide midway through a corner. The rain was washing sand and dirt off of the cliff faces into the road as well, causing me to have to deal not only with water, but also slick spots of sand or mud. The wind had picked up quite a bit and was gusting all over the place. I remember thinking to myself at one point that the wind was way to loud for the speed I was going, then realizing that it was actually a steadily increasing roll of thunder, booming across the mountains.

I remember passing one sign: “10 mph curves, next 11 miles.” I glanced down and saw that I was indeed doing under 15 mph; it felt suicidal to try and go faster, never mind the fact that it could take me the best part of an hour just to get through this section. Every bit of my concentration and ability was going towards keeping the bike upright, on the road, and moving forward at the best pace possible, with the gnawing knowledge that any misjudgement or slip-up could result in a tumble that would make my VFR wreck seem like a walk in the park.

This was the most ridiculously challenging riding I had ever done. Moreso then riding my 30-mile metropolitan freeway commute in the snow; moreso then trying to hustle the overweight, underpowered VFR around MSR-Cresson in the advanced group; moreso then knocking out 1,060 miles in 20 hours around the backroads of Texas for a Saddlesore 1000 certification. I can’t seem to come up with any adjectives that really do justice to the experience, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Oh, and I didn’t stay dry the entire time, either. My gloves were the first to go; they actually held out for quite a while, but the first time I felt that cold trickle down my wrist, I knew they were done for. It wasn’t long before they were soaked all the way through, my hands numb from the cold. I’m not sure what went next, the boots or the suit, but they both did eventually. The suit didn’t leak enough to soak me, but I did have a few wet spots here and there. It was a rather cold, uncomfortable ride, and it’s tough to imagine what could have made it any worse--maybe snow, or something.

***. No, seriously. W. T. F.
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I was in the middle of a slight lull in the rain--it was still drizzling steadily, but it seemed like clear sunshine compared to the deluge I’d been through--and I came around a corner to find a perfect, white landscape before me. My mind barely had time to register “Oh crap, snow snow snow, brake, brake! OK, off the brakes, coast into it, feather the rear brake, little slip-n-sliding, get her slowed down, OK, you’ve done this before, you’re good, you’re good, how on Earth...? Wait, what? -No, this isn’t snow...”

Hail. So much hail it looks like snow. I’m glad I wasn’t here a few minutes ago when this crap was coming down.
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I didn’t care that it was still drizzling, I was going to get a picture of this. I pulled the camera out of the ziplock as quick as I could and snapped these two pics. It was like the hail was melting away as I watched, due to the rain. It must have really just fallen for it to still look like it did when I saw it; I doubt it lasted more then a few minutes after I left.

I continued my way southward, through the rain and the wind and the occasional calm, drizzly spot, until I finally left the weather behind. I came around a left-hand bend and was greeted with a view of the road winding it’s way down the mountain face, with no rain in sight. The road was dry and beautiful, and I was thrilled and relieved beyond words. I pulled off my gloves (which weighed about four pounds apiece by this point) and took some pictures to commemorate the occasion. My best guess is I did roughly 35 to 40 miles through that storm, taking somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours to get through it.

Dry pavement, oh how I’ve missed thee.
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Looking back on the dark clouds to the north.
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There were some great curves dropping down out of the mountains, but there was still alot of sand everywhere.
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It was at this stop that I decided to treat myself to some dry gloves, and swapped the soaked winter pair for my dry vented ones.
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Hairpins down into the valley.
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A short way down the road from the switchbacks pictured above, I came across the Morenci Mine, an absolutely gigantic open pit copper mining operation. The scale of this thing is hard to convey; the picture below is only the first of the pits I came across on the ride down, and they go on for miles.

You know those giant dump trucks the size of houses? There are several in this picture that you can’t even make out. Oh, and notice it’s raining again. Time to swap back to the wet winter gloves...
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More of the mine.
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One of the coolest bits was heading down into the town of Morenci, where the road actually runs right under a giant conveyor, which is dumping huge amounts of material into a giant pile just to the side of the road. Yeah, good luck keeping your eyes on the road during that bit. I would have loved to have been able to spend more time there, just exploring around, but dark was falling rapidly and I still had to find a place to stay.

A final shot from the road--more rainstorms in front of the setting sun.
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I had decided a while back, still in the midst of the storm, that I was not going to be camping tonight. I wanted nothing more then a warm, dry room, with a warm, dry bed, and a hot, hot shower. It was already past 7PM and dark as I made my way down to Clifton and their one motel. The lady there told me they only had smoking rooms left, except for one of the “small rooms” in the back. I didn’t care if it was small with only a twin bed, I just needed a room, so I took it. She wasn’t joking when she said “small room;” my gear, spread out to dry, took up almost all the available space. She also told me that all the eateries in town close up early, even on a Saturday night, so there was nothing around to eat unless I wanted to backtrack up to Morenci, so after my shower I just snacked on some of the tidbits I had stashed away before falling asleep.

What. A. Day.

Small room, small bed... I didn’t care one bit.
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Joined
Aug 2, 2006
Messages
629
Location
San Jose, CA
Sunday, October 17: Clifton, AZ - Ruidoso, NM
Map - 393 miles

I had set up all my gear around the fan in the room, which I had turned on to high, in the hopes that it would all dry out by morning. Most of it did, though my boots were still a tiny bit damp, and my winter gloves were still pretty wet. After loading up the bike, I just attached the gloves to one of the bungees over top of the camping gear, letting them flap about in the wind to dry off. This meant that I had to wear my vented gloves for today’s ride, which started off rather cool, and stayed that way through most of the morning. Numb hands again...

The three “small rooms” out back of the motel. The FZ spent the night in the hall.
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Looking back on the mountains above Clifton.
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Yesterday’s rain had moved on, and the day was bright and clear, if a bit cold. I headed out of Clifton to the south along US-191, which had turned back into a relaxed desert highway instead of a mountainside rollercoaster. The sun was just peeking over the mountains to the east as I cruised down to the intersection of AZ-78. I was admiring the view for a bit, and when I looked back at the road, there was a tarantula, right in front of me--a big one. There was no mistaking what it was, even at 70mph; it must have been 4” across at least. I just had time to register it before I ran right over it. Yikes.

My encounter with the arachnid was right after this photo stop.
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I had taken pretty good care of my rear tire yesterday, limiting myself to around 80mph and being very gentle with acceleration and engine braking. Even so, I was still loosing tread faster then I was comfortable with, and was now pretty much at the wear bars. I decided to cut my cruising speeds to the 70-75 mph range, and was even more judicious with the throttle. Heading up into the Gila National Forest along AZ-78, I did my best to maintain speed through the corners, and roll on the throttle early to get any acceleration done while still leaned over, cutting back to just maintenance throttle once I was straight up-and-down. I was babying the center of that tire for all I was worth. I knew I could at least make it to Las Cruces or El Paso, and wait for a shop there to open if I had to.

Heading into the mountains along AZ-78.
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Looking back west on the roads I had just climbed.
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After crossing the state border into New Mexico, the road wound its way back down to the next valley. I’m usually very dependent on engine braking, so it was a new challenge to try and keep it in fourth or fifth gear heading into these 30mph turns, having to really use the brakes to scrub off speed, instead of inflicting the additional wear on my tire.

Roadside dew along NM-78.
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At the end of NM-78, about to turn south on US-180.
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It was difficult to keep my speed down on US-180. It was a very open, wide road, and limiting myself to 70mph was tough, especially when I was getting passed by other passenger cars along the way.

Across the continental divide.
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I arrived in Silver City, NM around 8:30 in the morning, and decided to find some breakfast. A gas station attendant recommended Vicki’s Eatery, just a few blocks over. It was pretty tasty, big portions, and reasonable prices, but their service left something to be desired. I was seated and provided with coffee and a menu very quickly, but twenty minutes passed before I got up and reminded them that I was there, and still needed to put in my order. It took another half hour after that before my food showed up. Meanwhile, the lady sitting across from me had arrived, ordered, and finished between the time I ordered and my breakfast arriving. Come on people, look at what I’m wearing... don’t tell me you forgot about me.

The weather was perfect for sitting out on the patio, enjoying a cup of coffee.
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After not having any real dinner last night, this really hit the spot.
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My chain was looking pretty tired and thirsty, and after what it had been through yesterday on 191, I didn’t blame it one bit. I stopped at a lube joint on the way out of Silver City and the guys there were kind enough to give me some 90-wt gear oil to splash on the chain. It ended up splattering everywhere, but it’s OK, I’ll give her a bath when we get home.

Thanks guys!
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From Silver City, I continued out of town along US-180, then turned off onto NM-152, a scenic state highway that runs back up and over a range in the Gila National Forest. It was a pretty nice, fun road until passing the sign that marked the actual entrance to the NF; shortly past that there was an orange road sign for “loose gravel,” the center line disappeared, and the paved road was covered with a layer of pea gravel. Hey, no problem, I’ve ridden through construction zones before, just slow down a bit and take it easy until it ends. The gravel-strewn road steadily climbed up the mountain range, providing some pretty nice views. It would have been nicer if the I’d been able to actually enjoy the road, though.

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I kept waiting to come around a corner and see the end of this **** gravel, and it just never happened. All the way up the mountain range, over the crest, and down the other side. It was one of the most frustrating rides of my life. There was this perfect, beautiful road, great weather, and gravel everywhere. I was again reduced to taking sections signed at 25mph at that or below, pulling off to the side to allow passenger cars, pickups, and minivans to get around me. Coming down the mountain, I was again scaring the crap out of myself trying to brake into tight, downhill hairpins and feeling the front skip and slide around on the gravel. Twenty freakin’ miles, the entire length of the road through the national forest, all gravelly. To the road crew that put up that loose gravel sign: really guys, was it that hard to put up that other sign that said “next 20 miles,” too? I could have turned around and detoured south to I-10 if I had known it was going to be like this; instead, I was reduced to hoping that the gravel might come to an end just around that next bend, and I was ten miles in before I reached the crest and realized that it really wasn’t going to happen.

Gravel. Everywhere. For twenty **** miles.
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Finally! I felt like kissing the clean pavement when I finally got out of the national forest.
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At Hillsboro, I was going to follow NM-27 south, another windy-looking road through the foothills, but I was done. Between the deluge yesterday on US-191, and today coming through that gravelly mess on NM-152, I had absolutely no interest in any more curves, twisties, or elevation changes. I wanted straight and flat and boring and mindless. Get me to a *******ed interstate.

NM-152 after Hillsboro was much more to my liking.
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Down the hill to Caballo, NM, and I-25. This is where I had hoped to spend last night; instead, it was 1 PM when I got here.
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I-25 from Caballo to Las Cruces was wonderful and torturous at the same time. It was great to just be able to park myself in the right lane and cruise at 65 or 70 mph, not having to concentrate on anything, just mindless straightlining. However, it was a bit of a pain to keep my speed down that low while semis were blowing by me in the left lane with a 15 or 20 mph speed differential! I eventually made it to Las Cruces, where I stopped to fill up and reevaluate my tire situation.

I was eating down into the wear bars on the rear tire, but I still had tread left. Being that it was Sunday, I knew I wouldn’t find any open shops here or in El Paso, and I judged that I still had enough tire left to make it up to Roswell, or even Lubbock. I decided to head up in that direction, camp somewhere along the way, and try to find an open shop the next day (Monday) to have a new one put on.

Heading northeast out of Las Cruces.
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There is a gentle climb out of Las Cruces over the mountains to the east, before dropping into the huge valley that is the White Sands Missile Range. The view was awesome--I could easily see the mountains on the far side, sixty miles away. As I descended into and crossed the valley, there were more rain storms to both sides of the road, but I only got a few light sprinkles here and there.

Looking towards White Sands and Alamogordo.
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Mountains to either side, heading down into the valley.
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Surrounded by rain on all sides.
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Some miles into the desert, the dirt transitions to some kind of white sand.
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A ha.
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I turned off of the main highway onto the Dunes Drive, which heads north into the sands. After paying a $3 fee at the entry station, I slowly made my way up the road, stopping now and again for pictures or to admire these endless, featureless dunes. Several miles in, the road turns from asphalt into hard-packed sand. I continued for a short distance before turning around and returning to the highway.

I almost fell while pulling off the road here. It’s easy to forget that this is sand, and pulling off of the pavement is like riding onto a beach.
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After returning to the highway, I continued on to Alamogordo, where I again decided to bypass the twisties through the Sacramento Mountains going up to and back down from Cloudcroft. I instead opted to stay on US-70 all the way to Ruidoso, where I would try to find a place to camp. A quick stop in Tularosa got me a sandwich from Subway and some cookies that would serve as dinner, and I made it in to Ruidoso at close to 5PM.

The sun was falling and the temperatures dropping quickly as I descended the pass into Ruidoso.
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Another helpful gas station attendant directed me to the Forest Service Headquarters, a few miles away; they were closed, but had area maps posted outside with campgrounds marked. The Cedar Creek “dispersed camping” area was just up a forest road from where I was, so I decided to check it out. A short ways up the road turned from rough pavement to gravel, and the residences that lined the road seemed to be getting farther apart. I continued up to where the road ended at a deserted gravel cul-de-sac, with a few small clearings scattered around it.

The place was completely deserted, with only the remnants of a few campfires here and there to show that people actually did camp here. There were no toilets, no water, just one barely legible sign hung on a tree that said “Camping - 3 days max.” It really felt like I was out in the middle of the Sierra Blanca wilderness, even though I knew I was only a few miles up from town. I quickly got to setting up my tent before it got too dark.

These were taken with the low-light, no flash setting, so it was actually darker then it looks.
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After setting up, I broke out my Subway and had dinner as darkness fell around me. I’d never camped in such an isolated place, and I managed to creep myself out pretty good, imagining animals and who knows what else out there in the night. I finished as quickly as I could, then crawled into the tent for the night.

One last pic before heading to bed.
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I had a pretty poor night’s sleep that night. I was constantly on alert for noises around me, and there were a lot of noises. Lots of small scurrying animals running around, and a few larger animals passing by while walking through the forest, including at least one big one that thumped along rather then walked. It wasn’t really close, but the fact that it was close enough to hear clearly kept me awake. I know I managed to get a few fitful hours of sleep in here and there, but it wasn’t a very restful night.
 
Joined
Apr 17, 2010
Messages
439
Location
Willis, TX
I am thoroughly enjoying living vicariously through the ups and downs of your trip home. So much so that I forgot about the cheese pizza I'd put in the oven for my daughter...:doh:

Ready for the next installment.
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
11,186
Location
Arlington
Wow. Alpine, Silver City, Ruidoso, Cloudcroft. all reminders of my El Paso days. Loved it out there. Have you noticed that no matter what direction you're going, there are absolutely no straight roads going in and out of Alpine, Az - only less curvy ones.
 
Joined
Sep 11, 2006
Messages
2,446
Location
Houston, TX
I can't think of a better way to get acquainted to your new bike. :zen: Well, I guess you could have done without all the rain, cold, and hail. :doh:

I really wish I would have known you were heading down NM 152, I would have told you NO! I experienced the same thing just a month prior. The road is awesome when it's in good shape, but the gravel had me puckering everywhere last month. :eek2: I purposely went out of my way to ride it only to take corners at 10 mph. :argh:

It's a shame the conditions you faced going down 191. It's an amazing road, but I'll remember to only ride it in the summer.
 
Joined
Nov 4, 2006
Messages
394
Location
DFW (Grapevine) TX
Cool new bike!!! Enjoying your report as always!

Did Kegan get eaten by a bear in the night...did his tire make it home...ohhh the suspense! :-P
 
Joined
Aug 2, 2006
Messages
629
Location
San Jose, CA
Monday, October 18: Ruidoso, NM - Euless, TX
Map - 599 miles

I would say I woke up early on Monday morning, but really, I was awake for quite a while, waiting for morning to arrive. My phone had died during the night, and I don’t wear a watch, so I had no idea what time it was while just waiting for the sky to lighten. Just before getting up I heard some large antlered animal wandering through the trees up the hill from me, his horns scraping through and snapping off the branches. A short time later, I stuck my head out of the tent and thought I could detect a bit of dawn. I stumbled out and started the bike to check the time--5:30AM according to the clock, which meant 6:30 local. Morning. Finally.

The bike and tent, hiding beneath the towering trees.
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All packed up and ready to roll.
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It was another nippy morning as I headed back down into Ruidoso and picked up US-380 eastwards to Roswell, but at least I was able to wear my now-dry winter gloves. I stayed pretty comfortable as I rode through the transition from the last of the mountains to the great plains, heading into the rising sun. I was still holding to around a 70mph maximum, and getting passed by most of the other traffic on the road. I had decided to try and find an open shop in Roswell, and maybe head on to Lubbock if I couldn’t find one.

Wildlife along US-380.
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Into the sunrise.
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I passed a hole-in-the-wall shop called Southland Cycles just as I was heading into Roswell, at about 9 AM. It was still early, but there was a car out front, so I pulled in to check it out. They were open, but didn’t have any tires that would fit the FZ1. The guy there suggested I try Motion Performance, another shop farther along 380. I found it a few miles later, open, and with a set of Metzler M3’s in a 190 size! I explained my situation to the guys there, and they agreed to clear one of their workstations to get my tires swapped out right away.

I still really only needed a rear tire--it had finally reached the point that it really had no tread left in the center, through the telltale horizontal cracks had still not appeared--but the front was getting down there, it was more then three years old, and I was going to need to replace it soon anyways. Since Motion Performance was good enough to work on my bike immediately, I figured I’d throw them the extra business and have them do the front as well.

On the lift, ready to have her wheels pulled off.
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I ended up having a great time hanging out at the shop with Garvin and Jim while they worked on my bike. Garvin is a dirt-track racer with some great stories, a penchant for bad jokes, and a few nice racebikes hanging out in the back of his shop. There was a steady stream of visitors coming by as well, dropping off machines for work, or just swinging by to shoot the breeze. The local burrito lady also swung by on her morning delivery run so I managed to sneak in some breakfast while I was there, as well.

My new tires were on and balanced within 90 minutes of my arrival, and I was ready to get on the road by 10:30. Garvin was kind enough to give me a big break on the marked retail price of the tires, and I ended up paying less then $400 for both M3s, mounted and balanced, including tax. I was hugely grateful to them for their quick and friendly service; if you’re in the Roswell area and need some quick repairs or work done, I’d highly recommend looking up Motion Performance.

New shoes. Yum.
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One more pic in front of the shop.
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I was still showing more the half a tank as I left MP, still heading east on 380. I wasn’t certain where the next town out was, though, so I figured I’d stop and top off. The first station I pulled in to was out of premium--on to the next one. That one didn’t say they were out, but none was coming out of my hose, and the guy next to me said he had his filling for several minutes, and didn’t even have a gallon in yet. Argh. On to the next one.

As it turns out, that was the last gas station heading out of Roswell. I didn’t think anything of it, I could just fill up in the next town. In the meantime... I had new rubber! I could break 80mph without worrying about my tire life! Woohoo! The wrist rotated, the speedo climbed, and the gas gauge started dropping. I passed a sign announcing the town of Caprock in a couple miles, which I was glad for, since I was getting pretty low on fuel. I cruised into Caprock and was greeted with a few run-down shacks and a small general store. Uh-oh. I thought back to that last sign I saw... another twentysome miles to Tatum. My reserve light was already blinking. Is there even fuel in Tatum? I’m not sure, but there’s no fuel here. I continue on, willing for there to be enough fuel left in the tank to get me there. I’m back to cruising in 6th gear at 60 mph in a full tuck, with semi’s passing me in the other lane. Crap, I thought I was done with this. I finally make it to Tatum with no sputtering, and fill up at the first gas station I see, with 174 miles showing on the trip meter. Whew.

Shortly after leaving Tatum, I crossed into the final state on my ride, Texas. I’m thankful for the fact that I now have a full tank of gas to go along with my fresh tires, because if there’s one thing you want when crossing west Texas, it’s the ability to go fast. As I told my friends before leaving: flying to California to pick up a bike and riding it back is a wonderful way to see all the great roads in AZ and NM while only having to cross west Texas once!

Back in the right state, at least.
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There is a common thread through most Texas ride reports: county courthouses. There are 254 of them, and motorcyclists love taking pics in front of them, for some reason. I passed quite a few on my way across the state.

Yoakum County Courthouse, Plains, TX.
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There’s a bit of cotton growing around here.
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Make that quite a bit of cotton.
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Terry County Courthouse, Brownsfield, TX.
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I mean, tons of cotton.
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Lynn County Courthouse, Tahoka, TX.
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Garza County Courhouse, Post, TX.
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Stopped for a snack in Post. Sometimes a roadside billboard causes a craving that just must be fed.
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Flat, straight, non-scenic west Texas. This part of the ride certainly does not
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Haskell County Courthouse, Haskell, TX.
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Throckmorton County Courthouse, Throckmorton, TX.
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Final stop: Jack County Courthouse, Jacksboro, TX.
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I had made rapid progress across Texas throughout the day, stopping in Post for my McD’s snack at about 2:30 (after losing an hour crossing into the central time zone from NM), reaching Haskell at about 5:30, and pulling into my final gas stop in Jacksboro at about 6:45. Leaving Roswell that morning, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it home by that evening, but I shouldn’t have doubted the ability of the FZ1 to make good time on these empty roads. Darkness fell as I was leaving Jacksboro, but I was back in familiar territory as I headed down TX-199 towards the DFW freeways.

I arrived back at my apartment a short time later, at about 8:30 Monday night. Vic rushed downstairs when she heard me pull up, excited to have me home, and came running at me to give me a hug, only to recoil in disgust when she got to within a few feet. Apparently I was prominently displaying the effects of several hundred miles of riding on my suit. She took a few pics and then made me de-gear before she would touch me.

Finally home with the new toy.
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Ew. And to think I just washed it before I left.
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More ew.
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The FZ1 was showing 1888 miles on the odometer from leaving Brent’s house on Thursday to my return on Monday. It never gave me a single problem, starting on the first try every time, even on those freezing cold mornings, and running great, even in the midst of a torrential storm. It does have a tendency to eat rear tires, but I think that has as much to do with my wrist as with the bike. The riding position was spot-on for me, and I never really felt uncomfortable on it, though the seat could use a bit more padding (a set of Corbins should be in the mail right now, just need to go get them). It handled everything this trip threw at it in stride, and I think I made a pretty good choice in buying it. I hope to have many more fun miles on it in the future.

As for the ride itself... it did have it’s high points, some great roads and beautiful sights. However, some of those trials along the way certainly put a damper on it. I’m glad I made the trip, but when Vic asked me after I got back if I would go back and do it all over again, everything exactly the same, I didn’t hesitate long before answering in the negative. Overall, it was a kind of stressful, worry-filled ride, with some pretty crappy weather and road conditions along the way. I’d really like to try doing the whole thing again down the line, when maybe conditions will be better... but not anytime soon.

The day after I got back, the FZ1 got a good cleaning to bring her back to her previous condition. It’s kind of funny, I would wash the VFR maybe once or twice a year, but I felt almost obligated to clean up the FZ. She was so nice and shiny when I got her from Brent, it was like I felt guilty for putting her through that ride and leaving her splattered with bugs and grime. She’s down in the garage now, all clean and pristine, though she’d better not get used to it; I’m sure she won’t stay that way for long.

The wife and the mistress, all cleaned up and ready to ride.


Thanks for reading; hope you enjoyed it!
 
Joined
Oct 9, 2007
Messages
11,219
Location
Far East DFW
Great report. I hear ya on the whole washing thing. The guy that I bought mine from had a tear in his eye as I took off in the rain....first time since he'd bought it that it had been in the rain. I could have eaten off of it when I picked it up. I try to keep it clean, but when you commute daily on it, it's hard to keep a clean bike.
 
Joined
Jun 18, 2010
Messages
183
Location
Edna,Texas / Brazil
Outstanding!!!

I'm looking into getting a FZ1 and this has helped out quite a bit. Good to know that a rider over 6ft tall can ride the bike for long distance without being cramped and such.
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
11,186
Location
Arlington
Great report with interesting narrative. Very good, and very creative photographs. Helps give guys like me the confidence to move beyond day rides. Thanks.
 
Joined
Mar 25, 2007
Messages
11,836
Location
COS
Outstanding!!!

I'm looking into getting a FZ1 and this has helped out quite a bit. Good to know that a rider over 6ft tall can ride the bike for long distance without being cramped and such.
you won't regret it, i know I haven't.
If you're ever in the neighborhood pr we end up at the same pie run, you're welcome to take mine for a spin
 
Joined
Aug 2, 2006
Messages
629
Location
San Jose, CA
Outstanding!!!

I'm looking into getting a FZ1 and this has helped out quite a bit. Good to know that a rider over 6ft tall can ride the bike for long distance without being cramped and such.
From what reading I've done over on FZ1OA, the 1st gen ('01-'05) are slightly more S-T oriented, a bit heavier, more legroom and a more upright position, and a larger fuel tank. The 2nd gens ('06+) are sportier, lighter, slightly more cramped and less fuel range. The comfort measures are all relative, of course... even my 2nd gen, with aftermarket bars and risers that are a bit lower then stock, compares favorably with the VFR. I wasn't looking at 1st gens at all during my search for various reasons, but if you are looking primarily for something to tour on and are OK with an older, carb'd model, it might be something to look into.
 
Joined
Oct 9, 2007
Messages
11,219
Location
Far East DFW
From what reading I've done over on FZ1OA, the 1st gen ('01-'05) are slightly more S-T oriented, a bit heavier, more legroom and a more upright position, and a larger fuel tank. The 2nd gens ('06+) are sportier, lighter, slightly more cramped and less fuel range. The comfort measures are all relative, of course... even my 2nd gen, with aftermarket bars and risers that are a bit lower then stock, compares favorably with the VFR. I wasn't looking at 1st gens at all during my search for various reasons, but if you are looking primarily for something to tour on and are OK with an older, carb'd model, it might be something to look into.
Don't forget that our carb's are thought to be about perfect, and largely rated above the FI of the Gen II's. :mrgreen:

And the larger fuel tank....I wouldn't have even been sweating when you were riding on fumes. :rofl:
 
Joined
Mar 25, 2007
Messages
11,836
Location
COS
Don't forget that our carb's are thought to be about perfect, and largely rated above the FI of the Gen II's. :mrgreen:

And the larger fuel tank....I wouldn't have even been sweating when you were riding on fumes. :rofl:
The carbs are perfect, haven't riden a Gen II, but I have no complaints on mine.
What kind of range/mileage are you getting? 175 miles would have me sweating bullets. Mine has the Ives jet kit and a slip on, not to mention my right hand tends to be really heavy :mrgreen:
 
Joined
Oct 9, 2007
Messages
11,219
Location
Far East DFW
When I was coming home from KC, I was doing my usaual 80-90mph on the highway and the light was coming on at around 180 miles. That's short of what a lot of folks get on these and many have pushed them to around 220 miles on a tank. I still had around a gallon left when I filled up, so at 38 mpg I could have probably gotten 220 myself, but I don't like to push my luck, or my bike.
 
Joined
Jun 18, 2010
Messages
183
Location
Edna,Texas / Brazil
From what reading I've done over on FZ1OA, the 1st gen ('01-'05) are slightly more S-T oriented, a bit heavier, more legroom and a more upright position, and a larger fuel tank. The 2nd gens ('06+) are sportier, lighter, slightly more cramped and less fuel range. The comfort measures are all relative, of course... even my 2nd gen, with aftermarket bars and risers that are a bit lower then stock, compares favorably with the VFR. I wasn't looking at 1st gens at all during my search for various reasons, but if you are looking primarily for something to tour on and are OK with an older, carb'd model, it might be something to look into.
I've spent a little time over on FZ1OA reading also, good info on that site. So far I have been looking at the 2nd gen for the FI, but might have to look into the 1st gen.
 
Joined
Oct 9, 2007
Messages
11,219
Location
Far East DFW
Give a Gen I a try. I too shied away from them because carbs are black magic to me. But honestly it's been one of the best bikes I've ever owned. Heck, when it came time to replace my totaled Gen I, what did I replace it with? Why, another Gen I of course! That's unusual for me to not go in a different direction just because. I hope soon to get a morgan carbtune so I can get the Bandit400 running and learn to keep the FZ in top form.
 
Joined
Aug 2, 2006
Messages
629
Location
San Jose, CA
Don't forget that our carb's are thought to be about perfect, and largely rated above the FI of the Gen II's. :mrgreen:

And the larger fuel tank....I wouldn't have even been sweating when you were riding on fumes. :rofl:
I agree that carbs provide a smooth throttle response unlikely to be found on an FI bike, and I was originally trying to stay away from '06s (first year of FI) due to hearing many complaints of snatchy throttle. However, Brent assured me that with the mods he'd done, there was no surging or snatchiness, and I've been happy with the perfectly smooth throttle response on my bike so far. I also didn't want to have to go through the process of trying to start a carb'd bike when it had been sitting outside at work all day in the middle of January, when the high temp never broke 35F. That, combined with my preference for the looks of the 2nd gen, the better suspension, lighter weight, etc, caused me to limit my search to just the newer bikes. As for the fuel range... guess I just need to fill up more often. :doh:

Great report.

You actually wore that suit through the airport? Did you get body cavity searched?
Haha, yes, I did, and no, I didn't. I asked the security guy there if he wanted me to take it off... he eyed me up and down and said "yeah, probably..." It takes a whole 20 seconds to shuck it off, it went through the x-ray, and I breezed through security without any issues.
 
Joined
Oct 9, 2007
Messages
11,219
Location
Far East DFW
I also didn't want to have to go through the process of trying to start a carb'd bike when it had been sitting outside at work all day in the middle of January, when the high temp never broke 35F.
Not sure what is meant by this. Only issues I had last winter were due to my super old battery.
 
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