Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Little Honda(s)

Mike should get most of the blame, but there's really an entire cast of characters that hooked me into 'old' motorcycles and the place it all revolved around is Lucy's place, Diamond's Coffee Shoppe, located in Northeast Minneapolis.  Lucy's kind enough to put up with us all most every Saturday morning (often Sunday's too) as we gather during every season, most of us of course riding there in the summer on our various motorcycles, many of the machines old, some very old.  It's typically a mix of bikes from every country and era, though the most popular bikes seem to break down into two somewhat loosely defined categories, namely vintage Japanese bikes or antique British bikes.

To this day I've still not owned anything from Britain, though I was close once upon a time to owning a mid-70's Norton.  As mentioned in a previous Post, I started riding on a 1964 Honda 55cc trail bike.  A few years after we sold it, I approached the woman that bought it, wondering if she might be interested in selling.  She wasn't.  As a retiree at a lake cabin in northern MN, she and her husband used the bike to bring the mail home and do their casual shopping in the nearest town.

Thanks to the Saturday morning guys and my recent joining of the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club, Minnesota Chapter, some serious searching on our local Craig's began.  I do my very best to avoid searches there since every time I visit, there seems to be something I absolutely need and I simply can't afford to need so many things.

Anyway, a 1963 Honda C105T was found west of Minneapolis. Based on the photos and description, it was a bit rough but the price seemed fair for its age and condition.  Mike, already mentioned above, went along to make sure I started 'old' properly and to make sure I did everything right.  He did and I did.

The young high school student had rescued it from a local farm neighbor, patched up a few things and got it running.  It wasn't a restored bike but it had been running and that was enough for me.

Ain't she a dandy??

I rolled my Helix outside for comparison and when our oldest daughter saw what I was up to, came out to see "the cute little thing".  She couldn't believe that the Helix would make anything look small, but the did what it could to live up to my designation of Big Touring Rig.

This all happened in November of 2009.  In the long span of two very wintery months, I decided that one wasn't enough and found two more, a 1962 and a 1963, both C105T's.  Again, Mike and this time another facilitator, friend Chris, helped me bring these home from northern Wisconsin in mid-January.

Over the next few months, I essentially made one runner out of the 3 of them.  Mike (he's always around when I need him) helped me get the seat re-covered and other than a few other odds and ends easily available on Ebay, it was mostly adjusting, cleaning and lubricating to get it running again.

Here it is running, pretty un-Honda-like loud.  There was a small baffle on the lower side of the upswept pipe that was open.  I machined a cover for it and then the little bugger ran as quiet as a Honda should.  Of course, I lost maybe 15-20 horsepower but you can't put a value on quiet.

Note the shift into road gear where conditions were warranted.......

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Yamaha TW200 .....the little mule

Maybe it was the time I was spending on the ADVrider forum, possibly the acknowledgement that my riding was slowing down and dwelling on quieter, slower roads, but whatever it was, I became very interested in Yamaha's odd and 'small' TW200.  Again, after a winter of online discovery back in '08-'09, I was caught up in a TDub frenzy.  It was a frenzy that hasn't worn off; she still gives me grins every time I ride her.

Compared to many owners, I've added a minimum of 'farkles' (Functional Sparkles) to mine.  Besides the relatively low purchase price, I was drawn to this particular one because of the already installed windshield.  Many TW200 riders spend the majority of their time off road, trail and fire-road riding.  I expected and it has proven to be true that the majority of my miles have been on back roads with lots of gravel, not as much 'dirt', with highway miles to connect the good stuff.

The stock luggage rack was replaced with a much larger Cyclerack from the brothers in Idaho and the rack has proven to be perfectly suited for my use.  I bought the front one as well only because I liked the look and expected questions and more than a few comments about it.  Due to the small-ish OEM gas tank on the Tdubs, I added a Kolpin gas container w/mount, mounted solidly on the rear of the Cyclerack tubes.  In common with all of my bikes, I added a Powerlet SAE power plug as well as a Ram Mount ball for my GPS.  A small tankbag (I'd use a tankbag on the Helix if I could.....I use them on everything else) and then recently, Clarke Manufacturing finally produced a larger gas tank, so that was installed to increase my riding range.

The Brule River outlet into Lake Superior.......

Pictured here on the south shore of Lake Superior, my south to north ride of the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail (another future Post) almost over.  The cool, wet day really brought out the bike's patina, larger, white plastic after-market tank not yet installed.......

These outriggers were installed to temporarily use for holding soft saddlebags out and away from the rear wheel and exhaust pipe.  I say "temporarily" because that was my intention, though they've never been off the bike since.  Once I built the 'tripod' device below, I had these and it black anodized.

Since the bike has no centerstand, lubricating the chain proved to be more trouble than it needed to be.  I machined a folding bracket to act as a third leg (the front wheel and sidestand the other two), able to hold the rear wheel an inch above ground so spinning the wheel became easy.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Minnesota's Northwest Angle

This trip started with the idea of "now for something completely different".  Since most of my riding involves the hilly, curvy regions of MN/IA/WI, heading off to northern Minnesota was a mostly rare event; northern Wisconsin a different story, what with my annual 'Bayfield at Halloween' (will be another Post) rides only one example.

The idea started with 'north' and from there I started wondering about how far.  It was another good excuse to pull out the big maps, exploring what 'north' might be fully defined as.  Thompson, Manitoba was beginning to look like a destination worthy of the north-land, certainly justifying some exploration.  You can see that Thompson is essentially the end of the road and I found that appealing.  However, by studying the maps more closely, I noticed that a 'Minor Road' continued on to the northeast to the small village of Gillam, the road paralleling the rail-line to Churchill.  Not seen on this map, it's approximately 1/3 of the way between Thompson and Churchill.

After mentioning in one of the forums I frequent that planning had begun on a trip north, I learned that a friend of a friend's uncle worked for the power company that the town of Gillam is primarily in support of.  It was strongly suggested that I not attempt to ride up the road north from Thompson; normal conditions are very rough, causing constant repair of the company's trucks running gear.

Reservations were made for the train ride to Churchill, arrangements set to leave my PC800 at the train station parking area at Thompson.  I planned to ride north as far as Thompson on the bike, park and take the overnight train to Churchill, spend a few hours there, sleep on the train south back to Thompson, then head northwest to make a loop through Flin Flon.  It wasn't the normal season for watching the polar bears but I was excited about being on the shores of Hudson Bay regardless.

I don't now remember what came up, but my week off got changed, reservations were cancelled and I ended up forfeiting part of the train reservation.  I was more than disappointed and almost ready just to call the whole trip north off, then decided that I'd head up to Minnesota's Northwest Angle for another one of my then-typical 3 day weekends.

I left Thursday afternoon, spending the night in Brainerd.  Up early Friday morning to a crisp, sunny morning, I headed west to Pillager, now an almost Brainerd suburb.  I spent a year up there in the late 70's and was anxious to see what changes had occurred since I'd left.

The east-west BN tracks are just to my left and I'm looking west to the building that our machine shop was in.

After breakfast at the diner in town, I was bound for Bemidji.

Stopped at the Waskish DNR facility at the east end of Upper Red Lake, the big water in the distance.

Continuing up #72 to Baudette, then west on #11 to Warroad.  On the northwest side of town, at the 11/313 intersection, is the large Marvin Window facility and after seeing various signs about their museum and tours, I wanted to stop, just not quite bad enough to do so. Making sure to fill with gas before continuing on, I did stop for a cup of coffee.  Canada and then Minnesota again, were calling my name, so I went through Customs at the border crossing.

To drive to the Northwest Angle, it's necessary to go around to the west though Canada, then head east again into MN; there's no other way.  So, west through the tiny village of Middlebro, MB and on to the junction of MB#308 at Sprague.

I pulled over here to show a Canada w/o rocks and trees; fields to the horizon.

Someone's mailbox that must not get out much.......

#308 north is paved for a few miles, then turns to VERY hard-pack gravel.  The main tire tracks were blue, reminding me of the dirt oval tracks.

You can see the hard road here; on the straight sections is was smooth and clean, making my 60mph easy.  I found the corners with scattered gravel, of which there were quite a few, my hunch being that the boat trailers got "out of the track" and pulled the loose stuff into the otherwise clean lane.

This is the 308/525 junction.  308 continues north towards Winnipeg, 525 is what I'm taking and it turns east back towards Minnesota.

"Welcome to the United States"........

The Border

Always a fan of Minimum Maintenance roads, I didn't take this guess is this is Minnesota's most northern designated one though.

The small self-service Customs Station w/video phone at Jim's Corner.  One button for USA, one button for CA, depending on which way you're going.  Remember that you're being watched.

Angle Inlet School.......

St. Luke's Church.......

What the sign says......."The Northwest Angle, the northernmost land of the 48 states, owes its existence to Benjamin Franklin, U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary. His negotiations at the Treaty of Paris of 1783 won British acceptance of the border extending from the "most northwesternmost point" of Lake of the Woods to the Boundary Waters. Despite British oppostion later, this original Minnesota northern border stood inviolate. In 1818 a due south line connected to the new 49 degree latitude western border. Thus the Northwest Angle and Islands were created. Said border also established the "Arrowhead Region" for the U.S. including two of the world's great iron ranges, the Mesabi and the Vermillion."

The Store........

Angle Outpost Resort, just about as far north as you can drive in the lower 48.  I stopped in for a Tshirt, walked in and immediately was met by then-owner John.  He said, "You're stopping for your stamp?"  Confused, I wasn't sure what he was saying.  He went on to explain that the Gold Wings often stop on their '4 Corners of the Country' quest, needing to prove that they've been to the far points of the country in each direction.

The Customs Shack at Jim's Corner.  It was now Friday afternoon and I was planning to spend the night back in Manitoba at Moose Lake Provincial Park, so it was back to the Customs phone to let the USA know that I was leaving and heading back to Canada.

At the Moose Lake Campground......

Angle Inlet and the roads I navigated on, close up........

Up early Sunday morning to local wind and storm warnings, I wasted no time packing up and starting for home.  I arrived back at the MN border around 6AM Sunday morning, a time when the Border Patrol Officers had LOTS of time to ask me questions and examine the huge, cavernous trunk on the Pacific Coast.

A stop at Big Bog State Park, a lovely place with boardwalks out over the bog.  I'd love to go back in the fall......when there's no (fewer?) mosquitoes.

Once I arrived in Alwood, the storms started with some hard rain.  Down through Grand Rapids, Floodwood, Kettle River, Moose Lake, Hinckley, east to Danbury, then down WI #35 and home.  It was a wet, cool Sunday ride though still a blast and a different adventure than my usual rides to the south.

1094 miles for a really nice weekend ride.......

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A New Position

No, it's not another way to set the valves on my Ducati;  I've started a new job and it's keeping me very busy.  Lots of homework and with all of the other things going on lately, I'm a bit behind with finishing up a couple of the Posts that I've got in Draft stage.  More soon......

Mark Twain's Home - Hartford, CT

As a life-long Mark Twain fan, I took full advantage of being in Hartford, CT a few years ago, stopping to see the museum and his preserved home.  While our daughter was busy with her violin audition, I found my way over to the facility and enjoyed, since it was a quiet winter's weekday, an almost empty museum with the freedom to see everything at first attempt.

The Carriage House is the building on the right, the main home on the left, the museum itself is out of the frame, off to the right.

Twain was hungry to be a successful inventor; this type machine consumed much of his fortune and though it worked, was a financial failure.

Even if you're not a machinist as I am, the very involved mechanisms document an obviously awesome machine.

"I have sampled this life......" - Mark Twain

Walking over to the main home from the Carriage House with the tour group......

Friday, February 10, 2012

Honda Helix, Ultimate Touring Machine

While the motorcycle press hasn't exactly determined that a Honda Helix is in any way considered a touring machine, let alone the ultimate version, I have, and that's what matters.  Having sold the Buddy 125 and my Honda Pacific Coast, I was ready for something that combined the best features of the two machines.  Based on my reading, the Helix was going to be exactly what I was looking for.  Between the recommendations online, the long-running reputation and what I had learned with the Buddy 125, I was ready for the 250 Helix.

There were several available online but a yellow '04 really caught my eye.  I met with the owner, took a fairly short test ride though it was long enough to get up to highway speed and I was hooked; the deal was done.  Going back a few days later with a check and a helper to take the car home, the Helix was in the stable.

My first real ride.....