Alaska Road Trip Part II
(see "Old Road Trips - 2008 Part I" for all the planning and pretrip details)
June 6, 2008 - Day 1
Finally, I'm off. Originally, I had planned to get a leisurely start, but with the section of I-5 closed down for repairs, I decided to get moving real early to avoid the additional traffic caused by the work. I had a work around planned and it worked out just fine mostly because I left home at 5:00 am. Hit I-5, got past the airport (the last place I was worried about congestion for a while), set the cruise control on 70 and off I went.
I kept waiting for it to warm up. I figured by 9:00 or 10:00, I'd be able to shed some gear and have most of one day of summer riding, but it never did. In fact, after lunch I put more gear on. When I hit Grant's Pass, OR, I started hitting little stretches of rain. Nothing serious, but enough to keep my eye's ahead. After lunch in Canyonville, OR, I decided to put my rain pants on and add my glove liners under my gloves. That warmed me up pretty well. Luckily, I have a couple other layers to put on when I get up into Canada and Alaska.
I discovered that I overlooked one test ride with the new trailer setup - freeway speeds. There was some pretty good crosswinds running which weren't too bad, but when I combined the crosswinds with passing trucks (especially in curves) I discovered a lot of front end buffeting, and it tried to take over control of the bike. A couple times it was bad enough to give me a bit of worry. I remembered that I had my rear tire inflated a bit high to compensate for the weight of the trailer, which I had noticed was giving me a funny feeling, even without the trailer. It felt like the bike would respond a little too well in cornering as if the crown of the tire was a little too rounding. I decided to let just a little air out of the rear at a butt break and that did help a little. Luckily, most of my trip will be at sub 70 mph speeds, so it shouldnít be an issue beyond tomorrow.
I had figured to hit Salem, OR (my goal for Day 1) around 2:00 and had considered pushing through a little further if that was true. The more I could knock out of the trip on Day 1, would mean more time for flower sniffing once I got into the flower sniffing areas. Turns out, I didnít get there until about 4:30 and was encountering a bit of commute traffic. With the cold, somewhat rainy weather, I decided to call it a day and stop as planned.
I got to the KOA in Salem and found nobody at the check-in desk, which is real unusual. Most have staff waiting for you as late as 8:00. AS I was preparing to self check-in, a guy showed up and got me settled. This place is one of the funkier KOAs I've stayed in, but it has most of the conveniences I need - powered tent site and showers. But it doesn't have any sort of store like most do. Usually I can pick up a few things right there in camp, but they have nothing. SO I wound up riding about 20 miles to get 3 miles away to find a store and picked up what I needed. The weather and extended store trip put me in kind of a sour mood for a while, but all got better once I started a fire, ate some grub and cracked a beer. I was hoping for a little better weather for the next day.
I woke up at 5:00am. Not on purpose, that's just when I woke up. I had my camp breakfast (coffee, milk and a couple of granola bars), broke camp and was on my way around 7:00. 2 hours to break camp. Gotta step that up a bit. I dressed for the cold and was immediately welcomed to the road with more rain. As with yeaterday, not really enough to get the road sloppy, but just enough to get the windshield spotted enough to create visibility problems.
Despite dressing for the cold, I still found myself chilled by the time I hit my first gas stop. I added another sweatshirt, put on my puffy rain gloves and slapped on some gaiters. That did the trick for warming me up. But it didn't keep the rain or the traffic away. It seemed like every time my windshield would clear up, I'd hit another patch of rain.
The traffic was bothersome all the way from Salem through north of Seattle. It was flowing for the most part, but it was hard to find a rhythm and was constantly messing with the cruise control. Seattle was another story. I was taken back by the skyline of Seattle as I approached. The Space Needle was dwarfed by many new skyscrapers. It looked like a city floating in the air. But the traffic was horrendous. To make matters ridiculous, there are a couple of left hand exits and in one spot - right in the middle of downtown - there were suddenly two left lanes of traffic scrambling to get in the two right lanes and with very little warning. IN already heavy traffic, things ground to a halt, almost too suddenly. Bumper to bumper sucks anytime, but dragging a 450 pound trailer, it was pure misery. Luckily, that lasted for only about a mile. "Get me out of here!"
I was so tired of traffic and couldn't wait to cross the border. I finally found a place to stop for lunch (I never stop in the middle of gridlock, because it will likely still be there when I get back on the road, effectively wasting a perfectly good stress break. I got back on the road after lunch and finally felt like I was on vacation, at least for an hour or so.
One annoying practice that Washington and Oregon seems to have, is posting the speed limit down in every city. It was generally 70 mph throughout the state until I came upon a town and then it was posted at 60 mph. All this did was create log jams. There were the few who actually followed the slower speeds, but most just tried to keep moving at whatever pace they felt like. I was kind of trapped in the middle - trying to be a good boy, but the pressure form the speeders made it impossible to stay in line. SO I did my best to keep moving without succumbing to the vagrant violators. It just made for tough traveling.
I hit the border at Blaine at about 2:00. The wait was only about 15 minutes and had no issues at the checkpoint. I had envisioned a search of the vehicle, but just answered a few questions, showed my pass port and I was off. BY this time, the sun had finally peeked out. It felt good, but I was way overdressed for sunshine. I peeled off a little bit, but I saw some clouds looming ahead, so I didn't get carried away. I was on the scent of Canada 99 to head for the Sea to Sky highway out of Vancouver. About 30 minutes later, I hit Vancouver, stopped for gas, peeled a little more gear away and started trying to follow the signs.
Vancouver (at least the part that I traveled through) is a bit funky. Although it shows as a highway on maps, the route to 99 via Canada 1 was straight through a bunch of surface streets. It appeared to be three lanes of traffic, but on the weekends, the right lane becomes a parking lane for local businesses. This created havoc with busses weaving in and out of the first and second lanes. There were no left hand turn lanes, so anyone trying to turn left, basically blocked the third lane. SO the middle lane becomes the catch all for traffic. Basically, I was lucky to make a block at a time, catching the next light at each intersection. And it's not just a straight line to where the streets intersected with Canada 1. I caught most of the turns, but wound up missing one and got a bit lost for about 15 minutes. I finally pulled over to pull out a map to try to figure out where I was. Luckily, a local wandered by and saved me about a half hour of trying figure out where I was on the map. Another 15 minutes of traffic and I found Canada 1 and it was fairly smooth sailing from there.
The Vancouver area was beautiful and I actually found some stuff that I wanted to take pictures of, but there was really no where to pull over and do it. I-5 was pleasant from the Shasta way all the way through Oregon and Washington, but there were few places that I thought "If I had time, I'd stop and take a picture of that." North of Vancouver was total eye candy and I finally started finding a few places to snap a few pics. 99 will be a great road once they finally get some construction projects wrapped up. The construction itself was not a problem, but the restricted speeds were. I'm not a slave to speed limits, but when ever I'm in strange town, not to mention a strange Country, I do my best to respect local laws. I wish I could say the same for everyone else around me. Speeds through the construction zones were posted at 50 KPH, which felt very slow. Drivers behind me weren't in tune with slowing down which made for a nerve racking ride. There was no construction actually in progress, so I was able to pull out in some pylonned areas and let traffic pass, but it sure made the gawking all that much harder. And it wasn't like I was actually glued to the speed limit, but 10-15 KPH over the posted construction limits just wasn't good enough for most.
I reached the Squamish area around 5:00. I stopped to ask about recommendations for a campground, and nice young lady at the information center showed me a place: Paradise Valley Campgrounds. Itís a nice little place, but needs just a little polish. It has powered and showers, so the basics are covered, but they don't have WI-FI. They did let me borrow their computer to check in at home, but I didn't have time to do all the internet stuff I plan on doing each night. I know, it's kind of silly worrying about internet access while camping, but it's just the way things are theses days. To make matters worse, I discovered my cell phone just went dead when I was in Salem. I opened it up to make call and it was just blank. I charge it every night and use it little, but it just would not turn on. I charged it over night in Salem, but I still have nothing. So, the internet will be my only means of staying in touch with home for the next three weeks. As they say, technology will fail when on the road!
Anyway, I got hooked up with a campsite and by the time Murphy got off my back, it was about 7:30 and I was ready for an adult beverage and some food. I had planned on heading back out about 10 miles for dinner, but by the time I got everything setup and checked in at home I just didn't feel like getting back out on the road. I still had most of my cold weather riding clothes on and I was soaked with sweat after setting up camp. I decided to just finish off the cheese and jerky I had started in Salem, poured a drink and settled in. Built a little fire, transferred the few pics I had taken to my laptop, entered this log, and my mileage and I was ready for a shower and bed. I'm really hoping I can start really feeling like I'm on vacation tomorrow.
I was awakened by the light tapping of raindrops on top of my tent. Nothing heavy and the trees kept most of what was falling from hitting the ground. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but I got my stuff packed and headed off anyway. The roads were wetter than I've encountered thus far, but not problematic. About 20 miles up the road, I stopped off to take a peek at Brandywine falls. Took about 10 minutes to walk to the falls. Beautiful area as is everything around here - if the clouds would just go away. The mountain tops played peek-a-boo all morning and afternoon ducking in and out of the clouds.
I left Brandywine Falls and continued north. About 5 miles later, I hit a slight bump and suddenly my bike just died. The bump was so slight that if my bike hadn't cut out, I wouldn't have even noticed it. No throttle at all and the only thing keeping the engine running was the back tire spinning. Somehow I managed to coast to a stretch of road that had a very slight shoulder. IF it had come to a stop 10 yards earlier I would have been parked on the road. Now what!? I tried to start it and got zero response from the ignition. No cranking at all.
Well, I guess it's time to put my roadside mechanic skills to the test. It took me a while, but I finally figured out that the ignition was acting like it does when I try to start it in gear with the side stand down. I rarely do that, so the recognition of the condition wasn't immediately obvious to me. I pulled out the manuals and checked the fuses. I did find that the ignition fuse had blown, why I still don't know. I did as much as I reasonably could considering that I was just a few feet off the highway. OF course, all the things to check are on the left side of the bike, so it was real dicey with traffic whizzing by. Most slowed down, but there were a few that were doing well over the normal speed limit and I was actually in a construction zone. I poked around everything that I could, but after about 3 hours, I finally gave up and called for a tow. The one thing I'm especially not skilled at is diagnostics. The one good thing of the whole experience was that it didnít rain much while I was crawling around on the ground taking the bike apart.
The tow rig showed up about 30 minutes after the call and the driver was real helpful about getting me to what is likely the best location for my situation. HE took me back to Squamish, which actually has a Yamaha dealer. OF course being Sunday, there was no chance of them being open, but he did manage to find me a covered parking area at a hotel and the hotel was real nice about letting me work on my bike in their parking area.
After I grabbed some lunch, I set to trying to dig in a little further. I had the tank off along with the lower cowling, the side covers and the battery out to double check the ignition unit. I had actually brought my stock one with me, and was ready to pat myself on the back for thinking to do that, but that didn't get me anywhere. I checked everything I reasonably could and may have found something, but I'm not sure that I was testing the relay properly, so I need further input on that. OF course, Murphy dogged me every step of the way making every step of every check pure torture. To make matters even tougher, I found myself needing a restroom right in the middle of everything. I couldn't just run off to the restroom and leave my tools and bike parts laying about. I toughed it out until about 7:00 and finally gave up for the night. Unlike home garage projects I had to reassemble everything and pack my tools away, even knowing that I would probably be down there again the next day tearing it all apart again. Hopefully the Yamaha shop will be open on Monday (most shops in Sacramento are closed on Sundays and Mondays. And hopefully, they are a full bike shop with mechanics that have a clue about Royal Stars. It's possible that I can get back on the road again, but I'm really expecting it to be at least another full day if any parts are required. SO I checked into the hotel for the night as the concept of setting up my tent in the parking lot didn't suit me at all.
The first thing I did after breakfast was to try to see if any of the bike places were gonna be open. Nope. SO I went back to checking things out. I walked down the block to a local auto supply place to get a few items to allow me to properly test some of the items I wasn't able to test yesterday - some wire and crimp on connectors along with a shop light so I could see what I was doing a little better. Thanks to a tip from Hank (in AZ) who I knew from the "V4 Rocks" forum, I was able to check the starter and it acted like it was fine. SO I was able to check that off. I moved on the starter control cut-off relay, basically the central point of the startup system. I discovered that it wasn't responding correctly. Still not trusting my read, I took it over to a guy who builds dune buggies in the commercial complex next to the hotel. He wasn't any more versed in electric troubleshooting than I, but he agreed, that according to the directions I was following, the relay was bad.
Good enough for me. Now all I had to do is find one. I called all the Yamaha shops within a couple hours from here hoping to get it couriered up. Nothing in stock (of those that were even open). SO I checked out the general motorcycle supply places on the internet. Nothing in stock. I called my local shop. Nope.
I had posted about my progress on the V4 Rocks forum and Hank came back with a: "I've got an extra one of those lying around. I'll overnight it to you if you like." Wow. I spent a couple hours visiting with Hank on my trip last year and knew him to be a great guy. He's one of the more knowledgeable people (at least regarding the Royal Star motorcycles) that frequents the various forums and is always quick to lend aid. HE even went to Southern CA to help a guy do a motor swap. He also seems to be a parts warehouse, because he often seems to have just what somebody needs and is happy to ship it off to them. I really wasn't expecting that to happen and it made my day, completely. After getting him the shipping address and working out the details, I headed back out to the parking lot to clean things up for the day.
Part of what made this "project" all the harder, was that I was parked all the way at the other end of the parking lot and every time I had to use the internet or go get some stuff or use the restroom, I felt that I had to pick everything up to not make myself too easy of a target for somebody helping themselves to my stuff. I finally abandoned that concept this morning, as there weren't a lot of people wandering around and I just didnít have 20 minutes to clean up every time I needed to be somewhere else for a few minutes.
So I got things picked up and the bike buttoned up and decided to try to figure out something fun to do for the rest of the afternoon. Squamish, BC is known for birding, particularly Bald Eagles. I hadn't planned to have time to stop at the estuary, but decided to try and get there. I inquired about it at the hotel desk and they said that by this time each year, the Eagles are pretty much gone. Bummer. So I asked about other things I might be able to do to enjoy the area for the afternoon. "Well, we have a theater..." "Ahem, I have theaters at home. I'm looking for more outdoorsy stuff that I can't do at home."
Well both the gals at the desk kind of thought for a while. I was pretty amazed that an area like this isn't teeming with half day stuff to do. Apparently, unless you're a mountain cyclist or a rock climber, there's not a lot to do. The gal suggested I go rent a bike and peddle around for a while. That didn't appeal to me a great deal, but it was better then nothing and the rental place was within walking distance.
SO I grabbed my camera and binoculars and headed out for the rental place she directed me towards. I stopped for some McNuggets for lunch and continued over to the shopping center where the bike place was. It had been raining/drizzling off an on all day, but it wasn't bad when I left the hotel. About 20 yards from the bicycle shop, it started coming down pretty good. I stood outside the shop for about 10 minutes and finally decided to go for it anyway. Well, it turns out that they donít rent bikes anymore anyway. The guy at the bike shop directed me towards another place about 15 minutes away. What the hell, let's wander over there. The rain was coming down pretty good and by the time I got in the vicinity of the second bike shop, I decided to give up and wander back to my room. I got a couple of decent pictures of some of the mountains around the town, but nothing really good. Just token pictures for the most part, maybe a keeper or two. Of course, about 20 yards form the hotel, the rain let up. So all I got out of the afternoon was a 5 mile hike in the rain in "downtown" Squamish.
I checked in with my Email and discovered that Hank got the part off, but it wouldn't be here until 5 pm tomorrow. This was disappointing, but I know he did everything he could to expedite it. The biggest problem with that (besides knowing I will pretty much lose another day) is that I'll have to book the room again for a third night, because I won't know if the part fixes the problem for sure until I put it back in. I had built my hopes up to possibly get a solid three-quarters day ride in with the part arriving in the morning. Now the best I could hope for is a couple of hours and that would require checking out, lugging my stuff down and then moving back in if the part fails. At this point, the way that things have been going, I'm afraid to "plan to leave" until the bike starts.
Oh well, I certainly hope that the weather clears for some time in the morning so I can see a bit more of the area, but the weather forecasts call for another day of rain. Blah. This is sure not feeling like much of a vacation so far, but at least I'm not in the office.
With 3 full days of delay (so far) I may have to abort going all the way to Alaska and even if I decide to go, I'll miss Roger's group ride and BBQ and will have to cut out a couple of "side" trips, probably to Valdez and Seward. I'll have to look at things once I get running and decide if I'm going to head all the way up or change plans and just bounce around in BC for a couple weeks. It's not like there's a shortage of stuff to see up here. Maybe a less hectic schedule will allow me to stay a couple nights at a time in one spot and be able to take in areas in a bit more detail and feel more relaxing. We'll see what tomorrow brings...
Knowing that I had at least until the afternoon before the part would get here, I decided to try to see a little bit of the area in the morning. I found another place that rents bicycles on the internet on Monday night. Unfortunately they are about 5 miles away. I thought I'd call them and see if there was any chance that they could deliver it to me and pick it up later. I called and found that they didn't open until 10:00. Since the entry point to my planned destination was about 2 miles from the hotel, and I had already been only about 2 blocks from it on Monday (didn't know I was so , I decided to just hoof it over to the trail wander around and if I had to, call a cab to get me back. My feet were already pretty sore just from Monday's hike, so I wasn't sure how far my feet would tolerate.
I wanted to go check out the estuary here. It is home to quite an impressive display of eagles - in December and January. It's also supposed to be a great spot for birding in general as more then 200 species of birds have been known to be there at one time or another during the year. I knew that spotting an eagle was a real long shot, but what else did I have to do?
The weather was chilly, but reasonably clear. The sun peeked out of the clouds every now and then and no rain. Unfortunately, it was right in that temperature zone that got me caught between layers. I started with a sweatshirt under my riding jacket and it was fine for a couple of miles. BY the time I got to the trailheads of the estuary, I was building up a pretty good sweat. SO I peeled off the sweatshirt and was fine for about a half hour. Once I got down near the bay, the breeze made it real chilly and I had to put the sweatshirt back on. On top of that, the chilly breeze kept making my eyes water so I constantly had to remove my glasses and wipe my eyes dry.
Along the trail, I caught some great glimpses of Stawamus Chief (a very impressive granite mountain face which is the second largest Granite monolith in the world, right behind El Capitan at Yosemite) and Shannon Falls. Stawamus Chief is actually very visible from the street in front of my hotel (unfortunately my room was on the other side!) and I did my best to catch a glimpse of it often. It was hard to get any pictures of it from the town - actually I found it challenging to get pictures of any of the surrounding mountain scape because of all the power lines) so I was happy to get a clearer view for some photo opps.
Once I got on the trail a ways, I was real glad I did not have a bike. Much of the trail is very tight (shoulder to shoulder with raspberry bushes, so riding through it would have been very tough. A little further up, I encountered a pretty long section of trail that was just crawling with tree limbs, making for a difficult walk, let alone trying to keep a bike upright. It made it tough to look around as I was walking as I pretty much had to watch the ground pretty closely to avoid turning an ankle or slipping and falling off into on of the creeks which paralleled the trail. Unusually high tides had made some of the bridges unsafe, so they had been removed and I found myself at a bit of a dead end, much further from where I was hoping to go. I turned around and headed back to a couple of clearings that I had seen to have a sit for a while, to try to catch some wildlife.
My view from the log I found pointed me right out towards the open waters and right where the breeze was coming from, making it real difficult to relax for too long. I did pull out my binoculars and looked around as best I could. I was able to spot a big white bird across the shore and figured it was an egret or goose. When I trained my binoculars on it, I spotted a whole flock of geese in the area feeding on the grasses. I saw some gulls flying about and not much else. I tried searching the rocky cliffs across the bay to see if I could spot an eagle's nest or some sort of activity, but couldn't find anything. Id notices a larger brown bird swiftly moving across the shore and tried to track it with my binoculars. IT was riding the wind and moving pretty fast and all I was able to glimpse was a quick shot of its rear end before is disappeared behind a tree. It may have been an eagle, but it could have been a number of other birds as well.
Tired of fighting the breeze, I got up after about a 15 minute break and started to head back. The trail system is not well marked, not did I see any map like signs along the way. I didn't have a trail map with me, but I had a pretty general idea of where everything lead in relation to town. I got back to some railroad tracks that I had crossed on my way in and decided to adventure up the road that followed the tracks. I came across another trail head and followed it back down towards the bay. It dead ended into a road that leads to a logging operation and there was no sign of the estuary trail heading any further. So I wandered down the logging road back towards civilization. Luckily I had my bearings in good order and found my way back to a place I was familiar with and trekked back to the hotel. I figure I must have hiked 10-12 miles and was ready to sit down for bit.
I got back to the hotel, took my laptop down to the lobby to check back in on the progress of my shipment. The best I could find was that it was in Canada and on route, to be delivered by 5:00. I was just about done checking emails and catching up with the world, when the FedEx guy showed up at around 1:00! I was blown away and ran my laptop back up to the room and headed down to plug it in. I would know within seconds if this solved the problem. I made the mistake of getting optimistic about maybe being able to get a couple hours of road under me.
I popped in the relay and.... nothing new. Actually there was a new slight clicking sound coming from the area where the relay was, which indicated that at least my diagnosis was correct - that the part was faulty - but it wasn't the whole issue. Moving on to the next step the manual lists in the electrical starting troubleshooting section, I checked the starter relay and it was fine. The next step was to check the "main switch". The books showed it as being located around the battery area, where most of the wires from the main harness collide with bunches of smaller harnesses. I looked and poked and searched and could not find it. By this time, I was highly frustrated and had little confidence in my ability to do any more of this troubleshooting on my own. I called the Yamaha shop to see if they had somebody who could swing a couple of blocks to where I was and give me a hand. "I'm the only one here - can't leave." Great. I called a generic bike mechanic who is the husband of one of the hotel clerks and had offered to help if he could. "I'm the only one here and can't leave right now. If you need some help after 5:00, I'll be happy to come give you a hand." I walked across the street to a Kawasaki dealer asking for help. "Sorry we're too busy; it's that time of year you know."
The biker community is typically known for being very helpful to stranded riders, but I really felt no sense of that in this town. I know they have to take care of their business and keep their customers happy, but it wasn't like I was expecting anything for free, just a little bit of help from somebody with a little expertise in electrical troubleshooting and basically got blanked. Frustration was really taking over. Going back to the manuals, I found a different diagram that showed the location of the "main switch" to be...right where my IGNITION switch is. Why they just don't call it an ignition switch is well beyond me, but I found it and checked it out. I lost an hour and a half trying to find that stupid thing, which was going to actually cost me a full day as it turns out.
I was getting no reading from the test indicating that it was faulty. The ignition switches on the Royals are known to have some issues, so it's not a complete surprise. But, I was nervous that my diagnosis was incorrect (not wanting to waste another 2 or 3 days waiting for parts again only to discover that I wasn't done yet. So I called my buddy Hank in AZ who probably had more experience working on Royal Stars than anybody in the world. I described what I was getting and he told me to try spraying some electrical contact cleaner into the switch - maybe it just gunked up (known to happen) and it may just get me on the road. Making sure I understood, that if that failed, I would need to replace the switch and he concurred. He also told me that he just happened to have an extra one of them laying around as well and if I needed he'd ship it up to me. In fact he was kind of kicking himself for not putting it in the previous shipment. I thanked him and told him he'd be hearing from me if I needed.
I got some cleaner, prayed it up and nothing. By this point it was about 4:15 and I had little time to catch any dealers that would still be open. I frantically called bunches of dealers and the best they could do was 2 days. One told me that they were on back order from Japan which would take weeks to become available. I expected that nobody would be able to get their hands on one in any short order. So I called Hank again and he boxed and shipped it. This was after 5:00 and he missed the express time by an hour or so. The best I was gonna do was get it by Thursday. SO I went back out and buttoned up the rest of the bike that I had spread all over the place and started looking at taking the ignition off so I could be real ready when the new one got here.
I peeled off the plastic neck cover and could see no obvious way to take the switch off. There were a couple of odd looking bolts that were screwed into nuts welded to the bottom of the mounting bracket. The bolts and no obvious means of resolvability. Searching (eventually page by page) I scoured both my Yamaha Shop Manual and the Clymers manual for clues on how to remove this thing. Nothing, nada, zip, zilch. I picked up my tools, cleaned up the area and went back inside to get some advice from the experts. I logged on to the forum and left an account of my frustrations along with a question as to how to remove the switch. I looked at my watch and noticed that it was after 8:00 pm and realized that I had not even eaten any lunch - no food since about 7:30 this morning. Knowing it would be at least a full day before getting the part, I logged off and called it a night figuring to get my answers the next morning.
After breakfast, I checked in for responses to the ignition switch removal. Hank said he did the same thing with the manuals and got nothing as well. HE then fired back with a link to the Ventures forum. Why didnít I think to check there! Itís an awesome site dedicated to nothing but the old Venture Royales and Royal Star Ventures. They have many tech articles posted by members along with pictures showing step by step processes for many common (and some not so common) projects undertaken by Venture riders. Hank sent me a link to the article on replacing the switch. It has to be drilled out; there is no way to remove the bolts with out destroying them. The manuals could have said this, but they don't even mention that much.
Oddly enough, I did bring a battery drill and some bits along with me. My vision was that I may need to replace a couple of rivets on my trailer mod along the way, but it turns out that it will bail my bacon out on this in a big way. If anybody ever laughs at me again for how heavy I packed for this trip I will give them some what for. I've used far more of the tools that I brought than I actually believed I ever would. I always carry a pretty decent tool set with me on the bike (full metric 3/8 drive socket set along with an traveling aftermarket repair kit that has allens, a few assorted open end wrenches, tape etc) but with the trailer, knowing I would be on some rougher than normal roads and quite possibly 100 miles or more way from any civilization if I needed tools, I packed a very comprehensive set of tools - T handle allens, 1/4 inch socket set, socket drive allens (1/4 and 3/8 drive), tire repair tools along with a compressor (that works off the engine), manuals, duct tape, a set of screwdriver and pliers, my carb synching tool, misc. fluids and repair goops and a few other things. Probably about a hundred pounds worth. It felt a bit overkill at the time, but stepping back to my preparedness clause, I left them all in and threw in the battery drill just in case. At least something I did paid off.
It took about an hour to get the unit loose with the drill. I then set off looking for some bolts to put the new unit in with. The automotive place on the corner had a couple of the bolts, but not he smaller ones. Following tips from other customer, I hit a couple other places with no luck. Surprisingly, they all had much better selection of SAE screws than metric - I would have expected the opposite up here. I wandered over to the Yamaha place and they had something that will work.
I packed everything up again and by 11:00 I was done with all that I could do for the day. I checked in to the net to catch up, emailed some pics to a fellow rider looking for some tips on mounting a trailer isolator to his venture. Then around noon, I started looking for something interesting to do. There's a Kawasaki place right across the street from my room that boasts rentals on their front sign. I decided to go over and see about renting a motorcycle for a half day so I could get around a little and see some of the sights. The guy I talked to said they weren't really renting any more, but that the owner would be back from lunch in a half hour or so and she could call me to see if we could work something out. So and hour later, figuring that no call was coming, I went across the street again and she said that they "weren't set up to rent yet this year". Thanks for the call lady and wasting another hour of my life.
So, I tried THE car rental place in town and they had nothing available until Friday. I went down to the front desk and asked about shuttles or any form of transportation but my feet. I could walk a half kilometer to catch a bus that doesn't leave town or call a cab. I despise paying for cabs because they are just too pricey. I decided to hike over to the information center and see if they had any shuttles that went down to the parks just south of town. "Shovels" she asked, "NO shuttles, buses." Well the public transit doesnít leave the general area. "It's about 4 kilometers to Chief Stawamus Park, a pretty good distance." Having already hiked 2 kilometers to get where I was and expect that there would be a fair amount of hiking involved once I got to the park I decided that that location was out of reach. She pointed me towards Smokey Bluff Park just up the road. There are some trails there and I could watch the rock climbers. Although, that's not really what I was looking for, I was feeling out of options and headed for there.
Well, they have trails there alright, a whole circuit of them. There's a map at the entrance but that's about it. I headed for the pedestrian trail and as soon as I reached the start I noticed that it had a pretty steep incline. The first 500 meters or so was enough to wear me out, but I kept trudging along hoping it would level out eventually and it did. I came across a great overlook point where I could see much of the valley, the port, some of the estuary and the "Chief" I could almost make out where I had hiked to yesterday and almost get a feel for all the ground I've been hiking on over the last few days which was kind of cool. After a short break, I moved on and found myself on an incline again. For the next 2 hours, it felt like I never stopped going up hill, mostly because, with few exceptions I hadn't. At some key trail intersections there were some trail markers that would point you in the direction of certain points of interest and in some cases back to the parking lot.
I just kept trudging along, taking breaks as needed (I'm not in the best of physical conditioning!) and after about 2 hours I was looking for the trail to start going back down hill. It was the "loop" trail, which I expected would eventually lead me back to the parking lot. I finally came to an unmarked junction - one fork went uphill, the other went downhill. I figured the downhill must lead back to the parking lot. Well it didn't. I came to a fork in that trail, one of which led to a dead end, the other of which looped me back to the trail I had been on. I proceeded back the way I was going and came across some climbers who I had passed earlier. I went down and asked them which direction was the shorter way back to the parking lot. "Back the way you came" said one of them. I was pretty surprised, because I sure felt like I'd gone far enough to be half way or more around something. I was sure glad I asked, because I would have been plain happy to be standing in the parking lot (better yet back in my room!) at that moment.
I started back down the way I came. Along the way I spotted a little side trail that led to a great overlook of the Chief. I finally found a spot where I could get a good clean view of most of the Chief without power poles, clouds and trees in my way. Made the whole hike worth it. The clouds were threatening to part so I waited there a little bit hoping to get a shot of the Chief in the sunlight, but it wasn't gonna be anytime soon. I finished wandering down the hill. I spent about 2 hours going up and an hour coming down. I have no idea how far I hiked on the trails, but I was dead tired and was working hard just to pick 'em up and put 'em down for the last 2 kilometers back to the hotel.
I decided I need a beer or six after all that. I went into the beer and wine shop next tot the hotel. $14 for a six-pack! Ridiculous, but I need some beer to go with the pizza I was gonna have delivered. $32 for a freakin' pizza! This place is expensive! I caught up on my emails and postings and took the pizza up to my room. Mmmm, that certainly hit the spot! Hopefully I can begin my log from a new destination tomorrow...
I was kinda hoping for earlier, but I really didn't expect the part to get to me until about 1:00. I decided to do my laundry in the morning, since I was all out of things to do and places to see. I took my maps with me and put together a couple of possible routes with the assumption that I'd be on the road by 2:30 or so. I came up with a couple of vague scenarios and figured I'd wing it once I got up to Prince George and try to go where the weather is most favorable.
I had made arrangements for the room for this night. AS I was down in the lobby doing my internet stuff, I noticed that some folks were being turned away for lack of rooms. I figured they'd let me set up my tent in the parking lot if it came to that, but I really wasn't interested in having to pack up my tent and stuff on top of all my tools and finishing putting the bike back together if I was still working on it. After doing laundry, I went up and packed my gear as if to leave, but left it on the second bed and had the staff service the room. I usually prefer to not have my room serviced when I'm somewhere on consecutive nights for several reasons, but hoping to be able to get out of the room in the afternoon with no extra trouble for the staff, I had them make it up.
By this point, they had fixed the wi-fi so it worked in the rooms (at least my room) and I did some internet poking and checked the weather for the next couple days in all of the possible directions I may go. Nothing looked real good in any direction, so I just planned on checking things out more thoroughly when I got up to Prince George. Having had enough of the internet for a while, I ate my leftover pizza and found a ballgame on TV to watch while I waited.
Just before 1:00 I got a call from the desk - my part had arrived. I scurried downstairs and told the gal at the desk that I'd know in about 5 minutes if I was going to be checking out soon. I went out to the bike, plugged in the new switch and.... same thing. Jeez! What could possibly be the problem. Did Hank send me a bad switch? I knew it was used, but it cam off of a working bike, so I started doubting my diagnosis again. I went through the final couple of spots to check and they checked out fine.
I decided to take the switched down to the Yamaha dealer and have them confirm my results. The mechanic there kind of scratched his head, but did take some time going over my situation and trying to think of something I had overlooked. He was perplexed and had other things to finish up. He offered to call me after a while, after he'd had some time to mull it over.
As I walked back over to the hotel, dreading the prospect of having to run through every wire in the bike to check for shorts or missing connections, I called Hank. "Did you happen to test the switch before you sent it?" HE hadn't, but was confident that it was fine. "So what do I do now?" AS I was still walking, he grabbed his manual and started looking at my system in detail, following the wires in the diagram and getting a feel for what went where. HE asked me if I had checked for voltage at different places and I had not. All of the diagnostic steps had me checking for continuity.
Once I got back to the bike, he had me check voltage at a few places and I was getting it. He sent me back to the fuse box and had me check there. I was getting voltage back to the fuse block from the ignition switch. He had me check the fuse. I had put a new on in and a visual inspection of the fuse showed it to be fine. I did a continuity check on it and it failed. I had put in a bad fuse! The circuit cut-off relay was the culprit, but a bad fuse kept leading me on. I could have been on the road Tuesday afternoon.
I was thrilled! Pissed beyond imaginable limits that this is what it came down to and that a bad fuse cost me 3 days of vacation, not to mention another $75 in overnight shipping fees, but still happy to hear the bike fire up again. BY this time, it was about 4:00 and I still had thoughts of getting a couple hours of road in. But I had a good hour of putting the bike back together again. Add in some time for searching for wayward screws, a little Murphy thrown in and an extended chat with Hank and it was 6:00 before I got done.
I had checked with the hotel and even this late they were willing to let me check out with out any problems. But by the time I got done, I thought better of trying to get a couple hours in, setting up camp and then breaking it down again - I would likely be better off time wise to just get an early start in the morning. I went back to the desk and told them that unless they needed my room, I would stay one more night and they gave me no problems at all.
I needed to replace a tool that had malfunctioned and I'll be damned if I almost didn't start walking. It suddenly felt weird to have wheels again. I hopped on the bike and cruised down to Home Depot. Then I headed back over to the other part of town, gassed up and grabbed some dinner. It was amazing how much better I liked the town once I could get around a little and could actually choose where I wanted to have dinner! I got back to the room and prepared for an early exit.
I awoke around 5:30 (just like I have been just about every morning on the trip. Having showered the night before, it took little time to get out of the room. I had to monkey around with getting stuff packed in the trailer a little since things were a little in disarray and I'd been out of my trailer rhythm. I went to check out, thanked them very much for their understanding and helpfulness during my ordeal, signed the bill and headed out. Stopping for a quick breakfast sandwich, I was on the road by 7:00.
I was real careful as I passed over the bump that I had hit on Sunday as I passed by the area where I broke down. I zipped on by and started looking for sites. My planned destination for today was up to Quesnel, about 350 miles. It was to be my destination after Squamish on my original plan, so I figured I might as well stick with what I had figured out already.
My first stop was at a Lake just north of Whistler. I could see a couple of impressive peaks partially hidden by clouds. There was one directly east of me that appeared was in line for a patch of blue skies to pass across the top and would have made a great pic with the clouds framing the exposed peak. I waited for about 10 minutes for the opening to pass between me and the peak, but the clouds were moving very slowly. At the rate things were going, I probably had another half hour wait and decided to pass on the opportunity for that shot.
My ext stop was Nairn falls. I saw a sign that directed folks to a trail that was 1.5 kilometers away. 10 minute walk, no problem. Well, I swear it was double that. And I rediscovered that good dress for a chilly ride is not good dress for a hike in moderately cool weather. I started breaking into a serious sweat about halfway to the falls. By the time I got there, I was soaked in sweat from head to toes. The problem with cold weather riding gear is that it takes about a half an hour to get back down to normal clothes and then about a half an hour to suit back up. Usually when I travel like this it's warm and it's much less of an issue and rarely do I wander that far from the bike to get pictures.
By the time I got to the falls, I was really wishing that I hadn't done the trek. Frankly, it wasn't all that impressive especially for the effort involved. But I got my pics and trodded back down the trail, carrying my jacket. When I got back to the bike, I toweled off my head and waited a few minutes hoping some of the sweat would dry up as I knew it would be plum chilly on the bike in sweat soaked clothes. AS I was waiting, several people came by admiring the bike and trailer setup. One guy from New Zealand mentioned that they don't allow motorcycles to tow trailers in his home country. I found that odd, but trusted him at his word. Another guy came buy and tried to talk with me, but he was speaking more in French or German (or something) more than English and I had a real hard time communicating with him. I picked up that he was a rider and he complimented me on the bike. Other than that I had no clue what he was trying to say.
I had been there about an hour after all was said and done, but didn't sweat it much as I only had about 350 miles planned for the day and this type of opportunities was the reason for such a short day. The Sea to Sky Highway has absolutely stunning views all the way to Lillooet. I had many moments of "Oooh, that would make a great picture", but there was no where to get off the road to take them. I did make a couple of other stops for a few minutes here and a few minutes there, but missed many more shots than I got.
I reached Lillooet and stopped for gas and saw that it was already noon! Wow, 5 hours to make 110 miles? I had a hard time believing it, but that's where I was. 99 is a pretty slow moving route. There was no traffic to speak off once I got past Whistler, but it's a very windy, hilly and rough road, that just requires patience. As I was having lunch, I was sure glad that I hadn't hit the road last night. Lillooet would have been my target location. 110 miles away, I would have expected around 2 hours to get there without any dawdling, but I would have been real late getting there and in no mood to be setting up camp, not to mention I would have had to worry a bit more about wildlife on the road and not have been able to see the scenery nearly as well as in the morning. I considered Whistler to be a target for the night, but they only have one advertised RV place and it was a little pricey. So I was real happy with my decision to stay the extra night.
I stopped for lunch in Lillooet and got back on the road by about 12:45. Right as I was getting back on the highway, I fell in behind a school bus, which I followed for a good solid hour. The road had smoothed up considerably and the scenery had faded from "fabulous" to "pleasant" and I should have been able to make up a little time, but the bus just floated along and I couldn't get around it safely. Because of the bus, I found myself "between gears", having to do lots of shifting to keep the bike in tune with the hills. I went to downshift at one point and got nothing - the shift lever was not making the gears shift. I pulled over and found that my shift linkage had drifted apart.
Here we go again. When I did the stator change, I had trouble getting the shift linkage back together all the way. I thought I had it good enough, but apparently not. It's not a particularly complicated system, but the connection is not exactly in an easy to get to location. I spent about a half hour trying to avoid having to remove the exhaust pipes and the floorboard, but decided I better bite the bullet and take the parts of so I could get at it. I took all the stuff off and fought with the stupid thing for quite some time. Several people stopped to offer aid, but I thanked them and told them I had it under control - I knew what needed to be done and had what I needed to do it - it just wasn't doing. I was finally able to spread the clamp wide enough to get it back on the sprocket and fasten it properly. After putting everything back together (it's amazing I didn't loose any screws in the gravel that I was swimming around on!) and gathered up my tools, it was 4:00. The day was slipping away.
AS I hit the intersection of 99 and 97, it began to rain and pretty good too. Already in a sour mood, the rain certainly wasn't helping. I knew there was no way I would reach Quesnel in any decent time even though the roads offered much quicker traveling time even in the rain. I was hoping for Williams Lake at this point, but was even having doubts about that.
I pulled in for gas at 100 Mile House and noticed it was 6:00. IT was still raining, though not as bad and decided to try to find a place to stay for the night. I found a motel/RV camp, got a slot and started setting up. IT actually stopped raining. I didn't know whether to be upset because I may have cut my day off prematurely or happy, because at least I could get stuff set up without everything getting wet. Trying to salvage something, I settled for the latter. I went and got some dinner and came back to catch up with things. Tomorrow, here I come...
(see Old Road Trips - 2008 Part III for conclusion of trip report)