Monday, August 10, 2009

1000 km weekend

July 28, 2008 - Monday

Wow, what a weekend. I spent almost the whole time from Friday morning to yesterday evening on the Beastie. My left knee is still a bit sore, but it was so much fun.

Friday morning dawned sunny, though still colder than July should be. I got some personal work and filing and clean-up done while I waited for Kevin to say he was awake. Round about 1000 hours we headed over to Tann to his mechanic to get that guy's input on the damage from three weeks ago.

They chatted for quite a bit. I was all raring to go hit the passes, so I finally just geared up again and drove over to stand in front of the shop, engine running. It didn't take Kevin long to say goodbye then, and we headed back.

It was midday before we actually headed off on the real tour, but in six hourse we covered more than 400 kilometers. We took the Autobahn to Nidwalden and then drove the Brünig, Grimsel and the Furka. The Grimsel was great, and would have been better is there hadn't been so much doggone vacation traffic blocking the roads. Still, considering it was the first time I drove the stretch, we actually did make a good drive out of it.

We ate lunch at the top of the Grimsel, and then headed down. The Furka was a bit worrisome in places with really tight curves, and the view was so astounding I didn't want to drive too fast anyway, so Kevin had to wait for me a few times. We were both hindered by some real jerks on the way down the Furka. Specifically two British cars, the stearing wheels on the wrong side, who crawled down the mountain but didn't have the decency to pullover for a moment and let the motorcycles - there were abou five behind them - pass. I was glad to finally get ahead of them.

My back brake smelled of molten metal on that way down, but once we hit the valley that dissipated. I think I ought to check it and make sure the brake pad isn't already used down to the limit.

Saturday started early. Norbert from the SwissBikers forum had organized a tour out to the Jura and the Doubs region in France, and Kevin and I were up for it. There would only be eight or ten bikes along, so it wasn't a huge group.

The meeting point was at the train station in Solothurn, which meant an hour of driving the autobahn before the tour. We left at 0900 hours. I hate driving the autobahn, I really do. It's monotone and it puts cramps in your legs. I'm sure I can hear the boredom emanating from the Beastie too as it thunders down the flat stretch at 140 or 150 km/h. The only interesting pat of the route is before Lenzburg, where the blacktop has waves and bumps in it.

We reached Solothurn two minutes after 1000 hours and found one person there, Octavian, who drives a silver CBF 1000. We exchanged greetings and aliases and were soon joined by Norbert and his BMW 1150 as well as Katrin and her CBR 600 RR. We went to the train station kiosk to get something to drink and to wait for the others to arrive.

In the end there were nine bikes and ten people. We were joined by Filipe and his Yamaha FZ1N, the marijuana-smoking Remo and his tuned blue SpeedTriple 1050, Meke and his Suzuki V-Strom, Markus and his wife on their old Yamaha FJ 1200, and Stefan on his Kawasaki ZRX 1100. It was a small and relaxed group of people who greeted each other. Kevin and I were the youngest drivers there.

The Beastie once again didn't fail to impress and garnered the first compliments for its airbrush.

Norbert led the way, and the adventure began. The stretch started out with tight curves and steep acceleration stretches andonly got better. I was fifth in line, but despite the fact that the Beastie was still limited and wasn't pulling properly, I held my position and didn't hinder the guys behind me. The stretch was wonderful. It helps to drive behind someone because you can just watch what they do and follow suite, but even so, the road was relatively visible all the time and you could drive without much hindrance and care.

We had to stop once to let Kevin refuel. His tank isn't that big, and we'd covered 120 km of Autobahn. I topped my tank off too, and then we were on the road again.

We halted by a small chocolate shop that ended up being closed, but it was an opportunity for a ten-minute chat. My bike was admired all over again, and Stefan asked who the artist was and requested I PM him her contact information because he'd be airbrushing his bike in the fall. I was only too glad to comply.

Drinks - non-alcoholic, of course - were had in a picturesque little village near the border. Talk revolved around motorcycles, of course, and it was interesting to hear various stories and experiences by the older drivers.

We crossed into France over an unguarded checkpoint, heading alongside hills and through little towns. It was mid-afternoon, and we were racing toward lunch, hauling over a curvy pass road. I was fourth in line, with some distance between me and Stefan, who drove ahead of me. I was in third gear, took a curve, and wanted to switch into fourth. There was a faint clunk, and the gear lever suddenly wasn't there anymore. I looked down ad saw it hanging limply in front of my foot. The leverage screw had gone off on its own.

Therewas nothing to do but drive on in third gearuntil I found an opportunity to get off the road. Luckily, a parking inlet wasn't too far, and I stopped.

Remo joined me and asked if there was a problem. I pointed to the gear shifter. He voiced the appropriate expletive, and one by one the other bikers turned up too.

That particular screw was an inch screw - Buells have a little bit of everything on them - so there was no replacement from another bike. Meke suggested thatthe screw of my back brake might fit, and that we remove that. I said timidly that I used my brake rather more than the front one, but luckily no one had the proper inbus tool along to remove the screw, so my back brake stayed usable.

In the end, it was Kevin and duct tape to the rescue. Kevin took the screw from his crash pad and mounted that in a ways, but not too far so as not to ruin the thread. He secured it with duct tape from Meke and told me to take it easy with the shifting, and on we went.

I was very thankful and impressed with the helpfulness and humor of the others with the problem.

We soon reached the town where we would have lunch. Norbert found a restaurant while Felipe, who could speak excellent French, went in search of a mechanic who could properly fix my shifter back in place. And, praise God from Whom all blessings flow, he actually found one. The guy's shop was atop a hill, on the edge of town. He was a mousy young man who, now that I think of it, reminded me strongly of Charlie Chaplin with his black moustache and shy smile. He scuttled back and forth through his shop, between the dozens of big, mud-splattered quads and lawnmowers that stood in rows, trying various screws to see which would fit.

After about ten or fifteen minutes he had fixed the lever in place, and Felipe translated my comment that it was "better than before."

He even tried to refuse payment for his service, but I gave him €5 and thanked Felipe sincerely for his effort. By that time we were joined by the other seven bikes and continued on our way.

The rest of the tour went smoothly - in my opinion anyway. Some of the bikers got a tad annoyed when it began to rain after we passed back into Neuchâtel, but I didn't mind it, and the sky cleared up soon after.

All in all that day I covered another 400+ kilometers. It was wonderful. Stefan's pictures from the tour can be seen here:

Sunday was another driving day. We started church super late, which was annoying, but it worked out ebcause Roy sent me a text message aroudn 1300 hours, asking if I were up for a drive. I said sure, the sun was shining and the weather was warm; we could go drive the Ibergeregg pass.

So he came out to Birmensdorf, where Florian and I met him mid-way, and after grabbing a drink we headed to Schwyz with me in the lead.

We were on the go for about three hours, so it was a complaratively short, but enjoyable drive. We said goodbye to Roy in Affoltern a. A. and were home around 1800 hours. The day finished with a grill in our garden.

And now it's Monday, the long-awaited 28th. At the moment the Beastie is getting its new Termignoni exhaust mounted, and half an hour ago the mech called and asked for a confirmation that I wanted the bike opened up to full power.

Do I ever.

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