Mid Winter Ride

“Last warm day for a while. Good day for a bike ride,” says my wife, a bonafide connoisseur of weather forecasts. She was raised on a farm with real animals and crops and stuff. The BMW F650 is the closest thing to a tractor we have. So I translate, “Get out on the tractor and do something.”

Could this be a day to go around Lake Winnipesaukee? 65 miles. You betcha. I check the temperature. 40 degrees. No sun. It’s as good as it’s going to get. At noon, the temp is going to start dropping.

First things first, I install my Iron Butt credentials on the bike.


Now I’m ready. I head out on 11A towards Alton Bay and immediately get buffeted by ubiquitous frost heaves. I imagine these conditions all the way around the lake and remember smoother days last summer. I keep going.


Bob Houses on Alton Bay

The frost heaves aren’t that bad everywhere. Before I know it, I’m closing in on Wolfeboro.


Bob houses on Tuftonboro Bay

Riding up north of Wolfeboro, I realize I’m enjoying navigating my way along these bumpy roads. I slow down, stay in third gear more. After all,  I’m on an adventure bike. Good in adverse conditions. There is something satisfying about handling the obstacles.

Bumps, wet areas, patches of sand, clumps of salt, snowmobiles. A car turning and then not turning. An entertaining amount of uncertainty.

A big truck coming the other way salutes with a mighty horn blast!


The Mount Washington cruise ship in winter quarters.

On a previous ride at 45 degrees, my core had become chilled by the time I got to Center Harbor. This time, I had the Gerbing vest and at the Moultonboro Airport, about halfway, I switched it on to 25%. Hadn’t felt any chill until then. With the heat on the second half, I was comfortable all the way around.

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Bob Houses way out on Center Harbor Bay

Being out here in the winter, a bit cold and damp, I remember gassing up the F650 down on the Merritt Parkway on my Iron Butt run last October. A guy walks over and says, “I was following you. Before I could see what you were riding, I told my wife only BMW riders are out in the cold rain. Sure enough.” He said he owned a BMW F800.


The winter community on Meredith Bay


Let’s Dance!


Iron Butt Association

Who would want to become a member of something called the Iron Butt Association? Especially if you have to ride 1000 documented miles in under 24 hours to qualify for membership.

Well, I submitted my application about three months ago. They said it might take three months to process it. Sure enough. A nice package just came in the mail. I got a backing panel for my license plate, an official certificate, a record of finishers with my name at the top of the list, several decals and patches, a membership number and password, and a nice letter from president Michael Kneebone himself.


On the same day that I rode the BMW F650, 10/15/17, a guy named Andrii Korpusov from Lutsk, Ukraine rode a BMW R1100RT 1008 validated miles to gain membership.

The finishers almost exclusively rode big displacement motorcycles, Harley Davidson Road Kings, Goldwings, big BMW touring machines, Yamaha FJRs, Kawasaki Concours, etc. But a guy named Anastasiya Vinogradskaya from Moskow, Russia finished on a Yamaha 125 on 8/03/17. I was surprised that there weren’t more small displacement rides.

I enjoyed the challenge. It was fun. I was very careful and took most of the 24 hours to complete it. On longer rides, though, I don’t want to be limited by a tight schedule on a relatively naked, lightweight bike. The more epic Iron Butt runs (coast to coast, for example) may best be left to those with a 1200cc engine and a big fairing.

Instead, I think I would enjoy some simple, aimless wandering on the F650 when it gets warmer. But every time I get on the bike, I’ll see that Iron Butt plate holder and think about US Route 1 from Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida, or Key West to Prudhoe Bay, or Lubec, Maine to Homer Alaska, or even Alaska to Terra del Fuego like Lois on the Loose.



30 Miles at 20 degrees

Time for my usual lunch outing with a friend. Wait! It’s only 20 degrees out there. It’s 15 miles to his place.

No worries. I have my new Gerbing heated vest. I’ll take the bike.

The F650 hadn’t been started in a while and it had been very cold. Wouldn’t start. My guess is a little condensation in the fuel or in the cylinder. Maybe a coating of frost on the plugs? Don’t know. Eventually I got it going with some starter fluid sprayed near the air intake.

I have left the 20W50 weight oil in it so far this winter, so that didn’t help either. Pretty stiff.

Also, I had to spread some ice melt in order to have some footing to keep the bike upright until I got out of the driveway and onto the pavement.


My $50 vest controller loops over the handlebar. You press the round button to cycle it through OFF(no light), FULL POWER(red), 3/4(blinking red),1/2(green) and 1/4(blinking green). One end connects to an SAE outlet from the battery and the other plugs into the vest.

I used some “8 hour” hand warmers between my outer mittens and the liner mittens. Over the fingers. My thumbs did get cold. Also my knees. Need to do something about the knees.

Well, I’m out there on the bike making my way in traffic. I can almost hear the thoughts, “Wait a second, it’s 20 degrees out there. What is this guy doing?”

“No woman would be so stupid!” Probably accurate.

“That’s out there!” Obviously.

“I knew it! It had to be a Beemer.” Another BMW nut.

“Captain America!” Vague admiration hidden in sarcasm.

Actually, I’m having a good time. It’s an adventure. Why? I’m the only bike in sight for one thing. Never saw another. It’s cold, but I am prepared. Also, there’s that mental magic, “It’s just not as cold on a bike as you would think”.

I don’t know why.

P.S. It turns out 20 degrees was a really warm day. Lately it’s been hovering around zero. Fahrenheit. For the time being, the bike is sitting happily on the battery tender.

Iron Butt 1000

I want one of these license plate holders. I don’t know why.


All I had to do to qualify for membership in the esteemed “Iron Butt” Association (and get my plate holder) was ride from New Hampshire near Lake Winnipesaukee down through Hartford, skirt New York City via I-287 into New Jersey, take I-78 over near Harrisburg, PA and then down 15 to the Sunoco Station on the old Baltimore Pike Road in Gettysburg. Turn around and do the same thing  in reverse. Over 1000 miles in less than 24 hours. Then send a check for $49 plus copies of the ride documentation.

How tough could that be?IronButtSaddleSoreLeg1 copy


I left home at 3:45 am on October 15 and got back at 3:32 am on the 16th, almost one day later. Interstates all the way, cruising at 60-75 mph. Why did it take me so long? Google Maps predicted a little over 8 hours each way. Let’s say 16.5 hours of riding.

The official start and end correspond to the first and last stops for gas, not at my front door. I gassed up first at 4:03 AM on the 15th and then finally at 3:06 AM on the 16th, for a total elapsed time of 23 hours and 3 minutes.

The F650 runs about 6% slower than the Google Maps estimate for cars. That’s an extra hour. I saw the main flow of car traffic doing 80 in a 55 zone, more than once. I didn’t feel safe trying to keep up with that but I also had too much company in the right hand lane in the form of semi’s, pickups towing trailers, RVs and some just inexplicably slow drivers.  I got comfortable passing people doing less than 65.

I refueled 10 times, riding for over two hours and 125-130 miles between fill-ups, plus an extra stop near the end. I averaged about 20 minutes off the bike by the time I refueled, took a photo of the receipt next to the odometer, used the restroom, ate and drank something, switched out clothing and gear, reset the odometer, etc. So maybe 3.5 hours total for stops.

I lost 30 minutes on the first leg due to very poor visibility in the dark, foggy mist. Almost turned around. Fortunately, there was no traffic and I knew that section very well. Probably another 30 minutes total for the rest of the ride for the same reason, off and on. I rode about 11 hours in the dark and there was some misting occasionally. It’s particularly hard to see when lights are hitting beads of moisture on the face shield. I could clear it somewhat by tipping the helmet down into the slipstream.

Another 30 minutes for stop and go traffic from an accident and some single lane construction zones.

I lost another 30 minutes on the way back when Google Maps re-routed me north to avoid I-287 for some reason. I wound up riding about 1040 miles, by Google measurements. My odometer total was 1078 miles.


Final Fill-up




I knew at 60 degrees and little sun the heat was going to slowly drain out of me and after two hours or more I would be too cold to continue. So I got a Gerbing heated vest but I hadn’t gotten a controller and the vest was too hot on straight 12 V so I only used it a little. I will need the controller to keep my core “temperature neutral” while riding for hours in cold weather.

I used my summer armored Revit jacket in Pennsylvania where it was warm and sunny, but wore my three-season Sedici with more layers for the cold, dark northern sections. UnderArmor thermal underwear, of course. I mostly used my summer armored riding gloves although I did use my “Randy” (from A Christmas Story) down mittens with wool mitten liners for the first few hours.

I added some red and white reflective strips on the back of my helmet. Never had any close calls. People could see me.


I rode the venerable BMW classic F650.

I had installed a new chain and sprockets for the trip and those ran fine. The Metzler Tourance tires had about 13,000 miles on them but were still okay, the rear one getting pretty close to minimum tread depth.

Installed an EZ Pass transponder on the back of the windscreen. I went through about 6 toll booths with it during the trip.

I had the USB adapter plugged in to my Battery Tender outlet and a phone holder on the handlebars, but with the mist and the simplicity of the route, I kept the phone on my belt for most of the ride.


Intense riding for distance isn’t my thing. I prefer to meander, take scenic routes, and generally make use of the bike as cheap transportation. But I did want to get a feel for extensive highway riding and I find I am comfortable with it as long as there isn’t too much traffic and the road is good, which precludes going near big cities.

Riding at night is not attractive simply because I can’t see the road well enough, not only for spotting animals, potholes and debris, but also to see the arc of the road way ahead. It’s unsettling at speed when the road begins to curve in a way that was not anticipated.

At one low point on the ride I thought about retiring to a small scooter with my poser’s “World’s Toughest Riders” plate holder. But a day after getting home I started wondering what the next big adventure might be.

Does vacillating between “I’ll never do this again” and “I can’t wait for the next time” mean you have it just about right?


Home at 3:30 AM, but I never got drowsy.


Motorcycle Camping


Ewan McGregor says that after doing a movie he needs to regain control of his own space, and motorcycle camping is a way to do that. But then he goes ahead and makes the Long Way ‘Round and the Long Way Down, which seem to deliberately flood his therapeutic space with work-like stuff. Or maybe if he’s in control of the work, that’s all the relief he needs?

In a much simpler scenario, my wife and I recently used a $300 Catoma 2-up-2 tent on our Delaware Water Gap trip along with some borrowed sleeping pads and bags. We carried a lot of the gear in the car to make the load on the bike lighter. Yeah, weird, we took both the bike and the car. Not the first time either.

Since then I acquired an inexpensive bag and pad and I wanted to test them out. The thought of freezing in the night had occurred to me.  Also I wanted to see if I could carry the tent and enough gear on the bike to do motorcycle camping.

If I had the side luggage racks and cases, I’d be happy to use them but they are too expensive and on an F650 they have to stick out too far into the wind, degrading the aerodynamics at highway speeds, especially on the muffler side.

Instead, I used the top box and stacked everything else in front of it.


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Everything is pretty well strapped against the top box.

I have a $90 Saddlemen TS3200 tail bag sitting on the passenger seat. It droops down over the sides of the seat by design, it’s built that way. But it doesn’t go down far enough to touch the muffler heat shields and it just clears the rear directionals. Also, it leaves the right amount of room behind me. I can lean back on it if I want, but in normal riding it doesn’t touch me.


I knew the 6 lb. tent had to go on top of the TS3200, so I centered a small rectangular cooler inside the bag to provide rigid support for the tent. Worked out fine.


Catoma 2-up-2 Tent

The tail bag comes with a lot of straps and I lashed the bottom and top of the bag around the base of the top box. And the bag has built-in straps that I used for the tent.

In the picture above of the stackup, you can see the $60 Teton Sports Trailhead +20F Ultralight sleeping bag sitting on top, bungie corded to the tent straps.


The $60 Klymit V2 inflatable sleeping pad compresses down very small and went inside the cooler to protect it.

klymit_staticv2_anglebag_v1.pngWell, it’s quite a pile of gear and I was worried about it being too top heavy and maybe shifting around, but in fact it was fine. No problem handling it. Perhaps a little more care is needed stopping the bike on uneven ground and making sure the kickstand keeps everything reasonably upright.

With my slim load behind me, I enjoyed the ride up into the White Mountain National Forest where I paid a senior-pass-discounted $11 for a campsite. No showers. It was a Saturday and the campground was pretty full of small children yelling, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!!!” I figure the wild animals retreated at least a mile back into the woods. But I felt about as secure as I would in my own home.

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The weather was good, 75-80 during the day and 60 at night. The sleeping bag and pad were fine. I used a silk bag liner. I was plenty warm. The tent is a bit heavy and bulky, but it has the distinct advantage of a 30 second setup. Another couple minutes to stake it down and put the fly over it. Plenty of room in it.


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Covered Bridge over the Swift River on the Kankamangus Highway

On the way in at about 3 pm,  I had to ride through a big crowd of tourists packed inside the bridge. I took the photo above as I was leaving the campground at 7 am the following morning.


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Sun just up over the mountains

I was home by 9 am. Bacon and eggs. Mission accomplished.

Now I’m setting up to ride to Gettysburg and back in one day. 1000 miles. That’s right, the Iron Butt Club initiation! No camping, but a big distance stretch for me.


Running Lean: Part Two

There are pluses and minuses to everything. Take the “tiny house” movement, for example.

New England town ordinances typically restrict a tiny house to an uninhabitable auxiliary structure on a property with an existing legal dwelling. A partial workaround is to put wheels on the tiny house and call it an RV.

But if the RV sits for more than a few months it is apt to get assessed and taxed as part of the real estate value of the overall property. Even if it has wheels on it. And eventually, if someone is living in the RV, residential zoning will likely require a move to an RV park or a place where zoning allows it.

In other words, the tiny house movement has a giant cannon-shot hole in the side of it. Where will you be allowed use it?

Only the devout can ignore these and other negatives.

Still, I love the idea of a tiny house.

Writing about Jay Shafer, arguably the father of the tiny house movement, Mark Sundeen says, “he described himself as a “meaning addict,” always looking for higher significance in material objects. “A gate in a picket fence that opens onto a narrow path that leads through a yard to an open porch that covers a door,” he said, “is a set of symbols we recognize as signposts guiding us through increasingly private territory toward the threshold of someone’s clandestine world.””

Fantastic! Couple that with the idea that you can build your own dwelling, own it outright, and live in it for next to nothing and you have the perfect thing for anyone looking to live light on the land.

Imagine. A life you can manage!

Here’s a nice, typically-sized version of a tiny house:



It’s said that an image in the mind is almost as good as the real thing. In some ways better because you can filter out the negatives.

I say, “Dream on!” In fact, park a little scooter behind that tiny house as well.

No Highways

Leaving for a three-night camping expedition to the Delaware Water Gap National Park area in northern New Jersey. It’s sort of the flip side of the trip I took to Maine a while back. 180 degrees in the opposite direction, but about the same distance.

I’m wearing my three season Sedici jacket here and insulated underwear. With a cloudy, 60-degree ride down, the heat gradually drained out of me and around Brattleboro, VT I was needing a place to warm up. I got rained on three times. Coming back was hot and I wore the summer RevIt jacket which lets the air right through.


If I set the Google Map options to “Avoid Highways” I get the following route:


It’s a nice, direct scenic run out through the Green Mountains, loosely following the Appalachian Trail down to the park.  The AT passed about 1/2 mile from our campsite, and we were able to hike a few miles on it. Perfect.

I had plugged a USB power outlet into the connector I normally use for the Battery Tender, straight connection to the battery. Bought a $10 phone mount and mounted the iPhone 7 on the handlebars with the charging cord coming out from under the seat. This worked great. I was able to navigate all the way and the phone stayed charged at 100%.

As you are passing through a complex intersection of roads, you can just glance at the screen and see your path through. You don’t have to read all the signs. I think it’s safer.

But there are some quirks to “No Highways”. It apparently computes the quickest route, which is good, but it will often avoid the center of towns. That can be good or bad. If you are sort of looking for gas or food, you might not go by any stations, stores, or restaurants. I wound up in the middle of the national park with very little gas and had to specifically go out and find some. I had started looking at 100 miles on the odometer and was approaching 150 when I finally filled up. Normally, I fill up around 125.

It does seem to like sending you by lakes and rivers, which is nice.

It seems overly averse to construction zones. Just leaving Laconia, it sent me on an unnecessary detour. On the way back from the DWG it dumped me into downtown Albany, NY, apparently looking for a non-highway, no construction way to get across the Hudson River. That’s not the way I went on the way down.

Also, using the navigate mode tends to leave you in the dark about where you are, exactly. You know how far it is to the next turn, how far it is to your destination, but you don’t have an overall sense of where you are and what is around you just beyond your vision.

Finally, it is too strict about “no highways”. On one occasion, I felt like I was riding through people’s back yards right next to the highway. Better to take the highway if all you are going to do is parallel it on much, much slower roads.

By the way, it was my wife and I making the trip, but she drove her Infiniti G37X, cruising in air-conditioned comfort while blasting Amos Lee on the Bose. We each got what we wanted.