Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tucson to Chicago on my first Dual Sport


This is all Tim's fault.

The following is the story behind my first dual sport bike and the ride report of picking it up in Tucson and riding home to Chicago. (Scroll down for the pictures.)

On one chilly morning during our Sport-Touring.Net's regional coffee meet, Tim, a good riding friend of mine, got chatting about a trip to Central America. He just did his first big sport-touring ride this past summer on our trip through the Rockies and now we were to conquer the world.

This was fitting because there's actually a desire within my riding friends to do an around-the-world trip, at some point. We've talked about doing smaller trips first to see if we can handle it and to work out the kinks, like trips to Alaska and Central America. But of course, trying to get enough time off from work, raise funds, choose the right bike, etc is going to take time, maybe years. What jump-started this trip planning to Central America was Tim's involvement in rebuilding an elementary school on the Honduran island of Roatan. He was going to go down next summer, and we decided to make a ride out of it.

First thing to decide upon would be the bikes that could handle all the various kinds of roads that we would come across on our journey. I was all for taking my Suzuki GSX-R sport bike down there and around the world, but looks like it's got some things working against it: tubeless tires on cast wheels vs. tubed tires on spokes (easy to fix and better to absorb shock), low ground clearance, knobby tire size availability and fuel mileage. Some quick research got me decided on a Suzuki DR650; a dual-sport bike that can handle dirt and paved roads. It's also air-cooled and carbed, meaning it's easy to work on in case something goes bang in a third-world country. Also, there seems to be lots of after-market products for this model and the bike in general is inexpensive to comparable BMWs. Its gas tank can also be easily increased to a whopping 9 gallons compared to the factory 3.4 gallons.

I found a used bike in Tucson that fit my criteria: 2004 and later model (earlier models had some known mechanical issues), necessary modifications already done (carb jetting, lighter exhaust pipe, skid plate, larger gas tank and luggage rack), low miles and good price. Could a bike meeting these criteria be found closer to home? Probably. But some stars aligned making the bike in Tucson very attractive. The Thanksgiving weekend was coming up, giving me about 4 days for a ride back home (shipping it would just be boring) and the whole country was experiencing a nice warm November spell. Temperatures across the holiday weekend were to be very favorable with no rain along the route. I also didn't get to go on a planned South-West tour this fall with my other riding friends, so, I bought a one-way plane ticket and I was off.

Was I jumping the gun in buying a new bike so quickly, that too with no dirt-riding experience before? Probably, but it felt right and heck, it gave me something to do over the Thanksgiving weekend. If I really didn't like the bike, I figured I could sell it once I got back...

This would also be the first time that I've had to fly somewhere to start a motorcycle trip. This meant packing my helmet, all my gear and all the other peripherals (chargers, tire-plugger kit, spare shield, siphon pump, etc) that I would need for the tour. I was worried about packing the helmet in checked luggage, knowing how those bags are tossed around, so I zipped it up inside my jacket and protected it with armored gloves all around. I couldn't really take it on-board, because firstly it wouldn't fit in the carry-on luggage dimensions and secondly, I didn't want to raise any unwanted suspicions by the air marshall (being brown-skinned not helping). I had to connect in Houston and that added an additional worry of the checked bag being sent to the wrong place, leaving me with no gear and the route back being greatly affected (probably more Interstate slab than intended).

I planned to spend two days riding around Arizona and New Mexico and then jumping on the slab and heading home. Wednesday being a slow day at work was easy to take off, giving me an additional day to fly down there, check the bike out and do all the paper work.

I also like to buy and sell my bikes and cars from good people, if you know what I mean; like someone that's an enthusiast and someone that probably enjoyed or will enjoy taking care of the vehicle. I felt this was true of the bike in Tucson's owner, Mark. He's a sport-tourer and a dirt rider and works on the bikes himself. Knowing that I was riding the bike back, he did an oil change and also changed the front sprocket for better highway cruising. He also threw in a spare tube for the tire and offered me all the stock parts (only value would be in reselling them, but they weren't worth to ship back). All the above aided in my decision on this bike.

I woke up at 2:30 am on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to catch my 5:30 am flight out of Milwaukee (nice airport) to Tucson, with a stop in Houston. This is the most traveled time during the year and I usually opt to stay home away from the delayed airports and crowded highways. And here I was flying on the day before and planning to be on the road on the busiest weekend. Oh well. The flights were on schedule and I was quite relieved to see my checked bag on the baggage carousel. This was a good start.

Picture from the plane over AZ or NM of the dry mountains and the drainage/erosion paths clearly evident.

These are definitely not crop circles. Irrigation fields in the desert that have an irrigation pipe spinning around the center.

A copper mine?

The Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, known as the airforce graveyard, near Tucson. This is where decomissioned aircraft are stored and preserved when they're not needed by the air force.

I was picked up at the airport and taken straight to the garage to meet the new bike. Here I was, already committed to this bike (with a one-way plane ticket) before even riding her. Mark hopped on his replacement bike, a new KTM 640 and took me for a spin around the area.

Meeting the new bike at Mark's house. I had all my gear packed into that red duffle bag.

First impressions of the Suzuki DR650SE: it's very tall and the motor's very torquey. I'm 5'10" and I was on tip-toes. I couldn't see how I could swing my leg over with rear luggage. Mark suggested stepping on the foot peg and hoisting myself over, but added that this would also upset the balance and could easily lead to a tip over, plus the added weight on the side-stand wouldn't be a good thing. I resorted to sliding my leg across the seat.

Being a sport-bike rider, I hoped the bike would have enough pep to satisfy my urges and it looked to be that way. The front brakes were obviously not as strong compared to the GSX-R's. Being single disked and that too of a smaller diameter, more front brake would need to be squeezed and for a longer time than I was used to. Being a dirt bike, the rear disk was larger than on my GSX-R as more rear brake is used when on off-road surfaces. And talk about dive. Of course, being a dirt bike, it would have much greater front suspension travel, but that would take some getting used to under heavy braking.

One of my criteria in selecting a bike was how "road-able" the bike would be, meaning how did it handle paved roads in terms of vibrations and other behavior associated with street riding. I felt the bike was pretty smooth in fifth gear and read online that it could cruise at 85 mph all day long. The transmission also felt solid - the gear changes being very positive. Having no tachometer (rpm indicator) would also be a difference, but I was already getting used to that.

We went back to Mark's house; with me feeling like this was a good decision. I got the bike ready for the trip home by mainly installing a cigarette lighter plug for the heated vest and also to charge my iPod along the way. After a quick lunch in the garage and some route discussion, we were off to the bank to notarize the title transfer and deposit the monies. She was officially mine now and the trip back had started.

I am the proud new owner of this Suzuki DR650SE. Picture taken just after getting the title notarized and handing over the check. The journey back home had begun.

Overall route map from Tucson, AZ to Chicago, IL. About 2100 miles over 4 1/2 days.

Day 1
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Start: Oro Valley, AZ, 3:00 pm MST
End: Globe, AZ, 6:00 pm
Mileage: 115, Average: 38 mph

The twisty back-side dirt road of Mt. Lemmon.

Mark offered to run me to the edge of town and show me a bit of the dirt road up the back-side of Mt. Lemmon. I had originally wanted to do the front side, which is paved and very twisty but the start was a long ways off from Mark's house and I wanted to get some miles under the belt for the first day, so we skipped the front side.

The back side/fire road of Mt Lemmon, my first exposure to dirt riding.

We turned around before it got too hairy for a dirty newbie.

One of the mild corners on this twisty dirt road.

Packed gravel riding to Globe, AZ.

Riding a dirt road intentionally for the first time was quite interesting. First thing to get used to was the rear wheel walking all over the place. I was deadly scared of the turns and crawled through the first few until I got a hang of it. Then the road started going up hill. This was a fire-road and soon became very bumpy with switchbacks. One feeling to get used to was when the traction changed while riding over a flat rock in the road, causing the bike to be thrown forward a little.

I was liking this dirt riding and felt more comfortable in my decision on this bike. Of course, more off-road practice would be needed before the big trip south of the border. One thing though about riding in the dirt is not being able to follow someone too closely because of the dust cloud and I was worried that something would bother my contacts. We turned around before the road got too hairy for a dirt beginner and then Mark split off as I carried on to Globe, AZ for the first night. I also got to experience some night-riding with the bike and its full beam is really quite effective.

Interesting view of the sediment layers in the hills north of Tucson.

The El Rancho Motel in Globe, AZ. The Indian motel owner was very proud of his redocoration and I must say, it wasn't that bad.

Day 2
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Start: Globe, AZ, 6:30 am
End: Socorro, NM, 7:00 pm
Mileage: 495, Average: 40 mph

Day 2 route from Globe, AZ to Socorro, NM.

Today would be the most fun one of the trip with some seriously twisty roads planned for a zigzag route east to central New Mexico. Knowing that I would be stopping for pictures along the way on this 500 mile day, I decided to leave early. Not a very good decision, as it was probably in the upper 30s until at least 8:30 in the morning. I did get to see a beautiful desert sun rise, which helped ease some of the pain from the cold. I had my heated vest on, but didn't want to plug it in until it was absolutely needed after hearing some stories about the bike's electronics taking a dive from too much draw on it. This was probably more of a problem on earlier models, but I didn't want to risk anything so far away from home.

Dawn on US-70 heading to Safford. The desert always makes a beautiful sunrise and sunset.

I like how that lone cloud is there all by itself...

A new journey...

... with a new companion.

How sad that there was this much litter in the middle of nowhere.

I had my new Rev'It Celsius winter gloves and even though I want to believe in it, the whole Phase Change Material thing doesn't seem to work. The PCM liner is supposed to absorb heat and slowly give it back when the fingers are cold. I even warmed them up under a hand dryer at a gas station and my fingers were still cold for the ride to Safford, where I would start the highly anticipated US-191 scenic highway. After spending an hour at a gas station there, warming up with 24 ounces of hot chocolate and waiting for the earth to warm up as well, I was ready to see how this new bike handled twisties. Oh, and I spent that whole hour doing what most motorcyclists love to do, studying a map of the area. I just about memorized the whole state of New Mexico.

The copper mining town of Clifton is the southern gateway to the Clifton-Alpine Highway running 100 miles up the eastern border of Arizona. This road is a real gem. It started out with some 10 mph hairpin bends along barren land that had been mined and slowly faded to a soothing pine forest with 35 mph turns. I think it was about 9000 ft at the highest point along the road, but the day was warming up and I was actually removing layers. I was glad to see that this bike was handling all the tight twisties very easily. She's definitely easy to lean over, but the knobby tires obviously handle differently leaned over compared to sport tires. Also, the lack of engine braking in second gear coming into a hairpin compared to my GSX-R took some getting used to and required more braking than I was used to on downhill switchbacks. I was going so slow in some of 10 mph turns that I found myself turning the handle bar to actually make the turn. I had to build confidence in this bike's ability slowly.

The very rewarding US-191, 100 miles of twisties.

The copper mines at Clifton. The town probably gets its name from Cliff-Town, which means switchbacks...

It was pretty cool to have the road running through this mining area.

And they weren't kidding about the speed. Very tight hairpins climbing up fast.

Now, doesn't that look fun? All the slab to come in the next few days was totally worth riding this road.

The arid area slowly turned into a nice pine forest.

They were very sparse in their guard-rail use. It was about a 500 ft drop on the oher side.

Doesn't look it from here, but they sure were there.

I was beginning to like the yellow of the bike. I thought initially that I would just paint the few parts blue, but am reconsidering...

Looking north-west from the Blue Vista scenic outlook.

Riding this road was totally worth all the slab that was to come in the next few days. There are no intersecting roads for the whole 100 miles and traffic was very light, probably because most everyone was getting ready to stuff down some turkey. After a light gas station lunch in Alpine of a burrito and a frappuccino, I was ready to head back south to Silver City in New Mexico to ride the other anticipated road of the trip; NM-152.

One benefit of taking this bike on a tour right after buying it was the ability to evaluate how it handled in various situations: dirt, twisties, highway cruising, how easy was it to get on and off, wind protection and would I be able to pick her up on my own if she gets tipped over? I really didn't plan to find out this last ability on this trip, but I guess I was blessed.

I don't know if it's a sport-touring thing or where it comes from, but taking pictures of state welcome signs is always a kick. The New Mexico sign would be a quite memorable one. I stopped on an inclined dirt shoulder to take the picture and then started to get back on. At this point in the tour, I was still getting used to how tall this bike's seat was compared to most other bikes that I've ridden. The seat height is only 34 inches, but it feels a lot higher than that. With rear luggage on, it required me to swing my right leg onto the seat (I'm not that flexible) and slide it over. In doing so, the bike tilted up and the momentum tipped the bike over to the right waiting for my firm right foot placement, which never happened. It slid on the gravel and down she went. I was more amused at myself that angry, because this same stupid thing happened at a Wyoming welcome sign this past summer. I was also happy to see that I could easily pick the bike up myself without too much trouble. Only scratches were on the hand guards and nothing else was damaged. I didn't take a picture of her lying down, because I was worried that the carbs would flood or the fuel would drain or something else would happen that would leave me stranded in the middle of nowhere. She fired up after a few starts and just as I got going I noticed the tilted steering wheel, just like on a bicycle after a fall. Holding the front wheel between my legs and twisting the other way fixed the problem and we were off into New Mexico.

Since I flew into the state, I didn't really get to see an Arizona welcome sign, so this is kind of cheating at the AZ/NM border.

The land of enchantment awaits. I was still struggling with how tall this seat is and getting back on, I slowly tipped her over, having my first fall with the new bike. No harm done and she was easy to pick up.

US-180 was a nice road with 35 mph corners and pleasing scenery and then it flattened out until we hit Silver City. It was starting to get dark (damn winter and its short days) and I was hopping that I'd be done with the twisties of NM-152 before the sun set. It's certainly not advisable to ride twisties are night, especially out here where guard rails are used sparsely.

US-180 heading back south to Silver City, NM.

Excellent road quality and very little traffic on this Thanksgiving Day.

Consistent 35 mph corners, my favorite and she was handling them real smoothly.

Then it flattened out with the occasional sweeper.

Interesting rock formation on the southern part of US-180.

The landscape of the area in general with rolling hills, dotted with shrubs.

Officially crossing over to the other side.

NM-152 was definitely worth the ride south away from my intended north-easterly route. The road conditions were very good and the twisties were also laid out nicely. I also got to experience lots of wow-scapes - landscape shots that make you go Wow. The setting sun definitely aided in highlighting the beauty of this land. The colors in the sky from the setting sun caused me to stop every few miles to take pictures and just admire the scenery.

Going out of the way for the amazing NM-152.

NM-152, the other gem of a road in this area.

Rock outcrop with no trees allocated to it.

The sun was setting while I was still in the mountains. But the sun seems to set very slowly out here. The setting sun also created lots of Wow-scapes - landscapes that make you go Wow.

One of those wow-scapes, not so much the landscape, but the lighting.

Just beautiful...

There were lots of signs for cows on the road, being open range area, and they weren't kidding, unlike those deer and elk signs. These bovines were happily sitting pretty close to the shoulder and my loud exhaust scared a few of them. It was pretty funny to see them all startled and hobbling away, even though I felt a little bad for disturbing their peace. This is my first bike with an aftermarket exhaust and I must say that whole "Loud pipes save lives" thing also applies to the country side compared to the city riding it's intended for. This exhaust was definitely alerting all the nearby wildlife that something was coming. Birds were easily disturbed and whole flocks would fly out of trees as I approached. Sorry about that. All though, it can't be that bad since my pipe is supposed to be a quiet aftermarket exhaust made my FMF.

It got pitch dark as I hit the plains and I was yearning for the interstate to take me back north to my destination of Socorro. I-25 was very empty and hilly enough to provide some excitement once in a while. The interstate does provide that bit of added security at night of at least knowing that people are around to help incase something goes wrong, like running out of gas (never leave home without a siphon pump), or if there's a breakdown. And the patrol officers also contribute to that safety feeling. There isn't so much a fear of the cops on these interstates, because the speed limit is 75 mph; meaning that even doing an indicated speed of 90 wouldn't probably get you a ticket and there's no need to really be cruising any faster than that. I found a nice tow who was doing about 5 to 10 over. And here I got to see that she handled highway cruising pretty well. Being in 5th gear (there's no 6th) at 60 mph does produce some vibrations, but at 80 or above, she's very smooth and there's still some pep left.

I was hoping something other than fast food would be open considering that it was Thanksgiving and luckily there was a 24 hr diner next to my motel. They had a special Thanksgiving meal of turkey or ham. It might be blasphemous, but I don't actually like turkey meat all that much. I took the ham dinner and was completely satisfied. It came with a salad and some pumpkin pie for only $8.50. Many of the locals in the nearby tables were scouring the weekly coupon mailings to decide where to head first to shop on the most dreaded day to be in retail; Black Friday. I was hoping to be far away from it all; civilization and all its capitalistic consumption madness (and here I am with a new bike).

My amazing motel in Socorro, NM at the Econo Lodge. I was standing in the living room look through the suite to the bedroom. It was by far the best motel I've stayed in on the road, for only $39.

My Thanksgiving Dinner. I'm not much of a turkey person, so I opted for the ham option. It was very tasty and they had some great salsa for the corn.

Day 3
Friday, November 24, 2006
Start: Socorro, NM, 9:00 am MST
End: Dalhart, TX, 7:00 pm CST
Mileage: 385, Average: 43 mph

Day 3 route from Socorro, NM to Dalhart, TX.

The view from my motel front door.

I decided to let the sun rise and warm up my playground before venturing out there. A lazy start of 9 am did offer pleasing riding temps. It must have been in the mid-50s. I took a short-cut on dirt roads to continue heading as north-east as possible. It also gave me more experience in dirt riding and I was really beginning to like it. I was still scared of wiping out in the turns and was careful to keep my confidence in check in not carrying too much speed. I liked the ability that this bike brings in terms of choosing a direction and riding whatever kind of road is thrown at you.

The start of many straight-as-an-arrow roads to come... US-380.

Hmmm, what should we do with all this barren desert? Let's test missles here. The White Sands Missle Range is a huge area in the New Mexico desert of about 140 square miles. This area is the birth place of America's Missle Program based on the captured German V2 rockets from WWII, which were tested extensively after the war.

The Trinity Site was also nearby; the location of the world's first atomic explosion. The area is open to the public twice a year. And the mystery behind Trinitite (the glassy rock formed after the explosion) was recently uncovered. It was due to sand being sucked up into the mushroom cloud and melting at 14,000 F and dropping back to earth like rain. Some can still be found on eBay but it is slightly radioactive. Some nearby stores were also selling it.

I love the ability of this bike to pick a direction and ride whatever kind of road I come upon. The short-cut to Corona, NM.

Wide open spaces...

I stopped by some Indian Peublo and early Spanish Mission ruins from the 17th century.

All the dirt riding and the lazy morning start was making me late and I decided to cruise at 90 mph to make up some lost time on the highways. She handled great at that speed and then she wouldn't start after a picture shoot with only 135 miles to the tank (4.9 gallon version). She had hit reserve and I managed to get only 35 mph compared to the usual 50 mph that this bike is known for.

Yes, it was quite windy out here and I think these small windmills are for water pumps...

The real deal at the New Mexico Wind Energy Center, near Fort Sumner, considered to be the third largest in the country. There are about 136 turbines out here.

This wind farm is at the top of this mesa, to get the maximum speed of the wind currents, I presume.

It was amazing to stand next to one of these windmills and marvel at the size of this spinning object.

My other companion on the trip...

On NM-209 heading into Tucumcari.

Running across the historic Route-66. New Mexico state signs also have this cool Native American design to them.

A huge mural on the side of a grocery store in Tucumcari dedicated to Route 66. Pretty cool.

The setting sun on my adventure through Arizona and New Mexico. Flat lands, here I come.

Notice how the clouds are being pulled into the setting sun.


I thought he was from Conneticut??

I pulled into the Texan town of Dalhart and usually when they say some town is the arm pit of a state, it's usually a metaphor. But this town just smelled bad. It smelt of dry powdered cow-dung all over the town. I don't know if they were processing it for bio fuel or something else, but I’m sure it deterred people from stopping here. I had a confirmed reservation made prior, so I was stuck.

My motel at the Texas Inn in Dalhart, TX.

Day 4
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Start: Dalhart, TX, 9:30 am
End: Blue Springs, MO, 8:00 pm
Mileage: 530, Average: 50 mph

Day 4 route from Dalhart, TX to Blue Springs, MO.

This was the start of the boring part of the trip. I had the whole of Kansas to cross and I pretty much stayed on one road the whole time, US-54, which appeared to be more busy that the parallel US-56. There was also lots of semi-traffic on this route and some parts were divided four lanes, like interstate. I guess this is a major north-east to south-west corridor. Yet, I didn't see more than one police cruiser the whole day. The countryside of Kansas isn't all that boring actually with gently rolling hills and picturesque farmlands. Also, passing through all the small towns helped in breaking up the monotony. Crossing Nebraska is definitely worse.

Hooker, OK. No, I'm not agreeing for some services, it's the great town of Hooker in Oklahoma. Only in America... And check it out, it's those water towers from the Land of Oz.

The Hooker Horny Toads Baseball team. Wow, they are having too much fun with this town's name.

Land of tornadoes, here I come.

This place claimed to be Dorothy's home. I'm sure it's just a plot to sucker tourists into stopping.

Lots of singing along in the helmet kept me alert and I had to remember to stop singing when I got into small towns as people on the street could possibly hear me. And this wasn't just singing along kind of singing, it was more like belting it out to classic rock and eighties. Oh and I also listened to my German language tapes as I'll be heading to Austria for a ski trip in a few weeks and I'm telling you, audio books are the best way to pass boring highway riding. Sprechen-sie Deutsch? And language tapes are even better because they're interactive. Of course, you can only listen to them on empty roads that don't require much riding thought. Once traffic got too heavy, it was back to the tunes. I plan to pickup Spanish on the next ride. Chinese was learned on the Montana trip.

One pleasing thing about the interstate around Kansas City was that everyone was going at least 80 mph, compared to those horrible Chicago drivers who are doing just 65 mph in all three lanes. It was also getting very hilly as I crossed into Missouri and I hoped this would carry on throughout this state. I had a fabulous dinner at Bob Evans of an open-faced slow-roasted pork loin Texas toast sandwich on a bed of stuffing and mashed potatoes, drowned in pork sauce. It was really tasty.

Day 5
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Start: Blue Springs, KS, 7:30 am
End: Grayslake, IL, 5:45 pm
Mileage: 585, Average 57 mph

Day 5 route from Blue Springs, MO to Grayslake, IL.

I had originally planned to stick to a nice north-easterly route across Missouri and hit the slab only in Illinois, but a storm was moving in and pushed me to take the slab all the way back home.I didn't want to arrive at home too late, so an early start with a deferred breakfast 100 miles into the day was the plan. I was really hungry by the time those 100 miles rolled by and I inhaled a highly anticipated McGriddle (a breakfast sandwich held together by maple syrup-infused mini pancakes). When I'm on the road, I just love me one of these samiches.

Missouri is really quite hilly and I can just imagine all the twisty roads hiding in the country side. Traffic was moderate and I found a few good tows to keep pace with. Once I find someone doing the speed I want to do, I'll just hang behind them as I don't want to bother with constantly checking my speed to keep me under the radar. Also, these vehicles provide a nice radar blocker compared to riding on empty sections of freeway.

Sunday after Thanksgiving is supposed to be the most traveled day of the year with everyone heading back to the big cities after being over-stuffed. I-55 between St. Louis and Chicago is usually a busy corridor and I figured it would be even busier today, so I opted for the less important I-57, which also passed through fewer big cities. We all know that highway patrol cruisers are concentrated near big cities, so the fewer cities I had to go through, the less chance of meeting the patrol. Pleasingly, I didn't see a single police cruiser until I was 30 miles from I-80 in Chicago, and then there was one about every 5 miles. And surprisingly, throughout the day, traffic was very well behaved and moving fast, that too. The slow lane was doing about 75 and slow movers in the left lane were very good about moving out of the way.

Comfort wise, the DR being a standard riding position as opposed to the crouch of the GSX-R definitely has it benefits over a multi-day tour, but I did find my upper back and triceps starting to strain by this fifth day. As crazy as it may sound, the GSX-R is actually pretty comfortable for me, with no real muscle aches even after a 500 mile day of slab. The ability to sit on one thigh while relieving the opposing butt cheek was certainly missed on DR. Having no fairing, knees sticking out created a lot of turbulence and upset the bike, leading me to hugging the tank with my knees to keep a smooth airflow. Being a light bike, it was obviously more susceptible to wind gusts, but it wasn't that bad. Even passing semis was pretty smooth. One characteristic of the knobby tires is that if the bike does get unsettled by gusts, it takes a while for the bike to stabilize again. Those poor tires were being eaten mercilessly by the tarmac. I was hoping they would last the trip and they still have some tread left.

The flattened knobbies after the 2000 mile trip. It was cruel to waste those dirt tires, but it had to be done.


I guess I should be blessed that I got to take this trip at this time of the year, because in the Mid-West, the seasons are very distinct. There's summer, where lots of motorcycle trips happen, then it gets cold and becomes ski season, then it becomes warm and becomes riding season again. Sure, there's the occasional coffee meet on the bike if there's a warm spell, but making a 5 day trip at the end of November was surely a blessing. The strangest thing is that I'm heading to Colorado this weekend for the first ski trip of the season. I was only a few hundred miles away on my bike from where I'll be skiing in a few days. Something to relish for living in the Mid-West...

Oh and by the way, her name's auDRey in relation to Audrey Hepburn, because the bike seems to have that same cheery, go-anywhere, do-anything kind of attitude. Plus, it's got the whole DR in the name thing (thanx Anna for the idea).

First major hurdle for the Central American trip has been surmounted. Now, let the rest of the planning begin...

Total cost of the 5 day trip:

Taxi ride to airport: $65
One way plane ticket to Tucson: $215
One used 2004 Suzuki DR650SE: $3500
Lodging for 4 nights: $157
Gas and food: $185
Adventure through Arizona and New Mexico: Priceless...


Anonymous said...

thats a great trip you took! I was going to say you blew it by missing the salt river canyon north of globe but those other south west roads look awesome. ive been all over New Mexico, its got a lot of great places. keep on riding!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm somewhat new to dual sport riding myself . Thanks for sharing your adventure, you gave me some great insight as to what a real roadtrip is like!

martha said...

i happened upon your travelogue through a photo on google! i got completely caught up in your Chicago to Arizona adventure! loved the read! loved the photos! you are living the life!