Thursday, September 13, 2007

9/11: Harley factory tour

I needed to keep this as a distinct blog entry so I could surprise my dad with trinkets from the tour. I can post it now because he has his gear.

Anyhow, the highlight of a motorcyclist's trip to Kansas City is to visit the Harley-Davidson assembly factory. It's a huge place, and they've added on in many places. They are focused on some modern processes- just-in-time manufacturing, completely empowered teams (no managers), processes to stop bad practices, to track and keep pride involved in (what should be) an inhuman production process.

The tours are set up acceptably. You just walk in a big loop through the main warehouse, with some detours and excursions for parts of the process that are “pretty” to watch. They use a lot of robots, and their paint shop is still a black box- they were implying that painters (and anyone in that area) had to follow guidelines about what soap they used to shower, what type of clothes outside work, deodorants (of course), but also what type of meals they at that day. I wonder if they are trying to reduce the gaseous emissions, or something else, like having really greasy hands?

The Sportster assembly line is one of the major areas of the factory. They have assembly on the inside of the warehouse, and on the edges of it are the subassemblies- for instance, building up the handlebars with grips, throttle, etc. It was neat to see all of the frames and painted parts lined up, ready for assembly. They claim the supply is JIT, about 2.5 days' worth. That sounds about right from what we could see.

We then saw where completed bikes are loaded onto a metal skid, and a cardboard box is put over to. It sounded like they can fit 40 of these crates in a tractor trailer rig.

After seeing the Sportster line, we walked over and watched part of the V-Rod line. They use a lot more outsourced parts for this- hydroformed frames, Marzocchi front suspension, etc. Still, it was neat to see the subassembly and assembly processes- stamping VINs, adding tires, etc. It is all done JIT, so each bike on the line is unique. It isn't unusual to see different colors, different rim combinations, and different destination countries in the same half-dozen “batch”.

From there we went over to the CVO operation. It's obvious the extra care here- engines are assembled in a more finicky manner, and bike assembly is done by one person. So “Bob” might assemble your bike from the frame up. If something goes wrong, he's responsible for making it right. We watched the first 105th anniversary model being inspected- they had started assembly that morning, so by about 1pm it was close to being done.

I'd definitely recommend this tour. Pretty neat! When I was done, I rode my bike up in front of the visitors center and took some pictures. Nobody was around, so I put my camera on another bikes' seat. I knew that would be okay because they had an Iron Butt license plate tag :-)


9/11: Kearney NE to Kansas City MO (322 miles)

I'm at my destination, Kansas City, MO. Why am I here? I've sold the bike to a fellow ADVrider named Ian. He's happy to have the DL650- it sounds like it'll suit him perfectly.

On to the ride. As expected, it was cold out of Kearney. It wasn't as cold as I'd expected though- one of the advantages of being at 'only' 5000 feet instead of 8000. Still, I used all nine of my handwarmers, placed over my arms, body, and feet. They didn't do a lot, but better than nothing. The large patches on my chest really helped, I think.

The ride is pretty simple and plain leaving Kearney. The interstate just goes east. There isn't a lot that is spectacular, though I do like the sloping plain, and it helped that the sun just rising as I got started. It didn't help that I rode directly into it all morning, though.

There was a tiny patch of Iowa, then into Missouri. I needed gas, but skipped an exit because I didn't think there was any. (turns out it was out of sight from the highway). I rode another 20 miles, then spent the next 40 miles scared I was going to run out. I took an exit because I knew there was a tiny town at it (exits are all 4-10 miles apart). The little town was two houses.

Back onto the freeway and down to the next town, which claimed to have a Sinclair station, according to the freeway information signs. It said it was 3/4 mile off the road. I went about a mile and found an old set of above-ground fuel tanks and old-style pumps, but they were inoperable. The guys in the fueling shack looked at me weird. I think maybe it was for the company only.

They pointed me across the street and down maybe 200 yards to the Sinclair station. I couldn't believed I missed it until I pulled onto the street. There were enough trees that it was invisible unless I'd gone further.

So, all that for nothing. Based on the fillup, I think I might have had at least 35 miles left in the tank.

From there, on to Kansas City. I went to Ian's house, he came out and inspected his new bike. After sufficient time, he took it out on the road to make sure it was what he was expecting. Of course, it was. He came back a happy camper. We shot the bull a little, then got a highway tour of Kansas City while picking up his wife, Jasmine.

It was interesting to hear about how the various automotive factories put their finished cars on the railroad lines for distribution, but they'll use terminals some distance from the factory as the start point. So, GM might haul their vehicles 200 miles to the east before putting them on rail. Conversely, Ford, who is 200 miles to the east of GM, might send their vehicles 200 miles to the south. And if Chrysler is south, they might use their local terminal (combined with the Ford shipments).

Dinner was an authentic barbecue place in the area. A pretty good contingent of ADV scum showed up- maybe around 15 people? Besides slow and confused service, the food was good. I've never tried deep-fried corn before. It's really sweet. Interesting.

No big plan for tomorrow, just at the airport by 1pm or so.

Wednesday, 9/12:

I convinced Ian to take me to a Waffle House for breakfast. I've never been to one before. I knew it wouldn't be wonderful, but it was worth trying, right? They are set up for fast service, and the food isn't terrible. I'd put it a half-notch below McDiners like Denny's, but it isn't priced much lower, either.

The rest of the morning was spent typing this blog, getting photos in, and updating the GPS data.


9/10: Ogden UT to Kearney NE (751 miles)

My stay in Ogden was uneventful, except for the thin walls, which meant I could hear my neighbor's phone ringing for about an hour as someone tried to wake him up. I was waiting until light to leave, so I wanted to lay in bed for another 45 minutes or so- which means I just turned on some music and snoozed.

Ogden was in the 40s for temperature when I left. I stopped at a bagel shop in town for breakfast. They had an atlas, so I was just looking through it while waiting for my bagel to be ready. It was obviously very old- Interstate 80 was “proposed”. I should have looked at other sections (especially Southern California) to date it more accurately. I wonder when I-80 through Nebraska was completed?

The climb through the canyons in Utah was interesting and pretty. The warm colors on the layers of rock is always stunning, and I always forget. Western Wyoming was pretty, too- rugged, as the Rockies should be.

It was so cold that once I got into Wyoming I started desperately looking for one of my least favorite places, Wal-Mart. I had to ride an additional 60 miles past my 'breaking point', but I found one. I bought six handwarmers, plus three large handwarmers (about 4x6 inches). I put two handwarmers in each boot, one in each sleeve, then put the large warmers on my chest and one in my right arm. They never generated copious amounts of heat but it was better than nothing.

I also stopped for an Iron Butt Motel break right at the Continental Divide. I had the handwarmers on, and the sun was out, so I found a south-facing slope and laid down for a bit. I ended up napping for an hour. When I woke I was feeling much more rested, and my temperature had at least stabilized.

East Wyoming and Nebraska were definitely the plains. It's basically a tilted table- high in Wyoming, low by the evening. Look at the elevation profile (included) and that becomes obvious- there wasn't a lot of variation, just a very gentle slope toward the east. It's pretty, and windy too- there were a few wind farms in this stretch, especially in the few places that there was a ridge of any sort.

Late in the evening I turned over 50,000 miles on the bike. I stopped and took a picture- it was a momentous occasion for me, since the bike is only 3.5 years old.

North Platte was my destination, but I chose to ride another 120 miles because it was still relatively early in the evening, and I knew I'd have light for a long time still. I stopped in Kearney, Nebraska for the evening. I had to go to a couple of hotels to find one that was reasonably priced, but it was clean, I had a king-sized bed, and the bike was parked under cover just outside the manager's window.

I think this leaves about 300 miles for my last day. That'll certainly be much easier than 450 miles.


Monday, September 10, 2007

9/9: Portland OR to Ogden UT

I've been slacking- I didn't post that we got the DL650 back about 10 days ago. That means it took over 6 weeks to arrive- and we spent a medium-size fortune for it. Ouch.

Our house in Seattle has sold, too. That's a relief for us, given the rough market and amount of time it was on the market. We are settled in to our downtown Portland apartment- it's right on the park blocks, very close to Safeway. Pretty cool.

I'm in Ogden, Utah, headed east. I'm staying in a Motel 6, with a temple just down the street, but it's still a rough area of town. I ate at a Mexican restaurant/grocery store. Most signs were only in Spanish, got to speak Spanish with the cook- it wasn't really designed for english-only gringos, so it worked out well.

I turned on the TV and the following commercial came on shortly after: "from the .. that brought you .. Return with Honor". I wonder if I'm in a slightly homogeneous market. Of course, there was another commerical, I thought it was one of the mormon commercials but it was actually for thewaytohappiness.org, which is L Ron Hubbard. Scientology in Utah? I suppose.

The ride over was decent. There is an electrical issue, likely with the power cord, to my radar detector. It kept resetting every 10 seconds or so, which means I gave up on it before even getting out of Portland.

I also froze my ass off. The temperatures were supposed to range from 40 to about 85, but I was only comfortable or warm for maybe an hour. Before leaving I couldn't find my electric jacket, so I grabbed Tamara's old electric vest. It never got warm, I don't know why. (what the deuce, everything is going wrong!)

Other than checking in to the Iron Butt Motel for about 50 minutes, I rode straight through. I covered 732 miles. Tomorrow will be about 650, then about 450 on Tuesday.

I'm posting this to this blog because it is still somewhat part of the 'wandering' ride. It'll make sense after I get to the destination, I promise!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Picture Post: Houston: The Ball Family

Here's our family in Houston- little Ashley is such a doll.

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

8/2: Houston

We flew from Quito to Houston yesterday. The flight was nice, as would be expected for flying first-class. It gets there at the same time as coach class, but the seats are comfier, there's no battling for overhead space, and we got a three-course breakfast. Tamara had a margarita, never mind that it was before lunchtime. It's evening somewhere, right?

Houston is a highlight for us because Tamara's older sister, Candace, lives here with her family. The Ball Family is busy and fun. They have two boys and one sweet little girl. We'll stay here until Saturday, when we fly to Portland.

In the meantime, I have some things to fax and mail, and we also bought a prepaid cell phone so we can contact people. That'll help as we look for an apartment and Tamara looks for a job in the medical field.

Today Tamara has been playing a lot of Sorry!, among other things.


Picture Post: Ecuador

Tulcán


Tulcán to Quito


Otovalo to Quito via San Jose de Minas


Quito


Quito: Teleferiqo


Quito: Mitad del Mundo (Equator crossing)


Quito: Quito Viejo (Old Quito)


Quito: Fruit


Quito: Children International


Quito: Monica

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

7/29: Done volunteering & last souvenir shopping (Tamara posting)

*Tamara posting*

Had my last day of volunteering on Thursday. Everything went well and I had a great time at the clinic these past few weeks.

There was an interesting case of a boy that had Ichthyosis vulgaris (fish scale disease) that appeared on his abdomen. It is a congenital disease and was very interesting to see - the skin was somewhat scaly, but didn't look a lot different from very very dry skin.

I got more pictures at the clinic, and ended getting totally mobbed by kids in the picture with me. It was really cute. I am sad to be done there - it has been a really good experience for me and I am really glad I did this.
Ted and I did a last souvenir shopping trip yesterday and got some cool things. I bought a leather jacket - it was rather an impulse buy, but I really like it and the prices are good here. We got some gifts for family & friends and enjoyed the day out. We stopped by the South American Explorer's Club since we are still waiting for a package from the States to arrive. The new manager there is really with it and cool and will let us know if it ever shows up. It's not a big deal but we wanted to give them a heads up on it so it isn't a problem if/when it comes.

Friday, July 27, 2007

7/27: Gone daddy gone

We took the bike to the shipper, for the final time. Turns out he is a rider (1100 Honda of some sort), which makes me more comfortable leaving it with him. He'll do the final prep- airing down the tires, disconnecting the battery, and draining some of the fuel. We left him with some clear hose and a 5-liter bottle to put the fuel in.

We also had to pay for it today, just over $1200 in cash. We thought we'd be able to put it on a card- nope. So we went to about 5 ATMs to cobble together enough money- most banks around here only allow you to remove $400-500 per day. We were able to get it out, though. It'll probably be an additional few hundred once things are finalized.

Also bought some big duffel bags today. They are heavy and have rollers on the bottom. They are big enough we should only need one or two, rather than having four smaller ones.

I booked a flight from Portland to LAX to pick up the bike. It is early on August 8. Hopefully I can fly to LAX and walk to the cargo terminal to pick up the bike. Then I can air up the tires, connect the battery, and ride to the closest gas station. Next is to ride to Matt's house, where I'll replace the bearings and rear axle spacer. From there, I'll ride home. Good times.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

7/26: Bike shipment, almost.

I got the bike packed up today, which means sorting through our accumulated crap to figure out what we want to hand-carry and what we want to ship with the bike. I decided to ship Tamara's gear on the bike, and hand-carry mine back. That way I can ride before I get the bike, and if anything happens to the bike and the gear, I haven't lost my nice, expensive gear. Maybe I'm just jealous of Tamara's normal-shaped face..

So we took the bike to the shipping office we decided to use- after a mad scramble to find our customs paperwork for Ecuador. I thought I'd lost it. Thankfully, there was one place I didn't look, and Tamara was smart enough to find it. The guy at the office, spouse of the woman whom we'd been talking to, was there and filled us in on things. He wants the gas tank nearly drained, battery disconnected, and, after a long confusing conversation, we realized they wanted to air down the tires. No problem- we couldn't tell what he wanted done.

He also wanted the bike washed. Imagine that! So we are supposed to bring the bike back tomorrow afternoon, washed and ready for them. No problem with that, either- we went and got it washed in a really weird way. The guy sprayed some sort of oily soap onto it, then washed the entire bike with a filthy rag that was coming apart. Basically it just smeared dirt everywhere. Next, he used a pressure washer to blow all of the dirt off. If the bike was in better shape I wouldn't have liked that (because of scratches), but it's pretty banged up anyhow.

We'll take the bike back tomorrow, which may be the last time we see it until it arrives in Los Angeles- and until I arrive in LA, for that matter.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

7/25: Volunteering update (Tamara posting)

* Tamara posting *

Just a quick update about my volunteering this week. It is my last week, and I am sad that it will be ending - I've had a good time and feel that I got a lot of valuable experience. It was great to be able to help out so hands-on and with poor kids.

I've seen some interesting cases. The first one is a boy whose face was covered in sores. They were all scabbed, oozing, infected and crusty. My understanding is that the problem began as allergies, then the sores got infected, and now it's really bad. He had to get a shot of penicillin and a bunch of other medicines for the allergies and pain. He also got a good talking-to about keeping it clean and all that.
Another boy had chicken pox. It actually didn't look too bad and wasn't much of a concern. I don't remember, but I think he was given something for the itching and maybe an antihistamine. There was a case of a boy with chronic sinusitis and he was sent to get some x-rays done of his sinuses. Most likely he will need to have an operation to remove some of the cartilage in his sinuses or have his adenoids removed if they are the problem.

The most interesting case was a boy who had fractured his radius in May. He didn't have anywhere close to full movement of his hand, and didn't have as much strength in that hand either. Doing some symmetry tests when he had to push against my hand it felt as if he wasn't even trying to push against me. Compared to his other hand it was a huge difference. Unfortunately he will need some sort of operation to straighten that out and some serious physical therapy. I really hope he gets it fixed because if not it will become a major handicap in his life.
I also saw a girl that has esotropia (cross-eyed). This one was a little confusing to me - I'm not sure how long she's had it, but the doctor did send her to a specialist. It seems that she's had glasses to help with it in the past, but for some reason wasn't wearing them today. I didn't hear much about therapy for it, but my research indicates that this is necessary, so I'm not sure how well it is being treated. With my limited understanding of Spanish and medical treatment, it is hard to have these questions answered in the clinic. In any case, it was interesting, but sad.

Lastly, I got more pictures of kids at the clinic. Some of them are really eager to be photographed, even coming up to me and asking me to take their picture.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

7/24: Business

I seem to be spending most of my time doing business. I did some writing today, otherwise I spent a lot of the day faxing things for our real estate nightmare, documents to the university, and some stock-related transactions.

Also, since today is Tamara's last day of language education, I gave her teacher a ride on the motorcycle. She'd never been on a bike before, and she's been looking forward to the experience. She is SHORT, maybe 4'10” at most. So she looked funny wearing Tamara's gear.

We went for a zip around town, doing some minor lane-splitting (legal!) and bouncing the bike off the rev limiter in second gear. It was as fun as that sort of thing can be when the city streets are full of cages.

We are still finalizing our bike shipment. It's about 95% likely it will go to LAX, which means I'll fly down to repair the bearings, then ride it back.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

7/18: Bike shipping problems, good news on school

We had a quote for getting the bike to Portland for about $1000, but at the last minute they mentioned that not only would we need to drain all fluids (brake fluid, oil, gas, etc) but also would have to palletize it ourselves. Not gonna happen. So we are waiting for a quote back from another company.

In other news, the stars aligned so I can get in to PSU for the fall term- we thought it might not happen until winter. Tamara won't be able to take classes for a year, since she is working towards residency. (Residency helps for tuition, but also helps for admissions to OHSU).


Sunday, July 15, 2007

7/15: Slight change of plans for the return flight

Still flying from Quito to Houston on August 1, but then we are flying back to Portland the evening of the 4th, rather than the evening of the 6th.

Picture Post: Colombia #2: San Gil, Zipaquira salt cathedral, Bogota, etc.

San Gil to Bogota


Zipaquira Salt Cathedral (Catedral de Sal)


Bogota


Bogota to Santander de Quilichao


Santander de Quilichao to Colombian border

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