Thursday, September 13, 2007
9/11: Harley factory tour
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)
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.
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)
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.
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
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
Thursday, August 2, 2007
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.
Tulcán to Quito
Otovalo to Quito via San Jose de Minas
Quito: Mitad del Mundo (Equator crossing)
Quito: Quito Viejo (Old Quito)
Quito: Children International
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
7/29: Done volunteering & last souvenir shopping (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 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.
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)
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
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
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
Zipaquira Salt Cathedral (Catedral de Sal)
Bogota to Santander de Quilichao
Santander de Quilichao to Colombian border
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