Sunday, July 16, 2017

~ A Legend called Road Star ~

"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt" ~ John Muir

My 2007 Yamaha Road Star below Mount Whitney.

Honestly, I do not know if I can ride 200 miles on my new 2007 Yamaha Road Star without wimping out. 

I do not want to call my wife and say, “Please bring our Toyota Tundra to the road, such and such, because I couldn’t make it.”  Those words ran through my mind several times before I realized I could make it.

My ride from Three Rivers to Pinnacles National Monument is only 275 miles but for me, an eternity.  Once I got here, I thought, OK I feel good, let’s go back.  And that is what I did on my first long-distance cross-country trip on my new 2007 Yamaha Road Star.   It was a 550-round trip taken in one day.  I felt like a real biker, or so I thought.

The Yamaha D&E mechanic told me when I bought my motorcycle, “These Road Stars are bulletproof, change the oil regularly and they will run forever.”  

I did not know what he meant by “forever” but I figured that was a long time and then some.  So I did what he suggested, I began to change my oil and oil filter about every 5,000 miles.  I’d also cleaned the air filter and that was about it.  At 5,000 miles, the bike ran flawlessly.  

I once had a friend who recorded 10,000 on his Yamaha 305cc.  In the day, that was considered a big deal.  And here I was half of his amazing accomplishment.  His name was Gene Christiansen and he was a good friend and the only guy I knew to ride 10,000 on his motorcycle.  A legend was born and this was the 60’s.  We took many trips together, mostly from our hometown in Barstow to Big Bear.  We loved to camp and soon we had several of us who rode the Yamaha 305cc.  We fondly called ourselves the “Yamaha Gang.”  Gene, without ever voting, was our leader.

From left to right, Robert Griego, Gene Christiansen, and John Lopez on Yamaha 305cc.
The original "Yamaha Gang."

Gene was reported missing in action in 1968 in a faraway place called Vietnam.  His riding days were over.  Yet, he was still our leader.

I do not ride a mile without thinking about him. 

OK, back to my Yamaha Road Star.

I now have 20,000 miles on my Yamaha Road Star and I love it.  I have taken several trips out to New Mexico and ventured out to Utah several times.  I travel light and almost always take the back or slow roads.  I camp lightly on the land and rarely take a tent on my journeys.  I sleep on the ground and usually have a small fire by my camp.  My camp is usually on USFS or BLM land and rarely see other campers.  I love to look up at the stars and offer my thanks for the trip, and I always, thank my motorcycle for the journey.  My sleeping bag is normally a few feet from my bike and looking up at the night stars always puts me to sleep.

The miles keep rolling by and my mind continues to wander.  I once took a trip to Sturgis and experienced some major rain and hail along the way.  Soon my sister Paula asked, “What is it like out there.”  So without any meaningful intentions, I began to record my trips on paper with a few pictures to spice it up and I told her about the hail bouncing off my helmet.  "How did you keep the hail from hurting you? She asked.  It is hard to explain to someone like her, but you simply ride through it. Soon, I began to get the same questions, “Where are you going next?”  They seem to want to hear about my trips which to me were only miles across our country.  More letters and more pictures.  Even now, I see the miles rolling past in the back of my mind. 

That was the beginning of MyMotorCyclesTales --  a blog about my motorcycle trips.  At the time, I did not even know what a blog was.

Once on a trip out to Abo Ruins in New Mexico, my brother-in-law asked, “How many miles Robert?”  “80,000” rolled off my tongue without much thought.  He offered me a tarp for my travels which came in useful near Pie Town in a horrendous New Mexico rainstorm.  Honestly, I was shocked by my answer of 80,000 miles.  I had not really thought about it much as I was riding past El Morro National Monument.  By now, I had changed my oil and oil filter many times.  I also changed the spark plugs every 16,000.  I changed my tires about every 10,000 miles until I found out about the Michelin Commander II tires which lasted 24,000 miles.  Unheard of on motorcycle tires but true.  Oh yes, I needed a new battery along the way.  I always calculate my MPG and that has come in very useful in some tight spots where gas stations were sparse.


80,000 miles on my 2007 Yamaha Road Star.

On a trip back from Sturgis, the odometer read 99,995 miles.  How can this be, I told myself?  As I watched my odometer roll past 99,999 miles, I pulled over near Tehachapi, California for a picture.  I once told myself, “When you hit 100,000 miles it is time for a new motorcycle.”  I kept this thought for another 20,000 miles when I began to seriously look at a replacement for my Road Star.   It is very hard to let go of something that has brought you so much joy.  A legend for sure.


100,000 miles on my 2007 Yamaha Road Star.

I was shocked to find out from D&E Yamaha that Yamaha was no longer making the Road Star 1700cc.  If they were, I would, without a doubt, buy another.  Recently, I found out that Yamaha is rolling out its 2018 Star Venture.  I might just have to go take a look at it when it rolls into town.

This is when I began to seriously look over the new motorcycles on the market to continue with my trips across America.  I looked at the Harley-Davison Road King and the Indian Springfield.

Decisions are hard with such quality, reputable motorcycles. 

I am now approaching 135,000 miles as I find myself test-riding the 2017 Indian motorcycles – I focus on the cruiser.  The Thunder Stoke 111 is now running beneath me and I’m excited to ride this demo motorcycle at the Hollister Motorcycle Rally.  Actually, it is a 2017 Indian Springfield at the Power Sports Dealer in Hollister. 

135,000 miles on my 2007 Yamaha Road Star.

Today, I will test ride five different Indian Motorcycles in a short three hours.  I pull towards the Indiana Springfield.  I feel this could be my next motorcycle but we’ll see.  Smooth.  6th gears.  Thunder black.  Thunder stroke 111.  I can’t wipe off the smile on my face even if I tried.

The Indian Springfield has an 1811cc engine built by Polaris.  I love the hard saddlebags and how the lines of their saddlebags flow.  Smooth.  I could see myself on these motorcycles, and then some.

It is then that I look over to my Yamaha 1700cc Road Star sitting ready for me to fire it up.   The doubt crosses my mind.  “How can you let go of a motorcycle that has taken you 135,000 miles?”

My motorcycle has no feelings says the manufacturer, but I sense differently.  There were countless times when I shouted, “Pull me out of this, and I will be forever grateful.”  In my most difficult moments, my bike pulled through.  In ten years and 135,000 miles, it never once faltered.  It was always there ready for me to ride.   A legend was born.

This is a personal moment for me, but important to share.  

It has allowed me to fulfill my dream; my mantra – “The Wind, the Open Road, and my Motorcycle.”

Robert Griego with my Yamaha Road Star at 135,000 miles.

Today is a for my 2007 Yamaha Road Star.  An awesome motorcycle.  Tomorrow is a new day.  We'll see what it brings.  

Right now, I'm getting ready for another ride out to Zion National Park in Utah and Great Basin National Park in Nevada.

Stayed tuned.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

~ From Yellowstone to Hollister ~

“Look deep into nature, then you will understand everything better.”  Albert Einstein.        

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.    
Yellowstone National Park is an American icon, after all, it is America’s first national park.  That is where this story begins.  I usually don’t reveal the ending but this trip will end in Hollister, California for the annual motorcycle rally, after all, it is the birth place of the American biker.

Of course, Albert Einstein was right.  I must look deeper into nature for my answers.

This trip into the wilds of Yellowstone is with my family where Denise has rented a fully furnished cabin just outside of Gardiner, Montana.  It is called the Grizzly Den Cabin and is a stone's throw from the Yellowstone River.  In fact, our grandkids – Evan, Kai, and Malia – tossed a few rocks into the fast flowing river.  It is quiet here, very relaxing.  Nearby, there is an osprey nesting on a tall man-made pole.  Occasionally, it sweeps down from its perch and glides above the water in search of a tasty trout to feed its chicks.

Our family at Joffe Lake

Our son and daughter – Keith and Lori, and son-in-law – Teo are with us for a week exploring this vast wilderness called Yellowstone.  I once worked here and then it was work; today I am a tourist and the scenery is breathtaking.  There are hundreds of bison grazing freely in Lamar Valley and several cross the Lamar River.  It reminds me of the movie Dances with Wolves.  We are all surprised by the huge size of these animals.  It is the beginning of summer and they are shedding their fur that kept them warm during the winter.  There are also herds of elk with newborn calves, and pronghorn antelope can be seen on the hillside.  They all seem to be in perfect harmony.  We keep a watchful eye for the grizzly bear but do not see one.  We spot several black bears.  Near the Lamar River, Lori spots two wolves that are from the Soda Butte pack. 

A herd of Bison crossing the Lamar River

Today, I am not riding my motorcycle and I greatly miss that part of traveling as another biker passes by.  I know it is odd on a nature trip to Yellowstone to take pictures of motorcycles but that’s what I’m doing.  One biker is heading towards Bear Tooth Pass and the views he will see are breathtaking.  Several have their rain gear on as the afternoon showers begin to fall.  One year, on our way to Bear Tooth Pass, the rain turned to hail and then snow.  I can still hear the hail bouncing off my helmet.  I loved it.

On our way to Norris Geyser Basin, we spot a lone fox digging for rodents.  It has a long, fuzzy tail that it uses to keep warm in the winter.  He digs but does not catch what he smells or hears.  All the grandkids, almost at once, say “It smells like rotten eggs.”  Yep, we are here kids.

Fox near Norris Geyser Basin.  Photo by Denise Griego

Yellowstone is huge and you cannot see everything so we pick and choose.  We all want to fish, so we head off for Yellowstone Lake.  On my first cast, I hook and catch a nice rainbow trout.  It weighs about two pounds.  My grandson Kai helps me place it into our fish bag and he continues fishing.  When I see his pole bending radically, I know he has a big fish.  His dad helps him reel in another rainbow trout.  His is bigger and weighs about two and a half pounds.  We all feast on fresh trout for dinner.
Grandson Kai caught a big rainbow trout

Kai, Evan, and Malia each earn their Junior Ranger Badges and being close to nature is now second hand to them.

Our week in Yellowstone goes quickly and we return to Bozeman for our flight back to California.  It is Saturday.  The attendant at the United Airline counter says that our flight to San Francisco has been canceled due to mechanical problems.  We needed this flight to catch the last plane tonight to Fresno.  “I am sorry, but there are no other flights available,” he says.  He is a big guy with a beard and hears my story.  “I have jury duty on Monday in Fresno,” I tell him hoping that might make a difference.  He barely moved his eyes away from the computer screen.  He looks like a biker so I try another approach.  “Honestly, I don’t care about the jury duty, but I was planning to make the last day of the Hollister Motorcycle Rally on Sunday and test ride a 2017 Indian Springfield.”  “Oh, now that sounds like fun,” he adds.  He makes a call and mumbles some words to the person on the other end of the help line.  “Your flight in San Francisco is running late and you might just make the connection, but I can’t guarantee it,” he finally adds.  To make a long story short, we missed our connecting flight but they put us on a later flight and we arrived back in Three Rivers at 2 am on Sunday.  Somehow, I think that guy made some good moves on our behalf.  I do not know where his flight came from but we were on it heading for Fresno.  

Swan Lake area

Roosevelt Arch.  Photo by Kai Griego

Robert taking pictures of bikers.  Photo by Denise Griego

Heading up towards Bear Tooth Pass

NPS photo.  Park Rangers patrolling on motorcycle, circa 1919. Yellowstone National Park

Indian motorcycle at Fishing Bridge

This biker about to enter the North Entrance
Robert Griego at the Grizzly Den Cabin
My alarm clock is set for 7 am.  I quickly eat breakfast and pack my motorcycle and by 8:30 am I'm off for Hollister.  The cool air keeps me awake.  Thanks United Airline (biker) attendant!

I’ve been to the rally before but this trip is different.  Hollister Powersports is hosting the 2017 Indian Motorcycle demo rides which end at 3 pm.  I arrive at 12 noon and see the bikes next to a huge semi-truck.  I register quickly, show my driver’s license, and get my wristband that allows me to ride any demo Indian Motorcycle.  “How do I get started,” I ask.  “It is simple, pick out the Indian Motorcycle you want to ride and place your helmet on the seat,” says Sells Manager Neal Zook. 

Hollister Powersports

My demo wristband #07346

My 1st ride on this awesome Indian

Riders getting ready for our 1st ride

Sorry pal, this is my next ride

My favorite, the 2017 Indian Springfield

Awesome Indian Motorcycles
There is a leader with a yellow vest at the front, 4 or 5 riders like me in the middle, and another leader with a yellow vest in the back.  The loop is about five miles and I have a big smile on my face.  The Indian Springfield is powered by the remarkable Thunder Stoke, 111 V-Twin.  This bike is air-cooled and powerful.  I am not used to having six gears on a motorcycle and I am impressed with how it accelerates, and how smooth it runs and handles.  I love it.  My eye is on the 2017 Indian Springfield but this is an opportunity so I also ride the Roadmaster, Chieftain, Vintage, and Dark Horse.  I wanted to hear the Stage 1 pipes and they impressed me.  One of the Indian Springfield’s (with Ape Hanger Handlebars) had Stage 2 Performance Cams providing over 13% more horsepower and over 7% more torque. Fast, powerful, beautiful. 

This Indian Springfield came with Stage 2 Performance Cams
The crew at Hollister Powersports is awesome.  They answered our numerous questions.  There was “zero” pressure and they made this trip for me, so rewarding.  Riding the Indian demo motorcycles provided me the confidence to look seriously at the Indian for my next motorcycle – Springfield, Thunder black!

Thanks Indian ~ "One mile - One dream"

The Hollister Rally was winding down when I left the Indian Dealership but I accomplished my goal to test ride some awesome Indian Motorcycles.  Absolutely dream machines.  Thanks Indian.

Iconic Johnny's on Wentz and San Benito Street

GEICO welcomes bikers on San Benito Street

Cool bike on San Benito Street
Robert Griego.  My 2007 Yamaha Road Star ~ 135,000 miles

Yesterday, I was taking pictures of bison and motorcycles in Yellowstone National Park; today I am riding the Indian demo motorcycles at the Hollister Motorcycle Rally.  There is a big smile on my face.  I love it!  I can't believe I have 135,000 on my Yamaha Road Star.

Both American icons!