The story of buying my LT (Really REALLY long...)
I think I posted most of this way back when in 2002, thot it might be interesting for ya'll.
Buying my K1200LTC
Early last spring, my long-time friend, George and I were discussing the merits of replacing George’s 86K100RS and my 85K100RT. Both bikes serve ably and well as Sidecar tractors. We’ve both got Hannigan sidecars for hauling the family around. We sort-of egged each other on to getting serious about a K1200LT (Light Truck). Additional conversations were had at the Land of Oz rally. And my wife and I rode a friend’s LT for a little jaunt. My wife’s comment was “I could really get to like this seat!” George lives in Omaha, and I'm just west of Kansas City. I’ve also got a 74 Norton 850 Commando and a 95 Triumph Daytona 1200. George has too many other bikes to count.
At the beginning of June I spotted a green Icon in Arkansas, but was too late. Then on the 11th of June, George emails me that he has a deal on one near Phoenix. He is going to fly down and ride it home to Omaha. Without taking the direct route home. Then he tells me of one in Palm Springs, CA. And that I should buy it. And meet him in Las Vegas on the 15th.
So I did.
Here is the story of the trip.
Was the 11th of June, (was it the dark of the moon? No, sorry, wrong song) George tells me he has closed a deal on a K1200LT in Phoenix, and puts me on the trail of one near Palm Springs, CA. George had made arrangements to fly into Phoenix and ride back, after stopping to see friends south of Phoenix late Friday night. I made the deal on the one near Palm Springs, and George and I arranged to meet in Las Vegas Saturday afternoon. I would fly down to Palm Springs and pick mine up on Friday evening, while George would pick his up later Friday. George cancelled the meet with the Arizona boys (200 miles round trip, in the wrong direction). During Thursday and then Friday morning, we refined our meet to be on Route 66, between Kingman AZ and Truxton AZ.
I got to Palm Springs about 5:30 pm on Friday. While walking the open-air terminal to baggage claim, I knew it was hot, and the flight attendant had announced it when we landed: 106 degrees. Something about everyone calling it a dry heat popped into my mind.
The seller met me at the baggage claim, and off we went. On the way, his wife called. She was wondering if I was going to buy the bike, his reply was something like: “well, he only has a one-way plane ticket…” Seems somebody else had just called about buying the LT.
I did an inspection and a test drive. Getting back to his house, we quickly finalized the deal and I picked up the bill of sale, and proceeded to load up my stuff for a quick run to Blythe, CA via I-10. Before leaving, it was apparent that the seller was sad to see his bike leave. 120 miles later, about 10 pm, I checked into a motel in Blythe.
The bike is quite comfortable, and capable. The speedometer is reading 90 to 95 as I slowly pass other traffic. Then a little while later, while the speedometer indicates 75, I am passed by a bunch of vehicles, including some pickups pulling big boats. “Man, these people really fly low out here” I remember thinking. Later, I find out about the infamous K1200LT flaw: the speedometer reads 8-10% high, which means the boat-pulling pickups were doing 75, and I was tooling along at about 67 or 68. I notice that the low beam is rather anemic, so just ride with the high beam. Nobody seems to notice. The only other glaring problem is the cruise control indicator and the high beam indicators. Literally. They reflect off the inside of the windscreen, very annoying.
Back on the road at 6 am, I headed into the desert north of Blythe on US highway 95, next stop: Needles. The temperature was actually chilly, being only about 70 degrees. That is because it is a dry heat. You need humidity to really feel warm.
Got into Needles around 9 am, took a break. Good thing I did not need gas, as premium was 2 bucks per. I decided to take Rt66 up to Kingman, instead of I-40.
By now, the temp was pushing 90, but because it is a dry heat, was quite comfortable. Had a fun relaxing ride up to Oatman, AZ. Rt66 in this area goes up and down and around lots of little hills and arroyos, finally climbing up to Oatman. Typical tourist trap, lots of ways to part with your money. I slowed, but did not stop.
I continued on up the mountain, increasingly tighter twisties, getting slower too. Past an old gold mine, now turned into a tourist trap. And still continued up. I stopped along the road under a tree that was growing at the opening of an old mineshaft, not 5 feet from the road on the uphill side. On the opposite side, was the drop off. Looking nearly straight down, several hundred feet to the tourist trap gold mine. There was evidence of old mines and the original dirt track of Rt66 everywhere. This must have been a real PITA place to mine, or to put a road. I was there at least 15 minutes, and not a soul came by. Eerily quiet. Until the horsefly found me. So I had to push on.
I had my first experience with how heavy the LT seems at this point. I had parked on the uphill side of the road facing uphill. Lots of loose gravel, not the sharp-sided stuff that we use on the gravel roads in The Land of Oz, but rather more like marbles. The sidestand had sunk into the soft marbles, err, gravel/sand mix, of the roadside. Getting it off the sidestand, pointed in the right direction, and moving off was a real learning experience. The sidestand was on the downhill side of the bike. A minor struggle to get the bike standing perpendicular to the ground ensued. I really wanted to avoid the parallel-to-the-ground scenario. The LT was leaning more to the left than usual because of this. Of course, I had parked in gear, to keep the bike from rolling backwards. Now the bike was upright, but several things were amiss: I had precarious footing on the marb…. I mean gravel; the sidestand/starter interlock was interlocking, and I had the front brake squeezed tightly so the LT (remember the Light Truck?) would not roll backwards. I worked up the courage to lean ever-so-slightly to the right so I could quick retract the sidestand with my left foot. OOOH OOOH Not THAT Far!!! Ooo, back just a little! Whew. Both feet back on the ground. Oh, I forgot to mention, the wheels were straddling what at that point seemed to be the Grand Canyon. Now I have long legs, but it was still a reach to the marbles, I mean gravel! So, I got the bike started, and going up the hill in the soft marbles, dang! I really do mean Gravel, and then pointed onto the asphalt. I taught myself several new curse words, and found a few more muscles to be sore.
Heading down the east side of the mountain, I noticed a lot of tar snakes, and met a few Harleys going west. At the foot of the mountain, the road gets pretty flat, straight, and warm (it is a dry heat) heading for Kingman, AZ. About 45 minutes later, I reached Kingman. Kingman was a surprise to me. I don’t know for sure what I was expecting, but what I found was a pleasant small town. I’d taken the business loop through town, towards the east side. Lots of trees and small businesses in what appeared to be the older section of town. Where do they get the water? (For the trees, not the businesses.) I gassed up on the west end of town.
The pump jockey couldn’t have been 15, and he was sure impressed with the LT. As am I by this point. Easy to ride, comfortable, good seating position (for me).
I rode on past the eastern outskirts of Kingman, about 5 miles, and decided to double back and wait awhile. I figured George would not be near Truxton until around 2pm, and it appeared to be less than an hour’s ride. I stopped at a shady spot in a gas station around 11 AM, thought I’d wait a while, just in case George came by. Temp was around 95-98 degrees, but you know, being a dry heat and all, it was pretty comfortable.
After half an hour, and deciding that I would head east toward Truxton, I thought I ought to eat something besides snacks and water for the first time since Friday morning. I had just gone into a restaurant and got sat down for some lunch, when in walks a scruffy looking guy in a black jacket. Good thing I had left the bike parked near the road. George almost missed it. After lunch and a map session, we decided to re-trace part of my trip up to Kingman, back west on Rt66 to Oatman, AZ. This particular piece of Rt66, George says, was the most difficult, to build and traverse. Definitely twisty and a large displacement in vertical distance (altitude). But first a stop at the local Harley shop: George needed souvenirs for the folks back home. Boy, Harley has sure got all the bases covered: the hard-core bikers, the wanna-be’s and the posers. A large, fancy shop. Mostly clothes, I noted. Several V-rods. Now that may just be a Harley to like.
I led back towards Oatman, until the road got interesting; I let George take the lead. I’d been there, and figured he would like the un-obstructed view as the mountain rises and the side of the road disappears. Some really tight twisties, very liberally laced with tar snakes. I felt the front end slip on several of these, so kept my speed down and tried to miss the ones going parallel with my direction of travel. In some spots, it seemed the tar snakes had babies. You’ve seen pictures of snake dens? The road crew did have a sense of humor, though. I spotted one smiley face made from tar snakes.
Riding into Oatman, it was about 104, but a dry heat. The western re-enactors about shot us for interrupting their street drama, but they let us through the crowd. We parked and observed the typical reenactment scene: bad guys shoot good guys, bumbling marshal calls female deputy, she shoots the bad guys. At least that is how it seemed. Oatman has 'wild' burros standing amok (they defiantly were not moving, so they could not be running amok) on the city streets. They obviously had seen the re-enactment before, as they did not flinch when the shots rang out.
Any way, we decided to make for Sin City. By the time we reached Bullhead city, the temp was 109. Hot. But a dry heat. Occasionally, while gaining altitude, the temp would drop to 104, and feel positively cool. Something about a lack of humidity. When we passed over the Colorado River, I almost jumped off the bike into the river. Looked pretty inviting.
We intended to make for Yankee Motorcycle Dealer west of the strip, but George, using the GPS, got us a little lost. We ended up driving down part of the strip in late afternoon traffic. Not fun. 114 degrees at one point. But you have to know by now: it is a dry heat. We finally found the dealership, and enjoyed their cooling system for about 30 minutes, when they kicked us out 'cause they wanted to go home. We did get a recommendation for a cheap (relatively, anyway) motel a little ways down the road.
Since we were exhausted from riding in the dry heat, we checked in around 6 pm, showered, and ate dinner in the restaurant after dropping 5 bucks or so on the video poker and 21 at the bar. But they had good two for $3 frozen margaritas. George was asleep by 930, and I soon followed.
Up near the crack of dawn on Sunday, loaded and on the road around 6:45 or so. We skipped Hoover Dam cause it was 120 miles round trip, in the wrong direction, and neither of us wanted to be riding through the desert in the dry heat very much. So we headed northeast on I-15. Past Las Vegas Speedway. A nice little trip up towards Cedar City, but we got off before there: heading for Bryce Canyon national park. The GPS had us going up a side road, which just skirted some parts of the park, but past a high reservoir. The GPS showed good roads.
At the lake the road turned to gravel, but that was ok. It was a road around a high mountain lake: cut it some slack. We rode almost all the way around the lake, looking for an exiting road that was neither dirt nor gravel. Did not find one. George asked some woman in a Jeep how far the gravel lasted going up what appeared to be the road out. The nice lady responded: "not far, we just came down that way". Hmm. What seemed about 20 miles later, much dirt and rocks and 9500 feet altitude, we finally hit pavement. I guess the nice lady was thinking about it from a Jeep Cherokee's perspective. She must have meant to add: "after the gravel, it is dusty dirt for 20 miles".
Must have. But some of the best scenery and high mountain views to be had. Makes me want to be a sheepherder. Or dental floss rancher. Oh wait, that is Montana.
After we got back on pavement, we started down the mountain towards Cedar City. There was one point that we could look straight down on the town, and it looked just as small as if it were printed on a map. That was one steep mountain! But we headed in the opposite direction: off to find another twisty road with lunch at the end of it.
And I'll stop Part One here, and continue with Part Two in the next installment.
The adventure continues, or "Trust the GPS..." Part Two...
George's GPS showed that road over the mountain, from Virgin, Utah to Cedar City, Utah as being paved. We finally made it to pavement, and after descending the mountain; we hit Utah 14, and then east to US 89 south of Hatch, Utah. We found a nice little family run Mexican spot. Actually the only place apparently open in Hatch that served food. Was good. Mmmmm. Chile Relenos. Back on the road a little later, we head north on US89 to the intersection with Utah 12, where we would turn east. Heading north we could see smoke from a forest fire, billowing up behind the mountain range. We turned east on Utah12.
This is a really neat road through some very rocky and desolate areas, climbing and descending the mountains. We go thru Tropic, Cannonville, Henrieville, and finally Escalante, where we then enter what is called the "Grand Staircase". I never did figure out why it is called that. Somewhere along here, the road followed the crest of the mountain, with a 1,000-foot drop on both sides! I decided to concentrate on driving the road instead of trying to sightsee.
We stayed on 12 through Boulder, up to Torrey, and the intersection with Utah 24. Heading east on 24, the landscape was weird. It was like a giant gravel pit. Huge mounds of gravel everywhere. They could stop digging gravel pits everywhere else in the country and just truck out of here. It would never run out.
At Hanksville, 24 headed north, and there being no roads that continued across the wilderness towards Moab, we headed north too. All the way to I-70. I think we saw maybe 4 cars on those 43 miles. Surprisingly, we did not need to slow down from 80 or so to hit the on-ramp to I-70. Nice high-speed sweeper onto the super slab. Headed east to US191 and the exit for Moab. Heading south towards Moab, we found a RV park / campground for the night. Took a little dip in the pool, quite refreshing. Ask George how to get into campground pools that are supposed to be open but are locked up. Bats were flying around the pool picking off insects. They stayed out of our hair.
Monday morning, we were awake at the crack of the moron and his diesel truck coming and going, three times! We finally got going on the road about 645 am, heading south on US191 into and thru Moab. George again was planning the route using his GPS. When we turned east on a small road, I thought nothing about it. When it turned to gravel, George said, " Only two miles of this, then back on pavement!” We were headed to Flat Pass. Road deteriorates more and more. Getting to be sandy with big rocks. We keep going. This is turning into a Jeep trail! Over the top of the pass, (not really very high) and down the other side. Now it's looking more and more like a goat trail. George forges ahead, down the hill towards a stream. There is a rabbit path that takes off on the right at a T intersection with a creek. George goes left. I follow. And we stop. The GPS has lead us to a Stream, not another road. And the goat trail has stopped!
After figuring for a few minutes, we decide to go back. No other choice. The cell phone doesn’t have a signal to call for AAA towing. After plotting how to avoid the worst of the hill we just came down, we head up, one at a time. George makes it up towards the 'pass', and then I go up, and pass him while he takes pictures.
I head down the other side. And hit deep sand with the front tire. Which then strikes a rock hidden in the sand. Whoops! Down I go. George comes around the bend, sees my bike down and says "<expletive of your choice inserted here> Jay!” He parks a little way down at a pull out and walks back. We unload camping gear and the top case and the up-side saddle bag. It still takes all we both have to get the bike up in the very soft sand and un-certain footing. Grunt! Small scratches from a few small hidden rocks, and the right mirror had popped off. Pop that back on, roll down the hill to the turn out, and start re-loading the bike. I've got one nasty big knot on my left leg that hurts like hell. Must of hit it on the case guard on the bike when going down. I’ve no idea what the young lady that hiked past us with her dogs was thinking, but probably: “Idiots!”
We get back to 191, and I make George promise, no more gravel/dirt roads. We head off to find another way over the mountain. The GPS finds another nice paved road, and start up. And up. And up. Up high on the mountain we can see snow. We finally get to the turn that the GPS shows will take us on over the mountain and you guessed it, Gravel. The road we are on merely loops back to Moab, 43 miles. So we turn around and head back to US191. We head south on 191, and stop at a wide spot in the road with a store. I want some Aspirin and ice for my now throbbing leg.
La Sal Junction, I think it was. Real nice lady runs the store, and we chatted with a couple locals for a while. Back on the bikes, we headed East on Utah 46 towards, don't laugh, the town on Bedrock, CO. We cross into Colorado and the highway gets renamed to CO96. On to Naturita. We stop for lunch at a bar and grill.
Three miners are in there; one is falling asleep drunk, at 1130 in the morning. The story of what we saw in a box that one of the miners had is best left for a verbal telling. Suffice it to say that it was enough to ruin an appetite. Except ours. After an OK burger, we head out, towards Montrose, CO on CO90. Seems to take a while, although we did make a couple scenery stops. And John Law talked to George at one point. Seems this little burg has a deal, though. You pay us double, and we won't report it!
At Montrose, we head north on US50 towards Delta, CO. George is positive that Delta is where a long-lost teenage friend is living. We find the Delta library, and George asks for our old friend, Paul. The reply: He is down at Montrose! Back south we go! We finally find the place in Montrose, a nice new building. Ask for Paul, and are shown to his office. He looks up and says: "Yes, Sirs?” Not an inkling of recognition. After introductions and chat, Paul invites us to come to his home and meet the wife and kid. We do so. Neat Solar-style house. We chat until around six or seven pm, and then George and I are back on the road, US50 east, hoping to make Salida before dark.
At Gunnison, we decide to stop for Chinese, and then find a campground. Looking at the map looks like there are plenty of camping places north of Gunnison towards Crested Butte and Almont. The clerk at the liquor store suggests that there are more past Almont, up the Taylor river canyon, but the ones down low are popular and fill quickly.
Heading north, we hit Almont and bear left towards Crested Butte. After what seems like 20 miles, but was probably only about 7 or 9, we turn around and head back towards Almont. Colorado likes to tear up entire roads and replace them with sharp small rocks. Their idea of a temporary surface, I hope. At Almont we turn up county road 742 which goes up the Taylor River canyon and head up in elevation. Heated grips and heated seat are helping me fight off hypothermia, as I've got on a short sleeve shirt and no liner in my jacket and lightweight gloves. Finally found Cold Spring Campground, around 10 pm, at about 10,000 feet or so. Nice camp host. We quickly set up, and watch the stars and a passing satellite or two for a while. Then to bed, we did not even finish the beer we got at the liquor store.
We were up around 6:15, on the road down towards Gunnison at 6:45. The campground had no showers, only chemical toilet. The intent was to hit a campground closer to Gunnison for a 4-dollar shower, but we missed the turn and so keep on going. Gas up in Gunnison. George was checking the rear end of his LT, as last night I had noticed a “tinkle, tinkle, clang” noise. On the way east on US50, I ride next to George. It seems the noise stops when he applies the rear brake. Loose brake parts? Nothing else seems amiss, although George had heard that the ‘99s might have some problem with the rear end.
At US285 we turn north to Buena Vista, CO for an early lunch. George and I say good-bye while mounting up afterwards, as in only about 20 miles we will part: I'm going to head east on US24 towards Colorado Springs and on to the Land of Oz via I-70; George is going to head north towards Breckinridge, Estes Park, and a friend’s place in Loveland. At the junction of US285and US24, we wave and honk, and then it is a solo ride.
Going east, I can see smoke from the Hayman fire near Divide, Co., and decide to pick up another disposable camera. In about an hour, I'm approaching Florrisant, CO along US24. There is a fire camp set up right along the highway, lots of firemen's tents, support stuff, helicopter staging (a couple Sky-cranes, but the pictures did not turn out). Right on the slope near the tents, not 300 yards from US24, there are small spot fires on the slopes.
I stop in Florrisant at a fire information center. This fire is BIG. Several residents of the area are about, and they are quite worried about their property. On east towards Woodland Park, I decide to try to get a little closer to the fire, see about some sightseeing, if you will. Don’t get far; the roads are closed. So I head to Colorado Springs. I'd like to go up Pikes Peak, but it has been closed due to the fire danger.
I pass Pikes Peak, and then on east into Colorado Springs. I make a water stop in town, and then continue east on US24 towards Limon to join I-70 for the super slab ride back to KC. I pick up I-70 around 4 PM. All along US24 east, I'd been under the smoke cloud from the Hayman fire, which is just like thick clouds, so temp is not bad, about 85 or so. But it is no longer a dry heat. And 85 feels like 85 is supposed to feel: hot and sticky.
I get on I-70 at Limon after getting fuel at a truck stop. Super slab is boring, but quick. I stop at Goodland, KS for water and a heat break, 'cause it is no longer a dry heat. The BC is reporting 103 now, who knows what the humidity is at. I spend a little while in the air conditioning of the Dairy Queen / gas station, then saddle back up and push on east. I’d like to make it at least as far as Hays, Kansas. At Oakley, the south wind begins blowing, pushing me all over the road. At 930 I call it quits at Wakeeney, KS. Wind is blowing out of the south, gusting to 45 MPH. The Super8 lets me park outside the office window, protected somewhat from the constant wind and under surveillance. The nice lady at the desk says they wouldn’t know what to do if the wind wasn’t blowing.
Up and going by 8 am on Wednesday, fighting the wind. I stop for breakfast in Hays. Got into the restaurant just before a tour bus full of blue-hairs. Leaving the restaurant, several of the folks comment on the bike, the color, how they used to ride, and how the wind is probably making the ride unpleasant. I agree with everything they say. Heading east on I-70, this is the worst part of the trip, hands down. Constant crosswinds of 15-20, with gusts that I later found out were upwards of 50MPH. East of Hays the terrain becomes more and more rolling hills, so now I have to deal with the effects of the lee side of the hills blocking the wind. And then the hill not being there to block the wind. Someone following me could have thought I was intoxicated by the weaving line of travel.
I take several more breaks form the wind, and now it is heating up to 100 degrees. But now it is not a dry heat. Plenty of humidity. This is how summer heat is supposed to feel. My final stop was in Topeka, where I get gas again. I pull into home at 3 PM and surprise the family. They were not expecting me until much later, I guess.
Thursday, George calls me, and accuses me of deserting him. Turns out, about an hour or so after we parted, his rear end gave up. Rather, it was making horrific grinding noises, and George thought it prudent to stop. He waited about 6 hours for a tow from the Breckinridge area along I-70. He had to have it towed to Foothills BMW in Denver. They told him it was an OK area to leave the bike overnight. So George camped next to it in Foothill’s parking lot. The bearing did not go out until Foothills was riding it. By Friday afternoon they had him going again, and even though the bike was two months out of warranty, BMW covered the repair. George was able to work from his company’s Denver office, so he did not burn extra vacation. And he stayed with friends in the area. I guess that “tinkle, tinkle” wasn’t the brakes at all.
2,207 miles from picking up the bike. The average speed was about 58, with top MPG of 52, the final for the trip was 50.7. Good trip. Great roads. I figure less than 600 miles or so on interstate. The LT is by far the most comfortable bike I’ve ever ridden. The 85K100RT heats so bad in the summer I could never stand more that an hour in the saddle.
We never did say that we were taking the direct route back! I’ve ordered the parts for hanging the sidecar, which will be somewhat of a shame. But I’ll not drastically change the bike, I think. And then in about 30 minutes it can be a solo bike again.
And remember, it's a dry heat!!!
'12 Triumph Tiger 800