Friday, August 21, 2015

First Impressions - Spyder RT-S

In just over a week, actually 1 week and 2 days we have managed to put on 2,200 miles on our new RT-S. So after riding some 175,000 miles on 2 wheels, what is this 3 legged beast all about, other than have a spare tire built in.

Forget everything you have learned about riding on 2 wheels. It just doesn't apply. No countersteering, it is replaced with steering. Yes there is leaning but it is in the opposite direction as the force of a turn pushes your body outward from the turn. On the FJR I am a front brake person, the RT-S has the brake on the side, no hand brake. No shifter on the left, it is a paddle on the left grip. Oh I got the electronic clutch version and I can honestly say good riddance to the clutch handle. About the only thing that transfers from the FJR to the RT-S is the throttle works the same on both.

The most important thing to remember is adapting to the ride, not trying to get the ride to adapt to you. With this in mind things will be good.

After pulling out of the parking lot at iMotorsports we were heading to Lyons, IL for our first National Park stamp to start our fourth IBA National Park Tour. The GPS routed right down to some highway, of course there was a traffic jam. Why would Chicago be any different than Boston. Normally this would be an ugh, but with the electronic clutch one begins to grin, No more feeling that long pull on the clutch in traffic. Simple push the paddle to second, then third, step on the brakes and the bike finds first all by itself. Yes you can downshift, but why bother when in traffic, let the bike do what it was built to do. Oh you don't have to keep pulling your feet up to the pegs as you get going, They can stay firmly planted on the spacious floorboards. Pulling in the clutch and letting it go does not make one a rider.

For my style of riding, which is treasure hunt grand tour driven, the Spyder is perfect. I no longer have to worry about the transition from tar to the berm of the road. Let it be loose gravel onto wet grass, the Spyder handles the transition with ease and safely. No longer have to worry about the pitch of the road and whether the bike on a kick stand will have enough lean so that is will not fall over. Gravel no problem, however one needs to remember you don't want gravel kicking up into the belt driven rear drive. Those long winding roads that all of a sudden turn to dirt, no problem. I feel the release and opportunities to go where  I have shied from in the past. Mind you BRP says this is not for off roading, which I understand, but the occasion traversing of that rough road at a slower pace is OK.

The RT-S is definitely not a FJR when it comes to speed, but it is no slouch either. Highway speeds you will find yourself creeping to 80's and hardly think you are moving. Back roads the RT-S handles those tar snakes, little cracks in the road, frost heaves, and the occasional small pot hole with a simple glide right over them. It does have a tendency to want to drift to the side of the road, but that is easily managed with a slight push or pull to the handle bars.
All in all after 2,200 miles, the RT-S is a KEEPER for me and a nice compliment to my FJR. The only thing I wish the RT-S had was a hand brake and its ability to brush speed off into the corners. My foot is just not as adept and subtle as my hand.

It is going to be tough to decide which one to take out for a solo ride. However, the RT-s has enabled MeAsWe (my SO, aka Crystal) to once again come along for the chase someplace in this big sandbox we call the USA.

First four stops with the RT-S. First one for a National Park Stamp, 2nd for food, 3rd for a Pirate Town, and lastly a Whispering Giant

Friday, August 7, 2015

Spyder Bite

MeAsWe and I flew to Chicago on August 7, picked up at O'Hare, and driven to iMotorsports in Elmhurst, IL. As we pulled into the parking lot, right there in front was our 2015 RT-S Pearl White Spyder. A transaction that I approached with skepticism flowing faster than the rip tide at Bay of Fundy.

Why all the skepticism, simply because the deal was too good to be true. iMotorsports was selling brand new Spyder RT-S 3,800 cheaper than the local dealer, paid for my plane ticket (I did try to get them to pay for MeAsWe's ticket 2, however this would have been two too good to be true) and as the plane touched down in Chitown, I got a text from the cab company that they would be at the door 1G to drive us to Elmhurst.

Jason (sales guy) greeted us at the door with a great big smile, and after chatting for a few, he introduced me to Youthera (finance guy) to complete the passing of the title. He did ask me if I wanted the extended warranty and that was it for the high pressure motor vehicle tactics. I signed a bunch of papers, he produced a temporary plate and we were done. During the closing I asked him about reimbursement for the plane ticket and that's when I met Cheryl (office manager). She asked for an itinerary , I gave her a copy of my VISA statement and she left the office, only to return a few minutes later with a check in hand.

Next was to attach the GPS to handle bars for our 980 mile trip back to Massachusetts, to which I added an additional 1,000 miles to just to make sure our new Spyder was broke in just right. Jason had their service guys come out and consult on the best way to route, which I told them nothing complicated, since this was just to get us back home. A quick routing behind the air wing, tightening of the hose clamps around the 11MM Ram Mount clips and plugging into the 3 port female accessory plug, we have power and operating twin 1490 GPS's.

A couple more minutes of chit chat, Jason throwing us some complementary T-Shirts, a reading and sign off of BRP Can-Am lawyer's statement about us realizing that motorcycling was an inherently more dangerous mode of transportation and we were ready to get the " the really big shew on the road".

I have bought plenty vehicles during my 64 years and I can honestly say this was the most pleasurable experience I have ever had in a usually high pressure back and forth bidding war on who will win the final battle. I have been Autoed 101 more times than I can count and realizing I was on the short side of the transaction as I was driving away. After all, in the end, us car buyer are all rank amateurs when it comes to buying, we just think we are good. This time was different, I still feel good after a week and 3 days in purchasing from iMotorsports. I highly recommend when looking for a motorcycle give them a call and see what they can do for you.

The new ride, no dirt, grim, skuffs or other imposed inflictions. I am sure this is the last time it will look this good.

MeAsWe standing over the RT-S like a kill on an African Safari.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Traveling with Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer

After 3 days in St Louis we headed out of town driving north along the Mississippi River. Not too far outside St Louis is Alton, IL. Alton is home to Miles Davis, but also the tallest person in the world coming in at 8"11". Instead of playing baskerball Robert Wadlow joined the circus, dying at 22 he was till gaining height. Of less glamor we visited the Lyman Trumball House, a Landmark. Trumball coauthored the 13th amendment to the Constitution. The one that abolished slavery and involuntary servitude.

Grabbed a couple of neat sites in Alton.

Just outside of Alton on the bluffs of the Mississippi River is the cave to the Legend of Piasa.

"One morning, Owatoga's son, Utim, and a friend were fishing when they heard a terrible scream. They looked and saw a huge bird rising from the edge of the river. The legend states that the bird was of such dimensions that it could carry away a full-grown deer in its talons, and that once it obtained a taste for human flesh, it would eat nothing else. The creature the two men saw had a young man gripped in its claws and it carried him away and out of sight. Quickly, the two young men returned to their village and found their people very frightened. They waited all day for the young man to escape from the bird and return, but he never did.
After that, nearly every morning, the great bird would appear in the sky and carry away a member of the tribe, a man, woman or a child. Those who were carried off were never seen again. The people began to call the bird the "Piasa", which meant "the bird which devours men"."

Read more here CLICK THIS

A little further north on the Great River Road is the town of Elsah, IL. In Elsah is Principia College, which is also a Landmark. It is a landmark, for the buildings that Bernard Maybeck designed. Bernard was an Arts and Craft era architect with most of his work done in the San Francisco area.  At the gate we were told no pictures or stopping except at the lookout over the Mississippi. Of course I snapped off a few more than just the overlook.

In addition to collecting National Park cancellation stamps, I also collect Blue Goose passport stamps. These are for the National Wildlife Refuges. We stopped at Two Rivers for a stamp and a looksee.
When researching the places we were going to hit, the Goldenrod Showboat presented a bit of a problem. The research indicated it was moved from St Louis to Kampsville, but didn't really say where. So I spent a bit of time using Google, using Earth view looking up and down the Mississippi. Well it was time well spend and found it in a non descript spot along the Mississippi. Even the turn off from Illinois River Rd was pretty oblique.

Goldenrod was built in 1909 by Pope Dock Company of Parkersville, West Virginia for W.R. Markle. The Goldenrod was the last showboat to work the Mississippi. Under the ownership of Capt. Bill Menke, she was moored at the St. Louis riverfront in 1937. By 1950, she had been partially sunk and salvaged twice. Sometime in the last 5 years, the Goldenrod was pushed upstream from St Louis and tied off in Kampsville, IL.

Finding our way to Hannibal, MO we watched how a bunch of boys painting a fence white, while being watched by the other kid giving directions on how it should be done. Then there was this other kid in really tattered clothes hanging around talking to the supervisor kid. Talked about building a raft to sail down the Mississippi.

Back on the road grabbed this classic Texaco station.

In Keokuk stopped for the Geo M Verity towboat. A National Historic Landmark. Built in 1927 at Dubuque, Iowa by the US Government as SS Thorpe, she inaugurated barge service on the upper Mississippi. The first of four steamboats built for the revival of river transportation, she was the first to move barges from St. Louis north to St. Paul. She remained in service there until 1940, when she was sold to Armco Steel Corp. and put in service on the Ohio River. Armco renamed her after their founder, George M. Verity.

Couple of ad hoc shots while on the road.

Stopped at Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge for a stamp but they were closed.

Last shot of the day, an overworked barn. Wasn't sure how this would turn out, but it was eye grabbing from the road. Enough to make me pull over for some camera action.

Stayed at the Isle of Capri Casino on the Mississippi in Bettendorf, which is right next to Davenport.  To view a slideshow which includes features not in the main show CLICK HERE

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I Got my Thrill on Blueberry Hill

I never realized that Blueberry Hill had a broad range of artists that played the song. Never the less we headed up to Blueberry Hill restaurant for lunch today. It is suppose to have a killa hamburger. Great neon on the block. What impresses me is how long this place has been in business. Started in 1972 as a small club and now it is the whole block plus a hotel. Joe Edwards had a vision for the run down neighborhood, Delmar Loop. Chuck Berry used to play regularly here in his younger days. and John Goodman has been known to hang out here a bit. A place to stop for lunch and don't forget to look at all the memorabilia thru out the place.

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Chuck Berry's Gibson ES-350

Joe Edwards, Owner

After lunch we drove around getting pictures of Washington University since it is a National Historic Landmark. Nothing great, actually the pics are kind of boring.

Grabbed a picture of the sculpture outside the St Louis Zoo and Forest Park.

We then headed for the Missouri Botanical Garden. At $8 it is a bargain to get in. This place is huge and the only way we were going to see everything was take the tram around (it costs, but oh so worth for me). The day we were there they were setting up the Lantern Festival from China.

A bit of history. It is a National Historic Landmark, founded in 1859 and  is the nation's oldest botanical garden in continuous operation. It is 79 acres and has a 14-acre Japanese strolling garden. Henry Shaw an early merchant in St Louis built his estate on the land that is the botanical garden. His house is still standing.
This is one place really worth seeing. It is not just the plants and flowers, but the sculptures, buildings and the calm and peacefulness of the place.  As I sat and process the photos I have decided that there is another trip to St Louis in our future.

Alot more photos at this link CLICK HERE

Having spent about 4 hours at the Botanical Gardens, we headed over to Tower Grove Park for some more scenery. Actually it was a drive and stop thru and it is right next to the Botanical Gardens. The park was donated by Henry Shaw in 1868 and is 289 acres. The park is filled with pavilions, bridges, fountains, tennis courts, and a wading pool. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

After our drive thru we headed to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, another Landmark. The brewery opened in 1852. Free tours are available but it was too late in the day for us to go. We will avail ourselves of the tour when we come back to St Louis.

We did stop at one more Landmark, but there was really nothing special about it from a travel point of view. Just one of those places that we could say we were there.

Did take advantage of the balconey off our room for some night shots

I had promised I would give my hand at some night photography capturing the Arch. The hotel we were in had the perfect platform. As passed onto the deck the sign said the doors were locked at 10am. At precisely 10am the doors were locked and we had to wander around locking for a way out. We tried banging on the door, however no one came. Still got the shot.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

We Came, We Rode, We Conquered

First day to wander around St Louis. Our stay in the Crowne Plaza does not include breakfast so we head downstairs and ask the concierge where we should go. Just head down Pine Street about 4 or 5 blocks and handed us this pamphlet of a bunch of places. Well we made it about a block and a half, coming across a sign that said Diner. That was good enough for me.

Big Ed's Chili Mac Diner has been open since 1960 serving up great food and putting their homemade chili on anything you can think of. I had scrambled eggs with chili, cheese and onions. Add 2 hamburgers with cheese and it is called "sling". MeAsWe had the French toast. Two ladies who were sisters were working the place with efficiency. Great place.

Chili Mac's Diner St Louis

Chili Mac's Diner St Louis

Chili Mac's Diner St Louis

After breakfast, we headed over to the Old Courthouse to purchase our tickets for the Arch. They are doing some construction between the courthouse and the Arch, so tickets aren't available at the Arch. The Arch looks so close but you can't get there in a straight line but have to come in from one of the sides. On the way we pass the Old Cathedral, which might be worthwhile stopping at when we get back.

Jefferson Expansion - Old Court House St Louis

You enter the Arch by going underground, ride an elevator further down, down a ramp and some steps, finally making it to the Pods that take you to the top. Let's just say I am glad I am not tall as I climbed into the Pod. Not a long ride and you can see out the window in the Pod to the inside of the Arch. If you picture how the Arch is shaped, the Pod shifts itself keeping you level in your seat, kind of like a ferris wheel.

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The windows at the top are not really that big, but enough to give you some great views of the Mississippi River, the Old Courthouse and Cardinal Stadium. Back at the bottom, we watched a movie on the building of the Arch.

St Louis Arch

St Louis Arch

St Louis Arch

After the ride we watched the movie on the building of the Arch. It really is worthwhile and you get watch it online as well.

St Louis Arch

So with the walk to the Arch, we had to head back to the Old Courthouse. We stopped at the Basilica of Saint Louis built in 1834. This was the first permanent church in St Louis and the first cathedral west of the Mississippi.

Old Cathedral Museum

Old Cathedral Museum

Like the last three times we were here on the bike for the IBA National Park Tour, we always seemed to skip the exhibitis in the Old Courthouse. Pictured below is the ceiling of the dome.

Jefferson Expandsion Dome

That filled up the morning so we headed back to the hotel to grab the car and head for the St Louis Zoo. It is advertised as free, but you still have to pay for parking, so that kind of eliminates the free part. Still worth the price. Couple of pics from the zoo.

St Louis Zoo

St Louis Zoo

St Louis Zoo

St Louis Zoo

We spend the entire afternoon at the zoo and had a great time. Thank god they have a train to get around from spot to spot. The place is quite large and it did take a toll on my ankle. Headed back to the hotel the long way. Picked up a couple National Historic Landmarks on the way back.

Scott Joplin's residence. You remember him, Ragtime King, think the movie "The Sting"

Scott Joplin Residence

Union Station, once the world's largest and busiest train station. Built in 1894, and had 42 tracks heading into the terminal. At its peak in combined passenger service for 22 railroads, hence the name Union Station.

Union Station (St. Louis)

Christ Church Cathedral between 1859 and 1867.

Christ Church Cathedral (St. Louis)

The Wainwright Building was of the first skyscrapers in the country and designed by the firm Adler and Sullivan. Louis Sullivan become the father of the modern skyscraper. It influenced the design and building of future skyscrapers in the US.

Wainwright Building

That completed our day and we headed back to the hotel for a rest. Slideshow CLICK HERE