Friday, November 7, 2008

My First Motorccyle Camping Trip

Two weeks ago I went on my first motorcycle camping trip. I packed up my bike, and took off north on the 1. I headed past Santa Barbara for about 2 hours, and I camped at Pismo State Beach. Packing up the bike was not trivial, but since my camping gear was chosen for ultralight-weight backpacking, most of it fit pretty well in my saddlebags. I ended up tying the tent and my sleeping pad to my seat, along with a small duffel of clothes and a soft-sided cooler. The load didn't seem to affect the bike's handling while riding.

My camping site at Pismo Beach was pretty standard for a state park. That is, I had a parking spot, a picnic table, a food box, and a decent spot to pitch my tent; it was nice. The beach was a short 15 minute hike over the dunes. Nice beach, standard for a central coast sandy beach. (I guess I'm pretty spoiled since I can say that about the beach.) The only oddity about the beach was that off-road vehicles were allowed on the beach. I saw a few people camping out of their SUV's on the beach.

While at the camp, I met a fellow motorcyclist from Alaska named Tom. He was traveling from Alaska to San Diego (via the 1 in the US) on a Kawasaki Voyager pulling a trailer, with a dog travel cage. He pulled into his campsite around sunset, and I saw a dog tied up at his site. I noticed the dog, since it made absolutely no noise; the dog never barked all night. It wasn't until I met Tom the next morning that I learned that he was traveling with a deaf dog. We talked for more than an hour; mostly he told motorcycle stories and I listened. I hope he got to San Diego without mishap.

Ride safe.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Post

As has become tradition here, I carved Halloween pumpkins with designs of my own making. In past years I have carved the Dark Mark (Harry Potter reference), a ship of the line, and a stormtrooper. This year, due to my children's abhorrence for anything scary, I carved a very family friendly design.


P.S. I will update about my motorcycle camping trip shortly. I've been distracted. Sorry.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Motorcycle Camping Trip Teaser

I just got back from a quick overnight motorcycle camping trip. I rode up CA 1 to Pismo Beach and camped at the state park there. Regular campsite, short hike to the beach, great ride up the 1. The trip was great. I'll post a few pics and some more details tomorrow.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Making More Gear than I Use

It's about time I posted before this blog atrophied...

First, my bike... Since the last post I've rebuilt the clutch (new friction plates) and replaced the front brake rotor and pads. It's been running great, and today I went for a morning ride with some friends through the canyons near Malibu down to Neptune's Net. There were 30-40 motorcycles there, but it can get much busier. It's a nice place to get a bite to eat and watch people and bikes. On the way back, we cruised by The Rock Store, but did not stop. Maybe next time...

I've been thinking a lot about backpacking lately, and I've taken an interest in hammock camping. I got a hammock with birthday money this year, and I've set it up in our back yard. If you've been to the family web page recently, you've seen a few pictures of the new hammock. The hammock is very comfortable, and that's my main motivation for putting together a hammock kit for backpacking use. The thought of lying down in a hammock to sleep after a hard day of hiking (rather than lying on the ground) sounds wonderful.

I've read Ed Speer's book, "Hammock Camping," and I've been perusing the world wide interwebnet for more information. My favorite site on hammock camping is Just Jeff's web page. He's got some good homemade gear descriptions, and the site is a good starting point for finding more info. With a hammock, I'll still be tarp camping, only now I'm going to be sleeping in a hammock instead of a bivy sack. I'm basically hanging my bivy between two tress instead of putting it on the ground. When suitable trees aren't present, Ican use the hammock like a bivy and camp the way I have been.

I've made a hammock, and it's been successfully tested (it holds my weight). I have a few minor adjustments to make to the hammock (weights on the bug net, sleeve for holding a pad for under-body insulation, etc.), and I need to seam-seal my new tarp (I made it, too). Then I'm off to the mountains for an overnight gear test. Unfortunately, I'm busy with work (travel) and home projects for a couple of weekends, so I probably won't be getting out with the new kit until October.

I'll leave with a few pictures of the kids and me in the new backpacking kit. The hammock is very comfortable and my new tarp is very spacious. I'm looking forward to using this.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Done Spraying Paint

Today I finished spray painting my house. I masked and painted the back of my house with the power painter today. The front is finished, and I've replaced two outdoor light fixtures and the doorbell. I now need to paint the trim and soffits on the other three sides of the house and replace one more light fixture. I also found an outlet that is not working; I'll be troubleshooting that sometime soon.

I used the Wagner Power Painter Pro with the Wide Shot tip to paint my house, but I killed the tool. When I had finished painting my small house (three bedroom single story), everything about the power painter except the motor was worn out. I wore out the Wide shot nozzle; it sprayed paint in large globs instead of a fine mist. I wore out two swirl valves; these break the paint into a fine mist be imparting rotational motion to the liquid spray, i.e. they spin the paint to make droplets. I wore out the pump housing; even off, the pump now leaks. If I am to ever use this tool for another project, and there are other projects, I will have to replace all of its moving parts that contact the paint. I'm wondering if it would be cheaper to buy a new power sprayer... We'll see. A contributing factor to the wear on my painter was the type of paint I used, masonry paint (I was painting stucco). This paint is very thick, like primer, and I did not thin it since the power sprayer was able to handle it.

I'll leave you with a picture of story time from tonight.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Joy of Motorcycle Maintenance

There are many joys to owning a used motorcycle. The bike cost me fewer pesos than a new one. It's got a little bit of "character" already, so I don't worry about where I park it. It feels really good to keep up with someone on a shiny new bike when I'm on my 9 year old machine. I'm not afraid to take it completely apart, figure out how it works, and put it back together again. Keeping an old machine running well is a source of pride. But...the true joy of an old bike is the maintenance.

There is always something that needs doing on an older machine. I had a fuel line leak about 2 weeks ago. A fuel line swelled and did not seal on the hose barb; that needs to be replaced. My front brake rotor looked noticeably worn; Checking it revealed that it was worn well beyond the service limit. I'll be replacing that. Lately, I've been noticing that my clutch is slipping. When I accelerate quickly, try to maintain or increase my speed against a strong wind, or when i engine brake, I can feel the bike oscillating between catching and slipping. I just took my clutch apart this evening, and my friction plates are all worn to the minimum service limit. More telling is that every friction plate is glass-smooth. They will need to be replaced, too.

I've got to order a few parts for my bike, but I'll be replacing everything when all the parts come in. It's about 700 miles early, but I might as well do an oil change while everything is apart. I had to drain the oil to take apart my wet clutch anyway.

No pics tonight; I'll post something when it all goes back together.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Finished the front trim

The front of the house is presentable. Saturday evening, I finished up the trim on the front of the house. The house numbers are freshly painted, and a new porch light is up, too. I've yet to clean up the detritus on the walk from removing the gutters in this picture, but you get the idea.

There are many days of painting left (back of the house, and three more sides worth of trim...), but at least I'm not a neighborhood eyesore.

Friday, July 4, 2008

First picture of the new house color

I'm a few days behind on my posts, but here's a quick picture of my new house color. Previously the house was a medium tan, and there were water stains on the columns where the sprinklers had gotten the house wet. I've completed painting 3 sides of my house with the main color (not the back), and I'm starting on the trim. The gutters are off the house in this picture. I will be replacing them later this summer. (I won't see rain till fall, so there's no hurry.) I will paint the gutters to match the trim before I install them on the house.


Monday, June 30, 2008

Working on my week off

I've started painting the house this week. I've completed painting the stucco on one side and the front of my house. I've been using a power sprayer to paint for two days, and I'm ready to take a break from using that machine. It's very loud (I wear earplugs when using it), and it vibrates such that my hands get numb after a couple of hours of use. I've spent a total of ~10 hours painting the past two days, plus prep work and clean-up (probably ~8 hours). I'm going to paint trim tomorrow, by hand, and I will post some pictures of the house.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Cleaning up Clutter

The new shelf is in use, and the kids helped put the toys away. I'm sure this won't last...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Updates: fungus, motorcycle and shelf

The fungus block Eric sent me has fruited. (That's the correct mycological jargon.) I harvested the mushrooms, and I had them for dinner last week with rice and vegetable stir fry. They were delicious, and I'm currently letting my shiitake block dry out before growing my next crop. I expect to have fewer and larger mushrooms the second time around. I'm also trying to grow another tray of shiitake from spores collected from my first harvest. We'll just have to see how that goes. It hasn't gone afoul yet (no unwanted growth, i.e. molds or the wrong fungus), but it hasn't done anything yet, either...

I've installed the new petcock on my motorcycle, and it seems to be running fine. I can rev the engine up to 9k rpm without trouble. In fact, I was running the engine at around 8-8.5k in third gear coming home earlier this week. Those revs and gearing put me at around 60 mph. You'd think everything on the bike is taken care of, but no. Not ever, it seems. I need to replace my front brake rotor (worn well beyond the service limit), and I am most likely due for new brake lines (replacement schedule of 2 years; likely the original ones are still on the bike-1999). I expect to take care of those things and give the bike a through tune-up this summer. Then, there's little to stop me from attempting a SS1000. Check out IBA's website for details.

The shelf my father and I began when he visited is now finished. I painted it today, and we've moved it into the house. Tomorrow it will fill with the children's toys. For now, it's clean and white. John will be sure to change that.

btw- We've moved our love seat into the garage to make room for the new shelf. We called it the "man couch," and the kids had a blast playing on it in the garage.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What a thoughtful present!

I arrived home from work today to a package. It was a basketball-sized box from Fungi Perfecti LLC. My surprise birthday present from Eric had arrived! I opened the box and removed a cake-shaped white and tan lump of sawdust and fungus. Eric sent me a shiitake mushroom patch. It even looks like a cake when I put it on a platter. And bonus, it smells like yeast, too!

I will be watering my fungus for the next several months. If all goes well, the first crop of shiitake mushrooms will be ready for harvest by the time Eric is out here...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Long time, New post.

I've been keeping busy around the house, and it's time for an update.

The pergola over our back patio is now gone. Check out Liz's page for a couple of shots of the backyard destruction. I've now got a decent-sized pile of wood on the side of my house that I am slowly throwing away. I expect it will take several weeks of garbage collection to remove all of the pergola. I am now moving on to patching stucco in preparation for painting my house. Our house is currently medium tan with off-white trim. We're painting the house light tan with brown trim. We are some wild and crazy guys!

I've also just completed assembling a monster of a piece of furniture. Liz asked for a toy shelf for the kids that would fit under the window in our front room. The window is about 8' wide, and Liz wanted shelves 18" deep. So that's what she got. A 8' wide, 18" deep, and 30" tall shelf. I'll be doing some painting next weekend...

And, I just got a new petcock for my motorcycle. Check it out. (A petcock is a fuel valve. I just like the word.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bye Bye Papa!

Papa B just visited us, and he had to return home yesterday. We all had a great time together hiking, playing, and just hanging out together. I believe the kids had an especially good time while Papa was here. They were already asking where Papa was and when we'd see him again hours after he left! Everybody had fun, and we're looking forward to seeing each other again this summer. While he was here, Papa helped me get started on a toy shelf for the kids. We got some new tools, and I've started joining boards together for the shelves. We planned the shelf unit together, and I'm eager to see everything come together.

My new toy (a plane joiner) and the first shelf are below.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Just Cruising Along

No posts for a while...sorry. The motorcycle is fixed, and I've been riding it as my primary means of transportation. It feels pretty good to pull up next to a SUV at the gas station, fill up my vehicle for under $10 (even with $4/gallon prices), and drive away, all while the SUV driver is still pumping one tank of gas.

Otherwise, things have been rolling along. We had a couple of very nice dinners with friends recently, I've learned a lot about water heaters (no, my old water heater is still working, thank you), and we will be getting a visit from Papa in a couple of days. We've been busy, and it's been good.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The bike is together...

Just a quick post. I've taken my motorcycle apart, installed new gaskets (cylinder base, head, and valve cover), reassembled the engine/motorcycle, and the bike starts. I'll take a test ride tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rats and being wrong

First, I had rats. More specifically, my house had rats living in the attic. We've taken care of the "construction errors" that allowed entry into the home, and the rats in the house have all been trapped, thanks to the help of an exterminator. I decided to clean up the nests myself. It wasn't a difficult job, but I do not recommend it to someone who is not familiar with how to use a respirator. You probably won't catch anything from cleaning up rat droppings, but you could catch HPV (Hantvirus Pulminary Syndrome), which has been reported in Southern California recently and can be fatal. The virus is transmitted by breathing dust left from rat droppings, urine, and saliva. Make sure you really know how to use that respirator, and it probably out to be a full-face model with a HEPA filter.

I removed four large and one small nest from my attic. I used a hand vacuum to remove all the droppings, and I disposed of the vacuum when I was finished. (I don't believe I'd be comfortable using that vacuum for anything else.) I sterilized the place the best way possible, with lots and lots of Lysol. That stuff kills just about anything, it's cheap, and if you use enough of it, it will get everywhere. I used three full cans in my attic. motorcycle is still not running. There was no oil leak from the tachometer cable, and everything else looks good. The oil is coming from a cylinder base seal that I did not install properly. There must have been some oil on the mating surfaces that prevented a seal from forming. I've ordered the parts I will need to replace in order to fix this (new head and cylinder gaskets), and I expect to receive the parts on Tuesday. At least I know exactly how to repair this. Let's hope that I'll be riding to work by the end of the week.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The bike is still not finished.

Last weekend when I rode my motorcycle, it was dripping oil when I finished the ride. There was oil dripping off the engine, from the top to the bottom. I suspected that the problem was a leak in my head cover (aka valve cover) gasket, so I re assembled the cover using high temp silicone RTV to help seal the gasket in place. Today, I washed the bike of all the old oil, and took the bike for a test ride, and it looks like that took care of the head gasket leak. But there is still oil on my engine that should not be there.

I had taken the bike for a 15 minute test ride; riding at speeds of about 15 mph in my neighborhood up to 60 mph on the county highway that runs through town. This oil leak was covering the front of the engine between the exhaust header pipes, and there was a lot of it. At this point I was thinking (and saying under my breath, I do have children) many things that would make this blog unsuitable for audiences of all ages. After dinner, I looked at the bike again, checked my Clymer repair manual, and still couldn't figure out where the leak was coming from. It was only on the bottom of the engine, and I had a hard time believing that the new cylinder base gasket that I had installed was the source of the leak. At least, I was really hoping that the leak was not the base gasket. Fixing that would require a complete disassembly of the engine, again.

I checked out my bike's online community,, and found a little gem. One of the posts in the forum mentioned that sometimes the tachometer cable can be a source of an oil leak. The tachometer drive cable attaches to the engine directly above where I was finding oil. I checked my cable, and it was oily. I had packed a small amount of grease into the end of the drive cable, and it had all been washed out. Bingo! I'm going to talk to the parts guy at my Suzuki dealership and see if he has any ideas about this. I may need to replace the cable ($11), or there could be a seal in the tachometer drive gear that could need to be replaced. I'm hoping this is my problem. But until then, hang it all, I'm riding and checking my oil frequently. I'm sick of being stuck in my cage!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Together, but not finished...

I put my bike together today. Everything went together relatively smoothly. (I've always had a difficult time installing the air box--there's not a lot of wiggle room to get that part back in.) I turned my fuel selector to 'prime' for a bit (to fill the carburetor bowls), back to 'on,' and started the bike up; it sputtered a bit, caught and quit. I switched the fuel selector over to 'reserve,' and the engine caught and ran just like it did before! Success! I had to run the bike on reserve because I only had a small amount (~1 gal) of fuel in the gas tank when I took the bike apart. There was a bit of burning grease from the assembly process, but nothing unexpected. I let the engine warm up, adjusted the throttle cable, clutch, and idle speed (all things that were changed or replaced during the rebuild). I then changed the oil to get rid of anything I inadvertently got in there, like grime, cleaning solvent, or 5W oil from my oil can.

Since everything seemed to be going so well, I took the bike for a short spin around my neighborhood. I cruised around going 15-20 mph for 5-10 min, then I decided to take the bike out to the main road and took the bike up to 35 mph for about 1/2 mile. Another minute or two and I was back in my driveway. Everything went well. I readjusted the idle speed, and saw oil dripping from my engine. Working my way up from the bottom of the bike, I found oil on my cylinder base gasket, then on my head gasket, then on the tachometer cable, then on the spark plug gasket, then on the head nuts, then on the head cover gasket. My head cover gasket is leaking, and in retrospect, I'm not surprised. The new gasket is a soft rubber thing that was stuffed into a bag before I put it on my bike. It didn't hold it's shape well, and kept springing out of place when I tried to install it. I'll get some high temperature silicone sealer, and take care of it soon. I'm getting tired of being stuck in my cage every commute!

Here's a quick look at my newly assembled, but not washed, wheels. My 1999 Suzuki GS500EX. I love this bike.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Bike Reassembly

Today, I put my motorcycle back together, mostly. I cleaned the crankcase, cylinder block, and head as best I could with solvent, and I carefully put everything back together with the new gaskets. The gaskets appear to be made of stamped aluminum with some sort of coating. I'm hoping I got everything together well enough. All the head nuts are torqued down, and I won't know if there is a leak until I fire up the engine and/or do a compression check. Both of these checks require the engine to be running, and I'm not quite there yet.

It looks like I put the cam shafts on in the correct orientation; I checked the alignment

at least five times before tightening everything down. After I got everything tightened, I manually turned the engine over several times by rotating the crankshaft with a wrench. Nothing seemed to be seizing up, and I felt what I believe to be normal compression. At this point, I believe I was able to reinsert the pistons into the cylinders without damaging them. Again, a compression check will tell me what I need to know.

Since I've now got my engine back together, I've turned my attention to the carburetor. It was the right carb that seemed to be giving me trouble, so I disassembled it first. I didn't find any clogged jets or ports anywhere in the system. The only abnormality I did find
was the carburetor piston seemed to be slightly stuck when I removed it from the body. The piston is attached to a diaphragm, and pressure differences on either side of the diaphragm raise or lower the piston, which in turn raises or lowers a needle valve that controls fuel flow within the carb. Maybe my problem was as simple as a stuck piston that can be fixed by a simple disassembly and reassembly. I'm certainly hoping that is the case. (There's a quick connect in the parts picture. I'm toying with the idea of putting those between my fuel tank and petcock to make tank removal easier.)

Tomorrow I will be replacing a few fuel lines. (I wanted to complete my carb work before deciding how much tubing to buy.) After that, I've only got a few parts to reattach to the motorcycle: carburetor, air box, fuel tank. Then I've got to run the fuel/vacuum lines and reconnect the control cables.

After all that, we'll see if the bike is running again, and if I was able to correctly diagnose and fix my mechanical problems. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A little oil leak.

About a week ago, I noticed that my motorcycle had an oil leak between the cooling fins on the engine block. I cleaned off the oil, rode the bike, and saw new oil in the same place. A few days later, my pants leg had a fine spray of oil on it. I examined the bike and realized that the oil was coming from a leaking head gasket. Hey, it's a $20 part; how hard can it be to fix?

I pulled the seat and frame covers off, and I removed the fuel tank. This I've done before, and it went smoothly. Then I had to pull the air box and carburetor out. I drained the fuel from the carb float bowls, and nothing came out of my right carburetor. So now I have to disassemble and clean my carbs. I just set them aside in a plastic bag to keep them clean.

Next I removed the head cover to gain access to the cam shafts. I rotated the crankshaft with a 19 mm wrench to line up the markings on the crankshaft with the pickups. This lined up the camshafts so that I could position them correctly when I reinstalled them.

Now, with everything off the top of my engine, it was time to remove the cylinder head so that I could replace the head gasket. Btw- Every gasket I've pulled off the bike so far has needed to be replaced. All of the gaskets were tearing or brittle. In fact, I only got a few off of their respective seals without destroying them. The rest stuck and tore. A this point in the repair, I've racked up around $90 worth of gaskets that need to be replaced as a result of my teardown.

I tried to remove the cylinder head from the engine, but it just wasn't budging. I gave the engine block a few taps with a 16 oz. rubber mallet, and then pulled on the head again. I lifted the head up, bringing the entire engine block with it! The oil that had leaked out had carbonized and glued my cylinder head to the block, allowing me to lift the entire engine block off the engine's lower end. I now had yet another gasket to replace (the cylinder gasket). I started with an oil leak, now I'm doing an engine rebuild. C'est la vie.

So now I have my bike apart with the engine block on my workbench, and the pistons sticking out of the lower end of the engine that's still in the bike. The good news is the pistons and cylinder walls look to be in great condition, and the gaskets I ordered on Monday morning are all here today. I've got to clean all the parts I've removed so that the new gaskets seat well, and I've got some carburetor maintenance to do, too. I've decided to replace the clutch cable while I'm in there (it was in the way; I removed it to get the engine block out), and we'll see what else happens while I've got the bike opened up. How hard can it be to replace a simple $20 part, anyway?

I had to remove the exhaust to get the head off.

Here's the culprit.

My engine on my workbench. You can see the burned oil on the cooling fin of the cylinder block (block on the right) on the upper left corner.

Two pistons with nothing to do.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Motorcycle Chain Oiler

A couple of weeks ago I decided to install a homemade chain oiler on my motorcycle. I ride the bike regularly, and ususally have to clean and oil my chain every 3-4 weeks. I figured that installing a chain oiler would keep my chain in better condition, and save me 15 minutes every month. Here's what I ended up installing after two nights of tinkering.

The system I installed uses a simple gravity feed. The oil reservoir is made from a $1 travel shampoo bottle, the tubing is 1/4" irrigation tubing (available at any hardware store, I had extra in my garage), the valve is an irrigation tubing valve (for installing the tubing to sprinkler systems), and the oil nozzle I made myself. It delivers 30W motor oil to each side of the rear sprocket. The oil is delivered to the drive chain via centrifugal force. I control the rate of oil delivery with several pinholes in the reservoir tubing. Trial and error established the correct number of holes to yield a flow of 1 drop per 90 seconds.

The nozzle is attached to the bike's swingarm with several zip-ties, and the frame is fashioned from an old wire coat hanger. The tubing is split into two smaller diameter teflon tubes, with the joint sealed with JB weld. These tubes are arranged so that they barely contact each side of the rear sprocket, and surface tension keeps the oil on the sprocket. Here's a close-up of the nozzle from the right side of the bike. (It's hidden in the first picture, taken from the bike's left side.)

I now have a blog.

After considering the possibility of editing our family web page (and after my wife got frustrated trying to show me how to edit the web page that she administrates), I've decided to establish my own blog. For now, I will be using this forum to informally share interests and thoughts. Let's see where I take this...