Winter 2006 p.2


Winter 2006

Breaking in the BMW R1200GS

  8 Days
  3,470 miles (actual GPS mileage)
  7 US States


This is a short write-up from my December 2006 trip across the southern part of the US.  This trip was my first real ride on the 2005 BMW R1200GS that I purchased in November of 2006.  I was very pleased with the performance of the bike.  It lies somewhere between the comfort of the Goldwing and the utility of the BMW F650GS. 

Day 01
Vicksburg to Abilene, TX

When I started out from Vicksburg the weather was cold but sunny. It didn’t take long for that to change. I ran into drizzling rain from Monroe, LA to just west of Fort Worth, TX. Of course, the rain and overcast skies kept the temperatures down.

Once I got to the other side of Fort Worth, the sun broke through and I had a good ride.
I had checked the weather maps that morning, so I knew that I needed to get west of Fort Worth to be behind a front that was bringing warmer temps and real rain.

I stopped in Abilene at a Super 8 motel because I wanted to watch the Saints kick the crap out of the Cowboys.

Steak Express delivered grilled chicken breast and steak tips with sweet tea, so it was a good night.

Day 02
Abilene to Las Cruces, NM

Most of the day the temperature was around 40 degrees. The winds were a steady 18 to 20 mph with gusts of 30 to 40 mph. My arms and hands ached from fighting the winds. I am not sure if it was harder to keep the bike on the road or keep me on the bike. However, I had made it past the front the night before so the sun was out. At least it wasn’t raining. There was the occasional dust storm, but no rain.

This was a day of bad luck. I don’t know why, but the second day of my trips usually turns out this way. I think it is a test to see if I will keep going or turn back.
KOA in Las Cruces, NM
I went to breakfast and it was pitiful; some of the little chocolate donuts and some packs of oatmeal. I decided to take
some oatmeal and two donuts back to my room. I heated up some water in the coffee pot, but the water was not coming out. I opened the filter section to see what was going on and the water that was not coming out decided to come out on my hand; that made me drop the coffee pot, which busted into a thousand pieces.
I got that mess cleaned up and went back to the breakfast area to get some hot water. I poured some water from the pot of water sitting on the coffeemaker’s top burner and took it back to my room. I poured it into my oatmeal only to discover that it was cold water.

I stopped for the night at the KOA in Las Cruces, NM. For those that do not know, KOA is one of the best deals going
when traveling on the bike. You can get a cabin for around $15 more than pitching a tent. There is no running water, but there is electricity and usually wireless internet.


Day 03
Las Cruces to Mesa, AZ

My day started off with a continuation of the previous day’s luck. Actually, it was just a discovery of how bad the previous day was. When I got into the KOA, I plugged the battery charger in to make sure the battery would stay charged in the cold weather. I have been having problems with the battery or charging system on the bike (but that is another story).
I kept the battery charged plugged in all night only to discover the next day that the charger (I bought a new one just for the trip) has on On/Off switch. It was plugged in all night but not turned on.

Las Cruces at dawn .

The sunrise at Las Cruces was beautiful, although it was around 29 degrees when I was out taking this picture.

The day's ride was great. The temperature when I left Las Cruces was 37 degrees. By the time I got to Tucson, AZ it was in the mid sixties.


I rode the interstate all the way to Tucson to the BMW dealership. I went in and bought a couple of shirts and just happened to find an accessory electrical box that Touratech has on backorder. Sweet!
When I was checking out I mentioned my battery issue to the parts guy. He took me back to talk to their service manager. The service manager stopped what he was doing and came out to get the VIN on my bike. He looked up the bike in the computer to see if it had the “dead battery” warranty service done. It had not, but it looked like it was not one of the bikes that needed it.

We then went to the showroom and started up a brand new 1200GS so I could see the indication lights. It did the same thing mine does (warning triangle and battery displayed). He then came outside and started my GS up and watched the lights; same thing. So we talked for a while about the battery issues and exactly what the bike was doing. I had tested the output of the charging system so I knew that the problem was in the battery or that the battery was being drained by some “hidden” thing the bike was doing after being shut off.
We decided that I just had a bad battery. I had replaced it with a Yuasa the day before leaving on this trip and have not had any problems since then. Of course, I have been riding enough to keep the battery charged. After talking to the guys at Iron Horse Motorcycles, I at least feel better about things now.

BTW: I have never experienced the kind of service you get at a BMW dealership at any other dealership. That is one of the things I like about riding the BMW. A Honda or Yamaha dealership would have told me to call and make an appointment to have it checked out. This time of the year, I would have heard “we’re really busy with 4-wheelers getting ready for hunting season”. I hope BMW never starts making 4-wheelers!

Upon leaving the bike shop, I headed off the main road. I went around the back side of Tucson and hit Highway 79. This leads to Pinal Pioneer Parkway (still HWY 79). This was a nice 2-lane road that runs through a scenic desert preserve in the Sonora Desert. There are no billboards or highway signs; just desert in the foreground and mountains in the background. There are also picnic areas and scenic views along the way. 

Also along this route is the Tom Mix Memorial.  I had never heard of Tom Mix, but after doing some research I found out he was a silent-film cowboy. The memorial marks the spot where Mix died when he was struck in the head by his suitcase during the wreck of his 1937 yellow Cord Phaeton convertible. The story is that Mix emerged from the car, took one step and fell to the ground, dead of a broken neck.

Unfortunately I did not stop to take any pictures because I was trying to get to the KOA in Mesa before the sun went down.


KOA at Mesa, AZ

Day 04
Mesa to Blythe, CA

Apache Trail Ride

I just happened upon the Apache Trail when looking for something else on the internet from the Las Cruces KOA. I was interested in riding the trail, but I was convinced when I found a book with pictures of the trail at the Mesa KOA.

The Apache Trail was Arizona’s first historical road. Over a thousand years ago it was a foot trail through the mountains used by the Salado Indians. The road was later used to bring supplies to the Roosevelt Dam construction site. Theodore Roosevelt rode to the dedication of the dam in 1911. It took him six hours to make the 50 mile ride.

I made the mistake of thinking I could get gas at a location down the trail. However, I had to backtrack to fill up. So take my advice and fill up in Apache Junction prior to setting off on the trail.

The first part of the trail is paved and includes some nice curves. There are opportunities to visit some ghost towns along the first part of the trail, but I was more interested in getting to the dirt.

The paved section of the trail is full of twisties and elevation changes. It is similar to riding in the Appalachians but with desert scenery.


This photo is of Canyon Lake. It is typical of the great views along the trail. There are pullouts every few miles, otherwise the road is too narrow to really stop to get pics.






This is another picture of Canyon Lake from the scenic pullout.




There is a small "town" along the trail called Tortilla Flat. It is little more than a tourist attraction. However, you can get food there. I did not eat, but I hear the burgers are good.

This is the last bit of civilization before you reach the other side of the trail. There is a sign just past Tortilla Flat that warns of traveling during flood prone times. There are several sections of the trail that provides runoff for the mountains.

Just after the road turns to dirt, there is a pullout with bathroom facilities and nice views. In this picture I took from that pullout, you can see a red truck on the trail going down the infamous decent down Fish Creek Hill.

The Apache Trail is just under 50 miles in total length. About 22 miles of that is dirt. The road ranged from soft, sandy dirt to smooth dirt. Just for fun there are miles of arm-jarring washboard. I should have adjusted my suspension before heading out on the trail, but I didn't. I felt the back tire dancing around several times during the bumpy sections. I just stood on the pegs and powered through it.

There are rails on a few sections, but for the most part it is a single-wide trail with just drop offs on the outside edge.
Coming around one left-hand turn, in some really soft dirt, the front wheel started to wash out. I forgot that I was on a 1200cc bike and gave too much throttle. I broke the back wheel loose in the dirt and almost launched myself over the side. Fortunately I have dirt bike experience and was able to save it, but it got my attention.


While I was taking pictures at the first pullout after the trail turned to dirt (the one mentioned earlier), I saw a guy on a Harley go by. I though to myself "this guy has guts".

After I finished taking pictures at the pullout, I mounted up and headed down the dirt road.  It didn't take me long to catch up to the guy on the Harley. He was doing about 5 mph and did not appear to be having much fun! I know he was only going about 5 mph because I was only doing 17 mph and I passed him heading into a curve.

I wish I had a picture of him and the look on his face. The problem with the trail is once you are on it, you are pretty much committed. There are few places to turn around and the traffic mostly runs one way (although it is officially a two-way road).

There are several one lane bridges along the trail like this one. There was some construction work going on when I was riding the trail and I got lucky enough to meet a dump truck and trailer coming across one of these bridges.  I am not sure what he would have done if he had met a car or truck because there was just enough room for me to move over to the edge of the road before I got to the bridge and let him come by.







Finally, this is the view that awaits at the end of the dirt road. This is the lake created by Roosevelt Dam. However, it is not the end of the fun. The ride over the bridge leads to miles of great mountain riding on the way back to Mesa.



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