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post #1 of 5 Old 05-27-2013, 02:08 AM Thread Starter
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High Sierra

This is a writeup I did for the trip I took last weekend with my friend Michelle. You guys should get a good laugh about my fuse adventure. Feel free to imagine the Benny Hill theme while you read it. Sadly, I am limited to including only 8 images in this post, so if you want to see them all, please head over here: https://plus.google.com/photos/10155...95789422827169

Saturday morning, I got up bright and early, loaded up my trusty KLR650, Tanngnjóstr, and headed off to Los Banos to meet Michelle. The ultimate goal: The High Sierra!

We went to Oakhurst, then followed 49 to Triangle Road, stopping for lunch at the now-shuttered Wassama Round House State Historic Park. (Picnic tables still appear to be functional.)

Then Jerseydale Road, and then into the dirt and up the hills on Footman Ridge Road! It launched up the hill and into the gorgeous pine forest, twisting through the trees.

I smelled a little bit of gas, but it was probably just a little splash-over from filling the tank a few miles before. Everything was grand! We quickly put away 5 miles.

Then I noticed something: my temp gauge was reading very high. It was still in the normal operating range, thankfully, but it was higher than I'd ever seen it. I glanced down at the fan. It was off.

Well, heck. Lucky I looked at my temp when I did! I'd read about the fuse blowing on the fan before, and I had spare fuses, so all I had to do was locate the fuses, which I'd never seen before.

That side panel? No. Under the seat?

Agh, that hose that runs from the gas tank overflow into the California Emissions Bullsh*t Mechanism had split due to old age! Gas was leaking very safely down onto the airbox and various other hotter things, including a good stretch of the wiring harness.

Well, let's clip the split end off the hose and pull it up there and reattach it. No dice. It was maximally short and attached to the bottom of the California Emissions Bullsh*t Canister. We unhooked the canister and remounted it an inch higher to give us slack. At least that solves the gas smell. I wrapped the ends of the fuel lines in duct tape to keep them from splitting again until I can replace them.

But no fuses. Honestly. Where? Under the tank? Yes, the tank came off. Not there. Michelle's one bar of service finally yielded the answer: under the seat, after all. Ah, ok. So on top of the battery under a rubber cover in a disused lavatory is a small plastic box. When you wiggle it out, you notice that the word "FUSES" was completely hidden by the rubber cover.

Inside are two fuses. They looked fine, but I was expecting more than two. I swapped them both out. Tank back on, warm the bike... no fan.

We suspected that the two fuses didn't include the fan fuse, since two was just too few. "What's this box?" Michelle asked, pointing to a small milk-colored capsule with white wires coming out both sides ziptied to the radiator overflow frame. I opened it. "A burned out fuse. And a spare fuse."

If I'd looked at the wiring diagram, I would have saved us a lot of time, but I had mistakenly assumed the fuses were in the same place.

I put in the good fuse. 90% confident, I put the bike back together, and we headed up the hill. I watched the temperature climb past the midpoint. No fan.

This was not how I wanted the day to go. At least now that we knew we didn't have to disassemble the bike to change the fan fuse, I decided to try one more. What the hell, I have a pile of them, and they're cheap.

Michelle suggested, rightly, that we could test the fan by grounding the line that goes to the radiator fluid temperature sensor. We put in a new fuse and grounded the sensor line. The fan turned on. We ran it, cycled it, no problem. Two bad fuses? Maybe. 20% confident, I took off up the next hill.

No fan.

I forced myself to admit the unavoidable fact that there was a short.

It was 5 PM. Michelle suggested we go back down the hill a couple miles to a camp she'd seen. Coasting it was no problem, and we arrived in short order. The campsite was in the pines on a closed forest service road that was being reclaimed by the forest. The pile of dirt that closed the road was too steep for the bikes, but a quick side jaunt through the forest got them safely on the other side.

I took the bike apart again, and starting going over the wiring harness. It didn't take long to find a suspect: the head of a bolt had worked its way through the outer wrap and well into the insulation of a few wires in the bundle. Well, that could certainly be something. I couldn't tell that it had actually made it through the insulation of the wires, but it was close if not there. We also located the fan relay and inspected it, for what that's worth, which is zilch. I put a new fuse in. The outer wrap of the wiring harness was also being chafed by the upper engine mounting bracket, but it didn't appear to go through. I reinforced it with duct tape. I also wrapped the worn wires with duct tape, and rewrapped the harness with it. I also put a good couple layers of tape on top of the offending bolt. Oh, duct tape, is there nothing you can't fix?

But I wasn't convinced. See, we couldn't see the wire through the insulation, though the cut was deep. Was it just "close enough"?

Leaving the bike apart, I figured I'd check it again in the morning. We dined on cold food by the gorgeous campfire Michelle built. Not a soul came by the entire night. The moon shone down through the trees, and the stars were coming out. I love wild camping!

Went to bed about 9:45 to get an early start on the day. Visions of needing to coax the bike back home without a fan instead of cruising the High Sierra kept me restless, but I managed to get some shut-eye.

The next morning, the birds were going crazy before the sun came up. What a fantastic sound! A woodpecker was working a highly-acoustic pine tree nearby for rhythm. Michelle wasn't up yet, but I walked a short distance down the closed road for a good view southwest. It was a great, clear morning. The bike *had* to work!

We looked over the wiring again. There was nothing more to do that was sensible (I wasn't going to cut open the entire harness). If the short was in the relay, we could try to bypass it, but that was more surgery than I wanted, and the relay was probably fine. If the short was in the fan, there was nothing we could do.

I put the bike back together (good thing I bring two tubes of loctite), and fired it up. The fan came ON! Praise Every Deity! Of course, we'd seen that before.

We broke camp and headed up the hill again, brimming with 20% confidence. But at the next uphill, the fan came on again. 50%! And again! 80%! Ok, then! The fan remained functional for the rest of the trip! Victory from the jaws of defeat! THIS is why I carried all those fuses with me for the past two years!

Now we were getting somewhere! The shelf road afforded astounding views out toward the foothills and valley. Down trees had already been cleared. Cutting through a saddle, the road was hewn from sharp old sedimentary rock, giving a seriously bumpy uphill ride. But, cresting, it turned to wonderful pine forest dirt once again, and was almost damp in places.

On the left was the turnoff for Devil Peak Lookout. The book said the gate might be closed near the summit, but, then again, it might not be! We turned up the gravel road to check it out.

The gate was open, so we proceeded through for the last switchbacks, which are always the worst of them when climbing a peak. Just before the last turn, the road was covered with loose rock and dirt, but wasn't too much trouble. And then it tried to turn into pavement, but was about 30% potholes over one lane. A significant and scary drop was on the left, and this wasn't the sort of place that bothered with rails. On the last switchback, the drop became a bona fide Abyss. If the bike went off, it would likely tumble over 1000 vertical feet before coming to a rest, so try not to overshoot it.

And then the parking lot. The vista!! The Valley stretched forever, with the coast range visible through the haze 75 miles away! The Sierra towered above to the east, snowcapped and wonderful. Granite domes were everywhere, and water cascaded through distant and ancient granite canyons. Mammoth Mountain could be seen to the distant east.

The lookout was closed and unmanned.

It was a great vista, but there was a lot more to see. I gingerly coaxed my bike, engine off and feet down, around the Scary Switchback, and then back down the hill. Going was easy. The route wound along another shelf, and I could see the lookout far behind and above us. The forest was green, the sky was blue, and the road twisted through all of it. Soon we arrived at the Miami motorcycle park, and there were a few bikes and ATVs out.

Michelle rode to a stop, and indicated her rear tire. "Well, guess what," she asked dryly. Yes, there was a nail through it. It's good she has a centerstand. In two shakes of a lamb's tail, she had the back wheel off, but not before a nice OHV gent brought us a tool chest and a tire pump to borrow. (For the record, we had everything we needed, but that big-size tire pump was a lot better than my little bicycle pump!)

The beads resisted being pushed into the well, but we won out. We made a half-hearted attempt to patch the tire, but in the end just put in the spare tube I had (good thing we both have 17" rear rims.) Don't trust patches, and we botched it up anyway.

It took a lot less time to fix the flat than my electrical problem, so I didn't have any complaints. We were on the road again. The pine was giving way to oak and scrub as we descended. At a complex intersection, we misread the instructions, and got on Old Yosemite Road on accident, and then ended up on highway 41, having missed a small amount of the route.

Oh well. Next time. We went to Fish Camp a few miles up the road to water and food, blasting away on the tractionful asphalt. I never noticed a difference in performance due to elevation on this trip, for what it's worth.

The nice guys in the store sold us snacky cakes, and refilled our camelbacks, and told us the part of the trip we were about to experience was one of the best. Excellent!

We doubled back on 41 a short distance, and then turned left on Jackson Road. This headed off toward Big Sandy Campground and Fresno Dome. The road was super fine, and the blue sky continued to contribute to the great day.

Now, I wasn't so much nervous as excited that I was about to do my first real creek crossing. The guy at the store in Fish Camp said it was no problem, and the water was down to about a foot deep. I'd already installed the Y mod on my KLR to keep it from dying in water crossings, so I wasn't worried about that in any case. I just didn't want to take a dip!

We got to the creek, and it was even lower than a foot; maybe 8 inches at the deepest. It started as sand, and then transitioned to rocks. I successfully tested the waterproof claim on my Alpinestars Scouts and waded across the creek so I could shoot video of Michelle crossing, and then hand her the camera to record my historic moment.

I got on and gunned it with gusto! The sand was fine; things shifted a bit when I hit the rocks, but no problem. She straightened right up and out we went, huffing and steaming. I hit the water fast enough to get some through my open visor, so that was awesome! Lots of fun!

We were at Big Sandy Campground at this point, which looks like a nice place to camp.

The road from there narrowed a bit, but was still easier than some of the stuff we'd done that morning, and was still nice and tree-lined.

We came across two horses and their riders at a place the road was quite wide, fortunately. Michelle was there first. I didn't see it, but she apparently slowed to a crawl, and one of the horses freaked out and almost bucked its rider. Michelle stopped the bike and killed the engine, and climbed off on the side away from the horses. I came on the scene and she signaled me to slow. I killed my motor and waited on the bike.

I talked to the people, because I understand horses like to know that there's a person there. But this horse was having none of it. He walked sideways as he went past, always keeping me in sight with this wild-eyed look. I talked, but did not move. Horses scare the heck out of me!

Once they were down the trail a bit, we fired up and moved on, perhaps more confident in our less-spookable steeds.

Another creek crossing presented itself. For this one, the creek ran along the road bed (or vice versa) for about 40 feet. On the far side, there was a bit of pavement, but it was eroded out by the water and was steep and a big step to ride up. I was thinking, a year ago, this would have been something I wouldn't have tried. But not this time! I just got out in the creek, no problem, and then headed to the right side of the road, and rode around the step and back onto the dirt. Perfect! Apparently improvement is possible!

The road now was headed for the Fresno Dome trailhead. I let Michelle range ahead a bit so I didn't eat her dust too badly (I already had far too much of the Sierra in my eyes), and this time managed to lose track of her. It seemed like I hadn't seen her for ages, and I was just climbing higher into the hills. Patches of snow appeared along the road. An afternoon Sierra cloud obscured the sun. It suddenly felt quite remote. Where was she?

I gave it the beans and eventually caught up to her dust trail, phew!

But that's not her! That's a truck and trailer! Did I miss a turn? I stopped the bike and consulted the map and GPS. I was still on track. I must just have been slow. I went to move on, but was mistakenly in 3rd gear. I realized the problem, pulled in the clutch, but it was too late. The engine made a few more half-hearted attempts to turn over, and died. Perfect!

I'd had this happen before, and I had to wait several minutes before the bike would start. My speculation at the time was that I'd flooded it, and maybe this was a similar circumstance. So I waited a couple minutes, and the bike fired up. Michelle was waiting just around the next corner.

From that point, the road got semi-paved and wider, and then dumped us out on paved two-lane road. We blasted away into the afternoon light, and I was amazed to rediscover that I couldn't upshift past 5th, it had been so long since I'd run out of gears.

The paved road came and went, and the scenery was just more and more fantastic, with pines, impossibly green meadows, towering granite outcrops, and as-always-blue sky. We stopped to take in vistas and took a quick jaunt down a massive Sierra meadow. It was just magical.

Riding on, we passed a sign that said Globe Rock. And there was a car-sized globe-shaped rock perched on a natural granite pedestal just a stone's-throw from the road. We had to stop and take pictures of this natural wonder, and its rustic, hand-crafted marker sign.

But all good things must come to an end, and we arrived, at last, on the paved Minarets Road which snaked its way down to the valley. We carved our way down, turn after turn, and stopped at the Mile High Vista, which blessed us with excellent views of the Sierra and Mammoth Pool Reservoir. If we'd known, we would have stopped a quarter mile down the road where the view was even better; next time!

We arrived in North Fork and gassed up, and, with about 200 more miles to go to get home, pressed on to Los Banos. There, we two weary and dirty travelers did enjoy some good Mexican food for a leisurely 30 minutes, and then bundled up and headed for home, an hour and 45 minutes away.

One more gas stop in Livermore, and then I finally rolled home at 11 PM, beat but very, very happy.

Trip totals:

Day 1: 227 miles, 9 on dirt
Day 2: 324 miles, approximately 50 on dirt
Totals: 551 miles, 59 on dirt

The route: http://goo.gl/maps/gLIC2
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post #2 of 5 Old 05-27-2013, 08:17 AM
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Great writeup, beejjorgensen! I appreciate you taking the time to compose it. Yeah, videos are great, but I think people get more of a feel for a trip from a more-personal, written account with some great photos. True "old world craftsmanship" hearkening back to the pre-Internet days when you had to mail off your story and photos to a riding magazine to get it published there. You did a great job chronicling your adventure.

Looks like a spectacular area to ride. Well done!

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post #3 of 5 Old 05-27-2013, 02:19 PM
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^^ what he said

Never ride faster than your angels can fly
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post #4 of 5 Old 06-01-2013, 07:11 PM
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Great stuff there Beej!

We got to meet one of these days. You're just across the bay after all.... Snakeboy and I were just talking about you last weekend on our Stonyford / Mendocino trip..

Your friend is on a sweet Funduro! I'm picking one up just like it next week. Same color and everything. I'd like to pick your brain about your observations of her bike sometime.


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post #5 of 5 Old 06-02-2013, 07:56 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Cabrito View Post
We got to meet one of these days. You're just across the bay after all....
Agree! Be warned, though, that my special weakness is "planning things".

Your friend is on a sweet Funduro! I'm picking one up just like it next week. Same color and everything. I'd like to pick your brain about your observations of her bike sometime.
Her's would be the better brain to pick—she's taken the thing solo to Guatemala and back. She bought it used with ~20K on it.

Since then, she's ridden it another 35K. Still going strong, apparently. She's way more skilled on dirt with that bike on a bald front tire than I am on my KLR, that's for sure.

She has a 7+ gallon tank on it, as well.

My observation is that everywhere I've been comfortable riding my KLR, she has been more than comfortable on the BMW.
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