Tag Archives: Ultra Classic

Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage on the Grand Princess – Fourth Post

Skagway is accessible by car and draws a great many recreational vehicles. My brothers-of-the-road represented Harley-Davidson with motorcycles from Florida and Kentucky. Two or three of the Harleys had couples riding. The women had to be good sports. Some off brand two wheeled vehicles were allowed in town. I saw five BMWs from the Canadian Province of Quebec.

Cathy and Princess

Cathy in front of the Grand Princess tied up in Skagway.

It was overcast and chilly when we disembarked for the morning. It warmed up and was great weather all day.

Once again we opted out of any organized tours. Shuttles run from the docks to Skagway and beyond from early morning until the last cruise ship departs. We got one of the good drivers who gave us a running talk about the town.

One pays when exiting the bus. The shuttles have two options, two dollars for each trip or five for unlimited rides. I found it surprising the number of people who took the two dollar choice. I got a better deal. Our driver announced, “I refuse to charge veterans. If you’re a vet let me know.” When I reached him I Said, “U.S. Navy” and rattled off my serial number. He stamped my hand for unlimited rides.

The man behind me wore a submarine service cap. As he handed over his money, the driver said, “No sir” and reached to stamp his hand. The man said, “It’s my son’s, he serves. I didn’t.” Two men, both class acts.

Harley Davidson

None of the Harley-Davidson stores we visited sold motorcycles or parts.

This outlet did not have an authorized Harley-Davidson sign visible on the outside. I have a feeling it’s the result of some local ordinance because none of the franchised stores in town had a company logo visible.

I splurged and bought two T-Shirts. In addition to the usual pocket T-Shirt, I saw a great looking design on a bright yellow T-Shirt. She-who-must-be-obeyed was not happy. Oh well, once in a while one must show a little rebellious behavior.

Back on the shuttle, we rode out to one of the must see destinations. We glanced at each other. “Nope, it’s a tourist trap.” We stayed on the bus. The next attraction received the same response. Riding back to town gave us an opportunity to interrogate the driver.

We stopped at the local museum. Cathy and I have travelled to Europe and Asia. We always make it a point to visit hardware and grocery stores. The ones in Skagway are nowhere as interesting as those in Japan, but the items they stock, are different enough to make it worth ones time. Over at the IGA Grocery store, apples were almost three dollars apiece.

Homes sell from $25,000 up to $400,000. All are small. Building materials must be brought in from great distances and there are no local construction companies. Our driver told us about a house built by a man and his family. Construction of a single room and bathroom was accomplished one summer, over the next four or five years the home was completed. The family now lives in a seven-hundred square foot house.

Here is an interesting story, “We don’t get much snow here. We have sustained winds of 50 MPH up the channel. The snow is dumped in the ocean. What we get comes in horizontally. We get two or three inches of ice sheets dropped here.”

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Looking down the main street one can see another Princess cruise ship docked at the end. Parking is limited to fifteen minutes with a threat of towing. Oddly, an Ultra Classic Harley Davidson, Kentucky license plate, was parked on the street for at least five hours. It was not cited, nor was it towed. But then we never saw a single police officer or cop car.

When it came time to return to the ship, I bought three bags of popcorn and hopped on a shuttle. As I should have expected, she dumped me. “I’ll walk. It’s only a mile or so.” Thirty years of marriage and she still has the energy of a teenager.

While I was writing, a choral group of Grand Princess Passengers put on a show in a nearby lounge. The sound was outstanding. They finished up with Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. Their rendition brought tears to the beast’s eyes.

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We cruised past this small glacier high in the mountains around 10:00 p.m. It was so beautiful, I had to get up and take this picture. The last time we traversed this channel to the sea, it was afternoon. I spent hours looking through my binoculars while wrapped in a blanket with a good cigar and a glass of Jack Daniels. It was a great experience.

Times have changed. I gave up cigars, rarely drink, and forgot my binoculars. If I didn’t know better I’d think I was getting old. Nah!

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I won’t ever do this again.

PSWA Sign

I attended the Public Safety Writers Association Annual Conference this week at the Orleans Hotel, Las Vegas. The conference was a smashing success and I will be back next year.

What is it that I won’t ever do again?

I rode my Ultra Classic Harley Davidson from Carson City to Las Vegas. The two-day ride wasn’t bad. The weather was hot, hovering around 100º to 102º.

Las Vegas to home is another matter. I left at 1:00 p.m. and rode 302 miles. The Amber Alert signs warned of heavy traffic to California and major delays. They weren’t kidding.

Eleven miles outside Primm I-15 traffic stopped dead. I split lanes to Primm. It took 35 minutes. If I hadn’t, I’d probably still be there. I ‘forgot’ that Nevada frowns on motorcyclists who enjoy this time saver. I got honked at a few times by folks riding in air-conditioned cages.

Ten miles east of Baker, California I realized that it was hotter than anything I had ever experienced. Temperatures in the low hundreds are uncomfortable, this was painful.

I stopped in Baker for fuel and to hydrate. Asking folks in their air-conditioned cages the temperature, provided a consensus of 112º. The highest I’ve ever ridden in. After downing two Gatorades in four swallows, I got on the Ultra. My dark glasses burnt my nose, the grips stung my hands, but the kicker was my seat. I stood up on the floor board and dropped onto the HOT black leather. Not only did I burn my thighs, I scorched everything in between. Ouch.

Weather.com lists the high as 110º.

I’m spending the night at Motel 6, Button Willow. I will be up at dawn with the goal of being home before the sun has a chance cook me again.

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12th Annual Brown Water Run

Day 2 – 7/6/2013

What is an Axiom? An “axiom is a premise so evident as to be accepted as true without controversy”.

Keith “Axiom” Wallace is always the first Brown Water Runner up. By the time anyone else is awake, Keith is out by the motorcycles with a cigarette in one hand, and a cup of coffee in the other. It wouldn’t be fair to tell you that the third part of the Axiom is that he is always the last one ready to ride. It wouldn’t be fair because he couldn’t get ready to ride with his Ultra broke down.

Saturday was no exception. Keith was up first but he had to walk four blocks before he found a cup of coffee. When the other riders came out, there he was coffee and cigarette in hand.

Our planned route took us over SR-58 to Button Willow across the Central Valley, on to CA-178 to Lake Isabella. The next leg was to US 395 and north to Bishop. California was suffering from a heat wave. The area around Lake Isabella and north was listed on weather maps as “Extreme Heat”. We’ve ridden this route before and even at the best of times, it is a miserable ride.

We all agreed it would be dangerous, foolish, to follow the original plan. We decided to take CA-41 east. This allowed us to stay on the same highway until we reached CA-120 near Yosemite. CA-120 took us to Tioga Pass. Tioga Pass is one of the best rides in the state.

This did increase our ride from 340 miles to 362 and from seven hours to almost nine. It was worth it.

The first leg of the day was CA-1 to CA-41. Mike Foster checked his GPS and made this announcement for all to hear, “It’s 19 miles to 41.”

Once we were all fueled and ready, I lead the group to CA-1 and headed north. Imagine my surprise when less than a half mile later I saw a sign for CA-41. I quickly, much too quickly, crossed from the fast lane over and on to the off ramp. I jumped from the Ultra and began waving the riders off the highway. Once I had everyone off, including the Train Mobile, I returned to the front of the pack.

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The temperature in Morro Bay was chilly. Once we crossed the mountains and approached the Central Valley, it heated up. It was hot.

SR 41 at SR 33

Gassing up before crossing I-5 gave us an opportunity to shed our heavier clothing. It was now T-Shirt riding time.

Oakhurst

After lunch in Oakhurst, Keith’s Peace Officer Special Edition Ultra would not start. Up onto the Train Mobile trailer it went for the next three days. The electrical system decided it would rather ride a trailer than run the motorcycle.

Saturday on the 4th of July Weekend in Yosemite was hectic. Traffic was beyond heavy. A young man who apparently drove at excessive speed went off CA-120 and over the edge at a tight corner. He was lucky and ran up a tree. One of the two lanes was closed. Getting through the area once again split the group into several segments.

Tioga Pass is one of the most beautiful rides in the state. We made one brief stop at Tuolumne Meadows for water and gas. We were enjoying ourselves so much, we all neglected to take pictures. Going over the 10,000 foot pass it got a tad cool, but not enough for anyone to add layers. Tioga is always a great ride.

Once over the pass it was down to US-395 and south to Bishop. The pool at the Motel 6 was soon the scene of a gaggle of middle aged men in ugly shorts. A dip or two helped cool our overheated heads. A bucket of KFC Chicken made for the ultimate dinner and end to a great day.

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12th Annual Brown Water Run

Day 1 – 7/5/2013

Twelve years ago we began a motorcycle riding tradition, the Brown Water Run. That first year we had about seven or eight riders. This year we had twenty-four riders and one chase vehicle.

Ken Green came the furthest, Scottsdale, Arizona. I’d say it was a tie with Keith Wallace, but one has to ride a motorcycle to complete the BWR. Keith’s Ultra Classic broke down before the ride even began. Our chase car driver/mechanic, Lauren Camera, managed to get it running Friday morning. But Saturday, the 6th it gave up the ghost (twice). Keith finished the ride in the chase vehicle. Before the BWR, he spent something like $1,600 getting the electrical system repaired. Can you guess what failed? Yes, you’re right the electrical system.

Zacs

We began the 5th with seventeen of us having breakfast at Zac’s Restaurant in Dublin, California. About halfway through breakfast, a very attractive lady came into the restaurant. She looked about somewhat confused. After a moment or two she approached the group. “Are you all going on a motorcycle trip?”

A chorus of “yeses” echoed throughout the room.

To which the young lady responded, “Where’s Keith?”

Told that Keith had broken down, her shoulders drooped, she seemed to collapse within herself. She said, “I’m his daughter. He called me. He told me to be here.” She did not appear to be a happy camper.

Ultimately Keith arrived on his questionable steed.

At the appointed hour, seventeen motorcycles and the Train Mobile departed on the first leg of our adventure. The ride over the Santa Cruz Mountains and down State Route 1 to Carmel was picture perfect. I was leading when a strange thing occurred. Jim Kennemore passed me up and took over lead. My first thought, “Was I going too slow?” It soon became apparent that was not the case as Jim did not increase the speed, if anything he slowed somewhat. I was confused.

That evening when we were alone, I asked him, “Why did you pull in front of me on seventeen? You didn’t speed up.”

Much to my surprise his answer was, “To slow you down, you were going too fast.” That was a shocker. The last few times over this roadway, I was criticized for going much too slow.

At Carmel we picked up three more riders. Getting out of the gas station and back on the road was a fiasco. Instead of one cohesive group we had at least four clusters. We did not get back together until we reached Morro Bay.

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We stopped near San Simeon and visited the sea elephants. If you ever get the chance, stop and watch these behemoths.

One group of riders stopped to eat at a large tourist trap. I’m told it took upwards of an hour to get their meals.

We picked up another four riders in Morro Bay. These folks came up from Los Angeles.

I wish I had the room to list all the great people who joined us on this ride. I will point out a pair of wounded warriors, Paul Wallace and Byron Atwater. Less than a month ago Paul fell off of his bicycle. Yes, bicycle. He suffered a punctured lung and several broken ribs. When his daughters learned that he rode the BWR, they had a hissy fit. Dad Wallace was placed on probation by the girls and his grandson. For Shame!

Byron had a double hernia operation three weeks before the ride. However, he had permission to ride. His lovely wife, who always sends chocolate chip cookies, gave him permission to ride. She assigned their son-in-law, Brad Bell to keep a close eye on Byron. To make his ride a better experience, Byron purchased an Ultra Classic.

GDC 24 MCs 1 Truck

The white Dodge truck is Lauren Camera’s Train Mobile. He has a real train whistle that he plays from time to time. Once in Burney Falls he sounded off and created pandemonium. There are no train tracks near this small mountain town. Everyone except us BW Runners stopped cold and looked in all directions for the train. Lauren has a habit of picking the perfect time and place to sound off. If the horn doesn’t get you, the authentic train bell mounted under the truck certainly will.

I’m leaning on Keith “Axiom” Wallace’s Ultra Classic. My touch gave it enough strength to run for a few more hours.

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Jim Kennemore – OPD Leather God

J.A. Kennemore 1980
Jim Kennemore – 1980

Some have wondered about JAK aka Jim Bob aka James Kennemore. He’s a great friend, albeit much older. We met in the nineties, when I hired him at Frasco Investigations after he was referred by a mutual friend. Jim had been retired from Oakland Police for a number of years by then. When Jim retired, his wife insisted he get a job. He resisted and held her at bay for years. Finally Sue put her foot down, get a job or else.

When Jim came in for an interview, I wanted to talk about Harley-Davidson Motorcycles. Jim said, “I want a job, but I don’t want to work.” His wish was to tell Sue, “I got a job, now get off my back.”

I won’t claim that our relationship was a marriage made in heaven. We both got something out of it. I got a buddy who is a great story teller. Jim told Sue he had a job. He told me, “I don’t want to work more than three hours a week.” I can’t imagine what he told Sue.

Most days I rode my DynaWideGlide to work. It wasn’t long before Jim wanted to get a motorcycle. Once again Sue put her foot down, “No way in hell are you getting another motorcycle.”

In 2001, my wife got me a Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic. It was a Peace Officer special at a reduced price. The Ultra was the second motorcycle Cathy gave me. The first was a bored out, customized Honda 750. It could get to 115 mph in a minute.

I had to get rid of the DynaWideGlide. I made Jim a foolish offer he couldn’t refuse. Cathy had a fit, “you gave the bike away to Kennemore”. She still reminds me what a fool I was. Jim on the other hand whined that I was screwing his eyes out. I didn’t pay any attention to either of them. I had a great new bike. I still have it.

The Ultra will probably be my last motorcycle. Whenever I get dreamy at a Harley Dealership, Cathy is ready. “You will be buried on your Ultra.”

What is a man to do?

A few years later, I had to return from Sturgis by air. Jim rode the Ultra back. He was hooked and got an Ultra of his own. I often wonder what he told Sue.

We have a couple of extended rides planned for this summer. I’ll tell you about our plans later.

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