Monday, July 30, 2012

The VFR is BACK ... kind of

I've been doing some work on my VFR recently.  Suspension improvements, valve clearance adjustments, bodywork repairs, and so forth.  Major work.  Well, I "finished" a few days ago and it's ready to ride again. So I took it out for a little spin on Saturday.

Some friends were doing a weekend (Friday-Sunday) ride in the North Georgia/East Tennessee/Western North Carolina mountains.  I decided to ride up and join them, but I only had one day to do it.  So it ended up being a long day.

They were planning to hit the Blue Ridge Parkway, ride it up past Asheville, then turn around and ride back. I figured that was a wide enough window that we couldn't miss each other.  They'd be heading back west on the Parkway, while I was eastbound.  A couple texts along the way to let each other know where we were was the plan.  

As it turned out, I got a late start and I ran into them on the Parkway before I even had a chance to text them.  I had stopped at the Pisgah Inn and turned on my phone but my phone was taking its sweet time getting a data connection so I decided to let it talk to the network while I rode on.  Not long after that, I see some familiar faces (and bikes) approaching me in the opposite direction!  I slammed on the brakes, turned around, and gunned it to catch them.  So we didn't even need the texts to meet up.  Shortly after meeting up we snapped some of the pictures you see below.

Here's a map of the route I think I rode (not starting from my home, but from a generic point).  According to my odometer, I rode 563 miles on the day.

View Larger Map

I explored a few new roads on the way up (around Lake Rabun).  Did some old classics (Wolf Pen Gap, Richard Russell Parkway, Warwoman Road, Hwy 28, Hwy 215, etc.), too.

On the way back, while stopped for gas, one of the locals gave us a nice tip to take Pine Creek Road (turns into Walnut Creek Road) all the way to Hwy 28/64, then turn south to Highlands, rather than the North Norton Road/Norton Road route I had hoped to talk my friends into taking.  GREAT suggestion, and we'll remember that for the future.

My plan in general while in that area is to try to avoid Hwy 64 between Highlands and Hendersonville as much as possible.  After riding 64 many, many times I have decided that I hate it.  I mean, it's a nice road, but I've had enough parades in my life.  Seriously, there are some SLOW TOURISTS on that road that just grind that thing to a halt.

Speaking of grinding to a halt, on my way up traffic was completely stopped on I-285 just east of I-75.  Not sure what happened, but after sitting for a while they opened it back up.  They must have just finished clearing a wreck off the road.  Gotta love Atlanta.  Stuff like that happens regularly.

I also ran into the same situation on the way home, somewhere on Hwy 76/515/5.  Road was blocked and we sat there for a while while a flatbed truck pulled a wrecked car off the road.  More wasted time.

Had the normal amount of cars pulling out in front of me, just because they can.  They look at me, see a motorcycle, and just pull out in front of me.  Seriously, they realize that they have more mass than I do and deliberately decide they don't have to obey traffic laws.  Happened again on Sunday, in normal city driving.  Guy looked right at me and pulled out in front of me while he had a red light and I had a green.  Police are all over that (not).

On one occasion a guy on a Harley pulled right out in front of me on the Parkway.  He and his herd of stupid sheep were pulling out of an overlook parking lot.  Dude was looking to see whether his fellow sheep were following him and didn't even look at the road as he pulled out, right in front of me.  I buzzed right past him and just shook my head.

Vic recounted another fun encounter with an idiot on a Harley.  Apparently the dude chased him to an overlook and wanted to fight him or something.  Just because Vic safely passed him.  I don't know what's wrong with some people.

After a nice dinner in Dillard, Georgia I had to hit the road to get back.  I had a little bit of light, but it got dark soon.  I elected to take the simple, straightforward route back (76/515/5/575/etc.).  Vic was concerned about deer because I was riding so late.  And he was right, I rode right past one, about three feet from me!  Seriously.

But it wasn't as bad as it sounds.  Since I was in "get home safely" mode at that point, I was on a somewhat major road.  And at the time I saw the deer I was the third vehicle in a small convoy (a deliberate riding choice given the time of night).  As such, I didn't even see the deer until the second vehicle drove past it, allowing me to see it.  It was just standing there, by the side of the road, either unconcerned with traffic or paralyzed by it.  So, yes, I guess you could say I had a close call with a deer, but it wasn't as bad as it sounds if I were to only tell you that I missed a deer by three feet!

Finally, some pictures:

Man, that picture of the VFR is beautiful.  Great to be riding it again!  Great day, all things considered.

Unfortunately, it's not all good news.  The bike sat too long while I took my sweet time on the repairs.  It appears that the carburetors are now gummed up, particularly the low speed circuits, the pilot jets.  The bike now stutters at low rpm, doesn't idle cleanly, and doesn't have the low and mid-range power it used to have.

It was very difficult to ride it quickly.  In the past I could leave the bike at a low rpm, say 4-6000 rpm and glide through a series of turns.  But now the bike stutters and doesn't get a good drive out of corners.  Therefore I ended up having to shift a lot more, to keep the bike in a higher rpm range all the time and sidestep the lower rpm stuttering and lack of power.  Not a problem, per se, but that should be one of the VFR's strengths, that you don't have to do that.  The VFR was missing an essential element of its character on Saturday.  Still a fun ride, but not the same.

Maybe some Sea Foam will help.  If not, the VFR will go under the knife again for some carb work.   :(