Scorpion Bay

Scorpion Bay:

This is a long route for those wanting to cruise the roads of North Phoenix.  The route begins at Grinders Coffee on Dunlap just East of Central Avenue.  Get filed up with fuel, caffeine, and carbohydrates if necessary.  Then ride Northeast along Cave Creek Road to the Carefree Highway, North on 7th Street and up to New River on New River Road.  Then down Southwest still on New River Road until we once again find ourselves on the Carefree Highway.  Hang a right and navigate our way up to Dillon’s BBQ at the Scorpion Bay marina for some good food, fun, and road safe drink.  We then depart and follow Lake Pleasant Parkway South to Union Hills Road.  We’ll then meander through Peoria, and North Phoenix taking a few roads that take you around a mountain or two and back up to Happy Valley road.  Following Happy Valley Road East and then South as it turns back into 7th Street we will continue on 7th Street until Dunlap where we return to Grinders Coffee.

The map below is still under construction.  Google Maps is one frustrating tool to work with and so I have some route adjustments to make particularly when we reach Lake Pleasant parkway.  The route that is drawn that takes you along 83rd Avenue is not exactly how I intended it to be so I will be making adjustment that should automagically update here when completed.  Additionally the first half of the ride from Grinders Coffee to Dillon’s does not reflect total mileage and so I’d like to correct for that as well.  This is a route that I intend to keep posed here indefinitely as it’s one I would like to do on my own on a regular basis.

Saddlesore 1000

I will be leaving for a loop through the four corners region on what I hope to be my first successful attempt for the SaddleSore 1000 IBA challenge.  This ride of 1078 miles takes me up through Payson, AZ and into Durango, Co where I intend to have breakfast, around past Telluride, CO, through Monument Valley, and back home.  The ride itself is estimated to take almost 19 hours which is cutting it very very close and so my confidence is not high that I will be successful.  Departure time will be sometime late evening on 8/20.  I’m estimating between 10 and 11 pm.

A successful IBA ride is secondary to a successful return home from the ride itself, but I’ll give it my best effort and be as safe as possible along the way.  The average speed needed to accomplish this is pretty high, at nearly 45mph, but perhaps there will be legs along the way that will allow me to make up time and possibly get ahead.

Here is a map of the route itself.

If I do it correctly, you should also be able to track my progress on here.

I suspect that once I begin the tracking for this ride the map at SpotWalla will update.

If time permits, and I have access to data, I will try to post updates and photos.

Update 1:  10:29. A bit early, but I am on the clock. Next stop will be Payson Arizona. I have my sour candy for the rescue!

Update: 12:14am  Lonely stop in Payson. Made pretty good time and got myself ahead of my pace by about 30 minutes which I’m sure I’ll eat up North of Durango. Whether is perfect.  A cool 68 degrees under the moonlight. The smell of pine in the air, country music playing overhead through the gas station’s overhead speakers. Nary a car in motion everywhere.

Next stop either Holbrook Arizona  or Gallup New Mexico.

Update: 05:27 New Mexico time. Just had breakfast early since I’m unsuspectingly freezing. I’m in Gallup New Mexico at 6500 feet with a temperature of 50 degrees. I expected it to get into the 50s as I checked the forecast however I apparently had forgotten exactly how cool that was. Fortunately as I head north from there the temperature will increase about 10 degrees.

Next stop, Farmington New Mexico. A small city where I spent most of my childhood growing up.

Update: 9:00. I’m on top of the world and almost half way through. Thought I would stop to take in a bit of the scenery I have been missing to fit this 1000 miles in in time.

Glad I did.

Update: 12:00 pm. I found Telluride. What a quaint little ski resort town full of rich people and the occasional hippie/transient. Lots of people wearing jewelry with their polo shirts while wielding walking sticks and Safari hats and over-sized sunglasses. There is an omnipresent scent of perfume in the air to go with with the pine and burgers.

I’m at almost 9000 feet in elevation and yet the mountains that surround the town on three sides tower above the town with authority.

Decided to eat at Florandora Saloon and ordered a Smugglers Reckoning Pale Ale and the Tavern Berger. Gruyere cheese, Slaw, caramelized onions, house made pastrami, and habenero 1000 island on Ciabatta.  I sided it with sweet potato chips.

I would not recommend this burger or the establishment. Perhaps I feel pressed for time because of my motivation for this ride but they don’t have a sense of urgency when seating and serving. The ambiance is right up my alley however being rustic and dark, and for that, if you are into that and in need of a drink, the bar seems to move patrons quickly.

As for the burger, it was underwhelming. I expected the pastrami to have a more flavorful punch, but instead it was flat and in addition to the size of the bun made biting the burger difficult. This was the 2nd time in three days that I have received a burger for which the bottom half of the bun was so dry that it fell apart while eating it. However even if the bun held together it would have still made a monstrous mess while eating it, which it did.

I was excited about the habanero 1000 island. I really wanted a bite of heat on the tongue with this burger but a last it was entirely missing. The dressing was there, the habanero however must have been out of season.

I could not taste the Gruyere cheese and the tomatoes were soft and lacked the acidity I expect from them. In the end, being the second most expensive burger they sell at $17, the only good thing I can say about it is that for that price I feel good that I’m helping keep this quaint little town alive. Although when looking at the clientele, I don’t think they would miss my contribution.

Two stars for the sweet potato chips, which were excellent, and the pale ale, which eased my disappointment in the burger.

And if he doesn’t  stop complaining about his eggs Benedict, I am inclined to throw my leftover Tavern burger at him.

Next stop, Cortez Colorado area.

Rebuild Complete

AJ’s motorcycles finally finished the rebuild of my Burgie’s engine after I suffered from a cracked and bent drive shaft I wrote about before.  They finished back in July and I was on the road that next month and riding to work.

Having purchased the scooter with 24,000 miles on it I was unaware of what a new Burgman scooter was like.  Having had almost daily conversations and updates about the scooter’s engine during the time it was being rebuilt I learned that the engine, while I thought was in fantastic shape, was in fact in a precarious situation.  The engine produced plenty of power however I did notice before the mishap that led to my repairs that the engine was beginning to emit a whine that was becoming increasingly louder over time.  As it turned out, two of the main bearings at each end of the flywheel had signs of being spun in their housings.  Additionally, I handled said bearings and was immediately shocked at how rough they were to spin in their races.  I immediately decided to have all bearings replaced.

As I mentioned in the Long Weekend post, the engine sounded great when I first started it up.  Sadly as I also indicated, I was unable to get the scooter to move.  The problem it turns out was that the primary pulley wasn’t set properly into a position that the computer could understand and so it tried putting the pulley into a position that bound the motor which resulted in a near failure of the rectifier due to an over-current condition.  Near meaning that at slow RPM it worked as expected however at higher RPM’s the rectifier couldn’t produce enough current causing the voltage to drop at the battery.

Before I realized the damage to the rectifier I was able to get the primary pulley, with the advise of the mechanic, Larry, of AJ’s motorcycles, into a position that the computer could work with by removing the pulley position sensor and manually turning the pulley to a mid position.  This meant that I had to get the back tire off the ground by putting the bike on the center stand and starting up the engine with the pulley motor unplugged.  Once I had done this I plugged in the motor, started the engine, and noticed as I watched through the hole the sensor occupies that that computer tried to position the pulley into a position that was once again wrong.  Having observed this I unplugged the motor, put the pulley into what I thought was center of it’s range.  With the scooter shut down I plugged in the pulley motor and remounted the position sensor.  I started up the bike and it came to life.  I was on the road again.

So what was it like?  As I mentioned before when I learned the scooter wouldn’t move, the engine sounded great.  It has the sound a high performance motor is expected to have and knowing the heritage this scooter motor comes from I shouldn’t be surprised, yet was.  Solid pops from each cylinder as they fired; instantaneous throttle response; split second from idle to 8000 RPM.  For a scooter, amazing.  The first thing I noticed when then CVT was alive and working was how much more quiet the whole scooter was.  The bearings were in fact worn significantly with the reason forever lost.  The sound I was hearing before the failure, and getting worse, had to have been the bearings failing.  Did the machine get run dry of oil by accident?  Bad Oil?  What causes such large bearings to begin to fail uniformly throughout the engine?

Not only did the scooter sound better and much quieter, it accelerated much more smoothly and consistently than before.  Gone was the slight hesitation just as the throttle was applied.  Gone was the flat spot in the RPM range between 2000 and 3000 RPM.  Those problems were replaced with the sounds of the wind in the helmet and the whine of the final drive, a sound I find pleasant to my ear.

Acceleration wasn’t much improved, but was noticeably smoother.  Vibration was significantly reduced in the feet, seat, and handlebar.  I already loved this scooter and here I was falling in love again.

Sadly however earlier this year I wrecked another scooter of mine.  A 2006 Honda Helix.  A cult classic of a scooter.  The damages to my body and the subsequent care required me to sell my Burgman to cover the balance of the hospital costs.  I still have what remains of the Helix, however I don’t believe I have it within my desire to get it repaired.  Time will tell.

Long Weekend

Two days of sweat,  blood,  and pain putting in the engine and rebuilding the Burgman has led me to a running scooter that won’t move. I’m getting the dreaded FI indicator and no sound from the CVT belt or control motor. Will spend the evening tonight reading trouble codes and following wires. I’m sure (fingers crossed) that the problem is a simple missed electrical connector.

On the bright side,  the rebuilt engine sounds great! I can’t wait to get back on it and break it in properly.

Nothing against you Victoria.


The Culprit

Since February I have torn down the scooter and sent in the engine to AJ’s Cycles on Deer Valley Road in Phoenix as the case has to be split in order to get to the drive shaft and I don’t have the skill set to attempt such a task. However since the case is going to be split I might as well have the mechanic replace some wear items while in there. These items will be a full complement of seals, the CVT belt, a couple of plastic CVT motor gears, bearings, and piston rings. The total cost in parts and labor will run me about $2200 but hopefully when all is done I’m resetting the bike for another 30,000 miles of trouble-free riding before any further costly work is needed. According to official Suzuki documentation the CVT belt shouldn’t need replacing for the life of the scooter, whatever that means, and by personally inspecting the used belt myself I can understand the claim. However since I don’t know the history if the first 30,000 miles and the complexity involved in replacing the belt, I simply feel good about making the replacement and so I’m doing so. The original belt, for the exception of a single nick, doesn’t even look used! You would think it was brand new! Truly amazing technology and I would surmise that this is the same technology that is used in today’s cars that have CVT transmissions.

What you are looking at above is the drive shaft. More specifically one of the ends of the drive shaft. The other end of it looks exactly the same however the evident twist is in the opposite direction. The splines are in place to interface a gear and a cog that are used to transfer power to the rear tire and to buffer torque being transferred back up into the engine. The completed assembly looks like the image below.

The drive shaft is made with a hardened tempered steel and by rights shouldn’t bend or twist.
However as you can see, not only did it twist it had actually started to crack. It was only a matter of time, a quick twist of the throttle before it twisted in two. I’m truly surprised that it got me home that night when it all occurred.

So what went wrong? I can only surmise. However if you study the next image I’ll give you my thoughts. But first let me try to explain how the assembly below works. As you can see, there is the drive shaft that is in my hand. On the drive shaft you see a drive gear, a bushing and nut, a spring, and between the spring and gear, if you look carefully, a cog which aligns with splines on the shaft. The gear without the cog in place, will spin freely on the shaft. It’s the job of the gear to transfer the tongue produced by the engine to the cog which in turn will transfer the torque to the drive shaft which spins a drive gear not shown in the image to a series of final drive gears and rear tire. What is important to remember is that the purpose of this simple yet involved assembly is to absorb shock going the opposite direction, from the tire to the engine, into the spring. That is accomplished by the spring becoming compressed when shock is transferred back up to the engine. Looking carefully at the image and at the gear, you see on the gear two barriers to the cog on the left and right side of the cog’s spline. These barriers and the cog is manufactured with a slight curvature which allows for movement of the cog in parallel to the drive shaft. That is, as the tongue is applied, the cog can move away from the gear but resisted by the effects of the spring. However I believe that because I was exiting the freeway and was traveling at a high rate of speed and in need of decelerating quickly, I forced the cog to jump over the barrier due to a combination of being on the throttle and breaking hard at the same time, something that is not hard to do on a “scooter”. Once the cog jumped over the barrier on the gear, a substantial release of inertia occurred that was counteracted by the forward motion and inertia of the scooter in whole and when the rotation of the gear bet with the cog rotating in the opposite direction loaded with torque being produced by the engine, the end result aside from a bouncing and chattering rear tire was a twisted and cracked drive shaft evident with twists of opposite direction on either end.

I’ve been told by the mechanic and people the mechanic has spoken to that Suzuki nor themselves have ever seen anything like this before. Well Suzuki, here it is. I have the original broken part if you’re interested.

So now I’m waiting for the engine to be finished being rebuilt. The people at AJ’s are very nice and competent people, but efficient they are not. I’ve had the engine with them since late February and I hope to have the engine back in my possession before August so I can begin assembly for the fall riding season. Right now I cannot recommend them for complicated engine repair, but they seem to be very responsive to high turnover work like tires, breaks, old, ignition, and other similar tasks. In those areas, I can recommend them since it’s those sort of jobs that is slowing my work and they do good work. Since however this not a review of AJ’s, I’ll just say that I will follow-up with my impression of the complicated work they are doing for me now in a future post.


Last March I became an owner of a Suzuki Burgman 650 maxi-scooter, the term given to very large and fast scooters.   Since that time I have fallen in love with riding and have discovered that when I cannot ride I quickly begin to exhibit the symptom of depression.  Riding can become, and I believe has become for me, a psychosis without all the other negative connotations that come with it save for the exception of death and mutilation.  But I digress.


Burgman 650

As it would turn out, I have been suffering withdrawal symptoms on a fairly regular basis.  About two weeks ago I was returning from an night out with the Phoenix Scooter Club and later watching live musical performances at The Lost Leaf.  I was traveling on I-17 northbound.  There was a light drizzle of rain that had fallen which nearly blanketed the ground with a light coat of water.  It was getting close to that dangerous point where the road could be made slick with oil having risen from the road and not yet washed away.  My helmet’s visor was speckled with small droplets of water creating a kaleidescope effect as the night lit freeway street-lighting, colorful signs, and the occasional vehicle taillight refracted and reflected through the water.

Through the moving kaleidescope of colors shortly ahead I started to make out the blinking yellow lights normally associated with construction vehicles and barricades.  Something the city was doing to the freeway or bridge required that all traffic be rerouted off the freeway at Dunlap Ave., however in typical City of Phoenix fashion I was given very little notice that I had to exit the freeway.  So little notice in fact that I had to make an abrupt exit as the construction cones intended to guide travelers off were angled sharply at the last second, giving maybe a quarter mile notice before an exit must be taken.  This late notice I believe was the cause for some confusion up ahead.  People were breaking heavily heading up the off-ramp and swerving to avoid collisions with one another.  I admit that I was traveling pretty quickly still at this point, half way between the actual exit and the intersection in front 100 yards of me, however I had plenty of space between myself and the vehicles ahead.  None-the-less, the sudden unexpected activity caused me to naturally react with a sudden and strong breaking of the scooter.   I squeezed both brake handles and decelerated like I have never before attempted with this machine.  The front tire skidded slightly after the scooter dove down deep onto the front forks, and the rear tire was reechoed upwards off a bump where the asphalt and concrete meet causing it to bounce violently along the ground.  I did not hear any chirping of tires, but there was a lot of shaking.  The scooter stayed upright and true and I was never fearful of how it was behaving under me, but it sure did take a beating from something in the road I did not see.

I managed to avoid the chaos ahead by a long shot.  The scooter slowed much more quickly than I ever imagined it could.  Everyone ahead did a good job working things out without becoming sudden close friends with an interest in each others vehicles, and before I could arrive at the intersection the signal turned green. Looking and clearing the intersection, I simply continued on without stopping and returned to the freeway on the other side of the Dunlap intersection never having come to a complete stop.

The rain was coming down pretty quickly by the time I was nearly home.  I was able to ride continuously without stopping for another signal light which was fortunate since that is virtually unheard of for me.  Red lights and Robert Downs go together like oatmeal and cookies.  Especially when it’s raining and I’m exposed in jeans and a textile jacket.

While slowing to navigate the turn into the driveway only to be pestered by the psychotic mechanical/electrical gatekeeper, I notice that the scooter was surging regardless of my throttle or brake input.  I thought for a moment that I might have a low or flat rear tire perhaps caused by the trauma it experienced a short while ago back on Dunlap when the rear tire was jolted.  I thought to myself that everything seemed fine for me after the situation, what could it possibly be?  While standing over the scooter, I tried leaning over to see if I could see the rear tire, but that is simply not possible on a scooter this size.

As my luck would have it when I reached the rear entrance to the apartments I call home, the electric gate wouldn’t open for me.  This has never been a problem before, but since it was raining pretty heavily on me now I think it copped an attitude for being asked to work in this weather and decided to ignore me.  I entered my code multiple times in a sheer brute force attempt to prove the definition of insanity thinking the result would somehow be different every time.  I swear I could heard the machine’s laughter from every beep resulting from the aggressively smashed  key press of the keypad. I decided to give up on this and shut the scooter off so I could make use of the fob.  I once again attempted to define insanity by frantically waving the fob around the front of the wicket gatekeeper.  Upon realizing the futility of my efforts, I finally succumbed to the notion that I will have to figure out how to get turned around and try my luck with the gatekeeper at the front of the facility.

I knew something was wrong because of the surging I felt when I pulled up, however now I know something is really wrong.  I needed to get turned around and looking about i figured I would have to back the machine up, pull forward a bit, back up some more and repeat the process until I was facing the other direction.  However as I pushed back I was only able to move the scooter about a foot before it got stuck.  I looked behind me to see if maybe I’m backing up into the curb but I see that I sill had several feet to maneuver.  Being that I couldn’t get it back any further for whatever reason, I tried moving forward to negotiate a best effort U-turn.  Since I couldn’t get backed up as far as I needed I was unable to get the U-turn negotiated before running out of room before running into the curb on the other side of the driveway.  So the only choice I thought I had at the time was to try and get the scooter backed up again, about 3 feet, so I can clear the curb and be on my way.

This is where things got interesting.  By now I was starting to realize that something in the drive-train was causing a bind that would come and go.  I put my foot down to push back and just as I pushed my left foot slipped on the wet asphalt.  The scooter started to tip to the left. I tried again to catch it, but again my left foot slipped.  In my panic to gather my footing, as the scooter was falling over I twisted the throttle which threw the scooter into the curb crushing the bodywork and the mounting posts for it.   I fortunately was able to somehow manage to clear the scooter as it fell and when the fall was complete I was standing beside the scooter on the sidewalk with holding the throttle grip I managed to rip off of it during this process in my right hand.  There was broken plastic everywhere.  My stomach sank as I looked at pearl white pieces of my Burgie laying on the black like eggshells of a dropped egg.  The sound crushing plastic and scraping metal replayed in my mind multiple times in only a brief moment I stood there before I tried lifting it back up onto its center stand. I was devastated.

Lifting the scooter was amazingly easy as the adrenaline and anger made the 600 pound scooter feel like it weighed 10.  I shoved the throttle grip back into its proper place and rode to the other entrance without incident.  The gate, long before it normally would open, gleefully opened for me, as if to be greeting and welcoming me with a crooked smile.  I parked my poor damaged Burgie on its center stand in the garage and witnessed with the engine still running that the rear tire wasn’t turning as it normally would when off the ground.  I instantly knew the gravity of the damage incurred.  I shut her off and looked forward to realize the extent the effect a concrete curb can have on the bodywork up front.  The realization of the cost for this fix nearly made me sick to my stomach.  I could not stop replaying the events of that ride home and thinking of anything I could have done differently that might have been out of character for me that had I maybe decided a bit differently the outcome would have been significantly different.  Perhaps if I had been moving 10 MPH slower coming off of the freeway maybe.  Or perhaps I stopped to take a photo of the 30,000th mile I rolled just as I was leaving for home.  Who knows.  All I was certain of was that this was going to be an expensive fix an my riding plans for the summer were suddenly dashed.

Enter psychosis.