September 3, 2014

An Ode to the Kawasaki KLR650

This great write up by Andrew Bornhop may be found online at  . And BTW, I agree with every word he has written as would anyone who has tested the KLR's reliability and versatility.  I have ridden many different motorcycles, but there is something about the simple, rugged, unpretentious, KLR that puts a smile on my face every time I take it out.  If you ride a KLR, then you probably know what I mean. If you do not, then read on...
Kawasaki KLR650 against the sunset
A KLR is not a motorcycle; it is a blank canvas with which to paint the rest of your life.
Okay, I admit it: I nabbed this quote from It’s good stuff, even if the literal side of my brain quibbles with the bit about this Kawasaki not being a motorcycle. The KLR most assuredly is one, a good one at that, and there’s nothing wrong with a motorcycle, any motorcycle, being considered a “blank canvas with which to paint the rest of your life.”
The KLR, however—one of the longest-running models in motorcycling history—does elicit passion like few others. Since it came out in 1984 as a 600, this Kawasaki has won people over with its easy rideability, its tantalizing versatility, and the enticing prospect of where it can take you. It’s a great everyday bike, an affordable dual-sport machine that shines as a commuter or a fully bagged world explorer. Countless folks use KLRs in just this way, exploiting the bike’s reliability, range, and go-anywhere nature. Heck, the US military even has some KLRs, converted to diesel and helping our soldiers in far-flung locations.
Chances are, if you are in some remote part of the world and see a traveler ride by, he’ll either be on a bigBMW R1200GS or a KLR. Great bikes, both, but many will argue that the significantly lighter and less expensive Kawasaki is the wiser choice. It’s old school, for sure, but the counterbalanced, liquid-cooled, 651cc single just keeps plugging along on regular-grade unleaded, and the bike’s lack of technical complexity is seen as a bonus. No traction control? No ABS? No active suspension? No problem. That just means there’s less stuff to break or go wrong.
And therein lies the beauty of Kawasaki’s electric-start KR650. It’s simple. It’s honest. It’s unpretentious. It’s like a Timex watch: It takes a licking and just keeps on ticking. You might actually be able to repair it on the trail. What’s more, the KLR has huge aftermarket support and a very active online community. No wonder it sells better each year than the Honda XR50L and Suzuki DR650 combined.
Apart from the frame-mounted fairing and new engine for the 2008 model, plus a more powerful alternator, Kawasaki hasn’t done a whole lot with the KLR over the years, opting instead to keep it affordable for the masses. And it’s a philosophy that continues to this day with the 2014.5 KLR650 New Edition, whose firmer suspension and wider seat add only $100 to the cost of the bike but make it a significantly better off-road machine without sacrificing one iota of on-road comfort.
Or, put another way, Kawasaki has made the KLR650 “an even better canvas with which to paint the rest of your life.” Amen.

August 22, 2014

A True Bit of Americana: The Garage Cafe

The Garage Cafe is a small diner in southwest Idaho that proves you find the best food away from the fast food joints along the interstate. I found this gem in Notus, Idaho when I stopped for breakfast and discovered a pretty cool place to eat.

As a first-timer, I played it safe, but had nothing to fear. My eggs over easy, bacon, and wheat toast were perfect and reasonably priced. That's a lot of food - but, it didn't sound like it when I ordered. The service was great, my coffee was never left half full.

I did not order the hash browns, but when they arrived, I was not about to send them back. I felt guilty for eating this much, but it was too good to leave, so I skipped lunch that day.

My camera-shy server who was also part owner of the cafe, told me that four years ago this building was a gutted shell. Today it is a classic roadside diner with a nostalgic, hot rod, service station theme.

After breakfast I wondered around, almost like in a museum. There are probably other giant, illuminated Plymouth Super Bee signs around, but I have never seen one before. I am not a MoPar guy, but the Road Runner logos and other signs had a nostalgic appeal to me.

If you are in the area, I recommend a stop at the Garage Cafe. This classic "Mom and Pop" diner has good food at fair prices, and make time to appreciate the creativity and even the artistry of the decor.

You may even find yourself drifting back to the days of American muscle cars with Jim Morrison belting out "Touch Me" from the radio. For more info and more pics be sure to visit the Garage Cafe website.

August 11, 2014

Old Idaho Penitentiary

The Old Idaho Penitentiary at Boise is a National Historic Site and one of four territorial prisons open in the U.S. The Old Penitentiary was built in 1870 and functioned has a prison until 1973. That's a lot of history, and like many historical sites, it is a documented paranormal hot spot, previously featured in several ghost hunting television programs.

I visited for the history, but kept my eyes and ears open for paranormal activity. The history was great, the ghosts were disappointing. There was not one sight or sound that I could blame, or credit, to the prison's ghosts. Maybe Halloween is a better time of year for that.

Outside the prison yard, in the shadow of the original prison wall you get a good look at the wooden walkway where armed guards once patrolled. This view is looking toward the entrance and administration buildings.

The cell blocks are as drab and depressing as you might imagine and are very similar to scenes from The Shawshank Redemption - minus the convicts.

The temperature was over 95 degrees outside and the ground level cell block was hot. Up on the second level, it felt like an oven.

There was no air conditioning when the prison was active and I can't imagine the misery of being locked up in this sweat box!

A prisoner would not have seen this sunset. I held the camera over a barrier across the barred window on the second level of a cell block.

There were 10 executions by hanging at the prison and some of these inmates have continued to lurk around the prison as ghosts.

Above is a wall from the former dining hall which was designed by inmate George Hamilton. The dining hall burned down in a 1973 riot.  

From the "inside" guard towers peer down into "the yard" from each corner of the stone wall surrounding the prison yard. The hill beyond this tower represented freedom to the prisoners who stood here.

My day at the Old Pen covered a lot of history, stories, and sights. So much, that a second post will be coming to cover material I have omitted here. If your interests include history or the paranormal, then get on the road, the Old Idaho Penitentiary at Boise makes a great destination. 

July 22, 2014

Shoei Hornet DS Helmet Review

I've spent a couple of months and several hundred miles wearing the Shoei Hornet DS in town, as well as on the highway; and I love this helmet. It is honestly the best helmet that I have owned. My list of legitimate complaints is zero, and my list of small, nit-picking complaints is also zero. Pretty much what you expect of a Shoei helmet.

The Hornet DS has been around a few years and received outstanding reviews and five star ratings from almost everyone who's worn it. Instead of repeating them, I will simply say - believe the good things you have heard. The Hornet DS is well built, quiet, and comfortable with a wide field of view. Even the paint and finish are excellent.

During a stop I attached the helmet to the KLR's helmet hook, then forgot it was there. Later on, I moved the bike ahead a few feet, while the helmet rubbed against the rear tire. The helmet came away with several black scuffs across the back.  It was my fault and I was not too pleased. But, the helmet cleaned up perfectly without a mar or scratch in the finish. Today, it looks at good as new.

The Shoei costs a bit more than a lot of other helmets, but if you are looking for a new lid, I recommend it. The Hornet DS has for its well deserved reputation for the quality, comfort, and safety and for me, this helmet is worth the extra cost.

Click here for my Icon Variant helmet review post

Click here for my Fly Trekker helmet review post

July 20, 2014

Crashing the PGA Boise Open

Golf is not my game, but I enjoy duffing through a few holes on occasion. I am so bad that I only play for fun and having fun was our plan when Wendi Kawigirl Zee and I cruised into the Boise Open on KLRs..

The parking attendants were friendly and liked the KLRs, so we received the Pro's Discount on parking. I had never attended a real live PGA event, and wanted to see it all.

As the only golf fans in riding gear at this prestigious event, we drew a few stares from many of the equally prestigious fans, but we had expected that.

"Wow, did you see that shot?"

The highlight of the Boise Open for us was the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. This was a Bucket List moment for Wendi who had waited for years to finally see this iconic vehicle. As a kid, I had a die cast Weinermobile car, so this moment nearly choked me up, as well.

The Planters Peanut "Nutmobile" was parked beside the Weinermobile. But, the Nutmobile seemed a pale imitation of Oscar Meyer's rolling hotdog. Mr. Peanut was supposed to be in the area, but with temperature's near 100 degrees, I think he was soaking up the AC inside the Nutmobile to avoid becoming a "roasted peanut." We will have to catch up with him next year.

June 20, 2014

A New Adventure Begins

Thanks to those who faithfully followed this blog during a rather long break between new posts. The long drought between posts was unavoidable as we have permanently relocated from North Dakota to the Boise, Idaho area. There were several reasons behind this cross-country move. My "distaste" for long North Dakota winters was only one of them.

Wendi Kawigirl and I are sorta settled in now. Despite the many moving boxes that remain to be opened, we could not resist taking off to explore the area a bit. Here is some of what we have found...

It is always best to start a day of riding with a good breakfast. At The Sunshine Cafe we found a great coffee, as well as a great breakfast menu.

With so many choices, it was hard to decide on one breakfast. But you can't go wrong with eggs over easy, bacon, hash brown, toast and coffee.

The area near the Swan Falls dam on the Snake River offers some great views and really good off road riding opportunities.

As the stacks of unopened moving boxes disappear and things get on track for us, this blog will get back up to speed as well. You can look forward to regular posts of rides, food, gear reviews, and more. So, stay tuned for more KLR650 Adventures from the Gem State of Idaho!

March 26, 2014

SIDI Canyon Boots Review

From my post "DRZ-400s On Ice and Mud" you know that my non-waterproof Fly Maverick boots left me with wet feet. I like the Fly boots a lot but, my soggy socks convinced me that it is time for a pair of waterproof boots. Since then, I have narrowed my choices down to a couple of options from SIDI. Here is a first hand review of one of them.

Last year Wendi Kawigirl stepped into a pair of SIDI Canyon boots. A year later she says, "They are my favorite motorcycle boots, ever." These leather SIDIs have a Gore-Tex membrane that provides great waterproofing and the Velcro flap keeps the boots tight on the leg. She has been in water on several rides and never came home with wet feet. That sounds good to me!

Starting with fit, Wendi has only good things to say about the SIDI Canyon Gore-Tex. Italian boots run narrow for American sizing, but she ordered true to size. Out of the box they were tight but, loosened up with wear and are very comfortable now. She has worn them on many all day rides and they have never been too hot on her feet.

As for durability, the leather on these boots has held up very well, with very little wear showing on the heel and sole treads. At first, Wendi was concerned that the ratcheting side buckle might fail. This happened on some previous boots but, after a year of use and abuse these buckles are as solid as when the boots were new.

Overall she is very pleased with these SIDI boots, and would buy them again. A big change from her previous disappointment with a couple of different Icon boots. All of these pluses make the SIDI Canyon Gore-Tex a serious contender for being my next pair of boots. I am very impressed with how well they have stood up after a year of riding dirt, mud, gravel, and pavement. I am also looking forward to not riding with wet socks.