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.

March 22, 2014

Dual Sport is Awesome - 2013

This great video from You Tuber "invariant676" covers pretty much every type of dual sport riding with several different bikes. Watch for a couple of different KLRs, including one doing an Evel Knievel style jump over a ditch, that was a "must see" moment for me. Once again, the KLR proves it can keep up with the smaller, lighter, dual sports as well as the bigger and more powerful bikes.

March 20, 2014

KLR650 Recycle Bike Fear Factor

The picture and article below "PROJECT RECYCLE - KAWASAKI KLR650" come from the website and is a common web article for the KLR650. Once again, they bought a KLR project bike, put in a plug for Bike Bandit, then bolted on a lot of aftermarket accessories. As usual, when finished  the KLR is a much better bike. A KLR veteran may take interest in these mods but, a KLR noob or a wanna be may have an entirely different view. This sort of article could scare the crap out of that person.

Who wants to buy a bike that needs this many upgrades, that cost several hundred additional dollars? The article does not say if these mods are "essential" or just "nice to have." (I would put lowered handlebars in the "nice to have" category.)

KLR noobs and wanna bes - relax! This article has good info on some aftermarket parts but, the stock bike runs and handles fine. Yes, it can be improved but, there's no need to immediately dump a wad of cash into your new ride to enjoy it. Go ahead and read the article below, but don't let it scare you. KLR riders have nothing to fear, but fear itself!


In many ways, the Kawasaki KLR650 is the default choice for a lightweight, low-cost adventure machine. It’s been around since 1987 and remained almost unchanged through 2007, and along the way, it has introduced hundreds—heck, maybe even thousands of riders to the joys and capabilities the big Thumper has to offer.

For us, as part of the Re-Cycle program, the KLR’s sheer numbers were motivation enough. Incredibly well-supported in the aftermarket, the KLR would not be difficult to update and improve; thousands of owners got there well ahead of us. Moreover, the weaker aspects of its design—mostly the result of it hailing from the mid-1980s—were well known. So, we followed the herd and applied the better-known modifications and updates.

The bike you see here, a 2006 model, was found in the Los Angeles area in near-pristine shape, with fewer than 3000 miles on the odometer. Except for an aftermarket exhaust and minor rejetting, it was mechanically stock. It wore a pair of dirt-oriented tires that had suffered from too many miles on the street, but both functionally and cosmetically, the bike was near-new.

We paid $3700 for our KLR, which—based on its clean, unmolested condition—is slightly above the market value. In our search, we found bikes from nearly new ones priced at around $4000 to some high-mileage units we could have grabbed for $2000. Bang for the buck? You bet!

And now, with the help of’s extensive catalog, this KLR is better than ever.

Kawasaki’s 651cc dohc Single is what you’d call proven, though that also means every Internet Joe with wi-fi has shared his troubles with the world. If you’re a wanna-be KLR owner, Google “doohickey mod” to learn about a common issue with the engine’s counterbalancer chain tensioner, as one example.

Instead of opening up the engine and fitting a big-bore kit (a popular update for both new and tired KLRs), we attacked the usual means, swapping the 11-pound stock exhaust for a Yoshimura RS-2 slip-on muffler with spark arrestor and shiny stainless-steel lead-in pipe—it’s a beautiful thing, though we had to do a little fender trimming and sidecover shimming to make it fit.

On the front side, a K&N stock-replacement filter and a Dynojet Stage I jet kit did the deed. According to the dyno chart that came with the Yoshimura pipe, some 3-4 hp are available from stock. We didn’t dyno this particular KLR before the mods, so true A-to-B comparisons aren’t possible. But if we get the promised 37 hp, we’ll be happy enough. Right out of the box, this combination worked very well, with smooth throttle response, no surging and only a slight amount of cold-bloodedness.

KLR owners often ask for a sixth transmission speed, but lacking that, we attempted a compromise in gearing, wrapping a new D.I.D 520V O-ring chain around a pair of JT sprockets, in the stock 15-tooth size at the countershaft and down one (42 teeth) at the rear. This change took the edge off the KLR’s frantic highway demeanor, though it could handle a 40- or 41-tooth rear if you were willing to slide your street/dirt ratio over to, say, 90/10.

You might expect any KLR with a few more digits showing in its retro odometer to have soft legs, and you’d be right. The standard KLR shock, not exactly a high-tech item, is adjustable for spring preload only, and the 38mm KYB fork has no adjustments other than air pressure for spring rate (remember that?). Our efforts to improve suspension action without breaking the bank called on Progressive Suspension for its new 465 series shock—an aluminum-bodied beauty with stepless spring preload and five-way rebounding-damping adjustment. Up front, a Race Tech Cartridge Emulator was dropped down the skinny tubes—after the usual prep work, of course—topped by RT springs rated at 0.52 kg/mm, up from the stock rate of 0.4, running 15mm of preload. We left the Emulator settings as delivered, filled the legs with 15-weight oil so there was 150mm of air space.

On the road, the Re-Cycle KLR’s composure is dramatically improved. Increased spring rates help reduce the stock bike’s hobby-horsing without harming small-bump compliance; in fact, the revised KLR’s ride is better all around.
Another means of updating our KLR, which arrived with dirt-spec Dunlops that rendered the steering strange and howled on pavement, came from Metzeler in the form of Tourance tires.

In stock sizes—90/90-21 front and 130/90-17 rear—the street-biased Tourances provide as much grip as the KLR’s chassis ever wants and are even passable away from pavement, as long as your definition of off-road doesn’t include sand bogs or boulder-strewn goat trails. Let’s remember what the KLR isn’t: a lightweight, modern-suspension trail runner.

Kawasaki, known for eking every single solitary development cent from components, continued to give the KLR650 a single-piston, sliding-pin caliper dating from the days before the GPz. We did what we could, fitting Galfer semi-metallic pads front and rear, along with Galfer braided-steel lines.

No question the lever and pedal are firmer than stock, but the front brake’s power remains underwhelming. Next steps would include a different caliper and a larger rotor, but that’s starting to get into real money. Besides, you have to wonder how much brake that limber fork will tolerate; it twists enough during hard stops as it is.

Next on the list was to update the KLR’s ergonomics. Those steel handlebars might as well date from the early Malcolm Smith period, so after perusing’s virtual catalog a set of Renthal CR-Low bars were selected and fitted. They are 1 inch narrower and 2.5 inches lower than stock, with half the weight. They’re about the lowest you’ll get to fit; the switch clusters just clear the tank at full steering lock. The ends are fitted with Show Chrome heated grips, which come with a digital, four-level heat controller and a full wiring harness.

For the rest of the rider’s physique, we have a Sargent World Sport Performance replacement seat that fits the KLR perfectly and is such an incredible improvement over the stocker that it should be the first update you make. We also replaced the slippery stock footpegs with a set of IMS Super Stock pegs that are suitably saw-toothed and deeper.

One benefit of choosing a long-running model like the KLR650 is that the aftermarket will have a wide selection of accessories, particularly luggage. Here we called on a strong seller in the family: Moose Racing. Moose provided its Expedition luggage rack system. This steel-tube affair, powdercoated black, slipped onto the KLR without trouble, replacing the stock luggage rack and providing sturdy perches for genuine Pelican hard bags. They’re a good size for the KLR, too, at 21.4 inches wide, 12.8 inches tall and 6.7 inches deep. Mounted, the bags are slightly wider than the new bars, so be careful in traffic.