Thursday, July 31, 2014

Arrived back in PA last night. Long day but all good. Easy drive on interstates, about 650 miles. Ended the afternoon in rain for a few hours here in PA but was manageable. Now to take a day to decompress and assess the home life situation. Found a couple pipes had frozen. Not the end of the world. Can live from the garden hose until I get to the soldering torch. First thing I did was start a fire in the fireplace... turned refrigerator on. Slept in real bed. Life is good. Tomorrow I get back on the bike and refresh memories of local roads. Head up along the Catawissa Creek to Bloomsburg for coffee. Then take alt route back to include a couple covered bridges... Imersion day in the valleys of North East PA. I must say,,, the entire trip to home was filled with BMW riders and others at fuel and food stops. Heading the other way were Harley peeps heading to Sturgis. Such a feeling of a world in a parallel time zone to all others. We need our own media. Enjoy your travels, wherever they take you. And if you don't know where you are going, just enjoy the ride... the ride is the destination. Jeff

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Being Icons

Every time that I stop at a fuel pump there is someone who wants to talk. "I had a bike back when..." "I wish I could live your life." "Where's he going, daddy?" That's not unique to me, other than I make more fuel stops per month than most people.
What we all have in common, (the people who read my blog and attend my story sessions, is that we are on motorcycles... BMW motorcycles, mostly. That leaves about 43,000 americans who aren't riding a motorcycle today. Every time that YOU pull into a fuel stop the people are looking at you and thinking, "Man, that rider has the world by the tail..." I think that it's your opportunity to enjoy that moment as a minute of fame... You're all duded up in armor. Enjoying the road that day. Let those folks know that, Yes, It's a good time. Wave to the little kids who smile from car windows... you are their idol... they probably see us as live power rangers on wheels. That retired guy wants to share the stage with you for just two minutes to tell you about his old airhead, or the one that is sitting in the shed out behind the house. He's going back through his memories at that very moment recalling wind and gravel roads back on the farm. That little kid is imagining jumping piles of sand and making lots of noise. We can enable them... don't pass those moments... ask for them. Ask what they drove. Let them dream outloud while inspired by what you were able to bring into their mind... if only for the moment. Travel safe... and smile a lot. Jeff

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hit the road with a mechanically sound bike and a clear mind!

Once your load is packed, walk around your bike and observe everything.  Loose straps, dangling gadgets, things laying loose on seat or handlebars, oil leaks, tire pressure, tracker turned on, phone charging, GPS set and operating, credit cards in pocket, coffee maker unplugged.

Notify your buddies that you are launch=minus=5 mins.

Drive around the block and hit the brakes a couple times.

Now...  Don't think back.  Forget your bills, last nights game, next month's deadline, etc.  Focus on launching and getting out of town where you can shift to crise mode.

You know every item is accounted for, so don't rething that phase. Anithing you may need is waiting at walmart.

The day=to=day world will wait until you are off the bike for lunch or the end of the day.

You have your chosen bike, chosen tires and a chosen plan for the day.

Go ride the hell out of them!


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Reorganizing the load.

Today I took the time to dump out and re-organize my belongings in weight distribution order.  

The concept is along these lines:

Tank bag:   My tank bag has a transparent plastic upper section that is supposed to be for maps...  That faded long ago so I store only sun glasses, ear buds and side stand puck there.   I tape the directions on the outside, in a ziplock bag if inclement weather.   I have mounted an android tablet in RAM mount on the handle bars and use that for GPS.  NAVFREE or Google Maps.   Since viewing the screen in daylight is weak I use ear-buds to listen in.   Must build a hood to put the screen in the shade so I can see it.

Inside the tank bag are only items that I will need close at hand while driving.   

Bike registration / insurance card.  Check book and cash in ziplock in the zipper pouch.

Electrical inverter to 110 and USB.
EasyPass transponder.
Whistle (bears/distress)
pens, stamps, 
Cigarette lighter, sun screen, Spot Tracker, Sharpee
The Sharpee is to write turn by turn directions large enough to see at 70 MPH.
tire pressure gauge
small cleaning cloth
memory chips
batteries for phone etc


Top Box

I try to start out with my Top Box nearly empty.   The camera is up there so it's handy and in least likely place to be damaged if I get hit.   Otherwise it's maps, black bag with a towel, ball cap and scarf.


Everything else is stored lower and forward.    I have 6" x 24" PVC canisters mounted on either side of the engine guards and two 6" x 18" PVC canisters mounted on the passenger pegs.

Front left:  spatula, spoon, tongs, tent poles, onions and potatoes and sleeping bag.
Front right: innertube, engine oil, chain oil, wd-40, 5/8" siphon hose, 6x9 tarp, rain suit.
Left foot peg:  110V stuff.  50' ext cord, 30AMP to 110VAC plug, 3 outlet splitter, cheater plug.
Right foot peg: tool kit, air compressor, multi-meter, soldering iron, Micro Start jump starter.

Right side panier:  Laptop computer, keyboard, hotplate, 400mm camera lens, all related cords, chargers, tin cup with vitamins and aspirin bottles inside.
Left side panier:  Everything kitchen related:  mess kit, knives, aluminum foil (no box, folded flat), cooking oil, spices, rice, noodles, oatmeal (single servings), coffee (folgers singles)

Passenger seat:  Behind my riding position I place a 12x12 5/8 plywood piece,  Tent (folded to 18 x 24 in a cloth tote.   Wolfman Expedition duffle bag w/ thermarest pad strapped above duffle.  All this is sinched down with a pair of BMW shipping tie-downs.  

Compression bags:   I'm not sold on them.   They compress items to shape of bowling balls... every try to pack two bowling balls in a cardboard box?   I have my cold weather coat in a bag but not compressed inside of my dufel.   The summer sleeping bag is in a bag but not compressed.  It slides into the top of my left side canister.   Then tent is easier to place under the duffel and takes up minimal vertical height this way.

I have almost completely abandoned bungie cords.   Two hold my 2nd windscreen in place.

This packing arrangement gives me 314# on front wheel and #504 on the rear.  Handing is super with this arrangement.   If I could mount the duffel lower things would be perfect.  The only things in the duffel are clothes and important papers.

I hope this gives you some ideas...  the clue to packing is not to take ANYTHING that you don't need either often or in emergency.

Travel safe,

BMW MOA Rally, 2014

Many Thanks to the riders and guests who attended my seminars on Live on 2-Wheels!

Thge 2014 BMW MOA Rally was really blessed with good weather and nice facilities.

You were a great audience and made my job of sharing entertaining experiences very easy.   In the next few days I will send emails to those who asked specific questions and requested copies of the newsletter.

If you would like to reach me my cell phone is 717-620-9676  or email to

Have a great ride back to your homes. and travel safe!

Jeff Kurtz

If you asked for me to email something to you, please email your request again.  I am missing a couple names that I know were given to me.

Watch for my comments also on the GS Giants Facebook page <<<

~~~~~~~~~~~  Sunday recovery day thoughts.

Stayed over with friend in Minetonks for a day or so.  Ran into a couple riding his/hers bmw's at Fat Nate's and shared pics and stories.

Refreshed my thoughts on the presentation and made notes on things I didn't have great answers to.  Will be updating with new paragraphs soon:

Packing. - to be developed.   Today I dumped out the tank bag and photoed before and after contents.   Prime fingertip real estate that needs to be reserved for items needed NOW while behind the bars.  Moved a bunch of stuff to more remote containers and secured the remainder in the pouches.   Did the same with the top box.   Among other things, since I moved from bungies to fiber straps for securing bags, I had 9 bungies laying in there, and a stainless steel side-stand plate... haven't used it in a year and it's not light.  Pitched a bunch and moved others to lower locations.

Pics to follow.

Will def go back to a good paragraph on storing belongings forward and lower on the bike...   and coping with abandoning surplus equipment (BACKUPS OF BACKUPS...   SPARE SHIRTS, 82 BALL POINT PENS...)

Enjoy your travels.   I head to PA tomorrow or maybe Tuesday.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Roadside employment or trade for housing.

Most of my travels are supported by Camp Hosting positions in State, Federal or Private parks and campgrounds.   The usual arrangement is 24 hours work per week for free camping with varying amenities...  Water and electric are usual but not always in Federal Parks.   Some places have free laundry available.   Often I can get free ice and firewood.   In CA at El Mirage Dry Lake I was given a 30' FEMA trailer to live in plus $35/day per diem pay.   T?hat was super. 

Every state has a state park "Get Involved" link.  There are many positions out there but the one I focus on is Camp Host.   Here are other places you can do your own research:

Department of Agriculture <<<
Bureau of Land Management <<<
Corps of Engineers <<<
US Forest Service <<<
National Forest Service <<< <<<
KOA campground jobs <<<
Idaho Parks <<<
Texas State Parks <<<

If you find any link that you think offers opportunities please send it my way.

Things that I keep in mind in selecting positions include:

How much work is required.  This can be difficult to predict, although here's what I found:   KOA and private parks are businesses with profit motives.   They usually are VERY busy and you can expect to put in the required hours hauling wood, working in the store, guiding visitors.   This can be really socially active and great fun but definitely labor intense.   

Federal camps and parks are reallllly casual about their requirements, as are some state parks.  Stephen Foster and  Ocean Pond in FL were very friendly places with plenty to do but not pushy about getting things dome.   Things can change with the seasons, too...  Summer in FL does not have as many volunteers showing up so jobs are plentiful because the snow bird volunteers have departed.   The campgrounds are not as busy in the summer due to the heat.   Fall at a historic site gets pretty busy with arts and music fests.  Each park may have a unique festival some time in the year.   

Photography is something that all my locations have thanked me for.   The rangers and employees hardly have time to get out to take photos or update their websites and facebook pages.  This has been nice for me in gaining brownie points without killing myself with long hours running a weed-whacker.

Space available and amenities:  Being a tent camper, I watch for location FIRST.   What's the footing?  Concrete is no fun as a sleeping pad... much less being able to put tent pegs in the ground...   Gravel isn't much better.

The current design of campsites caters to RV's.   The naturalists in the public sector want the camping activity to stay within the perimeter established by the curbs around each site.   This puts your tent on the gravel and usually in the water.    Stephen Foster State Park sites have not had the gravel upgraded in years so it's all compacted with no drainage.   

Commercial and private campsites (back to the profit motive) also tent to be more cramped.  The KOA in Daytona Beach is really pretty and has a nice gameroom (with food on weekends!) but the sites are like parking spaces at Walmart.   From a tent I can hear every space heater and air conditioner running all night long.  Little Grassy Campground in IL was the same.   Dinner conversations from the RV? next door pretty much wiped out any sense of privacy.

The amenities vary quite a bit.   At Olustee Beach I had access to a storage shed with lights and air conditioning (after I hot-wired the circuits).   This was really nice with the rain lasted four consecutive days...   They provided free unlimited ice but no refrigerator.   

A covered pavillion is always a blessing.   Vogel State Park was the best in this category.  The picnic table was sheltered from the rain (mostly) and falling tics.  Some day I need to invest in a Kelty lightweight canopy.   Rain, wind, blazing sun, bugs...   all can be warded off with some type of day-use shelter.

Wifi is seldom found from campsites in state and fed parks.   KOA was the best in this category, but you may want to check the signal strength at a particular camp site before you get unloaded.   My Verison phone and Verizon Hot Spot have done well for me.  Oddly enough the phone sometimes has a better signal than the not spot... who knows.

Data usage:   My data requirement seems to grow every month...   As much as possible I try to reserve photo uploads and document downloads for when I am at a public WIFI location... Panera Bread, Md D's, the campground office.    I currently have a 14G Verizon plan and I struggle to stay within that.

More later... farm market time.   Travel safe!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

so much to write, so little time...

Fortunately life is full of enough new events that writing is something that I have to schedule...  It's not a matter of boredom with filling time by running off at the blog.

Enjoyed a super weekend in TN with friends Andre and Simon, and Cliff by phone.  Yesterday, Monday, was probably the most enjoyable riding day of the year... morning coffee and conference call with Cliff and Simon from Simon's deck.  Then about 100 miles of Andre's back-road choices to Rugby TN and then on to IL.

Details to follow:

Why stupid people shouldn't drive SUV's
Brakes are highly over-rated
Left land only
52 west
music, 70s vs 80s
Ride notes:
     contact points
     air down
     friends vs solo
to be developed

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Month at Stephen Foster.

So how do 30 days melt away in what seems like just a few hours???

With one day to go. (actually less than 24 hours) I finally stop over at Big Shoals state park and find another 20 or 30 miles of 2-track sand roads that need tire tracks engraved throughout...  In September I am bringing knobbies and doing this place right... That should be a REAL rainy season so the going will be great.

Ever try to dry clothes on the line when the humidity is 98%?  If there was an award for bug bites/night I'd be right up there in the top ten... jeesh...   Maybe I should do a photo album of just bug bites.  

Learned to mow lawns with a 6' span zero-radius turn turf machine...   mowing campsites with this gorilla is like trying to patrol your swimming pool with an aircraft carrier...   Don't EVEN think of putting it into reverse.   (Sorry about your puppy, ma'am...)

The nicest thing about the flat curve'less back roads around Florida is that there aren't any cars there...   It seems that everyone sticks to the super-slabs and leaves the enjoyment to those of us who don't have a schedule...   for that matter. I can make it from here (White Springs) to Jacksonville faster on Rt 100 with a couple small towns that the rockets zooming down 10 east.  Same for getting to Valdosta (GA) on 41 VS 75.  I have discovered that if I don't crack 70 MPH I can maintain 55 MPG.  

Reasons to visit Steven Foster Cultural Center and Campground (aka:  Steven Foster State Park)  White Springs, FL:
The bell tower doesn't start until 8:00 AM.
The mosquitos are only quarter pounders vs the big guys in MN. 
LOTS of two-track trails (mostly packed sand with occasional wet spots) that they aren't publicizing.  I'm coming back in Sept with knobbies!!!
Volunteers have access to unlimited firewood (important on evenings that the temperature falls below 95) and lemonade.
The Doller (local spelling) store sells wine, beer and froze food.
Fat Belly's has $3.95 breakfast.
Big Shoals and Little Shoals state parks have even more dirt trails... also not publicized.
There is almost nothing to do here except whistle Dixie (or Suwanee), fish and drink.

Back later with photos.