Friday, November 27, 2020


After the sidecar rally at Caddo Lake in October, returned in November with a small group of photographers to capture the infamous red leaves of the bald cypress trees.  The red leaves only last for a couple of weeks each year. Timing to be here during the peak is a roll of the dice.  
Photographers come from all over the world to capture the colors. There were several tour boats going out the weekend we were there, on which no english was being spoken 

The worms had stripped most the leaves off the cypress trees near the mainland, so we went out into the lake where there are islands of cypress that the worms could not reach. Guide called that "Social Distancing". 

When I say island, the cypress survive best in 3-5 feet of standing water, not on dry land or in very deep water.

Here is a late afternoon shot of the trees glowing. What was amazing is how the color went from a dull red to a glowing red just by changing your position. 

Even as the sun dropped lower in the sky, the famous colors remained strong.

Tried a similar shot but in black and white to compare the difference.

Sunset on Caddo Lake found us heading back to the dock. 
We will go back out again in the morning, leaving at 5:30 am with a cup of hot coffee in hand.


Small point of imformation - Caddo Lake, which Texas shares with Louisiana, is the only natural lake in Texas. All of the other Texas lakes and bodies of water are manmade. It is north of Marshall, TX and Shreveport, LA. near one of the oldest settlements in Texas, Jefferson.  During the 1800's. Jefferson was the second largest water port in Texas, after Galveston. It sits 300 miles north of the Gulf Of Mexico on the Caddo River.


By sunrise the guide and I are back out on the lake, in position for some great photos. 
The day looks promising in the predawn light.

Suddenly a thick fog bank rolls in from the south. The sun never made it above the horizon before being obscured.  
That does not stop one from trying to get interesting photos.

Foggy Red Cypress

Of course there are fishing birds around the lake, here one is skimming the surface looking for an opening and a meal. What looks like green ground you could walk on is actually an invasive Brazilian water plant called Salvinia. It floats on top of the water choking everything, other plants, boat motors, etc.  The first cold snap will kill it, only to return next year. 

Capturing that feeling of dripping Spanish Moss is more difficult than I thought it would be. 
Then this showboating character arrived to complete the photo.
Am not into bird photography but wanted to recreate the mood of a damp foggy morning on the bayou. What better subject than a great white egret.

Spotted an old shack back up a small bayou, Yes, it's occupied.  Hmmm... did not approach someone's fishing camp, or home.

The lack of sound in the bayou deafens the mind. 
Almost disturbing not be submerged in constant noise.

The fog was not quite so bad in the bayou leading back to the dock. 
Even the colors were starting to show again. 

A little disappointed in not having
 a brilliant sun to work with, but the fog presented new challenges for a different effect. One has to roll with the situation and find the best in whatever comes your way.


By mid-day the fog had dissipated, which by then I was off the lake and out riding. Stopped to take a photo of a tree farm after harvesting. This is a paper tree farm. 

Could never understand why some people get so upset at the harvesting of trees but don't think twice about the harvesting of corn. Both strip their growing fields bare. Both are cultivated and grown for harvesting. The only difference is the length of the growth cycle. 

It's not like they are not going to replant the trees. They did here. 
These are still young trees. Trees engineered for paper use will grow very fast.

Off in the brush spotted movement, there looking back at me was a young doe.

Returning to  Jefferson, TX , stretched the legs with a walk along the river, following the elevated boardwalk thru the woods.

That wraps up the weekend at Caddo Lake and Jefferson. 

Ride safe my friends, mask up.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Lake Fayette - BMW Rally

Last weekend was the 50th annual Houston BMW Club Rally at Oak Thicket Park on Lake Fayette near La Grange. One of the original founders of the club and of MOA was there. Ron Goodall and friends started the Houston BMW club, then a few years later started the BMW MOA. He has attended all 50 local rallies and every national rally. 

Giving instructions to the servers

The new Motorcycle Rally Look

Approximately 72+ persons in attendance. Weather was prefect.
Only grabbed a few photos, none of bikes though.

Caught the sun setting just as they served the food.
Sunset Friday night on Lake Fayette.

Later that night walked out on a fishing pier to capture this image of the power plant across the lake.  

Actually the lake is a cooling pond for the coal powered generating plant. There are coal mines in central Texas so I assumed that was why the plant was located here, near the mines. No, the low sulfur coal needed is railroaded in from Minnesota. A turbine mechanic informed me that the Texas coal is high in sulfur, not desirable.

Since the lake is warmed year round, the fish stay active and grow large. Which attracts many bass fishermen to come here to try their luck.

Even though they have screened rooms and cabins to rent, rode the Warthog rig to the rally to sleep in. 
Slept peacefully for several nights. 

On the open road and rolling along, Ole Wart does great, but does not like creeping through towns at low speeds. Need to get a better fuel map downloaded to smooth out the low speed throttle. Was disappointed in the gas mileage too, 17.7 mpg! Maybe a new map will help the fuel economy. If not, then figure a way to carry more fuel for Alaska.


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Project Warthog: Air flow and losing weight

The first weekend in October was the Uncertain Rally for South-Central District Sidecar Association members and the Texas Ural riders on Caddo Lake. That's in northeast Texas, near Jefferson.

Why Uncertain? Well, that's the name of the small fishing community on Caddo Lake. Seems they could not decide on a name when filing the incorporation papers with the state. So the clerk penciled in uncertain, telling them they could come back later once they decide on a name. No one came back later.

Riding the 260 miles from Cypress to Uncertain on the Warthog was sort of a shakedown run for the rig. The first long distance ride, time to see what further work is needed before tackling Alaska next year...

With over 49 sidecar rigs is attendance, we created quite the spectacle as we rode into Jefferson for lunch. 

Returning home, decided that the rig would run better and maybe even more fuel efficient if I opened up the breathing. The two big heavy OEM mufflers were removed earlier, replaced by one shorter lighter aftermarket exhaust to accommodate the sidecamper. But the air intake is still stock. Ideally one tries to balance the air intake with the exhaust output, creating a more even flow,  more efficiency, better gas mileage. This factory air intake was restricting air flow putting it out of balance with the now easy flow exhaust. 

As seen in this photo from when I bought the bike, under that big shiny chrome Bearclaw resides the air duct to the fuel injectors. That needs to be removed to open up the breathing.

With the Bearclaw removed, one can easily spot the white plastic radiator overflow tank and the grey air duct under the left side of the main gas tank.

After doing some research, ordered a RamAir intake from the UK. Is only natural for these specialty parts to come from the UK, home of Triumph Motorcycles. The RamAir mounts directly on top of the fuel injector intakes, eliminating a lot of factory air ductwork and OEM filter under the gas tank and the seat.

RamAir was installed, but now that OEM plastic radiator overflow tank.... ugly. Has to go. 
Plus it's blocking air flow to the new filter.

Did not want the new foam air filter to be totally exposed to the weather but when I reinstalled the Bearclaw it compressed the foam filter. Surgery was needed, a cut-off grinder was called in. 

A nip-n-tuck here and there...

This looks better to my eye. Have not decided yet to paint it or leave as is. 
Kind of scruffy... that fits with this beasts' branding: Warthog.

See that slender chrome cylinder on the lower left? That's the new radiator overflow tank. 

Again scouring the internet, found an article on replacing the factory overflow tank with one of these chrome tubes. Chrome is never my first choice but was not offered in black. Not too bad to install either. Though refilling with antifreeze and getting all the air bubbles out was a trick.

So what did I accomplish with all of this? Well, the following parts were removed from the bike, shortening the air route from the intake under the seat to the filter to the injector's by about 30+ inches, plus freed up space under the gas tank for the auxiliary fuel line to enter the main tank without worry of binding the line. We lost some weight, not much though as weight is not as issue on the Warthog.
Hopefully with a more balanced air flow fuel economy will improve. 

Speaking of weight, with a heavy duty scales, weighed each of the three wheels to determine weight distribution of the rig. I calculate that fully loaded with gear, fluids and me, the rig will weigh 
around 1800 lbs, whoa.... over 3/4's of a ton????   Maybe rename her the Pot Bellied Pig? 
Or Hippo?

 Yet with the horsepower and torque of this engine, she chugs along easily at 75 mph with a low 3600 rpm in fourth gear . It has a fifth gear that doesn't get used much.

******      ******      ******      ******

While wrenching on the bike decided to address another issue that bothered me. Every time I stepped into the sleeping area, the floor of the camper dropped several inches as its only left side support are the rear shocks on the bike. Rear shocks are designed to drop down when weight is added to the bike, like when a rider gets on and in this case when someone enters the camper. It's called sag and is normal.  But it stresses the camper structure.

There is a square channel on both the front and rear of the camper designed for a winch receiver. Since I eliminated the winch (replaced it with a come-along) that spot has been empty.  Hmmm... I still have the receiver bar...

Looking through the parts boxes and bins, found an aluminum scissor jack that would work like a stabilizer if I could attach it to the receiver bar.  Did just that.

It won't ride back there all the time as dirt and grit would get into the mechanism. But it is quick to slip in, cranks down easily, stores in the tool box. Adds an extra minute to the set up procedure, but now the camper is stable when I step in.

In this photo from above, that ugly blue backrest was rescued off an old Goldwing motorcycle.  That was the third of three backrests I tried out on the Warthog. Liked this one best, gave good wide support, but looked terrible. 
 Is ugly a theme with this rig?????

Once again digging through the parts bins and boxes, found a well worn Alaska Buttpad, (those are sheep skin seat covers). Raked it with a brush to liven it up then took it to the upholstery shop that builds my taller seats for me. They whipped up a sheepskin cover for the backrest... styling and profiling... I like these sheep skin pads as they quickly shed water and dirt, dry fast, allow air to circulate in hot weather and keep you warm in cold weather.  Plus water is not going to damage them.

Little by little the Warthog is turning into a solid adventure touring sidecar rig. 

Next weekend is Houston's BMW Club 50th annual rally at Oak Thicket State Park in Fayetteville, Tx. I plan to take the Warthog there for another trial run. Sleeping in it for two nights. 
Will report details on fuel economy later.

Ride safe my friends, safe distance, mask up.