2013-07-26

With Only A Motorcycle, : Mix Canyon Road Mount Vaca and Accessory Outlet Install


In a previous post I showed my roadside emergency kit which included a small 12v powered air compressor I figured that I would just clip the ends of the plug and put some spade connectors on the wires and just connect it directly to the battery when I needed it.  I was met with mixed opinions on the efficacy of this solution.  There were a lot of suggestions that I wire in a accessory socket with people expressing the valid point that I would add a lot more capability to the bike such as powering a heated vest or charging a phone or powering a GPS.  Some said that it would work just fine others bemoaned the amount of space it took up and suggested that I go for a CO2 inflation option for the space/weight savings.  Not too long after purchasing the components of my kit I had a chance to test out its usefulness when I got a second flat tire.  I was not at all impressed with the small pump it hardly seemed effective and being that I was close to a gas station I limped the bike over to their air pump after plugging the tire and filled it quickly.


After that incident I decided that I may start carrying the CO2 inflater that I have on my road bicycle with the bike and carry enough cartridges to quickly fill the rear tire.  After posing the question: How many of these bad boys do you think it would take to fill my FZ1's rear tire (180/55-ZR17) in road-side flat tire type situation," on the forums I frequent (listed at the bottom of my blog) once again I was met with mixed response.  It would appear that the people who prefer a pump stayed quiet when I posted about the Air Pump but became vocal once I showed interest in the CO2.  Arguments ranged from you would never be able to fill that size tire with CO2 to pointing out that once you use up you're cartridges and you flat again you're stranded.  Both were good points!

After doing a little research on my air compressor (a cheap jobber from harbor freight) the reviews all reflected my sentiments about how slow it fills a tire but they did also point out that it can and does fill a tire to full pressure given enough time.  Though you need to give the pump a change to cool down every 10-15 minutes and then proceed again once it has cooled.  It realistically could take me 30+ minutes to fill up the rear tire with that pump.  Being that I already had the pump and I already had the CO2 inflater and I'm not super strapped for space on my bike I decided that for now I will carry both with the plan being to use the CO2 cartridges on the first flat which should take 5-12 gram cartridges to fill my rear tire to 32 psi according to the chart a member on FZ1OA shared with me...


...and then top off with the pump if necessary and then deal with the pump on the off chance I have a really shitty day and end up with two flats on the same trip.


After deciding this I also decided that I would install the accessory outlet after all to simplify any road-side repair situations and also add some more flexibility to my motorcycle.  I found a basic accessory socket at the NAPA store and picked up a in line fuse holder some fuses while I was there.


I have seen others buying kits that come with longer wires or "waterproof" caps but where I was going to install it I don't think that much water ill be getting to it and I have a ton of automotive wiring at home so I knew I could just splice, solder, and shrink tube the connections I needed to make.


I chose a spot on flat area to the left of the tank near the dash to as a location for the install.  I had a speed bit that was the correct size for the hole which made quick work of the relatively thin ABS plastic.  I also found an illuminated switch in my box-o-random parts that I decided to wire in as well in the oft chance I was on the move and for whatever reason wanted to turn off whatever it was that I had plugged into the socket and didn't want to stop to stow a dangling plug.  It stretched out the install time a bit but as it has been of late with my motorcycle projects the planned task was going to end up taking much longer than I would have ever anticipated.


I was making good progress with the wiring and was to a point where I was going to take the body panel and the newly-mounted socket onto the bike and run the wire back to the battery.  That meant that I would need to lift the gas tank to zip tie the new wires to the outside of the wiring harness that runs to the battery.  I busted out my trusty set of long, metric, Craftsman allen wrenches.  The tank is held down by one socket-head cap screw.  When I went to loosen the the screw it with the Allen wrench either it or the screw or both at the same time decided to give up the ghost.  And for the second time in as may weekends I felt that sinking feeling you get when you know you have exceeded a part's mechanical limits.  I held in my hand a nicely rounded out Allen wrench and the socket portion of the screw matched the end perfectly.  It was time to go to bed and re-assess in the morning.  I put put things back together enough so that should I need to ride the bike before I finished I could and called it a night.

The next day I woke up knowing I had two options, neither of which I looked forward to:

1. Slot the top of the screw and hope that my impact driver would be able to loosen the screw.
2. Drill out top of the screw and try to use an EZ out to remove the remainder of the stuck screw and then possibly drilling and tapping the the hole if it would not come out.


Things were complicated again by not having a garage, while I had an extension cord it was not long enough to reach to the parking spot (that I'm "not supposed to be working on my bike in") where my bike was sitting at.  So I went for option one.  I grabbed a hammer, my impact driver and some chisels to slot the screw with.

For as as easily as the screw rounded out it did not relinquish to the chisel (which was made of some derivation of butter apparently) without a fight.  Eventually though I did have a slot in the top and I went to it with the impact driver.  The only issue was that there was a hole in the center of the crew so the flat head bit only had a small area to act on which ended up not being enough and the bit also succumbed to the screw!  By this point I was pissed and determined to get this screw out.  I was going to take great satisfaction in watching that drill bit sink into the the head of that screw.

I finally decided that I was going to push my bike through the courtyard, between the two the two condo units and around to the other side of the porch from our condo so I could just throw the extension cord over the wall and power my droll and soldering iron from there.


This also had the added benefit of being out of the sight of most of the residents not that I think any of them actually care if I work on my bike or not but there's always one legal eagle in each bunch that seems to pop up so it was nice to be able to be able to work with a little less scrutiny.


The drill did the trick I made sure to start with a bit that was just slightly larger than the hole in the center and worked my way up until the head of the screw broke free to avoid any snapped bits with the way the day was going I felt that was a real possibility!  After I got the head off the screw I lifted off the tank and found a nice surprise.  See the video below:



So at least I didn't have to use the EZ-out or tap a hole!  Obviously I didn't have an exact replacement around so I found the tiny section of metric fasteners at Home Depot and used the closest thing I could find.

Here's a shot of the final product installed and ready to go.

All that work took me the bulk of the Saturday.  At least the parts that were cool enough to want to hop on a motorcycle and go for a ride.   I was hoping to get out that day and check out a view that I was told about by our on-site maintenance guy (Clay).  He is a beekeeper as well and was telling me that he had some hives up on Mount Vaca which is the highest mountain in the area.  He had mentioned how he had hiked up to the very peak and said that the view was spectacular being that you could see down into the valley on one side and out to the bay the other direction.  I had been meaning to check it out for a couple of weeks and it looked like I had missed the chance that day.


I need to break away from the the story for a moment and go off on a side track for the rest of the story to (hopefully) make sense.  This particular weekend was the weekend before the seven year anniversary of a good friend of mine's death.  His name was Jeremy Eckerman.  I was not with him at the time of his death but he was out on a weekend river rafting trip; the kind where you party at the campground and then hop on a raft and party all say as the river carries you along.  The Wolf River has a lot of cliff areas and and people sometimes stop to climb up to the tops and jump off into the river.  Jeremy had decided to do that this particular day.  Back then we were all pretty hard charging partiers and I'm sure Jeremy was "feeling pretty good" by that point.  Accounts differ but he either lost his footing and fell or jumped from the 20' cliff and while he was on his way down he hit his head against the cliff.  When he landed in the thirteen feet of water he never came back to the surface.  Rescue divers found him later and he was pronounced dead.

As I mentioned Jeremy was a partier but in many other ways he liked to grab live by it's horns and shake the best out of it.  He was a wild-man, outspoken, funny, and sensitive when you least anticipated it.  I think most of his friends (myself included) prefer to believe that Jeremy jumped that day grasping at the highest fruit on the tree of life experiences than to to think that he was just the hapless victim of a drunken misstep.


In the years following Jeremy's death we tried to commemorate his passing by getting blindingly drunk and partying to the later hours of the night.  However as time passes you just have to come to accept that while Jeremy will forever be 27 years old we have gone on living and are getting older.  I decided that this year; instead of getting hammered alone at home that I would try and commemorate Jeremy's life by attempting some other sort of "Ecker-manly" act.  As my Saturday was drawing to a close I was sitting in my living-room about to have a beer and then go to bed when it dawned on me.  If that view from Mix Canyon Rd was so spectacular during the day then it must be just as spectacular if not more at night!  It was 10pm and the temps were going down and I said "fuck-it" grabbed my gear and headed out to the bike.

Mix Canyon Rd is only about a half an hour ride from my house so it didn't take long to get there and once there, it didn't take me too long to figure that this would definitely fill my "Ecker-Manly" act quota. Mix Canyon road it turns out is as narrow as a driveway at points and except for the lights on the porches of the few homes that are sparsely scattered along the road there is absolutely no lighting along the road.  It snakes it's way up Mount Vaca with very steep inclines and tight sometimes off camber turns.  With only the FZ's headlights (which are quite bright even without the high beams on) to guide my way up the road I found that on an ascent such as this they were not the most effective.  With the bike point it's way up the incline whenever the road flattened or dipped it just looks like you are riding into blackness as the headlight is still pointing up.  Another issue is that with an unpainted single lane road with a 2-4 inch lip where the pavement ends and transitions to a ditch or a steep drop you really want to be able to judge your bikes position on the road but the headlights give you a sort of tunnel vision and while they illuminate your way forward I could not see to the sides of my bike.  Consequently the five mile trek up to where the road becomes gravel was completed at 10-15mph.

Speaking of the gravel it took me about 100 yards to realize that I was on it.  Clay had warned me about this and suggested that I hike the rest of the way up.  Being night time I did not want to try that but I was keeping an eye out for the road transition.  I reached a point where the road flattened and widened to what appeared to be a turnaround  and that was when I noticed that I was on the pavement/gravel transition.  I eased the bike to a stop and looked around I was definitely up as high as I was going to be getting that night.  I could see that the road was just as narrow as before but there was a wide gravel/sand turnaround area.  I cranked my handlebars to the left and started to back the bike up to get it perpendicular to the roads path so I could drop down off the roads 2-4" lip down to the turnaround area.  Feathering the clutch and covering the front brakes I eased the FZ's front tire off the road when it hit what I anticipated to be hard-pack sand and gravel the front site sunk another 4-5 inches into some very loose gravel having both feet on the ground for balance I only had the front brake and when I touched it to slow the bike the front end washed out and went down and just like that for the second time in as many weeks I was staring at my bike on it's side.

I shut it off and picked it up and wheeled it over to a flat spot put the kick stand down, got out my flashlight and inspected things and the bike was none the worse for wear.  I hopped back on thumbed the starter and she fired right back up and I proceeded to make my way back down the road.  As soon I made it around the first bend I realized that in my intent to not die on the way up I had not noticed the breathtaking views going on behind me.  I made it a quarter of a mile back down the road when I discovered another turnout where it looked like campers or highschoolers looking for a place to drink beer might stop and hang out and enjoy the view. I decided to do the same.


The above video shows nothing of what I saw when I was up there.  Some things I guess just aren't meant to be shared with the world.  I was high enough up and far enough away from the city lights to be treated with a bowl of a starry sky above me with a bright moon and a twinkling jewel of a city down in the valley.  It was the perfect place to take in the silence and stillness and feel a little bit closer to my friend than possible in my day-to-day existence a perfect moment so shortly after such a failing one was unanticipated.

The trek back down the mountain was just as treacherous I alternated between braking and engine braking so as not to over cook either with the most unnerving part coming when I encountered an oncoming vehicle and not being able to see the sides of the road thought I was going to fall off the edge.  When I made it home I had that beer I had been intending to earlier and went to sleep feeling much more accomplished than I would have had I just stayed home not to mention more at peace.



The next morning I realized that when the bike had tipped over on the mountain the gate opener for out Condo complex (basically a garage door opener) must have fallen out of my tank bag.  Knowing exactly where it should be I decided to take the opportunity that morning to go back up the mountain and take some daytime pictures (below) and the above video.




That's it for me for now.  I already have the content amassed for my next post (an impromptu ride to Monterey and Laguna Seca Raceway for the MotoGP race) I will try and get that put together for you ASAP.

Until then I hope you've enjoyed this post and as always; Thanks for reading!

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