Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New Second Rally GPS

The old Garmin 276C was not cutting it. It's quite old. Locking onto enough satellites takes several miles every morning. It's fabulously expensive proprietary memory card will only hold about one fifth of the US (don't even calculate the Canada factor). And its form-factor is massive.

So I quizzed several Iron Butt friends, and watched what riders brought to meet-ups. The Garmin Nuvi 550 was the choice as a backup to my Zumo 665. Full North American maps, waterproof, etc.

The current plan is to keep the Zumo in north-up view, while using the 3-D view on the Nuvi. I'll use the speed and speed limit fields on the Nuvi, freeing up the data fields on the Zumo for other things.

If Woolie gets my auxiliary tank fitted by Saturday afternoon, I'll test the new farkle out on Sunday.

Oh, and the new 'Stich comes tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Iron Butt Rally Computer

The Iron Butt Rally Computer is fully functional!

In a fit of the OCD need to get ready for the Rally early, right before Christmas I purchased an Acer Aspire One D255 on the advice of several folks, including Jim Weaver, friend and finisher in the 2010 Iron Butt 5000. It has an Intel Atom N550 1.5GHz processor, and had a gig of DDR3 memory.

I immediately installed AVG Antivirus, since AVG had worked so well for me on my Win98 frankenboxen around the turn of the century, the last time I had really worked with MS stuff at home.

Very soon after purchase, the new Acer computer got hit with the AVG Windows 7 bug. It wasn't a virus. It was a bad .exe file update from AVG. The computer would not boot. At all.

I tried AVG's fix, which was a rescue disk downloaded to a thumb drive. Did. Not. Work. The solution was to get a bootable Linux disk (thumb drive), but I no longer have the patience or the time to find one and get the image bootable.

Enter Joe's Brain. Joe is a neighbor. And a great guy. He got rid of AVG, installed Avast!, and swapped out the 1 gig of memory for a 2 gig stick. (Joe thinks the original memory might have actually been the problem, and I can't refute that, but I have my educated suspicions about AVG.) Joe is my go-to Windows person now.

Enough of the problems....

The Iron Butt Computer is small. It reads SD cards from digicams. It has a huge battery. MapSource and the latest North American maps. Audible Books. iTunes. All this stuff interfaces with my Zumo 665. And it flies now (which might support Joe's concern about the original memory stick).

I'm a happy computing camper.

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last Ride of the Year

The Last Ride of the Year has been held in Stockton, Alabama every December 30 for the last 14 years.  Bob, Kurt, Rocky and I slabbed it down yesterday morning from Atlanta - 315 miles for me, and probably about the same for the rest of my group.

Most of us met in Newnan for some bacon and eggs at 7:00 am. Then it was off to the freeways. My new RT is now fully sorted for electronics with the addition of my SPOT Satellite Messenger. The trip was to be a test of all the farkle.

The first thing I learned on this trip is that the buttons on the SPOT completely preclude it from being manipulated while riding. They are tiny, indented, and require an exacting small finger for an exacting certain time. So now I know to leave the thing in tracking mode all day and forget about it. Don't expect many automated Facebook SPOT posts from me.

The second thing I learned is that Elizabeth loves tracking mode on the SPOT. I had shown her my personal tracking webpage the night before. She checked it when she got up yesterday and immediately called me on the phone. Since my phone is now tethered to the Zumo 665, I talked to her while bombing down I-85. She could tell where I was (within a ten-minute window, of course), and really enjoyed watching my progress. Apparently, if you keep a window open in your browser, the progress automatically updates.

And yes, it is wonderful having the cell phone available while riding. The Zumo is tethered to my iPhone, and any audio it is playing will be interrupted while the phone is in use. The J&M MA-967 feeds the sound to and from my J&M Elite helmet headset with microphone. Reception between Atlanta and Mobile seemed to be seamless. Anytime E wanted to find me, or vice-versa, reception was there. She's worried I'll be leaned over in a curve and she will startle me, but I have assured her that if I am busy, I won't answer.

If the phone rings, or spoken directions need to be given by the Zumo, mp3s and Audible books are stopped. I miss nothing! This is a great feature. I was listening to an audio book for most of the way down - it resumed about a half-sentence back each time it was interrupted. XM radio is a stream, so you are going to miss some of that beloved ABBA song if a call comes in or the Zumo needs to tell you to turn left.

We rolled into Stockton at 11:00 local time, just as I predicted.

Both legs of the trip, down and back, included many electronic and visual sightings of the Georgia and (especially) Alabama State Patrols. My Adaptiv TPX Radar Detector gave us plenty of warning, and no licenses were harmed in any way. Plus, since the unit is waterproof, I didn't have to stow it away in the approximately one hour of rain we had on the trip. I love the TPX just as much as I love my Zumo.

Bob, Jim, another great guy whose name escapes me, and I bombed it back to the Atlanta area with only one stop for gas. I added 6.2 gallons to the RT in Lower Alabama ("LA"). That's called cutting it close, y'all, as its tank holds 6.6 according to BMW Motorrad and Bob. While we were stopped, Bob suggested I put the RT's adjustable front seat in the high position, which I had never tried. The new configuration was easier on my back, which is still getting used to the bike, but I am not sure I am going to keep it high - there's much more wind noise, I think.

E watched my return progress with the SPOT and had a nice salad, pasta and wine waiting for me when I got home. What a fantastic day.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

This Thing EATS Asphalt!

The new RT had it's first real ride after farkling yesterday.  I took the pic here out in the middle of nowhere, near Avera, Georgia, heading back from the Dutch House in Wrens with a top case full of xmas casseroles. This is the second year in a row I've made the casserole run. I love south Georgia in the Winter. Beautiful vistas, well-paved, empty roads, and a few old-standby restaurants. Some are even open on Sundays (the Dutch House is not).

Most of the work done by BMW Motorcycles of Atlanta shows up in the picture of my dash here. From the left are the Zumo 665, my old 276c, and the Adaptiv Radar Detector. What you don't see is the J&M MA-967 integration unit. Those excellent mechanics spent hours getting my system together and their work was magnificent.

The MA-967 integrates sound for my Zumo and the Adaptiv radar detector, and powers the Elite Series headset with mic that J&M installed in my new Nolan N-103 helmet.Since the Zumo can hold mp3s and Audible books, and is subscribed to XM Radio, AND is paired with my Bluetooth iPhone, I have a complete entertainment and communication system on the bike.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the Sargent heated seat I installed myself.

So how did the system perform yesterday? Fantastic. Not a single hiccup. Not one! The Adaptiv detector even saved my bacon twice, if you know what I mean - excellent sensitivity, and extremely easy to use and interpret. The sound from the detector, different alerts for the different types of radar (and laser), interrupts the music in my headset, and the auxiliary LED warning light is right in my line of sight.

I started out a bit late for me, leaving the house at 8:15 am so that my wife could get out early for a book signing. Since I had breakfast at home and not at the Palace Bagel, I probably saved a few minutes of time anyway. I had loaded two routes into the Zumo the night before, one heading to the Dutch House, and one coming back. If I'm out for a day-ride with a particular destination in mind, I always break the instructions into separate "there" and "back" routes in the same gdb file, with the file name including destination, month and year. That way, I can track my arrival time to the destination, and I can always find the file later to ride the route again.

The new netbook I got for the bike, an Acer Aspire One, handled Garmin's MapSource and all the maps just fine, and while I only slightly modified an older route (make sure you recalculate the route in MapSource if you are using a file created with an older set of maps), the small screen was not a problem. I hit "Send to device", the program found the Zumo, and I loaded it to the unit's internal drive. I took the Aspire on the ride just in case, a first for me, but never bothered to take it out of its neoprene case.

That morning, I told the Zumo to take me to Wrens, and we were off. The Coffeehouse was my first choice for music. Wow, does the Garmin XM antenna perform! My old K1200GT had a standard magnetic car antenna for XM use, and it would not receive signals about 15 to 20 percent of the time I was on the bike, even in south Georgia. I never missed a single note yesterday. I was planning to spend a lot of time also listening to some of the 1,300 mp3s I had loaded to the Zumo's micro SD card, but I kept the XM on most of the day, trying to get it to zone out. Never happened.

And wow, the Elite series headset from J&M performed, too. It has THE BEST quality sound I have ever experienced in a motorcycle audio system. I could actually hear all the quieter parts of songs for the first time. It does not hurt that the Nolan, in combination with the excellent stock windscreen on the RT, is a very quiet helmet.

Routing was perfect, and my road selection was, of course, sublime. A few slight variations from past trips to the Dutch House turned out to be just as good as prior roads. I messed around with several variations of non-map information display on my two GPSs, since I now have the ability to show seven variables about travel between the two. Average moving speed is my new mantra, and that variable is displayed in the bottom left corner of the old 276c. (I was at 63 mph for the day - not bad for a ride that was 80% state and county roads.)

The Sargent seat kept me nice and warm on this adventure, and is much more comfortable than the narrow, soft stock seat. I was ready for another 400 miles when I got home at 3:30 pm. I love this bike. It's shaping up to be an Iron Butt Rally finisher.

Next up? How about Audible Books? Weather on the XM? A safety camera subscription? How about all of those. My goal is to have them up and running for the Last Ride of the Year.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

J&M Audio Gear

I'd like to welcome my newest sponsor in my Iron Butt Rally Adventure. John Lazzeroni and his wonderful colleagues at J&M Motorcycle Audio have provided me with the MA-967 system for audio integration of my Zumo 665 and Adaptiv TPX Radar Detector. John also supplied an Elite Headset with a volume control on the cord for my Nolan N-103. The volume control is a very cool feature.

Now why would I take a perfectly good Bluetooth-ready helmet and put a cord on it? Because John Lazzeroni (the "J" in J&M) told me to, that's why. John loves his own Bluetooth module for the N-103, and the 30 hour battery life is best in the business. But the battery is not hot-swapable, and takes more than my expected sleep-time every night to charge in its housing. So while the J&M Bluetooth N-103 is the state-of-the-art for touring motorcycling, the M-967 is where it's at for extreme long distance riders.

I told Elizabeth I was going to wear the helmet to bed. She rolled her eyes. Again.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Safety Camera Subscriptions for Garmin GPSs

Reading the manual actually helps sometimes.

Somewhere in the depths of the Zumo 665 Owners manual, there was a brief mention of a subscription service to a safety camera database. So I got on Garmin's website and searched.

Safety Camera Subscriptions from Cyclops are available for several regions on several different lines of Garmin products. I have not tried the subscription yet, but I am certainly going to subscribe.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sargent Seat

 The new Sargent seat was delivered by the brown truck this evening. My goodness it's good looking.

And I sat on it, too. Feels like butta. It is wider than the stock BMW seat, just enough for my skinny backside. But what a difference those few inches make. The support is spectacularly better than stock.

On Saturday, I'll trade out the plugs for the heat (yes, I got both the rider and passenger sections heated).

This long distance bike is coming together nicely.