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Archive | June, 2012

Spot Satellite Messenger Warning

10 Jun

UPDATE – After a few conversations with Spot, they graciously decided to refund my service subscription fee. The Spot customer service people were very professional and helpful. They acknowledged there were software problems (app), and suggested I tried the latest version of the app. I declined, as I really don’t want to be testing this product. I want it to save my life. So all went well with Spot. That left me dealing with the hardware, which I had purchased at Best Buy. All I could get was store credit, which I suppose is better than nothing. So all is good. I may try the Spot Messenger. We’ll see.

 

When a product is advertised as something that could save your life, it had better work. The Spot Connect doesn’t.

Facebook Comments On Spot Messenger

I looked into Spot products on the advice of Surfline’s Sean Collins. In his article on Baja surf travel, Sean recommended the Spot Satellite GPS Messenger as a “don’t leave home without it” product. If stranded out of cell phone range, this satellite communications product would send a message to loved ones and help at the push of a button. “I need this” was my reaction.

The Spot Connect – Doesn’t work.

I went to the Spot website and learned of another product, the Spot Connect, a device that Bluetooth-links to your smartphone enabling texts and basically more functionality than the Spot Messenger. With all the testimonials and stories on their website about the rescues due to the Spot products, coupled with Surfline’s recommendation, this seemed like a no-brainer.

The Spot Messenger – Works

But I messed up. I should have researched more, in which case, I would have bought the basic product instead. The Connect doesn’t work. Whether it’s the app, the firmware, or whatever, it’s a waste of money that risks your safety. Stick with the basic product.

More on this story here at The Surfer’s Guides blog.

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AFX Helmet Review

5 Jun

AFX FX-39DS Helmet Review from SurfTravelGear on Vimeo.

The AFX Dual Purpose helmet is nice and bright, for high visibility, but has a few issues.

Bad Gas

2 Jun

Problemas? Head to Llantera San Borjas in El Rosario.

There’s a nice, busy Pemex station as you enter El Rosario from the north. This is an important gas stop in Baja, as the next Pemex station isn’t for another 200 miles. There’s gas by the can midway, at Catavina, and more in Punta Prieta, although the latter is difficult to find, but those only have “magna sin” (unleaded regular), and the Pemex in El Rosario has premium.

Most are reluctant to get gas from the can. I’ve filled up in pueblas, fishing villages, and everywhere else they’ll sell you gas from the can, and have not had a problem once. I can’t say the same for the Pemex in El Rosario.

Gas from the can. Fishing village Laguna de San Ignacio. Magna sin only.

Less than a mile after filling up on Premium, while still in second gear to avoid getting a ticket in town, the DR started sputtering, then died. It would start, but sputter and die in seconds. It had to be the gas. What else could explain this? Turn around in the direction of the gas station. Start pushing.

After a 100 yards or so I get to the Llantera San Borjas, owned by a guy from LA, which was fortuitous, as I can speak some Spanish, but not enough come breakdown time. We talked it over and decided it was the gas, of course. They figured I hadn’t watched closely enough and filled up on regular instead of premium. I was quite sure I got premium. Regardless, we decided to drain most of the gas and refill. This went for my extra gallon loaded in a bag on my tail rack.

With much gas drained and the tank nearly empty I tried starting the bike hoping I could get it to sputter enough to make it to the gas station and save the boys a trip with the gas can. The DR started, and ran. And ran and ran. I made it to the Pemex without a stutter.

The answer had arrived. Whatever was bad about the gas was at the bottom of the tank. Which means it was water. There was water in the gas.

I pulled up to a different island for a completely different pump, loaded up on premium, again, and was on my way. No problema.

In Catavina I filled the DR up with regular for the first time. She ran fine. And for the next 1,500 miles or so I filled up mostly on regular, as that’s all that was available. Not a stutter.

Next time I won’t drain as much gas. There was probably less than a cup of water in the tank. Also, if you’ve never drained your gas, you need to put the petcock in the Prime position, otherwise it won’t drain.

Parking, Getting On and Getting Off

2 Jun

From this angle you can probably figure out the challenges of parking, mounting and dismounting.

You may recall that I shortened the kickstand about 1/2″ as the DR650 not only stands too straight up, but it has a soft suspension, so when weighted with the suspension compressed it stands even more straight. Shortening the kickstand increased the lean to the left, keeping the bike from teetering and making mounting and dismounting easier.

Easier may not be the right word. Possible is more like it.

In this shot you can start to see a few of the challenges – the narrow sitting space (not as big of a problem as it seems here), the rear luggage preventing me from mounting the bike by swinging a leg over the rear, and the surfboard further limiting mounting space. What you can’t see is that with the weight of the baggage, the bike is near teetering, so I always had to find parking that sloped slightly downhill to the left, to add lean.

Parked on the right ground, mounting and dismounting can begin. See that duct tape on the seat? That’s not a repair. It’s there to prevent scratching or tearing. To mount, I needed to lift my (heavily booted) right leg onto the seat, then slide it down into the space between the surfboard and the bike, aiming to plant my foot on the ground. I needed to do this in one smooth motion, because as I slipped onto the bike the bike would move more upright, the suspension would compress more, and momentum would push the lean to the right side, so my foot had to get planted quickly. So it was a 2-step deal: Lift right boot onto seat, then slip over and plant right foot solidly on the ground.

(One time I found myself without a landing place for my right foot. I was at the Oasis Motel in Loreto and had parked on the walkway in front of my room, which was narrow and raised, so there was a drop-off where my right foot was to land. Narrowly saved! Had I failed, everything would have toppled onto my surfboard and rack, and that’s for another post.)

Dismounting was just as strange, perhaps stranger. First, stand on pegs, weighting on the left. Second, lift right boot up and onto the seat, so I was now standing with one foot on the left peg and the other on the seat. Third, pull right boot up off the seat and onto the ground. Remove left foot. Why not one smooth motion? The distance between the pegs and the seat combined with the bulk of a solid off-road boot (Moose Racing M1 boot – great value for an excellent, heavy-duty boot) made it near impossible to complete that move in one step without dragging the boot across the seat, risking tears from the boot sole. Also, this was a good test of the stability of the parking spot.

Sounds like a lot of work, and it was at first, but you get the hang of it. The toughest part was the first time I did it, which was when I pulled the fully-loaded bike out of my garage into the alley and fired her up for the trip. No practice run, so I wasn’t even sure if I could get on and off the bike! I was already sweating as I pulled away. The adventure started right then and there.

UPDATE to Board Support Up Front

1 Jun

Duct tape repair. (Have to look closely.) Temporary, and unnecessary, as it turns out.

It didn’t take long for the PVC contraption (see Board Support Up Front post) to fail, cracking after just 8 hours or so in the saddle. Here we are at the Old Mill in San Quintin applying a duct tape repair. As it turned out, it was never needed. In just another couple of hours the support broke off completely, slipping away from the duct tape. The event went unnoticed, though, as the problem solved itself.

The support was never meant to work on its own. It was there as much as an anchor for the bungie cord as anything else. When the contraption broke off, the hose-clamped piece stayed in place, which was all that was needed anyhow, as the Carver racks in the back fully supported the surfboard. All that was needed up front was the bungie cord to keep the nose in and out of the wind. This photo shows the remaining mess that worked great for the rest of that trip, another 2,000 miles, including hundreds of off-road riding, at speed.

All that was needed in the first place was an anchor for the lower bungie cord hook.

So what started as the biggest concern – keeping the front of the surfboard supported and out of the wind – turned out to be a non-issue. Very good news.