The icon to the upper left is the tornado we dodged in Toledo.

Maintenance, Tornado, and the Ride Down to SCUM

After my Mad Dash home from the ParTay, I needed to perform the 12,000 mile service on the Nightowl so Karen and I could ride down to the SCUM run. The first day of that southward ride had a little weather excitement.

A Busy Day at Home

As a reward for getting home from the west coast in three days, I slept in until 10am.

It was glorious.

On the day’s agenda were the following items:

  • Do laundry (I had a bag full of dirty clothes)
  • Do the 12k mile service on the Nightowl
  • Pack Karen’s items for the trip

That wasn’t a big list, so it shouldn’t be a challenge to get through it before Karen got home from work shortly after 5pm. Then we’d suit up, hop on the Nightowl and head south to get around halfway to South Carolina.

I then called Len to check out our sleeping arrangements for the weekend. Len informed me that we would have a real bed for the weekend, so I added Remove camping gear from Bike to the day’s list.

The next item added to the day’s list was Fix broken washing machine agitator. It wasn’t turning very well while washing my clothes so I made a point to pick up replacement dog ears (it’s a Whirlpool thing) while I was out ordering the aforementioned air filter.

The 12k service on the K1600 is basically the same as the 6k service: change the oil and check all the normal things: brakes, tires, condensate hose, etc., but it adds the final drive gear oil change and a new air filter. I already had purchased the Amsoil Severe Gear 75W-90 fluid for the final drive, so I got right to work.

A part of the 12K service was to replace the air filter, which I didn’t have. After consulting the venerable K1600Forum, I decided that buying a new $58 BMW air filter every 12k miles wasn’t as palatable as buying one K&N filter for $43 and cleaning it every 12k miles. Nobody local had one to the K&N filters in stock, so I ordered one from a local Advance Auto Parts; it would be in by the time I got back from SCUM and I could install it then, albeit about 1,500 miles (2,400km late).

The oil change went smoothly, even more so than the first time due to RL Lemke’s (K1600 Forum member) enhanced sump plug. A check of the brake fluid levels and pad conditions revealed nothing in need of attention. (A bit of a surprise, since I’ve been carrying new brake pads for the entire bike in anticipation of them needing to be replaced during this trip.)

I had purchased a 100ml syringe and some clear tubing for the final drive fluid change. It was very easy to pull 100ml from the bottle and transfer it to the final drive fill hole. The BMW spec is 180-200ml in the final drive, so two syringe’s later I was done.

Dodging the Weather (e.g., Tornado)

We finally got our act together and hit the road late: 7pm. It has been raining pretty hard, so we already had our rain gear on. There were cells of heavy thunderstorms all along our route between Ann Arbor and Columbus, OH. I thought we had an opportunity to shot a gap in the weather, but we were heading out later than I wanted. It was going to be a wet ride.

Out late-start route to Portsmouth, with a data outage in the middle.
Out late-start route to Portsmouth, with a data outage in the middle.

The rain stopped just south of Ann Arbor, but we could see our next dousing waiting for us in Toledo. Just after we merged onto I475, the alert sounded on my iPhone for a tornado warning. The cloud cover to the southwest looked especially nasty, so I elected to stop for dinner now. We parked in front of a Wendy’s as the rain started falling in buckets.

A nice man in a Wendy’s uniform came out and told us to come inside quickly as a tornado was sighted a mile to the southwest. We trotted inside and waited out the oncoming tornado with a few other customers, huddled in the bathrooms in the back o the store.

Monitoring the weather radar, we eventually found that the main cell of the storm had proceeded east and there was a break in the weather to the south, which is where we needed to go. We skipped food and jumped on the Nightowl and pointed the handlebars south.

We turned southeast at Findlay and seemed to clear the last remaining rain by the time we stopped for gas and food in Carey, OH. We ate quickly since it was already dark and we still had a ways to go. We chatted briefly with another biker who was arguing with the locals the point of whether Honda ever made a V8 motorcycle (the answer is no). He followed us out the bike to chat some more and wished us well as we took off.

With the advancing night, the temperature was dropping and we were hitting the dew point, which meant a few more isolated showers as we continued south through Columbus and on towards Portsmouth. We finally checked into the Super 8 in Portsmouth at about 12:30am.

Hot and Humid to Greer

Starting by 10am, we had a nice sunny morning to continue the ride down the SCUM. The route would take us straight down US23 in eastern Kentucky and on to I26 to Asheville, NC and finally to US25. This is a favorite route of mine. It’s scenic, not very crowded, and four lanes (not limited access) for most of the way.

Our US23-heavy route from Portsmouth, OH to Greer, SC.
Our US23-heavy route from Portsmouth, OH to Greer, SC.

Wearing the full Leathers, the temperatures above 90º (32ºC) and high humidity made it pretty sticky. Both us of us spent a lot of time moving our arms in the slipstream around the bike, searching for a position where the ram-air effect up the sleeves would cool the sweat inside our jackets. I noted that the even higher temperatures back in South Dakota a few days ago was easier to handle since the humidity levels were so much lower.

With luck on our side, we made it through Asheville, NC just as the evening rush hour was getting started. With only a few slow-downs, we made it to our US25 exit and then onto the side roads in search of Len and Pauline’s cottage.

Here I must point out one major flaw in the Waze app I use: You can’t search for your own contact’s addresses. Rather than copy/paste the cabin’s address from my contacts to Waze, I just entered the street name and hit Go. Waze then dutifully guided me to where it though I should go on that street, which happened to be several miles away from where I actually wanted to go. I’d traveled this route before, so I recognized when Waze wanted to take me off the route I would usually take. I stopped to bail on Waze and use Apple Maps instead to guide me to the desired address.

I was joking with Karen that I almost always ride past the unmarked driveway for Len and Pauline’s cabin. Just to keep things fresh, I somehow managed to turn into the driveway just before the right one. Yeesh.


When it was all said and done, this year’s dash from the ParTay down to SCUM took the same time: five days. The difference with year was that the swing by Michigan to pick up Karen made it a it longer than usual: 3,017 miles (4,855km).

We’ll be here for the next two days before blasting all the way home on Sunday.

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