Having sent a small parcel home to relieve the pressure on our panniers now we’d added the excellent rally book, T-shirts and caps we hit the road with just over 860 miles to travel to our friends, Kris and Scott, in Connecticut. The plan was to ride most of that on the Saturday leaving a short hop to do on Sunday but we’d reckoned without the holiday-week traffic. Once into Virginia and the Blue Ridge Mountains area the interstate was at a complete standstill. We excited the road at the earliest opportunity intending to try to take some back roads and ran straight into another traffic jam. A quick about turn and we were back on the interstate and sweated it out (literally). It was extremely hot. We swapped from lane to lane in an effort to keep going and confess on occasion we did some crafty filtering when it all got a bit much. Eventually, about 200 miles from the hotel, we’d had enough, saw a sign for a Denny’s and accommodation and abandoned the ride. The following morning, nice and early, we completed our journey and found the roads were pretty much empty.
We thought we’d stay with Kris and Scott for a few days then head off in the direction of Vermont and Maine as we’d been there before and really liked the tiny roads in the area. In the end we were so relaxed and comfortable, sitting on their porch in front of a lovely garden full of birds we don’t see in the UK (including the ‘humming’ variety) we just didn’t want to move on. We finally left on Sunday morning after deciding to spend a couple of nights in Canada next to Niagara Falls.
We happily renewed our acquaintance with the local ice cream parlour and I did go for a short horse ride with Kris on a new-to-her horse and me on one she’s had for years.
Kris and I on the horses, Scott and Kevin walking, we went through a beautiful meadow and Kevin remarked to Scott that he remembers meadows like these in the UK from his childhood but we just don’t see them any more; we’ve apparently lost 97% of our meadowland since the 1940s. As Kris and I meandered back Scott took Kevin a bit further to show him some of the outstanding countryside they have there. Thank you both for a lovely relaxing week. We really enjoyed staying with you and appreciated your hospitality. As Kevin said on Facebook, when you haven’t seen someone for six years but start chatting when you meet as if you last saw one another yesterday you know you have good friends.
The border exiting Canada for the US was absolutely heaving with traffic backed up for miles. The road into Canada was almost empty and we went straight to a booth, had a quick chat with the very pleasant border guard and were on our way. The Oakes Hotel in Niagara Falls was right on top of the Horseshoe Falls with a view from our room which included the American Falls as well. It was a very pleasant hotel and the view was fantastic but it had a major flaw – no bar! Instead of relaxing in the room with a drink after our hot ride we had to make do with coffee and water until we could be bothered to shower and head outside for something to eat and drink in the adjacent Applebee’s.
We bought passes which covered several attractions, and tickets for the local IMAX theatre and spent the following day doing the tourist thing which included walking miles to the Whitewater Walk as we’d missed a vital legend on the map we were using – Not to Scale!
On Tuesday it was time to head back to Mississauga as the bike had an appointment with Air Canada cargo. Bike ready to be shipped, we spent the night in the very friendly and convenient Best Western Plus hotel (we’d also stayed there on the way in) then it was time for us to be shipped home as well. We arrived home early on Thursday morning with a total mileage for the trip of 12,242 miles during the four weeks we were away.
The gloves Kevin bought at the start of the rally proved not to be IBR-proof and now have holes in the fingers, which is a shame as Kevin found them very comfortable. It mirrors our experience with gloves he bought at the start of the 2017 rally. I suppose it is a bit of an extreme test.
We’d been having an ongoing dialogue with Yamaha in the US about our wheel. We have never had a wheel fail in this way or heard of anything similar. We were horrified by what had happened and feel there must have been something intrinsically wrong with the rim. The bike is supposed to be capable of going off-road but the only places it had ever been ridden which weren’t tarmac were all gravel with me on the back; Kevin is a very steady rider in those circumstances as he really doesn’t want to throw me down the road. The US-97 we were on when it failed was flat, the surface looked fairly new and we knew we hadn’t hit anything. We have no idea why the rim failure would have occurred.
Yamaha US’s conclusion from the pictures the dealer sent them was there had been nothing wrong the wheel and if it had been presented as a warranty claim they would have disallowed it. We were quite staggered. They did suggest we could contact Yamaha UK about it which we did last week but have had no response yet.
If Yamaha UK aren’t interested either we’ll contact the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) so at least they know about it. We’re not happy that it happened to us but our bigger concern is there may be others out there with the same problem. We’ve got higher mileage on our bike than many of the same age will have and if it happens to someone else at a later date they might not be lucky enough to remain upright. We’d hate to think we’d done nothing after our experience. Maybe it was a one-off but we don’t think Yamaha should just shrug it off without at least having a proper look at the wheel.
I said to Kevin on our way home that I just didn’t trust the bike any more which prompted him to confess to me that he winces every time we go over a large bump. It’s illogical and we know it’s very unlikely to happen again but we’re no longer comfortable riding on a bike we’ve really enjoyed. I suspect we’ll go back to a GSA, a bike we’ve owned before that Kevin has always liked. The BMW can have its own issues but Kevin has reasonably seriously off-roaded those and never had any problems.
Kevin asked Garmin for an RMA so he could send our 595 back for repair. It would appear they don’t offer a repair service but were willing to sell us a refurbished unit in exchange for ours at a reasonable price. The sting in the tail was when their agent told us that any downloaded services – our lifetime American maps and the annual speed camera waypoints Kevin purchased in March – would not be transferred.
Kevin sent an email asking them to reconsider as our unit was only just out of warranty but got a reply from the same agent he’d spoken to on the phone saying there was nothing they could do. That was patently untrue. However their systems are designed it’s a simple database update replacing one device serial number with another so the reason they don’t do it is because that’s what they choose to do.
The maps and camera database aren’t cheap so that prompted Kevin to look for an alternative solution and the repaired unit has just been delivered back to us. SatNav Repairs were unable to replace the socket at the moment due to lack of parts but rather than lose the maps and cameras Kevin agreed for them to solder the battery connections to the motherboard. The relevant parts should be available in September. Their service has been excellent and professional from the start. Perhaps Garmin should take note.
[Later] Kevin emailed Garmin telling them he no longer needed a refurbished unit and, again, expressed disappointment that he would have lost services if he’d gone down that route. He’s just had a response from a different agent telling him that when they supply a refurbished they do transfer the services, the first agent had got it completely wrong. It’s not often that Kevin is lost for words but he is on this occasion!
With the honourable exception of some we’ve participated in in Germany and Ireland, many rallies involve hammering up and down the country on motorways or interstates if we want to be competitive. We freely confess that sometimes the thing we like best about a rally can be the sense of achievement on finishing it. We can see beautiful sights and interesting places we wouldn’t have ever seen without the rally but the bit in between, all those boring roads, can be a bit of a drag. Jeff did a really great job with this rally and it was very different. Yes we travelled a lot of interstate miles but they were interspersed with some fantastic roads to out-of-the-way places that we both really, REALLY, enjoyed riding – those roads less travelled. Whilst the IBR is on a much larger and grander scale, it reminded us of the first rally we ever rode in – the Brit Butt in 2010 when we spent much of the rally on back roads and arrived at the end point with huge grins on our faces.
There is no denying that participating in the Iron Butt Rally is an expensive undertaking, especially for non-North American residents who ship their bike there as we do. Before the rally we’d made the cost-driven decision that this was definitely going to be our last one. Now? Now we’re not so sure. In fact Kevin enjoyed the 2019 IBR so much he’s pretty sure he wants to do another one. Assuming we can afford it and are lucky enough to be drawn it’s very likely we’ll be putting our bike on a plane again some time in the future.
Now we’re back on the bike we hope to be out and about a lot more so see you on the road.