We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto…

21 December 2014
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My Baja Blaster

My Baja Blaster

I guess I’ll start by telling you that riding my CSC-150 Baja Blaster, Steve’s resurrection of the venerable vintage Mustang, has been good practice for me and this visit to Chongqing.   When you ride a CSC motorcycle, you collect stares wherever you go (we call it the rock star syndrome, and we even had a CSC custom in the early days we named the Rock Star).  That’s sure been the situation here in Chongqing.   Susie and I are the only non-Chinese folks everywhere we’ve been, starting with our getting on the airplane in Beijing, and people are naturally curious.   It’s like riding the CSC…we’re drawing the stares.   Like the title of this blog says, we’re well off the tourist trail on this trip!

The view from our 21st floor hotel room...it stays misty in this mystical city!

The view from our 21st floor hotel room…it stays misty in this mystical city!

After a great breakfast this morning (see the blog below), we asked about the things to see and do in Chongqing, and our sights this morning settled firmly on a cable car ride across the Yangtze River.   We started by grabbing a cab…

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I hope this guy knows where we want to go, I thought to myself as we got in his cab…

It’s strange…the cabbie spoke no English, so the guy at the hotel had to explain what we wanted.   Then he gave us a card so that when wanted to return, we could show it to the next cab driver.   Another sign of not being in Kansas anymore, I guess…

It’s a bit on the cold side over here, but hey, riders ride and the Chinese are no exception to that rule.   These folks use their motorcycles as transportation, as trucks, as cabs, and more…

This guy would make a good KLR rider...looks like this bike gets washed about as often as my KLR!

This guy would make a good KLR rider…looks like this bike gets washed about as often as my KLR!

If you take a close look at the photo above, you’ll notice something that’s pretty common here in Chongqing…a set of handwarmers.    These are no-fooling-around, guaranteed-to-keep-your-paws-toasty, sure-fire handwarmers, folks! They go way beyond the heated grips that BMW brags about (and that we’ll be offering as options on the Cyclone, by the way).   I’ll show you a few more motorcycle photos; be sure to check out the handwarmers on many of these bikes.

Here’s another shot…a Chinese scooter equipped with what has to be the ultimate luggage rack…

The world's ultimate luggage rack?

The world’s ultimate luggage rack?

The Yangtze River cable car ride was awesome.   It’s about 4,000 feet across the river, and we were packed into that little box like sardines.   Going up to the cable car in the elevator gave a hint of what was to come…we were squeezed in with folks I’ve never met before, and I was already more intimate with them than I had been on most of my high school dates.   I guess that’s just a natural consequence of being in a city with 34 million inhabitants.

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A scene vaguely reminiscent of a James Bond movie…that’s downtown Chongqing in the mist

In the photo above, just to the right of us is where the Yangtze and the Jialing rivers meet.   It’s the downtown area that you’ll see in the following photos.   34 million people live here.  I’m pretty sure we met about half of them this morning.

First, a photo of a Chinese postal service motorcycle.   They paint their postal service vehicles green.   Zongshen is a big supplier of motorcycles to the Chinese postal service.  Check out the handwarmers on this rig!

A postal service motorcycle in downtown Chongqing...check out the handwarmers, and the parcels

A postal service motorcycle in downtown Chongqing…check out the handwarmers, and the parcels

Here’s another bike we spotted while walking downtown…

Live to ride...ride to live...and loud pipes save lives (or something like that)

Live to ride…ride to live…and loud pipes save lives (or something like that)

There were a lot of people out and about today.  There were so many people on the sidewalks we were starting to get a little claustrophobic.  It’s way worse than New York City.   You won’t get a sense of that in the photos that follow, mostly because I waited until there were brief instances when the crowds parted to give me a less-obstructed photo.

Fresh fruit delivered the old-fashioned way...

Fresh fruit delivered the old-fashioned way…

Another fruit transporter...

Another fruit transporter…

I grabbed a few more scenes on our walk downtown…

Interesting...this fellow was making and selling necklace pendants from animal teeth...those are skulls on the ground in front of him!

Interesting…this fellow was making and selling necklace pendants from animal teeth…those are skulls on the ground in front of him!

Sidewalk art...

Sidewalk art…

Colors abound in downtown Chongqing...

Colors abound in downtown Chongqing…

Here’s a cool shot of a youngster who wasn’t too sure about this old guy in an Indiana Jones hat taking his photograph…they don’t see too many people like Susie and me in this neighborhood!

Why is this guy taking my picture?

Why is this guy taking my picture?

And of course, the food vendors.   We did a lot of walking and bumping into people (literally; the sidewalks were jam packed…it was wall-to-wall humanity).   It made me a little hungry.   Check out the food photos, folks…

Feeling hungry?

Feeling hungry?

Top Ramen?

Top Ramen?

I'll bet it tastes good...

I’ll bet it all tastes good…

Oranges being delivered the hard way...

Oranges being delivered the hard way…

Chongqing used to be known in the West as Chun King.   The way the Chinese pronounce it, it almost sounds like Chun King.   When I was a kid, my Mom used to buy Chinese noodles and the name of the company on the can was Chun King.   Little did I know that it was a real place and one day more than a half century later I’d be visiting it!

People...lots of people...and motorcycles...lots of motorcycles!

People…lots of people…and motorcycles…lots of motorcycles!

Another Chinese rider with handwarmers...I've been on a lot of rides where I could have used these!

Another Chinese rider in downtown Chongqing!

Just another photo or two, folks.   The Chinese use these three-wheel vehicles that I guess are cars, but they are based on a tricycle design.   I had not encountered this particular model before, so I grabbed a photo…

A three-wheeler...it's a cool concept!

A three-wheeler…it’s a cool concept!

I looked inside of one of the three wheelers and it actually looked pretty nice in there.   They are used as taxis.   Maybe we’ll grab a ride in one before we leave Chongqing.

I told Susie that I was getting a bit tired (we’re still fighting the time change).  I think I said I wanted to stop monkeying around and head back to the hotel.   That’s when she pointed this scene out to me…

Monkeying around in downtown Chongqing...

Monkeying around in downtown Chongqing…

I think that’s probably enough for now, folks.   Tomorrow’s the first day of this visit with the good folks from Zongshen.   I’ve been following all the stuff on the forums and in your emails to me, and I’ll address many of the things you’ve written about.   I won’t be able to post all of it here, but keep an eye on the blog and maybe I’ll get a photo or two of the factory.    I’m pumped, and I’m looking forward to our discussions tomorrow.

Later, my friends.

 

Dark side of the moon…

20 December 2014
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The obligatory Indiana Jones selfie...

The obligatory Indiana Jones selfie…

Well, not really…but it sure feels like it could be.   It took us over 30 hours of traveling to get here…a 6-hour flight from LAX to Honolulu, a 2-hour layover, almost 13 hours from Honolulu to Beijing, a 2-hour layover in Beijing, and then another 3 hours to Chongqing.   It was a good set of flights, though.   I read Bill O’Reilly’s latest blockbuster Killing Patton (it was excellent; you should read it), and when I finished that, I started re-reading (for about the 5th time) Peter Egan’s Leanings (it’s one of those books every rider should read).   The flights went by quickly, even though we practically needed a calendar (rather than a watch) to measure the length of this journey.   With the help of the international date line, we arrived in Chongqing two days after we left LA!

Our Zongshen point of contact, Bella, was waiting for us at the airport, and then it was another hour to the hotel.   Whew!

Susie and I were on our second wind by the time we arrived in Chongquing.   We didn’t feel tired at all, perhaps because we managed to nap a bit on the flight from Hawaii to Beijing.   But it was that kind of fitful napping when you wake up every 20 minutes trying to find a comfortable position in which to sleep.   And folks, that just doesn’t exist in an airline seat designed for the mythical 98-lb weaklings featured in the Charles Atlas Dynamic Tension ads of yesteryear.    You geezers out there know what I’m talking about.

Susie Q and Bella posing in Chongqing

Susie Q and Bella posing in Chongqing

Chongqing is exactly as I remembered it.   Immense.   Skyscrapers shrouded in mist, peeking up through the green mountains.   Hills.   Valleys.   The Chiang Jiang bisecting the city (Chiang Jiang, in Chinese, means the long river…it runs from western China all the way across the country to Shanghai on the east coast).    We know the Chiang Jiang as the Yangtze.   Like I told Susie…Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.  Susie and I are going to get out to grab a few photos later today and I’ll see if I can capture the mystical nature of this place.

We had a great lunch at a traditional Chinese Sichuan restaurant with Bella.   Chongqing is known for its spicy food.   Good stuff and good food….

Hot, spicy, and (trust me on this) very tasty...

Hot, spicy, and (trust me on this) very tasty…

You know, Christmas in China has become a tradition for Susie and me.   I think this is the third or fourth time we’ve been in China over the holiday season.   China officially has no religion, although they celebrate Christmas as much as we do.   There’s Christmas music everywhere, all in English, and all with American artists.   The same goes for Christmas decorations….

A scene in downtown Chongqing, with Frank Sinatra singing a Christmas carol over the PA system...

A scene in downtown Chongqing, with Frank Sinatra singing a Christmas carol over the PA system…

Say what you will, but I’ve spent a lot of time here and I can tell you the Chinese are not a lot different from us.   They admire the US and I’ve never detected even a hint of animosity.   As is our habit when we are here, we read the China Daily (their English language daily newspaper) over a dynamite breakfast in the hotel a little while ago.   It’s like USA Today, but better written and with more substance.   There’s a political lean to it, but I have to tell you, it’s more pro-American than either the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times (two other papers I like to read with breakfast when I am in the US).    Maybe it’s because of their exposure to us in so many different ways.  Bella told us over lunch that they enjoy most of our TV shows (The Big Bang Theory is a favorite, as I also found it to be in Turkey and in Scotland earlier this year).   And, of course, some of their favorite food spots are distinctly American…

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The Colonel, the coffee, the Big Mac, and the DQ….all the comforts and calories of home…

Anyway, the breakfast was awesome.   Like all of the fancy hotels we’ve stayed in while in China, this one has a breakfast buffet to beat the band.   Susie wanted an omelet with egg whites only…try translating that!  One of the guys standing around helped us by explaining this to the chef, and I actually watched that omelet artist extract the yolks, unbroken, from the pan with chopsticks!  Kids, don’t try that at home!

China is a land of many contrasts, and Chongqing’s street scenes fully show that with the contrast of bright colors and gray architecture…

I was going to ask the balloon to make a motorcycle, but Susie wouldn't let me...

I was going to ask the balloon lady to make a motorcycle, but Susie wouldn’t let me…

More color in Chongqing, and we'll have more to show you later...

More color in Chongqing, and we’ll have more to show you later…

That’s it for now.   We’re going to go down to the hotel gym in a bit where I’ll do my world-famous impersonation of a California gray whale on an exercise bike  (no photos of that, folks…so you’ll have to ride with us to Baja if you want to see it in person).   The work starts tomorrow when I’ll be in the Zongshen plant.

More to follow, so stay tuned…

 

The Motorcycle.com review!

16 December 2014
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The Evans Brasfield RX-3 photo for Motorcycle.com...a magnificent shot!

Evans Brasfield’s stunning Cyclone shot for Motorcycle.com…a magnificent photograph!

When the oldest and biggest online motorcycle magazine gives you a call, you pay attention.   Hell, we pay attention whenever a magazine calls us, but I’ve been following Motorcycle.com for 20 years (yep, they started in 1994).   When they called, it was an especially good feeling.   Tom Roderick (the writer) and Evans Brasfield (the photographer, who also does a lot of writing) visited with us last week and it was a hoot.   Freeway, dirt, twisties…we did it all, and meeting these fellows and watching them work was a special treat.

So, the article…you can read it here.   And when you’ve finished reading it, come on back to the blog so I can share some of the photos I grabbed on our outing last week.   I held off on publishing them on the blog because I didn’t want to jump ahead of the Motorcycle.com guys.

First, my shot of Evans at work…and how about that awesome RX-3 photo above?   Here’s what it looks like when you get to watch two professionals at work.

Evans in the dirt with a wide-angle lens photographing the RX-3

Evans in the dirt with a wide-angle lens photographing the RX-3

We rode into the little mountain town of Lytle Creek and then I took the guys up to Sheep Canyon for the “in the dirt” photos.    Here’s a few of the photos I grabbed…

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Evans and his KTM

The is Bob, another guy on a KTM...I had never met him before, he just happened to be riding in the same area, and he was happy to pose for a photo!

This is Bob, another guy on a KTM…I never met him, he was riding in the same area, and he was happy to pose for a photo!

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Evans getting dialed in on the road into Lytle Creek

Tom Roderick leaning into a corner

Tom Roderick leaning into a corner

Tom Roderick having fun on the RX-3

Tom Roderick having fun on the RX-3

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Evans setting Tom up for the next series of action photos

After playing on the twisties leading into Lytle Creek and in the dirt, we headed up Lone Pine Road to the Grizzly Café in Wrightwood.

I guess I should mention that I told Tom not to be afraid to push the RX-3.   He was not.   He and Evans passed me (I was riding my KLR) and that was it…those boys were GONE!

I tried to catch up, consoling myself that Evans was on an 1199cc motorcycle and that’s why I couldn’t run in the same league.   Tom, though, was on the 250cc RX-3, and let me tell you, that guy can ride!   I watched him lean into the first corner, and that was the last I saw of either of those guys until they stopped a few miles up the road for more photos.   I’m a little bit embarrassed to tell you that Tom and the 250 Cyclone left me and my 650 KLR in the dust.   It was humbling, but impressive.

Okay, so back to the Grizzly Café part of the story.   I had the world’s best tuna melt (no kidding, like Tom on the RX-3 diving into a corner, it was impressive, too).   If I remember correctly Evans got a burger.   Tom ordered this roast beef and jalapeno chemical weapons sandwich even after the waitress told him it was “pretty hot.”   When she brought the food to our table a few minutes later, it hurt just looking at those peppers hanging out of Tom’s sandwich.  Tom had no problems, though.   This guy eats like he rides!

Tom Roderick, whipping tight corners and weapons-grade jalapeno peppers into submission

Tom Roderick, whipping tight corners and weapons-grade jalapeno peppers into submission

Evans Brasfield, photog extraordinaire!

Evans Brasfield, photog extraordinaire!

After wrapping up our late lunch, I grabbed a parting shot of the grizzly above the restaurant….

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A great spot for lunch…the Grizzly Cafe!

Another fun day, folks.    And Evans and Tom, thanks for the great review!

I’m off to Zongshen in a bit, boys and girls.   Ride safe, watch out for the grizzlies, and keep an eye on the blog!

 

Tough as a moose…

15 December 2014
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An expression when I was in high school…if something was very, very cool, we would say it was tough as a moose….

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Moose handguards, that is, or those are (in the photo above).   Just playing around with these a bit, folks…

The orange Cyclone is out being fitted with other accessories, or else we would have put the handguards you see above on it.

More to follow.

 

Light ‘em up!

14 December 2014
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Oh, yeah…the accessories are going to be awesome!

LightEmUp

Just a quick peek at some of the things the Skunkworks guys are putting the final touches on for you!

More to follow, my friends…

 

Steve’s Bobber…

14 December 2014
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And yet another nice photo of a very cool Bobber, this time from my good buddy Twin Peaks Steve…

TPSteve

I’ve ridden with Steve and I can tell you that his bike is awesome.   It’s one of the best-looking customs to ever leave the factory.   Of course, they’re all beautiful.

Hey, Twin Peaks Steve, San Marino Bill, and all the rest of you Mustangers out there…how about a ride up to Mt. Baldy for lunch (along Glendora Ridge Road, of course) when I return from China?

 

San Marino Bill’s sizzling CSC cycles…

14 December 2014
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Our good buddy San Marino Bill (aka Bobber Bill) soared with us on several San Gabriel Mountains sorties.   Bill answered the call and sent us several photos of his CSC cycles.    He knows a good thing when he sees it…he bought two CSC-150s!

Here’s a shot of one of Bill’s bikes…it was one of the project bikes when we first developed the Bobber series.   Here’s the first Bobber as we sold it to Bill…

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This next one is a beauty shot up in the mountains.   Bill is an artistic sort of guy, as this photo shows…

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And here’s a photo of Bill’s second CSC-150 framed by the old art deco bridges in Pasadena…

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Awesome shots, Bill…thanks for sharing!

 

ADVMoto features the Cyclone!

13 December 2014
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You guys and gals remember Paul H. Smith, our good buddy from ADVMoto Magazine

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Well, Paul had nice things to say about the CSC Cyclone in the next issue of his fine magazine…

ADVMoto-Jan-2015---CSC-Cyclone-announcement-1

ADVMoto-Jan-2015---CSC-Cyclone-announcement-2We love it!   Paul, thanks very much, and please make sure to keep us in your plans for the Baja ride…we’d love to have you ride with us!

 

A very cool Trans-Am

13 December 2014
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My buddy Les is one of the Geezers.    He’s a cool guy with some cool toys, and here’s one of them…

IMG_1300Les

It is, of course, a Pontiac Trans-Am, quite similar to the one Burt Reynolds piloted in Smokey and the Bandit.   This one was the top of the line in its day, with a 455-cubin-inch V8, the shaker hood scoop, and the wild graphics.   I’m not sure Les’s car is stock with regard to the graphics…I remember a huge garish decal of a giant bird covering most of the hood.   I like the graphics on this car a lot better.

I only had my iPhone with me when I had lunch with the Geezers on Wednesday, but you get the idea.   It’s quite a car, and I’m pretty sure when Les starts the Firebird it registers on the Richter scale.   In fact, I may get over and have lunch with the Geezers again today…it’s part of the Saturday ritual, and maybe I’ll bring the Nikon with me this time.

Stay tuned!

 

A candy apple red CSC-250…

12 December 2014
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The factory folks recently finished a heavily-accessorized candy-apple red CSC-250, and I thought I would grab a few shots and share this beauty with you.

_DSC0001-250Before I do, and while you’re wondering about that gray block on the right, let me tell you a bit about what I did here.   Modern digital cameras have the capability of adjusting the color for the light in which the photograph was taken.  It’s called white balance, and the idea is to select the right white balance so that the resulting photo most nearly matches what you actually saw when you took the photo (in particular, we’re talking about colors).    The camera has settings for sunlight, shade, incandescent lighting, flourescent lighting, or you can select “A” (for automatic) and the camera will sort of figure it all out.   Most of the time, I just leave the white balance adjustment on “A” (because I am absolutely lazy).

BajaRaceCarsOne time I was with a friend of mine in San Felipe on one of our motorcycle adventures during the Baja 1000.  There were lots of race cars in the hotel parking lot, and the parking lot had these high intensity sodium lights.   We tried to get some decent photos, but none of the white balance color settings on the Nikon resulted in a photo that matched what we were seeing.   The pictures all looked too orange.   The sodium lights were confusing the camera.  That’s when I remembered the custom white balance setting (I had learned about it in a Nikon course a few weeks earlier).

The deal works like this:   You turn the color balance setting to “Pre” (which I guess somehow means custom) and shoot a photo of a plain piece of white or gray paper.   The camera takes the photo and thinks deep thoughts about it, and then self-adjusts its internal thought process  to compensate for whatever lighting existed for the photo of the white or gray paper.   We tried that, and son of a gun, we got a great photo!

Okay, okay, I know…this is not a photography website.   The only reason I’m telling you this story is that I used that approach again this week and I shot a few photos of this awesome red CSC-250 that Lupe and crew assembled.   The factory is complicated from a lighting perspective…we’ve got sunlight, fluorescent lights, incandescent lights, and I suppose the natural glow of light reflected from my bald noggin.   So I dusted off the instructions on the custom white balance setting, shot that white piece of paper (that’s the gray image you see above), and wow!   The resulting photos exactly duplicate what the bike looks like!

So here you go…this custom red 250 has it all…chrome everywhere, custom exhaust, chromed aluminum billet wheels, LED turn signals, a rack, billet mirrors, and lots more.   Feast your eyes, boys and girls!

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Good stuff, and good stuff to know.

It’s raining cats and dogs out here today…it sure was good timing to get our ride in with the boys from Motorcycle.com magazine yesterday!   Stay tuned for more on that story in the near future.

Ride safe, everyone.

 

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