Bike Bias


August 29, 2003

Minot, ND -
Grand Forks, ND

212 miles

3:30 driving time



The center of everything

Rugby, North Dakota.  The 'Geographic Center of North America'.  It even says so on the map.  Smack dab at the intersection of US 2 and ND 3.  We are there.  You can feel the harmonic balance in the chilly morning air. 

We're just finishing breakfast at The Cornerstone Cafe, and I'm headed for the restroom to get my own universe back in balance.  As I enter, a local retired gentleman is just finishing up in the single-use facility.  As he dries his hands, he eyes my riding gear and says "So, are you one of them bikers parked out front?"

"Yes sir, yes I am."

"So, must be pretty good riding today, eh?"

"Yes sir, yes it is."  I shift my weight from boot to boot.  I'm on a mission here, buddy.

"So, where are you headed?" 

"MinneSOHta.  We'll get to our destination on Sunday."  I'm shifting back and forth more rapidly.  He seems intrigued. Maybe he thinks I'm inventing a new dance step, the motorcycle mambo.

"So, where did ya come from?"   Eeeks.  This is getting painful. 

"Seattle."  I'm trying to respond with as few syllables as possible.  I'm also thinking about what change of clothes I've got with me.

"So, sounds like a good ride.  You be careful out there!"

"Yes sir, we will be careful."  Whew.  People are so darned friendly out here.  I ponder this as I hurriedly lock the door behind him.

We're driving US 2 from Minot to Grand Forks, and this is some of the most monotonous driving we'll have during this trip.  It's virtually all four-lane across flat, featureless prairie.  This gives me plenty of time to think about the differences between this tour and the previous five W&G tours.  The single biggest difference for me is that I'm riding a bike that I don't own, a first for me.  Since the original plan was to take the tiddlers, I was already comfortable with the concept of riding a bike not my own. 

The primary benefit of riding a bike that's not mine is that I can throw the key at Whizmo when we finish the tour.  But another benefit is that I feel no brand loyalty whatsoever.  This means that I'm free to be clothed with a potpourri of mixed logo'd clothing without any concern for violating any sacred trusts with my riding brethren.  My lovely wife Janis thinks this is a good thing, because I've been collecting branded clothing over the years, but this is the first time they've ever been allowed to go out together.  Previously, they were kept strictly separated from one another.  So I've got Harley boots and turtleneck, a jaunty BMW cap, and Honda gloves.  They're all getting along famously.

When I decided to ride the Kawasaki, one thing that I did not consider was the political implications of riding a Japanese bike.  I've owned several Hondas and a Yamaha over the years, and I've never had any reservations about buying Japanese bikes.  They're well-made and reliable, and even though a goodly portion of the purchase price goes overseas, I always end up spending a fair number of dollars in local shops for maintenance and upkeep.  But it's no secret in the motorcycling community that some folks are very much against any bikes not manufactured in America.  I hadn't considered the implications of this.  When you see a t-shirt like the one below, you're suddenly reminded that not everyone buys bikes based on performance and reliability.

One man's opinion

and another

When I switched from the Harley Road King to the BMW K1200LT in 1999, I was reassured that Harley riders have grudging respect for BMW riders.  I'm not sure what the rationale for this might be, but I've never heard any Harley riders disparage German bikes with the special disdain reserved for Japanese bikes.  As a BMW rider, I waved at all riders, regardless of the ethnic origin of their bike.  And most waved back.  But now that I'm on a Japanese bike, I'm noticing that there's definitely a different reaction to the bike.  Strange. 

So what are the substantial and meaningful differences between riding the dearly departed LT and the borrowed ZRX?

BMW K1200 LT

Kawasaki ZRX1100

As several of you have pointed out during past tours, the Beemer 'LT' designation might stand for 'Light Truck'.  Hahaha. (It actually stands for "Luxury Touring".)  However, I must admit that riding on (in?) the LT is not unlike riding in a two-wheel convertible.  The amenities and weather protection are second to none.  Now that I don't own the bike I can admit that it came stock with a 6-CD changer, which I immediately removed to regain the storage space!  We're talking heated seats, grips, cruise control and adjustable windshield to get just the right amount of airflow.  We're talking spacious storage compartments with rugged bags that fit precisely inside.  We're talking a top box with enough room for two helmets.  All locking and waterproof.  OK, definitely on the high end of luxury touring.  It deserves the designation.  In contrast, the ZRX has none of these features.  We're talking basically an engine, a couple of wheels and some extra hardware to hold it together.  Don't get me wrong - this bike is a blast to ride - it's nimble, fast and easy to handle.  But there are NO amenities.  You are out there in the elements.  The lack of a fairing and a windshield makes for a 15 degree difference in comfort level when riding.  In other words, I could be comfortable in the mid-30s on the K12, while 50 degrees is pretty darn chilly on the ZRX. 

And of course, weight and handling are vastly different, as the LT is half again as heavy as the ZRX.

Two last points of comparison before moving on.  Having small, separate luggage compartments makes for very simple and elegant packing.  You can isolate electronics from clothing, tools from riding gear.  With one gigantic duffel bag on the back of the ZRX, I spend probably 10 minutes each day securing and removing it from the bike.  Attached luggage is good!  And I still don't understand why ALL touring motorcycles don't come standard with heated grips, as most BMWs do.

Let's quit picking on motorcyclists and turn our attention to North Dakotans.  Besides the fact that they're so darned friendly, they'll drive nearly anything on the road.  Take a look at some of the vehicles we encountered today:


Whizmo and camera

It's been very gratifying to receive all of the positive feedback about the new photo gallery feature.  Whizmo spent a lot of time developing the layout and concept before we left.  With this new feature, we spend more time each day looking for images that stand on their own without our flimsy editorializing.  It approximately doubles the amount of time we spend working on content each day, but so far, it all seems worth it.  Please make sure to click the down arrow at the top of each day's report to view the latest images from each day.

Tomorrow we land in Duluth, our last stop before meeting up with the Jerks.  The Weather Channel swears we'll have yet another good ride. 

Thanks for riding with us.

Ok, ok, ok.  Enough clamoring for the results of contest #1.  Not only are we going to declare a winner for contest #1, we're going to close contest #2 and declare a winner as well.

So here's the scoop.  For Contest #1, Name Those Ridin' Tunes, the correct answers were:

1. Jackson Browne - The Naked Ride Home
2. Traffic - Freedom Rider
3. John Hammond - Ride 'til I Die
4. LaVern Baker - See See Rider
5. Billy Joel - You May Be Right
6. The Doors - Riders on the Storm
7. Blues Image - Ride Captain Ride
8. Vanity Fair - Hitchin' a Ride
9. Joe Cocker - Midnight Rider
10. Bonnie Raitt - Slow Ride
11. Sons of the Pioneers - Ride Ranger Ride
12. Nanci Griffith - Night Rider's Lament
13. The Byrds - Ballad of Easy Rider

With 11 of 13 correct, the winner is ... Glenda Revelle of Fayetteville Arkansas.  Faithful W&G armchair travelers will recognize Glenda as last year's grand prize winner and honorary Izmette.  Wow, great start Glenda!  Let's see if you can keep it up, eh?  

For Contest #2, The Perplexing Palindromic Puzzle, we received seven correct answers as we went to press.  The first correct answer, 385, was submitted by Joe Ozinski of Kirkland Washington.  Additional correct answers were supplied by Mike Meadors, Brian Crist, Dale Pestes, Bob Seidensticker, Keith McCurdy and Peter Ellis (in that order).  For an explanation of how to arrive at the correct answer by ruthless logic, go to the bottom of this page to see the explanation submitted by Peter Ellis and Amanda Mulka.  Also shown is a snippet of Java code written by 'brute force' Whizmo who wanted to be REALLY sure we knew the correct answer.

Without further ado, here's contest #3.  Let the captioning begin!

 W&G Contest  #3   

Caption the Silly Snapshot!

We need your name and email address to uniquely identify the winning entry.  Whizmo & Gizmo swear on a stack of balding tires that we would never, ever share your email address with anyone for any purpose.  We just need to know who the winners are!


Explanation of how to solve Contest #2, A Perplexing Palindromic Puzzle, as submitted by Peter Ellis and Amanda Mulka.

There are nine possible values in every grouping through double-digit numbers. This goes up to 10 for every triple-digit number:

1-9: 9 (all numbers can be read backwards)
11-99: 9 (11, 22, 33...)
100-199: 10 (101, 111 ... 191)
200-299: 10
300-399: 10
400-499: 10
500-599: 10
600-699: 10
700-799: 10
800-899: 10
900-999: 10
1000-1999: 10
2000-2999: 10
3000-3999: 10
4000-4999: 10
5000-5999: 10
6000-6999: 10
7000-7999: 10
8000-8999: 10
9000-9999: 10

This is easy up until 9999 - there's exactly 198 palindromes between 1-9999.

This gets more complicated with five-digit numbers (you wascally wabbits, you...)

Given the following position mapping:

0 0 0 0 0

Since 28682 is our ending point, for the last sequence of numbers (this would be 20002 through 28682), the following applies:

Outer positions A, E can only be 1 and 2.
The middle positions B, D can be 0-8.
Center position C can be 0-6.

However, for everything BELOW 20002, positions B, C, and D can be 0-9. The number in A and E is 1.

if A and B are set to specific numbers, then D and E must also be set to those integers to be considered a palindrome. C is independent.

If AB is 10, DE must be 01. C can be 0-9, so there are:


10 possibilities for each possible replacement in position C.

If B and D are 0: 10 possibilities
If B and D are 1: 10 possibilities
If B and D are 2: 10 possibilities
If B and D are 3: 10 possibilities
If B and D are 4: 10 possibilities
If B and D are 5: 10 possibilities
If B and D are 6: 10 possibilities
If B and D are 7: 10 possibilities
If B and D are 8: 10 possibilities
If B and D are 9: 10 possibilities

90 possibilities for all numbers between 10000 and 19999.

Now we get to 20002 through 28682. The same rule as above applies UP UNTIL B and D are set to 8, so:

If B and D are 0: 10 possibilities
If B and D are 1: 10 possibilities
If B and D are 2: 10 possibilities
If B and D are 3: 10 possibilities
If B and D are 4: 10 possibilities
If B and D are 5: 10 possibilities
If B and D are 6: 10 possibilities
If B and D are 7: 10 possibilities

Now, we have A set to 2, B and D set to 8, and C varies:


This is an additional seven possibilities.

Thus, there are 198 + 100 + 80 + 7 = 385 possibilities.

Whizmo's Java Program

public class odometer {
    // Counts palindromic odometer numbers between specifed beg and end
    // Whizmo - 6/2003
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        int beg=1;          // beg and end numbers
        int end=28682;
        int ctr=0;          // palindrome counter
        for (int i=beg; i<=end; i++) {
            String s = String.valueOf(i);
            boolean isPalindrome = true;
            for (int j=0; j<(s.length()/2); j++) {
                if (s.charAt(j)!=s.charAt(s.length()-1-j)) {
                    isPalindrome = false;   break;
            if (isPalindrome) {
                System.out.println(s+" reads the same left>>right or right<<left");
        System.out.println ("Total palindromic numbers between "+beg+" and "+end+" is "+ctr);

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