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Good Morning, FJ 09'ers!

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I picked up a 2016 model FJ09 at mid-September for a trip up to Gerlach from San Diego, and have been loving everything ... except for the atrocious stock tires and the terrible oil pan design.
Quick intro: Moved to SD from central god-forsaken Michigan this past August. Computer geek by trade. Adrenaline junkie. An open book.
Anyone in the San Diego area looking for a weekday riding buddy, I'm your gal! I work from home and my schedule is very flexible (heading out for 3-4 hours this afternoon, in fact.) These roads aren't going to ride themselves. smiley.png
By way of further introduction, here's my Thanksgiving Tale of Woe and Gratitude, originally published in the BMW Owners Club of San Diego newsletter, "Road Signs:"
Some days, the road unwinds before me like an undulating black satin ribbon that never seems to end. Others... not so much. The pavement (or lack thereof) can bump grudgingly along, sometimes I find myself behind RV's, sometimes water falls from the sky, sometimes unforgiving heat desiccates all joy. Most rides fall somewhere in between. Today’s adventure was downright glorious, right up to the point where I split my damn oil case. Going about 0.5 miles per hour.
In line at the Mexico -> US border crossing.
Let’s take it from the top, shall we?
I'd never been to Mexico, so when Lynlee, et al, invited me along on their next Mexi-Moto Adventure, I leapt at the opportunity. It was a beautiful ride down to Ensenada, and I was grateful for the group letting me follow along like a baby duck in unfamiliar waters. I had no idea what to expect? Long minutes of interrogation? Body cavity searches?
Fortunately (or, depending upon your point of view, unfortunately,) those were not issues. Getting across the border was a piece of cake with zero human interaction. Automated cameras recorded my particulars and raised the arm to allow me entrance into Mexico.
The ride down to lunch was damn near flawless: The morning sun danced on the Pacific showing currents and eddies which gave way to gently breaking surf near shore. Mexico 1D is an easy ride with far better pavement than I am used to riding in my home state of Michigan. I grooved along to my usual moto playlist, contentedly settling into a very chill pace behind Markus and Jonathan.
As we passed a fish processing plant along the way, the stench of which was overpowering. Palpable. Practically visible. Hork. My chill was slightly harshed, but only for a few moments.
We transitioned to Federal Highway 1, which cut inland a bit and was quite lovely and largely free of traffic. In my haste to leave on time, I had left one of the chingaderos for my GoPro at home, and captured exactly none of this on video, much to my eternal chagrin. I reckon I’ll just have to go back and do it again: Damn, rough break.
We rolled into Ensenada, and I was particularly grateful not to be making my own way through the crowded streets. There was a symphony of chaos to be contended with, and, while street signs and regulations do exist, the denizens seem to go off-book rather often. There is a flow, but to the novice such as myself, it looks like unmitigated shenanigans. Polite shenanigans, however; traffic in Mexico is … civilized. It’s as if they understand we all have someplace we gotta be, and work together to make it happen smoothly. US drivers, please make a note.
We parked, and I popped our destination into Google Maps. It was, Google assured us, a mere 4-minute walk. Perfect - some of us were carrying helmets and gear, so the shorter the better. I hear tales about how Siri can be a bit of a fickle minx when navigating, but, being an Android minion myself, I’ve not had direct experience. Google maps has been darned good to me over the years, so I struck confidently out toward our destination.
Right. Left. Right. Through a small grotto of homeless individuals, who hollered out “Good morning!” cheerily. Left. Right. Past burned-out buildings and the blackened husk of a bus. We began wondering if Google was routing us to lunch or to buy meth. More than 4 minutes and .2 miles had passed.
Left, right. We began to see signs of less sketchy places ahead, but the restaurant wasn’t getting much closer. We asked a street food vendor for help, and were happy to find it was right across the street from where we were. We did not, however, initially see our target and traipsed right past it. The vendor saw this, and chased us down from a block away to make sure we arrived - what a nice guy.
The restaurant was small, cozy, and smelled delicious. The food was amazing and inexpensive. Those who purchased ceviche had mountains of food topped with fresh avocados to plow through. I was a bit baffled by the bathroom situation (Clams vs. Shrimp? What?! No, no, let's not go there, really, let's just not,) but smooth sailing otherwise.
We waddled back to the bikes via a less shady route of our own choosing, and I was wholly unprepared for the onslaught of aggressive salespeople constantly inviting me to (or outright demanding that I) check out their wares. Said wares including everything from shark jaws to clothes to table dances to massages to chachkies and everything in between. We were looking for Baja stickers for some of the group, but such a thing didn’t exist in Ensenada. Alas.
Reading online, I had been led to believe anything not locked down by 17 different apparatuses would go missing in the blink of an eye. Happily, all bikes and gear were present and accounted for upon arrival, though someone seemed to have been fiddling with the bikes a bit: One of us had a mount in a different position, and my bike took nearly a full minute to start for some reason, something it’s never exhibited before.
Riding north to Tecate on Carr. Libre Ensenada - Tecate, the road was once again smooth, and the scenery rustic. The thermometer kissed 100 once or twice inland, but by the time we hit town, it was a breezy 86 degrees. A quick stop for another bite at an epic taco/burrito joint about 100 yards from the border, and we were on our way again with plenty of time to get home before dark.
Plenty. Of time. Unless.
Being on bikes, we could break into the front of the line by crossing some barriers, and a very nice man in a white pickup let the whole group go ahead of him. His altruism would, of course, be repaid swiftly and unkindly.
We waited patiently in line for a few moments. The booth was a scant couple of dozen feet in front of me. Soon, the perfectly-paved twisties south of Jamul would be gliding beneath my wheels.
Or, y’know. Not.
I love motorcycles - damn near all of ‘em. I am no brand loyalist, having owned Hondas, Yamahas, BMW’s, and Harleys (shhhhh) over the years. If it has two wheels and is not too tall for me to manage, I’m happy. I am particularly fond of Yamahas, and hence, I currently own two of them: The now-grenaded 2016 FJ 09 and a much-loved, well-worn 2002 FZ1-R1. Those Yammie engineers really know their stuff.
That is, until they designed the FJ 09’s 5.3” (unladen) (what do you mean, an African or a European swallow?) ground clearance. The FJ 09 closely resembles its more adventuresome sibling, the Super Tenere. With aluminum panniers mounted, it looks for all the world like a proper adventure bike. Until one glances under the engine.
Since I only do the gentlest of off-road riding on this bike, I was never concerned with it. I’d gone over speed bumps a thousand times, big ones, too. No problem!
That fateful afternoon, however, I went up over what must have been The World's Tallest, Pointiest Speed Bump and felt an enormous CLUNK on the downslope. "Shhhhhhhhhit," I hissed, thinking I'd just put a colossal dent in my pipes. However, Maria, who was right behind me, began yelling for me to shut the engine off, and I knew what had happened. Not even wanting to, I looked down, I saw the swiftly widening pool of oil slithering out from under and behind me.
Frick. This was now An Ordeal.
I pushed the bike over to the side, brain racing a mile a minute, to inspect the damage. It was a very odd injury, very difficult to see through the streaming (very clean!) oil, but was obviously quite fatal. Ever calm and collected, Maria very adamantly and in a no-nonsense but somehow urgent manner said, "GET OVER THE BORDER." Sound advice.
I limped the bike up toward the booth, which now seemed about a zillion meters away, only turning on the engine when needed. The shameful brown trail oozed along behind me, coating my boots, my rear tire, and pretty much everything else in a seven-mile radius - I was my own rolling environmental disaster. For someone who is as green as the day is long, this was mortifying, and almost more upsetting than the dollar bill signs clanging, slot-machine-like, behind my eyes.
The customs agent in our line was not a pleasant individual. Markus tried to explain what happened and that he would probably need to help me push the bike across the border, but the guard wasn't having any of that nonsense. No, Markus could not pull over to the side to wait. No, he could not go back. Eventually, Markus was grudgingly released, and it was my turn. I led my ever-growing oil slick up to the guard, who asked me what happened. He wasn't really interested in my answer, however, and mumbled something I couldn't hear.
Internally, I balanced how much I wanted to rage at him about the ridiculous speed bump versus how much I wanted entrance back into my home country. Political state of affairs aside, the US is where all of my stuff is, so in a rare feat of common sense and self-censoring, I kept my comments to myself (trust me, this is no mean feat.)
He took my passport, asked what I planned to do or where I planned to go, and I asked where the nearest gas station was. He assured me they wouldn't have any oil there, but my streak of no cavity searches happily continued. Absentmindedly handing my passport back, he told me to proceed straight ahead.
Which I did.
This took me into the secondary inspection area - someplace where I was not supposed to be, as luck would have it. An inspection dog, several frustrated travelers in cars, and every customs agent in creation gaped at me. An astounding volume of oil was still leaking from my wounded machine, contrasting starkly against the clean, white concrete. A (much nicer) customs agent assured me I was most definitely in the wrong place, and gently urged me to Move Along Right Now, Please and Thank You. There was something in her tone that intimated my streak might be broken if I didn’t immediately heed her advice. Off I went.
My rear tire and the soles of my boots were well lubricated by this time, and as I rode the approximately 0.2 miles to the nearest gas station, I was absolutely convinced insult would soon be added to injury by having the damn thing slip out from underneath me. I rode as gingerly and as nervously as a lamb walking amongst lions. Fortunately, the sheer power of my butt pucker held things together. Also, the engine did not explode, so I had that going for me which was nice.
I pulled into the parking lot and found a scant bit of shade. It was a little after 14:00.
Unbeknownst to us, that shady spot would be our home for the next five effing hours.
It was not an interesting parking lot.
At all.
The poor truck driver who had so kindly motioned us ahead of him probably had a bit of a wait as the customs staff threw kitty litter down over the oil slick which by this time rivaled that of a beleaguered oil tanker.
Ok, time to deal with logistics, as I wasn’t going anywhere under my bike’s power. I called Motoworld, my dealership of choice, and spoke with the service department. Most of the service guys there know me quite well, but this guy and I hadn’t interacted much. He listened sympathetically to my tale of woe, and reminded me they wouldn’t be open the next day, which was Thanksgiving. They’d be open until 18:00 that night, though, so if I could get it there by then, they’d of course store it for me until Friday. No problem! Plenty of time. In the event I couldn’t get there before closing, though, he most definitely did not recommend leaving it there unattended and unsecured for 36 hours. Ok, cool. I got off the line and moved on.
"Whew, lucky I have AAA," I believe I said at some point, confidently whipping out my membership card and dialing the roadside assistance hotline. After navigating the phone tree and entering my membership number easily 9,000 times, I finally spoke with an actual human. He made sure I was safe, and asked where I was. "Tecate, California."
"Tecate, right by the Mexico border."
"That's in northern California, right?"
Rather than give the young man a geography lesson, I opted for a much simpler, "No, it's as south as you can get."
“How do you spell that?”
I did. Twice.
He assured me they'd have someone out as soon as possible, and that it might take “a little bit longer than usual,” given the locale, but that I'd get an update soon.
Shortly thereafter, a text arrived saying the driver would be there by 15:35, and it was then 14:27. I rolled my eyes at an inconvenient wait for one whole hour, and told the group they should go ahead without me, I'd be fine. They all insisted upon staying to make sure everything worked out ok, and boy howdy, I'm glad they were less trusting in the universe than I was.
15:35 came and went, as did 16:00 and 16:15. I got AAA back on the horn and discovered the driver had said, "Nah, not gonna do it" and canceled. No one had bothered to inform me. Strike One, AAA; Strike One. There would be another dozen or so over the course of the next few hours.
"We're working on finding someone else right now," the woman said, and given her tone, I could tell this had only just now blipped their radar. "We'll call you back soon."
About 100 years ago, I avidly devoured all of Richard Bach’s aviation-related books. One line stuck with me across the decades, a line he used many times when he was waiting for the plane towing his glider to get going: “Let’s go, towplane; let’s go.” I remember this line in most circumstances where my inner three-year-old is impatiently stomping her feet and champing at the bit to PLEASE GET THIS SHOW ON THE ROAD. It would be my mantra for hours to come.
I waited perhaps another half hour before calling them, entering my membership number another few million times, blah blah blah. "We're having a little bit of trouble getting someone to pick up the call," the dispatcher said. It was nearly 17:00 by this point, the sun was verrrry low in the sky, and my patience was wearing verrrrrry thin. I amped up the drama a bit. "Ma'am, it's getting dark, the businesses here are going to close, I have nowhere to go, and I'm in a really sketchy part of town. I need you to get this moving."
"If you're feeling unsafe, you should be ready to call the authorities," she stated flatly. I resisted the urge to reach through the phone, and I even managed not to call into question her mother's integrity. Instead, I very politely said, "that won't be necessary yet, thank you."
I am from the Midwest. I am excruciatingly polite. When common farming folk like myself get really angry at strangers, the only way you can tell is because we haven't yet made them a casserole.
The casserole-less agent assured me a supervisor would call me back in no more than 10 minutes.
Naturally, nearly an hour passed before I abandoned waiting and once again dialed them up, entered the effing membership number more times, spelled "Tecate" again, and so forth. It was full-on dark, and I amped up the urgency again. "Are you in a safe place" is a question that apparently every AAA assistant agent must ask, and to which they must receive a "yes;" otherwise, the call cannot continue.
"Are you in a safe place?"
"That's becoming debatable with every passing minute."
"Do you need to call the police?"
"No, let's just get this moving."
"I need you to say you're safe before I can continue with this call."
Swallowing a shriek, I said I was safe, and then asked to speak with a supervisor. On hold I went.
More than a few cruise ship vacation advertisements later, Kayla, who assured me she was, in fact, a supervisor, got on the line. I took a deep breath.
"Kayla, thanks for talking with me. I'm not angry at you, but you're the person who's stuck talking to me, and I am VERY angry with this situation. It has been almost three hours now, and I have no idea when or even whether I am going to get a tow."
"I understand this is frustrating..."
"Ma'am, the sun is down, I'm by myself, [apparently my polite, Midwestern upbringing didn’t preclude this sort of lie] and my safety is at risk at this point. I need someone to come get me and this bike, Right Now."
She called my bluff: "If you want, I can phone the police while we're on this call." Dammit.
"Let's not do that just yet, I just need someone to come get me, please."
She explained how they were understaffed and task-saturated on this holiday evening. They had secured one agent who then said no, the next had broken down en route, and they couldn't find anyone else at all. By this point, Maria had been phoning local tow companies, and the manager of the business in front of which we had parked had given me the card of someone she knew locally. She swore to me up and down she would call me back in no more than 10 minutes, and that she would personally find me a flatbed.
Certain 10 minutes would evolve into a small eternity, I called the number on the card the woman from the money exchange had given me and was connected (sort of) to the cell phone of a driver. Between the abysmal connection, the insane volume and speed at which he spoke, and my even more abysmal hearing, I could only understand about every fourth word. That word was usually “casino,” though I couldn’t fully understand how that came into play. Later on, I would. I gathered he was going to try to get here in about an hour, maybe and hour and a half. Ok. I told him I’d call him back to confirm.
AAA said they would reimburse me if I found my own tow. Sweet. I phoned the gentleman back, and grokked he would get there as soon as he could, though the specifics were lost to the various communication obstacles mentioned above.
I'll spare you the even more endless, stupid, boring details, but suffice to say, AAA was not going to be sending help anytime soon. Several more phone calls yielded only empty promises. Maybe they could get someone there in two and a half hours. It could be the morning, they just didn't know. Oh, get bent (which, of course, came out as, "Thank you for your help." #PureMichigan)
The business manager and her husband came out to talk to us a couple of times and actually offered to drive me and the bike home in their Ranger, if push came to shove. They genuinely meant it, too, which was very touching. Super nice people. Sadly, we had no way to hoist the 500-pound bike into the truck's bed.
Sensing my options were quickly growing thin, and not counting my tow truck before it hatched, I sent an email to the esteemed chatter@ email list, and a few replied wishing they could help and said they'd boost the signal. Then, miracle of miracles, Gary Albert answered the call to duty. He had a van, a ramp, and tiedowns, and he could be there by 7:30. Score! I called the truck driver back to cancel, and his relief was obvious. “OK GOOD I DIDN’T WANT TO LEAVE THE CASINO THANKS REALLY DIDN’T WANT TO LEAVE THE CASINO SO I’M GLAD I DON’T NEED TO COME GET YOU OK THANKS.”
I did not, however, cancel AAA’s efforts, on the off-chance Gary encountered any troubles.
Let’s go, towplane; let’s go.
At some point, Jonathan and Markus cracked open a couple of beers to help pass the time, we made small talk, Lynlee discovered the world's most horrible porta-potty (for which she had to pay a dollar,) and I might have sworn once or twice. Ok, maybe it was a few more times than that. Heck.
Gary arrived, and we had to we disassemble a few bits on the bike to eke it into the van. Windshield, mirrors, and aluminum panniers came off.
He maneuvered the van close to some steps to decrease the angle of attack on the ramp, and the lot of us worked together to get her loaded up. Happily, we got her down the steps, up the ramp, and the van swallowed her whole.
Gary tied her down like a pro, and off we went down the far-less-pleasant-at-night twisty roads to Jamul. Somewhere along the way, an honest-to-goodness actual AAA-approved tow truck driver called to make arrangements, and I told him his services were no longer required.
Near the Border Patrol checkpoint, Gary offered to take the bike all the way back to my place, rather than leaving it at his, to make things easier for me. Bless his puddin' heart! We informed the group of the change in plans, and about a half hour later, rolled into my parking garage. Unloading was considerably easier, and my weary companions seemed relieved it was finally, finally over. Wracked with guilt, but overcome with gratitude, I told them all, “lunch is on me next time, guys.”
When I sent an update to the chatter list, Scott D. jokingly mentioned my lack of a warm and fuzzy Thanksgiving Attitude. I tell you what - I am extremely humbled and grateful to have been traveling with people who wouldn't leave anyone behind, even when that person insisted she'd be Just Fine, No Really, Oh Please God Don't Let Me Hold You Hostage For Hours On End. I haaaaate inconveniencing people, but these humans were so gracious about it all. I am eternally in your debt, all of you.
Gary, you truly went above and beyond here, and with such a positive attitude, all for someone you’d never met. THANK YOU!
Gary, Markus, Lynlee, Maria, and Jonathan - Thank you for seeing me home safely! I am very sorry to have eaten your entire afternoon, evening, and night. Next time, I’ll bring a skid plate.
No, Nick, I am not buying a GS.
Stop it.
No, STOP IT, I don't need your encouragement! I'm plenty good at throwing my money down the toilet without any help, thank you. Ok, lies, I’ll probably end up getting an 800 GS, but that has to wait (emphasis directed at my own lack of financial discipline.)
It is damn near 23:00 now, and my eyes are begging to be released from active duty. Goodnight, everyone, and thanks to all. I am grateful to be a part of this amazing group.
Happy Thanksgiving!
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Quite a tale, and an outstanding read! 
If you are not a published writer, you should be! Maybe send this to some of the mc mags. "Rider" mag is building up its Lady Rider brand.
Oh, welcome to the forum!

Oh gosh - thanks for the kind words! I've long wished to make a living as a writer, but haven't ever broken into the market for real. I've had a few short stories published in anthologies about 100 years ago, and a couple of articles here and there, but it's been almost 20 years - alas! I'll see about shopping this around, perhaps - thanks for the encouragement. :)
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Thanks, guys! Happy to be here, and a skid plate should be arriving later today. smiley.png
I may have missed it, but which skid plate did you opt for?
After reading a ton of stuff here and elsewhere, I opted for one of the SW-Motech options:
On the plus side, when the dealership replaced the pan, they updated it to the new version with the oil plug on the side. This is a VERY GOOD THING, because when out camping at the Salton Sea this past weekend... I probably would've hit the damn plug AGAIN because of a stupid-high speed bump in a parking lot. It was a much lighter scrape, and I dreaded seeing the black ooze in the dark, but fortunately, the lowest point now seems to be the exhaust (which received only a light scrape.) 
I kind of want to punch these engineers in the genitals.
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After reading a ton of stuff here and elsewhere, I opted for one of the SW-Motech options.
I suppose this is hard to guess since you also have the updated oil pan, but does that skid plate have provisions for oil changes on the original pan? I still have the original pan on my '15. I've been lucky so far but I think it's time to invest in a skid plate.
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@keithu, the actual plate itself is only held on with a few small hex head countersunk screws and is easy to remove for cleaning and oil changes.
It saved my sump, so worth getting IMHO.

Red 2015 Tracer, UK spec (well, it was until I started messing with it...)

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I was going to suggest to go for the 2018 GT version for the true adventure buffs.
Actually for any true adventure buffs, you would probably want to look at an actual adventure bike, which the FJ/Tracer is not.   

***2015 Candy Red FJ-09***

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I was going to suggest to go for the 2018 GT version for the true adventure buffs. But just to be sure, I double checked and no skid-plate on the GT version either. I guess this bike isn't meant to go off from decently paved tarmac.  
Thanks for this post, nico: very interesting.   I didn't realise until now that the new Tracer will come in two variants, the 'standard' Tracer and the fully-kitted GT version.   Pricing will be interesting!

Riding a fully-farkled 2019 MT-09 Tracer 900 GT from my bayside home in South East Queensland, Australia.   

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