Browsing: Michael

Which is the best lowering link for XR650L?

My son and I both bought used XR650L bikes for a mountain trip. The stock seat height on a Honda XR650L is 37 in (940 mm) and at 5′ 10″ I’m more comfortable with a 35″ height on rocky single tracks with luggage. I compared several lowering links and then tested the two highest rated lowering links, the KoubaLink and Soupy’s Performance Lowering Link for the XR650L.

Both XR650L bikes needed suspension adjustments

In the end I chose Soupy’s Performance Lowering Link because it is adjustable and capable of lowering the bike lower than all the others.

Soupy’s Lowering Link

I do like the build quality of the KuobaLink and the grease zerk fittings, but it only lowered the bike just under an inch at the seat. Soupy’s Lowering Link took the XR650L down a full two inches. But there is another factor. After adding 40 pounds of gear into the bags, spare fuel and water, the XR650L sinks too low and the ability to adjust it back to my desired riding height is possible with Soupy’s but not with any other link.

Installation is easy for both, taking about 40 minutes start to finish. Faster once your done it (taking out the KoubaLink). I opened the chain master link to make it easy to pull the front bolt out. Also, I used a cut-off aluminum crutch to prop the bike up to take all weight off the rear tire.

Soupy’s extends to a full four inches whereas the others are set at about 3 3/4″ (Stock link is 3 1/4″). I moved my forks up about an inch in the triple clamps since I dropped the seat about 1 3/4 inches. Travel remains the same, and preload and damping needed no adjustment. Obviously ground clearance changes, but I’m not worried that two inches will stop me from clearing a log or rock on the trail.

Tried the KoubaLink first. It is only slightly different than stock.
Soupy’s Performance Link Installed on the XR650L

If you are going to lower your XR650L more than one inch, I recommend getting an adjustable kickstand as well. In fact, it’s a must since the bike will not stand with the stock kickstand.

Final seat height at 35 inches without gear.

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Skyline to Sea Trail Hiking from Big Basin

A favorite hike on the California Central Coast is the Skyline to the Sea Trail, a 29 mile trail stretching from the crest of the Santa Cruz mountains, through Big Basin State Park Headquarters above Boulder Creek and terminating at Waddell Beach 20 miles north of Santa Cruz.


We decided to make a day hike of the lower half – a 12 mile walk from the Big Basin Park Headquarters to Rancho Del Oso at Waddell Beach on State Highway One. We hiked the trail on September 6, 2010.


There are a lot of write ups about how beautiful the hike is — and it is! However, we had a hard time finding good write ups of the logistics so I’ll share some of our experiences here.

Karen and I at Berry Creek Falls

The path from Big Basin to Waddell Beach is approximately 12 miles and crosses a few ridges at the start. After the first four miles, it is mostly a gentle downhill. We hiked in Fall, but unless it’s storming, the hike should be doable year round for sure footed hikers.

Some write ups of the hike say it takes eight hours. Many suggest seven hours. Some suggest five to six hours. We are fairly fit and walk just a bit faster than a stroll. It took us just over five hours from start to finish which included two 20 minute breaks. This is important to know if you are planning transportation from the end of the trail, since there is little to no cell phone coverage on the trail or at Waddell Beach.

We started at 9AM and found the entire hike to be a comfortable temperature in September.

I wore shorts and a short sleeve tee shirt. I packed a light windbreaker jacket in case the weather turned cool.

Much of the first half is under redwoods, which keeps things cool. The middle portion winds along Waddell Creek. The last few miles can get the ocean breeze from Waddell Beach in the Summer, so it’d be hard to get too hot on this walk unless the high temperature forecast for the area is past 90 degrees.

We brought sunscreen, but didn’t need it until we arrived at Waddell Beach.

We packed two 32oz bottles of water each. For a 75 degree day, we were surprised that neither of us consumed more than a single bottle.

We packed large lunches — perhaps enough for two meals per person.

It’s wise to carry enough food, water, and clothing to last overnight on a hike like this.


Since this is usually a one way hike, some transportation arrangements are necessary.

Cell coverage is spotty or non existent for the majority of the trail, so don’t count on being able to call for a ride while hiking or at Waddell Beach. There is a pay phone at the end of the trail near the Rancho Del Oso Ranger Station.

As of Fall, 2010, Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit runs Route 35 from Santa Cruz, through Scotts Valley to the Big Basin State Park Headquarters. It arrives at headquarters at 9:55AM on weekends. Another bus, Route 40, departs Waddell Beach for Santa Cruz at 5:15pm on weekends. Times change on weekdays so check the site for schedules:

We hiked on Labor Day, so the busses were not running.

Day parking is currently free at Waddell Beach, so a car could be left there during the hike. We opted to arrange for a ride from the Beach.

Parking at the Big Basin State Park Headquarters was plentiful on Labor Day morning.

Park Headquarters

The cost was $10 to park until 10PM. Maps are $5.

The trail entrance isn’t very clear from the signs or the map.

We entered the trail system through the Redwood Trail entrance.

Our hike started at 9:06AM

You could do the hike without a map as long as the sign posts are in place. We recommend a map just in case some posts are missing. We bought one from the Ranger Station for $5.

The official Start of the Skyline to the Sea Trail (As found from Redwood Trail) from Big Basin Park Headquarters.

The map suggests that Sunset Skyline is a slightly shorter route that connects with Skylkine trail several miles on. We opted to stay on the Skyline trail.


Remember that Big Basin Headquarters is roughly a halfway point. Turn right to head uphill to the Skyline. Turn left to head to the Ocean.

After a mile of some ridge climbs on a single track trail, we crossed Middle Ridge Fire Road.

The trail to Waddell beach heads downhill here.

The trail is mostly a single track and is mostly down hill with occasional short ridges. About 40 minutes in we come up to a checkpoint. This is the connector to the Sunset Skyline trail.

At 10:53 AM, almost two hours in, we arrived at Berry Creek Falls. You can see the falls from the Skyline trail, but the viewing platform is only 1/10th of a mile detour from the Skyline Trail. We crossed a fallen tree bridge for a shortcut and spent about 20 minutes enjoying the falls.

Berry Creek Falls at Big Basin

Leaving Berry Creek Falls, there are some choices, but the signs are clear.

After Berry Creek Falls, the trail widens into a road-like trail.

A few more uphill climbs, cross a creek and you’ll see a bike lock up area where Mountain bikers coming from the Beach and lower trail camps are supposed to stop and lock up the bikes.

The next five miles are mostly on a wide dirt path with plenty of room for horses (we saw lots of signs of horses) and families riding mountain bikes.

A few miles after crossing Henry Creek Trail, we stopped and ate lunch, resting for about 20 minutes. There are many scenic places to enjoy a mid hike break since the trail closely follows Waddell Creek.

At the lower trail camp (roughly mile 10) , a sign urges foot hikers to take a single track up over the Northern ridge of the valley that opens up to Waddell Creek Beach. This involves some climbing again — right when we thought we were in for a easy downhill to the beach.

After approximately 40 minutes on this trail, we caught our first glimpse of the ocean (you can hear it first!)

1:40PM we see our first glimpse of the ocean

From this view, it’s about an other 20 minutes to the Rancho Del Oso ranger station.

There is a pay phone at the Rancho Del Oso ranger station.

When our calling card didn’t work, we asked the ranger for change for a dollar. She kindly offered to call our ride.

It’s less than a mile from the ranger station to the beach where there’s a bus stop on the West side of the highway.

Our total time to the beach was Five hours and fifteen minutes which included two 20 minute breaks and about 10 minutes chatting with the ranger.

We rested on Waddell beach and watched the kite surfers while waiting for our ride.

We highly recommend the hike for anyone who is fit enough to jog for an 30 minutes or more. If an 30 minutes of jogging is too strenuous for you, you may still be able to complete the hike, but working your way up is much more pleasant in the long run 🙂

We’re certainly planning to do the hike again, and to invite our friends.

Hope to see you out there.


TLC Family Camp 2006

All Stebbins on stage.

Family Camp 2006

Twin Lakes Family Camp. Music. Families. Adventures. Fun.

Game Night in the Stebbbins’ Cabin

Catch Phrase isn’t the point (even though we do keep points). I’ts about hanging out together.

Some Moments in the Music…

Karen, Michael, Tyler, Travis (Natasha is on the Drums this time)

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Baccarat Betting System

Someone told be about a betting method that wins big on Baccarat.

Part of it is secret, but the betting part of the method is as old as gambling itself. It’s commonly called the Martingale system. Just for kicks I wrote a rough script that tests out the Martingale betting system. Check it out.

Come back and let me know what your observations are.

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London, Stebbing, and Punting on the Cam

London, Stebbing, and Punting on the Cam

May 2005, I was in London for a conference. Stephen and Angelina Turner were kind enough to take me around my ancestral village of Stebbing as well as Cambridge University.

Here’s a few photos.

Late May 2005 – I visited London (Islington) for a Trade Show (Search Engine Strategies). The show went well. Food was surprisingly good, yet expensive.
The Flight from LA to London on Virgin Atlantic. Very small seats compared to American, but very good service.

The Heathrow Express Train Station

Inside the Express

Outside the Express

Paddington Station. Switching to the Hammersmith & City line

Hans during booth setup

In the midst of the show

The show was held at the Islington Business Design Center

Covent Garden Area – near Drury Lane

More Covent Garden

Crossing the street was a unique experience
On Saturday, I traveled up to Stansted Airport and met Stephen and Angelina who were kind enough to show me around Stebbing. and then later, Cambridge
The church in Stebbing has gargoyles

The screen is made of one piece of stone

Probably not the original organ

The stained glass was replaced with clear glass

The inside of the church is much brighter without stained glass

Ravens (or crows?) are carved into the wood of the ceiling.

A plate was moved from the floor to the wall when a new lectern was installed.

Gargoyles outside as well

Entrance to Stebbing Church

From the road around 11:00 A.M.

Part of the Manor house

The Stebbing Hare Scramble was canceled due to a restriction on land use.

The Manor House – note the garden in the back

Manor house again

Driving up to the Church

The main road in Stebbing

White Hart Pub in Stebbing. Good food.

Older architecture

Down a side street in Stebbing

Stephen and Angelina in Stebbing

Back on the street in Stebbing

I was told this is a “Lion Head” rabbit. Anyone?

Stephen and Angelina took me on a tour of Cambridge

Christ’s College during testing

Kings College?

View from the tower of the Great St. Mary’s Church

Streets among the colleges at Cambridge

Clare COllege

Dining hall at Clare College

Clare College

The Cam

Gardens of Clare College

Stephen was quite good at punting

I (Michael) just enjoyed the scenery and the ride.

Going under bridges required skill on the part of the punter.

Even though 8+ months pregnant, Angelina was clearly a capable punter.

Name the duck, win a prize
Students letting off after testing Trinity College


Last skate before the knife

May 03 2005: Banned… Torn labrum, capsule, and possible rotator cuff in the shoulder make today my last day before surgery. But I HAD to skate one last time, albeit very very gently! To boot – ‘Tasha showed up at the park and and filmed my bitter sweet event.

This time next year I’ll be out there and 100% better.

Last gentle (honest doc!) skate session before shoulder rebuild.
6MB Windows Media Movie

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BMW M5 Cam Position Sensor Replacement

Ever wonder what’s really going on when the “Service Engine Soon” or “Check Engine” light comes on? In June 06, I used a OBDII diagnosis system to find out what was happening inside my BMW. Here are step by step instructions on how I identified and replaced the failing component.

2000 M5 E39 Exhaust Sensor Bank B (Driver’s Side)

Service Engine Soon light -> OBDII Code P0390

OBDII Code P0390 indicates failure of camshaft position sensor for exhaust cam on bank B (Driver’s Side). This is a frequent failure on E39 540i and M5 V8 engines. Other symptoms include slight loss of power accompanied with a deeper than usual ‘blatty’ exhaust tone.

Buying a New Sensor

I ordered a new sensor from Rock Auto Parts for $105. With Rock Auto, I’ve found great deals, the prices are good and the shipping is fast. Unfortunately, this time they sent the wrong sensor (intake instead of exhaust). I’ll let them know to change their description, and I’m sure they will give me a credit for the part.

So, since I already had the old sensor out, I bought the correct sensor from Allison BMW Dealership in Mountain View California. They had six in stock, so I’ll guess that the sensor often fails. List price was $127 and they gave me a 10% discount through BMW CCA.

Not from the top

Some folks prefer to change these sensors from the top. This was just too tight for me and I didn’t’ want to remove air ducts and hoses to get to the sensor. Instead, I jacked up the car and replaced the sensor from underneath.

Necessary Tools

This is the easy part. You will need a large Phillips screwdriver to remove and replace the plastic plate under the transmission. You will need a 5mm hex driver, and a small ratchet. Space is tight, so smaller is better.

Drop the Plate

I jacked up the car on the left side (Driver’s side) and placed two jack stands for safety. Eight or ten screws hold the plastic shield/plate in place. It drops very easily.

Remove the shield by loosening

Replace the Sensor

Look up between the header and transmission and you will find the sensor with a 5mm hex head holding it in at the rear of the left cylinder head.

It is difficult to get a ratchet and hex driver around the water hose, but I managed to drive the hex bolt from both behind and in front of the hose.

Once you have the sensor out, wipe the hole clean.

Be sure to use a new O-ring when putting in the new sensor. You may want to put some thread lock on the bold on reinstallation.

Don’t forget to re-connect the electrical connector.

Replace the plate, let down the car and drive.


About Michael


Michael’s LinkedIn account is here.

Michael’s Facebook account is here. 


vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv  Michael in 2005:  vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

About MichaelSo here I am. I’m an active family man, marketing executive, and musician. Scotts Valley is home for me and my family of five.

More About Michael

Currently, I am the Vice President of Marketing for ClickTracks Analytics a hot Web Analytics company in Santa Cruz that makes very cool clickstream & web analytics software. Before that, I was with ProductSoft, Sesame (now ExtraView), SGI, Fujitsu, Seagate, EPC, MetaWare, Ryan McFarland, and a number of other companies.

I enjoy travel (India, Chile, Norway, China, Israel and more), riding trails with friends and family, playing electric bass, and am finishing up restoration of a 1971 BMW R75/5.

My current focus in on my family with three great kids and my lovely wife, Karen. Just a few more years until the kids are gone to university, so other adventures will have to wait!


TLC Family Camp 2006! All Stebbins on stage.
August 2006: Took the family to Oahu for a week. What a great place. We enjoyed renting a house on the North Shore, lots of snorkeling and exploring the island.

May 2006: Ever wonder what’s really going on when the “Service Engine Soon” or “Check Engine” light comes on? In June 06, I used a OBDII diagnosis system to find out what was happening inside my BMW. Here are step by step instructions on how I identified and replaced the failing component.

How to repair a camshaft position sensor on a 2000 BMW M5

November 2005: Part of it is secret, but the betting part of the method is as old as gambling itself. It’s commonly called the Martingale system. Just for kicks I wrote a PHP script that tests out the Martingale betting system. Check it out.

London, Stebbing, and Punting on the Cam

May 30 2005: In London for a conference. Stephen and Angelina were kind enough to take me around my ancestral village of Stebbing as well as Cambridge University. Here’re a few photos.
May 05 2005: Surgery is done. Now I restrain one arm for 40 days. A lotta stuff torn up in there, but I think doc got it all.For the truly sick, here’re a few shots of the procedure… Not for those with a weak stomach.

6MB Windows Media Movie

May 03 2005: Banned… Torn labrum, capsule, and possible rotator cuff in the shoulder make today my last day before surgery. But I HAD to skate one last time, albeit gently! To boot – ‘Tasha showed up at the park and and filmed the bitter sweet event.This time next year I’ll be out there and 100% better.
May 01 2005: Hey – We just returned from a great time at Disneyland – Pics are here. Stories to follow.
January 2005: We love our Lamb-Garrett clan from San Diego. In this day-trip to San Francisco, we toured a culinary school, and, well, you’ll see.
September 2004: I am a strong supporter of the local Scotts Valley Tim Brauch Memorial Skatepark. Your donations can go through Scotts Valley Parks & Rec or Sessions. Let’s give the kids (and old school) a place to skate! Grand opening was in September 2004 and we got a (as usual) great speech from Natasha. It’s been a long six years in the making, but now I get to skate my park nearly every week.

Latest reads include The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking, Proverbs by King Solomon, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and Waking the Dead, by John Eldredge. All highly recommended!

Latest musical attempts: Three Nighter and What I Know Now as performed by Jeff Berlin. Also, Karen, the kids and I had a great time playing at Twin Lakes Family Camp in (Big Basin) early September 04.


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Thanks Walt! Disney with the Family

Hey – We just returned from a great time at Disneyland – Pics are here.

Stebbins at Disney May 05

Disneyland and California Adventure

After a year of cutting back and doing without, it was time to treat the fam to a no-limits 4-day trip to Disney We decided to stay at Disney’s Grand California Hotel. A great choice! We bought 3-day park-hopper passes with early entry privileges. The hotel is adjacent to Downtown Disney and has private and early entry to the park for registered guests A six hour drive got us from Santa Cruz to Anaheim. I figured Tasha or Tyler would drive, but most everyone slept on the way down.
OK first order of business is food in Downtown Disney We chose the Rainforest Cafe
Tyler gets his dream plate: Filet, Shrimp, Ribs
Tyler redefines jumping on the bed (A stebbins tradition in any fine hotel) We rode the monorail to avoid lines at Disney – it worked great!
Tomorrowland opens one hour early for special guests (that’d be us)The first morning was threatening to rain, but we never really got wet.
First Meal in Disneyland Park
Stebbins at the Disneyland Stage Coach

Grizzly Rock
In 01 Travis and Michael ride the Ferris Wheel – Then again in 2005. Yes I’m wearing the same shirt– by coincidence

View from our room at Disney’s Grand California Hotel. From another angle, we could watch the dance teams practicing after hours.
Good Decorations in the Hotel
Tyler loved having the paper delivered every morning
Bugs Life Cave
Tyler playing the typical teenager Travis playing the angst ridden teen
Karen administering Therapy to the angst ridden teen
Without room service, Tasha is forced to make coffee in the hotel coffee maker
Small World
Small World
The Indiana Jones ride broke down just before our car crossed the bridge. Our boys were thrilled.
Stebbins as Pillow Fighters
Monorail from our room
T-Trio on a break
After a good meal at Rain Forest Cafe. If you go, check out the aquarium.
Post pillow fight
Continued pillow fight:
We rode California Screamin’ too many times to count.
The splash ride at California Adventure is excellent

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