Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Great Bike Trip - Day 7

My final day was likely the most adventurous, although not the good kinda adventure.

After a surprisingly restful night of sleep in the back of the pickup, I was awoken by the first of the mechanics rollin' in on his bike. We exchanged pleasantries, and I filled him in on the previous evenin's activities and shot the shit for a little while. The shop manager soon arrived with the keys, so I got the bike pushed around the back as the rest of the staff arrived and got the shop opened up. I'd shot a message to the service manager the evenin' before while I was waitin' for the tow truck, so he wasn't surprised to see me when he rolled in.

After gettin' the shop opened up, they got the bike and and went right to work. We decided to scratch the first tire, so a brand new tire and tube went on. The mechanic himself took the bike around the loop to make sure the wobble was gone and to make sure everythin' else was kosher, and by 10, I had a clean bill of health. I was prepared to pay for the second tire, as the staple the caused all the trouble in the first place sure wasn't the shop's fault. However, the service manager shocked me by tellin' me that they wanted to help me out, and there would be no charge for the second tire. To say I was shocked would have been an understatement. Not too many places would take care of an out-of-towner like that. To the fine folks at Jacksonville Powersports: Thanks for puttin' up with me. To have a staff like yours that was willin' to take care of me and my bike while away from home meant alot.

As I was on a first-name basis with half the shop at this point, I went through and said my goodbyes, crossed my fingers, and once again headed for the interstate.

One of the trip highlights happened just as I got back on the interstate. As I rode along, I noticed somethin' out of the corner of my eye. I looked to my left, and there, barely 40 feet off the ground, was an eagle flyin' along right beside me. That just about beat all I've ever seen.

Another feature of Florida is that they don't skimp on their bridges. This was another gem that I crossed shortly after I saw the eagle.

State aesthetics aside, I won't lie... I was really, really damn happy to make the Georgia line. With a little over 800 miles to go and on my last day, I fell into the I-95 groove and pushed hard for home. The weather got nice again, and I was feelin' purty good about the rest of my journey.

When I got a few hours from Fayetteville North Carolina, I texted my friend James, who I was supposed to stay with the night before. My arrival in his neck of the woods worked out with his schedule, and we were able to meet up a the local Cracker Barrel for a quick dinner.

When I went to start the bike after dinner, she barely cranked over. I was just about to panic, when all of the sudden the engine took and fired to life. I wasn't sure what the issue was, but the bike was runnin', so I kept headin' North.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, I started noticin' my neutral indicator light flickerin' on the dash. That purty much told me that my issue was a little bit more complicated than a deceased battery. Some sorta electrical gremlin had taken control; not a good thing with 400 more miles to go, and less than ten hours until I had to return to work.

A quick back story here... Most bikes have what's called a reserve tank. It's not really a reserve at all, but it's simply a petcock control that releases the fuel left in the lower section of the tank. For the last year or so, when my bike gets close to that level, it tends to just cut out. The aforementioned petcock is controlled by vacuum via the carburetor, and I guess the vacuum isn't quite strong enough. When it cuts out, I simply wait a minute or so, choke the bike and crank it 'till she fires back up, then find the nearest gas station. It's a hassle, but not to the extent that I've spent the money on fixin' it.

Fast forward to my current situation, and now that little tidbit was more than a hassle. With my battery bein' drained, I needed to be a little more prompt about stoppin' and toppin' off, so she didn't have her little hissy fit and leave me sit along the highway.

Well, sure enough, my dumbass pushed her just a bit too far, and there I sat with a dead bike along one of the most brutal interstates in the country, in the dark. I was less than enthused.

Once again, I called my insurance to line up a tow, but in the meantime, I started pushin'. The fuel station I had been plannin' on stoppin' at was about three miles up the road, so I figgered if the tow truck took as long as it did the night before, I'd make the station before the truck got to me.

I finally noticed that I was on a slight downhill... maybe just enough to be able to push-start it. I popped open the fuel door with the key, so I didn't have to turn the bike off at the gas station, and started rollin' her up to speed. Sure enough, I popped the clutch and she fired to life. My challenge now was to keep her runnin' the remainder of the trip home.

I made the fuel station and topped off, then called and cancelled the tow. Once again, I crossed my fingers and headed up the road.

I quickly realized that havin' the fuel door propped open, in addition to the up-draft caused by the windshield, was not a good combination. The fumes from the tank were blowin' directly in under my helmet, which made breathing a lot more interestin' than I wanted. If I turn up with cancer in a few years, now you know why.

Fumes aside, I was runnin' purty good until I hit Richmond, VA. A local tow truck pulled up beside me and started flashin' his lights. It took me a moment to realize what he was tryin' to tell me, but then I looked back and saw my taillight was out. To the gentleman from Hanover Towing that alerted me to this: If you happen to read this, thanks for lettin' me know. Not havin' a taillight on a bike, with Richmond, DC and Baltimore to get through, is damn near a death wish. It was a hard decision to make, but I decided to pull off at the next gas station, shut her down, and try to find the source of my wirin' woes.

Naturally, I wound up at the sketchiest damned gas station in Richmond, but I didn't really have a choice. I shut her down, and purty much tore her down right there. A half hour later, with no luck findin' anythin' obvious, I put her back together. I got out my flashlight, said a little prayer for some extra battery life, and duct taped the light to the tail light lens. It wasn't perfect, but it was damn sure better than nothin'.

Shortly thereafter, I discovered that damn near nobody in Richmond has a set of jumper cables in their cars. Givin' up on that option, I cussed and fussed for a half-hour tryin' to push start her on the flat lot, but to no avail. I finally pushed the bike up to road to another gas station, where I finally found an awesome chick that not only had a set of cables, but knew how to use the doggone things. We got the bike runnin' in short order, and off I went again.

Despite the finest efforts of several construction zones around DC that had a surprisin' amount of traffic at a stand-still in the middle of the night, I finally pulled into the driveway around 3am. To my surprise, I had a welcomin' committee waitin' awake for me. After the long road home, it sure was nice to give that girl a kiss again. I had just enough time to take a shower and cook breakfast before I headed to work for one of the longest 12-hour shifts I'd ever worked. I was flat out whooped.

In seven days, I'd traveled 4,756 miles, covered 14 states, burned around 120 gallons of fuel and only got nabbed for one ticket. I got to have a few brief visits with friends and family along the way, and the gremlins thankfully stayed at bay until after I'd accomplished my goals. Most importantly, I'd covered the distance without meetin' an untimely demise, saw some of the greatest things our country has to offer and got lots of quality thinkin' done. It was truly an awesome experience, and nothin' can beat the memories that will last a lifetime.

For the two of you that read all my ramblin's and checked out my pictures over the last few days, I thank you for followin' along.

1 comment:

  1. I reckon there's more than two of us. Probably mostly just lurkin' like me.