Friday, September 22

An Evening From Hell

After Davenport I stopped at the Mississippi River and got some nice photos, then got on 80 west to find a gas station and then a campsite. As usual I had some items strapped with bungee cords on top of my bags - my shorts (because they were wet), my bike cover and my map book. Well something went wrong this time, maybe the bungee cord snapped, but somehow it got dislodged, the map flew off onto the road, and the cover and shorts went under the seat, between the bike frame and the rear tire, and jammed up the rear tire. So I'm going at highway speed and suddenly my rear tire seizes up and I start skidding from side to side, trying to keep the bike from falling. I managed to get it to the shoulder somehow, right by an exit ramp, but didn't yet realize what happened - I thought I was out of gas (which would be weird because it usually gives more warning than that and wouldn't seize up so hard) - so I switched the fuel to reserve and tried to start the engine again; it wouldn't start. So I got off the bike and immediately realized what was wrong; it wasn't starting because it was stalling and it wouldn't move because the whole cover (usually in a bag about 14" square) had been compressed into the wheel carriage.

I weighed my options. I could call roadside assistance, they would come in a few hours, tow the bike to the nearest shop, which would charge me hundreds of dollars to take the bike apart and get the cover out. Or I could try to fix it myself. So I gave myself half an hour to try the latter before I would call for help.
The jam was caused by a huge 3-layered canvas compressed into a small space - essentially thousands of layers of fabric packed at tremendous density. I remembered the old Newtonian law - that which is done by a tremendous force cannot be undone with your hands (or something to that effect) there was only one way to get the cover out: shred it.

So I took out my swiss army knife and proceeded to cut and tear and shred and pull my wonderful $250 motorcycle cover. Now this cover is designed to be waterproof and tear-proof and all kinds of other proofs so cutting even one layer was no easy task and I had several thousand to get through. The theory was, by cutting it I'll be able to pull out little bits at a time until finally the density will be low enough to pull the whole mass out.

Around two hours later I was still cutting, making progress but insanely slowly. I was fighting the urge to give up and just call for assistance, mostly because of the likely cost. Now while this was happening, in order to increase my visibility on the side of the road for cars going on the exit ramp, I had my bike on but with the engine obviously the battery died pretty quickly. So here I have this bike with a huge mass jammed in the wheel, cutting away at it bit by bit, and it won't start when the mass is out anyway.

Eventually a car drove up and a couple offered to help. The husband (named Ezra, "help" in Hebrew, fitting for the situation) helped me rock the bike back and forth, enough to dislodge what was left of the mostly shredded cover, so that came out. Then he jumped my bike and the engine started. Of course there was a catch: they were Jehovah's Witnesses, so he gave me some literature "to see what we're about," but frankly I don't care, because without their help I'd still be stuck there shredding away.

So now I'm back on 80 west, but the bike is sounding terrible - something's clearly messed up with the back, probably in the suspension - but it's riding so I go slowly and hope I find a motel quickly. But then I have another problem - I'm out of gas. The engine starts to sputter, giving a few seconds' notice, so I switch it to reserve (I had put it back to main when I realized I wasn't out of gas the first time), which gives me about 1/3 gallon of gas, around 15 miles at best I estimated. I see a sign for a gas station, I turn off, another sign, I turn again...and there's no gas station in sight. It's a dark county road that looks like it goes on for miles, but I don't know if the gas station is just a few more yards down or if I took a wrong turn, and I'm watching the odometer number go up much too quickly, counting down the miles the reserve tank will probably give me. At 13 miles, back on route 80 after a big circle, I finally bound a gas station. But then I had a dilemna: if I shut off the bike to fill it, I might not be able to restart it, with the battery still being low. I didn't have a choice, though - filling it while it's running is probably not a good idea - so I shut it off, made a new record in the number of gallons (4 1/2, full capacity, so I was literally running on fumes) , then turned the key, crossed my fingers and it started again without a problem...
I had lost my map on the road, and figured I would get one tomorrow, but right across from the gas station was a Borders, so I went in there and bought a new map, not the same one I had but pretty close, bigger actually, with more travel info and the campsite listings that the old one had. The bike was still making a real bad noise though...anyway this story is too long already so to reach the end, I found a Motel6, pretty cheap, I'm there now. My bike's uncovered for the first night so I hope it doesn't rain too hard tonight. In the morning I'll find a Honda shop in the area, get whatever is wrong fixed, maybe get a full tuneup if it's not too expensive and time-consuming, and buy a new cover.
What a day.


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