Saturday, August 21, 2010

* Warning: Long post.  Misery loves company.

Well, every trip has to have its disasters or problems, and this is our first major holdup.  We started at 7am knowing that this will be about a 9 hour day of riding and we were excited about getting the morning drive on a main highway out of the way before we hit the Adirondack mountains.

The day started out perfectly.  We woke up to a dry campsite, packed everything up in record time, only had to stop and chitchat with a few old timers, then we hit the road.  The day was overcast and cool with very little wind, it felt great. We put on 200 miles before noon as we pulled into Rome, New York for a quick gas stop before we were finally getting off the highway and hitting some bi-ways and into the hills of the Adirondack Mountains.

Finishing up at the gas pump, Greg turned the power on, pulled in the clutch, and hit the ignition.  *Click*… then nothing.  The power had shorted out.  We pushed it to the side and surveyed the situation.  We assumed we blew a fuse and would be a quick fix… and fortunately, we came well prepared with plenty of fuses to fix a dozen bikes.

Getting intimate with my bike

Getting intimate with my bike

Unfortunately, we had to unmount all the gear and remove the seat to get to the fuse box, which we thought was annoying at first since we wanted to get on the road, but this was just the a small inconvenience for what we had in store.  We tested the fuses and all seemed to be fine, so we pulled them out, made sure they were clean and dry and put ‘em back in.  We turned the key and suddenly there was power again.  Sweet, let’s get out of here.  10 minutes later after putting everything back together including our gear, we hop on our bikes and rejoiced in excitement for the thrill of heading into the greenery again.  “How come everything that goes wrong has to be with my bike?!” – Greg asks.  “Because mine is a Harley… and new!  Now let’s go!

The keys turns on, lights go on, already in neutral Greg pulls the clutch, says one last comment about how it’s nice how it was a quick fix, then hits the ignition.  *Click*… then silence.  The glare Greg gives Jerry is all the understanding he needed.  We ain’t going anywhere yet.

So, we removed everything once again and replaced the fuses this time even when we knew they were good.  The battery can’t possibly be bad we thought, it is only one month old.  We tried it all again, and still nothing.  Thinking it may be the battery and not wanting to take everything off again, we decided to try and push-start the bike first.  We tried 3 times and it was a no-go.  Well, we knew what needed to happen now.  We said goodbye to each other as Greg sat on the curb with all his stuff and Jerry was sent on a mission to find a mechanic with the proper equipment:

On the sidewalk waiting it out...

On the sidewalk waiting it out...

While Greg chilled out, Jerry stopped at a few places and on the 2nd stop he got lucky.  “Well, the mechanic is out for a week but we have an electrician”, the nice lady says.

“Um… does he work on houses?”, Jerry asks.

“No… aircrafts”.

“Uhhh… he’ll do!”

Jerry arrives back with Rocco (don’t know how to spell his name), a young buck and Army veteran of 8 years.  After tinkering around, he noticed the positive terminal had a loose connection and we assumed the battery wasn’t recharging during our riding.  So he tightened it up, gave a jump, and took off.  He was a great guy and tried to not charge us and say it was a favor, but Jerry gave him something and said it was for his service.  We thanks him and said goodbye.

We clothe up again and are going to drive about 100 miles before turning this puppy off, we need it to recharge the battery!  Let’s go!  As we drive off, the bike careens forward, slows, careens forward, slows.  I made it 50 feet and pull over.  Great.  As it idles, we play with the throttle and as it sputters and pops, it suddenly dies as we let the throttle ease.  More fun.  Bye bye Jerry.

He leaves and gets the guy again (his name was Rocco, but I don’t know if that’s how you spell it).  Rocco comes back with a smile and jumps it again, listens for a second, and states ‘You’re running on one cylinder.’  Somehow, we blew a spark plug and these Suzuki’s can’t really putt around with 1-cylinder.  But, we try to drive it a mile up the road to their garage.  We made it another 50 feet and got stuck in the middle of the street:

Didn't make it very far...

Didn't make it very far...

Rocco was still smiling and staying positive when he returned about it and said he’ll run back to the store to get the tools and we’ll do it on the side of the street.  True to his word, he returned, we replaced both spark plugs, he gave us a jump and it sounded pretty again.  After that, we drove to the store to pay for the plugs and Greg of course kills the bike upon arrival… woops. We got one more jump and were off!

Long day right?!?  Not quite.

Unfortunately, we had to cancel our Adirondack plans because bad weather was coming in quickly, and with the bike problems, we didn’t want to get stuck so we decided to divert and head to Boston and once again stay on a main highway.  We drove 100 miles and pulled over to fill-up again.

We would have kept the engine running and filled up, but Greg needs the key to unlock his gas tank.  He shut off his engine, filled his tank, and stared at the ignition switch for a full 5 seconds.  Well, here is the moment of truth.  “Here it goes.” … and… it…. didn’t work.  Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Dead.

Stuck at a Service Center about 25 miles from Albany, NY and what do we do now?  Having more space, we try to push-start it.  After 4 or 5 attempts, we were sweating, panting, and trying to think of a new strategy.  Next, we decided to attempt to jump the bike from Jerry’s bike.  We have no cables and walk into the station and ask if they have any… they only have a set for sale, but the guy was really nice and allowed us to use the cables and just bring them back.

Getting to Jerry’s battery took a good 15 minutes.  We spent 20 minutes trying to jump Greg’s bike with no luck.  There was another guy who was broken down and waiting for a tow, so after waiting an hour or so, we asked if his tow truck driver could give us a jump.  He obliges.  Everyone has been so nice today.

Another 10 minutes later, the bike is purring again.  We thank everyone involved and Greg takes it for a test drive around the lot.  He says it feels funny and drives around.  After 30 seconds, it started sputtering again, and upon decelerating it suddenly dies.  Truck driver gone, no jumper cables… back to square one.  Greg’s bike is starting to act like a beaten animal that after being abused so much has finally given up saying “I ain’t taking this crap no more!”.  I suppose 4,000 miles is enough abuse for any vehicle.

What now?  We called several mechanics in the area and only a few were open on Saturdays, and all of them closed 4 minutes before we actually called them.  Great.  Now, we were broken down, it was about to rain, and tomorrow was Sunday (nothing open)… great day to break down.  And the forecast for the next 4 days was rain and thunderstorms.  We can’t help but laugh at our predicament wondering what else could come our way today.

Next, we pack up the trailer and leave it and the bike in a parking stall and load up to head to Walmart to see if they have any pre-charged batteries.  Upon our departure we see a beautiful site.  A big hefty truck towing a large empty trailer… do we dare ask?  We couldn’t hold back now… we dared it.  We approached the friendly-looking lady and ask if it would be possible for her to drop us off in the nearest town at the nearest motel.  She thinks and says ‘Ya… I think I can do that’.  She had no idea what she had in store.

‘You have any way to get that on the trailer?’.

‘Nope.  But we’ll get it up there’.  Sure enough, we did.  We had to get the bike up onto a curb, back the trailer to line up, tilt the trailer up in the air by hand (and smashing the license plate in the process), and how did we push the bike up?  We went to solicit support and the first person Jerry sees is a fireman… ‘Hey, you a fireman?’ – ‘Yep’ – ‘Great, I need you! Fireman help right?’  It helps when you are a fireman, the camaraderie and whatnot.  With everyone’s help, we got it on then spent 20 minutes tying it down.

Donna, our wonderful angel of all that is good in the world, spent another long while using her car-GPS-thing to find us a hotel.  Then we were on our way.  We finally felt that the kindness of strangers has come to its culmination and we were actually going to reach a safe place, stay dry, and with all of our belongings.  All the pain and misery was behind us.  Or was it?

Now driving down the highway with Jerry in the lead, we saw a metallic shape fly through the air (looked like a big wrench) and fortunately it didn’t hit us but we ran over it instead.  What was that now? We drove up next to Jerry and he gave us a big grin saying hi, and he noticed my oddly shaped facial expression with an eyebrow raised, one cheek compressed upward to squint the eye, wrinkles between the brows and the mouth slightly open.  Seconds later, we saw him pull over to the side of the highway.  Hahahaha.  No way, not something else!  I jinxed him not more than 5 hours earlier!

He called us and told us he lost his rear shifter and told us to keep going.  Jerry had to walk a mile back and seconds before giving up, he saw another car run over it and it tumbling down the highway.  Unable to reattach it, he was able to compensate without it, and was able to ride the bike to the hotel.

At the hotel, we found a hill to back the trailer off onto, use some bricks to build a small ramp and start to guide it back and SLAM… the trailer rises in the air off the hitch, roles forward and runs into the bumper of the truck.  The hitch was never fully attached.  It would have only taken one big bump and the trailer would have fallen off the truck and dragged by the chains… we were lucky!

Getting off the trailer with Angel Donna

Getting off the trailer with Angel Donna

We finally removed the bike from the trailer, almost broke Donna’s back when moving the trailer, and reconnected the hitch.

We took hours of Donna’s time, bent her new license plate, put a dent in her bumper, and she was an angel the entire way.  She really was our saving grace and was so patient with us.  We cannot thank her enough and we wouldn’t have been surprised if she vanished into thin air after she helped us.

We check in and plan to deal with all our problems first thing in the morning.  But before bedtime, the last mishap.  The after-shave lotion in Greg’s bag had exploded.  At least it smelled nice.  Goodnight!

Lesson of the day:  Plans change.