Thursday, June 16, 2011

What a Day

Today is Day 2 of the Great Motorcycle Trip North and I have been in the saddle over 12 hours. Now, I'm sitting nekkid in a motel right off of Hwy 65 in Springfield, MO, showered, beered, and recovering.

Oh, OK, the back-story. I have had a motorcycle (a 1973 BMW R60/5 SWB (short wheel base) toaster tank) since about 1980. I used to ride a lot. Take off for months at a time kind of thing. Then I got married and since I don't like to ride with a passenger, and C didn't like to ride at all, the whole biking thing was kind of a non starter. Therefore, I have had a classic towel rack in my garage lo these many years.

Jump to the present. The R60 is still a towel rack, BUT Marisa wants to ride in a side car. Who knew? So, I started looking around for something along those lines and stumbled across one on flea-bay. Just for kicks I threw in a couple of bids. I hit my limit before the auction ended and saw the next day that it ended before the reserve was met. I shrugged and went on my way when a couple of days later I got a phone call.

The guy on the other end of the line had a drawl that you could cold patch your driveway with. He said that he worked for the seller of the bike I bid on two days previous and even though I wasn't the highest bidder, he knew that I was very interested because I had requested all sorts of technical details about the rig, and therefore, he wanted to sell it to me, if I could only bump my offer up five or eight hundred dollars.

I thanked him for his concern about my clearly out of control interest in his machine, but I had hit my limit when I stopped bidding. He proceeded to plead in a polite Texas manner until I ended by saying that I would think about it after I had talked it over with a few people. I promised to call him back and then I went on my way again.

Later that same day I received a second call from the same guy. He said, "OK, we'll give it to you for your last bid price. Do you want it or not? We have another guy - the highest bidder - who now wants to get in on the deal." I stood there speechless for a long minute until the gent at the other end started saying, "Hello. Hello. Are you there?"

Now, this deal was fraught with peril. If I went down this road, it was going to complicate my life in multiple dimensions. Plus, I had a perfectly good (if somewhat out of tune) beemer in my garage already. What to do, what to do? Why go for it of course.

Skip ahead several weeks to yesterday when I rose at 4:30 AM after getting a ride to the big cities to our south, got in a cab and flew to Dallas/Fort Worth where it was the same temperature as hell, to pick up this rig:

That's me in the sun when it was 105 fucking degrees Fahrenheit as I giddily gave the thumbs up to the camera as I embarked upon a 1,400 mile journey north having never driven a side-car rig in my life. Needless to say, it has been an interesting journey.

The ride east across Texas was gruelling. I had to stop frequently to rehydrate and to soak my T-shirt in cold water before donning it again, hoping that the evaporation would lower my internal temps before I hard boiled my liver. When I finally left the freeway and the monster semi rigs and headed north into Arkansas, things lightened up a bit. No one was trying to drive me off the road for example. I made it to De Queen, AK, a town that is inhabited entirely by Mexicans as far as I can tell, where I found a room, peeled off the clothes that were now packed solid with salt from my body, took a shower, and hobbled off to find sustenance and a beer.

Guess what? It's a dry county - hooray! Fuck. Had to settle for a bad Mexican dinner made for gringos and then returned to the motel with the best of intentions for a productive evening of journalling and such. Fell right to sleep.

And a good thing it was too, because this morning I awoke at 6 AM and was on the road 45 minutes later. After 12 hours of fun and adventures exploring some of the more remote parts of Arkansas, I am now again in a motel trying to share a little of my trip.

Some people who shall go unmentioned have accused me of slacking because my accumulated mileage does not add up to their expectations. In my own defense, I have to insist that I did my best, but Mother Nature has thrown all sorts of obstacles in my way. Such as small, hilly, steep back roads where I would go for miles without seeing any sign of human existence (should have been a clue). Such as this one:

That's a one-lane bridge barely wide enough for the bike and the side-car. This is the river it crossed:

So there I was, traipsing across the back roads in the Ozarks thinking "this looks just like the movie Deliverance" when the pavement ran out.

It was too far to go back and I only had another ten or twelve miles to go before I hit a bigger road, so I decided to push on. Can you hear the base drums pounding like they did in "Jaws?" Everything when kind of OK until the surface of the road changed to giant rocks embedded in the dirt. What kind of idiot dumps giant rocks on a dirt road? Well, I decided moments later, it was the "idiot" who was trying to keep passing vehicles from being consumed by the quick-sand like behavior of the road which had now turned to clay. How bad could that be?

Turns out that motorcycle tires are skinnier than car or truck tires and they were just the right size to sink down in the ooze and pick up great heaving globs of red dirt clay with every revolution. Another difference between cars and motorcycles is that a car has about a foot of clearance between the tire and the fender which would allow for a lot of mud to build up. Not so on the bike.

What you can't see in the photo is all of the mud packed up under the fender. The result? The wheel she no spin any more. Hmmmm.

After trying to clean the demon dirt out with various implements and several false starts, it becomes clear - the fender must come off. And so it was - only not that quickly.

And here is the guilty party (no, not me, silly):

I eventually made it out of the Deliverance set without an arrow through the chest and soon found a town with a spray car wash to blast the stubborn (and now baked-on mud) out of the various nooks and crannies of the bike. I only lost one mounting bolt down the car wash drain when re-attaching the front fender.

It's been quite the day for sure. Just outside of Needmore, AK, I passed a shack with two nearly naked boys standing on the front porch. The older, taller one tracked me with a long gun as I rode by. I couldn't tell what kind.

Coming around another corner, I startled a golden eagle at it's dinner and watched it lift off with powerful strokes of its wings.

The country I have traveled through has been beautiful (if muddy) and the people have all been very nice. Even the gun boy missed if he indeed did shoot.

Tomorrow I have a lot of big highway driving (my least favorite on a bike) to get to Hannibal, MO where I will pick up the Mississippi and follow it north. Till then, I bid adieu.


Blogger Coffee_lover said...

Sounds like the mud-in-your-tires syndrome from "My Uncle Vinny" but for motorcycles.

11:27 AM, June 19, 2011  

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