A World-Class Fail

I was finally ready to go after three days of living at my mechanic friend’s house (working on the bike) because I had no place rented in anticipation of leaving for this trip. I finished Saturday late at night and got everything loaded up. I decided to sleep a little before hitting the road instead of leaving during the night.

Woke up around 9 and rolled off my friend’s driveway around 10am.

I made a terrible mistake shortly thereafter.

As a prelude to the mistake, know that I acquired this particular motorcycle very recently explicitly for this trip. I had hardly ridden it, I wasn’t accustomed to what it should sound like, and the several bits of work we did to it dictated that it should feel different from what it used to before.

I rode it for half an hour with the choke on.

If you don’t know what the choke is, it’s a mechanism motorcycles and some carburetor cars have where additional fuel is pumped into the mix going into the engine. You use it for a little while (30 seconds or so) when turning on the vehicle. It helps warm it up, so to speak.

Since I was wearing a full face helmet, the noise was largely muffled. The motorcycle felt like it was riding a little rough, but given that my mechanic friend had taken it out to test it after we finished working on it, I didn’t make much of it.
The funny part is that I kept stopping. Something didn’t feel right. Not necessarily in a “something’s wrong the the motorcycle” weird, but just a nagging feeling that something bad was about to happen. A premonition.

About half an hour out I decided to switch to my half helmet. It allowed me to hear better. That’s when I realized I had been riding with the choke on.

I didn’t make much of that either. I knew it couldn’t have been good for the bike, but once I turned it off, the bike felt fine. No harm no foul right?

I rode for another hour. It wasn’t a particularly cold day, but riding between 70-90mph and being hungry and tired made me decide to stop and switch from my jean jacket/pants setup to the leather setup.

I pulled off to a gas station, went to go grab my gear, and that’s when I realized it. I had burned the crap out of the saddlebag that sits on the exhaust pipe.

There wasn’t anything left. I had a really nice leather jacket and a brand new pair of skateboarding shoes in that bag. The entire bottom of the bag must have caught fire or melted. Something a little hard to see or smell when you’re pushing 80mph.

Having the choke on for so long made the tailpipe so hot that it burned through the heat protected bottom of the bag, suede shoes, leather, everything.

The tailpipe and rim were covered in melted leather goop.

I started my trip back home. God only knows how I’m going to manage to get all of the stuff off. I was furious: I had already left so much later than I’d hoped on account of the late bike parts, that jacket was the greatest thing since sliced bread, and now I lost half my luggage. I just wanted to kick myself in the face… I felt so utterly idiotic.

Riding back, I found some of the gear I’d lost. I saw the utterly destroyed shoe on the road and stopped to take a picture of it.

When it rains….

Half an hour or so after I turned back home.. The impossible happens… The day gets worse.

The oil light comes on and the bike decides to turn off on me iIn the middle of nowhere, of course.) I called my mechanic friend and tried frantically to turn the bike back on. I started going over the obvious things.. Could I have burned a hose? Is there a leak? I checked the oil level and it was low but not empty. The fact that the temperature gauge hadn’t come on was encouraging that no critical engine damage was done. I had broke down in front of some ranch that had a phone number in front of it. An hour and a half or so away, it was likely my friends wouldn’t be able to come rescue me and the bike. I contemplated calling the ranch to see about leaving the bike there and hitchhiking home.

Given the oil light and low oil reading, I figured I’d at least try putting more oil in it before forfeiting. Problem was, the last gas station was a few miles back. After a while of standing on the side of the road with my thumb out, a really nice lady stopped to help. Having a toddler in the car she, understandably, didn’t want to let some sketchy leather-pants wearing biker into her car. Since her car was newish and she seemed nice enough, I gave her a 20 and asked her to bring back some 10w40.

Not five minutes later, the owner of the ranch pulls up on a Harley. We start chatting it up and he’s seeing about helping me too. A little later, another biker pulls over and sees to help me. As the rancher comes back out with some oil, the lady returns with a couple quarts.

Three people stopped to help me. In the midst of feeling so shitty, stupid, and contemplating scrapping the trip altogether, these random strangers helped me remember that somehow, things always work out. Being stranded on the side of the road really gives you the opportunity to chill out and compose yourself: you aren’t going anywhere soon.

After adding a quart and a little more, she turned back on. After the due hand shaking and thanking to all the good samaritans, I rode the rest of the way home with a slightly better attitude. I made it the rest of the way without incident.

It really felt surreal how bad things continued to happen when I was in that mind state, and quit when it changed. Maybe all that hippie stuff my mother said about your thoughts becoming reality are true. Or maybe I have some psychic ability to foresee whether good or bad things will happen and my mind state reflected that. Or maybe it’s all chance. I found it kind of strange that as soon as my mind started sensing “things are going to be OK, this will work out somehow” a Harley rider shows up and happens to be the owner of the place where I happen to break down. Who knows.

Finally having gotten back, my mechanic friend is still stumped as to what happened to all that lost oil. There aren’t any leaks and the bike didn’t consume any oil in the hour and a half it took me to get home after I added some.

For now, I’m back at my mechanic friend’s. I have to get this thing cleaned up, figure out/find a new saddle bag system, and wait for him to give the bike a clean bill of health.

A wonderful first day.

One thought on “A World-Class Fail

  1. What a way to start a journey. Good stories and memorable experiences often stem from this kind of thing, though, you know. Hope you get everything sorted out!

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