Monday, September 6, 2010

A long road

I finally arrived in Vancouver on Saturday night and had a great time at the WSCE Olympibad Scooter rally. Many, many thanks to the incredibly awesome, generous and gracious hosts who welcomed me here for the first time and for putting on such a fun rally this weekend! The rides were fun, Olympic events were a blast, and I enjoyed seeing many old friends and meeting lots of new ones too. I hope to see you all again soon!

I'm very glad to be here, for many reasons, aside from attending the kick ass rally. The hurdles that got thrown in my way at the last minute made for a very frantic lead up to the Cannonball! First, as I mentioned before, an exhaust stud broke on my GTS a little over two weeks ago. However, thanks to the masterful talents of Rolf Soltau and Gary Sloan, and the Johnny-on-the-spot donation of a new stud and nut from Jess from, my bike was back together and running great the following week! I can't thank you guys enough for coming to my rescue and helping me out in my time of need. You guys are my heroes!

However, while the first hurdle was being cleared, another one came along very suddenly on the particularly hot morning of Tuesday, August 24th. I was heading out to run a few errands on my way to work, when a car pulled out right in front of me from a side street without looking. I hit the brakes, heard the front wheel start to lock up, but when I tried to ease up on the brake to save it, the handlebars began shaking violently from side to side (a.k.a. a "tankslapper", and my pristine Vespa GTS 300 went down on the right side, landing on top of my right ankle. Thankfully it was in my neighborhood so I was riding at a slow speed, but it wrenched my leg ankle around as I slid along the ground with the bike on top of me, so that my leg was out to the side and my foot was pointing backwards. Thankfully, my bike and I stopped before hitting her car, otherwise things could have been a whole lot worse. My first thought as I lifted the bike off of me was "please don't be broken!!" That would have put an end to my Cannonball adventure in a matter of seconds, just days before I was planning to leave for Vancouver. Thankfully, the driver stopped and she helped me get the bike on the stand, and I checked out my foot. It didn't feel good, but I could move my toes and my ankle, I didn't feel anything grinding, so I was pretty sure that it was just a soft tissue injury. The leather on left side of my right shoe was worn through from scraping along the ground, and my pants were torn up pretty badly around the knee though. After I removed what was left of my shoe, I was relieved to see that nothing was poking out or contorted in some unnatural way, although a couple of my toes suffered some small scrapes. My knee, on the other hand, had a nice big patch of road rash all the way across, right in the middle. It took me a bit to regain my bearings and let the adrenaline subside, but I had a pretty good idea that my injuries weren't too severe. A bystander who witnessed the crash came over and gave me a glass of water and some ice wrapped in a cloth, for which I was very grateful. The driver and I exchanged insurance and contact information, I let her know we'll let the insurance handle the repairs, and I rode myself to my doctor's office, which was only a mile away.

I hobbled into the doctor's office, they got me a wheelchair, and I called into work to let them know what happened and that I wouldn't be in that day. The nurse cleaned up and bandaged my wounds, and gave me an AirCast brace for my ankle. My doctor then examined my ankle, which didn't produce any noticeable pain just by touching it, and she agreed that it did not appear to be broken. To be sure though, she sent me into the X-ray room to take three pictures from different angles, then sent me on my way to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions for an anti-inflammatory and Vicodin, then straight home to rest. I iced my ankle frequently and kept it elevated, and pretty much spent the remainder of the day resting and wondering how the hell I was going to finish all the Cannonball preparations being all gimpy. I just told myself I'd figure it out later and focus on healing for the moment instead.

As luck would have it, my ankle make a rather quick, and some might say an almost miraculous recovery! My good friend Nicky lent me a pair of crutches to get around with, and my clubmate Rich lent me a high tech ankle brace and a cane to help with my recovery, and by Friday that week, I was back up and walking on both feet again without the crutches. Rich also came through for me bigtime, by helping me run some very crucial errands that were urgently needed to bring all the Cannonball preparations together. I finished editing the route and time sheets, printed and collated them, got the covers printed up, and stapled all 40 of them all together, picked up other supplies, worked on my roll charts, put the finishing touches on my bike after I picked it up on Friday night, gathered all of my parts and supplies to go on the support truck... and on and on and on. It was such a whirlwind of activity that I can't even remember all of what I managed to accomplish, but by the end of the weekend I felt very relieved that nearly everything was taken care of and ready to go. Whew!!

I should also mention that similarly to the way that my injuries proved to be a lot less severe than they could have been, the damage to my 300 was entirely superficial, with most of the bolt-on parts taking the brunt of the damage: the windscreen, the front fender, the brake lever, the bar end, the legshield trim, the topcase, the crash bar, and the muffler. There was only one small part of the frame that actually hit the ground, about a 2" spot underneath the front of the floorboard, which I didn't even see until a few days later. It broke my heart that my gorgeous new bike, the first and only new vehicle I've owned in my life, was scratched up and sullied, all because of an inattentive driver, but I was at least relieved that the damage would be easily repaired by replacing the damaged parts, aside from the paint on the frame.

As if those two tragedies weren't enough of an ordeal for me to go through, that ice cream sundae of suck was crowned with a very bitter cherry on top when my girlfriend decided to unceremoniously dump me. I had felt that things had cooled off between us recently, but I was not expecting that to hit me like a ton of bricks. Apparently she felt that the relationship wasn't working and that we weren't right for one another, despite the fact that we hadn't even really tried to talk about anything that was bothering either one of us. But when someone tells you that out of the blue, it's a little too late to try and work things out, so I just let her go. It was a shock, it hurt, and I felt betrayed, but what would be the point of fighting it? Although I had thought that there was a good chance that she could be the right one for me, I'm at a point in my life where I'm not willing to waste my time trying to build a relationship with the wrong person, and she proved that she was by giving up on me like that.

Anyway, I had enough on my mind since I was planning to leave for Vancouver in less than four days. Although the organizational work for the Cannonball was pretty much squared away, I still had a lot to do for my own preparations. The bike was just about ready, but I still hadn't begun to pack my gear and I still hadn't even finished the list of things I needed to bring with me. So, over the past week, I launched into a frenzy of running errands, picking up things I was missing, and trying to think of what else I was still missing. By Wednesday afternoon, when I dropped my 300 off at the shop to be repaired while I was away, I knew that I just wouldn't be able to be on the road by 6am the next morning to ride an Iron Butt up to Vancouver, and decided to postpone my departure until Friday. This was a wise choice, because as I tied up loose ends the next day, I realized there were more and more things that I had overlooked and needed to do. So many, in fact, that I ended up staying up much later on Thursday night than I should have, but I felt that I finally had everything ready.

I got up very early the next morning, determined to be on my way. Although I had originally hoped to be on the road by 6:00am, there was no way I was able to get up that early, and I ended up leaving just after 7:30am. I had my housemate Jesse sign my Iron Butt form as a witness, rode to the gas station to top off my tank and I hit the road. I was weary, but it felt good to finally be rolling. However, a problem soon reared its ugly head, when I noticed that my fuel gauge was going down when it shouldn't have. My spare 4-gallon tank feeds directly into my main 2-gallon tank, which means the gauge should register as full for at least 200 miles. However, as I approached my first fuel stop in Stockton, it had gone down nearly halfway. Now, I hadn't tested the spare tank thoroughly since I had hooked it back up for the first time since the 2008 Cannonball, but I had ridden a good 40 miles after I first filled it up a day or two earlier, and it seemed to be working ok, because the level had dropped when I topped it off that morning. At the gas station, I opened the cap to the main tank and saw that no fuel was trickling in at all. I opened the cap on the spare tank and it was still filled to the top. I checked the lines and they didn't seem kinked or anything, so I proceeded to take the cover off around the filler neck of the main tank. As soon as I loosened the bolts, fuel started flowing from the spare tank - that told me that the fuel line was being pinched somewhere inside. After a little sleuthing, I realized that the way I had routed the fuel hose, it was being squashed by a piece of plastic hanging down on the underside of the cover. I tried to re-route the line a different way, but couldn't find a good path to take which wouldn't cause the hose to kink. Eventually, I re-routed the hose back to the original position (all the while, trying to keep the fuel from the spare tank from spewing all over the place), and simply pushed it out of the way of the hanging piece of plastic. After bolting it all back together, the fuel finally flowed smoothly, I filled up the main and spare tanks the rest of the way, and figured that it was finally sorted out after nearly an hour at the gas station. But I was wrong.

Another 30 miles down the road, my bike started hesitating, as if the fuel pump wasn't putting out enough pressure. I noticed that the fuel level in the main tank was dropping once again... what the hell, it was flowing fine before! I stopped, unloaded my gear again, opened the main tank, and saw that the fuel was not flowing yet again. I opened the spare tank, and immediately the fuel began flowing - that could only mean one thing, that the vent line was clogged, probably due to the fuel sloshing around in the spare tank when it wasn't draining because of the pinched line. I let the spare drain into the main tank, closed it back up, and kept going, in the hope that the vent line might unclog on its own. However, it continued to do the same thing as I pressed on, and I stopped in Willows, CA to let the spare tank drain into the main tank. I was concerned about the way the bike was hesitating too, in particular that the vacuum created by the plugged vent line might be stressing the fuel pump. A fuel pump failure would be a very bad thing to have happen while riding solo over 1000 miles! There would be only one way to find out though... keep pressing on.

I kept going, and the main tank continued to drain without the spare tank flowing into it. The bike continued to hesitate once in a while, but I kept pressing on. All of a sudden, I saw that the fuel gauge started going back up as I was riding - a very good sign that the blockage in the vent line was clear! However, I noticed later that the gauge started dropping again, so the issue wasn't completely resolved, but hopefully it was at least getting better. The weather got hotter and hotter as I pressed on, and by the time I got to Stockton, I was feeling very worn out from the heat, the lack of sleep and the persistent fuel problems, so I decided to stop for lunch. I parked the bike, got some water and ice from the convenience store to refill my Camelback, and sat down in the shade to eat my sandwich. The lack of sleep was really catching up with me, and the energy drink I downed didn't seem to do much of anything. I gassed up and hit the road again, but made a mistake that compounded the fuel problems: I filled the main tank, closed the cap, then filled the spare tank. This left air in the fuel line, which prevented the fuel from flowing from the spare tank. As a result, the gas gauge started to drop again as I pressed on, and the hesitation problems kept cropping up.

By the time I approached Yreka, it was after 4pm and I decided that I wasn't going to be able to make it all the way to Vancouver. I decided to give myself a little treat to take my mind off things, and I stopped in this funky little old VW shop that can be seen from I-5, which I had passed numerous times before and always wanted to check out. I stopped in to say hi and asked about their shop and the guy said that they're not in business anymore, but they still work there more as a hobby. He invited me to have a look around at the cars there, and I eagerly went out in the yard to check them out. He didn't have any oval bugs anymore though (unfortunately), but he did have a couple of VW Rabbits and Pickups. I asked if he'd be interested in selling any parts, and he said sure, so I clipped off the bulb socket from one of the Rabbits, which I've needed for my Pickup since I bought it, and I paid him $3 for it. I figured that would be my consolation prize for not making the Iron Butt this time, at least I finally scored a very hard to find part that I had been looking for, for quite a long time! :D

I rode on and stopped in Roseburg, OR just as the sun was going down to get a bite to eat, cool off, get some caffeine and gas up. By then I had realized the mistake I had made when I had last fueled up, and I added some gas to the spare tank before closing off the main tank, to ensure that the fuel line was full of gas instead of air. Once I had tended to my own needs and felt ready to press on, I gassed up, cleaned my visor and got back on I-5 right at dusk. I was a little concerned about deer and other wildlife being out at that time of the evening, but thankfully I didn't see a single one, alive or otherwise. Aside from constantly fighting off fatigue, the last 200 miles to Portland were relatively uneventful, and I arrived at my uncle's house at just over 700 miles. That night, I had the most restful and deep night of sleep that I have probably had in years, it felt SO good!

The next morning, after having a delicious breakfast with my Uncle Carl and his partner Gary, I met up with my fellow Cannonballer Karen G when I stopped for gas, and we chatted for a bit about Cannonball preparations and my adventures the previous day. I set off north on I-5 and within minutes crossed the bridge to Washington State, my first time ever there... the last time I visited a state for the first time was Missouri during the 2008 Cannonball. The trip up went well, aside from continuing issues with fuel delivery, although those weren't as bad as the previous day, however the hesitation problems were getting worse, and after I stopped at a rest area to use the facilities, the motor cut out completely just as I was about to get back on the freeway. I had suspected that the spark plug lead was coming out of the cap, so I tried to press it back in as far as I could get it to go; after that it fired up again and I went on my way. However, it still continued to hesitate occasionally, which left me feeling rather nervous, especially since it seemed to be getting more severe than before. I stopped for lunch in Tacoma, where I had an amazingly delicious Cobb salad at King Oscar's Motel & Restaurant, and when I came out to my bike, the spare tank had drained into the main tank again, so I kept going without gassing up. Of course, that wasn't the end of it and I continued to have issues, so I later stopped in Marysville, WA to gas up and make a pit stop. However, after that it seemed to behave properly and whatever residual fuel was left in the vent line must have either been sucked out or evaporated.

Before I knew it, I had reached the Canadian border and I felt a real sense of accomplishmemnt - I was almost there! I made it across after the standard questions from the border guard, plus a slight sense of astonishment that I had ridden over 900 miles from my home town to get there. As I entered Canada, I realized that it had been a full 15 years since I had last visited the country, for the Mallorytown, ON rally in 1995, quite a long time ago! I haven't even been out of the country since the fall of 1998 either, which left me feeling that I really need to get away and travel more, it's been far too long. I was starting to feel a little fatigued too, and I was thrown off by how different the road signs are. Not just in how they look, but the way they're placed, how they're written, and adjusting to km instead of miles. I was excited to be there though, and the combination of those two took my attention off of navigating, which caused me to miss my exit! I ended up having to backtrack a few miles (or should I say, 'kilometres'), but soon got back on track and found my way to Vancouver, and made it all the way to where I'm now staying, at the 2400 Motel, after traveling 1009 miles in almost exactly 36 hours, 23 of which I spent on the road. It gave me a huge sense of relief to finally make it here and I was glad to have put that journey behind me, so that I can now focus on the longer one that now lies ahead on the Scooter Cannonball Run!


The Creeper said...

Great narrative Bagel, I'm enjoying your adventures! Ride safe, you rock.

curious67 said...

Sounds like quite the adventure already, Bagel! Glad you made it to Vancouver safely. I will definitely be keeping an eye on the blog, to read about all the fun!

- Carol -

Starr M. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Starr M. said...

Goodness Bagel, do you sleep? I admire your tenacity to write so throughly and coherently....I don't have what it takes. See you in the am. I gotta sleep said...

Well done, Bagel! I am pulling for you.

Cleat said...

Hopefully you can get your fuel & hesitation issues sorted before too much longer... that would make the rest of your passage sooo much easier!! Have a great adventure.

Blue Box Batteries said...

Yeah I agree, have a good one!