Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday 8.2.13 -- The Longest Day I've Had In Some Time

I left Champaign, IL at noon on Friday 8.2.13. I didn't get to my destination of Detroit until 11:30 that night. I awoke that morning and ran a few errands, paid a few bills and alleviated the truck of the junk windows from the install we did Thursday. After that I returned home to strap the gear onto the chop. Once loaded and ready to go I discovered that my front brake was dragging, well not really dragging, more like stuck. I had put new pads in a few days before but hadn't ridden yet to test 'em out. I tinkered around a bit and determined the caliper was okay so decided to trudge on down to Brumie's shop and put the vacuum bleeder on the caliper. The caliper was fine and aside from the brake fluid being low from bleeding the brake when the pads were changed, nothing was obviously wrong. I didn't have any DOT 5 in the garage that night, and the master cylinder just needed topped off anyway, it still had pressure and was functioning properly. With that marked off the troubleshooting list we decided to pull the pads back out and hit em with the sanding disc. It seemed to work. The bike was not a bear to roll forward, no rubbing and we double checked the caliper to ensue it was functioning as it should, and it was.

With that out of the way I returned to the compound to meet with my friend/employer for my paycheck and then hit the road. I fueled up at the Super Pantry off I 57 and Olympian Drive and then realized I forgot to leave my truck key for the guys back home in case they needed to move it. Ugh. I doubled back with a full tank of gas and dropped off the key. At this point it was close to noon and I was behind my own fabricated schedule so I decided to forego the two lane route I had planned and take the E-way.

As always there was construction everywhere. Stop and go traffic on a 40 year old air cooled motorcycle doesn't jive. I said fuck it and took the shoulder passing miles of cars that were funneling into one lane. In an attempt not to incite a road rage riot I cruised along the shoulder in third gear acting like I was fidgeting with my carbs, making it look like something was wrong. When in actuality that's what I was trying to prevent, "something wrong". This happened a few times, taking the shoulder, before I could get clear of the traffic and construction and open it up.

After about an hour and a half into the trip, just north of Indianapolis, en route to Fort Wayne, the sky let loose. I'd seen it coming for miles but when it let go, it was on. Traffic slowed to 30 mph on the freeway and the wind about blew me off the road. I couldn't see shit, and I knew the cages couldn't see me. I took the next exit and sought shelter at a gas station. Everyone that stopped for gas first commented "You look wet". No shit. Then asked which direction I was heading. When I responded "north", they cringed and said "You may wanna wait it out a bit buddy". I was waiting it out, but I get anxious and can't sit still so as soon as the sky lightened from a deep purple to a light gray I was back on I-69 heading north. I caught up with the rain.

I blazed along US 24 taking the stinging rain drops to the face like a champ. When you ride in rain it is like a zen thing. You have to resort your thinking to "This sucks, but I have to do it. I am going to get wet and be miserable, but I can do this, it'll be okay." I kept on the throttle and passed all the four wheelers and semis along the way. At one point I began to see flashes of light. Rain is one thing, but heavy wind, hail or lightning and I pull off the road. As I was trying to determine whether it was indeed lightning, I noticed that the passengers in the mini van I was passing were taking pictures of me in this mess. I gave 'em a thumbs up and twisted a little harder to accelerate past them.

As I approached Toledo I consulted the directions I had written on my hand in permanent marker. I was to catch US 23 to Detroit. As I approached the exit I had a choice to make. North or South. I didn't indicate that on the back of my hand. Logic said I'm heading north to Detroit, I don't wanna go south. I barreled on past the 23 S exit and caught the north exit.

Along with my route, I had gas stops marked on my hand. My next stop would be just before I caught I-75 north into Detroit Rock City. I had been rolling for some time on US 23 and wasn't seeing I-75. I knew I was getting low on gas and pulled off at the next exit I came to. No gas. But a KOA. I pulled in asked the lady attendant how close I was to a gas station. She said 6 miles up at Dundee. I pulled the gas cap for a peek inside the tank.

"Do you need gas?" she asked.
"I think I can make six miles" I responded.
"I can probably find you some here if you need."
"No. I think I should be good."
"You think, you should be" she said uncertain.
"Yep. Thanks. Have a great night."

I should have taken her up on her offer. About 3 miles out on US 23 N I sputtered to a stop on the shoulder, 30 miles south of Ann Arbor. I also should have taken US 23 S to catch I-75 N to Detroit. I was only about 30-45 minutes from the city while in the Toledo area where I made the wrong decision and added hours onto this already long journey.

So there I sat on the side of the road at dusk getting eaten my mosquitos, cussing my luck and wishing I'd taken the nice campground lady up on her offer. I made a few phone calls to Matt and Jenny, letting them know I'd be even later. After being passed by a handful of trucks pulling trailers with bikes, and a guy riding a bike, none of them stopping, I decided to push.

I pushed for about 3 miles when I got an idea. I put the kickstand down and grabbed my flashlight out of the pack. It was starting to get dark and I was over this shit. I shined the light in the tank and could see I had some fuel in there on the right side...but the left was dry. I got my tools out and removed the gas tank. I turned it backwards towards me, upside down and rolled it to the left. My petcock was on the left side, this is where the gas valve fed the line to the carbs. I set it back down on the backbone and again shined the light in. Fuck yeah! The gas that was on the opposite side of the tunnel was now on the left side. It was about an inch high. I bolted the tank back on, reconnected the fuel line to the tank and said a few choice words. Turned the key and gave her a kick. Vroom vroom!

Again I took the shoulder. I wasn't sure how far this gas would get me and I was a little frazzled after so many hours in the rain. At least the downpour had stopped and the bike was moving under it's own power. I took the next exit. At the top of the ramp I saw a sign that said "gas" with an arrow pointing right. I followed it. The sign was old and faded. As I wandered farther and farther into the unfamiliar Michigan darkness I began to wonder if it was an outdated sign.

Finally I came upon the small town of Ida. No gas station in sight. I knew I was getting close to running out of my rationed fuel. I ran up a curb cut / sidewalk into a pizza joint parking lot. "Hey sorry to bother ya but ya know where a gas station is? I'm about to run out!" Dude and his woman didn't even flinch at this soggy, frazzled, dirty road wanderer that ran up on them and pointed south. I scooted outta the lot and headed that way. After a few blocks I could see the BP light glowing in the darkness. Just as it came into view I heard the motor drop a few cylinders. Brrrrghhh. Shit. I did a little zig zag action to shake up what fuel was left in the tank. As I approached the station's lot the bike died completely. I coasted in very quietly to the pump and thanked God for small favors. If I hadn't have pushed for a few miles out on the highway I would have been pushing now. Out there was better, it was still daylight then.

I filled the tank and once again called Matt and Jenny, letting them know I finally got my shit together and would see them in about an hour and half. It was pushing 10 p.m. and after chugging down some water from the saddle bags I once again hit the road.

I meandered my way back to US 23 N and ran it up until I hit I-94 on the southern outskirts of Ann Arbor. I felt good. Rejuvenated after a day of hell and glad I hadn't turned back for home when my wits were shot back in IN when I first started battling the days obstacles. I merged onto the E-way and rocked it all the way into Detroit. When I saw the giant Uniroyal tire I knew I was getting close.

I began to get concerned about running out of gas as I'd been running for about an hour and a half since the last fill up. I pulled off the interstate in search of fuel. I figured since there were hotels at the exit I chose, I figured there'd be gas too. I was wrong. Frustrated I found my way back to I-94 and took the next exit I saw a gas sign for. Chalmers Street.

As soon as I took the exit I knew what kind of area I was in. Neon signs advertising check cashing, bail bonds and fried chicken let me know I was not "in Kansas anymore". I've been all over the country, in all kinds of situations and neighborhoods and this was really no different. Except it was late on a Friday night and I was out of my mind.

I pulled up to the pump and killed the bike. After a few minutes I processed the scene. A parking lot full of bass thumpin' vehicles and their owners...and no one was getting gas. Just chillin'. I took off my helmet and rubbed my eyes. A frail little man sweeping the parking lot approached me.

"Ya gotsa pay first mang".
"Ah, right on man. Thanks." I said.
He blabbered some other gibber jabber and I apologized, pointing to the bike and said "I can't hear ya man, I've been on that thing for 11 hours." He got closer.
Seems he just wanted to know if I "get high". Either he had something or wanted to know if I was holding.
I laughed and said "Ah, nah man. Not me."
He nodded and took his broom to the other side of the pump.

I went in and put ten bucks on pump one.
No one looked at me or even approached me other than that lil dude that was working there, in the parking lot.
I pumped the ten into the tank, stretched out a little bit, put on my helmet and kicked Lulu back to life.

About a half hour later I was at the 21 Mile exit. I pulled into a Speedway and called Jenny to come escort me "home". I couldn't navigate shit at this point.
Matt was delivering a bike to his Dad's place. A bike that he had rebuilt for his old man.
His Dad, Randy was hosting a chopper party/cookout the next morning. That is one reason why I made the trip.

We had about 25 bikes or more, and about 40 people in attendance. We took a ride thru Detroit and out to Belle Isle Saturday before the food was ready. I lingered around the greater Detroit area until today, Thursday 8.9.13. Over the past week I got to see some really cool bands, one being the almighty Black Sabbath and spend some much needed time with some dear friends as well as meet some new ones.

The trip home from Detroit was much more enjoyable than the trip there. I'll save that story for later.

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