Indian Lookout Country Club
1142 Batter Street
Pattersonville, NY 12137
Phone (518) 864-5659
Fax (518) 864-5917
Sunday, May 28, 2017

Dead Meat Riding

By Yoni

 

"You don't want to stay there," he told me, gesturing toward the rest area down the road, "That place has been closed ever since those people got murdered."

I gawked at him, dumbfounded. I'd been hoping to get there since my bike had started farting out on the way home from Tennesee. I'd gotten a late afternoon start after a weekend at a music festival, and was headed north determinedly. I had to get to the Harley Rendezvous by Wednesday at the latest, and it was now Monday evening in Tennessee. I'd been somewhere on the northeast side of Knoxville when my bike had started skipping and sputtering and I thought I might have picked up some bad gas as it and I hopped our way down the road until, with a great popping gasp, it futtered out and would not start.

It was something electrical, I was sure of that.

I looked at the load of camping gear and random detritus I had acquired from the festival, and felt a heavy sigh come to the fore as I contemplated unloading all of it to get to the circuit breakers and wiring under the seat. This did not look good.

And I had to pee.

I hurried off into the woods on the side of the road to take care of the first order of business and emerged, soon after, relieved at the minor crisis avoidance and chagrined at the larger one in front of me. I faced my bike and thought unhappy thoughts about it. Bike starts sputtering, fires intermittently, sounds at times as if it's running on one cylinder; the problem wasn't a lack of gas and I didn't see anything obviously mechanically wrong. I contemplated and did some quiet cursing as I considered options. It had to be electrical. I wished I was better at understanding the mechanic's multimeter I carried.

It was nearing dusk, and I wanted to be off the highway to try to repair whatever was wrong. When my bike had last worked, it and I had been making a desperate run to the aforementioned rest stop. I had seen signs announcing, "Rest Stop Closed" but I figured, under the circumstances, I could stay at it for the night and at daybreak try to repair whatever was wrong. Or if I couldn't, figure out a plan from there.

I idly sat on a guardrail and thought these things, staring at my bike. I was trying to decide if I should push it the remaining half mile or make a preliminary stab at fixing whatever could be wrong where we were.

As I considered these things, two Tour Glides pulled over behind me. Two deeply tanned, southern men dismounted their bikes and came up to investigate. They gave the traditional greeting: "Scooter givin' you troubles?"

This takes us to the current point in this story, whereby my bike doesn't run and I'm standing by the two rather cute Tennesseans, trying to figure out what to do.

Staying at the rest stop was obviously out.

I unbungeed all my gear so we could get to the circuit breakers under my seat. I was frantically thumbing through my service manual, trying to find a magic entry akin to "If your bike suddenly starts to fart and then dies, here's exactly what you do," and tracked my way down the Troubleshooting section to arrive at the part where I'm instructed to check the starter relay. Which sounds simple. Except then I found myself minutely examining a square electrical switch, which attached to my oil tank. It looked fine. Very rectangular. Exactly what, I fumed out loud, was I supposed to check on this?

The larger of the Tennesseans showed me how to pop the top of the starter relay and to watch the switch move as I pushed the starter button. Well, if it worked, which it only did sporadically.

We checked circuit breakers and jiggled wires and cursed a lot, and eventually decided to see if we could start my bike by popping the clutch. I sighed, and got aboard my bike. This was not the first time it had been started in this ignominious manner.

They pushed and sweated and the most my bike would give out, after they got it to their top speed and I let out the clutch, was a gasping fart before it would lurch and shudder to a stop.

It was beginning to get dark, and we were still out on the highway. Near the rest stop which had been closed since those people got murdered. I had to be at the Rendezvous by Wednesday at the latest, and it was approaching Monday night. I was still in Tennessee about nine hundred miles from Duanesburg. I began considering options.

The Tennessee bikers were discussing friends of theirs who worked on bikes, and how they would get me to where they were, and when people could help with my bike and if the bike shop would be able to get me in on short notice when the decision got made:

"Guys?"

They stopped and looked at me.

"I think I just want to get up to New York. I've got a thing I've got to be at Wednesday and I'll never make it if I don't get on the road tomorrow. Do you know where I can get a truck? Maybe a U-Haul or something?"

They knew where a hotel was located right next to U-Haul about two exits down the highway. We considered more options including having one of them stay with me and my bike while the other went to get a truck, as we stood around by the road, less than a mile from the rest stop that had been closed since those people got murdered. Night was getting closer.

"If we had a rope," mused one of the bikers, "we could tow ya."

"Hey," I told him, "Hold on a minute."

I'd carried two ratchet straps crossed over my rear fender load since buying them to tie down my bike on a ferry ride across Lake Michigan the year before. They were for stabilizing my load and to use as needed in emergencies. Later that same year they would combine forces to almost kill me, but that's another story. This time, they saved the day.

I detached them from my fender and we attached the end of one to the rear of one big twin's frame, and its other end to the front of my frame.

I got on my bike in a panic.

I had never been towed on a bike before, and didn't know quite what to expect. I supposed I would go forward, and was fervently hoping I would end up forward with no downward component to my travels. Road rash is no fun thing, especially miles from home.

One of the Tennessee bikers stayed by my bike, making sure everything went all right as the other biker sat on his bike, put his transmission in first gear, and began to turn his throttle. The purpose of the guy near me was to scream, "You're going to crash!" at me, should that eventuality occur. It did not, though I was convinced that somehow it would, as my bike began to move forward from the pull of the ratchet strap.

It was terrifying, at first, to be towed. You have no control except the brake, and woe betide anyone who unnecessarily depresses a brake while being towed. I wobbled a little left, and a little right, and once we got up to speed discovered that this mode of conveyance, while terrifying to get started, was not so bad after a speed was established.

We carefully wobbled our weird little convoy of two bikes attached by an umbilical cord and a third one hovering by first one, then the other, past two exits and finally ended by stopping at the top of a downhill exit ramp where we detached our conjoined motorcycles. I began to breathe again.

I followed them, their engines rumbling through the southern night, as I coasted through the downhill, then blew through a stop sign (there was no one coming) and on to the parking lot of a hotel. We ended up pushing the last twenty feet or so.

I put the kickstand down, relieved and jubilant. I had been afraid I would somehow kill the towing biker, with some kind of towee ineptness, and then be responsible for a broken bike and a dead biker. I had been afraid my bike would fall over, somehow, being towed. Or that those people who had killed the guests at the rest stop were somehow waiting for us to try to pass them by. But we had outwitted everyone and had towed the little Sportster to safety.

The two southern bikers were as elated at our success as I was, and we went out to dinner and a few drinks before they headed home, assuring me I could get hold of them if needed the following day.

I stumbled to my hotel room, walking distance from the restaurant, and went to sleep after checking on my bike outside the window. It was safe, and still not running.

The next day I walked to the U-Haul rental shop next to the hotel.

I walked out with the keys to a great big U-Haul truck, my backup plan which I'd carried in the form of a credit card now put into action. I got behind the seat of the huge truck, and gingerly drove it over by my bike.

The truck was huge. Large. Gigantic. Massive. The truck was to my bike as the Grand Canyon is to a little puddle in the woods. I had never driven anything that big. I had also never gotten my bike into anything so big.

My bike is rarely on a truck. In fact, thinking back through years of addled memory, I can only identify three times my motorcycle has sat atop another vehicle. Each time was due to a technical difficulty that could be condensed to the words, "It ain't runnin'." My bike was, once again as happens every few years, not running. Which presented a quandary when it came to actually getting it in the truck.

I had pulled out the ramp that was neatly stowed underneath the bed of the truck. I had tried pushing my bike up the ramp, but could not get it all the way up and didn't have enough room on the side of the ramp to walk by it and push. I couldn't ride it up because it wouldn't run. I couldn't push it up. I began to consider the tools I had at hand.

I was in the middle of rigging up a sort of winch system using the two ratchet straps, the rails inside the truck and a whole lot of hope when some other people staying in the hotel came over and offered to help push my bike all the way into the truck. I accepted their offer gratefully, not really sure my winch system would have worked anyway.

Together the three of us pushed and pulled my bike up the ramp and I secured it with the tie downs, then gulped a coffee provided by the hotel when I checked out, and climbed behind the wheel of my behemoth, headed toward New York.

Driving the truck took some getting used to. Every time I went over a bump or around a curve I became anguished at the thought that my bike might have tumbled over sideways. It was secured with only the two ratchet straps, the bare minimum needed to keep a bike upright while it sat in a truck.

It started to rain at one point, several hundred miles along in my journey, and I pulled over at the next exit, ready to prepare for the worsening rainstorm and then sat there, realizing belatedly that I had to stop thinking like a biker: I was in a truck. This was ridiculous and there was no need to pull over to put on rain gear. There I was, parked at a gas station as a reflex, warm and dry in the cab of the truck. I laughed at myself and continued on.

The remaining seven hundred miles or so continued without incident. I would drive until I got tired, then pull over and nap for a while, the rain on the truck lulling me to sleep as I laid across the seats.

I got to the Rendezvous late Tuesday night, bike safe in the back of the truck and me triumphantly wheeling my nineteen foot monster down the gravel road to the camping area, proud that my backup plan had worked and relieved that the voyage was over. I would fix my bike later, when I had time. Now was the Rendezvous, and time for celebrating.

I named my U-Haul "The Mansion" during the six days I lived in it at the Indian Lookout Country Club. I set up my bed in the attic section over the truck cab and would begin every morning surveying my vast holdings of camping gear, spread throughout the U-Haul.

Periodically someone would come by and call some sort of comment favorable to great big trucks carrying motorcycles; perhaps "Now that's the way to travel!" while flashing a big thumbs up and a grin. I sighed or grimaced each time

I ride a raggedy ass, beat up, piece of shit old Sportster that I love beyond belief. It's my best friend, my partner in low budget travel and my fellow little rat of the road. I stay in hotels under duress and trucks only this one time. I call my bike "The Little Sportster That Could," and when it travels in a truck, it's only proving it still can even when it can't. One way or another, it'll get me where I want to go.

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