Sunday, October 7

Saddle Sore fiasco!

Well, I didn't even get out of the starting gate--at least that's how it feels...Here's the tale and all I have to show for it is a witness form and the gas receipt!.

Before retiring Saturday night, I opened my new issue of the Rider and was thrilled to see an inspiring story of one of my heroes, Ardys Kellerman, the amazing long distance rider, who has ridden so long and well that she is now a motorcycling great-grandmother. Lately, I had been thinking too about another fascinating women I admire, Bessie Stringfield, who was an army dispatch rider during WWII. Thus, Saturday night, I went to bed pumped and eager to begin my Sunday adventure.

Conditions couldn't have been more ideal. Got up at 3:30 a.m. and with everything ready to go, I left at 4:15. I felt great. I was looking forward to a fun, long ride. I was viewing it as little more than a great way to spend a day on my own.

One of the doormen kindly agreed to witness my start and we chatted a bit before I left at 4:3o a.m. Afterwards, I needed to gas up to mark my official start time. Because the bike had been recently checked, I just made sure the signals worked, I noted the odometer reading then remembered that I should record the reading after I gas up.

The night before, I had decided to avoid getting to I-80 west via I-88 west because I detest paying for tolls and I wanted no part of that gunky-goo that builds up on the ground at tollbooths. My decision to avoid I-88 would add another 24 miles to the Saddle Sore route (1,048 miles versus 1,072) but I felt it was worth it.

I went to a gas station that I know is open 24 hours (supposedly). This station is physically close to Lake Shore Drive, which would put me near I-55, which I would take for about 43 miles until it met with I-80, which would become my "home" for nearly 500 miles to Lincoln, Nebraska. This station is ideal too because it allows sufficient time for the tires to warm up before getting on the Interstate.

At 4:32 a.m. the air was already warm, definitely in the mid-70s Fahrenheit and humid. I wondered about the marathon runners who would be starting their challenge in about 4 hours. I was dressed well and had packed the Kilimanjaro fleece lining--just in case the night air got cold--along with a sufficient about of snacks in my topcase.

At the gas station, I filled up. At first the credit card transaction prematurely ended. Hmmm? I tried it again and it went through. Closely, I watched the transaction window because I've had problems at this station with pushing the "Yes," for I want my receipt and getting nothing in return, which forces me to go inside the station--totally defeating the ENTIRE purpose of paying at the pump! They claim this only happens when the machines are out of paper. So, I shouldn't have been surprised when it told me to "See cashier for receipt."

Dang!! Annoyed, I stepped on the magic doormat and the door didn't open. I step harder and it still doesn't open. The place is lit up and I observe two workers inside. I knock on the door and a woman looks up. She turns her back and walks away, which I assumes means she is coming to open the door. I'm thinking the door is closed for security reasons. I look around and there are about four cars in the lot. I wait. No one comes to open the door. I see another worker, I knock again. The young guy shakes his head and hunches his shoulders, which I'm interpret to mean, "I'm a dolt who isn't allowed to handle keys therefore I can't open the door!" UGH!

Then that woman appears again. I knock. She does some sort of hand signals that I don't get. I press my face close to the door where the split is and I say, "I need a receipt." By this time a couple comes to stand near be at the door. They ask me if it's open. I say, it must be as I've just bought gas. The guy looks in and knocks, the woman does the same hand gestures and points to a clock on the wall. The guy says, "Oh, I guess they'll be open at 6a.m. It is then that I feel a brewing meltdown.

"Six...I just paid for gas, I can't wait until six...I need to go now!" My voice is calm but I feel a rush of adrenaline. I know of another gas station nearby but it hits me that I just filled up--where will I put extra gas? I return to my bike and take out my phone to call the station. I am losing my cool as I fumble for the phone. Multi-tasker that I am, I also walk back to the door when I see the guy come to it was a plastic sack of garbage. I yell, "I paid for gas with a debit card...your machine didn't give me a receipt. I need a receipt NOW." He looks puzzled.

Standing behind the guy, the woman pokes her head around and way too calmly for me says, "I'm not open in here. I don't open until 6 but I'll met you down at the window at 5a.m. to give you a receipt, but you'll have to wait" I'm ticked but decide not to commit a homicide as I'll only need to wait a few minutes. But my heart is thundering in my chest.

I get the receipt and here's where the unbelievable happens, where things unravel.

After I carefully inspect the receipt...the IBA tips warn that receipts are important but the two single most important receipts are the start and finish receipts. They must be accurate in all respects. One must make certain the machines record the time and correct date. Some machines are not maintained well and can give irrelevant and incorrect data. As I examine the receipt, the woman seems to scowl at me. I mumbled a "Thanks" and make a I mental not to write a letter to the station's management for this and all the previous headaches this station has caused.

I return to my bike. I retrieve the log sheet. I pull in the clutch, turned the key, the headlight comes on but the instrument panel is dark. Nothing else lights up. I return the key to "Off". This time I mount the bike. I power up the bike again; it starts immediately. Before I wasn't trying to start it. I was just wanted to get the instrument panel glowing to record the odometer information.

Still, the odometer doesn't register. It is blank! How could that be when only a few minutes ago in the garage it was fine. I shut off the engine and restart. Queenie fires up but still no odometer reading. I try turn signals. No signals. No visual indication of "Neutral" either! How this cannot be happening?

I do the start and stop several times and one time the bike died when I went into first gear--but I really think that was my fault as I may have had the kickstand down...I don't remember. My mind was racing and I was bordering on a meltdown.

Given that the bike fires up without hesitation, it seemed like a blown fuse? My heart was now in my stomach. I hate so much that I'm basically an ignoramus when it comes to motorcycle maintenance. I can do some basics --really minor things, but whatever was happening at 5:30 a.m. was beyond me. I felt helpless. One of the key tips the IBA stresses is: safe riding. No way could I imagine this problem working itself out on the road. Here I was at 5:30 a.m. sitting in a gas station parking lot ready to turn on some waterworks to rival Buckingham Fountain!

I started the bike and wondered what was--and why--this was happening. The Priority Lights had been removed. Could it now be the headlight modulator? It's never been a problem before. Was there some unearthly reason I was being thwarted? Even the 80% chance of rain predicted for parts of Iowa and Nebraska hadn't been enough to deter me.

Depressed, I headed back home.

When I arrived, my witness had gone home. Good. I didn't want to explain to him why I had returned so soon and trust myself not to cry while telling. Intellectually, I know this is truly small stuff. Emotionally, it's another thing entirely. I thought of fiddling around with the wires, perhaps something just came loose. But even if I did and was successful, would I trust it enough to ride more than one 1000 miles? Is this problem indicative of some larger issue and I should be happy that it showed itself close to the apartment? Still, I was and am bummed.

I entered the apartment so wound up, I couldn't rest. I picked up the new Rider again and opened the cover. The first thing I see is a Buell advertisement that quotes Erik Buell, it states,

"The machine doesn't come first, the rider does."

I know that this aims at conveying to the reader that the rider is always the most important part of the motorcycle + rider equation.

However, in my currently hyper-agitated condition, I say this to that ad:

Bulls&%# !!