Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Scooter Adventure?

Yesterday, 1/25/10, the weather was beautiful and I had been itching to do a long scooter ride. A week or so earlier I had plotted a 200 mile loop, (shaped more like a lollipop on a stick actually) as one of my preparation rides for doing my Iron Butt ride in March. Since I will have to average 50 mph to finish the Iron Butt in 20 hours, I decided I would time the entire ride, gas stops and all, so I could calculate a realistic average speed.

So, it was with a light heart, Google map in my pocket, extra fuel in the pet carrier and a smile on my face, that I set out on my ride. The sun was shining. Snow capped mountains could be seen on virtually every horizon. The photo above is of the north side of the Santa Catalina mountains as seen from Park Link Road, northwest of Tucson.
I normally have a range of about 110 miles or so on the Buddy. It was with a slight bit of concern that I noticed that my gas gauge was decreasing at a rate which seemed faster than usual. Now, when people in most states say that something happened "in the middle of Nowhere" they are saying it would be inconvenient to get help but realistically they are probably less than 5 miles from some form of human habitation. In Arizona, and few other states, when you're "in the middle of Nowhere," you could easily be 20 or 30 miles from help. So, about 10 miles after my gas gauge pegged on empty, I pulled over to the side of the road and poured in my "reserve" fuel, about 600 or 700ml from a little bottle that I have carried, but never used. By my calculations, I estimated that I was about 15 miles from Coolidge, AZ. I have estimated that this extra fuel will get me about 20 miles.
I ran out of gas about 10 miles later. I was in farm country and there was plenty of room to pull off to the side of the road. "Well" I thought to myself, "at least people on farms should have gas powered things around. How hard can it be to walk up to a house and get some gas?" There were four houses within a quarter mile of the intersection where the Buddy died. (Remember my earlier post about the silence after your scooter dies? I was feeling it here.)
House #1 - Big fence with big, aggressive looking and sounding dogs inside. I'll pass.
House #2 - No answer either at the house, or on the shop doors. Five or six pick-up trucks in the driveway, but no dice.
House #3 - Two teenaged girls at home. "I need to call my mom." says one after I ask about getting a bit of gas. Mom apparently says okay, directs daughter to where the gas is and "Mom says you should check and make sure there's no water in it." The 1 gallon container has about a quart of liquid in it that smells ever so faintly of some unidentifiable petroleum product. I thank the young lady for her attempt but decide to walk on. At this point, walking was beginning to be a bit painful, as I had surgery on both feet approximately 12 days previously.
House #4 - Has a sign out front about roping teams and a quad is visible in the garage. Ah, good sign. The sounds of banging metal are emanating from the workshop, so I limp over (still in good spirits, I might add) to see about some fuel. After requiring assurance that I would bring back his gas can, the man working in the shop agreed to let me have as much gas as I needed.

The gas was in a full, 5 gallon, steel can. I lugged it back to the intersection. Just as I removed the gas cap and began spilling gas all over (there was a little bit of a breeze and I had no funnel), the owner of the gas can pulled up in his truck. "I was going to bring you a funnel, but I don't have one, but I thought I might help, anyway." I couldn't help but think to myself, "I wish you would've thought of that BEFORE I lugged 50 pounds of gas and gas can all the way back to my scooter!" but I kept my mouth shut.

"At least I can block the wind for you." An excellent observation on his part, since gas was sloshing down both sides of the scooter. So he promptly began shielding the stream of gas from the wind WITH THE HAND WHICH HELD THE LIT CIGARETTE! "Maybe it would be better if you did that with the other hand." I suggested.

"Oh! Right!" he quickly changed hands and, explosion averted, I quickly splashed about a quart of gas into my tank, thanked him sincerely, and headed into Coolidge, which, the man assured me, was less than 5 miles away. At this point, I know that my original plan of timing the whole ride is kaput, so now I'm just out to enjoy the rest of the ride.

I happily filled my tank and rode west out of Coolidge on 87, turned southwest onto 387 and made my way toward Casa Grande. Went over a beautiful mountain pass and headed toward
I-10 and into Casa Grande. I stopped for a snack and some hydration and headed south.

It is shortly after I turn east, going toward Arizona City, that I begin to notice that my scooter isn't making the same sound it usually does. It is hard to diagnose what the difference was. I pulled over and revved the motor once or twice. "Maybe it's just me" I think. After all, the wind had been whistling past my helmet for about 3 hours at this point. There are no services in Arizona City, I continue on toward Eloy.

Not wanting to run out of gas again, I decide to stop for fuel in Eloy and to better examine the scoot. It is here, that I realize that the bolts on the rear bracket for exhaust has sheared off and my beautiful Prima pipe is being held on only by the two bolts on the manifold. The pipe is moving a LOT.

I looked through what few tools etc I had with me. I just needed something to hold the pipe up so that it wouldn't bounce around and break off at the manifold. "Aha!" I found a bungee cord, fit it to the end of the pipe, up around the rear rack and viola'. I topped off with fuel and headed toward Picacho. From there, it would only be about 40 miles home then I could go about repairing my beloved scooter.

But it was not to be. As I rode down the not so smooth road toward Picacho, the sound of my scooter's exhaust continued to change. I realized it was working its way loose from the motor end of the exhaust as well, in spite of my bungee efforts. I slow down and watch vigilantly for bups and potholes. Spotting them isn't a problem, after all, this is an old, seldom used stretch of I-10 access road. Dodging them is a problem. Determined to limp home, I press on.
It is at the Picacho Peak (Picacho Peak itself is in the background of the above photo.) gas station and curio shop, that I realize more additions to my Eloy repairs must be done. I kept having visions of the front of the pipe dropping off the bike, hitting it with the rear tire, then flying through the air as the scooter suddenly stars going end over end.

I asked at Bowlin's Running Indian (one of a chain of curio shops) if they have any kind of wire with which I can secure the front end of the pipe to.... to.... something. The nice lady says they have nothing like that, but refers me to the tow shop on the other side of the interstate and up the long and, as it turns out, extremely bumpy road. It is on that road where the pipe pulls completely away from the motor and was kept from falling to the ground (and under my rear tire) by the center stand. God bless center stands.

The fellow at the tow shop assures me that they have no wire (What?!) but I could have a couple of clothes hangars. You can see the hangar modification near the bottom of the 3rd picture in this lengthy post. I secure the pipe as best I could, then called my wife to let her know that I would be babying the scooter home.

I rode the now extremely loud scooter down the hill and back past Bowlin's. Then I pulled off to the side of the road where I decide to call one of my scooter buddies. I still don't know that much about scooter power plants and I wanted to check and see if I was going to be buying a new motor if I continued riding home. John assured me that a.) I probably end up needing a new motor if I continued and b.) I probably wouldn't make it home because the motor would likely be destroyed somewhere between Picacho and Tucson. He offered to come and retrieve me. Not wanting to be a pain in the butt, I declined his generous offer and, instead, called my son and had him come and get his unfortunate old man.

I had been planning on getting a trailer hitch installed so that I could then purchase a Versa-Haul for events such as this. I learn yesterday that won't be necessary. Once the two seats are removed from the back of my Dodge Caravan, there is sufficient space and these beautiful tie down location in the floor where the seats attach.

It was an unfortunate series of events, but through it all, I still had a good time. After all, are you a true scooter freak if you've never had to hauled back home after your scooter conked out somewhere?

Ride on,

1 comment:

  1. Howard:

    glad you got Buddy home in one piece. It seems the bottom muffler bolt is a problem on a lot of scooters. The vibrations loosen them and they shear off which ruins the air/fuel mixture.
    Also lucky you decided to do a "dry" run before the actual Iron Butt.
    You should really carry a ONE gallon gas container to keep you out of trouble. It would give you enough range to get to the next town. We have long stretches here in British Columbia with NO gas stations, and also NO cell service due to the mountainous terrain.

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin