Thursday, June 04, 2009

Troubling month.

It's been a troubling month here in Lake Wobegon. Thus would Garrison Keillor start the story on his radio show. "The Prairie Home Companion". I'm not sure if Mr. Keillor ever rode a motorcycle. Either way, the name of his fictional town surely describes how I feel. As the sun sets on May, I'm hoping for better things in June. Speaking of sunsets, I took this photo at the coast over Mother's Day weekend. The Nikon captured an interesting second sun in the water.

I don't know if I have somehow angered the Motorcycling Gods. Perhaps I've disturbed the Great Cosmic Karma. After a lifetime of owning and riding Hondas, perhaps my switch to Yamaha has created unsettling eddies in the flow of The Force. Sellling Sophie after so many miles together has to have shaken up the natural order of things. It could even be that I have offended the Gods by naming my FJR after the Mistress of Darkness, Elvira. Whatever the reason, things are totally out of synch at the moment. Even as I write this, there is a huge thunderstorm overhead. Big lightning flashes are accompanied by peals of thunder only a couple of seconds behind. As the title of this post says, May was a troubling month.

Go back early in the month. You may recall my writing of a particular trip back to the Mothership in Kirkland. I wrote of a little "incident". I've decided to share it with you. I find it sort of personally shameful. I will swallow my pride in order that you all may benefit from a timely reminder.

I'm on the way home from Kirkland. It's around 7 PM. Elvira and I are 17 hours into what will turn out to be a 20 hour day. On very little sleep the night before, we set out at 3 AM. The plan was to ride to Kirkland, attend an all day meeting, then ride back home right afterwards. For 17 hours the plan has come off without a hitch. Suddenly, I find myself in the middle of a slow motion nightmare.

We're back in Woodland. 14 hours earlier I'd met Annie, the pixie pouring coffee at Starbucks. My destination this time was a Subway sandwich shop on the other side of the freeway. The plan was to buy a sandwich, ride back to Starbucks, and enjoy the sandwich with coffee. That would refresh me for the balance of the ride home, another couple of hours. I needed the break. So far I'd been riding into a stiff headwind full of cold rain. I could warm up and relax some tired muscles. A side benefit would be that commuter traffic in Portland would have more of a chance to clear off the freeway. The coffee and sandwich were good. Then things went horribly wrong.

All the convenient parking spots sloped uphill towards the coffee shop. I backed into the spot on the far right. I struggled some, but managed to push the bike backwards up hill. I left Elvira in gear and she stayed put. There were two empty spaces to my right. Besides sloping uphill towards the building. the whole landscape sloped down towards our right. Backing in allowed me to have the sidestand deployed on the high side of the slope. The wind was still gusting enthusiastically. The pavement has some standing water on it. I'm still not sure of the exact sequence, but it was something like this.

I mounted Elvira and straightened her up. With the sidestand up, I started the bike. Both feet down on the ground. Hands on the clutch and front brake. I let out the clutch. As per habit, the wheels have barely begun to turn when my feet go onto the pegs. The bike doesn't smoothly take off. Instead, the front wheel jerks to the right. I would see later that the front tire had caught on a small rippled rut in the blacktop. At the same time, the jarring causes my clutch hand to slip off the lever. My soaked glove let go its grip. So, of course, the bike stalls. I have no power with which to save things. I quickly try to get my fingers back around the lever so I can fire the bike up once more. At the same time, I put my feet back down to try to catch the bike. My right boot slips on the wet pavement that slopes away from the bike. Extreme fatigue has me thinking a little slowly. I should have immediately squared up the handlebars. The delay in doing so starts us down the road to disaster.

By now Elvira's weight is over center to the right. The fall has begun and I am powerless to stop it. Oh, I try, all right! With everything I have I'm trying to stop the tip over. I finally gain purchase with the right boot but it's way too late. The best I can do is to slow the descent. All the way down I'm still straddling the bike. At the last minute I'm forced into a pratfall of my own over the right side and land on my hands and knees. I get up to see Elvira on the pavement on her side.

Dang. I am less than enchanted.

Maybe it was good that there were empty parking spots next to us. At least nobody's car got scratched or dented. On the other hand, the bike might not have gone all the way over. A few people were still in the coffee shop. Next door is a busy Safeway lot. Well, as busy as a small place like Woodland gets. Nobody came out to help. I know how to pick up a big bike by myself. This is the first time I've ever had to do it with a bike of my own, however.

The damage to the bike isn't bad. The mirror folded under and got some scratches, as you can see. The right saddlebag has some scratches, as well. The fairing and one pipe have a couple of small gouges. We made it the rest of the way home without further injury. Except for me kicking myself. No matter how you look at it, or how I describe it, the tip-over was my own fault. Fatigue, a second's inattention, bad weather, and a weird parking spot combined to defeat my resources at that instant.

When I told Katie about it, here was her comment:

"Maybe it was a reminder that you're not superhuman. Not even if you think you are."

She said it kindly while giving me a consoling hug. I had been pushing hard for a long time up to that point. Long hours between two jobs, a lot of riding for those two jobs, sprinkled with a topping of short sleep. The incident makes us think hard about our personal limits. I like to think mine are pretty high. Yet, I found the breaking point that evening. At least it was only a parking lot tip-over. It could have been much worse. Something to think about. That's why I'm sharing, even though I come out looking foolish here.

You'd think that would be enough by itself. Tipping one's bike over should be plenty for one month. There was more to come.

Katie and I went for a ride on Saturday over Memorial Day weekend. Sunday saw me going for the grill. We were finally enjoying some warmer weather. Time to cook some steaks. While I was bringing the grill out, I glanced over at Elvira. There was a puddle of oil underneath her.

Of course, my first thought was to go over my list of so-called friends. With friends like mine, who just happen to also be fellow instructors, one never knows. It could be a joke. Either that, or I'd suddenly found myself owning American Iron or a British bike!

No, it was no joke. There was a small drip of oil falling every eight to ten seconds. I grabbed a pan and started looking. It appeared that the oil pan gasket was leaking.

Dang. I was less than enchanted.

Not being willing to ride the bike to the dealer, I decided to rent a trailer. The closest dealer is about 35 miles away. It would be my bad luck for the pressure from the oil pump to make the leak speed up. I'd run the engine dry about halfway there. No thanks.

Of course, my current truck isn't wired for trailer lights. My big red truck died a long time ago. I now have a 1997 S-10 Chevy truck. My mother gave it to me when my father passed away. I haven't had a need to pull a trailer with it. Until now, that is. Lights finally wired, and trailer attached, I loaded Elvira.

This is a view of one of my bikes I really don't ever want to see. In all these years, it has only happened twice before now. Once was mechanical related, and the other was required due to the logistics of hauling our training bikes to the Southern Oregon Coast.

I believe I spent more time looking in the rear view mirror at the bike than I did looking forwards while driving. We arrived at the dealer in one piece.

Earlier I had ordered a replacement mirror. The Service Manager called me with two pieces of news. Firstly, the mirror they ordered came in for the left side, and not the right side. They would try it again. And, by the way, the oil leak? The oil pan is cracked. It will need to be replaced. They would order the pan and let me know when it arrived. I hope it's a warranty item. I guess that makes the pain of having the wrong mirror less. Who needs a mirror when the bike can't be ridden?

So there you have the story of May. It's not a pleasant one. Around this sad tale has been weaved some other stories. I'll share those as well as the progress with Elvira. I have a police training class coming up on Monday. I think I have another ST1100 lined up to use. I also taught our first ART ( Advanced Rider Training ) class of the year in May. So life wasn't all bad! Stay tuned!

Miles and smiles,



The Snark said...

Not foolish at all. Happens to us all when we're tired, or distracted. Your problem is you have very high expectations of yourself (and others) and get upset when they aren't met. I am exactly the same.

Except for Mercedes and BMW drivers. I've given up on those.

That oil pan leak is worrisome though. Is the engine a stressed member in the frame? If so, the tipover might have caused it. Sorry, I'll get out of engineer mode now.

R.G. said...

Sorry to hear about the little streak of bad luck. When I started reading your post I was sure this was going to be about a conflict with another person. Glad to know it was just a mix up with you and Elvira [bikes don't hold grudges] If it's any consolation your story will cause me to be more vigilant and aware of the small things I do as a matter of habit.
By the way, that was entirely too long between posts.

Baron's Life said...

Just a whole lot of bad luch all happening at the same big deal can deal with it... now here's the reral question and please answer truthfully... You say, and I quote" I mounted Elvira
How many strokes bro.

Lucky said...

That story makes me sad. But happily, everything broken can be fixed.

Rubber side down!

Stacy said...

It could have been worse. You could have dumped it in the dealership parking lot!

Here's to a better June! Speaking of June, you should ride over to John Day on the 18th. Just sayin'.

cpa3485 said...

The name of your blog spells it all out for me.

Intrepid can mean resolutely courageous. Some of the riding you do is exactly that and the rest of us can only sit back and admire what you do on a motorcycle.

Things can be fixed. It is only because we're so attached to our machines, that we have a tendency to take it personal.hope it doesn't take long to get your cycle fixed.

Unknown said...


We all do stupid things. It takes a man to admit it. I also found my scoot on its side, I can't believe I didn't ensure that the side stand was fully extended. It probably rolled off the stand due to the slight incline and I didn't set the parking brake.

We all learn from experiences. Don't hold it against yourself, we are NOT machines, we are humans

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

kz1000st said...

Novices. I have three, count em, three different epoxies that would work on an aluminum pan. How fast do you need it? Fifteen hours or five minutes? If the pan isn't bent at a mating surface, of course. and since it's under a ton of plastic, who'd see it? Dealers, that's why I do my own work as much as I can. Yes, I know it's tied up waiting for a Mirror??? But you could be riding while waiting for a new pan and mirror....OK, I'm done

American Scooterist Blog said...

Ever own a bike which just seemed destined to play out the usual, uh, pratfalls?

It seems there are people who have small occurances on a fairly regular basis. Then there are those of us who make up for all at once. In the shortest time span possible. You're just making up for lost time and you're doing it "off brand" of your normal steed choice. Maybe its not such a bad thing after all?

You can't improve karma with Karmex haha. (ok that was bad)

Anyway, speaking of Lake Wobegon, I happen to live really close to the Wobegon trail. Its a bicycle path running from a few miles south of my city house, past my farm in the next county and about another twenty or so miles west.

Balisada said...


I am sorry that you had a crappy month.

It is a sad thing to see our bikes on a trailer. When we spend so much time riding our bikes though all sorts of weather, sunny, foggy, rainy, stormy, it almost seems insulting to trailer the bike that tirelessly carries us through everything we ask it to.

I am quite certain that you spent a LOT of time looking at your bike in the rear-view mirror.

I did the same thing when I had to trailer my bike to the shop once.


Allen Madding said...

My sympathies as this pulls a major vacuum. But it does make me feel a bit better that I'm not the only one that has been sprawled on the asphalt exhaling explictives deleted.

Hoping that things are righted soon, and you return to more enjoyable riding time.


redlegsrides said...

Dan, no shame in dropping the bike...I've done it more than you. But yeah, you feel like crap when its happening. Personally, I've given up on replacing mirror housings, I just think of them as battle scars.

Then again, now that I have the R80, I don't take my 600+ lb 1150RT down "non-paved" roads hardly ever less chance of dropping the sucker.

Here's hoping June will be better for ya...

Doug C said...

Dan, I have only one thing to add to the condolences and encouragements offered by all the others... No matter what, Katie is a keeper.

Thanks for sharin'.

Conchscooter said...

Whoa, superman.You want sympathy? For a few scratches? I tried to jump an unseen curb at 45 miles per hour and ended up chasing my Bonneville down the street. You can't run at 45 miles per hour. At least I can't and I have the gouges to prove it.
And even after the wreck my Bonneville leaked neither a drop of oil nor a drop of gas. British indeed!
And now I'm all trailered and ready to go to Fort Lauderdale to hunt down some spare parts in them morning. The scratches I'll keep as souvenirs of my brush with new asphalt.
Pull yourself together and get writing.

fasthair said...

Mr. IronDad: Everyone's done this at least once in there riding lives if they have any kind of miles under their butt. If you say you haven't I call BS. I can't tell you how many times I've went blank and had my bike throw itself on the ground. A slip of the foot on wet concrete, deep loose gravel that I knew was trouble still caused me to pick me and the bike up off the ground. Those are just the last two I can think of right off.

I hate to say this. But is it possible the spill cracked the oil pan? That was my first thought when I read the line about the oil puddle.

Elvira sure looked sad in the trailer. Give her a hug for me and see if that doesn't help put a smile back on her face.

Oh and BTW last I check the riding Gods like all makes of bikes :)

Glad to see you back at the keyboard.


fasthair said...

OH yah one last thing. My Harley didn't leak oil after it threw itself on the ground so :p buddy :)


Scott said...

Wow, ummm, sorry to hear about the two instances but I have to admit I was relieved to know noone was ill or hurt or anything like that.

And I liked the line about American and British bikes.

By the way, someone who shall remain nameless is currently enjoying the bejeebus out of their new to them Honda, you ought to check it out :)

Unknown said...

Dan, don't think of those scratches as crash damage, think of them as battle scars. :)

One of my favorite songs, by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, has the line, "If we're ever gonna see a rainbow, we have to stand a little rain." Having driven into the storms in central Oregon today, I've had more than my share! That said, tonight is a beautiful night in La Pine.

Elvira will forgive you for not being a superman. Katie doesn't expect you to be. Welcome to the human race Buddy. :)

Dave T

Anonymous said...

I’m sorry to hear that you had a bad time last month but glad that you’re back with only injured pride.
Personally I have the worst ratio of tip overs per miles ridden of anyone I know. I performed two unintended rotations in a single day with a rented Harley. The second fall happened when I tried to balance the bike on the dirt shoulder of the road and failed to notice I was putting my foot on a metal real estate sign that was laying flat. A little dust makes those very slippery. Then last year my pastor bought Yamaha Night Star. Then, as part of his long term effort to get me to my own bike, he offered to lend me the Night Star for a ride. I only took it on roads I had previously ridden through the hills around my house on a barrowed Harley so I would have a standard of comparison. I preferred the Yamaha to the Night Train Soft-tail.
I was concerned about one stop at the top of a hill that required a sharp right turn just before the stop. I thought about my moves ahead of time and felt I was ready but as at the stop a pickup turned left off of the crossroad at a higher speed than I expected. He wasn’t speeding per se but it was enough to distract me and at to miles an hour I lost my balance and, like you the bike fell to the right. It landed against a curb so it wasn’t completely down. It was far enough that I couldn’t right it by myself.
One of my neighbors saw me go down and stopped to help. A small scratch one the crash bar and another on the exhaust was all the damage. Pastor Gary was very understanding and showed me the scratches he put on the right hard case.
You said “I should have immediately squared up the handlebars.” That made me think, if I had quickly pulled the bars to the right might I have saved it?

bikerted said...

It's a good reminder that these things can happen to all of us Dan. Knowing when we have reached our limit is always hard to accept, especially if we still have miles to cover before we reach our destination.
Returning from a long weekend, Ian tried setting off to return our Guzzi to its shed. The bike was on a steep slope, engine started and stalled. Restarted, more throttle followed by a shattering noise. It would have helped if the disc lock had been removed.
Hope everything comes together soon Dan.

Young Dai said...

At least you were off the main pavement at the time. The last time I dropped the Pan was while commuting in stop go traffic after I had grabbed on the front brake. I then had an oik in van two cars behind start leaning on his horn while I took stock of things before lifting it up again. Neither of which does the blood pressure much good.

In my group our 3 FJR riders have all fitted crash bungs/bobbins, could you get your dealer to source and fit a set while Elvira is in the shops. Or would you consider that too short a stick to poke the Gods with ?

Another thing that could also be pointed out is how lucky you were not to hurt yourself while trying to keep nye on 1/3rd of a ton upright on your right leg. That's deep into sprains, pulls and rupture territory.

For your ART, do you take the trainees out on the road, to 'follow father' or is it all closed circuit work ?

Hi to Biker Ted, how is the Round Britain going?

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sir:

So you dropped your bike... Big deal. Every rider I know has dropped their bike at one time or another. I dropped my first K75 3 times! It can happen at gas stations, tool booths, parking lots and whore houses.

Forget about it. Send a check to the dealer. Tell him to get off his fat ass and use FedEx to ship the parts.

My K75 was one of 10 in the United States with a Sprint fairing. It got scratched. It happens. Stop whinning and get on with it.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sir:

So you dropped your bike... Big deal. Every rider I know has dropped their bike at one time or another. I dropped my first K75 3 times! It can happen at gas stations, tool booths, parking lots and whore houses.

Forget about it. Send a check to the dealer. Tell him to get off his fat ass and use FedEx to ship the parts.

My K75 was one of 10 in the United States with a Sprint fairing. It got scratched. It happens. Stop whinning and get on with it.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

Anonymous said...


Your encounter with gravity was oh so similar to my first accident with the Goldwing some four years ago. It was a wet and stormy night or so the story goes.
I was tired, having driven about 140 miles to go to a meeting which I really didn't want to attend. It was a resignation meeting with a group of people I once rode with and to resign you had to attend the meeting when your resignation would be discussed.
It was not a happy me that left the meeting after being dismissed. GWRRA can get stuffed.

The parking area was composed of small circular stone, almost like ball-bearings. Like you I dropped the bike, on a slope leaving from the parking area, and wedged my ago left ankle under the bike. Painful? Yes. I was determined to not let the others see me, so on pure gumption got the bike upright and I paddled with my feet out of the parking area to the county road some distance away. Riding home I felt nothing, my feet were encased in knee-high black riding boots, I had full leathers under my rain suit, and the rain was pouring. About half way home realized my left ankle and foot had no feeling; but was determined to get home. I live about a mile from the local hospital and decided, on a whim to go into emergency to see if just maybe I had done something stupid.
I locked and covered the bike before I went into the emergency area, dripping wet of course. The bike didn't move from its parking slot for two weeks.

The ER staff took one look at me, ordered me up on a gurney and proceeded to undress me, they cut off my left boot, the left ankle was broken again (second time in eight years) and I had done a lovely job of shredding the tendons.

Thankfully the surgeon who had repaired my ankle previously was on call and he wandered in late that night and decided we'd best wait a bit to allow the swelling to go down. Three days later, a long surgery tidied the problem.

This was four years ago; and in the process of being in the hospital, certain negative medical problems were discovered.

Ironically maybe, like you Dan it was a simple call to me that maybe you'd best stop trying to be somebody that you aren't. You're getting older and none of us are expected to get out of this thing called life, alive. Best pay heed to nature's ways of hinting.

The GL1100I Honda Goldwing has been sold, on eBay to a person from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is due to collect the machine sometime this coming weekend. For me it will be the end of an era; and in a somewhat backhanded way, a relief.

irondad said...

Thank you for gracing my blog! High expectations? Does expecting 110% count? The crack turned out to be near the drain plug. One of the mechanics said that these had a tendency to be a little soft right there. Oh goodie!

Who has time to hassle with people when the bike keeps me busy? Thanks for missing my writing. It's nice to know somebody notices when I'm gone.

Baron's Life,
That's kind of a personal question, isn't it? The answer is "not very many" as I suffered a premature dismount, as it were!

Take care,


irondad said...

It makes me sad, too. I'm still waiting for the happy ending. Thanks for the encouragement.

You're sayin' but not tellin'. I'm going to have to go dig around. I enjoyed your last blog photos of your trip. Very scenic!

Thank you for making me seem more noble. I enjoyed the ego boost. I'm still waiting for the bike. In the meantime, things have settled down a little. I'm looking forward to catching up on your fledging blog. How has the experience been so far?

Take care,


irondad said...

That's why I posted it. I certainly didn't want to be sharing my dumb mistake just to get attention. Like you say, we learn from each other. My shame can be someone else's gain.

Are you sure I'm not a machine? I feel like my joints need oiled!

For this trip I'm hoping to get warranty service. Like you say, though, I'm paying a bigger price by having the bike tied up. Please keep sharing. I'm starting to like you more and more. Can I count on you for a new resource?

I'm hoping this is just what you said. Getting it done with all at once. Where can I buy Karmex?

Is there a lake anywhere along the Wobegon Trail?

Take care,


irondad said...

Thanks for the consolation. As for the rest, you pegged it exactly!

That's it. I just did it to make you feel better! That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I'm still waiting for the bike to be fixed. Here's hoping to never looking back.

There's the difference. It's kind of noble when you take a big street bike offroad and drop it. I never even got out of the parking space. Oh, the shame of it all!

Take care,


irondad said...

Doug C,
She certainly is. I know why I'm keeping her, but not too sure why she stays with me!

Jeez, man, I have got to go catch up on your blog. Not to be inhuman about it, but I would love to have seen you try to run at 45 mph!

Up until now, I've never dropped a street bike. Now I can't say that. You're exactly right about exposure. Odds are odds, you know?

It might be possible that the drop and leak are related. I just want to welcome Elvira home and get on with things.

I'll keep your Raspberry on file and send it back when appropriate!

Take care,


irondad said...

I had to put my sunglasses on because of that grin on your face. I don't have the patience for your kind of endeavour, but I'm glad there are people like you keeping these bikes alive.

LaPine seems a strange place to spend the night. Why there and not Bend?

Ouch! Let's hope it's all out of your system, now! As to the bars, it depends. In my case, the bike fell to the right because the bars were turned that way. For me to square the bars would have required pulling the left bar back towards me. I suspect the same would be true in your case. Looking down also complicates things.

You go where you look. If you look down and to the right, for example, it can cause us not to have the bars totally squared. We often pull the way we're looking so the tire will turn right, and that's the way the bike can fall.

Take care,


irondad said...

Fatigue doth make fools of us all. Isn't it funny that when our resources are at our lowest that we need them the most?

Young Dai,
The irony of it all is that a guy I know also dropped his FJR. After the drop he put frame sliders on the bike. I should have done the same but never did get around to it. Like you say, will I be poking the Gods with a short stick if I do it now?

Sorry to hear you dropped the ST. People can be so rude, can't they?

I did have a very sore right wrist and some bruises on my legs from pegs and stuff. The smart thing to do would have been to just jump away from the bike.

In our ART classes we work on a closed course.

A couple of things. I have yet to learn to age gracefully.

Secondly, maybe the visit to the hospital was meant to be.

And one more: Congratulations and condolences on the sale of the 'Wing.

Take care,


irondad said...

Dear Mr. Riepe,
So neither you nor Conchscooter will let me wallow in self pity, eh? Heck with you both.

Thanks to your comment, I now have a new goal in life. I've never dropped a bike in a whorehouse parking lot. If I ever find one, I'm going to drop a bike in it!

Take care,


Unknown said...

Glad your spirits seem to be on the upswing. Riding always does that for me too.

I spent the night in LaPine because that's where the truck stop is. Bend has no place to park. Gordy's in LaPine also has a great restaurant. :) Most cities are like that, they want their stuff and fresh veggies, but don't want any trucks there. Portland, Seattle, LA, San Francisco, etc. all have lack of parking for trucks. Truckers park at the close truckstops (25 to 100 miles out) make the run into the city and hope you can get out before night.

Talk at ya later
Dave T.