The Notiers Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
You may recall from our previous post that we had a bit of a problem last week - the bearings on the front wheel of our motorcycle blew up. And we naïvely thought that this might be the worst of it. That once we fixed the bearings, then we'd be able to ride from Chicago to Colorado with no problems, and attend the Overland Expo there in high spirits.
But we may have been a bit too optimistic. Besides the bearings, we had also been dealing with a few other minor issues, such as a broken fuel line connector, and the bike's electrical system shorting out sometimes, which rendered it unable to start for a scary moment. But nothing seemed catastrophic, so we figured we'd get out to Colorado as soon as possible, and deal with these little repairs once there.
But Tim says he had a feeling that something awful was going to happen to us, and that we might not be able to make it. I had no such feeling. So I just blindly hopped onto the bike a week ago in Chicago, said goodbye to Tim's dad, and headed west thinking that all would be well.
Last week, I had been very proud of Tim and I for dealing with the bearings issue with level-headedness, and a sense that "all will be alright in the end". But I was afraid that if anything else major happened to us in the near future, it might just be the straw to break the camel's back...
We left Chicago feeling good, or at least I felt confident. The weather was gorgeous, and after stopping at my parents' for a lovely lunch on our way out of the city, we hit the corn fields and silver silos, and the vast skies of the countryside.
Our destination that night was a campground in neighboring Iowa, and as we came up to the huge bridge leading over the Mississippi River that carves our continent into partitions, we got really excited. In general, I love seeing the Mississippi. Having always been a fan of Mark Twain, it conjures up feelings of a bygone era of steamboats and blues musicians. But as we cruised up to the bridge, suddenly the engine died, and we stalled out.
We knew we had to pull over, but to make things worse, the bridge was under construction, and so this narrowed the traffic down to one lane in each direction, with concrete barriers on all sides and in between. It meant we had to pull off into the construction area while semi trucks zoomed past us just feet away.
We got off the bike to survey the situation, and unlike the other times when there had been an electronic failure to initially start the bike, this time it had happened while riding. And now the bike simply wouldn't start again.
Tim tried everything he knew how to do. It was a process of elimination, and he was able to eliminate a few things - it wasn't the Power Distribution Module, and it wasn't the kickstand sensor. But now he was starting to be at a loss. And then his worst nightmare happened - by trying to start the bike so many times, he drained the battery, and the bike was truly dead.
And the most ironic part of it all is that we have traveled for the past four years with an external battery jumper, and never needed to use it. But right before we left Chicago, Tim was testing it, and it malfunctioned. So for the first time ever, we left without one.
Now we were in one of the worst spots we could imagine to break down. And the bike had truly flatlined.
Several construction workers came by to ask if we were all right, and to give their support. But strict working schedules and regulations meant that they couldn't just drop everything to help.
We couldn't turn around because the concrete barriers had blocked the way to the other side of the road, and the bridge was enormous. It would be a long, treacherous journey to the other end by pushing the bike, but it seemed we had no other choice.
At long last, a very kind worker named Justin was ending his shift, and helped us push the bike most of the way across the bridge. At one point there was machinery blocking the way, and he said that we'd have to get the state troopers involved if we needed to block off traffic. But luckily we got around the machinery in a gap between the cars zooming by, and pushed the bike past the apex of the bridge and onto the slope downwards. Even so, we still weren't in either state - neither Illinois or Iowa. We were in no-man's land.
Tim tried to call U-haul or a tow company, but nobody could hear him due to the loud traffic beside us. But again, we should never doubt the kindness of strangers, because Justin soon pulled up in his truck to take Tim into town, leaving me and the bike to wait on the bridge.
I was there for hours. My phone said the temperature there was 94˚, humidity high, and all the noise and construction dust being whipped around by the semis speeding by didn't help. But hey, at least it wasn't raining.
At last, Tim returned to tell me that he'd hired a tow truck that could bring us to the nearest hotel. And that a miracle had happened - he had called our friend Pete West who lives in Colorado and who we were going to visit. He'd called him just to see if Pete knew of any people out in Iowa. Pete is a wealth of knowledge in the motorcycle community, but then he said without even thinking about it, "I'm coming to get you."
Tim said, "What?! No, you're in Colorado. I'm in Iowa, that would be crazy!"
But the truth was, we were in a bit of a bad spot (not just literally, but figuratively as well). And even if we could get the bike back to Chicago, we would have had to cancel our presentations at the Overland Expo in Colorado. Pete lived less than an hour from the Expo, and insisted on coming to get us. A true hero. Plus, Pete and his plethora of motorcycle-knowledgeable friends might be able to diagnose the problem that would allow us to go to the Expo on our beloved KTM.
And so the impossible happened. We actually got picked up by our guardian angel, Pete West, who drove all the way from Colorado to Iowa, only to drive us all the way back to Colorado. Unbelievable...
I can't even begin to explain how grateful we are to all the helping hands that have reached out to us along our travels. Each and every one has turned our dreams into a reality, even when reality starts to tear apart our dreams. But it's through these people's generosity that we can keep going, and for every one we are thankful, though perhaps maybe none more so than to Pete West.
While I sat there on that bridge, alone, covered in dust and sweat, trying to block out the noise and chaos swishing past me while the bridge's concrete trembled beneath me, I wanted to cry. I knew it wouldn't do any good, but that's what I wanted to do.
But when I heard that Pete was coming out to get us, my jaw dropped while my heart rose. It was hope, that just like always, everything was going to be ok. And that on the other side of every storm there's a rainbow.
So now we are here in Colorado, and just like we had hoped, Pete and his friends have gotten the bike to start again. We're still not 100% sure that we've solved the main problem (there was fluid in the regulator, how it got there, no one knows), but we're definitely problem solving. And the important part is that we'll be able to go to the Expo!
Thank you to everyone who has bought us a gallon of gas, and has helped us along the way. We hope to bring you happy stories from the Expo on our next blog post, but until then, stay safe everyone!
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