A short ride in hard rain in the morning is not the best way to start the day, in my opinion.
After a half hour of bone chilling rain riding this morning I stopped to feul up at a gas station. It wasn’t the most welcoming of stations, but I had to utilize the facilities and flex feeling back into my fingers. I was excitated to see that the bathroom had a hand dryer in it, a great way to warm up my drenched leather gloves I thought. It was an automated dryer, like the sink, and — like the sink — it also only spit out cool stuff. The water in the sink had been no help in warming my fingers back to life, and neither was the hand dryer. It blew out a cool breeze; a spit of air, a tickle of wind. It was completely useless. I walked out of the bathroom still chilled, holding sopping gloves. I had saw a microwave when I walked in, and I had a genius idea, or so I thought. I asked the lady at the counter if I could use the microwave to heat up my gloves as I tossed them down in front of her, on the laminated lottery ticket advert that graced the countertop. She gave me an odd look and appeared to be stifling a laugh, “I guessss so.”
I put the gloves in the microwave for one minute and thirty seconds. I stood watching the TV that had news flashing across and glancing at the old farmers sitting at the only table. I heard them mutter about the gal with the bright yellow (rain) pants — that’d be me. The microwave dinged and I opened the door to reveal my steaming gloves. It was only then that I remembered that leather shrunk when dried rapidly. Since I had just basically boiled my gloves I couldn’t use my hands to shape them for another thirty seconds unless I wanted to burn myself. “Heat ’em up and eat ’em for breakfast,” I heard from the corner where the old farmers sat, laughter following. I wanted to glare at them or make a snarky remark back but I was rather embarassed about my leather shrinking situation so I opted for not drawing attention to myself. After much struggling I did get the gloves on but I’m not sure they will ever be the same again.
This is why I dislike riding in the rain.
I went to the Ozarks when it was raining, but I was fortunate to be a passenger while Little Wing stayed dry in a garage. I had landed safely in Little Rock, Arkansas in time to discover I had carburetor issues. My hosts in Little Rock were wonderful and let me leave my bike in their garage over the weekend so we could continue our weekend plans. Without knowing me they had invited me to a music festival in the Ozarks, and, without knowing them, I accepted. I’m so glad I did. Little Wing missed out though. I left him Thursday and came back on Sunday. I gave myself a fresh start and decided to do the carburetor cleaning in the morning.
The carburetor issue actually became apparent before arriving in Little Rock. I had diagnosed the problem at another garage, while being hosted by other strangers in Ada Oklahoma. Right after I wrote my last blog I became the grateful recipient of conversation and kindness from strangers.
A very nice, very friendly, coffeeshop with good Wifi and a great peach-ginger loose leaf tea was where I found myself in Ada. As I sat a young woman started up conversation with me after seeing my helmet. She had saw Little Wing outside and put one and one together. We got to talking and one thing lead to another. It turns out Ada, Oklahome is home to a state college and I just happened upon the perfect coffeeshop if I was looking for college students. I wasn’t, but it was actually perfect, because after hearing my story the students wanted to help, and they did. That night I was given a bed to sleep in the extra bedroom of a sweet family I had just met. I was also invited to free skate at the local roller rink with a group of the students — something I don’t think I could ever turn down.
That night, after skating, falling, and having a blast, I discovered the carburetor problem. I realized that Little Wing’s idle issues were being caused by something more than the elevation changes I had been blaming. Fuel mixture problems had been occuring since Nevada, something I had — as I said — attributed to elevation changes. My hands were constantly adjusting the fuel mixture screw, and on most days that worked, on some it was worse than others, things I should have taken as signs. That evening, Little Wing refused to go unless I held the throttle open. In order to keeping from stalling I had to hold the throttle open even when stopped. I finally figured that something was wrong.
It was great fortune that I had stopped at that coffeeshop and made friends because the next morning I needed a place to work on Little Wing. The wonderful people, whose guest room I holed up in, also had a garage. It was raining outside that morning, and I was so very grateful that I had a place inside of a building to tear apart the bike. Had I camped, as originally planned, I would have been trying to figure out how to safely tear apart a carburetor at a campsite while avoiding losing the, inevitable, dropped piece. The universe had my back on that one.
It looked like I was riding through clouds on the way from Georgia to Arkansas. It was up one hill down the next; the treetops brushing the sky and the clouds holding close proximity. When I looked up I saw clouds, when I looked down I saw road, only one reasonable explanation, Eastern Georgia was the cloud state. And then, like that, I was in Arkansas, and then I was riding in clouds. The moisture made fog, and the fog stuck close to the road. As I rode up on it I saw a cloud covering the hilltops while the trees dipped their trunks in the fluffy white stuff. It was mere seconds and I was in it. Cloud all around, the hazy precip blocking out the sun. It made circles around me the way smoke does when the wind pushes it.
The ride out of Eastern Georgia and into Arkansas is one of my favorites of the trip.
It got dark before I got to Little Rock, and those charming clouds turned into daunting fog that obscured my headlight and seemed to make everyone else’s blinding. I arrived exhauseted in Little Rock, with a fine running motorcycle. I got off the Little Wing, met my amazing hosts, Fred and Toni, and hit the sack. I had dreams of doing an oil change in the morning before taking off to the Ozarks.
Let me explain the purpose of the oil change for anyone who may not know. A leaky carburator leaks gasoline. In my case it was due to grit in the fuel that had gotten into the fuel line and clogged things up. When fuel leaks out of the carburetor bowl it goes into the carburetor overflow tube and leaks onto the ground to prevent the flooding of the engine. I had been riding with this overflow problem for more than two weeks which meant that the fuel probably overflowed way more than what the tube could release, and a good assumption is some of the excess fuel mixed in with the oil, which isn’t good. The oil change would empty out this bad oil and replace it with fresh stuff.
So, in the morning, I did just that. I woke up, greeted my smiling hosts, and then went to the autoshop Fred had suggested.
I change my own oil but it is very nice to have a place to dispose of it. There us akso a good chance that if a person smiles real nice, and is very polite, the mechanics might loan out a funnel and rag, and maybe even an extra container to catch the oil. Being a good person really pays off when it comes to oil changes on the road.
The oil change went smooth, it usually does. I thanked the guys, gave them my bad oil and took off. And that’s when the problems struck. Little Wing stalled out on me again, several times actually. I got back to Fred and Toni’s, relayed the news, and we determined I would leave Little Wing behind on my way to the great music festival in the Ozarks with plans to fix it Monday, when I got back.
The Ozarks are gorgeous. Actually, Arkansas is gorgeous. Last post I talked about the trees in Oklahoma, I didn’t even know what Arkansas had to offer. A few observations:
1) Arkansas has ticks. Ew. I am not pleased with this reality.
2) In Little Rock there are many houses built with little rocks, and actually this is true for much of the state, and they aren’t really that little. The stones in Arkansas are quite lovable (and livable).
3) Arkansas is the home of the animated church signs. Most all churches had an electric sign with constant flashing messages, like a bank sign, but with messages from God.. or something.
4) Arkansas is the closest I have found to Minnesota with out going over, except on the hills and stuff, thats a little going over.
I stopped by the local Little Rock community radio station last night after finishing up work on Little Wing. After fully tearing apart, and recleaning, the carburetor (this time with carb cleaner rather than fuel), and adding an inline fuel filter to prevent future work, I thought it was time for a relaxing adventure that would double as a test drive. I arrived at the old house that contained the radio station and was met by a couple of DJs, one on his way out, the other getting ready to go on. RJ the DJ was getting ready to go live and he invited me to hang around. I met Carly, a young woman who co-hosts the show with RJ, who showed up after I did. I was invited to pull a chair up to the Mic come first break, and so I got an opportunity to go live. As I sat around chatting with these folks we were joined by someone else walking through the door. Three guitar cases, shoulder length brown curls paired with a full face beard, and a pair of rose colored glasses, adorned this newcomer. He was a musician coming in for an interview. Turns out I walked in on the perfect day, the universe steered me well again. The man was a great musician with palpable talent. His name is Brian Nahlen and I was pleased to snag a CD. I can’t wait to share it with my local station back in Northern Minnesota.
A great sign of the things to come on The Blues Highway as I make my way North, I like to think. So far I have been exposed to some pretty great music and I wasn’t even on the iconic Highway 61 yet. The people have also been awesome, but that’s nothing new, really
Stay tuned for next post where Little Wing and Diamond tell all about their exploits in Memphis. And keep an eye out for that that universe, it has some pretty good adventures up it’s sleeve that its not telling you about.