This has been one of the most challenging blogs for me to write. I’ve been back from my trip out to Alpine, TX for a few months now. I had planned to blog during the trip, but things happened and I just couldn’t write about it while I was living it. This trip was actually three trips in one and two of them were just about as perfect as a day on the bike can be. That middle trip though….Maybe that’s the one I should start with.
After a great weekend of off road riding with Mr Man, I got up super early, loaded the bike, fed myself, and hit the road just as the sun was coming up. I didn’t have a real long day to Alpine,TX but I really wanted to beat the heat. The trip started great. I hit I-10 for the first time in my life and was really enjoying the 80 miles an hour through some pretty lovely scenery (at least it was still lovely until I hit about Ozona). I made sure to get gas at Ozona knowing that Ft. Stockton was about 90 miles away. By the time I came close to Ft. Stockton, I was so over I-10. The novelty of 80 miles an hour on a highway had worn off about 20 miles ago and I needed gas, a bathroom, and food in that order. My gas light came on about 14 miles out of Ft. Stockton. I contained my panic because that light should mean I have about two gallons left. Plenty of gas tot get me there. As the first exit for Ft. Stockton Cam into view, the bike started sputtering and surging. Well shit, I thought, my gas mileage must be awful right now. I pulled off the highway as the bike continued to surge and sputter and I continued to downshift to give myself some more torque (it doesn’t have to make sense, I was panicking). The bike died on me at the last intersection but fortunately I was facing downhill. The weight of my bike coasted me into the gas station and up to a pump. I was still a little panicky and suddenly realizing that my skin felt like it was going to vibrated off me so please excuse me for not realizing that the bike was not acting quite like it was running out of gas. I also noted that I put in 4.25 gallons of gas into my six gallon tank but the significance of that fact escaped me until later.
|Facebook was my friend during this whole trip|
After I gassed up and watered myself, I decided I was still to frazzled to get back on the road and should have some lunch first. I found something that passed as a restaurant and ate something that resembled a burger then got back on the road for my last leg. At this point the bike was running normal and she started fine.
I turned on to HWY 67 for my final leg. I had about 79 miles on the long, straight road of desolation and broken dreams and then I would be in the gorgeous Holland hotel debating dinner and drinks and thinking about a pretty ride tomorrow.
I looked down and saw a dash light on.
My first thought was that it was my oil light so I started to IMMEDIATELY pull over to save my engine. Before I got stopped I looked closer and saw that no, it wasn’t my oil light but my battery light. So I got back up to speed and kept going. I figured if I stopped I might not start again so I should get as close to civilization as I could. The first gas stations of Alpine were in sight when the bike starts to sputter and surge again. This time, I knew it wasn’t lack of fuel, it was my battery…or something related to it.
I didn’t make it. She died about half football field from the nearest parking lot in Alpine. I started to push the pike down the shoulder. After a while a Sheriff stopped and helped me get her into the parking lot of a taxidermy office. They proceeded to call the one bike shop in town, Alpine Motorsports and Alpine Motorsports agreed to come out with a trailer.
The most important thing to know is that from the moment the Sheriff pulled up I was safe. I was in no danger from anything except my own anxiety and stress. Of course, any the folks I interacted with could have been dangerous to me including the Sheriff. But they weren’t. I was lucky. And I know it.
So the guys from Alpine Motorsports got the bike to their shop and got to the battery. They really thought the connectors were the problem. They were terribly corroded. They started to charge up my battery and replaced the connectors. They drove me to my hotel and were going to pick me up in a few hours to give the battery a chance to charge back up. I showered and caught up with Mr. Man then went back to the bike shop. Per Mr. Man’s advice, I asked them to be sure and check my alternator. Well, check it they did…and the alternator was not charging the battery. I called Mr. Man to discuss our options. We would have to get the alternator to the shop but they were happy and capable of installing it once that happened. This was certainly going to delay my trip. Mr Man suggested that they check the alternator belt. I instructed them to take the front cover off the bike. When they did, the belt fell on the ground in pieces. We all rejoiced. We would still have to get the belt to Alpine but once it was there, replacing it was going to be a much quicker job that replacing the alternator. Not to mention cheaper. They drove me back to the hotel with plans for me to start calling around the next morning to see about getting a part over-nighted to me.
Let me pause here to talk about the hotel I chose. Alpine has a couple of hotels but The Holland Hotel is the only one walking distance to food. So of course that’s where I stayed. My room was gorgeous.
|My home while stranded in Alpine|
The lobby had many places for sitting and relaxing and even had a few private side rooms with chairs and couches in them. They served breakfast every day and had a decent but expensive
|One of the small private rooms where I curled up with a book for a while|
restaurant attached. They were also across the street from an excellent pizza place and a block away from a great little Tex-Mex place. But it was the people who really made the place stand out. I often find that traveling alone on a motorcycle as a woman brings out the best in hotel staff. They get to know me and they watch out for me and for my bike. Once the staff realized I was having bike problems, they offered to extend my stay. I let them know that I may not need to that since I would hopefully get my part in time. They suggested that I go ahead and extend my stay one more day just in case and if I didn’t need that extra day, no problem. I was going to be there three nights already. One more night would put there the day before the labor Day Weekend. They did warn met that getting any room in Alpine over Labor Day weekend would be almost impossible so I knew I had three days to sort things. In three days someone could come and get me in a truck if I had to do that so I wasn’t worried.
I got into Alpine on Monday night. After a meal and a drink, I fell into bed too exhausted to be worried about anything. I got up early on Tuesday and went down for breakfast. After a really good breakfast and just about the best coffee I’d had in a while, I went up to the room and started calling Motorcycle dealers.
|The couch in my room where I spent a lot of time on the phone getting my part.|
I had a few options. Lonestar BMW in Austin was my first choice. I know the guys, they know me and I was pretty sure they had the belt. My next choice was El Paso because it was closest to Alpine. Both of those shops opened at 9:00 and my third choice, San Antonio opened at 10:00.
Sure enough on Wednesday afternoon my parts came in. They were quickly installed and I went to get the bike. When I got there she was running wide open with the throttle lock on. I had never even had the throttle lock on although I knew in theory I had one. I didn’t really like the sound of her but the alternator belt was clearly fixed. I also felt like I had reached the end of the shop’s knowledge about my bike. They did a great job but they aren’t BMW mechanics and they aren’t real familiar with modern bikes. I payed them an obscenely low amount of money got on the bike and took off. She ran horribly. I had a hard time keeping her going at stops and she still kept sputtering and surging slightly. But not like there was a charging problem. It felt like riding a very, very badly tuned bike. This made no sense because they didn’t touch anything like that while changing out the belt. I took her to get gas and rode her around town a little to see if things would settle out. Nothing settled. I parked her in front of the hotel and began plan Z. I went to the front desk and got the number for the nearest U-Haul place. I had one more step to take and if that didn’t find any solutions, I was riding her into the back of a U-Haul and taking her home. I sat in the lobby and called Mr. Man. After a few moments of trying to tell him what she was doing I finally said, “If it were the R90 I know several things that could be wrong but they don’t make sense on this bike.”
“Tell me” he says.
So I did. I told him if felt like the bike was de-tuned very badly. Like the idle was set wrong or the fuel mixture was off….way off. Or even like the throttle cable had become off-set to the carburetor. Especially that last one…that is exactly what it sounded/felt like.
Well, he asks did you check that?
Silly man I think, I don’t have carburetors. What I say is that I didn’t think you could check that. I mean, where does the cable even go? The answer? The throttle cables go into my throttle bodies.