27 front and 17 rear .. that’s how many shoes I’ve put on the Iron Horse who lives and breathes beneath me since I started the first sojourn out of the barn. And right now, I have a three inch nail sticking out of a sidewall that apparently hasn’t punctured the casing yet. The head’s worn off, but since I just had him shod at one of the 109 Harley dealers around the country I’ve visited .. I’m just too stupid or stubborn to pull it out.
There’s a tender spot on his neck .. just below the tank in front of the saddle .. I like to feel his heart beat as he runs in the wind .. and listen to each and every sound that has become so familiar after so many miles. It’s to the point that the slightest variance catches my attention until I’ve diagnosed the problem. A slight ticking sound .. from a loosening spark plug .. or the varying sound of a dry drive belt in need of salve. There’s an endless number of potential problems to concern me.
The sound you don’t want to hear is the sudden pop I heard coming out of San Francisco on my way to Reno. It was the fourth of July, 11:05am and 105 degrees running 85 mph on the outside of four lanes of intense holiday traffic. The “pop” was the first of 11 spokes that snapped on the left side of my rear wheel hub .. and within seconds I realized it wasn’t a blown tire. Like a high speed wobble except with each mph I slowed down the intensity of the wobble increased significantly. The wheel was slamming back and forth like a bell clapper on steroids.
I darted across traffic without even looking while taking the most violent 8 second rodeo ride I’ve ever experienced. When I got him to the edge of the berm and stepped off .. my arms felt like I’d done 300 lb bench presses for an hour. The adrenalin was still flowing within me as I grabbed a bottle of water and walked over to the fence and sat down. It was 6:30pm before HOG Road Service arrived with an oil slicked flat bed that I had to ride up to the front as the driver lowered the incline. I stayed one foot from the right edge to avoid all the oil slick and try not to fall off the 5 foot drop.
While I waited .. it was bikers riding along the frontage road who stopped to see if I was OK. Blain & Nicole White from Davis, CA were my guardian angels that day, who brought me a fresh sandwich and a cold drink to ease my frustration. The next day at Vacaville Harley I was told they didn’t have any stock spoke rims and it would be three days before Milwaukee could deliver one. Another biker standing nearby heard my story and said he had a stock pair of 10 spoke mags that he’d sent off to have chromed. In the meantime, he’d sold the bike and now had the boxed pair in his garage and wondered if I was interested. I went to a bank .. he went to get my wheels.
I left the dealership that evening just before closing at 6:00pm. A half hour later my front end started to wobble as I realized I had another flat .. this time, the valve stem was too long and as it continually clipped the caliper with each revolution, the stem eventually popped out. An old farmer on a desolate two-lane highway let me search his barns until I found an old bicycle and got a stem. Pumped up with air, I continued a short ways until it went flat again .. this time the stem was broken at the rim. I grabbed some air from a stopped trucker .. and then found a Mom-Pop motel for the night. Another HOG service call .. another tire and stem at Morgan Hill Harley and I was finally on my way. This time .. it was back to the man who had just replaced all my spokes incorrectly and nearly cost me my life.
Those of you who ride all the time know .. those of you who are just getting hooked .. soon will. I’ve wondered if I scared off any riders since my debut “shocker” in last month’s newsletter. But the truth is .. shit happens .. deal with it and quit whining.
That’s the problem today .. we’ve got too many whiners always looking to blame someone else for their misfortunes .. when the reality is, somewhere along the line the blame will always fall on the conscientious rider. As with all my serious injury “mishaps” .. I can’t help but find the guilt within me and answered all the “what if” questions with “if only I had …” Bottom line .. the choice was always mine.
Much like life itself .. as I carry the weight of guilt for all the mistakes I’ve made along the trail .. and accepted the fact that all the wrong turns I’ve made were my choices. Sometimes you have to just turn around and go back .. sometimes, there’s just no return. You have to decide for yourself which fork in the road leads to your next adventure.
Bye the way .. Bosco’s an all black and chrome Road King Classic that continues to wear the many scars attributed to many stories .. just something else we have in common. Better go now .. I’ve got a nail to pull.
Until next time .. ride smart .. ride safe
and the Adventure continues …