Here’s a story that I wrote for the South China Morning Post about riding a motorcycle through Big Bend National Park in Texas. If you click on the links you’ll be able to download the pdfs of the story
So Kawasaki came through and gave me a new shock on warranty, although my warranty explicitly states that shocks are not covered. Thank-you, Kawasaki.
I arrived on Friday afternoon, from Presidio, and drove straight to the bike shop. They confirmed I needed a new shock, but by the time we got on the hop it was too late to get Kawasaki warranty people on the ball. So they basically said come back on Monday.
I had a rather down tempo weekend in El Paso, hanging about my hotel (Coral Motel, just as glam as it was in the 70s, but now the pool is a giant sand box) trying not to spend money, tinkering on the bike and changing the tire, oh, about twelve-teen times. Seriously, I have no idea how I managed to pinch the tube every *&^%^%$^%$ time. I also broke my watch, a few of my tools, and I broke the visor on my helmet. And my bike shock was still broken, don’t forget. I wasn’t in a great mood.
On Sunday I walked over to the Dick Poe Toyota dealership next door, and one of the mechanics was in there working on his own truck (place was closed) and he graciously helped me with my tire, using the proper tools (tip: cheap carpentry prybars from K-Mark may seem like a clever cost saver, but they’re not). We whipped the new tire on and pumped it up and … pfffffft. I’d torn the tube AGAIN! His wife and kid were keen to get moving, so I lugged my tire the block back to my hotel and decided I’d just pretend the day never actually happened.
Monday morning I was back at Dick Poe’s fine establishment and the same mechanic spotted me right away. This time he had to clear it with the boss (insurance…man, these Americans are paranoid). I’d patched one of the tubes (again) and we managed to get the tire on, without another puncture. Thanks, shaven-headed tattooed mechanic with “love” tattooed under your wedding band (I think you said your name was John?).
Then I rode over to Edge Kawasaki, where David, a pony-tailed mechanic with a fair number of years of wrench-bending under his belt (he doesn’t bend them under his belt…I don’t think. I didn’t ask) jumped on my bike and said “yea, she’s shot alright”. He then called Kawasaki and told them where things were at and what I nice chap I was and how he’d feel awfully sorry for me if I didn’t get a new shock on warranty. They said ok. I think a rather sweetly-sinister letter from me to the warranty people, as well as pressure from Jill Ruth at Headingly Sports may have helped as well. Within 30 minutes he had a new shock installed (we had it over-nighted from the warehouse on Friday/Sat night already, just in case we’d get coverage) and I was on my way. I then rode up to another bike shop to buy myself some proper tire tools (they’re only $5 each. Ugh) and rode up the Franklin Mtns to get some nice panorama shots of El Paso. By then I was bright red (t-shirt riding. Yes, with a helmet) cause it’s 93F/34C here and everyone is begging to go to hell just to cool off. So I stopped at a 7-11 and bought the largest jug of water they sell and a tube of sunscreen, and slathered it on while standing in the middle of the shop in a helmet with a GoPro mounted on the top. Then I went to my hotel and drank said water. All of it.
A note on the GoPro mounted on my helmet, and this is for Stephen Burns. You are totally right about making yourself stand out and the added safety in that as a motorcyclist. Every kid in a passing car points at me and goes “Mom/Dad, that guy has a camera on his head!” and that Mom/Dad is far less likely to cut me off. I wave at so many kids in passing cars my wrist is getting sore. It works great. Hopefully the gangsters in Juarez see it the same way. I’m looking for a suitably garish plush toy to mount on the rear of my helmet for added safety.
So I will meet a distant/sort of cousin tonight (Kelvin Kroeker) and then plan to cross the border into Mexico early tomorrow morning. I should be in Cuauhtémoc by Tuesday night.
Today has been rather humbling. Went to the bike shop to be told to come back on Monday. Checked into a hotel that has shaded parking in front of the rooms…perfect for working on the bike. Decided to finally put on that new rear tire I’ve been carrying since Houston. Got it on, tried to pump it up with my portable bike pump. Pump broke. US soldier staying a few rooms down lent me an electric one from his truck, pumped for 20 min while talking war, politics and women. Tire was not inflating past about 10psi and I suspected his pump was rubbish. So I banged the tire back onto the bike and drove it 200m to the auto shop, pumped it up to 30psi. Lovely. Rode over to Kmart to buy new bike pump, some socks and an ice cream. Came out of the store and tire was flat. Pumped it up with new pump. Drove like the blazes back to the hotel. Tire was flat upon arrival. Remove rear wheel, chain, brake once again. Pulled out the tube and found I’d nicked it when I put the tire back on. I called myself a few names, dug out my brand new tube, bunged that in, carefully put the tire back on, pumped it up…also have hole lah. Nicked this one too! Two brand new tubes within half an hour. Patch both tubes (2 patches each), put one of them into the tire. Pump it up to 30psi. Hold breath. Wait. Cleaned and oiled the chain while listening for a hiss. Check tire. 25psi. ##$$#$%)*&^% Pump up again. Check. Slow leak for sure. Sod it, that’s it for the day. I’ll just carry my pump till I pick up a new tube on Monday. Cracked a beer and listened to the neighbors fight as the sun sets over El Paso. Wonder if there’s a non-Mexican restaurant in town? Ahh, life on the road.
I’ve made a detour to El Paso, hoping to get my rear shock fixed. Several options and possible outcomes now. I’m hoping that Kawasaki will give me a new shock on warranty (although shocks are excempt) given the bike has only 9000km, and all on the highway. Fingers crossed. I don’t expect to be on the road again until Monday, so if you have friends here that I can hook up with, give them a shout, please.
Need advice from any bikers out there: I think I’ve blown my rear shock. Pre-load and rebound dampening both cranked all the way (it has no compression dampening adjuster) but the bike is sitting a lot lower than it did and rear is very, very soft. No visible leakage, though. Is is blown?
I’m in Del Rio, TX, right on the Mexican border. I drove here on Tuesday, straight from Katy (just outside of Houston). My time in Katy (where Stephen and Caro Burns and their sons Dan and Pixie live) was pretty productive, thanks to their help. I ran a heap of errands, got a bad haircut, did a bunch of work on the bike and ate lots of food. I set off again on Tuesday, heading west. I was happy to stay off the freeway the whole way here, although it wasn’t a very exciting road. Add to that a touch of the flu and steady rain all day and it turned into a pretty crappy trip.
The bike feels very different now…not sure why. I added an engine/crash bar and a center stand, as well as highway pegs, so there’s some extra weight. I also added a higher windscreen. Then I added a jury-rigged tool box to the front, under engine (PVC pipe, plugs and hose clamps, painted it all black) and tied my new tire onto the top of my bags at the back (my current rear tire still has a few more km in it…bald down the middle, but I’ll get another 1000 out of it I hope). I also played with the dampening on my suspension, tightened it off a wee bit (did too much at first, so had to back it off again). The bike feels heavier, more sluggish than before. Or maybe it was just my mood. I’ll have to play around with the suspension some more, or dump some weight. I may also have to move the tool box a bit, as the tire hit it when I bottomed out in a rut in some dodgy fried chicken restaurant parking lot. (Why is all the food fried here? I would kill for some good Chinese food, or even a salad.)
I was hoping to camp in a nearby park, but it was raining when I arrived so I opted for a cheap room instead. I fell asleep in my riding gear and woke up 4 hours later, feverish. A good night of sleep helped. Woke up this morning to more rain, so I’ve opted to stay here for a day and do some work for a client in HK. Gotta pay for the petrol somehow, cause God knows that writing books doesn’t pay the bills!
I’m hoping to set off early Thursday morning and spend the next night in Presido, TS, and then cross into Mexico on Friday morning.