Go West Young Man! part 4

Posted: December 4, 2020 in Life and Memories, Motorcycles, My view of the world, travel

part 4

As I pulled back onto the street with a full tank of gas, I was reminded of an issue that I had started to notice previously, but one that I had almost forgotten about with the fuel situation taking my full attention. I had noticed about fifty miles back that my clutch seemed to start slipping a little as we would accelerate up hills. Now on the city streets, it became a little more apparent with the stop and go aspect of riding through this urban area. Here I was a thousand miles from home on my first long distance trip and it seemed that I was beginning to helplessly watch my two wheeled steed potentially begin to suffer a catastrophic failure.

I gave it some gas and caught up with Earl at the light and motioned for him to pull over and we pulled into a well lit gas station where I explained to him of my slipping clutch dilemma. I was really beginning to feel a sense of panic, not really knowing what I was going to do if my bike actually was suffering from clutch failure…but Earl told me that it didn’t make sense that my bike would have suddenly start experiencing clutch failure with only 20,000 miles on the clock. After all, he reminded me, the clutches on these motorcycles were known to last for 75 to 100,000 miles. After he told me that, I thought about it and calmed down a bit, realizing that he was right and that it didn’t make a lot of sense to be failing all of a sudden. He asked who had done the last maintenance checkup on the bike and I admitted that I had just before the trip and then he suggested, with a smile, that the idiot mechanic that did the work was probably the one to blame for something not being adjusted right. Riding along the highway, I had been able to visually inspect the clutch cable adjustment at the handle bars and it looked correct, so under the sodium lights at the gas station I laid down to gaze underneath the bike and I looked at the adjustment nut at the transmission end of the clutch cable and I realized that I looked like I had tightened it down too much which was preventing the clutch from releasing all the way, thus causing it to slip. I pulled the tool pouch out from under the seat and adjusted the cable nut out several turns, checked the clutch cable free play (something I thought I had done before we left), buttoned everything up and with a load of apprehension, I took it for a test ride, only to discover the clutch was now releasing fine. By this time it going on 9pm and we still had many miles to go to reach New Mexico. While I was working on the bike we discussed our options and decided to continue traveling on and trying to make it to Tucumcari tonight, which was still almost a hundred miles away. With a deep sense of relief, I started the bike up and we left the city lights of Amarillo behind us as we continued riding into the night.

Riding along the interstate at night can be pretty weird at times, especially when the traffic is so light that you can ride for miles without seeing another vehicle. With traffic this light certain odd aspects of travel seem to come to light. One thing I noticed is it appears that cars tend to run in “packs”. Bikers do this, but they generally do it intentionally, whereas most people driving cars don’t pre plan running in groups, but it appears they do anyway, as there will be a traffic lull where there are no other vehicles in sight, then in the distance, I will see a group of headlights appearing and as they get closer I would see several vehicles running in a group, and it seemed these groups generally ranged from a pack size of four cars to ten, on the average. I noticed this same phenomenon for the next three trips we out west until we stopped using the interstate highways as our main artery and tried to travel along America’s two lane highways exclusively, so we could get a better flavor of small town America across this great nation.

Just before 11pm our headlights finally illuminated the New Mexico state sign growing larger and larger in front of us and as we neared it felt like it was personally welcoming us to come into its state to rest and relax, which was all I could think of at the moment, for riding all day long and far into the night was beginning to take its toll on both of us. We had looked at the road atlas a little earlier and saw there were no state parks or campground east of Tucumcari, but close to there was a couple of interstate exits that seemed to exit onto state or county roads with no facilities or businesses and we thought it would be worth a shot to pull off onto on of these to see if we could find a place to sleep away from people and houses. Almost a half hour later, as we started up a rise about five miles from Tucumcari, we saw an exit that looked like it would fit the bill as there were no lights or any sign of civilization around as far as we could see, so we exited the interstate onto a dirt road that crossed above the highway and we pulled of the road onto a grassy field and stopped. The awesome sight that opened before us was more than we could have imagined, for we were on a flat ridge that looked down upon the city lights of Tucumcari in the distance, while in the sky above us were more twinkling stars than I had ever seen before in my life, with the majestic milky way dominating the star field as it swept across that unbelievable night sky. As I rolled out the sleeping bag onto the grass and wearily plopped down on it, I took one more look around at the amazing sight in front and above me while thinking “we are actually in New Mexico!”. Apparently we slept peacefully under our blankets without any disturbances, for after I closed my eyes, I do not remember anything else until the rising sun woke me up early the next morning, rested and ready for the new day.

Jim

12-4-20

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