Early Monday morning, 4 August 2008, I checked out of room 20 at the Lazy-T Motel and pulled a gas receipt at the Timewise/Valero Junction Country Store, logging 8:16am CT as the start of the second 1500-mile leg of my fifth IBA Bun Burner Gold 3000 attempt (only 2 of the previous 4 were successful). I rode west on IH-10 out of Junction TX, my goal being to make Tucson AZ and back within the 23 hours remaining on the 48-hour ride clock that started ticking back in South Beach at 8:51am ET the previous day.
At 10:52am CT, I stopped for gas at the Kent Kwik in Fort Stockton TX. Nine miles further west, my odometer rolled over 150,000 miles. And only minutes after that, the bike momentarily stalled as the engine tried to seize. Suspecting the inevitable, I began scanning the vast, empty West Texas desert and praying for signs of civilization (it was 100 degrees; I had no water, and no cell phone signal). I came over a rise, and ahead I could see a Fina C-store cresting the left side of the next hill. I made it to the exit ramp just seconds before a brief but ominous grinding brought a lump to my throat, and my engine began to gasp as if it had no fuel.
I coasted to the top of the crossover, where the motor died with the Fina parking lot still a quarter-mile away and up a steep slope. Resigned that I had nothing to lose, I hit the start button. And as if it sensed my desperation, my faithful iron steed fired up one final time, giving her last full measure of devotion to bring me within ten feet of the hilltop. There, just moments before noon and with 150,069 miles on the odometer, a few final seconds of metal crunching metal marked her passage on to Harley Heaven.
Having witnessed my arrested arrival, a couple of orange-vested highway workers hopped out of their white truck and hustled over to help me push my dead horse up the last few feet of incline and over to the one shady spot in front of the store. There, holding back tears brought on by an emotion not unlike that of a lost loved one, I pulled a HOG manual out of my saddlebag and went inside to cool down and assess my situation.
I didn’t need the Harley Owners Group telephone rep saying my location was “…not in the computer” to know I was broke down in the middle of nowhere. El Paso’s H-D was roughly 170 miles to the west. But my daughter’s upcoming wedding would be in San Antonio, almost 400 miles back east, so that was the direction I felt I should head.
I relayed my tale of woe to the friendly teenaged “good ole boy” minding the store. He immediately pulled out a stack of business cards and began trying to track down a tow. Minutes later, he had me on the line with Manuel, who offered to haul me and my bike back to SA for twelve hundred bucks. I balked at the price, and said I’d call him back.
Overhearing our conversation–and perhaps sensing opportunity in my angst–a t-shirted twenty-something Tex-Mexican stepped up and offered “Mister, let me go get my uncle’s truck, and I’ll take you back to San Antonio for nine hundred dollars.” Figuring my chances of getting a better deal were slim to none, I accepted.
Four wearying hours later, the enterprising young man returned from Pecos TX driving a cardboard-windowed SUV hauling a rickety trailer with two may-pop tires. I cringed as loading the bike caused the wooden bed to creak. But load it we did, anchoring her with a comic assortment of ropes and straps that only a Clampett could appreciate.
Eight hours and nine hundred dollars worth of ATM stops later, Providence delivered our one-car migrant caravan to the Alamo City, where we rolled my busted bike down a rusty ramp and up the driveway to a relative’s garage. And there she will sit, until I can scrape together a four-figure sacrifice to the Harley God of Remanufactured Reincarnation. Those readers wishing to offer your much-needed support can make much-appreciated donations online here:
Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!