29 January, 2006 Temperature: 32 degrees (0°C)
So there we were, tooling along down Shephard Road on a sunny Friday afternoon. The work week was over, and the Baron was singing his turbine song, running close to redline at almost sixty miles-per-hour.
I know I said we were going to slow down on this road, but the combination of clear, dry pavement and the beautiful blue sky had a sort of narcotic influence on my state-of-mind. Since my mind controls my throttle hand, there was nothing else to do but twist it to the stop.
The only warning I had that something was amiss was when we began to slow down, and then the drivetrain started to jerk a bit. Suddenly there was no drive at all, and the engine screamed for a moment before I shut everything down. We coasted to the side of the road, and I pulled off my helmet and gloves to inspect the damage. I knew what it was, as I have read about this happening, but I never expected it to happen so soon. We changed the drive belt back at 3,600 kilometers, and the previous belt showed only a little wear. At 6,400 kilometers, this belt failure was premature. Then I found out why: the rear tire was flat again.
A flat rear tire causes lots more stress on the drive belt. It is a great tribute to Kenda that I hadn’t noticed the tire losing pressure. I had hit a few sharp bumps at speed, and one of them had caused the patch to come loose. That’s my best guess, anyway.
There are a series of nice corners on East River Road before you enter Shephard, and there was no feeling of “squishiness” in the suspension this time. So I figure this had to have happened when we hit the Big Dip or one of the many little frost heaves on Shephard Road. Either way, my carefree commute was over, and I faced a mile or so of pushing before I could reach the first place with a phone.
Cars, trucks, and SUVs passed us by, with nobody even slowing down. Had someone stopped, I could have used a cell-phone to call AAA for a tow truck. I wouldn’t have taken any more of their time, but they didn’t know that. If they got off work early, they sure as hell didn’t want to spend any of that stolen time helping some dork on a scooter. Had I broken down on a Harley, I’m betting somebody would have stopped in very short order. Especially if they had the H-D Bar and Shield sticker on their vehicle. That’s part of the Biker’s Code, don’t ya know?
I don’t own a cellphone anymore. I got tired of carrying an electronic leash, and I don’t like paying for something that I use so rarely. But these days, with payphones disappearing, I have to accept the fact that I will inevitably face these situations. Everyone is expected to have one, and if I don’t, then this is my own damn fault. What did people do before cellphones?
I peeled off my jacket and piled it on top of the milk crate as I pushed the Baron up the hill. Then there was a downhill portion and I was able to sit there and coast for awhile. Eventually, we covered that mile and came to the intersection of Shephard and Randolph. There’s a business there called Bonfe’s Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning. I parked the scooter in their lot, and walked right in the front door.
The nice lady at the desk directed me to the phone in the breakroom, and I called Triple-A. We keep AAA coverage mostly for my wife’s car, but last year we added motorcycle coverage when I was taking ever longer trips for my “Backroads Diary” column. I didn’t know at the time that I would be riding a scooter through the winter. Serendipitous, no?
The flatbed arrived in about an hour, and Dennis the driver took me back to Baron HQ in Plymouth. There, crew chief Lorne and I worked together to re-patch the tire, with a plug this time. Then he changed out the drive belt while I gave the final drive cover a good scrubbing in the parts washer. We were back on the road again within the hour. It was still sunny and warm, and now I could enjoy my ride home all over again. Now there’s a happy ending for you.