Stranded. Drama. Southern style

July 16, 2010

We came in the room with the last motorcycle parts, spoilers, the seat. The clock marked 11:11. Does that mean everything will be all right? I am filthy, I spent 5 hours under the broiling sun over 100 degrees F.

The day started nicely, I even was able to cook my organic oatmeal. I slept at a hostel at Harper’s Ferry. Beautiful place by the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. I debated staying there for another night as it was very peaceful. I decided to keep moving on to try to make the best of the sunny day and get some mileage done towards Montreal before the rain hit again.

I have had some awareness that something was not quite right with my starter since Phoenix. The mechanic there had told me it was next to impossible to diagnose properly as it was intermittent. So I had elected to wait and see what would happen. The problem seem to be more acute in very hot weather. In Nashville I talked to the mechanic there about it and was told that it was somewhat normal, the heat could cause that sort of thing. So I went with it.

But over the last few days it’s been getting worse quickly, I had to push the starter many times over before it would engage sometimes.

I headed out around 11 AM, checking oil, chain, lubing the chain after all the recent wet riding and checking the air pressure. All was set and ready to go. After loosing my camera yesterday (another good story to tell later) I popped by the local Wall Mart and bought a new one. The next endeavor was lunch and espresso. I stopped in Charles Town. Beautiful place. Found the perfect cafe with real food and great espresso and wi-fi.

I needed the wi-fi especially to find a bike repair shop in the area. For the starter and also because it was starting to feel like the battery was not full power. The bike gives a feeling of looseness, lack of performance especially at low speeds. I needed to find a repair shop. I found the name of a place on Google maps wrote it all down with 2 phone numbers and address and left.

It started.

My goal was to head on down towards the repair shop. I got onto some really nice roads. Stopped at this “Sheetz” gas station, all the rage in the East. These are your multiple pumps + convenience stores pushed to the max, some of them even have espresso bars, restaurants and about 30 pumps on an acre of land. Red, Yellow and black. Can’t miss it. The day before someone had given me directions and was telling me about “the Sheetz” store. And I wondered why a grown man would be so interested and even aware of a store that sold linen. Today I realized it’s as ubiquitous as Wall Mart in people’s lives, they are landmarks.

At the Sheetz store I was accosted by a real hillbilly. His name was Tom. Tall, lean, piercing blue eyes, reddish hair and when he opened his mouth you could see two front teeth missing. That is when I thought of a joke I was told recently : “Be careful with the rednecks you may catch them lying through their tooth” and I could not stop grinning. Tom was admiring the bike, (the bike hmm…sure you say…) He started telling me about stories of drunk driving, motorcycle crashes while drunk and general motorcycle destruction and reconstruction while intoxicated, bad money deals selling motorcycles and good money deals buying motorcycles. Well you get the drift.

Well Tom started to drop hints that he had a nice house and when I mentioned I needed to get inside the Sheetz (no pun intended here folks) to get some water, he told me he had water at home. He told me he was in the fencing business, not with swords but more along the lines of building fences to keep horses on a dedicated pasture. It went on for a while, and then I said “ I really have to move on” and he got a bit sad, he said : we could have fun, you know, relax… I said, gotta go… Take care, life is good. He looked positively sad.

It took two tries but the bike started again.

I headed down the road. It’s hot. I’m watching the engine temperature as I had to be in traffic, it’s slow and the needle is getting up there. We get moving, there is construction on the road. I see a Suzuki dealer, think of stopping, but it’s all barricaded, one way traffic with people tailgating me… I figure I’ll get to the guy in Water Falls.

I see this sign for I-81 and I think : lets cover some ground here. I pulled over to put on my jacket, did not stop the engine, just in case, I get back on, first gear and the bike just dies. I tried to run and start it in second gear, the road has a slight downhill I should be able to do this… I run… let the clutch go… nothing, it was in neutral. I was berating my stupid self, it’s over 90 some degrees with full on humidity, I got a helmet, gloves and a leather jacket and I forget to put it in gear… I try again. The whole thing shuts down. No lights nothing.

Huston : we lost all power.

I am completely out of breath, nauseous from the heat and this is bad. I know it. This bike is dead.

Luckily there is about 8 feet of pavement between the lane and the grass, so I am safe from passing cars

OK, take the jacket off, the helmet, gloves… cool off, water, which I had ample supply in my camel back thanks to the Sheetz store up the road.

What do I do?

I got this motorcycle shop phone number written, the one I copied at the cafe. That is luck #2. Usually I don’t write things down… I call the guy. He says he can be there at 6 pm because you see, he works at night. Hmm hmm… well it’s 2:30 under a roasting sun. OK, I’ll wait. I sat by the back of the bike as there was a bit of shade, the only bit of it around.

waiting with Leo

I hung out for a good while, closed my eyes, relax… suddenly think of my AAA membership, roadside assistance. I call them. I finally get through, really nice lady… someone will get you around 5 PM. At this point that meant about 1.5 hours. OK, 1.5 hours, I can do that. I put sunscreen on and huddled in the shade of the back wheel and saddlebags.

The cars zoom by. Whoosh, whoosh… no one stops. I was thinking wow, I could be dead here and no one would know. I wasn’t worried because AAA was coming… Got water, a granola bar, I’m fine.

The phone rang.
-“Hi, this is XYZ Towing, we cannot locate you, we’ve been driving all around and we can’t locate you”

-I said “here is the location on my GPS : nearest approximate address 629 Wesel Road.” (not making that one up either)

-Can you tell me where you are, he asked me. I said “
-Well, I have no clue. I’m not from here, I was on my way to 81 North and I can see lumber in a large yard in the distance and … grass.”

-Well you’re going to have to call #77 so the State Patrol can locate you because we can’t find you.
OK. I hand up. Dial #77

-State Patrol, did you call #77 or 911?

-#77

-What is the reason for your call?

-I have a broken down motorcycle, the towing company can’t find my and they asked me to call this number so I could be located”

-You gotta call 911

-All right, thank you ma’am (I’m getting good with the local customs.)

As I was about to call 911 this massive pick up truck with two dudes who definitely fit the hillbilly profile pull up to me. The truck has this very big Harley Davidson license plate holder. I’m thinking bikers wanting to help. There was an older man and a younger one.

-Are you OK?
-Well, I am broken down but AAA is coming.
-What’s wrong?
-Electrical I think, I was losing power and starter was acting up now it’s all dead.
-Well Dany here works at a motorcycle shop, he knows all about it.
Dany comes out of the truck

-What’s wrong?
I repeat. He has a look.

-Well it could be a few things. Do you mind taking your stuff off the bike so we can look at the battery, it could be the battery.

-Nope.

I proceeded to remove all the bags and luggage off the bike. We removed the seat. One quick look at the battery revealed that the negative post was literally melted down by heat. The metal was in drops. The post came right off.

This was caused by being loose, the heat caused by the post losing and catching contact created sparks and melted the thing. You’re going to need a new battery. The vibrations…

-OK. (I’m thinking this is not too bad)

So he went on to check the starter, and after trying a few things we found a burnt ground wire, and found out that the starter was not getting any current. While this was going on, Dany sent his uncle to pick up a trailer. At this point I am under the impression that Dany either works or has strong connections with the motorcycle repair shop and that they are going to trailer the bike over there. I called the towing guys to tell them things were OK so they canceled the call with AAA.

Dany apologized for drinking beer and started to work on the bike.

Road side assistance

Dave, the uncle, showed up with this rattley trailer and an open beer in his hands. At this point I am questioning things a bit, they got these worn out looking ratcheted ties. Dave puts one metal hook around the front left fork and start ratcheting and the hook falls right off… then he puts the hook through my front brake disk and I said “ Uh..” in an impinging sort of way as this technique looked so incredibly like the wrong thing to do… Dany intervened and got the ties around the handlebars and got the bike solidly on there.

– Old people” he says, that is why we are here, to take care of them.

My bike. On this trailer. Partly dismantled, my stuff is in the back of this pick up truck… and we’re heading out. I sit in the front, Dany sits in the back, in the box, you know, like any good redneck would do… And I’m looking at the bike. I breathe deeply. Smile.

As we drove towards a mall a thermometer says it’s 101 degrees and there was clouds blocking the sun. So today was how hot? … it’s too late by now, the motorcycle shop is closed. Dave tells Dany to take me in there and feed me and give me a chance to use the washroom… I’m pretty greasy from the bike. I walk in the washroom, my arms, my back and my face are just sunburned. I looked back deep into my eyes, straightened my emotions and washed my hands.

We then walked into this pool room, bar, twenty TVs around the room, gambling channels and sports and Seinfeld all going at once. I get a burger and iced tea. Beer was tempting but I’ve been known to make big mistakes when I drink so I chose to stay sharp.

We get out of there and I realized that Dave went out and bought a battery for the bike. These guys are really trying to help. We drive out to Dave’s place. A small home in the country, two dogs, three cats and tons of photos of the grand kids. His wife was not there. He said she was coming. He offered me to “refresh” myself but I chose to stay with the bike.

Dany went to work on the bike, installed the battery, and started checking wires with his tester and trying to solve the problem.

Bike on the trailer, Dany working on it

He worked on the bike until the sun went down. Looks like the starter switch is dead. We don’t have the part. Have to wait until morning. We sat around a table outside the house, the three of us just chatting. I learned terms like “ a dirt nap” (being dead and buried).

Dave, his two dogs and beer

They told me how Dave’s wife is SO nice, you’ll looove her.

The fireflies are crisscrossing the sky, the cat came on my lap. The night is sweet and beautiful and above us a bloody thin crescent of a moon.

A car suddenly pulls in the driveway full tilt, almost running over the dog and a cat. It stops brutally. Lights all ablaze, I see dust coming in the headlight glow. The driver’s side door opens, violently, a woman comes out. Angry as hell.

-How can you do this? You bring this lady in my house when I am not here? What were you thinking you son of a bitch?!?

She’s yelling. Screaming.

-What do you think you are doing picking up a lady you don’t know and bring here here!!!

-I just wanted to help a fellow biker in need…

-You could have taken her to a hotel!! Not bring here here! When I am not here!!!

-but I called you and I told you…

-Yeah, you told me you found a doll and you were bringing her home! While my mother is in the hospital!!! and you bring her in my home!!!

-We were waiting for you outside…

-You said you showed her the rooms!!!

-Well I was just wanting to help…

-We’re done! We’re through! 15 years! 15 years!!! you take someone you don’t know and bring ’em to our house and she comes along with two strangers, what does that tell you about her!!!

At first I tried to say something : “I’m so sorry, I had no intention of creating this… I …

She glowered but then was it for me or for some personal scorching hurt?

Dany started to say something and she said :
-And you!! You got a wife and kids!!

She turned to the husband :

– And you’ve been drinking!! You and your drinking!!!
and it went on and on…

A hillbilly movie. I am the harpy, she’s the good woman at her mom’s deathbed, he’s the no good drinking husband. This is going on right now. It’s going on for real as the crickets creak in the night. the bike is dead, attached on a trailer that does not belong to me with a bunch of parts unhooked, unscrewed and not working. My stomach is tense. This woman could pull a gun and it would not be far fetched… Dany went over to get his other truck, he’s talking to someone on the phone, angry too. The screaming continues.

She turns to me and says : “You, get in the car!”

I’m thinking I will not get in the car with this enraged woman.

Dave says something and she runs over there screaming double time.

During that outburst Dany is coming over with the other truck,

-Get in the truck, I’ll take you.

I don’t move. I don’t want to leave the bike there. Be separated.

The fight continues between husband and wife. It’s personal and it is deeply rooted. I realized that I had nothing to do with this. I was just a good trigger. Somehow this conclusion did not make me feel any better.

I grabbed my jacket from the back of the truck I’m starting to grab the saddlebags… Dany said : I’ll take you, I’ll help you”. He’s feeling really bad about all this. He goes over to the wife yelling out loud:

-We were just trying to help a fellow biker because we’ve been stranded on the road before and NO ONE EVER STOPPED !!!!!! BUT YOU COULD NOT UNDERSTAND THAT!!!!

Dany told me earlier how he was in a bike accident someone crushed him against a guardrail and he was losing all his blood and almost died there. No one stopped until a friend of his found him. He wants to help. It’s almost like he’s trying to undo something that can’t be undone.

YOU COULD HAVE TAKEN HER TO A HOTEL!!!!

Yeah… I guess that would have been the politically correct way of doing this.

Husband and wife kept yelling at each other.. So weird… Through the day Dave was telling me over and over how good she was, how nice, and fun and how she was going to be so thrilled to meet me… Perception, reality, the stories we make of our own marriages, the blinders we put on and the lies we tell ourselves and that big river in Egypt called The Nile (Denial)

But who cares about philosophy and relationship artistry. Right now, this is thick, greasy, up to the elbows human emotion and reaction. Dany and I are picking up loose bike parts on the trailer she yells :
-I won’t touch her bike!! you can leave it there, I won’t do anything to it!

HA! I thought to myself,

Fat chance! I’m not leaving my bike here! That would just be too perfect : the jilted cowgirl, the wronged wife who goes bonkers and feels totally justified… The Drama that this would be… a country drama… I am not going to put myself at the receiving end, too easy for her, no responsibility : I’m from out of town… I’m not leaving without my Suzuki.

So Dany and I got in the truck to go at a hotel. He paid for it. He was completely embarrassed by it all. At this point, honestly, I was shaken. He gets his wife on the phone and has her talking to me to reassure me that this is not my fault. She was nice.

But I can’t be weak. I have to regain control. I need to have my bike so I can get it fixed and get on my way.

it is really simple.

It comes down to money really. Someone, somewhere will fix it.

So we get to the hotel and when I start getting all the stuff from the back of his truck (bike seat, panels, saddlebags… he says : I’ll come back tomorrow you know, the trailer… I said : I need to have my bike. He understood.

I walked back with him in the lobby, we exchanged phone numbers. I said to him as he left : we’re going to make this work. We’ll make it go right. We are. And he left.

So here I am. In Hagerstown in a Motel 8 with motorcycle parts all over the room, bags and all. My bike is sitting on a trailer in the back parking lot, I can see it through my window.

I could have just thanked these dudes and waited for AAA to find me. It looked like a blessing that these two showed up and one of them is an actual motorcycle mechanic. It may yet be. Tomorrow the tale continues.

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3 Responses to “Stranded. Drama. Southern style”

  1. Cathy Says:

    Danielle …. this is like a movie that I hope ends well. I’ll be checking in for the update. Hugs to you.

  2. Josee Says:

    crazy crazy crazy!

  3. Duane Thorin Says:

    Damn!!!!!!! Now you’ve Reallllllly got me hooked. You drove into a Tennessee Williams play….. Stella! Stella!
    Danielle, you just have to charge us good prices for entertainment like this.
    Yer gonna make it out of there. And then go to a nice place in maybe a college town, and have a nice, strong, European Beer and laugh. Geesh!


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