Smoke on the caliper

August 18, 2010

And speaking of metal and forging.

Not long after I wrote the last post I headed down the 89. My goal: head towards Moab. Go as far as possible, set up camp comfortably before the night comes and sleep under the moon.

As much as we froze in the morning, now it’s now hot as hell. When I hit the valley north of Salt Lake City the sun turned the mountains into a dry oven and I now sweat. It’s all good. Give me the heat. Give it to me hard. I can take it now. I am not anymore the northern girl with the frozen bones who squints because the sun comes out.

I stopped shopping to get some things like ear plugs, batteries, a hook for my net, engine oil then headed back on to route 89 South.

I am flying down the highway. Flying into the urban zoo of an American Freeway. Each and everyone rushing from A to B. Looking for the most efficient trajectory or plowing a course that will bring them there the fastest. I am part of the high speed dance or wrestling match depending on who is near you. Negotiating cracks in the pavement, holes, analyzing the maze of cars ahead and predict who will change lane where and when. Of course I don’t know how fast I’m going. With the earplugs what I hear is the high frequencies of the whine as I accelerate. Rock on, rock on.

Suddenly the bike slows down. What the… ! What is this now? I mean, I am losing speed like mad. The engine sound has morphed into a low frequency, unhappy grunt. The engine temp climbs over the mid line. That is NOT good.

Exit. Exit now. Exit the Highway. Luckily there is one right there and no one on my tail to give me grief or worse. I get on the overpass, cut over three lanes with the help of an observant driver who saw me shoulder check. I pull into the parking lot and the whole thing comes to a dead stop 6 feet from a parking spot.

I tried to push the bike in neutral to the parking spot. Can’t move it. Shit… What is this? I feel nauseus as I wonder if my engine seized and died.

I get back on, try to start it and get in gear. It dies again.

I get off, look at the chain, then on the other side to the brake.


There is smoke coming off the brake and the rotor is a funny coppery color, smoke is even coming out of the bleeding nipple. The whole back of the bike on that side is broiling hot. Even the swing arm… Wow.

What to do? I look at the time, five o seven. The closest person I know around here is in Nevada, he is a rider, he has a bike like this one. He rides a lot and knows bikes. So I call him. I take a chance, calling at work even if it’s after five PM to see if I can get him on the line.

The receptionist answers. A good first step, there is still someone in the office.

“And who may I say is calling?”


“….. What company do you represent?”

“I’m just a friend.”


“my last name is Hebert : H-E-B-E-R-T” I figure a last name will give me more credibility.

“Just a moment please, I’ll see if he can take your call”

I wait.

“Is this the Danielle?!”

Ah, a friendly voice, so good to hear.

I explain the troubles.

“Sounds like the pads have seized up, try with a screwdriver to see if you can free them up. Can you see if there is still some pad left of if it’s on the metal?

I look, “still some pad”

“look to see if there is brake fluid”

“OK and I have brake fluid if I need it”

“Listen, I am in a meeting right now. I’ll call you back when I’m done.”

I give him my new US cell number and hang up.

All right. Hope. Lets do this. Take all the stuff, luggage and saddle bags off the bike. Take the seat off, take the plastic spoiler off. Check the oil, it’s full. Good. Get the tools out. Do I have a screwdriver? Yeah but it’s a miniature gizmo with removable heads that measure about one point five cm long, no way to get that near the pads.

I look at the whole thing. I have seen Geoff take the caliper off. I have seen Jim take the caliper off. I can take the freaking thing off. I know it. If I get that off, I can take the pads out. With the pads off I can ride the bike albeit with no back brakes. But I can ride it somewhere. Heck, I can ride the thing to the end of the world if I want to. I am going to do this.

The two bolts off the caliper, the one off the arm that holds the caliper above the swing arm… I got two wrenches, they are the right size… Thanks Geoff for writing the little list of what tools to take with me on the trip.. I get the caliper off, I get the little rods out, like I saw Jim do when he worked on my brakes. One little piece of metal holding the pad and the little metal liner breaks right off. Cooked off. The pads come out.

The phone rings.

“Yeah, got them off. We chat for a while. I’m laughing. I just saved my own butt with the help of a friend. No need for AAA. No crying about my fate on the side of the road or making a big fuss about it. I know my bike enough to get myself out of this one.


My hands are black, covered in grease, my arms too. Not very feminine I guess. Who cares. I’m sweating, disheveled, I’m hot as hell sitting in the parking lot of a shopping mall. My bags are on the ground all around the bike, the seat’s off, it looks dire, but it’s a huge victory, I conquered.

Now lets test the thing. Start the bike. It runs fine. I move it. It moves freely.

Fuck yeah.

Excuse my language but it really expresses the grease, the sweat and the victorious operation.

I repack everything and head for dinner then go to another Starbucks across from the restaurant, go online to look for a place to camp, for motorcycle repair places and for the itinerary I have to take for Moab.

Then I gear up. The sun is coming down quite fast. The mountains are bathed in orange light, the sky is blue. I get rolling, slide onto the 15 south. Yeah mama. I blasting down the road.

I get filled with this incredible feeling. I scream and yell gliding down around 80 MPH on the Freeway. I approach Salt lake, the lights, the cityscape against the mountains, the sky, the engine… We eat up the road like it was our first real meal in years. Hungry, wanting, aggressive, nothing dainty, just raw power. I holler again at the world, at everything, at myself. I thank the Gods for the friends they brought me along the way and for giving me the courage to take on this trip.

Tonight I will finally sleep under the stars. In the sky above is my half moon and a zillion stars. Right now I am sitting at a pic nic table that will serve as my bed tonight because the ground is too hard to plant a tent. I am up in the mountains south of Salt Lake City there is a creek rushing by.

I am the forged metal, I am running free. I am so alive.

Rock on.


4 Responses to “Smoke on the caliper”

  1. Duane Thorin Says:

    I see a cycle shop in your future, with sculptures in the mini lobby, and really cool music playing while you and your crew fix up the rides and send the bikers back onto their journeys. This all needs a sound track as I read it.

  2. Melonai B Says:

    Il est minuit et demi
    et je n’ai pas pu arrete de lire tes blogs
    INCROYABLE, c’est un must a publier.
    Tellement bien fait
    Impressionnant et excitant

    I am a broken record here: j’espere que tu pourras prendre le temps de venir a Winnipeg
    de quelqu’un qui a perdu son ame, a qqn qui l’a retrouve.

  3. R.Crocker Says:

    Hi Danielle.

    Ran into a friend of yours while motorcycling through Wyoming. His name was Bruce Maynard and he was walking from Vancouver BC to Key West Florida….Said so say hi. We are now back in Aspen CO. If you are passing nearby and need a warm shower & clean bed send us an E…

    Good Luck! (

  4. Michel Says:

    Salut Danielle… superbe récit! Zen and the art of Motorcycle maintenance! J’ai pu faire un peu de moto cet été en Saskatchewan. C’était génial! Profites pleinement de ton expérience!

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