Road Trip 2016 – Day 9 … a slightly rocky start

So the day started great in Wheeling as I departed the Oglebay Resort at a little past 6:00 am.  I was nearing the little town of Lavale, Maryland around 8:30, when my bike started complaining “LOW BATTERY” as I was riding.  That’s never good.  Indeed, the voltage indication was fluctuating between 13.0 and 14.5 V depending on engine speed.  So the alternator was clearly, well, you know … alternating and all.  It was about time to get fuel anyway, so I pulled off of I-68 in to Lavale and the local Sunoco station.  At the bottom of the off ramp, the bike stalled and everything reset to zero (clock, trip odometers, etc.), but I was rolling enough to bump start it and keep the voltage up be rolling on 2500 RPM or so as I limped toward the station.  I pulled up in front of a pump, shut the bike off and that was the end of that.  After being shut off, there wasn’t even enough juice left to wake the computer up.

After fueling, I rolled the bike to a corner of the gas station parking lot and called my good friends at AAA.  I carry motorcycle coverage on my membership and even though I’m also a member of the AMA, AAA does a better and quicker job, frankly, of getting roadside assistance out.

So just after I finished some breakfast at the diner next to the Sunoco station, this happened:


Around 10:30 or so, me, the tow driver and the bike arrived at Timbrook Powersports, just up the road in Cumberland Maryland.  They got the bike in the shop and it wasn’t ten minutes before the service guy came out to let me know “battery’s shot”.  Yup, I like simple problems.  Grab a new battery off the shelf, charge it, install it.  Meanwhile, I bought a new pair of gloves, watched some TV and drank their coffee.  They had me back on the road at just about noon straight up.  They did a great job quick and treated me great as well.  Having just come off a week of venue management training, much of which focuses directly on customer service, I can say that these guys hit this one out of the park.  Just plain nice folks.

So, long story short, a couple of hours later, I was here:


Space Shuttle Discovery at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy center near Dulles Airport

Only one word for this…  Awesome.

I made it to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center this afternoon.  A side trip I’ve been wanting to make for years now, but just hadn’t been able to make all the stars align.  One time the area was flooded out.  One time I just didn’t have time.  Another time I think there were tornado warnings in the area.  I have to tell you that this morning when the bike died, the thought ran through my head … “the fates don’t want me visiting that museum.”

I’m glad I made it.  I geeked out and took a whole pile of pictures, so later in the trip I’ll post just about the museum, but the place is pretty great.  The building and grounds are amazing enough, but what makes any museum is their collection.  Of course this is the Smithsonian, but still – in one building sits the Space Shuttle Discovery, an Air France Concorde and the B-29 bomber Enola Gay.  I didn’t know that last one was here.  That was a surprise.  The rest of the collection is terrific as well.  Including the German WWII Horton Ho jet-powered flying wing that’s in pieces in the restoration hanger out back.  THAT will be amazing when they get it done and on display.

More later.  For now, the day is done and I’m happily ensconced at a Holiday in here in Chantilly, VA, just down the road from the National Reconnaissance Office and a thousand other DC suburb agencies, contractors and firms – kind of the heart of the US intelligence industry right here.

Track the Trip  <– This link takes you to my Amateur Radio call sign on (updated, now shows both radio and Android trackers).  I’m traveling with an APRS enabled handheld radio which periodically transmits my GPS location, speed and heading.  Standard disclaimer – the system relies on a network of club and privately owned digital Amateur Radio stations.  The overall success of the tracking is dependent on a whole list of factors, including the fact that these stations don’t exist everywhere I’ll be riding and it’s all done on VHF radio frequencies.  When it works it works, when it doesn’t it doesn’t.