Road Trip Day ?-11-? … on to the backup plan

Some days start out a little too perfectly I guess.  The day dawned bright and clear and cool-ish in Lexington, VA and I was on the road after a very good night’s sleep a little after 6:00 am.  Climbing through the hills and mountains of Western Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana was great.  The day warmed up nicely and traffic wasn’t all that bad at all for a Tuesday morning.

Things tarted to get  little damp toward Louisville, Kentucky around 3:00 in the afternoon and it was looking like a good arrival outside of St. Louis around 5:30 central time.

Then the first thunderstorms started piling in.  They were heavy and strong and my weather alert radio started going off with tornado watches and severe thunderstorm warnings for the entire area I was in.  I was on I-64 westbound out of Louisville when I rode in to a very severe thunderstorm cell that reduced visibility to nearly nothing and traffic crawled to a near standstill as everyone slowed way down with 4-way flashers on.  Lighting was hitting all around, so it was time for me to find someplace to hide out until the big cells went by.  I pulled under and overpass in English, Indiana and waited for the storm to pass while looking at the cells with one of my radar apps.

That’s when the day took the final turn.  As I’m sitting there, my bike starts giving me a low tire pressure warning on the rear.  35 psi … 33 psi … 30 psi … 28 psi …   nah, can’t be, gotta be a sensor issue.  Get out tire gauge, measure a solid 20 psi in the rear tire and falling.  When I pulled off the highway in to the breakdown lane and then under the overpass, I clearly ran over some piece of debris that punctured the tire.

One brand spankin’ new, 36 hour old,  $300 tire … down the crapper (and believe me when I tell you that I’m somewhat annoyed by that..)  Me, sitting on the side of the road with semis going by at 70 in the pouring rain.  Hello AAA, please send a tow.

Ever since I started long distance touring years ago, I’ve had a backup plan just in case.  What’s just in case?  Well, maybe I get sick on the road.  Maybe the bike breaks to the point where it’ll take forever to fix where I am.  Maybe the weather turns really, really bad.  Heaven forbid, maybe I get hurt.  If I have plenty of time, many of these things can be handled and they make the trip more of an adventure.  If you don’t have plenty of time, not so much.

The backup plan is simple.  Find the nearest U-Haul dealer, rent a truck and trailer and bring the bike home.

So, as of tomorrow morning, the backup plan is in effect.  The bike is sitting over at U-Haul this evening (they closed before we could get the bike there) and I’m at a motel a couple of miles up the road.  My ride for the rest of this trip will be in the driver’s seat of a U-Haul truck pulling the Connie along behind me.

Why not replace the tire?  Really it comes down to time.  I got cut short by over 250 miles today.  With the time I have remaining in this trip, I can’t afford to lose yet another day to a repair (and believe me, that’s what it would be by the time I’m done finding a place that can squeeze me in, getting the bike moved, waiting for the shop to open, waiting for the tire to be changed, etc. the hours crawl by and add up and you’re lucky to be on the road by early afternoon … and still with 2300 miles to ride.  Yesterday I had an appointment in Norfolk and rode the bike to the shop to be there as soon as they opened and it was still half the day before I was actually, officially on the road.

Add to that the fact that there are still severe watches, warnings and forecasts around the Midwest overnight and in to tomorrow, and you can easily lose yet another day, or most of one staying out of the weather.  Rain isn’t an issue, but heavy lighting, hail and strong gusty winds all combined, definitely are.  Never a good idea to be riding in lightning.

Finally, there’s the stamina issue.  It’s very simple – when driving a car or truck, breaks don’t need to be as frequent and I have zero problem driving for 12, 14 or 16 hours a day.  Trying to do that on a motorcycle is just not a good idea – it’s not safe to begin with and it turns a fun ride in to a chore.  If it’s not going to be fun, why do it?

It’s been fun so far anyway.  Now I’ll just finish up hauling cargo like most of the rest of the trucks on the road and I’ll be sleeping in my own bed by Saturday evening.

For the record, this is the first ever time I’ve had to drop to the backup plan.