RATATAT (riding ancient trash across trans american trail)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by murfalert, Sep 18, 2017.

  1. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

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    After the visit with Dennis for a spare spark maker and some time swallowing dust we rode some road to spend the night at Clarksdale, MS. I should mention though, that much of the route in MS is actually quite enjoyable in deep woods void of other humans. There was some freshly scraped heavy clay that was cool, because it was dry. Had it rained there's a good chance we would have had more than dirty tires quickly. That stuff would have been brown ice and no place for heavy street bikes. But hey, when you're blessed don't whine about what could have been- right?
    The last stretch to Clarksdale was straight, flat, hot, paved road with expansion joints that obviously were calculated for lower temperatures. It was brutal on Ollie and the Goose. And it's not like I didn't prepare the Harley. I had put some first rate fancy shocks on with another 1.5" of travel. Actually Guzzi guy sent them- off a wrecked Triumph Bonneville. I had tried to soften them by grinding the spring stops but they were still set up for a different leverage ratio. My chassis dyno (read tail bone) illustrated that. And the Guzzi wasn't much better. Same deal as the HD; soft front and hard rear- and that combination doesn't work well in a broad array of arenas. VFR man was happy as can be strolling along on his custom suspenders that actually worked. His only beef was holding it to about a 60mph cruise that I requested for Sportster longevity. While he and the Guzzi did make some top speed runs I puttered along merrily at an assumed 60ish (no speedo, no blinkers, no horn, no idiot lights, no superfluous nonsense of any type- except the glorious electric start). I had geared the thing as tall as possible, but it still felt like work above about 65.
    It should be noted that this VFR is now part of its owner's anatomy after over 70,000 miles. And his miles are not normal. His miles tend to caress the rev limiter as pegs trench asphalt- and I'm not exaggerating. I've seen him come so close to crashing that the tip over switch actually killed the motor and he had to pull over and cycle the key to reset it. Yet he never actually crashes. It's almost eerie. So limping at 60 was more than gracious of him- it took serious determination. This guy rarely goes a month without getting pulled for some maniacal stunt for which he's only set loose because the 'special' officer likes his hair, and he drives a Miata- there, it's out.
    Ok, I've strayed again. We made it to a nice place in another town I wouldn't live in. Right on the big river. We found a place to watch the McGregor Mayweather fight after a jog that got us lost. Yes, foot jog, cause we're dumbasses that's why.
    [​IMG]
    #21
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  2. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

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    The next morning we crossed the big river (I wasn't as impressed as I thought I'd be) and got back on the route. Which had us shortly into our first real rain. But not to fear, we needed it to hold the dust down. And besides, within five minutes we found shelter and a mandatory TAT stop.
    [​IMG]
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    These people are great, and so is the place. An amazing collection of ooooollllld stuff- and I'm not including the owner. He's kept annual photo books af TAT passersby that are really cool. And he doesn't do it for money! Think of that, he gives free water, free conversation, and free photo history with no selfish agenda. There has to be a catch, my cynical condition kept whispering. But no, and that's refreshing.
    As we pulled up a fully loaded GS with superman aboard (he did have a fancy costume) gave a weak and heartless "hey" before shooting off to save the world with gravel spraying and testosterone pumping. We were impressed, but apparently he wasn't. It must have been a symbolic kick in the nads to have three losers show up on junk doing what he told his wife he needed the best bike made for. And he was three days behind after he dropped the gigundus thing on himself hurting his leg.
    We hung out there until the rain quit. Talking and admiring stuff like a century old wine press and a meteorite.
    #22
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  3. ridetheblock

    ridetheblock Adventurer

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    Note it's been 2 days since a Guzzi mechanical - legendary Italian reliability!
    #23
    CrStep likes this.
  4. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

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    After leaving the TAT official AR welcome center we enjoyed about 3 miles of wet gravel- and no dust. But alas it was short lived. I think Superman was moving so fast and creating such atmospheric turbulence that he spun the rain clouds north of us. Dust was again the order of the day. And straight gravel roads, flat straight dusty gravel, with nary a breeze to move it. After an hour or two we saw Hurricane Harvey induced storm waves ahead so we baled north a little to avoid that. Sure, we could have used some rain, but a thunderstorm wasn't in our agenda- cause we're wimps.
    We dodged storms where we saw them while trying to stick to the smallest roads we could, some being gravel. One led us quite a way to a condemned bridge. Well shoot, we're not back tracking, that we didn't sign up for.
    [​IMG]
    But since the gravel piles made us skirt precariously close to the drop off to the creek we used spotters- cause we're geniuses with large and manly balls.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    #24
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  5. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

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    You'll notice we are AATGAATT (almost all the gear almost all the time) fellows, even if one of us had a strange yet stylish retro Bell with no visor. Despite being mid 90s much of the time we didn't dispense with safety- ever. See above post for proof of this fundamental philosophy. Not that we ever crash, but there's a first time for everything. We don't even crash while riding on flat tires, at speed; we'll get to that later. I'd like to interject somewhere, and this is as good a place as any, that the Guzzi had a throttle pull that took more torque than a typical large truck head bolt to move. Guzzi and HD swapped bikes once to reveal the shameful secret that Guzziboy had been hiding- he could not have been bothered prior to this ride, despite at least 6 months of foreknowledge, to repair said throttle issue. That thing was unusable for me for more than a half hour. This brought out another shameful secret from Guzziboy- he evidently uses his right grip much much more than normal men to build that strength. What he could be holding onto that tightly, that often, with his right hand is anyone's guess. We should also point out that VFR guy is so in love with his machine that he doesn't share; probably not more than 15 of the 70,000 odd miles were put on by anyone else. Now that's true love.[​IMG]
    #25
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  6. SFDemo

    SFDemo Been here awhile

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    I'm not sure I would partake of that brand on a guy's trip not to far from Deliverance country, I'm just saying.
    #26
  7. Still Ugly

    Still Ugly Adventurer

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    Good stuff! Cheers!
    #27
  8. Dyrden

    Dyrden Been here awhile

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    Great writing, it's even worth reading.
    #28
  9. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

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    Location:
    near Birmingham, AL
    Somewhere in these past couple days we camped again right on the Arkansas river. Really nice place with quite a view.
    [​IMG]
    Notice the tiny tent. In my perceived haste (I spend most my life in perceived haste- part of why I loved this trip's pace) I grabbed a Walmart 4x8 tent. At least that's what the box said. And sure enough, it was 4x8'. Four feet across the front where the stakes went, and 8' from furthest points laterally (I'm not sure I used that word right but I've wanted to use it somewhere). Never mind that inside it was 3' wide on one end to a point on the other, and about 6 1/2' long. Fitting my gear in there with me, to keep it dry, was a bit too cozy. The other two clowns had luxury suites by comparison. I did get revenge, however, with the huge air mattress that required two people to stuff in the door once inflated. And it needed a 12volt pump that was powered by the support bike- VFR. True to air mattress form it began to flatten each night after the first. Camping is fun though- when you're 12. Campfires are fun, but sleeping on the ground, climbing out a tiny zippered door to pee three times a night, showering on concrete in a spittle of tepid water, and packing a dew covered tent? Not so much. Speaking of climbing out during the night; the trip was punctuated with reminders we are no longer pushing 30, nor are our prostates.
    [​IMG]
    Note in the picture above that the Guzzi is resting comfortably with no wood block under the side stand like it had required most all other times during the trip. That's because excellent mechanical aptitude and experience (remember tightening steering head bearings?) didn't tighten the triple clamps enough to prevent one, just one, fork tub from scooting up an inch or so. Very helpful for stand use, but not the ticket for handling.
    I haven't mentioned wild animals at all yet. Which is because we didn't see much besides deer. My guess is that while the straight pipes on the Harley saved lives they also saved us from seeing animals that heard us coming a ways off. We did see a lot of vultures, all day, every day. I think they knew something we didn't.
    #29
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  10. WaywardSon

    WaywardSon Long timer

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    HELL yes.......Great ride report!! Really nice style...thanks for taking the time.
    #30
  11. ridetheblock

    ridetheblock Adventurer

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    Leave it to a loud piped Sportster guy to throw baseless bashing towards fine Italian craftsmanship such as the Lemans, with a clear motive of deflecting conversation away from his woefully underpowered scooter that can't make 130 miles between gas stations.
    "Hey Murf, how's the seat on that Harley?"
    "Look, over there, at the Guzzi!!! The throttle is hard to turn!"

    And so its clear, had Ollie (the Sportster) not been on the ride, the VFR and Guzzi would have easily made it to Oregon in half the time we spent just in Tennessee!

    The Guzzi throttle: ok first of all the Guzzi is a Real Man's Bike, which should go without saying but as there's a high population of BMW riders on this site (not that there's anything wrong with that! I think you guys should be able to marry whoever you want...), I figured its worth a reminder. With it being a Real Man's Bike, it comes as no surprise that some mamby pamby limp-wristed Hog bandwagon type can't properly operate it. Did it ever occur to you that I intentionally sabotaged the throttle to a point where I knew you'd hate it so you wouldn't be pestering me for 2 weeks wanting to pawn Ollie off to me in favor of the grandeur one is surrounded with when piloting the Lemans? That throttle isn't easy to turn even when all is well, what with the big Del'Ortos being all that stands between you and a level of HP known only to those who frequent Bonneville. Plus, the throttle really wasn't much of an issue on this trip anyways, because I never had to open it more than a crack off idle to easily outpace every one of the 12hp that the Sportster brought to the party (as long as I was running on both cylinders, which at this point in the trip has become almost normal rather than the mere novelty it was the first few days). OK so maybe, maybe, my throttle cable routing was a bit problematic after I put the Pro Taper bars on in place of the stock clip-ons. Yes, Pro Tapers on a 1977 Lemans. Sue me. Those things are a lot more comfy than the clip ons and made the off road portions much more enjoyable. But they are higher and wider than the clip-ons, and the stock throttle cables BARELY would reach from the new throttle position to the carbs. Try and get longer throttle cables for that bike a week before you're going on a trip. I dare you.
    Some other model Guzzi might fit? No.
    Motion Pro? No.
    I did manage to get a set custom made from Barnett, they had to re-use the ends on the stock cables. And of course I didn't do that until after the trip. They are sitting on the bike now but haven't managed to install themselves yet...

    My wrist strengthening routine will be maintained as top secret, known only to me and my internet 'service' provider. All I can say is practice, practice practice. And hydrate.

    As for my suspension "tuning" - yeah see the stability of the Goose is of course legendary, so I thought it would be interesting to first ensure the forks have zero damping in them by running 30 year old wore out damping units (Guzzi forks are weird [go figure] - you don't just put oil in them like inferior units). With that box checked, every little hole on the dirt roads became very effective at seating steering head bearings with a loud, spine wrenching jolt one might experience in an operational rock quarry. Once the bearings are seated, the force of the impact then wants to drive the forks straight up through the triple clamps, with the only thing impeding their progress up into your classy open face Bell helmet being the aforementioned Pro Tapers. The result is the bike suddenly sits a lot straighter up on the sidestand, and as an added bonus, it handles a lot quicker in the curves! But this quick handling proved to make it a bit of a handful in the loose gravel. So, with the mixed results of this wholly worthwhile exploratory experiment now recorded, it was time to put the fork tubes back to their standard position and hope the front end no longer plowed (as much) in the gravel. Also hats off to the Vee Rubber front knobby for never letting me down during the trip. Not that it had to be this good - they have the market cornered on skinny 18" front dual sport tires. And that ain't book learnin'.

    OK then, on with the ride report!!!
    #31
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  12. BuckeyeDoug

    BuckeyeDoug Not a Pirate

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    Rode my buddies Suzuki Boulevard.....once.....shook like in an earthquake at all speeds/RPMs, and had 30 ft-lb throttle twist......I told him the Japanese should be ashamed of letting that out of the assembly plant. Made my Street Glide feel like a Cadillac. I never whined again about my ride.

    Carry on.......
    #32
  13. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

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    Now that flame throwers are set on full (and lame excuses made for poor pre-trip maintenance out of the way) we may as well jump to the intended late thread topic of bikes, you know, for those that want to replicate this feat of modern day mold breaking adventure. And adventure it is. Why does a kid climb a tree when he/she (see what I did there) doesn't need to, why does a person kick a ski off while water skiing when two worked just fine, or a person hunt with a grocery store 4 miles up the road? Exactly, because life isn't about easy, oh we think it is, but do we remember how comfortable the couch was during Seinfeld reruns? No, and would we be as likely to remember a ride across the middle of the eastern half of the great US aboard a- cough- KLR (most frequently seen bike in the TAT stop picture books)? I think not. But on a fully fared VFR, a hopped up (as in the motor work cost more than the Harley and VFR are worth combined) Guzzi, and a classic piece of Americana, cerebral impressions are made that even I might remember next month (and lately I forget my name when I answer the phone on occasion).

    All during this trip we'd try and stop at local places to eat, little one-off type joints where the owner was probably running the cash register hoping clients paid in cash so they didn't have to help quite as much with EBT card funding. At nearly every stop for food or fuel, and we did stop often for fuel thanks to some moron thinking "peanut" gas tanks are cute for a 1000cc motorbike, some friendly local would want to chat. "Where you boys headed?", was usually the first question, followed by, "Where you guys from?". I should toss in here that when I said I was from Alabama to a guy in Arkansas he said I was ok, but the other two yankess- well they weren't. Anyway, the next observation by the new found pal was always how cool Ollie was. And if they were told it was an old Ironhead they were immediately even more enamored. It may have been a moron that put a "peanut" tank on there, but it was a genius that came up with Ironhead. What man doesn't want to say he owns one of those? Especially when it's home grown and not from a small pasta joint across the pond like another bike on this trip. And Ollie's 40 (it makes more than the aforementioned 12 at 600 rpm thank you) odd hp were up to the task for all but the top speed runs. Now and then someone would notice the Guzzi, to be polite, since a member of our party was always pointing it out. They'd say something to the affect of, "Never seen one of them before", then go back to checking out the HD. The poor VFR got very little love, despite being the most capable. Which illustrates more of the essence of real life; it's not about shuffling feet into Walmart in our house shoes (that's slippers here in 'Bama), or even about cruising to dinner in our Lexus, it's about taking a chance now and then, putting forth some effort to excel or overcome, it's the stretch and sweat. But not just the stretch and sweat- there needs to be love in there too- and we even had that on this trip. Not that kind of love, but the kind that is willing to put forth the effort to harass one another while sharing a bottle of water and handing someone a tool (stop it!, not that tool!).

    Back to riding. We were now headed into the Ozarks, and it was wonderful. Rolling gravel hills, very little dust, roads that weren't straight, and beautiful scenery. It was glorious riding- nuff said.
    [​IMG]
    Gratuitous selfie.
    [​IMG]
    #33
  14. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

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    We came upon a river crossing that was especially picturesque. The rock said "Swim Naked", and we considered that just for a good picture, but thought better of it since people tend to leap to conclusions.[​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    #34
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  15. ridetheblock

    ridetheblock Adventurer

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    Crap man, this has taken a turn. Keep the love and 'tool passing' comments to yourself. What goes on the road, stays on the road.

    Ollie definitely got all the attention on the trip - it just looks the part. Good entertainment making up stories for people who asked about it, here's one of my personal favorites:
    This here is a 1948. English and American troops rode these back in the Korean War ya see. The Yanks brought them over and the Brits liked these Harleys a lot better than the Triumphs and BSAs, because these Harleys can be fixed with bailing wire and tin can pop tops, unlike the damn British junk with their inferior Lucas electrics. Another great thing the GIs liked about these Hogs over the Brit bikes is there's nothing better for riding from bar to bar, and the geisha girls are always impressed by em. This here bike was brought back by a GI named Studly who rode it in the Battle of Inchon back in ’50. Yeah I guess Studly challenged some Brit to an arm wrestling contest to see who could ride the Hog and who would be stuck with the junk BSA. Well naturally, being American, Studly won of course (duh). So he took the Hog and rode it off one of those beach-lander boats into Inchon… See they came off the Pusan Perimeter, having to get the hell outta there seeing how they drank the place dry in one of those 3 day benders, like ya do, hell they even ran outta opium so there really was no reason to hang around. Anyways they beat back the damn Commies, this here bike Studly rode into that Battle of Naktong Bulge, and that’s where he dropped it when some commie shot out Studly’s front tire when he was doin’ about 90 haulin’ ass after a Red Army T34 tank. He jumped off the Harley right before laying it down, that’s where it got this dent in the gas tank ya see (you point out a small ding somewhere and let them inspect the dent, like Indiana Jones would inspect the Holy Grail). Then Studly landed on the T34 and opened the hatch. He jerked them commies outta the tank like you or I would pull dog food out of a shopping cart at the Piggly Wiggly, snapping their necks one by one. He used that T34 to lead Our Boys into battle and ran it clean out of shells, what with commie arms, heads and guts flying all over the place. One of his buddies had picked up the Harley and followed the tank, using the bayonet on his M1 Garand like King Arthur used his jousting stick. Made a commie-kabob that one did! Anyways he got the bike back to Studly, who kilt at least another 900 commies on it. Studly loved this bike so much he brought it home with him to Alabama. He rode it until he was about 110 years old and finally decided to slow down, bought him one of them newfangled Gixxer 1000s, which he said was slow enough that he didn’t have to worry about it getting away from him like this bike would. Studly finally dies a few years ago and since Murf was nailing his granddaughter, he got dibs on the bike. He pulled it out of the living room where Studly kept it, tickled the Screaming Eagle carb and gave it 2 good kicks, and it fired right up. Been running like a champ ever since.

    After that story, the geezer who asked about the bike usually looks at the bike with the reverence that you’d reserve for Something of Significance, an irreplaceable part of history. A slight smile creeps onto his face, then he looks back and just gives an approving, knowing nod, as if he’d expected no less from a bike like this. The sense of pride that geezer feels hangs so thick in the air you can taste it. I feel like its my civic duty to spread this kind of joy and patriotism.

    By the time I finished the stories Murf and Jimmy would be halfway through lunch, pondering where the next county would be that sells beer on Sunday.
    #35
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  16. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

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    near Birmingham, AL
    Across the Ozarks continued to be enjoyable. Cool weather and nice scenery combined with good riding surfaces accentuated the day. Ollie's slightly more raked front end, and maybe the weight distribution made it the ticket in deep gravel. It tracked straight and true with nary a worry, while the other two had to wrestle some if the stones were deep or wet. I could have ridden the entire trip on gravel (except for the dust) and not had an issue- the bike was that good on it. It may not have quite lived up to the infamy in the previous post, but it seemed a good choice most of the time.
    When we got to what seemed to be the top of the area where we were we stopped for a drink and some pictures (and to pee, but that is a given).
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    The view from up there was great, but as usual the picture doesn't do it justice.
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    Why we parked on the side of the road makes no sense; it's not like anyone else uses this road often, or at all. But while we were parked we were attacked. It was subtle at first, just one soldier creeping up from behind. But then we noticed the bikes being overtaken by the stealthy marauders. Slowly at first, but their numbers were increasing by the minute. Within five minutes they were on us personally; I noticed Guzziboy get it in the back- dead center, then my leg was next, but not with just one, no, they came in numbers. Our eyes started to focus, now we knew what the aggressors looked like and we could spot them despite perfect camo. Thousands and thousands were there, everywhere we looked, the thing movies are made of. How does one defend himself against an army of this magnitude? There are only two options; give up, lay down, and surrender to the torment- or suit up and ride!
    [​IMG]
    Here's just one, taken while it still seemed they were friendly, before the onslaught. Most were this size or slightly larger, a few larger than my entire hand in length. And they were literally countless.
    #36
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  17. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

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    We continued meandering through the mountains then decided it was time to look for a place to set up camp. The GPS showed a place north of Clarksville (I think) so we headed there. It was further than we thought to get to the town, then about 15 miles from town to the campground. A nice state or federal campground in the midst of the forest near nothing. We pitched the tents, which doesn't take long since mine isn't much larger than a sleeping bag- which we didn't have. While planning this trip, and planning consisted of some emails that were pretty vague, Gooseguy claimed it would be summer and just a sheet would do since we didn't have much luggage space. So that's what we all packed- because we're gullible. But God is good, VFR's significant other (a girl!) is extremely thoughtful and found a way to pack two blankets into his trunk (top case for you BMW sorts- if you've held on the thread this long). These blankets saved our chilly arses each night we camped. And permitted us to loan big planner guy our sheets so he didn't freeze. Despite his claims to loving cool sleeping weather. These blankets were great, until someone didn't close a bottle of vodka (who drinks that crap?) which emptied itself all over them. At which time they needed a real good airing out. And I may as well mention that someone else (still not yours truly) didn't close a bottle of whisky well so we repeated the process two days later. Those were some ripe blankies when I got home. And before you go assuming all we did was drink hard liquor think again- we had some beer too. Actually more water and coffee than anything else.

    After we set up camp and gathered some fire wood for later we headed back down the mountain to town to eat. That was after a long deliberation on whether to just have protein bars and save the 30 mile trip down the mountain and back. But since we had zero cell service and the wives may worry (about whether they could call the insurance agent to begin the claim process) we decided to head down. A few miles later the VFR looked more squirrely than usual. Sure enough he had a flat rear- tire. And it wasn't a nice round puncture, it was a cut, probably influenced by his childish need to spin the thing at 50mph on gravel repeatedly. And we were still 10 or so miles from town (more cross road than "town"). It was during this inflation process I found out from a call from my daughter that I'll be a grandfather- again. So it was worth the pause to fill his tire.
    [​IMG]
    Note the little compressor on the rear wheel, that he didn't know he even had stashed away in the annals of the rear tail section. At this point we had of course left all our luggage, tools, tire repair kits at the campsite, cause that's how we roll. We managed about 20psi at which point he raced down to the one gas station in town, where he bought the only plug kit in town and the only can of flat fix. Then we ate, and it was good, complete with old diner style milk shakes. Dark was creeping up quickly so we plugged the tire, tossed in the can of sticky goo, added some air from the gas station, and headed up the mountain. 8-10 miles later his tire was flat, so he rode it back anyway, and it actually did ok. The plan was to head to Fort Smith to the closest dealer in the morning for a new tire. The questionable part was how we were going to get there with a flat.
    #37
    Dyrden likes this.
  18. ridetheblock

    ridetheblock Adventurer

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    Pretty sure the wheel bolt pattern on that VFR is the same as mid-90s Ford Escorts so just liberate a Ford rim to get to the bike dealer!
    #38
    Dyrden likes this.
  19. thirsty 1

    thirsty 1 Rider

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    Nothin finer than flat tires and self inflicted wounds !

    Cheers
    #39
  20. horseiron1

    horseiron1 Adventurer

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    Very cool. :clap
    #40