The long way to North Carolina

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by UnixCommando, Jun 3, 2021.

  1. UnixCommando

    UnixCommando n00b

    Jun 3, 2021
    Hampton NH
    A few weeks ago I joined several friends riding to the VStrom Rally at the Iron Horse Lodge in Robbinsville North Carolina. We were originating from New Hampshire, an expected 1000 miles one way.

    Our plan was to leave at 6AM on Saturday morning with our first day destination Staunton VA. From there we were to meander through West Virginia, Virginia and Tennesee to arrive at IHL on Tuesday. This would give us Wednesday to ride independently as the Rally wasn't to begin until Thursday.

    We got started without a hitch, we had 2 meeting points to pick up riders and thing were working in a timely fashion. Our first stop was a fuel up at a rest stop on I90, both rider and bikes received nourishment.

    From I90 we picked up I84 and quickly burned through Connecticut arriving at our next fuel stop in Beacon NY. I've been driving in Massachusetts for many years and thought I'd seen dangerous drivers, but I was nearly eliminated 3 times in Connecticut as cagers seemed to think it was OK to enter my lane while I was in it. We fueled up at a Mobile station on route 9D near exit 41 on I84. This was the first indication that the trip may not actually be a smooth one, as I depressed the start switch my bendix on my starter clattered, but the bike failed to turn over. Subsequent attempts proved equally futile.

    With no other option we pushed my bike away from the pumps over to the side to park. I unpacked my bikd and pulled the seat to check the battery, the connections were tight and the voltage was reading low, about 11.6 volts. I can't remember the last time I bought a battery and I know from experience that weak batteries can give up the ghost if they become over heated. It seemed likely to me that 2+ hours at highway speeds may have been enough to push the battery over the edge. Fortunately there was a dealer nearby and I called to find out if they stocked my battery. They did, so all I needed was a jump start and I could ride over and make an exchange. AAA seemed the proper solution, so I called with a road request and asked them to send a truck to jump start me. The bike had been running well so I expected that once it was running I could ride over and get a new battery. AAA took my location and told me a truck would be there in 45 minutes to an hour. All we had to do was wait.

    Time ticked by and eventually I recieved a call from a AAA truck driver. He told me that he was at my location and that all he could see is a field and he asked if I was in a field. No, I said, I'm in a Mobile parking lot on route 9D near exit 41 off I84. 90? He asked? 9 0? No I said 9D as in Delta. No, it's 9 0 he said. No, it's 9D as in Delta I responded. He clearly seemed confused. Eventually we teased out that his truck had been dispatched from Buffalo NY, about 2 hours north and west of where we were. He said he would call AAA dispatch and let them know they'd dispatched from the wrong location.

    By this time we had lost 1.5 hours so one of my friends suggested I ride over with him and we just pick up a new battery. So, that's what we did. On the ride back from the dealer with the new battery one of our party who remained to watch my bike called to tell us that AAA had arrived. Seeing my bike with a gaping hole where the battery was supposed to be he deduced his usefulness would be limited and he left. A few minutes later we returned, I installed the new battery, reloaded the bike and fired it up. We were back on our way.

    Or so I thought. A weak battery was one explanation for my bike not starting, the other was that my charging system may have failed. Watching the charging gauge I could see that voltage was erratic. It wasn't a steady 14 like normal, but was fluctuating. Then it suddenly dropped to 11.5 volts and stayed there. Now, I know it's the function of the voltage regulator to manage voltage to the bike and the battery and that once the battery is fully charged the voltage can decrease just to provide power to the engine and lights, but I've never seen it go this low, usually it stays above 12.5 or 13. At 11.5 volts I took this as a bad sign and over our comm gear I reported my findings and decided that I should return to the dealer and see what they said about my charging system, was it really toast or was it OK?

    The rest of the group continued on as I took the exit for the dealer. Fortunately they were willing to have a mechanic take a quick look at my bike and he concluded the charging system was shot. They told me they didn't have the parts in stock and were closed on Sunday so Monday would be the earliest they could look at it and that assumed parts were available nearby. Not wanting to be stuck in Beacon NY for 2 days I decided to head for home. I was hoping to get some miles back as I was over 200 miles from home and my AAA towing agreement only guaranteed 100 miles. I hopped back on the highway and headed north.

    As I'm sure you can imagine my eyes kept dropping to my voltage gauge as I watched the power slowly deplete from my battery. I made it about 25 miles when the gauge hit zero and all the dash lights and gauges stopped functioning. The bike was completely without power, yet the motor continued to run. I had no desire to be stranded in a break down lane on I84 so I just pushed forward hoping the motor would continue long enough to get me some place safe. I rode for 5 more miles, crossed back into Connecticut and pulled into the Welcome Center in Danbury. I pulled into a parking space and shut down the bike, fully certain that I'd not get it started again without at least a charge.

    According to Waze, I was 203 miles from home, stranded in a CT Welcome center with a dead bike. I knew if I called AAA that additional 103 miles would cost me so my first thought was to call U-Haul and see if they had a truck and trailer available. The only U-Haul nearby that would answer the phone was in an office center, they didn't keep trucks. Perhaps a rental car then, maybe I could drive a 1 way rental to get home, then bring my own truck and trailer down to get my bike. The only rental company open at that time was Enterprise and they had no inventory. So, my only option was AAA. Again I called AAA and waited for 20 minutes to talk to a representative. She took my information and told me a dispatcher would call me. A few minutes later the dispatcher called and asked how I felt about "store and foward". I asked what that mean and she explained that a truck would come get my bike, store it at their location over night and then in the morning would deliver it to my home. I told her that it wasn't my first choice, I was hoping if I could get home I could put my other bike on my trailer and get back on the road on Sunday and meetup with my friends on the road. She told me she would see what she could do.

    About 30 minutes later I got a text from AAA, a truck had been dispatched and I could see the truck's location on a map. According to the map the truck was leaving New York City and would arrive at my location at 6:30PM. A couple of minutes later the driver called and told me he was en-route and said he'd let me ride in the cab with him if I didn't tell AAA. An announcement when you called AAA for service warned that you'd have to make your own arrangements for transportation as you couldn't ride in the cab. The dispatcher I spoke with confirmed this was AAA policy, but that ultimately it was up to the driver.

    With the knowledge that I was 2 hours away from being homeward bound I relaxed and took advantage of the Welcome Centers amenities. Periodically I'd check on the location of the truck and little by little I could see it approaching my location. Then it stopped. About 20 miles west of me the truck stopped moving, minute after long minute the truck remained in one spot on the map. So as not to drive myself crazy, I closed the link and would give it 5 or 10 minutes and would check again. For so long the truck was stationary and I figured he must have gotten caught in bad traffic. About 7PM I checked again and discovered the truck had managed to cover a great deal of distance. In fact it was now 20 miles to my east. I called the driver to tell him that he must have gotten bad information about where I was and that I was at the Welcome Center in Danbury CT at exit 2 off I84. His phone rang to voice mail, so I left a message. At 7:15 having not called me back I called again and left a second message. At 7:30 he returned my call to tell me that his boss had forbidden him to complete the job and that he was on his way home.

    Earlier in the day as I was weighing my options I had checked on the availability of hotel rooms in Danbury in the event that I'd have to spend the night. Believing I had a ride home I abandoned this like of thinking. I now looked again and where a couple hours earlier there had been an abundance of rooms, the number was now dwindling to a handful. The sun was going down, I had no certainty of a driver collecting my bike and the additional uncertainty of finding a room. Again I called AAA and explained what was happening. The dispatcher confirmed that the boss of the wrecker company didn't want his driver to take a bike to New Hampshire, it was outside his territory and he'd put in a long day. She would find me another driver and get back to me. I called my parents to let them know where I was and what was going on. Being elderly I didn't want them to try and come get me, but the suggested my neices husband might drive down in the morning. While on the call I got another test from AAA with a link to a new truck. I'd also discovered that someone had called me when I was on the phone with my mom and it hadn't rung through. I hung up with her and tried calling the number, it rang to voice mail and I left a message that I was the person AAA had called about and gave my number.

    This driver was 30 minutes away, but as I watched the truck location it never moved. The minutes counted down until the time was up and the app was telling me the truck would be there soon, yet it hadn't moved.

    Again I called AAA. This time Gary answered, he looked at the notes in the ticket and asked me where I was, I said the Welcome Center in Danbury. He responded that he knew where that was and it wasn't the location they had for me in the file, he asked if I would hold. While I was on hold my phone rang, it was a driver who had been dispatched to come get me, he thought he knew were I was and thought he was close, he said he'd beep the horn and asked me to tell him if I heard it. He was close, the blair of a pair of horns from a big rig rumbled the air. On an access road just beyond a set of guard rails I could see a large flatbed truck run by with it's lights ablaze and turning. I can hear you I said and he told me he'd be there soon. Gary came back on and told me a truck was on its way, I described my conversation with the driver and thanked him.

    It was another 5 minutes when the truck arrived. The driver took great care to load the bike on the flatbed and see to it that it was well secure. Now that it was 9PM the plan was a store and forward. He'd deliver my bike home in the morning. Now that the bikd was secure I needed to find a room and get transportation to it. There was one room left in Danbury, a suite at the Maron hotel. I took it. I was just about to see if I could find an Uber when the driver told me that while he couldn't give me a ride home to NH, he would see me to the hotel. He dropped me off, I checked in, and my ordeal was over for this night.

    Sunday morning saw new challenges. The only car rental company open in Danbury on Sunday was Avis, I called them first thing only to learn they had no inventory either. They were expecting a car to be delivered around noon and I could call them then to see if it had arrived. Not liking the uncertainty of that I called my neices husband (nephew in law?) and he was willing to come get me but didn't have anything he trusted to go that far. I told him to go to my house and use my car. I'd left the door open when I left on Saturday, by mistake, and told him were he could find the keys. A little while later he texted me that he had my car and was on his way. The tow truck driver texted and told me he was heading out to bring my bike home. My nephew in law made it in good time and by 3:30 Sunday after noon I was home. The bike was in my driveway no worse for the wear. I tried to start it, but as I expected the battery simply had nothing left. I pulled out an extension cord, put a charger on the bike then drove over to my parents house to pick up my utility trailer. I had brought it over earlier in the week to deliver some lawn care equipment.

    I knew the lights on the trailer weren't working as they hadn't when I brought it over to my parents. As I was preparing for the trip I didn't have time to diagnose the problem so I took back roads to avoid the police. I did the same bringing it home. I was hoping the problem was just a broken ground, that seems to be a common ailment with trailers. On the return trip I noticed something odd, when I used the directionals the dash lights would blink with them, it was a curious thing to see.

    I parked the trailer next to my workshop and set to work reparing the lights. I quickly discovered that a repair wasn't possible. Yes, the ground was broken, but that in itself wasn't going to be a fix, the harness was such a mess that the only response was to replace it. I took a trip to Wal Mart and purchased a new harnes and began the task of wiring it in. Fortunately the biggest problem was the main trunk, most of the wiring to the lights was still solid, with the exception of the left rear marker light and the left rear tail light. I cut out all the bad wire I could find and spliced in with new and by 9:30PM all the the side marker light were working again. The side marker light had lost its ground and needed some screws I didn't have on hand. It was good enough for now, I'd complete the repair in the morning after I could go to the hardware store to get the screws I needed.

    I was up early on Sunday and got to the hardware store just as it opened and picked up the screws I needed. Fixing the ground on the trailer and the side marker light took less than 10 minutes and all lights were working.

    I was a day later than I'd hoped, but plan B was coming together my goal was to be on the road by noon, I'd load my Honda VLX on the trailer and head straight down to IHL. I'd meet my group on Tuesday afternoon and my vacation, though late, would still take place. But first I needed to do an oil change on the Honda, I don't ride it much anymore and it's been at least 2 years since I last felt the need to change the oil. For this trip I was expecting to do a lot of riding in NC and felt it necessary to start with clean oil. The Honda dealer close to me closed a few years ago and the Suzuki dealer who started selling Honda parts after the closure wasn't open on Monday, this meant I had to driver 35 minutes to a nearby city to get a filter. I got there just after they opened and was shocked at the price of a little bitty oil filter for a Honda motorcycle. I needed it so I bought it and drove the 35 minutes home.

    Oil changes on the Honda are messy. Maybe if I had a lift and could keep the bike upright it might be easier, but on the kick stand it's tight under there and inevitably oil ends up on the garage floor. Today was no exception. Still, I got the job done, spread some grease cleaner on the oil mess and hosed it off. I hooked the trailer to the car, loaded the bike, and strapped it down. It was 12:30, I was a little late, but I was close, I got in the car and put it in drive when it occured to me I hadn't checked the air in the tires of the trailer. Driving the 15 miles to my folks on low tires with a light load was one thing, driving 1000 miles with a 438 pound motorcycle was another. I backed the trailer up to the garage and pulled out the air hose. The left tire was reading 20 lbs, I pumped it up to 50 and went to the right side. I couldn't seem to get a good seat with the air hose, I could feel air escaping. I pulled away the hose and pressed the valve stem and could hear air escaping at an alarming rate. The valve stem was broken, there was no way it would survive 10 miles let alone 10000.

    I jacked up the right side and pulled the tire and brought it to a local tire shop in town. It took about an hour, but they were willing to replace the valve stem for me. I put the tire back on and gave the wheel a little wiggle, the trailer is 20 years old and I wasn't certain of the condition of the bearings. The right wheel had a little wiggle to it but was otherwise smooth. I put it down and checked the left side, it was tight. With two well inflated tires, I quickly pumped some new grease into the bearings. I hopped back in the car, it was now 2:30, ok it's later than I wanted, but it's still light so let's go.

    Over the years I've owned many ratchet straps. But could I find any? All I could find was 2 wimpy straps that I didn't trust. Wal Mart was on the way so I stopped and bought 4 much better ones. 3PM I was out of Wal Mart's parking lot and on the highway. I was on my way.

    Just before I was about to get on 495 from 95 my "Maintenance Required" light came on. The transmission had been searching gears and I thought maybe my 13 Corolla was unhappy with the trailer and that I should turn around and take my truck instead. I headed home to swap vehicles when I figured I'd check the codes to see what was going on. Upon arrival I plugged in the ODB2 scanner and looked for codes. There were none. I was puzzled, how could I have a light but no codes? Then it dawned on me, the Maintenance Required light was odometer driven, my car was telling me it was time for a tire rotation. Since I just switched from winter tires to summer I just cleared the light and got back on the road.

    2 hours later I was back on the Mass Pike. With all the tasks I needed to do I hadn't had lunch and now it was dinner. I was more thirsty than hungry. I pulled into the same rest stop I'd stopped at 2 days before and decided to check the lights one last time. It was getting late in the day and I'd need them in another couple of hours and I had no intention of stopping for at least 200 miles. I turned on the lights and ... Nothing. Not only did the trailer not have lights but the car didn't either. Clearly the fuse was blown. I went into the gas station at the rest stop and bought 2 fues assortments for $5.39 ea. I only needed 10A fuses and there was only one per assortment. I wanted at least 1 spare. I opened the hood to find the blown fuse and it was nowhere to be found. I grabbed the owners manual to see where it was and learned my car has 2 fuse boxes, the fuse I needed wasn't in the engine compartment it was under the dash. I've never found a fuse box that was so hard to get to. I had to lay on the floor looking up under the dash on the drivers side. It was hard to find and even harder to get at the fuse when I found it. Eventually I figured it out and replaced the dead fuse. I checked the lights again and the new fuse blew.

    I had brakes and directionals so it was only the night lights I needed, but if I couldn't travel at night it was impracticable to try and drive 1000 miles. While the Corolla has a good reputation as a towing vehicle, the wiring is reported to be a little weak. I felt confident that I'd cut out and replaced all the bad wiring so I thought maybe the trailer was over drawing the car wiring and that was blowing the fuse. I was certain that my truck, which was built for towing, would do a better job. I got back behind the wheel and looked for the closest exit I could use to pull a u-turn. As I drove I was thinking about the repairs I made on the wiring and decided that if I go home it was going to cost me 4 hours of travel time, 2 to go home and 2 to get back where I was. If I was going to lose time I wanted to be certain that I'd done everything I could to make a field repair. I pulled into the east bound rest stop and inspected the wiring. There were 2 spots that were heavily damaged so I checked the first and found it was solid, I could find nothing that could be responsible for shorting the fuse. The second was the left rear tail light. It's held in by a rubber gromet, so I plucked it out and found 3 inches of chafed wiring. Clearly I'd seen this Sunday night when I inspected, but I thought I got it all when I spliced in fresh wire, obviously I missed this part.

    Since I was expecting the possibility that I'd need a field repair I brought my wiring tools with me along with spare wire and a variety of connectors. For this the quick repair was to wrapped the exposed conductors with electrical tape. I restored the light back where it belonged and replaced the fuse. I turned on the lights and they came on. The fuse held. One more u-turn and I was back on my way.

    I drove until 2:30 AM before I stopped as I wanted to get at least 500 miles. On Tuesday I got up early, got back on the road and was at IHL by 3:30PM. I arrived before the rest of my group, they were still 30 miles out.

    The rest of the trip was uneventful. On Wednesday we road the Tail of the Dragon, this was my second time. On Thursday we road the Charohala Skyway, on Friday we visited the Wheels Through Time museum in Maggieville.

    It was a rough and rocky start, but otherwise was an Epic trip.

    Oh, and while we were heading down for a VStrom Rally, I started this trip on a 20 year old Harley Davidson Electroglide Ultra Classic which is currently resting comfortably awaiting the replacement of it's stator and regulator.

    9w6vx, 23103a and mrb867 like this.
  2. tallbob

    tallbob Been here awhile Supporter

    May 23, 2005
    Butt Mt. VA
    Well you certainly had an adventure! Glad it all worked out more or less. :rofl