July 19 to August 11, 2002

Fate Has a Sense of Humor it Seems


Any serious rider will tell you that a long distance ride takes preparation time if you intend to enjoy it, or survive it for that matter.  If you are getting ready for a long distance trip and someone says "c'mon, wimp, the guys on TV don't spend a lot of time prepping for a ride" feel free to remind him or her that unlike TV motorcyclists you don't have a crew following you around like a pack of kiss-ass documentarians, nor do you truly give a sh*t what the nifty fellas on TV do.  Jean-Luc-Picard can travel at warp speed and has worn a dress to a formal occasion - that is the difference between TV and reality right there.  This isn't like a minivan trip to the mall, preparation is the name of the game.

In the time from when we decided to take the trip to the time of actually leaving there was a LOT to do.  One thing for sure was to make sure the bikes were up on their maintenance for the trip.  Oil changes are critical for motorcycles, and a good bike will put up with a lot - but it WON'T put up with a crankcase full of gunk and metal shavings.  We checked the logs and found that the BMW wasn't up for a few more thousand miles, but that the Suzuki was actually overdue for both an oil change and a periodic dealer maintenance visit.  Due to our travel schedule, we would be dropping off the Suzuki on the Saturday prior to the Monday when we would be leaving for Georgia.  A little haggling got the dealer to agree to an 'in by 9, out by 5' arrangement - so that worked out fine. 

We also took care of gear inventory, route planning, hotel reservations, weather history via the web Weather via Yahoo, so forth and so on.

The trip itself started on August 12.  We arrived back in Florida on August 8.  When we return from a couple of weeks out I always fire up the bikes, give them a quick spin and make sure they stop, turn, and signal appropriately.  Since the Suzuki was going into the shop I wasn't that concerned about it. 

Here Tonya is on her way back from the bike shop. 



Truth be told, I wasn't that concerned about the BMW either, but used the "have to make sure it is all in working order" excuse for an evening ride. 

Riding down I-275 is often a harrowing experience.  It is a fast, urban American freeway full of tourists hurrying to or from their destination as well as elderly people whom I believe drive slowly in the fear that if they hurry they will arrive at their Final Destination a tad earlier than they would care for. 

On the BMW, though, I am fearless.  I-275 doesn't scare me, tourists don't scare me, hell getting caught in the rain on I-275 while wedged between tourists and walking dead doesn't scare me.  My bike is fast, solid, quick, and cuts through traffic like Hannibal Lecter through a dimwitted local sheriff.  I would even go so far as to say that the BMW cuts through the traffic and then puts its skin on as a mask afterward, parading about in a disturbing midnight rumba of "BMW Bike wearing Traffic's Face as a Mask" Dance of Lunacy  The bike is just that bad . . .

Well, normally it is.  On this night, the bike chose to remind me that I shouldn't take it, or my life, too carelessly.  As I was riding down I-275, crossing the bridge to Tampa Bay, I smelled the smoke of burning electrics.  This bridge, I should tell you, is one of the more harrowing parts of a harrowing freeway (The 275 / I-4 interchange and the 275 / 175 / 375 interchange being the other two most harrowing parts).  So, here I am 10 pm on a Thursday on I-275 with people flying at 90+ mph and the smell of smoke wafting up from below.

Spotting a broken down truck (and Florida is littered with them - I think Florida is where people and cars come to die, though only the cars die in plain sight on the side of the road) I quickly swerved and stopped, backing up to be behind it enough so that it would serve as a shield between myself and any other vehicles / people that were in the process of dying while still in motion.

I noticed several things (in order):


The turn signals didn't work


The heated hand grips felt as if someone had just pulled them out of a microwave oven


The brakes worked


The hazards worked


It was dark

Thus, I couldn't locate the origin of the burning smell


Otherwise, the bike looked / felt / sounded good enough to ride

I got back on the freeway and hooked a U-turn at the first exit (which locals will know is the exit for Westshore Plaza) and headed to a Wal-Mart.  My thought was that I had just burnt a fuse out (it had happened before) and I would just go and replace the fuse. 

Wal Mart has these Supercenters - and I am of the opinion that they look like a fluorescently lit 15th Century London Market.  The floors are always smeared with something black (rubber from the enormous dollies or forklifts?) there is food by the truckload - usually next to the car batteries and the shotgun ammunition, there are clothes, there are some truly bizarre people shopping and there is some really odd human behavior.  If it weren't for the electronics department and the air-conditioning you really would think you were in some 3rd world Bazaar.

The irony is that I could have found food, guns, car parts, clothes, a big screen TV, a 250lb woman to have sex with - but what I could NOT find was a fuse for a motorcycle, for some bizarre reason, they decided THAT was where they would draw the line.

I had planned on just riding the bike back to the house, but when I fired it up I finally saw where the smoke was coming from - everywhere.  This bike was smoking like a Cheech and Chong movie, and pieces of black electrical wiring were sizzling and splitting in front of my eyes.  I decided to call for help.  I pulled out some paperwork I still had stuffed in my jacket and found the number for the dealer.  Miraculously - Joe was still there, and actually was willing to bring a trailer to pick up my now-wounded war horse.  I called Tonya and we waited together in the car for Joe to arrive.

Joe made it around midnight to the Wal-Mart Parking lot, but not before at least one truck pulled up next to Jenna to see if she had been stolen - yet.  I suspect they were there to assist in the stolen bike department, should any assistance be necessary.

When Joe arrived I explained the situation to him, that we were heading to Georgia on August 12 at something like 6 AM, he committed to Fed Exing the appropriate parts to get Jenna (the bike) back on the road.

Here is where the funny part comes in.  The Fed Ex plane crashed on the runway in Tampa.  I am not kidding, it crashed.  It didn't "Osama Bin Laden" style crash, or even "Drunken Pilot flying over Brazil" crash, but it crashed nonetheless.  The Story - Airplane The important part was that the parts were unharmed along with the cargo, oh, and from what I can tell the Pilots were ok too.  Still, it took the whole day to get the parts off the crippled airplane and into the bike shop to start working on my baby.

The guys at BMW Motorcycles Of Tampa Bay, 8509 Gunn Hwy, Odessa, FL 33556, (813) 926-9937 Link to Homepage are just plain good people.  I knew it when I bought the bike and I haven't been disappointed yet.  They might not be the cheapest in town, but 'cheap' is over rated.  If you want cheap, buy a cheap bike, wear cheap gear, date a cheap girl and live your cheap life to the full.  Cheap goes both ways, cheap prices mean cheap service.  Joe and David and the guys in the shop fought with the BMW rep, then the Fed Ex rep, then each other (I am sure) to make certain the bike was ready for my ride out of town on 6am Monday August 12, 2002.

Here is my baby, getting work on a Sunday afternoon by the guys who will get every cent of business I can throw at them so long as I live in the area.


Here is a shot of the fried junk they had to pull out of the bike.





And a shot of the finished product, 5pm on a Sunday and ready for Monday's trip (thanks again guys).



By this point we were packed, and ready to roll for the Monday Morning Departure to Athens Georgia.

On with the Ride then

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