Sunday, May 24, 2009

Aw crap...

Friday afternoon, a hot, hazy late May day, I left work and walked out to where Beast was parked. As I went, I searched through the dozens of pockets in my pants and jacket for Beast's key.

As I walked across the parking lot, I was relieved to see the key and it's distinctive fob clearly in the ignition switch. I fastened the tankbag, flipped the kill switch to the run position, and pushed the starter--to no avail.

You'll note that in the sequence above I do not mention 'turned the key to the on position.' Apparently, the moron who rode my motorcycle to the bank over lunch somehow neglected to turn it to 'off ' upon his return--perhaps just shutting the engine off by putting the sidestand down.

The good news was that Beast sat in the upper parking lot at the top of a significant hill, with approximately 400' of elevation drop below her. So, after a few moments pondering, I pushed her out of the parking lot and onto the roadway, put her into third gear, and began the long roll down.

For about 100 yards, Beast built up momentum, then I released the clutch. That was followed by aother 100 yards of unenthusiastic "chuff-chuff-chuff-chuff." This lasted long enough for me to realize that (1) with a dead battery, the fuel pump and fuel injectors don't run (2) with a dead battery, the power-assist to the brakes also doesn't work and (3) that if I didn't get it stopped NOW it was going to be a long evening of pushing 500+ pounds of bulky bike up a very steep hill.
Crap. Crap crap crap. Crappity crap. I was sweating profusely in my gear; the afternoon sun was beating down mercilessly, heat was radiating furiously from the asphalt, and the parking space I managed to land Beast in was in the only completely shadeless section of the roadway. Sweltering in the afternoon sun, I also recalled that a critical fuse had blown some weeks ago, and in order to remedy the fix I found myself in, I would have to replace the fuse. That meant removing the seat and half the bodywork. Crap. Crap crap crap. Crappity crap.

Here's the rub: Bumpstarting Campaigner, an old airhead, was a snap, and I became an expert in the practice the first winter I rode her; it was a necessity with the combination of the kind of riding I did, her puny stock battery and the anemic alternator. In a pinch, Campaigner could be jump started fairly simply using regular automobile jumper cables.

Beast is another matter altogether. Beast's battery is buried deep beneath the gas tank, requiring removal of both body panels and freeing up the tank in order to access it. The accessory socket will handle enough current to power a heated jacket (outbound) or to charge the battery (inbound) but won't handle the current necessary to start the bike, precluding a simple cigarette-lighter-socket-to-accessory-outlet jump. The various and sundry electronic systems are too sensitive to attempt something as vulgar as a traditional jump start. (Subsequent model years offered a "jump-start-point' accessory--a well-insulated terminal hidden beneath the starter motor cover and connected directly to the starter motor positive terminal; a few screws uncovered this access point, which then could be used to jump start bikes using standard jumper cables and any convenient frame ground point.)

I puzzed and I puzzed till my puzzler was sore. The only option technically available to me was to recharge the battery--through the accessory outlet--for several hours--using the mandated BMW trickle charger. Which was 25 miles away, in the shed.
Did I mention crap? Crap crap crap. Crappity crap? At this very moment, my knight-in-shining-armor is working in the garden sans cellphone, out of earshot of the house, expecting me to show up any minute in order to feed the dogs the dinner they have been waiting so patiently for. It could be quite a while before she notices it's late, the dogs are still hungry, and I haven't fed them yet. Crap crap crap. Crappity crap. I leave a message on the house phone; I leave a message on her cellphone. And I settle in for what could potentially be a very long wait.
Shortly and miraculously, my cell rings. It is Mary, and I slowly and thickly review my predicament. I hate, almost more than anything, asking for help in situations like this. But there is no other solution available. I explain what she needs to bring, where (I think) to find it, and hope for the best.
Did I mention that this, of all evenings, is the last theatrical production of the school year, and the campus is JAMMED with parents and students and faculty and well-wishers and hangers-on of all stripe, and I feel very conspicuous and awkward, sitting by my disassembled crippled motorcycle in full view of various and sundry? I smile politely to all as they pass, and try to not look particularly eager to engage in conversation.
In a very short time, Mary appears.
We connect the charger to Beast's belly button, and begin stringing many extention cords covertly up to the nearest trailer where I prop the door ajar and plug in. Now we wait, watching the blinking colored light on the charger, waiting for any significant change.
We talk, and wander about, trying at all times to keep one eye on the bike and another on the propped-open door of the trailer, wary of mischievous idlers. The warm evening is pleasant, made more so by the agreeable company, and time passes enjoyable. After an hour or so, a test indicates Beast has not drunk deeply enough yet; it will still be some time before she is refreshed.
We are hungry now, and somewhat bored. The meager leftovers I found inside have not sated us, and I hop in the car on a mission, leaving Mary behind to stand guard over out odd little arrangement.
The local quickie mart offers few enough comestibles, but we cut to the chase: A bag of chips, and cold white wine in a screw-top bottle. The wine is quickly decanted into a convenient nalgene bottle in order to be less conspicuous; but the bottle is awkward and contributes a certain undesirable funk to the otherwise agreeable drink. Once the nalgene is drained, we opt to consume the wine in the great American style—concealed within that great equalizer, the brown paper bag. It feels absolutely wicked to sit here with Mary, watching the beautiful sunset across the piedmont, drinking wine from a paper bag in the heart of campus, in blatant violation of every possible rule and standard of ethical conduct. "Vino et Sapienta" and all that, right?
In time, Beast is fully refreshed; not wanting to press my luck, I opt to bump start her with the hill I have left. Fifty, seventy-five, one hundred feet of roll, and I release the clutch; she fires right up and I take a victory lap across the new bridge, up the new road, and back to where Mary stands waiting. We pack up the charger and cords, lock the trailer, and head for home after our impromptu picnic.
It was dark when we finally arrived home, but safe to say, the weekend improved from there on out.