Scottsdale / Montrose
July 2002
Day 3


Monday July 1st, 2002
Start: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
End: Clovis, New Mexico
377 Miles

Hotel parking lot, in the rain in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
We wake to steady rain and a gray sky. But I have a plan...

I figure that since Oklahoma City is a good-sized city, it might be worthwhile to try to find a Kawasaki dealer or a bearing dealer to try to buy steering head bearings. I could have them installed at any Kawasaki dealer that I felt confident with along the way. I figure that a dealer in Phoenix would be a good choice to do the work, while we spend a few days there at the convention.

I check Bryan Moody's Net list of alternate parts and start going through the phonebook looking for bearing supply houses.

The local Kawasaki dealers are closed on Monday, but Allied Bearing Supply (the first place in the book, and first place I call) has them in stock. They turn out to be about a half-mile away - south on Meridian two blocks and then east on the Will Rogers Parkway about two blocks. Talk about luck! I buy the bearings, and pack them away with the tools and spare parts. This takes all of about 10 minutes.

Then Sharon and I walk across the street in the rain to the International House of Pancakes for breakfast.

After breakfast, there's a problem with the credit card. The manager tells us not to worry, they'll try running it again and there's no need for us to wait around.

Before getting on I-40, we need fuel. The credit card is rejected at the pump, and Sharon is stumped. I tell her that I've heard of such things on the Long Distance Riders List, several tanks of fuel in various states and the card is cancelled due to bank wondering if it's stolen due to strange purchasing patterns. That's probably what the problem was at the IHOP. A phone call to the bank solves the problem. We gas and go.

It's good to be on I-40. I feel as though I'm finally down south and out west; I-40 and Oklahoma make it official.

We ride through the rain for a few hours, stopping only for fuel. The rain tapers off, the sun comes out, the roads dry and at our second gas stop we put away our rain gear. It's windy, very windy - but that just means the roads will dry a bit faster.

Regarding scenery: western Oklahoma through Texas, and the scenery slowly changes. Outside Oklahoma City, there's a lot of greenery and it's fairly thick. It's not what I would call dessert, it's far too green. But bit by bit, the brush gets shorter and shorter, and then the plants get further and further apart from each other. The land itself becomes more arid, and we start to see small cacti. It's like watching the Earth go bald, bit by bit.

With the roads dry, we crank the speed up a notch. Moving right along, and suddenly the bike has a funny hiccup. I wonder if maybe it's that #1 spark plug again, but it was just a brief hiccup so I'm not so sure. We ride across a grass shoulder and onto the frontage road, and stop under an overpass. I don't see anything obviously wrong, but I've got a strong hunch so I remove the fuel line from the petcock in order to pull the tank and Ouch!! The vacuum petcock has failed, there's no longer an "off" positon, and gasoline is running down my hand and onto the hot engine. I scramble to get the fuel line back on the petcock nipple while swearing in the heat. The gasoline is burning my hand and the engine is hot and and we're a long way from anywhere.

Besides that - four different mechanical failures in three days? I've never had so much trouble so close together on any motorcycle I've ever owned - never.

I ponder the situation. I don't know why the bike hiccupped, but theorize that maybe a big gulp of fuel headed down the vacuum line into the intake manifold and caused the incident. Maybe..?

I come up with a plan. Since the petcock is "on" all the time, riding isn't a problem - stopping for the night is, if a needle valve sticks and fills a cylinder with fuel. However, if we run the tank onto vacuum-reserve, we could then switch the petcock to vacuum-on and since that standpipe is taller we'd actually be turning the fuel supply off by going to the vacuum-on position. Solved, at least well enough that we could ride it home this way, with some forethought. I put the bike together, try to wash the fuel off my hands with rubbing alcohol, and we continue on our way. All seems well now. Odd.

The Texas panhandle is nice enough, but very windy at times. What few trees there are seem permanently bent - I guess the wind never stops. By this time, the scenery is mostly scrubby vegetation and some scattered cattle and watering holes and watering tanks and an occasional ruin, all tucked safely away from the freeway behind barbed wire fences.

We pull into Amarillo around 4:00 PM, and since the bike is under warranty I wonder if maybe we could get a petcock there. We stop at an auto parts store, they loan us a telephone and phone book, and we call the local Kawasaki dealer. No, they don't have a petcock or diaphragm for a Concours. They wish me luck, though.

Big Texan Steak Ranch
Amarillo, Texas
Big Texan Steak Ranch
Amarillo, Texas
We're also hungry, but we have no idea where to go for supper. The people in the auto parts store suggest a local cafeteria, but after we're outside I mention to Sharon the restaurant I saw as we came into Amarillo - "The Big Texan Steak Ranch". Looks like it's been there awhile, definitely Rt. 66 flavored. Sharon keeps mentioning that she wants local food, so we go for it.

Turns out "The Big Texan" really does date to the Rt. 66 days. It's a false-fronted building styled exactly like something you'd see on a Western TV show, and a 30' tall cowboy beckons travelers in from I-40.

Inside, the place is styled like a western dance hall. The waiters and waitresses are dressed like cowboys and cowgirls, saddles and revolvers and rifles and ropes are displayed on the walls, a wooden Indians guards the the entrance, and murals and photos depicting the glory days of the place back before I-40 came through. This is the real thing, at least the real "Rt. 66 tourist" thing.

The menu is on a big wooden board that the waiter / waitress hands you. One good deal is that if you can eat the 72 oz. steak by yourself in under an hour, your meal is free. 72 ounces? That's four and a half pounds! We don't order that, instead we end up splitting one of the smaller cuts. We aren't ranchers or cowboys or even farmers, our stomachs just aren't that big.

The steak turns out to be excellent, and afterwards I nibble on the end of one of the garnishes - some little green vegetable I don't recognize at first. Tastes good, so I recommend it to Sharon - we both take a big bite, and holy crap - it's a jalapeno! We finish our tea, and then our water. The heat just sorta sneaks up on you. I'm laughing, choking a little, and Sharon is doing the same. The waitress refills our water and our tea, and we leave the place satisfied and a bit wiser.

From Amarillo, we head towards Clovis, New Mexico via I-27 south to US-60 west. The scenery slowly becomes more and more desolate as we continue west. Hereford, Texas isn't much to write about - a small town with big cattle feedlots. You can smell them long before you see them, thousands of cattle spread over lots of acres, and densely packed into outdoor pens. Typically, they seem to be near railroad tracks and feed elevators as well.

From Hereford, Texas; to Clovis, New Mexico the feedlots are a common sight.

So are the trains - train traffic is very heavy. We see one long freight train after another, and shortly after that another and another. Not a lot of time between the trains; it's good to see a healthy railroad.

We arrive in Clovis at dusk. Steve lives in Clovis and had emailed me and asked if I would give him a call when passing through. I said we would, but I don't think he believed me - he sounds surprised when he answers the phone and I say "Hello! This is Doug Grosjean, and we're in Clovis..."

Steve tells us to stay at the motel, he'll be right there. We do, and he is - in a car. He explains that he's leaving Clovis at 3:00 AM the next day on business, so things are a bit frantic - but he makes time to play host to us. He's extremely polite, but he does mention that he was hoping to meet my son Jean-Luc instead of Sharon. He's heard more about Jean-Luc than about Sharon... Sharon replies that Jean-Luc is better on paper than in person, and I point out that he's 7 years old and precocious. Steve says no apologies are needed.

We jump in Steve's car, grab some food at the local A&W drive thru, and head back to Steve's place to hang out for a bit.

Steve asks if there's anything we need - I ask for Net access and his opinion on route selection across northern New Mexico. We want a local opinion, and we want something that avoids I-40 and gets us over to the Silver City area along the Arizona border with nice scenery. He tells me he can supply both a computer and a route suggestion. Cool!

At Steve's house, I print out directions from the Net on how to turn the Concours vacuum petcock into a manual petcock - just in case. A bit more work than I want to do on the road with the tools I have, especially considering that the bike is still under warranty.

Steve offers us the use of his tools and garage, but given that Clovis is rather small I turn him down - the bike is mobile and I think I'd best just leave it be for now as I don't wish to be stranded here. Dad's voice tells me it's that last touch of perfection that so often turns a job to crap, and I think it's best to listen to that voice. Trying to make the bike whole again in Clovis might well turn the trip to crap. The offer is appreciated, but I'll pass.

For a routing, Steve recommends US-60 to Quemado with a stop at Pie Town for pie. Then New Mexico Rt. 32 south to Apache Creek and Reserve, then US-180 south to Silver City. Steve says the pies alone are worth it, and that there's lots of other scenery along the way as well - Indian ruins and dessert and the Very Large Array radio telescope, among other things.

We have some drinks and then talk a bit, about lots of things. Motorcycle things. Observed trials, and Triumph motorcycles, and being young and then being old and looking back, about how the older guys like him read the stuff I write and go "Oh yeah - I remember what that was like!" Sharon plays with a mapping program on the computer, while Steve gives me routing advice for good scenery along the way in New Mexico. We watch some videos and discuss art. No particular direction to the conversation, just 3 like-minded folks enjoying each other's company. Three separate conversations, actually, all three sorta mingling a bit.

All too soon, Steve has to get some sleep. He takes us back to the motel, past the local Kawasaki dealer so we know where it is in the morning. We shake hands and say our goodbyes and good nights, and Steve is gone.

Back in the motel, I realize that if the local dealer can't do me any good, well... if I could just get the vacuum diaphragm back to it's normally closed position I could plug the vacuum line and use the "Prime" position of the petcock, and simply use the petcock manually. Prime would be on, and all other positions would be off with the vacuum line plugged. No problem, I had a BMW twin with manual petcocks until 1997 so I can remember..

But what can I plug the vacuum line with? Ah-hah! I mix some epoxy putty from my spares kit (comes in a roll and you chop off a chunk and then knead it), and roll some BBs of various sizes to use as plugs in the AM. I figure if I'm lucky, the diaphragm might have closed by itself by then.

In the morning I'll try to get this newest problem handled. Maybe with a new petcock or diaphragm from the local dealer, or in a worst-case scenario we'll simply continue on with my jury-rigged repair.

Pleased that at least I'm able to solve things as they occur, I relax a bit. Sharon points out that the bike is sure giving a lot of trouble on this trip. Yes, I'd noticed that too. She points out that I spent a lot of time doing preventative maintenance before we left, and yet it's still giving trouble - yes; I know, I know.. I ask her to recall our trip to Bike Week in 2001, when the bike was trouble-free. Or several other trips, and lots of commuting miles when I've never been stranded.

No, I'm not very happy with the bike at that point. But just like people, you don't just get rid of it due to one or two or three problems - you work through them. Now, if there's a fourth and fifth and sixth and seventh problem, or if the problems simply don't end, well, this is a great year for new bikes in the sport-touring market.

I figure that now I've just gathered a few more data points about when some components fail on my bike, and that I'll likely never be stuck again by the same type of failure.

Then it's off to bed, hoping I'm right about data points, and that all will be well in the AM.

Doug Grosjean
Pemberville, Ohio