Thursday, March 31, 2011

Arizona Bound

I only rode for a few hours after I left Gastons, but cutting through the everglades was cool, saw a few Alligators poking their heads up out of the waterways and some people doing tours on airboats, but no time to dilly dally. I had a long way to go and a short time to get there (as the song goes) nigh on 4000 kms in 3 and a bit days. Sammys chain was a concern, I had 4 notches of adjustment left and the last few notches always go quick as the chain gets even more stretched out. If I had to, I might be able to buy a new chain set (chain and sprockets) in El Paso.

I found a cheapish hotel and got breakfast included so I could hit the road early the next morning. Sammy had been running a little rough since the last day in Barranquilla, Id been putting a couple of litres of gas in him at a time, just enough to run around town and get to the airport on the last day and he had been running badly after that - it  felt and sounded like Id got some bad fuel and some crap in the carburettor, but the last thing I did was the valves and the simplest explanation is normally correct, so I was concerned that I might have not cinched up a lock nut on a valve or something. I was up at stupid o'clock in the dark and outdside with a head torch, whipped the tank off and double checked the valves and plugs and put fresh dielectric grease over the plug leads, everything looked good, the plugs had done 6,000 kms and looked ok, everything was back together for sun rise, a quick brekkie and I hit the road. He was still not running perfectly, so I found a local motorcycle shop and bought some new plugs, chain lube and proper air filter oil - but I still needed to make some miles, so I rode all day, just over 1000 kms and left Florida, crossed Alabama before I found a place in Gulfport Mississipi. Another early morning start and I swopped the plugs out for new ones and more tinkering, still he was a little rough - but slightly better than he was though. A long day in the saddle from Mississipi, through Louisiana and into Texas.

Texas is always an eye opener - I ended up working my way through Houston traffic at rush hour, I lost count of all the huge Texan and USA flags flying - literally hundreds of them, combined with the ten lane Freeways and an Apache helicopter gunship flying along the freeway low above me it was fairly surreal after the modesty and poverty of South America. I fought my way out of Houston eventually and scooted North West out of San Antonio and by about 11 pm Id had enough. There were lots of deer around by the roadside and I ended up getting a deal on a room in Segovia Tx as it was so late - the lady in the hotel said it was a good idea not to ride on as there are lots of road accidents with deer locally.

The next morning was chilly, Sammys heated grips got some use and sure enough there were dead deer on the roads everywhere, well over a dozen within 60 miles, good job I parked up when I did.

I managed to pick up some fuel additive/carb cleaner from a NAPA store, everything else on the bike was good, valves and plugs ok, air filter clean and oiled, good  91 octane V-power gas, electrics all ok, which left one thing - dirt or buildup in the carb. I pulled the fuel/air mix screw and sure enough there was some grey powdery deposits on the needle, so in went the fuel additive/carb cleaner and straight away he was running better. I dont mind stripping down the carb and cleaning it at home, but I still had some miles to make first.

Stan was going to wait an extra day for me in Phoenix, that mean't I had to push out nearly 1400 kms on the last day of riding. The engine was running much sweeter, the next issue was the chain. Id made the last adjustment possible on the chain, I lubed it up to squeeze the last miles out of it and hit the road early. I was making good time and made it to El Paso in the early afternoon, the last 20-30miles into El Paso weren't so good, the chain was starting to slip on the sprockets. I was 430 miles from finishing - painfully close, I made the decision to look for a new chain set, I tried two Suzuki dealers and an independant motorcycle shop and no one had sprockets for a DR650 !!! one dealer said it would take two weeks to order sprockets in....Streuth.

It was now 3 pm and I had to hit the road and try and make it, I filled the tank and set off slowly and gently on the throttle - top speed of about 50 mph - it was looking like a late night, sure enough the chain got worse and it was slipping more and more, it got dark and chilly, I turned off the Interstate I-10 and took the back road on the 70, which was nice and quiet and a bit safer at my reduced speed and also slightly shorter distance than going through Tucson. I also had to climb up over 1300 metres for the final push into Phoenix, the chain was really screwed by now and going up hill it jumped off the sprockets and got caught up between the wheel and swingarm - pretty dodgy as it could potentially lock the rear wheel up as it jumps off the sprockets and cause the bike to skid. I was lucky this time, just lost drive but I wasn't  in a good place, lots of fast traffic and  pitch black. I levered the chain out with a screwdriver, got it back on again and reduced my speed even more, I limped into Phoenix at 45 mph - its a big city, over 40 miles from the outskirts to Paradise Valley where Stan was and the traffic was going 75 mph, so I didn't enjoy the ride much, the chain jumped off one more time, but I was able to make it to the shoulder OK and pop the chain straight on again. Id originally told Stan Id be arriving at about 1030pm, but hadn't updated my time after the chain issues, I eventually met up with him at 1130pm, after 1388 kms today and 3901 kms in just over 3 days.......

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