Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pick up Truck 1 : Sammy 0

Oh me and my big mouth - 'my riding has improved' well maybe it has, but it still wasnt good enough for me to avoid some muppet nearly badly injuring me and nearly destroying the bike on Sunday.

What should have been a routine 'last riding day in South America' turned into a fairly crap day. Id left Santa Marta and was riding very cautiously on my own, I had to go through the city of Barranquilla, and there is lots of road construction currently. So riding down the road I see a blue old pick up waiting in a side road on the left wanting to go straight across in front of me, Im in second gear and theres sand all over the asphalt, the truck pulls out a few feet as I approach and stops.

I am a gringo on a (now very clean) white motorcycle with its headlight on, wearing a shiny silver helmet and a jacket with bright yellow flashes on the sleeves - hard to miss you'd think? Apparently not.

As I get within 10-15 metres away or so he just pulls straight out in front, doesnt even look - I cant believe it!! -  I'm just about to T bone this truck and go flying over the bonnet I jam on the front and rear brakes - on any normal road surface I might have been able to stop - not with the sand though, the front wheel locks and the bike goes down hard on its right side and slides until it hits the (still moving) trucks front right wheel and bumper. The old boy driver doesnt even realise that he just pulled out in front of someone and keeps going - starting to drive right over Sammy's front wheel - I pretty much got off the bike while it was sliding ran a couple of steps and ended up at his passenger window - yelling at him to stop. Sammy's front wheel is partially under his tyre and the forks are twisted in the triple trees, handlebars are twisted and the bash plate took a pounding from the trucks bumper. The front braided stainless brake hose is sliced clean in two, as is the cable for the digital speedo, brake fluid leaking out onto the road.

Another beating for Sammy...
I tell him to back up and a couple of guys help me pull the bike out from under the front of the pick up. Though the handlebars get caught up on the bumper and Sammy gets dragged back with the truck some more as we wrestle him out eventually.

The truck driver then starts to drive off.... I yell at him to stop, but he keeps going, so I write his licence number down, a few guys on bikes have stopped to help and one chases after him and tells him that I have his plate and to come back which he does.

I give him some choice words in Spanish and English with the liberal use of some internationally recognised sign language and I think he eventually gets the message that hes not going to be on my Christmas card list......

Well its a fairly quiet Sunday in the Suburbs of Barranquilla, so fairly quicky theres a crowd of 20-30 people around the bike, Transit Police arrive 10 minutes later and an Ambulance - who I wave away with a thumbs up,

Helpful Local Guys
Its clear that the bike cannot be ridden to Cartagena today, so after the cops take our details, draw a diagram of the accident and measure my skid marks - 3 metres skidding before the bike went down and another 3 metres of sliding on its side before the truck hit it, take some statements from witnesses, who were very helpful and were actually giving the truck driver a hard time about pulling out in front of me. I set about fixing the bike up as best I can - basically loosening the forks and pulling the wheel till its straight(ish) - with the bike on its centre stand I spin the front wheel - it doesnt look straight/true but I have to ride it on the highway to test it properly. All this took a good 2 and a bit hour in 35C heat with me in my riding gear.... I ask the cops if there is a hotel close to the Suzuki bike shop and they helpfully escorted me on there bike, blue lights flashing a few kilometres away, bearing in mind I have no front brake we took it quite slow and I very nearly ran into the back of them once!

So the next morning I walk to the Suzuki shop to find it only opens from 2-6 pm!! - I quickly find another small shop with 2 young guys, David and Carlos who specialize on Suzukis and have the contract to service all the police DR650's locally.

They said that it will take at least 3 days to get a front brake hose - not what I want to hear, so I ask them if anyone can make one up, after some head scratching and phone calls,we jump in a taxi and head to another Suzuki dealer who is open - yep, 3 days minimum wait, so we head to see the guy in a small shop who says he can cut off the pipe fitting on each end of the broken hose and solder them onto a new pipe - the hose he has though is not very good quality, but better than 3 days + waiting, so an hour later I have a temporary brake line. I head back to the hotel and fit it, fill and bleed the brakes - It feels like someone holding 2 wet sponges onto the brake disc when I pull the brake lever - not good, too much flex in the hose.

I had been down to the Police station twice during all this to get a copy of the police report, but the cop at the accident was not around both times and I kept getting the old 'come back in 2 hours' routine. I heard from another cop that the guy who was driving the truck said he had no money to pay for the damage to the bike and that it would go before a judge in 3 to 6 months - or even maybe a year....... not good news, so rather unhappily I just split and headed out of town, I have the cops phone number so I may chase it up when Im back home, but Im not expecting anything.

I was going over the accident in my mind and I would not have taken a different line, what I did not do though it beep the horn - which I have been doing a lot in South America in situations like that - when someone nearly pulls out of a side road, also the thin layer of sand on the asphalt was super slippery to brake on, also I assumed the guy would actually bother to look both ways - wrong!

The front brake was pretty bad, with the lever pulled all the way it was not doing too much, so I rode to Cartagena very cautiously and as I suspected the front wheel is buckled from the truck driving onto it....anything over 80-85 kms and I can feel the vibration starting.

I got into Cartagena late afternoon and found a hotel, pizza and a beer later and a quick chat with Lisa on Skype. Her flights had all been delayed in Colombia, so she had missed her flight from Toronto to Edmonton and eventually got routed through Winnipeg!!!! So, 27 hours later she got back to Stan's place near Edmonton, the next day she drove home to Banff, with lots of snow and ice on the highway and its currently -30 C! There were accidents and delays..... but she is home.

Semi truck and trailer blocking the main highway - icy roads covered in snow
 I have to meet with a shipping agent on Tuesday and see if we can get Sammy to the USA......

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