Ride Report - Jerry White

Team Lyle Alamo Express
May 18-20, 2012
A Ride Report by Jerry White

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” — John Lennon

Plan A: On Friday, ride from home in the Bay Area to Alamo, NV. On the way there, stop at Tonopah for the Tour of Honor bonus there. Ride the Extra Terrestrial Highway past Rachel, NV and the Little Ale Inn, and then detour across Groom Lake to heavily guarded Area 51. This place was a bonus on the 2010 Iron Butt 5000. Doug Barrett had sent me his rally flag and I would take a photo as if it were a rally shot.

On Saturday, ride in the Team Lyle Alamo Express. This is a 1524 mile route all inside the state of Nevada, intended to be finished in 24 hours or less.

On Sunday, ride home the same way I came. After the long ride Saturday, some sleep, and the 9 hours home, I’d get home in the evening. Sleep, then get up early for a 6 AM Monday flight to a client in Salt Lake City.

Friday started out beautifully. After filling my gas tanks and checking the air in the tires, I was on the road by 7 AM. It was a lovely ride up and over Sonora Pass. The day was sunny and warm, and the road was nearly empty. About 150 miles into the ride, I turned on the fuel pump to transfer gas from my auxiliary tank behind the rear wheel to the main motorcycle tank. There was a strong smell of gasoline and the gas gauge didn’t seem to rise as quickly as it should have. That didn’t feel right.

In Bridgeport I stopped for a fill up. I filled both tanks, and then went inside to inquire about a road closure ahead. When I came back out, gas was pouring out of my bike from a very unlikely spot — above the rear tire. I realized that the fuel line from the aux tank to the main had been rubbing against the side of the tire, and it had worn a hole in the line. The only way to stop the gas from gushing out was to disconnect the fuel line from the fuel pump. Fortunately the quick disconnect in the line was able to also stop further gas from draining. Without the QD, I would have had to pinch the line with a clamp, or just let it all drain out. There was probably a gallon of gas on the ground, on my hands, and up the sleeves of my riding jacket. Fortunately nothing ignited against the hot exhaust pipe. Problem temporarily solved, I rode on. During this part of the ride I formulated Plan B.

Plan B: I would buy a new fuel line and replace the bad one when I arrived in Alamo. There would be plenty of willing helpers with tools and expertise galore. Plus lots of kibitzers as well, which would be part of the fun. Unfortunately this took priority over the Tour of Honor and Area 51 detours, so I resolved to visit those on the way home Sunday.

Once in Alamo, I greeted all the riders. Doug Barrett and Brian Casey were the ringleaders of our little weekend. I checked in with them, explained the situation, and quickly enlisted Mario Winkleman to help me. We were roomies for the weekend anyway. He is a great guy, warm and helpful and smart and a lot of fun. Mario knows a lot about underwear. Fellow Wing rider and 2013 IBR entrant Marc Beaulac also came over and was immeasurably helpful. We got ‘er done easily enough with some cleverness, donated parts, and a borrowed socket. Time to add a 19mm to my kit. Job over, we cleaned up and headed for the riders meeting where Doug and Brian laid out the guidance for Saturday’s ride. Then my two mechanic friends plus Greg Marbach and I went out for a delicious Mexican meal in Alamo.

On Saturday morning at the crack of 6 AM, Mario and I were the last ones to leave the motel to start the Alamo Express. We had a long ride ahead of us and we had wanted to be well rested and start the ride in the daylight. I’ve done this distance a few times before, so I wasn’t too worried about my endurance. And the Gold Wing is made for rides like this. I’d kitted it out with the aux fuel cell and plenty of extra lights to turn night into day. It was going to be an enjoyable day on my motorcycle in Nevada. Mario and I hadn’t talked about riding together, but since we left at the same time that’s pretty much what happened.

We accompanied each other on the first leg to Tonopah. Conditions were perfect for a slightly aggressive speed. We wanted to cover ground in the daylight so that the night-time section would be shorter. At our first gas stop, Mario mentioned that his aux fuel cell wasn’t draining to the main. He said he would be stopping for a smoke, so I said, “See you in Battle Mountain.” Did I offer to help him fix his fuel cell problem? No. Am I a total asshole? Yes. Mario spent a bunch of time helping me yesterday, but I didn’t offer to help him. Had he asked, of course I would have said yes, but he didn’t ask and I didn’t offer. Please give me a bad time about this next time you see me. I deserve it. I’m sorry, Mario. Please forgive me.

The ride from Tonopah to Battle Mountain was over some gorgeous Nevada secondary roads that I’d never ridden before. Nevada is pretty in its own unique way. I rode northward through the valleys, parallel to the mountains. The temperature was pleasant and the traffic was scarce. I made good time to the next stop. It had been a really great day so far.

In Battle Mountain I caught up with a pack of riders who were at the gas station. I did my business as quickly as possible and prepared to leave. While I don’t usually do this, I decided to have a look at my rear tire. It was bald in the center, but there were no wear bars. I figured I would be good for the rest of the weekend. In retrospect, that was stupid. I should have started this ride on a new tire, but this one only had about 5000 miles on it, and it’s called a Marathon. If I couldn’t get 8K out of it, what the heck?

The next leg was eastbound on I-80 to Wendover. I rode in a loose group with the other riders from Battle Mountain. On the western side of Elko we passed someone on the side of the road taking pictures of the riders as we passed. It turned out to be Brad Warwick. Geez, Brad, you should be riding with us! I had a great laugh seeing him there. I figured we’d all hear Brad’s story afterward.

Then just outside of Wendover I came over a rise, my radar detector went off, and I hit the brakes. Unfortunately it was too late. The cop was right there on the other side of the hill and he had me dead to rights. I saw him start out after me, so I pulled over and waited. As he took my paperwork back to the cruiser, the rest of the pack came past. All I could do was smile, wave, and feel sheepish for getting busted.

The cop came back to me and told me it was my lucky day. He had to go somewhere else. I needed to keep it to 75. Yes, officer! Thanks for the break! Boy, did I feel good. I rode the remaining half mile to the off ramp and pulled into the gas station. While filling I told the guys that I’d been lucky. Then I checked my tire again. I saw a deep groove in the center, and a bit of steel belt cord peeking through. This only meant one thing: My Alamo Express ride was over.

Plan C: Get a new tire, then figure out what to do next. The BBG was out but maybe I could salvage something. As I was on the phone to my towing service, a AAA tow truck driver walked into the station. I pulled him aside and asked if he could take me to a shop. Sure, he was available. Wow, what great timing! I got on the phone to Brad in Elko, joked about the photo op an hour before, and then asked him for a bike shop in Elko. I called his referral, but they didn’t have my tire. They said there was nothing else in town, and the shop in Ely was out of business. My only option was Salt Lake City.

The Honda dealership in SLC was populated by a crummy lot. Yes they had my tire, but no they wouldn’t squeeze me in. Next appointment was June 14. Are you serious, you don’t help travelers in distress? What a lousy shop. But at least they referred me to Wright’s, a parts shop in town. Wright’s not only had my size tire in three different brands, they also said that if I got there by 5:00 they’d change it for me today. Hot cha, let’s go! The 100 mile tow ride was interesting, because the driver was giving a friend of his a ride, and she was a Chatty Cathy. The time passed easily, and we were at Wright’s at 5:10 PM. Not only did they swap out the tire lickety split, they also helped me install a new battery. My battery was kinda sorta working and I knew it needed replacing but I hadn’t had time before leaving home. This was the perfect chance to take care of that. The battery job was more complicated than the tire, because of the rat’s nest of wiring of all the accessories. But we got creative and got the job done. I was thankful for the great folks at Wright’s in Salt Lake City. Y’all be sure and patronize them, ya hear?

After leaving the shop, I decided to swing by my client’s office for a look see. I’d be there again on Monday with a rental car and a co-worker in tow. It was fun to get a little preview on Saturday. What a weird coincidence.

By this time my path was clear. I could either ride to Alamo and spend time with the rest of the riders as planned, or I could go home early. This way I could see Claire’s school play, and visit with my sister and her husband who were in town for the show. Originally I was going to miss all the family stuff. This was a great chance to not miss it. I felt good about deciding to go home. My unlucky break on the tire (which was really my own fault anyway) turned into a lucky break family-wise.

I rode to Elko and found a cheapie motel room. My new aux lights had worked great on the ride there from Salt Lake. Too bad I barely got to use them, and not on the roads I was supposed to be on. I made plans for breakfast with Brad early Sunday morning. He was nice enough to lose some much-needed beauty sleep to hang out with me. So I guess it was a good thing after all that he didn’t ride the Alamo Express. His destiny was to eat eggs with me at the Elko Red Lion.

I was rolling westbound at 7:00 AM. Spent a total of 10 minutes with my boots on the ground for a single gas stop. And I parked my Gold Wing in the school parking lot at curtain time, exactly 2:00 PM. I watched the show in my motorcycle clothes, and enjoyed every minute of it.

So ends my story of the Team Lyle Fuel Leak Bald Tire Alamo Express.