ONE YEAR LATER
Cape Fear 1000 (April 2009)
Guitardad (Chaz) and I were on our way to Wilmington, NC for the Cape Fear Rally on Friday. We were making decent time, I was feeling surprisingly "fresh" for the distance we'd covered (the exercise IS working!).
We were traveling south on I-95, four lanes, divided by a wide grassy median. Traffic was thick (about 2-3 car lengths spacing) and moving along at about 80 mph. Hubby usually leads (he's a ROTTEN follower), that way, I don't have to kill him when we get where we're going.
We ride staggered, with about a bike length or two between us. He'll take the "traffic" side where ever we are on the highway. Our lane change pattern is for him to move from the left side of the right lane, to the right side of the left lane, and I'll swing over from the right side of the right lane, to the left side of the left lane.
About 20 miles north of Rocky Mount, NC, we were traveling in the right lane, with Chaz ahead by a bike length, in the left wheel track. We came up on a slower moving car, and there was space to switch to the left lane. Chaz swung left and just dodged a small piece of wood. I was changing lanes behind him, and he obscured my line of sight (my fault). As I cleared him, I spotted the 2-foot piece of rough timber, 4-5 inches in diameter, rolling/tumbling in my path. I had just enough time to grip the bars firmly, push down on the foot pegs, and aim to hit it as straight as possible.
WHAM! The bars bobbled left/right, and then 700+ pounds of momentum and gyroscopic force took over. The bike straightened and continued. I was amazed. But I could feel there was something wrong. I'd squeezed the clutch rather than braking, to reduce speed, after hitting the lumber. Now I applied the brakes gingerly. They worked, but the front wheel felt "heavy." And by this time, I'd slowed enough that traffic was zinging by me on my right and there was no way I was going to make it across to the shoulder. At least there was a bit of shoulder on the median side. I brought the bike to a stop, with my right sidecase just out of the travel lanes.
Chaz had seen this unfold in his mirror, and got himself stopped about 100 yards beyond me. He parked his bike walked back to where I was sitting on my bike. I didn't have enough pavement to put my sidestand on, so I motioned for him to find something to use. We had a look: The front tire seemed undamaged, but it had lost a significant amount of air. We both carry electric air compressors for tire repair, so I pulled mine out and tried to inflate the tire. The pressure went up a bit, but no further.
By that time, a county sheriff had stopped to see. After checking to see we weren’t injured, he used his lights and car to shepherd us over to the shoulder safely, then departed. At least the shoulder was very wide. Unfortunately, we were still more than 2 hours from our destination. We pulled out the air compressor again, but that's when I noticed a dent in my front rim. Maybe that’s why it wouldn't hold air!
So, out came our cell phones. (I should mention at this point that trying to use a phone on the shoulder of an interstate highway at 4 in the afternoon, is kind of like trying to do so in the middle of a rock concert). I knew that our 17 year old son would be at home on our computer. I called him and got him to post a "help" thread on our BMW club forum with my cell phone number... then I called Progressive, while hubby called AMA to arrange a MoTow (more about THAT). My phone rang within a few minutes. A club member (actually the club's secretary, Ron) offered to help. I told him where we were, what had happened, and what we needed.
AMA couldn't get us a tow for FOUR hours. We were still over a mile and a half from the next exit. And by the looks of things, there wasn’t anything useful there, except less danger from traffic. I got back on my bike and we limped along the shoulder. I prayed the tire would stay on the rim. I got to the top of the exit ramp. The helpful highway sign said left .2 mile to a Mobile station, and right .8 mile to camping. It didn't look like there was an OPEN gas station to the left. Chaz scouted both directions. The Mobile station was closed, but it was close. We limped there.
Meanwhile, Ron had found a Kawasaki dealership in Rocky Mount that was willing to keep my bike overnight. And THEN he found a replacement wheel at the BMW dealer in Raleigh, NC. I got phone numbers and made calls directly.
When we told the gentleman at the Kawi dealer how long before we'd be there, he offered to come get us - with his personal vehicle/trailer - when he got off work. It was 5 pm by this time, and when we called the AMA tow guy that we wouldn't need a tow after all. He was relieved.
Lorenzo arrived shortly before 6. His trailer even had a front wheel cradle! We got my crippled bike loaded and I rode with Lorenzo. We talked on our short trip. He is retired miliatary, from MD. Been in NC for a year. He loves to ride and has been in the situation of stranded on the side of the road. Helping other riders is just what is right. (I failed to mention the 30+ "loud pipes save lives" crew that rumbled past as we stood on the side of the road.) He's given up riding with the folks from around Rocky Mount - all talk and flash, but few skills.
He's got a Concourse and puts serious miles on it. I recommended that he hook up with the guys/gas on sport-touring.net for some folks with a clue to ride with.
We arrived at Kawasaki of Rocky Mount, unloaded my sad motorcycle and wheeled it inside the dealership. Then I had to decide what I needed to have with me that would fit in Chaz's saddlebags. Yes, we're continuing to Wilmington. Chaz had a rally to ride!
I geared up and climbed on board "Clifford" - Chaz's '94 BMW R 1100 RS - behind him. Not a lot of legroom back here. But it beats walking!! I waved to Lorenzo as we headed off. The first 40 minutes weren't too bad. I noticed that Chaz's shocks were going kinda soft. Then, once the sun went down, I started to get chilly. My riding jacket wasn't very windproof and the windproof/warm layer I had on underneath wasn't quite up to the task. I just tucked in my arms and hunkered down. . . two hours. By the time we got into Wilmington, my knees were screaming to be straightened!! (I've got a 34" inseam and the pillion seat/pegs are obviously designed for someone much shorter than me). Finally, I stuck my legs out and stretched to the ground at a stop light. Whew!
We checked into the hotel, then Chaz had to check in with the Rally Master. Its after 9pm by that time, and the "Rider's Meeting" was at 6pm. Chaz got a "private" meeting. About 12 folks from our local BMW club were riding in the rally. Eight, I think, were in the 10 hour, the rest were on the road running the 24-hour Cape Fear rally.
While we were stranded, I'd texted one of the other rally riders (BMWBMW club president, Tina) what had happened, and she'd texted me for an update shortly before we checked in. So, I went to visit her.
Once we had made it safely to Wilmington, I had to deal with making things happen so I could get my bike back to Baltimore on Sunday: I needed a car to drive to Raleigh to get the replacement wheel, and a co-rider to get the car back to Wilmington, while I rode my repaired motorcycle. While chatting with Tina about needing a car and someone to ride with me, she mentioned another club member was looking for a reason not to ride the rally. I texted him. He agreed. Next, to find a car. At the worst, there was an Enterprise Rental, half a mile away.
Chaz had his alarm set for O'dark thirty. He got himself ready and kissed me good-bye at around 5:15 (He was travelling with the SPOT tracker, so I didn't worry too badly about him.) I realized I couldn't get back to sleep, so I figured I'd wander up to rally headquarters and see about getting the use of a vehicle.
One of the rally staffers offered the use of his car. So, I woke up Mike (my volunteer) and we got ready to hit the road. The BMW dealership opens at 9am. The ride out there was (according to the GPS) about 2 hours. Mike met me at the car, and after a stop at Starbucks, we headed out. We made it to Capitol BMW-Triumph in Raleigh at 9:05. The service manager had gotten stuck in traffic so we had to wait a bit.
Now, I'll add that my bike is a limited edition model R1150R Rockster. Only 200 were sold in the US. It has white painted aluminum alloy wheels. The service manager still had the used front wheel from his own sister model bike (an R1150R "Roadster") that he no longer owns. This was the wheel that was going to get me back home. Jon arrived and we sat down to write up the service ticket. Since I've got power assisted ABS brakes, and BMWs are a bit "different" than most other motorcycles, I wanted the BMW dealer to mount and balance a new tire. Then I told him that it was a Kawasaki service tech who was going to do the install, and asked if he could please add whatever BMW details would be needed to ensure the install went smoothly. Jon gave me his card, and added his cell phone number so the tech could call him before he started.
The used wheel had been mounted on two other bikes and had been machined to fit one of them. Jon stated up front that he'd give a full refund if the wheel didn't work on my bike.
45 minutes to Rocky Mount from Raleigh. We arrived at around 11:30. The tech wanted to show me the REAL reason the tire wouldn't air. There was a 5 inch crack right through the casting. I figure if the wheel hadn't cracked at the impact, allowed air to escape, the next weakest point would have been the bead of the tire on the rim. The tire might have blown off the rim completely and I surely would have lost control. The telelever transferred the impact from the front forks to the front shock, keeping the forks from "tucking."
Mike and I went off to find something to eat for lunch while the tech did his stuff. (The Barbecue we had for lunch was mediocre at best). It took the Kawasaki tech an hour to do the switch. The wheel needed about 1/2 inch of "fill" added on one side of the fork and a bit more than that on the other side so it wouldn't fault the ABS sensor. It took some classic garage engineering to find the appropriate spacers to fill in. (There was more to it than that, but I can't even begin to explain it.) The BMW guy had recommended test fitting the wheel on the hub before switching the ABS hardware over.
He got everything buttoned up and I took her for a test ride at around 2:00. WOOOieee!!! Felt good! No issues! Not a bobble, or anything. The brakes worked fine. Hoooray! I paid up, thanked Lorenzo and company profusely for their help, and called the Rally Master (I was SUPPOSED to be helping with the rally) to let him know that I was back on two wheels and would be in Wilmington in about 2 hours. His response, "get here when you can, we NEED you" - there was a note of pleading in his voice. I already had my destination in my GPS, so I started off, with Mike following in the car.
I was a bit late arriving at rally headquarters, but I made myself useful. The ride back to Baltimore was uneventful.
One thing to remember: Crashing is optional. If you throw up your hands when things go pear shaped, you will crash. Keep your hands on the bars and get it stopped. It may not stop pretty, but maintaining the best control you are able is the key to survival.