Sometimes Reality Bites.
Hoo-boy. Thursday I was coddled; Friday I was rudely returned to reality.
The day started out all right. I had a leisurely morning getting ready to check out of the Nittany Lion Inn and then delivering a copy of the video of the Drill Team’s 1970 Mother’s Day performance to the AFROTC cadre; then I pointed the truck in a sort-of-southerly direction and headed off to a motel near the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center (http://airandspace.si.edu/visit/udvar-hazy-center/).
Regrettably, I was *too* relaxed in the morning, which meant that, with Friday afternoon traffic, I didn’t arrive at the motel as early as I had planned. In turn, this meant I didn’t have as much time to get to my dinner engagement in Arlington with two long-time friends (I don’t dare call them “old friends”). I decided to ride the Honda to dinner instead of the truck because I figured (correctly, for a change) that I’d have a terrible time trying to find a place to park a pickup with a trailer. Somewhere on the way to dinner, I had to switch to my reserve fuel supply.
What with the afternoon traffic, and the ever-present construction in the D.C. area, I was 30 minutes late to dinner. Bob and Bill were already three sheets to the wind (okay, they were on their first drink of two each for the night), but they gave me hell all the same. We had a great time reminiscing about our glory days (all three of them, I think) in ROTC; what we’ve done since then; swapping lies and “can you top this?” stories, and generally enjoying ourselves. [Side note: I was looking for parking and saw a sign for an under-a-building garage that said “Public Parking” so I turned in there. When I got to the bottom of the ramp, I saw nothing that looked like public parking; all there was was a gate with a card reader in front of me. Not knowing what else to do, I rode around the gate and found a space to park. I never saw anyone I could ask about what to do. The Honda was still in its space when I got back after dinner, so apparently nobody noticed.]
Dinner ended about 9 and I headed back to the motel. I managed to get back on I-66, but never found the exit I was looking for. Not realizing this, I was merrily tooling along when the engine died. Oh, S**T!!!! The bike began slowing down, and I frantically tried to get over to the right (naturally, I was in the center lane when this happened) before it stopped completely. I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to be successful, but Fortune smiled on me and I *did* get safely off the highway. This was about 9:45.
On the off chance that I might be able to restart it and get far enough to find a gas station, I cranked the bike until the battery wouldn’t turn it over any more. [This took about 10 seconds; I think there’s something wrong with the battery, regardless of what the service folks said when I asked them to check it out earlier this year.] So then I started pushing it toward a sign in the distance.
The sign was for an emergency pullout 500 feet ahead, which was directly under a sign for Exit 56. So I got the bike to that sign and quit – for the 3rd time. I had had to stop pushing twice before to rest!
Just as I was calling Roadside Assistance (it’s a perk on my insurance policy), VDOT pulled up. He gave me some gas but didn’t have tools to unbolt all the parts to get to the battery, so we couldn’t jump-start the bike. He put out some flares and left. I called Roadside Assistance (this was about 10:15) and they let me know that I could expect help by 10:50. Reasonable. Then a few minutes later I got another text saying help would now arrive by 11:54! gah.
Since I now had time to kill / fill, I decided to go into the little-bitty tool kit I belatedly remembered is on the bike and see what in it might be useful. Lo and behold, it had *exactly* the tools to get to the battery! Imagine that…. So I unbolted the seat and took off the protective plastic cover to expose the battery terminals. I’m now ready for Roadside Assistance (henceforth called RA), whenever they come.
While I waited for RA, I saw two police stops in the other direction; a cruiser stopped to ask if I needed help (I told the officer RA was on its way), and a Good Samaritan stopped to see if I needed help. I told him, too, that RA was coming.
RA finally arrived about 11:35 and helped me jump-start the bike. Then he stuck around while I bolted everything back together and took off. My first stop was a gas station, as the fuel that VDOT gave me hadn’t gotten me above the reserve level and I knew I didn’t want to go through all this again!
I found a gas station and filled it up. Then I looked at my Mapquest directions and found the exit number I should have been looking for; it was Exit 67. Oh. Uh… Here I was at 56 and counting down. So I got back on I-66, East this time, and looked for Exit 67. But there *is* no Exit 67 eastbound; only 66 and 68. So I took 68, only to find that there wasn’t any westbound on ramp at that exit. In fact, there wasn’t any on ramp at all! I had to follow signs to find the way back to 66 west. Which I eventually did, and then found Exit 67 and took it.
At that point I discovered *why* I had missed the exit the first time – I was looking for VA 267 to be on the sign, AND IT ISN’T THERE. The exit sign says Dulles and a couple of other things, BUT NOT THE ROUTE NUMBER! So in reality, running out of gs saved me from blithely riding west on I-66 for who knows how long until I figured out I was too far out in the boonies to be in the right place.
And as it turned out, the right road didn’t have any gas stations visible at the exits, either, and it was a toll road. So I most likely would have run dry if I had made the correct exit to begin with. [Side note: The exit I needed to take off the toll road was untended at 12:30 and wanted exact change only. I had the correct amount, but it didn’t accept dollar bills. So I rode through AND DIDN’T GET MY PICTURE TAKEN.]
So I finally got back to the motel about 12:45 this morning (Saturday). Oh, and it gets chilly at midnight on a freeway at 65 mph.
So I learned some things. It’s an open question as to how long I’ll remember them, but for the record, I learned some things:
- I learned to pay more attention to how far I’ve ridden on reserve.
- I learned what tools are in the Honda’s tool kit.
- I learned how to use those tools to get to the battery.
- I learned that I need to figure out a way to permanently connect a pair of leads to the battery terminals to make future jump starts easier.
- I learned I need a new battery, so I won’t *need* a jump start for a long time into the future.
- I learned I could have jumped it myself if I had had my magic jump-start kit that I wrote about several weeks ago.
- I learned that some people are actually nice enough to stop and see if a total stranger needs help.
- I learned that 6 1/2 hours of sleep (1 AM to 7:30) isn’t enough to tour a large museum on.
- I learned that sometimes I can get away with stuff. (Don’t worry, I won’t make a habit of it.)
And so it goes…. another day in the life of The Peripatetic Traveler.