Friday, September 15, 2017

Harley Wings Over America, Part two. Run for the East Coast.

Crossing the Mighty Mississippi River entering Memphis.

After the delay and expense of my mechanical failure I realized that I was running my bank account down much quicker than I had anticipated. One of my priorities had been to make it to the East Coast, so I decided to pass on the Carlsbad Caverns and put some miles down. Across Texas and Arkansas. I did stop long enough at a Texas trading post where I bought a pair of steer horns, which I carried throughout the entire trip. These garnered quite a few humorous observations. These steer horns are still hanging up in my garage!

I entered Memphis, where gas rationing was in full effect. I almost ran out of gas and was running on fumes. Drivers were limited to five gallons per purchase. That didn't bother me, my tank only held a little over three and half gallons. The hour long wait did bother me though. Lot's of folks were pretty upset, five gallons won't take your Buick Electra very far.

I made a stop at Graceland which was one of my most anticipated destinations. Unfortunately, this was the weekend that Elvis' Father Vernon had just passed away and Graceland was closed down until after the funeral. While I was parked in front of the gates I was interviewed by a local television news crew. I'll never know if my interview made it on the air.

There was a thriving economy based on the mansion.

So close, yet so far. I still haven't gone back.

There was a large crowd waiting to get in.

This motorcycling couple hadn't come as far as I had, but they were still disappointed.

Just a glimpse of the grounds was all I got.

I found that the area consisted of the mansion and surrounding museums and souvenir and trinket shops. There was a lot of tacky memorabilia of all types available. I have been an Elvis fan for a long time but I could do without most of this stuff. I saw the motto "TCB" used on many of these items. I asked the clerk what that meant. I was informed that it stood for "Taking Care of Business." A good idea so I hit the road again.

I spent the evening of July Fourth at the Mountain Shadow Campground at Lookout Mountain in Georgia. I stopped to check out Rock City, it's kind of hard to tell the seven states apart from this view. I headed back into Tennessee to see the Chattanooga Choo Choo.

Town square, Cherokee North Carolina. That is a statue of Daniel Boone.
This was a typical sight in these small Southern towns.

I had read about this road in so many touring magazines, it did not disappoint.

The Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline drive were enthusiastically portrayed in all the touring rider literature I had been reading. I was really looking forward to seeing this beautiful country and I was not disappointed. The speed limit is very low, thirty five miles an hour, and the road can be choked with slow moving cars and especially motor homes. Passing is not allowed. I don't blame the motorists for driving even slower that 35 mph. so that Granny can take in the sights, but it's hard to ride a motorcycle that slow on a curvy road. It's just impossible to get in the rhythm of the curves, which makes riding a motorcycle enjoyable and even effortless in these situations. I would ride until I encountered a group of slower vehicles then pull over and wait for ten to fifteen minutes and hope that they had pulled into a pull out. President Reagan once said that if you've seen one tree, you've seen them all! This was one time that I had to agree with him.

It was quite an experience to actually ride on this fabled roadway, traffic not withstanding. It was beautiful with the fog covering the higher passes.

Skyline Drive is just an extension of the Parkway.

When I reached the end of Skyline drive in Roanoake I was ready to get back into the highway hustle and bustle.

I had read a a magazine article about the Lynchburg Virginia Harley dealer who had an impressive collection of vintage bikes. It was on my itinerary as I planned to stop. This was the first time I had seen a collection of classic Harley Davidsons. Motorcycles had not really been considered as museum items and a collection of this quality and size was quite unique. The owner was very accommodating and let me take some pictures while I sat on the bikes. I think he was impressed that I had ridden all the way out from California to see his collection.

After I had left Skyline Dr. I filled up the bike and headed for Washington DC. After taking the wrong roads a couple of times, I was almost out of gas when I reached town. There wasn't a station open anywhere. I slowed down to 45 mph. on the freeway. There were lots of cars doing the same. I stopped at a couple of closed stations and drained the hoses into a Coke can. Both stops barely filled up one can. I decided to try to make it to Annapolis, where I had a camping reservation.  Just after I checked in at the campsite I ran out of gas.  I arrived at the KOA just outside of DC and actually ran out of gas just as I reached my camp site.  A fellow traveler, who was towing a nice old Airstream trailer came to my rescue with a gallon can of gas. He and a friend were travelling around the country earning their way by painting houses.

A group of people were there  from Albuquerque, (what a coincidence!) and they said that they would keep an eye on my gear while I did some sightseeing. I set up my tent and left my bike behind for the weekend. My plan was to take a the camp shuttle into D.C. where I could join a bus tour of the city.

Washington DC Visitor's Center.

Taking a bus tour was really a good idea. Finding my way around and locating parking would have taken up most of my day. My favorite monument was the Lincoln memorial, just so impressive.

Dinosaurs, now you're talking! The Museum of Natural History had this great Stegosaurus statue out in front. I was so jazzed to see this. When I was a kid growing up most young boys were mad about dinosaurs. Anytime there was going to be a TV show or movie we would discuss it for days before and days afterwards. Most of the time the "dinosaurs" were just some iguana with a rubber fin glued on their back, nothing like the exciting pictures in the science books. At least this Stegosaurus looked like the real thing! Kids today are spoiled. Once Jurassic Park came out and dinosaurs were brought to realistic life on the screen, kids seemed to lose interest. Inside the Museum were displays of dinosaur skeletons . There was also the museum of Science and Technology which was crammed with interesting displays.

I didn't have the time to check out the Smithsonian Museum, much to my regret. It, and the Henry Ford museum are still on my bucket list.

I spent only a couple of nights in the area. The gas situation had not improved very much. I had to wait in line for over an hour to fill my gas tank in the morning. Destination New York City.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Will this circle (of corrosion) be unbroken? The battle of the brake cylinders.

That round thing has to come out, but it doesn't want to.
 I guess that it got a little to settled after 28 years! 

My original plan for the Mark VII was simple, dismantle the hydraulic components of the brake system, inspect everything,  I would then rebuild the wheel cylinders, replace the flex hoses, clean up the drums and linings and see what happens.

Rebuilding wheel cylinders is actually very cheap and easy. The piston cup and outer seal are usually the only parts that are replaced. The bore can be honed lightly, very lightly, with a power drill driven hone to remove pitting and provide a smooth surface for the new piston seal to work on. One pass only please! Most wheel cylinders are made of cast iron, the pistons either aluminium or steel. The bore usually becomes pitted by the moisture that is absorbed into the brake fluid. That moisture doesn't get hot enough to evaporate. Actually dispersed into the fluid, unless the car is regularly used. A good reason to drive your car and change the brake fluid every couple of years. Off road vehicles that routinely submerge their brakes during water crossings should be changed every year. Back in the old days it was much worse. A can of fluid that was left uncapped on the workbench overnight could absorb enough moisture to be rendered worthless. The rubber piston and end seals cost only about five bucks or less for popular models. So there's no excuse  not to replace them.

Complete new wheel cylinders are easily available and cheap for popular models like my old Mustang, so most guys don't bother with rebuilding, they just chuck 'em.  Not in this case. Rebuilt wheel cylinders for my Mark will run 600 pound,s with a possibly refundable core charge of 400 pounds. It could conceivably cost me one thousand pounds for a working set of cylinders! How much is that in dollars?

One common restoration process done by a machine shop, is to bore out a worn cylinder and install a stainless steel sleeve, thereby restoring the cylinder to original specs. But you still have to get the damn piston out first! This could run anywhere from 125 to 250 dollars a pop.

If you run a new piston seal in a slightly pitted/somewhat worn bore  you will probably find that the seal will wear out faster and start to leak much sooner than normal. There's a gamble there. If it doesn't leak immediately, it may last for thousands of miles. It might give you some time to locate or afford those rare expensive cylinders. Piston seals are cheap, but better be sure your emergency brake is up to snuff! And keep an eye out for wet backing plates.

I also investigated some alternatives. Coopercraft is a company that I've seen advertised in Jaguar World magazine, as a Jaguar brake specialist. I contacted them and found that they offer a complete disc brake upgrade package for 1250 pounds. I guess this is around 15 or 16 hundred bucks, which sounds like a really good deal. So I'm keeping that in mind. It wouldn't make a lot of sense to spend a grand on rebuilt cylinders by themselves. Keeping in mind that I might need linings, hoses, or  drums also.

But getting back to the task at hand.

The first job was going to be handled one wheel position at a time. I started with the right front wheel. Removing and cleaning was the easy part. When the repair kits arrived from I tackled the task of dismantling the wheel cylinders, two per side in this case.

Usually the problem is to keep the pistons from popping out on their own while you handle them. Not in this case. Last registration was in '91, and I'll bet not many miles crossed the odometer after that.
First I tried to squeeze the piston back using my bench vise. It wouldn't even budge. Then I tried my 6 ton press, it moved about a 1/4 in. with a loud worrisome abrupt POP! I still couldn't turn the piston end with a wrench. I let the end soak some more with Liquid Wrench (L/W). I had removed the bleeder screw and transfer line and filled the inside of the cylinder with L/W. No luck.

I thought that I could introduce the solvent through the brake fluid or the bleed fitting of the wheel cylinder. The problem is that the solvent cannot get past the piston seal to reach the corroded piston/bore.

I thought I could shock the corrosion bond with heat, not too much, just enough to induce a temp shock with rapid recooling. I considered using a propane torch, or a heat gun, but I'm always worried about burning down my house!  Then it occurred to me that I could just heat it up on the barbeque grille in the back yard. So I placed the cylinders on the extra burner and heated them up a bit. I didn't think that they would get too hot, but I stopped when spit sprayed on them would sizzle and totally evaporate. I then dropped them in a bucket of water. I repeated this a couple times. Did it work? Well not right away.

I went back to the L/W soak and hit the web.

I had already tried the vise method.

One of the tried and true methods is to blow some compressed air through the cylinder. My compressor limited me to only 130 lbs. That didn't seem enough. One of the pistons started to turn a bit I worked it back and forth, added more L/W. Then applied the air pressure. The piston slowly emerged!

After I cleaned it off I found that That piston was a pretty solid large chunk of steel. I also could see that there was not a step at the end of the bore so that theoretically the piston should be able to be pushed back at least an inch and a half more. I set it up in my press and let it sit under pressure. I went about other things when I suddenly heard a loud snap and the cylinder shot out sideways against the cardboard that I had placed around the press, just in case. I initially thought that the thing had slipped out under pressure because of an alignment issue. Not so. I found that one of the cast iron base blocks on the press, had snapped in half! And the darn piston was still stuck!

Another approach was to fasten a grease fitting to either the bleeder or hose port and send in grease under pressure. This sounded like a great idea, a grease gun can generate up to 1,000 psi. ( I won't mention that the piston only budged a 1/4 in. under my six ton press!) An added benefit is that instead of breaking the piston loose and having it fly across the room. it just kind of pops and oozes out. The problem was finding a fitting that would fit. The brake hose and bleeder ports were both 1/8 inch. I initially didn't find any grease fittings that size at Winchester Auto . I concluded that it was an unusual size. I found an appropriate sized bolt at OSH and figured that I would have to drill and tap that. That sounded like a lot of work so I put this idea aside for awhile.

Was there a more effective penetrating oil? I hit the web and found some interesting info.

I saw something called C RC freezing shock spray. When sprayed at a frozen joint it would cool it to near freezing. That would "shock" and break the corrosion bond. It seemed that this could be a pretty dangerous item. Bad for your skin and particularly for your eyes, but it sounded like it would work. I had watched a demo on U Tube.

I had also seen a comparison of the efficacy of several popular penetrating oils. As you might expect WD 40 was the least effective. Liquid Wrench was considerably better and something called "kroil" was even better. The best of all was a home brew, 50/50 blend of ATF and Acetone, or lacquer thinner.


I went off to several local auto stores to look for the CRC product. I couldn't find it at the local Kragens. Or the Kroil. I went to my best store, Winchester Auto. I found the Kroil, when I asked him about the CRC he said they no longer carried that now they had kroil, Twenty bucks a can, who would care as long as it worked. I went to another local  Kragens ( they are all around here!) but couldn't find the CRC product either. I wandered over to the "lube" section to look at the grease fittings that I figured that I would have to tap that bolt for. Wow! I found a large selection of varying sizes, 1/8 th. in. all the way to 1/4 in. with some metric sizes thrown in for good measure.


I had found a found a double threaded stud in my stash, one side was fine thread the other coarse. It was a stud for my old Sportster's front crankcase assembly. The coarse side screwed into the aluminum case and the fine side held the nut that secured the case half. At OSH I found that the fine thread was 1/8 in. that would fit a  brass fitting. I found a 1/8 steel nipple that can be combined with a 1/8th. coupler. The nipple should thread into the cylinder and the coupler will allow a 1/8 th. in. grease fitting to be attached. Hopefully this will work.

Double fail!

To be fair it might have worked in other circumstances.

The offending cylinder had been soaking in kroil overnight.

Things don't look too good. While it seemed like a good idea, the pipe fittings didn't fit the wheel cylinder. Drilling and tapping a couple of bolts just might be my only alternative. Things are coming to a grinding halt in this area. Right now all I can see are some expensive options. I will have to apply some project car triage.

I'm going to redirect my efforts to the carbs and see if the motor will run. I already know that it will spin freely with the starter. If it does run without any noises of impending doom I'll at least know that it's worth proceeding with the braking system rebuild. I'll try to get the emergency brake system to work so I can use it to move the car around. If the motor fails to run or smokes or sounds really bad than this car will have to go straight to the back burner.
Here's the piston that yielded to air pressure and twisting. You can see how much surface area there is to develop a corrosion hold. The piston and bore aren't really rusted together more like they are stuck with glue.

This piston is still stuck.That shiny bolt fits perfectly in the fitting thread. Now all I have to do is drill through the bolt then tap the top to take a screw in grease fitting, a piece of cake. Right?
Still, there doesn't seem to be any alternative. Keep tuned to see what transpires.

Looking at my fleet, the XJ6 needs the least work, It does needs the front suspension rebuilt and I will have to deal with the CEL but the rest of the car is in good shape. Registration is due in November and so is the smog check. I have enough time to fix this without being in a panic.

The XJS needs a bunch of things also, but I'll have to see how it runs as I drive it to work this week. It will be a shake down test, that will tell me a lot. I bought a new battery this morning. I had been running it with a used battery I bought  last year. It had been holding up pretty good but there will be a heavy load with the cooling fan running after shut off. I still need to get that driver's window to work. Funny thing is that it did work for a while, as soon as I put the door panel on, it quit. I pulled the door panel today and was checking out the wiring. There is power at the switch and at the motor. The motor makes a funny clicking sound so I guess I'll have to pull it out to test it. I patched up the top in a few places but it could use a couple more. The top isn't that expensive, at least for the actual fabric and headliner. Labor may be another thing. The XJS needs the front end gone through also. If the car runs pretty good I'll park it in the sideyard for a while and turn my efforts to the XJ6.

I need to direct my time, effort and money into the car that will give me the best return. I'm not giving up on any of them but I've got to invest my efforts wisely, or I'll end up with three unusable cars.

Yesterday I took my XJ6 out of the sidyard  and the XjS took it's place. Again. It had been out of the yard for over a month.  As I related a couple of posts ago, the XJS was running very well and cool in the hundred degree weather we've been having. Since I actually got to drive the XJS like a real car ( for the first time since I bought it two years ago) I don't feel bad about putting it away for a bit. Is it a practical car? Well, it's practical enough, though city fuel mileage is not too impressive. My commute is only twenty two miles round trip, so that isn't a real factor. Nowadays, I don't usually carry more than one passenger, my Wife, who was a great sport riding in that very hot car, for one little trip. The trunk is fairly large and when I picked her up from a Girl's day at an antique mall she had of course bought a few things. It all fit in the trunk, which surprised me. I can't say that I love the car, like I do my XJ6, but I do like it. If it needed less work I might like it a bit more!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Harley Wings Over America. Part One. Four weeks across the country.

This just kind of says it all.

The Summer of 1979. A 28 day trip around the USA, over 9,500 miles long, visiting the states of, Nevada,Utah, Colorado,New Mexico,Oklahoma,Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina,Virginia,Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, Then into Canada. Through the province of Ontario. Crossed back into the USA at Sault Ste Marie. I continued through Michigan,Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota,Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon and finally back home to California.

Coast to Coast, North and South, breakdowns and bad weather. Washington DC, York. road rash in Pennsylvania. Good folks in Arkansas. This trip was the dream of a lifetime. Just me and my Sportster.

My Sportster was equipped a Harley Davidson compact windshield and saddlebags. I had installed one of those new "King Sporster" gas tanks that held three and a half gallons of gas. Not a lot compared to an Electra Glide, but quite an improvement over the "Frisco" set up that I had taken to British Columbia. A sissybar and a tank bag gave me a way to tie down my gear and hold my camera and maps.

A set of staggered dual pipes were just available for the '79 model which fit on my CR. I had purchased a self supporting two person tent at a back packing store, I wasn't going to try and hammer down tent stakes in the dark anymore! My riding attire consisted of a set of Buckskin Buckaroo leathers and a Harley hat. For some reason I din't think that I would need to take a helmet. I was wrong.

At this time the US was suffering through another energy crisis. Gas stations were closing early, there was odd and even gas rationing, and there was even chatter about denying gas to non essential hobby vehicles. Off road vehicles, boats, and motorcycles. I was very concerned as I had wanted to take a big motorcycle  trip around the US for a long time. I was beginning to wonder If I would even get the chance. I figured that the best time for the trip was now, and it was, for various other reasons. Little did I know that life would get more complicated in the years to come.  It was a good thing that I went when I did.

My plan was for myself and my good buddy Rick to take the trip together. We had just taken a trip through the Southwest last Summer. However his life had gotten complicated by having just gotten a new job. Even he would admit that it wasn't a great job, and not likely to lead anywhere, but he was the responsible type. He didn't think that it would be right to just quit.

I was going one way or the other. My plans continued.

My goal was to circumnavigate the country. I would start out heading across Nevada to Colorado, then down into Arizona, and through the Southwest, across Texas, then into the South and up the Atlantic Coast.  I would make stops  at Graceland, in Washington DC, then onto NYC up into Canada around the Great Lakes, down into into Wisconsin to visit the HD factory and museum. From there I would head west across the Great Plains states into Montana, Idaho, Oregon and back down into California.

I had originally projected for the trip to take around six weeks. This time I made provisions for funds. This was before the proliferation of easy credit cards. People still used traveler's checks. I decided that I could have my Mom wire me money through Western Union. I originally thought that I would be able to access my account at Bank of America, as I went through different states. I figured it was called Bank OF America. I learned that at that time branches ended at the California state line. BOA was actually Bank of California. Still, Western Union was a satisfactory arrangement.

Hitting the road, solo and fancy free. It's not a feeling I'm likely to experience again.

I left Fremont Ca. at 8:00 am on June 25th. I decided to retrace last years route to Wells Nevada. Six hundred miles in the first day. Daily mileage was to vary from four to five hundred miles. I didn't bother to take one picture in Nevada

The Bonneville Salt Flats. I had only read about this place in Hot Rod magazine.
I got a little salt on the tires!

Passing through the Bonneville Salt Flats. I was on my way to Salt Lake. City. I wanted to see the Great Salt Lake and Promitary point where the cross continental railroads connected.

There were fruit filled cherry trees growing throughout the park.
Campers were allowed to enjoy the fruit.

The lake is a very pretty blue, but nobody mentions that it's smells a mite ripe.
Promontory Point is not too far from here.

Area around Moab Utah.
People thought it might become oceanside property.

I guess that unsettled times can generate a certain social malaise. There was a mania going on at the time that a large earthquake  was going to cause California to fall into the sea. Actually all points east of Moab. Lot's of people were gathering there in preparation. It was so hot that I couldn't sleep. The air in air mattress got so hot. I just slept on the foam mat. I discarded the air mattress for the duration of the trip. In the morning I stopped at a cafe and drank three large glasses of liquid. A large glass of orange juice, an equally large glass of milk, and a finally a large cup of coffee.

Deadhorse Point and Canyonlands National Park.

From Utah I was on my way to Colorado over the Continental Divide. Through Colorado into New Mexico.

Lots of interesting topography.

Colorado doesn't seem too far away.

Last Summer Rick and I had visited Taos New Mexico. This trip I made the time to visit a few spots that I hadn't had time to see.

Small town life.

Just like an old barn, I guess that it's easier to just let this building fall down on it's own.

Things have been back to normal at the courthouse for the last decade.

I went to New Mexico because I wanted to visit the courthouse at Tierra Amarilla.  A Chicano activist named Reies Tijerina (09/21/1923- 01/19/2015) had taken over the courthouse in a protest to highlight the need to ensure rights for Mexican American citizens. He and a group of Alianza members were armed and occupied the courthouse for several days until they surrendered. This was all over the media in California and even almost ten years later, I wanted to visit the site. The town was becoming something of a ghost town. I ate breakfast at a very homey little diner. There was a tapestry on the wall of the Kennedy's and Dr. Martin Luther King and an episode of I love Lucy playing on the television. Later I passed through the nuclear testing area, in Alamogordo (on the highway) just stopping to read a sign relating the events.

Old adobe buildings are quite common. Many are still regular use.

I climbed this ladder to take a look around.

It seems that quite a few people made their home here once.

After Tierra Amarilla I stopped to visit the Santa Clara pueblo at Espanola out side of Sante Fe. This is an ancient, abandoned, pre Columbian population center built into a cliff. There wasn't anyone one else around and I was free to roam around and explore. Hard to believe that I climbed and crawled all over that site without worrying about rattlesnakes!

Most rooms had a view, at least on one side.

This is the opening to a Kiva, a circular ceremonial chamber. Entrance was discouraged but not prohibited. I climbed down the ladder, took a quick look around and cowardly scampered back into the sunlight.

I was headed down into Arizona, I wanted to visit the Carlsbad Caverns. I had read about these caves for years. I had spent the night at a motel in Albuquerque. I would usually camp out for three days then spend a night in a motel where I could relax, take a long shower and enjoy a good night's sleep in a real bed.  About then I would wash my laundry, though there were usually washers available at the KOAs where I stayed.

Albuquerque New Mexico. A pleasant town. I spent a morning in a laundromat,
washing my clothes and playing the jukebox. Also feeling a little bit homesick.

I was on my way, bright and very early, around 75 miles out of town, just as I passed Socorro, when I heard a strange metallic knocking sound before my motor died. It wouldn't restart but the motor would turn over with the starter. I was standing by the side of the road, in the desert sun, wondering what to do. Cell phones hadn't been invented yet, and I probably wouldn't have been able to get service anyway.  I needed a pay phone. I didn't have Triple A either. I wasn't going to abandon my bike at the side of the road, not only did it have all my stuff, I didn't want it to end up stolen. I didn't see much of a choice. I tried pushing it for a bit, and even though the road was flat, I didn't think I could make it to a gas station. Wherever that might be.

Fate intervened and a touring cyclist saw me and stopped. He asked what happened and if I wanted a tow. He was prepared with a long rope, which he secured to the rear frame of his BMW twin and we wrapped it around the fork tubes and triple clamps of my bike. I asked if he could tow me all the way back to Albuquerque and he said no, but he would take me to the nearest gas station.  We proceed back down the highway at 45 mph, yielding to the shoulder when traffic increased.  We reached a gas station in a very small town where he bid me good luck before he continued his trip. I pulled the point cover and discovered that the point advance cam assembly had snapped off.  The advance weights had been hitting the inside of the case as they spun around until the vibration had caused the bolt to break.

I was mulling over my options. The stub of the broken bolt was still in the end of the camshaft. I didn't have the tools to extract that. I needed a drill and an EZ OUT extractor. I would need to pull the timing case cover, which held the four camshafts and idler gears. Then I could take the affected cam to a shop where either they could remove the broken bolt or I could buy a replacement cam and timing assembly. My plan was to push the bike to a local motel, get a room, pull the parts and then take a bus back to Albuquerque. I would then take the bus back to the motel with the new parts and button the bike up again. Another problem was rearing it's head. The Fourth of July weekend was coming up.  I knew that many businesses would be closed that Saturday, and maybe Monday too. The prospect of spending several days in that little town cooling my heels and draining my funds did not seem very appealing. I needed someone with a truck to take my bike back to Albuquerque where I knew that there was a Harley dealer, since I had bought oil there before I left. This was going to be a long trip, almost 150 mile round trip, costing a fair amount of gas and time. I was willing and able to pay some one for their time and trouble. It would be a four hour round trip.

The sight of my bike parked outside the service bay attracted quite a bit of attention. A nicely dressed couple in a new Thunderbird asked about my situation, and said that they could give me a ride back to Albuquerque if I could leave in ten minutes. I told them that I needed to do some work on my bike first. I thanked them and as they drove away I noticed that the Thunderbird had state legislator's plates on it. People were very friendly in New Mexico.

The gas station owner was curious about what I was going to do. I told him that I needed someone with a truck to drive me and my bike back to town. He called his brother to ask him if he could do that for me. His brother showed up and told me that he was too busy, but he was willing to take me a around to ask some of his family and friends. We made the rounds but most were busy preparing for the Fourth and they begged off. Finally he told me that he had a nephew who was kind of sketchy but had an old truck that could probably run long enough make the trip. This wasn't too confidence inspiring and when the nephew showed up with his buddy in tow, things looked even bleaker.

No, it wasn't these two but it was close!
photo source: Up in Smoke, the movie

This was n't the same truck, but close enough!
photo source:

Their truck didn't inspire any confidence either. Their uncle, who had been very gracious to me, assured me that they might look kind of sketchy but they were goods kids and completely harmless. Maybe. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and hid my money in my boot. I put my large pocketknife in my right pocket for easy access. I offered to  pay them fifty bucks over the cost of gas. They agreed saying that that they had some friends that they could "party with" over the weekend. So it made the trip free for them.

The pickup had some pretty big holes in the bed but there was enough solid flooring to hold the motorcycle. We loaded up the bike and headed out. I managed to secure the shotgun position. I could always jump out of the truck if things got out of hand. There wasn't a radio and we made a little small talk. We chugged along at 55 mph. as the sky turned dark and a light rain started.

Things were going well until the duo decided that the party could get started a little earlier than anticipated. One of them produced a doobie, and proceeded to light up! They were polite enough to offer me a hit, which I declined. Luckily the windows were open because the defroster didn't work that well. Now I was super paranoid, I didn't want to end up in a New Mexico jail, that would definitely ruin my vacation plans. Thankfully that joint was the only one they had, and after they burned that one out they could score some more in Albuquerque. These guys located the Harley dealer without any problems. The driver backed right up to the loading dock and we rolled the bike off the truck. I was happy to pay the two guys an extra twenty five bucks for the lift. They happily drove off to seek that other dealer they were familiar with.

Luckily the shop was able to work on my bike immediately. Closing time was approaching but the job was finished in time and we rolled my bike out of the shop right at 5:00 pm. I went right back to the same motel that I had left that morning, and spent another night in Albuquerque. At least it wasn't in the exact same room!

I found my steer horns here. I still have them hanging on my garage wall.

Commonly referred to as Cadillac Ranch, the actual site was known as the Ant Farm.
Unfortunately tourist/vandals have stripped the vandalized the poor old Cadillacs.

Back on the road across Texas where I stopped to buy a pair of steer horns which I carried throughout the remainder of the trip, not without comment. I crossed the narrowest part of Texas, the Panhandle. I heard a lot of bad news about the availability of gasoline, the worst of the trip. I don 't recollect much about crossing through Oklahoma. Except that it was the windiest state that I had ever driven through. My bike continued to run poorly.

In to Fort Smith Arkansas, more motorcycle trouble. The motor was having trouble maintaining highway speeds. I stopped at the local HD dealer and they finally fixed what was wrong. I think that the mechanics in Albuquerque had forgotten to lube the rubbing block of the points and they had worn down . This reduced the point gap opening which reduced dwell. Dwell is the time that the points are closed which allows the coil to become saturated with electricity to make a strong spark. Less dwell equals a less powerful spark which just ruins higher rpm operation. Finally the bike was running right.

Most dealers outside of the big cities didn't have fancy showrooms.
This was a time when Harley Davidson started to make more demands on their dealers.

I wonder if that dealer is still there?

The manager of the shop Gary, was quite friendly and he invited me to go out with him and some of his friends to a couple of the local bars. We first went out to a bar and grill for dinner, then to one his local watering holes. I noticed that I was getting some unwanted attention and looks. I asked Gary if it was okay that I was there. He assured me that it was okay because I was with him, but he wouldn't recommend that I come here on my own! I asked Gary what part of the country this was, Was it part of the Midwest? No, he answered, "this is The South!" I must admit that I felt a little apprehensive after that! I was hoping that Easyrider was just a movie.

It's always been a policy of mine that I stay way from local bars and clubs. It's my opinion that nothing good can come from mixing being a stranger, with a healthy dose of alcohol. I'm sure that this practice has kept me away from a lot of trouble. That night, I remember standing in the parking lot watching a large flock of birds flying in circles around a large tree. I had never noticed birds doing that before, especially at night. I guess that  they must have been some common local bird because no one else thought anything about them. It struck me as a bit eerie. Funny the things that you remember. I decided to buy a helmet before I left town. Helmet law states were coming up.