#51 Fleeter sputters and dies.

Fleeter sputters and dies

October 19, 2006

You can see the effects of a rain soaked night in the Natchitoches, LA area. I decided that the best route might be up on the "high road" of the Interstates. This is along I49 on the way to Alexandria, LA looking down on the frontage road.
Past Alexandria and back on the smaller roads, I start seeing some interesting things besides water.
We'll be seeing a lot of this for the next few days heading across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. It's obviously time to get the cotton out of the fields and to the gins.
This the fourth time I've crossed the Mississippi River since May.
Crossing into Mississippi at Natchez.
Check out that sky. It keeps getting darker. I'm getting a bit concerned.

The Natchez Visitor Center...still stamp hunting.
Entering the Natchez Trace Parkway at Natchez, Mississippi.

The Natchez Trace got its beginning as a hunters' trail and by 1733 it was known well enough to be mapped by the French. They showed it as an Indian trail running from Natchez to the northwest. By 1785, farmers from the Ohio River Valley began floating their crops and products down the rivers to Natchez and New Orleans. Because they sold their flatboats for lumber, they had to ride or walk home and the Trace was the most direct route. The Trace became such a popular travel route that several Inns (locally called stands) were built along the route. The mail was carried along the Trace by post riders and was scheduled to take 14 days from Nashville to Natchez.
In 1812, the steamship New Orleans showed up in Natchez. Many travelers began opting for the speed and comfort of a steamship as more ships showed up giving them options of travel. The Natchez Trace turned into a quiet forest path without the bustle of traffic.
Of course back then it wasn't paved!

Today, there's a bit more room along the Trace than in yesteryear.
There are many chances to pull aside for a rest or to take in more information along the Parkway.
Mount Locust, Inn of the Trace
Front of Mount Locust.
Rear of Mount Locust.
The front porch looks out over this field and to the modern day Natchez Trace on the other side of the field.
It's getting darker and darker as the clouds get thicker and thicker. The reason this picture is blurry is the low light, NOT the fact that I was
flying down the Trace at just under the posted speed limit of 50mph.

Time to head on to Vicksburg, Mississippi. I might make it there before the Vicksburg Military Park closes.

All is going well. No rain. Not too cold. A nice ride. I get to the Bicksburg Millitary Park about 4:30pm - plenty of time to get into the Visitor Center for the stamp before closing. But seems the second stamp is inside the Park -- about 16 miles inside the park, along slow twisting roads meant to be driven at a leisurely pace as you enjoy the monuments. I'll never make it... But a ranger suggests that I cut through downtown and slide into the back side of the Park to get to the USS Cairo Museum before they close...at 4:45pm. Cool, I can do that. So off I go. Jump on Fleeter with a plan...

Two blocks out of the Park entrance, Fleeter sputters. Not a problem, I was expecting this. Time to switch to the reserve tank. (I didn't want to waste valuable time pumping gas and then get to the park after closing. The reserve tank will give me 20-30 miles--plenty to get gas after the park closes.)

I reach down and switch to reserve...but Fleeter continues to sputter as we travel down a four lane road. Finally with no power, I pullover on a side road. What could be the problem. Only 144 easy miles on this tank and I JUST switched to reserve?! Why is Fleeter acting like he needs gas?

Oh, and did I mention that the side road I pulled onto looks like the top of a roller coaster ride? With no power, I don't want to go down that hill, but now I am cocked on the downhill side unable to back up, unable to put the kickstand down... After FIGHTING with the 600 pounds of bike, I get Fleeter in a quasi good enough position that I can put the kickstand down and dismount. I do. As if this might make me think better... Hmmm... Still acts like there's no gas. Maybe it's the lean...maybe the gas can't flow right? That's kinda silly thinking,but I'm grasping at straws here as to why Fleeter won't go. I wave down a guy and ask him to help me push Fleeter back and up into a small parking lot that is level. Oh, and that really dark sky I've been concerned about all afternoon? Now it's misting. We get the bike level. No different, just worse--not even sputtering now.

So maybe I do need gas... I walk across the main road (Clay Street) to a used car lot. They have a gas can with just a bit of gas left in it. That's okay- I won't need much if that's it. I pour the gas in and try it again. Turns over, but will not catch. The mechanic is watching me from the car lot's driveway. It's misting harder...might actually qualify as rain now. I ask him to help me push the bike across the road and UP their driveway under their carport. He is glad to help. Said he's sorry that he knows NOTHING about motorcycles. Now it's 4:58pm as I park Fleeter under the carport. This could be a very critical next few minutes. Businesses tend to close at 5pm... And when business close, I start losing options. I went in and asked if there was a Yamaha dealer nearby. One in town they say as they look the number up for me to Seviers Outdoors. Dial the number and it rings and rings and rings. It is now 5:01pm. Looks like I'm too late to have this option... THEN they answer. Sure enough they closed at 5pm. Sharp. But an employee,Grace, and her granddaughter were still there waiting for Scott the Dad/son. The phone was bugging the granddaughter so Grace said if it bugs her...for her to answer it. Yeah...she did! Grace then gets on the phone. Not many options though... all the technicians have gone for the day. She knows nothing about that end of the business...she works in the office. But, she said they open at 8am...maybe I could call back. I explain my problem in more detail ... from out of state, traveling alone, bike won't go, raining, etc. Grace suggests, Mr. Easley, owner of TD's Tire Store next door might lock the bike up overnight for me. And she offered to come by to give me a ride to a motel. Grace was an angel! The tire place closes at 5:30pm as does the used car place I'm calling from. It is now 5:15pm. I call TD's Tires. They agree to lock Fleeter up safe for the night if I can get him there. Not a problem...that's downhill from where we are. The mechanic gets out in the road and watches for traffic, when it's clear, he motioned me out. Here I go... fast for no power, but slow to be on a four lane road.
I coast down the hill and into TD's parking lot and right up to an open bay. Mr. Easley points to a corner where Fleeter will be be out of the way. I get parked and shortly after -- Scott, Grace and the granddaughter pull in. I unpack Fleeter and Scott helps me put my stuff in his vehicle.

Comfort Inn is on Clay Street between TD's and the Yamaha place. Sounds like a good place for me to be. They give me the "broken-down biker" rate and I get settled into a room. From my room, I call to arrange for a tow in the morning with my roadside assistance service. They said they don't make appointments and I should call back in the morning. So I set the alarm for 5:30am so I can call to set up the tow. Fleeter gets towed to Seviers.

I explain my theory to the owner of Seviers...

Back in Diboll, Texas I was filling up with gas when the store ran out of gas. Darn it! I knew that wasn't good, but what could I do about it now?! I paid and went on down the road to finish filling up. I only need 3+ gallons and all I got was 2+ gallons. But it didn't seem to be a problem though since I filled up a couple more times after that without any signs of Fleeter stress. Until, that is, I switched to the reserve tank. All that trashy, watery gas must have been just sitting there waiting ... like a time bomb waiting to go off. Sure enough that must have been it they said. They cleaned everything out, put in new spark plugs and changed the oil while they were at it. I got Fleeter back by 2:30pm the next day. Sharon Seiver came to pick me up from the motel and provided the happy reunion with Fleeter. Even found a new pair of gloves I like while there. My current pair are less than a year old, but I've put over 10,000 miles on them and have had a couple of sewing sessions with them to keep them together.

Even though this episode was a bit of a challenge and not something I had planned for, I'm not complaining. It could have been much worse. There are many worse locations and times that I could have faced such a challenge. So it was not a big thing, just a shift in the wind that I needed to adjust for. Not a problem, just a challenge to make the trip interesting. Sorry there are no pictures to document the sorted affair, but it all happened so fast -- I was in my motel room by 6pm - just over an hour after I realized that I had a problem.
Next: What happens while I'm in Transylvania to delay my trip by 3 hours?

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