Reuben's motorcycle adventures for the month of September 2000

Before coming to spend my month in Waco I was asked by friends and nonfriends if I like many of my predecessors would leave Waco on the weekends. I replied with a condescending monologue about how it's important to make any place you're staying your home, and that I would enjoy the treasures of Waco when the week's work was done. My clinical duties were to commence at ten in the a.m. at Waco Family Practice Clinic. I left Dallas at seven a.m, found my apartment within shouting distance of the largest water tower in all of McLennon County, and hurried to the clinic. On Friday afternoon I finished my duties with Dr. Liu near 4:30 and I was on the road back to Dallas by five, it was labor day weekend. 2/3 of the way there in Waxahachie I noticed my beautifully worn 1983 Honda Sabre 750cc V4 was not handling correctly. I exited and then realized the front tire was flat. I drove another 200 yards to a gas station and hopped off the bike. Zero PSI, and the gas station was an abandoned gas station. Luckily, a quarter mile up the service road was THE TEXAS INN, so I dragged my bag and helmet in 107 degree heat to that oasis of a $34.95/night. The front desk was staffed by a pleasant looking indian woman near my age. I explained that I had suffered a flat tire on my way home to Dallas, looking appropriately pathetic sweating through my black leather jacket, holding a black helmet in one hand and an overstuffed huge green army duffle bag around my shoulder. She expressed her condolences and told me her switchboard phone couldn't dial long distance. No problem, I have a phone card. After watching me struggle with her switchboard phone for ten minutes she went to the back and retrieved a cordless phone. I thanked her and started making phone calls; time to cash in a favor and have someone pick me up from Dallas. Roommates not home. Friends #1,2,3, and four not home. I've exhausted my memorized phone numbers, thank goodness for the Palm Pilot. Friends #4-8 are not home either and now I've been on the phone for twenty minutes with a heavy bag pulling me backwards. I put the phone down on the counter and the Indian lady attempts to snatch it up. Hold on, I haven't found anyone yet, I'm just taking off my bag. She frowns and as I take off the bag the shoulder strap snaps. She is equally impressed at my bad fortune and lets her guard down, giving me her best, "wow you really are a sad sack of shit, here...use our phone" look. Luckily Jeff answers his cell, he's happy to pick me up but he's eating dinner with his mom, they just sat down. I can wait. I take off my jacket and walk outside. It's hot, and I start thinking about how I'm going to get the tire fixed. Then I notice, scribbled on the overhang at the non-gas station I pulled into "24 HOUR TOWING (972) 252-9447." Yes, of course, I'll have to hire a tow truck to take both myself and my motorcycle back to Dallas, where I can conveniently deal with the tire. I walk back into THE TEXAS INN and the pleasant indian girl has been replaced by her father. I need to use the phone again.

"Excuse me?"
"You can not use the phone."
"I have a flat tire. I want to call a tow truck."
"Use a pay phone."
[Pause...I show disgust on my face]
"Where is the pay phone?" [expecting, "right over there," or "near the pool."] "I don't know."
"Listen I'll just be a second on the phone, I only need to get a tow truck."
"No. My personal line."

I walk out, shaking my head. I start walking back toward the nongas station, hoping maybe somebody lives in the back or something. Thirty steps later, I hear the indian guy yell after me. Ah, so he's realized that in America we're nice to motorists in distress, he feels bad about not letting me use the phone, he's going to offer me a free place to stay for the night.

"Is this your stuff in here?" he bellows in a thick accent over the sound of 18 wheelers on their way to Dallas or Canada.
"Yes, that's my bag."
"Get it out of here."

I walk back, pick up my bag, jacket, and helmet, and as I am walking out I stop and try the guilt approach:

"Did I do something wrong to you?"

He stares blankly. Mom would be proud.

I walk up to a nearby trailer home, hoping to use a phone. Three nasty dogs on leashes attack me, I retreat, try a different trailer home. Overweight lady answers door, overweight daughter watching TV inside. They let me in. I call the number on the overhang and Bill answers. He doesn't tow motorcycles. Does he know anyone in town who does? Only Lucky has straps. My lucky day, I think I'll call Lucky. Lucky's wife gives Lucky the phone, Lucky wants $150 to take me and my bike to Dallas. Lucky me. Lucky spends the better part of an hour strapping my bike down to his truck and off we go to Dallas. Lucky's real name is Lucky, says so right on the birth certificate. Lucky has run Lucky's Auto Works for thirty years in Waxahachie. What does Lucky think of this new vice-presidential candidate, Joe Lieberman? He actually likes him better than Gore. But wait, isn't Lucky worried about a Jew in office? No, he thinks that Jews take care of their own, but they would probably do the right thing for the country as a whole. He's going to vote for Bush. He has four biological kids and TWENTY TWO foster kids. I take a picture of Lucky.

A couple days and a new front tire later I'm back in Waco. Several mornings following I press the start button and...nothing. Tow to Barger's AllSports, the only Honda dealer in Waco ($50 for the tow). I rent a car from Enterprise, it's a Mitsubishi Galant. In addition to fixing the starter problem I ask Mr. Barger to look at the fuel petcock, which for many months had been slowly dripping gas when the bike was off, one little drip every ten minutes or so. Several days later I pick up my motorcycle, the starter relay was corroded and they replaced it ($140). They performed a modification to the petcock that will stop it from leaking, but I'll have to turn it to "off" when I turn off the engine, like older motorcycles. The petcock will one day have to be replaced they say, and it's a particularly expensive petcock. Terrific, thanks guys, fine service, great town Waco is, no I haven't been out to the lake yet. I return the rental ($160).

The next morning I turn the petcock to "on" and start the bike. Fires right up, excellent. As I am about to mount my ride I notice that there is not a drip but a stream, no, a river of gasoline flowing out of the petcock. Well I have to get to work so I drive to Hillcrest Baptist Hospital with most of my attention at my left knee, watching gasoline pour all over my engine case, wondering if it will catch fire. I imagine someone behind me throwing a cigarette out the window and the trail of gasoline I'm leaving ignites. The fire catches up to me and three gallons of unleaded between my legs explodes, what a way to go. That morning I call back Bargers. I know that I had to replace the petcock anyway, but you guys changed a leisurely problem into a crisis so I think you should pay for overnight shipping of the part. Mr. Barger explains to me that it was a coincidence that the petcock starting thinking it was a faucet on the next start after they modified it, and that they would not pay for overnight shipping. Yep they gave me the finger and I had no choice but to pay these assholes for a new petcock ($160) + overnight shipping ($35).

That weekend I went down to Austin. Really hot out, but the Friday evening 90 mile per hour breeze is keeping me cool and I haven't been back to Austin in two and a half years, so much nostalgia. I get to Lamar Blvd at around 6:30pm, it's 104 degrees outside, and the traffic is at a standstill. The temperature guage is climbing. We're not moving. It's climbing. I'm sweating, we're not moving. I'm six blocks from Libby's house and the temperature guage is higher than I've ever seen it, what's going on? I look down at the coolant reservoir (luckily the side panel fell off my bike some months ago, so the reservoir is in full view) and notice that it's bubbling, steaming, and dripping coolant onto the pavement. Bad. Only five blocks. The temperature guage is now BLINKING, cool I didn't know it could do that, come on I can make it four more blocks if only this light would turn green god damn all this traffic. Three more blocks, I can make it, oh I applied for a job at that CD store BAM! POP! steam everywhere ouch hot pain pain. I pull into a parking lot and for the first time in six years of riding use the emergency engine cutoff conveniently located at my right thumb. Hop off the bike, steam everywhere, coolant all over my legs, fuck. I start walking to Libby's, woops my keys are still in the ignition. Libby isn't home, I try to break into her house but can't. I'm sweating buckets and my thighs are burned. The following day I deduce that the fan is broken. Can't get the fan replaced until Thursday, have to be at work on Monday morning in Waco, so I visit my friends at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Tow to TJ's cycle($50), my old place of employment, my old boss Dean replaces ($100 labor) the fan ($260 -- one sixth the value of the motorcycle -- for a fan). Thursday evening I drive my Geo Metro (3 speed transmission, top speed 74) from Waco to Dallas, return the rental ($206), eat a macrobiotic meal at Casa de Luz ($9), and ride my pink spiffy motorcycle home to Dallas.

read Reuben's How to Stay Alive on a Motorcycle