Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Heart Stopping, Thrilling Tale of When Bret Runs Out of Gas.

Sometimes it takes more than once for me to learn a lesson. Like running out of gas, for example.

Most motorcycles don't have has gauges. You have a trip odometer, and you know that, in my case, you can go about 100 city or 125 highway miles on a tank. The seller mentioned this to me, and he also mentioned that he had just put about a gallon of gas in it, without resetting the trip odometer. I overlooked this detail and assumed that I could wait until the dial said 124 and then go find a gas station.

Fast forward to my first "real" drive. I picked up 277 south, and headed into what promised to be a great day's ride on a twisty two lane road winding through rocky hills (they call them "mountains" here...but I know better). It was great! It's such a change from normal driving. You lean into the turns, you get buffeted and blasted by the wind, you see the ground zipping along beneath you. You haven't seen a gas station in quite a while, hopefully there's one in Bronte because you don't think you can make it back to Coronado's Camp before the trip odometer hits 125. You approach a deserted construction site, with a temporary stoplight which alternates the flow of traffic over the bridge where a single lane is open. As you roll to a stop, the engine dies. You restart it. It runs for a few seconds, then coughs, sputters, and dies. You switch the fuel petcock to reserve, which is what you were thinking you could rely on at a time like this. It starts, runs, coughs, sputters, and dies. Hmmm.

I ended up hiding the bike between a couple of construction vehicles and heading back to the road. I thought I'd just start walking back the way I'd come. It took about 5 minutes to figure out that at this rate, I'd be walking a LONG time, so I did something I have never done before. I stuck my thumb out.

I got picked up almost right away. Like, less than 5 cars passed. I was shocked at how easy hitching could be. I ran up to meet my rescuers, who were oilfield workers or something...I could barely understand a word they said. Total rednecks. I tried to contribute to their indecipherable conversations with lots of oh, YEAHs, Hmmms, and Uh-huhs. One of them asked me something about where my sunglasses were. I explained that I had brought a helmet, but had left it with the bike. He looked at me like I was from another planet. "You gotta have some sunglasses, here, take these, they're cheap," he said. And he insisted I take them. I said thanks, and they dropped me off at Coronado's Camp Store & Grill, which is a BBQ restaurant with two barely functioning gas pumps.

After telling my story to the cashier, she let me borrow a 2 gallon gas can and I filled up and headed back to the road. Once again, I had to stick my thumb out for maybe 2 minutes before I had a ride back to my bike. This time, it was an old man going to visit his brother in San Angelo. We talked about his family and grandkids, his upcoming back surgery, and the wind turbines that have popped up all over these hills. And back at my bike, I filled the tank and was back on the road.

So, this probably isn't the most exciting story you've ever heard, but it was really quite a pleasant day, that's all. I marvel a little at the fact that when I was in a jam, I experienced the kindness of strangers...back-to-back-to-back, just like it was nothing. I guess the world is full of good people. It's nice to know.

And yes, I did run out of gas again, several days later. It's just hard to know how much gas you have when you're not starting with a full tank! After all, the odometer method only assumes you're at zero when the tank is full, but if it's not, the math doesn't work.

This time it wasn't such a production. I was 200 feet from a gas station and got a few stares as I wheeled my bike along sidewalks and strained to push it along the crosswalk when I got the walk signal, but that was all. Hopefully there will not be a third time...