Submitted by Ian McPhee:
Getting the Buffalo (the name I have given to my R1100RT) stopped after taking out both rims and the engine was akin to riding in grandpa’s wheel barrow as a 5 year old, hanging onto the sides as the hard rubber wheel bounced and vibrated under the barrow. I don’t recall grandpa’s wheelbarrow doing 60 mph though…
So, with the oil smoke swirling upwards out of the panel work, a slight hissing, boiling bubbling noise accompanying the smoke and a hiss from the rear tyre due to the air leak from the bent rim, a walk around and a look at the damage took place.
The day was beautiful, a clear blue sky, lovely temperature, no wind and the sounds of birds in the trees. I sat on a rock making a forward plan. Swapping the 'stich for jeans and a tee shirt was first priority. If someone did come along I wanted to look normal. Everything off the bike was packed into panniers, pelican case and tank bag.
An hour and a half later a service truck with a New York (originally) resident electrician for the cell towers arrived, a brief description of what happened followed by a request for a ride. The driver agreed, took his 12” knife out of the door and with all my gear loaded in we took the remaining 12 miles to Window Rock, Arizona. Of all things, we talked about the movie Crocodile Dundee and the line ”that’s not a knife, this is a knife”.
He deposited me at the U Haul facility, in reality a small vehicle repair workshop that dealt in flat tyres and oil changes.
The girl directing work and I worked out what the U haul cost to Atlanta would be, I gave birth to a bank draft, MY DOG, that was gonna be expensive, most of the cost accrued due to the one way hire requirements.
In the meantime, Daniele and Corey had been discussing another option. Very quietly, they came to an agreement - Corey hooked a U Haul bike trailer up to his ute and he and I went out to the forest to pick up the Buffalo.
Trips like this, once a ride stops, become something experienced from an almost polar opposite perspective. Corey and I had 12 miles to drive each way, in that time we talked about the things important to us all. He had three small kids, his wife had left him and as a single dad his dream was to build a log cabin. The area is full of them, it is the standard home I guess and so he wanted what everyone else had. Nothing wrong with that. He had dreams - build a mud bogger truck, get his kids into the reservation school system, become a motorcycle mechanic, have a steady job.
My situation was poles apart, something that never stops fascinating me.
Back in the workshop an hour later, there was no charge, except for the fuel. I made sure Corey topped off his tank after our trip and slipped him a 50. I really appreciated his assistance and was glad to help him a little over and above what he wanted.
Because of the Navajo communication system, my phone would not work. Daniele handed me her phone and gave me free use of it. I called the rally van, let them know my rally was done and just like that I went from being a participant to a spectator. That was a very bitter pill to swallow.
All day the phone was ringing, insurance people checking in, Bob from Atlanta BMW rang in to see how things were and advise the method of transport for the bike, the fine detail of this was arranged between me and Federal Transport, Randy Gabrick helped organise my personal transport. A good mate of mine in Oz found out what happened and rang his mate in Albuquerque, he rang me and Bobs your uncle, I had a family waiting to take me in.
The reservation bus system runs a regular route which was going to be the first of the transportation methods back to Minnesota. I was dropped off at the local supermarket but not before shouting the workshop staff a lunch of pizzas and Dr Peppers. Wow, never again, Dr Peppers was almost as bad as a Bear Claw.
The bus arrived, I boarded and for 2 bucks, it took me to Gallup New Mexico. True to his word, the bus driver dropped me at the Amtrak station, true to the time table on the door the train wasn’t in till the following day. True to a local in the street, the hotel was ¼ mile away. I started humping all my panniers, tank bag, helmet and pelican case up the street. Drag it 100 feet, stop, drop it, swap loads on the arms, pick it up, go again. After about 5 of these I stopped at the back of a pick up with three good ol’ boys jawing.
By now I am puffing like a three legged dog that is chasing the neighbours cat and I was still a fair walk away from the hotel.
"Hey boy what are you doing and where you motorcycle, you got a lot of gear there too." Explaining my day to these three wasn’t high on my list, so I gave them the condensed version. "What’ you hit a rock and didn’t fall off, you must have some skills.” Not enough to miss a rock I thought to myself. "We goin’ give you a lift", they decreed.
Well, I was looking at the back of the ute, they had two dogs on there that even on their chains looked nasty, so I basically threw my bags up from 6 feet away and hoped they would not eat my bags.
Get in boy, and so I ended up squished in the rear seat of an F truck with suicide doors. Wedged between the seats was a long barrelled rifle, handle taped up with electrical tape, tip of the barrel on the floor and the safety off. Yep, redneck from head to toe. I giggled to myself, I should pull the trigger see who jumps furtherest, hang on, who the redneck now?
I didn’t know it, but the driver was a retired Formula 1 driver. We shot off in reverse, then forward, making more noise than speed and arrived at the El Rancho hotel in about exactly two minutes and two gallons of fuel.
With the two guys helping to move my gear, we were quickly inside and as we entered I offered to buy them a beer or two, they accepted but when I turned around after booking a room, they had gone. The constant help provided by the most unexpected people in the oddest of circumstances without expecting a return was a high light of the day. Standing in the carpark looking for them both, I felt myself lucky to have met all these people on this day.
Amtrak tickets are an online system, I booked a ticket and went to bed.
The following morning after my first meal since the rally start, one of the hotel workers dropped me at the train. I boarded and once allocated a seat, found it and looked around. The guy beside me was long retired, a government employee who used the train to visit family all over the country. We chatted for the two hours it took to go to Albuquerque, he on his way home to family in Chicago, me to a family I had no idea about.
Jack and I hooked up out the front of the station, he outlined what was planned, lunch, deposit all my bike gear at FedEx to be shipped to Atlanta, shower, a room, access to comms and anything else I needed.
Out to lunch, 50% of the US based international FarRiders in attendance as Jack is a FarRider I have never met. His wife fed me a wonderful meal that night, washed my clothes and treated me like a son. Into bed early and slept like my head had been cut off.
While all this was unfolding, Randy had sorted a plane ride to St Paul, so before the sun was up, Jack took me up to the airport and Delta did the rest. On this occasion, my travelling companion was an aged lady travelling home after visiting her daughter. She kept asking me if I was going all the way to St Paul (this was a non stop flight). After letting her know I was, she asked again. She was a little nervous I think. Right before take off, the hostesses came and reseated her in business class. Once again she asked, are you going all the way to St Paul, I replied” Well ma’am, if the plane makes it, yes I am, otherwise I reckon I’ll be taking the ambulance for the last bit”.
A KLR 650 (courtesy of Randy and Connie) and some loaned riding gear was waiting for me and so I managed to ride the last 30 miles to the rally end, two days early, GPS instructions coming from the 660 taped to my forearm.
As a visitor to any country, one of the things that really makes a good time is the interaction with its home people. In rally mode, you don’t want this as their genuine curiosity is hard to ignore or worse still, brush off because you are focused. So when the rally stopped being my focus, being able to stop and talk at leisure, ask their story and tell a little of mine was truly a great way to spend a few days.
By the time we were all back in Minnetonka I had stopped being mad with myself, initially I could have ripped off one arm and flogged myself with the soggy end, but this is just a hobby and there are a lot more important facets to life, like the people in it. I count myself lucky to know a lot of good people in this hobby of ours that helped me out.
The Buffalo made it to Atlanta and is in the shop, it will be repaired, unpaved roads will be enabled in the gps.