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Plan B: A Motorcycle Trip from Florida to the Smokies (almost)

I think I'm probably in trouble when I pull in the gravel lot. There isn't a car in sight although the front door is open. I know I'm in trouble when I walk in. There's hardly a bike in the place and an old lady sits behind the counter knitting. On either side of her were two guys in wheel chairs. I'm rapidly losing hope. As it turns out, the mechanic is her husband and he won't be back for three or four hours. The two guys in wheel chairs are her sons, but they don't work on bikes. Bill and I confer and decide to wait on Daddy and hope for the best.

For three hours we sit on folding chairs in the "showroom" and talk to the owners. Once in a while a car drives by and one of the boys tells us who that was and where they're probably going. I examine the gravel in the parking lot a dozen times. Bill and I debated on which of the six used cars in the lot across the road is the best buy. We try to figure out what kind of plane it was that just flew over us at thirty thousand feet. We talk about where we would be right now if the damn bike hadn't quit.

Finally, Daddy and another son arrives. We talk. He asks questions and says it sounds like fouled plugs. I really start to worry when it takes him forever to remove the gas tank to get to all four plugs. He even tells me that he never worked on a Yamaha before. They eventually get the gas tank off; the plugs in and the tank back on. I can tell that they don't like the fact that I'm standing next to them in the shop and looking over their shoulders at everything they do but I don't care.

When they get it cranked up it sounds a little better but not fixed. Junior tells me that it needs an octane booster. He test drives it and says that it's still not right and he needs to look at it some more. By this time I have totally lost what little faith I had in their ability to diagnose the problem, let alone fix it. One of the boys in the wheelchairs suggests that Daddy drain the gas tank. Daddy's not sure that's the problem, but he's willing to try. I've had enough. I decide to try for Alcoa and a dealer. We say goodbye to our newfound family and head up the road. If it sounds like I'm making fun of these folks; I'm not. They could not have been friendlier. If we would have hung around, I'm sure they would have fed us dinner and put us up for the night. They treated us like they'd known us all their lives. After four hours hanging around the shop, we felt like we'd been there all our lives.

By the time we ride five or six miles up the road, it's clear we're not going to Alcoa. The bike is barely running. We limp into a cheap motel in Madisonville, Tennessee, and grab a room. We're both exhausted and hungry and decide to forget about the bike for the rest of the evening. We find a down-home restaurant within walking distance and order the meat and three. (If you're not from the south, you'll probably have to look this one up.) Then we retire to the room and get half drunk on the pint of rum we were saving for the Deal's Gap Resort.

The next morning it's raining like hell. I kill the battery trying to start the bike. The continental breakfast turns out to be stale doughnuts and coffee and the magic has pretty much been sucked out of the ride. We throw in the towel and decide to put Plan B into effect. We are beaten.

We soon learn that Plan B is going to be tough to implement. The nearest truck rental is in Sweetwater, about ten miles away. There are no cabs in Madisonville and Bill has no passenger seat on his bike and probably wouldn't ride two up with me on the back if he did. I'm about ready to kill the next person I see when the whole tone of the day starts to change.

People we never met before started helping us. A young employee of the motel gives me a ride to Sweetwater to get a rental trunk. I have to force the kid to accept the money I hand him to pay for his gas. The manager of the hotel lets us leave our things in the room way past check out time while we get the truck and the gear we need to secure the bikes. Two guys driving by stop and help us push my bike up the ramp into the truck. We offer beer money but they decline. A guy at a carpet store nearby lends me tools when I discover I don't have the right wrench to remove one of my highway pegs.

We finally get the bikes loaded and tied down and start the long drive back to Sky Valley to get the rest of the stuff we decided we didn't need just for an overnight ride. By the time we get to Clayton we opt not to try to get the rental truck up the mountain at night. We then made one of the best decisions of the whole trip. We grab a motel across the street from Momma G's and proceed to stuff our faces and drink too many Sweetwaters. Poppa G remembers us from our previous visit and we talk. The waitress even bought us a beer. We stagger back to the room and crash for the night.

The next morning we ride up to Sky Valley and get the rest of our things. We have a six- hour drive back to Tallahassee to think about what went wrong with our ride. The more we think about it, the better it gets. The good parts get better and the bad parts seem more like a practical joke than a trip breaker. We decide that we had a good four-day bike ride and a good two-day truck ride instead of the eight days we'd planned. I'll take six out of eight any day.

Extra Credit - can you figure out what was wrong with my bike?


wcd1960 says:

bad gas
Tue Jun 14, 2016 at 9:06 AM

farmboy555 says:

Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 12:13 PM

BikerB50 says:

Great story, hope your next trip is a good one!!!!
Sun May 26, 2013 at 10:01 AM

DonJ says:

Being from around your area of the country I would guess carb adjustment from atmosphere pressure change.
Thu Nov 26, 2009 at 2:55 PM

TequilaJohn says:

Yep, sometimes those little out of the way places have some pretty old tanks. Had a friend fill up with diesel on the way out to Sturgis last year. Suffered similar symptoms. We had to drain his tank on the side of the road, and siphon enough from another bike to get him to the next exit. He finished 4500 miles of our 5500 mile ride with no ill effects from it. Needless to say, he earned a new nickname that day. hehheh
Thu Aug 23, 2007 at 7:38 AM

roadstar says:

Close enough. Bad gas in Ducktown. My riding buddy filled up at the same place and had no problems. Go figure.
Thu Aug 23, 2007 at 5:17 AM

TequilaJohn says:

Filled up with Diesel in Ducktown?
Wed Aug 22, 2007 at 9:18 AM

roadstar says:

No wiring short. Try again
Fri Aug 17, 2007 at 1:07 PM

prnc81 says:

Short in your wiring (probably caused from the rain). This resulted in your regulator/rectifier getting fried and your battery getting weaker leading to your misfires - which ultimately left you stranded. You might have noticed your gauges starting to go haywire while you were riding (not sure if you have a tachometer or not)...
Thu Aug 16, 2007 at 11:51 AM

roadstar says:

No it wasn't. Try again.
Tue Aug 7, 2007 at 12:51 PM

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