Last updated 1/24/11
The ferry leaves at 8 am, and then again at 9:30, so I planned to get up early and try to get the early ride across Mobile Bay. From there I would take US98, and variations thereof across the Redneck Riviera of Florida to St. George Island. My planned route below.
I eat and get everything packed up and loaded on the bike by 7. The ferry is only 4-5 minutes away, so that gives me plenty of time to get the bike started and still make the early ferry. I've become accustomed having to work at it a while to get the beast going in the mornings, but it's early, so in between my attempts, I walk around and take a few pictures. It's nice here, another place I'll have to remember to bring my wife someday. Now that she's gotten rid of all the horses, that may actually happen.
That's the western entrance to Mobile Bay back behind the hotel.
The Gulf Breeze Motel on Dauphin Island, Al., the most expensive place I stayed at $65/night, but probably the nicest too.
All ready to go, but by now the battery is going thin, and the starting system on these things goes south quickly with low volts. I had all along suspected the problem was carburation, but I also knew that once started and warmed up, it would run great, and restart reliably. So I didn't really want to tear into the carbs on this trip and risk creating more problems. I had stopped and bought a can of ether yesterday, and pulled the air box behind the left side cover to try and get a shot up towards the carbs. But the design of these bikes, using the frame as the inlet tract, makes it a long uphill path from the air box to the carbs, and the bike still won't start. In a last attempt to get it going without outside intervention, I unload everything and try to push start it. But my gimpy wrist, and the wet and sandy roads combined to ensure I would end up worn out, and the bike would be right back where you see it.
I sunk low and called AAA. The lady said the tech would have to come from Mobile, it would be about 45 minutes before he got there, so I waited. The battery had sunk pretty low and I knew it would take a while to recharge, certainly longer than it would take to ride across the island to the ferry. So I decided to skip the ferry since I couldn't be confident the bike would start on the other side. I would ride north, then east across the top of Mobile Bay, then I could turn back south and get back on route.
I felt kinda bad when I saw the huge truck they sent to help me. Especially when the guy reached in one his bins and pulled out a relatively small jump start booster. It could fit in one of my saddlebags. With good volts, the bike started off fairly quickly. I would need another jump start assist before I got underway.
As I'm heading north off the island, I feel somewhat comforted to see the tow truck driver following me. But soon he would turn off to the west and I'd be on my own again. I don't dare stop to take any pictures, the bike is running great when I'm on the gas, but won't idle. I suspect the battery is too low provide enough juice at low revs to spark the ignition. I'm wondering if the battery has bitten the dust, and thinking it would be tough to find a replacement on New Year's Eve in the bayous of Alabama.
Then as I'm coming to stop at a light at the corner of Hwy 193 and Hamilton Blvd., (the top flag in the picture below), I let the revs drop too low and she stalls. As I'm still rolling, I quickly pop the clutch out for a bump start, but the road is too wet, (it's been raining most of the morning), and the back end just slides to a stop. Fortunately there's a gas station on the opposite corner across the street, but it's a wide 4-lane hwy, and the station is on an access road back behind the hwy. I push the bike about 1/4 of a mile to the pumps, (now I'm really regretting bringing all that camping gear). I fill up with gas and quickly find a nice kid with and old Ford ranger to jump me off.
I had ridden about 25 miles, so now I'm thinking that the battery might be toast since it hadn't recharged enough in that time to afford even one revolution of the starter. I figure the best option at this point is to abandon my plans to ride the gulf coast of Florida, and instead hop on I-10 and get as far towards my destination as I can without stopping. As much as I hate riding the interstate when I'm on a motorcycle adventure, it might give the battery a chance to recharge, and I might could get close enough for a rescue from my cousin Bob before it gives up completely.
Welcome to my new route for the day. I go from my original planned 244 miles of coastal byways, to 334 miles of inland highways, with about 140 miles of it being interstate. This doesn't sit too well with me, but I considered that bike problems might get in my way when I decided to by a $1000 bike off ebay for a fly & ride.
The ride wasn't bad, just boring. The bike does well at speed on the highway, but the lack of a faring or windscreen makes it a workout to hang on. I exit the interstate at Defuniak Springs and pull up to the pumps at the first gas station I see. The bike will idle again, so I suspect the last two hours of high speed cruising have been enough to give the battery a charge, but I'm still apprehensive about shutting her off. But since the gas cap is keyed, and the only key is in the ignition, I have no choice. I take a little break to get refreshed for the next leg, then get geared back up and thumb the starter button, and she roars to life. I figure from here on out for the rest of the day I should be fine and settle down for a relaxing ride through the Florida panhandle down to my Uncle's house.
It takes me about 2 1/2 hours to meander down through the countryside to my destination on the beach at St. George Island. But I took my time and stopped for lunch on the way. I was relieved to get to the house though. My aunt and uncle were there, along with their three kids, (my cousins), and a few grandkids as well. They had a big pot of seafood gumbo fixed up, so I dug in. We drank some, ate some, and sang and danced the new year in. I've stopped here on my way back from my two previous western adventures, so the ride tomorrow would be on roads familiar to me. And I would have help with getting the bike started in the morning, so all was well as I went to sleep, and looked forward to waking up in 2011.