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Got Dem ol' Dead Harley Blues


In weather comfortable enough for t-shirt and shorty gloves - finally! - 70mph in the fast lane and not a goosebump anywhere to be seen. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the red beemer approaching in the slow lane, overtaking by maybe 15 or 20 mph but slowing down considerably off to the right of my bumper. Nobody in front of either one of us, I suspect Mr. Bigshot was simply scoping out the bike as he made his way to "le Club" or some other place me and my torn Blue Jeans wouldn't be welcomed. What the hell...quick goose of the throttle and the pipes come to life putting about 30 yards between us before he matched speed again. OK, so this Wannabe was trying to..... huh?... right side rear view told a whole different story! Long red hair flapping out the drivers window like flames out an attic window in a windstorm. Bringing the throttle back to its stop, I found myself slowing much quicker than the Beemer, and soon looked sideways into a smiling face with deep blue eyes above a several-buttons-opened nurses uniform..... uhhhh, well.....OK... OK, so thats all a load of crap - my mind wanders when I ride - nothing but truckers, mini-vans and low riders on the road this evening, but the t-shirt thing was right-on! ....a great night for riding.

I'll skip over all the other fantasies that crowded my brain last night and get right to the point. Four turns away from the garage, every biker's worst fear happens.... No... there were plenty of Buds in the fridge, this is worse! A couple of coughs and sputters, surges and backfires and I found myself coasting up the third-last hill from my house...likely just enough momentum to crest the top...silent except for the slight brushing sound of disc brakes. A sound not often heard unless you're sneaking out of the house (or back in) afraid to fire it up til down the block. Hell, I remember as a 16 yr old kid gunning my pride and joy - a 50cc Honda - for all it was worth at the end of the street, cutting it off at just the right speed to coast it all the way home, into the circular driveway and behind the house where I parked it, so my folks wouldn't realize it was 4am.....that had a whole different sound though - drum brakes make a whole different sound.

Anyway, I brake to a stop before I start heading down the backside of this hill...scoping out the possibilities. Plenty of gas, but the LED readouts on the radio were off, and the engine light was flashing some code I wasn't familiar with. Likely S.O.S. for dumbshit... It was at that moment a sudden pang of guilt that we all feel from time to time. Huckleberry was mortally injured by some failure on my part to maintain it properly..... Battery dried up? Damned Hunnert-dollar maintenance free battery in there, it better not be dried up... motor seized up from not checking the oil? (I confess it's been a while) - nope... as it drips off the stick onto the hot pipes, confirming plenty of oil, I start to assess my options. First priority: to get the ol' girl home, safe and sound in the carpeted garage so I could see what I did wrong this time. Hate to do repairs on the road side, although there's been way too many of those in my 33 years of two-wheeling.

OK... top of the hill...don't know anybody on this street, so I figure if I get a running start I can maybe crest the next, shorter hilltop, but no way I can make it up the long hill home...but I'll be that much closer so I give it a go. Musta looked like a retarded duck straddling the bike waddling my feet as fast as they'd go downhill on a 750 pound Harley, but I rounded the hilltop at an amazing 15 mph, down the other side and before I even straightened out, gaining speed again, I started looking for a pull-off where the bike will be safe, cuz there's no way in hell I'd be making it to the driveway. Funny how fast these things slow down going uphill. A last attempt at cranking it up, confirming the battery was deader than hell, I leaned it over on its jiffy-stand (now why does Harley insist on calling it that?) locked it up and walked the last half mile home... periodic backwards glances to make sure it was OK.

Everydamned body was away from their phones tonight...nobody I could ask to walk down the block to help push. After the first hour of the Survivor Outback Finale, I put on shorts and a tshirt and sneakers and tackle the job myself. (Having had a bike stolen years ago sitting on the side of the road while I tended to a flat tire, I just won't leave it there long!) Might not sound like a big job, but anybody who's ever had to push a Dresser for more than a few feet will tell ya, it ain't fun, and up a half mile hill is a killer. Three long rest stops to catch my breath and look for anyone to help...I even considered hollaring at my next door neighbor - a 75 yr old woman out watering her garden - but thankfully she didn't see me. Or maybe she did and thoughtfully pretended not to see. A half hour later, losing my traction at the base of my driveway in the sand, Ol' Huck was at least on familiar territory. Locked up and blocking the driveway - maybe when Kim gets home she can help... she'd have to if she wants to get in the driveway! Back inside to check my blood pressure, and catch that dingbat Colby vote off the wrong contestant - no way he'd beat Tina!

Watching the Blue Conversion van snake its way up the hill past my house, I wait about 5 minutes and call my poker buddy, just back in from a late night service call. Within minutes Huckleberry was resting comfortably on her carpet in the garage, outside refrigerator giving up a couple beers for the cause while we decided the problem was likely a bad alternator failing to charge up the damned hunnert-dollar H-D battery and all the sparking, injecting and combusting came to a screeching halt. 'Nuff of this hard work thinking... two buds later the battery was out, trickle charging and while I was at it, the Voltage Regulator (the culprit on two of my other road-side breakdowns) was sitting in a tangled heap of lead-wires on the floor next to the oil filter and the fancy new drip pan catching every last drop of oil in the crank..... not taking any chances here... was near full. Funny how a little guilt will make you do all the stuff you KNOW shoulda been done over the winter, huh?

So, for the second time this week, my baby was in pieces, waiting for the shop to open in the morning, Here's a lesson for ya though. Leave the Regulator on the bike...the shop can't test it outside of the circuitry of the bike.... Next morning, after I reinstalled it and dropped the now-charged battery back into the bike, she fired up reluctantly long enough to ride it up onto the trailer for the trip to the dealer. Oh, whaddahell...gimme a new battery, that one was a year old anyway, new regulator (but gimme the old ones back just in case) do a 37,500 service and may as well fix the trunk latch on the tourpak while you're at it.... Myrtle Beach is coming up soon!....Oh....got any tourpak mounting rails in stock? Seems mine is held together with duct tape!

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