Sooner or later it was bound to happen. That oh-so succinct cough, spit and sputter that clearly telegraphs the news up above that the fire down below is about to go...out! And despite the fact that it seemed like the idiot light upheld its part of the bargain and blazed bright, perhaps it was sending a sign of another sort-and telling me in advance what I would later learn.
So there I was, alongside Interstate 81 just south of Syracuse, New York. An idyllic setting to say the least, up in the mid-state mountains surrounded by wildflowers with the sun gently fading-and eighteen wheelers zooming by at oh, I'd say 81 miles per hour and then some. But could it really have been my fault?
I'd consistently been running 190-195 miles per tankful, no problem. So why am I now on the side of the road after only 165 miles?
Well, maybe the first culprit was the stupid, regional Tractor Pull association that decided to have its big summer blow-out this very weekend in the nearby town of Cortland. After chugging up the night before from the New York/Connecticut metropolitan area, by about 9:30 P.M., I found myself in... Cortland (where else?)... and figured it was high-time to get myself a room. No luck whatsoever-and by midnight, being totally frustrated, I blasted on up into downtown Syracuse and found a nice (and expensive) executive suite hotel with three weddings going on in it simultaneously. You can imagine that I felt less than welcome walking in to the middle of such celebration wearing an AeroStich suit, and carrying a couple of bug-splattered hard bags. They did, though, do their best to make sure my American Express was very welcome indeed...
Okay, so what I failed to remember was that a good portion of that last-ditch effort the night before was done at 90 mph. Not the most fuel efficient of circumstances, I admit. But could that really make a 15% difference in gas mileage?
Then maybe part of the blame should also go to those dumb mountains in the Onondaga region. Living in the Midwest for the past few years, I've sort of forgotten about what's called topography. Here in Michigan, the roads are all flat and straight. Back in the Northeast, those mountains require energy to climb, and doing so comes at a cost. That being, reduced fuel economy. Maybe I sort of forgot about that, too. Though I was soon reminded, because you're not about to push a bike very far over such elevations either!
Then there was the effect of wind, falling temperatures and increasing altitude. I really don't know if density had anything to do with what was going on inside the engine-inside the helmet though, was another matter.
So at the end of the day (literally), I guess it was my fault after all. The good news though, was that this was to be yet another good learning experience.
Lesson number one was that as usual, with adversity comes adventure. If the trip had been without a hiccup (and there were plenty of those, when rolling to a stop), it certainly wouldn't have been as memorable-and in the words of Thos. Bryant of ROAD & TRACK, shouldn't every mile be a memory? How else can you meet nice, elderly couples with Lund fishing boats and Yamaha outboards, who are willing to spare a little 75:1 two-stroke mix to get you re-ignited?
I also learned that if you're going to run out of gas, do so across the highway from a State rest area. Friendly fishermen who are trailering aluminum runabouts up to the lake are ultimately going to pull in to use the facilities, and they'll no doubt have a remote fuel can in inventory. Nowadays, a little gas/oil mix is no problem since the lubricant is of such small proportion due to environmental issues. So remember, fishermen are a solution when stranded! As a footnote here, I'm sorry to have to report though that not a single, "brother" biker stopped to even offer moral support despite my frantic waving... so my advice is to flag down a boater instead.
Finally, perhaps the most important lesson was that maybe the light has nothing to do with the quantity of fuel in the tank after all. If you try to cheat the odds and fail to heed the oh-so obvious warning, I think the lamp really comes on to signal that the only idiot is, in fact...the one that's on board the bike!