We called Nick Hightower, and he wanted to ride with us, somewhere. We left our home in Farmerville, Louisiana rode out to Paris, Texas on Saturday morning, and hooked up with Nick. He asked us if we would mind if he "woosed" out on us. He ended up riding 70 miles west and turning around and going back home. It was raining and he didn't have his rain suit with him, so we didn't blame him.
We really didn't have a destination, just west. I was kind of thinking about Flagstaff, but the plans weren't firm. When we got to Childress, Texas we ran into a couple from Denver, who were on the way to Houston (a retired motorcycle policeman and his wife in a car). They told us we could get to Colorado Springs in about nine hours, so we decided that we would give it a try.
After spending the night in Childress we rode to Pueblo, Colorado and spent the next night there. There was a big Harley bash, (Red River Run or something), and a lot of them were staying in Pueblo. Anyway, we thought we would get up Monday morning and ride west to Royal Gorge, but we saw some travel brochures at the motel, and I saw Pikes Peak. I thought that we would ride up to Colorado Springs, and west to Pikes Peak in the morning, and ride back to Royal Gorge the next morning.
When we got to the base of Pikes Peak, we found out only the first seven miles of the 19 mile "highway" is paved. What the heck! We were packed down heavy for the trip, but there was a road to the top and if cars could do it, so could we. We didn't know the switchbacks and hairpins on the trip up and down the mountains are so sharp and so steep it makes it almost impossible to keep the bike upright in the turns. The hard packed dirt is covered with little ball bearing like rocks, and if you go fast enough to round the curves, the bike might slip out from under you, or you could swing wide in the narrow turns and hit an oncoming car or truck on its way down the mountain. Twelve miles of this, straight up. And, when you are on the outside of a turn, and there are no guardrails, you are looking 2000 feet straight down. At times, there is a BLAST of wind from around a different slope of the mountain, it feels a bit hairy!
The first time we rode up Pikes Peak was in 1970 on my '70 750 Ambassador. The bike was so heavily loaded in the rear, when the speed dropped below 20 mph the handlebars would oscillate back and forth like a bike hooked up to a sidecar and going at a slow pace. After the Guzzi got up to highway speeds, it felt fine, but below 20, it was weird and almost frightening.
When we got to Pikes Peak, unfortunately we got behind a long line of other vehicles. In front was an RV with the clutch slipping (you could really smell it). Of course we couldn't pass, and when we got closer to the top it was so steep I was afraid to try to slip the clutch on my Guzzi. So it was banging away: chug, chug, chug, chug and so on. I swear I could count each cylinder as it fired! And we were going REAL SLOW, so the handlebars were swinging back and forth, back and forth. When we got to the big-time gravel switchbacks I was scared to death! I was afraid to stop, and I was afraid to try to slip the clutch, and I was afraid the bike would die at such a low rpm with such a huge load at such a steep upgrade. Strangely we, Mary Jo and I, made it to the top (14,110 ft).
When we coasted down I used only the rear brake. We had to stop at a ranger check point so they could check our brakes. The ranger only felt the front brake with his bare hand, cool as it could be! Of course, I never used it, but the rear one was HOT! I had to let it cool after I got pass the ranger.
While coming down from Pikes Peak we could see thunderstorms one or two thousand feet BELOW us. Coming down we experienced snow, sleet, rain, and a thunderstorm! -FW]
Yvonne rode her California all the way to the summit. When we got off, the lack of oxygen had us both dizzy and semi-disoriented. We went to the gift shop and bought a lot of water and coffee. Water has oxygen in it, so that was a good thing to do. We bought a pin that looked like a Colorado license plate that said: "Real Women Don't Need Guardrails". I thought that was appropriate.
The summit is 14,110 feet. When we up there, we talked to a guy who said he had talked to two other bikers who had fallen down trying to get up and down the mountain.
Once there, the only question was, how do I get down? Feeling dizzy and disoriented isn't a good thing when you are traveling on a bike. We consumed our water, sat around for a while on a rock and contemplated what to do. I told Yvonne that we didn't feel that way when we were riding up, so let's get back on the bikes and try it. We did and everything went great, no problems at all. And the further we went down, the better it got. Going down is easier than climbing it, for sure. We just stayed in low gear and used the brakes very little.
I think it took us a little over three hours to go up to the summit and get back down to the Crystal Reservoir Gift Shop at the base of the mountain. After the three hours of high stress riding, we didn't feel much like riding west out of Pueblo to Royal Gorge, so we headed home.
The first night back took us to Dalhart, Texas which is about 309 miles from Pueblo. We had to ride 126 miles up to Colorado Springs to Pikes Peak and back to Pueblo, so that was a 435 mile day including the Pikes Peak Hillclimb. I thought it was equivalent to a 700 mile day without the stress of climbing and descending the Peak. We were tired!
We rode down through Wichita Falls, and my old high mileage '81 G-5 cut out and died. I coasted the road and smelled plastic burning. It turned out to be a bare wire in the starter's, run/stop switch. I didn't do anything to it at all, except try to twist the wire inside the harness where I could see it had melted together. Sure enough, it started up and ran fine. I put the tank back on it and away we went. When we got to Denton, Texas, I was passing a slow moving car, and it cut out and started backfiring. This time, the wiring harness from the switch at the bottom where it plugs into the main wiring harness was FRIED.
I knew that I had to do some drastic Triage Grambling Engineering. Yvonne always carries some pieces of electrical wire. She had a foot long piece of red, white and a 6" long piece of black. The start, run/off switch has four wires in the harness and they were all melted into a mess of striped colors and tangles. I cut out a foot long strip of two of the wires and tried to rewire the new wire into the switch gear harness. I carefully taped all the bare copper wire so it couldn't touch anything. And, after about two more hours, we were on our way again.
The next stop was in Greenville, Texas for fuel, and as I was pulling into the driveway of the Fina station, it started smoking and died again. After two bottles of Lipton's Iced Tea and a bottle of Aquafina water, (it was hot for a long time), I thought I would tackle the further melted down wiring. This time, I disconnected the switch wiring from the main wiring harness and hot-wired the switch with a jumper wire inside the main wiring harness plug that plugs into the switch wiring. When I turned on the key, and touched a ground wire pin to the other pin inside the plug of the main wiring harness, the bike once again came to life and away we went.
We left Highway 380 in Greenville and took US 69 toward Tyler. On the way down, the bike stopped running twice. As I coasted off the road, in gear with the clutch out, it came back to life, and I rode on into Tyler (actually where I-20 intersects US 69 north of Tyler). As I neared the Interstate, I noticed that Yvonne was nowhere in sight behind me. I pulled off to the side to turn around and the bike died. As I looked back up the hill, I could see the blue lights and her headlight on the side of the road. A cop had pulled her over because her taillight had gone out.
When I was trying to start the bike, I found that the little stub of wire with the plug on the end coming from the main wiring harness had heated up so much the insulation melted off and it was off grounding out on the frame, causing it to die. After taping this, the G5 started and away we went again.
We stopped once more at the Flying J in Shreveport, Louisiana for a meal and gas. We headed for Farmerville, Louisiana and home. The bike ran flawlessly...until I turned onto our street. I was coming down the hill to the sharp left hand curve when the lights dimmed and the engine stalled, as the smell of burning plastic filled the hot sultry night. When the bike died, I didn't have time to take the seat off to disconnect the battery, so I just started snatching wires loose. While I was doing this, the bike fell over on its right side, and gasoline was spilling out of it, and running out on the street right under the burning wiring. I mustered up all my strength and lifted the bike back upright and pushed it away from the puddle of gasoline, in the nick of time before the whole thing ignited and burned to the ground with all my gear on it. Somehow it stopped melting down before it burned down. I pushed the bike the last 4 tenths of a mile to the house and put it in the garage. I haven't even looked at it yet. However, I ordered a new wiring harness, a new start/run/off switch, and front turn signal from Moto International yesterday.
Other than that, it was a great trip! The ol' G-5 performed flawlessly. With the notable exception of only getting about 38 mpg, everything else went great. It cruised effortlessly at 85-90 out in the open country. It did leak some oil from the rear main seal, but I used some Siloo Seal Swell to hopefully cure the problem. I didn't have to add any oil on the whole trip. It leaked out probably a half quart total.
All in all, we went 2158 miles from 9:00 A.M., Saturday morning Wednesday morning. At 3:00 A.M. That's an average of 539.5 miles per day, including the wiring problems and the Pikes Peak Hillclimb. Not bad for some old grandparents with antique motorcycles.