Sunday, August 23, 2009

Running on Fumes


(August 23, 2009 - Krakow, Poland) I was in a bit of a funk leaving Auschwitz and I wasn't sure how I was going to shake it. The concentration camp had a bigger effect on me than I thought it would. I wasn't sure what it was going to take to cheer me up when all of a sudden I received a sign from the heavens above.

The rain stopped. I don't mean the weather was changing and the rain had subsided. I mean it stopped. I was about twenty minutes out of Auschwitz and the clouds disappeared, the sun came out, the wind stopped, and the road was dry. It was as if I had just driven through a magical weather barrier. I began to warm up and as I did my mood changed. I was happy again!

I stopped for gas near Wroclaw and I used the pit stop to take my rain gear off. The wind had dried my shoes off so when I took my feet out of the plastic bags I didn't have to put my dry feet into a pair of wet Puma's. All I had for luggage on this trip was a green canvas army tote that I bought at the surplus store for twenty bucks. It's a great back because it fits a lot of stuff, doubles as a pillow, and it molds easily to the back seat of my bike. The downside is that it isn't very waterproof so I have to wrap it in black garbage bags the moment I see rain otherwise it becomes a sponge and it takes days to dry out my belongings.

I was across into Germany on the road towards Dresden when I looked down at my odometer. The German highways lull you to sleep with their long straightaways and smooth three lane tarmac. After hurtling myself down an Albanian mountainside goat path in the dead of night, this road was putting me to sleep. I wasn't even thinking about gas when my engine started to sputter. I reached down and turned the petcock to 'Reserve'. I had about forty kilometers to find a gas station and I remember the sign about twenty kilometers back said there was a highway fuel station one hundred and seven kilometers ahead. I'm screwed.

I passed a gas station about twenty five kilometers back. Maybe if there's a turn around I can make it back. Five kilometers pass, ten, fifteen, twenty, now twenty five. I'm passed the point of no return. I have to continue forward. At the thirty kilometer mark I see an exit. I have no choice but to take it and take my chances that I will be able to find fuel. I didn't see any towns from the highway but that doesn't mean anything. The highways here are pretty nondescript and they usually are set back from civilization. I followed my instincts and navigated through a series of turns before I found a small industrial park. I toured through and there was no gas station. Just a dead end. I double backed and made a few more decisions. I was really getting worried. It got to the point where I was turning off my bike on downhills and coasting as far as possible.

I passed a hospital so I assumed there must be a town nearby. I took a chance and climbed a steep hill. As I was about to crest the hill the bike died. I pulled in the clutch lever, dropped it into neutral, jumped off my bike and started to push while I still had momentum. It's at times like this that i truly appreciate the size of bike that I chose to ride around the world on. If I were on a big BMW GS1200 or something I wouldn't be able to push it. Of course if I were on a GS1200 it would have warned me many times that I was running out of gas, found me a gas station, and provide translation services for the gas jockey in whatever country I was in. Needless to say I had to push my old girl about twenty meters up this steep hill before I reached the crest.

When I reached the top I was rewarded with the vista of a small German town. There would definitely be a gas station here. Thankfully it was all downhill so I wouldn't have to push too much. I mounted my motorcycle and shuffled toward the edge of the hill. It was like being on a roller coaster. I started to pick up speed, slowly at first and then quickly as I reached the steep part of the hill. By the time I was half way down the hill I was doing about seventy kilometers per hour and I could see an intersection ahead. If I timed it right I would hit the green light and wouldn't have to stop. The only problem with this is that I needed to plan ahead which way I would go. My instincts told me that I should turn left. Now I would have to time the light and oncoming traffic. Left hand turns at intersections are always dangerous on a motorcycle. Doing it while coasting? I don't need to do the numbers. It adds up to stupid.

I made it through with no problems and there was a gas station half a block down on the left. I had just enough inertia to get me across the road to the entrance but I had to dismount and push the last ten meters to the pump. What a relief!

1 comment

viktor vabo said...

awesome story mate!!! i freaken love my xj650. but it hardly ever starts :( idk wats wrong

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