Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Day 5 - Catostrophic failure

Well statistically it wasn't likely to happen to me but it did. It appears my final drive has failed, at least the oil and grease slung all over the rear end would indicate that. I'll know more tomorrow when the folks at BMW of Fresno take a look at it. More on this later, I need to talk about the great day we had today.

This morning things worked like a charm. I was up early and we were at breakfast early. Then Doug and I walked back to the motel and loaded the bikes. By 7:30 we were starting the bikes and pulling out of the parking lot heading across the street for gas.

With tanks and stomachs full, it was time to head the road. We headed west on I-40 until we reached Barstow. Then it was west on CA-58 to 395. This part of the ride was neat because we passed a solar generation plant just past 58 and 395. Then we were really in the desert. When we reach Inyokern, we took a quick jog onto 178, then 14 and then back onto 178. The cacti seemed to grow abundantly until we reached 4,000 feet then they disappeared as quickly as they appeared. The further we travelled on 178 the more fun the road got. When we arrived in Onyx we were treated to a beautiful green valley surrounded by desert on the mountains.

We stopped in Mountain Mesa for a break and fuel. From the Shell station we had a great view of Lake Isabella and commented on how low it appeared. Unlike lakes in Texas, the shore seemed sandy and allowed people to drive right up to the waters edge. With the break over, we resumed our route on 178 around the lake onto 155. In Wofford Heights 155 made a sharp turn to the left and signs warmed of mountainous steep grades and curves. This section of road was a very pleasant surprise. It had twisties that rivalled the Devils Highway. And I have to say I was getting tired with so many curves. Oh, and I answered the question about what touches down after the foot peg. The Micatech cases touch pretty quickly after the foot pegs so when I start feeling the pegs drag that's now my clue to slooooow down or at least reduce the lean.

Doug and I decided to take a break along the side of the road about 25 miles east of CA-65. Unknown to me, this break point ended up being a transitional point between super tight twisties and more gentle sweepers. We also began descending onto rolling plains and started seeing more and more cattle. We even saw a herd of Longhorn cattles. After this break I began to notice the thumping feeling like when you are driving on a road with rough seams. Thump, thump, thump. I thought it was just in my head.

We finally make it to 65 and head north. Don't expect anything but a very straight road with lots of fruit trees. The speed limit ranges from 55 to 65mph so we made the stretch in good time. When we got into Exeter I decided that my problem wasn't just in my head and pulled over to take a look. Expecting to find something in my rear tire I put the bike on the center stand and inspected the tires. Everything looked fine. I even wiggled the rear tire checking for play. Nothing seemed abnormal, I decided it had to be in my head. So we resumed our travels, continuing up 65 to CA-198.

Getting onto CA-198 we headed toward the park. The closer we got to the park, the twistier the road got. When we got to park entrance we met the cutest park rangers I think I've ever seen. They happily took our money and gave us year long park passes for all the federal parks and also gave us maps of the park. Then we turned around and headed back to Exeter to stay at a nice looking family owned motel we passed. Back down 198 and the 2 miles on 65 back to Exeter. On the way back I was pretty sure something was wrong with the bike because I could squeeze in the clutch and coast and the thumping sensation didn't go away. And it seemed to be related to the rate of rotation of the wheels. I figured I'd look at it more once we got into the motel.

We pulled into the Kaweah Motel and got a room. When I walked back out to move the bike, I noticed oil on the rear wheel. Oh oh, I knew what this was. I moved the bike over to the parking spot and unloaded for the evening. Then it was time to call the nearest shop which appeared to be BMW of Fresno according to my Garmin and the custom POIs I had previously loaded. I told the service manager, Steve, what seemed to be the problem and he told me to get it in to him and if it was already leaking oil to avoid riding it as it could possibly lock up the rear wheel. Then he went on to say that if it was a final drive failure I'd be looking at the first part of next week before I'd be back on the road. Yikes! Hopefully tomorrow will yield something positive to do while waiting for the bike to be repaired.

So the next thing to do was to figure out how to get the bike to Fresno. I did the logical thing and looked in the BMW MOA Anonymous book. There was 1 number for Exeter and it listed truck/trailer and chatting as offerings. So I dialed the number and hoped for an answer. There was an answer and I identified myself and how I got the number and what my problem was. Mike didn't skip a beat, he said he'd stop by on his way home from work to see what he could do. By the time he got there, he had formualted a plan, he'd come by in the morning before 7am and take me and the bike to Fresno. Tow problem solved.

So looking at the final drive closer. It's clear that oil and grease has come out of the seal around the hub. It's slung all over the place including all over my rear brake calipers. These will have to be replaced along with the other stuff. I guess I'm lucky. This could have severly failed at the Sequoia park or maybe on 155 where I had no cell service. Instead this failure manifested itself in the parking lot of a motel just 50 miles away from a dealership. It could have happened next year on my trip to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska a long way away from a dealership. The next few days should be interesting. So the only destination we have for tomorrow is Fresno.

Some stats for today, we travelled 488 miles in 9.5 hours with an average speed of 51mph. This was the 2nd highest average of the trip, which was fairly easy since nearly half the miles were traveled on interstate.

BTW: The folks at the motel must have been expecting 3 of us to show up even though we didn't even know about the motel before today. There was a roll away bed waiting in the closest. Fred they were expecting you.

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