On the Road: From Buffalo to Idaho and Back
(Page 7 of 19)
It takes quite a lot to drive an old man out into a torrential downpour with no rain gear, knowing full well that it’ll take at least a minute to get inside his own tent, but I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I was all “ass and elbows” sprinting for my tent. I think even the plentiful Fort Peck mosquitoes ran for their lives. Note to Mike: Next time, put Beano’s on your travel menu, pal.
June 15, 2010
We pressed onward the next morning with nothing dry, but full of expectations of getting to Glacier National Park and the Highway to the Sun. However, we found out that the road was impassable due to the eight feet of snow in May that still hadn’t been cleared, and the predicted high temp would be 37 degrees F. Instead, we decided to accept a gracious offer to stay a night with Larry, our late friend Bob’s brother in law, at his place near Missoula.
Time for another mechanical malady: You see, as the elevation increases going west, the long uphill sections of road do as well. Now, with the equivalent of a small village strapped to the back of a 31-year-old motorcycle that’s geared as tall as possible for the best mileage, this results in very large throttle openings. Suzuki employed this clever vacuum operated petcock, so you don’t have to remember to turn your fuel tap on or off like some Limey bike owner. Brilliant! Unfortunately, the 1980 Suzuki valve also has no “prime” or “reserve” setting (at least there’s no lever) on it. What’s the big deal, you say?
This can result in near zero engine vacuum being produced during extended nearly wide open throttle applications. The result is the engine literally draining the float bowls faster than the tank can provide more fuel. The net effect here being that you can “run out of gas” even at 85mph with a full tank. Very entertaining during a 700 mile day, as you might imagine. The temporary cure for this is to kneel down next to the bike ON THE TRAFFIC SIDE, pull the vacuum line off at the carb end, and suck repeatedly on it until enough fuel flows down to refill the float bowls. Then ride, repeat, ride, etc, ad infinitum.
Not only is this inconvenient, it’s quite undignified, as it gives the impression to passing motorists (which are mercifully few in Montana) that you are either worshipping an old Japanese motorcycle as some sort of idol or waiting for The Queen to come by and confer knighthood upon you. Or you're just performing an unspeakable act upon the aforementioned motorcycle.
It was quickly determined that this could not reasonably continue in order for us to complete our trip as planned. Especially when the Rockies lay ahead, and one very pleasant and courteous Montana State patrol officer has already questioned your safety (and perhaps your sanity), as you shrug and assure him it’s not a problem, that you have the situation well in hand.
So, we proceeded to pull the fuel tank off after unloading all of the gear; all the while having a very nice conversation with the rancher upon whose land we’re disabled (who seems mostly amused at the old fossil working on the old fossil). I disassembled the petcock and removed the spring that normally holds the diaphragm closed in the absence of engine vacuum. Then, the fuel flowed freely (ie: mostly up my arms as I struggled to reconnect the fuel line to the spigot on the back side of the petcock). There. All better, sort of.
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