If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Another

A pessimistic weather forecast and a tight schedule led to us taking the car to my friend’s Memorial Day shindig in western MA last weekend instead of the bike. Naturally, it didn’t rain after all.  But it did mean I got to bring my djembe to do some drumming by the fire, which was pretty popular. I can’t exactly fit that on the bike. I also brought our archery equipment with us, which meant we had just enough time for a stop by the Quabbin reservoir the following morning and going straight to the close-to-home archery practice.

We got a last minute invitation to a barbecue on Memorial Day itself from one of Elana’s friends, and decided on a whim to hop on the bike and go. Two and a half hours each way to Rochester, NH, was more than she’d ever been on a bike before, but she did quite well with it, and I got to enjoy much of the day on the bike. We did get caught in about 15 minutes of rain on the way up, but we rode out the northern end of it and stayed dry the rest of the day. The ride home was better, due to less rain and my whim to pass through Nottingham rather than simply take Rt. 125 much of the way south. We lost the overnight trip we’d hoped for, but managed to salvage at least part of a day.

It is now June, and I have yet to do a single overnight trip on the bike this year. Talk about an attack of life. I managed to head out alone for a little while yesterday.  I shot out Route 2 to 31 to 140 to 62. When I saw the turn for Mt. Wachusett, I figured I’d give it a try – it was early enough. Sure enough, it was open, alive, and kicking. When I stopped at the gate to pay my $2 parking fee (well worth it – I’ll get to that later) a woman on a BMW pulled up behind me.  The ranger assumed we were together, but I’d never seen her before. I got on my way a little ahead of her, but she soon caught up – not surprising, a BMW with no luggage against my PC800.  We enjoyed the curves, but I felt I was holding her back, so I waved her by about halfway up the mountain. She passed and pulled away very slowly, but not by as much as I expected. We enjoyed the rest of the ride up and parked. I struck up a conversation with her, and we ended up hanging out most of the time at the summit.

IMG_1355The last time I went to Mt. Wachusett, I was disappointed. Though I agree with conservation efforts, an unfortunate effect was that the view from the top of the mountain was obscured by trees that had been allowed to grow. It was a far cry from what I remember in my youth, when I also climbed this mountain on two wheels, but without the aid of a motor. There was also a large construction project going on with a fire tower at the summit. This time, the construction was done, and an observation platform was open, giving us about 20 feet of altitude over the summit itself. It made all the difference, boosting us over the trees and providing the views I remember from my youth. Visibility was amazing. To the east I could see the Wachusett Reservoir, Lake Quinsigamond near Worcester, and in the hazy distance I could even make out the Boston skyline, 50 miles away. To the north, Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire was clearly visible. The $2 parking fee was new since I was last here, but considering the view, it was oh so worth it.

IMG_1364When I returned to the bike, I put out a few calls on the ham radio to see who I could reach with my excellent range from the top of the mountain. I didn’t reach anyone, so I cruised back down, returned to Rt. 62, and decided to follow it to its western terminus in Barre. I refueled, got a drink and an ice cream, sat on the town common and enjoyed them. Then I took 32 north, figuring that at some point I’d run into some road I know and head east toward home.

I ended up three cars behind some idiot going 25 in a 40 zone. As soon as I got a dotted line I blitzed past all three. After returning to cruising speed and getting back on the throttle, something wasn’t right. The engine was rough, I had little power, and I’d picked up a nasty backfire (great tailgater deterrent). After experimenting a little I determined that whatever had gone wrong was consistently wrong and wasn’t getting any worse. So I programmed the GPS to take me home, fastest route. Engage!

The back roads were challenging. It felt like my PC800 had turned into a PC400, like I’d lost a cylinder but was still riding a 600lb motorcycle. I was downshifting and revving high just to maintain speed on the hills, then BAM!!! with a backfire when I let off the gas. Clearly unburned fuel was leaving the engine, so it wasn’t a bad gas problem.

Before long I hit Route 2. This was the best move I could’ve made. It seems backwards to think that there’s something wrong with my bike – let’s increase speed! But this road was open, without stops or hills, and the higher speed kept the revs up, increasing power so that I could usually maintain 60mph, which was more than adequate for limping home. I might have had power problems, but the handling and brakes were as good as ever, so the higher speed than the back roads was no problem. I was determined to make it home before shutting the engine off, for fear that it wouldn’t start again.

I was successful, and managed to get home without any further reduction in performance. The bike actually does start again, but still suffers from a lack of power. I was stupid and tested the wrong cylinder after work today, and managed to ruin a spark plug wire in the process – something let go inside of it before it let go of the spark plug. It was dark by the time I realized my mistake, so I’ll have to check again some other night. I suspect I might have had a coil go bad, based on observations when I plugged and unplugged each coil individually. I have a post out to the PC800 Facebook group seeking advice. Meanwhile, my bike is dead in the water. Again.

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