While i'm getting my life back together, please look at a fine selection of my photos:

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tale of the lost sparks...

Edited: for my english speaking friends i translated the Prudhoe Bay adventure.

I could it also call it 'breakdown at pumpstation #2'. Both are good titles for an adventurous story. And to me, with limited to none travel experience, it was. Right now i'm back at the campsite in Fairbanks from where i left. Free internet and a motorcycle shop across the road is good base to solve technical problems on my TTR.

The road and scenery from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay /Deadhorse is breathtaking. Starting with forrest and, across the Brookrange over the Atigun pass, changes to Tundra. The road follows the worldfamous oilpipeline from Prudhoe to Valdez.

The ride went without problems and all went well. Plan was to stay at the campsite at the arctic circle. When i arrived it was empty, no-one there except me and probably bears. Didn't feel right, so i decided to drive another 60 miles to Coldfoot. The last place for gas and limited shopping before the 250 mile stretch to Prudhoe. It was about 17:30, Spirit and weather both ok, so off i went. Eventually is stayed at a nice campsite 5 miles north from Coldfoot. Hosted by a friendly old couple. From them i learned that the tourist information center gives drinking water for free. Nice people there. The next day got gas and water and left early.

During a break a 1200gs drove up. It's a Colombian guy traveling with his daughter on one bike. We drove together over the Atigun pass and had lunch: Tortillas with cheese and spam. I provided the coffee. He invited me to his home in Colombia. Friendly guy, but a bit crazy: he did Fairbanks-Prudhoe-Fairbanks in one stretch. Insane. After lunch we separated, me no hurry. And, more important, my guardian angel isn't that fast...
At about 58 miles from Prudhoe and 192 miles from Coldfoot the TTR starts to misfire and dies. I try to start, check fuel. Nothing. Damn!! Luckily i'm on a hilltop and a few miles in front there's an oilpumpstation, which means shelter and communication to civilised world. Good. I decide to get there first to be safe and from the road. Trucks don't like to slow down...

The first part is easy, gravity is my friend. I only have to push the bike 2 miles... I'm happy i'm not on a GS ;-) There i start to get the bike apart to see what is wrong. Water enough, powerbars enough, securitypeople at the station. Weather still good although...

My first roadside repair! With enthusiasm i start to dismantle the bike. Underneath the tank, where the electrics are, is a big mess with mud. I get the spartplug out. No spark. damn. Can't find my spare sparkplug. Left it at home, stupid result of to much preparation: I took the spare out of the toolkit in the assumtion it would be with the spareparts. A 1200GS stops and offer me to use one of his. It doesn't fit, but enough to check for a spark: Nope. I check all connectors: doesn't help. After 2 hours i give up and look at the sky, clouds are getting dark. The security gate opens and a voice ask me what i want. I need a towtruck or pickuptruck i answer. They let me use the phone. While talking to the Prudhoe wreckingservice, a security guy send a message out on CB radio. I't my lucky day: Two pickups are willing me to take me and the bike to prudhoe. With security guys we lift the bike in the pickup. I'm joining the other with driver Nancy (thanks again honey!) She guides Heavy loaded trucks. The last 58 miles to Prudhoe are quite pleasant. We had a nice conversation about wildlife, living in Alaska and US Politics. I learned that alaskans call theiselfes "sourdough", you can use that 'title' after living in Alaska for 25 years. And i saw my first Kariboe. This way breaking down isn't that bad... Arrived in Prudhoe a strong Eskimo and me unloaded the bike. I checked in to the Hotel and went to sleep. It was a long day....

The next morning i tried again to figure out the problem. I cannot believe that the CDI or stator are shot. The stator works, when i kick the neutral light lights up. I remember that there is only one stator circuit for both light and sparks. Good.

A pickup stops by and a guy, Tom, a drillingbits salesman offers help. He offers to let me use his (heated!) garage. Business is low apparantly, because the rest of the day we drove around to get parts (WD-40, spare fuelfilters and a can of Bearspray, a very heavy pepperspray. Just in case i break down in the middle of nowhere again. Besides that, the spraycan looks a bit like a fire extinguiser. I want to use it to suprise corrupt Argentinian police. They have the habid of fining motorcyclists for not having that with them. Should be fun i think. We have lunch and i use his office internet connection to check on http://www.tt600r.nl/ what the most common failures are. Thanks Tom, i really appreciate you help, i hope you got my email.

After i check all parts in the elektrick system the TTR decides to spark again. Although i cannot pinpoint what went wrong, i'm glad that no critical parts are broken.

It will be my thirth night in a way too expensive hotel. No choice here, camping is not allowed. I got to know a few workers there, and talk some with an Aboriginal and a guy who has been all over the world. Even in Iran, and that for an American. The only place he ever had trouble was in Amsterdam. He got robbed violantly. Nice country, Netherlands.

The next morning i left with Kevin. He's also travelling solo and rides a KLR. As many KLR's this one is tricked out to be the ultimate overland bike. I should have bought one.... The weather is again, no, still, perfect. On the way up on the Atigun pass it's cold, wet and slippery. I pray to the gods of mechanics that the TTR holds up.In vain, i was soon to learn. After 130 miles the misfiring starts again and TTR dies. I pull over and start getting luggage of, and remove the seat and tank. Again, the elektrics are covered with dirt. And again is start bypassing all obvious sources of problems (sidestand switch, ignition key switch, killswitch). But nothing helps.
Kevin stays and watch the traffic and helps to find the problem. Thanks again man!
At some point a truck stops and a trucker with KTM cap steps out. He's a bike fanatic and is willing to help. It doesn't work out all too well. At that point a pickup stops and a window goes down. A familiair face asks in a funny way if i broke down again (emphasis on again). It appears to be a canadian guy i met at breakfast, back at the hotel, Barry. His businees is to buy, restore and sell old gas and combustion engines. Nice, old, stuff. I ask if it's possible to take me and the bike on the back of his pickup. No problem, he says, but i'll go all the way to Fairbanks. Lucky me. That's exactly where i need to go. I got my ipod, water and powerbars. That should keep me alive for a while, not knowing that it would be a approx. 12 hours drive. I try to make some nice pictures from the back of a pickup truck. At some point i notice that the worst is that i'm looking at the same view as on my way up. This one is nice though:

We arrive in Fairbaks at 00:30. Allan, a guy from Homer helps me to unload the bike. He gives me a cold beer and a cigarette. About what i needed at that point i guess. Thanks Al. This morning Kevin and i left at 8:30. It was a long day and i can't get a sensible word english out of my mouth. I'm tired, worn out, beat etc. I put up my tent and go to sleep.
Next day the whole ritual with cleaning the bike starts over again. First i take all the calcium chloride from the bike. This stuff is sprayed on the roads to make some sort of concrete with the gravel. It erodes like salt. It wears meterial out fast. After cleaning all connectors again. this time i notice that there is water in the CDI connector. Didn't notice this the first time. And, this is the only connector wit a proper seal on it. Bugger. I shoud have checked better. And it does explain why it worked after a day in a heated garage. Oh well. That's called learning as you go i guess.
One day i'll become a good mechanic.
Rest of the day i clean my riding gear, get the bike back together and have in general a good time. And then, just as you relax a bit and feeling quite a guy, this drives up the campsite, all the way from Iowa. The famous Belgium 'manneken pis' with remote control watersystem. Quite hilarious. I gave those guys my last beers.