Thursday, June 4, 2009

the $1529.00 water hole

So...went riding off Card Sound Road 2 weeks ago over some muddy roads and back trails with John Baltzell.

Heading up a road that was covered with puddles, most covering the entire width of the road. After going through many many puddles that were 4" to 8" deep, I entered a puddle that dropped off to about 2' to 3' deep. The front of my bike dropped out from under me and suddenly felt the water around my knees. I gunned the engine, the front wheel started to come up but I hit a ridge on the far side of the puddle which lurched the bike to the right and down I went. I hopped up, turned the bike off as quickly as possible and muscled the bike back upright. Water was just over the cylinders at this point.

John, who was behind me on the road, stopped, took a picture and came over to help me get the bike up and out of the puddle. I put the bike on the centerstand and regrouped. At this point, I decided to try and start the bike. Hit the starter and, amazingly, the bike started up! We both cheered and made comments something like "now that's BMW engineering for you" as the bike idled happily.

For a few seconds...then the bike just died and that was the last time the bike ran for several days.

We were stranded quite a ways from anywhere. We did all the basics. Took out the air filter (wet and dirty), took out the plugs, checked the oil (water in the engine) and tried everything to get the bike started. In retrospect, we tried almost everything. It wasn't until later that we checked for spark and fuel. It turned out there was none. No fuel or spark were getting to the engine, but for whatever reason we didn't check that, probably because the bike had started after it emerged from the water hole.

We made a few attempts to restart, but were getting hydro lock in the engine, which made a pretty bad sound. With the plugs out, the bike turned over fine, but under compression, it just made a horrific noise and locked up. During this time, a guy rode by on his ATV and checked with us to see if we were okay. We told him the story and he said he would be back by and check on us. On his last trip by, we were ready for some help. He offered to tow me out, then load the bike up on his trailer and take us to the nearest gas station in Florida City. His name was Mitch.

Mitch is one of the good guys. He came back to help us. He towed me out. He loaded my bike on his trailer and took me to civilization. He would take no money. He simply said "there need to be more people like me." Mitch is exactly the kind of guy you want to meet when stranded in the back country.

He towed my out with a strap looped around my front forks and to the back of the ATV. When we got to Florida City, I drained the oil, put in new oil and tried starting again. Nothing except a really bad noise. At this point we finally checked the fuel injectors and the spark and no fuel. A huge storm was on top of us and it was clear that my bike was going nowhere.

I moved the bike from the station to the Denny's next door and called my wife to come get me. A phone call I do not want to have to repeat. She was at home, on her day off and 120 miles down the Keys. On Memorial Day weekend. She was a complete Angel and dropped everything she was doing to come get me. I am forever in debt, again.

Sat at Denny's for the next 4 hours or so, secured the bike in the parking lot and headed back to Key West. As if that wasn't enough, I got a speeding ticket in Marathon.

On Tuesday, I had the bike towed to 441 Cycles in Ft. Lauderdale. By Thursday they had diagnosed the main problem, which was that the water killed an already old Hall Sensor. And in the course of trying to start the bike with the plugs in and the hydro lock in the cylinders, I had managed to break the casing on the old starter. So a new sensor, new starter and all new fluids and I was good to go.

On Saturday, I took a cab to the Key West Airport, rented a car, drove to the Ft. Lauderdale Airport, took a cab to 441 Cycle and picked up the bike. I headed off into a major thunderstorm and made for home. Just about 12 hours after I left Key West, I was back home with my bike.

Let's break this down:

Towing: $232.00
Cab to KW Airport: $11
Rental Car: $45.00
Cab to 441 Cycle: $25.00
Bill at 441: $1100.00
Speeding ticket: $116.00

Total: $1529.00. That's an expensive puddle.

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