Not a bad place to run out of gas!
But totally a bad place to run out of gas.
She began to retch and cough before releasing her final exhale. Her vivacious bark fell silent, replaced by the rush of desert winds. Those too soon perished as my boots brushed against the desert floor. I stood motionless.
A monsoon of emprise reigned.
1. Loud bang from the front wheel causing speedometer to stop working.
Pulled front wheel off to replace speedometer cable. Noticed that, oh, just the hub exploded. The wheel bearing was barely held in place by two pieces of broken metal and a wimpy retention clip. I went ahead and put that back on and tried not to think about it.
2. Front disc brake completely lost pressure in Alabama.
Patched it in a parking lot getting me to Tucson. Well, really El Paso, but don’t tell anyone the last 300 miles were without a front brake. Ordered rebuild kits to meet me in Tucson but when I got there, they’re the wrong parts. I had to phone all of the Kawasaki dealerships in a 200 mile radius trying to track down the parts I needed. Even after I ordered them, the shop forgot to ship them.
3. Storage was lacking.
When I was in Louisiana (I think) I ordered aluminum panniers to be sent to Tucson. Some of the best money spent! The Tusk panniers went on easy and have held up to quite a bit. They also serve as a canvas to chart where I’ve been.
4. Tires were getting worn and became squiggly in turns.
I bought the KLR used in Manhattan from a guy who used it to commute over the bridge to Brooklyn everyday. He bought it from some guy who did something similar. Well, one of them changed the size of the rear wheel at some point. When the gentleman at the shop in Tucson ordered new tires he didn’t actually check the wheel to verify the size. We both assumed they were stock. After waiting a few days I get a phone call notifying me of the mistake. They told me it will be a week before they can have one delivered. I asked if they could source a comparable tire from another shop in town- I’d even go pick it up. They found ONE tire in stock in the whole city that would fit, so I rushed over in my uncle’s truck to pick it up. When I got back to the original shop the manager says, “Since you didn’t buy the tire through us, we’re going to have to change you $55 for the installation.” I laughed because I thought he was kidding. Needless to say it was painfully awkward. In a gutsy move for me I replied with, “I’m going to walk out the door. You put the tire on the motorcycle. If when I come back, you still think charging me $55 is the right thing to do, I’ll pay.” When I returned the tire was mounted, the chain was cleaned and lubricated, and I wasn’t charged a cent. Upon further inspection, they even replaced a reflector that had been smashed off when the bike was hit by a car. They redeemed themselves.
5. Stock lighting on the KLR was lacking
Riding at night was pretty difficult with the original headlamp. Even properly adjusted, visibility was seriously lacking, especially out West with long stretches of road ahead of me. While I was in Tucson waiting for parts, I flew back to Massachusetts to spend a morning with hospitalized kids. During my 24 hour trip, I grabbed some Hella 500 driving lamps to bring back with me. Back in Tucson, I used my uncle Rick’s amazing garage to fabricate a bracket to mount the new auxiliary lighting.
Anyway! The photo above is midway through tearing the motorcycle apart.
If you can make it between El Paso and Tucson without stopping to check out The Thing, you are an exemplification of willpower. Sun-scorched billboards lurk along the interstate enticing weary travelers to come have a look. These aging yellow and blue adverts are like Sirens of the desert, luring the hopelessly curious.
My first visit was on a fireworks run to New Mexico back in high school. I pulled over, paid the nominal fee, and paraded through the exhibit wide-eyed and enraptured. Nearly a decade later, I could almost see my old boot prints in the dust.
Whenever I find myself near Dragoon, Arizona I’ll be sure to visit The Thing in an effort to stave off the untimely death of a true vestige of Americana.