I emerge slowly from my restless slumber and the reality of the trip begins to dawn on me as the rising sun bathes the bedroom in shades of pale grey.
The warmth of the shower, the cascade of cleansing water, drenching my body, washes the doubts away, clears my mind. Reality is the antidote that sets me free.
The final pieces come together, I pull on my armoured pants, snap the buckles down on my boots. I look up to find Susan in the doorway, still sleepy, smiling. We hug and kiss. That seals the launch. I feel myself floating almost free.
I pull on my jacket and helmet, wrestle the tour-laden Vespa off the centre stand, and hit the starter. I roll down the driveway. "Turn left on Beaconsfield Boulevard" the Garmin commands. That's how my 2015 Blogger to Blogger Tour begins.
I was so preoccupied with the departure details that as I hit the highway and my mind relaxed, I realized that I had neglected to take a photo of the adventure-ready Vespa. I hopped off the highway and took the lakeshore road until there was a suitable place to take a picture.
The border crossing was quick and easy.
I was headed to exit 29 off I-87 right in the heart of the Adirondack exits.
While there is plenty of beauty to behold on stretches of the Northway...
Exit 29 was finally here, I eased off the throttle and coasted off the freeway.
Looking down, I noticed water on my right knee. Huh?
Once off the exit ramp I pulled onto the gravel shoulder. The sun was shining brightly. Sweat beaded on my neck and down my spine as soon as I spotted the mess on the floorboards. Coolant.
Was this the end of my adventure? Over before it had really begun? Should I bail?
I knew that my Vespa's motor would be toast within mere minutes if it ran without coolant. I looked at the temperature gauge. The needle was at the midpoint, perfectly normal. My mind raced, like a cornered animal, looking frantically for a way out, a path forward.
The amount of fluid on the right floorboard indicated a serious leak. Since there was some fluid on the left floorboard as well, and anti-freeze had leaked from under the bottom lip of the glovebox, there were indications that it was a massive leak, likely a series of leaks.
Having taken my Vespa apart on a number of occasions, and having dealt with a previous coolant leak, I imagined the hose issues that might cause the cooling system to lose that much coolant. But how did the anti-freeze land on my knee and thigh? And with a massive hose or clamp failure, I would still be leaking anti-freeze. By now the temperature gauge ought to have been pegged at the top, not sitting at the normal midpoint.
Aside from the fluid pooled on the floorboards, everything seemed paradoxically normal. All the clues pointed to a leak from the top of the reservoir behind the right kneepad.
The big question that loomed unanswered was, did I need to scrub the mission? Did I call for a tow? Should I limp on and hope for the best? Move on, or retreat? Was a catastrophic failure looming? Much as I wanted to continue, scrapping my Vespa was not an option. Still the heat gauge pointed to normal. The check engine light wasn't lit. The motor sounded fine.
I'm not a quitter, and I'm not timid. Press on. Find a gas station, top up the coolant, keep an eagle eye on the gauge. Don't max out the throttle, spare the bike. The decision was taking shape. The whole time I sat there, not a single car went by. Other than the rushing sound of passing cars on the Northway, I was alone.
Acutely conscious of the risk, I pulled off the shoulder and headed down the road. The one thing I didn't do was check the GPS to see where the next gas station might be. Go figure.
It was a good thing. Had I checked, I might have second-guessed myself.
Blue Ridge Road, eventually merging with Highway 28N miles away to the west, climbed and twisted its way west into the Adirondack National Park. Two lanes of asphalt ribbon hemmed in by towering walls of evergreens. Mile upon mile racked up, no sign of habitation, certainly no service station. Eventually the road began a long downhill stretch with twists and turns, and signs warning truckers to slow their rigs.
Thirty-seven very long miles later I came to the crossroads where 28N and 30 meet at the village of Long Lake New York.
I eagerly grabbed the two litre jug, shelled out $15 dollars, and headed back to the bike. I unloaded the gear, refueled, reloaded the gear, and moved the bike to a parking spot next to the convenience store. I unloaded the bike again, strolled over to the pumps and came back with the windshield squeegee, using it to clean up the coolant mess on the legshield and floorboards.
With the environmental clean-up out of the way, I dug out my tool roll and a rag, and set to work. It took only seconds to remove the right kneepad to reveal the top of the coolant reservoir. I gingerly and slowly twisted the cap counter-clockwise. After a quarter turn it hissed softly. That was it, the pressure subsided and I was able to remove the cap. The bike had cooled enough that there was no gush of hot liquid. I peered into the neck of the reservoir with the aid of my super bright flashlight. Clearly the coolant was below the 'min' mark. I added anti-freeze slowly until the level was above the minimum mark and closer to the maximum. In all, I estimate I added about a cup or at most a cup and a half of coolant which roughly matched the amount of coolant I felt I had lost. So far, so good.
I made a pit stop in the restroom and refilled my water bottle.
I was now reasonably confident that the rest of the trip would be uneventful, at least as far as the Vespa was concerned.
I turned left and headed south on highway 30. The miles to the Adirondack museum counted down on the Garmin. Soon I rounded a bend, and down the hill there it was in all its glory. I pulled into the parking lot and circled around looking for Stephanie's blue Vespa. She wasn't there. Not that she should have been. She had estimated reaching the museum between two and three o'clock. Even with my little coolant misadventure, it was only one o'clock.
I picked a spot in the parking lot where I could keep an eye out for Ms. Yue.
Time passed, slowly as it does when you wait. I sipped my water. I watched more clouds. I baked in the afternoon sun. I wished I was thinner. I checked the cell service, barely there, mostly useless. I listened to the birds and cicadas. I wished I had brought a hat. Then I remembered a time when I was nine or ten. I went for a hike with my Dad. He had showed me how to make a hat by tying knots in the four corners of a kerchief. As it happened, I carry a couple of kerchiefs in the glove compartment. I fished one out and made myself a hat. Much better. I watched more clouds. I fiddled with taking selfies thanks to my camera's WiFi remote iPhone app. Thanks Bob.
Stephanie Yue and her blue Vespa with the Rhode Island plates, most recently hailing from southern California.
I just got Stephanie's photos. Here are two of me that Stephanie took soon after arriving. I wore the T-Shirt that Bill Leuthold sent me. The perfect attire for the trip.
|Copyright - Stephanie Yue|
|Copyright - Stephanie Yue|