Surviving Means Paying the Piper

2008 Winter Motorcycle Round Up

So, do YOU know how to make God laugh? Word has it, telling him your plans will do the trick.

Originally, my plan was to travel with my family to Chicago for Christmas.  As I had done on two previous occasions, I wanted to amortize the trip by bringing home a parts bike from somewhere along the way. That was easy enough to find.  $202.50 landed me a 1976 CB200T with low mileage, good compression and needing virtually no additional parts. Not only was it a deal and a light bike, it was only 25 miles north of where I grew up and would visit friends for Christmas.

Then, when I mentioned to my wife that I found another bike to bring back with us, I was evicted from the mini-van. Seems that concerns for wear and tear on the van would be the reason I had to travel separately from the family for the 1,700 mile round trip. That meant that I would be travelling by myself for one small motorcycle. That is, unless I was to find one or two more bikes.

Since there was now no limit to where I could pick up the bikes from, I opened my search a few more states for a few more weeks and I found two more bikes. A CB350 just north of Detroit and a CB160 (baby Superhawk) just west of Detroit. That made three bikes totaling $605. With a day or two on each bike, I should be able to pay for half the race season.

Keeping an eye on the weather, I shot out of Atlanta and headed due north on the Tuesday before Christmas. Chicago was on its way to the snowiest December in history.  I was trying to cut in between two winter storms and did not achieve my goal. As I got into Kentucky, the rain started. The air was in the forties, but the ground had been frozen for three days. The warm air was a recent change, just like the rain. As such, as the sun was setting and rain was falling, the road less traveled froze the water faster than the lanes that were slower and busy.

I was delayed almost three hours on I-65 in the Lexington, area where I traveled less than a half mile. I could even see the emergency lights a half mile ahead as the road snaked up the hill. Only later in my hotel room did I find out that the crash was a fatality collision. As the jam opened up, traffic was slowly separating and picking up speed.

I should have followed the trucks in the middle lane. I should have known better…

Empty, my rear wheel drive Ford Ranger truck was susceptible to the gusts of wind that were associated with the warm rains. I had only been in the left lane for about a minute when the back end began to slide right, toward traffic in the lane next to me. Having learned to drive in Chicago suburbs, I knew that I would need to turn into the skid. But, since the rest of the north bound traffic was in that direction, I let off of the gas and cut the wheel left. No need to involve others in my mistake.

I had flashbacks of a similar medium mashing in Atlanta with the Chevy pickup when my front wheel dug into the slushy snow that packed under my front wheel.  Today, I was on ice. There was only one thing to hope for… a medium shoulder resting point with no other vehicles involved. After a left front collision taking out the headlight followed by a square rear end smashing of the bumper, I came to a stop staring at on coming traffic. But, as my good fortune would it, I came to rest 6 inches from the medium wall. Less than a minute later, there was a break in traffic that allowed me to drive across the three lanes and drive to the outside shoulder facing the correct direction. I was able to pop the hood and inspect the damage. I noticed the oil filter was crushed, radiator in tact, but the coolant overflow container was ruptured. After assessing the situation, I decided to make the safe decision and call for a tow truck. Two hours later, I was in the tow truck on my way to a facility that could repair the truck.

Tony at A-1 Winchester Towing loaded my truck on the flat bed tow vehicle and told me to hop in. I felt warm and safe for the first time since the collision. I was concerned that another vehicle might have the same misfortune and this time comes sliding toward me. Now that I was in the large warm truck, I felt like I could relax.

3:30 PM the next day the owner of Winchester towing picked me up and took me to the partially repaired Red Ranger. The oil filter was replaced. And, I was told that the oil was replenished. I was told that the oil filter was delivered, but without oil. Later in the day, the oil was delivered. A make shift headlight mounted to keep me legal along with the fan shroud removed allowed me to drive the vehicle.

Payment of $550 and I was on the road. Less than ninety minutes later, I had cranked up the radio to catch the latest weather report. Halfway through the report, I was surprised by a noise that required investigation. I lowered the volume to hear my lifters rattling. Glancing at the oil pressure gauge, my worst fears were verified. Oil pressure had dropped to nothing.

Shutting off the engine, I pulled over to check out the situation. No oil on the dipstick. I added two quarts and started the engine. I had oil pressure again, but the lifters were damaged. I was fortunate to be within site of an exit at Florence, Kentucky, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. Directly across from the stop sign at the end of the exit ramp was a hotel. After checking into the hotel on Christmas eve, I came to the conclusion that nothing was going to happen for the next day and a half. No need to rush because nothing was going anywhere till after Christmas.

After unloading the contents of the truck into the hotel room, it was time for a walk. I needed to consider what options were available to me. Ten steps from the hotel, I scanned my surroundings to find a Chevy dealer a quarter mile down the road. Why not… Supposedly prices were the best ever. So I walked down and scanned the trucks. There were the $40,000 quad cab duallies, $35,000 four door short beds, $25,000 extended cab SUV trucks, and then there they were…

I found three basic Chevys with A/C and power steering and red tag prices at around $14,000. If buying a truck was going to be my way out, that was as high as I was going. Now, all I had to do was make my late father proud by using all the salesman techniques he had taught me. In my situation, I would have my work cut out for me. I was stranded with a 22 year old truck that had been in a collision and now the motor was blown. The good news was that there were all dealers except Dodge represented at this one exit.


So I started Christmas morning by wishing the family Christmas wishes and heading to Waffle House. On the way, I stopped at the truck stop and bought a note pad. While waiting for my breakfast, I wrote a generic notification of my situation and my interests. Then, when finished with my breakfast, I made arrangements with the waitress to have this page duplicated six times. I took these copies and some tape from the truck and posted a copy on each dealership that had trucks on their lot. I shopped options, prices, and colors.

At each of the dealerships, I looked for comparable models to the three on the Chevy lot. Since the Chevy dealer was the only one that consistently listed  prices on the vehicles, there wasn’t much to compare. The Chevy dealer was the place where I started my work on Friday morning. Four of the other dealers called while I worked with the Chevy dealer. Sure didn’t hurt the negotiation process for me. At one time, the Finance manager with whom I had most of my dealings tried to eliminate the trade in value for my demolished truck. I did mention that Ford had told me they had the perfect truck for me at the same price I was negotiating for. That was the end of the haggling process.

After the paperwork was complete, so was the “dealer prep. work”  on my new vehicle. Basically the trade in value almost covered the price of the dealer add-ons. A bed liner for the full sized eight food bed and the bug deflector and matching window vent guards were all the “extras” I was willing to pay for. The six cylinder engine is adequate and the four speed automatic transmission has a towing switch for carrying a trailer load. Now I have a new basic truck with a four year note.

Tom Gill Chevrolet in Florence Kentucky, more specifically Ron and Dave, took good care of me and had me on my way in less than three hours.  Ron is the finance manager, and since I was looking at a “Red Tag” vehicle, there was no haggling required so he covered most of the leg work.  Dave Bromwell was great, he kept trying to make sure that the vehicle I was sold on was really what I wanted and that I knew what was included with the deal.  Anyone reading this article that is considering a new vehicle should tell Dave Bromwell that “Jack sent ya!”

I haven’t bought a new vehicle for myself in 20 years. But I believe that Tom Gill Chevrolet set me up with a great deal. A few days after my return home, the package that Dave sent me arrived. The charger for my GPS and the license plate from my old truck were items that I realized only miles down the road.  Dave told me “not to worry and to have a safe trip”. I should also mention that I really do enjoy my new Chevy Silverado.  The six cylinder engine pulls just fine even with three motorcycles in the back, the Monteagle, Tennessee section of Interstate 24 went effortlessly.

 Eight hours after leaving Tom Gill Chevy, I had two of the bikes loaded. The first bike was left out for me to pick up. It was at Richmond Cycle and a nice example of a CB350 in need of TLC. The second was west of Detroit. Tom had the CB160 in the garage and ready for me. I was able to load the bike before he knew I was there and had a chance to offer help. Tom was great to talk with. He was an off road racer in years gone by. Unlike myself, he’s a two stroke dirt bike guy, so the CB160 four stroke did not interest him. Before I left, Tom handed me a handful of parts for the CB160 that will make the restoration much easier.

Thanks Tom.  I do appreciate it all.

The ride from Michigan to Chicago suburbs was like something out of the Twilight Zone stories. I had never experienced both fog and gusty wind before. It was like the clouds were hovering a foot or two above the ground. The wind was blowing the fog bursts diagonally across the road. It was almost hypnotic. Fog and the lack of visibility made for an interesting ride. The truck is significantly higher up than car height and did make for a bit of an advantage over the lower profile vehicles.

3AM I found myself at the in-law’s driveway. Not wanting to wake anyone, I decided to test the truck’s comfort as a camping place. I slept great. Then next morning I had breakfast with the family and continued toward the third bike.  Jerry was a friend of the seller and represented his friend with pride.

With all three bikes loaded it was time to race the weather again. When I first drove to the Chicago area there was about a foot and a half of snow on the ground. The bulk of the day included a warm 60 degrees day or  rain. Chicagoland was under a flood warning. Both the warm weather and the rain caused the snow to disappear and collect in rain runoffs everywhere. The weather forecast also included freezing temperatures before the end of the day. So long everyone. I’m outta here! By 3 AM I was home and headed for bed.

Although I will make plans in the future, I might keep some from public knowledge in the hopes of avoiding comic results.

Race season starts at Talladega on February 7th followed by March 7th on the way back from bike week.  Stay tuned for the beginning of the 2009 season…


About videojackster

A freedom loving libertarian who really enjoys experiencing that freedom on a motorcycle, on the race track, as often as possible.
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