My rear tire was flat. The morning was cold and darkly overcast. I was depressed and angry, also, a little frightened. What the heck was I gonna do? Here’s what I did: next to the McDonalds was a tire store. I pushed the bike over. Several mechanics and the owner were all over me with questions. “Where ya ridin’ from? Where ya goin’?” One fellow got a spray bottle with detergent and started spaying the wheel, looking for air bubbles. In a minute we found it. In the groove of a tread near the middle of the tire, was a small metal wire embedded deeply. Bubbles gurgled around it.
My first questions was, “Can you plug it?” “No, we don’t do motorcycle tires.” Short story long… I went to the Honda dealer. “No, we don’t plug tires, only replace them. Insurance liability.” So I inquired about the cost of a new tire. It was twice what I knew the tire sold for online. That didn’t include installation. It would take at least a week to get in. This is what happened to me in Butte, Montana last summer. God bless Butte, but don’t get stranded there. Now here I was in Jamestown, New York. Butte was lookin’ good.
I sulked around a bit, drank way too much coffee, came up with no sane or rational plan. I decided to keep pressure in the tire – it was a slow leak – drive up to Chautauqua and hope for the best.
I started north up the west side of Lake Chautauqua. The sun was coming out, my spirits buoyed. Then the plan revealed itself to me. Fix the puncture myself. Go to an auto parts store, purchase a flat fixer product, do the deed, and thumb my nose at motorcycle repair shops.
That’s what I did. I stopped and picked up some tire sealant, went to a garage with an air compressor, and asked if I could do the work there & use their air – they said yes. The job went smoothly. I pumped the newly sealed tire up to 34 ponds per square inch. Everything held. Chautauqua, here I come.
Didn’t Robert Prisig have something to say about Chautauqua? Wouldn’t the good summer residents like to hear a tale about scamping? I was ready. I drove to the main gate. No one was there. I rolled in and found a thousand busy bees preparing the buildings and grounds for the summer jamboree. It’s a beautiful place. I drove around the grounds. I parked, I took photos. I smiled and nodded at all the busy workers. Then it struck me: The Wizard of Oz. “A brush brush here, a brush brush there, that’s how we do it in the merry old land of Oz.” Here the workers were taller and 50% of them were smoking, but the parallel was unmistakable.
I found the admin building. On the main exterior wall hung a financial goal sign. $3.6 million this year. In the lobby was a sign telling folks like me to go to the information booth at the main gate. There was a wall of information booklets. They were all handsomely produced. The only open door was to the development office. No one was around. I ambled out, mounted wounded Ruby, and bid farewell to Chautauqua.
The sun was out, although the air was still cold. I headed west for that little smoke stack corner of Pennsylvania. In a little Pennsylvania convenience store I found free road maps. They were marked $0.00. It was no mistake. The local state rep donated them. Pesky liberals. I wove my way mostly on state highways, but sometimes I got lucky and found inviting county roads. Pennsylvania is filled with great back roads, but you have to be local to know them. They simply are not well marked.
In time I made it to Titusville. This surprised me. Given the travails of the day I didn’t think I would make it out of Jamestown (birthplace of Lucile Ball don’t cha know.) Now here I was in the birthplace of the petroleum industry. The Col. Drake museum in the Park is closed on Monday. No first oil derrick photo op. No Erie Canal either. So much for Americana on this trip.
It was time to make camp. I stopped at a church with a huge back yard – as in festival size landscape. No one there to speak to. I moved on down the road. I came to a graveyard near the town of Diamond. I pulled in to is circular road and saw a great spot in the back corner. It was mown, but no where near anyone’s grave. I set up. One car rolled in with two middle aged women. I took them for sisters. We all smiled and waved. I made no attempt at hiding. No one else came that night.