Friday, September 01, 2006

Chicago, Illinois to Knoxville, Iowa

I was still finishing my packing in the morning. I had to borrow a tail bag from a friend last night since I couldn’t fit in to my top case, tank bag and the two side cases, so this morning I was still re-arranging my things, that took forever also, it always does. We were almost ready to go, we pulled the bikes in to the driveway and Sandy’s bike had a problem starting. After she got it going, we rode straight to the Ducati dealer by my house which was on the way to the interstate anyway. We just wanted to make sure it wouldn't break down during the trip. Her bike was just there two days ago for some maintenance so if there was something wrong, they should have caught it.

The mechanic didn’t see anything wrong with Sandy's bike. It started right up for him and he said it was probably the anti theft security thing. On these Ducati’s you can’t leave the key in the ignition in the 'on' position too long otherwise the bike won’t start. When that happens, you have to take the key out and put it in again to start the bike. At around 9:30AM we left the dealership and headed out toward the interstate. I-88 to I-80 was the plan. It’s bad enough the Midwest is so boring and flat, it also smelled like a sweaty arm pit this morning. With my iPod cranking out good tunes, making the slab portion was almost tolerable, we pointed our Ducs west and got on the throttle.

Sandy and I leaving my house

The day was sunny and pleasant. After a few hours of droning on the interstate, we needed a break from the monotony. I had a few back roads picked out that would allow us to go around Des Moines, IA and get us to I-35 to continue south. It was nothing exciting, no twisties here. By 3PM we were feeling a bit hungry since we hadn’t eaten anything yet today. We stopped in at a McDonalds in Knoxville, IA for some salads. About half an hour later we were ready to hit the road again but Sandy’s bike wouldn’t start. There was no power at all, the instrument panel didn’t even light up.

Broken down in Iowa seven hours after leaving home

Plan A

Sandy called the Ducati dealer, the same one we just visited a few hours ago. The mechanic walked her through a few things that she should check with him helping her on phone. Within minutes we had the side panel partially off the ST4s and we were both digging in there, turning this, pushing that, pulling and poking. This must have been some entertainment for the people waiting in the drive through line at the McDonalds. After an hour and a half, still no clue to why the bike wasn’t starting, the fuses and all the wires seemed fine. We gave up.

Plan B

At 5:30PM Sandy called Ducati road side assistance and we found out there was a Ducati dealer in Des Moines, IA, only 35 miles from where she was broken down. Of course had we stayed on the interstate, she probably would have broken down a block from the dealership, I digress. Sandy was going to have the bike towed there and hopefully they would have it fixed tomorrow so we could continue with our trip. We were so happy that today was Friday and not Saturday. With the tow truck on the way she called the dealership in Des Moines to make sure they were ready to work on the bike first thing tomorrow morning, then she was informed that the mechanic was on vacation and wouldn’tbe back until Tuesday.

Plan C

Sandy called back Ducati road assistance to find out where the next closest dealership was, unfortunately it was in Kansas City, KS and it would cost $700 to get the bike towed there so Sandy cancelled the tow truck. Ducati road assistance is nice, but what do you do when there is no place to tow the bike to get it fixed.

Plan D

We couldn’t think of anything else so Sandy was thinking of having one of her family members drive up here with the truck and trailer and take her and her bike home. The trip was over for her and I would continue by myself. The only thing that could save this trip is if the dealer in Kansas City could fix the bike tomorrow but she would have to get someone from her family to drive out here, pick her and the bike up and drive another four hours to Kansas City. We were desperate so she called Letko, the dealership in Kansas City just to see what they would say.

What happened next can only be described as a miracle. Mario, the service manager at Letko and his wife were going to drive out to IA, four hours away, and pick Sandy and her bike and bring them both to Kansas City and take a look at the bike in the morning. But Mario couldn’t leave for another hour or so.

So from 3:30PM to midnight Sandy and I hung out in the parking lot of the McDonalds. We put her bike back together, then had some ice cream, then got some Taco Bell for dinner from across the street. The it got dark and we noticed many big insects flying around us. Upon closer examination, we realized that they were the largest praying mantis we’ve ever seen. Not only were they big but they were feisty too. They treated us like we were trespassing on their turf. They would land at times really close to us and would stare at us with those big googley black eyes. And if you approached them too close they would grab your boot and hold on to it, attacking. They were scary monsters and seemed to enjoy the tree we were parked under. Their wing span must have been about 5-6 inches so once they took flight we had to run for cover. By 11PM they got bored with us and retired to the tree branches, we finally had some peace and quiet.

Monsters in Iowa

Mario and his wife showed up at midnight, he loaded the ST4s on to the trailer, then Sandy got in the truck and they were off to Kansas City. It would take them 4 hours to get there, I was too tired to follow them on my bike so I grabbed a motel room in town here at a Super 8.

Sandy's bike going to Kansas City, KS

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