AT writes on 2013-11-12:
With San Angelo behind us, we are currently safe and sound and staying with Erik and Kaye in Kempner, Texas. Our hosts generously offered up the comfort of their toyhauler camper/trailer for the duration of our stay. We arrived here last Monday with the help and good will of the Texas motorcycling community.
A little over a week ago, we put out some messages to various internet motorcycle communities, such as ADVrider and Horizons Unlimited. We were feeling isolated and questioning what our next steps would be, but before too long a member of the Texas specific motorcycle community, Two Wheeled Texans (TWT), saw our post on ADVrider and sent out an “SOS” message to the TWT forum. Suddenly, the silence was broken and our in-boxes began to fill as people from all over Texas started to put their collective minds together to assist us with our predicament.
Early on Erik piped up with his generous offer of accommodations and a fully stocked home workshop. You know that the Texas MC community is strong when you have to turn down offers for assistance such as guest rooms, transport, and even money half way across this rather large state – thank you all for your support!
We arrived in Kempner, by way of Jeff from Austin. A paramedic, Jeff got off work at 7am, left for San Angelo by 8am, picked us up, and dropped us off by 3pm without accepting a cent in gas money. While we had spent several nights at the Dun-Bar motel, Mike from Abilene used his loyalty points to put us up for a night at a Holiday Inn Express – which not only helped save us some money but was also a major upgrade. Oh ya, we had found blood on multiple sheets the first night at the Dun-Bar. They changed the sheets out, tried to “make things right” and were very apologetic, but it turns out we are staying in the room regularly inhabited by an elderly man with cancer who “bleeds easily” and there was some confusion about giving us that room in the first place.
Thanks so much Jeff and Mike! Sounds like we have some favours to “pay forward”.
Our decision to leave San Angelo was pretty simple. The local dealership was simply too expensive and through TWT, Charles, a local mechanic trusted by a TWT/ADV member in San Angelo, dropped by for a house visit. Sweet! While there was no solid diagnosis, there was also no positive news. While Charles didn’t say it out loud, he had the “F-bomb” written all over his face. While he did offer up his shop to us, he agreed that with the cost of shipping parts into this rather remote community in addition to its oil-boom priced rooms, it made sense to explore other options. Charles’ departing words went something like “I hope you are enjoying the sites and sounds of San Angelo (snicker)”. What exactly did he mean by that?
Almost immediately upon our arrival in Kempner, the ailing bike was put up on the lift and stripped down. Erik came by strong recommendation from various TWT members – we didn’t ask – we were told, “if Erik is willing to help, go to Erik’s”. Immediately I saw why Erik has this excellent reputation. He is very methodological, and with years of experience working with motorcycles and larger vehicles, if he doesn’t know something, he doesn’t guess; he consults and has no time for quick bodge fixes and taking inappropriate risks, especially with the prospect of the problem resurfacing in Peru or Patagonia.
Getting to know Erik a little – actually Erik has no shortage of interesting stories – he explained to us that probably due to his years in military service, he has developed a heightened sense for detecting problems, which isn’t to say that the solution is always staring him in the face, but that something is a “little off”. This is pretty useful for working on a motorcycle.
Parts, such as gaskets and bearings, are being ordered through the powersports store where Kaye works with a generous discount – not expected but much appreciated. While it would have been more straight forward to have discovered a “smoking gun” such as a broken engine component, indicating cause and fix, in the end we have found some very probable problematic parts pertaining to the crankshaft. We are essentially attempting to replace any part which displays anomalous wear, and those with direct association. Given that one (expensive) OEM (stock) Suzuki part is back-ordered until forever (weeks? months?) in the US and Canada, we think we have found a good lead on a reliable used part in the Pacific North-West through Jessie Kientz. Now it is just a waiting game.
On that subject, we are essentially just hanging out in Kempner. The weather is good. It hasn’t been to rainy or cold, yet not stinking hot or humid. Erik and Kaye live on a nice little property, a tad off of the beaten path, not quite rural but a bit more rural than suburban. Kempner is about an hour away from Austin and minutes away from Fort Hood – the largest military installation in the United States (by measure of population).
While we have spent a good deal of time in the garage, Erik and Kaye have opened up their home to us. Even the very first night, Kaye invited us to join them at their table for dinner. While we were certainly appreciative, and rather hungry that first night, the apparent minor “uneasiness” of strangers around the dinner table has since subsided. Dinners have now morphed into hanging out and having a few drinks afterwards.
Upon bedtime, we return to the pretty-much-full-service trailer. Its a sweet deal for us and absolutely meets our needs – keeping in mind that we were prepared to pitch our tent in our hosts backyard and fetch water from a garden hose. At the same time, having an available trailer has some perks compared to something like a spare room. For example, as much as Erik and Kaye have invited us into their home, I’m sure they appreciate some time alone and some sense of normality.
Also, having three lovely dogs — one of which is rather unsettled around “strangers” (if we can still use that term), and one who seems to have adopted Jenn, it is certainly ideal that we have our little place to call our own (for now) as so that the dogs aren’t in a constant state of excitement. While we know getting the bike up and running will take a little time, we have already had a little jest about putting down some geraniums and pink flamingos — at which point it might be deemed that we are getting a little too comfortable 🙂
I would say that we have been very lucky. Life here in Kempner has been good so far. We settled in quickly and moods are good. On the one hand, we had rough expectations as to where we had planned to be by now — and it wasn’t the United States, let alone Kempner — we have accepted it for what it is. In terms of the bike, there is an answer over the horizon. As some would say, “adventure begins with the unexpected” and as others have suggested, (and we paraphrase) “a mechanical breakdown becomes an opportunity to meet new people”.