Day 28 (Aug. 8th): GRAND CANYON NORTH RIM to...? Stock photo -- NOT The Chief (tm)'s tent!
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People, I'm not gonna lie to you: this is going to be a long one.

Despite not getting to bed as early as I had wished the night before -- thanks to the Wet Knapsack Syndrome -- I was up at 5:30 AM. Or whenever it was. That's what it said on my clock, but I had no idea what time it truly was. Cool part is, it doesn’t really matter, does it? I'll be going where ever I'm going regardless of what time it is when I leave. Oops, almost forgot to mention: 'twas a relatively chilly 53 degrees when I awoke!

Having slept in the bivy, I didn't have too much to tear down and pack up, so it made for a pretty quick departure. I had kept most of the junk that I had planned to put in the knapsack within close proximity inside the trailer the night before, so I figured I'd get out of there, get gas, and pack everything into the knapsack when I got to the start of the BLM road to Toroweap. I mean, maybe one of the rangers at the station would eyeball the trailer and opine that I'd make it without a problem, right? Then I wouldn't need to pack the knapsack at all? Yeah, well, unlikely, but hey, there's nothing wrong with getting a quick start regardless.

Just to be safe, I checked the tire pressures (remember that -- Ed.) and they were fine. So I roared out of there, faced no traffic I couldn't handle on the road back up to Jacob Lake, then turned west onto Route 89A. At the first gas station thirty miles later, in Fredonia, I thought I might as well fill up, even at $4.299 a gallon, 'cuz it might be even more expensive closer to where ever the BLM road was. As it turns out, I was wrong, because I could have paid $4.019 some eight miles later, and that’s a big delta. Too big. Yep, I had fallen for the ol' “First Gas Station In Town” trick yet again!

Overpaying for the go juice, however, was to be the least of my problems this morning. Instead, we had a near-DISASTRO. How so, The Chief (tm), dost thou asketh?

People, take a picture of this. There I am, having fueled up, having purchased some more trail mix and a Red Bull or two. Rig is still sitting at the pump where I left it. Approaching it from behind, my cell phone rings. A bit of a surprise -- signal strength had been spotty in the area, so truth is I shouldn't have even had the thing turned on anyway in the first place. Regardless, it's my main man Sammy Cods checking in and, as we're chatting, my gaze falls upon the small portion of the bike's rear tire that I can see between the bottom of the trailer hitch and the ground. It's maybe a twenty or twenty-five degree slice of the entire circumference of the tread. Not much of the whole circle, right? But you know what is clearly visible, plain as day, on that small slice? About a five-inch long patch
where, as far as I can tell, the tire is worn out right down to the cord.

Um, hello? What in the world is that all about? So I tell Sammy that I gots to go 'cuz I have to inspect this issue right away. As the phone clicks shut and I'm now close enough to the tire to see for sure, my fears are realized: there is, in fact, a scar on the tire where it looks like it has been worn away, perhaps in a skid, and so the exposed part is missing entire layers of rubber.

How do they say it goes? Something like disbelief, then anger, then denial, then whatever, and whatever? I think that describes me perfectly: I can't really imagine how
this might have happened. Remember when I said I had checked the tire pressures? I had, but then that doesn't mean I was able to eyeball the tire's entire circumference; the bike was on its sidestand, so I couldn't spin the rear wheel, as I might have done if the bike was on the centerstand. Meanwhile, the tire was relatively new, as I had changed it not terribly long before leaving the Boston area. Sure, I may have put about 6,000 miles on it since then, and between the trailer tongue weight and the stuff in the saddle- and tailbags, perhaps the rough equivalent of the weight of a passenger as well, at least for this trip. But would that make it wear out almost twice as fast as it otherwise would?

Waitaminnit. It's not merely worn out, as if it has simply reached the end of its service life, it's patched out in a specific spot. In fact, the rest of the tread looks fine. Only one way this could have happened -- if I locked up the brakes and dragged the rear tire. Considering that I've got a trailer hooked up, this would have been, y'know, a fairly exciting event; you'd think I would remember doing something like that, wouldn't you? OK, so did I do something like that?

Well, yeah, I did -- eleven days ago in Pecos, TX, approaching Alfredo's Restaurant. I definitely did lock up the rear tire on some sand in front of the restaurant's parking lot, but it sure hadn't seemed all that bad at the time; maybe a half-second, maybe a full second, max? At maybe 30 MPH? A little quick math suggests it would have been nearly 45 feet, but I know I didn't have the rear locked up for some five or six bike lengths. Wouldn't have thought such an innocuous little skid would do this, but what other explanation is there?

OK, so now I'm trying to figure out what is more scary: what might have happened if I had taken the bike, and that tire, out on the 60-mile long gravel road to Toroweap, or the fact that I've apparently been driving on the tire, in its current condition, in this heat, for the past 2,382.5 miles.

I don't permit myself to decide which of those is more scary.

Fact is, I don't have the time. I've got to decide what to do, and how to go about it. No way I'm going to Toroweap; that much is clear. It would have been bad enough to have gone out there before I knew the tire was corded; go out now, and I've locked up the 2008 Darwin Award.

That doesn't answer the question, though: how do I get this thing fixed? Even if there are any motorcycle shops around here -- even any Honda shops -- there's almost no doubt that they won't have my tire in stock, given that the bike is now fourteen years old and that the size is somewhat obsolete these days. I could order it from the on-line supplier I've bought these tires from in the past, and I know they have it in stock, but it's Friday, which means even if I can get it to ship out today, it might not be getting any closer to me on Saturday, and definitely no closer on Sunday, so how do I plan for that? Ship it here? Can I stay here for several days? Maybe. Or can I make it fifty, perhaps a hundred miles on the damaged tire? If so, I could ship the replacement to somewhere else, and at least be in motion while the tire is working its way towards me. Or, maybe a dealer can get it in even faster, because they can put their own internal rush on it without me having to foot the bill for the expedited shipping. OK, that's sounds like a decent idea -- see who can get it the fastest, is it faster (and cheaper) than what the supplier can do, and, if so, where they are located.

Lemme call the Honda Rider's Club of America
to try and find some dealers out around here -- they've done a bang-up job for me in the past with free towing services. Oddly, the HRCA is rather poorly set-up to find dealerships close to where a caller is located. The guy -- who is genuinely trying to be helpful -- is asking me for area codes and stuff, as if he's looking it up in a phone book. How the hell should I know what the area code is for some tiny town a hundred miles away? At any rate, wouldn't you think that the HRCA should have a better way to locate its own dealers? I mean, the Honda Powersports website lets you type in a zip code, and then pulls up the closest dealers, sorted by mileage. Can't this guy do that from his desk?

Apparently, no.

Still, eventually
I am given a few options, and I've got to think about them. There's a dealership about 75 miles away in St. George, UT; a non-Honda dealership further away in Utah; and another Honda place in Page, AZ (NOT “Page, OK” -- Ed.), back past the Grand Canyon and about 80 miles away. The place the furthest away, in Utah, can get the tire the fastest, but can I make it there? And it's not a Honda dealership, for what that's worth. St. George sounds OK, but they don't think they can get the tire all that quickly. The technician on the other end of the line in Page does a lot of legwork for me, and calls me back twice with updates and options. In the meantime, I learn that there is one more (non-Honda) dealership in the next town, Kanab, Utah, just a few miles away. The likelihood that they've got the tire is low, but I can at least make it eight miles to check, and maybe they'll be able to pull something off. I tell the Honda guy in Page that I will let him know what I'm doing one way or the other, and point the now-hobbled rig to the north.

Did I mention that it's been three hours since I first noticed the blemish on the tire?

I should also mention that, although, yes, I could have saved some twenty cents per gallon had I gone a little further down the road, this gas station (Judd's Auto Service, 623 South Main, Fredonia AZ) has been an absolute godsend. One, the gal behind the counter definitely knows about the local mechanics shops and has been helpful with all information. Two, they make pretty good coffee. Three -- and file under “Another Thing You Just Don't See Back East” -- they sell guns, both rifles and pistols, including a line from a manufacturer I had not been aware of.

Aforementioned now-hobbled rig heading mostly north, I make it to Kanab. I'm nervous, but I make it. The dealership is a Yamaha joint, but they're not too worried about being able to do the tire change, mainly because I've got the real-deal Honda shop manual. Thing is, the suppliers they work with apparently don't have that tire size in stock, and it could take a while. Ah, that leaves me back where I started, but then it hits me: what if I can have the bike and the trailer towed to the next town, via the free towing services offered as part of my HRCA membership?

Back on the horn. "Can [the towing company] take the bike all the way over to Page? Yes? Great." This isn't really a surprise, since as it's almost
 the closest dealer it's no problem.

Now, friends, here comes The Biggie: "Um, can [they] take the
trailer as well?"

As Marv Albert would say, “Yes-s-s!" They can! WE HAVE A WINNER.

HRCA asks if the bike is disabled, but I tell 'em it is not and that I can easily and safely bring it to the local towing company that will do the deed. Local -- you want local? The company's garage is literally one block away from where I'm making the phone call. So I ooze over there and make sure it's all gonna go down just like I need it to. Guy tells me it might be as many as three hours before we'll be leaving, because in fact they're waiting for another motorcycle (!) that they're scheduled to haul over to Page, but that's fine with me as I'm starting to get hungry and I figure I can do some typing while I wait. I call the motorcycle dealership back and tell them to expect me before they close. Right in front of me there's a joint called “Laid-Back Larry's”, and though I love the name and hand-painted banner/sign, it turns out to be a shade more coffee-shop-ish than I'm looking for. Back down the block, though, I notice “Grandma Tina's Cafe”, and as the sign says they've got free wi-fi, I figure it'll at least cover all the bases.

That assessment falls short of the truth. The truth is, the food is fantastic, the Utah-brewed beers are fantastic (remember, I'm not riding to Page, so I could even get bombed here if I so wished!) and, last but not least, my host/server Curtis is off-the-charts friendly and cool. Salmon sandwich with yams on the side and three bottles of the beer all mesh with website updating in fine style. There's even a picture inside of another intrepid traveler who ran into some trouble somewhere along the line. I'm actually kind of bummed when my cell phone rings and the towing company tells me they're ready to go, about ninety minutes in advance of the original ETD...but if I had had another ninety minutes in there, no telling what shape I'd have found myself in!

(While I'm at it, I should mention I'm also feeling bummed that I couldn't have had the tire work done right here in the Kanab, UT/Fredonia, AZ area; there are enough cute little cafes and other funny or historical things that could have supported an overnight or two. Even so, as that may just be the beer talking, we shouldn't forget that the issue has cost me not only the Toroweap stay, but will prevent me from enjoying a highly-anticipated two night stay at the campground near Havasupai Village further west. This was to feature an 11-mile horseback ride to the site and completely unimproved tent sites -- no electricity, no commodes, no water, nothing; nothing but the incredible beauty of the waterfalls and other natural sights. Missing the two most special camping-related destinations scheduled on the trip -- now THAT'S a bummer.)

Walking back across the street, I see the motorcycle that we've been waiting for before we could leave. It's a newer Honda Gold Wing -- the real luxo ride -- and it too has a trailer with it! Are they gonna be able to fit two large motorcycles and two trailers onto their rig? Well, yes they are, as we'll be using a pretty darned big trailer, and getting down the road won't be a problem since we'll be pulling it with a gigantic full-size four-door Dodge pickup. Loaded up! And time for a free ride to Page, Arizona. Website-wise, I wonder if I should log this as “time & miles traveled”, or not? (Who cares -- Ed.)

Anyway, I enjoy chatting with Dave & Terri, the very nice couple traveling on the Gold Wing, and hearing about the comfort of traveling on that ride and their experiences with the trailer and so on. I am saddened, however, when they tell me that the charge they're facing for the towing services will be four hundred and twenty-one dollars. I don't want to upset the guy any further, but I ask if he knows of the Honda Rider's Club of America, my membership in which means that my cost for the tow is going to be -- take a deep breath, people -- NOTHING. As in “nothing”, zero, zip, nada, etc. The cost of the tow for me is completely covered by my membership. Turns out Dave definitely does know of the HRCA, and is sheepishly forced to admit that he had just recently decided not to renew his coverage, which runs $35 a year. He'd never used the services, took a look at it, and decided not to send in the $35, which now turns out to have been a $376 error in judgment that he really couldn't have foreseen. Again, I/we are bummed, but the way he explains his thought process -- which would have been exactly the way I'd have looked at it -- I like the guy even more.

The trip to Page is as informative as it is, on occasion, utterly terrifying. Informative, because our driver explains that the mannequin, dressed as a cop and sitting at the wheel of a police car parked on the roadside, is known locally as “Latex Larry”; that steers sell for beef at 16 months while cows first become pregnant at the age of one, give birth at two, and are fertile for 10-12 years afterwards; and that essentially all of the land we are traveling through is part of one national park or another. Terrifying, because although the guy has experience with it and probably knows what he's doing, it is nevertheless a bit unsettling to be going well above 80 MPH -- yes, I've been peeking at the speedometer -- on a narrow, undulating two lane road, blowing by other cars in the oncoming travel lane as campers and trucks loom ever closer up ahead of us. And we're towing a twenty-five foot trailer, fer Chrissakes!

I'm trying to stay cool in the passenger seat, but I don't even need to look to know that Dave & Terri are absolutely not down with it. And in the end, although we make it to Page (1) alive and (2) well ahead of ETA, the speeds it took to do so have had direct cost to The Chief (tm). You see, not expecting to have set the land speed record during the trip, I guess I didn't think I'd have needed to seriously crank down the waterproof rain cover that had been on the motorcycle's tank bag. And although I can't have known it at the time, somewhere along the way it has blown off, along with the two newspapers I'd been storing underneath the bag itself -- including the Knoxville paper from way back on Day Three -- and the pair of red, lighter-weight riding gloves I had enjoyed rotating into when the temperatures climbed. Although somewhat less protective than the blue, full-racing Alpinestars SP-1 gloves I typically wear with the leather jacket, the red ones were very comfy, easy to put on and take off -- although the Velcro straps go in the opposite direction as on the SP-1's -- and easy to manipulate the camera while wearing. Damn! A stupid, frustrating, and wholly unnecessary loss.

At any rate, the road into Page crosses over the chasm in which the Glen Canyon Dam is located, a giant hunk of concrete only a few feet shorter in height than the Hoover Dam, and which I will definitely try to visit. I stick the camera out the window and manage to get a fairly good photo or two, considering that the truck is still moving and that the shots are completely un-aimed.

Just on the other side of town, we reach Page Honda. For whatever reason, something about the way they are arranged soon makes it clear that it will be much more difficult, if not impossible, to offload the motorcycle trailers (from the big trailer) than it was to load them on in the first place. No one present can quite figure out how this can be possible, but the quandry is aptly dispatched via a generous application of forklift (note: could take a moment to load).

With respect to the bikes, I have to paddle mine off backwards, requiring a bit of assistance with lateral stabilization for the brief, but tricky stint on the trailer's ramp itself. As I get it down on to the pavement, I wonder how hard it's gonna be for Dave to paddle his 900+ lb. Gold Wing backwards, with a flat rear tire, until I remember: since way back in 1994, the Gold Wings have had an electrically-driven reverse gear to aid in rearward maneuvering. Flat tire or not, he's got no problem backing up the thing.

After meeting up with the tech who had gone above and beyond in getting the tire ordered for me, and making sure the arrangements seem adequate, my attention must now turn to accommodations. Remember, I hadn't planned on being here, so I have no intel on motels or campgrounds or anything at all. Terri has apparently already jump-started the process for her and Dave, but for a cross-country traveler with a budget in mind (me), it's not looking too good: all of the low-cost motels are sold out, and even just a handful of real high-end rooms remain. With little else in the way of options, I check literally right next door with the Page/Lake Powell Campground & RV Park. Immediately it is clear that we have a winner: the fully-equipped property has availability and gives an AAA discount! The kicker is that I'll now have three straight days without having to break down, move, and set up camp -- truly a vacation within a vacation! What does one do with that much time? Check back in and find out!

Does Anybody Really Know...

Medium Cool

Patched Tire

Something For Everyone


Laid-Back Larry's


Grass-Roots Protectionism

London Calling!

Jack Elam Plaque

Rutan Fly-In


Don't Forget the Trailers

Do NOT Drop That Camera

Home, Sweet Home!