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Georgia On My Mind
May 2003

Day 9 part 3b

I fire the engine and ride away, this time pulling higher rpm. Unfortunately, it becomes clear that I have a problem. The engine is burbling on what sounds like two or three cylinders coming on and off and sounding worse by the moment. All right, I need to find a nice shaded spot by the side of the road and stop.

As I reflect on a problem that doesn't seem to have an apparent cause, I realize the implication of being stranded relatively far from base camp. I remind myself of the old saying that an adventure doesn't usually feel like one while it's happening to you. I immediately feel better.

My typical attitude is that if something will eventually end up feeling like some sort of adventure when I look back, then I might as well start to enjoy it now. :)

In a minute, I find just the spot I need. It's quite a nice spot actually. There is the roaring water of the river gushing by right next to us, maybe 15 feet away. And, more importantly, we'll be in the shade, making it much more comfortable as a work environment.

I'm focused in troubleshooting mode. Before my riding partners pull up, I'm already getting my riding gear off by the side of the road. It's hot and I don't want us to be stopped anymore than we have to.

Carol mentions something about getting the bike towed to a local garage and then coming back for it later with a trailer. I appreciate the thought but feel this is a little premature.

I suspect that the most likely culprit may be the Power Commander unit I've installed more than a year ago. It's installed in the tail section under the passenger seat. Maybe it was exposed to too much humidity over the last couple of nights?

The PC is plugged into the engine management system loop and controls the fuel injection mapping. It has never malfunctioned before but, given the symptoms, seems like a prime suspect.

This is both good news and bad news. The good news is that I should be able to unplug the PC box and revert to stock operation. The bad news is that the PC wiring harness connects to the engine management system under the gas tank.

Under normal circumstances, this should not be a problem. However, I've installed a steering damper that runs across the gas tank just behind the handlebars (steering head). Normally I need to remove the main bracket for the steering damper before removing the tank. This requires a 32mm socket (1/14in). I don’t have one of those handy….

I begin removing parts and focus on keeping good momentum. The steering damper is off in a couple of minutes. The front and rear bolts on the gas tank easily come out but my heart momentarily sinks as I realize the tank will not clear the steering damper bracket.

The tank MUST come off in order for me to access the PC wiring harness connectors. During all this time, Cindy is literally hovering and itching to pitch in and help. I explain the dilemma and, with a little finagling, we manage to get the tank off its mounts.

I locate the plugs and within minutes the PC-otomy is done. Re-connect the stock EMS plugs, re-connect the battery. I cross my fingers and hit the starter. It fires up instantly. I let it idle for a minute and then bring it up and down the rpm range. It seems to be firing perfectly.

As I keep zipping things up, I look at Carol and mention that this is just Iron Butt rally practice. Only here it happens on a sunny day by a riverbed in the shade. In the Iron Butt, the rally gods deal you adversity cards that include much worse conditions. Carol knows…

All in all, this little interlude may have taken 20-25 minutes or so and we're off. The bike is running perfectly. Again I'm reminded of the adage: when looking for a solution, first understand the problem. Often the solution reveals itself.

Montreal, Canada

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