Wandering Ganesha

2015 Iron Butt Rally – Part 1.5: Moving Again… Maybe…

The steady hum of my Tiger was a welcome sound as I got back up to speed. I was heading east on I-40. East, back towards Albuquerque. I hate making routes that double back on themselves. It’s a sure fire sign that you are not running an efficient route. Circles are best. out and back is bad. You can often times short cut a circle if things are not going well, out and back… you’re stuck. Once you get out there, there is only one way back.

This had been a very special bonus. Exact timing was required and I’d known that it really wasn’t worth the points, but that it was an experience that I wanted to have. Out and back was just fine this time. And it was very early in the ride I wasn’t going to have any trouble making the finish from this.

My next destination was Hubbell Trading Post. It was a short 63 miles from the Petrified Forest, but those rain clouds on the horizon were looking very ominous. I know realized that my third stop after the group photo was not going to be within the right time window. Navajo National Monument was was marked as closed at 5:30 and it was 200 miles away. It was only worth 183 points, but if I’d noticed this it might have made sense to go to Grand Canyon instead. I tried doing some routing options, but nothing really made any more sense. I’d just pass by it and not worry.

The big reason for going the way I was going was really Canyon De Chelly. At 606 points it was worth just as much as the Grand Canyon, but would be a lot less hassle. After that Glen Canyon National Recreation Area was 280 miles away and I needed to get there before sunset. It was a very easy pace to get 280 miles in the five and a half hours I had. But I ran my usual pace, conscious that I wanted to spend extra minutes at the rest break, not riding slower.

First I wanted to see how wet I was going to get. Looking over my Garmin 478 GPS I noticed that there were indeed two storm cells. While very intense, it looked like my usual weather luck was with me. I would pass between the cells and stay pretty dry. Soon enough I was pulling onto the dirt road at the entrance to Hubbell Trading post. Bone dry and on schedule.

HUTR – Hubbell Trading Post
61.8 miles traveled. Arrived 16:35 Departed 16:38

Hubbell Trading Post

Hubbell Trading Post

Looking at my route sheet I had originally scheduled myself to be here at 3:29 PM. But that was not based on the time that the group photo was. My route sheet had me leaving the photo bonus at 1:00 PM, which I knew was impossible. Still, the fact that I wasn’t that far behind that time reminded me just how unaggressive my plan was.

Soon I was turning off the main highway in Chinle and heading to Canyon De Chelle. I pulled up at 5:12 to be greeted by a closed gate.

Canyon De Chelly

Canyon De Chelly

No! That’s not right! Rally book clearly says daylight only. Ugh. But there was the sign clearly saying gates closed at 5:00 pm. Ah well, I knew the protocol. Take a picture of the gate, take a picture of the location to prove you were there. Move on. I’ve found that when you call the stock answer seems to be “Well as long as no one else gets a photo you’ll be OK.”

CACH – Canyon De Chelly
38.8 miles traveled. Arrived 17:12 Departed 17:17

Canyon De Chelly - Closed

Canyon De Chelly – Closed

At this point, I had 180 miles to go to get to Glen Canyon before sunset. It was 5:17 locally, so I was on track.

I’d ridden in this area on BL7, and it is beautiful. I drank in the scenery. What I was not paying attention to was my fuel.

I am a rally heretic and do not believe in gravity fed auxiliary fuel systems. On more than one occasion, I have met a rider sitting at the side of the road with his gravity fed system that was vapor locked and fuel would not flow. Not only did my tank rely on a fuel pump, it also had an electronic shut-off valve. Its all hooked up to a timer circuit. 4 minutes delivers about 1.3 gallons. 4 pushes of the button and I know the rear is dry. Typically I push the button when the front is half empty, and repeat. The bike is good for a reliable 400 miles unless I’m somewhere with high speed limits and high headwinds. What it does not have is an easy way to bypass the electronics to deliver fuel. If the system wasn’t working the only option was to remove the rear tank and pour it into the front. It would only take about 20 minutes to unmount and remount, but still it was not a good thing, only in case of dire emergency would I do that. I had over 20,000 trouble free miles on my aux tank. It ran all of BL 7 beautifully.

I hadn’t been paying attention and my low fuel light came on. No problem I pushed the button. The Tiger fuel gauge takes a while to respond to added fuel, and I knew that it would be a minute before the low fuel light would go out. I went back to admiring the scenery.

Looking back at the fuel gauge, the low fuel light was NOT out. But the light that indicates my pump was running was. Hmmmm. It didn’t feel like 4 minutes was up. I pushed the button again. I closely watched the light. It went out after about 15 seconds. Shit. I guess my gremlins were not left behind before the start. I pushed the button again. Once again the light went out long before it should have. And still my low fuel warning light glared at me.

The only good news was that a gas station that I had visited on BL 7 was only 20 miles away, so at least I wouldn’t be pouring fuel all over my bike under the hot Arizona sun! It is strange how I can be out in the middle of nowhere – and Kayenta, AZ really qualifies as nowhere – but yet know that there is a gas station that I have visited before.

Pulling into the station I opened the main tank and hit my pump button. My pump has a loud clacking sound if it’s running when the rear is dry, or if the valve is closed. But it’s not loud enough to hear at anything above 15MPH. When the pump is running with fuel it has a very soft sound that I can only hear when stopped. I heard the comforting sound of soft whirring from the pump and a burbling coming from my open main tank. WTF! Why the heck was it not transferring when I was moving. I decided that maybe it had something to do with the low fuel level and that there might have been a vapor lock that somehow the pump couldn’t overcome. I’ll believe anything when it will avoid me having to break out the tool kit and troubleshoot some bullshit problem.

Fuel Kayenta, AZ
70.0 Miles Traveled Arrived 18:17 Departed 18:25

Since I was stopped I fueled anyway. I figured that the rest of my day was going to be pretty easy with ready fuel, and if the stupid thing crapped out on me I would be alright. Leaving my favorite Shell station in Northeastern Arizona I headed west, in search of a water fountain in the middle of the desert.

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