IMG_2356The mountain is on fire. The very mountain I hiked three days ago. Firecrackers ruin mountains.

We watched grey puffy smoke roll across the mountains-from the mouth of a fat dragon it seemed. Almost forgettable at first, grey smoke just drifting through a blue sky. Now, helicopters are swooping water from the river;  it seems much like trying to spray a water gun at a massive bonfire. As night fell cooler wind fueled it. Now the flames have grown, at night they appear to be rivers of lava moving in a kink around the mountain.

Fire on the MountainApparently two youngsters birthed this tragedy.  Their parents will substitute college education by paying tens of thousands of dollars in damage control. There will be no firecrackers on the Fourth of July.

It probably won’t be contained until tomorrow. It’s RIGHT outside our house! My eyes are burning and the smell of smoke lingers. It wasn’t the first fire I saw today. The mill, the one on the way back into town, was blazing. The way back into town?

Well, yea. Today’s planned long haul was to Circle, MT, 450 miles.  I was looking forward to surprising Paula at the Traveler’s Inn. I was waylaid in Circle last year, as a matter of fact. So the day found me up and off early, after granola and coffee with Nancy and her visiting mother. About thirty miles outside of town, my speed dropped from 54-30. Lurched. Then the engine cut out. This is when the haze of patience kicks in, like an psychological morphine.

Welcome to Montana. Dead air. No cell phone coverage. I spot a ranch, with a carved wooden sign saying STAFF ONLY. The scoot starts up, so we cautiously roll over the quarter mile gravel driveway. It looked like a compound, as though there should be a lot of life there, but all the buildings were empty. I located the office and introduced myself as the wayward traveler in need of a phone. Months ago, Wendy gave me a calling card. Wow. This is old school. Blessed card, with 750 minutes on it.

IMG_1555I make some calls, trying to problem solve. A call came in for me from Ron, the mechanic at Scoot Over in Tucson. I want to ride, just open throttle and pray it was an “incident.”

But the Rocky Mountains wait around the bend for me, with a climb about 7,000 feet. And there will be no mechanic until Minnesota-almost 1,500 miles. Heading back to Missoula seems more responsible than living on a prayer. A cowboy hears me talking and sends me down the road to the resort mechanics. He guarantees their excellence and experience.

Why not? I talked to Chad. (?) He can only make suggestions, but can’t do any work on the bike, as the “resort” would be liable. After handshakes and well wishes, ya ya-I’m back on the long gravel road.  Patience. Well, the scoot IS running.

I hate these moments. When neither solution is savory, but one gets you immediately closer to your goal. Just as I’m asking myself-who solves this conundrum-the universe calls. The scoot dies. Once. Starts. Dies. Starts. Drive 10 feet. Dead.

Fine, I’m going back east. I’m now a mile from the resort. There is no cellphone coverage. GPS says gas is 8 miles West. 45 minutes later I arrived, through a combination of riding and pushing. It was all downhill, fortunately. I anticipate that the gas station will have a pay phone and food. IMG_1560No pay phone.

The clerk lets me use the phone to call roadside assistance, a one year feature that comes with the Buddy. Turns out the line is for credit cards too, so the bartender at the conjoined restaurant is yelling at me. Unbelievable.
She gives me the number for another line and points to the phone on the wall.  I sit, order french fries and wait for roadside assistance to call. The phone rings, I instinctively pick it up and the bartender yells at me again. As though this dive in a town with pop. 50 receives a high volume of calls. I oblige her by enthusiastically answering “Potomac Bar and Grill.” But the call is for me.

Oh, really? Roadside assistance expired with Audre’s birthday, 3 days ago. At this point I don’t care-I pull out the card-“Genuine is sponsoring this ride, they will approve the extension.”

She calls Genuine, calls me back. Says she spoke to Leah and Leah said NO. I just didn’t believe her, so with evil eyes on me from the bartender, I call Genuine. Cindy confirms there is NO Leah working there and they instantly call Roadside Assistance for me. Sweet. Thanks Genuine.

Hours ago, Scooterville, MT mentioned coming to get me, but I knew they were slammed and it was a ways out to get me. When I tried to call back, three times, no one answered and I decided it best if their patience with me just went to the scooter.

IMG_1561Tow truck guys says 45 minutes. Which turns into two. The bartender publicly shamed me by yelling in front of the barflies-“I DO need my phone back NOW.” It wasn’t the kind of place where you’re welcomed if not a local. So I played four games of pool and read my scooter manual front to back twice. Finally Sean showed up and Audre went somewhat precariously onto the rig.

IMG_2345Return to Scooterville.  Audre is in the shop, but it was closed by the time I arrived-6pm. 8 hours after the breakdown. That’s a day. I now have a sea foam green Buddy loaner. My Scooterville saints have taken me home and fed me and let me chill out. They’re good to me.

Especially when all I wanted to do was get a motel room and sulk. Nancy walked with me to grab coffee and the banter was enjoyable, but I was still beat.My body and mind felt like a noodle, and more than anything, I just wanted to feel, something. Anger? Peace?Sadness?

Frustration? Well, there is some of that. I haven’t felt like my bike was solid for awhile now. I always feel like the scooter shops I visit are frenzied with the scooter craze. The commandment that bikers on the road get first service is somewhat obsolete when shops are scrambling to handle 100% sales increase.Understandably so.

Diagnosis? We’ll see. I know I’m in good hands and I’m sure the sage Genuine mechanics will hold conference with us. It’s obvious that she’s not getting fuel to the engine. Is there a bigger problem than cleaning the carb? We’ll see. The valves will be checked, the coil, the float. Maybe the float cracked.

I’m not an expert, but I’m learning heaps from this trip. After reading I see by my Own Outfit, I long to have my hands dirty and experience the pride found in rigging a solution out of grit and fate. My Buddy’s just not the same as Peter Beagle’s Heinkel though-vintage might just be easier to work on, but require more consistent tinkering.

Either way, keep in mind, Audre’s more than passed the test on performance, she’s not a touring scooter, but has served me well. I don’t know that anyone has ridden this far on a 125cc. They just aren’t meant to go wide open throttle day after day. I’ll keep you posted as I know, looks like I’ll be here until Friday at least.

Me? I’m sad that my homestretch keeps getting spun on its compass. Plans with people will be delayed. Home is getting further away dammit. But this is traveling, this is adventure, home is here now. And I’ve got to stay fluid, I’ve got to be here now. Perhaps I’m really meant to visit the Peace Center here after all!