Home » It’s Wrenching Wednesday! What Are The Worst Conditions You’ve Wrenched In?

It’s Wrenching Wednesday! What Are The Worst Conditions You’ve Wrenched In?

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Old Hippie
Old Hippie
4 months ago

This is a tough one… I feel like a significant portion of my life has been spent wrenching on various rigs in various miserable situations, often by the roadside or out in the boonies.

Here are a few that come to mind:

Hot:

Pulling out of beautiful Marfa,TX on my first-year Yamaha Vision 550 one fine fall morning (late October and 112F), I heard a loud backfire and didn’t think much of it. About half way north to Valentine, I started having trouble seeing–everything was going wavier that could be explained by the heat alone. I realized the problem was oil creeping up over my after-market windscreen! I pulled over–if you’ve ever been in this part of Texas, you know the largest patch of shade is a pebble–and found that the backfire had been a case explosion, which blew damned near every seal out of the case.

I immediately started to tear the bike down to where I could re-seat all those rubber bits–luggage off ( I was returning to Oregon after a season working in Big Bend NP, so had a fair load), seat off, fuel tank off… etc. As I was working away and trying to keep my feet out of the growing puddle of sweat mud I was making, a Border Patrol agent pulled up. Well, some help would be nice, but some of the stuff I was taking back to Oregon… not what I wanted to talk to the BP about. Turns out, he just wanted to know if I needed any parts or supplies from town, as he was heading up to Valentine and the next officer would be patrolling down my way in an hour or so, so he could have that officer bring anything I needed.

Well, aside from five gallons of water, what I needed was three quarts of Castrol 20-50, not something you’d find in gas stations in west Texas back in ’83. Still, I asked and figured I’d have to use whatever oil could be found until I hit a real town down the road.

To my surprise, the next shift officer showed up about on time, WITH the Castrol (and the water and fresh home-made tamales)! Turns out, he had a buddy who drag-raced and his bud donated the oil to a good cause (I guess getting a hippie on a motorcycle out of Texas could be considered a good cause)!

I had the bike back together before sundown and headed north on the longest “Iron Butt” ride of my life–2,200 miles in two days–on a canyon-diver.

A buddy and I decided to try out the River Road in Big Bend NP in the middle of the summer in my ’48 Willy’s Pick-Up (which I later traded for the bike above–one 2,200 mile highway trip in that rig was enough to me). So it was mid-summer and pretty much over 120F every day–we were young and tough and seasoned after months of hard work outside in that weather.

If you’ve seen videos of the River Road in BBNP, forget that. This was ’83 and it was every bit of a primitive trail. Two days were the expected time to traverse about 40 miles.

Well, the first fifty miles or so were getting to the start of the road. About fifteen miles out of the tiny town of Lajitas (flagstones in Spanish), a dump truck pulled on from a side-road, cutting us off, and dropped part of his load of construction scraps right in front of us. Now, emergency braking in a ’48 Willy’s is a nice idea, just not possible–nor is swerving. I hit a piece of 2X4 as it flipped end-over-end, clearing the muffler out from under the rig.

Now, not only did that make the rig loud, but it turns out the ’46 Chrysler flat-head six didn’t like no back-pressure and basically wouldn’t run worth shit without the muffler, so we pulled over, crammed the muffler back on best we could, and headed on down the road.

Over the next two days of serious trail-crawling, road building, foot-scouting, etc, that damned muffler would fall off at the most inconvenient times and places. Once again shade ain’t something one finds in this part of the world, unless you want to wait ’til dark.

Re-installing the muffler bare-handed wasn’t as bad as touching the sheet metal of the rig–that would strip skin right off! The worst part of it was re-fueling. The steel Jerry cans of fuel (four of them) were hotter than the ambient temperature of upper 120s. To get the fuel into the rig was a challenge, as any jarring or bumping of the can would cause the fuel to boil and spew out of the nozzle. It was a full-on two-man operation, much akin to disarming an IED.

We made it with five gallons of fuel to spare. I took the Willy’s down to Mexico a few weeks later and got the muffler/tailpipe fixed.

Enough for now….

Last edited 4 months ago by Old Hippie
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