You know you’re in trouble when your leg gets all hot and wet and the oil light comes on. Doubly so when you’re in the middle of nowhere (well not really nowhere, just close to nowhere – northern Michigan), on a country road picked because it leads more or less eastward, and cell phones haven’t yet been invented. Of course I didn’t know that last bit at the time otherwise I would have invented them myself and be living in the lap of luxury today instructing one of my peeps to write this for me. But I digress.
The 550 Honda had done yeoman’s service over the past few weeks, carrying the two of us and enough gear to ensure basic survival across Canada to Victoria, B.C. and (almost) back home. With more than 10,000 miles behind us we were tired and the bike was tired, but being only two days from home we, like the proverbial horse, could already “smell the barn”. Perhaps that’s why I was pushing a bit harder than the old girl could stand with all the weight she was carrying on her back. So she finally said, “Enough!” and blew out the oil filter gasket and all her oil miles from the nearest town.
As we sat at the side of the road having a smoke (it was still socially acceptable then) and trying to figure out what to do next the first car we’d seen in over half an hour pulls up. My first thought was that I had accidentally clicked my heels together and Toto and I were suddenly in Kansas – er, Texas. The white Cadillac convertible had Texas plates and a set of steer horns embellishing the hood. The driver was a huge man, suitably attired in a Stetson and (I assume) the requisite cowboy boots, smoking a cigar the size of an Oscar-Meyer wiener.
As he was coming from the direction we were headed, he pulled up on the other side of the road and called across. “How y’all doing?” His voice matched the rest of the package – big and booming.
“Not so good. Blew an oil seal.”
“Y’all need some tools?” Now the offer was nice, but I didn’t think he’d be carrying too many metric wrenches in his trunk. Besides, I had tools. I even had a spare O-ring.
“No thanks. I have the tools and the parts I need, but I have no oil.”
“Well jump in. There was a station a ways back. We’ll go get y’all some oil.” He pronounced it “erl”.
Now that was the best offer I’d had in a while, so I shouted “Thanks”, and he executed a 6-point turn to come over to our side of the road. Miz Liz decided to stay with the bike and all our gear, so I got in, being very careful to not get oil all over the white interior, and we headed back down the highway.
It turned out that “a ways back” was about 30 miles – 30 very comfortable miles. After days on a hard saddle, floating down the highway at 90, sitting on soft white leather, and smoking a good cigar (he was a very generous man) was a little bit of heaven on earth. Almost time-warpish. (“And with a jump to the left…”)
Soon enough we were back at the bike with fresh oil (and an extra quart as a spare). He stuck around while I made the repairs and topped up the oil, “just to make sure everything is okay”. An offer to pay for his time and gas was dismissed out of hand as totally unnecessary, and then with a wave and a hearty “Good luck” he was on his way.
I only hope that if he ever needed help someone was there for him. He deserved it.