Conclusion 2022 Recap – Day 1: September 10, 2022 - Burlingame to Dodge City
Published: Sun, 10/09/22
Conclusion 2022 Recap Day 1
Day 1: September 10, 2022 Burlingame to Dodge
October 9, 2022
At long last, the day was here. We would unload the Red One at Casey’s in Burlingame, Kansas and then ride west to
overnight in Dodge City. The sky was overcast and the forecast included rain, but we fueled it up anyway and made the final checks. A small number of curious onlookers gathered to see this oddity head west. One of those present had actually been there in 2019! He said he watched me leave from Casey’s! I had a few minutes to explain the adventure and story to other bystanders. It was a heady time. I was reconciling excitement, anticipation, and satisfaction. Willie left with the trailer a few
minutes before me so he could film me “breaking the Crankshaft barrier” at the location where my 2019 ride came to an end. A few minutes later, I fired the Red one up and headed south on US 56.
A few minutes later, I was cruising at about 45 mph as I flew past Willie on the side of the road where my crankshaft had failed in 2019. A subtle superstitious concern prevented me from stopping. Instead, I just waved and zipped onward toward Dodge City.
Over the next hour or so, I finally noticed the engine was running rough, like there was an ignition issue of some sort. It began slowly but gradually got worse. I stopped a few times to see if I could figure out the problem. To make matters more interesting, it began raining. It wasn’t raining so heavy that I could not ride, but I also got soaked because I didn’t put on rain gear. I stopped again a couple miles east of Council Grove, Kansas. By
then, the bike was running very rough and it was difficult to start. I was dejected. Was Kansas again to be the end of my ride? I laid back at the side of the road to collect my breath from engine start attempts and consider the situation. It was then I lamented my failure to put my backup newly-reconditioned magneto in the trailer before we left. If it was a problem with the magneto, I feared it would be a show-stopper. As I was resting, Willie started the bike standing aside it rather than
seated. It finally at least started! We began carefully looking things over and, while the Red One was straining to idle correctly, both Glen Pyle and I saw the problem at the identical time. The sparkplug wires to #3 and #4 cylinders were arcing badly, preventing proper ignition, causing the engine to run on only two cylinders.
It was here that I was about to learn more about sparkplug wires than I had ever wanted to. I was disappointed to discover that, as awesome as the reproduction wires looked, they just could not handle the energy and heat produced by that old
magneto. I had only recently installed the nice wire routing clips and fittings (Thomas Fickau’s parts) and the “vintage-looking” wires I had purchased probably 20 years ago with a complete wire loom from a guy in Missouri. It all looked great, but the wires themselves ended up being a massive failure. Too bad this little gem of a problem didn’t surface at home during our “pre-departure” shakedown missions so I could have fixed it with more resources at my disposal.
In the trailer, I had a backup set of “woven cover” sparkplug wires that looked like classic old wires. We tried one to see if it would spark for us, but it turned out they were no good because they were silicone-based modern sparkplug wires. They were simply incapable of sending the magneto’s energy to spark the plug. Who knew!?
So, we were forced to trailer the bike and head two miles further to Council Grove in search of sparkplug wires. Glen rode ahead to scout out the best dining in town. It was getting to be lunch time and
there was no cause to work on the bike or ride hungry! Glen was quickly directed to Hays House, a tavern opened in 1857. That would be our spot for lunch today. But before lunch, I walked into the local NAPA auto parts store a few blocks away and asked for copper or metal core sparkplug wires. The younger guy behind the counter didn’t understand until another customer explained what I needed (thank you well-informed bystander!). The young salesman quickly returned with a set of sparkplug wires I
could see had metal cores. He said they were for a tractor. Okay, well, tractor sparkplug wires… perfect by me!
We parked the truck and trailer behind the Hays House and went inside to have a much-needed lunch before tending to this sparkplug wire issue. By the time we were done with lunch, it was raining in earnest and there was an open question as to whether I would continue riding. But we needed to replace the offending sparkplug wires no matter what, so we went back to the trailer and replaced the wires to #3 and #4 cylinder. The Red One was restored to full
It rained the whole way, although it was light rain at times. By the time we rode the last 4-¾ miles on gravel roads through Lehigh,
Kansas, then west to the historical marker, I realized that I was drenched to the bone!
This seems like an opportune time to mention the history of automobile roads in the United States. Most often in the eastern USA, real estate is at such a premium that most modern roads are laid down over the top of the old roads, with some license taken for straightening or blasting though hills. Additionally, most of the original roads paralleled railroad tracks, which passed through towns and villages that had water and coal for the trains. Out west, when
the trains stopped being the primary mode of transportation for people, as modern roads were installed, they were installed parallel to the old road, but up to a mile offset. This had the effect of routing automobile traffic past – not through – the towns on the old road. Most of the towns still exist, but the old road? Well, I like to joke that the State of Kansas is serious about their preservation of history in that they maintain that old road in the condition it was back in
After Loring Hill laid into me for an unexpected ride on a 23-mile stretch of fresh,
mushy, and dusty gravel road in Missouri in 2019, I was committed in 2022 to ensure we discussed – in advance – any gravel roads we would be riding. But... I had forgotten about the road through Lehigh! Still the condition of the road through Lehigh was better than Missouri in 2019 and the rain also provided a dust-free transit. Still, it was not exactly the best road for Glen’s BMW K1600 or my 1919 Henderson.
Between the sparkplug wires, the rain, and the gravel, I made the executive call when we arrived at the marker: “We are done riding for today!” I thought I saw flashes of pure joy in the faces of both Willie and Glen. I was so wet that my boots were still not dry the next morning!