After more than 2,000 miles of riding the west U.S. interstates and highways, I had my first urgent problem on Wednesday while arriving in Chicago en route from Detroit. Thankfully, a free service I signed up for while in Myrtle Beach provided the help that biker friends have provided for me elsewhere.
The ride itself was as I've become accustomed to, as high winds and torrential downpours seem to enjoy reminding me that I chose an adventure, not a comfy package tour, on my current U.S. trip. My wet weather gear kept me reasonably dry, apart from the right leg that rides up and funnels water into my boot rather than keeping it out. (Note to self: Buy stirrups to fix that problem before heading out again.) The temperature was reasonable also, so although wet, I wasn't cold. But the Chicago traffic was just as bad as I'd been forewarned, if not worse, and my clutch hand was sore from all the stops required getting through and beyond the Chicago Skyway.
Once through the worst of that, I pulled off the interstate to top up with gas and, on pulling out of the service station, found my rear tire was completely (and suddenly) flat. There was no mechanic on duty so I filled the tire with air, and noticed a screw embedded in it. There I was, states away from anyone I knew who could be of help and with no knowledge of the state, city or town I was in.
BAM to the rescue!
While at Myrtle Beach Bike Week I'd been impressed by a Breakdown & Legal Assistance for Motorcyclists service offered by Russ Brown, Motorcycle Attorneys, and signed up. Started by Brown more than 30 years ago, BAM is a volunteer network of bikers helping bikers, whether with emergency roadside assistance, local knowledge or even blood donations and hospital visits. (BAM also offers legal services and an emergency database that holds members' emergency contacts, medical problems and blood type - services I hope not to utilize but which are reassuring to have available.)
Wendy at BAM asked what I needed, which was simply a convenient shop that could take care of my tire. In less than five minutes, I had a call from Dave at Albrecht's Fast Track, less than three miles from where I was. He checked he had the tube I needed, asked the mechanics if they would mind staying a little late as it was nearing 6 p.m. by then, and gave me instructions on how to find the workshop. While on the phone with him, I missed a callback from Wendy at BAM wanting to let me know what she'd arranged.
Once at Albrecht's, the guys changed out the tube as asked, plus tightened and lubed the chain and checked my brakes when they found out how far I'd ridden and how far I still had to go.
So what could have been a major stressor - drenched and tired in an unknown city with a bike that needed urgent work - turned into a positive experience (except for the cost, and that was reasonable also). I got to meet some more like-minded people, talk about bikes and biking America and reinforce my belief that people generally, and Americans in particular, are willing to help strangers whenever they can.
Thank you BAM (especially Wendy) and thank you Albrecht's!
For any U.S. bikers out there who are not already members of BAM, check out their website here: http://www.russbrown.com/