16 February, 2018 – Las Grutas to Trelew via motorcycle, 333 km / 207 miles – 4-minute read
We ran out of gas yesterday – almost. The motor began to stall, with just enough to get us into the gas station. Where there was an orange cone in front of the pump. And an attendant who tried to wave us away, then flipped over the sign saying “No Hay Nafta” – there is no gas.
Suddenly we understood the 10-car line at the gas station we’d passed earlier; the attendant told us that was the only place to fill up near the town, 15 km back along a road when we had already used the reserve. But I was lucky, and begged him to try for just two liters, which he was able to get the pump to cough up. We were able to drive back to the station this morning, waited our turn in the long line, and got the gas we needed.
I spent the morning puzzling on it. When I flipped over to my gas reserve I was at 214.8 miles, which is within 0.2 miles of exactly what I expected. But then I ran out within 50 miles, when I should have had another hundred miles of fuel. I couldn’t figure it out, and that worried me.
Today we ran at 75 mph for the first couple hours, catching perfect road through the desert. Traffic was sparse, and the few big trucks we encountered were easy to pass.
Was it the gas tank and reserve being swapped? After the carburetor work in Colombia it felt like I had a smaller main tank, and more in the reserve. Or was it the choke? It’s been sticking since Bolivia, and I have a spare because of that, but I thought I’d broken it free in Buenos Aires. Maybe it’s something else? Air filter? Clog in the tank?
I spent the hours puzzling, then felt the engine sputter – at only 155 miles from our morning fill up. Getting worse, not better, then.
A YPF appeared in less than two miles, and I pulled us in with relief. At least we wouldn’t run out this time. But our day was supposed to be 8 hours today covering more than 425 miles — it was going to be long if I had to stop three times for gas, especially if we hit lines every time.
We talked over lunch, deciding eventually to stop off in Trelew, splitting our 8-hour day into two shorter ones, so that I could try to fix the bike. I thought about trying to find a local garage, but I knew what I needed to do, and had no confidence in either my ability to explain it nor in a guarantee of things working well for the next few weeks — and we need the bike to work well for this stretch through Patagonia. It will be cold, and rainy, and desolate.
I drove around Trelew, and was happy to find a motorcycle shop that Google said would be open. It wasn’t; everything here seemed to be closed from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. for the world’s longest lunch hour. After checking a couple shops, a gas station attendant referred me to the client he was pumping for, who recommended Carrefour, where I found car batteries (in the second, larger Carrefour), but no motorcycle batteries, but did find a nice guard who recommended a battery shop that would be open during the afternoon if I drove that way for a few blocks, then turned left on Colombia street and drove for a few blocks till something something words I didn’t understand in Spanish.
Surprisingly, it worked. I drove along Colombia looking for a battery shop, and it was open in the afternoon, and had the battery I needed. I had to take off two body panels and unbolt the saddle to figure that out, but by the time I drove away, my motor was starting better than it had in… ever. One item of the prep-for-freaking-cold-riding down on the fix-it list.
The second was bigger, changing out the choke on the bike from the standard wire-and-lever system to an after market push-pull mod. I’d been avoiding it because I dreaded taking the tank off the bike. It seemed like a big task. It wasn’t. Removing four body panels, the saddle (again), the tank, replacing the choke, putting everything back on – one hour.
And tomorrow we try again. I may need to wash the air filter, but I feel more confident to do that now. I’ve made two changes to the bike today, and she runs better than before. As important, I feel substantially better about fixing the bike myself. It’s a bit late for preparation, at the end of this trip, but maybe there will be another grand ride in my future…
PS – There was a dinosaur statue on the way into town. Apparently, I’m Owen Grady.