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July 19th, 2013 | New York State

The Long Island Saga…

Patricia has spent many a summer in the Hampton’s on Long Island, not only teaching Pilates, but also working at a much respected restaurant in Sag Harbor.

Naturally, she had made many friends there, some of which she had not seen since our wedding last year. Although riding on Long Island was not part of my original plan, I agreed to take the Big Fella out onto the island to meet her close friends, and to see the place she had on many occasions described with such fondness.

No kidding !!

No kidding !!

Despite setting the route on my GPS, our ride did not start very well. Rider error was to blame… I missed the turnoff which would have taken us over to Staten Island, and continued blithely on, confident that Gi-Gi would get me back onto my original route plan… Little did I know that there are only two roads leading into New York…

We ended up riding through the Holland Tunnel and into the madness that is Manhattan !! Trying to keep an eye on the cars around you; the GPS screen; and interpret the directions while multiple turn-offs are flying towards you is difficult at the best of times, which is why I hate riding in big cities… Patricia shouting advice in my right ear which was contrary to what the GPS was saying, did not help matters one little bit…

Bottom line… The Big Fella threw in the towel, threatening to blow a piston through the cylinder head unless I pulled over and allowed him to cool down…

We finally get it right !!

We finally get it right !!

And that was how we came to be parked on a busy side street in Chinatown, Manhattan, while traffic swarmed around us…  We stood there for half an hour while the engine cooled down, and then gingerly made our way through the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world…

The experience did not make it into my top 1000 favourite things I have done, on my ride around the world…

After a few more wrong turns which made both the Big Fella and Gi-Gi sulk, we made it back onto the expressway that ran towards the eastern tip of Long Island.

We reached Sag Harbor an hour later than we had hoped to and found the home of Patricia’s friend Kevyn without too much trouble.

Main street, Sag Harbour.

Main street, Sag Harbor.

The Hampton’s are a legendary playground for the rich and famous of American society, and the beautiful homes we passed were proof of that. The likes of stars such as Madonna, have homes here, and during the Summer, the place bustles with a vibe that can only come from the well-heeled and independently wealthy…

We went for a swim in Peconic Bay, which splits the end of Long Island into two narrow arms, before joining the Long Island Sound… The water was much warmer than we expected and did little to cool us down.
While we waited for Kevyn to complete her daily schedule of classes, we went to the nearby Bell and Anchor restaurant to meet Nina, a friend that Patricia’s. We spent the afternoon there, and later joined Kevyn and her boyfriend Scott at the Tuto il Giorno restaurant for dinner.
We met Mauricio, the owner, and many other staff whom Patricia had worked with, who were all delighted to see her again.
We met up with Patricia's good friend Nina at the Bell and Anchor...

We met up with Patricia’s good friend Nina at the Bell and Anchor…

Billy Joel was there and I briefly considered chatting to him about his impressive collection of classic motorcycles which number close to 100 !! He was with a small group of his friends and I decided not to bother the Piano Man…

We would remember Montauk for a long time to come...

We would remember Montauk for a long time to come…

The following day, which was meant to be our last day there, we decided to take a ride out to Montauk Point, to have a swim in the Atlantic, as well as to see the lighthouse on the most eastern tip of Long Island.

You can't keep a good girl down !! Patricia does her thing on the trampoline...including yoga !!

You can’t keep a good girl down !! Patricia does her thing on the trampoline…including yoga !!

Since our unintentional foray into Manhattan, I had been feeling the clutch getting softer under my left hand, and on the way out to Montauk, if anything, it got even softer.

I tried adjusting it on the lever but that did not make any difference. At this point the optimist in me hoped that it would get us back to New Jersey, so I could have it looked at by the BMW guys in Metuchen.

After a quick swim in the much colder water of the open ocean, we lay on the hot sand for a while to dry ourselves before riding out to see the lighthouse.

The Montauk Lighthouse was the first lighthouse built in New York State and is the fourth oldest active lighthouse in the United States.

Father of the nation, George Washington authorized its construction, which was completed in 1796.
In 2012 it was officially designated as a National Historic Landmark.
The beach at Montauk. The cold Atlantic was far more refreshing that the Bay had been the day before...

The beach at Montauk. The cold Atlantic was far more refreshing that the Bay had been the day before…

George was an enlightened man...

George was an enlightened man…

The famous Lighthouse at Montauk Point..

The famous Lighthouse at Montauk Point. We did not have the time to take the guided tour, as we were due back in Sag Harbor by early evening.

What were the chances of breaking down outside a place with this name

What were the chances of breaking down outside a place with this name ??

We took a few photos of the lighthouse and then hopped on the Big Fella and prepared to rid back… When I pulled on the clutch lever to change gears, the lever came right up against the handlebar…!! Nothing there…, nada…, niks…!!

I managed to get the bike into gear after a while and we rode back to Montauk… As we entered the village, I tried to change gears to slow down at a traffic light, and the bike stalled… The clutch refused to work and I had to push it across the intersection.

A guy who only introduced himself as Chris, was passing by in a panel van and stopped to assist. He drove Patricia around for over an hour, trying to find somebody who owned a trailer, to haul the bike to Southampton.

After dozens of phone calls, we finally managed to find a guy who owned a landscaping business, who used a trailer to transport all his mowers and equipment with, and he cam to the rescue.

We dropped the bike off at NYC Choppers in Southampton, late that same evening and the following afternoon, I went out to meet Nick the owner, who set about trying to find the problem with my clutch.

"This is becoming a bit of a habit, old boy...!!"

“This is becoming a bit of a habit, old boy…!!”

Nick at NYC Choppers. diagnosed the problem and got us back on the road.

Nick at NYC Choppers. diagnosed the problem and got us back on the road.

Together with his friend Bruce, who was an experienced BMW mechanic, they discovered that not only was my clutch fluid reservoir bone dry, but the line itself was filled with a dark brown liquid that indicated there was plenty of dirt in the system.

They bled and flushed the clutch system and after an hour, pressure returned to the clutch lever, and we were good to go !! We had dodged another bullet !!

Had it been the clutch plate that was the problem, it would have meant thousands of dollars in repair costs, and the possible end of the ride for  the Big Fella and I.

Before I left Nick’s workshop, he suggested that I have the slave cylinder checked out as soon as possible, because he was certain that it was damaged in some way, considering all the dirt that he had pumped from the system.

14. Patricia popped in to Tuto il Giorno to greet and catch up with her formers workmates, Juanel and Eric.The delay in repairing the bike, meant that we were unable to ride back to New Jersey the same day, and spent an additional night with Kevyn and Scotty.

Considering that it was possible that the clutch might pack up again, we agreed that it would be better for Patricia to take the bus back to Freehold, while I rode directly to BMW to have it checked out again.

We spent the following morning before the bus left Sag Harbor, visiting  few of Patricia’s old friends and after saying our goodbyes to Kevyn and Scotty, I left to make the ride back to New Jersey.

It was only as I came to write this post, that I realised that I had not taken a single photo of Kevyn or Scotty !! I usually carry my camera everywhere I go, but I guess the hassles with bike had preoccupied my mind since our arrival in Sag Harbor.

To see a photo of the beautiful, talented, extremely energetic and accomplished, Kevyn Zeller, you’ll have to visit her website to read all about her !! Go to

I rode down the length of Long Island, determined not to make the same mistake as we had by riding through New York City itself. I stopped to refuel a short distance from JFK airport, and took some time to ensure that I was on the correct highway, bound for Staten Island…

All my preparation came to nought, as I either missed a turnoff somewhere, or Gi-Gi decided to change the route while I wasn’t looking…

I found myself staring into the jaws of the Midtown Tunnel, and knew that we were Manhattan bound…AGAIN !!

I found myself riding down Park Avenue, and then all the way down 2nd Avenue where I managed to catch about 20 sets of lights all on green…Which was a good thing, because it was blisteringly hot in NYC, and I was afraid that the bike would overheat again.

We turned onto Houston and then onto West Broadway, where I pulled into some shade cast by a small tree, and called Patricia to tell her I was back in her old stomping grounds…

I sat on the bike, watching New Yorker’s going about their daily business, until I felt that the engine was cool enough to resume our ride.

We went back down into the Holland Tunnel, and crossed the state line into New Jersey, under the Hudson River. I am pretty sure these two crossings I had made using the Holland Tunnel, were the first and only time I had ever changed states while being under water.

I have changed countries by traveling under water on two other occasions, by taking the “Chunnel Train”  between England and France under the English Channel.

 Exiting the Holland Tunnel and entring New Jersey.

Exiting the Holland Tunnel and entering New Jersey.

Cross Countrry Motorcycles had just about every base covered !!

Cross Country Motorcycles had just about every base covered !!

17. Up on the operating table again... Was the Big Fella beginning to show the strain of his world tourI arrived at Cross Country Cycles in Metuchen, New Jersey and made contact with the guys who I had made numerous calls to over the past few days.

Despite their service department being fully booked up for the next six weeks or more, they very kindly agreed to put the Big Fella up on a lift and take a look at the clutch.

They flushed the system again, noticing that despite our best efforts on Long Island, there was still a large amount of dirt in the line.

Resident BMW guru and walking encyclopedia , Joe Trimmer, then removed the slave cylinder and shook his head as he showed me the condition it was in…

“Have you ever had this changed before ??” he asked…

“Nope, not to my knowledge. That has never been removed from the bike since I bought it !!”

“Well then, you have certainly got your money’s worth from this part. I don’t think it’s going to get you to Canada and back !!”

Apparently, the slave cylinder valve is not supposed to look like this on the inside...

Apparently, the slave cylinder valve is not supposed to look like this on the inside…

He rushed off to his office to place an order for a new slave cylinder and came back with a smile on his face.

“We will have one here first thing tomorrow morning. Be here as early as possible, and we will fit it for you.”

Early the following morning, I was back at Cross Country Cycles and Joe and his team had the bike up on the lift and sorted out in under an hour.

They also took the time to replace a faulty headlight that had been blinking on and off of its own accord for the last few days, and gave the bike a quick once over to ensure that there wasn’t anything else that needed urgent attention.

We came to the conclusion that the time the Big Fella had spent wallowing in sea water during Superstorm Sandy last November, had caused more damage than we had first believed…

The corrosion had affected not only the rear bearings and drive shaft, but the joints around the clutch cylinder as well… The little shaft that pushed the clutch plate in and out, was covered in flash rust, and Joe was surprised that it had not affected the splines on the clutch as yet…

Armed with Joel Storm's notes, and Joe Trimmers books, maps and brochures, I was all set to take on New England and the wilds of Eastern Canada.

Armed with Joel Storm’s notes, and Joe Trimmers books, maps and brochures, I was all set to take on New England and the wilds of Eastern Canada.

The team at Cross County had gone out of their way to assist me, and took great interest in what we had achieved to date. They had not sen a R 1200 GS with as much mileage as mine, and wanted to know more about any problems that I have had over thee years, to add to their own knowledge of the bike…

While I waited for the bike, I sat chatting to a gentleman who had ridden through New Hampshire and Maine, and he jotted down a list of places I should try to see on my way up to Canada. Joel Storm’s advice would help me plan my route and see some of the best riding spots in these states. Thanks for taking the trouble, Joel !! Much appreciated.

Before I left Cross Country, I was to receive another surprise, in the form of a thick stack of books, brochures and information, that Joe Trimmer had put together for me.

I had explained my plans to him the previous afternoon, and he had very kindly gathered up all the information he could find from his own trips up into Nova Scotia, Cape Bretton and Newfoundland, and presented them to me. I am most grateful for Joe’s thoughtfulness, and look forward to meeting him again on my way back from the north, and recounting my rides…

My thanks go out to the team at Cross Country Cycles, who not only provided me with their professional services, but also assisted me without apparent fuss, despite having a very full schedule of repairs on hand.

Joe’s advice and ideas allowed me to leave on the next part of my ride with huge peace of mind.

Thanks again fellas, catch you on the rebound…

©GBWT 2013

1 comment to The Long Island Saga…

  • Doug McIllwain

    As much time Big Fella spent under the sea water, you should check with the German Navy and see if he could be awarded a U-Boat designation number. 🙂

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