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November 16th, 2012 | New Jersey

The Rescue of, and Goodbye to, the Big Fella…!!

My good friends Doug McIllwain and Kevin duly arrived in Freehold to collect the me, and then drove to Monmouth Beach to collect the Big Fella… Kevin’s trailer was by far the fanciest that the Big Fella had ever been in…!!

Doug McIllwain and Kevin to the rescue…!!

The Big Fella is readied for the ride to Port Carbon, Pennsylvania…

We chatted about my recent wedding and brief trip back to South Africa on the way back to Port Carbon, and about three hours later arrived at Doug’s house. We offloaded the bike and wheeled it into the bottom level of Doug’s house, put it up on the bike lift and got straight to work…

We drained the oil from the engine and noticed a very small amount of water mixed in with it, which was a huge relief… Getting the oil filter off was a mission, and required more than a little effort. Doug did not have the exact size tool to unscrew it, and finally we had to make do with a hammer and screwdriver…

Doug had to use a little force to get the oil filter off… Kevin looks on with interest and wonders if we shouldn’t be using a much bigger hammer…!!

We had been advised to let the oil drain overnight to ensure that the engine emptied completely. Kevin and his wife Sandy returned later that evening and we went out to dinner together… During the meal, conversation centred around Doug’s most recent adventure, much to his embarrassment, and our amusement…

Dinner at Cactus Jack’s, a Mexican joint in Pottsville… Doug, his wife Theresa, Sandy and husband Kevin joined me for what was a reunion meal… We had all met before my wedding when I had made a short ride out to visit Doug and Theresa…

Doug’s most recent adventure contained the following items: a chainsaw; a very large tree; and a house… His story can basically be summed up with 10 simple facts…

Are these guys thoughtful or what…?? I found these waiting for me in my room upon my arrival… A six-pack of Gatorade and a party pack of Snickers bars… Doug wasn’t kidding when he mentioned that he had followed my blog from the very beginning of my journey…!!

Fact 1.  Doug recently acquired a new chainsaw. This in itself was a recipe for impending disaster…

Fact 2.   Doug is not a forester, nor has he claimed to be an expert at directional felling.

Fact 3.   In a sudden fit of boredom during his recent annual leave, Doug decided to clear a few trees on his property. Brandishing his chainsaw with a confidence that belied his expertise, he first practiced on two small trees near his driveway, and pronounced himself quite pleased with the results…

Fact 4.   So pleased was he, that Doug looked around for a bigger challenge… He spied a much larger tree at the back of his garden which he thought would look far better horizontal, than standing upright… Winter was fast approaching after all, and firewood was in short supply…

Fact 5.   After deciding to fell this old tree, whose diameter would be too big to throw my arms around, Doug planned for it to fall away from the house to end up in a deep gully behind his home.

Fact 6.   Having cut a huge wedge into the trunk of the tree on the side in which direction he wanted the tree to fall, he ambled to the other side of the tree to make the final cut… This was the point when things went rather pear-shaped…

Fact 7.   Doug’s mouth dropped open in surprise, his brain went into spasm as it tried to cope with the shock of seeing the tree begin to fall in exactly the opposite direction to that which he had planned… That is to say, in the direction of his house…

Doug’s desktop photo seemed vaguely familiar… Where had I seen these two before…??

Fact 8.   The tree missed his house by a whisker, causing only slight damage to the wall and the gutters…

Fact 9.   The cat, who was sitting on the windowsill inside the house watching the entire episode, figured that it’s 9th and final life had just been used up when the tree crashed down only feet away from the said window…

Fact 10.   According to Theresa, Doug’s long suffering wife, he will not be allowed to play with the chainsaw any longer…

We could hardly contain our laughter as Doug related this story. I could clearly picture the shock on his face as he watched this huge tree fall towards his house.

Later that evening he took me around to the back of the house to see the tree in question, and I was amazed at the size of it…

“What on earth made you think you could fell a tree this size without some form of professional assistance..??” I asked.

He just shook his head ruefully and confirmed that he would not try a stunt like that ever again… Not within a mile of his house anyway…!!

The following morning we drove across to Port Clinton, to visit the BMW dealership there, as we needed to buy the correct oil filters for the Big Fella. We were told that we might have to flush the engine two or three times to ensure that there was no water left in the system. The guys at Hermy’s BMW were extremely helpful and more than a little interested at my recent exploits…

“So you rode all around the world only to be brought down by Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey…!!” they joked.

Hermy’s BMW … Darryl and the boys were more than happy to help a well traveled biker with his problems…

We paid for three oil filters and the oil pressure switch which my good friend and BMW Guru, Mannie Koutsoudakis, back in South Africa, had advised us to do.

On the way back home, we stopped off at Cabela’s, the largest outdoor store that I had ever seen… Doug and I were in our element, wandering around this huge facility, gawking at the tons of fishing and camping gear on display. The founder of this store is an avid hunter, and hundreds of his trophies are displayed on the walls of the store…

Standing outside the biggest hunting, shooting, fishing and camping store I have ever seen…

I noticed that one entire wall, hundreds of feet long, was dedicated to his African hunts. Towards the rear of the store, a massive collection of fully mounted animals were displayed for the public to see. There was even a fully mounted elephant that he had shot in Zimbabwe in 2002, which sported a very impressive set of tusks.

Down at the waterhole, everything seemed peaceful enough…

But on the other end, a young wildebeest was being tag-teamed by a pair of crocodiles… I had never seen an animal caught by the tail before and figured that the person who had built the display had used a little “poetic licence”…

While just around the corner, a pair of Grizzlies were having their merry way with a Moose…

We spent a good deal of time in the section where almost every kind of weapon you can imagine was for sale… I think they keep the bazookas in a back room… Just in case you come across a T-Rex on your next hunting trip…

“We’ll take two pump action shotguns and half a dozen Uzzi’s… And while you’re about it, throw in an M70 and 5000 rounds of ammo…!! What…!! No 63 in the queue…?? Has war broken out already…?? He was only re-elected a week ago…!!”

Back at home, we poured 4 litres of 15W50 oil into the engine and then set about changing the gearbox oil as well… As luck would have it, Doug had all this oil “in stock”… The oil that came out of the gearbox was as pristine as when it had gone in just a week before my wedding… Another huge sigh of relief on my part when Doug pointed this out to me. So damage there…

Doug’s gearbox filling invention consists of a camera tripod and large jug… (Theresa, if you’re wondering where your tripod got to, look downstairs…)

We pushed the Big Fella out into the weak sunlight, put him up onto his centre stand and pressed the starter… With the exhaust still off, the roar that he came alive with echoed amongst the trees across the road from the house… Doug and I grinned at each other, and then went to take a look at the sight glass…

The Big Fella fired up at the first press of the starter, and the oil sight glass showed no trace of water…

“All clear..!!” shouted Doug over the healthy sounding engine, as he gave it a few hearty revs… “I don’t think we have to flush it again, there was so little water in there anyway…!!”

Which leaves me with two spare oil filters that I have to find place for in my panniers…!! Bother…!!

We let the bike idle for 15 minutes then pushed it back onto the lift and prepared to check the rear drive… When I removed the rear wheel, I saw that the hub had now seen much better days. All five attachment points were now cracked right through and on two of the “spokes”, pieces were actually missing… Not good…!!

The brake disc carrier was showing signs of wear and tear…!! Every bolt housing was cracked and some pieces had fallen off…!!

We then removed the rubber dust cover on the extension arm of the rear drive. Doug gave a low whistle as he saw what the inside of the housing looked like…

“Er… GB… I don’t think it left the factory looking like this…!!”

Seawater had clearly been making mischief inside the housing… The universal joint was covered in flash rust. We tried turning the hub and found that it was as stiff as a board…

“I am willing to bet the bearings have finally breathed their last,” I said as we prepared to dismantle the unit to empty the oil from the drive body itself. The oil was clean and showed no sign of having had any water in it, which was a good sign. We got the drive off and then drove back to Hermy’s BMW half an hour away to show them what we had found.

Need friendly service at reasonable prices for your Beemer…? Head down Route 61 to Port Clinton, Pennsylvania…

Darryl confirmed that the bearing were shot, and then took me downstairs into their well equipped workshop to meet with the technician who specialised in replacing the bearings on these drives… He was confident that he could have the job done in a few days and set about preparing a quote.

They were surprised at the mileage I had got on my original rear drive and felt that this in itself was some kind of record. A new drive cost almost $ 2 000.00, and the repairs would be close to half of that. Naturally, I went with the repairs and then mentioned the rear hub that was cracked and in danger of falling to pieces…

“I think we might have one lying around at the back somewhere… If we can find it, you can have it…!!” replied Darryl.

I was naturally extremely grateful when I heard this, as I had been quoted a ridiculous price in Victoria when these cracks where first pointed out to me by Charlie Boorman’s mechanic. I then went to chat to Rob who works in the spares and accessories department, and ordered the catches for my rear panniers which had snapped off when the Big Fella and I came a-cropper in Alaska.

Telling it like it is…!! One of the many interesting signs to be found in Doug’s man-cave…

I also enquired about the rear luggage carrier and back light assembly and got prices for those. The guys have since found a second-hand unit for me which has saved me hundreds of dollars…

Go Hermy’s BMW…!!

We left the rear drive in their capable hands, explained that Doug would be back to collect it at some point in the near future, and then headed back to Port Carbon…

During all these rides that Doug had ferried me around on, he flatly refused to accept my offer to pay for fuel or anything else for that matter, insisting it was part of his wedding present to me.

I wondered how I was ever going to be able to reply his and Theresa’s kindnesses, but knew that he was doing it out of a universal “sense of duty” that bikers worldwide feel towards each other. I have been assisted by so many fellow riders over the past few years and “the code” of helping each other has been firmly ingrained in me now…

We left the Big Fella on the bike lift and pushed it to one side of Doug’s workshop so that he could get his own bikes in and out if he needed to. We then packed all my gear onto a shelf that he emptied for me…

Doug’s man cave is a bikers delight… The Big Fella would be up on the bike lift for a tad longer until we had the rear drive sorted…

My gear stacked in Doug’s man-cave… I am still amazed that all this fits on the bike…somehow…!!

The Big Fella surreptitiously asked if I was sure that leaving him here was a good idea after all…

I stood close to my bike for a few minutes, saying a silent goodbye and promising to be back in just a few months to resume our adventures. He seemed a little disgruntled to be left in a near naked state, his rear end dismantled…

“Selane gashle, my friend…” (Stay safe and well) I remember murmuring when Doug was out of earshot… (I know Doug thinks I am crazy, but why confirm it by allowing him to see me whispering to my bike…!!) I imagined he rocked towards me slightly, as if to make contact one last time before I left, but it must have been a trick of the light in now almost darkened workshop…

I patted him one last time anyway, before heading up the stairs to join Doug and Theresa…

I still have difficulty trying to explain how much this machine means to me…

It took me around the world and helped me fulfill a dream journey that so many desire and wish for, but only a very select few ever get to experience… What more can I say…

Another of Doug’s many signs that had me smiling… And rightly so, the cat IS a little shady…!!

After we had washed up, Kevin and Sandy came around to join us for dinner and we spent a quiet evening discussing my plans for the future, and chatting about the wildlife that Kevin encounters at his cabin in the woods…

They showed me photos of Black Bears that feed in the back garden, and deer that wander around freely… A few of which end up in the pot… The deer, not the bears, I presume…!!

The following day, Doug and Theresa drove me all the way back to Freehold, where we said our goodbyes and I thanked them both profusely for all they had done for me over the past few days…

These are people who will forever be part and parcel of what I have managed to achieve over the last few years… Folk to which I will always owe a debt of gratitude to, and am proud to call my friends… They join a list of very special people I have met and hope to be forever associated with…

I watched them drive away, looking forward to the day we would meet again, and knowing that I had left my treasured bike in their most capable and caring hands…

The next four months would be the longest period that I had ever been parted from my bike, and in the instant that I realised that, I knew that it would always be a part of me, just as much as my arms and legs were…

I went back inside to join Karen and think some more about my imminent departure from the USA, and return to South Africa.

2 comments to The Rescue of, and Goodbye to, the Big Fella…!!

  • Sammie

    I’m glad you had such a good time! I can guarantee that Doug also whispers to his bikes, so you’re not crazy. The bike is in very capable hands and will be treasured until you can get him back 🙂 Have an amazing journey in South Africa!

  • Mark Behr

    Good to see no great damage to your bike. Great post. Thanks!

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