Thursday, November 8, 2007

Quick Trip to OK and KS - Or So I Thought

There was a small time window in early November - before the cold weather, before the end of the contest, and before my visit to Norfolk to see the new grandbaby - when I thought I could scoot out for a quick 1700 mile loop to grab a number of bonus point locations. Some work in S&T showed a potential 22 points could be had by traveling up through eastern OK to Kansas City then back down through Wichita then home.

Route mapped and GPS programmed, I headed out Sunday morning, first to the weekly BMW breakfast at Goode Co. Taqueria, then over to Reliant Hall to spend a couple of hours at the International Motorcycle Show, then onto US 59 northward to start my trip. Weather forecasts were for cold night-time temps up in northern OK and Kansas City, so I had my Gerbings packed, along with my super-heavy winter gloves. My objective was Mount Pleasant for the night, which would get me 250 miles up the road before dark, with a good headstart for the next day.

Monday morning temps were still quite moderate as I left the hotel and headed for my first AMA point location of the day: Reno TX. This turned out to be a larger town that it appeared on the map, and I had no trouble getting a photo.

I would be on US 271 for much of the day, a route I'd never traveled on before. It looked to be an interesting road on the map, passing through Antlers OK, then Clayton, and then along the western edge of Ouachita National Forest after going through Talihina. As it turned out, it was a terrific road, with hardly any traffic. As I came into Poteau I was "treated" to a small herd of deer running along side the road. Fortunately they had the good sense to cross well ahead of me and disappear into the brush.

Shortly after the deer sighting, I spotted a motorcycle rapidly approaching in my rearview mirror. He slowed as he came along side me, and I could see it was a fellow on a K1200LT. He waved, then pulled in front of me and slowed to the posted speed limit. We stayed together as we passed through several stop lights in town, and at one point he motioned me to pull along side him so that he could chat with me. The last red light before heading out of town, he asked if I wanted to join him for lunch. I politely declined, he turned into a shopping center, and then he disappeared in my rearview mirrors as I continued north on 271, intent on getting to my next AMA photo opportunity.

Next stop was Panama OK, just up the road. Since there was a very nice welcome sign along the side of the highway, I didn't need to search out the pre-planned locations and could continue north toward I-40. I would need to get on a tollway to make good time to Tulsa; it was the only way to get there from where I was.

I would be getting a photo of University of Tulsa, so the only problem would be finding a suitable photo opportunity. I'm learning that this is hit-or-miss with universities. Some seem to proudly proclaim their existence with very nice, visible, and easy to find signage. Others seem to hide the fact that they exist. Tulsa seemed to be one of those universities that assume everyone knows who they are. Every building had its name proudly displayed in giant letters, but not one had "University of Tulsa" indicated anywhere. Just as I did at Tennessee University, I wandered around the campus seeking a suitable sign. At the university website there was a photo of what looked like the perfect marker, but nowhere could I find it as I wandered about. Finally! I found something that would work. Much time was lost here, and I needed gas and something to eat, so that mission accomplished, I got onto I-244 and headed north out of town, hoping to make Kansas City before dark.

At a gas station north of Tulsa, I noticed for the first time some oil leaking out of the oil filler cap on my BMW. Just a little oil, puddled in the filler cap well, and a thin film of oil coating the left valve cover. It's fortunate that this had happened to a friend's BMW not too long ago, so I was able to immediately diagnose the problem as being not too serious, but certainly one that would bear watching. I went inside the gas station to get a snack and to call said friend to pick his brain about the problem. After some deliberation, and given other circumstances such as the sub-freezing temps forecasted for the Kansas City area, the fact that I had a brand new grandson - less than a week old - and I'd be driving to Norfolk the end of the week to visit them, I decided to cut my trip short and start heading home to Houston.

So I backtracked to Tulsa and picked up the tollway that would take me to Oklahoma City. I knew there was a BMW dealer in The City, so had possible help should the oil leak get any worse. I would be leaving many AMA points on the table: Kansas City, Argentine, Oskaloosa, Ottowa, Toronto, Hennessey. A total of 17 points. But I did manage to add 5 points before aborting the trip and find another great road, so all was not for nothing.

As I rode toward The City, I watched the oil leak, which did seem to be getting worse. I would check the oil level once at the hotel, and make my decision in the morning. In the meantime, I flipped the o-ring on the filler cap over in hopes it would find a new sealing surface and the leaking would slow or cease.

In the morning, I made the decision to continue south, knowing there was a BMW dealer in Plano TX if things got worse. It was an uneventful ride south on I-35, the oil leak continuing but getting no worse than it had been. Just a tiny rivulet of oil burbling over the top lip of the oil filler cap well and running down the side of the valve cover. I had to keep reminding myself that I was doing the right thing. Get home, go to the BMW dealer the next morning and buy a new cap and o-ring. Run some errands. Take care of some personal business before leaving for a possible 2-week trip to Norfolk to visit son's family.

So...AMA tour is completed, photos are burned to a CD, and the package is in the mail, off to AMA headquarters.

AMA I've Been Everywhere Tour? What better way to get me off the interstates and into the real U.S.A., on the smaller highways, through rural America's small towns. What's next for 2008?

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