The Road Trip, Part 1: Chain lube is hard to find

Mike Vaughan
Publish Date: 
Jul 25, 2013
By Mike Vaughan

NOTE: I WROTE THIS in late June when I was part of the way through a motorcycle trip that so far had covered 6,709 miles, 20 states and 34 days. I’ve paused the trip in St. Paul, Minn., parking my bike (a 2003 Triumph Tiger) at my daughter’s and flying back to Southern California. I’ll be home until August, then return to St. Paul and continue west.

The genesis of the trip was a longtime desire to ride from the United States to Tierra del Fuego, but when I had the money and physical wherewithal to make that trip, I didn’t have the time. Now that I’ve retired I have the time, I could probably justify the money, but my physical skills just aren’t up to it. So I planned a trip that runs basically around the perimeter of the country. The mission of the trip, if ever a trip has a mission, is to visit old friends and check out places that I’ve always wanted to see but for one reason or another hadn’t done so: the Natchez Trace, the Outer Banks and Kitty Hawk, Gettysburg, Custer Battlefield, Glacier Park.

Trips like these often result in profound self-realizations that cause significant changes in one’s worldview (read Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon). I’ve had some self-realizations but none that could be termed profound. My major self-discovery is that my butt is only good for about 350 miles before it starts telling me that I should park the bike and find a comfy motel room. It’s a message I’ve grown accustomed to heeding but one I can ignore if circumstances demand.

Along the way I’ve had occasions to stop into a few motorcycle stores. I lost my right rearview mirror while leaving Noonan, Ga. — just the mirror part; the stalk was fine. I tried to rig a handheld face mirror to the stalk but was never able to get the angle right and had to abandon that project almost immediately. I stopped into two multiline dealerships in South Carolina on my way to Charleston but neither had a suitable (or for that matter, any) replacement. Both stores seemed to have an adequate stock of bikes but very little in the way of generic accessories.

I finally scored a mirror at a Cycle Gear store in Charleston. As I was passing a truck in the Outer Banks, I saw a flash of light. After the pass, I checked the mirror to find that the flash was actually the mirror part departing the scene.

Back to square one. I finally stopped at an Advance Auto Parts store, bought a rectangular convex mirror and stuck it in the spot where the original mirror had been. A little duct tape and I had a functional if not aesthetically pleasing fix that has gotten me as far as St. Paul.

I ran out of chain lube after Charleston and stopped at Outer Banks Harley-Davidson. The counterman and I went to the chemicals display and looked — no luck. He asked the parts guru in the back room to make sure, and he confirmed that they didn’t have any. Oddly enough, they did have chain cleaner. I know that Harleys now use belts but there’s got to be a lot of older bikes on the road with chains that need an occasional squirt of lube.

Most of the bikes I’ve seen on the road have been Harleys or Harley clones. Even the parking lot at Deals Gap was 95 percent Harley with a few sportbikes and a couple of touring rigs to round it out. Ten years ago when I was last there, the ratio was reversed. Of course my visit this time was midweek, so the ratio might change on weekends when younger people have time off. (Continued)