André Breton begins his account of his experiences on the road between eastern Tennessee and Massachusetts during the summer of 2004.
On 1 June 2004, I departed Massachusetts on my 1982 CX500 Honda initiating my fifth long-distance motorcycle-camping tour of North America; at around 1800hrs on July 2, I rolled back into the Boston area. Thanks to an extremely reliable and durable Honda motorcycle and friends met on the road including everyone at Strick's Cycle, Anthony "Tony" Graybill, Claude and Joanne Stanley and Crail Gordon Jr., I managed to complete the three major sections I had planned for this trip: (1) Boston, MA to Ft. Collins, CO, (2) Ft. Collins to Cherokee, NC (southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway), (3) Cherokee to Boston. Below is a brief account of the events that ensued on the last section of the trip including a ride into Asheville, NC on four wheels rather than two and eventually, a successful return to Massachusetts.
Foothills, South-east Tennessee
Route 64 east, Tennessee
Unknown to me, the stator (major component of the charging system) failed on the Honda somewhere in eastern Tennessee. I suspect the fully charged battery carried me another 150–200 miles after the stator died. I could have done better, perhaps 300 miles, if I had known the charging system was down by pulling fuses and pop starting the bike (release the clutch in second gear with the bike rolling)...but of course, this insight did not make itself known until it was too late. I should be grateful that the bike failed where it did...40 miles south of Asheville and at 5,600 feet above sea level along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was somewhat worse than this...since after 20 minutes of fiddling with mainly the battery and cleaning connections, I lost visibility beyond about 75 feet and almost immediately was standing under a moderately heavy rain. But honestly, it could have been worse...the day before, likely without a charging system, I rode the isolated and beautiful Cherohala Scenic Skyway (TN and NC) and convoluted "Tail of the Dragon" (318 turns in 11 miles, a section of Rt 129 in NC and TN).
Tail of the Dragon, Tennessee
Deal's Gap, Tail of the Dragon, Tennessee
On the morning of June 27, I experienced the first sign that something was not right with the Honda. At a campground in Great Smoky National Park, the starter sluggishly turned the V-Twin engine over. Fortunately, or unfortunately perhaps, the bike started quickly even given the weak crank offered by the starter. As a result and within about 5 minutes, I managed to forget this very important event.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Cherokee, NC, is home to an undesirable tourist trap and most importantly for my interests, the southern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I stopped for pictures below the "Welcome To" signs and of course, shut down the engine. After pictures, I don't recall if the bike started slowly or not, but this would be the last time (until the next day in Asheville) it turned over using its own power.
Blue Ridge Parkway entrance, Cherokee, North Carolina
About 6 miles out of Cherokee, along the parkway, I stopped, killed the engine, and asked a friendly couple how far heading towards Asheville before I encountered a fuel station. At this point, Asheville was something like 70 miles away. Following our brief conversation, I turned the key, hit the starter, and experienced the same silence I had prior to the previous motions. I checked to make sure the bike wasn't in gear. Unlike many times before, my butt was not saved by that simple inspection. For some reason, battery amperage was too low to engage the starter and turn over the engine.
At this point, I realized the slow start in the campground a few hours before was the bike trying to tell me something! Hindsight is 20/20 but generally not useful for dragging a butt out of a tight spot. In addition to the slow start, I recalled topping off the battery with tap water in eastern Oklahoma. At that time, all cells had dropped about 1 cm below the minimum recommended level. Additionally, the battery was approaching 3 years old. Both of these facts led me to falsely believe that my problem was a failing battery. With a great deal of confidence that I had a battery and not a charging problem, I coasted down hill and out of the scenic view parking area and then abruptly pop started the engine.
Text & photos © André Breton