03 July 2018

Breakdown — Sept 2016

September 2016
I bought a Delorme (now Garmin) InReach Explorer

for 25% off at REI's 2016 Memorial Day sale and it was waiting for me in one of the dozens of boxes of things I'd ordered before arrival.

Soon after arriving back in Tacoma on my new-to-me R100GS, I activated it.

On September 1, I rode from Tacoma, WA toward Western Montana for an Airheads Tech Weekend where I'd learn to wrench on my beautiful bike. The InReach was in my jacket pocket.

A couple hours into the ride, the bike lost power. No sputter like when running out of gas, just died. After five minutes, it started up. Then, 20 miles further down the road it died; this time for good. Cayuse Pass (just west of Mount Rainier) was behind me and Yakima, WA was 45 miles in front of me.

This is the actual tracking map of my route provided by the InReach
The nearest cell service was about 10 miles out of Yakima... 35 miles ahead, so I turned off my phone to save the battery.

The roadside assistance included in my insurance policy has an 800 number—a land line—and land lines cannot (duh!) receive text messages. Using my InReach, I sent an email to my insurance agent explaining my situation, giving my GPS coordinates, and asking him to call roadside assistance for me. After 20 minutes, no reply, so I sent another email. I couldn't text him because I didn't have his cell phone number (I do now).

After another 30 minutes, I sent a text to my friend Liz asking her to call the agent and tell him to check his email. She texted back saying she'd talked with him and he would call RA for me. Soon after that I got an email saying that the flatbed was on the way. It arrived about 2.5 hours after my first email.

The tow truck driver said the insurance company would pay to tow me to Yakima or 50 miles in any direction. Since the choices were "farther from home" or "closer to home" and the only airhead mechanic I know is near Tacoma, I said, "Please take me to Tacoma." They figured the extra mileage and quoted me $480. Thankfully, they took AmEx cards and dropped me at Liz's driveway.

Needless to say, I missed the Tech Weekend. The culprit was a bad ignition, so I upgraded to an electronic ignition and had a new, higher capacity stator put in at the same time.

After this experience with the InReach, I sold both of my SPOT devices. SPOT only has pre-programmed message-out capacity and there's no way to receive a message. Sure, the SOS might work, but I'm not scrambling SAR for a mechanical problem. It's only InReach for me from now on and it is with me ALL the time because what if cell service goes down?

For those thinking you'd just wave down a passing car or fellow rider... good luck with that. I got two cars to stop--one eastbound and one westbound—explained my situation, and gave each a note:

Each driver said he'd call as soon as he got within range of cell service. According to Tad, neither one ever called. So much for the friendliness/helpfulness of Washington State drivers.

While waiting for the truck I was passed by at least 10 Harleys, two or three at a time. Are they afraid to ride solo? Only 2 waved as they went by and none even slowed down. The one dualsport who rode past did stop to see if I needed help, as did a state-owned truck the second time he came by. By then I'd received confirmation that the truck was on it's way, so I thanked them and let them continue their own trips.

Without the InReach, my wait would've been a LOT longer, especially if I'd been off the highway and down a side road somewhere without even the sparse traffic of Highway 410.

Others complain about the battery life and the small keyboard, though I can charge it on the bike if need-be and although the keyboard is a PITA and frustrating, it's better than no keyboard at all. If only it were possible to program it to accept a bluetooth keyboard I sometimes carry for my iPad.

I now travel with EXTRA trail mix or protein bars, spare fuel bottles, and more water than I think I'll need. It gets awfully hungry by the side of the road waiting for that flatbed... though now at least I know they're coming.