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June 5, 2012

The kindness of strangers

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It was 8.58, and still raining, when I was ready to mount up after meeting a student at the Northgate Panera Bread. Too late to return the Netflix in the Givi tailpack without penalty. “Oh well, I won’t tell Mike,” I thought, because he hates it when a free rental winds up costing a dollar.

I backed the Transalp out of the parking slot, mounted up and pressed the starter, my mind more on the Netflix return than starting up. Sputter, sputter. Sigh. It’s been so long since this happened; must be the rain. Flip the engine cut-off switch off and back on. Sputter, sputter. Press the starter again. Rumble rumble!

At 9 pm in June in Seattle, it’s still not dark, even on a wet day like today, although visibility was, to put it kindly, limited. I merge into heavier-than-expected northbound I-5 traffic and make my way carefully over to the car pool lane.

No sooner than I make it over, the bike slows down.

“What?” I start to open the gas cap, my other response to whatever oddity causes the bike to sometimes act like it’s starved for gas. Then I stop because, well, it’s raining! Do I really want to loosen the gas cap in the rain?

And then, as the engine dies completely, I remember.

I was supposed to get gas before I left Renton. Five hours and 25 some odd miles ago.

Stranded

The bike comes to a stop where there are no street lights. I’m directly across from exit 174, but it might as well be a hundred miles away. There is no way I’m going to be able to get over there with this traffic.

I tuck the bike as close to the jersey barrier as possible. The left handlebar drapes over onto the southbound side of the freeway. The tires are between the concrete and the fog line, but that’s not saying much. I’m glad I don’t have bags.

Kat, the student I’d been chatting with, is a motorcyclist. I text her, then phone. Try talking on an iPhone when your helmet is still on your head because it’s raining. Finally, she understands that I want her to look at her texts!

“On the way.” But she’s still in the restaurant, with her 11 year-old son.

Think, Kathy. Who’s close?

JC? Somewhere between Oklahoma and Denver. Phil? Somewhere between Wyoming and Denver. Rolf? Send a text. Jack and Shasta? Send a text.

And then there are flashing blue lights behind me. A Statie (one of the tallest men I’ve laid eyes on lately; think Jaws in the Bond movies) to the rescue. Now it’s less likely I will get run over by a blind cage driver in the car pool lane.

“It’s rider stupidity,” I tell him. “You got that right,” he replied.

“I’m outta gas. I have a friend on the way.” So he gets back into his warm, dry car.

The rescue

A few moments later, a big black pickup truck pulls in front of me. The guy following him honks, exasperated that the truck driver would slow down when passing a State Trooper with flashing blue lights.

A guy runs back to me and shouts, “We’ve got tie downs and ramps in the truck.”

“I just need gas!” I shout back.

“OK, we’ll put the bike in the truck and take you to a gas station.”

“Great!”

While we’re talking, the driver is getting a ramp in place. The giant trooper joins us and pushes the bike from the rear as Lucas (I later learn) takes the rider’s side. I’m useless on the right. Bill (the driver) secures the bike and the next thing I know I’m in the cab of the truck and we’re moving. It was like changing tires in a race pit!

I pull off my helmet and take out my ear plugs. “I’m Kathy,” I say. “Thank you!”

“I’m Bill, with the Cretins, and this is Lucas,” the driver says.

“I’m an MSF instructor,” I respond, sharing tribal affiliations. And think, what the hell, “And on Wetleather.”

Lucas turns and says, “You’re at UW, right?”

I blink.

“Y-e-a-h.”

“I’m at UW Bothell.”

And, it turns out, both lurk (mostly) on WL. We’re laughing because we know each other, sorta anyway. Start trading stories. I learn that Ed Guzman gave Lucas the nickname Petcock. That Bill’s nickname is Salty. I tell them that I’d texted Shasta but Phil and JC were out of state. And they know who I’m talking about.

Is this cool or what?

They tell me that they had seen me stop and my turn signal light up; they decided to loop back and see if they could help. Cretins with trucks, Bill tells me, always have ramps and tie-downs. I’m now seriously rethinking the lack of ramps in our truck bed.

Bill exits I-5 and heads to the QFC. They get the bike out as quickly as they loaded it. Quick hugs all around. They turn back towards the truck and I ask, “You guys know about Brett, right?”

Yes, Lucas had visited him in the hospital.

“What about Tom Dietrich?”

“No, what’s happened to Tom?”

“Let’s go stand under that tree!”

An hour later…

… and we’re still standing outside in the rain. Talking.

Well, Bill is telling stories, and Lucas and I are laughing. A lot! Bill thinks his wife would like to take the MSF class with me; I tell him to check the Evergreen website.

When I fill the tank, it takes 3.962 gallons. And the bike is on its sidestand. Because, well, we’re still talking.

“I’ve never put that much gas in my bike!”

“Stand it up and you’ll get to 4.2,” Bill said.

We share another round of hugs. And laughs.

Lucas says he’ll try to get to the goat/pig roast on Saturday. Bill and Lucas say they’ll try to get to one of our Lynnwood BBQs.

From a wet stranded rat to the glow of two new friends.

What a way to spend the night!

  1. I told Bill and Lucas that this was the first time I had run out of gas. But I have a vague memory of pushing a bike in Bellevue, and not the time that I had picked up a nail in my rear tire.

    This is a “you have to fix the speedo/odo” wake-up call!

    Comment by kathy — June 6, 2012 @ 12:40 am
  2. I keep saying, it’s really a two degrees of separation world :-)

    Ain’t it grand??!?

    Comment by Robbie — June 6, 2012 @ 1:36 am
  3. It IS grand! Heck, technically this was a zero degrees of separation experience – except, of course, they didn’t know who I was. They thought I was a guy (“90% of riders are guys” – Bill).

    At some point we were talking about the salt flat races. I said, “someone from WetLeather went last year and provided a trip report to the list.” Lucas said, “that was me.”

    It’s also (maybe) broken my writer’s block!

    Comment by kathy — June 6, 2012 @ 1:47 am
  4. Great story Kathy! I ran out of gas once in my little red sports car (same story – I was going to get gas before I got on the bridge ) just as I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on approach to the tunnel and had nowhere to pull over safely. Not only that I was in place above Sausalito where there’s a wind tunnel howling through the hills. I got out of the car, with my teenage daughter, and we piled on every piece of clothing we could find in the trunk and huddled as far away from the road as possible. This was in 1992 before everyone had cell phones and I was just hoping a CHP would come by. Instead, a very nice man on a motorcycle pulled over and offered assistance. He pulled out a monster mobile phone and called AAA for me. I was very impressed He was our hero! I haven’t run out of gas since, I always have warm clothes in my trunk, and I carry my own cell phone. Lesson learned.

    Comment by Ginny — June 6, 2012 @ 5:40 am
  5. Well now I’m glad I didn’t get your txt for a few minutes!

    Comment by codeamazon — June 6, 2012 @ 6:36 am
  6. Love this story, Kathy! Nicely told, too :)

    Comment by Monica Guzman — June 6, 2012 @ 9:16 am
  7. Wow! Serendipity, synchronicity after reading a post by Horsey on the intimacy of life in Vermont in a post-hippie, small town neighborly way.

    And then this posted by John Sharify from the Dalai Lama which seems to fit. . .

    Given the scale of life in the cosmos, one human life is no more than a tiny blip. Each one of us is a just visitor to this planet, a guest, who will only stay for a limited time. What greater folly could there be than to spend this short time alone, unhappy or in conflict with our companions? Far better, surely, to use our short time here in living a meaningful life, enriched by our sense of connection with others and being of service to them.

    Comment by Kevin Laverty — June 6, 2012 @ 2:55 pm
  8. Thanks, everyone! Shasta – I didn’t answer Jack’s call because Bill and Lucas were putting the bike in the truck.

    Ginny – wow – I’ve driven that. I can see it – not safe at all. And to be rescued by a motorcyclist – more coolness. :-)

    Kevin that is a wonderful quote from the Dalai Lama; thank you for sharing it.

    I’m still giggling tonight. :-)

    Comment by kathy — June 6, 2012 @ 8:18 pm

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