Saturday, March 24, 2012

41. BLOGWALKER’S PIT STOPS ON THE HIGHWAY

Never Leave Home Without Them!
The red oil-warning lamp had come up about 5 kilometers back. Even without the red warning lights I knew I was also low on petrol and money, not only the 2T engine lubricating oil. We were low on money as we always were closer to the next salary. That was common to everybody in a country where everybody was always underpaid.


I rode my small Yamaha into the Girandurukotte filling station. I pulled up by the yellow petrol pump and told the pump attendant that I needed a one-liter can of 2T also, in addition to petrol. He asked another dude nearby to get it, for which I paid in advance, shrinking my already dwindling budget. The pump dude pushed the pump switch down and asked how much. I made a quick calculation and said 3 liters. He punched in the digital keypad on the pump and rammed the nozzle into the fuel tank. I paid while the pump was still running and noticed with a sinking heart that the remaining money was just enough for another one and half liters of petrol, no more. Damn!

When the pump dude finally withdrew the nozzle out of my tank, I wheeled the bike out of the line to another place under the great concrete roof. It was drizzling. The dude who went to get the 2T gave me the can and the balance of a few coins. I pushed the coins into my jeans pocket, still straddling the bike and broke the seal of the 2T can and tipped the contents into the tank. The oil glug glugged and I waited a few extra seconds for the last bit of oil to drip into the tank. Finally I threw the empty can into the trashcan and kicked the machine into life. I swung out of the filling station into the Dehittakandiya Mahiyangana Highway and roared through the drizzle.

I was headed for Hasalaka Technical College, where both my wife and I worked as Visiting English Instructors part time for a few extra bucks. We had alternate days. As she worked in a school at Hasalaka, she had her classes scheduled on weekdays after school. For mine, I had to go separately as I worked in Dehiattakandiya, quite a distance away. Actually three districts away. To get to Hasalaka which was on Kandy district border from Dehiattakandiya which was on Ampara District border you had to go through Girandurukotte which was on Badulla District border . Deepa spent more than Rs 40.00 for bus fare daily, which was outrageous in 1991 according to what teachers were paid. Taking a day off was really a saving. Thanks to the red tape.

See the approximate route. Dehiatakandiya, Girandhurukotte and Hasalaka are roughly place marked with yellow pins. My wife traveled this daily.

See the route stretches through three districts, Ampara, Badulla and Central, and through three provinces Eastern, Uva and Central. Sit back and enjoy the ride, dudes.

Suddenly the engine  missed a beat, then two.  Then it coughed and spluttered and stopped. What a thing to happen. The drizzle had developed into a mild rain. What could have gone wrong? I wobbled the bike to hear the petrol slosh in the tank, then bend down and peeped at the white plastic 2T tank, mounted  under  the side cover. What? It was empty! And wait a minute… what the hell happened to the liter of oil I just now …oh SHIT! 

I twisted open the fuel cap and peeped in at the liquid, too dark colored to have been petrol only to realize to my horror that I have emptied one liter of 2T oil into the three liters of petrol absentmindedly. What a stupid idiot I have been! Then I remembered I had’t even got off the bike to lift up the saddle to access the 2T cap. Oh wow! Isn’t it great? Now the oil saturated petrol is clogging the electrodes of the spark plug with carbon, short-circuiting the high tension current.

I removed the side cover and took out the tool kit. Then with the plug box I unscrewed the spark plug. Yes it was oily and covered with soot and there was a deposit of carbon between the electrode tips. I cleaned it as best as I could with the piece of hack saw blade then wiped it with the piece of rag I had with the tools. I checked the spark by kicking the starter holding the plug against the engine. Yes blue sparks flew. I screwed it back securely and repacked my tools. I got onto the bike and kicked the starter and the engine sprang to life. I set off knowing my happiness will be short lived as it will be necessary to make so many pit stops before I made it to Hasalaka.

The most logical thing to have done would have been to dump the contaminated fuel and refill fresh and to refill the 2T tank. Well the last fuel station passed was about 2 km away and the next long way  ahead. And I was low on cash. On top of that I was  going to be late to get to the Technical College. 

The next logical thing would be to fill the petrol tank up with at least three more liters of petrol to dilute the oil, which would increase the length between breakdowns. Easier said than done, as the same rules applied about the distance to the filling stations and money. And even if I  used up all the money I had it would not buy even 1 ½ liters which would not have made a big difference and also not a chance I wanted to take on this long stretch of road. 

It is true that in 2 stroke engines the lubricant is mixed with petrol. In older cruder models and some modern Indian models like Bajaj three wheeler engines the lubricant is added into the petrol tank at a certain ratio. But my Yamaha was a modern sophisticated machine with a separate 2T tank, engine driven oil pump which sprayed 2T into the inlet manifold in a spray or mist. Still, oil in petrol would have been okay at a reasonable ratio, definitely not 3:1. Oh, shit! How could  I have been so absent minded? I could kick myself for being so dumb and careless!

Just then, the engine missed and stopped again. Luckily, I knew the procedure and went through the motions though the rain was definitely not helping. And I was moving again in no time. I lost count how many times I had to repeat this before I finally arrived at the Technical college drenched, sweaty ,greasy and miserable.  And all the time I was wondering about the treacherous journey home. Even though I met several staff members I would have been able to borrow some money from,  my self respect and dignity didn’t allow me to do so.

On the way back the rain made the stops treacherous. And the gathering dusk and the cloudy skies made the task even more hopeless. The rag I used to clean the plug was now drenched not only with oil, but also with rain. I started to use my trouser pockets and socks which I had preserved  as the last resort.  Finally, when I arrived at Girandurukotte I had made up mind what to do. I drove to the fuel pump and bought fuel for all the money I had: approximately I.45 liters. I cleaned the plug one more time, this time under the shade of the fuel station canopy and with the help of a new piece of cotton waste the fuel pump attendant let me have. And I kicked the machine to life which responded faithfully. This time, believe me, I made it all the way home before the carbon clogged up the plug tips. One reason was that I had used up almost half of the contaminated petrol when I pumped in the fresh one and half liters, which would have done wonders to the oil petrol ratio giving the spark plug a better chance to ignite the mixture.

I don’t have to tell you how relieved I was to arrive at home. It was awesome  to be home and warm and dry and free of grease. 
The Small Yamaha is this faithful bike I never had the heart to sell, even though I didn't like 2 stroke engines. The one in the middle is the dream bike I always wanted but could not afford those days, And the one in the extreme left is dudes, the one I should be riding if I care for my health and want to lose some weight.

11 comments:

  1. wooooooooooooooow. luckily you knew what to do. if it was me i would either have to hitch hike leaving the bike somewhere or else push the bike all the way. and this article would help many dudes who are on the road. nice photos too. and yes better start riding the one on the left :-D

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  2. Wow....What a day Dude...Huh...???...I'm sure you understood..what ''home sweet home'' really stands for,at that glorious moment you arrived home.. :D

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  3. While I was working at Giriulla depot we started a bus service from Nittambuwa to Dehiaththakandiya. I was planning to go for a route inspection, which never happened.

    I hated two stroke and Wankle engines, from the day I learned about frigging things. Only once in my life I had a vehicle with a two stroke engine, it was little moped imported and distributed by 'Salusala' only reason I bought it was the really low amount I had to pay for it monthly.



    In late 80s when JVP was issuing orders not to run buses, I rode this wretched thing between Gampaha and Alawwa, even after mixing the correct amount of oil to petrol, I had to stop several times to clean the spark plug.

    Just imagine how hard was to get rid of it. Have you ever heard of a brand name 'Tomos'?

    Now I won't touch even a lawn mover with a two stroke engine, everything has to have four stroke engine for me.

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  4. @Hiruni Jayawardene: Yes any trade once learnt will never go waste. I’m a jack in all trades master of none, though. Anyone with common sense could do it.
    Yes I should ride that, but it is in Sri Lanka and I’m here.


    @ Makulu Panchi: Yeah, to be home and dry was a great feeling that day. I am a dude who believes in the Home Sweet Home concept anyways.


    @ Observer: This is some awesome comment Oba Ayya. Thanks. And later while I was there a bus from Kirindhiwela depot visited regularly. Maybe one from Nittambuwa was also there.
    I can understand you hating 2 stroke engines, but why hate Wankel Rotary engines? As far as I know Mazda RX7 and RX8 had them. Are they that bad?
    Yeah, I think I have seen Tomos. It’s a kind of moped or scooter, isn’t it?
    Ok, I’m also a 4 stroke dude. But that Yamaha was a very faithful bike and rarely made me stranded anywhere on the long hauls from East to West.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Replies
    1. Thanks Praveena. Welcome to my English blog. I hope you realized I'm the same dude who writes මට හිතෙන හැටි as henryblogwalker.

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  6. Hate Wankel engine 'cos I still don't understand the working of it :-)

    My UFO has a 4 stroke engine manufactured by Kawasaki or Yamaha although the car is a Toyota.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, that's why!!

      You are really a lucky dude. That UFO of yours is a really sexy machine.

      Delete
  7. what a adventure... i just amazed how you keep your head cool.but if i were you i will surely borrow some money from some one because if not it will be more troublesome... i understood the most of your story but when its coming to the technical side it was like Greek....

    i must say you have a nice bike collection.i wonder what is that key doing in the key hole...

    bikes are the most dangerous vehicle in the world i cant even trust a bike... i nearly lost my right eye once when some drunken biker hit me....so i hate bikes

    nice story dude....as i always saying you are the man

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Hi ගැමියා, welcome back. I really appreciate your effort and the comments.
    Yeah keeping cool when you are in a jam comes with experience. About not understanding the technical side, is ok so long as you understood the story. Still I think as a very young dude you should try to learn a few technical things about the machines around you. Then the mechanics and technicians can't fool you easily.

    Don't worry about the key being in the key hole because this is parked inside my garage. So it's safe. I can't call this a bike collection because I didn't even start that Yamaha for the last 12 years. The Honda is the working one.

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