If I could limp the crippled Nightowl to to Charlottesville, I’d have four days attending the Haystack conference to fix its dead fuel pump before I had to continue to the Fontana Getaway.
Getting to Charlottesville
The morning looked foggy, but it was really a light mist. It wasn’t quite as cold as the previous day and the forecast called for diminishing rain and increasing temperatures as I rode east. Encouraged by the weather report, I packed the rain suit instead of putting it on.
I grabbed a quick waffle and yogurt at the Super 8 and toted the luggage back out to the bike. The mist got a little heavier, but I figured that it wouldn’t bother me much as long as I was moving. After gassing up, I jumped on I77 south for the short ride south to US50.
US50 from Parkersburg, WV to Clarksburg, WV is a four-lane divided highway but it’s not limited access. There’s no stoplights, but there are plenty of intersections to keep your eye on when someone is sitting there waiting to turn out into traffic. The landscape is rolling hills with deep hollows, all covered in the emerging green of springtime.
Riding south this time of the year is like watching a sped-up time-lapse video of spring. Back in Michigan, the trees are budding, but only the youngest and heartiest of them is actually leafing out. Here in West Virginia, the entire landscape is a light green as nearly every tree is in the process of filling out its canopy. A nice feature of this scenery in the emerging spring is that the forests have greater depth. In the middle of summer, the forest is a solid green canopy with who-knows-what hiding beneath that impenetrable green. In the emerging spring, you can see through to the forest floor. Creeks, rocky outcroppings, the flashes of white dogwoods and purple redbuds, all on a limited-time display until the canopy blocks our view. Herewith are some of the joys of not booking a quick and convenient flight on a jetliner.
The ride on US50 took me through a cloudburst or two, but nothing that forced me to stop and don my rain gear. At Clarksburg, I took a quick restroom stop at a Wendy’s before I turned south for a short ride to US33 east into the mountains.
It was nearing midday and I noted overflowing parking lots at some of the local churches. Ah, Easter. One of the two major holidays, the other being Christmas, that tend to bring out the occasionally devout. I was glad I wasn’t on the Cruiser, whose exhaust note would have been more jarring as I passed by.
By the time I stopped for gas in Elkins, WV, the Nightowl was running pretty bad. I guess that reduction in volume within the gas tank really made a difference in how well the injectors could dribble gas into the cylinders without the help of a working fuel pump. I was just under half a tank.
I started thinking about how much gas I wanted in the tank when I stopped for my stay in Charlottesville. If I was going to replace the fuel pump while I was there, I need there to be as little gas in the tank as possible. Even half a tank, or 3.5 gallons, would demand the purchase of a five-gallon gas can to hold the fuel during the fuel pump swap. This, of course, assumes that I can even find a fuel pump and get it to Charlottesville in time.
Leaving Elkins after my gas stop, the sun decided to shine a bit on my sorry situation. I mean, literally, the sun came out through some broken clouds for the first time on this trip. The day would get noticeably sunnier and warmer as I approached Charlottesville.
Coming down one of the mountains in West Virginia, I found construction signs warning me of fresh gravel.
Oh, just wonderful.
It’s one thing to be out west and encounter new chip-seal on a road; a bit like driving on a gravel road. It’s another thing to encounter the same chip-seal as you wind your way around switchback curves down a mountain. Just to make things interesting, the fresh gravel wasn’t on the entire road, just patches of it here or there, inviting you to try and dodge the sketchy portions like an obstacle course. Needless to say, I was happy when that construction zone ended.
With the increasingly sunny skies, I was tempted to stop and take photos as some of the overlooks. I refrained, however, since I was focused on just getting my sick bike to Charlottesville and, hopefully, a repair.
I was using the Waze app on my phone for navigation. For some reason it forgot that it was providing me a route and I had to stop to restart the app and re-establish the route. I performed this task in a convenience store parking lot. The gas pumps were on and working, but the store itself was closed for the Easter holiday. In the 10 minutes I was there negotiating with Waze, I counted eight (8) people who stopped, approached the store, saw the locked doors, and exclaimed something like, “Oh crap, they’re closed!”.
I pulled into my hotel parking lot in Charlottesville at 4:18 pm under sunny skies. There was no hint at all that my day had started 20ºF colder and in a misty fog. The main hotel for the conference was already full, so I’d booked a room in the Home2, which was a new unit that doesn’t even show up on Google Maps yet. Even though it had been open since September, there were a few places where I swore I still smell the paint drying. One nice feature was the two-level parking structure, which meant I could park the Nightowl in a covered location, right in front of the elevator so to discourage anybody from fooling around with it.
Searching for a Fuel Pump
Moved in to my room, I proceeded to search for a replacement fuel pump. The first obvious option would be a BMW dealer, but I already mentioned that they didn’t exist in Charlottesville, VA (nearest dealer was in Roanoke) and they’d be closed on Easter Sunday anyway. The internet, is not closed on Sunday, nor is the official BMW parts fiche hosted by A&S Cycles.
Digging into the parts diagrams for the K1600’s fuel system, I noticed that the fuel pump itself is not available as an individual replacement part. You have to purchase the entire fuel flange, bracket, pump, and hose… for US$531.
They didn’t even list a part number for the fuel pump by itself. I knew, however, that I’d read on the K1600 forum how some members had replaced their fuel pump. So the search continued.
I eventually ended up on the website for Euro Motoelectrics (EME), who specializes in BMW Motorrad parts. Down in the list of parts for the K1600’s fuel system, I found (not one, but) two (2) fuel pumps for sale.
One was the original Bosch pump; the other was a knock-off from Enduralast (who?). Armed with the part number of the Bosch fuel pump, I searched online (perhaps Amazon carried it?).
Cue the crickets chirping.
The only useful hit that almighty Google could find was a thread in the K1600 forums about a guy who had bought this pump from EME. I read the thread and was troubled by the complicated process described to remove the old plastic fixture that holds the fuel strainer to the bottom of the pump. The procedure involved careful drilling, prudent prying, and (it sounded like) a fair amount of luck. Still, the poster did report success, so I planned to purchase the pump from EME. The poster also noted that they had called EME for a consult before ordering and that they were helpful as opposed to surly, so I elected to not order the parts immediately via the internet. I would give them a call during tomorrow morning during the first break in my scheduled training that coincided with EME being open for business (they’re in Denver, CO, two hours behind Charlottesville, VA).
One very nice thing about attending the Haystack conference is that it’s based in downtown Charlottesville in their lovely Downtown Mall. The Mall is a portion of the original Main Street that was cordoned off for foot traffic with a bunch of outside seating and trees where the road used to be. Now the entire Mall is lined with shops, bars, and restaurants.
Finding a good meal was not difficult.
Wandering through the Mall, I elected to stop at Fitzroy, who appeared to specialize in burgers and fried chicken. I had then serve up an Old Fashioned and sipped while perusing the menu. When I asked the waitress what they were especially proud of, the first dish she mentioned was the fried chicken. So I ordered it.
When they brought my dinner plate, the vast quantities of fried chicken on it required a fork lift to bring the plate to my table. Between my hunger and the excellent taste of the chicken, I somehow managed to consume it all.
Now to get back to the hotel and rest for a brain-filling day of training.