Stretching the Fuel

20 May 2006
North Bend, Oregon

Circle K in Port Oroford, Oregon got no fuel.

I know, I know...  It's been a while since I've checked in with y'all.  What can I say?  I was in California.  Bakersfield is still hot, the air in Los Angeles is still filthy and smells like bleach (although it is no longer that neat orange color), and South Grade Road on Palomar is still a hell of a ride.

We spent a couple days in Oakdale with Linda and my bestest buddy, Mike.  It was great to have a couple days to kick back and relax.  We left Oakdale a lot later in the day than we had planned.  It wasn't until 1300 that we finally got on the road. 1300 and 95.  The GPS got so hot while we were loading the bike the LCD screen washed out and I couldn't see anything on it...

By the time we slogged our way to Redding, California I'd had enough.  I didn't care how much time it added to our route that day we were getting the hell off the Freeway and out of the heat.  We diverted on an old friend of mine, California State Highway 299.  I've got hundreds of miles logged on this road in a 1988 CRX Si but have only been across it a few times on a motorcycle.  Those few times were on a lightly loaded 1992 K75s.  Although a bit of a different critter in the corners, the fully loaded, 2-Up 1995 K1100LT didn't disappoint.  In very short order we were 3000' higher and 40 cooler.  AHHHHHhhhh...  Blessed Relief!

A quick stop in Blue Lake, California for fuel and we were headed north on the lightly populated US Highway 101.  Have I mentioned how much I love traveling during the "off season"?  There were very few motor homes and such to have to worry about passing along the way.  We quickly found ourselves in Port Oroford, Oregon looking at a mostly empty parking lot at the Circle K.  The problem with that was my GPS insisted that the Circle K had fuel.  Nary a fuel pump to be found.  Since Oregon has that nice little law that makes it illegal for a person to dispense their own fuel, the chance of finding an unattended self-service pump (ala Carlsbad, New Mexico at 0300) was less than slim to none.  Since it was already a bit after 2200, none of the gas stations in town were open.  We were already at the edge of my comfort envelope for fuel range (160 miles, typically) so I once again turned to the GPS for guidance.

"Only 26 more miles," it cooed, "and you'll find fuel at the 'Run-In Mini Mart and Deli' in Bandon.  Trust me.  Have I ever let you down?"

I need to take a moment here for those of you wondering at my low range capability on this K1100LT.  I don't have a pickup screen installed on the bottom of my fuel pump.  About six years ago I replaced the fuel pump and pickup screen (pickup 'bootie', actually) at the same time.  For some reason I was never able to get the pickup screen installed without it collapsing and causing the pump to cavitate and starve the engine.  After three or four attempts I gave up and just removed it completely.  Because of this, my fuel pickup is about one inch higher than stock.  I only get about 4 gallons of usable fuel out of the 5 gallons I carry before the fuel pump starts squealing.

Not forgetting for a moment that it has, in fact, let me down several times this trip I went over my options.  Since we hadn't a single foot of freeway pass under our tyres since we last refueled I'd been reasonably prudent with the throttle.  That, alone, adds a few MPG to our average.  Neither one of us were wearing, much less using, our heated clothing so that was another load the engine wasn't needing to provide.  With 160 miles behind us, I figured we had, at best, another 30 miles left in the tank.  We should be able to make it to Bandon so long as we took it easy, turned off any unnecessary loads, and didn't have to go up any steep hills or go through any strong left cross winds (thereby unporting the fuel pickup that sits in the left-front part of the tank).  Bandon here we come.

By the way...  Bandon has no fuel available that late at night either.

We went into emergency mode.  We were already on the far side of 180 miles.  Even if we were getting our average 40 miles per gallon it meant we were running on fumes at that time.  We still had about 30 miles to go until we got to the (already paid for) hotel room for the night and no fuel in sight.    Tamara suggested we find a hotel where we were.  I said nothing.  I didn't want to waste the (bike's) energy to respond.

Not one to normally panic, I was starting to get concerned.  I thought I might get a chance to test out our Road Service plan.  The one that guarantees no-fee out-of-gas service.  Before that happened, however, I'd put into play my other plan.  I figured if the bike crapped out I'd pull over to the side of the road and start by setting it on the side stand.  That would help to put fuel on the side of the tank with the pickup.  I'd then use the water in the bottle strapped to the sleeping bag to float as much fuel as I could so the pickup could do its job.  I'd worry about getting the water out later.  After eight years on tropical islands I'm an old hand at that drill...

On we went...  The further we went without finding an open gas station, the more economical I got.  I'd long since quit using the aux lights (saving 200 watts there), the high beam (saving 10 watts there), and the hand grip heaters.  I've no idea how many watts turning off the hand grip heaters saved but I knew I'd never forgive myself if we ran out of fuel and my hands were still warm.  Eventually we creepy crawled into Coos Bay, Oregon and I saw an open gas station across the way.  There were two curbs, a fast food joint, and a parking lot in a direct line between us but I would be damned if I was going to go the long way around to get there.  Telling Tamara to hang on tight we bounded over the curbs and rolled up to the station with the bike's fuel pump screaming in agony.  With the fuel pump deriving its cooling and lubrication from the very fuel it bathes in and pumps to the engine I'm sure I reduced its life expectancy by several hours. We added 4.973 gallons of fuel.

We finally made it to the hotel and were the last customers of the day at the nearby Taco Bell.

I'm not sure what the actual far-end range of my particular K1100LT really is but I happen to know for a fact it's at least 211 miles.

From here we're headed north then inland for a while.  We're nearing the end of this voyage but we've still got three states and two provinces to travel through first.

-Are We There Yet?

Travel Stats:
Miles Traveled Today 586
Total Average Speed 55.0
Total Moving Average Speed 60.2
Miles Traveled Total (including "local" travel) 12,045

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