A month or so ago, the time had come to purchase a new bike. Since I wasn’t looking for anything new, the daily scanning of Craigslist began. It didn’t take me long to find what I was looking for: a cheap, reliable, and fun highway cruiser in the form of a 2002 Honda Shadow 750. But this isn’t about the bike; it’s about what happened when I bought it. As I mentioned before, I found the Shadow on Craigslist. Conveniently, the guy who owned it only lived ten minutes away. With cash in hand I went with my wife to pick up my new (to me) bike. Since I’d already seen and test rode the bike the day before, all that was left was to exchange the cash for the title and keys. A passing thought prompted me to ask how much gas was in the tank, the reply that he’d just put another gallon in to be safe satisfied me since I was only about five miles from my house. I pulled on my helmet and motioned for my wife to go on ahead, she drove away and I followed. Three miles later I was stranded, out of gas, on the side of the road. It wasn’t just any road either; I was stranded on the shoulder of Highway 421 just outside of downtown Winston-Salem, NC.
Minutes earlier I’d been cruising down the freeway, enjoying my new ride, when the engine began its tell-tail sputtering. Reaching for the petcock, I found, to my immediate dismay, that it was already set to reserve. There was nothing to do but to head for the shoulder. Upon parking and dismounting the bike, I realized the second mistake I’d made; my cell-phone was still in my wife’s car. It just so happened that I’d run out of gas right before a long left hand curve in the road, a curve that she had already rounded leaving me out of sight in her rear-view mirror. Figuring that I’d exited to get some gas (as I should have done earlier), she proceeded on home. So there I was, gasless, phoneless, and quite helpless on the side of a very busy and dangerous stretch of highway. The area was way too overgrown and the shoulder much too narrow to realistically think about walking to find gas, at least not yet. I tried flagging down passing drivers, hoping for a good Samaritan–not surprisingly, no one stopped.
After forty minutes had passed with no change in my situation, I was beginning to think about trying to walk to find a gas station. My biggest worry was that my wife would be seriously concerned by this point and I had no way of letting her know that I was ok. I was just about to set out on my forage for fuel when, all in a moment, my fortunes changed.
I’ll call him Bruce (I never caught his real name); he came streaking out of the thick mass of cars and trucks riding what looked like a BMW sportbike from the 80s. He was a big guy–big enough to make the little bimmer look a bit like a toy beneath him–with a thick black beard and matching waist-length ponytail. He came, muttering something about “getting himself killed”, and performed a quick “idiot-check” on my bike. Upon concluding that I was, indeed, out of gas he pulled a tiny, beat up old gas can out of seemingly nowhere. The gas can was empty so I gave him five bucks and he rode off as quickly as he’d come leaving me to wonder if I’d just been swindled. Since he had to ride up the highway to the nearest exit, find a gas station, come back down the other side of the highway, exit again, then come up the highway to where I was, I knew it would take awhile to find out whether he was coming back.
Well, Bruce was faithful. He showed up a solid thirty minutes later bringing a full gas can and an end to my predicament. Fueled up, I thanked Bruce and was on my way with a few lessons learned. One, never just take a guys word for it, make sure the gas is actually in the tank. Two, make sure you don’t leave the petcock set to reserve. Three, no matter how short you think the ride is going to be, bring your phone. Lastly, you just never know who is going to come to your rescue. Thanks Bruce, someday I’ll pay it forward.