Roadside Service

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book Green Machine and the Mototaxi Junket. There’s more to see about it here.

Andrew sat on his knees, legs folded underneath him. Next to him sat a tray I had retrieved from the grassy patch of water filled containers. It had held all the loose bits during disassembly, cleaning, and reassembly. It was nearing empty…for the second time.

“Scott, can you hold this?” Andrew didn’t look up. He was focused, determined to get the mototaxi running.

“You bet!” Scott’s perpetual positivity was my source of hope now.

Andrew had been right–the carb was filthy. Near as bad as the first time the halves had been cracked apart. Andrew performed the cleaning. He had been attentive during the process, his moves deliberate, his process thought out. Someone had paid attention to our mechanics.

Andrew had also been correct about the water. With the gas tank free from the frame, we had dumped the lid’s moat and opened it for inspection. The seal looked great. And with no water flowing through the lines, we assumed our fuel was water free.

“Feed that cable right through this hole, Scott.”

“Here it comes.”

Seeing our carb, we had assumed it had been the problem. But after the first reassembly, the mototaxi didn’t start. It took twenty minutes of kicking to fire it up. The engine had gasped and took a drink of fuel, slowly winding up. But this initial climb of the RPMs surpassed our set idol. The RPMs kept climbing, faster and faster. In the four seconds the engine had run, the RPMs rose to a dangerously high pitch.

“Ok.” Andrew leaned back on his heals, taking one last look before moving on. “Nathan, we’re ready for the gas tank.”

Our hearts had jumped at the sounds of combustive life, but were left frozen by that new sound. Fortunately, it had been Andrew on the bike when it had started. He had used the kill switch before the engine could blow up. None of us knew what the sound meant, so we started over and tore everything apart a second time.

I waddled the gas tank over to the frame. “Here it comes.” I slipped the front end into the frame.

Now, we were almost back together for the second time.

“Scott, can you guide the fuel line through the frame as Nathan sets the tank down?”

“You betcha.”

“Here we go,” I warned, lowering the back-end of the tank. I lined up the tank’s single bolt flange with the bolt hole in the frame. The tank nestled with a thunk, gasoline sloshing inside. “Down,” I said while I spun the bolt finger tight.

Scott kneeled on the left side of the engine. “Got the fuel line connected.”

Andrew was still on the right side, doing one last visual inspection. He nodded, rolling back on to his feet. “Go ahead and turn the gas on.”

Scott turned the valve and I secured the seat. Andrew gave us a tight-lipped look as he folded out the kick starter. It took several attempts, but the engine did fire up, and much quicker this time.

The engine purred back to life, raising itself to a steady idle, forcing the moisture out of the cylinder. But the upward trend didn’t stop. Just as it had the first time, the engine revved up higher and higher. Andrew hit the kill switch.

We exchanged glances.

“Well, now what?”

Andrew shrugged. “I don’t know what’s causing that,” his head nodding to the motor. “I think it’s safe to say a third attempt would be a waste of time.”

Scott and I nodded. Less than two hours earlier, we had been filled with hope. We had had a problem. We had formed a plan. It had been empowering to act independently. Now that independence was squashed beneath our lack of troubleshooting experience.

“I can drive it,” Scott said.

Andrew and I gave a simultaneous, “Huh?”

“It sounds like it’s at full throttle, right? I can drive it. Use the clutch like crazy.” Scott looked back and forth between Andrew and I. He saw the skeptical look we exchanged. “What?”

“I don’t know, Scott,” I said. “Seems…dangerous. Plausible, sure, but what if something goes wrong?”

Andrew nodded. “I agree. Besides, it could be bad for the engine. We don’t want to fry our motor.”

Scott conceded. “So if driving isn’t an option, are we talking about a tow?”

“How far did away did you say the next town was?”

“About 15 miles.”

We turned to the road. There had not been a ton of traffic, but several cars had passed since we had stopped.

“Scott…feel like flagging someone down?”

“I can try.” He paused, eyes on the ground. “Actually,” he looked up at Andrew and I, “it would probably be better if you guys tried.”

Andrew grimaced while I suppressed a chuckle. “Uh…Scott, we don’t speak Spanish.”

He nodded. “Exactly. It’s harder to turn down someone who’s hopeless. People will probably just say ‘no’ to me, because they can say ‘no.'”

“Good point.”

“Let’s all go,” Scott said. “And try to look miserable.”

“Shouldn’t be too hard.”

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