Friday, June 8, 2012

Our Savior, Gorilla Tape

Gorilla Tape solution
It's a two-day (really one and a half) trip to get from Koh Phangan to Georgetown. Our plan was to get to Hat Yai the first day and then have an easy half day to G-town. Once we rode off the ferry and onto dry land, the weather was hot, but the roads were flat and smooth, making for an easy run with Colin's clutch. I continued checking periodically for signs of an oil leak as we rode, and all seemed fine. But when we stopped at a gas station to refuel, Colin noticed an oil dribble down the outside of the engine case. We pulled behind the station and removed the nut from the clutch adjustment bolt, took off the makeshift Gorilla Tape seal, and discovered the heat of the engine caused the now molten adhesive to liquify and ooze out between the tape layers.  Since we were still 15 miles from Trang and 75 miles from Hat Yai, I decided to try a new piece of tape and hoped that it would work. The replacement tape seemed to be holding, and Re pulled alongside every five miles to check for leaks. 

With about 25 miles to go to Hat Yai, Re gave me the thumbs down signal. Double crap. We pulled off on the side of the road and got out the tools and tape once more. Once again, the adhesive was squishing out from between the layers of tape, clearly the heat of the engine is causing the adhesive to liquify, and this means the nut is no longer held by the “springiness” of the tape layers. As we worked on the bike on the side of the road, a group of old Honda Cubs with interesting paint jobs and loud pipes blew by. A few minutes later, they all returned to see what we were doing. Old Honda Cubs must be hip in Thailand now, since these riders would be “hipsters” in the US. They all wore skinny jeans, had funky haircuts, pudding bowl or three-quarter helmets, and goggles. None of the seemed to speak English, but they did all stand around until my bike was running once more. Since we had no other real alternative, we made a new tape seal and crossed our fingers that it would hold. Colin let the engine run for a couple of minutes to see if it would start leaking again, and when it seemed to be working, we packed up the tools, waved goodbye to the “Cub Club,” and hit the road again. In an effort to minimize the vibration and heat, we rode the last 25 miles at a reduced speed. Re continued to check for oil leaks, but thankfully, we made it into Hat Yai, to the Park Hotel, with no further dribbles. 

After unloading our stuff into the room, we walked out to the night market to find our favorite khao mok kai (KMK) vendor. As we approached the familiar corner, there was no KMK to be seen. What?! While Re went to look for another vendor, I bought fruit shakes and a nearby stand. The woman making the fruit shakes was Muslim and wore a headscarf and veil, so only her eyes showed. The farther south you go in Thailand, the more Muslim it becomes, and English seems to be less widely spoken. So I was pleasantly surprised when the fruit shake vendor turned out to speak English fairly well. She was able to explain to me that our usual KMK vendor was taking a ten-day vacation to go to Phattalung for his sister's wedding. Since she seemed so friendly and knowledgeable, I asked her if there was another KMK stall around. She was able to point us to another stall that was just a few blocks away. We quickly found it, ordered our dinner, and sat down to another delicious meal. On our way back to the room, we stopped again at the 7Eleven for a couple of Changs. Back in the room, I had a moment of ennui when it occurred to me that this would be my last Chang of the trip and maybe for many years.

The next morning, we made the now familiar trip to the Thailand/Malaysia border. The new tape seal held, with not a drop of oil seen, all the way back to Penang. We kept our speed down (not that it's very high to begin with) in an attempt to minimize the strain on Colin's clutch (it was slipping pretty badly) and to keep the tape seal from melting. The border crossing was easy, stress-free, and quick. It did take a few minutes longer this time than on our previous crossing, but that was only due to a border officer's excited interest in our current adventure and our hope to settle in Malaysia in the future. 

We made it back to Georgetown, pulled up in front of the Star Lodge again, and paid for two weeks. Mr Lim, the older Chinese man working the reception counter, said it was his last day and gave us quite a nice discount on the room (20 percent off!) as his parting gift to the owner. I believe Mr Lim had started 'celebrating' his last workday much before our arrival. As Colin and I sat in the lobby, he proclaimed the merits of traditional Chinese medicine and reflexology. After giving me a recipe for a concoction to improve our eyesight (which consisted of one potato, one tomato, one carrot, and half an apple, all peeled, pureed together, and to be eaten each morning with no other foods), he shared another Oriental secret to longevity: exercise. Mr Lim reached out and squeezed my forearm and said, “you are solid. You need to stay solid.” He then took off his shoes and stretched out one leg in front of him, resting his heel on a table, and bent over until his chin rested on his thigh. Realize, this man is 60 years old. Never in my life have I been able to do this. He then sat down on the floor and demonstrated some other stretching exercises before jumping up, lifting his shirt, and pounding on his abdomen to prove his superior strength. Next came his lesson in reflexology to me: never let a tipsy, old, Chinese man rub your foot (that wasn't his intended message, but that's what I got out of it after squealing in pain as he dug his thumb into my instep to 'massage' out the toxins left there by the rubbish we ingest. I had a bruise a week later). All the while, Colin tried to keep a straight face and maintain focus on the computer screen in a search for a new clutch source in the area. Unable to find one in the area (they import SYMs to Malaysia, but not the Symbas, and nothing with the same engine) he emailed a contact in Taiwan, named Cam, to inquire about getting one shipped to us here. 

Having done what I could do for now, Re and I decided to go to dinner. We've both been dreaming of dim sum for a while now, so once again, we found ourselves walking down Lebuh Cintra to De Tai Tong restaurant. As usual, the food was excellent, the service was friendly, and we ate too much. After walking around town a bit, we made our way back to the Star Lodge. Re came down with a vicious headache, so I left her in the room with the lights off and posted some ride reports from the lounge. When I flipped open the laptop, I was surprised to see that Cam had already sent an email that he would check on parts availability for me in the morning, and if the parts were in stock, he would send them out by noon on Monday. Wow!

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