Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Shipping Arrangements...check. Touring Malayisia...check. Bike Problems...check.

view of Penang from the ferry
Much of our time in Georgetown was spent trying to sort out the return of our bikes to the USA. Colin had read reports on HUBB (a round-the-world travelers forum) that it was simple and cheap to ship bikes using Malaysia Airlines' MASKargo. Unlike many carriers, they don't require that the bikes are crated. Instead, they strap them to a pallet, tightly wrap them in plastic, and send them on their way. They fly from Kuala Lumpur to Los Angeles, and we figured the ride up the west coast back to Portland would be a good finale to our journey. It sounded great. Too good to be true, you might say. After many days of getting nowhere, playing phone tag with MASKargo sales and service agents, we rode out to the cargo terminal at the Penang airport to meet with an actual person to arrange our cargo shipment. They were extremely nice, but politely told us... no, they could not fly our bikes to Los Angeles, because of a US government ban on “personal effects” on passenger aircraft. After the toner cartridge bomb plot two years ago on UPS and Fedex out of Yemen, it has been determined that it is unsafe to carry any kind of personal effects on board passenger planes, so in order to get our bikes back to the US, we would have to put them on a cargo only aircraft. I did some research and found the carriers with cargo planes, made a bunch more phone calls, sent more emails, and after being told no by numerous people, finally found someone who could help us. Ms. Goh from Worldlink Cargo was our savior! She arranged for shipping on Eva Air (a Taiwanese airline), which flies a gigantic freighter out of PENANG (we didn't even have to go to Kuala Lumpur (KL)!) to Taiwan and then on to Los Angeles. The bikes did need to be crated, and she coordinated that as well. Her rates were lower than if we left from KL, so we booked it, bought our plane tickets on Malaysia Airlines, and tried to enjoy the rest of our limited time in Malaysia.

Lake Temengor
We did actually leave Georgetown for a ride through the middle of the country to see the mountains and enjoy the twisty roads. We set out one morning after breakfast, said goodbye to Robert and Chew, and told them we'd be back in about a week. The weather was the usual mixture of sun, puffy clouds, and humid heat as we rode the ferry across to the mainland. Traffic was heavy in Butterworth and continued to be as we headed northeast into the state of Perak and around the very large and scenic Lake Temengor. Since we arrived at lunchtime and there was food to be eaten, we stopped for some noodles and tea at the lakeside park. The sky in the east had begun to grow dark, so we decided it would be best to get back on the road.  

some of the oldest forest in the world
A short while later, we crossed into the state of Kelentan, where the road became twisty and more enjoyable. In some of the tighter corners, it felt like the back end of my bike was moving around a bit, but I really didn't pay any attention and put the feeling down to not having ridden in a while. Dumb dumb dumb! After a while turned south toward Jeli. As we pulled away from a stoplight in Jeli, I shifted from first into second and had no drive at all. The engine was turning but my rear wheel was not. Since I was halfway through the intersection, I shifted into first, twisted the throttle, and got the same lack of response. I tried second again but got nothing. My first thought was that I had either done something wrong installing the clutch or was having a transmission problem. 

not what you want to see when you remove the rear wheel
About this point, Re pulled up and said she had seen chunks of my cush drive coming out the back of my bike. Well now, that can't be right. I duck-walked the bike through the intersection and a little farther up the road. I looked back to see that, sure enough, there were chunks of cush drive rubber in the intersection. I looked at the rear end under my bike and could see that the rear wheel had pulled off the splines that are attached to the rear sprocket and drive the rear wheel. What didn't occur to me at this point was that I shouldn't be able to see inside my rear wheel with the axle securely fastened and a non-bent swingarm. While I ran back and gathered the rubber pieces, Re rode a bit ahead to scout for a suitable work area. She found a nearby parking lot, so I pushed my bike there and got to work. Once I sat down and looked at the rear end again, the reality sank in that something was really wrong. As is pretty standard, the axle goes in one side of the swingarm, through a spacer, through the wheel, through the other side of the swingarm, and then into a nut, which holds it all together. Somehow, I now had an extra half inch or so of space where there shouldn't be any. This can only mean one thing. Sure enough, I looked at the other side of the bike and there was NO AXLE NUT! Maybe that was why it felt like the rear end was moving around a bit in the twisties. 

Re volunteered to go back and look for the axle nut while I was in a mild state of shock and left before I could stop her. I think that the nut had been gone for a long time. Quite apparently, I am going to have to fire our mechanic, since that asshole didn't tighten the axle nut after that moron changed the chain... A minute later I went to call Re back and noticed that around the corner was a motorcycle shop. It just couldn't be any handier! With Re's help, I removed the rear wheel and started to inspect the damage. While I did this and got out our spare cush drive rubbers (thank you Alliance Powersports) Re walked around the corner to the motorcycle shop with the axle and returned with a replacement nut. By the time she returned, I had removed what was left of the old cush drive rubbers, but I couldn't get the new ones installed. I carried the wheel back around the corner where the nice folks at the shop showed me how to install them. When I returned to the bike, we started to reassemble the rear end and that's when I noticed two other things: 1) the nut and washer from the right side chain adjuster were gone, and 2) the rear swingarm was indeed bent. The right side of the swingarm appears to have bent near the pivot and is now about a half inch too wide at the axle. Our swingarms appear to be made of molded, flat sheets of steel that have been welded together at the edge. I inspected the swingarm and didn't see any obvious cracking or wrinkles in the metal, so I levered it back into place while Re tightened the nut. One more trip back to the motorcycle shop got us a replacement nut and washer for the chain adjuster, and then everything was back together. I took the bike for a quick ride around a couple of blocks to make sure it was okay and then we decided to get back on the road since the sky was getting very dark. I wish I knew the name of the bike shop in Jeli since we couldn't have done it without them. The only money they would take was one ringgit (0.33 USD) for the axle nut. 

We were now heading south toward Dabong and then it began to rain. There was supposed to be some kind of government resthouse in Dabong, but we couldn't find it in the rain. There also didn't appear to be a petrol station, and we needed some. Between the rain and the bike problems, I didn't feel like messing around anymore today, so I made the executive decision to head further south to the town of Gua Musang. It was supposed to be a bigger town so hopefully, accommodation will be easier to find. Back on the road, it didn't appear that we would have enough fuel to make it, so we stopped in another small town along the way and bought some bottles of gasoline at the local mini mart. The extra liter each gave us enough fuel to make it, so we motored the last 25 miles into town. And what a 25 miles it was. Shortly after refueling, the rain went from steady to torrential. As we came over a rise, it was like somebody turned out the lights. Even though it was only around 6:00 pm, it suddenly became night. Between the rain and the wind, we decided to make a dash for the awning of an abandoned gas station. We pulled underneath to hide from the rain and waited about 30 minutes for it to slack off. Not wanting to be riding in the rain in the dark, we decided to continue on once the wind died down. 

Pulling into Gua Musang around 7:00 pm, we saw some crummy looking hotels on the main street. We kept looking and Re spotted a sign for the Titiwangsa Hotel. You know I had to go check it out. It was a bit of an odd arrangement, above a healthfood store in a newer strip mall that was mostly unoccupied, but the room was nice, the price was okay, and hey, it's called the Titiwangsa (it's hard to believe I am not 12 years old sometimes). The rain had let up by now, so we unloaded our stuff in the room and hung everything up to dry, turned on the fan and A/C, and went out for dinner. Just to make the day complete, I discovered a sore tooth while eating dinner. Great.

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