Gatlinburg Tennessee 2013, Day 1

Steve Kinchen, Sr/ October 30, 2013/ General Rants & Raves About Riding, Touring/ 0 comments

Our annual family trip to Gatlinburg Tennessee began much like it has in years past: planning activities with our kids and parents, discovering new roads for us to explore, servicing our van and bikes for reliable performance during our trip and other such activities. Months of planning coalesced Saturday afternoon as the final packing was completed and our bags were loaded into the van. Special care was taken to properly load the borrowed trailer with our bikes for the motorcycling adventures that lie ahead.

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Earlier in the week, we had a bit of a scare with the MP3 500’s hydraulic locking mechanism that took serious effort by Rob, Jared, and Zachary at the Transportation Revolution of New Orleans to remedy. For a while, it appeared that the issue was one that might not be resolved before our departure date. In the eleventh hour, they were able to get us up and running for the trip.

Our departure was scheduled for its normal time: 2am. The alarm was on time, and our household sprang into action like a well oiled machine. We were on the road just a few minutes past our intended time. Stevie was taking “shift one” with me as a sort of rite of passage. Being the eldest, it is his “responsibility” to help dad stay alert during the hardest part of the trip… We were practically alone on the freeway making our way past Metairie, and New Orleans East when the first of several challenges that would plague our trip manifested.

Just past the Chalmette exit from I-10, the engine revved high but we lost our forward momentum and the van began to stall. I quickly disengaged the cruise control and tried the accelerator manually to no avail. I managed to guide the van to the shoulder and powered everything down. The time was 3:10am. We were loaded down with our family of six and a weeks worth of supplies as well as a trailer with two bikes. Stevie and I began to do a system check and a thorough examination of the engine fluids. All seemed in order, to the best of our ability to diagnose the problem. A few minutes later we decided to try again. To our surprise and delight, the engine started right up and we pulled away like nothing happened…

With the twin spans behind us, we were feeling quite confident that our previous experience was fluke… That is until we hit the old Spanish trail exit on I-10 and we were hit with a déjà vu experience. This exit is very well lit and Stevie and I resumed our roadside evaluation, except this time I left the headlamps on and exhausted the capacity of the battery. Click click click… We decided to try to take advantage of out investment in the state police tax dollars and called for a jump… Meanwhile Gina began the search for a service center in the Slidell area that might me open on Sunday. We landed in the parking lot of tire kingdom off Gause at 4:20am.

As we settled in for a few hours wait, we began discussing our limited options for continuing our trip. We sporadically napped for the next three hours until I decided that the pep boys a mile away was a better option for us and along the way was a Cracker Barrel where hot pancakes awaited our arrival. Gina reached out to a few of our friends and my business partner and we soon had help that wasn’t there just a few hours ago. Ted was a tremendous friend and dropped everything to come to our assistance. Never one to fail to surprise me, he had a computer in his truck that actually diagnosed our problem, before the shop was open.

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As good fortune would have it, my business partner sprang to our rescue and not only loaned us his SUV, but coordinated getting our van to the shop for us as well…! This was the only thing that saved the motorcycling aspect of our trip as there were no rentals available with towing capabilities.

With a nine hour delay, we were once again on our way… We finally arrived at 10pm… Late, but safe and with our bikes in tow!

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