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With no jobs scheduled today, I took off to visit Mom at the retirement community, roughly a 120 mile round trip. It was cool, upper 60's, and the sky was threatening, but the forecast showed only a 10% chance of showers with 0% and clearing skies after lunch. I strapped my rain suit bag to the mini-rack just in case and took off. With the throttle lock set to give me 65 downhill and about 60 uphill, and zero traffic, the ride over was uneventful other than a light sprinkle that lasted only a few minutes and wasn't enough to even dampen my jacket.

After a nice visit and lunch, I headed back. This time, I was unfortunate to fall in behind 3 eighteen wheelers, two logging trucks and a tanker. There are several long straightaways on this route, and normally at least one of them would have given me the opportunity to crank the throttle and take all of them down at once. This time it was not to be, as every straightaway revealed an oncoming big truck or two. No problem -- I fell in to a trailing position a couple of hundred feet back and cruised on at their speed.

About 20 miles from home, I began smelling burnt rubber. I dropped back a bit more, got close to the centerline so I could see as far ahead as possible, and watched as the smell got stronger. After a few minutes, the second logging truck began showing smoke, and 30 seconds later there was an explosion of tread fragments and other shrapnel as one of its trailer tires disintegrated.

Now, had I been tight behind that tanker, there would have been a nasty surprise for me as all manner of hazardous junk suddenly appeared in my path with no warning. As it was I had no difficulty at all safely maneuvering around all of it.

It reminded me of another riding experience from 30 years back. My job required me to make an overnight trip to Southern Pines, NC, for a meeting the next day. It was late October, with perfect weather -- mid-70s and not a cloud in the sky. After lunch, I bungeed my overnight bag to the rear seat of my mighty Kawasaki 250 LTD and headed north and east. Again, no traffic, smooth road, and just enough terrain variety and tree color to make the ride a pure pleasure. Even on that little buzz-bomb of a single, life was good. This was the kind of ride bikes were made for!

Exactly 15 miles from the motel where I was booked for the night, I began to notice an odd thump/wiggle in the seat of my pants from the rear wheel -- nothing immediately alarming, but distinctly odd. I pulled over in to the lot of an abandoned country store, dismounted and to my horror saw that an inch-wide strip of tread extending around the center of the full circumference of the tire had departed, leaving a belt shining through where the tread had been. I pulled out my tire gauge and found the pressure was still good, and with great trepidation took nearly a full hour crawling toward my destination, wondering the whole time if I was going to make it, and what the heck I was going to do when I got there.

To my amazement and delight, as the motel hove in to view I realized there was a cycle shop right next to it! Equally amazing, they had the correct tire in stock, a mechanic immediately stopped the job he was on and mounted the new tire, the price was absurdly low, and I was good to go again in less than an hour!

The point -- keep all your senses on alert status when riding. Your nose can save you? Yep! Your butt? You bet, just as much as your eyes and ears.:thumbsup:
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