THE PILGRIMAGE: 11-15 The Break Down

Travelers Inn, Circle, Montana

The Pilgrimage: Day 11

Spent all of Sunday working on Lazarus in front of my hotel room. 
Methodically removing the air box, checking the air filter, removing the spark plugs, checking that they spark, removing the carbs, checking that the little jets weren’t plugged and so on.

 Then I repeated that process two more times. The first repeat was for a guy named Justin who was actually staying in the room next to me, who claimed he used to be a motorcycle mechanic. Who thought for sure the carbs had gotten plugged up. No luck. The little jets in all of the carbs were perfectly clean.

The second repeat was for a very pig headed kid who was working in a diesel mechanic shop down the road a little ways. He determined the best way to “fix it” was to hold the start button and crank it without stopping until the battery died. He brought his battery charger over to the motel and hooked it up for a couple hours then began his ‘let’s crank it till it catches’ routine again.

He did get it running again… for two minutes, after much strain, before it died again and I told him to give it a rest and leave it be. I repeated to myself like a prayer that it must be the spark plugs. It must be the spark plugs

But new spark plugs couldn’t be acquired until Monday. 

The Pilgrimage: Day 12

Monday morning I walked to the Car Quest and got all new spark plugs. Put them in, and it still wouldn’t catch. 
I was then informed by one of the housekeepers that I needed to leave the motel, because they had booked my room for the night. A ridiculous amount of power company employees were in town to fix the downed power poles. 

This is when I received a call from one of the guys the sheriff had told me to call. He apologized, saying that everyone was on the lake all weekend. So, I packed up all my stuff once again. This is when I met Josh. I one of the owner/operators of  Eissinger Equipment/Savage Ford in Circle, MT. We hauled the bike and my stuff out to their shop.

We unloaded the bike and Josh said I could wait out front, I laughed and didn’t move. Instead, I listed off all the things I had already checked on the bike. He said he was impressed that I had my own tool roll, let alone that I had torn the bike apart in front of my motel room. He rechecked one of the spark plugs just to be sure then he asked if I had checked the petcock. 

I hadn’t even thought about it, so we took the tank off again and removed the petcock. Josh and one of the other guys thought that the diaphragm wasn’t moving right and set out to cut up a piece of rubber to do the job. I picked up the pieces of the petcock and stared at it for a minute, before I noticed a tiny piece of metal that did not look like it was supposed to be there. Turned out that a small piece of metal that sits on the back of the diaphragm to keep it’s shape, had broken off and lodged itself in the output hole.

The guys at the shop decided that in order to ‘fix it’ they were going to make it run like a gravity system. I repeated to them that the carbs worked on a vaccuum, that there wasn’t anything to turn off the gas otherwise. I was met with a ‘it doesn’t matter it should work.’ 

Soo, we made an attempt to jerry rig the petcock to work on a gravity system instead of the vacuum. We plugged up the vaccuum hose output and input, and put their new piece of rubber in the petcock. It worked well when there was only a quarter of a tank of gas, I rode her 15 miles and back to the shop. It really did seem like it was fixed. 

Then I loaded up the bike, went down to the gas station, filled up the bike, and then fate laughed at me. Gas poured everywhere, as my carbs flooded. 
I had to call the guys back at the shop, and inform them of our failure. We loaded the bike back onto a trailer and hauled it, solemnly, back to the shop. I determined that I was past the point of trying to make some other fix, and we ordered a new petcock for the bike. 

Three Days. Shipping a new Petcock was going to take Three Days. 
By the time the part arrives, I will have been in Circle for Six Days.

Out back of Eissinger Equip/Savage Ford, Circle Montana

The guys at the Ford shop let me stay in an old fifth wheel next to the shop, when they found out I was planning just to camp in my tent. Then they gave me permission to use one of the shop cars to run into town if I need to. 

The Pilgrimage: Day 13 & 14

I spent the next two days as follows; waking up at 7am, having coffee with everyone in the shop, drawing for a bit and talking to Kaysha (who works the front desk), getting in a little white clunker car to wander about the four streets of Circle to find lunch, then running around to find a good place to take photos at sunset, go back to the little fifth wheel, make dinner on my little camp stove (aka noodles and canned artichoke hearts), then feel useless and like I didn’t do anything because I was in the same place I was that morning. 

Super exciting right? I know. It was thrilling. Although this is one of my favorite selfies from the trip. Look at how majestic I look. Yup. 

As a bonus, here are a couple of the sketches I did while I was in Circle to send as Postcards to a couple lucky people. You can see more of them as I update them on my Art Blog. 

Eissinger Equip/Savage Ford, Circle, Montana

The Pilgrimage: Day 15

After Six Days in Circle my brand new Petcock arrived.

One day breaking down, getting towed into town, another day spent pulling the bike apart in front of my hotel room, another day getting towed to the Ford shop discovering the problem, two days waiting for the new part, and the last day putting the bike back together and thoroughly testing it before believing that it was over.

The old petcock, featuring large chunks of rust from my gas tank, and the little plug from the failed attempt to convince my carbs that they could be gravity fed. 

Old Petcock


New Petcock


After six days in Circle, I was ready to be on the road, but I’ll miss my adopted Circle Family at Essinger’s. Including a few that aren’t pictured. 

Josh and the crew let me do all of the work on the bike myself and only charged me for the parts. So grateful for all the help I received from everyone I met in town, the patience of the wonderful people at Essinger’s, and allowing a stray motorcyclist to stay at their shop for three days. 

After a test run around town I headed to Glendive on a gravel road, and got my first preview of the badlands. 

Hwy 467, Outside Lindsay, Montana

I arrived in Glendive a little early, so I had lunch at CC’s Family Cafe which also happened to be right next to the “Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum.”

I realized after I payed that this was a creationist Dinosaur Museum. Which, while they did have some great casts and Dino skeletons, every plaque had three sentences at the bottom that were constantly repeated. ‘How did this sea dino end up in the middle of the US where there’s no water?’ or ‘Foot prints were discovered near the discovery of this skeleton.’ While I tried not to judge too harshly, my short conversation with one the young women who were working the museum left me feeling as though I had a conversation with a cult member. 

Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum, Glendive, Montana

My creepy experience with the Creationist Dino Museum aside, I went in search of an RV Park and ended up at literally the worst campsite of my travels. There was no one on site managing the RV Park. The other RV’s that were in the park looked like they were permanent residents. None of the water hookups that weren’t already being hooked up to worked. 

And -as I discovered the next day while trying to do laundry- the washer worked, but neither of the two dryers worked (so, I had to run around town with wet laundry trying to find a laundromat.) Yup. I should have just camped in Makoshika State Park. 

I set up camp and immediately rushed off to Makoshika State Park to catch the sunset. For the record, if you have a Montana state licence plate, Montana State Parks are free. Winning. 

Makoshika State Park, Glendive, Montana

Makoshika was absolutely breathtaking. I felt like the universe was rewarding me for surviving my trip up until this point.

Makoshika State Park, Glendive, Montana