Previous Travelogue -- Dr Bob's Northwest Territory Motorcycle Ride Next
Send a message to Dr Bob

25 May 2015, 10:00 PM ET, Jeffersonville, OH

Man, did I do something stupid today. I fried my fob. I can't even talk about it now. Maybe later.

The day started out wet. It had been raining in Corydon, just as I had predicted last night. I slept a bit later than normal (I went to bed very late), but still was up in time for breakfast. I was in a B&B, so we had a family style breakfast, about a dozen people, including newlyweds from yesterday. They will be doing a car trip through the west, including Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Breakfast was very good, and I took my time hoping the rain would go away. By 11 AM, it had stopped and I decided to hit the road. You can see from this picture that it was wet. You can see the Zip-Lock bag I have over my GPS on the left handlebar. I had on full weather gear, I expected to be in rain.

I decided to do an Interstate route today, because of the rain. If I am in rain, I would rather be on an Interstate rather than regular roads. I decided to go a longer way, north to Indianapolis, then east to Columbus Ohio. I got to the famous Exit 9 on I-65 and decided to take a coffee break and check weather radar again. Regarding the famous Exit 9, you may not recall, but my bike suffered a heart attack at that very point on my Route 66 Ride. You can read all about it here.

While sipping my latte, I looked at weather again and saw that the rain had moved a little north, and decided that it would be OK to take a more direct Interstate route to Columbus. This meant going ten miles south, across the Ohio River into Louisville, and then going northeast on I-71 through Cincinnati to Columbus.

So I headed out again, but I had taken off some of my rain gear. Within two or three miles I decided that was a mistake, so I pulled onto the shoulder and put my rain jacket back on. I still had my gaiters on. There was light rain, I call it spritzing. Just enough that hundreds of tiny bubbles roll up the windshield and fly over my head.

That all went well, spritzing on and off all the way to Cincinnati, where it stopped. I left my rain gear on, though. About 25 miles north of Cincinnati I pulled off I-71 to take off the rain gear, I decided I didn't need it any longer. And that's when tragedy struck. Actually, it had already struck, I just didn't know it.

Here's a picture of a good fob and a bad fob. If you can't tell which is which, the one on the right is the one that got fried.

To understand my tragedy, you need to know something about the Harley fob. It is an electronic key, but there are no buttons. For the bike to work, the fob must be within a few feet of the bike. If the fob is not present and you turn on the ignition or shake the bike, a siren will blast and the electronic ignition will shut down totally. So why is that a problem for me? I don't know if the fob still works or not. If I turn off the ignition and the fob is dead, the bike will think I am a burgler and turn on the siren and shut down the ignition. If the fob is not dead, I can turn off the ignition and when I turn it back on everything is OK. But, I can't take the chance. If the fob is dead and I turn off the ignition, I am stuck right there. And today is Monday, and most Harley dealers are closed on Monday. Not only that, it is Memorial Day.

But there is a way out. If you don't have the fob you can use a five digit secret code to make the bike work. You hold down the left and right turn signals at the same time, the bike then goes into a mode where you can put in the secret code. You press the left turn signal the number of times of the first of the five secret numbers, then press the right turn signal, then press the left turn signal the number of times of the second of the five secret numbers, etc.

Great, all I have to do is check for the secret number. Long story short, I couldn't find the code with my papers and owner's manual in the bike. The code was so secret that even I did not know it.

I decided it was too risky to shut off the ignition. I called Harley Road Service. All they can do is tow me to a Harley dealer. But I can ride the bike to a Harley dealer if I don't turn off the ignition. So I gave up on getting help from Harley Road Service and started searching for Harley dealers on my GPS and my iPhone. They were all far away. What I had in mind was riding to a Harley dealer, parking the bike where I could leave it overnight if the fob was dead, turn off the ignition, then turn it back on and see what happens. If no siren, I can continue my journey. If a siren, I call a cab to take me to a hotel.

But first I have to find a Harley dealer. I went into the gas station where I had stopped, with the bike running outside unattended, and asked if anybody knew where a Harley dealer was. Would you believe it, there was a Harley dealer just one block away. I couldn't believe my luck. I headed out immediately, and can you believe it, they were open including the service department.

Let me express my greatest thanks to Chuck Steele (left) and Drew Thatcher of Powder Keg Harley-Davidson, in Mason Ohio, for rescuing me from a perilous situation. The solution was to replace the fob with a new one, that really means two new ones because my spare would become as useless as the fried fob once a new one is made. Drew also determined the secret code so that I will be prepared the next time I fry my fob.

Thanks so much Chuck and Drew.

So why did this tragedy strike me? I carry my keys on a leather strap that goes over my belt. I have had times when the snap would unsnap and my keys are held only by the friction of my belt. That is scary, and in fact, I once lost my keys (but found them again) when the strap fell off my belt. My solution is a chain that also holds the keys and fastens over a belt loop. Reduncancy. Well, what happened was that the keys were not on the leather strap. When I last used the keys to unlock the bike, I stupidly let them hang by the chain because my hands were full, and forgot to fasten them to the leather strap. They were hanging down beside the bike and the pipes fried the fob.

As you already know, I entered Ohio today, the third of the Northwest Territory. I was also in Kentucky, but that is not part of the Northwest Territory. So today I was in both of my "homes", Kentucky where I was born and Indiana where I grew up. I rode 214.1 miles and consumed not one chocolate shake.

Tomorrow I am off to Flint Michigan, assuming I don't fry my fob.

Previous   Next