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Jul. 1st, 2003

How did some bad gas lead to an explosion, subsequent fire and all the firemen and police coming to yours truly at the gas station? Sounds like a movie, right? Read on....

This morning, on the way into work, I was running low on gas. There is a "Mutual" gas station just ½ mile from where I work -- so I stopped in and filled up. Nothing outside of the unusual, right? When 4:00 rolled around, I started my bike and was leaving work -- the bike was running a little sluggish, kinda like one of the cylinders was not firing. Less than ½ mile up the road, my motorcycle completely stopped dead across from the gas station I fueled up at. I pushed it to the gas station to get off the road.

I checked the spark plugs; they were fine. I replaced them any ways (just in case) -- I carry spares in the event a plug fowls up. Spark was fine. Tried to start it again -- nothing. I asked the attendant if there were any complaints about the gas today, as I just filled up this morning, and the fuel line is about long enough that the new fuel would be hitting the carburetors just about now... He said that there had been no complaints. I opened my gas tank, stuck my fingers in and smelled them -- it smelled weak. Oh great, bad gas - or gas and water... Real good for my bike.

Thinking that if I could get the bike to turn over, I might be able to "drive" the bad gas out with some backfiring I bought a can of carburetor cleaner / engine starter spray at the station and sprayed it into the air filter. Wow! The bike started, and then promptly died again, but it sounded hopeful, so let's try it again... I started the engine and there was a LOUD BANG as the chrome cover for my air filter blew off and a fireball ensued the right side of my bike, and my arm (I was wearing my leather jacket; so other than losing the hair on the back of my hand, I am okay.) I hopped off the flaming motorcycle, and not realizing the kick stand was up, she fell over to the left. The right side of the bike was now the top side, and was aflame in an inferno of carburetor cleaner -- but the gasoline leaking out of the fuel tank would not ignite!! Go figure!

The station attendant grabbed a fire extinguisher, but when he figured out how to use it, he discovered that it was EMPTY. I went to pull the fire box to discharge the overheads at the station to prevent a much more serious problem -- nothing. The attendant ran to the other fuel island and got another extinguisher and put the fire on my burning bike and my arm out.

Sounds pretty bad, eh? Not really -- I washed off the yellow power from my bike and put her upright to assess the damage: A scratch on the left mirror frame. The black soot moped right off of the tank, revealing very little damage there -- however, on the right side of the bike, the chrome cover for my air filter was completely out of shape from the explosion, and the filter looked a little well done.

I had my bike towed to my mechanic; whom I spoke with on the phone. He said the symptoms very much sounded like bad fuel, and he would drain and test the fuel tomorrow. With any luck, I'll be back on the road tomorrow or Thursday. If not, my trip to Rochester for the weekend of the 4th will be called off.... Bummer!



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