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June 12, 2012

Stranded in the Owyhee Desert

I'm back in the office now, but I'm still trying to wrap my head around what went wrong out in the Owyhee desert of Southwestern Idaho.

I tried to drive from Arco, Idaho to Mountain Home, Idaho, a distance of 146 miles. But I didn't make it. I ran out of gas and coasted to within 2 miles of Mountain Home.

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The problem is that I'm not clear why I ran out of gas. In theory, I get about 40 mph, and on a 4.7 gallon tank, I should be able to go 188 miles. So why did I run out of gas in less than 146 miles?

Part of the answer is that Saturday June 9th, a massive thunderstorm moved through the area with 60 mph winds. I battled heavy winds and scattered rains as I crossed the desert, at a temperature of around 48 degrees F. I thought that I would lose my hands they were so cold, but once I ran out of gas, I warmed up considerably.

However, if the high headwinds dropped by mpg down to 35 mpg, I should still be able to go 164.5 miles. Instead, I was only about to go approximately 142 miles, which still isn't right.

So, my brain sits here and tries to understand what went wrong in the Owhyee desert. And, this isn't the first time. I've questioned that tank for some time. I've never really been happy with the math. I very nearly died in the Punta Prieta desert in Baja California a few years ago. So, I've had some issues with this mysterious Clarke 4.7 gallon desert tank for some time.

But today, I finally think that I've solved the mystery.

The tank hangs across the frame of the bike, with two lobes extending well below the frame. The frame on the left has a gas pet cock on it, which leads to the carburetor. The lobe on the right, not so much.

I called Clarke today and asked them what was the mechanism to get the gas from the right side of the tank to the left and the answer was that riding the bike sort of splashes it over. So, I think that's what's happening to me. I'm riding on-road, not off-road, and the gas isn't splashing over to the left side of the gas tank.

I assumed that, when I ran out of gas, I ran out of gas. I never bothered to look in the tank. I'm now thinking that, if I'd layed the bike down on the ground, on its left side, then the gas in the right half of the tank would have flowed across, allowing me to continue on my journey.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 12, 2012 at 3:33 PM


You have a knack for making the following sound extra good:

1) Heated grips
2) Wind protection
2) 9.7 gallon tank

Posted by: Genius on June 13, 2012 at 10:47 AM

Oh, believe you me, genius...I was thinking about you and your heated handgrips. I was like "I wonder if I'll seriously get frostbite on my hands? Heated grips would be awesome." However, I'll have to rewind the stator to do this. Might be worth it though. Also, I want to get me a Baja Designs headlight, so maybe that will be a summer project. New headlight and heated grips. Missed you on the ride, genius. :)

Posted by: Rob Kiser Author Profile Page on June 13, 2012 at 2:17 PM

3 words: bmw 800 gs

(Comes w/heated grips)

Posted by: Genius on June 13, 2012 at 8:07 PM

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