The wheels haven’t completely stopped and the kick stand is down and I’m standing behind the bike. Sure as it is that I am currently standing in a baking oven in my race gear, sweating like I have never sweat before, my right saddle bag is spewing 6-10 inch flames. My feet haven’t completely settled from running to the back to have a look see before I’m back up on the flame trying to slap it out. Nylon can only burn so hot, right? Maybe the exhaust lit the bag on fire. I’ve played with fire before, this is nothing but a thing! But the more I smack at the bag the bigger the fire gets. Strange. I can’t handle the ambient heat, so I yank off my helmet and gloves and a woman in white appears out of no where asking me if I need help.
I tell her “hold on a second” because the thing to do is to get everything on fire detached from the motorcycle. If I have wheels I can move, but I would be stuck with a smoldering pile of plastic and metal if I didn’t move fast. Possibly 45 seconds from the time I stopped I’m wrestling a burning set of saddlebags from the 250. With the saddle bags off I start tearing the Velcro straps connecting the right side bag which is on fire from the left side bag so the one doesn’t catch the other one on fire. Once apart, I proceed to yank everything in the burning bag from the bag, amid what has grown to between 8 and 12 inch flames. I scald my hand in a few places in the process. After the clothes, journal and toiletries I pull on the laptop and as it pulls free form the melted nylon bag the inside of the battery – bare cells, fall back into the bag. All of a sudden everything makes sense.
This is a chemical fire! Presumably the battery caught fire by being over heated by the muffler. I would later find out that wasn’t the case, but at the time, it seemed a reasonable explanation. Right, with the flames having grown too large and hot for me to do any more digging I move everything away from the fire and step back to take account. I notice the woman is still standing there looking very concerned at what must seem like a crazed motorcycle racer tearing his luggage to bits! I thank her for stopping but tell her that I have road-side and that somebody has to stay and make sure this fire goes out. The fire can’t be put out by anything but the special foam, and since it’s my fire, I’ll watch it and make sure the field next to the freeway doesn’t catch the disastrous inconvenience of an energy-in-plasmic-state disease we commonly know as fire. Alert to situation contained in 4 minutes flat.
Her expression changes from concern to worry, presumably at my very rapid mood change from frantic to calm, and possible incomprehensible explanation of the situation, but goes on her way after 2 more affirmations from me of the situation and encouragement that I’ll be fine. The middle-aged angel disappears as she had appeared, or maybe I was just so taken with watching my belongings burn in an inferno that I did not see her drive off… I’m supposed to be on my way to Topeka, not in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in Kansas, watching my stuff burn. Well, luckily I can not do anything about the fire, so as long as it doesn’t light anything else up, I can stop thinking about it and rather tend to solving the problem of how I’m going to get 2 saddle bags worth of stuff to Topeka with only 1 saddle bag.
As I’m pondering the situation a trucker runs up the on-ramp which I just so happened to be stopped next to with a fire extinguisher in hand. I thank him but tell him it’s chemical and that CO2 will not do anything for it. He decides to try anyway and after spraying the fire, it dies. For 3 seconds. And then flares up bigger than before, presumably because the fire extinguisher blast exposed fresh chemical for consumption. He nods and concedes that I was right. I laugh and thank him for it anyway, urging him to take his fire extinguisher. It will be worth more to him during an inspection on a scale than to me here. Still pondering, another 10 minutes go by and I hear sirens.
Oh great, here come the 5-0 and an assured ticket! But lo, I see red, lots of red, and I like red! My bike is red after all! Turns out it’s the rural fire department, and having received slightly inadequate directions, almost drive right underneath the freeway at the underpass before spotting me waiving up above. Once I was spotted the pick-up truck turned fire truck slams on it’s brakes and spews gray smoke from all 4 tires, grinds it’s gearbox into reverse and once thrown back into what passes as forward (drive) proceeds to off-road the most direct route between myself and them. An older firefighter and his younger cohort who seems to be in training jump out slightly wild eyed and frazzled, but gung ho and ready to go! I greet them with a calm hello and explain the situation. Once I finish my explanation I can visibly see their shoulders, demeanor and eyes sink with a massive let down of the situation. Apparently these guys don’t get a lot of excitement, and were really hoping for some. Oh well, sorry to disappoint.
We wait for the fire to finally die and discuss strategies to get all my stuff off the side of I-70. Oh yea, have I mentioned yet that during this time cars have been whipping by behind me at 85mph for the last 40 minutes or so? One, two more fire pick-up-em-trucks off-road to the same location, again with the occupants peeling out before the truck has even come to a full stop, again, outwardly showing their disappointment and let down once they hear the story. One fellow parks a fire truck almost in the middle of the right, east-bound lane of I-70 and starts slowing down traffic and diverting it all into the left lane.
Great, now I’m one of those people who I despise. You know, the ones who can’t drive good enough to keep from crashing and bringing everybody else’s commute to a grinding halt when all you wanna do is be done with that road. Yea, me. I guess I should be more patient next time I’m in a traffic jam. With 5 fire fighters and 1 slightly shocked and very dehydrated motorcyclist brain working we decide it would be best if they take all my stuff to the fire station as I follow them so I’m able to get some water, cool down, and they can take a proper look at my wounds. It’s too damn hot to wear a helmet, and I have a flashy-lights escort fore and aft, so I hook the helmet to the bike and off I go, non-ATGATT for the first time in years… And it has never felt this good before! We meander back to the fire station where I receive some water and a chemical ice pack.