I had the Vintage safely strapped down in the back of a U-Haul truck as I was heading north on Hwy 97. My mind went back to the previous 2 days since leaving Whalen Island and the 20th annual Jim Brandes Memorial Campout. Last year it had rained almost constantly, so we were all happy that this year it was merely threatening most of the time. It’s always a gamble going out in May, but it’s all just part of the adventure.
My first real ride of the season, I was happy it immediately felt comfortable and natural as soon as I got off the ferry boat in Bremerton and started making my way to the North West Oregon coast. Displaying that threatening stance all the way, but never producing, the sky revolved through a dozen shades of grey and even once in a while revealed the hope of blue, fleetingly, before being swallowed up by one of those tones.
Since learning a few years ago about the tiny, 9 car, 10 minute Wahkiakum Ferry that crosses the Columbia at Cathlamet WA and Westport OR, I’ve wanted to ride it but never made the slight detour required until now. The first day out is a good time to put things in perspective and realize the lesser road traveled is often more enjoyable and the different viewpoints that can emerge are refreshing. I ran into fellow Brandes attendee Richard Caulkins at the dock who has obviously learned this long ago. As much as I love the graceful and majestic bridge at Astoria 30 miles west, this peaceful, Huck Finn-like crossing set the mood and pace for the rest of the day and stayed with me for the arrival at the campout later that afternoon.
While we had a dry if chilly weekend on Whalen Island, and early Sunday morning at daybreak I woke to the sound of heavy raindrops on my tent. Hot coffee and warm farewells to the other early risers, I was on my way, continuing down the coast. It rained lightly, it rained heavily, and all points in-between until I reached Brookings late that afternoon. Sometimes it cleared up for several miles and exposed the rugged beauty of the Oregon coast. The two blues of the sky and water matched perfectly with the whites of the sand and the crest of the waves. Riding in the rain isn’t the most pleasant thing, but I was dressed for it and it was all just part of the adventure.
After a brisk ½ hour ride into Crescent City for a Grand Tour checkpoint and breakfast the next morning, the rains had moved on. I swung up Hwy 199 back into Oregon to Grants Pass. After a brief 20 mile stint on I-5 I got off near Rogue River and made my way east to Hwy 140. Keno was my destination, another checkpoint.
The Keno checkpoint was closed when I arrived so I snapped a picture and continued into Klamath Falls about 15 miles away for the night. I decided in the morning to backtrack the 15 miles to Keno to get the stamp and also breakfast. It was a fortuitous decision because after returning to Klamath Falls and pulling in to gas up, I heard the stomach-turning, unmistakable sounds of bearings gone awry. The sound was accompanied by the ammeter lights dropping like Christmas tree lights at a drag race, and just as quickly the battery gave out and I was dead in the water. At that point I assumed it was the alternator bearings because of the noise and not being able to charge. I was 1,000 miles into this ride, leaning into curves and seeing the landscape go by from a perspective only us riders know. It looked like the next 500 were going to be another story and another viewpoint.
During the 6 hour drive to Portland up 97 and over 26, I went through many familiar areas previously negotiated on two wheels and the wind. It also gave me time to ponder and evaluate the many positive things in this scenario. That I wasn’t in the middle of nowhere, in fact if I hadn’t returned to Keno that morning, and hadn’t chosen to ride the Wahkiakum ferry that first day out, I would have been at least 60 miles up Hwy 97, truly the middle of nowhere. That it was in the morning and I had all day to deal with it. That it was dry after all the rain the previous days. That the U-Haul was just blocks away. That Rick and TJ at Moto Guzzi Portland were generous enough to stick around as I inched my way through Portland rush hour and then delved right into it the next morning. They discovered the starter hadn’t disengaged or had re-engaged at one point, caused possibly by being mucked up inside or the return spring had broken. The high current continued sucking up the battery and the alternator had no hope of keeping up.
Maybe the most positive thing is it really wasn’t even summer yet…we still have a great big full season ahead of us, and that I can take stuff like this in stride and realize it’s all just part of the adventure.