This day, my last, was to be the longest ride yet all the while with crossed fingers. The Aprilia has been complaining constantly, making very loud metallic noises accompanied by irregular lurches. The chain and both sprockets are worn badly and the upper idler roller is completely missing. Not good.
I broke camp early, said good bye to the kitty and joined the happy-off-to-work folks on I-5 south. Somewhere around Renton a McDonald's was calling my name plus Mr Fuel Gage began blinking so I stopped for my 2nd breakfast and tested my bulging credit card again. Both worked, I left a couple of pounds heavier and the bike ran smoothly. Making good time down the interstate it occurred to me I just might make it home today, in fact I might even make it to the family reunion east of Roseburg where Linda was staying. Then I recalled she had a full RV of giggly girls and two dogs so I'd likely end up doing the tent thing again. That tipped the scales and I popped off the freeway at Olympia and headed west for the longer coastal way home. This was a whole lot nicer riding than sustained freeway speeds of 65 mph and I wasn't in a hurry.
Along about the time I hit Elma, WA, the racket and jerking coming from the chain became too intense to ignore so I found the local auto parts place and bought a scissor jack and adjusted the chain. While there I got to talk to a couple of guys who do the local motocross thing, seems like bikers are always ready to talk wherever you go. The fact that my rig has an extra wheel didn't seem to matter to them, it only made it more interesting.
Continuing south I crossed that long bridge leading to Astoria and noticed the chain clatter had begun again in earnest, so I stopped to readjust it one more time. This was beginning to worry me but I really didn't have much of a choice other than to move on. My next chain adjustment was in the Tillamook Fred Meyer parking lot -I love those big chunks of asphalt! It was then that I found there was no more adjustment left and that whatever had been there was all used up. Leaving town on highway 101 I rode less than a mile when I realized to continue was to invite spending the night parked along the roadside, the noise was much louder after my last expert adjustment and I decided it would be best to head back to Tillamook and look for a mechanic. This, on a late Friday afternoon - 5:30pm - but I gave it a go. Knowing that in small towns everyone knows everyone I stopped at the first gas station and asked. The guy hanging out inside told me about a guy named Dan who ran a bicycle-motorcycle-TV-appliance-video rental shop "Just down the road a piece, ya can't miss it as long as you head straight at the intersection and don't go right or left." Damned if he wasn't telling the truth, I found the place and waited patiently while Dan the owner finished chatting it up with one of the locals. He must have figured I wasn't from around there and asked another guy to see if he could "answer my questions" Yep, I had questions alright. Turns out guy #2 is his main bike mechanic just heading for home, but he took a quick look at the beast and confirmed what I already knew with one exception - I'd over adjusted the chain and now it was running too tight. Dang it anyway, how dumb can I be? (We'll ignore the diesel fuel episode) With that said I whined around again so he agreed to open up the shop and do the adjustment himself, this time getting everything lined up correctly. Unlike the Indian guy in Vanderhoof, these folks work cheap but not for nothing so I was happy to drop $15 in their kitty. The mechanic told me not to worry, it would make it home without busting but I'd have to fix all that stuff very soon. Like tomorrow probably.
On my way again only with reduced noises coming from the chain I set out south towards Hebo, center of the known world... It was there that two things happened, almost simultaneously, it began to rain and it got dark. Neither one bother me but given the state of the bike's health I wasn't looking forward to dealing with it. I donned my funny red Santa raincoat and 3-fingered Spock gloves and went back at it. This was not ideal or fun riding, it was just sit-up-and-pay-attention and try not to get hit by a truck or run into a deer. It was so miserable and hard to see I shut the GPS off to reduce light glare. At this point I noticed the headlights were undulating in brightness as were the dash lights, an indicator of low battery power. Time to shut off the electric vest and hand grip warmers. That helped, the lights went back to normal and I was more than warm in the red Santa vinyl sweat suit.
Eventually I made it into Newport where I gassed up and hit the next door Burger King. The gas station attendant made the comment "I hope you don't have far to ride Buddy, this rain and fog is real nasty all along the coast." I told him that manly men like myself were conditioned to ride in crappola weather and not to worry. It was 8:00pm when I left the warmth of the Burger King.
Things didn't change a whole lot after that, I rode slow and moved over whenever cars came up behind me and that was about it. I made one last stop for gas in Reedsport where I entertained the guy in the booth by circling around all the pumps looking for one that didn't say Full Service. Turned out all of them said that and I explained to Mr Non-Smiling Attendant I didn't want to pay to have my windshield cleaned. Ha ha. Yuk yuk. Not funny dude, here, and he handed me the nozzle. I filled up, handed it back, he grimaced (no thank you from him) and walked off. For a brief moment I was annoyed but then I felt sorry for him having to pump gas for a living. What the hell, it's his problem not mine, so off to Bandon I rode. Yippee, got home at 11:23 pm with 8,250 miles logged on the old hack and tons of great memories of riding Alaska's infamous Dalton highway. Plus the Top of the World highway. Plus the Winter Harbour haul road. Dang! What's next?