Our journey continues through Washington state and up into Vancouver, British Columbia. These were days of rest, recuperation, reconnecting and rapport. This is the final deep breath before the sprint to the finish.
Monday, September 30th, 2019 (cont.)
Bill’s Cabin, near Union Creek, Oregon, USA
I was fresh off of completing three song places—Reno, Winnemucca and Crater Lake—in rapid succession. My experience in each of these locations had been memorable and enjoyable. As much as I was relishing these experiences, I was looking forward to a little respite from all of the activity. My sights were set on Vancouver, BC, where my sister, brother in law and new little nephew reside. I would be spending some quality time with them, resting up before my final push towards the finish line.
Getting to Vancouver in one day would have been a long ride. Instead I would be aiming for Port Townsend, a little community on the tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Yet another ADV Rider was going to be opening his home to Annie and me. I was eager to take him up on his offer.
I was still within the Cascade mountain range and had some fairly high elevation riding to do. No fresh snow was falling this morning, but there was still some residual from the previous day.
Once I lost some elevation, I was treated to some nice riding and views that were more typical for the Pacific Northwest.
I spent the majority of the day on the interstate, but hopped off to visit the town of McMinnville. My Uncle Doug was the choir director here for many years and my family and I visited in 1994 when he retired. I wanted to see if anything around the high school would spark some memories for me, but it didn’t look familiar. It was worth the detour though, as the riding in the area was a vast improvement over the interstate.
I continued to grind out interstate miles, passing through Portland and crossing the Columbia River into Washington. I finally split off at Olympia and headed up the peninsula. I didn’t have my phone mounted and I accidentally took a wrong turn. I eventually got suspicious of the sun’s position in the sky and turned around, but it still cost me about an hour. This delay caused me to not reach my destination by sunset. A shame, as I think this ride along the 101 would have been really scenic.
My invitees this evening were a magnanimous couple named Brooks and Judy.
I had neglected to inform them of my delay and Brooks thought I had perhaps gotten lost. When I arrived, he was constructing a waypoint to help guide me in. There was something so thoughtful about this action and I felt welcome immediately.
One of the things I struggle with most deeply in the telling of this story is how I introduce the various characters who cross my path. So many people have been so instrumental in making this journey special and I want to sufficiently recognize all of them. Fortunately, I think I have the perfect story to introduce Brooks:
Brooks was a youngster living in the Miami area. His fascination with sailing and the sea began early and has persisted throughout his whole life. When he was just 12 years old, he transmogrified the family ping pong table into an ocean-worthy vessel. He eventually mounted a motor to it and sailed this boat all the way to Key West when he was 14. But perhaps even better than the feat is the name of the craft: The Mom’s Worry.
I was not surprised to learn that he was a professional writer, as even the emails he sent to me had a poetic, thoughtful quality. He has mostly written for nautical publications. Esteemed followers of this quasi-nautical publication (hey, I’ve been on some boats) will remember my visit to the Confederate submarine, H. L. Hunley, in Charleston, South Carolina, song place 45 of 92 (this post).
Brooks wrote a wonderful account of this submarine in the quarterly publication Maritime Life and Traditions shortly after it was raised. Very few people have ever been allowed inside of this delicate artifact, but Brooks was allowed enough entry to get a feel for what it would have been like for the crew. Claustrophobics need not apply!
We had an incredibly enjoyable evening together. They were interested in my stories, of course, but also had so many fascinating anecdotes from their own lives.
Tuesday, October 1st
Like her husband, Judy has led an extremely fascinating life. I was fascinated to hear about her time working for THX, the cinema sound company, even working from the Skywalker Ranch for a spell. I guess it’s obligatory then:
The majority of her career had been in the coffee industry. This meant that I felt quite a bit of pressure to make her a quality batch of Swedish egg coffee in the morning. It turned out OK and I’ve heard that she has been refining her own recipe recently. I hope she will share her notes once it is perfected.
Brooks has a garage full of wonders, most notably a ’72 Volvo with over 500,000 miles on the clock. Even Annie was impressed.
He agreed to join me for part of my ride towards Canada, saddling up on his Triumph. Perhaps he did, in fact, feel like going for a ride, but maybe he joined me because he didn’t trust a landlubber like myself to figure out how to take a ferry across the sound. Either way, I was glad to have him.
We rode to the ferry, which departs from Port Townsend, and Brooks paid for my fare. It’s always special for me to be on a boat and I enjoyed the views of the Puget Sound, which was more mountainous than I expected.
We continued our ride northward, aiming for Padilla Bay.
“Padilla” is one of the most vexing places mentioned in the song. I chose the community by this name in Colombia (this post) to be song place 58 of 92, but I still have no idea where Geoff Mack was looking when he selected this location. I decided that it would be prudent to get some pictures of Padilla Bay, just to be safe.
We explored around and found some decent views of the bay as well as a nice sign. Brooks was a helpful and patient photographer.
He treated me to lunch before we parted ways. Though we were together less than 24 hours, I really connected with Brooks and Judy. They are fascinating, accommodating people. Given the events of the previous years, it is quite rare that I feel like the least interesting person in the room. With these two, that was definitely the case!
My focus shifted to Vancouver as I continued north. I had a little trepidation about the border crossing. For whatever reason, Canadian border agents seem to intrinsically mistrust me. Along with monkeys and single females, these are the only beings on whom my incessant charm seems to have no effect.
Fortunately this stop was different. I scarcely needed to answer a question before I was waved on. I looked in my mirror as I pulled away and saw the lady going to break. My timing just happened to be perfect.
I navigated through the suffocating traffic to arrive at my sister’s apartment building.
It was so good to see her and my nephew, Sage. She was slightly frustrated that she had spent well over an hour searching downtown for a box of Zebra Cakes to welcome me home. The last time I had arrived in Vancouver (this post), ten of those snack cakes was all I had eaten that day. It appears that Vancouver has recently passed legislation to make carbohydrates a Schedule-I controlled substance. What a shame…
But even without a sugar rush, the reunion was plenty sweet. We had so much to talk about and it was amazing to see how much Sage had changed since I’d seen him just a couple of months earlier.
Annie and I wound down into the depths of their parking garage and I snugged her in behind their Subaru, being careful not to block the Lamborghini next door. Vancouver is surely a strange place.
(I’m going to depart from the day by day narrative at this point. Most of my time in Vancouver was just a mix of resting and writing. I didn’t really do any sight-seeing. I’ll just highlight the happenings of a few categories.)
A Shocking Development
When my rear shock blew in California, I found a used one online in Canada. I decided to have it shipped to Vancouver and swap it out there. I had now ridden over 2,000 miles on my blown rear shock which makes the bike harder to control, especially off road. I was glad to have a replacement waiting for me.
Swapping it out was fairly difficult, since I lacked the optimal tools. I thought that I had operated on Annie from every conceivable angle, but this was a new one for me:
I got some funny looks as I worked, but I was used to it. The last time I was in this garage I was fixing a wheel bearing with a blowtorch and a hatchet. A nice guy saw me working and brought over a blanket for me to sit/kneel on. I really appreciated this gesture.
New (to me, at least) vs. old:
I tried to make a clip demonstrating the effect that a blown shock has on handling. In the gif below, the blown shock is on the left, the new shock is on the right. You can see how the blown shock keeps bouncing after it is compressed, while the new one does not:
This is still the most significant mechanical failure that has happened to Annie on this trip. I had one other little concern arise after the snowy riding in Nevada/Oregon. A leak had developed on both of my front forks.
I made a custom cleaning tool from the lid of a hummus container and this successfully stopped the leaks. Easy-peasey
My Friend, Rob
I “met” Rob through ADV Rider, but it was after I had visited Vancouver for the first time. He sent me some messages that were among the most encouraging and thought-provoking that I had read. We connected deeply due to our common faith, love of motorcycles and ability to use 100 words when 10 would do. 🙂
He was the first person from whom I ever accepted a digital donation. Most of the trip I have operated under the rule of: “I will only accept a donation if you can physically put it in my hand.” Rob and I had a battle of wits as he tried to convince me to accept his help. Obviously, I am always a long-shot underdog when it comes to a battle of wits and Rob’s superior logic prevailed.
I had told him multiple times that I might be returning to Vancouver a second time on this trip, depending on how the schedule shook out. I was glad that I was going to have the opportunity to meet him in person.
I first met him at a gathering of other motorcyclists at an airport in Delta. This was such a fun group and I enjoyed hearing their stories and sharing mine. They even included an Iowan, Ben, who could help translate things for me when the Canadian-speak got a little too heavy. 🙂
I met Rob and Ben again, along with their friend Bryan; at a brewery downtown a few days later.
Rob had been trying to figure out a mechanical themed gift for me and he bought me a set of brand new light bulbs for Annie. This bright idea served to illuminate the hospitality which he shone on me. 🙂 It also gives me the opportunity to say that, even at 92,000 miles, I’ve never replaced any of Annie’s bulbs. Additionally, all of her cables are original too.
Rob had one more strange question for me: When was the last time you saw a dentist? I didn’t know the date exactly, but I’m pretty sure it was during the Bush Administration (43 not 41. I’m not that uncouth). Rob has a friend, Kevin, with a dental clinic. Kevin’s clinic has a benevolence policy in which motorcyclist from Nebraska who are over 60,000 miles on their trip and speak basic Portuguese can apply for a free dental screening. Would you believe I was the only applicant this day?
Though a little concerned about what a dental professional may find lurking in the depths of my mouth, I jumped at the chance and made an appointment. It was a full process, including x-rays and a deep cleaning. I was relieved to find out that I had no cavities. Even on this trip, I have been a faithful brusher.
As the clinic slowed down over the lunch break, I got the chance to have a great conversation with Kevin. He was another one of those crazy Jesus persons and we really connected. I had yet to have a dentist sign Annie, so I was glad to have him add his name.
I met with Rob for lunch, marking the third time that he had bought a meal for me. He also gave me around $100 of cash (some of it was Canadian, so I’m not sure what that was worth…). I just can’t believe the way he cared for me.
There have been so many times when “thank you” just does not seem to cut it. This was one of the times when that was most true. Thank you, Rob!
Getting so much time with my sister was a huge bonus. Both of us are still processing our emotions in the wake of losing Dad in January. We had lots of time to listen to each other, reminisce and just enjoy each other’s company.
Ten month old Sage was an endless source of entertainment. He was a welcome distraction as I worked on my writing.
I realized later that the photo below was the only one I took of Elise’s husband, Brad:
He is still working as a digital artist in the film industry, which was what led them to living in Vancouver. While I was with them, he was busy putting the final touches on the new Sonic the Hedgehog movie. I should note that he was in no way responsible for the ghastly abomination that was Sonic’s design in the original trailer. I just hope my nightmares will stop someday.
Though it is always difficult to bid farewell to any of my dear family members, the sadness was mitigated by knowing that I was really on the homestretch.
I was rested, refreshed and ready to push on eastward towards my final goal. The support of family and friends was perhaps more tangible than ever. Only a handful of days in the saddle remained and Sage was kind enough to warm it up for me.
Keep worrying your mother, everybody 🙂
Realtime update: Happy holidays to everybody! I took a little break here as I was in family/celebration mode. There are just a few posts remaining of this story, but they should be good ones. The way home and the re-visit of Ombabika were neat experiences. I hope everyone is gearing up for a wonderful 2020. This year is going to look a lot different for me than the previous three. More on that soon….