Redmond, Oregon: Early Sunday morning. I awoke to the sound of zippers. Nothing signals the end of a rally more than the swoosh of sleeping bags being stuffed into compression bags and the sound of tent flaps opening. Over 6,000 tents were spread out at the BMWMOA national rally; and with no two of them alike, they all put out a different sound. Somewhat like Pavlov's dog, I recognized the sound of my riding partner Steve Smith's tent zipper and knew he was up and about. (Does this mean I'm becoming a Rally Rat when I start recognizing zipper sounds? Scary thought).
Dragging myself out of my tent, I was greeted with a lot of activity as riders broke camp. Steve was packing up to head back to Georgia because his vacation time had run out; but he would have to ride back alone. Being retired (my vacation time never runs out), I planned to take the long way home.
As I had done in the past, I volunteered to help clean up on Sunday. I jumped on the job of working the bike wash area. It always amazes me how well motorcyclists pick up after themselves and I had very little to do, so I washed the Triumph and was done by lunch. By the time I got my tent packed and headed west just about everybody else was gone. I was only going across the mountains to Eugene to visit an old high school buddy I hadn't seen in 40 years. (We were the only two in my small town in New Hampshire who rode motorcycles.) I sure did have a good time renewing old times with Brad, who has worked for the forest service for 40 years and hasn't ridden a motorcycle since our days in high school.
The next morning I headed north into Washington along the coast, finally turning inland and taking the ferry to Whidbey Island. With temperatures in the 70's, what a great ride it was through the Cascade Mountains on Highway 20. After a few back-to-back 250-mile days (I was in the stop-look-and-listen mood), I had crossed into Canada. One morning, as I did my morning chain maintenance, I noticed the rear wheel bearing had some play. No problem: It was only a couple hundred miles to where I was going - the Lunatic Fringe Rally in High River. After about 100 miles I stopped in the town of Sparwood, BC, and checked the wheel again. I couldn't believe how much play there was in the bearing now. It wouldn't make it to the rally at this rate, so I pulled into a tool and equipment rental place and couldn't have picked a better place. The mechanic, Larry, owned a Gold Wing and he couldn't have been nicer. I knew things were not good when we took the rear wheel off and the bearing dropped out. It had enlarged the aluminum hub to where the bearing just rattled in place, and I knew the chances of finding a new hub for the Triumph were about as good as me winning the Iron Butt. We racked our brains trying to figure out something to take up the slack between the new bearing that we got in a local parts store and the hub, and we finally settled on a piece of steel band used to strap stuff for shipping. With the grace of God and a large brass hammer, we got the bearing back in and it fit as tightly as a bullfighter's pants.