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Bad Luck and Good Samaritans

Posted by on August 9, 2011

August 8, Corvallis. 190 miles to Astoria

After doing more than 100 miles and climbing over a mountain on muscle power alone, we thought we deserved to sleep in and start late. Plus, we knew the new part we needed wouldn’t be arriving at the Bike Friday factory until mid morning. The factory was about eight miles west of our hotel, but even at our pedal-only rate of 7 mph, we had plenty of time. The Bike Friday Company makes really neat folding bikes that fit into a suitcase, but are also serious touring bikes. I test rode one  fitted with an internal rear hub and really liked it. I told my dad I’d ride it to Astoria and he could take the vehicle. Rob English, who is the head designer for Bike Friday, helped my dad disassemble the vehicle’s drive system to replace the bearing. By then, it was almost three o’clock. We wanted to get to Corvallis by night, and if we followed the Transamerica route, this would mean doubling back about 9 miles, then riding another 47. While we were having a late lunch at a nearby taco stand, a man struck up a conversation and started asking about the vehicle like people usually do, then ended up giving us some advice on the route. He said Highway 99 had a wide shoulder the whole way to Corvallis, and was significantly shorter. I checked on the iPhone at it was shorter by about 11 miles, plus the road started just a couple of miles from our location. Maps don’t always tell the whole story, because the road turned out to be a very busy 4-lane, with lots of big trucks, but at least there was a wide shoulder. The vehicle ran perfectly for about three miles, and then the chain started skipping. This happened the last time we changed the drive chain. My dad said not to worry, because it takes some adjustment to the tensioners to get the chain just right. A little bit too tight and it binds; a little too loose and it skips. Also, it seems to stretch a little bit when you first put it on. The trouble is that adjusting the chain is much harder on our vehicle because of its position. We have to stop and lift out the 90-pound cargo and battery box, then crouch down and loosen a bunch of bolts that are hard to reach. Every time he does this, my dad ends up with greasy hands, and it never improves his disposition. He stopped and made adjustments four or five times in a couple of miles, with trucks whizzing by just a foot away, and then we had our first flat time in quite some time. A big screw had worked its way into the right rear tire. We patched the tire; the motor chain kept skipping. But rather than turn around, we used mostly muscle power to reach the town of Junction City. There were a couple of dingy hotels there, and it was after six. My dad said he’d make one final try, and if that didn’t work, at least we’d have a place to stop. He switched to a spare chain we’d been carrying, and everything seemed to work fine. From there, it was just 27 miles to Corvallis, and we had three hours of daylight. We decided to push on, and took off on 99W, cruising at 15 mph. Five miles later, the left rear tire started going flat. We stopped and went through the whole routine of lifting the cargo box, hoisting the rear end onto the box, removing the tire, and so on. There was a small hole, which we patched.  A mile later, it went flat again. Close inspection showed that the patch had failed. It was a new type that we’d bought in Sisters. The salesman at the bike shop said these patches were better because they were self-sticking, so you didn’t need to wait for glue to dry. My dad pulled it off and used one of the regular glue patches. That lasted another two miles, then another flat on the same tire.  This time, we found that the original hole had turned into a tear. Removing and changing patches must have stressed the rubber too much. So we dug into our spare tube bag, and were eventually back up and rolling. At least until the right tire went flat for a second time.  By now, it was dark. We’d lost a lot of time with the tire changes, and meanwhile, the shoulder had disappeared, the road had gone to a two lane, and there was a lot of heavy truck traffic whizzing pat in the dark. We pulled onto a side road, and my dad said he was about at the end of his rope. While he was fixing flat number five, which was also caused by a failure of a new style patch, a lady from a house right across the road came over to check on us. At first she believed that we where hobos or thugs, but once she talked to us she found out that we where normalish and nice people. After getting acquainted and learning her name, Mrs. Lindi Zeller invited us inside to give us some water – and in my dad’s case a beer. While inside, we met her husband, Zeke, and her two dogs. Claire and Maggie. After some talking we found out that the road got narrower and busier as we got closer to Corvallis. Her husband and her agreed that we would get killed on the road that late at night, so after some talking they arranged a ride with her sister Sherree Horning and her brother-in=law Ted, who had a cargo trailer and lived right down the road. We loaded the vehicle onto the trailed and Ted ferried us the final 10 miles into Corvallis. It was pretty late by then, but after checking into a cheap hotel, we realized we’d skipped dinner, and took the Vehicle out for a late night cruise of the Corvallis downtown.


A special thanks goes out to:

Zeke and Lindi Zeller and to Ted and Sherree Horning, we are thankful there are still good people in the world.

3 Responses to Bad Luck and Good Samaritans

  1. Chris Sell

    Nash and Pierce,
    I know you’ve had some rough bumps with tires and chains and all that, but overall it seems like it’s such an amazing trip. I’m a bit envious. The area around Astoria seems absolutely GORGEOUS. I hope ya’ll are enjoying your time as much as it seems like you are!

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