Beaver Creek Run
Howard and I had spent all winter working on our bikes. They both had fresh paint and new tires. Howard installed a new magneto in his Triumph and hand fashioned stainless steel fender struts and a sissy bar. I had a shop in Portland rebuild the top end on my Norton. The rebuild hadn’t gone so well. The mechanic was a little too fond of his whiskey and had installed my pistons backwards and reversed. This put the exhaust valve reliefs in the wrong place and the valves kissed the pistons so I had to tear it down and do it over myself.
I had just gotten it back together and all buttoned up when the ABATE of Lincoln County Beaver Creek Run rolled around. Howard and I hooked up with Brian Stovall from The Dalles and we all headed towards the coast.
We stopped for gas just outside of McMinnville. Brian must have been in some sort of hurry. He jumped out into traffic before Howard had paid for his gas and rolled the throttle to the stops. When Howard and I pulled out on Highway 18 we could barely make out Brian’s Harley at the end of a long, flat straight away. He was already almost to the foot hills of the coast range.
I got behind a lady in a white Chrysler going slow. The first chance I got, I pulled out to pass her and romped on the gas. I looked in my mirror and saw Howard right behind me. I was just about past the car when I realized something was wrong. It felt like my back wheel was pivoting from side to side. It would point me to the right, hop and buck, then send me off to the left and hop. I could still see Howard right behind me in my mirrors. The lady in the car next to me was staring straight ahead. I wasn’t sure what was wrong but I knew I didn’t want to use my rear brake. The oscillation coming from the rear of my bike had me weaving and bucking down the wrong side of the road. Oncoming traffic appeared on the horizon. I couldn’t brake, Howard was right on my ass and it felt like the back wheel might come off at any moment. The lady next to me was oblivious to my problem and wasn’t going to let me over. There was a pickup truck coming towards me; I couldn’t stay where I was. I gingerly rolled on some more throttle and accelerated around the white car.
Miraculously there was a farm right there with a broad, open driveway to the barn. I plunged off the road and into the drive, coming to a shaky stop in the gravel, still upright. I put the bike on the kickstand and climbed off to see what the matter was. The rear wheel was cocked over to one side, wedged against the swingarm. Howard pulled up next to me and parked his chop. Together we lifted my Norton onto a block of wood. The wheel sagged and half the axle came out in my hand when I tugged on it. It had sheared off where it threads into the stubaxle at the rear brake. The back wheel really had been pivoting from side to side! It would move over until the leading edge hit the swingarm where it would bind up for a moment, causing the bike to buck before bouncing back towards the other side.
I figured the shop in Portland would have the parts I needed and they owed me after screwing up my rebuild. I knew the mechanic would be drinking Jack Daniels in the back room this late on a Friday afternoon. I knocked on the farmhouse door and asked to borrow their phone. A quick call confirmed the shop had a spare axle for a Norton Commando and if I could get there in the next hour it was mine.
Howard was shaken by what he had just witnessed and didn’t want to ride back to Portland but he said I could take his Triumph and ride back myself. I hadn’t ridden a chopper before. It was a hardtail with the front end kicked out a bit, long and low. The solo seat was sprung, slightly mitigating the harsh, suspension-less ride. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it handled OK. It was a little awkward to turn at slow speeds but not too bad once I got moving. I got back from the city with my parts in just under two hours and it only took a few more minutes to effect the repair.
It seemed to ride all right, but I was nervous now. I stopped several times to make sure nothing was coming adrift. The drizzle started when we got to the Van Duzer Corridor and it was raining steadily by the time we hit the coast. That weekend turned out to be the wettest weekend on record for more than sixty years.
At Newport I realized we’d forgotten the tent. Checking the rear wheel I found the hub too hot to touch and discovered metal shavings at the axle. I could hear it grinding when I rolled the bike back and forth. I must’ve lost a spacer when I had the axle out. I bought a tarp and some flat washers at Copeland Lumber. Having recent practice it only took us a few minutes to prop the back of the bike up, pull the wheel off and shim the hub out with the washers. I bolted the Norton back together and we headed to the run.
to be continued…