Beaver Creek Run
It was early afternoon but it seemed much later. The sky was dark and the clouds came right down to the pavement in torrents. Water streamed across every flat surface, cold and black and dirty. When we got to Corvallis we stopped at a restaurant to warm up. Ignoring the stares of the other customers, we dripped all the way to a booth by the window and made a pile of wet leather and helmets on one of the seats. Water pooled on the floor beneath our table. We wrapped our hands around steaming china mugs of coffee and swallowed great gulps of the bitter hot liquid, greedy for its warmth. When our burgers and fries came we devoured them with the same single-minded attention we had given the coffee. Reluctant to leave this dry refuge, we ordered pie and more coffee. It continued to rain. Finally we shrugged on our sodden leathers and went back out to our motorcycles.
Pointing the bikes north, we headed up Highway 99 to Monmouth. Monmouth is a insular community which revolves around Western Oregon State College, churning out teachers, psychologists and cops. The original charter stipulated no alcohol could be made, sold or consumed within the city limits. There was nothing dry about this weekend so we didn’t linger, instead turning right and heading a couple of miles east to Monmouth’s dissolute sister city of Independence, where my friend Robert lived and alcohol was readily available.
We pulled into the alley behind Robert’s house and parked. Walking into his living room the warmth hit us like a wave. My glasses fogged as soon as I got inside. We dropped our wet leather in a heap and tossed our jeans into the clothes dryer. Robert plied us with whiskey while we waited. When the dryer stop spinning we grabbed our pants and pulled them on. What a sublime luxury it was-hot, dry denim! It was the first time we had been warm and dry at the same time all weekend! It was only later I discovered I’d sent all my film through the dryer with our wet clothes. I was sure it was ruined but as it turned out it simply added some interesting colors to the photos, creating odd psychedelic auras that are quite in keeping with how I remember the weekend.
Rob’s house was next door to the police station. We walked through the parking lot and across the street to Kaye’s Tap Room, the seediest and at the same time the best tavern in town. Not coincidently, it was also the closest. Rob and Howard grabbed a table and I went to order a pitcher. The owner was tending bar. I complimented him on his establishment and gave him a business card, identifying myself as Gordon, ace reporter for the Rural Oregon Biker. I suggested I might do a piece about his bar. Suddenly, my money was no good and the beer was free. It was the beginning of a very good evening.
The band was playing decent covers of old rock and country standards. Twinky, the bartender’s daughter, brought us another complimentary pitcher. She took a shine to Howard and pulled a chair up next to him. Soon Howard and Twinky were out on the dance floor shaking it up. I gave the band five bucks to play “Happy Birthday” for Howard, which resulted in another round of free drinks. Howard danced all night, with a beer in one hand and Twinky in the other. A couple of German girls, foreign exchange students from the college, joined us. A fresh pitcher of beer appeared at our table to replace the one we just finished. We danced all night with Helga and Heidi and Twinky. Sometime around last call we lost track of Howard. When the lights came on, the German girls had gone back to their dorm and Howard and Twinky were nowhere to be seen. Robert and I stumbled out of the Tap Room and staggered past the cop shop, back to his place.
Rob and I were in the kitchen, knife hitting hash, when Howard finally showed up at the house. He and Twinky had left the bar and gone down the street checking car doors trying to find an unlocked one they could fuck in. They ended up back at Twinky’s place. She didn’t want to wake up her boyfriend, so they climbed into the old bus parked beside her mobile home. Howard said he was pretty sure he had a good time:
“I remember someone saying, ‘Oh God, Oh God, Oh God!”, then I think I threw up.”
I awakened late and hungover, sometime around noon. The sky was blue, with fluffy white clouds and the sun was shining brightly. The pavement was dry. We strapped our duffle to the bikes and headed home, riding up I-5 and bypassing Portland by taking I-205 just past Wilsonville. I was lulled into complacency, enjoying a pleasant summer ride. Without warning there was a loud clunk by my left foot and the Norton no longer responded to the throttle. The engine would rev, but I was rolling without power to the rear wheel. What now? I coasted off the exit and over the bridge into Oregon City. I had enough momentum to make it to the bar. Howard left me there and continued home to get his truck. Swing shift finished their drinks and left for the factory; day shift sat down at the bar to spend their pay while I waited for Howard’s return. It was dark when we loaded the bike into Howard’s silver Ford Ranger and drove up the Gorge back to Hood River.
When I finally got home I pulled apart the primary drive to discover my clutch basket had come adrift. I spent the next three nights repairing the bike. Friday I rode the Norton to Canada, but that’s another story.