Day 4 (Thursday, Sept. 7)
The next day we grabbed a quick bite from the hotel ?continental breakfast? ? coffee and a banana for me, and Alex had a danish. We also chatted with a rider from California who was on a Concours and heading across Montana and into Idaho, then Oregon before heading back home. Alex and I were going to continue riding together back to Alberta, but he decided that I was running too slow for his comfort, so he took off on his own. No worries, I was happy to continue on my own, stopping when I like and just generally keeping to my own, relatively unhurried, schedule.Grabbed a bite to eat in Butte, then headed off to my favorite stretch of I15, between Helena and Great Falls. This is a very scenic bit of twisty pavement, and my poor bike got a good workout through there.
I wasn?t looking forward to northern Montana, between Great Falls and the border, as it?s a fairly uninspiring bit of terrain with a lot of wind. I knew that if I kept my speed down though, I could easily make Lethbridge or even Fort MacLeod before I would need fuel again, once I had topped off my tank in Vaughn, just a few miles north of Great Falls. I had originally thought about looking up a fellow LDRider in Great Falls, Curtis Barrow, but it was still early in the day and I knew that I could easily make it home by later that evening. Besides, I had already called my girlfriend and told her that I would be home that night, sometime between 8 and 10pm. I was a man on a mission again, only this time my goal wasn?t a foreign country, but the arms of the woman that I love.
Fate was going to deliver me a serious kick in the ass though, as I would learn later in the evening.
Four miles shy of Shelby, and only 39 miles shy of the border, just as I was coming up a hill, my chain decided to come off the rear sprocket. Fortunately, it dropped to the inside of the hub and allowed the wheel to keep rolling and not causing me to crash. Sweltering in the heat, I put the chain back on, then cautiously headed into Shelby to try to find a bike shop and maybe pick up a cheap chain.
Of course, Shelby doesn?t have any motorsports dealers, the nearest one being in Conrad, 25 miles back the way I had just come. They did have a motorcycle repair shop though, but nobody could give me good directions on how to find it ? they knew where it was, they just didn?t know how to tell me how to find it.
Sitting on the sidewalk in front of the gas bar/convenience store, I mulled over my options ? continue on and hope for the best, or turn around and burn precious fuel in the hopes that the bike shop in Conrad would have a chain. I hadn?t been able to get through on the phone to them, so I had no way of knowing in advance if they had what I needed. In the end I decided to take it easy and push on to the border and closer to home. Everything went relatively well from there on, although I did get held up a bit at the border and had to pay duty on some of my purchases, but in the end I got off relatively ok. Made it into Lethbridge without incident, and made a beeline for the nearest Tim Horton?s. It was so good to sit there on home soil, drinking a glorious cup of good coffee and smoke a really good American cigarette.
As I left the Tim Horton?s though, my chain once again decided to come off the rear sprocket, and I again rolled to the side of the road and put it back on. This was not good, but I figured that I could make it home. I would have to, as it was now too late in the day and the local bike shops were all closed. Ten kilometers or so shy of Fort MacLeod, the bike started to sputter and cough, so I flipped the petcock over to reserve and headed for the nearest gas station, an Extra Foods gas bar that I was familiar with, having gassed up my bike there during the Alberta 2000 Rally back in 2005. The price of gas was even tolerable, at 87.9 cents a litre, a far cry from the ~99cents a litre it had been when I left.
A block up the street, gas was 96.9 cents per litre. I just shook my head at this difference in price. Checking my watch, I knew that I was right on schedule to be back in Red Deer and seeing my girlfriend by 9pm. Fort MacLeod would be my last gas stop before home.
As I rolled out of the city, I was in a very good mood. After 6 days away, I couldn?t wait to be home again.
Then Fate, that cruel bitch, hit me with both barrels.
34.7km out of Fort MacLeod, the master link on my chain snapped apart. As the broken chain whipped around the sprockets, it took a 6 inch chunk out of my rear chain guide, then proceeded to take a large chunk out of my front sprocket cover and slice right through the two wires coming off my pickup coil. All I heard was a loud bang and my bike went dead instantly. I rolled over to the side of the highway, turned the key off, and put the sidestand down. Looking down to see what was wrong, thinking that maybe I had just had the chain come off again, my good mood evaporated like dry ice in a desert. Two and a half hours from home, and the only way I was going to get the bike there was to trailer it. Taking my helmet off, I set it on the side of the road several feet behind my bike in the accepted symbol for ?biker in distress?, then walked 150m back up the highway to retrieve my broken chain from the middle of the road.
Getting back to the bike, I first called my girlfriend to let her know what had happened, and that I wasn?t sure when I would be getting in that night, if at all. After about 40 minutes though, a farmer stopped to see if I needed assistance ? he was the first person to stop. I said I did, so he went home and got his truck and horse trailer to take me and the bike into Claresholm, just a few kilometers down the road. Once there, I could call my friend Darryl in Calgary and hope that he could come down with his trailer and get me back to his place. Darryl was willing to do this, as long as I paid for the gas, which I was more than willing to do.
After Neil dropped me and my bike in Claresholm, I walked a half a block to the Mac?s store to get a coffee and something to eat while I waited for Darryl. As I approached the store, I could see a familiar yellow fairing in the parking lot, and as I got up to the windows, there was Alex, who I had last seen about 11 hours earlier, having a cup of hot chocolate and a snack. He had arrived at the Mac?s store at about the same time that Neil and I were unloading my bike from the back of his trailer.
Alex and I chatted a bit, and he offered me a ride into Calgary, but by then I already had a ride for both the bike and myself, so I passed on the offer. After some more chat, he hopped back on his bike to head into Calgary and some sleep at a friend?s place.
Once Darryl showed up, we loaded Kylie on his trailer, tossed my gear in the back of his truck, and hit the road for his place, where he said I could leave Kylie until the weekend, when I would be able to come down with my dad?s truck and take her the rest of the way home. Once unloaded at Darryl?s place, I grabbed a few necessities from my luggage and started walking. I couldn?t get a hold of my brother, and Darryl had no extra bed for me to crash on, so I was going to hitch it back to Red Deer. At 3:30am, I finally managed to get a ride to the Tim Horton?s in Gasoline Alley in Red Deer, and by about 6am I had finally made it to my girlfriend?s place. I was absolutely exhausted, but I was still coherent enough to give her the silver chain that I had picked up for her in Mexico. She gave me a ride home before she had to head off to a couple job interviews, and I eventually managed to get a few hours of sleep in that day. Saturday was a fairly easy day, and finally, on Sunday, Sept. 10, I drove down to Calgary with my dad?s truck to bring Kylie home.
Thus ends my tale
Aka The Ghost Rider (or simply ?The Rider?)