For anyone who’s been following our progress with Georgia, the $200 TS185 Keenen bought a few months ago you know it’s been quite a path to get to a running bike. Well we finally got her running recently. It was a moment of pure joy for us. Hugs, high-five’s, fist-bumps and much whooping and hollering commenced. Sure, there’s still much to be done. The ignition electrical system is working and we haven’t tested the auxiliary charging yet. The wiring for the aux. is a pure mess and, as such Georgia has no headlights, brake lights, battery, etc. But, she runs, rides, shifts and stops. And, she’s a blast to ride.
The other day we took a little ride up to a gravel pit about 15 miles from our home on gravel back roads as a bit of a recon mission. You see, our ultimate goal is to take a father-sons trip from our home at the eastern foothills of the Coast Range mountains in the Pacific Northwest, over the mountains and to the little Pacific ocean town of Siletz… all on gravel back roads. No highways, minimal pavement.
So, back to our recon trip. It all started out really well (and, in all honestly, ended really well too…). It’s Sunday and my Jalet was away at a wedding a few states away. Us three bachelors had spent the previous evening marathon viewing 3 episodes of Charley Boorman and Ewan MacGreggor in Long Way Round on Netflix. During church we kept looking out the window at the beautiful weather. It was pretty hard to stay focused on the sermon. Afterward, we emptied the garbage and headed home as quick as we could and rolled out the bikes.
Bright sun and mild weather abounded, a very rare occasion during October here in the Pacific North-wet. We jumped upon our steeds and headed west on gravel. It was great to stretch our collective legs on the gravel roads near home. But, the most rewarding part is when we made it past that imaginary line of ‘riding-near-home’. You know what I mean; it’s that line where you’re probably not going to walk home if a bike breaks down. It’s that spot where you’re just beyond your safety net. It’s a very exciting place. We got to the little town of Falls City that is the gateway to our potential journey and lugged our way along in efforts to not gain any attention. Why? Well, we’re riding bikes that are what you might call “not-exactly-road-legal”… Mine is a Café racer without a current plate and only a rear brake (which is changing very soon), another is a camouflage Luftwaffe-looking mini bike with a Honda GC160 and a Comet Torque-a-verter, and the newly revived Georgia the TS185 with no lights.
Having made it through Falls City, we jumped on the gravel road heading out of town toward the sunset. Our second great milestone was “Gate #1”. Where we live the forests are a patchwork of public and private lands that are laced with well-maintained logging roads. Our main crop where we live is grass seed and trees. Logging roads are pretty common. Unfortunately, with the rise in eco-terrorism, forest fires and vandalism many of the roads through public lands are gated when you reach a private land section.
There’s this moment when you round a corner and see one of the ubiquitous gates that makes your heart flutter with excitement and trepidation. While the gate may be open, the owner (usually Weyerhaueser) can close and lock the gate at any time. It’s not uncommon to make it through a few gates and come up to the 4th gate and have it be locked only to turn around and find your retreat is blocked by a gate that’s been locked behind you. It’s the purest form of gambling. You never know…
Fortunately we only needed to get through Gate #1 for our recon trip.
After stopping for a moment of pretty much happiness, we hopped back on to our steeds and continued the long, uphill westward climb into the Black Rock mountain region of the Coast Range. Ollie, Elijah’s bike, is not exactly a powerhouse. It does, though, seem to persevere up the long hills with a little rider maneuvering. In order to get enough traction on the loose gravel one must slide off the seat and place your buttocks firmly over the rear wheel. For a young man this can be a bit nerve wracking due to the hardtail configuration. But, alas we soldiered on. After a number of sweeping corners we finally arrived at our destination, the gravel pit. With the sun getting low in the October sky we had a few minutes to snap a few pix, put around the pit basin and get on the road home. As it turns out, our journey was only just now beginning.
Where we live it’s the last couple weeks of rifle season for deer hunting. Compounding issues, there’s a certain element of humanity that find it the ideal time to come out of the woodwork and exercise their right to make poor decisions as they pertain to driving, shooting and drinking cheap beer. Frankly, I was anxious to get off the mountain before the sun began to dip which is when folks get trigger happy.
Still on the ‘risky’ side of Gate #1 our little caravan descended the twisty road toward home, single file with confident but not alarming speed. Being the only one with a functioning headlamp I decided to take point. There was still plenty of daylight, but I wanted to be extra cautious. On a certain left-hand corner I glanced over my shoulder to check on the boys and found one rider had dropped away from our caravan. I pulled over at the next turn-out and gently popped the clutch to kill my bike’s engine. Georgia and her rider Keenen pulled in beside me. We looked at each other quizzically and in just a couple if ticks, off he rode to assure this worried father everything was good. I sat, listening to Georgia’s two stroke song wind a short way up the hill and come to silence. I shouted, and moments later a favorable report shouted back. “He’s fine, out of gas”, echoed through the dense forest air. Whew.
I knew they were close so I decided I would ride up and check on the scenario. I kicked my bike over… nothing. Generally, my bike is a three-kick gal so I tried a few more times… nothing. Glancing up at the gauges I could see the problem – no lights, no electricity. The bike wouldn’t start for love nor money. Devoid of any tools or a multimeter there was no way to diagnose the problem.
After the boys masterfully stowed Ollie in some roadside brush and covered him with fern boughs and other flora they appeared, two-up on Georgia smiling and laughing. When we tried push starting my bike and had no luck we realized we needed to make some quick decisions about getting our bikes home – 15 miles away.
“Hey, you can just ride Georgia home, grab the trailer and come back. No problem”, said one of the boys.
No problem? We’re in the hills crawling with drunken, trigger-happy rednecks at sunset – Right! NO PROBLEM! I wasn’t about to leave two young men, unattended on a back road in this scenario. I could just see the headlines in the next week’s paper, “Two brothers abducted from logging road during illegal road trip instigated by irresponsible father”. And the following week’s headline, “Man found dead in home near Black Rock, wife missing with gun and dog. 3 motorcycles found aflame in garage”.
Yeah. I don’t think so.
Then, it happened. That moment when you’ve worked really hard on something that you hope in the back of your mind will really become important, or thought of as ‘cool’ by someone. The moment when everyone looks around and realizes that you hold the only key to their survival. You, through hard work and circumstance are now the savior of all humanity. Okay, that may be a bit much…
I looked at our scenario and realized that Georgia, and her proud owner was our only answer. The young man who’d waited through relentless weekends of bad wiring, slow machine shops, a busy father and weeks of missed riding opportunities was now the guy who was going to save our bacon.
“Take your brother and go to the house, get the truck and I’ll be here waiting. You’re our only hope Obi-Wan”, I said. Okay, so I didn’t call him “Obi-wan”, but it’s my story.
From here the story is pretty much like any other trial; the boys left and returned with our trailer, we loaded the bikes and laughed our way home in the warm cab of Jalet’s truck. Happily ever after kind of ending.
But it’s not the end that makes this story great, it’s the moment when Georgia and her intrepid pilot went from being just another kid on a bike to being our best way out.
As Keenen kicked Georgia to life, loaded his brother and headed toward home to get the truck and trailer, he seemed to sit a little taller, a little prouder and, in some small way, more a man. He was rescuing dad. Rescuing me and his brother on a bike that just a few short months ago was nothing more than aluminum and some dreams.
He’d been through the emotional highs of getting new parts and the lows of finding out that those new parts didn’t fix the problem. The roller coaster of working with old things that need love and tender care. Things that people have shunned for new, plastic crap. Things that are old and worn out, sitting in a barn waiting for some kid with half a heart and a few bucks to come along and say, “I think I can”.
Georgia, you’re our hero. Well done Keenen.