This one is overdue, Nickels readers: unreported blab about Seattle, the gorgeous vistas of the Olympic Peninsula, and a word about a clash of cultures the bride and I experienced on a dark beach, on foreign soil.
This was on the Quileute Tribe’s reservation at LaPush, WA, where vampires come out at night, if you believe the movies. Dunno about vampires but I can tell you about a few boozy hostiles. I thought I was going to find out whether it’s true that all Italians are born knowing how to knife fight and plaster walls (which also involves knives). They say it’s a genetic memory from our Roman past.
The plastering thing is true, that I know for sure. More about this later.
I’ve relegated the gratuitous motorcycle porn to the tail end (so to speak) but here’s a preview of the iron piggy in a provocative state of undress. I used up the Twin Cam 88 near Spokane, if you recall. Actually, even if you don’t recall I still used it up.
Dig it, the kickstand is down. Harley guys ride around with the kickstand down. You’ve seen us leaving bars like that, sparks flying.
I was passing through Spokane on my way to Gig Harbor to check in on my friend Jan Nelson. Jan crushed and half-amputated his right foot near his camp on Lake Cushman. Oops. A road collapsed under one of his dozer treads. When the machine rolled, Jan jumped for his life and saved it. At a price. One we all would jump at, so to speak.
Jan’s a trouper. Here he is between surgeries, yakety yaking with his nephew, Elias Nelson, a talented musician and Kawasaki rider. As you can see, I taught Jan how to talk Philadelphian during my month-long visit. Yo, stunads, move ya hands louder so I can hear yiz. Before I left I had him dropping words like scumotz and skevose in casual conversation.
Jan, his world-traveling brother, Jorge, and our friend, Don Garcia, hanging out in The Man Cave one night. Motorcycles, beer, what else do you need? Women! We were fresh out.
Which brings me to the fabulous/dangerous bride of 35 years, going on 36. She flew to Seattle for week five, given that I wasn’t off somewhere riding the iron piggy back to the Atlantic coast. Look how thrilled she is to go camping with me.
I cooked her my usual saddlebag grub, lentils and brown rice with a cube of chicken stock and a dash of red pepper. We had a romantic headlamp-light dinner for two. Ate out of the same Jetboil can. I felt like Bogie lighting a cigarette for Bacall. Suave, that’s the word I’m thinking of.
She was her usual cheery self by morning.
I promised not to grab the camera while she changed her bra and top. Which accounted for my momentary delay in grabbing the camera while she changed her bra and top.
Then we were off to see the sights and do a little hiking. This is the Olympic Range, from the road up to Hurricane Ridge, near Port Angeles, WA.
The high meadows were in bloom
There were cool patches of snow up on the peaks but it was a hot day nonetheless. We stopped to soak up the shade every time we found it.
This deer found shade, too. Didn’t want to give it up just because we were walking by.
My camping gear went home on the motorcycle, via Allied Van Lines. This tent belongs to Jorge. We set up on a beach on the Quileute reservation at LaPush. Had a lovely time there until 10:30 at night when a few of the locals came out to hoot & holler.
This was mid-week, but I suspect that every night is Saturday night for these guys. There’s probably not much getting up early to catch the bus to work.
Big driftwood everywhere. Forest giants tossed about in winter storms.
We watched the sun set from our tent nestled in a big tangle of driftwood. I tied off the tent lines to the fallen trees, in fact. It made more sense than driving pegs into loose pebbles. They’d never hold against the wind.
We enjoyed our driftwood fire.
Unfortunately, it served as a beacon in the night, summoning the aforementioned louts.
We had left our rented SUV at a nearby campground and were isolated out on the beach. Not far at all, but it’s not easy to get from one spot to the other. You have to go down the beach a bit, climb over some big driftwood from last winter’s storms, down a gully, cross a creek, clamber over more driftwood and up a steep bank.
That night, when we were ready to sleep, Pam wanted to hike back to the truck to take her contacts out. While we were there we heard Hollywood-like Injun whoops coming down the beach. Saw four lights out there. Two were traveling together, then a third, and a fourth. All making a beeline for our camp.
I thought one of the lights must be traveling by mountain bike, judging by how the light rose and fell. Then I realized the man was climbing up and over driftwood and jumping off and then up again and another jump…
I told Pam to turn her light out, handed her the keys. Told her to get in the truck and lock the doors.
When I got back to camp there were four Indians there. Young men, with booze. One held a rusty hatchet down at his side. And they were hyper. Revved up on something. Kind of a surreal scene. Dark of night, fog rolling in, faces weirdly lit by a wind-whipped fire. There are miles of empty beach. Who charges into someone else’s camp at night like this? But they seemed to think they had every right to be there. Didn’t matter that we had paid a beach camping fee at the tribal office and had bought a fire permit.
We’re just looking for a place to hang out, one said.
They were telling me, This is our land. You’re on the rez now. No arguing that. I get it. The rez is a separate nation. Foreign soil.
The one I took to be their leader, the one who talked the most, offered me a beer. When I said No, thanks, he glared and said I was being disrespectful to the tribe. His word. This is where the clash of cultures comes in. I thought, well, I don’t know much about Indians, maybe it is an insult to refuse a gift. So I took the beer. Then he took a tin out of his pocket, opened the lid, offered me slices of something I didn’t recognize. They were white, about an inch long. I said no to whatever it was and that didn’t seem to bother him. He took a piece out of the tin, stuck it in his mouth, closed the lid, put the tin in his pocket.
I have no idea what he ate out of it. I thought it was probably mushrooms but it could have been some kind of Indian candy for all I know. He didn’t say and I didn’t ask.
Until LaPush, I had never camped on a reservation before. I can’t imagine now why I felt it might be okay to do so with my wife. Just wasn’t thinking. You meet a lot of friendly people on Indian land, of course. But the ones who are pissed at the nation beyond it are really pissed. I’ve seen it. Certain places in Arizona stand out in memory. But I’ll ride through any rez. I travel alone, lugging all my ratty gear on a Harley held together by road grime and bug guts. Nobody bothers me. They probably assume I must be packing a gun. Which I’m not.
I mind my own business, get fuel, move on.
I think it’s cool that my kids have Cherokee and Penobscot blood, through the bride’s line. I live with good will toward all, Indians included. Even unfriendly Indians. I get it. Indians have been fucked over. Much of “free”-market America was built on free land from Americans with red skin and free labor from Americans with black skin. Those are the facts.
But stay out of my camp.
I’ve pulled up stakes in places where I never saw a soul, just got a feeling it wasn’t safe to be there anymore. I had that feeling now. I have no idea whether these were bad guys or just good ol’ braves trying to be social in their clumsy and obnoxious way. But given the unknowns and the need to ensure the bride’s safety, I saw it as aggression. If I hurt their feelings, “disrespected” their tribe, too bad.
I said thanks for the beer but I was just packing up my camp.
I picked up what I could carry and walked down the beach, over the driftwood, across the creek, up the bank… Told Pam to keep doing what she was doing, keep the light off, doors locked. They hadn’t seen her and I was going to keep it that way. She was nervous about me having been gone out there in the dark for 10 or 12 minutes or whatever it was.
When I went back to camp for more of our stuff, the young men were building their own fire 30 feet from ours. They said a few things while I was packing up. Where are you from? It was said with an edge that conveyed something more like: Where the hell are you from that you would be ignorant enough to come on our land and disrespect us like this?
Made my second trip back to the truck, lugging what I could. Told Pam I was going back one more time, for the tent. Then we’d be out of there. Stay out of sight.
On my third walk back to camp I figured if they intend to jump me it’ll happen now. They know I’m not coming back after this.
I carry a knife, for all the usual camping needs. I’ve never stuck or slashed anybody with it, or ever hope to, but if I came under attack I was going to cut two of them as quickly as I could, the one with the big mouth and the one with the hatchet, in that order. I was hoping the other two would be running by then. But who knows? They probably all had knives. Maybe one or more had guns.
I get back to camp and there aren’t four guys there anymore. There are six.
I mind my own business, start taking down the tent. It’s a big tent, takes time to roll it up properly. I don’t want to be there long enough for that. The Indians are mouthy about me being one of those Twilight tourists, people who come to LaPush because the vampire movies were filmed there. (I had never seen the movies, still haven’t, didn’t know until the next day they had been filmed in the area.)
I ignore the louts, take the tent down, untie the lines from the driftwood, remove the three poles, fold them up, stow them in the bag with the tent pegs. Then I fold the tent into something small enough that I can throw the roll over my shoulder and hoof it out of there.
As I’m walking by the Indians’ fire on my way out, they try to bait me into saying something that would give them a reason to pounce. Maybe that was another local tradition I don’t understand; that if there was going to be violence it had to be in the defense of their honor or whatever. In retaliation for insult.
I felt they wanted trouble. They just wanted me to start it.
So after driving us off their beach, where we had a perfect right to be, one of them offered me a sarcastic Have a nice night.
Instead of calling him an asshole, I said, Thanks. You guys have a nice night, too.
Then one of them said, as if in triumph, Scared as hell!
Instead of saying, You got me, genius. I came back here three times because I’m afraid of you jerks, I just thought it and went on my way.
We drove off the rez, pulled into a campground at the Olympic National Forest a few miles away. Found an empty campsite but Pam wasn’t thrilled about sleeping in the tent at that point. And it was late. I parked the truck outside the ranger station. She stretched out on the back seat and I put the driver’s seat back and snoozed.
One final note: If I had come through on the motorcycle, alone, I think it might have been a completely different thing. Motorcycle travel is about seeking the unknown, not keeping up your guard against it. When the chief offered me a beer I would have said Throw me a six pack, brother. What luck! I’ve been invited to Pow-Wow!
In all likelihood, it would have been fine. They would have told their rez stories around the fire, I would have told my motorcycle yarns. I might have left LaPush with new friends I never would have met otherwise.
But I had another responsibility that night, so it was not to be. And like I say, if anybody’s feelings got hurt, too bad.
The next day we went back to the rez, to the next beach up. Rialto Beach. Had a nice time. Took a long walk. We also took a hike through the nearby Hoh Rainforest. Definitely worth a stop. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again someday. But during the rainy season. When we were there it was tinder-dry and decidedly unrainforestlike.
Fallen giants. We saw trees 300 feet tall, Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce…
Up the road a bit, in Forks, WA. This is what our friends on the beach were grumbling about.
Native to Twilight…
Dazzled by Twilight…
Kiss My Ass Twilight… Seriously, the whole town is Twilight crazy. But when you live a hand-to-mouth existence out in the sticks you probably don’t care why people come to your town and spend money.
Oh, for Confucius’ sake. In a Chinese restaurant…
We traveled a loop around the peninsula east to west. Ran into a Harley bro pulling a cool little trailer around the country, 1955 Chevy. He had been on the road for three or four months. Said he would eventually end up in Florida and settle there. Can’t remember his first name… It’ll come to me. His last name is Alford.
Pronounced OWL-Ford. He got tired of telling people.
I gave him ten bucks, told him it would be my honor to buy a couple of gallons of gas for a fellow cross-country-adventuring Harley man.
Another beach along the way
A sea stack at low tide.
Retreating waves leave an image of themselves on the sand.
I’d like to camp here some night. (Just me.)
Right around here she said, “I need an outdoor job.”
People stack stones on the driftwood to say I was here.
Pretty soon we weren’t. It was time to hop the big bird back east. Somewhere down below, my ailing iron piggy was rumbling along in the back of a truck, emitting plaintive oinks.
I picked her up at the drop-off point, Ocean State Harley-Davidson.
Started stripping parts off to make her lighter and narrower, so I could get her through the basement door for a winter overhaul.
The bride was happy to be home, back at her favorite reading spot, our front porch.
Three buds stepped up to help me lug the piggy into the basement. Thank you John Ross, Chuck Burghardt, Larry Stanley. Reliable pals of old.
Speaking of friends, I used to belong to a Yahoo listserv for yahoos. Uh, I mean motorheads. That was where I met Jan Nelson in the first place, in Duane Collie’s “Original Garage.” When I was out wandering the country two years ago and ended up in Washington for a while, the Nelsons of Gig Harbor invited me in and treated me like family. That’s the genesis of, Holy shit, Jan got hurt on the dozer. I’m riding out there, babe. Be back in a month.
When Jon Brush, another Garager (Boston guy) heard that the motorcycle had quit on me and I’d be building a new engine, he passed the hat on the listserv and the guys sent me $1,300 toward expenses. I promptly bought a nice little stash of Harley engine tools. It seemed the Garage-like thing to do.
Not remotely necessary, you numbnuts. And furthermore — Thanks!
Bearing pullers, installers, drive train alignment tools, etc., made in Ontario, California, by George’s Garage. I’ve talked to the manufacturer by phone, George Brewer, nice guy.
In an informal ceremony (me standing around in my socks, with a beer) the iron piggy was posthumously awarded four more been-there-done-that stickers. They’re in the top row, starting left: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba. I had been within easy miles of those places on other rides, but I never do a toe-touch just to say I’ve been somewhere. The sticker goes on after the piggy and I have ridden right through the middle of the place and camped there and talked to folks and we leave knowing a little bit about them.
Here’s where we came in: Old piggy, shedding parts in the basement.
Here’s a good thing: This engine failure made me take a close look at everything on the bike and I’m finding all kinds of things that need attention. My swingarm bushings are shot. My rear brake line is just about abraded through to the fluid. The mainshaft belt pulley is badly worn…
Will rebuild my brake calipers fore and aft this winter. I’m sure I wouldn’t have done that otherwise. I’ll do new brake lines, new throttle cables, new stator… a fried stator is seriously hard to dig out on the side of the road somewhere. Piggy will be in fine traveling trim by spring.
Yanked the bottom end and the tranny out of the frame, found metal bits in the pan.
Like panning for gold.
Metal bits on top of the pan baffle. Pieces of my forward camshaft and the inner cam bearing. Actually, maybe that’s aluminum, not steel. I didn’t think to put a magnet on it. Could be metal that came off my lifter bores when the bearing grit got in there. The bores need to be honed to a standard oversize.
I split the cases the other day and took out the crank wheels. Not much metal in there, but some. Steve down at R&R machine shop in Warwick said the crank assembly is good to go. Hit it with brake clean, get the lifter bores done, bolt the cases back together.
I’m assuming those piston-cooling jets are plugged with metal. That top hole is the one that had the failed cam bearing in it.
So that’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed the read. Life will be grand this winter. I’ll write during the day, make some money, turn wrenches when I can, gear up for my run to Alaska next summer…
… but best of all, Yes sir, that’s my baby. No sir, don’t mean maybe. Yes sir, that’s my baby now.
Tony DePaul, Cranston, RI, October 10, 2011