This is the 3rd installment to a story about a rescue mission the Club made back about 1981. It seems strange to relate what happened so long ago to people here and now. Trying to Honor and Respect the memories of my Brothers who have all left this life, it can get twisted up in pride, admiration, loyalty, and yes... it can get difficult to not get emotional when I think of my Brothers. I just hope it doesn't disrespect their memories in anyway.
Just a few miles beyond Packwood the highway began to climb, and snake its way up and along the ridges towards White Pass. The extra layer helped as the early morning temps began to drop noticeably as we rode on up into the mountains. The sun was fully up, and clear blue skies with just a few clouds could be seen ahead as we crossed over the pass doing about fifteen over the limit. The old ’57 Ford just wasn’t able to keep up with the bikes in these higher elevations and its thinner air. So the whole pack cruised along doing about sixty crossing the summit. At least the temps would be warmer down around Yakima. The arid eastern side of Washington’s Cascade Mountains tended towards a much warmer climate that the more humid and lush Westside.
As we sped up coming down the eastern side of the pass, the road hugged the edge of the ridge far above the Tieton River valley. After passing through a very tight right angle of a turn to the left, I saw in my mirror a cloud of dust suddenly appear behind me near the back of the pack. I hit my horn to signal Doc that something was up and began to slow down. I could hear Doc dropping gears quick, so I knew he saw the dust too. My only thought was that a bike was down. I couldn’t think of any other explanation for such a sudden dust cloud. Especially as I could see the pack had fallen back and all pulled over behind us as Doc and I turned around.
It turned out Little John had his rear tire go flat on him as he was rounding the corner. Probably a good thing it was such a tight corner, as it had slowed us all down quite a bit. So when the tire went flat Little John’s rigid just sort of skidded off the pavement coming out of the turn at about twenty-five and high sided him. Besides the flat tire, the damage to the bike was minor. A few dings on the rear fender and the primary case, and a busted mirror. One look at Little John told a different story.
From the way he was holding his shoulder, and the grim look on his face, you could tell he had done something. As his bike was brought back upright by his Brothers, Doc grabbed his first aid kit off his bike and headed over to Little John. Doc was a Corpsman in the Navy. He had down a tour in Vietnam as a Marine medic, and was the only member of the Club that had actually seen combat. Doc always carried a very well equipped aid kit. He even had a couple of Morphine syrettes for really traumatic injuries. More than once Doc had come upon a wreck before the paramedics had arrived, and by the time they did show, he had the wounded triaged and stabilized for them.
“Well shit Boats...” Doc said when he first got to Little Johns side. “You DO realize that shoulders dislocated right?...Give me a couple seconds to check and make sure you ain’t got nothing more serious and the Prospect and I will get you fixed right up.” Little John only grunted as Doc gave him a quick once over then called Prospect John over to help him relocate Little Johns shoulder properly.
“OK you guys, it looks like there’s a wide spot down the road a couple hundred yards. Take the bikes and truck there, check out his tire, and patch it. If it’s too bad for just a patch, load it into the truck. We’ll be down in a few minutes as soon as we put the Bo’suns shoulder to rights.” Doc commanded calmly. Then he turned to, and took care of business. Prospect John was a Corpsman too, and although a good ten or twelve years younger than Doc, he was no slouch either. Between the two of them, they managed to get Little Johns shoulder back in place by the time we had all the bikes and the truck pulled down to what turned out to be a small scenic viewpoint just down the highway about two hundred yards.
We scrounged up a couple chunks of 2X4 out of the back of the truck and had the chopper up on the blocks in a couple of minutes. We gave the tire a quick check, and found a small nail in the tread. Hopefully that was the problem. We broke the bead, pulled the tube out and gave it a thorough check. Sure enough, there was a pinhole right where the nail had come through the tire. Without a word, one of the members started patching the tube while a couple of others worked the nail out of the tire. After about fifteen minutes, the tube was patched, inflated to check the patch, deflated again and then the tube and tire were remounted on the rim. Another five minutes of pumping by Prospect Shine had the tire up to pressure and holding air. Ten minutes later, both Little John and his rigid Shovel were in about the same shape. A bit scrapped, and worse for the wear, but ready to ride. The patched inner tube was good to go, and as the pain pills that Doc had given Little John began to take the edge off the throbbing in his shoulder so was he.
After losing almost an hour due to this little accident, we hit the road again. I looked over at Doc shortly afterward as we raced alongside Rimrock Lake. The look on his face was a portrait in concentration. His gaze apparently never shifting from the road behind his old Ray Ban Aviator glasses. But I knew Doc well enough to know differently. I knew that even though he was focused on the road ahead, a part of him was focused on the riders following him, and his two Brothers waiting at that Denny’s almost an hour away yet.