Clancy – Horribly Wrong!

Geoff Hill’s latest update on – THE CS CLANCY CENTENARY RIDE – Horribly Wrong!

Supported by Adelaide Insurance Services and BMW Motorrad.

Recreating the first around the world ride 100 years on.

Ione-Oregon-today-250 In northern California, we tilted east through the foothills of the Sierras, with Mount Shasta in the distance covered in snow even in June.

Which is where it all started to go horribly wrong for Clancy and Allen.

With the mountains looming, they stopped at the express office in Redding and shipped their 50lb panniers on to Portland, then bought cheap blankets in the General Merchandise store for camping.

That sorted, they tanked up with more ice cream, fuel and oil, and set off late in the afternoon for the dreaded road that lay ahead.

They didn’t have long to wait: within a few miles out of Redding, they were climbing an endless succession of rocky grades with hairpin bends, then sliding down the other side to be greeted by small but lethal lakes full of boulders.

Often the road got so steep that they had to dismount and run beside the machines, and as they were sliding down one hair-raising slope with their back wheels locked, they came upon a young couple in a Cadillac stuck fast on a tree stump.

Ione-Oregon-when-Clancy-was-there-250 They got it free, but the hill was so steep the fuel couldn’t make it up to the carburettor, but not to beaten, the resourceful Bob blew into the top of the fuel tank, his face slowly turning the colour of a beetroot, while the driver cranked the starter handle until the engine spluttered then fired into life and settled down into a steady rhythm.

The grateful couple gave the riders six eggs, a small can of baked beans, an even smaller can of condensed cream, a little bread, sugar and coffee, and a pail to cook it in, and since by now it was growing dark and they were still in the heart of the mountains, they found a grassy spot near a crystal stream, and while Clancy cooked up a feast in the pail, Bob made a bed of weeds and leaves between the Hendersons, they wrapped themselves in their blankets and, with strange sounds from the woods all around and lightning crackling overhead, finally fell asleep just before the grey light of dawn woke them again.

Tired And Hungry

Geoff-Hill-left-Gary-Walker-at-Pitt-River-Oregan-250At 5am, tired and hungry, they fired up the Hendersons and set off on roads which, impossibly, were even worse than the day before.

A ferry carried them across the raging Pitt River, and halfway up the next mountain, Clancy’s Henderson ground to a halt with a dry and slipping clutch.

He greased it with oil from his tank, but the clutch was so worn and the track so steep that he could only push the Henderson up it in the fierce sun, stopping when he was so exhausted he couldn’t hold the bike upright and resting until he could try again.

It took him 20 attempts and two exhausting hours to get up that one hill, and there were a dozen more beyond.

“If ever a man was bitter against motorcycling, it was I and then,” he wept, but when he had the strength to lift his head, realised for the first time the extraordinary beauty around them.

Compared to that, we had it easy as we swooped along silky tarmac through a landscape of pine-clad mountains and rushing rivers and across the state border into the alpine glories of Oregon, filled yet again with respect and admiration for Clancy and Allen getting through this landscape on what were basically mule trails.

Shortly after passing a prairie schooner with a prospector, his wife, small son and dog aboard, they encountered the worst section yet: the 12 miles of Cow Creek Canyon which Clancy described grimly as like an endless frozen pig pen as steep as a roof and littered with logs, rocks and ruts.

Arriving in Roseburg as darkness fell, they collapsed into the first inn they could find, and emerged to find that someone had stolen Clancy’s gloves.

The next day, the road was so bad, and the scenery so glorious, that as Clancy put it perfectly, a poet would have been in heaven, and a motorcyclist in hell.

Misery Compounded

On-the-road-in-Oregon-250 When they finally rolled into Portland at 11.30 at night, their misery was compounded by the sight of the crowds going home from the last night of the annual Rose Festival, which they had been looking forward to all the way from San Francisco.

Cow Creek Canyon, Clancy’s endless frozen pig pen, which we rode with local bike journalist Bart Madson, was now a perfect motorcycling road, twisting and turning under the dappled trees, over the railroad tracks and past a river sparkling in the sun.

Greeted by the paved streets, electric lights and tuxedo-clad waiters of Wallace, Idaho, Clancy and Allen decided that the Wild West only existed any more in movies, only to have their certainty overturned the very next night when they arrived in Missoula, Montana, to find a posse in hot pursuit for a gang of desperadoes who had shot at their landlady, stolen the sheriff’s six-shooter and terrorised the town before heading for the hills.

Wincing at the outrageous bill the next morning, they rode off into a thunderstorm so bad that by dark they had only covered 20 miles and were forced to spend the night in the shack of prospector Isam Cox, who rustled up a feast of bacon, beans and coffee for the exhausted but grateful duo.

In Wallace, we found the electric lights were still working and the streets still paved, but the brothel had closed in 1988 and was now in a museum. The girls had left in such a hurry that they’d left their clothes behind, and by the looks of it they didn’t have much to wear but a few skimpy under things, poor dears.

“Greg, want to phone the hotel tonight and confirm our reservation?” said Richard as we put on our helmets.

“No need. Dr G’s from the Crow tribe, and they’ve already got a reservation,” I said.

Laugh? I thought they’d never start.

Keep up to date and up to speed with the CS Clancy Centenary Ride – the first biker to ride around the world left Dublin 100 years aqo – at www.adelaideadventures.com

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Background information:

Main sponsor, Adelaide Insurance Services are motorcycle insurance specialists operating UK wide and in the Republic of Ireland.

In 2012 they were voted the UK’s number one for value-for-money in the Auto Express Driver Power survey beating all the UK’s best known brands.

This annual poll had responses from 29 000 readers.

www.adelaideinsurance.com

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