We made a hard decision the next morning, our bikes had eaten all the consumables they had and we had non to spare. Jon’s bike was particularly bad and Stef and I were acutely aware of our time constraints and worried about selling our bikes. With 5 days left in the US we chose to cut our penultimate riding day short and head to Medford to buy spares and get an idea of the problems we might have selling our bikes.
A quick map check told us that we could drop out of our route after 70 miles and head south down an open valley system. We could take around 4 hours to reach Medford, the largest centre of civilisation we had seen since New Orleans 4500 miles ago.
We anticipated few navigation problems as the forest slowly eased and the ground became ever flatter and more open. I navigated what turned out to be the last day on the trail and was leading a pretty bedraggled team of bikes and bikers down the last set of fantastic trails and tracks. My engine was sounding so bad that the rattles now drowned out the aftermarket Supettrapp exhaust ( no mean feat!). I wasn’t sure that Jon was going to make Medford with his rear sprocket so worn (the next day riding 2 miles to the local KTM dealer the bike finally started to eat the wafer thin metal teeth and the rear sprocket was officially pronounced dead), and although Stef’s bike was mechanically fine he had managed to ‘customise’ some of the bodywork and indicators.
Our luggage was battered, and our jackets and trousers were cut, sewn, and coated in a layer of grime, dust, mold, and filth. We smelt awful and had long since ceased to be a welcome addition to other travellers at our diner based lunch stops. Probably the most impressive item of clothing developed between us were Stef’s boots. The smell was beyond description and I always hated to think what next group of people to inhabit our various rooms would think when they opened the famous, ‘under tv draw’, which we all knew never to open unless prepared to wretch. I felt ready for a rest but perfectly comfortable on my XR. Initial daily distances of 200+ miles which had been serious trials a month ago mattered little these days. I could stand on my pegs for hours every day and was bothered less than I would have believed possible by the wooden XR seat. We carried all we needed and no more, our luggage honed to the bare minimum required to sustain bikes and ‘selves over daily distances. I was as happy as I had ever been with a bike after such intense riding. I wished every day that the engine didn’t sound so awful and that a kick start would periodically attach itself to the bike when I needed it, but other than that I was in love.
My mind was sad as I turned onto on eleven mile section of trail following an old raised railway line. There was no getting lost on this trail! I tried to blow away my blues by opening the throttle and revelling in the view of the beautiful scenery and clear air. After seven miles I stopped to open a gate and was greeted with another silent worrying wait. There were no engine noises and no bikes to be seen. With only a few miles of the trail to ride I had visions of ringing home with tragic news of broken bones and torn ligaments. We had been so lucky throughout the trip to have avoided all manner of serious injuries that I had become increasingly paranoid our luck would run out. Returning down the track I found Stef dismissive as ever holding two six foot sections of thick fence wire. It seemed the ‘TransAm Trial’ hadn’t stopped playing with us yet. On a 20ft raised section of track all of the offending wire had wrapped around Stef’s rear wheel and brakes and locked it solid. Sliding, ‘in a controlled manner’, Stef had stopped and unwrapped the package before hurling it into the undergrowth. The trail had done its best but we had escaped! We left the trail heading south and feeling fortunate to have survived 5000 miles of indescribable and mostly unbelievable happenings unscathed.
Lunch was a huge Pizza in a restaurant on the waters of a beautiful high mountain forest lake. The surrounding peaks were more reminiscent of the Matterhorn than ‘hills’, and my mind turned to the hills back in the UK and my girlfriend who was currently cycling through the French/Italian Alps on her way to Greece from the UK. It felt as if it was time to head home. Later that night we made the decision to try to sell the bikes in Medford rather than pushing our luck and trying to reach Port Orford and then Portland by bike.
We finished off our last day's riding with a visit to the cinema (movies) to see the newly released Terminator 3 Rise Of The Machines in a local shopping mall come gym complex come...This after wondering around trying to find the Mongolian Grill that was supposed to be somewhere nearby. We never found it and ended up in Red Robin Grill and Spirits, which actually wasn't too bad as they had a menu that went beyond the obligatory steak/burger and fries.