I reckon we have a bit to learn from the yanks about being hospitable to strangers. Perhaps its a mix of the culture over here, the fact that we are travellers on a big journey and the fact that we are on bikes.
I have always found that whilst travelling, when you are in your darkest hour of need there is always someone there to give you a hand or support you in some way, you just need to ask/let people know you need it.
Such was the case the other day (the day after Canada Day actually) as we were on our way from hanging out with some good friends in Calgary to Missoula in Montana to get some new tyres fitted on the bikes. We’d had a good run around Glacier National Park (although unfortunately we had to go around it as the ‘Going to the Sun Highway’ was still closed due to 15ft of snow still covering the pass!) and had sneakily camped in a State campground (it was late and we were desperate), then on the second day of the run down to Missoula about 50 miles north of the bike shop we were aiming for, I felt a clunk in the backend and the chain going slack – just like I’d thrown a chain (which hasn’t happened to me since my peewee days).
Immediately yanking the clutch in I edged off the road to assess the damage and was quite shocked at what I saw. My rear sprocket had exploded and ripped all the bolts out of the cush drive (type of hub for those not familiar). Did I ever curse and scream blue murder at the sprocket manufacturer. In my little hissy fit I even managed to drop the bike (first time on the trip bringing me on par with Jock). Looking at it under the pannier it looked like the whole hub was ruined (I was thinking whole new wheel) so by the time Jock came back to see what was going on I was pretty down.
It was the Saturday morning of the July 4 long weekend and the bike shops would only be open for this morning and then nothing till the tuesday. Nothing else to do but assess the situation I picked out a farmhouse that I could see people at and wheeled the bike a couple of hundred metres to talk to them. Jock had already gone ahead and started telling the story so they were already sympathetic when they saw me wheeling my bike up their drive.
The couple (Jim and Donna) that owned the place turned out to have a dog grooming and training business Jim and Donna immediately offered everything they could do to help get us back on the road. From a phone to use, to borrowing their truck or staying as long as we needed, they were more than happy to help us out in any way they could. Their son rode and was restoring an old Yamaha and so was eager to help us out in any way he could too. We rang around the Suzuki dealers in the area and it wasn’t looking good so we both jumped on Jock’s bike and headed for the closest one (S&S Motorsports in Ronan).
We’d rung ahead and they’d searched their inventory but they didn’t have the parts we needed in stock. Still they had a good chat to us, gave us a cold drink and then just before we left the owner made an offer that was already sitting in the back of my head but that I could never ask for. He had a 2011 model sitting in his showroom and he hinted that if worst comes to worst he might be able to take the parts off it for us. That is something completely unheard of at home.
There is no way a dealer would do that for you, especially off the only one of that bike they had, coming into their busiest season. Filled with a small level of optimism we headed into Missoula to get Jock’s tyres changed (that was our original plan for the day as he was getting a bit desperate) and while we were in there I went round to the Suzuki dealer there to try my luck, to no avail.
Desperately hoping that the dealer in Ronan was serious about his earlier offer I gave him a call (one of the young mechanics offered me his phone rather than using the shop phone) to let him know that we’d had no luck and that we were at his mercy. He agreed to make good on his offer and by the time we got back there he had the whole assembly waiting for me. Side note – dinking (or riding pillion) for more than a few kms is not fun.
Its uncomfortable and I’m not sure how anyone puts up with it!. When we got there they told us that they’d looked around and there wasn’t any of the parts we needed in the U.S. It would’ve taken ten days to get the parts in, especially given that we were going into the 4th of July long weekend! A little bit poorer (it was an expensive part) but endlessly grateful we headed back to Jim and Donna’s to put the bike back together.
They were busy grooming dogs for their clients, but still made time to come out and make sure that we were getting along ok. It was an easy reassembly (repacking the bike took longer than fitting the part) and once we had it all back together we thanked the family profusely and each got some photos. Not only were these guys willing to help, but they relished the opportunity to meet new people from different parts of the world, doing whatever they were doing. I’m sure many people would oblige us, but these guys gave the impression that they just really enjoyed meeting us and being a part of what we were doing.
We said our farewells and decided to just push on into Missoula for the night as it was already getting late. We camped at a KOA campground which has to be one of the swankiest campgrounds I’ve ever stayed at. We had a fenced off semi-private site with a bit of shelter and power, and even a swimming pool.