Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sturgis 2010

Photo by: Susan Clark

(An explanation for the names used)
I found it confusing to be traveling with two men I regard as brothers.  Both named Gary.  For the record, Gary Clark is my familial brother and Gary Wilson my adopted brother.

Day one (Saturday)
After watching Gary C.  show off on his heavily loaded Road Glide, we headed north in the first light of day on Texas Hwy 199 to Jacksboro for our traditional breakfast at the Green Frog cafe.  Afterward, we picked up Texas Hwy 114 westbound.

On hot days in west Texas, you spend more on cold water than on gasoline.  I kept moderately cool by pouring any cold water I couldn't drink into my upside down helmet, then sloshing my neckerchief around inside.  The neckerchief went around my neck to cool the blood flowing back and forth and the helmet, still full of water, was strapped on my head to drip down my back.  Within 30 minutes the helmet and the neckerchief would be dry.

Somewhere east of Dickens we rode through a swarm of wasps that spattered the windshields of both Garys.  Not having a windshield, I didn't have that problem, but I now know what they taste like.  Perhaps I will get a windshield one day, since I seem to be incapable of keeping my mouth shut.  We stopped at PC's Ponderosa for gas and when I hopped off my bike to pump gas, there was a wasp beneath me.  Still alive, it was stumbling around in circles and I could almost hear it moaning about calling the EPA.  I can't imagine how uncomfortable the trip would have been with multiple wasp stings there.  Since it was close to lunch time, we stayed to enjoy excellent barbecue.  PC's Ponderosa is one of Texas Monthly's top 50 picks for barbecue.

Our first long day of riding carried us to Clovis, New Mexico.  We congratulated ourselves because although eastern New Mexico wasn't exactly cool, it was noticeably cooler than the 100+ temperatures we had been experiencing back home for a couple of weeks.  Over the next few days, we would go from cold to hot to cold several times within the space of a few hours.

It would be picking on him unfairly to mention who picked the hotel for that first night but we all realize we should have been more wary.  The sign on the bright pink building said $29.95.  We asked for a room with three beds and the clerk said they had one room being remodeled where they normally put migrant farm workers.  After checking in, we all went to dinner and the waiter pointed us to a dollar store so we could buy some disposable plastic drop cloths to put over the beds.  I honestly couldn't say what the bathroom looked like since I never even glanced in there.  There was a small four burner stove missing two burners, about a hundred flies and nowhere nearly enough air conditioning.  I was glad I had brought the anti-bacterial wipes.

Day two (Sunday)
Small town breakfast cafes are becoming more rare with every passing year, so we compromised with a quick breakfast beneath the golden arches before we fled westward away from the rising sun.  One of the great things about traveling by the lesser highways has always been interacting with the people at the locally owned and operated roadside restaurant to get the unpublished “back story” of the town.  When the last roadside diner is replaced by a national chain, a big part of America’s history will be forever lost.

The 14 mile long dead end road to Sandia Peak leads through an unending nirvana (for bikers) of switchbacks culminating in a fantastic panoramic view of Albuquerque.  From this viewpoint, locals pointed out the explosive growth of the city below checked sharply by the military base in the southeast quadrant.

The Three Amigos on Sandia Peak

Continuing to the north, we went through Madrid, which Gary C.  dubbed "Hippie Hollow".  We only stopped here long enough to shoot a couple of pictures of Maggie's Grill from the movie "Wild Hogs".  Maggie's is a trinket shop like all the other buildings in Madrid, but this building was built just for the movie.  This was one of the very few places we found people distancing themselves so we didn't even hang around long enough for a drink.  Parking was a nightmare anyway with cars and motorcycles crammed in ever nook and cranny.  Unlike the movie, there is no gasoline for sale in Madrid.

Maggie's Main Street (non)Diner

North of Madrid, we stopped for gas.  When I was through, a couple pulled in to the pump in front of me on a nice Harley bagger.  They hopped off and I adopted an exaggerated air of incredulity as I said; "Trisha? Is that you?"

They both spun to face me and looked confused as the woman removed her sunglasses and nodded.

As I continued, they kept stealing glances at each other.  At first confused, then a bit jealous perhaps.  "Trisha," I went on "I can't believe I'm running into you way out here like this."

I paused to make sure both Garys could enjoy the show, before continuing.  "It has been so long..." The conversation went on for several minutes, before I paused as if I had just noticed their confusion.  "You don't remember me, do you Trisha?"

Trisha apologized and asked where we had met.  It was so obvious that we had since I knew her name, so she assumed it must be a lapse of memory.

My reply nearly caused both to collapse as the tension melted instantly.  "I am so disappointed that you don't remember..."

A pause before I drove the final nail.  "...your husband buying the vanity license plate for his motorcycle."

It took the husband longer than his wife, but it was like they both were looking at their personalized license plate for the first time.  Their New Mexico license plate number was "TRISHA".  We chatted a bit about possible routes through Santa Fe and parted ways.

New Mexico Hwy 14 through Madrid also takes you by the state penitentiary.  The old penitentiary on the same property is an imposing burned out edifice set way back from the highway like some haunted hospital.  All of us noted how creepy the place looked from a distance.  Later I learned that in 1980, a riot there resulted in the torture and murder of 33 inmates by other inmates.  Today, you can still see the chips in the concrete floor where a fire axe was used to behead one inmate and burn marks outside a cell where another inmate was burned alive.  Little wonder that many think the prison is haunted.

North of Santa Fe, we joined up with the Rio Grande in Espanola and followed the river gorge up New Mexico Hwy 68 to spend the night in Taos.  

Rio Grande River South of Taos

Day three (Monday)
Taos, New Mexico doesn't wake up early.  We thought we had slept in late since we were not packed and rolling until after 6:00am.  Almost none of the local restaurants seem to open before 8:00am or so for the breakfast run.  We stopped in at Taos Java and had some breakfast burritos and mocha.

The lady at the next table seemed to be studying, but joined in our conversation about the area.  She and her husband live in a yurt.  I asked her if it was made of hide and felt, but she said it is made of nylon and aluminum.  I had to bite my tongue not to tell her that we call that a tent back in Texas.  The insulation is some sort of pressed panel of recycled denim between sheets of aluminum foil.  There are plenty of dome tents around.  An igloo is shaped like a yurt too, but we don't call it an ice yurt.  Or should we?

She was telling us about the culture of the area which apparently features twice monthly peyote parties lasting all night in a sweat lodge.  Somehow I doubt the subsistence living of the American Indians allowed time for staying high constantly.
Rio Grande Gorge from the US Hwy 64 Bridge

As the sun climbed behind us, we crossed the Rio Grande Gorge on US Hwy 64.  We were treated to a spectacular view of a sheer walled canyon that could hide a thirty story building.  Later in the morning when we crossed the Rio Grande for the last time in Alamosa, Colorado, it was a muddy drainage ditch about five feet deep with a mere trickle of water twisting through the silt.  At least there was a bit of water in the Rio Grande even here though.

Rio (not so) Grande

Also high on the yurt lady’s list of things we needed to see was a loose community of alternative homes called “Earthships”.  This is one more good idea that has been filtered through western minds into something less than practical.  These homes are constructed of just about anything and everything.  Some have walls made of stacked tires filled with packed dirt while others have more conventional framing with lath and plaster.  From the interior photos I have since found, the plaster appears to be home made.  When I think of green, I think of all sorts of things that this community is not.  
All the homes had big SUVs or pickup trucks parked out front, the community is 20 miles from the nearest work city (Taos).  There is no soil, and very little water due to the desert environment, so the homes are equipped with cisterns to catch the rare rainfall.  Typical homes seem to have between 5,000 and 10,000 gallon cistern capacity if that gives you an idea of how rarely they get rain.  The yurt lady assured me condescendingly that hydroponic horticulture is the name of the game there.  Looking at the satellite views, there is no agriculture even being attempted nearby.  Most of the homes have tiny indoor gardens that are watered from the shower and sink runoff which is also where the flush toilets get their water.  Many toilets in the community seem to be composting ones.  They also have a large number of expensive solar panels and the associated banks of expensive batteries and voltage inverters, so I guess they are green in some ways thanks to scientists in non-sustainable homes elsewhere designing and building “green” energy systems.

Every crossroad in New Mexico and Colorado, no matter how remote seems to have at least one espresso bar.  If there are three homes at the intersection, two are likely to be espresso bars and the third a souvenir shop.  In the tiny town of Moffat, Colorado we found one such espresso bar.  The tiny building was an art gallery, a post office, a souvenir shop, an espresso bar and pastry shop.  To give an idea of how arid the climate is in Moffat, the sign over the toilet in the unisex restroom asked that groups wait until the last person has availed themselves to flush.  The custodial care at the shop is provided by a tiny geriatric dog named "Jitters".  I suspect the age-related nervous condition is how Jitters got his name, but it could be that the dog seems to be living off pastry crumbs and spilled coffee.  Too much caffeine and sugar does that to me too.

Jitters pauses to smile for the camera

Just north of Mosca, Colorado an alligator farm is up for sale.  Right there in the desert between two mountain ranges.  My wife, Carla should note: There are more eccentric men than the Clarks.

Back in Moffat one of the locals told us of a scenic back road to Cripple Creek.  We hadn't planned to go to Cripple Creek, but that sort of detail seldom discouraged people from helping us find better ways to get lost.  Taking his advice, we left US Hwy 281 in Poncha Springs and headed east on US Hwy 50 alongside the Arkansas river just past the turn for Royal Gorge to Colorado Hwy 9.  Heading north on Highway 9, we climbed steadily in the mountains until we got to High Park Road.  When I saw it was also called County road 11, I had misgivings because county roads have a habit of abruptly ending in somebody's front yard.  The information we had was solid though and the road turned out to be scenic, twisting and most importantly, well paved.  We unhurriedly swept through endless S-curves until we found ourselves overlooking Cripple Creek.  I had last been here with my parents almost 40 years ago, and it was a quaint tourist trap then.  Now it is a thriving casino town with an office of the Colorado Gaming Commission being the first building we passed on the way into town.

Arkansas River

Cripple Creek

We enjoyed a great dinner at Maggie's restaurant beneath the Colorado Grand Casino before pushing on for Pikes Peak.  The toll gate attendant at the beginning of Pikes Peak toll road told us that our best bet was to come back in the morning.  After checking into a motel in Manitou, Gary W.  and I met a couple of other riders who had gone up just before we arrived.  They had snow flurries and rain on the way down and clouds obscured their view while at the top.

Day four (Tuesday)

The next morning, we showed up bright and early after a breakfast of forgettable pancakes and room temperature coffee.  Both of which were sold to us at gourmet prices.  The nineteen mile trip up the mountain road should take around an hour each way, but the construction adds considerably.  We shot lots of photos at the top, but found our breath was short due to the altitude.  Even the custodian working at the top of the mountain is a trained Emergency Medical Technician, so we probably weren't the only ones having troubling getting air.  All of the employees were super cheerful and helpful.  On the way down, we shot lots of photos and some video clips.  The view is difficult to describe.  Some of the hairpin turns are scary on a bike, but the construction project involves gravel trucks rolling up and down.

We had an early lunch at the Pizza Hut in Woodland Park.  When the other guests found out we were looking for shortcuts and we weren't particular about where they led, at least three other tables as well as Rachel, our waitress came by to offer suggestions.

Somewhere along US Hwy 24 in the Pike National Forest, we came upon a couple of Honda Goldwings clinging to the narrow shoulder at the edge of a ravine.  Gary W.  was leading at the time and decided that stopping there meant these two were having a problem.  They were victims of a hit and run accident.

One of them had just hit a deer that seemed to come out of nowhere.  The deer kept running and the uninjured rider was able to bring his bike to a stop without wrecking it on the narrow curving road.  When we arrived, they were pulling large portions of the fairing off the front of the bike.

The rider who hit the deer has lived in Florida for 40 years, but grew up in South Africa and his heavy accent could be heard as he wandered about on the highway in a daze attempting to explain the situation to the AAA roadside assistance operator.  His message never quite got across to them.

The two riders who braved Pikes Peak in the snow the previous day showed up with a seemingly endless supply of tie-wraps and cheerful energy to bind the broken pieces of bike so it could be ridden.

While the others continued to work on the bike, the Garys and I flagged traffic to get people to slow down and give them some room as all of our bikes were at least partly in the traffic lane due to the narrow shoulder.

Once Gary W.  figured out that one of the black chunks of plastic dangling from the bike was a tilt switch, they were able to get the bike running and we never saw the Honda riders again.  The rest of us continued down the road to Hartsel where we cooled off with water at the South Park Mercantile.  They really play up the South Park image in the area, with signs saying things like "Who killed Kenny?"

We had hamburgers for dinner in Breckenridge and consulted the maps.  After dinner, we mounted up and took to the Interstates to cover some ground because of the delays of the day.  Passing through the Interstate 70 tunnel at Dillon gave me the creeps.  This long tunnel is only as wide as the lanes of bumper to bumper traffic screaming through it.  A wreck would cause a chain reaction and I have never felt as vulnerable on the motorcycle as I did when I thought of that.

On the north side of Denver, we pulled off the freeway at 136th Avenue to locate a hotel.  I found a notepad from a hotel we had all liked in my pocket, so called the toll free number to ask for the nearest option.  They booked the room for us using my credit card number.  As we scrambled in the fading light of evening, that was the last I saw of my wallet.  When we pulled off for gas ten miles further down the road, my wallet was gone.  I sent the two Garys ahead to get the room in Longmont while I circled back and searched in vain for the wallet in the dark along the crowded freeway.

Day five (Wednesday)
Having to call my wife, Carla late the previous night to cancel all our credit cards was the hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make.  Without credit cards, she had to cancel her weekend travel plans as well.

Before breakfast, I spent some time contemplating and praying.  I asked for the peace of mind needed to cope with what I had done and for Carla's forgiveness.  We all doubled back to give the road one last fruitless look.  From that moment on, I actually gave it no more worry although it was a point of constant ribbing among us.  The rest of the trip was possible for me due only to the generosity of my two brothers Gary.

At breakfast, the waitress was as curious as any had been.  The difference here was she didn't ask where, but whether we were coming or going.  So thick was the stream of bikes heading for motorcycle Mecca, that being on a motorcycle was enough to proclaim your destination to anyone who kept up with the news.

North of Denver, we noticed the electronic highway signs which warn motorists of temporary conditions were all flashing the same warning; "Motorcycles, beware.  Grooved pavement ahead." Motorcycle tires follow pavement grooves and can be quite scary if you aren't ready for the sensation of your bike going where you don't want it to.  On the other hand, Colorado could have hired a sober grooving machine operator and saved us all a bit of trouble.  When the grooves wiggle from side to side, your bike exhibits a terrifying behavior known as “Tank Slappers” where the handlebars slam into the tank on both sides so fast you are unable to grasp them to regain control.  At very high speeds, these vibrations can be catastrophic.

Just before reaching Wyoming, we stopped in at a truck stop for a break.  There was a hard tail chopper, likely home built.  The fenders and gas tank had not even been painted yet.  Without front shocks there would be no controlling a motorcycle, but many customs are built without rear suspension.  This is where the name, "hard tail" comes from.  This guy, like everyone else was heading for Sturgis.  Alone he said.  When we were mounting up to leave, a woman was perched on his bedroll in the rear fender with her sandals on the struts since there were no rests for her feet.  Oddly, we saw him again at gas stops a few times and that woman managed to still be clinging to that fender for at least two hundred miles.  I had to wonder what had happened to get her dumped at a freeway truck stop in the middle of nowhere.

We crossed into Wyoming just as the day was warming up.  Southeastern Wyoming is as hot and flat as Nebraska and Kansas but without the corn or even much grass.  With every mile now, the motorcycles going both directions became more numerous.  By the time we left Interstate 25 for US Hwy 85 in Cheyenne, the motorcycles already outnumbered cars.

Just south of the unincorporated and essentially extinct community of Hawk springs is a little roadside bar called “The Long Branch” in the middle of seventy four miles without gas stations.  There must have been thirty bikes parked outside and people sitting, laying or otherwise collapsed in every bit of shade.  This was the last place we would find plenty of parking for three motorcycles until long after passing through Sturgis.  According to the guest register, we had just missed Elvis who had signed earlier that same day.

Lusk Wyoming Fuel Stop

Lusk, Wyoming was our first encounter with traffic jams at a gas station.  Bikes lined up all around the pumps making it difficult to determine where the line started.  A guy pulled up on a BMW in front of me and pressed a button to deploy his center stand while police and a paramedic tended to another rider who had ridden up and simply fell over.  He and his bike simply toppled to the side when he stopped.  The rider's wife was complaining about police officers writing too many tickets even as he attempted to help her husband, so I suspect she may have been having “wardrobe” malfunctions in Sturgis.  The reported nudity is not tolerated within Sturgis no matter what you might hear to the contrary.  This tiny city opens its doors to entertain the bikers once a year, but that doesn’t mean they have to compromise on their values.

Pulling into our intended destination of Sundance, Wyoming late in the afternoon, we found the streets choked with motorcycles.  This was the norm in all the towns for a hundred miles in any direction from Sturgis.  Both sides of the streets were lined with motorcycles, while the center of the street had bikes as well.  Cars were prevented from using most streets by police barricades.


Rolling through Sundance, I snapped a shot of an enormous cloud of smoke with people pushing to get closer from all directions.  Burnout contests were apparently invented by a tire company.  Contestants lock up their front wheel and spin their back tire while abusing their clutch and engine mercilessly.  The smoke is caused by the rubber of the $300 back tire literally melting and burning until it suffers what a tire engineer would call “catastrophic failure”.  Apparently, scoring is determined by the crowd's perception of how spectacularly your tire explodes when it has had enough.  Life is all about educating yourself and these folks aren’t valedictorians.

The clerk at the Roadway Inn found us three bunks in a basement twenty miles from the nearest town.  We headed out toward Devils Tower and found the mile long single lane of dirt and cattle guards leading to the bunkhouse.  Gary C.  had assured us we were looking for the place with five mailboxes.  We passed one with seven, and selected the one with four (one had been lost since the owner had looked last).

Rolling down this one lane dirt road, we flushed a constant stream of deer from the forest and alfalfa fields before crossing the decrepit wooden bridge and rolling into the parking area of the most beautiful ranch house.  Upstairs are accommodations like a traditional bed and breakfast, while the basement is finished out as a bunkhouse for hunters.  The price was very reasonable and the breakfast was terrific.

After checking in, we headed out to gas up for the next day.  Gas stations in Sundance would have involved hour long lines of bikes, so we headed twenty miles north of the bed and breakfast to the microscopic town of Hulett, Wyoming.  Even this gas station, which was closed but had credit card pumps, was crowded with bikes topping off.  While pumping, I noticed a stack of books next to the pumps.  Picking one up, I found it was a new testament and slipped it into my pocket to read on the rest of the trip.

This was the furthest point from home on the trip and from now on, every mile would bring me closer to home.

One of these bald guys is Devils Tower

Near Devils Tower there is a restaurant, souvenir shop and RV lot called Buffalo Burgers.  The waitress had the cutest daughter (Morgan) with her.  While her mother took care of business, Morgan took photos of us and Gary shot a few photos of her while we had a simple but delicious dinner.

Photo By: Morgan

This couple told us about their sons.  The older one retired from the Air Force and works for NASA.  The younger, is still fighting in the mid-east where he has been awarded a Bronze Star.

Gary W.  and I pose with Morgan

Day 6 (Thursday)
Over breakfast, the inn’s owner, Criss Rathbun told us about the history of her family's 1886 homestead property.  Her property consists of 3,600 acres of forested hills and fields of alfalfa.  We knew it was teeming with deer, but she told us big game outfitters frequented her place both to hunt and for the bunkhouse.  As with so many country people, she wears more than one hat.  She is also an independent representative for the Lucas Oil Company.

We finally arrive in Sturgis, South Dakota after more than five days of riding.  We rolled into town around 9:30am to avoid the crowds, but nothing doing.  There must have been over a million bikes in this city which normally has a population of 6,000.

Finding a gas station on the edge of town, we topped off our tanks again and found some good bargains on T-shirts inside before heading on into downtown.

Every square foot of space in Sturgis is used for the vendors.  Sidewalks don't exist during bike week, you walk in the street.  Most of the streets are simply closed off to anything on more than three wheels.  Even the churches were set up to take donations for use of their parking lots.

I finally got the photo I've been wanting for at least five years.  A handicapped hang tag on a motorcycle.  Not a trike, but a heavy duty bagger.

By the time we left town looking for lunch, the crowd was in full swing and it took over half an hour to cover the few blocks to the highway.  We rolled through Deadwood without finding enough space to park even a single bike, although the smell of fresh food wafting out of the casinos made our stomachs growl.  A wrong turn in Deadwood led to Central City where we found a pizza place that had just opened for the day.  Being able to park the bikes, made this place our choice for lunch.

After lunch, we headed south through the Black Hills for home.  At one point, Gary C.  recognized the passenger on another bike and started gesturing to them while riding alongside on the twisting mountain highway.  You’ll have to ask him how the gestures were made and how the recipients interpreted them.  Eventually, they recognized him and we followed them to a turn out for a reunion.  It seems these were two couples named Grubbs and Welch, who are friends of Gary C.  and his wife Susan from Azle, Texas.  Actually, most of them went to school with Susan in South Dakota.  After photos and some chat, we all went our separate ways since the day was too hot not to have the wind in your teeth.

Azle Reunion

We had dinner in Chadron, Nebraska.  Returning to our bikes, we found the asphalt so hot that our kickstands had sunk into the parking lot.  This was our intended destination for the night, so we went by the closest motel, but were told that as close as we were (maybe 150 miles) to Sturgis, there were no rooms.

hot pavement

Not a bit worried, we went the additional fifty miles south to Alliance, Nebraska to the motel where we stayed three years ago on the way up to Sturgis.  Here we were again assured there was no room anywhere in the city.

Calling ahead to Bridgeport, Nebraska, we were able to reserve a room.  On the forty miles between Alliance and Bridgeport, we had to put our rain gear on for the first time of the trip.  It didn't rain much on us, but the spray from the highway was pretty heavy when trucks passed going the other direction.

Day seven (Friday)
On a lark, we took a local road through Madrid and had lunch Grandma Deb's in Wallace, Nebraska.  I was so hot by lunch time, that I reached around the large glass jar of sugar on the table and carefully selected a packet of non-dairy creamer.  I tore the top off the packet and poured it into my iced tea where it floated like a big sign saying "Dummy!" The Garys wanted me to get another glass, but I wasn't about to admit my mistake to the waitress.  I calmly stirred that creamer in and drank it like it was.  The waitress did give me some funny looks, but said nothing.  Gary C.  found the occasion sufficient motivation to finally figure out how to take movie clips with his camera.

Day eight (Saturday)
Rising early in Colby, Kansas, we gassed up the bikes and started looking for a cafe for breakfast.  There was an interesting rented moving truck at the gas station.  It contained a Toyota pickup truck with two motorcycles in the pickup.  It looked like some sort of demented Russian nesting doll and none of us could figure out how they got it loaded.

Not finding a suitable cafe, we ended up having breakfast at McDonalds where a man lambasted us with a constant stream of jokes.  Some of which were actually funny, but we were in a hurry to be moving.  Home pulled us all the harder with every mile we rode now.

Q: “What is the difference between a Hoover vacuum cleaner and a Harley?”
A: “You can only fit one dirt bag at a time on the Hoover.”

In Garden City, Kansas we found that the Arkansas River was a completely dry river bed.  Not a hint of wet sand.  Upstream in Colorado it had been running at around 3,000 cubic feet per minute.  I was so disappointed I forgot to stop for a photo.

On US Hwy 83 just north of US Hwy 56 in Sublette, Kansas, we ran into a group from the Christian Motorcycle Association (CMA) operating an informal rest stop for riders.  The gas and beer store had a Mennonite clerk.  The CMA had plenty of free cold water and gave our bikes a blessing before sending us on our way.  By this point, the flow of northbound motorcycles had died down and we seldom saw anyone heading to Sturgis from this point forward.  Even the homeward bound riders had fanned out this far south, so we didn't meet with more than twenty bikes at any stops.

In Liberal, Kansas, we were having coffee at the Harley dealership when we met Raùl Fernandez of Monterrey, Mexico.  The $tealership was trying to sell him a back tire for his Ultra Glide.  The Harley was a late model, immaculate machine and Raùl told us he has a 2010 Indian Chief back home.  He owns a business back home as a wholesale distributor of locks and hinges which must be a booming business south of the border.  Gary W.  and I both felt he could make it home without any undue risk and I snapped a picture of Raùl and the two Garys as we left the dealership.  Oddly, Raùl had pulled his bandanna up and slipped on a pair of dark sunglasses just before the shot.

Gary, Gary and Raùl

Sometime after lunch, we met Raùl again at a gas stop and all agreed he should join us for the next leg of the journey.

We reached Canadian, Texas late in the afternoon.  Tired and hot, we rolled into Dairy Queen to cool off.  We met a Korea War Veteran who is running out of time to tell about his experience.  We thanked him humbly for his service to our country.  We also talked more with our traveling companion, Raùl.  He finally allowed his photo along with the rest of us.  Seeing the weather about to turn foul and being worn down by days of travel, we decided to find a room in Canadian for the night.  Raùl expressed his regrets, but he needed to time his crossing of the border at Laredo and Nuevo Laredo for daylight hours.  After swapping e-mail addresses, he rode on with a wave and we checked into a motel just as the sky opened up in a heavy rain.
Me, Gary C., Raùl, and Gary W.  in the Canadian, Texas DQ

Day nine (Sunday)
We rolled out of bed by 5:30am and hit the road well ahead of the final day of our trip.  Rolling south along US Hwy 83, I could see Orion off to the southeast as if to show me the way home.  Dawn gradually swallowed Orion one star at a time as rode together, but each of us alone with our thoughts on the trip.

Just about the time, Orion's left shoulder disappeared we noticed a beautiful sunrise with multicolor rays of light.  We all had to stop and get some photos of this good omen so close to the end of our trip.

Sunrise on the last morning

When traffic levels picked up on US Hwy 287 in Electra we turned south on Texas Hwy 25 and took a break at the Windthorst General Store.  It looks much as it would have fifty years ago.  What they don't have, they will order for you.  They do have an up to date infrastructure and the clerk invited Gary C.  to take a look at the latest satellite weather image.

The ugly storm between us and Jacksboro convinced Gary C.  and me to suit up before continuing.  Gary W.  decided that since he was already drenched with sweat from the heat, he didn't need a rain suit.  I'm still not sure he didn't have the better idea.

It rained hard.  I was leading off and could barely make out the truck in front of us.  When the rain let up, I pulled into a roadside picnic area twelve miles north of Jacksboro.  As Gary W.  pulled in, his bike was barely running and was making ominous clanking noises.  Checking the crank case, we found it had run dry in spite of not leaking or appearing to burn excessive oil.  We sent someone ahead to pick up some oil and Gary W.  was able to nurse his bike along as far as his home without incident.

Our trip lasted nine days and covered over three thousand miles across eight states.  We helped some people who needed it.  We were helped by others, and helped each other when we needed it.  Mostly we enjoyed the feeling of three brothers on an adventure together.  Those who haven’t experienced that sort of fellowship will wonder if an hour in Sturgis is worth nine days of oven-like heat, freezing rain, lack of sleep, lost wallets, roadside motorcycle repairs and other assorted adventures.  For the three of us, it was never about the destination.  It is always about being on the road with your friends and brothers.

Was it worth it? You bet it was!

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