Stories From The Road
Step It Up
It’s a cool day in late September as I ride up Interstate 35 in Oklahoma for the third time in 24 hours. But now the bike has fresh fluids and the stripped screws on the derby cover have been replaced with new ones. Thanks goes out to the club for the help, I’d still be stuck without their help. It’s only 5 hours after I thought I’d be on the road, but with the late start, the cobwebs are beginning to subside, another thanks goes out to the club.
As I get to the little town of Tonkawa near the border of Kansas, I decide it’s time for a very late breakfast. I pull into one of the zombie fast food places that I normally would have avoided if it wasn’t for the delay. I whip the bike into the vacant spot in front of the entrance and drop in line behind the rest of the sheep. As I’m waiting in the stiles, I see the small form of a lady looking out of the glass into the parking lot. The kid behind the counter calls out an order breaking her gaze. As she turns, I see that she has a big smile. Her face has a look of years, but you can tell the years have been great, as I look into her face, all I see are smile lines.
As she walks by me I get an even closer look, she’s around 5’4 at best. Her salt and pepper hair is pushed back as if she had been riding with it in a ponytail, then I notice her clear hazel eyes. She has spirit in her step as she walks, from looking at her, you can see the beauty she has in her. As she’s approaching the counter, her eyes turn, looking into mine, without losing a step she gives me a nod as she passes by.
As I’m getting my fixings for my sandwich, I see her grabbing some napkins and a straw. The next thing I realize is that she has walked up to me, she asks if the bike is mine as she is looking out of the window again. I say “yes ma’am.” She says with a fondness “Before my husband passed, we rode all the time.” Before I could say my condolences for the loss of her husband, she turns and heads back to her table. After I finish prepping my food, I walk towards the tables, I notice her happily eating her lunch. So I approach her table asking if she would mind company for lunch, she says “That would be lovely.”
As I sit, she asks where I’m traveling to. I tell her that someone I met in Oklahoma City had said before I leave the state that I should see Alabaster Caverns. She agrees that since I’m this close, I should definitely make a point to stop. She asks where I started my ride from. I tell her about getting laid off while working in Montana and deciding it would be nicer in Daytona Beach, Florida. Bike week versus stranded in the snow for the rest of the Winter. She agrees with my decision saying they used to make all of the big rallies. She names off some of her favorites, Sturgis, BBQ, Daytona, Texas, Laconia, and Myrtle Beach. Then she asks where my next destination was after Alabaster? I say “No real destination, I’m riding around the country learning as much of it as possible. But since I’ve ridden through Oklahoma I had to ride Nebraska completing the lower 48 states.” She asks how many miles have I ridden so far. I inform her that so far on this trip I’ve ridden over 30,000 miles. She leans back, sizing me up and says that I need to step it up. She tells me that for years, she rode her own bike, but after a time, she realized how much she hated not being on the back of the bike holding on to the love of her life. Then she gets a shit-eating grin saying that, since she got back on her husband’s bike alone, she’s ridden over 700,000 miles.
She starts telling about some of the amazing things she’s seen from the back of a bike. I sit there in awe of her life and the love she had for him and the ride. Everything her and her husband did was so they could ride, each working 60 plus hours a week so the weekend would be clear for the ride. With every word, she has a glow coming from her, I could sit listening for days. She looks down at her watch and jumps up saying “If I keep running on, I’m going to miss my doctor’s appointment.”
As we reach the parking, lot she gives my bike a walk around shaking her head in approval. I offer her a ride if she wants, she gives her biggest smile lowering her head. As she raised her head, she says that if she were 20 years younger and single, she would miss her doctor’s appointment for a ride with me.
As we say our goodbyes she steps in giving me a giant hug, thanking me for the conversation, and walks to her car. As I sit on my bike watching her drive away, I realize how lucky I was to have had problems with the oil change. Spending these brief moments with her is one of the most amazing things in my life.
The Ride to Crater Lake
Knowing that it had snowed on the mountain the day before, I slept in till 8:00am. Got my free continental breakfast before putting my backpack on my 08 Ultra Classic. As I’m packing the bike for the next piece of my journey I notice the cold biting at my face. It’s only late march but I would have thought Oregon would be warmer. With me being from the east coast I would have thought it would have been warmer on the west coast. So I climb into my winter riding gear for the day. There’s something I learned on the road, when there’s a gas station fill up because you never know where the road will turn. After topping off then I head out of Medford, Oregon the spot of my latest stay. As soon as I leave the gas station I see the sign for route 62 Crater Lake Highway. Shortly after rolling out of the last neighborhood, I pass over the Rogue River. Then shortly after passing Rogue Elk Park I see the clouds reflecting off Lost Creek Lake as I take a long sweeping right hander.
This is the welcome start of a small elevation change with a few sweeping curves as I pass back over the Rogue River. Within a few miles I can feel the excitement build as I reach the forest. As I start heading up the mountain roads they start to get really bad with gravel, mud, and a combination of the two. While watching the roads I try to take in the beauty of the ride. When I get to the cutoff for the lake the roads change again. This section starts off with loose gravel going into the remainder of shadow snow. It’s causing a lot of fast to slow going, as I get up closer and closer to the mountain’s crest the snow has turned to long sections of straight snow. The last couple of miles have had very little areas without snow. The key to riding in the snow on a bike is the same as in car it just has a bigger pucker factor. As you see a section of snow pick a line that you can ride thru it without changing direction. Pick a line you can also run without really having to change speeds. If you have to change do it with slow steady motion nothing quick. Going up is easier than down in my opinion, downhill you have gravity increasing your speed against your will. As I come around the last corner the snow is gone all the way through to the parking lot. It’s about 11:00am now there is a couple of cars in the parking lot, I think they’re all employees. I put it on the stand and take a look around, I’m guessing it might have reached 30 degrees out up here.
As I walk towards the lake I look back to notice this side of the building has 15’ of snow drifted around it. I head over towards the edge and snow is deep, maybe 18”. I move back to the road looking for an area that’s been packed down, finding one further down. I make my way to the edge, I raise my eyes from the snow to the lake, it takes my breath away, my eyes are drawn to the brilliant blue water. Darker than any water I’ve ever seen, hell, I’ve only seen a blue that color once or twice in my life. I look to the right, back towards the way I came down the road at the edge of the blue is another extreme. As I look up, the snow is sparkling with reflections of light. Then as your eyes catch the trees rising out of the snow all green and white with snow. I look to the left and find an island rising out of the brilliant blue water. It’s all white with pine trees loosely scattered around the island. As you follow the water away from you to the other side. The mountains jump straight out of the blue and are taupe color with a spattering of white snow throughout. The feeling I have is unsurpassed greater than anything I’ve ever felt. It feels as if the beauty is cutting into my soul, or it’s just the cold.
As I look from right to left taking in every inch of this magnificent scenery, when a father and daughter walk up and break the spell. I had forgotten to take a single picture until they asked me to take theirs, in turn I had them take mine. They are spending some quality time together riding up the coast seeing all it has to offer. I tear myself away from the lake to head towards the visitor center. To my surprise they’re open and I see they have potatoes soup on the menu. After pulling off the boots, coat, and pants, I sit enjoying the soup while I warm for the ride back. When I leave I head to the north entrance of the lake heading towards Route 138 to find it closed. They haven’t plowed it since the snow the other night. I’ll have to leave that for another journey, so I turn heading back the way I came.
Open Your Eyes
I’m riding up the PCH (Pacific Coastal Highway) in early Spring, I’ve been battling a cold, hard, windy rain for the last 3 days. As I drop out of the cliffs, down to an open section of beach just up past Eureka, the sun makes an appearance. The last of the clouds have lifted and the wind has vanished. I pull into a spot at the beach near a 650 Yamaha with Canadian tags. There are a couple of backpacks laying on the ground next to the bike. As I’m getting out of the rain gear a couple of guys walk off the beach, heading towards me. They get to the 650 and stop, one guy is taking pictures of the surf, the other starts going through a backpack. After a few more pictures the camera goes in his pocket.
I finish packing my gear into the touring pack and walk over towards the guys. One is in his early 20’s, just shy of 6’ tall, with dark blonde hair and around 185 lbs. the other is much shorter, he’s maybe 5’6” tall, with black hair, both are dressed for the previously bad weather. The taller one is riding the bike, ‘shorty’ is the passenger.
I ask where in Canada did they rode from, the rider tells me they flew into Montreal. As he’s saying this I stop him, “What do you mean you flew into Montreal?” Shorty says “We’re from Amsterdam, we just graduated University.” Rider says “We found the bike online and bought it from the guy. He even picked us up at the airport.”
The rider says “We rode across Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, before dropping into Washington, and Oregon.” Shorty says they have already ridden almost 10,000 kl since they hit the states. I say “You both rode that 650 all across Canada and the Canadian Rockies?” I look over at them standing with giant smiles, heads shaking up and down like a couple of bobblehead dolls.
I give them giant kudos for the ride so far, they’re pretty much doing the same as me. They have a few friends and family on the ride they want to see. Other than that, they are just riding, the only real difference is they have to get back to Montreal for their return flight. We each pull out our Atlas, I start giving them some of the best places, in my opinion so far. We agree the Grand Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend. Then I suggested Zion National Park, Moab/Arches National Park, Mesa Verde Cliff Dwelling, and Million Dollar Highway. From there they wanted to head down to New Orleans, I suggest San Antonio and the River Walk on the way. Equipped with newly highlighted sights to see along the way we exchanged Instagram pages.
We each tell a few my lies from the road and we take a few pictures for prosperity before they start packing for the next leg of the ride. Once the backpacks are on, they climb on the bike, now I truly stand there in awe. That bike carried near 600 lbs. all the way through Canada and across the Rockies already.
Over the next month we followed each other’s progress, I saw their pictures from key spots, San Francisco, Vegas, Grand Canyon, Moab, Four Corners, Austin, New Orleans, Key West, Washington DC, and New York City. Upon reaching Montreal they sold the old 650 with only a two day $500 repair and an additions 21,000 kl on the odometer.
As happy as I am for the guys, I’m even sicker for most people here. We have this truly beautiful country and two kids from another country have seen more of it then probably 75% of the people that live here. Work, power, money, and things don’t make a life! Stop the rat race if for only a week, pack a bag get into whatever moves you. Highlight a few things on an old fashion atlas (this is not a schedule, it’s places you might see) grab a back road and open your eyes to the beauty. If you don’t make a plan, you can’t be upset if you don’t make it somewhere.
Ride With Dirk