There I was. In the desert, pushing my motorcycle. Stacked out with a full 42 inch duffle bag, two leather travel bags, two full saddle-bags, a magnetic tank bag, and wearing two layers of clothes. One layer made entirely of leather.
The Sun leaned down upon my shoulders like an old man on a cane. It seemed no matter how hard I would try to go further I could only get the bike maybe 25 ft. before having to stop and take a breath. With no shade in sight it seemed each rest took longer to gather the strength to continue. Maybe it was the heat, maybe the elevation, it could have even been some mild malnutrition as I hadn’t been really eating a balanced diet out on the road. Whatever it was, it had my number.
It really started to sink in as I sat side-saddle on the seat of my sleeping beauty. If the man who had stopped to help me out didn’t come back, I might have to leave the bike. I decided I wasn’t going to push anymore. I took my jacket off the seat and began trying to set it over the windshield to catch some makeshift shade.
It wasn’t much but it was enough to keep my head and torso out the burning light. “So, this must be what a vampire feels like at dawn.” I thought to myself.
I had just about got everything set and was checking out my little patch of shade when I looked up. There in the distance I could just make out the brownish grey Honda which had left me not so long ago. It was amazing how seeing that car felt like four hours of sleep. My eyes brightened, and my shoulders lightened. I didn’t look to check but I know a smile creased my face. A little bit of salvation can go a long way on the road.
I grabbed my key out of my pocket and inserted it into the tank. I waved out to the car as it approached and began to slow. I walked around the bike and crossed the road as he stopped and rolled down the window. He already had the gas in hand. “You got two thirty-five? That’s all I could get in there.”
Slightly surprised by the professionalism of the reunion. I managed, “Um, yeah? Yeah. I’m sure I’ve got that.” I reached into my front pocket and retrieved my wallet.
Opening the folds and peering in for a moment I could see I had more than enough. “Are you sure you don’t want more, I’ll give ya a Twenty.”
“Nah, I wouldn’t feel right taking much more than what it cost.” He stated. “I ya don’t have anything smaller just keep it.”
“No, please. Let me at least pay for your gas too. Here’s a five.” I handed out the bill practically shoving it to him.
“Weeeelll,…” I couldn’t believe this. It was like a used car salesman, in reverse. “Ok.” He took the bill gently and handed the gas out the window.
I thanked him emphatically, checking for any cars…nothing. Wow, where would I have been without this kind of help? Worse off than I was now for sure. As he drove off and I trekked back across the road I had a great appreciation for humanity. For me, that is often an exotic feeling. I reveled in it. Sweet like honey on my lips.
I straddled the seat and cranked the engine. She started right up without a complaint, so I shifted into gear and continued my way towards home.
The Winnemucca gas station I stopped at was a bustle of people and crowded compared to the last two days. Society had returned, at least for the time being. I bought enough gas to fill my tank and refill the container I had bought in Adel. I double checked my maps and plotted a straight shot towards Carson City. I could still make it before the Sun fell in the West.
As I walked out of the station I noticed a couple Harleys sitting in the parking lot. It wasn’t hard to tell who they belonged to. Two fairly-rough looking men, one with a side arm, stood talking to each other near the entrance to the station. I politely introduced myself and complimented their motorcycles. They nodded but it was clear to me I was getting the cold shoulder and they were engrossed in the conversation they were having. I overheard something about the hills behind the town as I returned to my little Suzuki and finished gearing up. I can’t say for sure, but it seemed to me by the tone and look of the two men that they weren’t talking about anything I wished to have any part of. I know that there are a few shady motorcycle clubs running through the western deserts, and I was pretty sure these two were both a part of one and setting up a deal I’d be safer not to know about. I was relieved they just blew me off. It was good to see a couple fellow riders, but their business was clearly none of mine.
It felt good getting back on the southward road and leaving dusty Winnemucca and the experiences of the morning behind me. I throttled up to about 80 MPH and rode like I was going to perish if I didn’t reach Carson by sun down. In truth, it kind of felt like that was true.
Carson City was much larger than I had anticipated. The Gas Station looked like an amusement park parking lot. Tourists were walking and talking, giving the atmosphere the familiar feel of capitalist entertainment. In truth it really took me back. Being mostly raised in central Florida I am very accustomed to it. Maybe the place dropped my guard, or maybe the day was enough to exhaust my senses, but whichever the cause, it was enough to force a mistake. While pulling up I over shot the fuel pump by a couple feet. “No biggie, I’ll back it up,” and so I did. As such, the bike began to lean. I had not yet dropped the kickstand and so the bike and I rolled embarrassingly onto our respective sides.
“Damn-it!” was about all I could muster as I pulled myself to my feet and dropped my pack on the asphalt. Stepping into the motorcycle and gripping the highway bars and the rear seat a stream of curses ran through my head. I locked my fingers, wrists, elbows, and stood, pushing into the bike. My knees shook, and my thighs trembled but slowly, it rose. Laying across the tank I kicked the stand down and let the bike settle. I turned and sat side saddle on the seat while I panted and removed my gear. Time on the road was taking a heavy toll on me.
As I stripped off my gloves I could hardly breathe. “Gotta get out of this jacket for a min…” I was already pulling on the collar…then the helmet, goggles and mask. All was just left in a pile next to Trudie. “Sorry Trudie…” I patted the tank bag… “That was my fault, I’ll try not to let it happen again.”
I might have been losing my mind, but I was at least gaining my breath…
As I searched the scene I could tell it was well into the afternoon. The shadows were long and deep in the orange sunlight.
The breeze was quite refreshing, I could feel myself coming down out of the high sierras. I was coming back into the elevations and longitudes that my body knew and I was accustomed to.
I rifled through the pockets of my vest, then my jacket. I retrieved my phone, wallet, and pack of cigarettes. I stood up and walked into the station. I bought another liter water, a small coffee and verified with the cashier that I would be alright to use their electrical outlet outside to put a few more bars on my phone before heading out. As I walked back out to the bike and inserted my debit card in the pump I felt like hours had passed since the moment I laid Trudie down beside the pump. It’s funny how fast a person can put the past behind them when it serves no purpose for the present.
In the shade it was hot but not uncomfortably so. After I filled the bike. I set my phone to charge on the ledge of the stations front window. I walked inside to the McDonalds Restaurant that always seems to exist in tandem with the tourist trap gas stations of the area. I ordered myself a cheeseburger and a chicken sandwich of the dollar menu and had them add a small coffee to keep my energy up.
By the time I had finished eating I could already start to see the reds of evening begin to invade the yellow orange of afternoon. I was going to have to start looking for a site before long, or risk setting my tent in the darkness of a desert I didn’t know. I pushed my bike from the pump to a parking space and foraged my laptop out from one my bags. I was keeping in on the top bag for occasions just like this. No need to take off everything just to get a handle on location and direction.
I found that just outside of town was a Bureau of Land Management area that seemed easy enough to get to and secluded enough that I would draw to much attention from any passersby.
Gathering my things and gearing back up I could feel moister in the air. I could smell rain. I looked up and saw that in all directions but the one I came clouds were rolling in. A whisper of thunder from the mountains to the east. “I guess that’s my call.” I said to myself as I strapped down my helmet and climbed onto the motorcycle.
To be continued…