Carpenter John: 2

Part 1 is here.

I had been on the road since six a.m. in the heat, and it wasn’t getting any cooler as the day wore on into evening and darkness. Finally I was beginning to get tired. On the city’s east side about six miles out I stopped for fuel and a burger. That got me feeling a little better.

I waited for the light to green up and then I turned east and was gone one more time. I had another two hundred and change to go. And there he was, pulling up behind me again. He must have stopped somewhere for a break too.

I was making a steady 70. My next break was down the road, 90 or so ahead, just inside the Ontario border. He pulled in behind me. No big deal. I figured I might as well find out where he was headed.

He introduced himself as John. From Montana. A carpenter, of all things. When he mentioned that, I could see by his hands. They were definitely carpenter hands.

He was making about 145 to a tank, so I pulled out a map and donated it to the cause. I circled his gas stops all the way to London, his destination in southern Ontario. I told him about the short cut across Lake Huron. Bikes were first on and first off. He seemed happy to hear that, because it would knock a good 350 miles off of his voyage.

Before we pulled out, he called me old-timer and thanked me for the help.

Yeah, I guess I am an old-timer, at least in the riding department.

The road was two-lane now. Another 30 and it was a stop to get fuel, then 85 more to my destination where I’d be stopping for the night. Beside me in the twilight at my destination he wobbled off the light, running in the right of my lane. He thanked me for the help again and turned off for gas. I waved.

A little farther down I checked into my motel. It was almost dark. When I was unloading, I heard him go by. He had to be in London in a day and a half. It was certainly do-able, because I had done it. I figured he could too.


I’m almost tempted to wonder if there was something biblical in nature going on during this encounter, but being the sinner that I am, what the hell would I know?

Carpenter John: 1

Part 2 is here.

When I ride, I like to ride alone—unless there’s a woman involved. Over the decades I’ve become wary of the RUBs and other associated newbies who took up riding last month—or last year. Down south I would ride sweep on the shop’s local runs for newbies. In fact, I liked to be bringing up the rear. It was safer there.

I was never happy with what I saw during those rides. Although I probably could have made my excuses, I toughed it out and had a few laughs along the way at the ineptitude of many of the riders who had bought their sparkly new motorcycles from the store.

Yeah, I’m an independent.


I watched the bike merge into traffic. His ride was loaded with a tent, a sleeping bag and probably more camping gear in the saddlebags. He must have been coming from a campground just a few miles to the south. When he waved on his way past, I checked the time: 1100. I had already been on the road for five hours.

His plate said he was out of Montana. Nice riding country.

Another fifteen minutes and I pulled in behind him at the gas pumps. During pleasantries I discovered that he was headed down the road another 130 miles. We were going to the same place.

Perhaps I was confused by his leathers. They were well-worn, not new by any stretch. He wore a beanie, with plenty of faded stickers plain to see. His boots were well-scuffed too. A red bandana was around his neck. He used it to cover his face when he was riding. Sometimes that can be a giveaway, but this time I didn’t think so.

When I pulled out he was just walking in to pay.

When he passed on the four-lane, I was paying more attention. His riding stuck out like a sore thumb. He pulled ahead, but he remained in the number one lane, first on one side of it, and then on the other, back and forth. I remember thinking that’s not right. In fact, I know it isn’t.

Then he slowed down.

Wary now, I eased over a bit, just off of the left side of my lane position. I didn’t want him suddenly pulling over and running me off the road. He wandered back and forth, then ahead, then behind, still in the number one lane. What the hell, I was thinking.

He’s wandering. He’s weaving. He doesn’t know where his position should be. He can’t hold steady speed. I didn’t have to tell  myself twice to get the hell out because I know all the signs. I twisted the wick and moved on. Rapidly.

I never saw him again for another two hours or so.

More on rest areas in Northwestern Ontario

I was riding through Northwestern Ontario, as I am wont to do on occasion, when I needed a break. As anyone knows who passes through on the only highway that goes anywhere, there’s nowhere to stop and take a break. Well, nowhere, that is, until one comes across a snowplow turnout. You remember those, right? They’re the ones famous for their No Parking signs.

They’re also renowned for urine bottles, beer cans, pizza boxes, trash, junk and other miscellaneous articles that people discard while traveling on the highway to nowhere–otherwise known as Highway 17. Those turnouts are nicely paved though, aren’t they?

A lovely snowplow turnout

The ubiquitous snowplow turnout in Northwestern Ontario, home to urine bottles discarded by truckers, beer cans, pizza boxes and dirty diapers. How attractive.

I could be wrong, but wouldn’t a couple of trash receptacles solve some of the problems surrounding these places? I know it’s a bit much to ask, but how about a porta-potty or two also? Of course, that would require that someone come around occasionally to empty the things, but, hey, welcome to the 21st Century, Ontario.

I know, I know, it’s an added expense for the taxpayers, but given that for decades the provincial government has taken all of the money from Ontario’s resource-rich north to fund Southern Ontario’s flagging economy, it’s only fair that the government should put a little back into the region in the form of garbage cans and shitters.

All the pretty trash

All the pretty trash. That’s the diaper in the middle of the turnout surrounded by the miscellaneous trash from the turnout ditch. Nice.


Hula-hoop honey

It was about a thousand miles ago…

She was standing on the median, thumb out. Hitchhiking, obviously. The trouble was, she was on the cross-street median. I wondered if she was an amateur–but only for a split second–because she was doing a dance with a hula-hoop. That got my attention for sure.

No amateur, this.

I rolled up to the gas’n’go. When I pulled out, she had disappeared from the median. Her act got her a ride, I thought, and well-deserved, too. But no, there she was, about a hundred yards down the highway. Her thumb was out and she was calling my name, twirling her hoop and grinning to beat the band as I rode up.

I did what anyone with a spare seat should have done a lot sooner. I hit the binders and stopped. We were headed to the same place. As it turned out, her eyes were bigger than her gear, and there was no possible way that I could strap it and her on board at the same time. Since she wasn’t giving anything up, I high-fived her for ingenuity and went on my way.

Another time.