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.

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.

 

 

This chica can ride!

The first time I see her we’re in some hick town. She’s parking in an outside slot–where I like to be when I’m not hiding. Like me, she prefers to park it alone, with nothing else around.

It looks like we’re both getting ready to take a break.

I watch as she strides towards the stop-and-puke in the next building over from where I’m parked. She’s tall and slim and moves with an attitude. Like she knows where she’s going, what she’s doing.

She turns to check out my ride.

She can tell that I’m watching her, but then I’ve never been shy about checking out a woman who rides. Some like it, others don’t. I ignore the ones that don’t, and leave them alone.

She turns her head back towards the store and walks in.

I wait for her to come out, and when she does it’s with a couple of bottles of water. Smart move in this heat, I think to myself. She’s been down the road a time or two. I sit by the window, thinking that I’ll have time to amble over and check out her ride in a bit.

She chugs the water and pulls out before I can finish my bowl of soup.

When next I see her, it’s down the road. Yeah, okay, I had to ride like hell to catch up, but she’s not exactly riding the fastest either. She’s easy to catch.

I trail for half-a-dozen miles–flying in formation–before pulling up closer. She slows momentarily to let me pull up even, and I can see that she’s taking a closer look. Checking. Evaluating. Is this guy okay? How is he sitting? Relaxed? Tense? How is he dressed? Rub? Biker?

I let her take her time, because I’m doing the same.

She’s on a black Softail. It’s dirty, like mine. She’s been on the road in the same weather. Windshield. None but the dwindling old-timers put on the miles without one. Piled high with bags. A second helmet hanging off the back. Full-face. Dressed in black. Well-worn boots, laced high. Tribal tattoos up and down her arms, neck. Probably all over. She’s seen lots of sun. A small nose ring. Mid-thirties, maybe pushing 40.

No girl on a motorcycle, this. She is pure riding woman.

I pull ahead for three or four miles, and give her the option of catching up.

She does.

When she goes by she arcs towards me and then pulls back and slightly ahead. That’s the sign I’m waiting for, so I pull in close behind and we ride together like that for a hundred miles, positioning back and forth, and I get the feeling that we’re playing the game.

That, and easy company on the road when both know how to ride.

Then we hit the city lights and it’s side-by-side through the streets. Conversation at each stop. Through the corners, she’s on the inside for some, me outside for some, still side-by-side. We block traffic when the lights change as we continue talking.

More sizing each other up.

Where are you headed? Where are you from? You put a lot of miles on that thing?

Are you running from or running to? That’s always my question.

It gets a grin this time, because she knows exactly what I mean, and when she nods, I know exactly what she means.

I grin back.

We look at each other when we finally figure out we’re both drifting, and we grin together. Then she tells me where she’ll be camping out for the night.

I know the place. It’s north of the city by about five miles.

The WSJ demonizes Cuba for a movie review

the real marvel of the past 50 years in Cuba — the steady stream of heroic nonconformists who have risked all in their aspiration to think, speak and act freely — remains the untold epic of our time. — Wall Street Journal, Mary Anastasia O’Grady

If the relentless bobbing of the Cuban cork within the confines of the Gulf of Mexico remains an untold epic, then I suppose the story of Cuba meets the definition, but I do wonder why the American press has such a preoccupation with countries that throw out murderous and crooked U.S. corporations and the American mob merely because they want to lead their own lives. Perhaps the voting block known as Cuban-Americans residing in Florida and the relentless ass-kissing that politicians feel they must give them has something to do with the silliness of it all. How many of those “freedom-loving Cubans” now ensconced in Florida will return once the great Castro Satan of the western hemisphere has been banished to the dustbin of history?

Not many, I’d say.

The romance of Cuba lies not in that it is Communist, but that during the ’50s it was a haven for the mob and the corporations who, in concert with the Batista government of the time, was milking the country for all of its worth. It lies with the people who threw them lock, stock and barrel out of the country. You won’t read much of that in mainstream American media reporting. After all, it was the all-American mob and corporations doing the damage who got tossed.

Che has been dead at the hands of the CIA since 1967, Cuba is an impoverished island courtesy of the United States and its meaningless embargo, and still the darlings of the American media must go on a rant and declare that to allow this cork to float is a pox upon the world — well, the world as the privileged American media sees it, anyway. Would that they for a minute would get over publishing the government line on anything and go and see for themselves the damage America has done to a country that merely occupies space in the Gulf.

But wait, they can’t! It’s against the law for an American to visit Cuba. Oh well, no matter. They can write all about it from Florida, or D.C., or wherever the money is coming from to pay for the media advertising budgets.

It’s not a wonder to me why the newspapers are bleeding subscribers at an alarming rate. Just read the article and see the government-inspired propaganda line for yourself. And yes, all that for a meaningless movie review.

See what I mean?

Link to article here.

Bushed*

* Canadian slang: mentally unbalanced as a result of prolonged residence in a sparsely inhabited region.

There was a bike parked by the ATM, and when I walked inside an old-timer in a well-used riding jacket was in front of me. After he left I picked up my cash and walked back outside, hoping to catch him before he got back on the road.

He had a French accent, and it sounded vaguely Quebecois, so I babbled something incoherent in French about Quebec and being far from home. He corrected my misconception by telling me he was Belgian. So much for my fine ear for languages and accents — but then, I don’t know any Belgians. He wasn’t insulted in the least by my assumption. He probably felt sorry for my lack of conversational French.

He was from Silverton, Colorado and was headed north to Alaska. He explained that Silverton was the kind of town that you just had to get out of when the snow melted. As isolated as Silverton is in the southwest corner of Colorado, I can understand that perfectly.

In Canada, it’s called being bushed.

We both laughed as he told me about the people in Silverton who couldn’t understand why he would want to leave the place once the snow melted and spring began. After all, they said, winter is over and now there’s no reason to want to leave.

Right.

Those long, cold winter nights, when the snow starts falling and it doesn’t end for a week. When hauling your ass out of the house to go for groceries is a drag. When all you see are the same people day after day after day. When the only topic of conversation is the spring melt. When false spring arrives and gets your hopes up, only to be dashed when the thermometer goes back down below zero and it snows again.

Now it’s summer, the roads are open, and they all lead somewhere else. That sounds to me like a perfect reason for an extended road trip on a motorcycle.

Marked for life

It was a Saturday and I was stopped in Grand Forks taking a break. Heat and distance had tired me out, so I was sitting in the shade at a gas’n’go drinking some water to rehydrate. I don’t know how many miles were behind me.

Another hundred and a half and I’d be home.

I watched her pull up to the air pump in front of me in her beater. The right front tire was low and needed air. The windows were rolled down. Obviously the a/c wasn’t doing its duty – if it was even working.

I watched her as she got out. She was young – maybe early- to mid-twenties at the most. Pretty, too. And with dark hair – my nemesis. She was wearing a white blouse with the sleeves rolled up to just under her elbows. Dark slacks. Well-worn brown shoes. Probably on her way to work as a bartender or a waiter.

In her haste to get air for the tire I think she forgot about those rolled-up sleeves.

It looked like she was having some difficulty getting the tire to take air, so I ambled over and offered to help. She explained that she was on her way to a wedding reception and was already late.

I took the air hose from her and as she stood up, I saw the track marks on her arms. They were healed over and scarred – definitely not fresh. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that she was watching me notice them.

I looked up at her.

“Are you all right?” I asked.

“I am now,” was her reply.