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.

Riverside Motel – near Hadashville, MB

I was road-weary. I was tired. The many deer on the highway in the darkness of night were starting to get to me. I needed to get off the road and snooze until daylight. Better to to sleep for a bit than to keep on going and chance a hit.

Oh, look, a motel. How fortunate for some.


UPDATED 2015-06-07: Now under new management!

Welcome to riverside motel Hadashville. I am a new owner. I bought the motel just one year with my partner. We have decorated every room, and make a big change everything, cleaned water, new bed set, free WiFi, satellite TV, Free parking, family food  and so on.
We can provide the complete hospitality service for everybody. Thanks!


* * *

Oh, look. A motel. What good fortune.

I had been passing by this place for decades but I never had the opportunity or a reason to stop since it was in the middle of nowhere–literally. I walked in to the lobby and a troll asked me for my name and phone number, which it wrote down on a piece of paper. I might have taken that as a clue, but in my advanced state of decomposition I let it slide. Now that I think about it, I should have been instantly reminded of my stay at a dive in Sweetwater, Texas, when I had to get off the road to avoid rain, sleet, hail, and wind. I got eaten alive by bedbugs and lived to tell about it, but I digress.

There was no key forthcoming, but I did get an admonition to leave the door unlocked when I departed in the morning. No problem. I’ve probably stayed in worse places, I thought to myself. (See here.)

I pulled up to the front of the room and eyed the door. It looked to have been kicked in a time or two.

Yup, for sure.

Inside, there were more mosquitoes than you can find over road kill, but I was tired. I swatted away as many as I could while I pulled the sheets back and inspected the bed with a flashlight.

Nope, I’m not sleeping there.

Both the chairs in the room were cloth. I wouldn’t be sleeping on either of them.

I figured I could at least get a wash before heading back out on the road, but I didn’t think that was a very good idea after inspecting the waterworks. Instead I used my stash of bottled water to brush my teeth and rinse my face.

I was back on the road shortly thereafter, where I caught a few winks at a weigh station farther east on the border.

Yes, I left the door unlocked when I pulled out.

It’s a good day to ride

Updated July 2011: Scooter Tramp Scotty has more to say about his riding life over on Here’s a link to his description of life on the road. If you ever wanted a big picture of what it’s like to wander the highway highs and lows on a motorcycle, check it out.

*     *     *

Contrary to this guy and his wrong-way Corrigan Mexico motorcycle trip, Scotty Kerekes, a long-time rider and old Mexico hand, knows how to do it right. Ignore the typos, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. I’ll listen and read about Scotty’s adventures before those of almost anyone else.

Scotty used to have a web site a few years ago, but it’s long gone now as he continues to ride across North America and Mexico on his overloaded bagger. Occasionally, he’ll stop long enough to write something and post it on the web, usually with photos.

Here’s Scooter Tramp Scotty’s Mexican Winter adventure.

And here’s another: Return to New Orleans.

Rain rules

This summer, I was riding wet for many of the miles I traveled. I own a good Gore-Tex rainsuit, so I stayed dry. Being the lazy SOB that I am, however, I let my feet get wet because I never put on my gaiters. Fortunately, it wasn’t cold.

  • Looking for some rain gloves? Visit a grocery store and buy dishwasher gloves. The price can’t be beat. Added bonus: they come in two colors — blue and yellow.
  • Green or orange garbage bags make good covers for anything that’s held on with a net. The net will keep the plastic bag from shredding.

On the rainy highway, traction is a major consideration at speed, and hydroplaning is never far away on two wheels if your speed is high. Hydroplaning can occur any time one rides through the puddles that collect in the lowest part of the roadway, primarily the two tire tracks running the length of each lane. It can be avoided by riding on the high spots and by keeping tire pressure on the high side. Running on bald tires isn’t good either.

In built-up areas, anything metal such as manhole covers and bridge gratings, painted lines, and places where oil and grease have not washed off become a lot more slippery when first wet.

Railroad tracks are a sleeper, and can bite hard when being crossed at anything other that parallel or almost-parallel, especially in the wet. If your tire slips into the groove running alongside the track, it will ruin your day.

Thunderstorms are scary when you’re in the middle of one out on the prairie. Being the highest point on a flat plain or at the top of a bald hill when the lightning comes crashing down is not a smart place to be. Avoid it, at all costs, or one day you’ll be sorry. Take a break at one of those fancy Canadian rest areas.

Last, but not least, don’t delay when putting on the rain suit. Riding just a little farther to see if it will clear is not always a good thing if you want to stay warm and dry. Ask me how I know.

To sum up, in the wet:

  • Painted lines are slippery. Keep that in mind when turning or braking at crosswalks or any time you cross them.
  • Ditto for manhole covers, grated bridges, and bridge expansion joints.
  • Railroad tracks require a careful crossing so as not to slip into the groove.
  • Hydroplaning is a real possibility with excessive speed and under-inflated or bald tires.
  • Botts’ dots* or any other raised lane indicators are slippery and could cause tires to slip off of them.
  • Gas stations are particularly slippery in pump areas. All the clunkers get parked there, leaking and weeping.
  • Avoid riding during a thunderstorm when you’re going to be the height of land that the lightning will be searching for.
  • Put the suit on early if you want to stay warm and dry.
  • Slow down.

* Botts’ Dots are used on California multi-lane freeways. They come colored, round and square. Most are white; center markers are amber; wrong-way markers are red; fire hydrant markers are blue. They are being used on the highways of other states as well.

Gas bar thieves

Slime is everywhere, most notably if one is an habitué of the gas bar in a well-traveled area. I pity the poor tourist who fills his tank and wanders into the store to pay in cash. If he’s lucky, he’s rounded up to the nearest dollar, which makes counting his change that much easier.

More likely, he’s at a gas’n’go and has used his credit card at the pump, but must wander into the store for water, pop, gum, cigarettes, or a treat for his sweet tooth.

If the day is long, like mine are, then attention isn’t at its highest.

High enough, mind you, to let the teller know that I gave her a twenty.

“Oh, sorry,” she replies, sounding too practiced and too much in haste. An honest error more often gets a fumbled reply.

When the cashier is trying to take you, the cash goes right into the till before she gives change back.

If the cashier is smart, the bill is left laying on the till while she hands you your change. That way, you can’t screw the cashier by telling her that you gave her a larger bill. It evens things out.

Still holding out my open hand, I get my ten dollars added to the change in my palm. When I press the point by looking the cashier in the eye, she looks away, then turns around and pretends to do something else.

Nice try, sez I.

No response, but then, I didn’t expect one.

I waited for about 20 seconds before I turned and left.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as she then turned around.

I waved the ten at her as I was going out the door.

I really enjoyed cheating the thief out of her ten-spot.