I keep my Ultra Classic in the garage on a trickle charger. For non-bikers, that is a slow charge that keeps the battery alive during winters parked on cement.
Not long after the Shelter in Place (SIP) started, I decided to take a ride. Low and behold, a dead battery, couldn’t even charge it. I checked and found the extension cord was plugged in. Next stop the bike, yup, charger connected. Last stop, the charger. Oh, Oh, not connected to the extension cord.
With my years of investigative experience, I make a deduction: someone in the family used the cord and tossed it back in the general direction of the charger. Hoping, I guess, for immaculate connection. Asking the usual suspects, I received what I expected, a litany of not guilty pleas.
Out to the local Harley-Davidson dealer and $200+ later, I have a new battery.
After working on my soon (hopefully) to be released novel, writing with my on-line writer’s group, and a fantastic grilled SPAM and cheese sandwich, it was time to change out the old dead battery. I’ve done this too many times over the years.
Well, removing the backrest wasn’t too bad, even with a touch of arthritis. I could not for the life of me get the seat off. Swallowing what little dignity remains in this beat-up body, I turned to my wife. “Honey, please help me.”
Between the two of us, mostly Cathy, we got the seat out. I was happy; she dropped the mounting screw, something I never fail to do. She’s human. Then for the battery, my hands would not grip. We constructed a makeshift battery strap and got it.
Putting it all back together was a snap.
Warmed up all 88 inches and went for a ride. On the ride out of town, the traffic was as heavy as a normal commute. What gives? Who are these people? In my neighborhood, it seems most people are staying at home.
Anyway, it was great to be out on the road. When I came back, the traffic was light. I was on a five-lane highway in the number two lane, second from the center. I was rolling along with the flow of traffic when I noticed a car coming up fast in the number three lane. Thinking I might be impeding traffic, I checked the speedometer. Wow! I was clocking along at 85 MPH. The car passed me doing at least 100. A minute or two, another speedster passed me in the fast lane going about as fast. Dang. It was a short but exhilarating ride, and yes, I was wearing Shorts.
If the hotels are open, my buddy and I will be heading out for a fortnight in about five weeks.
Under the scarf is a happy rider.
Over the years, my motorcycle trips have been more about the journey than the destination. I have been to the big motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, at least a dozen times. Three or four times, I was what is called derisively ‘a trailer queen,’ we pulled a bike trailer behind a motorhome. Those trips were in the early days, and we were all about getting to the rally: no side trips, only twelve-hour days driving straight through. Once there, we took rides to Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Wounded Knee. These trips were made quickly so we could get back to the rally. Everything was a crowded rush.
We could say we had been there and done that. (I hate that cliché)
In 2001, I got an Ultra Classic and began riding to Sturgis, following the advice of Robert Pirsig: “Sometimes it’s better to travel than arrive” (Pirsig 103). No longer on the road from morning until dark, I looked around. Instead of the most direct route, we mapped out places we wanted to visit. Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, Beartooth Pass are just some of the big names. Places we never imagined like US-191 north out of Green River, Utah, and through fantastic country and on through Wyoming. I liked US-191 so much that I made a solo trip south on it. Not as scenic, but a great ride. I have made these long rides with a dozen riders, three or four, and alone—never once lonely.
This summer, my buddy Jim Kennemore and I, plan on heading north to the Cascades, make a right onto Washington-20 across the state to Kettle Falls on the Columbia River. There we will flip a coin and go—
We have room for other bikers; we don’t care what you ride as long as you miss the open road and the wind in your face.
Pirsig, Robert M. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Bantam Books, 1981.
Recently I was working on a new scene from Book II of the Liberty Trilogy. Reading it aloud, I noticed a decided lack of personal attributes. I needed to give my character something to show of himself.
A few years back, I bought five books by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi designed to help the writer with characters and settings. I keep the books within arm’s length. However, more often than not, I forget them. I reached for The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes.
Searching the index, I couldn’t find a trait that fit what I had in mind. Oh, well, find something. I noticed three characteristics that gave me an idea of how to rewrite several paragraphs. When finished, I was happy with what was now on the paper. I decided to keep the guide on my desk.
Days later, I needed another clue. Reaching for the guide, I noticed the book on my desk was The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws.
I reread the scene and decided the character flaws made for a more compelling character and storyline than positive traits.
Thanks, Angela and Becca.
Day 1 – 7/5/2013
Twelve years ago we began a motorcycle riding tradition, the Brown Water Run. That first year we had about seven or eight riders. This year we had twenty-four riders and one chase vehicle.
Ken Green came the furthest, Scottsdale, Arizona. I’d say it was a tie with Keith Wallace, but one has to ride a motorcycle to complete the BWR. Keith’s Ultra Classic broke down before the ride even began. Our chase car driver/mechanic, Lauren Camera, managed to get it running Friday morning. But Saturday, the 6th it gave up the ghost (twice). Keith finished the ride in the chase vehicle. Before the BWR, he spent something like $1,600 getting the electrical system repaired. Can you guess what failed? Yes, you’re right the electrical system.
We began the 5th with seventeen of us having breakfast at Zac’s Restaurant in Dublin, California. About halfway through breakfast, a very attractive lady came into the restaurant. She looked about somewhat confused. After a moment or two she approached the group. “Are you all going on a motorcycle trip?”
A chorus of “yeses” echoed throughout the room.
To which the young lady responded, “Where’s Keith?”
Told that Keith had broken down, her shoulders drooped, she seemed to collapse within herself. She said, “I’m his daughter. He called me. He told me to be here.” She did not appear to be a happy camper.
Ultimately Keith arrived on his questionable steed.
At the appointed hour, seventeen motorcycles and the Train Mobile departed on the first leg of our adventure. The ride over the Santa Cruz Mountains and down State Route 1 to Carmel was picture perfect. I was leading when a strange thing occurred. Jim Kennemore passed me up and took over lead. My first thought, “Was I going too slow?” It soon became apparent that was not the case as Jim did not increase the speed, if anything he slowed somewhat. I was confused.
That evening when we were alone, I asked him, “Why did you pull in front of me on seventeen? You didn’t speed up.”
Much to my surprise his answer was, “To slow you down, you were going too fast.” That was a shocker. The last few times over this roadway, I was criticized for going much too slow.
At Carmel we picked up three more riders. Getting out of the gas station and back on the road was a fiasco. Instead of one cohesive group we had at least four clusters. We did not get back together until we reached Morro Bay.
We stopped near San Simeon and visited the sea elephants. If you ever get the chance, stop and watch these behemoths.
One group of riders stopped to eat at a large tourist trap. I’m told it took upwards of an hour to get their meals.
We picked up another four riders in Morro Bay. These folks came up from Los Angeles.
I wish I had the room to list all the great people who joined us on this ride. I will point out a pair of wounded warriors, Paul Wallace and Byron Atwater. Less than a month ago Paul fell off of his bicycle. Yes, bicycle. He suffered a punctured lung and several broken ribs. When his daughters learned that he rode the BWR, they had a hissy fit. Dad Wallace was placed on probation by the girls and his grandson. For Shame!
Byron had a double hernia operation three weeks before the ride. However, he had permission to ride. His lovely wife, who always sends chocolate chip cookies, gave him permission to ride. She assigned their son-in-law, Brad Bell to keep a close eye on Byron. To make his ride a better experience, Byron purchased an Ultra Classic.
The white Dodge truck is Lauren Camera’s Train Mobile. He has a real train whistle that he plays from time to time. Once in Burney Falls he sounded off and created pandemonium. There are no train tracks near this small mountain town. Everyone except us BW Runners stopped cold and looked in all directions for the train. Lauren has a habit of picking the perfect time and place to sound off. If the horn doesn’t get you, the authentic train bell mounted under the truck certainly will.
I’m leaning on Keith “Axiom” Wallace’s Ultra Classic. My touch gave it enough strength to run for a few more hours.
Rounding the corner and heading for home always brings a change in attitude. Much like the first day of a ride, you want to put on the miles. Our first day on this adventure we rode 440 miles, today I rode 432.
Jim and I agreed to ride about half way home and spend the night. Once we hit Redding, California, we knew we were headed home.
The weather was iffy leaving Crescent City but we decided against the heavy stuff.
We made it about forty miles before we had to stop for bridge construction. It was warming up and it looked like it would be a long stop so I took off my jacket and stowed my sweatshirt. I took a couple of shots of Jim stretching before putting my jacket back on. The camera fell out of my jacket pocket, hit the ground, and broke. There is nothing visible but the viewer remains black. It will record an image but you have no idea what you are shooting.
We saw warning signs for Elk. Rounding a gentle curve, I saw a white van stopped in the roadway. Jim braked, and just before he stopped, the van moved away. Wondering what had caused the stop, I scanned both sides of US 101. Grazing in the front yard of a ranger station were at least a dozen Elk.
Later, coming into McKinleyville I saw at least forty Elk peacefully munching a farmer’s alfalfa crop.
The following picture of the California Coast line was taken blind.
At Arcata, we turned east on California 299. 299 is a great ride and we have crossed it several times during Brown Water Runs.
I first crossed 299 more than fifty years ago. A freshman at Humboldt State College, I had relatives in Redding. So one Saturday morning I put out my thumb and away I went. Back then 299 was a true adventure, more like a corkscrew that a highway. I think the speed limit was 35 MPH. There were not a lot of warning signs. I got a ride on a loaded logging truck. It was an experience that I would not like to repeat.
About a month later, three fellow students and I decided to go to a dance at Chico State College. One of the guys had a cousin who was a student there. According to MapQuest it’s about 210 miles from Arcata to Chico. I know it was further back in 1962. It took us twelve hours each way. With the bald tires on my old Ford we slid across a few curves and off the road once or twice.
We slept on the floor at a Sorority house and had a ball at the dance. Chubby Checker was reigning supreme at the time. The only thing I remember clearly was doing the Twist.
Cal-Trans is still straightening out 299. We got stuck at a realignment project.
We passed a couple of cars on the right and pulled under a tree at the side of the road. The shade made it bearable. The picture was taken with my iPhone.
Once in Redding we fueled up and headed home. I-5 from Redding south can be best described as miserable and hot. I wasn’t disappointed.
Our next outing is only two weeks away. July 5th is the beginning of the 2013 Brown Water Run. We have over twenty riders confirmed.
Jim and I are already forecasting a ride for 2014. The plan is to ship the Harleys to Halifax, Nova Scotia. We’ll fly there and ride down the coast to New Orleans and ship the bikes home. The route is about 3,200 miles. But we never take the direct route. With Jim leading the way, we should cover at least 4,000 miles.
Jim has never been to Key West, Florida, and I am always up for a bit of scuba diving at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo. With any luck the Phantom will be well enough to join us, and maybe even a few other hardy souls.