With only a few miles into this, some of the really fast competitors are already way in front of me, miles and miles, Hell bent, wound up tight and long gone, gunning for an early lead at almost any cost. They can’t be seen and will not be seen until the other side.
The start line this morning was a gathering of sorts in the parking lot at the old California Inn on Main Street in Barstow, just a few city blocks from the interstate. Sixty or so of us lined up and took off at 6 a.m. sharp in a mayhem of fury to be in front of one another which, caused a few of us to collide at the bottleneck of the driveway. My skoot got hung up on another causing that competitor to stop while I accelerated. He fell into me a little as I got to put my feet down to steady my machine, it was simply a little rubbing with my morning coffee, that’s racing. My racing sense of reality is wrapped around me and I won’t be letting a little rubbing slow me down. Street signs and signal lights be damned, all ripped and roared down the Main Street hitting the freeway as a thunderous pack of earth shaking machines gunning for first place. Than there was F Bomb and I, oh sure we were happy to rip out of the parking lot but, we just cruised along when he hit the interstate, watching it all unfold in front of us. What a spectacle of mayhem this motley crew of racers knows how to make.
My friends and family may not be too happy to realize things like a little rubbing can and will happen during a race. My Pops understands completely what I am doing and is happy to assure the rest of them I will come out the other side ok. My girlfriend Ella, well I had to spend the last several weeks reassuring her that everything, mostly my safety would be fine. I have done this before and even though we refer to this as a race, it’s just a cool ride cross country on our old beat up choppers, yeah it’s not that, it’s a race. At the starting line I could see the fear in her beautiful dark eyes and questions on her youthful face. At 12 years my junior, she is 26, tall with long dark hair, long legs and a smile that would keep sailors at bay but here I am, leaving her in California with my Pops while I race on this rigid chopped machine. Damn I will miss her, and her soft warmth and large breasts out here on this cold hard road but, that is the price of this adventure. As a solution, I have already purchased a plane ticket for her, she is set to meet me on the other side at the finish line in 4 days if my machine and my body will get me there. She should be fine while I am gone. My Son on the other hand, well that little dude watched me pour a lot of time and effort into getting all this together. He is always right beside me eager to learn and wrench with me. It is my hope that my lifestyle of greasy hands, dirty skoots and racing don’t scar him too much rather, bestow upon him a sense of problem solving and maybe get him into some good summer work to keep him in school when he gets to that stage of his life. At 8 years old he is still young enough to think that his old man is cool. One day he may not think so but for now, it’s all good quality time and then I leave for a week or 2 to go off and race. This always leaves me wondering why I can’t just be like all the other regular Dads. Why can’t I just sit around in my slippers and smoking jacket, watching television in my big chair, weeding the garden on Saturday mornings, maybe drive all the neighborhood kids down for some ice cream. The simple answer is, I do, do well, some of that. In fact I do most of that except the sitting around watching the television part, I rarely sit. Oh I own a T.V. it’s hooked to the V.C.R. in a corner of the living room behind the doors of a custom cabinet I built. About once a month we might sit down to enjoy a classic but for the most part, we are always running and doing, keeping ourselves busy twiddling wrenches and rebuilding machines. I hope all this adds up for a good childhood for him. I pray that our time together is not wasted and he grows up with fond memories of his sqwirley Dad doing crazy things, all in the name of NEVER GROWING UP! I hope to never truly grow up but always keep growing, at no matter what crazy idea or dream I am living out or personal challenge in front of me, yeah, growing up is not for me anytime soon. Within a few miles I start to see some fellow competitors stopped on the roadside. I rubber neck a little but do not recognize any of them or their machines as I fly by. They seem to mostly be on their cell phones, calling for assistants while one or two of them are kicking their shiny machines. Darn I hate seeing machines being kicked like that. There are really only two types of machines or mechanical devices in this world, those that will break, and those that are broken. There always seems to be a few people in every crowd, happy to kick and blame the machine for their mechanical misfortunes, we all know them, or maybe once we were them or, we are them. Regardless, they pushed their machines so hard in the first several miles that the road gremlins came out and in turn, gave out for one mechanical reason or another.
One of the rules of this race is we, the competitor cannot have anyone chasing us. There is no assistance allowed from others behind you with truck and trailer full of tools to pick you up. If you get a tow or end up in a shop on route that’s cool, but those are strangers or friends offering you a service, not your own personal mechanic following you in an air conditioned rig pulling a box trailer with your name on it. With the spirit of this rule it is included that we, the fellow competitors do not stop and assist. We all have great respect for each other in what we do and how we do it but racing IS racing, right now these fellow racers are my competitors. I give a small wave and keep flying by.
Enjoying the calm desert smells interrupted by burnt oil and rich fuel mixtures, my morning coffee and some tobacco smoke, I can’t help but to laugh into my face shield remembering a time several years ago when I did actually pull over in the middle of Texas to assist a fellow competitor, a man known as The Grandpaw. He broke down on the side of the road on Interstate 10 which can get so long and straight in the middle of Texas that I was able to see him for miles ahead of me, rummaging through his tools he carried in old fanny packs strapped to the spare fuel cell rack on the back of his old Harley shovel rigid, I pulled behind him and dismounted.
“You are not supposed to stop!” Grandpaw yells at me in his northern accent over the big rigs whizzing by. Now, you have to know that I had just met Grandpaw a day earlier at the start of the race. My Pops actually introduced us, of course my Pops was there. They both starting chatting it up with Grandpaw who’s old harley shovel was torn apart in the parking lot of the motel for one reason or another. It may seem strange to do this without a garage around you but for us racers, it’s just part of what we do and common for us. We just always carry enough tools to rip our machines down as needed for maintenance or repair, it’s clothing and personal hygiene products we have trouble remembering to bring. My Pops is the type of man who can walk up and talk to anybody, especially about old chopped Harleys as I mentioned, he owned one when I was a little dude. Grandpaw himself is a retired miner from the furthest most northern parts of Minnesota. He is well built and lean and if you did not notice his grey hair, you would think he was in his early 30’s. You would also think he was getting ready to kick your ass if he did not smile at you through his thick glasses or you did not notice he was wearing red Chuck Taylor’s on his feet. I had known of him for years and was a big fan of his riding and his home rebuilt machines, mostly older shovel and knucklehead Harleys with Suicide clutches and simply beautiful paint jobs you can find easily in a crowd. He really is kind of a living legend in this race and the chopper world.
“I know.” I finally replied back. “I just wanted to make sure you got enough water and coffee and the like? ”
“Oh I am fine” Grandpaw yells back, “I have a flask of espresso shots, that’s plenty to drink till the tow truck gets here. My smokes are good as the last gas station had the non filtered I like. I think I blew my back cylinder, the race is over for me kid, I’m getting towed back to that town about 30 miles back, Seguin I think it was called, gonna buy a truck or something and we will see you at the finish line. Your time in this race is good young man, now get out of there before someone sees you, I’ll be fine!“
“Yes Sir” I screamed while running back to my machine, remounting and hauling ass out of there. What a wakeup call that was, this Man, Grandpaw has got to be in his late 60’s, he has been at this for years and made it this far. Why the heck would I ever think he would need any assistance from me? After that race we met up at the finish line, he thanked me for pulling over. I have learned it’s best to pull beside, or in front of fellow riders on the side of the road and throw a thumbs up and see what their response is. This gives them the chance to stay focused if needed on their roadside repair or, ask me for assistance without saying “Hey, I am Fucked, can you help me please?” lesson learned from one of the great ole timers, the man from the north known as The Grandpaw.
Reckless Kelly, “Wicked Twisted Road.” Red Dirt, Sugar Hill, 2005.
Back to today’s race, my new android type phone is mounted on the handlebars in a ridiculous looking rain proof case. I can see posts popping up on social media from friends stating that racers are falling out and breaking down just south of Las Vegas and can anyone NOT in the race assist them with a tow or parts etc. I just past those broken down guys, one with tools in hand on his knees but the others, simply on their phones. I can only imagine the stress of breaking down on your motorcycle in the desert with so many other competitors flying by. Maybe they did not even sleep the night before and were too tired to make rational decisions like, my skoot is dead, better get my tools and start a fixin on it so I can get back in the race or time for me to go through the process of elimination and see what I can figure out is the problem. Then it occurs to me, maybe they just don’t think that way? I have learned the hard way in my short life that I think, process and dispatch almost everything very differently from others. Be it my upbringing, or my right brain left handed thinking or my over attention to detail in my hyperactive disorders, I just process it all very differently than most and have to be careful not to offend those around me with my suggestions on problem solving. Gotta give these ‘dead on the side of the road’ racers a lot of credit for showing up and jumping into the arena. Credit will always be given to the man in the arena, win lose or draw. And who knows, they all might find there way back into the race yet, who knows, that’s all part of the sport we play. I’ve always been one to thinks it’s ok to take a few minutes and get to know your machine. If it fails, and you just pull over and call someone for help, you have not solved a damn thing, all you did was spend money on a tow. I will be thinking and pondering these ideas for the next several days on my ride in this race, why not, there is time, real time to think, ponder, live and breath as a human man while hauling some serious arse on my skoot. Also from here on out, let’s just simply refer to the motorcycle machine between my legs as a skoot. It is easier that way as so many people try to define this type of motorcycle from that type but in the end, it’s got two wheels, an engine and a few things in between that excite all the senses, it’s a skoot!
Reaching for my phone, I scroll though it slowly and carefully, I take a picture with the desert behind me and post it to social media, I think it includes my location on the road as well, i think. Now everybody should be able to figure out where I am and making good time. This may sound easy enough but with the a rigid frame of a chopped skoot comes, small sacrifices like, a stable or cushy platform. Everything is vibrating and ungelating violently. I can take my left hand off the bars simple enough but finding the buttons on the phone is work, that is, very hard to steady my hand enough to do. I accomplish this mostly by burying my elbow in my chest against my riding vest so the distance of my arm is less to navigate to the buttons on my phone. Oh and I cannot forget to pay a little attention to the road as well, I bet I could actually be cited and fined for this. My handlebars are new to the skoot, I picked them up a few months ago at the Long Beach motorcycle parts swap meet, a $15 dollar score. They replaced my old set that were a pretty tradition ape hanger that i mangled when i flew over them in the last race, but that’s another story. These new bars used to be chrome and needed some welding on but are just perfect for me as a caress them and hold them tight. Leaning back just right, they spread perfectly for my shoulders and arms. As I grip them, they reminds me of a perfect set of hips on that perfectly built woman for my wide shoulders and frame.
My helmet and a corner of my face is in the picture and Immediately I get a lot of responses and comments of good wishes. All the fun you can have with friends on the open road,gotta love this social media stuff.
This road stretches out before me, seeming to have no beginning and no end.I know it is mine, I will make it so astride my skoot with the wind covering me in kisses while the land surrounds me as a reminder that I am home, out here on the road. This is my home as this is my choice to compete and conquer this road in all its glory. It will be all mine, I will run it my way, for my reasons, always home, on my road.