Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Last Leg...Limp$ - ♪ ♫ I know I shouldn't done that ♩ ♬ #Fallin jZ


I find route 66 and follow that on to Oklahoma City and Amarillo. The romance of Route 66 continues to captivate people around the world. And the people I met at the gas pumps, lunch counters or stopped along the road were literally from every corner. Running between Chicago and Los Angeles, “over two thousand miles all the way” in the words of the popular R&B anthem, this legendary old road passes through the heart of the United States on a diagonal trip that takes in some of the country’s most archetypal roadside scenes. If you’re looking for great displays of neon signs, rusty middle-of-nowhere truck stops, or what many would call "kitschy" Americana...this is the way to it.

One thing I hadn't planned on was the Seaca Motorcycle museum along the way. The Seaca family had owned a gas pump in this location and later it became a machine shop house. The new owners wanted to keep the Seaca name since it was already a recognizable one on route 66. The gentleman working the counter is an old retired school teacher and he gives you a great tour of the collection inside. I took a few pics, hopefully not too much to bore you. :P












Its seemingly amazing that such early examples of motorcycle still remain as some of the most striking examples. That the first draft still stands as the most attractive in the minds of many serious bike lovers. 

I hop onto I-40 for a spell and open the rig up. I get her up to about 75mph surprisingly with little effort. Compared to my last bike this is cruising speed in 3rd gear. But for a 40 year old bike like this it feels more like 200mph. Strong winds soon move in and I slow down as the shifting winds seem to wreck havoc on my carbs. No sooner do I think it, and I look up and see the massive wind mills lining the upcoming landscape.


I enter a small corridor of Texas before getting into New Mexico. Here in this small town on route 66 I find these lovely old brick buildings many of them empty and dilapidated but decorated with these lovely murals and large abandoned farm equipment.






I stop for rest, stretch my legs and a snack. Some time around midnight I make it over the New Mexico state line. I continue further looking for a decent place to crash. Taking a few exits with no luck and returning to the main road again and again. Just as I start to falter, I stumble onto a the visitor welcome center. The elevations here are very high, cold strong winds and the ground is hard. I head over to the truckers area and park near a light post. I lay out my bag in the half grass half dirt area and doze off to sleep. I wonder briefly if a wandering critter might want to find warmth in my sleeping bag. A possum would be a bit shy but I could see a skunk just heading right in. I'm not sure which, but between that thought and the cold wind, I manage to hold the top of my bag rolled tight and closed under my head while I sleep for about 3 hours.

When I get up its just as dark and cold. I wonder if it will get warmer here once the sun rises. I thought heading south would have rid me of these temperatures. But these dessert climates are notorious for as oppressive cold nights as their days are warm. I'm reminded of the elevation by my carbs. Driving in the mountains, particularly as it pertains to oxygen levels and atmospheric pressure, presents special challenges to vintage vehicles. And so I find myself unable to maintain highway speeds with what little traffic is found on the roads. I repeatedly see the large rigs indicating to change lanes in my rear view mirrors and then going around me. Eventually its so bad I resolve to riding in breakdown lane up hills. Maybe its best anyway, the landscape here is stunning. It shouldn't be viewed wizzing by at 75mph anyway. The hues of salmon, terracotta and gold littered with cattle and livestock meet the large clear blue sky incredibly....I'm content with limping on.




Soon I need to stop again for fuel. While talking motorcycles with 2 older gentleman in the storefront we notice a slow leak on my front tire. They direct me to the air hose and I fill it up. I decide to have a bottle of water and keep an eye on how quickly the slow leak works its way back down. One of the guys mentions that these roads are heavily traveled by big rigs and the reinforcing wire in these tires gets thrown into the lanes and often causes slow leaks in people tires.

A half hour passes and the pressure seems to maintain. I ask the guys for a local spot to fix it and they tell me one exit up I can find a place. I wait a while longer for good measure and then cautiously head out.

I ride down I40 monitoring the leak repeatedly. About halfway to the next exit, at the 272 mile marker I noticed the tire getting low again. I check my mirrors and start downshifting and reducing my speed. I had packed a can of fix a flat and thought it good to get some of that in there as a stop gap until I get to the exit. Something that I noticed several days ago is the I40 road has an elevated roadway, it steps down several inches as you enter the breakdown lane and is met immediately with a pretty aggressive rumble strip, which I am sure works great for waking up dozing truckers and drivers. As you can imagine it's less welcoming to motorcyclist and even more daunting with a flat front tire. As I enter breakdown lane my front end spins and the bike and I are both thrust back into the right traffic lane.

As the bike spills beneath me I am able to briefly hop on top of bike but soon after lose my footing. I see the red pickup truck that was far behind me now much closer, nose dipped as it screeches behind me and swerves into the breakdown lane. As I loose my footing I find myself thrown into somersaults rolling sideways end over end closer to the left lane occupied by a semi tractor trailer. As I flip over and over I clearly see the smoke from the semis tires locked and my ears are filled with the roar as it slam its brakes. Its like something in a movie, with the camera spinning with everything in slow motion. I can remember each time as I came into contact with the pavement, my hands on the ground pushing myself away from the semi - feeling the full brunt of my body weight amplified by the momentum of travel. It felt like 300 lbs instead of my body weight of 180. After about the second impact I found my arms folding under the weight and tumbling over. The bike and I both grind to a stop...I get up and check limbs while looking for oncoming traffic and it seems stopped even several vehicles back from the red pickup and semi. I pick up the bike as I see the trucker and others running towards me to help. They seemed shock that I had gotten up so quickly and hesitate to help me with the bike and instead barrage me with questions if I am OK or not. At the time I wasn't sure if it was just adrenaline or not but I didn't feel anything except a slightly sore elbow.

Alex's rain gear in shreds, I take it off to get a closer look and make sure I am not actually injured and just in shock. The woman from the red truck agrees to call for roadside assistance for me and soon a state cop and paramedics are on their way.

The paramedics clear me. There is literally not a scratch on me, not even on my sore elbow. They head off and the cop and I wait for the wreckers to come tow the bike to a local garage where I can assess what's next. While waiting we sit in the cab of the police car talking about what happened, filled out all the paperwork and eventually we are talking life as a cop in New Mexico and challenges in relationships. His fiance and daughter are both back in El Paso 4 hours away.

He's 32 years old, of Mexican decent from El Paso Texas and hates working this area. He talks about the challenges of working a community with Native Americans and engaging the FBI once they flee to the reservations. That everyone on the force is from somewhere outside the community and also doesn't want to work this beat except one female officer who may distrust, he didn't admit the distrust part but it seemed apparent. I wonder if she was Native American or not. I vaguely recalled that one of the paramedics had asked me if the cop was a female and then muttered something under her breath.

Soon enough the wreckers come and I find myself helping them load the bike onto the truck. I get a closer look and it seems the only damage to the bike in addition to the front flat is a broken shifter knob and ground thru engine stater cover.
I can't say the same for my phone and pen. :(
Here you can see the visible damage to the bike, it seems this and the saddle bags took the brunt of the impact at first glance.
Back at the Ortegas garage, Leonard one of the young mechanics and I note that the front forks seem to have taken some the impact as well, as the front axle seemed difficult to reinstall after taking the front wheel off.

The whole experience was a bit like something I was watching and not really experiencing. Like yelling at the movie screen and telling the actor what to do. I can remember the thoughts rushing thru my brain. Telling myself I knew better regarding these breakdown lanes, that I should have come to a complete stop when it was safe to instead and then walked the bike into the lane. That maybe using the can of fix a flat in my saddle bag should have been done when I filled up and instead of waiting till now. That of the many concessions that I made regarding supplies, a spare inner tube should not have been one of em. That maybe I should have settled for not having whitewalls and gone with tubeless tires. That had I gone my original route this would have never happened. Damn Feds closing Rushmore. That had I done this trip in May....a flood of thoughts in a fraction of a second. All the while processing also what I had to do to stay out of that lane where the trucker was screeching to a stop. Humbled.

George the owner with his wife Bella

Back at the Ortegas garage, they made me entirely at home. They helped me take care of some errands and make arrangements for my next steps. My capitalist friend wires cash to soften my next steps. At first the goal was to get the spare parts and getting back on the road. But it now being Friday in a small town where very few businesses are open in weekends soon deflated that thought, despite that we make a new gear shifter, drilling the broken one and adding a few nuts, a bolt and rubber hose. A local friend, Rick, of the garage nearby had several similar sized tubes but unfortunately, despite trying...no dice.

This Towns largest employers are the restaurants and motels. George and Bella are known everywhere. I assumed it was cause of their garage which seems to have the inside tract on hauling wrecks off the highway and doing local repairs. Hell, both the trooper and the paramedics recommended the garage. The cop had a card. Instead I found out it was because George used to race cars back in his hay. In fact the place I got my over sized inner tube from, Bozo's, that owner and George were the big local racing rivals, now they are friends and fellow business owners and pillars in the community.

Bella would make arrangements to drive me halfway to Albuquerque Saturday morning and her daughter in-law, Ellen, would meet us and take me the rest of the way to get me to the airport in time for my flight. During that 100 mile ride to Albuquerque we talk about the events of the accident, why I took this trip, their lives in New Mexico and much more. Good folks who I will never forget. :)

Bella recommended a place nearby where I could stay the night for short money. I call and grab a room at the La Loma Motel. The kid working the counter gave me the seniors citizen discount at my word. :P


Next door was Josephs Bar and Grill where I would have dinner that evening. Later I would follow some bikers to Angry Wife Brewery and debate about morality vs legality. Saturday morning before leaving I head over for a coffee and biscuits. Behind me two truckers are talking relationships and women with kids. One of them had dated a woman, who he loved dearly, with a son with mental issues, yet after two years called it quits. The son a teenager was living with the father mostly but refusing to take his medication and was often violent and uncontrollable. He told her if the son came back home he would leave her. Soon enough the son came back, as his father soon became overwhelmed. The trucker explained how the conversation went. That it was calm. He listened to her go on and explain everything. He held her. He kissed her. He told her he couldn't stay and he left. He spoke plainly like so many people in this part of country do. But at the same time I heard much more than he wasn't saying. Maybe an honesty and self assessment that others do not possess. Or maybe he was just an asshole.

Now dating a woman with grand kids, Sharon, who's son in law is a professor from the east coast and acts like a know it all, and no one in the family likes him. Always knows a better way and a terrible listener. I recall when I first moved to Florida at 23 and learned how rude I was compared to Southerners who didn't view interrupting each other during a conversation as an intellectual exercise in playful banter. On one of my routine flights home to Boston there was a US Air article about an activist from California who helped with the Valdez cleanup. He was so shocked by what he saw, he was soon consumed by speaking about it at evrry chance he got. He slowly drove his family, friends and anyone he came into contact with crazy. Soon he was an outcast. One day he become depressed by this fact and resolved not to say anything about the gross abuse we have done to the environment. What he realized during that day was that his silence had a more powerful result on them then all his words combined before. He soon decided to take vows of silence for weeks at a time and then months and eventually he took years. During those years he traveled, spoke publicly thru translators and obtained various degrees while become a renown spokesperson for environmental issues. Eventually he decided to speak again and when asked what he learned from his vow of silence, he admitted he realized he was never really listening to others before. He was always thinking of his response when others were talking. He was assuming what they meant and deciding how to chance the trajectory of the conversation - and that very different than listening. Very different.


Soon enough 8:30 comes and its time to meet my ride. Santa Rosa has been kind to me, despite the fact that my bike crashed here and sits there now. I'll have to make arrangements to get her the rest of the way home.

The two truckers start talking about their bill. One is gonna treat. He comments about how he keeps his cash in his wallet. Big bills in the back/bottom. Smaller bills in front. They laugh, the other agrees, "must be a guy thing". That's the simple way of these parts that attracts me. In the cities it's the reverse. A guy will have a crispy hundred dollar bill covering a stack of singles, flashing it at any chance. I smirk. Leave my tip and leave. Along my way home some would say I was lucky, that god was watching out for me if you believe in that sort of thing or maybe he just has a more exciting way for me to go. I listened and agreed with them all.


"I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture fills
Like that above."

"...for it is with madness that he rides..."~ 2 Kings 9:20

7 comments:

  1. Wow what I ride, and no, ya shouldn'ta did that ("Falling" is a fave cut off the American Gangster album). Very Kerouac btw.

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  2. Yes WOW indeed! Not a scratch? Yeah i believe that was God protecting you :-P Great story bro...tell it again!

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  3. Glad you're safe; that's some scary stuff. I've been living vicariously through your journey and have enjoyed reading the blog immensely. Get back to Cali safely and keep in touch.

    -Alex

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  4. O_O
    so that's what you meant by 'dramatic conclusion'. i'm glad you're alright! sum'n told me i shoulda tried to keep you in chicago a lil longer, lol.

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  5. Wow, what a trip..so glad you're safe AND had good times.

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  6. Hey CJ. Thanks for sharing your adventure. Aside from your great writing here, the story was great to follow. I'm putting together my own cross country motorcycle trip, albeit a southern route, Hoboken, NJ to San Diego, CA by way of New Orleans and mine might be a tad more comfy on my 04 Harley Road Glide, but still a great read. I'm starting up a blog to catalogue my trip, Craig On A Motorcycle. Any advice or ideas you have would be greatly appreciated. I hope California has treated you well over the last year. Take care and thanks again.

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