I was sitting in my favorite biker watering hole Saturday, sipping on a beer, listening to the rock music on the juke, chatting with some friends, and watching the usual parade of bikes coming and going. Presently a couple rode in on a Harley bagger (that's one of the big touring bikes, with the fairings and hard saddlebags, for you non-biker readers) who both looked as road-weary as a trucker who got stuck out for six weeks or so. They knew some of the same people I was talking to and sat at the table next to mine.
They were returning from a trip out to the rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, which I talked about in my entry last week and they had tried to set a personal record on the return trip home. They had attempted to try for the elusive Iron Butt Award which some biker club hands out every year. This is an endurance contest which is legendary in biker circles. They had attempted to run approximately 1,800 miles, from Sturgis to Knoxville in two days, or 48 hours, or less. My eyes went wide at the thought of that feat and I was chuckling. Folks, that is territory where even long-haul truckers like myself rarely, if ever, venture. And on a motorcycle, to boot!! Ambitious? Absolutely. Crazy?? Positively. Still, some hardy souls will attempt such things. The lady of the couple held up the pin they'd won for their efforts.
I couldn't keep quiet. "Was it worth it?" I asked them both. They both grinned wearily and she rolled her eyes back in her head. He laughed. "Well, I wouldn't ever do it again, I'll tell you that," he said. "I heard that," I agreed. "How many times did you come close to crashing?" "Too many," he admitted. "We had some good scares a few times," she added. "Well, I'm glad you made it back in one piece," I told them. I looked up toward the sky. "Somebody up there was lookng out for you."
I can visualize the fatigue they must have gone through, and what that can do to you I know all too well, from ten years of over-the-road experience. There have been times in my truck, especially in the wee morning hours, when I began nodding out at the wheel, fighting tooth and nail to stay awake and alert, in order to avoid killing myself and/or somebody else who shared the road with me. On a motorcycle you have to be even more alert at all times, only in that case, it's to keep somebody in a truck or car from killing you! I make my living driving and dealing with fatigue is part of the job at times; there is at least some justification for it, even though I know that one should never drive in a fatigued condition. It's just unavoidable in some circumstances; the nature of the beast. In the case of that couple, the whole thing was voluntary; they didn't have to do such a thing at all. I try to never judge others, but that's sure not something that I would ever attempt, under any circumstances. I want to enjoy myself riding my bike and they sure didn't look like they'd had much fun at all on that trip. To me, that defeats the purpose of the whole thing.
A short time later, Ol' Charley (as I'll call him) rode up and came in to have a beer. He sat down at my table. Charley owns two Honda Goldwing touring machines, both painted in the same shade of green. They're both older bikes, dating back to the early 80's. Charley is a regular at Coyote Joe's and Saturday he came in on the newer of his bikes, one that had been parked for six months and that he felt needed to be ridden again.
"Lost my fender today," he told me, pointing to his bike, which indeed was missing its front fender. I could see the end of it, sticking up out of the right-hand saddlebag. I laughed. "Now that's sure not your usual biking experience," I told him. "Just how the hell did that happen?" He went on to tell me that he had trashed the original fender awhile back and had taken the one off his older bike and stuck it on the newer one. "I just started the bolts in it. Never tightened them all the way up, then I didn't ride it for six months and. . ." "And you forgot all about it," I finished. "Yep," he confirmed. "Sure did."
He told me that he'd gotten as far as the entrance ramp to I-640 before the bolts had worked loose and the fender had come flying off, right in the middle of the ramp. "It landed right on the white line at the outside of the ramp," he added. "Oh, no!!" I groaned. Several listeners around the table laughed. "Cars and 18-wheelers were swerving around it and me, trying to avoid running over it, but one truck did hit it. Squashed one end of it. I waited for what seemed like ten minutes before there was a break in traffic,then I ran out there, to grab it real quick, but I fell, right in the middle of the ramp!"
I laughed until my stomach hurt, getting a mental picture of what that scene must have looked like. "They were blowing their horns at me and I could just reach out and grab the fender, so I did. Then I rolled -- two or three barrel rolls on my belly, back across the ramp to the shoulder where I'd parked. They were cheering me from the cars, yelling, 'Way to go!' and the like. I got up and stuck the fender in my saddlebag."
We went out to his bike and looked at the fender he pulled out of his saddlebag. The back end of it was flattened. Useless and too light to use as a boat anchor. "'82 model," he said. "I'll never find another one for it now." Several guys suggested he try looking around at swap meets in the area. "You never know," I told him. "Look in some of the biker magazines. They have dealers who specialize in vintage parts for older bikes. Somebody might come up with one." I told him some of the mags I had seen those ads in and he said he'd look for them and check it out. I told him I'd poke around online and let him know if I came up with anything.
I thought I was embarrassed when I dumped Velvet on the parking lot of the Harley shop while I was on vacation a couple of weeks ago, but Charley's experience tops my own by a mile. I'm gonna collect these incidents and compile a book someday. Something with a title like, 1001 Ways To Embarrass Yourself On A Motorcycle. Wonder if that would make the best-seller list??