Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

07 June 2011

Florida to Washington By Motorcycle: It Gets Worse (Part 3)

Our story so far: An intrepid-if-stupid blogger who shall remain nameless (me) thought it would be "fun" to travel from Pensacola, Florida to Brewster, Washington - a total of 2,600+ miles - on a Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle. Easy-peasy three-day trip! Um...not.

TUESDAY, May 24, 2011
Once I was done with the challenge of crossing Bighorn National Forest on one of their late-season snow days (see previous post), I thought it would be clear sailing up Hwy 310 to Laurel where I’d reconnect with I-90. Heh. Foolish boy…

From Greybull, you go north on 310 through the towns of Lovell, Cowell, Deaver and Frannie. Passing through Lovell I saw a sign that said,

“Rte 310 Under Construction, 20 Miles. Motorcyclists Consider Alternate Route.”

Wait... What? I thought I was already on the alternate route! The rain was now so heavy that I really couldn’t stop to pull out a map to find yet another alternate. Plus, I missed that bit about 20 miles of construction. I figured after Bighorn, how bad could it be?

Rte 310 from the Wyoming/Montana border north to the town of Bridger is not really a road. If you look on Google Maps they do show a road, especially if you zoom down to the street view- they show a narrow, paved two-lane road. But trust me, there is no road there anymore.

Evidently Montana had chosen the Spring of 2011 to re-do the ENTIRE road. They tore it up, built it up higher and made it wider. Then they graded it with a bulldozer. You know the staccato vibration your car makes when you go down a road over the evenly spaced ruts from the tracks of a bulldozer? Imagine 20 miles of that at 30 mph. On a motorcycle. In heavy rain. I thought the bike might actually come apart…disassemble itself out in the middle of nowhere. And actually, it almost did.

The road was wide enough - almost four lanes wide now, so I kept hunting for a clear track. But the traffic was actually pretty heavy, what with all of us that were detoured off I-90 in the first place. The 18-wheelers routinely doused me with mud. The "road" was more slippery than greased baby snot and my tires fought for traction. But at least I was now heading in the right direction! (That’s an optimist for you.)

At one point, I heard a clanking and looked down to see my sidestand flapping in the breeze. The little spring that keeps it folded up was gone. Shit! I pulled over and stopped. I saw that I could put a bungee cord on it to keep it secured (which is what I did), but I’d have to replace the spring and had no idea where the nearest Harley dealer was. So I walked back, retracing my steps. To my amazement, I saw the spring lying there in the middle of the road not too far back. Waiting for a lull in the traffic, I retrieved it and put it in my pocket. No way to put it back on without tools. And I didn’t have any.

A woman construction worker came over. “You broke down?” I told her no, and showed her what happened. “Well there’s a gas station with a garage up in Bridger,” she offered. How far? “Ohhhh, still about ten miles.” Great. I wanted to take a picture of the mess, but it was raining so heavily that I didn’t want to pull my camera out. I just got back on the bike and soldiered on. The handlebars felt like I was holding a jackhammer. I'll tell ya, sometimes it's hard to maintain a sense of humor about things.

It was still pouring when I finally made Bridger. Even so, I stopped at one of those self-service car washes and hosed off the bike. And my boots. And my rainsuit. And my luggage. I found the reported gas station/tire store. The proprietor quickly told me to pull it in. He went to the adjacent convenience store and got me a cup of hot coffee – on the house. His mechanic had the spring back in place in no time, and they wouldn’t take any money for it. I must have looked really pathetic. With the bike fixed, I had some convenience store lunch and was back on my way.

After the cold and snow of Bighorn National Forest, and the horribly rough road and slippery mud of Hwy 310 back up to the Interstate, the heavy rain as I traveled westbound was not a problem. In fact, it was kind of comforting in a way: It was only rain. But it was incessant. And I knew it wasn’t going to let up. And it was cold, but not that cold.

Around three p.m. I stopped for gas at Big Timber, Montana, just an interchange with a truck stop/casino/motel. While waiting for Mikey to return a phone call (gotta love phone tag), I stood in the vestibule of the big complex, thankful for the chance to be out of the rain for a bit. A car pulled in and a young guy, obviously a local kid hopped out. As he entered the vestibule he noticed me and asked, somewhat rhetorically if I was waiting out the rain.

I said casually. “I think it’s only a little shower. It should be clearing up soon and I’ll be on my way.” Mind you, it was pouring like a cow doing you-know-what on a flat rock at the time.

The kid didn’t say anything for a while. He just stared at me as if I had come from another planet. Finally he looked outside and said, really skeptically and slowly, “Mister…I…don’t…think…this…rain…is…gonna…stop. It’s been raining like this here for three days! There are flood advisories for counties all around here!”

I knew that, of course (well not the flood advisories but I was not surprised). But what are you gonna do? Continuing my little joke, I expressed my doubts about what he’d said, assuring him that it would be clearing very soon. He just shook his head and went inside. Shortly afterward, he showed up at the cashier which was right inside the door. She was facing away from me, so I did not hear her question to him. But I heard the boy’s incredulous response.
“Yeah, he’s waiting out the rain. He thinks it’s just a shower! And that it’s going to stop soon!” And then I heard a bunch of people laugh. So there must’ve been more than just him and the cashier at the counter.

Mikey never did call me back, the bastard. So I saddled up and headed out again. I thought I was through the worst of it and that I might make Missoula, Montana - only 265 miles ahead - by dusk. God had other plans though. And they weren’t good. This day wasn't done with me yet. Incredibly, the worst was yet to come.


Redlefty said...

Dude, no words here. Just want you to know I've been following.

Anonymous said...

OK.... I being an aviator ( at least I have credentials that say so...) have always known, well at least suspected, that rotor wing guys were a little bit different if you know what I mean. DUDE! seriously, how can this get any better (or worse), I mean really!
I have done a lot of things in life but I am beginning to think that they are all small in comparison! We wish you well. By the way, family and I are in Orange Beach and sure wish you could bike over and have dinner as we did last time. I eagerly await further posts....I think.
Take care,ride safe, and be well,

Debby said...

Oi, Bob. Just...oi. I'm pretty sure that God isn't doing this because He hates you. Unless of course, He hates you so much he's willing to punish an entire state to teach you a lesson. So...pretty sure, this is not all happening because God hates you.

I'm trusting that you're where you need to be, safe and sound.