Captainrat's Chronicle 89

Motorcycle Trip II: The Reunion

MONDAY, JUNE 26, 1989
It had been 4 years since my last cross-country trip on the Ratster, and I was ready for another one. The occasion was my 25-year high school reunion, though I also wanted to visit Gypsy Claar in Kansas again, spend time with my son in Lee's Summit, Missouri, and see my stepmother and my boyhood home.

On the Road
I finally left Phoenix around noon. The odometer read 46,420 miles at the start. I stopped at the Sunset Point rest stop. The white Ford that seemed to be following me went on by. All seems well so far. Riding is a lot more comfortable this time with a softer seat. It's a nice sunny day.

The drain plug in the transmission fell out. I improvised a rubber plug from a piece of oil hose stopped with a bicycle tube air valve, screwed in and wired to the frame. It should stay.
Gasoline: $3.50 at $1.11 a gallon. 46,568 miles; 47 mpg.

Holbrook, Arizona, 6:45 pm
The termperature has been cooler since before Flagstaff. It's warm and sunny, but you can wear leather comfortably on the highway. I'll gas up here just in case: 46,673 miles, $2.00 for 1.7 gallons.

Gallup, New Mexico, 9:30 pm
When it got dark approaching Gallup, it got rather chilly. I added a wool shirt under the leather and was still cold riding. The rest stop outside of Gallup was closed, so I rode into town, got food and coffee, and considered a motel. I stopped at one advertising $13, but of course there were no rooms of that price left. It would be $18, which wasn't bad, but I didn't like that tactic and preferred not to spend the money anyway. Gallup is quite old-fashioned looking. I was looking for a convenience store, and it was a while before I found the generic equivalent of one to get a cup of coffee, some vitamins, and information.
The clerk directed me to a small park just outside of town. Camping conditions were not ideal, but I found a spot where I could sleep slightly secluded next to the bike. There were some interesting signs in the park: one said No Alcohol or Drugs, featuring the circle/slash symbol over a marijuana leaf. Another said No Unloading Livestock, with a sign below it reading Use Trash Bins
One can picture a semi load of cattle being let off the truck so they could graze and shit in the park. How the trash bins provide an alternative, I'm not sure.
Sleeping was a bit chilly; it would have been good to have a sleeping bag, but I managed it, waking several times at nearby noises. No one actually bothered me, though.

June 27, 7:00 am
It's still cool with the sun up. I went to a nearby restaurant for coffee and breakfast. Gasoline: $2.00 for 1.7 gallons at 46,778 miles
Grant's, New Mexico; 9:30 am;
The odometer has stopped odometing, at 46,833 miles, so there'll be no more mileage figures.
In Albuquerque I filled up with $3.50 at $1.04 a gallon. I discovered I left behind my adjustable wrench for the rear axle nut, so I had to buy a pair of slip-joint pliers for $8 at K-Mart. The girl I asked for directions to the K-Mart was a real fox.
I found that I needed to use sunscreen. The sun is intense, despite the cooler air.

Moriarty, New Mexico, 2:00 pm
Their sign promises a McDonald's that wasn't built yet, but the Burger Queen had a chili dog with real good chili. I got gas in Milato, New Mexico: $2.35. In Tucumcari I gassed up again: $2.50, and briefly met the most beautiful girl I'd seen yet near the convenience store at First St and Business I-40. If I had lots of time and money...

June 28, 1989, 4:42 am: the Quack of Dawn
I awake by a lake in a secluded weeded clearing just outside Dalhart, Texas, to a chorus of quackers. It was a much better campsite than the last, despite the Texas mosquitoes and the nonreseblance of the ground to a mattress. It's a small placid lake. I heard fish playing last night; this morning it's a duck dawn.
I was going to stop at a bar last night for a beer, but they close at midnight in this Texas county, and it was about that time. As I was unlocking the bike to leave, one of the departing Texans with a pickup truck offerred me a cold beer. It was a Coors Light, but that didn't matter-- friendly is friendly. Probably a lot of Texans deal with their patchwork liquor laws with big coolers built into the back of their pickups, so there's always a cold beer.
It was warm enough sleeping last night, and the view of the stars was great. I counted 18 billion and some, but toward the end I got confused by a UFO that kept moving. It might have been a firefly.
It was a bit chilly at dawn, but the sun was beginning to illuminate the earth and warm it. If I'd brought my sawed-off 12-guage, I probably could have gotten 4 or 5 ducks in one shot, but I didn't have time for a big breakfast. Better just to duck into a cafe on the way. I found a use for the helmet: it keeps the kickstand from sinking into the soft dirt.

Dalhart, Texas, 8:00 am Gas: $2.85 at $1.14. About 320 miles to Hutchinson, Kansas. The atlas says it's 1040 miles from Phoenix to Wichita, 1238 to Kansas City.
I rode through Hooker, Oklahoma, where, the signs say, the Hooker Lions welcome you, and you're invited to the Hooker Pig Sale.
To raise funds, the Lions Club could sell their own brand of lead weights for fishermen. They could call it the Hooker Lions' Sinker
Liberal, Kansas, 10:00 am
I added $2.25 in gas at $1.13, and the first 1/2 quart of oil. No time to tour Dorothy's house. Maybe next time.
11:30 am: Meade, Kansas Home of the Dalton Gang Hideout....That makes me wonder: do Americans still love outlaws like they used to? At one time, outlaws (bank and train robbers, fast guns, etc.) were the symbol of freedom for the common man. They were what one might be if only one dared, and they usually struck blows against the established greed-heads who were becoming rich by making the people poorer. Most people knew how the system worked, so they secretly or openly applauded the outlaw who took some of it back. Perhaps there were few Robin Hoods; the outlaws usually kept the money, but in the eyes of the people they did it for those who didn't dare to do it themselves.
In simpler times people understood these things. Freedom was still the most important concept when there was still a frontier. When absolute freedom was just over the horizon, fewer people were willing to be oppressed, either legally or economically.
Media now voice the concern of the established greed-heads and portray would-be outlaw heroes as Public Enemies. We live perceiving the world through glass eyes and paper ears, and many of us believe their distortions. Now we accept curtailments of our own freedom in the name of safety. Will we ever see through our own eyes again?

Greensburg, Kansas, 1:24 pm
Gas: $2.50 at $1.11. It's about 100 miles to Hutchinson. I'll be stopping to see Gypsy there, but just staying one night because I need to be at the high school reunion when it occurs. I'll stop longer on the way back.
I arrived in Hutchinson around 4:00 pm. I changed my watch to CDT, making it 6:00. I had a little trouble finding Gypsy's house because I thought it was B Street, not B Avenue (to B, or to B?) Gypsy said I should avoid South Hutchinson next time. I didn't know the town was big enough to have two sides. The water tower marks the corner. It has cost about $23.00 in gas to get this far.

July 29, 6:30 pm
I left Hutchinson, heading to Lee's Summit, Missouri, after buying $2.50 gas at $0.99. I got on the wrong highway at Newton; I-135 instead of US-50, due to a poorly marked intersection, which took me 8 miles out of the way. After stopping for gas in Emporia ($2.50), I arrived in Lee's Summit around midnight.

June 30, 12:30 pm
Headed for Hannibal, Missouri, boyhood home of Mark Twain and I, via US-24, the most direct route. I've always preferred non-freeway highways anyway, especially on the bike. I arrived around 5:00 pm.

Hannibal High School, Class of 1964, 25-year Reunion
Although I knew very few of them then, it seems that as a whole the class of '64 are not a bad bunch, and some of them are actually interesting.
Carole Coats was one of the girls who looks better now than she did then, and from a brief conversation I was impressed with her searching mind and original thinking, as well as her vital, healthy body and radiant smile.
There was Brad Brice and his French wife. They gave me a Bible. That was nice, I suppose, but pushing religion is not what I consider friendly. One of the things I respect most about Judiasm is that it doesn't seek converts. Lou Jaworsky still has a great attitude and sense of humor. I recall many years ago he introduced me to the first Mothers of Invention album.
Carolyn Lugering wasn't there, but someone told me she still looks good, as I would have imagined she would.
Carol Mann was, overall, the best-looking woman attending. She lives in San Antonio now. Nancy Williams was another pretty one. Frank Maddox was the only other Harley rider there. He rides with the Vietnam Vets MC. My old friend Charles Janosz was supposed to be there, but he wasn't.
Reunions aren't so much about nostalgia as about satisfying curiosity. And interacting with people for any reason can be good. I tried to get together with Carole Coats, but our schedules didn't mesh before I had to head back West. She tried to call me in Hannibal just after I had left. Too bad; who knows what might have been?

Westward Ho
I headed back to Lee's Summit, then back to Hutchinson, Kansas, now that I have time to spend several days to spend with Gypsy. Visiting Gypsy is always relaxing and peaceful and pleasureable. We think and feel the same in lots of ways. But we have separate lives in separate places. I'm not sure either of us could join the other's. Still, I enjoy being with her when I can. She suggested my route back to Phoenix, through Taos, New Mexico.

July 12, 1989, 2:30 pm
Leaving Hutchinson, I rode into Dodge city around 5:00 and stopped for gas. About 30 miles west of Dodge, the sky began to look dark ahead. A damp chill tinged the wind. I knew I was about to meet the bane of motorcyclists. I was headed for rain. I pulled over at my next opportunity and unpacked my leather jacket. Then, deciding to be really prepared, I dug out my waterproof pants and pulled them on I wanted to be ready for the rain. I restarted the Ratster and rode on toward the dark horizon. The wind picked up and got colder. Lightening flashed. Then it hit. A shotgun blast of hail struck my head and face. Eighty mph winds lashed horizontal rain into my right ear. There was no getting ready for this except being indoors. I stopped on a side road and parked the bike high side toward the wind. It sheltered me somewhat from the blast. I peeked periodically at the sky for funnel clouds. The wind went on and on with the horizontal rain. When it finally slowed, I began to get wetter, so I got out my tarp and made a tent with myself as the center pole. I'm not Polish, but it worked anyway. Finally, with difficulty, I could roll a cigarette. The ligher failed in the wetness, but the waterproof matches worked. Another eternity later the rain slowed to a trickle. I packed up and rode into the face-peppering sprinkle, 30 miles to Ulysses, my Oddysey nearly over for the day, to the Wagonbed Motel. The pretty desk clerk charged me $23 for a room with a tiny frog on the floor and Electroglide in Blue on TV.

Thursday, July 13
It shows promise of a Brighter Day, though there are still Dark Shadows of clouds. We'll see how the story unfolds As the World Turns. Perhaps I'll have dry weather when I reach the Edge of Night.
What else but soap operas while at the laundromat? Actually, the dryers are performing a Soap Ballet, drying what got rained on yesterday. Nothing much dried hanging in the motel room overnight. I had to replace the 20-year-old rope that held my mailbag closed.
Once dry I followed US-160 to Trinidad, Colorado, then I-25 south to Raton, and US-64 west to Taos, New Mexico. Though clouds periodically behaved in a threatening manner, I avoided rain on the road to Trinidad. Eastern Colorado looked a lot like Western Kansas: flat plains. There's even a National Grasslands, since they couldn't call it a forest without trees. Well, they could, but everyone would laugh.
After a while hills began rising in the landscape and it looked more interesting. By the time I got to Trinidad the scenery was definitely improved; medium and small mountains, partly covered with trees except for their rocky tops.
Trinidad is a picturesque town, having retained its original buildings and character. I decided to stop for food at La Fiesta, a small family-operated Mexican cafe. It proved quite tasty. Next door to La Fiesta was a bar called the Other Place. I went in for a beer. I noticed the bartender immediately. She was a slim brunette in a black skirt and tube top, a pretty smile and dancing eyes. She had a nicely done tattoo braceletting her left wrist. She also looked strangely familiar. As we talked between her errands to fetch drinks, she said I looked familiar to her, too. We established that we had been in Phoenix more or less the same time, but it wasn't till I asked if she'd ever danced there that we saw the connection. She said she'd danced at the Blue...something. Blue Moon! I said. I asked if she knew Gypsy Jill. Then she remembered it all: she was Patty; had been with Steve who rode the dresser, lived at Oregon Pines, along with Pan Billy, Pegleg, Peacock, Janet, and Jill and I. It had been back in 1983. This unlikely coincidental encounter got me a place to stay the night in her trailer just outside oof town, which was extremely fortunate because shortly after we got there it rained prodigiously. We spent a pleasant evening watching videoos and talking about old times. She hadn't had a ride for awhile, so I took her for one in the morning before I left. She lived amid some beautiful scenery, Fisher's Peak just outside her door, and other nice hills, valleys, streams, and lakes around.

July 14
Leaving Trinidad, I rode down I-25, which winds up and down Raton Pass to Raton; pretty countryside all the way. It's 7800 feet at the top of the pass. Cool weather under blue skies and white clouds. In Cimarron I stopped at an outdoor tool and misc. sale, and noticed it was threatening to rain. I almost decided to try the 56 miles to Taos, but then I stopped at the edge of town and decided the small cafe looked better.
The rain stopped, and the sky turned blue again, so, on to Taos.
The road from Raton to Taos is indescribably beautiful. It descends into a forested canyon, with towering spired cliffs and a creek running beside the curvy road. Then, Eagles Nest: suddenly a lake appears, surrounded by mountains in a valley plain. It started sprinkling there, so I stopped at the Laguna Vista saloon, a very nice place in the little town there-- and had a beer while waiting for the rain to stop. The bartender was a very attractive lady who moved there two years before from Newport Beach. She likes it. I liked her. But, the rain quit, so I rode on. There was forest all the way to Taos.

It is indeed a cool place, but like many cool places it has become highly comercialized, so it's not quite as cool anymore. Still, it was interesting, and I spent some time checking it out to see if anything might happen. It didn't. I talked to one Harley rider from Georgia who got there 2 weeks ago and is now managing the Harley shop, which is owned by a local parole officer. Hmmm. He said there are some fun women in town, but I didn't find any.
After finally finding my way out of town on US-64 west, I rode a few miles into the setting sun and found what looks like a good campsite: a rest stop by the Rio Grande Gorge, with covered picnic tables.

July 15, 1989
I awake at the Crack of Dawn. I heard it: it sounds like a nice gentle pussy-fart. I don't often wake early enough to see the sun rise, but this morning it was like waking with my head between the spread thighs of a horny woman. There is no prettier color of reddish pink. It made me want to reach out and lick the crotch of the horizon. Pun intended.
Actually, that sound I heard was coming from a couple of hot-air baloons getting ready for flight nearby
I got gas in Tres Piedres, and breakfast in Chama. Semi-desert plains alternate with forestland. I stopped in Farmington for gas and talked to a girl in a jeep heading for the Telluride Jazz Festival, then had a beer at Zia's west of town. On to Gallup, Holbrook, and US-666, The Beast Highway. I don't know if the number affects the driving, but twice on the two-lane road on a long straight portion, oncoming cars passing forced me to the shoulder rather than getting back in their own lane. Not nice.
I took the Beeline to Phoenix: home at 1:30 am on July 16.

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