Shark Week is mainly an event wherein riders from all across the country gather to ride the iconic routes in and around the host area all day and then hang out talking about it all night. With beer. But what do you kill time if you're not riding? If you're a social butterfly like me, you sidle up to other attendees who are grounded. For me, this was the aforementioned Joe and Susan. Joe had recently had surgery but didn't want to miss the party, so he and Susan drove in. Joe is also a multiyear Shark Week sponsor who ponies up a generous donation of AMSOIL products for our raffle and his donation usually draws the highest amount of raffle bids. A portion of the raffle proceeds go to a local charity, which this year was the local Boys and Girls Club to whom we gave a $3,000 check. But I digress.
|The Three Amigos|
Fortunately for the three amigos, the Lake Tahoe area offers a great deal to see and experience; even in a car. The scenery and twisty roads leading into and out of Lake Tahoe were matched only by the conversation and laughs with Joe and Susan. The breathtaking views alone were worth the trip. Adding interesting stops and the peculiar local people to the mix completed the experience.
If memory serves, We drove around the lake a few times over a couple of days. My memory is fuzzy because I was loaded up on pain killers in a vain attempt at not looking injured in front of my Shark Week peeps. I am extremely grateful for the time Joe and Susan spent with me. I know that a little of me goes a long way, but they did not appear to get tired of me hanging around.
|The Temptress in Red|
Thursday was group photo day at the local Harley dealership that sponsored us. We are fortunate that dealers always pony up free food, drinks and discounts on parts and apparel at each year's event. The reality is they probably make a fortune on shirt sales alone and just about every year, somebody trades up to a new bike. I cast my eyes on a bright red 2020 Road Glide temptress that was calling out my name. Maybe the pain was making me delusional, but I haven't looked seriously at another bike since buying Hester eleven years ago. My crowd was encouraging me to buy it and for a brief instant, I could actually see myself signing the papers. Then multiple realities set in. I had a wrecked and ugly bike that wouldn't have brought squat for trade and I had a trailer full of camping gear to haul home. Hester and I have history together that I can't just cast aside. But foremost, I have a very clear goal of retiring (or at least having the financial option to) in 2025 and dropping $30,000 on a motorcycle just doesn't fit into that financial equation. Someone remarked that if just $30,000 stands between me and retirement four years from now, I won't be financially ready to retire anyway. Perhaps, but it's more a matter of exercising financial discipline to me. Retirement changes one's spending habits and since habits are formed over time, there's no sense in not starting to practice them now. In the end, common sense had overridden my friends' encouragement and I walked (limped, actually) away.
|Photo by Run Cushing|
|My Drone "Icarus" Got His Shot"|
|The Look of Pain Mixed with Aggravation|
The reality was this was simple physics. All I needed to do was maintain sufficient speed and momentum to ascend the ramp without balancing aid from my legs and feet, yet not ride so fast as to crash into the forward wall whilst trying to brake and slow down on the slick metal floor. Piece of cake. We positioned a couple of guys inside the van to help me keep upright and stop once I cleared the ramp and was inside the truck.
|U-Haul Sleeping Accommodations|
I felt like I was driving a convection oven and I was the meat. To add to the fun, the van had no cruise control, meaning I would have to use my broken leg for the next thirty hours. The AM radio didn't have a USB port, but I had headphones and plenty of audio books to keep me entertained. All I had to do was focus on getting home and I knew I could complete the1,700 mile trip and get there the next evening. The van was about as fuel efficient as a Sherman tank and it seemed I was stopping for gas more than I was driving. I suppose the breaks did me good though as they allowed me to shake off the monotony of staring at a double yellow line for hours on end. Once I passed the Las Vegas rush hour traffic, the sun was setting behind me and the cab cooled off to a chilly 95 degrees. It had been 108° outside while crossing Nevada and Arizona and I was really missing air conditioning. I consoled myself with the knowledge that I was saving gas and probably losing water weight with every mile I drove. I managed to drive about 900 miles before succumbing to the exhaustion that accumulated from the stress of my pre-dawn epiphany, the heat, and driving with broken bones. It was midnight and I had finally crossed into New Mexico on I-40. I was never as thankful to enter New Mexico as I was then. I could write an entire article about the shithole of a road they call a highway that is I-40 in Arizona. Again I digress.
seemed to hang in the air like a stale fart, the gas from which was so thin that the wind blew right through it. After a few minutes, I realized it was me. I was ripe from hours and miles sitting in my own sweat. I was helpless against my own odor, so I loaded an OMD playlist to help me relax and as I sat listening to the 80's pop-synth tunes, I figured there was little chance I would actually get any sleep. Still, I closed my eyes and tried. Seconds later, the alarm went off. In a flash it was 4:00am. I must not have moved an inch because every bone in my body snapped, crackled, and popped like a bowl of Rice Krispies in a bowl of putrid spoiled milk as I climbed out of the cab to pee. By 4:02am I was on the road heading for Albuquerque, which had been my goal destination for the previous day's drive. My five hour departure delay has spoiled that plan, but I was on the road and over halfway home. I rolled through Albuquerque before dawn and before I knew it, was back in the great State of Texas. I still had a twelve-hour drive ahead of me, but just seeing the sign motivated me to press on. Highway traffic was heavy and law enforcement was thick because the next day was Independence Day. Law enforcement presence didn't affect my driving as the van barely ran the speed limit, but it caused other drivers to be very reactive and jumpy. The miles clicked off and at what I determined to be my last gas stop, I actually had a spring in my step. An odorous spring, but a spring nonetheless. I imagined that I looked like the character Pigpen in the old Peanuts comics.