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The Adventures of Indiana Joe – Issue 04: Ortega

I’m sure I’ve told this story over a hundred times already, but when my nephew, Brian Seward, Middletown, IN called me from the little town of Santa Rosa , New Mexico on is way home from his latest nine-day 6000 mile “adventure” .. it was as if it happened only yesterday.

I was only three days into one of my month long adventures, as the day before I’d ridden through incredible Ozark Mountains from the Iron Horse Stables in Eureka Springs, AK, down to Ft. Smith, AK and then west through Oklahoma City and Amarillo. Another 750 mile day and I rolled into the Oasis Motel in Santa Rosa .. right on old Route 66 near the west end of town .. where I finally found a cheap “mom-pop” place that I could hitch Bosco right in front of my door.

…money doesn’t necessarily buy you happiness. And if you’re lucky enough to find something you enjoy doing .. and can give of yourself without expecting anything in return .. you can find true happiness

I’m usually up at daylight, so the next morning I rolled out a little before 6am. Low and behold, a couple blocks down was Mateo’s Family Restaurant .. authentic incredible Mexican food. I asked for some hot sauce for my huevos rancheros .. and, of course, all they had was the cook’s home made version of “you may regret this”. It was soooo good I just poured it on .. in hopes that I wouldn’t have one of those Hershey Squirt attacks somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Didn’t care.

I left about 6:30am .. and just outside of town Old 66 makes a split. Of course, the moment I zigged, I realized I should have zagged .. so I stopped in the middle of the road just to the right of the fork to assess a turnaround maneuver. The road was narrow and sloped downhill to my left .. and right in the middle of the “Y” was one of those concrete triangles. You know .. the ones that have a nice sloped upward curve so you’re not hitting an abrupt curb .. then it’s a 90 degree drop to the inside of the triangle which is filled with gravel. It looked solid and level.

Well, as you can see by the picture .. I’m usually loaded down with all my gear, including a pup tent and sleeping bag so I can throw down occasionally. Trust me .. there’s nothing like a bizilllion stars on a pitch black canvass when an unexpected meteorite streaks the entire expanse of the night sky. But back to the curb .. I tend to get lost in my thoughts when I’m overwhelmed with a memory flash.

Since the triangle median was filled with stone .. I knew I could do a three-point turn and take a short cut across it. I gently roll up the curb, across the stone .. but as my front wheel rolled down the slope of the other side Bosco dropped just enough to catch the sharp edge of the concrete with the kick stand spring attachment and I heard a sickening “ping” just before I saw my spring fly across the road. The next sound I heard was my kickstand dragging the pavement and I knew I was screwed.

My first thought was “damn! I don’t want to spend this whole trip using a makeshift bungie cord to hold it up.” I was already precariously top-heavy .. and having to deal with this problem just plain sucked. I did manage to lean down and pick up my spring .. so I headed back into town holding up the kickstand with my foot.

Just as I got into town .. I spotted an old two-pumper filling station that looked like one I’d seen in Life Magazine. One of the garage doors was up so I figured they had to be open. As I let the kickstand down and dismounted .. I saw this little five-foot Mexican walking toward me wearing what looked like a 20-gallon cowboy hat. I swear it was half as big as he was. As he approached .. he said “chew neeed sum hep?” I showed him the spring and explained what had happened. He just said “I theen I can hep”. I followed him inside .. and I swear this place made me feel as if I’d just walked back into time.

I watched him as he pulled a log chain out from under a workbench and crank one link tight into a huge vice. I was amazed as the next thing he pulled out was a pneumatic cutting wheel .. and he proceeded to hold the link with a pair of pliers and slice it in half with two quick cuts. I knew exactly what he’d done, and his intent, as I visualized my new spring hook cooling in his grasp. He turned to me and said “chew go hold yur bike up I come weld it”.

I was amazed that he had the pneumatic tool buried within this vintage garage .. but now my thoughts turned to “oh crap .. he’s going to WELD my bike?” All I could imagine was an explosion of gasoline and me being carried off in a straight jacket to some prehistoric rubber-room! Again .. to my amazement .. he came walking toward me dragging a wire welder! I was blown away as he removed the 20-gallon canopy and laid down on the pavement and buttoned it up in no time.

I asked “how much do I owe you?” and he just said “ahhh .. chew no owe me anything”. I gave him twenty dollars and proceeded to explain to him how he’d just saved my life .. and that I would be telling this story to every biker I knew for the rest of my life. Then I asked him his name .. “Art .. Art Ortega”. Naturally .. I’m thinking Ortega taco shells and everything else they sell .. so I ask him if he’s related to that nationally known brand. “Oh .. that’s my family .. I no wanna do that .. I’m happy right here”. Again .. I was blown away.

The next year I rolled through Santa Rosa again .. this time I made a point of stopping at Art’s station. The city was totally reconstructing Route 66 through town and his station had a new aluminum sided face on it. Art wasn’t there .. but I told the story to his employee and asked him to tell Art “Indiana Joe” stopped by to thank him again. He said Art bought a new wrecker and he spent most of his time out on the road helping people. That sounds like Art.

I stopped another year later .. same story. Art was out helping people. It just goes to show you that money doesn’t necessarily buy you happiness. And if you’re lucky enough to find something you enjoy doing .. and can give of yourself without expecting anything in return .. you can find true happiness.

Random acts of kindness .. it’s always been a part of who I am. And I do believe “what goes around comes around”. So when I find someone like Art out there as I roam the countryside .. we can look into each other’s eyes .. and with a firm handshake and a smile .. no words are necessary.

Until next time .. ride smart .. ride safe

“Indiana Joe”
and the Adventure continues …

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