So many times when I’ve headed out on one of my “adventures” .. I have a general idea of where I want to end up .. but rarely worry about the trip details along the way. I point Bosco in the direction we’re headed and take it all in as it develops. No deadlines .. no daily destinations .. and I absorb each and every moment for what it’s worth. If I don’t have to be anywhere in particular that evening .. then I’m never in a hurry .. and I’m never late. Riders that hurry are riders that get careless and make mistakes .. and you know where that destination ends, don’t you?
I’m old school .. and I carry maps. I watch the sky for my weather reports .. and smelling the air even gives me a more precise indication as to what I can expect. So, as you can imagine .. I never leave home without rain gear. When dusk rolls around .. I start looking for a cheap mom-pop motel or ask station attendants what’s available. Sure .. I’ve screwed myself by waiting too long and the sun disappears .. and it’s a bit tougher pitchin’ my pup tent in the dark. On rare occasions I’ve slept on, or beside my ride .. and that’s pretty much taken the fun out of a good day .. especially when I’m really sleeping with one eye open.
One of my “destination” rides was an early trip to Sturgis. So I left a month early to wander the southwest .. loop northward and end up in South Dakota the first week of August. And though I thrive on meeting new characters along the way .. it’s a very rare occasion (two actually) that I meet someone that I just “click” with and we mutually agree to log some miles together. Unlike actually “planning” a ride with close biker friends .. I’m talking about a chance encounter with a stranger in the middle of nowhere and feeling like you’ve known them all your life. This is one of those encounters.
I’d gone through Monument Valley .. in my favorite state of Utah .. and was just meandering northwest with the intent of seeing the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone before I turned back toward Sturgis. And, to be honest .. I can’t even remember the little burg where I stopped to fuel up when I saw another road warrior feeding his steed. One look at each other .. two big shit-eatin’ grins .. a firm handshake and a survivor’s hug .. we understood without a word. As I mentioned .. I think I’ve only known two other bikers who’ve had his moxie .. his steel-cut character.
We shared a cold drink and realized we were both headed to Sturgis .. yet not in any hurry to arrive. I’d given him a hint as to how I liked to ride .. and that I was always looking for a new adventure in places I’d never seen. Virginia City came to mind .. a famous old west town and miles away. The compass said “west” .. and two iron horses ran side-by-side as tight as Maverick and Iceman. Damn .. could this man ride! And I’m telling you .. the twisting mountain roads were as exhilarating as any I’d ever ridden .. where it’s all about the gearbox and NOT the brakes .. just the way I always ride.
When we got to Virginia City .. we took some time to sit down, eat, drink, and get to know each other. His name is Richard Zehm .. about my age, with a beautiful wife who sends him on his way to Sturgis each year with her blessing. She’d traveled with him numerous times in the past .. but now the responsibility of maintaining a 20,000 acre Christmas tree farm in the Four Corners area placed her better judgment ahead of her desire to ride “bitch” for over a thousand miles. Richard had been a carpenter who constructed the shacks for the workers who built the Alaska pipeline. He’d worked his ass off for years and put his fortune into trees .. how ironic his latest adventure would soon turn out to be.
If I didn’t mention it before .. this man was a true biker! He couldn’t stand the fact that his front forks were leaking a little fluid .. something he was aware of before he left home. So in the middle of nowhere .. we pulled off the road near an old run-down shed. I found a log big enough for him to roll his front wheel over .. and we set the frame up on the log. I sat on the bike to hold the back wheel down and the nose up .. while he proceeded to pull the forks and install new seals. Naturally, he came prepared with tools, seals and fluid. Duhhhhh … did I mention this man was a “real” biker? In no time .. we were rolling down the road and he was as happy as a pig in shit.
We rode back eastward up through the corner of Utah and Idaho .. caught the scenic Highway 89 and rode it north to the 189/191 into Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Perfect timing I guess .. it was late afternoon as we approached the Jackson Hole area .. and suddenly the traffic was backed up with numerous people standing outside their vehicles. As we looked toward the sky .. it was completely filled with smoke .. you could smell it. This was the huge fire that swept the mountaintops back in 2001. Many wealthy and famous Hollywood stars that owned thousands of acres were losing trees by the second. “Smells like money to me” .. Richard quipped. He said he’d make a fortune replanting the ravaged forests with saplings, as he had several workers and semi-trucks that would be headed that way in the near future. I did say “ironic” .. didn’t I?
Jackson Hole was more than awesome .. and we lucked out and got the last room at a little place downtown called the Western Motel. A night at the world famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar I’ll never forget (an upcoming story worth the read) .. and breakfast at the only place in town that is a MUST feed .. called “Bubba’s. Biscuits the size of softballs and portions more generous than two men can barely finish.
That morning we saw Old Faithful erupt in Yellowstone .. then took the Montana 287 up to Norris and the 84 over to Boseman. Richard wandered on northward and I took the scenic 89 back down to Yellowstone. I completed the figure-8 loop of the park .. got held up by buffalo that walked within feet of my bike as I sat motionless .. then my intent was to head east on Hwy 14 into Cody. A few miles out of the park I was stopped by Forest Rangers who said the fire would be across the road within twenty minutes .. I had to back-track into Yellowstone and up into Montana once again. The smoke was so thick in the mountains my eyes were watering and burning .. but the detour provide me with another adventure beyond belief.
I guess this all goes to show you that you meet new friends by happenstance .. things DO happen for a reason .. and if you keep your options open .. you never know when you’ll add to your chest of priceless memories. Though Richard and I said we’d see each other in Sturgis .. if you’ve ever been there .. you know that was a virtual impossibility .. and if we did .. the odds would have been as great as me meeting two friends from the opposite ends of the country on the coast of California. But my energy is still with you Richard .. and I wish you well.
Until next time .. ride smart .. ride safe
and the Adventure continues …