How many times have you opened your mouth and made a comment, then immediately had an emotional epiphany .. oops? If you’re human .. I think it’s happened to all of us .. especially if you’re like me and always speak what’s on your mind, no matter what. I’ve always said “truth” is my only sword .. but life isn’t as simple or clear-cut today as it was for Grandma & Grandpa .. when the willow tree switch rectified the little white lie.
When an officer pulled up alongside and waved me over .. I had to ask him “why me?” I’ll never forget his nonchalant answer to my honest inquiry though .. “ever go fishing?”
And the truth is .. I’m sure you don’t want me to get out my soap box and remind you of the world’s problems .. or the fact that rampant greed and apathy were spawned during childhood by the lack of parental discipline .. and over the years, that attitude has only strengthened by the lack of consequence for white-collar crime, and “truth” has a price tag that comes in 31 flavors. We just live with it .. just like we do with our own shortcomings and past mistakes. Hopefully, time and maturity allows us to learn from those “mistakes”.
In my particular case, “speeding” seems to be one of those lessons that took me a long time to learn and rectify. But first .. let me “knock on wood” .. as if any superstition had an actual remedy or consequence that actually made me believe in it or even give a hoot. But, what the heck? If anything besides actually slowing down can keep me from winning another guest appearance in traffic court .. I’m all for it! Especially since that’s the only thing I’ve ever won in my entire life. So send me your beads and voodoo dolls .. I’m not the least bit shy about trying crazy things.
I once said that “bad decisions make good stories” .. so I’ll run with that premise rather than condone any of my past stupidity. Furthermore, if I actually gave you the total number of the “infractions” that compile the many pages of my driving record, you wouldn’t believe it anyway. I do have a number of file folders though, which contain most of my “awards” since I first lost my driving cherry at age sixteen. Some people chalk it up to bad luck .. or cheap shots from unscrupulous power-mongers wearing a badge who have absolutely no conscious. Trust me, I’ve met them all.
Once, I was in a long line of traffic .. but I was the only motorcycle in the midst of them “going with the flow”. When an officer pulled up alongside and waved me over .. I had to ask him, “why me?” I’ll never forget his nonchalant answer to my honest inquiry though .. “ever go fishing?” So, I quit asking questions a long time ago .. ‘cause when you find yourself in a hole .. quit digging!
Some of us have had some bad runs when it seemed nothing we could do was right .. but I truly believe “negative energy” has a lot to do with it. My absolute worst period was the six months immediately following my divorce .. eleven tickets. My head was so far up my ass I even caught myself passing an ambulance .. while it had its lights and sirens on and was obviously racing toward Ball Memorial Hospital! I didn’t even get stopped that time!
When it’s “Sturgis time” and thousands of bikers are migrating to South Dakota .. you even dare roll into the little towns near that area and the lights and sirens are the first to welcome you. After I got one in Sundance, I stopped at the very first bar I saw with several bikes lined up out front. As I walked through the door .. I saw smiles and grins on several faces as one rider asked “did he get you too?” We all had a laugh and a cold one for the hot day. After a couple cheap-shots like that along the way .. you make sure that the very first speed limit sign you see posted coming into town has a higher number than what you see on your speedometer.
It’s a real moneymaker for those small towns, and they make it as easy for you to pay as they can. In Keystone, everyone received parking tickets for having “too many bikes in the prescribed space” along the curb! You think I’m kidding? Not at all .. hundreds lined up! They give you an envelope to put your money in and there’s several red “Mail Boxes” hanging all over town. Make your donation and ride away. What a racket!
The first summer that I rode out for a three-month tour .. I’d circled the country and attended several HOG Rallys and State bike events. I felt like a true cowboy all right .. only I was the “ramrod of the road” rounding up stray tickets. I’d collected seventeen (yep .. that’s 17) infractions along the way. So I’m a slow learner I guess. I’ve always said .. if I had all the money I’ve spent on fines, lawyers, suspensions and high-risk insurance premiums I’d own a yacht and name it “Integrity” .. then anchor it in my own personal Lake of Tears.
A few summers back, I was wandering Utah again and went up to see how Yellowstone had recovered since the horrific fires I’d experienced there in 2001. It’s amazing how Mother Nature recuperates and the forests are reborn after such destruction. The new life amidst the charred reminders of centuries-old timber fuels my thought as I “contemplate” ever so deeply. Such similarities to human life when tragedies destroy everything but the spirit .. which forever remains anchored as firmly as the roots of those massive pillars. We endure .. however so deeply scarred.
As you leave West Yellowstone on the 20 to catch the 287 North, you ride by Hebgen Lake and up along its tributary Madison River. The majestic scenery once again draws you into that world of your own where every view answers any questions as to “why” you’re there. With Beaverhead National Forest to the West and the Gallatin National Forest to the East, riding along that lower Madison Range gives view to many notable mountain peaks. Black Butte, at 10,545 ft is the highest peak in the Gravelly Range on my left .. almost directly across from the 11,296 ft Koch Peak off in the distance to my right.
The 287 is a typical two lane highway that runs for miles .. sparsely populated with a stretch of over 50 miles where all you see off in the distance to the west is the 10,860 ft Sphinx Peak, as Lone Mountain towers 11,166 ft at the Big Sky of Montana Ski Area over to the east. In the cool air .. I drop the reins and let Bosco run for awhile with his head free. I’ve always heard there’s no speed limit in Montana .. and Bosco just starts to run good at 80mph. When there’s no traffic, as there wasn’t that day .. I’ll turn him loose and let him run 95-100mph for miles on end. I did see a dark spot in the road up ahead and crossed the center markings to pass a little green pickup truck as I continued my flight.
It wasn’t long before I was suddenly snapped out of my “zone” by the loudest siren and loudspeaker you could imagine telling me to “pull over!” .. and at first, it scared the crap right out of me! Not since the time I was coming back from Lake of the Woods, Canada with my good friend Fred Stevens did I absolutely think a space ship landed behind us with every imaginable light and siren going off! Not a car on the road .. it’s 2am in total blackness .. and my heart skipped a beat in shock. That particular officer demanded payment immediately, or he’d take us in for the night to wait for an arraignment the next day. He just happened to have a credit card machine under his seat and zapped me for $125!
This time .. the spaceship happened to be the little green pickup truck I’d passed. When I mentioned to the Highway Patrol officer that I thought Montana didn’t have speed limits .. he said “well .. it’s really discretionary .. but when someone blows me off the road at 95mph I’m gonna chase ‘em down and write ‘em a ticket.” And it was for only $40 .. with a mail-in envelope. I almost laughed out loud.
The next little town up ahead was Cameron. I stopped at this quaint little two-pumper station to fuel up and a young boy ran out to see if I needed any help. As he was oooing and awwing over Bosco and my travel gear .. a run-down older brown Bronco pulled up behind me and out stepped the “poster boy” for Highway Patrol Rangers. I mean .. this was a man! Over six feet .. handsome .. chiseled jaw .. probably over a fifty inch chest tapering to a wedge shaped 32 inch waist with perfect parallel creases down his uniform shirt right next to a shiny badge. Then he put on his 10 gallon cowboy hat and walked directly up to my bike. Now eight feet tall .. and as intimidating as all get-out. I wondered, “what did I do now?”
About that time, the young boy asked me “are you having fun out there?” My immediate response was to look directly at the Ranger and say “well .. if it wasn’t for these cowboys pulling me over for doing 95 I’d be having a blast.” The Ranger took two steps directly toward me .. staring directly into my eyes and leaning into me .. then said “let me tell YOU something, cowboy!” Oops .. ! And thus .. my epiphany.
Yeah .. you know the feeling .. open mouth, insert foot. Once again, I thought I’d spoken too soon before evaluating any possible consequences. To my amazement, the very next words out of his mouth were “if you’d blown ME off the road at 95 you’d be in the next county by now! This old buggy won’t even go that fast. You must have been pulled over by one of those new souped-up interceptors they let the new guys drive.”
He was no longer the least bit intimidating .. and proceeded to tell me about all the nearby places I should check out .. the Historic Museum at Virginia City, just 15 miles west of Jeffers .. or Robbers Roost, another 12 miles up toward Twin Bridges. We had a good laugh as he admired my bike and continued to talk about the majestic Rocky Mountains and how great it would be to travel them on a motorcycle .. I couldn’t have agreed more.
Throughout my entire journey of committing countless acts of “random kindness” .. it’s always nice to unexpectedly meet a “kindred spirit” who will deliberately put another smile on MY face. To suddenly feel a connection with someone and understand that you’re both on the same wavelength .. is a priceless feeling. And his one wore a badge! Go figure.
Helen Keller once said: “Remember .. Kindness is the language the blind can see and the deaf can hear “… She couldn’t have said it any better.
I let the young boy wash my windshield .. as I always handle the fuel nozzle around Bosco’s jet black tank myself. I could see the joy in his eyes as he did what I never allow anyone else to do. But, of course, he didn’t know that. And when I handed him a five dollar tip .. his smile lit up like a Christmas tree.
The Ranger drove off with a wink and a smile .. and this time I had to laugh out loud. What .. was he supposed to be Santa Claus now? Nope .. he was a “cowboy”.
Until next time .. ride smart .. ride safe
and the Adventure continues …