Tuesday, September 25, 2001

It’s dark at night on the Playa. You can see the sparkling lights of Gerlach far off in the distance. A small town made smaller by the gulf of distance. Shimmering moonlight sneak through a hole in the murky dust cloud raised by the numerous bikes, and trucks on the way to the bonfire. From miles away the fire appears to glow inviting yet menacing all the same. A reflective mood is prevalent on the playa tonight. Fireworks are shot into the sky, but the emotions of many seem to turn inward. Solace is taken from the camaraderie of the individuals brought together in a community tonight. It is interesting what roads I’ve taken to arrive here tonight.
 Phone calls and emails fly back and forth. Routes are decided on their absolute favor, and discarded just as quickly. Logical analysis flies out the window and is gathered back in again on whim. Witnesses to check on, and again, and again. Chaos reigns. Kids kissed, and the dog too. Friday morning at O’dark thirty I wheel the laden K-Bike into the driveway. Off to the local 7-11 to meet Tony Black, a Pikes Peak BMW Rider member who is the perfect one stop shopping effort having completed a Bun Burner Gold during Raw Hide. The time from foot up to foot down driving will be the shortest time cycle for the entire trip. Not counting the construction zones. Dark night is nothing. PIAA will clear the way.

Tony signs the paper work and reminds me that no certificate is worth not coming home. Patting the back seat I invite my wife to board first. This is an event to share and endure together. Endure. A key word understood by both of us. Gerlach is over the horizon, but we are ready for the chase. On the map the difference is less than a hand span from Colorado Springs to Gerlach. Not too far really.

Climbing Highway 24 out of the Springs through the small town of Manitou Springs we rapidly ascend the hill to 10K feet. Temperatures plummet in the valleys to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and I thank the little molecules being excited in my coat and wife’s vest. Heated grips and seats are decadent and welcome. As we rapidly approach Leadville and the Vail area the rising sun ignites the Aspens in a glorious display. Rushing around the exit to a tight corner the site of the Aspens burning with color has as much attention as a stopped truck in my lane would. Remembering my priorities I resume my diligent attention on the road, and listen to the pleased sounds my wife is making. She likes riding the bike.

Highway 24 joins Interstate 70 and I start considering whether Mike Valentine should be considered for Saint hood. The maker of the premier radar detector available has done a wonderful job in allowing me to compress space and time between two locations. Now the physics professionals around will tell you that time is not compressible. They’ve never blasted down Interstate 70 from Colorado and into Utah in the blink of an eye. Time changes on the bike. Space and distance take on new meanings. It might be perception on my part, but then again I like my perception. Joining Highway 50 “The loneliest Highway in America” adds some spice to my ride.

Rolling hills. Not the monsters I find in Colorado called mountains. It doesn’t compare to the eastern expanse of Colorado also known as Kansas. The western Utah expanse is a golden sheet with remarkable roads crossing it. A tapestry of fun waits to be explored and examined by the prepared rider. Riding across Utah I entered into Nevada, and then the fun begins. My wife sat on the back of the bike and never complained as the temperatures climbed. She endured the boredom of long straight stretches her less than speedy husband allowed to drone on. She cackled in glee pounding on my back as we blasted through corner exits. I hope those sounds were good anyway.

What can you say about Nevada. Truckers cut us off. Constructions zones slowed our average speed to a crawl. A few people scraped from the bottom of the gene pool should not be allowed to drive. We still had a blast. We stopped few times crossing Nevada that there wasn’t somebody waving a flag with “STOP” on it. The roads were gobbled up in heaping servings. I was Oliver standing at the table asking, “MORE PLEASE!” with a shotgun in one hand and the keys to the K1200LTC in the other. Arriving in Gerlach with a Saddle Sore complete and my wife happy was a great moment. There is the wonderful memory of the feelings of friendship. Chief among them for my wife will be the hug from Mike Kneebone and Ron Smith when they said welcome to the family. Mike Kneebone signs my paperwork, and then I get the bad news.

Ron Ayers who had chimed in on many discussions, and sent me personal notes of encouragement had crashed. People had just returned from seeing him airlifted to Reno. Somber news and the looks of tired people greeted us. In my discussions with other riders on the advisability of riding Jungo Road he had offered to allow me to ride it with him. I passed figuring I needed to make time. He and two others rode it, and the results though not catastrophic were painful. Broken Ribs and internal injuries can’t be good for anybody’s humor. I teased Norm Babcock that this was just Ron’s way to make sure he didn’t have to sign his books for me. This will have been the fourth or fifth time I’ve been in the same rally location and not gotten the job done. I really think Ron is going to some extremes to avoid me.

A rich fattening dinner on Bruno’s table. Fine wine and food for all that came to the Playa. Saturday night festivities are great. Congratulations to many were passed around as the tables filled and the long distance rider crowd examined the interior and bottom of dishes. Introductions of the celebrities include the admin team, and other notable riders. If I missed anything I wish I had spent more time talking to Will Lee, Terry Smith, Ron Smith, and a whole host of others. It always seems there is never enough time to catch up.

This missive shouldn’t be about the saddle sore my wife and I rode going home too. Did I mention we were having a blast? Miles to go, and more to do. Buddha said, Life is pain, and We measure our lives in the events we have endured. This fourth weekend in September can be chalked up to a life event. A task completed. Hours of joy being endured. Miles to go before I sleep. Two saddle sores completed in three days was an achievement and I am really proud of my wife. Her longest ride prior to this weekend was 70 miles. Did I mention I’m really proud of her?

The playa is a place of somber reflective moods at night. The hazy partial moon setting through the dusty evening is itself a metaphor of Gerlach. The emotions ran high in the dark. Riders lost, and gone were remembered. The community realized it had gotten a little smaller. Exhortations to be careful riding were made. Riders looked around the fire circle and toasted those who have gone before. A society can be judged on how they treat their children and their dead. Long distance riders revel in the life given to them on ribbons of asphalt for their personal playground. Long distance riders are the children of the interstate. Long distance riders remember and hold memorial for the not so lucky. They remember the life of the people they interact with. Long distance riders seem to remember the difficult lesson that life is precious.

The defining moment for me will be Dale Wilson looking at a piece of paper and remarking in the past he didn’t need a damn piece of paper to remember all of the riders who have gone before. I’m with Dale when I say ride safe, and see you next year.

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