Day 5: Cops and Kills

“Kills, cops and other close encounters’ sum up the day.

It starts with a pleasant and dry cool below 70 and ends near mid-90 in Tucumcari NM. From ‘normal Dutch’ weather to desert conditions in just over 300 R66 miles. What didn’t change was water. R66 in Texas and NM just kept looking all the time like it was going to end in a lake but the lake moved at the same speed as I was riding; the sun’s play with heat mirages on the road surface does that. And again soaked I get from the bike, but now my own body is responsible for having to get my riding gear dry.

Gotto check the oil. My first thought in the morning. MS must have that check-up before proceeding. On the parking lot is a somewhat menacing-looking guy, fifties, pony tail and more assorted hair, short, the wrestler type I would normally keep my distance from. Not this time. I explain my predicament, what I need his help for – and why. He looks around the parking lot standing almost next to MS and asks: ‘What motorcycle?’ Dumbfounded I reply hesitantly: ‘Well this one here..” ‘That ain’t a bike’, he says, turning his back to me showing HD paraphenalia. He must have seen he had me floored. He walks to the bike with legs as if a horse is walking with him between them. His arms bowing out, ready to take on any Japanese 300 pound Sumi-fighter that may come his way and won’t step aside (how come I think of George Bush when I see this?). He grabs MS by her own pony tail and blocking the center stand with one foot just pulls her straight back apparently ignoring the 500 odd pounds she puts in. MS is just like any other woman: totally impressed by so much masculine power, she puts up no resistance and and jumps right on her two legs. Mr Gorilla throws me a pitiful grin and walks off without a word. Equally impressed, I humbly kneel my skinny body for MS to check her oil (the Japanese MS designer must not have had his day when he put this system on the drawing board – not Kaisen proof). And of course MS shows her class. She knows oil is not for consumption. Not a drop gone. What me worry?

A ghost town – I am coming to the overkill point of ‘once you have seen one you have seen them all – photo op for an old theatre, ‘Historic R66 Landmark’ reads the sign and my EZ66 books says that is right. Mainstreet of 200 yards long, 40 yeards wide, almost everything boarded up or about to be. Dead silence. Then, out of nowhere and without a sound: JR in his old age, his white cowboy hat now black but equally impressive. His horse traded in for an electric wheel chair, easily in his seventies, must have been a powerful guy in his rodeo time; nervously smoking a cigarette; hoarse voice which I cannot get a hearing grip on. He says something about always having had a HD at his front door and about total freedom it brought him. I utter a bunch of polite answers guessing that they may have something to do with the subject he is whisper-talking about. Maybe not. Suddenly he swoofs off in his old-age horse saying ‘Auf wiedersehen’. And I am not even pronouncing the ‘th’ as ‘ze’.

Around the corner, across the street is a nice mural. Husband hammering a stake into the ground. Wife holding a piece of paper with ‘Deed’ on it. Text: “Home is where the heart is.” Must digitalize that one. Park MS on the sidewalk, wasteland, empty lots, buildings crumpling, totally deserted, not a soul in sight. I take the picture and am about to continue by trip. In my mirror is a cop car with flashing lights. It is only the second moving thing besides JR that morning in ghost town Noname. The cop gestures me to get over into a parking lot. Out comes a pretty young woman, could have been my daughter age-wise. ‘Why are you driving on the sidewalk?’ By the time I have explained I just parked her to take a photo of the mural, two more cop cars close in, don’t-mess-with-me-men get out. I know that from cheap police series on TV; but this is real. Passport, do I have insurance, do I have an Indiana driver license, do I have a visum, have I not stolen the bike: go sit down there on the curbside – I was expecting ’spread-them’ but I missed out on that take. Radio contact with FBI, CIA, the Pentagon, Cheney what have you. The crackling radio voice announces that I am indeed the legal owner of MS. “Well as you are just passing through, I will not give you a citation for driving on the sidewalk” Ms Policewoman says (I have learned to say ‘Thank you, I appreciate that’ in such circumstances). She continues ‘You know, otherwise I would have, because we have so many pedestrians around here”. Many pedestrians, here? I must have been in ghost movie, another dimension than my reality.

R66 is in Western Oklahoma, Texas and NM is somewhat of a real highway paralleling I40 (in many sections keeping pace with I40 is no problem – I even hit a section where R66 gets a speed limit of 70!!). My two R66 lanes are totally empty, I truly average maybe 1 car every 30 minutes or so on ‘my’ R66. A straight line from horizon tot horizon, a strange color red this old concrete, I consider it as a red carpet VIP treatment. MS doesn’t even notice the up- and downhill differences and humms peacifully along at 50-55 mph with the sounds of her deep voice whirling in her wake. Whirling. Suddenly a wall of air hits me and throws me off-balance; quick correction. Dead branches and debris circle around me and fly up in the air; I duck to miss them. 200 yeards further everything is back to normal. A mini tornado?

Would be normal on this endless, vast and flat nothingness of desert-like heat. Hazy-blue wide open skies meet greyish green land at the horizon 360 degrees around me. The horizon line barely interupted anywhere. In Texas sometimes the silhouette of a huge grain silo in the distance, in NM the impressive island-mesa’s with their alwasy fascinating flat tops. Horizon polution does not exist here. Low fences line R66 indicating ranch activities, confirmed by an occasional rust sign. In Texas the “Johnson Ranch” gates; is that him? If longhorns are staple in Texas, I don’t see them. Hours on end: no living things besides the plants, the occasional grain and the abundant low bushes, the incidental trees fixed by the winds in their skewed growth.

Birds are the exception, is this not the state of lady Byrd? (The snake on the road was already dead.) Birds galore on these long deserted R66 stretches. They have not learned how to handle an oncoming motorcycle. Both MS and I find out painfully. MS is first, a flock of medium sized birds flies upon her approach but is confused about where to flee. One bird finds out that a safeway out is not through MS’s front wheel. A black speck in the middle of R66 is motionless in my rearview mirror. Then it is my turn, smaller birds fortunately. One does not survive the collision with my right leg at 55 mph. As an encore, black birds Hitchcock format, many of them, all around me before I know what is happening. MS knows when to very quickly slow down when I want her to. It gives all the big birds just the time they need to fly-inch their ways around machine and man. Pfff.

Sometime midday – don’t ask me in what time zone – I am on mid-point R66. Finally a cafe I have been looking for for an hour. R66 Ghost towns are what they are: don’t count on drinks for motorcyle or rider – you must head back to the 21 century exits of I40 and that of course, you don’t out of principle. So, also fill up when you happenchance upon a gas station that has still one of its pumps in working order when you are half empty; never count on ‘the next town’ – that one may even be more dead than the one you are in. It has saved me several times. At midpoint, a few other R66 travellers gather around the symbolic signs claiming equal distance to the mile right towards Chicago, left towards LA. Listen to how adventurous they find themselves – before they go on in their motorized refrigerators.

MS rightnow is in her cooling down mode (the outside temperature is down to about 80F at 2300 hours) outside the luxurious hotel I gave myself today as a present. Most other motels here in town I wouldn’t want to stay in I they paid me. And vintage is great tolook at, but after all, I am of these times. So, I have taken swims in the indoor pool, lingered in the spa, rested on a poolside lawnchair. The one experience we don’t share, MS and me. A powerhouse all by herself, MS lets me be.

Harold – “Ride to Write”

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