A Bar A Ranch:  Wyoming 1991
It was a year after graduating from college and I was not sure what direction to take my life. So with very little planning I plotted a cross country trip via motorcycle. I had a small Suzuki GS55o sport bike that I felt was too small for my gorrilla body not to mention a cross country tour so I tracked down a friend selling an old Kawasaki KZ750 for 400 bucks. The price was right although the motorcyle did not roll or run when I bought it, but John Reardon was confident that it would run and go. With very little effort Reardon got it running. John was a good friend and a good person to have around, he may sleep with your girlfriend, but other than that he was a real stand up guy. It turned out that things with the old KZ were not quite as easy as we planned, he may have gotten the bike running, but there were sublties that he could not diagnose, things that would not be fixed after a trip to local motorcycle shop whose name I have purposely blanked out (thieves-R-us rings a bell.) Those same issues would recur having the motorcycle die just outside of Chicago where I was then passed to another Thieves-R-Us in suburban Illinois not far from my uncle's house.
The trip was planned loosely around a path zig-zagging around the states with stopping points with various friends and family. I had already been through Chicago, St. Louis, various parts of wild and wonderful Colorado before I settled in for a week with Rob Hardesty at the A Bar A Ranch in southern Wyoming not far from the Colorado border. Rob was spending the summer working as a ranch hand at some sort of western fantasy island. It was a fun little place.  In his time away from work we rode mountain bikes, shot pool, tried to ride horses, and strolled around the ranch watching the rich white visitors live out their fantasies shooting skeet, fly fishing, riding horses across the plains, and eating beans by the campfire.
After a week of relaxing in awe and envy of Rob's summer dream job it was time to leave. ROb treated me to a tank of gas from the ranch pump and I was off. I started my engine and let it warm off before I pulled away on a long dirt road on that high Wyoming plain. Then just as I was ready to take off I realized I had left my tooth brush in his multi resident cabin. With toothpaste, a faucet, and a mirror in front of me I figured I would brush my teeth real quick. As I brushed my pearly whites I heard Rob's voice in the distance, "Joel, your motorcycle is on fire." It was odd, Rob's voice was in a June Clever , "Ward, it is time for dinner" sort of way.  Then I heard it again, "Joel, your motorcycle is on fire." Ah, that Rob is such a kidder I thought to myself. Then on the third mention of this motorcycle being on fire I went running out the door. This time his tone was more with question mark than exclamation, but as it had not been funny the first or the second time, well, then on the third time it must mean that MY MOTORCYCLE IS ON FIRE!
I ran out and saw 4 foot flames engulfing my tank. I thought to myself, what to do? what to do? Although I knew that sand may kill the engine, I through dirt and sand on the bike. Between each toss of sand I put my forearm in front of my face to block the eminent explosion. Then seconds later someone rushed out with a fire extinguisher and put out the fire.

My emotions were mixed. Was my cross country trip over? Was I to be stranded on this western fantasy island? would that be so bad? do I have any marketable skills on a ranch? (no.)
Things settled down. I thanked Rob's friend and coworker for putting out the fire. We accessed what had happened. The tank had been filled to the brim. When I went inside to get the tooth brush I put the motorcycle on its side stand. At this point gas slowly dripped out of the tank from the gas cap. Each drop splashed along side of the spark plugs, the fumes caught fire, and the excess dripping gas burned and so did my motorcycle. With laughter and awe I figured I would see if the motorcyle started up. With the turn of a key and a push of a button the motorcycle fired right up. I turned it off and took off the tank to access the internal damage. Some wires had been scorched, but nothing a little electrical tape could not fix. With the wires taped up I was back on my motorcycle and headed to Seattle. An hour or so into the trip I felt that the motorcycle was running smoother than before. Those issues that the thieves-R-Us in Northern VA and suburban Illinois could not be fixed were all cured by the fire. So in the end the fire was a good thing.

I remember standing in Washington State looking at the Paciffic ocean then looking over my shoulder and thinking.....that was not so hard....why did I not do that sooner
you know what..I have not done it since
driven cross country
flown cross country
but have not ridden a motorcycle cross country
I think the bike will be the next cross country trip that is not in a plane

It took a little over a month for me to get across the country
if I remember correctly it took about 11 travel days
it is a faint memory, but I think it rained for 8 of those days
it was raining the day I left, I remember that sunday morning
putting on some rain gear and getting on the bike
my housemates at 1211 Girard wondering why I did not wait till the rain stopped
I felt I had waited long enough
riding a motorcycle in the rain sucks

back to work
lunch is over
hope to proof and edit this story in a bit

1 comment:

Hyperion said...

Hey I know Rob Hardesty, can someone pass my email address on to him we have lost touch. We worked together in SF.