Running the Colorado Northern Plains
“You’re a long way from home.”
I looked up at the man addressing me. Clad in worn jeans, a white linen or canvas western shirt, and a white cowboy hat, the older man eyed my Texas license plate as I finished fueling the bike. His gnarled hands and thick fingers told of a lifetime of hard work, probably in the fields right in this area. His battered truck was covered in dirt but looked well maintained. Workers…builders…take care of their tools. In Dallas, he would have looked odd…here he looked practical. Of the two of us, I was the one that was out of place. In fact, I had come far out of my way to be out of place here.
Sunday found me bound for Onalaska, Wisconsin, and fast. I had friends there I was eager to see, and the traffic was almost non-existent. Flying north through Iowa there was little to interrupt a crisp ride on a glorious morning. Well, little except arithmetic, that is.
I had managed to run myself short on gas. Fuel management on a motorcycle is critical due to their limited range, but because of long practice I am usually very adept at it. Not this morning though. Somehow, today, simple arithmetic had been beyond me. I had looked at the map, looked at a mile marker as I flew past it, made a simple calculation on my remaining range, and skipped a town, completely confident that I could make the next fuel stop. Some miles later as the bike ran out of gas and I flipped it to reserve, I found it necessary to reevaluate my calculations. Hmmm. I was off by over thirty miles. Weird. Apparently numbers don’t add up the same when you’re traveling at high speed on a motorcycle. Yeah, that must be it.
A small town fifteen miles off the interstate was closer than the next services on the highway so I made a snap decision and guided the big cruiser off the lightly used exit, scattering gravel as I skidded to a stop at the turn. Without another thought I pointed the machine down the narrow road into the plains and gunned it. Miles later the small town slid into view. I was counting on them having at least one gas station, as I doubted I’d have enough fuel to even make it back to the interstate if they didn’t. Instinct had served me well again and they had fuel available at the Farmer’s Co-op. The only catch was that it was closed on Sunday.
Fortunately, credit card pumps had made it here although in a very primitive form. I puzzled the operation a bit, but after I found the box to slide the card through twenty feet away on the side of the building, and finally located the 4-digit code to punch in to tell it what pump I wanted (regular or diesel), I was ready to go. I had just finished fueling when the farmer had gotten out of his truck and spoken to me.
I nodded in the affirmative and said, “Good morning.”
“Same to you. Where’re you headed?”
I couldn’t resist. “Los Angles.”
He looked at my Texas license plate again, and then back at me. There were the beginnings of a grin on his face. “You get lost son?” Iowa is not on any reasonable person’s route from Texas to California. Of course, that’s kind of the point isn’t it? I am, quite enthusiastically, just not any reasonable person.
I smiled. “No. I have friends…” I had looked away into the distant sky. It truly was a glorious morning, the blazing sun and purple clouds creating vivid streaks of light across the heavens. Finally I realized I had let my voice trail off while watching the spectacle and looked back at him. I tried again, forcing myself not to look into the distance, “I have friends in far away places.”
I then told him of my rough plan. Essentially, L.A. via Wisconsin…with a jaunt into Minneapolis and then a trip into the mountains of New Mexico.
He laughed and clapped me on the back. “It’s good to have friends in far away places.” He winked. “Keeps us young.”
He grabbed a large key ring off his belt and unlocked the door to the Co-op. He paused and looked over his shoulder. “You want a cup of coffee?”
I’m not normally a big coffee drinker and I was anxious to get back on the road, but sometimes there is more in the question than is obvious. This was one of those times.
I dismounted the bike and tossed my gloves in my helmet as I hung it on the handlebar. “Sure, I’d love one.”
Twenty minutes of pleasant conversation later, I was gearing up to get on the road. He shook my hand, his powerful grip in stark contrast to his apparent age. “If you ever need anything and you’re in the area, look me up.” He hooked a thumb over his shoulder, pointing at the Co-op building. “Come here. They’ll know how to find me.”
“I will.” I promised as I punched the starter button. The powerful machine came smoothly and quietly to life. As I pulled out of the lot I waved and said, “See you again!”
Boom. Just like that. Another friend in a far away place.
Don’t have friends in far away places? Or haven’t seen them lately? Get out here and ride.
They’re not all that hard to find.
I’ll see you on the road.
Index Introduction Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Afterword