The News Post:
I was eastbound, and fast. I had dawdled in California too long, and now my time was running short. I had to be back to work soon.
Leaving Yosemite, I had piloted the big Valkyrie motorcycle from the Tioga Pass to Death Valley on my way out of the state. From an elevation of 9500 feet and a temperature of 45 degrees, down to 282 feet below sea level and 115 degrees, all in a matter of hours. Truly, this is a land of extremes.
The hours had flown by and before I knew it, another day was gone. Now I was blasting east on I-40, working to make up the time.
Just outside of Albuquerque, NM, my eastward flight screeched to a halt. It happens—long distance motorcycling is not always an exact science. Best laid plans and all that.
I saw what looked like a very large hole in the highway and moved to the left to avoid it. Unfortunately it was an optical illusion produced from several different colors of pavement where the highway had been repaired. The hole was actually to the left and I hit it head on. The Valkyrie went airborne. It takes a lot of force to send a Valkyrie airborne. It was a heck of a hit. Rapidly recovering I took my hand off the throttle and let the bike decelerate while I checked for damage or handling problems that could indicate a pranged (that’s a technical term) tire. The bike was running straight and true. I had lucked out.
Just then I passed under a bridge and caught a glimpse of a single motorcycle parked in the shadows. Braking heavily I moved hard right and onto the shoulder. I’d been hoping to make it to the Texas panhandle today to set myself up for a reasonable run into Dallas tomorrow. This was going to blow those plans away, but it couldn’t be helped. I had to stop. I’d just have to push harder tomorrow.
I asked the rider, “You okay?”
He waved at the road. “I hit the same hole you did. My back tire’s flat.”
I looked at his tire. I carry a specialized plug kit and a small compressor for repairs on the road, but it would do no good here. The tire was split from “ear to ear” so to speak. It must have been a rapid deflation. He’s lucky he kept the bike up.
The stranded rider used a cell phone to find a wrecker. He would need a tow into Albuquerque for repairs. Another bike on the highway slowed, but continued on when he saw there were two of us. The rule of thumb is that if a single rider is stopped and doesn’t wave you by, you stop to help. If there are multiple bikes, and the riders are not trying to flag you down, then it’s okay to assume they have transportation and go on.
It would be well over an hour before the wrecker could get here, and we settled in for a long wait. He didn’t ask me to stay, and I didn’t ask if he wanted me to. This is just the way it is out here. I popped open a saddle bag and tossed him a bottle of water. He caught it one-handed. “Thanks.”
It was after dark before the bike was loaded on the wrecker and I could get on my way again. My plans for the day in shambles, I blew through the big city and found a cozy motel in the first small town I came to.
Yep, my plans had to change, but sometimes that’s the way it is, when no man’s left behind.
I’ll see you on the road.
Wide Open Spaces
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