I put the tools back in the saddlebag and wiped the sweat out of my eyes. The little 12-volt electric air pump chugged away, slowly filling my front tire. A car swept by my precarious position on the small shoulder and scattered dust, the turbulence from its passing rocking the big motorcycle. I groaned, “Why do I do this to myself?”
This was my second flat tire for the day. The first had been a simple nail-hole, sidelining me just west of Tucumcari, New Mexico. I hadn’t even had breakfast yet. The bike started handling funny and I pulled over just in time to watch the tire go flat. Ugh. I carry a specialized tire repair tool called a “mushroom plug gun” just for these occasions, and fifteen minutes later I was on my way. That tire was getting a bit thin anyway and I would need a new “skin” when I finally made it home.
Now I was just south of Amarillo, Texas. The home stretch. Once again the bike felt a little odd and I pulled over. This time it was a cut in the tire about a half-inch long. Normally this would not be considered repairable, but standing alone in the desolate plains of west Texas, out of cell phone coverage and facing a day’s delay and a hundred dollar (or more) tow bill, I decided to try anyway. It took me three attempts, but I managed to insert two plugs into the hole, squished side-by-side. A little extra glue and a little extra drying time, and the tire was ready for testing.
I glanced at the map. I was still about 360 miles from home. Choices now. Run for home or head back to Amarillo for a new tire? Motorcycle tires are horrendously expensive when you have to replace one on the road. Besides, I hadn’t seen my wife in weeks. I mumbled, “The heck with it,” and gunned the throttle. I had other repairs to make anyway. Homeward bound it was.
Maybe I would even make it.
In twenty-one days on the road, fourteen states and over 8000 miles passed under my wheels. Incredible sights and exciting places were etched into my experience. Terrain ranging from mountains and forests to deserts and barren rock had challenged man and machine. The lonely wail of the heavy cruiser running alone for hours down empty highways had once again reminded me of just how big this country is. The joy of new friendships made and old ones renewed was contrasted by the intensely lonely nights on the road without my wife.
Why do I do this to myself? I knew the answer the moment I got moving again, flying, free, and alive.
I arrived on the setting sun, my wife hearing the rumbling bike pull in the drive and opening the garage door. The two cats came out with her. From the backyard I heard our dog, quietly barking a greeting. People had missed me here. I’d missed them too.
I’ve been asked of my travels, “What are you seeking?” and I’ve never had a ready answer. “What are you looking for?” has always stumped me. Perhaps I am seeking myself, just the time for introspection and a bit of soul searching. I smiled at my wife. Perhaps, just once and a while, I need to go far enough away so I can look back at what I have. Perhaps I need the wideness of this land to put my own small problems in perspective.
Then again, perhaps I just like to ride.
The wife pulled me inside saying, “Come in! Tell me about your trip!” As I entered the house I glanced back at the Valkyrie motorcycle cooling in the garage. The massive black and chrome cruiser had carried me far away and back again. Together we’d met, and mastered, many challenges. Eight thousand miles. We had done it. Tomorrow I would order a new tire and other parts to fix damage and wear from this and other trips she’s carried me on. Tomorrow I would start getting her ready for the next one. Idly, with no sense of urgency, I wondered just where that might be.
As I flipped off the garage light I said softly, “Thanks babe.”
It’s out here folks. Come and see.
I’ll see you on the road.
The Author and his machine
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