Thursday, August 7, 2008

April 14, 2008

We're in Laughlin, NV. Linda says that the best part of the trip is that nobody died. Some people got scared. Real scared. And those that didn't get scared have no imagination. Maybe that should be explained.

This all started last weekend when the New Flagstaff Six got carried away with ourselves, rented Harleys and took off for places we shouldn't have gone. In preparation for a planned trip mentioned above and described later, we decided to take a pre-trip to gauge the strength of our character and rear ends. Our strength of character was sorely challenged and the strength of our rear ends proved to be non-existent.

I should introduce you to the New Flagstaff Six: First there's Phil, the seeker of truth and hats. His wife Angela, who may indeed be an angel but trys to hide it. Next is Jeff (Hawk) Hawkins and his wife Laurie (Lady Hawk.) Then there's Linda who's name in Spanish means beautiful. She fits the name well. And finally me, Stan, or lately called Dr. FrankenStan. The name having to do with the Honda CB900 Linda and I are putting together with parts from various sources and dead bikes. The bike is called FrankenBike, hence Dr. FrankenStan.

Angela had made arrangements for five of us to rent bikes from the Harley dealer in Belmont. We wanted to get an early start so we made sure to get there at 8 a.m. Actually Angela wanted to get a really early start so we made sure we were there before 8. Way before 8. The problem with that was that the rental guys don't get there until 9. Not really a problem because we spent the time drooling over the cycles for sale. I picked out several, each of which Linda said I could buy if I could figure out how to pay for them. I'm working on that but in the meantime renting will have to do. Oh, only five of us needed to rent because Phil owns his.

It was with some fear and trepidation that I threw my leg over the Heritage Classic chosen for me to ride. I felt the vibrations and was glad I wasn't being too macho to wear my helmet. Then I realized the vibrations were just my knees banging against the gas tank and I should probably start the engine. I watched as Linda took off for a short test ride. She just pulled in the clutch, dropped it into first gear, revved slightly, let the clutch out slowly, put her feet up on the floorboards and took off. Nothing to it! Heck, I can do that! Easy. The rental guys knew that Lin hadn't been on a machine the size of the Harley before so one of them took off on foot to pursue her. What he would do if he caught up with her I don't know but needless to say he didn't catch her. A couple of minutes later she pulls up, downshifts, puts her feet down and stops. Ok, this must be easy, she's only been on it for a few minutes and already she's got the hang of it. Great, my turn. Off I go. Let's see now; pull the clutch in, got that. Drop it into first gear, got that. Rev slightly, got that. Let the clutch out slowly, got that. Put feet up on the floorboards which makes me stomp on rear shifter dropping it into second gear making me look like a doofus, got that. Yeah, I'm getting the hang of it all right.

We set out from Belmont into Flagstaff with intentions of having a leisurely trip to Valle, just south of the Grand Canyon. The ride into Flag was uneventful unless you count the seventeen thousand trucks that went by at twice the legal limit, almost blasting us off the road. We took highway 180 north out of town and stopped at Sechrist School. Whew, made it that far. We were just checking up on each other. Linda and Laurie looked all cool and refreshed. Phil and Angela being experienced riders were having no issues. Jeff is an old Goldwing rider so he was all together. I was really glad that I had on my full face helmet so that people couldn't see the terror etched onto my face. I just kept the mirrored face shield down and shouted through it “Yeah, this is great, I'm having a blast.” Lies, all lies. I was scared to death. And the worst was yet to come.

We set off again, me in the middle so that if I took a dive someone would see me and help pick up the pieces, or at least try to get the bike off of me. We only went 15 or 20 miles to the next stop where I was able to pull the helmet off. Mostly because I was sweating profusely lubricating the helmet so that it almost fell off. I acted all cool and went into the little store where I bought some beef jerky. I needed to walk to make my legs quit shaking. I came out and Linda was laughing and having a great time with the group. I was thinking “Why has she been so reluctant to do this? She's having a great time.” I was also thinking “What the heck's wrong with her, doesn't she know we could die?” And die we almost did a few minutes later.

We took off to Valle. I should tell you that highway 180 is in the high plains with only some scrub oak and juniper bushes to break the wind. Wind, did I mention wind? As we left the little store the wind began to pick up and blow across that plain like it had someplace to be in a hurry. I checked with the National Weather Service later and they said the wind had been blowing between 237 and 413 miles an hour that day. As Angela led us down the road my bike kept laying over onto it's floorboards and crashbars. At one point I let off the throttle but didn't slow down 'cause the wind just blew me down the road. I kept hitting the brakes but it didn't make any difference in my speed. I'm thinking “I paid money to do this? What rational human would do this for fun? What the heck is wrong with Angela, can't she see that we need to slow down? I paid money to do this? Why doesn't Linda put a stop to this madness?”

I was wearing a hoody with one of those hand warmer pockets in the front. When I'd straddled the bike after leaving the store I'd put my gin n u wine eyetalian leather stroker hat in that pocket. As the wind blew and I struggled down the highway, I thought I felt something happening that wasn't right but I was too occupied with trying not to die to pay much attention. I think I lost track of Phil who was behind me a bit. He likes to ride faster than I do so I figured that he'd dropped back in order to give himself some room to really turn it on. Did I really think all that stuff while attempting to stay alive? Sure I did. The old saying about perception becoming acute and awareness coming to the forefront is true. I kept having out of body experiences. As I was floating above the possible carnage I kept saying to myself “I'm gonna die. I paid money for this and I'm gonna die.”

After what must have been hours, though it felt like days, and was probably only 45 minutes or so, we arrived at Valle. We pulled up to the tourist trap and dismounted. Angela arrived first of course, and she had a big smile. Jeff and Laurie seemed fine and Linda was radiant as usual. I peeled off the helmet and found the nearest thing without wheels to sit on. As I sat there, Phil handed me my gin u wine eyetalian leather hat. Fortunately he had seen it come out of my pocket, stopped, picked it up and then drove over 200 miles an hour to catch us. I really appreciate his efforts. The hat means a lot to me; Linda bought it for me when we were in Italy. Florence to be exact.

We relaxed for a short while and then drove across the street to “Bedrock City,” a Flintstones village with a big Fred Flintstone sign. We took lots of pictures to prove to all and sundry, mostly Linda's brother, that we were actually on Harleys. I was afraid that people would think we had just gone to the dealership and faked it all. After the pictures it was off to Williams for lunch.

Down highway 64 to Williams didn't seem as bad. Maybe the panic attack was over or maybe the wind just wasn't as fierce, but whatever it was I began to relax a little and maybe even started to

enjoy myself.

After lunch we headed back east to Belmont. We utilized old Route 66 as much as possible. At one point on 66 we stopped for pictures. Linda drove up to me and said how much she enjoyed the leisurely pace of this part of the trip. I guess that's when I decided it was actually fun. Then we got back on I 40. The semi trucks have NO respect for Harley riders. We turned the bikes back in to the dealership without further incident. Now its the next weekend and we've made it to Laughlin. Further description of this adventure to follow. If I can figure how to post pictures I'll do it.