I was riding straight into a ball of fire and reached for my sunglasses. What really got to me was the spectacle in my rear view mirrors (objects may be closer than they appear). The brand new sunrise reflecting off the white adobe walls in the West Texas town I was leaving was spectacular.
El Paso was ok, just a clean hotel room and decent food for dinner and breakfast. Really, it was just another city in a long list that I blew through; another meaningless way point on a journey to nowhere. I was really looking for a nice state highway that had a few "twisties" and good scenery. That is hard to find in West Texas.
East US 62 seemed to offer a nice road that wasn't too busy and seemed to be biker friendly. Right up until it crossed the New Mexico state line. It seemed like someone took a knife and cut the asphalt at the state line and it became cratered asphalt. This road sucked. Well, in for a penny as the saying goes. I'm on the road. I have no cares and it's just me, the bike and some decent road tunes in the CD changer. (You didn't think I'd make a cross country trip without good music, did you?)
So what is going on? A year ago I was laid up in a hospital wired for sound with a distraught girlfriend, the victim of a 40 yr old stock broker with a drinking problem. Lucky is what I was:
ONE YEAR AGO:
Damn, I hurt. "What the hell?" I thought. I rolled over to get comfortable but I couldn't roll over, I couldn't even move! I felt like the end of a bad horror movie.
I was held down by tubes, not restraints; I couldn't move my arms as they were on some sort of splint and it looked like a musician's patch panel of cords, only these were plugged into me. I watched with morbid curiosity as the small bubble slowly moved down to vanish into the needle sticking in my arm.
What the heck happened?
I remembered cruising down the road, minding my own business. I saw a sports car with a blonde pass me on the left. Then, WHAM! Nothing until I woke up here. Where was here? If I can ask those questions I must be doing sort of ok, I thought. I moved my head and moaned a little with the effort. I heard a squeak from the corner. I couldn't raise my head to see but I sensed someone moving and heard someone gasp, "Oh, thank God!"
I opened my eyes again and saw a familiar face. Yes, it's Lynne. I immediately started to catalog my surroundings: Lynne, girlfriend, 38, together 2 years. Me; Donald Othello Maximilian, known to everyone as DOM, (don't ask how I got saddled with a name like Donald), 43, single. What the heck happened? Why am I here? Obviously a crash; what happened? Did I screw the pooch? Did someone else mess up? Is anyone hurt? Did I hurt anyone? These were all going through my head.
At the same time I mentally did an inventory, wiggling each part as I thought about it, right toe, left toe, and on up until I moved my head. It seemed like everything was working ok, but then again, I couldn't move a lot.
I was just completing this minor task when a young girl walked in and identified herself as my doctor. I didn't know her from Adam so how could she be MY DOCTOR? I had clothes older than her. The only redeeming value here is that she WAS very cute. Her name tag read Dr. R. Donovan.
I croaked something obscene and attempted to moisten my lips with a dry cotton swab called a tongue. Not working very well, the Baby Doc slips me a sliver of ice to wet my mouth. Once that is done, I lick my lips and the croaking actually becomes words. "What happened?"
The Baby Doc said, "You were in an accident and you need to talk to a nice police officer about what exactly happened."
"How long have I been here?"
"Just today." She said.
Well at least I hadn't been out too long, but then, any time out is not good. Lynne, my girlfriend, was holding my hand the whole time and just looking at me to make sure I was really me and actually talking.
When I turned my head and saw her there I was immediately smothered with kisses and if I hadn't been wired for sound, I'm sure she would have inflicted hugs enough to break something lose.
The Baby Doc just sort of giggled when she heard me ask, "Lynne, can I keep her?"
Her eyes sparkled as she said she'd give us a few minutes after she checked me over and took my vitals.
She didn't actually take them, but I got the drift as she started poking and prodding my abdomen and groin under the sheets. A nurse, who looked like she could kick my butt, came in and actually took the vitals. Blood Pressure, pulse, temperature, respiration, all the normal stuff they do to you in a hospital at 2 in the morning when they wake you up just before they give you something to make you sleep.
Lynne just glared at me after that remark. Some things never change it seems. That woman would be jealous of the Bride of Frankenstein or an 80 year old great grandmother.
After both of them finished, the Baby Doc, (I GOTTA quit thinking about her like that.) said, "There will be a detective in here shortly to talk to you and let you know what actually happened. All I can tell you right now is that you're damn lucky to still be among the living. You have a concussion, a separated shoulder and a broken right leg." With a glance at the chart, she continued, "No internal bleeding, no significant road rash; you can thank your armor and your helmet for that, and lots of bruising. Ooh, you're going to be very colorful for a while."
No wonder I couldn't move.
"As hard as you hit your head, you may need a few new fillings and you'll definitely need a new helmet. You might want to buy the old one a fifth, it sure saved your butt, not to mention the other end."
After she threw the helmet comment in, she said she wished all of her trauma cases were in armor like I had been. That's Bike Armor, WHICH, for those of you who don't know, is DEAD COW: Leather, LOTS of leather, nice and thick with Kevlar pads and cushions on elbows, shoulders, back, kidneys. And that's just the jacket. Yeah, you look like a kid from South Park until things get broken in but it's well worth it.
Add Leather Chaps with extra leather on the knees (no snide remarks there) and you are good to go.
She left and I heard her talking to someone outside as the door closed.
"Ok, Lynne, what the hell happened?" I asked.
She just shook her head, "I don't know anything. The cops wouldn't talk to me or even acknowledge me other than to say you'd been in an accident. Maybe you should ask JJ. He seems to be tight with the local police."
"Well he should be, he is, after all, a cop in San Diego but he's out to sea for safety briefs to the returning sailors. What happened to the other guy? Did I hit someone or the other way around? What is going on?"
"You were hit by a car. That's all I know."
About that time a suit came in with a gold shield and a cut-down 9mm showing on his belt, like that was supposed to impress me.
"I'm Detective Donovan," He announced.
"Ok, what happened?"
"Well, you were hit by a car that ran a red light while attempting to evade an officer. He hit the brakes, and slid sideways into you."
GREAT, I'm thinking either my insurance company or I am going to get soaked for the hospital, and that is going to suck.
"What happened to the guy?"
"He's in jail: DUI, evading, and a few other things. He isn't getting out for a while. What do you remember about the accident?"
"Nothing much. I'm riding down the road, cross an intersection, and BANG! Next thing I know, I'm looking at a girl child who claims to be a doctor and my girlfriend is in tears. What can I do?"
He gave Lynne a card and said, "Call if you remember anything else."
As he turned to leave he stopped for a second. Looking at me he said, "The reason you are talking to me instead of a traffic officer is, I wanted to say hello to my daughter. That 'girl child, ' as you call her, REALLY is a doctor and a damned good one. I should know, I paid for her medical school."
OOPS! Man when you put your foot in your mouth you don't even take your boot off.
Baby Doc came in about that time, grabbed the cop by the ears and pulled him down to her, kissed his cheek and said, "I'll see you and Mom when I get off tonight."
"Well, at least I haven't forgotten how to win friends and influence people," I quipped.
She laughed a bit about that and said not to let him bug me. "He's always like that. Even if you are just asking him for directions, he treats everyone like they are being interrogated. He did that to me and my sister when we were growing up, especially when we wanted to date somebody. I never saw him try it on Mom though. Hmmm..."
She got on with her exam and as she was doing more poking and prodding, she said, "The X-rays were negative, and the CAT scan is also good. Still, I think we'll watch you for a couple more days before we send you home."
She smiled as she turned to leave and as a parting shot said, "I may look like a girl child but I'm a CUTE girl child with an DOCTORATE.!"
I glanced at Lynne just in time to see a cold scowl that could lower the temperature in Hell. "Nice bedside manner." She spoke with more venom in her voice than I'd ever heard her use before.
To make matters worse, Baby Doc stuck her head back inside the door and innocently said, "And just think of all the secrets I know about your anatomy."
It hurt like hell when I spasmed with a burst of laughter. Lynne didn't see the humor. In fact, she looked like she just bit a lemon.
So, that's how I got here: Some drunk runs a red light, I get broad sided, and then I get to look at my body for the next two months as it becomes one huge bruise that then fades to yellow. Yup, I was colorful for a while.
His insurance covered everything, but my shyster was obviously better than his shyster and I hit the lotto as a result. NOT. My lawyer did right by me, but I didn't hit the "you can pay off the national debt" jackpot that I might have gotten, had I been willing to wait through all of the legal delays insurance company lawyers are so good at instigating. I figured I'd rather take what I could get while I was still able to enjoy it, rather than leave it to my estate. In the out of court settlement, he did squeeze enough out of the insurance company to pay for his handsome fees, my medical and dental expenses, my house, and a new bike, with $100K extra for walking around money. That, to me, was okay. No, I don't want to go on permanent vacation, but I do want to go on a vacation instead of the alternative (stuck in a job that doesn't allow time off for decompression) so I took what I could. Now I have a little "nest egg" and a steady income and health care from military retirement, so I can do what I want. Work a McJob or loaf. It's up to me; I like that.
Right now I'm on my way across the country and I'm bound and determined to hit every out-of-the-way tourist trap I can find. I've already seen two "Mystery Spots" and the world's largest Honey Bee (plaster). I've burned a lot of film (so to speak, digital memory cards) and eaten a few bugs, but hell, that's why you ride.
I'm on my way now to Dallas/Fort Worth via US 180. I have three days to get there but if it takes four, I'm not worried. The only true limit I've imposed on myself is to get there in one piece. I'm picking up my girlfriend at the DFW airport and we're off on a road trip to see how many states we can hit in a summer without going on an Interstate. What's the use of traveling on a bike if all you see is the ass end of a big rig or someone sporting road rage because he/she/it had a bad day or the kids have been screaming for the last 150 miles?
Topping a ridge, I see the open range warning with the long horn and decide to dial it back a little. I'm cruising at 60 MPH and watching for obstructions. The only obstruction today is the tractor with the hay hauler in the road. Slow down, drift left to check for oncoming traffic and roll onto the throttle and pass nice and quiet. Wave at the kid driving the tractor and keep going. It's funny in the rural areas. These kids out here can drive a tractor that costs $75,000 hauling two tons of hay, carry a weapon that can take you out at 500 yards but must have a note from a parent if they miss school. Go figure.
Oh, did you notice I said nice and quiet there? I have a thing for comfort and that means my creature comforts. I ride a Honda Goldwing. You could call it a Lay-Z-Boy on two wheels but it's much more than that. I have Sirius-radio, a decent CD changer, comfortable seat/soft butt pad. I even have a beverage holder on the handlebar that carries almost a liter of water in a thermal mug. I'm on my way to a nice quiet ride.
Hobbs, New Mexico, is only a little way up the road so that is where I plan an early lunch. I pull into town and slow down to the posted limit. Being from out of town, out of state, and on two wheels is usually an invite, not necessarily for trouble but certainly for curiosity from the local Barney.
I get just about four blocks into town and pull into what looks like a reasonably clean restaurant. Parking the bike in the lot, I slowly climb off and go through the stretching that has been typical of long riders since they did that on horses. I take off the helmet and put it in the suit case and then loosen the leather and look around.
Going into the restaurant, I sit at the counter and get a glass of iced tea. I order the special of the day after seeing that it's Steak Ranchero. (Hey, it's New Mexico. I'm NOT going to eat at a McDonalds.)
The little girl behind the counter wants to know what kind of bike I have. "Is it a Harley?" she asks in all honesty.
"No," I reply, "it's a Honda."
You can see her visibly wilt, as if someone let the air out of a balloon, when she hears that. After that little exchange, I am truly ignored. She does what she has to do to keep me happy, fed and liquefied but you know she has lowered her opinion of me simply because I don't ride a Harley.
I don't really care. I can go to bed in the evening and not worry about loose fillings or being beat up by a long ride. I have a standing bet with a couple of Harley riders, for how ever long it takes to do 100,000 miles with a minimum of 500 miles a day. The loser is the first person to break down, not to include scheduled maintenance, and pays the winner for how many days they ride at the rate of $100 a day. They haven't taken me up on it yet but it is fun to rag them about it.
I pay the bill and leave a decent tip and get ready to hit the road again. The food was really good. Too bad it was only a short meal. I do hope one of these days I'll be able to write a book about the most surprising places to eat ever imagined.
As I step outside, I see the bike has gotten the usual attention. There is a crowd around it looking at the cherry red paint job on the bike and the matching paint on the trailer.
It has gotten hot so I change over from leather to mesh with armor and I am in the process of zipping up when the local cop pulls up, gets out and walks over. He looks the bike over as he's trying to decide how to say something about 900lbs of motorcycle.
A couple of the by-standers ask a few questions, mostly about all the bells and whistles. The console has more knobs than most cars, so I explain that yes, there really is a CD player on the bike, along with Sirius-radio and a CB. I'm just finishing up getting ready when the local cop just sort of shakes his head at the show and goes into the restaurant.
Getting seated again, I start the bike and navigate my way through the parking lot and then back on the main drag. It's nice just to cruise through a town and enjoy how folks look at you. Call it ego but not everyone can actually ride a big bike and there is a look of envy as you cruise through making hardly any noise at all to announce your passage.
Let me say something here about those who feel they MUST announce themselves by making enough noise to make you go deaf for a week. It's their thing. I look at it as over-compensating for their short comings, like the two inch pecker on the guy with the Testarossa. I have nothing to prove, I'm too old for pissing contests and I do like my creature comforts. I also like folks to wave all four fingers and a thumb at me when I pass instead of saluting me with the middle finger as they cut me off or move into my lane. I can also relax at night, I can go get a good dinner, and even dance a bit after 7 hours on the road. Usually the Harley or Sport Bike long riders just want a Jacuzzi and bed.
Cruising through town, I pulled over at the little plaza that seemed to house the City Hall and associated buildings. Pulling out my digital camera I took a picture of the square and then one of the bike and trailer sitting in front of City Hall. I look up as the local cop that was at the restaurant pulls in next to the bike.
Coming over to me, he asked how long I planned to spend in Hobbs. I just said I was passing through on my way to DFW and I didn't want to spend all my time on an interstate. It was much more interesting going the less traveled roads and you meet more "real" people that way too.
I then asked if he would take my picture. Handing him the camera and telling him it was just point and shoot. We talked for a few minutes more and he told me where to gas up in town since most of the folks used the same station and the gas was pretty well cycled.
With a wave of the hand, I was off to the local gas station. I gassed up and was heading out of town and passed the same tractor and hay hauler I saw coming into town. Waving at the kid driving, I took notice that it was a girl about 14 as she returned my wave and I was gone.
Taking the US 62 and then the US 180 I decided to just head into DFW and make the best of it for a day or two until my personal physician flew in. Did I mention I have one of those? Actually, she's my girlfriend...