We experienced instant relief from the traffic noise as we left busy Interstate 40 and rolled into Ash Fork. We soon came upon a pack of fifteen large, full dress Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Astride our ancient dirt bike, we felt outclassed, but at the same time we were compelled to see what was happening.
I spoke to several riders clad in Harley garb—leather vests, chaps, and headbands before I found anyone who spoke English. They were French. Having flown to Los Angeles as a group, they rented their machines. Their tour included Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, and Rocky Mountain Nation Park. However, the primary thrust of their adventure was to ride all the broken segments of the Mother Road, Historic Route 66, between Southern California and Chicago. They’d done that and now they were now headed back to the coast to turn in their bikes and then fly back to Paris. If the chatter and back slapping was any measure, it had been a fun-filled adventure.
It seems that folks from Europe know more details about Route 66 than we Americans do.
Route 66 was not deserted on this journey. We encounter dozens of motorcycle, mostly full-dress Harleys.
By the time we reached the Hualapi (pronounced hu-la-pie) Indian Reservation and Peach Springs it was lunch time. We entered a café, following two Hualapi Reservation Police Officers. A sign standing in the dining entryway stated: Please Wait To Be Seated. The police officers ignored the sign and chose a table. We followed their example.
That was a large mistake. I could have chipped ice from the waitress’s attitude, but we couldn’t undo what was done. The food was good, but the service redefined the word slow. Who knows what they did in the kitchen.
We tarried along the way, exploring a few dirt roads that branched off from the highway. What attracted our attention most, however, was a place called Hackberry.
Hackberry is an old service station that may have existed back when. Inside were photos and tapes of the Route 66 television series. But outside stood two rusting tire changing machines, a Corvette occupied by a female mannequin and piles of junk dating back to John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath era.
Leaning against a rusted car body was a message board on which travelers of the 1930s might have left messages for those following. It captured my imagination. I could almost sense the presence of the Joad family gathered round awaiting the arrival of the preacher because he could read.
The Mother Road offered so much to see that we used the entire day to travel less than 200 miles. The sun was two fingers from the horizon when we reached Kingman, Arizona.
Anxious to have the chain replaced, we were up with the sun the following morning, and having breakfast. As the clock hands approached eight we pushed back from our table and headed out. Barb brought to-go cups of coffee while I followed directions the Honda motorcycle store. Much to our disappointment, the shop opened at nine. We took a seat at a sun-bleached picnic table near the service entrance and sipped our coffee. McBark didn’t say so in so many words, but it was obvious he was pleased to be a dog rather than a creature trapped in his milk crate.
About half past eight the service manager, a silver-haired man, joined us, bringing along a bran muffin and a carton of orange juice. He was interested in where our journey had begun and our destination.
“What’s wrong with the bike?” he finally asked.
I told him we needed a safety check and oil change. Most of all, we needed a new chain. Shortly, his head mechanic, a tall, slender fellow with too much hair and dirty fingernails joined the three of us with a breakfast matching his bosses. The two of them, approving of our adventure, made plans for a desert ride on Sunday. Then the Thumper was pushed into the shop.
An hour later the service manager brought the completed repair order to the picnic table. The Parts and labor totaled $130 and some odd cents. I dug out my wallet.
“It’s been taken care of,” he said.
“What? Are you sure?”
“Absolutely! Ride before I change my mind,” he said. Without another word he turned and headed back for the shop.