We should have rolled out of Beatty at dawn, but we are wearing down and sleep in. The casino near the center of town stays open all night for gambling, but the kitchen has begun serving breakfast only moments before we arrive.
Our destination for the day is Walker Lake. It is several hours up the road—at least at the speed we travel. It lay beyond Goldfield, Tonopah, and Hawthorne.
Goldfield is behind us when a headwind began. It is difficult to judge the wind speed, but it must be 30 mph. Still, I maintain a steady forty-five.
In my mirror I spot a motorcycle, a full-dress Harley. The rider pulls up alongside us and slows to our speed. He appears close to 60. He has apparently lived much of his life on the desert and on his motorcycle. His face and arms are bronze, his skin like cowhide.
“Is that machine heating up?” he shouts over the throb of his HOG.
“No. We’re just fighting the wind.”
“Okay, my friend. Maybe I’ll see you up the road,” he says, issuing me a mini salute with his left hand and then cranks in a bit more throttle. As pulls away I see the MIA/POW on his jacket. He is an aging Vietnam Vet.
A half-hour later he is a mere speck in the distance.
The wind is wearing all three of us down. McBark throws himself on his back and the bike wobbles severely. My heart skips a beat. My first thought is that the rear wheel is coming off.
Barb’s lips were chapping, but we pressed on.
It is time for lunch when we reach Tonopah. I park the bike in the shade of a large sign and then take McBark for a stroll before we tend to our own needs.
Inside a Tonopah café a busboy is clearing the table next to us. His orange coveralls seem inappropriate for the job. When he turns and starts for the kitchen I read the words on his back: INMATE SAN QUENTIN PRISON. Were I his boss, I would send him home.