A Harley K Model – 03
This is the third and final segment of my trilogy
Before arriving at Aunt Ruby’s house, I register the title, purchase a new license, and six months of liability insurance. She’s watching for me from the front window, whipping the door open as I’m poised to knock. She sizes me up for a long moment, silently acknowledging the gas can I’ve brought. Obviously, she approves, because she makes no threats.
After letting myself into the shed, I clean the plugs, and run a strip of paper through the contact points. Then I mount the wheels and pump the tires with a bicycle pump. I pour the gallon into the tank. After checking the oil one last time, I prepare for the final test, see if it will start.
Swinging a leg over, I work the kick starter, bringing a piston up on compression. I mutter a silent prayer, and then I drop my weight on it. The engine turns and fires, but only once. I repeat the procedure. It fires again. The third time it comes to life.
I have a motorcycle.
I don’t need to inform Aunt Ruby about my leaving. She’s standing on her porch with her hands on her hips, watching. She is pleased to see me go.
The wind in my face is everything I’ve anticipated, and more. I might have cranked out a hundred miles, but I’m exhausted. A shower, an hour at the beer garden, and then into the rack is more important. I’m thinking about taking a trip.
The following week I’m rotated to the afternoon shift, three to midnight. Often times I’m required to work later, but I’m still able to roll out before sunrise and put miles on the K. By the end of the week I’ve declared it dependable, but I replace the points and plugs anyway, carefully avoiding the old adage uttered by many aircraft maintainers – if it ain’t broke fix it until it is.
It’s time for a trip, something greater than an overnighter.
A squadron policy dictates the length of leave time allowed – a week for destinations east of the Mississippi, two weeks for anything beyond. The decision is simple. I’ll visit Aunt Helen in Laramie, Wyoming. The extra week give me time to take in Colorado as well. I submit my application. It’s approved.
I’m good to go.
“Where you headed on that wheel,” an Atlanta waitress asks as I park on a cafe stool.
“Colorado and then Wyoming. Why?”
“I’m writing a book,” she says.
“Ooookaaay.”I think she’s yanking me around, but I can’t be sure by her straight-faced response. She’s a pretty girl, and her deep-set brown eyes that reveal a slight twinkle. A few minutes pass before she brings my burger and fries.
“Do you always eat in cafés?” She asks as she sets the platter in front of me and then warms my coffee.
That’s a strange question, I think to myself. “Some. But I’ll be camping and fixing my own vittles most of the time.”
“I see. You’re a chef on vacation.”
“Leave out the chef part.”
“Then you’re traveling solo?”
I nod, then bite into my burger. “Yep.”
She moves down the counter to serve other customers, then returns to add a drib of coffee to my already brimming cup while I admire her legs. “I’ll cook if you’ll take me with you to Colorado.”
I can’t believe what I’ve just heard. “What?”
“You heard me. What’ll it be? Yes?”
“Wull … I didn’t bring enough cash to feed two people,” I argue while I try to get my feet on the ground, so to speak. I’m not a pretty boy. I have no experience at fighting off women.
“I got some money. I’ll pay my way,” she assures me.
I’m taken aback. Something isn’t right here, but an inner voice says I should give it a shot. Don’t let this opportunity slip away. “Maybe we can try it for a day? But wait. Don’t you have to give notice. Maybe this is a bad idea. I don’t even know your name.”
“It sounds like a wonderful idea to me. FRANK!” She shouts toward the kitchen.
“Yeah?” comes a muffled response.
“I’m outta here. I’m quitting,” she hollers, whipping off her apron and tossing it on the counter.
The kitchen door bursts open. A perspiring man with a few gray hairs sprouting from his bald head emerges. His mouth is gaping. “You can’t just waltz outta here like this. What am I supposed to do, Trish?”
“Yeah I can and I don’t know. Carmen’s been looking for work,” Trish says pointing to a middle aged woman sitting near a window. ”
I’m still in shock when she tells me we need to swing by her place for some duds.
That evening we find a trailer park with a grassy spot suitable for the tent, plus a bathhouse. Trish prepares dinner as promised. It doesn’t measure up to my cooking. But I don’t complain.
By dawn I’m up, get a shower, and start some coffee. Fortunately, Trish insisted on sleeping on the grass while I take the tent. No amount of prodding will get her up. I’ve tried everything.
“I’m going to ride away and leave you here if you aren’t up in five minutes,” I promise.
“Do it,” she mumbles, rolling over.
I start packing and in three minutes I’m ready. The sun isn’t yet up when I hit the road. So much for illicit relationships, at least that one.
The miles drift by. Sometime in mid-afternoon I head west into Missouri. Shortly before dark I find a cottonwood thicket. It’s quiet, but the misquotes are as thick as sugar ants. In spite of feeling as though I was smothering, I drift off with a shirt over my face.
With the morning sun comes a fierce west wind. Traveling sixty mies per hour is like doing ninety. In spite of it, I ride hard, and by late-afternoon I’m in Colorado and I’ve had enough for one day.
I’d considered a windscreen before leaving Charleston, but it’s like pushing a barn door down the highway, and it degrades the handling. I’d decided against it. Besides, folks who don’t like the elements should catch a bus.
I find a trailer park with grassy space for a tent. After dinner, I shower and then play a game of eight-ball,with a fellow traveler. He’s an Army Sergeant riding a full dress Harley, faring and all. He’s traveling in the opposite direction – California to Virginia. It’s a change of station for him. He says that the wind hasn’t been a problem for him. I want to remind him that the prevailing wind blows west to east. But I don’t.
The following morning my route is detoured through the back streets of small town hosting a parade and then a rodeo. Traffic has the narrow streets is clogged and I’m sitting with the engine idling, when an attractive girl approaching from behind notices my South Carolina tag.
“Where are you headed?” she asks.
“The Silver Thread Highway up through Creede and then Wyoming.”
“Gee. For two cents I’d hop on and go with you,” she ventures. Her smiling face is highlighted by lovely auburn hair. I like what I see. As light breeze brings the scent of her perfume and my heart nearly stops.
“The wind will mess up that pretty hair.”
“I have a brush,” she says, and from her expression I can tell she is serious. She wants to go.
I remember leaving Trish back in Arkansas. “It’s a bad idea.”
Traffic starts moving, so I steer the K over to the curb and shut off the engine. She follows.
“Well, first off, you don’t know who I am. Second, I don’t have enough cash to feed two of us. And another thing, what makes you so sure I won’t stack this bike up and kills us both?”
“You don’t know me either, but folks call me Carol. I could be an axe murderer for all you know. Not a problem with having a wreck. You made it this far without crashing. Cash? No problem there, either,” she says, flashing a Visa card.
Against my better judgement, I move my stuff so there is room for her. Again, because I’m not a pretty boy, my girl experience is very limited. But I don’t share that information with her. Instead, I ask what she plans to do about clothes.
She directs me to a residential area and then to a large brick house. In ten minutes she returns with a sleeping bag and clothes. She mounts up behind me. I like the feel of her arms around me as she laced her fingers above my belt buckle.
“What did your folks say?” I ask over my shoulder as he thread our way through the streets and then head west.
“I have a brother in Creede. They asked me to tell him hi,” she says, her lips touch my ear. The sensation of her hot breath remains there minutes after.
We motor throughout the day. When we stop to eat she pays her own fare with her plastic. When evening arrives we make camp at Trinidad State Park. The I following day we roll into Creede and I’m wishing I’d brought warmer clothes.
Indeed, she does have a brother living there. He’s a fireman who works out of a department occupying an old silver mine tunnel. He’s not the least bit surprised to see her arrive with a stranger on a motorcycle. We have dinner with her brother and he puts me up for the night.
The following morning, leaving Carol behind, I ride toward the summit. I’d forgotten how agile my machine is with only one up. The engine doesn’t preform will at this altitude. If I were to stay I would have to re-jet the carburetor. I’m cold to the bone. I’ve had enough of the high altitude. I pause, and let the motor idle while I glance to my left at what people describe as the source of the Rio Grande River, but the distance is too great to make out any detail. Besides, I miss the girl.
Doubling back, I retrace my path down the Silver Thread Highway to Creede. Swinging by the house where I left Carol, I ask if she wants to go to Wyoming with me.”
I purchase a leather jacket and then find a motel for the night. The next morning she swings on behind me. She brings her arms around and laces her fingers above my belt. We head back up the Silver Thread Highway. Then she lays her head against my shoulder. It feels good.
I wonder if we have a relationship in the making. Maybe she’ll return to Charleston with me? I hope so.