8 July 2014
Having left Denver, it seems a given we should visit Rocky Mountain National Park and experience the highest road in the nation – Trail Ridge. We should not be surprised to find deep, roadside snow at this altitude, but we are. It’s too cold for motorcycling at this altitude. Besides, the engine is running terrible. We beat it down the mountain to US 40 and head west on our 1937 Harley Knucklehead.
In a half hour we encounter a severe southerly wind. We are nearly dragging the left exhaust pipe in order to maintain a straight path. In an hour we are road weary and seeking shelter, a place to stop, anyplace at all. That is when we spot the roadside sign reading: Coyote Creek.
I roll back the throttle and exit into what is a perfect oasis. Wait! I’m wrong. This is not an oasis at all. It’s somebody’s broken dream.
On the left is a cafe. The roof has caved into the dining area. To the right is a motel in the same condition. It has not seen a guest in a decade. We roll to a stop and I cut the engine. Our backs are to the wind, but I still hear it whistle in my helmet. Then a banging sound catches my attention. Cranking the engine, we ride toward what was once a service station. But the pumps are gone. There hasn’t been a soul here for years. Then I hear the sound again. It’s the entryway door. It’s not latched. Someone has covered it with a sheet of corrugated steel and it’s catching the wind. We are in the process of returning to the highway when Barb catches sight of a blue Ford Fairlane parked behind. We shut the engine down again, dismount, and try the door. It swings open.
Two middle aged women are inside tooling leather on a butcher’s block. Belts. They glance up from their work, but say nothing.
“How far is Salt Lake?” I ask.
“A six pack,” says the older woman.
“I can drink a six pack of Bud on the way,” she says smiling.
“Do you sell food here? Coffee?” Barb asks.
“Sorry Hon,” replies the other woman, laying her tooling mallet aside while she fetches a shallow cardboard box of assorted candy bars from beneath the counter and places it within reach. “Your choice, ten cents each. There’s a Coke machine behind you,” she adds, then returns to her belt making.
We select five bars and leave fifty cents on the counter. After getting Cokes from the machine I move to the window. I’m startled to see a young man setting on the ground, leaning against a tree. A few feet away is a bicycle, panniers, tent, the works.
“Is this guy for real?” I ask.
“Yes, he’s been there for a couple of days,” answers the candy bar lady.
We push through the corrugated door and walk around the building.
“Hey! What the good word, young man?” I ask.
“Thunderbird,” he replies, smiling and I detect a slight New England accent.
“So what’s with the bike? Where you from?” I ask.
“I’m from Boston.”
“And you’ve pedaled all the way from Boston to here?”
“I suppose the wind has you pinned down here?” asks Barb.
“Yeah, I’ve been here three days. I hope I never see another candy bar and Coke.”
“Where you headed?” I asked.
“SAN FRANCISCO!” we both shout in unison.
Obviously, he’s grown accustomed to alarmed responses. “My brother is an attorney in San Francisco. He challenged me to pedal from coast-to-coast. If I did that he promised to pay my way through college and law school,” he explains.
“Wow. That is commendable. But with this wind blowing like it is, you should push your bike up to the highway and flag a pickup to get you out of this mess,” I suggest.
“Oh no. I couldn’t do that.”
“Why?” I argue. “He would never know.”
“But I would.”
He certaInly had a point. I walked to the Knucklehead to get what food we had – a can of pork & beans, can of tuna, a jar of peanut butter, and a package of tortillas.
“Here. Take this. Tortillas are nice for on the road. They don’t get any flatter. And you haven’t lived until you’ve had a peanut butter burrito,” Barb said.
He takes our offering with eager fingers. I look back as we are leaving and he already has a burrito ready to eat.
We should have exchanged addresses with him, because we’ve always wondered about him.