The Kindness Of Strangers

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Kindness of Strangers.”


On the Road 

It was 2002, when Barb and I were living in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert I had the opportunity to buy a dirt bike, a 1980 Honda Thumper. It cost $100 and it ran. But the positive attributes decreased sharply from there: The rubber was beyond questionable, the lights were no longer functional, the saddle cover was torn, the brakes were defective, and the wheel bearing seals were cracked. After handing over my C note I wondered if I should have my head examined.

Throwing good money after bad, we drove 135 miles to Tucson with a parts list – spark plug, points and condenser, tires and tubes, wheel bearings and seals, cleaning solvent, and a can of wheel bearing grease.

It passed. Maybe it is possible to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, I thought to myself as I road tested my newly revived machine. However, I was concerned about the the final-drive chain. I removed it from the bike and checked it for wear. There is a test that requires only a certain number of inches of sag when it was held out at arm’s length. I didn’t know the specs of that test, but it was my guess that it failed. Still it seemed to have some life left in it. I removed two links and reinstalled it.

I parked the Thumper where it was visible from our 5th wheel, where I let it set for nearly a week. Toward the end of the first week, and immediately after Barb had finished her toast and coffee I voiced a statement.

“We should ride that machine to Oregon and visit the kids.”

“Are you insane?” she sputtered.

I didn’t answer that.

Two more days passed and not a word was uttered about the proposed trip.

“I’m not saying I’m in favor of this trip, but IF we rode that red thing to Oregon what would we do with McBark?” she asked a few days after my initial statement.

“We’ll take him with us, of course,” I assured her, explaining that I would do something I had sworn I would never do – strap a milk crate to a motorcycle.

She squinted here eyes. I could see the wheel turning, but I couldn’t read what she was thinking, or perhaps I didn’t want to know..

“How long would the trip take?”

“As long as you want it to take. A week? Two weeks?”


In a National Forest

The following day she consented, with one condition: if it wasn’t as much fun as I made it sound I would bring her back to the desert. I agreed to that in a heartbeat and began making a list.

We needed our tent, a small tarp, two sleeping bags, plus the essentials – tooth bushes, soap, towels, two changes of underwear, hair brush, and one change of outer clothing. Together, the things we were taking weighed 17 pounds, not including the 35 pound dog.

We rolled to the trailer park clubhouse to issue our farewells. Ethan, a good friend, followed us out the door and surveyed our “Toonerville Trolley”, and smiled.

“It’s so appropriate that you would leave today,” he said.

Only then did I realize we were departing on 1 April. The timing was faulty, but the summer heat was already showing its sweating face. If we waited any longer we would become crispy critters.

Considering our weight, two up, a dog, 17 pounds of personals, and a drive chain I wished I’d replaced made me question this entire adventure. Perhaps we shouldn’t exceed 45 mph. We headed north across the Goldwater Bomb Range, and stopped for lunch at Gila Bend, and then spent our first night at Skull Valley. Barb hadn’t complained. Fact was, our slower pace seemed to set well with her.

001 (2)

Resting In the Shade of A Palo Veerde Tree

North of Prescott the following day, we cut across country, following dirt roads that eventually brought us into Williams, some 60 miles south of Grand Canyon. This was where the engine wouldn’t start after fueling. There was spark. Disassembling the carburetor gave no indication of what the problem might be, but after reassembly it came back to live, and I laid the fault to a piece of dirt.


Camping In A Horse Corral

May 5 005

Dirt Roads

My concern for the drive chain had grown exponentially. In my mind, I visualized the chain separating and lodging itself in the spokes. We needed to replace it, but there were no bike shops with chains to fit this Thumper.

Taking a very large chance we made the trip to Grand Canyon and back, then followed The Mother Road – Historic Route 66 – to Kingman.

The Honda store was already closed. So we found a room for the night. The following morning we were waiting for the service manager at a sun-warped picnic table. As the crew performed a safety inspection, changed the oil, and replaced the drive chain, we shared our Oregon plans with him. His eyes told me he wished he could join us on this adventure.

May 5 015

In the Desert

As I approached the cashier’s desk to pay our $134.29 repair bill, the service manage reached over the clerk’s shoulder, and with a large rubber stamp, he marked it PAID.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked in disbelief.

“Absolutely. You have a nice day, stay safe, and now get out of here before I change my mind,” he said smiling.

We could have made the trip without his generosity, but his gesture reinforced our faith in mankind . We mailed him a postcard each day.

By the time we reached Oregon we’d been on the road 11 days and traveled 1700 miles.

Thirteen years later Barb talks about that generous man in Kingman.

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