Published In The January 2014 Issue Of Cycle Source
Article & Photos by:Scooter Tramp Scotty
One of the strangest aspects of a drifter’s life is the fact that he has almost no permanent reality of his own. Almost every man has his own reality: his job, woman, friends, family, home, dog; the things he loves and things he only tolerates in his world. In this way, a man’s life is forged of the people and objects around him. Not so for the drifter. In my case the only things that remain familiar are my bike and body. Everything around these two staples is in a state of almost constant change. Life had become a perpetual visit into other people’s worlds.
By summer I often take employment at the big motorcycle rallies that permeate the country. This is an honest job that allows a traveler to pull off the road, work a hard week, then grab his little pocket of green freedom and be on his way again. At Sturgis, if you can fix bikes and want to work, then you’re golden. I had done exceptionally well there this year, but that was behind me now and the funds my labor had brought in would last for many months to come. As usual there was no time schedule, no home to return to, and no real destination. For a while the days ahead would be filled only with the ride and whatever manner of adventure the road might throw my way next. I’d not be kept waiting long…
It’s been said that there’s more power in one female pubic hair than there is in a locomotive train. So it was the call of a woman, coupled with the wish to visit a few old friends in Utah, which motivated my wheels to spin in a westerly direction across the tiny back roads of Wyoming. Afternoon was fading to evening and tomorrow’s highway would climb the 9,700 foot Powder River Pass then move on through Thermopolis and eventually into Utah. Tonight however, I’d simply make camp here in Buffalo.
After a local restaurant had provided dinner, one abandoned dirt road led the Electra Glide into the seemingly forgotten woods that resided along a small creek. The night was so warm and sky so bright that I chose simply to leave the tent untouched and sleep beside my bike. It was late morning when I reached for the coffee thermos. After a bowl of cereal I walked to the creek for a bath, changed into clean clothes, repacked the bike, and eventually made my way back to the pavement.
No motorcyclist could hope for a better ride than the one that little highway 16 provided that day. Although the mid August air started out warm, by the time the mountain pass had faded from my mirrors it was downright hot.
The anomaly of Thermopolis came to pass and it was there that I spent over an hour grinning and shooting pictures of the bizarre spectacles that pepper this strange geothermal place.
Spectacular walls of tall rock outcroppings stood to either side of the tight canyon road as its twisty pavement crawled beside the river at my right. A small rest area came into view. Some 50 feet from the river’s edge a single picnic table sat atop a little concrete slab. I decided to take a break.
My heavily loaded Electra Glide soon sat in the shade as I lied on the table with a rolled up jacket as a pillow, book in hand.
I heard movement at the shore and looked lazily up to note that a man and his two female companions had docked their rubber boat at my shoreline. This seemed pretty normal in a place like this so I returned attention to the novel.
I soon heard footsteps approaching. Again I looked up. Thin legs labored to carry the rather frail weight of a man in his later years heading in my direction.
“Hi. I’m Martin,” he said pushing a thin hand in my direction. Both women then arrived and he introduced them as his wife and daughter. Martin then launched into his story.
“As you can see, we came out for a little rafting today. Well, we parked my wife’s truck over there,” he pointed to the only vehicle in the lot, “then drove mine six miles up the river, locked it, and started down in the raft. Well, we hit a rock, flipped the boat, lost our cooler and everything else, and then barely got our shit back together without drowning!” He was laughing now — they all were. I wasn’t sure if I should join in or not. “Problem is, that Annie left her keys up in my truck and now we got no way of getting to it,” Martin was laughing some more, “I’ll give you $20 for a ride to my truck,” he said.
How could I say no? I was about ready to leave anyway. I didn’t want money since the crazy story was wages enough, but he insisted.
As I moved to rearrange equipment and make room for a passenger, Annie started talking. “Hey, where are you staying tonight Scotty? We own a motel in Riverton about 35 miles up the road. It’s a nice place. How about a free room?” I didn’t know what to say. Annie asked me for pen and paper, scribbled a note, then handed it back with a few words, “Give this to the girl at the desk and she’ll hook you up.”
Then the daughter chimed in, “Hey, we’re having a barbeque tonight. Wanna come? Free food and we’ve got a hot tub.” All smiles and bubbly, Janice was obviously one of those fun, extroverted, and possibly a little deviant, personality types. Again, how could I say no?
It was with some difficulty that Martin mounted my bike and we set off. When five miles had passed, the highway began to climb high upon the canyon wall and away from the river far below. Before long the reason became obvious: a huge dam blocked the canyon and the road had simply climbed the canyon wall to go over it. From the top I could see the large lake that spread out for quite some distance at its far side. At the other side, a rough dirt road led steeply down to the dam’s base where Martin’s truck was parked. It was quite a distance. Martin offered to walk the rest of the way, but walking was no longer the old guy’s strong point and I refused to let him. The truck was just as he had said and I saw that the look of relief in the old dude’s eyes was genuine.
Day had faded to late afternoon as the small town of Riverton came into view. The motel was just as Annie had said and the counter girl soon handed me a key. It was a wonderful little place, all done up in natural colors and offering a little rout iron table and chairs sitting outside my door. I unloaded the bike and settled in. Feeling hungry, I wondered whether to go out and eat or wait to see if Janice would call about the BBQ. After all, I didn’t know these people well enough to count on anything for sure. Then the phone rang; it was Janice.
It was in a quaint middleclass neighborhood in which the fine single-story American home waited for my arrival. Martin appeared from the yard’s wooden gate, shook my hand, then ushered me in. It was a nice place, the BBQ was already smoking and everybody, including grandma and grandpa, was present. After introductions I took a seat, accepted a cup of coffee, and faded into the conversation.
Annie groaned with obvious irritation at a task that had undoubtedly brought more stress and financial drain than originally intended as she told the story of how they’d purchased the motel as a fixer upper then transformed it into the fine establishment it is today.
The food was good and conversation jovial as I tempered my language for the sake of this older crowd. As the afternoon turned to evening then ultimately fell into night, the grand folks said their goodbyes, and Martin went to bed soon after. Janice really was a bit of a firecracker and she promptly declared it time to go hot tubing. Mom was in. I was too. It was 10:00 when I finally rode home.
Morning brought slightly cooler weather and as usual it was pushing noon by the time Betsy was again packed and I started her engine. As the unknown future that the open road held as only mystery to me spread out ahead, I relaxed farther into the old FL’s pilot’s seat. After all, for just this moment the bike was in fine running condition, the highway was beautiful, and the sunshine warm.
It was a good day to ride.