Article By: Scooter Tramp Scotty
Originally Published In The February 2020 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
Spring weather was warm beneath the northern Florida sun as two motorcycles began their slow journey north. Only six hundred miles lay between us and the Myrtle Beach, NC motorcycle rally that would begin in less than a week. Since we were in no hurry, we chose to meander through the thickly forested back roads that headed towards Georgia. Behind my Electra Glide, Joe’s heavily loaded little 300cc Ninja kept a steady pace. The guy seemed an anomaly. He left his home in Virginia only weeks ago, with almost no money, and on that tiny bike, a friend had sold him for $1, and yet Joe already seemed more at home out here than many I’d known. Still, he was nervous. After all, the guy had done very little traveling and certainly had done nothing like this in his short 36 years on the planet. But, with all the years of road life, I have laid down, there is certainly some security in traveling with me. Behind us was Panama City and the Thunder Beach Rally that had ended only days ago. We’d both worked that show and would do so again in NC. As is often my MO, we had left the beaches by early afternoon and would have to find a suitable spot to set up camp before long. For now, however, I was content to watch the scenery roll by.
As evening approached, we began our search. In short order, we saw an abandoned strip mall. The huge parking lot’s far end held a big-ass building set some distance back from the highway. Once parked, I saw that the strip mall’s roof was extended to cover its concrete walkway as it passed the many entrances of forgotten businesses. After dismounting, I split off to walk the road that trucks had once used for deliveries to back doors. Weeds grew through the pavement and it was obvious that this place seldom saw action. I saw a secluded spot along the building’s side but hoped not to have to use it. Although it would work, there were two inconveniences: First: I saw that the heat of the direct morning sun would blow us out early, therefore, leaving us no option to lounge with coffee. Second: with no roof or overhang to stave off nightly dew, we’d wake up to wet camps. I moved on.
A nearby dirt road led from the lot into the woods. It would work as well, but the road was dirt (clean concrete is always preferable) and a host of mosquitoes lived back there. Just then, the phone rang. Her name was HDLiz. We’d never met. She was following Joe’s regular posts on the internet. She invited us to her place for the night. Checking the map, I realized we were half an hour past her house. “Well,” she countered, “I may come up and take you guys to breakfast in the morning.” That sounded great, and I told her so. Not really believing she’d come, I offered only vague directions to our little strip mall.
Meeting Joe back at the bikes, I said, “What do you think about making camp on that walkway underneath the eve? We can be seen from the road in the distance so it’s a bit risky, but there’ll be good morning shade and no dew.” “It is a little sketchy. What do you think?” “Well, worst that can happen is the cops boot us in the middle of the night, and we have to move back into the woods. But this is the best spot. I say we risk it.” The decision was made. Next order of business was supper and we decided to ride to the nearby grocery store for hot chicken dinners from the deli. After that, we laid out camp. I slept exceptionally well that night.
When I unzipped the door, the sun had already been up for a good while. As I looked out, I was stunned by the vision of an old orange Shovelhead parked in front of my tent. I saw woman sitting in my camp-chair talking to Joe, who stood beside her. She was a little older and was very attractive. This was certainly not something I had expected to see when I had gone to sleep the night before. Introductions passed quickly and the conversation fell into an easy rhythm. Liz had taken half the day off work to make this visit. Eventually, she asked if we were ready for breakfast—her treat. Camp was packed up and we followed the old Shovel to a nearby I-Hop. I was curious about her interest in us, so I prodded Liz for a history lesson and got it. In the 70s, she and her boyfriend had enjoyed an almost constant stream of runs and rallies aboard his Panhead. After him, she’d purchased the Shovel and began traveling alone. As we sat down to breakfast, Liz told stories (I might have prodded a little) of far off adventures, rallies, friends, and breakdowns along the way. She’d obviously spent a lot of time on the road. Some years ago, Liz had taken a job in Tallahassee and was mostly settled down now. I wondered if she missed it
After breakfast, Liz led us to a gas station and filled both tanks. When I asked why, she replied, “I’m working and have some money. You guys are on the road and I know what it’s like.” From there, Liz turned south while we continued our journey north and east. I love the back roads of Georgia, the weather was good and, although they can’t all be, this was an exceptional ride set at an easy pace. For me, when it comes to making time, cars are infinitely superior to motorcycles, but for the pure pleasure of travel, motorcycles are light years ahead. Therefore, I seldom try to make a motorcycle do a car’s job. After all, I’m not getting paid by the mile. Also, in the effort to experience the country and its people rather than pass quickly by, I stop often for just about anything that piques my interest
More than most areas, Georgia is littered with abandoned buildings. I find these places akin to museums because they always make me wonder what happened to them. Unable to pass up one interesting old abandoned factory, we stopped for a tour. We entered the building through the front side which was open to the world. We were in a room filled with pallets of expensive, brand new tile. There was stuff for kitchens, bathrooms, and floors. Some had been imported from Spain. We prowled around for a bit and when our sense of exploration was complete, we set out on the road again. As I watched country towns and forests roll past, the day gradually waned. Road weariness is a thing all travelers must endure. It’s an integral part of the game. For a weekend trip, a month, or even a summer’s travel, this irritation is no big deal. However, I had found road-weariness as a way of- life absolutely intolerable but also refused to stop traveling. Concessions had to be made. I began seeking ways to minimize the hardships while maximizing my time in the sweet spot—the point at which I’m still truly enjoying the ride. In time, I’d learned to employ 100 little tricks to achieve that ideal.
Uninterested in riding past the point of pleasure, it would be an early evening. It had been 1½ days since our last shower, and I wanted clean up, eat, and then relax at home with a book or movie on the tablet. The cell phone told of a truck stop some 50 miles ahead, and I decided that would be the evening’s destination. Truckstop showers run $12 to $15. However, a purchase of 50 gallons of fuel or more entitles the purchaser to a complimentary shower. Pulling onto the lot, I led us around back to park between the building and pumps where trucks fuel. After eyeing our packed up bikes, the first trucker I’d asked gladly offered us two shower tickets. A half-hour later, clean and in fresh clothes, I stood near the bike with coffee in hand. My eyes soon caught sight of a small road leading off from the lot’s far side. With Joe still in the shower, I decided to take a short walk. The little road dead-ended ¼-mile back at the site of three homes. But long before the houses a seldom, if ever, used dirt road led into the woods. I took it.
Just past the roads only corner, a small house came into view. It boasted a covered carport with a concrete floor. The place had obviously been unoccupied for a long time. Closer now, I noted a pickup truck parked nearby with a man sitting in the driver’s seat. His window was already rolled down so I walked up for introductions then told him my intention. “That place has been vacant forever,” he said, “I work for the truck-stop and the guy recently sold that place to my boss. They’re gonna tear it down. No one gives a shit if you guys camp on that porch.” I thanked him. As he drove away, I walked over to inspect our accommodations. Back at the truck-stop, I told Joe of the find. After riding into town for yet another inexpensive meal, we were soon traversing the dirt road to our new home. I took the best, most spacious spot and Joe set his camp near the front door. This place had a clean concrete floor, the promise of a completely dry night, and a breathtaking view of the forested front yard; this place was perfect. The morning brought no hurries, and we hung at camp a long time talking and swilling coffee. Joe decided on a walking exploration of the area while I went to work on the internet for a while.
Joe soon returned to inform me of a pond behind our house. Grabbing the camera, I followed him. He was right, and it was a beautiful place. As Joe did one of his frequent meditation practices I snapped a few photos. By late morning both bikes were again on the road. It was late afternoon when we finally reached Myrtle Beach. For some years, the owner of a beautiful “camping resort” had been letting a few of us set camp in his wonderful establishment, free of charge. I have no idea why. Anyway, Joe and I set in a more permanent camp before heading into the rally. For ten days, we’d work like dogs before splitting up to regain the highway’s solo freedoms. More of a natural at this road life gig than most any I’d known, Joe would spend the entire summer (and is still on the road) out here while putting 35,000 miles on the little Ninja. He returned home for only a week’s time to liquidate all of his humble assets. We’ve traveled together numerous times since.