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Drifiting With Cody
Originally Published In The July 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
In recent times there seems to be an epidemic of folks either moving aboard their motorcycles fulltime or merely taking extended rides. Since Sturgis, I’d been hanging with a handful of these guys. Chip had recently moved aboard his bike permanently. Back in Sturgis, he’d teamed up with Mike who, although not permanent, had no time constraints and would simply return home whenever the spirit moved him. Then there was Jed, just out for a while. And Cody, the quiet young guy who’d simply grabbed his ancient, falling apart, 500cc Honda and came to camp with us at Sturgis. After Sturgis, all had come to the Cripple Creek Veteran’s Motorcycle Rally located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. That rally had ended yesterday. It was Monday morning as I packed. When finished, I took a short ride along the dirt surface of Shelf Road in search of my amigos camp. It didn’t take long to find them set up in a beautiful turnout. This being the day of our departure, all would soon be going their separate ways. Chip and Mike were bound for California, while Jed went to Fort Collins.
This left Cody and myself to team up for an easterly ride across Kansas. Cody and I had hardly gotten to know each other but that was about to change. It took time for everyone to get their bikes packed and, once finished, we headed to a local casino for their inexpensive breakfast. After all, the hanging out, then goodbyes, it was early afternoon when Cody and I finally set off through the mountains. At the first rest stop, I told Cody I was looking forward to as easy and relaxing a journey as possible. He readily agreed. For the past couple weeks, Cody had been trying to keep up with the Mike and Chip, who ride at supersonic velocities for long hours while seldom stopping for more than gas and a quick bite. I’d abandoned that style of riding long ago and was glad to learn that Cody wasn’t into it either. Maybe I’m just old but, for me, one important object is to keep road weariness to a minimum, while trying to keep riding/traveling pleasure at maximum. This generally takes more time.
Before long, the tiny roads fell behind as we came upon larger highways and towns. It felt good to be moving slowly out of the boondocks. As the highway led through the striking Colorado Mountains and pine forests, I thought of what lay ahead. We’d soon leave the mountains to pass through the big city of Colorado Springs before moving into the open prairie beyond. I decided it would be more comfortable to make an early camp up here then continue by morning, rather than enter the city at dusk today then try to find a good campsite. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate great spots at which to set my camps and will often spend considerable time in search of them. Today it was not so hard though, and before long we’d located what looked like an ATV trail leading to a great place in the woods. Across the nearby highway was a grocery store and Starbucks. Pretty cool setup really. After grabbing some grub at the supermarket, we hung at Starbucks for a while before heading back to camp. Cody likes to sleep in his hammock and fortunately there were plenty of trees. I wondered what he’d do out in the plains. I prefer a tent, which of course can be set up almost anywhere. It was a fine evening, and we were bothered by no one. As usual, I rolled out of bed kinda late. My new companion was still sawing logs. Another slow moving lazy bastard, I’d thought. This seemed a good omen, for I’d hoped not to be rushed on this fine morning. After a short walk to explore the trails, I returned to find Cody up and about. A long while passed before we finally packed and moved on to Starbucks.
That ride down the mountain was epic, but eventually, we came to the city of Colorado Springs. Beyond that, the Great Plains opened into a vast land that stretched to the horizon in all directions. It’s easy to believe that eastern Colorado and Kansas offer some of the most boring riding. But this is only a half-truth, for many of the back roads pass through countless little farming towns, which I find interesting. There are also the endless fields of agriculture, stretches of forests and occasional plots dominated by wild hemp. These open spaces can grant a feeling of endless freedom if one is inclined to see it that way, and I’ve enjoyed many beautiful rides across this land; provided the weather permits. Out here summer heat can be extreme, and summer storms are often ferocious across a land that offers little refuge from the sometimes severe wind, lightning, rain, and hail. But today the weather was perfect. We pulled off the interstate in favor of some little side road that the map promised would glide almost arrow straight for hundreds of miles.
Cody said his little 500cc bike was capable of high speeds, though I’d ridden that model and knew it wasn’t. Apparently, he just didn’t mind or was simply used to, pushing the poor little thing. At first, I led the way at 80mph; an easy pace for my Electra Glide with its aftermarket 6-speed transmission. Although high speeds are great for making time, for the simple pleasure of experiencing the country along America’s back roads, my favorite aspect of motorcycling, I find hauling ass a huge hindrance. Noting that the pleasure riding had begun, I dropped a gear and brought us down to 70mph or less. We stopped wherever and whenever we pleased. At one gas station coffee break, Cody talked of how much he was enjoying this slower pace. In recent weeks he’d been struggling to keep up with the speeds of Mike and Chip. But Cody was not like that at all. Instead, his unhurried nature seemed to be enjoying every single minute, regardless of what we happened to be doing at the moment. In the itty-bitty nowhere town of Kit Carson, I spotted a museum with one antique train caboose sitting out front. Of course, we stopped. First, we explored the rail car before moving inside. Our friendly proprietor was a very old woman. Us being the only patrons there, she seemed enthralled with this break in her monotony and took great interest in talking with us. I began asking personal questions and soon learned that, although originally from another small Kansas town, she and her husband had been in Kit Carson for over 20 years. This seemed such a stark contrast to myself, who had lived in mountains and cities, but never anywhere so isolated as this. I mean, it really makes one wonder what folks do out here. As our tour of the museum continued, another motorcyclist came and went before we were halfway through. Eventually, however, we bid our host adieu and again set off into no man’s land.
It was late afternoon when, yet another small town came to pass and we checked into its tiny grocery store to equip our bikes with plenty of food, water, and morning coffee. Three miles past this place we came upon a large roadside turnout that offered trees, mowed grass, and picnic tables with little roofs over them. Although this rest area was in plain sight of the road, I’ve noted that in such desolate lands no one seems to care where you make camp. We decided to take it. As I set a tent amid the row of trees and bushes, Cody hung his hammock above one of the picnic tables. Because it was still a little early when we’d felt like stopping, I set a large tarp to act as porch in front of my tent, then threw out a camp chair. Cody walked over with this weird thing, swooshed it through the air, and it quickly inflated into a big puffy lounge chair. That was a new one on me. We ate, lounged, and talked as the sun slowly set upon this open land to reveal a dramatically huge sky illuminated with the countless stars that shined to their full capacity for the lack of competing manmade light.
I began to take a real liking to Cody. Morning light brought a late start, but eventually, we were back on the road again. At every gas station or food stop, Cody’d pull out some crazy discount card, coupon, or whatever, that saved him considerable money. I’d not seen this before and found it interesting as he explained the use of such things. None of these methods were illegal or unethical. They were just a tidy conglomeration of discounts available to anyone who pays attention. Pretty impressive really. I’ve known many who believe they need a lot of money to hit the road, and maybe they do. However, over the course of this year’s travels and the guys I’d encountered who were all roaming on the cheap, I’d noted that motorcycle travel is more an act of simply doing it, rather than getting ready to do it. It would seem that the persistence of the human spirit is most often the deciding factor in the going or not going.
By midday, we came upon a huge abandoned schoolhouse, and I stopped to investigate. With its doors wide open, the place had been vacant for many years. Seemingly as fascinated as I, Cody soon located a Red Cross award dated 1967, and newspaper from 1968. Although much of this place was in shambles, the gymnasium still stood clean and wide open. By 3:00pm we’d arrived at my destination, which was a somewhat reclusive friend who doesn’t allow strangers on his plot of land. I told Cody of a free campground located in the next town just three miles up the road, but he decided to keep riding a while longer. To date, that was the last I’ve seen of him. Occasionally checking Cody’s social media, I’ve noted that he’s somehow acquired a huge Japanese touring bike that looks to be in excellent condition. I find it comforting to know there are so many who share my love of the highway and the endless adventures it inevitably brings. I imagine we’ll be seeing Cody again before long.