The Black Wet

We were  headed home from the New Mexico MGNOC national rally - in Colorado around Sommerset on the dirt road from hwy 135. 

Greg and I scooted up 133 to Carbondale then Glenwood springs.  From there it was a silver bullet fast ride up hwy 13 to Craig and the road changed to Hwy 789 as you go into Wy.    We went ahead and took I 80 to Rock Springs.  Head wind was so bad Greg’s 850cc would barley do 50, my 1000cc could only grind out about 60 wide open.  rally99_bikes1.jpg (93152 bytes)The Semi’s were all passing us with big grins on their faces.  It was a hard ride in the wind, no fun at all.  I could catch the draft off a semi and cruise right along, but Greg couldn't hold on to the draft and was left behind so I’d cool my heels and wait for him.  Very dangerous tailing a Semi anyhow.  They don't like it, it ain't smart, so it's just as well we didn't do it.  It sure broke up the monotony though.  

Greg Field was a great riding partner.  I’d ride anywhere with him.  We both had great partner riding attitude and never got too frustrated with each other.  At the New Mexico Rally when I broke down big time, he jumped right in and helped me rebuild the clutch - for 5 HOURS!  rally99_clutch1.jpg (118615 bytes)I never asked him to, and didn’t expect him to, but he did it without batting an eye.  We sorta both resigned to the idea that we agreed to ride the trip together and riding partners stick together for better or worse.  I admire that. 

Okay, so we spend the night in a real rat hole in Rock Springs, that windy day just beat the snot out of us and a good nights sleep was badly needed.  Hwy 191 stretched up to Jackson WY.  Here we agreed to stop for a bit and decide whether or not to go through the Teton/Yellowstone area or around it.  I pulled into a burger joint and a strange Moto Guzzi pulls in the parking spot behind me.   But, it wasn’t a strange one, just one I hadn’t seen for a couple years.  Bill and Cheryl (the folks who own the Boville Inn, in Idaho), were on their way back from their vacation and spotted my bike ‘recognizing it right away.  (one good reason to have a real custom paint job, you ain’t mistaken by nobody).  rally99_J-C1.jpg (70437 bytes)Then Bill pulled in followed by Greg.  We all went in to eat and were joined by another Guzzi fella headed home.  Big fun eats and we decided to ride with Bill & Cheryl around the Tetons and Yellowstone.  Mostly for time, but they also charge a fee and since we were just driving through we thought it was unjustified.  I have never seen Yellowstone or Tetons and would like to spend some time there one day, but riding through just wouldn’t allow time to appreciate it. 

Anyhow, we went from Hwy 26 to Hwy 20 just outside of Idaho Falls headed to Arco and around to Ketchum Idaho.  Well, our destination was Sun Valley where Bill’s son was working.  We got in late, drove 15 miles out of town to find a great camp spot on a river, went back to town, ate/drank, talked, and drove back out to the camp site.  Musta seen 10 deer and several coyotes or dogs on the way out, drove real slow.   I couldn't believe how many critters were crisscrossing the road, it was amazing!

We parted ways with Bill & Cheryl the next morning, fact they never got up before we were leaving.  Our dilemma was time.  It was about 650-750 miles home.  Could be to much for a day but hardly worth two days.   We wanted to go for it and left early.  Continuing on Hwy 21 was beautiful, but winded us to and fro, didn’t gain hardly any miles in the right direction for the first 2 hours!  At Boise we went over and up North on 55.  This was a really great road, it doesn’t look like it on the map, but it was pretty cool.  Lots of campers, motor homes and it tended again to slow us down time wise.  At Grangeville we jumped on 95 to Lewiston.  As we were navigating the roads through Lewiston our Hwy became jumbled with several Hwy numbers, we got confused, not knowing if we were on the right road and pulled off on the top of a real high grade. 

rally99_curv1.jpg (67107 bytes)To our amazement we were off on a national historical site of some famous hiway built way back when.  We read about cars that tied trees to the rear bumper so it would slow them down and pulleys to help get them up this highway.  We could see the hiway as it snaked from our summit down the side of this mountain towards Lewiston.  It looked freshly repaved, it looked like banked corners, it looked like 10 mph twisties for a good 15 miles DOWN the side of this mountain, it was called “The Spiral Highway”.  We were totally captivated by this incredible road, which had No traffic.  Greg and I read the big monument to this roadway wonder and then sorta glanced at each other with cycle fever in our eyes.  No words, just grins as we got on the bikes and gunned it down the Spiral Highway. 

God, that was an incredible fun road.  It was all ours, not one car used it.  Greg warped a rotor, and I was leaning so much I seriously scraped my floorboards on both sides!  Then, well, we had to ride back up!  Sheez, we were already dog tired, running out of time but, hell, you don’t get to ride a road like that but once in a lifetime.  Okay, adrenaline rush done with we had the hot dry desert in front of us. 

We made our way down 12 to Hwy 26 from Lewiston to Vantage where we would pick up I 90 to blast home on.  Lots of traffic, not cars as much as vegetable haulers and big rigs, and cops.  We were both drained.  I remember stopping for gas in Othello and looking in Gregs eyes, I hoped I looked better than he did – but knew I didn’t.  We both looked horrible; extremely grubby from head to toe and we were very bedraggled, and worn out.  NEED ENERGY - I ate a big peanut butter cookie and gulped 2 Red Bulls, Greg chomped a large Snickers and coffee.  On the road again and headed to the next gas stop in Ellensburg before cresting the last summit before home. 

We reached Ellensburg at dusk.  Bummer, I hoped we would be able to crest the summit before sundown, the Spiral highway cost us just that amount of time.  It was late, like 9pm - we left SunValley at 7am that morning and still had 2 ½ hours to go from here.  Little did we realize it would take us more time than that.  Tired, hungry, getting dark, and we could see the black rain cloud coverage in the mountains.  We were too tired to be hungry but knew we needed the food for energy so, we ate and dressed up for the dark rainy ride home.  Just outside of CleElum (home of Roslyn where that TV show Northern Exposure was filmed), we hit the rain.  It got pitch black dark as we came into construction where they had the right lane closed for repaving and the left median between roads was also being worked on, so, they had those 4 foot high concrete dividers on "Both sides" of the road which cut 3 lanes down to 2 lanes. 

Murphy knocked on Gregs door, you remember Murphy don’t ya.  Sure enough, it was dark and Greg had big spot lights on his bike so he was leading.  Then out of nowhere his bike quit.  Just freakin'’ quit running.  No room on the side of the road, there was No side of the road, just that mile of concrete divider wall on "Both" sides of us.  His lights were okay, my lights were okay, but the rear lights on a Guzzi on a pitch black night in heavy rain is next to invisible.  

Me, pulling up behind him yelling what’s the matter, Lots of noise and the traffic had to move at the last damn minute into the ONE lane we were not in.  Mostly Semis that could barely see us if they were looking.  Greg desperately yanking and whacking things on his bike, I’m scared, the traffic is very heavy, I know they can barely see us, I feel traffic whizzing by me, I can’t leave my buddy, but this was suicide!  I rolled up and pointed my bike in front of his leaving my taillight sticking out in the lane hoping it will help.  Greg is yelling that he doesn’t know what to fix, I yell we can’t stay here, got to get out of here but, we were totally blocked in.  Both sides of the road were lined with the concrete construction dividers for as far as we could see backward and forwards.  We were trapped.  We talked about heaving the bike over the edge of the concrete divider but, knew we couldn’t physically do it.   It was very scary, I told Greg the only thing we could do is if I towed him out.  As our brains tried to figure out what to tie up with I heard traffic horns.  No rope handy, bungys wouldn’t hold for 2 minutes, what to use.  It was serious peril.  ‘Course Greg couldn’t leave his bike, I couldn’t leave Greg. Perhaps 3 to 5 minutes of silence passed that felt like hours and all of a sudden:  Rooph Root-Root-Root Gregs ole bike fired up and without words we put the hammer down and got the hell out of there and down the road. 

I’m not sure what happened, he said the bike died like that 3 times on the trip and after it cooled down a little it would restart.  I have to remember to ask if he figured it out.  I think it was the coil getting to hot, then when it cooled the bike would start.  Just as long as we got out of that deadly situation! 

But, the story ain’t over yet. 

We were headed up I90 to go across Snoqualmie pass.  The rain was getting heavier, the night got Darker and you couldn’t see the lane lines in the road.  Ever been in a situation when it was so dark and raining so hard you couldn’t see the damn road!  If you have you’ll know that when you can’t see any markings only black you tend to loose equilibrium – that’s balance Son, Balance.  The one thing ya gotta have on a motorcycle.  The Semi trucks weren’t having any problems; big lights and up high looking down. We just couldn’t see through the water covering the white painted lines.  Greg was up front ‘cause of his big lights but, he went progressively slower and slower.  I know why, he couldn’t freakin' see!  Still, I was real nervous, we were going Too slow!  I was afraid of getting rear ended, the lights on the back of these ole Guzzi’s are pinlights, we were going to slow, it was deadly serious - again.  I pulled out front, waved Greg to follow.  We tried to draft in back of a passing truck but it threw so much water I couldn’t hang with it, in moments it slipped away into the darkness and Greg didn’t keep up with me anyhow.  I slowed and waved Greg to follow me (like I could see – NOT).  But, he was losing ground, not driving and I knew we had to go faster; there was no place to stop, and what good would stopping do us?  Hell we had been on the road now for ‘bout 16 hours now and our brains weren’t working all that good either!  Fatigue, road daze, or hypothermia, it was a combination of all three.  I slowed and waved Greg up next to me and continued to wave madly till he got the idea. We had to maintain a save speed and I had another idea.

Finally, riding side by side we had enough light to see some road markings. We would make it now, together side by side in the slow lane.  I could feel confidence surging back, and something like relaxing only this was just the subsidence of intense white knuckles and anxiety.  That stretch from Ellensburg to the top of the pass should have taken about an hour, but took us about 2 ½ hours.  At least we were headed down the pass and had only 1 hour more to go – if all went well.  We parted company were I90 met I405.  We trumpeted our horns, waved, and I stood up and made a victory punch at an imaginary “Murphy” drifting in the black wet  night air.  7am to 1 am that’s what, 18 hours! 

I made it home right at 1am waking Dee who was asleep on the couch.  Dee said I looked like I walked in from a battlefield, that is about how I felt too.  It was quite the adventure.  I would be happy not to have such a precarious adventure again; I’m getting to old to be a warrior. 


rally99_roy1.jpg (104420 bytes)Your Bike’n Brother

 Roy Harvey
750/1000 Ambo W/Attitude