Photo & Story – Joseph Boyle
I am on the backside of my first long distance motorcycle ride since having retired on April Fool’s Day, 2013.
I left on May 15, 2013, with a full tank of gas and my Starbucks card. When my ride is over, I will have ridden over 9,000 miles including stops to attend Blues Harmonica School and visits with friends and relatives along the way.
While heading home, I stopped in Bismarck, North Dakota for gas. I pulled in front of the forward pump. Another motorcycle rider, I did not know, pulled in behind me at pump number two.
The other rider and I only glanced at each other with no words spoken, as he was engaged in conversation with another customer.
With a full 5 gallons on board and not wanting to burn daylight, I was down the road.
As it turned out, the other rider and I were both traveling westbound on I-94 towards I-90.
I passed him a couple of times and while doing so noticed that his license plate was from Canada. He noticed my Washington plate reads “ADIOS”, which is a fun and apropos message anytime I pass another motorist. I gave him a friendly motorcycle waive each time I passed. He passed me one time and we exchanged the motorcycle waive.
Motorcyclists have a proclivity to waive at each other. I think it is a part of the motorcycle brotherhood. People in cars normally do not waive at each other, unless it is a road rage incident and then there is typically only one finger involved in the waive.
To make a short story endless, after riding 506 miles, I ended up in Big Timber, MT. I pulled into the Super 8 Motel. Having secured my room for the night I walked back out to my bike. The other rider had caught up to me and parked behind me.
During our bike-side conversation I asked if he might like to join me for dinner at the diner just across the parking lot. We did just that and had a great time together.
My new friend from Canada is Gene David. He is a businessman who works in the dental field.
Having ridden 500 miles as strangers, we decided to ride the next day as riding partners. We ran down I-90 together for 180 miles landing in Deer Lodge, Montana.
After trading contact information at our Deer Lodge gas stop, Gene blasted off towards Spokane, Washington. It seems he has to get home for his 30th wedding anniversary. That reminds me. I better get home before July for my wedding anniversary. If our wives are nice enough to let us ride, we husbands need to be nice enough to be home for our wedding anniversary. Ladies, am I right?
I forgot to tell Gene how remarkable I think it is that a guy, who had never done any long distance riding before, was now finishing a long distance ride that took him to the Great Lakes and back. He did all of this solo, except for the 180 miles we rode together. When I first owned a motorcycle in 1998, a big ride for me was from Lakewood to University Place Starbucks only 8 miles away. There was no way I could ride across country.
Think about it. How many of you would be comfortable riding a motorcycle anywhere, let alone cross country? Yes, I know, it is a scary proposition.
My last thought relates to how pleasant life can be if all human beings would get along in a positive manner. Gene and I, riders from two different countries, USA and Canada, got along just fine. This is what could be termed micro-international relations, with just two people at a time.
Gene expressed the feeling that had we met years ago, the two of us may well have gone on numerous rides together.
As we parted, our last words were, “Let’s stay in touch and maybe we can ride to Alaska.”
Ride safely, Gene and remember, life is an adventure.
I thought my story was finished until I received a phone call from Gene. He was calling from Coeur d’alene, Idaho. He told me he was on I-90 running through a sweeper curve at about 75 mph when his back tire blew out.
Gene dropped his speed, maintained control and just when he thought he was going to be ok, the bike did what we think was a violent high side crash. It has something to do with the back tire losing traction and then regaining traction. At this point the back tire is moving at a speed that is different than the front tire and bike. Once that happens, you have 6 seconds before the bike throws you off and flips up into the air.
Gene is an intelligent guy so he was wearing a helmet, which is not required in Idaho. Additionally he wore high quality protective clothing. His bike may or may not make it, but Gene made it. He ended up with only one 4” abrasion.
The worst part is he missed his wedding anniversary.
Gene, if you choose to get back on the iron horse again, the Alaska ride is still calling.
Sharli McCollum says
Joe, we so much enjoy all of your articles, but this one was especially touching in its human-ness. What if everyone could find a common ground and just build on that?? You do it so well.