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Almost Fiction: Hazel’s Observation Run

By Sam Jones

Almost-Fiction-web

In the Western Edition of Thunder Press, Hazel Perry writes a personal column entitled, Hazy on the Details. In the March issue she mentioned her first bike run with a group. It was an Observation Run I had designed for a budding H.O.G. chapter.

This H.O.G. chapter had been entertaining itself by attending club poker runs and was in the mood for something a little different. I was elected to reinvent the wheel.

“What’s an Observation Run?” they asked. “Well, it’s like a poker run but instead of check points you answer questions,” I noted.

For those of you who may be new to this game let me add a little explanation. A poker run is a ride in which you follow a prescribed route where you will stop at different checkpoints. There you draw a playing card. The rider with the best poker hand at the end wins the prize.

With an Observation Run the rider follows a set route and finds solutions to a list of questions. Sample questions are: “What color is Dot and Marty’s bar?” “How many trees are in front of the City Library in Mesquite?” Fill in the blanks: “Blake’s _________ Yard” (lumber). The answers are in plain sight.

Having heard tell that Harley riders like to eat and knowing of a café well out of town owned by a little old lady who made great Hungarian goulash, I decided to create a run that sent the members through the desert, foothills and over a mountain to her dinner table.

I rode down to Maggie’s Café and asked her, “Can you make goulash for 50 hungry bikers?” Of course she could. A date was set and all the details were arranged.

In the next weeks I laid out a route of about 150 miles on back roads, country lanes and off the main highways. From desert cactus to pine trees, there was a fascinating mixture of flora and fauna to keep the riders interested, while trying to find the correct responses to my written queries.

At the start I told those assembled how far they would be riding, where there was a gas stop for Sportsters, handed out the interrogations with the route sheet, informed them of the lavish winner’s prize and that there would be an “all you can eat” goulash lunch at the finish. Everyone was excited and, with cherubic faces, each left looking forward to an impeccable day.

Did I mention that this was the first week in November? OK, OK, for those of you who live back east you might see a possible problem with the weather. But this was Southern California and the first week of November could be a perfect autumn day with the temperature well into the 80s. In any case that’s what it had been.

In order to make sure of all the details, I forsook the route sheet and beelined it down the main highway to Maggie’s. About halfway, the main highway paralleled my observation route. Off to the east, past the foothills, I couldn’t see the bottom of the mountain. The road I was sending them up started there and wound around the mountain until it arrived in Idyllwild at 5,500 feet. “Uh oh! I hope they have enough sense to take a look at where they are going and not get in trouble,” I said to myself. (I am a nice guy and worry about my fellow man.) Although I knew they were lemmings and if one bike rode up the mountain every other bike would follow. “This is going to be bad but there is absolutely nothing I can do now.” I continued on to Maggie’s trying not to imagine how nasty it was on the top of the invisible black mountain where the weather was completely socked in.

Arriving at Maggie’s, more bad news. Her help had neglected to show up and she was by herself trying to get ready for 50 hungry (and cold) bikers. I pitched in to help and for additional assistance snagged the first rider in. “Ed, glad you’re here. We need help to get everything set up. How was it up on the top? Was there serious weather in Idyllwild?”

“Damned if I know; I wasn’t about to go up there in the face of that storm! I cut across the foothills and connected with the road coming down.”

Thank God for common sense. But as it turned out Ed was the only one who had common sense and everyone else rode up the mountain to enjoy the first snowstorm of the season where the snowflakes were the size of dinner plates and turned into frozen slush when they hit.

Riders slowly started to trickle in, wet, freezing, hungry, pissed off and ready to form a lynch mob. I tried to explain that it wasn’t my fault, that I had ridden the route four times, the last time just the day before and everything was perfect. It was a magic route through a majestic desert, gorgeous foothills and magnificent mountains where they had a resplendent view of San Jacinto Peak towering 10,834 feet.

Not one person listened. They were having none of it and wanted my hide.

I remember one petite pillion passenger being helped into Maggie’s. She was so cold and wet she was having a hard time walking. Dragging herself over to where I stood she hit me with all her might. Thank God she was too cold to hit hard enough to do any damage. She said, “When I get warmer I’m going to come back and hit you again.” After warming up she was true to her word. For the next hour, as she continued to warm she hit me a half a dozen times. With each successive blow there was increased ferocity, expertise and competency. As a matter of fact she hit me every time she saw me for the next six months.

In Hazel’s column she said, “Sam had led us into a snowstorm in Idyllwild and I was a very young, innocent scooter girl at the time. Seriously; no chaps, no heated vest, just jeans and pink leg warmers. I didn’t cry.”

Part of that is true. She was innocent and didn’t cry but I contend I didn’t lead the lemmings anywhere. With common sense each of them could have made the same decision Ed made and skirted the mountaintop.

Half of those people never forgave me and are still after my scalp. Now, thanks to Hazel they have been reminded and will again come looking for me.

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