I’m not a superstitious man, being a devout rationalist, but still you can’t be too careful about these things. Thus I do tend to avoid walking under ladders, going three on a match, putting a hat on the bed, or riding a green Harley. It’s all a bunch of hooey, of course. Until it isn’t—or, at least events transpire that gnaw at that certainty.
And so it was with a slight frisson that I beheld the Road King I’d been loaned for the Bill and Karen Davidson-led procession of Harley corporate personnel from Milwaukee to the grand festivities planned by the MoCo at Sturgis this year.
It was green—or, more precisely, Deep Jade Pearl. Which is green. Undaunted, I packed the Road King and strapped my trusty camera bag/valise on the pillion, secured at all four corners by taut straps around the turn signal stalks and rear crash bars. I’ve used that article on a good many bikes of a variety of models over the years and it’s served me admirably, being capacious and accessible and seemingly bulletproof.
Within its confines were my camera, a number of lenses, battery packs and chargers, as well as my reading glasses, pill bottles, key ring, and other sundry essential effects.
Somewhere west of Milwaukee on I-94 the first day out on the three-day adventure, a Road Glide rider came abreast of me and gesticulated at something behind me. I didn’t recognize him as a member of our group—as it turns out, that was because he’d been the last rider to arrive at the departure rendezvous at the Harley-Davidson Museum that morning, and his presence hadn’t registered. I thus thought it was some renegade solo biker heading to Sturgis and trying to pass the 20+ bike pack of Milwaukee wayfarers.
Nonetheless I took a quick glance behind me and my heart sank right through the soles of my boots. My bag was gone. Vanished without a trace save a set of securing straps flapping stupidly in the wind.
The bag itself had apparently taken flight sometime previous, breaking free of its bonds, taking wing and thereupon suffering every bit of abuse that a ceaseless stream of fast-moving cars, semis, and even the odd motorcycle (some from my own pack, it turns out) can inflict.
I pulled to the shoulder in horror and stared dumbly at the streaming Interstate considering my options and coming up empty.
When next I spotted the mystery Road Glide rider he was headed back the other direction on the freeway and waving an arm to indicate, I assumed, that he was going to try to locate what remained of my gear. He was gone a long time, and I began to suspect that maybe I’d misjudged his intentions and better go searching myself, so I pulled an illegal Interstate Uey and rode back a good distance, then trawled at about 20 mph up the shoulder alert for telltale debris, even as a highway patrol car paced me for a spell wondering what the hell I was up to.
No joy. I found not a molecule of my gear and pulled over to the shoulder once more to rue my miserable state.
And right about then up pulled the mystery Road Glider—who turned out to be no less a luminary than Scott Beck, Harley’s North American marketing general manager. (And who, for the record, is bar-none the most animated, energetic, hair-on-fire rider I’ve had the privilege of sharing asphalt with in a very long time.) And he’d gone the distance on my behalf, locating the bag and salvaging what bits and pieces he could locate on the highway. Which wasn’t much.
It was all pretty much destroyed, he told me, and then handed me a lens hood from my wide angle lens and said, “Here’s a momento.”
He then suggested we get out of traffic and pull off at the next exit so he could exhibit what he had scavenged, including the torn and tattered remains of the bag. The camera and lenses had been lost, and the other effects were pretty much pulverized. As I sorted through the debris I was fortunate enough to discover in an interior mesh pocket of the battered bag that my car keys were still intact. A miracle, as I saw it, since my car was parked at the airport back in California and the loss of those keys would have presented a logistical pickle of truly harrowing magnitude.
The disturbing upshot of the incident is that I was now on my way to Sturgis for the 19th time, and the first time I’d done it without a camera. Naked to Sturgis, it was, to put it starkly. But the real bugger of the deal was that try as I might, wracking my ratiocinative arsenal as hard as I could, I still couldn’t figure out how the hell that bag sprang loose.
The curse of the green Harley? No, that wasn’t it, because as I’ve mentioned I’m not a superstitious man. And so it was that after two sleepless nights of going over and over the episode, it finally occurred to me in a flash; the only possible logical explanation for the debacle was—a Road Gremlin. That had to be it, I consoled myself while punching pillows. Of course. The Road Gremlin.
I’m going out right now to buy a bell.
It’s all right here in the diaries.