Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! Ya know, a lot of people always talk about “the long run,” and they tell ya “that’ll get ya in the long run,” but sometimes, it’s the long run itself that gets ya. There’s nothing as dreaded as bein’ out in the middle of nowhere, hundreds of miles from home, an’ havin’ a breakdown. Cruisin’ south on Highway 99 through Central California on Thursday, April 26, I watched groups of bikes roaring off toward Laughlin, Nevada, for the Laughlin Run. Some groups were big, some were small, and there was no shortage of lone riders heading out into the desert to try their luck with the one-armed bandits, the dice, the roulette wheel, or a deck of cards. Most head home broke, lucky to have enough money left to buy gas, and the lucky few who hit the jackpot usually stay a few extra days, until they barely have enough left for gas as well. It’s a vicious circle, but most fun usually is.
I know it’s a personal thing, but I never cared for the Laughlin Run. The best thing about it was coming over the hill at night, with the city shining like a dozen Disneylands all stuck together. I suspect that the road to Laughlin was laid out by a drunk surveyor who followed his dog while it pissed on every rock and bush, and that’s where he drove the survey stakes. Your bike gets sandblasted by the desert wind, and the last time I went, law enforcement was way over the top in their treatment of their cash cow; namely us. Anyway, some love it, and go every year, so maybe there’s something I overlooked…
Sturgis, on the other hand, was a blast, partly because of the legendary status of the run, the beauty of the area, and the friendly locals, but mostly because of the group Reggie and I rode out with. Good friends make all the difference in the long run.
When I was younger, raising a family made it impossible to afford long trips. Also, the motorcycles back then required constant attention and maintenance, and parts were expensive for a guy makin’ a couple of bucks and a half an hour back in the ’70s, and trying to keep an old Shovelhead on the road. Back then, I could ride an old rigid chop with a Bates solo seat all day and never think twice about it, but now that my budget would allow it, my busted-up old ass is fightin’ me every mile of the way. Had a hip replaced a couple of years ago, an’ that helped, but I still have to stop an’ wander around every 50 miles or so, and even more often the longer I ride in a day. I used to stop to set points, adjust a carb, check a leak, or wander down the side of the road looking for a chain that jumped into the weeds an’ hid, but now, I stop to work out the kinks that always develop in places I didn’t know I had 20 years ago, and take a leak… yeah, I do believe that I was a Shovelhead in a past life, an’ it’s coming back to haunt me. There are still a lot of places I want to see from the seat of a motorcycle, like Yellowstone National Park, the Trans Alaska Highway, and a lot more, and I’m damn sure not ready to give up on that dream.
Reggie’s been after me for several years to buy a new bike, but I told her, “It’s not my bike that’s the problem; it’s my body.” Besides, my limit of technological advancement is electric start to save my hip an’ knee, and electronic ignition, so I don’t have to adjust points in a motel parking lot at three in the morning. I don’t want a damn motorcycle with “drive-by-wire” throttle, anti-lock brakes, and fuel injection. I don’t own a laptop computer with a “Fixing my Harley for Dummies” program. I own tools. Shiny stuff like Snap-On wrenches, sockets, ratchets, an’ screwdrivers with pretty plastic handles, and by God, I know how to use ’em! I also own several hammers to repair laptop computers.
I have to admit that I’ve only owned one Evolution engine, and it’s in a chopper I’m building now. I skipped that era completely, going from Pans and Shovels to a Twin Cam. I love the Twin Cam engines; they take a lot less work to make a lot more power, and they’re a lot more dependable than the old Knucks, Pans, and Shovels, but they can keep all the electronic gadgets, and I’ll keep my ’03 Softail for the duration, however long that may be. I’m sure that there will come a day when I’ll need to build myself a trike to keep riding, but it will probably be better for this old body in the long run. Until then, look for my ol’ beat-up Softail out there on the highway, an’ if ya want to catch me to say howdy, I’ll probably be stopped at the next gas station, which will make me easier to catch in the long run!