There are two main concerns for a motorcycle gypsy: mechanical breakdowns and physical well-being. Consequently, I focus on my own health at least as much as I do on the maintenance of my trusty machine and I have to say that over the years, none of my bikes have ever left me stranded on the side of the road. My own body, however, has caused me a good bit of grief on occasion. I’ve been plagued with food poisoning from raunchy road grub, heat stroke in the middle of the Mojave and pneumonia more than once while drifting across America. Laying in a mangy motel wishing to get well enough to die isn’t a favorite pastime of mine and skidding up to a friend’s doorstep looking peaked is downright rude, so I work at staying fit. I even eat a vitamin once in a while. Frequent trips to the Harley shop keeps the Beast in his prime and we maintain a pretty good cadence, but after a particularly tough few weeks across three states recently, both the Beast and I were beginning to wear thin. Things were heading downhill when the lid fell off the saddlebag in the middle of a campground and only got worse.
I was camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains when warm days turned into cold foggy nights. I burrowed deep into my sleeping bag to ward off the chilly dampness but ended up soaked to the bone when, in the wee hours of the morning, pranksters thought it was cool to douse the bum sleeping on the bench with cold water and dry pancake batter. Unfortunately, I was that bum. Come daylight I’d ditched the soggy-on–the-inside, crunchy-on-the-outside sleeping bag, bungeed up the saddlebag lid and lit out for friendlier pastures. Between my sleepless, frazzled appearance and the five different-colored bungee cords holding everything together on one side, The Grapes of Wrath came to mind as I fought the wicked wind through dense Bay-area traffic. By late afternoon exhaustion set in and I pulled off to rustle up some hot grub and find a room with a steaming shower. The Beast was crusted over with thick layers of bug guts and nasty road grime. He looked exactly like I felt.
The next day I made a beeline to Folsom Harley-Davidson to ask for help from best buddy Mongo. Butch, from Iron Steed H-D, had ridden up to visit and between the two they easily got the Beast back in order before we all headed off to lunch. Getting to hang out with nurturing friends was good for the soul and it made me smile to spend time with great mechanical minds who take pride in representing Harley-Davidson. Butch and I compared bug-covered fairings before he saddled up and headed back to his home in the delta as I gave Mongo a hug and moseyed down the road to visit friends who offered a soft place to land.
Then everything went to hell in a handbasket. I got miserably sick and fell helpless into a heap of snot bubbles. Loving friends tended to me, carting my tired carcass to the doctor’s office, fetching meds and making sure I ate. For three weeks they graciously ignored the inconvenience of an ailing houseguest. I had places to go and miles to cover, but my body simply refused. Word got out that I’d been sidelined and my “was-husband” called me up.
“When you gonna stop doing this?” came the concerned voice from two states away. “You can’t just keep riding the Beast around forever. You’re gonna be 60 next year, you know. When I turned 60 my whole body just went to hell and yours will, too,” he scolded. All this came from a guy who once declared me the bravest person he’d ever known; now he was trying to paint me as old and frail. I wasn’t having any of that noise. “Oh yeah? Well, I’m not you,” I blustered indignantly. “I intend to keep traveling just as long as I want to. When I don’t want to live on the road anymore, then I won’t. But I will always ride. Age has nothing to do with it. The Beast and I are just fine,” I pouted as I hacked up a chunk of lung. “And I am not old!” The very next day I went out and bought a juicer and zinged up glasses and glasses of fresh juice guaranteed to cure or kill. Jalapeno, ginger, onion, beets and carrots as well as every green thing that grows was liquefied and consumed. Today, I’m plotting a route and loading up my gear. Nothing cures me faster than being told I can’t do something. See ya down the road.