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The Herald Friday September 15, 1989
A few final words
Here are some bits and pieces from my Rock Hill to Utah ride.
I was riding on a lonesome stretch of Colorado highway when I was approached from behind by a dark blue Chevy Blazer. As the vehicle drew closer, I heard the unmistakable crackle of a PA system being turned on. In the course of my riding career, I had been treated every imaginable way on the road, but this would be the first time anybody ever let me have it with a loudspeaker. All I could do was brace myself and wait.
As he pulled out to make a wide pass, the driver serenaded me with a fairly respectable rendition of "Rolling, rolling rolling....," the first words of the song, "Rawhide."
The Blazer was an official Air Force vehicle, and the driver's ultra-cool aviator shades couldn't hide his mischievous ear-to-ear grin. When the airman had me in his mirrors, I hunched over the handlebars and whipped my saddlebags like Rowdy Yates. Giddyup.
Sleeper of a town
In Missouri I rode through an area that was blessed with strangely-named towns. There was Boss, Licking, Success, Half Way, and Fair Play. I saw all these but I somehow managed to bypass Competition, Charity and Sleeper.
The signs in downtown Half Way made for a few chuckles. I stopped and took a picture of the Half Way Baptist Church. Just up the street from the church was the Half Way Volunteer Fire Department. The townfolk could blame it all on their ancestors who named the place.
Was it really there?
Strong eyesight has never been my virtue, but I was made to feel totally blind by some of the locals in Indian Meadows, Colo.
I stayed at the Indian Meadows Lodge, which is nestled at the base of an awesome cliff in the Rockies. The lodge was being rebuilt by its new owners, a family from Texas.
The family took a break from their handiwork and we were all standing in the parking lot talking when one of the sons said, "Look! There's a mule deer up on the ridge." He pointed to a spot somewhere on the mountain which filled half the sky. Everyone in the family saw the deer and there was some argument over whether there was one deer or two. I never saw a thing.
Somebody ran into the lodge and came back with a pair of binoculars. The youngest son handed me the binoculars and pointed to a particular tree which he described in great detail. I finally found the distant tree and got it in reasonable focus. The man said, "Now look about 10 feet left of the tree."
Nothing. I was beginning to feel like the victim of a mass joke when the deer turned around just so, and I caught a faint puff of white from his tail. Even then I almost had to imagine a deer standing there, he blended so well with his surroundings. After joking that I couldn't see a lick, the guys said, "You have to know where to look."
No kidding. WHile I still had the binoculars, they showed me an eagle's nest on top of the ridge. The family owns a pint sized dog that looks like a white curly wig with legs. When the eagle soars down into the valley, they have to put little P.J. up, lest he become food for the giant bird of prey.
Plenty of time
In eastern Kansas, I encountered a man who knew lots of things about the earth. I would estimate the gentleman to be in his late 70's. He walked up to me at a convenience store and asked which way I was riding. When I said west, he began an impromptu lecture on how the Rockies were formed millions of years ago. "There was a huge mass moving slowly this way, and when it collided with..."
I'm ashamed to admit that I was utterly unprepared for a geology class. The man was deep into the subject before I knew what was happening. I just stood there and nodded my head like Gomer Pyle.
When the lecture was over, her asked me where I was headed. I told him Salt Lake City and he gasped. "Boy, that's a long ride." He abruptly turned to walk away, but after a few steps he stopped and asked, "How old are you?"
I said 31 and he gave me a shrug-off motion with one hand. "Aw, you'll make it. You've got plenty of time."
They take it literally
Somewhere in Missouri, I stopped for lunch at a sandwich shop. I took a seat at the counter and was soon joined by a man who sat down and called to the cook, "Hey Bubba! Let me see a menu."
Bubba, 40 feet away, pulled a menu out of the rack and held it over his head like one of the scorers at a diving contest. He then put it back in the rack and went about his business.
The customer put his head in his hands and muttered some profanity. Finally he called, "Bubba, let me hold the menu." Bubba gladly brought the man a menu.
In Missouri, you get exactly what you ask for.
A serious business
The motel where I stayed in Salem, MO., filled up with turkey hunters as the sun went down. The hunters celebrated the opening of the season by ganging up in the parking lot and blowing their gobbler calls. This bizarre-sounding orchestra was enough to raise the dead. When I woke at 6 a.m., the motel was deserted, as the hunters were long gone in their pursuit of the bird.
At lunchtime I stopped at a small backwoods cafe for one of my trip's rare home-cooked meals. Some of the hunters were here eating, and they hollered stories across the room at one another. One of the men looked rather somber and it didn't take the others long to notice. "What's the matter, Fred? Didn't you see any this morning?"
Fred said "(Expletive), yeah, I saw one. I was 20 feet from the (expletive) when I shot. (Expletive, expletive, expletive.) I don't know how I missed the (expletive.)"
The others had themselves a big laugh. "Let me get this straight. You missed a turkey from 20 feet away with a shotgun? That must have been one of those extremely intelligent turkeys that can make himself really skinny when he sees the buckshot coming. Is that what happened, Fred?"
Fred failed to see the humor. He fished around in his wallet, slapped a five dollar bill on the table for his meal, and left the place cussing more than ever.
In Missouri, folks take their turkey hunting seriously. I kept waiting for Fred to come back inside the cafe and try his shotgun out on the guys who were ribbing him.
Whets the appetite
My longest bike ride to date showed me one thing: the more I see of America, the more I want to see.
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