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A Little Rain, A Little Ride Washes Away The Hate

September 15th, 2017 · Tags:Arts · Cities · Politics


Currently, The Dirty Gig has stationed me in Houston, in the wake of one catastrophic storm as a second just had its way with Florida after ravaging all the vacation islands.

We’ve all read so many tragic stories of individuals and even entire families being overtaken when their vehicles failed to negotiate flood waters.  It’s no laughing matter.  It could happen to anyone.

So I am hesitant to retell my recent brush with “turn around, don’t drown” — not wanting to seem callous or flippant toward others whose stories did not have happen endings. But, I vowed to share a few more thoughts from a recent road trip.  Here we go.

My brush with troubled waters — a split-second decision to cross or not to cross water — happened near the end of my 2,000-mile motorcycle trek to Wyoming for the eclipse. Curious, if anyone has researched the weather trends after total eclipses-es-es … considering the moon’s effect on the oceans.  I digress …

After miles and miles of beautiful, hot sunshine through the golden country and greener pastures of the heartland, bad weather caught up with me in one of the more harrowing points of the journey — the bottleneck where interstate highway squeezes through the mountains at Raton Pass, New Mexico on the Colorado border.  Ha … even while fearing for my life, I was laughing that my Triumph bike might be thinking, “I am Thunderbird … I bring you heap big rain, Ke-mo Sah-be.”

Raton Pass is a fun ride on a bike, even among four-wheeled motorists who fail to see the dangers in cutting off or tailgating a motorcycle on a steep grade at 7,834 feet above sea level.  But then, add rain and decreased visibility to the mix and the mountains take on a new persona.  Rats.  Rain hit me dead on at Raton, and for once, I backed down and took refuge under the wing of some gas station.  Forty-five minutes later, there was a slight let up.  I studied the weather app and thought I saw a window of opp … and I rode cautiously toward Clayton, New Mexico — a barren stretch — and then on toward the Texas border.  Ha … I was pretty focused on the slick roadway in the rain. I passed the Capulin volcano and never saw it through the rain, even though I am quite familiar with it … having ridden both Triumphs up to the rim of the dormant volcano other other journeys.

The rain stopped near Texline, Texas and I scooted on down to Dalhart, Texas, now dry on the bike from the welcomed breeze.  I served the Thunderbird some gas, and headed toward Amarillo … dry and happy.

When I hit Amarillo, another storm blew in, and rather than taking the loop north of town, I chose the seedier side of Amarillo — The Boulevard — a more direct route with the potential for more lighting.  Amarillo Boulevard, the once-proud twin sister of Route 66 … now a shady lady of the night in this thriving Interstate/agricultural/energy economy. It’s a different world, in contrast to the more widely known cattle baronesses and wheatheart pageant winners that grow in the Amarillo area.  It didn’t matter how much neon lighting there was that cold, wet night.  The rain was about as hard as any I had ever seen, so unrelenting.  I hung out at some multi-cultural, multi-functional convenience store with a drive up window for booze … expecting to share the dry corner of the store with Amarillo’s working girls.  I guess the ladies were smart enough to get out of the rain sooner than me, so I drip dried alone.  Another 45-minute wait ensued before I dared to continue east.  Hmmm … Amarillo Boulevard was not nearly as well lit as I expected, once I passed the bars and motels and convenience stores.


As I continued in the rain, I got lucky.  A traffic sign caught my eye, declaring, “Road May Flood.”  I took heed and motored on, but more slowly and watchful, as the rain continued.  Then came my hazard.  At the extreme east end of old Amarillo, the boulevard dipped down out of sight beneath a humble railway bridge.  I coasted closer and saw water.  There was no current, a good thing.  But it was very dark.  I was about two miles from a nice warm shower and a soft bed at a new Holiday Inn Express.  Behind me was cold and dirty street life. Turning around was an option, but not a good one. The water appeared to be about four inches deep.  “I’m going for it.”  Wrong.  The water was more like a foot and a half deep, and quickly swallowed my front tire.  I didn’t know if it would get even deeper.  What to do?  I had committed.  There was no turning around.  Was it better to ease through or rush?  I heard the water muffling the exhaust and I feared stalling.  I gunned it and the front tire splashed a channel through the water, most of which landed in my lap. But I made it through.

A few days later, as Hurricane Harvey approached The Texas Gulf Coast, my friend “Ferg” posted on Facebook the wise catch phrase, and I repeat: “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.”  My story could have had a much different ending with just a few different variables.  I tend to be lucky and live to fight another day:)

Before that water obstacle, my ride had been one of reflection.  Roadtrips are a “good place to get some thinking done,” to borrow a Phish phrase.


… To borrow a phrase

On the road to the eclipse, pertinent song lyrics and rock ’n’ roll lore danced in my head.  Most notable, Carly Simon’s lament to the vanity of Mick Jagger came to mind “you flew your Learjet to Nova Scotia to watch the total eclipse of the sun …” Ha … I thought of how funny it would be to show up at an eclipse viewing party wearing a scarf that was apricot (as Mick is described as wearing, in the song).  I thought of a famous Grateful Dead concert, where Jerry Garcia and my more-favorite Bob Weir and the band played a concert in front of The Great Pyramid during an eclipse.  Pretty heady scheduling, that one.  I thought of Pink Floyd’s famous live performance among the ruins of Pompeii, and all of their Dark Side of the Moon imagery … as the miles rolled past.

And how about “I’m being followed by a moon shadow, mood shadow …”? I wondered how many FM stations were playing that hit by the artist formerly known as Cat Stephens in anticipation of the eclipse.

But beyond the music and the eclipse, my mind was troubled.  Just before I left Fort Worth, I had written something critical toward a group of people who were spreading hate and inciting violence in the name of hipsterdom.  I was not politically correct in doing so, but then I have never in my life cared about the status quo.  In my comments, I was open minded … perhaps a dangerous thing in these troubled times.  You see, it didn’t matter to me which side of the political fence a group of protesters were on in recent violence in Virginia … Yes, I’d say most definitely that one of the groups was wrong.  Actually, I didn’t agree with the other political side either … but as an American I supported whole-heartedly the controversial, non-PC group’s right to express even the most unpopular, perhaps unintelligent opinion.  For the record, I  do not and never have supported any group that hates another group based on the color of their skin … period.  But I did see — as one of a dying breed (an objective journalist) — and pointed out that both sides of the protest in Charlottesville, Va., were wrong … and furthermore, I pointed out that there is a genocide taking place in the United States that is much more worrisome than the threat of any historical statues.  But the real genocide (abortion) doesn’t get headlines in a fake news world.  Blah, blah, blah … …

Here’s the point.  After I posted the open-minded remarks, an old college friend basically called me out for supporting free speech and open mindedness and grouped/labeled me with the neo-Nazi protesters.  Ha … I assure you nothing could be further from the truth … I was stunned and insulted.  Understatement!  It was not an easy decision to hit the friend-eject button on Facebook, but I did it.  Still can’t believe it.  Accused of racism and losing an old friend … over social media propaganda and politically correctnegativity … (I just coined that … use it)

I must have rehashed in my mind that social media exchange for several hundred miles … so sad. Well, they say a motorcycle ride is good to clear the head. Good thing.

I rode on.

The motorbike is not only a hate eraser, it’s a time machine.  Magically, I was transformed back to my childhood.  Remember when we all used to pump a fist up in the air, from the backseat of the family car, to get truck drivers to honk their airhorns?  It works with trains too, if you are speeding along beside them on a scenic highway.  That happened … several times on the long ride.

Mentally, I put the world and all its troubles in timeout and breathed in the scenic beauty of the Creator … and forgot about mobs destroying man-made statues …


Kent County Jail

A few more highlights from the journey …

On a backroad between Fort Worth and Lubbock, I nearly ran out of gas.  My planned fuel stop happened to be in a tiny town with no gas stations — “What the dickens?” — no gas in Dickens, Texas.  The next town was about 22 miles away, and my gauge promised only to take me about 20 of those.  So I backtracked a little and headed south to Spur, Texas for fuel.  With fresh gas in the bike’s belly, I sped on and daydreamed past my turn off, adding about 30 miles to my journey north.  However … it was a good thing.  I came across this fantastic little intersection, with an old, abandoned, stone-walled jail from another era in Clairemont, Texas.  How cool.  Very much a ghost town, but it’s the former county seat. Great place for a photo or two … my first visit to Kent County, btw … And … The jail house rocked …

This Texas backroad (82 and 114) is a new favorite and one of the best parts was a quick visit to my alma mater, Texas Tech.  “My how you’ve grown.”  People dismiss the school and the town of Lubbock, a lot … but that’s understandable.  If you have never lived there and seen how beautifully the red tiled roofs and Spanish architecture come alive in the early Fall, with dreamy blue skies and billowy clouds in all directions as far as the eye can see … well, without seeing that … you just wouldn’t understand.  And then there is the excitement … the buzz when Lubbock gets its Tech on … when students return to classes and the population of the midsize city swells with metropolitan kids from Houston and San Antonio and Dallas … and Vega … or wherever, bringing lots of input from different circles … 

There is an excellent Starbucks just beyond the shadow of The Jones … The AT&T branded stadium at Tech … which has served me a mean helping of Wi-Fi and green tea on several occasions.  The Wi-Fi there is excellent and there’s top-shelf people watching … from cotton farmers to students, to professors … to bikers … oh … that would be me, the longhaired guy in head-to-toe leathers.  Ha … I bet no one would ever guess the “biker” was once the entertainment editor across the street at the college.  Ah the memories … And then it happened … that perfect motorcycle term of endearment.  A young college dude walked over to crazy-looking biker dude and complimented me on my Triumph parked near the front door … Man I love Tech!

Further north, I hit the town without a frown … Happy, Texas … a tiny place that my tiny town played in sports when I was really young.  Now it is the home of an upstart little bank that could … The Happy State Bank and I chanced to glance over and see one of its ATM machines perched on the side of the interstate, by its lonesome.  Ha … the tiny cash machine looked like some smaller version of the Prada in Marfa art installment (way down south in Texas).

Happy, why the long face?  Like so many small towns, when the interstate passed it by, things slowed down.  Some dried up.  But there is a great little downtown, with cool buildings just begging to be revitalized and turned into an art colony.  Who’s with me?

It was also in Happy that I spotted an antique wooden windmill, branded with the manufacturer’s label:  “Eclipse” … as if to commemorate the journey.  How cool is that!?!  … Couldn’t resist the selfie opportunity, notwithstanding the helmet hair.  (Locks of Love donation coming soon … Woohoo!)

Earlier I rode through Tulia, but sadly, didn’t have time to stop for lunch in the town’s claim to enchilada fame, The El Camino restaurant.

Ha … I even hit Kress, Texas … another high school opponent in those thrilling days of yesteryear.  That’s right, home of the Kress Kangaroos.  How very unlike Texas, that mascot!  A wise man from Vega — a Vega Longhorn — once uttered the spirit-filled challenge, “Get a ‘Roo with a moo!” Ha … I considered checking in on Facebook at Kress just to quote that line as my comment, to check in with my Vega bretheren … but didn’t … I digress …

No pings. No score.

On the way to the moonshadow, I pulled over in Denver to say hello to a friend, a friend with an interesting job.  She is a bit of a farm worker, I suppose.  Ha … a Colorado farmer … or rather, she works in the Colorado version of a farmer’s market … dispensary is the word I’m trying to spit out.  Yes.  She is in the legal weed business.  Not sure how I feel about that now.  (Remember, I am pretty open minded … can see both sides …)  There was a time when I experimented with that sort of thing, decades ago.  Back then I was quite an advocate.  Now, I don’t know.  I will say this, some of my observations now are just as I envisioned as a teenager.  I have seen so many lives destroyed by alcohol, but not by marijuana … But does a “lesser of two evils” build a very strong case?  I don’t know.  Certainly now, I have to marvel at the money that legalized recreational and medicinal marijuana are pumping into the Colorado economy … Lots of Texas dollars … I digress.  Anywho, I did not partake, but I am a sucker for an unusual selfie.  I toured the friend’s dispensary and also the repurposed, huge warehouse that is now a massive, multi-roomed grow facility.  Crazy!  Hmmm … no Wi-Fi, although the dispensary was treating its regular crowd to burgers and hotdogs … to fight off ground zero munchies, I suppose.

After the rainy night in Amarillo, described previously, I headed back home.  For the most part, the weather was perfect.  The back road, (82 & 114) had the best, multiple ingredients — a brand new barbecue restaurant with huge sandwiches, little traffic, lots of distant mesas, famous ranches like The 6666 and The Pitchfork … quaint towns like Seymour and Loving and MEGARGEL!?! What kind of a name is Megargel?

Ha!  At about the 1,940-mile mark of my eclipse trip, I saw clouds forming again.  At Jacksboro, Texas I could see the rain had passed through town just before I arrived.  The streets were wet, and the bike was throwing up a little moisture from the paved surface, but no downpours.  In fact, it was picture perfect.  As the road headed straight for Jacksboro, a huge double rainbow appeared, dead center over the town.  There was no other traffic on the road.  Just me and the Triumph and the colored arches in the sky … as if I was being welcomed into the rainbow gates, cleansed of all social media hate … amazed at the creation … what with eclipses and mountains and rainbows … Life is good.

Know what I sayin?