There was snow atop the Bighorns yet; seven feet of it by my measure. I plocked steps with my cowboy boots and climbed aboard the drift that towered over Linda and the highway. As I lay back in the slushy mass, Lin took a photo as proof we'd rode into our honeymoon a month too early. It was her first long ride and there were many things to show her. Snow was the least of the magic.
was our beginning mountain pass and as Linda was a corner virgin, I took
the switchbacks to Cody as quickly as I could; the well paved, double
lane highway offering a forgiving leisure to a speedy scoot downhill.
Her knees found purchase in my pelvis, her hands in the love handles I'd
tried for years to eliminate. My new bride thrashed me and pinched me
and punched me when she felt the urge, laughing and hollering "DoooON'T"
and "STO-PIT" in that whiny baby voice I've come to know and love.
were both exhausted upon reaching bottom, and my butt was soaked from
the melted snow throne I'd posed on a half hour earlier. So to show
proper camper clothes drying etiquette I stood at 70MPH and waved my
bottom about, hoping to catch a warm breeze that would cure my
Linda was not pleased and mock attacked me
each time I took to the upright position. She was actually a bit
frightened as cross country motorcycling was all new to her and she
wanted me to slow down on my antics a bit. But it's not fun to wallow in
pasty underwear and denims so I sat, waited for her to become
distracted and then stood again; each time evaporating another sodden
layer from the damp cloth and each time suffering another curse.
found ourselves relaxing a few hours later in cheap, plastic chairs in
front of a cheap, plastic motel in the cheap, plastic town of Cody
Wyoming, gateway to Yellowstone. And there we discussed the day, the
snow, the rush of leaning into a heavy curve, the wind nearly pulling
your body aloft, and the slow transference of her, at first, incredible
fears, into unerring confidence in my abilities.
The next day was
no motorcycle adventure but a sense awakening that only the majesty of a
National Park like Yellowstone can bring to a mere mortal. But this
story doesn't go there, nor to the gaudy motel in Idaho that we spent
the next night in.
This is just a short tale about how quickly
one can become accustomed to danger, how easily we forget our
gooseflesh, pounding hearts and shortness of breath once we've seen what
we've believed to be death, and lived to tell.
She had no idea
that Ketchum was the new Vail, that Sun Valley was rapidly becoming
Hollywood NW with Tom Hanks among others driving once average property
values into the stratosphere. She only knew that the town was incredibly
cute and the mountains behind it incredibly tall.
I'd begun a
white water raft trip from those peaks and wanted to share my
fascination with her in first person. So after breakfast in
touristville, we slithered up the ridge to the Sawtooth mountains, some
of the coolest granite clumps I've ever seen.
We spent most of
the day carousing atop the mountains, peering into canyons at the raging
rivers that I'd nearly lost my life on more than once.
that I am not an adrenaline junky. I fear unfenced heights for one, deep
water for another. When riding I tend to the safe side,
doing little in the way of tricks or outlandish behavior. I just have a
tendency to try new things and some of them try to kill me, that's
really all it is.
In any case the sun began to wane so I decided
to make Boise before dark. The highway downhill is likely the tightest
turning stretch of any mountain range I've driven and while it's fun to
twist and turn, it's also both frightening at times and a hell of a
lotta work. So we sat at the entrance to a "last stop" filling station
waiting for all the truckers to pass by before starting our descent in
hopes that I could take this lightly traveled road at my own pace.
first 15 minutes was grand as I slowed enough at times to see large and
small animals lumbering alongside us in the heavy wood. This particular
road is unusual in that it is so thickly forested that the trees grow
right to the edge of the tar on one side and the sandstone and granite
cliff face stands guard on the other, making its reach a bit
claustrophobic for those so inclined. You know there are 4-600 foot
drops here and there...but damn if you can see them until you're on
So I was not too happy as I heard the midrange whine of a
semi approaching from my rear. I imagined us to be about halfway to the
valley below and thought to find a spot to pull over and let the
behemoth pass. It was too far to fight another driver all the way down
and as the day was wearing on me I was a little stiff and raggedy in my
I never found that pullout before a reefered 18
wheeler encroached, creeping on me fast enough that it unsettled me for a
moment. I kept hoping that the next half mile would bring a straight
stretch into view that I could lean into the tiny shoulder and let this
guy blow past us, but no such luck as we moved faster and faster down
I remember my teeth painfully clenching and asking
Lyn for a couple sticks of gum, she unwrapping and folding them and then
slipping them into my mouth as we bent into another hot corner. I
tapped my brakes a couple times and in answer the driver behind me
tapped his horn...pretty much a universal for "don't even ask me to slow
I swear it was the hardest ride I'd had, or have had
since. I never knew I could concentrate like that, I'd never believed in
my abilities to the point of road race. He was so close I could nearly
smell his exhaust and our speed was topping 70, then 71-72-73. A little
stretch of straightaway would appear and I'd add 200 feet to our space,
but then another corner would push me to back off, to stay within the
yellow line of my lane, to watch ahead for sand or rock or even fallen
boulders that might at any time litter the road.
cramped, my thighs were sore from gripping the chassis, I swore my brain
was going to explode as it raced to identify each inch of ground as
friend or foe, each moment as our next, or our last.
By the end I'd had a Matrix moment, when all becomes clear and the fantasy is your creation and not foisted upon you.
imagined a Chinese dragon, the reds and oranges of its slender,
weaving body lighting up the roadway behind me; its mouth snapping in
time with the diesel rhythm as the driver behind me "jake braked" and
doubled the volume of his engine, roaring much as any monstrous demon in
search of a meal would do. I was strapped to a rocket and deftly
leading my pursuer to its death in the valley far below, using only the
angle of my body, the gravity of my changing weight to modify my
direction and speed.
When we'd finally reached bottom we were
doing over 80 and I quickly made that 90 as I sped away from my tail and
made a giant leap toward freedom of movement. I spied a roadside rest
ahead, a middling river rushing past the picnic tables and fire pits and
I damn near slammed on the brakes as I
downshifted myself to a stop and slowly turned our ride into the welcome
respite. Neither of us had said a word since leaving the top of the
mount, and nothing was said yet as we dismounted and set helmets and
gauntlets on our chosen table, and I shakily lit a cigarette.
that was FUN!" Linda said finally as she dragged her water bottle from
her pack. "Let's go up and do that again!" I just laughed and laughed
"What's so funny?" she asked raising an eyebrow for
effect. "Nothin" I answered and smiled broadly to myself. I'd created a
monster alright, and luckily I'd married her first.
I didn't tell
her my reality until weeks later, once we'd found our way home again.
We had thousands of miles of highway and dozens of mountain passes to go
yet and I wanted her believing in the magic of the moment, not
wondering how I was holding up under pressure.
It can be amazing
to go into a dark tunnel and come out the other side a totally different
person; But some experiences are exactly like that, and while our
visions were quite different, we both lived an epiphany that afternoon;
one that scared the crap outa me and only delighted her. And one neither
of us regret.