Mike and Kent are two brothers and the heroes of this little story. 'Long lost' might explain their typical behavior, but then maybe there just is no explanation for their behavior. Both of our heroes grew up with motorcycles and 'once in the blood'... Well, the strange thing is that until a year ago, they had never ridden together. Kent invited Mike for a ride to Alpine TX (for lunch), and they had so much fun they decided a full-blown trip was in order. Schedule was finally settled on to leave Friday, Sept 19th and plans were in the making to ride from Central Texas to LA to visit their sister who was carried off to California by the Visigoths in a raid one night. At least that's what they told me... Kent just needs to install a new U-joint and timing chain on the 1980 Moto Guzzi SP1000 he's been rebuilding the last two months (while riding it back and forth to work).
(August 12th, 1980, Mandello, Italy. Guido sits at his bench assembling new transmissions at the Guzzi factory, thinking back to that hot date with Dona Michelle last night, listening to Puccini's Tosca. "Ah! Where did this extra spacer come from?") Sept 4th, 1997. Three weeks before the trip. A nonexistent spacer in the SP transmission fails to prevent the total destruction of the front main shaft bearing. Kent rips out tranny and ships it off to Seattle, WA. ASAP for a rebuild. Parts are back ordered... Kent can already see this thing coming down to the wire, if at all. Mike: "No problem. I'll just come down Thursday night and help you finish putting it back together". Mike walks in the shop Thursday night to see a frame, a front wheel, an engine and attached transmission (missing one part - being shipped next day UPS), all suspended in the air by an engine hoist. "This is going to be ready to leave tomorrow?", he thinks. "I don't think so!" Kent acts like it's nothing to worry about, being the superhuman that he is, so Mike jumps right in for 4 hours of swingarm/drive train rebuild. Next morning, UPS delivers the missing part (wonder of wonders) and another 4 hours later, the SP is wheeled out of the shop and explodes to life as her huge V-twin jugs shove the remains of seriously burnt fuel out her BUB headers in a satisfying, throaty roar. Kent suddenly remembers that he forgot to remember that he now has to RIDE this fabulous I-talian motorbike back home to pack and leave on a trip... Yep, no helmet or pants or boots or gloves... A collection is taken and Kent gets her back home just in time to leave for the trip on the very day intended!
(In Search of ...) "Oil on my windshield?" Chapter Two
Now understand that Kent fully realizes the risks associated with leaving on a trip using a newly-installed... well, a mostly newly installed old bike! However, um... You know, I'm not exactly sure what Kent is thinking here... but down towards Hondo, TX, Kent takes the lead. Mike starts looking at the big splotches attaching themselves to his beautiful, clean, purple Goldwing 1500 and realizes that Kent's SP is throwing transmission oil all over everything and flags him down. Mike caaalmly and colleeeectedly asks Kent to not spray oil all over his pretty new bike any more and our two heroes bend over to see what's wrong. A leak. A transmission gasket leak. This could prove to be fatal to the success of the trip. Some Allen wrench flexing slows the leak to a little trickle, barely snatching the trip from the jaws of utter failure.
(In Search of ...) "Who turned out the lights?" Chapter Three
Kent obediently sits in the tail position of the formation as our duo rides a tailwind at speed towards the great metropolis know as Uvalde, TX. It's getting dark. Kent's headlight unexpectedly winks out. Kent remembers how the previous trip down this road, in approximately the same location, following Mike, the alternator rotor windings in his BMW R100/7 opened, leading to a completely separate adventure not covered in this story. Obviously Mike's fault... Ahh! A blown fuse. 3 spares. Put one in, start up, it blows. Put second spare in, start up, it blows. Not good. Can't find suspected short. Third fuse stays in one piece exactly long enough to get past the Highway Patrol Officer. Kent plays like he's a ghost (following Mike with no lights) and the (formerly) duo find a place to pitch sleeping bags just outside of Del Rio. Kent notices the kamikaze bunnies that try to attack Mike's Goldwing as they head down the dirt road to the camp sites. Strange... Mike and Kent continue to talk about the day as Mike's head hits the pillow and starts snoring in mid-sentence. Kent heads back to the SP for some conversation and begins to caress her still-warm (beep)s. Next morning, being your 'Wal-Mart' kind of guys, and the fact that Euro-fuses are not to be had in Del Rio, a spade-type fuse holder is expertly grafted onto the electrical system of the SP and a new 20-amp fuse is installed, replacing the old 16-amp Euro-fuses which have been exhausted. On the road again...
A quick pitstop in Langtry, TX., at a little gas station that time has passed by, Kent pulls over in the shade on the side of the building while Mike gasses up. Out struts this big black crow toward Kent, grabs the cuff of his jeans and starts pulling. "Whoa there, little fella! What's up?" Kent says. The crow then starts pecking at Kent's boots and the footpegs on the old SP. Turns out that the crow is a pet watchbird and he definitely doesn't like Kent parking there in the shade (something about the dogs nap area). Mike takes a few pictures of the bird before our duo rides away from the sunrise. After Kent leaves, the crow flies out back, apparently quite satisfied with himself for running the intruder off.
(In Search of ...) "The twisties" Chapter Four
Mike had intended to go to Ruiodoso for a huge bike meet, but it soon became apparently that the late start afforded by Kent has pretty much nixed that idea so they head towards Silver City, NM by way of the first set of twisties. Kent has promised to show Mike almost every type of twisty road between Texas and California on this trip, and NM 152 between Caballo and Silver City is a great introduction for Mike. Especially at night, which is when they arrive at the best part of this road. Mike is impressively wrestling that massive GW around the tight, climbing curves until a slow-moving truck blocks the way. "No problem" thinks Kent, as he whips the nimble SP around the truck and into the curv... "Ahhh! Where did the road go??" Complete and utter blackness now sits where a road used to be. Kent follows the memory of the turn and, suddenly, the road lights back up! A subtle flaw in the superbly-designed Bosch sealed beam headlight is discovered, which abruptly cuts off all light past a certain vertical angle. Obviously intended for high-speed Autobahn use, the Bosch beam is completely and utterly useless on 15mph marked, peg-scraping, climbing turns. Kent meekly returns to the tail of the formation and the duo makes it safely into Silver City for the night.
(In Search of ...) "Noah's Ark" Chapter Five
Off early towards Clifton, AZ and the infamous Devil's Highway. Our duo stops at a little motel restaurant for a fabulous breakfast and to wait out the rainstorm. Up the mountain they head just as another storm comes sweeping across what looks like 100 years of mine tailings. The wind is blowing the rain horizontally so hard you can't see ten feet in front of you and both bikes are traveling about 5mph, almost scraping the pegs on the lefthand side. Watching the beginning of a mudslide, Kent is thinking "we gotta get to the top of this hill FAST before we end up buried face first at the bottom of this mountain". Up through the first of two tunnels he heads, with Mike close behind. Mud and rocks are flowing off the sides of the cut and through the tunnel as Kent exits. Mirror check to see if Mike is still there. No more headlights showing in the mirrors! "S**t! He stopped in the tunnel!". Back down into the tunnel heads Kent, finding Mike smiling sweetly. "You can't stop here, Mike!". "I ain't going! I can't see anything!". "If you don't get of this tunnel, you are gonna DROWN!!!". "I ain't leaving!". Kent swings the SP around and comes up beside Mike. "See that mud rising? See those rocks falling off the cliff up ahead? It getting worse. Fast! Remember that there's a big mountain up above with a lot of water on it headed our way. If you don't get out of here NOW, you are gonna DIE!".
The mud flow on the left side of the tunnel is about two feet deep now and Kent takes off, back up the road, dodging one foot diameter rocks being rolled across the road by the mudflow, watching the mirrors to make sure Mike follows. The water level in the steeply graded road is well past boot level now. A headlight! Ahhh! Good. Into the next tunnel. At the exit of the second tunnel lay a lot of BIG rocks which obviously have fallen from directly above. "What are the chances of one of them falling right now on me?" Kent thinks as he points the bike at a clear path and whacks the throttle wide open to clear the rubble. Big headlight still behind. Good. There's a covered rest stop at the end of the mudworks and the two bikes are pulled in while their riders calm down and wait out the rainstorm. Tiny little Matchbox trucks (half the size of a house) crawl up winding rivers of mud far below, looking like little yellow snails.
(In Search of ...) "Pit Stop Ditch" Chapter Six
AZ 191 (formerly AZ 666) is known as the "Devil's Highway", aptly named unless you are on a bike. It has been described as the longest, continuously winding road in the US. If it ain't, I sure want to ride its better. "Devil's Highway" would be almost heaven on a small, light bike. Mike stops to take a picture of a sign, "10 MPH next 11 miles". "He, He", thinks Kent, who has led the unsuspecting up this road more than just a couple of times in the past. While the rain keeps speeds way down, the ride is none the less fanciful at low speed rather than flat out. The scenery is simply fabulous. Our duo follows the road as it winds along the saddleback between two mountains and then climbs steeply, vanishing into the clouds. Both riders stop, almost dumbfounded at the scene. About 4 hours and 90 miles later, an almost straight little strip of road unwinds itself and Kent zips past a little lodge. Not so with Mike. "Coffee... Gotta stop Kent. Coffee... Gotta stop Kent!" As best our travelers can ascertain, Mike's brain, apparently seeing the relatively straight road ahead, just shut down. Maybe it OD'ed on twisties. Maybe the addictive pull of coffee just overwhelmed his brain. We'll never know. Kent checks his mirrors. No headlight. "Ahh, pit stop!" He thinks and heads back, only to find Mike, parked... no. Wait. That's not a parking lot. That's a... That's a ditch! "What are you doing down there?" Kent asks, wondering why the heck Mike would drive down into a ditch. You guessed it. Mike center-punched the ditch. "Darn it. I was hoping to get out before you came back and saw me down here." "What happened?" "I don't know. I just ran into the ditch!" "But it's deep and there are lots of rocks down there! You couldn't have ridden through that ditch!" But Mike had... He rides that big two-wheeled mini-truck of his out of the ditch and takes pictures of his tire tracks as evidence. They decide it's time for a short break. Mike gets his coffee and all is well.
(In Search of ...) "Loud Pipes" Chapter Seven
On through Springerville and west towards Prescott head the duo, through the sslooowest traffic on the trip. Arizona has some of the nicest roads, the most ridiculously low speed limits (35 mph on 4-lane divided rural highway that can very easily be traveled at triple digits), and some of the most anal, speed-conscious drivers west of the Mississippi. But our duo patiently (mostly) threads their way through the heavy weekend traffic and spurt off toward Jerome, the town built on a cliff, on top of hundreds of miles of copper mine tunnels... Which caved in a time or two. It's been about 4 years since Kent rode through here last, and the place looks completely different. A regular boom town, Kent comments. Mike finds out that Kent's last ride through here was shortly after the town burned down. The local biker bar on the west side of town is spilling its occupants out on the sidewalk as Kent leads the duo through town. Many thumbs up from the Harley crowd, pointing in Kent's direction are a bit unsettling as Kent isn't sure if they are lauding his loud, BUD pipes, or are after something else. The LARGE sign pronouncing an enforced noise ordinance keeps Kent from whacking the throttle to escape. There are some great little twisties southwest of Jerome and Kent begins whacking the throttle and dragging both pegs on the poor old SP. He quickly overtakes a Harley, which quickly pulls far to the right to allow a pass (must have thought he heard a Harley). Mike approaches on the GW and, you got it, no such treatment, so Mike has to lean that Wing over and pass with very little room. (Should have seen the guy's face. Imagine getting passed in a curve by a Goldwing).
(In Search of...) "Rest" Chapter Eight
Prescott, AZ. Dusk. Looking for a good restaurant. 276 miles on this tank of gas for the SP when the mains run out. 51.9 MPG. Not bad for an 18 year old, half-rebuilt bike on a hard run... Waitress mentions the campgrounds north of town, but the gate is closed. The duo gases up across the street where the station employees agree that if the gate isn't locked, they can probably camp there without any problems. Gate is unlocked, so camp gets set up (in the pitch black night). Just about time to turn in, a truck drives up, asking how they got in and what they are doing. $10 'fixes' things and gets them the combination to the showers. Yeah! Sure, it was only a 502 mile day, but felt like easily twice that...
(In Search of...) "More Fuses" Chapter Nine
Monday, the duo heads northwest before sunrise. Headlights wink out again. Stop at the NAPA Auto parts store to try out a spade-type circuit breaker since Kent is running out of fuses again. Meet an old codger who told this colorful story about how his G5 sidehack rig had been knocked out from under him recently by this old guy having a heart attack while driving. Our duo also takes a few minutes to wash an incredible amount of grime off the two bikes at the local carwash. Mike's GW had turned brown... Big relief. Off toward Vegas. Kent notices that the new circuit breaker has begun to trip about every 30 seconds, so he decides to pull off the highway and seriously try to determine what the heck is going on. Needless to say, it remains a mystery and Kent decides to continue the daylight run with no headlight. Hoover Dam looks like the DisneyWorld parking lot, so the duo take a few pictures and scoot along through Vegas, stopping long enough for lunch, gas and Kent's daily afternoon nap, which he normally takes in the morning, but Mike won't sit still long enough for that. It's evening in metropolitan Beadie, NV. Mike wants to stop at one of those Motel/Casinos for the night. Kent is still trying to figure out the wiring problem when he hears a "bzzt, bzzt" when he switches the ignition. Yep. The short finally gets bad enough that the sound and sparks give away its location. Fixed in a couple of seconds. No more lighting problems!
(In Search of...) "Real Expensive Gasoline" Chapter Ten
Off to Death Valley. Pretty cool this early in the morning! Beautiful views. Better top off the gas before heading west. $2.00 a gallon!?!?! You better believe it. Riding west, the road climbs from about 200 feet below sea level to about 5,000 feet above sea level and back to 2,000 feet a couple of times. Roads are pretty darned neat! They'd rate an 8 or a 9 except that there are no guardrails and it's a bit intimidating looking down from those hundred foot drop-offs...
On through Big Pine, up to Yosemite. Something about 10,000 feet. Mike has a lot of fun but the traffic is a bit heavy. Our duo stops at the KOA just outside of Mariposa for the night. They head into Mariposa to eat dinner. Pulling into the parking lot two older couples walk out a ways in front of Kent, so he graciously performs a near-perfect track-stand to wait for them to pass. What? It is noticed! Could it be the two old guys know something about bikes? Sure enough. They are two couples visiting from Britain. Both long time motorcyclists. So our duo (mostly Kent) has to stop and talk for a while before the ladies run off with their husbands. Great fun talking with these guys! Next morning is a superslab ride down the Valley. Before they get out of Mariposa, our duo makes a stop at the World Class Mining and Mineral Museum. Pretty impressive even to Mike (he must get used to making these little side trips that Kent thinks are so important for Mike to see. It becomes apparent that Mike's information intake is much quicker than Kent's). But, off they go...Here they come LA!
(In Search of...) "More Twisties" Chapter Eleven
Heading down IH 15 the duo happen across... what? Angeles Crest? World famous for those smooth tight, semi-high speed sweepers. Oh well! That's what they came here for (well, maybe to see their sister too)! Left turn Clyde! Before they have gone a mile, two crotch rockets hustle by (afraid our duo might slow em down) and slooowly disappear into the distance. Our duo are manhandling (well maybe Mike is manhandling) those bike through those curves, just having a blast. Curves marked 25 mph to 50 mph are being handled at 25 to 30 mph higher than their posting. About half way down this 55 mile stretch of wonderful highway is a small restaurant. The crotch rocket jockeys have just dismounted when the first of our heros (Kent) cruises by. They wave as if to say, "not bad"! Our other hero (Mike) is right behind. No waves, just dropped jaws, as if to ask, " how in the h... did he get here that fast"? Boy is Mike beaming!
Suddenly Kent notices the police chopper cruising the mountain for unsuspecting (or suspecting) bikers moving along at what is considered unsafe speeds for this mountain road. Nominal speeds are called for here. Soon they are well out of site and our duo again picks up the pace. What a kick! Too bad its over. But wait! The gas station attendant tells Kent about another road that goes toward LA that keeps the duo from attacking the super slab. All down hill too, with plenty of twisties. But alas, back to the freeway and into LA.
(In Search of...) "Rest and Relatives" Chapter Twelve
The next few days hold rest and relaxation for our duo (except for the endless hours spent searching for more twisties, cleaning bikes or harassing their wonderfully understanding but gullible cousin, Dave (but then that's another story). During this rest and relaxation period, our duo manages to get in some "twistie" seeing though. Their sister, Annette rides with Mike on that Goldwing (a very wise choice I might add) when they head up north about 3 hours (no one in California has any idea how far it is to anywhere. Every thing is measured in time). They ride US 33 over to US 1 and down the coast. Great sweepers up there. Suddenly, there is the famous Mulholland highway. Certainly, a quick left is in order. Wow! What a trip! Kent leaves the rest of the trio (formerly duo) in a cloud of Moto Guzzi exhaust. Mike and Annette are left to hammer those twisties as fast as that Goldwing can go, scraping pegs and foot rests all the way. Soon it becomes apparent to Mike and Annette they must have missed a turn or made a wrong turn somewhere. The mailboxes don't say Mulholland anymore! Try to find a place on those roads to turn a Goldwing around, but they manage. Back up the hill to the last intersection they head. Sure enough, Mulholland turned right. After much discussion, our "new" duo (formerly trio) decide to wait right here at the intersection. Surely Kent will come back for them. He does, but he is looking so hard in the ditches for them, he drives right by where they are sitting, and just keeps going. The chase is on, but alas, our duo have no chance of catching him and those Guzzi mirrors seem to be useless. Finally he looks behind and to his great surprise, the Goldwing isn't in a ditch at all. Whew!
On down the hill they (now a trio again) head. Next comes the famous "Rock Shop". Darn, it's closed on weekdays, but guess what? It's beer delivery time! Ha! Ice cream bars and lots of good pictures hanging on the walls and a little BS and they're back on the road again. Here is Ventura Highway! Heading back down to US 1... What? The road is closed, but Mike's keen eyes have spotted "Latigo Canyon Drive". Yes it IS a "longcut" back to the beach, but what a road! More scraping and leaning! But then, just as suddenly as they found it, it was over. Back to the scenery of the Pacific Coast Highway (US 1). The rest of the ride is pretty much normal if you can call LA traffic normal. More rest!
Another day and another side trip down to San Diego, brings the road to Mt Palomar! Great climbing twistie road with a huge Observatory on top! Our duo meets a guy with an old restored R90. Real nice. A little more conversation (and a little more BS) and it's back to LA!
(In Search of...)"Time to head home (yes, more twisties)" Chapter Thirteen
Our heros hate to bid everyone adios, but after all, there are more twisties to find (besides, Dave is beginning to think they are moving in). Back up north they head. IH 40 is a quick way to get across the desert (100 degrees at noon in Cottonwood Az.) Finally the duo make it to the mountains (45 degrees by 6pm). They find a beautiful camping area just above Jerome (after the loud music stopped). Kent is beginning to see that Mike is getting a little OD'ed on twisties, but of course, Mike would never admit it. It seems that in the previous trip to the Big Bend (Alpine), Mike thought that the "River Road" between Terlingua and Presidio was a tremendous challenge, and is intent on trying it again. What a let down! After the roads covered previously on this trip, the "River Road" is almost a freeway! Well, maybe not quite as challenging as Mike had remembered it! Still a great ride!
(In Search of...) "The Park Police" Chapter Fourteen
It is our hero's last night and of course, Kent has to make it interesting. Mike is in the rear position (back a little farther so he can hear his radio over the roar of those Guzzi pipes). Sure enough, Mike's bird dog (trucker talk for radar detector) sounded. Flashing light and honking horns do no good, as again, Kent's Guzzi mirrors prove to be useless. Yes the Park Police pull our heros over. Kent as usual, ready to defend himself, is all swelled up like a "Bull Frog" (because he wasn't speeding when the cops came over the hill). Caaaalmly, Mike steps in front of him and defrays the mess to a nice conversation with the "Nice Police". After smoothing the situation over and no tickets are issued, our duo retire for their final night abroad. Mike, as usual, drops off as his head gets horizontal. There is Kent talking to the Guzzi again.
(In Search of...) "The Final Leg" Chapter Fifteen
Up at dawn (don't have to pay if you get in after they close and out before they open) and we find our duo heading toward Alpine. Yes, there are those kamikazi bunnies again, running out to gaze at that beautiful purple Goldwing. They are so dazzled, they run in circles and Kent spends the whole morning trying to dodge their blind mania.
After a delicious breakfast in Alpine (any food is good after eating 24 dozen cans of Spreadables and bread) our heros are off doing just what hero's would do. Ride home. By this time Mike is ready to get there. No more scenery stops, just ride. Lunch in Del Rio is great too. Back on the road. One last stop in Hondo at the DQ (first time all trip). Ice cream and one last rest is in order. Then on to the houses.
(In Search of...) In Retrospect
This has been a wonderful trip for our duo. The trip could have been a disaster right from the start, but as the two work together (as they do in writing this story) they find that closeness that they haven't felt since they were children. A trip to be repeated many times we hope.