Road Trip

On the morning of April 21, 2006 I awoke in Las Cruces, NM to a very beautiful woman that I had been dating for four years rubbing my arm. She asked if i was awake and then told me she couldn’t be with me anymore. As I’ve never questioned her intelegence or her love for me, I knew that she had put thought into her decision. I got up, grabbed my jacket and helmet, and one change of clothes. With a new motorcycle that her mother had cosigned for, an old one that I’d bought for her to learn on, and a car that i’d bought for her to drive daily, my options aren’t really options at all. I gave her a hug, started the 1979 Suzuki GS550E and hit the road with an expired tag that I’d altered to look current since it would be out of state for most of my trip anyway. I had bought this bike the month before for $400 from the motorcycle dealership I had been working for since I moved there from Dallas, TX five months earlier. It was old and in desperate need of love to become the bike it once had been, but time wasn’t on my side. She and I had moved there so she could be closer to her family. She had grown up there, and I had grown up in Marietta, GA, so I didn’t really know anyone there outside of the acquaintances I had made through my job that I was ready to leave anyway.

One disadvantage to traveling on a motorcycle is the size of the gas tank. When leaving New Mexico and driving through Texas, I could only hope that the three gallons of gas in my tank would be enough to get me from one gas station to the next. Though, as flat as the landscape is, I should have been able to see the next gas station before I left the current one. Just the same, I was about to find out that gas was the least of my worries.

Three hours into my trip I was already almost through my second tank of gas and half a pack of fuses. There was apparently a short somewhere that had fried my headlight along with the fuse it shared with the voltage regulator. Each time this fuse would blow, the bike would lose power and wouldn’t go faster than 35mph. This is a very dangerous speed for a motorcycle in a construction zone with one lane, a soft shoulder, and a parade of cars growing behind it. After taking my chances with the soft shoulder and replacing the fuse, I was off again. For another twenty minutes or so. Same sypmtoms, seemingly different problem, and this time the bike wouldn’t start, so I started walking.

I didn’t walk very far before two guys in a silver Dodge dually stopped to offer help. One of the guys told me that he raced motocross a few years ago and was fully sponsored by the motorcycle dealership that i had worked for. I rode with them across the median to the access road and back to my bike where we loaded it up in their truck with some straps that he had in the bed of his truck. As we drove back to the highway he told me that they were on their way to Ennis, TX, about 20mi south of Dallas. Since i know people in Dallas, I offered to help with gas if they would let me ride with them to Ennis and I would call a friend to pick me up and take my bike to a shop from there, but that idea flopped when we stopped at a truck stop somewhere around Midland and he got a call from his brother. The call was to inform him that the truck he had wouldn’t be big enough for the load he was going to get, so they were to get a hotel for the night until he could bring them a bigger truck. I almost sold the bike right then for $20, but i decided to check the fuse one more time, and sure enough it had blown in a very strange place that made it hard to tell that it was blown. I walked into the truck stop and bought a pack of fuses, replaced the bad one, and the bike started right up, so I filled the tank and headed on.

On my way I stopped at a rest area to smoke a cigarette only to find that I had lost my lighter. A trucker at the stop was kind enough to give me a lighter, and told me that if i hurried I could get to Abilene before dark to replace my burned out headlight, so I thanked him and was off again. When my bike began to sputter I turned the valve on the gas tank to it’s reserve setting and started looking for a place to fuel up. Just as I got into Abilene I saw a truck stop and pulled in, started fueling, and noticed a strangely familiar silver Dodge dually at another pump. Needless to say, there wasn’t much catching up to do with the guys that couldn’t give me a lift because they had to get a hotel room 200 miles ago, so I paid for my gas and walked outside to find the trucker that had given me his lighter. In light of the dropping temperature, dropping sun, and impending headlight problem, the trucker offered to let me sleep in the passenger seat of his rig until morning since he was there for the night anyway.

The next morning I cranked up my bike and hit the highway again. Forty miles later i was pulled over again to replace another fuse. With the new fuse in place I drove the next fifty feet of my journey. The chain had come off. What I didn’t know before i spent twenty minutes putting the chain back on, is that when it came off it hit the engine case hard enough to crack it. Once the chain was in place I started the bike, and the cascade of oil that flowed would have been beautiful if I had seen it while i was at the last truck stop, talking to a trucker that was going right through Dallas and would gladly have given me a ride. Now I’m walking to the next truck stop and interupting the breakfast of a few drivers to see if i can find a ride to Dallas. I did, and I rode with that trucker from Abilene to a Ft. Worth truck stop, was able to get a ride with a couple older gentlemen to Dallas, and a young guy there gave me a ride to a friends house where another friend of mine picked me up and took me to the Greyhound station. $84.50 later I was on a bus to Atlanta.

I boarded early to make sure I got a window seat near the middle of the bus, only to give that seat up to a woman and her daughter so they wouldn’t have to seperate. Taking the only seat left I prepared for the isle seat journey ahead. What I didn’t know at the time was that two stops later I would be giving up my seat again to another woman while I sat on my helmet for the next 150 miles. Once we were out of Texas enough people had changed busses to leave just enough seating for everyone onboard. I made one transfer in Alabama, and we headed for Atlanta.

Once we were in Georgia I waited to see Six Flags. I have made the trip from Dallas to Atlanta a few times in my life, and I always knew I was almost home when I saw Six Flags. With my view out the front of the bus blocked I didn’t see it until we were next to it, but as soon as I did I started to cry. Georgia hadn’t been my home in over 11yrs, but that’s where my brother lives, and since I’ve only seen him 3 times during those 11yrs I couldn’t wait to be there. Once I got to the Atlanta Greyhound station I made the call and he came to pick me up just in time to hear his band on the radio for the first time, and I couldn’t be happier living so close to him now.

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