The Spring of 1982 – part 4

For convenience I have printed parts 1-4 in PDF format, available here, You’ll need a PDF Viewer. I use Foxit – it is free, and fast.

This is part 4 of a multi-part post. Download the PDF above and catch up if this story is new to you.

So I screwed up the timeline a bit – I left out meeting our trucker friend before we met the musical family from hell.

The first meeting wasn’t a big thing – we were at a truck stop. We filled up with fuel, ate a good meal, and showered. This wasn’t unusual – we often took advantage of truck stop showers. We were spending money, so we ignored the “trucker’s only” signs. It was never an issue.

Until we met “Mr. Ryder”. I call him that because his truck said “Ryder” on it and we were never formally introduced.

Unlike many of the truck stops, this one had individual shower stalls – some of the others were like a High School locker room – huge room, many shower heads, no privacy. Here there were walls. But they were only half walls – you could still see the person next to you, from mid-waist up.

In any case, we were showering when this redneck from hell comes in and starts talking crap from the time he entered the showers. He was just randomly talking bad about bikers, motorcycles, us, and even our momma’s. None of us wanted trouble. Especially not at a truck stop – those guys outnumbered us 20:1. We wanted to get clean, and get going.

Surprisingly, everyone ignored him. We finished showering, dressed, and left. He was still in the shower. We would see him again in less than an hour.

We hit the road, and it started to rain. Nothing too bad, except I didn’t have a windshield on my bike, and it was hard to keep my goggles from fogging up. We all slowed down as the rain increased. We normally would have pulled off the road, but traffic was light, and we weren’t making good time on this trip. We pushed on.

Suddenly this 18-wheeler comes screaming up into our group. Really – we were riding in two lanes since traffic was light, and the rain was not. This guy flew right down the center of the lanes, pulling his air horn the whole time. We all swerved to the side of the road as his tires kicked up enough water to blind us. I saw only the word “Ryder” on the back of the truck. It was a stencil, and the R was faded much more that the rest of the letters. I would remember the truck.

We didn’t see the truck again for a couple days – and we mostly forgot about it. We had no idea the guy in the truck was the guy in the showers.

OK – so now we are back where part three starts – we rode that day in the rain, and the next day was dry, but we were all tired – so we looked for a place to stay.

I’ll assume you’ve read part three by now.

So our two night stop turned out to be a one night stop – a night we thought we could afford to party a bit, since we didn’t plan on being on the road the next day. A night we didn’t get a lot of sleep. A day with the police, not knowing what was going to happen to us. It was anything but relaxing. None of us was in a very good mood.

When we were finally escorted out of the county we just wanted to put miles between us, and Idaho. We rode faster than we had the entire trip – pushing the then 55 MPH speed limit by at least 25 MPH.

The longer we rode that day, the more windy it got. The wind was so strong that I moved behind one of the larger bikes (a Gold Wing). I was looking for a wind break.

The large bike didn’t provide a lot of relief, and as I looked at the group of bikes in front of me I realized why. The wind was causing all of the riders to lean fairly hard to the left – into the wind. The cross-wind was so strong that everyone had to lean into the wind to keep their bike’s on the road.

I moved to the right of the Gold Wing, hoping to get some wind relief that way, but the road was a bit more congested, and the Gold Wing was moving all over the lane. I couldn’t stay next to him because I couldn’t trust him not to veer into me.

I dropped to the back of the pack, leaned my bike about 25 degrees to the left, and rode that way. For hours. I didn’t think that seat could be more uncomfortable – but at a 25 degree slant, it rode up the crack of my ass. For hours.

Finally we stopped for the night, and it must have been uneventful. I imagine I fell asleep before the engine on my bike had even cooled.

The next day the wind was still from the left, and even stronger. We literally rode hundreds and hundreds of miles leaning to the left. When we finally rode out of the wind my bike was not “feeling right”. There was a very rough feeling to the road, where it had felt pretty smooth. The road surface hadn’t changed.

We finally got to a town with a Harley Dealership and all pulled in for a rest (Harley Dealer’s are VERY friendly and almost all have free coffee, a lounge, etc). We ordered a pizza for delivery (the pizza guy had delivered to the Harley dealership before!). And we got our bikes serviced. Even the non-Harley’s were getting looked at.

Most of us needed new tires – we had literally worn the left side of the tires off by riding so long while leaning so far. We were somewhere in Montana.

We had all planned on a tire change during this trip – somewhere around Los Angeles, we figured. We were a LONG way from LA. We were riding a long way and most of us were carrying far to much for our bikes. Not unusual to need new tires on a long ride.

But when the mechanic walked into the lounge, everyone held their breath – someone was getting bad news. It’s really not unlike waiting in an Emergency Room and having a blood-splattered doctor walk in to give someone bad news.

“Who has the tricked out Sportster?”, he asked.

Shit. That would be me.

“The bearings are gone front and back, but we gottem instock, yawannem?”

I had ridden far enough and long enough leaning into the wind that I trashed my tires AND my bearings. No, I did NOT want to buy bearings – but I had no choice. I needed bearings. They kinda help the wheels go around. New tires and bad bearings would make old tires out of the new ones very quickly.

It cost me over $500 for that stop. Keep in mind that I was making only about $620/month as an E-4 Navy Corpsman at the time. This was a huge hit – almost as much as I had budgeted for the entire trip. I was NOT happy.

A few minutes later, another guy was less happy – he lost a cylinder. His trip was done. We lost our second rider. We did stick around long enough to make sure he had some kind of arrangements to get “home”, but we left him there. Alone. At the time I don’t think it bothered me at all. Today I don’t think I could do it – I’ve grown. Now I recognize the value of a team. We left him alone, a thousand miles from home. That’s shitty.

But we rode on – having now decided to go to Seattle before we go to Oregon. One of the guys had a sister there. On a farm. With a lot of space. We were looking forward to really spending a couple of days in one place. So we rode hard.

About halfway through that day we passed a Ryder truck. I didn’t think anything of it. We passed thousands of trucks.

But a few minutes later, when the truck comes flying back on us, with the air-horn blowing, I realize, as it passes doing at least 80, that the “R” in “Ryder” is faded.

I had seen that truck before.

This is part 4 of ? Part 5 in the next few days.


  1. @Deannie – I eventually (on this trip) bought a used seat – it looked horrible, but it was MUCH more comfortable!

  2. I was just waiting to hear when your memory kicked in about that seat. I wonder you managed…

    There really are those folks out there with weird attitudes about folks on motorcycles. I don’t get it.