The Spring of 1982 – Part Six

I have published parts one thru six in a PDF file, here.

I’ve struggled with this installment.

I have written it, re-written it, and deleted it.  And started anew.

So here’s what I have decided – <rant> If Danny, or anyone else wants to dispute it, then let them.  I am not concerned about writing it for Danny anymore.  And if he doesn’t like it, he can comment here, or shut the hell up.  I am going to write my story – the way I remember it.  If anyone wants to challenge it, or write their own version, then good for them.  Start a blog and link to me.  But I won’t let your nit-picking, fact-checking, minute detail correcting stop me from finishing this story. </rant>

It is, after all, just a story.  I never claimed it was 100% accurate.  I know it isn’t. I was young then, and we were drinking a bit.  A lot of bits, in fact.  So I’ll finish MY story.  Write your version if you want.

So we left off with Mr. Ryder.  He was harassing and bullying us on the highway.  He was in a huge truck, and we were on bikes.  Yeah – easy to bully us. 

As I recall, me and another bike were behind this idiot – a guy that was doing everything he could to keep us behind him – to hurt us even, I thought.

We were at an advantage though – our friends were in front of us (and him), and we were not in a hurry.  Trucker’s usually are.  We fell back – way back.  We had fuel for another hour, (yes, motorcycles get AMAZING mileage – but they also have VERY small gas tanks… so we had to stop about every 2.5-3 hours for gas).  We had an hour left.  Maybe.

Maybe less, it turned out.  We were heading uphill now – fairly steeply.  We didn’t burn a lot of gas, but the truck did.  He needed to stop before we did – just about ten minutes up the road.  As he pulled off the highway into a truck stop we pulled over on the shoulder.  We needed to chat.  As we started discussing where the next gas station might be (Google Maps didn’t exist then.  Hell, Google didn’t exist then.  Commercial GPS didn’t exist.  We were guessing.)

We guessed we needed gas now.  So we watched, and waited for Mr. Ryder to fill his truck, then enter the truck stop.

We then approached the pumps and filled up.  We rode around the back of the place and parked our bikes.  And did something we had not done the whole trip – we de-bike-ified.  We took off everything biker we could – so we would look “normal”.   In the end, we didn’t.  But it didn’t matter.

We went into the restaurant half of the truck stop – not the store/motel/whorehouse part (it WAS one of those places).  We sat down to eat about the time Mr. Ryder walked from the “store” side to the food side.  And we were not well-hidden.  You can’t wash biker off people that wanted to be bikers – he saw us – and came walking over to us.

And, giving Danny his due on this one – Danny and two of the other guys step out of nowhere.  Right into (physically into) Mr. Ryder.  Now Mr. Ryder may have been an ass – but he was NOT a dumb-ass.  He saw us two at the table, and the three of them.  He could cipher, I reckon.

As it turned out, he was a very nice guy.  Really – he did turn out to be very nice.  He bought our “damn near everything” bag of food/snacks at the truck stop.  He didn’t have a choice.  Danny wasn’t happy with him.  In fact, Danny stayed back and chatted with him for over 30 minutes – while the rest of us hit the road.  Once Danny caught up with us late that evening he said he had not seen Mr. Ryder since he left from the truck stop.  Mr. Ryder was a bit afraid when he wasn’t in his big ass truck, it appears. 

We spent the night is an out-of-business gas station – like the ones you often find in the middle of no where and wonder why they ever existed in the first place.  It was an old Sinclair station – I haven’t seen one in years.  But they had this huge dinosaur statue in the front, much, much lager than this one.  station3They also still had the roof over the pumps, and since it was drizzling, we set up camp right by the long unused pumps.  On the concrete, which wasn’t a big deal, since we had sleeping bags (idea – why not invent a sleeping bag that has an air mattress built into it?  It probably exists now, but didn’t then!).

As we were sitting around chatting, and drinking a few beers, one of the guys came from the empty nearly destroyed gas station carrying a propane tank.  He cranked it open, and some gas escaped.  So of course, he lit it, to see if it would burn.  It did, of course.  He shut the valve off quickly, and the flame died out.  Then we started joking around about what we should do with the propane – and someone had the bright idea of making the dinosaur breath fire.

We took the tank and duct-taped it to the dinosaurs neck.  We also cut a section of gas pump hose off and taped it to the tank nozzle.  We ran the tube up the side of the dinosaur, and to the mouth.  All on the back side from the road.  We tested it – and by opening the valve all the way, we could get about a three foot flame coming out of this dinosaur’s mouth.  Very cool!  But it wasn’t dark yet, so we didn’t set it off for long.  Instead, we had a few more beers, and wondered generally screwed around with a lot of things that could have killed us – for instance – was there any gas left in the underground tanks?  Only real way to know is to drop a match in there, right?  Yeah – not a bright move!  But these tanks had evidently been filled with water, even as a safety precaution, or because rainwater eventually leaked in.  We didn’t even get a spark (thankfully!)

Finally it was almost dark, and we went about the process of lighting up our “dragon”.  It was amazing in the twilight, but it was just us – that was hardly fun!  We were on a smaller two-lane highway – it didn’t have a ton of traffic, but it had some.  The gas station was also on a curve, so as west-bound traffic approached their car lights lit the dinosaur up very well – they couldn’t miss it.  And with a three foot fireball shooting out of it’s mouth, they absolutely couldn’t miss it! 

For the next hour or so, we played with traffic – the dragon would come to life with short bursts of flame, then die back out – only to shoot an even longer burst of flame.  A couple of times people accelerated very quickly and raced away.  Other times they stopped – and took pictures!  Somewhere, in an old photo album, is a picture of a Sinclair dinosaur shooting flames out of it’s mouth.  We kept this up until we ran out of gas, and beer, and eventually drifted off to sleep.  Surprisingly we didn’t get a visit from the cops that night.

On the next day, we will be in Oregon.  Heading North, to Portland before heading south, down the entire West Coast of the United States. We aren’t even halfway done with our trip – we’ve been going a lot more slowly that we expected.  Partially because for some reason, being out on the road, none of us felt a sense of urgency to get back to our lives, jobs, kids, wives, etc.  Even though most of us were in the Military we just didn’t feel a lot of pressure to get going.  Somehow I think we all knew this was the trip of a lifetime – and we were in no hurry to see it end.

I had already used all of my leave (vacation) to take this trip – and there was no way I could be back on time – not even if I turned around that day and headed back.  Tomorrow I would have to call in some big favors.  But on this night, I fell asleep under the aluminum roof of an old gas station – smiling about the fire-breathing dragon, and wondering what the people thought about it as they drove by.  And today I wonder if they still occasionally remember it.  And if they do, I hope they smile.


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