Get your motor runnin’/Head out on the highway/Lookin’ for adventure/And whatever comes our way/Yeah Darlin’ go make it happen/Take the world in a love embrace/Fire all of your guns at once/And explode into space.
“Born to be Wild” – Steppenwolf
It seemed like a good idea at the time. The adventures that land me in the most trouble always seem to start out the way – a good idea at the time. Pack up a few clothes and enough essentials to survive a couple weeks, jump on the Harley, and ride from Phoenix to Kimball, Nebraska (home of my brother), some 1,500 miles away.
I’d had a hard time of things finding a job after ending my two-year mission with the Arizona National Guard and the U.S. Border patrol, and frankly, I was getting desperate for something, anything to break. So when my brother suggested I come out there and see what I could find, I balked at first but after talking it over with my wife, the decision was made to go for it. Little did I know I was about to embark on a hell-ride.
The trip started out pleasant enough. Riding out of Phoenix, heading towards Flagstaff, the sun warmed my back as I rode north up the highway. I was jamming along to the music my IPod provided, already missing my family but hopeful that good things were just up the road.
About two hours into the ride, the sky ahead started turning a menacing shade of gray, thunderclaps rolled on the horizon as lightening danced in front of my eyes on the road ahead.
“Well crap,” I thought to myself as I hurtled ever closer to the pending storm. I decided to push on as long as the rain didn’t start, and I could always duck into some restaurant or coffee shop for a spell if it got to bad.
About the same time I came to that conclusion, the sky opened up and began a monsoon like downpour. I scanned ahead for the nearest exit – five miles up the road. I hunkered down on my bike and vowed to pull off as soon as I could.
Leaning into the exit, I scanned around for any signs of civilization or something I get seek shelter from the rain in. A sign indicted there was a campgrounds about two-miles to the east; nothing else seemed available. I pulled on the throttle and pointed the bike east; there had to be something there.
The campground was apparently closed for the season, so too was the general store that serviced the facility. I pulled into the general store and decided to just sit down under the store’s overhang. For nearly two-hours I sat there, watching the rain fall from the heavens; it finally broke enough that I figured I could get back on the road and on my way.
Just ten more miles north along the freeway and the rain started again, I found a coffee shop this time; my body soaked and shivering from the rain, I pulled in and ordered the hottest coffee they could serve. Hours again ticked by as the rain continued and then a break, the sun poking out from behind the clouds. I watched with envy, the warm rays filling my mind. About an hour later, I was on the road again.
This was just getting started.
Crossing into New Mexico near dusk, the wind began its assault on me. At some point along the way, my bike and I, nearly fused together from me pushing down so hard, seemed to be riding at a near 45-degree angle as I fought to counter the driving wind of the high desert. The rain started and nothing in the way of road signs indicated I was near anything.
I fought to keep my hands holding onto the bike as feeling and sensation left them with the sub-zero cold and wetness. Occasionally, I would reached up and, in a futile exercise, try to clear the accumulated water from my face shield.
Ahead, something, a sign – blue. Has to be an indicator of something I thought.
Finally, it was.
I pulled the bike into the hotel parking lot. What a sight I must have been to the hotel clerk as I stumbled to the counter, barely able to speak as shivers wracked my body forcing a loss of nearly all body functions.
The clerk was able to determine that I needed a room, needed one right now. Forcing my hands into the soaked pockets of my jeans, I pulled a wad of cash out and dropped it on the counter.
“We need a credit card sir,” the clerk said.
“I don’t have one,” I stammered, “Please, I just need a hot shower; I’ll be gone in the morning, I promise,” I pleaded.
Looking me up and down real quick, the clerk agreed. Using the walls for support, I stumbled down the hall and made my way into my room. This was hypothermia; I knew it and my semi-lucid brain was directing me to get into the shower.
I turned on the hot water, not too hot at first. I didn’t want to scald myself and fell into the bath tub. Mother nature had down her absolute best to beat me, but this day, I had walked away. Not with a victory perhaps, but still alive all the same.
The rest of the trip would be no better.