They had me lashed into a full-house BMW factory gig, double-secret safety-checked and fully catered from soup to nuts to deep-chested Bavarian doppelbock. With legitimate staffers booked solid on exciting new bikes, there wasn't a bench warmer in sight to post-pre-review the pre-ridden F800GS already being delivered to buyers all over the country. Editor Catterson had gone deep and bounced off the back of his Rolodex by the time I emailed him, whining about imaginary back pay from 2006, when inspiration hit: "Hey, Mikey...that dumb bastard'll ride anything!"
It was the perfect scam. Without the least qualification, I would saddle up on Other People's Motorcycles to seek my fortune among the uranium fields in borrowed duds. Nothing left to do but pull on my Under Armour and run down to Laughing Buddha to have my blood type, social security number and the letters "ADV" tattooed onto my taint where the flames reach last...
Live to pose, pose to work.
"Open up my email and see if you can pull out any phone numbers," I barked into my scratch-fogged flip phone.
"Isn't there a sign or something?" Pretty Wife asked reasonably.
"There's a 40-foot limo out front. That can't be right."
Turned out the ber-stretch Lincoln was in fact occupied by various moto and men's mag journos, insouciantly sprawled across pale-blue leather under twinkling starlit ceiling mirrors in the kind of sordid tableaux that constitutes a prom queen's night terrors in full living color.
One of my Bic Round Stics (mark of the working professional) had burst like a second-hand condom during the flight, tattooing my carry-on with smeary, blue-black teardrops. I wiped an ink-sticky palm across my threadbare jeans, stuck it out and shook the hand of the guy closest to the door.
"Jack Lewis, (mumble)cyclist," I growled.
The gig was on.
BMW doesn't fart around on these junkets. This is well known. But I had no conception of just how pampered adventure riding could be. Sorrel River Ranch Resort & Spa is a rustic cattle spread in that peculiarly Western idiom of dulcet cosseting overlaid by the thinnest scrim of rough-hewn aesthetics. I smiled smugly and stopped worrying about gnarly technical bits.
Maybe I shouldn't have.
This photo speaks for itself, and says, "Go find your bliss, dipsh*t."
Fresh off the assembly line, vertical-twin GSs were sprinkled liberally around the ranch, including a pair silhouetted against the Colorado River in a gentle wash of color-gelled spotlights. Since the Colorado itself curled conveniently past a hosted bar, I was several Dead Horse Ambers to the good when we stumbled in to receive a highly detailed product briefing by several highly informed factory sources.
A striking German girl (we'll call her Liesl) exhorted us all toward enthusiastic consumption of BMW apparel items. Deep-brown eyes and an enchanting Bavarian lilt made Liesl marvelously persuasive. Actually, BMW makes bitchin' bike threads, and you should invest in a closetsful of them-immediately, please, as your loyal scribe would like to go adventuring again soon.
Moments later, Liesl's voice cracked slightly. Fired by lightning journalistic instincts, 20 arms lunged for iced pitchers, but I was first to the pretty girl.
It was the last time I'd be first to anything on that trip.
BMW Motorenkultur is a curious phenomenon, luxury crossed with purposeful seriousness and informed by a traditional Protestant work ethic-not the one where Jesus is your drinking buddy, but the one where God blesses the gifted and industrious. Chow call was 0700; safety briefing 0745; kickstands up and locked by 0815.
I stumbled out to the bike burdened by certain regrets. Liesl had joined me at dinner, fending off my clumsy jokes with soft murmurs of the sensuous satisfactions offered only by "BMW apparels." As the only two participants who understood approximately squat about off-road riding, we giggled over cabernet sauvignon until well past the dessert course. (Note to self: Espresso ice cream has real espresso in it.)
Though I stumbled out to purge my sins under the coal-black purity of a Utah night, Liesl followed at my elbow all the way back to the suite bunkhouse, lighting our way with luminous eyes. Keeping a white-knuckle grip on my fig leaf of journalistic integrity, I took from Liesl only test pairs of GS gloves and Boxer goggles. You have to draw the line somewhere.
By morning, the only thing I could remember to regret were all those Dead Horses beating me.
Liesl sensibly opted to drive the truck.
We rode motorcycles, too.
We happy few were split into two groups: the Blue Group and the Kick Jack's Ass group. Does it need pointing out that these guys can really ride?