Classic cars parked bow-high are the seating for the drive-in. Tonight’s show is “The Wild Ones,” starring Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin. Stumbling through the dark to the theater, Flores casually mentions to me that no one has ever left the Shooting Star Drive-In alive. Sitting alone in my Cadillac, snatches of conversation blow in with the night air, nervous laughter…. murmurs. Clouds roll over the moonlight. It’s so dark. Besides the flickering black and white scenes of mayhem playing across the screen, the Caddie’s radio dial is the only light. What year is this? Sounds….did someone say road corn? Nah, must’ve been popcorn. Had to have been popcorn. I roll up the window and lock the door. Drafty in here.
Marlon gives the soda-fountain chick his ill-gotten trophy and the movie ends. The screen darkens, the cars fall silent, and a ghostly pall descends. We grope our way back to the trailers. Starlight, star bright, don’t let the chainsaw-wielding mass-murderer get me tonight!
Everything from moonscapes to wild, pink smudge-castles to multi-colored layers of geologic history line Utah’s Highway 95. And if it wasn’t 103 degrees and we weren’t running out of gas, I could relax and enjoy it. These big Victorys are getting around 40 mpg for a 200-ish range. We've travelled 189 miles and the dash computer display is nagging me “Get gas, you idiot!”
Manny’s route becomes more diabolical as the trip wears on. He threatened us with epic and I must say he’s delivering. Lanes shrink smaller and smaller until short sections of dirt road appear ahead of the CCTour’s fairing. This is adventure bike territory, not ideal for full-boat touring rigs. Out of their element, the 800-pound Victorys still exhibit excellent off-road behavior (within reason). The anti-lock brakes work well in the dirt. Go ahead and grab a handful—the front won’t wash out.
Everyone at Sturgis makes a special effort on the rally costumes, typically some variation
This Suzuki (I think?) rider takes minimalism to a new low, with a clean, Savage 650-based
The last thing I saw at Sturgis’ Broken Spoke Saloon after I got liquored up and complaine
Colorado roads climb, the air thins and our pace quickens. I’m grinding on tight right-handers, touching down something hard, inflexible, not the floorboards. I’d look under the bike to see what’s hitting but I don’t want these yokels posting more compromising poses on Facebook. Anyway, it doesn’t hit often, and on left-handers even less so. You really have to lean over to get these bikes to touch down. Drevenstedt sounds like a friggin’ body shop streaking by on the Vision, floorboards smashed onto the pavement. Kids these days. I kick up the volume of the four-speaker, XM satellite radio and shower down on the throttle to keep pace with the lead group. I got my pride.
Time to swap bikes, Victory’s version of full-immersion therapy. The Ness Special felt different enough from my asphalt-colored stocker to warrant a check of rear-shock pressure. Zero, just like the CCT’s, it turns out. On the Ness, it’s probably just the short windshield but I swear the bike felt a wee bit tauter and the teeniest bit sportier. The Ness front speakers were also upgraded but it will take a finer ear than mine to hear the improvement; maybe the shorty faring lets in more wind noise negating the bump in speaker-age.
With 40 psi in the rear shock, dragging floorboards becomes a once, maybe twice-a-day event. I thought the bike handled well before but the jacked-up rear end takes 100 pounds off the bike. Of course, that still leaves you 700 lbs. to deal with.
Out of Fort Collins we drop down into the plains of Nebraska and into the Victory Cross Country Tour’s wheelhouse. Long, straight roads, pounding along at 80-90 mph—it doesn’t get any more perfect for these big-boned touring bikes. The CCT is a highway star: comfortable, smooth, lots of wind protection with just enough agricultural clatter to let you know you’re on an American-made motorcycle. The other guys think endless vistas of grasslands and road corn is kind of boring but I’m digging it. It’s nothing like Florida.