Long Face Down | Behind Bars

In hindsight, riding my new thumper to San Francisco for Spring Break was ... unsmart. In Pullman, a good sledding season runs through Tax Day, but Salome wanted her socks in the city. She and Jimmy were engineering students. As a liberal-arts pussy, I had to take their word for it.

We lashed my one-lung Yamaha into a tank bra and vinyl panniers, Salome straddled Jimmy’s dual-ranger with its future-perfect hydraulic lifters, and we sailed down the Columbia drainage toward mom’s cabin on the Oregon coast.

Decanting chunky, frozen cheese from the Philco fridge, we boiled up mac noodles, thawed out and watched Salome’s eyes go wine-colored and glossy. The third rail of sleeping arrangements never came up, but the ladder to the loft did.

Waking up solo and grumpy, Jimmy demanded to trade off while we ran down the coast. We swapped several times a day. Closer to the bone, my little Yammie cornered sweeter, but the rump-soft Honda was all curves, no angles.

The off-season was almost affordable for underemployed impulse travelers. I worked part-time at the student paper; Jimmy pushed V-belts at the grange supply and Salome always seemed to have a little money, but never quite enough.

We found roadside escape from the bone-soaking mist at a McDonald’s in Florence. Lunch ran nearly 12 bucks, precipitating an urgent summit around the yellow plastic table. Too high-class for us.

That night in Brookings, we hit Shop Smart for shrimp and Gallo. Without butter, Salome managed respectable seafood fettucine by lubing our camp skillet with the last of mom’s twice-frozen cheese.

Life Lesson Number One: Lubrication is the key.

With our tent erect, Jimmy and I quenched the campfire with recycled red. The bilious vapor suffusing our shirts resolved any lingering issues over traffic management in the tent.

“You guys stink,” said Salome. “Go jump in the ocean.”

She zipped up with the finality of Life Lesson Number Two.

The next day, Highway 101 took us through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. My saddlebags were leaner than Salome’s, and the SRX600 was no supertanker CB900C. Trying to ignore the devil on my shoulder, I still greeted the oncoming grille of a CHP trooper with my left peg rutting the deck.

There was no oncoming radar then. Raising my clutch hand from the clip-on, I waved cautiously. He waved back, pulled over the next bike and searched Salome’s riding gear, then warned Jimmy sternly.

A state campground still closed for the season fit our budget admirably, but the heater felt busted. Tool inventory yielded three pot-metal end wrenches, the plug socket for my ’69 International and a Swiss Army knife with a corkscrew in case we mistakenly bought wine without a screw top.

“I’ll get wood,” Jimmy announced.

Salome and I laid out the flaps, arguing over pegging. Women seem to want tent pitching to go on for hours.

Jimmy wobbled back in first gear, triumphantly dragging an enormous deadwood. Salome expertly snapped off a branch.

Life Lesson Number Three: Apparently, “two-man tent” didn’t mean two men and one woman.

“Hey,” Jimmy kept asking, “are you guys still awake?”

He stroked Salome’s shoulder gently, but she and I had switched positions by then. Most likely several times.

So Jimmy left to stoke his fire. Next morning, we found him poking mournfully at the embers. He’d already boiled cowboy coffee, fried a panful of eggs and stacked a half-cord of wood. Still not sure how he did that with a Swiss Army knife.

Jimmy and I never rode together after that trip. A few months later, shooting pool at Rico’s with a 6-foot-tall blonde, I ran into him.

“Where’d you meet Linda?” he asked. “She’s beautiful.”

I smiled. It was good to see Jimmy again.

“Hey man, still got my old Yamaha?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I friggin’ love that SRX! What’re you riding these days?”

“Big, red shafty. Good for the long haul.”

I trashed my full-dress Kwacker that autumn, smashing its Vetter ’glass against the black ice of Highway 26 near Washtucna.

Linda and I married one week after the following Spring Break. Waiting through the reception line, Jimmy gave her a wistful lass kiss, then wobbled off alone into the spring blizzard on a scratched KZ1100 shaft with its Windjammer rattle-canned a muddy purple.

I saw Salome recently at her brother’s Oktoberfest party with Jimmy on her arm, but they don’t ride anymore.

That I know of.

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