There are anniversaries and there are anniversaries, but it’s rarely about the number. It’s always about the ride. Having relinquished an early goal of rolling 1,000 miles onto her Street Triple’s odometer in the first week (waylaid by Smalldaughter’s insistence on a full summer day spent at the lake—imagine the time sink), Pretty Wife was having a fine time exercising her tires. I was enjoying the wingman’s view when Black Betty coughed politely, just once under her throaty breath.
Well, that was unexpected.
Everyone knows BMWs may strip final drives, piddle onto their dry clutches, and melt your credit card in ways heretofore unimagined, but they do not break down by the side of the road. That would be…common. Regaining composure, she didn’t so much as sputter again until we pulled into line for the Hood Canal floating bridge, where she promptly died.
“Have some pride, girl,” I hissed through my chin bar. “There’s a Harley behind us!”
Obligingly, she cranked right up. We vaulted over that bridge to the place where she broke down for good. We were promptly passed by approxi-mately 347 flatulating Harleys, two sportbikes, and a Gold Wing. Not one slowed down. Maybe the brotherhood of the road moved onto Facebook?
I nudged at the ignition wire bundle and she lit up; I pulled my thumb out and she died. Had I half the chops of Sir Peter Egan (Esq.), I’d’ve settled her hash with a P-38 can opener, sonic screwdriver, and pocket-sized, hypernium-alloy flux capacitor in Whitworth threading.
Instead I pulled out my phone to snap a photo, check the GPS, and dial AAA. The flatbed driver who showed up, an old rider with a ’36 Knuckle-head at home, carried more mechanical aptitude in his key fob than I can find in my rollaway. When I set my helmet on the shotgun seat, he said, “Just write down the address. I can find it. You two go have fun.”
My look toward Pretty Wife was tentative. Her look back said the anni-versary ride was on.
He drove off for the mainland. Contrasting my helmet to my obvious lack of key, Pretty Wife adjudged, “You’re too big to pillion. I guess,” she said with just the faintest crinkle of a lip. “You can ride my bike.”
Seven years in, my eyes still change color when she talks dirty.
What a frolic we had, all the way to the fog-clabbered road winding up Hurricane. Creeping along two-up to a large pullout, we hopped off for photos. The last thing I heard was, “My bike!” before she grabbed the bars and punched a hole in the cloud bank. Schlepping her Nikon uphill to the turn exit, I stretched prone along the shoulder bank to wait for the shot, whereupon a couple in an SUV immediately stopped to see if I was okay. Apparently it’s car drivers who still do that.
The little 675 will step smartly up a mountain, even two-up if you twist her triple nipples. With fog obliterated by Apollo rampant and fine bitey brakes on the triple, we thoroughly enjoyed our descent, including railing past a carefully ridden Honda VT500 with a sound like “waaa-HOOON!” Must have been the bike talking, as I am a man of few words and Pretty Wife needs only her smile to get by.
At the park office, the Honda jockey pout-putted up and stalked into the office where we were inquiring about dinner possibilities in town. Inserting himself into our chat with the lissome rangerette, he offered this wise counsel so quietly I could hardly hear it over the grinding of his teeth:
“You should be careful about your speed on that road in case you should happen to pass a ranger. Which. Is. Me.”
I smiled beatifically. “Thank you, sir.” I’m getting better at this, I think. “Have a nice day!”
There are bullets and there are bullets. Some you dodge; some you take for the team. But like journeys and warm showers, it’s the ones you take together that are most memorable.