By: Don Darling
He was missing a tooth but man could he smile, we were all smiling! After all we were heading east on the famous “Route 66.” The road ran alongside I-40, the modern highway from California, we were on a section east of Needles, just crossing into Arizona at Kingman. It was after having an ice cream cone that we first talked.
My friend Bruce and I just delivered my youngest daughter Andrea to a camp in the central California mountains where she spent the summer as a camp counselor, that was the purpose for the trip. Excitement oozing and the heart racing while sitting on my Road King, Andrea on the back seat and Bruce on his Ultra Classic along side us, we had nothing but blue sky and open road ahead. After two days we dropped Andrea off at the camp. Getting there in the late afternoon we decided to go to the small town and get an ice cream cone. While we sat there enjoying the moment reminiscing the last couple days, a silver haired, solid woman walked up with her arms behind and head looking directly at those two shiny bikes. “I always wanted a Harley when I was a younger woman” she said. “But my dad wouldn’t let me get one.” She never looked up, just simply walked away. After a good nights sleep Bruce and I headed south through Fresno to Bakersfield. I told Bruce, “It’s only that far,” showing about an inch between my thumb and finger, “to the Pacific Ocean, we can make it!” After all it was still around mid day, we thought why not?
So after a quick trip to a small town on the Pacific Ocean, touching the water and a cup of coffee, yes it was quite cool, and a strong tail wind heading east, we made it to Mojave by 10:00 that night. That little one inch jaunt took seven hours!
Thankfully there was one room left in an old run down hotel, the last one in the whole town. We just didn’t know there was a Pow-Wow that evening, however we still slept quite well. The next morning we figured getting out on the road before daybreak would get us across the Mojave desert before it got too hot, well...let’s just say that didn’t happen. I learned that anyone can experience the summer heat of the desert by pointing a hair dryer, running full blast 5” in front of your nose. Yes, that’s what it felt like for the full four hours, riding through the Mohave desert in June.
So at high noon, or close to it, we found a place to have lunch, headed east to Kingman and that’s were we met our friend.
Can’t remember his name but I think he was a scientist, in another life that is. We stopped a few times to get gas, other bikes would join us for a while and then peel off. So at the end of the day we parted ways, with our happy friend riding with us, along that famous “Route 66.”
That was my first Harley, the one I purchased off the showroom floor in 2001, but this story is about my second Harley, the one I ride now. It came to me in 2006, right out of the box with a shine that would never get old. It’s now 2019 and I just finished a trip with some military friends in Cripple Creek at the annual veterans memorial ride, and that’s when it turned 100,000 wonderful and fun filled miles.
I think it was around 2009 that I took a trip to Ohio to visit mom, but before I arrived I wanted to stop and visit Uncle Clark and Aunt Alberta, they were in an assisted living facility. On this particular trip Uncle Clark was in rehab for a knee problem so when I got there I met with Aunt Alberta, wheeled her down the hall for lunch. After our meal we went to see Uncle Clark, then back to her apartment. On the way back she looked ahead and said “Oh, there’s our minister and his wife from when you and your cousin Jeff were born, 52 years ago.” The woman was a frail tiny thing and her husband was in the wheelchair, kind of bent over and not really involved in the conversation. But when I was introduced and told that I rode my Harley all the way from Colorado, the man lifted his head, eyes opened wide, he turned to look right at me and said “I used to have a Harley!” His wife looked at him with a shocked expression and said “I didn’t know that.” “What year” I asked, “1938” he replied. His wife said “You never told me that”....but just before lowering his head I heard him say... “It was before I met you.”
How often will a motorcycle turn 100,000 miles, Let alone a Harley?
I asked my mechanic at the Harley shop down the road how many bikes he sees each year with over 100,000 miles, Sam replied “I’ve only seen three...ever.”
So the adventure on Route 66 took about seven days and covered 3,500 miles, but there’s so much to tell about my trips around the rest of the country, and with our international neighbors as well, but how can I begin to share the journey in one short story?
The road has taken me and my faithful Harley to almost every state in the country, some trips to visit family back east, some trips with my hoodlum friends and some trips just because they needed to take place.
I know riding on the roads and highways can be dangerous, and one can never completely be safe from other drivers whether you’re in a car or on a bike, but the risk is worth it, at least for me.
Where will the next trip take me, what adventure awaits? That story takes place just over the horizon, and I my friends....intend to continue riding....