A Ride to Remember

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
A really long trip for a cup of coffee.

Submitted: July 21, 2016

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Submitted: July 21, 2016

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Part 1- Dad's Folly

One day, years back, I get a call from my Dad "Hey, I got the new blower on the bike. We're going to San Francisco for coffee, be here at 6." So by 6:30, seven of us were leathered up and heading out.

Rumbling through my hometown like a small local biker gang...that waves and nods to anyone who looks. It had been a hot day and we were all looking forward to a cooling off with this ride to the bay, but before we could even scoot by Sacramento the troubles began. Dad's bike was dripping oil out the timing cover and it started missing and would just die. We'd stop and let it cool and then we'd be off again. Not a great start but Dad stayed optimistic and cheerful. He wanted us all to enjoy this trip. Then my lil' brother Mike signals to me he needs to pull over. I say "What's up?" He says the right side handlebar’s broke on his bike. Sure enough the dang thing had a huge crack in it. I think I was on the FXR that day and Mike was on the Heritage. That crack scared me, so I swapped with him and we caught up with the rest ( Dad rarely looked back).
When we did catch up, it was just east of Dixon and dad was drippin' fire on the freeway. That oil had gotten real hot. I pulled along side him and pointed this out. Dad just smiled and gestured to the Chevy's restaurant sign. We all pulled in thinkin' we'd get a nice dinner, let dad's bike cool and then head home. Dad had other plans. That meal was the most fun and most embarrassing time I ever had....outside the Navy. Gary Peach (a longtime friend and fellow biker) was in rare form that night and givin' the poor waiters HELL. He was quite a character. I hadn't laughed that hard in a long time. We started to worry about foreign objects in our food or even getting kicked out. But THAT was nothing compared to what the rest of the evening had in-store for us...
 

Part 2 - Into the Abyss

That wasn't our last laugh at Chevy's but it sure was the last at that one. We were lucky we weren't thrown out.

The sun was down now and we were getting a delta breeze across the parking lot as we saddled up. We're all still chuckling and shaking our heads at Gary when Dad says "Lets go get that cup of coffee on the wharf." So we fired up and headed west. It wasn't long though before Dad's Springer was loading up again and givin' him fits. At times, I swear that bike sounded like a screaming horse. It was down-right eerie, and my dad would get in it like Spanish spurs in soft skin. A kind of "I'm gonna drive you into the ground if that's what it takes." attitude towards it. Sometimes he'd only be able to do 50 and then BAM! he'd be off doing 95.
But by the time we made it to the Bay Bridge it was a lil' after 12 and we all thought that bike was done for. Dad barely made it across the Bay Bridge. It was spittin' fire and backfiring. We took the first exit and waited at the bottom for the rest to catch up. That's when things got bad. It had turned a wet kind of cold. No one knew where we were or how to get to the wharf. We were lost and some got separated. Running around in the concrete canyons of the city, V-twin pipes echoing off the high-rises, setting car alarms off at midnight and trying to keep Dad's bike running while looking for a damned cup of coffee was just crazy. I got separated at some point when Dad's bike decided that 50 mph was better than 15. My brother found me topping a hill and told me to follow. What he didn't see was a cop as he flipped a U and gunned it in front of him. Yep. He got a ticket. Finally, somehow we all met up at a park down by the wharf. Mike was pissed about the ticket, my brother in law Marty bailed and we never got that coffee. But the night was young and unbeknownst to my brother and I......far from over...
 

Part 3 - Where's my brother

So the rest of us, being Gary, Robin and Nathan, myself, my brother and my Dad, were getting some convoluted directions out of the city from some weirdo in a Donald Duck hat and a Black Jesus with a raised right fist tattoo, while Dad's bike cooled again curbside. What a night. We were cold and tired and just wanted out of the city. It had been quite a ride, thus far. Dad finally got his beast running and there was no low cruise speed available for him. It was scootin' time. Dad took off like a rocket on rails and I wasn't gonna be left behind. When we finally found that elusive get-on ramp we hit it doing double nickels. We shot up that ramp and weren't lookin' back. I chased my Dad across that lower deck of the bridge doing 105 mph passing cars while babying a cracked right handle bar, and he was pullin' away from me. It was like we were runnin' for our very lives. Dad knew that if he gave that damned bike any slack it would shut down right there over the Bay. So he put the spurs to it and that bastard screamed. He was leaving flaming puddles in his wake. I was just able to keep him in sight and finally caught up with him at a Chevron station in Emeryville.
We filled up and waited for the others, who were only about 4 minutes behind us. After we all fueled and exchanged stressed pleasantries, we hit that road home. I knew Dad would catch me so I jumped out first with my brother right behind me. Ya know, my Dad always said "It's not the destination that's important, Son. It's how fast you take those corners getting there." Well, if there were any corners on our way home, I was straightening them. Before I knew it I was almost to El Sobrante and there was no one behind me. Damn! I slowed to a fast crawl and my Dad flew by me like I was standing still. Um, okay. Then the Peaches were approaching. I gestured a question to Nathan "Where's my brother?!" He makes a broke sign and points behind us. GREAT! What the hell? I get to the Hilltop overpass and head back to search for my lil' brother. I gotta say I was pissed. And even more so later after I found him...Did I mention "Dad doesn't look back"?
 

Part 4 - Slim Jims and Cigarettes

As I looked down the Hilltop Drive freeway on-ramp, I was aware of the stinging in my nose. The smell of Richmond. With the light now green, I throttled it and went back hoping I'd find my brother safe and in one piece. Three and a half miles later I found him but I still had to go to El Cerrito to get turned around. When I finally got to him he was sittin' beside the bike, tired, cold, worried and prepared for any physical eventuality.
"Brother, I'm sure glad to see you." he says.
"What happened?!" I said.
Well, it turned out the bike had a short in it somewhere and just quit. "Where's Dad?" he asked.
"Long gone." I said.
At the time I hadn't really thought about it this way, but my Dad was doing battle with that stupid bike and he wasn't about to lose. Anyway, Mike and I broke out some tools and a flashlight and got to work. After an hour or so and still not finding it, we put 'er back together again. Mike looks at me and says
"Take off, Bro. There's no sense in both of us freezing on the side of the road."
I said "I tell ya what. I'll go up and call mom and tell her where we are, get some grub and Gatorade and I'll be back."
So I did.
Mom was not surprised in the least about any of the nights events and said she would let Dad know where we were, if and when he made it home.
I headed back, saddle bags stuffed with day-old maple bars, Gatorade, Slim Jims and cigarettes. This time I knew where my brother was and that he was alright, but I hurried just the same. It was now 3 am and he was by himself on the side of the freeway in Richmond.
Twenty minutes later, we had scarfed the health food and were diggin' in up under the over-pass to try and keep warm. After some time and a fair bit of gab we got a Health and Safety visit from the local CHP cruiser. At least that's what we thought.
Mike and I brushed off the moist sand-like soil they put under the passes and went down to greet the officer. My brother was saying hi to him as the officer just blurted over him "You can't be here!". And yet we are, I thought. My brother has a wonderful way with people so I just let him talk. Mike explains our circumstances to him but this hard nose just says "I'll be back this way in an hour. Those bikes better be gone or I'll have them towed away." I gotta admit, I was a bit nonplussed. But there it was. An obtuse cop. ANYWAY....Mike and I decided to take him at his word and get the bikes off the side of the freeway. We put 'em on the curb. Really feeling the weight of the evening, Slim Jims and that "we've been up way too long" laughter, we made a point of getting some shut eye. Then Mike says " I wonder if dad knows we're not with him yet." I think we laughed ourselves to sleep...
 

Part 5 - A Quiet Breakfast

It couldn't get light fast enough for my brother and I. Ever spent the night under a freeway overpass?

In the Bay Area?

Man, what a night! Not that we got much sleep, but the traffic was the first thing that woke us out of our cold naps. Then the sun came up. I remember watching my mom's pickup pull to the curb, and thinking "hallelujah!!" I'm starving.

Dad jumped out and dropped the gate. We loaded both bikes and tied them down while Sunday morning east bounders provided us with steady gusts of cold Richmond stink.

We stopped in Davis for breakfast and hot coffee. It had been a long night and I guess we were either talked out or just, I don't know, maybe thoughtful over our omelets and country style spuds. We laugh now, thinking back. But that night, that long long night, I felt anger, I felt worry and yes, maybe even fear but I also felt closer to my little brother than I had in many years.

For all the many frustrations my father and I had with each other, I have him to thank for that. Dad and I had many bike adventures together, and I'll treasure those memories for the rest of my life, but this one's my favorite.

I love and miss you, Dad.


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