Friday, June 29, 2012

Loyal Subjects

Half way between Buffalo and the crest of the Powder River Pass the tachometer decided to start its second career as a metronome. I made a mental note to add "overhaul speedometer" to the growing list of things that need fixing, replacing, adjusting, tuning. cleaning and polishing on this bike. It's a long list.

But the list length has nothing to do with this particular bike's age (old) or its mileage (low). In fact, every bike I've ever owned has had a similarly long list, from the day I buy it to the day I sell it. On the few occasions when I've bought a brand new bike, the list starts forming spontaneously in my head as soon as I sit on it to ride it home.

Truly passionate riders are indentured slaves to our bikes, pledging fealty, tithing way more than the requisite 10%, ritually sacrificing precious spare hours on the altar of our passion for motorcycling. We all have different reasons; I do it for trips like this, for the chance to rescue a fine motorcycle and bring it back to Sunday-go-to-meeting spiff.

I visited Devil's Tower today, something I've always wanted to do. I left Sturgis at 2:30, a very late start (again) and backtracked to Newell, then west to Belle Fourche. As soon as SD34 became WY24, the bikers' deity said "Let there be Curves". And it was good.

Good in a challenging way: the /5 really showed its age on those first few bumpy sweepers. The forks have less oil than a baked potato and the springs, after shouldering that Vetter since October 15 1975 (I have the receipt), were just too tired to care. The age-hardened Metzelers were bamboozled by the melted, slippery tar snakes and the back shocks just closed their eyes and held on. 

A healthy crank or six on the steering damper corralled the rubber cow and a bit of trailing brake tamed the obscene front end dive on turn in. We figured it out, that old bike and me, and actually had some drunken, stumbling, toe-stubbing fun on the first curves we'd seen in 700 miles.

I could see Devil's Tower from miles away and it looked just like it does in all the pictures. I stopped and took a picture:

To tell the truth, I was underwhelmed. And I'm still wondering why. It's a spectacle, to be sure. But it's just one in a never-ending diorama of wonders that we experience on rides like this one. There is so much profound beauty that I think I prefer the unsung vistas, the places that aren't National Monuments or Parks.

US16 westbound from Buffalo is an unsung treasure, a near-perfect mix of riders' roads and scenery that runs the spectrum from sweeping high plains panoramas to narrow, ochre-tinged box canyons glowing like campfire embers with the last rays of the setting sun.

What a ride today, what untold riches, my reward for being a lifelong faithful servant to this fickle and demanding two-wheeled monarchy.

Sturgis to Worland, 340 miles.