Tuesday, November 21, 2006

harleys rock n roll

Earlier this year I was riding along in the San Diego area. I was on the tail end of a multiple hour ride and had climbed many thousands of feet. I was feeling wiped out. To top it off, my phone had just died and so my music (I was listening through the hands free kit) was gone.

But was it?

I could hear some tinny music, sort of like an old fashioned recording. With almost no wind and me just crawling along at about 12 or 15 mph, it was virtually silent. Except for this eerie music. I could hear the cars on the freeway about a half mile to my right and about 100 yards above me, but unless someone was blaring music out of a stopped car, it couldn't be from there. And to my left was just some undeveloped brush and other desert type stuff and so nothing there.

When I get stressed about work I hear my work cell phone ringing all the time. So maybe this was a manifestation of that?

I focused and decided this wasn't an auditory hallucination. The last time I really, truly thought I was hallucinating I'd just driven to Chicago to pick up my brother from school. I eventually got to Chicago after driving through the night, and after about 36 hours with 2 of sleep, I was just a bit tired. Without any recovery (I had the state Time Trial to do on Sunday), we set back for the NYC area, 15 hours away. I insisted on driving since my brother had gotten two hours less sleep than me (he had to take finals).

At some point I saw the dancing yellow BIC razors. They were off to the right, about 30 feet tall, a bunch of them, dancing in some field. I tried to erase them from my mind but they insisted on being there. Since 30 foot BIC razors don't dance around next to a highway, I knew it had to be me hallucinating. After all, lack of sleep causes hallucinations, right? I took some peeks to see if it was part of a parade but I could only see the dancing razors. I guess it would have been okay if there were dancing shaving creams, soaps, and shampoos. But there weren't.

I finally gave in and looked to the right. And kept looking. The BIC razors were real - they were on a drive-in movie screen a few hundred yards off the highway.

So here I am, many years later, exhausted, the sun starting to set, fighting the auditory hallucinations. But like the razors, the music just would not stop.

Then I looked back.

And almost jumped out of my skin.

A completely silent Harley, complete with some leather jacket and mustachioed rider, was sitting a couple feet off my wheel. The thing was enormous, black and shiny chrome, the whole thing dwarfing my little road bike. The fork blades were as thick as my arms! The guy looked like the Terminator with his sunglasses and silent, expressionless face. And the music? It came from some speakers somewhere on his motorcycle.

But other than the music, it was silent. It was totally and completely silent. I could hear the pebbles crunching under his tires.

Since he was coasting a bit faster than me, I pulled out a bit to let him pass. He swerved at me, then away. "Outta gas," he mumbled, and hit the starter. It cranked. Nothing happened. He swerved again. I heard fuel swishing in his tank.


He was trying to get a couple ounces of that precious refined sweet light crude to get into the raucous V Twin. With a gas station about a mostly-flat mile away, I started thinking about offering to get him a can of gas and riding back to him. I was contemplating this as his weaving slowed him down. He'd have to stop soon. I rolled past him inadvertently.

Then a couple loud explosions pierced the air, the familiar open piped Harley noise decimated the silence, and the guy rocketed past me. I could feel the exhaust pressure waves against my legs as he passed. I figured he had to get as much momentum as possible so he could coast into the gas station.

I also needed to refuel and stopped at the gas station. Mr. Terminator was inside, sunglasses up, paying the girl behind the register. He gave me a sheepish grin. Apparently he made it to the station under power. I told him I was about to offer him a gallon-gas retrieval when he rocketed past me. He laughed and said that he had almost stopped when the engine finally caught and that he would have taken me up on my offer if he'd stopped.

Then he pulled his sunglasses down and walked out. I could hear the V Twin long after he was out of sight.

I got my two bottles, energy bar, slipped on a vest, and climbed back on my bike. And slowly, silently, rode away from the gas station.

Another hour or so to go.

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