Noir Adventure Ride

Twenty adventure riders overtook me last week. They were in tandem, the second following the tail light of the first, the third following the tail light of the second until Tail Gunner Charley, #20, overtook me.

I had been on a day ride with an experienced pillion, doing some well-groomed gravel and dirt roads between stretches of good pavement, adhering to the posted speed limits. Most importantly, I was traveling in the most dangerous driving country in the world, so my personal radar was on high alert for anything moving around me or on the road in front of or behind me.

When I noticed headlights rapidly approaching me from the rear I checked my speed to see if I had slowed so much that cars, trucks and motorcycles had to pass me to keep their speed up to posted maximums. After determining I was well within the posted limit of 60mph zone, I left my position near the center line to give way to those approaching from the rear.

The group leader gave me a slight wave as he passed me somewhere between 80-90 mph. I acknowledged his wave and tucked as close as I reasonably and safely could to the line marking the outer limit of the driving lane.

“Zip, zip, zip,” the group members ripped past me, some doing so while an oncoming car and truck were driving at us in the opposite lanes. Most gave me a salute or toe out wave. While no one made an extremely dangerous pass, they all seemed to be trying to stay within 20 to 30 feet on the tail light in front of them.

Artwork by Mr. Jensen

I knew they were a group of foreigners and using rental motorcycles because I had seen the rental company stickers on some of the motorcycles, and several of the group had club patches on the back of their jackets. They seemed like a well-organized riding group and I could have sped up and paced with them, but opted to smell the roses and let my racing ego stay in its sleep mode.

Ten minutes later I entered a gas station and had caught up with the group. The tour company package they had purchased included free gas, so the group leader was manning the one pump that each motorcycle rolled up to and then topped off their gas tank.

I parked in front of another pump and filled my tank in the time it took two or three of the group to top up. After I paid my bill, I parked away from the pumps and while my pillion used the toilet I chatted with a few of group, traded some stickers, swapped road tales and talked motorcycles. Several were interested my 30-year old adventure motorcycle, the only one known to have been imported into the country, so I took some time to explain its gray history. They in turn told me what motorcycles they rode in their home country and how they liked or disliked the rental motorcycle they were using.

The tour group leader paid the sum total of the gas bill and rolled his motorcycle over towards mine and most of his crowd. While his group used the toilets he and I talked of some of the people we both knew in his business.

When my pillion returned we put our helmets on and the group waved us off. Twenty miles later, Mother Goose was again in my mirrors, and he and his goslings ripped past us, well in excess of our speed. Again, I kept my go-fast ego in its sleep mode and happily gave them easy passage.

Another 40 miles later I saw the group gathered in another gas station and steered in to see if something was wrong. Mother Goose told me their adventure ride included stops “every hour for use of the toilets, a quick smoke for those in the group who need their nicotine and water or cool drinks.”

Mother Goose invited me to join his group but I politely declined, remembering someone having said or written that “he who goes alone can start at any time, but one who travels with others must wait until the others are ready.”

My pillion was anxious for me to quit talking and start riding, it being close to 100 degrees in the direct sunlight and more so in our helmets and riding gear, so I also chose to leave alone rather than pay the possible price of “nag, nag, nag.”

As I rode the next 100 miles I wondered at what kind of adventure they were having given their frequent stops at 7-Elevens, and smoke and gas stops, all in a tightly bunched group. I concluded that while we all were traveling the same roads I was seeing more of the country because I was not fixated on the tail light in front of me. However, they were seeing far more of the accommodations at gas stations and had the adventure of group camaraderie.

Sadly, the news reported two of their group dying later in the day. An overly anxious car driver tried to pass all 20 motorcyclists in one pass, but was forced into the middle by an oncoming bus, causing one motorcycle to crash. Sadder was that the motorcycle driver and his pillion were run over by some of the group riders following them, causing more carnage.

There were several lessons that could be taken away from that day’s adventure. Mine that day had been one of being the single Turtle on the roadway, while the group had been one of many Hares. There was no solace in anyone saying of the two who passed over to the darkness of The Other Side that they had gone doing what they loved to do, riding motorcycles, an adventure I hope to push far off my check list and well over into the noir behind the horizon.

This story originally appeared in our March 2018 issue, which you can read in all its original high-res glory here.

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