Artwork by Mr. Jensen

The Hobo Life

When a dirt rider divides his time between a small apartment and a large truck, he lives in a permanent state of impermanency—something like a hobo who specializes in short trips.

Scattered between where I pay rent and my truck, I have two of everything except attached plumbing, refrigerator and telephone. The biggest difference is that the apartment doesn’t have windshield wipers. In fact, the attached plumbing, refrigerator, telephone and windshield wipers are the only things that won’t be in the apartment when I need them in the truck or in the truck when I need them in the apartment.

Take goggles. The only reason they go into the apartment is to be cleaned, re-Rain-Xed, and to have a few drops of baby oil dribbled on the foam filter strips. Last time I went riding, my eyes got sandblasted two shades lighter because my number one goggles were back home looped over the toilet paper and the second pair were still soaking in a Hungry Man pot pie dish in the kitchen sink.

Then there’s shaving cream. You want to use the stuff right after a hot shower when your whiskers are softened up, the bathroom is nicely steamed and you’re humming “I’m In The Nude For Love.” Then everything goes down the drain when you suddenly realize both cans of Barbasol are out in the truck. And the truck is parked way out in lot D where all the stay-out-laters, heavy drinkers and dirt riders who get home at 2 AM have to park because all the good spots are filled.

Be advised you can shave with soap suds, but only if you have a high pain threshold and don’t get too nauseous at the sight of blood.

Artwork by Mr. Jensen

Because of my hair style, I have a particular problem with hats, or the lack thereof. The other morning I walked to lot D in a sleet storm, winds gusting to hurricane level, with nothing on my head except melted ice. In the truck, I unearthed caps-lots of caps: a Cagiva, two Huskies, Spectro, NAPA. Meteor, Six Days of Michigan, Duralube, ADRA Sonoita, USS Independence CV-62, Leon Dube trail ride and one touting the Knomes of Freddie Mac, a group I don’t recall exactly, but I think they’re part of the Black Jack Enduro Circuit.

Keeping my riding boots in the truck was a problem until I learned to keep them there all the time. The convincer was the day I went swimming and the truck ate its fan belt. No problem, just unload the motorcycle and ride to a gas station for a new one.

But did you ever try to start a cold 600 cc single cylinder wearing Ho Chi Minh sandals?

A California rider I once talked to as he was plucking his eyebrows before the B-to-V told me to just keep all my riding gear in one bag. This didn’t work out because the bag weighed close to 90 pounds and slinging it into a truck could cripple you for life. And that’s just the gear actually worn on the body; the loose gear for the motorcycle must run to a good half-ton.

The last trail ride I went to was in Texas and I made a list of things to put in either the truck or the apartment before heading southwest, a direction that puts the sun more or less in your eyes all afternoon. Two vital items were cat food that Shirley could parcel out to the beast I live with and munchies for me to consume on the trip through a part of the country where they eat grits, chili, corn dogs and Dr. Pepper to sustain life—such as it is.

I deliberately packed the items in separate paper bags so there would be no mistake; there’s nothing worse to come home to than a cat that hasn’t been fed and had clawed out his frustrations on a London Fog raincoat which cost more than the transmission in the truck.

Sixteen days later I returned with as bad a case of monkey butt as ever known to medical science and with my elbow joints swollen like softballs because the truck’s power steering had gone back to manual mode.

I parked after midnight in lot D alongside a Buick sitting there with its headlights on and locked up tight in case a thief who wanted to steal a dead battery happened by.

The parking spot was so narrow I had to crawl past the motorcycle and leave by the rear door of the van. I’d be lying if I said I did this crawl in less than 25 minutes.

The cat greeted me with its usual snarl as I read a note Shirley had left: “The cat must be sick, he only ate three granola bars.”

That’s okay, I didn’t eat any of his Tender Vittles.

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