Monday, August 30, 2010

Sabbatical Fruits 5 "A Bad Biker Bar Movie"

Once I got turned around on highway 68 and got the shifter jury rigged (I used the Old Stip of Aluminum from a beer can around the shaft trick)  I thought I would make some time and was excited to be coming into the mountains of West Virginia.  The last time I was riding in the Smokeys was a few years ago when I picked up a bike in Jacksonville Florida and went though Virgina.  I had stopped in at Monticello and was amazed at the history.  I was so moved by what I learned in Monticello I took the Lewis and Clarke route across the country. Glorious. 

The Smokey's are amazing...again, mornings are perfect.  Fog hangs in the valleys like foam on a latte.  This time rather than morning, it's afternoon and I wasn't in West Virginia yet but after stopping at McDonald's in Frostburg MD for a coffee I was on my way.  Note:  McDonald's is selling stuff that they they call Lattes and Mochas etc...don't believe it.  A McDonald's latte is just like a McDonald's hamburger...enough said. 

The terrain had changed quite a bit and climbing out of Frostburg on 68 the bike just stopped moving on a long hill.  It didn't stop running, just stopped moving.  No shaking, no funny noises or intuitive sounds, it just slowed and stopped.  The clutch had stopped doing what it was supposed to do.  It was funny, really because I had just spend a lot of money getting the power from the transmission to the rear wheel by replacing all the things that were replaced in Batavia, and now I was having trouble with the bit of engineering that gets the power from the engine to the transmission.  Funny what goes through your mind when you are coasting to a stop in a light drizzle on a long uphill climb in MD.  I'd rather not share that here. 

I thought I would check the adjustment of the clutch and wasn't quite sure how to do it on this bike.  I got off the bike and dug out the owners manual.  I always carry tools on these trips and so after finding the right section I thought that I could handle the procedure.  When I knelt  down to take off the derby cover I realized that the last guy that worked on the bike changed the Allen head bolts to Torx head  bolts...I didn't bring any torx head tools.  I put the stuff back and consulted the Harley Davidson Atlas for the nearest dealer.  This time the shop was 65 miles away and they were busy with some big rally that was taking place over the weekend.  I sat down and got out the CD's and my new personal CD player.

The CD's are from a retreat given by Metropolitan Jonah Paffhausen.  I have heard of him from my spiritual director, Father Thomas Brindley, but I had never heard him teach.  Metropolitan Jonah begins and then it seems like I get lost in my attention to what he is saying until a very large RV pulls off the road and stops about 50 yards in front of me.  I pull out the ear buds and walk up to see who the good Samaritan might be.  Fun.

He came out of the RV and met me along the highway.  He was probably 60 and he said that he had a garage in the back of his RV and said he was heading to Morgantown for the big bike event and would be happy to drop me off at the Harley Dealer there.  The problem was that my bike wouldn't move and he didn't want to try to push it in.  Apparently the ramp was too steep and he had tried it before.

What he did do was give me a map of the event with a circle around where he was staying in the campsite and an invitation to join him and his friends there.  He also dug around in his fridge and handed me two cans of Coors Lite, "to make the time pass a little faster."  I walked back to the bike and put the beer in one of the saddlebags.  I didn't drink Coors Lite for one thing, and for another the last thing I wanted was to be sitting along side of the road after two beers if a state trooper showed up.  Time passed, the CD player gave me a dose of Metropolitan Jonah and I began to think that the tow truck wouldn't arrive.  I called the Harley Dealer and they assured me he was on his way, and then there he was he honked at me from the East bound lane and then went to the next exit and turned around.

There was something liberating about sitting alongside of the road in the middle of nowhere in the rain.  I had given into it and when the truck arrived I wasn't disappointed but I had finally made peace with my situation and now it was changing.  

The man who climbed out of the new Ford pickup truck was a complete stereo type.  I don't have the imagination to make him up.  I am afraid that I don't remember his name and I wish I could forget the conversation that we had in the pickup on the way to Triple S Harley in Morgantown.  I found out that he was in the Klan, yes, the KKK and that his grandfather was a Grand Wizard.  He liked young women and didn't like African Americans.  That became apparent whenever we passed a car carrying either.  He did not care much for our President and he told me what his grandfather would do if he was still wasn't good.  He showed me a flyer from the dealer with several beautiful young ladies on it and told me I should look forward to spending some time at the shop and that they would "take good care of me."  I wan't sure what he meant.

The rain wasn't a factor any more and the bike was safe on the back of the pickup.  He had an amazing bike lift on his truck, you will be able to see it from the picture at the end of this post.  He drove and talked and the more he talked the more I thought that I was in a John Steinbeck novel, and that he was one of the people the Joad's had the misfortune of running into.  Does this person actually exist or is he some kind of weird compilation of dysfunctions my brain had constructed?  Did I drink that Coors Lite?    He was about 5'10" tall and probably weighed about 150lbs.  He had on jeans that were a little greasy a t-shirt and a black leather Harley vest with a lot of pins and other Harley patches on it.  His har was long, gray and a bit stringy.  He had some interesting Tats.  The tatoos that he had were the kind that you got before it became a fad to get a tatoo.  They were not from the military and I later found out that he had done them himself.  I actually thought they were pretty good, even if you wouldn't want to show them to mother.

He told me about his family and how "strangers" would often disappear in the hills around there because people would shoot first and ask questions later, he wasn't kidding.  After he talked for 30 minutes I began to see that he had actually come a long way from where he had started.  He was born in the hills of WV and most of his people were still there.  Back in those hills people still lived like they did 75 years ago.  Nothing wrong with that way of life, but the thinking that went with it for his family was disturbing.  He came from a place that was characterized by fear.  He had never left the area but he had left that way of life.  He was good at what he did and when we pulled up the the dealership he had the bike off the truck and into the shop before I knew what was going on.  I told him thanks a lot and he told me he was just doing his job and then he was off again.  People are amazing.  There are a lot of people in a lot of places who are afraid.  Change, the unknown, what other people think, these are all fears that can paralyze a person and twist them into something less than human. 

The boys in the service department hadn't done a lot of work on older Harley's.  They did get the primary off and checked out the clutch, to my amazement they said that it only needed an adjustment and when I got on it everything seemed to work.  I gave them $100.00 and they gave me a receipt and I was off in about an hour.  

The shop there in Morgantown was a different kind of place.  Harley's were not a hobby for the people that I saw there.  They seemed to be disciples of Mr. Harley and Mr. Davidson.  They were followers.  The women fit into a place that was foreign to me.  They were like the chrome that people bolted on to their bikes, they were there to look good and didn't really serve any practical purpose.  They were dressed in a "Hey, you all want to hang around a while and maybe buy sumthin" kind of way.  The men seemed almost like actors out of a poorly done biker bar movie.  This place really didn't seem real to me but it was and people were arriving for the big weekend event, Charlie Daniels was coming, and so was CCR...I was on my way out of town before the leather halter tops started coming off.

I wondered what place Christianity had in that place and whether the people in the hills would say that they followed Jesus.  I knew that my brand was different than theirs but I also knew that I must have some blind spots that were just as glaring as theirs.  I wanted to find out what they might be.  

I dodged the bullet, got out of the rain and was off again riding down the highway towards Memphis.  I was going to Graceland.  All in all the day was a bust really from a traveling standpoint.  I hadn't gone far, only about 190 miles, about half of that in the pick up truck, and I was wanting to do some 500-600 mile days.  I wanted to get back into that rhythm so that I could think.  It was getting late and I just wanted a nice place to spend the night.  I was envisioning a cheap motel along a deserted two lane but that's not what I found.  I had to pull off the road in Charleston about 150 miles later for gas and after I filled up I had to do more work on the shifter.  It was not good and getting worse.  My fear was that the stripped shifter lever would begin to do damage on the shift rod itself which was not easy to replace.

I found a dollar store in Charleston, bought a hammer and some needles and when I was finished it was not much better but would work for for the time being.  I was getting the feeling that you get when you do something half way, that although it was working for the moment you just did something that would actually make the problem worse.  I stopped for the night  in Barboursville, mostly because there was an Outback by a Best Western and I needed a cool, dark place to drink a draft beer and a steak that was done medium rare.

I ate and drank and didn't sleep well.  I kept wondering about the people that I met and how they were thinking.  I prayed the Jesus prayer and tried to sleep.  I did a few laps around my prayer rope and felt a little more centered.  I got up and took a walk.  There was a strip club down the street and it seemed to fit.  I went into Taco Bell and then went back to the room and fell asleep.  I woke up the next morning early and filled up with gas and was on my way towards Lexington Kentucky. 

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