“One for the race, please,” said Surtch Pherther to the clerk.
“Here you go,” she said, swapping a ticket for his currency. “Now, just ride through this gate, and park beyond the show tent that’ll be on your right. Concessions are under the grandstand, and you’re free to wander the paddock and the garages and, you know, check out the bikes and stuff.”
“Okay, thank you. Wait, what?…”
She chuckled. “Of course. Just watch for racers out test-riding and on their way to the track.”
Surtch was beside himself. He hadn’t imagined that he’d be allowed to get familiar with the machines. It hadn’t even crossed his mind that it might be possible…
That morning, in pre-dawn’s thin, blue-gray wash, he’d zipped up the vents on his leather coat, snapped shut those on his full-face, wriggled his fingers into his gloves, and switched on Riot Machine and pressed its starter. With a crank-crank-ba-RUMPH-blub-blub-blub, the naked bike’s big V heat had begun to rise. He’d hipped it vertical, heeled its stand, POP’d it into first, and at easing the clutch lever out and the throttle on, thundered off.
He’d rumbled west at 15 over the limit on arrow-straight Industrial Way: past drab factories, tilt-up warehouses, and countless lots for ready rigs; past the vast tailings pond and pile with sides so slightly sloped that it nearly goes unnoticed; past the refinery and smelter and sky-piercing stack–all forever crumbling and always on the rise–seizing what’s precious from the City of Contradictions’ gaping open-pit; and around, where the head of the Partition Mountains forces Industrial Way to join the interstate and shoves it and the rails onto fickle Lake Termina’s sometimes-shore–foggy when freezing; otherwise, marshy, muggy, buggy, and enchanting for its harshness.
History of the Wild West claims that it was for passage less perilous that horsemen and handcarts, wagons and stages, and roads and rails had rounded the ranges when possible, skirting each and shooting straight for the nearest end of the next one west as though in some super-scale dot-to-dot, but no… It was the mountains that had held men out and pushed them around: The peaks had sought to keep their secrets–their glitterings hidden and groves untracked, their snowmelt unsavored and vistas unseen. They’d sought to safeguard their elevated virtue.
About 30 minutes after leaving home and after a few miles of toying with 85 in a 75, Surtch had throttled down gradually on the ramp that swings off long, rises to overpass the interstate, and drops–suddenly to 45 mph as well–depositing one into the dusty, greasy guts of little Brinton, less a town than a glorified truck stop with the regular roadside fare for weary travelers struck with hunger whenever.
As he’d tried to cut Riot Machine’s speed to the limit, he’d mumbled into his muffling helmet and above the remaining road-, wind-, and bike-noise, “This morning’s like autumn. Something about this just feels like fall”.
Twelve or so years earlier, Surtch had joined his brother and sister-in-law in peaks-nestled Silvervale for dinner, a sort of celebration for his brother’s birthday. While they had afterward wandered the old mining town turned tourist trap, a late-August evening chill had lifted from its lofty perch, trickled down through the filtering grasses, shrubs, and woods and spilled across splashing streamlets onto Silvervale’s steep, off-season streets.
Surtch had remarked that something about it all smelled like autumn, and if he recalled correctly, his companions had questioned his perception. The thing was, he hadn’t know why. If there’d been evidence, he could have cited it, could have defended his senses, but–though roadside grasses had been late-summer dry–the undergrowth still had been lush, and the aspen leaves fully green. Nevertheless, to Surtch there’d been something–something intangible, something inscrutable, something maybe just beneath the surface.
“HellOOO racers and fans alike. Welcome to your Salina Raceway.” The loudspeaker announcement, a bit distorted and screechy, echoed off the pavement and off the cinder block of the grandstand and the garages and drifted into the vacant, desert sky. “We hope you enjoyed the gOrrrgeous morning, that you’ve drooled on a bike or two, and that you’ve bought a bite to eat and something refreshing to drink from our concessionaires, located under the grandstand. If not, there’s – still – time.
“NOwww, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The race of the classic and fabulous, the downright delightful, the historic, but highly modified, within reason, mind you… The Honda CB160s-EEZ-Eez-eez… Racers, please proceed to track gate number 1. The event will commence in 15 minutes. Thank yoouuu.”
With the lunch of champions in hand–a large Coke, watered-down and over-iced for sure, and a box of Mike and Ikes–Surtch climbed the grandstand steps to join the other spectators. There weren’t many–the place was virtually empty–and they were gathered at the railing overlooking the pits and the track. They were mostly family, friends, and racers themselves, content in each other’s company and transported by the gaiety of the event–a good group.
“We have a real treat for you today, race fans. The event will begin with a Le Mans-style and bump start. For those who don’t know…”
The suited-up racers took starting stances on the track’s inside edge and, at the drop of the flag, dashed across as well as possible, snatched their bikes from their assistants, and proceeded to push start–or to try to–those little engines that could. After one racer rushed to the wrong ride, resulting in a brief, theatrical scuffle on the track and a hearty chuckle from the grandstand, all bikes got started, got moving, and within a turn or two, magically were clustered: Stragglers had surged, leaders had lagged, and all were synchro-sweeping out of sight, speeding toward the far reaches.
Cheerful chatter in the grandstand filled the brief noise-void before a cloudlet of dust rose in the distance as a racer coasted his stalled bike off the track. Immediately thereafter, a remote hum followed by a low buzz signaled the pack’s return. The racers appeared in warmth-wavy flashes across the asphalt and mounds of dirt and sparse brush–there, gone, there, gone, there, gone–like breaching by a pod of mechanical sea forms on ground swells of a bleak future-scape.
Suddenly, in plain view around the final wide curve before the home straightaway, they zipped, high-revving their low displacements at 75 or 80 mph if they were lucky. The smattering in the grandstand erupted in hurrahs and applause, and to the grinning stranger nearest, Surtch hollered gleefully, “Ha-haa! They sound like a herd of blasted mosquitos!” And just as suddenly, the racers were gone again, off bagging curves of lap two, synchro-sweeping out of sight, speeding toward the far reaches.
It was early afternoon, and from the high desert valley floor, summer heat now was rising–spreading for itself, settling everywhere, getting into everything. Above the cheerful chatter that filled another brief noise-void, Surtch could hear the metal canopy high overhead pinging and popping with expansion.
He mumbled to himself, “Today–it’s like autumn nonetheless. Something about it just feels like fall–something intangible, inscrutable, maybe just beneath the surface. If only there were evidence”.
Nice race photos. Does the 2011.09.03 date refer to when the photos were taken?
Ry Austin says
Thank you, Richard, and thanks for reading. I’m pleased that you enjoyed the photos. There were so many incredible bikes to see and watch, even—spoiler alert—a bunch of sidecar rigs for a later race (there’s at least one more blog post in this event).
Yes, the dates in the post titles are when I took the ride / attended the event and snapped the pics (if the post covers multiple days, it’s the most significant date of the bunch). I wanted to begin my blog with, and work forward from, a two-wheeling experience that transformed me, and that could only have been the weekend of August 10th, 2008, the first time I geared up my Vespa for camping. I grew up hiking, backpacking, and off-road camping, and after that ’08 trip, I wanted nothing more than to combine two-wheeling and off-road camping (hence the F800GS).
I’ve so far enjoyed detailing my development as a rider, reliving those experiences, and realizing that “Oh, I really have gained a skill or two over the years”. Though when it comes to dual-sporting off road, I’ve come to believe that it’s less a matter of skill-development and more about just getting comfortable with the big bike and how it behaves in steep, rough, rocky, sandy, muddy conditions (in a nutshell, I’m thrilled that I can now easily ride terrain that a mere 4 or 5 years ago might have caused me to wet my pants). I still have a lot of past ride material to develop, some very magical-to-me adventures and moto-typical encounters to relate, for which I’ll likely be mighty grateful come the dead of winter: Surely if one can warm his body by a fire, he can warm his mind with fond memories…
And if that doesn’t work, there’s always wine.
Ry, I share Richard’s curiosity on the date in the title, and those in other posts.
Going over your blog, looking for clues, I am impressed how well you have hidden information about yourself and where you live. Google was coming up dry on the place names you refer to, and I was searching your photos for clues. I thought the kiln photos would help, and eventually they did. Wyoming, right? And you live in or around Salt Lake City, right?
Your writing style reminds me of Doug Adams. Am I far off?
What happened to your Vespa?
I really like your work.
Ry Austin says
Howdy, David. Thanks for dropping in, and thank you for reading.
When I was contemplating how to blog about my moto-experiences, I knew that’d I’d be writing about spots that are sacred to me, remote places that I’d want to protect (though from whom or what, I didn’t really know). I figured that the best way to do that was to use alternate place names not only for the sacred ones, but for every one. After all, given accurate names for all but a spot or two, a resourceful investigator might be able to fill in the blanks. And given Google, such an investigator—ahem—could fairly easily discover quite a bit…
Indeed, what an alarmingly effective tool Google can be (“Google” is the internet’s new name, right?): I discovered that it recognizes and maps even the original names of many towns—names that maybe haven’t been used for over a century. In addition to that, one can select a photo—say, on a blog—and search for similar ones. The result often is a vast selection of shots taken by others in that – very – spot. In a way, it’s sad: Sure, the magical internet has made the world much smaller, but it seems to have destroyed some of the mystery along the way, seems to have neutralized some of the reason to seek and explore.
My alternate place names (for which I keep a legend, for continuity) are original place names, surnames of early settlers, names of nearby geographical features, synonyms, anagrams, vague descriptions, or a combination of all of the above. That said… For the kilns, Wyoming seems about right. 😉 And for as well as I know Salt Lake, it certainly is a city of contradictions (though such a description could be apt for almost any fairly populous city).
Ahh, the Vespa… After 3+ years and over 13 thousand miles (barely broken in by Stephanie Yue standards), and after buying the F800GS, I sold it in early 2010. “After all,” said naïve I to myself, “Who needs more than one motorcycle?” It’s a rhetorical question that, though theoretically sound, simply doesn’t hold water spiritually.
Though I haven’t yet read anything by Doug Adams, I have, of course, heard a lot about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’ve been a bookworm since I was 11 or 12, but recently my reading has—unfortunately—taken a bit of a backseat to other things (what and how, I’m still trying to figure). My favorite authors (longtime and recent) have been Sherwood Anderson, Paul Auster, Samuel Beckett, Heinrich Boll, Ray Bradbury, Italo Calvino, Jean Giono, Hermann Hesse, Franz Kafka, Jack Kerouac, Par Lagerkvist, David Masse, Ayn Rand, William Saroyan, and John Steinbeck—just to name a few, of course.
David Masse says
I see how you slipped my name in there 🙂
Maybe one day…
Keep up the writing, I will read.
I really like your neck of the woods, though actual woods are harder to find than here. There is something mystical about the landscape, like Bryce Canyon, Garden of the Gods, the high plains, to name a few.
The races look like they would be entertaining. I like seeing the old bikes. I’ve never attended anything but ‘hit to pass’ stock car races.
And I agree sometimes you can smell fall in the air just as you would snow, there is just something about it.
Ry Austin says
From what I’ve read about CB160 racing, the current trend–if it really is a trend–began in your neck of the woods, Trobairitz, in the Pacific Northwest, with camaraderie and affordable participation as its founding philosophies. The one I attended was certainly all of that, a mighty friendly and lighthearted event.
Sensing autumn: It kinda makes one wonder what other sensitivities to the natural world the human race has lost as it has become more “civilized”…