Frigid river water washed the countless casualties from Surtch Pherther’s glasses and visor, and the workday’s salt and the evening’s dust from his face. Ten feet out, given the chance, the Shamton Waterfall could have washed away so much more, but Surtch hadn’t taken this path on his O’Mahoney’s Grill trip the year before, back when food had no flavor, the jukebox no tunes, sunlight no warmth, and he no desire.
Here it was a midweek worknight a mere three days after he’d got the ’09 XR1200 “Riot Machine” with just 300 miles for a steal from a DeLusiville dealership because this bike was never given a fighting chance stateside because it seldom saw the showroom floor because Harley’s typical customer didn’t give a realtime damn because it just can’t seat a big spare tire… And though Surtch was fine with all that, he thought it a shame just the same.
He’d bombed the eastbound I at 80 to 100 mph after work because he’d craved it, because Riot Machine had roared for it, and because broad Big Canyon, with few lurk-spots for cops, had beckoned. On the back side he’d throttled down and let the naked bike’s 1200 ccs rumble-vibe through Silvervale’s ranch-lands turned rec-lands and cash cows for the one percent and then down Middlefield Draw to the midweek-empty diner for a pastrami on rye with chips and a dill spear and coffee as the sun nestled west in the virga-streaked and cloud-strewn sky. Afterward, with nowhere to be and anywhere to go, he’d set off southeast for West Cairn Road and into the mouth of the Shamton drainage at a speed to match the meandering route and its swift shifts from sunlight to shade.
Riverside, Surtch rinsed and wrung the microfiber, wiped his glasses and visor of lingering streaks, and folded the cloth and tucked it damp into his jacket’s right pocket. Pebbles on the path back crackled under his boots, and the cooling air raised aromas of evergreens and damp soil and cradled the spray from the waterfall that continued to shush as though to hush others with whom it had been babbling before the rider’s arrival. It was shift change in the woods–day was turning in, night was stirring to stalk a bite to eat, and Surtch, fresh from the riverbank, was aware.
With a turn of the key and a press of the starter, road-hot Riot Machine barked right back to life, and soon thereafter Surtch was clearing Bardom Pass. Taking the tight switchbacks slow, he sank into the other side, into the Mackenzie drainage that for 15-ish miles runs along the Cairn Mountains Wilderness, and into a night that seemed to fall as suddenly as its dangers arose. He’d seen no deer before the waterfall and the pass, but now there were only signs of their abundance: fuzzy forms in the brush, just within the headlight’s reach, and here and there large eyes glinting like early ornaments among the boughs.
A few miles beyond where the mouth of the drainage yawns wide, where lush graze-land lies out flat and far, he crossed the state line and then thundered into the first fuel stop he came upon in weeknight-quiet Booth Union. After filling up and then sipping a Gatorade and munching a granola bar at the station’s front walk, he joined the westbound I, busy with cagers and big rigs to serve as possible blockers against wildlife would-be tacklers.
Combined with the increasing mugginess and the drone of steady revs, the pastureland links between Bromley’s Draw, Silvergate Gulch, and Big Canyon might have rendered Surtch body-bored and mind-numb had it not been for a coming storm: The sky, which had been building tension and making threats all late-day long, was finally throwing a fit with light but steady rain–refreshing, really–and random, remote flashes that silhouetted the tall and toothlike Westwitness Peaks on the otherwise blackdrop backdrop.
Finally, at about ten o’clock that night, after over 200 satisfying miles, Surtch raced Riot Machine to a fork-squeezing stop at the back of his drive and shut it off. Behind him–speeding, crashing, enfolding, and companioned by the tink-plunk tune of cooling cylinders and pipes–rushed that intoxicating odor of hot V-twin exhaust, something that proper Escape Artist never could and never would produce. Of course, Surtch loved Escape Artist: It could take him remote, to where his soul was closest to the surface. But Riot Machine roared to his flesh and his blood, was a wild thing. Indeed, where Escape Artist was spirit, Riot Machine was body alone–tautly muscled, hot and lusty.
Are you occasionally able to fit in a longer ride during your work week, or is the risk too high–that you’ll just keep heading away, from home, from work, from responsibility?…
Now, don’t rub it in too much, you… you retired people. You know who you are. 🙂