The Reindeer Ride
December 1996 & January 1997
From: Ira Agins
If you don't enjoy long, boring trip reports, hit delete now.
Family gatherings are one of the joys of the holiday season. I know, I know. Sometimes they're more of a duty than a joy. But that's not the kind I'm talkin' about. I'm referring to the family gatherings of loved ones from far away, the ones you wish you could see more often. I just got back from one.
It started when I noticed that the Reindeer Riders were bypassing Santa Fe to the far south. Greg Pink had mentioned they would maybe stop in on the way back east if the weather held, but that was too problematic for me. I also noticed they were scheduled to be at Skipper Brown's in Phoenix. I found out that Arno was surprising them in the east and that Butch and Fulton and Susan and Voni and Paul and Russ and Dave Norton and Anne and whoknowswhoelse was going to be there. So I emailed Skipper and plans were set for me to ride out on Saturday, join in the family gathering that night, and ride back on Sunday. A nice 1000-in-2. :-).
Saturday morning, 0700, and the weather was overcast and about 25 F. I plugged in the Widder vest and my new Widder gloves and off I went. Down I-25 the 120 miles to Socorro, then west on US 60. The electrics are doing their thing. My hands - toasty! Thanks, Pat!
I don't know exactly why, but US 60 west from Socorro has always been a magical road for me. It is stark, flat land, splitting through the Gallinas and Datil mountains to the north and the San Mateos to the south. The space-age radio telescopes of the Very Large Array silently hunt the universe and for some reason always prompt me to sing in my helmet. Through the great metropolises of Datil and Pie Town. About 10 miles east of Quemado, it starts to snow. Big, wet flakes, but it's too warm for it to stick. Riding in a winter wonderland. Ain't motorcycling great?
The snow stops and the sun comes out as I cross the border into Arizona. Well, New Mexico is known for its strange weather. On through Springerville and Sho Low, then down a few thousand feet to Globe. It's finally warming up. I gas up, take off the electrics, and switch to unlined gloves.
I make Russ Locke's house at 4 PM. Russ has graciously agreed to put me up for the night. I unload and change into something more comfortable. We're taking the cage over to Skip's, but we have a stop to make. Paul and Voni are in town visiting relatives and don't have the directions to the gathering. So we meet them at a shopping center parking lot. They had trailered a couple of bikes out of the wild Kansas winter - Voni on her trusty R80ST and Paul on his brand new F650 (well, 1300 miles on it now). We see the bikes first, then Paul and then Voni. I hadn't told them I would be coming. Warm welcomes (including the secret IBMWR handshake) and off we go to Skipper's.
The evening is clear and cool. Bikes fill Skipper's garage and the street out front. Our little family had gathered from all over - San Diego, Chicago, Florida, Maryland, Arizona, New Mexico. Skip had really done it up, with plenty of refreshments and food. Dave Norton handed out some cigars.
And I had a special present for Butch. Last summer, on the ride from National to Top o' the Rockies, Butch had demonstrated an impressive command of the art of juggling. It was so impressive, in fact, that he inspired me to learn. As a small gift in return for his inspiration, I gave him a new set of juggling balls. Glow-in-the-dark balls. So he will always be able to find his balls with the lights off. :-)
But the biggest present for me was simply being among my family. Nothing to me could be finer than the joking, ribbing, laughing, and closeness that I feel among Presidents and Idiots. Having folks like Larry Fears, Pinkman, and Mike Cornett able to join us westerners in celebrating the season was like having your cousins in for the holidays. Or your eccentric uncles - Larry wiping off his license plate and declaring his bike washed, Greg showing up late because of his wild, frenzied compulsion to collect National Park stamps, Mike Cornett slyly feeding this compulsion by worrying out loud how far behind Greg he is. Skip pulls out the family album of rallies and motorcycles and we think of members not present. We think of those who we have lost and we will miss - Brian, Dave. Some had not heard of Arnie's death. Joy and sadness. Sharing the highest of the highs, the lowest of the lows. This is family.
Sunday morning, I decided to have breakfast with the gang before they took off for San Diego. We met at a Waffle House. Although they were open :-), we decided the venue was too small. So we headed across the street to Denny's. Everyone was in high spirits and the breakfast was right up to the high standards of such pig-outs.
After breakfast, we all headed up I-17. A few miles later, everyone turns to the west and I continue north to Flagstaff. I don't enjoy the Interstates, but the ride from Chandler to the north side of Phoenix consumed over 30 miles, and I didn't want to backtrack. I also wanted to be home by dark, so up to Flag and east on the hated I-40. The day is clear, the wind is at my back, the RT is purring, and I make it home just as the sun sets.
Seventeen hours and 1000 miles on a motorcycle to be with the ones you love for an evening? For you guys, anytime.
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