Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Handle of a Pump


I promised that I would publish Ken Bateman's recollection of Sturgis here with his permission. Ken is our resident poet, shaman and story-teller; a very talented fellow. The days are separated by paragraph. Enjoy!

The Handle of a Pump (AMC Sturgis 2008)

Copyright 2008

A coasting flat,

that's a flat tire you get

when rolling over glass to a coasting stop.

At 7:30 we left Joey's Diner for a slow roll through Vermont to Albany.

During one of the stops for rain and gas, the Hell's Angels were riding

stock Road Glides across the New York turnpike,

neither bobbed nor chopped.

London, ON, the first day's end: the Beer Store,

Malibu portions too large, and the Maple Glen Inn.

Luckily my foot doesn't hurt when I ride

and all I want to do is ride;

otherwise, it hurts all the time.

Overtaking Michigan from the Sarnia side of the Blue Water Bridge,

Port Huron looks like it certainly was.

We winged it: the big truck won't fit at Muskegon -

"Get it out of there and get the motorcycles in."

The wind on the Lake Express blows off all the passengers on the sundeck.

Milwaukee looks small from Lake Michigan,

it reeks on Sunday evening,

and Miller Park looks like the works of a giant protractor as we speed by.

A tavern in Madison is so exciting to memory it causes consternation

to be relived, ill-timed joshing, misunderstood, apology, hard feelings.

Chad, a kid wrench from Bikertown HD in Youngstown,

offers to check all our engine codes

and catches on for the ride to Rapid City.

Transitioning trees to grasslands, Rt. 90 Wisconsin is soft and swoopy -

the accurately carved farms, a Willa Cather little Switzerland.

A middle-aged woman at the La Crosse convenience says

she is blessed to live in a beautiful part of the country. She is.

Immediately across the Mississippi, Rt. 90 does a steep curving climb,

trucks hard-balling up to the plains.

Windmills populate Minnesota corn fields,

slow turning from cheap gas to alternatives, whatever the price.

Chad has some ass left, Sioux Falls eschewed for an hour more;

the lure of an outdoor pool and beer in the hot evening sun

snakes around Mitchell and draws us all in.

A thunder-less storm with whole-sky lightning rains in the evening,

a family couple tells their move for a job from beautiful B.C.

to a town near Toronto (and they are not city folk).

On the descent to Chamberlain, Jeff is stunned forever by

the pooling green Missouri

and all around, nature is Dakota-dry.

The way west is ungoverned, fast and free:

Chad blows past a spirit snagged in a Lakota dream catcher

and the Ultra gets to 95.

Orchids sighted, the Badlands are green bottomed and sunflower dotted.

Wall is a boardwalk frontier town. Wall Drug advertises,

"Give me your money" and free ice water.

Indulge in the latter and slather more sunblock on arms, neck, and nose -

anything uncovered.

Like they forgot winter in Rapid City,

surburban stores are sprawling in the quintessential summer-dry blue-sky sun.

Chad diced in to the behemoth rally dealer; snake eyes and twelve-hour days,

sweet trouble swishing her tail a hundred feet long.

From Sturgis, up the long mountain

past Deadwood and Lead (rhymes with greed)

six thousand feet to the alpine cool and Papa Joe's Rec Springs.

He's Mohawk hair on the short weight of a retired Texas sheriff.

He's a talker and good to his word:

the first beer is free and we camp 1800 miles from origin.

It's Tuesday and the band and Girls come Saturday night

(maybe Friday, he hasn't heard from them yet).

Three turkey patriarchs threaten, females are clucking the grounds.

Oh Spearfish and the relief of Precision Soles and Common Grounds,

good coffee and walking regained: thanks for your patience.

Spearfish Canyon, overcast and slow,

like a two-up honeymoon ride and I imagine her entreaty,

"Go slow so I can see."

From Rt. 14A, Rt. 85 starts narrow and twisty, then higher, wider,

and much faster toward and onto Rt. 16,

a blue-sky Wyoming ride, green and sparsely treed.

Newcastle to Custer, burned trunks like sticks give mountain views;

jumbo clouds in fantastic shapes holding still against the dark blue sky.

Many years from Wilton, most recently from Flagstaff,

the old lady met in Custer had arrived in June,

bought a house with a view on the hill next to the big gray.

She predicted, everyone so welcoming here,

many beautiful naked ladies in Sturgis.

Later we guessed her age and didn't mention

how attractive her mellow, peaceful ways.

We refused to pay Mt. Rushmore's fee, so they hurried us down.

Camp cook, those Tabasco shrimps were to my liking hot,

and more beer in the evening, dark and cool.

The Devil's Tower run.

Rt. 85 again in leather jacket chill.

Why not Rt. 85 every day? The snow-drift fencing answers why.

The Buckhorn Bar and Cafe with gas and pole cat hats:

Jerry now rides on a sheepskin bed

luxury cut generously for a magic carpet ride.

At the Rt. 90 and Rt. 14 Conoco, a couple from 1977 Troy, New York

sells buffalo skulls with horns stuck on,

sells pipes, wrist rests and whatever else.

He said Wyoming is a great place to live if you don't

like people and don't mind the wind.

Though it's grown so much, he's stuck in Casper now: grandkids.

John waved us through the Devil's Tower National Park scam and

we picnic lunched at the volcano's base.

Visitors bored family and friends with comments on the climbers:

"I'd be more scared coming down," and "They must be crazy,"...

humans chattering this and that.

John and Jerry on to Sturgis for a saddlebag solution,

the Harley store there a T-shirt shop,

they found the right brackets, twice, at J&P.

Hill City closed Main Street to all but bikes,

two tourist women commented, "Mark your calendar, not here."

John gets political fun with Geronimo, T-shirt Terrorist.

Iron Mountain free of fresh tar and sand,

15 mph hairpins dare quick looks to mountains beyond.

Jeff marks the tour bus two-lane climb, we give it more distance to the front.

Custer State Park slathered in sunblock, blue sky and open grass,

donkeys and buffalos photographed in the road.

Needles' Mt. Rushmore photograph with four in pose.

Slathered and dizzy hot, we swam a necessary idle at Sylvan Lake.

John remarked underpants would elsewhere be OK, not here.

A mother stretched too thin between her young daughter and

boy floating over his head, wanting to get off -

Jeff reeled him in, life saver telling kid, "Stay on the raft."

Dusk at Sturgis, parking free, attendance down this year,

plenty of bike slots on the street.

Jeff gets his shirt, taunting trailers, we'll see when worn.

One Eyed Jacks three levels filled with Hulk Hogan wannabes in obscene Ts

and go-go girls on platforms well out of reach.

Light jobs on bikes flashing in the street,

and up and down Main, the constant parade peaked around 10.

A wild night-ride back to camp,

cautious and warm up the long mountain, swooping in dark.

Deadwood done by 11 for the night,

we go longer, laughing by lantern till 2.

What logic in a bikini bike wash for $10; whereas,

half a bikini bike wash for twice the amount?

Vanocker Canyon praised uncrowded and beautifully paced

on the run to Rapid City for a bolt.

Spearfish, splendid western town and lunch at the Common

though the bookstore had no poetry:

"Are there any poets or poetry readings around?" "I don't think so."

The party's at the Chip, Bear Butte in background, $127 for two nights' camp

with entertainment. Wide open hot bare grassland -

we didn't think it'd do and cooled the thought at the Broken Spoke Saloon,

pins pushed in for Nashua and Amherst on the U.S. map.

Just two pins this year for all of Maine.

The run to Rochford (rhymes with Crotch) is another delight,

perfectly groomed twists and cattle along green valley fields.

Supper at the Moonshine Gulch Saloon, far away and deep in the groove.

The Party's at Rec Springs: a baldy in slippers retrieving his other from

the runway where she's 60 young with flex and good legs,

old exotic smashed on booze, grinding splits to cheers

while the band pumped out knock-offs and she fell

three feet to the stones under the shed.

Bouncing back up like a cat, she'll hurt like a dog in the morning.

The Girls, mixed fat and thin, young and not, strip for money tips

though the few Viet Nam Vets are all asleep by then.

John sleeps out and awakes in a cloud.

Jeff splits for home and runs out of gas -

an hour and a half by the side of the road, the hot way home.

Belle Fourche (rhymes with Boosh) deserted,

even the Welcome Bikers cafe is closed.

The Methodist Church lonesome sign offers biker breakfast

between 7 and 9 (which may be the headcount they draw).

But the Stone House Saloon, windowless

on the hot prairie with nothing else around,

is glinting with bikes parked on the grass,

the mid-day sun high in blue,

beers, burgers, and suntans like a ski-slope lodge.

Hulett's gas station closed, bad news for commerce and

bikers low on gas, so we dog it slow for 37 miles past

Devil's Tower, the Junction, and on to the Conoco.

It felt like a 10-minute ride 76 miles to camp, timeless

when stopped on Rt. 585 for pictures of clouds in the pure

Wyoming landscape of white, green, and blue.

We decamp for home with Dan.

Rt 14 through Pierre, and the wind, wide, flat, straight, and

hot through South Dakota fields.

An old Sportster pre-vision with an antler-and-chain kickstand.

We blow into Watertown and supper on

the shady porch with fried things and beer.

Minnesota Rt. 212 slows through towns and fields,

and past the Beet Sugar plant mid-day Minneapolis is jammed.

We're free for lunch in St. Croix Falls, waitressed with accents

lampooned in radio's Prairie Home Companion.

Rt. 8 across Wisconsin is like New Hampshire's Great North Woods,

most like Errol, old logging and camps, flatter, more lakes.

Jerry gets the lucky Duck in Crandon and we all get bugged off

the narrow Four Seasons veranda.

We've been agreed to 10 mph over limit and John holds true

when enticed by the red car passing at 80 or 85.

Thumbs up a few miles further when his ticket delivery comes into view.

Across the border: Michigan, people, and junk of suburban sprawl.

A quick lunch on Hot Pasties along Lake Michigan's north shore.

After the scenic slow tedium of Rt. 2 ends with dunes,

Rt. 75 is car-less and fast north to Sault St Marie,

the International Bridge to Ontario's same

gives view to lakes and the Soo Locks, a Great Lakes tour.

Jerry's Iron Bridge to the Red Top Motel, and

across the street, Chinese food Veronica can keep.

Both with dreads, an Amherst, NS and a Germany kid are hitching west

a good distance with an old Quebecois. He originates from Winnipeg.

We're shut out at Sudbury; the neutrino detector's elevator is being used.

My bike gets hit, knocked down, kickstand twisted,

and we're in rain suits languishing in thunderstorm clouds.

On to Ottawa and the rain won't stop so I must,

locking up at the Bel Air and enjoying pizza and beer on Richmond St.

Now the kickstand is a joke:

it won't stay up unless tied but then won't come down 400 miles from home.

Ottawa HD detaches one from a new bike and we're on our way to

Montreal's rain, road construction, and traffic jams.

Long to home and slow in rain, but Vermont is dramatic in cloud and green.

I'm getting rain pants butt and it's raining hard,

Jerry's holding the horse back from its race to the barn,

John's in the lead as we go steady and slow in one rain to the next.

I thought we had an angel truck behind, protecting us

from oncoming cars going too fast, but eventually it passed.

The rainbow end-to-end at Concord signaled a glorious end

then more rain, hard rain arriving home,

the goal of riding each day to its end.

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