Somewhere in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana, West of the semi-ghost town of Paradise, on my way home from Sturgis two weeks ago, the bike and I rolled over the 40,000 mile mark. I didn’t actually see when it rolled over, I was too busy enjoying the road and the scenery, and I couldn’t have stopped to take a picture anyway as the road had no place to pull over. It would have been an interesting moment though – me and the bike along the side of the highway on the banks of the Clark Fork River across from the old Northern Pacific Railroad mainline through Montana.
I bought her four years ago this October, brand new from Destination Harley Davidson in Silverdale, WA. She’s a 2006 Harley-Davidson FXDBI Street Bob, in black denim paint. I paid $17,565.35. Together we’ve gone corner to corner -- Key West to Cape Flattery -- and border to border together. When I look at the map in the garage with all the big trips marked on it – both solo and with Tony – I’m amazed to see the ground that we’ve covered. There’s a one solitary line from Key West up through the Southeast and across the country, and then a virtual spaghetti bowl of rides in the West.
We’ve ridden through rain and snow -- blazing hot sun and fresh mountain air. We’ve enjoyed the sunrise and dawn after a rain, and chasing our shadow riding East at sunset. She’s only broken down on me once too – when the electrical system got some gremlin’s in it outside of Huron, South Dakota last year and she had to be towed to Pierre, SD for repairs. She’s gone down twice – once with me aboard as I avoided a left turning min-van with an oblivious woman who couldn’t see through her Muslim veil in Vancouver BC. And once when Tony slid on some rain-slick pavement on 35th Ave near our house. The latter accident caused a lot of damage, but the good folks at Downtown Harley who maintain her got her back and good as new in a few weeks.
With that many miles, the bike becomes a part of you – an extension of my body – seemingly effortlessly responding to my touch. I twist my wrist and she goes faster. I press left and she glides that direction. Stretch out on the highway pegs and breathe the cool mountain air and we both want to keep going forever.
Lately she’s been my only traveling companion when the road stretched out in front of me for miles. She’s been the table where I’ve dined on t-bone steak and cheap red wine. Her tank is the desk where I’ve made notes, or written postcards back home, and spread out a roadmap looking for a back road from here to anywhere. Her backrest has been the pillow where I’ve rested from a day on the road. Her bags have carried my clothes and belongings from town to town as I’ve traveled. She’s listened to me cry over my late father as I drove through central Utah, and been there as I think of the ones I love and miss as the miles rolled away beneath us. Her handlebars have framed the Islands of the Florida Keys, the Mackinac bridge between Lake Huron and Michigan, the Grand Tetons, Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon, the Columbia River, Mount Rainier, the shore of the Pacific, big cities, small towns, wheat fields, corn fields, dusty desert, lush forests, and more than 40,000 miles of road.
When I got back from Sturgis I took her in for a major service. Kevin, the Service Manager at Downtown Harley told me that she’s got at least another 100,000 miles in her if I keep her well maintained like I have. She got really dirty on the ride home, so I had them give her complete detailing too, and Kevin said she’d be sold before noon if I put it out on the show-room floor. "No way in hell!" I said, "no way in hell." When I die, just bury me with this bike by my side -- or better yet, give her to someone who she can carry down that endless road.