Nothing but a storm weathered soul.

Working our way cross-town, Mavis and I eased through the city streets and eventually arrived at our new Couch Surfing hosts house. Ashley had invited us to stay with herself and two room mates, Erika and Jaimie. I’d insinuated meal bribes in return for a couch to rest my head and I think this may have been the deal maker! The initial plan was to spend one night and then head North to Sturgis in South Dakota for the big North American motorcycle rally aptly named, “Sturgis”. One night became two, two nights became three and before not long I’d spent an entire week with the three lovely girls. Despite me traveling on a motorcycle, I’d not say I was a “motorcyclist” and the thought of hanging out with a bunch of burly-bikers seemed somehow not to compare to my three new hostess’.

Wine fueled evenings chatting away drifted into day and the desire to never leave Denver and hang up the skull cap became ever so tantalizing. An email to my Vegas employer confirmed I was never in the wrong regarding damage to their vehicle and my paycheck was finally set free into my bank account. As described in my last post, the hold up in the Canyon had turned out in my eventual favor, and patients most definitely was the meal of the week.

With the new influx of funds pumping fuel back into the trip, I decided it was time to hit up REI outdoors flagship store (as was the original reason for coming to Denver) for some items I hadn’t had the funds to purchase earlier but were in desperate need of. A camp stove was the feature item on the short , humble list, after eating nothing but un-heated chili from a can and smoked oysters on bread rolls soaked in gasoline fumes up in Gunnison Canyon. I also scouted out the likes of a new tent complete with bug mesh after my face had became an ant freeway the weeks earlier. I decided to part ways with my old shelter before investing in something new and listed it in on Craigslist. Within a few hours I received an email from a potential buyer. They lived in Carbondale, just West of Aspen, in those ever so high Rocky Mountains. They inquired if I might ship the tent from Denver. I quickly replied and suggested I would be happy to personally deliver the tent instead, as I could do with a nice ride and I never did get to go through Aspen.

The following morning I awoke right on 8am, and started to get my shit together for playing postman. I frantically hustled about pushing my unpacked bag to the beneath the couch, grabbed my helmet, leather jacket and gloves. By this time the three girls were up and sitting on the front porch. I told them what I was up to, where I was headed and asked if anyone wanted to come. Ashley had priors with the Library where she worked, Jaimie had hot date but Erika snapped at the offer and quickly assumed her spot on the back on Mavis. First port of call was to find a helmet for my newly acquired passenger so off we rode. Walmart to Honda, not a sniff of a suitable helmet. Being Sunday didn’t help either, with all motorcycle shops closed. I kept suggesting “Family Dollar”(Kind of like “The Reject Shop” back home) as we rode around town (by law in Colorado, you don’t need a helmet), but Erika would not have a bar of it. Eventually we resorted to the source of all the fucking about and found a $25 helmet listed on craigslist. By the time we actually got everything together it was breaching the 4pm mark as the hour hand shot through five. I turned to Erika and glanced at the clear blue sky “It’s pretty late, it’s about a four hour ride one way. I’m still up for it if you are?”

Erika held on tight as Mavis roared forwards, I peeled back the throttle and the engine rumbled. We rose, wound, dodged and weaved our way high up towards Aspen. Spectacular views jutted out as sheer drops encroached the bitumen’s boundary. The ambient temperature dropped as we gained on our destination of Carbondale.

Rolling High rlj_USA_Mavis_Rockies_Erika_2009_003 rlj_USA_Mavis_Rockies_Erika_2009_004
Eventually we made it to our most friendly buyers home as they warmly welcomed us in for hot tea and cookies. In no time at all it was time to snake our way back to Denver and return my precious cargo back to her room mates. Jumping on Mavis I flicked the ignition to notice no lights working on the speedo nor taco gauge. I stopped off at a petrol station to check the wire connections and fuses under an orange street lamp. It turned out to be the small globe that had blown, of which I had no spare. We carried on, in the dark of a star lit sky along I-70 East. Tailing other cars and trucks, I tried to judge the speed and stay with the flow of traffic. As we had left the house back in Denver early in the heat of day, we’d brought no warm riding gear, nor wet weather’s in case of encountered inclement weather along the road. My mesh gloves did little to stop the icy chill of the blasting cool of night. My fingers started to loose feeling but I persevered as we had to make it back to Denver that evening. Eventually I started to loose grip of the handle bars and I pulled off to the roads edge. I explained to Erika that I had no feeling in my fingers as I touched the back of my frozen hand to her warm cheek. A few more hand warming stops and I truly was getting to a point where I could no longer ride. I pulled off for petrol and we filled up. “Erika, can we stop for a while to warm a little?” I asked. We found a 24hr diner (it was now 1am and still an hour or two out from Denver).

We had a welcomed feed as I warmed my frozen extremities around my decaf coffee filled porcelain mug, the warmth permeating my bones like warm fudge dripped over soft serve ice cream. Steak and eggs was the meal of choice as I polished off my less than perfect cut. As we exited the diner, I suggested “Star jumps”. Erika just laughed “Do you mean, “Jumping Jacks”? ‘Star jumps’ seams like a more appropriate term, but I rolled along with the American terminology. We stood there in the foyer jumping about, nothing but cold to great us when the door swung open. As we left, Erika grabbed my arm. “Wait”, as she reached for the free local circulations in a stand by the front door. “Here, stuff this into your jacket, the newspaper will help insulate you a little”. We stood there, stuffing each others jackets until we both looked like Michelin men. The paper did help a bit, but the fingers quickly froze again. As we gained on Denver, a ferocious thunder storm blazed before us out toward the East. The night was clear, the stars twinkled and shot through the sky and a giant cloud of rose-pink and amber flashed away partially obscured by mountains either side of the road. We neared the Continental divide and the long tunnel which the road takes beneath the mountains above. I pulled off just before we entered to once more gain circulation to my fingers. Mavis struggled and came to a halt. I tried starting her back up again, but she didn’t even want to flick an eye on. I turned to Erika and lifted my visor. “I have no idea why she won’t start?!” I tried to think what could possibly be wrong this time, at this very moment in time? Why now? Why here to brake down? Just then, a service truck pulled up and man swaggered over. “What’s the problem here?” her asked, cigarette hanging from his mouth. “Just won’t start” I replied. “Ah, you’ve probably got a ‘vapor lock’ in the fuel line. Sometimes when you fill up your tank at a low altitude then climb to 11,500 feet, where you are now, the pressure in to tank turns the fuel to a gas and you get a lock in the fuel line”. It sounded like jargon to me, as I thought about the cost of getting my bike fixed for “Vapor Lock” and the tow charges. “Try unscrewing the gas cap and let the pressure out. Then give her a go” the man said as he butted out his ember of a cigarette in the loose gravel beside the road. To my relief, and I’m sure Erika’s, Mavis started straight back up. Her eyes perked and shone light on the road. We waved to the man and continued our decent into Denver.

By the time we reached the city limits the storm must have just passed moments prior as the road was still wet from the thunderstorms downpour. Fender-less we glided along with a constant stream of road wash blasting up into my face. Eventually we made it back to the house, a hundred odd richer, a hell of a lot colder, but an amazing days ride with a full spectrum of experiences shared between Erika and I. After all, what better way to introduce a girl to Mavis and the joys of road riding than through a thunder and lighting storm. We spent the rest of the night huddled in front of Erika’s aptly named, “Mr Heater” who stood nobly and brought warmth back to our souls as we sipped on vodka tonics. Mavis definitely has a way with storms, be it bringing you straight into the eye of one or narrowly avoiding them. One things for sure, this old Hell bike knows how to put on a light show.