We sped to Blythe, to the southern field station, assembling again our company of 11 for the first time since training. A mid-season dinner and party, a chance to feel the electricity of the full crew. I had been feeling out of sorts the night before and most of the morning. I decided to ride down separate, leaving an hour before the rest of the northern gang.
I'd ridden the Mohave Road a dozen times now, so I mapped out a new route. I crossed the Colorado river just south of Parker, taking the old Agnes-Wilson road past agricultural fields and into California. Scruffy hills rose as I crossed the state line. The road was worn and tumbling, undulating like a slate-colored sea. It was beautiful and a relief from the long flat line of the Mohave road.
I stopped twenty miles out of Blythe and sat at the edge of the road. I could feel the rumbling of the train as it approached. It felt like a beating heart beneath my toes, pulsing through the soles of my newly-shined cowboy boots. White-winged doves called out. The sky was a deep clear blue above the brown-green creosote bush.
The loud roar of the season had been incredible and intoxicating. Our gang was rowdy and full of life. The days were rich indeed: there almost seemed too many memories to fit into our short time here. Still, the noise and exuberance had not relented a moment since arriving. I'd been lacking this solitary expanse, the anonymity of sitting alone in the late morning sun. This was the reason I'd come to the desert, and it had been evading me.
I stared at the bike for a while, recalling memories from the ride out. I found it hard to believe that there was a past, that I had come all this way on such a small and strange machine. My lounge chair on wheels. My time machine, as A. had called it.
I felt refreshed, re-centered. I lifted myself onto the bike again and cruised along the last few corners before town, passing two semis around a sharp turn, soaking in the feeling of the bike as it leaned deeply against the curve.
In Blythe, we told stories and drank mexican beers on the front porch. Amy showed off photos from a mock fashion shoot she'd done with some of the field crew girls. Kittentoes and I stood around the bike, discussing the joys of motorcycle travel. There was friction between him and his girl, and he'd be going his own way at the season's end. With the breaking away comes the mixed feelings of disconnect and liberation. I knew it intimately, and silently understood. He wanted to buy a bike of his own and learn to ride. I was eager to convert another to the strange religion of motorbiking and agreed to help him find a good used bike.
I stayed the night, leaving well before dawn the next morning. A chilly, beautiful ride across the desert, accompanied by a full yellow moon. It darted and dodged behind the mountains as I rode, motor humming behind the shine of my headlamp. I fueled in Parker, sharing the station with a group of 40 riders headed north. I filled the tank quickly, not even taking off my helmet, knowing I wouldn't want to be stuck behind them.
They got on the road moments before me but I sped past in the left lane. One lone rider, roaring past the sprawling gang. I ticked them off, one at a time, until I was far ahead. It was all ego, but it still felt good.
The IBO Bird Maniacs in the Huachuca Mtns
Kittentoes About To Get A Bike Lesson