By Paul Berglund
The next day I awoke at sunrise. I was in Nebraska. How many thousands of people realized this and still had the will to get out of bed? Soon I would be on my motorcycle crossing this feeble treed obstacle. The people who dwell here would toil all day, listening to their horrible radio stations and return to their Nebraskan beds. I felt lucky, ignoring the creaks my body made as I got out of bed. My room faced east and I could see clear blue sky and the freeway stretching out all the way to the big orange ball of the sun. I dressed, ate a granola bar and walked out to my new-to-me KTM Super Duke R.
While I put on my helmet and gloves, I looked over to the West. There was a gas station at the entrance to the freeway. I knew I was almost out of gas. Beyond the gas station, less than a mile away was a solid green & black wall of clouds and it was fast approaching. I wouldn’t even have time to gas up before the churning vortex would envelope me and my wickedly cruel bike. But the Duke “R” is fast and to a lesser extent, so am I. The two of us were on the freeway and speeding East in minutes. Like Edith Lot, I looked back to see the hotel swallowed up by the storm. Super Dukes don’t have a fuel gauge. A feeble orange light comes on when you are about to run out of gas. I watched for cops and I watched for the little orange light and I watched my mirrors as the storm raged behind me.
I made it 20 miles before the light came on. I was a good ten minutes ahead of the wall of misery that was pursuing me across the desolate landscape of Nebraska. I just needed a gas station to appear with quick and easy freeway exit and entrance ramps. Sixteen miles later (I know this because when the low fuel warning light comes on, the odometer switches to zero and starts counting how many miles you’ve ridden since the light came on) a gas station appeared. I pulled in and gassed up. At my ultra illegal speed it was now clear that I could out-run the storm on this arrow-straight freeway.
I made good and painful progress all day. I had to bank enough time on the storm so that it wouldn’t broadside me on the long trek north from Des Moines to Saint Paul. Super Dukes are naked bikes and I leaned hard into the wind that traveling 85 mph will bring. In my heart, my personal storm was fueled by the pain in my bum. The regular Super Duke is a joyful thing. The “R” version was more powerful but harsh. Would I bond with a beast that was so flawed? In my lust I had chosen the crazy sexy girl who was indifferent to what I wanted, not the fun loving well adjusted girl who liked me. This bike was an athlete, with a brutal training regiment. I just wanted someone nice to go to the game with.
What about my wife? She can’t tell one bike from another. All she knows is that I flew to Denver to buy a motorcycle and ride it back to our home in Saint Paul. She worries about my safety, not what bike I’ve chosen. It’s painfully obvious to me that I’ve bought a fantastic bike that’s ridiculously uncomfortable. Making a poor decision is bad, having to explain it to your wife is worse. I would have to remain silent about the suffering this asinine seat inflicts or hear about this $7,000 mistake every time I mentioned a motorcycle. The four of us would have to live together, my wife, the cruel bike, my bad judgment and me. So silence it would be. I would speak the truth when I talked about the performance, the handling and the orange-ness of the Duke R. I just wouldn’t mention the sadistic seat made by the loveless Austrians.
I think riding across Nebraska and somber go together. Yes, you can look forward to leaving Nebraska but that doesn’t lessen the time spent droning across it. Nebraska simply exists to be endured. Then I reached Iowa. Has anyone been happy to reach Iowa? Oh look! Four hundred more miles of Corn between me and home. I was in more pain now. It wasn’t just my butt cheeks that cried out for mercy. The storm driven speed was taking it’s toll on my body, too. Like Kwai Chang Caine I tried to release my pain. I tried to dissipate it like smoke. I tried to give it to the mocking corn that filled the fields all around me. Stupid corn. Stupid bike. Stupid Paul with your ass on fire.
Minnesota greeted me with more corn. Corn, greedy corporations use it as a poor substitute for the real ingredients that make up our lives. The food we eat has less and less of the things we need and more corn. The gas that powers the motorcycles we love is now contaminated by gas tank melting corn ethanol. Corn, I now called it scorn. And who at KTM thought this was an acceptable seat for a motorcycle? The world was descending into madness as I ascended towards Saint Paul.
My wife was filled with joy when I returned to her. She still loved me. Her world was retuned to normalcy. I never told her about the bike. To friends and family all was well. I waited a year to sell it. The guy who bought it said he was a mechanic by trade. He walked over and twisted off the radiator cap immediately after the test ride. Hot anti-freeze sprayed all over my garage and me. A perfect match, I thought as I wiped the burning green liquid off my face. This bike couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.