by bj max
Sugar Booger and I were on our way home from the Gulf Coast where we had spent some time at Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, one of the South’s best-kept secrets. After a couple of days sittin’ in the sun, drinking sweet iced tea and going blind from the glare off the Gulf, we decided we had had enough, packed up the bike and headed home. It had been a nice little getaway but I got bored pretty quick. Sugar Booger loves the beach but not me. It’s too hot for one thing and the ocean, in this case the Gulf, stinks. And at my age, taking my cloths off in public is silly and sittin’ on the beach in jeans and boots is even sillier’. So I usually seek out one of those thatched roof bars, guzzle iced tea, admire the scenery and brood over my long-lost youth.
Instead of taking the fast track home we peeled off the Interstate onto a two-lane shortcut that took us quickly into Mississippi up towards Memphis via Laurel, Forrest, Kosciusko (Oprah’s hometown) eventually dumping us onto I-55 near Vaiden; two-hundred and fifty miles of hills, hollers and the scenic beauty of the old south.
As we neared Vaiden, storm clouds were building in the west and it was obvious that we were gonna’ have to suit up so we pulled into the Vaiden truck stop, pigged out on the buffet and caffeined up with some vicious truck stop coffee. Two TV monitors hung from the ceiling and since truck drivers are as interested in the weather as motorcyclists, one monitor is perpetually tuned to weather radar. We found a booth where we could keep an eye on the storms and enjoyed our meal.
There didn’t seem to be any severe weather around, just thunder and rain so after dinner we rolled onto I-55 and headed for “Elvis Presley”, official CB handle for Memphis. Over the years truckers have assigned all big cities their own personal CB handles and Elvis was a natural for Memphis. Some of the handles are very clever such as “DoBQ” for Dubuque, IA and “Minnie Polis” translates to Minneapolis. If you tune in to Ch-19 on the two-way you may not know what the heck the drivers are talking about but all that gobbly-gook is a second language to truckers.
We hadn’t gone very far when I noticed two motorcycles in my rear view mirror closing at a pretty good clip. They appeared to be cruisers of some sort so I warned Sugar Booger to be aware of an approaching rumble. Good thing I did too. As soon as these two guys realized that we were Grandpa and Grandma on a Gold Wing they throttled up. As is the custom of riders on such machinery, they were in parade mode and when they pulled out to pass they stayed together and blew by with a racket reminiscent of two blown Super M Farmalls. They were all inked up with skulls and demons, rode feet forward and wearing only the coolest of protective clothing i.e. chain drive boots, wraparound sunglasses, jeans, tee-shirts and predictable iron cross adorned beanie helmets to top things off. We waved as they blew past. They didn’t.
With the show over they settled in about a quarter in front of us, matched our speed and got back to the business at hand. After about a half hour of trailing them we rounded a curve and discovered a solid gray wall of rain blocking our path. It was pouring down and you couldn’t see anything beyond that wall of water. The cruisers never broke stride then ‘splat’, they disappeared into the rainstorm. A few seconds later so did we and even less than a few seconds later we found ourselves quickly closing on the cruisers. With no rain gear, no windshields or goggles, they were forced to cut their speed in half while we didn’t even bother to slow down. I banked into the left lane and we blew past ‘em like they were standing still. We waved as we rode by. They didn’t.
The heavy shower only lasted about ten minutes and we busted out into bright sunshine. Couple minutes later I glanced in my mirror and not surprisingly two dots had appeared and again they were closing at a very high rate of speed. Again they moved into the left lane side by side and roared by, their fat rear tires kicking up rooster tails. We waved as they went by. They didn’t.
As we cruised along, the sky to our right was getting scary dark and we could see heavy rain shafts up ahead. I knew this Interstate like the back of my hand from so many trips in big rigs and I also knew that it was gonna’ bear right about two miles in front of us and run us smack dab into this new storm. It was obvious that this was a serious squall and the rain we went through earlier was a mere shower in comparison. I punched the cruise control off, clicked my face shield closed, reminded Sugar Booger to close hers as well, got a good grip on the bars and let the big bike slow to about fifty. And then we hit it, it being one of the most fierce rainstorms we had ever ridden in. It was torrential in nature and the ruts in the pavement were immediately transformed into rivers of water.
After about ten minutes of this, the rain began to slack a bit and I relaxed as my vision improved. Then, at an overpass ahead Sugar Booger spied two motorcycles sitting in the rain. As we splashed by she spied our “friends” huddled up under the roadway. Evidently they had attempted to get the bikes under the overpass but a couple cars were already there and had hogged up all the room so the bikers had to park in the downpour then scuttle up under the overpass leaving their bikes on the shoulder to fiend for themselves. Sugar Booger waved at them as we rode by. I didn’t because I never took my eyes off the road. She said not to worry because they didn’t wave either.
Couple miles later we rolled out of the rain into bright sunshine and it looked like clear sailing from here on in. And right on cue, those two little dots appeared in my mirror. Sugar Booger saw them to and alerted me that they were coming fast. As they blew by we waved but again they didn’t. And this time they held their speed and rode on out of sight. Well, we’ve seen the last of them we thought.
But we were wrong. Ten miles up the road we sped across an overpass and down below parked at the pumps of a Flying J. were our compadres. We gave a little short wave and this time, to our complete surprise, they waved back. With both arms high in the air and grinning from ear to ear they waved with a flourish and one of ‘em even gave us a thumbs up. Were they being sarcastic or were they just ecstatic that they were out of those storms? I don’t know. But I suspected that even though our tastes in bikes were a hundred and eighty degrees out, our reciprocal passage through dangerous weather had created a bond of sorts and we had unwittingly become what a lot of us have long denied, brothers of the road.