167_TalesFromTheRoadBy Paul Berglund

I’ve mentioned before that I have a weakness for a brand of motorcycles that are mainly Orange. I’ve owned several now. My first KTM street bike was a 950 Supermoto. I loved that bike. It was pure fun to ride. But, after MMM did a road test on the 990 Super Duke, I found myself lusting after the Duke. I started to watch Craigslist for a used Super Duke. Only one turned up locally all summer. I went to look at it and it was trashed. Over the winter I broadened my search. I had a perfectly good motorcycle, so I didn’t NEED another bike, but the thought still haunted me. Then, in June of the following year, I found the Holy Grail of Super Dukes: the 990R Super Duke. I wasn’t sure exactly what the “R” stood for, but I did know it put out 20 more horsepower than a standard 990 Duke. It was the same price as the crapped out Duke that was still for sale on Craigslist. My problem? The “R” was for sale in Denver.

I called the guy who ran the ad. He was selling it for a friend. (Run away! a voice said.) It was in excellent shape with low miles. I looked up what the airfare was to Denver. It was pretty cheap and the flight was short. My wife dropped me off at the airport on her way to work and I was standing and looking at the bike by 10am. It was awesome. I finally met the bike’s owner and he was truly eccentric. An engineer by trade, and that was the sum total of his personality. A brief ride around the parking lot and I pulled $7,000 out of my backpack. The bike was mine. Almost. In Colorado if you sell a vehicle the seller keeps the license plate. The buyer must go to the Colorado DMV and transfer the title and get a temporary license plate.

The DMV I go to here in Minnesota can be quite hectic. A lot of people that are new to our country and don’t speak English very well tend to go to that DMV. I get frustrated at the long wait, but the chairs are comfortable, the cultural spectacle is entertaining, and it’s never more than an hour to get my business done. How bad could the Denver DMV be? It was a lot worse. I got a number and was told to have a seat on one of the large wooden church pew like benches. Hours went by. My butt was sore from the brief stint on the KTM perch of pain. The wooden pew was softer than the wickedly cruel seat on the “R” but my buns were failing fast. Time slowed to a crawl. My hands started to feel shaky. I was very hungry. The last time I ate was at the MSP airport seven hours ago. Finally, at 3:00 pm, a disgruntled government worker handed me a piece of paper she called a license plate and shooed me away.

I got back on the seat of pain and rode to the nearest Waffle House. It was in Longmont, Colorado. I ordered one of every thing and devoured all that they brought me. The booth was made of formica clad plywood and was void of all comfort. I got back on the punisher to ride on. Just up the freeway was Loveland, Colorado, and Highway 34. Hwy 34 is a winding mountain road that runs up to Estes Park. I took a detour. The road is fantastic. This bike was made for just such a ride. However the interface between the bike and my behind was brutal and lacking in all human kindness. KTM was as indifferent to my suffering as Garmin is to the suffering of those who try to use their GPS programs.

My butt feeling was that I had bought the wrong Duke. The regular Super Duke is 100% user friendly. A bike I would recommend to anyone. This bike, the “R” version, was “technically” better in a cold cruel Teutonic way. The people who made this Duke wore lab coats and didn’t get enough hugs from their mothers when they were little. They used their skill at motorcycle engineering to pack the anger and resentment of their mothers into this very bike. Now I must ride it back to Minnesota. Not the kind of revelation you want so far from home.

Before I got back to the freeway, I stopped at a hardware store. I made a license plate bracket out of some plexiglass I found in the parking lot and the TSA mandated plastic bag from my backpack. We were legal now. With grim determination I set off. It started to rain lightly. Hwy 25 merged onto I-80 in Wyoming and the rain tapered off. A few miles into Nebraska, I stopped at a hotel. Too tired to gas up the bike, I slunk to my room and slept face down on the bed.

The next day I got up at sunrise. 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 bike. While I put on my helmet and gloves, I looked over to the West. A solid green & black wall of clouds 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.


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