Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Beveryl Hillbilly Bikers: Lost In Space

Danger, Will Robinson, danger!

Where is that damn robot when you need him? I mean, no one listens to good advice, even when it's free because, well, it's free and you usually think it's worth that: $0. And, if it comes from an immediate family member, it is even less worthy of attention. But, if it was a big seven-foot robot, with hook hands and a red flashing eye, you'd pay attention.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a time when personal robots make our beds, compute tricky mathematic equations or save our asses in the nick of time. So, we’re stuck with trying to ascertain the def con level ourselves.

Usually, we suck.

Warning signs? Feh! Blinders are so much more fun.

See me wearing blinders ignoring warning signs:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

Day 5

The pain in the front of my head was excruciating. Not a piercing pain, but a hammering pain that seemed to throb with every stroke of the sledgehammer the little bastard inside my forehead was wielding.

Pound. Pound. Pound.

He was pounding the inside of my forehead, trying to get out because I was lying face down, pillow propped on my fore arms, with my forehead barely propped on it. My arms formed a cage around my face, keeping in the heat and the sour smell of too many margaritas on my breath, burning my nose and singing the back of my throat. I felt the sweat pouring down my face, my neck, into my cleavage and making the few clothes I had on stick to unholy places on my body.

The air laying over me was like a musty, soggy five ton blanket that had been liberally rolled in dirt and grit before being thrown over me to perpetuate the feeling of being in a sauna.

I was in a sauna. By a quick and painful peek out of the corner of my eye, I noted the olive green nylon of the inside of the little pup tent I was occupying. No, it wasn’t a sauna, it was a sweat lodge and the only thing missing was incense and a shaman chanting cleansing words.

Boy, I could have used those cleansing words right about then. Purify me, great Spirit, before my brain melts into this freaking sleeping bag or I rip out the front of my forehead to dislodge that nasty little bastard that keeps pounding in there. I mean, what the hell is he building, anyway? A hundred unit condominium complex?

I laid there a little longer praying that sleep would come back and make me oblivious to the torture. No dice. I felt a little sharp pinch on my left leg and rubbed it quickly with my right. I listened to the outside world and realized that it was quietly muffled with the sound of voices and a few diesel engines. Damn it! Sleep was fading quickly. Another little pinch on the neck caused me to scrunch up my shoulders and inadvertently send the sledgehammer into over time. Ugh!

This was quickly followed by a pinch on my left arm that I rubbed away with the pillow. This was getting annoying. Even the air was painful.

Finally, I rolled over looking up at the mesh dome and causing the little sledgehammer guy to the back of my head where he immediately took up the pounding again. Even the dim light from outside the tent walls was enough to make me drag my arm over my eyes and pray for a few more minutes of dark and quiet.

No such luck. Another pinch on my arm had me holding it up in annoyance in the dim light. What the hell was all this pinching crap about?

I focused blearily on my arm and noted a little red ant crawling around, apparently mistaking me for a giant piece of toast it could carry away to it’s little hidey hole and share with the other 3 million mindless drones. I wearily brushed it off, just in time to feel another bite, right on my upper arm and another on my leg which I held up in the gloomy sticky light.

Another freaking ant.

Shit! I rolled to a sitting position quickly and the sledgehammer went careening around my brain, but the thought of little red ants all over me was enough to make me ignore it.

I hated ants. I don’t really like bugs since they can really screw you up at 80 mph on the open highway, but ants give me the creeps. Ever since I was a kid and saw this stupid cartoon faux advertisement for a movie where the ants were lined up by the hundreds slowly carrying away a woman tied up and gagged, big round eyes as she was taken to their ant farm for a 1 million ant snack.

Yuck!

Of course, ants can’t really tie you up and gag you, but a few creepy crawlies making a snack out of my epidermis was freaking me out, man.

I squinted at my appendages and noted several had taken up impermanent residence so I evicted them with all malice afore thought.

Squish. Flick. Smack. Son of a bitch these things were tenacious.

I could see that the bed roll was infected with them so I scooted towards the tent door, unzipped it and made a quick exit, standing in front of the tent, shaking myself like a dog and brushing at even imaginary creepy crawlies. Everyone that was already outside their tents paused long enough to watch me do the “anti-ant” dance. Probably amused the hell out of them.

“Told ya’,” my aunt said as she finished pouring herself some coffee.

It was coming back to me. The voice, fading off in the distance of drink induced oblivion had come over the night before and told me not to lay where I was laying. I recall having very rude thoughts that included the words “fuck” and “off”. Some things can come back to bite you in the ass. Literally.

I don’t know how the hell I’d made it into the tent, but I must have dragged myself in there at some point, taking at least half the red ant population of the little hell hole camp ground we were in, inside the tent with me.

Okay, it wasn’t a hellhole campground. It was actually kind of nice in a barren Louisiana flat land kind of way. I was only calling it “hell hole” due to my extremely ungenerous feelings of the morning after “two fer” margarita night and four days of the worst vacation of my life.

I focused on the ground around me and noted the giant red ant hills that were liberally dispersed amongst the tuffs of grass. It seemed like the whole damned earth was moving with these things.

As I noted in the previous selection concerning Dante and the inferno, he might be quoted in upscale salons everywhere, but he’d missed a sincere opportunity to really investigate the meaning of hell. I mean, who in the hell wants to live in this place? It’s hot, gritty, steamy, ant and mosquito infested with just enough wild life to make you glance in the drainage ditches to insure your leg isn’t going to be taken off.

Is there something to see in Louisiana besides New Orleans? Anything? Ante-bellum homes, nice, but that ain’t enough to persuade me to visit overly long. As a matter of fact, I was beginning to think I’d found the southerner’s natural moat defenses meant to keep “Yankees” far away and the slave labor in line. Behave or I will sic the ants on you.

I did another quick jiggly dance, brushing everywhere and walked towards the picnic table, “Please tell me somebody has some ibuprofen, Tylenol, morphine, something to kill this pain.”

I downed several Ibuprofen and a can of coke, stumbled to the shower and tried to scrub away the feeling of creepy crawlies all over. You’d be amazed where those little critters can hide.

I came out and everyone was packing up. Uncle Lou was directing Aunt Jeanie on the proper way to load the back of the truck and irritable that she was putting their things up front instead of in the back where they could get to it first. It’s all about the competition. We are a family of competitors.

You’ll find out soon enough.

Mikey and my bro were still complaining about not getting down the road as fast as they wanted. This set off a little argument that had me rolling my eyes. I would have just enjoyed riding to where ever we made it and going back. Goal oriented riding seemed to take all the fun out of it. That’s one reason I never liked “Poker Runs” even though they are for charity. High-tailing it through back roads and high-ways with a hundred other bikes trying to be the “first” seemed to drain away the freedom of riding. That’s what I was finding on this trip.

Finally, everyone was done packing. Bro was saying he was going to trailer his bike. He was feeling the effects of the heat. So was the bike. He was going through spark plugs once a day. Our cousin Candy saw him “trailering” the bike and asked if she could ride it. Bro, like all good bike riders, didn’t really want to let some one else ride his “baby”. She got pissed and said he was doing it because he thought she couldn’t ride. Another argument ensued.

I was thinking, “Please…somebody shoot me. Now. Just one quick shot to the head, it would all be over. Then they could throw me in a ditch with the alligators and I’d finally get a restful vacation.”

Finally, Uncle Lou stepped in and told my cousin that it was his bike and his prerogative to allow someone to ride or not. Her husband Robert gave her the keys to their bike and said he was going to ride in the back of the truck to get some sleep. The hard ground was playing havoc with his back.

We finally took off heading east on Highway 10. At first, it was normal traffic, no big deal. But, when we got down where the highway veered off to go to New Orleans, it was crazy. I mean, trucks and cars within inches of each other. The wind from the diesels was sucking at you like a black hole just ready to send you into oblivion. We were doing fine, just riding. A little irritated at the slow pace we were forced to keep in the slow lane because we couldn’t get out en masse in the passing lane with all the bikes and the truck.

We stopped at a gas station, gassed up, and bro pulled his bike off the trailer. He was feeling refreshed and ready to ride.

We took off again, still in heavy traffic. At this point we were right in between the two exits to go down to New Orleans and it was the most insane thing I’d seen in a long time. I can honestly say that I was afraid for the first time in my life. It’s dangerous with cars not seeing you in regular traffic, but add to that people trying to go home, or go to lunch or go where ever in a big city and you have a game of blind man’s tag with 2 tons of steel and rubber against 500lbs of iron, flesh and blood. Crazy.

At some point, Uncle Lou got irritated with a trucker that had cut him off. Next thing we knew, he was flying through traffic by the seat of his pants, cutting in and out in front of diesels, making them hit their breaks, horns were blowing and people were cussing. We were trying to keep him in sight, but the more we would try to jump in and out of traffic, the further behind the chase truck would get. No traffic jumping with and F150 and an 8 ft trailer.

At some point I looked in my rearview mirror and couldn’t see the truck anymore. Mikey and bro noticed it too. Their wives were riding in the truck at that time. Candy kept trying to keep up with her dad. Mikey, bro and I slowed down in the slow lane and made the traffic pass us. Finally, the truck caught up. Mikey and bro swung out in the passing lane and slowed down enough to give the truck room to change lanes. Filthy words were flying along with horns again. The truck was able to break 55 and we started scooting, trying to catch up with Uncle Lou who had continued to jump in and out of traffic.

We caught up with them just as traffic had slowed to something resembling normal. Just in time to hit an exit to get gas. Storm clouds were starting to spot the sky and press a little gloom on the ride to go along with the foul mood. And, it was foul. When we stopped, Mikey and bro were off to the side grumbling to themselves about the dangerous crap Uncle Lou was doing and causing them to lose sight of the truck with their wives. Playing chicken with diesels in heavy city traffic was not our idea of fun.

Personally, I was having the same thoughts. If we were in a group, then you ride for the group. Particularly, if you are the self proclaimed “leader”. That’s not leadership. I decided at that point to get out the map and see where we were. If this was going to keep up, I wanted to know where we were and how to get there. I was deciding at that point that I was taking charge of my riding and I would get there when I got there.

I didn’t really want to die trying.

Aunt Jeanie came over with a map as well. We looked it over and I was pointing to an exit that was supposed to take us down to a road that went along the beach all the way to Gulf Port. This was the “scenic” ride. My map didn’t show the same exit as my aunt’s and we spent a few minutes discussing if that exit really went down to that highway or was some back road thing that would end us up at somebody’s “fishing camp”.

At the same time, the men started arguing. Uncle Lou overheard the boys grumbling about his leadership skills and confronted them about it.

“Hey, you wanna ride, you gotta keep up. That’s just the way it is.” He was being flippant. He was a Henry after all and we are not known for admitting we might be wrong. Ever.

“Bullshit. My wife was in the truck and we lost site of them twice. I had to back down traffic at rush hour so they could catch up while you were off playing Diesel tag.” Mikey had the family curse of red hair, fair skin and freckles that joined together with too much sun. When he got pissed, his whole face started turning red.

My bro had a hot temper, too. It had gotten him into trouble a couple of times. One with the law that wasn’t quite yet resolved. He jumped in and let fly, too, “We’re supposed to be having fun on this trip. So far, I haven’t seen any damn fun. Just people thinking they know everything and trying to tell everyone what to do.” Did I mention he had a problem with authority?

Uncle Lou was getting pissed now. “You think one of you two can do it better? Fine. You get out and lead.”

“Fine. I will.” Mikey said, swigging out of a water bottle.

“You do that.” I think he wanted to add “punk” on the end, but thought better of it.

Bro’s wife came over to my aunt and I to look at the map. I left them to it and went over to fill up my gas tank. Everyone put on leather jackets because it was starting to sprinkle. It sucked because it was so hot and muggy but I really didn’t feel like wearing a ton of grit and mud off the road.

We pulled out of the station and Mikey took the lead. As he left the entrance ramp, he kicked it up to about 70 mph in the inside lane and we all followed suit. We were on the other side of New Orleans at that point and lunch rush hour was over. Traffic was back to a normal pace and we were taking advantage of it. After about 5 minutes of travel, Uncle Lou’s bike passed on the outside and jumped ahead of Mikey. He was never good at being in the back of the pack. His main comment was that he had the biggest bike and therefore should be in the lead. Why that made a difference I don’t know, but that was it. As he dropped in front of Mikey, he slowed it down to 55 mph, causing everyone to gear down. At the back of the pack, I was doing 50 and my sister in law later said she was doing about 45 mph.

Cars were starting to go around us in the passing lane, honking their horns and flipping us off. About 5 minutes after leaving the gas station the sprinkles had stopped and the heat had quickly dried up any dampness on the highway. It was dry as a bone. We kept driving that way for about 10 minutes and everyone was starting to wave their hands around and yell back and forth. Uncle Lou was being an ass. He decided, if they were going to give him shit about driving fast through traffic, he was going to make us ALL drive slow. See how we liked that.

I was hot, sticky and miserable. The leather jacket was heavy. The ant bites were stinging and itching like a mutha fucker. I was taking my hand off my handlebars and scratching through the leather. I was getting more and more pissed at the pissy attitudes of these so-called “adults”.

At this point, I saw the chase vehicle with the trailer swing out to the left and begin to pass. My sister in law was tired of the crap. When she passed my uncle she was doing about 70 mph.

Did I mention we were all competitive?

The next thing I know, Uncle Lou kicked it up to about 90 and swung out ahead of the chase vehicle. We all hit the throttle and started hammering the highway. Mikey shot after Uncle Lou, bro was close behind. The chase vehicle hit the accelerator and fell in behind them. I was hitting the throttle and catching up with them, but I saw my cousin Candy falling back. Every time I got up about 70 mph, she would start drifting back. The truck and the other motorcycles were pulling away. I slowed up a bit and tried to get Candy to move it, giving her the “follow me” sign, yelling through my full face helmet, “Fucking, com’on!”. I hit the throttle again, but she didn’t come with me.

I slowed down again. She had a 750cc Honda, geared low, but with a 6th gear for over drive. I kept thinking she just didn’t know to shift down to get some RPMs rolling. I was yelling over the wind, “Kick it down. Kick the gear down!” It was hard because I was laughing a bit. Her black leather jacket with all the girlie fringe was a couple sizes too big for her. The wind was blowing it up like a freaking parachute. She was bent over trying to hide behind this little windshield that was on the front of the bike and the “polo” riding helmet she was using was doing the same parachute trick, probably choking her with the strap as the helmet was pulled up with the force of the wind. She had on clear goggles. She looked like snoopy riding his dog house, intent on getting the Red Baron.

I looked forward again and the bikes and the chase vehicle were getting smaller in the distance. I kept thinking, “Fucking macho bullshit.” I cranked the throttle again and blasted forward, watching in my side mirror as my cousin continued to fall back, then looking forward to see the bikes disappear over the top of a hill, chase vehicle close behind. I said, “Fuck this!” and let off the throttle, falling back to my cousin Candy’s position.

I started noticing the surrounding environment. There were nothing but trees and ditches and fields as far as the eye could see. There we were, two girls on bikes alone in the middle of bumble fuck Louisiana. I was getting more and more pissed by the moment. This trip was nothing but a bunch of fucked up disasters with a few moments of relaxation. My arms, back and legs were itching from the ant bites and I felt the morning’s headache returning, making me even more in a foul mood.



Suddenly, Candy dropped back and off to the side of the road. I geared down and dropped over, too, but by time I stopped I was about a tenth of a mile ahead of her. I jumped off the bike, started taking off my helmet and walking back to her position with my Frankenstein boots making a clunking dragging sound on the gravel. I watched as Candy grabbed the windshield straight off the front of her bike without unscrewing a bolt, look at it for a few moments, look at the bike (that had little bitty saddle bags and no bungee cords), look at the ditch on the side of the road and give it a mean throw into the water.

What the fuck was that about?

I asked her the same question.

Her reply, “The G—Damn wing nuts fell off. Every time I tried to get above 60 it started flying back at me. And, these G—Damn assholes just ran off and left me.”

Well, that explained why she kept riding with one hand on the windshield and one on the throttle. I am usually calm and collected in a crisis, “Don’t worry. I’m sure those jackasses will figure out shortly that we’re not with them and pull over on the side of the road. We’ll probably catch up with them in a few minutes.” I had every confidence, as ass-holish as they were behaving, they would come to their senses and realize that two bikes weren’t with them anymore. “Com’on then. Let’s get going. Everything else okay with the bike?”

“Yeah, it was just the freaking windshield.” She said, tightening her helmet and adjusting the goggles.

I walked back to my bike and we started hitting the road again, this time doing about 70 mph together. I wasn’t going any faster. I figured if those assholes had left us behind they could sit on the side of the road at my leisure waiting for us to catch up.

We drove about another 10 minutes and we still didn’t see anyone. I was getting more and more pissed. I can’t believe these people really ran off and left us. One of them was Candy’s husband. You’d think one of those macho morons would give a shit.

Candy waved her had to get me to pull over on the side of the road. We did and I stayed straddling the bike, but took off my helmet so I could talk. “What’s up?”

“Did you see them on the side of the road?” She was mad.

“No, did you? At the rate they were traveling we might have to go another 10 minutes or so to catch up.” I was trying to keep our hopes up.

“What if they don’t stop? We don’t know where we’re going.” Mad and anxious, I could tell she was contemplating kicking somebody’s ass, probably starting with her husband.

“I know where we’re going. While they were all mouthing off, I was looking at the map with your mom. The exit isn’t that far up ahead. I was thinking maybe they stopped there. Let’s keep going and see if we can find them. If not, we’ll just go until we do.” And, if I had to go further than the exit to find these assholes, they were going to get a piece of my freaking mind.

Candy was of the same idea and was mumbling curses and wishes that she was an orphan and a widow. I couldn’t tell if that was a wish for the past or her hope for a near future.

We got back on the bikes and cranked it back up doing 70 mph. I really didn’t think that the little Honda could go much faster. After five more minutes, we saw the red truck going back the opposite direction on the other side of the highway. All of a sudden, Candy veers off in front of me like she was going to go down the grassy median and turn around to chase them. I zoomed up in time to yell at her not to do that. I saw the red truck flash it’s lights at us as it flew by. I didn’t want to play tag. “Com’on! We’ll pull off the side of the road and wait for them to turn around.”

We did that and started taking off our helmets and gloves. I didn’t see the other bikes anywhere, but I watched the red truck pull up behind us.

Robert stuck his head out the passenger side window and was being very solicitous, “Are you okay?” I’m not sure he got the whole sentence actually out. Candy stomped over to the truck and threw down her helmet, right there on the side of the road.

She almost couldn’t speak she was so pissed and her face turned red, making her freckles glow, “Am I alright?! Am I alright?! Do you think I’m alright?!” She was ripping her leather off like she was about to go to town on somebody’s face, “You fucking assholes ran off and left us! We’ve been driving for a half hour thinking you were going to stop! You fucking assholes!”

My sister in law was just sitting in the driver’s seat calmly smoking a cigarette. All of a sudden, Robert’s face went from solicitous to deep red, his eyes bulged out like a bloated fish and he started huffing like a diesel blowing back flow, screaming at the top of his lungs on the side of the highway in Louisiana, “I”, gasp,”just…asked.” Gasp, “if…you…were,” deep breath, “alright! Don’t blame me ‘cause,” gasping breath, “you’re fucking family,” his hands were gripping the side of the truck, “is full of fucking baby’s!”

Everyone just stared at Robert in astonishment. He was saying exactly what the hell I was thinking. Cars were flying by and slowing down when they reached us, but immediately speeding back up. Somebody was half way intelligent around here. I took in the scene. Side of the road, couple motorcycles, a truck and two people screaming at each other, in the middle of bumble fuck Louisiana. All in all, it was hysterical. I started laughing my ass off. I couldn’t help it. The whole damn trip was one major disaster after the other with bouts of petty squabbling in between. This just topped it off. I was bent over at the middle laughing so hard I couldn’t even breathe.

My sister in law was laughing too. Both Robert and Candy stopped screaming at each other and were now looking at US like we’d lost OUR minds.

“I can’t help it. It’s just too fucking funny. Who else would go on a road trip with 9 fucking people and get left? Hahahahahahaha!”

Seriously, it was laugh or cry and I was never a big crier.

Finally, I got control of myself, wiped my eyes and walked over to the truck, bumming a cigarette off of Mer, “So, where the hell’s the rest of the assholes?”

“Well,” she said a little chagrined, “we kept flashing our lights at them to get them to pull over, but they just kept going. Then I tried to get up beside them and wave them over, but as soon as I pulled out they took off even faster. They had to be doing 110mph and I wasn’t going to pull the trailer that fast. Finally, I tried to signal them again and turned on the blinker to get off on an exit and come back since we figured you had to have a problem, but they still ignored me and kept going.”

Yeah, that’s what I thought. Freaking macho assholes.

“Hey! Where’s the windshield for the bike?” Robert finally noticed that SOMETHING was missing.

But it did seem to set Candy off again, “I threw it in a ditch.”

“What?” and Robert was about to join her in blast off again. Even the little windshields can cost close to a hundred bucks.

“Well…you guys just took off and the freaking wing nuts came off and the windshield started flying off and I had to hold onto it with one hand and try to twist the throttle with the other and it really sucked when I had to change gears because the windshield started fly off and this freaking jacket, “ she wadded it up and tossed it towards the truck, “was like a freaking parachute and every time I got around 60 it acted like it was going to pull me off backwards and the helmet was flying up and choking me too.” She finally took a breath, “So Kat and I pulled over and I ripped the windshield off but there was no place to put it so I threw it in a ditch!”

This started Mer and I laughing again, but Robert was finding nothing to smile about. “Well, we need to get going and see where these assholes ended up at. Hopefully, they at least missed the big red truck in their mirrors. When we catch up to them I am going to give them a fucking earful!” Just because the truck had come back and solved one problem, didn’t mean that I wasn’t still pissed about the others running off.

“Well,” Mer said, taking a drag off her cigarette, “I know where we’re going so even we don’t catch them we’ll be fine.”

“Great,” I said, “that’s two of us. You got the map?” Mer and I looked at the map while Candy and Robert continued to have words at a lower tone. We still had six more days of this crap. Six days and I didn’t know if I was going to make it without committing murder.

We looked the map over and identified our exit that was circled, “Hey. This time, would you mind staying BEHIND us?”

Mer looked chagrined and started her own diatribe, “Well, dammit. You all were going like 50 mph and I was trailing at 45. I was tired of riding back there while they were all acting like asses.”

I laughed again and then we went back to the bikes. I left my leather in the truck because my ant bites just couldn’t take the heat anymore. Although, the stress had made me forget about them for a while.

We kept going down the road, looking at every possible off spot where someone could possibly pull over and we couldn’t find anyone. I was getting really pissed again. Everyone had this long talk before we started the trip about the rules of the road and sticking together in case some one broke down and the people that had been talking the most had run off and left us.

I knew when I got back to Kansas City that I would never hear the end of this from my dad. He’d been warning me that going off with these folks wasn’t a good idea. I kept insisting it would be an adventure. I just didn’t know it would be my first foray into hell.

Finally, we came up to the exit that would lead us down to the highway that would run along the bottom of Mississippi’s gulf shore until we hit Gulf Port. I was getting low on gas and so was the truck and Candy’s bike. We pulled over at this little convenience store and got gas, consulted the map again, cursed the others for being assholes and then proceeded on towards Gulf Port.

Honestly, had I been a little less pissed and little less busy looking for bikes on the side of the road, I might have enjoyed the scenery, but, at that point, I could have been driving by a blank space on the map. I vaguely recall quaint little delta towns with bungalows and slightly older homes.

We reached the eastward highway and turned towards Gulf Port. I was still pissed and a little anxious about finding the others, but seeing signs that said, “Gulf Port,” had me relaxed a little. At least we were near our destination. We could figure out how to find the others once we got there. The homes in the area were now more like ante-bellum beach homes with giant colonnaded porches facing the bay. The smell of salt water was very strong in the humid air with an overlay of oil refineries and offshore drilling. It was a tangy almost unpleasant scent that stuck in the back of my throat.

After riding for another hour, we came into Gulf Port, just as the sun was going down behind us. There were little off road parking lots all along the beach and we slowed down to look into them and see if any of the bikes were there, somewhere, some how, parked on the side of the road. We were all weary by then and ready to get off the bikes. This day had already been long and exhausting and it wasn’t ending very well.

We kept driving through Gulf Port and ended up all the way down by the Biloxi city limits before turning around and heading back through Gulf Port to look into the gas stations on the land side of the road, still hoping to find someone. Still no luck though we thought we saw my bro’s bike, alone, at a gas station. We turned around to get a second look, but it was gone by time we got there. Besides, we were looking for three bikes, not one, so we headed back towards the west end of the city, finally hitting the city limits again and turning back for a third pass.

I slowed down and got next to the truck, “Hey! If we don’t find them this time, I think we should pull over in one of these parking lots and wait.” Mer nodded. If you’re separated from your group, you should stop and wait. I was hoping that the tactic would work this time.

As we passed back towards the east again, we saw two bikes on the right in a lot. It was really dark and I couldn’t see the bikes well. I was still looking for three bikes. We passed by just as somebody stood up and waved so we turned around and went back to the parking lot that was near a peer. At this point, I really had to go to the bathroom.

The two bikes were ours. It was Uncle Lou and Aunt Jeanie and Mikey and his wife. My bro was nowhere around. I was thinking he was off searching for us like we were searching for him. Maybe that HAD been his bike we saw at the station. At that point, as calm as I’d been feeling, everything about the trip started boiling inside of me. I could feel my face getting red and my temper rising. I was ready to tear into these assholes. I got off the bike and deliberately took my helmet off, staring at them the whole time, and then put it on the back of the bike.

As I walked over to the little group, I took off my riding gloves. Somebody was going to pay.

“Where’s Bill?” Mikey asked before I could lay into them.

That took me back for a moment, “Whatta ya’ mean, ‘where’s Bill’? He was with you guys.”

“No he wasn’t.” Uncle Lou said defensively.

“Bullshit! You all took off like bats out of hell and he was right with you all the way. Mer said he was still with you when they turned back to find us!” Dammit, this was really pissing me off. The people that ran off couldn’t even stay together.

“No. Right after Mer peeled off, he slowed down and stopped on the side of the road to wait. We figured he was with you.” Uncle Lou had stood up and was downing a coke.

“Well, we didn’t find him and we’ve been looking the whole way for you all. How come you didn’t stop when you noticed we were gone, dammit?” Blood was starting to pound and I smacked my gloves on my leg.

“We did. We stopped and waited for you by the exit for an hour. We finally came on down when you didn’t show up. We knew you had a map.”

I could see how this was shaping up. It was OUR fault these assholes had left us. They didn’t do anything wrong. Right. “Well, I don’t know what freaking exit you were waiting at, but when we got to the exit, no one was there. Besides, you all should have stopped long before that. That was another 30 minutes after we were separated.”

“You should have kept up.” Uncle Lou said and that just pissed me off and pissed Robert off and Mer and Candy. I could feel the air temperature rising. Mikey just kept sitting on the curb with his wife keeping his mouth shut.

“Kept up?! Kept up?! You guys were doing over a hundred and Candy’s windshield started coming off so we had to stop. She ended up throwing the damn thing in a ditch since we didn’t have anyplace to keep it. You all kept talking about staying together the whole trip and you ran off and left us! Two chics on bikes in the middle of bum fuck Louisiana. How long have you been here?” I was seething and now we were going to have to make a search party and find my bro. I was worried because his pipes were really loud and cops loved to harass him for it. I could just see the altercation if he was lost somewhere in Mississippi after these jackasses left him and his wife nowhere in site.

This was getting worse by the minute.

Aunt Jeanie finally piped up, “We’ve been here about 15 minutes. Did you just get here?”

“No,” I said irritated, “we’ve been here about an hour driving up and down the road looking for you thinking you got here first.”

“What exit did YOU take?” Aunt Jeanie asked.

“Exit one. The one you circled on the map and said, “to highway”---. That was the scenic route, right?” I mean, we did have a big discussion about it at the gas station. I can’t believe nobody was taking the right exit.

“We took the Oxford exit.” Aunt Jeanie said, “See, Lou. I told you we went too far.”

“Well, you were the one with the map.” He waved his hand with the soda agitatedly as if to say “not his problem”. I was wondering if this meant he was asleep at the handlebars. The exits were plainly marked.

“Well, we took exit one. Do you know what exit Bill took?” There were three main exits that would lead you down into Gulf Port and I had a suspicion Bill had taken exit #2.

“No. He dropped back before we hit that exit.” Aunt Jeanie had went to the back of the truck and was digging for some water.

“Well, that’s just great. We’ll need to go looking for him just in case he’s parked on the side of the road like us, waiting. You all stay here in case he drives by. Mer, drive the truck since I’ll need to watch the road.” It was now about 9:30 pm and we’d been up and traveling for 12 hours. It was very dark.

“Hey! I’ll go with you.” Mikey’s latent sense of responsibility kicked, finally.

After a quick bathroom break, I jumped on the bike once more and started driving slowly down the boulevard by the beach, looking for a bike while simultaneously trying to watch the other side of the road, separated by a grassy median strip and palm trees, for a bike as well. Every loud bike had my ears perking up. Again we drove down to the Biloxi city limits and turned back. Part of me was thinking about going down into Biloxi just to see if he’d gone the wrong way, but I decided to keep looking in Gulf Port a little longer since the signs were clearly marked for the cities and he had to know where he was at.

We took two turns around the city, stopping each time to see if they’d seen Bill.

At that point, I’d given up hope and was thinking that he had some sort of problem with the bike and we were going to have to farther a field to find him. Mer suggested that, if Bill had problems he might have called back to Kansas City and let them know, so we should call my dad.

Yeah, right. I could just imagine that conversation, “Dad? Yeah, it’s me, Kat. The trip? Freaking fantastic so far. Hey, have you heard from Bill, ‘cause we lost him.”

By this time it was 10pm and I was dragging major ass. As much as I didn’t want to, the call back to Kansas City seemed like a more and more productive idea. It was a conduit for everyone. I knew Bill didn’t have a cell phone and neither did I. If he had problems, I wanted to know where he was so we could go pick him up.

“Mer. Why don’t you call dad and see if Bill called him?” Yes, I was passing the buck.

“Call your dad? No way.” Mer was shaking her head. “You call him. He’s not going to yell at me for this crap.”

“Com’on, Mer. He’s not going to give you as much crap as he’s going to give me after telling me a hundred times to look out for him.” I was sure that Bill had gotten the same lecture. My dad insisted that we always look out for one another. A call home was going to bite. Mer had “new daughter in law” status with immunity. “Com’on. Take one for the Gipper.”

“I’ll call him, but if he starts yelling at me, I’m giving YOU the phone and YOU can explain it to him.”

I knew I could talk her around, “I’ll explain it to him alright. I wasn’t the one that ran off and left people.” We walked over to the pay phone and Mer placed a collect call to my dad.

“Yeah, Lar..,” she took a calming puff of her cigarette, “have you heard from Bill tonight? Why? Because we got separated and now we don’t know where Bill is. What?” She held the phone away from her ear and I could hear my dad talking loudly through the phone. I should have made the call. I would have been much more diplomatic about it. “Here, you take the phone. I’m not talking to him.” She held the phone out to me.

I took the phone and was ready to blast off at the slightest hint that any of this was my fault, “Dad? Dad! Just tell me if you’ve heard from Bill or not, okay? I need to see if we need to go help him. What? Listen, dammit, I was the one that got left behind. Me and Candy while these other assholes took off like they were drag racing and didn’t come back, including Bill. Mer even turned around with the truck to find us and Bill kept going with them. It’s not my damn fault they all separated after that!” How many times do I have to say how pissed off I was?

My dad told me he hadn’t heard from Bill, but we should go get a hotel room and call him back from there so he had a number to give Bill if he did call. I thought that was a good idea. Then he asked me why I was making a collect call when Lou and Jeanie had two cell phones. That ticked me off all over again, “They have cell phones?” I was giving them the evil eye right then, contemplating jumping across the parking lot and beating the crap out of somebody. “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

“Just call me when you get to the hotel.” Dad finished and hung up without letting me say anything else.

I slammed down the phone and turned to Lou and Jeannie who had heard the conversation. “The phones are in a bag in the truck. We didn’t want to use them because we’d incur roaming charges.”

That would have sounded reasonable at some other time, but right then I was thinking what a bunch of asswipes I was related to. We had phones the whole time. Both of them in the truck. No use to anyone. What a load of shit. “Whatever. Dad had a good idea. We need to get some hotel rooms so I can give the number to dad in case Bill calls. Mer, why don’t you take the truck over and get us some rooms.” I had paid for the camping spaces and they had already agreed to pay for our hotel rooms. “I’ll stay here and keep looking for Bill in case he drives by.”

“I’ll stay with you, Kat,” Mikey volunteered, handing his wife some money, “Get us a room, too.”

Everyone slowly got up and started getting their gear together. Aunt Jeannie pointed to a little motel across the road and suggest the closer the better. Everyone took off except Mer in the truck, Mikey and me. Mer wanted to stand there and just smoke a cigarette, far away from those other folks for a while. Mikey would have got the same treatment, but he’d wisely been quiet and volunteering for duty that gave him some absolution.

As we stood there, we watched dozens of other bikes go by. Every time one sounded like Bill we’d raise our hands to wave, only to lower them again when we’d see it wasn’t him. Usually, it was some older guy on a dressed out Harley, enjoying the nice summer evening. Finally, I shooed Mer over to the hotel and told her to call dad with a number. I might go looking for Bill again if he didn’t show up soon. It was now almost 11 pm.

Just as Mer jumped into the truck, I heard a loud bike and saw it coming out of the darkness from the east. There was Bill on his tricked out Intruder. All of us started jumping up and down, waving and yelling. Mikey gave out a big two fingered whistle. It seemed like he was going to drive by so I prepared to jump on my bike and chase him down, when I saw him veer into the turning lane and come around.

Finally, he’d made it and I felt a big load of relief off my shoulders.

He drove into the lot, shut down his bike and got off quickly, jerking off his helmet and glasses. Mer, Mikey and I started walking over to him, “Dude! Thank God you made it! We’ve been driving up and down this place looking for you. When did you get here?”

He slammed his helmet down on the right mirror. He looked like he was going to explode, “I’ll tell you what. This is fucking bullshit! Everybody ran off and left me. I had to drive around in the dark with my prescriptions sunglasses and I almost wrecked twice. Fucking Wal-mart almost called the cops on me because I was acting all pissed in the lobby trying to call dad and they made me leave. I had to go down to a station and call him. Mer! We’re going to get our shit and leave. Tonight. I’m done with this crap, you hear me. All these fucking assholes.”

Mer and Mikey wore shocked expressions and I was getting pissed again, “Now wait a damn minute. You ran off with them, too and left Candy and me in BFE. There’s no need to run off tonight while you’re pissed. We’re getting hotel rooms across the way and you can decide what to do tomorrow.”

“Fuck that! We’re leaving tonight.” He was pacing up and down beside his bike.

“Com’on, Bill. We’re all hungry and tired. Let’s at least go over to the hotel. Then we can decide what to do.” Mer was trying to be reasonable.

“Yeah, dude. Com’on. Let’s not stand out in the parking lot all night. I’m tired.” Mikey joined in as he went to his bike.

I was walking towards my bike, too. I figured we could carry on this conversation over at the hotel.

My grandma always said to be careful what you wished for.

Bill got on his bike and we drove the block to the hotel. When he parked, Candy, Robert, Aunt Jeanie and Mikey’s wife were unloading stuff from the back of the truck. Uncle Lou was nowhere around.

“We got your hotel room for you.” Candy said handing me the keys.

“Thanks.” I really didn’t see what was coming next.

Bill kicked his kickstand down, walked over to the truck and started pulling their stuff out of it, “Mer! Get the goddamn bungee cords. We’re leaving.”

Everybody was like, “What?”

“Dude, you don’t need to drive. It’s 11 at night and you’re pissed. Just come into the hotel room and get some rest. You can decide what to do tomorrow.” I was trying to calm him down.

“No! We’re fucking leaving. I’m tired of this stupid shit. Everybody always fighting and then running off without making sure we’re all together talking about it for days on end. That’s just ignorant! Com’on, get the crap, Mer!” Bill was yelling at Mer and it wasn’t her fault at all. The people with the most culpability included him. Mer started to cry.

“Dude, I’m serious. You’re in no condition to drive all pissed off. You might wreck and hurt yourself and Mer, then you’d feel like shit.” I put my hand on the duffel bag he was pulling out and he jerked it away.

“I’m leaving. I’m not staying with all these assholes.” A general slapping of the paint brush that immediately had everyone’s back up and all of them speaking at the same time trying to defend their actions.

Candy chose that moment to defend her dad after saying all kinds of crap about them on the side of the road, “Hey! Don’t call my dad an asshole. This is his trip! If you don’t like it, go on with yourself!”

Bill threw his duffel bag in the back of the truck and glared across the back of the truck where Candy was pulling stuff out of the cab, “This isn’t your DAD’S trip. This is OUR trip. WE all saved our money to go on this trip and WE should have stayed together instead of people getting a hair up their ass and throwing fucking fits.”

“No! It’s dad’s trip. It might be the last one he takes,” he was having more and more problems with his diabetes. Neuropathy was setting in his toes and his heart was acting up. But it wasn’t getting him any sympathy that night.

The next thing I knew, they were in each other’s faces yelling. Bill was throwing his hands around, slamming his hands down on the truck. People were coming out of the rooms on the second floor and hanging over the balcony. “Look at the crazy white boy. Man, he’s crazy. Twanda, come out here and watch this shit.”

I was so damned embarrassed. I kept trying to get Bill to chill out and go inside the hotel room. About this time, a little Asian man came out of the office door with a phone in his hand and started yelling, “I call police. I call police.”

Oh, crap. Mikey quickly walked over to the man, “No. No police. It’s a family thing. It’s family. No police.”

I grabbed Bill’s arm and jerked him back, “Dude, shut the hell up! Do you wanna go to jail in fucking Mississippi?”

He turned on me jerking away, “I don’t give a fuck! I’m leaving!”

“You’re not leaving when you’re pissed off.” I yelled as I watched Mer jerk the keys out of his bike right in front of his eyes.

“What the fuck? You think that’ll keep me here? I’ll fucking take a bus.” He grabbed his jacket and started stomping away.

“Good, you leave. I call police.” The Asian man had his finger by the numbers.

“No. No police. We’ll take care of it.” Mikey was still running interference.

Candy was still running her mouth, “This is my dad’s trip…” she went on while Robert grabbed her arm and started dragging her into their hotel room.

Mer started crying, “He’s leaving me.”

“Babe, he’ll be back. Don’t worry. Let’s get in the hotel.” I put my arm around her and hugged her.

“He’s gotta extra key. He’ll come back and take the bike and leave me here.” She was really crying now.

“Let’s go push his bike up with the others and lock it in with the others. He won’t be able to get out.” We locked his bike in and went into the room. “Hey. Are you hungry? It’s almost midnight. What the hell can we get at midnight?”

“Taco Bell?” She sniffled and dried her eyes.

“Okay. Let’s go get some tacos.” We knocked on everybody’s doors and got food orders.

When we got back, Bill was sitting in the room chatting with Robert. Fortunately, we’d gotten some extra food for him. Everybody sat down and started chowing down.

Finally, quiet.

“Dude, did you see that manager guy? “I call police. I call police.”” Everybody giggled.

“No. The best was those chics hanging over the balcony, “Twanda, come out hair. You gotta see this crazy white boy.””

“Where’s Bill?” “I dunno? I thought he was with you?” “I dunno, I thought he was with you!”

This is what it’s like to be lost in space, finally touch down somewhere you know nothing about and realize that you are just not going to escape it anytime soon.

There was certainly no escaping this trip. We were half way through.

Day 5, still alive.

There are miracles after all.

Lost in space.

10 comments:

Gadfly said...

Mother of God

It's like a holiday with the Teutuls.

I couldn't be part of that ... I'm actually a little freaked out just reading it. No, not my milieu ...there would have been gunplay.

And then I'd be in prison in fucking Mississippi. "What'chew in here fer, boy?"

"I killed an extended family ... but it's not like it sounds ..."

Kat said...

LOL..Gadfly...that is so damned funny. I could have used that as a closer.

"I killed an extended family...but it's not like it sounds..."

LMAO

Brian H said...

What's that adage? "Friends are God's compensation for your relatives." Or SLT.

Yours have a lot of lonely brain cells.

Gadfly said...

Brian: Careful. I've known families like this. They'll savage each other relentlessly, but let one member be attacked by an outsider and they'll turn into a pack of hyenas, all looking for a nice soft place to bite into.

Kat: Love your writing. It's amazingly real (almost too real sometimes ;) You really know how to paint an image.

Kat said...

Gadfly, you nailed my family exactly.

They aren't all Einsteins and we can get severely irritated with one another, but God have mercy on the fool that messes with one of ours.

Kat said...

PS...today, we laugh about this little trip. some of them are a still a little tender about it, but we usually have a damn good laugh.

liz said...

dont keep us waiting too long, i cant wait to read more!

~liz

riceburner147 said...

Kat: In NO WAY am i questioning your veracity. This account has me riveted. NO ONE could bear this. Its too funny. Its too tragic. I want to travel back in time and offer succor for your travails. (Not really :>) Keep it up, and perhaps our (tenative) plans for 06 will be another few chapters ....!

Kat said...

Liz...by the end of the weekend, I'll have day 6.

Rice...it is one of those stories that is so bizarre it must be true.

You ever notice how other peoples pain and tragedy is always funnier than your own? ;)

Jason Rubenstein said...

Oh.
My.
God.

This has my attention.. you should submit it to a motorcycle 'zine somewhere!!

Yikes.

BTW, bike's back in the shop. Slid out at a whopping 15mph on very wet asphalt whilst avoiding a curb that started chasing my front tire. I hate when curbs do that. . .