The next morning my eyes opened long before my body wanted them to. And it took an unreasonable amount of energy to sit up. As my eyes focused I saw sunshine crawling through a small crack in the curtains, shining in just enough light to outline everything in the room but leave it all black. An old air conditioner rattled through its on/off cycles and an off-balance ceiling fan clicked and clacked.
Just after I woke, a deep and labored yawn came from the other bed.
“Yo man” My brother said in a hoarse voice. “I’m beat.”
“I hear that dude. What a ride yesterday.” I answered in an equally pained voice. I had no intention of moving. The room was still dark so every time I closed my eyes I began to sink back into sleep.
“Guess it’s time to get up” he said noncommittally.
Life on the road can be painful, but it’s not bad. What is bad, though, is the smell of this room. We were two dudes who had ridden all day and slept all night in our own sweat. Furthermore, our gas station feast from the night before transformed this room into something resembling the morning after a party. Every surface in this room was covered with empty chip bags and beer cans.
I pushed the covers off and started for the bathroom to shower and brush my teeth. An empty beer can crinkled under the weight of my first step toward the bathroom. Chip crumbs crunched under every other step I took, all the way to the bathroom. No doubt the resident rats were in for a big breakfast today.
The bathroom was not spared of our mess. I found the sink and reached for the handle disrupting a pile of beer cans and sending a few rolling off of the counter to the fake tile floor below.
“Dude, we really messed this place up.” My brother said from the main room pushing the garbage from the table tops into the garbage can.
“That we did” I replied, toothbrush-in-mouth. “No time to admire our work though. We need food.”
“Yeah dude” He said in a serious tone.
After a couple of much needed showers, we suited up, crammed our mobile lives back into our bags, and headed for the nearest diner, handing the hotel clerk our keys on the way out. Roadside diners become havens on a long road trip. Only they have bacon instead of water. Ok, water too. But thank god for bacon. There’s something about salt and grease that revitalizes the soul.
Stuffed from breakfast, we walked over to our bikes slowly to enjoy the beautiful weather. We sat on our bikes, and at the same time, lifted our faces toward the sun. The day was cool but the rays of the sun in the cloudless sky warmed us. Like it was scripted, we put our helmets on, pushed the visors down, and started the bikes.
The sound of the exhaust from the bikes and the wind in our ears drowned out the rest of the world. We were back on the road now, careening through turns and burning through one town after the next. We passed herds of people in these towns, people who were living their normal lives, grinding through their daily routines: breakfast, work, lunch, more work, home, dinner, TV, bed.
We wanted nothing to do with that. We were on a journey. The destination was just an excuse to go. On a motorcycle trip, the world exists for me. Some people call that freedom. I think the label takes something away from the experience.
The miles unfolded beneath us and the pavement rushed by, inches under our feet. Fresh air filled our lungs. The forests smelled alive and the towns we pass through reeked of exhaust, fast food, and porta-johns.
But something’s different now. I can’t remember the last time I looked at my odometer. Instead, I’m tracking our trip with the signs.
“Crescent City. 100 miles.”
My brother commanded his bike to come alive. With one twist of his hand the aftermarket Harley exhaust screamed. Seconds later he was a dot approaching the horizon. I followed suit and opened the throttle on my bike. The wind pulled my head back and I could feel the pressure of it on my chest. Our exhausts echoed through the trees. You could hear us coming for miles.
“Crescent City. 50 miles.”
The forested mountains were a blur in my peripheral vision but I could make out these openings where civilization saw fit to insert itself, like open sores crawling with two legged infections.
“Crescent city. 25 miles.”
The forest opened up to reveal the Pacific Ocean stretching to the horizon, with only the sky for contrast. Dark blue and light blue meet in the middle. Straight line; round earth. It’s all about perspective. We are tiny.
“Crescent City. 10 miles.”
Wow I really have to piss.
“Welcome to Crescent City California. Pop. 7,643.” What are we still doing in Cali? Where is Oregon? Better yet, where is the bathroom?
A pit stop with a quick bite to eat and we were gone. You can keep this town. Give us the road.
“Welcome to Oregon. We hope you enjoy your visit.”
“Finally” I thought. And without any opportunity to talk, my mind wandered. “But, who hopes I enjoy my visit? No one knows I’m here, let alone cares. Maybe the owners of the gift shops hope I enjoy my visit. If I enjoy my visit, I’ll buy a polished rock. Or a shell, maybe I’ll buy a worthless shell that was shipped in from Hawaii. Hawaii has nice shells.” I amused myself with this train of thought and cracked a slight smile in my helmet while sniffing out a chuckle from my nose. All gift shops have the same shit.
“Coos Bay. 100 miles.”
Everything is so vividly green. Green leaves, green grass, gangrenous hobo walking down the road with green bags. And the gray sky contrasts with the forest making it impossibly bright.
“Coos Bay. 50 miles.”
“Coos Bay. 25 miles.”
“Welcome to Coos Bay. Population 16,670.” We pulled over at the first gas station we saw and looked around.
A large river cut the town in half and logs floated lazily down the river. Old saloon-like buildings squatted shoulder-to-shoulder for the length of the main road, some of them leaned on their neighbors for support. A casino, the only modern looking building, abutted the river. I was expecting a pistol duel at any moment, but between old people after bingo got out. It was like the Wild West and Paul Bunyan meets tourism. Confused town – meet the Paquin brothers.
“Let’s get drunk” my brother said, still standing on his bike.
“Sounds like a plan” I said through my helmet. “Let’s find a cheap motel and stash the bikes first.” Luckily this town was full cheap lodging. We paid for a room and stashed our bags, ready to grab some beers. Only there were no bars in sight. So we had to ask around.
The hotel clerk pointed us to the only bar in town. She also mentioned that it was prom night. This prompted us to look at each other and shrug our shoulders. It could have been bald orangutans in bikinis night. We didn’t care. We had every intention of punishing our livers. To prom night we walked.
It was a short walk to the bar which looked like the abandoned birth of a strip mall. It was a fraction of the commercial collage it could have been. Slap another couple of stores together, name one choke-n-puke chicken and turn the other into an urgent medical care center. Business would be booming.
Once inside, we were halted at the door by the design of the place. It made no sense. Three levels of floors were accessible by small two or three, or seven stairways, each with only a few steps. A couple of sagging pool tables sat in the front by the windows. A bar to the right, a bar in the middle, and a bar in the back surrounded the scattered places to sit and eat. How does a drunk navigate a place like this? Way too many choices.
We made a pool table our home base for the night and within an hour we were playing one-handed pool, beer-in-hand. Never mind the people who were waiting to play. We were sideways at this point. I’m not sure how many rounds we drank but our balance and conversational aptitude were both waning. There was something about the drinks in that place, something that pushed our pace. I think, that night, we truly believed that if twelve drinks felt good, twelve more would feel twelve times as good. It’s flawless drunken logic really.
Shots, beers, and memory lapses later we made off for the motel, ready to pass out in another cheap, bleach-cleaned, domicile.