I received an early Christmas present towards the end of October. It was one of those unexpected surprises that can almost take your breath away. I was sitting in front of my computer. The days were getting shorter, the sky tended to be overcast rather than sunny, and the winds were becoming more brisk. There’s no mistaking when the riding season starts coming to an end.
And when the elements dictate that I should leave my 1998 Honda Magna in the garage, I sit in front of my computer and search the Internet for accessories and pictures of other motorcycles. I figure if I can’t ride, I can sit and dream.
I was in front of the computer when my wife, Terri, walked through the door. “What are you doing next weekend and the first of the week?” she asked. I hate trick questions. “Hmmm,” I said. “I’m not sure. It all depends on the weather. If it’s nice, I’ll do some riding. If not, I’ll be sitting here in front of the computer. “Why?”
Turned out that my mother-in-law from Mound City, Kansas had called to say that Terri’s aunt Pauline was flying into town from Phoenicia, New York. In the course of the conversation, Terri had offered to drive Pauline, her mom Lena, and their brother Bill to Waverly, Mississippi to visit Terri’s cousin Micky (Don’t worry if you’re confused, it doesn’t matter. Just read it a couple of times and it will make sense.)
I had just clicked on OlatheNewsOnline.com to check out the upcoming weekend’s forecast. “And so,” Terri continued, “I thought if you weren’t doing anything, you might want to come along and help me drive.”
While that was going in my ears, my eyes were fixed on the weekend’s weather forecast: Saturday will be sunny. High in the mid-70s. Sunday will be mostly sunny. High near 70. Wind gusts 15-30 mph. A smile came to my face.
“So what do you think?” Terri asked. “About?” I replied. “Helping me drive to Mississippi,” she said. My mind was racing. One of the last good riding weekends of the season coming up and Terri wants me to go to Mississippi with her and some of her family. On one hand, riding with old people in a van for hours at a time; on the other hand the thought of riding my motorcycle for hours.
“I think I’m busy this weekend,” I finally said, and then clicked off the Internet. “Doing what?” she asked. “Uh, well, I, uh, need to do some research for a column,” I said. “Research?” she asked. “Uh, yeah,” I said. “For a column that I’m doing for Cycle Connections.” It was at that point Terri gave me “The Stare!” I decided it was time for me to start some laundry.
About 6 a.m. the next Saturday, Terri and her Uncle Bill left the house for Mound City to pick up her mom, Lena, and her Aunt Pauline, to begin their trip to see Micky in Mississippi (I hope that makes sense, now.)
I went to my motorcycle maintenance class at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. I left early, went home, showered, packed the Magna, and headed out. To where, I wasn’t sure. But the sun was shining, the temperature was warm, and my music was playing as the Magna rumbled down I-35. Life was good!
Ottawa was the site of my first decision. Do I turn south on Highway 59 for Chanute and Parsons, or continue on to Emporia? I zipped pass the Highway 59 exit. There wasn’t much traffic on I-35. The sun felt good, and music from my Easy Rider CD made it an even more enjoyable ride. Soon I came into Emporia and stopped to get gas and look at my map. Wichita? No. I wasn’t up for Wichita. Hutchinson? Why not!
I had worked 33 years for The Olathe Daily News, which for most of that time was owned by Harris Enterprises, based out of Hutchinson. There were many occasions when I went to Hutch on business. It had been a long time since the last time I was there. I was looking forward to seeing it again. From I-35, it was on to Highway 50 and Hutchinson. Fate had to be involved in the decision-making process.
Traveling through the rich farm lands, the air was filled with the aroma of freshly cut crops, and it gave me time to think about projects at work, and about the project bike I was working on in the motorcycle maintenance class. It felt good knowing that I didn’t have to watch the clock and turn around and be home at a certain time. I was free to ride without a curfew, so-to-speak.
I stopped in Newton to get gas, driving for what I thought was a couple of miles out of my way. I stopped next to the gas pumps at a convenience store. As I put the gas nozzle into the tank, I looked up and saw a small motorcycle salvage with several “vintage” motorcycles lined up next to an old barn.
After pumping the gas, I walked over to the motorcycles. There was a Honda CB650 that nearly mirrored the 1974 CB750 I was working on, which needs a new starter housing on the handlebar. The CB650 had the housing I was looking for. No one was at the salvage place, but I wrote down the number so I can give them a call to see if it will match the bike I’m working on. That little incident alone would have made the weekend trip worth while!
Out of Newton, it was a straight shot, and I mean straight, into Hutchinson. There are no curves. None. Nada. Zippo! But it was OK. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to concentrate on the scenery instead of leaning into curves. You miss much of the countryside when you’re leaning!
Reaching Hutch, I found a room, rode through town past the Kansas Cosmosphere, past the Hutchinson News, tried to get in touch with some friends who used to work there, and then got something to eat.
I walked out to cover my Magna and there was six Harleys lined up, and their riders, male and female, were sitting along the steps. We made small talk and complimented each other’s bikes. They were from Salina, and had ridden to Hutch to see some friends. They were getting ready to ride back, when I told them how I ended up in Hutch.
“If you’re not in a hurry to go back, I would suggest heading north through McPherson, then east to Herrington,” said one of the riders, who called himself Easy. “If you ride through Latimer, White City, and all through that area, it’s beautiful country.”
They took off and I went back to my room to study the map, watch some television, relax, and think about the day’s ride. It had been a good day, and a good ride. I was looking forward to Sunday’s trip back home.
To be continued in next month’s issue…
Story and photos by Chuck Kurtz