Wild Pigs

Wild Pigs

Marfield started this whole thing. In the course of having a conversation with his lovely wife (all the current wives of all my current friends are lovely), he alluded to his inevitable upcoming midlife crisis. Being a practical, forward-thinking woman, she said she’d allow him one weekend for it.

So Marfield, who has a motorcycle license but no motorcycle, decided that the perfect weekend midlife crisis would be a motorcycle caravan into the mountains with his guy buddies. Of course, some of his guy buddies don’t have motorcycles. Other of his guy buddies weren’t about to get on one. But the ones who had them said sure, the ones who wanted to but didn’t have them said they’d rent them, and the rest said they would drive up with the provisions, most of which were golf bags. Obviously, we were going to rough it.

Somewhere along the planning process, it was decided that we had to dress up in biker-type gear, complete with fake tattoos.

We left in the morning, and made it all the way about 10 miles out of town, where we stopped at a landmark local cafe for breakfast. The waitress who served us was young, smart, sharp, and attractive, so the trip was off to a fine start. We regaled her with our plans, and she seemed to be genuinely impressed, especially with the tattoos, which were already starting to peel and flake away.  She was good enough of a sport that she came outside with us as we were leaving and snapped a shot of us all.

Up into the mountains we went on the two-lane highway. I’m a bit of a canyon-charger myself, but most of us weren’t exactly on road-carving machines, so I comforted myself with throttling ahead, then falling back, and finally just blending to midpack and riding sedately.

Suddenly, the caravan was flashing brake lights and pulling over. I saw an upended bike. Heart in throat, I pulled over and ran up, along with others. Marfield was off the side of the road, at the base of a canyon slope, his borrowed Harley resting on his leg. It turned out that he was all right, just a little fall. Or to use his words, he “put the bike down.” He was even luckier than he knew; as I came up to him, I saw that he had landed about four inches away from a patch of cactus.

We picked up the lovely shiny custom Harley off his leg and helped him up. The Harley had a broken mirror and scratches on the lovely shiny chrome exhaust. Marfield said he was okay, and we continued on, a little more deliberately now, and keeping more than half an eye on our friend.

We stopped at a restroom at the Continental Divide. The mountains were spectacular, the air was crisp, and sun intense.  As was the restroom.  Intense, I mean.  “Restroom” here is defined as “hole in the ground with toilet appearance, encased in a small building.” Marfield’s ankle had swollen, but he assured us that he was fine. He was riding fine. I took the lead as we left the parking lot and made a show of swooping fast out of the lot, another swoop to right myself on the road, and zooming out ahead of the others. I think it looked as good as it felt.

Up to a mountain town where we had planned to stop for lunch. Small town. As we rode in, a local guy on a bike pulled out going the opposite way, and his cowboy hat sailed off his head, a bit in front of me. I stopped, got off the bike, picked up the hat, and rode back to him. He was exuded gratitude beyond what the modest circumstances warranted.

We found a local bar and ordered food and beer. My first dilemma arose. I don’t bike and drink, not even a seemingly inconsequential beer, but the camaraderie was infectious. I slowly nursed a light beer.  Since Marfield was recovered, the humor was high and chatter filled the room.

Johann had been driving his little sports car behind Marfield at the time of the Big Crash. Marfield was saying, “At least tell me it was a dramatic spill and I can salvage some pride out of it.”  Johann said, “You remember the guy in Laugh-In with the raincoat on the trike, and he just stops and falls over?  That’s what it was like.”

Cowboy on bike came into the bar, looking for the man who picked up his hat and salvaged his pride. He found me and insisted on buying me a beer. I put my one-third-finished beer bottle on the counter and sipped the new one very slowly while he went on and on about how his pride was saved. It became apparent that while I had inhibitions about mixing alcohol and two wheels, he did not. We sent up a silent communal prayer that he was going to stay local, wherever everybody knew his name, on the quiet, slow, short streets.

Finally, with all this pride salvage operation played out, we took to the road again. Rowe took the lead. He had an old, somewhat rickety Honda Gold Wing, with bags but not a full dresser or anything, and he wanted to open it up over the high plains expanses to the next range of mountains. I stayed with him. I was half convinced that I would start seeing parts and pieces fly off his bike like a comet trail until he would stop because there wasn’t enough bike left to ride. But it stayed together. He definitely went fast, and I won’t say how fast, but made me feel like a madman simply keeping up, although it wasn’t difficult. Just fast. His bike probably had a top speed of 100 while screaming in pain, whereas mine was relaxed at that speed. Theoretically, I mean.

We got into the resort town midafternoon. Marfield had two condos borrowed or rented for us. I don’t remember a lot of specifics except that there was a lot of laughter, a lot of beer and margaritas, Rowe saying, “Gotta train that liver,” and Brevert shaving Mario’s head, which seemed a little strange at the time. Well, it still does.

We scattered some in the evening. Johann and I played pool at a local bar.  Now, Johann had introduced me to single malt scotches, and I owe him a life debt for that. The bar where we played pool didn’t have single malt scotches. They had a bottle that they claimed was scotch.  I’m not sure it wasn’t taken from the veterinary lab. We ordered scotch and sodas, which we NEVER do with our single malts, and it tasted like rancid tree bark, and not from a nice tree, either, but one that had grown close to the septic tank. We kept grimacing and gagging and saying, “Thanks. That’s awful.  Gimme another.” I don’t know who won at pool, but let’s say Johann did. He usually does.

The next day, the guys were all up for golf. Your Grandpa does not play golf. I’ve been cursed in the middle ground of being better than average at a lot of sports, but never good enough to play any particular thing seriously. But golf has always mystified me.  I just never felt I’d have the precision to take that big swing and hit that little ball with that little business end of the club, and a couple practice sessions in my youth that had onlookers scattering like quail cemented that notion in.

But the ten of us went out, because I said I could hang around them for the first couple holes and take pictures. Then I’d go out on the bike.

The guys played in a scramble format, four guys on one team, five guys on another. I wasn’t familiar with the format, but it seemed efficient – everyone in the round whacks a ball, then they go up and whack again from the ball with the best placement.

The memorable teeing moment was Wallace approaching the ball, taking a mighty swing, and the ball rolling gently back between his feet. I ended up following the group with Johann, Brevert, Brady, Mick, and Mario. Johann was the prime player, Mario and Brevert were no slouches. Mick could really whack the ball, but not with precision that day. And poor Brady, normally a sports-capable guy, had apparently made the wrong sacrifice that day to the Lord of the Links, because his golfing karma was making up for past sins. Not that it generated sympathy from this rough-humored group. Quite the opposite.

Lots of bantering. I remember some cart with some cute girl selling beer and things. Come to think of it, I think we saw that more than once. The more the beer flowed, the more caustic and funny the humor got. My “stick with you for a couple holes” turned into nine. Then they started on the back nine, and I was having such a good time, I went with them on that too.

I got some good photographs that day. Once the best centered around a play out of a sandtrap, and I lined up to catch them doing that. I told Johann what I was doing, and he obliged by giving me a perfect spray of sand to snap on. He called out, “Did you get that?” I had to admit that I hadn’t realized the camera was off until I pushed the shutter release. I lined up for the other four, though, this time with the camera at the ready, and snapped the shot I wanted when Mario blasted out.

Mario blasts out of the trap.

Finally, Brady snapped at his poor golf fortune, and we ended up snapping with him. He teed up the ball, powered up, and swung and hit the ball about fifteen feet into the weeds on the left. He yelled at us to wait, stalked into the weeds, snagged the ball, stomped back, teed back up, and announced, “I’m going to spank this bad boy!” He fired up his inner turbo, brought the club smashing down, and….. well, the ball took a lazy path about ten feet into the rushes on the right. I thought the group was going to collectively soil itself or get abdominal cramps. We laughed hard enough to scare the birds.

At some point, the golfing was done, and I did take the bike out and over to what was promised to be a scenic mountain pass. Understand, my bike is a strictly pavement bike. Sport tourer. Heavy, fast, stable. The road up to the pass was an anti-Zen rock garden. After a mile or fifty of standing on the pegs, inching the Road Beast around jagged road boulders at seven miles an hour, I gave up, turned around, and headed back. Just as gingerly. Perhaps the most miserable bike ride I’ve ever had.

We had other adventures mundane and trivial, but all packed in high humor. It was with some regret that we headed back on Sunday. The regret was mitigated with the hope that we might do something like this again.

And we did.

— Grandpa


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  1. […] couple decades and change ago, my great friend Johann (the same Johann mentioned in Wild Pigs), suggested that we get together for a night of single-malt scotch tasting. The pool of victims […]

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