My Guardian Angel Rides a Harley and Smokes Winstons

Once I got my old Kawasaki running (Motorcycle Repair for Startups) I planned to ride it from Oakland to Los Angeles. Of course there was a girl involved (she was working as an au pair in LA) otherwise I wouldn’t have done anything so foolish as taking a bike that was barely working on its best days on a 400 mile cross country journey.

Everything was going fine as I rode past Castro Valley and over Altamont Pass and into the California’s central valley. From there I-5 cut through some of the least populated sections of the state. I wouldn’t be back in civilization proper until after the Grapevine and Tejon pass. Until then I was on my own.

Merging onto I-5 just past Livermore I noticed that the bike was loosing power. I pulled off at the first rest stop and had a look at the engine, quickly found that the fuel filters were getting clogged with rust (guess I hadn’t cleaned the tank as well as I though), and started working on the problem.

That’s when he pulled up. My guardian angel. He was an old desert rat, skin leathery brown from months under the open sky. He sat astride a beautiful Harley-Davidson soft tail. As he lit a Winston cigarette he asked “where you headed?”

“LA” I said.

He expelled smoke with his laugh. “You’re pretty brave going to LA on that” gesturing at my bike, which was now partially disassembled.

“I’m not worried” I replied, and went back to work. He stuck around and we started talking. He was going to Sturgis (Sturgis is like Burning Man for bikers). The group he was riding with had left him because he was riding too slow. He needed to pull off at every rest stop to stretch and take a break and they just wanted to keep riding and make the best time. He was thinking about finding the nearest motel and calling it a day.

So we starting riding together. It was perfect. We stopped at every rest stop from Livermore to Bakersfield. Him to stretch his old legs and take a nice 15-30 minute break. Me to fix yet another thing that was going wrong with that bike. Together we made it to Bakersfield.

At the last rest stop before the Grapevine, he said to me “Well, I guess this is it. I think I’ll go find motel and call it a day. Thanks for riding with me. If it weren’t for you I would have stopped back in Livermore”. I felt the same way. If it weren’t for him I may have just given up and turned around a coupled of hundred miles ago.

As I started up the Grapevine, climbing towards to Tejon pass, I was praying that my bike would make it. It felt a little bit like the little engine that could — I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. Pulling over the pass, it was downhill all the way. I had made it.

Just outside of Valencia, my starter coils fried. As I pushed my heavy bike through the hot afternoon, looking for a parts shop to buy new coils I thought “I think that guy was my guardian angel sent to make sure I got here safe.” It was a comforting, calming thought. My guardian angel rides a Harley and smokes Winstons. How cool is that?

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