I’m a grubby bastard. There’s no hiding it. I could shower more often, hair unkempt and a piss poor beard. I do bathe but it’s more of a baptism in local waters than in-door plumbing. I have to remember this being a guest and mind myself. Worn days on end, the few items of clothing I carry are blown out and stained. Freedom from playing the game of keeping appearances, “Dirty pants, clean booty.” Most of the time I’m in transit wearing leather riding gear which zips off in no time leaving me in only trunks and boots. I’m the dude stretched out late morning in a city park when the only other people are young mothers and their kids. A good swimming hole is even better, jump in the water’s fine. The trunks are a versatile item being light, quick to dry and function perfectly as everyday shorts.
Leaving Sedalia, Missouri with Dave and it’s a hot one. So hot, riding is the only escape from the baking heat. Our stops require shade and more importantly a water spigot, “Fuck me it’s hot. We gotta keep moving, we gotta go.” says Dave filling his helmet with water and a soaked shirt around his neck. The Sun couldn’t go down soon enough. On arrival knocking late at the door, Don and Becky invite us in their immaculate house in the immaculate village of Walnut where we’re fed a late night meal of tacos and cold drinks on the front porch. Our hosts turn in for the night and Dave and I toss back another drink shaking off the heat that seems to stay with us.
Doh! A spilt drink on the porch leading Dave to fetch the garden hose from the side of the house. Hosing off the spot Dave announces he is going to take a shower. Stripping down to his shorts he sits indian style on the front walk next to the two overloaded bikes and takes in a hobo shower bathed in the yellow light of the porch. Good plan I do the same there we are hosing each other off . Call the homeowners association, Don and Becky are housing bums and they’re showering in front yard.
The cargo pants I’m carrying were found in a box of rags. Loose pants with numerous pockets they’ve held up remarkably well. The tag notifying that I’m a juvenile size 17, fitting a bit weird in the hips. So what if they’re female pants they were free.The pants scream used and abused. Heading far north for a couple of months the pants worn literally everyday in the cooler weather, the pants took a toll. What really made an impact was working at a campground four weeks. This was in Sturgis, South Dakota during the big brouhaha. Hired as a cook I never saw the kitchen other than hanging a large menu above the counter, I was on grounds and maintenance which I preferred. My scant articles of clothing on my mind I search to no avail for a thrift store and reluctantly spend $20 on a bag of t-shirts and a couple pairs of pants. I figured I could alternate and get by without spending money on laundry.
But what did I do? Sleeping in a tent and working in the heat crawling around in the dirt, I wore the rags I rolled into town wearing a month ago adorned in the grime from not showering the entire time. My skin began to shed and the contrast between the old and new skin was something to see, dirty brown and stark white. I couldn’t really smell myself and no one said take a bath you stinky bastard. A shower wasn’t worth the effort and I did take a sadistic pleasure in being the only scrubby ass biker at the biker rally. I returned the purchased clothing and got my $20.
There’s not a whole lot of packing room after the necessities of motorcycle and life are stuffed home. Those two areas alone take up the most carrying capacity of the boxes and across the rear fender; tools, tent, bag, cot and backpack. The cot weighs a ton and crosses the full span of both side boxes. The sad eight year old surplus mummy bag is flat and the zippers blown out, Dave graciously gave me a spare. The tent packs the smallest, a two man stand-alone tent and a tarp that needs to be replaced. Mind you I’m not traveling as smart as I could by not using backpacking gear. You know the cots that pack up the size of a forearm and a bag that goes even smaller? I’d go that route but the items are so mad expensive the idea can’t realistically be considered.
I got the gumption to check on a help wanted sign at local BBQ joint in Cloudcroft, New Mexico where I’ve been staying in the forest for the last couple of days. I have nowhere to be and sleeping for free, I’ll stick around a few weeks bussing tables. It’s been a hot Summer. I haven’t had a proper shower in over a month and I needed to clean up for the interview. I took advantage of what was at hand, a cold ass waterfall. Using my hat as a washcloth sans soap, I scrub down in the frigid water and call it good. I’m definitely gonna get this job. Looking through my meager duds I put on my only shirt, a stiff Sun-baked piece of sleeveless material and do the ride into town. I walk in the place like I own it and through a shit-eating grin I tell the owner, “You’re sign outside, I’m your man. I’m here for work. Any work. I’ll clean the toilets.” He looks up and down at this here scooter trash, slides a crumpled diner slip on which I write my contact and he walks away. Of course I didn’t get the job.
Even if the room existed to carry more clothing there is always something more important that can go instead of a button-up shirt. Really think about it, how many times are going to pop up where ‘proper attire’ is required? Almost nil. If it does by chance happen, bum clothes from whoever and be done with it. Some cringe at the thought of missing a daily shower and wearing their cleanest dirty shirt. Maybe it’s the freedom that scares them I don’t know. Food you need, a shower you don’t and clothes can be stretched to almost no end.
Speaking of crud I took to scraping the layers of dirt from Bike. The O-ring is suspect on the electronic ignition and the pushrod seals are all tapped out. Along with the seeping oil the grime on the motor collects and builds. Attention is in order. Bike wears it as hard as I do collecting the dirt of the land we travel.
While smoking a cigarette over the the Wyoming map concerns of fuel take over my mind. I wave down an cherry BMW R100GSPD heading towards me Bike pulled in and helmet flipped up the old southern fella tells me the only fuel around is a few miles north in Clearmont. The guy got to talking of all his travels and how his bike is about to roll over three hundred thousand miles. That’s reassuring as we share the same motor.
He looks over my shoulder and I follow his scrutinizing gaze at Bike. She no doubt has the natural air of being a runner, bonafide road bike. It’s obvious.
“Hell boy, how many mile you got on that bike?”
“About half of your odometer.”
“Looks like five hundred thousand.”
“I live off of her.”
“Looks like it.” and with that he closes his modular helmet and rides south to Buffalo where he says he’s looking forward to a shower.
It isn’t pretty but I find it easy living. Humbling in a back to the Earth kinda way living impulsively wherever it is beneath the two wheels. Well earned personal freedom taken advantage of I wear my liberty on my sleeves. Social taboos of healthy body clean mind do this or you’ll be strange. The thrill of the first time getting ink permanently on my fingers, living on two-wheels and whatever road, aiming for true grit and not the twenty-first century I proudly bow out and take a stab at a different approach. The one that the teachers, preachers and leaders failed to mention. It’s more honest, down-home and truthful. My house is anywhere as is my back porch, my floor is dirt and the shower happens to be broken.