A Page Out of the Book Cliffs

Source: A Page Out of the Book Cliffs – The Times-Independent  moabtimes.com

Page 110 – Queasy Riders, Part 3
February 03, 2022
By AJ Rogers

The official beginning of autumn 1971 was only a couple days into the future. My fairly new pal Preacher and I were astride our new Honda motorcycles headed east on Interstate 70, with plans to land in Florida for the winter.

AJ Rogers

We had left Salina, Kansas that morning and were not in any great hurry. Winter was a ways out yet and it was a glorious time of year for a couple of 18 year old lads to be gone off adventuring. We had nearly made it across Kansas after dawdling along and dealing with lots of “tired butt” stops. I remember cocking an eye at the sign proclaiming Leavenworth. I had heard of that place frequently due to the federal prison of the same name, but was still surprised to find myself there. It seemed like a good place to pass on by.

The next thing I knew, we were entering Kansas City, Kansas, which extends on over to become Kansas City, Missouri. This was the biggest city I had ever had occasion to drive myself through and it appeared to be rush hour.

The traffic was horrible and riding in the middle of six lanes full of fast cars and semis was enough to make any normal country kid kind of queasy and I was certainly a card-carrying country kid. If Preacher was feeling the same trepidation, he wasn’t showing it, not that I could read any facial expressions through the dark tinted face screen of his helmet.

I just gritted my teeth and let him lead the way. We had to drive too fast for comfort to save getting run over by those crazy city slickers and big rig truckers. I couldn’t wait to get out of that mess. But, alas, the traffic just got thicker, and the city just kept getting bigger. Then, all of a sudden, at about 75 mph — BLAM! Thumpety-thumpety-thump. My cycle was fishtailing all over my lane and I thought I was going to lose it and go sliding along the pavement amongst all the crazy traffic.

I still don’t know how I didn’t crash or how I made it over to the very narrow right-hand emergency lane and got the thing shut down. I had one real close call with a big rig in the process. I was too scared at the moment, but it gave me the queasies when I relived it in my dreams later.

We were on a stretch of freeway kind of like the spaghetti bowl in Salt Lake City, as I remember. The traffic was just zooming past and the wind from the trucks was trying to blow me over as I hugged the parapet. It was extremely noisy. I could see that my rear tire was flat as a turd, and I was thinking how glad I was that it had not been my front tire. Thinking about that made me a little queasier.

Preacher had seen what happened in his rearview mirror. He made it to the emergency lane as well, then carefully worked his bike backwards till we were right together. I got out my stupidly sparse little toolkit from under the seat and we removed the drive chain and rear tire. Then we strapped it to Preacher’s bike, and he took off for the next exit. I don’t know where he went but I remember it was a long couple of hours waiting in the raucous traffic for him to return.

When at last he did I was sure happy to see my tire had been repaired. Somehow the tube had exploded, but the tire had not been ruined. I suppose the tube was pinched when remounted on that new rim I had to buy after hitting the board on the first day I owned the bike. Thank goodness I was riding with a partner. Even if he was a partner without enough money to be on such a trip.

We finally got going again and were sure glad to get out of the big city and into country a little more rural. We camped out somewhere that night, but for the life of me I can’t remember where. I’m sure I was a little nervous about what the new inner tube and repair had cost.

The next morning it didn’t take long before my butt was once again explaining to the rest of me that it did not feel like the thinly padded seat on that Honda was made to be enjoyed long term. I’d ride sitting down for a while, then standing up on the foot pegs for a while. Up, down, up, down. At least I was exercising.

That afternoon we took the exit for Boonville, Missouri, with plans to head on into town. The next thing we knew we were crossing a long bridge with a deck made of steel grating. We’d never seen the like before. You could look straight down to the water below.

The grating was made up of a million steel rectangles which were maybe 1.5 inches wide by 4 inches long. Our motorcycle tires seemed to kind of squeeze down into a slot, then hop over the end into the next slot, but just as often they wanted to jump into the next slot to the left or right. I think we both had a little queasiness going on before we got slowed down and all the way across that span. That bridge gave me the shudders!

We didn’t have to go far through Boonville to find the Kemper Military School. It was of special interest to me because my dad had spent his junior and senior years of high school enrolled there.

The Kemper Military School in Booneville, Missouri. Photo courtesy of
Rob Stinnett
/Wikimedia Commons

That would have been 1944 and 1945. I don’t think he was sent there for any kind of a comeuppance. I think it was his own choice as he wanted to be better prepared if WWII continued into his eighteenth year of life.

It did not turn out that way, however. The Nazi’s were whipped just before Dad graduated, and the A-bomb dropped out of the Enola Gay’s belly just a couple months after he got home to Thompson, Utah, and the good old Book Cliffs.

Preacher and I drove around the Kemper grounds for a look-see but didn’t try to go inside. Then I motioned him over for a stop at a hardware store. I went in and bought another inner tube. Not for my motorcycle. This one was designed for a wheelbarrow tire. Next stop was a gas station to fill up our tanks and air up my new seat cushion.