Friday, February 04, 2005

Ghost Story

I've thought long and hard about postin' this. After all, while some blogs are populated with a bunch of names that mean little more than a series zeros and ones, there are a lot of folks here who actually know me. If some guy 3000 miles away thinks you're crazy, it don't matter much. If your wife, brother, best-friend, girlfriend, or Dad think you're crazy... well son... now ya got a problem.

Either way... There's something's in this world ya just can't explain, and I happen to experience one of 'em.

About a year and a half ago, just after I bought the CBR, I found myself at home with some time to kill. Julie and Jeb were off galavantin' all over the South, and I had the weekend to myself. Me and the CBR hadn't quite made friends yet. Fact is I had only ridden it around town and on a couple short loops through the county. It's a big bike, and easily has 3 times the horsepower of my old bike.

Friday afternoon I found myself lookin' around tryin' to figger out what to do with myself. Julie had suggested I go down and hang out with Kristy for the weekend. Heheh... Now how many guys have a wife who makes suggestions like that? Finally I thought ta-hell with it, and climbed on the big bike. Sure I was leavin' late... and Knoxville was 7 hours away... and I wasn't really comfortable on the new bike... figured it was as good a way to get comfy as any.

I suited up, said my standard pre-ride prayer, and threw a leg over the big black cbr. She apparently knew she was gonna get to stretch her legs because she fired right up. She wanted to roll. Fair enough.

We hit I-79 south and I was takin' it easy. I had been riding a little cruiser, so this was an entirely new experience. It's strange to have a motorcycle that turns with a thought, stops so hard you feel like you're flying off the front, and accelerates so hard if feels like God just hit you in the chest.

Of course I didn't know any of that back then... I was babyin' her, and in return, she was babyin' me. This was foreplay.

Miles went by. I was makin' good time, and the grin on my face was startin' to get a little wider. south of Clarksburg I was catchin' up with a semi. I figured it was time to loose the reigns a little bit. I looked back over my shoulder to see the left lane was clear... then in one motion I whipped the big bike over and twisted my right wrist. My shoulders stretched. The bike leaned left... then stood up straight... then the front wheel started gettin' light. The corners of my vision blurred and the Semi made an audible ***THUMP*** as I blew by it.

I let up on the throttle... laughin' like a fool inside my helmet. Oh this was gonna be ride I'd never forget. Boy howdy...

The ride down 79 came and went... as did the stretch down 19... and I found myself on 77 south. Now the road between Charleston, WV and Wytheville, VA heads through what we in the east call mountains. They ain't the Rockies to be sure, but they are trecherous just the same. The wind howls through the passes, and even on a big bike, it can blow you into the other lane. It was a harrowing experience, but I did ok. I rolled on.

I was havin' a lot of fun to be honest. Between the tunnels I met up with another fella It was dark as a politician's soul but for some reason I could still see a lot of details on his bike. It was an old Ducati 916... one of the most beautiful bikes ever made. What struck me though... man... it was the reddest... the reddest anything I'd ever seen.

We rode together until we passed the second big tunnel, then he looked back, gave me a salute, then hit the throttle and left me like I was sittin' still. I just shook my head. He was gone before I even hit the throttle.

Or was he? I had the throttle pegged, but the bike wasn't doin' a damned thing. Well it was doin' something... it was slowin' down. Shit. Outta gas. I reached down to turn the petcock. I knew my reserve would take me on to Wytheville no problem.

Shit again. It was already on reserve. Officially outta gas.

I coasted her over the shoulder, hit the kickstand, and climbed off. Here I was in the middle of nowhere. It was dark as it could be, to far to walk anywhere, and my cell had no service. Dammit.

For about a half-hour I sat there tryin' to figure whether to walk north or south... by now I was gettin' a little creeped out. It was dark... and I kept hearin' some pretty bizarre sounds comin' outta the woods around me. For a fella who believes Big Foot is real, that's not a good combination.

Just when I had made up my mind to head south I heard that Ducati. But it was coming from the North again... that didn't make no sense... Either way, shore enough there it was... and HEY! He's stoppin'! alright!

The fella pulled over, and sat up on his bike, but he never got off or even looked back at me. I didn't really think about it at the time, I just trotted up to beg for help.

I told him about my perdicament, and he just motioned for me to climb on.

He rode me down to Wytheville... but stopped short of the truck stops. I climbed off and thanked him, and for the first time he raised his visor and spoke.

"Go to the diner in the big struck stop. Give this to Kelly, and tell her Aaron sent ya." With that he handed me a piece of paper, folded around a wad of cash. He dropped vison, made quick U-turn and was gone just like that.

Well... that last bit was a little bizarre, but the fella had just shortened my walk considerably, so it didn't bother me none.

I walked into the diner, found a seat at the counter and laid down the note. I was takin' off my jacket when I heard this gruff voice say, "You lookin' for Kelly buddy?"

"Umm... well... actually I'm" but he interupted me

"Easy buddy. I know you probly got bike trouble. We'll get ya squared away. But first, that package is for Kelly ain't it?"

"Yeah.. yeah it is."

"Ok... lemme get some coffee. Kelly's on break. You sit tight while I go fetch her. She'll wanna talk to ya."

All this was pretty bizarre I can tell ya. Frankly the idea of buyin' a gas can and hikin' 20 miles in the dark was sounding better and better.

Before I had taken my first sip of coffee Kelly showed up. She was in her twenties... short blonde hair... prettier than I expected. She smiled the saddest smile I've ever seen, took the note and the money, and sat down next to me.

"Where did ya see him?" she asked... and I told her what had happened. She smiled that same smile again... then told me the cook would give me a ride back to my bike if I wanted... and just like that she was gone.

I finished my coffee and decided, while I probably would regret it, I better ask if he knew just what the hell was goin' on.

He did.

"Come on buddy. It's slow around here. Let's head out to the truck. I'll take you to your bike and fill you in on the way."

Normally I wouldn't accept such an offer, but hey... it was late, I was late, and I was armed. The folks had been nice so far... so I figured I'd take a chance. Besides... at this point, I was curious.

On the ride back to the bike the old cook told me all about Aaron and Kelly. Apparently they were married and had a little girl together... but now he's her ex...

"Anyway", the cook said, "When Kelly's really fallen on hard times, or that little girl needs something, a stranger always seems to show up at the diner... just like you did tonight. He always has note, and some cash for Kelly... and that cash always seems to be just what she needs."

We road a while in silence... and when we found my bike he poured about 5 gallons of gas in for me, but refused to let me pay him.

"Man... this place is full of good folks. I can't imagine what led to divorce for people like Aaron and Kelly."

The old cook got in his truck, rolled down his window... then he leaned over and said...

"Nate, Aaron and Kelly never got divorced. Aaron died in an accident right here on this same stretch of road. He left Kelly with that little girl to take care of, a mountain of debt, and a broken heart."

I've ridden that road several times since... and I've stopped at the diner since... Neither Kelly, nor the cook have ever recognized me though... and I've never seen that red ducati again. To this day... It's the only time I've ever run out of gas.

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