So three bicycle tourists walk into a bar …
We rolled into Williams, Arizona after a stressful run on Interstate 40. The traffic was heavy and the cross winds were horrendous. Both Sarah and I were blown off the pavement and onto the soft berm multiple times. It was fortuitous that the forceful gusts were moving us away from traffic.
When possible, we left the interstate for the old historic U.S. Route 66 (established in 1926, it was one of the original highways in the US, running from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California). Williams was the last town to be bypassed by the new I-40 in 1984.
After a picnic lunch in the town band shell (to get out of the wind), we headed to a restaurant that served Grand Canyon Brewing Company beer (the local brewery). In the meantime, a couple had noticed our bikes outside and asked if we were the people they’d seen on the highway. Elliot asked if they would like to join us at our table and I’m glad they agreed.
Sophie and Ray had known each other in high school, had a single date, and lost track of each other for decades until they ran into each other in the recent past. Now they were traveling together.
Ray had been a truck driver for years and told some fantastic tales which I’ve attempted to reproduce to the best of my recollection. Reality often trumps any type of fiction.
I drove trucks almost all my life. I had the rig decked out in as much chrome as I could possibly find and had it lit up so that it looked like a Christmas tree rolling down the highway.
I hauled steel mostly and almost always drove independently. I didn’t like driving with anyone else. But there was this one time when a dude I knew, Jimmy, needed to get some swinging meat across the country in a hurry. I agreed to ride with him so we could swap out driving.
Now the thing you need to know about Jimmy is that he had one of those metal plates in his head. When it got hot, that plate would swell, and Jimmy would do some crazy things.
So I was in the bunk in the back of the cab trying to get some sleep. I really getting thrown around so I poked my head into the cab and the first thing I noticed was it was hot and Jimmy was looking CRAZY. The next thing I noticed is that we were heading down into Salt Lake City fast, way too fast.
Luckily, it was night time and back in the day, after dark, the lights were timed so that when you hit the first one in town the rest turned green and gave you a clear shot the whole way through. We blew through town and luckily no one was on the road that time of night.
I convinced Jimmy to pull over at a truck stop on the far end of town and get a cold drink, hoping to cool off that plate in his head. So the dude goes and gets one of those big fountain drinks and the next thing I know, Jimmy’s pouring Pepsi on the windshield and smearing it around with a rag.
So I yell, “What the hell are you doing?” He told me that the only way to get bugs of the windshield was to use Pepsi. Meanwhile, the windshield was a sticky mess.
I had enough at that point grabbed my bag of clothes and what not and told Jimmy he was on his own and I’d find my way back home.
This other time, I was traveling in a convoy and we pulled off to get something to eat. The truck stop we were at didn’t have showers so me and some of the guys strung up some blue tarps and hooked a hose up to make an shower.
Now just about this time one of those camper van things pulls up filled with hippies. This was the 60s remember. They were following the Grateful Dead. Now being gentlemen, we offered our shower to the ladies and they didn’t seem to mind us spraying them off.
The hippies were so grateful that they gave us some of their hash and peyote. We were all sitting around enjoying each other’s company and having a good old time. One of the hippie dudes had this hair done up so it came out of the side of his head like pigtails. He was a tiny, skinny little dude. For some reason one of the truckers didn’t take a liking to lil’ Pigtails.
This trucker pulls out his knife and tells “Pigtails” that he was going to give him a hair cut. This trucker guy was big, like two times the little dude’s size. Trucker started walking over to Pigtails and next thing anyone knew Pigtails pulled out some Kung-Fu shit. There was karate chopping and kicking, and Trucker just stood there like a fool with a knife in his hand getting the crap beat out of him. There was nothing he could do.
Next thing we knew, the Trucker guy’s laid flat out on his back and the rest of us are laughing our asses off. Little skinny Pigtails just opened up a can of whoop-ass. I’ll never forget the look on Trucker’s face when he got a mouth full of chop suey.
Now I told you before about my truck all shiny and chromed up. I had these boots and they were just as shiny. I’d step down out of my truck and the whole world would stop to look at me ’cause I looked good in my boots. It was like Isaac Hayes was playing the theme from “Shaft” when my boots hit the pavement.
One day I stopped my rig to get something to eat. There was this homeless guy asking for money. I told him to shine my boots and I’d pay him. Now this guy took offense and started running his mouth about how I was disrespecting him by asking him to shine my boots. Hell, I just wanted a shine and figured this guy needed some money. I just walked away.
After I was done eating and left the restaurant, I passed the guy again and he asked for money. I just ignored him and kept my boots pointed in the directions of my chromed up rig.
I was about half way across the road when the dude yelled out to me. “Hey mister, just remember this — All you’ll ever be is a memory in someone else’s mind.”
That was some heavy stuff and it stopped me right in my tracks. I turned around, walked over to the dude and gave him $10.
To this day, I’ll never forget that.
All you’ll ever be is a memory in someone else’s mind.