8 Ball In The Wind

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Mission pt 5

Swan looked at Tennessee, who nodded to him, and then at Doc and said; “We’ve had about enough ‘Joe’ to last a while, why don’t you let the prospects go in too.  We’ll stay out here and watch the bikes.”
Doc looked at the two prospects and simply said: “You heard the VP, go in and get yourselves some coffee and chow.”  With that both prospects quickly made for the door and headed inside.  Doc turned to look at his VP and Tennessee, and began to lay out the plan he had in his head for getting us all back home with the least hassle. 
The Club only had hassles with one of the other clubs in the area.  The big clubs would either ignore us, tolerate us, or were openly friendly with us.  Only the one club; a bunch of bike stealing, lowlife motherfuckers, ever gave us any trouble.  Even then it was only when the odds were in their favor. 
Since they obviously knew they had taken Swan down, they must have known there would be a run to bring the bike home.   There were only four options for getting us home.  One would be to ride up to Ellensburg, then take Interstate 90 west to Seattle, and take the ferry back to ‘Bummertown’.  The long way around, and then slow and expensive for us all to take the ferry.  The second way would be to ride back the way we came, cut west at Olympia and sneak in through backroads through Shelton and up into Bremerton.  But to Doc that felt too much like he was running scared, which he wasn’t.  The third way would be to take the Ellensburg route to Seattle, then head back south again and swing through Tacoma and then back to Bremerton.  An even longer and more time consuming trip, which didn’t appeal to him at all.  So Doc decided as he laid out the options to his VP and Master At Arms that we would just ride back the way we came, and maybe top off the tanks in Olympia so we could just blow through Tacoma and head home.  The simplest and easiest way.  It made sense to Swan and Tennessee, so they had no problems with the plan.
About that time, I stepped outside to have a smoke and stretch my legs a bit.  I had been sitting long enough, and still had a few hours of sitting ahead, so I wanted to stand for a bit.  Doc saw me standing by the door enjoying my Camel and called me over to where the three of them were talking.
When I joined up with them, Swan was suggesting partially rolling out the old Navy mattress in the bed of the truck when we refueled in Olympia.  He’d sit on it from then on back to Bremerton where he could pull his 1911 for defensive firepower if needed.  There was already a 12 ga. coach gun in the gun rack of the cab.  So the truck would be able to take care of itself.  All the Brothers were packing, so they would be ready in case any shit went down.  The question was, would it?
“Ya know Doc,” Tennessee began, “They only went after us ‘cause they had us out numbered four to one.  If they were really looking for a fight, they would have stuck around until ya’ll showed up.  It’s not like we’re gonna take a leisurely putt up Mountain Highway and through Tacoma.  So they’d have time to round people up and head us off.  If we stick to the freeway, we’ll be through town and over the bridge in what, maybe fifteen, twenty minutes?  Unless we run into a group of them on the freeway we should be good to go.”
“Or are you thinking about getting some retribution?”  Swan asked “’Cause I know I am.”
“I’m with Tennessee.  I added.  “If they don’t know we’re rolling through Tacoma we shouldn’t have any trouble.  We’re only going to get shit if we accidentally run into a pack of them.  If we run into a couple of them, they won’t do shit about us riding through.”
Doc thought for a second or two, then made only a couple of minor changes to the plan already forming in his mind.  “We’ll head back the way we came.  We’ll top off in Packwood, and then again in Tumwater.  Swan you climb in back of the truck there, and take the coach gun with you.  There’s a box of slugs in the glove box.  Swan, you feel up to driving from here to Tumwater?  The cab of that truck is gonna be mighty tight with three of you in it.”
“Hell Doc, I’ll ride in back.  I’ll just take the coach gun and shells with me.  Be nice to stretch out and relax for a few hours.”  Swan grinned.
“Fine by me.” Doc replied.  By now, everyone was beginning to roll out of the Denny’s, and milling around the bikes and the four Club officers.  Doc looked to everyone and said with a grin “Beer thirty in Packwood.”  With that everyone moved to their bikes, or climbed into the crash truck, and within a couple minutes we followed Doc back out onto the main road of Union Gap heading towards the freeway.  Next stop: Packwood.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Mission pt 4

As we rolled eastward through Naches, Doc signaled for us to pull over at a gas station up ahead.  It wasn’t where he where he had planned to fuel up at, but it was only another fifteen or so miles to Yakima.  So this was as good as any, and we could just roll straight on through to Union Gap from here.  We rolled up to the pumps quietly and began fueling up.  No one said anything, just made sure their extra clothing was repacked and their gear was ready to grab in case of emergency, and had to fight our way in or out to our Brothers.  No time for coffee, or idle chit chat.  As soon as the bikes and the truck were fueled up we hit the road.  The two lane quickly giving way to four lane, and our speed climbing.  As we rode the freeway through Yakima, Doc pulled ahead of the group by a couple bike lengths and slipped into the center of the lane.  All our eyes were on Doc now.  He had taken point, and we would follow him without hesitation.  A tight formation with barely a half bike gap between the bikes, and the truck following a second behind us all.  As we pulled off the freeway, and rolled into Union Gap, it was already starting to warm up.  I took it as a good sign, that the lights seemed to be with us.  We rolled quickly down the main street without even having to stop. 
As we rolled into the Denny’s parking lot, Swan was out sitting on his battered old Panhead siphoning gas into Tennessee’s Sporty.  His right hand was under his cut as we rolled in, but it quickly pulled out and waved at us as we rolled across the parking lot.  Swan was almost too big for his Pan.  He had been a college football, a linebacker until a knee injury side lined him. Being on a football scholarship, he wasn’t able to continue his schooling, so he joined the Navy.  In high school his coach had jokingly suggested he take dance lessons to improve his foot movements.  Swan did just that.  Only problem was, the only dance school in the area was a ballet school.  When the rest of the team  heard he was going to ballet class, they started calling him “Swan Lake”.  But after they saw how he had learned to move on the field, it quickly became just “Swan”. 
As Doc began walking up to Swan, he was checking out the Pan.  The right side of it didn’t look too bad.  A few scrapes and a new dent or two, and the handlebar was bent a bit.  But once he saw the left side it was a whole different story.  He could see why Swan couldn’t have limped the bike home.  There were two big gashes near the back of the gas tank.  The way they were spaced it looked like someone had taken a claw hammer to the tank.  Doc doubted if the tank could even hold more than a gallon of gas before it would start pouring out through the holes.
“Damn Doc!!  I thought the fucker was swinging for my junk!  When I jerked away, and he hit her is when we went down.  At least the Ol’ Girl fought back.  She ripped his hammer out of his hand, and it must have hurt him a bit ‘cause I could hear him holler over the sound of the bikes.”  Swan told Doc.  Barely able to hide his own embarrassment at being the cause of the Club having to make an emergency run. 
“Any sign of them since then?”  Doc asked.  Wanting to know if he could have the Club stand down, or maintain an alert footing.
“Heard some bikes a few hours ago, but not seen anything since then.  It was the bunch out of Tacoma.  Eight of them together, gave ‘em four to one odds.”  Swan answered. 
Doc quickly issued orders to have Swan’s Pan loaded into the back of the crash truck.  Then passed on Swans report about only hearing some bikes a few hours before.  Finally, Doc looked over at Tennessee, and asked him how the food was.  Tennessee replied the “Food’s ok, but the coffee is really weak.  Definitely ain’t Navy coffee.” And grinned.
“Didn’t think it would be…” Doc replied with a grin.  “Let’s get the bike loaded up, then we’ll get some chow and coffee before we head out.”  he added.
As Swan got off his Pan, Doc noticed the way he was moving, and the wince on his face.  “So how bad did you get banged up when you went down Brother?”  Doc asked calmly.  “And don’t try to BS the  ol’ doc.”
Swan knew he wasn’t going to get out of it.  Doc was going to make sure he was fit to head back over the mountains with us.  Swan was just going to have to give in to the inevitable.  “Think I banged the ribs up a bit…but no big deal.  They’re just sore.”  He quickly explained.
Doc had Swan take off his leather and cut.  Watching how he moved as he did so. “Right side?”  he asked as he felt the ribs carefully.  His experienced fingers telling him Swan had a cracked rib, and needed to have it wrapped.  “Okay, you’re gonna need to have them wrapped.  One, maybe two cracked ribs.  The road rash can wait until we get back to the Club house.”  Doc told Swan.  Then turned towards the truck where the rest of the Brothers were gathered securing the old Pan in back.
“Prospect John, Swan needs his ribs wrapped…bring my bag off my bike.”  Doc told his prospect.  John quickly went over to Docs bike, and brought the first aid kit over.  Between the two of them, they had Swans ribs wrapped in just a few minutes.  His leather and cut back on, no one could even tell he was as securely held in place as his bike was.
As Doc put the kit back into the leather tool bag on the front forks, he glanced up and said to no one in particular; “Let’s get some coffee and chow, and get the Hell out of here.”  With that everyone relaxed a bit and headed in to get some chow.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Mission Part 3

This is the 3rd installment to a story about a rescue mission the Club made back about 1981.  It seems strange to relate what happened so long ago to people here and now.  Trying to Honor and Respect the memories of my Brothers who have all left this life, it can get twisted up in pride, admiration, loyalty, and yes... it can get difficult to not get emotional when I think of my Brothers.  I just hope it doesn't disrespect their memories in anyway.

Just a few miles beyond Packwood the highway began to climb, and snake its way up and along the ridges towards White Pass.  The extra layer helped as the early morning temps began to drop noticeably as we rode on up into the mountains.  The sun was fully up, and clear blue skies with just a few clouds could be seen ahead as we crossed over the pass doing about fifteen over the limit.  The old ’57 Ford just wasn’t able to keep up with the bikes in these higher elevations and its thinner air.  So the whole pack cruised along doing about sixty crossing the summit.  At least the temps would be warmer down around Yakima.  The arid eastern side of Washington’s Cascade Mountains tended towards a much warmer climate that the more humid and lush Westside. 
As we sped up coming down the eastern side of the pass, the road hugged the edge of the ridge far above the Tieton River valley.  After passing through a very tight  right angle of a turn to the left, I saw in my mirror a cloud of dust suddenly appear behind me near the back of the pack.  I hit my horn to signal Doc that something was up and began to slow down.  I could hear Doc dropping gears quick, so I knew he saw the dust too.  My only thought was that a bike was down.  I couldn’t think of any other explanation for such a sudden dust cloud.  Especially as I could see the pack had fallen back and all pulled over behind us as Doc and I turned around.
It turned out Little John had his rear tire go flat on him as he was rounding the corner.  Probably a good thing it was such a tight corner, as it had slowed us all down quite a bit.  So when the tire went flat Little John’s rigid just sort of  skidded off the pavement coming out of the turn at about twenty-five and high sided him.  Besides the flat tire, the damage to the bike was minor.  A few dings on the rear fender and the primary case, and a busted mirror.  One look at Little John told a different story. 
From the way he was holding his shoulder, and the grim look on his face, you could tell he had done something.  As his bike was brought back upright by his Brothers, Doc grabbed his first aid kit off his bike and headed over to Little John. Doc was a Corpsman in the Navy.  He had down a tour in Vietnam as a Marine medic, and was the only member of the Club that had actually seen combat.  Doc always carried a very well equipped aid kit.  He even had a couple of Morphine syrettes for really traumatic injuries.  More than once Doc had come upon a wreck before the paramedics had arrived, and by the time they did show, he had the wounded triaged and stabilized for them.
“Well shit Boats...” Doc said when he first got to Little Johns side.  “You DO realize that shoulders dislocated right?...Give me a couple seconds to check and make sure you ain’t got nothing more serious and the Prospect and I will get you fixed right up.”  Little John only grunted as Doc gave him a quick once over then called Prospect John over to help him relocate Little Johns shoulder properly.
“OK you guys, it looks like there’s a wide spot down the road a couple hundred yards.  Take the bikes and truck there, check out his tire, and patch it.  If it’s too bad for just a patch, load it into the truck.  We’ll be down in a few minutes as soon as we put the Bo’suns shoulder to rights.”  Doc commanded calmly.  Then he turned to, and took care of business.  Prospect John was a Corpsman too, and although a good ten or twelve years younger than Doc, he was no slouch either.  Between the two of them, they managed to get Little Johns shoulder back in place by the time we had all the bikes and the truck pulled down to what turned out to be a small scenic viewpoint just down the highway about two hundred yards.   
We scrounged up a couple chunks of 2X4 out of the back of the truck and had the chopper up on the blocks in a couple of minutes.  We gave the tire a quick check, and found a small nail in the tread.  Hopefully that was the problem.  We broke the bead, pulled the tube out and gave it a thorough check.  Sure enough, there was a pinhole right where the nail had come through the tire.  Without a word, one of the members started patching the tube while a couple of others worked the nail out of the tire.  After about fifteen minutes, the tube was patched, inflated to check the patch, deflated again and then the tube and tire were remounted on the rim.  Another five minutes of pumping by Prospect Shine had the tire up to pressure and holding air.  Ten minutes later, both Little John and his rigid Shovel were in about the same shape.  A bit scrapped, and worse for the wear, but ready to ride.  The patched inner tube was good to go, and as the pain pills that Doc had given Little John began to take the edge off the throbbing in his shoulder so was he.
After losing almost an hour due to this little accident, we hit the road again.  I looked over at Doc shortly afterward as we raced alongside Rimrock Lake.  The look on his face was a portrait in concentration.  His gaze apparently never shifting from the road behind his old Ray Ban Aviator glasses.  But I knew Doc well enough to know differently.  I knew that even though he was focused on the road ahead, a part of him was focused on the riders following him, and his two Brothers waiting at that Denny’s almost an hour away yet.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Mission pt 2

It has been a crazy, busy week at work, and doing some wrenching on the bike to get her ready for a  couple of long rides coming up.  I sort of let the blog slip onto the back burner.  Well, here is the next part of my memories of a run from the early 80's.

Swan and Tennessee were coming back from a run to Missoula.  Somewhere between Zillah and Union Gap they’d had a run in along the freeway with another club.  Swan had gone down, but was more or less alright.  He was only able to limp the bike to Union Gap.  They were hanging out at a Denny’s with the bikes chained to a light post in the parking lot, waiting for a lift home.  The two prospects would ride in the truck and follow Doc and I.  Buck and Big Ed would meet us at the Clubhouse and then ride drag behind the truck for security until we stopped in Packwood for fuel.  Doc wasn’t expecting any trouble, but he had long ago learned that it was better to be ready for trouble and not have any, than to not be ready when all Hell broke loose.
Shine pushed his Ironhead into the garage then closed and locked the garage door.  As Doc threw his leg over his Shovel, his Ol’ Lady came out onto the front porch and asked if she should call the Clubhouse and let them know we were rolling on our way.  Doc just smiled and nodded as he kicked the old Shovel to life.  I fired the Norton back up, and Prospect John fired up the truck and we headed out.
When we got to the Clubhouse about fifteen minutes later, Buck and Big Ed were already on their bikes ready to roll.  And so was Crazy Larry, with a pair of ball peen hammers clipped to his drag bars.  Little John was on his rigid Shovel chopper.  Being a boatswains mate, Little John always carried a monkeys fist on a four foot long length of rope in his pocket where it could easily be reached by him, but not grabbed by someone riding alongside him.  Everybody fell in behind the truck and rode drag in a tight group as we left the Clubhouse and headed for the gas station in Purdy to top off the tanks. 
The plan was to not stop after we topped off in Purdy until we hit Packwood a couple hours away to refuel.  We’d take the slightly longer, but mostly freeway route into Tacoma to Interstate 5 and then head south for about sixty miles to US Hwy 12.  We’d top off in Packwood, and then ride over White Pass and top off again in Yakima before heading to Union Gap.
We’d made good time, hovering around 80 or so for most of the trip.  Riding in the middle of the night, traffic was pretty light.  Hell, the last forty-five minutes on Hwy twelve we had only seen a couple of semi’s on the road.  We pulled into the gas station on the east side of tiny Packwood, and as soon as the bikes were shut off next to the pumps.  Little John let out a whistle, and said with a snicker; “Refueling in progress…the smoking lamp is out.” 
Being a club of active duty and ex-Navy men it seemed quite normal.  But also being active duty, it came with its own set of problems.  The Navy didn’t approve of motorcycle clubs, so we didn’t wear our cuts on base.  But once we rolled out the gate, it had become a joke to pull over there in Bremerton just outside the gate and put out Colors back on while looking at the Marine guards at the gate about twenty feet away.  Then firing the bikes up again, we’d head out as a group.  Even if it was only to ride down the block to one of “Bummertown’s” many downtown bars.
As soon as the last bike and the truck were refueled, Little John looked over at Doc, who just nodded and pulled out his cigarettes, and let out another whistle and said; “The smoking lamp is lit in all authorized areas…Smoke’em if ya got ‘em.”  We all bought a cup of coffee and enjoyed a smoke before we got ready to ride again.  Knowing we’d be going over 4,500 ft White Pass, we all dug into our saddlebags and put on another layer of clothing.  As we mounted up, the sun was just about to rise from behind the mountains.  The clouds that had seemed black as we rode up towards them earlier, now seemed to be bathed in blood.  The red tint spreading across the sky.  Someone muttered the words; “Red sky in morning…”  Almost all of us replied without thinking; “Sailor take warning.”  Hoping this wasn’t a bad omen of things to come.  We fired up the bikes and rolled out.  Next stop Yakima.  At least that was the plan.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Mission

This is the beginning part of a story that took place a bit over 30 years ago.  It isn't a great epic chopper tale, just a little something that for some reason has been coming to mind quite often over the past few days.  So, since it doesn't seem to want to stay in the past, I figured I would just write it down as I remember it.  With the deepest respect for the Brothers that I have lost, and hope someday to join again.


Doc flexed his cold, stiff fingers as we rode on through the early morning darkness.  I caught the movement in my peripheral vision, and glanced over to Doc.  The heel of his right palm was holding the throttle open as he quickly drummed his fingers in the air, getting the blood circulating in them again.  After nearly two hours riding at eighty and more my fingers were getting stiff and sore.  I knew this cold damp air must be murder on Docs arthritic knuckles.  But his face showed nothing but intense focus.  He was on a mission, and nothing was going to get in the way of completing that mission short of God himself.  Even God would have to put up one Hell of an argument to keep Doc from finishing this run.
I glanced in the mirror and saw the crash truck and other bikes in tight formation right behind us.  Seeing that look on Docs face and everything being cool behind us, I relaxed just a little, so far so good.  Next stop, Packwood.
It had only been about three hours earlier when I had been awakened by a phone call at two in the morning.  The fog shrouding my brain quickly cleared when I heard Docs voice on the phone say; “Lock and load Brother.  Dress warm, we’re heading to Yakima.  Get your ass to my place ASAP.”
I already had my feet on the floor by the time he was done, and I simply answered him; “I’m on my way.”  Then I hung up the phone, and began getting dressed.  I lifted the shoulder holster holding my Ruger Security Six off the bed post and put it on.  The Ol’ Lady came in with a hot coffee she had nuked in the microwave, and I sucked it down before grabbing a hoodie from the closet.  I rolled it up and stuffed it into one of the saddlebags.  I pulled on my jacket and cut, pulled on my riding gloves and threw the saddlebags over my shoulder. 
Heading out the door I told the Ol’ Lady I would see her soon, and gave her a kiss good-bye.  Since I had been having issues with the Linkert carb on my pan, I had to take my old chopped Norton.  She was fast, and loved just sailing down the road for a long ways.  Which is just what we would be doing this morning.  Throwing the saddlebags over the p pad, I straddled the bike and quickly went through the starting sequence.  As I sat there, letting the bike warm up, the Ol’ Lady came out with some more coffee and gave me another hug.  The hot black coffee felt good going down as I let the bike warm in the cool night air.  I handed her back the cup, smiled, put the Norton into gear and headed to Docs.  Normally it would be a nearly twenty minute ride, but this morning just a skosh over ten.
As I rolled into Docs front yard, I could see the garage door open, but the light inside was off.  Prospect John was sliding a 2” X 12” ramp into the back of Docs 57 Ford pick-up, and a couple of 5 gallon gas cans sat full on the ground next to the tailgate.  Docs black slabside Shovel softly ticked in the cool night air, so I knew she was already warmed up and ready to go.
Getting off the Norton, I headed over to make sure Prospect John had everything ready to load into the truck when I heard a familiar voice come out of the darkened garage.  “Damn, were you already on that piece of Limey shit when I called or what?  That Linkert still giving you headaches I take it.  As soon as Shine rolls in I’ll fill everyone in at once.”
I just nodded as I peered into the darkness of the garage.  Only the dim glow of Docs cigarette gave away his position.  As our Prez stepped out of the shadows of the garage, I could hear another bike turning off of Mile Hill and accelerating up Jackson Rd.  “Sounds like him now.” I said.
“Sounds like it, and he lives a Hell of a lot closer than you do.”  Doc grumbled.
“But you both know how cold blooded that Ironhead of his is until its warmed up and run a bit.”  Prospect John added from the back of the truck.  Checking to make sure everything was loaded and secured before closing the tailgate.
By then we could see the headlight from Shines Sporty coming down the road.  He was the Clubs newest prospect, and had gotten his name because he made some of the smoothest moonshine this side of the Ozarks, and always seemed to have some with him.  Just in case anyone wanted or needed a taste.  Shine pulled into Docs yard, the sound of the Sportys straight pipes echoing in the dark night air.  No sooner had he shut it down did Doc tell him to “Get your ass over here.  I ain’t repeating this twice.”  He then laid down what had happened and what was about to.