Spirit Traffic is the story of the 10,000-mile motorcycle trip the author C. Jane Taylor took with her husband, John, and son, Emmett, to celebrate Emmett’s college graduation. They were all new riders, and it was their first trip. In May, Jane and John took Spirit Traffic back to the road on their BMW 650 GSs for a 97-day national book tour. Below is her seventh installment of Postcards from the Road, which will be published every Monday.
Related Story: C. Jane Taylor Rides 6,000 Miles on National Book Tour
The people who trailer their bikes across Kansas are right!
We rode out of Springfield, Missouri, and the BMW National Rally around 4:30 into the full heat of the late afternoon on Highway 13, a divided four-lane highway with a 65 MPH speed limit. It was faster than I like to go, but the wind was low and the traffic light. We flew … until the iPhone Google Maps/intercom connection failed. We pulled off the highway into a church parking lot and immediately headed for the shade of the church portes cochères. As we doffed our helmets, a couple in a minivan drove in and parked in front of the living quarters attached to the church. John explained our need for shade; they offered cold sweet tea. It was the very best sweet tea I’ve had – steeped in the faith and with plenty of sugar.
We sipped, rested, and plotted. We were due at Blip Roasters, in Kansas City, Missouri, the next morning at 9 a.m. and needed a hotel. Blip is a moto-themed coffee shop in the hip and gritty post-industrial section of KC called West Bottoms. After three days of camping in the extreme heat in an agricultural pole barn at the Rally fairgrounds, we needed showers, laundry facilities, and A/C.
In the morning, we rode out from the Quality Inn at 5:22 a.m. It was the earliest departure in the history of the Free Rangers Motorcycle Club and the hottest forecast.
In the gloaming before sunrise, we rolled along the highway as if in a waking dream. The road was smooth and empty. The air was cool and soft, redolent with birdsong and the smell of wheat ready for harvest.
Once the sun ascended, the heat redoubled, and the wind started to build. By the time we were in the middle of Kansas, temperatures were in the mid 90s, winds gusted to 35 mph (we later learned that gusts had reached 50 mph). Passing tractor trailers exacerbated my travel difficulties pushing the air and me all over the highway. We stopped often to rest and hydrate, but the wind and trucks got the best of me. By midday, a gust pushed me off the road onto the shoulder. Though I held my ground there shouting, “Not today, Satan!” in my mind, I had great difficulty jibing back into the traveled lanes.
I called to John in the intercom: “I’m on the shoulder. The wind is too much.”
He pulled off, too. “It’s okay, I’ll roll here in the friction zone until you can catch up.” The friction zone refers to holding the clutch halfway in and accelerating slowly. As I tried to catch up, I heard an explosion and saw chunks of debris flying off the back of a semi through the air toward John.
He shouted into the intercom, “Watch out, Jane! Watch out, Jane!” I quickly rolled to the edge of the shoulder, braked to a stop, firmly planted my feet, and ducked my head. I might have closed my eyes.
Another huge truck was hot on the heels of the one with the exploded tire. Both slowed their juggernaut momentum to miss tire debris, oncoming traffic, and two tiny roadside motorcycles. We throttled up and got the hell out of the chaos.
Exchanging “are you okay,” we kept going. But I was tired and shaken.
“I gotta stop by four,” I said into the headset.
“We’re in the middle of nowhere,” John responded. “Let’s see what we can do.”
Highway 24 came to a T at Highway 281. We headed south toward Osborne. There was a motel! As we pulled in, we realized it was the same motel we sought refuge in seven years ago on our epic Spirit Traffic journey when we needed shelter from the driving rain. Room 11, our safe harbor in 2015, was booked, but we cranked the A/C in room 5 and toasted with cold beer.
Day 38 – At Blip Roasters, we met motorcyclists from all walks of life and all styles of bikes and were heartily embraced by a great community. About 200 bikes and their riders lined the street outside the coffee shop, 12 of whom bought my book and asked for an autograph. Bruce took me for a ride in his sidecar. We flew (sidecar in the air with me in it).
Days 40 & 41 – We had an epic 450-mile ride through western beauty on smooth, unpopulated twisties into Littleton, Colorado, arriving in the heat at rush hour. We met up with our favorite second son, Nestor Polanco, a PhD structural engineer (I’m so proud of him) who was John’s yoga student in Vermont. He and his dog, Irwin made us feel very much at home.
Day 42 – Kelsey (another of John’s yoga students) and her husband Ryan hosted us in Aurora, Colorado. We drank cold beer in the swimming pool!
Day 43 – Evan (my college friend from Simon’s Rock) and his wife Letty hosted us at their beautiful home in downtown Denver. Eighteen interesting and fun people came to the salon gathering where I met my new BF and mentor, Roland, a new memoirist at 92. We had a fabulous evening of stories.
Day 44 – A gathering of John’s family in Colorado Springs at the home of Stephen and Joan, who also hosted us seven years ago.
Keep the rubber side down, my friends.
Spirit Traffic can be purchased on the author’s website CJaneTaylor.com. It is also available on eBook, audio book read by the author.