The Charlie Bravo Story


I have a disease. Sometimes that disease goes into remission for a time, but still it’s always there, lurking just beneath the surface. But this is a strange disease, as it usually chooses to manifest itself at the most inappropriate of times, periods where I am least prepared to deal with it’s awful symptoms…

Disease, thy name is wanderlust.

And I am experiencing an extreme flare up right now, in the dead of winter with every nattering nabob cautioning everyone to keep “sheltering at home”. I’m not denying that it makes perfectly good sense, but logic doesn’t seem to be a very effective antidote for my particular strain.

And I can tell that Charlie is feeling it as well. She’s currently sprawled out beside me watching an IMAX movie on the insides of her eyelids while simultaneously kicking me in the ribs. And I know exactly what she’s dreaming, as I’m dreaming it myself. She’s dreaming of a particular day back in 2019 when she and I were crossing the west on the Honda CB1100.

The previous four days had been spent traveling the length of Idaho, from the Canadian border to that of Nevada. Four days may seem like an inordinate amount of time to travel across most states, but Idaho is not most states. It’s a long state with plenty of distractions to trigger my travel ADHD, and there is not a simple way to traverse it north to south even if I had been prompted to do so. From Montana across the 99 miles of twisty two lane back towards Washington, then back east again, and the weather was insane. Snow, sleet, rain when you least expect it, and the peculiarity of being the only state to get progressively colder the further south we traveled.

So, by the time that Charlie and I reached the Nevada/Utah line, we were whupped. I mean it, beat down and thumped. We stopped at Wendover  to regroup before heading east across the expanse of northern Utah.

Charlie was not happy when it came time to roll, but she begrudgingly saddled up and we headed east. It was by total chance that I looked up and spotted a rusty, ragged old metal sign banging in the wind: Bonneville Raceway.

I almost dropped the bike. THE Bonneville Raceway? The iconic landmark, the Mother Church of all things speed related? I always thought it was much further south, down near Salt Lake City, but there we were, looking right at it.

If you’re not familiar with Bonneville, it’s actually thousands of square miles of a great salt lake. Much of the year it’s covered by a foot or so of water. But when the Utah sun causes that water to evaporate in the summer, it leaves a perfectly flat lake bed that stretches as far as the eye can see. This is where racers have been congregating every summer for decades to challenge the Salt and attempt to set new land speed records. This isn’t a racetrack, this is holy land.

And there I am, at the very site where legends were born, albeit with a 65# dog on the back of a loaded naked motorcycle. And I had no idea if I was legal; did I need a permit? Was this place federally protected? Who was going to pop out to write me a big fat ticket, or worse, confiscate my bike and dump Charlie and I in some SuperMax federal prison? Paranoid much? Maybe just a twitch, but you never know nowadays.

But I did know that I wasn’t leaving until I felt the crunch of the Salt beneath my RoadRiders. There was a small mountain range off to the north; I figured that I could scamper out to it, then turn and burn back to the access road before any Federale was the wiser. The problem was that the harder I rolled the throttle, the farther away that “little” mountain range seemed to become. And yes, I did “break the ton”, the verbiage of the early days of Bonneville when breaking the 100 MPH barrier was considered a milestone. But did they do it on a bike loaded with camping gear and a big black dog on the back? If they did, I have not heard of it.

After quite a while spent roaring north, I glanced into my rear view mirrors only to see a sight that caused me to pinch a hickey on my riding britches; nothing. Nothing, that is, but the horizon far behind me, so vast and empty that I could actually see the curvature of the earth. Oops; time to wheel it around and meekly follow my own tracks through the salt crust to the safety of the south.

As I was relieved to eventually see the asphalt access road in the distance, I was not comforted at the sight of a blacked-out sedan that seemed to be tracking me from upon it. The piece of mobile reality could not have looked any more governmental if it had been traveling in a presidential motorcade. Great, I thought, here is where my freedom ends; I’ll have to find someone to rat out to the feds, as I’m too small and pretty to go to prison.

Well, it turned that the blacked-out sedan didn’t contain the Matrix-looking agents I had expected, but a regular family on their way to Promontory Point for the 150th anniversary of the joining of the two transcontinental railways that connected the country back in 1869. They had stopped when they saw an idiot with a dog on a motorcycle out on the Salt Flats, and had been shooting the goings-on with their cell phones. Oh, by the way, did I want a copy? I should say so!

This is why we travel. Not necessarily for the adrenaline rush, not just the sights we see, but for the connections we make. The people that we meet are the mortar that hold the rocks and blocks of the actual journey together.  And it seems that the further we get from our own safety network, the more open we are to offering help to others with much less regard for our own personal safety.

Funny thing is, it always seems to work out just fine…

See you on the road, sooner than later, if I have anything to do about it.

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