The Charlie Bravo Story

Thunder on the High Plains

Thunderstorms to the left of me, lightning strikes to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you…
This trip was not to be just a lark in the park; It was a test to find out where MacDuff stood in his position at the Casa; was he merely a court jester to Charlie’s queen, or was there something more?
Also, how would a thirty year old motorcycle and sidecar fare on such an arduous journey; would such an odd choice of transportation enhance or detract from the experience? And as important to me, did I have any business being back “out there”, instead of being home watching the grandsons where I belong? Or was I trying to forcibly extend a part of my journey by best left in my rear view mirrors?
The first day on the road found us beset on all sides by thunderstorms. Storms on the high plains have the distinction of being able to be spotted from miles away but still have the capacity to seemingly come out of nowhere to smash you in the face. Although it was bright and sunny at the Rio Grande Gorge at Taos, the sky was dark and brooding further to the west, exactly where we were heading.
When we arrived at the crossroads of Tres Piedres, decisions had to be made. There was a large cell forming in front of us in the mountain passes towards Chama. There was also another towards the north, a much flatter northeast route across the plains to Antonito. Or we could have elected to just sit it out and wait for the storms to pass, but who has time for that?
Sometimes it’s all about choosing where we want to face our storms, and rarely is that choice correct. I knew that we were going to get hammered, it was just a choice of when and where; do we take our flogging in the mountains, where they pop up by surprise, or on the plains where we could see them coming from miles away?
I elected for the plains; I was wrong. If everything had gone as planned, I felt that I could have punched through the storm, got out in front of it and stayed there until I reached cover in Antonito. What I didn’t know was that there was road construction en route causing extensive delays, but I soon found out the hard way.
We were stuck at the beginning of the lane closure for what seemed like hours. We could see the storm approaching from the west to launch it’s assault, as well as traffic beginning to pile up behind us, a line of newer, faster, but more importantly “enclosed” vehicles much more suited to braving the storm than a thirty year old sidecar bearing an old guy and a dog in the high country.
Just as we were able to hit the throttle, the storm did as well. In all my years of motorcycle travel, can’t remember a worse one; the temperature dropped like a stone and the straight line sleet and rain came howling in from the west.
When facing a storm on a motorcycle, you have two choices: slower and you take less risks but you stay there longer; the harder you roll the throttle the harder the elements come at you but sometimes you can lessen the time of punishment. The choices are up to us; somewhat easier but prolonged, harder but quicker?
I’m pretty sure you know what choice we made; if I had any concerns about the capability of the old motorcycle, they quickly vanished in the road spray along with the line of traffic behind us. But we paid a hefty price, as the rain needling our faces felt like a hyperactive butcher wielding a meat mallet.
And it just. kept. coming. Another negative of weathering storms on the plains instead of the mountains is that there is very little out there to break up their assault. There is one particular spot on the road to Antonito that the wind blast seems even more focused as it comes howling off of a mesa towards the west.
We were NOT a happy pair of campers.
And by “we”, I mean MacDuff and I; he handled the situation like an absolute trooper. With the exception of Charlie, I can’t imagine a dog being able to withstand such abuse and still be willing and even eager to get back on the motorcycle immediately thereafter.
So, that answered the initial questions concerning the roadworthiness of MacDuff and Black Molly; what about me? Physically, I was still capable, but my decision making prowess was obviously questionable.
I’ll have to work on that…
…but probably not.

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