Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Touring Series: The Load Out

A Guitar Ted Productions series
 Thanks for joining me again on another adventure in "The Touring Series". This tour was dubbed the "Race Against Death Tour". This tour occurred in August of 1995. The three participants, Ryan, Troy, and your's truly, left from Cedar Falls, Iowa to try and get to Winter Park, Colorado in two weeks. Here I am reproducing the tale, mostly as it was posted on the blog in 2009. There are some new edits and additions. I also will add new remarks and memories where appropriate at the end of each post. 

 Once again, there were no cell phones, internet, social media platforms, or digital cameras in use by we tourers in 1995. I will post images where I can, but this tour wasn't well documented in images, so there probably will be very few sprinkled throughout. A modern image will be used only where it depicts things I want to clarify, like where we were in that part of the tour via a map image, or the like.

The "Touring Series" appears today and next Sunday then it ends. Look for past entries by scrolling back to a previous Sunday's post, or type in "Touring Series" in the search box to find more. In two weeks a continuation of the time between this tour and Trans Iowa starts.         

After putting in 21.13 miles just dinking around the Black Hills on Day 9, "The Race Against Death Tour" makes its final short ride into Hill City on Day 10.....

August 16th, 1995: Today is the day.

 We only have to pack up one last time for a short ride into Hill City to meet Ryan's Dad at the Conoco station by 9am. As we get moving, the conversation is non-existent, other than the asking for details about the pick up. A solemn air hangs over us three travelers. It is in stark contradiction to the feeling everyone else around us has, as it is another picture perfect day in the Black Hills.

I stopped and took one last look down the drive of Rafter J Bar Ranch, then it was time to go.
As we roll out of Rafter J-Bar Ranch for the last time, a bittersweet feeling comes over me, as I remember all the years before when I was here as a child. The last day and a half were fantastic and the best of the tour. It was hard to know it was over.

Then I turned to follow Ryan and Troy down the long driveway as they have gone out of sight already. It seems as though the uncomfortable feelings are better put behind them as quickly as possible.

In fact, they are motoring along at a fair clip as I dangle off the back. What's the hurry? We had plenty of time to make our rendezvous and I was enjoying these last miles for all they were worth. Watching folks getting ready for fall. Seeing the local high school football team practicing for opening day. All the little things were in sharper focus for me today.

This is the day.

We arrive at the Conoco station and Troy goes to find a phone. Ryan looks for some grub to chew on, and I sit by the bikes to guard them one last time. It seemed like we were sitting there forever waiting for something that might not happen. I felt a bit of anxiety. What if we have to stay another night? Money was tight, I was almost out. I could only afford a few Cokes for the ride home. Man! It seemed like the minutes were taking hours.

This was the day.

Then Ryan's Dad arrived in his car pulling a white aluminum box trailer. Greetings, some small talk, then we loaded the bikes in the trailer, and we sat down for a 12 hour ride back home. This is going to be a long day.

The familiar sites of home now brought reality into sharp focus. (Image of the Ice House Museum)

The ride was uneventful. I figured we were like a band on the road. Traveling to another show. I thought of Jackson Browne's "The Load Out". Somehow it seemed appropriate. I was wishing we could "play just a little bit longer" but we couldn't.

Today was that day.

That 12 hours was like a foggy memory. It seemed surreal. Then familiar sights bring a sharper focus as we got closer to our home territory. Finally, we reached the outskirts of Cedar Falls and I saw the twinkling lights of the city. The plan was to get dropped off at our boss' house. Then we were going our separate ways. Tom was there, he had a big smile, as usual. He was excited to hear about our adventures, but Troy and Ryan were ready to get home, and I was left to sip a few beers and give Tom the lowdown on the highlights. 

Eventually it was time for me to leave and I turned my bike towards home. I rode it through the black of night after promising that I would attend a "welcome home party" that upcoming Saturday night at Tom's place. It was pretty lonely on that ride, but not as lonely as that empty house I stepped into that night.   

And that was the end of the day. The day the tour ended.

Leaving South Dakota via a car was......weird. After being bicycle dependant for ten days, we loaded up our rigs into the corner of a small, aluminum box trailer and shut the door. It seemed all wrong. I crawled into the back seat of the vehicle we were to ride home in. I was pretty much left alone to my thoughts. Ryan and his father didn't have a very conversational relationship, and so we felt kind of uncomfortable with that, as Troy and I weren't familiar with Ryan's Dad at all.

Then we reached home, and of course, Ryan took off right away with his father. Troy had his wife, who was anxious to see him, pick him up not minutes later. I wasn't in any hurry to get home. I had nothing there awaiting me besides an empty house.

As for me, I had work the following day, as Tom said I could come in despite the fact I had planned on having the rest of that week off. I was happy to have that to look forward to, and I think Tom knew that somehow. But as I said, he made me promise to come to the "welcome home" party. I didn't really want anything to do with it, but whatever. I supposed there was no harm in going. What I didn't know was that there was one last bizarre thing left to experience.

Next Week: The "Welcome Home Party" and a weird encounter.

No comments: