June 3, 2022 - June 4,2022

To Honor A Fallen Friend

June 3, 2022
This is not a ride that I wish I had to make but it is a ride that I must make. Last week my good friend Paul was returning from a ride to California to pick up another ST1100. He toured Nevada, Utah and Colorado and then headed home to Celina, Texas. Three miles from his house a young person in a Mustang decided that stop signs were only suggestions and hit and killed him. This ride is to Paul's funeral so I can be what comfort I can be to his family in this time of surprised and great loss.
  I need to gas up SweetTreat so I take my shortcut through Newsom Station because it comes right out by a gas station.  

With that business done, I get onto I40 that will be companion until I get to Little Rock. My goal today is to just get to my motel as quickly as possible. I am still recovering from having my shoulders replaced so there is still some pain involved. But as Stonewall Jackson stated

'When your duty is clear, do not consult your fears.'


I40 unfortunately has turned into as much of a 'trucker's alley' as I81. And it seems I get behind more of these 'elephant dances' today that ever. That is where one truck tries to pass another truck but just does not have enough power to do it quickly. I've seen this go on for miles and miles and miles.

  As I pass through Memphis I see the Pyramid that started out as a government boondoggle and now is managed by Bass Pro Shops.  
  Soon I am approaching the bridge that was shut down for so long because of cracks in the steel girders. The scary thing was the supposed bridge inspector was not doing his job and the cracks were proven to have been there a long time. Hopefully there is a new inspector who will pay attention now.  
  Finally I am on I30 which will take me on down into Texas.  

I hit Texarkana which is about half way to where I will be spending the night.

  I take a few back roads as I leave I30 and end up in Greenville where I intersect highway 380 which is the final road for this evening.  
  The closer I get to my motel for the evening, the more I wonder how many times Paul took this exact same road to and from some riding event.  
  I arrive in McKinney and look for the turnoff to my motel.  
  When I get there, the clerk wants to give me a bit of hassle because I have reserved my room with points. We finally get through that and he acts like he is about out of rooms though I had reserved mine early on and the parking lot is empty. When I get to my room, let's just say it is not up to Days Inn standards. I think I have landed in a flop house of some sort with tape on the broken window, runs in the carpet, a toilet that is not secured to the floor, and a bathroom ceiling with bits falling down. But I didn't come to spend a lifetime but a night so I will deal with that when I get back to the Holler. (I do file a complaint with Wyndham and tell them someone needs to go inspect this place).  

I usually like to walk to supper but I had decided early on I would ride over to Babe's Fried Chicken - a bit of distance away and meet Joe, the 'master' of the ST-Owners website that I frequent. It turns out he can't get out of a meeting, so I tell him -

"Don't worry - I'll eat your chicken for you!"

  As always the food is good and the portions are large enough to hurt you.  
  My server is young man and we strike up a conversation about motorcycles since I tell him I rode one today from Nashville, Tennessee. He wants to get one so I encourage him to attend a MSF course so he can learn the basics. I don't mention why I am here as I see no reason to discourage him from his heart's desire. I learned a long time ago that God does not need a motorcycle to take a feller out of this world. We can trip over our own two feet, hit our head and be dead in short order. I finish up and settle up and when I get outside some weather has moved in. It's not that long a ride back to the motel, but I put on my rain gear as a precaution.  
  I head back to the 'Dump Inn' and settle SweetTreat down for the evening. At least she will probably sleep well ...  
  With many thoughts floating through my brain about why I am here, I wander off into a sleep - tired from the heat and the events of the day.  
June 4, 2022
  There's an IHOP restaurant down the street a bit, but the road only runs one way. So I noodle out how I can get south by going north and finally figure it out.  
  I love their omelets so I order one up and get a little extra pig meat on the side. I have plenty of time as the funeral is not until 11 AM and I am fairly close to his church where it will be held. So I just kick back and enjoy a leisurely breakfast and stay a bit longer than usual.  
  But I figure if I don't leave pretty soon they will want to charge me rent so I head on out. I am early and the first one here but that gives me some time to contemplate what is ahead.  
  It is nice as I get a chance to talk to the funeral director and see the remembrance pictures the family have set up for the service. I still can't wrap my mind around the fact that Paul is gone. He, like me, preferred the ST1100s over the ST1300s and we had a non-serious competition when ST1100 parts or a whole bike came up for sale.  

Soon other folks and some more riders who knew Paul arrive. I have the pleasure of meeting Paul's lovely wife, Sara, and I give her a big hug. We chat a bit and she tells me -

"I told Paul that he'd better buy that ST1100 before Uncle Phil beat him to it!"

My reply -

"Yeah, but seeing how things turned out, I wish now I had bought it instead."

I also meet his mom and dad and give them big hugs for I know their hearts are breaking at this point.

We all file into the church sanctuary where Paul's plain pine box (which is what he wanted) is down front by the altar. I can't help but shed some tears as the service goes on, thinking about what a good friend I have lost until I reach the other side.

The service ends and I wish folks well and head back to Nashville.

  I've got 660+ miles to cover and I know it will be way past midnight before I see my bed. But a feller has to do what he has to do and I must be back before Sunday morning to participate in our church services.
  Soon I'm on I30 and at least I know it is all slab from here almost to the Holler.  
  But the traffic is thick, especially with trucks so I must be careful though I am quite a bit tired.  
  Because I am wearing down quickly, I force myself to take more stops than usual. It is just going to be a long day and I have to take that into consideration.  
  And it never fails when I am in a hurry to make time, there will be one or more accidents on the interstate. But life is what life is and you just have to deal with it as it is dealt to you.  
  The sun is sinking and I know that it is a race that I am not going to win this day. Riding in the dark is not one of my favorite pastimes as my vision does not adjust like it used to. But then I'm not a spring chicken anymore either and I guess it just comes with the 'aged' territory.  
  My biggest concern - besides fatigue - on this trip is going through Memphis at night. According to the FBI, the city is one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. And it has the second highest murder rate of all the cities in the country. I make one more stop just outside of Memphis proper to be sure I have enough fuel and get myself prepared for what I hope is a very quick run to the other side.  
  I can make out the lights of the bridge and decide that if any car gets close to me, I will either slow down, speed up, or figure out some way to keep a lot of distance from them. If they are going to take a shot at me, I want to make it as hard as possible to get a good one.  
  Fortunately, I get to the other side without an incident and I can count the mile markers to the Holler. In the darkness, the highway line markers are reflected brilliantly from some reason and it seem like I am Pacman eating them up as I move along. Finally I pull into the Holler way past midnight - safely and thankful that I did what I needed to do. What I don't know now is that two weeks to the day I will be going to another riding friend's funeral who is killed by a deer strike. All of this reminds me that our time here on earth is not in our hands but in the hands of Almighty God. So we had best enjoy each day as a gift and love people while we can because there will come a day when we can't.