My cell phone rings. Itís Chuck Frederick, my new best friend. Weíre meeting in Park City on Friday. But Chuckís got a problem. He's lived in the Bahamas for 25 years and his condo on the south shore of Grand Bahama Island is about to be blown away. He has to cut his trip short and head home to salvage what he can. Park City is off.
Chuck and I met about three months ago at our motorcycle dealer, Lindner Cycle Shop in New Canaan, Connecticut, the best BMW dealer on the planet. I was getting my 600 mile break-in service and Chuck was readying his new K1200LT (BMWís newest foray into the luxury touring market) for his trip. We clicked immediately. Two guys who are about to spend months on their motorcycles have a lot in common, and a lot to talk about. Chuck, a TWA pilot for 30 years, has just been forced into retirement. The airlines make you do that. So heís finally getting a chance to travel on his motorcycle for a long while. Before TWA he flew A-4 fighter jets off a carrier in Vietnam. Heís almost twice my age but he has the heart of a teenager. I knew after speaking to him for a few minutes that we would be friends for a long time to come. That afternoon, Chuck rode with me to Weir Farms in Ridgefield, and I got my fourth NPS Stamp. A few weeks later we hung out at the BMW MOA (Motorcycles Owners of America) annual rally, held this year in Rhinebeck. Chuckís a smart guy, and he had made reservations at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, months before the rally. That night I ate in the Escoffier Room, probably the best restaurant in Dutchess County, and then camped out at the rally site! You canít be more different than that. We made plans to meet on our trips in Park City for Motorcycle Week
Chuck started his journey about a month before I did, and heís been traveling around America ever since. He went to the rally in Sturgis and then to California. Heís been riding all over the place, visiting old friends and making new ones. Now he is in Sheridan, Wyoming, having just visited his uncle in Billings, Montana. And a hurricane is about to change his life. Heís got to go home and see what happened. By the time he gets to Florida the storm will have moved on and left destruction in its wake. In an incredible twist of fate, Chuckís route south today is going to take him past Fort Laramie on US-26. So is mine. Iím stopping there to get a stamp and check out the site. Weíll meet around noon! I may not get to see him in Park City, but at least Iíll get to see him on my trip.
At 12:30 PM, Chuck comes rolling into the Fort Laramie parking lot. Itís so great to see him. After all this time on the road we have so much to show and tell each other. We just stand there for an hour and talk. We decide to do the full audio tour of the Fort and then we grab some lunch at the only open place in the town, three miles away. Itís a real dive, and the only people there are a few locals getting wasted in the afternoon. But we donít care. The food is all right and weíre just glad to be hanging out.
Around 5:00 PM we head our separate ways, but make plans to ride together in Florida when I get there. As Chuck rides off I know I have a friend for life. As I watch him head east I can only hope that something salvageable is left of his home. But it doesnít look good.
I head across to I-25 and shoot straight down to Denver. About an hour away from town the sun has set and itís dark. Now Iím riding at night in highway traffic around a major city Iíve never been in. This is not good. Iíve been to the Denver airport a bunch of times, but Iíve never gone into town. I find the downtown area okay and start to look for a hotel. I should have made a reservation, because every place I stop at is booked solid. I ride around for an hour before I find a room for the night! Nothing like a frustrated tour around town to help one get acquainted with the place. Now I know downtown Denver like the back of my hand, but I wish I didnít.
His name is L.D. Holland, and he is from North Carolina. Heís trying to complete the The National Parks Tour Master Award (50 Parks in 25 States) and heís given himself 10 days to do it! This guy is a serious Long Distance rider. Is it a coincidence that his initials are L.D.? Heís also a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Instructor.
Later, when I check him out on the Iron Butt Web Site I see his distance awards:
03/14/98 Ė Saddle Sore
1000, 1000 miles in less than 24 hours
We all chat for a few minutes and gripe together about how sometimes the Park Rangers close up shop early. A site that should be open till 5:00 PM is locked when you get there at 4:30! And youíve just ridden 100 miles to get there! L.D. has to run so we donít want to keep him. Heís going to try to get four more stamps before the day is over. Go L.D., GO! I LOVE THIS STUFF!
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