First, you should know that my husband and I love motorcycles. We rode together for over 80,000 miles until my knees and hips hurt too much. I miss being on the back of our bike. I even miss the times we were lost.
I was always the navigator. I rode in back with a map tucked in the waistband of my jeans. We'd plot a day's course and I'd have to remember a minimum of three highway changes before it was time to stop and walk around to prevent our butts from becoming too numb. We loved the back roads and hated having to ride on the interstates. For us, the journey was the treat. The getting there was secondary.
Most of our riding, therefore, was on what Rand-McNally colors blue highways. These are secondary and tertiary roads in back country. One time, we made a wrong turn. We were riding with another couple who were in the lead. We missed our road and ended up deep in West Virginia on a road that quickly turned to dirt. Not where we wanted to be. We looked for signs for the nearest town. None. We searched for a county route number. None. Do we turn around and try to retrace our steps or continue deeper into the mountains? We'd all seen "Deliverance" and weren't sure if we'd every find our way back to civilization.
At a crossroads of two dirt roads, we stopped and pulled out the maps. None of us could remember the name of the last town we'd passed. The sun was low but it wasn't yet dark when a beaten down pickup climbed the hill from our left. Three weathered guys in the cab. We thought they'd run on past us but they stopped. My husband and his buddy walked over to the truck, map in hand. Much conversation ensued. Much turning of heads down the road the truck had just traveled. Much gesturing of what I guessed were turns.
The truck started up the hill, reversed itself and pointed its nose back the way it came. The universal gesture of follow us had us going downhill into the unknown. The truck made a series of turns, always heading downhill, us on its tail, dust billowing behind. After almost a half hour, although it seemed like a lifetime, we came upon a paved road. The truck pulled over and the passenger hopped out.
Our friend handed him the map. He put a work-hardened finger on a road. With a number. Going in our direction. He and his buddies had taken us through unmarked shortcuts to the road we wanted anyway. My guess is they cut out about 25 miles of dirt road just by knowing the back country. More waving and we were on our way.
The truck went back the way it came. Somewhere out there, I thought I heard "Duelin' Banjoes." Maybe it was my imagination. Maybe it wasn't. Let's leave this story with four people never being so happy to see a billboard for a Holiday Inn "Only 30 miles ahead".
Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max Unintended Consequences available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The second book in the series, Uncharted Territory, is due out in June 2015.