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  • Writer's pictureRay Lamb

The People We Meet.



I was rolling slow along Hwy. 233 on my way to a little town called Montello, NV which I hoped was an actual town and not just a wide spot in the highway that used to be a town! Why the slow roll and a hope? Easy. This Africa Twin drinks fuel like its cheap. The one thing I don't like about this ride of mine. I had filled up in West Wendover, NV, which is just west of the UT/NV line. I guess even mormons need an opportunity to gamble away all but the 10% of what they earn, thus creating West Wendover. The fuel was a needed commodity because it was a long haul from Ely and I was wondering if the next stretch would be about the same.

Off of I-80 where it junctioned with NV 233 was the word "Oasis". Yeah, I've been fooled like this before. Was it really an "Oasis" or was it actually a mirage? A Once-upon-a-time town that had dried up with progress? A faded sign promising fuel and refreshment only to welcome the needy traveler with boarded up windows and a faded Remax sign hoping a second look from a curious eye before the sun fades it into unreadable text? I wasn't taking the chance, but I had little choice if I were to take 233.

And sure enough, the aforementioned description was that to a tee! So, no fuel for me in "Oasis". A light throttle hand and the acceptance that it was a look-at-the-scenery kinda day while I applied the slow roll technic to another stretch of lonely highway.

That's ok, I have time. It's not a bad way to travel anyway because I get to see things I may not see at hyper speed. The phrase, "I don't know where I'm going, but I'm in a big ass hurry to get there." isn't exactly the best way to do it most of the time, so this was what I was willing to accept; be light on the throttle and look at stuff. Got it!

I rolled along and looking at the scenery, watching for Speed Goats and trying my damnedest to picture myself living here. What kind of person WOULD live here? It was pretty, in it's own way, but a bit barren, too. There were hills and trees and a set of well maintained railroad tracks, sagebrush and draws that held the trappings of water at some point. The soil was a very light gray color. Not quite like home.

With one eye on the road and scenery and the other on the fuel gauge and odometer, I made progress into the unknown that was, hopefully, the next town on the map. The little town of Montello. A blip on the map, but with enlargement, it looked like it had a few streets there. Common sense would state that a remote hamlet this far from anything else surely would have fuel...right?? Fingers crossed.

After scores of miles I finally see a group of green trees in the distance. A good sign there's inhabitants there. It's still a few miles away and even though I have the fuel to reach it, I may not have the fuel...no, I know I don't have the fuel to make it to the next town, so more fingers crossed.

Side note: As I was looking longingly and hopeful at the approaching trees in front of me and looking for any signs of life, I make a token glance at my mirrors and they were full of a baby blue 18 wheeler! I actually jolted on the bike at the sight and with the steely taste of adrenaline in my mouth and a warm trickle of piss running down my leg, the blasted thing over took me! What the hell must he have been thinking?! Sneaky and mean is what I was thinking. Dropping in behind me from an alien spacecraft. Jerk.

Anyway, with that behind me...or in front of me, now my focus was on the group of trees that are now only about a mile away. I was starting to see buildings now and they looked kept enough to be occupied. Whew! This looks promising.

Man, this place was small! On the right side of the town was a railroad siding that had rail cars and a couple of engines parked and running. To the left was the town. It was only about 4 blocks long. Derelict buildings and remnants of former buisness were sprinkled in with the buildings that still had life. The hub of the town was the "Montello Gas and Grocery; General Store and Pilot Motel" and the obligatory saloon on the next block. But, the best part of the general store? They had gas pumps.! Not the new modern type where you pay at the pumps, but the beautiful old school pumps you had to pay for in advance, so they could turn them on for ya. I love this place already! The $4.15 for premium didn't even bother me much.


So, I made the turn and pulled up in front of the pumps. As I disembarked from my thirsty ride, I noticed a fella coming out of the store. This one definitely marched to his own rhythm. He caught my eye and waited for me to get my helmet off.

"How ya doing?"

"I'm doing well! And you?"

"I'm doing fine. Where you comin' from?"

"Today or originally?"

"Both"

Which is where I told him where I started this adventure and some of the places I've been and the things I've seen. He seemed interested enough.

"You've been on the road awhile. That thing comfortable to ride?"

"Yeah. Most of the time. But, it can be a handful sometimes."

"I don't know how to ride one of those things. I've never tried it. A friend of mine has a BMW"

"Eh, riding is easy. Just like riding a bike only with a throttle."

This seemed to amuse him.

"My name is David. David Collins."

David John Collins is his given name. He called home in a small isolated valley in Utah, but he was living here for a spell to work.

He told me he has ridden a mule through most of the southern states. A traveler, by mule. He said he did it all while wearing his signature kilt. He told me he was even a small part of a company that made kilts for work and normal wear. He was pretty proud of this venture. Then David proceeded to tell me about his scotch/Irish roots and how when he was in school he hated history, but now he can't get enough of it. "Every where I go I wanna know all about the history of the places I see. I have a detailed knowledge of where I came from in Ireland. South County Cork. We have a castle there. Two of them, as a matter of fact!"

David was, by definition...a Character. Not a character in the way we flippedly call someone who is a bit ecentric or odd, but the true definition of a character. He was a hoot to talk to! And he asked questions, too. The lost part of the art of conversation, I find. Most people are more than willing to talk about themselves, but fail to ask questions of interest from the other party. It was rather refereshing to have such a talk and he was entertaining with his stories and quips. He told me he was a cook for a local rancher in the area. "Yeah, they all call me Skinner."

About that time in the conversation, a big white Dodge dually pickup pulling a stock trailer pulls in. Behind the wheel was a formidable looking man wearing a pair of dark green aviator sunglasses. He was square jawed and looked like he could be a true Nevada cowboy.

"Here they are.", Skinner said as they positioned the truck off the road near the pumps. The man driving was a rugged looking gent. He shut the truck off and reached onto his dash and grabbed a hat. It was a brown hat with a round flat brim. He exited the pickup grabbing the hat with both hands and slowly and carefully positioned it on his head. It had to be just so. The next thing I noticed after the hat placement procedure was the man's stature. He was a tall man, about six foot four with broad shoulders, a new white long sleeve button-up shirt and Wrangler jeans with boots and spurs. He stood straight as an arrow. His face and hands tanned from working in the sun. The best part was he had a handle bar mustach, waxed and twisted that looped at the tips just beyond the frame of his square jaw. He walked straight and upright, his face always looking forward. He walked with the confidence of a man sure about why he's placed on this earth. I'm telling you now, that if Clint Eastwood where standing next to me, he would have been impressed as well. He actually reminded me of a young Clint Eastwood from the ''The Good, The bad and The Ugly" days. And this cowboy really did look like he was walking straight out of a scene from a western. The two other cowboys with him seemed true to themselves as well and silently followed behind "Clint". I could think of more than a few cowgirls back home who would be more than a bit twitterpated at this moment. I found it rather amusing if not completely genuine because there were no urban cowboys here, just the real Macoy.

"You guys made it!', Skinner hollered out.

"Hey, skinner. Yeah, but we have to go out to Grouse Creek to catch a stray cow. Will we see you back at camp?"

"Yep, If you're going out to Grouse Creek, I'll be back before you will."

Then Skinner leaned over to me and said, "I cook for these guys."

Well, I'll be. Skinner is a real life Cookie. A camp cook for a genuine working cattle ranch. I'd love to have time to sit and hear all his stories now! And, to sit and listen to him tell stories and to have these cowboys impart their wisdom and the banter back and forth would be a once in a lifetime deal.

When "Clint" stopped and stood next to Skinner and I, he took off his sunglasses revealing pearcing blue eyes hiding behind his aviators. The boys went in and got something to tide themselves over before they get some of Skinners scratch made dinner later that evening. The three of us stood outside and talked and laughed about various things. "Clint" asked me a little about what I was doing with this loaded down motorcycle. He was a really nice guy and was interesting to talk to. Then he asked me,

"Are you the one we saw up on Grouse Creek yesterday?"

"No, I just came from the freeway." Which made me feel a bit like a city slicker. Then I told them the story about the alien semi. They thought that was pretty funny.

"Well, we saw a bike just like yours up on Grouse Creek. Only, I Guess it was yellow. That boy was pretty much coming outta nowhere to be up that far."

Then "Clint" wished me luck and I shook his hand. Then he and his crew where off to fetch that stray cow up Grouse Creek.

I went inside the store to finish up the fuel transaction and get me something to eat to tide me over till dinner. Skinner followed me in and we continued our conversation about family and heritage. We exchanged information and he said that we need to stay in touch. I agreed.

We walked back outside and I started the process of getting back on the bike.

"When I leave here," Skinner said, "I'm gonna go to the local saloon just up the road and have a shot of whiskey. I'd be happy if you'd join me, if you can." I told him I would have liked that very much, but I was needing to get on the road and wanted to make another hundred miles or so before I called it a day. Besides, a whiskey on a hungry stomach was going to keep me there a bit longer than I should. He understood and agreed.

Then he said, "Well, next time you're through, we'll have that whiskey."

"Yes. Yes we will. I'd like that."

He smiled and shook my hand and wished me luck. I asked him if I could take his picture and I told him what I was doing. He said, "Sure." And with that, he smiled, and posed for the picture. Another moment is caught.

Then, Skinner walked to his big white Ford pickup, climbed in behind the wheel and waved goodbye for the last time. I strapped on my helmet and pulled on my gloves. I thumbed the starter, turned the Twin around and headed north. As I rode by the saloon, Skinner was already through the doors and I was left with just my thoughts and the sound of the road.

What if I did have that whiskey with Skinner? What if that lead to an authentic chuck wagon supper with real deal working Nevada cowboys? Imagine the stories one could tell. Maybe all that's a bit presumptuous, but the drink with a true irish american over a shot of irish whiskey is definitely an opportunty missed, is it not?

Sometimes, it's not just about the people you meet, but about the characters you encounter and the opportunities offered to you while traveling out here on the road.

And, if it is at all possible, I will make my way back to Montello and take Skinner up on that whiskey. After all, how often is it that you get to meet true characters? That sounds like a grand adventure all on it's own, don't you think?


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