He stood in his garage, looking over the machine when his Woman came in from the sunroom. A lot of time, and a large amount of money had gone into it. Not that the money meant anything to him since he had won the lottery. It had been one of the biggest jackpots in the lottery's history. He was set for life now, retired at age 55 with an after-tax income of over $2,000,000 a year for 25 years. His Woman had been with him since before the money; she truly loved him, the money just meant that they could spend more time together. He smiled; retired; he preferred to think of them as unemployed. His smile stayed on his lips as his gaze moved from the new machine to the others. Motorcycles and cars, each one something he had wanted for years. There was a Viper, a Cord supercharged 812, an Auburn speedster, and others. His gaze shifted to the woman and he smiled more. She rode with him sometimes but didn't share his love of speed. Her favorite bike was his full dress Electraglide Classic with sidecar. She loved and understood him though, and that was enough for them. But her face betrayed her thoughts: she was worried about him, his safety on this test run of the new brute machine.
She had been sitting in the sunroom that stretched across the whole west side of the beautiful underground house he'd built for them after he'd won the lottery. She'd been thinking about the talks they'd had about his dreams of building this particular motorcycle. Talks that had taken place before all this money had become a part of their life. She'd encouraged him then, secretly believing, hoping it would never be reality. How could she let him do this, put his life at risk just for a fantasy? But how could she stop him from making his dream come true when the reality of it was sitting there just waiting. She wouldn't try, just as he'd never stop her from making one of her dreams come true. That's the kind of relationship they had, one of love, respect, encouragement. But she didn't have to like it! How could she like something that was putting his life at risk? Something that could take him from her. She'd waited over half her life for this wonderful man. He was the best thing that had ever happened to her. How could he possibly expect her to be happy about watching him leave the house on a journey that might not bring him back to her.
But she'd put a smile on her face because she knew that's what he wanted. She knew that he had no idea how really scared she was. At the same time, she trusted him. She knew he was a careful, cautious man, and an excellent rider. After all, he had been riding motorcycles ever since he had been old enough to drive. He'd had his share of wrecks; he had told her of each and every one of them, and what he had learned from them. And now it was time for the Test Run. The ride he'd need to take before making the Speed Run across the country that he'd dreamed about all his life, or so it seemed.
She stood and walked out to the garage. He was ready. He gave her that smile, the one she loved, the one she could never resist. She watched him as he made his final preparations.
All the bikes but two were Harleys, of course. The exceptions were a four-cylinder Indian and a Vincent Black Lightning. The new machine, the one he was about to take out for the first time, had started life as a 1977 XLCR Sportster Cafe Racer. There was a stock, pristine XLCR next to it, but this new machine was heavily modified. Proof that enough money could make almost anything possible.
The forks and rear suspension were full road-racing, the engine bore little resemblance to its original form. The original had been iron head Sportster, now it was Evolution. Inside were all racing parts; everything balanced, the heads ported, polished, cc'd, and flowed. The latest trick valves, cams, and everything in between. The original 61 cubic inches was now 90. Belt primary and a five speed transmission replaced the original chain and four speed. The transmission alone had cost him five figures, but that was a drop in the ocean of his income from the lottery winnings.
Then there was the electronic fuel injection, high output alternator, racing oil cooler, and the highest amp battery he could have built. Don't say that all this is impossible until you're able to spend $50,000 on a motor without a blink. He could, and had, and much more than that. That motor had been built as a complete work, not piece-meal. Everything had been considered as a unit with one thing in mind: sustained high speed. Right down to the custom tuned exhaust, racing disc brakes, custom rims and road-race tires. The final cost of the brute machine was over six figures, which he had spent without batting an eye. He wanted the best of everything in this machine, and willingly paid to have it just like he wanted it. When they put the machine on the dyno, the horsepower output had amazed even him.
And it was all black, everything except the glass of the mirrors and headlight, the yellow turn signals, the red tail light, the disc brake surfaces, and the original tank emblems. Everything else was black chrome, black anodized, black paint, black plastic or rubber. The only dirt on the machine was the coat of muddy dust he had applied over the license plate to obscure it. From more than 3 feet away, it was unreadable.
Tucked behind the small bubble of the XLCR fairing and windshield was a radar jammer/detector. A small police-band scanner was hidden elsewhere. His helmet had headphones built in for the scanner as well as a voice activated microphone for the scrambled two way radio he wore on the waist of his leathers.
The way he was dressed complimented the bike. Black two piece racing leathers, racing boots, gloves and full helmet. Together, man and machine looked as if they had been made for each other, which in a way, was true. He had built the machine in response to a dream that came from the first time he had ever ridden a motorcycle. He had felt the call of speed on two wheels and over the years had pursued that call, but never had been able to satisfy the need. This machine was the culmination of the dream, to race the wind, to conquer the hiways and roads. And it was time.
He hit the remote to open the garage door. As it went up, he handed the remote to his Lady, reached down and turned the ignition key, twisted the gas petcock, flipped the kill switch to 'on', and pressed the starter button. The starter labored for about two revolutions, then the motor came to life. The roar of the 90 inch motor filled the garage, settling down to a pulsing, ragged idle. In the confines of the garage, the sound was a tangible thing. He could feel as well as hear the sound as it bounced off the walls. It assaulted his ears; he could feel it beat against his body, pulse in his blood. He straddled the machine, brought it upright, and raised the kickstand. A push of his legs, and he coasted out of the garage onto the parking pad. She followed him, feeling the pulse of the powerful machine in her breastbone. He turned in the saddle, put his arm around her and gave her a long lingering kiss. She whispered, "I love you" as she stepped back. Then the helmet went on, and then the big, mirrored Gargoyles sunglasses. He plugged the wire for the headphone control on his waist into the jack on the bike, plugged in the mike jack for the radio, then pulled on his gloves. A final check, and he was ready. He lowered the clear face shield, pulled in the clutch lever and nudged the shifter into first gear. He looked at his Lady again and saw the apprehension on her face even though she was trying to hide it. He smiled at her one last time and spoke into the mike, "Radio check, sweetheart."
She followed him out of the garage, feeling the pulse of the machine in her body. For a moment she could almost understand how he felt. Almost, but not quite. The call of that pulsing machine enticed her even as it repulsed her. It was like looking at a coiled rattlesnake, so beautiful, yet so deadly. She walked to him and came into his outreaching arm to give him a long, lingering kiss. She whispered, "I love you." Then the helmet went on, followed by the big sunglasses. She hated those Gargoyles; they hid his eyes, the eyes that captivated her so. Then he was putting the mechanical brute in gear. He turned his helmeted head to her and she saw his cheeks move behind the face shield, knowing he was smiling at her. His voice came from the radio she held, "Radio check, Sweetheart."
She smiled back at him and spoke into the radio, "Loud and clear, hon. I'll be waiting." In her mind, she prayed, "Dear Lord, please keep him safe." Then he was moving, the mighty machine taking him down the lane through the woods.
Carefully twisting the throttle and letting out on the clutch, he moved out, up the quarter mile of paved driveway that ran through the woods to his road. He thought of it as his road because he had talked the county into letting him pay to have it paved. "Gate coming up", he said into the microphone. Her voice came back, confirming the message. Out the gate, right, and up the now-paved road to hiway 32. Again he spoke to her, letting her know where he was, and again her voice came back to him. A quick stop to check for traffic, then right, toward town. Even as carefully as he applied the throttle, he could feel the front wheel lift. It settled, then came up again as he shifted into second, settled and came up yet again as he hit third at 60 miles an hour. "Damn, this thing has more power than it needs," he thought as the front wheel settled in time to get man and machine through the gentle curves of the hiway. A moment later he was slowing for the speed zone at Licking. He caught the light at 32 and 63 on the green, turned left, and brought the bike up to the 45 mph speed limit in second gear. "I'm on 63," he said, "here we go." She acknowledged his message. The Run was on.
She stood, watching man and machine disappear. But she could still hear the motor, and knew she would be able to hear it even when he pulled out onto 32. The Valley collected sound. They had sat under the stars so many nights, and could always hear cars on 32, even though the hiway was three quarters of a mile away across the woods. He let her know he was at the end of the lane and turning onto "his" road. "Okay Sweetheart," she responded. Most importantly, she could still hear his voice. The radio had been his idea. A way to keep in touch, to let her know he was fine.
He was on 63 now. "Be careful, Baby," she whispered as he made the turn onto the hiway. The time had come. This was the "test". She wondered how long it would be before a state trooper or county mountie caught sight of him. They both knew it would happen. That was part of the thrill of it all, part of the "test". She could see in her mind the hills and curves that he was now travelling. He'd ridden these roads over and over during the past few months. Most of the time on the stock XLCR but sometimes they'd take the side roads on their way into Rolla for the weekly shopping just so he'd know the road better when the time came to test his skills. And the time had come. If he could maneuver that monster machine on these roads, his "speed run" across country would be a breeze. A breeze!! That was a laugh! A race with the wind, a dream come true.
At the 60 mph speed limit sign on the edge of town he gave the bike its head, the front wheel staying in the air as he went through second, third, fourth and into fifth at 90 mph. He held it there, letting the wheel settle and gave his senses over to the machine. Everything sounded and felt right. His eyes fell to the speedometer, holding steady at 95, and he reached to turn on the jammer/detector with his left hand. This part of hiway 63 ran straight for about 7 miles, up and down gentle hills. So he nudged the throttle up to an even 100 mph and let the engine settle there. At that speed, he reached the end of the straight stretch in a little over 3 minutes. He rode through the gentle curves without slowing, trusting the machine to stay on the road, which it did without complaint.
On the next straight, he finally encountered traffic, sweeping up behind two cars and a pickup. Seeing the road ahead clear, he swung to the left, out and around the three slow vehicles, his speed now around 130. Then back into his own lane and back down to 100 mph, as simple as that. The machine flattened hills and straightened curves with its power and handling. Then he came to the last big stretch of road before Edgar Springs, and the detector went off. There was only one car visible, too far away to tell much detail, but rapidly getting nearer at their combined closing speed of 160 mph. He decided to trust the jammer and held the bike at 100.
A few seconds later he got a glimpse of the startled face of a Missouri Hiway Patrol officer as he thundered by in the opposite direction. A glance in the mirror showed him the flare of brake lights on the car as the scanner's headphones came to life. "I've been spotted," he said into his mike. The officer was almost yelling about the black bike that hadn't registered on his radar, and announcing his intention to pursue. The selector switch kept the headphones on the scanner, eliminating any reply his lady might have made. Well, it was earlier than he had hoped for, but he decided to go for broke. If he pulled over, he would probably get a big ticket. If he tried to outrun the cop, he might make it, or not, and get a bigger ticket. You can't outrun a radio. Or can you? Time to try. He gave the throttle a turn, feeling the big mill surge with unleashed power as the speedometer climbed quickly: 110, 120, 130, 140, 150, then the peg. The needle stayed against the peg as if welded to it, and he could feel the acceleration forces pulling against him. He knew he had to be getting close to 200 mph. He was roaring toward the Edgar Springs cutoff; it was really a stretch of the original hiway 63 that had run through the town years before. He let off the gas and nudged the brakes, checking the mirror. The cop wasn't in sight yet; he had had to slow, turn around, and get back up to speed. There was a chance.........
His voice came across the big base station radio as she sat in the sunroom again nervously waiting for his next response. Now the real test started. Could he do it? Yes. She knew he would. He might not get out of a ticket but he'd beat them nevertheless! And he'd be smiling that smile the whole time the cop was writing it out!! She was sure of that, too!
He braked hard, downshifting till he was in second gear, and shot onto the right turn of the cutoff, accelerating around the turns and behind the obscuring hill and houses, then slowed to a crawl, close to the hiway H turnoff. The electronic wail of the Patrolman's siren reached him. The sound passed him out on 63, then fell off as the Patrol car slowed. His decision was made for him. The cop was going to turn at the other cutoff in front of him, he was sure. So he accelerated through the right turn onto hiway H, leaning way over to the right, feeling the suspension and tires do their intended job.
Most people would consider hiway H a nightmare. It's 2-lane, narrow, twisting uphill and down. But this was exactly the kind of road he had built this machine for, the kind of riding he lived for. He rocketed out of town at over 90; he had run this whole area a lot over the last 2 months on the stock XLCR for fun, and knew enough about its layout to be confident that he had a chance if there were no other troopers in front of him. If he could keep the bike on the road there was no way the trooper behind him would catch up.
The Missouri Hiway Patrol uses Ford Crown Victorias, specially set up for them. They are fast, powerful, and handle as well or better than probably 90% of the cars they have to pursue. He knew this, because his daily driver was the same car the HP uses, with better suspension and shocks and a lot more power under the hood. But even his own Crown Vic wouldn't stand a chance of catching him on hiway H. He roared down the road, not able to look away from it for long enough to check the speedometer. The scanner told him the Patrolman had started out H after him without being sure he was there. The trooper requested assistance, but all he got was reports from other troopers that they weren't in position to help. So the odds had taken a big swing in favor of the bike and rider.
The run from Edgar Springs to Lenox is about 8 miles, and at the speeds he was hitting, the town was coming up fast. The bike was doing everything he asked of it, shooting through curves at least 40 mph over the posted "suggested" speeds, taking the hills as if they weren't even there. More than once he literally flew, becoming airborne off the crest of a hill, then settling to the road again on the rear wheel to continue his headlong run. Once he came up behind a slow pickup, leaned to the left to pass, only to see a car approaching in the other lane. Too late to slow, he downshifted and snapped the throttle open, shooting around the pickup and back into his own lane, catching a glimpse of the horrified expression of the car's driver as he shot by in the other direction. Now he knew he was about 2 miles from Lenox. Decision time: would he continue on H, or take the crossing hiway C back toward Licking? Then Fate threw in a wild card.
The scanner came to life again with a message from an officer to the Trooper behind him. The officer was in position at Lenox to intercept him. As the stop sign at Lenox came into view, he made up his mind. Hiway H jogged here, turning right and becoming one road with hiway C for a couple of blocks, then turning left as C continued straight. First he had to see where the cop was. He rolled to the stop sign and looked right. There he was, across the road just in front of the H turnoff. But the cop was apparently used to stopping cars, for there was enough room for a bike in front of the car without leaving the pavement, and the officer was standing behind it by the front fender with the driver's door open. He would have to get around that door before he could get in, and it would cost him precious seconds to do it. He spoke into the mike, "They might have me, don't know just yet. Roadblock at Lenox, but I might get clear."
The biker made the right turn and moved slowly toward the blocking patrol car, looking like he was going to stop. He sized up the position of the car to the H turnoff. It would be a real tight left to get around the car and onto the cutoff, so he decided on the straight shot. He was sitting up as straight as possible on the cafe-style bike, still looking like he was giving up as he got closer to the car. This was a County Mountie, not a Hiway Patrol officer. Then he heard the wail of the HP car's siren behind him, still off in the distance, but coming on fast. Twenty feet from the roadblock, he made his move. Twisting the throttle, he leaned right and shot the gap around the front of the blocking car, got a straight shot on hiway C and opened it up. The front wheel was in the air through all 5 gears, finally settling after he was in fifth, his speed already over 100. Vibration made the mirror useless for a detailed view of the scene behind him and he wouldn't take the chance of taking his eyes from the road to look over his shoulder. If he had looked, he would have laughed himself into the ditch. "I'm clear," he said.
She knew the roadblock at Lenox "made his day". She wondered if he'd encounter any more. She could picture him speeding around the patrol car leaving behind a look of total amazement on the face of the officer. She knew he'd never let a roadblock stop him, whatever the cost in the end. She just kept praying that the cost would only be a monetary one.