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By Robert “Ghost”Hawkins
In 1995 I decided that a trip to the west/ southwest was in order. I had no real plan or destination just a two week vacation time off because the 4th of July fell on a Tuesday. It’s funny how you can remember how to get extra time off two weeks was really 18 days with the weekends and the holiday. Planning man planning.
I pulled out on the 24th of June and started towards St Louis, I really had never done much in that area and wasn’t much of a big city guy, to begin with, so when I stopped and looked at the Arch I remember thinking “what am I doing here”. I left, touristy shit is not my game. A friend of mine had a boat in Tunica and always said it was mine if I wanted so I headed that way.
I had never been to Tunica and boy it was definitely the Redneck Riviera in 95. The Horseshoe had just opened and that town was like the wild west once you got out of the casino parking lot’s back then, hell even in the casino’s for that matter. I spent two days in Tunica, got a great contact for some future work and realized 3 days would be life for me if I stayed around.
I had bought a used bagger for this trip with a guaranteed sale at the end of the trip and for a guaranteed profit of 1k so this trip was turning out pretty good so far. Back then I tried to stay at 100 a day in expenses or less on vacation and so far I was only out about 75 bucks total. Anyway, my 93 bagger had a cassette deck and radio so this was really my first trip ever with tunes. Let me tell you what a difference.
I left Tunica heading west and south because I had heard, Hot Springs was a pretty cool place to visit and the nightlife was a big deal. The ride over was awesome, I remember going through some little town named Rydell or something and man it was just a cool ass ride. That was an entire day spent just low-speed cruising, listening to the Allman Brothers on my cassette deck. I remember smoking one listening to Gregg Allman singing Melissa looking at one of the locks in the Arkansas River from the parking lot.
I got to Hot Springs at like o dark thirty and got a room. I cruised around and ended up at a bar called The Ohio Club, I thought how ironic it was. I haven’t been back to Hot Springs, but back then it seemed like everything interesting for me was right in that little area on whatever road that bar was on. Hell, I don’t even know if the place is still there but it had a good atmosphere and seemed to hopping for a weeknight.
The next morning I started thinking I really should do more than like 250 miles in a day and I started heading west towards Phoenix. I really had no reason just thought it would be a great run. As I said I had never had a bagger on a trip and man you can really cover miles when you are on the big road eating up ground. I was heading through Amarillo later in the afternoon and just out of town I had to turn around and go back to see the Cadillac Ranch. If you haven’t seen it it’s pretty cool. Some dude plants Caddys nose down in a field next to the Interstate. A shit ton of people stop and write shit on them and sit getting fucked up wondering what HE was smoking. Bruce Springsteen kind of immortalized it with a song back in the 80s when he came out with his greatest ever album “The River” back when I was like 20 so it was pretty cool listening to Bruce on my cassette deck riding away from there. Good times.
I kept with it over to Santa Rosa NM where I stopped for a cold one and spent the night. The next morning I decided 800 miles on the interstate was plenty and looked at my map, remember those days before GPS, and figured it would be cool to go south. Those of you who have never had the chance to take alternative routes and not just an interstate will never experience one of the greatest rides you can ever take. If you run 54 down to 60 and follow 60 all the way across New Mexico into Az it is fucking incredible and the ride down into the canyon and back out through the Rez is even better. Towns like Pie and Show Low are definitely cool. Phoenix sucks, but nearly every city does so once you get into town it’s just another shit hole city.
Back then though you could find some good shit going on up north towards Black Canyon. I stayed the night there and had a ball. There was a biker bar in town all was good.
In the morning I thought going north and west to the Grand Canyon would be cool. The run-up and then thru the park was fun and the that is one big fucking hole in the ground. Since I was that close I headed towards Vegas. My experience there was not all that great this time. I got thrown out of a casino on main street and man when you get tossed on main you don’t go anywhere for the rest of the night. I think it was only like midnight when I went to bed but I had done about 1300 miles in the last 2 days and probably needed the rest anyway.
I had been gone for about a week by then and covered something close to 2800 miles, it was time to start setting sail towards home. As I set out I decided going back south towards Laughlin wouldn’t be a bad route so that was the way I thought I would head but somehow I got on the wrong road and headed towards the Hoover Dam and then on towards Kingman.
By the time I got back to Flagstaff I had enough of the big road again and headed north and east to Farmington NM for the night. It was great just an easy run. The following morning the clouds, wind, and rain came, but man those baggers are fucking great. Tour packs and saddle bags with warm clothes and rain gear to put on over your leather. Fucking awesome!
The rain let up by the time I got to Trinidad and I found a place to pull over and put my shit up. I was standing in a little turnout and a guy pulls up to check if I am ok. Cool dude man no B.S. just shot the shit. Found out he was from Wenatchee Wa. We laughed about what the odds of that were. I had blown up there almost twenty years earlier on my first big trip. He was heading south towards El Paso.
I pulled out of there mid-afternoon and plugged in Bob Seger. Turn the Page as I crossed the Arkansas River again, well had to stop for a smoke again but what the hell.
Dodge City was a good place to stop for the night and started thinking I could make it home early and get the deal done on my bike if I ran it back straight through. The next day I ran back listened to Marshall Tucker Band and Lynard Skynard the whole way. That cassette deck sure got a workout.
Cleaned the bagger the next day and rode it over to my buddy’s north of Indy. Got a ride back with my check.
Bought the bike for 9500.00 drove it for two weeks and 4500 miles sold it for 10,500.00. Spent 1200.00 all in on my trip. $200.00 net cost for a two-week vacation.
You know what the 90s had some great shit going for it.
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