By Chuck”Chicago Chuck”Jines
I pulled the clutch in on my 2004 Dyna and downshifted as I turned off the blacktop road and onto a dirt path, which lead out into the New Mexico desert. I crossed an old weathered cattleguard which seemed to serve as some sort of mystical divide between our modern world, and this harsh and hostile land that time forgot. The distant mountains majestically sparkled as shafts of piercing light forced their way through the dark monsoons which danced freely across the open landscape.
This, this is why I jumped on my Scooter and left the sweltering madness and stifling congestion of urban life, to make a new start under the open skies of the desert southwest. Out here in this outlaw country, a man can truly be alone. Most people fear being alone, but not an outlaw. An outlaw seeks his solitude – for he’s seen too much. This is probably why, historically, New Mexico has served as a sanctuary for war veterans, outcasts, misfits and outlaws. There’s enough space here to be left alone.
I had old Bertha loaded down with a shitload of gear. We had traveled some 2500 miles to make a new start here in New Mexico, and I had all my essential belongings strapped to my Bike. It was like a work of art, the way I had my shit affixed to my scooter, a fine work of engineering. The only problem was, I wasn’t on a paved road anymore. I wasn’t even on a gravel or dirt road; I was riding my scooter down what could best be described as a sandpit trail with ruts, rocks, hills, and large piles of cow turds scattered about, just to keep things interesting. The monsoon rains had recently come through and thoroughly soaked the ground. It was as if I were riding my motorcycle through a muddy swamp.
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I was having a real hard time keeping old Bertha upright, but I was bound and determined to locate a parcel of property that was for sale somewhere out here in the desert. I thought about removing all my gear and just leaving it on the trail, but I figured that if I were going to build an off-grid cabin and live out here, I’d have to learn how to get my scooter in and out under any condition.
I continued to hammer down the trail while gracefully fishtailing the rear-end of my scooter in an attempt to maintain forward momentum. Ol’ Bertha was tossing mud up into the air like a broken sewer line as I hydroplaned across a grassy flat field. All was well, and I was even having a good time when suddenly…
… the terrain dramatically changed. As I came to the end of the open field, I was confronted by a rutted-up hill that had a deep gully along one side. Things had gone from bad to worse, but I was hungry to see the parcel of property. There was a narrow ledge that ran along the top of the gully which looked as if it might be passable. There was absolutely no way around, so I just gritted my teeth while attentively working the clutch and throttle, doing my best to keep the scooter affixed to the narrow sandy ledge that ran the length of the gully. I thought for sure that my scooter would slip off the wet ledge and down into the rut, but we went over the hill without any issues.
After managing to survive the rutted hill with the narrow ledge, I immediately ran straight into an area that was completely covered with water. I tried to navigate my way through the driest spots that I could find, but I was getting tired, and the terrain was growing ever more impassable. Then, in an instant, as if someone had suddenly pulled the rug out from under me, I found myself going down. Me, all my gear, and the bike hit the ground with a mighty splash into the mud. The bike landed directly on my left leg. It was almost upside down, and I could smell the gear oil leaking from the transmission.
I struggled for several minutes trying to unloose my leg from under the motorcycle, but it was no use. The bike was too heavy, the ground too wet, and I was just too tired to fight anymore. I fell onto my back and gazed up into the sky, listening to my heavy breathing as the bike sank deeper into the mud, clutching my leg even more securely with each passing moment. There I was, miles out in the middle of nowhere, pinned under my scooter with most of my belongings scattered about in the mud. As I looked out across the desert, I could see the next heavy monsoon looming in the distance and heading my way.
To be continued…
Chuck Jines is an internationally published independent documentarian, photographer, and social critic.
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