long road ghost - part 1 of 9

A while ago, my friend Michelle J. threw out a writing challenge - take Washington Irving's classic story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and give it the ol' modern makeover. Long Road Ghost is my take, motorcycles and all, on the tale of a headless horseman. Since it's just for fun and I'm not planning on getting this published, I'm making it available here for your amusement. Hope you enjoy!

Long Road Ghost - Part 1

It’s a long road to Vegas, particularly if ya’re startin’ out in LA. First ya leave the thick city for thinner, blander suburbs. Go through San Berdou and use Cajon Junction to bypass’ jagged, snow-capped Mount San Antonio. Maybe ya even enjoy a detour on historic route 66. Then go through some desert nothin’ to hit Victorville, a big town with everythin’ ya need, assumin’ ya’re not one of the LA hipsters who need style and flash. Then it’s more desert, broken up by those damn retail outlets, ‘til ya hit Baker for a last chance to grab a bite before hittin’ the Nevada border. But forget all that map stuff; drivin’ to Vegas means dealin’ with the Mojave desert; flat, dry, no color. Some deserts feel alive beneath all that desolation, and parts of the Mojave are like that, but on the way to Vegas it feels like it’ll suck the will to live right out of ya. Sure, ya’ll sometime see that creosote shrub with its little yellow flowers and undead grasses. But for the most part, there’s nothin’ to look at. If ya’re not careful, boredom will crawl into ya’re skull and drive ya crazy.

But that 15 can be fun to ride, if ya made ya peace with the desert…and there’s no damn construction or traffic. I assume cagers with real cars, not those sissy luxury things, get a thrill from the road. But I tell ya, the real fun comes from a loud and fast hawg. I’ve been ridin’ around these parts since I was a kid, and there’s nothin’ quite like me and my bike ridin’ alone with the desert, rushin’ wind and splattered bugs.

The only thing that means anything on the drive is Sleepy Hollow, a bar on the way to Baker that I inherited from my Dutch granddaddy; a shabby, grimy, gritty place perfect for bikers to hang out. Sleepy Hollow, which granddad named after that famous place from Washington Irvin’s story, ain’t big on the Dutch obsession with cleanliness and order. I s’pose with a name like Hans Van Ripper – Rip, really – I should live up to my ancestry, but if my clientele ain’t bothered (and they ain’t) well, that’s fine by me. I got bikes to fix and rides to ride when I’m not pourin’ unwatered beers or whiskeys straight-up, no ice.

Now, Baker itself is filled with decent, church-goin’ folk. It’s a quiet place. Riff-raff from Baker and as far as Victorville hang out at Sleepy Hollow, provided they follow my rules: no brawlin’ at the bar and my word is law. Most are bikers; my old ridin’ buddies, the few still alive, from back in the days when the Fire Kings ruled the road; young toughs from the next generation of biker gangs, Brom Bones’ Bone Riders; odd drifters takin’ a break from the raw speed and dust of the long road. Some are just ordinary tourists, nice folk who rarely get comfortable enough among the leather and grease of my usual patrons. They have a drink, maybe one of my cook Mojo’s hot dogs and fries, then leave with the fear of the devil in them, despite my efforts to make ‘em feel welcome. Sure, in my younger days I was one of them young toughs, quite happy to scare the shit out of nervous-nelly milquetoasts. Ya bet. But those days are long gone and I feel bad enough for the past as mean-stupid biker punk that I don’t need to aggravate my conscience. That’s just like poking a stick in a beehive.

Tune in next Wednesday for part 2...

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