The mistake could have sent at least three of us to the hospital that Tuesday. After riding about 20 miles of a freshly oiled and chipped Route 44 in north-central Pennsylvania, the cinders sometimes four inches deep and the oil sticking to my Multistrada’s exhaust and fenders, four ride partners and I stopped for some fuel in Galeton just off Route 6.
Everyone was starving, and I had decided early on I wasn’t going to undergo my typical 24-hour fasts on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The Perma Stone Inn was the destination because it was closest as the freshly chipped road screwed up our original plans. Weirdly, I had ridden 44 in April when it was barely reaching 40 degrees, and the road was perfect. Where they were chipping was one of the best portions of the road.
And there is nothing around the area, which continues to baffle me about just why PennDOT would ruin such a beautiful road with oil and cinders, or oil and chips as they are confusingly called.
Regardless, my mind was elsewhere, and as we were grouped on Route 6 rolling along around 65 mph, I made a quick left into the restaurant after the lead rider pointed it out. I had checked my mirrors and didn’t see Jay, the guy I’ve been riding with religiously for over two decades, incident-free.
I felt him whiz by my elbow. It was one of those moments when you knew you screwed up and were thankful that the situation didn’t become a dire one. A 65-mph bike-on-bike crash feels horrible enough on the race track—never mind the street when in thin and vented textile gear.
The previous evening, we discussed the meaning of becoming a “sausage creature,” which Hunter S. Thompson referred to in his famous Cycle World review of the 1994 Ducati SuperSport titled “Song of the Sausage Creature.” He barely discusses the bike, but his typical imagery and writing style made the piece famous among motorcyclists.
Hunter was discussed at the Pioneer Campground in Muncy Valley, Penn., where we camp for a few days amid the Kaws on the Farm (KOTF) that began as an all-out ZRX rally.
Nowadays, there are all types of bikes there, including a wide selection from my core riding group—two Multistradas, a KTM 990 SMT, a KTM 1290 Adventure, and a single ZRX that my new friend Clay rode up from Memphis. Clay is in his mid-60s, and even after trekking north for a few days on a new-to-him ZRX, he showed no signs of taking it easy—my type of riding friend.
Hunter was brought up because we were just north of Jersey Shore, where he landed his first journalism job. Most mistake it for a beach town, but it’s near some of the most desolate farm areas in central Pennsylvania. I love desolation but would never live there. The closest big town is Williamsport, not a place of my liking.
Thankfully, neither any of my riding friends nor I experienced the song of the sausage creature. That was one of the closest moments I had in nearly a decade. The last time I felt that shaky was when I got stuck in a Menards in Garden City, Kansas, due to a tornado warning. That day I thought I could beat a storm on Interstate 40 just west of Garden City. Instead, a trooper pulled me over, and told me to head back to town and quickly.
“But I can beat the storm, officer.”
“I can tell you’re a far way from home,” he responded. “You can go for it, but I don’t feel like scrapping up any bodies from the highway tonight.”
I was stuck in that Menards for nearly three hours, the sirens blaring as I pulled the bike I was testing at the time on a cross-country trip, a Kawasaki Concours, into the parking lot.
I was so psychologically displaced that I got a hotel that night and a few bottles of wine and sat around writing.
This time on Route 6 wasn’t as terrifying, but the feeling was close.
Lesson learned. Sadly, some of the lessons motorcyclists learn involve some serious pain. However, I was once again lucky and am happy I didn’t have to live through the song of the sausage creature. I’m even happier none of my riding buddies had to.