Weightless. Adj. Being without apparent weight, as a freely falling body.
When serving in the Army, payday arrives twice a month. At this time portions of the earnings are expected to be spent on the necessities of military life, haircut, shoe polish, starch in your uniform etc… the rest is up to the individual troop to spend. The barracks are always swarmed with insurance salesman and an assortment of flimflam men that anxiously wait for the freshly paid soldiers.
I was stationed at Fort Bliss Texas, located near beautiful down town El Paso. For me my earnings were better spent on motorcycle necessities like gasoline and 2-stroke oil, this was my escape from the boredom of barracks life. I was the owner of a 1974 green Kawasaki 750, along with 2 close wanna-be motorcycle racer friends; Dave from Pocahontas, Arkansas with his Kawasaki 750 and Ken from Albuquerque, New Mexico proud owner of a Triumph 500 always accompanied me. We would spend all weekends and afternoons riding, over here, over there, up the hill, down the hill, around the highways and byways of El Paso, miles and miles of miles and going nowhere. We would ride until we ran out of money and gasoline.
On the weekends when time allowed the three of us would ride further away, over the Franklin Mountains to the side of town where Pawnshops, Strip Joints, and shady businesses that target GIs didn’t exist. Here we would could find peace and quiet, along with nice riding through the fields, orchards and along the Rio Grande River. We knew the roads well and where to ride where the roads were the most challenging.
Among the houses and ranches on that side of town many of the homes are located among almond orchards. In that part of southwestern Texas water is a rarity and requires piping water from orchard to orchard. There are water pipes that lay on the top of the ground and criss-cross the landscape from ranch to ranch, then occasionally crossing public streets. The roads near the orchards were almost always shaded and cooled from the summer sun; we would always detour to that area for possibly the most challenging of all roads.
We felt the street was aptly named. After turning onto Byrd just past the first four-way stop sign about an eighth of a mile ahead was a water pipe about three feet tall laid across the street, where the county laid asphalt in a nicely ramped incline to the crown of the pipe going both directions. From the stop sign and under mid acceleration we could reach 30 or 40 mph, going over the pipe at these speeds would launch you skyward, you could fly for what would seem forever.
On one ride over to Byrd, I was lucky enough to be the first to see a young girl (Mary) walking along the street I coaxed her to climb aboard, and to go for the Byrd ride. We turned onto Byrd accelerated to the piping and flew. Mary’s 95lbs didn’t effect the launch of the 750 we flew like a bird, as the bike begun its return to earth there was tugging under my arms and Mary’s ankles were in my peripheral vision at both sides of my helmet. When we landed and stopped both Dave and Ken were amazed by the amount of air under Mary’s blue jeans. Luckily the sissy bar mounted on my bike kept her from going off the back. Her comment on the ride. “WOW! Lets do it again.” Next time over she had a much firmer grip around my middle.
On a fall Sunday afternoon’s weekend ride, life was beautiful, no guard duty, fresh pockets from payday, and our bikes were running great. Being 21 years old I had the world by the tail. We made our way to Byrd. The three of us sat at the four-way stop and gazed toward the launch pad. When it was clear I left first. This time I had one goal, The Byrd Street world record! I sped forward in third gear maybe 50 or even 60mph, I hit the bottom of the incline the bikes suspension collapsed I accelerated to the crown of the pipe. As I went over the top I flew up, the suspension of the bike sprung back hurdling me even further and higher. I let off the gas stood up on the foot pegs taking the weight from the seat.
In the air its awesome there is silence, speed, and most of all weightlessness. The big 750 flew effortlessly this was it the furthest, fastest, I have ever gone not being attached to the earth. A true moment of freedom. Being unleashed from the ties that bind all to the earth. As the bike began to return to the asphalt my helmet tugged at the chin strop, my feet left the pegs for a second my only hold was on the handlebars. We came back down to earth with a bump. At this point the suspension fully collapsed, by butt hit the seat (almost hurt myself). There was a serious wobble in the front end but I held on.
Slowing down and looking back to see if Dave or Ken was coming next. To see if either of them had the “right stuff” to follow my lead. As I looked into the rearview mirror no bikes were following, looking back over the top of the pipe, to my horror the worst possible scenario. Lights, red and blue lights blazing and turning onto Byrd. To the best of my knowledge they were coming after me. The outstanding traffic tickets that I still hadn’t appeared on flashed in my head. My company Captain is telling me he didn’t want anymore “motorcycle” problems from me. I could be in serious trouble here. At that point I made what was one of the stupidest decisions of my life. “Get out of here!”
In the deserts of Texas there aren’t any places to hide that are not in plain sight. Luckily Byrd road was an access road to a newly developed housing project, unluckily there was only one other access road, if there was an officer at the other street I was cornered. I had to hide, looking back I didn’t see any lights nor did I hear the sirens. I had enough of a head start. Looking down one of the subdivision streets I saw what could be my hiding place. A travel trailer backed up against a brick backyard wall and you couldn’t see behind it very well. No time to think it out “go for it” I made a beeline for the sanctuary, across a couple of lawns and driveways onto the yard of the travel trailer. I rolled up behind the trailer and shut the motor off. My heart was pounding a mile a minute.
Sitting and waiting I still didn’t hear any sirens, so far so good. My luck ran out. Behind the steel backyard gate, a mutt, a rat dog, a terrier, some kind of little yipping mop dog, yelling his little guts out at me. I tried to calm him down but no, he was sending a signal out loud and clear, I was trespassing on his turf. The house owner heard his little mutts alarm and understood perfectly about what was going on. Very soon a 12-gauge shotgun, a 25-caliber pistol or some kind of big gun met me. “Get out’ta my yard” the gun demanded. “But the cops are after me.” I plead with the weapon hoping that it would hear my plea and take pity allowing me to wait until the threat of incarceration was over. The barrels of he gun got closer to my head. “They will be coming to pick up your dead body if’n you don’t get out’ta my yard!” I took the guns recommendation to heart and left my hiding spot.
I slowly made my way back onto the street, knowing that the officers were cruising around looking for me. No lights, I knew I couldn’t go back down the way I just came in. I headed toward the other access street, no light, no cops, “Cool!” I thought to myself. I sulked my way back to the main street, no Dave or Ken. I headed back toward El Paso. Then a couple of miles down the road at a gas station Dave and Ken were waiting. “What happened to you?” they asked. I went over the story of the police car, little yipping dog and the big gun. This was met with laughter from the pair, which didn’t make me feel much better. Then they told me their side of the story.
As is flew down Byrd road over the pipe Dave was ready to go next, but before he could get going a couple of kids hauling butt in a homemade go-cart they turned onto Byrd Road. Going for a 100 yards or so then disappearing into the orchard on the other side of the street. The boys were followed by a local security police officer that was trying to apprehend the lawbreakers. He followed them into the orchard on the other side of the street and disappeared. At that point Dave and Ken decided not to make the jump but would wait for me down the street.
From my vantagepoint all I could see were the lights on the top of the police car. The kids in the go-cart weren’t visible. My escape was not necessary. My dealings with the dog and gun could have gotten me into more trouble than jumping over the pipe. We all laughed about it for a couple of minutes drank a soda pop. Then very law abidingly rode back to Fort Bliss and waited for the next payday.
After the Army I lost touch with Ken and Dave, but I understand that Dave re-enlisted in the Navy and served time as a fighter pilot, Ken went to Germany never to be heard of again. I went on to be honorably discharged, spent some time on unemployment then off to college for a couple of years, and have been gainfully employed by Kawasaki since 1985 and have enjoyed professionally drag racing for them since 1992. My 750 was stolen from my apartment complex in El Paso. It would be a couple of years until I got another motorcycle. That is a story unto itself.
I never went back to Byrd Road.