Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! There’s coffee on the workbench, too. Brrrr, it’s cold out here! Hey… Remember that ride where you nearly froze your ass off, an’ by the time you got to where you were headed you were shakin’ like a dog crappin’ peach pits? Yeah, you can laugh about it now, can’t ya? Those are the rides you remember long after that sunny summer putt over to the beach.
The Frog Jumps in Calaveras County’s always been one of my favorite runs, an’ I try to make it every year. I think I’ve only missed one or two in the last 25. Back in the late ’80s, I took off one overcast an’ drizzly mornin’ with “Lost Again” Glenn Cox, an’ headed up Highway 49 toward The Jumps, with Glenn on his new Softail Custom, an’ me on my ’80 Low Rider. By the time we made it ta Oakhurst, it was sprinklin’, an’ a few miles later, it turned ta rain. By the time we made it to Mariposa, it started ta hail. Now I don’t know about you, but when it looks an’ feels like ya have a snowcone dumped in your lap, it just about spoils the fun of that particular moment, especially when it just bounced off your face like pea gravel before droppin’ inta your lap.
We stopped in at a little Dairy Freeze kinda place in Mariposa ta get a cup of coffee an’ dry out a bit, an’ I stole a garbage bag outta the outhouse an’ tucked it in where my chaps didn’t cover. By the way—if anybody out there makes chaps, you’re leavin’ the most important stuff unprotected!
The hail finally turned back inta rain about a half hour later, so we headed out again, climbin’ higher in the foothills with every mile.
About an hour or so up the road, we came ta a quaint little town called Coulterville. It was a boomtown back in the 1840s when the mines were open, but when they closed, boom turned ta doom. The hotel, a little museum, an’ several places along the one side street are still keepin’ on, but it’s mostly kept alive by tourists.
Along the side street was a little pizza place, an’ the owner had the ol’ pot bellied stove glowin’ cherry red. We hung our steamin’ leathers over chairs by the stove, an’ ate pizza an’ drank coffee for an hour or two till we thawed out enough ta go on.
We rolled into Tuttletown, an’ The Red Barn a couple of hours later. That’s where we used ta camp back in those days. It was just a little redneck bar with a field behind it until Miss Becky an’ Stan bought the place a few years ago. We hid out under blue plastic tarps strung up between the trees, an’ drank all weekend. Sure wish I’d have brought a good book. (By the way, if you’re a reader, don’t miss one called Breach by Patrick Lee! It’s great stuff, an’ I read it in two days! Go get a copy now, before ya forget.)
By the time it got dark, mud was washin’ down the hill, an’ right through camp like a river, floodin’ half the tents, an’ causin’ bikes to fall when the kickstands sunk in. My extra clothes got buried in six inches of mud, along with my sleepin’ bag, so it was a miserable night. The band was supposed ta start around dark, but they were afraid the amps would short out, so they packed up an’ left.
The most entertainin’ aspect of the weekend was when somebody started down the hill ta get another beer. This is what made the whole strange trip worthwhile, an’ we all looked forward to it as the highlight of the weekend. You’d hear a blood curdlin’ scream, an’ a brown, slimy figure would hurtle outta the darkness, slidin’ through the feeble light of the Coleman lanterns before landin’ in the makeshift river that had formed in the gully behind the bar. Anybody close enough an’ sober enough would lend a hand pullin’ ’em out of the water. Usually, anybody that slid down ta the bottom of the hill just gave up an’ stayed there, cheerin’ on the next group of screamin’ mud rockets on their way to the river.
The Jumps are the third week in May, so I’ve run inta rain several other times, but none like that trip. Over the years, I’ve found refuge from the elements beside the stove in Sherrie Lockhart’s Avery Hotel, an’ now I hang my battered beanie at The Murphys Hotel, where ya can get a drink without slidin’ 50 yards on your ass.
As ya probably know, age has its benefits, but in my case, brains isn’t one of em. See ya out there in the rain!