The Bombing Run, Part 2—A Story Of Loss, Speed, And Dads

The conclusion of a speed run to Colorado

We rejoin Cindy and her storming R100RS in St. George, Utah, on an overnight run to her ailing father. To reiterate, this is a work of fiction for reading entertainment. Respect all speed limits. Always. —N.I.

Part 1 here.

Into Utah

Scott had wired a Valentine One radar detector into the RS permanently and mounted an LED at the trailing edge of the windscreen for an easily seen alert. California and Nevada had not given her many warnings but she wondered if her clean run would continue into Utah and Colorado. She banked on the Valentine, and the fact that rural America wasn't heavily patrolled late at night; the bike snarled to life in the restaurant parking lot at 3:45 a.m. with the explosive crack of a high-compression engine eager to perform. She had been on the road for four and a half hours, had covered 390 miles, and Highways 9 and 12 were next. She did some quick math to arrive at a 92-mph average so far. Not bad, she smiled to herself. Dad wouldn't be too embarrassed.

From St. George to Highway 9 and into Zion National Park happened in a rush with only Hurricane, Rockville, and Springdale interrupting the wholesale asphalt assault. She saw one pickup truck and that was it. One of her dad’s frequent questions made her smile as the pickup truck’s taillights faded in her mirrors.

“What are these people doing on our private racetrack?” Her dad would ask this sardonic question when traffic slowed the bombing runs, and they’d all roll their eyes at the general public’s lack of speed appreciation.

One habit Cindy’s dad instilled in her was to laugh at the poor, distracted, and stupid driving they would see rather than allow it to upset them into anger. “You’ll never win a fight with a car,” her dad reminded her often. “Better to see the stupidity coming and not be there when it happens—don’t hang around for the idiocy, get past it pronto.” She had never seen her dad give a driver the finger, but occasionally he would applaud and give the thumbs-up in sarcastic appreciation of particularly unintelligent move. Behind her dad’s laughter was a mind constantly scanning for drivers’ mistakes, with a plan to avoid them early. She inherited that mind.

The small part of Cindy's mind that wasn't locked on her survival kept drifting to her dad and husband. They always rode with helmet radios and the smart-assery was pretty constant. Scott loved to shout, "Drive that fast car fast!" whenever he saw a performance car toddling along at or below the speed limit. The trio had joked about starting a website www.drivethatfastcarfastorsellittosomeonewhowill.com as they streamed past cars designed for much more than they were asked to do. "Might as well have a Prius," was a frequent in-helmet observation. At some point in every ride, one of the three would quote the movie American Graffiti when they saw a performance car driven like a donkey cart: "Geez, what a waste of machinery."

Zion Run

But not tonight—or this morning, Cindy thought, correcting herself. She slowed to 50 mph through the Zion Park guard shack, uninhabited at 4:05 in the morning, before pulling the trigger again. The duo flashed past the campground where Cindy and Scott had spent so much time during motorcycle tours and Cindy realized something with a start: This could be my first uninterrupted run through Zion Park! She and Scott had talked about leaving the campground at midnight for a blast through the park but had never followed through on the idea. They had always been on their sport-touring bikes, but now she was on the real deal and the red road of Zion Park unwound ahead of her, etched in her memory after years of visits with her dad, husband, and other friends on bikes. She saw 103 on the speedometer through the tunnel and finally put to rest her dad's bragging of how he once went 81 mph in the tunnel before traffic shut down his exuberance. Can't wait to tell him the record is now 103.

In the dark, Zion's rock formations and towers cannot pull a rider's focus away from the road, and everything in life was forgotten as the RS responded to Cindy. The bike was strong enough to wheelie off the slow, second-gear hairpins and everything that racing at Willow Springs meant to her came back as the purity of human and machine interaction jelled. She, her dad, and Scott had owned a lot of bikes—there were still six in the garage plus four more at her dad's in Grand Junction, but as Cindy turned left on Highway 89 for the short run up to Highway 12 she knew that the RS was the perfect machine for this wild dash to her father. Comfortable on the freeway, stable in the fast stuff, and tossable in the slow. I might have to mount some lower driving lights to help during the wheelies, Cindy thought to herself, laughing as she imagined Scott wiring up some "wheelie lights." He would have done it.

RS
As Cindy catapulted the RS across the northern Zion Park boundary she spotted a car hidden behind the entry wall and her heart went to her throat, but her Valentine One radar detector stayed silent. It was a tired motorist and one of the only cars she would see all night. Perfect, let the speed joy continue.Nick Ienatsch

Thanks, Reg

Scott had started winning on this RS in large part thanks to Reg Pridmore, the man who won three AMA Superbike national championships on the RS100S, basically the same bike with a fairing change. Pridmore had seen this RS at Willow when he was there teaching his school, CLASS, at the smaller Streets of Willow, and of course was invited into the garage by Scott. Pridmore immediately saw that the rear was too low and the front offset was stock, but only complimented Scott on how clean the bike was. At that point Scott was battling for fourths and fifths, fighting grip issues and riding dangerously close to edge just to be in the top five. He told Pridmore this and Reg nodded.

“Here’s my number, call me some time,” Pridmore told Scott, handing him a business card. Pridmore had worked hard for his secrets and wanted to gauge Scott’s desire. At 9 a.m. the next Monday, Pridmore’s phone rang, and the two started a friendship based around getting the BMW to win at Willow Springs. Three months later Scott was a strong third, another few months of tweaking found Scott fighting for the win. And then he won and won and won. Pridmore’s setup notes and riding approach were the difference, especially when combined with the trick engine and chassis bits the champion was able to shuffle Scott’s way.

This memory captivated Cindy as she and the RS catapulted up Highway 12, a road less familiar to her but high on her all-time-best list. The first time up this road was on the back of her dad’s Yamaha FJ1100, and she could still remember the road’s almost-perfect layout that wrapped up and down mountains and finally out along narrow ridges. Like in Zion, the awe-inspiring scenery was lost to the dark, and once again the unraveling road in the halogen beam reminded her that the most beautiful scenery was a clear road ahead.

Air Travel Or This?

More than once Cindy thought of air travel. Driving to the airport to pay to park to stand in line to take off your shoes and empty your bag and then wait some more if the plane was delayed. She thought about the narrow cabin that Scott called the Flu Tube, the shuffling up and down the aisles like cattle. “Lord I’m happy to be on a bike,” she muttered again and again.

Airplane
Airplanes serve their purpose but the RS was the perfect companion on this bombing run to dad.Ienatsch Collection

Her mind flashed back to a bombing run four years ago when the rear tire on her dad’s ZX-11 had picked up a nail. They had pulled into a gravel area south of Newcomb’s Ranch on the Crest, and just as her dad pulled out his tire-plug kit it began to rain. There they were, getting soaked as the gravel area turned to mud, wrestling with the plug kit and then the tire pump. As her dad reached to unsnap the pump from the now-fixed tire, he stopped and turned to Cindy, putting his hand on her shoulder.

“You know what kid?” he asked in the pelting rain.

“What?”

“This is still better than driving a car!” They stood in the mud and the rain and laughed a laugh of true happiness.

RS
Cindy’s mind did a quick comparison: a memory of her last flight next to a memory of Scott’s RS the day he finished refurbishing it for the street. “No-brainer,” she muttered inside her helmet.Ienatsch Collection

As the big twin turned north to rocket along Highway 24 Cindy realized it could all go wrong with a momentary mental lapse, a poorly timed deer, a flat tire, a spun bearing, but what riding fast brought to her life far outweighed those risks. She had learned, time and again at Willow, that riding’s risks could be managed with intense and relentless mental focus and sharply practiced riding skills. She had both, and swung east onto Interstate 70 for the final run into Colorado.

Hill Ranch Racers
If you enjoy Nick's fiction writing, check out his novel The Hill Ranch Racers, available at Amazon and other book outlets, as well as in digital form.Nick Ienatsch

Back on the freeway she did her best to stay in the right lane, using the left lane for passing only. “Get back over in the ‘innocent lane’ whenever you can,” her dad had advised. He would point out the very common skid marks on freeways that are at a 45-degree angle across the freeway and say, “Those are the marks from a driver who fell asleep and wandered out of their lane onto the rumble strips on either side of the lanes, woke up and over-corrected, spinning across the freeway and usually rolling over in the median. Falling asleep is almost always the culprit to blame for these massive freeway single-vehicle accidents.” And then he would smile and add, “It’s just about impossible to fall asleep at 120 mph—once again, speeding is safer!” Cindy had sped all night and was wide awake with the thrill of velocity.

Bike and rider popped over the Colorado border at 6:28 a.m. at 124 mph. Twenty-three minutes later she parked the RS in her parents’ driveway and checked the tripmeter: 786 miles in about nine hours. An 87 mph average, not so bad in the dark.

Her mom and dad heard the RS as it turned onto their street. “That’s Scott’s Beemer,” her dad said. “Man, I’ll bet she had fun.” Over coffee Cindy told them about her night, told them that the airlines couldn’t have gotten her to Grand Junction quicker than Scott’s RS. When she told her dad his Zion Park tunnel record was gone, he bowed, and somberly shook her hand in mock deference.

Her dad had faded physically since she had last visited but mentally he was all there. He asked her what kind of mileage she was getting from the ex-racebike, how far she could go on a tank—and finally the question she knew was coming: What was your average speed? He laughed out loud when he heard and joked, “Well, my job here on earth is done. I’ve offered you the gift of speed and you have accepted.”

Over the next three days the little family bonded even tighter. Each day at about 2 p.m., Cindy and her mom helped her dad onto the back of his old ZX-11, and daughter took dad for a ride. On his insistence and for their joy, they exceeded 100 mph on each of his last days.

More next Tuesday!