Monday, March 14, 2011


THE TERRITORY may be well charted by AAA, yet, when leaving a town of any size, I like to do so on a full tank of gas. The high octane stuff. Even though the trip odometer read 147 miles and the RT’s range is about 270 – sometimes 300 – I didn’t want to pass the Shell station outside of Lakeview without filling up.

I took just under three gallons. Whenever I fuel up, I open a zip lock bag and pull out a moist static-free rag to wipe the carnage of bugs off the face shield of my Arai helmet. A quick pass with the moist cloth followed by a drying wipe with a long sleeve or a bandana, and the road is clear again. During this ritual, I always look to see if there is another rider in the area who could benefit from this service – if he’s not riding a fire-breathing Harley. Perhaps stir up a little conversation about where he’s from and where he’s going. Fellowship.

No one here today.

Just as I am slipping the cloth into the zip-lock, an aged, mid-size Honda motorcycle slides up and a short fellow unsaddles next to a pump. I wait for the rider to finish directing the attendant, who, illegally in Oregon, hands the customer the gas nozzle.

I step between the Honda and the newer Subaru Impreza that pulled up familiarly close.

“Can I wipe the bugs off your face shield?”


“Let me catch those bugs…”

The rider looks over my shoulder and hollers, “I need gas in the car, too. Regular,” then turns to me, “No, thanks. We take care of that when we leave each morning.”

The Subaru had backed around and pulled in on the opposite side of the pump. A woman with, perhaps ten or twelve years on me, stepped out. The rider removed her helmet. They could have been twins.

“That’s my car,” the rider explained and this is her motor,” pointing to the little Honda Sabre, “But it’s my turn to ride today.” She ran her fingers through her gray and experienced hair.

“So, where’re you coming from?”

“We’ll, we stayed in town last night,” the old woman started, “but I’m from Victoria and she’s from Vancouver, BC.”

I couldn’t help myself: “Wow.”

“We’ve been through…” She listed several Lakeview sized bergs between this point and north of Seattle. “…and tonight we’re going to end up in Klamath Falls.”

Not too far a day’s ride, I’m thinking. And a curious route into and through all of these little secondary towns.

“…been gone a week and a half so far.” Perhaps she could see the quizzical look on my face, so she explained. “Oh, this trip isn’t about the ride.” She pointed to the old Oregon and Southern Railway right-of-way. “We’re following the speeder tour.”

A speeder is a gas powered vehicle that used to travel the rails carrying two-man crews of gandy dancers – railroad inspectors and maintenance men. Prior to gasification, speeders where those two men hand pumped carts. With the advent of the Model T, wood spoke wheels, replaced by rail trucks allowed automobiles to travel on tracks. In fact, the stance or track of the first automobiles was exactly the same as the gauge of a standard railroad. Perhaps for this purpose. Both women were chattering their excited explanation of this by-gone mode of transit.

“Now collectors buy these old speeders, fix them up and get permission to run tours or rallies on these old railroads where the schedule of freight isn’t so critical.”

Honda and Subaru filled, the women winked and the Impreza driver said, “Keep the rubber side down,” as off they drove.

Golden Girls: circa 2008.  Chasing history.

(c) 2008
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Great story! I've never heard of speeder collecting or tours. It would be awesome to see them on tour. My husband at one time had a job restoring old passenger trains--he'll find this an interesting topic.

  2. Madeline - check out the later portion of this KVIE (local PBS station) story.