VIDEO: Motorcycles do not float


I came to a stop behind Thermos on the dusty trail. He had both of his gloved hands over his head. He was clapping. Just ahead of him, in the middle of a small stream was Keith. His bike was submerged, up to both cylinder heads, in brown water. The rear of the bike was down a bit deeper, nearly past the rear fender. The back tire was spinning, but he was going nowhere. With the rotating tire and frothing exhaust bubbles, the dark water roiled like an uninviting jacuzzi . I leaped from my bike in an instant. I knew what I had to. I knew I had to do it fast, too.

I grabbed my camera and took a picture.

This was what I’d been waiting for all day. Up to that point, we’d been having a dusty ride over some lovely back roads on the Oxford County and New Hampshire line. We’d spent a peaceful night camping on the shores of Virginia Lake in Stoneham. Nothing had gone wrong. That makes a pleasant enough day, but it’s no good for pictures and video. You need drama for that and here, at last, we had some.

Scott, who had made it through the mire, had a rope pull with him. John had some rubber boots. Tim took his boots and pants off. Between them, with help from Vinny, they pulled the bike out. Thermos rode his rig right through, on a slightly different trajectory, without a problem. John, however, found another hole and his bike stalled out in the water. I headed for the water a bit too fast. I made it across, but got soaked in the process.

Keith gets a sinking feeling.

Keith gets a sinking feeling.

Scott gets it done.

Scott gets it done.

John didn't make it either.

John didn’t make it either.

John, Keith and myself all had water in our engines. We drained our carbs, stuck paper towels in our cylinder heads and dried our spark plugs off. The bikes, to their credit, fired back up. The other two biked in our group of seven Russian sidecar rigs turned back. They’d seen enough. Scott (with his dog, Buddy) Thermos (with Vinny in the sidecar) John, Keith and I forged on ahead. We thought we’d seen the worst.

We were wrong.

First the trail was rocky. Then it was rocky and very steep. I nearly smoked my clutch trying to get up the incline. After that, it was rocky, very steep and rutted. When we got to the top it was studded with boulders, rutted by giant machine tires and slathered with mud. It was no ordinary mud, either. It was a new form of bottomless, stealth mud. It looked like ordinary ground until you tried to ride over its surface. Then it opened up and took a bite. At one point, it nearly swallowed Thermos’ bike — Vinny, sidecar and all. Scott’s rope pull was pressed into service again.

Man eating mud gets Thermos.

Man eating mud gets Thermos.

Eventually, we were forced to turn back and traverse the same mile-and-a-half of trail we’d just come over. Our average speed worked out to be something like a half-a-mile per hour on that stretch. On the way out, I tore the muffler from the header pipe on a rock and bent my shifter. Out came the tools. With the help of John’s speed wrench and a rubber mallett from Thermos, I got the muffler back on. Scott bent my shifter back to somewhere in the neighborhood of where it should be. Now, I have a custom twist in the shaft. A chop shop would probably charge me big bucks for the same custom work, if it were chrome.

By the time we got back to camp, many hours after the other two bikes, we were desperate for a beer, or two. But we had a story to tell, and pictures to prove it was true.

Virginia Lake cooler.

Virginia Lake cooler.

Keith.

Keith.

John.

John.

Thermos and Vinny.

Thermos and Vinny.

Virginia Lake.

Virginia Lake.

Virginia Lake loons.

Virginia Lake loons.

 

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Troy R. Bennett

About Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.