When you are staying in a place where the “Last Gas” signs end with three-digit figures, the day starts at about 5 a.m. That’s when the drivers who realize they don’t have enough gas to make it 100 miles stop and wait for the Fields Station in Fields, OR, to open at 8:30.
For those staying in the two rented rooms there, it meant early-morning company, which ended up being four men, strangers to each other, sharing coffee and man talk about vehicles, guns, women and – because we were all of a certain age – creaky knees, sore shoulders, blood clots and deafness among other health-related topics.
First there was Will, pulling a trailer with his 1985 Harley on board and heading from Rogue River, OR, to Colorado to take care of his folks. That meant selling many of his possessions and taking leave from his lady, a perfect companion, he said, who rode an 1,100-pound Harley herself even though she had to stand on tip toes to keep it upright when stopped. The ’85 Harley is special to Will; his father built the engine.
Will, in his 60s, is a recently retired steel fabricator and a longtime member of the Gypsy Jokers. He has a special pocket sewn into his jacket to hold a medallion given to him when he was 12 by Sonny Barger, the sometimes-imprisoned founder of the Oakland chapter of the Hell’s Angels.
Will is a kind-hearted soul who made an earlier stop to help a stranded motorist out of gas by the side of the road. They siphoned some from Will’s tank with Will figuring he had plenty to spare.
He didn’t. He soon found out that after the “Low Fuel” light comes on in his car, followed by a bell dinging, there is a loud buzzing alert that says you are within three miles of ending your forward motion.
Barney got there around 7, claiming that he “usually didn’t do stupid things” but blamed tiredness for his ending up parked in front of the two non-operating gas pumps at Fields Station.
Barney, 73, had retired – again – within the last few months. He said he had worked as a mercenary, a Ford engineer for 37 years, a marina maintenance man, in security and as a tow-truck driver for RVs.
He was on the road looking, he said, for a place where he could hunt, fish, settle down. And perhaps there was a need to find more. Last year was a tough one for Barney. His dog died, and then a month later, his wife of 21 years passed away.
“We came to Las Vegas and ended up staying there because she was sick. I’d get her medicines, take care of her and she could be impatient with me, giving me hell one minute but then hugging and loving me the next.”
He met her in a K-Mart where he had gone to buy ammo for a shoot with the military. He knew she was sick from the beginning: “I could hear her lungs cracking.” But she lived with failing lungs until January 2015. He could tell you the day and hour of her death as well.
“I heard my dog barking when she was dying.”
Would finding another woman be part of his search?
“No, I still have her inside me.”
Scott in the room next door was up early to greet our visitors. He’s a postal worker from the Portland area, in southeast Oregon on vacation to visit hot springs with his uncle, who lives nearby. When the station opened and we went in for breakfast, he pulled a map from a self and pointed out the many springs in the area.
I’ve got to go back and visit them. But after Barney bought us breakfast, I was on the road, headed for Las Vegas and the sevens rugby tournament this coming weekend, which is why this is still on my rugby blog and not over on jbsaulog where I have recorded previous travels.
We’ll be going there soon.