BY CHRIS GRETA Forty thousand miles . That ’ s how far I ’ ve ridden on a motorcycle the last few years , through all the western states and back roads and little towns and The Big Empties .
Places like Route 50 through Northern Nevada . Seriously empty . Other than the asphalt road and a telephone line , there is little evidence of any human activity . You might as well be back in time ten thousand years .
Driving around the country in a car is one thing . You ’ re ensconced in comfort . Music playing , plush seats , AC , heat , and probably a cup of hot coffee in a cup holder . You ’ re watching a movie through the windshield . But when you ’ re on a motorcycle for what could end up being months at a time , you ’ re not watching the movie . You ’ re in the movie , for better or worse . You just learn to adapt to the heat , the cold , the rain , the snow , the bugs , and anything else the road throws at you . And you lower your expectations and find joy in everything you see . And you fall in love with places . Like I fell in love with Route 50 . There are only a few tiny towns and a few cars , and you always fill up when you can .
And Marathon . Pronounced Marathunn and not Marathon , and I ’ m not sure why .
The Marathon Motel is 388 miles from my driveway . I load up the bike with a tent , sleeping bag , and a change of clothes and leave early in the morning , and head west , then north to Llano , then west again through Iraan ( pronounced Ira Ann ), Eldorado ( pronounced EldorAAdo ) and at some point , drop down onto I-10 to avoid big trucks for a few miles and get to the motel around eight hours later . I ’ m usually riding with JimBob and another friend or two , and we used to stay in his vintage Airstream , but the trailer died , and now we camp .
And the rest of the world goes away for a time when we get there .
There is always that cliché talk about some places having a different rhythm . Time stands still , or moves more slowly , or whatever . I try to avoid cliches in my thinking , but cliches are cliches because maybe they have a seed of truth . And time does move a little slower in Marathon . It ’ s 30 miles from another city , with one road going through the middle and a railroad track . A couple times a day , the train rolls through and will shock the hell out of you at first , then you just kinda stop hearing it . It ’ s the thing that marks time , really , and when you spend enough time there , it becomes the reminder that life is still rolling along on big , slow-moving steel wheels .
After a time , the train is reassuring .
You ’ re still here . Not a lot going on . What kind of bird is that ?
As you get to know a place , you start to see why people end up there . With 390 people in Marathon , you find some were born nearby and have always stayed , but most wandered through , found a reason to stay and just stayed . Like Danny . Danny was at a wedding in the late 90s and ended up at the motel because the Gage was booked . He fell in love with the place and ended up buying it .
Now he ’ s been there over 22 years and has heard that train go by around 48,000 times .
Danny has a couple beautiful Indian motorcycles , and we ride together . The motel is a nice place to call home for a while . The rooms are nice and always pristine and the big courtyard is beautiful with flowers , fountains and a fireplace that always has a stack of firewood and fatwood starters . Any time I ’ m there , I get the fire started and before long , other guests wander over and we solve the problems of the universe and Danny will usually show up and have a cigar and a glass of evening bourbon .
22 Cenizo Spring 2023