I was riding my BMW F700GS across the country along with my dear man on his Yamaha FJ-09. We left from our home (at the time) in Dayton, Nevada with various destinations in Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina on the radar. We didn’t have a strict agenda, necessarily. There was a need to be in the southeast for particular events but we’d given ourselves enough buffer to have a leisurely ride there.
We don’t make reservations for trips like this. We’re well aware that moto travel is far too unpredictable for that and we like having the flexibility to change course if we want. So one late afternoon as we were figuring out our end-game for that day, it was clear that Durango, Colorado would be our resting place for the night.
We didn’t realize that it was the weekend of the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The town was packed with well-dressed folk attending the event and hotel rooms were in short supply. By the time we rolled into town, we were lucky to get a passable room at all, much less one a walkable distance from downtown to be able to enjoy some good grub and cocktails.
It was later in the day than we would normally have stopped and we were starving after a vigorous day in the saddles. There was no time to shower before walking to town. We needed food quickly. Tacos were in order and I knew just the place, having been through Durango a few times before.
With a quick change out of our moto gear and bit of a freshen up, off we went for tacos, sans showers. J followed my lead, trusting my taco judgement. Nini’s Taqueria fit the bill for our weary traveling souls and we devoured dinner with all the gusto of people running on far too few calories for the day.
Now we needed Manhattans, our go-to happy hour cocktail. Again, I knew the place and led J to the The Diamond Belle Saloon. We found it full of revelers decked out in their western finery. It was a sight for sure. And we were certainly out of place in our casual clothes and unwashed helmet hair.
We hovered at the end of the bar, jostling between the comings and goings of the other patrons and hoping to snag a space. Our patience paid off and we settled into the two stools at the end of the bar a short time later. We savored our well-deserved Manhattans, reliving a great day of riding.
Eventually J needed to head to the loo. Before leaving he asked, “Do I need to leave you with a weapon?” I laughed, of course. His query was mostly facetious. Not that he had anything usable as one anyway, but I understood he wanted me to elevate my situational awareness while he was gone.
I ordered a beer from the bartender and began checking in with the world on my phone after a day mostly offline. You know, the usual BS—email, social media, etc. It was only a few moments since J left his seat, with his cocktail on the bar and his coat still on the stool, when a group of four men commandeered the end of the bar.
They were clearly many drinks into the evening and certainly weren’t there for the poetry festival, dressed in casual clothes a bit on the preppy side. Hardly the rugged cowboy look.
The bartender approached to deliver my beer and see if we needed anything else. Just then one of the men asked what I was drinking. Without looking up from my phone, I picked up my beer and tilted the label slightly towards them with a dose of leave-me-the-fuck-alone attitude.
He didn’t get the message. His next comment came quickly. “Kinda light, don’t ya think?” I whipped my head his direction, Exorcist-style, and gave him a look that could not be mistaken for anything but pure, unadulterated malice.
“Are you dissing my fucking drink, dude?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a bemused grin emerge on the bartender’s face as he stepped back to lean on the bar behind him. He folded his arms on his chest, looking like he wished he had a bowl of popcorn for the show that was about to start.
The offending man took a slight step back. It was clearly not the reaction he was expecting. He doubled down on his poor behavior, though, and continued his intrusive commentary on my drink choice.
“I mean, beer isn’t exactly a real drink.”
I was a bit taken aback by the absurdity of this man-child so I didn’t respond immediately. All I could think at first was that I was being punked. This had to be a joke. No, there were no cameras around, this guy was seriously saying this shit to me.
Before I could begin to excoriate him with profound pleasure, J returned. I saw his face over the shoulders of the wall of very large men between us, blocking the path back to his seat in the crowded bar. They didn’t pick up on the fact that I wasn’t looking at them but past them.
I got a little grin on my face thinking of the question J asked me just before he left. I let out a little ironic chuckle that he was right about the weapon. Understanding I wasn’t in distress, he stood back and watched for a moment, waiting for a cue from me. I simply glared at the clueless men and said “You’re in the fucking way,” as I gestured behind them.
Startled back into reality, they turned to find J looking, shall we say, quite unamused. They parted so he could get by and one of them asked him if he was my husband. “No. I’m her fucking bodyguard,” he replied sternly as he resumed his seat.
After a bunch of sputtering gibberish pseudo-apologies—mostly to J and not to me, mind you—they settled into their own conversations again. I was intent on not letting the brief encounter ruin our evening so I returned to my beer and my conversation with J, and let the incident go.
One of the men, by far the oldest in the group, eventually spoke to both of us again, this time sincerely apologizing for his young friend’s behavior. He was a nice enough guy and pretty embarrassed.
He put together that we weren’t there for the poetry festival either. He’d traveled from Pennsylvania with his son and his son’s friends for a golf weekend. The preppy look suddenly made sense.
J looked at me, not knowing how much conversation had passed while he was gone and asked “Did you tell them what you did today?”
“No, didn’t get around to that” I said casually as I sipped my apparently inadequate-for-twenty-something-assholes beer.
J proceeded to explain our cross-country motorcycle trip and that today was just one of many 300-plus-mile days of carving mountain twisties on the bikes.
“Oh,” the man said with a look of admiration and a healthy dose of intimidation. “We got in some good curves today. On the… golf carts,” he said with stilted hesitation. He laughed and we chatted a bit more.
He had a lot of questions about our motorcycle adventures. His young companions listened silently and with increasing sheepishness about choosing me as the target of their manipulative, juvenile antics.
After some time they drifted away to other parts of the saloon as the conversation wound down. I never got around to deflating them further by mentioning that just a couple of weeks before I’d been riding in camel races.
Have fun in your golf carts, boys. Try to keep up.
Amber Pedigo says
Next time you ride through hut up the Billy Goat Saloon. It’s the best. I lived in Durango my entire life, I promise.
Val Weston says
Thanks for the tip! Will do.