Motorcycle Diaries

By staff January 1, 2005

Off to see his son, Wilson, in Santa Fe, photographer J.B. McCourtney traveled on his Triumph Bonneville some almost forgotten trails through our country's past. The result: a two-week odyssey amid vanishing outposts of America, and images that remain, ghostlike, after you turn the page.

Pic No. 21

U.S. 19, Northern Florida. On a motorcycle, billboards provoke all sorts of inner dialogue. Occasionally there's that one large statement along the side of the road that you personally identify with, and it beckons you.

Pic no. 2

Mississippi Waffle House. In the early morning hours, you need a motivator before hitting the highway. "Fun Fact" from a Waffle House menu: "If you took all the bacon that Waffle House Restaurants serve in a day and lined it end to end, it would circle the racetrack in Daytona 23 times."

Pic. No. 4

Kinder, Louisiana. The Japanese performance bikes, sometimes sneered at as "rice burners," are ridden hard and fast. My British Triumph Bonneville (old school style) I ride at a slower, kinder pace. Downshifting through the small town of Kinder, Louisiana, I circled back after noticing a logo concept for "Bonneville, the Kinder Rice Drier."

Pic No. 7

Texas Hill Country. In those first hours, with the sun at your back, your mind cuts through the mental highway fog. Maybe you remember that old friend from high school. Or perhaps the road kill brings on meditations about life and death, or you dive into thoughts about religion or wander into sexual fantasies. But after 12 hours on the road you get off feeling like some kind of maddened whirling dervish, with the sole thought of finding a comfortable bed.

Pic No. 11

Motel room, Blanco, Texas. $29.95. No TV, no phone, no pets.

Pic No. 9

Devil's Backbone, Texas. I felt uncomfortable joining these locals in the midst of their card game, so I sipped a badly needed Bud at the bar and played a David Allan Coe song on the jukebox.

Pic No. 12

Orla, Texas. With the temperature along the almost deserted Pecos Trail hitting well over 100 degrees, I found the only shade for 60 miles under the overhang at Orla's general store, way across the highway.

Pic No. 14

Roswell, New Mexico. In Roswell I asked around about the now fabled UFO debris field. With some misguided and, I believe, purposely confusing directions, I headed north of town and stopped at the entrance to a ranch.

Pic. No. 15

Roswell, New Mexico. Looking for the debris field.

Pic No. 17

Fort Sumner, New Mexico. While searching for Billy the Kid's grave in Santa Fe, I met New Mexico state police officer Jesse Williams with his 1940 Chevrolet Master Deluxe along State Road 60.

Pic No. 19

Santa Fe, New Mexico. Arrived safely. Trying to impress my son, whom I'd missed, I did a little "moto-surfing." After three days of rest it was time to hit the road again, this time heading home.

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