By Ed Ritchison

While serving in the Army back in the 80’s, I was stationed in Germany at a NATO weapons site, where I, along with approximately 200 other M.P.s  patrolled and stood watch over the afore mentioned site, 24/7, 365 days, round the clock. We were known as “Towerrats”, a term I didn’t give much thought to until I got older and started reflecting on my younger days and adventures. Now there is a brotherhood of these “Towerrats” and every so often, we try and get together for a week end of tall tales and consumption of adult beverages…what’s an old soldier to do? Here the Cade’s story begins…

One of my “rat” buddies calls about 3 months ago and says let’s get together, some place new for all of us, that we can drive to and meet for a reunion. Since all these guys are huge football fans, it was decided upon that we should meet in Canton , Ohio , home of the National Football League Hall of Fame. We could take in the HOF , enjoy some good eating in the Amish country, make a dent in the Canton beer supply, and still be centrally located for all concerned.

Well, for me, the wheels started to turn. I get my trusted Atlas out, begin marking the routes to take, hotel reservations to make, packing preparations, everything I need for the trip. Then the big decision… I take the Cade, a 19 year old bike with 80,000 plus miles, that I’ve pretty much had rebuilt from front to rear since I’ve purchased it 2 summers ago, knowing that somewhere along the way, something could go wrong, leaving me stranded, angry, and worried, not to mention ruining my whole trip, this….or just riding my dad’s 2003 Yamaha Road Star, in great shape, low mileage, ready for the road. Well, after some thought, I decided,” I bought that Cade for the sheer pleasure of the highway, to ride and enjoy, come what may, besides, I have come to know the bike, it’s feel, it’s handling, when things aren’t right, and when it runs like something right off the showroom floor…no, for me and this trip, the 2-tone blue was going to carry me to Ohio and home.

Weeks passed and the anticipation of the reunion, the time off from my stress filled job and the ride itself had me excited to a point that I almost dreaded it, knowing that things were going so smoothly and coming to pass, that the other shoe just had to fall. No such luck. When the morning finally arrived, I was up early, everything packed, double checked, triple checked, plenty of clothes, clean drawers, enough money…(yeah, right), everything for my person, now the Cade. All “dem levels” checked, tire pressure checked, all signals, lights, flashers, A-O.K. Time for the road. Kiss the wife, pet the dog…..or was that the other way around???  Anyway, doesn’t matter, meeting the guys, road trip, freedom from everything………everything but that darkening sky that lay ahead….

As I pulled out of middle Tennessee, the sky was bright, beautiful sunlight and warm temps to travel by, but as I got closer to the Kentucky state line on I-65 North, the skies grew darker, the winds picked up and I knew that I’d better be finding me a piece of shoulder to pull off on and get suited up. I no sooner got these thoughts through my head, then here comes the rain, no small drops ,mind you, .these drops hit the windshield and my helmet like they were being fired from a gatlin gun at close range. Everything got real chaotic really fast, semi’s flying by, the visibility going from good to crap in a few seconds. Thankfully the Lord either rides a Cade or just pities those of us who do, cause in a flash, there was a vacant bridge overpass, complete with a guardrail for setting my nervous old tail down to clear the cobwebs, get my rain gear out and on, and just say a little word of thanks to the man upstairs that everything worked out with all of this. Okay, rain suit on, face shield snapped into place, climb back on the Cade, fire it up and…….uh oh, it’s not shifting and the clutch lever is all the way back against the handle bar, no tension, no engagement, what the heck is going on here?

I pump the clutch handle gently and feel the tension coming back and the gears shift normally. I noticed as I traveled down the highway, rain steadily coming down, that I had to continually pump the clutch handle every few miles to keep the pressure up…. (there is that other shoe falling). I pulled over at the next exit, gas up, and gave my local mechanic a call. He tells me one of two things has happened, one…either the slave cylinder has gone out on the clutch. Or, two… I have an air bubble in the clutch line…I’m hoping and praying for the latter. So, I followed his instructions to turn the handle bars to the right and slowly burped the clutch line to hopefully move the air bubble into the reservoir…To my amazement and delight, that took care of the problem…. The clutch stayed tight with no other hint of slippage.

Now, it was getting late in the day, rain was still falling and I still had to maneuver through the traffic of both Louisville , Kentucky and then Cincinnati , Ohio . Which, I might add, should qualify me for the Wet-Butt patch award. Not to mention the “I must be out of my freak’n mind” patch, if there is such a thing. Made it through these two cities with minimal difficulty and land navigation and headed northeast to Columbus . I was really excited because I was nearing my destination with each mile that turned over. As I neared Columbus the rain began to fall like I have never witnessed it in my 43 years on this earth. I honestly thought the Ark would float by. The lightening, thunder, blinding sheets of precipitation continued until I had had enough. No gathering is worth getting killed for and as I watched the white line of the highway with my head down and eyes darting back and forth, I discovered that Motel 6 really does leave the light on for you. As I moved the Cade into the parking lot and got off the bike, I noticed that it was raining so hard I was actually wet inside my rainsuit. The inside of the trunks were damp and I realized I hadn’t eaten all day… But, at this point none of that mattered. I was able to get a room on the first floor with the bike right outside. I moved all my gear inside, took off all my clothes and put them on the heater. Everything else went on the other bed nearest the heater to dry. And I settled down to a generous meal of a Diet Coke and Peanut Butter Crackers. Not what I had in mind, but at that stage, I just wanted to dry off and rest. The local news cast showed the severe thunderstorms and even a funnel cloud or two in the area. I settled in for a great night’s sleep.

The next morning, the clouds were still hanging low but the rain was moving off as I gathered all my now dry clothes together. I loaded up the blue 2-tone and wiped her down before continuing on. I finally reach my destination at the hotel in Canton, Ohio about 12 noon, a little later than what I had expected, but was met with the smiles and greetings of old friends and comrades and of coarse a cold Bud Light. We enjoyed our visit that weekend, seeing the Hall of Fame, remembering old times, catching up on family and careers, and as always, it all ended way too soon. As we packed up Sunday morning for our trip home, goodbyes said and handshakes and hugs given, I was again looking forward to the return ride home through the Ohio country side and the hills of Kentucky back to Tennessee . On the return ride, I ran into a few small rain showers but nothing of the magnitude that I had ridden up in. As I pulled the Cade into the drive way that same evening, I noted the trip mileage had been 1201 miles. That was round trip and I could not have been more proud of the Cade and the way it handled the entire trip. Except for the slight problem with the clutch, I would have put it up against anything out there on two wheels. I’ve had several people look the Cade over, asking me about it and telling me how much they liked it. Even a few telling me to hang on to it and not get rid of it, that it’ll be a bike collector’s prize before long……no, not much chance of getting rid of it, not if it can continue to deliver the smoothness and comfort and the enjoyment I get mile after mile.