I had spent the night at the Border Inn. It lies on the Utah - Nevada border. The room wasn't bad, but the rib eye I had for dinner was better than average. Where in hell do you get an 18 ounce steak for 15 bucks these days? Certainly not back in New England.
After dinner I had lingered in the bar a little too long, so getting on the road very early this morning wasn't too easy. There was a lot happening there last night. I shot pool with a bunch of locals and held the table for a couple of hours. I probably could have had that tiny little blond if I'd really wanted to, but she got talking with a couple of local guys and it sort of changed the complexion of things just a little.
So I turned in somewhere after two and woke up this morning with a pounding headache. But I guess all those shots of Jack and too many bottles of Sierra Nevada beer are responsible for that.
Before starting out I filled up my bike at the Phillips 66. It was the only gas station around, and once heading west they are few and far between. I was excited as I headed for my final destination - Lake Tahoe. It was a new life and a new adventure.
God, it was only eight o'clock in the morning, and it was already getting hot. Before long I cranked my right hand a little tighter and felt a rush of power as my motorcycle leaped forward, racing across the oven-like desert.
With the speedometer holding steady at about 80 or a little better the mile posts passed by in a blur. There was no one else on the highway. It was just me, all alone on what they've nicknamed Route 50, "the loneliest highway in America". In 62 miles it held its reputation because from Baker to Ely I saw nothing but one worthless, mangy coyote dashing across the highway in front of me.
And then there was Ruth, a deserted ghost town. The guys at the bar told me a lot of stories about this town. Silver was discovered there by some early Pony Express riders. Some Chinese miners died in the mine because of a cave-in after discovering an evil spirit named Tak. The town is supposedly haunted, and their spirits have been seen crossing the highway and filtering in and out of the dilapidated buildings ever since.
They claimed that Stephen King's book Desperation is based on Route 50 and the happenings around Ruth or Desperation as he calls it. They told me it even had a guy named Johnny who disappeared. His motorcycle was later found in some dry bushes off the side of the road. I guess it was a warning of sorts or maybe just a bunch of beer talk. Who knows? I never read the book or saw the movie, and I certainly don't believe in ghosts.
So I decided to stop at Ruth and give my ass a little break. Maybe I'd look around a bit and then get back on the road.
"Ghosts," I whispered, shaking my head.
I wandered around the rundown houses and decaying stores for a while before heading back up the dusty street to my bike. As I put on my helmet I looked down at my tank. In the thin layer of road grime and desert dust that covered my bike there was a definite mark. I looked closer. Right there as plain as day was a small hand print without a speck of dust or dirt in it.
There was nobody else around, and I hadn't noticed it when I got off the bike just a few minutes ago. It was too obvious to have missed it. Carefully I looked around and wondered.
"That's strange," I said while swinging my leg over the seat. "Maybe there are ghosts around here after all."
My engine roared to life once more as I headed on towards Tahoe. About 20 minutes had passed when I felt a slight skip and hesitation in my bike. I looked down at my tach and wondered what that was. Then it happened again.
"That's funny," I thought out loud. "I've come all this way from North Conway without a problem and now something strange is happening. Damn ghosts."
The skipping and bucking repeated itself and with a few more