On Piet Boonstra
Right now I'm in the Las Vegas Airport waiting for a flight to Monterrey, via San Francisco. $208. Yesterday the forecast for my planned route to SF was so lousy (temps in the thirties to low fifties, and rain + snow above 500' for much of the 550 mile distance) that this morning I put the motorcycle on a friend’s trailer headed to Monterrey. And decided to fly. I'll meet the bike at noon, and then ride about 120 (?) miles to my next overnight stop, near SF...Continue
My thinking was: 'I could do this ride, even though I did not bring quite enough cold weather gear. Maybe just enough...a Kanetsu vest (with sleeves), long underwear top and bottoms, a light fleece sweater, and rain-covers for my gloves and boots (but no 'winter' gloves). I'd probably arrive cold, satisfied and tired…but there is a 9:30 AM conference call the next morning which I'd probably be thick-headed for recovering from the previous day’s difficult cold/wet/snowy ride…’ Easy to rationalize, right?
What makes the wimping-out funny (?) is that after I'd loaded the bike at six-thirty yesterday morning, I walked back to the parking structure past a guy named Piet Boonstra who was loading up his bike and getting ready to leave. We sell his book in the catalog. He is about 78, and is a modest, quiet man, with a quick smile and happy eyes. He was next to a worn 650 V Strom, with an odd collection inexpensive soft luggage that included some aerostich tank panniers. We'd spoken very briefly at the AMA Hall of Fame awards banquet the previous evening. There, I’d thanked him for the great book he'd written, and for letting us sell it. And he thanked me back for "selling quite a few of them" for him. That was the entire conversation.
....the Airport gate counter attendant just interrupted with: "Good morning ladies and gentlemen. We are experiencing a weather delay in San Francisco. We could be a half hour late boarding. I'll keep you informed...." The weather map I looked at a few minutes ago on this notebook computer showed the predicted massive rain/snow system across most of California. But it's little vindication sitting here in the warm terminal under cloudy Las Vegas skies where it-doesn't-really-look-that-bad out the window. It's sure not raining or snowing here.
Back to Piet. Yesterday it's about 45º and in the dim early light, it’s hard to see inside the parking ramp. Feels colder than it is. The sun is not yet above the horizon. His bungie cords are those old multi-colored ones like they sell in auto parts and discount stores. "Where you heading?" I ask. "New York." He replies. We make a little small talk about having a good ride, and the serious freezing weather. He says the toughest part of the ride is that he’s got congestive heart failure and that makes it “hard to breathe when riding in colder temperatures at higher elevations..." Not complaining. Just explaining with another broad smile, what he was in for.
He grins the whole time, showing a mix of gold fillings and the receded-gum toothy smile of an older man still with a healthy array of his own teeth. I wish him safe travels and head into the hotel, already cold from standing still for only a minute. My 620 V twin motorcycle has just left the parking lot headed northwest on a trailer, though 550 miles of supposed rain/snow mix. Piet's 650 V twin is about to be headed east, on it’s own wheels just ahead of the approaching storm, running before the advancing cold front with him aboard. He'll ride through snow and rain at some point, that's for sure.
What a rider he is. Of the 600 attendees at each of the two AMA banquets, it looked like less than thirty people came on their motorcycles. I was one, from Phoenix via Santa Barbara. Stan Simpson rode his Gold Wing here from central Texas, with three riding buddies. And Piet, alone, age 78, rode here from New York state. No 'furthest distance to attend' award. Nobody even knew. What a rider.