Subject: WanderLunch 1 - Barstow, California
Date: Thu, 20 May 1999 23:58:26 -0700
The road calls to many of us.
For some, the call is a soft
suggestion, a sweet whisper like the voice of a not quite clear face in
a dream. The rider who takes this road does not always know why, but he
or she usually enjoys it. For others, the call is a demand of necessity,
a call to arms. The rider who takes this road does battle with the elements
of time and distance, sometimes wining, sometimes not. He or she is drained
by the fight.
For me, the call of the road is like the passionate plea of a lover enveloped in a deep embrace. Take me! Take me NOW! And so I have given in again to the temptation to travel for the journey, not the destination. This is my lust, my Wanderlust.
Or more precisely, this is the pre-quel to Wanderlust ... a tune up trip to an Internet BMW Riders lunch gathering in the mountains of New Mexico. Hence the title, WanderLUNCH. Hey ... if Star Wars can do a prequel years after its series, so can I, right?
Before today's story ... a little refresh:
It has been nearly two years since I interrupted my cross country trip because of an illness at home. That family member recovered but needed increasing attention which kept me from being away more than a few days at a time. Sadly, she passed away in January, and while I am now "free" to travel, I still deeply feel the pain of Janis Joplin singing "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose". Well, life goes on, and even if one does not heal, you still have to deal with it.
Last year another IBMWR member took a long ride after an emotional break in his life. He wrote about "The Healing Ride". I certainly understand that, but for now I have much to deal with.
Actually, I have been riding a fair amount this year - Southern California for some rally preparations, Seattle for the LDR gathering, Death Valley, Lost Coast ... but the keyboard lost its muse in sadness. Lets see whether tickling the keys will wake it up.
Snoopy likes to start his
stories "It was a dark and stormy night." It seemed that way when I left
San Francisco because it was a windy a blustery fogged-in morning. Through
my sunglasses, excuse me - through my fog glasses the skies looked grey
enough to rain and I began to wonder why am I doing this? The answer was
clear as the sky by the time the wind blew me past the windmills of the
Altamont Pass. The ride is the reason. (But try telling that to the occupants
of the can-on-wheels called a Geo Metro that was doing wind induced unscheduled
lane changes! It seems strange a bike can be more stable than a car in
some winds, but I wasn't fighting it like they were.)
My chosen route for this trip is to break the 1,200 miles into a 5/7 split. This is my first "serious" ride in a while, and I thought to make it serious fun by taking a less direct route. Across the central valley to CA 108 and over Sonora Pass, then down US 395, the Owens Valley ... the drainpipe that fills the pools of Los Angeles (the California Water Wars are not over yet ...).
The day was exquisite for its contrasts. Between Oakdale and Jamestown it seemed that every other field was either flooded almond trees or dust devils between new tilled rows. Dust and flood. Flood and dust. California.
California is truly an amazing land of juxtaposed disjunction. Where else can you stop for a photograph of 6+ feet of snow on the side of the road, and less than an hour later be in a desert with so little vegetation that there is no "ground cover". That was between the 9,800 foot summit of Sonora Pass and the Tufta Islands of Mono Lake. (And if you've never ridden CA 108 all the way down, add it to your list of "whoo hoo"!)
The mention of ground cover reminds me of my first look at California when I was 7 years old. Growing up in New England, I thought all the land on all the Earth (except for the desert and beaches) was covered with grass, weeds, or forest. Then the family went on a visit to San Pedro. Guess what, they had spaces where there was no stuff growing, nothing! Just 'raw' dirt! Oh, yeah, then I learned California IS just a desert, a beach, they grow grass (weed) IN the forest and ... well enough of that. :) You see what a confused kid I was?
Anyway, it was very interesting to note the change in the landscape as I descended further into the 'rain shadow' of the east slope of the Sierra. >From the stately, massive fir pines (some of these 'normal' pine trees have 10-feet thick trunks and drop cones the size of office wastebaskets!), the downslope trees quickly took a gnarled and bent stance, crouching against the wind. Then there was scrub and sage, and only a few miles down the valley even the cactus gave way to uncovered ground, which became piles of igneous rock. From lush to barren in half a tank.
Years ago I used to run long
distance - 10K and marathons (So I suppose it is not much of a stretch
for me to like riding long distance too. That takes a similar mental stamina.)
After a lot of practice, runners get conditioned to the routine of the
effort so that the effort itself becomes a form of stimulus. It is called
the "runner's high". Recently when I was feeling low and lonely, I went
out for a run. I didn't expect it to happen, but there it was after about
5 miles. The feeling came right back.
And so it was today, which surprised me that it could return so quickly - I had another Perfect Moment. Without belaboring the description I wrote in Wyoming Wanderlust, a Perfect Moment is the combination of everything happening just right and you recognize it for the perfection. It is not a riding 'orgasm', it is more a state of heightened awareness (but come to think of it, the afterglow is rather similar :).
The Perfect Moment came on a stretch of the climb from Dardanelles to the Sonora Summit. The western slope of the Sierra is a gradual incline for about 75 miles that ends in a sudden upsweep. Where the upsweep begins are some of the best curvaceous roads. The road was clear, the weather warm for the high country, and I was riding moderately aggressively - 45 mph around 30 mph (warning, not limit) curves. Then it all clicked.
Heeled waaaay over in a left hander where I could see all the way through the curve and maybe a half-mile ahead through the fir forest, I felt the precise balance between pressing on the left grip to dip the roll angle of the bike and the twist of the right grip to lift the yaw of the front wheel. Two fully controlled opposing forces, maintained in balance by the subtlest gentle movements, and I was snicking through the turns like they were made for me. The sky was filled with the passing blur of green/blue/green/blue as I dove in and out of tree cover. It was gorgeous.
That's when I remembered I forgot to pack my toothbrush.
Doesn't it always happen that your mind comes up with the most stupid conclusions at the times you least expect them. Oh well, I guess that's why I like to ride.
Some other observations before
this gets too long ... Once you get away from the cities, the drivers seem
to anticipate and encourage motorcycles more. I can't tell you how many
times I have had people pull over to let me pass without me having to push
them (lights, horn, or tail gaiting). It's nice to see them recognize our
ability to enjoy the road at a different pace - and let us do it.
One lesson I am learning again and again - if you *ever* ask yourself: Should I stop for gas/pee/rest/whatever ... the answer is: You already should HAVE done so! Road weariness and highway hypnosis is insidious. Da brain is trying to tell you something when you ask a question for which an alert mind would have made a decision. I learned that again, but at the cost of being overly fatigued for a "Day 1". And so to bed.
FuelPlus: 532 miles, 9 hrs 18 minutes engine time, 58 mph average
GPS III Plus: 530 miles, 7 hrs 32 minutes travel time, 57 mph average
SF I80 I880 I238 I580 I205 CA120 CA108 US395 CA58 Barstow
Sam Lepore, San Francisco