WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: WanderLunch 6 - San Francisco - end
Date: Wed, 26 May 1999 15:22:03 -0700

        To me, travelling is an art, not a product. If all you want is to get from here to there, take a bus, which you can do with your eyes closed and enjoy the aroma of disinfectant-infused plastic. If you want to get yourself there by private vehicle, you at least have to have your eyes open. Getting yourself there by motorcycle, you have to have your eyes, ears, nose, and that biggest organ of all - your mind open.
        It surprises me how some things can register on the senses in passing, but not really be interpreted unless you are open to wonder. Like when passing two green fields in the Fish Lake Valley, on the border of Nevada and California. Both fields looked like 'grass', but as the wind changed, I got a distinctly different smell from them. Wondering (and not being a farm boy), I stopped to ask the workers who were pressing the cuttings into huge breadloaf shaped bales. One field was alfalfa and the other was spring hay. Nice to know it wasn't just my imagination.
        As I said, travelling is an art, but being a mostly left-brained individual I have little or no artistic talent. My forte is analyzing, categorizing, and noting detail. Thank you to those who have enjoyed reading these rolling reports, but they are just reflected reminiscence of the same experiences you would encounter on the same trip. If you want art in writing ... read Warren Harhay! (It would be interesting for Warren and I to ride together for a day, then write. His masterful imagery and my precision road-kill counts of the same road might paint a complementary bookends view.)

        I was asked how I remember so much at the end of a day ... I make 2-3 word notes on a small pad each time I stop, to be used  later as thought triggers. Today's notes: trinity-trinity, whacking country, massage mirage, 4 BMWs, gas small towns, 120 whoopde, return path, 13 ACEs, walker, our little Kansas. Is that enough to tell the story? ... perhaps if you had been there, so I'd better flesh it out.
        A couple of days ago I mentioned passing the intersection of Trinity in Los Alamos. Yesterday I passed the Trinity test site in Nevada. Somehow the thought was chilling. Did I follow the same path as the first atomic bomb was transported? The Trinity test site is open to the public once (or twice?) a year, I think in the Fall. I'd like to visit it sometime ... and if anyone has been there I'd appreciate hearing about it.
        North of Beatty, Nevada, US95 disappears into the infinite distance. There is nothing but nothing and the tendency is for speed limits to be neither observed nor enforced. This is what the Long Distance Riders refer to as "whacking country", where you can whack open the throttle and make great time to the next checkpoint. Tempted, I resisted for two reasons. First, I'm here to observe and whacking speed doesn't let you distinguish between that massive crow inspecting road kill and a truck tire shred ... they're just both blurred black objects to avoid. Second, my calculation shows 212 miles between Beatty and Lee Vining and no towns with gas if I take the 'side route'. The K75 is not set up for aux fuel, so: whack not, walk not.
        This is only May, but the heat in the flat pan desert is already enough to cause mirages on the road. They appear at each slight rise ahead on a straightaway. I was mentally playing with each mirage, gauging the distance at which it would dissolve, when there appeared to be a sign sitting in the middle of a mirage. The sign said 'massage'. A massage mirage? No, the 'puddle' evaporated, but the sign stayed. Ah, of course, this is Nevada. Welcome to Angel's Ladies Brothel. Wondering (and again, not being a farm boy :), I stopped to ask questions. HEY! Remember what I said about an open mind! (Geez, the things I do for literary research.) Suffice it to say even a mirage is out of my price range, but the beauty of the desert flowers is certainly something to behold. And yes, they have a web site if ya just gotta know: http://www.angelsladiesbrothel.com
       The touring brand disparity continues. In the deep desert, I saw 4 bikes, again all only  BMWs. But on US395 near Bridgeport, there was a motorcycle multiplicity mirage, or so it seemed. I counted on the road 13 identically colored Honda ACEs. Either some local dealer is mighty persuasive on this model, or there was a Honda Happening Hereabouts.
        I mentioned the 212 miles between gas ... There has always been sparse coverage in the wide open west, heck 50 miles between *houses*, let alone towns, is not uncommon. But since the federal leaking-tank rules finally clamped shut last year, there are a lot of small towns that lost their one pump. Benton was my only hope had I not planned my gas flow. Benton was dry. In truth, gas availability is one of the reasons why smaller bikes and some brands never make it to the American outback. DON'T trust your AAA map, mapping software data, or GPS exit info. In fact, don't even trust a local resident who says 'sure, they got gas' unless he or she can tell you what brand the station is. The N-DOT highway flag guy said he was sure they had some kinda gas at "Sopers" on US6. Maybe from the beans in the restaurant, but that's all. Thank you again, FuelPlus. With it I knew exactly how long until I became buzzard bait. The reserve warning light clicked on 25 miles out of Lee Vining, with 49 miles remaining on the FuelPlus.

        Some of us are weird about not strafing the same road twice (a phrase from Chuck Yeager). I hate to take the same road on a return trip ... too many years of doing laps on running tracks, I guess. So for the climb across the Sierra this time I took Monitor Pass and CA4. The stretch of US395 between Bridgeport and Coleville dances with the Walker River and is a truly great ride. You can't miss choosing any of the passes (although Tioga through Yosemite is still closed), but you shouldn't miss this segment of US395 if you do any of them.
        Do you remember when you were a kid how roads seemed to have "whoop de whoops" as they rose and dropped following the terrain contours? Your stomach would fall as you sailed over the short crest and dove into the dip. If you love that feeling, one more "don't miss" road is CA120 east of US395. About 20 miles of serious whoops, and exquisite views of Mono Lake too.
        Finally, drifting down toward the foothills and the valley, I cross again from winter to spring. On Ebbett's Pass, like Sonora, the snow is still yards deep, the lakes still have a foot of ice so aqua in color it looks like there is a light inside. 40 degrees. Then alpine meadow. Then pine forest. Then leaf forest. Then the rolling  flats of the central valley. I think: our little Kansas - already dry golden prairie grass waving in the sun. 89 degrees. The delta. The coastal range. The end of the continent. Home.

        Where do we go next?

FuelPlus:   513 miles, 9:47 hrs engine, 53 mph average
GPS Trip total:   2,763 miles, 47:08 hrs travel, 58.6 mph average
Beatty US95 NV266/CA266 NV264 US6 CA120 US395 CA89 CA4 ... local roads

Sam Lepore, San Francisco
Wanderlust Rider

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