WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: Wander Ynot?2K - Chino, California
Date: Sat, 25 Mar 2000 21:03:10 -0800

    I do not do drugs. I do not smoke. Hell, I don't even take aspirin for a headache. But I think I know how a junkie feels when that first rush of euphoria from a hit cascades into and overwhelms the senses: I am wandering again. Ahhhhhhhh. My motocyclene deficit has been kept in check by the day rides one could enjoy through the mild California winter, but like an Alaskan husky I yearn for the pull of the sled and the urge of the next turn in the trail before me.
    Where to this time? Well, if I knew for sure it wouldn't be a Wander, would it. But there are some points on the map ... the McComb Mud Bug Boil, the Branson Blast, the Luling BBQ Lunch and Kingsville Seafood Dinner (only LDRiders would pick two spots to eat in the same day that are 300 miles apart) - and some personal visits along the way. It looks like 40 days and 40 nights before I see SF again. Considering the way it has been raining in California this winter, that seems like an appropriate number. Are you ready for a long ride?

    It is easier to pack for a long ride than a short one. A few changes of clothes and an open mind - that's all you need. I was asked again why I do this ... "why not?" was the answer. Time is going to pass whether I stare at the computer at home or at this one in some distant motel. I can 'afford' the time, so how better to spend it. Again, it is the ride, not the destination that calls (just ask the huskies!). So from the question of why? comes the title of this Y2K trip.
    After a couple of errands, I turned my mind and the bike toward the open road while sitting in the middle of Haight-Ashbury. What a colorful start. Pink volkswagens still abound here. And it seems all the purple paint sent to die from the rest of America has found its resting place on the victorian homes here. You can still see some hippies, some still in dreadlocks and tatters sitting on a stoop smoking a doobie (60's terminology is still in vogue ... or they never caught up, dunno which). But in premonition of what I am sure to see as I visit places I've been to years before, the Haight is becoming upscale retrograde chic. There is now a Gap store at the corner of the two streets which define the neighborhood, Haight and Ashbury.

    'Traveling' is somehow different than traversing. It makes you - or at least lets you - see things you might otherwise ignore. I have been through Oakland more times than my life has really needed for it to be complete ... but because I am now 'traveling', this time I saw something I've missed for who knows how long. The big building close to I-580 that used to be The Sawmill now has a sign California Hotel. Or is it Hotel California? Like the song (you can check out anytime you want but you can never leave), I think California does have an aura to it. At least this New England boy has been drawn back again and again. For some it is the weather. Yeah, I like that. For some it is the scenery. Yeah, that too. For a motorcyclist it is both those AND the seemingly endless roads. Texans makes a big deal about the 876 miles across I-10. Did you know it is more than a thousand miles (1028) by freeway from the northwest corner of California to the southeast corner?
    Alas, the endless road of the day is I-5. If all there was to riding a motorcycle was I-5 between SF and LA, I would gladly be in a car. The first and last 75 miles are decent. It is the 300 miles of vegetable bowl in between that are mind numbing. I once heard that the short version of teaching someone to ride a motorcycle is "sit here, twist that". Well, on a venue like I-5 with a throttle lock engaged, you only have to do half the work. Sit. I-5 indeed is one of the few places I do use a throttle lock. (Little games we play to keep amused:) The furthest I've gone without adjusting the throttle at all for traffic is 11 miles.

    Obviously through (and 'observation' was where I started this thread), mine is not the only mind being numbed. You must constantly watch the drivers around you, for they are seeking distractions. Like the young woman rooting in the glove box for something and not seeing that huge tire snake that scared the bejesus out of her when it thumped through both wheel wells. Not knowing which way she might swerve or the snake might jump, I slowed severely to leave a cushion. The woman took all three lanes of the two lane freeway to recover.
    Another distracted driver made me laugh. Tan Ford Taurus, middle aged guy, who has had his share of burritos, using both hands to eat from a yogurt cup. He was scraping and digging and totally ignoring the road. I watched him for more than a mile and he never once looked up. Finally I pulled alongside to pass and you would think I appeared like a UFO. His startled look - with spoon midway to mouth - betrayed the surprise of being 'caught' when you thought you were alone.

    I saw two things today I thought I'd never see, neither of which are things you want to see. One was the CHP using radar on I-5. Ever since I came to California there has been this mystique about the CHP being prohibited by law from using radar on freeways. Well, I finally looked up the law a couple of years ago. They are prohibited from spending any money to purchase radar devices. Where citizen groups have purchased units for police to reduce speeding on local portions of state highways, the CHP have used radar for years. But never on freeways. What citizen would want that? None. None except the citizen insurance company. The CHP have been funded by some who-us-interested-in-our-bottom-line? companies in the interest of public safety (suuuure), and now there is some mighty surprised public who I doubt would say they feel more safety. One of the last sanctuaries of speed is gone. The CHP were ticketing for 80+ in a 70. Traffic on I-5 seems downright sluggish these days.
    The other 'thought I'd never' was more than $10 to fill the stock tank of a motorcycle. Regular gas at a 'discount' station along the freeway (next gas 37 miles) was $2.15. Wow. No wonder the SUV driver at the next pump was scowling ... I didn't even look at the price of premium.

    The sun went down just as I was ramping up to climb the Grapevine. (My GPS told me sundown was at 6:13 pm and damn if it wasn't like a switch was flicked at 6:11!) If you've never seen it lit in the late day sun, the section of I-5 that swoops back and forth up to Tejon Summit looks like a wound grapevine on a distant trellis. In the two minutes before sunset, the 'vines' went from green through orange to purple as the shadow of the Sierra Madre raced the traffic up the hill. It was like watching the fast forward maturation of an entire season. Two minutes like that can make the previous five hours of droning worth every second of being there. That is why I like to travel.
    Thinking more about the dynamics of travel and how it seems our world never stops moving, I drifted easily up through the chain of struggling trucks. Using the power to weight benefit of the motorcycle, it was like dancing a tango through a room full of people doing a slow waltz. At last I was "riding" and not just driving a two wheeler. I crested the last dark ridge and the entire panoply of LA spread before me. (ok ... so it was only Santa Clarita, but it was pretty.) There the spirit of the trip came and settled on me. There my sense of adventures yet to come overcame that nagging feeling that "it's not too late to turn around" which surreptitiously packs itself into your suitcase at the last moment. There I said out loud to myself - I like this bike.

    So it is what, 80 miles across the LA basin? And now it is close to 8 pm. And yes, I am using the 24 hour car pool lanes because otherwise traffic is moving like hay through a cow. Clumps here and there, slowly changing form, producing frequent bellowing and much exhaust. Thank goodness for the pool lanes. For a better image I'll say they are the spaghetti straps on the evening gown of transportation. If you can wear them they are sleek and racy. (Lose one though, and the results might be similar. :)

416 miles
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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