Subject: Finishers Wander 1 - Kingman, Arizona
Date: Mon, 05 Apr 2004 20:43:14 -0700
Starting out on the first day of cross-country trip, especially on a
motorcycle, would be for many the beginning of the journey a lifetime. If that
is true, then I am on my 15th or 16th lifetime. This morning I rolled out of
the cool gray fog of San Francisco across the Bay Bridge onto "the continent"
and began what I will call for lack of a better name the "Finishers Wander".
If you remember any of my previous stories, the last time I wrote while traveling was somewhere in Texas in 2002. I was on my way back to the West Coast and I just suddenly felt like enough was enough. I did make it home, only silently. And since then I've taken two or three other long trips on which I have not written anything. (Do I hear the sound of one hand clapping back there in the corner?) But maybe it's time to finish the series with the finishers wander.
But finishing what?
Without intending to establish a pattern, it seems I have been attending the IBMWR Branson gathering every other year. This is an other year. So sometime last winter I got a crazy idea that I would go to Branson and then go on to do an extended ride to the 16 Corners of America. I had been looking at the traditional Four Corners ride and decided that those were not really the four corners. For example, the Northeast so-called corner in Madawaska ME is neither at the northernmost nor the easternmost point in United States. The similar is true of the Northwest "corner" in Blaine WA. So I sat down with the map and tried dividing the country into four quadrants, and then eight sections, and then sixteen chunks ... and I found that the corners really don't make any sense at all. If you divide the country into four quadrants the westernmost portion of the southern United States is Davenport CA, barely 70 miles from my home in San Francisco. And the southernmost portion of the western United States is Brownsville TX. So I kinda had to give up on the idea of getting the 16 Corners to work, combined with the fact that I have already been to most of them, it lost appeal. And considering that the weather in Texas this week has been torrential, it was an easy decision just to head to Branson.
Ok, but finish what?
Looking more at the map I saw there are only 4 of the 49 states that my K bike has not been in. That, and I have never been to the true northernmost or westernmost road in the contiguous 48. That's what I am going to finish. Hey, it's as good an excuse for a 10,000 mile ride as any, no?
So here it is I find myself wending down the Central Valley of California
following what may be the world's longest fake river -- the aqueduct that
sucks Sacramento River water into Los Angeles. A faux flow of epic proportion,
this river goes south when the real ones go north, it manages to flow UP over
the Tehachapi Range, and its level in its banks never ever changes.
These first four days are going to be 500 miles each to reach Branson by Thursday night. Again because of the weather, my departure was delayed a day and that means no casual wandering in this segment of the trip - all freeway and little human contact. Immediately on the road I fall into the familiar patterns of the mental set of a longer trip, reading the environment and watching for dangers. Thinking little of what is to come, and focusing on what is coming at me. Long days on the road are best viewed one horizon at a time.
It is fun, for my warped mind at least, to reexamine the familiar. Have you ever noticed the "clusters" of traffic that travel together? In no time at all, a small group will settle into being like a family. There's that one who just has to be at the head of the table, those several in the middle who won't take the lead even if accidentally in front, the occasional kid who keeps quickly changing seats at the table (often without warning), and always the oblivious one who doesn't realize there is anyone else around. Me? I'm the dog under the table silently moving from seat to seat checking for scraps. No one sees a motorcycle.
The wind over the Altamont Pass was surprisingly strong for morning, and later I noticed there were more windmills spinning in Tehachapi Pass near Mojave than I've ever seen active before. (Speaking of Mojave, now that the Route 58 bypass is open, will Mojave dry up and blow away? You can't even see the town from the new road. I always liked stopping at that diner with the collection of medal pedal kiddie cars on the shelf above the walls.) Anyway, wind is one of the adversities you have to consider when on a bike. And that made me wonder if the real reason we choose to travel by less comfortable means is *because* of the adversities. Sure the first few times a long trip is adventure, learning, and exploring the unknown. On the 15th or 16th time, it is at least partly to see how I will handle the challenges.
And so, challenge #1. First gas stop, barely 3 hours into a month long trip, that blasted ABS will not reset. It's been fine for a couple thousand miles since a major repair, now blinky blinky for the next 10K? Nope. Duct tape.
Would you believe me if I said traveling only a few miles down the road
would save you $1.00 a gallon for gas? Would you believe me if I said the
cheaper gas was $1.89 a gallon? Expecting to stop in Needles for the night, I
felt 'hungry' for more miles, but I needed gas before going on. Now one of the
reasons I don't mind traveling is because gas is less expensive almost
anywhere than San Francisco. Or so I thought. $2.29 for regular was common
when I left. I was stunned to see regular in Needles for $2.89! (Although I
managed to find an off-brand for "only" $2.39.) Ten miles later in Arizona,
regular was $1.89. Another major shift hit at the AZ border - the truck speed
limit in CA is 55 (must be frustrating for truckers!), the speed limit for all in AZ is 75.
You want to feel some wind, get passed by a convoy doing 85.
Just more of the adversity that makes a trip interesting.
These messages might not come every day. 12 hours in the saddle doesn't leave much for writing.
San Francisco I580 I5 CA58 I40 Kingman
Sam Lepore, San Francisco