Of Dust Bowl Okies and Hot Biker Mommas

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That picture of me is the last time I was cool.  And I don’t mean James Dean cool.

Turns out, James Dean was killed not far from Paso Robles, where Route 46 and Route 41 intersect.  The Texaco station at the intersection of Route 46 and Route 33 has the whole story.  They say it was the last place he stopped before his wreck.  They also have a re-created Dust Bowl truck in a display among the pistachios, walnuts, and maple-covered almonds.  They found it somewhere, cleaned it up, added the utensils and other items the Okies carried, and brought it into the store.  They even had a picture of the same truck to guide their efforts.

Looking over the old truck and reading about the difficulties the people fleeing the Dust Bowl endured, I felt like a wimp for whining about the harsh suspension and non-existent wind protection of my Softail Custom.  They even had a statue of Grannie holding a plate of cookies.  She would have made a good biker Momma.

Missus Fender Bunny is a good biker Momma, too, though I’m not 100% certain that’s what she aspires to.  Why I subject her to such abuse I’ll never know.  I’ll ask my priest, if he’ll still speak to me.

It was 108 when we got to Baker, California.  When she pulled off her helmet, I could see that she was suffering from heat exhaustion.  We got in the shade and sipped a little warm water.  Wet her scarf and put it over her head.  After a while we went inside to enjoy the A/C.  You have to be judicious with the A/C, or when you walk back out, it feels like a furnace.  After a while she started looking better, so she stood up, clapped her hands, and bought a can of Red Bull.

When we got back on the bike it was 109.  Did I mention that she has relatives in Oklahoma?

We rode from San Simeon to Las Vegas in just under 12 hours.  Total mileage was 420 miles, more or less.

GiG

 

Cruising the Pacific Coast Highway

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Riding the PCH would be a sportbiker’s dream if you weren’t afraid of flying off the edge of the road and plummeting to your death against the rocks a thousand feet below.  That’s a lot of time to think.  And wonder, as you spin around the bike and the bike around you, whether you still have a chance to make it, and whether that tiny chance could be increased by landing with the bike beneath you or, since it’s likely to explode in a yellow ball of skin-searing flame, whether you should push it away from you now, while you still have a chance to land a prudent distance from it.  In the end you don’t push it away from you, because holding on to anything, even a motorcycle tumbling through the air, is more comforting than facing a horrifying death alone.  Which makes you wonder, the last instant before you hit the rocks, whether there is indeed a God, and whether he is kind enough to forgive you for not having believed in him.  Or Her.  It had better not be a Her on account of that Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned thing.

No, the PCH is best taken at a measured pace.  So you can stop and enjoy its hidden treasures, like the cove in the picture above.  And take the time to thank God for making Her world such a pretty place.  Just in case.

GiG

Ride to the Sun Reunion – Death Valley

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I left Stovepipe Wells at 5:50 am.  I had to cover 500 miles, so I promised myself I wouldn’t stop for pictures.

I had taken a bunch on the way in, anyway, including the one of the Devil’s Cornfield, above.  The cornfield lies at 150 feet below sea level, and the road keeps going downhill from there.

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The road from Stovepipe Wells heads more or less West, and straight up.  Stovepipe Wells is at sea level.  If you get there from the East, like I did, you’ll get to almost 300 feet below sea level.  I couldn’t stop imagining whales and schools of yellow fin swimming in the air over my head.

tollroad_smAnyway, once you leave Stovepipe Wells and head West just after the toll road in the pic, it’s straight up.  No curves.  Just up.  Until you hit 4500 feet above sea level.  At which point, if it’s 6:00 am, you realize how cold it is.  I stopped and put on some warm gear.

Turns out, Death Valley is actually two valleys.  Once you get up to the top of the West valley, you get to go down it.  It is blessed with a 9% grade.

You’re probably not that interested in the algorithm for calculating the amount of fuel left in a Harley’s gas tank, but to give you a rough idea, when I hit the top of the ridge between the valleys, my gauge indicated 72 miles left in the tank.  Five miles later, when I hit the bottom of the second valley, I magically had 113 miles worth of fuel.

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The road leading out of the second valley is a sportbiker’s dream.  Beautiful curves.  But I was distracted by the vistas.  The sun was peeking over the East ridge, lighting up just pieces of the landscape around me, leaving others dark.  To make it even more interesting for somebody who hadn’t sworn off photography for the day, the sky to the West was dark grey.  So the sun lit up the desert in front of me, making the Joshua trees pop.  It was gorgeous.

I wasn’t able to post last night because here, in Silicon Valley, the wifi is slower than in the middle of Nowhere, Utah.  The farmers in Wenatchee ship their best apples to other states, where they’re more precious.  I suppose Silicon Valley exports most of the broadband it grows, too.

Total distance 524 miles, including about 30 extra because somebody missed a turn.  Elapsed time: 11 hours.  Will post more about Zion and other parts of the trip when I can find some bandwidth.

GiG