A ride tale
This is a ride a took a few years ago when I had had my K100RS only a short time. I hope you find it amusing. I have since learned the lesson of wearing the right gear....
I Came to Ride.
Since buying my K100RSA nearly six months prior, I had commuted nearly daily on it and had taken several long day trips and one overnighter. But I was really looking forward to logging some serious miles, and when the four day Thanksgiving weekend (2001) came into view I saw an opportunity. Picking a destination that would be conducive to the time of year was important. I figured the desert would be warmer, and also thought about flirting with some mountains just to add flavor. So, Death Valley was the first thought since I had never been there, and then while not really having had decided on where to head after that, I thought north toward Carson City. There would be an assumed chance I could not make it over the Sierras into California from there due to the time of year and the likelihood of snow at higher elevations, but I could always come down highway 395 and back into the Mojave Desert. Yeah, right.
Thanksgiving morning I woke up all packed and ready to go. I left the house at 8:48am north on the 405 into a nice, warm sunny day. I actually thought the ride to Death Valley wouldnít be long enough for a dayís ride, but I would decide what to do when I got there. To interstate 5 I went, then east on route 14 toward the city of Mojave. After Lancaster, while the day was still warm and sunny, the winds picked up coming on my port beam; strong. I hate gusty winds on a bike. Soon the gusts were stronger than I liked, and besides leaning dangerously into them, I had to slow to as much as 40 mph (from my earlier 80+) at times. Twice I actually got blown off the road onto the shoulder. Fearing I couldnít stay on the road or keep the bike up, and thinking I would get rear-ended at my slow speed, I got off an exit near Mojave and stopped. Just keeping the bike vertical while sitting on it proved to be a challenge. I found if I parked facing the wind I could do it. But I couldnít do anything else, so I got back on the highway. I found myself barely making it from one exit to the next, stopping to consider, then doing it again. By the time I was in Mojave I was going from parking lot to parking lot, stopping each time to decide what to do. At one such stop I parked behind some tractor-trailers, aimed the bike into the wind and put it on the side stand. Carefully letting go of the bike to be sure no wind gusts would blow it over, I thought about my situation. I couldnít go back toward home in this wind, and I couldnít go on. Stuck. I might have tried to find a wind-protected place to wait a while, but there were none close by and the wind was driving sand everywhere, annoying me considerably. Besides, just riding a very short distance proved to be so risky that I didnít want to spend much time looking for protection. So I got back on and rode the gas pumps nearby. I filled up while sitting on the bike, legs spread wide to hold the bike up. Thank God you can pay at the pump. After that I braved another 100 yards to a Motel 6. After playing around to find the right direction to park, I walked into the lobby of the motel, and the woman behind the counter said, ďGot a problem?Ē all smiles. I said, ďYeahĒ and proceeded to pay up for a room. This wonderful lady said I could park my bike on the sidewalk under a stairwell for protection from the wind in response to my request to that affect. In fact she gave me a room with that in mind. Iím thinking OK, so the weather is starting out bad, but Iíve met one good person, so the trip isnít all bad yet. Getting the bike into this place was not easy. Just as a pulled up to where I would have to go on the sidewalk, two motel patrons warned me about flying roof material. Sure enough 10-foot sheets of roofing were blowing into the sidewalk armed with roofing nails. With this in mind I hurried more than I should have and motored up a handicapped access ramp and tried to take a sharp left on the sidewalk to where the stairs were. Too sharp and I brushed the stucco with my mirror and left pannier. Permanent scars remain from this building-bump, which proved to be my only accident of the trip.
Four hours later, having taken advantage of the shower in my room knowing I would most likely be camping that night, the wind had died down a bit. Only a bit. When I checked into the motel the cops had closed down highway 14 in the direction I was going mostly because the wind was blowing up so much sand, but also because any RV going in that direction in those conditions would have become movie material for the Wizard of Oz. When the wind had died down 14 was open only to cars; no RVs. I thought there was no way they would let a motorcycle on that road but I was bored. So I checked out and motored out up route 58 toward Tehachapi and Bakersfield because my map indicated there was a small paved road a few miles away that cut back and connected with 14 a few miles past the copsí roadblock. The wind, still on the beam, was way too strong (checked out too early did I?). The road I wanted was there all right, but under construction and all dirt. Damn. Turned around and went the other way, this time healed over 15 degrees on the opposite slant. A least my tires would get even wear. I took 58 toward Barstow this time thinking that due to the direction of the road the wind would be at my back. I was right. No more healing and an eerie silence at 70 mph with no wind in my face. That didnít last long. Soon the wind, learning my trick, turned to hit me on the side again, but I didnít care. I knew Iíd be turning north again on a small road toward California City, which is only 15 miles or so East of Mojave. I managed to get to California City with the plan of staying to side roads and worm my way to China Lake, some 50 miles north of Mojave. From there I would head into Death Valley by way of one of the lesser main entrances. Lots of wind, but getting less. Finally got to Ridgecrest, near China Lake and fueled up. Wind was much less by now, but the sun was only going to be with me for another hour. The 50 mile or so ride from there to Stovepipe Wells went well enough, but I couldnít go as fast as Iíd have liked due to darkness and because I was overly wind-shy. Every gust, no matter how small, was amplified by my recollection of what I saw in earlier in the day.
Funny I had only seen one other motorcycle on the roads all day. Am I the only brave one; the only ďrealĒ biker, or was I the only foolish one to be out in this? I prefer the former but suspect the latter. Stovepipe Wells was to be where I camped that first night. So much for Death Valley not being far enough away for a good dayís ride. I arrived at Stovepipe at about 6:00 I think. It was still (no wind!) and quite warm, but crowded! Donít these people know it is Thanksgiving? The motel was booked and the campsite appeared full. I probably could have squeezed myself in, but it was one of those depressing campgrounds that are really just parking lots, and it wouldnít have appealed to me much even with no one around, and much less with the crowd that was there. Oh well, on to Furnace Creek some 30 miles down into the valley.
At 190 feet below sea level, Furnace Creek is the real destination for tourists like myself to Death Valley. Of the three campsites, only one had vacancies, and it had a lot of them. Ah, done with the first day of riding. More of an adventure than I wanted, but it ended in warmth without wind at the place I had intended on getting to. I put up my tent, broke out my butane stove and proceeded to cook. The stars were plentiful, more than one can ever see in L.A. fer sure. All was well, until the wind came back. No gusts, just a strong steady push. Not to worry about the bike falling over, but enough wind to dust my tequila. Whatís tequila without crunch anyway? Ate in a breeze, packed it all up, remembered I didnít check my oil all day (which needed a lot), and went into the stillness of my tentÖto sleep.
The day after Thanksgiving I woke up to sunlight and warmth, and a bit of a breeze; just enough to provide a warning that ďitĒ could come back. I realized at that time that the trip the day before accomplished one thing; it took my mind completely off the daily grind, work and all that. Of course, that was supposed to happen by slowly inhaling the sights and smells of the desert while I cruised at high speed on lonely wide-open roads. But no, it was done through rude blasts of wind and my having to devote all my energy to keeping the bike upright and planning how to make it the next mile at a time. Well, my mind was diverted more quickly this way I guess, so mission accomplished the hard, fast way.
An apparently-retired RVíer wandered up as I was packing up in the morning and asked about how far I could go on a tank of gas and other chit-chat. When, during our conversation, we each pronounced the town of Beatty, NV in a different way, he threw out that he was from Wisconsin which was his attempt at self-effacing humor based on his geography, which meant he wasnít supposed to know anything much. I thought it funny. A Harley started some avenues over in the campground and I saw it motor away. A chick I think. Bike number two Iíve seen. I finished packing up, tossed the rest of my instant coffee and headed to the Furnace Creek resort a mile away for gas, where I saw number three; a Harley with a trailer (kind of a mixed metaphor).
I thought about tooling down to the lowest point in the U.S. It is 282í below sea level and only about 10 miles away, but I came to ride not sightsee (hee hee). Off I go in the direction from whence I came. It was warm (oh so nice) and only a steady breeze. You will note that after my wind scare the day before, wind now preoccupies all trip thoughts and planning. OK, I had to make a decision soon. At the juncture of 374 and 267, I had to decide to go to Beatty, NV (via the former road) or Scottyís Castle and the crater (via the latter). I really wanted to see the crater, but I came to ride so to Beatty it was. Anyway, if I was really to go to Carson City, which was about 350 miles away, I better head that way, although I hadnít really decided where I was going to end up that day.
On 374 I immediately started uphill. Where else could you go when you start 190í down below? I knew I had to go over some low mountains to get to Nevada so I expected some briskness, but it got cold pretty quick. Not too cold, but enough to make up for having had only one cup of coffee. I love the desert. Some might say there is nothing to see, but really there is only no civilization to see. The immensity of the earth is so apparent in the desert, and so misleading. The night before when I was approaching Death Valley, I couldnít tell how long the road ahead was straight or when it curved, but I could see car headlights appear ahead of me and then take an amazingly long time to get to me. Distances are so exaggerated out here. By the way, the RVíer I talked to told me about a middle-aged guy and woman he had seen pushing a rickshaw in the desert and said to look for them. I found them. Mr. RV suggested I stop and ask what their story was, but I didnít. Wish I had.
Up and over to Beatty. I stopped for breakfast and warmth in a casino, and chatted with an effervescent prospector who uses a metal detector to search for coins and such in ghost towns who told me about all his biking experience, complimented my bike and listened to none of my responses. From here it is about 72 miles north to Tonopah. Prior to this time I only watched miles to gauge fuel remaining in my tank. Here is where I started to count down miles before I could get warm again, and this would continue until I arrived home the next day.
The run from Beatty to Tonopah was the best of the trip. I did 90 mph most of the way, hitting 100 twice. The wind was just strong enough to spook my memory from time to time, otherwise OK. By the time I got to Tonopah I was cold. At 6700 ft above sea level, T-town ainít no Palm Springs. I stopped to get gas, then off to a casino for coffee. It took a bit for my hands to stop shaking enough to hold the cup, but after about a half hour I was ready to go again. A note about my wearing apparel: my new jacket with liner kept my body warm through everything during this trip. It was the best investment I ever made. Only my hands got really cold up to this point, and that combined with numbness from vibrations was weird. Sometimes I couldnít tell if my hands were numb from cold or vibrations. In this case it was cold.
I love small Nevada towns. These are the ones no one ever sees, at least not the normal tourist. I respect RVíers more now because I realize they see these towns where most car-driving city-folk just stick to Las Vegas and Reno. Iíll talk more about these places, but one thing they have in common is that they all have at least one casino. The model for a casino is the same everywhere, just different in scale. The small-town ones are fairly cozy, and yet you can still retain anonymity just as easily as in Vegas. Great place for a Washburn to hide out and get warm.
Off I go. 106 miles to the next stop with nearly nothing in between here and Hawthorne except some podunk blips on the map. I pull out of the parking lot and within 100 yards get pulled over by a rather cute female Nevada trooper with a high, adorable voice. Said I was doing 39 in a 25 zone. I decided not to mention the 90 mph average I just did for the last 72 miles. I did my best act at looking cold (not too hard considering I was, very) and was exceedingly polite (not always what brother Ken would do). She let me off with a warning, such a doll. I think she wanted me, but I came to ride.
Cold and wind can be particularly annoying when they are constant. Instead of riding at high, unfettered speed and enjoying the sights, I found myself counting miles down (106, 105, 104Ö) and changing positions to gain warmth. Fortunately this BMW puts out some serious leg heat which can be optimized my putting my toes on the pegs instead of my midsoles. One thing I definitely appreciated was the reliable high-hum of those 4 cylinders pumping away between my legs. Man, what a sound and so steady. Love that bike.
Somewhat less than halfway to Hawthorne I stopped to get warm in Coaldale. Coaldale is probably the epitome of the low-end small town in Nevada. Most apparently there was once some decent activity here, maybe from mining, but certainly not now. I pulled up in front of a curio shop (called that, but a long stretch from anything you can imagine) that blocked the wind (again) so I could get warm in the sun. This dump had no casino, cafť, gas station or any other inside source of warmth. As I stood there a family of three walked by and the 8 or 9 year old boy said ďnice motorcycleĒ, and the Mom said ď looks like any old lousy motorcycle to meĒ and smiled. I said ďyea, yeaĒ and smiled back at her obvious ignorance of the finest things in life.
Arrive in Hawthorne. Got gas, got warm standing in front of the gas station mini-mart. No casinos I saw in Hawthorne; pretty podunk. Two Tony Hawk wannabes grinding off the picnic table near me said ďnice bikeĒ. I said ďthanksĒ but mumbled it so bad due to cold lips that it may have sounded condescending. To them: sorry if it did.
Before I decided to go to Hawthorne there was a choice. I could have gone instead and branched off onto 361 at Luning up to route 50. At 50 there are some earthquake gaps made in 1954 that I would have like to see, and from there route 50 would take me west all the way to Carson City. Problem is I was cold, and decided at Tonopah that the most direct route to Carson was best. You see, somewhere along the way I had finally decided I would not only go to Carson, but make it today.
At Hawthorne, musing over those two skateboarders I began to think at first how unfortunate they were to grow up in a dump town like this. There was no affluence here, no conveniences. But maybe they didnít see it that way. Their pace of life is much slower, as slow as I often wished for living in L.A., except when I was in an interminable line at Blockbuster. How different, and how good that this is also what I was looking for this trip; a reset of my point of reference which is what all vacations should be all about.
Off to Yerrington, about 70 miles (count Ďem down). Cold and windy. Past Walker Lake, which is about 20 miles long on a good winding road. After Walker Laker you enter great, rich farm country, something you donít expect in Nevada. The smells were thick with cow and there were pickup trucks abounding. Yerrington has a casino or two, but I stopped only to warm myself in front of an out-of-business country store in the waning sun. From there, thinking that I had not checked my oil in some time, I continued up ALT 95 to Silver Springs (podunk) where 95 meets route 50, which would be the last run to Carson City. At Silver Springs, though cold, I opted not to stop for long as I had become anxious to get to Carson, my destination for the day. I pulled over off 50 near a community ballpark and stretched and banged my cold hands to life. It was finally overcast, in fact it was looking like it could rain, especially in the direction I was headed. In fact, this was the first sight I snow I had, in the mountains just beyond my destination. As I stood there I heard a Harley stop a few hundred feet behind me on a side road. I though he might come up and say hi, but no. As I left, he did too, and he passed me on the highway. Traffic was picking up here, and I couldnít get up along side him, not that I wanted to anyway. Man, it was getting cold now. About 30 miles later I hit Carson City.
Route 50 meets 395 in Carson. On 395 is the main business section. There is lots of history here, but what do I care, Iím cold. I find the casino district (two main casinos) and a block away is The Downtowner Motel. Sounds good to me, Iím cold. I always assume the best in people until they prove me otherwise, sometimes immediately. The lobby of this place looks OK, and the guy behind the counter says $34 a night. Cool, just like the Motel 6, Iíll take it. Then I get to the room. First of all, the guy behind the counter is more than a little creepy. When he answers my questions about the chance of rain and snow, his answers are not to my questions, his nose is unusually red, and he has that not-a-full-set-of-marbles look. Very creepy. I expect to see Alfred Hitchcock walking throught the parking lot. Oh well, go to the room. Wow. Cracked walls, moldy bathroom, a fried toaster oven below the TV, airconditioner is kicked in, the adjoining door to the next room is unlocked! I lock it. The front door has no deadbolt. I am thinking, get out of here, but it is warm. It stinks. What the hell am I doing here? I am thinking I am going to get robbed, beaten, bike stolen, you name it. Well, live on the edge. I bring my tank bag into the room as it, unlike the saddle bags (panniers) doesnít lock to the bike. Then I walk a block to the Carson Nugget casino for several hours of gaming and food. Ah, warmth and the knowledge I have a warm place to sleep. But a warning: it is cold, like in the high 30ís. Deal with it tomorrow.
I have been riding motorcycles more years than most people at my place of employment have been alive, and one thing about riding is that, unlike vacationing in a car, there are a lot of ďifsĒ. If you have a flat tire, you canít just get a spare out of the trunk. If you have a mechanical failure, you canít easily find any old gas station to make repairs. You have to plan time to accommodate for such possibilities, and if you cut it too close, you are asking for trouble. So much for the reason I pay more for a BMW.
I go to bed at 10 or 11, but since I know the caliber of the manager of this dump, and I havenít seen a maid at all, and the clientelle are all roumy-eyed lushes, I donít sleep under the covers so as not to gain any microscopic pets. Next morning I wake up to the sound of rain, surprised it isnít dripping into my second-story room. Steady, rather hard rain gives me no cause to hurry to the three Sís (shit, shower, shave). 9:00 and I have to check out at 11. I go to the casino for breakfast, come back, still raining hard. 10:30 and I get a call from the demon at the front desk asking if I plan to check out. I say yes, but think ďare you joking?Ē. Pretty sure Iíd rather deal with the harshest weather than spend another night here. I pack up and ride next door to the gas station and fill up. This is the first time I notice I am having a hard time getting the bike onto the center stand. Doing that is never that easy on this 570 lb bike, but it seems harder. Is it my tiredness or has water overnight leaked into the saddle bags and absorbed into the sleeping bag? I donít want to look, so I donít. I check my oil and find that the previous dayís 350 miles have used no oil. I like that.
Off I go into cold (35 degrees or so) and rain hoping for the best. I figure getting even 30 miles down the road is better than staying here; it is that much closer to my final destination, which today is home although I really think Iíll end up staying somewhere along the way tonight. Funny thing about cold on a bike, if you are cold standing somewhere, once you get moving you calm down and donít feel it quite as much. I donít know why that is since you arenít moving about in order to keep warm. I tool down 395 thinking despite the snow, which is evident 500 ft above me on the close mountains, I can possibly make it to Bishop via 395. Route 395, though, has elevations as high as 8500 ft, so this is unlikely. Biking requires lots of alternative route planning, which is part of the fun.
I cruise through Carson south on 395, cursing red lights as I get soaked. I am thinking if I get to speed the fairing and windshield will disperse most of the rain around me and I will stay relatively dry. Finally I get out of town and start to speed up, but the wind is on my starboard side and a good 30 mph or more in gusts. Man, this is hard with slanting rain, high winds and very cold. I am thinking, get me back to the Bates Motel, but no, I have a goal. Often I am doing 30 mph leaned a good 15 degrees just waiting for a gust. If a cop saw me now, there is now way heíd let me go on. I go about 37 miles to Topaz Lake on 395 and stop in the rain at yet again another casino. When I walk in the downstairs door, the first person I see is the casino (small place overlooking a small lake) cook. He offers immediately to take my jacket into his kitchen and warm it by his ovens. What a champ! I canít reply much due to cold and wet. Although not one drop of water has entered my jacket or helmet, my gloves are soaked as are my jeans (only the tops and front) and sneaks. When I do reply, I give him only my gloves, since my jacket is amazingly waterproof. What a buy that thing was. I go upstairs to have coffee and listen to a trailer-trash mom drink, smoke and gamble while her three multi-colored children play pool unattended downstairs where I came in. I wait about an hour and wish beyond belief that the rain would stop, imagining at times it lessens while in reality I am only looking at different objects as a background to gain the appearance of less downfall. I finally donít want to drink any more coffee so as not to have to pee too soon and go down to retrieve my gloves from my friend. Man, they are warm if not altogether dry. I could kiss the guy.
I donít even wipe the seat of my bike, knowing Iíll be soaked soon enough anyway in this rain, and head south on 395. I am thinking whether this is the worst of this trip, or is there worse to come. I thought Mojave winds were the end-all, but apparently not. I go south on 395 for a mile and hit the California border. There is a digital sign there for traffic conditions stating that chains are required on 395 south due to snow and ice. Nice. I turn around knowing that route 208 is somewhere behind me that will take me east towards Yerrington (remember that?). I am in hopes that heading east will take me away from the mountians and the rains, thinking the rain is hugging the mountains. Turns out 208 is only 2 miles from where I was, and indeed the sky looked brighter eastward. I go and go and sure enough, besides the wind at my back for a change (thank you!), the rain finally stops. I go in and out of rain for a while, but just the prospect of not going into worse conditions brightens my spirits enough to endure anything. The wind continues to haunt me. Everytime the road turns north I get hit abeam and suffer. When it turns east I cruise unfettered, but even then it gusts unpredictably. I hate the wind. I finally get to Yerrington, never having gone over 50 mph and freezing the whole way (but God-damned dry despite the cold) and stop and run into a casino (of course).
It takes some time to warm up. The casino is not that warm and my shoes are still wet and I know they wonít dry in this place. I sit down and play video poker to justify my presence there, but shiver the whole time. I think about pizza at the in-house pizza parlor, but food doesnít appeal to me. To tell you the truth I am pleased I made it this far. Cold as I am I canít help remembering how daunting the trip looked from the Bates Motel this morning, and here I am, although only 50 miles as the crows flies from Carson, itís much more than that by an road. I could stay here the night and be happy, which is a thought that will pervade throughout the day.
Allright, I have a plan. Well, two plans. First of all I new it was important to have a goal. If I stayed too loose I could stop anywhere for the night. The problem with that is that if I did I there was no guarantee that tomorrow would bring better conditions. This is the same problem I faced in Carson City. If I waited until Sunday to leave, the rains may still be there, as the weather channel predicted, so Iíd be faced with doing all of this again in one day before I had to go to work on Monday. The idea basically here was to get as much mileage toward L.A. on Saturday, today, as possible. If I had to stay the night somewhere I would then have that much less mileage to do on Sunday. But I had no idea what the weather would be like on Sunday and Iíd sure as hell would like to spend a day recovering. So I imposed a goal of sleeping in my own bed Saturday night. As to the two plans of doing that, here they are: First, I go to Hawthorne and from there I continue on highway 95 south to Tonopah and retrace my steps through Beatty and Death Valley and back to Mojave and home. Second choice is to go through Hawthorne and beyond it veer off onto route 360 to route 6 and into Bishop, CA, which is a more direct route home. Problem with the latter is that it takes me over Mt. Montgomery pass at 7100 ft. On my ride from Yerrington to Hawthorne that day, past Walker Lake once again, I saw snow at only 500 feet above me, and I Hawthorne is only at 4000 feet above sea level. Anyway I looked at it, getting over the mountains was the problem, wherever I did it.
The sun was getting low as I approached Hawthorne and the winds were getting high (again, like a curse!). I fueled up in Hawthorne, but forgot to check my oil level. No matter. No place to get warm other than using the downwind side of a tractor trailer for a few minutes. Off I go to the junction of 95 and 360, which would be the last chance to decide whether to chance the mountains here or go toward Tonopah. Cold as hell, hands numb I get to 360. It is 4:00 with only an hour of sunlight left and 39 miles to ďBentonĒ, whatever the hell that is. The sign also says it is 75 miles to Bishop, which is a hell of a lot closer to home than the several hundred mile detour I would have to otherwise take through Tonopah and Death Valley. I say go. So I start up and up in elevation with the sun setting, thinking I hope the road at 7100 feet is not frozen or snowy and than I get there before the sun goes down. Snow appears all around me and is beautiful but cold as ice. The road is wet but not frozen, thank you. I get to the top of the peak and there is a casino (of course), but closed. On the other side of the mountain is slush on the road, very dangerous. I am so, so ,so happy I made the peak, but so, so, so frozen in my fingers. Only an few more miles should be Benton. There it is, a light on a sign so I stop.
After ten minutes of trying to get my helmet off with frozen hands, I walk into this place. It is warm and the proprietor says ďthereís the coffeeĒ. How astute that he senses I was cold. Coffee is $0.25, Iíd have paid $100.00. I stand near the door trying to act unobtrusive, then realize there is a reason this place is so warm: there is a wood-burning stove in the corner! Oh, what relief. I stand for a half hour, but realize these folks are too odd. People come in and out, mostly passersby going to ski areas via the alternate route who I mistake for locals in my frozen delirium. I leave somewhat warmer, and knowing I have only 35 miles to Bishop. I have just saved myself countless hours of riding by rising Montgomery Pass, and no one care but me. Ainít it great!
Alright, count the miles downhill to Bishop, 35 of them, no big deal. What a welcome sight it is when I get there. I cruise through this windy (still!) town to the last gas station at the south end of the city. I have a very hard time getting the bike on the center stand, almost drop it. Canít decide if itís having wet feet or me being tired, but I get it there anyway. A guy is watching and comes over and asks me about the bike. He has a VTX1800 and tells me about it. Nice guy. In response to my weather questions, he says the Mojave valley, where Iím headed, has high winds and intermittent rain. Great. He offers that if he had his pickup, he would load me up and give me a ride. Nice guy.
Well, 250 or so miles to home and willing to be convinced to stay the night anywhere along the way. Problem is, if I do that I face the prospect of bad weather tomorrow, so do I push on or be willing to stop at any time, like right now in Bishop? Here is where fear and drive either collide or combine. I would certainly like to be home tonight more than anything. I also donít want to have stopped somewhere along the way for the night and wake up the next morning facing bad or worse weather. So, I use the latter as an excuse to accomplish the former.
By this point, at Bishop, I had ridden some 300 plus miles in cold, rain and wind. Itís funny how you adjust to conditions. Just walking out the front door in 50 degree weather might seem like a chilly experience, but climbing on a bike at 40 degrees in 30 mph winds in the dark after 8 hours of riding can seem like a viable choice. I felt no more alive in my life than at this point (been there before, though) and loved it.
OK, this was going to be, with the wind and all, a station-to-station run all the way. That is assuming I was to make it all the way home. At Bishop is was 6:00 or so, and windy and cold as hell with rain intermittent. Here we go.
First possible stop on the map was Big Pine, then Independence. Right out of Bishop the rain got heavier and the winds got stronger. It reminded me of going out of Carson City. There is no lonier feeling than being on a highway in tough winds and rain with no one near you that could possibly offer comfort or empathy.
Short distance, some 13 miles to Big Pine, but huge winds and strong rain. If a cop came by now, there is no way they would let me continue. My biggest fear, besides exposure to cold, was being rear-ended. The highway changed from fourlane to twolane often. At the twolane periods I feared impatient drivers, but there were few people on the road in general, so I lucked out to some degree.
Then on, after a short rest, to Independence, where I just stopped on the side of the road under the lateral protection of a storefront from the wind. Cold, but I seem to have settled into an acceptance of the cold. My body has adjusted amazingly. I stop and shiver undcontrollably when I am not riding, but once I get going I settle down. However, I must constantly consciensly force myself to relax so as not to strain a muscle due to tensing or to steer uncontrollable due to tensing. To Lone Pine where I didnít stop, but continued on to Olancha.
Keep in mind that this is not what I had in mind when I set out on my vacation. I envisioned looking forward each day to comfortable long mileage cruises, not thinking necessarily about the next stop ahead. What this had become was an endurance test of mile to mile can I make it. The rain and wind at times, especially right after I left one town were soul-searching, if not sanity-searching. I found myself on a lonely highway, subject to gut-wrenching conditions thinking I should have rented a room at any old motel I just passed.
I stopped at yet another gas station slash mini-mart in Olancha. Young guy didnít know what to say to frozen me. I occupied his warm room and bought some chips so as not to appear to freebie on his space, but found I couldnít eat much despite my need. He told me there was another gas station 30 miles down the road, but also that there were 2 motels nearby. I was tempted as I rode past them, but remained determined to press on. Funny how once I passed the last motel the rain and wind picked up stronger than before.
Well, I had been counting down the 30 miles to the next warm station Mr. Olancha told be about, but found that it didnít exist when I got there, son of a bitch. I had to go another 16 miles to where China Lake cut off. There was a gas station and mini-mart (opposite Nevadaís casino). I missed it and had to u-turn on the highway and ride against traffic to get to it. Pulled in, frozen to the bone and walked in to pay for gas. There was an old geezer who bitched about closing up (it was 9:00pm) and how late comers (like me) were such a pain. Oh, but the store was sooooo warm. I paid up and went out with him to gas up while he read the pumps prior to closing, wishing he would die so I could hunker down in his then abandoned store. My wish was not granted. Without time to stop shivering, he told me Mojave was 50 miles away with nothing in between. What a prospect! Now I was worried about exposure.
No choice, off I went. The sky was clear, the air cold, the wind a pain in the ass but managable at 60 mph or so. Finally Mojave. Same Motel 6 showed up. I stopped in the rain to have a burger across from the Motel 6, but didnít get warm. Half an hour later, with determination to get home, I left Mojave. This is when I felt really comfortable riding, despite rain and cold, to see the lit dashboard of my bike, the strong reliable sound of a liter of engine and 570 pounds of weight beneath me taking me through all Iíd been through with no complaints.
High winds to Lancaster but clear cold skies. From there I only stopped once in the valley to stretch my hands, then home. I logged 560 miles that day, 1275 in three days. Most of it cold and painfully windy and some of it wet. But I never once thought of work or cleaning my house or laundry or familial duties. Mission accomplished, character gained I hope. Man am I sore.