upwardly mo' bile freeway -
The motorcycle trip was spectacular, as any long motor trip through California is bound to be.
I set out late Thursday morning, heading north, and the ride began to feel like a road trip once I was out beyond Santa Barbara (with SB just a 45 minute ride north from my house it's a frequent destination). In the days just before this trip, when anticipation gave way to prep and packing, I figured I'd be staying mostly in Southern California to explore some of the smaller towns east of San Luis Obispo, and then eventually work my way in a clockwise loop back south, a journey limited by my desire to keep the bike's mileage down. I'm meticulous about regular scheduled maintenance, and a long long trip would've busted a self-imposed limit, but somewhere around Santa Maria (I can't say the name of that town without accent and exclamation -- Santa Maria!) a big spark happened in my tiny brain. I called a Harley shop up north and scheduled a Friday morning appointment for 2500 mi service. Suddenly the West was my oyster.
I got off US 101 at San Luis Obispo and looped around to Highway 1 to take the coast route up along Cambria, San Simeon, and Big Sur. Stunningly beautiful. Easily one of the top stretches of pavement on the planet, and a motorcycle is the best vehicle for it. The smells, the temperature changes, the slopes and curves, the hefty gyroscopic balance of the machine, they all combined to pull a big fat smile out of me. And the view, well, the view, I mean, heck, the view.
Then I hit Carmel. Traffic. Traffic all the way through to Moss Landing. Twenty miles of bumper to bumper, much of it with just a single lane in each direction. Clearly, in the more than twenty years since I lived in this neck of the woods, the citizens have been breeding in earnest.
I landed in Santa Cruz for the night, plopped down at the Travelodge, unloaded the bike, and rinsed the road off my face. After a ten minute lie-down that stretched into an hour, I went out in search of food.
I cruised into Capitola to see if this old Mexican place was still there, or whether the Loma Prieta earthquake had done it in. I never got the chance to find out. Too many cars, not enough parking. I headed back into downtown Santa Cruz, a town which, after the earthquake, has succeeded in losing its charm. I parked the bike on Pacific Ave. and hit the bricks.
Different but similar buildings line the Pacific Garden Mall now and, since it's a university town, the populace has maintained its cosmopolitan slouch with a new generation layered on to put a fresh patina of innocent poverty and rebellion over the established base of previous graduates.
On Day Two, after getting the bike checked over and topped off, I rode north again, taking Highway 1 along the cliffs into San Francisco. This dumps you onto 19th Ave. through town and eventually onto the Golden Gate Bridge. Crossing that huge high span on a Harley is sublime if you're paying attention.
This was a Friday at around three o'clock, and in San Francisco on Fridays at around three o'clock every San Franciscan with a car likes to get out of town and go north to commune with the grape and wine economy. This provides an unbroken line of vehicles from Sausalito to Santa Rosa. Many of the natives may look at this as conceptual art, a living sculpture winding its way to the golden hills and vineyards of Napa and Sonoma counties. I looked at this as an opportunity to do sixty miles worth of lane splitting, leaving behind me a wake of steaming owners of BMW's and Range Rovers yearning to breathe free. Lane splitting, particularly among and between the cognoscenti, has a way of delightfully concentrating the mind.
I cruised around Santa Rosa, taking in its municipalness, and found it to be very much like Santa Cruz, with vineyards as a substitute for beachfront. I suspect the main difference lies in its people. Everyone I met and chatted with there seemed genuinely kind and generally happy. Or it may simply have been the spillover of my own radiant benevolence, an egoless emanation of warmth and good cheer so infectious it never fails to leave new acquaintances trying to catch their breath (this I deduce from so many mouths agape after I enter a room), and so easily available across a crowded gas station, Denny's, or Travelodge lobby.
While there, I thought about using my detective skills to track down the secluded author of Bunt Sign who dwells on the village outskirts, but the better angels of my nature poked me with motel pens and coffee stirrers until I decided to respect Michael's right to privacy.
After a night of heavy resting, I lit out just before the crack of eleven and headed for the coast. I took River Rd. along the Russian River through Forestville, Guerneville, and Monte Rio, hitting the ocean just north of Bodega Bay, a quaint seaside colony that loves to be best known as the place to get your eyes pecked out by angry birds. Hey, if it's good enough for Suzanne Pleshette, it's good enough for me. Me and Suzy: like this. She's on the list, y'know, the "If She Walked In Right Now And Threw You Onto The Bed It Would Be Okay With The Spouse" list. I admit she's been on the list for a loooong time, and this span of years has taken its toll, but I'm nothing if not loyal. Viv's got a list too. There are some real nut cases on it. I wonder about her sometimes. I'm digressing, aren't I.
I figured if I was going to get home with any decent strength left I'd better start heading south now. And so I did. Straight shot down 101, back over the bridge, through the provinces of San Francisco, and down and down and down. Eleven hours worth of down.
I did a lot of resting the next day. Chuck and I had made some loose plans about going out on a charity ride Sunday morning, but I was beat. On the phone, I tried to go into detail with him about how I was sore on the inner parts of my thighs from eleven straight hours of hard Harley ridin', but for some reason he'd have none of that and ordered me to stop talking about how my soft smooth flesh and rippling muscles had been tested by the open road. Wussy. Big jealous wussy.
Anyway, that was the ride.
"The Road To Hell" -- Chris Rea -- THE BEST OF CHRIS REA
"General Peckem liked listening to himself talk, liked most of all listening to himself talk about himself."
- Joseph Heller