Not sure if my geography is off here, LA is a big place. With a job offer in the bag and a few weeks off I cleared out on my bike. The original plan was to go to Mexico to Ciudad Juárez. Christina McMahon from my tiny hometown of Carrickmacross, Ireland, was going to fight for a world boxing title. I packed my Irish flag and a tent and set off.
Mistake number 1. Bad geography. It’s called Death Valley for a reason. While it might be in the middle of a rare bloom from some rain it’s still a) the desert and b) hot.
Mistake number 2. That small windshield doesn’t do much. It has a crack in it. I can just get rid of it.
People go fast on the highways in California. Really fast. Over 60mph on a cruiser without a windshield it gets to be more work with all the wind. At 75 mph you’re just holding on and you get tired really quickly. When it’s 100 degrees in the shade in death valley this makes it tough going.
Day 2 I woke up in a campsite in Arizona in bits. A combination of trying to hold on to the bike while not drinking nearly enough water left me feeling like I’d been doing the 12 pubs of Christmas and fell a lot. I tried to keep going but after an hour I was pulled in at a Starbucks near Phoenix weighing my options. I could
a) try and keep going
b) rent a car for a few days and make the easy 450 mile drive to El Paso to walk across the border
c) try something else.
Once that decision was made it became much easier. I turned left instead of right and found a nice campsite. The next day I saw some ruins of cliff dwellings, lots of desert, rocks, national parks. Ate a lot of meatloaf, met some nice people. One thing about Arizona is the snakes and insects. There’s signs at all the rest stops warning about them. So when I found this at a campsite, well, it was a good thing I had packed more pants.
Fecking thing was rubber. Well played some random kid, well played.
I was heading up to Sedona, I’d been there before, it’s a beautiful place. I hadn’t counted on it being Spring and in the mountains. It was cold in Sedona. Also full. All the campsites were full. The queue in to town was about 4 miles long. I saw it on my way out and heading to Flagstaff. Where is was even colder. I checked the weather forecast and it was expecting 28 (about -2 in real numbers) and very quickly my plans turned to forget camping, I’m getting a hotel.
Found a nice sports bar to watch the fight. World Title Boxing? Nice beer? What could be wrong? Oh yeah, women’s boxing isn’t on TV. Though I think the foxy kind was on a pay channel in the hotel. OK, I had some more meatloaf. I really got into the meatloaf on this trip.
Flagstaff is on Route 66. Or what’s left of it. Headed west as quickly as possible and once I was below a mile in elevation the weather picked up. Another slow day bouncing along what’s left of 66. Lots of tack, sorry, Americana. If your license plate falls off your car it’s rubbish, so recycle and put it in a store on Route 66 with a $20 price tag on it.
Still, it was a nice ride, a lot just off the highway, quiet, scenery changing from the high elevation to desert and in between. Some road was barely passable, I did about 10 miles on one part in an hour, mainly on the gravel at the side of the road. The potholes had joined to form landscape.
Another night in a hotel, this time at a Casino in Luaghlin, Nevada. Why pay ~$30 for a campsite when I can stay in a hotel for $22. With a voucher for a free coffee at Dunkin Donuts. Best deal I made on the trip.
Then the rest of the long ride home to Pasadena before leaving the next day for Vegas with herself. All in all, a great trip.
Lane splitting on a motorbike is legal in California. Like most of the world. Most of the rest of the US and Canada don’t like it though. I missed it in Canada, pushing to the front of stopped traffic at a red light, I mean, who wants to wait in traffic?
Of course, this being California they go nuts. The rules on lane splitting, like rules about using your indicators, speed limits, driving sober are just things to be ignored. I can be driving at
80mph the speed limit down the freeway and a motorcycle will zip between me and the truck next to me, doing 90 mph. It’s crazy and scary, even in my over-sized SUV when they do that.
I do like it when I work in Burbank. The 12.1 miles, nearly all 5 or 6 lane freeway can take over an hour. Or on a bike in the stopped traffic about 20 minutes. This morning, riding in to work I noticed another motorcycle coming up fast behind me. Since he was much more used to this than me I swung in to the lane proper and gave him a nod to let him pass me. Which he did with a little wave. They’re all real friendly out here.
Then as he sped away he leaned back to stretch out both arms. In a spot where traffic was moving again, so traffic is maybe at 30 miles an hour and he is on the white line between lines of cars and trucks doing 40 or 50 with no hands.
Respect, you mad and crazy biker, respect.
Yeah I know lots of blogs have a rash of new posts with the Oh I’m going to blog more tagline. I’m sure I’ve done it myself.
That’s not the reason for this rash of posts.
I stopped just writing and clicking Publish, and am trying to up my editing game. Yeah, there’s still lots of mistakes. Get a red pen and fax me….
Anyway there were a few waiting to be edited and posted and I changed phone and lost my 2 factor authentication so couldn’t log on. Now the ones that have piled up are getting posted. Then it will go back to the infrequent posts.
When the bodies were all cleared from the trail I headed up Echo Mountain. On my own this time. Damien muttered something about borrowing a shovel and cleaning his car.
It’s not a difficult hike, just long and all uphill. The Grouse Grind or the Chief in BC are much more difficult, they’re much steeper but Echo Mountain is just a long uphill walk.
I got proof that I made it.
There used to be a hotel at the top, trains used to run up but now all that’s left are foundations. Peace out man.
You’ve watched TV. You know when to expect when you go hiking or jogging. Never running. Runners never find the body. No bored cop in a uniform explains to a detective that a runner found the body. No, it was always a jogger, a hiker or someone walking a dog that came back chewing on half an arm.
This being LA myself and Damien went to hike up Echo Mountain. We arrived at the haunted Cobb Estate early, like real early. 7 in the morning or some such. It’s LA, and even back in January when we tried this you don’t want to try walking up a hill in the sun. Anyway, there was a body. Hikers found a body. Not us, no, we were blocked by a news crew and a Sheriff. A body was found on the trail.
So we turned around, briefly considered the pub but instead were all healthy and shit and went hiking at Eaton Canyon to the falls. No bodies found at all. Though there is a smell coming from the trunk of Damien’s car; He said he ran over something….
There’s something about North America that doesn’t seem real. It’s not just Los Angeles and the fake tits, the ass implants, the botox heads. It’s everywhere. Especially the west coast, where buildings are made of wood and plastic, seemingly as permanent as the forts and huts we made as kids. Though maybe not as grand as those castles we fought for.
You miss it, the stone and brick, the old buildings, the old roads, the narrow winding streets. You can spot it a mile off, a building designed exactly for a purpose, function is something I can appreciate, but I miss the permanence. Reuse and oddness makes character. You can pass a building and know straight away, with no signs, that it was a McDonald’s. Maybe years ago but it’s still a pile of wood and plastic that was built just for this. When Burger King take over they’ll knock it and build one of their own
Not like Europe where what was once a grand house is now sixteen flats, a tenement is now a restaurant. No clear lines from the kitchen, the waitress struggles trays of food up narrow back stairs to small ill-shaped rooms.
The almost temporary buildings here are remind you of a movie back lot, just a facade painted to look real.
In LA it’s worse. There’s no real weather, just sun and warm or hot or very hot. No snow, feck all rain. Listening to the Ben Folds sing of “The smell of cold, Car seat is freezing” songs about the weather and they seem real. Not where I am. No, it’s all not quite real. It’s all just fake,
Someday I’ll wake up. In the rain and the cold in a damp room that was built a few hundred years and a few dozen purposes ago. And LA and all of North America will slip away, half remembered like another nameless movie I saw last month.
It rained the other evening. All the dust from a few weeks rising in the wind, brown clouds against the sunset. Like Armageddon. People running for cover, hair askew, holding anything over their heads. A homeless guy frantically pushing his bicycle and two kiddie trailers of his world to the shelter of a gas station wall.
Traffic going crazy, not the skidding but the sudden rush to get home, get out of this. Weeks of fallen leaves, small branches bounding along the road. Like the Apocalypse has come and gone, a scene from the zombie movie. A flash of lightening, some rain. It will be gone in ten minutes.
Against it all, a girl, hair streaming in the wind, face raised and eyes wide, a newspaper over her head, a smile like it’s the end of a drought.
Not far from me are the San Gabriel Mountains and the Angeles National Forest is right there. Even without going on a freeway (cause no one can drive in LA and I’m not quite ready to take a motorbike there) I can be on the Angeles Crest Highway in about fifteen minutes. Then I’ve got long, twisty mountain roads with great scenery and since this is California, great weather. The perfect place for a motorcycle.
You do get some kids trying out their sports cars but mainly you get a lot of bikers.
The road is closed in parts most of the year but there’s enough open for a decent ride. On Friday I got as far as Newcomb’s Ranch, a log cabin type bar selling coffee, beer and burgers. Outside a line of bikers sipping drinks and smoking cigars.
Anyway, it was a nice ride;