Day 17: Hottest Ride, Los Angeles, No Interstate, 4146 miles, Family.

Last night, Linda the owner of Ray’s Den, and I swopped stories as we sat outside the motel rooms and watched the evening fall all shadowy and indigo about us. Highly recommend this place. If you’re ever in Independence California and need a place for the night, stop at Ray’s Den. Tell Linda, Gene sent you. You may have to pay more because of that but who cares?
It was only a nickel over 200 miles into LA so I thought this ride would be a piece of cake. After all, a couple of days before I’d done 480 miles. I went to the nice café a couple blocks down from Ray’s Den, had a good breakfast including a sausage omelet and two huge glasses of water and headed out.
I patted the side of Big Red and climbed on. Once again I had a magnificent ride along the Sierra Nevada, the mountains garlanded in snow, carrying, without boasting, a chiseled hugeness and grandeur. Imagine riding beside these mountains for 70 miles or so. Beautiful!
After 78 miles I stopped, gassed up and drank a bottle of iced tea. It was getting hotter. Managed only 50 more miles and already felt dehydrated. Stopped and drank another bottle. 30 more miles, another stop and two large glasses of iced tea at McDonalds. I was now 50 miles out from LA but I felt refreshed as I kept trying to figure out how I was going to get to North Hollywood without going on the interstate. Much harder than you might think! I jotted some ideas on a sticky sheet to insert into the window of my camera bag on my tank. Piece of cake. Well, after getting lost three times and worrying about the engine seriously overheating at all the traffic lights I finally made it my daughter and son in law’s apartment. Great reunion complete with their welcoming hospitality, Mexican beer and Chinese food.
Now, I plan to stay here for a while. I don’t plan to blog again till I’m back on the road. Stay tuned. Thanks for riding with me. This far!

Day 16 Continued: Carson City Nevada to Independence California, Not Santa Barbara, Plum Tuckered, Highs and Lows.

As soon as I left Carson City, Nevada the weariness began to grow on me. I began to feel weak and rode-hard. A chronic health problem I have is called Trigeminal Neuralgia. It’s a very bizarre problem (what else would I have?) that effects the nerves in one side of my face. I can feel pain in three places, singly, or simultaneously: the left side of my forehead, my ear or my teeth. I take medication every day but I can have flare ups. Most are handled with just increasing the pain medication. That’s what I’ve had to do the last four days. Today, my teeth took their turn. And when it’s in the teeth, I can’t eat. Frankly, after having this for about 10 years I’ve gotten used to it as does everyone with a chronic health problem. Anyway…
After all my planning to go to Santa Barbara, at the last minute instead of turning west I kept heading south on 395. El Camino Sierra. I just had a gut feeling to go this way. So glad that I did!
An amazing highway! Yesterday I was on the route that the Pony Express riders used to take and today’s is more of a ‘gold rush’ route.
Yesterday and today, I was dealing intellectually, emotionally, with the loss of a relationship. It was a good time to practice letting go of “what if’s” and resentments, trusting what’s happening, (Taoism, Christianity) and being in the moment (Zen). Taoism says that there will be highs and lows; take what comes graciously, let go of expectations and, in effect, enjoy the ride.
On Hwy 395, heading south, on my right, I had the magnificent Sierra Nevada mountains and the border of Yosemite Park. They were spectacular, snow still clinging brightly to the higher elevations. On my left were the White Mountains. Heading south I went through five mountain passes, including Deadman Summit, and peaking with Conway Summit at 8,138 feet (2480 m), the highest point on 395. The views were amazing and it was cold. I had my leather jacket on and my heated gloves. There were signs for elk but all I saw was a bear rambling across the road.
Once I got to the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite the road grew more familiar. This was the way that my buddy Jeff Stafford and I came last year (See earlier sections of this blog for last year’s trip.). Last year, however, we turned left and went through Death Valley while I’m heading to LA.
As I got closer to the town of Independence (ironically) I thought: “It would be great to stay at that motel Jeff and I stayed at last year, Ray’s Den.” It was our favorite motel of the whole trip! Well I stopped and saw Linda, the owner, who easily didn’t remember me at all from last year. I got a great room for a good price and hunkered down. (I need to take some photos.)
So here’s where I’m at this very moment. Sitting outside my room on a wooden chair, drinking a Golden Trout Pilsner Beer and glancing at old Mount Whitney, the highest summit at 14, 505 feet (4421 m) in the United States (The lower 48). Now, if you were to go just 84 miles east- southeast of Whitney you’d find (ironically) the lowest point in North America : Badwater in Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level.
That’s what this trip has been about. Experiencing, enduring and trusting the highs and lows.

Day 16: One More Day to the Pacific, Then One to My Daughter’s Home, Carson City, Epicenter of Choice in the Old Wild West

If the gods are kind to me I hope to make it to the Pacific Ocean today. I’m shooting for somewhere near Santa Barbara. I managed 480 miles yesterday, my longest so far. Could hear the waves of the Pacific in my helmet as sure as if I’d held up a conch shell to my ear. I got to thinking about Carson City and Virginia City yesterday as I rode closer toward them. They conjure up my past, growing up, watching a lot of Westerns. Being a kid at home, going to school, freedom still a long ways off I realize now that places like Carson City seemed full of choices. Heading to there yesterday I thought about my options, viewing them through the lens of those teenage years. I could go through the swinging doors of the Gold Dust Saloon and order some rotgut whiskey. Go to Murphy’s for a big porterhouse steak. Buy some new duds. Get a bath and a shave at Doc’s. Go watch a dancing show at Lizzie’s and maybe take a trip upstairs later. (My teenage angst years). I hear there’s a big card game at Lucky’s later tonight. I could try my luck and when my luck ran out, as it always did, I could sign on for a cattle drive.
I rode into Carson City and parked the old steed, Big Red, outside the city hotel. The old imagery began to drift away. There are still old saloons, but these have TV’s on the wall and sell beers like Leinenkugal Summer Shandy. Casinos, but mainly with people sitting alone with a machine, mashing buttons, people looking resigned to their fate.
I kept asking the town folk about where Lizzie’s was, but all I got were some dirty looks. Wait, I think one man stuffed a dollar in my hand.
Well, I plan to saddle up soon and high tail it to Santa Barbara today and if not, well, I might just sign on for a cattle drive.

Day 15: The Loneliest Road in America

The “loneliest road in America” was what I headed out on about 7:45 this morning. Highway 50. From Delta Utah to the Nevada border there was 83 miles of nothing: no houses, gas stations or anything. Long straight road. I tested out Big Red and she got up to 105 mph before she started to wobble. She still had more throttle left. The road snaked through canyons and then slowly I crossed into Nevada and stopped to fuel up. Talked with two other bikers, Stella and Paris, who were traveling around for a month. Nice name, Paris. I ought to start using my alias: Dutch.
I’ve got more lonely ahead as the loneliest road continues to Carson City.
I have nine mountain summits to cross in the next 285 miles just to reach Fernley
Stay tuned.

Day 14 Continued: The People You Meet-Brief Views of Today’s Encounters

After a long ride I was exhausted and stopped at the Chevron in Fairview, Utah.
1. A man who was dressed in full leathers. He had been on a ride to visit his grandchildren. We talked about different rides we had been on. His closing line was: “A bad day on the road is better than a good day in the office.” I don’t know if I agree. I work at a great place with good people.
2. Danny was delivering fuel to the Chevron and we chatted. His wife died two years ago from liver cancer. She had gone into the hospital to have her gallbladder removed and they found the cancer. She lived for another 11 weeks. It still hurts him. I told him I understand. He has two daughters that live near him and a son in New York. He has a lady friend he’s been going out with. She divorced 12 years ago when he husband announced he was gay. I told Danny a bit about my life and my recent divorce. This guy was so incredibly nice I hated to say goodbye to him.
3. Jesse came up to me to ask about road conditions heading into the Rocky Mountain National Park. “Is highway 31 clear?” I didn’t know. We chatted about the roads we had taken and the places we had stayed. “There’s a great campground on the Nevada border. 5 bucks to camp out.” He admired Big Red and I walked over to see his bike. It was a BMW 800 GS, a great dual bike (road and trail). He showed me the slight damage where he had fallen on the bike once. He had it duct taped up. He said he had been going down a road and suddenly it changed to dirt and stones and he dropped the bike. He broke a few ribs but his bike was in good shape. This reminded me of a road I’d taken in Missouri. I had lost Highway 61 and I was trying to get back to it. I was going about 65 when suddenly the paved road ended and I hit a dirt and rocky road. I was lucky. I stopped accelerating and otherwise didn’t react at all (wu wei –non action). The bike eventually slowed.
4. I spoke to the woman working at the motel. Fascinating place as it also has an assisted living and independent living section for older people. She had just moved down about 8 months ago. She used to live about two hours north. She came down to visit her daughter and her grandchildren on a Friday and the next day she was offered a job as a nurse/motel worker. She loves being here with her grandchildren and yes she spoils them. “That’s your job!” I said and she laughed. She misses her mother who lives back in her last town but she has a younger sister to take care of her.
5. I walked up to talk with Glenn at the hotel because, unbelievably, he had a Georgia tag on his motorcycle. He lives near Atlanta and told me about all his travels and the different places he had lived. He lived in Japan for years teaching English. He and his wife had ridden across to San Francisco and were heading home.

Day 14: Harley Fixed, Guy Lying on the Ground, Good Samaritan Stuff, Signs and Portents,

I managed to get the Harley fixed, if just for now. The worker at Beers Harley got out a socket wrench with an extension and tightened the bolts holding the exhaust on.He said the gasket or seal might need to be replaced. But I cranked her up and she sounded good even though the exhaust was still louder than normal. I’m not into loud pipes on bikes but I understand their point: Loud pipes save lives. Just don’t show off!
Big Red did beautifully today as we rode through some magnificent country. In the distance I could see bright, snowy, mountain peaks rising above the clouds that looked pale and washed out like a watercolor painting. Snow was all around but thank God, not on the road. I rode by high mesas and the road followed a beautiful meandering stream.
I needed a drink and pulled up at a McDonalds. There was a man lying on the ground with a coat over his head. I thought: well either you believe the Bible or you don’t. If you do you can’t walk past someone like this. We wouldn’t have the story of the Good Samaritan if he hadn’t stopped to help. Mark Twain once said something like: It’s not the parts of the Bible that I don’t understand that bother me it’s the parts of the Bible I do understand.
So I went up to the man and asked if he was okay. He said yes. I said did he need something to eat? He said “no, I’m waiting on my dad to pick me up. But hey, thanks for asking”.
Then there were the road signs. A picture of a deer on the yellow warning sign. Watch out! I’ve also seen signs for elk, longhorn sheep and, of course, cows. I like the cow warning. Cows take their time and you can negotiate with a cow, more than any other animal, because they’re so curious. In Ireland, when I lived there the sheep would hurry past but the cows would stop and look. I found that if you called them “Larry” they were much more likely to negotiate the king’s highway with you. Finally, I saw some signs that just said “game”. So I rode carefully looking for crossing x boxes, play stations and game boys.
I hope to write more tonight because I met some incredible people today. That happens when you ride a bike.

Day 14: Horn Fixed, Vernal Brewing Company and Little B’s

I retraced the wiring on the horn and found a wire that had been detached and stripped. I tried my buddy Jeff Stafford’s usual repair process, a little spit, Juicy Fruit, and the Lord’s Prayer, but that didn’t work. So I stripped the wire, couldn’t get it to stay in the rubber thing a majig so I just attached it directly to the connector and it worked fine. Finished it off with a little Duct Tape, as one would. (It’s away from the engine but I have to check and make sure the Duct Tape doesn’t melt.)
Went over to the Vernal Brewing Company, had a decent lager and talked with a man and his son who were up fly fishing. He was from Chattanooga and the son, Texas. They do it ever year. We talked about that great novella, A River Runs Through It.
Then I stopped by Little B’s, a bar I had passed earlier that had some bikes outside. Seemed pretty much like a local crowd. The bar had movie posters on the walls, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Dustin Hoffman. Vinyl records and their album covers were attached to the wall. Other signs like Bathing Suits Optional were also displayed. Abundant were posters about “no fighting”. I watched as one of the bartenders stapled dollar bills to the ceiling. I ordered a locally made Hefe Weizen and it was good. I sat and watched the basketball game on TV.
I was about ready to leave when a man came up and asked me if that was my bike out there with the Georgia plates. I said it was. He asked where I lived and I said Rome, Georgia and he asked had I been to Panhead City? (A local bike repair shop). I hadn’t. He couldn’t believe that! So we had a big chat about me going to meet Chuck at Panhead City and what a great person he was. The man then told me his name was Tom and then the woman beside him decked out in black leather proffered her hand and said: And I’m Sam.” I learned a bit about their lives up here in Vernal. He gave me his card to show Chuck. We chatted for a while and then they wished me “safe riding”. I wished them that too. Isn’t that something we should all wish each other, because we’re all on a journey. I recalled a compliment one of my students who was graduating a few weeks ago gave me. She said: “Mr. Powers, one thing I learned from you is to just be patient and enjoy the ride.”

Day 13: Come Hell or High Water (there are flood warnings here) I’m Going to Fix My Horn.

Made it safely to Vernal Utah and I am hunkered down in a hotel with a number in its name. My horn stopped working a while back and I’m determined to fix it. I feel naked without my horn. I need it for animals and crazy drivers. It’s a great, very loud horn! If you were standing beside it and i pressed the button it would scare the bejesus out of you!
The fix I did on my exhaust back in Walden (see previous posts) is still holding.
The Harley dealer’s just down the street and I hope to get my bike serviced there in the morning. Beautiful ride and beautiful day. Gotta check out these huge dinosaurs though.