I’m still trying to get over the ride. On Interstate 40, about twenty miles out of Barstow, a huge dust storm sprung up. Tremendous winds whipped dust and stones into the air, bringing visibility suddenly down to a few car lengths in front of me. The stones stung my legs and fingers. I tried to forge ahead but I couldn’t see. I slowed, then worried about a truck hitting me from behind, so I pulled off onto the shoulder. While still straddling the bike, I ducked down behind the windscreen hoping it would pass quickly. The wind was so powerful it was rocking the bike, so I couldn’t get off to hide behind it. Fifteen minutes of this went by before the stinging stopped, and the sky began to clear. I took off again, but two more storms appeared during the last few miles and I had to pull off the interstate again and duck behind the windshield.
When I got to my motel, my phone had a dust storm warning on it, indicating as well that the winds were between 40-60 mph. Seek shelter; stay off the road. I surveyed the damage: I had a few cuts on me from the stones; Big Red’s windshield is completely pockmarked and will have to be replaced. I’m afraid to look too closely at the Harley. I’m just grateful we made it. Just grateful altogether for my life; this ride.
Day Nine should finally get me to Los Angeles!
I couldn’t ride with Gene on our second annual cross-country journey. I had a first grandbaby due in May, an illness forming, and my usual means of fundraising had fallen short.
Gene allowed me to help plan his trip and the rough draft seemed straight forward: a) ride two lane roads from Georgia to b) Sturgis then LAX c) following the Mississippi River north to Iowa, turn left to Sturgis, maybe travel by Mt. Rushmore, head to Los Angeles to see Hannah, his daughter.
But he was a little vague on the details so I pressed him. The answers I received were even vaguer. “Are you going to ride a road that runs parallel to the Mississippi?”
“Well, which road? What side of the river?”
“I haven’t decided yet. I’ll wait and see what feels right when I get there. Besides it don’t matter what side of the river as long as it runs along the river!”
“Don’t you think you should identify the road you want to be on so you don’t go crossing the river several times and maybe get lost?”
He stared at me out of one eye. “I never get lost. Least ways not accidentally. I won’t get lost crossing over the river unless I want too.” (For the record Gene actually crossed the Mississippi River 5 times on the way over. But no, he doesn’t get lost.)
“Are you going to camp out or stay in cheap hotels?”
“I’m going to camp out mostly. Just pitch a tent somewhere out under the stars.”
So, our planning his trip with me helping didn’t last very long. He apparently had his own “non -plan plan” in mind.
Gene wrote a blog about crossing from California into Arizona during his return from LAX. Within an hour he ran into the fiercest crosswinds he’d ever encountered. A sandstorm quickly joined the windstorm hitting Gene and Big Red like God’s own sandblaster. I could only imagine half of Big Red stripped to its naked polished steel and half of Gene shredded to the bone, a howling silent scream shrieking through his nasty half face. I later asked him what he did and he advised that he hunkered down on top of Big Red with a jacket shielding him from a wild, avenging dust spirit. In my techni-colored mind I imagined Gene and Big Red hobbling behind a shutdown pre fifties roadhouse, Gene unpacking his sleeping bag to protect them as he also fired up a premeditative crooked cigar.
In my heart I rode with Gene across the country and back. I saw things a bit different than he did but we do have separate eyeballs and brains to process memories with. When we ride with freedom, gratitude, and an open heart we are bound to ride roads made of bliss.
All day long I was thinking that this was going to be a rather boring blog entry. The heat index today had fallen into the 90’s and the ride was reasonably comfortable, especially compared with yesterday. And the scenery of I-10 was still the same: Cacti, willow trees, rough grass, huge stones, mountain ranges in the distance, long stretches between towns, filling stations with Tee Shirts, Mexican and Native American crafts.
I hunkered down in Wilcox, Arizona at a McDonalds and watched the second half of the USA match on my laptop, in Spanish.
Then I headed back out on the road and finished my trip in Arizona and entered New Mexico. There were signs warning of dust storms, zero visibility, and asking drivers to not stop in the travel lanes. I looked to the north and south and could see dust devils spinning in the distance. No problem here, I thought.
I stopped at Deming, and for some reason, found myself just driving around the town, looking at the old buildings and shops. Cops were frisking some guy outside an auto parts store. Farther down the road another cop was taking witness statements by the side of the road. Time to leave. Gassed up and saw a huge dust storm coming out of the north. This storm stretch for miles, just a golden cloud heading my way. I took off and headed towards Las Cruces. It looked like I was going to outrun it and I did. I watched in the rear view mirror as the sand colored and black clouds swept the landscape behind me. But 10 miles down the road, the wind suddenly picked up and a huge dust storm closed in. I flipped my helmet visor down, rode for about 5 miles through the dust and battering winds until I reached a spot where I couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of me.
I had to pull over on the interstate shoulder. I leaned over the gas tank of the bike and steadied it as the wind kept trying to blow the bike over. This lasted for about 15 minutes until the rocking winds died down. I cranked Big Red back up and she ran sluggishly through the remnants of the dust storm. (Air filter?). I stopped at a service area, got an orange juice, calmed my nerves and checked on my phone, the weather at my next destination: Las Cruces. Severe thunderstorm warnings. I could either go back about 15 miles to Deming or try and get to Las Cruces, 40 miles away, before the storm got me.
I took off toward Las Cruces. I could smell rain in the air, petrichor, (Wikipedia: “Petrichor (/ˈpɛtrɨkɔər/) is the scent of rain on dry earth, or the scent of dust after rain. The word is constructed from Greek, petros, meaning ‘stone’ + ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.”) Love that word! It’s alchemical.
The rain fell intermittently but the sky, the sky was amazing. Behind me, to the west, the sky was a golden ochre color. To the north there was a swath of blue, with gunmetal grey clouds. The south looked like a Chinese watercolor with a wash of grey on the horizon, and above, indigo clouds descending. Then I topped a hill and headed down into the city of Las Cruces, the city of the crosses. Looming high behind the city are the Organ Mountains and at this moment the setting sun from behind me was illuminating the foothills of the mountains, painting them an electric golden color. It was majestic. Holy. Wow.
Then I headed back to the mundane and secular and got a room at a Super 8