Go West Young Man!

32 Days and 5,536 Miles On My Vintage Motorcycle

Getting up second means getting up last when there are only two of you. Justin was busy packing when I dug my bare feet into the chilly moon dust we had pitched our tent on. Riding half way into Sequoia had been painfully difficult the night before, as the frigid mountain air ate away at our exposed skin. Circumstances are a strange thing. I thought of the absurdity of dehydrating to death in a desert, basking in the glow of some southern Arizona city. The morning after we nearly froze trying to enter Sequoia was so tepid we easily forgot how dangerous the Sierra could be under the right (or wrong) circumstances. I was quickly reminded though, when a brown bear lumbering through the heavy woods locked eyes with me for a moment.

In Sequoia Park proper we had the park nearly to ourselves. This late in the season, especially on bikes, there is no want for easy parking or lines of cars to navigate around. Off the bike and on unsteady legs we climbed over the railing surrounding the General Sherman. Justin and I snapped a quick picture of ourselves at the base of the largest tree on the planet.

We met this guy on a BSA thumper. He wasn't too chatty; BSA owners are prissy, just like their bikes. Helmet laws be damned, you have to take advantage of clean air in California when you get the chance. We risked busting our domes and let the pure Sierra air blow through our wigs.

So the Kern County kid finally comes home. I was born in Bakersfield, son of an oil field laborer, who himself was the son of an oil field laborer. But I haven't lived here in over twenty years and the air of mystery that hangs over the southern tip of the San Joaquin Valley is almost as thick as the smog. Both my mom and my dad spent the entirety of their youth crusing Chester and Union, hanging out at the Valley Plaza Mall, sun tanning next to swimming pools tucked away in the suburban sprawl and, at the same age I am now, raising two babies.

The mystery of course is what kind of life I would have had here. For the sake of my sanity I assume my mother's sudden and perplexing move east almost twenty years ago kept me out of the oil fields, and from a shared fate with so many young men who weren't lucky enough to walk away safely from those oil rigs, my father included.

My grandfather still lives here though. The man lived harder and faster than anyone and now over the tip of eighty years old he's the only Ware left besides me and my brother. He's a master welder, self taught mechanic and all around old-school dude. His welcome was warm, and for Justin, brief. Within twenty minutes he was back out into the night to have his own unshared journey south. No need for goodbyes with Justin, they're never permanent.

I spent two days wrenching on my poor old Honda and visiting with family. I paid my respects to the ones that couldn't be there and then, as my grandpa later said, "left outta here like a cannonball".