Go West Young Man!

32 Days and 5,536 Miles On My Vintage Motorcycle

We found Lombard Street and gave our brake pads a good glazing. For all the beatings she endured on this trek, the single mechanical failure was one I built in to the trip. The little four's oil pan had been weeping through a hairline crack for months before I set out west, before and after I rebuilt the engine. I left it be in anticipation of visiting Charlie's Place in San Francisco, a shop run for the sole benefit of old Honda's like mine. Sure enough he had a new pan waiting for me. I strapped it over my pack and skipped port.

Justin and I ended up in Berkeley on accident, but made the most of it with an ice cream at Fosters Freeze. Our northern aim turned west for the fabled Yosemite Valley. Past Modesto we rode long through the short grass. Approaching the park boundry, Justin's glowing pipes were a welcomed distraction from the crippling cold that halted us at Mariposa, where we camped for the night.

Justin's teeth hurt. Mine didn't because I brushed them the night before. He mistook my good hygene as an aversion to the nomadic roads and living beyond the humming cities. I didn't have any hard learned experience left to offer him, you have to sort that out for yourself. He complained less about my personal grooming after that, although our riding styles remained a topic of contention.

Still in Mariposa, we ate breakfast and talked. This morning I saw my first true doppelganger. The man seated behind Justin looked so much like my grandpa that I would have confidently sat at his table if I had walked into this restaurant back home. Out of Mariposa we climbed highway 140 deeper into the Sierra Nevada. Just within the park boundry of Yosemite I pulled aside, climbed down to a beach of pummeled granite and gulped a handful of the Merced River. If there's anything more pure I haven't tasted it.

I may have written a paper on Yosemite in school. I don't remember, if I did it doesn't matter. Until you visit this place you won't believe it really exists. Everywhere your eye falls there is some spectacle of nature. El Capitan rises thousands of feet above the valley floor, sheer and absolutely unforgiving of weakness of grip or character. Sharing in the same field of vision is Bridalveil Fall. Justin and I walk the short trail and stand below it, trying to sniff out the weak mist floating down. We wonder if we had missed Half Dome, which we know only by name. Of course if we had known it by sight we would have realized how unmissable it was. I feel humbled when the tightly shaded park road opens up and the full spectacle of the valley floor becomes visable. I dare any man to improve upon a square inch of any of it.

We climbed and sat on a hillside just beyond the park boundry. I had a lot to think about. At that strange moment Justin and I were united in reaching the halfway point of our trips. Every mile onward was a subtraction that brought us nearer our respective homes. It was the first time I was confronted by the thought in weeks; at some point I had to go home. The realization was fleeting and the edge of the Sierra Nevada range gave way to the familiar monotone golden, rolling hills. My always thirsty fuel tank stopped us just outside of Madera. While I topped off the tank we struck up a conversation with Fred. The archetypal surfer dude, he warned us we had missed the A+ muff in Santa Cruz and had better go back. He gave us some weed and sent us on our way. Navigating the unfriendly streets of Fresno later that night reminded me why I couldn't live in California. As I drifted away on a rare hotel matress I dreamed of the gorgeous women of Santa Cruz.

Das food. I guess the theme of this trip is chili wanger dogs. Although, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to patronize an independant fruit grower's stand outside of Fresno. Stocked up with tomorrow's breakfast, we made a fast break for the western entrance of the Giant Sequoia National Forrest and Kings Canyon National Park.

I don't know what to tell you about the groves of giant Sequoia that grow here. The park entrance offers no fair warning. The first enormous trunk will not compute. I remember reading that the Natives of this country couldn't see the sails of the early explorers ships because they had no concept of such a thing. I don't know if that's true, but I can understand why you would want to believe it. I'm not a worshiper of nature, but this is the first of its creations I've ever held in the same regard as another person. The trees here are as good as us.

Don't believe any of the nasty things they say about the French. Justin offered to help this large group of French tourists with a group photograph and within a couple minutes we had made about fifty new friends. They were the most gracious, joyful people I've met. Lots of genuine interaction, with hands on our shoulders and big smiles. They took lots of pictures with us. It was suggested by one of the older guys that "you share?" when we were introduced to Lydia, the lone young woman in the group. The three of us blushed and they all broke into hysterics. Beautiful people.

We tried to make it into Sequoia National Park, which shares it's border with Kings Canyon, but were pushed back by the cold and closed campgrounds. Generous neighbors donated several cut logs to our pitiful brush fire and we carefully hid our fruit in the bear proof boxes supplied by the park service. Justin smoked a little of  Fred's weed and we enjoyed each others campfire antics. I slept lightly that night, always listening for the sound of my fruit being carried away into the darkness.