Go West Young Man!

32 Days and 5,536 Miles On My Vintage Motorcycle

[The abridged version of this post: we missed the campground, I got a gun pulled on me and we're lost in the desert]

White Spar campground came and went as we entered Prescott National Forrest. In the darkness we pass our sign, "Wolf Creek - 6". The road began to wind and twist in a way that made me really nervous. The riding was exciting and dramatic changes in temperature alerted me to the fact we were decending in elevation. I got dizzy at one point and short of breath. Almost an hour of wild riding passed before we found ourselves at the base of Prescott. I felt less like I had exited the forrest and more like I had been ejected. Looking back we realize the Wolf Creek sign meant "turn left here and go six miles, stupid".

It becomes clear Jordan and I have made a misjudgement. At the base of the mountains leading out of Prescott is the desert. Not an arid expanse of several miles, but the desert you see people staggering around in in the movies. Bleached bones type stuff. We've plummeted in elevation and our hands are swollen. I somehow feel as though I weigh a thousand pounds, but am also light headed. Outside Congress I spy two sheriffs deputies lingering behind the area's single solitary gas station. I roll up and kill the bike. Cop #1 unholsters his gun and cop #2 orders me to kill my light as he shines his in my face. They do not like me. Like a rambling hillbilly I quickly tell them we are lost and on a motorcycle trip from Arkansas and that we need their help. I also inform them we are considering sleeping in the desert. The guns go back in the holsters and out comes the sage advice.

Turns out sleeping in the desert (which we did actually think about) is a bad idea around here. There are snakes, scorpions and some of the people apparently will kill you and take your stuff if they see you. They tell us about a small state park heading towards California. Jackpot! We get directions and head West on highway 60 towards Wenden and Alamo Lake state park, our oasis in the desert.

Someday I will die. When I die I will either go to heaven or hell. I don't know what heaven looks like, but I have been to hell. Hell is the ride to Alamo Lake state park in southern Arizona. We are blasting through the desert and see exactly one car and, believe it or not, a guy on a chopper during the entire ride from Congress to Wenden. We reach Wenden and see this sign: "Alamo Lake State Park - 38". I'm crushed. In one of the most bizarre moments of my life Jordan looks at me with a wild eye. I'm officially in a bad acid trip. It's about 1 a.m. as we head towards Alamo Lake.

The ride out is 38 miles straight North into the interior desert. We rip through the darkness on a narrow two lane road with cattle tracks every mile and sinkholes that bring your stomach into your mouth. 38 miles doesn't sound like much, but we were rocketing into the pitch black, away from any kind of civilization with total abandon. It really felt like a death march.

We finally made it, pitched the tent in the first campsite we saw (they were all empty) and started a huge ass fire. There was a log obviously left as a chair that we threw on the fire. It burned all night. In the morning we woke to find we were in some abortion of a state park, a monument to epic failure. People of Arizona, your tax dollars are keeping a state park running at the gates of Hell. At 6 a.m. wild quail surrounded the tent making the most annoying call I've ever heard. On four hours sleep we got up, packed our gear and exploded out of the park. I did at least 75 every inch of the way back to the highway. We stopped for a couple pics. Enjoy the sport pants, I didn't give a crap any more.

Having finally made it out of that debacle we stopped for some fruit at a tiny grocer in Wenden. Local youth give us the stink eye. As I'm putting my helmet on I begin to tell Jordan an insanely vulgar joke before I realize an old woman is within earshot. She warns me 'You boys don't want to be broke down around here'. Riding out of town we see a sign for camping just outside the city limits. I yell 'WHAT?' in a high pitched voice into my helmet's face shield. Now this must be what acid is like.
I'm riding through the broiling desert air in my skin tight sport pants with purpose. Jordan and I intersect i-10, the deep Souths main artery, and rejoin civilization. In the hottest September air of my life the California border station slows the interstate procession to a crawl and I'm quickly waved through. Jordan continues on and I stop just long enough to snap a picture and stretch a big dumb grin across my face. I built a machine that took me exactly where I wanted to go. It felt great.

I call our buddy Justin in LA who is waiting for us to arrive and to start the second leg of our trip. "Hey, it's me. We'll be there in 4 hours." Click.

Exit 217. This is where Jordan's trip ends.

8 miles from the center of the desert I notice Gord has vanished from my rearview. I pull off exit 217 and wait. I try calling. About five minutes later I spot him, chugging down the shoulder of i-10 at a brisk walks pace. We exit together and pull into a cutaway in the desert. He tells me the bike has hit a wall and just won't accelerate beyond 2k rpms. Idles beautifully, then death bogs with any throttle applied.

We see a road sign in the distance but can't quite make it out. Gord zooms in for us with his Nikon:

Desert Center - 8
Indio - 57
Los Angeles - 184

This is the last photo on Jordan's camera.

We go through the bike check procedure that has become so familiar with no success. For the second time a tow truck hauls the CX in. His insurance covers a ride to Motorcycles Plus in Indio. A guy on a Gold Wing stops and gives us some water while we wait for the tow and I feel bad for the joke Gord and I had been telling on the trip, "Nice Gold Wing, you should get a motorcycle".

The next two days are spent at the Palm Tree Inn. We go through the bike from top to bottom with surgical precision and cannot get it. The owner of the hotel offers to store the bike for us in an abandoned restuarant they own. Justy, our buddy in Glendale comes to gather our corpses. I ride the 120 miles to LA behind them. Slipping past the city limits is bittersweet. I did it, but didn't keep my promise to Jordan that I could fix anything mechanical that could possibly go wrong as long as we could get the parts.
In LA Justin showed us his new digs and some of the cities greatest offerings. In-N-Out Burger probably tops the list for me, Mulholland drive for Jordan. We all made it over to Ventura while sourcing some parts for the CX. I knew Jordan had never seen the ocean, but didn't realize he wasn't familiar with how it worked until I saw him accidently let two feet of crashing waves rush past his fully clothed legs and shoes.

I got to see the Capitol Records building where a few lucky artist have their most treasured works marketed to the masses in slick packaging...

... and Amoeba, where those records get thrown on the heap.

The bald guy above is talking to his friend about out of print Morrissey b-sides. Late nights in the city make for strange booze runs. I just got ice cream.

Back to the grind, Jordan and I made four 240 mile round trips back to Indio to work on the bike and try out replacement parts. Finally we got a SOHC4 forum member, Queeg, to drag the bike to Glendale. Hell of a guy. Jordan gave it one last college try, spending an entire day ripping through the bike to no avail.

That's not to say he didn't catch any lucky breaks. His boss kept shop in Little Rock, but lived in Los Angeles. He just happened to be heading East with a half full trailer that weekend and Jordan slipped his bike on board and headed back home, leaving me & Justy to carry the torch. Goodbye Jordan, thanks for taking the plunge with me!

October 3rd

Justin and I get cheap hair cuts in LA. Somewhere after entering California I lost my tic-tac-toe silk scarf and am heartbroken. We pack up the bikes in a hurry, the first time for Justin. Luckily he inherited the pack Gord left behind; a good bag and blow up sleeping pad, neither of which he had. I was a little leary of his roughing it outlook, only because I had a killer rash, jock itch and a blistered spot on my face from a horrendous sun burn I got on my nose somewhere back in Oklahoma. I don't know how much more roughing it my frail body could handle!

Justy's bike is the '05 Triumph Bonneville Black.

Glendale to our backs, we get on the 101 at 5 p.m. Well shit. How did we leave this late in the day? A runaway hubcap almost kills me. We stop to stretch in Santa Barbara and walk through the crowds of wealthy, horny 30-somethings. At a grocery store Justin tries to talk me into shoplifting some fire wood. I'm too far from home for that kind of karma. Or at least any more than I've already built up in my short life.

Refugio State Beach offers ocean front camping and we're cold. Short day, but a good start. The campground is full but we ride through anyways, just hoping. We're flagged down at the group site by good folks who offer to let us camp on the outskirts of their site. Justin marvels. We agree; karma. After pitching the tent I shut up long enough to hear the ocean pummeling the beach and realize we're right on the water. I sit in the sand for a while under a full moon and am glad I came on this adventure.

Refugio Beach gets windy at night. Like, moving the tent with us inside it kind of windy. Rolling up my pack was a nightmare. The folks that invited us to camp fed us breakfast burritos and orange juice. I wish I could remember their names. As thanks we gave them the fire wood and set off for Pismo Beach.

We hit our first wineries moving up the 1. Justin was stoked. Me, not so much. I don't drink wine because it tastes like blood. And it smells like my grandma's sloppy kisses.

In Pismo we parked and walked half way out the pier. Pismo is really nice when the beaches aren't full. As a kid I spent a lot of time out in the water boogie boarding here. This was all before I saw 'Jaws' of course.

Note to self: don't cheap out on future hair cuts.

I lived in Atascadero for a few years and Morro Bay is probably my all time favorite place to visit. I have a picture of myself in front of "The Rock", an extinct valcano, at just about every age. Justin and I even came here together on a trip with my mom in our pre-teen years before Justy had the height on me. No taffy this time, there was a street fair clogging up the works.