Total Distance: 1,833 miles
Self reliance is a big goal of this adventure.
With the tow truck delay, I had to stay the night in Ridgecrest, CA. I considered finding a place to set up the tent in downtown, but doing it on foot after the long day just didn’t have enough appeal. I sprung for a Best Western, which with the AAA discount really wasn’t that bad. Plus, it was like a castle after spending two weeks camping. Shower, queen bed, jacuzzi, breakfast, fresh towels. You learn to appreciate these things.
I made it to Desert Sports Center around 9:45, and had my tubes and tire irons by 10. I spread out my workspace and got to it, removing and replacing the tattered tube, wrestling the tire back on. By the time I finished, repacked, refueled and swung by Home Depot, I was back on the road around noon. It was my first time fixing a tire, and since having the blowouts I now ride differently. You never really know what’s going to happen, and now there’s a little voice in the back of my head that moderates all my riding behaviors. I am constantly planning escape routes, leaving myself enough space to act accordingly if I were to suddenly lose control. I’m grateful I was able to learn this lesson without paying tuition in blood.
I had lost time, and I was determined to catch up. Straight down the 395 through San Bernadino, where I stopped to get some new riding gloves, as the ones I’d been using for the last thousand miles were too small and had torn open from cramping my giant hands. I could feel a lot more of the nuances of the machine once I had the proper handling gear, a pleasant improvement. The tire gave me no more problems, which was nice considering that my life depends on how good of a job I did.
The main lesson of the day involved wind. Most of you have felt a strong wind nudge your car across the road, pulling your steering wheel a bit. Riding at high speeds with strong winds can be a terrifying experience on a fully loaded motorcycle, with side cases acting as sails. My KLR is a tall machine as it is, at 6’4″ I’m not exactly small, and the deserts can get pretty frickin’ windy. At one point I was literally blown across three lanes, bike leaned sideways into the wind at 70mph like I was turning but without the support of an angled wheel. It was pretty uncomfortable for about 150 miles, but only once did it pose a real threat. I was pushed a few feet into a lane occupied by a sedan, who thankfully moved to the left of their lane to avoid me.
In nomadics, adaptation is the name of the game. As I adjusted to battling the wind, I began paying more attention to the geography around me. Sometimes an overpass was the only opportunity I had to get back to the right of the freeway before the gusts shoved me around again. Rocks, hills and trees became my best friends, briefly blocking the wind so I could correct my positioning. I learned to split gaps, giving myself an even space buffer on either side, depending on which way the wind was blowing. Sometimes I’d be leaning to the right into the wind, when suddenly a gust would blast me from the left. I began paying more attention to the bends in the road as well, since they’d determine what direction I’d be getting pushed from.
My relationship with semi trucks grew a lot between Ridgecrest and Phoenix. When they’re trucking along the road, the wind wraps around them, creating a calm air bubble just a few yards behind them, but for obvious reasons you don’t want to be tailgating a semi. This serene space then collapses violently as the displaced winds collide back together. On a gypsy-loaded bike like mine, this disturbance is tangible about seventy-five yards away, causing wind buffeting, which is this wonderful thing where your handlebars shake rapidly back and forth. While passing semis the wind isn’t as bad, until you reach the front of the rig, where you get one strong final shove. I learned to pull my arms and legs in to the bike, fold myself over the tank like I’m on a sports bike, and shoot past them without too much trouble.
Side note, about 150 miles West of Phoenix I saw my first unorthodox aircraft. The Arizona starscape was incredible, and as I observed it I noticed a cluster of 4 or 5 light-teal lights, very similar to the stars behind it, but moving very fast horizontally across the sky. It was no more than a mile or two above the ground, and a good distance behind it was a single white light. It came up beside the freeway to the left, did a long arcing turn over it in front of me, and shot off in to the distance to my right. Whatever it was, it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
Until yesterday, 200 miles was the longest day I’d put in. From noon to 10pm I put in 450 miles, including 150 in the dark. With about 100 miles to Phoenix, I started to notice the bike was handling weird. Soon I realized that it was me that was the wobbly one. My body was fatigued, my shoulders, arms and hands tired and tingly. My legs, back and butt were sore. I’d pushed my limits and expanded them. But that’s exactly what this trip is about, ain’t it?
Today marks two weeks. I’ve gone from the foothills of the Cascades down the Pacific Coast, across the Sierra mountains and through the desert. Forest green, stone grey, ocean blue, tan sand, red rock, rose pink and orange sun. Today I’ll be performing at First Friday in Phoenix, and tomorrow I meet up with my granddad for a three day trip to Sedona. I just finished a brief chat with fellow busker Streetshow Keith, and I want to leave you with the wonderful words he signs his letters with.
Pz, <3, & =),