22 July 2015

Homeward Bound

Having to spend so much time waiting for my bike to be repaired squashed my plans for creating a new route home by going north on Highway 1 to the Oregon border, then heading east from there. So, I set out early on a Wednesday morning and rode through California, Nevada, and Arizona, before finally stopping for the night in St. George, UT. It was a long day--close to 600 miles--with many breaks. The first half of the day was no sweat, but the second half was literally all sweat.

There was no sense in stopping before I did. Temperatures soared above 100 degrees in eastern California, and didn't begin to drop until the Virgin River Gorge in Arizona, and then Utah. I had been unsure of where I would actually be stopping that night, thinking it might be Mesquite, NV, but as I pulled into that town and felt the sun beating down on me mercilessly, I made for a Jack In The Box where I could order a soda and search for a hotel in St. George while enjoying some AC.

I made a reservation via Hotels.com, and since it was afternoon of the night I wanted to stay, they had a last minute deal with the Best Western Coral Hills, and I got a room for a great rate! I got into town, checked in, and immediately headed for the pool and spa. The hot tub really felt good on my weary muscles, and I relaxed before walking down the street to a pub for dinner. As I walked to the pub, I was reminded of the reason I always stay in Cedar City and not St. George. A car drove by, loaded with young men, and one of them yelled out the window at me. This wasn't your typical "Hey, baby!" kind of thing. It was actually violent sounding, and made me feel uneasy. In St. Fucking George, Utah.

I looked to the hillside behind the town to see the giant "D" which represents "Dixie" and the only thing I could think was, "Oh yeah, I forgot. The South plans to rise again in Utah..." No lie.

Anyway, food and beer at the pub was good, though they put something green in the hush puppies--spinach or broccoli?--which I though was just rude. No one expects hush puppies to be healthy. ZCBC's Red Altar Ale and a really beautiful spinach salad completed the meal, and I headed back to the hotel to pass out. The next morning,walking to the office to check out, I had to stop and take a picture of their signage. I gassed up, checked tire pressure, and headed out for a day of riding through southern Utah.

...in that order.

Although I wanted a new adventure and a new route, I was not unhappy to be riding through southern Utah. The beauty of the state never fails to amaze me, and this trip was no different. I stopped at a number of different "view areas" at which I never before stopped. It gave my body a chance to take a break, and I got to see some beautiful scenery.

I always imagine there are little families of birds and animals living in the holes in the rock, and that they all come out at night when no one is around and have neighborhood gatherings. What? It could happen.
There was signage at this stop explaining that when the DOT began work on putting this highway through the canyon, a man could stand at that far end and touch each side of the canyon walls. You know, before they blew it up.

At Green River, I stopped to fill my tank. When I came out of the store, a man pulled up next to me on a KLR. I chatted with him for thirty minutes or so, while he lubed his chain and took a break. Chuck Tucker was fun to talk to, and explained that he was limping his bike along for the next 150 miles, trying to get to Salt Lake City on what were essentially shot chain and sprockets. I recommended he try Rocky Mountian ATV and MC for a new set once he got to SLC, and exchanged contact information with him. Had I not been trying to get home quickly, I think I would have enjoyed riding with him. Churck was riding from Tennessee, on and off with some friends. They would be going to Paonia, then on to Billings, MT for the BMWMOA rally. Though he is usually a Goldwing guy, he and his GS riding friend bought KLRs the summer before to ride to Alaska. We shared stories of our Alaska trips, shared hugs and good wishes, and set out in opposite directions. I got a text the next morning letting me know he made it safely to SLC, and was in good hands with his friends.

Chuck, riding the country with Pracilla the Possum and A LOT of luggage!

I left Green River and kept heading east, smiling when I got to the Colorado state welcome sign. I stopped in Fruita, at the Colorado Visitors Center--across the parking lot is the Vietnam War Memorial. I sat in the park and hit Hotels.com again to find a hotel in Grand Junction. A man walked by with his very cute little dog, and as I played with her, he asked me about my bike.

Before he walked away, he said, "It kinda looks like a dirt bike."

To which I replied, "I sometimes treat her like one!"

Colorado Visitors Center and Vietnam war memorial.

After making a reservation for a hotel--which, for the record, turned out to be neither as nice nor as inexpensive as my Best Western the night before...--I rode into Grand Junction, making my first stop the BMW dealership. Hey, you never know when they might have something you just can't live without--I'm looking at you 700GS. Actually, they didn't have a 700, so I wandered into the gear section of the store, spying the women's KLiM gear in the corner. It was like seeing the elusive white tiger! This was the first time I had set eyes on it, and you can damn well believe I was going to check it out.

As I walked--by which I mean noisily swished like a little kid in snowmobiling pants--over to the corner, a salesman I hadn't even seen said, "Did you buy your pants before the women's line came out?"

I stopped, looked at him smiling, and said, "Gee, how can you tell?"

"You look like you're wearing your big brother's pants."

Facepalm.

I got my pants about a year before KLiM released the women's line, and I just couldn't bear to spend $500 more to have another pair of pants. But...there was no reason for me to not try on that jacket. The small fit like a glove, and the brilliant drapers/patternmakers at KLiM made the sleeves long enough. It was wonderful, and the fit of the sleeves was a winner in sharp contrast to my two Olympia jackets. In all fairness, prior to trying the KLiM jacket, the Olympia jackets had been the clear winners prior to that, and I have worn them both well for the last three and a half years. But, it may be time to move on... I did not spend the $569.00 right then and there to buy it, though I seriously though about it. Being currently unemployed probably had something to do with that decision.

BMW (and Harley and KTM) dealership in Grand Junction.

Arriving at the hotel, I thought I'd head down to the pool and hot tub again, but two things stopped me. The hotel had no hot tub--bad research job, Louise!--and a huge thunder and lightning storm. I managed to get everything into my room in time to avoid a soaking, but it rained, at times heavily, for the next two hours. I never got to the pool.

I left in the cool Colorado morning and rode east on I-70 until I turned southeast on highway 24. I rode this highway on the very first long-ish distance road/camping trip I did on Thumper, almost four years ago. The first time I rode it was within the first 200 miles on this bike. Now I've got more than 40,000 miles under me, and it's a completely different game! The scenery was beautiful--duh!--and I stopped in Hartsel for lunch. It wasn't too busy in the restaurant, and I sat at the bar to have my lunch, chatting with the bartender, Dan. I really recommend stopping here if you will be in the area for any reason. Food is good and people are nice.

There is a sweet little waterfall in the distance. This was a nice spot to stop and take in some gorgeous Rocky Mountain scenery.
Southern Utah may be beautiful, but Colorado is just as amazing!

Leaving Hartsel, I really began to feel the pull of home. I was ready to be back in Colorado, and done with this trip home. As soon as I pulled in, I left the bike completely loaded, cracked open an Oskar Blues Pinner, and sat petting my cat. She doesn't even pull the "I'm so pissed at you for leaving that I'm going to ignore you" bullshit that most cats do when their people get home from being gone for an extended period of time. But, she has one white whisker. My beautiful, all black cat, has grown one white whisker while I've been away from her. I think it's a sign I shouldn't leave her anymore. So for now, here in Colorado I shall stay.

 

Bad Bike, No Biscuit!

My time in California was done for the summer. A couple of days spent seeing some family and I would I would be on my way back to Colorado to start the second half of my summer. Seems simple enough. Yet, as I made my way north, I had a pretty major problem with my Thumper. Who is surprised? Anyone? Go ahead, raise your hand...anyone. Right. No surprise. Bad, bad bike!

While in Santa Maria, I got a recommendation from an ADVRider inmate for Coastriders Powersports in San Luis Obispo. I called the first morning I was there, explained my situation, and they said bring it in right away. Let me just say, THESE GUYS WERE AWESOME!!! They diagnosed the problem--bad water pump--ordered the parts, and had me back on the road within 2 1/2 working days. Of course, a holiday weekend fell in there also, so I spent eight days hanging out.

It wasn't the worst thing in the world, I have to say. I got to spend a week with my parents, attend a family birthday party, see some old friends and go wine tasting, and enjoy time off and with family. My dad let me have his little cruiser to run around on, and I took advantage of it. Below are the pics of the week, both getting to Santa Maria and the days spent in the area.

The road down to Cold Spring Tavern is beautiful! It is a twisty, narrow road which gives a beautiful view of the Cold Spring Canyon Arch Bridge. The bridge was completed and opened in 1963 and is the highest arch bridge in California--it has won awards for it's design and engineering.
Cold Spring Tavern is located at the bottom of Stagecoach Road, right off of highway 154, north of Santa Barbara. It used to be a stage coach stop, and the historic site is now a very popular place for motorcyclists to stop on the weekends.
I suddenly realized that the changing weather patterns must be signaling the apocalypse when I pulled up to my parents house and saw all the brown, crunchy, lawns. I'm pretty sure that only the End Of Days could persuade the Tiffany Park HOA to allow lawns to look that way.... My dad was excited to show off his new Yamaha Midnight Venture 1300. It's a big bike.
This bike is definitely made to be comfortable for someone much larger than me, but it seems to fit my parents perfectly.
My dad's Yamaha V-Star 650. This little cruiser was a great size for me, and once I learned where my feet went while riding, I enjoyed running around Santa Maria and the 5 Cities on it. The biggest difference while riding was the lean angle--I kept dragging the pegs. Sorry Dad.
A number of my extended family were visiting for the week and the holiday weekend, and while there, my Aunt Coleen asked my dad to take her for a ride on his big bike.
Coleen borrowed my mom's boots and and helmet, and I gave her a pair of gloves--she was all set and ready to go.
July 5 was my older brother's and uncle's birthday. The day before had been the big party, but my mom invited everyone to her house for breakfast on the 5th. I got to spend a little more time with everyone, including my nephew Kevin, before they all headed for home.
Sunday afternoon I took a spin up the coast through Guadalupe and the 5 Cities. It was a beautiful day for a photo op at the old depot in Oceano...
...and a stop to look down the cliffs in Shell Beach...
...relax for a bit on a bench overlooking the ocean and Avila Beach to the north...
...and a stop at the pier in Port San Luis.
Stepping onto the pier, I felt like I had come home. I spent so much time here in my teens and twenties, fishing off the end of the pier, sailing out of this harbor, or just visiting. I begin to smile and relax and I'm pretty sure I feel my blood pressure drop just being there.
California Bown Pelican. They are big birds, and extremely comfortable around the human types.

They now have to fence off the floating docks, otherwise they will be completely taken over by the local sea lions, and completely unusable for people wanting to ready their boats for the day.
This is the one place I don't mind the wind--it is so fresh and smells of the sea.
The dinghy in the middle is full of water, up to the water line on the outside. I don't think I'd want to go anywhere in it....
There are wonderful tide pools about 50 feet from the pier, filled with anemones, mussels, crabs, and barnacles.
It is easy to find a good rock to sit on and enjoy watching the tide pools filling and emptying. The bonus to arriving in motorcycle boots and KLiM pants is that even when I misjudged the tide and got sprayed, I was waterproof.
Tuesday afternoon, Coastriders Powersports called and told me my bike was ready. To say thanks for their speedy work, I took the shop some snacks and a 12-pack of New Belgium beer. Have I mentioned how AWESOME these guys are!?!

After getting my bike back, I made a stop at a special place for a quick pic. That night, my parents and I had dinner at Orcutt Burger--I had forgotten how good those zucchini fries are--and I got my things packed up.

As I put my top case back on the bike, I found this. It looks like some weird worm working its way out of my case, but it is, in fact, gum! GUM! On my top case!! Gross.

That night, Thumper shared the garage with my dad's bikes--Mom parked her car outside and gave up the whole space for my bike--my fat-bottomed girl kind of needs the extra room. Early the next morning, I headed out, saying goodbye to California, and finally going home.

 

 

28 June 2015

Awkwardness, Inspiration, and Mental Puking--All Because I Ride A Motorbike

Being in San Diego with the bike has been, for the most part, petty great. Once the weather got nicer, the commute is quick and easy, and the scenery is really gorgeous for riding in regularly. There have been a downside or two. One I hadn't really thought about came to light when I had an opening night to attend. It is a little awkward trying to dress for a nice event and for a chilly ride home after. I pretty quickly eliminated either of the two silk, summer dresses I had brought along (though this was partly because the weather just hadn't gotten warm enough to be comfortable in either of them, even if I wasn't on the bike), and settled on a shirt-dress with leggings underneath. Motorcycle boots and socks were left in luggage on the bike, and ridiculously girly high heels were donned.

After the show, changing back into the boots to go home while patrons were all leaving the parking lot had me feeling on display, like a monkey in a zoo. That was, of course, the night I met the person who rode the Honda Shadow Spirit that parked next to me three or four days a week.

Bending over, stuffing one socked foot in a boot and zipping it shut, I heard, "Hey, nice bike!"

I popped my head up over the seat, tottering on one four-inch spike-heeled suede shoe and one highly distressed motorcycle boot to say thanks to the voice which seemed to come out of nowhere.

"Ah, you ride the Shadow!"

I said this while yanking off my other shoe, wobbling on my right foot while trying to (ungracefully) pull on my other sock and boot, dress hem getting pulled into the boot as I'm not paying attention properly, and nearly falling face first to the asphalt. Thankfully, my shoulder hitting the seat of my bike stopped my downward progression, and I'm sure I only looked slightly stupid.

As we both got on our bikes and he motioned for me to go first, I backed my bike from the spot and really hoped I wouldn't drop the bike. Not that I should think that would happen, but if I were to ever do so, that would be the moment, no? That would just cap the evening.

In the end, neither my awkward self, nor my bike hit the ground that evening--success!

------------------------------------------

Ready to head up to Brea for the weekend.

The middle of June was my last trip north to visit family before I left San Diego. It was a really nice visit, getting a chance to be with my parents, my brother and his family, and some of my aunties. It was a warm weekend as I rode up the I-15 route to my brother's house on Sunday morning (hey, no rain!), but it was downright HOT as I rode back south the next afternoon. As I was coming into Lake Elsinore on the return trip, the temperature shot up to about 106 degrees. That was enough for me--time to cut over to the coast.

A quick stop around six miles up 74, heading into the mountains--lake in the background.
Lake Elsinore from Highway 74. It is a fun winding highway that leads you out of the city and over the mountain.

I had already scoped out more interesting routes than the interstates for getting back to San Diego, and I knew that highway 74, from Lake Elsinore over to I-5 in Mission Viejo, was a winding mountain pass. That seemed infinitely more interesting and cooler, so I headed west.

As the road took me into the mountain wilderness, there was a sign saying a left turn would take people to an OHV area, and also to this--a memorial for California Wildland Firefighters.

About 12 miles into that road, I blew past a spot that I just had to turn around and visit. It's called Hell's Kitchen, and was clearly a biker bar. Well, I'm a biker, so I pulled in. I sought out some shade for the bike, as it was still in the nineties there, and wandered in, trying to act completely nonchalant in my swooshie motorcycle pants amongst all the leathers.

Hell's Kitchen, sans Gordon Ramsey. But hey, this pic has a nice shot of the RMAR Silverton sticker on my top case! And my Saving Americas Mustangs sticker....

The food was great, the condiments "laid out" in a flaming casket inside. I ate outside and had a really nice conversation with a 73 year old man who bought his first motorcycle three years before--a Triumph Bonneville. He had put close to 10,000 miles on a year, and I could tell he rode with a smile.

When the waitress brought my lunch, she asked if I had been there before. When I said no, she let me know that inside was all the condiments, laid out in the casket. Well...of course they are!

After eating, I took my dishes back inside to pay my bill and ask about a ladies' room. The girl motioned to the key and told me it was around back, I reached to grab the key, and found it was attached to a sprocket the size of a steering wheel. Not awkward at all trying to use it to unlock the door....

On my hike back around the building to return the key, I was stopped by a group of five people sitting, and drinking around a trike parked close to the patio. They were a really fun group of people, and I enjoyed swapping stories with them. I soon realized they were hanging out around the trike, because the man who rides it had no legs below mid-thigh. I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty inspiring to see, and the waitress regularly popped out to see if he or anyone else needed anything. The group told me I needed to head to Cook's Corner, the most famous biker bar in Southern California--though the lone woman in the group mentioned I should do it early in the day, before everyone was drunk. When I asked how I would be received on a crowded weekend--girl, BMW, etc.--the man on the trike very emphatically stated, "You ride a motorcycle! That's all that matters!"

I smiled pretty big at him, then said I needed to return the key I was still clutching--my arms were starting to get tired. As I walked back past them to my bike, I waved and said goodbye. They called me Colorado, and told me to have a safe ride. I rode off, smiling, thinking what a great stop it had been.

There were only about ten bikes there on a Monday at 2, but my guess is it's packed on a weekend, with every inch of that parking lot taken up by bikes.

The rest of the ride was really enjoyable as I got to ride as I liked, without slow traffic in front of me, leaning into the curves, the temps cooling as I went.

At the end of the highway, I needed to get on I-5, so joined in with all the construction traffic and slowly moved towards the signal which would allow me to turn left and get on the on-ramp. The lanes were narrow on the bridge and traffic was bumper-to-bumper, two lanes in each direction. Traffic was too close to allow me to filter through to the front of the line, so I sat back and relaxed while waiting for the lights to change.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the red Chevy truck next to me inching forward, until the driver was close enough to me to initiate a conversation.

"Hey! How's it going?"

I turned off the music in my helmet, turned and said, "Pretty good, thanks."

Noting one of the stickers on my top case, he said, "Saving America's mustangs. Cool."

I smiled, a little surprised. Then he said:

"You wanna save me...? I'm a wild thing!"

Puke.

I stopped smiling, looked forward and tried to use "The Force" to make that damn light change.

Aaaaaaarrrrrrggggghhhhh!!!

After getting onto the 5 and heading south a few miles, I pulled off at a view area. It was so much cooler here that I had to put my liner in my jacket and my heavier gloves on. I also took a deep breath of the clean ocean air.

-------------------------------------------

This is my last weekend in town, and as I write this, all devices are charging--iPad, phone, GoPro, Sena SMH-10. As of this morning, my chain is tensioned and lubed, and I also have new spongy grips! They showed up one day at work last week, a surprise gift sent from Josh. My old ones were in such bad shape, the left side had a hole where my thumb would press on it while pulling in the clutch. They are now fresh and new, spongy as ever!

As of Friday, I have some concerns about the bike...as usual. Tomorrow's ride to my brother's house will tell me if I need to get my bike to a shop before the trip, or if I just got a bad tank of gas on my last fill up. If it needs to get to a shop, I'll find one somewhere up the coast where I wouldn't mind exploring for a couple of days, make an appointment, and ride up, stopping at my parents' house for a couple of days.

The big plan is to ride north on Highway 1, and then cut over to Crater Lake, before bombing it for home. I haven't been north of the Bay Area on 1 in such a long time, and never very much further north than that on the route at all. I don't want to take a long time to get back to Denver, but I want to find a little adventure on the way--I'll keep ya posted!

 

23 June 2015

The Oh-So-Smelly World of Motorbiking

No, I am not talking about stinky motorcycle boots, or the smell of one's helmet padding after 3 days of riding in a hot desert, and directly before it is thrown into the washing machine with nothing else, simply because you are willing to waste the energy and water on a load all it's own and not taint anything else with its odor.

For those who ride, you totally get this and no doubt have great stories of your own. For everyone who doesn't ride, this may come as a bit of a surprise. On a motorbike, even with a full-face helmet, the scents that assault a rider can range from heavenly to horrific. Sometimes the smells are so good you want to ride in that spot forever. Sometimes they are so bad, you think time is actually standing still and there will be no end to it. Ever. You become certain the stench will never leave your nasal passages, that you may actually asphyxiate before you ride out of that malodorous mile.

On the heavenly side: (breathe deeply, smiling...)

My ride to work in Denver each morning encounters really good smells. Some mornings, at the junction of 6th Ave. and I 25, I smell the luscious scent of baking bread. I don't know if there is a bakery near where I smell it--I've searched and haven't seen one. It's a comforting, enveloping, yeasty scent. I suppose it could be beer brewing, as there are a number of breweries in that area, but it really smells like bread. On other mornings, in roughly the same area, it smells like grilled onions. So good! It is like being near an In N Out.

Riding through the Central Coast of California, and Santa Maria in particular, during strawberry season sits high on the amazing list. There is nothing like riding through fields of giant, red, perfectly ripe berries warming in the sun and sending their scent straight into my helmet. If you've never done it, I would have to say it is well worth seeking out. The other fields I love riding through are cilantro fields. I love the overwhelming fresh, soapy, cilantro scent!

Highway 101, between Santa Barbara and Ventura smells so strongly of the briny sea as the waves crash just below you at high tide. This can be found anywhere along Highway 1, as well as many places in Oregon and Washington. As soon as I get back to the west coast, it's one of my favorite things to do--ride the coast and breathe deeply.

Then, there are flower fields. Ahhhh...riding past fields of lavendar...so nice.

 

On the horrific side: (I remind you that holding one's breath on a motorcycle is not a good idea...)

Sometimes, riding past a restaurant is a happy surprise of scents coming out of the kitchen, making me feel hungry. But, sometimes you're on the wrong side of the restaurant, and you only smell the dumpsters...retch.

On the small back roads between Portland and Corvallis, Oregon, settled amongst beautiful green, gently rolling hills, is the foulest smelling dump I have ever ridden past. It's funny how it comes on quite gently at first, easily a mile before the sign for the turnoff. Maybe it was two miles--or two hundred--before the turnoff, I don't know. I just know there was something a little funny in my nose. Then, it was a little funky. Then it was really funky, and just when I thought I couldn't smell anything worse, it hit me full on. My eyes watered and I tried desperately not to open my mouth out of fear I would then be tasting it. Oh god, so bad.

Then there was the day I was out riding with Josh and Ian all day and I was leading on the last leg heading back to Denver. As we came into Evergreen, a truck pulled out in front of me and cruised along the road in front of me. There was no where to pass on the twisty two-lane mountain road, and what was in the back of that oh-so-slowly moving truck? Not strawberries. Not fresh bread or a thousand In N Out burgers. Nope. It was full of port-a-potties. Yup, an entire flatbed truck, pulling a trailer full of blue plastic outhouses. Honey pots. Port-a-shitters. Choose your favorite name, kill me now.

Then there are the days, riding in a group, when you suddenly begin to wonder who farted ahead of you...hahahahahahahahahaha! Sena headsets quickly blow up with people yelling and passing the blame, and you finally realize it's just the Coors Brewery. Not that that's ever happened....

 

Ugghhhh...San Diego

Look at all that green wilderness area. I had originally thought I would ride to the Salton Sea, but then I saw the forecasted temperatures for the desert and decided I stick to the green wilderness areas....

 

First off, I would like to say this is the map of part of the area I rode that day. You can see Santa Ysabel and Julian in the top left corner, and Ocotillo in the bottom right. Look at all that beautiful mountainous wilderness area! I couldn't wait to ride more alpine mountain passes that dropped down to a little desert in Ocotillo, then head west along the border, literally a stone's throw from our Mexican neighbors.

After I left Julian and headed east on the twisty road out of town, I kept my eyes peeled for the right hand turn off for the Southern Overland Stage Route. I thought it might disappear into the forest to the south of me, but as I rode and rode, there were no right hand turns. Eventually I dropped out of the mountain area into the desert and pulled over on the side of the road. I had missed my turn somewhere. Digging my phone out of my tank bag, I quickly realized I had no cell service. Shit.

For those of you who don't know, I do not have a separate gps unit. Somewhere between being too cheap and a technophobe, I have convinced myself and everyone else that I just like maps better. The truth is, I really do have a deep affection for maps--I always have. But being smart about going out and riding like this would mean actually carrying one....

Anyway, I turned around and rode back up the mountain, searching for my turn off. I rode all the twisties carefully while keeping my eyes peeled for anything that would be labelled Southern Overland Stage Route or Sweeney Pass, which the rode later becomes. As I get back to the outskirts of Julian, I still haven't found the road. I pull off into the parking lot of the high school and drag my phone out one more time. I sarcastically think to myself, "Wouldn't it be funny if I just had to go another mile from where I had stopped to find the turn off--hahaha," and nearly pitch my phone across the parking lot when I discovered that was the truth of the matter.

But that didn't make a lot of sense, due to the fact that when I pulled over, I was already in the heart of the desert, and I was going to have to ride another two miles or so to get to the turn off. I sat on my bike, looking at the map in front of me, trying to decide if I should turn around and ride that damn section for THE THIRD TIME, or if I should go a different route. Eventually I make up my mind to keep on with the route I had planned. I wanted to ride the Southern Overland Stage Route, dammit! You know, like my forefathers and shit. (Well, not mine. My people came to the east coast from England and Sicily in the 20th century, but you know what I mean.)

So I ride that section of road for the third time. I'm now so familiar with it, I'm leaning heavily into curves and would have given those sport bike riders a run for their money. I drop into the desert, pass the place I pulled off the road, and about a quarter of a mile later a sign tells me the turnoff I'm looking for is about two miles away. This would have been a face palm moment, but the full face helmet gets in the way.

All of the signs on this road look like this. It's an historic route, and just riding it to say it's been ridden is completely disappointing.
This is the Great Southern Overland Route of 1849--I'm guessing it didn't really look like this when stage coaches rattled over it. That is the road I was hoping for--this is not it.

I turn onto the road I'd been searching for, and 40 or so miles later, I have learned my lesson the hard way. Just beacause the iMaps picture shows green and says wilderness area, that doesn't mean there are trees. Or grass. Or anything green for that matter. The temps rose to well over 100 degrees, and I actually pulled off the road at the hot springs thinking even if I got in the water I would cool down. It was closed. You know why? Because it's the stinking desert and no one in their right minds go out there during the summer!!!

Sand, cactus, sand, and yuccas whizzed by as I rode, thinking there was no reason to stop. I can appreciate the beauty of the desert, but after a few miles of it in searing temps, I get over it. After the road turns into Sweeney Pass, and I know I am fewer than ten miles from Ocotillo, I notice a small drop in temperature. It's really small, but I can totally appreciate it. As I ride around a bend, I see the valley laid out before me, and there are windmills as far as the eye can see. So then I think, "Oh goody, wind."

This is bound to be my riding day from hell. But as I rode into the forest of windmills, I actually had to stop and admire them. They are amazing up close--beautiful feats of engineering with elegantly designed lines to make the most of what wind they can catch. AND THEY'RE HUGE!!! I cannot overstate this fact. Huge. With lifted spirits, I continued through the forest of giants and pulled into a roadside cafe/bar/ice cream place next to the freeway's single exit for Ocotillo. There were a few cars and trucks, four motorcycles with New Jersey license plates (eeeeee...fellow travelers!), and now my Thumper. I pulled off my jacket and helmet, dumping them both onto the ground in the shade, grabbed my wallet and headed inside in my tank top and KLiM pants that make me sound like a little kid walking in snow pants.

My stop in Ocotillo. Jimmie Johnson won the race, in case you were wondering. For the record, I wasn't.
Three of the fours bikes from New Jersey. You know, ridden by the guys too good to converse with me.

I walk into the mostly enclosed bar, the second entrance of which is blocked off with yellow caution tape, to see two young boys playing pool, several TVs with the Nascar race on, and maybe nine or ten adults, including the bartender. The one woman in the joint, a grizzled woman who could have been 40 or 70, who I can only assume is a local, turns and looks at me, and says, "Lady, you've just walked into a scene!" And she throws her head back and, I kid you not, cackles.

Shit.

I glance around as I make my way to a stool, noting the bottles of cold Gatorade in the coolers. Wondering what I'm going to encounter, and deciding, "Who gives a shit? I'm a big girl and can take care of myself," I ask for a Coors Light and a Gatorade. To be honest, the bartender was a nice guy, and nobody else paid attention to me. At least, not that I noticed. The Coors light cost $1.25 and the Gatorade was $2.00. I also got a bag of chips.

I realized the four guys immediately to my right were bikers, and as they were leaving, I said hi, and asked if the bikes with the New Jersey plates belonged to them. They were all somewhere in their fifties, with the exception of the one guy who was probably twenty years older. The two furthest from me smiled, the little old man seemed to not have heard me, and the guy next to me claimed ownership in a fairly gruff manner. I said something to the effect of that being a long trip, and asked if they were all friends or family or...? He looked at me and said they were blood brothers, then turned his back on me. Fucking shut me down. He made it clear that no matter how anyone felt about the matter, they were not going to talk to me. I don't know if it was because I was a woman, or if it was because I was on a BMW and not a Harley, or maybe he thought my pants were too noisy. I don't know, but since I don't know, I'm assuming it was all of those things. Rude.

I drank one Coors Light and two Gatorades. I was totally gonna have to pee on the side of the road somewhere later...

The ride home from there was along Old Highway 80 and 94. There are a few areas of these highways where the road runs right along the border--Mexico is just on the other side of the giant wall. On highway 94, just west of Tecate is an immigration checkpoint. I've been through it before, and it's sort of a pain in the ass on a bike. Traffic crawls, and this is not really a spot to go around traffic to the front of the line. In the past, I have been through on a Monday, and there is little traffic and a short line. They typically let me pass right through without stopping also. This time, it was a Sunday and there was a lot of traffic. It was hot, and about two hundred yards from the checkpoint, my temperature light came on. I turned off the bike and was fully annoyed until I finally got to the checkpoint booth and became more annoyed. They actually stopped me and walked the dog around my bike. Like somehow I was smuggling the tiniest Mexican into San Diego in my top case. And don't say they were looking for drugs. This wasn't ATF, or whatever the drug division is called now. This was immigration, and if we know nothing else, we know federal government agencies do nothing more than what they are strictly told and paid to do. On highways 80 and 94, I counted 22 separate immigration trucks or SUVs I passed, that were not part of the checkpoint.

By the time I got home, I had filled my tank twice, I was hot and tired (probably didn't smell like roses either) and my butt was sore. It was a good day's ride, and I was reminded of what lay ahead of me for my return trip to Denver at the beginning of July--hot deserts. I crawled into bed after a shower, and as I picked up my book to read, something flew into my ear. I leapt straight into the air, simultaneously screaming like a little girl and swatting at my own ear. I looked down at the black thing lying on my white comforter and there he was. The beetle from Julian. At some point when I had finally turned my back on him, he hitched a ride all the way through the desert with me. He even made it through the immigration checkpoint--way to go lazy immigration dog!