Alive Near Mexico

So I arrived Saturday evening intact. It was one of the most amazing and challenging experiences of my life. You can view pictures of the trip down. I left at 5:25am with a full tank of gas, a half a pack of turkey jerky, it was dark, and I was wearing yellow sunglasses. It was cold, colder than I expected. I passed south of San Jose around 6:30am this morning and got to see the current state of the widening of 101 project. I pulled over, put on my dad's thick all weather gloves and an additional pair of socks. It was cold. I headed back out and rode south to Gilroy at which point I headed east on SR-25 and passed through Hollister. I followed 25 on to its termination at 198. I originally intended to take Coalinga Rd. / Los Gatos Rd. but I missed the turn, got dissuaded, realized I was running out of gas and chickened out of a challenging road and went instead with 25 to 198 to Coalinga. The landscape between Hollister and the SR-25 / SR-198 junction is a stunning array of the greenest richest uncultivated land imaginable. No agriculture, just grass fields, hills, streams and trees. The smell of this richest loam was something I'd never experienced. I found myself laughing out loud at one point at how wonderful it was. This state route is very untraveled. Outside of Hollister I saw 9 cars (all trucks) on 25. 63 miles mind you. 3 of those were a police suburban, a fire truck and a utility truck burned to the frame smoking in the road. I got held up there for about ten minutes. Not sure what happened but I could smell the burning plastic from about a quarter mile away. I was worried because I assumed it was my bike. Relieved to find it wasn't. So I reached 198 and headed east to Coalinga, which up until this point I had assumed was a little town on I-5. It is a country town 20 miles from I-5. I pulled into Coalinga at 9:15am. Got gas, drank as much as I could from my platypus water bladder and rode over to a park and had some food. It was at this point that I began to really enjoy the independence of this whole thing. To have you and everything you need to exist on something the size of a motorcycle is inspiring. I feel like an island. After watching two local country kids blasting country music out of their GIANT trucks, I left Coalinga and headed east on 198 as it turned to SR-33. At a point I took a wrong turn on 33 and headed a few miles in the wrong direction. Bad except that I got to see the Harris Feeding Company. I'd seen this many times before, flying by at 80 miles an hour, but I'd never stopped to check it out. This is at the junction of SR-33 and I-5. This was the first of three watermarks of the trip, somehow reminding me of the problems with my world. This one as you can see from customers of Harris displayed in brutal detail the problems with patronizing the animal killing industry. I headed down I-5 for a few miles to SR-269 to get back onto 33. I headed up over the hills and came to Avenal, with the coolest city logo imaginable (it's an oil rig, how cool is that?!). I tried to add some air to my tires, and chatted with this 10 year old kid. He asks me how much my bike cost, I tell him, he asks if I crashed it and I said I did, he asks where and I tell him in San Francisco and that I'm from San Francisco. The kid stops with a terrified look in his eye, pauses, and asks incredulouslsy, "What are you doing in Avenal?!?!?!?!". I said I was just riding around, and headed off after turning down his request to do a wheelie. I headed back to 33 and went south. SR-33 is like nothing I've ever seen. This is a state route between I-5 and US-101. It's one lane each way. It's straight, straight, straight. That picture doesn't really do it justice; it's like that for hundreds of miles. That's amazing in itself, except that it's empty. Completely empty. I'd stop for a few minutes to take a picture; nobody would pass by in either direction. I've never been this alone ever. Looking in all directions, all the way to the horizon, nobody. So I was assuming that this whole thing would be miles of agriculture, ya know cause it's the central valley. Well, I was wrong. This is where the second watermark comes in. Oil, oil, and more oil. Aera, ChevronTexaco, and Nuevo Energy are the only thing for as far as the eye can see. This one reminded me how unnatural it is to plumb the earth for fuel to a point which causes hundreds of square miles of oil wells to obscure the horizon. I was running low on fuel so I pulled into what looked like a gas station. It had gas pumps, but no building. Just gas pumps. No people anywhere, no shack, nothing. Just gas pumps. No prices. No ads. No company signs. I pulled in, found a machine that requested a "mag stripe card" and provided a credit card and went to pump gas and gas came out of the pump. I don't know who or what I just made a transaction with, but I got gas and that's what's important. Kinda scary to go through that whole process without ever seeing anyone. I continued on 33 riding towards giant snow capped mountains. I got to the base of the mountains and began my ascent. It's a steep climb up to a giant plateau. Lot's of wide open fields up in the mountains here. You can see here and here the fields that show up next to 33 up in the mountains. Keep in mind these are at 1500 to 2000 feet. Continued along this flat area and then came to the real mountains. These were very steep and very windy, and the roads were covered in gravel from the cliff faces on each side of the road. I had trouble taking this any faster than about 15mph tops. After my crash a couple years ago on windy mountain roads due to gravel, my confidence is low and I end up having to go very slow because I'm very scared. On the way up there were a few openings where you could see the amazing vista. Here is my own do it yourself panoramic picture. So one lesson learned is that without a windshield on one's bike, bugs become a HUGE problem. I ended up having to clean off my helmet seven or eight times on the trip down because I couldn't see anything at all. Self Portrait. On the way over the top of the hills, I come up behind this giant trailer, like the kind you see at race car shows to keep the race car in. It's going REALLY slow, like 5mph. I'm getting ready to pass when I see a sign on the back of the trailer with a graphic and text saying "Caution: Must pass 3 vehicles". So I find a place, lay on the throttle and start to pass, I clear the trailer and there in between the trailer and a
lead car ahead is none other than Brad Hauter, Guinness record holder on his lawn mower in the first few days of his second trip across America on a lawn mower. Here is the trailer and here is the lead car. Apparently the day I saw him, he had started back in McKittrick and was only going to Ojai ( see March 22 ). I made it to the top of the mountain and began coming down the south side. I came out of the mountains into Ojai and saw a biker bar. I was hungry and figured I could use some human contact, so I stopped and grabbed lunch at The Deer Lodge. BBQ'd chicken with chipotle sauce, guacamole, real chili, etc. I chatted with some Harley riders about the ride and what's good to ride down in the LA basin. While having lunch, Brad Hauter and his entourage rode by. They'd caught up while I was eating. I finished lunch at about 2:45pm. Everything looked great, I felt a lot better to be out of those treacherous hills and back doing 85 on flat ground, weaving along 101 towards Ventura. Took 101 south to 405 and got on the 405 towards San Diego. I ran into the first problem of the trip. The 405 was jammed. Stop and go on a motorcycle is EXTREMELY hard. Lane splitting when there's stop and go traffic is a must. The problem though was that I was wide with my saddle bags, the lanes on 405 are narrower than normal, and the nine hours of riding was starting to take its toll on my muscles and my mind. I was unable to lane split so I had to go through the traffic. This ended up costing me about two hours that I didn't have to spare. After a long time when I wasn't sure I would make it, it started to clear. I was way behind and losing light. I was hoping to make a 6:30pm dinner reservation with Ash but that was looking unlikely now. I headed south and got to I-5. At some point about a half hour after sunset it started to get cold. I'm flying along on 5 at a good clip and see a space to pull over with a call box. I figure I'll pull over and put my sweatshirt back on. I drop it into fifth and begin to slow down as I angle towards the shoulder, drop to fourth, slowing still, then I get close enough to see that the area which looked like a paved area next to the freeway isn't paved at all. The area is gravel, and a four inch drop off from the paved shoulder. I pass over the drop at about 35mph and my rear tire immediately locks up, I put my legs out to balance the bike as I ski across the gravel. The front wheel locks and the rear end begins to slide sideways. I let off the front brake and finally the bike comes to a stop. The massive cloud of dust from the gravel passes in front of me and everything is very quiet. Somehow I didn't crash. I realized at that moment that I was losing my focus. I normally would not have made that failure in judgment but I was sensing that the hours were really starting to get to me. I got back on 5 and headed south gathering all of my attention and focus and riding very conservatively. From this point until reaching San Diego there was much talking to myself and much singing loudly. I finally came into San Diego and rode to Ash and Robyn's house. I arrived and unloaded everything. The one thing to notice in that picture is my right hand. I was unaware that it was clenched like that. The one lasting outcome of this ride is that my hand muscles in my right hand (the throttle hand) are really hurt. Long distance riders usually get throttle locks for their bikes, I don't have one.

It's now Monday afternoon and I'm looking forward to going out with Ash and Robyn tonight. I'll write more when I know when I'll be back.


  • didofoot says:

    “I was reminded how bad/unnatural it is to kill animals/drill for oil…then I stopped for gas and some chicken…”
    I love you and I’m glad you’re okay. I, too, ate chicken today. And gas.

  • didofoot says:

    yeeaugh, fuck! I just read the part about flying off the road into gravel. fucking hell. be careful on the way back, I mean not that you weren’t but you know. be prepared to stop at a cheap motel as necessary.

  • gene says:

    I just realized that in that whole flurry of writing I forgot to mention the third of the three watermarks. First one was the animal killing industry, second was the oil industry and the third was the prison industry. All along 33 every major town is based around a state prison or correctional facility. These are prisons I’d never even heard of. Pleasant Valley State Prison, Avenal State Prison, and Corcoran State Prison. It’s so horrible to think of all these poor people locked up out in the middle of nowhere for the rest of their lives for drug use, theft and burglary.

  • kati says:

    I like how in the “Self Portrait” there is a little dead bee stuck to your helmet. I bet he never saw you coming. I’m glad the trip was such an experience – it was fun to read about. Admittedly, though, I am a bit unnerved by the whole idea. Just be careful. Have a good time down there!

  • sean says:

    Dear Gene,
    Please do not die.
    Your friend, Sean

  • Jolie says:

    Wow, your trip sounds absolutely amazing. Color me severely jealous.
    I’m glad you got there safely.
    Please be careful on the way back.
    I hope your hand feels better.
    Thanks for the pictures. =)

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