Monday, May 19, 2014

Coast to Coast: Day 12: Los Angeles, CA - Holbrook, AZ. Monday, May 19, 2014

     I was so tired the night before; I forgot to take the luggage cart back downstairs before going to sleep. I don’t like to inconvenience other people, but whatever. I wanted to leave later in the day so I could take the Mojave Desert in the evening when it was cooler. I was in the middle of packing my bike when one of the hotel managers saw my bike. He said that he used to have a CB750 just like mine decades ago, and we talked about my bike. He now has a Honda VTX cruiser, and also informed me that the desert is supposed to be cooler today.

     Everyone I met along my journey who was old enough to remember the CB750 had one. I recall a conversation I had with a truck driver on Route 1. He said that back in the old days, motorcycles were not specialized. They didn’t have sport tourers, superbikes, commute bikes, touring cruisers, and many other different specialized categories. In the 70’s one only had a choice between a Harley (if he was crazy, since they were super low quality and leaked all the time), or a Japanese or British bike (which is what everyone had). Even the dirt bikes at the time were just modified versions of a street bike.

     As a result, when one bought a motorcycle, they bought an all-around, balanced bike. The CB750 was the world’s first superbike or sports bike. It was the fastest motorcycle in the world with a 125 mph top speed. It could easily carry as much luggage as one could feasibly fit on it. It could go off road (the manual under the seat even said it had “limited off road capabilities”). It could even climb steep mountains, including the streets of San Francisco. It could do everything, and do everything very well.

     I left the hotel at about 11:30 am, and stopped at a gas station to fill my bike for the day’s trip. I saw another motorcyclist who seemed to be having engine trouble with his custom chopper. I talked to him for a while, and he showed me a gas leak that seemed to be emanating from the air filter. There had to be something wrong with the carburetor. He started it up, and it was running really rough. I put my hand near the end of the exhaust pipe. The exhaust out of one of the pipes was hot, but the other was stone cold. He was only running on one cylinder.

     I asked if he had replaced the spark plugs recently, but he told me it had been a long time. Those needed to be replaced. I can’t smell, so I couldn’t smell for excess gas indicating a flooded engine from the carburetor. Either way, he also had to get the carburetor looked at.

     He told me it runs better when he has the choke on, but I said if he tried to get it home with the choke on, it could damage the engine. I let him borrow my phone, and he called a friend to pick him up. I didn’t want to stick around too long so I wished him luck and headed out.

     I took Interstate 40 through the Mojave Desert again. My phone told me that it was about 100 degrees, but it didn’t feel like it. Maybe I was just getting used to the heat, and this time I knew what I was doing. I stopped in the same places for gas as I did before: Ludlow and another isolated gas station. Before I knew it, I had passed through the desert, and was on my way to Flagstaff.

     It was around this time that I really started to feel the failing bushings. It made my motorcycle a little harder to control, but it was still pretty stable at higher speeds. It was concerning, but I had no choice but to carry on.

     I stopped just outside the desert at a rest stop to make a reservation at the campsite. I knew I was going to get to Flagstaff at night because I left the hotel so late. Unfortunately, all I got was the answering machine, even though the camp office didn’t close for another 2 hours (it was 6:00 pm by then). I found another KOA campsite another hundred miles east. It was going to be a hike; my total distance for the day was going to be around 600 miles. I figured that the trip had put me in good shape, and I was prepared for it. I made a reservation further east in Holbrook, Arizona.

     My biggest mistake of the day was getting so caught up in the ride and the distance that I had to travel that I forgot to eat. If one doesn’t eat, his body produces less heat in order to conserve energy. Perhaps this is why the desert didn’t bother me so much. As soon as I passed the desert and into the mountains, I regretted neglecting meals. It was in the low 50s, but my body was completely starved of energy. As a result, I was as cold, or even colder, than I was when I passed into Dodge City, Kansas.

     It was a rough evening, and I was extremely tired. I can only remember doing one thing that kept me going on the road. Whenever I reached a point where I felt I could go no farther, I would glance up at the stars. There weren’t a lot of people living in the mountains, so the sky was completely clear of city lights. I saw ever star, even the smallest ones. The night sky gave me a feeling of hope, and even my motorcycle gave me comfort.

     Elizabeth is a very different machine. Most new motorcycles are fuel injected, which essentially means that they behave exactly the same from the moment they are started up until the moment they are turned off. They are extremely robotic. Liz is carbureted, which means that her behavior depends very much on the humidity, temperature of the air, temperature of the engine, and other factors.

     As a result, Liz has the gift of a personality. She hates waking up in the morning. She will behave sluggishly and depressed until she gets fully warm. She acts in a similar way when it's hot, or if it's rainy. Her mood changes depending on how nice the weather is.

     In a strange and almost mystifying way, this personality seems to transcend into the supernatural. There were a few times when I was close to my destination, exhausted and hungry, and the weather was far from perfect. She would run very strongly, almost as if she knew that we were almost there. I'm not one to believe in extraneous forces, but I was sure she was looking out for me, especially that night.

     I took breaks in a few gas stations on the rest of the ride to Holbrook, but I didn’t seem to warm up at all. I had a long conversation with a gas station attendant late at night. All I remember was that he was a medical student, and that he used to have a sportbike. I was too tired to remember too many details about the conversation, or even that day. When I reached the campsite at two in the morning, I ate all the beef jerky I brought with me. It warmed me up a little, but not much. Then I set up my tent, which was extremely painful given how tired I was. I needed a real meal, but I was too tired to go anywhere. By 2:30, I was fast asleep.

     I woke up in the middle of the night to hear a strange hissing noise. I opened my tent and took a look. I saw very vividly rattlesnakes moving around outside my tent on the other side of the gravel driveway. The hissing was quite loud, but I decided to inspect the area anyway. As I moved closer to where they were, they got bigger. I shined my flashlight on one, and it vanished, as did the others when I moved my light. There were a few sprinklers on which were causing the hissing, but there were no snakes. I must have pushed myself too hard that day, because I realized that I was having very vivid hallucinations. I didn’t have any strange gas station energy pills, but lack of sleep, lack of food, and riding 600 miles through the Mojave Desert and the Rockies with no windshield was taking a serious toll on my health. My body was starting to shut down.

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