Ah my first trip report on the famed Pashnit. I should make a disclaimer that this one doesn't have all of the good road details of other nice posts. The route was pretty simple and I have time for great side roads or discoveries. So I wanted to give some story and maybe you'll like it or not. Also I'm a pastor, and finally had a break from teaching and preaching -- so it does mention God!
I'll post more as I finish the other legs. Thanks in advance to other posters who inspired this trip -- your words and photos gave me the push and determination to hit the road, alone. The pictures take a while to come...but they might be worth it. So scroll or read
Last week I was convinced I was losing two of three jobs. My apartment building was up for sale and my teaching job looked grim at best. A co-worker was fired. Panic at the office was set in strong like a bear trap around a snapped ankle. People I knew were set to lose their livelihoods as well as their casas. Some had kids and others had spouses and though I have neither, I have a mission full of kids and that was looking compromised. It is high time to pull up the anchor on Southern CA, it seemed, and set sail, losing the motorcycle Mecca that sits under the tall palms and dry, bright sun.
Some time before this fierce, rabid attack on all I had, I had planned a several day run somewhere east, into Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. I had drawn up the routes, revised them, edited again, counted mileage, and later scrolled through late night runs on pashnit.com. New saddlebags and tires, leather pants, and first aid kits had been ordered. I even went to REI to buy some wickable clothes and a camelback. There was more to do but when the panic set in hard I rushed the gear back for cash.
I was teaching the last day, Thursday, and was set for being fired. Maybe a severance package was waiting, a few weeks or perhaps a month if I was lucky. The other girl got less but my boss eats women for breakfast. Closing meeting came and went and it turns out I had a job and some thanks and... Texts came blinking on the Blackberry, the apartment deal fell out of escrow. Getting into my car in the parking garage, I dropped the top, trunk full of teaching gear I didn’t think I’d need again and headed up past Griffith Park to the 5 North and home. Drinks were in order. I didn’t know if I wanted to scream or scream. Lord, is it right to rocket off at this crossroads? Maybe a slighter run up the PCH would do fine or some central CA camping? Get out there for a just a few days and blow up and come back and get cracking on resumes. This storm cloud would roll back around old boy. This is no time to get greedy.
“Don’t let it bring you down, it’s only castles burning,” sang Neil Young through my laptop speakers while I sipped a whiskey and looked over the Google map. A friend texted in, “Go, go, when else are you getting this time?” Another text lit up, “There is always work and this can itself be mission and enhance the current one, so go!” Friday I bought new grips at the local Honda dealer, along with two pairs of FOX long socks, and an emergency tire inflator. Saturday I dropped by my mechanic to put on the new grips—the Aprilia ones are a torture device. He wasn’t around. I waited around at Denny’s and called him repeatedly. Nothing. This was it so I ended up spending over $50 to have them put on at the Honda dealer. They had to set so I got a ride home and took the bus back to pick the Tuono up. Just made it in time to church. I preached and led at the Saturday service, came outside and had a flat tire. Switched them in sweat and drove home preciously. Once home, I was torn between sketching out more plans for the run and finishing the sermon and Power Point for Sunday. Ah temptation. I slept around 3am and woke up at 7.
The next day I couldn’t get out of town because of my apartment job. New tenants and tenants with exploding water heaters, searches for keys, maintenance, repairs, heated calls, texts, and then before I knew it, it was after 4pm. Stuffing what I could get into the saddlebags, I also counted out coin and loaded batteries into the camera, slamming both into the small back pack I’d been using since Thailand. Hand full of bungees, I headed outside, already sweating in the LA sun. Bags attached, helmet on, leather jacket zipped, it was 5pm. I gassed at the Shell, chugged down a Snapple peach tea and strapped a Gatorade on the back. I hit the 5 South and hoped for the best.
The 5 turned into the 134 and then the 210 East. The 210 was packed. I wondered how far I was going to get. The destination was Mesquite, some 80 odd miles past Vegas. An accident in the car pool lane choked up the 210. A commuter van had slammed into a car, both crashing into the dividing wall in a horrific, costly mess. We all swerved around while the rubberneckers and texters shuffled their feet in idiocy. It was a rough run out of LA. I kept looking down at the clock and up at the dipping sun.
"We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the…began to take hold." No lawyer though. Just me and this unlikely touring partner, a naked 2005 Aprilia Tuono, with some windscreen and loaded up. It was way after 7pm and the sun was dipping low. I drank up and gassed up. This would be a long, recurring theme of fluids. I always kept something strapped on the back, tucked inside the net, wrapped over the bags.
The I-15 is a sad revelation. It’s a hot, long run on superslab that is a circus of freaks. Boiled radiators explode, cars sit stunned on the sidelines. The shoulders are full of jalopies and sad, new cars, all broken in pieces. Cars are in ditches along Hell’s Highway. Sad folk sit stranded on the banks, heads held in hands. Up some ways on the opposite side an older Toyota minivan was engulfed in flames. The black carcass was soaked in red-orange hotness steaming up into the hot sky. CHP were on the scene and the family stood stupefied. I zoomed on into the falling night.
Somewhere deep into I-15 I stopped at a rest stop. I think it was Indian Wells. I had tried playing some sort of Neil Young meets Easy Rider soundtrack from my phone but my headphones were hot, wet, and slippery and didn’t work. I had been listening to Jimi Hendrix, Dylan, and Cash in a half of one tinny ear hole for the past 100 miles. I chugged down a Mountain Dew as the last bit of sun dipped down low. I rolled in the earplugs, pushed the hot helmet back down, and mounted up.
Outside of Las Vegas, construction slowed things down to nothingness. I thought lane splitting was illegal but did my best to skirt and slide up where I could. The lights were bright beyond and the trucks started to heave and the cars pushed and we moved, a hot mass of steel over concrete, the working trucks blowing steam into the sky. Vegas is a surreal oasis of could be dreams and lights. The air was an oven and we rolled through baking. Slipping into the express lane is the best you can do, while everyone shuffles off to their casino resort of choice.
Past Vegas, the traffic dies and the sky and stars come full up. There is the silence of the lone wind howling through your vents. No lamps overhead. There is just blackness through tiny hills rolling up and all night truckers blowing past you. I stuck close to a Jetta cutting across the desert, using him and his lights like a fullback. Animals and ghosts seem to linger behind bends and you can’t see a thing. I breathed and sighed and rolled the throttle back. A lot of thoughts rush up in the desert in the dark.
Three hundred miles I counted. Three twenty five. Three thirty, stop looking down son. Three forty. Somewhere around here I stopped for gas. I emptied and orange juice and a Gatorade and strapped another on back. I could see already why people recommended the camelback. You are constantly thirsty. I would end up spending crazy on liquids.