I don’t know how they do it. Truckers, traveling salesmen and wire service photographers are constantly on the move, traveling in service to their chosen professions, and I have a new appreciation for their challenges.
I’ve been on the road for a week and a half, with a couple small breaks, and I’m kinda sick of it. The wind blast, the constant noise, road food, sometimes no food, extreme heat, and now cold. It just wears you down physically and emotionally. The loneliness is the worst of it. I’ll never underestimate the value of simple companionship again.
I left Vegas Wednesday determined to get to the California coast. The traffic on southbound I-15 is relatively light at 7 a.m., but the heat is already at 80 and my motorcycle’s thermometer shows another degree of heat every 15 minutes.
Saying goodbye to the Interstate a couple hours later, I pull in to Barstow, Calif. looking for fuel and food. The only place I can find is a dirty, old Chinese restaurant where the owner doesn’t trust his waitress to handle cash transactions. The pretty waitress, wearing a motorcycle rally T-shirt, explains all this to me when I try to pay my bill with cash. A few minutes later, I notice her staring out the window at Connie while she serves a mean elderly couple who treat her poorly and leave no tip.
After a credit card swipe, I’m back on the road. I’m headed directly west on Calif. Hway-58. Backersfield, the home of country music legend Buck Owens, is my next goal.
The serious heat is on me now. I feel like I’m traveling through a desert planet in a science fiction movie. The heat gets so bad that I have to pull off at a rest stop somewhere in the desert. I go into the men’s room, remove my shirt and soak it in the sink. Putting my wet shirt back on, I go out and lay down in the shade of a tree for 30 minutes to cool off.
Eventually, I get to Bakersfield and stop at the first bar I find. I want a beer, and I need to charge my cellphone.
I’m asking the bartender if I can charge my phone when a drunk next to me slurs something about yuppy cellphones in his bar. I usually let stuff like this slide, but I just can’t let this jerk have his way with me today.
“Yuppie? Did you just call me a yuppie? Sir, that term has been out of favor for about two decades. A much more accurate derogatory term for a man with a job is Office Park Parent or maybe even Corporate Whore on a bad day. So, at least get it right if you’re going to attempt to offend me!”.
The drunk stands there looking at me while my words sink into his mushy consciousness. Eventually he blinks, and that’s when his fists of fury come out.
A couple of his friends pull the drunk away from me and offer to buy my next beer. I decline, gather my stuff and get back on westbound Hway-58.
The road goes directly through town. Strip malls eventually give way to oil fields, which then give way to huge orchards and farms. About forty miles later I’m stopped at a sign that says, “Next Services 70 Miles”. The road before me winds through dry hills. It’s some of the most complicated riding I’ve ever done. I’ve never shifted up and down between second and fourth this much.
Two hours later I emerge on the western side of the hills, and I’m a mess. I’m severely dehydrated, and my butt is screaming about every one of the 400 miles I’ve ridden. I swing way too wide at the main intersection in Santa Margarita and almost get into a head-on collision, so that’s where I pull off the road to drink water and charge my cell phone at a tavern. The drunks are friendly here. They all want to know about my trip.
I’m back on the road an hour later. I leave Hway-58 near San Luis Obispo as I swing onto Hway-1; the Coastal Highway. My campsite is minutes away at Morro Bay State Park.
The heat of the day is gone as I set up camp. In fact, 64 degrees feels damn cold now.