“I’m here on the blacktop. The sun in my eyes, women and country on my mind, bolting me out over the borderline.” ~ Jakob Dylan
I wake up this morning to the sound of rain falling in the streets of Half Moon Bay, Calif. I’m safe and warm in my hotel room, but a quick look out the window shows Connie leaning sadly on her kickstand in the rain. She’s soaked stem to stern. I decide to get ready for today’s ride slowly — hoping the coastal rain will slow down, maybe even burn off, but I have no such luck. I knew this day would come, and I came prepared. I unpack rain gear that I’ve been carrying for 2,000 miles.
Two hours later I’m riding Connie in the rain. It’s cold, but I’m warm under six layers of clothing. We’re headed to San Francisco. I need to find the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. Traffic is relatively light at first. That’s good because the wind from the rain storm is tossing me and Connie around a bit.
Traffic picks up and gets down right aggressive as soon as I pass the first southern suburbs of San Francisco. California Hway-1 suddenly feels and functions a lot like an interstate, and then it doesn’t. The highway has become just another surface street. I’m struggling with heavy traffic and looking for road signs and Connie is heating up. I feel and then hear her radiator fan kick on at a particularly long traffic light. Her engine heat is spiking as we have to sit through another traffic-light cycle.
I can’t tell whether or not I’m on the right road, but up ahead I can see a pickup with a camper on its back. I figure there’s a pretty good chance its driver is headed up north too. So, I keep him in sight as Connie and I bump along the streets of San Francisco.
I see the bridge in the misty distance as I cross Ortega street. Now, I’m simply following signs to the Golden Gate Bridge. I round a bend in the road and suddenly Connie and I are flying across the bridge. The air temperature drops as we cross the water, and I feel Connie’s cooling fan shut off.
I want a picture of the bridge, so I swing Connie into the parking lot of Vista Point. The lot is packed, but there is a spot between two nasty old Harleys. Connie fits perfectly.
I walk among tourists, many of them foreigners who have hired professional tour guides. One such group is a small Chinese family; a man of about 60, his shy wife of roughly the same age, and their quiet adult daughter who looks to be about 30. Their tour guide is best described as the pornstar version of a tour guide. She is strikingly beautiful. Her outfit looks a little like a flight attendant’s, but is way too tight. The skirt is way too short, and she isn’t wearing much under her little blazer. In fact, her massively enhanced breasts are just shy of being exposed.
This tour guide is posing the family in front of the bridge and taking pictures with three cameras. Me and every other man within looking distance of this woman are taking in the show. It’s funny, crazy, sexy, creepy all at the same time. A couple teenage boys behind me are even high-fiving, and saying “DUDE!” way too much.
To understand what happened next you have to know about the weather. It’s cloudy, bordering on foggy. The wind is blowing up off the water and it’s chilly enough to sting my face. I’ve still got on six layers of clothing and heavy boots, so I’m relatively comfortable. The tour guide is wearing next to nothing and she is prancing around in stripper shoes.
At one point the man of the family demands that the tour guide pose for photos with him and his family. The tour guide anxiously turns to the crowd of assembled men and approaches me with a look of quiet desperation on her face.
“Will you take our picture,” she asks in a fake high-pitched voice as she leans into me obviously providing a look at her augmented charms.
I reply, “You look cold. Do you need a jacket while I make pictures?”
Still leaning into me she says in her polite, real voice that she is freezing, but she can’t accept my jacket.
I smile and take all three cameras from her. A moment later I’m making pictures of the family and their pornstar tour guide. She is sticking her chest out and displaying her brightest smile. The father stands proudly. His wife and daughter stand emotionless while I click shutters.
The tour guide comes back to collect all the cameras. She leans in close and says thank you with her low, real voice. I’m about to walk away when the father demands that the tour guide pose with me for a picture. We all trade places, she strikes her show pose and flashes that million dollar smile once again as shutters click.
The tour guide, back in her fake voice now, asks me loudly if I’d like her to take a picture of me. I reply that I would like a picture, but not just of me. I want one of us together, but I want a simple, real picture. She agrees while I fire up Instagram on my iPhone.
Moments later we’re posing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and I ask her to cover up a little. She seems a little relieved and then she leans in for a nice picture.
A few minutes later I find the place where Hway-1 splits off from the main roads and snakes up and over the mountainside. They’ve just repaved the road, and it is smooth as black glass for miles. I’m concentrating on the ride. It’s very technical, with turn after turn.
However, I can’t get what happened back at Vista Point out of my mind. I’m thinking of the tour guide with two personalities. I’m thinking about the silent, unsmiling wife and daughter who put up with the aggressive man in their lives. Once again, I’m thinking about the role of women in society. I’m thinking about the woman I live with. I’m thinking about the women I work with. I’m thinking about the women I count as good friends. They are all complicated people with challenging lives. I hope they are comfortable enough around me to always speak in their real voice.
I’m still rolling north, but I’m tired and depressed. I give up trying to ride any more today after covering only 91 miles.
I’ve put Connie’s kickstand down at a campsite in Bodega Bay State Park. I set up the tent and crawl in to rest for a few minutes, but I fall asleep immediately.
I wake up a while later to the buzz of my phone. It’s my brother back in Utah. He wants to know where I am and if I’m okay. I wish he was here with me now.