Friday, April 4, 2008
Lordsburg, NM to Santa Barbara, CA
I watched the sun rise in my mirrors as I jetted across New Mexico.
The desert was cold at dawn. My flaky thermometer (which can usually be trusted below 80 degrees) told me that it was in the mid 40s. I pulled over on the side of I-10 to close jacket vents, insert liner, and swap my summer gloves for the lightly lined Racers. As I was pressing the right side case closed, a NM highway patrol car pulled in behind me. I gave him a thumbs up, but he got out of the car to ask if I was ok.
“Yup! Just freezing!”
He nodded and continued on his way. I saw him again about a mile down the road, twinkling away behind an SUV.
Feeling a little more relaxed this morning, I got off the highway at the Texas Canyon rest area in Arizona for some pictures of the spectacular rock formations in the area.
Having breakfasted early on a granola bar and gas station cappuccino, I was starving when I reached Gila Bend at the turning point of the I-8 Phoenix bypass. For the last 20 miles I had been fantasizing about a McDonalds Filet-o-fish sandwich (guilty pleasure). Unfortunately, I had neglected to take Arizona’s inobservance of DST into account and it was only 10:30. The restaurant was still serving breakfast. I did not feel like breakfast. I settled for a chicken biscuit and a hazelnut iced coffee, eating my “lunch” outside on a sunny patio in view of the R1200ST, which had also just eaten.
While gearing back up, a fellow traveler stopped to chat about bikes, traveling, and sunny Arizona days. Walking away, he said “Be careful. There are a lot of crazy people out there.”
“Yeah. I think I might be one of them.”
There were several slow construction zones on the state highway leg of the bypass. I started to wonder if I would have done better to just ride through Phoenix.
An attendant waved me through the agricultural stop at the California state line. While doing all those family road trips growing up, Mom always pressed us to finish the apples and oranges before reentering California. I remember the last day of our trips as being an orgy of fruit-eating. I don’t remember the check stations being staffed the last several times I crossed the state line inbound.
I passed the 1500 mile mark at 5pm Central time (1.5 hours to spare) near the San Bernardino county line. Having achieved 1500 miles in 36 hours, I moved on to my next challenge: Los Angeles area Friday afternoon traffic.
I’ve long maintained that learning to commute in the Bay Area made me a better, more aware rider/driver. I got to put that statement to the test today. Nearing Redlands, traffic rolled to a standstill. I took a breath, dropped some gears, and dove for the dashed line. I was only moving about 10-15 mph, but risks were coming at me faster than they do at any speed in twisties. Every single car had to seen, evaluated, and monitored as I passed. I watched for gaps that a car might dive into. I watched for fluctuations in the width between cars.
I’ve never liked lane sharing the BMW with side bags on. The bike defines “Wide ass.” I had to be very careful in evaluating what gaps I could safely make it through. I pulled into the lane several times to let narrower sport bikes pass by.
I think I understand why riders who live in areas that don’t allow lane sharing are so skeptical of it’s safety. Having not split in over 2 years, *I* found it very scary. It was hard to believe that there was a time when I did it daily without stressing.
After about 2-3 miles of splitting, I passed the burnt out hulk of a passenger van that had been slowing traffic. The freeway sped up and the HOV lane started a few miles later. It was mostly continuous all the way to Pasadena. It was *so* nice to have HOV lanes actually worth the pavement they’re made of.
Traffic slowed again through Ventura, but not enough to try more lane sharing. I had already ridden over 700 miles that day and I just wanted to avoid the stress.
The characteristic scent of eucalyptus welcomed me to the coast. With 20 miles to go, I had to pull over for gas (beyond empty on the gauge). I inserted my liner and swapped gloves after paying $3.95/gallon for premium.
Dad waved me into the parking lot of the resort we were staying at. He and Mom had been tracking me on the SPOT and knew when I would arrive.
Today was Mom’s birthday. I had carried her birthday present (from her three lovely daughters) all the way from Texas. She seemed very happy!
After taking a quick shower and changing out of riding clothes, Mom, Dad, and I went down to the Santa Barbara harbor to have a seafood dinner and gaze at the Pacific Ocean.