Saturday, February 6, 2010

The O.C.

Cow Hollow, San Francisco
11:50 pm

I am exhausted. A sixteen hour day today, thirteen on the road to cover 650 miles. Other than the first hundred fifty or so, they were hard miles. It rained yesterday and most of this morning in the L.A. basin and traffic was a mess. I had an appointment at Aeroflow Inc., makers of miracle motorcycle windshields, in Orange County. It wasn't much of a detour and I was only there half an hour but getting out of Los Angeles took nearly three hours. The freeways were foggy, soggy parking lots. Lane splitting was out of the question: I was the only bike on the road (as I have been this whole trip) so drivers wouldn't be expecting me and, in any event, the RT is too wide a bike to comfortably lane split. So I slogged along with everyone else.

Then there was the matter of I5 up and over the San Bernadino mountains. It was cold and raining and foggy and Friday weekend traffic was a madhouse. A truly unpleasant experience.

I5 to San Francisco was uneventful but the air behind the cold front was crisp and the steady 20 mph headwind forced me to make two fuel stops. (If this bike has a weakness, it's lack of range).

But back to the first 150 miles of the day. I like to talk to people in the towns I travel through. I spoke to folks in the desert town of Blythe, the farming town of Indio and the desert oasis of Palm Springs. They all had the same tale to tell: local businesses closed, jobs lost, hope lost.

Interstate 10 in the vicinity of Palm Springs is the Sonny Bono Memorial Freeway. (I have a hard time typing that with a straight face. To be fair, though, I'm sure his prowess as an entertainer and politician made up for his failings as a skier.) Anyway, the freeway through this mecca for the rich and famous is flanked by billboards (no sponsor's name appeared on them) with the theme "Recession 101". Different billboards had different positive aphorisms for surviving the recession. Even on their own, they lacked conviction. When interspersed with billboards advertising pawn shops, cheap payday loans and law firms specializing in foreclosures and bankruptcies, they were as darkly comical as the freeway's name. California, once the Golden State and the land of promise for so many, seems a sad shadow of its former self.

Not so the vibrant, if slightly seedy Cow Hollow neighborhood in San Francisco. I stay here on this motel strip whenever I ride through. Tonight I'm off noisy Lombard Street but still just yards away from the best drive in/diner food in the world. That's for breakfast tomorrow. After that, a visit to Ghiradelli Square for some chocolate and North Beach for a latte and some people watching.

Right now, it's bed time.

Today's ride: