Regretfully we are leaving sunny Santa Cruz. At the gas station the owners won’t share their bathroom with us. Samantha sets off across the street clomping in her motorcycle boots towards a restaurant. I am trying to pump gas but the computer won’t authorize me. I battle with it for a while and then go inside with cash.
This short sequence of events should have alerted us. We should have climbed back into our bunk beds at the hostel and slept this day away. Oblivious, we pushed ahead. After all that’s what we had been doing since leaving Florida, pushing on in the face of adversity, throttling ahead despite terrain, weather and physical exhaustion.
Several minutes later we were thrown out onto one of those infamous California highways, packed to the gills with sharks and whales and no alternate route in sight. We held tough, motoring at a comfortable speed in the slow lane and watching our rearview for great whites. We were getting farther south daily and each mile got more crowded, more rushed, wider and faster. We had left the solace of the wilds for this? Is this what they call civilization?
We tried to get off the highway again, searching for any alternative. We sat at lights and puttered through endless intersections and finally got back on the highway. Hemmed between the great Pacific Sea and hectares of farmland and factory there was no other choice. Because we were slower than most other vehicles on the road we garnered great wrath from drivers. They tailgated to teach us a lesson or just out of shear frustration, boredom or both. We came across slow trucks, loaded with melons and strawberries. To pass them we braved the fast lane. It was during one of these maneuvers that a cop whipped up behind Samantha, inches off her wheel and flicked his lights. The most aggressive, dangerous driver we had encountered until he too passed us by.
After a few hours of this I was fuming mad and highly adrenalized. I was ready to kick some doors. My bike was capable of speeds over 70, but the TW started to wind out at 60 and really wine at 65. So we opted for slow and cautious in the right lane, if people would just leave us alone, pass safely and be on their way. But these were crazed demons, with hissing tires and maniacal expressions of desperation plastered over their plastic faces. We made the decision to get nowhere near the cesspool of insanity they were headed towards, which we guessed was Los Angeles. It was too bad really, we had friends and family there and were looking forward to Venice Beach. But we would need an army tank with a rear gunner to survive these madmen and women. Traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of death in the United States and yet these demons forge on with reckless desperation, forgetting anything beyond the red tail lights glowing in their teeth.
Finally we reached a campground. I am writing this now months later from the little island of St John deep in the Caribbean. The steady decay of memory leaves the sequence of events a little unclear. Samantha and I remember a campground, down by the sea, where we pitched our tent just off highway one and under the great overhang of a bridge. We walked below the bridge out a great sandbar to the sea, with cliffs on either side of the dramatic cove. The next morning we changed our oil and cleaned the air filters once again. Then we left the campground without paying the steep $30 per night fee and headed to a neighboring town. This town does not exist in reality. We searched Google Earth and Google Maps and it is only real in our imagination. It hangs on the cliffs with views to the rugged sea. The main street slants slightly upward. Children and their parents examined our dirty bikes as we pulled up to the cafe. The tar, dust and oil clung to us and our bikes like honey after a forage in the hive. We felt like seasoned adventurers by now, everything dirty, broken, then taped. Our bikes looked lived on and they had been, for months now.
We breakfasted on espresso and bagels and tried to get a handle on this bizarre little town. California towns are unknowable in some ways. They are unfamiliar to us, everything seems strange. In this dream town there seems to be a steady stream of homeless hippies climbing the main street from their camp somewhere down by the sea. We inadvertently follow the ant stream down to the gas station which is closed on saturday. The homeless hippies still come, some of them following dogs leashed with pieces of string. One dances up the street, singing to an unknown song. I suppose on the scale of lifestyles we are more like these wandering gypsies then the mad rush of commuters out on the American highways. We would rather squat around a campfire in an illegal camp and bang on drums then brush the lint off a suit en route to a dinner party.
We leave our old motor oil outside the gas station with a note saying, “good used motor oil, please recycle,” and we are on the road again. The bikes surge forward with their usual tug and pull, thumping motors and tire hum. It is all so familiar now. I have to keep waking myself up to the reality of this adventure. My journal entry says, “you are living the perfect dream, right now.” and in a way I am. We are lliving lots of people’s dreams. We know this because they approach us everywhere and tell us so. With this comes very little responsibility accept I think the obligation to know it. To be aware of how really incredible this day will be and enjoy it thoroughly for everyone stuck inside today, or god forbid, behind a desk, a dinner party lurking on the horizon.