Kate Oliver and I were planning on leaving Thursday april 17 2003 to Death Valley. We were going to pass through LA so she could get new tires put on the Magna. We were going to meet at Denny's in Santa Nella. However, by the time I got to Stockton, it started raining really hard. Note quite a torrential downpour, but it was a full fledged hard shower. Highway biking in that kind of rain isn't normally a problem. You can still cruise at 75/85mph as long as you don't have any exposed skin. The problem was that it was really cold, and I wasn't wearing rain gear. I got soaked through and through, from head to foot.
Rather than going south, which was the direction the storm was headed, we decided to camp out at her place in Hollister for the night. We talked until who knows when and soaked in her hottub. After being drenched and cold, that really hit the spot. I'm definitely getting a hottub at some point! We had dinner at a local Thai restaurant which was really phenomenal (Thai and Ethiopean are my favorite cuisines). Kate had pad thai, and I had my standard red curry and tom gai soup.
The next morning was sunny, and the forecast was sun all weekend, but we already lost a full day of riding. We were hoping to be in LA by Thursday, but figured that since we'd get to LA by Friday and get the tires changed on Saturday morning, we wouldn't be in Death Valley until saturday evening. We were planning on being back by sunday evening, so Death Valley didn't seem realistic. Instead, I was just going to keep her company down to LA.
When we got to Pasadena, I realized that my friends Pete Harper and Bridget Wagner lived close by in Tustin. I suggested Kate call them, and it turns out they were home and free. Driving in the LA basin freeways was a nightmare. People were driving really fast, talking on cellphones and totally oblivous to what was going around. I hated every second of it and was a little scared a few times. This woman driving an SUV cut me off at the off ramp at Pasadena, and I started yelling at her. For a second I considered pounding on her car, but thought better of it at the last second.
We drove over there, and night was just about falling. They were both gracious hosts---gave us endless beers and made us feel really at home. We had wonderful sushi for dinner which Kate paid for in honor of Pete and Bridget saving us motel costs, had even more beers, and talked until 2am until it became apparent that we all needed sleep. It was that night that we heard on the news that Scott Peterson had been arrested.
The next morning Kate went to go get her tires changed while Pete and Bridget went to get their car which was in the shop (I think). I babysat their cat, Bonkers, who was a really friendly male tabby (he was as friendly as Geordi. The previous night he jumped up on my lap and stayed there for an hour or two).
After everyone came back, we biked around some local roads. Pete on his ST, Bridget on her Ninja (she sold her Magna), Kate on her 90's Magna and me on my 80's Magna. Pete and I raced up ahead to play on some fabulous twisties. I mostly kept up, but there were two very long sweeping curves that he pretty much left me behind on. :) He was doing some really impressive riding. We talked about it later, and he mentioned that he was pushing it that day (big deal---I was too!) and also that at the last Spring Fling when the roles were reversed (he had trouble keeping up with me), he noticed that Rhonda was making a big difference as a passenger. He said she did a really great job leaning with me. So if I ever ride with Pete again, I'm going to make sure I have Rhonda with me. :) I'm really going to miss both of them when I move to Princeton.
They took us to see their new house that they just bought together (it was still being built) and had lunch at a great BBQ place (I had BBQ chicken with collared greens and chicken dumplings). They had a lunch all-you-can-eat ribs lunch that people wanted to order, but the waitress said it wasn't served on the weekends even though it just said "lunch special".
By the time we finished playing with the bikes, it was already late afternoon. Pete and Bridget offered to put us up for the night again, but we decided to push on back north. Mostly to get out of the LA basin because driving on the LA freeways is psychologically draining. Ideally, we wanted to get over the Grapevine by night fall. That way, we'd get a motel room, wake up early the next morning and be able to drive without having negotiate the awful LA basin freeways.
It never works out the way you plan. Night fell and we were still about 40 miles from the Grapevine. At least we were essentially out of the LA freeway traffic, but then I noticed that Kate's running lights weren't working. And she had no reflective stuff on her gear. She was nearly invisible on the highway. We went off the freeway looking for a cheap hotel twice, but all we could find were $120/night rooms. Finally, we stopped at Castaic and found a cheap motel room (I still owe her $35).
The next morning we woke up, and I looked at her lights. The bulbs were good because her turn signals were working. No obvious grounds---her bike is a 90's bike, and in really good condition. The electronics were very clean. I'm guessing it was the relay. After that, we headed north. The sky was clear and we saw lots and lots of CHP until we got further up north, maybe as far north as Bakersfield (I guess CHP don't get off for Easter Sunday). Despite that, we pretty much cruised at 95mph without mishap, although I think Kate was a bit nervous about getting pulled over.
We parted ways around Hollister, and I made it back to Davis on Sunday, well before nightfall.
Total mileage: 1302.4 miles
Left: 17 April 2003
Back: 20 April 2003
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