Central Valley

The Journey Down (250 Miles)

So like many good rides, this one started with a phone call from John saying he wanted to go see the Eureka Dunes.  I didn’t even know where the Eureka Dunes were.  Turns out they were 25 miles down a dirt road after riding 25 miles down a lonely paved road from a one horse town.  John had the week off and didn’t want to go out into the dirt parts alone (which is smart).  I was in Florida for half that week.  I let him know if no one else was free that I’d be happy to leave on Thursday.

It looked like it was the two of us after a few weeks passed. Thus we decided to leave on Thursday.  I was going to fly in from the east coast, pack the bike, and then we’d be off.  Bakersfield seemed to be a good stop for the first night as it was not out of the way for either of us.  The plans were a bit tight, but seemed like it would work.

Upon arriving in the airport, my flight was delayed.

IMG 0396

There was massive weather in Atlanta that was keeping my flight from taking off.  I didn’t know if that same weather was keeping my connecting flight on the ground.  I was on the last flight west for the day, so if I missed my connection, a day of the riding trip evaporated.  I had to make that flight.  We finally got off the ground an in air.  The captain told us it was going to be a rough ride.  The trip did not disappoint.  The landing was so windy you could feel the captain slam the plane  into the ground and hold it there.

There was good news on arriving into Atlanta.  The connecting flight was delayed as well. It appears the bad weather was making the trip difficult, but was on my side.  We left Atlanta about 9:30 so touchdown in San Francisco was just after midnight.  Thankfully I drove to the airport so got home about 1:30 that morning (4:30a with jet lag).  I’d not gone to bed yet and well, it was already staring to be a long day.  What I didn’t know at the time is that weather system caused much havoc over the east coast in the days that followed.  I was lucky to get out when I did.

Things were actually pretty smooth for Thursday.  We only had 250 or so miles to go and all of it was freeway.  I met John in Los Banos mid afternoon and we headed south.  As boring as the freeway can be, it still amazes me how much more of the world one experiences on a bike vs being in a car.  The car has the advantage of sealing it’s occupants away from their environment.  The climate is controlled, the wind is gone, the smells are gone, the sound is mostly gone, and the sights are very much framed by the windows.  All of these are very much part of the experience in riding.  Riding down we were tossed about by the wind a bit and the smells near Coalinga were horrible.  Coalinga is a big cattle town and all the smells that go on with large ranching operations blow onto Interstate 5.  That being said, this area is a very different California than the part I’m from.  It’s nice to see the change as the miles go by quickly and before you know it the 150ish miles down the freeway are over.

A number of the staff at camp over the years have been from the Central Valley.  Those from Fresno and Bakersfield would often poke fun at one another about who’s town was “better.”  I’d been to Fresno a number of times but have spent very little time in Bakersfield.  To the outsider the towns pretty much look a lot alike.  There was no clear winner for me.  It seems like a Ford vs Chevy debate to me.  After dinner we hopped on the bikes to head back to the hotel and on the way we stopped for gas.  I reached into my Aerostich and felt my wallet missing.  The feeling of oh crap, oh crap, oh crap filled me.  Did I leave it on the seat?  Is it somewhere on the highway?  I knew I had it at dinner but where could it have been.  John and I went back to the restaurant.  No luck.  We started looking around the parking lot.  No luck.  Then about 10 minutes later this guy comes up to me and asks me what kind of car I drive.  I reply and he lets me know that he has my wallet.  It was in the parking lot so I’m thinking it fell off of my seat when I leaned the bike over.  Phew….  I offered the cash that I had but he wouldn’t take any reward.

Wow… It’s nice to know there are still good people in the world.

Categories: Central Valley

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