Day 12
June 15th, 2007                                                                                                     
Oceanside,  Hotel California   

The marine fog rolled in off the water, and seeped through Oceanside like that green mist in the old Charlton Heston movie, "The Ten Commandments."  Jerrol looked wistfully at my loaded bike, as I prepared for the ride back east.  "Man, I wish I was riding out with ya."  "I know bro, that'd be a blast, me and YOU loose on a cross country ride??!!  Eyya!"  He ran his hand over my handlebar as the 1300 idled up.
​Jerrol Olson, American Hero.  Wounded in Iraq, he is on 
the mend and hopes to ride again soon.  He longed and 
wished to ride out with me on this day.

I thanked him for having me, said good bye, and followed the Zumo toward SR 76.  I'm running auto route to SR 74, a gem of a road that leads back over the mountains to the desert.

My goal for today is the Phoenix area, not all that far, about 350 miles, but 200 of it on I-10 across the boiling hot Mojave.  I just needed to get far enough east to position myself to turn north the next day for Colorado.  If I stick to my plan I won't have any day longer than 400 for the ride back east.

A guy on a scooter set the pace on 76 as I rode for a route change onto I-15 north. "Dayum what kind of scooter is that? " as we cruised along at 65 mph.  I pulled off at a con store near the interstate to top off the tank.  I swiped my card, and stuck the nozzle in, refusing to notice the price per gallon.  "Doesn't matter anyway, I gotta have it."  The joker before me pumped 62 dollars of it into something.

After gassing up, I went to I-15 for a brief ride north.  I passed 2 Brit bikes out for a day ride.  "Probably heading over to 74 to do some leaning."  The air was cool, but the fog was breaking off.

At 7:20am I left I-15 near Temecula, and turned east for home.  Like years past, I noted the time and place when I make the definitive turn for Alabama.  Outside of a couple of days in Colorado with Uncle Phil, I'll be riding a eastward tack for the next 2500 miles.

Motorists seem to be even more myopic on Saturdays.  I guess after working all week they're still in some kind of zone.  The highway was full of soccer teams on their way to play somewhere, guys towing boats, and pick ups loaded with furniture.  I only worked a regular job a few years in my life time, one that gave only weekends off.  Trying to get everything done on a Saturday  sucks.  At the fire department even if I worked Saturdays, I had 4 other off days to run errands.

I picked up SR 371 and followed it to 74 and went up into the Santa Rosa Mountains.  The sun was out now and the day was warm and bright.  The mountains blocked the fog from drifting east.
​The desert sun glimmers in the screen of the 1300.  Somewhere
on SR 74.

The highway moved high in elevation and grew dizzying curvy.   Up I climbed leaning the 1300 over and over.  Debris littered the inside track so I had to shade over more then I liked.  The landscaped changed to sage brush and sand as the desert grew closer, and even though I was high in elevation the temps were climbing.
​A sample of the great riding on SR 74.
I carved a series of S turns and stopped for a few pictures.  SR 74 is a great road, the surface is mostly good, and the curves outstanding.  After a steep climb I arrived at the crest and began the decent down to Palm Desert, a large desert city near I-10.
​"began the decent down to Palm Desert"
I was fortunate all the traffic was west bound.  "I guess all these folks are escaping the desert today and going to the beach."  The road seemed to be unwinding as I carved turns all the way down.  Some of the twists were very long.  I recall a left hander that kept on and on, and on, seemed I was sideways for 5 minutes, looking for the exit point that never came.  

West bound riders, most of them Harley's, waved at me.  I guess they were seeing so few east bound riders they thought me a oddity.

I could see the green of the city down below and kept riding and leaning down.  Eventually the road straightened, the last few miles were a gradual downhill run, instead of the corkscrew descent of the last 10 miles.

Riding down to the desert floor the temp soared, at 1000 feet it was 90 degrees.  

Arriving at Palm Desert my goal was to stop at the first good con store to come into view.  Like most desert cities, this place is only here because of the intricate aqueducts funneling water from the Colorado Plateau.  Sometimes I wonder if its correct to bend nature the way we do, to turn desert into fertile green farmland.  
As y'all probably know, I have a thing about stopping at the store.  When I was boy we didn't travel very much, occasional trip to Alabama from Virginia, and once a year to NYC to see my dads people.  I had a uncle that lived 25 or 30 miles out in the country away from us, we considered that a long ride.

Funny, a trip to Alabama from Virginia was a big deal back then, now I do that and think no more of it then riding to the next county.

In the early 60a there were no interstates to Alabama-all 2 lane federal and state highways.  Really not that bad, because there were half the cars we have now, maybe even less.  The trip took 24-30 hours, my dad drove straight through.  We were not going to stop in a motel (no money for that) and we ate sandwiches packed from home, so we seldom ate in a cafe.  It was a long ride.  I'd pass the cafes with cars out front along the way, and wonder what it was like.  We were not poor by any means, we did ok, and my upbringing taught me to appreciate all things, no matter how small.  I love where I come from, it made me who I am.  So many kids today take things for granted.  It is not their fault, America is a rich place, and parents always want their kids to have it better then they did.

Still I enjoyed trips, and I often sat in the back seat pretending we were going to California to see Disneyland, and I was going to get plenty of cokes and hamburgers to eat, and we were going to stop often for snacks.  I watched Disney on Sunday nights and saw families at Disneyland on vacation, and wondered if it was all real.
When I was 5 we stopped at Rock City in Chattanooga, my brother and I talked about that for years, I kid you not.  We carried around the brochure (the kind you get in rest stops) till it became so torn and weathered it fell apart.
The rare times my dad let us out of the car at gas stops, we were besides ourselves.  I'd get a Pepsi and cheese crackers and think it was the greatest thing.  I'd sip on it and eat while going down the road.  Back then there were no mega con stores with 24 pumps, glass and chrome, and get everything you need here.

So that is why I like to stop at the store, because I CAN.  Debbie and I can get in the car and drive to the beach, and I stop at least twice in the 160 miles.  We can go to the movies and I'll stop at the store a few blocks from the house.  "Watcha doin?"  "Gettin something to drink."  "But we have stuff at home."  "Yeah, but it ain't like stopping at the store."

My son is the same way.  I use to push him to the corner store in his stroller, later we moved to pulling him in the wagon, then he pedaled his tricycle, from there it was the electric car thing, then a bicycle and all the way to a vehicle.  Now, 27 years old, he doesn't start any drive without stopping at the store.  He told me at his old apartment complex he use to walk to the nearby con store every night at 9pm.  His neighbors would shout down to him, "hey pick me up one."

So yes, I like stopping at the store and this AM/PM store in the desert was a good one.  I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and proceeded to mind my own business.  It was 90+ in the shade.

Two Anglo high school boys pulled in and went inside.  They had their pants hanging down, and one had something spiked on his left eyebrow. The stereo was so loud it vibrated the apron.  They came out with a bag of stuff and as they were getting in the car-

"Hey! what's the deal with the pants hanging down?"

'No deal, just can't keep em up"

"well it looks like crap, I don't care nuttin about seein y'alls boxers"

"Well don't look"

"well that's kinda hard to do when ya walk right by me"

"Well that's just how it is"

"Lemme give ya piece of enlightenment, I know y'all probably hate rules, but everywhere you go in life is gonna have rules, you're NOT gonna be able to run around doin as ya please, been ME, I'd never let ya in the store, and if one of y'all EVER try to date to one of my nieces, I'm gonna hurt ya feelings.  Ain't nobody coming to pick her up with their pants hanging down.  They might put up with it in the school y'all come from, cause they don't wanna deal with momma and daddy, but out here in the real world, the boss ain't gonna put up with pants hanging down, purple hair, or whatever."

"hummbbbtttt" as they got in the car and left.

I called my son to check on his preparation for moving to Mobile.  "So ya ready to go?"  "Yeah I gotta be on the job Monday, I'm excited.  When will you be home?"  "Week from tomorrow."

A text came in from Jerrol, "Desert Rat Off Road, at this address has a PIAA light.  Less then 2 miles from from I-17 and on your way.  Ask for Darlene."  I put the address in the Zumo and got back on the road, I auto routed to the location.  Now that's service.

"I'll stop for lunch in Blythe, and make one other stop later.  I think I'll be ok crossing the desert, but I won't take it too lightly."

When break time was over I was back on the road, with the 1300 going up the entrance ramp on I-10 east, a never ending sun baked highway to Jacksonville, Florida.     
I've crossed this section of the desert several times over the years.  There is no secret to success, if you don't' do well in hot weather, avoid it.

I went by Joshua Tree National Park,  "I really need to stop and see that one of these days."  I don't really have a good reason for failing to do that, other I just don't think it interesting enough.  I'm probably wrong about that.
I-10 is a barren, scorched place, full of sage brush, and sand.  Within a few miles the temp was 110.  I couldn't see a living thing outside of the cars I was whizzing past.  Protected from the intense sun by my riding gear, most probably thought I was odd, but it is the only way to ride the desert.  Tank tops, and shorts make my arms and legs sting just thinking about it.  But I never see other riders out here anyway, and today would be no different.

The 1300 is hotter then most.  The blast of heat from the roadway made its way past the already hot motor and I could feel it.  There is no relief from the passing wind, it is already super heated from the 115 air temp.  A rider with a tall windscreen that can't be adjusted is going to get cooked on a ride like today, but the 1300's screen can be trimmed full down and out of the way like a sport bike's, and I was able to circulate air through the open vents of the Roadcrafter.

A long uphill came into view and a sign suggested turning the AC off on the long climb.  No one is going to do that, they'll overheat the car before being hot themselves.  Knowing that, the state posts water stations every half mile or so on the long climb into Arizona.  Not to worry on the 1300 though, -at 90 mph, fully loaded, 115 degrees, and running uphill, the graph never moved off normal operating temp.  

I ate lunch in a MikeyD's in the blast furnace known as Blythe.  The interstate exit had lots of options and all of them were busy, so I took the easy way.  "Seems I've been eating in McDonalds alot this trip."  Again I ordered the 2 little burgers and a cookie.  Four Brits were next to me and ordered hot tea.  "Dang, y'all gonna drink tea on a day like today?"  "Yes, we're from England and we like tea."  "Yeah, y'all do, spent some time there."

A bus load of kids on some kind of trip came in while I was eating.  "Dang, glad to get ahead of THAT crowd."  They bogged down the lines big time.

Back out in the parking lot I was gearing back up when a white car came in.  The driver was Anglo, with 2 black boys in the back seat, about 8 and 5 years old.  They jumped out and went ahead, while the man delayed a second.  He took a 5th of whiskey, poured some in a Pespi bottle, gave it slight mix, and hit it 3 times. Then put it back under the seat, and left the bottle in the console.  I witnessed the whole thing.  After he went inside I walked to the rear to note the tag-Idaho.

"Man, I need to call somebody about this."  I stood around debating on what to do.  I'm on a tour and don't need the hassle of a controversy.  I didn't even know if a law had been broken.  Against my better judgment, I left.  I went down the street and topped off the tank, and proceeded to Phoenix.

But my mind would not rest.  "What is a white guy from Idaho, doing in Arizona, with 2 young black kids?  There ain't 10 black guys in the whole state, and he has 2 of them?  And why is he drinking at 12 in the afternoon?  What if he gets drunk, kills those boys or runs over someone like me?  Now, he might have answers to ALL those questions, but I'd like to hear them.  By the time I processed all that info I was near the Quartsize exit.  I took it because I was pretty sure I could cop a signal.  I pulled to a truck stop and called 911.

Not sure if I got the state trooper office or the sheriffs department.

"911, state your emergency"

"no emergency, but need to pass something on"

"ok go ahead" the lady responded.

"look here I just left the Mcdonalds in Blythe 20 minutes ago, and noticed a white car, Idaho plates, south side of the parking lot.  The driver mixed a drink in the car, and took several hits.  He's a white guy, mid 30s, and has 2 young black boys with him.  Now I don't much, but what is a white guy from Idaho doing with 2 young black kids in Arizona?  Vacation?  Idaho is a long way north of here, and I-10 runs east-west, so prolly not on the way home."

"Any luggage in the car?  Mother or female close by?"

"no, and none that I could see, and the way the car was sitting didn't look like much in the trunk either.  Can you pass that on to the Blythe PD, so I can sleep better?  The place was packed, I'm sure he is still there.  Tell them the Pepsi bottle in the console is spiked with whiskey.  I just wanna be sure he ain't doing something with those kids he ain't suppose to."

"Thanks for calling, that does sound odd.  Do you know if they're going east or west?  

No, I didn't see which ramp they came off, but who knows.  He might can explain ALL that, he could even be a stepfather of some kind, but I can tell ya this, the kids were NOT racially mixed.  They did not look like they were under any duress, but that doesn't really mean much does it?"

"No it doesn't."

"Tell the officers the whiskey is under the driver's seat, and to check the Pepsi bottle, in the very least he's drinking and driving.  I'm on a cell phone, if you need my name get it from this number, I need to get going."
"Ok thanks, were getting Blythe on the phone now."

I never heard anything else back, and I still wonder how all that came out.

Riding east I noticed a thick plume of black smoke in the distance.  "Dang something's burning BIG time, I gotta check this out."  I followed the smoke and from the interstate I could see something burning next to a truck repair place.  I went over to it, and by now the fire was HUGE.  Just as I thought, it was tires, maybe a hundred of them.  They burn hot and intensely.  "Going to take ALOT of water to put this out, and there are no hydrants out here.  This is bad."  It looked like a 18 wheeler caught fire and it spread to the stack of tires.  The pile was only 50-70 feet away from the shop.
​Tire Fire in Arizona
I rode around to the front and saw a group of mechanics standing in the parking lot of the 4 bay service center.  "Look here, if y'all got anything inside, now'd be the time to get it out."

"Fire dept is on the way,"  in fact I could hear the sirens in the distance.  "Not gonna matter much, they're not going to have enough water to put this out, and there is no water supply I can see.  They can cool it down but only gonna come back."

A young mechanic with so much metal in his mouth, it looked like a steel trap said, "so how do you know all this?"

" I was a professional firefighter for 26 years.  Whose the boss here today?"

"That'd be me", another said.

"If you wanna win some points with the BIG boss, I'd go in and recover the towers from every computer, I wouldn't worry about the monitors or nuttin else.  You still have a while before the radiate heat fires up the building, but I wouldn't fool around."

"That's a good idea," and he took off.

The volunteer fire trucks were arriving on the scene when I left.  I thought about hanging around but it was hot sitting in riding gear, so I went back to the interstate to continue my ride.

I rode on in the now searing heat to Tonopah, I was getting thirsty so pulled in for a gatorade.  I left the ST under a small shade tree, where the temp gauge read 113.  It was so hot and dry, 2 small song birds, were literally pecking on the pavement trying to get the few drops that had dripped off a AC tube. 
​For those that say the 1300 is too hot to ride, I offer this-
I can ride it across the desert at 113 and don't think anything
about it..

I smiled when I thought, "gonna be even hotter then my last trip through here, I just hope there are no traffic backups in the city."  My thoughts went back to my ride across North Dakota all those many days ago.  How I rode with the vents closed and the screen high, and felt the sweet scented air on my senses.  What a nice ride that was.  But here, in this god forsaken land of terminal heat, and lifeless landscape, I had to push on.  

By 4pm I was in the Western suburbs of Phoenix, and now that I was is in the valley the temp was 115.  Phoenix is located in a valley, and reminds me of a corn kernel in bowl under a heat lamp.  The sun shines on this place like nowhere else.  Little wind, and lots of smog.  I don't care if it IS a DRY heat, 115 is hot.  How folks here live I don't know, nothing like my home of grass so thick and green it actually molds around your feet.  Here in Phoenix, there is no smell of fresh cut grass, burning leaves in fall, or honeysuckle in spring.  There is no rain to bring things to life after a hot and humid summer day.  I miss all those things when I find myself in the desert for a few days.

It had been days since I'd even seen a rain cloud, not since I left Idaho.  I knew Alabama was locked in a drought, and I prayed it would rain soon lest we end up like Phoenix, an artificial island with a little green in a sea of desert sand and rocks.

Traffic grew, but moved steadily as I made the dash into the city.  I zipped along at speed limit plus 10 in the HOV lane.  The GPS directed me to I-17 north, then to a exit I don't remember for the Truck accessory shop where I could find my PIAA light.

About a mile after the exit I made a left turn and few blocks later I was at the Desert Rat Truck center.

"one of y'all talk to a boy earlier about a PIAA 1100 bulb?"

"yeah that would be me", a young lady called out.

"look here baby, I'm here to pick it up"

"I know you're not from around here, and Phoenix is a BIG place, how did you find us?"



The bulb set me back 42 dollars tax and all.

The whole incident from exit and back took less then 15 minutes.  I rode a few more exits and went to the La Quinta Inn at the Greenway exit.  "Looks as good as any."  I pulled to the driveway ending a 398 mile day.  There is no place to camp in this area, and even if there was, putting a tent in a sandbox would not be fun, so I went the motel route.  

The afternoon was still young so after unloading, I wanted to go for a swim in the motel pool.  "Before doing that I need to install the PIAA, but its awful hot in that parking lot."  I didn't want to do it this evening after taking a shower, so I went out to the parking lot and got started.  The sun was still high when I went to work.  Folks, I was burning up out there, but got it on in just a few minutes.  I was soaking wet and hot.  "Now I can take a swim."

I shared the pool with 2 families, and and swam for 30 minutes.  It was nice.  Back at the room I thought about my supper options so went to the Zumo.  A Chillis was located a few miles away.  "I'm not getting the bike back out after I take shower, I'm gonna call a cab."

The shower felt really good, and I listened to the TV as I was getting out.  I called the cab company and told them to shoot a ride my way.  While waiting or the cab I called a few friends and spent sometime with Debbie.  It was getting late in Alabama, she said she was sleepy so we didn't talk long.

My cab ride was uneventful and the food at Chili's was the typical fare.  The only thing was a joined table of 3 families with small kids, they made the place really noisy, and I was across the room.  When they left the place fell eerily quiet.

I was done eating and putting notes in the Axim, so I left Uncle Phil a voice mail I was on schedule and would see him day after tomorrow in Montrose.  My guess was he was in Montana somewhere.

My cab ride back to the motel was more interesting then the first, because the driver was trying to kill us.  I thought I was in NYC.  "Look here, I'm NOT in hurry yanno."  "yah, yah, we slow down 1 minute."  Headline-"AFTER CROSS COUNTRY RIDE, LONG RIDER TAKEN OUT BY LOCAL CAB COMING BACK FROM SUPPER."

After supper and all the excitement, I was back at the motel.  Even though I wanted to, I wasn't able to watch tv, too sleepy.

I put in the address for the Catholic Church in Flagstaff, to time my arrival for the 10 am service.  The Zumo told me it was a 3 hour or so drive time, and it is always close.  "I need to leave here about 6:30am."  I sent the Ironman for 6am and went to bed.

Note- a week after my visit, Jerrol underwent his 10th operation.  They had to fix a steel rod where bone was growing incorrectly.