Hard to believe it was only 3 weeks ago that I was in Texas. It was there that I dropped the bike at the gas station, and because it was so hot, I was wearing my runners, not my boots. My foot is still not quite right so, under pressure from Natasha and Cam, I went to a drop-in clinic to have it looked at. I explained what happened, and here is what my doctor prescribed:
Here is a Victory Vegas.
Yes, the doctor is a motorcyclist. She rides a Honda Aero. The other good news is that I have is a tendon injury. Since there was no bruising, it cannot be a break or fracture. More rest is in order.
I would love to fill this prescription. As you can see, I have now completely worn my bike out:
But when I do get a new bike, it won’t be an American-made Victory. Or a Harley. I’ll stick with Japanese bikes, thanks. Or maybe I’ll consider a BMW. But Harley’s are notoriously in need of constant mechanical attention. When I told a Harley rider I met here at the drive-through tree
that the only repair I had on the road was replacing my chain and sprockets, and that that was because of my own neglect, her jaw just about fell to her gas tank. Besides, the whole ‘Harley’ thing is just too much for me. I can’t honestly say I know much about Victory Motorcycles, but I know I can count on my Honda.
I like that doctor, and I like my diagnosis. On Tuesday Cam and I leave for 3 weeks at the cabin on Mudge Island. No bike, no runners, just books, deer and clam digging on the beach.
Friday I left Newport, Oregon at 9am. I arrived at Martha Shelley’s in Portland just after 12 noon and we had a great discussion over some tasty vegan wraps at a neighbourhood cafe. With the coast now well behind me, there was only one place left to go. And as Dorothy says, there’s no place like it.
I arrived home last night at around 10:30pm. I have so much more to say, but am looking forward to some r&r for the next few days. To mark the end of this incredibly satisfying, super-fantastic journey, I present you with some extant footage from the beautiful state of Georgia. Enjoy.
Just how lucky can one person be?
The last time I rode the 1 and 101 along the Pacific coast my daughter Natasha was on the back of the bike. It was no small deal. I gave up my first bike when I was 19 because I was pregnant. I imagined a day when I and the child I was yet to meet would ride together. It took a long time to fulfill that dream, and our trip did not follow the east-west route I had once imagined, but a long-ish trip did finally happen and it was a fantastic journey.
One thing that helped make it fantastic was the weather. But for a short moment of intense mist we had sunshine all the way from Vancouver to the California redwoods and back,. We were truly blessed.
Hoping for a repeat performance was silly, so when I left San Fran in a fog so thick that I could not have told you I was crossing a bridge when I traversed the Golden Gate, I could not really complain. I struggled through that fog for two hours of hair-pin turns as I rode the number 1 northward.
It was cold, but I was riding slower than I had from LA to SF, and I had an extra layer of clothing on, so, it was bearable. Nevertheless it was tempting to skip the number 1 altogether and go inland where it was sure to be warmer. I resisted, and it payed off… eventually.
By noon I had clear skies and ideal riding conditions which lasted for the rest of the day. It is much cooler than the south: no cooling jacket necessary here! but the riding was fine and I was happy.
I think my restaurant instincts are way better than my gaydar ever was. I pulled over at Egghead’s Restaurant in Fort Bragg, CA which turned out to be considerably more expensive than I expected from the modest exterior and interior, but that’s because there is no modesty in the ingredients. I had a crab sandwich that made me think differently about crab. (Forgot to take a pic) Freshly caught by local fisher people, it was soft, creamy, and not a bit watery or chewy as crab (or is that ‘king crab I am eating?) often can be. The bread was perfectly grilled, and the mayo barely there. Perfection!
From there I rode the Avenue of Giants, a 31 mile stretch of road that goes through the old growth redwood forest. No pics, I tried to lash my camera to my pack and shoot it on video, but it didn’t work out.
I made it all the way to Eureka, CA and pulled into a cheap motel where I met this amazing dog, Ramone, and his owner, Theresa:
We were both thrilled to meet another woman riding solo and decided to have breakfast together the next day.
I got a recommendation for Renata’s Crepes in Arcata, the next small town north of Eureka. I had savory, Theresa sweet. Delicious.
Theresa is from Seattle. 50 years old, she’s been riding for a year and is damn proud of it. She has three kids, Ramone, and manages an apartment building, which has got to be easier than her previous job as a guard in a maximum security prison for women. Her bike, in case you are wondering, is much bigger than mine.
We rode together to Crescent City, then she went inland and I stayed on the coast.
At around 2 I stopped on the sand dunes to eat last night’s leftovers for lunch, and at 5 I pulled in at a McDonald’s to have a fruit smoothie and do some google mapping. A very friendly local in his 70s or 80s asked about my trip, and when I told him how long I had been on the road, he asked, “Where’s hubby?”
“At home,” I said.
“I’d never allow that,” he replied.
“And that,” I said, “is why I married him and not you.” We both had a good laugh.
Tonight I am in Newport. I have a motel room by the beach, and indulged in a Laphroig with my reconstructed shepherd’s pie at a local pub. I definitely recommend the chocolate brandy bread pudding, with Earl Grey tea.
Tomorrow, Portland and my last interview.
Hey San Francisco, I’ve met you twice before but you are much more fun when shared with another person.
Cam arrived just a couple of hours after I did, and since it was quite late we turned in for the night pretty quickly. We stayed in Marina, which is right near Golden Gate Bridge, and from the roof of the apartment building we had a great view of Alcatraz. Walking though the neighbourhood the next day it was clear that an awful lot of people had a great view of Alcatraz for all those years it was operating as a prison. Weird. Disconcerting. Or perhaps for some, reassuring? Creepy.
Saturday morning we just hung around the apartment and when we got hungry enough we went to the Mission District and did a little sight-seeing, window shopping and delicious pastry-tasting before meeting up with two friends of mine, Judy and Dorrie, who I met some years ago in Dublin at a Lesbian Lives conference. They took us to Dosa on Valencia for dinner — fantastic! — and then to see Marga Gomez’s NOT GETTING ANY YOUNGER at the Marsh. And after that, we all went for an ice cream.
It was a great way to start off our four days together in the windy city. No, wait, that’s Chicago. But it sure was windy. And foggy. And cold. Brrr. Still, we ate ice cream. Nothing wrong with that.
Day two began with a trip to the post office and a skip across the street to the farmer’s market where we got some delicious lobster bisque soup. This lovely man gave us a vichyssois soup as well, for free, just for the heck of it. Nice.
With lunch in hand we headed to Golden Gate Park and in particular, the Japanese Gardens.
There we enjoyed tea and sweets, and later wandered through the AIDS memorial garden quite by accident, but it was a nice accident.
My foot was pretty sore so we just headed home after that. We cooked up some salmon back at our airbnb apartment. More on the apartment later.
Day three we went up the Coit Tower and then walked through Chinatown. We got some terrific take-out for dinner.
Day four I met up with Allison Koury in Little Italy for coffee. Allison is a close friend of Dorothy Fairbairn, a woman I interviewed some time ago, and who is currently featured on the A LOT web site. After that, I went to get a new rear-view mirror for my bike. When I found out there was a bike shop owned and operated by a female mechanic, I just had to go. Unfortunately the owner was not there, but I did get a new, if somewhat different, mirror (look closely at the next photo).
I returned home and Cam and I headed out for the SFMOMA but with only an hour to see the exhibit of avant-garde art collected by Gertrude and the other Steins, at a cost of $25 each, we decided to skip it and head straight to the Castro where we were meeting a friend at 4. We checked out the GLBT museum first,
After giving us a walking tour of her part of the Mission ‘hood, we went to her and her partner’s place for dinner. Her partner is also named Rebecca.
We, too, had ice cream for dessert, but I didn’t get a pic that time. I did take one of the two R’s and Cam, but they have red-eye and the “fix” option makes them look like mice. Sorry about that.
It was a pretty fun four days, but I think we needed five. Or six maybe.
Coming into L.A. and turning northward has changed everything. The lowlands that began in South Carolina continued to define the landscape through to Texas. Once I entered Texas the humid air, which was filled with the scent of eucalyptus, dried out as did the land. Stretches of boggy water and stands of spanish moss-covered oaks were replaced with cacti and rocky, desert-like terrain. Mostly the air smelled and felt like a sauna, but at one time it smelled like a freshly-made iron-on t-shirt, and another, my late Aunt Lorraine’s poodle Ragshaw. In Arizona, the orange rocks scattered across the landscape gathered themselves together to form mountains. I only became aware of the higher elevation when the road approached LA and suddenly, without warning, the mountains fell away and the highway descended into a valley of lush green agriculture. The southern leg of my trip ended in an instant.
The turn westward was the most anticipated part of my journey. I love the west coast. A better writer than I could describe its extraordinary beauty well, I am sure, but it still is a place that everyone should experience themselves, in a convertible if you must take a car, but bicycles and motorcycles are made for just this kind of place. Four years ago I traveled highway 1, which hugs the Pacific coastline, with Natasha on the back of the bike. It was her first trip with me. I had just submitted my final book manuscript to UTP, and we set out to go from Vancouver to the California Redwoods. We made it, too.
The ride from LA to San Fran was further south than I had been before and Big Sur, the stretch of coastal road just before San Fran, is supposed to the the very best stretch along the entire coast. I was so excited, my cheeks hurt from grinning.
The weather, however, did a lot to dampen my enthusiasm. I stopped in the town of Los Alamos for a fantastic lunch,
and immediately after hit a wall of cloud that drove the temperature down, down, down.
I got off the bike and put on my fuller leather gloves. I got off the bike and put on the quilt under-jacket I wear in fall and winter. I got off the bike and dug around in my bag for a scarf. And still I was cold.
All in all, though, the ride was torturous.
When I finally got into San Fran, I was tired and more than a little cranky. My foot was sore, my head and legs were freezing, and I was hungry. Into the city and the 4-lane freeway suddenly divided into two. I was in the wrong lane and forced onto a freeway I did not want to be on. I did not have a city map with me, just the written directions to our airbnb apartment. I decided to try and figure it out on my own, and came awfully close, but ended up stopping at a jewellery shop in Little Italy where the clerk happily google mapped it out for me. It’s just 20 minutes from here, she said reassuringly.
What she didn’t tell me is that part of the journey would take me up one of those famously steep San Francisco hills. I sat at the bottom, assessing my own physical state and my riding skills. The bike was heavy and I was tired. It was getting too dark to think about finding an alternative route, and I assumed that there was no getting around a hill like this, anyhow.
San Fran’s hill streets rise up sharply then flatten out at the intersection. There were three intersections between me and the top of the hill.
Each segment of the hill became progressively steeper. I decided that the roads were too steep and I was too tired to manage the bike on the incline, and that I would pull into the intersection, onto the flat terrain, and stop in the pedestrian crossing area (and hope for no pedestrians). That worked like a dream for the first two sections. At the top of the final section, the car in front of me was stopped and was not advancing. I could hear that there was something going on, and needed to come up with an alternate plan fast.
I managed to squeeze between the parked car on the right and the stopped car in front of me, and to pull into the intersection on the stopped car’s right side. Whew! I made it! I look around to see what was going on, and they were shooting a film. All eyes were on a San Francisco trolley car which was filled with dress-up party revellers dancing and shouting. The cop who was directing traffic was clearly enjoying the scene. He smiled at me and cleared me to pull a right out of the intersection. Away I went.
It is as hard to describe the heart-stopping experience of surviving the ride up Lombard Street after a long, cold day as it is to describe the breath-taking beauty of the Pacific Ocean as it laps up along the west coast of North America. I would rather the day had been warmer, and that I could have avoided Lombard Street altogether, but I would never trade the bike for a car. Not ever.
I test drove the foot today and everything seems to be in order. Riding was different, though. It may just have been because I was riding in L.A., which is not any worse than anywhere else for driver behavior, but it is the worst city I’ve ridden in because it takes so freakin’ long to get anywhere. The city is huge, and you never get though more than one light in a three block stretch. Today I spent 4 hours in traffic riding a total of 122 kilometers.
But more than the heavy traffic and the red lights is the unnerving experience of having dropped the bike. Suddenly nothing seems to run as smoothly, everything seems slightly off.
Well, enough of that. Here is a couple of pics from Bobbi’s 73rd birthday, which was celebrated July 5th in Tucson.
Earlier that day Liz took me to UA to see the Center from Creative Photography (closed fom renovations), the State Museum, which principally showcased the native tribes of the sourhwest, and the Women’s Plaza of Honor, a very remarkable project that Liz helped lead.
And here I am standing in the center of the first of three defined areas in the walkway.
The next morning I left for LA to stay with my old Oldum Street neighbours Liz Carr and musician Dave Stephens who, even though they just moved into new digs, cleared a spot for me and made me feel right at home.
Next, I interviewed Bishop Robert Mary Clement about his role in performing holy unions in the 1970s
We had a great time taking a short ride on the bike, stopping for lunch and filling each other in on our lives since we were 14. I hope we stay in touch for a long time to come.
Tomorrow, San Francisco and four long, slow days with Cameron. Happy.
Palm Beach City, Florida