Part 3- a Casanova and a Kawasaki in Californiafeature
(We were last in Boulder, with a pizza and a beer...)
STAGE 5: Boulder, CO to Salina, UT
I crossed Colorado on I-70 after taking some mountain trails. It was cold at this point but the Rockies were so impressive and majestic, that I forgot my half frozen feet. I got as high as 11,000On drugs, maybe. Where is there a road that high? The highest point in the continental U.S. is 14,490.mjg; there was snow on the ground.
I-70 runs along the Colorado River Valley. Scenically speaking, this stretch was by far the highlight of the trip.
A few miles out of Grand Junction, CO, I read a sign which said:"NO SERVICES FOR 110 MILES AFTER NEXT EXIT." This equated to three problems: 1) Unless I found an alternative gas tank I would probably run out of gas. 2) It was getting late (and dark.) 3) I still had made no plans for that evening.
I took the last `survival' exit. It went 3 miles into the desert to a small city full of gas stations and motels. I fueled the tank up to the brim. I then went inside the owner's kiosk to try and borrow a container which would hold some gas to carry in my backpack.
It was on my way inside that I noticed a heavily laden Renault Alliance with Massachusetts license plates. For some reason I felt devious approaching the drivers in an attempt to meet them. But then again I was in Utah, and what had I to lose but everything? (I remembered a T-shirt which said Don't drink, don't smoke, Don't have sex, eat Granola and maybe someday you'll end up in Utah.)
The occupants were four girls from Yale who were on a drive-away bound for San Francisco. After a brief introduction we discovered we had some mutual friends at Yale, in so doing creating a nomad's bond. We left, with the intent of meeting later on the road.
Route 70 was so desolate that I kept thinking to myself that if I was ever to meet an alien this would be the place. Vehicles were passing in the opposite lane at the rate of one every 15 minutes. At one point when I stopped to rest, upon taking my helmet off there wasn't a sound to be heard. I wondered what would happen if a person located in the acoustic epicentre of Studio 54 were beamed to my present location. I suppose he'd probably commit suicide.
I met the girls from Yale at the end of the 110 mile stretch in Salina, Utah. The five of us ended up sharing a single room in a casual but clean motel for an all time low rate of $5 per person. Of course, the owners thought that only two girls had checked in. It was remarkable to be with total strangers and yet at such close quarters, feeling so comfortable and mutually unintruding.I suppose this was really the theme of the whole trip; to be able to be comfortable with strangers on uncommon ground.
STAGE 6: Salina, UT to Las Vegas, NV
The next morning, after a hearty breakfast at the local diner we left for our separate ways as I was bound South for LA and they were bound North for San Francisco. We exchanged addresses and promised to keep in touch.
It was now my 8th day on the road: destinastion, Las Vegas. I figured there would be no way I could haul it all the way to LA. As temperatures rose above 100, I began to worry about the bike over-heating. I slowed down dramatically as cars kept appearing on the shoulder of Route 15; their hoods up, their cussing owners head-down by the steaming radiators. By stopping every half an hour to give the bike a little rest, I made it to Vegas.
I arrived at 3pm. On the outskirts of the city I noticed extensive settlements of trailer houses. Later, I discovered they were brothels set up in the periphery due to assiduous law enforcement in the city. Thank God I didn't even try to stay there!
Everything in the city looked extremely seedy and greasy in the intense heat. I had my first mirage. Only a pool could restore my consciousness.
In trying to get in at Wet and Wild, I decided that $11 for a mere dip in the water was really a bit much.
Instead, I opted for The Las Vegas Hilton. I parked my bike in the lot and walked into the main lobby. The flashing lights and electronic ringing of the slot machines had already began to nauseate me. I rushed to the bell captain, checked in my army jacket, helmet and back-packs, and clad in my overalls I proceeded upstairs to the pool deck.
Scores of beautiful women with waterproof make-up and mixed drinks, salesmen with tanned pot bellies and thick gold chains, and the usual groupies aspiring to the decadent life of the nouveau riche were sporting themselves by the poolside. Some of them attempted to waft an air of celebrity status, failing miserably. The only person I saw that looked like an entertainer was Bill Cosby (and he is an entertainer).
And then there was me; freeloading in the underworld's pecuniary laundromat.
I jumped into the pool and experienced multiple gratifications as the cool water collided with every square inch of my skin. (AAAAhhh! I shouted in ecstasy, gulping several gallons of water.)
I was very, very happy and only 275 miles away from Los Angeles. If I could last one night in Vegas I would more than likely finish one of the most amazing trips of my life.
But where in Vegas? The pool closed at six. I showered and slipped into a pair of jeans and headed for the lobby. It was here that while I sat in absolute bewilderment of the gambling industry, I heard an elderly group of people speaking Italian.
I rapidly approached them and after a brief introduction in my native tongue, I explained my predicament. Here I was trapped in this "Capitalistic Jungle," a poor, Italian student from MIT, who had spent the last nine days driving a motorcycle cross-country to deliver it to a friend in California. Furthermore, I was scared of the cheaper parts of town.
My student status and the semantic connection undoubtedly helped, but these people were not about to take a stranger into their room, as I had hoped.
They were however very warm and they referred me to their tour guide. Mrs. Anna, unlike in The King and I, was an Italian woman who had married an American. Now she lived in Vegas working as a tourist guide for Italian package tours.
She explained, that she did not think I was a run-away criminal or something along those lines, but still she couldn't really take me into her house. I respected her honesty and just when I thought I had to go to a seedy motel she invited me to follow the tour for the evening.
I got on the bus. The scheduled events were a buffet dinner and a tour of Las Vegas by night. I met practically the whole group as we toured the city of blinding lights, marriage bureaux and casinos. All thirty-five tourists were very curious to discover who the new addition to the party was.
By the end of the night Anna had arranged for me to sleep with the bus driver a corpulent woman from California. "My problems are over," or so I thought. After wishing everyone goodnight, I went upstairs to my room at the Las Vegas Hilton, amongst the viveurs, the fast-laners, the tacky people who won the jackpot.
I insisted on sleeping on the floor (despite my back) but she said that if I could behave like a civilized person, there would be plenty of room in the king size bed. I assured her that she really had nothing to worry about. I had never slept with a bus driver in a hotel room yet it felt like the obvious thing to do. I was tired, and the fragrant, cool sheets were ever so appealing.
STAGE 7: Las Vegas, NV to Los Angeles, CA
And on the tenth day I reached Los Angeles.
The arrival through the mountains was spectacular but blemished by the smog, which however persisted only as far West LA. In Westwood and Beverly Hills the sun was shining. Maybe the rich pay an anti-pollution tax to have their own private air smog-free.
I delivered the motorbike to my friend in La Jolla who was amazed by its condition. The bike looked better than when he gave it to me.
Addicted to roads, I ended my Odyssey with a month in the city of the freeway where your average traffic light has two Porsches, a BMW, a DeLorean, two Ferraris (one red, one black) and a GM Thunderbird designed by Fila. A culture with a lot of girls with highlights and sunglasses in their hair running around in Rabbit convertibles, the occasional celebrity walking around, but most importantly a place where the local news devotes 10 minutes of its half an hour air time to the latest update on beach conditions.
But I loved the beaches: there's nothing like body-surfing in 5 ft waves of 80 degree water. Except for maybe seeing all the "healthy" granolites, strutting their Nautilus hybrids, covered only by minimal aquatic gear.
The flight back on Eastern's Moonlight Special should have been renamed The Return of The Living Dead. For $118 one-way you, too, can fly on a cargo plane. Hey! I'll take my motorcycle any day. (I hear some kid out there has written a book called Zen, and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I ought to read it someday, I guess.)