The News Post:
I laughed out loud when I crossed the California border. Any normal roadmap will tell you that it’s just over 1400 miles from Dallas to Los Angles. Piloting the big Valkyrie motorcycle out of Nevada and into the California high desert I’d glanced at the odometer and realized I’d run over 5000 miles so far on this trip. I was still over 200 miles out of the city. “My way” was definitely not the short way. Oh well, I never could color inside the lines either.
I’d expected to be a bit intimidated by the Los Angles freeways. The truth was that after commuting in Dallas traffic, I fit right in. There are some key differences though. One is that everybody there calls the roads “the” and then a number. Where we would say, “LBJ,” or perhaps, “635,” they would call their big loop “the 405”. “The 405” is not really a loop, but come to think about it, neither is LBJ.
Another difference is that Los Angles traffic is on a much grander scale—“the 405” is very much like LBJ, except about 10 times longer. It’s also much more enthusiastic. As a motorcyclist I’m used to maintaining a heightened sense of diligence. Cage drivers (“cage” is motorcyclist’s slang for “car” or “truck”) tend to not see us, changing lanes on top of us, pulling out in front of us and so on. In Dallas, it’s usually accidental, the cage driver waving an apology if they see us at all. In Los Angles, it’s a contest. Any space more than 5 feet long is fair game for a mass merge, and double points for everybody if more than one car makes it in the hole. They actually have hills here too, so imagine the extra excitement of all of that on an 8% grade. I’m pretty sure you’re penalized for any speed under 80mph too. I was having a blast.
Successfully navigating the city, I met my host (another friend in a far away place) and made myself at home. The next two days were spent meeting people, sightseeing, and riding like banshees through the LA traffic. I swear that wasn’t me screaming in terror.
I was also prepping the bike for the rest of the trip. I changed the oil, repaired the leaking fork seal, and washed off some of the bugs that I’d killed over the last 5000 miles. There were rather a lot of them.
While waiting for parts to repair the fork seal, my friend and I had ridden up to the Reagan Presidential Library to kill some time. It was a much more emotional trip than I had expected. Reagan’s tomb set the somber mood and reminded me of the terrible disease that took his life, but the centerpiece was a section of the Berlin Wall. It starkly reminded me that whether we like them or not, our leaders can do great things. I vividly recall watching the news when he made what I consider to be his greatest speech.
Yes, I was watching that day in 1987, and I remembered.
I looked at the chunk of concrete and steel, thinking of the significance of it to the families, the city, and the world divided, and could still hear him say the words, “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
It moved me to tears the first time too. Ur…well…I mean it would have…if big, burly bikers could be moved to tears. Yah.
A chunk of the Berlin wall at the Reagan Library
The next stop was Yosemite, over 300 miles to the north.
My Blog Post:
Just a quick update...
I'm in Los Angles, I've been riding these hills and freeways like I own them. I'm headed for Yosemite tomorrow.
Broke some stuff in New Mexico. Got it fixed here. Good to go!
Index Introduction Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Afterword