This morning, December 30th, was spent working in the garage. Little Wing needs some maintenance and I gave him a little checkup. My friends in San Leandro, Chuck and Marilyn, have a beautiful garage and it is like an oasis for a motorcycle who needs some pampering. Turns out the small oil leak, which was just a weep before, is more of spurt. A little poking around, with the help of Chuck and my new friend Jon, and the source was identified. A little research has shown that it is the plug cap seal on the head that needs a replacement. Either it is cracked and worn out or it just needs an adjustment. Either way I orderd a new seal and I will be standing by with some RTV if it is just the way the cap is sealed. It will be 3-5 days before my new plug cap seal, oil filter, and air filter come into the Suzuki dealer that ordered from. In the meantime Little Wing patiently awaits.
It is always nice to get back into a garage again. It is even better when a group of smart people end up in the garage with me. Smart dudes with a mechanical brain. Full of advice and new things I didn’t know. This morning was a good one.
I just took the trip through Big Sur that I didn’t take after Thanksgiving in Monterey due to the potential rainstorms. Instead of taking the ride after Thanksgiving I made my way to Death Valley and then Oceanside without a look back at the coast. Well, that is until the last week when I saw the rains stopping and the coast calling my name; now I’m rewinding the clock. The coast, Montery, San Leandro, and Berkley soon enough. Except I’m doing it slower. I’m enjoying the things I didnt enjoy on the rain run. The weather puts up a good chase, but Little Wing is a worthy adversary (even with the oil issues) and we kept ahead. The cost of such a quick venture were all the beautiful things I didn’t get to see til the last week, and that is ok. Here I am, doing it now, rewinding the clock as the New Year approaches.
The last ninety-six hours have been beautiful and picturesque, but I hardly got a picture of them.
Yesterday, December 29th, I had lunch at Alice’s Restaurant. I ordered biscuits and gravy, it was delicious. A huge portion and one of the most affordable prices on the menu, totally worth it. Alice’s Restaurant has been a dream of mine since I was fifteen, but it was only a pipe dream, wound up in the words of Arlo Guthrie , until I got to Berkley — a little more than a month ago — and learned of the actual existence of such a place.
It was not the same as the 18 minute and 34 secound Alice’s Restaurant Massacree that I remember visiting every Thanksgiving for a decade, but it was close enough. It had the name, it had the food, but it also had bikers. Not many bikers as the temperature was approximately 50° in the mountains Southwest of the bay area. Trees surrounded the area making for chilly hands for any biker without grip warmers. Even so, there were bikers. I was happy to get to see it regardless of the number of fellow riders who were, or were not there. It was a neat experience all together, and a great place to warm my numb fingertips. I bellied up to the bar and ordered a tea.
The bar is the best place to belly when one is a loner at resteraunt that holds some interest. Say you are a lone rider on a motorcycle and you don’t mind chatting with other motorcyclists, well then just slide right on up and leave a stool empty.
My intention was not to chat with other bikers, but it was a nice side affect of empty stool in a full resteraunt. I met a school teacher named Scott by sitting where I did. A Harley rider with black leathers from head to toe. He was fifty something, I would guess, and a fountain of information. Discussion was started when he couldnt get a hold of the busy waiters, it continued after he did and I heard him order the biscuts and gravy, just like myself. I told him what I was up to and he told me how he thought I could make it easier. One of the biggest roadblocks that I have come to find is the revelation that Texas gets cold. The big state is prone to winds and possible snows, something that I thought could be avoided by sticking to the Southeren end, but apparently that isn’t how it works. Texas is a part of the Midwest, and, as we all know, the midwest is a chilly motherf**ker in winter time. Well, anyway, My new friend Scott, had some good news for me. He said that with one really long day of riding I could get through the chilliest bit. Scott was a big proponet of a stiff upper lip and a long, straight, ride through the places that were the most unpleasent. He also gave me some handy advice about what to do in a town where one didn’t want to leave gear strapped to a bike, for example, New Orleans on Mardi Gras. Old school advice from an old school guy was to lock it up at a Greyhound station. Duh. Good advice. Other words of wisdom included places to gas up on the way through some of the longer, more deserty areas. He talked about the best roads and the ones he thought I should avoid. He got out his smartphone and pointed out some of his most favored places of the U.S. and we chatted about his travels. Ain’t nothing better than an old biker to offer some great advice, and it all happened at Alice’s Restaurant.
Just an aside, the best thing about the resteraunt were all the images of handsome men on motorcycles — Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen. Iconic images of some of my favorites. And all I could think was, where are the classy photos of the woman riders? It was cool atmosphere, and I dug it bunches, but that was just a small thought.
The morning of this Alice’s Restaurant Massacree (December 29th) I tried to single handedly perform (actually, not really. I just wanted to eat) I sat and spoke with a fellow biker for about thirty minutes about safety, bike modifications, and rides through South America. Not only was this handsome biker an iconic looking motorcycle rider, he also was a chef, a chocolate maker, and a safety conscious rider. His name was Jay, and his brother was Oliver. Oliver was 24 and Jay was about ten years older. They were holed up in the same room I was in a hostel in Santa Cruz. Breakfast was a shared breakfast made by Jay the chef and his brother, Oliver. It was a beef bacon/steak (steacon as Oliver dubbed it), quinoa, and vegetable dish that tasted like it was prepared by a chef. Tobi — my new German friend — and I pretended to contribute to the creation of the meal, but we were unnecessary cooks in a kitchen filled with chefs. We all shared in the consumption of the mel though, and that was pretty awesome.
How did I end up at a hostel? Let me rewind even further.
I spent the night of the 28th at my first hostel because it was warmer and ten dollars cheaper than the other camping arrangements in Santa Cruz, CA. Anytime a shower is involved I’m happy enough to choose that option. The night before started a little befor 5:00. I walked onto the hostel grounds and was immediately welcomed bu a young man who was also staying at the hostel. His name was Tyler and he was accompanied by his helper dog, Fragel. He had a brain injury which was the cause of a seizure disorder, but that didn’t stop him from freight hopping and hitchhiking around the U.S. He told me the hostel didn’t open its doors til exactly five, and I would have to wait to check in. That sounded good enough, so I sat at the picnic table with him and we chatted. When the doors opened I got in line where I found friendly discussion with another young traveler named Nate. A young Geman named Tobi was not long behind and Tyler, Nate, Tobi, and myself got to talking about where we were from and our own stories, while we waited for the line to catch up with us. It would turn out that Tobi would be staying in my same room, something I found out after unpacking Little Wing and tossing my gear onto the top bunk of one of the three beds. It would be Tobi, Jay, Oliver, a bicyclist named Will, and a quiet older lady who didn’t bother introducing herself despite smiles from me, in the same bunk room as me.
Tobi was a German who was studying ministry in Redding, CA. He was a devout Christian that believed Jesus was the way. Despite the fact that he spoke about this belief he didn’t come off as a prostelytizer, which I respected. He brought it up in the company of new friends when talking about himself, but didn’t force the issue. There was one time where I made the mistake of saying “preach it” and being a German speaker originally, he took this literally. His voice echoed as he loudly spoke the gospel. I wound up laughing so hard that I had trouble shushing him. When he finally quieted I informed him that was just something we say. American catch phrases can be interpreted so easily by unsuspecting foriegners.
As I was hauling my things into the hostel, off the back of Little Wing, I caught the eye of a young man sitting outside of the hostel registration building. My arms were full with my waterproof duffel, my helmet and my sheepskin. This boy was the first guy to give me what looked like a mean glance since I arrived at this gathering place of wanderers. I wondered what it was that sparked this evil eye and then saw he was looking at the piece of fur dangling from my left hand, the sheepskin from my grandmother. Themold golden fleece that I used for a seat cushion was the subject of this reproachful look. I couldn’t help but toss a mean thought back inside my head, whatever, snobby boy doesn’t know a thing about traveling by motorcycle.
After unloading my stuff Tobi and I got to chatting again. He informed me that he needed to eat and that he had spoken with a couple of German gals earlier who had seemed interested in taking a walk downtown in search of food. He invited me along, and since I am always up for an adventure and I didn’t have anything better to do I chose to accompany him. We made our way back to the registration building where Tobi said the gals had talked about meeting. As we entered I saw the snobby boy talking to the gal behind the desk. He spoke with an accent and from what I overheard he didn’t have any money. We wandered to the kitchen space where I met Will, the bicyclist, making his dinner. He was taking a cross country trip on a non motorized bike, so we didn’t have much to talk about. Well actually, I was interested in his tale but he seemed disdainful of mine so instead the discussion turned to what he was having for dinner and the weather and such. Tobi decided to go looking for the girls and I wandered back to the front desk to sit on a lounging chair. The snobby foriegn boy sat on the steps that led to the upstairs portion of the building. He had an iPad in one hand and a smartphone in the other. The screens were both lit up and his eyes were shifting from one to the other. His fancy pack was sitting a few steps below and it rested against his legs. I looked away from him, thinking mean judgemental thoughts. Then, without warning, my thoughts shifted. The negative thoughts stopped, a positive thought sprouted, and a whole new group of thoughts branched across my brain. This boy had mentioned not having any money. He was clearly a foriegner. He had on a Columbia fleece and a shiny new hiking pack. He had fancy new gadgets and his brow was creased. I didn’t have any money either, but what I meant when I made that statement was I had practically nothing in savings. Only just enough to get me down the road. Then a thought occurred, what if this young man had NO money? What would I do if I had NO money and I was in a country that wasn’t my home? I don’t know what I’d do.
I turned to the snobby young man just as Tobi made his way back into the room. “You don’t have any money?” I asked.
The boy looked up from his screens, his brow was still crinkled but his face also said “what?” He didn’t respond so I continued.
“I don’t have any money either, but I do have some. Are you looking to stay here tonight, but you can’t pay for it?”
The snobby boy got a look that was a little less snobby. His face took on the look of a defeated, helpless feeling young human, the same face I’ve felt myself make many before times in my short life. “Yes” he said.
“Ok,” I said, reaching into my pocket and pulling out my money. “I have some cash, it is about all I have. It costs twenty-six to stay here, I have twenty-four. If you have two more you will have enough to pay for tonight. I can give it to you if you promise to pay me back, but judging by the things you have,” I gestured at his fancy pack and iPad, “I think you are good for it. Would that work?” I asked holding the cash in my hand.
“I would be good for it. I get money to tomorrow, I just dont have it today,” he said. Then his face became questioning, “are you sure? I don’t want to take your last money. Do you really mean to give it to me. Um, I mean loan it to me?”
I reached my hand towards him and opened my hand, holding the money in my palm “take it, and pay me back.”
“Oh no! Thanyouttankyouthankyou. Gracias!”
I felt a big smile creep across my face “but in return, if you aren’t doing anything tonight, you need to join me and Tobi in a walk downtown. He needs to eat and I just want to walk.”
The young boy, who it turns out was not snobby, agreed adamantly. We finally exchanged names and because I couldn’t pronounce his I called him Rainy. He was from Chile and spoke Spanish as his first language. I would come to find that going on a walk with forigners from seperate continents would be more amusing than one could imagine. Our communication, or miscommunication, was like a walking comedy act and served us well when it came to bonding.
It turned out Rainy did know about riding motorcycles. He also knew about surfing and traveling. He was from a middle class family in Chile and he always had it easy. He told Tobi and I that he was looking to see what it was like to make it on his own so he had decided to travel to America for a few months. Because he liked to surf he decided to try Cali. He was so very nice, and my previous judgements turned out to be complete bull. I concluded that he was glaring at me because his evening was so uncertain, not because he was judging me. In fact, he probably hadn’t even noticed what I was carrying or cared, he simply happened to look up when I looked at him and I internalized it. Oops.
We spent the night wandering the around Santa Cruz. We got Tobi something to eat and sat around chatting about life. Tobi was twenty and Rainy was twenty-two, so we were all travelers of similar ages. We were fast friends and got quite close as the evening went on. I failed to tote my camera along with me on this adventure so I didn’t capture much for pictures, obviously. I was ok with that the majority of the time but there was one moment in particular that I regretted that choice.
We walked to the pier two hours before midnight. We were walking along, looking up to the stars. It was about 50° out, before one accounted for the sea salt damp air. We heard a bellowing, calling, whale like, sound. We made our way from the center of the pier to the rail to check it out. We looked over the rail, we didn’t over see anything, but then we all looked down to the water. There was a barge or a landing dock, or something . Whatever it was it was a wooden platform, missing planks here and there, obviously in need of repair. On top of this platform lay many snorting, snoring, snoozing creatures. When my mind finally accepted this image I realized we were looking down at 20-30 seals piled ontop of and under eachother on the structure below. They were squirming just slightly, and every so often they would make a noise, but the majority of the seals were sleeping. It was such a shocking site. I had never known what seals did at night, but apparently that’s what they do. Pile up and sleep. Sort of like a hostel except only with one bed, and all the animals huddle together, and ontop of one another.
I wasn’t the only one shocked. Both Rainy and Tobi hadn’t known this was how seals spent their nights either. When I talked to my sister on the phone the next day, she did know. So apparently it was only a fact that was new to some of us. Regardless, it was a neat to be seeing seals doing their thing. We unwittingly walked into discovering a new bit of nature.
The day before, December 27th, had been spent riding towards and through Big Sur. I stopped here and there to catch pretty sites and at one point I swear I saw a whale. I pulled off the road and after dismounting the bike saw what I thought looked like a whales tale off in the distance. I can’t be sure, but I have hope. I’m saying it was a whale because I like the idea quite a bit. I’m going with it.
I did get pictures of the ride to through Big Sur.
At the end of the road I had a kind friend waiting in Monterey for me. A friend who had promised a difficult jigsaw puzzel and who I knew wouldn’t dissapoint. Star was the same kind individual who invited me, a stranger at the time, to share in Thanksgiving with her and her family. She had responded to my query of sleeping over again with a generous yes, and so my three day stretch of non showering would be broke. That thought can be quite a driving force. It was an unnecessary force though, Little Wing and I didnt require any more than the promise of a great ride and scenery to get us going. Big Sur had promised just that. When I arrived in Montery Star had hot soup waiting on the table awaiting my arrival, now that is kindness.
We ended up finishing the difficult jigsaw puzzle before I went off to Santa Cruz. The puzzle that Star and I had worked on together over Thanksgiving was left undone by me in my rush to Death Valley. This time I didn’t have to rush and I got the pleasure of completing a hard puzzle, theee best.
To rewind even further, the morning of the 27th, before the ride through Big Sur and the arrival in Monterey, was spent typing a blog about elephant seals and interesting people while eating a bagel at a cute coffee shop.
A month ago, right around the 27th, Thanksgiving, I was doing the same thing but Faster. November 26th I rode from San Leandro to Monterey. Now, on December 27th, I rode towards Monterey and on the 29th I arrived in San Leandro. This month I wasn’t rushing. This month I got to complete the jigsaw puzzle. I got to to see the coast and hit up Alice’s Restaurant.
You know, I’m not sure why I’m so excited by the fact that I feel like I’m rewinding the clock so much, but I am. I guess it must mean something. I think the main thing I’m realizing is how much I have grown over the last month. This time around I feel more satisfied with the moment. I am even more likely to turn to the stranger next to me and make friends. This time around I have finally come to believe that if I just calmly stop trying to control the moment it will work out better than I could imagine. Slow down, relax, breath and enjoy.
Or rewind. Or something like that.