Stars, Cars, And Traveling Far

Curve, woooosh. Curve woosh. Stop Ahead, clutch coastt, wisshhh. Stop. Silence. Putt, putt, putt. Look left. Right. Straight ahead. There, in the silince, the wispy fluffy seed of some aspiring parent plant floats across the road, peacful, serene. Silence. Except for putt, putt, putt. Left, right – again. Wait for the jeep on the left to pass. Peace, putt, putt, putt, peace. The Jeep passes, the driver gives a respectful wave. I nod, putt, putt, brahhpppp. Little Wing is flying.

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Eavesdropping on a conversation involving Little Wing. Three other riders (of sportbikes), all men, were checking out the stickers on my windshield, one says “he’s done some serious riding.”

Damn straight I have, but ‘he’s’ a she friends, and super proud to be busting stereotypes.

The morning I left Oceanside was filled with last minute packing and some nerves. The question of whether I could handle Little Wing fully loaded was sitting heavily on my mind. I ignored it as best as I could, but that didn’t make it go away. I did the regular tire pressure and oil checks that are typical. I tested the lights and made sure the tie-downs were all correct. On one of my trips out to the garage with an armload of commitments I was met by a plastic bag setting on my seat. A grocery bag that was about half the size of my duffel. I picked it up and peaked inside. There, neatly arranged, was lettuce, strawberries and mulberries, all freashly picked and labled with The Blue Heron Label of Andrea’s farm. I set it aside and got about my business. When I went back inside I brought the bag to Andrea and asked her about it. We determined that it had been left by the men. The men that work her farm and barely speak my language. We communicate with smiles and one word greetings. They had filled a care package for me knowing that I was leaving. After spending so much time at Andrea’s, enjoying the amazing goodies that grow from her soil, I felt that was totally unnecessary. And for that very reason, the shear lack of necessity, I was extremely touched. Even so, the bag was too much. I packed the lettuce with a couple avocados that Andrea had got from the neighbor, and some ham leftover from Easter dinner. I consolodated some of the strawberries into a box with half of the fresh, sweet, mulberries. And that’s all I could take. I snacked on as much of the fruit as I could before leaving the rest behind with Andrea.

The produce wasn’t the only gift I recieved from the beings on the farm. Those baby hummingbirds that I wrote about in the last blog have been growing, and growing. Since the day I first spotted them Andrea and I har been pointing them out to every honored guest who stepped foot on the property. I had been monitoring them daily and taking as many pictures as I could (a dangerous proposition if the moma was anywhere in the vicinity). On the day I was to leave Andrea decided she would get a picture with me standing beside them. We figured that I would just peak my head into the bougainvillea beside them and smile pretty. In doing this I knocked the branch their nest was on and, to my great suprise, there was an explosion and fluttering of wings as the little hummers flew the nest. I felt one brush my glassses as it flew past, and it was like a shock to my system. All my nerves came out at once and I no longer felt any nervousness about Little Wing. That little humming bird knocked some sense into me.

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The hummingbirds the day before we all took off

I went on a ride before Easter; a a ride to the Pacific Ocean. I had strict directions from Dad to give it a hug and kiss from him, so I was at least going to try. I rode to Oceanside with the same confidence that is always waiting for me on Little Wing. I went back to the same place I parked the last I was there, and I took off my coat to prepare for a walk.

In one of the trips I made back to Minnesota when I was in  the Midwest I made sure to grab my flip flops. Two things I had forgotten, or purposely left behind, were my flips flops and a hat with a bill. Those are two things I have longed for here in California. I picked up both items and made sure to bring them back on the airplane. Walks on the beach are not meant for tennis shoes.

I put on my flipflops, locked up my coat, and headed out, adorned in my t-shirt, rolled up jeans, sandals and camera. Off I went to the water. It was time to give my love to that great body of water that hugs our West Coast. The last time I was on the pier in Oceanside (which I wrote about here) it was pretty calm. It was still winter in California, and the people in these parts don’t like to wander to the ocean in winter. Now that it is spring it is close enough to summer – one can almost taset it on the salty, 80°, air – that everyone and their aunt is out exploring the pier right now. I saw many pelicans the last time I was at the pier, but this time I saw only two. All the people had scared all but the two mangiest off to quieter areas of the world, or at least that was my guess. The beach was full of people in swim attire, sun bathing or reading under umbrellas. The surfers appeared to have followed the pelicans lead, for I only saw two of them as well. I walked the rocks that went under the pier. A lovely climbing session that got my feet perfectly marinated with the salt water before I went to walk the gritty salt and sand off, up above on the pier. The pier was packed, almost shoulder to shoulder, but I walked the length anyhow. There were many people fishing off the side, and I was fortunate to be looking in the right direction when a fisherwoman pulled in her line with a healthy fish flopping from the hook.

My walk led me off the pier and back into downtown Oceanside. I didn’t know where I was going or why I was walking, but those are the best kind of walks, aren’t they? A few blocks past Little Wing I found The Surf Museum, a museum I kept meaning to check out, but always seemed to forget when I was in the vicinity. The universe clearly willed that to be the destination of the walk. I went inside and started by checking out the gift shop. I’m not a surfer so most of the goodies they sold didn’t seem to strike my fancy. I walked instead to the ticket desk and found out that admission was five dollars. I don’t have a lot of dollars but I also don’t have a lot of experiences either. I tossed the five dollars down in exchange for another memory. The museum was quite small. The building it was in was just a revamped store front. Fortunately surfboards are flat so there was a lot to look at. I can’t say I remember much of what I read, but the history of surfing and the development of different surfboards were all laid out, and it was quite interesting. The parts I found the most interesting were the different surf related art.  One of my favorite pieces is here:

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Downtown Oceanside is a very artsy place. Besides The Surf Museum I got to see other nice places. Mainly the Oceanside library. The library is a work of art in itself, and in the courtyard where the doors from city building are there is a lovely piece of art. The lighting wasn’t great at the timewhen I took a picture, but I could still tell how magnificent it was. I hope that I will get the chance to see it glinting in the morning sunlight one off these days.

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There was also a place called Artist Alley which I walked. It didn’t boast much on the day I walked through, but I did get the chance to see it on First Friday when all the artist had their art on display open for public viewing.

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I know I have said it before, but even at the risk of sounding redundant, I shall say it again, riding is the best meditation I have experienced. The morose feelings I have been experiencing slowly dissapate with every mile. My smile comes back, I seem to find it somewhere, floating on the breeze.

My new favorite stretch of road that I’ve found is a small, unoccupied road, between Mecca, CA and Joshua Tree National Park. An empty road and a gorgeous view make for a great adventure.
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Yesterday I went to Joshua Tree National Park. It has been a life long dream for me. I remember when I was seven seeing a picture of a Joshua Tree in a calender and thinking it looked exactly like something out of a Dr, Seuss book (or Star Wars). I asked Dad about it and he told my sister and I that they were real trees (in actual reality they are Yuccas, but that was something that would have gone right over my small head) and there was only one part of the world they grew in, the South West. He told us there was a park dedicated to them, and from that day on I knew I wanted to go there. I told Dad “one day I will go see them.”

And he said, “do it.” So I did, yesterday.

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How amazing is it to have a dream recognized? Riding in on my motorcycle is exactly the way I would have imagined it as a kid too. If it wasn’t a horse it had to be a motorcycle. It was breathtaking on a motorcycle. I was exhausted from staying up the night before in the Anza-Borrego State Recreation Area, but I still enjoyed it.

The ride in Anza-Borrego was also pretty amazing. Very desert like, but still intense. I rode Little Wing successfully in sand with out tipping and I felt awesome. Over the last three days I have rode on either sand or gravel for a total of about ten miles, and I haven’t dumped the bike once. I attribute it to those little hummers for correcting my ways and ridding me of nerves.

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A picture I painted for Andrea.

Inorder to camp to ride through sand. I rode 1 1/2 miles through sand to find a lovely patch of desert to sleep on. When I first got to Anza-Borrego I was shocked camping was free. I figured I should double check before setting up. I saw a man walking three chihuahuas heading in my direction. I raised my voice so he could hear me and asked about the campsite. “Whatt?” He said.

I repeated the question as he got closer, his miniature canines leading the way. “Oh yeah,” he said. “Free for now. A few years from now probably not, but for now yes.”

The man spoke with a bit of a Mexican accent. He had a darker complexion so I figured Latino. I kneeled down to pet his dogs and we got to talking. He told me the dogs names and then introduced himself “Obi,” he said.

“Diamond,” I said. “Tobi?” I asked.

“No, O-bee,” he said, “like Obi-Wan Kenobi.” And the Star Wars saga continued. This was the start of a good night and four new friendships.

Obi invited me to join him, his three chihuahuas, and the three other dudes he was camping with, his brother and nephews.

Something I have neglected to mention is that Anza-Borrego is an off roading mecca. For anyone who has ever enjoyed getting dusty on some dunes or tearing up the pits it is a dream come true. Some of my neighboring campers were kids with dirtbikes. A wee little boy and a girl who was about three foot tall, along with an older sister. They were falling down and getting up, and having an overall blast.

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This was the way all my neighbors were. I was the only one on a street bike, and there was a good reason for that. I went over to say ‘hi’ to the little children and meet the cool humans that must have been their parents. They were cool humans, and so were the kids. I asked about them and the dad explained that both him and his wife had grown up riding and enjoyed it so they wanted ro give the same opportunity to their children. I congratulated them on how cool they were and what I got back was some return praise.

The message I have been getting over and over again over the last few days has been that me, a female, riding alone across the world, setting up my own tent and living my own life is something admirable. I shared that admiration with the dad of the girls and told him it was great that he had his girls out riding along with his son, who, right about the same time I was talking to his dad, managed to flip the minature ATV over. In an attempt to show off the small kid had been whipping shitties – turning donuts – and he made one too tight. He managed to get the 80 cc fourwheeler completely upside down. The 40 lb kid then got up, helmet, boots, and positive outlook on life all still intact. I was interested to see that there was an oil leak that occurred due to the tipping. It was a Honda engine, and I was curious how that happened. After further examination the dad concluded it was probably gaskets, and I would agree. The young man was no worse for wear, and any bruises he had were probably immediately cured by the amount of attention and hugging older sisters paid them.

After visiting with the family of riders I wandered over to see what Obi was up to.

Since I have been in the desert I have been reminded quite frequently of the Star Wars movies. Maybe it is all this talk about this new one coming out, or maybe its simply that the desert brings back thoughts of Tatoine. The clear nights filled with stars feel otherworldy. The plant life here looks so foreign (sort of more Star Trekkian than Star Warrioran really). It could be the serendepitous meeting of people named Obi after a day filled with universal thoughts, spurred on by the sighting of a large telescope while riding through the mountains of Southern California.

On the morning that I was making my way to Anza-Borrego I was given instructions on how to take the most beautiful route there. Andrea had told me about a route that would lead me on twisting ride up to the top of a mountain, and then back down to the less twisting, more trafficked, road. I took the road, with no real knowledge of what it would lead me to other than a good ride.

At the top, where I had the option to turn and head back to the road I wanted to be on, or there was another option to continue to the dead end at the top of the mountain. The sign made promises of an observatory. I had been to an observatory on The Sunday Morning Ride that I took with the group of riders in the Bay Area. It had been cool and the view from it had been fantastic. I had nowhere to be, going to the top of the mountain sounded great to me.

At the top I was shocked to find promises of a museum and gift shop, what was this? Turns out it was the Palomar Observatory, “a center of astronomical research owned and operated by the California Institute of Technology.”

What a fascinating find.

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As I was coming out of this well hidden gem, new knowledge right on the surface of my cranium, I was approached by a man in his late fifties. He wore a Led Zeppelin shirt (I liked him for this right away) and a flannel over it. He had white hair and a rugged face, with an eypatch over the left eye. He was a piece of art by himself. He walked towards me, getting my attention with a “well hello,” and as he did so a woman appeared from behind the old Dodge van that they belonged to.

I smiled and gave a “hello” back. He wasn’t shy, Bill was his name, and the woman coming out from behind the van, I found out was his wife, Bev. They spoke to me about what I was doing and where I was coming from and they expressed admiration for me doing the adventure by myself. Bill told me his wife was nervous about him going on motorcycle trips alone, and she wasn’t into it, so when he didn’t have a riding buddy he usually didn’t go. He said that now that they had bot seen me heading to the desert by myself he might actually toss the sleeping bag on the back of his 1952 Harley Davidson and take off the next time he got the urge. He told me he had a 1952 V-twin with a kickstart and 1951 Panhead with a kickstart. He prefers the 1952 because the brakes are harder to operate on the Panhead, especially with a missing eye. He exchanged life stories with me and I foumd out he had lost his eye at age thirteen and that he was an engineer by trade. He new all about the large telescope that was in the observatory and gave me some very scientific explanations about it that I had trouble retaining (I had enough trouble remembering the motorcycle mumbo-jumbo, and – of course – that’s what I save most of my brain space for). It is amazing the people one meets.

The people one meets, that reminds me of Obi. Let me finish the story So I went over to visit with him and the rest of the boys – four legged and two legged both. He invited me to share in the meal his brother was making, but I had already ate the avocado, ham and lettuce that Andrea had packed for me. Very near that same time the girl riders came over from the first campsite with a plate of food. Their parents had asked them to offer me some dinner. On the plate they carried with them I saw an apple rolling around. I had to turn them down because I had already turned down Obi’s offer. It was sweet that the parents thought of me when making dinner. It reminded me of earlier that morning with the bag of produce at Andrea’s. The girls left with smiles to take the food back. Obi and his brother discussed travel and adventure with me. It was suggested that I watch Then Came Bronson, something I have never seen. Apparently my journey was very reminiscent if it in Obi’s mind. Obi was the proud owner of a Ford GP, a rare Jeep built by Ford during World War II. Obi’s brother had a Polaris RZR. Mixed among these great off-roader vehicles were different ATVs and a dirtbike, mostly used by the nephews. It was clear that all these dudes were serious riders. The night went on, a fire was built, and the nephews finally came out of slumber to join us. They had been sleeping since I’d arrived, tuckered out from a day of riding around the desert. I never caught the age, but the older of the two, Christopher, had been Army. He had also worked as a truck driver for a stint and had words to exchange about travel and his favorite states. Both men were young, I would guess near to my age. Later in the evening it was suggested that I go for a ride in the Polaris RZR to the Gas Domes, a curious place that has bubbling mud. Something to do with the way the crust has stretched in that area making for an easy escape for excess heat released by the magma in the earth’s core. What it looks like is a bunch of mucky puddles filled with breathing frogs; something straight out of Star Wars.

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The night ride on the RZR, was, in one word, awesome. I didn’t know that deserts could look that amazing, but Obi’s brother’s/ Christopher’s dad’s had some petty intense lights set up on the RZR so we got a clear picture of the view all around. And, boy, did that Christopher know how to drive. 40 mph at night, over rutted, sandy terrain. The tight curves around dunes didn’t bother him at all. At first I was I was pretty scared, but eventually I settled, realizing I was in experienced hands. It was a marvel. Another thing I found was that the suspension on RZR is a work of art. I have never traveled sand that fast and that well on anything and I am coming to realize I need to start off roading.

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The moon that I watched off the RZR

They knew of my plans to take off in the morning to go to Joshua Tree National Park. We discussed camping and I told them that I was disappointed that JTNP didn’t have free sites. “Free sites?” Obi’s brother asked, “I know a free site.” He went on to tell me about the Giant Rock. A national treasure among alien hunters. A place sorrunded by gable and myth, a must see. The Giant Rock is a hiant rock. It is the largest free standing rock, at keast in North America. It is thought to have been placed by aliens in the spot in which it stands. Is that true? I guess I don’t know. Wjat I do know is that according to Obi’s brother there was free camping aroundthe rock. My plans were set. After I got done looking at the beauty of millions of Joshua Trees I would head to the Giant Rock to set up camp.

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One of the grafittied buildings off the Salton Sea.

The next day I rode around the East side of the Salton Sea to get to JTNP. The Salton Sea is very lovely but disappointingly there wasn’t a way to visit the beach without paying, from what I found. Also, the Salton sea is slightly deserted. I read that there was a place called Bombay Beach and my plan was to get gas there, except, there wasn’t a gas station. I stopped to ask a lady if there really was no gas. She confirmed.

“Where’s the closest gas station?” I asked.

“18 miles South or 31 miles to the North.”

I had only about 15 miles left in my tank according to my math. I cursed, and she asked if I needed gas, I told her yes. She told me she would sell me some. I ended up spending the last ten dollar bill in my wallet, leaving me cashless, but I got two gallons of gas. I folowed her to a home where she lead me and Little Wing to the garage. I watched her open the door and get the fuel cannister. Looking past her I saw a beautiful maroon car, circa 60 something. “Porsche?” I asked, my mouth dropping open.

“Karmann Ghia. My son did all the body work. It is like brand new. I’m trying to sell it.”

If only I could have bought that instead of the gas. She sold me the gas and asked where I was off to. I told her of my plans to go see Joshua Tree National Park. She asked if I knew the back way, and that’s how I found out about my favorite stretch of road from Mecca into JTNP.

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After getting through JTNP I went off to find the great rock, and boy was that a trek. Forty miles to the West of the park according to my GPS. I was backtracking but I needed to sleep, so I did it. The GPS lead me to a dirt road labeled Giant Rock Road, where I got to test my sand riding skills again. I was about three miles down the road before I realized that I didn’t want to camp there. The road was to messy and the homes to sketchy and the force was pushing me in the opposite direction. I turned around. What to do now. On the three miles back I trumped up my half ass plan to head to Las Vegas where I’m currently sitting contemplating a beer and listening to crappy music over loud speakers.

Las Vegas: ” lit in screaming neon and blasting music. It is something out of the bar scene in Star Wars.” A quote from the the same fine man that invited me here. Another serendepitous reference to Star Wars. My motorcycle fixing buddy Dan is a radio engineer, and currently radio engineers from all across the United States are gathered here, in the city that never sleeps, I bet you didn’t even know.

I have always claimed that I would never come here, but that changed when I knew it was free. Sharing a room with a radio engineer at a conference is like being by oneself, thus far anyway. I am looking forward to walking the strip and finally getting the whole Star Wars experience. I got to ride into the city of lights last night, at about midnight. The ride in took me way out of my way because I had already gone out of my way to find the Giant Rock. The ride was about an hour longer than it should have been. It was cold to. I guess ‘they’ weren’t kidding when ‘they’ said deserts got cold at night. I rode through patches of warm and real cool. There was a point that I neared the top of the pass coming into Nevada and I could see my breath in my helmet.

Nevada. I’m out of Cali. That puts the count at twelve states, not quite what I imagined when I left, but it the adventure hasn’t been anything like I imagined and that is a a great thing.

I was riding into Nevade, when I stopped to get gas about ninety miles out of Vegas, I met a kind family. I had left Little Wing parked at the pump while I went inside to use the bathroom. I bought some sugared up Snapple tea to keep me awake and when I left the store to consume it I realized I should park the bike somewhere other than in front of the pump. I set my helmet, tank bag, and the tea down at a table and started walking to Little Wing. I realized what I had done and where I was and turned around to gather my stuff, not wanting it to be lifted at a strange gas station in California this late in the evening. There was a girl about my age and an older woman – who I assumed was her mother – sitting at the table near where I set my stuff. I asked if they would watch it and the said of, course.

After parking Little Wing I went to sit and down with my sugar drink. I thanked the women, and that lead to a great conversation. They asked where I was from and when I told them Minnesota the young girl – Vanessa was her name – told me she had lived there for awhile and loved it. I told her I had lived in California for awhile and loved it. Her mom spoke with a rich, Mexican, accent they were the sweetest people I had met all day. We talked for forty-five minutes, and I barely felt the time move. The dad sat down with them and we went back through introductions, and rehashed my life story. They live somewhere near L.A. and as we parted the mom made sure Vanessa and I exchanged numbers for when I came back to California. I told Vanessa to hit me up when she came back to Minnesota and I would give her a tour.

The mother had told me that someone was watching over me. She told me that someone had sent the angels to fly over me, because how else had I made it since September. I’m not sure if the reason I believed her was because of what a truly endearing person she was, but I know she thought she was right. She didn’t come off as pushing the thought, she was just very certain in the fact that I was blessed. I thanked her for that.

Snapple tea always comes with a fun fact on the cap and I always wait to read it til I have finished the drink. After the mom had told me about the beings watching out over me I read,

“The peach was the first fruit to be eaten on the moon.”

What does it all mean, really? Aliens or angels? Am I blessed with God looking out for me or just meeting amazing people mixed with serendipty? Is the universe setting it all up for me or is this just how it works?

I’m not sure, but I do know that I’m not really in a Star Wars movie, and neither is any of the stuff I seen yesterday. All the incredible things I’ve done and seen, they are all right here, right now. And because I’m going around dooing and seeing I am the recipient of admiration. I guess I didn’t realize how incredibleit all was until I went away and came back. Look at the moon, the stars. Look at the earth, the sea and the Joshua Tree .. I just rhymed.

I don’t know. All I know is real life is getting in the way of my fantasy.

It is absolutely incredible.

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