Riding To California:

Hey Ho! Hey Ho! A Riding I Will Go!

I worked at the guitar store for free for six more months. The place was not bringing in a profit, and I didn't have the gall to try to take the money that I was planning on using to desert the business from the business. During the same period, I was working a part time job to earn money for the trip. Then, in August of 1983, my preparations complete, I took my leave of friends and family and rode my motorcycle from Silver Spring Maryland to Berkeley California.

The trip took about a week and a half. It was an experience that is in some ways better in the retelling than in the doing, but I've always been glad that I took the plunge. There is nothing quite like seeing the country from a bike. Riding across in a convertible with the top down might compare, but from the bike, it is a experience that involves not only the scenery and the road, but the very air you breath. The dust, the heat, the smells, all combine to involve you in the places that you are going through. Truly a wondrous experience.

The first stop on my trip was a visit to friends in the small town of Athens Ohio. Athens is a college town, the home of Ohio University. It is in a rural area and apart from the students and school there isn't much action. I love it. Very peaceful. Of course, part of the reason that things are so peaceful out there is that the area is economically depressed. The strip mines that had once fueled the local economy were closed. With the exception of the school, there was not much going on. Great place to visit, but unless I was university professor, I wouldn't want to live there.

From Athens, I got on RT. 70 West and headed towards Colorado. I decided to take this route for no other reason then that I had seen a photograph of a canyon along that road that I wanted to ride through. It was exciting for me, riding through places I had never seen, alone on the bike with nothing but my thoughts and the road unwinding into the distance in front of me.

Going through Kansas City, I encountered a couple of young guys from Canada. They had just decided to see the states one day. They hopped on the motorcycle that one of them owned and just set out to see the lower 48. We rode together until we got to Colorado, where they ran out of money. Was an interesting story in itself.

My bike started having problem as I got into the state, and by the time we reached Vale, it was running very poorly. I stopped in a gas station to check it out, but I couldn't find anything wrong that I could fix. While I was working on it, a local fellow stopped to talk. Turns out he was from Maryland too. Told us that if I continued having trouble, he would put us up for the weekend. As it was Friday afternoon, and the bike shops would all be closed for the weekend, that sounded good to us. He came back later, and we were still there. He put us up for the weekend. My companions decided to stay there a bit longer and look for work. When I last saw them, they were looking for some sort of job so that they could make some money and continue their adventure.

After leaving the guys, I drifted down the road on my sputtering bike to the closest Yamaha shop. It took the mechanic a couple of days to figure out what was wrong. I spent them hanging out doing nothing. I slept in a local camp ground and worried until the bike was finally in working condition once again. I cut up to Route 80 and continued my trip. It took a day of smooth running for me to regain confidence that the bike would end up stranding me alone by the side of the road, but it kept working.

The weather had taken a turn, if not for the worst, at least for the soggiest. As I entered Utah, it began raining. I crossed over the mountain passes and drove by the salt flats in the pounding downpour. Actually, I did the salt flats in pounding drizzle. Was raining so hard going through Salt Lake City that I had to hole up under a bridge for an hour or so. Was getting very careful of my money by that time. I had spent more on the motorcycle repair than I had intended, and I was definitely beginning to run short of funds. So, I just waited it out and kept on going when it cleared a bit.

The rain cleared up by the time I got to Nevada. By now, I was pushing to get done with the trip. I had been on the road long enough, and wanted to get clean and warm. Who would have expected all that rain in mid August! I rode through the hot dry Nevada desert on a overcast day. Just as well, it was cool enough so that I was comfortable wearing my leather jacket. You know, one thing that really surprised me was just how much the desert looks like a postcard. I will always treasure the memory of the sight. I had thought that those artists were exaggerating. They were not. The great American Desert was truly beautiful.

As I was passing through Reno, mechanical trouble once again struck my trusty steed. I discovered that grease was leaking from a seal in my drive shaft. If too much lubrication leaked out, there was a danger that the back wheel would seize up, with catastrophic results for the rider. I spent the remainder of the ride stopping at irregular intervals to let things cool. Made a ride that should have taken four hours take almost eight. The up side to that was that I had to stop at lots of scenic overlooks and such. Got to see a lot of pretty vistas as I was riding through the Sierras that I would have just passed by under other circumstances.

Finally, in the late evening sunshine of that last day, I reached my destination, riding into Berkeley California at the end of my long hot summer trip. Like all stories, this was both an ending and a beginning. The end of my cross country trip, but the beginning of a new life in California. And you can bet that it's been worth the ride.

home(3914 bytes)