miles and miles, hot, cold, sun, wind and snow

April 4, 2011

So much distance in so little time. I’m writing from Vancouver BC, after being in Nashville TN, San Dimas CA all in the last 4 days.

Leo waiting for a jet plane

songwriter in restaurant

I left Nashville Airport on Wednesday March 30th. We had successfully done all the work I could do on the mixes. On Tuesday night we celebrated by listening to the whole thing for the first time. It sounds so good. I’m so happy. It was worth the freezing, the lack of showers, the allergies and all the rest of it.

We both are sitting there in front of the speakers with grins on our face. Mission accomplished.

It is quite the moment. We celebrate just the two of us, both the architects of this work. 12 songs, written, recorded and now mixed. There are still a few things to be ironed out. 3 of the songs need a little more work, but that is work Perry can do without me.

I am glad I did not have to rush back to Vancouver in the middle of the process. It would have been such a disappointment… The Gods are still with us. That morning I also got an email telling me I did not have to rush to Vancouver right away to move the sculptures. They gave me a couple days of grace. Phew. That means I’ll have a day to repack and get ready to head up North.

as the sun set we fly

I arrived in Los Angeles Wednesday night at 8:20 PM after a very enjoyable flight chatting with Debbie. Melanie and Ozzy came to pick me up. I was looking at the luggage sign for Southwest when Melanie suddenly appeared in front of me. I was instantly squealing “HAAAAAA! HAAAAA! HAAAA! When I saw her. It felt so good to see them. Hugs. Smiles. Ozzy had a bottle of water at the ready for me which was really funny as we have this ongoing thing about getting me to drink more water. I was thirsty!

We got the luggage, then the guitar and drove back to San Dimas.

It felt so good. As we got closer to San Dimas I started to recognize the area, “I’m home” I thought and it was a good thought. We went to Chilis and met there with Forrest. Big hugs, more laughter, how good it is to see them all face to face.

We then drove home and all sat down to listen to the music. The whole 12 songs in a row. I was a bit nervous to see what they were going to think. After all, they’ve only seen me play these songs in an “unplugged” setting. This was the whole nine yards. Big production, loud guitars.

They loved it. I ended up going to bed too late, all revved up still.

Thursday was a packing day. From the suitcase to the saddle bags. The sun is shining so bright. The temperatures got up over 90F wow. My body relaxes freed from all the cold. It’s golden. Birds are singing… wow. I promise to keep the memory of that day, to keep those moments with me as I will head up in the cold.

Friday. The alarm went off at 7:40 AM. Get up! I had promised to make pancakes for everyone, so I head into the kitchen and shred apples and get pancake batter ready. We all eat together, laugh, chat. At 9:30 I head out. It’s pretty neat to see the BMW all packed up. The luggage system makes it so tidy. The only weird looking thing is the guitar wrapped in an orange waterproof bag tied on top of the tail bag.

Beowulf, clean, sparkling, neatly packed, ready for adventure

I went West on the 210, then up I-5 North. I pass the Lancaster exit, send some thoughts to Sunny and Steve and at that moment it was like resuming the trip, finishing up the loop started last June. The plan for the trip is : get there ASAP. No sight seeing, photo taking or leisure. I stopped for gas and food only. Going down the Grapevine you can smell the burning brake pads from the semi trucks. The traffic’s speed is around 85 MPH. Beowulf keeps up like it’s a stroll. I wondered how it would handle all loaded up. It’s rock solid. Only under some circumstances, going over 80-85 MPH along with buffeting from the semi trucks and winds do I feel a slight wobble, kind of a wave through the bike but it does not feel dangerous. I just slow down a bit and it’s gone.

It’s hot. I’m almost too hot with the leather pants and jacket. Most of the road is flat and straight. Pretty boring. The sight of the feed lots and the smell is as revolting as I remembered it. it is miles and miles of agricultural business, peppered with the “congress created dust bowl” signs. As the evening arrived, I started to see mountains in the distance. Then it appeared, majestic in the sunset : Mount Shasta. Completely covered in snow. What a sight. I kept moving forward towards the mountains. They seem to toy with me, getting further away as I try to get closer. Finally, I get there. As I climb it starts to get cold. I stopped at a small store-restaurant-pumps to fill up and dress up. Get the heated vest on, the balaclava and the GoreTex shell over my leather jacket. I switched from my summer leather gloves to Melanie’s waterproof gloves. On we went.

Beowulf sitting waiting for me at the pump

I am now in the mountains, curves! Finally. I found myself riding 75 – 80 MPH down the curves. The bike handles beautifully, even with this load on. I am amazed at how solid it feels but also how responsive it is. I don’t think I could go that fast with the Suzuki, well, I did but it never felt solid like this. As darkness came, I could see snow around. I am glad that the roads are dry. It is very cold.

I made it to Yreka around 8:30. 11 hours of straight riding. About 700 miles. A good day of riding. I opted for a motel. The Budget Inn was clean and the people were friendly. I went out on foot to look for a restaurant, the family restaurant had just closed… then the other places around : all closed. There were a couple of pubs… I saw this lady with two huge dogs and asked her : “ do these pubs serve food?”

“Oh these, I wouldn’t go there… lots of fights… usually they fight on the sidewalk… and this one.. Oh no, they fight inside. Up the alley there they have a stab shack.”

“Stab shack?”

“they have stabbings up there…”

“oh, glad I asked!”

I thanked her and went back to the hotel. I had some raisins and almonds and some fruits, that will have to do.

I took a hot bath which was heavenly. Went to bed and watched too much TV. There was “Yes Man” on and somehow got caught up in the movie about this guy who starts saying yes to everything in his life… interesting. Maybe I should try this.

I got up at 8 the next morning. I look outside : sunny. Yay. I stretched my very sore arms and shoulders until they were operational. My riding muscles are definitely out of practice. I then hopped in the shower and stayed under the hot water stream until my whole body felt better.

I went out to pack the bike : oh… it’s actually pretty cold… As I was packing the bike, my next door neighbors were packing their car.

“Hi!”

“Oh hi!”

I detected a French accent…

“Do you speak French”

“oui! “

it turns out the lady was from France, has been in the US for 30 years. She and her partner were hikers and they had just been on a hiking trip in the San Francisco area. She has a sister who lives in Vancouver, teaching French. We chat for a while. She lives in Portland. We promise to stay in touch. I head out.

As I go up the mountain, a couple of miles north of town I suddenly see… Snow flakes.

Oh shit.

I’m up the Freeway and there is no way to turn around. My stomach tightens. If there is one thing I fear : it’s ice. Now I am going up a mountain side on a bike and it’s snowing. There is snow on the ground. accumulating on the grass next to the road… Oh my…. I slow down, way down. What am I going to do? I try to look at the road and see if the stuff is wet or iced… can’t tell… that is the thing with black ice… you can’t tell… I feel fear. Or more like it : terror. I imagine the bike flying out of control…

I decided to follow this semi. What is coming off the tires look wet. So I stay in his tracks, in the driest part of the lane. And pray.

The flakes fly around, the clouds are low and gray, snow clouds. It’s cold. It looks like the dead of winter and I wonder what the heck am I doing up this mountain side. The next miles are gut wrenching. Here and there the sun would peer out and the road would be dry. Then it would rain this sleety stuff. I kept my speed down, kept the bike as upright as possible and negotiated everything as smoothly as I could. We got on this huge downhill, it’s dark and rainy and I wonder if this is actually hail coming down. “hail could turn to ice…. More fear. Then gradually the rain eased up, the road dryed up and suddenly the sun came out making this day a Jekyll and Hyde kind of day with glorious sun and spring in the air feeling to a mid February blizzard is on the way. There is a last stretch of beautiful dry curvy road all the way to Hombrook where I filled up with gas, let out a sigh of relief and put on the rubber overboots for the rain.

I got back on the freeway. We are now in a valley, the sun is out. That is when I saw this lone hay bale on the side of the road. One more curve. Suddenly there is a symphony of brake lights ahead of me, Everyone stopping in disaray all over the road I was in the left lane, I see everyone swerving to the right, I quickly slow right down 5, 4, 3, 2, first gear. The road is covered in hay, bales and lose forage all over the road, the two lanes an obstacle course. People go around the mess. About a quarter mile down the road a pick-up truck pulling a trailer is stopped on the side of the road, half of the front of the load of hay is missing.

Oh my. This just happened. The cops weren’t ever there yet. I get an awful feeling thinking of timing. of the fact that I debated stopping for gas when I did or do it later, of what it could have been if I had been there a few minutes earlier… The Gods are still with me.

I stopped for lunch and gas in Cottage Grove. I was cold. I need to put on more layers. Here is what I got on : tank top and leggings and wool socks as base layer, leather pants and wool long sleeve shirt, heated vest, leather jacket, plus gore tex jacket on top add a balaclava on my head, ear plugs and you have a Sasquatch like rider… but a warm one.

That was the perfect layering. The winds got pretty nasty and I went from shower to storm, the outside temperatures were around 44 F colder at elevation. I motored on until I crossed into Washington state. Vancouver WA. Went to get gas and found a Starbucks. I took a good hour break, had a triple espresso and caught up with the email.

It is all in the pacing. Your mind says : keep going! Your body says : Stop! I have learned to make that hour stop right in between, before the fatigue gets too deep and while you’re still good to go for a few more miles. That hour will revive you. 15 minutes would kill you. I know myself now. This was good timing.

I hit the road full of strength, smiles from the emails, juice from the espresso.

I hit Seattle as the darkness hit. To the West : nice orange sunset. To the North East : dark, no BLACK gigantic storm cloud. “I’m in for it” I thought. The reserve light lit up. Crap. Need to stop again to fill up. “I wonder if I can make it out of town” The clouds were still not on my path. I had vague hopes that I could skirt them.

The road veered North. And right there in front of me in all it’s giganticness… this black, monstrous cloud. “here we go” I thought. Plic, ploc, pling… the drops started to fall as the night joined in. It’s a deluge. the road almost disappears for a second. But I know the drill. Look right, look left, clear the visor, find the lines of the road, reflectors, tail lights, find the brighter black of the least drowned part of the lane, car’s tires tracks in the water on the ground, kind of like a boat trail in the water, center, settle in.

It’s pounding down with heavy winds. Beowulf purrs. Not a hiccup. We got up the I-5.

Gas. yep, that gas light. I try to make calculations.. 50 more miles… I won’t be out of town… OK. Lets gas up. I cautiously cross the 5 lanes over to the next exit into town. I lift up my visor as the exit is dark. I got violently blasted by pounding, near freezing rain and winds… “Whooooaaaa!” i scream out loud. then I am laughing out loud like an idiot as the water is so cold and stingy, I wonder how I could have thought for one second that this could have been anywhere near a good idea. I flipped the visor down. I get to a Chevron station. The guy is looking at me funny. I got the wet Sasquatch look. I filled up, took a minute, regrouped and headed back out.

The rain subsided after another 20 minutes or so. It’s hard to say, time gets fuzzy when things are intense. By the time I get to downtown Seattle the roads are dry, we fly.

I hit Bellingham at around 10 PM. A 12 hour day. Slow start but then once the gear was figured out I didn’t lose much time.

I decided to stop before getting to Canada because I had not heard from my friend. Did not want to get to Vancouver and have to go to a hotel as the prices are pretty much double there.

I stopped at Max Motel… don’t ever go there…

one of the shittiest motels I’ve ever been in. Very close in badness to the one in Rochester…. The place reeked of cigarette. Huge brown spots on towels so ragged the piling was gone out of one of them leaving it a thin little cotton thing. But I was there… There was hot water and a bath and some heat so I stayed. I checked the bed for running creatures… none. The door barely locked so I layed a chair against it. One thin blanket and a sheet… I kept my long sleeve shirt and leggings and layed my jackets over top of me. I layed the guitar next to me, the laptop by the side of the bed. The important stuff. Then I fell asleep quickly, the body was tired and I didn’t care it was a good day. ZZZZZZ

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2 Responses to “miles and miles, hot, cold, sun, wind and snow”

  1. Erika Koenig Says:

    …. and then the following morning I found myself suddenly in Steveston, at Cimona eating good poached eggs on toast and texting e, one word GIG….I figured she understood my cyptic language since she is my long standing hummingbird sister. I sing about that on my next album coming out sooner than later. So we hooked up at Waves, the ‘Canadian’ Starbucks coffee shop, where you cannot really hear much since the floors are concrete and there are too many people to count. There we were standing on the same spot so glad to be reunited since our last visit. Man we laughed so hard and then hummingbird sister handed me the keys to her nest and I was eager to ride there on Beowulf


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