I was still there at 3AM, asking my wife to bring me a cup large enough to hold the substantial amount of urine that had collected in my bladder and was now threatening to burst its banks.
You know you’re somewhere cool when you’re doing 10Ks over the limit down a city freeway through traffic and a motorcycle cop passes you, in your lane, nonchalantly flicks you a sideways glance and continues on, splitting traffic at 100KMPH. This is LA. And it’s Mad.
The sheer weight of humanity on the roads of this urban jungle is mind-boggling. And this is coming from me, who grew up in one of the most densely populated urban areas in the world, Delhi.
I forget sometimes, that the USA is the 3rd most populous country in the world, after China and India. And in LA, it’s easy to believe. Yet, 100 KM east of the city, where the Sierra Madre mountains rise steeply to over 10,000 ft, wild bears and deer roam in alpine wilderness. And another 50KM further east, you’re in a desert as empty and parched as the Sahara.
I found Los Angeles fascinating. It’s harsh, raw and seems to function only through sheer, forceful will of humanity.
Which is something that can also be said of Las Vegas. “The Meadows”, is what Las Vegas translates as in Spanish. What fucking meadows? It’s the middle of the desert. The city, with its fountains and swimming pools has been created by sheer force of human greed. But what a city it is. If there is a place on this planet where “anything goes”, this is it. To me, Vegas is a giant mirror that reflects back whatever you want to see in it. You want to see the richest, most handsome man in the world, irresistible to women? Then that’s what you will see. Provided you tip enough cash in the box before the mirror lights up. A place where you can live in an alternative reality and become whoever you want to be. No-one gives a shit. You’re just one more crazy on a trip.
It was amazing meeting my old mates. People with whom I'd taken my first steps from adolescence into adulthood many years ago. We hadn't met in over 10 years but in those 4 days we spent together, it was like we were 21 again and nothing had changed. We forgot that we were a bit fatter, a little balder and a lot richer than the last time we had shared drinks together.
Friends like that are to be treasured and never taken for granted.
You can be whoever you want to be.
But it’s good to be back to who you are.
And I realized that when you become part of BikeMe and are friends with these people who are held in such high regard and esteem the world over, you are automatically given a position of trust and privilege, simply because you have broken bread and ridden miles with these people.
There are many fantastic mountain roads (or canyon roads as the murkins call em) near LA. I did the Angeles Crest Highway, a superb piece of tarmac that climbs high into the pine forests of the San Gabriel Mountains and then descends into dry, desert canyons twisting and turning in neat, predictable corners on a fantastic bitumen surface. I missed my Monster. The V-Strom, while a capable all-rounder, was too soft, heavy and floaty to really attack corners. Dat top box is practical but.
It’s called the General’s Highway, California route no 198. It has character this road. It doesn’t have the best corners I’ve ever ridden or the best scenery or the most floral diversity or the least traffic. But it has a mix of all of that in such abundance that the character of the road is undeniable. The road climbs from 1000ft to 12,000ft and then back down, loops through the Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, all in the space of a hundred KMs. Both parks are superlatives of the American landscape. Kings Canyon is the deepest canyon in America while the Sequoia National Park contains the largest tree in the world and the highest peak in America (outside Alaska).
The road changes character again after the Forest of the Giants. For a few Ks you ride through massive trees that are right on the adge of the road.
It was getting late now and I was still hundreds of miles from LA so I decided to slab it down and make some distance. The water and sediment coming down from the Sierras makes the land fertile and this part of California is the fruit basket of the country. Giant citrus groves extended for miles in every direction. And all the labour was, of course, Mexican. So the place had a distinctly Mexican working class flavour with lots of little corner shacks.
The night was spent sprawled out in a shitty but not uncomfortable motel run a little Indian (real Indian not native Indian) lady who didn’t give me a discount for me being of same colour but did share the wifi password. We both considered it a good deal. Dealings amongst Indians must always culminate in the satisfaction of both parties, otherwise its bad karma and will come back and bite you in the arse. The lady didn’t look like she wanted Karma to bite her in the arse. I’ve been bitten many times and am rather immune to it.
I celebrated my last night in America, eating a humungous dominos pizza sitting in the middle of the desert, taking it all in (the desert, not the pizza. I could only finish half of that).
It has character, the american outback. Just like ours in Australia. And I definitely want to come back and camp in it.
PS – Massive thanks to Guy for lending me his bike, it was the best way to see America and I definitely wouldn’t have seen everything I have seen if I didn’t have a bike there already. I owe you big time. I have ridden the bike of those hideous chicken strips now though so consider that as part payment.
Massive thanks also to Marsh, Guy’s mate in LA. He’s a true gentleman and incredibly generous. And a real motorbike fanatic too.