Crossing California

There was no greater feeling than crossing the desert through the open air atop my two-wheeled machine. I rode to a place that seemed so far distant on a map. The contrast of orange sand dunes against the big blue sky vibrated across my brain at a 100 miles an hour. After 3,500 miles I reached southern California, which sweltered in a 110° dry heat. The air parched every part of my exposed skin. I carried a water bottle in one hand and throttled aside the Salton Sea with the other hand. We made Joshua Tree by nightfall.

We met friends of Sara’s, a couple living in San Diego, at the Mojave Sands Motel. I was introduced to Mike, a photographer, his girlfriend Magda and their dog, Rosco. The desert air was perfect, making ourselves at home in the lawn chairs under a star-filled sky. The Milky Way stretched from north to south into the orange soaked horizon. In the master suite, there was a wall-to-wall record collection that stayed blaring out of the room in to the early morning. Sara had concocted a Kalimoxo into my coffee mug and made sure I was always topped off. We decided it was a good time to trip.

Unfortunately, by the time I was melting into the desert floor, Sara discovered Dennis in bad shape, still sick from the ride. We decided it was time to go to the hospital. I couldn’t leave a brother behind, so I gathered what was left of my coherent self and headed to the hospital. I would spend the next 3 hours in the ER waiting room in a state of delirium, listening to these poor locals complain about healthcare — all the while, Dennis was getting pumped full of morphine.

Waking up early the next morning, I decided to head out on my own for the first time since we left Pennsylvania. I rode into Joshua State Park and remember thinking — this is what it will be like soon enough — I’ll be alone, over 3,000 miles from home, with a few hundred dollars left and a saddlebag full of tools. I was sticking it to the winding scenic roads of the park before stopping at Skull Rock for some free-climbing. A few sections were difficult to scale, but the rocks were far from smooth and allowed my boots to stick in any situation.

I left after a few hours of exploring with the intent of dragging everyone back to the park with me. On the way out, while recording the sites on my camera, I lost my balance and nearly swerved into an oncoming car before regaining control. The footage from that day was unfortunately lost.

I regrouped at the motel, bouldered around Joshua Tree for a few more hours with everyone before the rains came, then headed southwest to watch the Asteroid 4 play. They had a gig in some old ranch/house-looking saloon outside Palm Springs. The rains had subsided, yet the storms remained in the distance, illuminating the mountains around us. Inside the bar, it was a mix of psych and garage-rock. I climbed to the roof of an old tour bus out side, where a few others were sitting, smoking cigarettes. One of them asked me where I was from. I started to them how I got there and they were amazed. You can really grab someones attention when you tell them you’re riding a motorcycle across the country. Everyone becomes inspired by that it seems. One of them told me he wished he could leave Southern California. “There’s just nothing here”, he said. I thought he was out of his mind at first, but I guess we all just need a change of scenery now and again. We spent our last night at Mojave Sands Motel tripped-out under the stars well into the early morning. We left the next day and went to LA.

The five of us sat in the sand on the beaches outside of LA. It was the first time I had been to the Pacific Ocean in 10 years. I had gone as far west as I was going to go. Around nightfall, we split and went to San Diego. The ride south along the pacific was incredible at night — The highway ran atop the coastal ridge that bordered the ocean — I couldn’t see were the land met the water. The air was cool and for the first time in days, fog settled on the road. We had the luxury of crashing at Mike’s place for a few days, giving me time to explore the city.

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