Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Hidden Culture

Riding a motorcycle allows for a bit of maneuvering around certain social conventions. Imagine the guy hopping out of his sedan wearing full leathers, or moon boots, etc... same guy rolls up on a bike & it makes sense.

The helmet is the key identifier in all this. Your pass to unusual fashion. I learned this recently at a truck stop someplace between Georgia & Louisiana. Virtually 100% of the time I carry my helmet with me anytime I have to go inside a store - force of habit. The GS I picked up for this trip is the first bike I've ridden with a helmet lock - I ended up using it a few times.

So ... after locking up the helmet, I stash my gloves & glasses in one of the boxes and walk in to grab some water - wearing boots, black overpants, big jacket ... Guy next to me at the counter, big guy, looking at me nervously for a while. Finally asks, "so ... it's uh, pretty cold out there yeah?" I didn't pick up on any of this at first & just replied, no, it's actually kinda hot." [ long, shifty, nervous pause followed ]. I follow up with something about being on the bike helps cool you down on the road. He suddenly looked obviously relieved and said, "oh ... I was wondering about the big 'ol jacket ... don't know that there's no insane asylum around here ... didn't know you were on a bike."

Funny that such a minor thing as carrying a helmet would take care of all the confusion.

So, still at that insanely windy KOA after taking care of laundry, some work emails came in ... great WiFi here, 6 hour batter life on the VAIO, time for the makeshift office:

I work there until around midnight & set the alarm for an early start in the morning.

The wind had died considerably this morning. The lack of tumbleweeds blowing in my path meant I could get a bit more filming in of the desert. That's when I encountered the Hidden Gila Bend.

I'd been through Gila Bend a couple times earlier this year. Stayed here one night & just blew through the 2nd time.

I wanted to check out a few places - some of what I'd photographed on the previous trip wasn't there any longer - only foundations remained of the buildings. Found another abandoned hotel & did a quick pass through for a few shots. First thought was this would be a perfect homeless shelter ... I stopped to rearrange some of the camera stuff & that's when I noticed the little things - items hung on certain doorknobs, stuff tacked to a door or window here & there - signals of some sort, though I didn't understand the code. Sure enough, a few minutes later one of the 'tenants' emerged with his dog to greet the new visitor. He just came out, waved, had a quick look around, & just as quickly disappeared back inside. Funny thing was, during his 'quick look around', he happened to make glances specifically in the direction of the doors with the signal markings attached to them. A secret society mere feet from the main highway, but a world away.

Just before leaving Steven Tyler's doppleganger happened by on a bicycle.

This guy had style. Aerosmith wardrobe, girl's cruiser, sunglasses borrowed from Bootsy Collins, Doc Holiday facial hair ...

In spite of my fascination with this place, it was time to roll.

Arizona was full of sound.

I've passed through here many times, but this time is was the sheer panoply of noise that drew my attention. From pulling into Yuma just as the fighter jets were performing exercises directly over the gas station where I stopped, to the snoring in the truck stop.

This wasn't just any snoring.

This was amazing. I went in the rest area with the benches, T.V.'s and such to look for a data port - man. The wall of sound that hit when you entered the room - it was the most violent sound I've ever heard produced by a human. There was a percussion to it - like a human impact wrench. It gave you that same uneasy feeling you get when listening to the tire guy install your wheels & just barely start to strip out the lug nuts ... I was worried this guy was going to bust some threads & send vocal chords flying across the room. The very fact that no carnage occurred is testament to the durability of the human body in my opinion.

After a few minutes I left without even remember why I had gone there in the first place. The whole "needing a data port" thing didn't occur to me until around 50 miles later.

As the day wore on, the miles seemed to blow by. I'd gotten off the 10 back in Tucson and had been following the 8 ever since Gila Bend - sticking to the original route the Everett's would have most likely taken. Fortunately, I'd been through the border crossings of both Agua Prieta and Sonoyta earlier this year & figured there really wasn't much of a direct east-west route they would have used between here & the Mexican border until reaching the 94 near Mexicali.

The 94 & old highway 80 are extremely fun motorcycle roads - weekends will see streetbikes of all kinds down there - it was a welcome relief to get off the superslab for a moment & into the twisties. The GS really seems to like that kind of riding.

I reached eastern San Diego County at twilight and being only 100 or so miles from home, there really wasn't much point in camping - I figured traffic would be clearing by the time I reached town & it would be clear sailing. For the most part it was, save for the overturned vehicle that shut down the 8 for a few miles...